Ayn ... Om! What would she think of meditation?

Posted by DrEdwardHudgins 7 years, 2 months ago to Science
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What would Ayn Rand think of meditation practices?
SOURCE URL: http://atlassociety.org/commentary/commentary-blog/6104-ayn-om

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  • Posted by 7 years, 2 months ago
    Thanks for your thoughtful comments MikeMarotta and khalling! We need, of course, to separate "What would Rand think?" from "What is true and useful?" Obviously, I think the scientific evidence is overwhelming concerning the benefits of self-reflection in various forms. (I used to get more centered and clear-headed from jogging!) As I say in the piece, "Let’s grant that there is still a lot of psycho-babble and mystic mumbo-jumbo that gets in the way." Indeed, a dose of skepticism is always in order. But rationality, which means being open to facts, is an Objectivist virtue. So whatever Rand would have thought, we must do our own thinking and I'm pleased with the progress in understanding the brain, the mind, and their optimal use!
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  • Posted by Herb7734 7 years, 2 months ago
    I have been practicing meditation for many years. I used to call it self hypnosis. I have practiced it so long that I can drop into it immediately without doing any relaxation exercises. It was taught to me by, of all people, Nathaniel Branden. It is a great stress elimination technique and I also use it to put myself to sleep on those nights when my mind is on a merry-go-round.
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  • Posted by $ MikeMarotta 7 years, 2 months ago
    Perhaps if Ed Hudgins met Ayn Rand from 1947 today, he could make his point to her. Ayn Rand of 1967 was a different person. Note, also, that in Atlas Shrugged the villian Ivy Starnes practiced meditation. Ivy Starnes also caused starvation in Louisiana by lobbying for soy beans over wheat. "Who has conquered reality" Galt asked. "The man who sleeps on a bed of nails or the man who sleeps on an inner spring mattress?" Rand called yoga "contorting the body." On an even deeper level, it should be obvious by inspection that Ayn Rand was perhaps a Myer-Briggs INTJ (an introvered "mastermind" - Keirsey Temperment Sorter here: http://www.keirsey.com/4temps/masterm... ). All of her writing is extroverted: she gloried in the wonders of the external world.

    In all of her fiction, she seldom has a character who reflects. Bad guys such as Jim Taggart never let themselves face facts of external reality. Although... there is one scene in The Fountainhead where Ellsworth Toohey discovers about himself that he is physically attracted to Howard Roark... But that stands out as an exception. In fact, it occurs just after an empty-headed socialite says that she loves being psycho-analyzed.

    In Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, the first two pages of Chapter 4, "Concepts of Consciousness" speak against the validity of introspection. To Rand, it is impossible to be aware of your Self.

    All of that being true, on the Objectivist site Rebirth of Reason, one writer did disparage meditation and yoga and two others joined me in pointing out the benefits of them. One of those, Steve Wolfer, was a practicing psychologist at one time. Steve is not my friend. He says that I have no character. And in his writing on RoR he never, ever strays from the Objectivism of 1967. That aside, we both claimed to benefit from meditation.

    So, Dr. Hudgins' point has merit. Ayn Rand might not have found value in meditation, but you can.

    As in a discussion on crime here in the Gulch (https://www.galtsgulchonline.com/post...) I pointed out that common criminals have no sense of self. Moral Reconation Therapy is a method to teach them to be self-aware. It does produce positive results of reduced recidivism.
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  • Posted by Zenphamy 7 years, 2 months ago
    There's no magic, mysticism, or religious spirituality involved with meditation, unless one brings them to the practice one's self. It is no more than a form of mental exercise and discipline at it's simplest level and the development of mental acuity, extreme awareness of surroundings, and conscious control of mental activities and otherwise autonomous physical functions in more advanced practices.

    All the other nonsense associated with the practices by those that prefer ignorance over knowledge, mysticism over reality, and the supernatural over the actuality of man is no different than that put forth by all the anti-humanists and anti-individualists based on beliefs rather than the factual world. Any accomplishment of the individual that separates one from the crowd, the normal man, the collective must be associated with something abnormal--or perverted by the new man, by the expert to support that belief system of users of others and enviers.

    I suspect that in AR's case, her mental discipline and exercise was expressed in what she might have termed as contemplation and thought experiment and writing. I think she would have looked at other's meditations based on that person's happiness in life and accomplishments and would have recognized the non-mystical and non-religious in it.

    Txs for the post.
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  • Posted by $ allosaur 7 years, 2 months ago
    During the 70s me dino interviewed a teacher of transcendental meditation, wrote the newspaper story and then decided to try it out.
    Later told a guy I knew there were times when I felt sluggish and that practicing TM cleared my head.
    Guy said it sounded like all I needed was a nap.
    Without writing a story, I decided to try that out.
    The first thing me dino noticed was that lying down with a comfy pillow felt better than sitting up in a chair with my chin on my chest.
    Second thing me dino noticed was that felt just as revived and rested if not better at the conclusion of my nap.
    Me dino decided I like short naps better with an alarm clock set so I didn't overdo it.
    I do practice TM from time to time.
    The last time was last month sitting in the chair of a little room where I waited 45 too long minutes for my chiropractor to walk in.
    My shoulder was also aching too too long enough but the TM helped me cope a little better.
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  • Posted by andrewtroy 7 years, 2 months ago
    Perhaps not meditation as such, but I once read that Benjamin Franklin would would sit in his rocking chair with a stone in his hand over a metal bucket. When he dosed off, the stone would fall from his hand into the bucket and awaken him. He would then immediately put pen to paper and write down whatever was in his mind at that exact moment. I understand that he credited several inventions and new lines of thought to this method of introspection.
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    • Posted by 7 years, 2 months ago
      Interesting story! Franklin is one of my heroes! There's always a danger that introspection without the proper discipline will become a kind of laziness that keeps one from action rather than prepares one for action. Glad that wasn't a problem for Ben!
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  • Posted by MinorLiberator 7 years, 2 months ago
    Absolutely positive. I'm not an expert, but just as one cannot do physical labor without rest, I think the same principle applies to the mind.

    And while just taking a break from, say, intense studying, reading is a break, I see meditation as actually exercising the mind in it's primary task, which is to focus. Meditation is to physical exercise as physical rest is to taking a break by reading. One restores that which is already there, the other improves it.
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  • Posted by $ Olduglycarl 7 years, 2 months ago
    The Buddhist Monks use meditation to "Be One with everything", ignoring consciousness and individuality.
    I think this practice is harmful to the individual and takes us away from the creation of values that have yet to exist.

    However, for some, like bloodtype A and B it might be useful to calm the voices, the worries and reduce stress from the body. Don't know about AB's but perhaps a mix of A/B.

    For us O's...I know, like Dr Ed, I need to be physically aware and engaged at all times...floating over a pillow, cross legged is not my thing and I certainly do not want to be one with anything, except with my lady during intercourse.
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  • Posted by mia767ca 7 years, 2 months ago
    the best course i ever took in high school and college was "debate"...it taught me to "listen" and see the truth and weakness of each side of an topic...

    i had the best life experience as "judge" in the weekend debates that my children participated in in their high school years...i would constantly challenge both students in the debate to continue to explore logic, reason, and the emotional "appeal" that their argument would have to an audience...

    there are many sides to the "total" person and the well-rounded individual...
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  • Posted by Temlakos 7 years, 2 months ago
    She would likely regard it as a fraud. Meditation sounds too much like mysticism--a pretention to secret knowledge. (From the Greek mysterion, meaning "a secret.") Branden ("The Benefits and Hazards...") recorded that she didn't like hypnosis, either--so Branden didn't share with her any of his own research in that line.
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    • Posted by 7 years, 2 months ago
      But a true commitment to knowledge means adhering to evidence and logic, not a gut reaction like "Looks too much like mysticism." Yes, a lot that goes under the label "meditation" is hocum. But we shouldn't throw the baby out with the bath water!
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      • Posted by Temlakos 7 years, 2 months ago
        Could be. Nathaniel Branden did say, "I am no longer prepared, as she was, to say that if anyone describes himself or herself as a 'mystic,' he or she is automatically to be dismissed as a crackpot or a charlatan." From The Benefits and Hazards
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  • Posted by 7 years, 2 months ago
    Ergo my comment that "Let’s grant that there is still a lot of psycho-babble and mystic mumbo-jumbo that gets in the way." I'm always hoping that Objectivists will practice the highest virtue, rationality, and attend to the evidence in any case!
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  • Posted by Robairete 7 years, 2 months ago
    Mysticism is characterized by self-delusion and this is of course diametrically opposed to Ayn's philosophy. Meditation focuses on an inner world of heightened consciousness that can be intensely captivating to some. Since Ayn's philosophy focuses on rational individualism she no doubt would support the enhancement of consciousness but probably prefer a walk in the woods or maybe just taking a smoke break to accomplish it.
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