I wanted to continue to share the understanding of process oriented hypnosis. It is hoped that those reading this entry have done the exercise in "Process Oriented Hypnosis 2". Each discussion, exercise, or entry is designed to help a person get a different feeling understanding of his or her own mind. There are four basic levels of thinking. These are (1) associative, (2) logical, (3) empirical, and (4) psychological. The first is the level of mental conditioning. This level is reactive, habitual, and believes things because external influences, traumas, and life challenges shaping its thought. Many politicians know how to invoke associative thinking in people by using slogans and associating themselves with certain ideas and values, even if their actions and policies to do not logically conform to the idea. People will feel that they represent these ideas and values, even though there is no logical or empirical reason for doing so. This kind of thinking is passive and unreflecting. In our early childhood, this is the kind of thinking we grow into and out of. The brain is just learning how to work with symbols and associates them with each other depending on how it is presented to itself. If we are honest with ourselves, we will see that much of our brain still operates within associative thinking. Suggestive hypnotherapy implants new associations into the client. These implants are usually better than what has already been implanted there, because most hypnotists have an idea of what actually serves our happiness, effectiveness, and health. Our conditioning from external life is usually more random, but tends to be usually and mostly good. There are, however, what psychology calls "memes". They are like viruses on the level of thought and can spread within humanity, causing even painful wars. Communism and fascism were like memes that spread and caused a bloody revolution. Regardless of the objective worth of these ideas, the meme took hold of many brains and caused them to convert other brains (replicate the meme within new brain) or kill brains that could not be converted. There are many milder memes that periodically spread throughout humankind, like fads, and like small political parties. Sometimes there is something valuable and logical behind them, sometimes not. There are also emotional contagions caused by emotionally charged memes. Like physical viruses, we can gain immunity to these memes eventually. When the Nazi Germany collapsed and Hitler was deposed, Martin Heidegger, a usually brilliant and logical mind, felt he had awakened from a trance. The grip of the meme on his consciousness had been released. In one sense, Hitler had used authoritarian suggestive hypnosis to spread a memetic infection. Many people do not realize how they are hypnotizing everyone around them to believe and feel something about them. Part of process oriented hypnosis is to make this unconscious hypnosis more conscious so that we can be at choice about what our effect on ourselves and the world is. But because it does not involve aggressively implanting a new meme, it is a more meditation based process and may take slightly longer to work. Process oriented hypnosis can also be very fast, when a change is ripe and ready to happen. When the change does happen, it is relatively permanent because it represents a growth in consciousness.
We are not usually aware of how much all of us have been conditioned. This is because normal social consciousness is transmitted memetically from generation to generation. It carries changes to itself and transmits them to the next generation, each successive generation seeming to think that this way of looking at the world is the only one or the only sane one. It resists being aware of multiple viewpoints, because then it sees that "truth" is a conditioned set of beliefs and nothing more. This truth may have some relative survival value and may allow society to function relatively well, but it is not truth with a capital "T". This level of truth can only come when we transcend conditioning, even if the conditioning had the right view, merely believing the conditioning is not realizing the truth, any more than believing 2+2=4 means that you can add.
In the series of discourses called the Prajna Parmita Sutras, there is the Diamond Sutra. Much of Zen Buddhism is based on the methodology of the Diamond Sutra. It is based on the realization of emptiness. It is a realization of the nature of ultimate reality that cannot be conceptually or memetically grasped. In a sense, the purpose of the sutra is almost to "unhypnotize" us from all conditioned thinking and to make sure that the entire Buddha Dharma does not become a replacement conditioning.
Logical thought has to do with thoughts being consistent with thoughts. There is more a sense of what each thought means, the implications of a thought are deduced. Valid conclusions of thoughts from thoughts are derived. Contradictions are possible between thoughts. On this level, a thought can be illogical with respect to other thoughts being true. It means that two thoughts are sometimes mutually exclusive, both of them cannot be true at the same time. Logical thought, by itself, is not enough. The rules of any game represent a consistent system that defines what playing means, what winning and losing the game means. But this consistency is only within the game and may not apply to reality.
The next level of thought is empirical. This is where thoughts are tested by experiment to determine whether or not it is true. We ask ourselves what observation would be able to distinguish between "A" and "not A" where "A" is some thought assertion about reality and "not A" is the negation of this assertion. Since both of them cannot be true, we create an expectation about what reality is and see if this expectation is confirmed or not confirmed. Science emerges from empirical thinking, but is not the only empirical form of thinking. Science tends to limit its method to only finding out repeatable, testable, and reliable laws which govern existence. Historical facts do not always lend themselves to direct scientific investigation, though archeological research may be indirectly helped by scientifically derived processes like carbon dating and chemical analysis of pottery. Eventually different historical theories emerge and some kind of testing can determine which version is the one most likely to be true. But because historical events cannot be repeated, the proof for any historical theory remains probabilistic. There are times where a person may choose a lower probability theory as being true, because it may, for him or her fit into a larger array of probable historical theories better than the dominant theory. Events are can rarely be taken in isolation and other historical events or probable historical theories may eventually dovetail better with an alternative theory. Occasionally, some scientific revolution happens where a better set of laws more tightly describes the functioning of reality better than the previous version of reality. When this happens, the older theory is discarded in favor of the more advanced understanding. It is less a matter of one theory being true and another theory being false, but more a matter of one explanation being more in tune with reality and more practical to use as a basis of working with reality. If we make predictions on the basis of the more advanced model, we are more likely to be accurate.
The next level of thought is psychological. This is where our direct experience is the basis for understanding reality. When Buddha talked about "no self", he negated an idea of self that did not come from our direct experience. We do not have a self that we can directly experience. When we look within, we do not find a self, we find thoughts, emotions, and sensations. We find we can focus our attention on thoughts, emotions, and sensations. But when we look within, there is nothing that looks like a self. The feeling of self is transitory. In one sense, who we feel ourselves to be ceases every time we fall asleep. We eventually realize our deeper and truer identity as being pure awareness. This is more constant and can observe all states of consciousness and reflect them back like a mirror. This deeper identity can imagine itself to be what it reflects in its mirror or it can simply be the mirror and reflect everything that arises, abides, changes, and passes away upon its surface. When it imagines itself to be the contents of the mirror, then it is identified with a false sense of self and undergoes the karma of this identification. When the content changes, then there is a feeling of dying and sometimes anger, fear, and sadness. The art of meditation and process oriented hypnosis is to rest in this deeper place that we truly are and let our experience flow naturally.