Saturday, December 27, 2014

Enlightenment - Jeffrey Martin - Finders Course

Jeffrey Martin is a researcher on enlightenment, which he terms persistent non-symbolic experience (PNSE).  I've previously linked to his dissertation, which basically says that enlightenment is not particularly linked to psychological development.

I recently came across a more recent paper that focuses on the changes occurring as a result of PNSE.  A continuum of experience was discovered with clusters of change around sense of self, cognition, emotion, memory, and perception.  I thought this was an interesting paper and identified with many of the changes reported.  I think it's a good attempt to describe some things that have been historically difficult to describe.

Martin categorizes the continuum of changes as Locations 1, 2, 3 and 4, which reminded me in some ways of the 4 Buddhist paths.

A program called the Finders Course came out of this research and is an attempt to move people in the direction of persistent non-symbolic experience.  The exact components of the course are being left mysterious, but are clearly meditation based.

Out of the research, about 6 meditative techniques seemed to rise to the top, which again, are not revealed.  The idea seems to be to sample all of these techniques and find what works best, and it is implied that practicing an hour a day for a week is enough time to see whether or not a given technique is suitable.

Speculating on these techniques we might include things like single-pointed concentration, mantra, noting, self-inquiry/koan, body-scanning, open awareness, and metta.  These would be the likely suspects.

The first 6 weeks are described as being "designed to get you into a psychological sweet spot so that you don’t dark knight in the second half of the course," which implies that concentration practices are being used in this part of the course.  I believe I saw some reference to the course being 15 weeks in length, but I can't find it right now.

I do like the idea that this is a systematic attempt to figure out how to get people enlightened.  I will say that there is a slightly weird vibe to the whole thing, a bit of a secretive nature about what's going on, a substantial fee, and I suppose there is a pretty big expectation for the course, all potential yellow flags.  But I guess I do like the overall direction of the project.


  1. I have the same feelings as you do about this course, including the slightly weird vibe, the secretiveness, the staggeringly high success rate, the marketing sheen, and the lack of independent verification. The cost has also doubled in the past year, from $1300 to $2500 for the 15 weeks. They know that desperate and even suicidal people are signing up for the course (some of the participant testimonials include such details in the 'before' section), and yet...they aren't concerned the cost could be prohibitive for some, perhaps many such people, or how that might look to others?

    That being said, I sincerely hope it's the real deal. I've been at this a long time and am...very tired. Disillusioned too. The Dark Night was terrifying and intense, and coming out of it did not result in any dramatic shift as is often reported. So I signed up as a candidate for the newest round of the course, complete with the mandatory brief questionnaire and essay on my personal history and reasons for wanting to participate. The course was due to start today, and I received no notification that I had not been selected. Very puzzling.

  2. Kaiser, I would love to hear if you did take the course, and your experience of it, as I feel the same as above. And why is it so difficult to find reviews other than those approved by the promoters? But I am considering registering by this monday deadline. And do they ever offer partial scholarships?

  3. Academically, they do seem to be getting good results:

    Relatively few have taken the course, I think around 200.

  4. Some discussion and participants can be found here:

  5. I did not take the course. They would have allowed me to do it for free after I made an appeal about the cost (I think I am an exception) but I found that I lacked the discipline to stick with it. You really need tremendous discipline to keep with the program. I have serious OCD and that is a further complication to trying to focus for the necessary amount of time. Given the incredible amount of time and effort that the traditional meditation paths require for the same outcomes, however, it is amazingly efficient.

    I have a friend who did the program and said that the results were profound. As he put it, "Their claims are not bullshit."

    I understand what they are trying to do. They need money to refine and scale up this program to enable it to reach as large an audience as quickly as possible, and contribute their knowledge to the developing world of consciousness technology. For myself, it looks as though I will have to wait for some of that technology to become advanced enough to help me.