1/18 – Psychonetics: A Russian Corpus of Psychotechnologies

January-February 2016 / Feature Articles

Oleg Bakhtiyarov (Translated from Russian by Eugene Pustoshkin)

Oleg Bakhtiyarov psychonetics

Oleg Bakhtiyarov at the presentation of his latest book Technologies of Freedom (2015) in St. Petersburg, Russia. March 2015. (Photo © Tatyana Parfenova)

Today the entire corpus of psychotechniques is so vast that one could find practices aimed at both resolving psychological, social or medical problems and developing supranormative skills necessary for performing extreme tasks in operational or intellectual activities. There are also, however, non-pragmatic motivations such as the drive towards understanding oneself, the World and Being. A significant portion of non-pragmatic practices is aimed at attaining interior freedom and non-contingency of consciousness upon exterior factors. These practices constitute the technical basis of numerous sacred systems and teachings, but it must be remembered that the dominant masses of practitioners are beyond any specifically defined confessional context.

Awakening of free will which is understood as unconditioned meaning- and goal-making activity is the main aim of the corpus of psychotechniques, known in Russia as psychonetics (psikhonetika). That is, awakening of free will can be spoken of not as an aim but as an attractor of psychonetic practice. Techniques are constructed in this direction, but each stage is self-sufficient in terms of achieving pragmatic results. On the path to freedom psychonetics consistently builds methods of liberation from present conditionings, then from cultural normative conditionings, and, eventually, from conditionings of basic structures of consciousness. Psychonetics creates a specific workable psychonetic ontology that allows the proposal of steps necessary in order to advance towards the aim and to formulate criteria of success on this path.

Key psychonetic techniques are attention deconcentration (and more sophisticated techniques that are based on it) and will meditation. Attention deconcentration (AdC)—or deconcentration of attention—is a specific technique which is opposed to attention concentration. It consists not of selecting and continuous holding of one of the figures in the perceptive field but rather equalization of attention distribution throughout the entire field of stimuli from different modalities—visual, audial, tactile, etc. Equal distribution of attention means that no element that enters the field of deconcentration becomes a figure in contrast to other elements, but is held within the perceptive field alongside other elements so it is given an equal “amount” of attention as to each other element within the field. Since capacities of our attention in terms of perception volume are limited (it is thought that our perception apparatus is able to selectively hold as figures of attention not more than 9 objects simultaneously), deconcentration correctly exercised switches perception into a background mode—the object of attention is not items selected out of the background, but the perceptive background itself.

Fig. 1. Symbolic illustration of the difference between concentration and attention deconcentration (deconcentration of attention). [Source: Wikipedia]

Fig. 1. Symbolic illustration of the difference between concentration and attention deconcentration (deconcentration of attention). [Source: Wikipedia]

The very first activity in the procedure of forming attention deconcentration (AdC)—suppression of attention’s switching from one part of the visual field to another—leads to organizing of a special state of consciousness which can be referred to as “mental silence,” or cessation of thoughts-and-images generatideon. Such state cannot be conceived prior to its attainment; and it can be said that such an unexpected result brakes the rule of transparency that exists in psychonetic practice [translator’s note: the rule of transparency means that each technique needs to be specifically transparent in terms of its injunctions and results]. Here we are assisted with a different basic technique which is loosely called will meditation (WM). WM is a process of intentional generation of contents of consciousness—from intention to image, thought or action. In WM practice specific contents are not set, only the process itself, in which the very generating activity is discerned as well as intentions that are generated by such generating activity and its result—an image, an action, an act of thinking, and so on. Intention is understood as an amodal meaning formation that seeks to transmute itself into a sensory-manifested content of consciousness. Mastering of the technique of unpacking intentions into contents of consciousness allows one to turn “mental silence”—an unexpected result of deconcentration—into a fully manageable and, hence, transparent act.

The experience of generating new contents of consciousness can be expanded upon various other tasks. The capacity to generate intentions leads towards issuing a question regarding the source of intentions, and here the practitioner begins to discern self from his or her own psychic or mental apparatus (his or her personality traits, functional organization of psyche, etc.) as the source of intentions.

The primary principle of work here is highlighting various realities of consciousness and shifting attention towards that which is left in consciousness beyond these realities. For instance, in the stream of visual AdC the object of attention is, at first, the background out of which figures are discerned, then the field of vision or sight in its pure form (onto which both visual figures and the background are projected), then a meaning construct which precedes concentration upon visual phenomena and predetermines the directionality of efforts in concentration, and then, eventually, the “substance” of consciousness itself which is devoid of meaning content. In will meditation the first step is to discern an act performed by the practitioner, then the imaginary image of this very act, then the intent which precedes the formation of the image of the act, and, finally, the pure activity which precedes the formation of the intent.

Achievement of the final steps in attention deconcentration and will meditation is experienced as a state of unconditioned being and is equated with awakening of free will. But, from this vantage point, both the basic ontology and the means of attaining freedom are reconsidered. The basic obvious reality now is Consciousness [or Awareness] which is understood as non-local world, while the material component of Being is considered to be a factor of coerciveness or conditional forcing that cannot be immediately represented in consciousness but is reflected in it. There is a possibility of various ontological variations of that, but psychonetics itself, while declaring itself to be a technology, leaves the question of confessional orientation upon the practitioner’s own choice.

Psychonetic techniques are realized by the practitioner without any reliance upon suggestive support of an instructor who facilitates workshops and groups where the practice is enacted, and also without any reliance on suggestive support from the group itself. Technical (e.g., biofeedback) and pharmacological support are also included, as well as actions that result in something unpredictable which requires qualified interpretation from the teacher who facilitates the training process (as it happens in the holotropic breathwork system). Psychonetic techniques are transparent for the practitioner—the mechanism of how one can attain a particular predetermined result is understood in each and every detail. Psychonetic techniques lead to emergence of an entire new field of experience and new set of skills which result from the practice itself rather than from pre-given ontological and sacred contexts. Hence, it is more appropriate to call the person who conveys practical experience not with the terms such as “teacher” or “master,” but with the term “instructor,” which allows to shift the emphasis of work from the host of knowledge and skills towards the practice per se. After such a conclusion, it is only natural to use the terms “instruction” and “methodical corpus” rather than “teaching” in relation to psychonetics.

In a discussion of how psychonetics is different from other psychotechniques one should differentiate psychonetic practices aimed at (a) achieving a specific result and (b) training of methods for achieving specific results. In this context a practice may have such results as new experience that results in a novel understanding of oneself, the World, and Being. For pragmatic tasks result is what’s important, but in cases when the primary motivation of a practitioner is the search for unconditioned being the situation gets more complex. Understanding and skills result from a specific series of interior actions of the practitioner. These actions are defined by an instructor, an instruction or the practitioner himself or herself. In the first two instances the result of the practice is important, while in the third instance what’s important is the capacity of the practitioner to achieve his or her own result. Achievement of a result does not necessarily mean understanding of each and every step, and, hence, the result comes in the same way as a reaction to any external stimulus. Subjugation to a particular result contains an aspect of subjugation to various other factors of conditioning. The practitioner may transform his or her own consciousness as a result of identifying with the personality of an instructor, but in such “imitation” of the exemplar of freedom the aspect of conditional limitation will remain—one will be limited by an exemplar of freedom, a reflection of freedom, but not freedom in and of itself. There are two temptations that lead to such a state of affairs—one belongs to the side of an instructor, while the other belongs to the side of a practitioner.

The primary temptation of the instructor is to lead the practitioner towards the result which is needed. This is the position of a sculptor towards clay out of which sculptures are created; it’s the temptation of a demiurge. In this case the instructor creates “sculptures” rather than “sculptors.” The primary aim of psychonetics is to create “sculptors,” which requires transparency and understanding of each and every step. If results come from beyond, they become a limiting factor of conditioning similar to those which one is supposed to transcend. This is so-called trap of the orientation towards result: “the strongest breaks through and walks away,” but one who is weaker (which is majority) “gets entangled and dies” (i.e., his or her drive towards Freedom dies).

The primary temptation of the practitioner is to achieve a specific result. This is the position of clay as contrasted to sculptor. If, previously, limiting factors of conditioning consisted of cultural norms and psychic structures, now true freedom is replaced with (consecutively): the instructor, the instruction, and the working schemata that is turned into a totalized ontology. Instead of attaining freedom one becomes subjugated to a teaching of freedom (at best) or to the instructor who teaches freedom.

One should be aware that the situation of these temptations is predetermined by the contradiction that inherently lies in the very beginning of practice. One way or another, but a psychotechnique generates a result which is not preconceived, otherwise there would be no necessity in practice itself. The criterion of transparency is the capacity to reproduce the result using not the technique which led to this result but using the basic technique which allows to generate any preconceived and not-preconceived results. Let’s take a look at this in terms of examples of psychonetic practice.

Fig. 2. An example of a colored number table that is used in deconcentration exercises. Searching for a given colored number in a regular manner (namely by scanning the table with concentration) requires some time. Deconcentration of attention allows finding any requested colored number instantaneously. [Source: Wikipedia]

Fig. 2. An example of a colored number table that is used in deconcentration exercises. Searching for a given colored number in a regular manner (namely by scanning the table with concentration) requires some time. Deconcentration of attention allows finding any requested colored number instantaneously. [Source: Wikipedia]

As it was mentioned above, learning of psychonetic techniques begins with two basic exercises: attention deconcentration (AdC) and will meditation (WM). The introductory exercise of forming AdC—suppression of switching of attention and equalization of attention across two parts of the visual field and two channels of stimuli (generation of thoughts and images)—leads to the state of “interior silence” (or “mental silence,” or emptying of thought and imagery contents). Usually, such a state has never been encountered by the practitioner in his or her previous life experience, so it manifests as an unexpected result that forcibly modifies previous experience. Modification of previous experience is a form of assimilation of new experiences, but in this case the new experience has intruded in a form which is beyond the practitioner’s expectations and plans. Here we come to a bifurcation point: either a series of ever-new experiences emerges which leads towards an ultimate experience or we acquire not just new experience but also the capacity to intentionally reproduce such experience outside of enacting AdC. In the former case we still witness a sort of being limited by the instructor or the instruction. In the latter case the movement towards an ultimate experience is also accompanied by liberation from external enactments that organize this movement.

Here we are helped with a second component of psychonetic practice—namely, will meditation. WM is practiced to discernment of the intent to perform an action. One starts to discern an amodal (i.e. devoid of any sensory manifestations) meaning (directionality) of intention which unpacks unto a particular action. WM allows to unpack the state of “mental silence” without exercising attention. The practitioner, therefore, becomes liberated from “the reign of a technique,” and he or she, by forming intentions which are different, attains the capacity to generate new states without using help of his or her own psychic automatisms. The movement to freedom (to awakening of free will) remains, but the practitioner’s own activity starts to play an increasingly important role. It manifests in creation of new techniques and methods. One should note that invention of new techniques is not the ultimate goal; rather, it is a way to go beyond the power of limiting factors of conditioning. It is especially important when one turns to purely meaning-based operations (this could be correlated with the operations with “no-forms” in some Buddhist schools) and, subsequently, enters the position of unconditioned generation of new forms of consciousness.

About the Author

БАХТИЯРОВ Олег BAKHTIYAROV Oleg 800px-Oleg_Bakhtiyarov,_September_2012Oleg Georgievich Bakhtiyarov is a Ukrainian and Russian specialist in psychotechnical support of activities related to extreme and critical conditions and development of supranormative skills. He is the founder of Psychonetics—a psychotechnological framework of managing psychic (mental) and consciousness-related processes aimed at liberation from situational, psychophysiological, and cultural conditioning factors.

Oleg Bakhtiyarov graduated from the Faculty of Biology of Kiev State University in 1979; in 1979–1986 he worked at the Institute of Psychology of the Academy of Pedagogical Sciences in Kiev (where he developed the method of attention deconcentration); in 1987–1988 he worked at the Research Institute of Material Science of the Academy of Sciences of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (where he developed the method of deconcentration as a component of training operators of complex systems); in 1996–1997 he worked in Kiev Military Institute for the Humanities of the Defense Ministry of the Ukraine (he trained methods of supporting the activities of soldiers in the conditions of low-intensity military conflicts). In 1988 he founded and became the director of TKO Perspektiva which was transformed into Prospective Studies and Developments (MP Perspektivniye Issledovaniya i Razrabotki). In 1999 he became the head of the University of Effective Development in Kiev. Since 2015, he is the director of the Institute of Psychonetic Studies and Inventions (Moscow). These organizations have been developing psychonetic methods and conducting training of methods to control processes of consciousness. Since 1980 till 1988 he served as the academic secretary of the Bioelectronics section of the Ukrainian Society of Science and Technology where psychotechnical methods were refined in the experimental groups of volunteers.

Oleg Bakhtiyarov participated in projects of developing psychotechnical support of managing BCI-devices (BCI stands for “brain-computer interfaces”). He is an author of several books: Post-Informational Technologies: An Introduction to Psychonetics (Psikhoinformatsionniye tekhnologii: vvedenie v psikhonetiku, Kiev, 1997), Deconcentration (Dekontesntratsiya, Kiev, 2003), Active Consciousness (Aktivnoye soznanie, Moscow, 2010), Technologies of Freedom (Tekhnologii svobody, Moscow, 2015).

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