Have you been following this thread, reading all the postings? A number of issues have been raised concerning how the question of jhana and "attainment" are talked about. What about those issues?
Yes, I have been following this thread. I understand some issues such as the one Ben described happening on the weekend. I understand this can become a problem. But only if there were too many people here who had no idea. You moderators obviously identify these kind of people pretty fast and have everything under control.
When learning something new one always encounters people who are fakes. It is not just a phenomen of Buddhism. You find the same in science for example. I think it is actually useful and necessary in general to learn how to identify those. To recognize the general patterns. Authoritative thinking is discouraged in Dhamma and own experience and analysis encouraged. Still, believing in authority is a human instinct, some have more problems to transcendent it than others.
The following quote is from "Hardcore Zen" by Brad Warner describing autobiographically his way to Zen. In University he encountered the Hare Krishnas
Brad Warner wrote:
The guy who run the cooking class happened to be the head of the Hare Krishna temple in Cleveland. He was an Anglo-type but he went by some Indian "spiritual name" I can't recall. .... I was real impressed with this guy. He had the saffron robes, the shaved head, and that mellow spiritual way of talking that let you know here was a guy who had thruely achieved a rare state of inner with-it-ness. I remember sittting at his feet thinking "Golly, I could just stay here forever and learn so many wonderful things". He was the very image of everything a Holy Man from a Mystical Eastern Spiritual Tradition should be.
A year later I saw his picture in the paper. He was on the run from the law, wanted in conjunction with a bizarre murder in West Virginia.
To want to be impressed by so-called authorities is a human instinct, a wish to return to the safety of parents. I think, originally, the tradition of not speaking about one's experiences (except with a specific authority) was to counter this instinct, to have less people "follow the sandal" (Life of Brian, anyone?). But the drawback is that there are less people really getting the information they need. Today, with internet, things are different. Most true searchers are much less impressible and more critical. Looking here and there, learning from many sources. There is less guruship in the West today and it seems to me it is not necessary anyway. But without the one and only authority, less sitting at the feet of a guru, we need other means of learning.
Some posts ago Ben mentioned humility. I think true humility includes the ability to consider and analyse many different theories and models without making one of them "mine". Without clinging to them. When one of them (even a favorite one) turns out to be false it does not hurt, because it is not "my theory" but just "a theory" if you know what I mean. I don't think it is necessary to cling to one guru or tradition as mine, to identify with it. Sure, it would be optimal to have a teacher who understands where one is and can lead one step by step but - trying to find one for years now - I doubt that this is very probable. So we have to find different means to find our answers. Discussion is one of them and that is why we are here. People know different things, I don't have much knowledge of scripture and Pali for example, and I am happy to learn when someone shares this. Others have knowledge of meditational experience and I don't see why sharing this is is different from sharing scriptural knowledge. It makes no difference to me whether someone is an expert in Pali or an expert in meditation. It makes no difference to me whether I get the answer I seek from an aryan or a putthujana - the important thing for me is that the answer is correct, not it's source.
The question is: do you want to think in terms of authority or in terms of expertism? An authority is a guru, a leader. An expert is someone you consult regarding a specific problem, may it be scriptural or meditative. There is no authority at all when you think in terms of expertism. And thus no leading astray.