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Posts Tagged ‘Hindu music’

The Dance of God

Posted by spritzophrenia on August 9, 2010

For some reason I’ve been listening to two versions of the Gayatri Mantra over and over and OVER these last few days, pondering the gateways to the divine. I think there are many ways to have a mystical experience, depending on what works with your personality. Music is a common gateway, and certainly one that works for me, at times.

This is hard to write, because so much of my academic side wants to challenge and define things like “spiritual”, “mysticism” and so on 1. Today I’m just writing about experience without over-analyzing too much.

While named for the goddess Gayatri (mother of the Vedas), I think anyone who believes in a deity can sing this mantra with integrity as the words are honoring to any true g0d.

Om Bhur Buvaha Suvaha
Thath Savithur Varenyam
Bhargo Devasya Dheemahi
Dhiyo Yonaha Prachodayath

God! You are Omnipresent, Omnipotent and Almighty.
You are all Light. You are all Knowledge and Bliss.
You are Destroyer of fear; You are Creator of this Universe,
You are the Greatest of all. We bow and meditate upon your light.
You guide our intellect in the right direction.

The other version I’ve had on repeat is by Ravi Shankar, as it turns out. There is so much more music I could add, some mentioned during music week but I’m keeping things short, mmkay?

I found you not, O Lord, without, I erred in seeking you without because you were within. ~ Saint Augustine

I’d be remiss in describing Augustine as a mystic, he’s famous for his logical philosophy. This is the feeling side of him, perhaps? I think warmly of Charles Hodge, a christian theologian in the “Reformed” or “Calvinist” school which is traditionally suspicious of mysticism. Hodge is wary too but almost plunges in, writing of those whose “heart” theology is deeper than their head theology 2. “Until recently it was widely believed that India is ‘mystical’ and the West is ‘rational’, and many still hold this view. But in fact Indian thought has a strong tradition of rationality”. 3 There is so much more to write in this area, but insh’Allah, another time.

All this makes me desire to find a group of intellectual mystics. Now, THAT would be something! Practitioners committed to exploring the ways of both reason and the spirit.

Here’s a track that invariably made me cry, and can still do so. Tilt | Invisible

Listen to my voice
You won’t see me
You won’t see me with your eyes
Listen to my voice
I am a feeling
You will feel me deep inside

When I was a christian, I interpreted these words as speaking of the Holy Spirit (who is sometimes considered feminine), the part of g0d who interacts with us here and now. I have this record on vinyl, it’s one of my treasured possessions.

Music… wine… drugs? Ah, it might just be a feeling, but if that feeling hints at anything true, how wonderful that would be. When I was a DJ, it was these moments I lived for. To dance – preferably outdoors – to ecstatic music and maybe feel a glimpse of something special. It didn’t happen often, but when it did…

Here’s a film of an outdoor party I curated. You can even get a glimpse of me DJing at one point.

The particular music doesn’t matter – that tends to be an individual thing. For some it might be opera, for others heavy metal. It’s the sense of beauty and transport the music evokes, in the best of moments at the best of times. If the transcendent is there, if there really is something more, and if we can somehow touch it… How can we not yearn for this?

Is music a gateway for you?



1. Check some of my loose definitions and writing on atheist spirituality if you’re uncomfortable and want to go down the intellectual path.
2. Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology (Eerdmans, 1871). Hodge spends considerable ink on mysticism, and it’s gold, for a post-christian like me.
3. From Indian Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction by Sue Hamilton (Oxford University Press, 2001).

Posted in agnostic, Hinduism, music, spirituality | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments »

I’m Not Driving That! – Strong Rationalism

Posted by spritzophrenia on August 6, 2010

On the way to the airport today I saw a billboard with two photographs of a single car, one labelled “the emotionally satisfying view” and the other, “the rationally satisfying view”4. Picture one showed happy people crowding around the vehicle, the other displayed engineering cutaways of the engine, safety and comfort features. Which vehicle will get me to my destination?

You may recall me wondering if I am a rationalist, given that I value reason and think it has a part to play in my search for the numinous. Simplistically, when deciding what to believe I can either say “there’s got to be rational proof ”, or simply try it out and say “this belief makes me feel good and gives me trippy spiritual experiences.”

I have doubts about spiritual experience alone as a guide, which I’ll save for a future post. For now, I came across a section in a recent book1, which helped me:

[The new atheist] authors are evaluating Christian arguments by what some have called “strong rationalism”. Its proponents laid down what was called the “verification principle”, namely, that no one should believe a proposition unless it can be proved rationally by logic or empirically by sense experience. What is meant by the word “proved”? Proof, in this view, is an argument so strong that no person whose logical faculties are operating properly would have any reason for disbelieving it.

Fractal rainbow self

A few theists also hold to strong rationalism, suggesting their arguments are so strong that you’d be a fool to disbelieve. I’m thinking of some Islamic apologists here. I met a christian rationalist in an online forum not long ago. Sadly, he was belligerent and rude.

For those of us who find the path of the intellect to g0d challenging, put this on repeat, enjoy some beautiful music and imagine the experiential path to g0d as we continue:

The Gayatri Mantra. I also really like this version.

Keller continues:

Despite all the books calling Christians to provide proofs for their beliefs, you won’t see philosophers doing so, not even the most atheistic. The great majority think that strong rationalism is nearly impossible to defend 2. To begin with, it can’t live up to its own standards. How could you empirically prove that no one should believe something without empirical proof? You can’t, and that reveals it to be, ultimately, a belief.

Strong rationalism also assumes that it is possible to achieve “the view from nowhere,” a position of almost complete objectivity, but virtually all philosophers today agree that is impossible. We come to every individual evaluation with all sorts of experiences and background beliefs that strongly influence our thinking and the way our reason works. It is not fair, then, to demand an argument that all rational people would have to bow to.

The philosophical indefensibility of “strong rationalism” is the reason that the books by Dawkins and Dennet have been getting such surprisingly rough treatment in scholarly journals.

If we reject strong rationalism, are we then stuck in relativism – without any way to judge one set of beliefs from another? Not at all.

He suggests an alternative approach called “critical rationality” 3. I’m not sure what he means by that, but whether or not I agree with critical rationality I don’t think I’m a strong rationalist. I think some things in life just have to be believed – my own existence, for example. However, I do want some rational underpinning for my beliefs. I hope that one vehicle, both emotionally satisfying and rationally satisfying will get me there. Somehow I want to hold these two together.

On the way home I saw a bumper sticker on a car: “Don’t follow me, I’m lost too”.



What do you think? Comment below.

1. Timothy Keller, The Reason for God (Dutton, 2008), pages 118, 119, 120.

2. Keller’s footnotes explain more, and cite Alasdair MacIntyre Whose Justice, Which Rationality (Notre Dame, 1988) in particular. He says “One of the best critiques of the Enlightenment view of strong rationalism is Faith and Rationality: On Reason and Belief in God A. Plantinga and N. Wolterstorff, eds (Notre Dame, 1983). The Enlightenment view has been called classic or Cartesian “foundationalism,” and that approach has been almost universally abandoned among philosophers. See also Nicolas Wolterstorf, Reason Within the Bounds of Religion (Eerdmans, 1984).”

3. Keller footnotes “For a non-technical introduction to the difference between strong and critical rationalism, see Victor Reppert, C.S. Lewis’s Dangerous Idea (Inter-Varsity, 2003), pp 30-44.

4. [Edit:] I saw the billboards again, and realised they say “emotionally appealing” and “rationally appealing”. I wonder if there’s a difference between “appealing” and “satisfying”?

Posted in agnostic, epistemology, Hinduism, music, Philosophy | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 47 Comments »