Spritzophrenia

humour, music, life, sociology. friendly agnostic.

Posts Tagged ‘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?

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Notes
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”.

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What do you think? Comment below.

Notes
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 »

Somewhere, Over The Rainbow

Posted by spritzophrenia on July 28, 2010

Do I want there to be a God? Do I want g0d to exist? Or perhaps another kind of spiritual reality, like Nirvana? Yes, today I think I do.

I’m inhaling the scent from the flowers a dear friend gave me. I’m looking at the sun shining through the trees outside my window, and thinking it would be nice if there was something more than the mere material world. Maybe God. A nice g0d, of course. That would be kinda cool. I’m not claiming my desire for the numinous is evidence g0d exists, although some have argued that.

I can hear my imaginary friend say “Aha! How can you possibly search for meaning without utterly passionless detachment? You’re biased.” To which I smile, “Of course I’m biased. Show me someone who isn’t”.

As Iain writes, there are dangers of wish fulfilment in religion. No-one is completely objective but I think commitment to a position is perfectly ok. It doesn’t preclude the ability to reason well. Philosopher Roger Trigg says scientists are committed to an intellectual position when they work, but this doesn’t invalidate their research.

Dancing in the sunlit forest

Sikh religion ascribes importance to the sanscrit word sat. It means “truth” ¹ and is used in many ways: satsangi (follower of truth), satguru (conveyor of truth), satsang (speaking of truth), and more. I’m committed to truth, as well as to my desires. As Trigg concludes:

It is fashionable to fix one’s attention of the fact of commitment. This is understandable. If our commitment determines what we regard as true, all that matters is whether a commitment is sincere. … As we have seen, however, commitments involve claims to truth which are logically prior to the commitment. It follows that what ought to be of fundamental interest is whether the claims are true and the commitments justifiable. ²

Here’s an example of commitment to an opposite point of view, respected atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel writes about not wanting God to exist:

I am talking of … the fear of religion itself. I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true… It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God: I don’t want the universe to be like that. … I am curious whether there is anyone who is genuinely indifferent as to whether there is a God – anyone who, whatever his actual belief about the matter, doesn’t particularly want either one of the answers to be correct.” ³

The obscenities inflicted upon us by religious zealots revolt me.

However, would I like there to be a g0d? Today at least, I say yes. How about you?

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Notes
1. Sat means more than the English word “truth”, but we’re keeping things simple here. Thanks to Brian at Church of the Churchless for introducing me to the word.
2. Roger Trigg, Reason and Commitment (Cambridge University Press, 1973).
3. Thomas Nagel, The Last Word (Oxford University Press, 1997) page 130 – quoted in Timothy Keller, The Reason for God.

Respond

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The Police | Spirits in a Material World

Posted in agnostic, God, god, music, personal, spirituality | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 97 Comments »

Clan of the Horse Passage Hunters

Posted by spritzophrenia on July 23, 2010

The following spoof might make no sense unless you’ve read one of Jean M. Auel’s novels. I wrote this some time ago after reading the first three.

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Clan of the Horse Passage Hunters

She paused at the bottom of the slope to study the plants that grew there: Starchy roots, cat-tail, thistle, licorice fern, folderol, wild onion, lily corms, stinging nettle, flax seeds, opium poppies, red grass, yellow grass, wild carrot, thick stringy grass the mammoths liked, short tender shoots for the horses, sweet potato, venus flytrap, cannabis, triffid, rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb. Sometimes the variety of the Great Mother’s creation overwhelmed her.

She turned and whistled to her horse, “Horse”. “There you are Horse”, she smiled. She mounted in one swift leap, her perfectly coiffed blonde hair shimmering in the sun as on they travelled. On and on they went. On and on and on. And on some more.

Alyar noticed the hoofprints that Horse had left in the sand at the rivers end. She noticed Horse’s turds behind them. She noticed all the many alluvial deposits along the bank. “Oh Great Mother, No!”, she mouthed silently, accompanied by secret clan signs. “Not another turgid monologue about the windswept climate of the plains. Can’t we just find some animal to slaughter instead?”

Laughing Horse

“Oh, will we ever see people again? Will I ever see Dorc again? Will the plot ever rise from a plod to some kind of pace?”

“Alyar?”

Jondullard was standing in front of her, looking concerned. He wiped grease and blood off his great, tanned, manly hair-covered chin and looked at her with his strange piercing blue eyes, eyes that could make any woman want him, eyes that were an icy blue in summer yet contained hints of sky, star, ocean, river, …

“Alyar? You’re off in the spirit world again. Is something wrong?” he murmured.

A warmth that still managed to make her shiver washed over her body, and she noticed his glorious manhood straining against his leather g-string. How she wanted him, he was the best. Their pleasures were always good. They had to be, inserted every couple of chapters as they were, to keep the monotony of their journey from killing the reader of boredom.

Posted in humor, humour, music, writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

More God-Botherer Music

Posted by spritzophrenia on July 4, 2010

My mouth turns down when I hear the term ‘christian music’ these days. That’s unfortunate, as there’s actually some good stuff out there musically and thematically. My first pick you might find surprising, it’s aggressive. Argyle Park was controversial, rare, and introduced me to Industrial music. The story I heard is that “Violent” is about a pastor who disappointed them in some way. “Liars can’t be trusted, but who doesn’t lie?”

Completely different, here’s Julie Miller with “All My Tears”. I love her voice, and the simplicity of this. Even tho I was postchristian when I heard this, it still brought tears to my eyes.

I think we’re nearly done with music week.

PS: Check out a guest post I just did for Agnostic Pentecostal.

Posted in Christianity, music | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Buddhist Music

Posted by spritzophrenia on July 1, 2010

I’m the illest Buddhist you’ve seen
all the ladies wanna meditate with me
I look so serene when I bust a lotus
but i don’t have an ego so I wouldn’t even notice

Yes it’s humour from Arj Barker, no offence intended. More ‘serious’ music below.

“Tashi Dalek”. It’s Tibetan, and means “may you experience extraordinary good fortune”. They use it to say hello according to tweet friend Surya Devi. Here’s her beautiful Green Tara Mantra.

You’re in the middle of music week, normal Spritzophrenia disservice will be nonresumed momentarily.

Posted in Buddhism, humor, humour, music | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Jewish Buddhist Music?

Posted by spritzophrenia on June 30, 2010

Music Week continues and I don’t want it to be forced into fixed categories, particularly with this poet. The first song is arguably nihilist, and contains Christian references. Leonard Cohen left music and spent about 10 years as a Buddhist monk before returning.

Leonard Cohen | The Future

Leonard Cohen | Anthem “There is a crack in everything. It’s how the light gets in.”

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Atheist Music

Posted by spritzophrenia on June 28, 2010

Welcome back to music week. Today, atheist music and there’s such a lot to choose from. In the end I’m going with XTC | Dear God (more below)

and

Mainly because I love Slayer. I wanted to post the title track of Slayer’s “Christ Illusion” but it doesn’t seem to be on youtube. So “Skeleton Christ” will have to do. Lyrics

Interestingly, I read that singer Tom Araya is some kind of nominal Catholic but says he’s quite happy to sing the lyrics his atheist bandmates write.

I came across a new word this morning – misotheism. I think this song expresses that.

Don’t forget to check out other posts in music week. See you tomorrow for day three.

Posted in agnostic, atheism, music | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Fly Like An Eagle – More Agnostic Music

Posted by spritzophrenia on June 28, 2010

Steve Miller Band | Fly Like An Eagle. Art is in the ear of the beholder, and this is “agnostic” to me. Besides, it’s great music 😛

Posted in agnostic, music | Tagged: , , , | 5 Comments »

Agnostic Music (Music Week)

Posted by spritzophrenia on June 27, 2010

As I mentioned, this week is Music Week on Spritzophrenia, and I’ll post some music every day.

Darnit, Youtube won’t let anyone embed the video. So here’s the link to Life’ll Kill Ya by Warren Zevon. (Lyrics). More below.

Warren Zevon
Warren Zevon

I checked the blog about the progress of a childhood friend on Friday and read “The chemo is no longer working. [The specialist] estimates that Dave has about 2 weeks left.” I shed tears reading that, and in writing to him. David is the pastor of a small christian church in another city, and was a good friend to me.

He is also a deep thinker, and probably sympathetic to my “open agnostic” beliefs. The above is black-humoured music from a man who died not that long ago, also from cancer. Disclaimer: I have no idea if Warren Zevon was agnostic, I find the song speaks to me in relation to my dear friend at this point.

Here’s the song that probably began my agnostic search when I was five years old. I still love it.

Supertramp | The Logical Song

See you tomorrow!

Posted in agnostic, music | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »