Spritzophrenia

humour, music, life, sociology. friendly agnostic.

Posts Tagged ‘mystic’

Between Two Towers

Posted by spritzophrenia on September 29, 2010

In 1968, a secret plot to exploit New York’s famous “twin towers” began. On 7 August 1974, shortly after 7:15 am, Phillipe Petit stepped off the South Tower onto a steel cable, a quarter mile above the sidewalks of Manhattan. One of the police officers who tried to bring him down told this story:

I observed the tightrope ‘dancer’—because you couldn’t call him a ‘walker’—approximately halfway between the two towers. And upon seeing us he started to smile and laugh and he started going into a dancing routine on the high wire… And when he got to the building we asked him to get off the high wire but instead he turned around and ran back out into the middle… He was bouncing up and down. His feet were actually leaving the wire and then he would resettle back on the wire again… Unbelievable really… Everybody was spellbound in the watching of it.

His audacious high wire performance made headlines around the world. When asked why he did the stunt, Petit would say, “When I see three oranges, I juggle; when I see two towers, I walk.”

Twin towers tightrope

I sometimes feel I’m balancing between two extremes, but the consequences of falling are far less frightening. Today I talk about one of those extremes.

A Different Logic

The universe has given us a wonderful gift of logic, it’s the mind-power that enables us to do so much; all of our science, art and even love language makes use of it. There is even a case that “the” given-ness of logic, like gravity, tells us something about g0d. However, sometimes people feel constrained by logic in a way that they don’t by gravity. When finding an answer hard to accept, some say “Oh well, there must be some other way of thinking that goes beyond black & white concepts”. I find this hard to accept, but I’m giving it a fair go. To that end I got Edward de Bono’s I Am Right, You Are Wrong out of the library.

The book is about moving “from Rock Logic to Water Logic”. There is something in the back of my mind which hopes, “Maybe He’s not actually throwing away logic, just getting us to think in different ways about it. Logic itself still stands.” However, reading the summary at the end seems to say that, yep, he does think that traditional logic, while very useful, is not enough for “human affairs”.

In the summary he says the objective of his book is “to shift the emphasis to the importance of perception”. De Bono is very good at coming up with simple analogies and illustrations to make hard concepts easy to understand. I want to learn how to do that. His book is challenging me, but its a highly stimulating challenge now that I’m about one third of the way into it.

There is some irony in De Bono’s claims and approach, as he uses logic and criticism against logic and criticism; uses language, which he criticizes as constraining, to criticize language; provides a history of thinking while condemning the focus on history; and, in my opinion, one can claim that he applies a different philosophy to thinking while also declaring an end to philosophy. None of this is a condemnation of his work, but rather and acknowledgement that, ironically, any revolutionary thinker can only inherit for his work the very same tools he seeks to change.”

~ from here

“Feeling” God

I also found a good book on Mystics. Mystics are people who believe we can “encounter” or “feel” ultimate reality. Many religions have a mystical element to them, this book considers the Christian mystics such as Thomas Merton, the Sufi (Islamic) mystics (the most well-known being Rumi) and the Zen Buddhist mystics such as Dogen.

The mystic is often— and mistakenly— portrayed as an otherworldly, dreamy-eyed figure who lapses into ecstatic trances, who beholds strange visions or hears heavenly voices. I grant that one finds reports of such things— and stranger— in some mystical texts. But that is not what mysticism is about. Mystics themselves often regard such phenomena as peripheral to the deeper spiritual quest. According to commonplace mystical wisdom, such experiences should not be sought after, encouraged or cultivated. …

[On the ‘mysticism’ category in booksellers] There you usually find legitimate books on mysticism mixed in with stuff on the occult and witchcraft, fortune-telling, mind reading, and alien abductions. Mysticism, of course, has nothing to do with such matters…

More than a few [mystics] have been hard-nosed practical thinkers, respectful of intellect and education. Many have possessed a healthy, down-to-earth sense of people and politics and have often been movers and shakers in the world of their day.

~ William Harmless, Mystics p 3,4 [Edits mine]

Perhaps we can go beyond logic. And perhaps we can perceive spiritual reality directly. The view from the top is attractive to me and far less terrifying than a tightrope walk. Perhaps I sense that the universe is warmer than that. Perhaps the secret is in training oneself— Petit never fell during a performance in his entire career. Walking the tightrope that values the mind, but is also open to other possibilities is challenging. Philippe Petit did it, I hope I can too.

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Rock Logic? B52s

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Posted in agnostic, epistemology, Mysticism, Philosophy | Tagged: , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Mindless Belief

Posted by spritzophrenia on September 20, 2010

The role of our mind or reason has been a past theme here. I want to share what someone said in a recent post on Beliefnet. Here’s the verbatim quote:

The idea that there is a God and the idea that there is no God are both mind conceptions. The mind can go on developing the idea one way or the other, but it just goes around in circles. The rational mind is incestuous and keeps recreating itself endlessly.

The perception of Reality is beyond the rational mind. The experiences that people have on drugs, for instance, happen when the drug annuls the rational mind.

In Zen Buddhism there is a practice based on koans, which are questions that have no rational answer, like “what is the sound of one hand clapping”. The purpose is to have the mind make the efforts to find a logical answer until it short circuits itself. That is the time when the transcending experiences, called satori happen, moments when reality is seen as it is.

I would add that the aim of all true spiritual practices is the wearing off of the rational mind. Not to kill it or remove it, but to transcend it and not be the center of one’s perceptions.

meditation

I feel uncomfortable reading this. I think there are two extremes, one is to have too strong a role for the mind, the other is not to value it at all.

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Listen to Plus-Tech Squeeze Box make genre-busting crazy music. This is “Early Riser”.

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Posted in agnostic, Buddhism, god, music, Mysticism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments »

I Would Like a Great Lake of Beer

Posted by spritzophrenia on September 16, 2010

I would like to have the men of Heaven
In my own house:
With vats of good cheer
laid out for them.

I would like to have the three Marys,
Their fame is so great.
I would like people
From every corner of Heaven.

I would like them to be cheerful
In their drinking.
I would like to have Jesus too
Here amongst them.

I would like a great lake of beer
For the King of Kings,
I would like to be watching Heaven’s family
Drinking it through all eternity.

~ Celtic poem from 10th century Ireland.

Celtic roots

Man, those Irish Celts, eh? Pity I don’t like beer. I have Irish heritage and one of the things I like about Celtic christianity is the way they incorporated it with their culture in a very earthy way. There’s comfort in that. Making the divine, human; the esoteric, common; the mystical, mundane.

I wonder what part of my modern culture could do with taking up into g0d? What part of yours?

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How to Find God

Posted by spritzophrenia on August 30, 2010

Before setting out on a journey, it would be wise to decide how you will travel. Having a good map will help. I’d like to explain a little about my map.

If you’re going to find g0d, how will you know what she is like, and how will you know when you’ve found her? Broadly speaking, there is the way of the intellect and the way of experience. My method is twofold, I need both. I value truth, and I value connection.

By the way, that word “God”, has lots of baggage, so please substitute Brahman, spiritual reality, or another term if you prefer. In this post I’m not too particular about the nature of the goal I’m seeking. Reality, or Truth will do. I’ll use g0d.

Desert landscape

Experience without theory is blind, but theory without experience is mere intellectual play. ~ Kant

The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift. ~ Albert Einstein

I value the intuitive mind, or “experience”. I’ve been dipping into Carlos Castaneda’s Teachings of Don Juan, an ethnography of his time with a Yaqui shaman, taking peyote, datura and magic mushrooms. I like the idea of going into the desert, getting high, and meeting g0d. After all, I like deserts, and I like getting high. This seems like an experiential path that would be good for me. The problem is, how could I trust I was experiencing true Reality, rather than just curious experiences in my mind? Experience without reason could quickly lead me astray.

Most religions have a mystical element, a part that allows an experience of g0d. I’ve learned quite a lot about all kinds of approaches, and there is one thing I can guarantee— if you follow a spiritual path, you WILL have an experience. People all over the world, in significantly different faiths have had very trippy experiences. What I cannot guarantee is that your experience will be True. It’s quite possible that many mystical experiences, or even all of them, are false. Nice experiences, sure, but not experiences that actually connect with eternal Beauty. I think if the society of our time makes any mistake, it is this one.

Alternatively, it may be that I can discover “the g0d of the philosophers” through reason – science, philosophy, psychology, history, sociology… In brief, through the doorway of the mind. I’m not looking for proof. As I’ve written, we rarely get that kind of strong proof for most things in life. But I AM looking for reasonable evidence. Just because guru Mudinmipants says he experienced it does not mean it‘s true. (Do you think it would help to think about what “reasonable evidence” might be? I have a sense of it, but haven‘t written out explicit details.)

I ended up in this “mere intellectual” state the other day, saying to myself, “OK, so right now, intellectually, it looks like g0d might really be there. What now?” If there is good reason to think that g0d exists then it seems natural to try and make contact with this Reality. A dry assent that the Infinite exists, followed by life-as-usual, seems somehow flat.

Now, there are some assumptions I’ve made which you’ve probably spotted. Perhaps you think it doesn’t matter which path I take, all of them will lead me up the mountain? I think the evidence points away from this, but that’s for another time. It’s also possible that g0d is there, but we are not able to experience him. Mystical experiences on their own prove very little. These ideas are worth considering.

For me, I need both mind and heart. I hope that a path can be found which improves my life beyond mere intellectual satisfaction. And I cannot follow an experience that is not supported by reason.

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What about you? Are there any ways of finding Reality that I’ve missed?
I generally start with reason and end with experience. Should I try the other way around?
Are there problems you can see with my chosen method?

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A wonderful song that reminds me of what‘s important
Alan Parsons Project | Cant Take It With You

Posted in agnostic, epistemology, God, god | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments »

Western-Based Mysticism: A Personal Story

Posted by spritzophrenia on March 24, 2010

I invite people to tell their spiritual or agnostic stories. Today I’d like to say thanks to my friend Tanya for sharing a little of her journey. While I’ve come across many of the ideas such as ceremonial magick and the kabbala I hadn’t realised that they can be grouped in a general worldview and practice known as the Western Esoteric Tradition. It might be compared with New Age teachings except they come from a Western mystical worldview, rather than the New Age’s Eastern focus. Tanya writes:

My belief in god has changed from being absolute and unequivocal, to atheist, to now a moderately fluid appreciation of what might be possible theistically speaking – sometimes I believe, other times I’m lost and just don’t know what to think anymore. Mostly I live in a state of not-knowing-ness and surrender.

It all started when I became a committed open brethren at age 11. This transpired through my attendance at a youth group – my primary family were secular in the extreme, so no influence there.

My unconditional commitment to God lasted about three years. At 14 I started to question the more “misogynistic” doctrines – why could I not speak in church? Why should I wear a head covering? Why was I, as a female, essentially a second class citizen? Although the men and women of the church were genuine and gracious, it was the dogma and the flimsy explanations that disappointed me. And so I rejected any concept of God and became a faithless wanderer. Very quickly, though, I realised that having some kind of faith is important to me, so I delved, somewhat predictably, into various New Age practices for the next 20 or so years.

esoteric

I became a Reiki Master, a certified EMF Balancing Technique practitioner, and an Aura Soma practitioner. I work in these areas still, although more on request than as vocation. Common themes in my apprenticeships were symbology and the concept of universal truths.

I studied astrology, tarot (Thoth and Rider Waite), numerology, occultism, herbalism, the teachings of Alice Bailey, esoteric astrology, theosophy and anthroposophy. I eventually understood that these practices are all tied together by what is termed the Western Esoteric Tradition. If I were to classify my practice today it would be syncretism.

I’m now pursuing post-graduate studies in Education (psychology and issues of diversity). Through this academic channel I have encountered one Michel Foucault, who is also associated with the academic
field of Western Esotericism. It seems that whatever avenue I traverse, I’m lead somehow to the esoteric…

It is through this ongoing dalliance with the Western Esoteric Tradition that I have come to understand the imperative impulses of making art and other forms of self-expression generally; music and sound; science and empiricism; physicality and sexuality; nature and the wonderous magic that is mathematics. If there is any purpose to life as a human, then I believe it is in creative acts – of any kind. Between creativity and beauty is where I experience what I now conceive of as god. I guess this is more or less a gnostic perspective. It is not a relationship, rather a state of being and understanding. There is nothing that I can do that provokes god, and I am nothing more or less than any other thing in existence in the eyes of god, assuming god even sees. I’m merely a conduit for knowledge, which I gain experience of through creative acts and beauty.

===

Here’s the introduction from Wikipedia which Tanya links to above:

Western esotericism or Hermeticism (also Western Hermetic Tradition, Western mysticism, Western Inner Tradition, Western occult tradition, and Western mystery tradition) is a broad spectrum of spiritual traditions found in Western society, or refers to the collection of the mystical, esoteric knowledge of the Western world. This includes, but is not limited to, alchemy, theosophy, herbalism, occult tarot, astrology, Rosicrucianism and Western forms of ritual magic. The tradition has no one source or unifying text, nor does it hold any specific dogma, instead placing emphasis on “inner knowledge” or Gnosis. Various groups including Hermetic organizations, neopagans and Thelema persist in practicing modern variants of traditional Western esoteric philosophies.

All I’ll add at this point is that a common factor in the Western Esoteric Tradition seems to be a belief in hidden knowledge which can be imparted by those in the know (the word “occult” means “hidden”). For me personally, I’m interested not only in what ‘works’ (does it?) but what is true. I hope to have Tanya expand on why she finds these practices attractive in future. What do you think?

Today’s Fun Unrelated Link Teddy Bears take over! Brilliant surreal video.

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Mystical Experience in a Godless Universe

Posted by spritzophrenia on February 12, 2010

I’ve always found something about deserts beautiful. When I was sixteen, two friends and I spent 5 days tramping around Tongariro National Park. Much of the landscape is volcanic desert and I still have a memory of walking out alone into the rocks and sand of the Oturere basin. The sense of loneliness, sadness and beauty in the evening sunset was profound.

Yesterday I wrote about atheist spirituality, which generated a reasonable amount of traffic and a few comments. From this I can deduce that a) Atheists find talking about their spirituality interesting or b) Non-atheists like atheists talking about their spirituality or c) Google’s finally found me (but Google doesn’t actually find a great deal) or d) It’s really kinda hard to interpret much from traffic stats. Anyway, I want to follow up on a few points.

For example, do atheists pray? Does this violate some kind of atheist code, is it the unforgiveable sin? There’s an old saying – which I’m sure many atheists hate – “There are no atheists in foxholes.” Well I’m not so sure that screaming “Fuuuuck!” in your head counts as prayer. Actually, it probably does – I rather like how Anne Lamott‘s prayers mostly go “Help!”, and she’s not an atheist so that makes her an expert. From my experience, many christians would agree with her.

As an open agnostic, I can pray. I just don’t know if anyone is out there to hear me. I guess atheists wouldn’t pray, it would be inconsistent, right? They might meditate, but if we meditate, it would need to be totally divorced from g0ds or the Buddha. I’ve already written about the common misperception in the West that Buddhism is an atheistic religion. One former Buddhist writes

Once inside Buddhism you find out that belief in afterlife (rebirth), karma as a moral retribution law, the omniscience of Buddha, miracles of Buddhas and Bodhisatvas, pure lands, complete obedience to one’s guru, sins (bad karma), gods (“devas”), supernatural powers, etc, are all seen as fundamental beliefs in Buddhism.

Perhaps we can turn to more naturalistic spiritual experiences? Viewing a nice sunset perhaps? Being caught up in the beauty of music? Comte-Sponville’s “mystical” experiences involving a sense of “infinite happiness”, an “eternal sense of peace”, and the “dazzling presence of the All” sound rather like drug experiences that can be had on MDMA (ecstasy) and certain hallucinogens. An ex who is a committed user of such drugs nevertheless insists that drugs are not a spiritual experience. But then, maybe she’s not defining spiritual experience very well? If spiritual experiences are really just intense emotional or mystical experiences and don’t require a g0d or spirit world then maybe these drug experiences are, in fact, spiritual experiences. This topic is one I’m planning some guest blogs and a little debate on.

Atheist Left Coast Librul writes: “Human beings are by their very nature spiritual. I wonder if theists would resist atheists quite so fervently if we were more willing to admit that simple fact.” Non-atheist Lou Kavar suggests some definitions of spirituality that doesn’t necessarily require a g0d, although the rest of his post probably goes beyond what most atheists would be comfortable with: “Spirituality is a dimension of life we each have. It is the dimension that enables to us to create, discover, or encounter something about meaning, purpose and value in life.”

Julian Baggini concludes his article on Spirituality for Atheists with “Personally, I’d like to banish the word ‘spiritual’. It misleads us into thinking that we need more than the world we live in as physical, organic beings. What we think of as ‘spiritual is simply those things – love, morality, values and meaning – that make us creatures with rich inner lives.” Sabio, a commentter on yesterday’s blog would also like to leave the word “spirit” out.

Agnostic Pentecostal, commented yesterday and asks of atheist spirituality

how it’s possible? In my mind, even a pantheistic-type (or panentheistic) “other” is still representative of something/one beyond. To me, this is a “theos,” regardless of the nature we ascribe it, whether we call that Eywa, great spirit, Nature, Universe, or God…even if it has a lowercase “g.” I like the idea of atheistic spirituality but in my mind, whatever you replace “God” with is still a God.

Of the two friends I shared my desert spirituality experience, both were atheists. Ross blew his brains out with a shotgun several years ago. Tony, who argued vehemently with me over theism in his late teens moved to England, got married and is now a christian. Me, I prefer just being alone in the desert. I think it’s about time I went camping there again with my son. Perhaps if g0d is real she might choose to meet me there.

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listening to Blue Oyster Cult | Don’t Fear the Reaper
Today’s Fun Unrelated Link Cool! Stop-motion animated T-Shirt Fight

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Buddha and Drugs

Posted by spritzophrenia on December 22, 2009

The Fifth Precept: ‘I undertake the rule of training to refrain from distillled and fermented intoxicants producing heedlessness’. (1)

… All the [first] four precepts depend for their purity, upon constant vigilance and if the mind is overcome by intoxicants, then what harm may not result?

(footnote 1) It is significant that all substances producing a distortion of normal human experience find a place under the Fifth Precept. In India, both ancient and modern, the use of drugs to stimulate ‘religious’ experiences including visual and auditory hallucinations, has been and is very well known and quite widely practised. The ‘insights’ claimed by some who in the present day take mescalin, etc, should be tested against the difference which these experiences make to the forces of greed, aversion and delusion in their hearts and conduct. Particulartly if it is claimed that these drugs offer a kind of shortcut to Enlightenment, whether called vipassana or satori, then it must be stressed that no real shortcut of this sort is possible and such experience cannot replace effort spread over years or even over lives.

From Buddhism Explained by Bhikkhu Khantipalo (Buddha Educational Foundation, Singapore, circa 1973) Old technology, a book that I cannot link to on the net! I must borrow this back from my friend David sometime.

In this post I return to the subject of spirituality and drugs. Also see my proposed list of topics for 2010. [Edit: Now woefully out of date]

What do you think? Do psychoactive drugs help bring us closer to g0d/enlightenment? According to this monk, Buddha says no, mmkay? Just say no.


listening to
Kate Bush | The man with the child in his eyes

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