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Very interesting, Matt!

I don't quite understand how modern first-worlders can so discount the invisible. Evidence of the invisible is all around us every day in the first world, for instance, wireless connectivity, WiFi and Bluetooth. My smartphone can communicate to my tablet PC, my printer to my PC, etc. - all without a physical material connection. Even the "low-tech" TV is an invisible marvel, and if you ask most people how it works, they couldn't tell you. On the biological side, there's things you can't see with the naked eye that can also kill you. I've often heard it said that physicists "get spiritual" just because of this - maybe that's a myth, but it makes sense.

Well, an skeptic would argue that while we cannot perceive wireless conectivity or Bluetooth, we can use different devices to measure or test their signals. To know they're *there*. That's something skeptics think can't be done with the paranormal.

Congratulations on a great post, Matt! Very nicely written.

I have to admit, though, that I was going to find some disagreement with you. That is, until until I read this:

"Seeing everything through an intellectual lens is not necessarily the better way to live."

Such an important truth!

If there's a direction to my life, it has been to gradually balance the over-intellectualizing of my teen years by opening up to the emotional, and then the spiritual, quadrants of my being.

I say "quadrant," because I think of myself as containing four basic modes or aspects: physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual.

And I put them in that order because, as I long ago came to understand, each succeeding chapter in my life has focused on one after the other, in that sequence.

Anyway, I'm so glad you ended up with that sentence. It saves me a lot of writing today. :)

"Throughout history, the vast majority of people have lived in the “Thoughtless Chamber”: they’ve accepted the belief system that predominates around them without any particular thought or enthusiasm. Most people are not of an intellectual bent, and most people have been too busy surviving to have the time to think."

'The Outsider thinks too far and too deep.' - Colin Wilson, The Outsider

Excellent post Matt! You presented an insightful and compelling case without being distractingly pithy.

My personal belief is that we are currently incapable of grasping the Big Picture. Over and over, mystics, near-death experiencers and the like describe their exposure to a Higher Knowledge as ineffable, yet they often urgently feel compelled to convey as much of their experience to the world as they can.
Those among us who are open to hearing what they've witnessed can only listen, perhaps hoping to vicariously absorb their transcendent understanding while being painfully aware that we're failing to fully *grok* it.

But try we must. There has to be some way out of this irrational/rational fog we call reality, despite the fact that we seem surrounded by folks who are quite content in their “Chamber of Maiden-Thought”.
The trick is to find the balance. When spiritual discussion gets too rational, the subject becomes dry and pointless, but when rationality is thrown out the window, we end up talking in circles at best, or worse, sounding like Shirley McClaine.

I think that looking for a type of energy or vibration that we can measure in the material world may be the wrong approach. That's why Newtonian science falls on its a*s when it tries to quantify spirituality.
Don't get me wrong. Objective measurement to acquire accurate data is critically important, but ultimately consciousness is all about the experience. Data is only one of many aspects woven into the tapestry of our conscious experience.

Kathleen,

Thank you!

||I don't quite understand how modern first-worlders can so discount the invisible.||

Yes, how did we get here? That's something I'd like to talk about in the future. I think the really short answer is that we live in a time of very fragmented worldviews, and we are not able to come together on a shared myth dealing with not only the spiritual but also where we are going as a species. I think it was an inevitability as we evolved beyond dogma as both content and epistemological stance ("I know the Truth because an Authority told me, and here's what He told me."). We are evolving out of every type of dogma: spiritual, political, scientific, etc., so we are feeling rudderless in a very wide sea right now.

Luciano,

||That's something skeptics think can't be done with the paranormal.||

And they are happy to hand-wave away any and all laboratory science to the contrary.

Bruce,

Thank you!

||I have to admit, though, that I was going to find some disagreement with you.||

Well, you are in my mind, Bruce! I take what you say seriously and keep it under consideration.

Plus, when you are in the Mist, you find yourself in disagreement with yourself!

There is a line in the movie "I Heart Huckabees" that is given as a joke but is actually very wise: "How am I not myself?" I think the Self must paradoxically lie outside itself, and Reality finds itself in the same position.

Julie,

I would be interested in an elaboration of your point, or Colin's. Or both!

Rabbitdawg,

Thank you!

||My personal belief is that we are currently incapable of grasping the Big Picture.||

I agree. The question is whether this failure is systemic and inevitable or simply a product of our current understanding and will be eventually "solved." I think it is a combination of both.

||Over and over, mystics, near-death experiencers and the like describe their exposure to a Higher Knowledge as ineffable, yet they often urgently feel compelled to convey as much of their experience to the world as they can.
Those among us who are open to hearing what they've witnessed can only listen, perhaps hoping to vicariously absorb their transcendent understanding while being painfully aware that we're failing to fully *grok* it.||

Yes. And I don't think they necessarily get the full Big Picture, either.

Or they get too big of a picture that can't be translated into a spiritual "solution" for the here and now (i.e., how do we escape pain and live Love). I think the paradox is that we are helping to build in the here and now the solution that they experience in a timeless fashion.

||But try we must. There has to be some way out of this irrational/rational fog we call reality, despite the fact that we seem surrounded by folks who are quite content in their “Chamber of Maiden-Thought”.
The trick is to find the balance. When spiritual discussion gets too rational, the subject becomes dry and pointless, but when rationality is thrown out the window, we end up talking in circles at best, or worse, sounding like Shirley McClaine.||

Indeed. Too rational means that we are forgetting that which has the potential to "solve" the problem, whereas not rational enough means we are not trying to "solve" the problem in the first place.

||I think that looking for a type of energy or vibration that we can measure in the material world may be the wrong approach. That's why Newtonian science falls on its a*s when it tries to quantify spirituality.
Don't get me wrong. Objective measurement to acquire accurate data is critically important, but ultimately consciousness is all about the experience. Data is only one of many aspects woven into the tapestry of our conscious experience.||

Absolutely. And I think a further confounding factor (factor or essence?!) is that our physical Reality has a multilevel nature in which it is teacher of Spirit and its medium of self- and other-exploration (and Self-as-Other exploration!) while serving as a mask over Spirit and between Spirit and us playing the role of Other-than-Spirit (somewhat like Bruce's/Grof's "forgetting," although I think in that metaphor the generative aspect of physical reality is obscured). To put it in a bit plainer fashion, this world is both real and fake at the same time.

Hi Matt,

Thanks for a good piece. I find it fascinating that Keats considered himself to have seen only the first two rooms. I wonder where he went from there?

For my part, having grown up steeped in the teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg, I simply didn't have the crisis of faith that many people go through. Yes, when I was still in my teens, I realized that I could either accept it or reject it, and whichever choice I made, I would convince myself that it had been the right choice. (The alternative would have been atheism.) But as for the ideas themselves, they were so lucid, rational, scientific, and spiritual at the same time that there just wasn't a lot I felt I had to reject.

Having said that, as I've moved on in years, I've found it fairly easy to leave behind certain things Swedenborg said that seem to me to have come more from 18th century (and earlier) thought than from any spiritual enlightenment he may have had. So I'm quite comfortable saying that Swedenborg was wrong about this or that thing that has proved not to be true as humanity has progressed. (For those interested in my view of Swedenborg and his teachings, see my article "Do the Teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg take Precedence over the Bible?" written in response to a reader's question.)

In harmony with Swedenborg's concept of "correspondences," I think of reality as a multi-layered thing, in which the higher layers express themselves on the lower levels. Though falsity and illusion do exist, I don't think of physical reality as intrinsically illusive, but rather as a relatively flat and limited expression of greater and more detailed realities above it. It's like a photo of a living, three-dimensional scene. It's not false. It's just limited in its expression of the full reality of what it depicts.

This means that when we realize that our concept of reality doesn't account for all the phenemona we've encountered, that doesn't necessarily mean we have to throw everything we've ever learned out the window and start over from scratch. Rather, it may mean that what we've learned so far--if it is a fairly accurate picture of reality on its own level--is only a foundation for an understanding of higher levels of reality.

To use an analogy from physics, we still commonly use Newtonian physics on ordinary scales and at ordinary speeds, even though we know that at very large and small scales and at very high speeds, things just don't work the way they should according to Newtonian physics.

So my own experience has been more of refining and elevating the concepts with which I was raised rather than having to throw them out and enter the void before finally (one hopes) washing up on new and firmer conceptual ground.

For me, the struggle of life is not intellectual. It is emotional and spiritual. knowing is not the same as being. It is in my heart and in my spirit that I have had to face the void.

Mind you, I don't claim to know everything. Far from it. But thanks be to God, what I do know, and the level at which I know it, at each stage of my life has been sufficient to face the inner struggles that have to do more with the formation of my character than the formation of my mind. It doesn't make those struggles easy. But it does make them easier than they otherwise would have been.

Thank you for this post, and Michael's generous lending of his stage for it. Yours is one of several minds here I'd often wished I could extensively pick. This was the next best thing.

It's a timely subject for me as well, since I've just recently moved into a 'burden' phase, and it's been a challenge. I feel a bit adrift, not sure what to use as my motivation for striving towards any goals. Almost 50 years gone by, with my believing I'd get The Answer to my big questions, and now I'm thinking maybe that's not how the game works (if it's a game at all).

Nice Matt!

My own thinking on this topic is pretty well outlined here:http://www.thinking-approach.org/index.php?id=354

I think the "clarity" described in the link is fairly synonymous with the "Chamber of Maiden-Thought".

I do not think we that we are intellectuals in the common connotation. We seek to experience directly; not just think about things. I do prefer the term "man of knowledge". Knowledge seems to encompass gathering and assimilating information through more channels than merely the intellect.

But it's odd, Luciano, that people in the Middle Ages, who had no evidence of the invisible, believed in the invisible. Whereas today we have things like electromagnetic fields that are invisible, and people believe even in them, although most probably don't understand them.

There is actually one scientific way to demonstrate the pararnormal, EVP recordings, but they're mostly laughed at. And the problem with skeptics is that even if an EVP experiment was carried out with the utmost integrity and adherence to the scientific method, skeptics would still say it was a scam, or it was flawed. And they can always fall back on "it was just mass hallucination." I'm certainly not sure myself but become frustrated with such knee-jerk reactions.

Leewoof,

Thank you!

||I find it fascinating that Keats considered himself to have seen only the first two rooms. I wonder where he went from there?||

He seems to imply that he was in The Mist, which is an aspect of the "Chamber of Maiden-Thought," or perhaps the Chamber itself transforms (what once seemed simple and validating of our new way of thinking no longer does).

||For my part, having grown up steeped in the teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg, I simply didn't have the crisis of faith that many people go through.||

Yes, being born into a more advanced, subtle, and flexible belief system can help prevent a crash later on, I think.

||Having said that, as I've moved on in years, I've found it fairly easy to leave behind certain things Swedenborg said that seem to me to have come more from 18th century (and earlier) thought than from any spiritual enlightenment he may have had. So I'm quite comfortable saying that Swedenborg was wrong about this or that thing that has proved not to be true as humanity has progressed.||

My impression is that he was a really smart guy who did in fact do traveling to the Afterlife and observe. I think his description of Angels as former humans is based on his seeing humans in higher dimensions. His description of change in state versus change in time in Heaven I think also provides a big clue as to how "time" works in the Afterlife.

I think Swedenborg is like Edgar Cayce and a lot of other thinkers in that the best of what they have to offer has been absorbed into the main stream of New Age thought, and they no longer need to be studied in depth separately. Big caveat on that: There is always something that gets missed, so it's good to have people who know these thinkers/experiencers in depth who can point those things out.

||In harmony with Swedenborg's concept of "correspondences," I think of reality as a multi-layered thing, in which the higher layers express themselves on the lower levels. Though falsity and illusion do exist, I don't think of physical reality as intrinsically illusive, but rather as a relatively flat and limited expression of greater and more detailed realities above it. It's like a photo of a living, three-dimensional scene. It's not false. It's just limited in its expression of the full reality of what it depicts.||

I think that metaphor is correct and really comes to life when one recognizes that the Astral and Afterlife occupy the 4th and ≥5th dimensions, respectively. Our world really *is* flat compared to them.

||This means that when we realize that our concept of reality doesn't account for all the phenemona we've encountered, that doesn't necessarily mean we have to throw everything we've ever learned out the window and start over from scratch. Rather, it may mean that what we've learned so far--if it is a fairly accurate picture of reality on its own level--is only a foundation for an understanding of higher levels of reality.||

True... I think the issue is that, in the Mist, we find contradiction and confusion in what comes to us from those higher levels. To me, the most disconcerting this is that within the intimations of safety (i.e., we get to live after we die), we find very little authority backing up the whole "scheme." Instead of a "God" masterminding the whole thing and giving us the straight dope, as it were, we find higher-level beings that themselves do not fully understand the nature of Reality and who are limited in their ability to help us. The whole thing is murky enough that one may entertain such "downer" alternative theories as super-psi, etc. I think there have also been big dead ends with a lot of truth in them, like Buddhism. It is an incredibly sophisticated world of thought, but I don't think Buddhism actually delivers the enlightenment goods.

And in my own attempts to progress spiritually, it's even worse. I seem to progress, then fall back. But am I just being tested harder? Am I being tested at all? Have I progressed at all? Look at what Mother Teresa said above--I don't think such despair by the dedicated is all that uncommon.

||But thanks be to God, what I do know, and the level at which I know it, at each stage of my life has been sufficient to face the inner struggles that have to do more with the formation of my character than the formation of my mind. It doesn't make those struggles easy. But it does make them easier than they otherwise would have been.||

Yes. That's why I think it's stupid to say that religion does more harm than good. Religions encompass basic truths that help us. It doesn't matter if you pray to Jesus, Allah, or Zeus, prayer offered up in the right spirit really does help. And there is a whole spectrum of sophistication in belief systems and in the effort one may put into exemplifying one's own.

Wax Frog,

Thank you!

||Yours is one of several minds here I'd often wished I could extensively pick. This was the next best thing.||

That is very flattering. Anyone here is welcome to be my friend on Facebook or just email me:

https://www.facebook.com/matt.rouge
matt@marrubium.com

||It's a timely subject for me as well, since I've just recently moved into a 'burden' phase, and it's been a challenge. I feel a bit adrift, not sure what to use as my motivation for striving towards any goals.||

That is an *exact* description of how I have been feeling, and I hear the same thing from a lot of friends. My thought is that the entire world is in a very Yin stage right now, and many old beliefs and behaviors are being tossed in the collective garbage can right now. We are shedding our dogma. A good metaphor for it is the shift from the Age of Pisces to the Age of Aquarius. The Age of Pisces began right around 1 C.E. with the end of Aries, which was characterized by pluralistic belief (Paganism, etc.) and the rise of pluralistic empires. Pices was characterized by the rise of dogmatic, oppositional belief within the rise of nation states (both involve us-versus-them thinking, with the fish going in opposite directions). In the Age of Aquarius, we are seeing the breakdown of oppositional beliefs, governments, and economic systems. The emphasis is on the many within one, and the one within many. Greater freedom combined with greater connection to others. Again, the astrological perspective is another myth or angle from which to view things, not necessarily the "Truth."

My view is that this Yin time is a fruitful one in which to focus inward and work on oneself and the things that are truly important to oneself.

no one,

Thank you!

||My own thinking on this topic is pretty well outlined here:http://www.thinking-approach.org/index.php?id=354||

I will not close the tab before I finish reading it, thanks!

||I do not think we that we are intellectuals in the common connotation. We seek to experience directly; not just think about things. I do prefer the term "man of knowledge". Knowledge seems to encompass gathering and assimilating information through more channels than merely the intellect.||

Excellent point! This is a very valuable concept that I shall use henceforth.

Kathleen,

||There is actually one scientific way to demonstrate the pararnormal, EVP recordings, but they're mostly laughed at. And the problem with skeptics is that even if an EVP experiment was carried out with the utmost integrity and adherence to the scientific method, skeptics would still say it was a scam, or it was flawed.||

I think there are many ways in which the paranormal has been *proven*, but, yes, these are horses that will not be forced to drink.

||And they can always fall back on "it was just mass hallucination." I'm certainly not sure myself but become frustrated with such knee-jerk reactions.||

Right. There really is no such phenomenon. Why is it that people only mass-hallucinate what people would prefer not to exist? I've never heard of a mass hallucination of something ordinary, such as rain or a flock of flamingos.

Leewolf:
Thanks for the link to your website. You have my deep respect for your intellectual clarity. - AOD

no one,

I read the Castaneda page. Excellent! I do think it supplements the Keats very nicely.

Hi Matt,

Thanks for your responses, which I enjoyed. To take up just one or two of the things you say:

Instead of a "God" masterminding the whole thing and giving us the straight dope, as it were, we find higher-level beings that themselves do not fully understand the nature of Reality and who are limited in their ability to help us.

One of the major errors and sources of confusion in various spiritual modalities that depend upon spirit communication is the assumption that angels and spirits are universally enlightened simply due to the fact that they are in the spiritual world rather than the physical world.

And yet, it seems clear enough that the world of spiritual beings contains the whole gamut from very enlightened to very much shrouded in mist and illusion, and even outright falsity and evil. Therefore the messages that come through are also a mixture of enlightenment, illusion, and falsity. Yet those who receive them commonly believe they are true because they come from a spiritual origin. Hence the great confusion of conflicting ideas and beliefs about higher reality, all based on spiritual sources.

From my perspective, there is only one being who is universally enlightened, and that is the being we call God. All other beings exist in greater or lesser, but not pure, enlightenment, or in greater or lesser fallacy and illusion. Even the highest angels do not possess pure truth as it exists in the mind of God, but truth adapted to the great but still limited capacity of their minds.

Swedenborg recorded many conversations with angels in his theological writings, and his more conservative followers often take the statements of angels as ultimate, undeniable truth. I beg to differ. Angels can be mistaken just as any other created being can be mistaken.

There is no substitute for using our own thinking mind, and our own perceptive heart, to evaluate the ideas and information that comes our way, no matter what its source. We cannot simply turn our brain over to some outside authority and leave it at that. Anything we accept that way does not enter deeply into us, but stays on the surface. Only what we have faced and tested through our own mind and experience will become deeply a part of who we are.

Hi Matt,

You also say:

And in my own attempts to progress spiritually, it's even worse. I seem to progress, then fall back. But am I just being tested harder? Am I being tested at all? Have I progressed at all? Look at what Mother Teresa said above--I don't think such despair by the dedicated is all that uncommon.

If I may offer a thought from Swedenborg, this feeling of despair is not necessarily a bad thing.

Swedenborg states that genuine and deep spiritual trials (or "temptations" in traditional language) involve bringing us to the point of despair.

He gives various reasons for this. One of the ones that hits me strongest is that it is not until we hit the point of despair that we are willing to let go of our ego and our control of our own life, and recognize that God is in control, and we are only receivers of what flows in from God--or from hell.

As long as we live in the illusion that we are the source of our own ideas, feelings, and strength, and do not need any help from God or any other higher power, we will cling to our own illusions and our own addictions very strongly, and will never let go of them, because we claim them as our own, and as being "me."

Bringing us to the point of despair breaks down those ego-attachments (Swedenborg called it in Latin proprium, or sense of self and self-ownership), and opens us up to the reality that nothing we have and are comes from us, but we are dependent upon God and heaven (or spirit) for everything good and true in us, and for everything good we do.

Speaking for myself (and I don't think my experience is unique), when I was a teenager and a young adult, I thought I knew everything, and that I was smarter than everyone else.

It was only through trying out everything in my supposed brilliance and discovering that I failed utterly at life pursuant to that supposed brilliance that it finally began to sink in that I am not so brilliant after all, and that I am certainly not the source of all truth.

Over the years I have been forced to admit more and more that I really know very little, and that what little I do know is no credit to me, but comes from other sources, and is only entrusted to me to the extent that I am willing to use it in serving others.

I still battle the ol' ego every day. But due to my own bouts with failure and despair, I am more and more able to accept that I have no ownership of the truth. I am simply a conduit--a status that can be taken away very quickly as soon as I start getting all up in my ego again, and thinking it's about me knowing more than other people.

When I think about Mother Theresa's despair, I don't see someone who had failed spiritually. I see someone who had advanced spiritually to the point at which she had the depth and strength of character, founded upon a life of selfless service, to face the truly deep and harrowing spiritual trials that God allows only for those who have developed the spiritual strength and rootedness to face them.

The telltale sign for me that her despair was part of her spiritual development is that through it all, she dedicated her life to serving her fellow human beings. She did not give up and throw her life to dissolution and the Devil (speaking metaphorically).

I do think that she struggled with some false doctrine due to her particular religious affiliation, which might have introduced extra confusion and doubt into her mind and heart. But beyond that, she faced the ultimate questions and tests of life, and came through still dedicating her life to the poorest and most needy of human beings. For that, I see her as even more heroic than if she had had been continually sustained by a clear and steadfast faith.

Hi AOD,

Thank you. I appreciate that very much.

I think there's no way of measuring paranormal activity that the skeptics will find convincing...

Leewoof,

Thank you for your further enlightening comments!

In your first of the two, I agreed with basically everything. In the second, I have a few things to chat about:

||He gives various reasons for this. One of the ones that hits me strongest is that it is not until we hit the point of despair that we are willing to let go of our ego and our control of our own life, and recognize that God is in control, and we are only receivers of what flows in from God--or from hell.||

You give a firm answer here, and I think it is a good one, yet I think we can only be so confident about this matter, as I think it is one of the great mysteries: the degree to which we "channel" our mental content, and the degree to which we "create" it.

If everything comes from the outside, then why do we even need to exist in the first place if indeed there is a God who is supplying any and all content? Skip the middleman, say I.

Personally, I think the tests are for the sake of our development, yes, but development consists not only of submission (or alignment with standards beyond ourselves, such as Love) but also of addition.

I also don't think there is one "God" controlling everything.

||Bringing us to the point of despair breaks down those ego-attachments (Swedenborg called it in Latin proprium, or sense of self and self-ownership), and opens us up to the reality that nothing we have and are comes from us, but we are dependent upon God and heaven (or spirit) for everything good and true in us, and for everything good we do.||

To me, this is a depressing philosophy. We are merely puppets taking a beating until we fully puppetize. Yet, I think it is also true that Life exists in many ways to break down the Ego. I know that I have taken several beatings in life for this very purpose. But I don't think that's the only kind of test or the only goal of testing. Or that testing is the only element of the program (not that you are saying it is).

||Speaking for myself (and I don't think my experience is unique), when I was a teenager and a young adult, I thought I knew everything, and that I was smarter than everyone else.||

I think it's a fact of life and why Keats uses age and experience levels to describe the chambers in his metaphor. When we're young, we know very little, and then when we're a bit older and see how stupidly the adult world is run, we understandably get cynical and feel that it would be easy to solve things if people would just shape up and do things the right way.

||When I think about Mother Theresa's despair, I don't see someone who had failed spiritually. I see someone who had advanced spiritually to the point at which she had the depth and strength of character, founded upon a life of selfless service, to face the truly deep and harrowing spiritual trials that God allows only for those who have developed the spiritual strength and rootedness to face them.

The telltale sign for me that her despair was part of her spiritual development is that through it all, she dedicated her life to serving her fellow human beings. She did not give up and throw her life to dissolution and the Devil (speaking metaphorically).

I do think that she struggled with some false doctrine due to her particular religious affiliation, which might have introduced extra confusion and doubt into her mind and heart.||

I agree that she didn't fail spiritually insofar as I know. But the "false doctrine" you mentioned could be a big part of the problem.

I've come up with three questions to ask oneself about spiritual goals:

Do you want to feel a certain way?
Do you want to sense a certain thing?
Do you want to be a certain self?

I think in general, we undertake a spiritual program because we want to feel better (or elated, etc.), we want to trip out, so to speak, and we want to gain power over ourselves and our environment. These goals sound crude, but in ancient times, people pursued them unashamed. Sacrifice to the gods for favor, trip out in a Bacchanal, undergo the mysteries to achieve new power, and so on.

I think a big part of spiritual development is keeping our eye on these desires, which are not wholly bad but which can be corrupting. I think Mother Teresa might have felt, "I am helping so many people, I want to feel the love of God, I want to feel good." And she felt the opposite. And the lesson may have been that there isn't such a "God" to send one on an elation trip, or perhaps the elation trip isn't really good for one.

But I've been there, done that. Some steps in my progress have been characterized by elation and new mastery. Then I lose it. Then perhaps I transcend it by not needing. The clarity and power thing from the page no one linked to is quite a good descriptor of it.

||But beyond that, she faced the ultimate questions and tests of life, and came through still dedicating her life to the poorest and most needy of human beings. For that, I see her as even more heroic than if she had had been continually sustained by a clear and steadfast faith.||

Then another fly in the ointment is the issue of whether she really did a good job or not. Have you heard the criticisms from the late Christopher Hitchens? But I don't feel like investigating the whole thing in depth myself...

@Matt: If I said the the outsider's greatest enemy is human triviality, would that bring you closer to following the meaning of Wilson's words?

A little off topic but I thought you guys would find this interesting (if not annoying)

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/epiphenom/2014/11/religious-and-paranormal-believers-are-high-in-empathy-but-confused-about-how-the-world-works.html

Hi no one,

I also enjoyed the Carlos Castaneda page. Thanks for the link!

The path of the soul is a winding maze that has far more wrong turns than right ones. Only those who persist through great confusion and resistance will make it to the center of the maze.

And then a new maze begins . . .

Having said that . . .

What struck me most in the piece was Casteneda's statements at two or three places along the way that once a man (person) makes a particular wrong turn he (or she) will never recover and get back on the path. The path toward being a man of knowledge is lost forever.

That goes against the conventional wisdom that there is always the possibility of redemption.

And yet, it does seem that in the case of many people, Casteneda is right: once they take a particular wrong turn, they never do resume the path toward real enlightenment and humanity.

For some that simply means getting stuck at a particular level, and progressing no further. But for others it means starting on a downward path from which they do not return.

Typo fix: Castaneda, not Casteneda.

In my world and I think it's fair to say that I live in a real world. EVP is repeatable objective evidence and obviously a measureable effect.

Julie,

I think I'd need more context overall. Can you point me toward an extended quote?

Ingrid,

I read about the study. My initial impression is not *total* disagreement: there are fluffy-headed New Agers who believe in anything and everything (with the worst believing in any and all conspiracies as well; i.e., adding in a nice big dose of fear). But the people running the study *seem* have begun with an attitude of, "We all know this is crap, but let's find out why these poor people believe it."

There are plenty of people with high IQs who would easily "pass" their test. And the question remains: Are the phenomena real? If they are, it doesn't matter if a lot of New Agers are dumb bunnies (my friends certainly tend not to be).

Finally, if your basic stance is to see purpose in everything in the world and you are smart but not smart enough to see *through* the point of the test questions, then you could be identified as dumb per the experimenters' perspective and not really be dumb at all.

Regarding EVP, Bacci in Italy has produced great results for decades, and has been observed by researchers, including England's David Fontana.

There's not much in the way of sceptical attacks on him as skeptics are biased towards the anglo-sphere.

Douglas

@Matt: It's well worth reading Colin Wilson's seminal work, 'The Outsider': first published in 1956 and still in print. I read it in my early twenties and it has coloured my perspective on life ever since. In short, it's the most important book I've ever read . . . . . . . and, believe me, I've read quite a lot!

Hi Matt,

Thanks for your responses. A few more of my own:

You say:

If everything comes from the outside, then why do we even need to exist in the first place if indeed there is a God who is supplying any and all content?

The abstract, philosophical answer to this (from my perspective, of course) is that everything exists, and exists in completeness and perfection, at the divine level of reality, which is God; but everything does not exist, or exists only partially and imperfectly, in the two general created levels of reality: the spiritual and the material.

The source of everything is God. Nothing but God subsists in itself, or creates anything new in itself. What the other levels of reality do is bring into manifestation on their own level what had previously existed only on the source, or divine, level.

What we think of as "creating a new thing" is really expressing something on the levels in which we exist (spiritual and physical) that had not previously been expressed on those levels.

So what we "create" is both new and not new. It is new in that it has not previously existed within the planes of reality in which we exist. But it is not new in that it already existed on the divine level of reality consisting of and inhabited by God.

Of course, this posits the existence of an infinite God from whom all else comes. Without that, the universe just doesn't make sense to me.

To continue,

You say:

I also don't think there is one "God" controlling everything.

I agree with you on this, not in saying there isn't one God, but in saying that God doesn't control everything.

Or to put it plainly, I believe that there is one God, but that although God could control everything, God chooses not to control everything.

Your basic Gnostic philosophy holds that life is about finding enlightenment, and that once we have found full enlightenment, our existence has been fulfilled. Gnosis = knowledge.

I find that philosophy to be lacking in that it stops short of the true center of reality.

Knowledge and enlightenment is not the core of reality, but the next level of reality out from the core. It is not the ultimate attainment, but a means to the ultimate attainment.

The true core of God and reality is love. Knowledge, truth, enlightenment, is both the means by which love expresses itself and the means whereby we can find our way to love.

In terms of our experience, the essence of love involves relationship with others beyond ourselves.

Yes, there is self-love, but by itself that is an inward, self-limiting love rather than an expansive and creative love.

The non-abstract reason why we exist as distinct beings even though the source of everything we have and are is beyond ourselves is that the nature of God's love is to love others outside of self. That requires the existence of others who are capable of receiving and returning that love as if they were autonomous beings.

To be capable of receiving and returning love is also to be capable of not accepting or returning love. Forced or pre-programmed love is not love.

That is why God chooses not to control everything. God chooses not to control the choices we will make as to how we will direct our lives, what we will do with our lives, and especially whether we will accept and reciprocate God's love.

This is why our existence as distinct from God, even though all of it flows from God, is significant.

The new thing we can create through our lives is mutual and loving relationship with God and with one another. God cannot do this alone. God requires our existence, and our freely chosen participation, in order to have that mutual relationship of love that God wants and chooses to have with other beings besides the self of God.

Hi again Matt,

A couple of miscellaneous responses:

Speaking of Mother Teresa, you say:

I agree that she didn't fail spiritually insofar as I know. But the "false doctrine" you mentioned could be a big part of the problem.

I tend to agree with you. I've read enough about her life to get the sense that she struggled with some Roman Catholic doctrine that I consider to be false, and that this caused problems for her. But I have not read enough about her life to say anything particularly intelligent or knowledgeable about that.

False doctrine does have a damaging effect. And in case "false doctrine" seems arbitrary or peremptory, another way of saying it is, stuff that just isn't true because it doesn't correspond to the reality that actually exists.

Unfortunately, there is much of this in the existing institutionalized religions. I do not single out Roman Catholicism on this. It's just that Mother Teresa happened to be Roman Catholic, so that would be the source of the particular false doctrines she struggled with.

You also say:

Then another fly in the ointment is the issue of whether she really did a good job or not. Have you heard the criticisms from the late Christopher Hitchens? But I don't feel like investigating the whole thing in depth myself...

No, I haven't heard Hitchens's critique of Mother Teresa. But it does not surprise me that he would critique her. Didn't he critique everything he came across that had any relationship to God and spirit in any way, shape, or form?

Of course, he must break down Mother Teresa as well in order to maintain the integrity of his own belief system. (And I say "belief system" advisedly, fully aware that he would object to that characterization of his views.)

One of these days I may force myself to actually sit down and read some serious doses of Hitchens, Dawkins, et al.

Then again, I may not.

Really, the only reason to read them would be to inform myself so that I could speak more effectively with their New Atheist followers.

As for their philosophy itself, what I've read of it so far is so superficial and so far from any real understanding of the nature of God, spirit, and reality that it was largely a waste of time to spend my time absorbing it.

Speaking from my own particular spiritual perspective, nothing of theirs that I've read or listened to so far had not already been fully and effectively answered by Swedenborg, either explicitly or by rather easy intellectual extension, over two centuries before they were born.

However, I understand that they have a powerful influence on many atheists and agnostics today. That, as I say, is why one day I might force myself to actually sit down and read some of their books.

Hi Matt,

One more response for now. You say:

I think in general, we undertake a spiritual program because we want to feel better (or elated, etc.), we want to trip out, so to speak, and we want to gain power over ourselves and our environment. These goals sound crude, but in ancient times, people pursued them unashamed.

I agree that these are common starting points for our spiritual program.

That's because we start out in life largely wrapped up in our own pain and pleasure, and our own desire for power and possessions.

Since that's where we start, God, being very pragmatic, uses those natural, inborn human motives to drive us toward higher things.

We start out driven primarily by self-love, which also involves a love for power and pleasure, and by love for material things, which involves acquiring possessions and wealth for ourselves. Hence the popularity of "prosperity consciousness" gurus.

The goal of our spiritual program (from my perspective) is to replace those as our primary loves with love for our fellow human beings and love for God. That's the relationship of love that I spoke of two comments ago. This doesn't do away with the other two loves. But it subordinates them to these higher loves.

I still haven't written an article I intend to write about these four basic loves that drive us. However, about self-love as a starting point for spiritual growth, last year my wife called my attention to an interview of Mike Tyson by Oprah that I found fascinating. I wrote an article about it here:

Spiritual Growth 101 with Mike Tyson: "The Virtue of Selfishness"

I think Christopher Hitchens' critique of Mother Theresa was that she wouldn't condone use of birth control. I think he certainly had a point, the denial of birth control to women in desperately poor places is virtually a crime IMO.

For those interested in EVP, there are inexpensive devices available at (insert name of famous online store) here. The user reviews are really interesting - a lot of them picked things up. On the other hand, many warn that you can easily pick up "negative spirits" with these devices, so proceed with caution.

Leewoof said:

"Knowledge and enlightenment is not the core of reality . . . The true core of God and reality is love."

I agree completely.

"Yes, there is self-love, but by itself that is an inward, self-limiting love rather than an expansive and creative love."

I have a different take on this. I don't think there's any difference between the love we feel for ourselves, and the love we feel for others. The notion of two separate kinds seems redundant and even misleading, and here's why.

When someone seems to love him or herself without being able to extend that gift to others, I've learned to question the authenticity and depth of that person's self-love. Narcissists seem fearful and self-protective to me, not the sort of people who are able to give themselves truly fulfilling lives.

And the reverse is equally true. While at first glance it may seem as though I can love you while being unable to love myself, I think in that scenario, I'm not really loving you but trying to *get* something from you.

And of course what I'm trying to get is my own self-esteem, my own self-love.

Bottom line: I think there's only one kind of love. I can give it to myself, or extend it outwards towards you.

"The non-abstract reason why we exist as distinct beings even though the source of everything we have and are is beyond ourselves is that the nature of God's love is to love others outside of self. That requires the existence of others who are capable of receiving and returning that love as if they were autonomous beings."

I think we're close to agreement here, though I would say this a little differently.

Since at the fundamental level all that exists is God, God has no one to love but himself. But by partitioning himself into you and me and countless others, he creates a new way of exploring and enjoying love.

As seemingly separate entities, we get to experience an incredible variety of *love stories*, for that's what the universe is really about: feeling love, losing it, gaining it, yearning for it -- the incredible range of experiences, challenges, and adventures, that are all made possible through the magic (or curse) of separation.

Most of all, though, Leewoof, I appreciate your saying this:

"The true core of God and reality is love."

If we agree on that, we can't be all that far apart.

I've listened to EVP recorded on home devices (some of these clips are posted on Facebook). To me, most of it sounds like random noise. The mind has a tendency to see or hear patterns in randomness. This is especially true when recordings are data-mined by being played slowly or in reverse, or when the same passage is played over and over.

I suspect most EVP is explainable this way, though a minority of cases may offer genuine evidence of something paranormal.

Hi Kathleen,

You say:

I think Christopher Hitchens' critique of Mother Theresa was that she wouldn't condone use of birth control. I think he certainly had a point, the denial of birth control to women in desperately poor places is virtually a crime IMO.

In my mind that would be an example of something that came from her Roman Catholic doctrinal background that caused problems for her in the field.

@Leewoof

I said:

"Since at the fundamental level all that exists is God, God has no one to love but himself."

I should have added to my previous post that, as that sentence suggests, all the love we experience while in the body is ultimately self-love -- God's love for himself.

And the same is true for hatred.

And for proof, all we need do is observe what happens in an NDE. Whatever we offer others here on earth, whether kindness or cruelty, we will ultimately feel as though we had given it to, or inflicted it on, ourselves. Because we have!

Julie,

That is such a ringing endorsement that I have ordered the book on Amazon and will begin reading it immediately. Thank you!

Michael et al.,

My opinion of EVP is that, unless they are faked (which I doubt they all are), they are genuine evidence of spiritual presences or at least represent a phenomenon that invalidates materialism. Too many of them are too good to call them tricks of the mind or random noise that happens to sound like something.

Kathleen,

||I think Christopher Hitchens' critique of Mother Theresa was that she wouldn't condone use of birth control. I think he certainly had a point, the denial of birth control to women in desperately poor places is virtually a crime IMO.||

Yes, and there seem to be serious questions about how people were actually treated in her facilities. It sounds there was a lot of, "Now you just die nice in the corner, honey," as opposed to providing genuine medical care. But it's not one of those things I feel a need to investigate myself and form a strong opinion on.

||On the other hand, many warn that you can easily pick up "negative spirits" with these devices, so proceed with caution.||

Yes, they seem like spirits almost totally in the etheric (i.e., ghosts, dead but not ascended, still here in 3D), so it's best just to leave them alone.

Leewoof,

||So what we "create" is both new and not new. It is new in that it has not previously existed within the planes of reality in which we exist. But it is not new in that it already existed on the divine level of reality consisting of and inhabited by God.||

That doesn't answer the question of "Why?" to me, however. If everything is perfect in God, then God should have no need to create anything.

||Of course, this posits the existence of an infinite God from whom all else comes. Without that, the universe just doesn't make sense to me.||

To me, God or Source or Plenum is the "end result" of the Universe as well as one but not all of its ontological causes.

||The true core of God and reality is love. Knowledge, truth, enlightenment, is both the means by which love expresses itself and the means whereby we can find our way to love.||

I agree. I call Love the "vector of the Universe."

||The non-abstract reason why we exist as distinct beings even though the source of everything we have and are is beyond ourselves is that the nature of God's love is to love others outside of self. That requires the existence of others who are capable of receiving and returning that love as if they were autonomous beings.||

This I don't buy, since God could simply do a better of setting up the Universe. I also don't see why God couldn't create other minds within perfection to enjoy it.

||I do not single out Roman Catholicism on this. It's just that Mother Teresa happened to be Roman Catholic, so that would be the source of the particular false doctrines she struggled with.||

I single it out! I was raised on that crap, and it deserves some singling.

||One of these days I may force myself to actually sit down and read some serious doses of Hitchens, Dawkins, et al.

Then again, I may not.||

They are idiots, basically. But Hitchens' critique of Mother Teresa seemed to have some teeth in it on a factual level. The fact that he is biased doesn't change things. That said, I think Mother Teresa definitely had compassion and helped a lot of people. She may have run her facilities poorly with a distorted view of what compassion is. No one is perfect.

||However, I understand that they have a powerful influence on many atheists and agnostics today. That, as I say, is why one day I might force myself to actually sit down and read some of their books.||

Hitchens had charm and was a good speaker and essayist. I don't think he had much of worth to say in the area of philosophy itself. And so it goes with the rest of the New Atheists. They may be good polemicists in each their own way, but they tend to say same tired atheist things and hand-wave the evidence.

||The goal of our spiritual program (from my perspective) is to replace those as our primary loves with love for our fellow human beings and love for God. That's the relationship of love that I spoke of two comments ago. This doesn't do away with the other two loves. But it subordinates them to these higher loves.||

Here we find ourselves in some interesting territory for debate. A lot of Eastern and therefore New Age (which combines East and West) practice is concerned with self-transformation and development. I can do things for other human beings out of love without transforming myself. Indeed, Christianity pretty much says that's what we should do. Be good to others and maybe God will give one "grace" to facilitate our goodness. But "will to power" "or will to some badass Zen-like tranquility" has no place in the enterprise.

I don't know how it all fits into Swedenborg's vision, but I like the idea of working on oneself via meditation and a variety of spiritual techniques to gain in power, ability, and one would hope, a loving perspective. Yet I also know that it's all never that simple, as no one's Castaneda page aptly expressed.

I'll read your article too, thanks!


Bruce,

||I don't think there's any difference between the love we feel for ourselves, and the love we feel for others.||

I agree! And one reason is that the love we feel for ourselves *is* love for someone "else"!

Hi Bruce,

Thanks for your thoughts. Yes, it looks like we agree on the most basic and important thing: the centrality of love.

Just a couple other responses. You say:

I don't think there's any difference between the love we feel for ourselves, and the love we feel for others.

I would say that the love itself isn't different. It comes from the same source. However, the two different directions it takes from there do make a difference. To use a rather silly example, if you spray yourself with the hose, that does have a different feeling and result than if you spray someone else with a hose.

Still, I agree with you that either one without the other becomes corrupted and relatively unreal. Both are necessary for either to have its full integrity.

From my perspective, it's a matter of maintaining them in their right order and balance. If we put self-love above love for other people, it will corrupt both.

Also, even if a particular love in us is a corrupted version, it is still a form--if twisted--of love. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to call it a drive, which does not rise to the level of love as love is in itself.

The point is, we humans are often driven by corrupt and evil desires. To deny that is to close our eyes to the reality that exists in the world all around us--not to mention the world within us. Those corrupted desires aren't mere illusions. They are real forces that can and do drive us.

When self-love and love for material things take precedence in us over love for others and love for God, that's where evil enters into human life.

Hi Bruce,

You say:

Since at the fundamental level all that exists is God, God has no one to love but himself. But by partitioning himself into you and me and countless others, he creates a new way of exploring and enjoying love.

Now this gets tricky, because it depends what perspective you look from.

To speak somewhat abstractly, if we look at reality from the perspective of love only, then everything is one, and everything is God.

If we look at reality from the perspective of truth only, everything is radically distinguished and separated into unconnected and unrelated bits of reality, so we are all radically different from and separate from God

Reality exists in the polarity and interchange of the two. In terms of love, we are one with God. In terms of truth--which involves distinctions and boundaries--we are all distinct from God.

Another way of looking at it is in using the distinction between uncreated and created reality.

God is uncreated reality. Everything else is created reality. As a result, everything else is distinct from God, even if derived from God.

This is a huge subject, not really coverable in brief comments. But the short version is that my view is that we are not God, but we are created from God and are filled with God to the extent that we allow God into us.

This makes it possible for God to have a mutual relationship with us as distinct, if not actually separate, beings.

On our part, there is a necessary illusion of being our own person. And it is not entirely illusory either. But that's another huge subject: the sense of self that God gives us so that we can be our own beings.

For those who want to delve into these philosophical issues of God, creation, and created reality from what might be called a mystical Christian perspective, the book to read is:

Divine Love and Wisdom, by Emanuel Swedenborg

(The link is to my post reviewing the book and linking to where it can be purchased.)

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