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EP Today – Total revision on entry about Pantheism (and on my own approach to spirituality)

I struggled a bit over this one. The weekend was slow and I’m adapting to perhaps not attending Mass any more. I love the spirituality of the Catholic Eucharist but the same ol’, same ol’ homilies from boring, burnt out priests, along with lukewarm, sometimes conflicted and annoying parishioners are just too much for me right now.

Despite that, I think this came out nicely. It’s always a relief when I take an old piece that I’m not very happy with and juggle it around, rewrite, add new material and come up with something worthy of Earthpages. That’s how I feel about this:


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EP Today – Does Psychiatry reinforce people playing “good patient”?

Today’s Top Tweet (above) points to an issue that demands mature reflection. Instead of the often extreme views presented at web sites like Mad in America or, at the other end of the spectrum, the baffling ideological hegemony of the APA, there is a third stance positioned somewhere between those polarized perspectives.

With regard to today’s tweet, just because someone has a delusion or perception that a drug effectively blocks, it does not necessarily follow that the thing the person was deluded about or perceiving does not exist.

For example, say a person thinks that terrorists, the CIA or perhaps the mafia are after them. Then a drug calms the person down and, so it turns out, she or he is never murdered as previously feared.

Does it logically follow that terrorists, the CIA or the mafia do not exist? No, it means that these entities do exist but that they were probably not after that person.

Same thing with spiritual entities, good and bad, one could argue.

I applaud this man for writing about his experience but, with all due respect, it seems he is relieved to feel better and playing the role of “good patient”—and I’m sure many in the psychiatric community would approve of that.

Problem is, that kind of thing can lead to and reinforce superficial claims about the nature of reality. And THAT, in my opinion, can hurt people who actually do sense demons, angels and, who knows, maybe ETs.

Life is rarely as simple as either/or. Although some psychiatrists and members of the general public might like us to think so. I think the wisest thing the author of the tweeted story says is, “I don’t know for sure.”

MC

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 Tech sector scrambles after CIA hacking allegations (rappler.com)


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EP Today – Are we all the same? Should we be?

Today’s Top Tweet gave me pause for reflection. In the past I’ve seen some charismatic Evangelicals as not too different from, say, Superbowl or Wresting fans.

The Indian guru Sri Aurobindo talked about different levels of consciousness. I’ve rejected a lot of what Aurobindo says but I recall that he’d probably see some charismatics as operating on what he called the “vitalistic” plane—that is, vital instead of higher spiritual energy. For Aurobindo, there wasn’t a single spirituality but, instead, several different mind levels.

All very interesting. Sometimes I think a bit like this when comparing different people and different religions (or even differences within one person). To say all religions and spiritual states of mind are the same is, to me, like saying all cities of the world are the same.

Cities may exhibit some common features but obviously they differ in important ways.

Because religion is such a personal, sensitive issue for many, we run the risk in this politically correct world of getting into real trouble if we even dare suggest that religions and spiritual states might differ. And this is oppressive to free thought and, perhaps, to genuine development—in both theory and practice.

To focus a little more precisely on just one religion – Christianity – I think it’s also relevant to suggest that there could be real differences among individuals and their Christian beliefs and practices.

At the same time, we can’t know for certain what another person inwardly experiences. We may think we do. Through subtle transpersonal connections we may get glimmers. But we can’t fully know what it’s like to be them.

Image via Pixabay | Tumblr

Only God can have the final say. Although sometimes, I admit, I have wondered if God really knows what it’s like to NOT be omniscient. This opens the door for all kinds of theological reflection that I don’t have time to explore here.

Another point to consider: How do we define spirituality?

For some, spirituality is an intense nature trip. Others say watching sci-fi or fantasy shows are spiritual activities. Again, only God can say who is “spiritual” and who is not. And even if there are fundamental differences, who’s to say we should all be the same?

If the world were mostly contemplative mystics, I think we’d run into trouble pretty fast. By the same token, if the world were mostly movers and shakers, I think we’d have similar difficulties.

Bottom line?

Respect the mix.

MC

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Rigid, fundamentalist thinking goes in all directions

This is a good article (tweeted) but it overlooks the oft unspoken corollary: Too much faith in a mechanistic psychological worldview might keep some people unhappy. So many of us are impressed by the achievements of science and especially technology. And rightly so. No wonder many believe that feeling good is largely dependent on a healthy brain. Obviously brain functioning plays a huge role in our sense of well being.

But there’s more. A lot more.

Some people might be chronically unhappy because they’re stuck in a mechanistic worldview that ignores the primacy of the spiritual life. It’s almost as if we have everything upside down in the modern world. Spirituality is often seen as the icing on the cake. You can get by without it, but it’s a nice, tasty add-on.

Image via Tumblr

For me, it’s the opposite. Spirituality is top shelf and therefore my master command. Everything else is necessary and enjoyable but secondary.

By way of analogy, a society exists in its own right but needs an executive assembly and usually a national leader. Without a leader, society would become a confused, mass jumble. And so it is with spirituality and all the other aspects of life.

It’s hard for some people to appreciate this view. But I’m glad it’s mine.

The way I see it, fundamentalism is not just about religion. Fundamentalism can go in any direction. Ironically, sometimes we encounter people who are both religious and scientific fundamentalists. Instead of integrating their outlook into a mature, comprehensive whole, they compartmentalize their thinking according to religious teachings and the latest psychology studies to hit the news.

If people want to fashion their lives under the dictates of a high profile religious leader, on the one hand, and someone like John Tesh, on the other hand, that’s fine by me. But it’s certainly not my style! — MC

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EP Today – Bad science, bad reporting or both?

Today’s Top Tweet points to a story that either represents bad science, bad reporting or, as often happens, an unfortunate mix of the two. Here’s a quote that stood out for me:

The man then removed the wires from his head before taking off and marching around the hospital trying to recruit followers, saying ‘God has sent me to you’, convinced his creator had singled him out to bring redemption to fellow patients and medical staff.¹

Image – Twitter

So one man who believes he’s on a “mission” represents all the spiritual people who have ever lived? Cummon. Give me a break. This is so idiotic and overly-generalized that I can’t believe it would make any kind of news story.

For centuries sincere seekers and spiritual directors have been making distinctions between insanity, spiritual deception and bona fide sainthood. It’s a fine line for sure. And sometimes potential saints may go through an initial, confused period where they appear borderline, insane or neurologically impaired. But to lump all forms of spiritual phenomena into one category – or even to suggest that they are all the same – is ludicrous.

¹ http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-4301306/Epilepsy-cause-religious-experiences.html#ixzz4bCyZK8up

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Today’s Top Tweet – How some believers shut down their minds

I’ve talked about the mystic Swedenborg and how he apparently got it laughably wrong when talking about aliens.

Today’s tweeted article is interesting. It’s written by a Swedenborgian believer who recognizes the critique about aliens but still believes because he has “seen enough” to do so.

His account reminds me of believers in other faith groups. For example, some Catholics sense a joyous, uplifting feeling at the Mass, so assume this means that everything the Catholic Church teaches must be true.

Some Hindus undergo an expansion of consciousness when they perform puja, so assume that everything their branch of Hinduism teaches is true.

Likewise, some Jews may experience a spiritual solidity or centering in temple so assume that everything their form of Judaism teaches is true.

Swedenborg via Wikipedia

Swedish scientist cum mystic Emanuel Swedenborg (1688 – 1772) via Wikipedia

And the list goes on, from sweat lodges to tin foil hats. Some believers feel a buzz (or lack of) so assume their experience “proves” their underlying belief system is entirely true.

To me, this is fundamentalism. Fundamentalism in any form usually leads to division or, on the other hand, political correctness where nobody talks about anything, preferring to gloss over differences and issues where people might get hurt.

Notice my use of the word “some.” It not only avoids problems but is fair. Not every religious person is a fundamentalist. And some people assume that all religious people are fundamentalists, which itself is unfair and misguided.

But to return to our Swedenborgian believer: Looking through the tweeted article we find his response to the critique of Swedenborg and aliens. There he seems to overlook the possibility (again, I’ve touched on this elsewhere) that Swedenborg may have picked up a type of ET (or ETs) that our modern science cannot detect—that is, other lifeforms not based on (what we often assume are) the universal building blocks of life.

Perhaps Swedenborg’s mind translated these realities in terms that he and others in his era could understand. So Swedenborg writes about “wooden buildings” and “tents” on the planet Jupiter.

By way of comparison, the Old Testament has a primitive view of the Earth. It’s way off by modern standards. But that doesn’t mean that everything the Bible teaches is false.

I’m not a Swedenborgian and the spiritual feeling I sense from that belief system is certainly not my cup of tea. But I try to keep an open mind. As the old saying goes, one person’s meat is another’s poison.


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Today’s Top Tweet – Can you petition the Lord with prayer?

I was happy to see this (tweeted) web page today. We need more talk about parapsychology. Awareness and intelligent debate about parapsychology and its link to spirituality (and nuttiness) could help those overly invested in the medical perspective on self and others.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not anti-psychiatry. Far from it. Medications can help, short and maybe even long term. But anyone concerned with their overall health would be wise to consider alternatives. Different approaches might enable some to discontinue their meds. Maybe not today or tomorrow, but over the long haul. And that would be a good thing. Not only would their bodies like it. Others on our planet would be happier too (see Drugs in the Water).

Glancing over the articles in today’s tweet, I see a problem that often crops up with parapsychology research: The method does not match the madness, if you’ll pardon my pun.

A Japanese man bowing in prayer at the Kamakur...

A Japanese man bowing in prayer at the Kamakura shrine. from original to remove black space (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Take, for example, intercessory prayer. One article concludes that intercessory prayer has no verifiable effect on health. But this begs at least two questions:

  • What kind of intercessory prayer?
  • What kind of health?

Intercessory prayer takes different forms. One is vocal (or internally vocal) and the other is more contemplative and quiet.

For me, the latter is more effective. I often liken vocal prayer to using a squirt gun to put out a fire, while contemplative prayer is more like rolling out a heavy duty fire hose. Kids play with squirt guns. Adults risk their lives with fire hoses.

Mind you, all prayer is good and we’re all different. At the same time, I think there are differences in power between vocal and contemplative prayer.

But I could be wrong. Only God knows for sure.

The second question – What type of health? – is actually related to the first.

Intercession may not be visible to everyone. But I believe it helps us, psychologically and spiritually. And contrary to what some religious people say (especially those who pass themselves off as saints while behaving more like angry nuts), I believe intercession is a multi-directional interpersonal dynamic. It’s not just one-way.

Intercession may involve degrees of effectiveness but my analogy of squirt guns and fire hoses is only that. An analogy.  Life is far more nuanced than putting out a fire.

And it takes all types to make life complete. 🙂