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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

 Trump’s Unhinged Tweetstorm (crooksandliars.com)

 Slowing down and intentionally pursue God (fromguestwriters.wordpress.com)

 There’s a gold statue of Kanye West as Jesus in Los Angeles now, and that seems right (mashable.com)

 True Glory (saintjameslutheran.com)


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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. 🙂


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Today’s Top Tweet – Is psychiatry “fixated” at a base level of human understanding?

Is psychiatry “fixated” at a base level of human understanding? Generally speaking, I would say yes and no.

Yes… because individual spirituality is often suspect in psychiatric circles. We’ve all heard the phrase “magical thinking.” Problem is, some people really are on the edge, and not in a good way. So that only reinforces psychiatry’s potential marginalization of sane, non-violent individuals who might be pioneers in redefining how we, as human beings, relate to God and all of creation.

No… because psychiatry does recognize recognized religions. That means it’s okay, from the psychiatric perspective, to identify with traditional “Catholics”—a social group that tends to closet or turn a blind eye to in-house gays while at the same time calling homosexuality disordered. Contradictory?

Having said that, there are always exceptions. Some psychiatrists no doubt are more open-minded and aware than others. Contrary to what the APA and other “Royal Colleges” would have us believe, there is variation among psychiatrists, just as there are exceptions and variations among Catholics and Catholic priests.

Sociologically, psychiatry is a lot like a religion. And its ever-changing DSM∞ is reminiscent of new interpretations of religious scripture. If practitioners in a given “school” deviate too far, they’re out. So even those who think freely must toe the line or lose their jobs, in both psychiatry and religion.


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(The Other Day’s) Top Tweet – C. S. Lewis and others on science and scientism

Originally posted November 26

Today’s top tweet points to a list of the main points mentioned in a Cambridge talk commemorating the 50th anniversary of the death of C.S. Lewis. The target web page also links to a freely streaming or downloadable mp3 of that talk.

Edit, November 28:  

I finally listened to the whole thing and ate humble pie the whole way through. It really is quite a good talk. So much so that I just deleted my previous comments. Never good to rush or comment on something before giving it a fair chance.

The statue of C. S. Lewis in front of the ward...

The statue of C. S. Lewis in front of the wardrobe from his book The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in East Belfast, Northern Ireland (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


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Going Through The Years – Unconscious vs. Controlled Regression

I listened to one of my old Supertramp albums last night on Spotify. It was sublime, and went well with my latest update at earthpages.ca:


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Today’s Top Tweet – Mysticism hits the mainstream

Today’s top tweet points to a story about an Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) exhibit claiming that mysticism has the power to save our violent, secular society.

It’s a nice sentiment and I’m happy to see the topic of mysticism reach a mainstream venue. But, really, it’s not that simple. Most religious traditions and depth psychologist point to the belief that dark, “downward” mysticism coincides with light, “upward” mysticism. And most spiritual people believe that we are always tempted by the former.

So those with unresolved psychological issues are more likely to fall prey to – even come to enjoy, in a twisted way – the “power of the dark side,” as the Star Wars saying goes.

Art Gallery of Ontario at dusk. Toronto, Ontar...

Art Gallery of Ontario at dusk. Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Bible also talks about a struggle with dark forces in high places. I’m not sure what that means. Maybe evil rulers on Earth being influenced by the numinous power of Satan. But the point is, there’s always struggle. And mysticism alone won’t solve that. However, good ethical choices will help. That’s a bright ray of hope that empowers us all.