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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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EP Today – Making society better by ignoring the top shelf?

I recall sitting in a gym writing my final exam for sociological theory. It was an undergraduate course but the professor was waaay above average. He covered the “Big Three” classical sociological theorists (Karl Marx, Max Weber and Émile Durkheim) along with some lesser lights and the cultural climate in which they all lived.

So this morning I remember what it might be called when someone confuses spirituality with social effervescence. Durkheim came up with the term effervescence:¹

According to Durkheim, a religion comes into being and is legitimated through moments of what he calls “collective effervescence.” Collective effervescence refers to moments in societal life when the group of individuals that makes up a society comes together in order to perform a religious ritual. During these moments, the group comes together and communicates in the same thought and participates in the same action, which serves to unify a group of individuals. When individuals come into close contact with one another and when they are assembled in such a fashion, a certain “electricity” is created and released, leading participants to a high degree of collective emotional excitement or delirium. This impersonal, extra-individual force, which is a core element of religion, transports the individuals into a new, ideal realm, lifts them up outside of themselves, and makes them feel as if they are in contact with an extraordinary energy.²

Emile Durkheim

Emile Durkheim (Wikipedia)

Durkheim, as innovative as he was (in 1897 he was the first to use statistics and method to try to understand and improve society),³ is guilty of vulgarizing spirituality. Spirituality is not some kind of electric force generated by bodies in close proximity. It comes from above and brings a higher purpose to life.

Spirituality may permeate bodies but to confuse social excitement with spirituality is, imo, sadly inadequate. It’s like chimps trying to figure out algebra. It just won’t happen.

¹ Durkkheim wrote in French. See this discussion about two different French terms for power, puissance and pouvoir.

² http://www.iep.utm.edu/durkheim

³ As far back as the ancient Romans, census data was collected but this was to facilitate ruling and tax collection. In his 1897 work Suicide, Durkheim tries to link social data with four different types of suicide. Something like a doctor of society, he tries to “diagnose” social problems rather than using stats for ruling and taxation.

 Protests, Parties, and Sports Games All Fill the Same Human Need (nymag.com)

 marx’s ideas keep coming back with a vengeance (3quarksdaily.com)

 Politics as an opium of the masses (rappler.com)

 New Depeche Mode Video: Where’s The Revolution (wxrt.cbslocal.com)


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Today’s Top Tweet – Armchair psychologists doing more harm than good?

I’m using a really old computer tonight, waiting for more RAM to come in the mail. Rather than carry my newer laptop up and downstairs all the time (which has plenty of RAM), I thought I’d just copy a quote from Today’s Top Tweet instead of using highly.co (which really only works with a half-decent computer). 🙂

People have a tendency to make accusations of mental illness against someone if they’re angry with the person, or if they sense that the person is acting differently from what is normally expected.


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Today’s Top Tweet – Q: Ah… breaker breaker what’s your 20? A: Astral realm K17… what’s yours?

A little bit of humor tonight for today’s top tweet. Back in the day my pals I used CB radios. “What’s your 20?” means what’s your 10-20, the CB code for “what’s your location?”

So from TTT I guess paranormal spirits can bridge the gap between the spirit world and the electromagnetic world?

But seriously. IMO the two worlds are not the same at all. One is in the matter/energy realm, and the other in something entirely different, even if it does permeate the matter/energy of our bodies.

I suppose one could say that if a spirit can animate a brain/body to speak, it could animate a radio to make sounds. But I think that a radio is too clunky and materialistic. A brain is a living, biological organ. Much more sensitive than a radio.

Photo - Wikipedia

Photo – Wikipedia

But I could be wrong.

Several years ago I was emailing with someone about whether or not a microwave oven messes up food and drink, making them dangerous to ingest.

I argued with a conventional, high school physics view that all microwave radiation does is speed up molecular vibration, which is harmless if not too intense (too hot).

My correspondent politely replied that she wasn’t convinced a microwave doesn’t make other changes on the atomic level.

Now, with all sorts of strange, new things being discovered in the subatomic realm, I see the wisdom of her skepticism. And I also see, looking back, how I thought I was being smart when really, I was just being unreflective and narrow-minded, parroting what I was taught in high school.

I dislike it when people parrot science “facts” without really thinking about it.

So with regard to spirits and AM radios, again, I could be wrong. But I still think the best way to “get in touch” would simply be to purify oneself enough to be open to the spiritual world. Then we wouldn’t need any radio gear to be in tune!


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A special message to GRAVATAR users

There are so many interesting people that I want to check out but they don’t take the time to add their blog, website or social media link at their GRAVATAR page. Do you really expect me to search thru Google looking for your moniker when so many others often use the same or a similar one?

Please add the link(s). The web is supposed to be fast and easy, not a hassle!


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Today’s Top Tweet – Navigating states of consciousness (without pandering to the lowest common denominator)

Ralph Metzner has been around a long time. Seeing his name this morning brought back memories of psych 101 classes, and paying big bucks for those ‘captive audience’ university textbooks!

But seriously. Metzner was one of those names that kept cropping up over the years. So you can expect a certain level of quality in his writing… both style and content.

Today’s tweeted article is written by Metzner. It gives a nice short history of some of the important events in the scientific study of consciousness. Probably not too many of us remember when REM or biofeedback first hit the scene. More recently, we have brain imaging. But still, that data is all correlation… not causality. So when people say they feel a certain way, some researchers project their preexisting biases onto the observed data.

Image via Wikipedia

Mozart via Wikipedia

For example, if subjects say they feel a sense of “oneness” that correlates with an empirical observation, some researchers go on to say that “all religions are the same.” What these lab coats overlook is the possibility that the same external observation could correlate with different internal experiences.

Skrillex via Wikipedia

Skrillex via Wikipedia

By way of analogy, a mp3 player runs on 1.5 volts. Regardless of the tune we listen to, a technician will always be able to measure the same 1.5 volts. So Mozart is the same as Skrillex?

The Metzner piece has other limitations and unexplored ideas that I hesitate to write about. I already tried at the doctoral level, a place where you’d think advanced theory would be welcome. But after getting through the admissions door, I soon realized that one has to pander to the lowest common denominator—otherwise you fail.

I was admitted to the doctoral program hoping to make a contribution to interactions of consciousness not explored by most depth psychologists.¹ This would involve ideas like “karma transfer,” “intercession,” “the taking of another’s sin” and, even more esoteric, “subtle body sex” (something like tantra at a distance).

Again, these ideas apparently went way over the heads of most at the U. Any who had an inkling of what I was talking about were either closeted mystics or just plain secretive (possibly because they used their abilities to aid and abet questionable activities).

So I shelved the idea of writing about interactions of consciousness and settled on synchronicity. Even that was cutting edge for a PhD back in 1992-97.

But today I feel it’s time to pick up the torch. In my opinion, our world is not as simple as many psychologists and psychiatrists tend to see it. And this lack of insight among some “professionals” could do real harm to budding mystics mishandled by, for lack of a better term, bungling idiots.

¹ Here’s the Projected Thesis Outline I sent to the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Ottawa in the early 1990s. Soon after admission, the topic was narrowed down to something more “manageable.”

https://mclark.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/phd_jung_stamp.pdf (scroll to second last paragraph: “Moreover, to redefine and broaden our understanding…”).


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Today’s Top Tweet is a no-brainer for me… neurology, psychology, spirituality and society

Today’s Top Tweet leaped off the page because my doctorate is in psychology and religion. I find the interface interesting… especially when we include societal issues in the mix.

Here’s an accessible but not overly simplistic story that makes a great stab at trying to weave together several elements – neurology, psychology, spirituality and society. I highlighted the main points. Follow the links for the full article.