Introducing a new series of related articles describing some factual events in my life.
A few years ago I began getting tired of coming across otherwise careful and intelligent people within various parts of the public arena who did not seem to have the capacity to use the word supernatural in a sentence unless it was closely accompanied by a modifier such as spooky or superstitious or the ultimate condemnation: non-scientific. Digging into things a bit, it became very evident that the real thing bothering such people was the implicit violation of their adopted religion: materialism. I decided to do something about this (besides author the previous deliberately provocative sentence), which is one of the reasons the present website has come into being.
In other words, in lazy English, natural has become conflated with physical (material). Anything whose description smacks of becoming supernatural must instantly be suspected of being unreal, a non-reality, because all things must be completely explainable strictly in terms of their purely physical nature. If something lacks a physical nature, it is imaginary. And if some phenomenon is encountered, or heard tell of, which seems inexplicable in terms of purely physical qualities and behaviors, then it must be excluded from any serious consideration. Because materialism only allows things to exist which are composed of matter (and it’s more active co-denizen ‘energy’).
I find this line of thinking ridiculous and unfortunate and not without negative social consequence, but can assure you that many hold to it, including many scientists and other sorts of rationalists. In my view, literally no single phenomena exists, in Nature or elsewhere, which we can truthfully describe as being 100% physical or material. This is a more radical stance than what is more commonly seen at the point of controversy on this issue: namely the stance which holds that some phenomena are not fully explicable in terms of matter, the usually cited exceptions being stuff like consciousness or life or morality. Fairly often one of my rhetorical writings will subtly or directly drive home my anti-physicalist viewpoint, an essay or thinkpiece or story. But with this series, I am approaching the topic from a different angle. These are vignettes about actual biographical events in my life, all of which are connected by a common thread: they defy any purely ‘natural’ explanation. If you believe in materialism, they simply cannot have happened.
In fact, they exemplify what I would describe as spiritual experiences; these are some of the most intimate, vivid spiritual experiences in my life. They were not sought after. And although each occurrence was deeply surprising in it’s own way, there was never a point during any of them for which the slightest possibility of doubt about their authenticity entered my mind. My relationship to these experiences were exactly as it would be if I were raking leaves or watching a crow perch in a tree. In all cases the transition between usual everyday experience and these experiences were continuous and seamless. As well as the transition back. In this sense these experiences were completely normal, and natural.
Finally, in no way do I intend the relating of these events to constitute proof or a demonstration that the physicalist worldview is incorrect or that the spiritual pervades the natural. I possessed the awareness that materialism is wrong long before any of these events took place. They do not function within my psyche as validations or verifications, but rather as starting points for further, deeper investigations, something to be returned to with ever greater insight. As I see it, there are only a limited number of reactions a person can take upon reading these. For one, they could believe me, sensing that these accounts ring true. At that point they are free to ponder various explanations and significations. Or a person could simply live with the account, neither believing or disbelieving, allowing whatever inspiration which arises to come. This would be my recommended posture. Or, concluding the accounts are untrue, one must choose between my being deluded about something or deliberately falsifying what I contend is true. The possible roots of the delusion are several: an unstable linkage between my imagination and reason, a lack of careful discernment concerning perceptions, and so on. I’d offer my other writings in general as visible on this and another website as arguments in favor of my sound judgement in this area.
But I contend them true.
Episode 1 : The Bouquet
— a collaborative gift of alternative remedies leads to an inexplicable physical and psychical result
Episode 2 : A Dream For Who
— a singular dream occurs which can only make sense to or be explained by an acquaintance of the dreamer
Episode 3A : Cold Turkey Zazen
— upon a solo retreat a seeker experiences a vivid consciousness shift into a truer reality after a night of meditation upon John’s Gospel
Episode 3B : Across The Lake
— a clear, unplanned and unexpected out-of-body sojourn in broad daylight, cut short by a speck of fear
Episode 4 : Final Visitation
— an unasked for and palpable meeting with a deceased relative
Episode 5 : Hostile Takeover Bid
— an encounter with an entity desirous of subjugating (possessing) one’s soul
Once I’ve gotten round to publishing all six of these episodes, I will probably conclude the series with a summary essay. I will try to place my experiences within the context of general experience and offer some (partly) speculative thinking about how and why such events happen at the present cultural moment.
— P.S. —
1) These episodes are arranged mostly in chronological order (episode 2 happened a few years after episodes 3A/3B) as how they occurred in my life. The events took place during a twenty year span between the ages of 39 and 59.
2) Feel free to pose any questions or ideas which come to you upon reading any of these accounts. If I consider the question to be respectfully offered, I will think about it and respond.
3) Many people associate the proclivity for supernatural experiences with a liberal amount of recreational drug use, hallucinogens, and so on. And often this association is rightfully posited. I am personally against such things and in fact have experienced a natural antipathy towards them for as long as I can recall, going back into earliest childhood, even though I came of age during the golden renaissance of hallucinogenic agents, the 1960s. The simplest way to say it is that I have no interest in these things. You might think of figures like Terrence McKenna who long advocated for the mind-expanding virtues of certain substances as a useful means of getting more deeply acquainted with spiritual realities. I disagree with this and have always felt that the most trustworthy pathway instead leaves oneself firmly in command with utmost mental and emotional clarity. For the sake of transparency, there have been three instances of using such substances during my life. All of these events occurred more than 40 years ago and all were prompted by friends in various social situations. (I will likely write about one or more of these times at some point.) The first was with mescaline, derived from peyote, the second was with marijuana baked into grilled-cheese sandwiches, and the last was with nutmeg powder made into an undrinkably muddy tea. All of these experimentations of mine produced hallucinations or altered subjective experiences. None of the psychological happenings which accompanied any of these events impressed me as particularly profound or poignant. To put it plainly, they lacked the reality, viscerality, and clarity of the experiences I write about here, which are directly spiritual in nature.
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Here’s hoping to get to these… TODAY. Meanwhile just know I’ve got them here and I do want to engage them. Thanks for posting.
Thanks Sha’Tara. Likewise, hoping to make time to read through your current fiction stuff from the beginning — I feel disoriented starting in the middle of it. 🙂
If you feel you want to read from the beginning, sent me an email request and I’ll email the whole text to you from beginning to current. Reason I say this is, I followed some dumb advice and deleted content on older parts of the novel from part One to part Five (I think). So if anyone wants to go back, then can’t. Dumb, dumb, dumb, but there it is. My email address is posted in the “content deleted” posts. Best I can do to remedy the situation. At least if you have the whole text you can read whenever time permits without scanning through the blog.
As a recently reformed materialist, I’m intrigued by this series. (Also, that grilled cheese sounds yummy.)
As I recall, I made them put onions and mustard on it too 🙂 Glad you like the idea, Jessie. The world desperately needs more scientist-types peering beyond materialism.
Are you a panpsychist? What about Tononi’s Integrated Information Theory? Or Honderich’s Radical Externalism? Or Enactivism? Do you see the dichotomy of mind and matter as a false one?
Hi Hariod. Thanks for reading. So… rapidfire question approach, hey?
Easy ones first: I’ve not heard of Tononi’s IIT or Honderlich’s RE, or Enactivism. (Not entirely true, since I have heard of IIT before, but never seriously looked into it.) I should say something deeper about this however. I advocate, and personally try to follow, a strictly empirical (implying non-theoretical) approach to exploring one’s inner terrain. Therefore it would be understandable that such theories would not attract strong interest from me in the absence of other relevant factors. My first questions in person to a Honderlich or a Tononi would be along the lines of establishing to what degree they have developed intrinsic, empirical, individual knowledge and explorations of their own psyches (to use a simple term). Lacking such inner development, I would carry little respect for their theories. We’ve essentially gotten into a lot of confusion building and subscribing to various theories since the 17th century without any first person subjective data to establish them — which, since it is the subject matter at hand, is what matters. That’s the first thing. The Nagel article on my website goes into why some of these things are so. I will return to respond to your other two questions. 🙂
Thank you. Then what would you say on the unreliability of introspection as a witness to truth? I say this as a lifelong (serious) meditator.
I’d say epistemology is what matters. How do we know we know something? There are qualities and levels of introspection, or better, as Aristotle put it, contemplation, thinking about thinking. How do you eventually, if ever, decide something is true? (this is not a rhetorical question) Tell me how you represent to yourself that you know something as true, reliably. Only ever by cross-checking it with X number of 3rd parties? How?
‘Tell me how you represent to yourself that you know something as true, reliably.’
I do not concern myself with what is true. That is the domain of thought. I do not believe in thought, whether it believes itself to be true or false. [There is no higher adjudicator, a homunculan self, soul or witnessing I — they are all fabrications of the mind.] Consciousness appears in awareness, and awareness is utterly unconcerned with truths and falsities. Consciousness creates its own truths and falsities, particular to the individual, yet ultimately signifying nothing other than its own fancies.
Well that seems confusing. If you do not concern yourself with truth, then it is unclear why you would be asking me about my assessment of introspection as a reliable witness to truth. Further, if consciousness creates its own valences along the true/false spectrum completely fancifully, and also you somehow do not believe in thought (!), then how is it, upon what basis, that you are proclaiming that consciousness appears in awareness… that awareness is utterly unconcerned with x, that there is no soul nor witnessing I? You have utilized four concepts which are entangled in this reply: thought, consciousness, awareness, and mind. It is quite unclear to me how you interrelate them and further how you employ one or more of them to make your claim here.
Greetings again, Hariod 🙂 I think maybe for now I said enough in other discussions about you final question concerning the mind/matter dichotomy, so let me go on to Panpsychism.
Am I one? I do not think so .I consider the landscape of panpsychism a little undefined at the moment. I’ve looked into Galen Strawson a bit and also David Chalmers. I think the concept is still in it’s formative stages. It is mainly of interest to me because its adherents seem to recognize something is amiss with the currently dominant paradigm about the cosmos, and I am all for that sentiment. Something that strikes me as not going far enough about all varieties of panpsychism I have come across is the reluctance to embody (bad word choice – locate) cognition within beings, within spirit. Some wish to posit something like a consciousness fundamental particle which must exist wherever and whenever matter or energy particles exist, and thus form an integral component of natural reality.
I see this as a reluctance, unjustified, to perforce associate consciousness with being. Where there is consciousness there are conscious beings, I suppose. (though not necessarily physical — hence the widely feared term: spiritual) I think it is far far more likely to be the case that creative beings had a hand in initiating the phenomena we currently describe as matter.
I also am enjoying these discussions — though I am preseed for time a bit and cannot be as expansive as maybe required. 🙂
I’m delving back far, i know this is an old post, but spot on. My only proviso is that the “supernatural” is another branch of reality. You can be aware on that level without being spiritual, and you can be deeply spiritual without having developed this awareness that we all possess (but that has been discouraged from birth in many of us in the Western world)
I know, and entirely agree. I would even put it that commonplace material reality, the phenomena we daily experience, is more like a branch of the deeper reality which is beyond the ‘natural’. I chose the word ‘supernatural’ for this series of essays mostly because the word has devolved to have such ‘spooky’ and illegitimate connotations. Three or four centuries ago, it did not. It is basically to tease the reader in. And no need to apologize for delving back in time! I wrote this specifically to explain the background for other pieces in the series. Thanks for reading!