Some philosophical, psychological and humanitarian thoughts on the value of the mystical experience.
“In a paper I am currently writing on the limits of material reductionist science as the only mode to approach studies of consciousness, I am focusing on the need for, and value of, investigating mystical experiences. Not only as an additional source of knowledge and understanding of consciousness, but more for the transformational and humanitarian effect of these experiences.”
“So what exactly is a mystical experience? Well according to Wikipedia they are closely related to mysticism but emphasizes the role of the experience itself which is one of a brief, spontaneous moment of ecstasy, or an altered state of transcendent consciousness experienced as an insight into an ultimate reality often described as a feeling of unity or interconnectedness with all things and all life. These mystical experiences are often ascribed religious or spiritual meaning and have a transformational effect on those who experience them.”
I just read the most incredible paper by Alan Watts, written/published in 1953. It’s a bit complex and tough to wrap your head around the metaphysical issue he is getting at, but think of it this way. You obviously can’t touch the tip of your finger with the same finger any more than you can directly “see” your left eye, with the left eye. Now take this idea and apply it to the study of human consciousness, or even when you hear someone say “I am seeking my True Self” or the “True Nature” of consciousness or “the purpose of my meditation practice is to ‘lose my self’ or ‘lose my ego'”. You can probably tell where I am going with this.
How can the self lose itself? How can you, your ego, your sense of identity, seek itself? How can the conscious mind “know” itself? Talk about a paradox! If you try to think about this too much, your brains will run out of your ears. You have been warned!
“This feeling—common, perhaps, to most human beings—is surely the sense that “I,” the subject, am a unique, isolated entity. There would be no need whatsoever to wonder what I am unless in some way I felt strange to myself. But so long as my consciousness feels strange to, cut off, and separate from its own roots, I can feel meaning in an epistemological question which has no logical sense. For I feel that consciousness is a function of “I”—not recognizing that “I,” the ego, is just another name for consciousness. The statement “I am conscious” is, then, a concealed tautology saying only that consciousness is a function of consciousness. It can escape from this circularity upon the sole condition that “I” is taken to mean very much more than consciousness or its contents. But, in the West, this is not a usual use of the word. We identify “I” with the conscious will, and do not admit moral authority or responsibility for what we do unconsciously and unintentionally—the implication being that such acts are not our deeds but merely events which “happen” within us. When “I” is identified with “consciousness,” man feels himself to be a detached, separate, and uprooted entity acting “freely” in a void. This uprooted feeling is doubtless responsible for the psychological insecurity of Western man, and his passion for imposing the values of order and logic upon the whole of his experience. Yet while it is obviously absurd to say that consciousness is a function of consciousness, there seems to be no means of knowing that of which consciousness is a function. That which knows—and which psychologists call somewhat paradoxically the unconscious—is never the object of its own knowledge.” (Watts, 1953)
“The point which emerges is that what we are counting or measuring in physics, and that what we are experiencing in everyday life as sense data, is at root unknown and probably unknowable” (Watts, 1953)
So basically we can no more “know” or experience the sense of egolessness or “no-self”, than we can touch the tip of our finger with the same finger. This would also, should also, apply to the study of human consciousness! Oh well, so much for the past 15 years of so of study!
“A man doesn’t know what he knows until he knows what he doesn’t know” (Laurence Peter)
“He who thinks he knows, doesn’t know. He who knows that he doesn’t know, knows.” (Joseph Campbell)
Watts, A (1953). The Language of Metaphysical Experience. Journal of` Religious Thought, 10:2
“The free market system shapes individual choices and decisions, fosters innovation and facilitates transactions between large groups of people. But along with commodity markets for things like corn and copper there comes a dark side of globalization”
“I’ve known Žižek for almost a decade. I’ve translated his works, published his books and, in time, we became friends. A real measure of our friendship is that we don’t just talk about Hegel – we mostly talk about sex and love,” he laughs.”
“Thanks to their progressive ideas and their willingness to act, people like Srećko Horvat are becoming the leaders of a generation that has so far been invisible, or, at best, marginalised. Since it’s not looking like the temperament of the people in the region will change any time soon, we have to create opportunities for the kind of people we are. Thank fuck Horvat has taken it upon himself to “create new worlds” then.”
“As we go about our daily lives, we tend to assume that our perceptions—sights, sounds, textures, tastes—are an accurate portrayal of the real world. Sure, when we stop and think about it—or when we find ourselves fooled by a perceptual illusion—we realize with a jolt that what we perceive is never the world directly, but rather our brain’s best guess at what that world is like, a kind of internal simulation of an external reality. Still, we bank on the fact that our simulation is a reasonably decent one. If it wasn’t, wouldn’t evolution have weeded us out by now? The true reality might be forever beyond our reach, but surely our senses give us at least an inkling of what it’s really like. Not so, says Donald D. Hoffman, a professor of cognitive science at the University of California, Irvine. Hoffman has spent the past three decades studying perception, artificial intelligence, evolutionary game theory and the brain, and his conclusion is a dramatic one: The world presented to us by our perceptions is nothing like reality. What’s more, he says, we have evolution itself to thank for this magnificent illusion, as it maximizes evolutionary fitness by driving truth to extinction.”
“What might philosophy in schools look like? Philosophy in the classroom is the restoration of wonder and intense play, and it is for everyone. For a start, it provides the opportunity for children to ask the questions they didn’t think were permissible or even possible, such as: what is the point of an education?”