Monday, August 18, 2008

Defending Spirit - Beware of Ridicule (essay)

We have so totally missed the idea of spirit
here in the West!

Anything SPIRITUAL is either
a) "new age BS (*) " or b) a false religion.

I'm here to suggest a different perspective.

We deny the spiritual traditions of more
nature-based societies, and worse!
we have destroyed them as being
lunatics, heretics, witches, pagans,
evil, devil-worshiping occultists
practicing a false religion.

And I hear a few atheists out there.
(you might also be a humanist, a dualist, a skeptic,
rationalist, reductionist, agnostic, analyzer, denier,
contrarian, logician, person-of-science,
the most general category I'd call "materialist")

I know what you all are thinking.

You are thinking I am referring to something
SUPERNATURAL!

i.e, a primitive and false belief
--whether theology or spiritism--
an unprovable and useless fairy tale
which is told to comfort children
but which no sane adult would believe.

God = Spirituality
= Santa Claus = Easter Bunny = Tooth Fairy
etc.

I know this position well, as I was a
hard-core atheist, rationalist, materialist
for many years.

In my search for the truth,
I naturally went to science / rationalism / materialism,
because they seemed to have the best handle on truth.

This world-view, largely developed by
Francis Bacon, Rene Descartes and Issac Newton
states that unlike the religions of the day
(where the revealed truth of God is accessible only to cloistered monks),
the Universe is a mechanistic clockwork
and completely understandable by the common man
through observation, experimentation, and reason.

However, I reached a crisis when I discovered
Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem,
the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle,
the many other strange things in the world of
quantum mechanics, and the work of
Thomas Kuhn.

(Kuhn pointed out that any system -- like science--
which is based on unprovable axioms is unprovable
and must be taken on faith!)

These developments came from
within the scientific community,
and have utterly shattered the
worldview of the Newtonian Clockwork.

The philisophy of science states that
science is adaptable to conditions.
Science finds the best solution for the data,
and if new data comes along, eventually
the scientific theory itself must change to
accomidate the new data.

So, why are there still hard-core athiests/rationalist out there?
"Any data which does not conform to the theory,
must be discarded
"

-- humorous aphorism taught to first-year physics students,
demonstrating bad science!
However, I have found that most
hard-core atheists / rationalists / scientists
have not done their homework!

They have not heard of these works,
and/or do not understand the implications
to the veracity/sacrosanctity of the
scientific/rationalist/dualist/atheist paradigm.

.... or worse.... they have examined this data
and have discarded it
! (Bad scientist!)

Many so-called atheists / rationalists
even resort to HOSTILITY and LOGICAL FALLACY
(e.g., ad hominum, ridicule) and attack anyone
with a belief or practice which remotely resembles spirituality.

Scientist:
If you argue for truth and reason,

why resort to fallacy, hostility, and emotional appeal?

Some items which I hope to someday expand here:
  • Joseph Campbell: "Is it true" vs. "Is it useful"

  • Multiple truths (even apparently contradictory)
    -> rejected by science -- "there is only one truth!"
    yet, embraced by Eastern traditions (Tao, Buddhism, Yoga, Tantra)

  • Both metaphysics and quantum mechanics says:
    The way choose to see influences our reality.

    e.g Backwards Land vs Oz
    Prison Planet vs Eden,
    Babylon/The Matrix vs. Amusement Park Planet where all dreams come true
    and no one really dies or suffers

  • Terence McKenna:
    What if truth of reason contradicts truth of experience?

  • Atheism is not constructive, only denial,
    e.g., Atheism does not inform us about the true nature of reality.
  • Atheism spends all day denying a false belief.
    This in fact gives the false belief power!
  • Atheists/Rationalists claim to abhor fundamentalism and faith,
    yet resembles fundamentalism, and requires faith!

I am here to tell you this message of truth:

Spirit is not supernatural.
Spirit is perfectly natural!
Spirit is truth.
Spirit is the animating force,
which distinguishes living things from rocks
Spirit is thus plain view for all to see (even materialists!)

Spirit is Breath


Look at the word itself:

To ASPIRE is to live, to dream or imagine, to strive for one's best
To ASPIRE is also to breathe.

Breath is spirit is life is dream/imagination.

Part of Yoga is Pranayama -- breath-awareness.
(see: Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, Raja Yoga)

Vipassana is a form of meditation
called insight -- looking within, or getting a new idea or perspective.
It also uses breath-focus, breath-awareness.
It was developed by Siddhartha Gautama
(a/k/a, The Buddha... perhaps you have heard of him :)

Breath-awareness is extremely important, empowering, and useful!
Because breath itself is life-giving, empowering, etc.

The Rishis (enlightened person) have shown us
the entire sum of universal knowledge
can be found with insight
-- quietly sitting, breathing, looking within.

(e.g., see: Tao of Physics by Fritjof Capra)

And the most marvelous thing about breath-awareness:
You don't need a degree,
you don't need any machines, devices or instruments,
you don't need to spend money,
you don't need any books or a guru
(although they can help you learn the technique).
You don't need someone to give it to you.
And no one can take it away.
You don't need to wait.
You can do it right now and gain immediate benefits.
You can use breath-focus meditation anywhere,
even in prison.

Breath connects the material aspect of the body
with ....

... well, with something else.
Naming this else can be problematic :)

There are some who would call this SPIRIT.

Spirit
and Aspire
have common word roots.

So, a study of our own language tells us:

Living is Dreaming, Hoping, Striving, Achieving
Living is Breathing
Living is Spiritual

And we all organically understand this,
because we come from spirit!
We are made of spirit.

The Vedics call it Prakriti:
undifferentiated God-stuff
feminine in it's nature
because of it's creative potential
containing both the male and female aspects
containing both form and substance,
body and spirit.

So we understand this organically
because we are naturally made of spirit.

And once you understand this
you begin to approach life differently.

Western Culture has denied spirit,
is they have imposed various certain false-beliefs:

  • The Universe is a clockwork machine,
    perfectly predictable and understandable
    with the aid of measuring devices.

  • Science/Rationalism is complete and infallible.

    ...and, here's the kicker

  • Commodity Fetishism : (as defined by Sut Jhally)
    a belief system (embodied in advertising) which
    claims magical powers can be achieved through
    monetary transactions and consumption of
    market commodities.

So be careful of consuming ADVERTISING of any kind,
and especially avoid TELEVISION..
It is a devious form of PROGRAMMING (mind control)

The Commercial Media (corporate media / mainstream media)
first attempts to strip you of your natural organic powers of life,
by imposed ignorance, propaganda, censorship,
denial and ridicule of the truth,

then, by imposing their false beliefs in
the magical powers of brands, and consumption of commodities,
the sanctity of marketplace to dictate all human affairs,
and in the completeness and inerrancy of the scientific world view.



NOTE: This essay was partly inspired by a
Myspace user named "Corporations Ate My Baby"
who claims to be a rational progressive,
who in many ways seems to think like I do
and who reads the same authors as I do...

...but who admits to using "ridicule"
against people with "supernatural belief".

I understand this well because I am am a former
hard-core athiest, rationalist, skeptic myself.

Someone who has a correct position, TRUTH
simply needs to invoke logical argument to persuade,
or simply live by example -- for the truth is self-evident
and does not need to resort to ridicule.

In fact, ridicule weakens the position.
Ridicule is a tool of deception
and is often used by people in power to maintain it.

So, Beware of ridicule when you see it!


(* Note on the term "New Age":
My friend Amanda points out the misnomer:
what we call "new age" is really "old age"
because many of the concepts
from Yoga, Buddhism, Astrology, Taoism, Spiritism, Shamanism,
are thousands of years old,
and predate both Scientific Materialism [Bacon, Descartes, Newton]
and Abrahamic religions [Islam, Christianity, Judaism])

--
Bill Huston
Binghamton NY
607-321-7846 c

email: WilliamAHuston at gmail
http://binghamtonpmc.org/bio.html
http://myspace.com/MrMouthyMan

5 comments:

Art Crass said...

"Kuhn pointed out that any system -- like science--
which is based on unprovable axioms is unprovable
and must be taken on faith!"


Its true that to be *completely* objective, you have to say "well, its POSSIBLE that this is all a matrix, and none of the laws of "science" (or whatnot) are actually real.

But its far more logical to place "faith" in something that is proven to provide answers through testing and re-testing, something that has consistently proven to provide truth and answers, rather than just assumption. Certainly EVERYTHING, ultimately, is placed on "faith", but to just deny the validity of science based on the idea that "its still a form of faith" seems, to me, to be a logical fallacy.

Bill Huston said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bill Huston said...

Hi Cory! (I didn't at first recognize Art Crass :)

> ... well, its POSSIBLE that this is all a matrix, and none of the laws of "science" (or whatnot) are actually real.

This is essentially THE epistemological question.

> But its far more logical to place "faith" in something that is proven

If it is proven, then it does not require faith.

The point of my post is that while science itself CANNOT BE PROVEN, and requires faith (in the axioms) it is certainly useful.

Joseph Campbell raised the same issue about religion. OK, so let's agree that religion cannot be proven as true. Might it still be useful?

Check out Campbell's "Four functions of mythology" (Google that)

> proven, to provide answers through testing and re-testing, something that has consistently proven to provide truth and answers,

If you study the philosophy of science, you will see there are many problems with the scientific method. (Didn't I loan you the Fritjof Capra book Turning Point? Read it!)

Believe it or not, repeatability is actually a problem for science! The requirement for repeatability means that only repeatable events are characterizable, and thus *seen* by science. Events which are unique, one-time events in the history of the universe are invisible to scientific inquiry.

My experience tells me that every moment is unique!

Another related weakness with the scientific mode of inquiry is forming generalizations and models of specific events, and then using these models predictively.

What's the problem? Well, in physics class we always hear the phrase (when building a generalized model for experiential data),

"...all other things being equal..."

In other words, if we are collecting data of projectile motion, there are all kinds of subtleties which influence the outcome, variable winds, fluctuations in forces involved, noise in the measuring devices, etc.

So when we build a model from our experimental data, we can predict future events, with the disclaimer, "all other things being equal".

But this is NEVER the case! All other things are NEVER equal.

Like I said before, every moment in your life, in every life, is completely unique, unprecedented, unpredictable, and unlike anything which has every happened before!

While science does a good job at predictability in simple cases, we have to understand the artificial world of the model, and the nature of the limitations upon predictability.

> rather than just assumption.

I am not sure what you mean here by assumption... Is assumption a guess that is not based on any experience or data?

I am not talking about assumption at all!

I am talking about a form of experience which is true, but which might not be utterly predictable, or characterizable by science, due to the uniqueness of the experience, coupled with the aforementioned limitations on scientific models.

> Certainly EVERYTHING, ultimately, is placed on "faith", but to just deny the validity of science based on the idea that "its still a form of faith" seems, to me, to be a logical fallacy

I am not denying the validity of science.

I am only pointing out that

1: science has limitations
2: atheism is not constructive, only denial
3: Some athiest-scientists denounce fundamentalism and belief, while ignoring their own.
4: Not all spiritual paths are false/useless.

I have found yoga, Buddhism, NVC, Toltec, Kabbalah, Falun Gong, etc. to be spiritual paths which I find to be quite useful.

Art Crass said...

Hi Cory! (I didn't at first recognize Art Crass :)

Hey! Yeah, its the pseudonym I pretty much use for everything now haha.



The point of my post is that while science itself CANNOT BE PROVEN, and requires faith (in the axioms) it is certainly useful.

True, but while it cannot be proven, it offers far greater reason for me to apply "faith" to it, rather than other things that have no real solid base at all.



Joseph Campbell raised the same issue about religion. OK, so let's agree that religion cannot be proven as true. Might it still be useful?

I don't think religion isn't useful, I think it can be very useful. I think in an organized sense it can be very dangerous, simply because faith in God is one thing that can be put to go unquestioned, and religious power in the wrong hands can be very destructive. But when it comes to "spirituality," or belief in God, I think that can be very useful... everything is situational.



Believe it or not, repeatability is actually a problem for science! The requirement for repeatability means that only repeatable events are characterizable, and thus *seen* by science. Events which are unique, one-time events in the history of the universe are invisible to scientific inquiry.

Why could a one-time event not be measured, though?

And what one-time events can you think of, specifically? What reason should I have to think that one-time events (dealing with physics/biology/etc) in history even exist, other than thinking "it could be possible"? It is possible that I could end up being immortal, but I have no real reason to believe so.



Another related weakness with the scientific mode of inquiry is forming generalizations and models of specific events, and then using these models predictively.

I wouldn't really say they are generalizations... you are really just referring to your last point. If I let go of a lead ball, it will hit the ground because of gravity. It is technically a "generalization" to assume it ALWAYS would, but it always HAS in science, and there is no reason to think otherwise. My point with all this being - yes, in theory anything is possible, but until some kind of indication (with a base) that gravity would stop working one time, I have no reason to believe it would. Using that line of thinking, I could reconstruct everything as not actually completely applying to any law of physics or nature. But I have absolutely no reason to believe those one-time events would happen, so though I am technically "agnostic" to it, in a practical sense I'm not going to seriously regard them as being real or possible. At least, not until I'm given a good reason to think otherwise.



Like I said before, every moment in your life, in every life, is completely unique, unprecedented, unpredictable, and unlike anything which has every happened before!

Yes, but that has nothing to do with science.



I am talking about a form of experience which is true, but which might not be utterly predictable, or characterizable by science, due to the uniqueness of the experience, coupled with the aforementioned limitations on scientific models.

Like what?



I am only pointing out that

1: science has limitations
2: atheism is not constructive, only denial
3: Some athiest-scientists denounce fundamentalism and belief, while ignoring their own.
4: Not all spiritual paths are false/useless.


1:In a very technical sense, science theoretically has its "limitations", but objectively it is beyond far better than any other measure of reality.

2:Staunch atheism, and staunch believe that there is "something out there" equally lack constructiveness. Like I said, I'm technically agnostic. On a scale of 0 being certain there is a god, and 10 being certain there isn't... I'm a 9.9999999. Its possible, but from what I see, VERY highly unlikely. Just as I am technically agnostic to invisible gremlins living in my walls - I have no proof they don't, but it is VERY highly unlikely they don't... and I have no objective reason whatsoever to think they do.

3:Thats because their "fundamentalism" is based on something measurable (even if you technically put "faith" in that), while religion is based on absolutely NOTHING other than "well, I just feel like its true".

4:I wouldn't say they are useless, some can be positive and helpful. But when it comes to supernatural spiritual practices, you can't really claim that not all of them are false (in regards to whether or not their "God" exists, etc).



I have found yoga, Buddhism, NVC, Toltec, Kabbalah, Falun Gong, etc. to be spiritual paths which I find to be quite useful.

I'm not questioning the usefulness, I'm just questioning the factual validity of claims that contradict science.

Art Crass said...

Oh, and if you wanna check my blog... its at http://artcrass.blogspot.com/

You can subscribe to it via e-mail if you want too (the thing is on the right-hand side)