The Right-Wing New Age

Describing a Salon article by Mitch Horowitz, there is a post over at Matt Cardin’s blog. He offers a summary:

“But the article’s overall topic is much broader, as indicated in the provided editorial teaser: “If you think New Age alternative spirituality is solely the domain of lefty hippies, you don’t know your history.” In just under two thousand words Horowitz discusses such things as the influence of Manly P. Hall on Ronald Reagan, Madame Blavatsky’s promulgation of the idea of “America as the catalyst for a revolution in human potential,” Donald Trump’s association with Norman Vincent Peale, FDR’s decision to put the eye-and-pyramid of the Great Seal of the United States on the dollar bill, Hillary Clinton’s visioneering meetings Jean Houston (who once told Bill Clinton that he was an “undeveloped shaman,” at which point he got up and walked out), and more. Horowitz’s basic point is that none of this represents a conspiracy, notwithstanding the claims of the paranoid conspiracy theorizing crowd”

It doesn’t surprise me. And I can’t say that I worry about the media having “characterized Bannon as the Disraeli of the dark side following his rise to power in the Trump administration.” That said, there might be a connection between Bannon’s attraction to both mysticism and fascism, which could cause one to wonder what kind of New Age he might envision. But the general connection between alternative spirituality and the political right isn’t particularly concerning. As Horowitz explains, that is simply a part of the social fabric of American society and far from being limited to right-wingers.

My conservative parents raised my brothers and I in several liberal New Agey churches, from Christian Science to Unity. It was my paternal grandmother, coming out of a Southern Baptist upbringing, who after she moved to California introduced my parents to New Age spirituality. It helped transition my dad from his earlier doubting agnosticism to his present family values Christianity. Interestingly, my parents now attend a liberal mainstream church, even as they remain strongly conservative. Both of my parents are into positive thinking, my dad being a fan of Norman Vincent Peale.

Religion plays a major role on my dad’s side of the family. My paternal grandfather was a minister who was more spiritual than religious, odd as that might sound. Along with reading my grandmother’s copy of A Course In Miracles, I enjoyed looking at some books my dad had inherited from my grandfather. Among those books, I was introduced to world religions and the likes of the two Krishnamurtis (Jiddu and U.G.).

I could point out that there is a common history to Evangelicalism, New Thought Christianity, and Prosperity Gospel. There are a number of books that cover this and other related history. Theosophy took hold in the US during the late 1800s Populist Era. There was a lot of odd mystical and spiritual thinking that arose in the 1800s, such as the popularity of spiritualism.

There have been many diverse expressions of religion across American history. My paternal great grandfather was an orphan in one of the last surviving Shaker villages, having left when he reached adulthood. Also, there was the Quakers, Deists, Unitarians, Universalists, Anabaptists, Pietists, Camisards, Huguenots, Moravians, Brethren, Hutterites, Mennonites, Amish, Amanas, etc. Spiritualism and related practices became popular across religions. The Shakers went through a spiritualism phase, during which much interesting artwork was produced.

Multiple strains of dissenter religion influenced American society, in particular some of the radical thinking during the English Civil War when the first American colonies were taking hold. Roger Williams was a rather interesting religious radical in the early American colonies.

Here are some books that might be of interest, including one from the author of the article:

Occult America by Mitch Horowitz, Religion, Magic, and Science in Early Modern Europe and America by Allison P. Coudert, New Age and Neopagan Religions in America by Sarah Pike, A Republic of Mind and Spirit by Catherine L. Albanese, The New Metaphysicals by Courtney Bender, Ghosts of Futures Past by McGarry Molly, Plato’s Ghost by Cathy Gutierrez, The Occult in Nineteenth-Century America by Cathy Gutierrez, Each Mind a Kingdom by Beryl Satter, The History of New Thought by John S. Haller & Robert C. Fuller, Religious Revolutionaries by Robert C. Fuller, Spiritual, but not Religious by Robert C. Fuller, Restless Souls by Leigh Eric Schmidt, Spirits of Protestantism by Pamela E. Klassen, Secularism in Antebellum America by John Lardas Modern, The American Encounter with Buddhism, 1844-1912 by Thomas A. Tweed, America’s Communal Utopias by Donald E. Pitzer, and The Kingdom of Matthias by Paul E. Johnson & Sean Wilentz.

On a slightly different note, I would highly recommend The Churching of America by Roger Finke and Rodney Stark. The authors show how, until the 19th century, Americans didn’t have high rates of religiosity such as church attendance. The increasing focus on spirituality was simultaneous with greater concern with mainstream religion.

Another thing that could be added were the Transcendentalists. They had interest in Eastern religious and philosophical thought. Translations of Eastern texts such as the Bhagavad Gita were available in the early 19th century. Henry David Thoreau brought the Bhagavad Gita with him to Walden. See: American Transcendentalism and Asian Religions by Arthur Versluis and The Gita within Walden by Paul Friedrich.

Later in that century, the Theosophical Society translated a large number of Eastern texts. Theosophists came to have much influence during the Populist Era of the 1890s and into the following century. I recall a march on Washington, DC during the 1890s was led by someone influenced by Theosophical thought.

That was a major turning point for American spirituality, fueled by populist revolt and questioning of religious authority. There was a hunger for both new politics and new religion. This was the same historical moment when such things as New Thought Unity Church was organized, specifically 1889. Jackson Lears, in Rebirth of a Nation, describes this era (pp. 237-238):

“Yet the vitalist impulse itself had larger than utilitarian implications. Its significance, like its origin, was religious. It lay at the heart of a broad revolt against positivism, a rejection of a barren universe governed by inexorable laws, where everything was measurable and nothing mysterious. The real problem for many vitalists (and certainly for James) was the specter of a life (and death) without meaning. It is possible to see all the talk about “life” as a way of whistling past the graveyard of traditional Christianity. But the vitalist ferment was also a genuine attempt to explore new meanings for human existence amid the wreckage of collapsing dualities: body and soul, matter and spirit, this world and the next.

“Educated Protestants, dissatisfied with desiccated theology, cast about for vital conceptions of cosmic meaning. Many explored medieval Catholic mysticism as an alternative to the banalities of the typical Sunday sermon, the sort of platitudes uttered by Henry Ward Beecher and other ministers who reduced the Protestant ethic to a mere prescription for worldly success. Buddhism and other Asian religions—discovered, imagined, and synthesized—also began to play a role in focusing popular longings. Vedanta, popularized at the Chicago World’s Fair and after by Swami Vivekenanda, and theosophy, preached by Madame Blavatsky and Annie Besant, were both synthetic expressions of spiritual ferment. Paul Carus founded the magazine Open Court to carry forward the work of the World’s Parliament of Religions, begun at the Chicago Fair, to create a common ground of ecumenical discussion, which might lead to a new synthesis—a “Religion of the Future” that might appeal to believer and skeptic alike.

“The results were mixed. Contributors to Open Court asked questions like “What is Life?” and then stumbled about in a soupy haze of abstractions. “The truth is, there are, as there must be, original factors in the world…and life (or chemical activity and appetency) is like gravity, one of them,” William Salter announced in 1901. “If we wish to account for them, we have to go back to the maker of all things (if there is a Maker) not to any of the things that are made.” One thing was certain: “The only salvation for society as for the individual, is from within—it is more life.” The reverence for “life” could overcome death itself. “Who knows but that that greater death which sooner or later overtakes us all…starts energies into play deeper than we had known before—that it is the death of the body, and freedom, new birth, to the soul?’

“The desire for regeneration led to death’s door and beyond. Yearnings for empirical proof of an afterlife and for communication with departed loved ones accelerated the appeal of spiritualism. Here was another example of fascination with invisible force, impossible to see but unmistakable (to believers) in its consequences—tables rising from the floor, sepulchral voices, mysterious music. Even William James was intrigued. While he remained skeptical of sweaty séances in darkened rooms, he joined the American Society for Psychical Research, providing legitimacy to the quest for connection with “discarnate spirits.” His interest in spiritualism reflected his openness to all manner of evidence, no matter how bizarre or apparently inexplicable—his radical empiricism, as he called it.”

By the way, Horowitz’s article reminded me of a passage in What’s the Matter with Kansas? by Thomas Frank. In a brief but insightful observation, Frank explains why right-wingers would find appealing what otherwise seems the New Age babble of hippies (Kindle Locations 1998-2013):

“Today bitter self-made men—and their doppelgängers, the bitter but not quite as well-to-do men—are all over the place. They have their own cable news network and their own TV personalities. They can turn to nearly any station on the AM dial to hear their views confirmed. They have their own e-mail bulletin boards, on which you can find hundreds of thousands of them plen-T-plaining about this outrage and that, from the national to the local. And although they like to fancy themselves rugged individualists (better yet, the last of the rugged individualists), what they really are is a personality type that our society generates so predictably and in such great numbers that they almost constitute a viable market segment all on their own.

“One more thing about the backlash personality type: every single one of the bitter self-made men of my youth was a believer in the power of positive thinking. If you just had a sunny disposish and kept everlastingly at it, they thought, you were bound to succeed. The contradiction between their professed positiveness and their actual negativity about nearly everything never seemed to occur to them. On the contrary; they would oscillate from the one to the other as though the two naturally complemented each other, giving me advice on keeping a positive mental outlook even while raging against the environmentalist bumper stickers on other people’s cars or scoffing at Kansas City’s latest plan for improving its schools. The world’s failure to live up to the impossible promises of the positive-thinking credo did not convince these men of the credo’s impracticality, but rather that the world was in a sad state of decline, that it had forsaken the true and correct path.2 It was as though the fair-play lessons of Jack Armstrong, Frank Merriwell, and the other heroes of their prewar boyhood had congealed quite naturally into the world bitterness of their present-day heroes, Charles Bronson, Dirty Harry, Gordon Liddy, and the tax rebel Howard Jarvis.”

(Note 2. “In The Positive Thinkers, Donald Meyer comments extensively on positive thinking’s understanding of the business civilization and extreme laissez-faire economics as the way of nature. (See in particular chap. 8.) As for its politics, Meyer points out that Norman Vincent Peale, the movement’s greatest celebrity preacher, dabbled in right-wing Republicanism, and a famous positive-thinking Congregationalist church in California embraced the John Birch Society. It is possible that the universal embrace of positive thinking by the bitter self-made men of my youth was a geographic coincidence, since Kansas City is home to one of the great powers of the positive-thinking world, the Unity Church. But I am inclined to think not. Positive thinking is today a nearly universal aspect of liberal Protestantism, traces of it appearing in the speeches of Ronald Reagan and the self-help entertainment of Oprah Winfrey.” [Kindle Locations 4350-4357])

* * * *

Some of the earliest blog posts I ever wrote was a 4 part series. In those earlier writings, I covered all of this in great detail and included much of my personal experience. They came from my old blog, originally posted on the now defunct Gaia website. I apologize for their needing to be cleaned up a bit, as the transferal of posts was done quickly, but they are readable as is.

New Age: Part 1
New Age: Part 2
New Age: Part 3
New Age: Part 4

* * * *

Additional thoughts (5/14/17):

My mother’s all-time favorite preacher is Robert Schuller. He is well known for his having built the Crystal Cathedral, the embodiment of the crass materialism of self-indulgence and cult of personality. Although humbly born and raised in Iowa, he became a mega-church preacher in California and thereby amassed immense wealth.

It’s interesting to learn about how California is the origins of the mega-church movement, along with the modern religious right that took over the GOP. California is also the birthplace of Nixon (infamous Orange County), as Southern California is filled with Southerners. Nixon promoted the Southern strategy and Reagan, a California transplant and professional corporate spokesperson, gave it a voice and a face. I should note that the Southern presence was so influential even in early Californian history that the state was almost split in two during the Civil War.

It was in California that my grandmother, raised Southern Baptist, converted to New Age religion. There is not much distance between the New Right and the New Age. Robert Schuller’s prosperity gospel and ‘old time’ family values easily bridges that distance. It’s why my conservative parents could simultaneously listen to the kindly patriarchal Schuller on television, attend a uber-liberal New Thought church (Unity), and vote for Reagan with his culture war religiosity and Hollywood smile — all part and parcel of the same worldview given its fullest form during the Cold War through the expression of Capitalist Christianity.

I recently learned that a regular guest on Schuller’s televized ministry was Laura Schlessinger, one of the major stars of late 20th century right-wing radio. I remember listening to her when I was still living in South Carolina. It was around the mid 1990s, considering her show was nationally syndicated in 1994 (the year I graduated high school). As the female version of Limbaugh, she was a typical egotist who thought her every ignorant opinion was God-inspired truth. She was a no-nonsense Cold War culture warrior, one of these privileged upper middle class white people who can talk tough because they’ve never dealt with a real problem in their entire life.

One time a caller complained about personal problems and Schlessinger’s advice was that the young woman should either take care of her problems or kill herself. I was shocked that any radio host would be that irresponsible, but that was common for right-wing talk radio. There is a heartlessness to this attitude. I can guarantee you that if this person had killed herself, a sociopathic social Darwinian like Schlessinger would have been happy that there was one less ‘loser’ in the world.

Now consider this mean-spirited asshole was a close personal friend of Robert Schuller, having said of her that she is “A positive voice for positive values without equal in our time.” Despite Schuller’s kind and friendly demeanor, there was a dark cancerous rot at the heart of his prosperity gospel. In the end, prosperity gospel was simply yet more rhetoric upholding the plutocracy and defending inequality. It was a worship of Mammon, in place of God.

This kind of prosperity gospel didn’t die with Schuller. It is still going strong. The mega-church movement has become more popular than ever and, with big money, it is a major political player with impressive clout. Some of Trump’s most outspoken and influential supporters were prosperity gospel preachers, such as Paula White and Joel Osteen (along with many others). This is nothing new. Going back decades, some truly hateful and demented religious leaders have openly supported and socialized with Republican politicians and even presidents. Some of these religious right leaders said things far worse than Trump and associates have dared to say and there was no backlash. Republicans have been courting rabidly reactionary radicalism for a long time.

This is not old time religion, in the traditional European sense. But America has always had weird strains of religiosity and spirituality, a hybrid spawn of Protestant Reformation and Counter-Enlightenment. The descendants of this match made in hell were suckled at the teat of American materialism with its dark history of oppression and inequality. Then driven mad through the delusional fear-mongering of generations of propaganda, from Cold War to War on Terror.

If one were feeling particularly cynical, it could be argued that Trump represents the final endpoint and highest expression of American Christianity. But that would be too dismissive toward the religious diversity that has always existed in North America, even if the ugliest expressions of religiosity too often have dominated. It should not be forgotten that the United States also has a history of radical left-wing religiosity as well. The hard-hitting Christian attitude eloquently put forth by the likes of Martin Luther King jr is alive and well, no matter how much corporate media hacks and corporatist politicians ignore it.

There is another point that should be made clear. The religious right mentality isn’t limited to the religious right, for the simple reason that the religious right itself in America is the product of post-Enlightenment liberalism. The American right in general has long been in love with the rhetoric of liberalism with its focus, however superficial, on liberty and freedom in terms of not just of religion but also of states rights, free markets, hyper-individuality, meritocracy, private ownership, gun rights, civil libertarianism, and on and on. So, in direct connection to this, it’s unsurprising to realize the extent to which liberals, specifically of the liberal class, have embraced right-wing ideology as great defenders of capitalist realism that supposedly liberates and empowers even as it harms and scapegoats so many.

Having been raised in the extreme liberalism of New Thought Christianity, this understanding developed in my direct personal experience. What Barbara Ehrenreich describes in her book Bright-sided is what I absorbed form childhood. And it really does fuck with your head. Ehrenreich criticizes a type of cruel optimism popular in America that is superficial and too often used to rationalize egregiously immoral or otherwise dysfunctional behavior. In my experience, positive thinking just made me feel worse, as if my depression was a sign of personal failure.

The expectation of positive thinking can be a heavy burden to carry. This is much worse when dealing with serious issues involving conditions of poverty and inequality, oppression and injustice, pain and suffering, desperation and struggle. According to prosperity gospel, all problems are to be blamed on individuals. It’s the punishment of having a wrong relationship with God, a carryover from the bleak predestination of Calvinism that involves a God who favors an elect of individuals and damns everyone else. But in prosperity gospel, God’s elect are made clear as his favors are seen in this world through material gifts and blessings, i.e., wealth.

I went into some detail about this in a previous post:

The inspiration for her writing about positive thinking was her experience with cancer. She saw the darkside of positive thinking within the cancer community.

This brings to mind my own grandmother who died of cancer. It’s because of her that I was raised in New Thought Christianity where positive thinking is very popular. She was diagnosed with cancer. She embraced the whole alternative medicine field and she had great faith in positive thinking. My dad says she was utterly crushed when doing all the right things didn’t make her cancer go away. She died of cancer. She was a woman who had a great sense of faith, and apparently I inherited my spiritual interests from her. I’ve seen all aspects of positive thinking and so I have a personal sense of what Ehrenreich is talking about.

But what is different is that positive thinking has become mainstream like never before. It’s not just alternative types. Positive thinking has become merged with the early American ideals of meritocracy, and together they create something greater than either alone.

In one video I saw of Ehrenreich, she made an interesting connection. She was talking about the meritocracy ideal, but I don’t think she was using that term. She was just talking about the ideal of positivie thinking in general within American culture. She connected this with Ayn Rand’s libertarians. If I remember correctly, she was making the argument that Rand was a one of the factors in popularizing positive thinking. She mentioned the book The Secret and how it’s representative of our whole culture. She blames the economic troubles we’re having now with the business culture of positive thinking, and it makes a lot of sense to me.

Also see two other videos:

Barbara Ehrenreich: “Bright Sided: How Positive Thinking Undermines America”

‘Smile or Die” How Positive Thinking Fooled America and the World

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New Age: A Blog Series By Marmalade

  Marmalade : Gaia Explorer  

New Age: A Blog Series By Marmalade

Marmalade said Jul 22, 2008, 11:09 PM:

 

New Age: Part 1

Posted on Jul 21st, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Explorer MarmaladeNew Age is a more general term and New Thought is a more specific
term.  I don’t know when the term New Age was first used, but as its
used in contemporary culture it seems to mostly to apply to the pop
culture spirituality that was inspired by various earlier movements.
One of those earlier movements was New Thought, and New Thought is no
longer distinct from New Age.  New Thought has become incorporated
into mainstream culture.  Most people who are familiar with New Thought
views aren’t familiar with the New Thought tradition.  New Thought has
in some ways become even more generalized than New Age because its
influence has been so wide and yet so below the radar.

I was raised in Unity and it attracted the New Age type of person.  It
was normal practice to hug people at church and everything was fairly
politically correct.  There was an extreme open-mindedness about it
even though it was Christian… by which I mean that no one cared if
you were saved or if you believed in any particular dogma.  New
Thought Christianity is often referred to as Practical Christianity.
There are two basic elements to this.

First, personal experience is prioritized and so having a personal
relationship to Jesus/God is emphasized.  The difference between this
and the personal relationship of other Christians is that its very
relaxed.  Jesus is your friend and you can talk to him as you would a
friend.  Jesus isn’t our Lord.  Instead, this notion is replaced with
the idea of Jesus being the (or a) Wayshower, a wise and knowledgable
guide.

Second, the power of mind is related to the Power of God.  We are
microcosms of God, and as such we are co-creators of our reality.
There is a difference here from some later adaptations in New Age.
This power is rooted in our personal relationship to Jesus/God.
Beyond simple positive thinking, its primarily about faith and the
ultimate goal is in deepening our faith experience.

New Thought influenced the New Age, but it has other influences.
Unity publishes a small magazine which if I remember correctly is
called The Daily Word.  It used to (and may still) have a wide
readership outside of Unity.  I met people from mainstream Christian
churches that said that their church distributed it.  Unsurprisingly,
even though these people had seen Unity’s magazine, they didn’t know
of Unity or of New Thought.  Also, recently, I’ve been noticing New
Thought creeping into the Evangelical movement (practically taking it
over in some cases).

New Thought has common origin in several other American movements.  At
the time Unity was forming, Americans were seeking a new form of
religion.  For instance, out of this same milieu, the Mormons arose.
New Thought has much in common with the UU church as Unity too is
Unitarian and Universalist in its theology.  The Transcendentalists
also seem to have been a part of this quest for the new.  There was an
influence from Eastern texts that were being translated, but there
also was a renewed interest in the long suppressed Gnostic strains of
the Western tradition.  The inspired text A Course In Miracles has a
strong Gnostic flavor to it and it was an extremely popular book in
Unity.  One of the more interesting influences of New Thought was
Mesmer who proposed the idea of animal magnetism, that there was a
power in the world that could be directed for the good of humans…
specifically in terms of healing.  There is a strong emphasis on
healing in Unity and in Evangelism.  Interestingly, Mesmer led to the
tradition of hypnotism which in course led to Neuro-linguistic
Programming (NLP).  NLP, similar to New Thought, is interested in how
we influence reality through our perception of it.

Another interesting American phenomena is Landmark Forum which
originated from EST.  Landmark is a more harsh (almost cult-like)
product of the New Age movement.  Its positive thinking on steroids.
I’ve been to a Landmark Forum.  It had some useful things to teach,
but I didn’t like its morally questionable techniques of influencing
participants.  EST supposedly had even stronger methodologies.  Sadly,
I’ve heard that Landmark is gaining a foothold in some Unity circles.
If Landmark used its stronghold tactics to inveigle its way into
Unity, then it could use it as a respectable front for its
prosyletizing activities.  This is the darkside of the New Age.

All of this that I mentioned has influenced and in some cases been
incorporated into the almost anything goes theology of New Age.
Nonetheless, as I grew up in New Thought as a distinct tradition, I
still consider the two separate.  I agree with some of Wilber’s
criticisms of New Age: the Mean Green Meme (MGM) and cultural
relativism.

BTW my experience with New Age is pretty wide.  I’ve read many of the
New Age classics growing up.  I also attended a UU for a while.  I
went to massage school where I learned about alternative health and
energy healing.  Two of the psychotherapists I’ve been to were Reiki
healers and one of them was also a practicing Sufi.  I went to a
shamanistic healer a couple of times.  I’ve had my hug from the
hugging saint Amma.  I’ve done all kinds of spiritual practices over
the years.  I used to be a vegetarian.  I have interests in various
New Age subjects: tarot, astrology, chakras, etc.

OTOH I was also raised by two fairly conservative parents who later
became very dissatisfied with Unity.  I went to highschool in the
conservative South and lived in the heart of the Bible Belt for a
time.  I’m fairly critical of much of New Age and New Thought.  I’m
very intellectual and can be frustrated by anti-intellectual
ideologies.  I’ve spent much of my life depressed and can be annoyed
by the manic cheeriness of some New Agers.

I have both an insiders and an outsiders view of New Thought and New
Age.  I meet people online who have just discovered positive thinking
and I have to control myself from expressing my cynicism too strongly.
 I’ve practiced New Thought off and on over the years and I still
believe in it, but I also know of its weaknesses and pitfalls.  What
annoys me about the positive thinking is that many people who discover
it feel they must prosyletize it as if it can answer all of the
world’s problems.  To me, the most important New Thought principle is
acceptance and not optimism.  Plus, I distinguish between faith and
optimism… whereas, pop culture positive thinking downplays faith or
limits it to personal psychology.

Even though all of these ideas and experiences have made me who I am,
I don’t label myself as New Age or New Thought.  I believe that there is
much truth in these traditions, but I don’t align myself with any
particular tradition… which I suppose is very New Age of me.

Whether or not I’m New Age, there is no doubt I’m a product of this
sub-culture.  I joined Gaia because a part of me very clearly
resonates with this kind of positive thinking community.  Generally
speaking, I like most New Agers as people.  They’re my people and I
understand them.  I’m an INFP which is one of the MBTI types that most
closely fits with a New Age worldview.  I belong to an INFP forum and
I love the place, but the sweet kind pc friendliness would make some
people vomit.

 

Spinner
  Marmalade : Gaia Child  

Re: New Age: A Blog Series By Marmalade

Marmalade said Jul 22, 2008, 11:10 PM:

 

New Age: Part 2

Posted on Jul 22nd, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Explorer MarmaladeIn Unity, Jesus isn’t superior to us.  We don’t need to give the right answer or win his approval in order to be saved.  This is because our salvation isn’t in his hands.  He just shows the way.
 
In Unity, access to Heaven isn’t limited to those who follow Christ (ie Universalism).  But it depends on what is meant by “Christ” and “follow”.  Christ has two meanings in New Thought: (1) Jesus Christ the Wayshowher, and (2) Christ Consciousness.  New Thought Christianity is non-exclusive.  Most New Thought practitioners probably see Christ Consciousness in all religions.  The language used isn’t important.  It doesn’t matter if you call this Wayshower principle Jesus or Buddha or whatever, and there is no reason why there can’t be multiple Wayshowers.  In New Thought, to “follow” Christ simply means to live your life according to his example.  This doesn’t necessitate believing in the one true dogma or accepting Jesus as the one true savior.  It simply means that you follow him and so all that it implies is that you trust his guidance, that you trust he knows the way.  Also, New Thought practitioners tend to believe that there are many paths to “Heaven”.
 
In Unity, Heaven and Hell don’t exist as separate realms.  They’re states of mind and they’re part and parcel with how we live our lives, our words and our deeds.  We don’t have to wait until we’re dead to be close to God.  Sin is our separation or rather perceived separation from God, but there is no Original Sin.  Sin like salvation is in the present.  Each moment gives us an opportunity to accept or deny God.
  
In Unity, we co-create reality with God.  It is difficult to trace this idea.  One of the earliest source would be Gnosticism.  There is an idea that began in Gnosticism and was adapted in later Kabbalah.  The idea is that we don’t merely passively receive salvation but rather participate in the salvation process. 
 
New Thought types like to quote passages such as Psalm 82:6 and John 10:34.  New Thought interprets as literal truth the statement of Jesus that “You are gods.”  And in John 14:12, Jesus says “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.”
 
Also, Mesmer had the idea that we have the power to influence our reality.  Phineas Quimby is considered the Father of New Thought and he studied Mesmerism.
 
I’ve read that Unity began within the Evangelical movement.  It doesn’t seem all that Evangelical in comparison to some more vocal Evangelists today, but it still has an Evangelical core.  I suppose it was Robert Schuller who first popularized New Thought (he is my mom’s favorite minister).  I’ve seen many Evangelical tv ministries where New Thought ideas are preached.  What is known as prosperity thinking in New Thought and positive thinking in New Age is called by a different name in the Evangelical movement.  Its called prosperity gospel or abundance theology.  The newest popular proponent of New Thought in Evangelism is Joel Osteen.
 
The wiki article says…

Universalism is a religion and theology that generally holds all persons and creatures are related to God or the divine and will be reconciled to God. A church that calls itself Universalist may emphasize the universal principles of most religions and accept other religions in an inclusive manner, believing in a universal reconciliation between humanity and the divine. Other religions may have Universalist theology as one of their tenets and principles, including Christianity, Hinduism, and some of the New Age religions. Universalist beliefs exist within many faiths, and many Universalists practice in a variety of traditions, drawing upon the same universal principles.

The most common principle drawn upon is love. (Sai Baba/Baba Speech): “The spirit present in all of the beings is varily seen as that of mind. They are all full of the essential love. Without love, it is all just a pun, without love you can not be happy !”

Truth is also an important principle to be drawn upon. The living truth is more far-reaching than national, cultural, even faith boundaries. [1]
That generally lines up with my understanding of Unity’s Universalism.  The Random House definition says that “the doctrine that emphasizes the universal fatherhood of God and the final salvation of all souls.”  Within the Unity church, fatherhood isn’t a term that I remember hearing much in reference to God, but the general idea of God’s universal nature as Creator has a similar meaning.  The major difference here is that Unity wouldn’t agree with a view that final salvation is a collective future event.  This goes along with heaven and hell not being places that we go to.  Ultimately, Unity teaches that everyone is already saved.  Sin is an error in perception and that is all.  We aren’t really separate from God because everything is eternally in and of God.
There are all kinds of weaknesses some inherent to New Thought theology and some with how New Thought has manifested in contemporary culture.  Most importantly is the question of whether New Thought aligns with what psychological research has discovered.  Some of the strongest criticism of New Thought in its relationship with New Age comes from the Integral theorists.  A book that looks interesting is The Dark Side of the Light Chasers by Debbie Ford.  I haven’t read the book, but it seems to be about how some New Agers could learn a thing or two from Jungian shadow work.

In highschool, I was heavily influenced by both Unity and A Course In Miracles (ACIM).  This means that the two are pretty mixed in my mind.  The ACIM was popular in Unity.  Because of this, Unity decided to stop carrying it in their bookstores.  They were worried that people would start thinking of Unity theology only in ACIM terms.  The ACIM has much more of an intellectual theology than New Thought does in general, and so ACIM adds a bit of meat to the bones.  Check out Kenneth Wapnick if you’re interested in the theology pertaining to the ACIM.  Basically, the ACIM is most similar to Valentinian Gnosticism. 
 
I’ve studied the ACIM more thoroughly than I have ever studied Unity theology.  As I was raised in Unity, I never gave it much thought growing up.  And as I haven’t attended a Unity since highschool, I’ve never studied of its theology to any great extent.  I’m not an expert on Unity, but its essential philosophy is easy enough to grasp… easier to grasp than the historical comlexities of Catholic theology.  The funny thing about Unity is its lack of motivation to push a particular theology beyond a few basic beliefs.  I was never taught what the beliefs of Unity were.  I never even read the Bible growing up nor do I remember anyone reading Bible stories to me.  It didn’t even occur to me to think about any of this.

 

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  Alluvja :  Love In Action  

Re: New Age: A Blog Series By Marmalade

Alluvja said Jul 24, 2008, 4:43 PM:

  Hi Marmelade, interesting blog. I’ve been influmced also by a variety of faiths and thought systems, Christianity, Hinduism, Science of mind, Course of Miracles to mention a few. I’ve also studied theology for a copple of years.   I still have occasionally spurs of intellectual inspiration but in general i must say I have more and more trouble with that lately ,since I strongly feel that there is only so much to understanding, there comes a point where I need to let go of that and all needs to become quiet to be Known and reveiled and you just Are in that knowing.  Spirituality becomes a mystical experience and the mystical experience can be found in an ordinary way of being.
But aside from that, I just wanted to reflect on your comment on Kenneth Wapnick, who has been critized as well in the various ACIM “cults” .  I have met him, I did a weekend with him and his wife many years ago here in the Netherlands, and I must be honest to say that I was a bit dissappointed by the intellectual approach of his workshop which at that time held no room for some pratical application and sharing of what ACIM  is all about ,LOVE!   In talking with him personally however I found him a very warm and wonderful person and got a bit back from the feeling I got from reading some of his books. One of his books that was very powerful to me is “the meaning of forgiveness” and I can strongly recomment it to anyone wanting to get an insight in some of the Course in Miracles principles.
However, this was all many years ago and there are also many groups that work with the course that have a more practical and less intellectual approach.
And yes you’re right it is a gnostic teaching and on some of those concepts that is where I sometimes wrestle with ACIM.

Thanks for the clear explanation of the various churches etc.
Love,
Alluvja

 

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  Marmalade : Gaia Explorer  

Re: New Age: A Blog Series By Marmalade

Marmalade said Jul 24, 2008, 5:16 PM:

  Hello Alluvja,

I’m a pretty intellectual guy, but I go through phases.  A couple of years ago I was in a major non-intellectual phase where I wasn’t reading at all and I was meditating all of the time.  I’m in an intellectual phase at the moment, but I’m starting to shift into a fiction phase.  I really love fiction… in many ways more than I love philosophy.  Several of my favorite intellectual subjects of study relate to storytelling: archetypes, mythology, psychology, etc.  I love fiction writers who combine fiction and nonfiction writing… such as Philip K. Dick.

BTW I’m no big fan of Wapnick.  I’ve only ever owned one book by him and I’ve (Love Does Not Condemn) and I’ve never even read that one book all the way through.  If it wasn’t for a good friend becoming interested in the ACIM, then it wouldn’t really be on my mind much.  I will say that Wapnick re-awakened for me some interest in it, but only slightly. 

I’m attracted to Gnosticism and so that is the one thing that attracts me to ACIM at all these days.  So, what is your opinion about Gnosticism?  Are you familiar with Valentinus?  He was a Gnostic within the Catholic church and was a candidate for bishop of Rome.

Blessings,
Marmalade

 

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  Nicole : wakingdreamer  

Re: New Age: A Blog Series By Marmalade

Nicole said Jul 24, 2008, 6:41 PM:

  what fiction are you slipping into at the moment, buddy? anything bloggable? i’m all ears so to speak

🙂 light and joy,

nicole

 

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  Marmalade : Gaia Child  

Re: New Age: A Blog Series By Marmalade

Marmalade said Jul 25, 2008, 1:32 AM:

  It shouldn’t surprise you that I’ve been reading some of Philip K. Dick’s fiction.  I finished the book The Cosmic Puppets a while back.  I was thinking about doing a review of it.  Its about the battle between dark and light forces when they manifest on the human level.  Its also about how people respond when reality is altered.  All of the typical PKD character types are present including the dark haired girl, but there is a very odd twist to the story.

Blessings,
Marmalade

 

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  Nicole : wakingdreamer  

Re: New Age: A Blog Series By Marmalade

Nicole said Jul 25, 2008, 3:36 AM:

  sounds intriguing…. if you blog, i promise to get into a detailed discussion…
*wheedling appealingly* 🙂

 

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  Alluvja :  Love In Action  

Re: New Age: A Blog Series By Marmalade

Alluvja said Aug 1, 2008, 4:49 AM:

  Hello Marmelade,

It’s been a while, thanks for your reply, I didn’t mean to ignore your reply but I haven’t really been feeling very well physically lately and thus didn’t feel like going into a discussion on Gnostism because my mind was really occupied with other stuff.
Anyway, appreciate your thread very much and perhaps I’ll get back to it some other time.

Love and light,
Alluvja

 

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  Nicole : wakingdreamer  

Re: New Age: A Blog Series By Marmalade

Nicole said Aug 1, 2008, 5:29 AM:

  Sorry you haven’t been well, dear one… feeling better now?

Love,

Nicole

 

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  Marmalade : Gaia Child  

Re: New Age: A Blog Series By Marmalade

Marmalade said Aug 1, 2008, 5:49 AM:

  Don’t worry, Alluvja.  I wasn’t offended by your not replying.  I didn’t interpret it as meaning anything in particular.

I hope you feel better.

Blessings,
Marmalade

 

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  Marmalade : Gaia Explorer  

Re: New Age: A Blog Series By Marmalade

Marmalade said Jul 24, 2008, 1:14 AM:

 

New Age: Part 3

Posted on Jul 24th, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Child MarmaladeUnity and New Thought denies evil any reality because God is all and all is in God.  There is no Satan and what appears as darkness is nothing more than a lack of light.  Just a false belief and a misperception.  As for sin (original or otherwise), evil, satan, and hell… its all the same in New Thought theology.  Good vs evil isn’t a dichontomy that is used in New Thought.  For instance, A Course In Miracles uses the terms of love and fear: “The opposite of love is fear, but what is all-encompassing can have no opposite.”  There really isn’t any more that can be said of it from a New Thought perspective. 
 
I was raised with no concept of evil and so I never thought about it growing up.  Even though I now understand it in the abstract, it doesn’t have much meaning to me.  As my grandmother (who was a Unity minister, a Science of Mind practitioner, and a student of the ACIM) used to say, “Everyone is doing the best that they can for where they’re at.”
 
In New Thought, God has no gender because God isn’t an anthropomorphic deity.  Rather, God is a spiritual principle something akin to monism or panentheism.  New Thought is the natural result of the evolution of the Judeo-Christian tradition taken to its extreme.  The Catholic God is more abstract than the Jewish God.  The Protestant God is more abstract than the Catholic God.  The New Thought God is more abstract than the Protestant God.  As rationality increased with socio-histoical development, God became ever more rationalized.
 
Unity uses the term “God” to refer to the divine, but the use of the term “Goddess” in reference to the divine is extremely common in New Age.  Even in Unity, nobody would care if you felt like referring to the divine as Goddess. 
 
Goddess combines the whole feel of embodied spirituality that is in line with the New Age’s desire to bridge spirituality and science.  The Gaia hypothesis is a case in point.  It was originated by a scientist, but was quickly spiritualized and has become one of the main tenets of New Age.  Nature and environmentalism are very important in the New Age. 
 
Plus, Goddess fits in with the whole female empowerment.  New Age groups have a high percentage of female membership and women often have leadership positions.  If I remember correctly, all of the ministers of Unity churches that I’ve belonged to have been women.  A major influence of the Goddess strain within New Age goes back to Gimbutas’ theory of ancient peaceful matriarchies.  Also, the rise of virgin mary worship has contributed to this.  New Age is the common person’s spirituality and virgin mary worship has a similar position within Catholicism.  There are many theories why the feminine principle is becoming more central.  I simply see it as the return of the repressed.
 
So, what is a Unity service like?  There is nothing particularly special about a Unity service.  Its very simple and bare bones.  Unity isn’t big into symbolism and ritual.
 
There is singing non-traditonal songs such as “Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me.”  Come to think of it, God was referred to as Father in this song.  I just looked it up and I see that some versions have of course changed “Father” to “Creator”.  During the singing of this song, I remember that everyone held hands in a circle that connected the whole congregation together and everyone would sway back and forth.
 
Unity people are a smily and friendly group for the most part, but I have been to a Unity church nearby where the people weren’t as open as the Unity churches I grew up in.  One thing I remember is that people liked to hug and there was a specific point in the service that was for this purpose.  However, someone told me that Unity churches were much more huggy in the past than they are now.   I don’t know what would cause such a change.
 
Of course, there is a sermon.  But its quite different from most Christian sermons.  God is talked about in a less direct way.  There is much more neutral language.  Bible stories aren’t usually told.  Nonetheless, the whole service has a general Christian feel to it.

 

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Re: New Age: A Blog Series By Marmalade

Nicole said Jul 24, 2008, 3:35 AM:

  this is great – i commented to your first two on your blogs but will comment here for the third. i think i have been a bit more closed than usual to Unity because of my mom belonging to it and not feeling it was good for her, just reinforcing her tendency to escape reality. but the way you describe growing up in it makes it sound more appealing.

it makes sense that it would have a lot of women ministers. that seems to be true of the Unitarians as well and even in the Anglican church, though it’s still fairly recent that women are ordained, more and more are priests.

The feminine has always been worshipped… heck, it’s even in the traditional marriage service, “with my body I thee worship” 🙂 The awesome power to bring forth and nurture life is something that males have over the ages adored, desired, feared and sought to control through many means – religion, violence, literature and other arts…

Light and peace,

Nicole   

 

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  Marmalade : Gaia Explorer  

Re: New Age: A Blog Series By Marmalade

Marmalade said Jul 24, 2008, 4:59 PM:

  Nicole, what do you think attracted your mom to Unity?

 

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  Nicole : wakingdreamer  

Re: New Age: A Blog Series By Marmalade

Nicole said Jul 24, 2008, 6:26 PM:

  I think she likes the “magical” aspects to it… she wants to think everything will fix itself with positive thoughts …

 

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  alexander rhubarb : nit picker  

Re: New Age: A Blog Series By Marmalade

alexander rhubarb said Jul 24, 2008, 5:17 PM:

  Hi
Marmalade, Wow that sure was a mouthful. I have never heard of the Unity church. As I said earlier post I was ritualized Catholic and as a consequence no other religion really existed. This is akin to many aboriginal cultures defining themselves as the first peoples. And how do they set about proving this claim ,myth.
  I agree with your take on the evolution of religious thought and consciousness. One feeds into the other. Cultures and a culture’s dominant fiction also add to this nurturing of thought I suppose. I like also to consider the neurognostic aspects of religion. The physical allotment of the brain as it appears in the here and now afer predication of nature and nurture. I believe you have explained nicely the communitas  of spirit , what of the culmination of evolutionary tactics that have helped bring us to this point. I’ m not looking at specifics, but do recall that behaviour is a reflection of what is inside our brains.

 

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  Marmalade : Gaia Child  

Re: New Age: A Blog Series By Marmalade

Marmalade said Jul 24, 2008, 5:35 PM:

  Hi Alexander,

I don’t know much about the brain, but I’m sure studying the brain could tell us much about religious experience.  The only aspect of this that I’m slightly familiar with is research done on the brains of meditators.  I have heard of the theory that there might be a God part of the brain, but it seems unlikely that there would be a single location within the brain.

My knowledge of Catholocism is also rather limited.  I did go to boyscouts in the basement of a Catholic church.  Does that count?

Blessings,
Marmalade

 

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  Nicole : wakingdreamer  

Re: New Age: A Blog Series By Marmalade

Nicole said Jul 24, 2008, 6:42 PM:

  hmmm it depends – what did you learn about Catholicism from looking at a church basement? 🙂

 

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  Marmalade : Gaia Child  

Re: New Age: A Blog Series By Marmalade

Marmalade said Jul 25, 2008, 1:35 AM:

  Oh, the things one can discover in a basement… deep dark secrets.
I would tell you but the Pope made me promise I’d never speak of it.  🙂

 

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  Nicole : wakingdreamer  

Re: New Age: A Blog Series By Marmalade

Nicole said Jul 25, 2008, 3:33 AM:

  well, if the pope made you promise… :):)

 

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  alexander rhubarb : nit picker  

Re: New Age: A Blog Series By Marmalade

alexander rhubarb said Jul 25, 2008, 9:05 PM:

  As always thanks for the chat. I was never an alter boy, and no scouts either. The structures of the brain are easily seen manifested cross-culturally. I don’t see a God gene either. my contention was that as peoples see themselves as the first peoples, and they support this in myth, so does religion resolve itself through cultural expression but stands as a universal structure, ie. the archetype. Dichotomy is also a structure of the brain, at least in thought and language usage, and development. Intentionality is yet another aspect of self. I see these structures as innate and part of the evolution of the brain. Any interest or thoughts on how innate  neurological structures can lead to cross cultural universals?  Thanks to all in advance.

 

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  Marmalade : Gaia Child  

Re: New Age: A Blog Series By Marmalade

Marmalade said Jul 25, 2008, 11:21 PM:

  Alexander,
“I see these structures as innate and part of the evolution of the brain. Any interest or thoughts on how innate  neurological structures can lead to cross cultural universals?”

I see the correlation between archetypal structures and the evolution of the brain, but causation is hard to prove.  We can only guess at which way the causation goes, or maybe there is a presently unknown factor that is the cause of both. 

For instance, we find spirals pleasing to look at and so there is probably a part of the brain that relates to this, but spirals aren’t just an evolution of our brain because they are one way matter tends to structure itself.  So, did our brains evolve to enjoy spirals because they exist in nature for obviously spirals preceded the evolution of our brain.  But then I wonder what is the evolutionary advantage of finding spirals pleasant to look at.  And I also wonder why nature tends towards spirals.  Maybe there is a third factor underlying both the manifestation of spirals and the human attraction to spirals.

Blessings,
Marmalade

 

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  alexander rhubarb : nit picker  

Re: New Age: A Blog Series By Marmalade

alexander rhubarb said Jul 26, 2008, 6:06 AM:

  Hi and thanks for inspirations. I am really enjoying this blog Marmalade, and Hansen sounds like my kind of read, right up my alley, with liminality and totemism and more. Spirals eh! At first I thought I would have to consider this for a while. Then I remembered another interesting fact that pertains to this line. If we close our eyes and rub them we see colours and bursts of light, similarly if we are in the shower with our eyes clenched and the water beating on our lids we experience this mirage of colour and geometrics. This is because we don’t see light in our brains it is transduced  into information our brain interprets as light. So maybe spirals are a part of this visual process and not of mind. I have heard that spirals in our visual field with eyes closed can mean a psychosis is present. Spirals have been present for as long as art, and maybe its more a physical than mental effort. With regards to causation, do you think causation at a distance is possible, ie. new age thinking and quantum leap?Really interesting Marmalade I’m struck by the depths of your soulful knowledge, and of course the same can be said of Nicole. Two rushing rivers. Thanks .

 

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Re: New Age: A Blog Series By Marmalade

Marmalade said Jul 26, 2008, 7:41 AM:

  Glad you’re enjoying the discussion, Alexander.  🙂

Spirals could be part of the visual process.  I’ve never heard of anyone theorize in that direction.  I can’t even begin to wonder how the visual process could create spirals.

Spirals in nature tend to follow the golden ratio, and so do human body proportions.  A common shape humans like to create is the golden rectangle: note cards, books, dvd cases, etc.

Then you have visual symbols such as crosses.  Humans not only are interested in crosses, but tend to perceive them with similar meaning across diverse cultures that aren’t known to have had contact and so influence seems unlikely.  Crosses often are associated with the sun, and solar mythologies also tend to follow similar patterns. 

If this is all caused by the brain somehow, I don’t think anyone has figured out how the brain could cause it.  Some suggest there could be some ancient myth from before humans spread out across the globe, and that would be remarkable as humans became separated on different continents long ago.

Do I think causation at a distance is possible?  I don’t know, but the research at least shows correlation at a distance.  Both quantum physics research and paranormal research demonstrates what seems to be influence that is faster than light.  The book by Hansen goes into some of the paranormal research.

Blessings,
Marmalade

 

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  alexander rhubarb : nit picker  

Re: New Age: A Blog Series By Marmalade

alexander rhubarb said Jul 26, 2008, 8:12 PM:

  HI and thanks for continuing what I hope isn’t becoming mundane for you. I am hopeful that you do not find it digressing from your blog. The spirals may be a byproduct of visual neurology, some sort of outlet for these impulses.

Why would it be difficult to percieve of these visual symbols as structures relevant to all humans much the same as we share many phonemic similarities in language as well as an inateness to language.Why not innate symbols of non vocalic types that are shared or can be shared by all humans I have hypothesized ,in an M.A. thesis that “grabbing at the branches” could support these structures and even in my belief the structure of written languages. As an engram a cross, even made of wood traditionaly, or a rectangle as is plentyful staring into entangled branches could have evolved into the hard wiring of our brains evolution, The importance of missing a branch is predicable and so it becomes important to visualize and rehearse and reinforce visualization of “the branches”. If you could let me know what you think. Thanks Marmalade. Alex

 

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  Marmalade : Gaia Explorer  

Re: New Age: A Blog Series By Marmalade

Marmalade said Jul 26, 2008, 9:12 PM:

  Nope… nothing mundane about it, Alexander.  I’m perfectly happy discussing it as long as you wish.  It may be digressing from my blog, but I so happen to like digressions.  🙂

As for spirals and crosses, my guess is that (like many things) there are multiple factors which quite likely could include your theory.  I suppose there might be scientific research about symbolic perception/cognition, but I’m not familiar with it.  At some later point, I’ll look into this area.  I promise you that I’ll eventually do a blog about archetypes, symbols, and pattern recognition.  I do want to discuss this in more detail at some point, but it will take me a little while to get to it.  I want to finish off this New Age blog series, and there are a couple of other things I want to get done (such as a review of the new Batman movie that I promised OM that I’d do).  I’ll probably blog about these visual symbols in the next few weeks.

For the moment… if you have some info that you could link here, I’d be more than happy to look at it and comment.  Or you could start a separate thread and see what others have to say.

Blessings,
Marmalade

 

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Re: New Age: A Blog Series By Marmalade

Marmalade said Jul 25, 2008, 3:50 AM:

 

New Age: Part 4

Posted on Jul 25th, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Child Marmalade The New Age has some of its origins in organizations such as the Theosophical Society.  Besant and Leadbeater wrote the book Occult Chemistry where they claimed to have used psychic vision to discover the structure of the atom.  Also, it was the Theosophical Society that raised J. Krishnamurti as the coming messiah even though he chose not to take up this role and went his own way instead.  Theosophy was a part of the whole spiritualism movement which related to various occult groups and practitioners.  This side has been a bit lost in the lightness and fluff of the New Age, but the New Age tradition of channelled writings comes from spiritualism. 
 
All of the spirituality and religion of that time was largely in response to the industrial revolution and the rising of scientific materialism.  Mesmerism was one of those attempts to bridge the gap between spirituality and science.  This is partly why New Agers are so focused on material manifestations of spirituality such as healing and wealth, and why they’re interested in quasi-scientific theories about quantum physics and such.  New Thought ideas are getting some actual scientific backing from books written by people such as Lynne McTaggart who is a reporter on consciousness studies.
 
There is also an intriguing connection between the New Age and phenomena such as UFOs and conspiracies.  They’re two sides of the same thing.  UFOs and conspiracies, like much of New Age, is seeking rational explanations for the non-rational.

The basic connection is that there is much crossover between those interested in New Age and those interested in UFOs, conspiracy theories, and whatever else.  New Age types tend to be open-minded and curious about life in general (and some more extreme New Agers have a naive gullibility that allows them to believe in almost anything).  I mentioned that the early origins of New Age include spiritualism and Theosophy.  The occult in general is sort of the shadow of mainstream New Age, and the occult is mixed up with UFOs and conspiracy theories.  
 
I was reading a book by Vallee who is a UFO investigator and was one of the first people to make a connection between alien abductions and traditional folklore.  In the intro to one of his books, he mentioned that he had studied Teilhard de Chardin and appreciated his view.  Teilhard de Chardin is a name that comes up in both New Age and Integral discussions.  BTW there is much crossover between New Age and Integral in general to the chagrin of Ken Wilber. 
 
If you go to the alternative section of a bookstore, you’ll find books on New Age, books on such things UFOs and conspiracy theories, and books on Integralism.  Also, you’ll find books on New Thought Christianity and all other aspects of Christianity that aren’t deemed suitable for a normal Christian viewing public. 

There is another common element to all of these besides the type of person who is open-minded and curious.  Nearly all of these subjects have some connection to Jung and depth psychology.  Jung proposed the theory of archetypes that has become popular in the New Age, in certain sectors of Christianity, and in subjects such as tarot and kabbalah.  The idea of archetypes does come up in books about UFOs and the occult and Jung comes up a lot in Integral circles.  Jung was influenced by some writers of the occult, Jung wrote a book about UFOs, and Jung was a direct inspiration of Alcoholics Anonymous which was one of the earliest self-help groups.  Jung had wide interests and many New Agers share this trait.  Also, shadow work is becoming an increasingly popular topic in the New Age.  Of course, the belief in synchronicity has been a mainstay of the New Age for quite a while now.  Plus, the MBTI was based on Jung’s theory of personality, and the MBTI has become a big player in the self-help field.
  
There is another even more interesting side to all of this.  Intentional communities and Gurus are very popular amongst New Agers, but there is a dark side to this with Jim Jones, Charles Manson, and Heaven’s Gate.  Heaven’s Gate is an especially good example.  They were a UFO cult that was very New Agey in their interest in pop culture utopianism and their beliefs in alien/angels that would come to save them.  Many people who have alien abduction experiences are given messages by their captors.  They are made to feel special and that they have a mission to accomplish.  They are often told that the world is ailing or even dying, and that the aliens have come to save the planet or the aliens have come to save an elect few.  You can find similar messages in New Age channeled writings.
 
Basically, there is a very diverse connection between the New Age and various subjects that don’t seem very New Agey.  Even so, these connections go back to the beginning of the New Age.  Part of the problem here is that its nearly impossible to define what the New Age is.  It includes so much.  And if you follow the trail of connections, it can lead you in many different directions.  Its good to keep in mind that the New Age has slowly been co-opted by the mainstream (eg Oprah and Tolle, and The Secret), but the New Age originated in the unrespectable fringes of society.  Just as its useful to distinguish between New Thought and New Age, its also useful to distinguish between the early beginnnings of New Age and the contempory popularization thereof.  The New Age that is becoming popularized right now is in some ways a whole new phenomena.

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  Nicole : wakingdreamer  

Re: New Age: A Blog Series By Marmalade

Nicole said Jul 25, 2008, 4:24 AM:

  that last point you make is a good one. New Age thought has been a “heresy” fringe element of Christianity, for example, since the very beginning. But it becoming mainstream really changes its character I believe because before it used to thrive in being small secret and privileged… interesting.

Light,

Nicole

 

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  Marmalade : Gaia Explorer  

Re: New Age: A Blog Series By Marmalade

Marmalade said Jul 25, 2008, 11:59 AM:

  Also, in becoming mainstream, the New Age definitely changes.  The popularity of channelled writings will decrease and the self-help aspect will be more emphasized.

I was unusure about one thing you said: “before it used to thrive in being small secret and privileged”. 

So, what time period is your “before” referring to? 

And in what ways do you believe it was “privileged”?  I’m thinking you mean privileged differently than in how I’m thinking about that term.  I’ve been reading about it in relation to various philosophical movements such as postmodernism where it refers to such things as high status.  I’m guessing you mean that its privileged in that only a small group of people participated, correct? 

Also, are you referring to Gnosticism specifically?  Some people label the Gnostics as elitist as they tended to be small groups, but as far as I know the Gnostics weren’t any more exclusive than any other small group of early Christianity.  Actually, later they became quite large groups such as the Cathars.  Its true that some Gnostics believed only an elect would be saved, but then again that is far from an uncommon belief in Christianity as well.

Blessings,
Marmalade

 

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  Nicole : wakingdreamer  

Re: New Age: A Blog Series By Marmalade

Nicole said Jul 25, 2008, 5:52 PM:

  Before means before becoming mainstream… throughout most of history, in fact.

Yes, I was thinking in the sense of the mystery cults, the feeling of being on of the chosen few who could understand… So, part of it is being a small group, but especially a small, select and precious group.

No, not just Gnostics, there were a number of these types of groups, not all Christian sects of course, like the cult of Mithras…

Love,

Nicole

 

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  andrew : ~SmAsHInG dUaLiTy~  

Re: New Age: A Blog Series By Marmalade

andrew said Jul 25, 2008, 7:30 PM:

  you know ben , when i read the urantia book in the winter of ’94, i thought to myself, this has to be otherworldly, who could write such a volume with that amount of information. now 4 years ago i came across will and ariel durants, a history of civilization, a set of books that is voluminous compared to the urantia book, and i thought aha, these people living before t.v. had the time and intellect to write these enormous volumes. so no supernaturalism need explain what high intellect and lot’s of time can explain. will and ariel durants work is a healthier use of time compared to the kelloggs family work in the urantia book, in my opinion.

happy someone else knows about the origins of mr. krishnamurti and his connections with the theosophical society and madame blatvatsky. we must not forget about alister crowley also. another guy who had tons of influence in spiritual circles. now to me, i find much of this stuff to be psychic fantasy believed in by people with very high i.q’s. i guess we all need our defense mechanisms against the enormity of the unknown. having said that, i’ve spent 25 years around the fringes of the new age community in vancouver and i find most of the people decent and caring, but lacking in critical thinking, in my opinion. 
i think we would all be stunned at the amount of fringe religious groups that existed 2000 years ago…..we are hardwired for god it seems….we can just never agree on what that is, which of course is a shame and nevermore so than when we claim exclusivity with the propensity towards silence……excellent blog man……

 

 

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Re: New Age: A Blog Series By Marmalade

andrew said Jul 25, 2008, 7:32 PM:

  violence……

 

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Re: New Age: A Blog Series By Marmalade

Marmalade said Jul 26, 2008, 2:43 AM:

  Andrew,
we must not forget about alister crowley also. another guy who had tons of influence in spiritual circles.

Yup… he was influential such as with his helping to popularize Tarot, but I have no particular opinion about him.  Even though I’ve never read any of his books, I come across his name and ideas quite often.  If you have anything interesting to say about him in connection to this discussion, then please do share.  Have you read any of his books?

One interesting factoid is that the “New Age” was a phrase used amongst occultists at least a century ago, but I don’t know when it was first used.  I’ve come across quotes of Crowley where he used the phrase the “New Aeon”.

now to me, i find much of this stuff to be psychic fantasy believed in by people with very high i.q’s. i guess we all need our defense mechanisms against the enormity of the unknown.

I agree with this for the most part.  There is definitely no lack of psychic fantasy.  At the same time, I personally feel there is some truth in it all.

having said that, i’ve spent 25 years around the fringes of the new age community in vancouver and i find most of the people decent and caring, but lacking in critical thinking, in my opinion.

I’d like to see more critical thinking.  Integral theory is good in that its raising the bar for critical discourse.

Blessings,
Marmalade

 

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  Nicole : wakingdreamer  

Re: New Age: A Blog Series By Marmalade

Nicole said Jul 26, 2008, 3:42 AM:

  Hi Marmalade

Some interesting quotes about the term New Age:

A weekly Journal of Christian liberalism and Socialism called
The New Age was published as early as 1894

The leaders who stood at the craddle of the birth of the nation were influenced by Masonic, Spiritualistic and Rosicrucian thought. “A New Order of the Age begins” proclaims the reverse side of the Great Seal of the United States.

Eight signatories of the Declaration of Independence were Freemasons, amongst whom Benjamin Franklin (see image) and George Washington, as were sixteen subsequent presidents.


here for an article on the roots of New Age through the ages

 

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Marmalade said Jul 26, 2008, 7:47 AM:

  Thanks for that link, Nicole!  I had come across a mention of that journal when I was doing a search on Crowley.  Supposedly, he had some articles published in it.

 

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Re: New Age: A Blog Series By Marmalade

Nicole said Jul 26, 2008, 3:50 AM:

  From a review of Charles’ Williams novel All Hallows’ Eve

Readers interested in The DaVinci Code and the landslide of conspiracy theories, secret histories and occultic exposes that will inevitably accompany it may want to discover this lost (and recently reprinted) classic. Williams published this the same year as The Descent of the Dove: A History of the Holy Spirit in the Church, and it would seem at first that these books cover two sides of the supernatural, but it’s not quite that way.

Williams is unique, among other things, for his skepticism, as summed in the epigram, “Believe and doubt well.” His take on witchcraft isn’t based on believing or not believing in it but in looking at it in history and in relation to the rest of his ideas. To understand his approach, consider his credentials and the accidents of when he wrote. He was a member of A.E. Waite’s Order of the Golden Dawn, a mystical society whose members included Evelyn Underhill, author of Mysticism, and poet W. B. Yeats, known for his poem, “The Second Coming.” No doubt he derived much of the local color, as it were, and ideas for his novels from this involvement.

Aleister Crowley, the self-styled “Great Beast” tried to wrest control of the Golden Dawn. Whatever one thinks of “Mr. Crowley” as Ozzy Osbourne sang of him, he seems to be the model for a certain type of magician who appears in Williams’ novels. Williams delves briefly into the events surrounding the dark history of the Malleus Mallificarum, the witch trials, the mysteries associated with the Knights Templar, the Illuminati and the “secret histories” which these days are so much in vogue in contemporary fiction…

 

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Marmalade said Jul 26, 2008, 1:27 AM:

  Hi Nicole,

My guess is that mystery cults were just a product of their time.  From studying early Christianity/Gnosticism, my sense is that religions of the time (including early Christianity/Gnosticism) tended to be more enclosed.  For small religions, it made sense that they would tend to be enclosed because the world was dangerous back then.  For larger religions, it seems that it was common for religions to have an inner mystery and an outer mystery.  Most religions tended towards elitism back then (relative to modern standards) because ancient society tended towards elitism. 

I’m not as familiar with the Mystery cults as I am of Gnosticism.  I know that some people think that Chrisitanity was entirely different (eg Walter Burkert), and I don’t know enough upon which to base a conclusion about the subject.  But others like Doherty think there are commonalities or at least parallels.  I know that the Mystery cults were secretive (hence the “Mystery”), but I don’t know that they were exclusive.  Here is a quote from the wiki article on Mystery cults:

Mysteries were often supplements to civil religion, rather than competing alternatives of such, and that is the reason these are referred by many scholars as “mystery cults” rather than religions.[4]

The Mysteries were thus cults in which all religious functions were closed to the non-inducted and for which the inner-working of the cult were kept secret from the general public. Although there are no other formal qualifications, mystery cults were also characterized by their lack of an orthodoxy and scripture.
OTOH Gnosticism was definitely a mix of different kinds of groups.  Some Gnostics were basically the same as the early Christians, and there was no clear distinction (if any at all) between the two groups at the time.  Other Gnostics had a more exclusive structure as they were essentially intentional communities where people dedicated their whole lives and all of their earthly belongings to the collecitve.  This might’ve been exclusive in one sense; but, once you belonged, the Gnostics were one of the most egalitarian groups around: equality between women and men and a non-hierarchical structure(TAZ, communitas, liminal).  Basically, they were early communists who shared everything collectively.  Its interesting that it was these Gnostic communes that were the basis for later Christian monasticism.

Christianity became a more open religion when it became established as the state religion of Rome (maybe because it wasn’t being persecuted), but it still carried much of the old system of separating the inner from the outer.  As you know, the average Catholic wasn’t allowed to read the Bible for most of Christianity’s history.  Also, there was an elite priestly class that the average person had little acces to.  Even today, many Christian churches don’t allow unbaptised people to participate in the rituals.

I think the division you speak of has less to do with Christianity vs the Mystery Religions, and instead more about the major social shift that occurred during the Axial Age.  Are you familiar with the Axial Age?    I mentioned it another thread around here.  Anyways… prior to the Axial Age, religion was more hierarchical and as such more elitist.

Does that make sense?  Or do you think it was more than just the Axial Age shift?  Do you think Christianity represented a shift even within (or beyond) the first century Axial Age culture?  Despite the Axial Age similarities, what do you think were the significant differences between the Mystery cults and the Christians?

There is one difference that I notice.  Christianity was a whole religion that stood on its own, but the Mystery cults were the inner mysteries that were an adjunct to a larger religion.  I don’t think anyone knows how Christians operated their churches in the first century, but later on Christians did seem to merge the inner and outer more so than earlier religions had.  There is a nice book that talks about some of this… Yuga: An Anatomy of Our Fate by Marty Glass.

Blessings,
Marmalade 

 

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Re: New Age: A Blog Series By Marmalade

Nicole said Jul 26, 2008, 3:33 AM:

  My guess is that mystery cults were just a product of their time.  From studying early Christianity/Gnosticism, my sense is that religions of the time (including early Christianity/Gnosticism) tended to be more enclosed.  For small religions, it made sense that they would tend to be enclosed because the world was dangerous back then.  For larger religions, it seems that it was common for religions to have an inner mystery and an outer mystery.  Most religions tended towards elitism back then (relative to modern standards) because ancient society tended towards elitism. 

I don’t have the same take on this as you, but that’s ok. I think the enticement to an inside track on enlightenment continues to this day, just in different ways. My point was not so much the specifics of mystery cults, which are quite bizarre in some respects, but rather the draw to special knowledge that human nature has.

OTOH Gnosticism was definitely a mix of different kinds of groups.  Some Gnostics were basically the same as the early Christians, and there was no clear distinction (if any at all) between the two groups at the time.  Other Gnostics had a more exclusive structure as they were essentially intentional communities where people dedicated their whole lives and all of their earthly belongings to the collecitve.  This might’ve been exclusive in one sense; but, once you belonged, the Gnostics were one of the most egalitarian groups around: equality between women and men and a non-hierarchical structure(TAZ, communitas, liminal).  Basically, they were early communists who shared everything collectively.  Its interesting that it was these Gnostic communes that were the basis for later Christian monasticism.

That’s a moot point. This formula of the “early communist who shared everything collectively goes back to the very beginning of Christianity, see incidentally here for an interesting article about how in the early church the distinction between laity and clergy was not strong and all functions now considered priestly could be performed by “ordinary” Christians, and in fact the early church was very “charismatic” – ie it was believed that every Christians had charismata or spiritual gifts such as teaching, prophecy, healing …

As you know, the average Catholic wasn’t allowed to read the Bible for most of Christianity’s history

here is an official Catholic response to this.

Here’s another good summation:

“There is a perception on the part of many Protestants that Catholics do not read the bible. This idea developed largely due to a long-term misunderstanding. Until the Second Vatican (1962-65), Catholics were forbidden to read translations of the Bible prepared by non-Catholics and they were not allowed to participate in bible study groups with non-Catholics. The reason for this was that the Protestant Bible didn’t include 15 Old Testament (OT) books or portions of books (The Apocrypha) that the Catholic Church considered part of the canon (list) of Sacred Scripture. This was an important point because when the Church describes the Scripture as “sacred,” they mean that it is inspired by God. The Protestant Reformation accepted only 39 books of the OT, because it believed that only those books that were from the original Hebrew Bible could be counted on to be genuine. The Catholic Church, on the other hand, accepted the books that were included in the Latin Vulgate, which was translated into Latin from the Septuagint (the original Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible).

The Catholic Church has always placed a high degree of importance on the Bible. Early on the Fathers of the Church used the Scriptures as the principle source of instruction in the faith. “In the Middle Ages the Bible was revered as the sacred page. As such, it was the basis on which theology was developed. The Church today considers the Scriptures together with sacred tradition the supreme rule of faith” (Catholicism by Richard McBrien).

Biblical canonicity is not the divisive issue that it used to be among churches. Most Catholics and mainstream Protestant denominations use the same biblical lectionary cycle, the order of Scripture readings used in the Sunday and daily liturgies. There are versions of the Bible in use today that are the work of Catholic, Protestant and Jewish scholars.

The Mass (the traditional name given to the celebration of the Eucharist) is the main worship service of the Catholic Church. Throughout the world it is estimated that there is a Mass beginning somewhere every two minutes. There are four Scripture readings during Sunday Mass, holy days, and major feast days in this order: a reading from the Old Testament, a responsorial Psalm (usually sung), a reading from the New Testament and the Gospel. At daily Mass there are three Scripture readings instead of four. In addition most of the prayers that are a regular part of the Mass are Scripture based. In his homily or sermon (during Mass) the priest explains the Scripture readings and uses them as an instruction on how to live. It is said that if you read all the Scripture readings for Mass daily for three years you will have read the entire Bible.

Also, there was an elite priestly class that the average person had little acces to.  Even today, many Christian churches don’t allow unbaptised people to participate in the rituals.

There are very different practices and beliefs around baptism but in general there are few churches which insist on baptism for the vast majority of their rites.

Despite the Axial Age similarities, what do you think were the significant differences between the Mystery cults and the Christians?

There is one difference that I notice.  Christianity was a whole religion that stood on its own, but the Mystery cults were the inner mysteries that were an adjunct to a larger religion.  I don’t think anyone knows how Christians operated their churches in the first century, but later on Christians did seem to merge the inner and outer more so than earlier religions had. 

Remember that in the earliest days of the church, what we call “Christianity” was simply called “The Way” and was a sect of Judaism, in which people continued to practise their Jewish faith but also believed the Messiah had come.

There are a number of important differences, the main one being that the goal of the Way was always to become world-wide so all would be saved, not a special clique.

Love and light,

Nicole

 

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Re: New Age: A Blog Series By Marmalade

Marmalade said Jul 26, 2008, 3:11 AM:

 

New Age: Part 5

Posted on Jul 26th, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Explorer MarmaladeI’m reading a very interesting book right now: The Trickster and the Paranormal by George P. Hansen.  Its not directly about the New Age, but covers similar territory and mentions the New Age in a couple of places.  The author explains the socio-cultural dynamics of the paranormal within non-mainstream groups, scientific research, debunker organizations, and our society in general.  He uses concepts such as communitas, liminal, anti-structure, reflexivity, and totemism.  Here are some quotes that are relevant:
 
p. 171
In our culture, psychic phenomena are hospitably received in Spiritualism, the New Age movement, and modern-day witchcraft.  The three movements share common elements, and in a variety of fashions, they are at odds with the establishment.  None of them have institutionalized in the manner of government, industry, academe, or mainline religion.  few of the groups within these movements have buildings or permanent paid staffs, and if they do manage to instituiionalize, it is usually only briefly.  None of the movements acknowledge any central authority; control is local.  The movements are marginal and anti-structural in many ways, but it is within them that one can find discussion of, training in, and use of psychic abilities.
 
p. 174
Marilyn Ferguson, one of the most articulate persons expressing the ideas of the New Age, noted that there is no central authority defining the movement.  In her book The Aquarian Conspiracy (1980), she emphasized its informal, fluid networks, decentralization of power, and lack of structured hierarchies.  New Age concerns typically include feminism, the environment, and alternative healing, and women play major roles.  In addition, it is open to astrology and other forms of divination.  All of this is a bit subersive to the establishment.  Overall, its properties define it as anti-structural.
 
pp. 176-177
All three of these movements have loose boundaries.  It is often difficult to tell if someone is part of them or not.  Many who attend Spiritualist services are also members of established religions; New Age followers are drawn from all faiths.  Witchcraft and neo-pagan groups are perhaps more distinct, but ambiguity reigns there as well with vast differences among them.  Within covens, beliefs and rituals can change with the whim of the high priestess or priest.  There is no higher ecclesiastical authority or common text that solidifies dogma or mandates what, how, or when rituals must be performed.
 
These three movements have striking similarities.  In all alltered (i.e., estructured) states of consciousness play a major role.  Women are prominent, as are the issues of feminism, the environment and healing.  None recognize a central authority for their movement, and they engage in virtually no instituion bulding.  All of the movements are considered subversive by the establishment; they court direct involvement with paranormal and supernatural phenomena, and all display elements of the trickster constellation.
 
The most vocal opposition to these movements come from two sources: establishment scientists (exemplified by CSICOP) and conservative and fundamentalist religious groups.  Both of these antagonists are typified by large, male-dominated, status conscious, hierarchical institutions—the antithesis of the targets of their scorn.  Both have produced massive amounts of literature denouncing the New Age proponents and modern pagans and similar attacks were directed at the Spiritualists of the nineteenth century.  While some of the political and social goals advocated by the”deviants” have been partially incoporated into science and mainstream churches (e.g., feminism, ecology, alternative healing), the establishments’ most vehement attacks remain directed at paranormal and supernatural practices.

 
Hansen has a section about psychiatrist Ernest Hartmann who wrote the book Boundaries in the Mind:

pp. 48-49
Thick-boundary people strike one as solid, well organized, well defended, and even rigid and armored.  Thin-boundary types tend to be open, unguarded, and undefended in several psychological senses.  Women tend to have thinner boundaries than men, and children thinner than adults.  People with thin boundaries tend to have higher hypnotic ability, greater dream recall, and are more lkely to have lucid dreams.  People with thick boundaries stay with one thought until its completion; whereas those with thin boundaries show greater fluidity, and their thoughts branch from one to another.  People with very thin boundaries report more symptoms of illness; however, compared with thick-boundary types, they are able to exert more control over the autonomic nervous system and can produe greater changes in skin temperature when thinking of hot or cold situations.  Thin-boundary persons are more prone to synesthesia, blending of the senses (e.g., seeing colors when certain sounds are heard).  Differences are found in occupations as well.  Middle managers in large corporations tend to have thick boundaries, and artists, writers and musicians tend to have thinner ones.  People with thick boundaries tend to be in stable , long-term marriages; whereas thin types are more likely to be, or have been, divorced or separated.
The author goes on to say that thin-boundary types tend to report more unusual experiences including psychic experiences.  He then lists the correlations between thin-boundary types and the traits of the Trickster archetype (as described in Jean Shinoda Bolen’s book Gods in Everyman).

Obviously, many New Agers are thin-boundary types.  The beliefs of the New Ager make no sense to the more skeptically-minded because skeptics are probably most often thick-boundary types.  Skeptics don’t realize that its not just an issue of belief vs rationality but an issue of experience.  Both the skeptic and the new ager trust their experience, but they simply have different kinds of experience.

 

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  Nicole : wakingdreamer  

Re: New Age: A Blog Series By Marmalade

Nicole said Jul 26, 2008, 4:44 AM:

  i think a lot of people who are active here on the God Pod (and maybe on Gaia in general) are thin boundary, don’t you?

Light and peace,

Nicole

 

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Marmalade said Jul 26, 2008, 8:08 AM:

  Yeah, many around here are probably thin boundary types.  I did have Gaia in mind when I was thinking about this, and specifically I had Julian’s blogs in mind.  I wrote that last paragraph about skeptics almost entirely with Julian in mind.  To him, God doesn’t fit his experience therefore it doesn’t seem “rational”.  To someone who has had experiences that fit what others have described as God, it does seem “rational”. 

Rationality is in some ways just the form of thought (a method of clarifying and communicating), but our experience is the content to which we apply rationality.  Nonetheless, I’m sure that a thick boundary type is more likely to use rationality as a way to think about their experience, and hence is more likely to conflate rationality with their experience of reality.

Blessings,
Marmalade

 

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Re: New Age: A Blog Series By Marmalade

Nicole said Jul 26, 2008, 8:59 AM:

  That kind of conflation can be a real problem.

Love

Nicole

 

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Re: New Age: A Blog Series By Marmalade

Phoenix Skye [no longer around] said Jul 27, 2008, 5:35 AM:

  Thank you for this blog series, my dear. While I have been reading your writing very attentively, I have not been able to put in words to share with you any insightful comments, so I am just going to tell you, that I aprechiate that you took your time to write this deeply, this heartfelt, and this inspired.

peace

Claudia

 

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Re: New Age: A Blog Series By Marmalade

Nicole said Jul 27, 2008, 7:07 AM:

  Hear, hear, Claudia, and I might add I really like Alexander’s insights and questions as well.

I have been on the road and very busy with work meetings so haven’t had much time to check in.

Love,

Nicole

 

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andrew said Jul 27, 2008, 7:46 PM:

  i love the fantasy genre (just saw hellboy 2 and batman). i love science fiction (he who controls the spice). i love fiction that incorporates historical detail (anne rice for exp.). and i too think there is something to all this, but the dogmatic ontological assertions the pervade the new age movement and exoteric religious belief are in my opinion, unhealthy and counter productive in the quest for truth and assessing the ultimate nature of reality…….

well, i have never been into the dark side of things all that much but crowley would fall into that category of the new age, in my opinion. but yes, in and around 98 i read some of his stuff. he was a professional mountain climber and i believe he reached the summit of k2. personally i feel he was incorporating some of nietzsche in his philosophies (the superman thing). i think he was an alchemist but i also think he had a huge ego and lot’s of shadow tendencies, and yes, he was a magician of sorts,too. but i am not so sure that he did no harm. there is quite a bit of controversy surrounding his dealings with his peers. specifically, because i don’t resonate with his path, i don’t remember much more of what i read about him. wilber has had a much more lasting impression on me…..my own impression of the previous turn of the century (1900) was that when the messiah once again failed to materialize, it set off a whole new round of spiritual inquiry that led to the new age speculations. but like you, i see quite a bit of good in it, again, i just don’t like assertions without evidence.
the axial age is one of karen armstrongs specialties. the rise of all the patriarchal religions happened in this era. wilber theorizes that it may have been the invention of the plow that led us away from matriarchal societies, certainly a possibility, but much more to it than that i’m sure, although it’s interesting to see that farm and country life is still very much patriarchal, while urban centers are the hub of these alternate beliefs……

 

 

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Re: New Age: A Blog Series By Marmalade

Marmalade said Jul 27, 2008, 9:03 PM:

  Andrew,
the dogmatic ontological assertions the pervade the new age movement and exoteric religious belief are in my opinion, unhealthy and counter productive in the quest for truth and assessing the ultimate nature of reality…….

Yeah, I agree.  Dogmatic ontological assertions are unhealthy and counter productive where ever they’re found.

the axial age is one of karen armstrongs specialties.

I learned about the axial age from Karen Armstrong.  I saw someone’s review of her book on Amazon, and they were saying that her presentation of the subject was imperfect.  I don’t know if that is the case, but it made me curious to want to go back to the original source of Karl Jasper’s book.

the rise of all the patriarchal religions happened in this era. wilber theorizes that it may have been the invention of the plow that led us away from matriarchal societies, certainly a possibility, but much more to it than that i’m sure,

Its been a while since I looked into this, but I thought patriarchy arose before the axial age.  Its true that the axial age prophets still were a part of the patriarchal society, and all of them were men.  I can’t exactly remember what Armstrong said about it.  One of the things that comes to my mind was that there was some emphasis of gender equality amongst axial age religions.

although it’s interesting to see that farm and country life is still very much patriarchal, while urban centers are the hub of these alternate beliefs……

Paul Shepard writes about the transition to farming, but its been even longer since I’ve read his books.  If I remember correctly, he differentiated between agrarian cultures and agricultural cultures.  Agrarian cultures were the matriarchal cultures that existed prior to the plow.  Before the invention of the plow, pregnant women could farm and farming was women’s work.  I don’t remember the full argument, and I don’t know how this relates to the axial age.

Blessings,
Marmalade

 

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alexander rhubarb said Jul 27, 2008, 10:06 PM:

  Hi Andrew. I just jumped in to say that I find you to be very insightful. And while on the topic of finding truth, I look in different places for it as well. If they or you or me should find it , regardless of the means well all the more power to whomever. My name here is Nit Picker and I am a born skeptic with a very open mind. I am not familiar with Karen Armstrong, but I will look to satisfy myself. I viewed your profile and we have very similar interests.So rock on in your pursuit for truth. I don’t have to tell you not to take any wooden nickles. Alex

 

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alexander rhubarb said Jul 27, 2008, 9:53 PM:

  Hi Nicole.Thanks for your comment. Your a very thoughtful person.

 

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Re: New Age: A Blog Series By Marmalade

Nicole said Jul 28, 2008, 3:47 AM:

  Hi Alex, Thanks, you’re very thoughtful too! and glad to see you enjoying the discussion.

Hi Marmalade and Andrew, you made me curious to look up more about  the axial age…

from the What is Englightment article interviewing Armstrong, here

“Karen Armstrong: The period 800–200 BCE has been termed the Axial Age because it proved pivotal to humanity. Society had grown much more aggressive. Iron had been discovered, and this was the beginning of the Iron Age. Better weapons had been invented, and while those weapons look puny compared to what we’re dealing with now, it was still a shock.

“The first Axial Age also occurred at a time when individualism was just beginning. As a result of urbanization and a new market economy, people were no longer living on lonely hilltops but in a thriving, aggressive, commercial economy. Power was shifting from king and priest, palace and temple to the marketplace. Inequality and exploitation became more apparent as the pace of change accelerated in the cities and people began to realize that their own behavior could affect the fate of future generations.

“So the Axial Age marks the beginning of humanity as we now know it..”

from http://history-and-evolution.com/axial/

Karl Jaspers and The Axial Age
     
   
   
     
   The question of the Axial Age emerges from the discovery of many historians in the nineteenth century of a mysterious synchronism in the period of classical antiquity. This material was first summarized by Karl Jaspers in his classic The Origin and Goal of History. In a period from -800 to -200 a remarkable series of parallel innovations occur in concert across Eurasia, from Rome to China. A profusion of prophets and sages suddenly appear,  and we see large-scale cultural transformations behind them creating a virtual New Age of civilization.  Axial Ages and Eonic Observers

The extraordinary character of this data, and the difficulty of its correct analysis, has delayed its entry into public awareness. Also, the implications are such that its study has been virtually taboo in conventional scholarly circles. Theologians also tend to avoid the subject because the history of the Old Testament is suddenly seen in a broader context. There is a tendency to interpret this data as a kind of generalized age of revelation, emphasizing the birth of religion. But this is misleading, since, in any case, these religions, such as Buddhism, or monotheistic Judaism, are quite different in character, and because the total effect can easily be seen to have no intrinsic connection with religion. In Greece, for example we see the birth of democracy and the rise of science associated with the Axial interval. A broader approach to the question is needed. 

That is provided by the analysis of World History and The Eonic Effect  and this enables us to see what is going on very clearly for the first time. The case of Greece in many ways provides the clue. From there the other cases then become clearer, and we suddenly see the resemblance of the history of Israel to that of Axial Greece, as strange as that might at first seem. We can construct a special kind of ‘eonic model‘ to study the phenomenon we discover.

This work also brings in the question of evolution itself, and this can help us to realize something about the descent of man. The Darwinian view of evolution, hence of history, simply disallows any suggestion of historical directionality, teleology, and macroevolutionary transformations. Yet our history shows us how these issues are present in our own backyard. 

Finally, the study of the so-called eonic effect extends the pattern of the Axial Age to include the birth of civilization and the rise of the modern, and this greater context resolves the enigma of the Axial interval completely. 

The work of Jaspers was seminal, although it left the issue of the Axial period somewhat ambiguous in so far as the relationship of ‘sacred’ and ‘secular’ history is concerned. In the final analysis there is no such distinction. But there are periods with a special character, which we will isolate with our analysis of the eonic effect. We can see that the Axial Age shows us the way that religion, philosophy, science, and the emergence of freedom are braided together in a single macroevolutionary process. But what do we mean by ‘evolution‘? That question requires setting up the apparatus of the so-called ‘eonic model’ which is a schema of periodization that brings out the meaning of the Axial period.

Jaspers’ insight sprang from the way in which he dramatized the synchrony of parallel emergence in five different zones of Eurasia in the interval from -800 to -200. Actually, as we explore the eonic effect we will see that this interval is a bit long, and that it probably begins a bit earlier. We also see a kind of division point around -600. It is as if there is a seminal period of gestation, followed by the onset of a new series of civilizations. It is like a slingshot: coil and release. The period from about -900 to -600 shows the heightening of potential, the foundations of a new era, then after -600 we see the take-off, with a series of spectacular realizations of the new potential. 

The generation after -600 is almost spectacular in the case of Greece, and it seems as if everything is happening all at once, from the Pre-Socratics, to the beginings of science, to the birth of democracy. Then by -400 there is a rapid fall-off, and an age of empire soon appears. Thus it is not really appropriate to include the interval -400 to -200 in the ‘Axial phenomenon’. Already a new character has emerged, and in fact many of the achievements are being undone. Thus Greek democracy barely survives the Axial flowering.

 

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  Marmalade : Gaia Child  

Re: New Age: A Blog Series By Marmalade

Marmalade said Jul 27, 2008, 9:20 PM:

  Howdy Phoenix,

No worries.  I’m glad to hear of your appreciation.  But its fine that you haven’t been able to put into words what you feel.

With this blog series, I wasn’t as concerned about eliciting comments.  This was just on my mind and I wanted to blog about it.  I also thought it would be a good way to share more about the background of my own perspective.

I’ve thought about the New Age often in the past, but I hadn’t ever tried to pull all my thoughts together.  Most of this blog series is just me writing about what I know from memory.  I’ve accumulated a lot of factoids over the years about the New Age and related subjects.  I wasn’t intending to write a complete analysis of the New Age, and I had no plan on what direciton this series would go.  These blogs are just my own understanding of the connections I see.

Blessings,
Marmalade

 

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  andrew : ~SmAsHInG dUaLiTy~  

Re: New Age: A Blog Series By Marmalade

andrew said Jul 28, 2008, 6:53 PM:

  hi alex, thx. for the complement, although i would be the first to say that i am just an average guy with some opinions. it’s true though that i have had some interesting life experiences.

hi ben and nicole, my apologies for the confusion as i somehow had it in my mind that the axial age started long before the time line that  mr. jaspers suggests. there are some in the new age movement that teach that the high priest of salem ( mr. supernatural melchizedek) was some how responsible for this flowering of human thought during that time. to me however, there are too many comparative contradictions in all these religions/philosophies for that to be true unless melchizedek is himself confused about the nature of reality. perhaps he can only meet the jars of clay where they are at? that could explain the anomalies.
by the way, i could never blame anyone that has had a authentic abduction experience for believing in ufo’s and aliens. so i would hope no one faults me too much for having had experiences with light beings. tis why i think we may be dealing with angelic phenomenon. however, through the years i’ve found that there may be better explanations for these experiences than that they literally happened, so to speak. but who really knows? i’d like to think i keep an open mind on these issues, but not so much that my brains fall out of my head:)

 

 

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  Marmalade : Gaia Child  

Re: New Age: A Blog Series By Marmalade

Marmalade said Jul 29, 2008, 1:33 AM:

  Hey Andrew,

by the way, i could never blame anyone that has had a authentic abduction experience for believing in ufo’s and aliens. so i would hope no one faults me too much for having had experiences with light beings.

You shall receive no faulting about your experiences from me.  So, would you mind sharing what those experiences were?  And the different ways you’ve tried to explain them?

however, through the years i’ve found that there may be better explanations for these experiences than that they literally happened, so to speak.

I’m curious to know what you mean by “literally happened” and how you see that connected with reality.  What are the better explanations? 

Harpur’s perspective is that literalism is an interpretation, an enactment of a specific perspective.  He gives examples of how the paranormal will present itself as literal when it is treated as literal.  George P. Hansen (in The Trickster and the Paranormal) discusses the challenge of ascertaining objective reality when dealing with the paranormal (both in personal experience and in scientific research).

What do you think of Jung’s view (wich Hillman later built upon)?  Jung had experiences with a “non-physical being”, and he seemed to lean towards relating with them on their own terms.  Here are some quotes of Jung from Patrick Harpur’s book Daimonic Reality:

“There are no conclusive arguments against the hypothesis that these archetypal figures are endowed with personality at the outset and are not just secondary personalizations.  In so far as the archetypes do not represent mere functional relationships, they manifest themselves as daimones, as personal agencies.  In this form they are felt as actual experiences and are not ‘figments of the imagination,’ as rationalism would have us believe.”
C. G. Jung, CW 5

“At times he seemed to me quite real, as if he were a living personality.  I went walking up and down the garden with him, and to me he was what the Indians call a guru…  Philemon brought home to me the crucial insight that there are things in the psychewhich I do not produce, but which have their own life…  I held conversations with him and he said things which I had not consciously thought…  He said I treated thoughts as if I generate them myself but in his view thoughts were like animals in the forest, or people in a room…  It was he who taught me psychic objectivity, the reality of the psyche.”
C. G. Jung, MDR, pp. 208-9

Blessings,
Marmalade

 

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  Nicole : wakingdreamer  

Re: New Age: A Blog Series By Marmalade

Nicole said Jul 29, 2008, 4:44 AM:

  Marm, this is so intriguing… hopefully I will have time (ha!) at some point to do some research on Jung and daimones – if not, do you think you could do it and blog? hmmm? winning smile

I wonder too if this would be an example for Wilber of Jung falling into the pre/trans fallacy – anyone care to comment?

Andrew, no apologies necessary for anything, I’m glad to have been prompted to learn more about the axial age and to share it. Also, like Marm, I’d like to hear more than the tantalising snippets you have let fall thus far about your experiences and what you mean by them not having literally happened perhaps, and to hear your thoughts on Jung’s experiences…

And as always, I would be delighted to hear the thoughts of anyone else who would like to share…

Love and light,

Nicole

 

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  Marmalade : Gaia Explorer  

Re: New Age: A Blog Series By Marmalade

Marmalade said Jul 29, 2008, 10:29 AM:

  Marm, this is so intriguing… hopefully I will have time (ha!) at some point to do some research on Jung and daimones – if not, do you think you could do it and blog? hmmm? winning smile

No worries, Nicole.  I’ll blog on it eventually. 

I’ve been thinking about this lately.  This of course relates to parapsychology research which is something I bought up to Julian and some others brought it up in one of Balder’s blogs.  I finished the Harpur book a while back and just finished the Hansen book.  I haven’t yet formulated my personal opinion on this, but I respect Jung’s opinions.  When Jung says he walked through the garden with a non-physical being, I don’t doubt that he is speaking of some kind of reality.

Blessings,
Marmalade

 

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  Nicole : wakingdreamer  

Re: New Age: A Blog Series By Marmalade

Nicole said Jul 29, 2008, 1:49 PM:

  oh goody! i will settle back and wait then… while tearing through all that I have to do before i leave for England,

Love,

Nicole

 

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  andrew : ~SmAsHInG dUaLiTy~  

Re: New Age: A Blog Series By Marmalade

andrew said Jul 29, 2008, 6:59 PM:

  hi ben, thx. for asking. the best way for me to answer is in wilberspeak. no matter what otherworldly things i have experienced i can safely say they they were upper left quadrant happenings. in saying this i mean that these experiences of mine happened in my interior space. no angels physically manifested in any way in these 3 dimensions. no one walked thru my walls, no one defied the laws of physics etc. now whether it’s 3 kids in portugal having visions, or someone being abducted in downtown manhatten, i contend now that all these experiences are interior and have no right quadrant existence. in the case of fatima there does seem to be some lower left shared experience and perhaps in the ufo literature there are shared experiences. but nowhere have i come across objective, verifiable, repeatable accounts of any type in any of these phenomenal cases. sorry video and pics don’t cut it especially with the technology available today. but a ufo landing on the white house lawn and broadcast to the world would probably cure me of my skepticism. i feel the same way about religion. please all you theists, part the red sea today and have the decency to bring cnn along for verification (ok, at least some gaia cameras). is this making sense? now what i can say and feel is possible is that consciousness has hyper-dimensional aspects. that would explain some of my experiences, and perhaps jungs, but we see through that glass murky, so to speak. now, if there are other dimensions of consciousness, then yes, i would think in theory that it may be possible to effect and access the lower dimensions, but probably only psychically (there goes my c.t. of the nephilim)

initially of course, i interpreted what i experienced in traditional christian terms. there are angels and demons and there is a war going on here. but concomitantly, at the same time, i was also having nondual insights, so i was very not sure of what to make of things, if that makes sense. this is why wilber’s map has been so helpful to me personally, the guy actually made sense of my experiences, and it’s not to say he’s right perse, he may indeed be wrong about some things, but for now, the map works for me…..i hope that helps.
on jung, i read man and his symbols in ’89 and it really helped me in seeing another possibility and interpretation of my experiences. i don’t think he would be opposed to the idea of conscious dimensions………

 

 

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  Nicole : wakingdreamer  

Re: New Age: A Blog Series By Marmalade

Nicole said Jul 30, 2008, 4:15 AM:

  yes, i hear what you’re saying… i’m glad wilber helped you make sense of it all, it’s good to have a map when we suddenly land in very unfamiliar territory.

as for verifiable miracles… well, miracles happen every day, but as Jesus says, we see and see and don;t perceive…

light and peace

nicole

 

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  andrew : ~SmAsHInG dUaLiTy~  

Re: New Age: A Blog Series By Marmalade

andrew said Jul 30, 2008, 9:08 PM:

  hi nicole, well yes, this is an amazing place this earth we share. the life, the abundance, the stars, the moon, the ocean and rain and sun, and looking into your children’s eyes. it’s all miraculous! but you know full well that is not what i mean, so what do you mean? are there really angels disguised as humans directing traffic on this earth so to speak? are we really dealing with some kind of personal supernatural agency here or are you just being mysterious? now perhaps my post above is my own way of finding god in the gaps, consciousness without personal identity, or panpsychism. of course, when the top of my head blew off (figuratively speaking) and i was shown billions of light beings singing the most amazing song onto god (who i did not see), well, perhaps hyper-dimensional consciousness is embodied after-all…………

but surely if supernaturalism exists, it’s on unemployment insurance at this time unless these angelic beings are just being really subtle and sneaky for some reason! 

 

 

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  Marmalade : Gaia Child  

Re: New Age: A Blog Series By Marmalade

Marmalade said Jul 31, 2008, 2:40 AM:

  HI Andrew,

no matter what otherworldly things i have experienced i can safely say they they were upper left quadrant happenings. in saying this i mean that these experiences of mine happened in my interior space. no angels physically manifested in any way in these 3 dimensions. no one walked thru my walls, no one defied the laws of physics etc. now whether it’s 3 kids in portugal having visions, or someone being abducted in downtown manhatten, i contend now that all these experiences are interior and have no right quadrant existence.

Have you been following the discussion going on in one of Julian’s blogs (here)?  The relationship of internal and external has been brought up.  I mentioned paranormal research there and the difficulties of the field.  Specificially, I discussed Hansen’s view and linked to some detailed reviews of his books.

but nowhere have i come across objective, verifiable, repeatable accounts of any type in any of these phenomenal cases.

Hansen speaks to these issues.  Objectivity, verifiability, and repeatability aren’t easily applied to the paranormal, but researchers have attempted to do so.  Some are satisfied with the evidence and some aren’t.  I talked about the research angle in Julian’s blog comments, but you’re experience was outside of a research situation.  How are lived experiences proven?  Well, very little of even our “normal” subjective experience is provable.  As for the paranormal, it all depends on what kind of evidence you consider acceptable. 

People have seen lights and when they investigated discovered crop circles.  Crop circles are just more complex forms of fairly circles that have been observed for centuries in corollation with fairy lights.  My brother visited with friends a place where orbs (ie fairy lights) were known to be common.  They saw the orbs and the orbs approached the car and hovered around it.  Even scientists have observed orbs, but no one agrees on what explains them. 

Pilots have seen ufos and they were observed simultaneously on radar.  There are a fair number of radar cases.  Why is there not more evidence?  For one, I’ve heard that pilots are discouraged from reporting ufos.  Also, some evidence gets destroyed because people fear ridicule.  Vallee started out as an astronomer but later became a ufo researcher because he personally observed astronomers he worked with destroying video evidence (here is an interview with him where he speaks about this).

Rupert Sheldrake was describing a dialogue he had with Richard Dawkins.

Dawkins: “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

Sheldrake: “This depends on what you regard as extraordinary”, I replied. “Most people say they have experienced telepathy, especially in connection with telephone calls. In that sense, telepathy is ordinary. The claim that most people are deluded about their own experience is extraordinary. Where is the extraordinary evidence for that?”

(Sheldrake describes how he tried to bring up his own rearch about telepathy, but Dawkins refused to discuss it.)

but a ufo landing on the white house lawn and broadcast to the world would probably cure me of my skepticism. i feel the same way about religion. please all you theists, part the red sea today and have the decency to bring cnn along for verification

Well, that is some pretty extreme skepticism.  If being “shown billions of light beings singing the most amazing song onto god” doesn’t convince you, then I doubt anything could.  Plus, I’d consider your statements to be based on a less-than-useful view of the paranormal.  You seem to be responding to a literalist interpretation of paranormal which isn’t the view I hold (nor that which Harpur holds).  It would take some explanation to describe what I mean by literalist, but here is an interesting discussion about Harpur from the Lightmind forum:

Jim wrote:
Kela has mentioned Patrick Harpur here a couple of times in the past, and Susan and Heru mentioned him just recently. Harpur, like Carl Jung, Richard Tarnas, James Hillman, Arnold Mindell, et al, understands the psyche. Many people don’t.

Here is Harpur from his book Daimonic Reality:

    St. Paul mentions an ecstatic experience in which he was “caught up even to the third heaven”, but, as he says, “whether in the body, I know not, or whether out of the body, I know not; God knoweth.” And this is the dilemma confronting many otherworld journeyers.

    It is, I think, too easy to dismiss the conviction of many of them that they were physically lifted into another realm, such as an alien spacecraft. This, after all, is what it felt like; and it is a conviction shared by all members of traditional cultures – although, as we shall see, with an important difference in viewpoint. Thus, although I do not share the conviction, I want to stress that it is ancient and respectable and, I think, nearer to the truth of the matter than not to believe in any kind of otherworld journey at all. However, using the model of daimonic reality … it is possible to make otherworld journeys intelligible, without recourse to a belief in an actual, physical experience.

Here is Ken Wilber from One Taste:

    When people have a memory or an experience of being “abducted,” I don’t doubt the experience seems absolutely real to them (most would pass a lie detector test). And it is real, as an experience, as phenomenology, but not as ontology, not as an objective reality. So there’s the phenomenology (or the experience itself), and there is how you interpret the experience. And for that interpretation – as will all interpretation – you need to draw on the total web of available evidence, which is exactly what the believers in these experiences are not doing.

    Do any UFO experiences represent higher realities? It’s theoretically possible that some of these experiences are stemming from the psychic or subtle levels of consciousness, and that, precisely because these people do not grow and evolve into these levels, they experience them as an ‘other.’ Instead of their own higher and deeper luminous nature, they project it outwardly as an alien form. Even if that is the case, these people are still in the grips of a dissociative pathology. … The giveaway, as usual, is the narcissism.

    What do people really want when they think of UFOs? What are they yearning for at the thought of something extraterrestrial? Why, they want something bigger than themselves. They want to know that, in the entire, wild, extraordinary Kosmos, there is something other than their meager egos.

What Harpur honors, Wilber tends to pathologize.

It seems to me that the rational, Freudian-flavored pathologizing approach that Wilber takes here doesn’t honor the way the psyche or soul actually works, plays, unfolds, grows, flows, meanders, soars, swims, lives, breathes, and develops.

When Wilber asks what people really want when they think of UFOs, he is talking about what the “meager ego” wants, but he neglects to note that the experiences in question (i.e., UFO abduction experiences) don’t stem from the ego but from the deeper psyche (there is no other place they can stem from, unless they are just willful fantasies, e.g., as if someone were to fantasize about winning the lottery, and reports of UFO abduction experiences indicate that they are not mere fantasies). So it’s not a matter of what the “meager ego” wants but of what the deeper psyche wants.

Speaking about the appearance of symbols of wholeness in the psyche, such as UFOs and mandalas, Jung says, “they do not invariably indicate a subliminal readiness on the part of the patient to realize that wholeness more consciously, at a later stage; often they mean no more than a temporary compensation of chaotic confusion.”

This is not something that someone who elevates pre” to “trans” would say.

Trungpa says:

    …anything that happens in our state of mind, including emotions, is manure. Whatever comes up is a workable situation…

    …we begin to realize that all kinds of chaotic situations that might occur in life are opportune situations. They are workable situations that we mustn’t reject, and mustn’t regard as purely a regression or going back to confusion at all. Instead, we must develop some kind of respect for those situations that happen in our state of mind.

This is why it simply isn’t skillful or useful to pathologize intrapsychic phenomena, such as UFO abduction experiences or those who have and interpret them. Such experiences are “workable situations that we mustn’t reject, and mustn’t regard as purely a regression or going back to confusion,” or as “dissociative pathology” and “narcissism.” “Instead, we must develop some kind of respect for those situations that happen in our state of mind.” Which is what Harpur, Jung, Hillman, Mindell, Tarnas, et al do. The issue here isn’t what is right or wrong or “politically correct” or incorrect. The issue is, what is most useful? What is most likely to benefit the individual who has and interprets the experience? If someone has a UFO abduction experience and they interpret it to mean that “they were physically lifted into another realm, such as an alien spacecraft,” as Harpur puts it, that’s the manure we have to work with. Calling it shit isn’t going to help anyone, is it? Saying that such people are in the grips of a dissociative pathology and are narcissistic isn’t going to help anyone, is it? There is psychic energy and psychic potential to work with here. Dismissing it by pathologizing it is like throwing manure away instead of working it into the garden and then tending and nurturing the garden and waiting to see what grows. Suzuki Roshi speaks of a similar process in terms of “mind weeds.” He says, “We must have the actual experience of how our weeds change into nourishment.” Or of how our lead changes into gold.

Jung and Trungpa compare the process of intrapsychic transmutation to alchemy. Trungpa says this is “like the alchemical practice of changing lead into gold.”

Mindell says:

    And what is this gold? The alchemist’s beginning goals will be like yours or mine: freedom from trouble, hope for nirvana, enlightenment, love, immortality or spontaneity. But what you actually receive may be something you were not even aware of missing, something so precious and vital that you might even forget your original goals.
Jim wrote:
Exactly, that’s my point: It’s not wrong to psychopathologize, but it’s kind of like calling something shit. When we call something shit, we naturally think in terms of flushing it away, whereas when we call the same thing manure, we acknowledge that we are dealing with something that, used skillfully, can fertilize and enrich the soil of the soul. To try to flush away aspects of the psyche that we don’t like doesn’t work, and as Harpur and Jung agree, when the daimonic is repressed, it often returns in the form of the demonic.

but surely if supernaturalism exists, it’s on unemployment insurance at this time unless these angelic beings are just being really subtle and sneaky for some reason! 

You really should read Hansen’s book if you’re genuinely interested in this.  He writes about how the Trickster archetype plays out with paranormal experience.

Blessings,
Marmalade

 

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  Nicole : wakingdreamer  

Re: New Age: A Blog Series By Marmalade

Nicole said Jul 31, 2008, 3:08 AM:

  Thanks, Marmalade. Even for you, I think, which is saying a lot, this last post was very carefully thought through and written, and has many helpful elements to it.

I concur with you about verifiability as I respond to Andrew that indeed, when I speak of miracles happening, I was not referring to sunrises and babies and bluebells, as beautiful and precious as they are. I refer to divine interactions with us. We can interpret what happens to us in many different ways. And we can remain agnostic about what happens to us as you did or as Paul did about being “caught up into the seventh heaven”. This is all good.

My understanding of God is that God does not  force or coerce us into believing because we see and cannot interpret it in any way but God’s actions. Now that I have attended Dr Marvin Marshall ‘s lecture on human motivation, I understand this even better than before. Since coercion is the worst way of motivating people, it makes sense God would not do this.

 Instead, we all have our many, many experiences of reality, which, again as Marmalade points out, are not so cut and dried as rationalists would like to present. Whether we are dealing with so-called “objective” reality or so-called “subjective” reality, we experience in one way alone – subjectively. Period. So, if God heals me (as I believe), or God guides me, or “tells” me important truths, or if you have thousands of angels dancing and singing around you, or whatever, I choose how to interpret it and so do you. So do we all. If pigs suddenly rush off a cliff, we could speak of demon possession or some naturalistic explanation. Same with the parting of the Red Sea. This is the freedom we inhabit.

And of course, our subjective interpretations change over time. I can see something as divine intervention now, and later see it as purely “coincidence” or vice versa.

Ain’t life fun? 🙂

Light and peace,

Nicole

 

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Re: New Age: A Blog Series By Marmalade

Marmalade said Jul 31, 2008, 12:17 PM:

  Nicole, thanks for adding to what I said.

Instead, we all have our many, many experiences of reality, which, again as Marmalade points out, are not so cut and dried as rationalists would like to present. Whether we are dealing with so-called “objective” reality or so-called “subjective” reality, we experience in one way alone – subjectively. Period.

I was just thinking about this last night.  Even our striving toward “objectivity” we must work from our subjectivity, and the closest we can get is consensus.  However, consensus is far from being “objective”, and besides there isn’t a consensus about the paranormal.  Yes, the mainstream scientists have a consensus, but their consensus so happens to be the minority view and so ain’t much of a consensus. 

Nonetheless, science is useful even if severely limited.  The reason that its useful is that its limits are different than the limits of my personal experience.  The funny thing about science is that scientists’ personal views is the limit of science.  I speak about the experimenter effect in Julian’s blog discussion, and that combined with the placebo effect makes for some major limitations on the scientific ideal of objectivity.

To complicate matters (as I enjoy doing), we can bring up Sheldrake’s morphic fields.  Maybe all of reality truly is consensus meaning habit, and some habits are deeply ingrained.  Anyone who has tried to change a habit can understand why the universe has difficulty breaking its own habits.  Just think about it… some of the universe’s habits are pretty old (the universe being calculated as around 13.73 billion years old).

To complicate matters even further, I could add Hansen’s take on Max Weber’s idea of rationalization which relates to the disenchantment of the world.  If that idea is combined with Sheldrake’s, then we have an interesting view of reality.  Maybe consensus doesn’t merely suppress non-consensus views of reality, but maybe consensus suppresses non-consensus manifestations of reality.

I’m not talking What the Bleep here.  When I’m speaking of consensus, I’m not saying that by the consensus of humans so the universe must follow.  The whole universe is part of the consensus… a very complicated democracy of sorts.

So, if God heals me (as I believe), or God guides me, or “tells” me important truths, or if you have thousands of angels dancing and singing around you, or whatever, I choose how to interpret it and so do you. So do we all. If pigs suddenly rush off a cliff, we could speak of demon possession or some naturalistic explanation. Same with the parting of the Red Sea. This is the freedom we inhabit.

Our choice of interpretation is always available and that is because much of our interpretation comes after the experience itself.  However, we must not forget that most of our interpretation comes before our experiences and occurs largely on an unconscious level.  Once we’ve integrated a view into our psyche (whether religion or science), we filter all of reality accordingly.

And of course, our subjective interpretations change over time. I can see something as divine intervention now, and later see it as purely “coincidence” or vice versa.

I would take this a step further.  If you have a high tolerance for cognitive dissonance, you can see something as divine intervention and as purely “conincidence” simultaneously.  They can be seen simultaneously because they’re just views of reality and not necessarily reality itself.

Blessings,
Marmalade

 

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Re: New Age: A Blog Series By Marmalade

mikeS said Jul 31, 2008, 1:02 PM:

  Yes, the mainstream scientists have a consensus, but their consensus so happens to be the minority view and so ain’t much of a consensus. 

Do you really think mainstream science is a “minority view” or do you mean you wish it was the minority view?
Science has the distinct ability to keep you alive and and current advances even prolong your existence. Can God do that? I dunnno, maybe, but science can “prove” it, for most of society, God has yet to prove it.

My point is that science is the most powerful religion in existence and we all worship at that alter first, and then look to God to save us.

Our choice of interpretation is always available and that is because much of our interpretation comes after the experience itself.  However, we must not forget that most of our interpretation comes before our experiences and occurs largely on an unconscious level.  Once we’ve integrated a view into our psyche (whether religion or science), we filter all of reality accordingly.

Yes, and interpretation is solely based on superimposition of concepts upon experience whether or not that experience is assessed before or after. And our concepts are directly descendant from the learned value systems inherent to cultural paradigms.

As the ‘integrals’ have it this could be the problem in one’s ‘God’ interpretation if it is based on archaic or mythic cultural values. Therefore, ‘integral’ has superimposed a value system from which to determine the relevance of your supposed unique, individual interpretation based on learned value, thereby essentially negating, not your experience, but your mode of intellectually doubling-back upon that experience in making sense of it.

This is unfortunate, since it only seems to impinge or impose even greater strain on our interpretive functioning. I could experience God speaking to me, but science tells me that it is simply a matter of neurochemistry and neuronal circuitry, and the integralist tells me that I may be misinterpreting based on my worldview and my culture tells me I’m just friggin crazy!

If it only were simply a matter of ‘interpretation’…

Peace Angels
mike S

 

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  Nicole : wakingdreamer  

Re: New Age: A Blog Series By Marmalade

Nicole said Jul 31, 2008, 5:26 PM:

  Thanks Marmalade, your response to mine was terrific as always. Of course I agree with you 🙂

Science doesn’t keep us alive, Mike, God does – from my point of view, anyway. Like the joke about science being able to create life in a contest with God – so the scientists start with – take a sample of dirt  and God says, hey use your own stuff! If all is of God – the stuff of the universe, the inpiration of scientific innovation etc etc then scientific advances are just another way God acts in the world, through people., right?

Light and peace,

Nicole

 

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Re: New Age: A Blog Series By Marmalade

Marmalade said Jul 31, 2008, 5:27 PM:

  MIke, I don’t think you’re understanding my viewpoint.  I don’t know if I can explain it much better without giving detail synopsis of my recent readings.  I have written about all of this in different places including my comments over at Julian’s blog.

I’m not arguing against science, but I am trying to level the playing field a bit.  That is what much of postmodernism and related fields attempt to do.  I realize that many people who think of themselves as “realist” dislike postmodernism.  I’m not arguing for postmodernism either in any simple manner.  I’m partly arguing about direct experience which doesn’t simply translate to subjectivity.

So, I don’t wish to dismiss science.  Rather, I wish that science would improve its methodology a bit.  See Julian’s blog (or mine) where I speak about the experimenter’s effect and double blinds.

Do you really think mainstream science is a “minority view” or do you mean you wish it was the minority view?

I should’ve been more clear because I was specifically referring back to the Sheldrake quote above and so my statment was only about the paranormal.  He mentions this: “Most people say they have experienced telepathy” .  I’m assuming he is basing this comment on poll statistics that I’ve seen before.  According to the polls, a vast majority (75%) of Americans (I don’t know about other countries) believe in the paranormal (and they didn’t even include all types of the paranormal).  Polls are important, but its hard to make of them.  Still, it shows that its less than helpful to be too quickly dismiss such things.  Of course, anyone is free to judge that the mass of the world’s population is deluded but that seems a rather cynical view (one I often fall into).

Science has the distinct ability to keep you alive and and current advances even prolong your existence. Can God do that? I dunnno, maybe, but science can “prove” it, for most of society, God has yet to prove it.

My point is that science is the most powerful religion in existence and we all worship at that alter first, and then look to God to save us.

I don’t disagree with this, and it doesn’t conflict with my views.  My response to you is the same as my response to Julian (and similar to Balder’s response to Julian).  Go read the Julian blog I linked above if you want to understand my position better.

Yes, and interpretation is solely based on superimposition of concepts upon experience whether or not that experience is assessed before or after. And our concepts are directly descendant from the learned value systems inherent to cultural paradigms.

As the ‘integrals’ have it this could be the problem in one’s ‘God’ interpretation if it is based on archaic or mythic cultural values. Therefore, ‘integral’ has superimposed a value system from which to determine the relevance of your supposed unique, individual interpretation based on learned value, thereby essentially negating, not your experience, but your mode of intellectually doubling-back upon that experience in making sense of it.


This is unfortunate, since it only seems to impinge or impose even greater strain on our interpretive functioning. I could experience God speaking to me, but science tells me that it is simply a matter of neurochemistry and neuronal circuitry, and the integralist tells me that I may be misinterpreting based on my worldview and my culture tells me I’m just friggin crazy!

You seem to think I can only hold one truth in my head at a time.  I agree to some extent with the integral view, but its just a view.  Its sometimes helpful and sometimes not.  With our experience of reality, we have superimpositions upon superimpositions.  There is no single ultimate superimposition above and beyond all others for all models are continuously being revamped and replaced.  We enact perspectives and those perspectives overlap.  This is the closest we come to integral as I understand it.

If it seems to impinge or impose even greater strain on your interpretive function, then that is your experience.  Nothing you’ve said is directly in conflict with my viewpoint.  I can include my viewpoint and yours, and I’m fine with handling a little extra strain.  Is it unfortunate?  I don’t know.  I’m just a person who sees multiple perspectives, and I can’t say that this tendency is necessarily superior.  Maybe its just the way my brain is wired.  🙂

What different perspectives say may all be true in the integral sense.  If I heard God speaking to me, I’d consider all perspectives.  For an example of how I’d respond to God, read some of Philip K. Dick’s Exegesis (ie his personal journals).  God may really be talking to me and I still might be crazy.  Heck even God might be crazy or I might be the misinterpretation of God.  Or maybe neither God nor I exists.  And yet the world goes on… and so does science.

Blessings,
Marmalade 

 

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Re: New Age: A Blog Series By Marmalade

Nicole said Jul 31, 2008, 5:37 PM:

  You’re such a delight! 🙂

 

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Re: New Age: A Blog Series By Marmalade

mikeS said Jul 31, 2008, 7:42 PM:

  Marmalade,

I realize my questioning at times can be rather blunt and to the point and I should be more cognizant of the niceties of civil dialogue and I’m working on that issue. Actually I wasn’t attempting to debate with you nor identify or isolate for consideration your own personal views or “perspectives” (or anyone else’s for that matter) just making ancillary points with respect to your ideas based on the prevailing cultural perspective.

Usually in all my comments I am considering a larger perspective and not any one paritcular person’s perspective or ability to hold a variety of perspectives. I like to think that I am also capable of that and integral is one I hold in part as well. I enjoy reading many of the ‘perspectives’ presented in this pod. And I tend to put such ideas to the test in relation to whether or not they can fly with experience and particularly the experience of the average Tom, Dick and Harry. These are the ‘experiences’ I’ve spent my life working with and they are near and dear to me and also my own.

In addition, I too, am not dismissive of science or even cultural conditioned interpretations or worldviews, just taking into account the parameters of the collective unconscious in relation to cultural conditioned beliefs. In fact, my comments are more directed toward a larger socio-cultural view in terms of the prevailing ideology that tends to order the world we live in. The scientismic-rationalistic perspective is the predominat worlview of this culture.

The originating context from, as you say, “superimpositions upon superimpositions” is rational-empirical and science is the main perpetrator of that paradigm. Once again this is neither good nor bad just factual based on the general orientation of western society. Society tends to adhere to a value system based on scientific truths while all other ideological memes or beliefs are chiefly subordinate to that. I appluad all who can engage in varied interpretations, however, the larger society has not seemed to have attained such a capacity as of yet. This was my primary point and not necessarily in disagreement with yours, yet maybe adding something to the discussion. Maybe Not.

I’m sorry if my mode of general questioning caused you to interpret that was attacking your viewpoint. I was only adding other factors to what was already presented simply for discussion. And yes, the world does go on and we look for solutions to the suffering that goes on with it.

In fact my original comment on this thread was applauding your analysis of the “new age” and also adding additional material simply for discussion. However, I was accused of making “sweeping statments” regarding science and religion and suddenly found myself needing to reiterate my points from a defensive posture.

If the topic within a particular thread is ‘open’ for discussion then I usually add to it and try not take away from it, but simply add ‘something else’ to the discussion. In the drive-to-question I take great pleasure in the ongoing dialectic. However, in the future if you and Nicole would prefer certain threads be restricted to particular viewpoints only, that’s fine and I’ll gladly restrict my comments.

Here’s to all delightful people everywhere!

Peace Angels,
mike S

 

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Re: New Age: A Blog Series By Marmalade

Marmalade said Aug 1, 2008, 2:29 AM:

  Hey Mike,

I realize my questioning at times can be rather blunt and to the point and I should be more cognizant of the niceties of civil dialogue and I’m working on that issue.

I interpreted your tone as being confrontational and so felt a bit on the defense.  I’m glad that you weren’t intentionally trying to be confrontational.  Its hard to read the tone of another person’s writing.

Usually in all my comments I am considering a larger perspective and not any one paritcular person’s perspective or ability to hold a variety of perspectives.

I’m particularly glad to hear that this is your style.  Its good to know. 

BTW I have this same tendency.  It can be problematic sometimes.  I’ll be overtly responding to a single person, but behind my response I have a larger context of other discussions and thoughts that are contributing to what I say.  I try to be provide some of this context (such as how I mentioned Julian’s blog) because I don’t want to confuse people.  Unfortunately, I haven’t yet been able to teach others to read my mind in order to automatically know the context of everything I say.  🙂

In fact my original comment on this thread was applauding your analysis of the “new age” and also adding additional material simply for discussion. However, I was accused of making “sweeping statments” regarding science and religion and suddenly found myself needing to reiterate my points from a defensive posture.

That is ironic.  I was meaning to respond to your original comment but then got preoccupied in responding to other comments.  I actually agreed with much of what you said in that original comment.  I’m sorry that we both got on the defensive as our views don’t seem in conflict.

If the topic within a particular thread is ‘open’ for discussion then I usually add to it and try not take away from it, but simply add ‘something else’ to the discussion. In the drive-to-question I take great pleasure in the ongoing dialectic.

That sounds like me.  My threads are always ‘open’ for discusion and I’m disappointed when others don’t add to the mix.

However, in the future if you and Nicole would prefer certain threads be restricted to particular viewpoints only, that’s fine and I’ll gladly restrict my comments.

I, of course, can’t speak for Nicole, but please don’t restrict yourself on my account.

Here’s to all delightful people everywhere!

Indeed!

Blessings,
Marmalade

 

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Nicole said Aug 1, 2008, 4:51 AM:

  Hi Mike and Marmalade,

It’s so great when we can talk openly about our style of relating and how we respond to each other. As we understand better, miscommunications are sorted out.

Mike, I hope that you or anyone else here never consider that any thread should be limited to any particular viewpoint. That would be very boring! Sorry if anything I said gave that impression.

I am always glad when you share, whether I agree or not, and worry when you and others are silent for a long time that you feel alienated.

Love and peace, my angels,

Nicole

 

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Marmalade said Jul 31, 2008, 11:49 AM:

  Andrew, I wanted to comment further because I didn’t respond to all that you said.  My previous post was largely inspired by Julian’s blog.  You’re saying paranormal experiences were only in the left quadrants is what Julian was saying, and so I was responding as much to Julian as I was to you.  One thing that was brought up in that blog discussion is enactivism.  I don’t fully understand it yet, but it looks like a promising idea I shall study more about.  Coming soon they (Balder, Julian, and others) are going to have a symposium about it.

now what i can say and feel is possible is that consciousness has hyper-dimensional aspects. that would explain some of my experiences, and perhaps jungs, but we see through that glass murky, so to speak. now, if there are other dimensions of consciousness, then yes, i would think in theory that it may be possible to effect and access the lower dimensions, but probably only psychically (there goes my c.t. of the nephilim)

This is what I was wanting to respond about.  This made me curious, but I wasn’t sure what this meant for you.  If they existed, what do you think those hyper-dimensional aspecs might be?  And do you think they could be “provable” somehow?  I totally agree with your mention about seeing through the glass murky… ain’t that the truth!  You made a very intriguing comment about the possibility “to effect and access the lower dimensions, but probably only psychically”.  What do you mean by “lower dimensions”?  Do you mean the physical world?  And what does “psychically” mean in this context?

initially of course, i interpreted what i experienced in traditional christian terms. there are angels and demons and there is a war going on here. but concomitantly, at the same time, i was also having nondual insights, so i was very not sure of what to make of things, if that makes sense. this is why wilber’s map has been so helpful to me personally, the guy actually made sense of my experiences, and it’s not to say he’s right perse, he may indeed be wrong about some things, but for now, the map works for me…..i hope that helps.

I can see the attraction that Wilber’s map had for you.  Looking for the “correct” interpretation can send us in circles.  I know this is something I have difficulty with but have you wondered if the problem isn’t about finding the correct interpretation?  Maybe there is no correct interpretation.  What I mean by this is that some experiences are simply ineffable and in seeking to rationally understand them we can end up rationalizing them away. 

You said that Wilber’s map works for you.  So, is it a matter of practical use?  Its good to know what you’re looking for.  The paranormal is only rarely useful with its occasional healings and whatnot.  It is correct that from our everyday human perspective that the paranormal mostly isn’t “useful”.  Then again, it is correct that from our everyday human perspective that reality in general mostly isn’t “useful”.

How we approach all of this depends on the perspective we’re enacting and the paradigm we’re enmeshed in.  I must admit that I’m not one who focuses on what is useful first which has its obvious problems.  🙂  I trust my direct experience to a strong extent including the weird experiences… meaning that I take my experiences on their own terms.  In trusting my own direct experience, I don’t dismiss other perspectives… but I don’t assume that my left hand perspective is less real than right hand perspectives.  However, I do turn to right hand perspectives quite a bit and I agree that Wilber’s map is useful in disentangling complicated issues.  But at some point my analytical mind self-destructs in auto-analytical reflectivity and I’m left with my bare-bones experience. 

Ultimately, experience (left hand) and practicality (right hand) aren’t in conflict and can best be viewed as equally informing eachother.  Its easy to see how the right hand quadrants inform the left hand quadrants.  But the challenge that I see for our society right now is figuring out how the left hand quadrants inform the right hand quadrants.

So, what do you think (or feel, or experience, or intuit)?

Blessings,
Marmalade

 

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andrew said Jul 31, 2008, 7:24 PM:

  hi ben, first off, i’d like to say that i am really enjoying this blog topic! oh yes, the brainiacs over on j’s blog!lol well, those guys really piss me off, always coming up with these concepts that i know nothing about and then i feel compelled to go and search what the hell it is they are talking about:)

i’ve had quite a few different types of spiritual experiences and it’d never been easy to figure out what they mean. once on a certain entheogen, i looked up into the night sky and instead of seeing dead space i saw the whole universe in it’s totality completely sentient, breathing, alive and intelligent, but not personal. it’s experiences like these that lead me to speculate about non-personal dimensions of consciousness. so yes, these ‘higher’ non personal conscious dimensions may be able to influence this physical world through structures of consciousness, whether  subconsciously or superconsciously. of course this is sheer speculation and if (and it’s  big if) we are probably not even close to being able to understand or prove anything like this. the human mind is still a complete mystery to science as compared to say, heart surgery……..
i don’t tend to put rationality in an ivory tower in the same way that julian seems to, but i still agree with much that he says, it’s just that i tend to see the good in the new age and religion, i acknowledge the not so good for sure (and that is really important) but i am a live and let live kind of guy. and tone! eric johnson could tell when his batteries in his effects peddles were effecting his tone which was brilliant.
yes, wilber’s  map has led me in a brand new direction in my life, so it is practical and not just theorizing to me. unfortunately these changes at this point in time are more of the mundane nature, but in my opinion necessary for me, for now….small steps ellie…….
completely agree with you on your last paragraph………
loved your shadow post nicole, and good to here mike chiming into this song……..
oh yes, i’ve seen the orbs on video, too. but fairies? now your heading into bhagavad-gita territory….and thems a whole lotta supernatural speculations………

 

 

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Marmalade said Aug 1, 2008, 3:06 AM:

  Andrew, its nice to hear more about your experiences.  To me, experience is where it gets interesting… and also where the rubber meets the road, where theory is tested and put into practice. 

I love Wilber’s intellect, but I must say that someone like Harpur speaks more to my own direct experience.  Harpur seems to be in the tradition of Jung and Hillman.  Often Jung and Wilber are seen as in conflict with integralists (such as Wilber himself) seeing Jung’s views as being inferior.  Its true that Jung’s ideas are half a century old and so can use some updating, but I think that writers (such as Hillman, Harpur, and Grof) have provided the necessary updating. 

If I was forced to choose between Wilber and Jung, I’d probably take Jung.  I get the sense that Jung never spoke outside of what he directly understood in his own experience and in clinically studying others experience.  Jung feels more grounded than Wilber.  Still, Wilber’s model is nice in its simple and clear presentation (as compared to Jung’s more convoluted writings).

Its interesting that you mentioned the bhagavad-gita in relation to the orbs I mentiened.  I so happen to have just been looking at a book that is about ufo and alien experiences as interpreted in light of Hinduism (Alien Identities by Richard L. Thompson).  Its similar to Keel’s and Vallee’s theorizing about folklore.  Actually, that tradition starts with Jung’s book about ufos as Valle built upon Jung’s theories.

It all goes back to Jung.  🙂

Blessings,
Marmalade

 

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Nicole said Aug 1, 2008, 5:26 AM:

  I deeply feel the need to understand Jung a whole lot better than I do, Marm… and I’m glad you liked the shadow article, Andrew, isn’t Ian Lawson cool? I wish he had time to drop in here to comment directly but he’s a busy busy guy…

Light,

Nicole

 

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Marmalade said Aug 1, 2008, 5:41 AM:

  Nicole, I concur.  I too deeply feel the need to understand Jung a whole lot better than I do.  Its partly why I’m glad I discovered Harpur.  He has written a lot about alchemy which was a favorite subject of Jung’s, and it is one aspect of Jung’s writings I haven’t yet connected with.

A funny incident happened when I was doing internet searches for my comment you had praised.  I was looking around for info about Harpur and integral, and I came across that Lightmind discussion.  But the funny thing is where I found it.  I had quoted it myself in another forum and had forgotten I had done so.  I had discovered Harpur a while back and then forgotten him, and then recently rediscovered him and now I’ve rediscovered my own orignal discovery.

Blessings,
Marmalade

ps why am I still awake?  🙂

 

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Nicole said Aug 1, 2008, 5:46 AM:

  that is hilarious! :):) I don’t know dear one, why are you still awake? could it be the lure of Gaia? hmmmm….

light and peace, and sleep well!

nicole

 

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Marmalade said Aug 1, 2008, 9:42 PM:

  The Trickster and the Paranormal, George P. Hansen

pp. 203-204
The cultural tenor of the 1980s was decidedly different than that of the 1970s, and parapsychology felt it.  In society, business success become more highly valued among the middle class baby-boomers.  Less idealism was evident, and corporate and individual greed were frequent topics of pundits.  The baby-boomers were sometimes referred to as the “Me Generation.”  The number of volunteer workers at parapsychology laborotories dwindled rapidly.

The 1980s saw a move away from the popular interest in the paranormal in the larger society, and that was accompanied by a decided change within the New Age and psychic subcultures.  Those who had previously been interested in psychic matters shifted their atention to more “spiritual” concerns that might be characterized as “a search for meaning.”  This was subtly foreshadowed when California-based Psychic magazine changed its name to New Realities in 1977.  Channeling came in to vogue, but unlike spiritualism, there was little emphasis on verifiable information or physical phenomena.  Channelers spouted “philosophy,” made dire predictions of earth changes, and gave general advice, but that was about all.  The number of books published on paranormal topics dropped precipitously betwen 1980 and 1982.  With the general shift away from psychism and toward the search for meaning, the books of Joseph Campbell became popular.  There were new magazines, printed on high quality paper, catering to that general trend.

 

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Nicole said Aug 3, 2008, 3:20 AM:

  the me generation supposedly shifted to the we generation… do you think it ever really did though? still seems to be an awful lot of navel gazing and i don’t exclude myself lol

 

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Marmalade said Aug 4, 2008, 2:53 PM:

  I don’t think anything has shifted yet, but maybe it is in the process of shifting.  According to the Fourth Turning model of generations, the Millenials will bring a more community focus back to society.  I also think Gaia and Second Life are transforming our very notion of community and of connecting with others. 

It seems to me that it takes some major external event (such as a world war) to really bring people together and inspire society to shift to a new level.  That relates to the Fourth Turning and supposedly we are close to this transition point.  Some thought that 9/11 would be the crisis tipping point, but it didn’t seem to be.  If you ask me, it will take a world war.  I remember the moment I heard about the planes crashing into the twin towers, one of my first thoughts was that eventually this will be remembered as the event that led to WWIII.  Since 9/11, the world is more polarized than its been since the Cold War, and the Cold War was at least a somewhat controllable scenario because it was between two superpowerwer…

Hy!  My omputr i going funky on m an I an’t writ.  Will try again latr.  😦

 

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Nicole said Aug 5, 2008, 3:54 AM:

  hope your computer is ok, hon… so what do you think of second life, then? or anyone else? any second lifers here?
peace,
nicole

 

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Marmalade said Aug 5, 2008, 2:30 PM:

  No, my computer isn’t ok (I’m on a coffee house computer)… but its better than other things not being ok.  Mind and body are functioning adequately, and so all is more or less ok with my world.  🙂  I think I’m going to have to buy a new one because the one I have now has too many problems.  It was overheating and now I spilt something on it.  The fans probably need to be replaced, the keyboard would have to be replaced, and I’m guessing some of the hardware inside is permanently messed up.  Oh well…

I’ve been interested in second life.  I checked it out, but my now ailing computer didn’t have the requisite memory and video card.  Maybe I’ll get a computer that would allow me to get onto second life.

Blessings,
Marmalade

 

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Nicole said Aug 6, 2008, 3:18 AM:

  oh my… well you do have your priorities straight i admire that, especially since you spend so much time on the computer. if you do get a second life compatible comp (mine isn’t either and i have no plans to replace it this year or next) let me know what you think of it

love

nicole

 

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Re: New Age: A Blog Series By Marmalade

mikeS said Jul 31, 2008, 7:58 AM:

  Marmalade,

I’ve been reading your blog on “new age” through emails with much interest. I too have participated in Unitarian (rationalizing the irrational) and Unity (irrationalizing the rational), but have long since sought to blaze my own trail from the valuable learning I acquired from these somewhat similar ideologies.
through a broad stroke I would paint the new age as post-modern romanticism in reaction to science (I gather this is the integral perspective as well). This reaction is simply a continuation of the earlier romantics who rebelled against the super-rationalistic ideology of the enlightenment. New age is an escape from the “flatland” of science into the extremes of what consciousness can conjure up. (It pains me to employ Wilberian concepts, but he does have a good take on the big picture, so I suppose we must give credit where credit is due).

As long as the predominant ideology, and who could argue that science has not almost completely ordered the sphere of the everyday, continues to reduce us to atomic properties devoid of “soul” (and, essentially, devoid of meaning) there will be those deviants who in their rejection of being so reduced, seek to make us all God with the associated powers of God. (and Wilber thinks he is the middle ground!)

It seems as post-modern science deepens and expands it’s “monological gaze,” the reaction becomes more excessive and extreme, but this is only due to the ever increasing reductionistic parameters imposed by science and the “leveling” that romanticism seems to have always reacted against.  “You Can Control Your Subconscious” is a reaction to cognitive neuroscience and both are quite extreme in the evidence they provide.

It seems that as long as science reduces us to more complex mechanistic properties, we must find an escape through “magical thinking” which, if we think on it long and hard enough, may begin to take on realistic proportions (but then, who’s to say it is NOT realistic?). Wilber’s complete dismissal of this reaction as pre-trans seems to negate its influence on science (no matter how subtle and subliminal), since scientists are not immune to influence from thought outside their domain and vice versa.

I have only read the posts of this thread so if I’m repeating a comment made by another on your blog I apologize.

Excellent analysis.

Peace Angels,
mike S

 

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Re: New Age: A Blog Series By Marmalade

Nicole said Jul 31, 2008, 10:25 AM:

  Hi Mike,

Nice to see you. I guess I’m starting to feel more and more impatient with sweeping statements about what science or religion does or doesn’t do – not mostly from you, so not to worry – for several reasons. First, science doesn’t do or not do anything as a monolithic institution. Nor does religion. Both have their limitations and they are also both made up of a multiplicity of elements – mechanistic, quantum and a host of other streams – and attended on by a wide variety of people.

Also, because regardless of what’s out there, it is always up to each of us how we live our lives. Science, religion, or whatever does not force us into this or that way of thinking or feeling, or course of action. So, it seems to me, the question is not what “science” or “Christianity” or whatever does or does not do, according to my, your or his understanding. The question is, what do you believe, what do I believe what do we believe and how do these beliefs affect how we live our lives? This would go for any scientists who wish to join these discussions.

Thanks for being patient with my rant.

Love,

Nicole

 

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mikeS said Jul 31, 2008, 12:29 PM:

  I recognize your kind disclaimer, however, you do seem a bit impatient with the opinions expressed in my comment. Which is fine and helps me to more adequately check my thinking.

I guess I’m starting to feel more and more impatient with sweeping statements about what science or religion does or doesn’t do – not mostly from you, so not to worry – for several reasons. First, science doesn’t do or not do anything as a monolithic institution. Nor does religion. Both have their limitations and they are also both made up of a multiplicity of elements – mechanistic, quantum and a host of other streams – and attended on by a wide variety of people.

I didn’t employ the term “monolithic” (I’m not quite sure what you mean by that…big?) but ‘monological,’ which is an integral term relating to the tendency of science to reduce reality to the right quadrant of empirical analysis which misses the depth and levels included in left-side quadrants such as “lived-experiences.” However, maybe you have difficulties with Integral’s take on that?

Of course, science and religion certainly are incredibly limited and “made up of a multiplicity of elements” and my previous comment in no way negates that point.
Also, because regardless of what’s out there, it is always up to each of us how we live our lives. Science, religion, or whatever does not force us into this or that way of thinking or feeling, or course of action.

If this were true than I doubt we would have such strong reactionary counter-culture movements, such as romanticism and new-age ,which essentially seek to counter the rationalistic-empiricism of science (and, of course, religion). Yes, we certainly do have choices, but only within the parameters of the cultural belief system you have been indioctrinated INTO.

In other words, how much of your choices are completely free and clear of the cultural concepts you have been conditioned by? Centuries of western and eastern philosophy sought to answer that question and many of the practices that came from the answer were formed to break free of the concepts of conditioned mind. The answer they found was that your mind is nothing but a product of culture except, it seems, for this nebulous, deep-seated, inherent desire to realize your God-given freedom and not the culture’s concept of ‘freedom’ and all the apparent choices wrapped up in that.

To actually believe that “it is always up to us how we live our lives” may be a bit naive(respectively speaking), but I would agree that it is certainly “new age.” In the coming days take the time to fully explore, throughout your day, all the seemingly infinite ways science orders your society, culture, world, and the most intimate corners of your daily life and look closely at how the choices you make are made based on that ‘order of things.’ You might be surprised. These are the beliefs we live by because it’s in our actions and actions always speak louder than platitudes. Note: I’m NOT qualifying this as good or bad, just that IT IS.

Sorry that my brand of realism is frequently discomforting. Nevertheless, when I began to see things for what they really are, based on a multitude of western and eastern teachings, I found that I could no longer deny the deeper truth within.

Peace Angels,
mike S

 

Spinner
  Nicole : wakingdreamer  

Re: New Age: A Blog Series By Marmalade

Nicole said Jul 31, 2008, 5:19 PM:

  sure, we’re fish in water, it’s a challenge to come out of our cultural milieu, but we have the capacity to question, to explore , to reject … it is up to us – perhaps it seems New Age to you, but it’s simply a question of human potential – we can be so much more than we are.

God always has such a good sense of humour – today when I have been feeling annoyed about many things , I got this email which helps put my reactivity in perspective.

love ya, Mike!

 “If we truly want inner peace and world peace, we must do the difficult but fascinating work of owning and appreciating all aspects of who we are—truly making peace with ourselves.  Real consciousness involves holding both sides of any polarity, not identifying with one.  Exploring and embracing our darkness is the only we can truly live in the light.”  
Shakti Gawain, Living in the Light
 
 

Shadow Dancing with the Enemy

By: Ian Lawton

 

How do you stay calm in the midst of crisis? How do you ground yourself in inner peace when you are surrounded by war and conflict? How do you stay present to the moment, when you just want the horrors of the moment to end?
 
This past week has tested all my most cherished spiritual ideals about staying in “the now”.
  • More than 60 people were killed in suicide bombings in Iraq. This was the worst violence of the year so far in Iraq and is a reminder that the situation remains precarious. 
  • Two people were killed in a progressive church in Knoxville. When the gunner’s house was searched, the book “Liberalism is a Mental Health Disorder” by radio talk show host Michael Savage, was found next to his bed.
  • Terrorists killed 50 in an attack in Ahmedabad in India. Terror attacks in India are on the rise.
In each case, the perpetrator attacked a perceived enemy. In Iraq, it seems that Turkmen attacked the Kurds, in a battle for land and political power. In Knoxville, it seems the out of work gunman blamed “liberalism” for the state of the nation. In India, the attacks were anonymous but part of a broader Islam/Hinduism rivalry.
 
The human tendency is to create enemies. Eckhart Tolle says this is because we have suppressed aspects of our pain body and it plays out in mindless aggression towards others. This is often spoken of as shadow projection; we are intolerant of qualities in others that we have not embraced in ourselves. Carl Jung said the shadow is “that which we think we are not.”
 
Shadows Have Healing Power
 
The Bible has some interesting uses of shadow imagery. The most famous is when the Psalmist describes despair as the valley of the shadow of death. I wonder if the shadow of death is the fear of life. Once you accept life as it is, death holds less fear.
 
There is a fascinating story told in Acts 5:15 – 
 
“People brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by.” 
 
In the first century, there were many superstitious beliefs about shadows. It was believed that there were healing powers in the shadow of a great person. You still find the same ideas in parts of India, where a person may throw away food if the shadow of an outcast has passed over it. On the other hand, it was not unusual to have vast crowds of people position themselves on the streets of New Delhi so that Mahatma Gandhi’s shadow might pass over them as a blessing.
 
Superstition aside, the shadow is a metaphor for hidden qualities. Shadows are powerful and seem to have healing qualities, if the light of awareness shines on them and they become part of a conscious self reflection. So the world will know peace when we all stop projecting our fear onto others, and own our own stuff. Jesus described shadow projection as “being so distracted by the speck in your neighbor’s eye that you fail to see the log in your own eye.”
 
Sound easy? Clearly it is much easier said than done. It sounds like a lofty ideal that very few will attain, and certainly not enough people to change global conflicts.
 
Who Would you be Without Your Story?
 
Here’s a practice to become more attuned to your shadow projections. It’s not a fun exercise. It’s a little like looking in one of those warped mirrors at a carnival, but after seeing the twisted image of your self, you embrace it, love it back into wholeness. 
 
This is part of Byron Katie’s system called “The Work”. She asks the question, “Who would you be without your story?”
 
Let’s try it out on my reaction to the violence of the week.
 
I am working from an expectation, my story, that there should be no violence in the world. I am shaking my fist at the world, saying “I hate your violence.” I am pointing a finger at the violence, while not realizing that there are three fingers pointing right back at me. What shadows are these three fingers pointing back at?
 
It seems that I’m angry about anger. I’m impatient with impatience. I’m intolerant of intolerance. 
 
Do I gain anything by believing that there should be no violence in the world? The answer is clearly no. I just add violence to violence. I change nothing, and suffer more deeply.
 
Is there reason to drop the belief that there should be no violence in the world? Yes. Then I stop adding my inner violence to the violence of the world. There is less violence in the world, and I suffer less.
 
There is something I can do about global conflict. Katie calls it a turn around. Shine a light on my own story. That’s something I can do to make a difference, and I can do it right now. Who will I be without my story that there should be no violence in the world? I will be more patient, less frustrated and more loving. Let it begin with me. My story that there should be no violence in the world is not true. It leads me to suffer and it does nothing to alleviate the suffering of others.
 
A miraculous change just happened. I just changed my self image. I realized my own impatience and embraced it, even a little. I am becoming love, and I am becoming acceptance.
Try it out next time you find yourself pointing a finger at someone or something. Follow the three fingers pointing back at you. You just might discover that you can turn around some of the stories by exposing the fear lurking in your shadows. 

Learn more about Ian Lawton by reading his bio here

 
Practice: Release from your story

Ask yourself these questions, as Ian demonstrated above, to discover who you would be without your story.
 
 1) What is my story?
2) Is it true?
3) Do I gain anything from believing this story?
4) Do I gain anything from dropping this story?
5) What is this story telling me about myself?

 

 

Spinner
  mikeS : Ha!  

Re: New Age: A Blog Series By Marmalade

mikeS said Jul 31, 2008, 7:55 PM:

  Nicole,

“…we can be so much more than we are.

Very true!

Yet that may also entail our seeing what we are NOT in order to see the “much more” that we ARE. Many centuries of eastern and western philosophy has approached what we ARE from this very starting point, the stripping away. Essentially, two parallel modes of SEEING. However, it seems some tend to see the NOT prior to the “much more.”

Both may be necessary…

Peace Angel,
mike S

New Age: Part 5

New Age: Part 5

Posted on Jul 26th, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Child Marmalade

I’m reading a very interesting book right now: The Trickster and the Paranormal by George P. Hansen.  Its not directly about the New Age, but covers similar territory and mentions the New Age in a couple of places.  The author explains the socio-cultural dynamics of the paranormal within non-mainstream groups, scientific research, debunker organizations, and our society in general.  He uses concepts such as communitas, liminal, anti-structure, reflexivity, and totemism.  Here are some quotes that are relevant:
 
p. 171
In our culture, psychic phenomena are hospitably received in Spiritualism, the New Age movement, and modern-day witchcraft.  The three movements share common elements, and in a variety of fashions, they are at odds with the establishment.  None of them have institutionalized in the manner of government, industry, academe, or mainline religion.  few of the groups within these movements have buildings or permanent paid staffs, and if they do manage to instituiionalize, it is usually only briefly.  None of the movements acknowledge any central authority; control is local.  The movements are marginal and anti-structural in many ways, but it is within them that one can find discussion of, training in, and use of psychic abilities.
 
p. 174
Marilyn Ferguson, one of the most articulate persons expressing the ideas of the New Age, noted that there is no central authority defining the movement.  In her book The Aquarian Conspiracy (1980), she emphasized its informal, fluid networks, decentralization of power, and lack of structured hierarchies.  New Age concerns typically include feminism, the environment, and alternative healing, and women play major roles.  In addition, it is open to astrology and other forms of divination.  All of this is a bit subersive to the establishment.  Overall, its properties define it as anti-structural.
 
pp. 176-177
All three of these movements have loose boundaries.  It is often difficult to tell if someone is part of them or not.  Many who attend Spiritualist services are also members of established religions; New Age followers are drawn from all faiths.  Witchcraft and neo-pagan groups are perhaps more distinct, but ambiguity reigns there as well with vast differences among them.  Within covens, beliefs and rituals can change with the whim of the high priestess or priest.  There is no higher ecclesiastical authority or common text that solidifies dogma or mandates what, how, or when rituals must be performed.
 
These three movements have striking similarities.  In all alltered (i.e., estructured) states of consciousness play a major role.  Women are prominent, as are the issues of feminism, the environment and healing.  None recognize a central authority for their movement, and they engage in virtually no instituion bulding.  All of the movements are considered subversive by the establishment; they court direct involvement with paranormal and supernatural phenomena, and all display elements of the trickster constellation.
 
The most vocal opposition to these movements come from two sources: establishment scientists (exemplified by CSICOP) and conservative and fundamentalist religious groups.  Both of these antagonists are typified by large, male-dominated, status conscious, hierarchical institutions—the antithesis of the targets of their scorn.  Both have produced massive amounts of literature denouncing the New Age proponents and modern pagans and similar attacks were directed at the Spiritualists of the nineteenth century.  While some of the political and social goals advocated by the”deviants” have been partially incoporated into science and mainstream churches (e.g., feminism, ecology, alternative healing), the establishments’ most vehement attacks remain directed at paranormal and supernatural practices.

 
Hansen has a section about psychiatrist Ernest Hartmann who wrote the book Boundaries in the Mind:

pp. 48-49
Thick-boundary people strike one as solid, well organized, well defended, and even rigid and armored.  Thin-boundary types tend to be open, unguarded, and undefended in several psychological senses.  Women tend to have thinner boundaries than men, and children thinner than adults.  People with thin boundaries tend to have higher hypnotic ability, greater dream recall, and are more lkely to have lucid dreams.  People with thick boundaries stay with one thought until its completion; whereas those with thin boundaries show greater fluidity, and their thoughts branch from one to another.  People with very thin boundaries report more symptoms of illness; however, compared with thick-boundary types, they are able to exert more control over the autonomic nervous system and can produe greater changes in skin temperature when thinking of hot or cold situations.  Thin-boundary persons are more prone to synesthesia, blending of the senses (e.g., seeing colors when certain sounds are heard).  Differences are found in occupations as well.  Middle managers in large corporations tend to have thick boundaries, and artists, writers and musicians tend to have thinner ones.  People with thick boundaries tend to be in stable , long-term marriages; whereas thin types are more likely to be, or have been, divorced or separated.
The author goes on to say that thin-boundary types tend to report more unusual experiences including psychic experiences.  He then lists the correlations between thin-boundary types and the traits of the Trickster archetype (as described in Jean Shinoda Bolen’s book Gods in Everyman).

Obviously, many New Agers are thin-boundary types.  The beliefs of the New Ager make no sense to the more skeptically-minded because skeptics are probably most often thick-boundary types.  Skeptics don’t realize that its not just an issue of belief vs rationality but an issue of experience.  Both the skeptic and the new ager trust their experience, but they simply have different kinds of experience.

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Marmalade : Gaia Child

6 days later

Marmalade said

pp. 203-204
The cultural tenor of the 1980s was decidedly different than that of the 1970s, and parapsychology felt it.  In society, business success become more highly valued among the middle class baby-boomers.  Less idealism was evident, and corporate and individual greed were frequent topics of pundits.  The baby-boomers were sometimes referred to as the “Me Generation.”  The number of volunteer workers at parapsychology laborotories dwindled rapidly.

The 1980s saw a move away from the popular interest in the paranormal in the larger society, and that was accompanied by a decided change within the New Age and psychic subcultures.  Those who had previously been interested in psychic matters shifted their atention to more “spiritual” concerns that might be characterized as “a search for meaning.”  This was subtly foreshadowed when California-based Psychic magazine changed its name to New Realities in 1977.  Channeling came in to vogue, but unlike spiritualism, there was little emphasis on verifiable information or physical phenomena.  Channelers spouted “philosophy,” made dire predictions of earth changes, and gave general advice, but that was about all.  The number of books published on paranormal topics dropped precipitously betwen 1980 and 1982.  With the general shift away from psychism and toward the search for meaning, the books of Joseph Campbell became popular.  There were new magazines, printed on high quality paper, catering to that general trend.

New Age: Part 4

New Age: Part 4

Posted on Jul 25th, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Explorer Marmalade
The New Age has some of its origins in organizations such as the Theosophical Society.  Besant and Leadbeater wrote the book Occult Chemistry where they claimed to have used psychic vision to discover the structure of the atom.  Also, it was the Theosophical Society that raised J. Krishnamurti as the coming messiah even though he chose not to take up this role and went his own way instead.  Theosophy was a part of the whole spiritualism movement which related to various occult groups and practitioners.  This side has been a bit lost in the lightness and fluff of the New Age, but the New Age tradition of channelled writings comes from spiritualism. 
 
All of the spirituality and religion of that time was largely in response to the industrial revolution and the rising of scientific materialism.  Mesmerism was one of those attempts to bridge the gap between spirituality and science.  This is partly why New Agers are so focused on material manifestations of spirituality such as healing and wealth, and why they’re interested in quasi-scientific theories about quantum physics and such.  New Thought ideas are getting some actual scientific backing from books written by people such as Lynne McTaggart who is a reporter on consciousness studies.
 
There is also an intriguing connection between the New Age and phenomena such as UFOs and conspiracies.  They’re two sides of the same thing.  UFOs and conspiracies, like much of New Age, is seeking rational explanations for the non-rational.

The basic connection is that there is much crossover between those interested in New Age and those interested in UFOs, conspiracy theories, and whatever else.  New Age types tend to be open-minded and curious about life in general (and some more extreme New Agers have a naive gullibility that allows them to believe in almost anything).  I mentioned that the early origins of New Age include spiritualism and Theosophy.  The occult in general is sort of the shadow of mainstream New Age, and the occult is mixed up with UFOs and conspiracy theories.  
 
I was reading a book by Vallee who is a UFO investigator and was one of the first people to make a connection between alien abductions and traditional folklore.  In the intro to one of his books, he mentioned that he had studied Teilhard de Chardin and appreciated his view.  Teilhard de Chardin is a name that comes up in both New Age and Integral discussions.  BTW there is much crossover between New Age and Integral in general to the chagrin of Ken Wilber. 
 
If you go to the alternative section of a bookstore, you’ll find books on New Age, books on such things UFOs and conspiracy theories, and books on Integralism.  Also, you’ll find books on New Thought Christianity and all other aspects of Christianity that aren’t deemed suitable for a normal Christian viewing public. 

There is another common element to all of these besides the type of person who is open-minded and curious.  Nearly all of these subjects have some connection to Jung and depth psychology.  Jung proposed the theory of archetypes that has become popular in the New Age, in certain sectors of Christianity, and in subjects such as tarot and kabbalah.  The idea of archetypes does come up in books about UFOs and the occult and Jung comes up a lot in Integral circles.  Jung was influenced by some writers of the occult, Jung wrote a book about UFOs, and Jung was a direct inspiration of Alcoholics Anonymous which was one of the earliest self-help groups.  Jung had wide interests and many New Agers share this trait.  Also, shadow work is becoming an increasingly popular topic in the New Age.  Of course, the belief in synchronicity has been a mainstay of the New Age for quite a while now.  Plus, the MBTI was based on Jung’s theory of personality, and the MBTI has become a big player in the self-help field.
  
There is another even more interesting side to all of this.  Intentional communities and Gurus are very popular amongst New Agers, but there is a dark side to this with Jim Jones, Charles Manson, and Heaven’s Gate.  Heaven’s Gate is an especially good example.  They were a UFO cult that was very New Agey in their interest in pop culture utopianism and their beliefs in alien/angels that would come to save them.  Many people who have alien abduction experiences are given messages by their captors.  They are made to feel special and that they have a mission to accomplish.  They are often told that the world is ailing or even dying, and that the aliens have come to save the planet or the aliens have come to save an elect few.  You can find similar messages in New Age channeled writings.
 
Basically, there is a very diverse connection between the New Age and various subjects that don’t seem very New Agey.  Even so, these connections go back to the beginning of the New Age.  Part of the problem here is that its nearly impossible to define what the New Age is.  It includes so much.  And if you follow the trail of connections, it can lead you in many different directions.  Its good to keep in mind that the New Age has slowly been co-opted by the mainstream (eg Oprah and Tolle, and The Secret), but the New Age originated in the unrespectable fringes of society.  Just as its useful to distinguish between New Thought and New Age, its also useful to distinguish between the early beginnnings of New Age and the contempory popularization thereof.  The New Age that is becoming popularized right now is in some ways a whole new phenomena.

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about 6 hours later

Cloud said

Thank you, your “New Age” entries have been very enjoyable and you hold a wealth of knowledge surrounding it.   And as you said, “Part of the problem here is that its nearly impossible to define what the New Age is.  It includes so much.”  My experience with the New Age and New Agers has been both challenging and challenged, by many people for many years.
Suffice it to say that the New Age has opened doorways to so many people in regards to spiritual unity and freedom.  It has definitely provided the opportunity for people to express their individuality within their personal beliefs and outside of the limits of dogmatic religion.  To me the New Age is a melting pot of worldwide cultures and belief systems, some ancient, some new.  And while it appears that the intention of the New Age is holistic and unified it is also, in some ways exceedingly empty and self-serving (i.e. false prophets, self-exalted gurus and self-important people charging exorbitant amounts of money for ceremony or participatory experiences).
It seems to me that Americans, in general, are at a loss when it comes to spiritual identity.  Structured, patriarchal religion no longer serves hardly anyone but on the same token, to “convert” the God to Goddess is merely a paradigmatic shift that creates a dichotomy devoid of balancing the masculine and feminine.  My personal favorite “term” for this Goddess/God is the great mystery.  It is a great mystery, regardless of attempts in naming it or owning it; no one really knows what it is.  It is not a he or she and it seems to be inclusive of all sentient and non-sentient beings.
My path for countless years has been an earth-based path, paying homage and attention to Gaia if you will.  In my own search for finding meaning and depth to my spiritual essence the Native American ways appeal to me, honoring and acknowledging the balance of Mother Earth and Father Sky, respect and awareness for all of the elements, directions, seasons, creatures, etc.  People who follow this path are often, unfortunately, accused by Native American people of being a New Ager and are accused of trying to steal their traditions.  This thinking on their part has allowed me to delve more deeply into the roots of these earth-based ways and to know, beyond the shadow of a doubt that they have been celebrated by countless peoples the world over since the beginning of time, to include medicine wheels, sweat lodge ceremony, various ceremonial dances, smoking the pipe and vision quest.  No one owns these traditions, these beliefs, these ways and for any one peoples to think they do is arrogant and selfish.
Another meaningful paradigmatic structure for me, and one that has been termed as New Age, are the works of Carlos Castaneda.  The man was a genius, how could he not be, having concocted an entire 8 volume story including all of its characters as a means to cut through the bullshit and connect to the simple, energetic beauty that surrounds us all.  Much of his work pulls from Buddhist and Hindu philosophies as well as early writings from mid-19th century Mexico.  Beyond the sometimes tedious words of his stories lies the opportunity to connect to the magic of life with awareness, personal power, integrity, efficiency and respect.
A blog post of mine from over a year ago included:  “We perceive that we have outgrown patterns and behaviors when all that has really changed is our capacity to utilize those patterns and behaviors in different paradigms, with more awareness and with more fervent justification.”
Let’s hope that the New Age is really what it claims to be:  A New Age.

Marmalade : Gaia Child

about 9 hours later

Marmalade said

Thanks for your comments, Cloud!  I always appreciate it when someone gives a thorough and thoughtful response.

I agree that New Age is a melting pot, and those with distinct traditions (whether Catholic or Native American) don’t like that.  New Age is truly the religion of the US.  The US is a melting pot of a country.  And, even though conservatives don’t like to admit it, there was great religious diversity and disagreement amongst the early settlers and founding fathers… not to mention the diversity of the native religions that were already here.

I don’t know if the New Age is really what it claims to be.  It is definitely something “New”.  However, as it becomes mainstream it will become increasingly codified and commodified until it becomes a new religion, but I don’t know if we’ll see a unified New Age religion in our lifetime.  I think Integral is doing its best to create a unified theology which is one of the first steps in the process.

Its kind of fun living in a time when a new major world religion is forming.  Its been something like 1400 years since the last major world religion formed (ie Islam).

New Age: Part 3

New Age: Part 3

Posted on Jul 24th, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Child Marmalade

Unity and New Thought denies evil any reality because God is all and all is in God.  There is no Satan and what appears as darkness is nothing more than a lack of light.  Just a false belief and a misperception.  As for sin (original or otherwise), evil, satan, and hell… its all the same in New Thought theology.  Good vs evil isn’t a dichontomy that is used in New Thought.  For instance, A Course In Miracles uses the terms of love and fear: “The opposite of love is fear, but what is all-encompassing can have no opposite.”  There really isn’t any more that can be said of it from a New Thought perspective. 
 
I was raised with no concept of evil and so I never thought about it growing up.  Even though I now understand it in the abstract, it doesn’t have much meaning to me.  As my grandmother (who was a Unity minister, a Science of Mind practitioner, and a student of the ACIM) used to say, “Everyone is doing the best that they can for where they’re at.”
 
In New Thought, God has no gender because God isn’t an anthropomorphic deity.  Rather, God is a spiritual principle something akin to monism or panentheism.  New Thought is the natural result of the evolution of the Judeo-Christian tradition taken to its extreme.  The Catholic God is more abstract than the Jewish God.  The Protestant God is more abstract than the Catholic God.  The New Thought God is more abstract than the Protestant God.  As rationality increased with socio-histoical development, God became ever more rationalized.
 
Unity uses the term “God” to refer to the divine, but the use of the term “Goddess” in reference to the divine is extremely common in New Age.  Even in Unity, nobody would care if you felt like referring to the divine as Goddess. 
 
Goddess combines the whole feel of embodied spirituality that is in line with the New Age’s desire to bridge spirituality and science.  The Gaia hypothesis is a case in point.  It was originated by a scientist, but was quickly spiritualized and has become one of the main tenets of New Age.  Nature and environmentalism are very important in the New Age. 
 
Plus, Goddess fits in with the whole female empowerment.  New Age groups have a high percentage of female membership and women often have leadership positions.  If I remember correctly, all of the ministers of Unity churches that I’ve belonged to have been women.  A major influence of the Goddess strain within New Age goes back to Gimbutas’ theory of ancient peaceful matriarchies.  Also, the rise of virgin mary worship has contributed to this.  New Age is the common person’s spirituality and virgin mary worship has a similar position within Catholicism.  There are many theories why the feminine principle is becoming more central.  I simply see it as the return of the repressed.
 
So, what is a Unity service like?  There is nothing particularly special about a Unity service.  Its very simple and bare bones.  Unity isn’t big into symbolism and ritual.
 
There is singing non-traditonal songs such as “Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me.”  Come to think of it, God was referred to as Father in this song.  I just looked it up and I see that some versions have of course changed “Father” to “Creator”.  During the singing of this song, I remember that everyone held hands in a circle that connected the whole congregation together and everyone would sway back and forth.
 
Unity people are a smily and friendly group for the most part, but I have been to a Unity church nearby where the people weren’t as open as the Unity churches I grew up in.  One thing I remember is that people liked to hug and there was a specific point in the service that was for this purpose.  However, someone told me that Unity churches were much more huggy in the past than they are now.   I don’t know what would cause such a change.
 
Of course, there is a sermon.  But its quite different from most Christian sermons.  God is talked about in a less direct way.  There is much more neutral language.  Bible stories aren’t usually told.  Nonetheless, the whole service has a general Christian feel to it.

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about 4 hours later

Enlightened.thinker said

I love that Bible stories aren’t taught because ones interpretation of the story is sometimes askew in traditional churches and subjective!

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

about 16 hours later

Marmalade said

I think the reason for this is that Unity strongly emphasizes developing your own personal relationship to Jesus/God.  A text tends to act as an external authority, but Unity teaches that the authority of God exists within our experience (and within the larger world).  A related thing might be how Unity bookstores stopped carrying the ACIM text because it was becoming too popular amongst Unity membership.  I’ve heard it explained that they didn’t want the ACIM text to become the Bible of Unity.  However, maybe they don’t want any text to become the Bible of Unity… not even the Bible itself.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

about 18 hours later

Nicole said

fascinating…

sandy : Activist and Ambassador

21 days later

sandy said

sending you lots of hugs!~

Marmalade : Gaia Child

22 days later

Marmalade said

Thanks for the hugs!  Hugs to you as well!

New Age: Part 2

New Age: Part 2

Posted on Jul 22nd, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Child Marmalade

In Unity, Jesus isn’t superior to us.  We don’t need to give the right answer or win his approval in order to be saved.  This is because our salvation isn’t in his hands.  He just shows the way.
 
In Unity, access to Heaven isn’t limited to those who follow Christ (ie Universalism).  But it depends on what is meant by “Christ” and “follow”.  Christ has two meanings in New Thought: (1) Jesus Christ the Wayshowher, and (2) Christ Consciousness.  New Thought Christianity is non-exclusive.  Most New Thought practitioners probably see Christ Consciousness in all religions.  The language used isn’t important.  It doesn’t matter if you call this Wayshower principle Jesus or Buddha or whatever, and there is no reason why there can’t be multiple Wayshowers.  In New Thought, to “follow” Christ simply means to live your life according to his example.  This doesn’t necessitate believing in the one true dogma or accepting Jesus as the one true savior.  It simply means that you follow him and so all that it implies is that you trust his guidance, that you trust he knows the way.  Also, New Thought practitioners tend to believe that there are many paths to “Heaven”.
 
In Unity, Heaven and Hell don’t exist as separate realms.  They’re states of mind and they’re part and parcel with how we live our lives, our words and our deeds.  We don’t have to wait until we’re dead to be close to God.  Sin is our separation or rather perceived separation from God, but there is no Original Sin.  Sin like salvation is in the present.  Each moment gives us an opportunity to accept or deny God.
  
In Unity, we co-create reality with God.  It is difficult to trace this idea.  One of the earliest source would be Gnosticism.  There is an idea that began in Gnosticism and was adapted in later Kabbalah.  The idea is that we don’t merely passively receive salvation but rather participate in the salvation process. 
 
New Thought types like to quote passages such as Psalm 82:6 and John 10:34.  New Thought interprets as literal truth the statement of Jesus that “You are gods.”  And in John 14:12, Jesus says “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.”
 
Also, Mesmer had the idea that we have the power to influence our reality.  Phineas Quimby is considered the Father of New Thought and he studied Mesmerism.
 
I’ve read that Unity began within the Evangelical movement.  It doesn’t seem all that Evangelical in comparison to some more vocal Evangelists today, but it still has an Evangelical core.  I suppose it was Robert Schuller who first popularized New Thought (he is my mom’s favorite minister).  I’ve seen many Evangelical tv ministries where New Thought ideas are preached.  What is known as prosperity thinking in New Thought and positive thinking in New Age is called by a different name in the Evangelical movement.  Its called prosperity gospel or abundance theology.  The newest popular proponent of New Thought in Evangelism is Joel Osteen.
 
The wiki article says…

Universalism is a religion and theology that generally holds all persons and creatures are related to God or the divine and will be reconciled to God. A church that calls itself Universalist may emphasize the universal principles of most religions and accept other religions in an inclusive manner, believing in a universal reconciliation between humanity and the divine. Other religions may have Universalist theology as one of their tenets and principles, including Christianity, Hinduism, and some of the New Age religions. Universalist beliefs exist within many faiths, and many Universalists practice in a variety of traditions, drawing upon the same universal principles.

The most common principle drawn upon is love. (Sai Baba/Baba Speech): “The spirit present in all of the beings is varily seen as that of mind. They are all full of the essential love. Without love, it is all just a pun, without love you can not be happy !”

Truth is also an important principle to be drawn upon. The living truth is more far-reaching than national, cultural, even faith boundaries. [1]
That generally lines up with my understanding of Unity’s Universalism.  The Random House definition says that “the doctrine that emphasizes the universal fatherhood of God and the final salvation of all souls.”  Within the Unity church, fatherhood isn’t a term that I remember hearing much in reference to God, but the general idea of God’s universal nature as Creator has a similar meaning.  The major difference here is that Unity wouldn’t agree with a view that final salvation is a collective future event.  This goes along with heaven and hell not being places that we go to.  Ultimately, Unity teaches that everyone is already saved.  Sin is an error in perception and that is all.  We aren’t really separate from God because everything is eternally in and of God.
There are all kinds of weaknesses some inherent to New Thought theology and some with how New Thought has manifested in contemporary culture.  Most importantly is the question of whether New Thought aligns with what psychological research has discovered.  Some of the strongest criticism of New Thought in its relationship with New Age comes from the Integral theorists.  A book that looks interesting is The Dark Side of the Light Chasers by Debbie Ford.  I haven’t read the book, but it seems to be about how some New Agers could learn a thing or two from Jungian shadow work.

In highschool, I was heavily influenced by both Unity and A Course In Miracles (ACIM).  This means that the two are pretty mixed in my mind.  The ACIM was popular in Unity.  Because of this, Unity decided to stop carrying it in their bookstores.  They were worried that people would start thinking of Unity theology only in ACIM terms.  The ACIM has much more of an intellectual theology than New Thought does in general, and so ACIM adds a bit of meat to the bones.  Check out Kenneth Wapnick if you’re interested in the theology pertaining to the ACIM.  Basically, the ACIM is most similar to Valentinian Gnosticism. 
 
I’ve studied the ACIM more thoroughly than I have ever studied Unity theology.  As I was raised in Unity, I never gave it much thought growing up.  And as I haven’t attended a Unity since highschool, I’ve never studied of its theology to any great extent.  I’m not an expert on Unity, but its essential philosophy is easy enough to grasp… easier to grasp than the historical comlexities of Catholic theology.  The funny thing about Unity is its lack of motivation to push a particular theology beyond a few basic beliefs.  I was never taught what the beliefs of Unity were.  I never even read the Bible growing up nor do I remember anyone reading Bible stories to me.  It didn’t even occur to me to think about any of this.

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Nicole : wakingdreamer

about 15 hours later

Nicole said

Did I tell you my mom has been a member of a Unity church for years?

To me, it has been a way to reinforce her vague optimism without seriously challenging any of her confused beliefs about the world or her life. She, like many in her generation, has not engaged her inner demons, not really heard of shadow work or considered doing it, not worked through the ways she has alienated her children and grandchildren.

It’s sad.

By contrast, you are much more thoughtful and flexible about this. You read widely and incorporate many other aspects of belief in your view of the universe. So it feels a lot healthier coming from you.

Have you read much of the Bible as an adult, or does it even interest you?

Marmalade : Gaia Child

1 day later

Marmalade said

No, you hadn’t mentioned that about your mom.  I don’t know that it would be the majority, but I’d imagine there are many people in Unity like her.  One thing my parents noticed about Unity was that it attracted many lost souls, people who didn’t fit anywhere else.

I’ve read more of the Bible in recent years, but I’ve never read the whole text.  I was deeply researching Biblical studies a while back and learned a fair amount about the Bible.   I would be more interested in the subject, but I found that the people who were most interested in the subject didn’t interest me.  I joined some forums where there was discussion about the Bible.  People tended to fall into extremes of fundamentalism or atheism, and every discussion was quickly polarized.  And trying to research the subject, I came to realize that there is no lack of opinions but plenty of lack of facts.  Biblical studies has to be the least scholarly of all the scholarly fields.  Even the academic experts can’t agree on even the most basic details.  However, reading the Bible without reading the scholarship is pointless because the translations are so far apart.

My Grandfather was a minister.  He said that you could prove almost anything you wanted with the Bible.  There are so many passages and so many translations, that you can find some wording that you can interpret as agreeing with whatever you already believe.  And its so easy to misinterpret as it takes a life long of scholarly study to even be able guess at the meaning of a Bible passage.  My Grandfather used the example of the “eye of the needle”.  It wasn’t meaning that its impossible for a rich person to get into heaven.  The eye of the needle was the name of a doorway into a city where camels had to walk on their knees to pass through.  So, the difficulty of a rich man getting into heaven seems nothing more than a minor inconvenience.  But I’m sure there are a thousand other interpretations.

Understanding the Bible is practically impossible, but I’ve never been one to let the impossible get in the way of my studies.  I’m sure I’ll read more of the Bible.  I have a translation of the Pre-Nicene Texts by Robert M. Price.  I find his translation very fascinating and I’m in the middle of reading it.  I’ll finish it sometime.

BTW what translation do you read?

Nicole : wakingdreamer

2 days later

Nicole said

ah, but take a closer look at that eye of the needle… the camels had to walk on their knees – challenging for a camel but much more so than many rich people who do not have the humility and courage to abase themselves to a higher power. think of his interaction with the rich young ruler.

i try to refer to the original Greek as much as possible when i’m doing serious study but for reading lightly, enjoy the NRSV – for different applications, I like different translations and paraphrases – they all have strengths and weaknesses. still hope to learn Hebrew well enough to read the OT in the original, translations are inadequate

Marmalade : Gaia Child

2 days later

Marmalade said

Yep, NIcole, you could interpret as such: the camels on their knees as representing humility and courage.  It might be a correct interpretation.  Then again, my Grandfather might’ve been wrong about his translation.  I really don’t know.  But I’m willing to bet you that, were you to research it, a plethora of disagreement could be found.

In looking at Biblical studies, I quickly realized that I would have to learn several ancient languages to even begin to grasp/guess what was being said.  Actually, even many Biblical scholars don’t know all of the ancient languages involved.  Even if you do know the ancient languages, the cultural context is mostly lost.  For instance, an expert in Hebrew isn’t likely to be an expert in the various cultures that were borrowed from in creating the Jewish mythology. 

Yes, modern versions are inaccurate translations of Hebrew, but the OT is an inaccurate translation of the stories its based upon.  Inaccurate translation is how religions evolve.  For instance, Christianity formed because it was able to re-interpret the OT, but obviously the Christians were essentially mistranslating in order to do so.

Lets say a single person could learn in detail all the factors (multiple languages, cultural contexts, and historical documents).  What could such a person make of it all?  There is no coherent whole.  The Old Testament (like the New Testament) was written by many people.  And the Old Testament is based on stories from different cultures told orally for thousands of years before being written down as we now know them.  All these different stories and all these different writers aren’t in agreement.  When we turn to the Bible, we don’t find a single coherent message.  Just considering the New Testament, the depictions of Jesus Christ are widely divergent and this excludes the other even more divergent depictions found elsewhere.

In all of this, everyone can find what they’re looking for.  The problem is there is no concensus on correct interpretation and there is a lack of evidence upon which to base a rational argument for the correctness of  any particular interpretation.  If we simply pick what we agree with and ignore the rest, then how is that helpful?  We don’t need a text to tell us what we already believe.

I’m not trying to discourage you from studying the Bible.  I find it all fascinating, but frustrating too.  I think any Jew, Christian, or Muslim worth their salt, should study the origins of monotheism for themselves.  In doing so, one can’t discover truth, but what one discovers is how complex “truth” is.  I do think people can discover wisdom in studying the Bible, but not because the Bible revealed it precisely.  We bring our own wisdom to the Bible and whatever we find there already existed within us.

The attempt to understand the Bible (if done with serious intent and an open heart-mind) is more humbling than even the eye of the needle is for camels.  And to sludge through the field of Biblical studies takes no small amount of courage or at least stubborn persistence.  People often just find what they were looking for, but its not unusual for people to find what they wished to not find.

Personally, I’d rather look at Biblical stories from an archetypal perspective rather than worry about what is said in a particular passage in a particular text in a particular language.  I’m a person who wants to do something all the way or not at all.  I realized the only way to do the Bible justice would be to devote my whole life to studying every aspect of it, but I’m just not inspired to do so.  But this isn’t to say I don’t want to familiarize myself with the Bible some more.  Its just not high on my priority list at the moment.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

3 days later

Nicole said

i have known a number of Biblical scholars and am quite aware of the lifework involved in having and using all the tools needed for more accurate interpretation of the Bible. I find it satisfying to work away bit by bit at what I can understand about the Bible among a lot of other ways to come to grips with God and God’s relationship with us… I’m glad you find archetypes satisfying. It’s important to find what works for us.

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

3 days later

Marmalade said

I wasn’t implying that you weren’t aware of what I was speaking of.  I know that you know.  I was just expressing my own frustration at the whole field.  Sorry, to sound like I was lecturing.  I wasn’t intending to sound that way.

I think in general we human can know very little about the world… and God.  Oddly though the limits of our knowledge are the most clear when we turn to a holy text.  I don’t mean to dismiss the Bible, but I sometimes feel so frustrated with people’s opinions about God’s truth that I feel like the Bible may be the last place one should look for God.  There is wisdom in the Bible no doubt… its just buried very very very deep.

As you know, I’ve spent time myself studying the Bible and Christianity overall, and so it would be silly of me to disparage someone else doing the same.  I looked into Biblical studies because I’m a curious person, and its an utterly fascinating area.  I believe studying the Bible is worthwhile because I believe studying anything is worthwhile.  There aren’t enough people in the world who take learning seriously. 

Also, its not as if we have to choose to learn only one thing and ignore all else.  I may be focused more in one direction than another at any given moment, but I can study both the Bible and the archetypes.  I’m of the opinion that learning one thing can help me learn another thing.  Studying the Bible can help me understand archetypes and studying archetypes can help me to understand the Bible.  You probably agree with this as you seem to also have wide interests.

However, I do put an emphasis on the archetypal side of things because I figure that if there is a truth in the Bible its probably an archetypal truth rather than the truth of an historical figure.  Actually, what I should say is that both an archetypal and a historical truth may simultaneously exist, but its the archetypal truth that is the most easily accessible… and maybe the most easy to prove or disprove.  And if the historical Jesus was real, then disentangling the archetypal elements from the historical facts will help to clarify the matter.

I guess why I feel reluctant towards Biblical studies is because of the people who tend to be involved in it.  There are too many people with agendas who are seeking conclusive answers… whether to prove some belief or disprove some belief.  I realize that you, Nicole, are a more open-minded seeker who isn’t just looking for simple answers.  I wish I’d met more people like you when I was studying all of this deeply.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

3 days later

Nicole said

yes, i hear everything you say, dear Ben, sorry I sounded defensive in my comment, i do know and understand your views more and more and have great sympathy for your approach.

unfortunately or fortunately, as people keep telling me, there isn’t anyone else like me :):)

Marmalade : Gaia Child

3 days later

Marmalade said

Its no big deal.  My frustrations have nothing to do with you.  I just get frustrated at times with life in general.  And I’m not good at hiding my frustrations. 

You may not be average Nicole, but trust me that isn’t something that frustrates me.  In fact, I like the non-average.  🙂

Nicole : wakingdreamer

4 days later

Nicole said

why hide your frustrations? especially since they have nothing to do with me, i like that 🙂

i know you like the non-average, and you know i do too! one of the many reasons i delight in our conversation, i delight in you

New Age: Part 1

New Age: Part 1

Posted on Jul 21st, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Child Marmalade

New Age is a more general term and New Thought is a more specific
term.  I don’t know when the term New Age was first used, but as its
used in contemporary culture it seems to mostly to apply to the pop
culture spirituality that was inspired by various earlier movements.
One of those earlier movements was New Thought, and New Thought is no
longer distinct from New Age.  New Thought has become incorporated
into mainstream culture.  Most people who are familiar with New Thought
views aren’t familiar with the New Thought tradition.  New Thought has
in some ways become even more generalized than New Age because its
influence has been so wide and yet so below the radar.

I was raised in Unity and it attracted the New Age type of person.  It
was normal practice to hug people at church and everything was fairly
politically correct.  There was an extreme open-mindedness about it
even though it was Christian… by which I mean that no one cared if
you were saved or if you believed in any particular dogma.  New
Thought Christianity is often referred to as Practical Christianity.
There are two basic elements to this.

First, personal experience is prioritized and so having a personal
relationship to Jesus/God is emphasized.  The difference between this
and the personal relationship of other Christians is that its very
relaxed.  Jesus is your friend and you can talk to him as you would a
friend.  Jesus isn’t our Lord.  Instead, this notion is replaced with
the idea of Jesus being the (or a) Wayshower, a wise and knowledgable
guide.

Second, the power of mind is related to the Power of God.  We are
microcosms of God, and as such we are co-creators of our reality.
There is a difference here from some later adaptations in New Age.
This power is rooted in our personal relationship to Jesus/God.
Beyond simple positive thinking, its primarily about faith and the
ultimate goal is in deepening our faith experience.

New Thought influenced the New Age, but it has other influences.
Unity publishes a small magazine which if I remember correctly is
called The Daily Word.  It used to (and may still) have a wide
readership outside of Unity.  I met people from mainstream Christian
churches that said that their church distributed it.  Unsurprisingly,
even though these people had seen Unity’s magazine, they didn’t know
of Unity or of New Thought.  Also, recently, I’ve been noticing New
Thought creeping into the Evangelical movement (practically taking it
over in some cases).

New Thought has common origin in several other American movements.  At
the time Unity was forming, Americans were seeking a new form of
religion.  For instance, out of this same milieu, the Mormons arose.
New Thought has much in common with the UU church as Unity too is
Unitarian and Universalist in its theology.  The Transcendentalists
also seem to have been a part of this quest for the new.  There was an
influence from Eastern texts that were being translated, but there
also was a renewed interest in the long suppressed Gnostic strains of
the Western tradition.  The inspired text A Course In Miracles has a
strong Gnostic flavor to it and it was an extremely popular book in
Unity.  One of the more interesting influences of New Thought was
Mesmer who proposed the idea of animal magnetism, that there was a
power in the world that could be directed for the good of humans…
specifically in terms of healing.  There is a strong emphasis on
healing in Unity and in Evangelism.  Interestingly, Mesmer led to the
tradition of hypnotism which in course led to Neuro-linguistic
Programming (NLP).  NLP, similar to New Thought, is interested in how
we influence reality through our perception of it.

Another interesting American phenomena is Landmark Forum which
originated from EST.  Landmark is a more harsh (almost cult-like)
product of the New Age movement.  Its positive thinking on steroids.
I’ve been to a Landmark Forum.  It had some useful things to teach,
but I didn’t like its morally questionable techniques of influencing
participants.  EST supposedly had even stronger methodologies.  Sadly,
I’ve heard that Landmark is gaining a foothold in some Unity circles.
If Landmark used its stronghold tactics to inveigle its way into
Unity, then it could use it as a respectable front for its
prosyletizing activities.  This is the darkside of the New Age.

All of this that I mentioned has influenced and in some cases been
incorporated into the almost anything goes theology of New Age.
Nonetheless, as I grew up in New Thought as a distinct tradition, I
still consider the two separate.  I agree with some of Wilber’s
criticisms of New Age: the Mean Green Meme (MGM) and cultural
relativism.

BTW my experience with New Age is pretty wide.  I’ve read many of the
New Age classics growing up.  I also attended a UU for a while.  I
went to massage school where I learned about alternative health and
energy healing.  Two of the psychotherapists I’ve been to were Reiki
healers and one of them was also a practicing Sufi.  I went to a
shamanistic healer a couple of times.  I’ve had my hug from the
hugging saint Amma.  I’ve done all kinds of spiritual practices over
the years.  I used to be a vegetarian.  I have interests in various
New Age subjects: tarot, astrology, chakras, etc.

OTOH I was also raised by two fairly conservative parents who later
became very dissatisfied with Unity.  I went to highschool in the
conservative South and lived in the heart of the Bible Belt for a
time.  I’m fairly critical of much of New Age and New Thought.  I’m
very intellectual and can be frustrated by anti-intellectual
ideologies.  I’ve spent much of my life depressed and can be annoyed
by the manic cheeriness of some New Agers.

I have both an insiders and an outsiders view of New Thought and New
Age.  I meet people online who have just discovered positive thinking
and I have to control myself from expressing my cynicism too strongly.
 I’ve practiced New Thought off and on over the years and I still
believe in it, but I also know of its weaknesses and pitfalls.  What
annoys me about the positive thinking is that many people who discover
it feel they must prosyletize it as if it can answer all of the
world’s problems.  To me, the most important New Thought principle is
acceptance and not optimism.  Plus, I distinguish between faith and
optimism… whereas, pop culture positive thinking downplays faith or
limits it to personal psychology.

Even though all of these ideas and experiences have made me who I am,
I don’t label myself as New Age or New Thought.  I believe that there is
much truth in these traditions, but I don’t align myself with any
particular tradition… which I suppose is very New Age of me.

Whether or not I’m New Age, there is no doubt I’m a product of this
sub-culture.  I joined Gaia because a part of me very clearly
resonates with this kind of positive thinking community.  Generally
speaking, I like most New Agers as people.  They’re my people and I
understand them.  I’m an INFP which is one of the MBTI types that most
closely fits with a New Age worldview.  I belong to an INFP forum and
I love the place, but the sweet kind pc friendliness would make some
people vomit.

This blog is posted in the God Pod.

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16 minutes later

Enlightened.thinker said

Your last sentence is a riot! People cannot seem to tolerate people who are kind, sweet and friendly as they must have some agenda! NOT!

I love this differentiation blog and find it well explained here Ben. I grew up New England Congregational church and taught Sunday School. We did not have an angry God, he was a loving one. After many years, I was attracted to astrology, then more new thought ideas. And growing up in New england was pretty liberal..then at 33 I moved to Virginia, where Edgar Cayce and other readings opened up my mind to reincarnation and other ideas. And the other side was the bible beaters on the street corner espusing an angry God. Who was he? No one I knew!

I attended Unity in Florida and liked it, and also learned about Native American nature thought, and psychic and other new age ideas. I was in heaven. Moving to Texas burst the bubble. I was immediately contacted by every yahoo to come to their church. Churches are on every corner and the biggest one in Houston is Osteens church of 55K members. No thanks. They talk tithing only half the time.

From this space I returned to school for my masters and was taught comparative religions, and loved it! Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam were all taught and I read all the sacred text. I also attended and enjoyed Science of Mind, which is NOT Scientology. They have a daily word too…The Science of Mind Treatment magazine. It is good, but still refers mostly to Christianity. I love Buddhist ideas…and like to pick and choose my beliefs.

I chose zaadz because after living back in New England, I was starving for connections with like minded folks. I have no agenda to change anyones perceptions about anything…I just plain love the energy exchange!

So, as an older woman, I am vitally pleased you have found your “place” as a younger person, and can articulate it so well and bring a piece of your ideas to this forum. I wish I knew half of what you know when I was your age, but then maybe it was not the time for me to know. Just as teaching did not occur in my life until I was 44 and it was at the right time.space/place.

Thanks Ben…your feelings are like mine and I hate labels too…and titles. That is why I will not become a Gaia Ambassador, even though I already do the job of one on a daily basis.

Blessings to you!
Aley

20 minutes later

Centria said

Ha ha, Ben, the sweet kind pc friendliness would make most people vomit!  This sounds like we’re getting back to a “care bears” discussion….  I actually have a bit of trouble with the positive you-can-make-things happen ideology.  Although a part of me loves it.  I think it’s both/and.  We can make things happen, and we can’t.  Because it’s not just us.  It’s our thoughts and intentions, as well as the Universe’s.  which is why I like it that you argue with “God”.  Actually, the term “God” sometimes makes me want to vomit.  I prefer terms like The Universe, The All, the Self….just because the pre-conceived ideas of God are so darn limiting at times.  so about the time I can’t stand the term God, I start using it all the time, just because.  Although I don’t like the term New Ager, either.  Come to think of it, is there any term I like?    Good question….thanks for this, Ben!

Marmalade : Gaia Child

32 minutes later

Marmalade said

Thanks for commenting.  I have to go to work right now, but I’ll respond later tonight.

Bye bye!  🙂

Nicole : wakingdreamer

about 4 hours later

Nicole said

hey Ben, i hate labels too…. little tiny boxes that people try to stuff you into, so cramped and uncomfortable in there i just won’t stay! 🙂

enjoy work :):)

1Vector3 : "Relentless Wisdom"

about 10 hours later

1Vector3 said

Hi Ben, I got onto Notifications of your blogs, yippeee !!!

You connected a lot of dots for folks, and I also enjoyed learning more about your personal journey and approaches !!

I have touched into most of those “dots,” too, and now feel that I am not only outside the box, but the box isn’t even visible anymore, hahahaha !!!!!

The distinction that most interests me if it comes to my attention is the differentiation between Unity and Science of Mind (Church of Religious Science.) For example, there is a real anti-energy-healing bias in SOM, which seems less so in Unity, though one might expect vice versa.

Rather than just say Yes Yes yes Yes, and yes again to your many good points, I’ll add a slight deviation or two. I have not been to Landmark, but did several others in that genre, like Context Trainings. They were good at the time, for my development. I have a bunch of friends who have found great value in Landmark, and are not at all into it as a “cult,” and that is perhaps too strong a word, but I too dislike quite a few of their internal methods AND their marketing approach.

BTW “barf” is an easier word to not trigger the vivid imagination……

There are exceptions, but within New Thought and New Age, as in Christianity in general and rampantly in the Eastern religions, I often get the sense that one is supposed to strive for some kind of “connection” with God or Jesus, but heaven forbid you should tell anyone you have achieved it, they would accuse you of all kinds of pride and ego !!! Also Unity is shot through with what Wilber calls “dualistic thinking” – God is very much alive and well OUTSIDE of oneself – and I can no longer resonate much with it; I just get annoyed. SOM less so, but still.

I can’t even begin to talk about the notions of creating your own reality and positive thinking, that would end up being a book…… I won’t even start. Suffice to say I am as usual a heretic wrt any other known system of thought…..

Nor will I venture into the fascinating discussion about the word “God.” I use it for a shorthand, but am writing even now a piece about how in the question or statement, “IS there a God?” only the word IS has any meaning whatsoever !!!!!!

Aley, I enjoyed reading about your personal journey too. Touched most of those dots, too, in my long life.

Thanks for mentioning the Transcendentalists. I think they are amazingly neglected and greatly worth exposing oneself to as part of one’s religious and philosophical education. Can’t say I have done that yet, but based on all the snippets I have read of Ralph Waldo Emerson, sounds as if one would have to consider him as an enlightened human. Extremely amazing stuff, that guy said !!!!!

Looking forward to Part II.

Blessings, OM Bastet

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

about 10 hours later

Marmalade said

Aley,
bible beaters – Is that like a wife beater?  🙂

Moving to Texas burst the bubble.
A bit like when I moved to the middle of the Bible Belt in North Carolina.  I worked a few summers at a YMCA camp and it was very conservatively Christian.  Most of the Christians I met there were nice, but it was a culture shock.  In particular, I dated a local girl and her parents were some of the most backward Christians I’ve met in my life.

the biggest one in Houston is Osteens church
I’ve read a bit about Joel Osteen.  An interesting phenomena.

I also attended and enjoyed Science of Mind, which is NOT Scientology. They have a daily word too…The Science of Mind Treatment magazine.
For a short while as a kid my family attended a Scienc of Mind church, but my memories of it are vague.  My Grandmother (who introduced my parents to Unity and to A Course In Miracles) was trained in giving Science of Mind Treatments.  Unfortunately, she died when I was very young and I never got to know her. 

So, as an older woman, I am vitally pleased you have found your “place” as a younger person, and can articulate it so well and bring a piece of your ideas to this forum.  Everyone finds their own way in life.  I don’t know that I’ve found my “place”, but I can at least articulate whatever place I’ve found myself in. 

I wish I knew half of what you know when I was your age, but then maybe it was not the time for me to know.
I know what I know because I’ve done very little else with my life other than learning.  I don’t have a career and I only work 3/4 quarter time at a job that allows me to read at work; I’m not married and I have no kids; I don’t travel much and I have no time consuming hobbies.  All I’ve done for the last 15 yrs of my life is buy books and read them.  So, I have knowledge, but I don’t have much else.  You get what you invest your time in.  But for me it wasn’t exactly a choice I made.  I was simply drawn to learning and so that is what I did… and now here I am.

Just as teaching did not occur in my life until I was 44 and it was at the right time.space/place.
Yeah, a lot can change in life.  I could be doing all kinds of things when I’m 44 or I might just still be doing the same thing.

your feelings are like mine and I hate labels too…and titles. That is why I will not become a Gaia Ambassador, even though I already do the job of one on a daily basis.
My problem is I just can’t ever find a label that fits me.  I’m too much an individual and I don’t want to try to fit in with a group identity or to play a specific role.  I just want to be me.  So, I probably won’t ever become a Gaia Ambassador either.

Centria,
I actually have a bit of trouble with the positive you-can-make-things happen ideology.  Although a part of me loves it.  I think it’s both/and.  We can make things happen, and we can’t.  Because it’s not just us.  It’s our thoughts and intentions, as well as the Universe’s.
Sounds like my perspective.  Yes, its not just us.  And its the fact that we’re more complex than our conscious thoughts and idealized intentions.  Once you start taking a participatory viewpoint seriously, normal causation starts breaking down.  What makes sense to me is the Buddhist idea of Dependent Co-arising.  So, the world may manifest out of mind, but if so it isn’t my individual mind.

Actually, the term “God” sometimes makes me want to vomit.  I prefer terms like The Universe, The All, the Self….just because the pre-conceived ideas of God are so darn limiting at times.  so about the time I can’t stand the term God, I start using it all the time, just because.
My view of the divine feels most in line with the inclusive monotheism of Hinduism.  Hinduism allows for one to worship any particular deity or set of deities, and their gods aren’t jealous.  Inclusive monotheism sees all gods as aspects of one God (which is similar to Islam).  On top of this, Hinduism has many other theological viewpoints that more or less peacefully co-exist.  So, a Hindu can even switch from worshipping a personal God to worshipping an impersonal principle and they don’t have to switch traditions.  I like this kind of complexity.  It fits my ambiguous sense of the divine.

Nicole,
i hate labels too…. little tiny boxes that people try to stuff you into, so cramped and uncomfortable in there i just won’t stay! 🙂
Yep, labels are just convenient ways of thinking about things, approximations of reality.  But labels never perfectly fit.  In the end, experience trumps all.

1Vector3 : "Relentless Wisdom"

about 10 hours later

1Vector3 said

Great commentary.

The tiniest of comments: The classic term is, I think, Bible thumpers.

Experience trumps all. That’s kinda quotable. I like it !!

Blessings, OM Bastet

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

about 11 hours later

Marmalade said

Om,
The distinction that most interests me if it comes to my attention is the differentiation between Unity and Science of Mind (Church of Religious Science.) For example, there is a real anti-energy-healing bias in SOM, which seems less so in Unity, though one might expect vice versa.

It is useful to compare those two.  I know of SOM in a more indirect manner, but my sense is that they have a more clear set of beliefs and practices.  OTOH, Unity seems more open to different beliefs and practices.

I have not been to Landmark, but did several others in that genre, like Context Trainings. They were good at the time, for my development. I have a bunch of friends who have found great value in Landmark, and are not at all into it as a “cult,” and that is perhaps too strong a word, but I too dislike quite a few of their internal methods AND their marketing approach.

I have a friend who is really into Landmark.  He is one of my closest friends, but I must admit I like him less when he is in Landmark mode.  He is much more relaxed, compassionate, and genrally more friendly when not in Landmark mode.  He finds great value in it, and I understand that its been helpful for him. 

I still think that the methods used by Landmark are morally questionable.  Landmark isn’t a cult, but its the closest thing to a cult that I’ve ever personally come across.  Basically, its as cult-like as you can get without precisely being a cult.  Landmark has a very manipulative style of getting people involved.  You just can’t know what its like until you’ve been in a Landmark forum and had the full force of the Landmark followers turned upon you.  Its overwhelming.  That is how it works.  It breaks down a person’s normal psychological defenses, but that is also how brainwashing works.  Its a thin line.

There are exceptions, but within New Thought and New Age, as in Christianity in general and rampantly in the Eastern religions, I often get the sense that one is supposed to strive for some kind of “connection” with God or Jesus, but heaven forbid you should tell anyone you have achieved it, they would accuse you of all kinds of pride and ego !!! Also Unity is shot through with what Wilber calls “dualistic thinking” – God is very much alive and well OUTSIDE of oneself – and I can no longer resonate much with it;

I understand what you’re saying, but this doesn’t bother me. 

I see the experience of divine as Other as being a valid and real human experience… which isn’t to argue about the theology of what that experience means.  How I see it is that God is as real or unreal as I am and as the world is, and God is as external as the world is.  From one perspective, my sense of an internal self and my sense of an external world are both false.  Reality isn’t as we perceive it. 

God is by definition non-rational and our longing for an Other is non-rational.  There is nothing that can be directly said about it from a rational perspective, and that is just the way it is.  You can call it a false view or a less developed view, but those are rational judgements of a non-rational experience. 

It also doesn’t bother me if you say that you’ve achieved it.  I can’t say that it sounds any more rational.  But if that is your experience, then there isn’t much that I can say that would be meaningful.  I really have no clear opinon about any of this.

The “dualistic thinking” part is something that has been on my mind.  I’ve been reading about binary oppositions (in Structuralism, Deconstructionism, and Postructuralism) and their relationship to concepts such as liminal and anti-structure.  The author I’m reading (George P. Hansen) also discusses the numinous which relates to the experience of divine as Other.

Nor will I venture into the fascinating discussion about the word “God.” I use it for a shorthand, but am writing even now a piece about how in the question or statement, “IS there a God?” only the word IS has any meaning whatsoever !!!!!!

I would agree but with some addition.  The same goes for any similar question… “IS there a Human?” and “IS there a Ben?” and “IS there a Reality?”   So, yes, only the word IS has any meaning because the IS refers to experience rather than categroies. 

Abstract categories tend to fall into binaries.  But dualistic thinking isn’t exactly the problem because our minds seem designed to think this way.  The problem is when dualistic thinking becomes black and white, and when any particular dualism becomes absolute.  Also, the privileging of one side of a binary opposition is a major issue.

Looking forward to Part II.

And I’m looking forward to your piece about the subject of IS.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

about 14 hours later

Nicole said

and you used to worry about your blogs not being discussed! now you can hardly keep up… isn’t it great! :):)

Yes, I think we are wired for binary, though we are analog beings 🙂 but as you say it is not a problem per se… i try to remember strengths are weaknesses and weaknesses strengths, and so it is with many opposities – just two sides of the same coin. embracing reality in its fullness and enjoying it all…

i liked very much when you were describing your life of learning and learning… it is a privileged one for such a curious cat as yourself… and you seem so contented in it. but who knows what is around the corner. isn’t it fun?

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

3 days later

Marmalade said

Hey Nicole, I think your correct to point out that we’re analog beings.  In thinking, we seem forced into binary distinctions no matter how subtle.  But in our general experience we naturally fall into an analog way of being.  The book I’m reading right now points this out.  The Trickster archetype tends towards the concrete rather than the abstract, and the Trickster is wont to blur the binary divisions of abstract thought.

Marmalade : Gaia Child

3 days later

Marmalade said

About Landmark, I was being a bit critical of them.  I know that many people have been helped by Landmark, but even so I don’t know if I’d directly recommend it to anybody.  If someone was interested, I’d recommend they research it thoroughly first and retain their objectivity while in the forum.  Take what is useful from it and discard all else, but beware that this isn’t what someone involved with Landmark would recommend.  From a Landmark perspective, you only get out of it what you put into it which translates that you must immerse yourself in it without questioning.  Personally, I would entrust my mind to Landmark.

I do believe that Landmark could be risky for someone who wasn’t perfectly balanced mentally.  An interesting thing was since I’ve been diagnosed with depression my therapist had to sign a consent form to allow me to participate.  For someone who was having troubles in life and was looking for answers, such a person could become as pulled into Landmark as they would with an Evangelical church.  What I was surprised by Landmark was how evangelical it was by which I mean how much they encourage prosyletizing.

Sometime I’d like to blog about Landmark, the good and the bad.  There is quite a bit of info out there on the web.  I researched it before attending my Landmark Forum, and I admit that some of the things I read made me feel a bit wary.  If my very good friend hadn’t gone along with me, I might not have gone at all.  Landmark is one of those organizations that tends to polarize people.  Some practically have conversion experiences and others feel that Landmark really messed with their head.

Whatever Landmark is, its certainly interesting.  As it was inspired by EST which was supposedly even more intense, I can’t even imagine what that would’ve been like.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

3 days later

Nicole said

very interesting about Landmark, food for thought… and that’s cool to know about the Trickster, such a fascinating archetype – do you have a favourite incarnation? Culturally appropriate ones for me are Anansi the Spider Man and Brer Rabbit LOL! I grew up loving those stories…

1Vector3 : "Relentless Wisdom"

3 days later

1Vector3 said

Sorry I can’t contribute more to your blog than this one thought right now.

I was trying to be as generous and tactful as I could about Landmark, but my friends who have “immersed” themselves in it, even the one who has since split with them, can sometimes get into what I call the “Landmark Robot” mode when they are facilitating groups in other settings, and it is not pleasant to be on the receiving end of.

They are steamrollering, disrespectful, even encouraging of people to violate their own integrity. They have no empathy, they are inconsiderate. Their faces and voices get hard and harsh and remote and unreachable and unalterable, in that Landmark mode. Normally, these are people who are the opposite in their daily lives. So I have to consider the “Landmark Robot” to be something that got programmed in and they accepted it.

They THINK they are being helpful, not letting people get away with their usual games, encouraging stepping out of comfort zones, but I see them running roughshod over people, being juggernaughts.

Not the way I would choose to help someone change/grow.

For those who need a kick in the posterior, perhaps it works fine. I have other friends whose lives have really opened up from doing the Landmark series….. But it seems to lack subtlety, and be a “one size fits all” approach to changing people.

I have not been through it, but as I said, I did Context Trainings, more than once, and that’s a sibling.

Blessings, OM Bastet

Marmalade : Gaia Child

3 days later

Marmalade said

Nicole – So, do I have a favorite incarnation of the Trickster archetype? 

I’m not sure I have a favorite exactly, but there are some I’m more familiar with.  I’m fairly familiar with Mercurius because Jung wrote much about Alchemy, but I might be more familiar with Hermes as I come across Greek mythology more often.  I do know the stories of Loki and I know some of the stories of Native American Tricksters.  I’m probably the least familiar with the African Tricksters.

Which are my favorite?  Hmmm…

Well, the Native American Tricksters are some of the most amusing, but I don’t personally connect with them.  The Native American Tricksters are nice to study about because there is a lot of info available.  The stories seem amusing on the surface, but they related to dark magic.  There is something very primal and grotesque about some of the Native American Tricksters, and I don’t know what to make of them.

I find Loki fascinating, but there isn’t enough info about him to have a good sense of what he represented when he was a living myth.  I like how he plays such a central role in Norse mythology, and how even the other gods have great respect for him.

I have to say that Mercurius and Hermes are my favorites, and the two are closely related.  They both have the seeming darker side of the Trickster, but they also show the Trickster’s other side which isn’t obvious in many other incarnations.  The Trickster does represent change in all its forms which includes injury, death, and theft… but it also includes spiritual transformation.  The Trickster isn’t just a clever buffoon.  The Trickster is also the redeeming psychopomp and this is where he shares territory with other redeemer incarnations such as Jesus.  I’m most interested in where the Trickster and Redeemer meet within the same incarnation.

Hermes is probably my most favorite because of his relationship to Apollo and Dionysus.  The latter two seem to be mythological forerunners to the Christ story.  Jesus uses the same or similar symbolism as Dionysus and they’re both twice born godmen who challenge earthly authority figures.  But Jesus took on many of the characteristics of Apollo: solar logos, heavenly being, healer, etc.  Of Apollo and Dionysus, the second is more of the Trickster and this makes sense as he was put under the protection of Hermes as an infant.

Unity prefers the Apollonian Heavenly Christ, but I prefer the Dionysian Earthly Jesus.  I find it strange that people invoke Jesus as a preserver of order.  Afterall, he overturned tables in the temple, and he told people to give their money away and to let the dead bury the dead.  Jesus was a Trickster all the way through.  He was constantly challenging authority and defying expectations.  Jesus was clever and witty in his words.  Jesus spoke in concrete parables and expressed his emotions freely.  Also, Jesus embraced suffering which is a major theme of the Trickster, and he acts as pschopomp (like Hermes was also a shephard).

So, maybe Jesus is my favorite Trickster.

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

3 days later

Marmalade said

OM, you hit the nail on the head.  What bothers me isn’t Landmark the organization, but rather Landmark the mindset.  I don’t like aggressive and manipulative people, but of course a Landmark person just sees it as being assertive.  The other thing is that Landmark teaches techniques and I don’t like the feeling of someone using a technique on me instead of just relating to me as a person.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

3 days later

Nicole said

Hermes… yes, I have loved him in the way you say, as psychopomp as well as trickster. and you’re right, Jesus must be my favourite Trickster too. The parables were deliberately tricky to understand at times, he was very emotive and yes, a shepherd too… fascinating… not at all a preserver of order, rather constantly challenging authority. even the way he chose to “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s” is not usually underlined by the conservatives – getting a coin out of a fish’s mouth isn’t really paying taxes on income 🙂

Amazume : Pure Light Combustion

4 days later

Amazume said

Hmmmm, great discussion and musings. Just listening in here. Thank you all for sharing your thoughts and journeys. Thank you Ben, for creating this space to share.  I agree whole heartedly with OM that ”experience trumps all” is quotable, and with everyone who likes to avoid labels. Labels indeed are toxic.

People have asked me ‘what my children are’ within an ‘interfaith marriage’, of parents who grew up on completely different continents (one in Africa, one in Europe). If people insisted, as they were frantically looking to wrap their busy minds around something, I opted with a big smile: “I suppose you could say my kids are mutts”. Still sometimes people would not give up and tell me “you have to choose for your kids sake”. I am so very glad I did not. As I have come into my own experience, my kids have too. I am with Kahlil Gibran to allow my kids to have their own thoughts, although mass media has a whole other agenda, and I’m doing my darndest to minimize that influence.

Also, I enjoy shopping around in the different flavors and colors of what God, Goddess, the Divine experience looks like. Never really buying into any established belief system, yet really open and eager to experience truth. This happens a lot when I’m in a zone, working with clients doing energy work. People who have passed on show up sometimes, and even Jesus, and Mary. Atheists could argue these images could be figments of my client’s imagination I picked up, yet experience has taught me that what you can imagine is true.

😉

Marmalade : Gaia Child

4 days later

Marmalade said

Howdy Amazume!

Your way of raising your kids sounds healthy to me.  My parents are pretty conservative and have strong opinions about many things, but even so they let me make up my own mind and make my own mistakes.  🙂

I do sense there is a truth to what may appear as mere imagination.  Nonetheless, I’m a questioning kind of guy and so I can’t help but wonder what kind of truth it may be.  I personally have never had a vision of Jesus or anything similar.  But if I did have such an experience, I’d tentatively accept it for what it was… oh, who am I kidding… I’d analyze to death.  :):)

I have had strange experiences and its hard to know what to make of them.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

4 days later

Nicole said

of course you’d analyse to death! that’s what you do best – hug.

amazume, great to see you here and hear your thoughts…

Amazume : Pure Light Combustion

5 days later

Amazume said

Hi Ben, and Nicole,

Thanks for your responses. I too can wear that analytical hat and enjoy it. Yet, I have learned not to explain away the magic. Some questions are simply answered by: where there is love, there is no question.

😉

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

5 days later

Marmalade said

Hi Amazume,

I’m not for explaining away the magic.  I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I tend to have more questions than answers.  I don’t feel my intellectuality and my sense of wonder are in conflict.  When I’m most engaged with contamplating something, my sense of wonder directs and inspires my intellect.  I think in terms of possibilities.

where there is love, there is no question.

I’m not sure what you mean by that, but I might have to part ways with you on that one.  I love questions.  So, for me, where there is love, there are questions because my questioning is fueled by wonder.  Love need not be an answer.  My purpose for questioning isn’t to find conclusive answers.   Related to this viewpoint is my attitude that doubt strengthens faith, and so my faith is defined by my ability to be open to doubt.

Also, questiong for me is a simple matter of my having an insatiable curiosity.  Questioning is my normal mode of being.  My mom says I was asking philosophical questions when I was a little kid.  Plus, I have a love of learning and a strong idealization of truth.  I want to know about the world, about people, about God.  My studying is my spiritual practice.

Still, I might understand what you’re pointing at.  There are moments where my mind becomes quiet and empty, and not even wonder disturbs it. 

Nicole : wakingdreamer

5 days later

Nicole said

i can just imagine the kinds of questions you asked as a kid! 🙂

love may be an answer, it may be a question, it may be so many things… love is so complex, life and people are complex…

Amazume : Pure Light Combustion

7 days later

Amazume said

Hi Ben,

You say: ”I’m not sure what you mean by that, but I might have to part ways with you on that one.  I love questions

I do too! So no need to part ways here 😉

There are moments where my mind becomes quiet and empty, and not even wonder disturbs it.” Exactly! At moments like that one can feel completely at one with all there is. At such moments the (energy) body becomes one with the frequency of a love vibration, and it simply is so fulfilling that no question will even come up.

And yes, please do keep your sense of wonder, which often is a great portal to those moments of blissful stillness.

😉

1Vector3 : "Relentless Wisdom"

7 days later

1Vector3 said

Interesting similarities! Among my descriptions of my experience of that state, or what might be the same state, is

“There are no answers, because there are no questions.”

But for me it has the sensation of fullness, even while there is that emptiness/absence of all seeking, of all searching, of all movement toward anything, of any sense of incompleteness or unknowing.

Blessings, OM Bastet

7 days later

Centria said

OM, I just wrote a poem about qestions and answers on my blog:  http://eternalquestion.gaia.com/blog/2008/7/questions_and_answers
I LOVE that line you just wrote  “There are no answers, because there are no questions.”
Dear Ben, thank you for facilitating this rich discussion! 

I love so much how you express yourself.  🙂

Religious Syncretism, Paranormal Experience, and Democrats

I think I posted something about this poll recently, but I noticed something interesting in this article. 

The article is Paranormal Flexibility by Charles M. Blow.  I’m not surprised by the results because I’ve been following various poll and demographic data in recent years.  I noticed alternative beliefs slipping into mainstream religion such as with New Thought Christianity being included (under different names such as Prosperity Gospel) in the messages of some tv preachers. 

Like cultures and races in general, religions are getting all mixed together.  People are believing in whatever makes sense to them no matter what is stated in the official dogma of their religion.  Heck, even the gays are starting to be accepted by mainstream religion. 

I find it rather humorous and it just makes me happy.

Anyways, here is the bit that caught my attention:

For the first time in 47 years of polling, the number of Americans who said that they have had a religious or mystical experience, which the question defined as a “moment of sudden religious insight or awakening,” was greater than those who said that they had not.

[ . . . ]

Since 1996, the percentage of Americans who said that they have been in the presence of a ghost has doubled from 9 percent to 18 percent, and the percentage who said that they were in touch with someone who was dead has increased by about a third, rising from 18 percent to 29 percent.

For those keeping political score, Democrats were almost twice as likely to believe in ghosts and to consult fortune-tellers than were Republicans, and the Democrats were 71 percent more likely to believe that they were in touch with the dead. Please hold the Barack-Obama-as-the-ghost-of-Jimmy-Carter jokes. Heard them all.

The report is further evidence that Americans continue to cobble together Mr. Potato Head-like spiritual identities from a hodgepodge of beliefs — bending dogmas to suit them instead of bending themselves to fit a dogma. And this appears to be leading to more spirituality, not less.

The main thing that interested me was the last sentence.  Moving away from unquestioned religious dogma actually increases religious experience. 

Along with this, Democrats specifically have the highest rates of religious experience.  Does this mean that the Democrats are the Chosen People?  That part wasn’t surprising either.  Liberals tend towards the personality trait that Ernest Hartmann labels as thin boundaries.  Liberals are just more open to new experiences and less fearful of the unfamiliar.  The research shows that thin boundary types not only are more likely to believe in the paranormal but also are more likely to experience it.

Just Some Related Ideas and Writers

I tend to think in terms of connections, but when writing about any particular subject I’ll only be emphasizing certain connections.  Still, all the other connections are at the background of what I’m trying to convey.  A minor frustration is all of this background can’t easily be conveyed and so what gets communicated is simply an uprooted plant.  So, this post will be my humble attempt to elucidate this web of ideas, subjects, traditions, and writers.  But of equal importance I wish to demonstrate that these connections exist outside of my mind in the actual world… meaning in other people’s minds as well.

 

The Beginning: Historical Context

A) Ancient World: Religion and Philosophy

So as to be orderly in my presentation, let me start at the beginning… not the beginning of my own thinking but rather the beginning of the Western tradition.  I’ve already written about much of this in prior posts (for example: Graeco-Roman Tradition, Development of Christian Mysticism, and Mani’s Influence).  My thinking about this subject is informed by authors such as Acharya S (aka D.M. Murdock), Robert M. Price, Earl Doherty, Tom Harpur, Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy; and I would also add Karen Armstrong and Richard Tarnas

Basically, during the Axial Age, Greek and Egyptian thought formed Hellenism which was later incorporated into and formalized by Roman culture.  At around this time and before, Jews were being influenced by Hellenism and the culmination of this was the Alexandrian Jewish community.  Jews had in the past been influenced by many cultures, borrowing wholesale at times some of their myths and theologies (including maybe Monotheism which was an idea both in the Egyptian and Greek traditions).  Mixed in with all of these were Persian influences such as Zoroastrianism.  Out of this, Christianity arose precisely with the arising of Rome.  Romans brought the synthesizing of Hellenism to a new level and they were constantly seeking a universal religion to unite the empire, such as Serapis worship, Pax Romana, and Romanized Christianity… of course these Roman universal religions themselves became mixed over the early centuries of the common era. 

Anyways, Gnosticism was either the origin of Christianity or else one of the earliest influences on Christianity.  Gnosticism was connected with the traditions of NeoPlatonism and Hermeticism.  An interesting aspect of Gnosticism is that it’s adherents sometimes used scientific knowledge to explain some of it’s theology.  This merging of the spiritual and the scientific would be carried on in various traditions.  Besides Gnosticism and Hermeticism, the offspring traditions Cabala and Alchemy speculated to great degrees about the physical world.  This line of thought seems to have been particularly focused in Germany.  The German mystics helped many of these ideas to survive.  These mystics emphasized the sympathy between the microcosm and the macrocosm and also the merging between the subjective and the objective.  The Reformationists were influenced by all of this even though they focused less on the mystical.  Paracelsus lived during the Reformation and was influenced by both the mystic tradition and the Reformation (which he didn’t identify with).  Most directly, he initially was more interested in science and medicine.  This led to Paracelsus’ theorizing about Gnostic ideas such as planetary influences (although he denied Gnosticism).  Paracelsus also believed in a universal healing energy and he is also credited for the first mention of the unconscious.

B) Post-Reformation: Early Development of Modern Traditions

This was also the time of the Renaissance and science was just beginning to come into its own, but science wouldn’t be fully formed until the Enlightenment.  During this latter period, Franz Mesmer developed a theory and methodology along the lines of Paracelsus’ writings.  Paracelsus’ ideas did become more popular a couple of centuries after his death, but I don’t know if his ideas had a direct influence on Mesmer.  Still, they’re a part of the same general philosophical lineage.  Mesmer did speculate about planetary influences, but he is most famous for his theory about animal magnetism which was a supposed healing energy.  This was the origin of what later would be called hypnotism which was much later developed, partially through the example of the Freudian Erik Erikson, into the methodology of Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP). 

Hypnotism was introduced into popular culture through writers such as Edgar Allan Poe.  Mesmerism was an early origin to spiritualism.  As such, it isn’t surprising that Poe in one of his stories had a character use hypnotism as a way of keeping a corpse alive.  Another concept that came from Mesmerism was the double which also was incorporated into the Horror genre, notably in the writings of E.T.A. Hoffman

Hypnotism as a psycho-therapeutic technique had been taken up by a number of people during and after Mesmer’s life.  Many decades later, Freud would learn hypnotism.  The ideas of sexual repression and hysteria were a part of the tradition of Mesmer’s methodology and these would be taken up by Freud.  Also, Freud had an interest in the unconscious which would seem to also to have been related to these kinds of ideas.  One of Freud’s followers was Wilhelm Reich who had a particular interest in the area of sexuality and healing energies.  He proposed the notion of Orgone energy which is reminiscent of both the ideas of Mesmer and Paracelsus.  Orgone is no longer reputable, but like Mesmer it has become a part of popular culture.  William S. Burroughs was a believer in Orgone energy (and spirituality in general as he considered himself a Manichean and was a Scientologist for a time).  Jack Kerouac mentioned Burroughs’ Orgone accumulator in one of his books and supposedly Grant Morrison (by way of Burroughs?) imagined Orgone energy as being real in one of his fictional worlds.

Mesmer‘s beliefs about healing energy accessible to all was also a major influence (via Phineas Quimby) on New Thought Christianity.  This Christian movement was also influenced by Swedenborg and more importantly by the very ancient ideas of Unitarianism and Universalism.  New Thought was a part of a larger social movement of people seeking a new form of spirituality after the Enlightenment had challenged so many traditional religious certainties and the Industrial Age was generally destabilizing culture.  Another set of ideas that probably was influential on New Thought would be that of Romanticism and Transcendentalism.  The latter in particular was a part of the same social milieu in the US at that time.  Specific organizations that appeared during this period were Unity church, Christian Science, Mormonism and the Theosophical Society.  Also, groups like the Quakers and Shakers became popular in the U.S. later in the 19th century partly in response to the social destabilization of the Civil War.  (By the way, New Thought Christianity has somewhat covertly made a resurgence with it’s incorporation into the mainstream through such things as The Secret and even more interestingly through Evangelical Christianity.  Positive thinking or prosperity thinking is known by Evangelicals as abundance theology or prosperity gospel.)

This collective search for the spiritual during the 19th century (and into the early 20th century) was being fueled by many things including the translation and publishing of many ancient texts (both Western and Eastern).  In biblical studies, some scholars picked up the earlier Enlightenment criticisms of Christianity (despite the fear of punishment by the church still being at the time very real in some places).  With many new texts available, comparative mythology caused quite a stir.  One major force in this scholarship was the publications coming out of the Theosophical Society, in particular those of G.R.S. Mead.  This school of thought mostly died out in biblical studies, but it was kept alive by comparative mythologists and psychologists.  It has, however, been revived in recent decades by a small growing sector of biblical scholars and has been made popular (if not exactly respectable) by the film Zeitgeist.

 

Freud, Jung and Others

Optimism and Pessimism, Religion and Horror

A major figure who was influenced by all of this was Carl Jung (who was the most significant force behind the Nag Hammadi texts getting translated and published).  Even though he was the most favored student of Freud, Jung had developed much of his own thinking prior to their meeting.  They both had great impact on each other, but of course (like many of Freud’s students such as Reich and Adler) Jung left Freud.  The Freudian and Jungian schools are an interesting contrast.  This partly a difference of how they related to the world in general which seems to symbolized by how they related to patients.  Freud had patients face away from him, but Jung (and Reich) chose to have their patients face them. 

Also, I can look at a book’s table of contents and make a good guess about whether the author will likely quote Freud or Jung.  Books that quote Freud tend to be about sexuality, gender, politics, power, the underprivileged, postmodernism, and textual criticism.  Books that quote Jung often involve the topics of spirituality, religion, mythology, ancient traditions, philosophy and the supernatural.  There is much crossover between the two and so it isn’t unusual to find both names in the same book, but still books that extensively quote Jung are more likely to mention Freud as well rather than the other way around.  Both Jung and Freud have influenced artists and fiction writers.  Herman Hesse, for instance, knew Jung and used his ideas in some of his fiction.  Freud’s obsession with sexuality, of course, was an interest to many creative types.  Burroughs‘ view on sexuality seems fairly Freudian.  Another angle is that Freud was less optimistic about human nature.  I was reading how Peter Wessel Zapffe’s Pessimistic philosophy is indebted to Freud and Zapffe is a major source of the horror writer Thomas Ligotti‘s view on life.  Philip K. Dick, on the other hand, was heavily influenced by Jung and PKD has relatively more of a hopeful bent (however, PKD also had a very dark side and was friends with darker fiction writers such as Harlan Ellison).  This distinction between a tendency towards pessimism versus optimism, I would add, appears related to the fact that Freud was very critical of religion and Jung maintained respect for religion his whole life (or at least the ideas and stories of religion if not the institution itself).

One further aspect is Jung‘s development of personality typology which came about by his trying to understand the differences between Adler and Freud and his trying to understand the reasons for his conflict with Freud.  Typology was particularly put into the context of a very optimistic philosophy with the MBTI which is all about understanding others and improving oneself.  Even though typology became a tool of corporate America, it has its roots in the ideas of centuries of philosophers such as Nietzsche’s Dionysian and Apollonian.  Typology is the closest that Jung’s ideas have come to academic respectability.  (However, his theory on archetypes is slowly gaining respectability simply by the force of its wide influence, and its important to note that there was always a connection between Jung’s thinking about typology and archetypes.)  With the systematization in MBTI, Jung’s typology has been scientifically researched and correlated with other research on personality theories.  For my purposes, I’ll point out that his typology probably influenced some of Hesse‘s thinking and I know that Philip K. Dick was familiar with it, but typology overall hasn’t been a favorite topic of most philosophical and spiritual thinkers.  Even so, the creation of distinct categories of people is a very old notion (in the West and in other cultures).  For a relevant example, certain Gnostics (e.g., Valentinians) divided people into three categories, but later Christians seem to have preferred the simpler categorization of damned versus saved.  In secular writing, George P. Hansen is a rare thinker who considers types (Ernest Hartmann‘s boundary types which are correlated to MBTI) in terms of paranormal experience and cultural analysis, but I don’t know if he is familiar with Jung’s typology although he does reference Jung a fair amount.  A more amusing example is William S. Burroughs‘ dividing the world up into the Johnson Family and the Shits.

Like Freud, Jung had a strong interest in the unconscious which (along with his many other interests) definitely puts him in the tradition of Paracelsus and Mesmer.  It would almost be easier to list what Jung didn’t study rather than what he did.  He certainly was interested in the same types of subjects that are now included in the New Age movement (which isn’t surprising as Jungian ideas are a major interest of many New Agers).  Specific to my purposes here, Jung often quoted G.R.S. Mead and was also immensely curious about spiritualism.  Jung’s influence is immense, despite his fame being slightly overshadowed by Freud. 

An aspect not often considered is Jung‘s influence on Christianity (which I assume was largely his interest in Mead’s writing).  His family was very much entrenched within Christianity and so Jung was obsessed with it his whole life.  The book he considered his most personal was written about Christianity (i.e., Answer to Job).  Jung had a fruitful relationship with Father White who himself was a writer.  Jung’s ideas became incorporated into Father White’s writings about Catholicism.  Despite Jung not being Catholic or even Christian, his ideas gave a certain respectability to the Catholic emphasis on symbolism and imagery, but it’s hard to estimate Jung’s influence on Catholic thinking.  The most direct influence in this regard would be on the InklingsC.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien who were Christians also felt some kinship with Jung’s ideas, but of course they disagreed with Jung’s putting Christianity on the same level as Pagan myths (as such, his theory was simply a myth explaining other myths rather than God’s truth).  Through Jung and Lewis, theology became more of a topic of popular culture.  Also, Lewis helped bridge the separation between the Pagan imagination of Romanticism and Christian doctrine which was furthermore a bridge between theological ideas and fiction.  This bridging obviously influenced later writers such as Philip K. Dick who combined fiction and theology.  The popularizing of Christianity had a corroding effect on orthodoxy (which Tolkien feared), but also it led to a great fertility of thinking where Christianity and popular culture mixed.  I’m sure many Christians have discovered Jung through the Inklings, but  I suspect, though, that Jung probably has had the most influence on Christians who are counselors (and therefore on the people they counsel).  Related to counseling, Jung was a direct inspiration for the development of Alcoholics Anonymous which was originally Christian (also, A.A. is one of the first self-help groups which as a way of organizing people would later became a focus of various New Agers, Christian and otherwise).

I also wonder what connections there might be between Jung’s interest in Catholicism and the supernatural and the interest in the same by Horror writers and movie directors.  Also, as there are Catholics interested in Jung and Catholics interested in horror and ghost stories, I wonder how many Catholics would be interested in both.  Interestingly, both Jungian studies and the Horror genre have simultaneously increased in popularity and respectability.  An obvious link between Jung and horror would be Freud‘s understanding of the Uncanny and I would say that the Uncanny would be magnified by the amorphous nature of the Jungian Collective Unconscious.  The Uncanny becomes quite horrific when it can no longer be safely contained within the human brain, no longer explained away as mere psychological mechanism.

New Age, Hillman, and the Paranormal

There are three other interconnected avenues of Jung‘s influence that I want to consider further. 

1) As Jung was influenced by the spiritual and the spiritualist movements of the 19th century, he in turn influenced the New Age movement of the 20th century.  Jung acts as a bridge and a synthesizer.  Jung himself and his ideas struggled for respectability, but still it was partly through his ideas that the New Age gained some respectability.  His views on archetypes gave many people a method/language (and an even playing field on which) to analyze mainstream culture and the dominant religions.  The New Age’s incorporation of archetypes, however, made them even less respectable to mainstream culture (at least until recently, maybe partly because the New Age has become more respectable).  If it weren’t for certain writers such as Joseph Campbell, Jung’s writings on comparative mythology might very well be less known and understood.  Joseph Campbell also helped to revive Jung’s study of Christianity in terms of mythology.  Specifically, it was Star Wars and the Hero’s Journey (i.e., Monomyth) that brought this all to a mainstream audience.  Suddenly, both Hollywood and Christianity had to come to terms with mythology… forcing Christianity to also come to terms with Hollywood and popular culture in general.  One other connection between Jung and the New Age would be Quantum Physics.  One of Jung’s patients was the physicist Wolfgang Pauli and they developed a friendship.  They both were interested in the connection between science and the mind, and this interest became symbolized by the number 137.  This number fascinated Pauli (and many other scientists) because the “fine structure constant” is approximately 1/137 which is neither very large nor very small but rather a human-sized number, a number that’s easy  to grasp.  Jung had discovered that going by the numerology related to Kabbalah that the word ‘Kabbalah’ added up to 137.  So, this number represented their shared interest, their shared ideal.  This desire to bridge matter and mind, science and psychology is a major part of New Age spirituality and of other thinkers outside of the New Age (e.g. Ken Wilber).

2) A second line of influence is that of James Hillman who was indebted to and critical of Jung‘s view.  He wrote a book about Jung’s typology and he was very much against it being used in a systematic fashion to categorize people.  To be fair, Jung was extremely wary of his typology being systematized.  Hillman can be considered as loosely a part of the thinking going on within and on the fringes of the New Age movement, but his ideas were a bit of an opposition to the idealistic strain of the New Age.  He believed suffering and illness should be accepted and understood on its own terms.  So, reality should be taken for what it is without trying to make it into something else.  Importantly, this view seems to be different than Freud‘s thinking in that Freud was apparently less trusting of human nature and experience (although there may be some minor similarity in that Freud emphasized helping people adapt rather than trying to fundamentally change them).  For instance, the Freudian-influenced Pessimism of Zapffe (and hence of Ligotti) posits that humans are deceived and self-deceiving.  Zapffe has a very good analysis of the methods people use to avoid suffering (which, to be honest, I’m not sure to what degree someone like Hillman would disagree).  From another perspective, Robert Avens, in his Imagination is Reality, draws on Hillman’s writings.  I found Avens’ analysis to be a useful counter example to the philosophical writings of Ligotti, but this is something I’m still working out.  I see some truth (and some limitations) in both perspectives.

3) The third aspect would be Jung‘s focus on the paranormal.  He studied the paranormal since he was young and had paranormal experiences of his own.  As he grew older, he saw the psyche and the archetypes as not being limited by the human brain.  His interest in the paranormal was far from idle.  Through his principle of synchronicity, he believed non-ordinary experiences had a very direct and practical impact on a person.  He also corresponded with the famous parapsychology researcher J.B. Rhine and they met once, but as I understand Jung was uncertain about the relationship between synchronicity and parapsychology research (since the former focuses on the subjective and the latter on the objective).  One of his last books was about UFOs and it was highly influential on a certain tradition of UFO researchers: Jacques Vallee and John Keel.  This tradition overlaps with Jung’s studies of and influence on religion and spirituality.  Vallee, like George P. Hansen, studied spiritual groups and religious cults.  I’m sure Keel studied those as well.  In The Eighth Tower, Keel details some of the biblical mythicist theories and Egyptology that had become increasingly popular starting in the 1970s (and, of course, he relates it to the paranormal).   Thus, paranormal research was combined with comparative mythology and folkore studies.  This is how Jungian ideas became linked with Charles Fort, another researcher into the paranormal.  Charles Fort was a different kind of thinker than Jung, but people interested in one often are interested in the other.  Even though I’m not as familiar with Fort, I do know he was highly influential on other writers and thinkers in his lifetime (John Cowper Powys, Sherwood Anderson, Clarence Darrow, Booth Tarkington, Theodore Dreiser, Ben Hecht, Alexander Woolcott and Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.) and many later people as well too numerous to list (which includes many of the writers I discuss in this post).  A less known fact is that Fort wrote fiction stories that were published early in his career and a major part of his influence has been on fiction writers.  Both Jung and Fort read widely and both changed their minds as they came across new evidence.  Even more than the likes of Hillman, the Forteans are the real opposites of the New Agers.  However, Forteans and New Agers were both a part of the counterculture (before the New Age went mainstream with its being approved and popularized by Oprah).

These last three traditions do overlap in various ways. 

Patrick Harpur is a very interesting writer on the paranormal.  He references many of the above writers: Carl Jung, James Hillman, Robert Avens, Charles Fort, Jacques Vallee and John Keel.  George P. Hansen is even more wide ranging in that he references those same kinds of writers and he references various people from the New Age area and beyond all of that he also references many philosophers and scientists in other related fields.  Hansen is more difficult to categorize, but ultimately he might best fit in with the Fortean tradition.  Another writer I discovered recently is Keith Thompson who wrote a book that is similar to the writings of these other two.  Thompson and Hansen come to a similar conclusion about the Trickster archetype being fundamental to understanding the paranormal (which could be related to Jung’s insight that the Trickster figure was a precursor to the Savior figure). Thompson is also interesting in that he has very direct connections to the New Age and to Integralism.  Besides writing about UFOs, he did an interview with Robert Bly in the New Age magazine which was what first brought the mens movement into public attention.  Thompson credits Michael Murphy for supporting the ideas in the book early on partly by promoting a UFO group at the Esalen Institute (where, for instance, Joseph Campbell had taught in the past).  Michael Murphy has been closely associated with Ken Wilber and apparently Thompson is the same person who was the president of Wilber’s Integral Institute for a time.

Let me briefly point out that, in the context of the three Jungian-related traditions outlined above, there are some counterculture figures that are mixed into this general area of ideas: William S. Burroughs, Timothy Leary, Robert Anton Wilson, Terrence McKenna, and Philip K. Dick.  So, this brings in the fields of study involving psychology, consciousness research, psychedelics, epistemology, spiritual practice and conspiracy theories.  Also, I would add a connection here with Transpersonal psychology and the New Age in general.  If you’re a fan of the radio show Coast to Coast AM (formerly hosted by Art Bell and now hosted by George Noory), then these types of ideas and writers should be generally familiar to you (Terrence McKenna, in particular, was a regular guest).  I want to emphasize particularly William S. Burroughs as he was extremely interested in these kinds of subjects.  Despite Burroughs dark streak, he said he never doubted the existence of God.  He believed in lots of alternative ideas such as ESP, but most relevant here is that he visited Whitley Strieber who is one of the biggest names in the UFO encounter field.  In connection to Burroughs and Jung, Reich (who proposed the orgone theory) also had a strong interest in UFOs (which he connected with his orgone theory).  As a passing thought, this last connection of Reich reminds me of Paracelsus as the latter also speculated much about the paranormal (in terms of influences and beings).  Vallee discusses Paracelsus’ ideas in context of modern speculations about UFOs.

 

The Occult and the New Age, Spiritualism and the Theosophical Society

I need to backtrack a bit to delineate some other lines of influence.  I want to follow further the influence Mesmer and spiritualism had on fiction and I want to follow a different influence from the Theosophical Society.

Poe and Horror, Philip K. Dick and Neo-Noir

So, first, Mesmer and spiritualism had a wide influence on fiction, in particular the genre of horror.  Most significantly, I want to follow a divergent influence Poe had.  Poe is definitely one of the most influential writers for modern horror, but less recognized is that he is also considered by some to be the originator of the modern detective storyVictoria Nelson and Eric G. Wilson write about Poe’s horror writing, but those two also write about noir (which of course is grounded in the hard-boiled detective story) and neo-noir.  A major factor in the transforming of noir into neo-noir (and it’s related development into tecno-noir and influence on cyber-punk) was the writings of Philip K. Dick and especially the movie Blade Runner which was based on one of his novels.

My interest in noir and neo-noir has increased since reading Victoria Nelson and Eric G. Wilson… and a more recent addition to my library is Thomas S. Hibbs.  All three of them have helped me to understand the religious undertones and philosophical implications of this genre.  Nelson and Wilson cover similar territory, but Hibbs has a different view that emphasizes Pascal‘s ideas (which offers another counterbalance to Zapffe/Ligotti ideas).  Hibbs uses Pascal’s hidden God as a contrast to Nietzsche‘s God is dead.  He also writes some about Philip K. Dick, but apparently isn’t aware of PKD’s own notions about a hidden God (aka Zebra).

Nelson, in The Secret Life of Puppets, writes about writers such as Poe, Lovecraft, Philip K. Dick and C.S. Lewis in terms of mythology, puppets, alchemygnosticism, art and film; she also briefly writes about New Age groups and UFO cults.  More significantly, she discusses German Expressionism merging with “hard-boiled detective mode of pulp fiction” to form film noir.  She speaks of re-noir by which I assume she means the same genre that others call neo-noir.  She also goes into some detail about New Expressionism which seems closely connected with neo-noir.  Specifically of interest to me, she discusses the movie Blade Runner.  I’m not sure about her opinion on the subject but I think some consider that movie to be the first neo-noir film (or at least the first sf neo-noir film) which is a type of film that has become increasingly popular in the following decades.  Also, Blade Runner (along with PKD’s fiction) was a formative influence on cyber-punk.  As for neo-noir, besides being mixed with science fiction and fantasy, it has also used elements of horror as in Dark City.  This is natural fit considering Poe’s influence.  Another very interesting topic she discusses is Memoirs of My Nervous Illness by Daniel Paul Schreber.  She compares Schreber’s view of reality with that of Lovecraft’s fiction.  It’s also significant to note that Schreber’s memoir was made famous by Freud‘s analysis of it in terms of homosexuality and paranoia, and it was Jung who brought this text to Freud’s attention.  Nelson does discuss Freud in reference to Schreber and she discusses Jung in other parts of her book.

Wilson was influenced by Nelson and so was writing along similar lines, but with more emphasis on religion and also more emphasis on subjects such as the Gothic and Existentialism.  In one book, he goes into great detail about Gnosticism and the traditions of Cabala and alchemy which were formed partly from the ideas of Gnosticism.  Wilson also said he was influenced by Marina Warner who is also mentioned in Nelson’s writings.  Warner writes in a similar vein as these two, but it seems she has less interest in pop culture although she does write some about Philip K. Dick.  These writers point out the connection between high and low art and the connection between art and culture, between imagination and religion.

I could make even more connections here in terms of Gothic fiction and Existentialism.  I’ve read a number of fiction writers that fit in here, but I’m not sure about specific lines of influence.

Theosophy: Darkness and Light

Now, let me follow a very odd linking of people starting with the Theosophical society.

First, most people don’t realize that the distinction between the Occult and the New Age didn’t initially exist when these ideas were first being formulated.  Aleister Crowley was associated with the Theosophical Society and he considered it significant that he was born in the year that the organization was founded.  Crowley appreciated the work of Anna Kingsford who established Theosophy in England and briefly headed it.  Whereas Blavatsky had emphasized Oriental esotericism, Kingsford was in favor of a Western esotericism with a focus on Christianity and Hermeticism.  She supposedly was more known for her advocacy work for women’s rights, animal rights and vegetarianism.  She would seem to represent the more New Agey side of Theosophy which is odd considering the association with Crowley who was known as “the Beast”.

I want to momentarily point out a tangential thought that is relevant to the Theosophical Society and similar organizations.  George P. Hansen has written some useful analysis of the connection between the New Age and the Occult.  The following is mostly based on his ideas, but a similar analysis of the dark side of alien experiences can be found in the works of Jacques Vallee.

Intentional communities and Gurus are very popular amongst New Agers, but there is a dark side to this with Jim Jones, Charles Manson, and Heaven’s Gate.  Heaven’s Gate is an especially good example.  They were a UFO cult that was very New Agey in their interest in pop culture utopianism and their beliefs in alien/angels that would come to save them.  Many people who have alien abduction experiences are given messages by their captors.  They are made to feel special and that they have a mission to accomplish.  They are often told that the world is ailing or even dying, and that the aliens have come to save the planet or the aliens have come to save an elect few.  You can find similar messages in New Age channeled writings (and in the historical accounts of various traditional religions as well).

I was reading a book by Vallee who began his career as a scientist before becoming a UFO investigator.  He was one of the first people to make a connection between alien abductions and traditional folklore.  In the intro to one of his books, he mentioned that he had studied Teilhard de Chardin and appreciated his view.  Teilhard de Chardin is a name that comes up in discussions about both both New Age and Integral theory.

The Two Krishnamurtis

To return to the topic of the Theosophical Society, after Blavatsky died there was major conflict.  Crowley became antagonistic and various leaders turned against each other.  Rudolf Steiner helped to establish the German and Austrian division as independent, and out of this Anthroposophical Society formed.  The Americans also split off and later split again.  Annie Besant and Henry Olcott took over the division in India.

So, in India, J. Krishnamurti was adopted by Annie Besant and was groomed to be a World Teacher which Crowley didn’t like (I’m not sure why, but maybe he wanted to be the World Teacher).  U.G. Krishnamurti, through his grandfather, became involved in Theosophy in his teenage years.  The two Krishnamurtis met while a part of the Theosophical Society.  They shared their views with eachother and shared a questioning attitude.  Both rejected the role of guru which led to both leaving the Theosophical Society.  However, J. Krishnamurti did continue an informal career as spiritual teacher which U.G. Krishnamurti criticized as his having become a guru after all (and U.G. has been called an anti-guru and even the anti-Krishnamurti).  Both Krishnamurtis had profound spiritual experiences that transformed them, but U.G. Krishnamuti’s experiences led to a less popular viewpoint in that he believed that the physical world was all that existed.  According to my limited study of U.G., his view of no-mind seems something like a materialistic version of Zen.  J. Krishnamurti, on the other hand, is very popular with the New Age crowd (which is where I learned of him).  For instance, the same type of person who writes about J. Krishnamurti also writes about A Course In Miracles (another early influence of mine)… by the way, ACIM according to Kenneth Wapnick (who helped form the text) has a similar theology to Valentinian Gnosticism (which makes sense as the Nag Hammadi discovery was just beginning to become popular at that time). 

 

Horror Writers and Scholars

From Ligotti to Wilber

To get back on topic, U.G. Krishnamurti is less well known as he didn’t see himself as having a public mission.  His writings are on the extreme fringe of the New Age, but I’m not sure what kind of person is typically attracted to his philosophy.  However, I was interested to discover that Thomas Ligotti mentions him in an interview.  U.G. Krishnamurti’s materialistic bent fits in with the general trend of Ligotti’s thinking, but I’m not sure what value Ligotti would see in even a materialistic spirituality (not that U.G. was trying to promote its value).  I was reading from a thread on Thomas Ligotti Online that the story “The Shadow, The Darkness” was a direct homage to U.G. Krishnamurti.

Anyways, Ligotti represents an interesting connection between Horror and many other ideas.  Ligotti’s favorite thinker apparently is the Pessimistic philosopher Zapffe.  I came across that Zapffe was close friends with and mentor to Arnes Naess.  That is extremely intriguing as Naess was the founder of the Deep Ecology movement.  I find it humorous to consider the hidden seed of Zapffe’s Pessimism at the foundation of Deep Ecology.  Like Theosophy, Deep Ecology is another major influence on New Age thinking.  This confluence of Horror and the New Age is maybe to be expected for I suppose it isn’t entirely atypical for someone like Ligotti to go from being a spiritual seeker to becoming a fully committed Pessimist.  In terms of ideas, the opposites of optimistic idealism and pessimistic realism seem to evoke each other… as they say, scratch a cynic and you’ll find a failed idealist.  I was thinking recently that horror as an experience can only exist in contrast to hope.  If humans had no hope, then there’d be no horror.  So, the greatest horror is only possible with the greatest hope and the contrary would seem to be true as well.  In terms of environmentalism, Pessimism is a natural fit anyhow.  Environmental writers such as Paul Shepard and Derrick Jensen are far from optimistic about the human situation.  Paul Shepard, in particular, seems to have ideas that resonate with Zapffe’s view that something went wrong in the development of early humanity.  Along these lines, a book that would fit in here is The Love of Nature and the End of the World by Shierry Weber Nicholsen.

I think this is a good place to mention Julian Jaynes.  He was a psychologist who became famous through his book The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind.  His ideas generally relate to the kind of ideas put forth by Paul Shepard, Ken Wilber, Max Weber, Karl Jaspers, and Peter Wessel Zapffe.  He theorized that human consciousness was different in the past and a shift happened during early civilization.  He thought that ancient man’s mind was more externalized with less sense of individuality… something like schizophrenia.  He had two sources of evidence for his theory.  He saw traces of this early mode of consciousness in the oldest surviving writings and he referenced psychology research that demonstrated that stimulating parts of the brain could elicit a person hearing voices.  The reason I mention him is because he influenced, along with many others, both William S. Burroughs and Ken Wilber.  Buroughs wrote about Jayne’s ideas in his essay “Sects and Death” and Wilber wrote about them in his book Up from Eden.

Related to Deep Ecology is Phenomenology for Deep Ecologists have often used it to support their view.  This is so because, in Phenonmenology, there is something of an animistic appreciation of nature.  Phenomenology influenced Enactivism which is a fairly new theory involving the scientific study of consciousness and perception.  Enactivism was also influenced by Buddhism and as such Enactivism tries to scientifically explain our direct experience of reality.  Enactivism especially discusses the connection between mind and body.  I bring this up because Ken Wilber, who is critical of Deep Ecology, is a major contributor to and proponent of Integral theory which has had some fruitful dialogue with Enactivism (see my post ENACTIVISM, INTEGRAL THEORY, AND 21st CENTURY SPIRITUALITY).  Irwin Thomson has co-written some books with the Enactivist theorists, and  Ken Wilber has been contrasted with William Irwin Thomson (the father of Irwin Thomson).  The former is a systematic thinker and the latter non-systematizing, and yet both write about similar subjects.  (Jung was more of a non-systematizer and that might be why Wilber ended up feeling critical towards his ideas.)  Ken Wilber is useful to bring up as he has synthesized many different fields of knowledge and he has helped to bridge the gap between academia and spirituality.  Also, Wilber has become a major figure in popular culture such as his speaking on the commentary tracks for the Matrix trilogy.

I want to point out that there has been much dialogue between the ideas of Wilber and those of Jung.  Jung’s less systematic style of thought also allowed for great shift in his understanding over time.  This makes it difficult to understand Jung’s spectrum of ideas as his opinions changed.  Wilber, on the other hand, is extremely systematic and his theory has remained fairly consistent even as he adds to it.  Wilber does have some basic understanding of Jung which he describes in some of his books, but various people have pointed out some inaccuracies in his understanding.  As a systematizer of many fields, Wilber inevitably simplifies many theories in order to evaluate and synthesize them.  However, to understand the connection between Jung and Wilber it would be better to look to a third-party viewpoint.  The best example of this would be Gerry Goddard (whose lifework tome can be found on the Island Astrology website).  I bring up Goddard for another reason.  Goddard was also a systematizer like Wilber, but he brings a number of other writers into his theory.  As I recall, he gives a more fair assessment of Jung.  Also, he includes the ideas of Richard Tarnas and Stanislav Grof.  I briefly mentioned Tarnas at the beginning.  Tarnas is a historian whose writing is a useful resource for understanding the development of ideas across the centuries, and he also has an interest in astrology.  Tarnas wrote a very interesting book about history and astrology that Goddard references.  Goddard also writes about the psychologist Stanislav Grof who is often contrasted with Wilber.  Grof is interesting as he started off researching psychedelics, but later focused on non-psychedelic methods of altering the mind (such as breathing techniques) for the purposes of psychotherapy.  Goddard is a less known theorist, but is a good example of the relationships between some of the people I mention.

There is another related distinction I’d like to make.  Wilber and Goddard are systematizers which somehow connects with their work being squarely set in the field of non-fiction.  Wilber did write a novel, but even then it was simply a mouthpiece for his non-fiction.  William Irwin Thomson seems more like Jung.  Along with wide ranging interests, they both were deeply interested in the creative as well as the intellectual side of human experience.  By deeply interested I mean that they sought to express themselves creatively.  Jung was often painting or carving stone or simply playing around with whatever was at hand.  I don’t know as much about Thomson, but I’ve seen poetry he has written and I’ve seen him referenced as a poet.  Also, Thomson writes about literature.  Along these lines, Philip K. Dick and William S. Burroughs would also be of this latter category of non-systematic creative thinkers.  Ligotti is a bit harder to fit in with this scheme.  He definitely has strong interest in both fiction and non-fiction, but relative to PKD and Burroughs he seems much more systematic and focused.

Let me conclude this section by saying that Ken Wilber is a major focal point of my own thinking simply for the fact that he covers so much territory and because his ideas have become the focus of more intellectual discussions of spirituality.  He is relevant to my discussion also because he was influenced by the counterculture ideas of his Boomer generation and so he is familiar with many of the people I’ve mentioned so far.  Wilber was interested in alternative ideas like those of Jung, but ended up setting his theory in opposition to depth psychology, transpersonal psychology and deep ecology.  Unhappily, Wilber often gets categorized in bookstores along with the very New Age writers he criticizes.  Similar to Ligotti, he spent much time seriously seeking spiritual perspectives which in his case even included following a guru for a while.  Ligotti and Wilber represent two very intellectual responses to the search for knowledge and understanding.

Burroughs in relation to Ligotti and PKD

Similarly, as I’ve stated elsewhere (see here), Ligotti and Philip K. Dick represent two very different responses to William S. Burroughs as they were both influenced by him.  I really don’t know the specifics of how Burroughs had an effect on Ligotti.  Supposedly, he said that Burroughs was his last artistic hero, but as far as I can tell he doesn’t otherwise speak about Burroughs much.  Burroughs was quite the Pessimist in many ways and so it’s a bit surprising that I didn’t notice his name being mentioned in the excerpt of Ligotti’s non-fiction from the Collapse journal.  Maybe when his full nonfiction work is published there’ll be something about Burroughs in it.  Actually, in some ways, Burroughs comes off as darker than Ligotti.  On the other hand, Burroughs had an explicitly spiritual side.  Gnosticism is particularly clear in Burroughs’ perspective and that is where PKD saw a connection to his own philosophizing.  This Gnosticism is a direct connection to Jung, at least for PKD but probably for Burroughs as well since I know that he was familiar with Jung.  PKD, however, is more Jungian in his view of gender in that both PKD and Jung apparently were influenced by the Gnostic (and Taoist) emphasis on gender as a way of thinking about the dualistic nature of the psyche.  Burroughs’ understanding of gender could also have its origins partly in Gnosticism as there was a strain of Gnosticism that was less idealistic about gender differences.  Burroughs considered himself Manichaean which was a religion with an ascetic tradition and which emphasized dualism to a greater degree (I find it humorous to consider that the great Church Doctor Augustine was also a Manichaean for many years before his conversion… which makes me wonder what Burroughs opinion was about Augustine).  Another distinction here is that Jung and PKD maintained relationships with Christians and biblical scholars, but I can’t imagine Burroughs having much interest in Christianity.  Burroughs, rather, saw Gnosticism as in opposition to Christianity.

Poe and Lovecraft, Christianity and Gnosticism

Another connection would be favorite writers.  I mentioned Poe already.  Poe was a major favorite of Burroughs, Ligotti and PKD.  Lovecraft would be another writer to bring up as he was influenced by Poe.  Lovecraft in turn had a tremendous impact on Ligotti and PKD, and Burroughs made references to Lovecraft in a number of places.  Also, Burroughs supposedly was taught about Mayan codices by Robert H. Barlow who was Lovecraft’s literary executor.  I was reading that Burroughs met Barlow in Mexico while studying anthropology.  An interest in cultures would be something that Burroughs shares with PKD and Jung, but I don’t have a sense that Ligotti has much interest in this area or at least he doesn’t seem to write about it.  To add a quick note, there is a nice essay by Graham Harman in Collapse IV that brings together Lovecraft, Poe and Phenomenology.

Yet another connection is that of Robert M. PricePrimarily, Price is a biblical scholar, but he has many interests including weird writing, superheroes and philosophy.  He seems to have been somewhat of a Lovecraft expert in the past and has written his own Lovecraftian stories.  Price’s interest in Lovecraft makes sense in terms of his interest in Gnosticism as Lovecraft’s view of reality is essentially that of Gnostic archons minus the Gnostic true God (there is a good analysis of Lovecraft’s philosophy in Sieg’s “Infinite  Regress” from Collapse IV).  Price also has written an essay about Ligotti that was published in The Thomas Ligotti Reader.  I know of Price mostly through his biblical scholarship as he writes about Gnosticism and mythicism which are two of my favorite topics.  He doesn’t identify as a mythicist, but is very supportive of mythicist theorists such as Earl Doherty and D.M. Murdock (aka Acharya S) and he highly respects some of the scholarship that was done in this regard during the 19th century.  Robert M. Price also has written quite a bit about Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell.  He seems to have some respect for these two, but he also seems to be very critical of how their ideas have been used by New Agers.

To make a related point, D.M. Murdock‘s most recent book is about Christianity and Egyptology.  In it, she references the likes of Price and Campbell.  A major issue for Murdock is the literalism of traditional Christianity which was an issue that Campbell spilled much ink over.  The literal is seen as opposed to the imaginal according to the views of Hillman and AvensWilber makes similar distinctions using different models and terminology.  As for the Egyptian religion, I’d point out that it was a major interest of Burroughs (and Eric G. Wilson too).  There is a strong connection between Gnosticism and Egypt.  A distinction that some make between Gnosticism and Christianity is that the former preferred allegory rather than literal interpretation.  This began with the Alexandrian Jews in Egypt whose Platonic allegorizing of Jewish scriptures was acceptable even to some of the Church fathers.  The difference is that many Gnostics allegorized and spiritualized the gospel stories as well. 

I want to note here E. A. Wallis Budge who was one of the most respectable early Egyptologists.  Murdock references him to a great degree, and any thinker involved with early Christianity and Western mythology would be fully aware of his scholarship.  Of course, writers such as Mead, Price, and Campbell are familiar with his work.  Also, he was known by writers such as Burroughs and John Keel.  And surely Eric G. Wilson would’ve come across his writings.  Budge’s scholarship put Egyptology on the map and helped put it in context of early Western history including Christianity.  Budge is surprisingly not that well known to most people, but trust me he had massive influence on many thinkers over this last century.  Egyptology had already taken hold of the Western imagination by earlier scholars.  Poe used Egyptian elements in some of his stories and Poe died a few years before Budge’s birth.  Budge lived closer to the turn of the century around the time of Carl Jung, Franz Kafka, H.P. Lovecraft, and Charles Fort.

Two Kinds of Thinkers

I want to describe one last aspect that I articulated partly in my post Burroughs, PKD, and Ligotti.  I was distinguishing Ligotti as different from Burroughs and PKD in an important respect.  The latter two were extremely restless thinkers and seekers which seemed represented and maybe contributed to by their drug experimentation.  The only drugs that I’ve seen Ligotti mention are those that are medically prescribed for his bi-polar condition and so they’re designed to make him less restless.  I would guess that Burroughs was one of the first writers to truly popularize drug experimentation, but it took others to bring it into the mainstream.  It was during the ’60s that drug experimentation became a hot topic and Timothy Leary I suppose was the most major proponent.  However, many forget that Leary was originally a psychologist and a respected one at that.  There was this meeting of ideas at that time which has persisted: psychedelics, psychology, spirituality, occultism, ufos and conspiracy theories.  Robert Anton Wilson, a friend of Leary, was the one who really synthesized all of these seeming disparate subjects (and, if I remember correctly, it’s through his writing that I first read about Wilhelm Reich).  Another person was Terrance McKenna who in some ways picked up where Leary left off, but his focus was on mushrooms rather than LSD.

Philip K. Dick was aware of this whole crowd and it all fits into his own brand of counterculture philosophizing.  Specifically, he wrote about McKenna (and vice versa).  A common interest that PKD and McKenna shared was Taoism and the I Ching which they both connected to synchronicity.  They inherited this line of thought from Carl Jung who wrote an introduction to a popular translation of the I Ching.  As a side not, I’d add that McKenna’s view of UFOs are also influenced by Jung (and seem in line with theories of Vallee and Hansen).  To put this in context, Jung would relate psychic manifestations such as UFOs with synchronicity.  Related to this, Burroughs’ cut-up technique was based on the principle of synchronicity.  PKD was interested in Burroughs’ technique as it fit into his own beliefs about messages appearing in unexpected ways (i.e., God in the garbage or in the gutter).  Oppositely, this technique is something that Ligotti strongly disliked.  This makes sense as Ligotti seems to be more of a systematic writer, a perfectionist even (which neither Burroughs nor PKD aspired towards).  Along these lines, consider the random and meandering philosophizing of Burroughs and PKD in the context of Ligotti’s carefully articulated Pessimism.  To quote Quentin S. Crisp in the comments of his blog post Negotiating With Terrorists (where he writes about Ligotti’s use of U.G. Krishnamurti): “My own cosmic unease is, I think, far more open-ended than that of Ligotti. I honestly can’t see him ever changing his position, and it’s a position that has already concluded and closed.”  I doubt Crisp would want to be held down to that opinion as anything more than a tentative commentary, but it touches upon my own suspicion about Ligotti’s view.  I don’t mean to imply any criticism of Ligotti for I do sense that Ligotti’s writings are true to his experience (which, going by his own distinguishing between Lovecraft and Shakespeare, is something he values).  By quoting Crisp’s comment, I’m only trying to clarify the difference between Ligotti and certain other writers.  After all, restless inconclusiveness isn’t exactly a desirable state of being (which I’m pretty sure Crisp is well aware of).

Anyhow, the distinction here between these two kinds of writers is similar to the distinction I pointed out between William Irwin Thomson and Ken WilberIn my Enactivist post (linked above), I use MBTI and Hartmann’s boundary types (via George P. Hansen’s writing) to try to understand this difference.  Obviously, one could divide up writers in various ways, but this seems a fairly natural division that my mind often returns to.

For further analysis on types of writers, read the following blog post:

Fox and Hedgehog, Apollo and Dionysus

 

Conclusion: Different Perspectives

Many of the writers I’ve brought up disagree about different issues, and yet they’re a part of a web of relationships and ideas.  I wonder if the overall picture offers more insight than the opinion of any given writer.  These traditions of beliefs and lineages of ideas represent something greater than any individual.  I’d even go so far as to say that it shows a process of the cultural psyche collectively thinking out issues of importance, and certain people become focal points for where ideas converge and create new offspring.

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Note: There are many more connections that could be made.  I’m curious how other writers might fit in: Hardy, Baudelaire, Borges, Kafka and Blake; Gothic writers, Romanticists, Transcendentalists and Existentialists; the brothers of William James and Henry James; the Powys brothers; various philosophers such as Nietzsche and Pascal.  Et Cetera.  In particular, it could be fruitful to explore Lovecraft further.  He wrote both fiction and non-fiction.  Also, he was immensely influential as a writer and in terms of his relationsips as he corresponded with many people.  Another angle of connections would be organizations formed around the scholarship of specific people.  There is the Fortean Society and the C.G. Jung Institute in Zurich which were both formed during the lifetimes of Fort and Jung, but there is also the Joseph Campbell Foundation which was formed after Campbell’s death.  These organizations attracted many thinkers who also became well known for their own scholarship and writings.  Also, I could include the website Thomas Ligotti Online.  Ligotti is still alive, but he has such a cult following that a website (including a forum) was created by a fan.  This forum has attracted a number of other published weird fiction writers such as Quentin S. Crisp and Matt Cardin (both of whom write about the kinds of things I mention in this post).  There are also organizations such as the Esalen Institue which has attracted many diverse thinkers and has led to much cross-pollination of ideas.