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The Higher Truth

What are the limits of scholarly study in the search for spiritual truth?

"We are not looking for a reality without as much as one within."

— Augustine

About thirty five years ago I began paying wary attention to my mystical intuitions. Unlike some, this subtle shift in awareness wasn’t the product of any life shattering experience or profound revelation. It was more an abstract acknowledgement that maybe there was something out of the ordinary to those deep intuitions and odd events occasionally punctuating my thoughts and experience; something suggesting the possibility of hidden forces or some kind of spiritual dimension to my existence. By nature a rigid empiricist I was convinced there was a sensible explanation for these rogue impressions. I subsequently began a casual pursuit of trying to link spiritual and mystical phenomena to science and reason. However, during the process something unexpected happened.

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Last Updated on Sunday, 27 May 2018 12:33
A Profound Synchronicity?

The Problem Of Higher Meaning Within Personal And Subjective Experience

As originally published in the Journal of Exceptional Experience and Psychology Vol. 1 No 2.

ABSTRACT

The study of transcendent phenomena frequently relies on the use of the personal and subjective experiences of individual informants. A recent personal synchronistic episode serves as the impetus to reevaluate the viability of such experience as a source of evidence within our study of paranormal and mystical/spiritual phenomena. Questions of personal credibility are traditionally the greatest concern when assessing the veracity of individual experience. However, it’s the meanings we assign such events that likely breed the greater apprehension and frequently taint otherwise credible reports. Mystical/spiritual interpretations are particularly problematic. By examining the terms and reasoning often employed to determine the meaning of transcendent experience we may be better placed to accurately assess the authenticity of these episodes. Through the process we may better determine if individual experience is capable of any epistemic or ontological value.

Introduction

I recently experienced a powerful synchronicity that forced me to confront two of the major problems associated with the study of transcendent phenomena: veracity and meaning. For some time I’ve found myself intellectually amenable to the notion of an ultimate consciousness underlying existence.

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Last Updated on Sunday, 12 March 2017 08:52
The Morality Of God

In Search Of An Ultimate Ethos

With each passing year science and philosophy continue to offer more rational and persuasive explanations suggesting the original force from which all existence springs may contain a distinctive intelligence. Those who’ve never doubted the existence of such a creative, thinking ultimate power have traditionally assigned such an entity a wide variety of different names.  The theistically inclined freely use the word “God” to personify this cognitive cosmic source.  Those more circumspect favor such titles as Initial Being, Ground of Being, Cosmic Awareness, Ultimate Intelligence, Essential Consciousness, The One, The All or dozens of other cautiously crafted appellations.  By any other name, the attributes we ascribe such a force show a predictable similarity.  For most, such an entity would be imbued with three core attributes: initial creative power, Ultimate intelligence and moral authority. While the implications of the existence of any of the above characteristics are unfathomably significant, we mere humans seem particularly obsessed with the morality issue.

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Last Updated on Sunday, 12 March 2017 08:55
Perils Of The Examined Life

The Neoplatonist Dilemma

Any inclined to study the nature of being best heed the following advice: don’t go shopping for Ultimate truth unless you’re damn well ready for the consequences.  Such words may seem harsh but experience suggests they’re true.  Contrary to what many may think, gaining a better sense of one’s place in the grand scheme frequently depresses rather than ennobles.  Nowhere is this bitter quandary more evident than within the study of Neoplatonism.  Though long considered one of the cornerstones of mystical theory, Neoplatonism often stimulates an all too familiar pathology; desperate souls searching for existential meaning find themselves cast into the nihilistic void of personal absurdity.  Their new found ontological insights offer very little in the way of individual purpose or ethical direction.  Sometimes it gets worse. 

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Last Updated on Sunday, 5 January 2014 09:35
Circular Reasoning
Barbury Castle Crop Circles

The Barbury Castle crop circle above appeared on 7/16/1991. Creating the impression of a tetrahedron, the distance from the center of the formation to the outside of any of the three surrounding circles is approximately 180 feet. Courtesy of bibliotecapleyades.net

Assessing The Mystery of Crop Circles

Significant existential insights usually come in small and discreet forms. The novelties within the movement of sub-atomic particles, the existence of DNA or the faint signal of some distant cosmological process are so subtle as to be undetectable through ordinary sensation. Rarely is the perception of our being radically challenged by the sudden appearance of unknown phenomena of massive proportion. However unlikely, many believe precisely such a process is occurring throughout the farmlands and pastures of our planet. They claim profound messages from an undetermined source are being encrypted within the sprawling geometric patterns and pictograms found in crop circles. Long a subject of curiosity, there’s no denying the intricacy and elegance of the circle patterns arouses a sense of the mystical within the minds of human observers. But there’s more. For many, the geometry of the circles seems to stimulate a psychological resonance of a deeper recognition — something expanding the boundaries of who and what we are, something integrating us within a higher field of being. It’s easy to understand why many feel the circles to be the work of forces outside the mundane.

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Last Updated on Sunday, 12 March 2017 08:57
Star Crossed

Evaluating “Cosmos And Psyche” And Archetypal Cosmology

Richard Tarnas and I share a common pursuit.  We’re both seeking order and meaning within what we believe to be a purposefully intelligent and profound universe.  We’re looking for confirmation of what we sense to be true, what in the core of our souls we know to be true; that the cosmos is a living whole informed by a creative intelligence to which humans are intimately connected and actively interrelate.  Unfortunately, to those whose sensibilities fail to similarly resonate, the idea of an intelligent, meaningful and interconnected cosmos is a tough sell.  This is understandable.  The mindset of the modern age remains firmly rooted in the power and persuasion of science and its empirical and mechanistic approach to knowledge.  Any concept of intrinsic cosmic meaning (save that which we humans impose on reality) seems absurd.  Science’s assertion that we live in a universe of random, chaotic and ultimately impersonal forces has rarely been challenged in a deliberate and systematic manner. 

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Last Updated on Sunday, 12 March 2017 08:58

It’s often assumed those living in more traditional cultures have a greater degree of metaphysical awareness and lead more spiritually oriented lives than their modern counterparts.   To varying degrees virtually all who study Transpersonal Anthropology harbor this essential bias.  Many claim traditional living provides surroundings and conditions more conducive to recognizing the greater, more essential spiritual truths of human existence.   They expect the inhabitants of these favored cultures to be more receptive to metaphysical and psychic phenomena and live in greater communion with the fundamental forces of being than those of contemporary societies.  It’s an easy assumption to make.   Modern peoples are frequently perceived as spiritually compromised owing to their isolation from nature, materialistic priorities and their slavish devotion to the soul stifling positivist paradigm which devalues the power and influence of the mystical and transcendent.  These assumptions may create a perplexing situation for those interested in transpersonal or psychic studies as they frequently fail to square with observable reality. 

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Last Updated on Sunday, 26 February 2017 10:11
The Intuitive Truth

Observations On The Work Of Sri Aurobindo

In the world of Transpersonal studies mystics and theorists rarely mix.  In truth the relation between the two is often filled with mutual disdain and a mistrust bordering on antagonism.  Mystics frequently view theorists as rigid, empirically compulsive, soulless thought brokers whose need for evidence, order and explanation drains the metaphysical of its wonder and divinity.  Anxious to return the favor, theorists often deride the mystics as starry eyed idealists totally devoid of the detachment and critical abilities necessary to discriminate fact from fantasy.  The hard reality is both remain dependant on the other.  Without mystical experience theorists would have nothing to underlie their studies and without theorists mystics would have little to validate their experiences and impressions.  Of course, the line between the two is never so neatly drawn.  Few have heard of the transpersonal theorist whose interest doesn’t stem from some personal spiritual episode or intuition.  Nor have I met the mystic lacking a theory as to how their impressions derive from and square with the physical world. 

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Last Updated on Thursday, 26 September 2013 01:03
Preposterous Ponderings

Losing Your Mind Over Zen

If the answers to all the big questions of existence were easy to come by everybody would know them.   There’s good reason why so few hold the most profound secrets of life.  Let’s face it, the path to enlightenment is undeniably a tough and arduous slog.  Those deciding to pursue the weighty issues of our intrinsic Being better strap in for a rocky ride filled with perplexing concepts, torturous reason, an avalanche of bewildering language and endless acres of convoluted conundrums.  Of course, just because the task is formidable doesn’t mean there aren’t many willing to give enlightenment a shot.  For such ambitious souls there’s no end of revered spiritual systems to hitch one’s fate.   While almost all spiritual or wisdom traditions specialize in the esoteric, obscure and impenetrable one in particular raises the levels of confusion, mystification and befuddlement to vertiginous heights.  This asylum of contradiction is the fusion of Taoism and Mahayana Buddhism commonly known as Zen.  Those of saner disposition steeped in logic and reason best turn back now.

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Last Updated on Sunday, 12 March 2017 08:59
The Fingerprint Of God

In one way or another all of us are searching for evidence of God.  Granted, few words in the language are more loaded than “God.”  Those more linguistically tempered wisely sidestep the inevitable religious associations by using a bevy of other, more neutral appellations.  For them such terms as Pure Being, Supreme Consciousness, Ultimate Intelligence, The One or Divine Awareness are closer to the ideal they have in mind.  Oh, you can dance around it all you want.  Regardless of label we all know what we’re really talking about.  We’re searching for the source; something that deliberately designed and infused the grand pattern in which we exist with purpose and meaning.  In a world gone crackers with absurdity, endless relativity and intellectual complexity this desire is understandable.  But take heart, as the tubercular munchkin Alexander Pope noted for us all, “hope springs eternal.”  Occasionally, previously hidden patterns of experience or structure emerge so sublime, calculated and profound as to seemingly defy the possibility of random process.  

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 13 June 2012 02:23