Jun 16

Warped and Weft – Discussions in Transpersonal Culture

Each of us is a thread within the grand tapestry of existence. Deeply interwoven within the immense fabric of Being, it’s difficult to comprehend the picture of which we are a part or understand our role within its construction.  The only certainty is our interconnected nature to the greater whole.  As human beings this is a fate not easily accepted.

People of every time have questioned life’s nature and ultimate purpose.   We do so not by choice but necessity.  To know the pattern of which we are a part is essential to determining who and what we are.  Despite the enormity of the task, we continue forward convinced such answers are eventually knowable.

Through determined observation of ourselves and surroundings we try to come to terms with these ultimate questions.  Learn more …

Welcome to Warped and Weft - Discussions in Transpersonal Anthropology and Culture. A few images will be displayed here momentarily ...

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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This Article was Last Updated on Thursday, 26 September 2013.

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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This Article was Last Updated on Sunday, 12 March 2017.

Sacred Sounds

Searching for the mystical within music

From the onset of the written record it’s apparent many have considered music a form of sacred expression.  Regardless of form or instrumentation, the relation of music to the ultimate forces of existence figures prominently within every culture and permeates our shared history.  Those more profoundly affected claim music to be the embodiment of the Divine.  Many of greater circumspection may conceive of music as merely a representation of the divine or, if less theistically inclined, the reflection of some kind of cosmic existential order.  Semantics and nuance aside, music has always been idealized as a medium through which the higher forces driving existence may be known.  This lofty concept has long been propagated, formalized and exploited by powerful spiritual institutions in whose trust the sacred remained.  

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This Article was Last Updated on Sunday, 12 March 2017.

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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This Article was Last Updated on Wednesday, 13 June 2012.

Supernatural – A Review

The chain of reason can be a perilous and unsettling process. Those brash enough to follow any given strand to its logical conclusion may find themselves in incredible if not seemingly preposterous territory. Such is the case of Graham Hancock in his book Supernatural, (2007, Disinformation, New York.) Hancock contends the wide spread use of hallucinogenic drugs throughout history not only provided the impetus for the development of human spirituality but has also revealed a supernatural dimension populated with existentially real beings capable of interacting with our physical world. These beings are known by a myriad of culturally based identities. From the guardian and animal spirits found within tribal cultures to the fairies and elves referenced in early European history to the extraterrestrial beings many claim haunt our modern era. All are different names for the same supernatural entities whose presence and causal abilities are just as substantive as our own. On the surface it seems an appalling anti-intellectual claim. However, scrupulous consideration of the facts, source review and careful assembling of the evidence suggests there is much to consider within Hancock’s theory.

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This Article was Last Updated on Friday, 29 October 2010.

Embodied Spirituality Within A Sacred World – A Review

There comes a time in life when many begin reorienting their priorities to a more spiritual trajectory.  In numerous cultures this transition is an expected and time honored tradition for those of a certain experiential stage.  Secure in their identities, their position in society and the well being of their families many begin abandoning their worldly concerns to work on understanding and pursuing the higher elements of existence.  However, this is not always a joyous process spawned by personal satisfaction.  In his book Embodied Spirituality in a Sacred World, (2003, SUNY, Albany,) Michael Washburn claims this transition often occurs because social and personal routine creates a sense of deep alienation which in turn stimulates a long dormant psychological realm within the human mind.  For Washburn this “crossroads” stage serves as the fulcrum for a detailed examination of the process of human psychological and spiritual development from the neonatal stage all the way to full spiritual awakening. 

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This Article was Last Updated on Thursday, 6 October 2011.

The Upanishads – Like This, As That

As bees suck nectar from many a flower
And make their honey one, so that no drop
Can say, “I am from this flower or that,”
All creatures, though one, know not they are that one.

Chandogya Upanishad

Virtually every spiritual system on earth espouses the existence of an original source.  A source from which all existence emerges and all knowledge flows.  This observation in itself is hardly profound or requires great deductive acumen.  After all, if it’s here it must have come from somewhere.  Both physicists and theologists are in rare accord when claiming everything and everyone must trace back to a singular starting point.  Defining the nature and motivations of this original source has led to a variety of different and conflicting opinions which form the basis of the worlds formalized spiritual systems.   However, closer examination of the description of the essence of the original source brings surprising unanimity.  It reveals an ultimate, singular intelligence of which all are a part; a power whose essence forms and informs all within existence.  Many of the descriptions of this source found in the spiritual texts of our world are exceedingly complex, others breathtakingly simple. 

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This Article was Last Updated on Sunday, 1 August 2010.

A Case for Panpsychism

The essence of Transpersonal study revolves around elements of experience occurring outside the norm.  It’s a uniquely subjective field investigating phenomena that frequently elude conventional scientific scrutiny.  It assumes the existence of unseen forces driving human intuition, belief and behavior.  Despite this avowed respect for the non empirical there nonetheless remain certain epistemological biases in many who study these experiences. This is understandable.  For those whose scientific understanding is rooted within the positivist and objective tradition, the tendency to force this same paradigm upon the unseen phenomena they encounter is all too common.

Within the field of anthropology this form of ‘transpersonal scientism” is most evident when studying the spiritual beliefs of traditional cultures; particularly those with deep animist orientations.  The overwhelming tendency is to assume there to be only symbolic or metaphoric reality regarding claims that certain objects or entities possess mind or spirits.  Those rites and rituals designed to muster or placate such forces are labeled with such common psychological pathologies as transference, archaic sublimation or base superstition. 

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This Article was Last Updated on Wednesday, 28 July 2010.

Return To The Garden?

Modern science, our beloved paradigm of truth has failed to show us the spiritual light.  Compounding its shortcomings, like a petulant loser unable to admit its inadequacies, science often reverts to trivializing and deconstructing the mystical and transcendent to the point of irrelevance.  Though imperious empiricists may be quick to dismiss the realm of the unseen, for the rest of us the questions of our spiritual being still persist.  As such, like a new breed of existential explorer many contemporary people feel we must look to the culturally remote, pre-modern peoples of the planet in search of the ultimate answers.  Like modern Transcendentalists we’re convinced something as basic and pure as the nature of being must lurk in places of similar character.  Places of yore where the innocents remain uncontaminated by the taint of modernity; where idyllic life styles coexist with the forces and principles of creation.  In desperation our imaginations run wild.  We’re convinced the pre-moderns hold the answers to our mystical awakening.  

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This Article was Last Updated on Friday, 23 July 2010.

Seven Minute Shaman

The Mazatec peoples have always lived just out of reach of the great empires of Mexican history.  Deeply ensconced in the highlands of the Sierra Madre Oriental in the northeast corner of the state of Oaxaca, their lifestyle has long withstood the brunt of such formidable forces as the Toltecs, Aztecs, Spanish Conquistadors  and the Mexican Federal government.  Though a tribe of Popoluca-Zapotecan linguistic stock, Mazatec is a Nahuatl name given them by the Aztec  meaning “Lord of the Deer.”  The Mazatec prefer to refer to themselves as the “Humble People.”   While the relentless pressures of Catholicism and modernity have gradually seeped into their daily lives they remain predominantly a community of weavers and farmers. 

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This Article was Last Updated on Friday, 30 July 2010.