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Science and Spirit Forum

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Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-03-14 10:45:34
Link to this Comment: 5010

You are warmly welcomed into this forum area for "Science and Spirit"; Sharon Burgmayer and I are very glad you are here. We offer this site as a place for furthering discussion about the various ways in which academic and religious lives may or may not intersect. We hope this forum can provide a common ground for that exploration, and invite all stories you have to share about the multiple ways in which you understand the possibility, or impossibility, of this intersection.

We also welcome here your reactions to essays and conversations you'll find going on elsewhere on this site (the first entry, below, was written in response to the discussion of The Physical and the Spiritual: How to 'Get Through the Veil'"; we are hoping that a range of other, related conversations can continue and be expanded on in this space.

Please think of this as a forum for posing questions, leaving thoughts in progress, and continuing to talk, in a space where others can listen, find our conversations useful in their own explorations of the world, and contribute in turn.

We very much look forward to hearing, and sharing, what you have to say--

Anne Dalke (for myself and Sharon)

"This I know experimentally"
Name: Gary C. Fa
Date: 2003-03-14 10:48:57
Link to this Comment: 5011

Prof. Dalke suggested that these comments might further the discussion posted here.

I would encourage short circuiting the 'wandering in the wilderness' that occurs when searches for extensions of physical models to spiritual reality(ies) are made. Some very bad philosophy has been promulgated by trying to base spirituality on or derive it from science. Appeals to quantum mechanics, entropy and evolution are particularly notorious. When in college I was assigned to read charmingly written and very scholarly book called the Meaning of Evolution by George Gaylord Simpson. The mechanisms and evidences of evolution are laid out carefully and at the end an ethics is extracted from them. The claim is then made that because the ethics mirrors the natural world it is a 'natural ethic'. I learned a lot about evolution from this book. I don't think I learned much of anything about ethics.

The problem seems to me twofold. One is trying to justify spirituality, or ethics in the case cited, rather than to model spirituality itself and then use that model to understand the thing. The second is the assumption that the God of Creation is also the God of Salvation. Our monotheist tradition demands this. Our western tradition of integrated truth promotes this. But, it is as far as I can tell ultimately un-provable.

I am convinced of spiritual reality in the world. This convincement is typically that of a scientist: I have experienced it.

There is awestruck wonder in considering creation. There is a deep and profound order to creation with very simple rules. There is magnificent variety to creation with no apparent purpose. There is a great sense of a Magisterium: a sense of that which is greater than I, a sense of that which will go on beyond my time, a sense which will become different and more magisterial as it goes on, a sense of attachment that comes from being able to wrap my head around at least a part of it. "What is man that thou are mindful or him? ... Yet thou has made him only a little lower than the angels!" If Heisenberg is correct ("If you would know the creator, study creation") then surely the Divine is Magisterial.

My experiences of the Divine Presence are necessarily more deep and personal. Therefore, I do not share them except in specific contexts: the affirmation of spiritual experience among others occurs, or where a neophyte seeker needs a final affirmation to make the discovery themselves. My sense is this discussion group is no such context; and, in an academic conversation, which this is, such affirmations too easily degenerate into solipsism if care is not taken. I will say that my experience of the Presence and of the Magisterium feel so much the same that I continue to use Ocam's razor making the simplifying assumption that the Divine is one. And, there is evidence of the God of Salvation all around us in the lives of saints and sinners. There is a child's poem: "Who has seen the wind? Neither you nor I, but when the leaves hang trembling the wind is passing by. Who has seen the wind? Neither I nor you, but when great oaks bow down their heads the wind is passing through."

It is clear to me that both Ms. Soloman and Prof. Grobstein are struggling with the all too human sense of the ultimate and a lack of solid ground on which to stand in considering it. Whittier said it well "Thou madest man. He knows not why. He feels he was not born to die; for Thou hast made him and Thou art just." If one is to proceed on solid ground, it makes sense to make models of spirituality from spiritual life knowing that some of the models will fail.

Were I considering Ms Soloman's case in a meeting on Ministry and Counsel, I would say that this is no time for theology, formal or historical. Rather, it is time to consider what I call the practical mystics: persons who see God in every day living such as Thomas a Kempis, or Mother Teresa, and of course the writers of Psalms.

Were I in conversation with Prof. Grobstein I would discourage a metaphysical approach to spirituality and encourage consideration of observers of the manifest spiritual condition; for example, William James' 'Variety of Religious Experience'; Harvey Cox's 'Fire From Heaven' and Feast of Fools'. These descriptions of real world spirituality are the very types of handles we academics need in order not feel lost in space when considering the same.

Were I in conversation with myself I would debate being conscious of the omnipresence taking as patterns the gospels, Douglas Steere's 'On Being Present Where You Are', and Thomas Kelly's "Holy Obedience" in 'Testament of Devotion'. As with most people however my day is filled with the details of living and I must be satisfied with contemplating sunsets, including the radiation fields and molecular scattering processes involved; and on conversations unconsciously predicated on how to establish spiritual truth as that which is recognized as the same. Of course if any of us knew how to do this the Templeton Prize would be ours.

how my religious and academic lives intersect
Name: Maryellen
Date: 2003-03-18 22:21:12
Link to this Comment: 5074

I am a Roman Catholic, a mother, a wife, a student working on her masters in Theology, a long time faculty member at Bryn Mawr College, an organic chemist, and a person with incurable, stage IV breast carcinoma.

I can state very simply how my faith life intersects with my academic life.

In the profound suffering I have experienced with this disease - the physical suffering, the denial, alienation, abandonment, facing my own likely death, the pain I unknowning inflicted on my sons, etc. - I experienced incredible mercy from two very unexpected people - my pastor and my doctor. In their remarkable mercy, I caught a glimpse of God's pure love. The experience of their mercy which was rooted in love, made me understand love and made me better able to love. It also made me long for the ultimate face to face meeting with God which will be pure love.

In suffering I found true love and in this love gave meaning to my suffering. I started to be able to understand the Catholic notion of embracing suffering and how suffering can be good. I started to understand the notion of dying in love (complete giving).

My theological studies enabled me to give words to what I was experiencing in my heart.

I know now that much of what I worried about never mattered. The only thing that matters is truth and love. What I do in my teaching is to tell my students the truth and love them. It is that simple.

Am I able to sustain this - no. I lose it nearly every hour, but what is different is that I don't care what people think. I have found some freedom in terrible captivity. I will try every hour if necessary to rededicate myself to bring love to any situation I am in.

I do not succeed, but I try. My faithlife and my disease brought me the insight that impacts on every aspect of my life.

Correspondence on Irreducibility
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2004-04-28 10:38:43
Link to this Comment: 9662

This letter by Anna (BMC alum), was part of a correspondence with Anne Dalke, in which they had been discussing the commentary of Diogenes Allen on "Love": "Fundamental to [it] is the loss of self pay attention to others as separate centers of reality, centers of value in love a thing--to see it existing in its own right, to recognize its true worth, the irreducibility of another's reality...the absolute value of everyone, not relative to one's need for them....the independent reality of others..."

Anna commented:

"How can a teacher know what it is the student is trying to master?...The student can/does have some role in determining how she wants to grow...Can teachers/students collaborate to support a level of growth that the student defines? . . .

There is conversation I'm eavesdropping on at http://csf. where the Dalai Lama, John Taylor Gatto (a recently acquired hero of mine), Ron Miller & Parker Palmer participated in a conference on spirituality in education. Actually, all these "conversations," including the new "How to Get Through the Veil" all seem like one conversation to me.) You might enjoy this particular site.

Anyway, in Gatto's opening remarks he says, "You'll recall the Dalai Lama yesterday said that the goal of Buddhism is happiness...the goal of Christianity has not been happiness except incidently to other purposes." I'm not sure Christ would agree with that, but I do think that much of Christianity as taught by institutions does teach that an individual's happiness/fulfillment is less important than the services being done by that person for others. This mentality is actually one that limits transcenting (un) invested (un)embeddedness (I really need an easer term for this)....

one's that's shorter to write, mostly, and in so doing have been thinking of the "attachment parenting" writings of Dr. Sears & his wife....gurus of breastfeeding on demand, co-sleeping, wearing the baby, quick response to crying, etc. etc. etc.). They focus on parental behaviors that foster a deep bond, attachment between mother and baby (primarily) so that the mom's responses are almost inseparable from baby's needs/expressions of needs. I just think of it as listening to the baby, really, which is not so different from listening to any other human being given how much we don't/can't comunicate verbally (Grobstein's comments about how much is subconscious fit here).

One idea that is floating through my head is fluid investment or fluid attachment (?)--the idea that you are fully committed to a person or set of people, but that how that investment manifests itself is not tied to one approach or one goal. Maybe dynamic investment is better? I'm just really resistant to the static feeling in uninvested embeddedness. Dynamic investment might, for me, capture the responsiveness of both parties in the relationship--that teachers change as their students change. It also helps me keep the focus on the relationship rather than my responsibility being primary. This is something my husband tries to remind me of: that when I'm struggling w/ a prolonged "stuckness" of [our son] E's: it's not always something that can be affected by me, that he has to learn & grow too.

I think some context for that last thought might help you understand why this idea has really stuck w/ me so deeply & why I'm thinking & writing forweeks at a time. E. falls w/in the autistic spectrum & has been a high maintenance kid. We've managed & mediated his world so much in order to help him be in it, that it's hard to know when to step back or how far. His is not an extreme case, though at earlier points, he has been closer to "true autism" than he is now. A generation or 2 ago he probably would just have been thought of as eccentric--we get a little caught up w/ labels these days, but essentially he doesn't have the best of filters & so he overloads on stimulation that most kids roll w/ pretty well....

Thank you for "How to Get Through the Veil" ! It all dovetails w/ the thinking I've been doing on dynamic attachment and other things I've been reading/thinking lately.

Jeanne-Rachel has probably already stumbled upon Claire Farrer's Living Life's Circle & other anthropological texts. She is in a field termed, I think, ethnoastronomy, where the focus is really on the spiritual as lived by a group in the case of the Mescalero Apache (her group of study) learning how they are shaped by their base metaphor and use of the natural world. . . . She would be an interesting person to bring into your thoughts on uninvested embeddedness since she is really trying to help teachers stay committed to that quality of connected teaching....Huston Smith, The Forgotten Truth seems more than applicable to this discussion/exploration. Also Why Religion Matters by the same author. In the second he states that scientists will only accept that which they can see or prove--it's not self-evident. In faith all is self-evident--it needs no explanation.

There was more to be said in response to "How to Get Through the Veil," but I'll close w/ Mary Oliver's "Maples":

The trees have become
suddenly very happy
it is the rain
it is the quick white summer rain

the trees are in motion under it
they are swinging back & forth they are tossing
the heavy blossoms of their heads
they are twisting thier shoulders
even their feet chained to the ground feel good
thin & gleaming
nobody can prove it but any fool can feel it
they are full of eletricity now & the shine isn't just pennies
it pours out from the deepest den
oh pretty trees
patient deep-planted

may you have many such days
flinging your bodies in silver circles shaking your heads
over the swamps & the pastures
rimming the fields and the long roads hurrying by.

from West Wind

Looking into mind
Name: Peter Cock
Date: 2004-11-15 00:23:06
Link to this Comment: 11566

I shall jump straight in and give you this to play with.
Where in the human brain does neural impulse become thought?
Must there be the IDEA of thought before the thought itself?
Scientists don,t know, religion doesn,t tell us (or does it?).
Seems to be this great gap in our science that virtually no-one has ever questioned. Indeed the mind appears to be separate from the physical body completely!! How can this be? Does anyone care?
All we have are our five senses to work with , anything else whatsoever is a product of the mind (if it involves thought).
Science now admits that "matter" itself is just a set of tendencies.
Is anyone else bothered by this as I am?
Seems to me that it,s all been swept under the carpet. (A) Because there,s no profit in it (B) Because who in power today would want a self-aware society (C) Because it,s the hardest thing you will ever think in your life!!
May I suggest this as a subject for discussion amongst you and for reference I used a book -Looking into mind-Anthony Damiani- which I hope you may find somewhere. Good luck everyone.

The veil
Name: The Founde
Date: 2005-01-22 14:53:39
Link to this Comment: 12157


my handle is 'The Founder', my actual name I cannot say for important reasons.

I have been studying the 'veil' and the spiritual (Or astral as it is refered to by today's occult) realm of existence. I first began researching these things when I found myself and indeed others were being plagued my dreams or visions of a terrible conflict in the near future.

I Began looking into mythology, the underground, and as I still do, the internet for my answers. The internet I have discovered is the best place to find others who feel the same as I. I do not know exactly how involved you are with the spiritual side of things but due to my research I have found myself very deep in the occult and met by several astonishing revelations that I would like to run by you.

Given your knowlege of the spiritual world I imagine you are aware of what are today refered to as 'negs' Or rather negative energy forces/beings. Spirits or conciousnesses that are alligned negatively in essence and as result tend to focus on 'feeding' of weaker beings. Anybody who has spent any length of time practising astral projection should be able to confirm this.

My research (To which I aproached with an objective and open mind) brought me to the conclusion that the conflict many people were sensing was a war, the 'veil' as you and indeed many others call it I discovered was little more than a temporary barrier designed to seperate the energies, and that this world should, by rights, be a mixture or spiritual and physical energy. The veil it seems will one day 'fall' or dissolve, and these planes will merge. A new world may just be created from this merging.

There seems to be a large force of negative energy (For argument's sake I often label it 'demonic' in accordance with legends) that many believe will manifest and as such a war will break out between the spiritual entities ad humanity. Knowing humanity as we all do such a war would be inevitable seeing as our race as cursed with a fear of the unknown or the strange. That plus the supposed dark nature of the force that will be unleashed means the eventuality of a war is highly likely.

I know this all sounds more than a little far-fetched and I can fully appreciate a lack of... enthusiasm to believe me with such matters however, I am sure that you are very open minded judging from the subject matter of this particular site and therefore I hope you will take what I am saying into serious consideration.

My goal is to prepare for the possibility, however unlikely, of such a war and in turn prepare others accordingly. I have constructed a silly free website of my own through which I am voicing my beliefs. The URL is:

I would buy the domain but money is tight for me I'm afraid.

I just wanted to bring this to your attention and see how you feel about this theory. Unfortunately I don't have quite the flare for writing as you do so my articles are both short and ill-crafted, However it is the best I can do. As I am sure you have guessed I have not taken on this responcibility lightly and have made considerable sacrafice as well as tolerated relentless flaming at forums all over the internet in my search for truth. I aproached this not in an atempt to prove a spiritual war was underway but simply to find the genuine truth and what I have presented at my site is my conclusion. However unlikely, it is what I a convinced is the truth, if not I would not put it there.

I hope this will be taken seriously and will be considered both rationaly and with an open mind. I eagerly await your oppinions.

The Founder

an earring catechesis
Name: Lucy Kerma
Date: 2005-08-12 15:22:38
Link to this Comment: 15885

I was moved by Linda-Susan’s Beard’s “an earring catechesis and a call to prayer” and found that it resonated in unexpected ways. No, I don’t wear unmatched earrings – in fact, I prefer not to wear earrings at all. But it got me pondering about matched/unmatched, diversity and difference, about the nature of compatibility and what pleases, about identity and, finally, female identity. Not bad, for a little prayer.

I had an unexpected experience last week. I admit to being a matron of almost “grandmotherly age” (saved only, I suspect, by having had children relatively late in life), and unlike many women of my generation, I never pierced my ears. I confess, it never appealed to me. Yes, I have jewelry that I love, I’m very particular about what I wear, and I value the gifts I’ve been given, but it’s never been a place of that much importance. I don’t choose to wear jewelry very often, usually only for work.

But back to my experience. I was visiting my birth home the other week, which is Berkeley, California, a particularly unlikely place not to have pierced ears, and I was trailing my teenage children as they browsed the hippie vendors along Telegraph Ave. There were the usual miles of earrings, which I passed without a glance. Unexpectedly, a pair of light turquoise studs caught my eye, and suddenly, out of the blue, I felt it: I wanted to get my ears pierced. It was the first time I had ever felt that, and I savored the taste for a while, so new and almost refreshing.

What did it mean? What did I want? Where did it come from? Linda-Susan’s story of the unmatched earrings, and the recognition that difference and the unexpected are sometimes a basic element in pleasure, speaks to me here. We take a lot for granted as we go about our busy lives -- who we are, how we act, what “ought” to be – and we create the kind of order (or sometimes dis-order) that helps us cope. But in that order, parts of ourselves get lost, and it is indeed refreshing (and sometimes surprising) when those parts peak out. Perhaps that’s what Linda-Susan meant when she wondered about “the parts of my own soul, without apparent mates, that lay dormant as unmatched solo songs.”

I didn’t in the end get my ears pierced. I thought about it for a few days, and I suspect that, if I had found myself on Telegraph again, I would have bought those studs and carried them around as a possible spur to action. As it turned out, I didn’t see them again. But the possibility – the choice – got me thinking about my assumptions about me. For me, being human is fundamentally about being an animal – albeit one with special attributes – and femaleness has always been about living deeply and unabashedly in that animal-ness, that physicality. As I think about it, I realize it has also always been about being, at base, unadorned. That’s, still, my choice. It is when a woman takes off all of her adornments that she is most female.

intersection point
Name: Elizabeth
Date: 2005-08-16 10:00:30
Link to this Comment: 15894

Lucy, your earring story makes me think about human's and why we have "things" at all. In both pieces (the text by Linda-Susan Beard) and your post, the "feeling" that began the contemplation about change and difference remains somewhat undefined. By this I mean the feeling that came over Prof. Beard while sorting socks and the feeling that came over you that made you want, for just a moment to pierce your ears. I'm not entirely convinced that natural/unadorned and ornamented/adorned are ways of being that are distinct from one another. There is the argument that jewelry and makeup help us to forget death (by drawing attention away from the fact that we are all aging) and there is the contradictary argument that we have ornamentation for reasons that peacocks have feathers, that is to attract people to one another: so for sexual reasons. Then there is the argument that sex brings us closer to death, so some would say it's all about death. But that's not what I'm really wanting to talk about. As symbol making creatures we sometimes really need things to understand essence. Can there be a "prayer" that originates in no thought, that comes purely from within and that does not have the help of any of our senses to get it going? Maybe the earrings that you saw reminded you of something more basic, more unadorned, more "female". So the adornment was speaking to something within you that was more intangible, more unadorned, more basic. The adornment made you think about being unadorned. It was an impulse. Something inside you was seeking a bit of air time and exposure. Earrings (and socks for that matter) mismatched or not to me are not really the point but they can get you there. I make art to get at somethings within me that are confoundingly immaterial, but also basic, "easy", natural. Your post made me think that the intersection point between the material objects that we _chose_ and the feelings within us that can't be defined (but that we can reach towards by finding symbols) is the place where spirituality lives.

taking off our clothes--or creating ourselves as w
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-10-01 08:02:29
Link to this Comment: 16401

As part of a larger on-going project of mapping/cleaning up the map that is the site that is Serendip, I tripped, yesterday, upon the recent posts in this forum, and found myself somewhat flabbergasted at the assertion that when a woman takes off all of her adornments ... she is most female.

I am co-teaching, this semester, the core course in the program in Gender and Sexuality, along with Jen Patico, a Haverford colleague in Anthropology. Jen's just put us through a series of classic readings in anthropology, including Sherry Ortner's 1972, "Is Female to Male as Nature is to Culture?" which attempts to explain the "pan-cultural fact of universal secondary status of women" in her identification w/ something every culture devalues: "nature." In my own riff on that essay, I found myself taking the students back through the work of Satre and de Beauvoir, back through the classic existentialist notions of humans as being defined as transcending...

the natural givens of existence.

As going beyond....

So I'm with Elizabeth here (lovely thought, Elizabeth): that the intersection between the material objects that we chose and the feelings within us that can't be defined... is the place where spirituality lives--or (to quote Appiah quoting Foucault), "we have to create ourselves as a work of art."

Name: L Kerman
Date: 2005-10-02 13:21:12
Link to this Comment: 16412

Heavens! I didn’t mean to wander into the wrong side of an existential argument about nature vs culture, female vs male. I wasn’t speaking about female/male at all, but simply about female, and indeed, I don’t see any opposition here between men and women. Let me say it explicitly: “it is when a man takes off all his adornments, that he is most male.” There, is that clearer?

To celebrate what I take to be the sheer pleasure of nakedness – sexuality in that most physical sense -- is not, in my book, to say anything at all about the other realms of one’s identity, and certainly not to set up oppositions between one’s selves, whether the basic naked self, the spiritual self, the intellectual self, the political self, the parental self … whatever.

As Anne knows, I don’t see life in terms of oppositions, in terms of those relentless either/or propositions. Life for me is much more complex, more of a continuum, as we go in and out of different parts of ourselves and our culture. We (women and men both) can be open and exposed one minute, careful and strategic the next. We can enjoy dressing up and showing ourselves, and also love the feeling of taking it all off. We can approach the world with an openness to change and be changed, and still acknowledge that there are legitimate distinctions between people and things. And we can acknowledge the “natural givens of existence” and, at the same time, transcend that to some finer existential notion. No problem, and no (irreconcilable) opposition.

Curious what it means to “create ourselves as a work of art” -- beyond, I suppose, the poetry of the image. But, in keeping with my own sense of “both/and,” I’d say it is easy to both take off our clothes AND create ourselves as a work of art. Why not?

So don’t be flabbergasted, Anne, on my account.

Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-10-04 11:22:02
Link to this Comment: 16440

It wasn't "on your account," Lucy, that I was flabbergasted--and I apologize if what I said sounded that personal. It was rather that "your account" provided an occasion for me to think through a little more thoroughly what it means/feels for us to be gendered, what it means/feels for us to be human, and what the relation between the two might means/feel like. Thinking through this a little more (w/ the help of your clarification that you really weren't talking about gender difference at all), what still snags my attention is your assumption that "being human is fundamentally about being an animal."

I don't do fundaments (yep, that's one reason my postings are never self-contained, always linking back, circling 'round to other landscapes) but if I did, I'm not sure I'd say that "animality" is what is most fundamental about us as human beings. Could you say a little more about what you mean by that? That we are bodies? Physical beings? Driven primarily by appetite and need? Drives that are more important/prior/"fundamental" than...any other aspect of us?

I've been doing a lot of work lately w/ the mindfulness practices of Buddhism, which have largely to do with paying attention to bodily based experiences, actually start w/ awareness of the breath and the body....what's really been helpful to me (as someone who has always been driven by her longings, and perpetually dissatisfied with what she gets) is the possibility of revising what I have been accustomed to experiencing as "foundational" to self--my "hungering," which I cannot satisfy--to "breathing"--which I cannot but do. As Mark Epstein says, in Thoughts without a Thinker,

the shift from an appetite-based, spatially conceived self preoccupied with a sense of what is lacking...

to a breath-based, temporally conceived self capable of spontaniety and aliveness...

permits continual surrender into our direct experience, from which we have all become experts at keeping ourselves at bay....

opening up to an authentic appreciation of my actual situation,

not some fantasy of constant gratification that I am compelled to chase after...

Would you call that " fundamentally about being an animal"?
Trying to be one?
Trying not to be one?

Name: L Kerman
Date: 2005-10-04 16:55:19
Link to this Comment: 16443

I don’t think I use the term “fundamentally” in quite the “fundamental” way that Anne does. No, I am certainly not talking about “drives” or even thinking so specifically of “bodies” or “physical beings.” Fundamentally doesn’t mean, for me, “most fundamental” in any cosmic or philosophical sense. Nothing about gender difference. And animal doesn’t mean “animality” if we’re talking about “animal instincts.”

My point – and I was speaking only for myself – was pretty simple. I think that people sometimes forget that they are animals – with, as I said, special attributes. They eat and sleep, they breathe and grow, they suckle their young. And animal nakedness and physicality are part of that. It’s a reminder to me that life is short and is best if lived simply and well. That all the intensities of our over-complicated lives may not be as satisfying as those very simple – physical – moments: breathing the fresh morning air, eating an orange, ruffling one’s child’s hair, or lying with a lover. And that we’re going to die, and ultimately all the static in our minds – and our material “animal” selves -- will come to naught and disappear. It’s probably my latent Californian “back to basics” impulse rearing its unfashionable head. You know, the one that goes for fresh and simply prepared foods, rather than over-processed extravaganzas, and tries not to wear shoes.

If I were a religious person, I might find a place for spirituality here. It is not an option for me, so my “fundamentally” is basically a material one: for me, that’s all we have.

The special attributes I mentioned are, of course, pretty important and I’d say also pretty “fundamental” to being human: humans have certain kinds of brains and think, both consciously and unconsciously. They create whole worlds out of their thoughts. The ability to think is part of being the kind of animal we are, not in opposition. We are “fundamentally animals” that eat, sleep, breathe, grow -- and think, in lots of complicated ways.

I don’t think the advice to “live in the moment” (that’s how I read Epstein) is either being an animal or not being an animal, but operates on a different level. Whether one can be satisfied with the moment, live for today, focus on your breath, take that “zen” view of stress and anxiety -- that’s a habit of mind, as much as body. It’s one response to the continual negotiation between one’s conscious and unconscious. However you do it, Buddhism or otherwise, I think the issues are the same: we need to know ourselves, be honest and forgiving about our motivations, and find a way to make peace with ourselves, both our satisfactions and our dissatisfactions, our dreams and our disappointments. It isn’t always easy, but I think the task is clear.

But if a human does it, it has to be animal, no? What else could it be?

no material symbols
Name: Ann Dixon
Date: 2005-10-05 12:07:56
Link to this Comment: 16451

Elizabeth, your comments intrigue me when you say, the intersection point between the material objects that we _chose_ and the feelings within us that can't be defined (but that we can reach towards by finding symbols) is the place where spirituality lives. Could you say more?

I am particularly interested in spiritual practices, eg Quakerism, where material objects and symbols in general are laid aside, even spurned, and how that fits in with your ideas about where spirituality lives. Would you say that an idea of a painting is enough for that "reaching towards," that you don't have to actualize the idea? If Sharon's out there lurking on this forum, I would be interested in her and other artists' experiences too.


spirits material
Name: Sharon Burgmayer
Date: 2005-10-05 20:40:20
Link to this Comment: 16466

Here I am, lurking…

I, too, was struck by Elizabeth’s suggestion that a deep feeling or response to a material thing could signal a spiritual experience (of sorts). Since I am someone who (admittedly and somewhat ashamedly!) is probably too attached to material things—especially those deemed beautiful—my guilt could be much assuaged if I could label my response as a spiritual one! But E.’s suggestion is about feelings that can’t be defined, not mere desires, which makes me think that here, ‘spirituality’ is associated with ‘mystery’. That is, the mystery of ourselves, what’s within us that feels important even if words cannot express it. Whether an object or symbol is useful (as per E.) in eliciting a spiritual awareness or not (as per Ann’s Quaker affinities), is not important to prescribe as much as it’s simply important (to me) to have that experience.

It’s an interesting question whether the idea of a painting is sufficient or not to stimulate a spiritual feeling. For me, I think I have two different experiences that might be called spiritual as an image that becomes a painting is born. The inner vision of the image may evoke or correspond to an inner awareness—a revelation of some mystery if you will. But the complete working out of the image almost always adds on to that initial awareness, primarily by adding more detail and bringing what’s been revealed into the stronger light of the consciousness.

Lastly, I can’t help but be curious about what it was about those turquoise studs that captured Lucy’s imagination so much to tempt her to bodily mutilation! And, if those earrings had been clip-ons instead, would they now be in her possession? Or, would they have been less enticingly appealing without the associated requirement of ear-lobe drilling? Was it an awareness of her choice, or reviewing that choice anew, that was exciting?

As for female adornment, or adornment of anything for that matter, I say bring it on. For me, part of the joy of being human is enjoying the sensual interaction with the world, whether visual, tactile, scent-filled, etc. And that can include both bodies naked and embellished.

spirituality and images
Name: Elizabeth
Date: 2005-10-08 01:10:08
Link to this Comment: 16499

It's been great to listen in on this conversation! Ann, I'm glad that you asked me a question directly and Sharon, it's nice that you were lurking! I've been thinking about the question of images and spirituality. Sharon, I was just at your church last Sunday so maybe that too has caused me to think about this more. As someone who was raised Catholic, my childhood religious experience was highly associated with imagery in ways that were extremely powerful (if not always in positive ways). So, it's always a fascinating experience for me to go to places where imagery is less featured. The reason for this seems to be to make way for a more unadorned spirituality.

Ann, I think that one can achive spirtuality in a variety of ways and my intersection point idea is just how it seems to work for me. When I was at Bryn Mawr Pres., I focused on the light that was reflecting on the wall from the stained glass window at the front of the main chapel. I wasn't really paying attention to words being spoken at the service but looking around a lot and finding "things" to focus my attention on. I looked at people and often turned around to see the faces of the choir members singing in back of me (I know I commented to you before, Sharon, that I really have this desire to see the faces if people who are singing...especially when you were singing) At any rate, I was feeling a bit like Lot's Wife...being gazed at (by others) for always gazing backwards. But, if I could say that I pray (the word pray has so many connotations for me I'm not sure if I can say that I do that anymore), I would say that I pray by looking backwards and forwards and around sometimes and that when I finally focus I can make the journey backwards and forwards within myself. Images to me are vehicles that help me negotiate more internal journeys. Spirituality, for me is, first and foremost internal journey but I don't want to assume it's that way for others. Is it?

All of that said, I too really like unadorned and I think that if we are calling something within us "the spirit" it is really basic and honest and without complications. It's just that in order to be spiritual (and what I'm going to say is why I'm struggling with being religious/spiritual right now) one must negotiate a vast ocean within. I'm sorry that ocean is a cliche but it's the picture I'm getting in my head right now! This ocean may be beautiful and pleasurable and be comprised of a regular rolling of waves and be a simple physical "pool of being" but sometimes it's just really hard to find a way to enter into its space because simple can be unpredictable too and too big and...If we WERE the ocean, made up of just ocean, then it would be no problem just to enter but sometimes we need a boat to hold our bodies as we look within. (I think I believe in an interior notion of spirit rather than an exterior force of "God" but this maybe is another post) That boat for me can be adornment that leads us to the more basic, unadorned "fully male-female-human" state that Lucy was talking about. Can the image itself be spirituality and not a means towards it? I'd probably say yes and argue it in a kind of Greenbergian formalist way...but I'm not sure I'm prepared to do that now. Does anyone else have further ideas about this? So, maybe what I'm striving for or what fellow over-gazers, over-clingers (echoing orah m.), over-lookers, over-symbol makers are actually looking for when they focus their gaze in, around, backwards and forwards is to actually turn into a pillar of salt. If you turn into a pillar of salt, you will be the same material as the ocean, you know. Biologically, we're really not that far off...

My last thought has to do with Sharon's mention of Lucy's moment of ear piercing desire as a desire for mutilation. To this I thought whoa! But she is of course right that to pierce is to mutilate (though that term makes it seem so very extreme). What this made me think of is the extent to which spirituality is linked to pain. I'd describe moments of extreme spirituality as deep as something as close to pain as pleasure. What do I mean by extreme spirituality? Here are some examples: jogging and getting to the moment when you feel like you can't go any further, everything feels quiet and nature around you is all perfectly beautiful and suddenly something inside of you strengthens and you feel a rush of something and you can keep going not just a few extra STEPS but a few extra MILES. Another example would be my experience of looking at the flames next to the statue of the Blessed Mother when I was in the junior legion of mary (as a kid). I would focus on them and be kneeling and think that I wanted nothing more than to devote my life to God (at that point God was VERY outside for me and I wanted to do things for this OTHER at the expense of there is a certain healthy and important narcissism associated with anything spiritual for me). So the deep longing I felt was like pain...and then a sort of pleasure at neglecting myself for another. The final example that I'll give is the in the zone painting moment when NOTHING else matters except the place where you're going to put the red on the canvas and then, when that's done, the trajectory of the jagged line which you haven't even yourself acknowledged is going to go across the canvas in 3 seconds. This is beautiful but also painful because of the intensity of the focus- your body hurts and you've lost contact with the rational world altogether. It hurts because you're working on something that you feel you're not even controling. It hurts because it becomes urgent. That which is urgent, I've found, sometimes carries hurt along with it.

So I don't know if it's right to turn Lucy's experience into symbol in this way but I'm using it as an image for a jumping off point. I believe that effective spirituality must indeed be a type of piercing, a type of mutilation if you will, a disintegration (hurt) and then reintegration (healing). Taking clothes off, then exposing the body to open air. looking and being hurt by looking and looking inward and...Is all this is spirituality or just the process of living?

actually answering Ann's question???
Name: Elizabeth
Date: 2005-10-08 01:26:41
Link to this Comment: 16500

I think it's kind of fun that I posted and didn't answer any of the questions that I set out to answer. To be more direct (or not): Material objects that we select probably have a direct relation to feelings within us that are wordless, symbol-less, primal, unadorned, unlived, non-verbal (but none-the-less powerful forces). To have a spiritual experience (for me) is to find an object...which doesn't have to be an image out there (i think it can be an image within) and to take that to the point of more "pure feeling" (whatever that is) take it to the level of piercing, disintegration etc...on the path towards wholeness. A BIG YES to Sharon about mystery in spirituality AND art. I also think that spirituality is akin to imaginative engagement which leads to something that "transcends" imagination. I'm not at a place where I can spurn the object because it helps. I guess I'm considering it a transitional object of sorts. Anne (Dalke) correct me if I'm wrong but in Buddhism, there is a point of origin when one is trying to create a spiritual experince, no? Don't you have to think before you can just be? To think is to create images, no?

Yes, I think you can dwell in the intersection point...reach towards without making something or actualizing the idea in a tangible sense but in my opinion the very act of imagination is always already an act of actualization. I say this not from the perspective of an artist but from the perspective of a human...or maybe it's that imagination is what makes ALL humans artists.

strong taste of salt
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-10-09 15:35:08
Link to this Comment: 16503 order to be must negotiate a vast ocean within ...sometimes we need a boat to hold our bodies as we look within....So, maybe what I'm striving for to actually turn into a pillar of salt.

striking images, e, for which thanks.
evocative images.

what they evoke for me is, first, the the "oceanic feeling" Freud denied ever having, along with the (counter?)-Buddhist description of thoughts... like the restless waves on the ocean....only watch them from a expand, and feel open and free. The vast space inside you is no longer emptiness, but peaceful solitude.

From that perspective, the pillar of salt (which I can taste strongly, for I, too, am Lot's Wife) becomes a (fruitless?) attempt to achieve a "reduction," to staunch the flow, to "hold fast" to that...

which will not be fixed.

Name: L Kerman
Date: 2005-10-13 11:35:33
Link to this Comment: 16510

What really struck me about those Telegraph Avenue earrings was the color: an intense blue, all pureness and light. Like the California sky, which always seems to me almost unnaturally blue, the effect of its dryness and how oddly close it feels, as if you could just reach out and touch it somehow. And though they weren’t appealing *because* they were pierced (or required piercing), I was clearly responding to the aesthetic of it: the vividness of the blue and the coolness of the stone against the softness of skin. That sense of unmediated contact is only possible with a pierced earring: clip-ons are, by definition, removed from the skin, and there’s rarely such a clean play of texture and color.

In the true spirit of story telling -- where the story changes in the telling and because of the telling -- I should admit that, in the end, I got my ears pierced, egged on by the untraditional piercings of my daughters and reassured by Elizabeth’s patient reminder that even pierced earrings can be taken off. Most of all, in telling my story I realized that piercing had become a kind of taboo, and I was in danger of setting adorned and unadorned against each other, rather than enjoying them both, the continuum and play. Once I admitted that, it became irresistible.

A final thought, which connects back to Linda-Susan’s original essay about “the parts of my own soul, without apparent mates, that lay dormant as unmatched solo songs.” It occurred to me, reading Elizabeth’s description of spirituality, that at least some of what she described as spiritual, I could experience as animal. Perhaps one difference is the self-conscious step, of actually trying to “negotiate” the “vast ocean within.” Is there in spirituality a conscious component, an urge to put words to feeling?

a pull
Name: Elizabeth
Date: 2005-10-19 00:16:05
Link to this Comment: 16543

There is a desire within me, to allow this forum to rest a bit at this point of unmediated contact. To let it rest, as it were, (and in so much as one person can make the decision for any forum to pause) with Lucy's beautiful description of bringing the sky to her body.

However, I have an urge to post and so I will write once again, briefly (the fact that I am posting being somewhat of an illustration of my point). For me there is definitely “a conscious component, an urge to put words to feeling.” It seems to be part of our unique animality. Consciousness too is animal if we are animal. The desire to feel through words and images is just as strong for me as the desire to feel physical connection with others, nature, to enjoy simple moments of a more pure contact and the feeling through words and images has a conscious component of telling and retelling, seeking and reseeking.

Thinking itself seems to me to be an instinct, a method of survival and a necessary impulse for our species. A loss of language and symbols would, in my opinion not turn us “more” into animals but have the same basic effect as a meteor hitting the earth- it would destroy us as a type of animal. Without the ability to make symbols and seek (you insert the what), we would not continue as a species.

I’m not trying to say that since story-sharing through the generations would not be possible with a loss of language, humans would no longer survive. Rather, I am saying that the absence of a feeling of personal connectedness through stories would make us into something else entirely.

For me, right now (jumping off from what Lucy has said) there seems to be no real distinction between spirituality and animality. Wanting to take and feel the sky is something we can do just as trying to connect through words or through a kiss is something that we do. I am posting this because of a need within my body which is my mind, which is a kiss, which is the sky.

wait! not yet!
Name: Sharon Burgmayer
Date: 2005-10-21 23:59:59
Link to this Comment: 16582

I can’t let this forum rest until I’ve added (at last) my thoughts. In fact, there were so many points of resonance for me in the several postings above that I’ve been mulling over them now for at least a week trying to shape them into something cohesive to write about.

Lucy first wondered about experiencing the spiritual as an animal, then Elizabeth reaffirmed a connection between spirituality and animality. Both of these reminded me of a section in “The Seat of the Soul” by Gary Zukav. The main focus of the book is to describe (his view) how humans are evolving from a species that “pursues power based on perceptions of the five senses to a species that pursues a different kind of power”, he calls it authentic power, “based on perceptions of the spirit”. I.e. we are evolving to exercise greater spiritual sensitivity and perception, and the book discusses the various aspects of this kind of spirituality, of which reverence, intention, karma, intuition, are a few. He contrasts this evolution with the spiritual state of animals: “The soul moves through degrees of awareness. Animals do not have individual souls. They have group souls. Each animal is part of a group soul. A group soul is not the same as an individual soul.” … "The group soul, group consciousness) exists at a level of simply energy dynamics, not individual selfhood. That energy is in continual movement. …Instinctual behavior is the way of the group soul.

From which we may conclude that animals are spiritual as a community. As we may be also. But we differ hugely because of our individual consciousness, our self-awareness. So in response to Lucy’s query: “Is there in spirituality a conscious component, an urge to put words to feeling?” yes, our consciousness and self-awareness are very much tied up in our spiritual experiences. And our consciousness and our understanding is tied to—indeed, is it not dependent on?—language as we negotiate how to “put words to feeling”. Or in images, which some of us vastly prefer(!). And in this context, I really liked Elizabeth’s “…spirituality like imaginative engagement that eventually transcends imagination. To IMAGine is to create images.

I think there is a difference between human spirituality and animal spirituality. In a way, they (animals) have it easy. They move in their spirit as a matter of course. We find spirituality difficult—to describe, to understand, to communicate—in our individualness. I think some our spiritual experiences are like “animal” spirituality especially when we sense a communion with Nature, with all that Life out there, when we encounter a point where our "difficult" individualness melts away.

Rereading in these postings the the comparison of mystery and spirituality, it strikes me that they are not just related, but that perhaps they are identical. The spiritual is mystery. The mysterious is spiritual. The spiritual experienced in Buddhist meditation that you asked about, Elizabeth, is “no more” than perceiving the internal mystery that is each of us—in fact as you already said, “spirituality is an internal journey”. (Their meditative techniques are the proven route to get there.) They would concur with you too, E. that “effective spirituality must indeed be a type of piercing, a type of mutilation … a disintegration (which is the disintegration of one’s concept of the self) and then reintegration (of one’s experience with reality).

Lastly, I have to make a recommendation here—this is the Science and Spirit Forum after all—for the film “What the bleep do we know?” It’s a terrific collusion of science and the spiritual wherein the reality we think we understand is dissected and challenged by scientists and philosophers and theologians.

Bodies and Souls
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-10-23 11:26:41
Link to this Comment: 16585

for local folks--there will be a talk this Thursday, Oct. 27, @ 6:15 in the Ely Room at Bryn Mawr, which looks as if it may address some of the questions we've been pursuing here. Paul Bloom, a developmental psychologist and psycholinguist from Yale, is speaking about "Bodies and Souls":

"Evidence from developmental psychology suggests that both children and adults see physical entites such as objects (or bodies) as fundamantally distinct from psychological entities such as minds (or souls). We are natural-born dualists. This has profound implications for our mental life, and helps explain certain surprising facts about art, religion, humor, and morality."

Name: Don Sapatk
Date: 2005-10-26 11:48:13
Link to this Comment: 16632

I am trying to reach Jeanne-Rachel Salomon asap for a Philadelphia Inquirer story about labyrinths.

Can anyone get her a message to contact me (610-313-8246, or, better yet, send me the contact information? (If privacy is a concern, be assured that I would not use any information without confirming with her; she also has appeared in the paper before.)

Don Sapatkin
Outdoors Editor
Philadelphia Inquirer

Name: atthisaddr
Date: 2006-01-20 10:30:04
Link to this Comment: 17699

What about the acceptance of the belief of a resurrection from the dead in modern times? A literal belief in a resurrection can't be supported, those that contend it happened carry the burden of proof. If you accept that it could have been a case of mistaken identification of death, that does not satisfy a belief in a supernatural event. There are few in today's world that are willing to hold with a belief because of it's pure implausibility, few indeed like Tertullian, who said of his Christianity"I believe because it is absurd."

We can say that this belief is like the bread and wine in communion, where there is knowledge that the substances are just bread and wine,but an expressed belief that it is the body and blood of christ, with two contradictory perceptions at the same time. The problem there is this is not a question of a different perception of matter, but a state of existence. You're alive or you aren't.

Most Christians aren't aware of non-material resurrection theology, although nearly any Roman Catholic or Episcopalian with a higher education should have been exposed to it.

As a cultural, ethical system of existence and a means of delegating control over the population, religion and its hard and fast rules came to the rescue to provide the ethical view of human life, and flourished in the old religious culture. The answer was simple, Jesus came back from the dead, there was no body of knowledge to challenge it.

The rescue of that authority today is a work of the imagination, in which the aesthetic attitude took over religious worship as the source of intrinsic values about 'deep questions regarding existence'. People today can say they believe in the resurrection bcause there is no conflict with knowledge - it is now a matter of aesthetics, truly outside of the real world, but now not to be found in a belief in an actual supernatural world either.

Modern life has boxed in religious beliefs, demonstrated facts and increased knowledge have shrunk the areas where religion once held sole sway and authority. The growth of psychological science was linked to its ability to wrestle the intellectual interpretation of trances, fits and visions away from its theological rivals - so effectively, that many denominations used the same arguments to 'debunk' the the so-called 'ecstatic' religious experiences of its rivals, while continuing to maintain their denomination provided the 'real occurrence'. Theologians soon dropped their claim in this domain, the movie "The Exorcist" notwithstanding.

We know that we are animals, parts of the natural order, bound by laws which tie us to the material forces which govern everything. We strongly suspect that the gods are our invention, the supernatural, once accepted without question is conspicuous by its absence, and that means death is exactly what it seems. Our world has been disenchanted and our illusions destroyed. At the same time we most people do not want to live as though that were the whole truth of our condition.

With the repudiation of the literal word of the Bible, came knowledge of the great evil and harm done in the name of religion, a further dilution of moral authority, not from a replacement of fiction with facts, but by the knowledge that what was intended as a force for good in society and the individual had been exactly the opposite - and this had gone undetected by men of goodwill.

It also had another implication - we could no longer entirely trust beliefs as ordained by God, but had to use reason to determine what was consistant with the message of Jesus and actual good works. In the last hundred years, theology has been allowed to range further and further from traditional beliefs in an effort to find 'truth' from a perspective that was ultimately humane, moral and beneficial, and had a basis of some kind in the teachings of Jesus. Nothing was out of bounds, save for a dismissal of Jesus as a teacher, even his divinity and the nature of divinity was and is debated. Scholars even went back and carefully studied and debated the writings of the most noted Biblical scholar of the last 500 years, Sir Issac Newton, whose research led him to a belief that Jesus, while a savoir and messiah, was an ordinary man, and he should not be worshipped.

I contend that a belief structure at its core satisfies a human need, not for a belief system itself, rather it is natural for most humans to want to belong, to be within a group with shared values and beliefs that reinforce their own - both within and beyond a family - and this has a biological basis. The desire for tribal identity has a long history - it is a part of the human condition, part of just not Homo sapiens, but extending back to our earliest beginnings as a member of the genus Homo. Belonging to a group enhanced the chances of survival. As such we have a drive to find expression of that role in our lives.

Aspects of modern man, such as significance, love, relationship, and the fear of nonbeing can be addressed by another human trait - the existence of meaningful aesthetic experience. In the sentiment of appreciation for the pleasure it brings, for in the sentiment of the sublime we seem to be able to see beyond the world, to something otherwise inexpressible in which it is somehow grounded.

I think for Rational Christianity, the 'beliefs' for many, if not most a form of devotion akin in generality if greater in degree to being a sports 'fan' for a local team, and every bit as unconscious - and like sports, delivering the 'goods', providing the feelings, fellowship and tribal idenity they need. It comforts in the modern age, aesthetic value is a subjective reality that cannot be reduced to 'nothing but atoms in the void'.

So, we have a combination of a belief system that by its own profession is forced to seek tenets closer and closer to an ideal of morality and compassion, moving further and further from from arbitrary rules and regulations to actual ethics of love and conduct based on what is called the 'golden rule'. Culture keeps the specifics of increasingly less important concepts like the supernatural within the faith - but for most believers, the supernatural aspects are something they accept without critical examination, it's just part of the shared tribal beliefs, with no impact in their everyday lives.

Prayer is an outlet for meditation and other important needs, like the easement of fear, and the acceptance, the reconciliation of our lifes events, good and bad. It too delivers the 'goods' for many that practice it.

For many if not most, Rational Chriatianity is an aesthetic experience, it is an activity that believers have an introduced cultural appreciation for, as real as a favorite pizza, a favorite team, or the way their family prepared a favorite recipe, but much more broadly humanizing and sustaining. by enhancing their perception of existence. It provides resolution to a real human need.

So why does that modern person accept the story of the resurrection? It makes them feel good. They keep that belief in a place where it doesn't conflict with the real world, one of the few still available as a haven to faith in the modern world, as an unconscious aesthetic experience.

Date: 2006-01-20 10:44:09
Link to this Comment: 17701

The previous post was my reaction to 10,000 Christian Clergy signing the following letter:

An Open Letter Concerning Religion and Science

Within the community of Christian believers there are areas of dispute and disagreement, including the proper way to interpret Holy Scripture. While virtually all Christians take the Bible seriously and hold it to be authoritative in matters of faith and practice, the overwhelming majority do not read the Bible literally, as they would a science textbook. Many of the beloved stories found in the Bible – the Creation, Adam and Eve, Noah and the ark – convey timeless truths about God, human beings, and the proper relationship between Creator and creation expressed in the only form capable of transmitting these truths from generation to generation. Religious truth is of a different order from scientific truth. Its purpose is not to convey scientific information but to transform hearts.

We the undersigned, Christian clergy from many different traditions, believe that the timeless truths of the Bible and the discoveries of modern science may comfortably coexist. We believe that the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests. To reject this truth or to treat it as “one theory among others” is to deliberately embrace scientific ignorance and transmit such ignorance to our children. We believe that among God’s good gifts are human minds capable of critical thought and that the failure to fully employ this gift is a rejection of the will of our Creator. To argue that God’s loving plan of salvation for humanity precludes the full employment of the God-given faculty of reason is to attempt to limit God, an act of hubris. We urge school board members to preserve the integrity of the science curriculum by affirming the teaching of the theory of evolution as a core component of human knowledge. We ask that science remain science and that religion remain religion, two very different, but complementary, forms of truth.

I separate Christianity into two branches, the Rational branch is represented by the letter above, the Irrational branch holds to an absolute belief in the literal word of the Bible.

I received a challenge to my separation, it was stated that the two branches of Christianity were both irrational, and only varied in degree.

The previous post and the rest of this one was my answer. The challenge was a belief in the resurrection.

I have demonstrated that Rational Christianity has allowed theology to be developed and taught within its ranks that place the resurrection entirely outside of a historical element. I won't repeat the lengthy theology here.

I have demonstrated that is it physically possible that the resurrection could have a historical basis of misidentification of death, and therefore that story, as handed down by the people of the time, could be a reasonable conclusion given the knowledge and culture it came from.

Which brings us to the Rational Christians of today. What then are we to make of a professed belief in the supernatural, shall we label all of Rational Christianity as irrational, that the terminology of Rational Christianity has no meaning, no context, no applicablity, that it is merely Irrational Christianity expressed to a lesser degree?

I say no. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. I maintain that the beliefs allowed within Rational Christianity can be construed to view the events and location of the supernatural as a matter of aesthetics.

My own view of existence is that I, and everything in existence, is part and parcel of the universe in and of itself. Consciousness, as expressed by my consciousness, the consciousness of people, animals, plants - any animated matter - is in fact a form of self-awareness on the part of the universe, with all the limitations and opportunties imposed by the life form one finds oneself occupying.

I like this philosophy. It is heavily influenced by, but not a direct conclusion of the scientific method. It is an aesthetic judgement.

Unless I myself am willing to label all aesthetic judgements as irrational out of hand, I cannot label all of Rational Christianity as irrational. Belief in the supernatural, as an aesthetic expression, with no denial of reality, no opposition to the real world sciences or scientific method, has placed itself outside of the rational sphere - without an impact, whence are we to point fingers at the entirety of Rational Christianity?

I do not deny that there are those within Rational Christianity that are irrational. I do not deny that many official teaching within Rational Christian denominations are irrational. However, given the range of theological freedom within Rational Christianity, its demonstrated ability to adapt and change its teachings, and its opposition to interference in the purely rational field of science and the scientific method, I say it is unfair to say that Rational Christianity is irrational A priori.

I would not judge those with different aesthetics to be irrational because they differ with mine. As we have seen within these very threads, even one that does not share a belief in the supernatural can enjoy the aesthetic cultural pleasures to be found in those beliefs:


Quote: Originally posted by muddybanks
I was married in front of a Catholic priest and felt no insincerity in doing so since most of the people in my culture use the Catholic Church as a similar means. This could have been done in front of a judge simply to satisfy the legal requirement but we happen to like the ceremony and formal atmosphere that the Church provides.

I rest my case, however imperfectly expressed.

spirit and uncertainty
Name: debb Harri
Date: 2006-03-01 02:49:33
Link to this Comment: 18412

Spirituality as fragile as it appears speaks of itself in whispers.
You ask how does the spiritual become tangible?
As you perceived
You thought
formed a question
typed a word.
Perception became form.

The black questions of spirituality are many.

Is this all my own perception?
If so, am I all there is?
And then am I responsible fo all of this?
What was I thinking?

Instantly my longing is for division,
warring within myself
that I may create the other
to blame, to love
that I may seek union.

For me this is the nightmare
that spirituality too easily becomes
through the vast ocean of organizations
philosophers, scientists, and prophets,
insecure in uncertainty
Imagine . . .
What if we stopped asking why
Long enough to experience this.

What if we felt safe?
What if we forgave ourselves?

Name: Elizabeth
Date: 2006-08-20 22:26:50
Link to this Comment: 20188

I was just thinking about how much the desire to "make" things or perhaps more accurately to "own" things is tied up w/ my spiritual experinces. I've never been able to get to a sense of spirituality without some "thing" which gets me there. I guess this is rather obvious but it nevertheless still feels interesting because spirit seems to be the complete anti-thing so why would I have to get to it by way of something that it's not. we don't usually, for example, get to love through hate or to california by going to delaware. So within the spirit is there any type of materiality that would justify the tangential routes taken? I just brought back some small mexican glass stones from Texas and when I look at them i imagine light shining through them and I imagine laying each one on the skin of my thigh (i was sitting down and they were in a basket and i was wearing shorts)...choosing which ones that I wanted. It's silly but I felt that I loved each one enough to pick it and that somehow looking at them I can feel "them" returning that love. This is all very silly because they exist outside of me and this is all in my mind but the compulsion is interesting. Again it seems an issue of color touching skin. I just wonder why certain material choices are made and if they have to do with something inmaterial.

Focus on your essence
Name: Judy
Date: 2006-10-26 20:10:22
Link to this Comment: 20777

We all must take time to take stock of our very essence, which is our soul. There is an interesting story of a woman being weighed one day at the hospital. She died later that day and they weighed her again. She weighed EXACTLY the same, she did not lose an ounce. The lesson from this is whatever made up her very life, didn't weigh anything. We are not physical beings. We are spiritual beings having a physical experience. We get wrapped up in temporal secular things like watching too much TV and the drone of day to day life, and get sucked into the materialism that is all around us. Walking in nature is great for our soul, but also for good physical health and even weight loss if we need it. We still need to take care of our bodies, as they can sometimes be an outward expression of our inner selves. We must never lose sight of our true essence, however.

fractal electric key to spiritual science
Name: dan winter
Date: 2007-02-11 02:04:02
Link to this Comment: 21449

suggest you consider how fractal fields solve
physics behind spiritual / conscious experience

Feb 07,07: The 'Fractal Vacuum'-Ultimate DEFINITION of ENERGY EFFICIENCY (& Energy Sustainability)will ALWAYS be FRACTALITY!- Golden Ratio in EEG Evidences Fractal Electrical Nature of Bliss / Life Force / Gravity Phi Golden Ratio Implosive Symmetry = charge attracted into faster than light fractally perfect distribution - versus - Octave / cubic wave symmetry = charge stored in a matrix.
1. Fractal Vacuum allows Perception by Phase Conjugation: Golden EEG Research- illustrative example- transforming A.D.D. / Addiction into Bliss.
2. WHY Fractality is the key to environmentalism / sustainability / energy efficiency - because it is the key to sustaining charge attraction.
3. Fractal Synthesizer - New Phi Harmonic Interactive Software - demo - download - animations. + Frank's view of perception= phase conjugation.
4. Fibonnacci / Golden String & the Perfect Knot in DNA- pictorial literature examples.
5. 'Observer Physics': Phase Conjugation MAKES AN OBSERVER- out of the CHARGE COMPRESSING electric field CALLED ATTENTION.
6. Fractality and the 'Nature' of the Vacuum / Physics and the Djedi.-with review and link to Nassim's film on the FRACTAL VACUUM.
7. How Fractal Self Similarity between electrons and nucleus - creates the gravity / charge collapse that holds atoms together.
8. Maharishi's Mistake-REAL Brain COHERENCE - Biofeedback vs: the 'Maharishi Mistake. The Maharishi University (of COHERENCE) Graduate Dean Responds.. Learns..
9. "Oe-dipal" origins of human evolution- where the ANU urge-turns wave inside out.
10. new- Science of Fractality - articles reference index (from )

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Date: 2007-04-26 12:16:16
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