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God (Part 2): God Epistemology

 
 
Reply Sat 14 Feb, 2009 04:03 pm
[SIZE="4"]GOD EPISTEMOLOGY

This is Part 2 of a three part series. I don't think this thread will make much sense unless you first read Part 1, "Anti-God Reasoning Blunders" here: http://www.philosophyforum.com/forum/philosophy-forums/branches-philosophy/philosophy-religion/3631-god-part-1-anti-god-reasoning-blunders.html

My final point in Part 1 was to ponder, what if knowing God requires a different epistemology from knowing the physical universe? It's a good question because if it does, then no matter how much we understand about investigating and manipulating physical situations, none of that skill may be transferable to knowing God.

In Part 1 I also mentioned that the standard for knowing is experience; that is, we seek to observe what we imagine or predict is true. No non-experiential means for knowing has ever been shown effective (math lovers: math helps figure out where to look for observation, but does not prove anything about reality by itself). So even if you want to reverse a couple of centuries of epistemological understanding to believe there is another way to know besides through experience, let's not debate that here.

If we accept that experiencing something is the only way to know it, then the next question is, "is there any sort of conscious experience besides sense experience that's available to humans which produces knowledge?" The answer is, YES, though it is an epistemology relatively few people in Western culture are familiar with.

As I mentioned in Part 1, people often have a filter in place that requires all matters submitted as "true," able to be viewed with the senses, or understood with the intellect. If you wear this filter, I hope you can open your mind for a bit and investigate free of bias. I say that because the epistemology I speak of would never survive the modern Western filter since it requires one to withdraw from the senses, and learn to bring the intellect to rest quietly.

The development of this epistemology began some 2800 years ago in the forests of India. By the time Siddhartha Gautama joined the group 300 years later, several methods had been developed for stilling the mind. For example, one's attention is turned 180 degrees to the rear of normal focus, one identifies a brightness and vibrancy at the core of consciousness, and beneath and behind the breath one can discover the most subtle pulse that eventually seems to cause practitioners to believe the very universe itself is breathing (and breathing all of us along with it).

After plenty of practice, another potential manifests: oneness. If you close your eyes and take stock of your mind and body, you will find mind consumed by multiple issues and various tensions in the body. But in the oneness experience, all the mind's issues and all the body's energies integrate into one tranquil experience; the mind stills, emotions subside, the body relaxes. It truly is amazing to feel, nothing is quite as enjoyable as this peace; amazing as well is to discover just how segmented and compartmentalized consciousness really is. The contrast of the two experiences, oneness and fragmented, is dramatic.

Yet there is still more. Walk outside within the experience of oneness and the sky seems part of your mind. Well, that might be one's first interpretation but it's wrong; as one's experience grows one realizes mind seems part of the sky. It is like some vast mind has been joined, or at least that one has become aware of being part of it for the first time.

There are two "official" names for this oneness. In India the term is samadhi, and in the West the term is union. I know about this both from study (where, after switching from biology, I specialized in the history of oneness/union experience for my undergrad degree), and I have also practiced union daily for 35 years, just as I did this morning for an hour at dawn.

As a subject it is known by the rather unfortunate term "mysticism" in the West, and is far too complex to attempt giving fair treatment here (I say it's "unfortunate" because the term mysticism is often associated with the supernatural, and that is not the meaning of it in this context). A classic book by Evelyn Underhill "Mysticism" is a good way to start reading about it: Amazon.com: Mysticism: Evelyn Underhill: Books

Most have heard of some of the internal practices developed in the East, but many find it a surprise just how extensively union was practiced in the West beginning not so long after Jesus' death, and continuing (primarily in monasteries) until the 18th century. A few links to books:

Amazon.com: The Desert Fathers: Helen Waddell, Basil Pennington: Books

Amazon.com: The Practice of the Presence of God: Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection: Books

Amazon.com: Lost Christianity: Jacob Needleman: Books

Amazon.com: Interior Castle St Teresa of Avila(A Pure Gold Classic) Includes audio excerpt CD (Pure Gold Classics): Saint Teresa of Avila: Books

Amazon.com: Caves of God: Cappadocia and its Churches (Oxford Paperbacks): Spiro Kostof, Malcolm C. Carpenter: Books

Amazon.com: The Secret Gospel: The Discovery and Interpretation of the Secret Gospel According to Mark: Morton Smith: Books


My main assertions:

1. The most powerful and reliable reports of "God" stem from individuals who had attained the union experience.

2. In the union experience, the sense of having joined a huge mind is what has led to the concept of "God."

3. All the great "God" people were deeply absorbed in union, some permanently such as Moses, the Buddha, Jesus, Kabir, Nanak, the Baal Shem Tov and, yes, even Mohammad.

4. Religion (in contrast to the union experience) is a sort of sense-bound, intellectual attempt at translating an experience that is utterly not-graspable by the intellect and senses into what non-experiencers of union can relate to (I should add that I'm not proposing that religion can't help people discover union). I'll call this translation sense-mind translation.

Hence, religious concepts tend to be packed with exaggerated speculations about God's power, knowledge, etc. that reflect imagination and logical inference rather than the direct experience of the features of reality that union exposes, and religious debates tend to take the form of intellectual fisticuffs based on these non-knowing, inferred concepts.

A way I might put it is, it is 100% "religion" if it is 100% concept or concept-derived. The concepts and their derivations come as "beliefs" that have insufficient personal experience supporting them, or are built into emotion-stirring practices meant to simulate the powerful experience of union. And what is wrong with that? It is like trying to satisfy hunger with the mere concept or ritual of eating of food . . . we know only the actual experience of food nourishes. In my opinion, the majority of atheists/agnostics are so decided because of the failure to experience anything satisfying through religion, and so incorrectly conclude there is no God rather than suspect maybe the God epistemology they know is ineffective.


5. Most actual union experiencers simply experience joining something huge, feel a deep love, peace and bliss from doing so, and find (after experiencing oneness) their own tiny little separate self to be an illusion of exalted self-importance. Confusing to many is that the way they talk about their experience is usually tied to the discipline within which they are practicing. For example, consider the words of Julian of Norwich (a fourteenth century monastic) describing the "great mind" aspect of union experience:

""And then the Lord opened my ghostly eye and shewed my soul in the midst of my heart. I saw the Soul as it were an endless world, and as it were a blissful kingdom . . . . Man's soul is a creature in God which hath the same properties made, and evermore it does what it was made for: it seeth God, it beholdeth God, and it loveth God."

As you can see, Julian's religious background has her interpreting it as "God." But now look at the Buddha's more neutral description as a "plane":

"There is, monks, that plane where there is neither extension nor motion. . . there is no coming or going or remaining or deceasing or uprising. . . . There is, monks, an unborn, not become, not made, uncompounded . . . [and] because [that exists] . . . an escape can be shown for what is born, has become, is made, is compounded." *

For me, any interpretation by someone truly experiencing oneness is beautiful. It doesn't really matter if one translates it theistically, devotionally, yogically, poetically, philosophically, or any other sincere way. Call it the "great mind" experience or call it the "kingdom of heaven" or call it "nirvana" . . . what difference do the terms mean if you can actually get to the experience? Only the non-experienced want to fight about it, but if all one cares about is having the experience, then every knower's unique expression is an opportunity to deepen one's own appreciation of the union experience.

* I know a lot of people say the Buddha was an atheist, but that is the typical sort of mistaken "sense-mind translation" the non-experienced make. What he really said was that speculating on what union experience reveals about the soul or God does not contribute anything to one's practice: "I have not declared these things because that is not conducive to the purpose, not the way to embark on the holy life, it does not lead to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to calm, to higher knowledge, to enlightenment . . . that is why I have not declared it." It's like a coach answering his player's question, "will I be champion," with "practice and find out."


Okay, now on to the Part 3 of the series: http://www.philosophyforum.com/forum/philosophy-forums/branches-philosophy/philosophy-religion/3633-god-part-3-self-evolution-consciousness.html
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hammersklavier
 
  1  
Reply Sun 15 Feb, 2009 02:53 pm
@LWSleeth,
Given the uniqueness of Spinoza's monistic God--his assertion that God comprises the totality of substance and we are but mere modes--among early modern thinkers, is it possible that he experienced this same phenomenon and tried to explicate it (inadequately, as it turns out) in the jargon of philosophy?
LWSleeth
 
  1  
Reply Sun 15 Feb, 2009 04:37 pm
@hammersklavier,
hammersklavier;48862 wrote:
Given the uniqueness of Spinoza's monistic God--his assertion that God comprises the totality of substance and we are but mere modes--among early modern thinkers, is it possible that he experienced this same phenomenon and tried to explicate it (inadequately, as it turns out) in the jargon of philosophy?


I have tried in my studies to create categories for the various degrees someone might experience "oneness." I've nothing formal, but I do think some intuitively pick up on it without ever experiencing full union, but it nonetheless guides their expressions. For a philosopher like Spinoza, it was expressed as ontology; for an poet like Blake, it was expressed as verse.

Most of the people who practice for years to very specifically attain union however seem to give the best reports no matter what form of expression they take.
Resha Caner
 
  1  
Reply Thu 26 Feb, 2009 08:24 pm
@LWSleeth,
Hmm. There's little I agree with for part 2, but I don't know what basis we could find for discussing it.

It opened well ... I liked the first few paragraphs, but then it began to suffer from the typical problems of those who interpret things mystically. I am well aware of the "Jesus prayer" of Orthodox Christians and the "silent prayer" of Catholic monastics. But don't make more of it than it is.

This is my problem with such sweeping statements. Is there anyone in an ancient religion who wasn't a mystic according to your reading? To appropriate the likes of Moses and Jesus is, in my opinion, intellectually dishonest. And this is why. Most mystics (I see you prefer the word "union", so should I call you a "unionist"?) say, as you have, that understanding comes through experience. I'm fine with that in many ways. But does that not mean that one cannot understand mysticism by reading about it? Again, most mystics seem to say so.

I would think you do not expect to explain with your words. At best you would hope to sway someone to attempt the experience.

If such is the case, then how can you claim Moses was a mystic when all you can do is read about him?
Axis Austin
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 Feb, 2009 11:50 pm
@Resha Caner,
I loved your first post, but got lost in this one. Just a few things:
It seems dubious that experience is the only means of knowledge.
Are you saying that you can experience God directly through this union thinking, as opposed to contemplating through the Western filter indirectly?
I do like your notion that there is a different epistemology for thinking about God than thinking about the universe. Maybe this isn't your point, but what I thought of was the charge by scientists (in my experience) against metaphysics. They have a deep-rooted, unfounded belief in what can be proved, and dismiss any claims of metaphysics. This seems off-base to me. Anyway... (I probably shouldn't post as I drink whiskey lol)
LWSleeth
 
  1  
Reply Sat 28 Feb, 2009 01:31 am
@Axis Austin,
[SIZE="3"]
Axis Austin;51116 wrote:
I loved your first post . . .


Thanks.

Axis Austin;51116 wrote:
. . . but got lost in this one.


This seems to be a more difficult subject for people who are unfamiliar with it than I imagined it would be.


Axis Austin;51116 wrote:
It seems dubious that experience is the only means of knowledge.


I think you already believe it, even if you don't realize it. What do you know absolutely for certain? I say, only what you are experiencing right this instant (i.e., any instant of "now"), and those experiences you accurately remember from the past.

You might say, I "know" my friend is sane, but I'd answer that unless you are now in the presence of your friend, you only "know" that the last time you experienced your friend he/she appeared to be sane.

All I am suggesting is that the level of certainty we label "knowing" is established in our consciousness by experiencing it. Of course, that doesn't stop a lot of people from claiming they know through other means, from logic or scripture for example.


Axis Austin;51116 wrote:
Are you saying that you can experience God directly through this union thinking, as opposed to contemplating through the Western filter indirectly?


No. Union "thinking" gets one no closer to union than any other kind of "thinking." Union isn't achieved via thinking.


Axis Austin;51116 wrote:
I do like your notion that there is a different epistemology for thinking about God than thinking about the universe.


I suspect I've been doing a poor job of explaining union, so I'll try a new approach. The two epistemologies aren't two different types of thinking, they are two entirely different classes of conscious activity.

If you want to deeply enjoy a sunset, would you employ the same part of your consciousness you use to figure out the sun's composition through spectral analysis?

We really have very two distinct sides to our consciousness. The side that requires us to analyze, calculate, plan, predict, envision all in service to reason. This intellectual side of us is trained from birth, nurtured in school, and heavily depended on for career and therefore survival.

But there is another side too, and sadly it is poorly developed. That side is the part of us that can appreciate and feel. This sensitivity side, I am suggesting, can be developed, just like the intellectual side can.

Some people, like the Buddha, figured out a whole new way to use our sensitivity side. It was discovered that if you can become perfectly still, and I mean an absolutely quiet mind, sensitivity is heightened far beyond anything we are normally used to.

The reason for the Buddha's success (and many afterwards, such as those I mention is this thread) is due to discovering there is yet another part to us, an aspect that is already and always perfectly still. So instead trying to force the mind to quiet, all you have to do is find and "merge" with this still place and it automatically brings the mind to quiet. This merging is called "samadhi" in the East, and "union" in the West. One of the most popular names given to the already-still part of us is "heart," which is why you hear so many references to that by inner practitioners.

Applying this idea to "God epistemology," I've been trying to suggest that the most reliable reports of God have come from people who've attained the sensitivity perfect stillness brings. You can feel God, but you can't think it.


Axis Austin;51116 wrote:
Maybe this isn't your point, but what I thought of was the charge by scientists (in my experience) against metaphysics. They have a deep-rooted, unfounded belief in what can be proved, and dismiss any claims of metaphysics. This seems off-base to me.


Well, this idea fits what I've just been saying. Scientists do not rely on that aspect of consciousness that reveals the absolute foundation of things; science epistemology only reveals physicalness, and then some people who exclusively rely on scientific epistemology fallaciously conclude only physicalness exists. But all they can really say accurately is that science just gives physical knowledge, and not that there is only physicalness.

If someone tries to view a Picasso with his ears, is he correct to say there's no such thing as a Picasso because no one has ever detected a Picasso with his ears? Or is it that he simply needs to learn how to use his eyes?[/SIZE]
LWSleeth
 
  1  
Reply Sat 28 Feb, 2009 10:41 am
@Resha Caner,
[SIZE="3"]
Resha Caner;50890 wrote:
It opened well ... I liked the first few paragraphs, but then it began to suffer from the typical problems of those who interpret things mystically.


You are wrong to think I'm "interpreting" things mystically. If I'd never read a single word by past union practitioners, I'd still see things the same way from my own experience. But I can see how to you it might seem "mystical." I don't know what "typical problems" you are talking about, but maybe it has to do with your own problem of being unable to reconcile the inner practitioner's reports with anything you are personally familiar with.


Resha Caner;50890 wrote:
I am well aware of the "Jesus prayer" of Orthodox Christians and the "silent prayer" of Catholic monastics. But don't make more of it than it is.


That's a strange thing to say. How do you know what "it is"? I don't know how you can make more (or less) of something if you haven't experienced it. Are you saying it is so much nonsense that all you have to do is skim the subject and you have enough understanding to dismiss it?


Resha Caner;50890 wrote:
This is my problem with such sweeping statements. Is there anyone in an ancient religion who wasn't a mystic according to your reading?


Yes there are, that's an unfair characterization of what I've said. My statement isn't that sweeping; in fact, I carefully chose the people on the list. I don't think I can explain the criteria I use here, there isn't enough space or time. But there are signs that identify those who've merged (more on that below).


Resha Caner;50890 wrote:
I would think you do not expect to explain with your words. At best you would hope to sway someone to attempt the experience.


Very true, words can't express it. But I don't hope to "sway" as much as I hope to bring a little clarity to how someone must examine the claims.


Resha Caner;50890 wrote:
But does that not mean that one cannot understand mysticism by reading about it? Again, most mystics seem to say so. . . . If such is the case, then how can you claim Moses was a mystic when all you can do is read about him?


Yes! That is exactly what it means. So how do I identify people in union? Let me try an analogy. Say today people can't taste their food, and so don't even have a concept for "taste." I claim that there were people in past however, who practiced a way to stimulate tastes buds and so developed this ability to "taste."

Everybody knows about the people who I say taste; they've read their writings about food being salty or sweet or creamy but because people today lack the concept of taste altogether, they have translated what past tasters were doing into a philosophy about the meaning of flavors.

One group has argued for centuries that sweet means you should go "mmmmmmm" when eating, another group strongly disagrees and claims your eyes should light up, another group says it means you should smile, and so on.

Now I come along and say, "look you guys, their behavior when eating isn't what was really going on, those guys were tasting, and their expressions or smiles were reactions to the experience." They say, "tasting, what the hell is tasting, and how do you know that's what was happening?

I come back with, "Well, there is a long history of people practicing stimulating the taste buds, making them come alive." They say, "Oh yes, we've heard of that mystical crap, we dismissed that long ago as people just wanting to believe in strange things."

So, to answer your question . . . if I were writing a book (as I am on union) about the history of learning to taste, I could identify past tasters IF I had tasted myself and knew what to look for in past practitioners.


Resha Caner;50890 wrote:
To appropriate the likes of Moses and Jesus is, in my opinion, intellectually dishonest.


I just explained what I think qualifies me to identify people who experienced union (add to that nearly 40 years of research). I don't believe I'm intellectually dishonest to say Jesus et al were within union, but I would agree that you can fault me in one way because I did bring the subject up in a setting that doesn't allow me enough room to make my case. It's been a "life's work" sort of thing for me; I suppose I hoped I could leave some hints and that would interest a few enough to do the research on their own.[/SIZE]
Axis Austin
 
  1  
Reply Sat 28 Feb, 2009 10:46 am
@LWSleeth,
LWSleeth wrote:
I think you already believe it, even if you don't realize it. What do you know absolutely for certain? I say, only what you are experiencing right this instant (i.e., any instant of "now"), and those experiences you accurately remember from the past.

You might say, I "know" my friend is sane, but I'd answer that unless you are now in the presence of your friend, you only "know" that the last time you experienced your friend he/she appeared to be sane.

All I am suggesting is that the level of certainty we label "knowing" is established in our consciousness by experiencing it. Of course, that doesn't stop a lot of people from claiming they know through other means, from logic or scripture for example.

No. Union "thinking" gets one no closer to union than any other kind of "thinking." Union isn't achieved via thinking.


I understand your point about knowledge requiring experience, but I disagree. I personally buy into the notion of a priori knowledge of the concepts space & time, at least. As for my friend's sanity, it's not just based on experience. It's based on other things, such as logic. In the same way that I know that when I throw a rock it will break the window, not just from experience but also due to knowledge of the substances "rock" and "window", so too I know my friend is sane based on his character. Of course experience plays a large role, but it's not the only role.

As for "feeling" God through stillness, I have no doubt that many people experience God in this way. But, or course, many others experience God through thinking and acting. When somebody has a revelation about God, that I've heard of, it's often because they got some sort of result from an action and they feel it is God's intervention. So I think there are many ways to experience God.
LWSleeth
 
  1  
Reply Sat 28 Feb, 2009 11:20 am
@Axis Austin,
[SIZE="3"]
Axis Austin;51188 wrote:
I understand your point about knowledge requiring experience, but I disagree. I personally buy into the notion of a priori knowledge of the concepts space & time, at least. As for my friend's sanity, it's not just based on experience. It's based on other things, such as logic. In the same way that I know that when I throw a rock it will break the window, not just from experience but also due to knowledge of the substances "rock" and "window", so too I know my friend is sane based on his character. Of course experience plays a large role, but it's not the only role.


You say you know if you throw a rock it will break the window. I say you don't know that your rock will break some specific window until you actually throw it and observe the window break. What you do know is that in the past you have thrown a rock and it broke the window; your logic tells you (probably accurately) that if you throw it again the window will break again. But you don't really know for sure (the window, for example, could be a type of break-resistant glass).

This the basis of all modern epistemology. To know you must observe, and since we can only observe in the "now," all knowing is limited to the fullest experience of now we can have (or learn to develop, as I've been suggesting)

I think were the confusion comes in is the practical considerations of proceeding with the activities of life if we didn't assume reality was going to stay the same in certain ways. Yes, that is dependent on logic and conceptual understanding, and awareness of past knowing moments of "now," to project what is likely to happen if we do such and such.

That projected bit of logic we tend to call, as you are, knowing, but it really isn't. It is interpretation and generalization of past known events, projected through our expectations of how reality will function. After moving to California and experiencing my first earthquake, I came face to face with something I totally assumed I knew was constant, but suddenly wasn't.

What's ironic is that this practical projection of assumptions, while allowing us to proceed intelligently, can also be our biggest enemy to knowing more! That's because we come to think knowledge is a concrete, decided-once-and-for-all thing, and so our mind becomes evermore rigid as we get older.

Personally I think Aristotle got it right with his conception of epoche. I use it by trying never to believe anything permanently, but rather to maintain views of which some are more supported by experience than others. That which is most supported by experience is my highest level of certainty, but I never allow any door to be closed once and for all on reconsidering any aspect of reality.


Axis Austin;51188 wrote:
As for "feeling" God through stillness, I have no doubt that many people experience God in this way. But, or course, many others experience God through thinking and acting. When somebody has a revelation about God, that I've heard of, it's often because they got some sort of result from an action and they feel it is God's intervention. So I think there are many ways to experience God.


Well, you didn't really distinguish between the action/result and the experience. I'd suggest that anyone who genuinely has the experience of God from some incident has been made still and able to feel beyond their normal levels by the incident.[/SIZE]
0 Replies
 
Axis Austin
 
  1  
Reply Sat 28 Feb, 2009 02:02 pm
@LWSleeth,
You say anybody who experiences God has been "made still and able to feel beyond their normal levels by the incident". Will you support this further? How are they made still? And is "stillness" really at the essence of this experience, because that seems strange to me.

As for rocks breaking windows, I simply disagree with your notion of "knowledge". As Hume pointed out, with whom you obviously agree, we only think we know the rock will break the window. We can only truly know when we see it happen, now. But I don't think knowledge is so strictly limited. I admit, I can't get around your/Hume's idea that we can't truly "know" rocks break windows, nor can I know that other people exist, if I'm trying to answer such objections. But I don't think one needs to answer these objections to know. As surely as I can, I know that when I throw a rock at a window (a large rock thrown hard at a fragile window) that it will break. I don't need to wait to see it happen, I KNOW it will. (As long as I've taken into account the size & force of the rock, and certain qualities of the window).

So at the end of this, I guess I'll agree to disagree, but there's my view.
LWSleeth
 
  1  
Reply Sat 28 Feb, 2009 03:41 pm
@Axis Austin,
[quote=Axis Austin]You say anybody who experiences God has been "made still and able to feel beyond their normal levels by the incident". Will you support this further? How are they made still? And is "stillness" really at the essence of this experience, because that seems strange to me.[/quote]

I don't know if you read that I practice being still, so I know something about it experientially. I mention that to preface this story.

Once someone suddenly crossed over two lanes and smashed right into my car. Both cars were totaled, but neither I nor the other driver were seriously hurt. At the instant of the shock, I went into such a state of stillness I almost wasn't sorry the accident happened (being a lover of the experience); I couldn't even talk (nor did I want to) it was so solidly present. This was in contrast to the other guy who was freaking, had an ambulance come, etc. but later wished he hadn't (or so he said) because of the unnecessary expense.

Another incident is reflected in my avatar I use here, which is little self-portrait I took while meditating at a high spot in Yosemite. The climb to that location was enough work that I hadn't paid much attention to anything but the path. When I suddenly emerged at the point of that view of the whole valley, I was struck quiet by the awesomeness of the scene (probably helped by endorphins). I read of one the astronauts had a religious conversion after his trip in space (I couldn't find which one, so I'm not sure it's true). But if true, I can understand it so easily because of what the experience of vastness and feeling utter quiet together do to consciousness.

Growing up I've done some really dumb things that ended up quieting the desire that was getting me into trouble. And in my own daily practice I have definitely noticed the direct relationship of feeling at peace and how that naturally results in wanting to be good, experience more love; I also naturally feel a connection to something much greater than myself in that peace, and that is what I call God. I don't know much about its characteristics beyond oneness and being non-physical, but I do know I love being with it.

When I talk to others who say they believe in God, and I press them on what they actually feel (instead of what they "believe" or think or have been told by religion), I have never heard a truthful answer yet that didn't give me the impression they felt a peace, a presence, a love, a oneness (what is love anyway but oneness with the beloved).


[quote=Axis Austin]As surely as I can, I know that when I throw a rock at a window (a large rock thrown hard at a fragile window) that it will break. I don't need to wait to see it happen, I KNOW it will. (As long as I've taken into account the size & force of the rock, and certain qualities of the window).

So at the end of this, I guess I'll agree to disagree, but there's my view.[/quote]

I don't know if your last sentence is trying to say you don't want to discuss it. If that's what you mean, then don't answer my response. You are entitled to your belief and I wouldn't want to push you. I just find this subject so interesting I'll keep going if you do.

Regarding your paragraph above that last sentence, let's see what you know.

You know that you have thrown or observed others throwing rocks at fragile glass and it breaks. If you know what's been the nature of the rock and glass, your certainty is high that reproducing the force and conditions of previous glass breakings will again cause the glass to break.

But is it that you actually know that particular glass will break, or is it that you know the principles that give you certainty have reliably worked in the past? Plus, you also know of no reason to suspect reality isn't going to work the same way now as it has in the past.

I think we have to distinguish between reasoned certainty and knowing, or come up with a new word for knowing. I say that because of our incredibly ingrained tendency to be 10000000% certain we know only to find out later we really didn't know. As William James said, "To know is one thing, and to know for certain that we know is another."

An illustrative story I've written about before is that of Joseph Lister in his attempts to introduce sterilization into medicine when the medical establishment still believed spontaneous generation and miasmic air caused infections. At the time, surgeries and childbirth were killing many, and we'd expect practiced doctors to have been those most motivated to find the truth. Yet veteran doctors were Lister's biggest critics, some ridiculing him mercilessly.

The correct empirical response above would have been to repeat Lister's antiseptic procedures, and take notice of differences in infection rates between sterile and non-sterile surgery. Someone trained in science knows that better than anyone, yet doctors abandoned the empirical process to substitute their own exalted sense of "knowing," except obviously they didn't really know, they merely believed so strongly it made them think they knew.

So when you say you "know" that glass is going to break when you throw the rock, I think you really mean you are certain based on your past experience with how reality has functioned.

There's a reason why we've reserved the term "know" for experience: it is a high standard for a claim. It has been this high standard that's helped deliver us from at least some of superstition of darker times when people were claiming knowledge of sorts of nonsense; but more importantly, it is the foundation of discovery in modern cultures.
Resha Caner
 
  1  
Reply Sat 28 Feb, 2009 05:02 pm
@LWSleeth,
LWSleeth wrote:
that's an unfair characterization of what I've said. My statement isn't that sweeping; in fact, I carefully chose the people on the list.


It seemed that way to me, but OK.

LWSleeth wrote:
I don't think I can explain the criteria I use here, there isn't enough space or time.


As I said, I'm not sure we have an agreed base upon which we could build a discussion. Though I will say this. Your taste analogy is a good one. I agree with you that discussions of God require a different epistemology, and I was curious to see how you would present this distinct epistemology. No offense, but I was disappointed. To me it seemed the same old pantheism (though you apparently prefer the word panpsychism).

As good as your analogy is - and even if you may be more selective than my first impression - I still think you're merely appropriating famous names from other religions. It's common practice, but something I've never understood. Every new idea (which is really a recycled old idea) that comes along has to prove that Jesus agreed with that idea. It's been happening since the gnostics (sorry Didymos) through Joseph Smith, and it will continue on into the future.

I find it funny that the mainstream must always be wrong in their interpretation. That the contemporaries of the famous name are always wrong. It's the revisionists who are right. It annoys me when people do that to Christianity, and so I try not to do it to other religions. I let the Muslims interpret Mohammed, the Buddhists Siddhartha, the Taoists Lao Tsu, and so forth. And in each of those interpretations I see something unique (beyond mere culture), not a union.

But all we're going to do is bicker about that. I'm more interested in how you're approaching the epistemology issue.
LWSleeth
 
  1  
Reply Sat 28 Feb, 2009 06:42 pm
@Resha Caner,
[quote=Resha Caner]As I said, I'm not sure we have an agreed base upon which we could build a discussion. Though I will say this. Your taste analogy is a good one. I agree with you that discussions of God require a different epistemology, and I was curious to see how you would present this distinct epistemology. No offense, but I was disappointed. To me it seemed the same old pantheism (though you apparently prefer the word panpsychism). [/quote]

You might want to Google panpsychism, but I'm not sure why you'd equate panpsychism, which is ontology, with epistemology.

What disappointed you? I'm not done yet you know Smile, but if you read all my posts here so far I do describe rather explicitly a way of knowing that is quite different than what most people are trying, and which has a long history in a variety of cultures. But let me repeat.

God is subtle, so to know God we must subtle our consciousness. A mind that can't stop thinking consumes its energy in thought, leaving little left over to feel with.

Learn how to stop the mind, and heightened sensitivity results, sensitivity that can then better perceive subtly.

The BIG secret of union was the discovery that there already exists a place at the core of our being that is still, it can be no other way in fact. So if you can turn consciousness to the right place, find that still core/heart, allow your mind to reside with it for a period, the core stillness will actually absorb the mind and bring it to stillness. This is not mere theory to me, I practice this daily and achieve it most days. As Walter Hilton, an English religious of the fourteenth century explained in The Scale of Perfection , ". . . prayer is in the heart alone; it is without words, and is accompanied by great peace and tranquility of body and soul."

In the absorbed, integrated, unified experience another event will eventually happen, and that is the practitioner in a unified internal state will suddenly experience the sense of joining a vastly larger realm. The main symptom of this experience is one of feeling your mind is much "bigger" than normal, but later you realize it isn't really your mind, but a general mind you can be part of if you be still. I think the "kingdom of heaven" is a brilliant description for this. As the nun Julian of Norwich (14th century England) said, "And then the Lord opened my ghostly eye and shewed my soul in the midst of my heart. I saw the Soul as it were an endless world, and as it were a blissful kingdom."

Also, it seems like the brightness of your consciousness has been upped, as though somebody changed your conscious light bulb from a 100 watt to a 150 watt bulb . . . things appear so much brighter and sparkly. I think "enlightenment" is a wonderful way to describe this. As the French Carmelite monastic, Brother Lawrence, wrote in the seventeenth century in his Spiritual Maxims, "Actual union . . . is livelier than that of fire and more luminous than a sun undarkened by a cloud. . . . it is an ineffable state of the soul-gentle, peaceful, devout, respectful, humble, loving and very simple . . ."


[quote=Resha Caner]As good as your analogy is - and even if you may be more selective than my first impression - I still think you're merely appropriating famous names from other religions. It's common practice, but something I've never understood. Every new idea (which is really a recycled old idea) that comes along has to prove that Jesus agreed with that idea. It's been happening since the gnostics (sorry Didymos) through Joseph Smith, and it will continue on into the future. [/quote]

You misjudge me. My interpretations are studied, and I have no religion to push since I really dislike religion (for me personally, I don't mind it for others . . . kind of like how I feel about meat). No, I just don't think the interpretations of Jesus et al make a lick of sense, and as humanity ages, neither do a growing number of them.

Really, do you think the supernatural, water walking, raised from the dead, son of God, virgin birth, going to hell if you don't believe, descending from a cloud cosmic savior of all mankind is such a great interpretation of the man called Jesus who taught 2K ago that we should stop looking for a better understanding?


[quote=Resha Caner]I find it funny that the mainstream must always be wrong in their interpretation. That the contemporaries of the famous name are always wrong. It's the revisionists who are right. It annoys me when people do that to Christianity, and so I try not to do it to other religions. I let the Muslims interpret Mohammed, the Buddhists Siddhartha, the Taoists Lao Tsu, and so forth. And in each of those interpretations I see something unique (beyond mere culture), not a union. [/quote]

Well, I find it funny that you think the mainstream's interpretations should be trusted. Is that the same mainstream that elected G.W. Bush? The same mainstream in the past who've believed in every superstition under the sun? Now that, to me anyway, seems less than intellectually honest.

I don't know if you've read Elaine Pagals book, Beyond Belief, but she brilliantly demonstrates that the "inner" interpretation of Jesus was from the very start at odds with the externalized interpretation. Believe me, this is extremely difficult to sort out or I would do it for you here.

The point I can make now is that what made it to us 2K later is the result of mainstream dominating, not necessarily what Jesus really was about. Examine how Christianity was established, and how dependent it was on very mainstream influences like Constantine, the misery of the dark ages, the Frankish dominance by Clovis, and then Charlemagne. None of these influences were anything like Jesus, yet we should trust them to have decided the nature of Christianity?

Right now, is it the mainstream who could best interpret the understandings of science, for instance? Or is it the relative few?

So looking back when a very difficult to understand event occurred (Jesus), why should we assume the mainstream was any better at understanding then than they are now?
Resha Caner
 
  1  
Reply Sat 28 Feb, 2009 08:46 pm
@LWSleeth,
LWSleeth wrote:
I'm not sure why you'd equate panpsychism, which is ontology, with epistemology.

What disappointed you?


I'm not confusing epistemology with ontology. I'm saying your argument mixes them together. It would be hard for someone to accept what you have put forward as the path to knowing without simultaneously accepting that all matter has consciousness (isn't that the root of panpsychism?). Your argument for one entails the other. You seem to imply that because your experience was pleasant, that confirms your ontology, and therefore you know your experience was true. That doesn't seem flawed to you?

How am I to separate an experience of union from a good night's sleep? Or any other induced state by whatever means?

There's a great book called "The Holy Longing", and one of the points made by the author is how people think sitting on mountaintops is "spiritual". The true test of a person's spiritual mettle is dealing with real people in the down and dirty world. The book says it much better than that, but I think you get my point.

LWSleeth wrote:
Really, do you think the supernatural, water walking, raised from the dead, son of God, virgin birth, going to hell if you don't believe, descending from a cloud cosmic savior of all mankind is such a great interpretation of the man called Jesus who taught 2K ago that we should stop looking for a better understanding?


I realize you don't believe it, but this is a flippant statement, not a credibly critical one.

LWSleeth wrote:
Well, I find it funny that you think the mainstream's interpretations should be trusted.


Maybe mainstream was not the right word, but I think you understand me better than this. I've been through the "Elaine Pagels" thing before. For every Pagels you can show me, I can show you a credible historian who maintains a more traditional reading of Jesus. Further, you're mixing historical digressions in where they aren't relevant. Aren't you succombing to what you would call fallacy #2?

I suppose I meant that there is a consistent interpretation of Christianity that connects today with the time of Jesus. There is no need to rediscover the "original" Jesus. Revisionism is good for getting people doctoral degrees and selling books, but I'm not convinced we're going to know more about Jesus than Paul did - or Ignatius or Polycarp and on and on. Sure, some odd ideas have branched off from the tree of Christianity. But that is true of any basic idea. I could show you some real nuts who live in the mystical world.

If you want to argue my church's professions about Jesus we can do that, but it's not what I was hoping for, and I think I've said that several times now.
LWSleeth
 
  1  
Reply Sun 1 Mar, 2009 02:19 pm
@Resha Caner,
Resha Caner;51248 wrote:
I'm not confusing epistemology with ontology. I'm saying your argument mixes them together. It would be hard for someone to accept what you have put forward as the path to knowing without simultaneously accepting that all matter has consciousness (isn't that the root of panpsychism?). Your argument for one entails the other. You seem to imply that because your experience was pleasant, that confirms your ontology, and therefore you know your experience was true. That doesn't seem flawed to you?


I should have been more precise in my use of the word "panpsychism." Some see it akin to pantheism, as you say, but it also used to describe various models of how the evolution of consciousness preceded and then assisted in the development of our universe. It doesn't necessarily require the concept that every physical thing is conscious somehow, nor is there any reason for a panpsychic model to be other than natural.


Resha Caner;51248 wrote:
How am I to separate an experience of union from a good night's sleep? Or any other induced state by whatever means?


If you aren't going to study the subject you can't separate anything.


Resha Caner;51248 wrote:
There's a great book called "The Holy Longing", and one of the points made by the author is how people think sitting on mountaintops is "spiritual". The true test of a person's spiritual mettle is dealing with real people in the down and dirty world. The book says it much better than that, but I think you get my point.


This is strawman BS. What does "sitting" anywhere have to do with what I've been describing? We sit when we eat, we sit when we watch TV, we sit when we sh*t. I'm not talking about sitting, I am talking about a way, which I went to great lengths to describe, of turning inward. You just want to characterize it superficially so you can dismiss it without having to really study and understand what you are talking about.


Resha Caner;51248 wrote:
I realize you don't believe it, but this is a flippant statement, not a credibly critical one.


No, it's not flippant, it accurately reflects just how credible I believe supernatural claims are, and how ridiculous I think it is for us to take the superstitious and mythical interpretations of ancient folks as literal truth.


Resha Caner;51248 wrote:
Maybe mainstream was not the right word, but I think you understand me better than this. I've been through the "Elaine Pagels" thing before. For every Pagels you can show me, I can show you a credible historian who maintains a more traditional reading of Jesus. Further, you're mixing historical digressions in where they aren't relevant. Aren't you succombing to what you would call fallacy #2?


Pagels is not a "thing." This is another of your baseless dismissals, this time of one of the foremost and objective Christian scholars in the world.

And "credible historians" have absolutely nothing to say about the truth of miraculous reports. The reports were made, yes, but we also have written documents of people of ancient cultures claiming tons of supernatural stuff. Do we believe them because they are in writing (i.e., and therefore "historical")?

Today we are relying more on prehistorical methods like archeology because the presence of artifacts, buildings, etc. are not subject to misrepresentation.

But what casts even more doubt on supernatural claims is our study of the universe right down to its quantum mechanics. Order is relentlessly present. So either the universe has changed from when it used to be supernatural, or (more plausibly) ancient peoples were very inclined to reframe incidents they thought were important in supernatural terms.


Resha Caner;51248 wrote:
I suppose I meant that there is a consistent interpretation of Christianity that connects today with the time of Jesus. There is no need to rediscover the "original" Jesus. Revisionism is good for getting people doctoral degrees and selling books


Well, a lot of educated people, many of them Christian, disagree with you. "Dismissing" (again) them with the unfair accusation they are just trying to get a Ph.D or book deal is a partisan argument not an objective evaluation.


Resha Caner;51248 wrote:
I'm not convinced we're going to know more about Jesus than Paul did - or Ignatius or Polycarp and on and on. Sure, some odd ideas have branched off from the tree of Christianity. But that is true of any basic idea. I could show you some real nuts who live in the mystical world.


Paul didn't know Jesus, nor did Ignatius or Polycarp. In fact, evidence suggests that even those whose writings were included in the Bible were not direct witnesses (the best case for a witness is Thomas, disqualified thus far for the Bible). Luke was converted by Paul, Mark was Peter's companion, John lived probably 60 years later, as likely did Matthew.

Tradition of course says at least Matthew and John were two of the original twelve disciples, but the vast majority of scholars reject that. So who do you believe in this case, the historian or the religious writer trying to uphold traditional beliefs?


Resha Caner;51248 wrote:
If you want to argue my church's professions about Jesus we can do that, but it's not what I was hoping for, and I think I've said that several times now.


But you are the one bringing them up to discredit union and anyone else who isn't buying the traditional Church theology! Why put this on me?
Resha Caner
 
  1  
Reply Sun 1 Mar, 2009 07:05 pm
@LWSleeth,
LW,

I don't understand why your tone is suddenly so abrasive, and I find it insulting. You obviously have a great command of language, and so to play coy as if you don't understand what I'm saying is disingenuous. I never called Elaine Pagels a "thing" nor was I placing significant emphasis on the word "sitting". You twist my words. Why?

You know the traditional reading of Jesus. So, to think you can claim he is part of your "union" concept without being challenged by me, and without any need to defend your claim, is either arrogant or naive.

It is you who have used profanity to describe my religious faith, not me. So who is being insulting and who is trying to discredit?

I was honestly interested in your ideas on epistemology, and I learned something. But enough is enough. I'll leave you to discuss it with others - those who don't dare to question what you say.
LWSleeth
 
  1  
Reply Sun 1 Mar, 2009 10:27 pm
@Resha Caner,
Resha Caner;51346 wrote:
LW,

I don't understand why your tone is suddenly so abrasive, and I find it insulting.


I am a hard debater in the sense that I can't seem to tolerate anything but the straight on, sincere, no-spin approach to a discussion. I am tired at the moment, but I'd be willing to make an attempt to show you statements you made that were disrespectfully dismissive of so much I proposed that you took away every avenue I had for making my case. If you'd supplied evidence-supported reasons for excluding the evidence or experts, that would have been fine. But yours were dismissals that simply said what I was relying on wasn't worth giving a second thought to. If you are insulted that I call you on using unscholarly poisoning-the-well refutations, then I suppose you and I aspire to different debating ethics.
Axis Austin
 
  1  
Reply Sun 1 Mar, 2009 10:41 pm
@LWSleeth,
LWSleeth wrote:
So when you say you "know" that glass is going to break when you throw the rock, I think you really mean you are certain based on your past experience with how reality has functioned.



I mean the two to be the same thing. As I said before, I don't think we need to hold knowledge to the standard that you're claiming. Based on past experience I "know" (am certain) the window break, just like I "know" (based upon experience that you exist.
LWSleeth
 
  1  
Reply Sun 1 Mar, 2009 11:01 pm
@Axis Austin,
Axis Austin;51425 wrote:
I mean the two to be the same thing. As I said before, I don't think we need to hold knowledge to the standard that you're claiming. Based on past experience I "know" (am certain) the window break, just like I "know" (based upon experience that you exist.


Why is it then, that the science standard would reject your claim of "knowing" that window will break? All you would be allowed to say is that past rocks thrown at similar glass has resulted in it broken glass.

You certainly are entitled to have your own personal standard for knowing, but once you enter public discourse, whose standard should we go by? The highest standard of our culture, or people's personal permutations?
Resha Caner
 
  1  
Reply Mon 2 Mar, 2009 08:22 am
@LWSleeth,
LWSleeth wrote:
I am a hard debater


I am OK with a hard debate, but IMO that does not include insults and profanity. I don't need you to show me my "dismissive" comments. I am well aware of what I said. They were summary comments of my opinion, and I understand that they rejected your ideas. But note that they came after what you said:

LWSleeth wrote:
Really, do you think the supernatural, water walking, raised from the dead, son of God, virgin birth, going to hell if you don't believe, descending from a cloud cosmic savior of all mankind is such a great interpretation of the man called Jesus who taught 2K ago that we should stop looking for a better understanding


I raised an objection to your claim that Moses and Jesus are part of your idea of union. Rather than support your claim, this was your answer. Why should I provide "evidence" when you do not?

LWSleeth wrote:
Tradition of course says at least Matthew and John were two of the original twelve disciples, but the vast majority of scholars reject that.


This is not evidence, because it is not true. Maybe the majority of scholars that you read have this opinion, but not the majority of scholars in general. As I said, if you really want me to line up an argument for the more traditional interpretations of Moses and Jesus, we can do that. But it's a tit-for-tat digression from what I thought you intended this thread to be. Tell me which way you want to go.

Maybe I did misunderstand you. I thought you intended to demonstrate where typical epistemology is flawed when considering the existence of God. My objection to that was again that you combine epistemology and ontology. If every epistemology requires its own embedded ontology, then the idea is useless. It boils down to "believe whatever you want". In fact, this may be the case. You may be trying to bootstrap your idea of union, and that isn't going to work. I'm not claiming that disproves your idea, but neither does it support it.

Neither do I expect that you will create a separate epistemology. I don't believe truth is subjective (edit: I said "objective" when I meant "subjective") or that one truth is different from another. I see truth as a unified, consistent set of statements.

Maybe we differ in that, but you don't seem to be following your own rules. In fallacy #6 you stated:

LWSleeth wrote:
The end result is that Western culture produces a strong predilection for understanding the physical world; and because the type of knowing needed for that relies on sense experience and the intellect, we tend on the one hand to approach all subjects determined to "know" them with senses and intellect, and on the other to "filter" out any claims to knowing that are not verifiable by the senses and intellect.


But then you proceed to rely on the very things you earlier seemed to question, often quoting "science" as your defender and making statements like:

LWSleeth wrote:
Today we are relying more on prehistorical methods like archeology because the presence of artifacts, buildings, etc. are not subject to misrepresentation.


It gives an impression of cherry-picking. What you agree with in science is not a "misrepresentation", but what you disagree with has been used to "filter out any claims to knowing".

And so, on the one hand, you accept Moses as a fellow mystic, but on the other hand:

LWSleeth wrote:
it accurately reflects ... how ridiculous I think it is for us to take the superstitious and mythical interpretations of ancient folks as literal truth.
 

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