Thursday, July 2, 2020

Creative Coincidences




 Creative Coincidences

Creative coincidences are meaningful coincidences that can change you in interesting ways, open doors to new actions and perceptions.  I’m often astonished by the coincidences I experience from time to time.  One thing I’ve noticed repeatedly.  They’re related to whatever I’m working on, whatever is exciting me at the moment. So that can be handy. 

Based on my experience, let me jot down some ideas that may lead to having creative coincidences.  I think it’s possible to shape our lives in such a way that we’re more likely to have more meaningful encounters.

First off, you probably need to have some powerful aims and passions before it becomes possible to enter the zone of creative coincidences.

Equally important, you have to be willing to try new things, yield to hunches and impulses, and sometimes even do the opposite of what you prefer.  You have to break the mold of the typical patterns of your life. 

Don’t worry about  success or what other people think about your style of processing experience. Do your best and let the chips fall. That is one of the great principles of the Indian Bhagavad-Gita,

Do something normally repulsive or boring but with absolute concentration.  This is part of the process of waking up to the obvious.  It’s never just what you experience but how you experience that makes the creative connection.  You have to trick yourself into seeing in new ways.  For example, I like to look at a painting I’m working on in different ways.  So I turn it to its side or upside down or vary the lighting.

Lighten your mind and your body; avoid mental and physical obesity. Mobility and elasticity of consciousness are allies we need to cultivate.

Resonate with what fascinates and inspires you.  Focus activates the psyche.

Spontaneity is a key predictor of paranormal performance and creative coincidence.

Capacity for playfulness is crucial, as is the knack for levity and creative dissociation.

Finally, love something or die.  Love is what takes us beyond ourselves, prompts us to get into the dance of the universe, and opens the gate to creative coincidence.





Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Curing a Disease of Consciousness


Four hundred years of unflagging racism in America is a disease of consciousness.  It cannot be legislated out of existence, it cannot be scolded, condemned, preached to, or punished out of existence. None of that will cure the disease of racist arrogance and hatred that caused the holocaust of Native Americans and enslaved Black people to lay the foundation of the American empire.

How to cure a disease of consciousness?  How to rise from paranoia to metanoia?
Images, not abstract arguments, shock the nervous system, jolt the conscience and awaken consciousness.   Case in point: The incredible image of four cops, three watching with approval, the fourth squeezing the life out a black man who’s saying he can’t breathe.

A new perception, a new awareness is needed, not just new laws, new economic opportunities, and less policing.  They’re all essential, but what we really need is a change of heart and consciousness, a more sensitive lens of human awareness.  A new worldview.

Our everyday consciousness is so narrowly riveted, so contracted by our needs and fears, we can’t see the humanity of others, and all our technical proficiency is not the same as human sensitivity.

The poet-philosopher Friedrich Schiller wrote a book called The Aesthetic Education of Humanity that speaks to us today.  His thesis was that aesthetic education is especially needed to humanize people, especially politicians.  Cultivating the more refined mental faculties would help prevent the lower instincts from overriding our better angels.

Schiller was right to call attention to the arts and their modes of magic.  The hope was that the arts would evolve our capacity to feel and enter into the different worlds of different people.  Our technical, money-worshipping culture operates on the opposite principle, which is to manipulate human reality with one absolute ideal: profit—and more profit.

The only thing I can imagine saving us from the catastrophic results of living out the premises of the reigning techno-capitalist ethos is a revolution of perception. It has to make a difference in how we experience the world.  A difference in the quality of our awareness.

A revolution of perception would be non-violent.  As such it would be the opposite of Donald Trump ‘s fascistic inclinations to “dominate” all his foes, which are legion.  In the interest of fairness,  let’s measure Trump’s worldview against criteria that all sane, decent human beings are bound to honor and respect: truth, justice, and beauty.

It’s not easy trying to imagine the inside of Donald Trump’s mental world—his worldview, and therefore his perception of reality.  Using the criteria cited above—truth, justice, beauty—it’s frightening trying to imagine the architecture of Trump’s inner world.  We know that all living things have some kind of inner life, there is something it is like to be a bat or Donald Trump.

Now, when we try to imagine the inside of Donald Trump’s mind, the result can be disconcerting.  There is no place inside that bizarre region of mental space touched by, or glimmering with, any of the common icons of human value.

As for truth, that pillar of common humanity, it’s totally absent.  The entire planet knows that Donald Trump is a pathological liar. Experts from all fields (journalists to psychiatrists) have documented his daily atrocities against truth in withering detail.

As far as justice, I personally doubt if Donald Trump’s sense of justice is any keener than an average orangutan’s.  How likely is it that a man who lies so brazenly and spontaneously can be trusted as a person with a lively and disciplined sense of right and wrong?  A raft of psychiatrists concur that Trump is a malevolent narcissist.  I doubt if the records will ever show that Trump performed any act as president motivated strictly by his sense of justice. 

Finally, to connect the concept of beauty with Donald Trump’s inner life is beyond me.  On the contrary, Trump embodies the archetype of the ugly American in a wonderfully stunning fashion.  We can thank the man for providing us with an image of everything we need to abolish in American life.

    




Wednesday, June 24, 2020

A Science of Spirituality?



We humans early on discovered there was something higher and more powerful we could appeal to for help, guidance, or consolation.  Cultures have varied in the way they learned to connect with the higher power, how they named it, and how they tried to communicate with it.The belief in some kind of spiritual force has been a staple of the human race until in 17th century Europe some clever men invented a thing called science.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Are You a Prisoner of Your Beliefs?



The pandemic standstill is giving us surplus time to think. We need leisure time to plumb the caverns of our minds. Idling about recently, I recalled a talk I once had with a friend who was an accomplished academic.  I was describing to her how fond I am of a certain type of filbert paint brush. She broke in with a sigh, and said: “I’ve always wanted to paint.”  “What’s stopping you?” I asked.

She looked up at me, almost surprised, and said: “That never occurred to me.  My Ph.D. is in political science.  That’s what I’m good at.”  I laughed, and said, “How do you know you won’t be good at painting?”  My question seemed to confuse her.  Her parents drilled it into her that to be a success in life you have to be good at one thing.  She absorbed the belief that she could excel in one thing alone.  I suggested to her that her belief was unnecessarily confining.  Her imagination of what was possible was controlling the way she lived and perceived the world. 

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Dream and Reality



We spend our lives in two different worlds, cycling back and forth between waking and dreaming.  Which is the true, the beautiful, the higher world?  Strangely, there are some who prefer the reality of dream life to the reality of waking life.  

Anyway you look at it, dreaming  is a paranormal event, a nightly miracle of creativity.  Oops! Here I am in dream space flirting with a nymph by a waterfall.   How did I get here ?

How you get from physical space to dream space is a total mystery.  

I believe that the dreaming part of us keeps on dreaming even after we wake, just as our memories live on in the subconscious.

Question: What is your dream self doing right now?

Our greater mental life takes place below the threshold of awareness. We’re afloat in a sea but trapped in a little iron submarine.  How to cut loose and explore the sea of the psyche?

Painting for me is one way to explore the dream space we normally get to through  sleep.  How is that possible?  By letting the painting paint itself.  Place the brush in the hand of your subliminal mind. Something wants to reveal itself. It needs you to be its voice. Obey the impulse, never check yourself once you begin, and don’t be afraid to fail.

Spontaneity is key. No resistance; no boundaries.

From the prehistoric cave-painters to Kandinsky and Marc Chagall, art has been about contact with magic, dream, the symbols and secrets of the Great Mind.  

If the intersection of art and the paranormal interest you, try my art website paintingthepsyche.com.  Fed up with the horrors of normality, lose yourself in my book on miracles:



Tuesday, June 16, 2020

How a Virus Can Turn You into an Artist


Well friends, it looks like Covid-19 doesn’t want us to go back to “normal.” The virus is flaring up in about twenty U.S. states, and is surging in India and Brazil.  All signs point to the continued need to minimize contact with others.  2020 seems the year that wants us to practice being alone.  The invisible foe is forcing us to become more detached from the world. And there’s something else.

I think the pandemic is forcing us to realize we’re all artists.  I mean that in a very specific way.  We’re artists in the way we perceive the world, each in our peculiar style, so to speak.  Some have a talent for painting a livable picture; others have a knack for creating disasters.

One thing we need to remember: we cannot get out of our consciousness.  Whatever you do and wherever you go, the only home you have is your mind.  You can get out of your body, but never out of your mind or consciousness.  We’re stuck with ourselves on a long journey..

It’s a funny thing, consciousness.  It’s your private gateway to worlds of bliss, beauty and wonder.  It’s also your private dungeon, torture chamber, and theater of nightmares.  So many possibilities!  And much vertigo!

But that’s the point: the artist in us is the decider.  Or should be. We can make the choices and consciously shape our picture of reality.  Artists do the same, shape sound into music, visual impressions into landscapes and portraits, words into dialogue and poetry. We are the shapers of our own lives, our inner selves and outer deeds.  The alternative is to leave our souls to others to tinker with and possibly destroy.  

We’re all artists in the way we compose, balance, and express our experience, our feelings, the bliss, the boredom, the pain.  Every act, thought, feeling is ours to reject or embrace, mold or maul.  It’s all there for us to weave into the artwork of our unfolding lives.

Normally, we don’t think of our lives as a piece of art we’re working on day and night—that’s because most of it is going on subconsciously.  But here’s the danger.  If we fail to form our own world-picture, our own art of living, others will stamp theirs on us until we forget who we are.  

You become an artist when you’re forced to be alone in a confined space.  You take command of your mind or it takes command of you.  That’s a minute by minute wrestling match. The mind is a restless bastard.  When you have fewer options you’re forced to be more creative, more decisive with what you have at hand. In the end, life is an art of improvisation.   Genius, said the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, is what happens when your back is up against the wall.  The pandemic is our wall.

For the intersection between painting and psychic phenomena, see https://paintingthepsyche.com


Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Dangerous Miracles



“We who are about to die demand a miracle,” wrote the poet W. H. Auden during the dawning crisis of World War II.  We could say the same for us in June of 2020.  But what kind of a miracle should we demand?  It’s an interesting question. Suppose we had the power to perform one miracle, with the intent of improving the lot of the human race?  It’s not a question easily answered.  You can never predict the result of performing a miracle.

Here’s the first miracle I would perform, as an immediate boon to all humans as well as to all living creatures of nature.  I would change the most prominent feature of Donald J. Trump into its opposite: that is, from  cowardice and mendacity to the courage to speak truth to power.  I admit it’s hard to imagine how my miracle would play out.  Trump’s conversion to savior and hero might cause mass disorientation and suicide among his base followers.

The truth is that miracles can be dangerous.  Let me try another.  Suppose for a miracle we instill a simple but indestructible quantum of basic decency in every human being so that crimes, legal and spiritual, just fade away.  Obviously, that won’t work.  It would mean the end of police, lawyers, jails, the business of incarceration, guns, the weapon’s industries, and of course the entertainment industries. That extra injection of simple humanity would be a radically subversive miracle.  So cross that one off.

Let’s then suppose we miraculously grant perfect health to everybody.  That would be a great miracle for Americans, millions of whom have poor or no health coverage. But I’m not sure everybody would be happy with this miracle, for example, the pharmaceutical industries.  To stay rich for these folks it’s essential that we have plenty of illness, crime, mental distress, boredom, fear and plain old  unhappiness.  Perfect health and profound happiness would really upset the world order.  And enemies of that miracle would come rapidly crawling out of the woodwork.

Suppose somebody chose to endow us with miraculous powers to move about in space, so that we could levitate and even have sex in the air like Tibetan tantric yogis.  That would be a fun miracle, don’t you think?  And very convenient.  No more crowded planes, hanging around bus stops, having to bring your car in for an oil change, the end of the horrors of the DMV.  Imagine how beautiful the world would be without automobiles, without the energy industries and all the pollution.  On the other hand, here too we’re bound to run into opposition. Bound to be big vested interests strongly opposed to this miracle, too. 

The way the world is set up, and the way people seem to be made, may not welcome our wonderful potentials.  Perhaps we need to pick our miracles more carefully. They all seem to have dangerous consequences. One well documented miracle is inedia, the ability to live for long periods of time without food or drink, and to function quite well.  Suppose for a moment that large numbers of people suddenly became happy inediacs.  This would no doubt alarm large sectors of the food and drink industries, and it wouldn’t be good news for farmers.  And all those advertisers would be left in the lurch.  Sorry.  Goodbye inedia.

Problems arise at the interpersonal level.  I recall two students of mine who were having psychic experiences that resulted in falling out with their mates.  In one case of a woman who had a mystical experience, the marriage was destroyed.  In another, the woman was having precognitive experiences that caused her boyfriend to treat her like “a lucky charm” to support his appetite for gambling.  That wrecked the relationship.

So it is hard to pick a miracle without a risk of danger.  Any ideas?  To be on the safe side, let’s choose a miracle to benefit everybody.  For example, let everybody love everybody else unconditionally. How could that go wrong? But here again we may be at risk.  It is hard to imagine how it would feel to exist in a state of loving rapport with all beings.  Would it after a while become a little boring?  Would it inspire a movement of protest whose motto was: Back to Normality and Nastiness!

For my approach to the topic of miracles, see below:










Monday, June 8, 2020

A Book About Miracles


Smile of the Universe is a book for people who enjoy witnessing the impossible triumph over established reality.  It documents experiences that explode our idea of what is humanly possible. Things we call miracles do happen, events that fill us with wonder and admiration. Miracles are important for a special reason. Neither science nor religion can explain the phenomena described in this book.

Two major ideas guide my story. All the miraculous phenomena point to the existence of some kind of greater mind.  The phenomena cannot be explained by current materialist science.  Our mental life is much deeper and wider than we normally suppose.  This book is opposed to  conventional views of the mind--there’s infinitely more to our minds (and to us) than certain entrenched intellectual fashions might admit.

As to the second leading idea--each of us can, if we wish, learn to dialogue with this greater mind. Traditional religions have been doing it their way since time immemorial.  But for many in the present age of disbelief, new approaches to the old mysteries are needed.  Meanwhile the primal and greater mind remains open to explore in whatever way we can.

William Blake once said that he “lived by miracle.” Can we live in such a way that puts us in touch with the miraculous powers slumbering within us? Is there a line of connection between our own minds and the greater mind believed to be the source of the extraordinary phenomena? The answer is yes. Moreover, we can describe the psychological variables that are friendly and conducive to these creative powers.

Smile of the Universe reviews for the reader a spectrum of miracle phenomena.  Along the way, the data point to the reality of a greater mind interacting with our minds.  Examples from Socrates to Joan of Arc show how relationships with that mysterious entity have been formed.

The potential for that relationship has been undermined by the culture of materialism.  Nevertheless, the stories in this book leave materialism tongue-tied.  And it leaves the rest of us open to the possibility of glimpsing the smile of the universe.


Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Solitude and Creativity




Since we’re all supposed to keep our distance from each other, I want to recommend a book by Anthony Storr: The title hit me: Solitude: A Return to the Self.  Wow!   You need to be alone to gain a real sense of who you are?  Interesting idea.

The fact is that we often have a wobbly sense of who we are.  Human identity is fragile and necessarily elastic.  It’s so easy to lose the thread of yourself with others when they ignore, criticize, belittle, project, exaggerate, or misunderstand you.  Sometimes you have to pull back and look upon the world—and yourself—with a cold eye.

Storr argues we can never fully rely on others for self-affirmation even when they affirm us. We have to forge our own identity.

He examines situations where the solitude is forced on us. Thanks to the pandemic, we know what that feels like.  Storr writes about being alone in prison. There are many examples in history of incarcerated men and women who gained spiritual illumination or were inspired to write great letters, pamphlets, and books while alone in prison.  The main point: in solitude we’re more likely to discover who we really are at the deepest levels of our being.  I guess it depends on what experiences you have.  Anybody?

Monday, May 11, 2020

After Death: A Primer for the Pandemic



About 80 thousand Americans have lost their lives to the coronavirus. The pain is magnified by not being able to be present at the death of loved ones.  And there are problems with funerals, religious gatherings, and grieving, all made doubly difficult by the need for social distancing. 

Now if the divine spirit that most people believe in is omnipresent, it doesn’t matter how alone you are.  You don’t have to be inside a church to get inside yourself.  The connection to the higher power is through our minds, or maybe we should say our souls.  Wherever we are we can make the connection, and in that sense nobody with a mind is ever alone.

But now to a question rarely if ever discussed in public venues. What happens to the persons taken from us by death?  Why is this question always avoided? One reason is that it’s hard to answer the question. The current scientific attitude is at odds with traditional life after death beliefs.  To put it bluntly, if science is reduced to materialism, it must rule out the idea of life after death.  But in fact science is not wed to materialism, and some scientists have studied experiences that do point to conscious survival after death.  In fact, there is a massive literature on this subject.[i]

All I wish here is to summarize the gist of the case for the belief in afterlife consciousness.  Two things are involved: conceptual and factual.  So what is the issue?  Our bodies die, and that’s the end of our physical reality.  What we’re asking is if the mental and conscious life of the person survives, our thoughts, feelings, memories, and so on.  We’re entitled to ask this because our mental and conscious life cannot be reduced to our brain life.  Death of the brain does not imply that one’s mind is wiped out.  Some in fact even hold that the death of the brain is what releases the full potentials of consciousness. Because our minds are not reducible to our brains it is possible to survive brain death.

This leads to the second part of making the case.  The first is meant to show it is logically possible to imagine how our minds abide although our bodies pass away.  But logical possibility isn’t enough.  We need to see if there are actual case histories, stories that persuade us that in fact particular known people died and yet survived in some conscious form. This is the empirical basis of the answer. Now the perhaps surprising answer is, yes—really, there are facts that do seem to prove the power of consciousness to survive bodily death.      

It turns out there are several ways it seems to occur.  For example, most of us are familiar with the near-death experience.  Cardiac arrest is supposed to physically cut off consciousness; but instead some people have amazing experiences that convince them of a life beyond this one. They end up being deeply transformed human beings.  They float away from their bodies and observe things in the distant environment. They encounter deceased relatives and behold an ineffable being of light. The evidence for this unexplained phenomenon is massive.

Evidence for reincarnation is yet another type of afterlife research.  In near-death cases, we glimpse where we may be going; in reincarnation studies, we see where we have been in  previous lives.  Apparitions of the dead provide another type of evidence. Suppose a dead person appears in a dream and imparts information that no other living person is acquainted with; there are cases on record that demonstrate this sort of thing. 

Another large source of evidence for life after death is mediumship. Talented mediums transmit communications from deceased persons; appropriate information, tone and character of the person come convincingly through. To appreciate the value of this evidence, you have to look at the details and arguments.  I’m just stating what’s available for the curious person to investigate.  There are answers to the question of life after death that come from science.  We’re not forced to rely on pure faith.

It certainly helps if you’ve had a direct experience of any of this.   I have on three occasions been visited by ghostly agents; one was a belated family visit; two were nasty assaults from unpleasant spirits related to people I was trying to help. My experience has been that if you ask around, surprising numbers of folks have stories to tell—but you have to ask and gain their confidence.

We have various kinds of evidence of persons surviving death. What about criticisms of the evidence? According to one line of criticism, survival evidence, even the best cases, can be explained by appealing to the paranormal and histrionic powers of the subconscious mind. In the case of the dreamer who finds his father’s hidden last will, it is the dreamer that paranormally locates the missing will and creates the hallucination of his father.  The psychological need to believe in an afterlife produces the whole experience, which deludes the believer into accepting the phantasm of his father as real.  Clever arguments like this can be devised, but are they compelling?

So there is good evidence for survival. But it’s possible that however compelling it seems, it might just be a persistent illusion.  But why?  To mitigate death anxiety perhaps.  I think much more is involved, but more research is needed. We need a new mythology of transition to the next world.  The old religious guides were mostly projections of schadenfreude and na├»ve fantasy.  A new guidebook to the great ‘after’ based on matters of fact is possible.  The pandemic is a reminder of this important but neglected kind of research.   



[i] My book Experiencing the Next World Now will introduce the reader to the extensive literature on this big question everybody is obliged to confront.

Friday, May 1, 2020

Putting the Pandemic in Perspective


Life is not just what happens to us.  It is what it is, people say, when fate dumps on us.  But life is also how we see it, what we bring to each experience. So even when we’re hit with something blatantly bad, we’re still free in the way we understand what it means.  Nothing has to be seen as a total disaster.  (Even death, but that’s another topic.) With many thousands of fatalities and many millions economically wrecked from the pandemic, we are challenged.  But a great Stoic philosopher once said, it’s not what happens to us that ultimately matters but how we interpret what happens. 

Monday, April 20, 2020

Social Distancing and the Unexpected



Strange things happen to our minds when we’re forced to be alone.  The great Boston seaman, Joshua Slocum, in his book, Sailing Alone Around the World, describes how during a storm at sea, he was ill and fallen in his boat when a strange figure appeared, spoke to him, and took command of his 36 foot, wooden sloop, Spray. 

“To my amazement I saw a tall man at the helm.  His rigid hand, grasping the spokes of the wheel, held them as in a vise.” He appeared to be a foreign sailor with black whiskers and a red cap, and spoke to Slocum, assuring him he came as a friend. “I am one of Columbus’s crew . . . I am the pilot of the Pinta, come to aid you . . .,” he said, and urged Slocum to rest (who was in great pain), promised to remain at the helm for the duration of the storm, and warned Slocum about some plums he had stored that went bad. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Retreat to Inner Space in the Pandemic



In order to stop the coronavirus from killing us, we have to remain physically apart and confined to a single space.  It’s like being put in solitary confinement. But the pandemic is also a challenge and an opportunity. If we’re stuck in physical space, we can retreat into inner space where there’s plenty of room.  It’s an opportunity to be inventive, to use imagination, and to explore our own minds. For example:

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Why Read During the Pandemic?




To avoid going stir-crazy or feeling lonely or trapped, people are trying to occupy their minds by reading books.  Yes, people are reading more; all kinds of services popping up about books to read.  I wonder, with all the information, ads, pitches, distractions deluging us, whether reading is a skill we may be losing. Surfing the internet isn’t a recipe for learning the art of deep reading.  But maybe the enforced solitude will get us back into reading.

Reading anything deeply and thoughtfully takes time.  You need a space free from distractions. But glued to our smart phones, we’re constantly being distracted. Distraction and seduction is the aim.  We have created a technological vampire that feeds on our souls—i.e., our attention, our consciousness.  But there is some good news--there is life after online existence.

A book in your hands is a way into a world, a world that invites imagination,  challenges mind and can touch the heart.  But the book needs you to bring it to life;  reading is not a passive experience.  You have to imagine and co-create the experience.  Reading is a way to exercise the imagination.

And reading is a retreat from the normality of everyday mental life.  It can take us on journeys out of our familiar selves. Reading can be an altered state of consciousness—a ‘drug’ that is free, totally available, mind-expanding, and non-addictive.  (But if it is, so much the better.)

For the benefits of reading, full attention is essential. Reading demands a certain amount of mind-control, and it’s a form of meditation.  As far as loneliness, I can’t imagine feeling lonely if I have the company of some good books.  Think of all the extraordinary people and stories we can meet through the medium of the book. Loneliness just means we have to wake up our imaginations. Now that we’re stuck inside, stopped in our damn tracks, we might have time to listen to ideas and stories and who knows what, stuff we never dreamed of, all waiting to be told in a book we might read.

“Sitting still, he travels very far,” writes the author of the Katha Upanishad.  And truly we can travel very far on the wings of words.  I remember the first time I read Homer’s Odyssey in translation, and later when I learned to read it in Greek.  The dactylic hexameter was like rowing a boat through the waves and I was clairvoyantly with Odysseus and his men during their adventures.  Reading is a way of visiting other worlds and inhabiting other personalities. No matter how alone or confined you feel, a book can be a door your mind can step through, a road to new discoveries about yourself and the world outside yourself.

There’s an expression “mind-reader” that refers to a person who can ‘read’ your mind, that is, by telepathy. The expression is perfect for describing what a book is.  When you read a book, your are indeed ‘reading’ the author’s mind.   To know the mind of Shakespeare is to read the words that came from his pen and his poetic mind.

It’s quite amazing.  How by reading we make intimate contact with the minds of all manner of men and women right across history. For example, you can read the words preserved from the trial of Joan of Arc, how she replied to the terrorists about to burn her at the stake. There is all of history and all of arts and sciences to read about; reading is a way of getting out of ourselves into larger worlds and wider mental perspectives.

The novel coronavirus has thrown us into a kind of enforced contemplative life. 
My suggestion—make the best of it—it’s the only way to stop the virus.  In the meantime, go contemplative.  Wallow in the bliss of non-doing.  Make it your duty to be magnificently idle.  For a while let ecstasy instead of productivity be your aim. Stare out the window open-mouthed and wait for a miracle to appear dancing in the sky. And if none of that helps with the angst, read a book.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Coronavirus and Near-Death Experience



Is the world having a near-death experience? The Coronavirus is forcing us to be creative in unexpected ways. Yesterday I got in my mail a photo of a proud-looking bowl of what looked like pasta primavera. The veggies were numinous with olive oil, the pasta happily ensconced in the veggies. My friend had sent me ocular proof that he had discovered his Inner Cook.  All the restaurants were closed, thanks to the pandemic, so he discovered the pleasure of mustering a good meal for himself.

What has united the minds of almost everybody is the sudden palpable presence of a possible killer in our midst.  Any one of us could be carrying this and passing it on to others, adding to the viral invasion.  Suddenly, it’s literally correct to say, we are all in a real sense quite possibly near death.   

Now it’s a fact that when individuals have close brushes with death they often have profound experiences. The near-death experience (NDE) is a great challenge to science. People report that they see and feel extraordinary things, and are transformed by the experience.  They have out of body flights, encounter a mystical light, meet deceased loved ones, watch their whole life flash before them, and often emerge with new psychic powers.  All this has been repeatedly been proven by scientific studies of NDEs. 

Even thinking anxiously about the proximity of death sometimes ignites similar explosions of creative consciousness.  Meanwhile yogis and mystics through meditation, solitude, and ascetic practices attempt to achieve states of mind that are like being near death.  But why should being near death do such transformative things to our minds?

One thing seems clear.  Being near death pulls our consciousness away from all the things we normally fixate on.  It breaks up our routine habits and perceptions. It forces our whole mind in a new direction, away from the outer toward the inner world.  In the space we create by turning away, we see the crack in the cosmic egg, and a door comes ajar where light can now pour in.

Something like that is happening to people everywhere, we’re being told to distance ourselves from others, which is a kind of little death.  As a result, we’re forced back into ourselves.  Ripped from the normal rhythm of our lives, we’re given a chance, a breather from our daily routines, to see new things and to see old things in new ways. 

The essence of the near-death experience is that a person’s attention is torn away from one’s external world and driven inward.  Being suddenly driven inward often results in making contact with realities normally inaccessible. Veteran explorers of consciousness understand this, and by methods of mind control and radical forms of social distancing explore our spiritual potential.  How the transaction plays out is always a unique story that has to be lived through by each person.  Most of us aren’t shamans or yogis. Often it’s some accident like illness that stirs the inner depths and sets us on a path toward spiritual expansion.

Well, it seems as if nature has forced our hand so that we are all suddenly halted in our tracks.  Was it a pure accident or is it a contrivance of some enigmatic Mind at Large to stop the world?  To halt economics, our petty wars and hatreds, to stop our own bodies from moving about and freely interacting with other bodies?

Is something trying to force us to think, meditate, create, and come together as a species?  Are we being given a chance to discover the “Inner Cook” that we had neglected for so long?

The challenge is not only how to survive the pandemic but how to retain the spirit of cooperation after the present plague is part of history.  Perhaps we’ve been given a chance to muster the creative genius of the species to come out a better kind of humanity.





    







Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Spiritualism, Women, and Progressive Politics


 
Americans today don’t associate progressive politics with spiritualism. Progressive thinking was linked to the rise of science, and machines not spirits became the highway to Utopia. Karl Marx insisted religion and spirituality were “opiates” of the people.  They were no cure for the pain inflicted by capitalism.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Self-Love or Self-Transcendence?


The other day I was having a philosophical conversation about love with a friend.  She made a remark, a quote from something she read, the gist of which was that we have to learn to love ourselves. I completely understood and appreciated her point about loving ourselves.   So many people are unhappy with themselves, feel ignored, forgotten, have been psychically wounded; they  beat up on themselves, hold themselves in contempt.  These people can’t love, are afraid to love, and don’t know how to be loved.  So, for sure, we need to make friends with ourselves, and in a sense “love” ourselves.  It does, however, seem a bit strange to use that verb and seriously talk about “loving” oneself. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Dangers of Life After Death

One of the dangers of life after death is that you may be reincarnated on Earth, which may be the worst possible thing that could happen in the 21st century. Odds are you’ll be born into the impoverished majority, exposed and defenseless on a planet being ravaged by heat and fire.

What to do in the afterworld to prevent such a calamity?   Just imagine arriving in the next world—you look around, and realize things are a bit weird.  You reach in your pocket for your Smartphone; it should be possible to Google your way around.  But no! You have no pocket and you have no Smartphone.

Without some kind of guide book, or map, one could get lost in the afterworld.  So are there any guide books to the afterlife?  Well, sort of.  You could try Dante’s tour book of the afterworld.  You could descend into Homer’s Hades and eavesdrop on Achilles rail against the misery of the afterlife. Traditional religions can’t resist touting the moral necessity of the most fiendish punishments. If that’s all there is, it might be rational to pray for extinction.

On the other hand, I believe in the possibility of the afterworld being fun after all, and maybe even quite ecstatic.  Still, there is the problem that we’re completely unprepared for the trip.

There is one afterlife guidebook  that C. G. Jung liked, The Tibetan Book of the Dead.  I recommend it to anybody interested in the psychology of the next world. According to Tibetan teaching, at the time of death one encounters a great light, just as in many near-death experiences a being of light is encountered. But this bright beginning may be misleading, and things are likely to go downhill after that first seductive blast. 

The most important practical message from the Tibetan Book of the Dead: we must recognize that all the demons and angels we see in the next world are projections of our own mental life.  The light that lures us on and casts a spell upon us, and all the dark and fearful monsters, are our projections. To see this is a big step toward freedom.

The teaching applies to the experience of the living also--we project the contents of our psyches on people and the world around us.  The idea is that the more practiced we are in recognizing how we are painting the world with the colors of our own psyche, the more likely we’ll see how we’re painting the next world when we get there.

The afterlife may be inherently destabilizing, except perhaps for the enlightened and saintly elites who have mastered their inner forces and know how to manipulate their postmortem worlds, like artists who do riffs on melodies and visual motifs. 

For most of us, the afterlife might simply turn out to be more  miserable that life. There’s another way we can imagine the dangers of the afterlife.  In the liberation of consciousness at death, the subconscious memories of our lives may flood and send us through hells of recrimination, brooding, and obsessing on what might have been--and that could be a long purgatory.

On the bright side, purgatory could one day end and the disembodied mind might then figure out ways to have some fun in heaven.  One possibility would be to figure out how to make love with bodiless souls.  True, we might acquire astral bodies in the next world.  This could be challenging. I can imagine some poor souls going crazy with frustration because ‘love’ at the higher frequencies is impossible for them.  

I think life after death may be very boring for some people. And for people who die in the 21st century, many will suffer because they won’t have their Smartphones, their computers, or their sex organs.  I think I know what happens next, at least if the Tibetan Book of the Dead is right.  The bored, restless and maladjusted in the next world become peeping toms and janes; they spy on living folk making love to each other, they get turned on, and that's how they get sucked back into the world via reincarnation.

Anyway, I think we should reckon on some of the dangers before we get too worked up over the prospect of the next world.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Coping With Our Mortality


People have devised different ways to cope with their mortality.  Consider three ways it’s been done in the past. There is a fourth way, however, and it's the only way that we can rely on, if we hope to know the truth.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Nine Faces of Consciousness



Practically, immediately, and even theoretically, I am my consciousness.  I am conscious; therefore I am.  Descartes took consciousness as irreducible, the starting-point of the human adventure, a sovereign reality. The prevailing view today is that consciousness evolved from complex brain processes, and is an emergent property of nature, a derivative, subtle and elusive, of matter and physical energy. 

The trouble is that nobody has a clue to how consciousness ‘emerged’ from slightly electrified wet brain meat.  Nobody understands quantum mechanics, it is said, and in like manner, nobody seems to understand consciousness.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Dionysos, Miracles and Madwomen



In the search for miraculous phenomena we should visit the ancient cult of the Greek god Dionysos.  Nietzsche’s first book was about this god and the birth of tragedy. The very wild nature mysticism of Dionysos appealed to the young Nietzsche, no doubt bored by the pieties of his religious upbringing.
The cult of Dionysos was in fact a prolonged “Me Too Movement”; for the chief clientele, the god’s devoted base , were women. The new Dionysiac religion was a dance cult that attracted women disposed to cut loose from their ordinary reality, confined, tedious, and oppressed as it was. The sound of the flute was a call to uncoil and express themselves freely. And the ladies rocked!  All the pent up resentment triggered the nocturnal mountain dances that became increasingly frenzied.     

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Mind Over Matter and Life After Death

The ultimate triumph of mind over matter would be to survive bodily death. The argument, roughly put: the greater the power of mind over physical reality, the greater the plausibility of survival.  In contrast, if our mental states are just byproducts of physical causes, they aren’t likely to survive physical death.  But if our minds cannot be reduced to, or explained by, physical states, surviving death becomes more credible.  Mind may be married to body; but divorce need not mean the death of mind. Sometimes divorce is not just the end but a new and even more exciting beginning.  

There are all kinds of mind-body interactions (MBIs) in which some aspect of our mental life appears to act upon—and in some sense transcend—physical reality.  To make the case in detail is a long story. For the moment a rough sketch will have to do.  

Roughly, we can classify MBIs as normal, abnormal, and supernormal, ranging from the familiar to the rare and extraordinary.  Ordinary walking is a good familiar place to begin.  We use our legs and arms to carry out our intentions in daily life.  Using our body intentionally is already a sign of the power of mind over matter. 

Beyond daily work and chores,  there is dancing, art, sport and sometimes daring or heroic action where we use our bodies in increasingly expressive and possibly dangerous ways.  For example, Tibetan monks said to run vast distances at incredible speeds and of Buddhist and Catholic levitators and bilocators.  Along with these are out-of-body experiences, which some see as a proof of the mind’s  independence of the body, and even as a preview of life after death.    

Or take the family of so-called poltergeists that seem to perform all manner of tricks on familiar physics. These are spiced by the mystery of not knowing the nature of the intelligence behind the anomalies, whether from the mind of a disturbed adolescent or from spirits having some fun with, or venting some spleen on, the living.  

There is the “direct voice” phenomenon, articulate communications heard but not seen. The auditory spectrum of queer phenomena is wide: raps, bangs, thuds, knocks, footsteps, voices, moans, laughter, all reported in hauntings; also, on a higher plane, transcendental music, sometimes heard as part of near-death or other ecstatic types of experience. 

Each sense seems to have its supernormal analogue.  Annekatrin Puhle’s study, Light Changes (2013) describes a variety of unexplained, transformative light experiences. Also, in all faiths, we find accounts of preternatural odors of sancity; Joseph of Copertino’s case is well documented (see my Wings of Ecstasy). Breathing in this special class of supernormal fragrances was said to be therapeutic.  Among Catholic mystics like the 20th century Austrian stigmatist, Theresa Neumann, the taste of the communion wafer was conducive to ecstasy and at the same time served all her nutritional needs for decades of her very public life. 

Perhaps the most practically important MBIs, whether in religious faith or medical settings, involve bodily healing.  The so-called “placebo” effect is so commonplace, we can forget how puzzling, how sometimes baffling, its ability to create a wide range of healing effects. Documentation of seemingly miraculous healings must be added to our list.  The French physician Alexis Carrel, starting out as a skeptic in his Voyage to Lourdes, describes witnessing a young woman on the brink of death, brought back to life, physically transformed before his eyes, after she is bathed in the spring water that Bernadette Soubirous dug up out of the rocky terrain.  

Sometimes the MBI is damaging: Related to this is the phenomenon of false pregnancy: women who produce and exhibit the physical symptoms of pregnancy—without actually being pregnant—what does this tell us?  Another sad psychic phenomenon comes under the rubric of “maternal impressions,” cases of women who while pregnant witness a traumatic sight such as a child with a missing limb and who then give birth to an infant with a similar missing limb. This happens despite there being no nerve connections between mother and fetus. 

With some evolved saints, yogis, and mediums, we confront a more surprising group of MBIs, for example, materialization: reports of mediums that materialize hands you can grasp, faces or full bodies of people known to be deceased that may physically embrace you and be photographed.  (See the cases of Eusapia Palladino, Martha Beraud (aka Eva C.), and D.D. Home for this.) Even in historical times, we find reports of food unnaturally appearing and apparently “multiplied.” 

Extreme MBIs occur in the context of religious symbolism. It seems that in some  reported cases the Eucharistic host has been seen to jump from the priest’s hand onto the tongue of impatient communicants. Respect for matters of fact, no matter how strange, requires that I include on my list of metaphysical outlaws statues and paintings that weep and bleed. These phenomena are ongoing, but I’ll just mention A. R. Bandini’s The Miracle at Syracuse, an account of a statue of the Madonna that wept ample, real tears for four days, beginning on August 29, 1953, an event witnessed by scientists and thousands of eyewitnesses that was headlined around the world.

Strange phenomena are reported about the bodies of holy men and women. We have stories of their luminous haloes, otherworldly fragrances, and of levitation, bilocation, dematerialization, and materialization.  We should of course mention MBIs associated with the corpses of the super-holy.   It seems that the bodies of dead yogis and saints refuse to behave like conventional corpses.  Often for months, even years, they just look asleep, physically incorrupt, and remain so for decades and even centuries. Reportedly, these holy corpses frozen in time, may exude oils, retain flexibility, and behave in other undead ways.   

In some Buddhist traditions, saints’ bodies after death have been observed to become vanishingly small, to emit colored lights, and then for a climax, to completely vanish.  And finally on death-related MBIs, in reincarnation cases there is evidence that the body of the reincarnated person carries over marks of wounds incurred in a previous life, thus making visible the continuity of two different embodied life experiences. 

Many examples prove that mind can directly influence matter, for good or ill, for example, placebo and nocebo effects, which repeatedly prove how belief, imagination, and expectation can help or harm health.  Statistically, placebos (imaginative fictions) are about as effective as chemical anti-depressants. My belief that I will get well is sometimes the critical variable what makes me well. Thoughts can affect distant events, in other minds and other places; the facts of paranormality suggest that we inhabit an extended mental mind. 

So what can we conclude about mind over matter and life after death? From experience we know of the many ways that our minds affect physical reality.  First off, thoughts, desires, emotions shape our own bodies and lives, for good or for ill.  That’s a big step and already speaks to the reality of our agency--our affinity for mind-body transcendence. In spite of genetics and external material circumstances, we retain the ability to transform our own lives. 

And as a bonus I hesitantly add: In light of the sprawling mass of diverse and increasingly remarkable evidence, the culmination of mind over matter would clearly be the triumph of consciousness over bodily death.  That would be the ultimate proof of power of the human spirit, a secret, as Heraclitus said, that nature loves to hide. But what nature loves to hide we need to make manifest.  The more we understand our extraordinary potentials, the more likely we may learn to tap into them. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

A Psychic Photographer on Trial


Consciousness unbound is an idea I’ve been fomenting, step by step, trying to unfold the story of the outer limits of consciousness.  So now a story about a curious phenomenon—psychic photography, also called thoughtography—direct mental influence on photographic film.

There are thoughtographic mediums, people with a rare talent, to be sure.  One gifted thoughtographer was Ted Serios, studied by the psychoanalyst Jule Eisenbud. The World of Ted Serios is a remarkable book by Eisenbud. The evidence for the reality of the phenomenon is compelling. In this post, I want to go back to the first psychic photographer, William Mumler, a strangely talented psychic, who ran afoul of the state and was persecuted by ignoramuses. But in this story, the attempted persecution was nipped in the bud.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

The Teleportation of Mrs Guppy

Traffic is a growing problem all over the planet, so here is story about a rare form of human transportation.  If it could be mechanized and mass produced, it would mean the transcendence of traffic jams  The form of transportation described here is teleportation; it fuses the apport (matter through matter) with levitation (matter unshackled from gravity).  Instances of such transportation are admittedly rare, less common than levitations and instantaneous healings. 
            Time, place and cultural environment are crucial to the occurrence of rare phenomena; the conditions have to be just right; and must persist for some time. Extraordinary things might occur in spiritualist circles, for example, as they did in London in the late 19th century.&nbrsp;
        

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

The Happiness Trap



When I was a boy and found some nice presents under the tree on Christmas morning, I was happy.  There they were, beautifully wrapped, and waiting for me. Santa Claus came as I hoped he would, so I had a rush of happiness.  But suppose nothing turned up under the tree?  The way I experienced happiness was actually a trap. The absence, or eventual loss, of the thing that made me happy could make me unhappy.
When the doctor pronounces me in good health, I feel happy; should he inform me of some problem, I feel unhappy at once.   I’m happy if somebody treats me with respect and generosity; regard me with scorn or indifference, unhappiness is likely to follow.   Affirm my being, I am happy; negate it, watch how disgruntled I get.  And so it goes.  Happiness is a see-saw. Something I discovered early on--happiness depended on something external to myself. 

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Another Way of Looking at Life After Death




Being curious animals, we like to speculate on what happens after we die.  There are several ways people try to answer this intriguing question.    

Some educated people (and that is a lot of people) nix the question, won’t talk about it.  Annihilation at death is a foregone conclusion. In contrast, some educated and a lot of uneducated people belong to faith traditions that firm up their belief in an afterlife.    

Then there’s a tiny minority of individuals that try to use rational methods to determine whether our consciousness goes on after death.  The method here is to collect stories that lead one to infer that somebody’s mind survived bodily death—tales of reincarnation, mediumship, apparitions, near-death experiences, and so forth.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Living By Miracle

 William Blake once wrote: “As to Myself, about whom you are so kindly interested, I live by Miracle.” In the book on miracles I’m finishing I quote the above passage from Blake, and I go on to ask the question: How does one “live by miracle”?  Is there, perhaps, an affective, a cognitive, an existential style that opens the way to sparking the improbable, the impossible breakthroughs in life we call miracles? What indeed would it mean concretely to live by miracle? Perhaps we could put it like this. Are there attitudes, behaviors, values that perhaps are conducive to the occurrence of miracles? 

            For Blake miracle had much to do with creative imagination. “Imagination is eternity,” as he put it, that is, the ultimate reality. Words like Blake’s have a wild ring of mystery, but what do they mean?  Where can they take us? We might try to imagine what it would feel like to live, move and have our being from inside a miracle-friendly universe, a worldview that invites us to imagine things beyond what we think possible. Well,  someone might say: just become a Sufi, study the kabbalah, practice yoga, enter a monastery, become a divine decadent. 

            Understood. But for many, and for varied reasons, such options just aren’t possible.  So we have to find our own way, however stumbling and haphazard; probably unavoidable, in the 21st century, as things fall apart and the center that never was ceases to hold. 

            There is much to be said for Jung’s idea that each of us has to follow our own path to become decently evolved individuals. Scanning various accounts of the lives of miracle-makers—a motley gang, to be sure—I’ve racked up four points for my model of how to ‘live by miracle.’  In my chapter of this title, I describe the four points in some detail.

            Here let me just list them, perhaps to launch one’s thought processes.  The first that I discuss is the role of belief—which opens the mind to possibilities.  If you close your mind to something being possible, it will never happen.

            The second element to explore in the project of leading a miraculous life is introversion.  You have to practice focusing your attention inward, but if all your energies are spent on purely external concerns, you kill your ‘miracle’ potential.

            Third on the list is the need for goal-oriented thinking and the willingness to leave things in the hands of an alternate power, whether you think of that in terms of God, guardian angel, or your own subconscious self.

            And the fourth variable for lubricating the miraculous life is spontaneity.  Just letting things happen spontaneously without constant doubt, fear, hesitation, and qualification—that seems to be a critical factor for which there is much supportive data.

            I’m curious to hear your responses to this model I’ve put forth, and plan to post more on this curious subject of how, like William Blake, we can learn to “live by miracle.”   

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