Monday, May 28, 2018

On Having One's Mind Blown



 
How does somebody with a Ph. D. in philosophy from Columbia University come to believe in impossible things like flying friars?  I’m often asked what got me interested in all the weird stuff—events that seem to break the familiar laws of nature.  Some folks might just be naturally curious.  But what I’ve seen is that people open up as a result of some mind-blowing experience.  Example after example could be trotted out to illustrate.

I won’t try to define the criteria for such experiences, except to say that fundamental ideas about how reality works may be shattered. Let me describe an experience of mine that had such an effect on me. It was April 23, 1971, about 11 PM, a clear night in Greenwich Village, New York. I was in my apartment on the top floor (6th) at 14 Bedford Street, listening to John Coltrane’s “The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost” with my girlfriend. It was the week I had to defend my dissertation at Columbia University, which was about the Myth of the True Earth in Plato’s Phaedo.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

The Death and Rebirth of God: Thoughts on a Great Historical Coincidence



1882 was the year that Friedrich Nietzsche announced that God was dead and added that “we” had killed him.  At Cambridge in England during the same year, Frederic Myers with several colleagues officially launched a new scientific discipline called psychical research.  If ever there was a “meaningful” historical coincidence,  this one qualifies.

It is about the most important crisis in the history of Western consciousness.  A key item of the Western worldview was the belief in God, but now we have the son of a Protestant minister announcing the death of God.  Modern astronomy and evolutionary biology reduce the Biblical God-story to fiction.  But the same year a  discipline took shape in England that attempted to use scientific method to investigate the nature of  the human soul—or, as we might say today, the nature and scope of human consciousness.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

An Afterlife Singularity



The afterlife story I want to tell is singular, first, because of the sheer oddness and rarity of the circumstances.  But also because, if true as reported, it’s remarkable 1) as proof of postmortem survival; 2) as showing human personality is multiple; 3) that we can be possessed by other minds; and finally, 4), it’s a story about a very unconventional healing of mental illness.

Two girls, Mary Roff (1846-1865) and Lurancy Vennum, (1864—1952) lived in Watseka, Illinois, a prosperous, middle class farming town.  As you might infer from their dates, Mary and Lurancy never knew each other in the flesh, and in fact Mary had been dead for 12 years when “she,” in 1878, reportedly took possession of Lurancy’s body.  

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