mysticism

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mysticism

Postby venus » Mon Dec 08, 2003 5:43 pm

People go to their religious (Buddhism (Karma), Christianity, Judaism (Kabbalah), and Hinduism (Yoga)) preferance to find meaning and truth in their lives. However, do you think these practices of divinity and spirituality explain true reality? Or are they means of excaping true reality themselves? I'm not sure I understand the whole relationship between "religious" practices and reality in the sense of whether they give us true knowledge or true exlanation of reality.
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Postby Marshall McDaniel » Tue Dec 09, 2003 2:18 am

Perhaps religion was at first a way to cope with reality, and later on became a substitute for it. Even though religious fables abound they still contain kernels of truth and can be a great comforting opiate to millions of people. Joseph Campbell was onto something, in my humble opinion, when he said that we mess up when we concretize the religious images and posit them as truth.
"..All life is the struggle, the effort to be itself. The difficulties I meet with in order to realise my existence are precisely what awaken and mobilise my activities, my capacities.."GASSET"..For enjoyment and innocence are the most modest things: neither want to be looked for. One should have them-but one should look rather for guilt and pain!.."NIETZSCHE"..The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man's heart.." CAMUS
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Postby Bob » Thu Jan 01, 2004 4:03 pm

venus wrote:
I'm not sure I understand the whole relationship between "religious" practices and reality in the sense of whether they give us true knowledge or true exlanation of reality.

If we believe the behaviourists, then Religion is important for each generation to gain some kind of notion of life. It was from Religion that we got the first ideas of how life can be meaningful, what is right and lawful and the first opinions of morality and decency. The ancient religions have always had enjoyed a greater reverence because of the experience that they contain – even the Romans allowed the Jews to practice their faith out of reverence of it being an age old tradition.

Religion supplies us with rites, ceremonies, songs, imagery, works of art, buildings, myths, legends, teachers and offices in connection with an assumed - and very often divine – authority. Religion was primarily oral and upheld the values which were regarded “holy” and were passed down from generation to generation. It is an abstract method of guiding social behaviour and dealing with problems.

Many behaviourists claim that children who have no such background begin building their own – and proceed to stumble through the primitive beginnings that we as a society have left behind us. Many things that we criticise young people for are their new rites and ceremonies, which may seem to us primitive and unwise, but which present the stage of development that they have reached.

The rejection of Religion as a consequence of enlightenment reveals the true depth of the enlightenment. To reject the learning ground of a society without replacing it with something similar is to reject the basis of society. It would be more prudent to value whatever pedagogical means the society has developed to support the socialisation of young people – it doesn't mean that it can't be bettered, but it does mean that “the baby isn't thrown away with the bathwater”.

Shalom
Bob
The only wisdom we can hope to acquire
Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless.
TS Eliot
When you are out of touch with reality you will easily embrace a delusion, and equally put in doubt the most basic elements of existence. If this reminds you of the mindset of the present day materialist science and philosophy establishments, as well as of the loudest voices in the socio-political debate, we should not be particularly surprised, since they show all the signs of attending with the left hemisphere alone. I live in the hope that that may soon change: for without a change we are lost.
McGilchrist, Iain . The Matter With Things: Our Brains, Our Delusions and the Unmaking of the World (S.562). Perspectiva Press. Kindle-Version.
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Postby Matt » Thu Jan 01, 2004 5:04 pm

If we believe the behaviourists, then Religion is important for each generation to gain some kind of notion of life.


It's a good thing they're wrong.

even the Romans allowed the Jews to practice their faith out of reverence of it being an age old tradition.


A cynic would say that it was a smart move so that they got less religion based uprisings. No-one saw the Spanish paying reverence to the Mayan religion or the American settlers to the Native Indian traditions.

It would be more prudent to value whatever pedagogical means the society has developed to support the socialisation of young people – it doesn't mean that it can't be bettered, but it does mean that “the baby isn't thrown away with the bathwater”.


I agree with this to some extent, however I don't think you have to rely on any religion or religious based teachings to pass on these values any more, we have law and abstract concepts like freedom and human rights that take the place of religious scriptures in detailing the frame work for acceptable behaviour. Religion is an outdated form of social teaching and, if it were not for the blind faith invested in it, would have been discarded long ago.

I made a post in another thread about the effect of Individualism on religion and again I see its relevance here. When looking at religion in Western societies it is clear that it is not religion that teaches a person how to value the world but society that teaches a person how to interpret the world which then sometimes gets turned in to a personalised religion, borrowing compatible sections of teachings from whichever religion the person has been introduced to. Individuals then discard the useless or outdated bits of the religious doctorine, which would indicate it is not religion that forms the individual but the other way round in these modern times.
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Postby Matt » Thu Jan 01, 2004 5:12 pm

To bring this back to the original post, which I now realise I have dragged the discussion away from, I would say that as one may take up a mystical religion to try and make some sense of the world it would be fair to say that it could be an escape from reality. As I was arguing earlier that society initially teaches us what reality is and it can be obvious that life has little or no inherent value, it is fair to say that a mystical outlook on life is escape from reality. It is just a shame that many people can't see the value in the world without resorting to mumbo jumbo.
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Postby Bob » Thu Jan 01, 2004 6:12 pm

as one may take up a mystical religion to try and make some sense of the world it would be fair to say that it could be an escape from reality.

It "could" be a number of things. If you want escapism, you don't necessarily need Religion - which is the point I was making. You and I have the privilege of growing up in a society that still protects its citizens to a certain extent. We amuse ourselves with thoughts about how primitive people were two thousand years ago, but our amusement is really a sign of our lack of enlightenment. We are quite ignorant of what life could have been like in early civilisations, we haven't got a shade of an idea of what it could entail to build such a society as we live in now. In fact, I sometimes think that our ignorance is bringing the security we've grown up in into grave danger. Other civilisations have come to see how easy you can lose what it took hundreds of years to build - perhaps we will too!
As I was arguing earlier that society initially teaches us what reality is and it can be obvious that life has little or no inherent value, it is fair to say that a mystical outlook on life is escape from reality.

I read boredom in this statement. I read an opinion formed in an armchair in a warm house after a warm dinner. Mysticism is a form of Faith that is found in all major Religions and which is almost always connected to a life of service for other people. A service in poor conditions, with a hungry stomache and under great duress. Mystics have often been critical of the Church. In fact, Mystics have very often been outcast by mainstream Religion for not adhering to Dogmen.

Mysticism very often refers to its source Religion allegorically or symbolically and points out that there can be no "knowledge" about the Numinous or Divine, but rather we identify God mainly by what He is not.
Mystics have a different approach to God, and have their two feet solidly on the earth. Typical for this kind of faith is a quote from Simone Weil:
It isn't in the way somebody talks of God
that I discern whether his soul
has gone through the fire of godly love,
rather it is
in the way he talks about earthly things.

So you see, it is far from escapism - that is found far more in the "lukewarmers" who remain religious "just in case".

It is just a shame that many people can't see the value in the world without resorting to mumbo jumbo.

"Mumbo Jumbo" isn't what Mysticism is about. Mumbo Jumbo is a play on liturgical language held in Latin that people didn't understand. But even here you should know that Latin was chosen by the church as a kind of esperanto of the day, with the intention of having a universal language within the church. Admittedly, it didn't work out, but then again esperanto hasn't either.

Shalom
Bob
The only wisdom we can hope to acquire
Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless.
TS Eliot
When you are out of touch with reality you will easily embrace a delusion, and equally put in doubt the most basic elements of existence. If this reminds you of the mindset of the present day materialist science and philosophy establishments, as well as of the loudest voices in the socio-political debate, we should not be particularly surprised, since they show all the signs of attending with the left hemisphere alone. I live in the hope that that may soon change: for without a change we are lost.
McGilchrist, Iain . The Matter With Things: Our Brains, Our Delusions and the Unmaking of the World (S.562). Perspectiva Press. Kindle-Version.
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Postby Marshall McDaniel » Thu Jan 01, 2004 10:43 pm

Bob stated:
venus wrote:

I'm not sure I understand the whole relationship between "religious" practices and reality in the sense of whether they give us true knowledge or true exlanation of reality.

If we believe the behaviourists, then Religion is important for each generation to gain some kind of notion of life. It was from Religion that we got the first ideas of how life can be meaningful, what is right and lawful and the first opinions of morality and decency. The ancient religions have always had enjoyed a greater reverence because of the experience that they contain – even the Romans allowed the Jews to practice their faith out of reverence of it being an age old tradition.

Religion supplies us with rites, ceremonies, songs, imagery, works of art, buildings, myths, legends, teachers and offices in connection with an assumed - and very often divine – authority. Religion was primarily oral and upheld the values which were regarded “holy” and were passed down from generation to generation. It is an abstract method of guiding social behaviour and dealing with problems.

Many behaviourists claim that children who have no such background begin building their own – and proceed to stumble through the primitive beginnings that we as a society have left behind us. Many things that we criticise young people for are their new rites and ceremonies, which may seem to us primitive and unwise, but which present the stage of development that they have reached.

The rejection of Religion as a consequence of enlightenment reveals the true depth of the enlightenment. To reject the learning ground of a society without replacing it with something similar is to reject the basis of society. It would be more prudent to value whatever pedagogical means the society has developed to support the socialisation of young people – it doesn't mean that it can't be bettered, but it does mean that “the baby isn't thrown away with the bathwater”.


Thank you Bob. That was beautiful. I could not have said it better myself.

---
Matt said
I agree with this to some extent, however I don't think you have to rely on any religion or religious based teachings to pass on these values any more, we have law and abstract concepts like freedom and human rights that take the place of religious scriptures in detailing the frame work for acceptable behaviour. Religion is an outdated form of social teaching and, if it were not for the blind faith invested in it, would have been discarded long ago.


Even granted that your argument is correct, 'law and abstract concepts like freedom and human rights' still fail to reach some portions of the human psyche that religion previously did. Laws can teach you how to act, they can not, however, impart a sense of belonging to the community, a sense of being a moral agent, and a sense of meaning.
---
Bob.Someone who understands mysticism! The sufis, the early church fathers. The mystics are the wholehearted lot so uncharacteristic of a lot of religious rabble today. the mystic meister Eckhart once said, "I pray to God to rid me of the idea of God."
---
Venus. I don't think religion depicts reality as much as the practice of it depicts an emotional state. This is not to say that some have not misused religion and sought an escape from reality.
"..All life is the struggle, the effort to be itself. The difficulties I meet with in order to realise my existence are precisely what awaken and mobilise my activities, my capacities.."GASSET"..For enjoyment and innocence are the most modest things: neither want to be looked for. One should have them-but one should look rather for guilt and pain!.."NIETZSCHE"..The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man's heart.." CAMUS
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Postby Matt » Fri Jan 02, 2004 12:01 am

Bob wrote:We amuse ourselves with thoughts about how primitive people were two thousand years ago, but our amusement is really a sign of our lack of enlightenment.

and
Bob wrote:Mysticism is a form of Faith that is found in all major Religions and which is almost always connected to a life of service for other people. A service in poor conditions, with a hungry stomache and under great duress. Mystics have often been critical of the Church.

I read a certain rose tinted glasses look at mysticism there, were all mystics as wholesome as this? I very much doubt it. I daresay most of them were ignorant idiots who took a line that others blindly followed. There's nothing armchair about my opinions about this matter I have vigorously argued that religion is a cancer on our society throughout my time here at ilp. We have the means to let it go and we should.

There's plenty of quack mysticism out there that is in its essence escapism. Not only this but the original question was more about religion than mysticism, the title didn't perhaps suit the question. I do realise that you are refering to the real stuff though (I can't think of a better term as I'm tired, I'm not trying to be dismissive! :-))and this perhaps needs more consideration from myself, I tend to attack the opportunists, the BC equivalents of Uri Gellar.

Then again a cynic like myself might even say that someone like the big man himself, Jesus C, only caught on because he offered a class-neutral religion where the meek inherit the earth, that sounds like grade A escapism to me.

"Be good and down trodden and you'll get rewarded for it in heaven".

Suckers.

Bob wrote:that is found far more in the "lukewarmers" who remain religious "just in case".


Does anyone really believe in religion "just in case"? If they did wouldn't it be a form of realsim rather than escapism?

Marshall McD wrote:Laws can teach you how to act, they can not, however, impart a sense of belonging to the community, a sense of being a moral agent, and a sense of meaning.


I meant that society teaches us those latter 3 using law and those concepts much like priests used scripture, sorry, I realise I didn't say. I know society is a vague term, but it is an entity in itself, I believe it teaches through social participation and the wholesale school system we have.

Only people with true faith can gain those qualities from religion. But religion is not necessary to teach them, I know, I've never had a drop of faith in my blood or any religious teaching and yet I have all of those values, so where did they come from?
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Postby Pax Vitae » Fri Jan 02, 2004 5:07 am

Mysticism and Religion ask the same questions that Philosophy does, but they go about validating their answers in different ways. Philosophy uses Reason and Logic, while Mysticism uses Instinct and Faith. This to me is why Mysticism can speak to the soul, as it touches off our natural instincts something our rational mind can’t even begin to fathom. While Philosophical truth is something that can be expressed on paper, and when done correctly its inconsistencies are a beauty to behold. But when this truth leaves the page then you enter the world of Mysticism, Instinct and Faith.

Mysticism is mostly thought by indoctrination from Parents or a community. Then as we grow up, the fundamental questions address by our childhood Mysticism are eventually revisited when we come face to face with the universal issues of: ‘Existence’, ‘The Meaning of Life’, and ‘Death’. How people deal with these problems are very different both from a Mystical and Philosophical sense. Just like no two religions are the same, no two philosophies are a match. There’s just as much reason to complain about Philosophies talking crap as religions. But the difference is the premise of Philosophy has a stronger footing, because when done correctly is like Science, its conclusions are independently verifiable, while Mysticism and Religion rely on a combination of Instinct and Faith.

But beyond there differences they are both trying to deal with the same issues. Each puts forward answers to the universal questions and it’s up to us to choose the answers we most want to hear, then blindly defending that position against all opposition. There is no Universal Truth that all can be converted to, as the stoics say ‘Man is the measure of all things’, this includes Truth. Even if there is a God, s/he doesn’t wish to make any real statement about its existence and like Wittgenstein said, ‘Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.’ Yet mystics believe in ‘Revelation’ or a ‘3rd eye’. Who’s to know? These are the choices that make life interesting, as we are stabbing in the dark for a Truth that doesn’t exist. Only I Exists! Beyond this, all is speculation into the Mystic.
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Postby SageNonions » Fri Jan 02, 2004 5:41 am

Bob, your words speak to me with a clearness and purity, thankyou.

Matt,

I daresay most of them were ignorant idiots who took a line that others blindly followed.


"Be good and down trodden and you'll get rewarded for it in heaven".

Suckers.


well, just to say I have lost respect for you, I'm sorry.
In the beginning there was God, or so they tell me.
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Postby Marshall McDaniel » Fri Jan 02, 2004 7:28 am

Matt. Thank you for your post. A lot of your arguments from your last post read like an ad hominem attack. I know you can do better.
---
Hello Mentulzen. Long time no text.
---
Pax Vitae. You yourself once talked about bisecting the line between love and mind, passion and reason in a post. I think that is the lesson that religion has to teach us, that is the lesson of love. Instinct and faith surely play an ancillary role in this great quest.
---
Sometimes, if it were possible to be religious without believing in God, i would so. Religion imparts love, something that philosophy has had to go through circuitous routes to attain. In addition, religion has been able to unite men in a sense of brotherhood and community, something that humanism and philosophy may one day do.
"..All life is the struggle, the effort to be itself. The difficulties I meet with in order to realise my existence are precisely what awaken and mobilise my activities, my capacities.."GASSET"..For enjoyment and innocence are the most modest things: neither want to be looked for. One should have them-but one should look rather for guilt and pain!.."NIETZSCHE"..The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man's heart.." CAMUS
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Postby Bob » Fri Jan 02, 2004 1:16 pm

Matt wrote:
were all mystics as wholesome as this? I very much doubt it. I daresay most of them were ignorant idiots who took a line that others blindly followed.

I would say you may doubt whatever you want. But if you "daresay" then put some evidence behind your argument. "it is fair to say" and "it could" are elements of a very bland statement which needs "meat". I agree with Marshall: you can do better.

Shalom
Bob
The only wisdom we can hope to acquire
Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless.
TS Eliot
When you are out of touch with reality you will easily embrace a delusion, and equally put in doubt the most basic elements of existence. If this reminds you of the mindset of the present day materialist science and philosophy establishments, as well as of the loudest voices in the socio-political debate, we should not be particularly surprised, since they show all the signs of attending with the left hemisphere alone. I live in the hope that that may soon change: for without a change we are lost.
McGilchrist, Iain . The Matter With Things: Our Brains, Our Delusions and the Unmaking of the World (S.562). Perspectiva Press. Kindle-Version.
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Postby Bob » Fri Jan 02, 2004 4:09 pm

Pax Vitae wrote:
While Philosophical truth is something that can be expressed on paper, and when done correctly its inconsistencies are a beauty to behold. But when this truth leaves the page then you enter the world of Mysticism, Instinct and Faith.

Theodor W. Adorno has written:
"Philosophy, in the way it could be answered for
in sight of desperation,
would be the attempt to see all things
in the way they look from the point of redemption.
Knowledge has no light,
except the light that shines from redemption on the world
- all else exhausts itself in constructing imitations
and remains a piece of technology.
We have to find perspectives
in which the world similarly reveals itself as shifty and alienated,
showing its cracks and fissures
just as it will lie wanting and disformed
in the messianic light one day.
Finding such perspectives,
without arbitrariness and power,
completely removed from contact with objects,
that's what should be important for our thinking."
Mysticism is mostly thought by indoctrination from Parents or a community. Then as we grow up, the fundamental questions address by our childhood Mysticism are eventually revisited when we come face to face with the universal issues of: ‘Existence’, ‘The Meaning of Life’, and ‘Death’.

I believe I must dissent. If we move from Faith or Trust to Mysticism, we take a step away from what we were taught, as a swimmer does when he dives in for the first time alone. We leave the area where we have solid ground under our feet. It is a gamble of course and we can't fully explain to those who remain on solid ground what our experience has been. But when we come back to solid ground, we have grown in our experience.

Of course our childhood experiences often have a bearing on our behaviour in later years. Sometimes these experiences help us to manage better, some leave us with many questions to be answered, some experiences leave us with fears to overcome. Very much of this is irrational, but it is all the more real. The attempt of people suggesting that the world should only be understood rationally reveals to me that they may well be trying to supplant emotional experiences that make them uneasy.

Albert Einstein is ascribed the following:
The most magnificent and deep feeling that we can sense
is the mystical sensation.
There lies the true germ of any science.
For whoever thinks this feeling is strange
and can't be seized by admiration
or be raptured by ecstasy,
is quite dead.
To know that something that is impenetrable
still exists,
and manifests itself as highest wisdom
and radiant beauty,
which we can only percieve
in extremely primitive form
with our blunt abilities,
this assuredness, this feeling
is at the core of every truly religious mind.

Shalom
Bob
The only wisdom we can hope to acquire
Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless.
TS Eliot
When you are out of touch with reality you will easily embrace a delusion, and equally put in doubt the most basic elements of existence. If this reminds you of the mindset of the present day materialist science and philosophy establishments, as well as of the loudest voices in the socio-political debate, we should not be particularly surprised, since they show all the signs of attending with the left hemisphere alone. I live in the hope that that may soon change: for without a change we are lost.
McGilchrist, Iain . The Matter With Things: Our Brains, Our Delusions and the Unmaking of the World (S.562). Perspectiva Press. Kindle-Version.
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Postby Matt » Fri Jan 02, 2004 8:59 pm

Let us bring this back to the question. My argument has been that mysticism is almost entirely about escapism coupled with a serious skeptical doubt that most mystics are talking nonsense, either because they have inconsistent revelations or they are down and out liars.

I think Pax said it best with:

Philosophy uses Reason and Logic, while Mysticism uses Instinct and Faith.


Instinct and faith being the most unreliable of human reflections.

The question here is what do YOU think a mystic is? Much of what I have read so far has been talking wistfully of wonderful people with wonderful insights on life. But many would call Uri Gellar a mystic, others a delusional madman. And this is in the time of true skepticism and rationalism. How many people who were mad, delusional, high or just down right lying passed in to myth as mystics before we hit upon the enlightenment of the modern world, rationalism?

Are these all mystical experiences? How many are cries for help? How many are cases wher the mind couldn't make sense of the world? How many were due to extreme pressures or circumstances that led to a small breakdown that seemed to be a 'revelation'? As a skeptic, all of them. But for you, it is your choice.

Back to defining mysticism, let us take James's definition of mystical experiences - ineffable, noetic, transient and passive. Sounds like the experience of taking a drug. In fact Stace has argued that drugs can give us valid mystical experiences, mescalin is as good as meditation.

Furthermore James states that mystical experience can both be truthful and deceptive. Many mystical revelations were thought to be brought about by the devil, not God. Even as a believer one can coherently argue that it would be impossible to distinguish the two, after all in Christian mythology the Devil was given the means to tempt.

Adding the ineffability part brings us near to the end. If a mystical experience is ineffable the best attempts by a mystic would never reveal the whole truth of the experience, add in the fact that it can be truth or deception and you are left with a quagmire of unknowability, a maze of questions without answers.

Finally add in people.

People, as a whole, will only follow that which makes them feel better, as per my previous example of a religion that teaches that the wrongs of the world will be made up for by the afterlife, Christianity. If there ever was any truth in mystical revelation it would appear to me that it would be harsh rather than happy, look at the world. But how many mystics teach that much of life is pointless?

So with a mystic that many followed what are you left with?

Escapism.
Matt
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Postby Metavoid » Fri Jan 02, 2004 10:39 pm

Matt, you were once religious and religion let you down. Am I correct?
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Postby Matt » Fri Jan 02, 2004 11:41 pm

No, never religious, am completely baffled by faith, a little envious of it even.
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Postby Bob » Fri Jan 02, 2004 11:46 pm

Matt wrote:
The question here is what do YOU think a mystic is? Much of what I have read so far has been talking wistfully of wonderful people with wonderful insights on life. But many would call Uri Gellar a mystic...

I find it difficult to follow you to Uri Gellar when talking about Mysticism. Is it really about what each of us would think is a mystic? Isn't it in effect about the discovery of a different source of experience than Rationalism, which you seem to uphold so religiously. Rationalism is what has killed most people in the last century, whether emerging from communism or fascism or capitalism or so called Fundamentalism. Rationalism is the doctrine that knowledge is acquired by reason without resort to experience - and is for that reason heartless.

What rational reason tells us to take prisoners rather that slaughtering every enemy? What reason have we to care for displaced persons? For what reason do we care for disabled children? Where's the logic of love? The answer is in our responsibility toward others. We don't want to be found irresponsible – but by who? Who is going to take us to account? Who is going to ask why? Why are we so damned compassionate?

If Reason is the state of having good sense and sound judgement, where does this “sense” and “judgement” come from? Rationalisation is known for laying off workers, for saving expenses, for making everything efficient. If there were one people who were efficient, it was the Nazi's. Their efficiency caused the deaths of at least six million Jews.

Although I would agree that we can't do without a certain degree of Rationalism, we also need the intuition and faith of people who pick up life where Rationalism has left off. It isn't the Rationalist who is a mother, nor is the Rationalist a nurse or a social worker. I would go as far as saying that purist Rationalism is more escapism than any Mystic I have come across.
And this is in the time of true skepticism and rationalism. How many people who were mad, delusional, high or just down right lying passed in to myth as mystics before we hit upon the enlightenment of the modern world, rationalism?

As someone who has a lot of experience with psychiatric illnesses, I can assure you that there are many people who are driven to disorders and have difficulty complying with “normalcy”because of religious psychosis. But there are as many who stumble over the normalcy of a “rational” world, in which they can't find love and affection but rather have to function.

Many elderly people who experience their own abilities fading, perhaps their memory or paralysis of the limbs, look to those who care for them and ask why we do what we do. Is there a rational answer? And, if there were, would it soothe the minds of the ailing?
Are these all mystical experiences? How many are cries for help? How many are cases where the mind couldn't make sense of the world? How many were due to extreme pressures or circumstances that led to a small breakdown that seemed to be a 'revelation'? As a skeptic, all of them. But for you, it is your choice.

When I read the accounts that your link leads to, I read people who are searching, trying to explain, trying to understand. They tell you more about themselves than about their experiences. But you don't have a rational answer for them. You would like to perhaps – but you don't have an answer. You are writing here because you want someone to come up with a rational answer, something you perhaps missed.

But all the time we are dependent upon both: Rationality and Intuition, Knowledge and Faith, Certainty and Assurance, the Thought and the Deed. As the Bible states: Everything has it's time:

For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for shalom. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 )

Shalom
Bob
The only wisdom we can hope to acquire
Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless.
TS Eliot
When you are out of touch with reality you will easily embrace a delusion, and equally put in doubt the most basic elements of existence. If this reminds you of the mindset of the present day materialist science and philosophy establishments, as well as of the loudest voices in the socio-political debate, we should not be particularly surprised, since they show all the signs of attending with the left hemisphere alone. I live in the hope that that may soon change: for without a change we are lost.
McGilchrist, Iain . The Matter With Things: Our Brains, Our Delusions and the Unmaking of the World (S.562). Perspectiva Press. Kindle-Version.
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Postby Marshall McDaniel » Sat Jan 03, 2004 2:11 am

Metavoid stated:
Matt, you were once religious and religion let you down. Am I correct?


forgive me for commenting on a question addressed to another. It seems in my own life that i have had to leave my faith in order to rediscover it. Caring for others is not found in a religion, in a doctrine, or a church, for me it is not even found in belief in God. It is in each and every one of us, it only has to be nurtured. reason without love is dead, rational thought without experience is flawed. Has philosophy been able to justify ethics from a rational basis? i don't think so. Has religion been able to support it's claims through the rigors of rational thought? i don't think so. Even in Plato's republic he talks about reason, spirit, and appetite. The ancients knew the value of a balanced life. They must be combined, both reason and love.
---
While it is true that Sartre took mescalin, i find it hard to identify Uri Geller with mysticism, the Dalai Llama would be a far more likely candidate.
"..All life is the struggle, the effort to be itself. The difficulties I meet with in order to realise my existence are precisely what awaken and mobilise my activities, my capacities.."GASSET"..For enjoyment and innocence are the most modest things: neither want to be looked for. One should have them-but one should look rather for guilt and pain!.."NIETZSCHE"..The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man's heart.." CAMUS
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Postby Pax Vitae » Sat Jan 03, 2004 7:42 am

Marshall McDaniel wrote:Pax Vitae. You yourself once talked about bisecting the line between love and mind, passion and reason in a post.

I wish I knew with post, as I’d liked to reread it. The more time I spend studying the sciences the more reality starts to be come mundane. Things like: Gods, Mysticism and Other-worldly Experiences (as in strange), are just a by-product of an unbalanced emotional state, which Matt has already said.

Love is a wonderful thing. The way in which it affects our body is almost magical as the endorphins run throughout it as we’re taken on a blissful opiate trip. Love is a chemical reaction in the body to a stimulus. How exactly this works is still mystical, but science can see, and is studying the physiological effects. Our body is little more then a big scientific chemical experiment and we’re living in a world of Cause and Effect, which our body is very much a part of. We cannot escape our body chemicals, get somebody drunk and see how this affects their decisions. Or give somebody antidepressants and watch how they become happy for no reason. We have learned the basics to modifying our emotions through chemicals; this is only possible because we are very much a part of this world.

Passion can be a dangerous ally. It normally makes people do things that don’t make sense. Passionate people are led by their emotions, which isn’t always a good thing. They act without thinking, because if they were to think about their actions first, that would be reasoning. Of the following two who would you sooner give your money to, to invest in the stock market? A passionate stockbroker who acts on his instincts, or a calm calculating rational number cruncher, who basis his choices off the maths?

Bob wrote:The attempt of people suggesting that the world should only be understood rationally reveals to me that they may well be trying to supplant emotional experiences that make them uneasy.

I hope you don’t think I’m suggesting that, as I didn’t. Instinct and Faith lead us, some are led to religion / mysticism others are led to philosophy, but its Instinct and Faith that led use to both initially. To continue believing in either is an act of faith. Faith in Reason or faith in Revelation, take your pick. What are you going to believe in? Reason is a Gift, whether you believe that it’s God given or just an affect of evolution, again that’s up to you to decide. Yet Revelation can contradict Reason, Miracles are one prime example.

Some would say there is more fun to be had in exploring the unknown, then being handed all the answers. Most people like puzzles, but you don’t look at the answer before you start the puzzle? As the fun is had in the exploration of the problem. I see the meaning of life as a puzzle, and philosophy part of the exploration. Religion I feel is there for those that want answers, but answers that they find palatable. They’ve already decided on an answer before looking at the problem in any serious manor.

Following is taken from After the Fat Lady Sings
Polemarchus wrote:So, here is my definition. ’God’ is the name we give to our ignorance. God lives in mystery and dies in understanding. God thrives in darkness and fades in the light. Martin Luther once referred to human reason as, “Satan’s Whore.” I understand his anger. Reason and understanding are to God, what garlic and sunlight are to Vampires. God never left the side of men frightened and confused by the likes of thunderstorms, earthquakes and epidemic disease.

We’ve long ago given up our beliefs that each day a god rides his golden chariot across the sky, or that a child’s birth defect is God’s way of punishing the parents. But God continues to live precisely in those aspects of the world that continue to frighten and confuse us. Death, uncertainty and injustice remain natural havens where we continue to seek the comfort of our God.

Should our renaming of the unknown constitute a comfort to us? Does it make any sense to be frightened of a mysterious universe yet to take comfort in a God that “works in mysterious ways”? In his, A Splendid Feast of Reason, S. J. Singer wrote:

”The practice of naming something that is not understood is one of our oldest psychological tricks to hoodwink ourselves into believing that we have made the unknown familiar.”

All we’ve done is to rename what we cannot yet explain. We’ve repackaged the unknown into a more consumer friendly product. We find warm solace in the mystery of God, yet an identical mystery - the mystery of the universe - evokes in us a cold fear.
Did we Create God or Did God create us???
Polemarchus wrote:"The practice of naming something that is not understood is one of our oldest psychological tricks to hoodwink ourselves into believing that we have made the unknown familiar." The Splendid Feast Of Reason, S.J. Singer

Theists accept god on the basis of faith. They've elevated faith, based upon spiritual concepts rather than reason and observation, as the gold standard of religious virtue. Christians, for example, often refer to, "Their leap of faith".

But here is a problem.

If you elevate faith above rationality, how do you know you are worshipping the true god? Indeed Satan, that mischievous fellow, could merely be posing as the true god.

Again, to use Christians as an example, they believe that Satan speaks to us mortals. If one day the clouds parted and a booming voice addressed me...Well, I'd be on my knees before you could say "Beelzebub". Having never had as much as a "Howdy do" from the true god himself, I'd naturally assume that such a supernatural power was god. How could I, a simple man, know that it is only Satan fooling me? How could Christians be certain that they've not already been worshipping an evil imposter for some 2000 years?

Christians might object that Satan would do evil whereas god is benevolent. But God (if it is the true god) is perpetually killing classrooms of schoolchildren in earthquakes and such. Wouldn't such common but horrific behavior more logically originate from a devil rather than a god?

Science is based upon reason and experiment. Philosophy is based upon reason. However, religion is based upon neither reason or experiment; religion is based on faith. People can be of good or bad faith, but faith alone is insufficent to critically investigate the validity of a belief.

A.F.C. Wallace in his 1966 book titled, Religion, An Anthropological View, estimates that roughly 100,000 distinct religions have been practiced in the course of human history. Just look at the many diverse religions practiced around the world today. Curiously, the specific religion practiced appears to be based more upon geography rather than upon conscious decision. For example, the Saudis are primarily Muslim, the Irish are Catholic, while a good many Indians are Hindu. If you had been born in Yemen rather than in England, what are the chances that you would be a practicing Christian? Every religion seems to speak of the "true" God, yet what possible assurance does a believer have that he is not following the wrong deity, or even worse…a Satan?

Michael

"Religion is a magic device for turning unanswerable questions into unquestionable answers." Art Gecko
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Postby Bob » Sat Jan 03, 2004 10:38 am

Hi Pax Vitae,

I quite like your last posting. It shows the ambiguity of our experience well. Of course it is a task balancing between Reason and Intuition, between Fact and Faith, Rationality and Passion. I don't know whether Instinct plays the part in Religion you have given it, although there are of course a number of impulsive responses in us, reacting to visual, audible and chemical stimulants. It is something I would have to consider seperately.

What I am concerned about is the tendancy to regard the two sides of one coin as though they were not connected. In my job I have to use both Reason and Intuition to approach human beings. You can't put them on a dissecting table until an autopsy is due. The social aspects of Religion, especially of Mysticism play a role in the way people cope with life and the various challenges that they are confronted with, in the way they behave in certain circumstances.

It is interesting to see how people face death in their various spiritual states - there is no simple dividing line, because death isn't a black and white affair. I think that nearly all people who I have witnessed dying died differently. I hadn't thought that this would be the case when I started out caring for people but it has been my experience. For me this tells me something about the value of Religion - but also of the dangers too.

Evangelicals generally find comfort in people assuring them of life after death by reading selected parts of the Bible. They pray togather and suffer silently until death. They seem quite braced for death itself.

The same can be generally said for normal churchgoers too. Except perhaps for a twitch of fear, uncertainty and tears. But again, the consolation for these people lies in the confidence in their God and the hope of eternal life.

Those people with mystical backgrounds tend to want to experience the process of death conciously - and don't want to be distracted. They often try to explain what is happening to them from their perspective when the journey begins and are therefore sometimes loud at death.

Many people without a religious background go through the normal phases of death without particular behaviour, some express their resentment, some their surprise, some their fears and some their remorse. Some look for consolation, despite their refusing Religion before.

Some people just lie down and die, suddenly and unexpected. Very often these people are depressive natures, some are cholerical people. Their death a clear psychosomatic reaction to their state of mind. They may hide this of course in life, but often there are tell-tale symptoms.

I write this because I believe that our state of mind has a bearing on the way we confront life. Mystics are very much part of the world, even in death. They have both extremes in them: Reason and ecstatic Faith. That is why for me, Matt's assumption that Mysticism is escapism is purely an assumption, not backed up by facts.

Escapism is found in all sorts of human behaviour, not least in alchoholism, drug abuse and violence. Isn't the crowd in the football-stadium a fantastic way of escaping the drudgery of everyday life? I can think of a thousand ways to escape from the things in life that disturb me and millions of people do these things without having the least to do with Religion.

Interestingly though, religious people are particularly active in social activities that require some kind of "calling". Rather than escaping the facts of life, they approach the things that other people openly say are above them. This is particularly true of Mystics. Of course people will use the vocabulary that they have grown up in to describe the experience of "being called" - Mystics very often tried to find different means of expression, including an "athiestic faith in God".

That is why I disagree when you write:
Things like: Gods, Mysticism and Other-worldly Experiences (as in strange), are just a by-product of an unbalanced emotional state, which Matt has already said.

An unbalanced emotional state is something that needs treating. If people with a calling to help others need treatment, then I would rather need treatment than to ignore the social challenges that life present us. Instead, I challenge those who "can't" help others but criticise others for their motives, to get a life.

I refer to my previous posting that Matt brushed aside:
Religion supplies us with rites, ceremonies, songs, imagery, works of art, buildings, myths, legends, teachers and offices in connection with an assumed - and very often divine – authority. Religion was primarily oral and upheld the values which were regarded “holy” and were passed down from generation to generation. It is an abstract method of guiding social behaviour and dealing with problems.

Dealing with problems doesn't sound like escapism - or am I just off on a limb?

Shalom
Bob
The only wisdom we can hope to acquire
Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless.
TS Eliot
When you are out of touch with reality you will easily embrace a delusion, and equally put in doubt the most basic elements of existence. If this reminds you of the mindset of the present day materialist science and philosophy establishments, as well as of the loudest voices in the socio-political debate, we should not be particularly surprised, since they show all the signs of attending with the left hemisphere alone. I live in the hope that that may soon change: for without a change we are lost.
McGilchrist, Iain . The Matter With Things: Our Brains, Our Delusions and the Unmaking of the World (S.562). Perspectiva Press. Kindle-Version.
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Postby Metavoid » Sat Jan 03, 2004 1:10 pm

Matt wrote:No, never religious, am completely baffled by faith, a little envious of it even.

It's just your objection to religion comes across as personal, rather than intellectual. *Shrugs* Maybe you're just very passionate.
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Postby Pax Vitae » Sat Jan 03, 2004 1:17 pm

Bob wrote:That is why I disagree when you write:
Pax Vitae wrote:Things like: Gods, Mysticism and Other-worldly Experiences (as in strange), are just a by-product of an unbalanced emotional state, which Matt has already said.

An unbalanced emotional state is something that needs treating. If people with a calling to help others need treatment, then I would rather need treatment than to ignore the social challenges that life present us. Instead, I challenge those who "can't" help others but criticise others for their motives, to get a life.

I’m talking about people who talk to God and He talks back! How many of the Mystics have been referred to as Madmen? How do we know that the earliest of Mystical leaders weren’t just suffering from schizophrenic episodes? I’ve had personal experience of somebody who heard voices, my Uncle. For the last 3 years of his life he constantly heard people talking to him. He used to say some of them were kind and others were mean. This was a medical problem not a mystical experience! Hume argues that we can never know if other peoples’ Revelations are brought about by madness or a divine being. He says this is where the faith comes into play, faith in this person and what they’re saying is true.

Bob wrote:Instead, I challenge those who "can't" help others but criticise others for their motives, to get a life

I didn’t say that and never would, I agree with you. I know many good people who enjoy helping others, both with religious and atheistic beliefs. Good people are not good because they practice the right religion or follow some mystical leader. I’ve met many people, from all sorts of backgrounds some good and some not so, some religious and others not. But you could never judge how good somebody was going to be based off the fact that they practiced a religion. In fact I found just as many good atheists as religious. Goodness has little to do with Faith in God! It’s about understanding and compassion, religion talks a lot about this but too many of their followers’ lose sight of this and concentrate on God, and what will God do for me. They have a selfish need for God; He’s their next get rich quick scheme.

I know atheists who are kinder then most Christians and help people out of love, not because God told them to, but because they know in their hearts it’s right. They’re not religious, they don’t do this for god’s approval; half the time they jokingly say they do it because god won’t! Goodness transcends religion, and religion has no right to that title. Morality or Ethics, Religion or Philosophy, both will teach kindness and compassion, each will tell you the stories for Truth, but in a different way. Religion will tell you about how they righteously murdered all those heretics in God’s glorious name and how it was a just war! Philosophy from its earliest days has seen wars as necessary, and its necessity, which makes it just, not God’s glory. Why have these religious wars died out? I would say rational minds have stopped the hearts of passionate men! I know none more passionate then those fill with a love for God. 9/11 is a testament to this, as they bore witness to their Muslim faith. And how many Jews, Cathars and many other nameless faces died because Christians, guided by the spirit knew it was God’s wish that those people should die. What could possibly stop all this madness, only one thing, Reason!

Bob wrote:Dealing with problems doesn't sound like escapism - or am I just off on a limb?

I don’t see Religion as escapism, other then escaping from the uncertainty of life, which is also true for Philosophy. In fact I don’t see much of a difference in Religion and Philosophy, their ultimate goal is the same, To Find Meaning. If God gives you meaning then Praise the Lord! But don’t let him tell you it’s ever okay to kill people in his name! Likewise follow Philosophy, but try to resolve the paradox of creation in a universe where cause and affect is inherently fundamental. Neither will put forth a strong enough case to convert all people to that one truth. But in each there is enough truth to see people through the dark night of the soul.
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Postby Matt » Sat Jan 03, 2004 1:17 pm

(edit) NB: Pax and I posted at the same time here which is why I have repeated a few of his points :-) (edit)

Bob, your posts are very interesting and informative and I don't mean to pick but you say:

Bob wrote:That is why for me, Matt's assumption that Mysticism is escapism is purely an assumption, not backed up by facts.


without ever having tried to counter my arguments. All you have done so far is state that it is not escapism. I admit there was a fair chunk of assumption in my first few posts but the last big one I made was a full on attempt to argue from premise to premise to conclusion why mysticism HAS to be escapism. And "Matt's assumption....is an assumption"? Rather leading the reader down the garden path are you not, play fair! :wink:

Yes, mysticism might be a way of coping with the world but it is still escapism. Yes it does have value for the very reason that it gives hope and meaning to many people but it does it in an essentially delusional way. Yes, rationalism and reason have their problems, but it doesn't mean they don't give value or compassion, that's attacking a straw doll and then presenting a false dilemma argument[1], I don't want to enter into it as my post is going to be long enough as it is.

I have also argued that we don't need religion anymore, we have ways to give hope and meaning to people without it. I didn't mean to brush aside your point about the values it gives, I meant to show that it has been superceded by a better and fairer way of imparting responsibility and belonging. An illness may be relieved by giving someone a drug to counter the symptoms, but surely it would be better to cure the illness? I see religion and mysticism as not dealing with problems but displacing them, often 'giving' responsibility for certain occurances to a divine being and thus making a person feel better without ever facing up to the truth of what happened.

It might work, but it is still escapism. Without wanting to sound corny, as this is just an example that popped into my head, I'm not a Matrix nut, in the Matrix Neo goes to see the Oracle and she gives him some bad news. When he leaves she gives him a cookie and says something like "Don't worry, by the time you've finished eating that cookie you'll feel right as rain, you'll remember you don't believe in any of this fate crap".

By deciding he doesn't believe in fate he is escaping the problems that he has been given. By believing in God one escapes the need to face the horror that can be reality. One escapes the true reality of experience and displaces responsibility onto the shoulders of the divine.

Back to why mysticism is escapism, Pax's second quote from Polemarchus is very telling, if I were from Afghanistan I'd definatly be religious believing in one type of God, if I were from an African country I'd believe in an essentially different one, perhaps being a devout Catholic.

And the two are irreconcilable, they are essentially different in character, in what they promise. These are not different interpretations of God, that is wishful thinking, these are different Gods. Different ways of expalaining the horror that can be reality. So at least grant me that the majority of Mysticism must be escapism, even if one set of mystics and religion are right.
__________________________________________________
[1] Very briefly you have accused rationalism and reason of not imparting any value to human life, compassion, love, etc. (the straw doll part as that's misrepresenting these stances) and then reduced the argument to "It must be rationalism or mysticism that gives human life value therefore it must be Mysticism". As far as I can tell that's a false dilemma argument, if you want to debate it fully I'm game, but start another thread as it's not really the discussion in hand and will take us way OT.
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Postby Matthew E. » Sat Jan 03, 2004 1:38 pm

I'd like to begin by stating that I've thoroughly enjoyed the debating in this thread. The dichotomy of Matt's (and Pax's) deterministic paradigm and Bob's spiritual perspective voiced the very concerns and qualms I seem to be struggling with daily now.

Bob wrote:
Religion supplies us with rites, ceremonies, songs, imagery, works of art, buildings, myths, legends, teachers and offices in connection with an assumed - and very often divine – authority. Religion was primarily oral and upheld the values which were regarded “holy” and were passed down from generation to generation. It is an abstract method of guiding social behaviour and dealing with problems.

Dealing with problems doesn't sound like escapism - or am I just off on a limb?


I agree with you Bob, that dealing with problems isn't escapism, but it really depends upon which side of the fence you're on. Matt views faith as escaping- escaping the responsiblity of accepting the rational answer to the "meaning of life" question, because that answer is not a pleasing one. What Matt views as escapism, I think you see as pragmaticism (at the risk of putting words in your mouth). Let me see if I can explain my claim. The rationalist answer, while displeasing, is sufficient in describing how the universe operates. Why do you help people Bob? Well, because a specific chemical reaction that is created by assisting others leads you to keep doing it. But, if we are to accept this as our answer, the majority will lose their interest in doing anything, as life becomes merely a conglomeration of chemical reactions. If this stark realization doesn't kill you, then the remainder of your life will be lived envying those that live in ignorance, or against the conclusions of reason. I think the position that you represent Bob, is the pragmatic position. That reason, while sufficient in describing the universe, is not sufficient in fulfilling happiness or well-being. It seems that if we are to live under the guidance of reason alone, our only joys will be found in those fleeting moments when we forget that our actions are determined (a position I find myself in quite often). This is the only reason that I cannot agree wholeheartdly with Pax's and Matt's arguments- it's difficult to accept a position that does not seem to be conducive to a happy life. If the rationalist position foregoes happiness and peace of mind, can it truly be right?
Last edited by Matthew E. on Sat Jan 03, 2004 2:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Bob » Sat Jan 03, 2004 2:36 pm

Pax Vitae wrote:
I’m talking about people who talk to God and He talks back!

I'm sorry that I wasn't differentiating towards the end of the posting. My challenge wasn't necessary guided at you but just generally voiced.

Hume argues that we can never know if other peoples’ Revelations are brought about by madness or a divine being. He says this is where the faith comes into play, faith in this person and what they’re saying is true.

Today I would say that we are bound to trust people every day: the bus and train driver, the airline pilot, the surgeon etc. We live in a society of mutual trust - to some degree. The old point of reference was to judge by the consequences of what a person claimed and whether he put his own life on the scales. That seems to be a good measure even today.
Good people are not good because they practice the right religion or follow some mystical leader. I’ve met many people, from all sorts of backgrounds some good and some not so, some religious and others not. But you could never judge how good somebody was going to be based off the fact that they practiced a religion.

And that is precisely the standpoint of many Mystics who were very often dissenters - and became heretics in the view of the mainstream church. In fact, it is in doing some good that you find those who are spiritually akin to yourself - whatever their relationship to the church.
Religion will tell you about how they righteously murdered all those heretics in God’s glorious name and how it was a just war! Philosophy from its earliest days has seen wars as necessary, and its necessity, which makes it just, not God’s glory. Why have these religious wars died out?

I'm not sure they have died out - look at George W. Bush's administration and listen to some of their wacky statements and I feel myself back in a time I wished was past. But I think Religion has always been misused by people in power, especially when you look at the structure of the church in the middle ages, when second sons of principalities looked for some power of their own. It is an old and relevant argument against church as we know it, but it isn't what we are looking at. The Mystics were often classed as heretic themselves.
I would say rational minds have stopped the hearts of passionate men! I know none more passionate then those fill with a love for God. 9/11 is a testament to this, as they bore witness to their Muslim faith.

Not only that. I believe there was a great deal more rationality to this tragic act of mass murder that we are told. Especially in America there are facts that don't get through the censorship, and Europe is reluctant to show some of the good investigative reporting done. Of course it's sold as a mad religious act and possibly it could have only been done by muslims.

But Bin Laden has been part of a multimillionare family for all of his life. He has had a good education and he knows how the world works. It was also his second attempt and the WTC - why? It is the symbol of the WTO - World Trade Organisation - which is held by many millions of muslims to be the new colonialism of the west, but with more devastating effects. If you like, it was a rational decision to hit those buildings, irregardless of how many lives it cost.

Secondly, what was "Mein Kampf"? Was it Religion, Philosophy, Ideology? What was the Communist Manifesto? Were there no other writings than the Bible or the Qu'ran that led people to war? I think we should be able to recognise that Religion isn't the only source of evil and passionate hate.

Shalom
Bob
The only wisdom we can hope to acquire
Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless.
TS Eliot
When you are out of touch with reality you will easily embrace a delusion, and equally put in doubt the most basic elements of existence. If this reminds you of the mindset of the present day materialist science and philosophy establishments, as well as of the loudest voices in the socio-political debate, we should not be particularly surprised, since they show all the signs of attending with the left hemisphere alone. I live in the hope that that may soon change: for without a change we are lost.
McGilchrist, Iain . The Matter With Things: Our Brains, Our Delusions and the Unmaking of the World (S.562). Perspectiva Press. Kindle-Version.
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