Dr. Rupert Sheldrake Brings Science to Spiritual Practices |376|

Discussion in 'Skeptiko Shows' started by Alex, Mar 20, 2018.

  1. Michael Patterson

    Michael Patterson New

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    You have not come anywhere near offending me. I appreciate your clarity of argument. I certainly take a mystical approach. For me the intellect is in service of the heart, and it can illuminate what is close to us, useful to us. So there is a difference between using intellect, or reason (which originally meant intellect plus spiritual insight) to try to figure out reality, and using it to comprehend your experience of it.

    How can we know whether the unicorn we imagine has its own life? How do we know whether the unicorn we think we imagine is imaginary? Last night I found myself in a complex dream. Had I imagined ('dreamed') it all? Was I participating in a reality that had its own independent existence with a population that had their own existence? I can suppose many things to be true, based on previous knowledge and beliefs. I can take a philosophically skeptical position and find that I cannot be conclude anything safely.

    My sense is that I live in a vastly complex reality. I know unicorns and Santa exist in what I would call an imaginal state. Do either have physical historic existence? I do not think so. At present I see no benefit in engaging with the belief that both exist. So I do not "believe" in Santa, unicorns or the tooth fairy as an active self-serving state of mind.

    The thing about ritual is often a matter of engaging with the imputed actuality of an agency so that working with it becomes operative - able to generate results in the aspect of reality in which there is a concern. So a religious ritual can be sentimental rather than a clear expression of intent and will. The other thing, with all rituals, is that you are not the only agent with a vision and intent. Sometimes a ritual will work only because other agents are involved, or they allow what you are doing to work. Sometimes a ritual will work because you are canny enough not to perform it the chance of success is highest. Here is my point - it is rarely reason is the driver of an action here.

    My natural inclination is to what is commonly called animism - and this supposes that reality is comprised of interconnections that are more relational than mechanical/rational. Our primary operating mode is not, and cannot be, reason based. It is almost always primarily heart/intuition. If you consider somebody you love and are close to, what you know of them and how you relate to them is not reason-based. The you consider the amount of rational knowledge possible to you in terms of their physical presence you use virtually none of it. How much does their head weigh? What is the volume of their left foot? And so on. Much of the information you can't get unless you kill them. The information we rely on is sloppy, imprecise and probably factually wrong.

    Please don't get me wrong. I esteem reason highly - in its place. When we can reason love (strange how we have no science for probably the most important thing in the world) I may be persuaded to change my position. I am almost persuaded that reason's primary function is to enable us to talk to ourselves in a way that impresses us, and which convinces us that we are smarter than we actually are. Others have said that it is through reason that we become conscious of what our soul communicates to us - and there is something in that too.

    Back to RS and his faith. There isn't and can't be a single thing we call Christianity. It is a complex thing that is a filter between an individual and their sense of the divine or sacred. It is not a concrete noun, but a slippery, imprecise and rough indication of an idea we all kinda get something off (think blind men and the elephant). There are fundamental problems with Christian dogma and theology at a gross social or cultural level. But Christian practice is not a uniform expression. Rupert is right to see the connection between the Hindu and the Christian mystics. He is right to see the benefits of community and communion. He is right to elect to ignore the intellectual problems with certain content and rely upon the poetic and mythic potential.

    But I couldn't do that. I was raised in a Northern Irish Protestant family with an approach to religion that was so abusive and offensive I could imagine no prospect of reconciliation. If I engage with Christianity on a head level there is no peace between us. If I engage it on a heart level I struggle to forgive the sins against the core teachings. I have to shift gear entirely into a mystical domain to allow me to be at peace with it.

    I am with Alex in my objections to dogma and theology. But he and I and others like us are on a different mission to Rupert and others like him - in that our aversion and their peace is a personal journey that does not detract from our shared aspirations and goals.
     
  2. Michael Patterson

    Michael Patterson New

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    Hey Charlie. Good question. All I can say is that it may be whatever it is that we seem to be struggling toward. So many of our traditions are rooted in the pre-modern world and there really is no chance to go back. Between then and now we have history, materialism, science and all the other things that make our us who we are. I don't think the divine stopped talking to us after Mohammed. I think part of the modern/post modern period is a shared or collective fashioning of 'revelations' - many small rather than one large. That will include distilling from the past the gems that endure, as well as discerning deep truths from our shared secular and sacred experiences.

    As to untarnished? I think that's why so much inquiry these days is SBNR and DIY. We crave the untarnished but may not find it.
     
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  3. Michael Patterson

    Michael Patterson New

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    Wow! So many things here. For me a ritual does not work if it makes the practitioner feel good. If you will excuse the apparent vulgarity of the expression, that is a kind of masturbatory expectation. A ritual has the potential to effect others and our shared reality as well. It may well be that Sheldrake does not go beyond the personal satisfaction of participating in a religious ritual. I haven't examined his claims in this respect to make any comment. But, if he dos mean that, then he misunderstands the nature of ritual - in that it has a transformative, rather than feel good effect. We draw a distinction between rituals and ceremonies in a very unsatisfactory way - to distinguish between acts intended to sustain a community and acts intended to generate an outcome that is beyond the community of participants. The difference between a religious and a magical ceremony/ritual is not as neat as some wish to think.

    The placebo versus active ingredient argument is interesting. We typically favour the effect of the active ingredient over the placebo for reasons I find incomprehensible. Surely we should favour the placebo first and the 'active ingredient' as the desperate line of last resort? I am intrigued by the idea that the active ingredient might be "the one and only revelation of the Ultimate Truth or even be based on historical facts". In a sense this is what pharmacology strives to do - isolate a unique acting agent that targets the malaise and overcomes it. Here we can see that Christianity and pharmacology share something in common - the belief that a dynamic agency can be extricated from a complex and applied as a solution with radical effectiveness.

    I don't think this works. The idea that the divine will express a unique truth through a single historic event is a radical assertion of an idea that has disrupted an enduring an ancient understanding that nobody gets to own a sole franchise on revelation or salvation. In a way Christianity sought to patent the singular historic expression of the divine. And then Islam upped the ante by saying that Mohammed was the last true prophet. From a mythic perspective that kind of petty bickering about historic markers is idiotic. if the divine elects to manifest in history and declare truths it does not surrender the right to do the same thing again, whenever, and however it wants. There is no franchise contract with Christianity, Islam, or Judaism for that matter.

    I am not a fan of Christianity by any measure. I have adopted the wisdom of 'know thy enemy' and inquired into the faith extensively.Besides it has permeated my culture to the extent that I cannot understand my culture without a knowledge of it. I am puzzled by people who, in their mature years, find a motive to return to a faith that, from my position, should seem utterly beyond redemption. To me that seems like an abdication of a duty to be rationally critical. They do not agree.

    Years ago I had an email interchange with a woman who was prominent in a movement to cure Catholicism of its implicit misogyny. Why not, I asked, become a Wiccan? She wanted to stay and have the fight. So maybe karma is the answer. Maybe Rupert has karma with the Anglicans, and we do not. I have had friends who persist in relationships that are (to me and others) plainly catastrophic. Who are we to say what is right for them?

    Rupert wraps his mind around 10,000 things, so are we to judge him on one thing because we find it offensive to our mentality? If we examined those we love we would find the same thing, and that we elect to ignore that one thing.

    My point is that Rupert's affection for the Anglican faith is not a thing that we may find intellectually satisfactory. There are way too many nuances we must consider to make a just assessment. But that was not what Rupert came to talk about, and we should not be judging what he came to talk about on some criteria we have set and cannot get our heads around.

    I acknowledge the legitimate intellectual curiosity about why Rupert esteems his faith. I don't get it either. But I make a clear distinction between my lack of understanding and the legitimacy of his decision. Its not a deal breaker for the arguments in his book.

    Where we settle our own personal acts of faith and communion are always subject to some degree of doubt and challenge. And if we are scrutinised as to our motives for what we believe and perform I am sure none of us would pass a hard examination with no imputations of failure of reason, morality or imagination.
     
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  4. Charlie Primero

    Charlie Primero Member

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    This Pagan Christian Ritual I participated in yesterday made everyone feel good.

    [​IMG]

    Although you consider us your Enemy, the vast majority of us just want to be left alone.
     
  5. Wormwood

    Wormwood Member

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    It’s dissaponting to me that we are actually even considering Rupert’s spiritual beliefs as if that has any affect whatsoever on his scientific research. I really expect more out this forum honestly because it’s full of intelligent people who know how to think critically. Consider his spiritual beliefs, or anybody’s spiritual beliefs....sure, but let’s not pretend that makes anything else he says wrong. Each thing needs weighed on its own merit.

    Consider my above exchange with Alex. He said that (paraphrasing) “he cannot believe that Christians quote Ehrman concerning his belief that Jesus existed in a physical sense.” Well, why wouldn’t they quote him? The first part of a Christian apologetic argument, to me, would be establishing Jesus’ existence as a person. So when a very credible expert lays down evidence that he existed, I would use that. Ehrmans reason for agnosticism is due to his inability to square the problem of evil in the world with an all-powerful and loving God (which is the God he grew up in believing). So instead of modifying his spiritual belief to fit other better explanations, he rejected spirituality all-together. Now Ehrman does feel that the Bible has been changed. But these changes which he’s published in his book are SO MINOR. It essentially comes down to word changes and phrasing differences. The one rather big exception being the story about Jesus drawing a line in the sand and saying “let he with no sin cast the first stone.” It seems that part was added sometime after the original gospels were written. These minor changes, are not the real reason for his dis-belief, although (to be fair) he did once say “why couldn’t God get a book exactly right?” This again shows an inability to think outside the box, as if that if God existed, his prime purpose must be to write a book (let alone the idea that a God who is not the same as the God of the Bible might exist) but at any rate, he maintains that the records are fairly sound and prove that Jesus existed. Therefore, Ehrman, could and should be quoted by Christians attempting to prove a historical Jesus because his opinion as an expert on the particular matter of Jesus historicity are unrelated to his agnosticism. That is to say, he is not agnostic because he thinks that the records do not show that Jesus existed. He denies the supernatural aspect of the gospels, not because he thinks the gospels are unreliable, but because they can’t be completely true due to other personal beliefs, which are belief (not fact) oriented. But again, he’s firm that Jesus existed.

    Similarly, whatever Rupert’s personal beliefs are, should not be considered when attempting to ascertain the quality of his scientific work, if the work stands up to scrutiny. And if the work doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, it isn’t because of his Christian beliefs, it’s because his scientific method or philosophy is lacking.

    Judging his scientific work alongside and together with his religious beliefs, or judging the meaning of Ehrmans work on the history of the person named Jesus alongside with his personal spiritual belief is a logical fallacy. An enormous one.
     
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2018
  6. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    Well I suppose the point here is that Rupert's scientific research is related to spirituality in general!

    However, I think it may be time to get back to discussing other aspects of the interview and Rupert's work, and leave the fact that he is a Christian (which has been for a long time).

    David
     
  7. dpdownsouth

    dpdownsouth Member

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    Wow, you've just posted two of my great musical loves..... Sufi devotionals and Danny Thompson's bass playing.... interestingly, he's also a Sufi.

    I can think of lots of pop(ish) music that gets me a spiritual high when I'm in the right frame of mind, but can't think of a Western spiritual/musical tradition that harnesses the body and movement in the same way as the dikr.....

    Ok, I know this isn't a music thread, but here's Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and the guy from Pearl jam.... beautiful.... and it keeps me on track.



    This is a Western pop song that does the exact same thing for me....



    And some instrumental pieces off jazz/rock guitarist James blood Ulmer's Odyssey album (can't find them on YouTube) create a sense of emotional/spiritual uplift and a strange pulsing sensation within my body..... that's working on three levels.

    Maybe this is why Stanley Kripner calls rock musicians (some, anyway) western shamans. So, perhaps, in the end, rock concerts are the closest thing we've got to the dikr....
     
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  8. Steve from ABQ

    Steve from ABQ Member

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    Of course, this shouldn't cause anyone to think he isn't passionate about his positions. I wish I could keep my cool as well. Reminds me of the late Fred Rogers (a Christian whom I admire). The Dali Lama is another one who never acts threatened or reacts defensively. Of course, this doesn't mean they know something you and I can't or don't know.
    I think finding "The One Ultimate Truth" among different religions is a fool's pursuit. From what I've seen, there is much out there that is true, but nothing that is purely true (IMO).
     
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  9. Michael Patterson

    Michael Patterson New

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    Good call! I meant to say "only feel good". My point was that the purpose of a ritual is more than making folk feel good, although it may have that effect.

    At the risk of sounding pedantic here it maybe important to distinguish between a ritual and a custom. A ritual is a focused, often controlled set of actions that are intended to invoke deeper (usually spiritual) energies to achieve a particular outcome (preferably to the proper benefit of a person - such as healing, but can be used to other purposes like containing or constraining).

    Some customs mimic rituals in form precisely because they make people feel good - birthday cakes with candles and singing Happy Birthday are ritualistic in from but do not intend to invoke any divine agency upon the person whose birthday it is. There are many social 'rituals' that are feel good events and essential to our collective well being. But there is a lost to opportunity if a religious ritual is no more operative than a social 'ritual'. That was the original point.

    "Although you consider us your Enemy, the vast majority of us just want to be left alone." I don't know where this came from. It troubles and dismays me that any community can regard its members as The Enemy. It troubles me more that there are those who seek to promote such division. I was listening to an episode of the Unslaved podcast with a woman from the Alt Right who referred to the Left as The Enemy, and that comment was approved of by the hosts. I understand the bitterness towards often unthinking moral smugness, but I have a brother-in-law like that and he is not my enemy - just an idiot (I use other language, but this is sufficient) . Want to be left alone or want to be understood and respected? The latter is a more worthy aspiration - and less divisive - and gives you a better chance against those whose motives are to diminish and control. But I don't want to open up another line of comment unrelated to the main theme. I could not let the comment go unremarked. Happy to engage in a conversation on another thread.
     
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  10. dpdownsouth

    dpdownsouth Member

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    I get this, it's a good point, but haven't Dean Radin's attention experiments proved that group experiences do affect the wider collective and temporarily change the nature of reality? So even social customs have the ability to cause magical effects (for better or for worse, I suppose).

    I think this is what Mr. Primero was replying to, albeit in a very defensive way.

    There is. It's called deep ecumenicism, and the more enlightened elements of all three Abrahamic faiths do not lay claim to being the sole arbiters of truth.

    [EDIT: Oh, sorry, I misread 'franchise contract' as 'franchise contact'. Ignore me.]

    It's strange, I find myself agreeing with both the pro and anti religion people here.....

    On the book: I don't think I'll be adding it to my bookshelf .... my to-get list is just way too long.... besides, it sounds like he's covering some pretty mainstream ground (meditation is good for you!?!?). It's a pity, Dr. Sheldrake is such an interesting guy.... I was expecting more. And he does seem (at least publicly) to be involved in the dullest end of the Christian practice spectrum. But each to their own, of course.
     
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2018
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  11. dpdownsouth

    dpdownsouth Member

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    I don't think this necessarily clear cut. If you take idealism or some sort of platonic imaginal realm into account then it's quite possible that our collective imaginings create 'entities' that exist beyond any one individual's musings. It's like Jung believing that angels etc. are all products of our subconscious that can sometimes manifest in consensus reality. People during NDEs/trips/group visions/etc. regularly have contact with religious archetypes that may or may not have a historical basis. How would you explain this? A manifestation of an aspect of humanity's collective psyche would be a good fit for me. I think this was broadly John Mac's view on aliens.

    Recently I've liked the idea of there being a collective field of human consciousness where the personal and the trans personal mix, and that this field may in turn be contained within a larger planetary consciousness field, then solar, then galactic, etc., etc. But I haven't decided whether it's bollocks or not yet.

    Anyway, personally, I'd love to believe in unicorns.

    P.S. Hope all's well with your family.
     
  12. Michael Larkin

    Michael Larkin Member

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    Well, there's Danny, and Richard, Thompson: they aren't related, but they have made records together, and Richard converted to Sufi Islam, but did Danny? I know he converted to Islam, but whether of the Sufi variety, I'm unsure. Do you have a link?
     
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  13. Michael Patterson

    Michael Patterson New

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    Thanks. Some good points here.

    Yes, group intention exercises do demonstrate effect, so it is fair to say that informal gatherings will generate effect to some degree. You can add a prayer group into the mix as well. In fact it may be fair to say that any intent will generate effect, but the extent to which that becomes influence is another matter.

    The point about ritual/ceremony is that there is a deliberate method of magnifying or concentrating a group's, or individual's intent. It may be that 'feel good' performances also generate a positive effect, but not so focused. Rupert's comments about what he got out of participating in religious activity did not mention what 'good' he may have intended, beyond feeling good about being involved. But that was not the focus of the interview and he may not have spoken with the care he might have applied if he knew (or cared) that the forum would attend so closely to the nuances of his words.

    I had forgotten I had used the term 'know thy enemy', and perhaps Charlie did respond to that. Its a term I use as a one time serious gamer, rather than in any literal sense of conceiving another party as an actual enemy. I guess I need to be more circumspect in my word choice.

    Still, Charlie's response is pertinent because we do seem to be more readily led into polarity and a perception of actual conflict hen once the theatre of contestation was accepted as a dynamic in the contest of ideals and values - and, as such, an essential element in healthy debate. It seems these days we are quick to arrive at conclusions that have to be defended, rather than develop positions that have to be tested.

    It is easy to become trapped in a collapsing web of confirming opinion by believing that the absence of respectful dispute confirms the virtue of your belief, and the wrongness of those who do not agree.

    I am grateful for the Skeptiko forum as an opportunity for people of diverse views to be friends and still disagree.
     
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  14. dpdownsouth

    dpdownsouth Member

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    Hey, you're right. It looks like I misremembered the Sufi bit. As an aside, I'm sure I read somewhere that Richard now calls himself a lapsed Sufi.... but still a Muslim with a broadly Sufi interpretation of Islam.

    Anyway, Richard and Danny, what a duo!

    EDIT: No! I invoke the Mandela Effect. In an alternate universe Danny Thompson is a Sufi!
     
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  15. gabriel

    gabriel New

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    This is essentially a post-materialist forum, that is to say one which has rejected exclusively matter-based philosophies as untenable, but has yet to move beyond their denial as an end in itself. Much of the time contributors see reality through physicalism, and are wary of making conclusions that go further than materialism + x. Their position is that reality must not only be understandable, but that it should yield to the maximum number of people via the fewest axioms. There is no reason to believe that is the case. Their belief is alternative reductionism.

    Sheldrake has arrived at a position where the inferences of his research are not satisfying in themselves, personally or philosophically, and draws upon the well of his own traditions for values and insight. I see no problem with that. In fact I see "proponentry" as arrested development if it defers all instincts pending unequivocal data. The scientific method is useful but its observance is not the only thing that provides results, and most of our ideas are not reductive and austere but proliferating and instinctive. Rupert Sheldrake is affirming the creative insights that provided the hypothesis of morphic resonance, not undermining them.

    Edit: I offered the term "post-materialism" before the latest Dean Radin interview, which uses it heavily. It doesn't alter my point.
     
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  16. Charlie Primero

    Charlie Primero Member

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  17. gabriel

    gabriel New

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    It isn't a word, it's a freshly coined neologism and in quotes for a reason ;) People talk about proponents all the time on this board, which seems to mean anyone who isn't on board with materialism and all its inferences. Proponents of what, I ask? Table turning? Lobster handed men from Venus? It's too broad a term to be useful, and I thought proponentry summed up their/our wide ranging and contradictory beliefs and activities.

    A lot of the time people are adding pebbles to the mountain of evidence for conscious mind. Extrapolation of that evidence meets with approval or scorn depending on its inferences. Hence post-material, not spiritual and God forbid, religious.
     
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  18. Mishelle

    Mishelle Member

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    Wow! Not really sure where to start with this one, or if it's worth starting at all!

    How about this as a start, "I'm sorry for all of us but this forum has gone completely down the pan"

    Sorry for whom?

    'Centuries of accumulated knowledge to forensically build upon' what a gorgeous word salad, if it weren't spring, I'd tell you what a completely absurd statement that is. Since it is, let me humor your dis-humor a moment--why spend time with those 'down the pan' unless you like the fucking scenery?
     
  19. gabriel

    gabriel New

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    Your join date tells me you don't remember this forum as a vital one, with posts coming in so thick and fast it was impossible to read them all. It had its problems, not least sceptics who insisted on kicking discussions into the long grass, but I'm sorry to tell you this place is a shadow of its former self. One of the things that severely pissed everyone off was the way religion was treated with pariah status, but it wasn't the only thing and people were moderated without trace for all kinds of misdemeanours, real and imaginary. Christianity is still seen as ideologically suspect, tainting its apologists every word as with this Sheldrake thread. If you're down on Christianity you immediately go to the top table, so you'll be fine.

    Word salad is a pathetic term meaning something you don't like the sound of. As for liking the "fucking scenery", most people have gone elsewhere: http://psiencequest.net/forums/, or Bernardo Kastrup's forum and others. I haven't, yet, because it hasn't learnt from the mistakes of this place with regard to pseudo-scepticism, and I wanted to see how the other forum panned out. Sorry for all of us is the only response to its self-destructive tendencies.
     
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  20. malf

    malf Member

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    Ooof! A brave man who separates the historic vibrancy of the forum from the presence of a few quality skeptics. ;)
     

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