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

Alex mentioned Robert Price during the podcast with regards to the historicity of Jesus (which prompted a YouTube and video watching). I found a DECENT debate on the topic yesterday with Price in it vs. Bart Ehrman. I tend to think Ehrman (the pro-historical figure position) won this particular debate.

 
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I would say,that the picture painted by that imam is complicated, but he didn't seem to deny that they were inspired by certain holy texts.
Based on 30 years’ experience as an imam within British Muslim communities, and as a former Islamist who knew and met several people who went on to become convicted terrorists, the simple answer in my view is: both of the above pictures are true, except that all terrorists forget the core Islamic teachings of compassion, forgiveness and humanity that would preclude any act of terrorism.
(emphasis added)
He argues in effect that certain bad passages should be trumped by others, but that is a tricky concept (I wonder if it is explicitly spelled out in the Koran) when all the texts are meant to be holy.
I know from personal experience the internal tensions caused by fanatical faith and extremist ideology in the context of post-religious, globalised postmodern society: this explains some of the inconsistent and erratic behaviour of suicidal, religious terrorists. The brave testimony of one young British former terrorist-sympathiser shows that homosexuality and Islamist extremism can sometimes co-exist within the same person.
I am sure massive internal conflict must play a big part in such people, but if you blow yourself up to kill others, you must somehow be convinced that an Islamic afterlife exists, and that Allah will be pleased by your actions! Having holy texts that tell you you are doing the right thing, must help.

David
 
I don't think so! I just find it useful to get to the most basic analogies which won't conjure as much automatic resistance to many. I'd include much of the Bible and 'life of Jesus' to be in this same boat, along with a large portion of our history and science. Deception at every level passed down by those who like dabbling in deception and have no problem to learn when/how they've been lied to all their lives and will happily pass down the lies indefinitely so they don't have to stand up against them, making lame excuses for their choices all the while.
Wow - you must have downloaded my mind!

Just to take the example of history - very recent history - how often are we reminded that Russia invaded Crimea ..... except that actually the region voted to join Russia:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crimean_status_referendum,_2014

The massive percentage might make it look as if it were rigged, but conseidering Kiev was threatening to take them back by force, I suspect the vote was genuine.

We are also not often reminded that Crimea was part of Russia before 1954:

https://www.wilsoncenter.org/publication/why-did-russia-give-away-crimea-sixty-years-ago

As you say, deception everywhere.

David
 
Most of the perpetrators of terrorist action are highly westernised. Steroid pumped, pharmaceutically enhanced, TV watching, fashion conscious types with a thing about carnage. The social taxonomy is closer to high school shooters than religious mystic.
I don't really deny that, but you surely don't deny that holy writ plays a part.

David
 
if you blow yourself up to kill others, you must somehow be convinced that an Islamic afterlife exists
No, not necessarily, many communist and explicitly atheistic insurgencies have used suicide bombers.

Edit: The 'suicide attack' is a troubling but persistent feature of asymmetrical warfare that goes back hundreds of years in a wide variety of ideological contexts.

Look, I'm not saying that religious belief can't lead to psychotic actions... but it's seldom the primary factor, imo.

Edit: I suppose I view all ideologically sanctioned violence as the act of placing a fig-leaf over barbarism..... but it's unfair to single out religion..... many ideologies have been used to terrible effect including: nationalism, secularism, racism, communism, liberalism, and, yes, religion.
 
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Not my holy writ.
Not mine either, but if you become a Christian, then to some extent you take on board the whole Bible!

Whatever Christian group you belong to - however tolerant and high-minded it is, it keeps open the possibility to re-activate the obnoxious parts of the Bible at some future date, because no group feels able to do exactly what the early Church did, and chuck out the parts they don't believe in.

Part of the problem is that Christianity is supposed to be a revealed religion - but in that case even the early Church had no right to alter a syllable of it!

I mean putting terrorism to one side, those verses in Leviticus were undoubtedly instrumental in homosexuality becoming an impressionable offence in the UK, and probably pushing many people such as Turing to suicide.

David
 
As I've said on numerous occasions, the bible is a series of books written in various genres over many hundreds of years. One cannot read the documentary aspirations of a text like the Gospel according to Matthew, with apocalyptic poetics like Revelation in the same light. Biblical literalism is like taking Tennyson's "The Charge of the Light Brigade" as a historical description of Crimean War military tactics. Sure they cross over, both are "true" if after the event, but the expectations of writer and reader are completely different. Reductionism in scripture or science reveals little of value. It takes us down the rabbit hole of Augustine of Hippo who was concerned whether Adam enjoyed his erections.
It's very interesting to look at what 'scholars' propose compared to what is thought by actual believers practicing in the churches in those regions where this is still a significant part of culture. Reading what folks write here compared to what I hear from those in the community around me could not be further from alignment. This strikes me as a similar sort of disconnect as rural/urban, white collar/blue collar, upper class vs middle class.

So, just for the record, b/c it seems there is an extreme disconnect--folks who still go to church in the rural parts of America believe God wrote the Bible. This is a fundamental part of the belief system here, not channeled, not men, God wrote it, and Jesus was real in every way, no myth at all, no astro-theology, no metaphor. God wrote it, Jesus represented/manifested it, and for that reason it must be obeyed. Religion is HUGE in these parts, Hollywood style big bizz, bands and dancing and loads of $$$$.

Not that anyone is particularly interested in what scholars vs. farm hands believe, but just fyi.
 

Alex

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Alex mentioned Robert Price during the podcast with regards to the historicity of Jesus (which prompted a YouTube and video watching). I found a DECENT debate on the topic yesterday with Price in it vs. Bart Ehrman. I tend to think Ehrman (the pro-historical figure position) won this particular debate.

right, but Ehrman doesn't really believe is Jesus. and I can't believe that Christians fall for this (i.e. quote and reference him). Ehrman denies everything Christ-like about Jesus, nor resurrection, no miriciles, no nothing. just another rabble-rousing freedom fighter.
 
right, but Ehrman doesn't really believe is Jesus. and I can't believe that Christians fall for this (i.e. quote and reference him). Ehrman denies everything Christ-like about Jesus, nor resurrection, no miriciles, no nothing. just another rabble-rousing freedom fighter.
No I know Ehrman isn’t Christian. I read one of his books years ago. Just speaking from the perspective of a historical Jesus debate, specifically I was referencing the part of your podcast where you had said something along the lines of ‘Price shredding up the idea that Jesus existed.’ Maybe I misheard or misunderstood you, but anyways, it’s a good debate.

Ehrman trained under perhaps the most famous biblical scholar of all-time, Bruce Metzger. Somewhere along the line, according to Ehrman, he became agnostic/atheist. He said this was largely due to the problem of evil in the world.
 
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Not mine either, but if you become a Christian, then to some extent you take on board the whole Bible!
This is like a discussion with someone with OCD. Not all religions are the same. Not all versions of Christianity are the same. This board's everything-you-think-is-wrong agenda pushes that, and puts pseudo-academic flakes on the same level as serious scholars who've had centuries of accumulated knowledge to forensically build upon, but that doesn't mean they're the same. I'm sorry for all of us but this forum has gone completely down the pan.
 
Alex mentioned Robert Price during the podcast with regards to the historicity of Jesus (which prompted a YouTube and video watching). I found a DECENT debate on the topic yesterday with Price in it vs. Bart Ehrman. I tend to think Ehrman (the pro-historical figure position) won this particular debate.
Thanks, that was a good debate. Agreed, Ehram came out on top - in fact, I'd say he won it hands down.
 
Won't happen. Married priests I can certainly envisage, the Ordinariate was a foothold into that world and there's precedent.

Most stuff in the culture has a Christian foundation, no matter how much sceptics wish it were otherwise. I'm dubious of the claims of Wicca to a lineage, it was mostly middle class proto-hippies shaking their bits at the moon. There was certainly a wise woman rural culture. James I was witch obsessed, and puritans saw them everywhere. I see it more as a cottage industry, mothers passing the secrets of midwifery and herbal remedies on to their daughters, gang bangs with the devil only arriving with the thumb screws.


We can only understand medieval Christianity through academic texts like Eamon Duffy's "The Stripping of the Altars". These suggest Christianity (aka Catholicism) enjoyed almost universal support among ordinary people and its offices marked the turning year in a way they deeply identified with. Scriptural protest movements were highfalutin stuff, and would have remained the preserve of a few if Henry VIII hadn't put them centre stage in his bid to lose a wife and gain an heir. Robbing the church, i.e. the ordinary people of land and treasures they'd built for centuries was an attractive side effect of breaking from tradition. Tudor propaganda has since claimed the people were tired of an oppressive and corrupt church and saw Protestantism as its salvation, and while oppression and corruption must have existed, there's almost no serious research to support this claim. The church was hugely popular and people felt a sense of ownership that's been impossible to imagine since. So much was lost on the way, including the sacred feminine. One British art historian claimed 95% of domestic art was lost in the reformation, social cleansing of an extraordinary kind.


I haven't watched TV for over 15 years, but occasionally catch an old documentary on YouTube. My wife is Anglican and hooked on Father Brown, so maybe Chesterton's apologetics will rub off.
I just wanted to say that I appreciate your point of view and I enjoy your posts.

Not everyone who reads this board thinks Christians are idiots.
 
This is like a discussion with someone with OCD. Not all religions are the same. Not all versions of Christianity are the same.
They all use the same Bible! You keep ignoring most of what I am saying - if the early Church could discard texts why the hell can't the good parts of the church get rid of texts that say that homosexuals should be killed?
This board's everything-you-think-is-wrong agenda pushes that, and puts pseudo-academic flakes on the same level as serious scholars who've had centuries of accumulated knowledge to forensically build upon, but that doesn't mean they're the same. I'm sorry for all of us but this forum has gone completely down the pan.
This forum has only tangential interest in Christianity. As you know from other fields - such as the science of NDE's, if you interview orthodox scholars, you don't often learn much.
Not everyone who reads this board thinks Christians are idiots.
I don't either, but it does seem strange that Rupert Sheldrake - a man who has made his career out of fearlessly exploring phenomena that are suggestive of a reality that conforms neither to orthodox science, nor to conventional religion, wants to become a Christian.

David
 
Getting back to Rupert Sheldrake, take a gander at this video if you've not already seen it:


What constitutes a large part of what he's saying, I think, relates to human emotions rather than human spirituality. I've watched this video many times and it often brings tears to my eyes and cheers me up if I need it. I think of how magnificent Handel's Messiah is, and see how it moves and delights people in Western culture, including me. It evokes in me more religious emotion than genuine spiritual experience (though it might occasionally lead more towards the latter if I'm in the right frame of mind).

Now look at the video below; it's a song ostensibly about bracelets (see English translation alongside the original language here, and you can listen to it there if you prefer). It's allegorical and isn't really about bangles when appreciated in a certain kind of way:


Both these examples, from two different cultures, can be appreciated in the two different registers: emotional and spiritual. The latter can sometimes be evoked by the former, or they can be appreciated simultaneously; but for most people, I think probably the emotional register predominates.

This example of Sufi dhikr is imho a little bit more skewed towards the spiritual:


-- and by the way, female Sufis also have their own versions of such dhikrs -- just search on youtube.

Do we have anything similar in the West? Well, on the emotional side, We have everything from Bach and Handel to Country and Gospel music, such as one of my favourites by Rory Block:


On the more spiritual side, I suppose we have plainsong, etc., but I can't think offhand of any Western tradition similar to the Sufi dikr -- if you can think of something, do let me know. I think it might exist in Sufism because Islam is so against representationalism, considering it akin to idolatry. Sufi practices, including those involving chant, movement and music in general often appear to ordinary Muslims much as popular music appears to the Amish. Like the puritanism of old, plain vanilla Islam seems a pretty joyless religion.

Then again, there are songs and dances which seem secular, but when viewed in a certain light, can seem almost spiritual:


If you've watched any of the videos I've posted, you may with at least some of them had an emotional and/or spiritual response; experienced a sense of connection with others. That said, you might have found that easier with the Western examples.

Sheldrake is no idiot, so do please try to understand, David. I suspect he's thinking of both the emotional and spiritual aspects of Christianity. He's taking advantage of the power of its ritual (and also of its music, art, achitecture, poetry, aspects of scripture, even its science), to help one the more easily and comfortably connect emotionally with something. Once connected, it becomes possible to transcend religion and replace it with spirituality, and disregard the vehicle that brought us there.

We don't all manage to do that, of course, but Sheldrake is recognising that we're all born and raised in different cultures, and that it's easiest for most people to have at least the opportunity for transcendence by relating to their own rather than someone else's culture. As I said in an earlier post, most if not all of us have a felt need to satisfy desires that go beyond the everyday acquisition of the basic necessities of life. We all have the desire to understand why we're here and what it's all about, and all cultures have the capacity to do that, whilst our native one is probably the most conducive.
 
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Hi Mike and thank you for engaging with my questions :)

First of all, indeed, it goes without saying that not all Christian rituals work - the same can be said for the rituals of any religion/belief system! What I meant is that they work "enough" for those who believe they do that they keep practising them - "to work" may simply mean that they make them feel better, not necessarily that they produce results; btw some people stop believing precisely because they are disappointed with not getting results. Interestingly Michael Shermer is one of them ("Shermer stated the final end of his Christian faith was when a girl was paralyzed in a motor accident. Shermer prayed to God to heal her. She remained paralyzed.[2]" https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Michael_Shermer). If all Christian ritual worked all the time (of course only when asking things that are compassionate and in line with Christian values....praying God to see someone we dislike die should not work :)) it would be pretty tempting (to say the least....) to conclude that this is because through such spiritual practices one is connecting with the Ultimate Truth.

And indeed I get you 100% when you say about rituals/spiritual practices "That's because we mostly don't understand what they are and why they work" - see scenarios #3 and #4" in my latest post here which speculate on what could be going on. It does indeed seem that rituals/spiritual practices are felt to work (albeit erratically, but still "well enough") by the respective believers of any religion/belief system whatsoever, making their effectiveness religion-independent. That is why Sheldrake, among many others, has written a book about rituals which (can) work within the framework of whatever religion/belief system. But again, that would confirm to an outside observer that the effects of spiritual practices are independent of the Ultimate Source of Truth that individual believes in and is trying to connect with (the believer necessarily must assume, whether he has thought this through or not, that his rituals work because his metaphysics is the right one, while the believers of other religions are just benefiting from some kind of a placebo effect, because there can be no "active ingredient"= reality in the spiritual entity they are trying to connect to).

(I quote you again): "I think Ultimate Truth, by its very nature, must be inherently inclusive. Ultimate Reality is likewise inclusive. But when we get into things like Ultimate Utility or Purpose it is hard to go beyond Awareness of Being - since being is absolutely absolute and cannot be qualified by truth or purpose. And such Awareness has to embrace all that was, is and will be [which are the same in any case]. That kind of stuff just does our heads in" -

I must say this kind of language is too deep/mystical for me to understand (sounds a bit like Heidegger :)) but I think you are opting for my scenario #2, which I referred to as 'logically impossible' (and in fact you used the expression "does our heads in"). I respect your position obviously. You seem to be inclined to follow the mystic approach, "the divine that was beyond reason and imagination" (as you put it), while I am not willing to relinquish reason, even if I may already have come to the limits of what reason can enable me to understand. But I keep pushing, because if the divine truly is beyond reason as you say I'm not interested in developing a proper relationship with it. But I think I still have a long way to go before fully agreeing that all of the divine is beyond reason, and knowing myself I'll probably only give up when I die :)

Oh and finally I also wanted to say that the existence of Unicorns or Father Christmas etc is not just a question of "usefulness" in my opinion. You wrote:

"The Ultimate Truth could be that all of these things humans have imagined are real - depending on what you define as real. If you mean 'existing' then unicorns are 'real' because they exist as ideas. If we imagine 'real' in terms of utility, a unicorn is not sufficiently real to be useful as something for me to ride in my physical body. But it is useful to amuse and enchant a child."

Problem is, we are not talking about children here. There are loads of grown up people who fully believe in the existence of Unicorns in other dimensions, and that they care about us and can help us. Just one example among many:

https://tesswhitehurst.com/5-unicorn-spells-to-try-right-now/

Do you really accept that the fact that some people believe in unicorns and therefore they "exist as ideas" in the mind of these people make them real in the sense that THEY (ie, unicorns, not the way our minds mysteriously work) have a will of their own and can help those who address them via spiritual practices? Do you feel that Unicorns must therefore be "real" for you, too, in some way, or not at all? And the fact that I have just now (for the sake of experimenting) imagined a bizarre creature in my mind's eye that I had never visualised before - does that make that creature 'real' too, including for you and everybody else? Just curious about exactly what you mean with "real" - because I have heard similar statements to what you wrote above from others, but still I can't grasp your definition of "real" and would like to bring it into focus (it's far too fuzzy as it is for me). Where do you draw the line between "actual spiritual entity with an independent 'existence' and will of its own" and simple "product of our imagination which we can imagine doing things that make us feel better"?

And if you just accept that "Unicorns are real for these people, and that's good enough" isn't this just a kind, ecumenical but ultimately "insincere" statement, because, truly, you yourself don't believe in Unicorns or Father Christmas, although lots of children believe in him, just like you don't believe that there was a real historical Jesus who said and did exactly what the Gospel say about him?

I hope I haven't been rude or anything (English is not even my native language)! I have only tried to be as clear and direct as I possibly could so that I could get clear answer from someone whose take is of great interest to me (you) - I am not here to question other people's beliefs, my aim is most definitely not that of attacking or changing anybody's mind, I simply wish to UNDERSTAND things better because I am a seeker and hence I DON'T have the truth, only a working theory, which I am constantly testing against other people's arguments and logic. This is where I come from, so hopefully you won't take it amiss if I have questioned some of your points. Thanks again for commenting on my post.
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.
 
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