Wish I'd Said It

Weeds are flowers too - once you get to know them.

- A. A. Milne

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

3rd Eye Now Operational - Advice Requested (#232)

Today’s subject line is the title of a thread on an online, New Age message board that I visited recently. (For those unfamiliar - threads are topics of conversation initiated by a member of a particular message board community. Other members type replies which appear below the original post on a virtual board. The Interweb has gazillions of message boards on gazillions of topics.)

My first instinct was to reply: “Well, for starters, you won’t be able to buy sunglasses off the rack any more.”

But my better self prevailed and I refrained from commenting at all.

Lemme back up a bit.

I’ve been mostly retired for the last couple of years. Of all the pleasures retirement can bring, the one I value most is having time to pursue my interests. Some of those interests would fit under the umbrella label of “metaphysics” which might be defined as a branch of philosophy related to the natural sciences (physics, biology etc.) and also to mysticism, religion and spirituality.

Most people with inquiring minds want to know why we’re here and where we might go next, if anywhere. For many (most?) those questions are answered satisfactorily by their religion or by science or some combination. Some are satisfied with the answers: “to exist” and “nowhere.” Some people don’t have inquiring minds and they try not to think about those topics at all.

I’m a bit envious of all the above. I’ve never been satisfied with any religion’s answers. I’m not smart enough to understand much of what science posits. Atheism doesn’t feel right. And my first words may have been “I wonder why...?”

So, throughout my life but most particularly the last couple of years, I’ve devoted a goodly chunk of time mulling and trying to forge my own path towards - well, let’s call it “understanding.” (In my Hunter S. Thompson-esque youth, I called it “plugging into the universe.” That still works too.)

And although I like to think I’m forging my own path, I’m not the least bit opposed to peeking at others and borrowing a directional sign here, or a nugget of knowledge there. No sir. Much wiser folks than me have asked those questions and left a breadcrumb trail to their answers.

Not so long ago, if I wanted to pursue this line of study, I would have to spend many years in a major metropolitan library and most likely have to travel the world to pick the brains of wise elders.

Today, we are astoundingly fortunate to live in an age where the world’s accumulated knowledge is gradually being assembled into one giant data bank which can be accessed by anyone with the proper equipment.

On the minus side, that same data bank can contain a lot of lies, half-truths, nonsense and insanity -- ofttimes at the same website.

Nowhere have I found that mix more in evidence than on some message boards, particularly those focused on what’s loosely termed “New Age Spirituality.” In my admittedly-short time visiting some, I’ve been struck by quite a few observations:

1 - Most members are gentle, likeable souls, tolerant and respectful of others’ belief systems.

2- Women outnumber men by at least a 2-1 ratio.

3- A disturbingly high percentage of the women tell stories of, or hint at, being victims of abuse.

4- Too many, though still a smallish minority (thank the Creator) appear mentally ill and/or emotionally broken.

5 - Predators lurk among them. A rudimentary understanding of Nature’s way explains their presence: There cannot be such an abundance of victims (prey) without attracting predators. I haven’t “made” one yet but have no doubt they lurk.

6 - Self- described gurus abound. Most parrot feel-good, pseudo-psychological, self-realization pap they got from some books or daytime talk show or infomercial. Most of what they spout is harmless, if occasionally nonsensical. Most are women and don’t strike me as Psycho-Nasty-Lesbo-Butches-From-Heck. So I don’t number them among the predators. (But there’s this one white-haired guy I’m keeping an eye on....)

7 - Sadly, people will grasp onto the flimsiest belief if they’re (spiritually) drowning. More sadly, they’ll cling to many different ones. Some embrace Tarot and Crystals and Spiritualism and Telepathy and Telekinesis and Voodoo and Paganism and Close Encounters With Reptilian Aliens with an addict’s fervour. Perhaps they think the more beliefs they can collect, the stronger the raft they can fashion in order to stay afloat.

8- Thankfully, a very few Science-minded folks (usually men) are there to question and to suggest possible alternative explanations for all those blurry photographs purporting to be faeries. Their comments however, are largely dismissed by the rank and file.

9 - People need to believe in something bigger/better/beyond themselves. That's not news but the number of folks seeking that something is huge - and growing, their numbers augmented daily by those disenchanted with "old-time" religion.

In case you're wondering, the 3rd-eye person was advised by one person to use certain herbs and by another not to neglect some chakras lest she suffer a disidentification with the material world.

As my ex-guru, the aforementioned Dr. Thompson, once said: "When the going gets weird - the weird turn pro."

I’ll probably touch on this topic again down the road. Maybe when I've turned pro. Right now I'm just a serious amateur.


For those of you not on my email list – I have a new blog which focuses on music and features YouTube videos of groups/songs I like. If that sounds of interest, I hope you’ll visit Frankie’s Jukebox.


Hilary said...

You've always found your own way to "plug into the universe". I don't doubt you'll continue to evolve. Like so many things, it's a process...

I still think the sunglasses response would have been great.

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Maud said...

Great post, Frank. If ever there was an area where sorting the chaff from the grain is important but tricky, it's that one, eh?

June said...

For a second I was tempted to ask you for details on how to find that messageboard but I think it would make me . . . peeved, so I won't ask.
Many years ago I had a protracted discussion with a Protestant minister about beliefs. In some frustration, I exclaimed, "Well, are we all supposed to come up with our own theology?"
"You'd better!" was his response.
The older I get, the more wise seems that answer.

Leah J. Utas said...

Sometimes it's hard to find the vein of gold in the mine, but it is worth it. That said, it can be fun finding out what others believe. Plugging in to the Universe is a great way to put it.

Frank Baron said...

So do I, Hil. But don't tell anybody. ;)

James, I'm going to give you the benefit of the is-he-or-ain't-he a spammer doubt. For now. :)

It is tricky, Maud. There are a lot of fragile egos involved.

Yes, June. For many of us, one size (theology/religion/etc.) does NOT fit all.

Yes, Leah. The journey itself is rewarding. Finding a nugget of truth or insight along the way is gravy.

Thanks all for the visit and comments. I know this post was a little different from my usual. :)

Reb said...

I like the sunglasses remark. #3 is disturbing, but when you think about it, not really surprising. Traditional religion doesn't have a good explanation for why bad things happen to good people, nor do some of them provide any support when it does.

Tabor said...

We all are on this path in some way. You seem to view it as a marathon challenge. My stroll along the path I just pick flowers and apples along the way and maybe I will get there...maybe not. I am one of the easygoing types which means those who have all the answers are viewed askance by me. I tend to think deep in my gut that the power greater than us...is...us.

Linda said...

Frank, I can relate a bit to your search. I went through a similar search myself back in the sixties and seventies, developing a fascination with ufology and reincarnation and mysticism. I ultimately came down in the camp of Christianity and found it to provide the sensible and logical answers for which I had been searching. If you have any questions about Christianity, I'd be happy to engage in a dialogue with you. Feel free to drop me an e-mail.

Frank Baron said...

Yes Reb, it is disturbing. There are a lot of wounded spirits looking for healing.

Tabor, I don't know that I view it as a marathon challenge. It's certainly an interesting journey, though. And you are not alone in thinking that God is within us (and vice versa).

Linda, I was raised in a very Christian household and did similar seeking as you describe in the 60s and 70s. Thanks for your kind offer but Christianity's answers don't resonate with me.

Thanks all, for your thoughtful replies.

Grayquill said...

I have been thinking lately about some of the questions you pose – said and unsaid. I think much of my past questioning and searches were merely a distraction that would entertain me for a while, rather than wanting to see real truth. That has not been helpful or useful. I am pretty sure if our maker is good, the why of why we are here, would not be kept as a mystery. But, I am pretty sure most do not really want to see truth, including self. I fear of what is said in Romans 1:21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools,…
Good Post!

Cay Sehnert said...

If wise men were hairs, the world would need a wig. -- from an old BookHouse bookmark. (Not sure who the real credit belongs to, but I love it.)

Pauline said...

Can't prove anything by me which is just fine - I'm somewhere between knowing and not knowing, agreeing with Hil that it's all a process, picking flowers with Tabor and taking peeks over your shoulder at what others think. Asking the right questions is as hard as finding the right answers...

Charlie said...

Great post, Frank.

As with so many things, the journey is the thing. Personally, I lean toward the scientific end of things in that I believe that if something IS, there is a reason for it. Apples fall from trees because there is gravity. My wife senses things that turn out to be true because there is something we as yet don't understand about the underlying structure of the universe that makes it possible for such a thing occur. All one has to do is tip a toe in to the world of quantum physics to know that the universe is bizarre beyond our current capability to comprehend.

Humans have only just begun our journey toward understanding what the universe is and nothing we have come up with to explain it so far -- be it religion or atheism or anything in between -- holds a candle to the ultimate truth behind the nature of our existence.

Me, I'm enjoying the ride. :)

Frank Baron said...

GQ, the closer we get to the end of the trail, the more likely we are to be interested in learning what might or might not be waiting for us there.

Cay, if nobody wants ownership of the line, I'll take it. It's a keeper. ;)

Pauline, I think there's much to be learned from "peeking" over others' shoulders. Let me know if you come across anything noteworthy. :)

Yeah, Charlie. The journey's the thing - the one we're on now and the one that's further on down the road. ;)

Thanks all, for taking the time to read and comment.

Skunkfeathers said...

As the years progress, I have kept an open mind to much left definitively unknown. I dismiss what I reckon is the thinking of obvious crackpots (ie., a 400 year old fruitcake is a conduit to alien communication with the planet Uranus, for example). But an open mind to the more philosophical (ie., is the glass half-empty, half-full, or not even glass?).

I do buy your comment that the vast majority of humans hereabouts (and 100% of those who comment on your blog regularly) are good-natured and good folks.

Frank Baron said...

Skunky, there's probably something to that old saying that the wiser you get, the less you know.

Stace said...

Despite myself, I can't help feeling a certain degree of scorn for a lot of these types of people. My instinctive first response is along the lines of "harden up, shit happens, deal with it". I perceive seeking "new age" solutions as a kind of willing weakness - it practically cries out, I'm desperate and I need help! But I wish people could find the strength and answers they need within themselves.

Frank Baron said...

Stace, many of them are indeed desperate. Some have never built a solid, inner foundation. Some never had a chance to, being abused and/or neglected as children. Some are quite admirable - never giving up trying to improve their lives despite having the odds stacked against them.

Thumbelina said...

Just signing in to say I still read and I like this style too! Different subject matter... same ol' buddy. ;0)

I think you should have written the sunglasses response too.

Asking questions and seeking the answers is THE single most important thing we can do in our lives imho. It is not enough to believe because someone said so or it suits me at the time. Keep asking I say. :)

Dianne said...

I like the sunglasses response but being experience with message boards I think not posting it was probably wise
I learned how difficult humor is to convey and it often starts someone off

I'm in a very non-questioning, numb like phase at the moment, and I do question myself as to why I am which is one more wee bit of proof that I'm nuts

Frank Baron said...

Glad you're still reading Thumbelina. And still asking. :)

Nah, Dianne. You're not nuts. And "numb-like phases" are often necessary. We can't always be climbing. We need to pause and rest at plateaus every now and then.

Sorry for the lag in responding. Thanks both. :)

Ubiquitous said...

Hey Frank. I know I'm pretty late to this party but there was something that I wanted to mention that I don't think you necessarily addressed (at least not sufficiently for my liking ;) ). The issue of Atheism. You dismiss it in a single sentence, saying it doesn't feel right, and I can appreciate that it doesn't feel right. But you also go on to say that we have an innate desire to look for meaning in the chaos (I'm paraphrasing), which I also completely agree with, and I think there's likely an evolutionary reason for it. But maybe that's also the REASON why atheism doesn't feel right.

If you're looking for what is right and what is wrong, true and false, etc, I don't think 'gut feelings' are necessarily the right way to approach the issue. Given that we've already established that we're biased towards looking for, and indeed hoping for meaning, don't we need something a bit more objective? Science and philosophy is about as objective as tools that we have available to us. Sure, they're not perfect, but they're better than gut instincts, surely.

And the other thing is, you don't have to fully understand the science and logic to accept that they're it's likely correct - after all, it's reasonably competitive and if something can be disproven, it likely will be given time. Science stands on the shoulders of giants. On that basis, if science says that there is no evidence for miracles, intervention by God, or any other mystical phenomenon (and in fact, the laws of physics would actually have to be temporarily warped in order to accomodate them!), surely it's logical to accept that?

IMHO, what we need is a more evidence-based way of thinking on the issue of meaning. I know you're on the right track, you just need to let go of a desire to find meaning where meaning doesn't necessarily exist. I don't think it's a coincidence that the vast majority of leading scientists are atheist or strongly agnostic. And I don't think it's a deficiency of imagination either. :) It's because they know enough about the mechanics of life, the universe and everything to conclude that there is no invisble hand at play and everything is predictable once you understand the rules.

I'm not suggesting you stop asking questions by any means. Just don't discount things just because they don't feel right. Sometimes the truth is uncomfortable, after all.

Frank Baron said...

Thanks for giving your opinion, Ubi. I don't share it - but different strokes, eh? ;)

I don't think science and spirituality are mutually exclusive. In fact, I believe they're kissin' cousins in a way -- seeking answers but using different languages and paths to arrive at truth.

Ubiquitous said...

Not trying to start a fiery, neverending debate, but if you think that spirituality is able to find truth then perhaps we have very different definitions of truth. :) I'm not talking about the sort of fuzzy truth that is different for different people, I'm talking about actual truths. Things that are objectively and verifiably true.

Like the logical proposition that there either is or isn't a creator/deity/God. If one person believes in them and the other doesn't, it follows that one person is 100% wrong and the other is 100% right. Until you can boil it down to these logical propositions, it all seems to wishy-washy to me. You can go on your spiritual journey of discovery, and it may make you happy (which is great), but it doesn't get you any closer to knowing the truth IMO. Feeling like something is right just doesn't make it truthful.

I just think it's kind of staggering that we can accept so easily the wishy-washyness that we apply to spirituality when we wouldn't accept it for any other aspect of our lives.

But anyway, look, I don't want to beat my point into you with mallet - I've said more than enough. :)

Instead, just let me leave you with a rather amusing but powerfully persuasive video clip by another fellow Aussie, Tim Minchin, that sums up my ideas on that frustratingly vague and wispy concept of spirituality:


I hope you enjoy it, even if you can't bring yourself to see life from a skeptic's point of view. :)

Frank Baron said...

Ubi, you put me in mind of my University days, a bunch of us sitting around at the pub and waxing philosophical. :)

I found the Minchin thing to be a tad precious for my taste - but again - to each his own, eh?

And Ubi my friend, you do indeed have a god. You call him Science. ;)

Ubiquitous said...

But that's where you (and so many other religious people) are wrong IMO... Along with the similar idea that science is as much of a faith position as religion. It's just not true. Science is observation and experiment of things in the observable world. It doesn't claim to be the origin or explanation for the nature of the universe. It's just a framework and set of methods to deduce how stuff works - not a faith based position at all.

And while you don't have to justify yourself to me by any means, you haven't really refuted any of my points either, only agreed to disagree. I'd like to know how you reach your conclusions. Especially since some of my points seem logically and patently true - in that black and white sense of the word 'true', that is! ;) But perhaps this is not the forum for it.

Frank Baron said...

Ubi, it's more a matter of been-there, done-that -- a few dozen times over several decades. I've long-since learned that some atheists proselytize as fervently as the most zealous evangelical Christian.

And, in my opinion, they're just as wrong. ;)

Thanks for your interest. :)

Ubiquitous said...

I'd like to think that if we proselytize, we proselytize rationality rather than atheism. I should have clarified earlier that most atheists would technically classify themselves as agnostics, only because it's logically impossible to PROVE that something doesn't exist without omniscience. The absence of empirical evidence is the best that we have to go on.

But even if it's true that we do proselytize Atheism, that doesn't make us wrong. Of course the same could be argued of evangelical Christians, although I'd rather let the rationality of arguments settle things, rather than just conclude they're both as bad as each other.

Like I said, clearly this is not the forum to debate, particularly since you seem loathe to actually present any arguments of your own - only opinions. But I think opinions without any basis come across as pretty hollow. I'm sure you've thought about them, but in deliberately avoiding engagement with someone who might be able to offer some nugget of truth that you've never thought of before, you're limiting yourself in your 'quest' IMO. End of discussion? :)

Frank Baron said...

Like I said earlier Ubi, and you appear to have difficulty accepting: been-there, done-that, bought the t-shirt. I've no interest in "debating" with you. Over the years, I've engaged in thoughtful discussions with Agno-Atheist philosophers, biologists, physicists, professors of all persuasions, ex-priests and homeless guys on park benches.

I've discussed the concept of God with native americans, church elders, priests (believers this time) Spiritualists, stoners, Pagans, Jews, Hindus, Jehovah Witnesses, Rosicrucians and guys who take lunchbuckets to work.

I hope to have many more meaningful discussions with many other folks.

But frankly, your o'erweening ego, as evidence by your barely concealed condescension in the above posts, gets in the way of any meaningful discussion. And life is too darn short to go looking for extra aggravation.

What I think I'll do though, soon, is a post illustrating how Science and Spirituality can mesh. You won't want to miss it. ;)

Ubiquitous said...

It's not ego at all - obviously I think the logic of my arguments is fairly tight, just as you think you're absolutely right to dismiss atheism - does that make you overweeningly egotistical too? :)

But anyway, the arguments I presented above are not necessarily originally mine. I don't claim them as my own, so my ego is not at stake. They're merely arguments that have resonated with me because they make sense. And I certainly wasn't looking to cause aggravation. I think part of the problem here is misinterpretation. Your idea of my aggression is my idea of engagement. I do sincerely believe you hone your arguments and beliefs by defending them. If you think that it stops you from having a meaningful discussion, well I think that's a bit sad, because you haven't taken my thoughts on board in the way in which they were intended. Maybe it's that Canadian politeness getting the way of a good, wholesome debate. ;)

I Do look forward to your thesis on meshing science and spirituality though. But what if it's complete tosh? Can we not discuss why? ;)

Frank Baron said...

I was told by more than a couple of people that you insist on having the last word.

Ubiquitous said...

Frank, having re-read your last post, I can't help but be left with a slightly bitter taste in my mouth. You've essentially dismissed it on the basis of my apparent condescention making meaningful discussion impossible. Again, isn't what's right or wrong meaningful? I could be total asshole, and I could be really unpleasant to talk to, but that wouldn't invalidate the meaning of what I was saying. It seems you're more concerned with civility than actually getting to the essence of truth.

And you may have had interesting discussions with all those people, but are you saying that it therefore means you've concluded that I have nothing valuable to add? It certainly seems like it. How do you know when you've barely scratched the surface of what we could discuss? That comes across as far more insulting and limiting to meaningful discussion than anything I've said to you, IMO.

Ubiquitous said...

I didn't realise that you wanted me to be silenced. I thought we were still just having a discussion, albeit a slightly tense one? I'd long since given up on discussing the original points I'd made, but I wanted to make sure we both saw eye to eye and that you understood where I was coming. It seems like you still don't, or don't want to. *sighs*

Pam said...

Nice post Frank, and if I don't finish this paper by dawn, I'll have an ulcer. Guess what it's on? The soul, a little on God, and lots on mysticism. The word mysticism trails off into so many spiral arms, I don't think it's even real anymore. I'm really into the Greeks.


Frank Baron said...

Hiya Pam. Your comment was hijacked for a while by Blogger's spam filter. I keep forgetting to check it.

Hope you're ulcer-free and the paper got an A. :)