Mysticism and profane revelations
Asking clergy about religion’s mystical aspects – Many religions have a mystical component. In this article, a rabbi talks about Kabballah/Jewish mysticism, an Islamic chaplain discusses Sufism/Muslim mysticism, and a Charismatic Christian pastor discusses speaking in tongues as mystical aspects of their faiths. Mystical experiences feel real and can be transformative. However, what do we read into personal visions or feelings? See my post Spiritual Experiences Won’t Prove Existence of Gods.
There’s quite a stir going on in the media about a staunch atheist coming out as a “mystic”. Or, at least, she’s advocating that we keep our minds open to the possibility there is a mystical presence. I concur and will keep my mind open while searching for any objective evidence. Barbara Ehrenreich’s story hinges on an experience, the most vivid of a series of experiences that she had as a teenager that most of us might call mystical, but that she labels “dissociative.” She was 17 in May 1959 when one early morning while traveling through Lone Pine she was subject to a moment of perceptual chaos that, more than 50 years later, she has a difficult time describing. You can also listen to an interview with Barbara about her book, Living with a Wild God, by clicking the audio podcast link below.
Living with a Wild God: Barbara Ehrenreich on Atheism and Transcendence, Point of Inquiry, Interview April 14, 2014. See the Famously Tough-Minded Atheist news above for more info.
Consciousness as Social Perception, Brain Science Podcast 108. In this interview with Princeton neuroscientist, Michael Graziano, discusses his scientific investigations and his latest book “Consciousness and the Social Brain”. One of the most important points he makes is that consciousness is probably only a “quick and dirty model” of what is really going on, which means that our intuitions about consciousness are not necessarily reliable.
Graziano gives many examples that clearly illustrate this. In fact, humans have a strong tendency to over-attribute awareness to the world around us. This is part of the social circuitry that has made us the most successful species in the earth’s history, but it can also lead to amusing results (as anyone who has interacted with Siri on an iPhone has no doubt observed). Listen to this podcast interview now for a fascinating and entertaining exploration into Dr. Graziano’s experiments and his scientific explanation of consciousness.