Tuesday, August 3, 2021


"Saved," in the Holy Roller Sense, By the New Metaphysical Monism?

In olden days, people found meaning and solace in religion.   In the West, it was, in the main, Judeo-Christian.  But that particular myth was always a difficult one to swallow.  Kierkegaard and Dostoevsky tried to make the case that it is precisely its implausibility that gives rise to faith; if it were plausible then people could embrace it without any real spiritual investment.

And then came the Enlightenment and "scientism."  Dostoevsky could see that they put man at war with himself.  The war between scientism and faith was the war between the values of Western Europe and the values of Mother Russia.

Nietzsche and Sartre put a cherry on top, telling us that God was dead, but that that was OK because His absence, and the absence in particular of His rules, gave us the freedom to Be, authentically.  This never worked for me.  It may have worked for Nietzsche because he was gradually losing his mind as this philosophy took hold of him.  Personally I doubt that it worked personally for Sartre either; it just allowed him to further preen and to take center stage in European intellectual circles, like Michel Foucault did thereafter.

So we were left with nothing but the Abyss, but at least we had the satisfaction of sophistication.  We were grown up enough to accept what science was telling us, that we were way less than specks of sand on the beach.

What major religion comes closest to this world-view?  Probably Buddhism, I would say.  It admits that our circumstances cause us endless earthly suffering; suffering is, in fact, what defines our circumstances.  There is one escape route, however -- the renunciation of desire.  If we truly renounce it, we can reach a state of some sort of fundamental bliss that corresponds with being taken up into the embrace of ...  Nothing.  Nothing is our God.  (Is our God nothing?)

This also does not work for me.  Lipstick on the pig of personal annihilation.

There are cracks now appearing in this entire façade, but they are cracks that scare me as much as the Abyss itself.  First among them is the UFO/UAP phenomenon, which now cannot be denied by reasonable people looking at all of the available evidence with openness and candor.  It most decidedly does not prove the existence of extraterrestrial life forms, but rather of some Intelligence outside our own that is impinging on us for some reason.  Is it, asks the AI scientist and philosopher Jacques Vallee, the same Intelligence as that which caused the sun to spin before 70,000 people at Fatima in 1917, or the virgin to appear in a ball of light before even larger crowds, of Coptic Christians, Muslims and Jews, in 1968 in Cairo?  Do drugs like ayahuasca and LSD open the "doors of perception" of that Intelligence?

People who claim to have come face to face with that Intelligence, including veterans of Peruvian ayahuasca initiations and claimed alien abductees, report a whole spectrum of attitudes expressed towards us by the Other, from benevolence to indifference to reptilian and insectoid hostility.  A Buddhist would call all of these mere illusion -- projections of our subjective consciousness.  The Tibetan Book of the Dead counsels the dying one to simply ignore them, to not engage with them with either positive or negative emotion, because they are mere distractions on the path to Enlightenment.  The terror that arises for me in contemplating the Other Intelligence is that its malevolent manifestations are, presumably, as real as the Tic Tacs that we now know have the capacity to disappear into the sea at 500 knots.  Are we just guinea pigs in some sort of cosmic free-for-all?  And Who, if anyone, is in charge?

Now comes the "new monism."  Monism simply means that the mind-body duality of Descartes is resolved, not as science would have it, by reducing everything to mindless matter, by rejecting soul and spirit, indeed by rejecting consciousness itself except as a programming language, older than COBOL, used by our "computers made of meat."  Rather, it is resolved by giving primacy to the mind, by largely reducing the material to a manifestation of the "mind-at-large."  We, and other animate creatures, it is said, are like whirlpools in the mind-at-large; inanimate objects, on the other hand, are like ripples on the surface of the mind-at-large.  (This metaphor, in candor, confuses me more than it enlightens me.)

The mind-at-large is real and it is benevolent.  One can think of it as what awaits at the end of that Near-Death Experience tunnel.

The view seems very close to the teachings of Jung; the mind-at-large looks a lot like his "collective unconscious."  But Jung himself seemed reluctant to articulate anything about his own relationship with the Creator, the Supreme Being, no doubt because he began his career in the time of Freud, when psychology was sold as hard science.  Jung's spiritual beliefs, whatever they were, could not be reduced rigorously to science.

A leading proponent of the new monism is a Brazilian philosopher/scientist by the name of Bernardo Kastrup.  His "Brief Peeks Beyond," for example, offer brief peeks, in the form of essays, that lay it all out.

The new monism offers, or has the potential to offer, an optimistic account of things, a "happy ending."  That most assuredly is not a reason to believe in it!  But if there are other compelling reasons to embrace it, I will gladly take the happy ending.

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