Sunday, December 02, 2018


In my thinking about how it works when someone has a"spiritual" sense of the holy, these are the steps in hand at the moment -- there are probably more.

1.  This theory is completely physical and scientific in one sense: that is, molecules interact, physically recorded memory is accessed, the plastic and responding brain cells are operating.  It is not supernatural or extra-terrestrial.  It is NOT the usual Enlightenment, rational, Greek-origin kind of thinking.  Rather it is is the Eliade/Suzanne Langer/Rudolf Otto/Ninan Smart cluster of ideas about something that is NOT rational, but can possibly be accessed, described, or "called" by using rational means., especially those in art and music which are physical, theorized, but potentially highly emotional.  It's a wholistic method where "science" is one specific method.

2.  Memory begins in subconscious memories from conception, gestation, birth and then human interaction, material culture, and narrative experience.  Memory and experience are the raw material of spirituality but not always conscious.  The more they are aligned and confirmed, the more powerful the experience may be.  By definition, the subconscious is unknowable but can be managed to some degree.

3.  A body of resources helps in this managing: universalized "literature" like the Bible or Koran or Broadway musicals.  Thought proceeds through the use of metaphor, which is a way of extending the known through the unknown in order to assimilate it, coming to know it.

4.  Building habits (time, place, clothing, posture, sound, smell, etc.) are strong ways to handle what is subconscious and cannot be addressed with conscious control.

5.  Accompanying people who are in unison can carry along individuals without their awareness and possibly even without their consent.

6,  The phenomenon of the "liminal" or "play" space/time in which the conventional is suspended and there is openness to change and experiment is very powerful.  It is unifying, resists hierarchies, and can be a source of terror.  This body of theory interpreting experience as spaces and entrances is particularly useful when designing ceremonies:  location, entrance, special state, exit, after effects.

7.  The body is a chemical factory and auto-doping can push strong emotion, shaping it into what feels sacred and providing enormous authority.  Things like hypnotism or dissociation are related somehow.  They push the mind into a different structure.

8.  Psychedelics are a good example of using the rational mind "outside" the use of substances to decide whether to imbibe or just understand the inside experience which is described by users as "felt" rather than reasoned out.  The discussion with Michael Pollan linked below is helpful.

9.Institutions are strongly invested in solidifying their membership through shared material sensations of meaning approaching holiness, at least valorized into flags, pledges, images, anthems, gestures.  This becomes self-perpetuating and can become immoral, destructive.

10.  Numbers of participants matter.  An individual can use this information, a small group can do it as well.  It seems to happen with groups as big as congregations.  When a whole culture reaches for drug-induced change, it's a bit uncontrollable and the results are unpredictable.

This is all the evidence I've accumulated so far, except that I need to figure out what the default mode network is about.  There are probably other things to think about, like architecture and how it relates to natural formations that seem holy.

But this list needs to be organized somehow and that's the most dangerous part of the thinking, because the first patterns that suggest themselves are the ones already known, rather than the innovation that the information itself demands.  

Pollan's claim is the psychedelics diminish ego, authoritarianism, and fear, as well as increasing relationship and valuing of others.  Can we put it in the drinking water, as he suggests?  We can certainly put something on the internet but it won't touch the know-nothings who are proud of never going near computers, people like Trump.  If Trump were dosed with chemicals in his Whoppers, would that affect him or is it only potent for people who are already inclined that way?  

Can "religion" in the sense of spiritual experience have any impact on a category as big as humankind?  This means the spiritual enters the realm of morality, but many people like "spiritual" BECAUSE it's not moral.  The moral demands a response.  Spiritual experience IS a response.

Like Michael Pollan, I have not had an overwhelming spiritual experience.  But I approach religion and love, which are related somehow, through JUSTICE from my earliest consciousness which is based on a solid un- or sub-consciousness.  This is partly because of a mother who depended on the rational, the culturally supported, and the necessary after leaving the Depression.  The times demanded compromise but she didn't and didn't have to, though there were limitations.  Also, I was shaped by WWII, not just examples of moral courage but also a measure of just how atrocious violence can be, the reality of it.  

I was a very stubborn little girl, accused of narcissism and not serving others, taught not to expect anything -- and yet I achieved a certain amount of approval from institutions like school.  This explains why I would be attracted to Div School and then ministry.  This gave me ten years of more concentrated experience creating ritual and worship, which taught me to avoid institutions.  But unlike others, I rejected all drugs, the shortcuts others valued.  This was stubbornness.  It was also a rejection of marketed materialism.

The Sixties did not pull me into experiment only because of being with the Blackfeet and partnered with a man my father's age but far beyond my father's ability or potency.  He WAS however, a master of music and he performed both flimflam and serious obedience to the old people of the tribe.  It was hard to distinguish between the two, particularly because both were layered but naive.  No one outside the two of us really knew what was going on, the dreams and the private ceremonies.  Nothing formal or risky happened beyond maybe cigarettes and relationship to both landscape and animal.  Nature, "flow", and a few other psychological phenomena need to be mentioned on this list.  I'm still a bit in "process."

All denominations within the capitalist semi-democracy of the Americas are based on socioeconomics.  People are pulled together by their cultural similarities and those who observe that people with higher socioeconomics cluster "above" them will conclude that joining them will enable them to progress.  Sometimes they are right.  Sometimes they capture the machinery of the institution.  They have very little to do with the ten notations I list at the beginning.  Commercial exploitation of this thinking will end in a blind alley.

No comments: