Supernatural conceptions lack an essential quality or qualities that all natural phenomena possess. What are these qualities?
1. Causal - All natural phenomena are part of a causal chain that stretches back to the Big Bang. Miracles are miracles because they are contra-causal i.e. they are not caused by pre-existing conditions. Free will as the ability to absolutely choose between two or more alternatives is contra-causal and therefore supernatural. Our choices are the result of genetics and environment at the moment we are caused to make a choice. You cannot separate a choice from the context in which it occurs. You cannot separate an effect from the context in which it occurs. The context is all the preceding causal events.
2. Temporal - this is related to the above. Natural phenomena change over time. Perfection is a supernatural quality because it is unchanging. Abstractions do not exist. For example the definition of a line is length with no width. Nobody has
ever seen such a thing - even the finest line has a measurable width. It is impossible to conceive of a line so defined. But through the arrangement of words we can convince ourselves that we can conceive of length without width. A line is a useful artifact of language. If you believe that it is more than that, that it is real, then you are guilty of supernatural thinking.
In his book, ?The End of Faith?, Sam Harris casually mentioned that scientists may one day discover that consciousness is separate from the brain. He was roundly criticized for this statement - and rightly so.
We have zero evidence that such a thing is possible but ample evidence that the human mind is strongly motivated by fear to surmise just such a possibility. Without the existential motivation, without the fractured perception of reality generated by language, would we ever conceive of such a thing as consciousness independent of brain? No.
But I differ from most scientists in that I am
not out to debunk spiritual experience. My motivation is to rehabilitate it and cleanse it of the taint of supernaturalism. The way to do this is by creating a psychological theory that preserves the meanings and benefits of spiritual experience while expunging the supernatural interpretations and paradigm. Spirituality is existential psychology.
Although Freud relied on many case studies to create his psychodynamic theories, I am sure that he also relied on his own personal introspections to make sense of them. To some extent, you have to experience what you are theorizing about.
A big problem has been that those scientists and psychologists commenting on spirituality have no spiritual experience and those people having spiritual experiences have by and large not been materialists.
I bring to the table many spiritual experiences coupled with a strict materialism and a courageously thorough introspection, so I feel uniquely qualified to theorize on the subject
My spiritual experiences include out-of-body, white light, and Zen enlightenment among others.
The key insight I have taken from these experiences is that there are two ways of being in the universe. In other words, self can be expressed and experienced in two separate modes. You could call one digital and the other analog.
The digital expression of self leads to existential angst, alienation, the perception of free will, supernatural conception, abstractions, self-consciousness and certain personality disorders. But also analysis and innovation. These things are all symptomatic of a single cognitive schema.
The analog expression of self is the opposite of the above characteristics. We all long for the analog state of mind - even if for a brief moment. Part of the reason is that the analog expression of self creates a psychodynamic harmony (contrasted with the conflict-oriented Freudian psychodynamic structure of ID, Ego, Superego).
you succeed in flipping your mind from the digital to the analog expression of self, we can call it Zen Enlightenment. This is often a persistent reordering of the psychodynamics of the mind.
Over millennia, Zen Buddhists have perfected techniques for inducing this mind flip.
In human evolution, the analog self preceded the digital self so in a sense Zen enlightenment is a retrogression- a return to ?Eden?.
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