Philosophy: Mysticism, World Religions & Modern Science

Note: My old lecture notes give an idea of my still-evolving philosophy. Having taught chemistry & physics, then psychology, & exploring world religions since 1957 led to my attempts to integrate these.

Mysticism (from a root word that means “closed lips,” so “can’t be uttered”): belief that one can know ultimate reality by direct experience & intuition but can’t verbalize it. (Maybe it can only be “expressed“ or hinted at/glimpsed/tasted in art, music, poetry). Often related to “monism,” that the ultimate nature of reality is oneness (or, perhaps better as “not-two-ness,” i.e., non-dualism) and is manifest in multiplicity/diversity. The meaning of life is to realize (re-cognize? re-member?) the unity/non-separateness within/behind the multiplicity, and harmonize with it.

World Religions: Mystical experience in Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Islam (Sufism), Judaism (Kabala, Hasidic), Christianity, Native American religion, etc.

R. M. Bucke, Cosmic Consciousness
William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience
Evelyn Underhill, Mysticism
Abraham Maslow's study of self-actualizing people and their "peak“ or "oceanic” or transcendent or mystic experiences.
Subsequent research by Andrew Greeley, etc. Physiological & EEG research on meditation Andrew Newberg’s Why God Won’t Go Away (SPECT scans of Tibetan Buddhists & Franciscan nuns) [“basis,” cause or result, vs. correlate?] (also Eugene D’Aquili, James Austin & R. Joseph)

Thesis: Mystics/monists/non-dualists by definition need no scientific “proof” of their experience. Contemporary science can never “prove” anything (but only “find evidence for” or “disprove”), but perhaps it is consistent, parallel, or analogous with mystical “truth.”

Paradigm: a loose set of implicit assumptions that determines (1) laypeople’s perception of reality as well as (2) scientists’ work, i.e., its content, method, & conclusions. See Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolution.

Paradigm Shift

Newton, Descartes, etc. Einstein, Heisenberg, etc.
1. physicalism
absolute 3-D space, linear time & mass
1. relativity & process
Einstein’s special relativity (depend on motion: length shortens, time slows, mass increases; space-time 4th D)
Einstein’s general relativity (curved by matter or energy)
static, discrete objects
“law” of conservation of energy
“law” of conservation of matter
dynamic processes; “wavicles”
Bohr’s wave nature of electron
Planck’s particle nature of light
Einstein’s E = mc2
2. determinism
cause and effect
2. quantum theory
EPR effect, Bell’s theorem
butterfly wing/typhoon
Shrodinger’s cat
consciousness creates matter?
Young’s 2π unknown in 2π2π3
3. objectivity 3. Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle
4. epistemology: left brain
data from the 5 senses +
logic, reason, analysis
4. right brain
intuition, synthesis
Godel’s Undecidability Theorem
Bohm’s & Pribram’s holonomic theories of brain/mind/cosmos
Sheldrake’s “morphogenetic resonance field”
research on meditation & war, meditation & crime, psi phenomena, healing prayer
5. 2nd law of thermodynamics
entropy—increasing disorder
5. chaos theory
order in chaos; fractals

Note: Transpersonal psychology or “Fourth Force” subscribes to mysticism (e.g. (Maslow, Wilber, Grof, Jung etc.)

It offers one type of answers to existential questions (“Third Force Psychology”) of “Who (or what) am I?” &“What’s it all about?” i.e., ontology, epistemology, & ethics. Perhaps I’m part of the Whole and contain the Whole or I’m a “ripple on the space-time continuum” or I’m a “process of no-thing-ness becoming one with the One,” etc. I “know” through both right and left-brain processes—the One in the many. It assumes the “summa bonum“ (ultimate value or meaning) is transcendent, i.e., transcends the human being (though also imminent within all) and anything else that could be named. (For the sake of communication, one may refer to it by “the something which is no-thing,” the “Nameless,” JHWH or “I AM THAT I AM,” or the “One” or the “All” etc. remembering that such names limit what is limitless).

For ethical living, perhaps compassion, wisdom, creativity, & service come from a “dissolving” of the illusion of separate ego, thus freeing one to manifest the One in one’s unique way for the harmony of the Whole. Perhaps anxiety, depression, anger, substance abuse, etc. arise from forgetting the oneness (not-twoness) behind the apparent multiplicity and grasping the fragment or moment that seems to be “good” and resisting/fleeing that which seems “bad” instead of honoring each interconnected part of the Whole & flowing with the changing process of the moment. (Chinese peasant story of change. Monkey or raccoon trap & “letting go.”)