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Posts Tagged ‘science and religion’

Eclecticism, eklektikos, εκλεκτικισμός, emerged among the schools of Ancient Greek Philosophy in response to stoicism and epicureanism that placed the pursuit of practical happiness and virtue ahead of truth. It also represents a response to the skeptics, “skeptikoi,” σκεπτικισμός, who argued that, while obtainable in theory, truth, in practice had not yet been discovered nor demonstrated.

I stand with Philo of Larissa, Posidonius, Seneca and, especially, Cicero. The truth is obtainable by use of multi-modal, multidisciplinary and multidimensional methods to increase the odds of finding it. Truth is a matter of probabilities, not absolutes. Purists apply a more dogmatic stance on pursuing truths through use of a single way applied with rigor, discipline, and fidelity to tradition.

Certainly, discipline is crucial and is not the enemy of enthusiasm. A chosen structure is freeing to the extent that it removes the need to constantly reinvent process. On the other hand, the danger of reifying the system itself over time, mistaking its own assumptions for truth, is real and significant. We are constantly interpreting our world, and it is a struggle to separate interpretation from reality. After all, believing is seeing!

My postgraduate training is in dynamic psychotherapy. I chose to enroll in a decidedly eclectic training institute for my post-doctoral certificate. While adhering to the three pillars of classical training (personal analysis, supervision, and coursework) the goal was to discover one’s own style and approach from among the many orientations available.

Though I am dispositionally Jungian, there is so much to learn by looking deeply into classical Freudian thought and practice, the work of the neo-freudians, the Sullivanian interpersonal model, the works of Heinz Kohut, Lacan, R.D. Laing, Zezek, and many others. The truth lies in the between spaces.

In the same way, the greatest future revelations will emerge from the cognate fields of biophysics, the new psychophysics, interdisciplinary consciousness studies, psychoneuroimmunology, the spiritual  psychotherapies, and integrative psychology. In my practice, I also make routine use of clinical hypnosis, Jungian dream analysis, and the best of behavior analysis, biofeedback, and meditation.

Fresh hypotheses and deep insights are often more arresting when viewed from the edges among current schools of thought. The polymaths of the 21st century will pave new ground, break down old barriers, and throw open the windows of established fields to a fresh breeze. They will be resisted. The orthodoxies will repel all boarders. Yet,  changes will come in their own good time; changes already well underway.

I do respect the contrary view with which I enjoy an open and critical dialogue. The purist’s perspective warns, correctly, against the dangers of superficial dabbling, or dilettantism, and the possibilities of a shallow treatment of the subject at hand. As a true eclectic, I agree! Reaching across boundaries is no excuse for simplistic thinking, vague generalities, or gross analyses without a feel for the nuances.

The key to eclectic integrity is to set up and follow a rule of study, prayer, and living: a discipline that avoids skimming the surface. It is much harder to carry out than a deep dive into one model, structure, framework, and literature. Nonetheless, it’s a good and right struggle. Inevitably, a new language coalesces around a nascent field, or cognate discipline, along with its own journals, dialogues, and investigations. In time, this too gives rise to the next specialization and the cycle continues.

We are creatures of habit and we like things well systematized. There is a permanent tension between staying fresh, with eyes wide open ready to see things in new ways, and the wish for “knowledge” that leads, hopefully, to laws (of behavior, the universe, living systems, microbes, etc.).

For me, the way of the eclectic is exhilarating, and tension between going wide and the deep dive of narrow specialty is a wholesome one that keeps us honest. It all boils down to the question: What do we know, and how do we know it? The physical sciences are in a state of revolution as we speak. Physics has now long acknowledged that observing phenomena has effects on them.

And so, how do we come to know the “truth?” We keep at it with beginner’s mind, deep respect for diverse angles of view through many lenses, and a youthful readiness to lead from the edges.

My meditations today will revolve around this idea: How do I lead form the edges? How robust is my discipline in integrating my pursuit of knowing through mind, heart, and spirit? What discipline is worth honing, adding, or amending?

© Brother Anton and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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As we go ahead on our course in life’s spiritual voyage, we come to explore the multifaceted and multidimensional character of Spirit. We look at all of its diverse manifestations and forms, symbolic expressions, signs, and personal experiences. As we progress, as typified by our education, we dive into literatures that themselves present increasing degrees of complexity and nuance. We stretch as we go from our earliest studies of simple geometries to the more complex ones and then on to even more abstract mathematical imagining.

Often ignored in all this diversity and language and intellectual sophistication, is the lowly point. We hardly give the small dot on a page much attention ( unless, of course, it separates dollars from cents, pounds from pennies). So, what’s a point anyway?

In geometry, the “point” is an object in space  lacking in extent ( volume, area, length, etc.). In the Cartesian plot, it is  a unique position in space defined by paired values x and y. In any event, we spend most of our time thinking about trends, three points or more, and the geometric shapes. What, then, of the forgotten, lonely point?

In astrophysics, there is a vibrant dialogue that has been underway for some time on “gravitational singularity.” This also refers to a “point” where the “gravity well” runs so deep that objects, including light, enter but do not re-emerge.  Singularities are points of infinite density at the center of “black holes.” It is thought that our universe began as a singularity just prior to the “big bang.” In fact, you and I began life, in a sense, as biological singularities: single points that then became ever more complex through specialization of cells.

In turning to the matter of Sacred mysteries, there are striking parallels.  Out of the very simple comes complexity. From the still point at the center, humankind has evolved complex systems of expression to capture the naked singularity that cannot be so clearly seen, but that exerts such great power on our consciousness.

Alpha & Omega are points, not trends, not triangles, not cones, nor circles. Ultimately, we will all get to the point, and it will be a return.

Practically speaking, this meditation awakens a sense of the reason we meditate at all. To get to the point, the singularity, the origin and the destination.

I include here a relevant prayer and meditation from the Liturgy of the Order of the Christos [ A Celebration of the Cosmic Heart] incorporating poetry from a number of the Nag Hammadi texts.

Ω

Glory be to you, O Father.

Glory be to you, O Word.

Glory be to you, O Grace.

Glory be to you, O Mother.

Glory be to you , O Most Holy.

We give thanks to you, O Light.

In whom darkness does not dwell.

Gloria in Excelsis Deo.

Who are you O Holy One that comes out of Light?

What mouth can speak your name, or mind conceive your nature?

You hold the whole of creation within the circle of your care.

You are the Center,

The Circumference,

The Origination.

The Destination.

Maranantha, AMEN!

© Brother Anton and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Doughnuts!

At the center you’re on the edge.

Yes, that’s right. Whether you fancy Dunkin Donuts or Krispy Cremes, the true doughnut ( the one with a hole in the middle), is a fitting metaphor for the spiritual life. Forrest Gump’s good and ever wise mother notwithstanding, chocolates are not the most fitting symbol. What I am talking about is the geometry of the Spirit. When you travel along an edge of the doughnut, you are also moving around the center.

Mathematicians refer to the doughnut shape as a torus, and its shape is “liminocentric”. So, what’s the meaning of this obscenely multi-syllabic word? In the case of liminocentricity, traveling along an edge, or, an outside part of the shape, is paradoxically also traveling inside of it. Many who talk about this kind of shape refer to the “chinese boxes” by way of analogy, wherein a series of smaller boxes fit inside larger ones. To be liminocentric ( limen, denoting thresholds, and centric, for center) small and large details of the shape are also the same.

The term was first used by Psychologist John Fudjack in his 1995 paper, Liminocentric Forms of Social Organization. The word has caught on in circles as diverse as physics, art, and consciousness studies. So, what’s all the fuss about?

In living spiritually, thresholds matter a lot. The moments of insight are most often threshold moments: we feel on the verge of some discovery. Perhaps we see something with fresh eyes, as if for the first time, or we are challenged in a way that seems to pull us into a new, unfamiliar space. But in opening ourselves to it, we are somehow closer to the center of reality, nearer a compelling truth.

Moses’ metaphorical encounter with the “burning bush” was liminocentric. He was at an unprecedented threshold, having stepped on holy ground where nothing was as we generally experience it. A bush burns without being consumed, and his relationship with the One embodied in the heat of the flame is at once personal, transpersonal, and Other. According to the Jewish Study Bible, the voice of Yahweh signs himself by uttering the words,” I will be what I will be.” The  burning bush was wholly and fully present, and also alive to all possible futures at the same time.

Moses stood on a mountain facing an awesome and, no doubt, terrifying visage, face to face with the ineffable, and they spoke: A Divine Q&A. He stood on a precipice, an edge, a verge of unknowing, and, at the same time, entered into the Bridal chamber, was at the center, at-onement with the Intimate Mystery.

Mathematicians and astrophysicists have gone far in exploring the geometry of liminocentricity. In fractal geometric terms, it is an apt model for the topology of the universe. The torus shape is ubiquitous: storm systems, galaxies, and black holes. There is no finer meditation than to open one’s eyes to the shapes of nature all around.

As we perceive the varieties of beautiful forms, we come to fully experience the outward topologies in deeply personal ways. Consciousness, it seems, is shaped as nature is shaped. Gazing inward, we experience our own threshold moments in which we are traveling an edge, and yet are closer to the center. We are involved in something seemingly small in finite time and space, but mindful, as a result, of the incomprehensibly vast.

  • Being present at the birth of one’s child;
  • The moment of awe standing on the perimeter of a volcanic caldera;
  • Holding the hands of a loved one as they pass away;
  • Hearing a lover’s heartbeat while feeling one’s own;
  • Being really awake in that fleeting split second in between two thoughts and listening to true silence;

As I move through this last day of the holiday weekend here, I will be taking special notice of things liminocentric, and of those moments that are both edges and centers, and where the structure of small details mirrors the large.

In any event, my next doughnut promises to be a very special treat indeed.

© Brother Anton and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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insulin_glucose_metabolism

A physician and I were talking today about the biochemistry of diabetes. He specifically referred to the gate system by which insulin acts to bring sugar into our cells.

The cell membrane contains insulin receptors that are unlocked, so to speak, by the presence of insulin, allowing sugar to flow into a cell.
In Type II Diabetes, insulin does not act efficiently and sugar builds up in the bloodstream with unwelcome consequences.

In treating diabetes, even 30 minutes of brisk walking per day gives great benefit. Cardiovascular exercise increases the number of insulin receptors on the exterior of cell membranes. As a result, less insulin goes a longer way and is better used by the body.

I left our conversation intrigued by the analogous way in which Spirit acts on the psyche. We need the daily exercises to build up our “receptors” to the Divine Light. As we increase receptivity, the Light all around us gets through to our core, and so we are better able to experience authentic illumination.

As mind and body are one, there is no reason to expect that soul acts in contrary ways. I fully believe they mirror each other. Receptor chemistry offers an interesting perspective in analogical thinking about our state of readiness to receive the grace and love that is ever-present and freely given.

I am in awe of the exquisite configurations of our life-space from morphology and physiology to the sacred echo of such schema in Mind and Spirit.

© Brother Anton and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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My whole world is a complex system of interlocking maps. My reality is self defined and, as Douglas Hofstadter has opined, a series of “strange loops”.

Beliefs fuel my interpretations and they are each made up of a bundle of assumptions. Maps of the world, while useful, are imperfect representations of the area and topography they describe.

So much of life is an admixture of personal and shared fiction blended, often subtly, with fact. We are first weavers and tellers of stories. We learn through metaphor. Symbols and signs are the ways in which things get stored in memory and then we imbue these symbols with emotional, intellectual and spiritual significance.

In an allegorical sense, we are in the Wachowski Brothers’ “matrix” where mental models ( constructions of mind) color much of what we see and do. Spiritual awakening in all religious traditions emphasizes waking up (e.g., epiphany, enlightenment, kensho, divine illumination, nirvana, bodhi, realization, satori, gnosis). So, how can we appreciate our maps in ways that free us to see beyond them?

I am a lover of  maps- maps of all varieties ( the world, other planets, the moon, and the stars). The map room in the Vatican Museum is my all-time favorite. The more maps that hang on our walls the less likely are we to mistake any one map for the real territory. With many perspectives, we are free of the constraining assumptions tied to just one.

The answer to how we get free of our mental models is to allow multiple ones to collide.

What does this look like in daily practice? The best strategy is to pose a regular small set of questions to whatever I perceive, such as:

  1. What beliefs am I clinging to as I invest in my interpretation of what’s real?
  2. What if I challenge those beliefs? How might thing change?
  3. On what experience does my confidence rely?
  4. Where does my knowledge end, and perception, guess, and imagination begin?
  5. What are my favorite sources of information? What other sources would add a wholesome set of checks and balances?
  6. Where is the “orthodoxy” in my thinking? Playing the “heretic” or “devils advocate”, how might things otherwise actually be?

We really hate change especially when it threatens treasured formulas and ways of understanding. It is itself an act of enlightenment to doubt, and bring a scientific mindset to our notions of spirit while listening intently to the tacit knowledge of the heart .

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© Brother Anthony Thomas and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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