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East Vs West


Rennyo
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My user name is after the 15th century Shin Buddhist reformer Rennyo. I've had this thing for Shin Buddhism for about 10 years now. What attracts me to Shin is the teaching of salvation/enlightenment by tariki, which means "other power", which is like grace in Pauline Christianity. Its a way for me to engage God/The Infinite without some of the baggage of Christianity (and believe me, my sojourn in conservative Christianity was chock full o' baggage). Lately though, I've come to see something I find interesting and which leaves me in a bit of a conundrum. In Eastern philosophy, the ideal of enlightenment seems to be one of merging with the Absolute, losing one's ego, which is as Buddhism teaches, a fiction anyway. In the West and its religions and philosophies, the ego is substantial, and salvation involves saving/healing the ego as the ego.

 

As I mentioned, I'm attracted to Shin Buddhism because I feel I can access the Absolute without so many of the hangups I experienced in Christianity. However, I have to admit I don't like the idea of losing myself into Nirvana; it seems too much like, well, death. What Western religion has in its favor, to me anyway, is that you kind of get the best of both worlds, that is you are united with God, but still retain your separate self. The element that is the real difference here is Love. In Eastern philosophy you have compassion, even great compassion. But this compassion comes across to me as diffuse and impersonal, where love IS personal. I just wish that Shin Buddhism had this element of personhood, with the Absolute and limited beings.

 

That probably made no sense to yall.

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Hi Rennyo,

 

Thanks for sharing the very interesting and thoughtful post. I think you're right about Buddhism having an essentially impersonal view of ultimate reality. By impersonal I don't mean "distant and opposed to what is personal", but impersonal in the sense of being non-theistic at base. Mind is given a very fundamental role in Buddhist philosophy, so there's no way it can be impersonal in the former sense.

 

That said, there's plenty of personifications to be found in the bodhisattva ideal, so it's by no means totally devoid of the personal even in a familiar theistic sense. And from the Mahayana Buddhist standpoint of the two truths, I think any dichotomous label, whether "personal" or "impersonal", might be seen as inadequate to characterize ultimate truth.

 

In this way Buddhism is not quite the same as Vedantic philosophy, which is has a view of reality that is indeed theistic and "personal", yet which still sees the ego-self as an illusion.

 

I'm not sure which view is the "right" one. If the ego has substance, I tend to think it would be a substance not divorced from the reality of God. But, then, this seems to imply the transparency and nonsubstantiality of ego. But perhaps one can affirm the ego without substantializing it. Perhaps Lover and Beloved emerge essencelessly from one another, defining one another, in a dance of love and union in which each one is the object of the other. Even in Buddhism, I recall that reading something like, "Great Wisdom is the oneness of things, great compassion is the manyness of things." I think a Mahayana Buddhist might say that we each abide in our individual expressions of perfect purity, we are each a living mantra proclaiming the inseparability of emptiness and form.

 

By the way, we have a member (a moderator, actually, I'm sure you'll have no trouble picking out who it is :D ) who identifies with the Shin tradition. I'm sure if he spots this thread he'll have some pertinent thoughts on the matter. :)

 

Thanks, and peace,

Mike

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Hi all, and thanks for the replies.

 

I see what you are saying Mike. Maybe with ego its not either or but rather "how much", that is the idea is not ego negation, but rather loosening the tension of the ego, to allow it to be more fluid.

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Rennyo great post and conclusion. I feel following the Christ way lays aside my fears, doubts and worries in the physical realm so my ego can concentrate on the more subtle realms. I think this is similar to the Pure Land Buddhist contemplating on Amitabha as not separate from his own being. This helps me enter into a silent, peaceful contemplation of God the Father, a more abstract, pure consciousness with no thing, or awareness of ego. It just seems to be pure being. The spiritual experience seems to remove all doubts and fears, and casts out all uncertainty the ego may produce. If I let go, drop every fear from my mind, and enter into inner communion with the Father in the Medium that Mathew talked about, referring to it as the fundamental element, I feel I a full, complete and perfect joy, which causes me to surrender to the Father, the abstract pure consciousness. I feel the joy is the proof that it is not superstition, It seems I am the water in a cup floating in an ocean of water so when the ego cup is removed the joy of merging makes me continue on flying towards the flame as a moth would say. Buddhism and Christianity give us techniques to remove mental obstruction to peace, joy and love because we end up surrendering all confusion, doubt, condemnation and judgment from the ego to Him, the pure consciousness in the thought of Christ and Amitabha.

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My return to Christianity and Buddhism came with the realization that "East versus West" is an illusion, as is substance dualism. In other words, traditional dualistic categories are, in large part, the obstructions we need to overcome.

 

Myron

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Rennyo great post and conclusion. I feel following the Christ way lays aside my fears, doubts and worries in the physical realm so my ego can concentrate on the more subtle realms. I think this is similar to the Pure Land Buddhist contemplating on Amitabha as not separate from his own being. This helps me enter into a silent, peaceful contemplation of God the Father, a more abstract, pure consciousness with no thing, or awareness of ego. It just seems to be pure being. The spiritual experience seems to remove all doubts and fears, and casts out all uncertainty the ego may produce. If I let go, drop every fear from my mind, and enter into inner communion with the Father in the Medium that Mathew talked about, referring to it as the fundamental element, I feel I a full, complete and perfect joy, which causes me to surrender to the Father, the abstract pure consciousness. I feel the joy is the proof that it is not superstition, It seems I am the water in a cup floating in an ocean of water so when the ego cup is removed the joy of merging makes me continue on flying towards the flame as a moth would say. Buddhism and Christianity give us techniques to remove mental obstruction to peace, joy and love because we end up surrendering all confusion, doubt, condemnation and judgment from the ego to Him, the pure consciousness in the thought of Christ and Amitabha.

 

That was hella interesting! I would love to have such an experience; its seems like sometimes I'm on the edge of it.

 

I will admit that in spite of what I wrote above, I am honestly an agnostic, that is I have enough doubt to put me in that camp. I wonder if Dawkins and Dennet, Stenger and others are right, that there is no hidden unity behind our universe/existence. Sometimes it seems that way, but I still seek. I've come to realize something of late as well regarding this; I find it much easier to believe in God when I imagine him as good, an unconditional loving father. When I imagine him as not good, not loving, I find it hard to believe. Could atheism be at its root based in fear and revulsion against the horrid character of the god of traditional religion? I'm probably doing an injustice to honest atheists in theorizing this, but it does seem to be my experience.

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Hi Rennyo,

 

I will admit that in spite of what I wrote above, I am honestly an agnostic, that is I have enough doubt to put me in that camp. I wonder if Dawkins and Dennet, Stenger and others are right, that there is no hidden unity behind our universe/existence. Sometimes it seems that way, but I still seek.

 

I know this wasn't addressed to me, but I thought I'd share some thoughts for whatever they're worth.

 

In my reading and thinking I've struggled with and have come to question some of the presuppositions that are embodied in doubts like you have expressed. First, just a word of caution, I would personally be wary of consulting Dawkins and Dennett as representative of rationalists or agnostics; in my view I wouldn't consider them such at all but as quite committed to their own metaphysical beliefs, some of which are, to me, quite fantastic. But perhaps we shouldn't touch on that, as it might lead to serious digression... :)

 

I think I've come to question the belief that our universe/existence is something pregiven objectively "out there". By this I don't mean to advocate idealism, but simply to question whether things have a truly objective status. I think it is only when we take our existence to be an ontological object that we run into serious philosophical and spiritual problems. But there's no straightforward reason to believe that the words "existence" or "universe" refer to anything at all, objectively (especially the word "universe"). Therefore, to suppose that "there's no unity behind the universe", one must already be objectifying what, it can be argued, cannot in principle be objectified. I have to side with the Existentialist mantra, that existence precedes essence (definition), and subjectivity belongs as an true category of being.

 

That said, I think if we're looking for something "behind" an objective universe, we're going turn up short, because whatever this "hidden" reality is, it apparently isn't needed to account for what is already manifest. This naturally leaves a lot of room for doubt. I doubt it too, and Buddhist epistemology tends to systematically doubt it as well. If we're looking for unity, the approach that has worked best for me is in not treating the universe like a distant object, but seeing that it is realized just in the raw actuality of our existence and experience, and not as some pregiven reality existing independently of that actuality. Nonduality isn't necessarily something existing "behind" the world of appearances, it IS the world of appearance, and insight into that world can be realized as arising intimately and selflessly beyond all conceptual elaboration, and without any independent self-existence.

 

"...for the bodhisattva who thoroughly comprehends the nature and functioning of discursive thought, both the discursive thought and its base, the 'given thing', simultaneously dissolve. Hence, far from advocating the superiority of thought over objects [idealism], Asanga's explication of sunyata and the Middle Path involves the cessation of both subject and object, both apprehender and apprehended. Only knowledge freed completely of discursive thought knows an object as it really is. This state of knowing, however, must be described as inexpressible, since when the object is seen as it really is, it is not seen as an object, i.e., as separate or apart from the seer. But the seer too dissolves into the seen--because the object is seen as it really is. Hence, not idealism, but a state of intimate, inexpressible knowledge of reality is aimed at." (On Knowing Reality: The Tattvartha Chapter of Asanga's Bodhisattvabhumi, Janice D. Willis, p132).

 

Buddhism's views on ultimate reality is primarily epistemic (how we know reality) and not ontological (what reality is). However, the two overlap, because what is being sought in ontology is not separate from the mind which knows. To paraphrase T.V. Murti in 'The Central Philosophy of Buddhism', if there is an Absolute, it is not some entity lurking behind the world of mere appearance, rather, the absolute is insight (prajna, wisdom, knowing) itself.

 

Just some views to consider along the journey.

 

Peace to you,

Mike

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Hi Rennyo,

 

 

 

I know this wasn't addressed to me, but I thought I'd share some thoughts for whatever they're worth.

 

In my reading and thinking I've struggled with and have come to question some of the presuppositions that are embodied in doubts like you have expressed. First, just a word of caution, I would personally be wary of consulting Dawkins and Dennett as representative of rationalists or agnostics; in my view I wouldn't consider them such at all but as quite committed to their own metaphysical beliefs, some of which are, to me, quite fantastic. But perhaps we shouldn't touch on that, as it might lead to serious digression... :)

 

 

Actually this really interests me. What are the metaphysical beliefs of Dawkins and Dennett that you speak of? I ask because I am intimidated by those guys. I have a fear that they are the rational ones and I am just a scared person looking for security in woo. Its a nagging thought. I would like to understand where their views are less than sure.

 

I actually had a bad experience a few years ago after reading Dennett's book Darwin's Dangerous Idea. You could call it a negative mystical experience even. A few weeks after finishing the book I was looking at some reviews of it when the gist of what Dennett was saying hit me. I was washed over with vertigo and a wave of despair, feeling that our existence was absolutely meaningless. I'm still haunted by it today.

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“That said, I think if we're looking for something "behind" an objective universe, because whatever this "hidden" reality is, it apparently isn't needed to account for what is already manifest.” Michael

 

E=MC2 as Einstein gave us tells us that even matter is energy. It seems everything is made up of energy and Conservation of Energy tells us that energy is neither created nor destroyed that it just changes form. I feel this can be another definition of God

 

I also don’t think we should take anything for granted

 

In science everything is proven through methodology or the scientific method.

 

A hypothesis is formed…………..Seems many religions have done this

This is where the disputes are

Narrow walls are put up around the infinite

 

Research is conducted……………the different scriptures provide some research

 

An experiment is performed……...I feel we have to do this in the laboratory of our mind

 

The results are observed…………In science with the 5 senses…

I think in Spirituality it is witnessed with the soul

 

The results are analyzed……….The experience is analyzed

 

The results are published ……or passed on one on one’’

 

If the results can be duplicated then it becomes a theory

I feel if the results bring joy, depth, insight or makes one a better person then continue the practice of that spirituality’

The proof is in the normal experience and the sense of a deep reality beyond what appears in the world

It seems this is where the spiritual experience gives clues of unity by parting the veil of the physical reality

New eyes seem to see love, beauty and wisdom everywhere

- In Christianity I feel we see many Christians running rampant in the world with no attachment to the energy of the soul

o So we have ideological and religious conflicts

Unity touches the base of all faiths and ways of life. It is inconsistent with none.

It is the knowledge of the finer strata of existence or energy that helps us understand our life

 

Just some thoughts on Michael’s quote.

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Actually this really interests me. What are the metaphysical beliefs of Dawkins and Dennett that you speak of? I ask because I am intimidated by those guys. I have a fear that they are the rational ones and I am just a scared person looking for security in woo. Its a nagging thought. I would like to understand where their views are less than sure.

 

I actually had a bad experience a few years ago after reading Dennett's book Darwin's Dangerous Idea. You could call it a negative mystical experience even. A few weeks after finishing the book I was looking at some reviews of it when the gist of what Dennett was saying hit me. I was washed over with vertigo and a wave of despair, feeling that our existence was absolutely meaningless. I'm still haunted by it today.

 

Ok, well here it goes, but only because you asked. :)

 

Dawkins isn't a philosopher, so maybe we'll just let him slide. But Dennett is one (if one uses that word very loosely :D ), so I can't help but think of him as a rather fervent religious believer in his own right. I do understand what you mean, though, I've found myself feeling intimidated by "rationalism" like this. Honestly I think that's the image they're trying to promote, and that's why they make the most noise. But really the situation is very different from the way they are trying to paint it. 'Rationalists' don't all agree with them about religion, psyche, etc. Human thought is much more diverse and profound than they would have it, and there are plenty of rationalists and scientists who appreciate the nuances of subjectivity and of religious epistemology.

 

Nobody looks at the world without metaphysical presuppositions, and Dennett has to be one of the most biased and extreme in his metaphysical commitments that you'll find. Dennett's position is that of an extreme form of materialism which denies any reality to phenomenal experience at all; he denies that there even is phenomenal experience. This eliminitivist position was born from a desire both to maintain strict materialism at all costs and a deep recognition that all current theories of mental reality are profoundly unable to reduce mind to materialist framework. Rationalist philosopher Galen Strawson called eliminitivism 'one of the most amazing accounts of human irrationality on record,' adding that 'it is much less irrational to posit the existence of a God whom one cannot perceive than to deny the common sense view of experience.' Dennett starts by denying all empirical reality on a matter of faith that mental reality cannot be real in any sense of the word.

 

I agree with Sewall Wright who said, "Emergence of mind from no mind at all is sheer magic." Dennett, then, stands accused of magical thinking, hardly fitting for a materialist and rationalist! I think our current culture is very peculiar, philosophers of a previous age would have thought today's materialist philosophy absolutely crazy. Perhaps in some deep ways, it is.

 

Well, that's my view at least (but I'm sure I'm not alone).

 

Peace,

Mike

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Hi Soma,

 

I do agree that scientific analysis can demonstrate unities in the universe that we would not otherwise be aware of. The inextricable nature of observer/observed, nonlocality, space-time, etc., all suggest deeper realities than our common-sense concepts admit. Yet at the same time, we have to be already be looking for them. :) Many people are not, so science may not in itself be the right method to use. Nonduality is itself not a commonsense concept or practice. It is very suggestive that there are deeper things going on...which will then allow one to perhaps see scientific discoveries in a new light.

 

When I said there was 'nothing behind' the universe I think this is true in the deeper sense of nondual insight. If our view of the universe is merely cast in commonsense (and Western materialist) concepts, I would say that there is plenty 'behind' that universe. :) But I consider that universe to be merely an objectified picture of the real thing. :D

 

Thanks for sharing,

Mike

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By the way, Rennyo, if you don't mind I would recommend 'The Emergent Self' by William Hasker, who is trained in analytic philosophy, for a pertinent discussion on the mind, in the first chapter he pretty well demolishes the eliminitivism of Churchland, Dennett, et.al. David Ray Griffin has some very accessible works from a perspective of process philosophy and pan-psychism (Unsnarling the World Knot, is one of them).

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Thank you Mr. Mike for taking the time to write that. I found it very helpful.

 

I'm glad you found some of it helpful. I hope I haven't derailed your thread in the process. (I think there's maybe 3 or 4 topics where I've gotten into discussions about philosophy of mind so far.)

 

Peace to you,

Mike

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Rennyo, I read your OP with interest as I too have sought to follow the Shin (Pure Land) path for a number of years now; this after many years identifying more as a Buddhist when my first love and allegiance was to Theravada. Quite a difference if one looks for differences! In Theravada it is said that "Buddha's only point the way, each has to walk the path themselves,

while the Pure Land path is called the easy way, letting Amida (Other Power) do all the work.

 

(Though with half an eye on the words of the myokonin Saichi......

 

O Saichi, tell us of Other Power!

Yes, but there is neither Self power nor Other power,

What is, is the graceful acceptance only )

 

You speak of merging with the Absolute, and of losing one's ego, (as well as seeing Nirvana as "like death") and identify this with "eastern". I can only speak from my own studies and understanding and experience.

 

Buddhism is about seeking to recreate in oneself the enlightenment experience of the Buddha. It is about the gaining (or, in Pure Land terms, realising/receiving the gift of) wisdom, prajna. So it seeks to speak from experience, and the words that are used to express the experiences of the way are seen as being "like a raft", for crossing over, not for grasping. Once the words are converted into categories, philosophical doctrines, even ontological statements, they have the tendency to create the divisions that are all too familiar in the history of religion. Everything tends to become either/or.

 

The anatta (not-self) teaching, at least as I understand it, has nothing to do with losing anything. "All is empty from the beginning".........the person who has found their spiritual nakedness, who has realised that they are empty, is not a self that has acquired emptiness or become empty. They are just "empty from the beginning"..............or, in Christian terms, "they love with a pure love." (This drawn from a dialogue between the Catholic monk Thomas Merton and the "zen" man D.T.Suzuki). So it is more a matter of seeing/being that which IS for what it truly is, not of losing anything.

 

And as for merging with the Absolute, this seems more drawn from Sir Edwin Arnold's "The Light of Asia", where the "dewdrop slips into the shining sea". If we wish to speak of dewdrops and shining seas, then I suppose it would be more a case of the shining sea slipping into the dewdrop, but I'd rather just stay on dry land... :D

 

Pure Land symbolism speaks of gold as representing the undifferentiated nature of enlightenment, while the lotus flower symbolises the uniqueness of each individuality/suchness. So in depictions of the Pure Land there are often shown myriads of golden lotus flowers..................so we have both/and, not either /or. And Suzuki, when he speaks of the realisation of prajna, true seeing, he speaks of finding ourselves to be the ordinary Toms, Dicks and Harrys we have always been. Yet, I suppose, in the way intimated by T.S.Eliot.....

 

We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.

 

 

As Merton says - of Nirvana, in the essay of that name - "enlightenment is not a matter of trifling with the facticity of ordinary life and spiriting it all away. As the Buddhist say, Nirvana is found in the midst of the world around us, and truth is not somewhere else. To be here and now where we are in our 'suchness' is to be in Nirvana, but unfortunately as long as we have "thirst" or tanha we falsify our own situation and cannot realise it as Nirvana. As long as we are inauthentic, as long as we block and obscure the presence of what truly is, we are in delusion and we are in pain. Were we capable of a moment of perfect authenticity, of complete openess, we would see at once that Nirvana and Samsara are the same."

 

And so, as I see it, this world is not betrayed for some imaginary "other."

 

Master Shaku Soen liked to take an evening stroll through a nearby village. One day he heard loud lamentations from a house and, on entering quietly, realized that the householder had died and the family and neighbours were crying. He sat down and cried with them. An old man noticed him and remarked, rather shaken on seeing the famous master crying with them: "I would have thought that you at least were beyond such things." "But it is this which puts me beyond it," replied the master with a sob.

 

Anyway, I've rambled on far longer than I intended. My main point, at least as I see it, is that "impersonal" v "personal", "east" v "west", can prove to be a bit of a pseudo problem, a false dilemma.

 

All the best

Derek

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Discussions in this thread as well as several others lately have led me to dig out some books I aquired and first read over a decade ago, actually some of my first readings on the study of consciousness, in response to some pretty wild spiritual emergency experiences I underwent at the time, some things that in my old reality, that was aligned with the concensus concept of reality at the time, just weren't supposed to happen, trying to find something that helped me understand what was happening to me...I found them extremely helpful at the time, especially in reassuring myself I really wasn't going insane, that others that didn't seem particularly insane either had experienced and knew something of what I was going through.

 

I am now finding myself drawn into re-reading them, re-examining and re-exploring the concepts presented, finding that over a decade of continued evolving of my studies and thoughts relative to these areas, as well as experiences I've had in the intervening years, not the least of which is having worked through a BS degree in Psychology and Religious Studies, I am ready to do so with a deeper preparation for understanding them.

 

These are works by Stanislav Grof, "Realms of the Human Unconscious", Spiritual Emergency". The Stormy Search for Self", "The Holotropic Minds", etc....

 

Others here familiiar with these works?

 

Jenell

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Jenell, I have never read any of the books you mention, though I am familiar with the names. They are often mentioned in the same breath as Ken Wilber, who I have dipped into at times....his books, that is!

 

"Grace and Grit" was good, as it was autobiographical, documenting the time he spent with his wife Treya after she was diagnosed with breast cancer, up to the time of her death. Ken Wilber interweaves his story with his own personal take of various "spiritual" and "trans-personal" theories. The theories are thus tested by the events described, in a deeply moving way.

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Mike, just another quote I have found interesting, from the Catholic scholar and author Heinrich Dumoulin, who once wrote a history of Zen (I think, somewhere, Merton takes him to task for some of his views, but that's another story). This comes from his book "Understanding Buddhism" and it acknowledges/implies a distinction between "Personal" and "Impersonal" approaches.......nevertheless, the words of the inscription he quotes himself are worthy of reflection.

 

Whether, on its deepest ground, being is personal or impersonal, is something that humans will never be able to plumb by their rational powers. Here we face a decision which one makes according to one's own tradition and upbringing, and still more according to one's faith and experience. The Christian sees ultimate reality revealed in the personal love of God as shown on Christ, the Buddhist in the silence of the Buddha. Yet they agree on two things: that the ultimate mystery is ineffable, and that it should be manifest to human beings. The inscription on a Chinese stone figure of the Buddha, dated 746, reads......

 

"The Higest truth is without image.

If there were no image at all, however, there would be no way for truth to be manifested.

The highest principle is without words.

But if there were not words at all, how could principle possibly be revealed?"

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Any interested in exploring the works of Stanislav Grof, some of my impressions and thoughts from both my first readings and now beginning re-readings of his books, with now a lot more study and experience since the first readings....

 

Overall I would still reccomend them to such readers as most here are...those with some previous study and experience to stand on. And they were good for me back then, when I was in a state of transpersonal crisis and flounding about for something, anything, that would help me understand what I was experiencing. But, that said, re-reading them now, I'd be hesitant to reccomend them to readers NOT yet, as we often put it here, well started on their spiritual journeys.

 

The main reservation I can express now is that just as one must be able to clear away some of the 'Oh Holy Mother Church" language in which ones such as St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila had to write in order to get their underlying messages past Church Inquisitors, in reading Grof, it requires doing something similar to clear away some of his "psychodelic 60's" and popular "New Age" ways of interpreting and expressing his thoughts and ideas. For example, I'm a little put off by his, in my opinion, over confidence in the value of such mind-altering drugs such as LSD, in facilitating reaching into the depths of the psyche. I've never taken any such substance, yet definitely entered into such altered states of consciousness without any such "assistance". Having not experiemented with hallucinagens, I cannot say with certainty that what I experience "au naturele" is exactly what he observes as facilitated by such substances, but as he described them they do sound pretty much like I was tripping into some of the same territories.

 

Past that reservation, I'd say I still gained a lot of valuable and useful insights and ideas from them. I think at the core of my differences with his presentation is simply one of how he and I interpret some of these observations, I don't always come to the same conclusions he does from any given set of premises. Perhaps because in my case there was no involvment with or use of hallucinagens, nor was I engaged in any such practices as yoga, breathwork, etc, that he talks about, I personally relate better to the parts of his work that deals with spontaneous spiritual emergency, shamanic "calling" sickness, and other naturally and spontaneously occuring events. I did, though my experiences, learn somewhat how to manipulate these odd states of consciousness, as personally effective for me, in both facilitating their occurrence, deeping the states, with such things as meditation, music/dance, chanting, altering eating and sleeping habits, as well as what I needed to do if I felt the need to be more "grounded" in this reality. I learned from experience just how hard it is to try to function effectively when you are trying to walk "in between", one foot in this reality, the other elswhere...I now try to stay well grounded, avoid too much of the things that tend to send me 'tripping off to other realities', becasue of that. I experienced first hand why in most primitive traditions, the shamans, those stricken with "calling sickness", chose to withdraw from societal living to live in hermitage. I had pretty much already learned those things in the course of my own transpersonal crisis before I discovered sources of information about such things written by others. But, that is just my experience, it may be different for others.

 

What fascinate me about all of this is how modern science is beginning to turn toward trying to understand such things as were once shunted off into the never never land of ignorant, primitive myth and superstition, or delegated to the regions of mental illness. I found one way of putting the difference between shamanic and other states of altered consciousness from those of mental illness particularly appropriate, if at the same time a bit amusing...The mentally ill get lost when they inadvertently fall into the underworld, the shaman knows how to deliberately get there and back.

 

I might add also, and this is perhaps another reason I'm not too enthralled with some of the goals of popular practices such as yoga and breathwork, or the casual use of hallucinagenic drugs, that in stating the shaman knows how to deliberately get there and back, the "trip" is not merely for the practitioner's entertainment and amusement in experiencing something different, the novelty of it. The shaman goes into the underworld to find something, retrieve something useful, to bring back with him (or her). Without knowing that was what I was doing at the time, that was exactly what that period in my life was about...entering the realms of my unconscious so as to find and bring back parts of myself that had been lost over the years of my life, that would work toward my healing and state of wholeness. I got rid of so much baggage through those expereences, it could definetely be said that I emerged on the oother side as a New Creation, more whole, more spiritually and psychologically healthy and well.

 

Jenell

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Thank you for that, Tariki. I guess I have been caught up in terminology, and I should know better. There was a time when I was put off by terms used in Buddhism such as "emptiness" and "the void". I found what those terms signify something much different than what I thought.

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