So today is the 54th TRTZ and I’m 54 today – synchronicity or what!
I know, I know – 54 – when I only look like I’m in my 40’s (yeah right!) – but as they say ‘it’s not the age, it’s the mileage’ – and no, that doesn’t make me feel any better.
Tonight we’re taking a slightly different tack and dipping our metaphorical toes into the metaphysical in an attempt to see what we all mean by the words we easily use.
Words like ‘spirit’, ‘ghost’, ‘soul’ can imply a belief system, or at least some ideas about the nature of the cosmos – but what exactly?
This is the question for tonights debate and like all TRTZ shows the notes below reflect only part of the discussion that we will be having on air so treat them as supporting information and provocations….
Villagers get fed-up.
The villagers of the Australian of the town of F*****G are fed up with people stealing their road-signs that they are looking to change it to Fugging or Fuking..
The final straw has been a growing number of calls by pranksters from abroad who ring up locals and ask in English “Is That F*****G” – before bursting into laughter and hanging up.
“The phone calls are really the final straw”, said local Mayor Franz Meindl, who confirmed that the villages street signs were regularly stolen even though they had been welded on steel posts set in concrete in the ground.
Drivers heading into the village often disturbed naked couples romping in front of the signs, and local entrepreneurs made the situation worse by flogging off Fucking postcards – Fucking Christmas cards and even more recently a Fucking beer.
Residents last voted on the subject in 1996 when it decided to keep the name despite problems caused by American servicemen from across the border in Germany that drove to the region just to be photographed in front of signs. They then sent the snaps back home to their girlfriends and wives.
If the name change goes ahead, they will be following in the footsteps of stadium bosses in Switzerland who were forced to change their name from Wankdorf because red-faced stars were too embarrassed to play there.
Retirement Plan …
It may look like a tropical paradise, but Sotobanari Island is no holiday destination: there’s no natural water, dangerous currents swirl around and it’s lashed by typhoons.
However, the Japanese island has one resident who has made it his home for the last two decades: a pensioner who walks around in the buff despite the insects that come out to bite at night.
Masafumi Nagasaki, 76, has made this 1km-wide Japanese island his retirement home, living off rice cakes, which he boils in water, four or five times a day.
He throws on clothes once a week for a trip to a settlement an hour away by boat, where he collects 10,000 yen (£78) sent to him by his family to buy food and drinking water.
Teaching a young dog an old trick…
This is quite cute ….
Having your cake and eating it….
Like something straight out of a Roald Dahl book or Heston Blumenthal TV show, a London communications firm had its office lift lined with over 1,000 Jaffa Cakes in a bid to make their workplace just a little bit nicer.
Engine, a marketing firm based in London’s Great Portland Street, had the “edible elevator artwork” installed as part of an advertising campaign for McVitie’s Jaffa Cakes.
A team of artists and food technicians took a month to come with and install the 1,325 Jaffa Cake project, which lined the walls of the lift, last week.
A hamster who swallowed a toy magnet and became stuck to the metal bars of his cage is now recovering following the bizarre incident.
Pet hamster ‘Smurf’ had to be prised off the bars by owner Kate Meech, who came home to find the hanging helplessly off the cage.
On a more serious note …..
An Argentinian mother has spoken of her shock after her stillborn baby was found alive in a morgue.
Analia Bouter’s fifth child was born at 26 weeks – around three months premature – in Argentina’s northern Chaco province.
Doctors told her the baby had died, but when she and her husband visited the morgue 12 hours later, they realised their daughter was breathing.
Some local stuff from my Breakfast Show this morning (see www.alanjonesradio.com)
17th April 1986 Netherlands signs Peace Treaty with The Isle of Scillies ending the 335 Year War!
The Three Hundred and Thirty Five Years’ War was a war between the Netherlands and the and the Isles of Scilly is said to have been extended by the lack of a peace treaty for 335 years without a single shot being fired, which would make it one of the world’s longest wars and the war with the fewest casualties.
Despite the uncertain validity of the declaration of war, peace was finally declared in 1986.
The origins of the war can be found in the Civil War , fought between the Royalists and the Parlaimentarians from 1642 to 1652.
Oliver Cromwall had fought the Royalists to the edges of the Kingdom of England and this meant that the Dutchy of Cornwall was the last Royalist stronghold.
In 1648, Cromwell pushed on until mainland Cornwall was in the hands of the Parliamentarians.
The Royalist Navy was forced to retreat to the Scillies which were under the ownership of Royalist John Grenville.
The Dutch Navy was suffering heavy losses from the Royalist fleet based in Scilly.
On 30 March 1651, Admiral Maarteen Harpertszoon Tromp arrived in Scilly to demand reparation from the Royalist fleet for the Dutch ships and goods taken by them.
According to Whitelocke’s Memorials (cited in Bowley, 2001), a letter of 17 April 1651 explains: “Tromp came to Pendennis and related that he had been to Scilly to demand reparation for the Dutch ships and goods taken by them; and receiving no satisfactory answer, he had, according to his Commission, declared war on them”.
As most of England was now in Parliamentarian hands, war was declared specifically upon the Isles of Scilly.
In June 1651, soon after the declaration of war, the Parliamentarian forces under Admiral Robert Blake forced the Royalist fleet to surrender. The Netherlands fleet, no longer under threat, left without firing a shot. Due to the obscurity of one nation’s declaration of war against a small part of another, the Dutch did not officially declare peace.
In 1985, Roy Duncan, historian and Chairman of the Isles of Scilly Council, wrote to the Dutch Embassy in London to dispose of the myth that the islands were still at war. Embassy staff found the myth to be accurate and Duncan invited the Dutch ambassador Rein Huydecoper to visit the islands and sign a peace treat.
Peace was declared on 17 April 1986, 335 years after the “war” began. The Ambassador joked that it must have been harrowing to the Scillonians “to know we could have attacked at any moment.”
And finally… builders bum outlawed!
A US man has been sentenced to three days in prison after turning up to court wearing low-slung baggy jeans.
It has long been acknowledged that trousers which only reach the mid-thigh are guilty of a range of style crimes, however Alabama Judge John Bush ruled that the 20-year-old’s jeans were so low that they were actually in contempt of court.
In his book, The Science of Mind (1926), Earnest Holmes gave the following definitions:-
SPIRIT –That part of man which enables him to be self-conscious. That which he really is. We do not see the spirit of man any more than we see the Spirit of God. We see what man does; but we do not see the doer.
LOGOS (Christ) –The Word of God manifest in and through man. In a liberal sense the Christ means the Entire Manifestation of God and is, therefore, the Second Person of the Trinity. Christ is a Universal Idea, and each one “Puts on The Christ” to the degree that he surrenders a limited sense of Life to the Divine Realization.
SONSHIP.–We are all Sons of God and all partake of the Divine Nature.
MICROCOSM.–The individual world as distinguished from the Universal.
EMMANUEL.-GOD-WITH-US.–Means that Christ is in every one.
PERSONALITY.–The external evidence of individualized being.
INDIVIDUALITY.–Each one is a separate identity in Mind and no two are alike. Each is an Individualized Center of God-Consciousness. Our personality is the use that we make of our Divine Individuality.
CONSCIOUS-STATE.–The conscious-state is the self-knowing mind of man. It is the only thing that distinguishes him from brute creation. Without a conscious-state of mind man would not be at all; or, at least, he would not know that he is. The conscious mind should be carefully guarded, as it is the real man.
MENTAL.–Means that man is mentally conscious.
SPIRITUAL.–Means that man is a Spiritual Being.
Now I could have chosen almost any spiritual metaphysical text to start this debate, but Holmes’ thoughts provide us with adequate food for thought.
The issue, for me, with any form of philosophical argument is that whilst it may seek to explain experience it can seem detached from what we want to accept as reality.
Take any one of Xeno’s Paradoxes about movement for example. In an attempt to argue from an ‘absurd’ point of view the impossibility of movement Xeno presented a series of philosophical thoughts or propositions.
Oversimplifying some of the arguments Xeno simply claimed that since the distance between two points can be made up of an infinite number of steps it was never possible to actually arrive at a desired destination.
OK, breaking it down a bit..
If I’m travelling from A to B then the first step I take must be equal to a fraction of the distance between the two points. It is possible then to imagine that each step can be made up of two smaller fractions – ie we can travel half a step. If we can travel half a step, then we must be travelling a quarter of a step, and an eight of a step, and then a hundredth of a step – ad infinitum.
So since there are infinite number of smaller steps that can be taken it we will never fully arrive at point B – we will only always be moving towards it.
Of course the moment someone stands up and walks between point A and point B they show the reality of the possibility of travel between the two points and make a nonsense of the argument. However BOTH realities are possible – one is the reality of the empirical, practical and observable, the other is the reality of the logical, possible and philosophical.
Such mental gymnastics are great for the oiling of the minds cogs in order to enter into meaningful debate. The fact that one reality is practical and the intellectual can, to some, produce an emotional reaction which causes the impractical to be dismissed. Such individuals hence remove themselves from the arena of debate.
During last weeks TRTZ I was noticing some interesting conversations on the two different chat rooms we were on. Some people were engaged in considering the discussion and the points being made in the show but most were not.
This is OK since in both cases the peripheral debates had been sparked by comments made in the show.
On the one chat room we had people asking very important questions about the nature of evidence and the fact that having ‘evidence’ results in the need for interpretation and that this where things can get ‘messy’.
The other chat room was involving itself in a debate about God, Spirit and Science and the reality (or absurdity) of each.
In many ways these discussions mirror the different ways we can respond to Xeno’s paradoxes or any discussion which attempts to set practical, objective reality against subjective, personal realities.
Consider the following :-
Religions are systems of beliefs that attempt to explain the human spiritual experience.
All religions arise from the illusion of separation, because that is the nature of human experience in the physical form.
We experience ourselves as separate beings, separate from each other, separate from “God”, and from the physical Universe.
It is impossible from this viewpoint of separation to perceive the true nature of who we really are, of matter and energy, and of the life force in everything that we have labeled “God”.
So to unpick this and try to get a little deeper into what has been written let’s take a step at a time …
Religions are systems of beliefs
I think there would be little disagreement with this statement since we can readily recognise the existence of differing religions each with their own system of beliefs, canons of faith and approaches to worship.
that attempt to explain the human spiritual experience
OK, here we could have some interesting debates. It presupposes there is something called a ‘spiritual experience’ which is distinct from personal experience. Some would argue that that which we call spiritual experience is simply part and parcel of the way our brains can and do work.
I am personally in no-doubt of there being a qualitative difference between some of my personal experiences. Some have the quality of being shared by others (we could call this objective experience or rationality); some have the quality of being internal and the result of me conversing with me; some are dream like and some are, for want of a better term, transcendent – they appear to be experiences of things outside of self and outside of rationality.
We experience ourselves as separate beings, separate from each other, separate from “God”, and from the physical Universe
Whilst many would agree that there is a sense of being separate, an individual, and indeed as spectators of the physical universe, it does not mean that there has to be a “God” from which we are detached.
The concept of “God” is not easy to tie down…
From the simplistic notion of a human-like being who is all powerful, all knowing and ever present yet still acting as some kind of supernatural parent to the idea that there is an ‘intelligence’ behind the Universe we find definitions of God as being all at once personal, cultural and historical.
An awareness of being a distinct part of the Universe of Cosmos does not need to automatically presuppose the existence of a divine being let alone a divine creator. Arguments from personal incredulity about the implausibility of natural processes ‘creating’ the universe to statements which suppose that because we can’t go beyond the scientists current idea of what happened BEFORE the moment of creation of the universe do little to prove the existence of a God.
Science has a pretty good set of ideas about what happened at the moment of creation of the Universe and, indeed, argue that the process of a universes destruction underpin the processes required to drive creation. A kind of end in the beginning and beginning in the end – which, I know, sounds very mystical.
Whilst arguments from personal incredulity are not valid philosophically, there nevertheless is the personal experience many have of the existence of personal truth of God. Should it be stated here that quite simply personal experience and personal beliefs are not necessarily universal absolutes or truths?
In my culture it was common for children to be told of a bearded, red coated fatman who delivered presents to good children every year. My experience at that time was that this was a personal truth. So entrenched was my belief in this character that I adapted my behaviour according to expectations.
When asked to prove his existence I could readily point to his effects on my word. First there were no presents under the tree, then there were.
Other people confirmed his existence and told me the same story.
At times I was sure I heard him, or his reindeer or the jingle of the sleigh-bells – my faith gave me some degree of enhanced perception.
Now I am older and I can enjoy the myth and the magic of those childhood day. In many respects seeing behind the curtain as it were gave me more questions and, indeed, a greater sense of awe…
Yes… about how my parents were able to execute some of their well meaning deceits; about how I could be fooled; about the power of belief ..
BUT there was more…
A real fascination for how the legend that became Father Christmas has a resonance above and behind the commercialisation of the holiday period. How pagan tradition sits with Christian tradition without there being so much as a dismissive thought when Christmas and Fertility are mentioned in the same breath …. a I could go on…
So whilst there was no Father Christmas there was a set of ideas, thoughts and intentions behind the myth that were and are important.
Back to the quote in question…
It is impossible from this viewpoint of separation to perceive the true nature of who we really are, of matter and energy, and of the life force in everything that we have labeled “God”.
So, using my Father Christmas anaology – when I was a member of the Religion of Santa Claus I may have had been told the connections to other mystical teachings (the birth of Christ) but I could not really see from the ‘inside out’ as it were and think of a world that could have ‘presents’ and no Santa.
More importantly once I had recovered from my Santa Delusion (to misappropriate a certain well know book title) I was able to see and acknowledge the interconnected nature of thoughts and ideas which had created him in the first place.
“Santa” was much more than a marketing ploy by a famous drinks company (who, despite urban myth were not the first to describe a jolly-old red-suited Father Christmas) but was a symbol of so much more that I came to value (and of some things I did not).
Having ‘been Santa’ (that is an actor playing the role of Santa professionally) I am aware of the impact the image has and the way people of all ages react emotionally to ‘him’. For the most part the reaction is one of joy and positivity; of connecting to memories or some idealistic zietgiest …. there is nothing wrong with this as far as I am concerned. Where it would become a concern is where the esteem and regard the character is held in becomes a vehicle for manipulation and control – a kind of extension of the idea that ‘you need to be good or else no presents’.
So let’s see where we can find some ‘common ground’.
Most of us have the ability to sense ourselves as individuals – distinct and independent from each other
Most of us would accept that our awareness of the outside world changes from time to time and place to place
Further, then, I would argue that most of us would recognise that our sense of the world outside (what we see, hear, feel, taste and smell) is limited by the sensory apparatus we possess.
Most of us would be willing to accept that some of the sensory information we process is processed without conscious thought – we would be willing to conceive of a sub-conscious or unconscious set of processes.
Most of us would be willing to accept that the way we behave is the result of what we feel; what we think; what we value; what we need – on other words what motivates us to do something.
Many would further accept that there are conscious motivations and as well as unconscious ones.
Some of us would be willing to accept that our inner sense of the world is constructed from our sensory experience of the world ‘out there’ and moreover have had the experience of being fooled into seeing something that was not there (for example)
Some of us would be willing to accept that our emotions have an effect on how we make sense and react to what we perceive.
I think that apart from a pedants need to change some of the specific wording above that most people would take the above as ‘given’ and not really want to argue too much about the claims. Of course there are some with psychological or neurological conditions for which some of the above may not apply, but on the whole we have a general agreement that there are levels of experience which we can call …
- External Sensory
- Internal Sensory
- Unconsciousness or Sub-Conscious
This is the MIND and BODY bit which forms part of objective reality which can be studied by scientist, philosophers and rationalists.
Ideas in this real can be tested against scientific (objective) criteria and, for the most part, we can set-up hypotheses which we can attempt to falsify (part of the scientific method).
So far so good..
Most of us will have had experiences which we might describe as being ‘different’ and not necessarily related to external experiences – they are personal.
Emotional experiences, which can be felt as unique and personal, are of course related to aspects of brain chemistry but have an impact above and beyond the simple behavioural framework in which they occur.
These experiences can have a sense of being “beyond self” and indeed some of us will have had a sense of what could be called, mystical, spiritual or even transpersonal experiences.
Again brain chemistry is involved but what triggers the bio-chemical responses can be questioned and, in the absence of an acceptance that the mind can ‘create’ these experiences it is likely that we will call these spiritual experiences as being a connection to some universal source of essence.
So now we have the oft quoted trinity of Body, Mind and Spirit.
The issue of course is that whilst many of the body-mind experiences can be subjected to the questions of the rationalist, those we could call a spiritual experience may not be and, more importantly, get ‘caught’ by the web of an individual, group or cultural belief systems.
At this point discussion can ‘break down’ since any attempt to explore a personally powerful experience with rational techniques may seem like an attack on belief even when it is not.
Once emotions run high conversations get defensive and prone to logical fallacy after logical fallacy – and finally the ad homenim attacks which get us nowhere. The truth is, of course, that spiritual beliefs are not necessarily subject to the same rational explorations as are the components we see as being part of objective reality. The existence God, as well as well perhaps spirits or ghosts are not falsifiable in the scientific sense.
The best we can do is explore and seek to understand what individuals mean by the spiritual words and frameworks they use.
I found the chart below very interesting in that is seems to be an attempt to link the “Great Chain of Being” is usually given as something like: matter, body, mind, soul, and spirit to the more ‘popular’ religious belief systems.
Source: Integral Life
All of the major belief systems seem to echo the following ‘truths’..
1) The individual has become disconnected from a (or the) spiritual source
2) The personality (outer representation of the individual) and the behaviours (the interaction of the individual between self, others and the outside world) of human beings need to brought in line with the destiny, desires or plan of the divine.
3) Reconnection with the spiritual source requires sacrifice, learning, and personal commitment.
4) That there is, by definition, a spiritual source to reconnect with in the first place – a matter of personal belief and/or self-referred revelation generally following some kind of personal epiphany.
A note for the atheists who are of a scientific persuasion ….
If you, as an atheist, are willing to accept the concept of an infinite universe – in mathematical and scientific terms – then, by definition, there are an infinite number of possibilities for the mechanisms of nature (or not) which define ‘reality’.
So, therefore, there is high possibility of a universe existing in which a God exists – as well as a universe in which the laws of nature we know or think we ‘understand’ do not apply.
A note for the Christians and others who seem to engage in circular arguments…
Here are some interesting thoughts …
Some of the best evidence for the afterlife is:
- People on their death beds see spirits who come to help them make the transition. These experiences have been confirmed in various ways and shown to be objective phenomena and not hallucinations. Sometimes other people attending the dying also see the same spirits at the same time. In one case a spirit communicating through a medium told of how she assisted a dying man. A relative of the man was sought out and the information the man related to the relative confirmed what came through the medium. (see below: Death Bed Visions)OK So how can we prove that these experiences are not hallucinations, the result of expectation, confabulation, retro-fitting reports to expectations or confirmation bias?To be presented as evidence the burden of proof lies with the claimant.
- Near the time of their death the spirits of the dead have appeared to friends or relatives at distant locations where more than one person present at the location sees the spirit. (see below: Crisis Apparitions)So how do we confirm this? These are non-falsifiable surely and, of course, such accounts as anecdotes are subject to some of the same concerns mentioned above.
- Mediums sometimes receive communications from spirits who are unrelated to and unknown by the sitters and the medium. These spirits come through to communicate for purposes important only to themselves. They give verifiable information about their identity and cause of death. (see below: Drop-in Communicators)The Medium particularly and some of those attending already have a belief system which is based upon the reality of spirits and spirit communication. If the information is given cannot be verified at the time, i.e. no one in the session knows the person coming through, how can we rule out expectation and cherry picking when it comes to researching only information that fits that which is revealed? The specificity of the information needs to be questioned.
- Mediums can receive communications from spirits even when the person getting the reading is not present in the room with the medium. In these cases, the medium may not know who the sitter is and cannot get any type of feedback from the sitter yet the medium can bring through specialized knowledge known by the spirit. (see below: Proxy Sittings)The same questions as posed above need to be asked. In experiments I have conducted the mediums were unable to identify in a reading someone who had ‘passed’ from six photos (hence five of whom were alive)
- When people are unconscious and near death, they sometimes experience leaving their body and when revived, bring back information that they could not have obtained with their normal senses even if they had been conscious and that information is later verified as correct. “Scientific” explanations cannot explain this and other aspects of the phenomena. (see below: Near Death Experiences)This again is subject to questions about the nature of the information – its specificity. The scientific explanation of NDE’s relies upon some well established neuro-science.
- Children have been studied who remember past lives. They can speak languages they have never heard. They remember geography, faces, and names of people in locations they have never been to. They have birthmarks on their body where they had sustained injuries in the previous life. An investigator interviews everyone involved, the children, the current families, surviving members of the families from the previous life and everything checks out. (see below: Reincarnation)This is interesting and there could be many explanations, which include cultural expectation (hence unconscious coaching) and confirmation bias. Some examples of rigorous investigation of cases has shown a bias in the nature of the questions asked by the original researchers – leading questions asked of children and relatives to get the answers required.
- Spirits have communicated parts of messages through different mediums. When combined, these partial messages produce a complete message. The messages contained very specialized knowledge known to the spirit and were communicated spontaneously, not at the request of any living person. These messages show that the spirit lives on after the death of the body, retains knowledge from its earth life, and continues to have the ability to initiate, organize, and carry out complex activities. (see below: Cross Correspondences)An interesting observation but it does not rule out mind-to-mind communication between the mediums. The specific nature of the knowledge, the information and its clearly defined ‘spontaneous’ origin beg some questions.
- Experiments attended by scientists and a stage magician have been conducted under controlled conditions where voices of spirits were heard, objects were materialized, and images imprinted on photographic film. (see below: The Scole Experiments)As noted by other commentators on the Scole Experiments were not controlled effectively..Brian Dunning notes” ….the investigators imposed little or no controls or restrictions upon the mediums, and at the same time, agreed to all of the restrictions imposed by the mediums. The mediums were in control of the seances, not the investigators. What the Scole Report authors describe as a scientific investigation of the phenomena, was in fact (by any reasonable interpretation of the scientific method) hampered by a set of rules which explicitly prevented any scientific investigation of the phenomena.”After reading about some of the controls imposed I feel that any competent magician could’ve reproduced some of the physical phenomena.
Often Quoted Individual Cases
- The spirit of a grand master chess player plays through a medium at the grand master level in a style characteristic of the time of his life on earth.
Source: The Survival Files by Miles Edward Allen
- Is the validation of a style possible since we know moves of Masters are studied in detail by students of chess?
- Could the medium play chess and was he or she any good?
- There is a magicians ‘trick’ in which a magician with no (or little knowledge) of chess can play 10 Grand Masters simultaneously and win/draw most of them
- The challenge of confirmation bias
- A scholar of Asian languages speaks in Chinese with a spirit who successfully explains an ancient Chinese poem that modern scholars did not understand.
Source: Psychic Adventures In New York by Neville Whymant
- So if scholars could not interpret who was available to falsify the claim?
- Spirits of crew members of a crashed dirigible, R-101, “provided technical details about its design and construction, recollections of test flights, discussions of political pressures and unrealistic deadlines that plagued the project, and a description of the crash itself and its causes” and “the personalities of the dead airmen also came through in recognizable detail”.
Source: “R-101” by Michael Prescott
- Interesting and I would like to see the details of the evidence, the availability of the technical information and how specific it was.
The Survival Files by Miles Edward Allen
- Relatives of a deceased child receive convincing evidence of identity from the spirit of the child.
Source: “An Amazing Experiment” by Charles Drayton Thomas
- Specificity of information and the ratio of ‘hits’ to ‘misses’ would be an interesting question here.
- What were the pre-existing beliefs of the parents?
- “Police in Nelson, B.C., have found the body of a young woman who disappeared last March, and they credit a local psychic for pointing them in the right direction.”
Source: CBC News Thursday, January 27, 2005
- What does ‘pointing in the right direction mean’?
- The use of newspaper stories does not, in my opinion, constitute reliable, unbiased evidence.
- The Sylvia Browne experience?
Music on Tonights Show:
Courtesy of Aardvark Records
Triptych – The Truths
Sound You – The Truths
Speed of Life – The Truths
Courtesy of Al Jones Music