Have you ever had a supernatural experience?
It could have been something you dreamed was going to occur that, later, seemed to really happen. Or maybe you saw something that you were pretty sure couldn’t really exist in the world as we know it. Or, as you sat contemplating things a message from beyond seemed to pop up out of nowhere, maybe from an incorporeal being.
Apparently this sort of thing happened to people living in medieval times pretty regularly; the difference for them was they had a more fluid idea of what constituted the real world then we do today.
I was reading the journal of three 12th century monks who set out to find the ‘terrestrial paradise.’ As they traveled to the east they encountered little people ‘no more than two feet high’ and went through a mountain region where there were basilisks, unicorns and dragons. They passed through a region of constant darkness where ‘mournful shrieking came from sinners drowning in a sea of serpents’ and ‘a giant chained between two boulders’ was being tortured with fire….. Well, the account goes on and on, one extraordinary event after another.
In my rationalistic way of thinking it all seems very imaginative. They simply were encountering things they had never seen before and were interpreting them in terms of the magical world in which they lived.
I don’t know if I should be happy in my understanding of the natural world or sad in my inability to realize a truly magical kingdom.
Do you think that there’s any chance there may truly be a unifying essence or ground of being that is shared by all mankind? You know, something buried deep within our psyches that we’ve somehow lost track of these days when divisiveness seems so prevalent.
I was thinking back recently to a time a few years ago when I was among the Maori people in Aotearoa (the long white cloud) which is the name the Maori have for the islands of New Zealand. Before these folks were inundated with western materialism and capitalistic pursuits (not to mention Christianity) they basked in the natural beauty and mana (what they call spiritual power) around them.
The mana the people inherited from their revered ancestors extended to Tangaroa (the sea) and Tane (the forest) and all of nature in a beautiful Cosmic Unity. As long as tapu was respected everything went along pretty well.
Tapu is spiritual power like mana that everyone has and some objects and places have but some people and places have more tapu then others. Everyone understands that when strong tapu is encountered it is important to act with deference so as to keep you spiritually strong and not upset the delicate cosmic balance.
While in Aotearoa I was allowed to visit a Marae, which is a sacred meeting place were tapu is particularly strong. Upon entering tribute was paid to the ancestral spirits in recognition of the origins of the mana or life force shared by everyone in the iwi (all the people).
So, after thinking about it, I’m just wondering, if we’ve lost track of the mana around and within all of us and the tapu of our neighbors and acquaintances, maybe we should be searching for a sacred place where we can all come together and find our common ground.
Not too long ago three new dolls joined our playroom family. Muscleman and Bobble-head St. Patrick were the first to settle in and it didn’t take long before Muscleman began imposing his will, bullying the other dolls. He was constantly jostling Bobble-head St. Patrick and causing the rest of us grief.
But then Athena showed up.
Scale can be very disparate among dolls and Athena has a considerable size advantage over most all the rest of us. That fact plus Athena Parthenos’ warrior mentality quickly changed the playroom dynamic.
Muscleman, as you can imagine, has a very large ego and he initially refused to recognize that his days of domination were over. Athena had to whack him down a couple of times before he got the message. Even then he continued to yell and boss dolls around but eventually things settled down and Athena no longer needed to wield her physical size and strength to maintain the peace.
The playroom has always been, up until Muscleman showed up, pretty egalitarian. Most everyone tolerates others’ idiosyncrasies without too much complaint. But, the turmoil did get me thinking about how tenuous group dynamics can be-how opinions can form and change and political pressures can develop-what can happen when a strong personality feels compelled to impose its will.
Bobble-head St. Patrick is really quite a pleasant doll but he does have the reputation of being quite strong willed. What if he suddenly got the notion to evangelize and got some (maybe a lot) of the other dolls to embrace his religious beliefs? Would we all then be expected to follow the tenets of their beliefs?
And then there’s Mini-Max, who’s quite materialistic. He’s been accumulating toys of his own for some time. He’s already been hinting that he could use more shelf space. What if he began bribing dolls-offering them favorite treats in order to acquire more room for his possessions? Would the rest of us end up having to live in the closet?
Well, hopefully my imaginings are nothing more than just that. But, it does make me think a just and fair judicial system is nothing to sneeze at.
I’ve been reading about climate change lately. I’ve been trying to make sense of the number discrepancies and the diametrically opposing views about a subject that seems as if it should be pretty straight forward.
Some people are convinced the carbon dioxide emissions being spewed from autos and power plants worldwide is collecting in the atmosphere and causing, among other things, the ice caps to melt. Others are convinced global temperature fluctuations are just a normal cyclical occurrence.
Both sides site their opposing statistics and their scientific experts but, it seems to me, for a lot of people the issue boils down to an emotional, us versus them scenario with an almost religious fervor. Sometimes the issue seems reduced to name calling and ad hominem attacks just like it used to be on the playground in elementary school.
Skeptics think of proponents as tree-hugging alarmists just looking for another world threatening crisis; proponents think of skeptics as anti-intellectual luddites with their heads buried in the sand.
Well, whether or not human-caused global warming is as dire as some claim it seems to me we could all do a little more to reduce our carbon footprints and ease the pressure on Mother Earth.
I had a dream the other night in which I became human; or rather I multiplied into five human children plus my normal plastic self. We were all standing in front of Notre Dame Cathedral. St. Francis was there. The human DeiDeis seemed sort of mesmerized-focused intently on their surroundings as if they were anticipating an imminent occurrence or contemplating some sort of action.
When I awoke the next morning I couldn’t stop thinking about the incongruities in the dream. I wondered what Dr. Freud would say but then I figured it would probably have something to do with sex and considering the presence of St. Francis and young naked girls I thought it best to just leave that alone.
Then I remembered reading about Carl Jung’s idea that deeply embedded within our psyches are primordial forms or archetypes common and meaningful to all self-conscious beings. Certain situations like the Hero’s quest or the fall from grace, dichotomies like good vs. evil and light vs. darkness, and character types like the evil figure, the scapegoat and the outcast are just a few of these common archetypes Carl believed we all share; and he thought that sometimes these forms crop up during sleep when our unconscious is in charge.
I had to wonder if there could be archetypal meanings in my dream.
Being generally pretty upbeat about things my first thought was the dream must be about rebirth or renewal. In this sense the saint might be the archetypal magician or Christ figure who transforms me: the many mes representing naked innocence seeking and discovering goodness and truth.
But then as I thought about it further the pragmatic me took hold; my ambivalence regarding structured religion suggested a darker aspect; maybe the dream was about evil overcoming good. The saint becomes the archetypal devil casting a spell and creating six of me (six being the archetypal number of evil) to carry out the vile edicts of a corrupt church.
Well, the investigation was all very fascinating and I do think Carl’s got something with his notion of collective subliminal meanings, but I’m going to be pretty careful who I talk to about my dreams and their meanings.
Have you ever thought about or had the desire to escape the mundane and sometimes harsh realities of everyday existence? I don’t mean simply taking a road trip to Disneyworld but to actually transcend existence, leave the physical world behind and enter the realm of the numinous and ineffable.
Of course one problem might be that even if one could figure out how to get there this extra-physical place might not be all that pleasant, it being numinous and ineffable and all, but I was thinking, if I could go there it certainly would help put things into perspective. I could view problems that seem to be so important and urgent in the here and now in a detached manner that, it seems to me, might be beneficial to my well-being as well as to finding solutions to those problems.
I was reading that certain shamans can make such a journey; they enter into an ecstatic state and actually leave their bodies to journey with their spirit helpers to the land of the dead where they can find answers to important questions that only the dead can answer.
Apparently in order to get to this point a shaman has to undergo some fairly extreme procedures. Among the Buryat people of Siberia the future shaman must die and have his flesh scraped from his bones and his organs removed and then be reconstructed and reanimated by the spirit forces in order to gain the power to make his passage to the numinous and ineffable land of the dead.
I’m just not sure, as much as I’d like to see what the numinous and ineffable looks like, that I’m prepared to accept such a sacrifice even though my bodily transformation would probably have more to do with melted plastic than bone scraping.
I guess, for me, the numinous and ineffable will have to remain numinous and ineffable.
I see by the calendar Dia de Muertos, the Day of the Dead, is approaching. Death isn’t something dolls, particularly plastic ones, think about very much but at this time of the year, with nature racing toward dormancy, the topic tends to come to mind.
In medieval times death was on everyone’s mind daily. The Black Plague invited Death to be a regular visitor if not a live-in house guest. She became so well-known she starred in a regularly performed play called the Danse Macabre. In the play the Black Angel would appear and along with her spirit helpers the psychopomps invite victims to accompany them beyond the grave; the beyond being, I guess, a promised land of paradise.
Throughout history (and even earlier than that I bet) people have sensed an existence beyond the grave: The ancient Egyptians conceived of a Ka or immaterial double that would live on after the demise of the physical body so the deceased would be able to keep doing the same fun things they had always done when alive.
The philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer was inclined to believe that, upon death, an individual’s will or essence of being would be reunited with it’s Cosmic origins: a sort of collective world soul (Plato called it the anima mundi) from which all life originates and subsequently returns; it’s a pretty cool idea of togetherness even though one wouldn’t really be aware of it because one’s memory and ego would cease to exist.
The Hindu people understand the universe to be eternal and that rebirth will continue to happen until enlightenment of the soul propels a leap into the infinite, which, I guess must be a bit like Arthur’s cosmic origins only they call it the Atman.
Contemporary Trans-humanists anticipate a situation in which one’s brain activity is downloaded to a computer and since the brain is where one’s being resides one can expect to live on forever provided someone is around to keep the batteries charged.
I’m sure I’m like everyone else in hoping the Black Angel stays away for a while but when it does come time for me to leave the realm of the physical, wherever I end up, I hope I will have left behind a reasonably positive image for my friends to remember me by.
I’ve always been a huge fan of Edvard Munch. The psychological weight he was able to express in his paintings is just amazing to me. But, I guess when you think about his life it’s not too surprising his artwork is loaded with existential angst.
First of all, his mother died when he was five and his favorite sister when he was fourteen. His mother’s death so upset his father that he developed extreme religious anxieties; he would tell Edvard and his sisters stories about the eternal punishments awaiting them in Hell. On top of that, Edvard was often ill causing him to miss a lot of school meaning he got to spend even more time with his father.
By the time he reached manhood he was spending a lot of time drinking and fighting and generally being unhappy. Then, he was shot in a struggle with the only woman he ever loved (other than his mother and sisters).
After that he suffered a nervous breakdown, nobody liked his paintings and things were generally pretty terrible, but he continued making art; recording the painfulness of his life and eventually people came around to understand the beauty of his work; how effectively his images capture man’s existential dilemma.
Things got better. Norway built a museum to house his works. They even put his image on a bank note.
It all sounds familiar doesn’t it: another story of a misunderstood genius whose strength of vision carries mankind to new insights that help people to better understand who they are?
I guess it’s a story with a happy ending even though there was a lot of suffering involved.
Pearl and Imacgirl got into a discussion the other day about whether one was better off and would be happier establishing firm beliefs or maintaining a healthy skepticism, you know, as a basic philosophy of life.
Imacgirl, the more pragmatic of the two, inclined as she is toward science, maintained greater understanding and happiness would be achieved by building on the core of established empirical truths methodically, the walls of which providing safety and security for the believer.
Pearl on the other hand, has a skeptical nature and is inclined toward unconventional explanations for what most would consider conventional wisdom. She said doubting razes pre-established thought structures presenting unlimited opportunities. Truth becomes an open question. Walls disappear leaving one awestruck by the vastness of possibility and here, she said, is where true happiness lies.
My two friends were clearly at a stalemate so they asked me what I thought. I guess it all came down to whether I would prefer the predictability of a life within the confines of common understanding or if I would throw caution to the wind, go where no doll has gone before and take my chances in the ethereal realm of the unknown.
Well, I told them that as much as I enjoyed abstract philosophical thinking what I really wanted to do was go for a walk in the woods, feel the breeze and listen to the birds. They decided to go along and eventually we all agreed that the experience we were having fit well with both philosophical positions.
I was reading recently about how the idea of Satan came about.
In the early middle ages St. Augustine determined that, as a result of Adam’s original sin and seeing as how we’re all descendants of Adam, evil exists in everyone. This meant that when bad things happened everyone had only themselves to blame since they all had a bit of badness in them. People bought into this pretty well because finding a scapegoat when badness happened wasn’t difficult.
Then, after a while, people began to take exception to St. Augustine’s concept thinking they really weren’t all that bad; actually they felt pretty good about themselves. So they got to thinking it wasn’t them but something or someone outside themselves that made them be bad. They anthropomorphized badness into a somewhat ambiguous horned satyr that they saw as perpetrating evil just because he wasn’t a very nice creature. He was an idea most everyone could fear and dislike.
Later, in modern times, now that people don’t so much believe in supernatural entities anymore, Satan has begun to fade away. So now, when bad things happen some people have gone back to finding a scapegoat, others have looked to St. Augustine and blame our inherent sinfulness and still others have dismissed the concept of evil altogether and rationalize badness as being relative to peoples and times.
When I think about how I stand on this I guess I lean towards relativism, but it takes some pretty hefty rationalization to accommodate some of the atrocities one hears about these days.