Atheist Mysticism

Discussion in 'Belief and Spirituality' started by Cino, Jan 10, 2021.

  1. Aupmanyav

    Aupmanyav Search, be your own guru.

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2012
    Messages:
    1,180
    Likes Received:
    165
    "Mystics often report crises of identity or faith which are to be overcome as part of a personal developmental process in their relationship to the divine."
    I am an atheist and follower of science, and not a mystic. Though we do not know all things in detail, science has shown us the way. I do not think people like me (I do not include myself here as I do not have many years to live. I am 78) will ever need to change their views and become theist believing in divine. I have no crisis of identity. I am energy, I am molecules and atoms, which have come together by chance and will disperse when I die to join millions of living and non-living things. That happens with all things in the universe, even galaxies. Things come together, things disperse.
     
    Cino and Ahanu like this.
  2. Ahanu

    Ahanu Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 20, 2007
    Messages:
    1,392
    Likes Received:
    175
    Going back to your question here, we see that many monotheists and atheists alike would view their ancient ancestors largely mired in frivolous pursuits. So what? The atheist isn't alone. Both the atheist and monotheist fall for disenchantment. These polytheists worshipped the world around them, so I guess my little sidetrack above is partly concerned with the evolution of humanity's perspective from then to now and how we collectively view our ancient forbearers. We no longer live in hunter gatherer societies. Hunter gatherers or cave dwellers experienced their world in a different way than we do today. Where they lived for the most part had to do with the migration of their prey. We can go to the grocery store for our food; there's no need to spend lots of time hunting and preparing food. Hence the prevalence of our disenchantment with the animal kingdom, which stands in contrast to hunter gathers that prayed to animal spirits after a kill, thanking them for their sacrifice. Most modern monotheists and atheists would see talking to animals and thanking them for their sacrifice - a spiritual practice the hunter gatherer valued - as a waste of time. Instead, the monotheist thanks her God, and the atheist might experience a feeling of gratitude to have such a fine dinner, knowing that not everybody has the same luxury. Both have shooed away a world inhabited by animal spirits and so on. Perhaps this has real-world catastrophic consequences. Perhaps as a result we trade health for physical ease - a tradeoff that has produced many illnesses for us modern humans.

    The ancient hunter gatherer needed his so-called frivolous pursuit in order to survive. He had no other means of interpreting the world around him any other way. Another way of looking at it is through language. Some languages can produce a natural sense of direction in its speakers. They are like walking compasses. Similarly, our language today is becoming more and more oriented in a scientific frame. What kind of effect will that have on our way of being and thinking? Anyway, thanking the animal spirit gives the hunter gatherer a sense of respect for the animal's sacrifice and a respect for other animals and the balance of life. She knows killing too many animals will disrupt this balance. Her language and everything else that shapes her way of thinking and experience of reality is constrained by time, place, and community. Of course, us moderns can also nurture a sense of respect for the animal kingdom too with great care for how we treat them. My point is modern people don't have to talk to the animal spirit and thank it for its sacrifice to do so. One may simply see the data and the harm modern ways of living are causing to the planet and conclude: Geez! I really need to shape up on how I treat animals because its causing some real destruction here. Such a person may be an atheist. The atheist may not describe his experience as spiritual, but it is a genuine experience of reality nonetheless. At the same time the atheist may look at the hunter gather and conclude: talking to animal spirits is a waste of time that served the psychological needs of my ancestor's in a certain time and place.

    Both the hunter gatherer and the atheist can potentially end up doing something beneficial, such as having a deep care for animals, while having different philosophical worldviews. The discussion here hinges on our description of that experience in the lens of each worldview. At least that is how I see this discussion. Maybe I am way off. The atheist will have what may be described as a "spiritual" experience with this practice of deep care for other creatures since similar psychological experiences are triggered in the brain, but to get wrapped up in wrangling over the use of the label the atheist constructs for it here doesn't matter much to me since both the hunter gatherer and atheist both benefit the planet by treating other animals with respect and experience some kind of connection to the world around them. Perhaps a frivolous waste of time is an inadequate construal of things. Perhaps we should think of it more in terms of a scaffold that is eventually discarded because, after helping us get where we need to go, we no longer need it.
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2021 at 5:35 AM
    juantoo3 likes this.
  3. Ahanu

    Ahanu Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 20, 2007
    Messages:
    1,392
    Likes Received:
    175
    Ah, yes, this was the kind of mindset I was trying to capture. It expresses the view that atheism is the culmination and peak of human thought, and with the light of science, the darkness of religion will disappear under the intensity of the light.
     
    Aupmanyav likes this.
  4. Cino

    Cino Big Love! (Atheist mystic) Staff Member

    Joined:
    Oct 19, 2018
    Messages:
    1,587
    Likes Received:
    718
    Equally I might be moved to think that you attempt to monopolize "awe" and "inspiration" for the fold of the faithful.

    I am reporting my experience. I am not presuming to prescribe what anyone else may or may not experience, or denying anyone their faith or their pursuit of the Divine.

    I look at it this way: Awe and inspiration and similar qualities are human qualities, felt and cultivated by us human beings. They "belong" to us (non-possessively, non-exclusively), to the human domain: They are, in a way, our birth-right.

    Would you take my birth-right from me, just because I am in awe at God being None?

    Would you take it away from those who are awed at God being Uniquely One, or Triune, or Dual, or Many - or Legion?

    I don't think you would, actually! But at times, it has to be spelled out like this, due to too many New Atheists using their new-found freedom as a means of restriction, which I think is a shame, by the way.

    I do not think it is frivolous at all.

    In the words of Viktor Frankl, humanity is in the business of searching for meaning. This search is usually expressed in religious, and sometimes philosophical terms, when talked about, just as technical terms are most useful when talking about machinery.

    I think that although religion as a human pursuit of meaning has, as you point out, been invested in by generation upon generation, it is by no means a unified subject matter: This is why we have so many religions, which can be quite rigorously opposed to each other in their viewpoints, to put it mildly :)

    I also think that it is evident from the recorded history of religious and philosophical texts that the gods, and God, are relatively late innovations in this field. As @Ahanu pointed out, hunter-gatherer cultures are less concerned with transcendent God than with imminent Spirit.

    To summarize: I do not dismiss the human search for meaning, or its many manifestations in the religious and philosophical traditions that came down to us. I see myself as part of this project.
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2021 at 11:38 AM
    juantoo3 and Aupmanyav like this.
  5. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2004
    Messages:
    7,573
    Likes Received:
    168
    I think I will begin here, it would have been my first objection, that has long been the point that "frivolous" pursuits would be counter-productive in a survival capacity such as cave dwelling hunter-gatherers, let alone ubiquitous and universal (it would seem) similar pursuits across continents and millenia. (Its not like old Joe took up whittling to while away the hours, and started a local fad.) It has long been a puzzle I've spent a good bit of study into, attempting to determine why our evolutionary forebears would even bother to begin with.

    I think I like this "scaffold" idea, at least conceptually.

    OK, but would they not relatively equally fall for enchantment just as well?

    Or perhaps I am conflating matters (my mind is still on pre-history, ice age humanity)? I am familiar to a mild degree with the usual arguments for and against Atheism, "yes there is, no there isn't." No objective evidence is possible (it would seem, though perhaps we do see and don't realize fully what we see - yet), only subjective evidence is possible and available, and the only subjective evidence that seemingly carries any genuine weight is personal experience, unless one falls for "cult of personality" and accepts "on faith" what another tells them that by definition is unproveable. And the problem with personal, subjective evidence is that it is clouded by culture and language and various other social trappings.

    Very well said, although I can't help but wonder if such primitive humanity actually "saw" the Divine in a more raw, genuine, "naked" sense, with minds not so clouded with culture and language and society. A typical tribe is thought to have been essentially an extended family, perhaps 3 or maybe 4 generations "under one roof." We can't say much for language because spoken words do not preserve, writing if it existed more than 10K years ago is speculated but unproven and very simple (like "make your X here"). It was the Agricultural Revolution and the incorporation of grain into the human diet (humans did not evolve to consume grain), that had an effect to expand human consciousness. I suspect but cannot yet prove this would have been when we began "labelling" experiences in our minds. It is certainly known that because of the Ag Rev we acquired the wheel, writing, math, astronomy, walled cities, warfare, and so many other things we take for granted now that were unheard of to our Ice Age ancestors. It is also when our views of the Divine seemed to begin to diverge, at least in such manner as to be obvious.

    I agree, but I certainly hope all language and thought does not surrender in totality to such a narrow view of the world around us. So much beauty would be lost.

    Perhaps. I miss Path-of-One around here. As I recall she is / was an anthropologist, or worked in the field for a living. I had the discussion with her once, about cultural elitism, of thinking that our modern ways are so much better than everyone else. I'm not so certain, and pointed to various cultures that have winnowed away and disappeared, leaving anthropologists lamenting the demise and growing lack of diversity - not taking into account their own role in that disappearance. Humanity is successful as an animal for being able to adapt to so many natural niches, yet some of those niches require adaptations that are essentially useless elsewhere. Yet because we live in "elsewhere" doesn't by default mean that those adaptations, those ways of life and looking at the world, are meaningless and useless.

    Perhaps, but then anyone, of any stripe or persuasion can be conscientious - or not. Perhaps some cultures promote stewardship more than others, but that is no guarantee the individuals within that culture will be good stewards.
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2021 at 10:04 PM
  6. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2004
    Messages:
    7,573
    Likes Received:
    168
    Touché!

    I think what I was grasping for the words to bring forward, is that awe and inspiration aren't sufficient by themselves to denote the Divine or lack thereof. Looking back at what I wrote I'm embarrassed at how clumsy I came across.

    Very well said, particularly this: "I also think that it is evident from the recorded history of religious and philosophical texts that the gods, and God, are relatively late innovations in this field. As Ahanu pointed out, hunter-gatherer cultures are less concerned with transcendent God than with imminent Spirit."

    It does make me wish to then ask what precisely about "imminent Spirit" it is that Atheists object to? I guess I find myself wanting to ask, what "G-d" is it Atheists object to, and is there any "form" of Divine an Atheist would not object to? Or are Atheists objectionable to any and all forms of Spirit?

    I had many discussions with Vajra years ago, as a Buddhist he called himself an Atheist, it is not me simply calling him that. Ultimately he acknowledged a "source," and "well-spring" from which all emanated, which though he did not call that "G-d," the concept corresponds nicely with my own perception of same and which I do consider as G-d. I guess in the end, it depends on the definition, of what one means when they say the word "G-d."

    I don't think any thoughtful, considerate seeker of truth of any stripe believes G-d to be an old gray beard lounging on a cloud hurling thunderbolts at whoever displeases Him. That tends to be more the strawman I see set up to be knocked down.
     
  7. Cino

    Cino Big Love! (Atheist mystic) Staff Member

    Joined:
    Oct 19, 2018
    Messages:
    1,587
    Likes Received:
    718
    Yes, there is a memorial museum in the house he once lived and worked in, which is apparently still standing, in the town of Zgorzelec, the Polish sister town of German Görlitz.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    I've been into philosophizing, mind-games and contemplation-like exercises as far back as I can remember. As for stressors: During my childhood, my family moved frequently, across three continents.

    Sudden vs. gradual: both. Stop and go is all I know.
     
    stranger and juantoo3 like this.
  8. Cino

    Cino Big Love! (Atheist mystic) Staff Member

    Joined:
    Oct 19, 2018
    Messages:
    1,587
    Likes Received:
    718
    Speaking for myself, other Atheists will have their own thoughts:

    Do you mean to ask, if I encountered a spirit, or a god, or God, would I find their presence objectionable? No, I don't think so. I might be scared, or cautions, as such a being might present to be very powerful. I would be respectful, as I generally try to be. I would want to make sure afterwards, that the experience was not purely psychological or physiological in nature, or drug-induced. I've had my share of weird encounter experiences in altered states of mind, meditation-related.

    Or do you mean to ask, if I encountered someone's views and feelings about spirits, gods, or God? I tend to get along well around here, and in real life, I've also not had many problems with religious people, though some can be awfully driven if they had a recent epiphany they have not fully integrated yet.

    Me neither.

    I can't speak for Vajra, but since you mention a source or well-spring of emanations, let me ask what you mean by these emanations before I comment further.
     
    juantoo3 likes this.
  9. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2004
    Messages:
    7,573
    Likes Received:
    168
    This is a reasonable question.

    Until recently I wouldn't know quite how to explain, only something I intuit, but it is something I have sensed for my entire life.

    Recently I've come into cursory exposure to the (Western variant) of the Kabbalist Tree of Life. It is information I am still acclimating to, the Ain/Ain Soph/Ain Soph Aur seems to me very close to what I think it may be I intuit. But this is personal, and not sure I can even call it experiential, let alone subjective. Probably more philosophical at this point in my search for understanding.

    I'm sorry, on rereading I realize I meant the Ain is the source, the emanations according to the Tree trickle down to reality as we experience it. As this is another religious philosophy of which I cannot claim meaningful knowledge I hesitate to describe further.
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2021 at 12:31 AM
    stranger likes this.
  10. stranger

    stranger lost in the night

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2013
    Messages:
    144
    Likes Received:
    66
    Very nice! Thanks for taking the time to post the pics, much appreciated.

    Thanks for your honesty, a little background sometimes helps to know where a person is coming from.
     
  11. stranger

    stranger lost in the night

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2013
    Messages:
    144
    Likes Received:
    66
    Hi Juan, first time to communicate with you, but I have read some of your posts in the past. Welcome back, by the way.

    Neither can I, but it's interesting. So Ain would be the "no"/"no-thing" before emanations? The nothing of which all conceptual signifiers must necessarily fall short. (For instance, the name God must even fall short, as well as any conceptual thought that might arise concerning Ain.) Does this make any sense?
     
    juantoo3 likes this.
  12. Cino

    Cino Big Love! (Atheist mystic) Staff Member

    Joined:
    Oct 19, 2018
    Messages:
    1,587
    Likes Received:
    718
    Bearing in mind that we are speaking in terms of Western Esoteric Kabbalah, not claiming this to be relevant to Jewish Kabbalah:

    I understand the "veils" of Ain, Ain Soph, and Ain Soph Aur to "surround" the sephirot; in the sense that they represent what the sephirot are not, the veils lie beyond the confines of the sephirot.

    Ain is simply and explicitly nothing, not even space or darkness. Where the sephirot are, there is something, and there is space where that something exists.

    Thus, to call Ain the source or ground, in my understanding of this deeply symbolic formalism, would be to say that everything comes down from nothing, or that there is no ground supporting the sephirot.

    I would agree, but this distorts the terms "source" and "ground" beyond recognition, reducing the whole statement to word-play. Is that really what you meant when you mentioned a ground or source?
     
    juantoo3 likes this.
  13. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2004
    Messages:
    7,573
    Likes Received:
    168
    Thank you. Pleased to meet you.

    I'm afraid my knowledge is so cursory that I can't honestly say I agree or disagree.
     
  14. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2004
    Messages:
    7,573
    Likes Received:
    168
    I have seen variant models laid out, some with the Ain surrounding, and reverse order with the Ain surrounded. As it is conceptual representation, I think the underlying essence appears to me to imply it is the "background" to reach for yet another hopelessly inadequate descriptor. Maybe "potential" is the word I want?

    I really can't say. I don't know enough of the subject to hazard a guess.
     
  15. stranger

    stranger lost in the night

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2013
    Messages:
    144
    Likes Received:
    66
    My understanding of the "nothing" in this sense is that of a non-conceptual source or potentiality. The emanated would be pointing back towards what lies beyond that veil which all concepts fail to penetrate.

    But you are right, word play becomes a problem and in the end there's simply a non-productive stalemate at best.

    I'm more interested in your experience than anything else, anyway. In another post on this thread, you wrote:

    This is very important to me, as I recognize love to be the most powerful and important thing of all. To me, loving is better than being loved. To be able to love others on a consistent basis would truly set one free. But my estimate of love is like the desert dweller's estimate of water. It's importance is known through it's scarcity.

    In contemplation there is the concept of "infused love", which may mean different things to different people. Love in this sense may be seen to come from nowhere, perhaps outside the person, a gift if you will; or it could be seen as arising effortlessly from within, to the extent that it almost surprises the individual. By this I mean love that arises from beyond the seeming natural capabilities of a person. (The ability to love enemies comes pretty close to what I am talking about.)

    Could you speak a bit about your encounters with love, how and when it comes to you in this mystical sense, etc. I'll take anything you are comfortable with here and there are no wrong answers as far as I am concerned.
     
    juantoo3 likes this.
  16. Cino

    Cino Big Love! (Atheist mystic) Staff Member

    Joined:
    Oct 19, 2018
    Messages:
    1,587
    Likes Received:
    718
    Then why call it "Nothing" if there is a better way of saying it, such as "non-conceptual source"? The problem with describing mystical insight is fingding good words, and "nothing" is such a wonderfully simple and straightforward one. Must have been a relief for the person describing it to not have to resort to verbal acrobatics for once ;)

    Yes. And this is where a criticism is made of mystic reports and symbolism: it is all so highly subjective! How to tell what is going on?! And the mystic response, if given, is usually, "Come and see", "Know (for) thyself" etc.
     
  17. Cino

    Cino Big Love! (Atheist mystic) Staff Member

    Joined:
    Oct 19, 2018
    Messages:
    1,587
    Likes Received:
    718
    I find it hard to put in prose. There are some poetic sketches in an older thread: https://www.interfaith.org/community/threads/19004/
     
  18. stranger

    stranger lost in the night

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2013
    Messages:
    144
    Likes Received:
    66
    I agree. Let us then leave Nothing in peace, as Nothing. I too love the simplicity of it.

    But the freedom of it, is it not a breath of fresh air? I love it. :)
     
  19. stranger

    stranger lost in the night

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2013
    Messages:
    144
    Likes Received:
    66
    I regret that I read over this thread too hastily when it first came out. Possibly lost in self-centeredness, or worse. Lots of good contributions there... Of yours #21 particularly resonates.
     
  20. Cino

    Cino Big Love! (Atheist mystic) Staff Member

    Joined:
    Oct 19, 2018
    Messages:
    1,587
    Likes Received:
    718
    Glad you liked it. What does Love reveal to you, if I may ask in return?
     

Share This Page