Re: virus: Is there room for mysticism?

John E.Mayer (
Mon, 8 Jan 1996 02:29:54 -0500

Sorry for the delay, I'm not only working for a living, but
also fighting "walking pneumonia" and trying to cut&paste
in a manner I haven't done before. Any wrong or missing
credits are hereby apologized for in advance. Into the fray!

David McFadzean wrote:

>I don't see how zen proponents can claim to be rational
>while simultaneously eschewing all forms of analysis. Or
>am I missing something?

I'm no expert on Zen, but I don't think they actually reject
analysis. In fact, I seem to remember that it gets used to
good effect in the early stages of Zen practice. I believe they
view logical thought-processes as useful tools for the human
mind, which in Zen philosophy is the highest "power" available
to us. I mentioned it because Zen, too, rejects
supernatural hierarchies.

>Perhaps you could elaborate a bit on what it means to be
>involved in magick. I'm a bit unclear on whether practitioners
>believe their rituals invoke actual mystical powers or if
>the rituals are just supposed to induce certain positive
>mind states and attitudes.

You're not alone in being unclear about that. Holy wars are fought
in magical circles over the truth about this question. The more
mature approaches, however, are quite emphatic in attributing
the efficacy of magick to the psychological benefits acquired by
"meta-programming" the mind by means of Jungian archetypes,
which are the real nature of "gods", "angels", and "demons". All
this is not a denial of "actual mystical powers", since the prospect
of powers - beyond the "normal" range - existing in the human
bodymind is still up for grabs. Magick, however, does not in any
way affirm that superhuman entities exist or are involved in its
workings; only that it is useful to think in these terms in order to
realize benefits from the system.

>Until further light is shed on the subject, the Church's stance
>will have to remain skeptical (not to be confused with cynical :).

This is perfectly in keeping with magical tradition. Crowley himself
cautioned the world at large against taking mystical ideas too
seriously and insisted that skepticism is the tool most necessary
to the successful practice of magick. I disagree. I think a healthy
sense of humour ranks just ahead of that.

>Damien R. Sullivan X-) wrote:

>The biggest flaw I (as a materialist-reductionist-atomist blah blah)
>of logic I acknowledge is that it bites creatively. The descriptions I
>hear of creative insight in math and science aren't pure deduction.
>(Computer programming seems to be logically creative to me.
>Maybe I don't do enough.) What logic is good for is unambiguous
>communication and for weeding out the ideas that we spout through more
>random means. Whether this actually allows room for mysticism, I don't
>know. What does mysticism mean here, anyway?

Best point yet: define terms. Mr. Webster:

"the belief that direct knowledge of God or ultimate reality
is attainable through immediate intuition or insight."

Yeah, that'll work. Toss out "God or", as per original agreement, and
mysticism approaches ultimate reality thru intuition.
Is intuition in doubt? Being a non-logical process, it might be suspect,
but I don't think we can actually deny it.

>/that there is still room for mysticism. No one denies the
>/existence of altered states of consciousness, right? And
>/such states are, after all, the basis of mysticism. By way

>Whups. Just because mysticism intreprets ASCs supportively doesn't mean
>it's right in doing so. The medical explanation of ASCs implies that
>there isn't meaning to them.

There are several problems here. First, the medical profession is in no position
to assign (nonmedical) meaning. They are in fact infamous for dismissing
out of hand anything that does not fall under their direct control (e.g.
chiropractic, herbal medicine, meditation). There can be no doubt that
these states exist (since they are widely documented), and equally no
doubt that when experienced, they shake people's lives to the foundations.
I think meaning is a philosophical judgement best left to philosophers.

That oughta catch me as much flak as I can type through for now.
A couple of observations:
1)logic covers reasoning processes. Logic can neither
confirm nor deny intuition, since the two processes
involve different human faculties.

2)expertise in one area of study does not predicate
similar expertise in another. A medical doctor may
know a bit more about the mind than an engineer, but
if he goes head-to-head with a psychiatrist, he loses.

3)without exact definition in terms, argument is
futile and counterproductive. We have used several
nebulous terms without pinning them down, making it
truly difficult to discuss these terms rationally.

Examples: creative--does this faculty exist, and if so, is it
separate from the rational faculty? Intuition--same query.
Does spirit (as separate from body and mind) exist? What does
"spiritual" mean? How about love?
The human organism embraces many more functions than just the
logical. Logic is a most useful tool, but if we give ourselves
up exclusively to logic and skepticism, then we are merely
rationalists with a new coat. To arrogate ourselves a church
on that basis is a bit grandiose. The function, I believe, of
any church is to cater to the spiritual needs of mankind, or
a representative slice thereof. We must investigate what these
needs are, and if we cannot meet them, then we need to go and
sit among the materialists. It takes a pretty sharp sword to
do battle with the major religions. En garde!
Papa John