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Quiddity – What is?

Quiddity (Latin: quidditas = whatness) is a medieval scholastic term referring a thing’s essence (primary substance) in contrast to its observable form (secondary substance).

This kind of distinction goes back to Plato and plays an important role in understanding the Catholic Sacrament of the Eucharist, said to transform in essence but not in observable form.

Catholics and several other Christian churches believe that Holy Communion is not just a memorial but a sacrament in which one partakes of the living body and blood of Christ. Each Christian Church has subtle variations in trying to explain this mystery. For Catholics, by taking the transformed host one goes further into becoming a part of the mystical body of Christ.

For most Christian believers, partaking in the Eucharist is the opposite of natural eating. With the Eucharistic meal, the eater becomes part of the eaten, whereas in natural eating the reverse is true: the eaten becomes part of the eater.¹

Concerning the Catholic theological distinction between essence and form, essence is not to be taken as mere mattery/energy—that is, the fabric of the observable universe.  For Catholics, essence is a spiritual term that means something qualitatively different from matter/energy.

This important point is often misunderstood or entirely overlooked by New Age / Quantum Physics enthusiasts who recast the old myth of naturalistic pantheism into the latest scientific language, which arguably is just another myth.

David Hume

David Hume (Photo: Wikipedia)

Clearly, not everyone accepts the idea of primary substance. Non-believers tend to think of it as mumbo jumbo. And Catholics are sometimes called derogatory terms like “wafer biters.”

The philosopher David Hume and others who probably never felt the glory of the Eucharist argued that since primary substance cannot be perceived, it should not be assumed to exist.

However, many who do experience tangible effects from the Eucharist would likely see Hume’s perspective as limited, one coming from a mind constrained by worldliness, materialism and an over-reliance on conceptual reasoning.  As Wikipedia notes

The claim that substance cannot be perceived is neither clear nor obvious, and neither is the implication obvious.²

¹ Some New Age and Shamanistic believers might dispute this, saying that when we eat an animal we temporarily merge with its soul, which continues into an afterlife.

² https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Substance_theory

Related » Consubstantiation, Transubstantiation

 Episcopal Cathedral in Springfield celebrates bicentennial year (wwlp.com)

 How to Handle Religious Traditions that Aren’t Yours (weddingbee.com)

 City and state leaders honor ‘different type of gateway’ with church (bostonherald.com)

 Cardinal Tagle on Earth Day: Protect nature from ‘acts of greed’ (rappler.com)

 World Renown Bible Answer Man Hank Hanegraff Realizes That Protestantism Is A False Religion, And Accepts Eastern Orthodox Christianity. Countless Evangelicals Are Now Leaving Protestantism And Accepting Roman Catholicism And Eastern Orthodox Christianity (shoebat.com)

 Anglicans could consecrate anti-gay UK bishop without permission from Archbishop of Canterbury (pinknews.co.uk)

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Samkhya Philosophy – Another Golden Age Gone Wrong

gunas by Gustavo Peres

gunas by Gustavo Peres

Samkhya is one of the six main schools of Hindu philosophy. Most agree that it has conceptual roots in the Rig Veda but it is usually attributed to the legendary sage Kapila (circa 6th century BCE).¹

Kapila postulated a fundamental distinction between spirit (purusha) and nature or matter (prakrti). Prakrti has many subcategories but Samkhya is usually called dualistic, meaning that its whole system rests on the basic distinction between spirit, on the one hand, and nature/matter on the other hand.

Kapila believed in the existence of individual souls. He also proposed that material nature has three qualities (gunas) of Sattva, Rajas and Tamas.

The three gunas are material but are also associated with different types of consciousness within living beings.

  • Sattva is the highest of the three gunas; it manifests as calmness, light and peace
  • Rajas is neither the highest nor the lowest guna; it expresses itself as excitement, action, passion and force
  • Tamas is the lowest of the three gunas; it induces feelings of darkness, grief, fear and laziness.

Like most philosophical systems with religious overtones, Samkhya enjoyed a sort of primal golden age. According to the belief, the three gunas originally existed in a happy equilibrium but the workings of the spirit threw them out of balance. The inevitable tensions, conflicts, attractions and affiliations arising from their disequilibrium contributed to a process of cosmic and spiritual evolution. This kind of evolution is, for Hindus, much grander and deeper than the Darwinian take on evolution.

Representation of a soul undergoing punarjanma...

Representation of a soul undergoing punarjanma. Illustration from Hinduism Today, 2004 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Like the theory of reincarnation, Samkhya is an imaginative but arguably limited human attempt to understand the godhead, creation and the interaction of time and eternity. My main critique of both samkhya and the idea of reincarnation stems from how they make me feel.

Even in writing this entry, I feel a vibe that differs from the kind of uplifting warmth and love that I experience through the Catholic Mass, especially through the Eucharist. But I can’t demonstrate that to anyone. It’s just a matter of my sensitivity to the numinous and to grace.

So I usually have to rely on intellectual arguments to try to suggest that not all numinosities are the same as grace and that some spiritual experiences, and the theologies that they emerge from, may be preferable to others.²

The idea that I usually talk about is how Hindu philosophy tends to be couched within a one-directional understanding of time. With Samkhya, there is an initial golden age, things go awry and then human history, nay, the history of the cosmos, marches along from past to present. This may take a somewhat circular arc (Hindu philosophy tends to be cyclic) but it’s still one-directional in the sense that creation travels from past to present. Same thing with the belief in reincarnation. A soul starts out at a simple level of consciousness and, through many reincarnations, apparently evolves into higher levels of consciousness. All from past to present.

Today we’re moving past such a simple view of time. Physicists have demonstrated that at the subatomic level, some interactions go back through time. And with relativity theory, we have empirical support that time, actually space-time, is not fixed but a flexible relationship among elements and conditions. So I think it quite possible, for example, that someone in the present could have a backwards ripple effect to someone in the past. Also, someone in the past could have a forward ripple effect on someone in the present, who would exist in the past person’s future.

Cleopatra (1962 novel)

Cleopatra (1962 novel) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So the alleged “past life” some dream about or see in visions could conceivably be caused by something quite different than the dynamic of reincarnation. These people could be connecting with another person in the past—not with themselves in the past, but with another person, another soul.

This may not be quite as glamorous as believing we are the reincarnation of Napoleon or Cleopatra, but in my way of thinking, it’s far more exciting because it opens the door for many intuitive connections, as many as we are meant to experience. And that could be a lot.

It also means that we could possibly connect with people in the future. Or who knows, we might even be able to connect, on some intuitive level, with ourselves in our own future.

Think about it. If we can intuitively connect with people in the past, we are located in the future from their perspective. So the same dynamic should apply to people located in our future and ourselves.³

If by chance this has gotten a bit too complicated or innovative to easily understand, please don’t feel dumb. I myself have had to double check a few sentences because dealing with different time frames as they relate to grammar can get confusing!

Suffice it to say that the belief in reincarnation just doesn’t cut it when it comes to more contemporary theories about the fluidity of space and time. In subatomic physics we’re moving beyond a simple, past to present cosmology, and I think speculative theory about consciousness should begin to take a similar direction—umm, make that, directions. 🙂

¹ Some scholars dispute the idea that Samkhya has Vedic origins. Part of the problem is the sheer time scale involved when trying to decipher its beginnings, transmission and influences.

² For those who insist that all religions are the same, or perhaps that all religions are bogus, this is a challenging issue. Also, I realize that one person’s preference need not be another’s. However, one should hopefully be in a position to compare and make up one’s own mind, rather than be dictated to by ignorance or by political correctness as to what they, themselves experience (which of course is ludicrous at best, oppressive at worst).

³ A complication to this theory arises in that some people believe they can connect with the souls of the dead. So they would connect with souls in an afterlife, not with past souls still living on Earth. Myself, I don’t see why both scenarios could not occur. Even Carl Jung, whom in my opinion was something of a kindergarten student when it comes to spirituality, suggested that the soul exists beyond space and time, and that spirituality somehow collapses space and time. So he may have been unadvanced but was, in my view, heading in the right direction. Later in the day I added this additional consideration at earthpages.org. I didn’t want to put it here because, as I said, this was already getting a bit long and involved.


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What is a Saint?

The word saint (Latin sanctus = sacred or having been made sacred)  has several meanings. In everyday usage, saints are unusually kind, ethical people who perform good works on a local or grand scale which almost everyone can understand and appreciate. Examples would be, “That lady at the charity drive is a real saint” or “Bob’s wife is a real saint to put up with such a grouchy old man!”

The term also denotes the faithful Jews of the Bible and the body of Christian believers. A priest at a parish I attend says in homily that the main point of being a Christian is to become saints in heaven. So going to Mass isn’t only about the social aspects. That’s a part of it, for sure, but the main point is to become a saint worthy of heaven.

For some, saints are Buddhist arhats (monks having achieved Nirvana) and bodhisattvas (monks forgoing entry into Nirvana in order to help others reach that threshold). However, it seems dubious that the realms these saints achieve are the same, qualitatively speaking, as realms created by God. Recall that, no matter which way you slice it, Buddhists don’t believe in God, which is a huge theological difference from religions that do believe in God. And no political correctness will change that difference, not even well-intentioned political correctness.

English: Image of Saint Adalgott. Source Cropp...

Image of Saint Adalgott. Cropped from an image at http://www.unikk.ch/barock/pages/carlen2_1_text.htm (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The term saints also refers to Taoist, Confucian and Hindu sages and gurus (Skt. guru = teacher), African and Amerindian elders, as well as the Shamans of Central and Southeast Asia, Oceania, North America and the Arctic.

In Islam the righteous departed are said to mediate between heaven and Earth.

Robert Ellsberg regards great figures like Galileo Galilei, Leo Tolstoy, Stephen Biko and Dante Alighieri as saints in his book, All Saints.

Some believe that all public figures called “saints” are equally holy but this view is probably more about human preconceptions than God’s assessment of individual holiness.

In Catholicism, the canonized saint leads an exceedingly humble and holy life serving God, is often persecuted, may be martyred and performs by the power of God at least two verified miracles. Some critics of the Catholic process of canonization say that the alleged miracles are, for the most part, cooked up by the Vatican when they want to make someone a saint, mostly for political reasons.

Catholic sainthood often involves the idea of intercession. Intercession is the belief that God’s divine power and grace is mediated by souls in heaven to souls on Earth, purgatory and hell.

Catholics also believe in the communion of saints, the idea that all souls, except for the damned, are united in a “mystical body” with Christ as the head. So the idea of interconnected souls is not necessarily something of the occult (unless one views Catholicism as a Satanic cult, as some do).

Another aspect of the Catholic faith is the belief that individuals cooperate with God’s plan of salvation through vocal and mental prayer (interior contemplation). Prayerful saints cooperate with the divine plan but do not effect salvation through their own power.

Catholics may pray for one another but again, they request God’s help. They don’t play the role of spiritual “big shot” or “guru” like some in other religious paths do. At least, they shouldn’t. This unsavory element arguably creeps in with hot shot charismatic preachers who make the rounds in Catholic circles, charging considerable fees for inspirational speaking or guided retreats (some retreats seeming more like middle class getaways, social events or fundraisers than serious spiritual sanctuaries).

Some Protestants object to the idea of the Catholic saint, saying that the saints are nothing but manmade gods or goddesses—that is, pagan. Catholics reply to this misguided charge that saints are friends and servants of God, not a god nor God. Many Protestants pray for others but object to the Catholic idea of interceding saints. To this the Catholic replies: If someone on Earth can pray for another person on Earth, why cannot a soul in heaven pray for someone on Earth?

According to Catholic teaching there are innumerable unrecognized saints. These unsung heroes of the spirit are said to achieve a great degree of spiritual purity without ever having set foot in a monastery or abbey.

This is good to remember. Otherwise we might misunderstand or judge harshly some individuals in contemporary society not primarily concerned with sex, wealth, status or raising a family. In fact, there seems to be a recent trend to call people “mentally ill” if they don’t conform to prevailing norms which, perhaps, are not always in line with trying to follow God’s will.

In a nutshell, the true individual is often misunderstood and sometimes persecuted by the crowd. Considering the tremendous diversity of individuals and spiritual paths throughout our ever changing world, to insist on rigid criteria for sainthood seems both arbitrary and unwise.


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Rudolf Otto – pioneering and influential German theologian (and probably part-mystic)

R. Otto via Wikipedia

Rudolf Otto (1869-1937) was a German Lutheran theologian who wrote an influential book called Das Heilige: Über das Irrationale in der Idee des Göttlichen und sein Verhältnis zum Rationalen (1917) [English translation: The Idea of the Holy (1923)] which, as the title suggests, developed notions of the Holy and the numinous.

When I was writing my Ph.D. I mentioned, while discussing Otto, that the philosopher Immanuel Kant talks about noumenal vs. the phenomenal realms. What I most likely didn’t mention, however, is that the two ideas – numinous and noumenal are, so Wikipedia tells us, etymologically unrelated.¹ However, if I were to sit down in a coffee shop with you, I could probably convince you that they are semantically related—if in a kind of roundabout way.

The idea of the numinous comes up a lot at earthpages.ca. I use the term to try to make accessible what are essentially spiritual truth claims. Carl Jung did the same thing, offering his own views about numinosity

Jung, Otto, Evelyn Underhill, Micrea Eliade, Joachim Wach, Ninian Smart, and the Americans William James and Joseph Campbell argue that numinosity takes different forms. Jung talks about the dark, inferior sides of numinosity in terms of the “shadow.” Otto uses slightly different terms, like “daemonic dread.”³ Wach differentiates Christian religious experience from magic. Meanwhile, James comes right out and says that some forms of religious experience proceed from the “demon.”4

Jung, Campbell and Smart tend to emphasize the importance of how the conscious ego relates to numinosity. Does the spirit touch or consume us? Elevate or obfuscate? Do we identify with, differentiate ourselves from or have a relationship with numinosity?

Tentacle Monster Working – Don’t Worry via Flickr

Without being overly judgmental, I think it is important for spiritual seekers to recognize that there isn’t just one type of numinosity. Too many people, imo, get stuck on lower levels without even realizing the love and glory that lies above. Many who haven’t experienced the higher levels probably tend to see me as a narrow-minded Catholic.5 And for me, some of these people carry an unacceptable level of spiritual gloom (or worse) that makes me want to maintain a respectful distance.

¹ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rudolf_Otto

² Trying to make spirituality more accessible is why I was first admitted to the University of Ottawa (well, that and the fact that they liked my external scholarship, which always looks good on an academic institution).

³ See Chapter IV, https://epages.wordpress.com/2011/10/24/an-outline-of-rudolf-ottos-the-idea-of-the-holy-by-michael-w-clark-phd/

4 (a) See text around Footnote 3 in https://earthpages.wordpress.com/2012/06/07/discernment. This is a surprising assertion from James if we are to believe John Passmore who says James is entirely agnostic (Passmore, A Hundred Years of Philosophy).
(b) The names mentioned here represent far from an exhaustive list. In her portable classic Gods and Myths of Northern Europe, H. R. Ellis Davidson seems to hint at spiritual differences lying behind and represented within mythic variations, noting that some modern Christians are able to view other forms of spirituality with calm detachment, something which the Church Fathers and other early Christians usually lacked.

5 This is ironic because most Catholics, I think, tend to see me as “unconventional” to put it mildly.

Related » “An Outline of Rudolf Otto’s The Idea of the Holy,” Jainism, Religion, Spirit, Joachim Wach, Comparative Religion, William James, Numen


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Sannyasa

His Holiness Bhaktiratna Sadhu Swami Gaurangapada – “My Sannyasa Gurudeva Shrila Bhaktikumunda Santa Goswami” via Flickr

Sannyasa is the fourth Hindu asrama (Vedic stage of life) in which the male attains spiritual liberation (moksha).

At this stage the Indian sannyasin practices celibacy, renounces all worldly trappings, and pretty much acquires the legal status of a dead person. He either travels about freely, helping others to grow in spiritual matters, or enters a monastery.

Typically a sannyasin is either a follower of Vishnu (or one of Visnu’s incarnations such as Krishna) or Sankara.

Traditionally the sannyasin was predominantly male but today the situation is changing, with women sannyasins increasing in numbers.

The following excerpt from “Arsha Vidya Gurukulam’s Response to “Hinduism Here” and Michele Moritis’s Paper” outlines several important points concerning the evolution of Hinduism.

Except for the role of the priest, women participate equally in all the activities at the gurukulam. As in all religious traditions, there are stipulations for those who officiate at religious ceremonies. In the Hindu tradition, one of these is that the priest must be a Brahmin male and cogent reasons are given for this. However, the status of a sannyasin (a renunciant) is higher than that of a priest, and women are allowed to be sannayasins, as Michele’s report illustrates in her interview with a white American female sannyasin. And these female sannyasins can assume the role of a guru to a male Brahmin priest.

The precedent for lack of gender discrimination is embedded in the iconography of Hinduism. Most deities, including the deity at Arsha Vidya Gurukulam, Lord Daksinamurti, are ardhanarishvara, half male and half female, since the Lord is looked upon as both male and female. In the Vedas, though there are certainly fewer women than men, they are not absent. In the Upanisads there are dialogues on Brahmavidya with women (Maitreyi and Gargi) and there are female rishis (Visvavara and Romasa) composing Vedic hymns (rks).¹

¹ Arsha Vidya Gurukulam’s Response to “Hinduism Here” and Michele Moritis’s Paper http://www.barnard.edu/religion/hinduismhere/arshresponse.html

  • “Bhakti Nrsinga Swami receives sannyasa initiation at the Durban Rathayatra 2008”


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Science

David Hume's statements on ethics foreshadowed...

David Hume (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Science [Latin scientia = knowledge] (revised Aug 17 2016)

Hard and Soft

Science has, at the very least, two meanings. The first meaning is most commonly found in the natural and physical sciences. In these so-called “hard” sciences, science develops laws and theories from the systematic observation of nature.

These laws and theories, according to most definitions, may be supported or disproved. This is made possible by the fact that, once published, scientific results become public. As public knowledge, new findings (and the theories derived from them) are subject to peer review and, when appropriate, replication.

The other meaning of science is far more opaque, usually cropping up in the so-called “soft” social sciences.

Political science, sociology and psychoanalysis, for instance, rely on theories. But these theories often depend on selective, scant or questionable empirical research. And they tend to use correlational or multivariate instead of causal experimental designs.

Correlational studies merely tell us that, in certain circumstances, two variables of interest occur together in some degree of statistical probability, whereas multivariate designs look at any number of variables and attempt to determine their probability of occurring together.

Most agree that no definitive causality can be claimed with either correlational or multivatiate designs.  However, this is some debate on this issue. Many agree that causality cannot be demonstrated in the social sciences. But we can point to the reality of “strong” and “weak” correlations—hence the important offshoot of science, statistics and probability.

Critiques of Science

Theological

English: Science icon from Nuvola icon theme f...

Science icon from Nuvola icon theme for KDE 3.x. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Theological critiques of science have two branches. On the one hand, some theologians warn against adopting a false moral neutrality that some scientists apparently advocate. This debate usually makes headlines whenever stories about abortion or same sex marriage arise.

The other branch relates to the theological claim that conventional science cannot account for nor predict revealed, infused or illuminated forms of knowledge. And to complicate matters, some theologians say theology, itself, is a science. And not only that. It is the “noblest” science.¹

Philosophical

Without getting too deep, it is important to take a step back and question some of the assumptions that science rests upon or, perhaps, implies. This is what philosophers tend to do.² For example, they ask does our world always operate in a uniform and predictable manner?

Critics also maintain that science cannot explain everything. Human experiences like love, free will, morality and identity are somewhat mysterious. We might be able to trace brain patterns, chemical interactions and response times in a lab. But this is only looking from one perspective, and from the outside.

And most would agree that correlational and multivariate studies in any branch of science do not adequately explain why things happen. We often hear the word “link” in scientific reporting. For instance, “Scientists Find Link Between Dopamine and Obesity.” But this does not tell us what causes what.

“It’s possible that obese people have fewer dopamine receptors because their brains are trying to compensate for having chronically high dopamine levels, which are triggered by chronic overeating,” says Wang. “However, it’s also possible that these people have low numbers of dopamine receptors to begin with, making them more vulnerable to addictive behaviors including compulsive food intake.”³

Other critiques highlight the role of human bias, usually called experimental or experimentor bias. In a nutshell, human bias influences the selection, observation, interpretation, analysis and presentation of data.

Also important is Karl Popper’s argument that scientific truth claims can only be disproved, never proved.4

English: The OWNER of this passport picture of...

The OWNER of this passport picture of Willard Van Orman Quine is Dr. Douglas Quine (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sociological

Sociological critiques of science do not ignore philosophical issues but tend to focus on the role of social power in shaping, legitimizing and reproducing scientific truth claims within the broader context of a given society’s sense of normality.

Some writers, like Broad and Wade, report cases where scientific credentials have been forged and results fabricated.5 And some cultural theorists, particularly postmodern, see science as just another conceptual game, fiction, strategy, agenda, or discourse posing as truth.

From this it’s clear that science is far more complicated than what the media usually portrays. But the word “science” still has power to sway the masses, a power arguably out of sync with the realities of its complexity.

If we apply just some of these well-known critiques to recent trends about Climate Change, a virtual hailstorm of criticism will likely descend. In a sense, science really has become the new religion. Simply use your mind to question data selection, application, interpretation and presentation and you might not be labelled a “heretic” as in the Middle Ages. No, in the 21st century, you will probably be called a “denyer,” a term which ironically rests on (weakly scientific) psychoanalytic assumptions relating to a theory of “denial.”6

Anima and Animus – from concepts developed by Dr. Carl Jung, who tried to integrate psychology and spirituality (via Pinterest)

Depth and Transpersonal Psychology

Contemporary depth and transpersonal psychologists and those hoping to integrate science, religion and spirituality say a new form of science, beyond immediate biological, behavioral, psychological, social and environmental factors, is required to better account for the workings of the psyche in relation to the universe and God.

Some preliminary attempts at integration have been made. But the process is still in the germinal phase. Considering the vastness and mystery of life, the universe and beyond, this is not surprising. What is surprising is how dogmatic groups in possession of social power can sway the masses into thinking they have everything figured out. To me, this is not only ludicrous. But sometimes dangerous.7

¹ Recently TVO did a segment where two believing American scientists talk about science and religion. There’s no great depth here, and some of the statements wouldn’t wash in Canada, which arguably in matters of world faith and multiculturalism is several decades ahead of the USA. But it’s worth watching. http://tvo.org/video/programs/the-agenda-with-steve-paikin/scientists-on-religion

² David Hume goes so far as to critique the entire idea of causality. I think Hume’s critique is quite convincing, to the extent that it seems reasonable to say that most everything comes down to belief instead of knowledge.

³ Scientists Find Link Between Dopamine and Obesity in Brookhaven National Laboratory, February 1, 2001 » http://www.bnl.gov/bnlweb/pubaf/pr/2001/bnlpr020101.htm.

4 Perhaps a bit too detailed for the bulk of this entry, Willard Quine says empiricism (which science rests upon) contains “two dogmas.” One dogma is the distinction often made between Kant‘s analytic and synthetic propositions. In the simplest terms these are, respectively, intellectual constructs understood to be true in themselves vs. intellectual constructs taken to be true by virtue of how they relate to the world. Quine’s second dogma is reductionism, the belief that naming and meaning are the same.

5 Betrayers of the Truth, 1982. And more recent examples of outright fraud in science:

Sir John Houghton speaking at a climate change...

Sir John Houghton speaking at a climate change conference in 2005 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

6 Global Warming activists/alarmists also overlook the reality that scientific research in support of the prevailing global political agenda have a much better chance of getting funding than those that question the data collection and interpretation behind it. This does not represent a scientific attitude, one that wants to get at truth. Rather, it’s yet another example of societal power-players hoping to reinforce whatever views they find important, and for whatever reasons they may really have.

In psychiatry, for example, some doctors prescribe medications (arguably a legitimizing term for drugs) without really knowing whether they are doing more harm than good. See https://epages.wordpress.com/2015/12/21/the-human-side-of-science

Related » Archaeology, Aristotle, Chakras, Emic-Etic, Fundamentalism, Galileo Galilei, Ideal Types, Myth, Particle-Wave Duality, Phenomenology, Postmodernism, Poststructuralism, Saint-Simon (Comte Henri de), Scientism, Semiology

 


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The idea of the Seer

Thee High Priestess ov Thee Temple ov Psychick Blah (T.H.P.O.T.T.O.P.B.) by Suzanna / Comtesse de Wurzeltod

Thee High Priestess ov Thee Temple ov Psychick Blah (T.H.P.O.T.T.O.P.B.) by Suzanna / Comtesse de Wurzeltod

In the spiritual sense a seer is a person with an alleged gift of inner sight. He or she apparently “sees” the past and future, possibly across great distances and through different spiritual realms. At least, that’s one aspect of the seer.

Another aspect is found in some non-Christian spiritual figures like Da Free John, Sri Aurobindo, Sri Chinmoy and Paramahansa Yogananda. These individuals apparently receive other people’s thoughts, feelings and experiences, and say they use these abilities to assess their disciples’ degree of spiritual development—that is, to “know where they’re at,” spiritually speaking.

Mystical Hinduism, particularly the guru ideal, highlights the importance of the seer. And his or her abilities are often believed to contribute to spiritual wisdom. Sometimes the guru is described as a kind of heroic figure who has scaled the inner reaches. Other times, a more humble approach speaks to spiritual “gifts” instead of emphasizing the guru’s great “achievements.” The idea of the gift connotes the notion that God bestows paranormal abilities for some good reason, often unknown at the time of receiving. The idea of the achievement may pay lip service to this, but may exalt the seer as if they were equal to God, or God on Earth (e.g. an avatar).

English: Saint Faustina Polski: Św. Faustyna K...

Saint Faustina Polski: Św. Faustyna Kowalska (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In traditional Catholicism the seer adheres to the rules and regulations of his or her religious order, as we find in monasticism. Spiritual abilities are entirely viewed as gifts or charisms from God and are usually played down out of humility. There is no desire to exalt oneself as a big holy person, this being an unsavory approach (which Jungians, incidentally, call inflation or self-aggrandizement).

In fact, in Catholicism, the true saint detests any kind of special attention because that would interfere with their spiritual development. This seems to represent a huge difference between the Catholic saint and some non-Catholic gurus, self-proclaimed prophets and so-called “spiritual leaders.”

Catholic seers apparently have the gift of “reading hearts,” which usually involves knowing and feeling another person’s thoughts, inclinations and overall spiritual condition. For some saints, coming into contact with another person not in a state of grace can be excruciatingly painful.¹

Some folks entertain the notion that a seer may possess unconventional abilities but question the source of these abilities, along with the ethical application in daily life.

Paramahansa Yogananda as depicted on the cover...

Paramahansa Yogananda as depicted on the cover of Autobiography of a Yogi (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But not all are so accepting. Skeptics like James Randi remain unconvinced about everything paranormal, to include the notion of “seeing” at a distance.

In Greek myth Tiresias was a blind seer.

¹ See, for instance, Faustina Kowalska’s Divine Mercy Diary. Sri Ramakrishna and other Hindus tend to talk about this phenomenon within their own religious framework. So instead of the “transfer of sin” (Christianity), Hindu mystics speak of “karma transfer.” I find it interesting how similar experiential phenomena get fitted into very different religious theories. In my view, this partly due to the human element at work—Mankind, the theory maker.

Related Posts » Clairaudience, Clairsentience, Clairvoyance, Remote Viewing, Rishis, Psi, Psi Spies, Wisdom