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Mysticism, belief and reason

06 August 2013, 14:37
A good read is something that stirs up one’s thoughts and for me; Thomas Freeman’s excellent article ‘Escape from the Tyranny of Religion’ set my mind buzzing with responses.  Whole tracts in his article opened long forgotten doors in my mind.

“Mysticism is the claim to the perception of some other reality—other than the one in which we live—whose definition is only that it is not natural, it is supernatural, and is to be perceived by some form of unnatural or supernatural means." – Ayn Rand, (ibid p.62)”  and,

 "Reason integrates man's perceptions by means of forming abstractions or conceptions thus raising man's knowledge from the perceptual level, which he shares with animals, to the conceptual level..”

Until the age of around 12, I was not a consciously reasoning entity.   I absorbed the world around me without formulating opinion or judgement.  It was what it was and I lived it solely on instinct, ‘intuition’ and adult supervision.   When you are a child with limited years behind you, you really don’t have much basis for formulating an educated or independent opinion or judgement.

 During that time, I grew up in a world of fiction books about fairy tales, fables and adventure stories, always with lots of music in the background.    Yes, of course there was school too and I did well enough there, never lower than fifth from the top of the heap, but that was a thing apart from the wonderful world to be found in books.  Woven into the tapestry of this existence right from the get-go, was the [sigh!] duty of paying daily dues to religion:  Prayers every night on bended knees by my bed reinforced by Sunday school and church services.   Oh, and the ever present reminder that “God will punish you!” for the merest infraction of parent rules or misdemeanour of any sort.

That too was a ‘thing apart from my ‘real world’   -   which was my developing mind.

But, from a very young age, there was another component to my existence – before I got into those escapist books – a strange ability to ‘instinctively’ know when something bad was about to happen, a few days or hours before it happened.  Just like an animal.

I had unbidden premonition type dreams or flashes of images and would sense the imminent death of people.   I once climbed a tree in our backyard and positioned myself on a branch which gave me a view of a road nearby.  My father came out and asked what I was doing.  I told him ‘I’m waiting for the car accident to happen’.  And very shortly it did.    Each premonition of death [and there were too many in my young life] actualized within 24 hours and those periods were troubling and tense for me.  I did not announce these premonitions because I did not want to believe them but sometimes I would tell my mother of a particular ‘dream’ before an event.  They said I was psychic, had been born with a caul.

Whatever it was, I did not want it and did not want to know these things so once I reached the age of around 15, I set about deliberately shutting down and silencing this frightening ‘alert system’ and turned progressively more towards reason and logic.  

Away from the mystical.

Away from the ‘supernatural’.

Along with this deliberate shift away an animalistic perception, I shed the obligatory homage to the myth of religion and have read only non-fiction for the last 40+ years.

But, we cannot entirely eradicate our natural instincts, our ‘in tune-ness’ with nature and our ability to intuitively sense things.  

 Nor should we.

It is that instinct, that intuitive ability to sense danger which, if you heed it, can save your life.  The gut feeling which warns of imminent danger for no apparent reason, the sense that the person you just met has a dark side which is ultimately proved to be correct, the unreasonable unspoken inner sense to not cross that road just yet, all apparently small incidents in which intuition plays a leading role and happens often to prove to be fortuitous.      Just as animals are known to be able to sense the danger of earth forces such as tsunamis, bad weather, predators, earthquakes, illness and even approaching death, so too do I believe we have those instincts, some people more than others.  But due to our lifestyles and most cultures, that ability and instinct is largely schooled out of us.

Perhaps man is naturally born with both innate animal instinct /intuition PLUS the ability to  function at a higher conceptual level and should hone and use ALL faculties and not stunt one in favour of another?  

The trick of course is the knowing of when to apply and heed which mental faculty! 

The problem which arises for many people is that their childhood world, their time of learning about life, reading fiction, believing in magic, sensing things intuitively, is interwoven with social indoctrination of mystical religious beliefs.  This happens during their formative years when they are gathering knowledge about the world they live in, the world which they accept as their personal reality.  If you are taught that a hanging a strand of garlic over your front door will keep vampires away and you never encounter a vampire after hanging that garlic, you may choose to believe the tale to be a truth.  If you are told that praying for good health will keep you alive, and you pray and remain alive for 90 years, you may choose to believe that tale also to be a truth – right up until it is no longer true.

Depending on the intensity and dominance of that faith based indoctrination in their lives, it can be very hard to disentangle one belief from the other, or fact from fiction.   Especially when you have been taught and believe that fiction is fact. 

As maturing young people, it is so easy to simply shift belief and pleasure found in the fiction tales of childhood stories, to the more socially acceptable grown up world of pleasurable fictitious religious belief.   Let's face it, personal pleasure and gratification is a huge deciding factor for our choices in life.

The transition from childhood make-believe fairy-tales to adult make-believe religious faith is almost seamless and readily embraced by those who do not find logic, reason and harsh reality a happy place to be.

Perhaps we should seek balance.   Balance between our natural intuitive instincts and our ability to rationalise and conceptualize.   And strive to recognize the difference between the two by using our logic and reasoning skills.

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