Finding a place for the paranormal? In the conceptual fruit bowl

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Finding a place for the paranormal?

In the conceptual fruit bowl

  • Placing fruit in a bowl

  • Where do we place the ‘strange fruit’

  • Of the paranormal?

Why is the paranormal a problem at all?

  • The paranormal is a problem

  • Primarily because of science

  • Which tells us that only molecules

  • Are real and nothing else

  • This dominates our thinking

  • It has hijacked our imagination


  • How many of you believe in science?

  • How many believe the world is entirely physical?

  • Is there anything beyond the molecular?

  • How many believe in religion?


  • The molecular view raises several issues

  • Is mind solely a product of molecules?

  • Are mind and brain the same thing?

  • Are ‘things’ real?


  • Paranormal includes

  • Telepathy

  • Ghosts

  • Mediums/Clairvoyance

  • Telekinesis

  • Intuition, dreams? Attractions?


  • Science first kicked off

  • by Galileo [1564-1642] around 1600

  • Who first questioned

  • The truth of the Church

  • And conducted experiments

Thomas Hobbes

  • Thomas Hobbes [1588-1679]

  • Established a materialistic philosophy

  • Sceptical of religion

Sir Francis Bacon

  • Francis Bacon [1561-1626]

  • established the method of induction

  • so central to science:

  • Based in observation

  • And experiments

Rene Descartes

  • René Descartes [1596-1650]

  • contributed to this new system

  • In mathematics

  • And psychology

Sir Isaac Newton

  • Newton [1642-1727]

  • regarded world as a machine

  • Gave birth to the mechanical philosophy:

  • An exquisite mechanism created by

  • The divine watchmaker


  • John Locke [1632-1704]

  • He developed Hobbes’s views

  • Into a wholly materialistic view

Science and Religion

  • Yet they were all religious men!!

  • A fact conveniently forgotten

  • by scientists today

Enlightenment 1

  • In the 1700s

  • science made great strides forward

  • This was called the enlightenment

  • Materialistic culture

Enlightenment 2

  • Opposed to religion and spirituality

  • This view dominates modern life since 1800

  • The paranormal challenges this belief system

This talk today

  • We need to try and place

  • The paranormal into a new context

  • And try to reconcile science

  • With non-molecular views

Paranormal Phenomena

  • We need to create a theoretical framework

  • For the paranormal to be possible

  • And find a belief system

  • that reconciles it with science

  • This is no easy task!


  • We seem to have a straight choice:

  • either to believe that paranormal phenomena are genuine

  • or to dismiss them all as bogus


  • However, if we accept even provisionally

  • that paranormal is true and real,

  • then this poses a problem

  • both for science

  • and for our understanding.


  • However, maybe we can find

  • a philosophy that embraces

  • both science and the paranormal,

  • Giving them both some validity?

  • Is such a view possible?


  • The answer is ‘yes’ if we

  • Cast around and

  • can accept views like…

  • Berkeley, Husserl, Simmel, Buddha

George Berkeley

  • George Berkeley [1685-1753]

  • Matter is merely thought

  • In the mind of God

  • An entirely spiritual view – all is mind!


  • Edmund Husserl [1858-1938]

  • his phenomenology:

  • We should strive to

  • Seize the whole

  • In all its fullness,

  • Which can never be grasped

  • Through ‘parts’


  • Georg Simmel [1858-1918 ]

  • Who stressed empathy

  • Which allows us

  • To engage with

  • Each other and

  • Reality


  • The upshot of Simmel’s work applies

  • Especially in the arts, literature, music, healthcare and religions

  • Where empathic connection of some form

  • Is of paramount importance


  • Buddha [624 BC - 544 BC]

  • A Buddhist view:

  • World is a flux

  • Self is an illusion [transient]

  • ‘things’ are an illusion [transient]

  • Lose ego…

Buddhist view

  • The upshot of Buddhism stresses

  • Two factors of relevance to our search

  • First, demolition of the self is a pre-requisite for empathic engagement

  • The world is constantly created and destroyed

  • moment by moment


  • From these elements

  • we can construct a broader view

  • of ourselves

  • and the world

  • as being more intimately commingled

  • into a vast and subtle matrix.

A view

  • Such a view would allow

  • telepathy and clairvoyance, for example,

  • to be quite valid aspects of life

  • Just as scientific phenomena are.

No dislocation

  • Such a view would reduce

  • the tension that exists

  • between science and telepathy

  • by seeking common ground

  • to underpin them both.

  • HOW?

No ego

  • Such a view would comprise

  • spiritual empathy

  • mental osmosis

  • when ego is dropped

  • Ego blocks empathy & knowledge WHY?


  • The resulting view is a Neo-Berkelian form of Phenomenology & entails:

  • Holism

  • Continuity

  • Inter-connectedness

  • Empathy

  • System.


  • Ecological awareness

  • also contributes to this worldview

  • as an interlocking matrix or complex

  • comprising multi-leveled events

  • and self-regulating feedback loops.


  • If we combine this

  • with the ideas of some mental and emotional realities

  • beyond mere molecules…


  • Then it is possible to imagine

  • all minds networked together

  • But this is rarely our experience

  • WHY?

  • Because of ego?

  • Because of solid belief in ‘things?’


  • However, from an ego orientation

  • or from scientific materialism

  • they still seem separate

  • and disconnected ‘things’

  • And we each seem separate beings

Hangs together

  • If you then add to this

  • the idea of an immortal essence

  • then it all hangs together.

Spiritual machine?

  • Neo-Berkelian phenomenology

  • would see the world not just as

  • A vast physical machine

  • Composed only of myriad ‘things’

  • But also a vast spiritual machine.

Events, dear boy…

  • In this machine

  • events shadow events

  • in a non-rational manner

  • that can never be fully explained

  • by reduction into solely physical particles and forces.

Delusional view?

  • It is because reductionism

  • is only part of the picture,

  • [a delusional view?]

  • that the complete view

  • of our experience

  • fails to conform to the world as ‘things’

  • World is thus more than simply ‘things’


  • If it were complete

  • then it would explain everything.

  • That it cannot do this,

  • renders it incomplete.

Only one view

  • Reductionism

  • is merely one view

  • of how the world might be, one view

  • of how it seems to function

  • In a fragmented sense…

Missing link?

  • What is left out?

  • = the non-molecular dimension

  • of substance

  • that binds the whole thing together

  • I.e. a matrix

The glue that binds…

  • This acts rather like the ‘glue’

  • that binds the fabric in a model

  • or the medium on/in which something floats.

  • This is the interface between

  • Subjective inner reality

  • And the ‘outer’ world


  • is this mysterious ‘substance’

  • or substrate

  • or medium

  • that underpins

  • every ‘physical’ thing

  • in the universe.


  • This extra something is

  • The subjective dimension

  • Of our experience

  • Our inner lives and how

  • That connects with what we think is

  • The external world


  • What is excluded from science

  • is perhaps just as real to us

  • as physical phenomena appear to be.

  • Art, dreams, feelings

  • Love, creativity…


  • But it is a something

  • that is unsuitable for reduction

  • to molecular phenomena

  • or the molecular view.

  • It is an aspect of our experience

  • Quite irreducible to molecules


  • If something

  • cannot be reduced

  • It is seen by science

  • as proof that it is non-real.

Subtle forces

  • For science to even conceive of telepathy or clairvoyance it has to

  • invoke invisible subtle forces

  • and particles

  • to connect ‘things’ together and so

  • to create ‘events’.

Hard science

Vast medium?

  • But what if

  • the whole universe

  • is underpinned and pervaded anyway

  • by some subtle and vast

  • interconnecting ‘medium’?


  • A subtle non-molecular matrix,

  • would no longer need forces or particles

  • to connect ‘events’

  • in one part of the matrix with another…

Same matrix

  • … because they are already connected together anyway

  • as part of the same matrix

  • part of the same whole [web]


  • The matrix is like God and

  • pervades everything

  • just as mind permeates, underpins

  • and interconnects everything

  • in our body.


  • In fact

  • the analogy between

  • person and world

  • or person and universe

  • is a good one.

  • God is an optional concept

Binding parts

  • What is missing in the molecular view

  • of each is mind or spirit

  • that binds and interconnects

  • What we see as ‘parts’ or ‘things’

  • into a functioning whole.


  • This account

  • Succeeds in showing

  • That a holistic view

  • Of the world

  • Makes possible a framework

  • That accepts the paranormal

  • As a possibility

Immanuel Kant [1724-1804]

  • Kant said the world

  • Cannot be known

  • Except through sense images

  • And our thought processes

  • Both of which distort it and cast it into certain patterns


  • However, we have

  • Mostly focused on the process

  • Beloved of science

  • That breaks the world down

  • Into named ‘things’

  • Fragmentalisation [reductionism]

Problems evaporate

  • Fragmentation is merely one option

  • One way to view the world

  • It is not compulsory

  • Instead, matrix is a valid optional belief

  • Then problems between science and paranormal

  • Evaporate automatically

Complete knowledge?

  • the only way to complete knowledge

  • is through wholes rather than parts

Fragmented Newtonian world

  • the Newtonian worldview

  • relies upon an optional classification system

  • that breaks the world into named parts

  • and then describes events in causal chains

  • of ‘things’ linked together


  • another option -

  • not to fragment experience

  • or the world,

  • but just accept it as it is


  • Although a fragmented view of phenomena

  • Works well for a science of material ‘things’

  • Yet it is singularly inapplicable

  • to mental matters

  • and the whole realm of human affairs

Paranormal is possible

  • How the paranormal might be theoretically possible,

  • hinges very largely on an analysis

  • of why fragmenting the world

  • into named "things"

  • is the source of our ‘primary delusion’

Magical worldview

  • Magical worldview

  •   •      World is one

  •   •      Life is one interlinked ‘matrix’

  •   •      Wholeness – things are all connected

  •   •      Oneness with everything else

  •   •      Afterlife and this life are continuous

  •   •      World of things is an illusion

  •   •      Separate self is an illusion

  •   •      Supernatural is real

Religious worldview

  • Religious worldview

  • •      Belief in God

  • •      Rituals •      Doctrines of belief are real

  • •      God, heaven, hell, soul, redeemer, etc are made into rigid concepts of dogma

  • •      Belief is the central dogma

  • •      Religion is social control by reward and punishment

  • •      The spiritual element has faded from view

Scientific worldview

  • Scientific worldview

  • •      Matter is absolute basis of reality

  • •      World is composed of ‘things’

  • •      Holism is an illusion

  • •      Proof is always tangible

  • •      Non-molecular is unreal 


  • We can see that

  • A synthesis of all 3 views

  • Is possible

  • And is desirable

  • Such we have explored here today

William Blake [1757-1827]

  • “Self-educated William Blake

  • Who threw his spectre in the lake,

  • Broke off relations in a curse

  • With the Newtonian Universe,

  • But even as a child would pet

  • The tigers Voltaire never met,

William Blake [1757-1827]

  • Took walks with them through Lambeth, and

  • Spoke to Isaiah in the Strand,

  • And heard inside each mortal thing

  • Its holy emanation sing,”

  • [W H Auden, New Year Letter, 1940]

Nietzsche [1844-1900]

  • Finally we might say Blake is preferable

  • To the “God is Dead” view of Nietzsche

  • Which is the view that life is nothing but molecules

  • Such is science

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