Author Topic: An Introduction  (Read 6676 times)

Matt Koeske

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An Introduction
« on: February 21, 2007, 11:25:08 AM »
Over the last couple years I have come to think of the religion/science coniunctio as the great work of my intellectual life.  That is, I aspire to accomplish it intellectually in the same way the alchemists sought to create the philosopher's stone or the various tinctures, elixirs, and other "spirituchemical" products of the opus.

The fact that I believe in a religion/science coniunctio, in its possibility, is itself an indication of my own religiosity.  I tend to believe in very little . . . or rather, I have a great many beliefs, but I hold the nature of belief to be changeable, insubstantial, even arbitrary.  I see belief and maya as very similar constructions.  I feel neither is "bad".  Either may be beautiful, meaningful, even all-important.

But the arbitrariness of belief is not entirely satisfactory to me . . . primarily because it means belief is a hollow vessel that can contain many different things.  These contents are what interest me more.  What does belief house?

A single, specific belief can house any number of different and contradictory notions, intentions, desires, and instincts.  My gripe with this container called belief is that it is inscrutable in many cases.  It cannot be judged or evaluated.  It conceals.  But the contents of the container have a greater (although usually not an absolute) materiality, fixedness, substance.

As a brief and somewhat vague example, think of the Bible and the many interpretations people draw from it.  Is the "meat" of religion in the text or in what is drawn out of or with the help of the text?  Is the religion in the book or in the believer?

In my opinion, it is the latter.  But this means that a criticism of the text itself as the essence of belief is next to worthless.  It means that both the understanding and the criticism of religion is all the more slippery.

The contemporary atheist or secular or scientific community that is interested in belief and religion does not always differentiate this very well.  It is not their only failing in the study of religion and religiosity.  Many "public" atheist scholars and writers are as dogmatic in their rationalism as fundamentalists are in their religiosity.  In Jungian terms, the Opposites are at war with one another.  Their opposition exacerbates their division.

But instead of thinking about religion and science oppositionally . . . as though one must by necessity crush the other in a fight to survive, I want to try to think about them synthetically, alchemically.  Each Opposite must transform the other . . . and something new (from the perspective of the "purity" of one entrenched opposite or another, something monstrous) must be created or birthed.

But these forces (science and religion) have defined themselves oppositionally, so we cannot merely ask them to compromise with one another.  They must be alchemically fused, mystically married.  The problem of their conflict is complex, but I think it can be simplified down to a competition over resources.  Science and religion want to occupy the same psychic environment and utilize the same flow of libido.  Science is not out to kill God . . . but to replace him.

Science (I will argue) is a "new" form of mysticism.  Here I am defining the mystical in the following paradigm.  Religion as we know it is generally made up of two components that are perhaps hopelessly intermingled and confused with one another.  The first is cultural, and this has to do with behavior prescriptions, order-making, hierarchy, etc.  The second is mystical, and this has to do with the psychological experiences of the ego with the Self . . . with the final intention being an acquiescence of the ego and its capabilities to the Self.  I believe both elements of religion are founded on biological instincts . . . instincts which are often in conflict with one another.

Yet, religion (for various reasons I hope to explore and eventually understand) is a stew or these contradictory impulses.  Rarely do we see religion without both mysticism and culturism in the recipe.  Mysticism seems to act as a revitalizing force . . . and perhaps even a source or wellspring for religion.  That is, it is the origin of religious libido (I think religious libido is perhaps best grasped in the concept of numen . . . and that religious culturism derives is authority and impetus from an appropriation of the numinous, a colonization of the numinous feeling).  But this libido is channeled in various ways, usually according to how it can be culturally manipulated . . . and human culture tends to be hierarchical, tends to be structured around power.

Power is a "worldly" interest.  That is, it has everything to do with the place and significance of the individual within culture.  It is a concern of the ego, in other words.  Mysticism is an opposing gravity.  It pulls the ego away from egoic concerns and toward the Self, the god image, an orientation that has less to do with desire, status, self-definition in the context of society, even differentiation between one ego's substance or worth and another's.

I believe the conflict between science and religion is rooted in the problem that science is, psychologically speaking, a mysticism.  That is, the intention of the scientific method is to orient the ego, subserviently, to the objective Self, i.e., to Nature and Natural Principles.  Egoic distractions, beliefs, maya are meant to be circumvented with the visionary philosophy of scientific rationalism.  The role of the human being in the scientific mindset is humbled enormously in contrast to Nature, to materiality.  The human ego is seen as mathematically relative (on the scale of importance) to the entire universe.

There is a very radical leap forward along mystical lines in the scientific method . . . but the mysticism of science suffers from many scientists not understanding it is (again, psychologically) a mysticism.  The result being that dogmas creep in, egoic perspectives, beliefs, power struggles, personalities.  All of these things accumulate around the edges of the "scientifically proved", and at these edges, scientists tend to think no more clearly (i.e., "scientifically") than religious fundamentalists.  But, of course, these scientists don't understand this and continue to insist that, on these egoic fringes, they are being just as scientific as they are in the realm of the "proved", the objective.  This is the "scientific arrogance" that guiles religionists (although they cannot usually differentiate the proved from the fringe, since they do not employ the scientific method).

My entry point into the criticism of science is that science too often bungles the scientific method of observation . . . or employs the method with the skewing of prejudice or overly simplistically.  A great deal of emphasis is placed on the observer in scientific rationalism . . . but this is the same observer (the ego) that the scientific method is designed to circumvent.  The ego is a flawed observer.  It is not a reliable recorder of reality, merely an interpreter.  In order to evaluate the ego's observations, various adjustments must be made for its specific margins of error.  This, regrettably, is not done as often as it should be.

The scientific method is not meant to be reductive, to "explain away" phenomena.  It is meant to interpret reality or Nature from as close to Nature's own "perspective" as possible.  Reductivism is an egoic principle.  The ego is a sieve, not a cauldron.  It seems to be designed to simplify and extract and abstract specific bits of pertinent information from a whole of potential information.  This information is pertinent to the ego . . . not necessarily to Nature itself.

. . .

My working hypothesis is that recognizing that science and religion both share a mystical wellspring of libido is recognizing a core similarity in the Opposites.  It is like noticing the little eye of opposite color in the opposing halves of the yin-yang symbol.  I believe the differentiation of religion (and science) into a mystical force and a cultural force will help illuminate the many parallels between these two Opposites.  I also believe that the transformative libido of the mystical will guide this coniunctio just as it guides the alchemical opus and the Inner Work of individuation.

In more Jungian terms, this recognition of similarity can operate as a transcendent function that rises up to guide the alchemical union of the opposites.  I will be arguing my theories from this basic perspective as I delve into more research, ideas, and data.  I will argue from this perspective as long as the data warrants it . . . and in my reading and thinking so far, the data favors this perspective.  But I believe in the mysticism of the scientific method and will try to adhere to it . . . religiously.

Yours,
Matt
You can always come back, but you can’t come back all the way.

   [Bob Dylan,"Mississippi]

Sealchan

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Re: An Introduction
« Reply #1 on: February 22, 2007, 09:05:33 AM »
When you have a moment, I would love to hear your thoughts on my Masters' thesis.  It touches on a specific relationship between a scientific and mystical perspective....

http://www.geocities.com/sealchan/depth.htm

Matt Koeske

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Re: An Introduction
« Reply #2 on: February 22, 2007, 10:10:05 AM »
When you have a moment, I would love to hear your thoughts on my Masters' thesis.  It touches on a specific relationship between a scientific and mystical perspective....

http://www.geocities.com/sealchan/depth.htm

I'm anxiously looking forward to reading it!  I will be traveling this weekend, and may not make much progress, but I'll print it out and bring it along.  Definitely by next week, though.

Let's start another board dedicated to consciousness studies.  Which category should we put it in, do you think?

Yours,
Matt
You can always come back, but you can’t come back all the way.

   [Bob Dylan,"Mississippi]

Matt Koeske

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Re: An Introduction
« Reply #3 on: February 22, 2007, 10:46:09 AM »
Let's start another board dedicated to consciousness studies.  Which category should we put it in, do you think?

I guess Syntheses is best.  This category is proving much more useful than I expected it would.  I guess I shouldn't be surprised.

-Matt
You can always come back, but you can’t come back all the way.

   [Bob Dylan,"Mississippi]

Sealchan

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Re: An Introduction
« Reply #4 on: February 22, 2007, 01:55:41 PM »
The Master's thesis is of very modest length.  More like a long essay, but one which I put in far more work than its length allows

I've just reread it and felt good enough about it to add it to the Science and Psychology section.  It has enough solid science in it to perhaps justify this.

Give it a read and let me know what you think.  This essay is still an influential core idea-symbol for me in how I approach dream interpretation and understanding the symbols most central to consciousness.

Is the pursuit of the Self an effort to get the unconscious to produce the symbol for the symbolic process itself?

When you invoke the words "consciousness studies" you invoke two different paradigms depending on which academic community (the traditional vs the alternative) you talk to.  Maybe it belongs in syntheses?...

Matt Koeske

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Re: An Introduction
« Reply #5 on: February 22, 2007, 04:34:12 PM »
When you invoke the words "consciousness studies" you invoke two different paradigms depending on which academic community (the traditional vs the alternative) you talk to.  Maybe it belongs in syntheses?...

Yes, and I would like to see both paradigms argued (eventually).  As you are, I'm sure, well aware, I am a huge advocate of the value of dialogs and arguments.  I am maniacal about spilling everything in together to see how it sorts itself out.  I'm not a purist.

But I seek to be fair (and occasionally even succeed).  Any idea is as good as its argument is convincing.

I know very little about consciousness studies (especially from the spiritual side).  I know a little evolutionary psychology . . . which brings in neuroscience and some cognitive studies and the biology of behavior.  I have been heavily influenced by the evolutionary psychology I've read (probably Steven Pinker most of all) . . . but I think the ideas common to evolutionary psychology have their limitations (which Pinker doesn't sufficiently recognize, in my opinion).  Not evolution itself, of course . . . evolution is probably the most elegant and far-reaching idea in all of science.  But the evolutionary psychologists tend to underestimate the complexity of human-specific instincts. 

It's somewhat understandable, as the most practical "scientific" (where here "scientific" means rationalistically superficial) model is the chimp.  Yes, we have far more behavioral tendencies (and DNA) in common with chimps than we like to admit . . . but this doesn't explain homo religioso.  Evolutionary psychology breaks down at the border between chimp and Man, because it does not effectively utilize the set of data that psychologists like Jung devoted themselves to.  Namely, art, literature, symbol, belief, story, ritual, dream, myth, etc.  There is no shortage of instincts fueling these human-specific behaviors . . . and chimps don't really do these things.

But I see a potential space where evolutionary psychology can segue into studies of the psyche, like Jung's.  Jung was pretty clear about archetypes being instincts (or based in/representative of instinct) . . . much clearer than I remembered (I recently re-read some things to refresh myself).  But this idea is largely lost on the the intellectual community that has contemplated the archetype theory.  (I would argue that archetypes are not a theory, but a "taxonomic truth").  Archetypes are spiritualized by much of the Jungian community . . . and ignored as "mere philosophical speculation" by the scientific community.

This is, to my mind, an example of a prejudice in the scientific community that is not in accord with the scientific method . . . and it is, I believe, founded in the typical anthropomorphic sense of supremacy and arrogant entitlement that drives much of religion (ironically enough).  That is, "scientific" thinkers like the evolutionary psychologists have not ventured sufficiently into the study of archetypes as instincts, because we humans tend to hold the prejudicial belief that we are "above and beyond" instinctuality.  Interestingly, some of the evolutionary psychologists have no problem demonstrating how we abide by scarcely modified chimp instincts while somehow forgetting that we must also abide by human-specific instincts to an equal or greater degree.

The study of archetypes and the study of "human-specific instincts" is one and the same to me.

Some anthropology fairs better in this regard . . . and of course, Jung's notion of archetype is very anthropological.

But, although these blind spots and divisions still exist, I get the sense that the gaps between these fields are closing . . . and they are all converging on a deep and multifaceted study of humanness.  I believe this convergence will be to the benefit of all.

-Matt

You can always come back, but you can’t come back all the way.

   [Bob Dylan,"Mississippi]