July 24, 2013

Challenge of the Noetic.


When your mind and heart are truly open abundance will flow to you effortlessly and easily.

By Dean Radin PhD author of SUPERNORMAL

Einstein admired the “cosmic religious feeling.” What does that mean? The father of American psychology, William James, provided one of the clearest definitions. It involves four key characteristics:

The first is ineffability, meaning it cannot be adequately expressed in words. It must be personally experienced to be fully understood. The second characteristic is a noetic quality, meaning that the mystical experience feels like a form of knowledge. According to James, the word noetic refers to “states of insight into depths of truth unplumbed by the discursive intellect. They are illuminations, revelations, full of significance and importance, all inarticulate though they remain; and as a rule they carry with them a curious sense of authority for after-time.” The third feature is transiency, referring to the strange time distorted nature of these experiences. In objective time a spontaneous mystical experience may last just a few seconds, or in very rare cases a few hours. But subjectively it seems to last far longer. The fourth characteristic is passivity, in which the onset of the mystical state is spontaneously sparked, perhaps through meditation or some other experience, and once that state begins it is no longer felt to be under control.

For over a century scholars of religious have debated the nature of these experiences. Are they merely hallucinations, or could they possibly reflect an accurate picture of Reality as-such, as the mystics universally claim? This question eventually led to two primary definitions of mystical experience, known as constructivism and essentialism. The constructivist approach assumes that mystical events have been part of human experience long before the establishment of formal religions. But how the experience manifests and its interpretation is invariably shaped by culture, language, and belief. By contrast, the essentialist interpretation says that mystical experiences transcend local cultural and religious beliefs and that they display common characteristics found throughout history and across all cultures.

In Buddhism, the existence of exceptional mental capacities associated with mystical states is readily acknowledged, and it is clear from the Pali Canon, the doctrinal texts of Theravada Buddhism, that Buddha expected his disciples to attain these abilities. But he also taught that they should not become distracted by them. In the Pali Canon, Buddha describes some of these powers as follows:

Having been one he becomes many; having been many he becomes one. He appears. He vanishes. He goes unimpeded through walls, ramparts, and mountains as if through space. He dives in and out of the earth as if it were water. He walks on water without sinking as if it were dry land. Sitting crosslegged he flies through the air like a winged bird. With his hand he touches and strokes even the sun and moon, so mighty and powerful. He exercises influence with his body even as far as the Brahma worlds.

Because the Buddhist tradition accepts supernormal powers, and science as a general rule does not, dialogs between the Dalai Lama and scientists in meetings hosted by the Mind and Life Institute have been fruitful, but only as long as the topic of the supernormal is not broached. When the Dalai Lama tried to raise the topic of the supernormal, the discussion quickly went nowhere, because the scientists invited to those meetings knew nothing about the relevant experiments or literature. For example, in the second Mind and Life conference in 1989, the Dalai Lama was engaged in a discussion with renowned Harvard psychiatrist Allan Hobson, when the following exchange took place:

Dalai Lama: There are instances where small children recollect their past life very vividly.

Allan Hobson: But what is the evidence that they have recollected correctly and accurately? There must be solid, quantitative, documentary evidence, not simply testimony.

The Dalai Lama went on to describe a case involving a young girl from India who recalled names and details about people she claims she had known in previous lives. The scientists shifted uncomfortably in their seats and struggled to contain their eye-rolling. They can be forgiven for not being familiar with this topic, as no one is an expert in everything. But if they had the chance to look at the National Institutes of Health massive online bibliography (www.Pubmed.com), and searched for the word “reincarnation,” they would have found a number of fascinating articles on the topic.

This highlights a problem. Science journalists rarely have the time to delve deeply into the evidence for the supernormal. When the issue arises, now and then, they naturally ask prominent scientists about it, and they get the same answers that the Dalai Lama gets – there’s nothing to it. This is what the public and most scientists read about, and it has become a standard narrative that has persisted for a long time, especially in the Western world.

The problem is that the story is wrong. There is solid scientific evidence supporting some of the Tibetan Buddhists’ (and many other cultures) experiences with the supernormal. It can take a long time to break the spell of a popular yarn, but because the “nothing” story is false it is bound to disintegrate eventually. After we are freed from the shackles of an old story, new tales emerge. What will that new story reveal that society was previously unable to see?

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  1. Melissa


  2. David

    Whether we believe in reincarnation or not, it would benefit every single human being to consider that unless we are working to make this a better world in the life we find ourselves living on earth right now, we might just find ourselves right back down here in a world increasingly made worse (which it is quickly becoming) because we, both individually and/or collectively, did not risk or attempt to make it better. We may be responsible for the world we are living in today whether we realize it or not. Denial of our responsibility might not serve any of us in the long-term view which reincarnation implies. Wisdom tells us to walk down the road of imagining reincarnation even a short while. We will quickly come to understand that we create the world by our accepting responsibility for it or our denial of responsibility for our world. We should all be working tirelessly to make this world a better place, right here, right now, today. And, most especially we should be making it a better place for children. We could end up being one of them soon enough.

  3. profliam

    My experiences in this life are sufficient "evidence." I know when they are colored and/or filtered by self-fulfilling preconception vs. when they simply resonate throughout existence profoundly. One example is the struggle I had as a young Christian with reincarnation. After losing my mother at 8 and 47 years of reflective, prayerful and open prayer, I have not only found her within but have found all of us collectively and holistically engaged in the divine cycle of life/death/rebirth unto "the perfecting of souls" (preparation for full communion with Creator).

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