Only Jordan R. and I were able to attend yesterday. We began digging into Lives of the Psychics: the Shared Worlds of Science and Mysticism, by Fred Frohock. We began, of course, with the first chapter, “Domains of Consciousness.”
Since it is an outline of the book, this chapter seems to go all over the map: it is crammed with wonderful ideas, each of which seems to be given short shrift. So we got into some wonderful tangents instead.
If the senses don’t tell the whole story, how can we separate the wheat from the chaff? It is actually this which frightens me about the possibility of non-material realms being real, and not the possibility of being threatened by evil spirits, against which there are many forms of protection. So much of what people think they know about the non-material realms is not true.
Jordan: angelic descriptions in the Bible are terrifying! Compare Lovecraft’s descriptions of creatures and things so unknowable they shatter sanity.
Michaele: Is there a difference between “knowable” and “perceivable”? That is, if a thing is not knowable, will it simply not be perceived, rather than breaking your mind? There is a New Age fable, a First Contact story about indigenous people simply not being able to see the first European ship that landed in their harbor, because it was too strange to comprehend. This is literally impossible; surely the light bouncing off that huge object would have registered on their retinae. More likely, the object would have been difficult to remember other than as a random collection of shapes.
Back to book: Kids coached in (and praised for) making stuff up. Mass media aim even more fantasy and fiction at children than education. Psychologists actually look for imagination as a sign of stability. People court spiritual experiences because it is not only exciting but also comforting to be able to “have access to worlds where limits are routinely escaped”.
More TV reminiscences: As far as I was concerned, Mayor Art obviously believed he was mayor of someplace and took mayoring seriously. We agreed that Mr. Rogers was the best. I had children of my own by the time I discovered Mr. Rogers, so I remember clearly the episode in which Mr. Rogers deliberately revealed the switch that brought the magical Trolley into his living room to escort the viewer to the Neighborhood of Make-believe. Then he went on to give a tour of the Make-believe set as a set. Jordan said he must have blocked this out; he certainly does not remember it.
Imaginary friends: Shortly after our family acquired our first TV set, I saw some children’s show which centered around a pinto pony. Thereafter, I acquired an invisible pinto pony which I took to school with me every day, leading out to the playground soccer tie its bridle to the bars. Yes, the other kids looked at me funny, so I tried to be subtle about it. The pony didn’t stay long.
Most of Jordan’s imaginary friends were personified as toys (“it’s a guy thing,” he said).
Does the search for spiritual experience – even for an enlightenment itself – boil down to a quest for “the life of adventure found in children’s books”? Is it escapism – but, on the other hand, when you are imprisoned, is it not your duty to try to escape?
Jordan, on the other hand, sees little reason to escape daily life: he sees beauty in decay, in cityscapes, practically everywhere.
Frohock’s book tries to compare alternative consciousness to attempts to wrap one’s mind around a paradox. Maybe so, but not all paradoxes are as paradoxical as they seem. The Spanish Barber, for instance, surely falls into both classes, so there is nothing actually preventing him from shaving himself. Modern physics contains paradoxes, which should make magic possible even from a material standpoint (Jordan: “I want a Higgs boson, dammit.”)
Next week’s topic: Chapter 2, “Psychics”.
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Michaele (say “My-KELL”) Maurer