Evidence-Based Spirituality — Part 9 of 10
Here’s a miscellany of reactions to various points made by Tart in his ‘Towards an Evidence-Based Spirituality’ video. Certain issues jumped out at points which I haven’t squeezed into other posts of the series.
On the definition of ‘spiritual’ — people it’s easy — read Hufford. Spiritual means: pertaining to a separate order or world of ‘spirits’, that is, beings without bodies, such as gods, souls and angels. There, sorted.
Small Takeup ?Problem — Tart gives the example of Shinzen Young’s meditation seminar weekends having a ‘95% dropout rate’ (that is, the next year, when Young is back that way, only 5% have stuck to meditation), as a way of showing that meditation methods need improvement. “What? 95%? If I as a teacher had that problem I’d assume I wasn’t teaching very well. Maybe Shinzen isn’t teaching very well. We need to help him evidentially.” And so on.
Well not necessarily. Does Tart teach college courses consisting of one weekend’s teaching followed by a year of unsupervised daily homework? If he did, would his dropout rate be higher? Thought so. Not everyone does have the discipline for some forms of meditation. There are methods which are very good that take a lot of time. But they are still very good methods. Those people who don’t come back to Shinzen — do we know they gave up spirituality altogether? We do not.
There are also methods that work very quickly, and as a result people drop them because they are scary. Some think that is better because at least something happens. Many Zen techniques are for those who’ve dedicated themselves to sweeping up in a monastery for the foreseeable future, and might not feel the consumerist urge for a quick return as advertised. But is fast best? Many think so and Glenn was one. Here’s a way to increase the takeup if you agree: learn Bruce’s NEW Energy Work. It works immediately, and even though it’s far from complete and doesn’t in any way represent a full spiritual programme, you can’t ignore real results. Once you’re convinced this stuff is real, then you can pick training up more seriously. If you go too far too fast though, you may wish you’d tried it Shinzen’s way. :)
You cannot assume Bud-Off — Do we know Zen is a technique and not a culture? Do we know you can practice Sufism without being a Sufi? Have we ever examined the differential evidentially, between just doing a ‘technique’ on the one hand, and being a believer then doing the technique, on the other? My hunch: experience and feeling and aptitude is the key, not belief. But can we assume that? And commitment levels matter. John Michael Greer tells me lots more people do his magical trainings on a sustainable basis, now he’s put them into a Druidic religious form. Inspires devotion.
‘Cultural Bias’ — Again: do we know, when a being of light comes for a Christian having an NDE, and the Christian calls it an angel, whilst over in India someone else calls it a Deva, that they are the same being with different names? We don’t know that. Non-physical fauna are not in any way a simple subject. I think there’s a lot there, and I also suspect the simplified stories have too much prevalence. This isn’t just my blatherings. See for example Greer 2001, Vieira 2007 on how much there is to know.
Testing OBE — it’s assumed that’s straightforward but it’s not. Why do experienced traditional teachers of astral projection (see Bardon 2009, Mickaharic 2002) have the student spend ages in their rooms, when they first learn to project? Why do they insist that these students study minutely their rooms, and not leave them until the place they see whilst out of body is exactly the same as the one they see with their physical eyes?
Because OBE sensing is a learned skill — just like physical sensing — with the added difficulty that believing illusions is really going to cramp your spiritual style. You have to learn to operate in that environment. At the start you may be seeing a lot that isn’t there, shifting to other locations, editing with your subconscious etc. Mickarahic says it can take a whole year before you have really learned the difference between reality and illusion, and that’s just for seeing the dense underlayer of the physical world. Other more tenuous worlds are correspondingly trickier to be steady in.
So if you haven’t done that training, are your scores in any objective physical-world test going to be so good? How about doing a test before and after such training? Anyone? Monroe Institute? :)
That’s that… next time I’ll post a final thought about the ‘beauty’ of science and the ‘beauty’ of spirituality, and how they might link.