or, Developing Magical Realism
McKenna’s surely a trip. I love hearing his far-fetched ideas that are more based in literary fantasy than scientific speculation, though he does well on both fronts. His notion that plants in our three-dimensional world could be shadows of intelligent organisms in higher dimensions is intriguing. And I don’t take this with a motivation to try and map it out mathematically or with some quantum physics… like I’d even have the time to develop skills to do something like that. But I take it with a sort of wondrous quality, a hint of magical realism appearing in our mundane world, so that when I rest my attention on a plant or some other object in the world, I can feel that there might be any number of reasons that it could be imbued with powers or energies, in a way that it’s normally so easy to scoff at.
In the last few years I’ve developed a new relationship with skepticism. I certainly still lean heavily on my scientific background. But I think that to continue to judge every new idea strictly by that framework of rules is just as misguided as gulping down every new pseudo-scientific proposal that comes along, which seem to be coming in a flood nowadays.
I wrote three rather long blog postings on this almost three years ago.
… but what I’m trying to say now is from #2…
“Abandoning major organized religion as a fairy tale, left cold by rational science, I seek a spiritual framework that can sustain my longings for divine connection, and find a path out of the maze.
“The crux of the biscuit
“There was one huge chasm left for my path to cross: how can I choose a faith-based spiritual pursuit, in the face of the rational sterility that I was resigned to for so long? I mean, I can’t just force myself to start believing in ghosts, allies, spirit guides, or the fae. That’s not going to work, I need to believe in something that makes sense. Chased my tail on that one for a good year.
“After studying and comparing enough traditions, patterns began to emerge. There are certain ways of thinking about the world and behaving that produce results. We experience this daily in the physical plane, certainly, but it’s also true in the spiritual dimension, and these ways are closely analogous across many different traditions. While different religions may vary widely in the characters who populate their teachings, the situations they address are common–how to live life as a human–and the techniques they hand down are strikingly familiar.
“I can now choose and fashion a mask that suits me. And if that mask dresses reality in unbelievable clothes, I don’t need to discard it simply because it doesn’t match my traditional dress. I can sit with the new vision and accept how it served countless seekers before me. By treating new models of mystery as if they were the truth. Because they map to the truth closely enough, in ways that resonate more with my natural sensibilities. I’m free to choose a model with components more to my liking.”
And what I’ve learned after being in this mode for a while is that once I started trying to magical things in the world, I began to notice more of them, with increasing frequency. Over time, I noticed patterns across these intrusions into mundane reality, and that those patterns matched more mystical ways of interacting with the world that I was studying across several different traditions. And yes, of course, my study certainly impacted the patterns I was more easily able to notice. But it doesn’t feel like I was deluding myself. Maybe I was. But that deeply ingrained skepticism was so constantly there it was difficult at times to make progress with this kind of thinking.
Like Deja Vu… long ago a very simple explanation for this occurred to me. I think the brain has a mechanism that gives us a sense of familiarity when we’re in familiar situations. Deja Vu is just this mechanism firing when we are NOT in familiar situations. Like a neurotransmitter hiccup or a sneeze. The fact that it seems to happen more in unfamiliar situations supports this theory. Our brain is in pattern matching mode, and nothing is matching because we’ve never been in this city before, or it’s the first time we’ve visited this person’s house, or whatever. So the familiarity gland continues to fill, waiting to fire, and at some point it just splooges all over because it’s too full but there’s nothing familiar to trigger it, and we get Deja Vu.
This explanation makes so much sense to me I’m not even motivated to consider something more mystical: whether it’s a subtle reset in the matrix, or some perception of the future folding back onto the past, or whatever. But it’s interesting to think of those things, and they take my imagination off in directions that may bear fruit just then, or maybe farther in the future.
I still live in the house of logic and science but I spend a lot more time wandering around out of doors and poking around the underbrush.
There was a quote I’d seen long ago that I took to heart. Looking it up, I’m surprised to see it’s from F. Scott Fitzgerald:
“The test of a first rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”
So I don’t suppress skepticism, but I ask it to sit next to wild ideas politely. And after a time, the two might become acquainted. Or skepticism might finally get up and complain to me that the other guy has got to go.
Either way, I get to experience the world with more mysticism and magic, without losing my mind to the thirty dozen new-age pseudo-scientific psycho-babble ideas that can pour in through your web browser if you let them.
Most of this has come about from hunger in the spiritual domain that began in my late forties and increased in intensity for years. Some of the older Unitarian Universalist folks I’ve talked to about this say: yep, that’s the age, especially for men. Maybe it’s a phase I’m going through. Still brings me great, deep satisfaction though.
For what it’s worth.