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EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGY of MYSTICISM

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EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGY of MYSTICISM ORICL 471 Neil Greenberg Departments of Ecology, Medicine, and Psychology University of Tennessee, Knoxville * ORICL April 2009 – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGY of MYSTICISM


1
EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGY of MYSTICISM ORICL 471
Neil Greenberg Departments of Ecology, Medicine,
and Psychology University of Tennessee, Knoxville
ORICL April 2009
2
INTRODUCTION PART 1
EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGY OF MYSTICSM
ORICL April 2008
Tiffany, Education (1890)
3
INTRODUCTION PART 1
WORDS for the INEFFABLE

Finnigans Wake
4
MAIN POINTS TO COME
  • THE TROUBLE WITH WORDS
  • RELIGION and RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCES
  • SPIRITUALITY and SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCES
  • MYSTICISM and MYSTICAL EXPERIENCES
  • MYSTERY AND MIRACLES

5
WORDS
  • The best things cannot be told, the second best
    are misunderstood. After that comes civilized
    conversation . . .
  • --Joseph Campbell (1968)

6
  • How teach again, however, what has been taught
    correctly and incorrectly learned a thousand
    thousand times, throughout the millenniums of
    mankind's prudent folly? That is the hero's
    ultimate difficult task.
  • How render back into light-world language the
    speech-defying pronouncements of the dark? How
    represent on a two-dimensional surface a
    three-dimensional form, or in a three-dimensional
    image a multi-dimensional meaning? How translate
    into terms of "yes" and "no" revelations that
    shatter into meaninglessness every attempt to
    define the pairs of opposites? How communicate
    to people who insist on the exclusive evidence of
    their senses the message of the all-generating
    void?
  • (Jos Campbell, THTF 1949)

7
The problem with WORDS
we must communicate with discrete bits of
information such as words or numbers, but
  • As far they refer to reality, they are not
    certain
  • and as far as they are certain, they do not refer
    to reality.

ORICL April 2008
8
The trouble with words
the dào that can be spoken Is not the eternal
dào. The name that can be named is not the
eternal name.
Link for DUALITIES and DICHOTOMIES
ORICL April 2008
9
Ein Sof The Endless One Yhwh The nameless being
(Zohor)
10
We are addicted to words there is a word for
what precedes all words
An arcane han ho logos LOGOS is the word before
all words the PROLOGOS
Link for DUALITIES and DICHOTOMIES
ORICL April 2008
11
EVOLUTIONARY CONNECTION
  • minimizing energetics optimizes fitness
  • WORDS help the brain OPTIMIZE
  • They epitomize or idealize a web of related ideas
  • They represent the central concept as well as the
    boundaries of a web of ideas
  • There is a bias toward using words because they
    enable assimilation of new ideas with less
    effort.
  • Accommodation of new ideas, however, takes effort
    and is avoided whenever possible.

12
EVOLUTIONARY CONNECTION
  • Evolutionary history is a narrative of successive
    CO-OPTING of adaptive traits by selectively
    emphasizing some aspect of it (often a collateral
    effect)
  • New functions for fragments of previous traits
    can be of immense importance, but begin very
    modestly
  • Example the exhalation evoked by even mild
    stress may make a sound passively, but if
    adaptive, progressively more control may evolve
    (the oof ! to proof transformations)

13
EVOLUTIONARY CONNECTION
  • WORDS arrayed in narrative are amongst the
    supreme accomplishments of our species.
  • Their roots involved motor patterns and
    biochemical changes that are markedly enhanced by
    stress.
  • Stress (even very modest, subclincal stress) is
    often manifest as EMOTION.
  • So language, often exalted as a potential paragon
    of rationality could not exist without these
    ancient roots in emotionality.

14
We are addicted to words there is even a word
for the wordless
The Hindu scriptures speak of a supreme word
that emerges when the consciousness is turned
upon itself as a perfect circle As do the
Buddhists the supreme word
is silence
Link for DUALITIES and DICHOTOMIES
ENSO
ORICL April 2009
15
  • That which we cannot speak of we must pass over
    in silence.

Wittgenstein
16
THEORIA and PRAXIS
  • Wisdom is always taste -- in both Latin and
    Hebrew, the word for wisdom comes from the word
    for taste -- so it's something to taste, not
    something to theorize about. "Taste and see that
    God is good," the psalm says and that's wisdom
    tasting life. No one can do it for us. The
    mystical tradition is very much a Sophia
    tradition. It is about tasting and trusting
    experience, before institution or dogma.3

17
Apophatic the unknowable, ineffable essence
18
SCIENCE and SPIRITUALITY
Preliminary thesis spiritual is a favorite
adjective for the feeling evoked by an attempt to
exercise the need to knowat the boundaries of
competence. A first experience of mystery
involves a spiritual experience The mystic (in
all of us) extends the daily process of discovery
into a passion to solve mysteries to go beyond
the mundane.
Link for DUALITIES and DICHOTOMIES
ORICL April 2008
19
SCIENCE and SPIRITUALITY
Dealing with MYSTERY, the need to know is
a fundamental attribute of all living organisms
and this need is represented in us as a
motivation of varying urgency to explore,
discover, and assimilate or accommodate our
experiences. (energy is precious to an organism
seeking to maximize its fitness assimilation is
easy and accommodation is not )
Link for DUALITIES and DICHOTOMIES
ORICL April 2008
20
SCIENCE and SPIRITUALITY
We are aware of mysteries ... We become facile
at dealing with these known unknowns (... all
we need is the time and the technology for
appropriate prostheses)
ORICL April 2008
21
SCIENCE and SPIRITUALITY
... But when the need to know contemplates
the unknown unknowns, we approach the apophatic
(negative theological) tradition of the Cloud of
Unknowing, and the countless others that have
sought ultimate reality by negating all its
predicates ... removing from our minds all that
we know that reality is not , bringing us beyond
language, beyond conceptualization, beyond
consciousness, to a place where have nothing left
and have gone beyond all that is or could be
known, we have entered into the unknown unknown.
ORICL April 2008
22
SCIENCE and SPIRITUALITY
As with all motives, when meeting this need is
thwarted, a primary STRESS RESPONSE is evoked in
proportion to the mysterys perceived urgency
an affective phenomenon that is interpreted in
the context in which it emerges Among the key
effects of stress is enhanced sensory and
cognitive abilities
Link for DUALITIES and DICHOTOMIES
ORICL April 2008
23
An Aside about Stress
  • The brain structures and circuitry of the stress
    response -- mainly the autonomic nervous system
    are always mildly in play like muscle tone,
    autonomic tone keeps us ready to act and prevents
    atrophy all coping with dissonance is at least
    a mild stress.
  • If more stressful episodes are too frequent, too
    great or sustained for too long, the subsequent
    reallocation of energy can lead to diseases of
    adaptation.

ORICL April 2008
24
The spiritual path of science
Goethe, whose scientific contributions have been
unjustly overshadowed because of his colossal
achievements in literature and the arts, felt
upset with what he believed to be the limitations
of Newtonian physics. (Naydler, 2000)
ORICL April 2008
25
The spiritual path of science
For Goethe, science is as much an inner path
of spiritual development as it is a discipline
aimed at accumulating knowledge of the physical
world. (Naydler, 2000).
ORICL April 2008
26
The spiritual path of science
For Goethe, Science involves not only a
rigorous training of our faculties of observation
and thinking, but also of other human faculties
which can attune us to the spiritual dimension
that underlies and interpenetrates the physical
faculties such as feeling, imagination and
intuition.
(Naydler, 2000).
ORICL April 2008
27
The spiritual path of science
Science, as Goethe conceived and practiced it,
has as its highest goal the arousal of the
feeling of wonder through contemplative looking
(Anschauung), in which the scientist would come
to see God in nature and nature in God
(Naydler, 2000). .
ORICL April 2008
28
After all
  • se hace camino al andar

ORICL April 2008
29
When searching for understanding
we make the road by walking Antonio Muchado
ORICL April 2008
30
This is also CONNECTIONIST NEUROLOGY D.O.
Hebbs vision of neuroplasticity driven by the
exercise of circuits
we make the road by walking Antonio Muchado
ORICL April 2008
31
MAIN POINTS SO FAR
  • The trouble with words
  • Needs map on to motivational systems of brain
  • We need stability, and also
  • We need to know, to explore, to seek novelty
    creates instability
  • Novelty evokes more-or-less of the stress
    response
  • Stress energizes motivational systems
  • Motivation serves real or perceived needs and can
    be very intense and seemingly urgent

32
MAIN POINTS TO COME
  • We have evolved to neglect stimuli that are
    irrelevant to survival, but in certain contexts
    they can be huge
  • Curiosity leads to mysteries leads to wonder
    and a more-or-less urgent need to know
  • The need to know can extend to a mystery that
    cannot be solved
  • But solving the mystery can seem very urgent
  • the efforts expended can force an assimilation or
    accommodation which can be perceived as an
    epiphany or mystical experience

33
  • "Our life is an appenticeship to the truth that
    around every circle another can be drawn that
    there is no end in nature, but every end is a
    beginning, and under every deep a lower deep
    opens"
  • --Ralph Waldo Emerson

34
  • So here I am, in the middle way, having had
    twenty years Twenty years largely wasted, the
    years of l'entre deux guerres Trying to use
    words, and every attempt Is a wholly new start,
    and a different kind of failure Because one has
    only learnt to get the better of words For the
    thing one no longer has to say, or the way in
    which One is no longer disposed to say it. And so
    each venture Is a new beginning, a raid on the
    inarticulate With shabby equipment always
    deteriorating In the general mess of imprecision
    of feeling, Undisciplined squads of emotion. And
    what there is to conquer By strength and
    submission, has already been discovered Once or
    twice, or several times, by men whom one cannot
    hope To emulatebut there is no
    competition There is only the fight to recover
    what has been lost And found and lost again and
    again and now, under conditions That seem
    unpropitious. But perhaps neither gain nor
    loss. For us, there is only the trying. The rest
    is not our business.
  • From East Coker, 2nd of TS Elliots Four
    Quartets

35
The problem with words
  • words . . . are the instruments of thought
    they form the channel along which thought flows
    they are the moulds in which thought is shaped.
  • --Aldous Huxley

36
Are we any more able to express qi than to
experience our own metabolism? Our own dynamic
balance of bodily energies? How do we express
the experience of harmony? Qi seems to be
ineffable
37
Transcendent of human language, there is
literally nothing we can say about Ain Sof, the
incomprensible one
(The Path of the Kaballah)
38
the dào that can be spoken Is not the eternal
dào. The name that can be named is not the
eternal name.
Dào Dé Jing
39
Sunyata void
???????
40
Nirguna the formless, universe-pervading
attribute of Brahman
??????? ??????
41
Apophatic the unknowable, ineffable essence
42
  • Ineffable defies expression, cannot be
    described in words.
  • Noetic gives insight and knowledge into deep
    truths.
  • Transient brief and cannot be accurately
    remembered, though easily recognized if it
    recurs.
  • Passivity facilitated by preparation, but
    once begun it seems out of ones control as if
    controlled by a superior power
  • William James 1918

mystical experience epiphany, insight
43
  • Ineffable defies expression, cannot be
    described in words.
  • Noetic, Transient, Passive experiences are
    hard if not impossible to communicate in linear
    language this motivates every kind of artist
    poet
  • They must eff the ineffable

Ineffable experiences
44
  • Expression The artists problem effing the
    ineffable
  • Authority Gospel of Thomas urgency to express
    to share

45
We become accustomed to hierarchical stages,
progressively ensheathed, layered with the stages
that came before, pregnant with the stages within
to come we are confident that a stage will come
... But it will be ... Unlike all before ...
Ineffible... We are forced to go beyond words ...
To become artists ... Or mystics
Koshas of Vedanta, vijnanas in Buddhism, sefirot
in Kabbalah
46
COMMUNICATE or DIE
  • COMMUNICATION is the basis for sociality. The
    quality of communications improved control and
    precision enhances the fitness of the
    individuals and species.
  • We make formidable efforts to communicate ...
  • .

47
THE INABILITY TO COMMUNICATE can become acutely
painful, desperately urgent
  • But organisms are are always striving for
    efficiency
  • Artists, DeStaebler once said, dont get down
    to work until the pain of working is exceeded by
    the pain of not working.
  • As Anaïs Nin put it, ... the day came when the
    risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful
    than the risk it took to blossom.
  • "If you bring forth that which is within you,
    that which you have brought forth will save you.
    If you do not bring forth that which is within
    you, that which you do not bring forth will
    destroy you." (Gospel of Thomas 70)

48
  • "Our life is an apprenticeship to the truth that
    around every circle another can be drawn that
    there is no end in nature, but every end is a
    beginning, and under every deep a lower deep
    opens"
  • --Ralph Waldo Emerson
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