Prayer for Atheists & the Culture Wars

    I was thinking of Doc's comment about how prayer is different from meditation, and as the left becomes largely secularized and often atheistic, this difference can have knock-on effects.

    Meditation is more like the hollow bamboo tube - the taking what the universe offers. American ethos isn't like that - we're a demanding bunch, with a "don't tell me what to do mentality". Submissiveness doesn't play well in the heartland.

    But more, I had the feeling this morning that there's something lacking in the atheist's toolkit - this directed, self-motivated method of asking or demanding something, the energy behind a wish, the visualizing the goal.

    Is it real, a hidden unacknowledged energy like orgones or ether, or a psychological effect more powerful than click-three-times? I don't know, but it's possible when we talk to conservatives they see us as offering nothingness and dissolution. Perhaps how they think of our culture as well - just a waste of time?


    This sort of thing is difficult to map.
    First of all, the register of the secular began as a theological concept.
    All of the discussions about universals were once a part of some proof of God. I guess I am an atheist in many senses of the word but don't believe that is a self evident condition. The negation of an unfixed idea is not proof of a fixed one.
    On the other hand, there are many practices that focus on not letting all of ones days disappear into a dream. Many versions of Protestant Christianity are about blowing on the coals so the fire does not go out. Maybe this element is not something that can be aligned with differences between Left and Right. Maybe there is something fierce and equally uncertain regarding meditation.

    Ken Wilber in The Spectrum of Consciousness attempted to map out these differences. Not just prayer and meditation but the several different forms of psychotherapy and spiritual systems. He defines them as a series of "splits" that need integration. At the lower levels of the splits the personality need to be integrated i.e. unrecognized or rejected parts of the self that are projected onto others need to be acknowledged as part of oneself. At the highest levels the split is between person and other people and the universe. As some Hindu religions claim, there is no self, there is no other, there are no gods, there is no reincarnation. All the things that are a prominent part of Hinduism do not really exist because all there truly is is Shiva dancing. This oneness with all can theoretically be experienced though it's beyond anything I've experienced in my practicees.

    Eastern religions have explored these different ways of being and have techniques to achieve them and vocabulary to discuss them. Christianity sometimes delves into these experiences but most sects have no ground to understand them, except as the Holy Spirit entering them because they believe. It becomes little more than proof that Jesus is the Son of God and the bible is the word of God.

    The Spectrum of Consciousness is near the top of my suggested reading list  Music and dancing is one area where I experienced one of the splits and where I most profoundly experienced the integration. I think I'm not alone as this is one of the most commonly experienced splits and most commonly integrated. Wilber calls this the Centaur level where one comes to experience that, "I am a body" rather than "I have a body." At one level the mind is directing the body in the movements of the dancing. At some moment a shift occurs and the body just dances. Some would say the music moves them. If one is aware of the part that directed before it's only as an observer watching the dance. There can be a kind of ecstasy, a release, a freedom that comes in that moment of transition, the moment when mind and body become one.

    It's similar to the moment I "learned" to improvise as a classically trained musician who loved jazz. I could feel it in my body but struggle as I might I couldn't improvise. Then somehow a shift happened and the part that was trying to make musical choices was now just an observer as the music played through me. Something larger or more complete than "I" was directing the flow and making the choices at some greater than conscious level. "I" was still there and part of it but just listening as it played.

    It's these moments of integration I seek. I'm not Catholic but I have often sat before a statue of St. Anne and chanted Hail Mary or a prayer to St. Anne for some hours just as I have sat in temple for hours/days chanting to Shiva, Kali, etc. I'm an atheist but I can attend a religious service or practice the 7 types of yoga or pray in a Native American Sweat Lodge. What I seek is those mystical experiences that come from the moments of integration. Jung once said the purpose of life is to make the unconscious conscious. I'm not sure if that's the purpose but it is a purpose I've invested a considerable amount of time in my life to.

    Interesting, from your rejection of the orgone idea (not that i'm convinced), you were the last person I expected to write the above, which was part of the idea I had in mind (other energies or spirits moving us)

    I'm not necessarily against the idea of orgone, or kundalini, or chi. I have problems with Reich attaching every physical manifestation of a psychic disturbance to blocks in the flow of orgone which for him is synonymous with sexual energy. Then claiming the floating specks you can see when you unfocus your eyes is this so called orgone. Then making these silly boxes claiming they concentrate the orgone and just sitting in one will cure cancer.

    Well, America already has a bunch of secularized versions of the magical version of prayer. "Visualization," "the law of attraction," "positive vibrations," whatever. The mind-over-matter idea is alive and well outside churches as well as inside them.

    It's worth noting that Donald Trump was raised as a parishioner of Norman Vincent Peale, the "Power of Positive Thinking" guy, who officiated Trump's first wedding. Peale was nominally an Episcopalian Christian, but was more about secular wishing-makes-it-so than, say, teaching actual moral or ethical values.The idea that you might learn from suffering was too much of a downer for him.

    A-Peale-ing. I always paraphrased him as "How to win people and influence friends" - has a different Trumpian ring to it.I guess I'm intimating something more heartfelt and connected than Visualization, which always strikes me as a parlor trick: "see the ball, be the ball". I want religious experience outside the religion.

    I want religious experience outside the religion.

    Just FYI: so do most of the billionaires running the prices up of major modern & contemporary paintings to nonsensical levels that make no sense in context of investment or in any sort of "market". They are making themselves their own little chapel. These are tools for "prayer", contemplation and spiritual experience. "Good works," which they may or may not also participate in, don't have the same effect for them. (Mentioning partly because this synchs with the "capitalism supports the avant garde arts" discussion we are having on another thread.)

    Edit to add an example so you can see for yourself: Bill Gates's Collection. We all know he participates in "good works". But everyone may not know he felt a need for these actual physical talismans to contemplate, that just digital images didn't do it for him. Leonardo is god, he can touch the thing that Leonardo made. when he feels the need. (The americana thing is interesting--Homer and Wyeth--he is very "patriotic" about this country's mythology in his heart, it touches him, not that much a cosmopolitan!)

    Was referring to Magick, not high-end hoarding. But nice I guess to presume I share lofty goals with all the billionaires. Brother, can ya spare a Tesla?

    Yes I know. Basquiat has recently been elevated to "Magick" with Rothko, et. al. By a young Japanese guy vs. some other guy. He's actually planning on building a shrine so his young hip customers can come and pray using Basquiat, too. I doubt Tesla has got there yet, though some old Lamborghini's might fulfill the purpose for a few. So watch out for rich guys meditating while driving.

    I want to be where the streets have no name/where the snowflakes and hipsters and superstars comingle/hand in hand, meme by meme, it's a vision thing/makes my brain an adrenalin rush all a-tingle/a diamond ring is all you need/to save humanity from sufferiiiinnnngggg.... a picture on the wall tells it all, enlightened beings 10 feet tall, art for people's sake, techno earthquake, feel the ground shake, it's a west coast revival, can be no denial, tech for survival, just give it a dial [We Are The Tech World operators standing by - we accept major credit cards, paypal, bitcoin and small pieces of appraised parchment]

    One experience that certainly is expressed religiously is the request to be made stronger in the face of suffering and danger. This does not fall into the category of "sorcery" where one says or does the right thing and, presto, you are the winner. Asking for it doesn't mean one understands or knows how it comes about if one is made stronger. Even those who testify to an explanation don't say it happens because of the explanation.

    Hey PP.

    When I was young, and conservative, I definitely saw the left-liberal-overly-educated-self-righteous-atheistic world as offering nothingness and dissolution.

    And for many, I still feel that.

    I may feel they are tactical or political allies, but often, on any deeper level, I see nothing shared.

    And in fact, am extremely wary of them. They can become as dangerous as the conservatives.

    Odd stance perhaps, but there it is.

    Makes sense to me.

    Your remarks remind me of a conversation I had thirty years ago with a former Mormon.
    She said that what I expressed enthusiasm for suggested to her that I wanted to live in close knit community that set itself apart from others. I said that was true but I had no way of knowing if what I wanted was what other people wanted. She said that maybe I could find other people who had the same problem.

    Then she smiled.

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