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Divine Intent in Counter-Cultural Religious Experiences


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22 hours ago, OGHoosier said:

Thanks for the article. I did read it. I'm afraid that I believe he missed the point. He didn't address spiritual experience and its causes so much as handwave it with an appeal to aesthetics -"The intellectual and moral stains of the world’s religions—the misogyny, otherworldliness, narcissism, and illogic—are so ugly and indelible as to render all religious language suspect"- and promissory naturalism - "a maturing science of the mind should help us to understand and access the heights of human well-being." We've been around the merry-go-round on The Moral Landscape before. Suffice it to say I am unconvinced that a universal definition of well-being could ever be anything more than scientific imperialism stomping those who feel otherwise, nor that the quality of experience can ever be so tightly associated with neurology as to offer us such an insight. 

In any sense, Harris himself says "many of the beliefs people form on the basis of these experiences are false." So he essentially does dismiss the content of spiritual experiences which point to anything other than what he seems to accept: being dipped into a sea of tranquility.

I'm not sure I'm following. You had suggested on must accept a God in order to see a spiritual experience as real or legitimate.  I pointed  you to the position that someone can very much accept the reality and legitimacy of a spiritual experience and still not conclude there's a God nor that it's evidence for God.  

22 hours ago, OGHoosier said:

Hence my qualifier "most". Many of his experiences do regard the presence or manifestation of God as a matter of intuitive knowing. God is the prima facie subject of the experience. He is the subject observed. 

I don't see how that is the case, in any sense.  If most such experiences have God involved in some way, I still don't see how that is prima facie evidence for God.  There are those, after all, who do not accept a God at all and yet have spiritual experience and maintain that.  

22 hours ago, OGHoosier said:

They can be considered evidence of God because that is prima facie what they are. To the individual, they have come into contact with something else, something immense. The fall of the verificationism standard means that the argument "you can't verify it" doesn't work anymore, because not all knowledge can be verified or has to be verified to be true. Public knowledge like science can be tested again and again and thus confirmed, but private knowledge cannot. This does not mean it is not knowledge, it is just knowledge of a different type. Down with epistemic monism. 

The claim of something or someone existing requires evidence.  It is not knowledge to say something exists that we can't verify.  That is assumption or guesswork.  Some claims just happen to be in the realm of taking a burden of verification.  The existence of something unseen carries that burden.  To say something is simply because you know it is and for no other reason, doesn't meet the burden.  That is argument by assertion.  That is assuming a position and claiming it's fact or knowledge based on that assumption.  

22 hours ago, OGHoosier said:

The special irony is that all public knowledge is in fact based on private knowledge which cannot be externally confirmed - the reality of consciousness and validity of the senses. 

We find ourselves half-convinced of someone's worldview when we listen to or reflect on it, which is not the case in the circumstances Dumsday describes. Nor does the soundness of an opposing argument manifest as a phenomenological vision or otherworldly ascent in standard experience. 

Except that the reasons you demand would undermine even the 5 senses, so they simply cannot be a valid expectation for what constitutes knowledge. Sense experience is an internal happening - data being transmitted to the brain. I can tell you firsthand that my spiritual experiences have felt just as phenomenologically external as sense experience does. In any sense, any hypothesis is first something proposed so internal happenings becoming evidence of something proposed is not controversial. 

Evolution molded our senses and our brains and yet we trust them. I don't see  how evolution devalues religious experience. 

The major difficulty between religious experience is that we perceive sense experience as producing a unified perception across all humanity, whereas religious experience quite obviously produces differing thoughts. This is not problematic if spiritual experience is viewed as communication instead of pure observation, as our theology permits a vibrant diversity of spiritual influences. It is rendered less problematic when you dispense with verificationism and epistemic monism, realizing that verification does a good job of verifying the kind of knowledge that can be verified; but this is not the only kind of knowledge there is. And the thrust of Dumsday's work is that spiritual experience can break out of our prior interpretive categories and implement things we didn't even know or were not familiar with. This directly militates against the idea that spiritual experience is internally created to bolster our preconceptions. If it can break us out of our internal paradigms, that indicates that it is external, particularly when, like many of Dumsday's respondents, the paradigm change is unrelated to prior consideration, is manifested as a sensory experience, and involves concepts of which the individual was not aware. 

I will go out on a limb and suggest Dumsday's argument, as presented in the paper you linked and the other you cited provides no valid argument for God.  It is plainly missing too much.  Why does he not include spiritual experience of those not convinced of a God, for instance?  Why does he take the assumption it must be God?  

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Adding a couple more thoughts:

Alma 29:8 indicates the Lord recognizes that people call the same thing by different names. No matter what someone calls their their experience, it is still the same experience. Hopefully people are on the same wavelength, but it shows why we can never tell another person whether they are experiencing the Light of Christ or the Holy Ghost if they insist on referring to one or the other.

This verse also simplifies things: all of the communications and means (whether Light of Christ or Holy Ghost) are from the Lord, so no differentiation is really necessary. But for those to whom it is given, it may be profitable. It is better to become like the Lord than to merely know Him, or know about Him, or know what to become without doing it.

Elder Bednar also simplified it here (I don't like LDS Living but it's the only place I found the transcript!): https://www.ldsliving.com/8-Important-Questions-Youth-Asked-Elder-Bednar-at-Yesterday-s-Worldwide-Event/s/78901 : 

7. How do I tell the difference between promptings and my own thoughts?

"I think we overcomplicate this," Elder Bednar said. He said, "All good emanates from Christ, so if you have a thought to do something good, it's prompted by the Holy Ghost." Going on, he said, "If it invites and entices to do good, it comes from Christ, and we ought to do it."

In cases where we're making decisions, and the answer is less clear, Elder Bednar explained that we have to study our options out in our minds. Learn about the two options, understand them, and compare them. Then, when you've made a choice, take it in prayer to Heavenly Father. "If it's right, then over time we'll come to know through the simple assurance of the Holy Ghost that this is the thing to do." He added that no member will fail to be warned when they start on a bad path, and "most answers from the Holy Ghost come a little bit at a time." Persistence is key in slowly understanding the will of Heavenly Father. 

Sister Bednar shared a scripture that answered this question for her, Moroni 7:13. "But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God."

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On 10/27/2020 at 9:18 AM, OGHoosier said:

Thanks for the article. I did read it. I'm afraid that I believe he missed the point. He didn't address spiritual experience and its causes so much as handwave it with an appeal to aesthetics -"The intellectual and moral stains of the world’s religions—the misogyny, otherworldliness, narcissism, and illogic—are so ugly and indelible as to render all religious language suspect"- and promissory naturalism - "a maturing science of the mind should help us to understand and access the heights of human well-being." We've been around the merry-go-round on The Moral Landscape before. Suffice it to say I am unconvinced that a universal definition of well-being could ever be anything more than scientific imperialism stomping those who feel otherwise, nor that the quality of experience can ever be so tightly associated with neurology as to offer us such an insight. 

In any sense, Harris himself says "many of the beliefs people form on the basis of these experiences are false." So he essentially does dismiss the content of spiritual experiences which point to anything other than what he seems to accept: being dipped into a sea of tranquility.

Hence my qualifier "most". Many of his experiences do regard the presence or manifestation of God as a matter of intuitive knowing. God is the prima facie subject of the experience. He is the subject observed. 

They can be considered evidence of God because that is prima facie what they are. To the individual, they have come into contact with something else, something immense. The fall of the verificationism standard means that the argument "you can't verify it" doesn't work anymore, because not all knowledge can be verified or has to be verified to be true. Public knowledge like science can be tested again and again and thus confirmed, but private knowledge cannot. This does not mean it is not knowledge, it is just knowledge of a different type. Down with epistemic monism. 

The special irony is that all public knowledge is in fact based on private knowledge which cannot be externally confirmed - the reality of consciousness and validity of the senses. 

We find ourselves half-convinced of someone's worldview when we listen to or reflect on it, which is not the case in the circumstances Dumsday describes. Nor does the soundness of an opposing argument manifest as a phenomenological vision or otherworldly ascent in standard experience. 

Except that the reasons you demand would undermine even the 5 senses, so they simply cannot be a valid expectation for what constitutes knowledge. Sense experience is an internal happening - data being transmitted to the brain. I can tell you firsthand that my spiritual experiences have felt just as phenomenologically external as sense experience does. In any sense, any hypothesis is first something proposed so internal happenings becoming evidence of something proposed is not controversial. 

Evolution molded our senses and our brains and yet we trust them. I don't see  how evolution devalues religious experience. 

The major difficulty between religious experience is that we perceive sense experience as producing a unified perception across all humanity, whereas religious experience quite obviously produces differing thoughts. This is not problematic if spiritual experience is viewed as communication instead of pure observation, as our theology permits a vibrant diversity of spiritual influences. It is rendered less problematic when you dispense with verificationism and epistemic monism, realizing that verification does a good job of verifying the kind of knowledge that can be verified; but this is not the only kind of knowledge there is. And the thrust of Dumsday's work is that spiritual experience can break out of our prior interpretive categories and implement things we didn't even know or were not familiar with. This directly militates against the idea that spiritual experience is internally created to bolster our preconceptions. If it can break us out of our internal paradigms, that indicates that it is external, particularly when, like many of Dumsday's respondents, the paradigm change is unrelated to prior consideration, is manifested as a sensory experience, and involves concepts of which the individual was not aware. 

I mentioned earlier this idea of self-creation of one's world and how that fits with LDS theology that we can be gods, and how we create our own worlds

I would HIGHLY recommend this video to see the parallels I saw between "Mormonism"- and I use that world deliberately here- we are not necessarily speaking about the Church f Jesus Christ-  this is "Mormon Philosophy mixed with humanism" IF you want to see it that way.

THIS presents a foundation for a mission to the secularists.  And why we must "police language" for that is how we create worlds.    Yes it's long but its worth it. Education takes time.

 

Edited by mfbukowski
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2 hours ago, CV75 said:

7. How do I tell the difference between promptings and my own thoughts?

"I think we overcomplicate this," Elder Bednar said. He said, "All good emanates from Christ, so if you have a thought to do something good, it's prompted by the Holy Ghost." Going on, he said, "If it invites and entices to do good, it comes from Christ, and we ought to do it."

I love Elder Bednar and how totally "philosophical" his little homilies are and how he can put huge metaphysical ideas into a few simple words a child could understand.

What he says above teaches us volumes about the alleged difference between what is "internal" and "external" experience.  You can't make a clear distinction- we hear an idea and make it our own and it becomes part of us and part of the world we are organizing, right here and right now!  ;)

And that is what makes me vaguely suspicious of Dumsday's point about counter-cultural experience reports somehow making religious experience more credible.

But I must admit that events like the Fatima apparitions and the final "spinning of the sun' event DOES influence how I feel - not about spiritual experience but how LDS theology could accept these as "valid" apparitions in the notion that there is truth in all religions and our ultimate universalism.   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miracle_of_the_Sun

I will never forget the Catholic priest at my mother's funeral who allowed me to say some words at her funeral from a position behind the "veil" in the Holy of Holies" , now represented by the Altar Rail which separated the Sanctuary from the congregation- pardon me for repeating the story - as a "visiting Mormon Bishop"  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Altar_rail

Quote

The altar rail is a modest substitute for earlier barriers demarcating the chancel, the area containing the altar, which was reserved (with greatly varying degrees of strictness) for officiating clergy (including boys as choristers and altar servers).

The priest asked me if we believed that Jesus was the Christ and our savior- which gave me a few minutes to discuss it with him.  Finally he said "Well you are a Christian and it's all the same any way, isn't it?"

For me I guess counter-cultural spiritual experiences seem "all the same anyway, aren't they?"

As Elder Bednar might have said ""If it invites and entices to do good, it comes from Christ, ....." we ought to believe it.

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