Travel in the Spiritual Worlds
Spiritual Travel's Challenge to the Materialist
The modern world is a place of materialism and doubt where scientists have become the highest authorities on truth. They have therefore taken on the role formerly occupied by priests and gurus. Physics has replaced metaphysics as the truest and most trusted world view. Given the history of religious groups and the hatred and violence sometimes associated with both their internecine conflicts and their religious texts, we can understand why secularists would trust materialism more than religious dogma and why many believers have a difficult time maintaining their faith.
But the opposite of materialism is spirituality, or perhaps mysticism or spiritualism (not religion). In other words, a spiritual world, if it exists, will not be defined and understood by studying a particular religion or religious text. Most mainstream texts give a very narrow and vague view of the spiritual world. This can be easily seen when learned religious people are questioned on the topic of the afterlife. They generally will claim ignorance or give confusing and often contradictory descriptions when asked to describe the spiritual world. Many avoid the topic entirely because it betrays their ignorance about something they claim to care a great deal about. If something is very important, one would think it would be an important topic of study but this is almost never the case for religious people. So if we desire to challenge materialism, we must focus on spirituality and those with direct spiritual experience to understand the supernatural world and not on religion.
It is fruitless to back up arguments for materialism by attacking exoteric religion as we see done in such recent works as The God Delusion. This is because abstracting a series of scientifically testable statements from the Bible presents a long list of "straw men" that are easily knocked down as are the claims of many respected theologians and their arguments for the existence of God..
Also, Dawkin's statement from the same book that it only matters if there is a spiritual world if it directly influences the material world (in a causal fashion) is incomprehensible to most religious people. This is because the afterlife matters a great deal to most religious people even if prayer does not work and God does not intervene in the affairs of man on earth. Religion is much more than the pragmatic hope that God can help people on earth with their problems. Salvation exists even if God does not answer prayers.
Materialists are fond of criticizing the religious world view. But they are seldom challenged concerning the holes in their own view of reality except by those who try to distort science (i.e., misrepresent the theory of evolution) to cast doubt on the scientific enterprise. Since the author supports and respects science, here we will make some fundamental arguments that call into question the materialist's view of the world without denigrating science and its methods.
The Common Lack of Objectivity of All Inner Experience
One argument we often hear materialists make is that spiritual states cannot be shared with others and are not part of a shared objective reality.
This seems an odd criticism since what we call the person or ego or personal experience is largely private and is therefore not objective. Such experience exists primarily in the realm of subjective thought, is highly personal, and is difficult to describe as sharable. We may choose to share certain thoughts and attempt to share certain experiences but these are just vague reflections of our actual experience. The person by the admission of many humanistic or materialistic people is not an object and can never be reduced to one. How can one have an objective view of a non-object, or something that can never be reduced to an object?
Scientists often make statements that we are all just machines (i.e., deny the special value and status of the person) but if you look at how they live, it is usually clear that their theories have little to do with their lived experience and their ethics. Few have treated their wives and children the way they would treat their computer or their car. Like David Hume (who should have felt very insecure because of his belief in the "problem of induction" but said did not feel any insecurity), they love their abstract philosophical and scientific theories, but their lives never seem to reflect their most cherished scientific views. The Behaviorist psychologist B. F. Skinner shocked the scientific community by performing experiments on his own child (much like one would do with white mice). He thus actually demonstrated his commitment to his mechanistic view of human life through his scientific and experimental actions. But few if any other scientists followed his lead.
Personalities, human rights, ethics, and any number of difficult to define social constructions are founded on something that is mostly non-objective. So why single out religion for its vagueness and immaterial nature when society and human relationships are based on the mysterious thing called the self, ego, or individual. The individual is mostly a private entity that exists in the realm of thought and inner (non-objective) experience. Religious or other worldly experience is only marginally less objective than the silent thoughts we all think and the inner feelings we all experience that make up the bulk of our lives.
The second argument against this approach is that the author and many others have experiences in the inner worlds that are shared with others. As an example, in the author's case, a teacher was encountered during a powerful experience that occurred in a lucid dream state. The author had never met this person before but had seen pictures of him. Some months later, the author met this teacher in person and the teacher spoke of the dream encounter asking me if I remembered him when he "visited" me. The teacher did not mention any occurrences of meeting with any of the other 25 people present in the room. Such experiences can be questioned but not easily dismissed. The inner worldly landscape seems to be sharable to a limited extent and in special circumstances. But the exception makes the rule. It introduces the notion of sharability and objectivity into the spiritual world.
Problems with the "Coherence Theory of Truth"
The second argument against Materialism is related to a common philosophical assumption that all knowledge is ultimately based on empirical experience i.e., rests on a sensory foundation. The usual claim is that such empirical knowledge or internal sensory experience "corresponds" to external, objective stimuli. The method of determining the truth of sensory experience is therefore called the "correspondence theory of truth".
Our biological senses (which deliver information that represents or corresponds with material objects) give us a rudimentary form of truth, which through reality testing and recurring experience then allows us to construct a "coherent" world view. The idea is that normal sensory experience is so consistent (coherent) that it is easy to spot abnormal or "outlier" experiences which can then be easily shown to be false or illusory. For instance, from a lifetime of sensory experience, one might conclude that humans cannot fly. If I have an experience of flying or someone tells me they can fly, I must then assume the experience or claim was an illusion, a dream, or a lie. Past experience is used as a basis to negate or deny current experience.
People base their world view on a limited, consistent type of sensory experience and that consistent experience comes to overpower sensory experience that does not fit the mold or world view. Sensory experience starts out as a master that dominates and controls our world view and ends up being the servant and subordinate to that world view. The question is: "why do people trust their early broad range of sensory experience so much but then come devalue and distrust such sensory experience it as they grow older?" They come to favor memory and analysis of past experience over direct experience of the present.
The problem with this is that human beings are notoriously good at limiting what they perceive and experience partly because of pride, partly because it challenges some cherished view of the self, and partly out of desire to forget past painful experience. Since they deny and devalue abnormal experience by labeling it psychotic or primitive or childish, they also avoid activities and practices (contemplative or otherwise) which generate such experience. Why seek out something that challenges a comfortable world view? Skepticism is often a badge of honor for materialists, and many would be hesitant to give up the associated sense of superiority.
If materialists are actively involved on denigrating religious experience and avoiding practices that might cause such experience, it is no wonder that they do not have enough outlier experience to "break their mold" and challenge their current materialistic world view.
Breaking the Mold of a Limited View of the WorldAccepting the "inner" or supernatural world requires a certain "critical mass" of inner experience to offset our predisposition to believe that only the material world is real, and seek comfort and assurance in the past. If you lack sufficient sensory data from the inner world, you will not feel inclined to accept the existence of such a world.
The challenge of this web site is to provide enough "objective" data through first-hand accounts by describing the experiences of others to challenge interested people to seek and discover the supernatural world for themselves. Convincing people that seeking that "critical mass" of experience that persuades them that inner experience is real and worth pursuing is one of the the central goals of this site.
However, even if this critical mass of inner experience is reached, going beyond it to the point where one is able to construct a coherent view of the spiritual worlds would require an increase in the number of these experiences by a factor of one thousand or more. It is clear that only a very few talented people in history might be capable of reaching this quantity of spiritual experience.
This presents a challenge to those who believe in a spiritual world which cannot be easily ignored. It is therefore hard to compare the quality of normal sensory experience with inner experience in terms of certainty based on consistency (which relies on comparing a large quantity of experience). Spiritual travel experience may fall short in terms of consistency. However, it many times makes up the difference in terms of novelty and intensity. These criteria fall outside the correspondence/coherence dualism as a theory of truth and add an entirely new criteria for reality.
In the end, it may be the raw power of certain inner experiences that makes some who experience them certain there is a spiritual world. But the power and grandeur of an experience is not understandable to a rational person who has not shared that experience. In such cases, there will always be a disconnect between the materialist and the spiritual traveler.
The novelty aspect also presents a challenge to materialists. People who have near-death experiences that they consider spiritual but do not reflect their religious upbringing and expectations are problems for all who wish to reduce religious experience to social conditioning. Reading the contents of this site and examining the range of experiences described here would almost certainly present a serious challenge to reductionists. Scientists are not supposed to ignore data that does not fit their models but some have a particular skill at this when it comes to examining spiritual experience.
Accepting the Lucid Dream Challenge to Materialism
We have mentioned that lucid dreaming presents a great challenge to materialists. It does so because the kind of direct sensory experience and "reality testing" that is possible in lucid dream states challenges those who claim there is only one sensory world (the material one), and that there is no class of sensory experience that challenges this "one world" assertion. Any view of reality that does not take into account this rich sensory environment is incomplete and denies obvious counter-evidence to the materialistic thesis. It is the arrogance of the materialist that rejects obvious "inner" sensory evidence in favor of the authority of past limited but coherent life experience in the physical world. Lucid dream experience presents an entirely new field of sensory experience that needs integration to construct a coherent view of reality that is comprehensive.
The burden of proof is on those who claim to be certain that there is no supernatural world to show why lucid dreaming does not present a direct challenge to their world view. To those that say lucid dreaming is all in your head or brain, the challenge is to answer the question why sensory experience in the material world is also not "all in your head" or "just a product of chemicals in your brain". Both can present a coherent sensory environment which when challenged provides a tremendously complex, interactive sensory field that stands up to scrutiny and analysis (See "The Material Nature of Non-material Worlds" page). If the depth and clarity of lucid dream experience as described is accurate, there is really no need for a physical world in the first place. We can all perceive and interact with non-material objects and persons that look entirely physical and not even recognize the difference.
The author mentioned the problem of pride because the basic claims of the materialist are the following: "if spiritual experience does not happen to me, it does not happen at all" and "if I can't perceive it, it does not exist." This is the fallacy usually described as "the argument from authority". It can be restated, "listen to me because I know."
It is much harder to prove that something does not exist than to prove that something does exist. Materialists who are honest will usually admit this and also admit that they have failed to provide conclusive proof of the nonexistence of a spiritual world. It is more rational to be an agnostic than an atheist or materialist.
Finally, in defense of materialists, it is true that many who seek spiritual or supernatural experience do not find it in spite of making considerable effort. It is a gamble as to whether the effort expended will produce results, and it is understandable why many would not want to take a chance. However, not playing the game your self should not be a basis for rejecting the value of the game for others (as it often is). Many do not like to swim, but criticizing and belittling those who do or trying to stop them seems both unnecessary and intrusive.
Introduction | The Geography of Spiritual Travel | The "Travel" Analogy | Leaving the Body in Spiritual Travel | Spiritual Travel Versus Dreams | Sacred Light | Sacred Sound | Psychic States | Spiritual Travel in Western Religious Scripture | The Self in Spiritual Travel | Returning to the Physical Body | Near-Death Experience | Navigation During Spiritual Travel | Spiritual Matter | Method and Techniques To Induce Spiritual Travel | Shamanism and Spiritual Travel | After-Death Experience | Spiritual Travel as a Rehearsal for Physical Death | Beyond Spiritual Travel | Conclusion
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