annotated: questioning self, authenticity and mysticism

mudquestioning self, authenticity and mysticism

Sometimes provocation can be a way to  teach something new. That is, if the mind of the receiver remains open after being provoked. The title chosen tries to attract viewers by being moderately provocative. There is more provocation in this post, at the end. In the last question, when I use the word god with a lowercase ‘g’, I already try to diminish the provocation. But to many people the word god is already a provocation in itself. Conventional belief systems don’t allow thinking about or using reason on the godhead.

We are being defined by others. Hence we define our self by the same mechanism.
We get programmed from when we are born, and start building our self image probably already before.
We adjust this image with a constant flux of feedback.

Where does our own image of self come from? When do we become aware that a mirror presents us with an image of our physical self? People who hear their own voice for the very first time after being videotaped are usually in for a little shock (“Is that really my voice?”).

We discover at an early age that there is a physical self, and that the rest of the world does not hurt to us when we bite or scratch it. There is a discovery factor: experience. On the other hand there is constant feedback. There are people around us telling us what and how to do and later often why (not) to do it. We don’t test all the feedback and easily accept that falling from the Eiffeltower will be deadly.

All that information, acquired through experience, and feedback is conceptualized and then stored in our brain. For me brain=mind=[thoughts/opinion/reasoning/concepts]. (just my definition, trying to avoid the discussion ‘what is mind’)

It is this mind that creates an image of self. (Beware: self is not equal to that image, but mind is often deluded that it is!) 

Mind knows something about body, and little about emotions, and it tries to combine everything it knows about itself in the concept ‘self’.  

Being defined mostly by others, how small is authenticity?
Is it relevant? Don’t we build upon aeons of knowledge from those before us?

Do we really surpass our teachers or are we nothing more but a vessel of recombination.

We are 100% human. We don’t have a special body, although we have some physical properties unique to us. How much of our knowledge is unique to ourselves? How many ideas did we come up with that are truly new? How much of lady gaga’s style came from madonna? Was Charles Darwin‘s insight so unique? If you were doing research in the field around that time, wouldn’t you come up with similar ideas? Alfred Russel Wallace had indeed come up with the same idea, and his papers finally urged Charles Darwin to go public. So even great names might not be that great.

What happens when there is no more feedback?
How does it feel to be cut off from contact?
Shall I become a psychopath, or a sociopaths or just mad?

When completely cut off from humanity, by your own choice, by accident or by a society wanting to isolate you because you are a danger to it, what happens to mind and self image?

There is no more feedback. Mind starts talking to itself. It’s always right. There is no way to test what it came up with. (not unlike when feeling jealous without evidence) If mind spirals away from reality, who is going to stop it from doing so?

The true mystic knows that in such cases, mind should only be used as a tool for practical things and not for spiralling into madness. The true mystic will apply the silence of the mind, to reach the experience of what she wants to experience. If not reached, she will not bother. Mind is silent already.
Reversing the order is incorrect. Silence of mind does not come out of isolation, but out of regular meditation and feedback on it from peers and teachers.
Mystical experiences are common within everyone, but mind will want to interpret them, and doing so, mind will often kill their relevance.

How large is the gap between mysticism and madness?
Did John of the Cross see his own twisted self trying to save himself from madness by being cut off from feedback, not unlike abused young children inventing hostile as well as protective characters around themselves through projection or dis-identification?

Here my reasoning becomes speculative. The Mystic and The Mad Wizard are separated by the silence of the mind and the silence of desires (perhaps this silence of desires is the dark night of the soul). Moreover, coping mechanisms in childhood are applied by the child in order to avoid becoming insane, so I shouldn’t abuse the example. What I truly don’t know, is whether John of the Cross had reached silence of mind before they locked him up in solitary confinement. Since many people consider John a genuine mystic, this part of my writing is not only speculative but also provocative.

When god can only be experienced by the self how authentic is this projected mystical god?

This conclusive question has many fallacies in it, not unlike propaganda. 

1. God, might or might not be the source of mystical experiences.
2. Self will experience the mystical, but it is not self that will interpret it. Mind will do this. Mind is not the same as self. Mind is the conceptualizing agent in Self. In art and poetry based upon the experiences, mind will hopefully not interfere too much.
3. Who is authentic? Mind is not very authentic, but experiences usually are. It is not because we cannot isolate these experiences in a scientific way, and measure them, that they are not genuine and authentic. We are now talking about experiences, not about God who might or might not be the source.
4. What might not be authentic is the projection and interpretation of something unmeasurable into a 3D-database of the mind. This conceptual projection of the experience, probably loses all of its original qualities.

So the last sentence should have been:

The mystical experience of God or of whatever source in the universe , by the authentic self, can only become an inauthentic shadow of the original, when interpreted and stored by the mind.


14 thoughts on “annotated: questioning self, authenticity and mysticism

  1. I just got an email letting me know you are following my blog. Thank you, Bert.

    I clicked on one of the suggested posts that came with the email, that being this one, and right off the bat I like the first line. i have quoted it on my own blog, with a link to the full entry here.

    I’m back and forth to the computer a lot today, and off I go again… So, will read the rest later.

  2. A little gunshy about commenting here again but I think you have done a brilliant analysis. Even someone who thinks concretely (me) can follow it and understand– at least I think I’ve got it.

    I have forgotten the story of St. John of the Cross and am NOT saying he is not a mystic. I am sure, though, you are familiar with the experiments of John Lilly and isolation tanks and the hallucinations that ensue. See I am currently reading the book, “Hallucinations,” by Oliver Sacks which describes all kinds of hallucinations and they talk about “prisoner’s cinema.” I do believe St. John of the Cross was a mystic and St. Theresa Avila and others. And according to a very old New York Times magazine article the U.S. was considered in the article as a nation of mystics because mysticism was not that uncommon. Of course, I don’t know if it would be considered so today in today’s world. I guess you would say this is the inauthenticity of the human mind. But perhaps it is programmed that way by God for a reason.

    Thanks for your post. It progresses like a geometric proof.

    • Thank you for your interesting comments.
      I never heard about John Lily before, but when reading the link you provided, I was sideways informed of his existence without knowing his name. I think America still has its fair share of contemporary mystics; I personally try to keep contact with at least one of them.
      Things like synchronicity do indeed exist, but I have learned over the years that I shouldn’t give these experiences too much credit. I used to call them impossible coincidences 10 years ago. Just 5 weeks ago, also a friday, was a top day in my personal synchronistic experiences. Meeting people I had not seen in years, and not just one, but 3, and jumping through public transport as if they had optimized schedules just to accommodate me.

      • Yes, I know from psych doc & clinician husband that synchronicities are often just self-referential perceptions. But I don’t buy that– at least not in all cases. Certainly I had my share of delusion. However, there is another reality when you are totally open and this was confirmed by one of my spiritual teachers. For example, my scalp felt all prickly one day and I did a “reading,” randomly opening a book and opened to a picture of Christ with the crown of thorns. And when you are desperately seeking guidance it comes in overheard conversations in the street, randomly tuning in to a scene on TV, something a friend will say or, like above, a reading. Some of this is self-referential but in that state answers come from everywhere. Of course, being that open makes it very hard to function. Being a cataloguer allowed me to keep my job because it was syntonic with synchronistic readings but at times I could not speak. It is another reality.

          • Of course, being in two realities makes 9-5 almost impossible– I was lucky with my 9-5– you COULD work without having to talk to anyone for much of the time unless you elected to. Like a sheltered workshop. But most people talked a lot.

            Re: shamanism, interesting idea– someone had once mentioned that very thing to me.

  3. bert, about the previous comment: yesterday someone stopped me in the street and said something like this,”I have been thinking for two weeks about this; it is all about loops – we complete a loop and start another, and so it goes!” He was very pleased. I complemented him and simply said, “Until we learn how to break the cycle (of loops).”Like you he has an enquiring mind – no, we won’t use the word “mind” but use “mentality”instead.
    N.B. We las spoke perhaps 6 months ago.

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