April 15, 2014
Many Lives, Many Masters
This week, I decided to read Many Lives, Many Masters by Dr. Brian Weiss, a well-known psychiatrist based in Miami. The whole book is basically one long story about his patient who goes through therapy with him, which turns out to be a huge turning point for both him and his patient. His patient, Catherine, came into his office saying she has stress/trauma related experiences in her sleep, and Dr. Weiss tries to find the root of her problems by hypnosis. He finds out that she has the capabilities to talk about her past lives under hypnosis, and every time she gets to confront the traumatic death in her past life, her symptoms get lighter.
I don’t want to get into the details of Catherine’s past-life experiences, but I am more interested in how Dr. Weiss went about processing this new information. He basically comes from the standard scientific community, and he is very skeptical about anything spiritual because most of these spiritual concepts are anecdotal subjective experiences. When he encountered the possibility of such thing called spirit and past-life, he was skeptical. Thoughts rushed through his head that could potential explain what happened in terms of modern science (Catherine’s “Past-Life” experiences could just be a fantasy or imagination. At the same time, he told himself to keep an open mind and to keep observing. He did not reject what had happened, but rather decided to dig deeper.
As he kept digging deeper, and continuously witnessing Catherine’s spiritual experiences, he became more and more sure that she could not be faking it, and there is something real happening here. However, he does not expect the scientific community to immediately accept it. To quote, “The experience is necessary to add emotional belief to intellectual understanding” (p58). In the preface, he talks about how the study of spiritual field is still in its infancy. He refers back to historical events in science such as when Galileo first discovered the moons of Jupiter and how most scientists refused to believe it because it conflicted with the standard set of accepted beliefs. He believes this is what is happening in the world of spirituality. Eventually enough evidence will emerge to turn the whole thing around. Dr. Weiss hopes that his book is going to be a part of that revolution.
One last bit that really resonated with me was in the afterword of the book, where the author drops this quote : “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” I have never considered to look at life this way! It sounds crazy, but yet makes a lot of sense considering all of the topics we have been talking about in our class.
April 3, 2014
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
Since we talk a great deal about validity of stories and theories of the world we live in, especially what is “scientifically” sound, I thought it would be interesting to look at the very nature of science, and the mechanics of it. It is easy to think from the “science camp” that science provides objective truths, and it is something that is free from beliefs. However, taking a look at how science operates allows us to think about the potential pitfalls and patterns science itself falls into. The book I read this week, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, by Thomas S. Kuhn points out a few patterns we see in the history of human scientific endeavors.
In Chapter 2 and 3 of his book, Kuhn talks about the path Normal Science takes in its development. He claims that Normal Science takes a particular paradigm which best fits to the current set of facts and experimental results, and makes incremental changes to the paradigm. Most scientists spend majority of their time and effort in 1. Determination of significant fact, 2. Matching of facts with theory, and 3. Articulation of theory. The best scientists of any time basically spends most of their time in a box, which is the paradigm of whatever scientific field they are working in. Anything outside of that particular paradigm is considered less than the work within the paradigm. The result of this system is that science moves at a very slow pace, analyzing every single detail of a particular paradigm, which could be a good thing. It allows minimal amount of error within the paradigm itself. However, one could also look at it and observe that the paradigm boxes people into thinking in a particular path, when they could be spending their time and energy on other places. Furthermore, the fact that looking outside of the box is stigmatized in the community may be a limiting factor for the development of science in a long term.
This is going to be a summarization of what I thought was great about Charles Eisenstein’s book, The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible rather than an interesting story from the book. First of all, he introduced a great way to talk about our current societal understanding of truth and the perspective from the One Mind. He labels the first the Old Story – the story about how we should live our lives so we can achieve conventional success driven by money and security. To contrast that, he talks about The New Story, which is the idea that we are all connected at a deep level, and individual happiness comes from sharing and caring for others. This concept is very much in line with what we read last week in One Mind.
I thought Eisenstein did a really good job describing the battle of having this radical viewpoint. In Chapter 4, he talks about Cynicism. He believes that “cynicism comes from a wound”, and ‘the derision of the cynic comes from a wound of crushed idealism and betrayed hopes.” Further more, he invites the reader to dig deep into the cynicism, if the reader happens to be very skeptical about this whole interconnectivity thing ; part of the cynicism comes from this little part inside you were you actually want to believe something to be true, but is scared to death that ‘buying’ it might result in a huge disappointment if it happened to be completely false. It’s safer to be cynical, and think that life is pointless – the bar is way lower to think that way.
He also accounts for if the reader isn’t skeptical about the topic – he believes that it is equally dangerous to just believe it. This is because over time, the more you think about the topic, that little bit of doubt will eventually seep into your conscious. “Skeptic and believer are not so different, as both are using belief to shelter a wound”.
March 12th, 2014
One Mind (Larry Dossey)
By reading the introduction of Larry Dossey’s book, One Mind, I got a sense of his genuineness and also a sense of urgency to spread this topic of One Mind. He believes that understanding of the One Mind is crucial for our survival as a species. His adaption of the old adage “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, and turned it into “Be kind to others because in some sense they are you”, which he believes would help us achieve peace on Earth. He also was quite prolific in pointing out that many modern scientists have what he calls pathological disbelief – the same disbelief that one time convinces most scientists in the 18th century that meteorites are not real, because “rocks can’t fall from the sky”. He points out this something similar is happening in modern neuroscience and the origin of consciousness.
Chapter 3 is filled with what maybe anecdotes or Case Histories that supports the existence of the One Mind. These stories were collected during the author’s tour of his book, The Power of Premonitions, when people came after he spoke, and often times it is the first time they have told these stories to anyone. Most people are afraid of the stigma attached to these kind of stories. Here are a few of them :
*Having a strong indication to call a certain phone number that randomly popped into the person’s consciousness, only to find out that the number lead to an emergency room where his/her loved one is in significant physical pain.
*Having a strong feeling about not taking a particular flight because something felt wrong, and finding out that the plane crashed.
*Having a dream about having cancer in a particular part of the body, and being right even though it was very small at the time, and the machine could barely pick up the sign of it.
Since most of these experiences are not strictly laboratory experiments, it is easy to be skeptical of them, but it is a little too easy to dismiss them, and there seems to be a significant amount of the experiences in our lives. At the same time, I am curious as to if these people who have had these strong intuition about some sort of danger have cases where they “missed”. I would imagine the times that they were right would leave a stronger memory than the time when what they predicted did not happen. It’s hard to tell…
February 19, 2014
Week 6 (The Sacred Promise)
After watching Schwartz’s lecture about what experiments that implied the existence of spirits, I wanted to know more about his perspectives. So I decided to pick up one of his more recent books from Prof. Mann’s library called The Scared Promise. The section of this book I focused on was the portion where he explores the possibility of spirits having healing capabilities. One particular experiment he did was quite shocking, and I thought it would be great to share this with the class.
Dr Howard Hall holds two PhDs – one in experimental psychology from Princeton, and another in clinical psychology from Rutgers. He is currently a tenured faculty member at Case Western – the point is, he is not some random person off the street. He is also very spiritual, and practices a type of Islamic faith called Sufism. One of things Sufis practice is what is called Deliberately Caused Bodily Damage, or DCBD. The practitioner basically takes some sort of a sharp object, and inserts it into his body. It is claimed that experts can do this without experiencing any physical pain, and the wound is said to heal within minutes. Dr.Schwartz decided to have Dr.Hall perform DCBD in a laboratory setting, with EEG and GDV (Gas Discharge Visualization) machines running to measure his physical states.
Just like most of his experiements, Dr. Schwartz did his best to make it foolproof – he bought the tool (a metal ice pick) himself and brought it to the experiment himself so there is no trickery. Dr. Hall meditated and prayed for about 90 minutes, and then signaled that he was ready to insert the ice pick into his cheek. It took him about a minute to insert the ice pick into his cheek, and he kept the ice pick in his cheek for about 5 minutes, so that his EEG can be measured. He then took the ice pick out of his cheek. Upon immediately checking his cheek, there was a single drop of blood that appeared, and in about 1 minute, the wound showed no sign of inflammation or tearing. Interestingly, EEG frequencies during the insertion of the pick was very low (theta and delta activities).
Though there maybe ways to attack this experiment from a skeptical perspective (the experiment was fake or didn’t happen, or possibly explaining the phenomenon as some super placebo effect), but Dr. Hall claims that it was the spirit of Mohammad that showed up and allowed him to do what he did. It also happens to be that the mediums in the lab (there were a few watching the experiment) saw spirits.
For me, this was very shocking because if this experiment was completely genuine with no sort of tricks, it is something that is intriguing from both spiritual and scientific point of view! I would love to be in a situation where I can witness something like this happening.