It’s Hard To Compete With Simplistic Spiritual Leaders – by Stephanie Wellen Levine

So let me see if I understand. You adhere closely - based on your post - to the religion of abstraction (variously misnamed physicalism or materialism, when what the foundational view is about is the construction of abstract models which then become reified into apparent “things” - as Iain McGilchrist refers to it in his book “The Matter with Things)

Then you throw questions dealing with finely measured features of the brain and subtle philosophic ideas in the midst of conversations where they are not appropriate. And all this when you could spend some time reviewing the thousands of research documents showing quite precise measurements of the brain as well as finely and brilliantly articulated understandings of the nature of mind and Consciousness.

To put it simply, you throw out extremely simplistic questions that have perfectly good responses throughout the research literature, and then are upset that people don’t respond the way you want.

Got it.

I don’t adhere to any ideas or philosophies. I agree that my question was simple–that’s why I was so disappointed that the presenter didn’t answer it. No published research would have given me the answer I sought. This was a particular situation with one man’s medical history. He wasn’t being studied; nothing was written about his case that I could have accessed. I was hoping the presenter would be right on my issue because it was so obvious. I’m intrigued that this essay riled you up. I guess every response is interesting.

Hi Don and Stephanie,

I think there may be a fundamental difference of perspective in terms of exactly what type of essay “It’s Hard to Compete with Simplistic Spiritual Leaders” is supposed to be. There is a big difference, I think, between a philosophical/academic and a literary/personal essay. In the first, the goal is to assemble research, to marshal arguments, and to prove a thesis. In the second, well, the goal is far more open-ended and may only reveal itself as the subject or experience is explored. With the one, the author tries to demonstrate the rightness of their position. With the other, the author may choose to begin with what they don’t know, to turn an apparently simple experience this way and that to view it from multiple angles, to explore a “subject” mostly in order to unearth hidden aspects of the self. And this is, as I understand it, the origin of the modern essay as we know it, as Montaigne explained his use of this word, in 1580, in the “Preface” to his first volume of Essays. The word “essay” originates in the French “essayer,” which means “to attempt; to put to the test; to set out on a journey; to explore.” So far as I can tell, this is exactly what Stephanie sets out to do.

Here are a few perhaps relevant quotes from Montaigne:

“So, reader, I am myself the substance of my book, and there is no reason why you should waste your leisure on so frivolous and unrewarding a subject.”

“I dare to write all that I dare to think.”

“In every one of us is the entire human condition.”

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Great comment, Brian. For sure this is a personal essay–nothing argumentative or academic about it. I was not trying to prove a point or support any particular philosophy or idea. I was shocked by Don’s comment because it seemed to have nothing to do with my thoughts or intention when I wrote this essay. And yet… he reacted a certain way, and all reactions are interesting.

Some essays are somewhat academic or argumentative and somewhat personal. I’ve made arguments and then rethought them in the same essay. It’s fun to play around with writing without worrying about genre. But I think you’re right that this piece is pretty much a personal essay.

Hmmm … yes. Notwithstanding, what is the solution? It’s hard might be the understatement of the ages.
(Me and Marco go back a ways. :slightly_smiling_face:

As I see it, the solution would be an answer to my question re: the fate of individual human consciousness after death. One main point of the essay is that I haven’t come close to getting an answer. Perhaps the adventure is in the quest, and I’m meant to keep seeking. It’s one of the hardest and most elusive questions out there.

This reminds me of that old Zen parable:

The Emperor asked Master Gudo, “What happens to a man of enlightenment after death?”

“How should I know?” replied Gudo.

“Because you are a master,” answered the Emperor.

“Yes sir,” said Gudo, “but not a dead one.”

Marco, ha, I love that. I know plenty of “masters” who aren’t nearly as honest as Master Gudo. On the other hand, I know some quiet souls who still walk this earth and honestly believe they’ve seen the “other side.” Many of them seem to have been given the greatest possible gift.

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