Monday, August 29, 2016

hauntings of all kinds

The concoctions of homeopathy are seldom recommended by those who align themselves with materialistic naturalism. Uncontroversial chemistry and physics guarantee that these highly diluted doses don't contain the slightest speck of the original ingredients. So the sole possibility is that these ingredients have left behind an unspecified aftereffect, which persists and does medicinal work without the physical presence of the former ingredients' matter or energy. These incorporeal aftereffects are central to the products' effectiveness...yet no phenomena fitting these characteristics have ever been confirmed to exist. In general, this or any practical application of incorporeal but locatable stuff could be labelled a haunting.

Unfortunately, not everyone commonly recognizes that the shakiness underlying this topic's reasoning has a multitude of parallels. There are proposed variations of hauntings in diverse contexts. Obviously, one is when the spirits of the deceased loiter in badly maintained historical houses. Another less grim context is the haunting of living creatures' bodies by life energy. Then there's a combination of these two referred to as possession: spirits of the deceased haunting living creatures' bodies without their consent. Or, the personal haunting might be invited and helpful, as in requesting a friendly, powerful thing to gently occupy, advise, and enhance the requester's own spirit. Maybe the haunting is of the interior of a place of worship, because its activity is inferred from the atypical communal behavior of a crowd during their worship rituals. Maybe the haunting is of objects that have been put through blessing/anointing/consecrating ceremonies. Like homeopathic products, the proposition is that these hauntings have undetectable active factors which are distinct from physical causes.

Without a doubt, the foremost haunting of all is the soul—a category also including every non-figurative definition of "the mind". Souls are said to be intertwined with a person but not as something material inside them. This is analogous to the healing stuff intertwined with a homeopathic product but not as something material inside it. Souls are said to be normally confined to the person but cannot be pinpointed or interacted with using anything material. Similarly, the healing stuff in the homeopathic product is confined to the inner contents—a consumer must ingest the product—but the healing stuff cannot be pinpointed or interacted with using anything material. Souls are said to mysteriously encode and store bits of data without modifying states of matter. (This is a unique difference from the usual media of information encoding and storage.) Likewise, homeopathic products mysteriously remember the original ingredients without the use of lasting changes to the set of remaining molecules.

The pitfall is that parallels are suggestive but not irrefutable. Ideas' resemblances don't force someone to treat them as a single class. The wonder of compartmentalization allows for rejecting the reality of some hauntings while defending others. Someone's preferred hauntings may seem utterly reasonable at the same time that an array of alternative hauntings "are just silly". Again through compartmentalization, it doesn't matter whether the verification methods and results that back their preferred hauntings are roughly comparable to the methods and results backing the disliked hauntings.

An instantaneous change of mindset isn't the realistic, likely outcome when compartmentalization reigns. The moderate hope is to weaken it and compete with it: to tempt someone to freshly reexamine their previously accepted ideas with unflinching eyes. Pondering these ideas' counterparts might facilitate that. If an idea is in some sense like that one over there, how is it known to be more accurate than that one, i.e. better grounded?

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

lackluster constancy

To the extent I was able, I chose to discard an entire web of poorly grounded ideas and related practices. But the reality is that I still occasionally encounter them, depending on circumstances outside my control. Within these encounters, I'm surprised by the many large changes in how I react now compared to then. I notice different features than I did, and I more swiftly notice these features' inadequacies. One that struck me recently was the monotonous preoccupation on constancy, whether the context is a song or a preferred passage from a text. It never does X, it always does Y, and its characteristic Z is timeless. A mystical being's quality of constancy is often repeated, elaborated, and praised. But from my current perspective, the manifestations of this quality appear lackluster at best. Its plausible interpretations don't amount to much:
  • If the being's warm internal feelings for humanity are said to have excellent constancy, then the next question is immediately clear: "Yes, and...?" It's not too demanding to proceed to ask what the expressions of those feelings are. Constant feelings that don't lead to anything at all are as inconsequential as wavering feelings that don't lead to anything at all.
  • Or perhaps the constancy is seen concretely in innumerable cases of prosaic aid day after day. The issue is that minor beneficial events are apparent coincidences. Some could be expected to happen to anyone at proportional rates, regardless of their loyalties or rituals. The constancy, or semi-regularity, of these nice but slight non-miracles isn't that remarkable to a disinterested observer.
  • In a less concrete but still very meaningful direction, there could be constancy in the undercurrent of inspiration, encouragement, and determination. Throughout the problems in the life of the grateful devotee, they've been reassured and strengthened by their concept of their specific being. They might say that it's been alongside them, beckoning them forward, or even firmly pushing them to make improved decisions. This emotional support is understandably valuable. However, it's not uniquely valuable. A virtually unlimited set of concepts could do this in someone's head, although the concepts which would serve one person wouldn't necessarily serve another. A sophisticated "anchor" concept with some constancy in consciousness doesn't require that it represents something that, well, exists.
  • A less excusable version of abstract constancy is the fossilization of the whole concept in itself. It's redundant for a speaker to declare that a being "never changes" while they openly reject every potential revision to their very ideas about it. Admirably keeping the same form for eons is less of a feat when that's its designated nature. Its stagnation is an echo of the stubbornness of the person imagining it. It has constancy because they imagine it in a manner that has constancy.
  • Nobody will be shocked that I'm most appreciate of the interpretation of constancy that invokes mystical beings the least: the constancy of mutual human compassion and cooperation. There may be side comments that a being is operating through people's actions as if they're its tools, but one would hope that the people receive some gratitude too for their selflessness. Constancy of care, delivered again and again from person to person, is indeed a precious phenomenon. Songs about this ("Lean On Me"?) make more sense to me than endless songs about the wonderfulness of some idealized being.