Tag Archives: metaphysics

A Straw Man Field Day

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New Start—288

An Example of the Divine Consideration

I feel like a police detective
Just now I was pondering proofs
Of the existence of God

And along these lines . . .
Let’s presume that God has an interest
In leading us to look for the light in the right

Direction meaning we must forsake just now
Absolute meaning and settle for metaphors
That’s if we reasonably postulate that God

In “reality” could not be accurately presented
If only to protect us against incineration
Indeed here is an example of the divine consideration

That gave us the stars to light the night
Not to mention a flashlight of a heart
And so perceiving the light on each proper

Next step in the right direction
Is perforce the proof of progress
Well then if your heart is your compass

(Else you be non compass mentis)
Remember what it encompasses
(If you get my pantheistic drift)

~.~.~

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Invocation:

“Towards the one, the perfection of love, harmony and beauty, the only being, united with all the illuminated souls who form the embodiment of the master, the spirit of guidance.”

~.~.~

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Prescribed Daily Mantra:
“My thoughtful self: Reproach no one. Bear malice towards no one. Hold a grudge against no one. Be wise, tolerant, considerate, polite, and kind to all.”

~.~.~

Gentle Readers,

I read this a while back in Cosmos Magazine,

http://www.cosmosmagazine.com/news/5542/logical-thought-causes-less-religious-belief

Oops must have been quite a long time ago, since I got a 404 notice from trying it. Sorry to deprive you of the primary source.

which denigrates “religion” as being anti-logic.

I strongly disagree, at least insofar as any inherency applies. Sure, if you define “religion” as for instance an antipathy to established scientific fact such as evolution, one could have a strawman field day. But such science conveniently ignores Euclidian geometry, based on logic. Because the essence of that, in “proving” for instance, theorems, is the axioms. It’s almost as if the “scientists” are taking as a given the axiom that whatever can’t be observed scientifically, doesn’t exist, in the same way as the non-Euclidians take as their axiom that the shortest distance between two points is NOT a straight line. Given that, indeed one could “prove” a lot of interesting things. And they never even bother to explain why it should be so dismissed out of hand, the notion that love could be behind it all, that love could have power.

This in the teeth of empirical observation of otherwise unaccountable examples of self sacrifice, an extreme of which was shown in Bjork’s Oscar-winning film, Dancer in the Dark, in which a mother chooses to die as a means of saving her son.

People of this persuasion seem to take it as a given that if we cannot prove a negative, that proves the negative doesn’t exist.

I remember reading the Case for Christianity by C. S. Lewis. I’ve never seen anyone come so close to actually proving (as if in a court of law) the existence of God. Using Logic. Indeed though many years later, I trace back to this, the inspiration for my poem, “Logic Is the Mystic’s Best Friend” (published in 2009 in the now defunct literary journal, Wordcatalyst. (You can read the poem below)*

And the article, quite ironically, isn’t logical either. In fact, it gives this example of the poor power of intuition versus “analytical” thinking:

“To remedy this Gervais and his colleagues established a number of tasks that promoted analytical thinking, initially to establish a link and then see if there was a causal relationship with disbelief.
In the first experiment each person was given three puzzles where the intuitive and analytical answers differ. For example: A bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total, the bat costs $1.00 more than the ball, so how much does the ball cost? The instinctive answer is 10 cents but the more analytical, correct answer is 5 cents. From these answers the prevalence of their intuitive or analytical thinking would be evident.”

But let’s examine their example. It’s a question of simple algebra. So let’s set up the problem, as in
Bat + ball = $1.10
Ball +$1.00 = $1.10
Subtract $1.00 from both sides of the equation leaves Ball = $.10, which they admit is the “intuitive” answer, but saying in actual fact the ball is worth five cents. I find it amusing that a left brain attack on the logic behind religious beliefs can’t even get its own logic right.

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

*And here is the poem:
Logic Is the Mystic’s Best Friend

Contrary to fascist rumor
Logic is the mystic’s best friend

I will now demonstrate in the streets
This interesting metaphysical truth

Let’s logically examine this world
And the hypothesis that it actually exists

If it exists I say that it then has to be measurable
Yes on its own solid terms
(Because internal contradictions at the core are a symptom of irreality.)

All right let’s go for simple
We won’t measure the coastline of England
Let’s just measure a normal circular candle rim
Before it’s lit of course

So right off the batty
(Pardon the foreshadowing)
You have to decide at what level you want to measure
Or how small does your measuring tape have to be
Because things change direction on the way down

I refer of course to the obvious fact that under a magnifying glass
Or certainly a microscope
What looked either a straight line or a measureable gentle arc
(Reducible to an interesting equation)

Turns jagged edge on you and when you zero in
(More foreshadowing)
On a given surface to be measured it’s hard to resist
The temptation of a bigger blow up
(For more precise jaggedy measuring)

Okay the trouble is where do you stop?

At the molecular level?
Atomic?
Subatomic?

And here it gets really confusing because
On the sub-atomic level nothing holds still–
The electrons and leptons are zipping around
And one moment the measurement is from here to here
Or was it there?
And the next only God knows where it is

(Always assuming that God would bother
Knowing such a thing if as I suspect
It has less proximity to relevance than the sex of a stapler

So back to measurements–if it isn’t pinnable down
Down to the last lepton’s leprechaun leptons
Well then clearly it’s impossible to measure

It reminds me of the was it Hindu creation tale
Of the turtles stacked up on each other’s backs until finally
The last turtle holds up the earth and some wiseass asks

What’s holding up the bottom turtle?
And this angers the turtle priest Who impatiently insists
It’s turtles all the way down

So unless you fancy a hypothesis made of turtle down
Let’s just quite logically dismiss this creation
As anything to be confused with anything non-mystic scientific

I Could Be Bought with Pie

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A Child’s Christmas

New PR-139

The Cure for Alone

I was a lonely child
But I loved Christmas:
It was a distraction attraction
From no friends

I loved the red candles and the songs
Connoting Jesus though as a baby
And I’d no affinity for babies then
But that didn’t matter

I had an affinity for holy
For the music that evoked that
Lit a candle to love which always
Has been the cure for alone

~.~.~

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Invocation:

“Towards the one, the perfection of love, harmony and beauty, the only being, united with all the illuminated souls who form the embodiment of the master, the spirit of guidance.”

~.~.~

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Prescribed Daily Mantra:
“My thoughtful self: Reproach no one. Bear malice towards no one. Hold a grudge against no one. Be wise, tolerant, considerate, polite, and kind to all.”

~.~.~

Gentle Readers,
Yes this is a Sufi blog, in keeping with a Sufi website named after the most popular Sufi in the Western world, Rumi (as in rumi-nations.com).
But the blog posts, quotes, stories, and quotes, if they have one overriding common theme, is that it is in daily life (or should be) that we gradually hone ourselves to that “Razor’s Edge” Somerset Maugham referred to in his famous eponymous novel.

And that is why so much of my poetry is personal, derived from life experience. And interestingly (along these lines) my poetry these days, universally deals with what I call metaphysical issues. Chief among which is (have I mentioned this?) the search for happiness. Yes, Sufism is (as per the title of one of my blog posts) “The Science of Happiness.”

And this blog, as in my poetry, has no other touchstone but my own experience.

Pardon my roundabout way of justifying what I will now do. I will fill you gentlefolk (reader-wise) in on some biographical recollections which perforce have shaped my own personal search for happiness. Not to mention that I have lately embarked on the project of writing my memoirs. And dear readers, (aka guinea pigs) I do confess I plan to practice (here and there) on you all. And since I have often been assured that I have led an “interesting life,” I trust it will not bore you, and that I won’t stray much from metaphysical themes. Since this is a metaphysical (read Sufi) blog and website.
And so, like Charles Dickens did, I will begin with my childhood.

As for the tale of my childhood, I wish I could make it more of a swashbuckling narrative like the chapter in Huckleberry Finn, “We Ambuscade the A-rabs.” But that would be too protagonist for a situation like mine which was more passive as in, “I didn’t know the pie was bait and had a hook in it.”

I remember I went with my mother one day to buy me a little rug for me to sleep upon at nap time in kindergarten. For some reason I was excited about that rug, a little red riding thing like Santa’s suit. And afterward my mother asked me if I would like to meet her friend, a Mrs. Murray. I was a friendly kid (my mother used to call me her little dolphin because I was so playful), and so naturally I said sure. And it even turned out there was pie involved. And at that age, I could be bought with pie.

And after my pie and milk, my mother asked if I wanted to spend the night at Mrs. Murray’s. Of course I was also an adventurous boy who liked new things, and who thought maybe in the morning there would be more pie and so I said, sure!

And it was five years before I slept again under my mother’s roof.

This Mrs. Murray was a paid foster mother. Paid by the state of California to provide my room and board. Because, behind the scenes my mother had petitioned for me to be put in state custody and as such referred to as a “ward of the court.” If I had cleverly invested a dollar for every time in those years I heard those words, I’d have a secure retirement nest egg now.

I was too young to have explained to me the necessity for this, but in retrospect it is clear that my mother was going nuts trying to keep afloat financially with meager employment, and raise four rowdy boys, all without child support.

Boys like Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer.

Independent boys.

Loud boys.

Rambunctious boys, whom my mother was ill equipped to train.

I used to joke when people congratulated me for some mental feat. I would reply, “My mommy didn’t raise no dummies!” And then I would add, “Of course, my mommy never raised anybody.”

You see my mother had converted to Catholicism briefly in her youth, and apparently the rumors that the church encourages anti-Malthusian measures are true, such that my mother cranked out four boys in a span of six years. And one miscarriage! And who knows? Maybe down the lonesome road I’ll have some Hell-escaping advantage for having been baptized a Catholic! But this was too much for my Quaker father, who was no doubt aghast at the necessity to support and raise four children. (It would have entailed a job!) So first he got a vasectomy, and then to make double sure, got a divorce.

And though he never paid child support, to be fair, he often visited, and played his bagpipes, and shouted, “Hoot mon!.” (He had kilts and tassels and everything. He was taught by his Scottish stepfather.)

My mother was an only child. Her father had really wanted a son (to teach football and baseball to; he had been a star athlete in three sports in high school) and his wife hated sex,* which made problematic any prospects for more children, and so Grandpa Logan (affectionately referred to as Grambogie which name he may have suggested himself for his resemblance to Humphrey Bogart) took it out on his fat and only daughter, sneering at how she “waddled.” He no doubt had felt cheated, having waited patiently for marriage with his incredibly beautiful wife** only to discover that she hated sex. I imagine it was a surprise to her as well. I do remember her oft repeated refrain, as she got drunk at night, (after my grandfather’s death) that though she loved Logan for 39 years and missed him terribly, “Thank God I’ll never be bothered in bed by a man again!”

But back to Grambogie: I’m not sure how much abuse there was and of what exact nature, but I remember one story of her being abused physically while her mother sat in the corner cowed and afraid to intervene. So I once asked Mom if Grambogie had ever hit her and she didn’t answer, just started to cry.

She had only gotten married to escape her father.

I fear this has reached installment size. Story continues next week.

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

PS–I have a firm conviction that to understand my youth, you must know somewhat of the roots of it. It’s a “twig is bent” thing, you know.

*And thereby hangs a tale of no sexual desire caused by typical African genital mutilation, but performed by her doctor father in rural Michigan circa 1900. (He’d come across her at age three playing doctor with her six year old sister. The Calvinist thought to himself, if this is what’s going on at this tender age, by God they’ll be whores for sure, and took remedial surgical measures) I may or may not later go into this horrific tale. But it’s outside the drive chain of the story just now.

** At age seventeen I was perusing a wooden boxfull of old family photos and came across a picture of a seventeen year old girl of ravishing beauty. And that was in black and white, not showing her dynamic red hair. I had butterflies in my heart just looking at her. I asked who it was and someone said, “Oh, that’s Grandma Dorothy.” Join me in remembrance of the strange incestuous guilt twinge that inspired.

The Brass Tacks of Simple Truth

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Joan of Arc by Mathieu Stern

Joan of Arc by Mathieu Stern

PR3–53

A Shy God Pinned Down

“Your faith was strong, but you needed proof.”
–Leonard Cohen (Hallelujah)

Scientists demanding evidence
Of God’s existence may be good at a lot
But they’re not so keen on irony:
Even in their favorite realm of observation

Their own guy Heisenberg
Famously showed that just the observing
Compromises the variables sending
Such a thing to beyond any certainty

And yet they expect to nail God down
Wings extended like insect specimens
Why if God were a mere atom
As we’ve seen they still would fail yet

They expect a shy God pinned down would
Not just haul out a Houdini of some pin-wheeled
Galaxy escape leaving the learned gentlefolk
Clutching either air or ether

~.~.~

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Invocation:

“Towards the one, the perfection of love, harmony and beauty, the only being, united with all the illuminated souls who form the embodiment of the master, the spirit of guidance.”

~.~.~

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Prescribed Daily Mantra:
“My thoughtful self: Reproach no one. Bear malice towards no one. Hold a grudge against no one. Be wise, tolerant, considerate, polite, and kind to all.”

~.~.~

Gentle readers,

Last post (December 5, as I recall) was dedicated to a binary fusion of two issues, the first being the passing of the Buddhist Leonard Cohen, a favorite musician and songwriter. This was juxtaposed with the issue of the existence of God and disputes or speculations about that, facilitated by the Buddhist comparison in that Buddha never suggested there was a God. But (forgive me if I am oversimplifying this even to the point of erroneous opinions, and if so, I plead ignorance). And I mentioned how I thought it was probably because Buddha saw this as superfluous to the necessary understanding, and fraught with misinterpretations (e. g. the crusades, the Spanish inquisition, etc). Not to mention hypocrisy.

God is a good and golden thing, and can be suitably focused on by as Jesus would say, His fruits, as opposed to actually naming Him. Or Her, though obviously any God worth his ether would be beyond sexuality which is a form of duality, and God by definition is infinite, and thus has no opposite. But I say Him for convenience sake.

But I digress. (I should scrawl lipstick on a mirror saying stop me before I digress again!)

So good-bye to Leonard Cohen. You will be remembered.

And now, back to what was originally intended to be the main issue, proofs of the existence of God.

A favorite writer of mine is C. S. Lewis, the author of the Chronicles of Narnia, the Perelandra trilogy, umpteen essays on metaphysics, and a close friend of J. R. R. Tolkien, of Lord of the Rings fame.

One of the main reasons I like him so much is he has presented a convincing proof of the existence of God. Which is a neat trick if indeed God would rather leave the matter up in the air. * It was read many years back, and so I can’t remember the exact work. I suspect either his God in the Dock, or The Case for Christianity. Though as I recall it wasn’t necessarily Christian-specific. (Which is a good thing, since though I tend to adore Lewis, I am put off by his Christian chauvinism. Especially annoying to a Sufi, Sufism having as it does, largely Islamic roots. I expect Lewis had no problem with Dante’s having put Mohammed in the innermost circle of hell. Which is ironic, because I heard a Sufi give a talk that claimed that in fact the Divine Comedy was largely lifted–read plagiarized–from a work of the Sufi poet Ibn Arabi, who of course, had placed Mohammed in Paradise.)

But as usual, I digress.

Of course Lewis’ proof was necessarily a matter of circumstantial evidence. I imagine not least because in all honesty I am having trouble imagining what God could offer (even if God unaccountably felt some necessity to kowtow to our presumptuously demanding, judging egos) to definitively prove the matter, a la in a court of law.

Eye witnesses? Not likely. God is famously invisible. Except of course by Joan of Arc,
(for a wonderful Leonard Cohen song about her, see this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gtwUyDPXROQ)

and that was merely the Virgin Mary. (and even that was never explicitly declared to be her identity) And why? A hint is in the bible, in Exodus, “And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.” **

That is usually taken to mean the sight would stop your heart. Stuff like that. As if God is scary looking. Inayat Khan of course refers to the ego as the referred-to thing living. In other words you must lose your ego to see God.

But more to the practical point, the very demand for a proof that is of this world, falsely presupposes that God is of this world.*** Or at least is at all restricted by this world, and as such any physical etc. sort of proof, would be perforce highly misleading, and would from God’s point of view, who wishes to emphasize His love aspect, highly beside the point, and dangerously confusing the issue of love with a power which can only persuade via a shock and awe more reminiscent of fireworks dancing in the air, or levitating pianos, the irony of which is this: these things even if vouchsafed would be nothing compared alongside the stupendous circus tent of the night sky, just for instance. And we don’t seem to be convinced on account of that.

And so, no, this incredible spectacle is not enough for the skeptics who want cheap tricks instead. Voltaire was the wiser one, an honest-to-God skeptic, by inclination, who nevertheless famously said, referring to the universe, “I cannot believe there can be a watch, but no watchmaker.”

To be continued, next post.
God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

* Which is an interesting business. Because these naysayers and skeptics have forgotten one thing. What if God WANTS to keep people guessing, having a choice in whether to believe or not? What if God is leaving clues about which believers (like me) can and often do, point to. But always leaving some plausible deniability to satisfy skeptics if they were so inclined. Let’s put it this way. If we posit the existence of an all-powerful but modest God who wants to be seen only by those He can trust, don’t you think He could obfuscate the matter? Many clever criminals can cover their tracks, so isn’t it obvious a supremely clever God could cloud up all the evidence, leaving only the tell-tale smell of a divine rose? Something that would never stand up in a court whose judge was the left brain (as opposed to the heart)? Indeed, this was the point made by the Indian (Parsi, para precisar) mystic Meher Baba, in his interesting short essay, “God Is Shy of Strangers.”

**You can find this here: Exodus 33:20. But I believe in a sense this is true, and what inspired this poem (one of my most popular, apparently):

PR4–228
A Game God, Likes to Play

God reveals Himself out of the corner of your eye
Then when you turn and look
He’s gone

It’s a game God likes to play
Of plausible deniability
A game of stay away

Because if love could hurt it would not be love
And it’s not good for your eyes
To look into a welding torch

It’s not good for your body
To be in the center of the sun
It’s this distance that proves God’s love

And the sneaky game of teasing then disappearing?
It’s because God can’t help cheating a little
It hurts to be so far from one you love

***My favorite mystic, Meher Baba, (If you want to see why, read the About section at the top of my main page, which is accompanied by other choices, such as Poems–all mine, Stories, and Quotes) said that to expect to understand God with your mind is like expecting to see with your ears. The apt instrument for that, Baba said, is the heart.