spiritual experience for atheists or agnostics?
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24-04-2013, 12:11 PM
RE: spiritual experience for atheists or agnostics?
(18-04-2013 08:54 PM)hestarq Wrote:  I have a luxury problem, I have spiritual needs. Experiencing interesting states of mind.

What kinds of interesting spiritual experiences, states of mind can atheists or agnostics have?

So far I have tried THC, alcohol, meditation and self-hypnosis. My THC experiments ended years ago. It was a very good experience being high. I decided not to take it again because it I become demotivated the followings days. That can't be good in long run. Being drunk feel pretty lame, not interesting. Mediation is ok, nice, doesn't knock my socks off. Self-hypnosis is nice and useful as well, doesn't knock my socks off either. Learning actually is satisfying, so I learn more about science and transcendent topics.

I can't believe religions stuff, couldn't listen to their dogma, means, I couldn't attend their rituals. And this "clear" thing by Scientology is unproven as well, a joke, no one could ever demonstrate superior intellectual skills. Don't worry, I will learn everything about it for days before trying, stay skeptical... Just looking for pointers...

Can you recommend spiritual which is interesting and doesn't ruin my health or life?

Warning, long. I'm late to the party, sorry if the conversation's moved on.

I'm a Unitarian-Universalist. If you're not familiar with it, UUism it's a non-dogmatic religion. (At least it occupies the same social and legal niches that religion occupies in case anyone wants to get into a no-true-religion fight.) As a great many of its members are people who left traditional religion for a more secular or agnostic or atheistic or humanist way of life, but want a replacement for the sense of ritual or community or spirituality they left behind, the ministers spend a lot of time talking about ways to pursue spiritual experiences without God or creeds.

One week, my minister suggested that, while saying Grace probably wasn't something most of the congregation would engage in, taking a moment to reflect upon where the food came from, all the paths that the ingredients took to get to the dinner plate, could serve as an interesting substitute.

Boy was he right.

Let's try this with, say, a PBJ. We've got three ingredients. Peanut-butter, bread, and jelly.

Bread (Whole wheat, sliced): Right off the bat I have no idea where this bread was cooked, sliced, or packaged. Probably in a factory somewhere, it wasn't bakery-bought. I can imagine a couple of assembly-line workers holding the dough-dispensers over each pan before it trundles along the conveyor belt into the oven, and a bored QA inspector keeping a watch out for defective loafs. There's an automatic plastic-bagging machine, it goes into a truck, a truck driver drives it to a warehouse, it gets inventoried and sits for a bit, another truck driver drives it to a supermarket, it sits a bit longer, and I buy it. But of course, the bread has ingredients too. Wheat, implying a wheat farmer, tractors, land, plows, water, threshers, sunlight, fertilizer (hello fossil fuels!) probably a milling machine somewhere and mill operators. I guess there were several actually several farms involved, and that the flour from each of these farms got aggregated into one big vat. Wheat itself has a long history, dating back to the beginning of farming in the fertile crescent, and having gone through millenia of domestication and artificial selection. How much of an impact has wheat had on human history? Eggs. This implies hens, an egg farm, more workers, probably corn-fed, implying corn. More on corn later. Chickens come, IIRC, from China, and have also been domesticated for most of human history. Salt. More on salt later. Additives. I can't even begin to say where additives come from. Yeast. Holy crap yeast. How long has this particular yeast culture been alive? When was it established? How many times has it been sold and resold between bakers?

Peanut-butter. Peanuts originally come from South America. Where were these peanuts grown? Probably in the American South, though its hard to say. There'd be a plantation, and soil, but not the same type of soil as the wheat grew in. And of course water and sunlight and air and farmers and harvesting tractors, but not the same type of harvesting tractors as used for the wheat. A machine for shelling, but not the same type of factory that threshes the wheat. Salt. Holy crap, salt. Normally when I think of salt I think of long erosion carrying rock salts from mountains to the sea, but this stuff was probably mined from an ancient lake bed somewhere. More people! And refined, in a refinery, by MORE PEOPLE! And had additives. Yes, table salt has additives. I didn't know that until I looked it up. Someone invented a chemical specifically to keep salt from clumping up in the shaker. (Actually several someones invented several chemicals.) Another someone decided that fortifying table salt with iodine would make people healthier. Peanutbutter usually has some type of oil, let's say canola oil in this example. Canola oil's fascinating. It comes from rapeseed, which was originally used for industrial purposes as lamp oil and lubricant. Demand for lubricant spiked in world war II, and post-bellum Canada suddenly had a whole crapload of rapeseed oil and no idea what to do with it, so they set about trying to make it fit for consumption. Decades of breeding and some genetic engineering later, we've got the modern, canola-specific rapeseed plant. There's another farm, probably several farms, with sunlight, soil (but not the same type of soil as the last two), water, machines, and more workers. More factories and workers for refining. Plastic jars, but a different type of plastic. More truck drivers. A different warehouse, probably several different warehouses, and finally my supermarket.

Jelly. Let's say it's grape jelly. Grapes come from the middle east, possibly Georgia. (Russia Georgia, not the Peach State.) More farms with different soil, same water, same sunlight, same air, more workers, different machines. Probably grown on the west coast, maybe Napa or Oregon, but maybe an international import. What else? Corn syrup. Holy crap, corn syrup. Corn, grown likely in the Midwest. More water, more soil (different soil, of course), more sunlight, more air, more workers, more machines, more fertilizer, and omg corn subsidies. I won't even get into corn subsidies. I've read that corn fixes a specific isotope into its carbon molecules, and with the right equipment you can see how much of your beef was fed on corn feed (rather than grass) or how much sugar in your jelly was corn syrup rather than cane sugar or maple. More water, of course. Glass jars this time. Holy crap the history that glass has. More warehouses, more truck drivers, the supermarket.

And electricity. ALL of this involves electricity.

And that's just the immediate ingredients. What were the atoms in the bread doing before they came bread? Some were floating around as carbon-dioxide, some where nitrates in the soil. What were they before that? Trace it back far enough and they were star-stuff, but oh what a convoluted journey they must have had since then! And each atom following a different path. What about the money I used to buy the ingredients? It came from my employer. Where'd my employer get it? Where'd the people who had it before my employer get it? How the hell does money work, anyway? It's not based on precious metals any more, what is it based on? The minting process. The cotton and dyes and plates. I paid with a credit card, didn't I? Holy crap, the financial web and technological innovations involved.

And there you have it. With a single bite of a PBJ, you can realize that you are connected to government policy, economics, agribusiness, water rights, power generation, people and places and things from around the world, fossil fuels dating back millions of years, the grand sweep of human history, and all of it tracing back by a trillion paths to exploded stars. You are connected to EVERYTHING through that PBJ, and then by the transubstantiation of your digestive process (omg, the intricacies of digestion) that connection quite literally becomes a PART of you.

And then you realize that this was true, and will be true, of every bite of food that you take for your entire life. And you start realizing that this is also true of the clothes you wear, the house you live in, the car you drive... every damn thing ever. It makes you feel tiny and vast all at once.

You want spiritual experiences, man? Change your perspectives. Look for the universe in the microscope. Look for meaning and significance and connections in EVERYTHING, the more mundane the better.

(I either understand way to MUCH about the food I eat, or way too LITTLE, and I can't decide which.)

"If I ignore the alternatives, the only option is God; I ignore them; therefore God." -- The Syllogism of Fail
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24-04-2013, 01:28 PM (This post was last modified: 24-04-2013 01:38 PM by amyb.)
RE: spiritual experience for atheists or agnostics?
(24-04-2013 04:33 AM)Luminon Wrote:  Ah, I see, you're not interested, this is why you don't read up on the answers by yourself. This is the brain imaging technology they used. You decide if that's good enough.
What is an altered state of consciousness? And what is a sensation or feeling? You can not mix these two together.
Common response by woo-believers: if I think something is not woo, I must not be curious about anything and am closed-minded. I'm interested in good science with repeatable results, not magical thinking put forth by people who want to sell me woo products.

The brain imaging technology used does not prove it was woo, that is what I'm saying.

And I see no reason you can't mix altered states of consciousness with feelings. An altered state of consciousness is when you are using different parts of the brain more or less than normal, causing altered perception and perhaps differences in thinking. An example would be using LSD.
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24-04-2013, 03:04 PM (This post was last modified: 24-04-2013 03:10 PM by Luminon.)
RE: spiritual experience for atheists or agnostics?
(24-04-2013 01:28 PM)amyb Wrote:  Common response by woo-believers: if I think something is not woo, I must not be curious about anything and am closed-minded. I'm interested in good science with repeatable results, not magical thinking put forth by people who want to sell me woo products.
The brain imaging technology used does not prove it was woo, that is what I'm saying. 
Well, I don't see you specifically addressing anything that I posted. You haven't been the least bit constructive. You grossly underestimated and misinterpreted everything I said. Always talking about the worst case scenario and nothing else. "It might be woo" over and over again. I know it might be woo! It's the internetz! Nobody expects you to give up your rationality! You are allowed to speak hypothetically! You are allowed to use your brain and speculate on behalf of something that is not a million dollar Nature study!

You may be interested in good science with repeatable results. But in order to be constructive, you have to look at a material of the person you're discussing with, and point out why it is or isn't good science. If you don't know, say you don't know or say that there is too little info to tell and what do you want to see to be convinced.

DON'T assume that I haven't used elementary logic, that I haven't done my homework and so on, that is just insulting. Don't treat people as idiots and don't waste their time.

(24-04-2013 01:28 PM)amyb Wrote:  And I see no reason you can't mix altered states of consciousness with feelings. An altered state of consciousness is when you are using different parts of the brain more or less than normal, causing altered perception and perhaps differences in thinking. An example would be using LSD.
The reason is logic. Consciousness is a background, a general condition of the brain, stimuli are phenomena on the foreground. You can't confuse these two. There is no such term as a consciousness on LSD, there are only combinations of brain wave patterns. And these have nothing to do with feelings - that is, sensory stimuli, which is what I always meant (disregarding emotions and so on as irrelevant for the discussion). Correct me if I'm wrong, but you can't confuse the regime (frequency) under which the brain parts work and the stimuli that they process. That is like confusing a keyboard input and processor frequency.

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07-05-2013, 02:32 AM
RE: spiritual experience for atheists or agnostics?
Surprisingly, Wikipedia has a good article on the study of spiritual awakening process.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kundalini_syndrome
Bentov's research is mentioned, but it's mostly about mainstream and transpersonal psychology journals.

One thing is clear, the process is not always straightforward, the order and nature of symptoms may vary. Each of us is different, obviously.
The process is also dangerous, any artificial or intentional stimulation should be avoided. Many phases of it are painful, many are ecstatic.
It requires a great discipline of mind and NOT focusing in a way that causes pleasant sensations, this is the best way to get at least severe headaches.

Anyway, I'm not sure where this is going, but it is going there fast.
Some interesting quotes from the page:

In my discussion of diagnosis, I will show that it is possible to recognize the physio-kundalini process and to distinguish it from psychosis, even when these two conditions are temporarily co-present in a particular individual. This distinction will help make it possible for clinicians to avoid the serious mistakes that have been made in the past. A faulty diagnosis can not only further complicate a case, but also deprive the person who has all the symptoms of an awakening or awakened kundalini of the great transformative and spiritual potential this signals.
- Sannella

The psychological symptoms tend to mimic schizophrenia. It is very likely, therefore, that such individuals may be diagnosed as schizophrenics and be either institutionalized or given very drastic and unwarranted treatment. It is ironic that persons in whom the evolutionary processes of Nature have begun to operate more rapidly, and who can be considered as advanced mutants of the human race, are institutionalized as subnormal by their normal peers. I dare to guess, on the basis of discussions with my psychiatrist-friends, that this process is not as exotic and rare as one would like to believe, and possibly 25 to 30 percent of all institutionalized schizophenics belong to this category – a tremendous waste of human potential. It is my hope that as the material presented here gradually reaches the more open-minded physicians and psychotherapists, and as the syndrome described becomes more widely known, nontraumatic methods of dealing with these symptoms will be developed, methods that will not stop but slow down and control the rate at which the evolutionary process is progressing, thus allowing the patients to develop at a safe, acceptable rate and to function normally in everyday environment.
—Bentov

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08-05-2013, 12:32 PM
RE: spiritual experience for atheists or agnostics?
Lots of LSD in liquid form, we'll be injecting that intravenously. A moderate amount of good high quality bud, that neon green sticky icky-icky. 8 pills of CVS brand Cough & Cold, the ones with 30mg Dextromethorphan Hydrobromide each. Do this while watching some bullshit on the History Channel about Ancient Aliens or Abraham Lincoln and I guarantee you you'll have a bizarre experience.

I just described my entire summer of 1998.

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10-05-2013, 07:04 AM
RE: spiritual experience for atheists or agnostics?
I too will vote for art, nature, sex, love,and music. I too have spiritual needs, but I don't think there's a separate spiritual dimension (whatever that is). For me it's way of looking at life that appreciates the depth, wonder, and beauty of it, even in its sometimes blatant imperfection. The attitude of gratitude is something I try to keep in mind. I realize I'm on this journey and that billions of people have been or are on it too. I think of where I am in mine, at this point 48 years into a woman's life, at the end of the mother phase and entering a new phase. I can look at my wonderful son and am amazed at the young man he is becoming. I wonder what the journey was like for ancestors, for others here now. I marvel at the courage some people have in the face of things I think would break anyone.

Other people I know find deeper feeling in doing primal hands-on things like growing plants/food and the feel of the seed and dirt producing something of beauty or sustenance. Another friend loves to flint nap spear points; he loves making something from a piece of rock that takes much patience to do and would have been used in a hunt many years ago. He also does archery which is very zen for him. These are things that connect them with people over thousands of years. Another friend is an artist and I marvel that she can take a blob and sculpt a human body out of it. Some work to make life better for others, either volunteering or through their work. I imagine a doctor or nurse may feel something beyond the mundane when they save a life or ease someone's suffering.

Lest you think I'm a Pollyanna or a New Ager, I don't believe that woowoo or affirmations or The Secret or homeopathic remedies work. I know that life is both wonderful and terrible at the same time. I guess I'm saying find something that you feel connects you to life/other people and makes you feel in awe of the fact that we are here on this little planet in an incomprehensibly huge universe. And I suppose there is a mindfulness and creativity theme running through my ramblings here.

Anyhow this does it for how I fulfill spiritual needs, YMMV. Reality is full of "spiritual" things if by spiritual you mean sensing something bigger than your life or feeling some type of depth of experience..

Godless in the Magnolia State
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