Monday, May 10, 2010

On mysticism and the playing of music

Often technical virtuosity and melodic instinct are not found together and one without the other is analogous to physical beauty without spiritual beauty—I have always worked to unite the two, technical skill and the weaving of notes such as to arouse the mood, the affect in the listener. For me, every recording is “real.” The spontaneity of the artist in collaboration with other artists and interaction with the audience can be diminished to some degree in the studio, particularly when the work is manipulated by engineers or marketing types (and I say this having walked in both worlds). I should note that everything I record (or have played or recorded in my life) is always approached de novo to a large extent. It is useful perhaps (by way of analogy) to consider the mystic Evelyn Underhill. My exposure to Underhill was in my initial survey of the mystic way some decades past. I didn’t realize until recently how she had struggled with the almost impossible task she set herself (involuntarily) of trying to truly understand what the mystics experienced via the intellect alone, without feeling it. I am not an authority on her by any means, but I did get the impression that she eventually achieved some direct experience of the Ultimate via a return to her Christian roots (some Ultimate is better than none, as I am sure Mother Teresa would have agreed, tortured spirit that she was, having tasted but briefly of that great well-spring and then lost it…one wonders, as did Rainer Rilke, how one could lose [God] what children find so easily). Play it the way you feel it (grin).

Comment on the literary arrangement of things

It is interesting to consider the literary arrangement of life. I like the path Robert Heinlein’s science fiction took in his later years; he seemed to be moving very close to merging the boundary between the idea of an author writing a story which included the paths of fictional lives, and the work of God, Who perhaps does the same thing in a very grand and mysterious way with all of our lives (our “Author” as it were). Arthur Schopenhauer apparently developed a similar idea in an obscure essay mentioned by Joseph Campbell in the Power of Myth series he did with Bill Moyers shortly before his death. I’ve been trying to find that essay, "Transcendent Speculations on Apparent Design in the Fate of the Individual," translated by David Irvine (London: Watts, 1913), for years without success [ see for a thread involving someone also on a hunt for that essay ]. This is perhaps a different view of causality (or the illusion of causality) than given by the Law of Attraction (which seems to me related to the concept of karma).

Precognition is not delusion

I can assure you that precognition is no delusion of mental illness (though those that suffer delusional disorder or schizophrenia or schizotypal disorders might include such impressions, actual or imagined, in their delusional complex, just as they do all of the normal human experiential possibilities--divorced from reality in their case, for the most part—though sometimes hard to tell, as the Native Americans, like most primitive cultures knew, regarding the whacked out as touched by the gods). The anecdotal evidence is overwhelming among ESP researchers, not to mention the occurrence in the literature of all cultures and times--and my personal experience (cast my stability as you will--I assert my grasp of human reality is probably more clear and comprehensive than most). The problem with psi research is that it antagonizes the TWIT (the western intellectual tradition, after Ornstein in Multimind) and it is not phenomenon that can be produced on demand for the verification of experimental science in the usual sense. That is because these kinds of events represent a portion of existence that originates from the spiritual/mind side rather than the physical. Yes, I see a Cartesian dualism, though I know at a fundamental level (e.g., quantum mechanical) the dualism breaks down in the "dimension of miracles" (using the sci-fi writer Robert Sheckley's term/title) as it were. If you look at the New Testament writings closely you'll see references to the early church matter-of-factly using ESP and precognition to protect themselves from the brutal repression of the Romans (and Jews). All that has been repressed and excluded from the church over the centuries--individual contact with the god-stuff being a little too conducive to anarchy for a monolithic social structure.

On predestination and free will

…You did not choose Me, but I chose you...[John 15:9-17]

These few words have potent implications. The Calvinist doctrine takes the obvious interpretation that God "freely and unchangeably ordained whatsoever comes to pass" and “appointed the eternal destiny of some to salvation by grace, while leaving the remainder to receive eternal damnation for all their sins, even their original sin.” Others argue (C.S. Lewis among them) that if God is pure Good, then He must love everyone (and would not predestine any to damnation) or that no one could be beyond the redemption of an omnipotent God (and that a God who did not wish to save everyone might not be worthy of worship). It is possible to obfuscate the discussion by asserting that predestination is based on a pre-knowledge of how a soul will freely choose to behave, but that is not useful. The idea of reality being predestined makes the concept of free will difficult to define (and that would in turn make the idea of personal responsibility difficult to determine). There is ample anecdotal evidence throughout history that human beings on occasion have prophetic dreams (precognition). This would seem to lend credence to the belief that the events of reality already exist to some degree (and that it might be impossible to modify them, see Cassandra). Perhaps related to this question is the quantum Zeno effect, which states, simply put, that a human being may stop the evolution of time by focusing attention (seriously). It may be that we all are carried by a river of time that follows a defined path (confined by the banks of the river and its inevitable path to the sea), but have some illusion of free will reinforced by the small movements (changes) we might make within that inevitable path. Whatever the case, let us behave as if we indeed have the choice to love one another, to do good rather than evil.

I like strings, but not string theory

Am I the only one who finds breathless comparisons of "string theory" with Einstein's work (or that of the Copenhagen group) ridiculous? I cannot help but think it is a sign of the times, which is to say, a time when a mass-media-driven lowest-common-denominator culture of democracy in its logical extreme has no recognition of reason, that the sterile mathematical self-stimulation of people who clearly seek to achieve public notice rather than advance the cause of understanding of the world is compared with the work of the true geniuses of humankind. A "theory of everything" which can explain nothing, predict nothing, whether predicted observation or experimental result? Relativity and quantum mechanics all made immediate and accurate predictions which were and have been verified time and again (the computer you are using relies on solid state computer chips that are the engineering application of quantum mechanics; your GPS device uses relativistic corrections to accurately derive your position given the difference in the time measured by speeding satellites and relatively stationary Earth clocks). Stephen Weinberg is a brilliant physicist, no doubt, but does he really believe that the theoretical attraction of a sterile mathematical construction (and one which is not elegant in the slightest degree---there are numerous monstrous versions with Rube Goldberg additions intended to make the numbers crunch properly) is any indication after several decades that any true insight into the nature of our universe can emerge from this nonsense? I am not a historian of science, but I don't recall any brilliant advance on the level of relativity or quantum mechanics that was bandied about for decades without the slightest connection to any observation. The clear evidence of insight, as for example in the case of Maxwell's uniting of the electric and magnetic forces in four equations, is the immediate understanding it yields of the world (we had radio communications soon after). Most of what I am hearing in "string theory" (and I grant that I don't enjoy or have world-class capability in advanced mathematics) is very reminiscent of 60's era discussions made possible, and more interesting perhaps, by the use of hallucinogens. As a guitarist and engineer (both professions being concerned with resonance), I find the idea of the physical manifestation of the Universe being reduced at the most fundamental level to oscillating strings quite appealing. However, I don’t see any evidence that this is true.