Does life end in nothingness? No, it does not.

Does life end in nothingness? No, it does not, neither objectively nor subjectively.

Consider a leaf on a tree. The leaf dies and falls off, dries up, disintegrates, is consumed. Is it as if that leaf never was? No, because if the death of each leaf were to mean that it made no difference whether that leaf had ever existed, then it would have to be as if the tree itself had never existed, since the tree could not have lived and grown without its leaves. Each leaf made its own contribution to the life of the tree. And if the tree had never existed, then the objective truth about the world and its history would have been different. Similarly, each person’s existence goes on making an objective difference whether he or she is alive or dead.

And there is no reason to believe a subject of experience can ever permanently lose consciousness. From one’s own first-person point of view, nothingness is inconceivable. And there is certainly no argument based on experience that makes it probable that one will lose consciousness never to regain it.

The ayahuasca skeptic and the heart of Christianity

Early in the article linked here, the author and self-professed ayahuasca skeptic, Dalston Playfair, uses the well-worn analogy that compares a psychedelic-induced mystical experience to a helicopter ride to the summit of a mountain, and a mystical experience achieved through some other spiritual discipline to climbing up the mountain on foot. “The view is the same, but at the end of the helicopter ride you know less about the mountain.”

Given the beautiful description, in the next-to-last paragraph of the article, under the heading “Recalled to Life,” of the feeling of involvement in mankind that he felt after the experience, I wonder if he would now agree with me that the helicopter-ride putdown, of psychedelic means, shows a lack of understanding?

The feelings and thoughts expressed so beautifully in that last paragraph and in John Donne’s meditation remind me of the love of God and of one’s neighbor as oneself that are the heart of the Christian religion.

Ayahuasca: A Skeptic’s Notes

What you can do

This morning I took care of my janitorial duties here at the Institute, and now I turn to my presidential ones, and that is to say: if you like what you see and hear (Don’t forget to click on Moonrise and listen), here, and want more, please let us know by filling out the contact form.  If you include your e-mail address, which we promise not to share with anyone, we will notify you whenever there is a new posting. Also, if you like what you find here, chances are very good you will enjoy reading my books, God Is a Symbol of Something True, Dreams and Resurrection, and Psychedelic Christianity (publication date July 28, 2018 but available for pre-order now). They are available through your favorite online bookseller and at the finest bookstores. (If a bookseller tells you they don’t carry them, shake the dust off your sandals and go order on barnesandnoble or amazon.) The more my books sell, and the more people sign up to get e-mail notifications, the more likely it is that I’ll be inspired to write more.

There will be more music coming from Mary Jo, too. We just need to get it in electronic form so we can post it here.

The fact that you’ve found this obscure little website and have bothered to read this far is a good sign that you have eyes to see and ears to hear. If you’re wondering what you can do to further the advancement of Psychedelic Christianity, my answer is to spread the word and keep in touch. We aren’t going to try to take the place of church. We hope you find a church in which you feel at home, if you haven’t already, and support it financially.

From Unamuno’s Vida de Don Quijote y Sancho

With very frequent searching in my heavy, thick Oxford Spanish Dictionary, I am reading, in Spanish, Miguel de Unamuno’s Vida de Don Quijote y Sancho. Reading it in Spanish gives me a chance to use and improve my Spanish, a feeling of accomplishment, and pleasant memories of living in Salamanca while I was teaching in a study abroad program there. Also, there are only fairly expensive editions available in English translation. A quick search of Amazon reveals that one hardcover edition of Anthony Kerrigan’s translation is priced at $859.82, and another one, a used hardcover, priced at only $60.46, is ranked #9,470,737 in Amazon’s Best Sellers Rank. Suffice it to say, this is not a book likely to be the book of the month in a book club these days. And if you were to propose it, you might be met with an awkward pause followed by someone changing the subject. Nevertheless, nevertheless, dear reader, I am recommending to you that you buy that $60.46 edition and do your bit to bump up that ranking, but also that you read it, because it is a very great work of literature.

Jorge Luis Borges, the great Argentinian writer, wrote that he regarded The Tragic Sense of Life in Men and Nations as Unamuno’s greatest work, and that he didn’t think Cervantes’s Don Quixote needed to be retold, as Unamuno had done. I only finally read the whole Don Quixote while I was in Salamanca, a year and a half ago, and I am only about halfway through Unamuno’s retelling of it, and it is slow going and I am taking my time; but already I can tell that I think it is at least as wonderful as The Tragic Sense of Life, has the same message, and tells that message in a way that is no less profoundly moving than it is delightfully entertaining. What is that message? Here, finally, is the passage I want to share with you, in my own inelegant translation:

“If inspirations of the heart and faith in the eternal release us from the anguishes of the night of superstition and fear of the unknown, why when the light of experience shines do we have to make fun of those inspirations and of that faith? And so much more as we will once again need them, since as night follows day, a new night will return after this new day, and thus between light and darkness we go on living and going to an end that is neither darkness nor light, but something in which both are combined and confounded, something in which heart and head are merged, and in which Don Quijote and Sancho are one.”

Reductionistic physicalism = The brain is in the brain.

Assume reductionistic physicalism: that all our thoughts, perceptions, emotions, volitions are nothing more than brain processes. Then all that we are conceiving of when we conceive of the brain are nothing more than brain processes. In other words, the brain is in the brain. But that brain must also be in another brain, and so on in a vicious infinite regress. This is just the problem of the homunculus turned inside out. Such is the philosophical “progress” of Daniel Dennett, who was so impressed by his teacher Gilbert Ryle’s “ghost in the machine” argument.

The “hard problem of consciousness”

The assumption, that an objective world completely free of subjects of experience is the ultimate explanation for our world that includes subjects of experience, gives rise to the so-called “hard problem of consciousness,” that is, the problem of explaining what it’s like to be the subject of an experience entirely in terms of the functioning of the brain. But the solution to this problem is not just hard, it’s logically impossible. One’s own brain is something of which one can be aware, either as a concept or a mental image or series of perceptions of an organ with extremely complex interconnections of parts. But no matter how complex it is, it is still only a small part of the greater complexity of the entire field of things and events of which one can be aware.  My brain is here in this room where I am typing this. There are other brains in other parts of the house, just as complex as mine, I suppose. This house is but one of many buildings on the earth, which is itself very complex, and but one planet orbiting one of many billions of stars, etc. I can think about any or all of those things as well as think about my brain, and all my thoughts are supposed, by reductionist philosophers like Daniel Dennett and Sam Harris, to be nothing more than something going on in my brain.  So, the solution to the hard problem is logically impossible, for it would consist in explaining a thing, the entire field of what I can be aware of, as being nothing more than a part of that very thing, the part that consists of the empirical evidence and theories about the functioning of my brain.

An objective world, completely free of subjects of experience, cannot be the ultimate explanation of our world which includes subjects of experience.

What they’re saying about Dreams and Resurrection

Midwest Book Review:

As informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking, Dreams and Resurrection: On Immortal Selves, Psychedelics, and Christianity is especially recommended to the attention of non-specialist general readers with an interest in the nature of death, the concept of an afterlife, the human psyche, and metaphysics. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented.

 

Fr. Richard Rohr, O.F.M., Center for Action and Contemplation, Albuquerque, New Mexico:

Because most of us do not think too seriously about such things as eternal life, nor do we think in a dispassionate way, I cannot imagine that anyone would not profit from reading this well-reasoned, but also ‘faith-filled’ study about our life beyond this life. Read and be energized!

 

Rev. Dr. R. Scott Colglazier, Senior Minister, First Congregational Church of Los Angeles:

. . . wonderfully, exhilaratingly, and convincingly interesting . . . . I’m so glad I spent time with this book. Not only was it intellectually engaging, it shifted some of my own thinking regarding life after death, and more to the point, about what it means to be a human being. And so I say to my friends and colleagues: Buckle up. Enjoy the ride. Prepare to see yourself (and everyone around you) in a new way!

 

Dr. Kurt Smith, Philosophy Professor, Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania:

Dreams and Resurrection joins a celebrated history of important philosophical works dedicated to exploring the concepts of death and immortality. In the tradition of great public intellectuals such as Alan Watts and Jiddu Krishnamurti, Jack Call makes a very difficult topic accessible to the non-academic reader without sacrificing the standards of academic intellectual rigor.

 

Simon Small, Priest and author:

A fascinating personal argument for the reality of eternal life and its relationship with Christianity, using the rigorous approach of the western philosophical tradition, spiced with the author’s psychedelic experiences as a young man. Highly recommended.

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