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July 06, 2007


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You know Brian, I too have come around to the very same non-conclusion myself. Your last two paragraphs express my sentiments perfectly:

You wrote:

"The two most likely possibilities are (1) there's no metaphysical reality to be discovered, or (2) there is indeed a non-material side to existence, but it is absolutely ineffable – incapable of being described.

Since I want to live on after I die, naturally I hope the latter is true. But I'd put my bet on (1) as being more likely. Unfortunately, there's no way to win that bet and get a payoff. If I'm right, I won't be around to know it."

That's a bit of an odd feeling isn't it?

Mythologies are amazingly alike from culture to culture. Religion is just a cultural crust built up around creative art to filter its meaning and prevent too much individuality.

Mythology doesn't have to be about "metaphysical reality." Its meaning is much more profound when all its symbols point inward, rather than imagining they represent some metaphysical or ontological reality.

So Huxly and Prothero are both right. They are writing about different "things."

Brian wrote: "But what proof is there that these supposed first-handers aren't also passing on secondhand inspiration that may never have been grounded in any direct perception of a higher reality?"

If you don't perceive your own perception of a higher reality (or "image of reality" to be more precise, since we are talking about epistemology not ontology), then reading someone else's creative metaphors about it won't mean anything.

My experience is that other people's mythology is not likely to mean a damn thing to an individual and will more than likely end up being confused, abused and misused, by anyone who hasn't learned to create their own mythology, and thereby gained the tools to read and understand the creative expressions of others.

Dear Brian,

When "Robert Paul Howard" dies, there will be no "Robert Paul Howard" living thereafter. And I don't mind that what constutes my "ego" is "mortal" and will cease. I'm not sure whether (or in what way) any of the "mind" I have might "live" after my biological death, but it will not, in any case, be in association with my present ego/self. (And "ego" is every bit as "real" as is a rainbow in the sky.)

I do opine, however, that there is more than just what constitutes "me" - sitting here in thought, responding to phenomena from "outside." What it is, I do not fully know. "I" won't know after "my" death, either. But it might come to be known. Knowing might occur.

Unlike you, I don't "want to live on after I die."

Robert Paul Howard


I couldn't disagree with you more vehemently. While "Perennial Philosophy" gets a bit wearisome when it trots in all its political/economic overtones, Huxley, like Joseph Campbell, is absolutely correct in suggesting that the underlying archetypes of religion are common to all traditions. How else to you explain the myth of the resurrected hero in every single one of them?

And to say that science is more spiritual than religion....does it not occur to you that science itself is a religion? Does not modern medicine, for example, seek the magic of immortality?

I'm no proponent of organized religion, since I think that virtually all of them make the mistake of confusing metaphor with literal fact. But the impulses underlying the religious instinct, those are universal and worthy of our respect and study.

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