« For me, the real spiritual quest is to stop searching for spirituality | Main | I'm inspired by Sam Harris' sharp attacks on religion »

January 04, 2024


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Wait, wait, wait. How is this not magical thinking? This:

“Instead of trying to intentionally fix or improve "myself" or "the world," I am more open to allowing everything to heal itself in its own way, in its own time, as it does anyway.”

The idea that the world --- whether one’s personal world, or the world at large (presumably meaning for humanity as a whole, not just the impersonal universe, because I don’t see there’s any sense in speaking of healing or not healing of the impersonal universe at large) --- necessarily “heals” itself “anyway”.

That’s by no means a given, surely? One’s personal world, if it needs healing, may well, instead, go from bad to worse, to completely catastrophic. Or the obverse. Or an unsatisfactory status quo may continue, neither worsening significantly nor improving either. I don’t see how one can imagine that “healing” will necessarily happen “anyway”!

And likewise the larger world, as it pertains to humanity. That too, might go down the route to complete destruction and all-round misery. Or not. Or something in between. Once again, I see no reason to imagine there’s going to be healing, particularly healing that happens “anyway”.


“It is a great relief to realize that in this undivided happening, there is no perfection apart from the imperfection, that the light and the dark arise together like the crest and trough of the wave, that they cannot be pulled apart, and to appreciate the holiness of everything, exactly as it is, warts and all.

The firm conviction that I know what's best for the universe seems thankfully to be evaporating. And when it does show up, it has more of an endearing quality -- oh, look, there goes Joan doing her little dance of concern again.”

..........And in as much as that “relief” is predicated on wishful magical thinking, I think that relief is no more than the relief that the believer gets from believing in a paternal God figure that watches over us all and does what is best for us. This “relief” seems entirely misplaced --- even though relief per se might well be a good thing, no matter what, but leaving that aside.

Also, I’m afraid she’s engaging in a false dichotomy here. Sure, one may not know what’s “best”, either for oneself or for the larger humanity, for larger life. But that is not to say that one may not actually know what’s better. One well may. And one’s “concern”, if directed properly, might make for improvement, an improvement that will not be forthcoming if that effort doesn’t come about, which in turn won’t happen in the absence of that concern.


Sorry to have to disagree again, Brian! But this seems distinctly off to me. Much though I’m enjoyed reading her “Outpourings”, generally speaking, and much though I appreciate her book reviews, and her general work as you’ve presented it here (including her website): but her core message --- and this does seem to be the heart, the core, of her philosophy --- seems completely off to me.

Am I reading any of this wrong, then? Or is it indeed she who’s mistaken?

I’ve started reading some of Jean Toliffson’s outpourings and am pleasantly surprised that what she talks about encapsulates in a non-dogmatic, simple and also non-mystical way much of the pointers that the meditative traditions of Zen, Chan, Advaita, Dzogchen, Taoism and non-duality in general try to convey.

Quite a few years ago, I began writing down my thoughts and impressions on my enquiry into the classic question of ‘who am I’. Over the years these have amounted to as much as three books worth of the stuff. Much of what I enquired into I found to be reflective of some of the above traditions, but although going on silent Chan/Zen retreats, I always remained on the periphery. Joan's writings, in the first few topics of her ‘outpouring’ I’ve read, reflects my own enquiry but in a much more concise and direct way.

I would say that, anyone who has been ‘through the mill’ of the classic search (with all its highs and lows) would probably recognise themselves and their ponderings in Joan’s writings and perhaps find themselves able to let the last few remnants of clinging to the various projected goals (whatever they may be) fall away to perhaps embrace who/what they are.

Admittedly, for a self that has such a strong investment in maintaining its assumed existence, to let go of a lifetime searching for verification and perhaps revelatory experiences can be a daunting notion. Maybe, as its influence begins to drop away, the real source of suffering may become evident allowing a healing from the ravages of a thought constructed self-structure.

"Intolerance is the natural concomitant of strong faith; tolerance only grows when faith loses certainty; certainty is murderous."

-- Will Durant, concluding comments on the Inquisition

"The idea of a former and a future life is essential to the real practice of Buddhism. You have to be scared of where you're going in the next to have the energy to overcome your deeper instincts. I call it the circuit breaker. Everything is interconnected. If you're endlessly interconnected, then every little thing counts."

-- Professor Robert Thurman (Uma's dad)

Which of them is correct? Is faith in a future life good or bad?

I think of my own father, who considers himself an atheist and believes that in death there is only nothingness.

So it strikes me, belief in experience of any kind outside of material embodiment is the definition of religion.

As a definition is it fully comprehensive?

I guess his way of thinking could be described as materialism or physicalism.

An objection might be that matter isn't a "thing." It's vibrations...or quantum potentials...or energies...or something along those lines, but it wouldn't change his mind.

I picture myself imploring, wide-eyed and breathless, "Dad, don't you see? Matter isn't really matter, so we don't really live in bodies!" He'd look at me like I lost my mind. Ha! Fantasy conversation.

Come to think of it, there is no here and now. No here because everything's in motion and no now because time is infinitely divisible.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)


  • Welcome to the Church of the Churchless. If this is your first visit, click on "About this site--start here" in the Categories section below.
  • HinesSight
    Visit my other weblog, HinesSight, for a broader view of what's happening in the world of your Church unpastor, his wife, and dog.
  • BrianHines.com
    Take a look at my web site, which contains information about a subject of great interest to me: me.
  • Twitter with me
    Join Twitter and follow my tweets about whatever.
  • I Hate Church of the Churchless
    Can't stand this blog? Believe the guy behind it is an idiot? Rant away on our anti-site.