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To: alt.magick.tyagi,talk.religion.misc,alt.mythology,alt.philosophy.taoism,alt.magick,alt.consciousness.mysticism
From: (DMB)
Subject: Re: Immortality (was My Quest continues)
Date: 2 Sep 2001 13:45:50 -0700

Xi Wang Mu and all: Immortality is a worthy quest and no trivial
matter. Oh what fun it is to exchange ideas on such a profound issue.
I've snipped your post substantially only in an effort to get to the
heart of it. You said...
> typically such psychoactives do not yield hard scientific evidence.

That might be true, but I think its a huge mistake to expect hard
scientific evidence from the kinds of experiences associated with
psychoactive substances. They're not supposed to produce objective
data. They might produce a profound psychological and spiritual
experience, but its hardly the kind of thing that excites men in white
lab coats. Such a rational approach ould only confuse chemistry with
alchemy. Trying to grasp mystical experiences by using the standards
of scientific objectivity is just not a good idea. And contrary to
popular opinion, mystical experience tends to diminish the value of
scientific objectivity, not the other way around.

Since hundreds, thousands or even millions of people have reported
such mystical experiences, it seems pretty irrational to dismiss them
entirely. Its not exactly scientific evidence in the usual sense, but
it seems exceedingly unscientific to ignore reports that come from
nearly all ages and all cultures.

The meaning of such an experience is famous for being difficlt to
express. Understanding the kind of knowledge that psychoactive
substances can yeild nearly always requires having the experience for
yourself. By analogy, we can learn something about love from the
reports of others, but the best way to grasp the power and meaning of
it is to fall in love, to actually experience it for yourself. Then
the reports of others really begin to make sense. Even those men in
white lab coats know this and love is no less important to them.

Likewise, trying to understand immortality in terms of perpetual
physical existence confuses biological function with a shift in
consciousness. The quest for immortality ought not proceed on a
physical road. You'll only end up in a place full of strange
scientific fundamentalism. You said....

> otherwise we may be talking about strictly pharmaceutical
> and practical magical expertise -- the construction of a
> material or metaphoric "Pill" which will somehow transmute
> the flesh of the (usually mystical) adept into 'an adamantine
> substance', perhaps translating the fortunate individual who
> does not DIE FROM POISONING to a fantastic plane, land, island,
> or state of existence. one might immediately compare this
> lure with the aforementioned heavens of innumerable religions. 
> in some cases even when the body is found this is explained as
> some kind of spiritual transcendance, though typically, at
> least in China, immortality must somehow include the flesh
> (compare 'ascending bodily to heaven' in Christian tradition).

Again, immortality is not about transmutation of the flesh. (Although
such a confusion might explain why people by vitamins and exercise
equipment.) I realize that many, many people take that view, but it is
a literalistic, fundamentalist misinterpetation and it only leads to
the most profound kind of confusion. Further, you seem to be confusing
alchemical processes with mystical experiences. Both of them are
concerned with the transformation of consciousness and they're both
about spiritual growth, but they're very different approaches. Genuine
spiritual adepts speak and think in metaphorical and poetic terms
precisely because they're dealing with ineffable, psycho-spiritual
realities. Its a big mistake to interpet them through scientific or
dogmatic eyes.

The idea of "ascending bodily to heaven", for example, is absurd when
taken literally, as if an actual physical person could be wisked into
space without getting killed. Only religious fanatics could believe in
such a thing. But the idea shouldn't be thrown out because of such
ignorant literalists. Their interpetation defies well established
scientific facts, but its not supposed to be a fact anyway. It only
makes sense when its seen as a poetic image, as a mythic truth. Then
it makes a great deal of sense and is not unreasonable. Its supposed
to be seen as a symbol that refers to transcendence, that refers to an
ineffable expansion of consciousness that allows a person to see what
death is before they die. It refers to a shift in perspective that
allows a person to see what life is in the larger context, to see
beyond their own finite physical existence. And again, its not about
objective scientific realities. Its about a certain kind of noetic
experience, a mystical experience.

And you ended your post nearly saying that yourself, except it has a
dismissive ring to it....
> without examples of unending endurance, the observant mystic
> must conclude that the process is either symbolic (e.g. of
> an attenuated consciousness which extends the subjective
> experience of life) or a fabulous tale to entertain and
> inspire, sometimes lethal, acts of mystical achievement.

A genuine mystic knows that immortality is not the same as unending
physical endurance, although she might use eternity as a metaphor to
describe that ineffable truth. She knows the difference between
fabulous entertainment and mythical stories. Religious literalism and
scientific objectivity are just two kinds of fundamentalism. They're
twin brothers, two sides of the same coin. Both confuse facts with
metaphors and they're equally mistaken. And when it comes to grasping
the meaning of mysticism, that bird won't fly. Fortunately, we have
other choices.


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