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Related Words, Beliefs, Background for Choice #6

      Worldview Theme #7A: Mysticism             Worldview Theme #12A: Polytheism, Animism, Pagan

for summary read these 5 entries in order given: consciousness, cosmic consciousness, tacit knowledge, New Age movement, holographic paradigm

for summary read these 5 entries in order: polytheism, spirit, muses, trickster, myths  

animism–the belief that all things, living or non-living, possess a spirit or soul that is separate from their physical form.  Many peoples' earth-based spirituality is founded on this belief.

Buddhism -- to some a religion, to others more of a personal, physical, and spiritual discipline involving meditation. The goal is finding meaning, wisdom, peace, tranquility, and freedom from desire.  Buddhists believe that all suffering is caused by attachment to the material world, so an end to suffering comes with breaking such attachment.  Buddhists believe in reincarnation, and imagine one rides a Wheel of Life, symbolizing change and rebirth, until one reaches Nirvana and this cycle ends. Buddhism began with Siddharta Gautama (563-483 BCE) in northern India, whose answer to "What are you?" of "I am awake" earned him the title of Buddha --meaning "awakened one" or "enlightened one." 

cannibalism–eating human flesh, either as part of a ritual or attempt to survive extreme adversity.

channel / spiritual conduit –a person (see medium), place, building or object that allows a person to communicate with a spiritual realm, metaphysical energy, or disembodied spirit. This can be extended to include processes / rituals—even use of drugs—involved in facilitating such communication.  For some the conduit operates in an entirely metaphoric / symbolic sense, while others see it as functionally critical based on their understanding of key aspects of Reality.           

consciousness  -- one of those difficult to define terms. Here are four definitions: 1) generally thought of as a process not a thing, held by religious tradition to reside in the soul or spirit, and identified with self awareness; 2) an inward sensibility of something -- knowledge of one’s own existence, sensations, thoughts, etc -- and comprising the sum total of mental processes occurring at any moment; 3) according to Roger Penrose, the non-algorithmic, judgment-forming ability to separate truth from falsity, beauty from ugliness, etc; 4) according to some in the artificial intelligence community, it merely passively accompanies a sufficiently elaborate control system (based on algorithms) -- but doesn’t do anything. To some consciousness is linked to intelligence; linguist Ray Jackendoff and philosopher Ned Block have distinguished three more specialized meanings: 1) self knowledge (including the ability to recognize one’s self in a mirror), 2) sentience (knowing “what is it like” to be someone because you are that someone), and 3) access to information. 

cosmic consciousness -- an individual’s conscious connection with something much bigger --it has been likened to swimming in the infinite cosmic ocean  or accessing the all-knowing Cosmic Mind -- that involves an impossible to describe feeling of elation, awakening, joyousness, sense of immortality, etc that elevates this person above ordinary people and places him or her on a enlightened, higher plane of existence.

dreams--a series of thoughts, images or feelings --particularly of anxiety or aggression--that one experiences during sleep. While dreams have a long history--the Bible provides accounts of  several seemingly prophetic ones--researchers are unsure as to how to explain them.  Various scientific explanations have been offered: that dreams allow the brain to consolidate memories, consider thoughts / memories / feelings  that would otherwise be repressed, aid creative thinking, anticipate future contingencies, etc.  Vitalists postulate that dreams are one way spirits communicate. 

ecofeminism—roughly speaking this is about the relationship of women to the Earth / nature, typically concerned with issues at  the intersection of feminism, environmentalism, and patriarchy. Within the field some are more centered on egalitarianism, some with issues of respect, some Earth-centered spirituality, etc

ecstatic--filled with intense, uplifting emotion

ego death theory--According to Michael Hoffman, this asserts "that the essence and origin of religion is the use of visionary plants to routinely trigger the intense mystic altered state, producing loose cognitive association binding, which then produces an experience of being controlled by frozen block-universe determinism with a single, pre-existing, ever-existing future. Experiencing this model of control and time initially destabilizes self-control power, and amounts to the death of the self that was conceived of as an autonomous control-agent." 

egotheism -- the identification of oneself with God

epiphany (or darshan)--a peak experience associated with a manifestation of the divine or Supreme Being; the Sanskrit term refers to an intense experience that provides a vision or awareness of the divine. For Hindus, such an epiphany may be experienced when viewing sacred art, in a temple, or in the presence of a revered holy person.

higher (or hidden) dimensions--just as a tiny but intelligent creature confined to the flat surface of a huge two dimensional plane might have enormous difficulty conceiving of the existence of a third dimension, human beings living in a world characterized by three familiar spatial dimensions find it difficult to think about a fourth spatial dimension (or higher dimensions).  Consider these questions.  Where is a hypothetical fourth dimension?  In what direction would you head to journey to it? Here’s a simple answer: establish the six directions identified by north, south, east, west, up, and down, then head in a direction that is perpendicular to (that is, makes a ninety degree angle with) each of these six directions! Theoretical physicists’ efforts to model the universe often  involve additional dimensions, beginning with Einstein’s general relativity theory (see space / time continuum).  Some current models (based on string theory) employ ten or eleven dimensions.  Conceivably some or all of these higher dimensions could be confined or wrapped up in spatially tiny regions surrounding our three dimensional world.  

holographic paradigm -- A hologram is a photographic image created using lasers, mirrors and knowledge of how light waves interfere with each other. This image is recorded on a glass plate. When it’s projected, the viewer experiences a three dimensional image. Interestingly, if the glass plate is broken into smaller pieces, each piece is capable of recreating the same three dimensional image exhibited by the whole intact plate, although the clarity and resolution of that image is reduced. It’s as if there’s no localized storage of the image on the glass plate, the image is stored all over the plate! It has been suggested that the universe we live in is like this: the whole is contained in every part, albeit at a reduced resolution. If this model is correct, then literally the whole universe is inside the smallest grain of sand -- and inside you! Conceivably, in a mystic trance, one might experience “outer space” by looking within in exploring the “inner space” of the mind!

ineffable--an experience that can’t be expressed in words

immortality -- existing forever, never dying, but living on, perhaps not in physical form, but at least retaining conscious memory for eternity.

indigenous people–in 2004, the United Nations provided the following definition: "Indigenous communities, peoples and nations are those which, having a historical continuity with pre-invasion and pre-colonial societies that developed on their territories, consider themselves distinct from other sectors of the societies now prevailing on those territories, or parts of them.  They form at present non-dominant sectors of society and are determined to preserve, develop and transmit to future generations their ancestral territories, and their ethnic identity, as the basis of their continued existence as peoples, in accordance with their own cultural patterns, social institutions and legal system." By 2020, the World Bank estimated there were 476 million indigenous people worldwide in over 90 countries.  

Indra's net--a Buddhist image of the interconnectedness of all sentient beings represented by the net of the Vedic God Indra.   see also holographic paradigm

intuition -- immediate insight that occurs without conscious awareness. To some intuition is an almost mystical process, or others a response to very subtle cues and stimuli received unconsciously.

maleficium—a type of sorcery or witchcraft that includes magical acts intended to harm people or property

maya -- An ancient Hindu term that is connected with the idea that the world is an illusion. The illusion arises because of our point of view and our need to use words and basic concepts (for example, those to identify and distinguish shapes, structures, etc) to describe and make sense out of reality. So maya refers to the inappropriateness for equating our description and conceptualization of reality , with the reality itself -- confusing the map of the terrain with the terrain itself. Under the spell of maya, people see themselves as separate from nature, from the ultimate reality.

meditation--employing techniques to regulate one's attention and produce an inner state of clarity, serenity, and even bliss. Some meditate to calm one's inner self, using it as a sort of mind / body medicine; others to experience higher states of consciousness (even cosmic consciousness) in a mystical / religious quest.  Some techniques--called concentrative--involve narrowing one's mental focus to a pre-selected object or process such as one's breathing; others--called mindfulness --expand one's inner vision in non-critical way to include a whole background or field without thinking or dwelling on any of it.

meditation, contrast two different paths to a state of feeling mystical union:   1) concentrative, narrowing, introvertive, emptiness/ zero inner light,  Atman; 2) mindfulness,   expanding,  extrovertive, everything / infinity, unchanging transcendent, Brahman                                                                                                         

medium–a sensitive person who apparently perceives and communicates with the spirit world, or who acts as a channel for spirits to speak through direct voice.  Whereas mental mediums are limited to receiving and transmitting messages, physical mediums can produce physical effects such as levitation or materialization

monasticism--the religious practice, typically accompanied by 1) belief that the world is evil and 2) vows (of celibacy, obedience, poverty, etc.), where one renounces worldly pursuits and withdraws to seek higher / spiritual truth. 

monism of substance-- an answer to the classical One / Many problem that asserts that Reality is ultimately composed of only one kind of substance.   Matter, mind (or spirit), consciousness, thought, sensation, form, number, etc. have been proposed by various philosophers as candidates for this substance.  While some monists hold that while there is only one category of substance, this category has many individual members, absolute monists argue that this category has but one member.

multiverse-- a hypothetical structure containing the observable universe we live in and other disconnected space-time domains  (parallel universes, etc.)  Together these make up the multiverse, comprising all of Reality.  While our universe was seemingly born 14 billion years ago, and shows assymmetries, the multiverse may be timeless and symmetric. 

muses inspirational goddesses of the arts, literature, science as has come down from Greek mythology—the word’s root is the same as that of the word museum

mythsstories about divine beings, heroic human figures, animals, and nature that can hold an important place in the worldview of a particular people by providing explanations for certain beliefs, practices, natural phenomena, etc.  Myths are part of all sacred traditions.  Creation myths, which attempt to explain how the world began, are especially popular

New Age Movement-- an affluent Western society movement that grew out of mind expanding experiences of the 1960s and really blossomed in the 1970s, which blends older religious and spiritual traditions from both east and west with more modern ideas about human consciousness, human potential, psychology, physics, and ecology.  While New Age enthusiasts possess diverse (and sometimes conflicting) beliefs, one notion embraced by many "New Agers" is the idea that all living things--and, for many, all matter in general--is fundamentally interconnected (either spiritually, by some life force, energy, consciousness, light, God, etc.) The movement provides a large umbrella under which one finds mystics, psychics, astrologers, alternative health practitioners, those who value meditation / ancient wisdom,  believers in reincarnation, angels, the magic powers of crystals, Atlantis, UFOs and space aliens, etc.  Perhaps 20 % of the adults in western societies are sympathetic to New Age beliefs--including  pseudoscientists and quacks, a few respected scientists / doctors / scholars--and many promoting some belief / product and seeking monetary gain.

Nirvana -- a state of oneness with the ultimate reality, of total liberation from human suffering, a state of consciousness beyond further description. Nirvana is a Buddhist concept -- the equivalent in Hinduism is moksha.


paganthe term has two somewhat different meanings: 1) a person who believes there are many gods (polytheist) and practices a religion that involves worship of them --see polytheism); 2) one who enjoys sensual pleasures (hedonist) and has no religion

pantheism–the belief that God is everywhere, inherent in all things, acting through natural laws and forces. The words of  American poet Robinson Jeffers describe this belief:  "I believe that the Universe is one being, all its parts are different expressions of the same energy, and they are all in communication with each other, therefore parts of one organic whole...The parts change and pass, or die, people and races and rocks and stars, none of them seems to me important in itself, but only the whole.  This whole is in all its parts so beautiful, and is felt by me to be so intensely in earnest, that I am compelled to love it and to think of it as divine. " (from his 1934 letter to Sister Mary James Power)   "...Man dissevered from the earth and stars and his history ... for contemplation or in fact... Often appears atrociously ugly.  Integrity is wholeness, the greatest beauty is Organic wholeness, the wholeness of life and things, the divine beauty of the universe.  Love that, not man Apart from that, or else you will share man's pitiful confusions, or drown in despair when his days darken."  (from his work  The Answer)  

pantheon --a group of gods of a people, or more recently of great people, often associated with honoring them in a temple or building

pluralism of substance-- an answer to the classical One / Many problem that asserts that Reality is ultimately composed of many kinds of substances. 

prophet--an inspired person who supposedly speaks the word of God or communicates divine revelation.

polytheism--belief in more than one god, in contrast to monotheism, which is the belief in one God. Polytheists are theists--meaning they believe in a personal god(s). These are not necessarily all worshipped equally--one may may predominate, and the one chosen can vary with time, place, etc. In some polytheistic religions the gods and goddesses may represent different forces of nature, or connect with venerating different ancestors.  

quantum mechanics -- a branch of physics, developed in the first half of the 20th century, dealing with motion and interactions of matter on very small scales (typically atomic or subatomic). Unlike the visible, large scale realm of classical physics -- where predicted future behavior of individual particles involves deterministic certainties -- predicting the behavior of discrete particles in the quantum realm involves probabilities not certainties.

quantum mechanics & consciousness--a minority of scientists believe that explaining consciousness necessarily involves use of quantum mechanics.  The way it is used range from the esteemed mathematical physicist Roger Penrose's idea that consciousness arises from quantum effects in the microtubular structures inside cells, to a few fringe scientists belief that consciousness is coherent light related to "biophoton" emission, to New Age enthusiasts' notion that living consciousness resides in the quantum (vacuum) field and that individual human consciousness is both part of and has access to information stored in this all-pervading collective consciousness. Some of the latter relate consciousness to a "life force" and see an individual's consciousness as surviving his or her death.

quantum mechanics & wholeness--what Einstein scoffed at as "spooky action at a distance" and today is concisely summarized in the ER = EPR equation, suggests that hypothetical wormhole connections in the fabric of space-time and entanglement are related.  Some connect this with what quantum physicist David Bohm called the implicate order--all of which bolsters the viewpoint that the separation in space and time we perceive in the explicate order is not the Ultimate Reality.  

quantum quackery–scientific skeptics have used this term in dismissing New Age enthusiasts ongoing attempts to connect the microscopic subatomic realm of quantum physics with human consciousness and thought.  Caltech Nobel Prize winning physicist Murray Gell Mann's term was "quantum flapdoodle"–an apparent reference to what he saw as the futile hand waving and doodling of New Agers (including a few reputable scientists who he felt should know better!) in their attempts to make connections where no evidence or possible mechanisms exist for making them.  Critics less gifted in finding clever words have simply charged promoters of what they consider to be pseudoscientific nonsense as urging others to believe in magic 

revelation -- the receiving or communicating of divine truth

right brain / left brain--the two hemispheres of the brain are specialized for performing different functions. Understanding verbal communication, speaking, reading and writing, along with analytical reasoning, abstract and critical thinking are left brain centered. In contrast, the right brain is predominately at work during strenuous physical activity, non-verbal communications, dreams, and is called on for assessing spatial relationships, three dimensional vision, face / pattern recognition, and in making intuitive / wholistic leaps. It has been hypothesized that whereas the left brain processes information sequentially, “bit by bit“, in linear, ordered fashion, the right brain stores and retrieves whole patterns, in “all at once” fashion. Some associate different types of consciousness with each hemisphere--the analytical left brain’s being one very much aware of the passage of time, the mystical right brain is “in the moment” and “lost in space”. Emotionally, the left brain seems connected with positive feelings like love; the right brain with negative feelings.  It is important to realize that the human brain is incredibly complex, and that the above picture of right brain / left brain is too simplistic.  Thus it has been argued that only heterosexual, right-handed males exhibit the type and degree of specialized brain hemisphere function described above. In females, where the corpus callosum connection between the two hemispheres is typically thicker, signals travel more readily between the two halves of the brain and supposedly bring more “right brain” emotional responses!  

sacrifice–giving up something precious or important as offering to honor or placate a god, deity.  

Santeria—a traditionally west African polytheistic religion involving worship of deities known as oricha. Offerings to both oricha and spirits of the dead /ancestors can be facilitated by spirit mediums

satori--a Zen Buddhist term, the refers to a moment of fleeting enlightenment as a mystic transitions from a state of  union with Reality to making the usual "subject-object" (a term from D. T. Suzuki)  distinctions, but is momentarily able to appreciate both worlds. 

séancea meeting between one or more persons and a medium typically with the purpose of communicating with the spirits of deceased people 

shamanism–an ancient form of mind / body healing that believes in the ultimate connectedness of all things and employs altered states of consciousness.  Shamanism is a sort of synthesis of mysticism and magic worldview themes.  Shamans attempt to heal by restoring a person's balance with the natural surroundings and all life.    

space-time continuum--a concept that was introduced by Einstein with his relativity theory. In the simplest mathematical models, the three dimensions of space are linked with a fourth one: time.  This space-time structure (think of it as flat in a two dimensional, analogy sense) is distorted--warped or curved--by matter. The greater the concentration of matter, the greater space-time is distorted: something that general relativistic physics connects with the force of gravity.

spirit vs. ego--according to Collier, contrasts how people feel connected vs. their feeling separate. 

synchronicity--according to famous psychologist Carl Jung, this refers to "temporally coincident occurrences of acausal events." In simpler terms this means the events occur either simultaneously or nearly so in meaningful fashion, but yet they have no evident cause and effect connection. Jung's followers believe that such events occur much more often than would be expected if they were due to mere random chance coincidence. Synchronicities, they add, provide evidence of a collective unconscious, the existence of connectedness at a higher (normally unperceived) level, and that consciousness contains a "reality structurer" which psychically affects Reality.      

spirit-- another term difficult to define.  Here are three definitions:  1) an animating principle or vital force that gives life to organisms. It accounts for the difference between a living being and dead corpse.  2) A non-physical, non-quantifiable substance or energy present in living things   While spirit is sometimes considered synonymous with soul, for many this latter term implies having an immortal existence--something not necessarily attributed to spirits. 3) an apparition, ghost, demon, sprite, or supernatural being.  Of course God falls in this last category. It should be noted some conceptions of spirit include the belief that all individual spirits interconnect to form a greater unity, oneness, Cosmic Mind, etc.  

spirituality--can be narrowly defined as the quality or state of being spiritual--which relates to matters pertaining to vital spirit or soul--or it can be much more broadly considered.  Definitions that fit into this latter category are: 1) "the process and result of nurturing one's soul and developing one's spiritual life" (David N. Elkins),  and 2) "one's spirituality is the range of one's emotional relationships to those questions that cannot be answered..."like  'What happens when you die?'"(Jaron Lanier).  Some confine their spirituality to the boundaries provided by traditional religion;  others look elsewhere to meet their spiritual needs. 3) In recent years Project Worldview has begun promoting a new way of metaphorically looking at spirituality—as the domain at the intersection of what both our heads and our hearts tell us is fundamentally important.

tacit knowledge -- knowledge that can not be put into words, symbols or otherwise made into explicit knowledge. It is argued that you both know much more than you can describe, and that often you know but can’t identify how it is you know. Tacit knowledge is intimately connected with personal experience of reality, whereas explicit knowledge is one step removed from reality. It is argued that the attempted transformation of tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge (by putting one’s experience into words) can not only at times be difficult, fall far short , or be impossible, but can lead to falsification. Such falsification results when an experienced “whole truth” becomes a pieced together collection of parts (words and symbols) and something much different from the whole. Mystical experience is firmly set in the realm of tacit knowledge.

tao / Taoism--the former is a concept from ancient China that can be thought of as the way of nature and, as related to human behavior, the path of virtuous conduct in accordance with nature; the latter refers to the Chinese mystical philosophy or folk religion built around conformity to the tao. Founded by Lao-Tzu in the 6th century BCE, Taoism is polytheist / animist / shamanist in a traditional Chinese way. Ethically it values compassion, moderation, and humility.

transcendentalism--a philosophy that asserts the importance of the realm beyond the reach of ordinary sensory perception above that of the observable material world.    

trickster, the– a spirit or figure typically linked with disorder, mischief, and chaos (from the folklore and mythology of diverse cultural traditions).  Ancient Europeans have linked the trickster with gods like Prometheus, Hermes, and Dionysus, while Native Americans have connected him with foxes, ravens, coyotes, etc.  For this latter group, tricksters were often clowns who made them laugh–something they deemed a prerequisite before they could properly commune with what they considered sacred.  In general, tricksters have been associated with bringing change–sometimes initially disruptive, painful and unwanted, but ultimately a positive cultural development.  Modern analysts of the civil rights movement in 20th century America have interpreted Rosa Parks' 1955 refusal to give up her seat at the front of the Montgomery bus as a trickster tale.    

witchcraft & Wicca–the use of sorcery or magic, the practice of which varies widely.  It has roots in  pre-Christian, nature-center-ed witchcraft religion based on Goddess worship.  In early Christian European cultures it became linked to evil, and the Devil.  Witches were typically women, believed to have supernatural powers, who perhaps practiced in secret.  During the height of the witch mania, the 15th–17th centuries, hundreds of thousands of women are believed to have been burned at the stake. Wicca is a 20th century revival of ancient pagan witchcraft–which  incorporates worship of God and Goddess.  These are sometimes seen as dual, complementary aspects of a universal life force–symbolized by the Sun and Moon

yin & yang--in Chinese philosophy this refers to polar extremes or opposite sides of something. The yin is linked with a female, passive principle; the yang to a male, active principle. The distinction can also be made in terms of dark vs. light, cold vs. hot, wet vs. dry, etc. Embracing moderation can mean finding a balance of yin and yang in one’s  life.    

Yoga—from Hinduism, a way to suppress physical and mental activity offering a path to spiritual mastery where the goal is liberating the self; more popularly, a discipline and system of exercises and postures for staying physically fit and maintaining health.  



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