December 2012 issue of Smithsonian Magazine includes an interview with Dr. Oliver Sacks, author of Awakenings, a biographical account of his experiments with patients in disease-induced vegetative states (later made into a movie with Robert DeNiro and Robin Williams). As impressive as Dr. Sacks’ works are, both literary and medical, it is his recent work, Hallucinations, and the interview about it that caught my attention. So, I reference my good ole Webster’s Dictionary – just to verify some definitions, because my brain is being bombarded by contemplations typical to my unique brand of offensive “left field” banter.
Hallucinate: to affect with visions.
UPG: (Unsubstantiated Personal Gnosis) used to identify information gained thru meditation, “intense” flashes of intuition, visions and other spiritual experiences.
Gnosis: esoteric knowledge of a spiritual truth.
According to Carl Jung, the human psyche desires original experience and not assumptions, to base its trust in. Unfortunately, humans make a habit of accepting assumptions from various religions and sciences in order to justify his personal gnosis. When anyone speaks of religion and science, generally, they’ve already incorporated aspects of their own gnosis into their discussion, albeit in some cases, a very limited amount; and, the more generalized the topic, the more personal gnosis is included.
Dr. Sacks, however, believes that every choice we make is predetermined by the neurophysiology of the human brain; “free will” is only an illusion. In other words, the programmed neurophysiology of homo-sapiens throughout history has created a sort of “genetic memory” which should not be confused for immediate cognizance.
UPG is one of the most acceptable excuses for an inconsistent religious practice existing in reconstructionist paganism, today. As mentioned earlier, it heavily relies on alternative neurological responses to personal spiritual experience (or, “visions” and “intuition”). Dr. Sacks writes:
“In general, people are afraid to acknowledge ‘hallucinations’ because
they immediately see them as a sign of something awful happening to the brain.”
Now, reread his statement replacing the word “hallucinations” with “visions”. Although, the implication of “visions” is not as severe, the physical process of “hallucinating” is still the same. At the point where a person undergoes a spiritual experience that leads to the formation of an UPG they have already begun to put it through the process Jung mentions (above).
Jung goes on to explain that these processes reflect attitudes and concerns within a person’s personal life, whereby if he projects his own psychology into it (which, apparently he does; above) the experience has been rendered false by way of personal bias. It can no longer be presented to any public with objectivity; there is only the pretense of truth and a deceptive fiction. Dr. Sacks mentions that “our better natures are constantly threatened by the bad things” [in our lives].
Sacks was part of the LSD research of the 60’s, and has no desire to revisit synthetic hallucinations, though he researches the neuroscience of the hallucinatory experience. He expresses no need for metaphysical, psychological experiences beyond the “daily clinical experience”. Considering his view on “free will”, it is understandable.
“If you would know a mystic,
do not confine your search to monasteries and temples.” –Ralph M. Lewis
The point being that everyday experience can fill those voids in reconstructionist religions, where most practitioners seem to insist there is a deeper spiritual process that must be discovered by way of spiritual vision [hallucination]. But, if humans by genetics are cognizantly biased by “bad stuff”, “neurons” and “personal gnosis(es)” why should UPG be such a controversial topic? Whatever we do to fill those voids is just a genetic memory we all should have an inclination toward – whether we hallucinate it, or not.
According to Dr. Oliver Sacks, there are mysteries of religious experience. Ecstatic states play an important role in “religious presence hallucinations” (whether said states are “ecstatic” or not is still debatable, such as found in cases of epilepsy sufferers). In point of fact, the Hallucinations book is suffused with a sense of contradiction – hallucinations [visions] as horrible afflictions AND as wondrous gifts. An observation lamented by many visionaries, I’m quite sure.
Carl Jung summarizes best by saying various forms of religious knowledge cease to flow from within a person [via meditation, intense intuitive flashes, visions], they are inspired from without – those “daily clinical experiences”, instead. It appears to be a means by which recons subdue their humanist religious inclination (the genetic memory) of being spiritual creatures, in favor of inflating the ego by justifying highly subjective hallucinatory experiences (visions) as obscure, yet, valid truths. In other words, UPG is nothing more than delusion.
[Ikinde Skreja Ominnsaer, May 2013]
The Portable Jung –“The Spiritual Problem of Modern Man”, pages 461 through 466.
Smithsonian Magazine (Dec. 2012); “The Gonzo Neurologist”.
The CR FAQ, multiple authors.
Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary (series 8)