In an earlier post, I wrote about the epistemological problems with drawing conclusions from meditative experiences.  I should like to point out that I am not disputing bona fide experiences from meditation in and of themselves.That something is happening when one meditates is not the issue.  I think something certainly is taking place when one has those kinds of experiences.  Rather, the conclusion about the experience is the issue.  The reasoning for questioning these conclusions is straightforward:  Since all conclusions about experiences are themselves rationally attained, then it stands to reason that they are subject to being mistaken if not adequately scrutinized.

LightbulbFor example, in a room completely illuminated with red lighting, I might perceive a blank piece of paper as being red.  The problem is, the piece of paper may actually be white and the red lighting is simply coloring the white page such that the page looks red when it is actually white.  If that is the case, a couple of things would be occurring simultaneously.  First, I would be perceiving a red page.  And there would be no disputing my experience.  As a matter of fact, we could say that it is true that N.P. is perceiving a red page.  Second, the page itself would be white in spite of the fact of my perceiving it to be red.  So my conclusion that the page itself is red would be false because the page is actually white.  And, since this kind of mistake can occur in various ways, we should be careful about what we conclude — even about spiritual matters.

I’m reminded of an interesting book by R.C. Zaehner entitled Mysticism: Sacred and Profane where he delves into an alternative explanation for mystical experiences.  Building from the work of Carl Jung and the ideas of Nicholas of Cusa, he suggests a construct of the world that exists purely in the mind; a mental Matrix, so to speak.  consciousSo, on the one hand, true reality exists out there, and on the other, a mental construct of reality exists that matches true reality.  This mental Matrix brings an awareness of the world that guards against a discontinuity in experience such that, if one were to close their eyes, they would still be aware of their surroundings even though they could no longer see them.  So, if one was in their living room and closed their eyes, they would still be aware of everything in the room, the hall that leads to the rest of the house, the door that leads out onto the back patio, the Elm trees along the back fence, etc.

Based on this theory, it would follow that the experience of oneness from meditation is simply occurring in our mental Matrix of reality instead of true reality.  And if that were the case, meditation would be nothing more than a very impressive mind exercise.

It seems to me that this is just as plausible an explanation as eastern philosophy would typically conclude.  Perhaps I’m off in my thinking here.  As always anyone with some insight is welcome to weigh in!

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