What would you have us do as a society to try and embrace the mystical in all its diverse forms? Why? What do you propose the relationship of mystical experience and truth should be?
I have no problem with what you're saying, and yeah using Tarot or other forms of divination for 'fortune telling' is a bad idea - not simply because you are surrendering critical reasoning to randomness but because that surrender has a momentum of it's own which can lead to some very unfortunate outcomes.
The Rorschach explanation is only part of it however. The mirroring function of seeking an answer from an irrational source can give you immediate access to the intuitive functions of your psyche. You can reframe the situation that you're in and gain real insights. These insights may not turn out lead to to better judgments, and in fact the very fact that you are turning to your intuition may be a sign that you should be looking at your external conditions and executive processes more than the intuitive last resort, but nonetheless, it can clear the pipes and get you thinking in a new direction that can be fun.
I can certainly get behind 'thinking in new directions', intuition is valuable, inasmuch as it's a useful tool to solve problems or step towards greater understanding. Intuition can be triggered by any number of associative tools; I get mine from music, you seem to get yours from, say, Astrology.
The problem, however, is that an associative tool - say, the shifting patterns of a sheen of vegetable oil on water, or even the shape of clouds on a sunny day - is just an associative tool. If you assign it any additional significance, any sort of mystic superiority of any stripe, you're moving out of 'using a tool' and into 'believing in a process'. It's the difference between believing the cards say something when using a Tarot and a recognition that you're abusing cold reading and microreactions for the same insights. If you fall victim to your own confirmation bias, you contribute nothing.
I think you'd agree with that, wouldn't you? If something is real only because of a bias, then it's not really real
, you only perceive it as being so.
The other part is that these divinatory methods themselves have loose things in common. They all are built upon the exact same sorts of symmetries and cycles, mandalas and symbols. They directly represent our ancient modeling of ourselves and our connection to the cosmos and as such they are primary texts which likely predate written language. They may not hold the secret of the universe, but they are evidence that people all over the world have concluded more or less what the secret of the universe looks like - and surprise, it looks just like binary math and genetic bases, it looks like all of the pantheons and calendars, the forces of physics, the maps and models of human and cultural development.
Not really. Astrology has very little to do with any modern analogue, especially given that via precession the astrological charts modern astrologers use are nearly two 'houses' out of date, and they have no idea. I can demonstrate a bit of this now, for you, if you'd like. In fact.. why not?
Read this. Tell me, do you think it applies to you? Do you know someone to whom it may apply? What sign do you think I'm describing here?
They make very interesting and exciting friends. They like to leave their mark on everyone they meet. If you need any advice, they are the ones to ask. On one side, they have the perseverance and drive to do what needs to be done, they are self-sufficient and do not need to depend on other people for the material and physical things in life. On the other hand, they depend on people for emotional support and encouragement. They are excellent business people and investors because of their intuitive and psychic ability and their creative forward thinking mind, they are able to predict future trends. They love to make people laugh and cheer people up and it makes them feel good to make others feel good. They are always after intellectual stimulation, constantly discovering something new, forming new opinions and stubbornly traveling their way regardless of what other people think. They are very prone of living in denial. They will say the feel okay or everything is alright even when it's not. They need to be organized in their mind, sometimes all their energy is taken from organizing their mind that they have a difficult time organizing their surroundings. They easily look too deep into an issue and over analyze what they percept.
This was all taken from an outside site - but you tell me... is it close? Do you know someone like this? Who are they? What sign are they?
In truth, the above is an amalgamation of four signs. Can you tell me what four? Statistically, you should be able to (by sheer accident) guess two - but did you originally concieve of this being a single sign? Did you already have a sign in mind when I asked?
Astrology works by generalization coupled with confirmation bias. Most of the phrases above are null phrases
, that is, they're either complimentary or subjectively wide enough that they can be applied across a large swath of the population. Additionally, they're in triplets that are diametrically opposed - look at this one: "On one side, they have the perseverance and drive to do what needs to be done, they are self-sufficient and do not need to depend on other people for the material and physical things in life. On the other hand, they depend on people for emotional support and encouragement." This was pulled from a single entry... don't you think that one or the other applies to just about anyone?
Take it from a former grifter - phrases like these are money
. People light up when they feel that you have some unusual insight into them... but that is just meaningless drivel designed to elicit precisely that response.
There is a third part, which I hesitate to get into because people who have not experienced it themselves will be forced to dismiss it out of hand. And that it that it's not random. Not completely. I can tell you that beyond Rorschach and beyond sacred geometry, there is something out there that if you go fishing for, tugs on your line pretty quickly. Astrology is a lot of things, but random is not one of them. Sure, you could pull cold readings out of your ass and justify it as a pretty decent therapy, but I tell you that when you look at hundreds of people's charts - their families (especially families, my God), celebrities, events - it's like any other text. You begin to be able to read more of what it says. The beauty of the radically improbably connections between people who are connected by birth is jaw dropping. Chilling. 'Why the hell aren't people talking about this on the news' level of amazing.
I have looked at hundreds of people's charts. Your confirmation bias is showing, and no, it's not chilling. It's generalization, confirmation bias, and credulity all rolled together in a pervasive package that keeps its believers because of seeming utility. I cannot do more than to say "I could throw your chart now, and you'd believe me, and I've done it a hundred times - and every last time was a scam."
I do firmly believe that a lot of practitioners do believe in what they're doing, but that's simply because this particular system offers such a general result that they seem to be doing well and they get a lot of positive feedback. The data, however, is against you - any system you care to name can predict fuzzy things like "you are intuitive" or "you have a decent eye for color" and get lots of positive feedback. It can even say "you'll be lucky this week in money" - but don't you realize just how nebulous that is? If I win $5 at the scratch-off or inherit a million from a dead relative.. both fulfill the prediction. If I find a quarter in the street, it does as well - but random chance specifies that any event predicted with either a relatively long or no time boundary will eventually result in a positive outcome.
There's nothing special at all in that - especially when interpretations of the predictions are so damned subjective.
Astrology is just a more detailed and heavily anthropomorphizing kind of clock. Rather than producing a one dimensional calendar of meaningless duration, Astrology uses the apparent motion of planetary orbits as more of a musical farmer's almanac. And it works. Occasionally very well - not as a predictive tool (waste of time...try predicting 'Wikipedia' in 1988, it comes out like..'something with computers and knowledge and large groups of people in a non-profit....not very helpful'.
Precisely. Except it doesn't work - because marking past events by nebulous generalizations is so easy as to be child's play, and its predictions (as you point out) are so fuzzy as to have infinite probability.
Is it the physical planets that cause things to happen? No more than the hands of a clock cause lunch time to happen or the light of the sun causes most of the world to rise out of complete unconsciousness ever morning. It just coincides. It correlates. These cycles have been around a lot longer than life has and we, more than anything else, have come out of their relationship over time. Their time.
Woo. Unsupported woo. This is similar thinking that is absolutely certain that homeopathic dilutions have some significance beyond being water - or, as Tim Minchin puts it, "isn't it amazing that a homeopathic remedy remembers the stuff you put in it, but somehow forgets all the poo its had in it." Confirmation bias does not equal useful principle.
As a society, you know, I don't know if it's wise to try to have the general public embrace the mystical. They have enough trouble wrapping their heads around 'God is imaginary'. I would however promote some rigorous dialogue and experimentation between neuroscience, genetics, anthropologists, and psychologists that brings in art and mysticism to help better model subjective consciousness and it's relation to our intersubjective apprehension of our world.
Define 'subjective consciousness'. Define 'intersubjective apprehension'. Explain how people's perceptions of reality, so easily fooled by their own biases and suppositions, can possibly be worthwhile in defining anything as a gestalt. Art is a useful emotional tool, but mysticism is just mysticisim - it's waving hands and going 'wooooo' in some way or another, disguising reality by platitudes that are absolutely worthless for determining truth.
That's the funny thing about gurus, my friend. Every one of them has Truth, but only if you don't notice they're making assertions in every case without evidence of efficacy. Intuition is a valuable tool, but only insofar as it allows you to determine the reality around you - not obfuscate it with some nuanced sense of what that reality might be if you ignore pieces of it.
Woo of all stripes preys on imperfect understanding and our tendency to believe in authority. You can test most of the woo yourself, if you'd like - but if you leave it untested, it certainly looks
good. Unfortunately, it is gilt over nothing, the hollow chocolate bunny of reality.
Mainly though, I'm not at the hypothesis-experiment-conclusion step, I'm all about the Statement of The Problem. (I'm a sextouple Aries and a quadrouple Virgo, hah - I only do beginnings and criticisms) What do you think the future of science and mysticism should be?
I think that science should spend its existence debunking mysticism, where they must intersect.
Look - ancient belief isn't terribly wise
; that's the problem with it. Let's pick on something neutral.. howabout Acupuncture?
If you take subjects into what they think is an acupuncturist, and you use one real acupuncturist and one fellow who inserts the needles at random, you get precisely the same net positive effect; that complex systems of meridians and chi
makes absolutely no difference
compared to a fellow who just sticks needles in you while talking about how awesome it is.
Does this mean that sticking needles in people doesn't have a positive effect? Well, surprisingly, no - it does, in many cases and for many issues. Does it mean, however, that the entire system that is built around sticking needles in people is absolutely immaterial to that effect? Yes. Thousands of years of tradition missed the point - and so it is with all magic. There may be a grain of truth at the bottom of a practice, but 'ancient wisdom' is filled with unnecessary practice that is absolutely useless. 'Cupping' is worthless. Homeopathic dilution leverages the placebo effect (and thank goodness for dilution, or we may not have ever found
the placebo effect - and the effect itself is very useful!).
Your belief in astrology is just that - a belief. Unfortunately, in reality, Saturn neither has an effect on me, nor is my existence at a certain time and place of any impact on it. This grand clock you describe is an ancient practice that tried to tie celestial objects to events in a time before anyone even knew what stars (and planets) really were. It exists now as it was studied as a science for some time, but the best it has is generalizations. It offers nothing. Produces nothing. It is an amusement, offering no significant insight.
Astrology led us to Astronomy - which is something else entirely. Without the former, there would not have been the latter - but like Alchemy, Phrenology, bloodletting, ... well, the list goes on, it has no real merit in the modern world. Its study has turned out to debunk itself.
Prove it for yourself, if you'd like. Throw a chart for a half dozen of your friends. Read those charts, and write down your results. Take those charts to another, unsuspecting astrologer and ask them to match the charts to your friends - they should get two right, by random chance alone. Be skeptical of your own experiences; design an experiment (or borrow one of Randi's!) that removes your
bias from the equation. The hard data is against you.
Can this stuff be useful? Vaguely, I suppose - but their use in intuition is overshadowed by their ability and tendency to manipulate, to become self-fulfilling in their generalizations. Fun woo is one thing... but mysticism has no place in determining truth.