- Religion and Philosophy
Paranormal and the Sixth Sense – Spiritually Altered States
Intuition, Perception and the Sixth Sense
We give names to the ability to perform certain physical acts and group them under the label senses . Once, the senses were five, but now they number over a dozen. [See Senses, Wikipedia]. Modern science ably describes, in great detail, how each of our senses functions, the physical and chemical processes, and how they provide information interpreted by the brain.
We perceive the composite presented by our senses and call it reality. We compile, assimilate, store and review all the information provided by our senses with the goal of attaining such intangible emotions as happiness, security and tranquility.
Limitations of Physical Senses
Unfortunately, our senses are limited in their ability fully to perceive. We know that some animals have senses with greater ranges than our own. The sense of smell of most mammals is much keener than humans. We also know that some animals have senses that we do not possess at all (e.g., electroreception and magnetoreception, the ability to detect electric and magnetic fields).
Among humans, we know that some have better sight and hearing than others. In music, for example, some of us can identify and distinguish between sounds that many cannot. Music is particularly relevant in this discussion because there are so many components that can be defined and measured, but an intangible element, the "spirit" of music, remains outside scientific understanding.
In addition, psychological mechanisms within us can manipulate what we perceive, so that our senses can be fooled, distorted into illusions and misinterpretations. [See Illusions, Wikipedia] Moreover, we modify and expand perception to accommodate conscious awareness. This means that sometimes we see and hear what we want, not what is "real," and that sometimes our mind interprets a reality greater than the sum of what the senses perceive. For example, Gestalt laws of similarity and proximity are used to design computer shortcuts in user interface engineering.
Going one step further, science produces ever more powerful tools that assist our senses surmount our inability fully to perceive. As our cosmic universe is ever-expanding, so too are we experiencing expanding realms of information. New technologies, chemicals and physical procedures continually add to our sensible data. Spectrometers, imaging sensors, electron microscopes, magnetic resonance imaging, seismometers are examples of our ever-expanding specialized "senses."
Complexity of Information Perceived
Unfortunately, even if we could hear, see and perceive all the data being made available to us, we are still severely limited in our ability to comprehend, to process, organize and interpret it. We can absorb and metabolize just so much information before we become satiated and need new tools to calculate, interpolate and store all the data available. This magnifies our lack of understanding of even the reality accessible to us.
As we discover new frontiers of awareness, we experience greater complexity of information. Instead of progressing, we sense that we are actually falling behind, becoming increasingly ignorant, as more and more questions arise for which we have no answers.
One response to overwhelming amounts of data is specialization. We develop fields of study and experts arise in these fields. We then rely on their specialized "senses" to perceive and to interpret our own "reality." In other words, science has become our eyes for understanding many areas of our existence.
Summary of Blind Spots
As we have seen, our physical senses perceive only a fraction of the reality available to them. Without venturing outside the material world, we can readily identify blind spots where our senses fail us, To summarize:
- Our senses have limited range;
- We lack certain senses;
- Our mind can perceive more than the simple data presented by senses;
- Scientific processes significantly magnify our senses;
- Increases in data overwhelm us and limit our ability fully to perceive;
- Specialization allows scientists to study large volume of data in specific areas.
The apparent limitations of our senses underscore the obstacles confronting scientists trying to encompass God's creation. Enter psi, paranomal experiences based on a sense(s) not yet defined by science. Psi is a neutral term for psychic experiences coined by British psychologist Robert H. Thouless in a 1942 article in the British Journal of Psychology . [Thouless, Robert H. (1942:Jan), "Experiments on paranormal guessing."
. . . there are words for psi experiences in every language, from Arabic to Zulu, Czech to Manx Gaelic. The universality of the words reflects the fact that these phenomena are basic to human experience. And indeed psi experiences have been reported by people in all cultures, throughout history, and at all ages and educational levels. This suggests that the phenomena are basic not only to human nature, but they also tell us something about the fundamental fabric of reality. [ Entangled minds: extrasensory experiences in a quantum reality By Dean I. Radin, Spirituality & Health Magazine, Dec. 2006 ]
Clairvoyance, fanaa, intuition, moksha, mysticism, nirvana, paranormal, precognition, third eye (the inner eye) and others, all claim perception into a transcendent reality. However, scientists interested in such psi phenomena face imposing restrictions within their professions. They are discouraged from pursuing controversial topics and are severely limited in funding sources. Nevertheless, some scientists are not deterred.
The scientific evidence is now stronger than ever for commonly reported experiences such as telepathy (mind-to-mind communication), clairvoyance (information received from a distant place) and precognition (information received from a distant time). Studies suggest that we have ways of gaining information that bypass the ordinary senses. The sixth sense and similar terms, like second sight and extrasensory perception (ESP), refer to perceptual experiences that transcend the usual boundaries of space and time . . . the outcomes of many other types of tests by dozens of investigators on precognition and other classes of psi phenomena, have caused even highly skeptical scientists to ponder what was previously unthinkable—the possibility of a genuine sixth sense. [ Is There a Sixth Sense? Psychology Today ]
Spiritual Health and Perception
Verily, there is no purifier in this world like the true knowledge of the Supreme Being. One discovers this knowledge within, naturally, in course of time when one's mind is cleansed of selfishness by Karma-yoga. [Bhagavad Gita 4.38]
Spiritual well-being is essential for complete health. When we successfully incorporate Divine awareness into our consciousness, we develop a personality that perceives reality in a unique manner. A dimension comes into view that offers harmony and mental equanimity previously unrecognized.
This does not mean that people who believe and worship will enjoy a long and healthy life without sickness or problems. Spiritual health is simply a fundamental component of the natural human condition. Without it our existence is not optimized and we are likely to feel incomplete, suffering the consequence of an imbalanced and unfulfilled life.
Despite great secular accomplishments during our modern age of discovery, exploration and technology, we have made little progress into the realm of spirituality. If fact, we could argue that spiritual understanding has actually declined during the last two centuries.
Nevertheless, some scientists, particularly medical doctors, have always maintained a connection between physical health, mental well-being and spiritual strength. They have consistently affirmed the relationship between health and faith. Likewise, traditional healers rely on faith as much as on herbs.
Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: and the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. [James 5:14-15 (KJV)]
The enormous power of mental equanimity and spiritual harmony brings exceptional relief when guilt, stress and anxiety are part of the illness. This is difficult for a person of little or no faith to understand. Joy, to a suffering psyche, can alone bring enough relief to improve the physical condition of a patient.
Sympathetic healers who have the confidence of their patients can provide emotional relief simply by psychological interaction. When they offer prayers, blessings or merely touch a patient, a spiritual placebo affects the patient's entire emotional system, generating responses not yet satisfactorily explained by science.
At times, removing from the thought process certain memories, distorted reasoning and faulty logic can accomplish healing. By erasing destructive thoughts, we remove some of the sources of tension, stress and anxiety thereby reducing pain, easing pressure and offering overall relief to the body.
The most effective way to correct the thought process is by emersion in faithful devotion and commitment to good deeds.
Guard against physical unruliness. Be restrained in body. Abandoning
physical wrong doing, lead a life of physical well doing.
Guard against mental unruliness. Be restrained in mind. Abandoning mental wrong doing, lead a life of mental well doing.
Guard against verbal unruliness. Be restrained in speech. Abandoning verbal wrong doing, lead a life of verbal well doing. [Dhammapada 18:231-233]
Restless Spirits in Paranormal Realms
I created the jinn and humankind only that they might worship Me. [Quran: 51:56]
Can you go to your religious store and pick up spiritual nutrition as you would buy supplements for your health food diet? Is there a late-night paranormal convenience store that delivers?
Paranormal Business As Usual
Modern businesses, as their ancient counterparts, try to package everything in forms attractive to consumers -- Perhaps a bottle of holy water, some spiritually endowed icon, or even a magically charged crystal?
Well, anyone seeking to find out more about paranormal phenomena should be aware of a basic rubric: the spiritual world is not for sale. The profit motive just does not mix well with transcendent reality.
There is no transcendence without spirit. An elevated soul may develop powers that are enhanced by physical objects, but the physical objects cannot be the primary vehicles. In fact, there is great danger to the soul that seeks to derive such powers from physical objects and even more so for those who seeking commercial exploitation. For a gateway into the spiritual and paranormal worlds, try stocking up on some essentials: God-consciousness, faith, charity, humility and patience.
Likewise, drug enthusiasts seeking altered states of consciousness or mystic experiences often find that an unprepared soul is more likely endangered than transformed by entheogens. A material substance is a poor vehicle for transcending reality. When physical sensations overwhelm the senses, instead of transcendence the result is titillation, sensual stimulation, and carnal excitement.
We often rely on appetites and desires to elevate our spiritual nature when we really should be relying on spiritual energy to transform our self. We cannot consume physical matter, material ingredients, to transcend physical reality. Matter interferes with our spiritual connections, ensnaring the soul in transient illusions and whimsical impulses.
Thou movest us to delight in praising Thee; for Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee [The Confessions of Saint Augustine]
Spiritual and Paranormal Essentials
Can we simply put a holy scripture under our pillow and assume we will be changed as we sleep? The physical book houses the written words that convey guidance, understanding and wisdom. But, the book cannot do the work that we ourselves must do to extract spiritual thoughts, truthful words and noble acts.
Under special difficulties, or when in great need of, or great longings after, any particular mercy, for yourself or others, set apart a day for secret prayer and fasting by yourself alone; and let the day be spent, not only in petitions for the mercies you desire, but in searching your heart, and in looking over your past life, and confessing your sins before God, not as it wont to be done in public prayer, but by a very particular rehearsal before God of the sins of your past life, from your childhood hitherto, before and after conversion, with the circumstances and aggravations attending them, and spreading all the abominations of your heart very particularly, and fully as possible, before him. [Jonathan Edwards]
Darkness to Light.
When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. [Acts 2:1-4]
What greater altered state is there than one that comes from darkness to light, from confusion to certainty, from lusts and appetites to restraint and self-control. Compare that to the physical high that flares for a few moments then has to be rekindled.
Patience and Perseverance
The truly altered mind touches elemental reality. It is not merely glimpses into distorted mirrors or delusory mental experiences .
When our senses are inebriated, we do not elevate our mind; we do not nourish our thought process. We may seek to climb new heights, but instead, remain in physical bondage, chained to the material world that feeds us. We may perceive differently but do not transcend our material condition.
Trying to attain understanding while bypassing spiritual development is not possible. We remain trapped in a quagmire of chemicals, lusts and confusion.
We must first cultivate patience. We must train our body and control our transient thoughts.
Revile not, harm not, live by rule restrained; Of food take little; sleep and sit alone; Keep thy mind bent upon the higher thought." Such is the message of awakened ones. [Udana, Meghiya (Buddhist Scripture)]
Proclaim! (or read!) in the name of thy Lord and Cherisher, Who created Created man, out of a (mere) clot of congealed blood: Proclaim! And thy Lord is Most Bountiful, He Who taught by the pen, Taught man that which he knew not. [Quran 96:1-5]
When we attain insight into revealed truth, we establish a presence in a different dimension, one to which we resort whenever possible. We discard illusions, we quiet our restless mind and find peace in a Divine Reality. We enjoy enduring awareness of the Creator, understand our purpose, and thereby gain certainty and guidance.
Religious doctrines may or may not be an opiate for the common adherent, but revealed truth is the source of ultimate revolutionary thought.
Those who believe, and whose hearts find satisfaction in the remembrance of Allah (God): for without doubt in the remembrance of Allah (God) do hearts find satisfaction. Those who have believed and done righteous deeds - a blest state is theirs and a good return. [Quran 13:27-29]
Ecstasy in the Spiritual World
Have you seen him who makes his desire his god, and God sends him astray purposely, and seals up his hearing and his heart, and sets on his sight a covering? Who, then, will lead him after God [has condemned him]? Will you not then heed? Quran 45.23
And every soul shall come, with it a driver and a witness. (It will be said:) "Thou wast heedless of this; now We have stripped the veil (that covered thy understanding) from thine eyes, and incisive is thy sight this day!" [Quran 50:21-22].
Ecstasy is a remote point in the spiritual world. It is, indeed, reached via altered consciousness, but only after long journeys. The journeys provide transforming experiences that serve as nurishment and support, tools and devices, that we need when ecstasy is reached.
From the Greek word ekstasis, ecstasy literally means "standing outside oneself." It is founded on mystical piety that seeks union of the individual with the Absolute.
Can mind-altering "foods" elevate the thought process above physical reality to achieve ecstasy? At first glance, psychoactive drugs offer a short cut to altered consciousness. Imagine just dropping a capsule into your self and immediately reaching an ecstatic destination. What a quick way to escape a society entrenched in secular, material excesses.
Wrong. A trip outside yourself is interstellar, a cosmic pilgrimage. It requires passage through a Divine Gateway. Time and space, expressed as symbols of wisdom and understanding, must be first be mastered.
The acceleration needed to escape society’s gravitational pull can be deadly. Your tolerance must be developed to survive. Your emotions must be purified.
Emotion is a transduction process through which the social world gets under the skin, is instantiated in the social brain and affects peripheral biology. [NIH, Science of Mind-Body Interaction-an Exploration of Integrative Mechanisms, 2001]
If ecstasy is reached only through mind-altering products, then the products, themselves, attain their own apotheosis. Physical ingredients become pantheistic agents and messengers of physical gods.
Habit-forming dependence is another cause for concern. To be dependent on a chemical for spiritual awareness is inconsistent with transcending materiality and attaining an elevated spiritual state.
What are the effects of chemicals on our ability to serve, worship and respond generously? If we consume a chemical to escape the clutches of secular, material reality, then we have traded one material demon for another. What began as a rejection of worldly, commercial values now approximates reliance on the oft-maligned pharmaceutical industry.
Outside the Self
To achieve our goal, an internal change is required in attitude and behavior. Devotional practices must be cultivated to produce the necessary spiritual energy. Ecstasy then becomes a lifestyle manifesting our highest ideals and our dedication to benevolence and altruism. It is thus that we can "stand outside our self."
But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. [1 Corinthians 2:9,10 KJV ].