Lynn D. Johnson, Ph.D.
ljohnson at solution-consulting.com
Sun Feb 27 15:21:20 UTC 2005
Paul, this is a wonderful reminder. I did some searching on it, and it
seems that this 1975 study has held up well. We certainly have the
capacity for mystical experiences; I recall last year a study where a
researcher in Britain had constructed a helmut that produced some weak
rotating magnetic fields over the right temporal lobe; people felt
ineffible, mystical sensations. Except, of course, Richard Dawkins, who
put the helmut on and said, in essence, "Nope, I don't feel a thing."
the researcher commented that Dawkin's right temporal lobe seemed
Paul J. Werbos, Dr. wrote:
> At 02:50 PM 2/26/2005, Michael Christopher wrote:
>> I ask that latter question because in my own spiritual
>> experiences I've come across Jesus once or twice, and
>> he never said anything about gay marriage destroying
>> civilization. But if I'd had the same religious
>> experiences, which you would call intrinsic, while a
>> member of a Christian group, I might have ended up
>> coating what Jesus really was to me, deep down, with
>> some extra layers of dogma about what Jesus wants.
> This does move in an important direction.
> Personally I think that any truly serious
> study of the psychology of religion should cite the classic study by
> Greeley.... But I don't have the citation at home... in the New York
> weekly magazine, circa 1972... the article "Are We a Nation of Mystics?"
> After a very lengthy, large and careful study of the deep values of
> Americans (funded by NSF)...
> they had some results which seemed very counterintuitive at first.
> In a pretest, they asked the question "have you ever had a
> religion-mystical experience?",
> 30 percent said "yes." The survey-takers laughed, assume people didn't
> know what
> a "mystical experience" was supposed to be, and rephrased the question
> to make it
> more concrete, clear and even shocking, something like -- "Did you
> ever have an experience
> in which a great spiritual force descended upon you, and pulled you up
> out of your body, revealing..."
> And then, when they asked it that way in the full survey, sent to
> thousands... 40 percent said yes.
> The statistics showed a higher "yes" rate with more education, clear
> on up to PhD, and
> social status, and so on. The really entertaining part came when the
> results came back,
> and the university review committee tried to make sense of it. One guy
> says:"There must be a gross
> error here. this is impossible. If this ANOVA formula is right, 70
> percent of the people in THIS room
> right now would say yes to THAT question. And we certainly know THAT
> can't be true."
> After silence, another guy says:"OK, you put me in a very awkward
> This is a confidential proceeding, right? In the interest of science,
> and of not demeaning
> this survey we have all worked so hard on, I must confess.." And then
> another, and another, until it was
> 70 percent. And then they did a kind of informal follow-on "survey"
> (no names) on the twelve "yes."
> ALL of them felt both grateful and scared. They all became more loyal
> to WHATEVER
> religion they happened to belong to, as if to say:"PLease, God, I'll
> be a good boy, whatever you
> want, just don't do THAT again, I'm really not ready."
> I remember having very similar reactions myself during prep school, at
> a time when I was
> a truly committed Amazing-Randi type skeptic... and the ghost my mother
> warned me about did put me off guard... such an inner turmoil... I
> don't believe ..
> but please don't take it as an insult... how can I sleep?...
> I certainly am not ready for this...
> But years passed, and I gradually realized that one is more secure
> with eyes
> open than with eyes shut, in the light rather than in the darkness,
> even if one starts out seeing
> only fog.
> And... years later... I remember the young woman from rural Korea
> telling me about their regular
> family procedures, trying to use a "ghost-calling bell" and other
> meditative techniques to TRY
> to call the spirits of their ancestors to communicate with them, to
> stay in touch...
> It is a more natural attitude than fear, I think, and it is weird how
> our officious textbooks
> brand those people as "just another nation of soulless atheists..."
> and the like.
> But then again, OUR attitude of really wanting to understand what is
> going on here,
> and avoid being fuzzy and to maintain a scientific attitude... well...
> we do have our own special angle for viewing the elephant, and it is
> useful too.
> There is also another aspect to your email.
> I think Freud said a lot about how our "subconscious mind"
> often communicates "to us" via whatever symbol system we happen
> to have gotten ingrained. Thus there are aspects of such experience which
> need to be interpreted very carefully, in much the same way as one
> interprets dreams.
> This is no small matter. And it is a challenge to try to
> evolve one's inner symbol system so as to facilitate more exact
> communication, less dependent on metaphorical colorings.
>> Biblical infallibility and literalism seem like a huge
>> stumbling block, and when politics is added, even more
>> so. These days, Christians who interpret the Bible
>> "wrongly" (for example, if they reconcile the New
>> Testament with gay marriage the way many Christians
>> forego the admonishments in the NT for women to cover
>> their heads, or if they reconcile evolution with
>> Genesis) are treated not just as theological heretics
>> but as political heretics as well. I've had numerous
> Indeed. Organized religions often do more to oppress and
> weaken and ultimately kill the soul than to facilitate its growth
> and health.
> But... I have often been reminded lately of an old saying...
> "I don't belong to any organized religion. I am a Quaker..."
>> right wing Christians tell me that evolution is a
>> "lie". Not just criticizing the theory, but claiming
>> that everyone who supports it is deliberately
>> deceptive. And a roughly equal number of Christians
>> have told me that it's impossible to reconcile gay
>> marriage with the Bible. What does one do if one has a
>> genuine spiritual experience involving Jesus, but
>> cannot conform that vision to the "political
>> correctness" of scriptural literalism and
> In a case like this, thinking for oneself is only a beginning, though
> an important one.
> I have sometimes wonder what life would be like, if the 70 percent
> did not feel compelled to lock up their real thoughts within themselves,
> due to fear of gestapos both of the Amazing Randis and of the
> TV preacher pharisee types?
> But then again... if our 70 percent do not really desire to see more...
> well, it really is a question what we are ready for...
> and opening Pandora's Box can have its perils, depending on how
> it is approached.
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