Spirituality based on a conscious suspending of disbelief can be a very good thing.

A mystic … Who or what is a mystic?

None of us are born a mystic in the contemporary and popular perception of mysticism itself.  However, all humans possess, I believe, the capacity to experience a mystical or intuitive sense. Such a sense is but one of many aspects of being alive and possessed of self-awareness and active thoughts.

I believe that I became aware of and began to actively tend to mysticism as a result of my religious training which included being stimulated by cultural stories of mystical events.

I would suggest that almost the entirety of LDS membership is made up of individuals who to some degree became self-informed and self-identified at an early age by taking literal the mystical cultural stories. Taking the events themselves as literally true was not so much the problem as was having to deal with the theology, dogma and doctrine that were the result of human interpretation of the storied events themselves.

These ideas bring me back to this, my most recent thematic writing: our deliberate and conscious suspension of disbelief.

In previous articles I have tried to portray the negative consequences of suspending disbelief and then emotionally and mentally entering into the mythical world about which we have suspended disbelief in order to understand and make sense of our lives as our culture portrays them.

At this time, I want to take a different tack in order to express appreciation for and discuss the value – the positives, if you will – of what can happen when a suspension of disbelief helps bring about an equalizing of our dual perceptive natures.

On the one hand, education and overall cultural tendencies within our Western society and culture for the most part emphasize scientific reasoning, cause-and-effect  absolutes, technology and a tendency to trust mostly those things we can measure, quantify and define in logical language and/or in the abstract.

This we call “objective” reality.

As valid as it may seem in very real and literal perceptual terms,  objective reality as we understand and function within it constitutes only one half of our perceptual nature.

Whether we like it or not, desire it to be so or not, we are not Vulcans as portrayed by Star Trek’s Mr. Spock.

It is impossible to suppress the subjective reality we experience. I suspect that the reason for our inability to be and remain “totally objective” about everything is that we attempt to suppress real feelings that are driven by mental and emotional reactions to our interpretations of things, events, words and ideas that dance across our stage of perception.

Suppressed feelings, despite any notion of living in a reality limited to objective perceptions, are not healthy nor normal. Actions based on suppressed feelings do not normally lead to “positive” outcomes regarding perceived problems, issues or challenges.

Let me attempt to express it another way.

It is my life experience and conclusion that we live an existence governed by the perceptions of our five senses. We have come to understand that our brains function from both a left and right side.

The left-brain is primarily an interpreter of facts – an encyclopedia of personally acquired knowledge and experience. The right brain, the creative and imaginative side, is the source of our music, poetry and inventions.

Both sides of our brains reside in the same cranium and it makes sense that the intent of the Creator is for the two aspects to harmonize in function. Through our senses, facts and experience are admitted into our thinking, ordered and collated on the left side of our brain. Essentially this same information may then conceptualized and experienced perceptively on the right side.

Furthermore, I’m not aware of any writing, sacred or secular, that advises us to emphasize one side at the expense of the other.

Balance and harmony of perception seems the path of our spiritual and physical evolution to wisdom and a higher spiritual plane. In a circumstance of religious and/or spiritual balance, we deal with what I have labeled “letter of the law thinking” and “spirit of the law thinking.”

Left brain thinking with its collection of facts assembled into a knowledge of the “world as it is” may – if relied upon with as much exclusivity as  possible – totally overrule the intuitive wisdom that is formed in the right brain. Right brain wisdom makes possible an ability to perceive and negotiate the “world as it ought to be; the world intended by God,” if you will.

Put another way, we are equipped to see in three dimensions: height, width and depth. Without three-dimensional vision, we see only a square instead of a box and a circle instead of a sphere.

There are in my view dimensions to our intuitive perceptiveness, our spiritual awareness so to speak.  The most commonly missing dimension of this intuitiveness seems to be a prompted wisdom that exists on the side of experience and common sense.

Let me talk about this in a context of what we do with scripture.

Knowledge of the scriptures isn’t enough in and of itself. Knowing the laws and commandments without grasping the divine or spiritual intent is not enough.

If scripture was written in an intuitive and prompted manner, then left-brain logic dictates that scripture ought to be read that same way. More to the point, left-brain logic suggests that a prompting more fully moves through the mind via the creative and imaginative side — the right brain side.

Left-brain thinking turns on the spirit receiver by its ability to read words, remember definitions, remember stories and remember personal life incidents. Right brain thinking activates the more spiritually creative aspect of thinking that senses the will and influence of ideas both higher and deeper in the mind and, very importantly, recalls FEELINGS, something the left brain cannot do except by linear definition.

To live entirely with an emphasis on left-brain thinking makes us no more human than a computer, which amasses knowledge and acts only according to facts in the database.

To live entirely with an emphasis on right brain thinking causes us to live in a world of fantasy, wishful thinking, and imaginary states where the practical application toward bringing wishes to reality is missing.

Right brain conceives the wish, but left-brain has the resources to realize the wish. It is probably the healthiest internal duality we possess.

It makes no sense that God would speak to man solely through left-side, logical, law-based thinking. Nor is it sensible that the Spirit would speak to man solely through right side thinking where ideas would remain only in a conceptual state without the will and knowledge to action.

The implication is that the Spirit speaks to man through a mind balanced with knowledge and wisdom.

Speaking in a specific religious context, I assert that the major weakness of Christianity is that while its Founder did all that He did using the Law as reference material to teach and point toward God, Christianity uses the scripture as Law first and Spirit second. It then points not at God but at the Founder and at its founding heroes instead of where the Spirit leads.

Do we lazily resort to a literal interpretation of spiritual things and then rely on left-brain-dominated blindness by acting only as the words are literally written?

Do we assume then that we have no need that sacred writings be placed in a context of spiritual feeling and understanding?

Do we lazily reside in a fantasy world with a right-brain-dominated weakness of wishful trusting that if we “believe” we are fulfilling God’s intent in giving us life and opportunity?

Do we restrict ourselves to merely looking and pointing at Jesus instead of looking where He looked and pointing where He pointed?

“Lazy” is appropriate here. Are we mostly interested in learning only that which we are commanded to “do”, that which we need to “obey” and that which we “shouldn’t do”?

I have at times in my life been a piano teacher. Worrying about jots and tittles to excess is like being able to play music only by reading notes and counting the rhythm loudly inside our heads as we try to hit the notes as dictated by our loud inner counting.

We have no true feeling for the music itself, the phrasing and the flow.

It is very unlikely, playing or listening to music in that manner, that we will be captured by the fullness of the musical piece nor carried to a higher plane as the music actually communicates its mood and feeling.

Such playing and listening, such “active participation,” if you will, is dominated by left-brain thinking. Although mechanically a player can become very skilled, not only does the music remain mechanical in sound, as if played by a computer, but it is unlikely such a player will ever successfully understand or interpret what he plays, let alone create his own music.

Left-brained musicians and composers did not create our greatest and most beautiful music.

Left-brain-dominated-humans make poor practitioners of lives fully blended by logic, wisdom, intuition and promptings.

It takes a right-brained deliberate resistance to left-brained habit of mind in order to achieve willing suspension of disbelief.

In so doing, it becomes possible to fully experience AND ENJOY a spiritual aspect of living.

 

Search, ponder and pray: What I discerned from the teachings of Joseph Smith

 

Joseph peepstone hat and transcriber
Joseph Smith translates using the seer stone placed within his hat while Martin Harris acts as scribe. Image Copyright (c) 2014 Anthony Sweat.

He was a charlatan, a pious fraud, a liar, adulterer, money digger and whatever else we offendeds can bring to pass in our minds as to why  we’ve been  had from the get-go. Whether, as was I, we were taken to a Saturday night baptism in the 50’s or 60’s by relatives who wanted theirs and our blessings within the kingdom, or whether in a moment of spiritually emotional conversion it all seemed so true and we joined up, the consequence of those moments was a more detailed immersion in the Church narrative which proposed what I have referred to frequently as the “true-churchiness of it all.”

Yeah yeah yeah … that’s how it was in our earliest spiritual mortal life. That’s how it was in the earliest years of our culture’s evolution into the 20th and 21st-century society thriving out of the Valley of the Great Salt Lake today.

I might suggest one impact of the true-churchiness narrative we were fed like  pablum with its claims of exclusivity, a perfect church peopled be imperfect members and the truest doctrines on earth. That impact is that members have a antiseptic perception of the organization, its doctrines, its heroes, its teachings and policies.

The mental resistance bases itself on an almost unconscious assumption that the Mormon Church teaches the purest doctrines, includes a priesthood authority that God gave it (including a power not unlike Obi Wan Kenobi’s “Force” with which miracles are wrought.

Yeah, yeah yeah. Our indignation has taken over our own common sense. We look at years of feeling guilty during the passing of the Sacrament because we were told that the true from of sacrament-participation is to think about the Savior and not so much to relate to remembering the Last Supper and what that might have felt like.

We look at years of agonizing over smoking and drinking coffee, having been spiritually inoculated against those things to the degree that we inflict upon ourselves our own sense of less-than in the worthiness sweepstakes because we know there are so many sitting in righteous reverence who are called to serve when we are not.

We agonized over tithing and the frequent testimonies that affirmed and/or promised nothing less than the tenets of the prosperity gospel if only we would place the required and requested amount into the outstretched hands of Church authority.

We agonized over Church callings as if they were prophetic opportunities to magnify ourselves in our own eyes as much as the eyes of our righteous peers.

We in fact came to believe in and live by the most harshest assumption that can be found in any performance-based religion: Only obedience makes one worthy to receive Divine blessings.

Which brings us back to the seriously flawed but inspired founder of the great global religion.

Joseph the Flawed gifted to his Saints some of the most powerful theological ideas to ever emerge out of the 19th century.

Regarding Joseph Smith, I think of this description as analogous:

“Another kind of sign-seekers are the people fascinated with psychic powers, believing that all genuine mystics must also be magicians who can foretell the future, read other people’s thoughts, heal diseases …

This can be done by giving the impression, allowing rumors to spread, and claiming nothing overtly. Just look knowing when funny coincidences happen, and you acquire a reputation for working miracles. Given the reputation, the actual miracles follow, because people believe in you.

When it doesn’t work you lament about their lack of faith …  Your successes will be remembered and your failures forgotten because so many people hope against hope for a real wonder-working Master, and you will end up by believing your own hoax. ” – Alan Watts

The most honest confession I can make for myself is that I am a product of what  Joseph Smith started two hundred years ago. By the time I was born, the rigid theology, doctrinal principles, procedures and ordinances were in place.

But none of those things are currently thriving in my most spiritual of inner sanctuaries. What are however are the habits of search, ponder and pray accompanied by the enculturation of the belief that God  hears my prayers, listens to my thoughts and has given to me through my own personal revelatory experience a testimony of his constant  presence in my life.

With that awareness I occasionally bear testimony of the Mormon Promises and have I have used them to obtain ANY knowledge on ANY subject regardless of whether or not the Church might define my questions as approved and without regard as to whether or not I was ever worthy to just ask the question.

That is how I perceived Joseph’s experience with God and the Spirit. His experience left him with the sure knowledge he could -in the eyes of scientific investigation – replicate his experience enough time to give him a confidence that waxed strong regarding revelation and inspiration.

An honest consideration of the charlatan reveals how fully confidence waxing strong in spiritual affairs permeates the membership and the overall approach to personal revelation.

Which leads me to a few paragraphs appropriate to the title of this article.

“I teach them good principles and let them govern themselves.” Joseph Said.

So  how about let’s govern ourselves and let the dogmatic preaching of a Church with its hand out for cash build its own fortune?

I have come to realize that how I see the world spiritually is a direct consequence of the teaching and examples of the charlatan.

​My soul is not some fragile, static and pre-existant jewel given me by God before I left to come to Earth and birth. The soul is alive, responds constantly to every stimulation, forever curious. It had a hand in forming my body and has a hand in maintaining my body and spirit in this life.

My soul thrives on subjective experience rather than the mere passage of time in some vague ever-rising eternal progression.

My soul has to work with the assets not only given but that which would develop into the mind’s ally most closely involved with physicality: my ego. My ego is not my enemy and cannot pretend to not know what my soul definitely knows.

The mind with the ego seated in the captain’s chair constitute the spiritual connection to the soul and eternity in one direction and the world and physical reality in the other.

I am then the manifestation of your own soul expressed mortally by the work of the ego. If my ego begins to take itself too seriously, it is up to the soul, who is the only presiding authority in my mortal arrangement, to take the ego to task, restore humility and move forward in faith.

In other words, I quote the Gnostic text in which Sophia, the Soul Spirit takes the self-important ego that thinks itself almighty to task.

“Opening his eyes he saw a vast quantity of matter without limit; and he became arrogant, saying, ‘It is I who am God, and there is none other apart from me.’

When he said this, he sinned against the entirety. And a voice came forth from above the realm of absolute power, saying, ‘You are mistaken, Samael’ — which is, ‘god of the blind.'” (The Hypostasis of the Archons, p. 167, The Nag Hammadi Library in English, edited James M. Robinson). 

Without the promptings from the mind of Joseph Smith – who spoke without any correlation of doctrines, performances and belief sets in mind – I would not have come to a place of my own revealed religion and spiritual practice.

If religious leadership leaves us confused and perhaps even doubting, I realize how well the process described from the mind of Joseph Smith works for me, and has going back to the commencement of my so-called apostasy.

7 Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.

8 But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must cask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.

9 But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a

stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong; therefore, you cannot write that which is sacred save it be given you from me. – Joseph Smith, D&C 9

There are no perfect prophets, no perfect general authorities and certainly there is not a perfect church. There is not a perfect culture. I never chose the culture, it chose me when I was born into it. To think otherwise and reject it would be in truth tearing off my own hide.

I do not need to do that. Neither do you.

Own the way you’ve come to see the world.
Own how much of it comes from your culture.
Own it!