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her difficult and painful transition to skepticism

  1. Jun 18, 2004 #1

    Ivan Seeking

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  3. Jun 18, 2004 #2


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    "Purveyor". I have seen this word before. For instance as "purveyor of mysticism for the upper class" (referring to Alan Watts in comparison with an obscure old Chinese pseudo-alchemist).
  4. Jun 18, 2004 #3


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    good line

    I understand there is a regular workshop at Esalen inst called
    "Problems of the Very Rich"
    it offers ways to work out the emotional problems of being very rich

    In imperial china there was a bunch of hired Taoist alchemists
    who catered to the elite around the Emperor and made up Life elixirs
    and purveyed mysticism and magic---it was a corrupt form of Taoism
    which had degenerated into fashionable nonsense.
  5. Jun 19, 2004 #4
    Middle age sucks, even with the hormones, when the finality of this journey really sets in, new age thinking softens the blow, but only somewhat. When those new age men, that used to fawn, go for the younger babes, well, it should make a skeptic of anyone. That yin yang figure, the dark side is the skeptic and the white side is the so what? Keep the faith baby, as the old Sufi saying goes, "Trust in God, but, tie up your camel."

    Middle age is most definitely the time of accepting the transience of the physical, and cultivation of a more committed relationship with the infinite.
  6. Jun 19, 2004 #5


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    Great article Ivan!!
  7. Jun 19, 2004 #6


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    Karla McLaren
    really interesting journey
    her parents already represented a bipolar
    intellectual culture
    so she had a compass and map to go by
    which so many others lack

    now she is studying sociology---maybe something
    enlightening will come out of her research
    she would need to be lucky in finding co-workers
    who complement her strengths and weaknesses
    but if she is lucky and collaborates with good people
    it might be interesting

    I would like to know why pseudoscience seems to be
    on the rise and why America which had honorable
    18th century deist roots and a constitution
    based on reason seems to be turning into a
    garbage heap of superstition unable to counteract the basest lies.

    Dayle the physical and the infinite are not opposites---pleni sunt coeli et terra gloria tua---nature is full of glory
  8. Jun 19, 2004 #7


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    Marcus, the deism was only an elite movement. Ben Franklin was swayed sometimes by itinerant Methodist preachers, and shortly after the Revolution came the "Great Awakening" when the common folk were swept by religious fervor, leading to the well remembered decades of sectarianism and tent revivals.

    The challenges of modern life disabused many from simple contentment with "mere Christianity", and the new age culture was what they turned to. Notice her point that feelings are thought superior to reason. This is the characteristic of people whose reason was not sufficiently strong to be of real use to them in day to day living. Since "figuring things out" gave them no more good than going with their feelings, and was unpleasant besides, they enthroned feeling over thinking.
  9. Jun 19, 2004 #8

    Ivan Seeking

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    I see these as a few of the more interesting statements made.

    A few thoughts on this theme: Firstly, I think what drives most people in both cultures is a desire for ‘the truth” – understanding all that exists. Critical thinkers seek to explore the universe through logic, whereas the new-agers sought a kind of internal, intrinsic knowledge. The fact is, neither avenue of pursuit produces real understanding.

    I suspect that McLaren may suffer another crisis of the spirit when she realizes the limits of science. There are many answers that science can never provide. Many of these kinds of answers are those which the new-age culture sought to provide. Sure, I can use physics to understand the universe to a point - as defined with the parameter of that which can be measured - but in the end the deep philosophical questions are just that, philosophical. Many answers can never be found directly through logic and science. Any philosophical belief can ultimately only be justified through a leap of faith. There can always be doubt; there can always be hope.

    Though I was and am open to some “new-age” beliefs I have never been a new-ager. In fact my interest in physics and science grew in parallel to my interests in the paranormal. The logical fallacies of the new-age culture were mostly immediately obvious to me and I never really fell for any belief system, but many of these beliefs are not really new-age. For example, Chakra’s are hardly a modern concept. When McLaren says new-age, in some cases she really should say spiritual; some of these beliefs are nearly as old as civilization itself.

    Here is the problem as I see it. Some, perhaps most people need to believe that life has meaning or purpose. We would all like to think that life goes on after death. We would all like to believe that goodness wins over evil. We all desire a sort of cosmic justice for the terrible injustices of life. Life can be cruel. How do we look at the child with cancer and say to ourselves, oh well, life sucks. We all need more than that. I think that this is why we are spiritual beings. We needed to be in order to remain sane; to evolve. The fact that spirituality can be traced back in time as far as our species tells me that this is a necessary component of being human. New-age beliefs were not a disaster; they were simply a manifestation of being human.

    I believe that all spirituality may simply be the pursuit of a basic truth that lies within us. There may be truth beyond that which can be measured.
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2004
  10. Jun 19, 2004 #9


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    physicsforums is New Age too.

    I mostly agree here, although I would use "logos" instead of "logic". Science is more dynamical than logic.

    Said that, have you checked around the forums? Most of the questions are answered out of the science Bible, instead of running across the evidence going towards the answer, or towards the lack of it. Intriguingly, people asking the questions welcome this kind of answers; in the cases where both dynamical-style and established-style answers are given, they keep chatting on the later ones. Man, this is very much as religion to me. The easy, royal way.
  11. Jun 19, 2004 #10
    this was a very good read, thanks ivan
  12. Jun 19, 2004 #11
    I read the article. I don't think it is a great article, since it comes from a kind of borderline identity. "I used to be a delusional quack, now I am interested in the Social Sciences." Hmmmm. Here is an absolutist quote, and really a revealing quote about the mindset of this person.

    "Skeptical culture exists because of a very real concern for the welfare and well being of others."

    This is a huge assumption, that has no basis in reality. People pursue skepticism for a myriad of personal reasons.
    This woman looks to me like she wants to be accepted in her new life so much, that she offers to betray everything she has known as a life, to have the same celebrity she left behind.

    The New Age thing, and the Scientific thing, have had to meet, in hospitals all over the country. Healing environments are being created that incorporate spiritually, and emotionally literate climate to facilitate healing. There is a meeting of these worlds. Eastern religions, are the religions of the peoples of the east. It is not a fad there, it is not charlatanism, any more than western religion is.

    I ran a vegetarian restaurant in the early seventies, and I was introduced to the full gamut of the blooming new age phenomenon. There are some very good things to come out of that milieu, more than just oak and fern bars. However, in that culture anyone who could write a pamphlet could be a healing guru. I will never forget this one pamphlet by the anorexic, Victoras Kulvinskas, on wheat grass juice, and how it was the perfect food, and how the chlorophyll molecule was just atoms shy of being hemoglobin.... Anyway, I grew tired of that culture, hearing vegetarians make their kids live on sprouts and tofu, while they binged on omelets and complained about mucus. I became really tired of the whole new age thing. I just tip toed away, and kept the wonder, and the knowlege of proper diet, and some of the meditations that I am happy with.

    After working for an HMO, albeit a good one, for seventeen years, I want to be somewhere in between. I just don't see the great schism she sees. There is a reason she gave this up, and it speculate it is much more personal, than she is letting on.

    I know there is an infinity in every aspect of everything; physical and energetic. However, middle age is the time of mastery and late middle age is the time of recapitulation and memory. It is sort of a safe haven from which we can view our pasts, and reconcile as we prepare to bury our parents, and live our lives for ourselves. Many people at this time change careers, return to old pastimes abandoned for the responsibilities of family life.

    This woman's article is irritating to me as she betrays her birth culture, and sucks up to her new culture, hoping to ultimately still be on top of the game. Maybe she can do as well financially, betraying the culture that made her well known.

    I don't see her transition as positive. Since she hasn't transited, she is just as attached as she ever was, only in reverse. Is she saying that there are no skeptical New Agers? She has made a lot of blanket statements that generalize a varied cultural event, even the name of which is questionable, kind of like, what is a liberal? What is a new ager? Is a new ager someone that can't afford skeptical medical treatment? There are just so many people that live under that umbrella. I don't think she is making any sense. Now she wants to be a social worker. Alrighty then.
  13. Jun 20, 2004 #12
    I think the whole article is a lesson in 'dont put all your eggs
    in one basket'
  14. Jun 20, 2004 #13
    "If I write another book about the New Age culture, I want to write it as a sociologist"... "If I were in this business for the money, I would have never seriously questioned what I was doing". I agree with Dayle Record - this article smacks of an attempt to fill an alleged gap in the market, and of presenting oneself as a higher being for being able to understand 'both' camps. "I feel that people in your culture are capable of reaching out to my culture"..."We are a people, not a problem". Well maybe New Age and Science aren't separate categories, they are ends of a dimension, thus we can reject her offer of building a bridge between our 'communities'. I mean, she all but said 'Take me to your leader'!

    "...critical thinking wasn't taught in my high school". Please reassure me that you don't think there has to be a separate class called 'critical thinking' before you can learn to think.

    "I need to be in a real school, studying real science and getting a real degree". So what does she study: physics? psychology? No, sociolology.

    "...my culturally sensitive capacity to attack without attacking and criticize without criticizing was so effective that some avid readers still don't know what I was saying". We should congratute her for being vague?

    Please Ivan, I generally trust your judgement, but don't give this person any more publicity that she is obviously already hungry to generate.
  15. Jun 20, 2004 #14


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    Well, I read this in a completely different light from both Dayle Record and the number 42.

    I'm not saying that she isn't hopeful of making this a financially viable career change. She stated "Maybe I'll find a way to capitalize on my culture's thirst for answers". She is not trying to hide the fact that she hopes to make a living from her work. Isn't that what all of us try to do? I see it as a positive that she hopes to bring some common sense to people that are not only endagering their own lives, but the lives of their children with some of the more ridiculous medical nonsense.

    I found the article interesting from the perspective of how people that are into "new age" stuff justify their beliefs and how they perceive non believers. "Our cultural training about the dangers of the intellect makes it nearly impossible for us to utilize science properly - or to identify your intellectual rigor as anything but an unhealthy overuse of the mind. I know that sounds silly, but think of the way you view our capacity to dive deeply into matters of spiritual or religious study. You don't often treat our rigor as scholarship, per se (though it takes quite an intellect to understand and organize the often screamingly inconsistent sacred canon) - instead you tend to treat our work as an overabundance of credulity or perhaps even a stubborn refusal to listen to sense."

    I agree with her views on the rift between the two cultures and the fact that the scientific/skeptical community needs to shift gears a bit in their approach to "believers" if they really want to get through to them as opposed to just ridiculing them.

    I see in her writing a thinly disguised attempt to butter up the skeptics, giving them the impression of being in the superior position and having the power to "help" the poor believers see the truth by speaking to them in a non-threatening manner. Many will see through this, but I can see a lot of pompous individuals eating this up.
  16. Jun 20, 2004 #15


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    Speaking of capitalizing on opportunity-

    If you've ever heard the song 'Route 66,' then you have heard of Flagstaff, Arizona. Near there is where Oak Creek gets started. The creek narrows through a slot caused by a geologic fault, at Slide Rock. (Be sure to wear underwear, in case your swimsuit wears out from repeated trips down the natural slide.) Then the creek continues on to a region of gentler slope, passing through property owned by Senator John McCain and his wife Cindy. (Senator McCain has firmly refused John Kerry's implied offer of a vice-president candidacy.) But between Slide Rock and McCain's lot, the creek goes through an area of colorful dome-shaped rock hills and spires. The town which has sprung up there is called Sedona.

    {The paragraph above has nothing whatsoever to do with the thread, and may be omitted upon a first reading of this post.}

    Because the region surrounding Sedona is so scenic, artists flocked to the town. Within recent decades the presence of the art community there has attracted New Agers. If you drive around, you will see their shops where they charge patrons for "readings" of their future. I think crystals somehow play a part in the readings, but I am not sure exactly how they fit in.

    I know a man whose sister-in-law stopped in one of those shops to have her fortune told. My friend said it was obvious from his sister-in-law's description of how the session went that the proprietor milked her for all she could. As the first for-pay time period ended, there was a cliffhanger in the story being told about the woman's future. The story could be continued, of course, but that would involve an additional period of time and therefore additional money would be owed. The woman naturally agreed to pay for a continuation. :rolleyes:
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2004
  17. Jun 22, 2004 #16
    I got the impression that she was hinting at a new cash-cow rather than being very open. We all need to pay the rent, crack dealers included, but the desire to make money doesn't justify the way the money is made.

    I am glad that she has decided to look at some non-fiction for a change, but I don't see why we should give her a standing ovation for it. When I think about it, what we are getting is advanced warning of a series of books on The Sociology of Skepticism etc. Call me Mr Killjoy from SkepticLand if you will, but I have a sinking feeling that she will be paying her way through university with articles on her 'transformation' (like the above), thereafter launching a revamped career in a new niche market :frown:
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