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A promise gently unfulfilled.
on 28 September 2014
The idea of an autobiography of someone who has been raised with and has deep commitments to the scientific paradigm, but who has a storehouse of memories from a wild youth that fit ill within that paradigm rang big bells, and struck me as an attractive proposition. They say we all have a book inside us, and my book would be very much about the radical dissonance between my commitment to the scientific worldview and the period of profound and often bizarre mystical experiences of earlier years, which today I cannot cease to question and miss with an abiding ache. The author writes sensitively and evocatively, with unusual psychological perspicuity, and while reading I found myself carried along on a wave of fellow feeling. But when I got to the end it seemed we had never made it quite into the world where my own perplexities and radical contradictions reside. In the end it left me feeling exactly the same as when I had started, and it had taken me no further towards integration of times and events that make no sense within the reductive-physicalist paradigm.
I actually think there is scope for much more of this sort of thing. The Enlightenment is described as a period in history, long past. But the struggle between overwhelming intuitions of the numinous and the mundane world of deterministic cause and effect is taking place in the hearts of millions of men and women every day; often with pain, or at least perplexity; and often in silence, without knowing to whom one might turn without being taken for a fool or worse. The Enlightenment is actually a process that cannot be avoided by each of us that has the implacable need for the deep truths of existence, whether they can be had or not, made only keener by the removal of succor from bronze-age mythologies of white-bearded patriarchs in the clouds. The tension between the profound need to know and the certainty that it can never be known is, for so many of us, the existential and unspoken essence of our times.