Wednesday, October 31, 2018

The Empirical Study of Mystical Experience

Image result for mystical experience

This article is a summary my book, the Trace of God by Joseph Hinman (available on Amazon). I recently posted essays showing that the true Christian concept of Supernatural is mystical experience nothing more. Now I show mystical experience is empirical, thus SN is empirical. I wrote this for an academic conference,  it was accepted. I posted it in two parts that's I'm uniting them here.

The argument from religious experience is deemed too subjective to be of any real interest to rationally minded skeptics. Yet over the last 50 years, a huge body of empirical scientific work has emerged in peer reviewed journals that strengthens the case for religious experience as a God argument. Unfortunately, this body of work is largely confined to psychology of religion and is virtually unknown to theology or even religious studies. In this paper I examine the research methods used in this body of work, particular attention to the mysticism scale developed by Ralph Hood Jr. (University of Tennessee at Chattanooga). I then apply the findings to an argument from religious experience. After demonstrating how the data supports the argument I will deal with two major issues: (1) Is an argument based upon the universal nature of these experiences appropriately Christian, or does it undermine a Christian witness by implying a unilateralist perspective? (2) Do counter causality arguments based upon brain chemistry and structure disprove the argument? Finally, I present “six tie breakers” that warrant decision in answer to the brain structure argument.

In 1948 The British Broadcasting Corporation aired a radio debate between the celebrated philosopher Bertrand Russell (atheist) and the author of a famous and voluminous History of Philosophy, Frederick Copleston S. J., (Christian), concerning the existence of God. [1] Most of the debate centered on issues such as necessary being. Copleston also advanced the moral argument but he gave passing mention to religious experience, specifically the kind of experience called “mystical.”Copleston admitted that the argument was subjective and he couched his appeal on an abductive basis, the best explanation for the feeling is God. Russell intimated that it was the lack of an objective referent that made the argument “rather private.”[2] After that the argument languished in the nether word of “not one of the five proofs.” Critics and apologists have dismissed it for the same reason. In the 1980s Caroline Franks Davis made an excellent attempt at bringing empirical data to the argument, but more and better studies have been done since her book.[3 ] William Alston Wrote a brilliant work on mystical experience as a logical basis for belief, but he did not tap into the studies that Davis used.[4] The argument continues to be on the back burner in apologetcs, but not because there is no concrete data. There is now a huge body of academic research from peer reviewed journals that makes an empirical basis for the argument possible. 

In this article I will discuss the studies and their methodologies, then construct an argument designed to warrant conclusion in favor of the reality of God using this data. The argument makes claims based upon and discuss the scientific basis for the data, answering the major objection that might be lanced against any or all of the arguments from scientific quarters. What makes these arguments ground breaking is that these studies have been largely well known in psychology of religion and are virtually unknown to those who would want to make use of them for apologetic purposes. These arguments are not specific to any particular religious tradition. This argument is not meant to prove the existence of God but to establish that belief in God is rationally warranted. Nor is it intended to prove the Christian God. It seeks only to establish that belief in some notion of God, perhaps the Christian God, is rational and backed by empirical data.  

In speaking of “mystical experience” we are not talking about visions or voices. We are not talking about miracles or God speaking to people. We are talking about “the sense of the numinous,” a sense of presence, of all pervasive and overwhelming love, and a sense of undifferentiated unity of all things. Those constitute two different kinds of experience both termed mystical.” The claim is often made that this is an unmediated experience of reality. The veil is taken back on the thing behind the facade of “reality” is experienced directly. The notion of an unmediated experience is debatable and not essential to an understanding of the experience. Mystical experiences come in two media:, introvertive and extrovertive. Intorovertive experiences are without time and space; they are not keyed to any external landmark or visual que. They seem to be beyond word, thought, or image. Extrovertive experiences are often keyed to a land mark and seem like projecting a sense onto the image of nature. [5] For example the sense that God is pervading the physical space in nature around which one views a scene in nature. Or a sense that all the natural landscape around forms some sort of whole that’s meaningful and indicative as an understanding of all reality. Introvertive mystical experience has been identified as “pure consciousness.” This kind of experience lacks content and can’t be tied to a cultural construct or personal influence. [6] While it is the case that these kinds of experiences are interpreted in various ways, and it is the case that various theological explanations tailored to a given tradition are advanced for these, as many as there are mystics to have them, the real diversity comes not from the experience but from the explanations attached to the experiences.[7]Much of the discussion about common core is tied to the texts of a given literature. There are various bodies of mystical literature, the important one for our purposes is the empirical. This is a measurement based empirical scientific corpus such as the work of Hood.

The “M” Scale

....Many names loom large in that body of literature; Greeley, Maslow, Wuthnow, Nobel, Lukoff and Lu, all major researchers whose studies form the bulwark of the corpus in the field. But perhaps the major researcher in researcher is Ralph Hood Jr., since his Mysticism Scale (or “M scale”) has become the standard control mechanism for determining the genuineness as truly mystical experience for a given subject. There two other scales such as a specific question by Greeley (1974) and the State of Consciousness Inventory by Alexander (1982; Alexander, Boyer, & Alexander, 1987) [8] This is a 32 item questionnaire that is scored in a particular way. Hood's M. Scale is designed to test the veracity of the theories of Philosopher W.T Stace, who advanced the “common core” theory of mystical experience[9] That theory argued for the universal nature of such experiences.. In other words, if actual modern mystics around the world experience the things Stace thought they do, in the way Stace thought they experienced them (see the five point list above) they would answer certain questions in a certain way [10] Hood’s work in the M scale is becoming the standard operating procedure for study of mystical and religious experiences. It hasn’t yet been understood by everyone so we find that people evoking religious experience by manipulating stimulation of the brain don’t use any sort of control, such as the M scale, for establishing a valid mystical experience. Thus they can’t prove they are evoking real mystical experiences.[11] Dale Caird said that “research into mystical experience has been greatly facilitated” [12] by Hood’s M scale. Caird did one of the studies that validated the M scale. Burris (1999) has shown that the M scale is the most commonly used measurement for the study of mysticism. [13]

The M scale enables us to determine the validity of a mystical experience among contemporary people. In other words, did someone have a “real mystical experience” or are they just carried away by the idea of having one? [14] There are two major versions of the M scale, what is called “two factor” solution and a “three factor solution.” The two factors are items assessing an experience of unity (questions such as “have you had an experience of unity?”) and items refereeing to religious and knowledge claims. In other words questions such as “did you experience God’s presence?” Or did you experience God’s love?” In each section there are two positively worded and two negatively worded items. [15] The problem with the two factor analysis is that it tried to be neutral with Language, according to Hood himself. It spoke of “experience of ultimate reality” but with no indication that ultimate reality means reality of God. As Hood puts it, “no language is neutral"[16] One group might want ultimate reality defined as “Christ” while others who are not in a Christian tradition might eschew such a move. In response to this problem Hood and Williamson, around 2000, developed what they termed “the three factor solution.” They made two additional versions of the scale one made reference where appropriate to “God” or “Christ.” They had a “God” version and a “Christ” version and both were given to Christian relevant samples. The scales were “factor analyzed,” they weighed each difference as a factor such as it’s mention of God or mention of Christ. In this factor analysis, where the scale referred to “God,” “Christ” or simply “reality” the “factor structures were identical.” That is the respondents saw “God,” “Christ” and “ultimate reality” as coterminou. That means Christians who have mystical experience understand God, Christ, and Reality as referring to the same things. [17]

All three versions matched Stace’s phenomenologically derived theory. “For all three intervertive, extrovertive and interpirative factors emerged.” [18] Respondents were answering in ways indicative of having both types of mystical experience and deriving interpretive experiences from it, they understood their experiences in light of theological understanding. The only exception was that the introvertive factors contained the emergence of ineffability because there was no content to analyze. Of course where the scale has been validated the same technique was used and tailored to the tradition of the respondent. Buddhists got a version applicable to Buddhists and Muslims got one appropriate to Islam, and so on. The same kinds of factors emerged. This demonstrates that mystical experiences are the same minus the details of the tradition, such as specific references to names. In other words Buddhists recognize Buddha mind as ultimate reality, while Vedantists recognize Brahmin as ultimate reality, Christians recognize Jesus as Ultimate reality, Muslims recognize Allah as ultimate reality, but all say they experience ultimate reality. This is a good indication that the same basic reality stands behind this experience, or to say it another way they are all experiences of the same reality.

Hood wrote a Text book with Bernard Spilka. [19] They point three major assumptions of the common core theory that flow out of Stace’s work: 

(1) Mystical experience is universal and identical in phenomenological terms.

(2) Core Categories are not always essential in every experience, there are borderline cases.

(3) Interovertive and extrovertive are distinct forms, the former is an experience of unity devoid of content, the latter is unity in diversity with content.

The M scale reflects these observations and in so doing validates Stace’s findings. Hood and Spilka (et al) then go on to argue that empirical research supports a common core/perennialist conceptualization of mysticism and it’s interpretation.

The three factor solution, stated above, allows a greater range of interpretation of experience, either religious or not religious. This greater range supports Stace’s finding that a single experience may be interpreted in different ways. [20] The three factor solution thus fit Stace’s common core theory. One of the persistent problems of the M scale is the neutrality of language, especially with respect to religious language. For example the scale asks about union with “ultimate reality” not “union with God.” Thus there’s a problem in understanding that ultimate reality really means God, or unify two different descriptions one about God and one about reality. [21] There is really no such thing as “neutral” language. In the attempt to be neutral non neutral people will be offended. On the one had the common core idea will be seen as “new age” on the other identification with a particular tradition will be off putting for secularists and people of other traditions. Measurement scales must sort out the distinctions. Individuals demand interpretation of experiences, so the issue will be forced despite the best attempts to avoid it. In dealing with William James and his interpreters it seems clear that some form of transformation will be reflected in the discussion of experiences. In other words the experiences have to be filtered through cultural constructs and human assumptions of religious and other kinds of thought traditions in order to communicate them to people. Nevertheless experiences may share the same functionality in description. Christians may want the experiences they have that would otherwise be termed “ultimate reality” to be identified with Christ, while Muslims identify with Allah and atheist with “void.” The expressed is important as the “social construction of experience” but differently expressed experiences can have similar structures. Hood and Williamson designed the three factor analysis to avoid these problems of language. [22]This is a passage from my own work, The Trace of God :[23]

In a series of empirical measurement based studies employing the Mysticism scale introvertive mysticism emerges both as a distinct factor in exploratory analytic studies [24] and also as a confirming factor analysis in cultures as diverse as the United States and Iran; not only in exploratory factor analytic studies (Hood & Williamson, 2000) but also in confirmatory factor analyses in such diverse cultures as the United States and Iran (Hood, Ghornbani, Watson, Ghramaleki, Bing, Davison, Morris, & Williamson. (2001).[25] In other words, the form of mysticism that is usually said to be beyond description and beyond images, as opposed to that found in connection with images of the natural world, is seen through reflection of data derived form the M scale and as supporting factors in other relations. Scholars supporting the unity thesis (the mystical sense of undifferentiated unity—everything is “one”) have conducted interviews with mystics in other traditions about the nature of their introvertive mystical experiences. These discussions reveal that differences in expression that might be taken as linguistics culturally constructed are essentially indicative of the same experiences. The mystics recognize their experiences even in the expression of other traditions and other cultures. These parishioners represent different forms of Zen and Yoga.[26] Scholars conducting literature searches independently of other studies, who sought common experience between different traditions, have found commonalities. Brainaid, found commonality between cultures as diverse as Advanita-Vendanta Hinduism, and Madhmika Buddhism, and Nicene Christianity; Brainaid’s work supports conclusions by Loy with respect to the types of Hinduism and Buddhism.[27]

The upshot of this work by Hood is two fold: on the one had it means there is a pragmatic way to control for the understanding of what is a mystical experience and what is not. Using Stace as a guide we find that modern “mystics” around the world are having Stace-like experiences. Thus Stace’s view makes a good indication of what is and what is not a mystical experience. That means we can study the effects of having it. Of course Stace drew conclusions from his own survey vof literature of the great mystics. Now other scales have been attempted and none of them had the kind of verification that the M scale does, but taken together the whole body of work for the last fifty years or so (since Abraham Maslow) shows that religious experience of the “mystical” sort is very good for us. People who have such experiences tend to find positive, dramatic, transformation in terms of outlook, mental health and even physical health.

Over the years numerous claims have been made about the nature of spiritual/mystical and Maslow's “peak experiences”, and about their consequences. Wuthnow (1978) set out to explore findings regarding peak experiences from a systematic random sample of 1000 persons and found that peak experiences are common to a wide cross-section of people, and that one in two has experienced contact with the holy or sacred, more than eight in ten have been moved deeply by the beauty of nature and four in ten have experienced being in harmony with the universe. Of these, more than half in each have had peak experiences which have had deep and lasting effects on their lives. Peakers are more likely also, to say they value working for social change, helping to solve social problems, and helping people in need. Wuthnow stressed the therapeutic value of these experiences and also the need to study the social significance of these experiences in bringing about a world in which problems such as social disintegration, prejudice and poverty can be eradicated. Savage et al., (1995) provided clinical evidence to suggest that peakers produce greater feelings of self-confidence and a deeper sense of meaning and purpose. Mogar's (1965) research also tended to confirm these findings.[ 28]

The body of work to which I refer consists of about 200 studies (one could say 300 but let’s be conservative). [29]A huge part of that (about 50) is taken up with the prolific work of Ralph Hood. Not all of these studies use the M scale but it has become standard since the 90s. The body of work here discussed stretches back to the 1960s and the studies of Abraham Maslow. The study of mental health aspects has grown by leaps and bounds over the last couple of decades. Since the deployment of the three part solution of the M scale the studies have been more empirical and better controlled. The effects and their transformative qualities could be understood as rational warrant for belief in God, I have so argued in The Trace of God. [30] 


part 1

[1] Broadcast in 1948 on the Third Program of the British Broadcasting Corporation. Published in Humanitas (Manchester) and reprinted in Bertrand Russell, Why I Am Not a Christian (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1957). chapter 13.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Caroline Franks Davis, The Evidential Force of Religious experience. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989 no page indicated.

[4] William P. Alston, Perceiving God: The Epistemology of Religious Experience. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1991.

[5] Walter T.Stace, The Teachings of the Mystics, (New York:The New American Library, 1960).15-18

[6] Ralph Hood Jr. “The Common Core Thesis in the Study of Mysticism.” In Where God and Science Meet: How Brain and Evolutionary Studies Alter Our Understanding of Religion. Patrick Mcnamara ed. West Port CT: Prager Publications, 2006, 119-235., 127.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Jayne Gackenback, “Pure Cobciousness. Mystical Experiences.” Childhood Transpersonal Childhood Experiences of Higher States of Consciousness: Literature Review and Theoretical Integration, Spirit Watch, online resource, URL: accessed 3/32016.

[9] Walter T. Stace, Mysticism and Philosophy, New York: Macmillan,1961,44.

[10] Ibid, 128


[11] John Hick, The New Frontier Of Religion and Science: Religious Experiejhce, Neuroscience, and The Transcendent. UK: Palgrave: Macmillan, 2006, 66.

He does not mention the M scasle per se but shows that they do not use a standard and some use slip shod criteria for evaluation.

[12] Dale Caird, “The structure of Hood's Mysticism Scale: A factor analytic study.”journal for the Scientific study of religion 1988, 27 (1) 122-126


[13] Burris (1999) quoted in Hood, op, cit., 128

[14] Hood, ibid, 128

[15] bid. 

[16] Ibid, 129

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid, 129

[19] Bernard Spilka, Ralph Hood Jr., Bruce Hunsberger, Richard Gorwuch. The Psychology of Religion: An Empirical Approach. New York, London: the Guildford Press, 2003.

[20] Ibid, 323

[21] Ibid\

[22] Ibid, Hood in McNamara. 

[23] Hinman, Trace ...op. Cit., 168 fn72-75.

[24] Ralph Hood Jr., W.P. Williamson. “An empirical test of the unity thesis: The structure of mystical descriptors in various faith samples.” Journal of Christianity and Psychology, 19, (2000) 222-244.

[25] R.W. Hood, Jr., N.Ghorbani, P.J. Waston, et al “Dimensions of the Mysticism Scale: Confirming the Three Factor Structure in the United States and Iran.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 40 (2001) 691-705.

[26] R.K.C. Forman, Mysticism, Mind, Consciousness. Albany: State University of New York Press, (1999) 20-30. 

[27] F.S. Brainard, Reality and Mystical Experience, Unvisited Park: Pennsylvania State University Press. (2000). See also D.Loy, Nonduality: A Study in Comparative Philosophy. Amherst, New York: Humanities Press.

[28] Krishna K. Mohan, “Spirituality and Wellbeing: an Overview.” An Article based upon a Presentation made during the Second International Conference on Integral Psychology, held at Pondicherry India 4-7 January 2001, published in hard copy, Cornelissen, Matthijs (Ed.) (2001) Consciousness and Its Transformation. Pondicherry: SAICE.On line copy website of the India Psychology Institute. Site visited 9/3/12. URL: Accessed 2/7/2016

[29]Bibliogrophies from which I took the studies include Voyle. LL, Mohan, Franks. gackenback

[30] Hinman, Trace...op. Cit., this is the gist of all of chapter 2, 61-135,especially 92-107.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Psychology, Atheists, and Mystical Experience

Image result for Ralph Hood jr, University Nevada REno
Dr Hood

My book The Trace of God: Rational Warrant for Belief, [1] is a look a body of work in  psychology of religion. from that data I have structured three God arguments, The centerpiece of that body of data is a research instrument called the M scale.(M = "mysticism scale"). It's a set of questions scored in a certain manner that  is able to determine if a given experience is a valid mystical experience in   W.T. Stace's sense of the term. Stace [2]was an English Philosopher who retired in the 1950s then set himself the task of fleshing out his theory about the nature of mystical experience. Over the course of the next four decades Stace's theory was confirmed by empirical research conducted mainly by Ralph Hood Jr Professor of psychology at The university of Tennessee Chattanooga, who invented the M scale.[3]

In this blog essay I will examine two major issues our resident opponent (I am Skeptical,aka "Skepie") likes to wail against Hood with: (1) His allegation that Hood is some kind of religious person (he claims he's a Christian) and thus nothing he says counts for anything.(2) Atheists have mystical experiences too. Buthe wants to call them by a different name.[4]

(1) Hood's alleged religious commitment and sneaky motivations,  lack of objectivity ect,

Skepie makes many such comments: 

"They [Hood's opponents] are more interested in scientific understanding of the phenomenon. You have claimed that Hood is not religious, but I know that he is. He was the head of a Christian organization."[5] Hood is not a Christian. I know this become Hood and I are friends when I consulted him years ago in writing The Trace of God. Notice Skepie never names the organization just as he never names any opponents. 

Hood has some religious ideas but he is not a Christian. He has been a member of unity, not a christian denomination,[6] Skepie never names the organisation and I don't find one I don't see why he would be since he's not a christian. Hood is an immanent scholar, he's top researcher in the field of psychology of religion.  He is a former editor of the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion(1995–1999), and has been coeditor of The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion (1992–1995) and Archiv für Religionpsychologie(2005–). This is clear;y an academic journal Self Decrotiono: "Psychology of Religion and Spirituality ® publishes peer-reviewed, original articles related to the psychological aspects of religion and spirituality.The journal publishes articles employing experimental and correlational methods, qualitative analyses, and critical reviews of the literature. Papers evaluating clinically relevant issues surrounding training, professional development, and practice are also considered."[7]

According to the Journal Citation Reports, "the journal has a 2011 impact factor of 1.348, ranking it 30th out of 138 journals in the category 'Sociology'."[8] Of course Skepie has to denigrate the field itself since Hood is big in that field, he thinks psychology of religion is like the guys that train Christian counselors for Bible college. It's not it is a valid academic discipline.
The psychology of religion is a rapidly developing field, and no single unifying theory explains individual and group religious experience. Psychoanalysts and research psychologists approach the psychology of religion in very different ways. Moreover, the field draws on a number of academic disciplines, including philosophy, sociology, anthropology, religious studies, economics, political science, and (rarely) theology. Paloutzian and Park 2005Spilka and McIntosh 1997, and Fuller 2008 provide topical and/or theoretical overviews of the field. Putnam, et al. 2010 is written by political scientists who provide a historical overview of religion in America to the present...[9]
The field of psychology of religion has ebbed and flowed along with humanistic concerns in psychology. The empirical approach of researchers like Hood has tended to enhance the validity of the field.[10] It's a diverse field, it has it's detractors but it's valid.

Skepie read the hearts and minds of religious people.  He knows Hood's motive  to deceive everyone when faced with the fact that he has no statements by Hood to justify  his assertions  he says "Of course he doesn't come out and admit what he's doing. What do you think the M-scale does? It is a tool invented by a religious person to filter any non-religious interpretation out from peak experiences. It is designed to look only at the religious aspect of this phenomenon, and pretend that this gives you a full understanding of it." [11]What Hood actually does say:

For Some Mystical experience cannot support a belief that one has united with God or experienced ultimate reality, for others mysticism is an experience that provides sufficient warrant for belie in God or ultimate reality....our concern as social scientists ls restricted to  the aspect of these literatures that have direct relevance for empirical research. Of immediate concern is the clarification of the nature of mystical experience as well as it's relationship to other forms of mystical experience[12] 

Here Hood is actually saying that he's not concerned  with proving God's existence because that's not his role as a scientist. That is the only statement of Hood's motive that we have Skepie ever bothers to produce.  Of course, he's never read a single thing Hood has written, 

Skepie needs to give atheists their own Godless sense of the numinous and their own Godless undifferentiated  unity,So he wants to call Mystical experience:"peak" and pretend it's a different experience even though it is just the same experience but without reference to a religious dimension,

Skepie wants to imagine that there;s a whole realm of "real  psychologists" (he said that psychology of religion people are not real  psychologists)  "Yes. That's what I've been telling you. Maslow was an atheist..." I've refereed to Maslow as an atheist time and time again. He says:

and he used the term "peak experience", which is how it is called OUTSIDE the field of psychology of religion, precisely because general psychology recognizes that this is not confined to religious experience. Maslow's field was NOT psychology of religion, and that contradicts your claim that this whole field of study is within psychology of religion. IT ISN'T. There are many other psychologists outside the narrow field of psychology of religion who examine this phenomenon. That's what I've been telling you.[13]
There is a certain truth to the dichotomy, even though it's unnecessary,I don't think "mystical" necessarily connotes religious outlook  although "Peak experience" may have been employed as a term to include atheist's experiences. But Maslow never had the M scale to work with and he never did the kind of studies on atheist's experiences that Hood has done. He never had the broad empirical  basis that Hood has gotten.

 Moreoever, Skepie misses a lot of dimensions in Madlow;s thinking that would others wise cause him to claim Maslow was a Christian. Maslow said "atheists and religious people can go a very long way down the road together." He did not want to see a war-like struggle between religious thinkers and atheists. Maslow wanted to observe the condition of wellness in in human psyche rather than pathology as Freud had done, Toward that end he forecaster Transactional analyses. One of the things that Maslow saw as  normative and healthy was religious belief, outgrowth of Maslow's work is what has become known as Transpersonal Psychology, in which the focus is on the spiritual well-being of individuals, and values are advocated steadfastly. Transpersonal psychologists seek to blend Eastern religion (Buddhism, Hinduism, etc.) or Western (Christian, Jewish or Moslem) mysticism with a form of modern psychology. Frequently, the transpersonal psychologist rejects psychology's adoption of various scientific methods used in the natural sciences.[14]

Image result for Abraham Maslow

Notice in fn 14 Nielsen is including Maslow as psychology of religion.That's enough to make him the leader of a Christian  organization in Skep's mind if he didn't need him so badly to validate "Peak experience"as the atheist answer to mystical experience. Maslow points out that the same universal symbols emerge in all people across culture. He confirms this connection emerges with with the use of all psychoanalytical techniques. 

Now that may be taken as a frank admission of a naturalistic psychological origin, except that it invovles a universal symbology which is not explicable through merely naturalistic means. How is it that all humans come to hold these same archetypical symbols? (For more on archetypes see Jesus Chrsit and Mythology page II) The "prematives" viewed and understood a sense of transformation which gave them an integration into the universe. This is crucial for human development. They sensed a power in the numenous, that is the origin of religion.

In Appendix I and elsewhere in this essay, I have spoken of unitive perception, i.e., fusion of the B-realm with the D-realm, fusion of the eternal with the temporal, the sacred with the profane, etc. Someone has called this "the measureless gap between the poetic perception of reality and prosaic, unreal commonsense." Anyone who cannot perceive the sacred, the eternal, the symbolic, is simply blind to an aspect of reality, as I think I have amply demonstrated elsewhere (54), and in Appendix I.[15]
Granted he is reducing the Spiritual rom SN to psychological. He;s still keeping the category open. The major point I am making is that Maslow  was a contribtor if only defacto to the success of psych of Religion as a field. 

Skep wants us to think there are a few little religious minded clerics with counselling degrees calling what they do "psych of Religion" and then there is a vast body of:real psychologists: beyond that who have disproved  the former.  The truth is more like there are few hold overs from the Freudian persecution ofreligion and most pscyholkogistssnow see reliion as a naturak endeavoerm a holdoverfron evoluktionary heruitagem whichnayiray notinole God but is beining,

Nowadays there are many who do not agree with the notion that religious behavior a priori implies a neurotic state to be decoded and eliminated by analysis (exorcism). That reductionism based on the first works by Freud is currently under review. The psychotherapist should be limited to observing the uses their clients make of the representations of the image of God in their subjective world, that is, the uses of the function of omnipotence. Among the several authors that subscribe to this position are Odilon de Mello Franco (12), .... W. R. Bion (2), one of the most notable contemporary psychoanalysts, ..."[16]

(2) Atheists have mystical experiences too. But he wants to call them by a different name

As I pointed out in the comet section I do write about atheists having mystical experience, e can call it "peak  experience" if we want to.  I have not denied that atheists  have such experience in my book That Skep refuses  to read but claims to know all about I actually quote atheists  who talk about such experiences. Skep wants to say the atheists have have their look behind the curtain so they don't have to acknowledge the possibility of God. That doesn't erase the mystical experiences that have the God dimension, So there are different levels of experience who  is to  say their look behind the curtain is really  long enough or deep enough?

There is another view that is less denigrating to the atheists, the idea tat both have the same view they just interpret it differently. That is  what all mystics do.  They experience "it" beyond their understanding they only really understand in  the  experience but they can't talk about it. To talk about it they must load it into cultural constructs which changes it. Typically mystics try to explain their experiences through their doctrine. Atheists no less so, which means the Catholic says it's the Holy presence and the atheist says i;ts the void, In fact the descriptions of Vedanta sound a lot like atheists but they are not atheists,

The M scale shows us that all the experiences are the same it's the interpretation that changes. The atheist experience fits right into the same paradigm. Skepie's charge that the M scale is trying to factor out the Atheist experience could not be more  un fair. Hood made several versions of the M scale with Christian language non Christian langue, Hindu, Muslim, and so on including non belief in God. So an artiest experience is  factored into the equation. The M scale shows the experiences are the same,some external objective reality is encountered then it';s up to the mystic to understand what that is,

You have to read my God arguments to understand how I connect them,

Buy My Book On Amazon:
The Trace Of God


[1] Joseph Hinman, The Trace of God: Rational Warrant for Belief, Colorado Sprimgs: Grand Vidaduct publishing, 2014, no page indicated. Order on Amazon:

[2] W.T. Stace, Mysticism and Philosophy. London:  Macmillan and Co 1961 no page imndicated
on line copy:

[3] Ralph Hood, Psychology, UTC edu.

[4] 'Skepie, Comments, "Unicorns Don't Exist, Theretofore, God  Doesn't Exist?" Metacrock's Blog (Oct 22, 2018)

[5] Ibid

[6] Unity Church

This is a self promotion by the unity organization, It nay sound obliquely Christian but any attempt toinikthiswith evaangeicakfundamentalisn wouldbe vain becausethisorgniaaationisnot accpetalein Orthodox Christiancircles, I don't think I;m uttingworkdsinDr. Hood;s moiuth whenI say ithinkhis view ofGod is impersonal

"Unity Church followers believe in the divinity of Jesus, but only in the sense that all humans are the children of God and share that divine potential. They believe that Jesus was a master teacher who expressed this divine potential and sought to show others how to do the same." 

Unity Church - Wikipedia

[7] Journal of Psychology of religion and Spirituality, "Descriptions," American Psychological Association (2018)

[8]"Journals Ranked by Impact: Sociology". 2011 Journal Citation Reports. Web of Science (Social Sciences ed.). Thomson Reuters. 2012;  see also

[9] Catherine A. Johnson et al, "Psychology and Religion" Oxford Bibliophiles (LAST MODIFIED: 27 OCTOBER 2016)

[10] Kim Wobles, "A Brief History of Psychology of Religion," Science 20 ( May 28th 2010 03:14)

science 20 self identification: "Science 2.0 was created in 2006 to modernize science communication, publishing, collaboration and public participation. It is a pro-science educational outreach nonprofit operating under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. We are the world's largest science writing community, with over 300,000,000 readers on our sites."

[11]Skeptical, op cit

[12] Ralph Hood Jr. and Bernard Spilka,et al "Mysticism, Chapter 11, " The Psychology of Religion: A Empirical Approach. 4th Ed.New Yor, Lomdo: Guildord Press.  2009, 332.

[13] Skepie op cit

[14]Michael E Nielsen, "Notable People in Psychology of Religion" Psychology of Religion, selective archive 1999-2004
 [15] Araham Maslow, "Appendix I. "An Example of B-Analysis." vReligions, Values, and Peak-Experiences,  

[16] Jorge W.F. Amaro, ""Psychology, Psychoanalysis,and religious Faith"  Psychology of Religion Pages Michael E Nielsen, 1998.

Dr. Jorge W.F. Amaro, Ph.D., Head psychology dept. Sao Paulo. the sources he sights:
 sources sited by Amaro BION, W. R. Atenção e interpretação (Attention and interpretation). Rio de Janeiro: Imago, 1973.

MELLO FRANCO, O. de. Religious experience and psychoanalysis: from man-as-god to man-with-god. Int. J. of Psychoanalysis (1998) 79. 

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Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

My Cosmological Argument: From Cotingnecy

Image result for crab nebula

1. Something exists.
2. Whatever exists, does so either necessarily or contingently.
3. It is impossible that only contingent things exist.
4. Therefore, there exists at least one necessary thing.
5. If there is a necessary thing, that thing is appropriately called 'God.'
6. Therefore God exists.

(revised 8/6/'18)

This version understands Necessity and contingency largely in causal terms. The necessity that creates the universe must be understood as eternal and uncaused for two reasons: (1) The impossibility of ICR[1], there has to be a final cause or nothing would ever come to be, (2) empirically we know the universe is not eternal. See the supporting material. Atheists will often argue that this kind of argument doesn't prove that God is the necessity that causes the universe. but being necessary and creator and primary  cause makes it the sources of all things we can rationally construe that as God.
Finally, even if the cosmological argument is sound or cogent, the difficult task remains to show, as part of natural theology, that the necessary being to which the cosmological argument concludes is the God of religion, and if so, of which religion. Rowe suggests that the cosmological argument has two parts, one to establish the existence of a first cause or necessary being, the other that this necessary being is God (1975: 6). It is unclear, however, whether the second contention is an essential part of the cosmological argument. Although Aquinas was quick to make the identification between God and the first mover or first cause, such identification seems to go beyond the causal reasoning that informs the argument (although one can argue that it is consistent with the larger picture of God and his properties that Aquinas paints in his Summae). Some (Rasmussen, O’Connor, Koons) have plowed ahead in developing this stage 2 process by showing how and what properties—simplicity, unity, omnipotence, omniscience, goodness, and so on—might follow from the concept of a necessary being. It “has implications that bring it into the neighborhood of God as traditionally conceived” (O’Connor 2008: 67).[2]
There's a problem in speaking of God as "a being" since it threatens to reduce God from infinite and omnipresent to a localized entity. This is a semantic problem and we can resole it by through understanding that God is the eternal necessary aspect of being. Being is a thing and God is "that thing" which is unbounded,eternal, and necessary aspect of being. This unbounded condition is implied by the nature of cosmological necessity. The eternal causal agent that gives rise to all existing things could not be itself caused since that would just create the necessity of another explanation (it would mean that thing is not the ultimate cause but is just another contingent thing). Being eternal and necessary means the ground of being. The contrast between human finitude and the infinite evokes the senses of the numinous or mystical experience which is the basisof all religion.[3] 

Of course we understand this eternal necessary aspect of being to be God not only because the infinite evokes the numinous but also because the notion that God is being itself is a major aspect of  Christian Theology.[4]


[1] Infinite Causal Regression. For arguments against see: No Infinite Causal Regression (link)

[2] Timothy O’Connor2008, Theism and Ultimate Explanation: the Necessary Shape of Contingency, London: Wiley-Blackwell.

[3] David Steindl-Rast,OSB, "The Mystical Core of Organized religion," Greatfulness, blog, 2018

[4] Timothy Ware, The Orthodox Church NY: Penguin,1964.65