THOUGHTS OUT OF ORDER
Scientists researching mystical states of consciousness have found that there is a decrease of blood flow to an area of the parietal lobe responsible for orienting us in time and space. This suspension accounts for the feeling of timelessness or eternity and the feeling of merging with all things that is a typical concomitant of the mystical state. It is interesting that people who suffer brain damage in a specific region of the parietal lobe lose the ability to tell where their body ends and the surrounding environment begins: They lose the capacity to recognize boundaries between discreet objects. What in a specific context and with a special set of conceptual presuppositions constitutes an aspect of the mystical experience is another context, brain damage. The frontal lobe which controls our sense of focus and attention becomes excited during meditation. This contributes to the attenuation of the sense of ego or I and to the intensity and all-encompassing nature of the experience. There is an increase of activity in the right hemisphere leading to a holistic and intuitive sense of interconnection and meaning. In addition to these neurological activities there is also a flood of endorphins (Bliss). These are all neurological phenomenon. They correspond exactly with aspects of mystical experience reported in the literature. These kind of sensations or perceptions also occur during what Maslow terms peak experiences, which can happen during extreme physical exertion, moments of profound creativity, and in the midst of sexual orgasm.
Interestingly, people without any religious training who undergo such experiences (They can be artificially inducing with external stimulation such as Michael Persinger’s God Helmet, a device that trigger the appropriate regions of the brain through transcranial magnetic stimulation) do not characterize them the same way as religious or spiritual people do. They do not believe themselves to be in contact with divinity or to have merged with ground of being or however one might express it. They often have only imprecise terms to describe it. The tendency to color the experience as representing mystical contact with the divine, as proof of the permeating presence of the Godhead tends to be a product of a pre-existing conceptual framework and set of expectations. "Concept precedes percept." A similar phenomenon can be found in Near Death Experiences. People with no religious background most often do not see Jesus or Lord Krishna or report that they saw heaven or the afterlife. They describe exhilaration and a tunnel (Most likely caused by a breakdown in the occipital region of the oxygen-starved brain) and other aspects of the NDE but the religious or spiritual interpretation of the experience is missing.
Some evolutionary scientist conjecture that the capacity for such experiences as well as a propensity for religiosity evolved as a protective mechanism to buffer the newly emergent human species, with its awareness of its own mortality, against the crippling anxiety and depression that resulted from that awareness. Studies of animals have revealed that when an animal is on the verge of death--for example a deer being taken down by a pack of wolves--its brain will secrete massive amounts of endorphins placing the animal in a state of euphoria to buffer the animal against the terror of death. The flooding of the animal’s system with endorphins allows it to capitulate to death without undue suffering. In the final stages of their illness anorexics, when they are so thin that they are in grave danger of dying, they tend to become more intractable in their disorder as a result of endorphins flooding their systems to ward off death anxiety, which gives them an almost mystical feeling of exultation that seems to ratify and reinforce their self-starvation, thus making late-stage anorexics much more difficult to treat.
Throughout the history of our culture there has been a tendency to designate some things has “higher,” as exalted or transcendent, and others as “lower,” as earthly, enmeshed in the messy realties of the physiological and earthly, the sacred versus the profane. In Eastern Thought this division is conceptualized in a different way (And indeed great pains are exerted to deny that divisions, either actual or conceptual exist); there is union with an undifferentiated reality or entanglement in illusion and desire. There is a binary, a pair of oppositions, either explicit or implicit consisting of the sensual versus the spiritual. And yet paradoxically, according to recent research, sexual intercourse and orgasm produces the same neurological responses as the mystical states achieved through meditation, with a couple of key differences. One is that the participants remain much more present in their bodies; the other it is that it is the left hemisphere of the brain that is activated during orgasm as opposed to the right hemispheric-activation of meditating subjects. Perhaps the ancient tantric practitioners were intuitively attempting to align these two forms of neurological activation: two modes of ecstasy activated simultaneously. In the lore of Tantric Yoga and Buddhism the intuitive insight and drive to combine these two forms of activation is obscured with a variety of mystical and occult concepts glossed with esoteric terminology and imagery. The attempt to align mystical and sexual ecstasy is certainly a goal worth pursuing. It must be observed however that there seems to be insufficient reason to follow the Tantric tradition of withholding orgasm, so enjoy and cum hard. It will be a subject of continuing fascination to observe ongoing personal and perhaps research experiments on the potentially profound neurological benefits that can be derived from experiencing both types of peak experience simultaneously.
There was an order to the universe and now it is shattered. It lies in fragments all around us, like a broken mirror. The links in the great chain of being have been wrenched asunder. The hierarchy of the universe has been flouted or forgotten.
This order was a fiction but a fiction that was believed in, a fiction that organized the lives of those immersed in it, that structured perceptions of reality and guided behavior and assumptions about what human beings were and what they could and could not do. Remnants of this fictional order haunt us to this day, like some spectral octopus with its tentacles encircling not just the stray limb but pieces of our hearts and minds. People express shocked outrage when the expected fictional observances are not followed through with or the proper formulae are not repeated.
For some these fictions are reality, always will be and always have been since the beginning of time, handed down from God on high. The phenomenon of large numbers of people no longer taking this fiction as reality and no longer following the dictates of its script is an affront to them, a source of anxiety and a spur to righteous rage. They long for the re-imposition of the great fiction and for the corralling or elimination of all those characters that have slipped out of the narrative’s trajectory and spun out on their own eccentric paths. These miscreants who have attempted to shed the roles prescribed by the fiction have thumbed their noses at the premises of the overarching story, its celestial author and those devout characters that continue to struggle to play their roles correctly. These traveling players, unable to speak their lines like Elisabeth Vogler in Bergman’s Persona, in their frequently flailing efforts to establish new parameters for a life after or outside the fiction, pursue an inventory of "perversities," intellectual, emotional and worst of all sexual.
How can the one true story be restored? How can those rebellious actors who attempt to write their own scripts be compelled or coerced back onto the common stage and made to take up their proper parts again? If everyone authors their own play, if no directors or producers or patrons are recognized then all that remains is anarchy. The world becomes a cacophony of competing voices performing monologues with no relation to each other, a solipsistic tower of Babel where no community or communication is possible. Indeed there are times when the contemporary world appears to be a broken kaleidoscope, a scrambled mosaic, or a transmission consisting of nothing but static and noise. Surveying this chaotic free-for-all, the devoted actors, those who long to play their parts by the book, clutching their scripture in clenched hands, wonder how to quiet the world into comprehensibility again. Contemptuous and bemused at moral slackness, permissiveness or confusion of their peers they fret as to how to regain the stark simplicity of the ancient authentic story and with it the bracing certainty of the binary. Where one can choose black or white, good or evil, normal or perverse, be blessed or damned: No need to puzzle over ambiguities: every choice is obvious.
By what means can the righteous regain their equanimity, redact the improvisations of free radicals, erase the malignant graffiti from the facades of maligned institutions, and accomplish universal renaissance of the one and only text? Perhaps it can be done through purely human action with the erection of a theocratic state? Or better still via the direct intervention of the Author? Who will wrathfully descend from his heavenly perspectives to once again penetrate the membrane of the natural world and of human history. The vexed Author is implored charges in to cram the exploding pages of the Book of Life back into their predetermined places and get the story back on course, a sacred climax of destruction and trial, reward and punishment.
The true believers long to stand by and witness their vindication, the perpetrators of satanic science, excessive art, the purveyors of smut and insubordination will all be subjected to a horrifying array of sadistic punishments. This is the wet dream of the fundamentalist.
Indeed these vindictive punishments are most needed by the faithful themselves. If every lock in the zoo was broken the faithful are the animals most terrified of their capacity to run wild. A series of psychological studies have demonstrated that the most vehemently anti-gay crusaders react most strongly to gay porn. Red states are the largest purchases of online and mail order porn. Those upstanding citizens most obsessed; most enraged and most inflamed by the illicit and immoral are the people who need most desperately to have every door slammed shut. Only when the rabid monkeys of modernism have been shoved back into their cages can these poor souls relax. They are desperate for the iron law of God to eradicate to help them control themselves. They can’t seem to manage it without an outer authority to do it for them. The sinful other must be eliminated so that the sinful self subsides. The only way to deal with temptation is to eliminate all potential objects of temptation, to reorganize the world as a place devoid of provocations. A truly orderly world is one where disturbing thoughts and self-awareness do not exist. The future paradise is a world without bodies, where rendered ethereal and fleshless we will finally be delivered from the torments of desire.