Jneil, thanks for joining this discussion. I haven't read your longer exposition yet but will try to do so soon.
God could not answer my question about why the consciousness of the universe as a whole, if it could be said to be conscious, would be so hard to perceive that it would require a special experience to do so. As individuals we have no direct awareness of any awareness but our own, but we have no trouble inferring consciousness in other human beings and animals. If the consciousness permeating the universe as a whole is so very different from our own awareness (weaker than it? more furtive than it?) that it cannot be detected except under very special circumstances, can it really be said to be consciousness? Why would its manifestations not be readily observable by those who lack the same extraordinary experiences that you and others have reported?
Do you know/have any opinion about James's book on religious experiences? Here's a passage that I happened upon more or less at random but which seems relevant in which James compares conversion to psychological maturation. Is anything detailed below have parallels in your own experience? (I added a couple paragraph breaks that are not in the text.)
"Formed associations of ideas and habits are usually factors of retardation in such changes of equilibrium. New information, however acquired, plays an accelerating part in the changes; and the slow mutation of our instincts and propensities, under the 'unimaginable touch of time' has an enormous influence. Moreover, all these influences may work subconsciously or half unconsciously. And when you get a Subject in whom the subconscious life -- of which I must speak more fully soon -- is largely developed, and in whom motives habitually ripen in silence, you get a case of which you can never give a full account, and in which, both to the Subject and the onlookers, there may appear an element of marvel. Emotional occasions, especially violent ones, are extremely potent in precipitating mental rearrangements. The sudden and explosive ways in which love, jealousy, guilt, fear, remorse, or anger can seize upon one are known to everybody. Hope, happiness, security, resolve, emotions characteristic of conversion, can be equally explosive. And emotions that come in this explosive way seldom leave things as they found them.
"Jouffroy is an example: 'Down this slope it was that my intelligence had glided, and little by little it had got far from its first faith. But this melancholy revolution had not taken place in the broad daylight of my consciousness; too many scruples, too many guides and sacred affections had made it dreadful to me, so that I was far from avowing to myself the progress it had made. It had gone on in silence, by an involuntary elaboration of which I was not the accomplice; and although I had in reality long ceased to be a Christian, yet, in the innocence of my intention, I should have shuddered to suspect it, and thought it calumny had I been accused of such a falling away.' Then follows Jouffroy's account of his counter-conversion, quoted above on p. 173. One hardly needs examples; but for love, see p. 176, note, for fear, p. 161; for remorse, see Othello after the murder; for anger see Lear after Cordelia's first speech to him; for resolve, see p. 175 (J. Foster case).
"Here is a pathological case in which guilt was the feeling that suddenly exploded: 'One night I was seized on entering bed with a rigor, such as Swedenborg describes as coming over him with a sense of holiness, but over me with a sense of guilt. During that whole night I lay under the influnce of the rigor, and from its inception I felt that I was under the curse of God. I have never done one act of duty in my life -- sins against God and man beginning as far as my memory goes back -- a wildcat in human shape.'
"In his recent work on the Psychology of Religion, Professor Starbuck of California has shown by a statistical inquiry how closely parallel in its manifestations the ordinary 'conversion' which occurs in young people brought up in evangelical circles is to that growth into a larger spiritual life which is a normal phase of adolescence in every class of human beings. The age is the same, falling usually between fourteen and seventeen. The symptoms are the same, -- sense of incompleteness and imperfection; brooding, depression, morbid introspection, and sense of sin; anxiety about the hereafter; distress over doubts, and the like. And the result is the same -- a happy relief and objectivity, as the confidence in self gets greater through the adjustment of the faculties to the wider outlook. In spontaneous religious awakening, apart from revivalistic examples, and in the ordinary storm and stress and moulting-time of adolescence, we also may meet with mystical experiences, astonishing the subjects by their suddenness, just as in revivalistic conversion. The analogy, in fact, is complete; and Starbuck's conclusion as to these ordinary youthful conversions would seem to be the only sound one: Conversion is in its essence a normal adolescent phenomenon, incidental to the passage from the child's small universe to the wider intellectual and spiritual life of maturity.
" 'Theology,' says Dr. Starbuck, 'takes the adolescent tendencies and builds upon them; it sees that the essential thing in adolescent growth is bringing the person out of childhood into the new life of maturity and personal insight. It accordingly brings those means to bear which will intensify the normal tendencies. It shortens up the period of duration of storm and stress.' The conversion phenomena of 'conviction of sin' last, by this investigator's statistics, about one fifth as long as the periods of adolescent storm and stress phenomena of which he also got statistics, but they are very much more intense. Bodily accompaniments, loss of sleep and appetite, for example, are much more frequent in them. 'The essential distinction appears to be that conversion intensifies but shortens the period by bringing the person to a definite crisis.' "
[a Virginia.edu etext site]
Edited by Starbuckle, 11 December 2010 - 09:47 PM.