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Shadow, Self, SpiritReview - Shadow, Self, Spirit
by Michael Daniels
Imprint Academic, 2005
Review by A.P. Bober
Dec 19th 2006 (Volume 10, Issue 51)

Michael Daniels has succeeded in writing a thoroughly mulled mead hoping to inform if not enliven a sophisticated reader's appreciation of so-called mysticism by synthetically reconsidering papers published from 1988 to 2003, all but one from 1997.  Given the reader's orientation he will find fault here and there, as a reviewer does for completeness, something a critical scholar like Daniels surely invites.  I review the book under three sections seeking to show that what seems academically dense could reduce to what a child might understand.

Strengths

The first three points rest on Daniels's complex and convolutedly-stated agnosticism.  On a range from 0 to 10, with  5, agnosticism, dead in the middle between adiaphorism/atheism and theism, he runs from 2 or 3 to at least 9, as witnessed by his use of the theurgic upper-case.  For example, mysticism, p. 235, is "the individual's direct experience of a relationship to a fundamental Reality."  Compare the excellent parallel proposal for atheism, 280, as "denial of the existence of a deity."  No upper case; no theo-committed the.  I hope I err that he supports the "more fundamentalist . . . less fashionable" view, 90:  "God and Devil exist in their own right, and not just as archetypal images. . . ."  Most defintions paint atheists as obstinately refusing to acknowledge what's undoubtedly out there or in here.  He confirms Jung, 89, as viewing any deity and so-called evil non-theistically, i.e., as psychic and not transcendentally knowable realities.  Very nice charts, imported or modified--180, 186, 194, 206-- illustrate theorists' views of mystical man in the larger world.  A useful list, 165-73, of so-described soul-experiences actually ends up as a nice summary of the book, with an Erasmian sense of wordplay producing many categories that refer to the "same" indeterminable experience, thus exposing his empirical, not experiential, rationalist, and eminently realist, commitment.  Yet, 216, he supports the Erasmian critique of word-smuggling.  I could mention many more highlights--detailed indexes, adequate references, a 38-page glossary--in a flowful, synthetic work written with Ciceronian stylistic balance and usually argued with scholarly cogency, even in the Kantianly moralistic fifth chapter on what some call evil that seems to reduce to (our) bourgeois fear of mugging.  The charm of the preface's personal journey, 1-4, we need more of suggests a parallel-universe struggle between, on the one hand, his early occultism and, on the other, a dragged-to-church distate for religion and a scientism curiously devoid of his or anyone's direct phenomenological experience.  I note that no single person's landscapinging of their, or even his, mystical experience shows forth, except for Bucke's, 18, backhanded self-reference over a century and a third old when he and friends in England read current British poets and especially our Whitman.  During a long post-midnight ride in a hansom he, in peace from the "ideas, images and emotions" of the evening (Bucke, unpaginated 3-4 from Acklom's "The Man and the Book") "found himself wrapped around . . . by a flame-coloured cloud [as if from] some sudden conflagration in the great city [realizing that] the light was within himself."  The virtual absence of any direct record of personal experience in the book underscores what the sociologist C. Wright Mills called "abstracted empiricism."  Though Mills had survey research specifically in mind, Daniels illustrates similar problems when he says, 58, "Let us consider a concrete example."  What follows presents no concrete instance of any person's experience of so-called near-death experience, NDE.  Words like "typically," "may," "such" reveal a pastiche of abstract, general typification.  As his example of psi gives rise to the issue of just what a mystical experience is, I offer my view less broad than that of Daniels:  the spontaneous occurrence, often after frustrated searching below awareness, of expanded, interconnective coming together within the person as the quintessence (Austin); systematic meditative pursuit, along flame-self-extinguishing-nirvana lines, in a tradition of discipline, e.g., Zen; so-called psychic awareness beyond one's integumentary envelope of, say, blips of light and cold spots.  Daniels includes the last; I do not.

Problems

Page 10 of the preface introduces the book's core, charted on pages 254-5, more fully discussed in nearby pages, as a row-and-column 5 X 5 array of 10 items--theistic, nature, social, mental, and monistic against numinous, dialogic, synergic, unitive, and nondual--to produce 25 cells.  Any array, when generating cells at the intersection of Y and (under) X, so to speak, produces meaningless, i.e., only logical but not practical, cells.  So from what the words must mean I knock out the whole line theistic as without  palpable substance, leaving 20 cells.  I conclude unitive and nondual , 189, represent little more than a single empirical area of experience, like the first two senses of mystical experience above.  15 cells left.  Synergic, working together, coalesces with social, possibly overlapping with some of dialogic, perhaps the whole better to be listed as collective.  That could leave fewer than 10 cells.  As Daniels views numen theistically, a few more cells may drop.  Analyzing the terms of the charts might give me pause, or I might find more cells to knock out, thus reducing the 25 to 5 or fewer.  So, Daniels' realist proliferation:  creating the impression that by multiplying word/phrase tags you have correlatively multiplied palpable things.  Regarding, 268, the spiral-dynamic, as in a bedspring/torus or the Slinky that walks down the stairs image, versus the structural-hierarchical, ladder, a third alternative crops up:  a non-progressive, changing-manifold conception of transpersonal development.  Imagine a big cigar smoke ring slowly rolled out in front of the mouth.  Rings of varying size can be blown through the first at varying velocities to produce, if you will, vases of varying shapes composed of the rings in relation to each other.  There is no beginning or end, priority or superiority, as with either a spiral or a ladder view:  a spiral Slinky always has a beginning and end of the winding flat wire and a ladder has a beginning, middle, and end.  Unitive, 258, becomes a problematic term in the contexts in which it applies:  sensed separated parts of our experience, as of what we call the body, become connected, whole, as in the emotional blush of mystical experience.  Using the term in the sense of relating ourselves to some presumed theurgic entity just diminishes us.  A series of terms, not all of which Daniels uses--spirit, anim-us/-a, phren-, psyche--all revolve around the simple yet profound process of breathing and the emotion it implies.  I recall my first classical Greek teacher saying that for the Greeks the mind was in the chest; emotion percolates into cognitive content.  It seems to me that Western religious bureaucracies teased out that ideal and seemingly non-physical soul to be controlled, as the sociologist Max Weber would put it, through psychic coercion by religious virtuosos.  We all profit from studying Onians on these concepts.  Similarly, 198, Daniels deprecates the physical as gross.  Finally, despite his dissertation on Maslow, Daniels doesn't seem to notice that a scan of Bucke's cosmic-consciousness concept reveals many ideas that with just a slight twist become elements of Maslow's B-motivation and peak-experiencing.

Gaffes

Numen, 300, has no relation to deities in Latin.  The primitive meaning speaks of political power, as when a chief "nods" to give assent, like Brynner's "So let it be written; so let it be done," a meaning that carries over into later quasi-religious senses, 245.  The definition, 305, of psychosurgery is a misapprehension for trephaning as used since prehistoric times to cut holes in the skull to let out what we deem mental illness.  Psychosurgery can be done anywhere in the body, without tools, producing guts in the form of masses of cassette tape and chicken blood to relieve the patient of psycho-somatic illness.  Michael Harner's work on South-American shamans shows how they may "palm" a splinter in the mouth and "suck" it out of the sufferer. The Greek daimon, 284-5, causes confusion as d(a)emon, as if referring to a palpable being.  It translates best as Socrates' inner voice, capacity, or power, often the insightful synthesizing power of the right brain, similar to traditional notions of genius and charisma.  The neologistic heterarchy along with hierarchy, 290, are neither contraries nor contradictories.  Hierachy means "the holy place is first," showing religious organization as the historical antecedent of bureaucracy.  From the Greek heterarchy would mean "the other is first," thus being the very opposite of the transpersonalists' meaning of egalitarianism.  Table 7, top, 86, opposes his ecstasy and falsly neologistically created enstasy , in fact the same, the former better viewed as expansion out beyond one's usual sense of envelope from within rather than some psychological standing outside oneself as a clone.  Compare Oprah's foolishly conceived non-contraries, history versus herstory, two words containing no "story" but, instead, the Greek element histor- for "investigation."  Daniels imbues an apotheosized Kosmos, 202, with what he calls mind and spirit versus Cosmos which he conceives as the physical universe, the only kind there can be, although for the Greeks the latter implied order versus chaos.  

Finally, when discussing mysticism I select from a list of some three dozen strictures I've created those that apply.  The following come up as I reexperience Daniels' weltanschauung.

Mystical experience:

--is other than the words attached to it.

--doesn't require untenable distinctions like intro-/exta-vertive, eso-/exo-teric.

--isn't philosophy; is neither logic nor anti-logic, but "para-logic," paradoxical.

--isn't different from science, involves all that testing, rejection, and refinement that only brother/sister mystics/scientists can understand, expressing itself in cultural images and language without the universality of scientific-mathematical language and methodological ideology.

--is postively life-transformative, never risky or negative as unitive experience, though the road to it may be quite difficult, as Daniels reminds us.

--doesn't require ego-/self-lessness; the self endures "absorbed."  Daniels mostly agrees, 51, but says the self is suspended, not lost.  It can never be lost, isn't suspended; anything to which the self may refer is expanded outward from its center.  Children may be there all the time, but we humor ourselves as adults, 261, imagining we experience mystical expansiveness in a more sophisticated way.

--doesn't involve loss of obective-subjective as if such a stance must be rescued for fear that a scientist might get lost in experience, even though experience and experiment are the same empirical word.

--is not un-/super-natural or anti-naturalistic and is neither faith nor belief nor mysterious.

--is ordinary, not rare or "in addition," much of which Daniels agrees with, just infrequent, not alter-ed/-nate consciousness/reality, just "variant."

Nothing could be more misconceived than to conclude from the range of strictures I have lodged than that my evaluation of this book is other than highly positive.  Many an excellent book of essays covering a field has gained renown as a handbook and a market-expanding  publisher would have done well to use that honorific term in the subtitle for essays.

 

References

Austin, James, H.  Zen-Brain Reflections.    Cambridge, MA:  MIT, 2006.  Reviewed in Metapsychology on Sept. 12, 2006, Vol. 10, No. 37

Bucke, Richard Maurice, M.D.  Cosmic Consciousness.  New York:  Dutton, 1969; 1901, Innes.

Onians, Richard B.  The Origins of European Thought About the Body, the Mind, the Soul, the  World [,] Time, and Fate.  Cambridge [U.K.]:  Cambridge, 1951.

 

© 2006 A. P. Bober

 

A.P. Bober has studied a psychology spanning Skinner and a humanistic-clinical view based on existential phenomenology and had been a PhD candidate in a substantive yet philosophic European-based sociology including the "critical" view.  His teaching augmented courses in group theory/"small-group developmental dynamics" (lab) while introducing "sociology of knowledge" and "issues in biological anthropology," with publications in the first two fields.  Currently he is writing a book on mystical experience as metaphorically tied to neurophysiology.


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