Insights into reality

Ever an investigator of knowledge, preferably of understanding, the Seeker, in his retirement, began to investigate extra-sensory phenomena (e.s.p). In his youth, he had read of Prof. Rhine’s work in this field at Duke University.

Having read a recently published tome bringing together the latest perceptions on e.s.p, the Seeker consulted a visiting European clairvoyant, just to see what happened. To his surprise, without even looking at him, she described accurately his family and their tense relationships, then mentioned his very private thought about re-emigrating, and finally advised that his marriage was over. This was news to him, but proven correct.

Such accuracy was impressive, as his previous exposure to clairvoyants, astrologers and ‘fortune tellers’ in an Asian environment had merely increased his inborn scepticism. There had been many amateurs or charlatans around. Yet, he had seen faith-healing and the discovery of lost objects, mainly valuable jewellery.

He then consulted an English clairvoyant, again out of curiosity. To his considerable surprise, on arrival, he was told ‘I have the spirit of your uncle with us. Will you accept him?’ Initially at a loss for words (and thought), he said, ‘I have 3 uncles. Please describe him.’ To his delight, it was clearly his senior uncle, the second-most important man in his life (after his father). His acceptance of the spirit (whom he could not see nor communicate with) enabled a silent dialogue between the clairvoyant and the spirit; he remained tongue-tied, only responding to questions by the clairvoyant.

The introductory statement by the spirit was that “higher beings” had sent him because he was the one the client was “most likely to accept.” The Seeker’s sceptical mind was presumably well known to the spirit world. The consultation ended in a three-way exchange, wherein the spirit displayed his knowledge of what had happened to his nephew after his own death. The spirit then faded away, having left his nephew with some sound suggestions for his future.

This experience left the nephew in a philosophical quandary. The spirit world had never been part of his framework of reference for anything. Ultimately, he realised that he had been exposed to a very significant event. He could not reject it just because it did not fit into any generally acceptable frame of knowledge, beliefs and values. He has since acted on the suggestions received.

The Seeker then consulted another kind of clairvoyant, a spiritual healer, again out of curiosity. An Australian, she offered her client’s past-life experiences as an explanation of certain physical pains of his, which he had not mentioned to anyone.

When he rejected her comments, saying that any of his past-life experiences must surely be available only to him, her reply was that her own spirit guide is a Healer, who is able to read all of the Seeker’s past lives. Strangely, soon after, the Seeker’s pains disappeared.
And, like the English clairvoyant, this Australian healer displayed an ability to sense the presence of the souls or spirits of the Seeker’s dead children. He found this quite disconcerting. How does one deny these events and their significance, or their implications about the reality of human existence?

Then, there is the ‘casual clairvoyant’ who, in a non-consultative contact, could claim to see either a past or the future of the Seeker. She once described the physical appearance of the Seeker’s spirit guide, while conveying his complaint that the Seeker had not been listening to him!

As the historical Lin Yu Tang, a Chinese philosopher of renown, might have said to his imagined porcine pet, ‘Where now, old sow?’

For a rational sceptical person to find, after a lifetime lived to the full, that the spirit world exists, is a great surprise. When the events experienced cannot be denied because of the accuracy of the information made available, and also because the Seeker of knowledge exposed to the events is told that the spirit world is playing a significant role in his life, what is he to do?

 

A personal morality beyond inherited culture?

In one situation, the driver of a military tank seeks to avoid crushing the intrepid individual obstructing his path. He does this even as this individual repeatedly blocks the evasive moves attempted by him. The individual is unharmed.

In another place and time, a heavy vehicle is reported to have been run over the individual obstructing its path. The driver had allegedly been directed to destroy the home of this individual, as official policy. Should he have avoided harming the individual?

Was the difference in morality influenced by tribalism? In the first situation, the two persons shared a nationality. In the second, there was a significant difference in both ethnicity and religion between the two persons. Even if the second driver was influenced by a subconscious tribal prejudice, one which identified the defiant individual as ‘not one of us,’ should a sense of a shared humanity under Heaven claimed to be imparted by all the major religions have led to an ending which did not involve a dreadful death?

There are, of course, tribes and tribes. In those nations created by immigrants (the prominent ones being the USA, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand), political parties represent the tribes of primary relevance. Cultural tribes co-exist beneath this umbrella. In the rest of the world, it is cultural tribalism which guides, if not controls, societal conduct. A tribe can be defined as a people joined together by a common origin, a shared language, religion, and the cultural values and practices which have evolved over time.

Where the extended family reigns supreme, as in most parts of Asia – even modern Asia – tribal traditions will be upheld. Unlike the nuclear families of the Ultra-West, (the four principal nations mentioned above created by immigrants), the extended family is there to provide support to each individual. This support may be psychological or social or financial. Such support counter-balances the obligations which bind the individual to the collective. And it is the conglomeration of extended families which constitute the tribe.

And, as long as tribalism reigns supreme, with religion the main glue bonding its components, inter-tribal prejudice may manifest itself.

Against this background, the contrast identified in the opening sentences above raise a significant question: is there not a need for, and an expression of, a personal morality even when tribal prejudice prevails? The answer? That one needs a conscience beyond the imperatives of tribal prejudice and religious ignorance..

 

Are all cultures reflective of a religion?

The brutal slicing out of the clitoris – we know what it is, where it is, and what it can do – of girls and young women has been claimed to reflect a cultural tradition. Was this practice derived from a major accepted religion?

The marrying off of a daughter as soon as she reaches puberty, reportedly to a much older man, has been claimed to reflect another cultural tradition. Which religion recommends or endorses this practice involving child-brides?

In another culture, a woman’s feet are bound, thus keeping them small and not particularly reliable for walking. (I have seen such women travelling by rickshaw in British Malaya.) Which religion endorses this cultural practice?

In an old culture, a widow is reportedly induced to throw herself onto her husband’s funeral pyre by her relatives. Which religion’s doctrine requires this practice?

In Australia, I have seen a figure walk down a street covered from head to feet in what I think of as a walking tent. The gender of the occupant of the ‘tent’ was not clearly discernible. I have read in our media that some such persons have sought the right to drive a car along extremely busy streets, in spite of the probability that lateral vision may be compromised by the face covering. Which religion requires this practice of covering the whole body?

A focus by a religious sect on the ‘netherlands’ of women has resulted, in a secular nation, in a doctrine banning contraception and abortion. Is this cultural stance reflected in the doctrines of other sects of this religion?

In another nation, one’s caste (defined by one’s occupation) allegedly over-rides class. This means that, while one may be able to rise up the class structure, all the descendants of any one caste are traditionally required to be defined and treated as members of that caste. Is this cultural tradition supported by any version of Hinduism?

A culture defines the way things are done, by how they live, by members of a community. These ways do change, just as the underpinning values change through the generations. Immigrants know how cultures evolve in the nations they left behind, even as they seek to retain the cultures they brought with them.

The leaders of an ethno-cultural community may claim the primacy of their cultural practices in a multicultural nation, by seeking the legitimacy hopefully available within their religion. Regrettably, religion’s foundation (or core) beliefs may not sanctify all the diverse cultural practices of its followers.

What society is then left with are not only competitive religious sects and religions, but also ego-related competitive cultural practices. How then about adopting this principle – horses for courses?

This would mean that, in suburban Australia, where there is no risk of a storm involving a horizontal wall of sand many feet high cutting its way through (I have experienced such a storm well away from human settlements), there is really no need to cover one’s hair, face and body as if one is living in a desert.

We do not need child-brides, and such other ‘traditional’ cultures transplanted into this emerging cosmopolitan polity. In time we will rid ourselves of religious edicts imposed by historical controllers of humanity.

Revised cultural traditions will also enable a swifter tribo-cultural integration into (urban) Australia.

We really know nothing

Socrates reportedly claimed “I know nothing.” That statement resonates with me. After a sound colonial education, wide reading, thinking deeply about almost everything that affects us as human beings, comparing what the scientists are saying about cosmology with the beliefs offered by religions, and after a highly interactive and contributory life as an adult for 7 decades, I too feel that I know nothing.

But then, from about age 8, when I seemingly became aware that I had a brain with an associated mind, I began to ask myself “How do I know what I know?” No one could help me answer that question. The obvious answer? “I do not know!”

Continuing on a subjective plane of contemplation, are there not situations when one just ‘knows’ something, or about something? There are those who read the past accurately, or foretell the future accurately, or accurately read the thoughts of others, or see what is happening elsewhere (not always confirmable) – but seem untouched by their ability. It is as if they are merely conduits. My experience covers all these phenomena.

There are also those who communicate with the spirits of dead humans; and who say that the spirit realm influences – indeed, guides – some of us. As well, there is intuition, an understanding without perceivable cause; the so-called ‘third eye’ is often credited with this ability.

Is it therefore probable that those who seek knowledge, even through what we know as the sciences, can ever be certain that the explanations offered are (realistically) no more than theories, tentative in nature? What if some (many?) theories cannot be tested – ever? Does the use of mathematical calculations prove (that is, beyond challenge) any theory? Or, would a rigorous application of mathematical processes merely enhance the probability of the causal relationship being tested being potentially verifiable, were a process of verification to become available?

Since maths is apparently not created but discovered, does the human brain, drawing on only 5 senses (enhanced by some appropriate equipment), have the capacity to access the totality of the information which may be available? Worse still, the scientific method, which tells us reliably about the mechanistic material realm, is unable to deal with the ethereal realm. How do we obtain reliable information about matters neither measurable nor repeatable?

In reality, we puny humans can only hope to achieve a tentative understanding of matters of relevance to existence, by drawing upon what is set before us as knowledge, relying upon that ephemeral ability known as intuition. If only we could avoid being led into blind alleys by purveyors of faith in both the material and immaterial realms.

Knowing nothing, and awaiting hopefully for some slight infusion of insight from the ethereal realm may be sensible, while reconciling the tie to the material realm of Earth with that innate yearning for communing with the insubstantial Divine.

A Seeker of knowledge may thus need to settle for an understanding drawn from intuition, where the objective may actually be subjective!

Famous last words

‘I should very much like to take a vacation.’ – Mohammad Reza Pahlevi (former Shah of Iran shortly before his exile).

‘I don’t want to be a prime minister again.’ – Indira Gandhi (former Indian prime minister, temporarily out of power)

‘There are no prisons in Uganda.’ – Idi Amin (former president)

‘There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe, and there never will be under a Ford Administration.’ – Gerald Ford (former US president)

Priceless information

An Arab woman without a veil will throw her skirt over her head rather than leave her face exposed.

Cleopatra had the floors of the royal apartment covered with a layer of rose petals for her first meeting with Mark Anthony.

A bookshop owner selling obscene books would not look inside the books because she did not like that sort of thing.

The rising price of cattle in an African nation was once caused by the high price of brides in heads of cattle.

Politics (3)

Society in every state is a blessing, but government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil, in its worst state an intolerable one. (Tom Paine, pamphleteer)

Corruption – the most infallible symptom of constitutional liberty. (Edward Gibbon, historian)

Government is a contrivance of human wisdom to provide for human wants. (Edmund Burke, statesman)

The king is not the nation’s representative, but its clerk. (Robespierre, revolutionary leader)

Politics (2)

An ambassador is an honest man sent abroad for the commonwealth. Sir Henry Wotton

Freedom is the recognition of necessity. Spinoza

Law is a bottomless pit. Arbuthnot, Scottish writer

Faction is to a party what the superlative is to the positive. Party is a political evil and faction is the worst of all parties.   Viscount Bolingbroke

Social cohesion and ethnic diversity

With the invasion of Europe by very large numbers of immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa, a major policy issue for European nations is the successful integration of the new arrivals. Australia has successfully integrated its post-war immigrant intake, who worked hard to contribute to their chosen home, even as they benefited from being transplanted.

In sequence, Australia took in needed able-bodied workers, as well as war-displaced persons, from Europe; middle-class Europeans from the Levant; light-skinned East Asians (preferably Christian); humanitarian entrants from Indo-China; and (eventually) coloured immigrants and refugees. All of these settled in (or are settling in) smoothly.

“ It is an undeniable fact that Australia’s immigrants have never been denied the right to pray as they wish (other than to avoid disrupting their workplace); to eat their own kind of food; to speak their own language in public (the Aussie yobbo in the street excluded); to dress traditionally; to celebrate their national festivals freely; and to retain those of their cultural practices which are not inconsistent with the law, institutional practices, societal values, and behavioural norms of the host population.

They are thus required to accept Australia’s Constitution and the related institutions of government; of law, order and justice; the equality of genders; freedom of speech; and equal opportunity. They are also required to respect the nationally accepted cultural practices and social mores of not only the host nation but also of all the other cultural communities in Australia. They are further required to discard imported cultural practices such as spitting in public spaces, clitoridectomy, and such other practices which have been traditionally anathema to their host people. In the event, what other rights might immigrants or their descendants need?” … …

“The bid for a parallel settlement service, and (later) an inter-cultural relations policy, both to be controlled by ethnic community leaders reflected, in my view, an assertion of a newly-created right, rather than a need.” … …

“A parallel settlement service, delivered by language-specific ethnic social workers and controlled by ethnic community leaders, was essential, it was asserted. So, millions of dollars were spent for years in providing grants to ethnic communities under this new approach.

The ethnic grant-in-aid (GIA) social workers and, quite separately, GIA directors met regularly, in order to exchange experiences. As Chief Ethnic affairs Officer for Victoria I did attend a few of these meetings. I sensed that the social workers were pleased to be able to have a dialogue with an official who was a fellow-immigrant. Migrant Resource Centres (MRCs), being multi-ethnic in scope, were serviced in the English language by employees of ethnic descent. I wonder if the social workers manning the MRCs were aware of the apparent anomaly.

State-wide ethnic-controlled councils were then established to ‘coordinate’ GIA and MRC policies and practices. Naturally, a national body (FECCA) had then to be established. State governments also got onto the stage, offering career paths for some, including the odd freelancing academic. Ethnic employment through State or Federal consultative or advisory bodies became quite fashionable. Anglo-Australian federal public servants and I in DIEA (the Department of Immigration & Ethnic affairs) managed the machinery so established.” … …

“For a few years, I was responsible for the allocation of millions of dollars annually on the settlement services provided by this parallel structure. But I was unable to have anyone actually delivering the services tell us about the components of the services they delivered and the efficacy of these services. Basic data were not collected, because these workers said they were too busy. Process was all.” … …

“Mainstreaming, whereby all official agencies would now employ, where necessary, foreign language workers to deliver migrant settlement services (as before), was rejected by one and all in the industry, especially the State agencies established as multicultural policy. Even some academics took up the refrain, although I was not made aware of any research underpinning their assertions.” … …

“As for multiculturalism, the term is a big mistake. Even if the original intention was to encourage the ‘ethnics’ to remain in a separate sandpit, or just to garner the so-called ethnic vote, the refreshed recent emphasis on this term is a policy error.” … …

“What should be of great concern to one and all was the recent public statement by a spokesman for the newly established multicultural body in 2011 that he wished to ‘order’ (so said the news report) certain people to carry out a certain action. It was the tone of the alleged statement that reminds us that people from authoritarian cultures do need time to adjust to Australia’s egalitarian politico-social ethos. It also highlights the imperative of ultimately integrating strongly divergent cultural communities and individuals into one Australian people.”

The extracts above are from the chapter ‘On multiculturalism’ in my book ‘Musings at Death’s Door.’ (2012)