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#26 killdabuddha

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Posted 11 October 2012 - 10:37 PM

Pascal certainly has powerful things to say. None I've read more articulate, fluid, candid as your words.

My favorite of his [paraphrased]: "Man is neither angel nor beast. However, should he be so foolish as to attempt to act the angel, he most certainly will become the beast."


My favorite, tho I can't place it off hand, is, "You wouldn't be looking for me if you hadn't already found me." So tomorrow nite I'll be goin out without "lookin," if you will, but rather just to see. Thanks.

And Dennis, I'm just beginnin to appreciate their accuracy. According to one source: their calculation of the solar cycle was so accurate that the calendar they based on it is still 1/10,000th of a day more (I thought it was less, by the same margin tho) accurate than our own; in the highlands of Guatemala Maya day-keepers still count the days in the ancient way; their calendar has not lost a single day in 2500 years; their lunar calculations are off by only 33 seconds after 1500 years; the complex orbit of Venus was predicted within 1 day in 6000 years; their predictions of the orbit of Mars are equally accurate, and; their table predicting solar and lunar eclipses can still be used today. Another source has them less accurate. For instance, their astronomer-priests used a lunar month which averaged 29.53086 days. Since the actual average month is 29.53059 days, they would be off by 1 day in 299 years. Considering how long they kept records, this may not be very accurate. Ptolemy, however, was off by a ridiculous 1 day in 32 years. YMMV.

#27 jrbarnett

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Posted 11 October 2012 - 10:59 PM

I love it Otto.

Or how about an occasional CN column called "Nocturne" that explores the intellectual, spiritual and emotional (rather than the literal, visual) experience of different observing sessions? :grin:

Regards,

Jim

#28 mountain monk

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Posted 12 October 2012 - 12:13 AM

Otto:

Thanks for starting this post. A few more comments...

The sky is a common metaphor/analogy in Buddhism, especially Tibetan Buddhism, where it is used for instruction and in descriptions of enlightenment. A popular story:

A student wants to know what the "fundamental fact" is. The master asks him to lie next to him under the night sky. He asks "Do you hear the sound of the dogs in the village barking?"" Yes," says the student. "And do you see the stars in the sky?" "Yes," says the student. The master says "That's it."

Your comment "a deep uncomfortable loneliness..." We are born alone and we die alone. Staring into the open sky strips away many/most of the constructs that give "meaning" to the life in between. "Sabi"--the sense of isolation, is a key term in Japanese aesthetics. So is "yu-gen"--the mysterious depth of nature, which, of course, is often felt under the night sky. All of which SHOULD make you uncomfortable. Pascal was, hence his wager.

Dark skies.

Jack

#29 csrlice12

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Posted 12 October 2012 - 07:44 AM

When I look at the sky, I'm looking at home. It's where I'm from, it's where i live, it's where I'll die, it's where I will return to.....

#30 killdabuddha

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Posted 12 October 2012 - 09:17 AM

A student wants to know what the "fundamental fact" is. The master asks him to lie next to him under the night sky. He asks "Do you hear the sound of the dogs in the village barking?"" Yes," says the student. "And do you see the stars in the sky?" "Yes," says the student. The master says "That's it."


The long night.
The sound of the water
Says what I think.

There's another, on the loss of a child...

This dewdrop world.
It may be a dewdrop,
And yet, and yet...

#31 ensign

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Posted 12 October 2012 - 10:55 AM

Carl Sagan used to say we are made of the stuff of stars.


Well, whether Sagan was right or wrong, according to Wikipedia:

"The average 70 kg adult human body contains approximately 6.7 x 10**27 atoms and is "composed of" 60 chemical elements."

Does this give you a realistic or even usable picture of what human beings are like? :question:

I wonder if describing Beethoven's symphonies in terms of the total number of notes (or notes per second, or frequency ranges over time or any other quantitative measure) would provide even the barest hint of the essence of the compositions.

Thus the deep need for the mystical and although often inscrutable, I'm convinced that this part of the sum total of reality need not be divorced from reason.

#32 Otto Piechowski

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Posted 12 October 2012 - 04:24 PM

Along those same lines....I think the following was both humorous and delightfully insightful.

Crazy Bob (Bob Summerfield) of the company called Astronomy-To-Go and I are friends. We have worked together and we enjoy each others' presence. He is, I believe, culturally Jewish and religiously an atheist. I'm a dyed in the wool Roman Catholic.

Anyway, we were waxing philosophical one night and I had reason to recall the quote I heard of at Stellafane (which I visited this summer) and which was appropriated by them from the book of Psalms. I said to Bob, the gazing at the sky makes me think of that quote, "The heaven's declare the glory of God." Without a pause, and with the same tonality of voice Bob said, "The heaven's declare the glory of hydrogen."

Got to love a guy like that.

Otto

#33 csrlice12

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Posted 12 October 2012 - 04:31 PM

Carl Sagan used to say we are made of the stuff of stars.


Well, whether Sagan was right or wrong, according to Wikipedia:

"The average 70 kg adult human body contains approximately 6.7 x 10**27 atoms and is "composed of" 60 chemical elements."

Does this give you a realistic or even usable picture of what human beings are like? :question:

I wonder if describing Beethoven's symphonies in terms of the total number of notes (or notes per second, or frequency ranges over time or any other quantitative measure) would provide even the barest hint of the essence of the compositions.

Thus the deep need for the mystical and although often inscrutable, I'm convinced that this part of the sum total of reality need not be divorced from reason.


Life is Highly overrated; I've yet to see anyone who has died decide to come back.......

#34 mwedel

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Posted 13 October 2012 - 02:12 AM

Since beaches came up earlier in this thread...

From 2001 to 2006 I lived in Santa Cruz. When I was having a lousy day, I'd go down to West Cliff and sit on the rocks and just watch the waves. I knew that there had been waves rolling onto the west coast of North America for longer than North America had been a distinct entity. It always eventually made my problems seem small, and gave me a measure of peace.

That was before I got into astronomy. I don't live by the Pacific anymore, but as Carl Sagan said, "The surface of the Earth is the shore of the cosmic ocean". When I am feeling down I can still go watch the waves roll in...light waves, that is, rolling right into my retinas. For me the night sky is a bigger, older, more endless ocean. I like to think I traded up. ;)

#35 csrlice12

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Posted 13 October 2012 - 09:41 AM

Ah, but a scope, a clear calm dark night, and a nice beach off the Coast Highway (Point Arena area is especially nice).....Kinda miss CA too, with the Redwoods, Yosimite (another fantastic viewing spot), Northern CA Redwoods, the Ocean. Don't miss the traffic and prices though.

#36 csrlice12

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Posted 13 October 2012 - 09:44 AM

"Does this give you a realistic or even usable picture of what humWell, whether Sagan was right or wrong, according to Wikipedia:

The average 70 kg adult human body contains approximately 6.7 x 10**27 atoms and is "composed of" 60 chemical elements."

"Does this give you a realistic or even usable picture of what human beings are like?"

Explains a few I know.......

#37 Otto Piechowski

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Posted 13 October 2012 - 10:35 AM

What a terrific thought, Mathew!

I have been drawn to ocean, shore, surf, wave all my life. My education and reading tell me the ocean is a metaphor in thought, if not in reality, of the presence of spiritual reality. This intellectual formation has been reinforced by a number of experiences of being on the shores of the earth's oceans, by being a commercial fisherman, and by coming from a family of sailors.

I often wish to spend more time by the waves and surf, but am not as able as I would like.

And then I read your wonderful idea; that the biosphere-of-the-earth in which we live is the-shore-line-of-the-cosmos on which we stand. I feel a warmth from that thought settling over me.


There is a brief passage from the biblical book of Jeremiah which captures my feelings about the power of the sea/shore/waves and the human relationship with the same.

"Should you not fear me, says the Lord, should you not tremble before me? I made the sandy shore the sea's limit, which by eternal decree it may not overstep. Toss though it may, it is to no avail; though its billows roar, they cannot pass." (Jeremiah 5:22)


The next time I gaze at a dark, clear, transparent, night sky, filled with stars, I will be on the look-out for this feeling your words have generated in me, Mathew. This feeling being expressed as:

"Should you not stand in awe of me? I made the biosphere the cosmos' limit, which by eternal decree it may not overstep. Toss though it may, it is to no avail; though its billows roar, they cannot pass."

Otto

#38 csrlice12

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Posted 13 October 2012 - 04:02 PM

One plus to the beach for a scope on a tripod: Somehow, the sand actually helps control vibrations in the tripod.

#39 killdabuddha

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Posted 14 October 2012 - 01:00 PM

Yes Otto, all language is metaphorical as are all categories of thought (tho sum mathematicians may assert that theirs is the only literally and objectively true language..."God is a geometer," said Galileo, etc.). I read a book once, "Thomas Gray Philosopher Cat," about the Greeks' discovery of irrational numbers, couched in the exploits of a cat who stumbled onto the desk of a Cambridge(?) mathematician. Its tail had covered over an extraneous, and therefore confusing, part of the old Greek manuscript under study, and because of this "serendipitous chance" the mathematician was able to see what he'd been looking for by having the unoriginal bit removed.

I relate this because in the book the cat also related the experience of his grandmother who'd been a rat catcher on board a fishing vessel. When I read the account I experienced infinity. I'll never forget it. He said that she related how she'd watch the ocean surface as waves formed and dissolved and how, in a transcendent moment, she realized that between the general and the specific is the infinite. Whether you're squaring the circle or reconciling being and non-being you encounter infinity. Physicists may abhor the infinities they encounter, but mathematicians and poets (and mystics and cats) don't seem to mind so much. This can also be understood as the middle way. Or in the words of Neil Young, "I'm the ocean, I'm the giant undertow..." Or in the sense that we, and everything, are like Schrodinger's cat--even astronomical objects are not now what they appear to our eyes and instruments, having long since passed into other forms...All is alive and dead simultaneously and everywhere you look, filling the infinite space between this and that.

#40 drollere

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Posted 14 October 2012 - 02:11 PM

i've enjoyed the views presented here, although some seem rather dogmatic. dogma is not something i associate with mystical states or talk about them.

the point i'd make is, to borrow from james's "varieties", that there are varieties of mystical experience. it's confusing to use the same word to mean very different things. mysticism as it's usually described in religious contexts shows a great variety that includes visions, insights, instructions from god, ecstatic unions with the divine, etc.

to my knowledge no astronomy has received instructions by looking through a telescope, or had a naked insight into the universe, or ecstatically united with god; the mysticism here is apparently something different.

the "mystical" states we associate with astronomy are what i'd call imaginative mysticism, because some imaginative component, based on a learned concept often presented as the voice in the head ("just imagine, that galaxy is..."), is necessary to incorporate visual astronomy with the "fact" that a galaxy is far away, a supernova exploded long ago, a globular cluster is very large, and so on. what we see through an eyepiece gives absolutely no evidence of those dimensions. this is classic burnham junior mysticism, and it's basically the kind of frisson that children all discover by lying on their back and voluntarily imagining that the ground cannot hold them and they will fall into the sky.

sigmund freud wrote a long and famous paper on the fact that he never experienced the "oceanic feeling" which romain rolland put as the source of all religious sentiment. he concluded that the feeling originated in something infantile ... freud always had kind words for religion. but it raises the issue of justification -- not *what* a mystical experience may be, but *why* we consider it valuable, why it matters. why is a mystical experience any more remarkable than a dizzy spell or a remembrance of childhood helplessness?

one thing all the posts agree on is that it is a very pleasant mysticism. in deep depression i once had the convincing insight that the universe was made of lifeless ash, and illuminated by darkness -- xrays or gamma rays only -- which was a deeply painful and consuming experience that might resemble the "mystical" temptations of st. anthony. we don't like the terrifying or ego devouring forms of mysticism. the point of imaginative mysticism is that it is fun and gratifying; that's why we indulge in it.

i have to say that imaginative mysticism is not compelling for me. if i wanted mysticism, i wouldn't look at a globular cluster through a telescope and imagine it is large; i might lie on my back and look at the stars and accept their light. i am happiest when perception floods my awareness and sweeps out all concepts and language as nasty cobwebs and biting insects, or when looking at something as a means to sketch it. this "perceptual mysticism" is a distinct emotional state that is not a normal social emotion but is similar to a good acid trip. time stops, the body recedes, the radio station in the head goes silent; light becomes substantial and warm, surfaces evanescent and permeable, colors vibrant, breath liquid and space corporeal. i don't have that experience at the telescope.

certainly, it's fabulous and amazing that the universe is big and inexplicable, but to say that the motivation to do astronomy or an important benefit from it is so that we receive a kind of mystical state seems to me a stretch.

#41 jrbarnett

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Posted 14 October 2012 - 03:02 PM

Ah, Bruce! My friend, it's because you are a glorious symphony that yet remains unfinished, to all our detriment. When your last note is penned, you'll "get" RJB. :lol:

As for this..."the ground cannot hold them and they will fall into the sky"...

Been there, done that. I am a graduate of Reed College, after all.

But I didn't find it mystical, really. In fact, by the time I rounded 61 Cygni and was picking up velocity, I realized what a heck of time I was going to have getting home. It was one of the most harrowing experiences of my lives. :whistle:

Samsara is like the river. It is imagination, not the oppose-able thumb or even reason, that separates us from our brothers, the beasts.

All in good fun,

Jim

#42 amicus sidera

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Posted 14 October 2012 - 04:59 PM

Carl Sagan used to say we are made of the stuff of stars.


Well, whether Sagan was right or wrong, according to Wikipedia:

"The average 70 kg adult human body contains approximately 6.7 x 10**27 atoms and is "composed of" 60 chemical elements."

Does this give you a realistic or even usable picture of what human beings are like? :question:

I wonder if describing Beethoven's symphonies in terms of the total number of notes (or notes per second, or frequency ranges over time or any other quantitative measure) would provide even the barest hint of the essence of the compositions.

Thus the deep need for the mystical and although often inscrutable, I'm convinced that this part of the sum total of reality need not be divorced from reason.


Life is Highly overrated; I've yet to see anyone who has died decide to come back.......


Well, I know of One... :cool:

#43 mountain monk

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Posted 14 October 2012 - 07:20 PM

Pleasant astronomical mysticism...

Most of the biographies of the "mystics" that I know of include a passage through St John's "dark night of the soul." Comparing or confusing them with acid trips was one of the classic mistakes of the 60s and 70s. They seem to me more like psychotic mashups, and I doubt anyone would describe such things as pleasant. In any case, how does a pile of chemical debris from supernovas do that?

Dark skies.

Jack

#44 killdabuddha

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Posted 15 October 2012 - 11:58 AM

As for this..."the ground cannot hold them and they will fall into the sky"...

Samsara is like the river. It is imagination, not the oppose-able thumb or even reason, that separates us from our brothers, the beasts.

Jim


Jim,

Don't recognize the first. Reference please? Sounds delicious. As for imagination...the "images" of early cave and rock art exploding onto the scene immediately come to mind. And as Chesterton pointed out, we don't find lions doin pics of gazelles progressively better and better. Also, from the mystical vantage point, neither were these hunting renditions. They're a blending of shared identifications, and of the seen and unseen, especially those earliest of the hand prints which seem to say that on this side (of the wall), we and the beasts, but on the other side...Also, they've recently discovered that the overlaid images act as cartoon cells...flip the pages of the separate pics and you'll see the horses neigh and even run.

Yes Otto, as Jim said, we could use a thread like this, and there's plenty of it around, especially ancient when there was nobody to tell them that they were "wrong." Besides, I gotta expand my vocabulary, and it seems that for this we are sorely lacking...

#45 ScumotheUniverse

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Posted 16 October 2012 - 01:06 PM

Much of this "mysticism " can be explained by the act of translating the utterly impersonal into the realm of the personal where it is tainted by personal belief systems. It makes for beatific poetry, but flies in the face of hard cold reality. The universe is a cold, unfeeling, misanthropic locale that is devoid of these purely human emotions. This mysticism stems from a mammalian trait and is most definitely linked to the K reproductive strategy. The cultivation of egoism in the caregiving giving aspect of offspring rearing the main source of this human error. I, as most here, read what reinforces our personal beliefs and I wish to cite a cogent piece of philosophy that addresses most accurately this question.

"In some remote corner of the universe, poured out and glittering in innumerable solar systems, there once was a star on which clever animals invented knowledge. That was the haughtiest and most mendacious minute of "world history"- yet only a minute. After nature had drawn a few breaths the star grew cold, and the clever animals had to die.

One might invent such a fable and still not have illustrated sufficiently how wretched, how shadowy and flighty, how aimless and arbitrary, the human intellect appears in nature. There have been eternities when it did not exist; and when it is done for again, nothing will have happened. For this intellect has no further mission that would lead beyond human life. It is human, rather, and only its owner and producer gives it such importance, as if the world pivoted around it." From "On Truth and Lie in an Extra-Moral Sense" by Friedrich Nietzsche.

When I gaze into the unbounded depths of infinity I do not experience nausea, or loneliness or a deep sadness, but an exhilirating freedom. As they say, "It is what it is" not what we would wish it to be.

#46 killdabuddha

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Posted 16 October 2012 - 03:06 PM

Post deleted by csa/montana

#47 csrlice12

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Posted 16 October 2012 - 03:44 PM

It's all our attempt to comprehend the uncomprehendable...

#48 Otto Piechowski

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Posted 16 October 2012 - 04:38 PM

The thought crossed my mind some few posts ago, to state that it is not correct to speak of mystical experiences as purely immaterial, intangible, transcendental, out-of-body experiences. For two reasons

First, whatever the human person is aware of, she/he is aware of it through his her body.

Second, even psychotic/neurotic/emotional states can be the vehicle of mystical experiences. I think of Ezekiel and perhaps Amos and St. Francis of Assisi. Let us assume there is a all powerful God. Could an all powerful God choose to communicate through a person who was a few fries short of a happy meal? Yes, of course. Why would a God do so? In asking my high school students this question they offered many good responses, not the least of which included that the mystic would be less resistant, that the hearers would be less inclined to accept it (if the hardness of heart thing is important), and a few others I can't recall.

Theoretically, I should also include drug-induced states as a means of mystical experience, but I am uncomfortable with that. There is an intentionality aspect here usually not present in mental illness.

#49 jrbarnett

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Posted 17 October 2012 - 12:43 AM

Speak for yourself!

:lol:

- Jim

#50 ensign

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Posted 17 October 2012 - 08:41 AM

I like this thread!

If, for no other reason, than it makes evident that a thoroughgoing naturalism is a truncated world-view.






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