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General Astronomy >> General Observing and Astronomy

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killdabuddha
Pooh-Bah
*****

Reged: 08/26/11

Re: Borderline Mystics new [Re: cadfour]
      #5465304 - 10/11/12 12:29 PM

Quote:

I felt a drop, but I am not here to feel it.




Ah, the impermanence and illusoriness of all...reminds me of my other favorite joke...

The Buddha found himself really hungry after gaining enlightenment in a NYC cab, so he got out at the nearest hot dog vendor...

"Make me one with everything," said the Buddha to the vendor. The vendor piled everything on, but the Buddha's play on words wasn't lost on him either.

"Eight dollars," said the vendor. The Buddha handed him a $20. "Next" shouted the vendor.

"Wait," said the Buddha. "What about my change?"

"True change comes from within," said the vendor. Still, it was a great hot dog.


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Otto Piechowski
Pooh-Bah


Reged: 09/20/05

Loc: Lexington, KY
Re: Borderline Mystics new [Re: killdabuddha]
      #5465749 - 10/11/12 05:57 PM

Not all mystical experiences are pleasant. Some are confusing. Some overwhelming. Some frightening. And some, depressing. Such experiences are often referred to in the writings of mystics, auto-biographical and biographical narratives of the lives of mystics, and in the instruction given by teachers of spiritual theology, spiritual direction, and counseling.

The same is true for me as regards stargazing. In addition to the many warm, humbling, pleasureable experiences, that accompany stargazing, scoping, an astronomy club-meeting, a public-observing event, the star party, the purchase of a new piece of equipment, watching a particularly well done program on astronomy, or attending an astronomy convention; there are these other experiences as well.

Sometimes, early into a planned evening of stargazing I find myself having a vague feeling of physical nausea.

On a few occasions, when alone gazing at a clear transparent sky saturated with stars, I have chosen to imagine there is no creator of all that I see. When I do this, each and every time I immediately feel a deep uncomfortable loneliness.

And sometimes, the hours of a night of ongoing observing are attended by no feeling whatsoever. Expecting to revisit the frequently experienced pleasureable feeling of a night of observing, I am aware I feel nothing other than the ennui attendant to just-going-through-the-motions; not unlike the experience of which addicts speak when they discover the substance or behavior to which they are addicted no longer gives pleasure regardless of the amount of increased indulgence.


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killdabuddha
Pooh-Bah
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Reged: 08/26/11

Re: Borderline Mystics new [Re: Otto Piechowski]
      #5466077 - 10/11/12 10:23 PM

You're not alone, Otto. Blaise Pascal said in his Pensees, "The eternal silence of these infinite spaces terrifies me." He examines therein such paradoxes as infinity and nothing, faith and reason, soul and matter, death and life, and meaning and vanity. In the end he seems to conclude that the only things he can know are humility, ignorance, and grace. I've sometimes wondered exactly what it is I'm doing and why, and whether I'm not just being indulgent, especially if I'm not able to fully appreciate what it is I'm seeing. And by what right do I so feebly use an instrument that Newton or Galileo woulda given their eye teeth for? I've just begun a study of ancient astronomy, but otherwise I'm pretty much just thrown back on what Pascal was able to resolve for himself.

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Otto Piechowski
Pooh-Bah


Reged: 09/20/05

Loc: Lexington, KY
Re: Borderline Mystics new [Re: killdabuddha]
      #5466147 - 10/11/12 11:22 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."


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Dennis_S253
Pooh-Bah


Reged: 11/22/11

Loc: West Central Florida
Re: Borderline Mystics new [Re: killdabuddha]
      #5466158 - 10/11/12 11:30 PM

It always makes me wonder about the mayans and ancient civalizations being able to predict eclipes and all. They knew a lot. I sometimes wonder when looking at a galaxy if there isn't someone there looking at ours. What happen to mathematicians? Computers have taken over. Hubble has taken over. I remember making my first sun dial. That was so cool, it worked. Who needs it anymore, we all have watches. There trying to prove everything they want to prove.

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killdabuddha
Pooh-Bah
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Reged: 08/26/11

Re: Borderline Mystics new [Re: Otto Piechowski]
      #5466165 - 10/11/12 11:37 PM

Quote:

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.


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jrbarnett
Eyepiece Hooligan
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Reged: 02/28/06

Loc: Petaluma, CA
Re: Borderline Mystics new [Re: Otto Piechowski]
      #5466186 - 10/11/12 11:59 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?

Regards,

Jim


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mountain monk
Carpal Tunnel
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Reged: 11/06/09

Loc: Grand Teton National Park
Re: Borderline Mystics new [Re: jrbarnett]
      #5466233 - 10/12/12 01:13 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

Edited by mountain monk (10/12/12 01:16 AM)


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csrlice12
Postmaster
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Reged: 05/22/12

Loc: Denver, CO
Re: Borderline Mystics new [Re: mountain monk]
      #5466508 - 10/12/12 08:44 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.....

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killdabuddha
Pooh-Bah
*****

Reged: 08/26/11

Re: Borderline Mystics new [Re: mountain monk]
      #5466610 - 10/12/12 10:17 AM

Quote:



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...


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ensign
scholastic sledgehammer


Reged: 12/16/08

Loc: Southwestern Ontario
Re: Borderline Mystics new [Re: tecmage]
      #5466756 - 10/12/12 11:55 AM

Quote:

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?

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.


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Otto Piechowski
Pooh-Bah


Reged: 09/20/05

Loc: Lexington, KY
Re: Borderline Mystics new [Re: ensign]
      #5467130 - 10/12/12 05:24 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


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csrlice12
Postmaster
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Reged: 05/22/12

Loc: Denver, CO
Re: Borderline Mystics new [Re: ensign]
      #5467139 - 10/12/12 05:31 PM

Quote:

Quote:

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?

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.......


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mwedel
Works with Sauropods
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Reged: 12/16/07

Loc: Claremont, CA
Re: Borderline Mystics new [Re: csrlice12]
      #5467714 - 10/13/12 03:12 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.


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csrlice12
Postmaster
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Reged: 05/22/12

Loc: Denver, CO
Re: Borderline Mystics new [Re: mwedel]
      #5468027 - 10/13/12 10:41 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.

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csrlice12
Postmaster
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Reged: 05/22/12

Loc: Denver, CO
Re: Borderline Mystics new [Re: ensign]
      #5468033 - 10/13/12 10:44 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.......


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Otto Piechowski
Pooh-Bah


Reged: 09/20/05

Loc: Lexington, KY
Re: Borderline Mystics new [Re: mwedel]
      #5468133 - 10/13/12 11:35 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


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csrlice12
Postmaster
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Reged: 05/22/12

Loc: Denver, CO
Re: Borderline Mystics new [Re: Otto Piechowski]
      #5468634 - 10/13/12 05:02 PM

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

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killdabuddha
Pooh-Bah
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Reged: 08/26/11

Re: Borderline Mystics new [Re: csrlice12]
      #5469860 - 10/14/12 02:00 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.


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drollere
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Reged: 02/02/10

Loc: sebastopol, california
Re: Borderline Mystics new [Re: killdabuddha]
      #5469973 - 10/14/12 03:11 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.


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