Track: New Horizons in Science and Cosmology
The Challenge of Shared Psychedelic Visions for Scientific Materialism
This presentation discusses the challenge of shared psychedelic visions for scientific materialism and naturalism. Modern scholarship on hallucinations holds that the “shareable” nature of sensory claims is what distinguishes successful perception from hallucination. Whereas mainstream science dismisses psychedelicinneror individual visions as subjective brain hallucinations,how to explainshared outer visions in which several practitioners see,with their open eyes,the same subtle phenomena in the external world? Interestingly, indigenous people widely claim that visionary medicines allow access to an enhanced sensory faculty granting direct perception of subtle energies and spiritual entities—called, for example, “true seeing” by the Matsigenka of Southern Peru, “second sight” by the Thonga of Mozambique, or “stargazing” by the Navajo.After illustrating this phenomenon with cases from ayahuasca and San Pedro (wachuma) visionary events and documented anthropological evidence, a case is made that standard“collective” or “public hallucination” models fail to account for these phenomena.
The presentation concludes that shared psychedelic visions not only present a serious challenge to scientific naturalism and materialism, but also suggest the existence of subtleworlds or dimensions of reality coexisting with the physical domain.These phenomena also raise the possibility of intersubjective testing of so-called supernatural claims through a radical empiricist epistemology (after James) that challenges the scientist attachment of “empirical validity” to “naturalistic sensory evidence.”Finally, a participatory research program is outlined that bridges the naturalistic/supernaturalistic split by embracing a more liberal or open naturalism—one that is receptive to both the ontological integrity of spiritual referents and the plausibility a multiverse or multidimensional cosmos housing a rich varietyof subtle worlds.
Track: Mystical Spirituality as a Link between World Religions
A Participatory Vision of the Mystical Unity of Religions: From Perennialism to a More Relaxed Spiritual Universalism
How to understand the so-called mystical unity of religion? Although ecumenical and perennialist assumptions about such a unity abound in the transpersonal literature, both contemporary religious studies and participatory theory issue serious challenges to the very idea of a single mystical core in religious traditions (e.g., nonduality, pure consciousness, or God). Both perennialism and other responses to religious diversity (exclusivism, inclusivism, and ecumenical pluralism) ultimately lead to both hierarchical gradations of traditions thatelevate one’s favored tradition or spiritual choice as superior. This presentation introducessecond-wave transpersonalism (participatory) as an alternative to the unintended religious ideology and arguablespiritual narcissism of the first transpersonal wave (neo-perennialist).
Participatory transpersonalismcontends that the radical openness and creativity of the mystery or the cosmos allows for the participatory cocreation of an indefinite number of mystical goals, worlds, and even ultimates.This recognitionleads to a shift from searching for spiritual unity in a global mysticismorganized around a single vision to discerning an already existent spiritual human family branching out in multiple directions from the same creative roots.It is argued that the spiritual unity of humankind may not be found in the heavens (i.e., in mental, visionary, or even mystical visions) but deep down into the earth (i.e., in the embodied connection with a common creative root). Eschewing dubious equations among spiritual ultimates (e.g., the Tao is God or Buddhist emptiness is equivalent to the Hindu Brahman), participatory transpersonalismembraces a “more relaxed” spiritual universalism thataffirms an underlying undetermined mystery (or creative spiritual power) as the generative source of the multiverse’smanifold spiritual worlds and ultimates.
Jorge N. Ferrer, Ph.D., is core faculty in the departments of East-West Psychology (EWP) and Integral and Transpersonal Psychologies (ITP; online) at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS), San Francisco. Formerly the chair of the EWP department, he is the award-winner author of Revisioning Transpersonal Theory: A Participatory Vision of Human Spirituality (SUNY Press, 2002) and Participation and the Mystery: Transpersonal Essays in Psychology, Education, and Religion (SUNY Press, 2017), as well as the coeditor of The Participatory Turn: Spirituality, Mysticism, Religious Studies (SUNY Press, 2008). In 2009, he became an advisor to the organization Religions for Peace at the United Nations on a research project aimed at solving global interreligious conflict. Ferrer offers talks and workshops internationally on transpersonal psychology, participatory spirituality, comparative mysticism and religious studies, integral and contemplative education, and sexuality and spirituality. He was born in Barcelona, Spain.