Excerpts from "The Religious Value of the Unknown" by George Prochnik


There is a different, more subterranean tradition of theological solace predicated on restoring—not optimism, but a sense of the unknown. The first step toward creating some way out of our dilemma may involve allowing our sense of certainty itself to unravel. This doesn’t mean succumbing to a fatuous denial of dire present-day realities, but rather restoring a sense of amplitude to all the time we’ve not yet lived through.

[…]

What if the nocturnal side of nature is thought of less as the source of an alternative variety of knowledge than as a catalyst to the imagination, a preserve of images that have no known purpose, yet which compellingly reveal how the possibilities of the world have not yet been exhausted?

[…]

At our moments of most intent receptivity, we no longer know the source of the voice that leaves our own lips—only that it is part of a greater collective lineage of truth seeking. Not knowing exactly what speaks through us, other fatalistic certainties blur as well. The consciousness of our historical doom takes on something of the plasticity Scholem invokes—perhaps enabling us to say something unexpected: I do not know what happens next becomes an iteration of hope instead of helplessness.


Excerpts from "Psychedelics and religious experience" by Alan Watts


The first characteristic is a slowing down of time, a concentration in the present. One's normally compulsive concern for the future decreases and one becomes aware of the enormous importance and interest of what is happening at the moment.

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The second characteristic I will call awareness of polarity. This is the vivid realization that states, things and events which we ordinarily call opposite are interdependent, like back and front or the poles of a magnet. By polar awareness one sees that things which are explicitly different are implicitly one: self and other, subject and object, left and right, male and female—and then, a little more surprisingly, solid and space, figure and background, pulse and interval, saints and sinners, and police and criminals, ingroups and outgroups.

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The third characteristic is awareness of relativity. I see that I am a link in an infinite hierarchy of process and beings, ranging from molecules through bacteria and insects to human beings, and, maybe, to angels and gods—a hierarchy in which every level is in effect the same situation.

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The fourth characteristic is awareness of eternal energy, often in the form of intense white light, which seems to be both the current in your nerves and that mysterious e which equals mc2. This may sound like megalomania or delusion of grandeur—but one sees quite clearly that all existence is a single energy, and that this energy is one's own being. Of course there is death as well as life, because energy is a pulsation, and just as waves must have both crests and troughs the experience of existing must go on and off.

[…]

Basically, therefore, there is simply nothing to worry about, because you yourself are the eternal energy of the universe playing hide-and-seek with itself.


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