Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Mystical Positivism - part 1

If I google the term "Mystical Positivism" this blog pops to the top of the search list. That is no small claim. There is only one other link in which the term "Mystical Positivism" is used at all. This means that out of the entire world wide web, there are only two extant uses of this term. In a world where fame is now measured in terms of the number of hits one receives when searching on one's name, perhaps originality can be measured in terms of the lack of references available on the internet.

The other reference to "Mystical Positivism" I found takes the term in an entirely different direction than what I intend. The author uses the term to describe the sort of unintended scientific mysticism that arises when technology enthusiasts bubble about the potentialities of tools like cryogenics to preserve life or computer interfaces to ensure immortality by allow our minds to be downloaded into some core. To this author, "Mystical Positivism" is the use of technological constructs to recapitualate what religious traditons have been describing for millenia.

I have a very different take on "Mystical Positivism." My use of the term dates back to my experiences in graduate school in Physics during the mid 1980s. At that time I had completed an undergraduate degree in Physics at the California Institute of Technology but had not yet connected with the tradition that would become my spiritual path for the next 25 years. I had a long standing interest in the Occult and related mystical pursuits. But I also had a deep appreciation of the scientific method and the importance of objectivity in the pursuit of any system of knowledge. The importance of some form of verifiability or falsifiability was made very clear to me if one hoped to make any sort of coherent sense of the world in which we find ourselves. At this time of my life, which was a cusp between a phase dedicated to scientific study and a phase yet to come which would be dedicated to a path of spiritual practice, the term "Mystical Positivism" seems to capture my deepest sense of values. Perhaps the most influential philosophical work I read at this time was Whitehead's Process and Reality which demonstrated to me how one could take a rigourously logical approach to questions of being and metaphysics.

Shortly after this period, I left graduate school with a "gentleman's" Master Degree in hand and moved into a spiritual community that practiced a teaching closely related to the Fourth Way tradition of G.I. Gurdjieff. The Fourth Way tradition, as spiritual traditions go, was formulated in a language that echoed the scientific language of the early 20th century. It is a tradition for which the personal verification of any truth claim is of the utmost importance. It is a tradtion that takes the principle of objective observation of phenonmena and enshrines it as one of the foundational practices of the study of self. So the term "Mystical Positivism" has continued to resonate for me through to the present as embodying rationality in the truest sense of the word in the pursuit of Work on Self.

This blog and the associated radio show are occasions on which to try to articulate more clearly what the tenets of "Mystical Postivism" might be. A starting point for this inquiry should be what is commonly meant by "Logical Positivism" and what is commonly meant as "Mysticism". In subsequent postings, we will explore these traditional interpretations and proceed to develop a meaningful sense of what "Mystical Positivism" is all about.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Stuart and Rob,
    Thank you for your show and blog.
    I came across your blog when searching various spiritually related "positivism." I had been thinking of promoting a new genre of literature I'd call "Spiritual Positivism," that is, literature distinct from "Inspirational" that would be based on personal experience, intelligent consideration, and a fundamental disposition of tolerance, and champion the serious spiritual endeavor.
    Maybe we have something in common worthwhile talking about?
    My publishing website is www(dot)dlstilwellpublishing(dot)com.
    Warmest regards. And, again, thanks.