Sunday, July 27, 2014

The boggle threshold

Where Reason Ends and Faith Begins

T.M. Luhrman, NYT
JULY 26, 2014

STANFORD, Calif. — NOT long ago, I was at an event in which many people, most of them professors, were arguing for the existence of things that many of their colleagues did not believe in. Someone gave a talk in which he explained that he knew that U.F.O.s existed even though all the best evidence for them turned out to be false. Others spoke sympathetically about shamanic healing, reincarnation and near-death visions. But then a woman described her research on what it was like to be dead, which she had based on reports from mediums who claimed to have had the dead speak through them. She cited, as evidence of the benevolence in the afterlife, an Anglican priest, Msgr. Robert Hugh Benson, who wrote a book attacking spiritualism while alive but who, she said, recanted the book after his death in 1914. The group stared at her in disbelief. This, they felt, was flabby-minded.

In a delightful account of the British Society for Psychical Research (a remarkable group in its turn of-the-last-century heyday, and whose presidents have included William James, Nobel laureates and fellows of the Royal Society), Renée Haynes, a writer and historian who died in 1994, introduced the concept of the “boggle threshold”: “the level above which the mind boggles when faced with some new fact or report or idea.” Haynes herself was fine, she wrote, with telepathy; hesitant about reincarnation; but appalled that a woman had flown across the Atlantic to have her torn “aura” repaired by a guru expert in invisible mending.

We all have these boggle lines. Praying in an ancient language you don’t understand is fine; praying in tongues (not a human language, but thought to be a spiritual one) anathema. A god who has a human son whom he allows to be killed is natural; a god with eight arms and a lusty sexual appetite is weird. You believe in the Holy Spirit, but you draw the line at exorcism. You take for granted that Christ will come again to earth, but riding on a white horse and wearing a robe dipped in blood? That’s obviously a prophet’s besotted fantasy.

(More here.)

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home