Dr. Hugh Urban, Scholarly Look At What Many Call Cults |437|

#1
Dr. Hugh Urban, Scholarly Look At What Many Call Cults |437|
by Alex Tsakiris | Jan 14 | Spirituality
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Dr. Hugh Urban brings scholarly rigor to the study of Scientology and Osho, but what about consciousness?
photo by: Skeptiko
I have an interview coming up in a minute with the very excellent Dr Hugh Urban, Professor of Comparative Religions at Ohio State University and a guy nice enough to put up with my shenanigans. Here are some of the clips.
Alex Tsakiris: [00:00:13] The part that concerns me is we have reason to believe that MKULTRA / Men Who Stare At Goats stuff was going on. So I’m just not sure that we can bracket that back into, “Oh, you know, those Scientologists, they were kind of playing off of the cold war jitters that people have.”
Dr. Hugh Urban: [00:00:36] But I guess I would say that, I can’t know, as a historian of religion, whether there’s a reality to what they’re talking about, but I can say that they certainly believed there was and took it very seriously.
(later)
Dr. Hugh Urban: You can also point to examples within Christianity where the leadership was incredibly corrupted. I mean, the Middle Ages are filled with bad popes, right? Bad popes and bad cardinals. That doesn’t mean that the entire Catholic Church from top to bottom is a corrupt organization.
Alex Tsakiris: [00:01:08] Wait, hold on, full stop. We don’t know that. I mean, that’s, I guess, the part that I want to say we’re not doing our job if we don’t ask that question.
(later)
Alex Tsakiris: Beyond the Eckhart [Tolle] / Oprah Winfrey / new age thing that most people get, what he’s saying about the science of consciousness, is much, much closer to what leading researchers are saying. So I guess returning to kind of this earlier point, if you can’t get consciousness right, if you’re playing “consciousnesses and illusion” as your atheist colleague no doubt believes, you’re not even in the game.
Dr. Hugh Urban: [00:01:51] Yeah, that’s an interesting point. And I guess I would say that, well, there’s a couple of answers to that question. There is a movement in religious studies and other fields that is extremely interested in consciousness from different perspectives. But in my own work, I mean, I’m a historian, and so I look at what people do and the texts they leave behind and what we can sort of see.
(continued below)
 
#2
Thanks for interesting interview, I will be interested to read Professor Urban's book on Osho.

With respect to the academic's understanding of consciousness, the limitations have been known for a long time.

From the Buddhist tradition, we have the story of Naropa, leading scholar at Nalanda University:

"Naropa became a great scholar for the North gate and engaged in many debates. He also taught and acquired disciples. He himself was convinced that he was a great scholar.

One day when he was sitting and reading his texts, a shadow suddenly fell on the book. He turned and saw an extremely old and ugly woman. She asked him, "What are you studying? What are you reading?" He replied, "I am studying Guhya-samaja tantra." She asked, "Can you read the words?" "Yes," he answered and started to recite the text. On hearing that she became so happy that she jumped around and started to dance. Naropa thought: "She became so happy when I told her I can read, I will also tell her I can understand it." He said: "I also understand the meaning." She then became very sad and started to cry. Naropa said, "You were so happy that I can read, but now you are so sad because I said I understand the meaning. Why?" She answered, "I'm sad because a great scholar like you is lying. This is very sad. Today in the whole world, there is nobody but my brother who understands the meaning of the words."

http://www.diamondway-buddhism-univ...n_Buddhist_Articles/life_stories/naropa1.html
 
#3
Thanks for interesting interview, I will be interested to read Professor Urban's book on Osho.

With respect to the academic's understanding of consciousness, the limitations have been known for a long time.

From the Buddhist tradition, we have the story of Naropa, leading scholar at Nalanda University:

"Naropa became a great scholar for the North gate and engaged in many debates. He also taught and acquired disciples. He himself was convinced that he was a great scholar.

One day when he was sitting and reading his texts, a shadow suddenly fell on the book. He turned and saw an extremely old and ugly woman. She asked him, "What are you studying? What are you reading?" He replied, "I am studying Guhya-samaja tantra." She asked, "Can you read the words?" "Yes," he answered and started to recite the text. On hearing that she became so happy that she jumped around and started to dance. Naropa thought: "She became so happy when I told her I can read, I will also tell her I can understand it." He said: "I also understand the meaning." She then became very sad and started to cry. Naropa said, "You were so happy that I can read, but now you are so sad because I said I understand the meaning. Why?" She answered, "I'm sad because a great scholar like you is lying. This is very sad. Today in the whole world, there is nobody but my brother who understands the meaning of the words."

http://www.diamondway-buddhism-univ...n_Buddhist_Articles/life_stories/naropa1.html
thx :) I haven't totally given up on academia... but sometimes I wonder :)
 
#6
Whether Dr Urban has found all the answers is difficult to say but as to him being a seeker, obviously that is beyond question. As to Alex's question of whether religious studies can remain agnostic about consciousness, I'd say no. But in saying that I need to add that I'm a Christian. Jesus tells us that the kingdom of God is within us. Here he is talking about our consciousness without which we are no more than a meat suit. He also asked that we give unto God what belongs to God. In other words he would like us to strive to be reunited with our Source of consciousness rather than cling to anything of this world as we at last depart from earthly life. We must head for and do head for the Light, a Light near death experiencers say is irresistable. We may conclude then, that God is Consciousness.
 
#8
Jesus tells us that the kingdom of God is within us. Here he is talking about our consciousness without which we are no more than a meat suit.
Well I think a lot of folk here would agree with something roughly like that, if you remove the bit I have highlighted. Part of the problem is that there are too many religions on Earth to sensibly pick out one of them.

I think we would agree, however, that studying religions as quaint artefacts is absurd - the study has to engage with the religious ideas themselves.

David
 
#9
Whether Dr Urban has found all the answers is difficult to say but as to him being a seeker, obviously that is beyond question. As to Alex's question of whether religious studies can remain agnostic about consciousness, I'd say no. But in saying that I need to add that I'm a Christian. Jesus tells us that the kingdom of God is within us. Here he is talking about our consciousness without which we are no more than a meat suit. He also asked that we give unto God what belongs to God. In other words he would like us to strive to be reunited with our Source of consciousness rather than cling to anything of this world as we at last depart from earthly life. We must head for and do head for the Light, a Light near death experiencers say is irresistable. We may conclude then, that God is Consciousness.
it is the opinion of every near-death experience researcher I've ever spoken with the in the NDEs cannot/shouldnot be understood as a "christian experience." this fact undermines christian dogma... and suggest that the extended consciousness realm does not strictly conform to a narrow christian worldview. the evidence seems to suggest that we are co-creators in this larger reality and that the christian experience is one of many we might encounter... that's my read of the data :)
 
#10
the evidence seems to suggest that we are co-creators in this larger reality and that the christian experience is one of many we might encounter.
I agree. But I need to add that let's say I lived an isolated solitary life from childhood on, were it not for a bit of instruction from my inherited faith of Roman Catholicism I would have no Spiritual knowledge at all. I would be a Godless heathen and probably very fearful and materialistic. But for all it's faults that seed of faith Catholicism planted in me caused an unrelenting curiousity as I sought answers to the causes of unexplainable phenomena I had experienced. The 250 or so pages in the Christian Bible that cover the four Gospels of Jesus, that is, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John seemed to provide the best answers. Jesus taught his followers a philosophy of love, peace and understanding for all people saying, "My sheep know my voice." it was indeed so for me.
 
#12
Whether Dr Urban has found all the answers is difficult to say but as to him being a seeker, obviously that is beyond question. As to Alex's question of whether religious studies can remain agnostic about consciousness, I'd say no. But in saying that I need to add that I'm a Christian. Jesus tells us that the kingdom of God is within us. Here he is talking about our consciousness without which we are no more than a meat suit. He also asked that we give unto God what belongs to God. In other words he would like us to strive to be reunited with our Source of consciousness rather than cling to anything of this world as we at last depart from earthly life. We must head for and do head for the Light, a Light near death experiencers say is irresistable. We may conclude then, that God is Consciousness.
Garry, I don't think that Dr Urban was being agnostic about consciousness. For me the distinction he made between himself and Jeff Kripal as begin two different modes of thought was interesting. Jeff writes about experience, where Urban explores the phenomenon. We can't act as if he is the only inquirer - but one of many. Evidently some listeners prefer inquiry into experience rather than examination of phenomena. That's fine.

I have an interest in the psychology and sociology of religion and faith, as well as the experience, so I found Urban's POV in treating and instructive. It is refreshing, in fact, to come across a scholarly inquiry that does not stray into journalism and become opinion making with a moral tinge. That colours inquiry and will lead to editing evidence. We should be grateful for scholars who hold back from adding a moral tinge to their inquiry - even if we think they should condemn.
 
#13
I agree. But I need to add that let's say I lived an isolated solitary life from childhood on, were it not for a bit of instruction from my inherited faith of Roman Catholicism I would have no Spiritual knowledge at all. I would be a Godless heathen and probably very fearful and materialistic. But for all it's faults that seed of faith Catholicism planted in me caused an unrelenting curiousity as I sought answers to the causes of unexplainable phenomena I had experienced. The 250 or so pages in the Christian Bible that cover the four Gospels of Jesus, that is, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John seemed to provide the best answers. Jesus taught his followers a philosophy of love, peace and understanding for all people saying, "My sheep know my voice." it was indeed so for me.
This is a problematic assertion that requires all faith to be transmitted by tradition. In fact there is ample evidence that humans are in fact inherently spiritual and inherently tend to see human reality operating in a realm of consciousness. Humanity has been, for most of its existence, animistic - what you'd probably call heathen - but certainly not Godless and definitely not materialistic or fearful. Materialism is very much a modern phenomenon, induced substantially by the rejection of the divine in any form. We rightly couple atheism and materialism, though many expressions of modernist Christianity could be said to be particularly materialistic.

Christianity is certainly an evolution of the human spiritual impulse - one of many. But even so Christianity manifests in many ways - including those which marginalise or even substantially ignore Jesus's teachings. In any case those teachings are not exclusively Christian
 
#14
This is a problematic assertion that requires all faith to be transmitted by tradition. In fact there is ample evidence that humans are in fact inherently spiritual and inherently tend to see human reality operating in a realm of consciousness. Humanity has been, for most of its existence, animistic - what you'd probably call heathen - but certainly not Godless and definitely not materialistic or fearful. Materialism is very much a modern phenomenon, induced substantially by the rejection of the divine in any form. We rightly couple atheism and materialism, though many expressions of modernist Christianity could be said to be particularly materialistic.

Christianity is certainly an evolution of the human spiritual impulse - one of many. But even so Christianity manifests in many ways - including those which marginalise or even substantially ignore Jesus's teachings. In any case those teachings are not exclusively Christian
Precisely. Christianity didn’t rescue human beings from materialistic beliefs. It simply replaced already imbedded non-materialistic philosophies/beliefs.

As far as coupling atheism and materialism goes, I agree that they are often coupled for good reason. But I do know a couple of atheists who are not materialistic and believe in an afterlife. And they are informed by taking an interest in afterlife and consciousness research. They just don’t believe in any deities. While I don’t necassarily share those beliefs (I don’t really know about the God thing) I don’t think it’s an unreasonable position to hold.
 
#15
I do know a couple of atheists who are not materialistic and believe in an afterlife. And they are informed by taking an interest in afterlife and consciousness research. They just don’t believe in any deities.
Okaay... Well then it follows that they must not believe in prayer either. You hafta have someone, a Divine Being to direct your prayer to for any hope of assistance. That's a bit lamentable. God could provide them with a Guardian Angel. Such Angels are discussed at page 233 of The Spirit's Book by Allen Kardec. Trust me on this, they work and are one of the greatest gifts, second only to Salvation which may be bestowed by God on a human being.
 
#16
Okaay... Well then it follows that they must not believe in prayer either. You hafta have someone, a Divine Being to direct your prayer to for any hope of assistance. That's a bit lamentable. God could provide them with a Guardian Angel. Such Angels are discussed at page 233 of The Spirit's Book by Allen Kardec. Trust me on this, they work and are one of the greatest gifts, second only to Salvation which may be bestowed by God on a human being.
I would imagine they don’t pray. But they’re spiritual, happy, good people, and guess what, they’re just as eternal as you are. I don’t see them as being at any disadvantage at all.

I was a Christian for 20, a serious one. I had all of my apologetics books and would debate online. I read Chesterton, Lewis, and apologetics books by Lee Stroebel, Josh McDowell etc, so I could debate atheists etc online. A couple years ago, through studying NDEs, channeled information, mediums, OBE/Astral travel gurus, the paranormal, and consciousness etc, I stopped identifying as Christian. I stopped praying, whereas before I would pray every night. I’ve started meditating, and I’ve never felt so good in life and hopeful for the afterlife. That’s my experience. The idea of “salvation” is a load of nonsense. As is the idea that all of our problems are erased when we die and we become sustained in a Heavenly paradise. We carry our problems with us after death. This has caused me to take my issues into my own hands and correct them. Because we’ll all have to at some point. I no longer walk around feeling like I’m “a bad sinner.”

Personally (while I don’t really know for sure obviously) I tend to think of “God” as the collective consciousness of which we’re all part of. I don’t see God as a pissed off guy upstairs that ruthlessly destroys entire civilizations and sends people to eternal torture. Whoever made that shit up has some serious psychological issues.
 
#18
I agree. But I need to add that let's say I lived an isolated solitary life from childhood on, were it not for a bit of instruction from my inherited faith of Roman Catholicism I would have no Spiritual knowledge at all. I would be a Godless heathen and probably very fearful and materialistic. But for all it's faults that seed of faith Catholicism planted in me caused an unrelenting curiousity as I sought answers to the causes of unexplainable phenomena I had experienced. The 250 or so pages in the Christian Bible that cover the four Gospels of Jesus, that is, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John seemed to provide the best answers. Jesus taught his followers a philosophy of love, peace and understanding for all people saying, "My sheep know my voice." it was indeed so for me.
thanks for this very thoughtful post Garry. and I think it's awesome that you were able to get something so positive from your experience. I have no doubt that this is true for the majority of catholics. then again, there's the story of arthur andersen that I often tell... a very fine and respected accounting firm with tens of thousands of hard-working honest employees that, when they neglected their fiduciary responsibility regarding enron, was forced to close. I think the catholic church has reached a similar point.

so, of course many well-meaning catholics will not be able to avail themselves of the education and the spiritual experience you got but that's part of the price we pay for trying to create a society that serves the needs but the greatest number of people. on the balance I don't think religions that exhibit too much up the cult-ish stuff are worth what we pay in order to prop them up.
 
#19
I stopped identifying as Christian. I stopped praying,
I can sympathize with those who forsake Christianity as it so often has to do with churches that have corrupted the teachings. If Jesus said, "Call ye no man, 'Father'," But the Catholic Church asks that their congregations do just that when addressing a priest then this is disobeying the Gospel. Jesus saw into the future and where such subordinating of young church members could lead when the (in my opinion bonfire worthy) Confessional is applied and the young person confesses to his or her "sinful" sexual thoughts and self pleasuring. Surely this has lead in no small way to the thousands of molestation charges Catholic clergy are presently facing. The Church also maintains that, "Outside the Church is no Salvation." But Jesus says, "I am the gate of the sheep. No one cometh unto the Father except through me." A bit of contradiction here but encouraging for the non church attending Christian. Regarding praying, I'm sorry it didn't do anything for you as it also hasn't for so many others. For some reason it does nevertheless often seem to work for me. Sometimes amazingly. So I stick to it.
 
#20
But I do know a couple of atheists who are not materialistic and believe in an afterlife. And they are informed by taking an interest in afterlife and consciousness research. They just don’t believe in any deities. While I don’t necassarily share those beliefs (I don’t really know about the God thing) I don’t think it’s an unreasonable position to hold.
I think that is my position - I wouldn't rule out a god, but I don't feel the need to believe in one.

Somehow over time the words 'atheist' and 'materialist' have become nearly synonymous - certainly on this site - but I think they have quite distinct meanings. Basically it is possible to be an atheist but not a materialist, but not the other way around.

David
 
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