Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Challenge Your Worldview to a Workout Part 1


Every now and then I like to take an idea, a cliché, or something that has common usage and try to extract new meaning out of it. So for today’s thought, let’s use: “You are what you eat.”

You are what You eat
In terms of food intake this is a simple one. The nutrition that your body extracts from your food intake (solids and liquids) is what is used to allow your body to function within acceptable parameters. In other words if you have a balanced and healthy diet, your body is likely to be healthy (provided you exercise). If you have an unbalanced and unhealthy diet, you’re at risk of developing health problems that may manifest in a variety of unpleasant ways.

Now let’s take this idea a step further and apply it to the other things that you consume. Things such as for example ideas, conversations, books that you read, TV and films that you watch, the interaction with other people in your immediate family, friends and wider circles of encounters. All these have an impact on your life, some larger some smaller, some in a more overt way and some in more subtle ways.

Consumption of Ideas
For the moment I just want to focus on how a person absorbs ideas. I like to think of reading a book like eating a meal. If you just read it and store away the information without integrating it in to your life and making use of it… that’s a bit like storing away food that your body does not use immediately. I like to refer to this as “literary fat”.

On the other hand, if you start to make use of ideas and concepts from books (or other sources) and act on them, or debate them with other people, or try to teach them to someone else – all these things are what I call an “idea work-out”. Until you get in to the fighting ring of verbal debate with other people, or you challenge your ideas in other ways such as trying to make practical use of them (a simple example being trying out a cooking recipe) the idea remains in a state of untapped potential.

Your Worldview is What You Consume
So where am I going with all this? Well, having recently finished reading Professor Elliot Wolfson’s excellent academic book (on visionary experiences of Jewish mystics) called: “Through a Speculum That Shines” - I would like to share with you the opening to chapter Seven:
The Hermeneutics of Visionary Experience: Revelation and Interpretation in the Zohar
Interpretative vs. Revelatory Modes
Mystical Experience, like experience in general, is contextual. If that is the case, it follows that mystical visions will always be shaped, informed, and determined by one’s institutional affiliation. The claim that the vision is conditioned by preexperiential criteria renders the very notion of an immediate visionary experience of God or things divine problematic, if not impossible. Whilst the mystic may present his or her experience as a direct encounter with God or one of the angels – comprising, therefore, an immediacy unknown to normal everyday consciousness – the fact that this experience is shaped by prior experiences that are, more often than not, recorded in texts that have been appropriated as part of the canon of a particular religious tradition. A certain “anxiety of influence,” therefore, is clearly discernible in the visionary literature of the different mystical traditions: vision is always, to an extent, revision.
Basically what I think that he’s saying is that experiences are filtered through your pre-existing world view based on the information, knowledge and experiences that you have had to date.

But if your ideas and knowledge is mostly contained in “literary fat” (i.e. untapped potential), then how robust is your worldview really? How often do you challenge your assumptions as a practitioner?

Now Answer Me This
Whether you’re a Project Manager who believes that they understand a process methodology and have views based on knowledge and / or experience; or a practitioner of magic or mysticism who believes that they are, for example, in contact with some non-human entity whether angel, demon, spirit or other kind. Here are some questions I’d like you to consider:
  • When was the last time you took a step back and did a health and robustness check on your worldview?
  • How often do you read and discuss ideas that are in conflict with your own?
  • Are you conscious of choosing what to read based on how it might influence your view on reality?
  • If you are, have you ever dismissed a book or source of ideas that may challenge your worldview before reading them as, for example, too Pagan, New Age, academic, Gnostic, theoretical, too hard, too easy?
  • How frequently do you validate your worldview through action? Whether a ritual, a project ceremony, casting a spell or saying a prayer? Every few months, weeks, days or hours?