Tuesday, August 22, 2017

A Crack in the Materialist Wall

In the February 1976 issue of the magazine Flying Saucer Review I found an interesting letter, UMMO again, written by the British Theosophist T. Bryon Edmond. In a discussion regarding UFO entities he referred to several quotes from various esoteric sources, among them Alice Bailey. I wrote him a letter and we exchanged valuable data and ideas before the correspondence ended.

T. Bryon Edmond proved to be an erudite and cultivated older gentleman, very well acquainted with Theosophical literature. He had also followed the UFO issue for thirty years and tried to find clues to the enigma in the Esoteric Tradition. I found his ideas and reasoning of great interest. In a letter he summarized his life of study and searching: “Basically I am agnostic, but I accept Theosophy provisionally because it answers more questions in a logical and scientific way than any other religion or philosophy that I know of.” (Letter June 17, 1976)

Mr. Edmond was surprised to find that I, a young university student in Stockholm, had read books by Charles Leadbeater and Alice Bailey. But I had rather early in life discovered UFO and esoteric literature, which I read alongside my university studies in History of Religion and Philosophy. I soon came to realize that this was rather odd and unusual interests in the academic world and among the reading public. A fact also noted by the Swedish esotericist Henry T.Laurency. In his introduction to The Esoteric World View in The Philosopher´s Stone he writes: “There exists a vast literature of which, amazingly, the general public appears to be entirely ignorant.” 

The vast literature referred to by Laurency are the works of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Alfred Percy Sinnett, Henry Steel Olcott, Charles Leadbeater, Alice Bailey a.o. Perhaps it is not so amazing that this literature is relatively unknown. To find the esoteric signal in the noise of  popular New Age and occult books requires a scholarly mind, discernment and persistence.

My personal search for a tenable world- and lifeview has gone through many stages. Already as a teenager I was fascinated by different spiritual teachings and read all books I could find on Spiritualism, UFOs, mysteries etc. found in my parents bookshelf. Later studies included Anthroposophy, Theosophy, Alice Bailey, Dion Fortune, Kabbalah, paganism and various New Age authors. Disappointed with what I experienced of fanaticism and irrationalism in the spiritual underground I abandoned my spiritual quest in 1986 and for a couple of years became active within the Humanist movement. During these years I was a harsh critic of  various New Age ideologies. It was a consequential and necessary psychological reaction in my life even though I in culture radical zeal as secular humanist threw out the baby with the bathwater. During my ideological path back to the Esoteric Tradition I was for a brief period influenced by Christian Humanism as expressed by the Swedish philosopher Alf Ahlberg and journalist and author Erik Hjalmar Linder.

Today I find it intellectually untenable to defend a materialist, reductionist or physicalist worldview. There are two basic reasons. The enigma of consciousness and the enormous amount of well documented paranormal phenomena, including UFO phenomena. Facts clearly indicating that reality is larger than what we presently know and can scientifically verify. In a 1966 interview Christian Humanist Erik Hjalmar Linder summarized the existential issue: “I find it incomprehensible that not everyone perceive our existence as a complete mystery, that we exist is inexplicable.”

Human self-consciousness, the illuminated window in the cosmic night, is to me a tremendous mystery. Simply defining man in material terms is presenting an incongruous flatland model of something infinitely greater. There is a quality in human self-consciousness that requires a different approach. I can never accept the proposition that a lump of matter randomly can form sentient beings, conscious, self-reflecting and capable of ethical decisions. That human beings have an almost unlimited capacity for evil, is something that we are constantly reminded of by reading global media. But what is really interesting and hopeful is that we can surmount harsh existential conditions and develop an almost limitless kindness and empathy. Here we find an indication that the deeper meaning of our existence is the transformation and evolution of our consciousness. We are a step in the evolution of consciousness in the multiverse.

A hint of the potentiality of consciousness is given us in the mystical experience vouched for by thousands of authors, philosophers and common man. The Swedish philosopher and educator Alf Ahlberg, for many years principal of Brunnsviks folkhögskola (college), recount in his interesting episode in his memoirs:

“… something strange happened to me during a cold night in November 1916. We were on guard duty in the vicinity of Ängelholm. Around 2:00 a.m. a friend and I were ordered on a mission. Reluctant and freezing off we went with rifles in our hands… We talked in a low key, like you always do in the woods at night and felt really ill at ease. We talked about the war that never seemed to end, about all the evil in this world and our own worries. Suddenly I stopped as if nailed to the earth. Close to me I experienced something overwhelming, impossible to describe… A living reality but of a different kind we usually designate. How shall I describe it?... Life, light, love? – yes, but of an entirely different kind, not just in degrees but in type. It was everywhere, in the trees, in the sea and in the stars. I felt penetrated by a flow of benevolent force and security. All my anxieties suddenly appeared strangely small and paltry.” (Alf Ahlberg, Från prästgård till arbetarhögskola, pp. 134-135)

A famous Swedish author and scholar for whom the personal mystical experience had a deep influence was Sven Delblanc. His mystical experiences were frequent up until his thirtieth year and are recounted with magical beauty in his autobiography Livets ax (The Web of Life). In spite of Delblanc´s words like ”mystical rapture”, ”higher reality” and ”distant land” he did not refer to his experiences in orthodox religious terms but they became an integral part of his lifeview. According to Delblanc man has access to deeper levels of ethical insight leading to a profound humanism. All individuals have the potentiality of reaching this depth dimension of life.

Alf Ahlberg and Sven Delblanc are no peculiar outsiders when it comes to the mystical experience. It is shared by people all over the planet irrespective of religion or lifeview and has been reported all throughout history. It is obviously a fundamental depth dimension of man. 

The second factor that makes it untenable for me to accept a physicalist worldview is the enormous amount of thoroughly documented paranormal experiences, including UFO and other puzzling phenomena. They become one more crack in the materialist, reductionist wall.