Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Framing is the Picture

While genuine curiosity is always present in humanity, institutionalized forms of it depend on the presence of a suitable ideology. Scientific study of so-called miraculous events, for example, is not undertaken. The scientific ideology just can’t work with the phenomena as these are actually experienced. Let us take something odd like bi-location, thus a person appearing in two places at the same time. Based on the scientific view, bi-location is impossible. Those who claim to have observed it are simply labeled credulous. If such a claim is ever scientifically investigated, the aim of the study is to prove its falsity. Similarly, the Vatican does undertake careful investigation of miracles, but always as part of a process of canonization, not as a general (scientific) undertaking. Thus the Vatican does not investigate claims of miracles surrounding Hindu or Muslim saints. Much as science has a strong view of the necessarily physical causation of any symptoms others might label miraculous, so also the Vatican has a strong view of the causation of miracles; these are necessarily God’s interventions.

For these reasons, we always find evidence for the miraculous in settings where the ideology colors the whole situation. Here and there, in the last two centuries, we’ve seen some few departures from this general tendency. These have been rare because a person, however well-qualified as a scientist, will draw tribal attacks if he or she wanders off the reservation. In the nineteenth century, before the establishment of Science with a leading cap, we have the establishment of the Society for Psychical Research by an elite. An example from our own time is Ian Stevenson, a trained medical man and biochemist, who investigated reincarnation. Near Death Experience studies represent another interesting cluster, also initiated by a doctor, Raymond Moody. NDE work has taken on a certain legitimacy precisely because Moody’s work was then taken up by multiple teams of other physicians—always those who were exposed to the phenomenon directly.

The point I’m after today, however, is not that “fringe” elements in science have “dared” to “dabble” in heresy—and have to some extent “gotten away” with it. Especially in NDE work, fame and fortune—if not in academic circles—may be achieved by heresy. The thought I had was that if the medium is the message, sometimes the framing is the picture. The extraordinary gifts that infrequently become visible surrounding saints or would-be saints—I’m thinking here of Padre Pio, who is, Therese Neumann of Konnersreuth who isn’t yet, and Bruno Gröning who never shall be—appear to me to be of the greatest interest. These are modern people; they’ve all lived during my life time; indeed I once lived a mere handful of miles away from Therese’s town during and after World War II. But I know of many scores of others who’ve lived in the past—and in every culture of the globe. The same stories surround them—albeit figures with stigmata are strictly in Catholic realms, which is itself worthy of careful note. The linkage between reincarnation studies and stigmata has never been noted, except, perhaps, by me (here). But as for other capacities these people have displayed, they are the same: bi-location, precognition, healing and other powers. Each is embedded in a religious culture which explains each in his or her own framing. The total phenomenon, as an established reality, has never been examined as it were objectively, as phenomena but yet with full acceptance of the observed realities. By full acceptance here I mean that to understand these people’s lives, experiences, and actions necessarily requires acceptance of a much more extended kind of reality than we believe surrounds us. (Here I provide this link to some reports on Padre Pio by way of illustration of the nature of this evidence—and how we actually encounter it).

Time still hides many things. The inertial pull of this dimension is enormous, but in due time genuine knowledge of these phenomena, which straddle the zones of here and over there, may become better understood—although, I suspect, never by more than just a minority. As genuine curiosity is always present, there will always be those with one foot in the borderzone.

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