Reason and revelation

Mon, 10 Jan 1994 13:52:44 EST

existence of a revealer. In Western theism, perhaps, but I believe in other
cultures, this is not the case. What are anthropologists to make of the
knowledge attained through Native American vision-quests? Spirit possession?
In some systems, the source of this knowledge is thought to be external
entities. Within Buddhism, the source of knowledge is thought to lie within
the self. In any case, there are many cultures where knowledge is
deliberately sought through Altered States of Consciousness (ASCs). I would
tentatively suggest that some of what is called "revelation" might be better
termed "state-dependent knowledge systems," e.g. knowledge pursued in a
nonordinary state of awareness (meditation, use of psychotropics, mystical
exercises, even daydreaming as in the case of Kekeule.)
The only point I might want to make here, Bob G., is that "revelations"
are frequently tested against rather empirical matters. The Oracle of Delphi
got into trouble quite a few times when her inspiration did not suffice to
accurately foretell the future. And that the mechanism behind "revelation"
might involve, in some instances, mechanisms (heresy of heresies!) which
are parapsychological in origin. And the activity of (our Western-civilization-
suppressed) right brain. I think that it is due to the particular history of
Western civilization (science suppressed so long by religion) that it
seems to have forgotten the roots of science in Hermetic magic (the Art of
Memory, as discussed by Frances Yates) and alchemy. It's kind of an

embrassing flotsam in the basement of science... people seem real uncomfortable
with Newton's alchemical treatises, but they were produced by the same mind
which gave us Newtonian mechanics.