I was listening to the latest Sam Harris podcast today and ran across an interesting take on something that should be familiar to most Western Ceremonial Magicians. Eric Weinstein was talking about finding meaning in license plate numbers as he drives around (don’t we all do that when we first start on the Path?) and the way he explained it was:
"...it's important to notice what it feels like to discern meaning where there is no meaning... it's important to get in touch with the "as if madness" experience in order to guard against madness; so I'm hoping to suspend my insistence on Truth for periods of time..."
I’m not sure about the connection with madness, per-se… and I’m wondering if that wasn’t just a ploy designed to wrap up the thought before getting interrupted. I realized when he said that that another good reason for discerning meaning where there is none is to prevent intellectual ossification (my term… it didn’t appear in the podcast, as far as I know). The belief that one particular way of looking at things must serve as the filter through which we see everything else from that point forward seems to be common in most philosophies and pretty much all religions. Adherence to a strict theology makes us less able to evaluate contrary ideas on their own merit. On the other hand, by constantly playing fast and loose with one’s synaptic network, so to speak, one might stand a chance of maintaining enough mental flexibility to recognize a true Epiphany when it finally does come.
It’s ironic that avoiding intellectual ossification was one of the main points that Sam was trying to convey just moments earlier… that there’s no logical reason to use one or more points-of-view which happen to have been elaborated thousands of years ago over new points-of-view developed by one’s own reason in the present time. Of course, that’s easier said than done and when most people start on any sort of Philosophical or Spiritual Path, they’re usually not capable of the kind of deep reasoning that would discern the “true meaning” of the Universe at first glance… so we may need to use ancient philosophy and religion as a crutch for a while… in order to bootstrap our thinking to the point where we can reason with some depth on the Universe and our purpose within it. But I expect that we all have to eventually drop the rhetoric and design our own systems based on First Principles.