Deconstructing Mormonism  : RfM
A discussion of Tom Riskas' book "Deconstructing Mormonism: An Analysis and Assessment of the Mormon Faith." 
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Posted by: Uncle Dale ( )
Date: May 14, 2013 03:47PM

My eye just caught hold of a snippet in Nightingale's
omnibus thread:

>The issue I find is that many people who believe
>they experience spiritual transcendence, including
>many members of my family, refuse the notion that
>such a phenomenon can originate inside their own
>brains. What they experience is so extraordinary,
>it simply doesn't FEEL as if their brain can
>produce it, so they reject possible organic
>explanations out of hand.

I'm all for "organic explanations" -- neurotransmitters,
subliminal cognitive functions, states of consciousness
and all that. It is where my thoughts often go, in order
to try and make some sense of seemingly sincere but
extraordinary claims and ideas.

Tom would not be the first author to offer up a rational
critique of mysticism, if he cared to add a chapter on
that topic to his upcoming second edition. There would
be plenty of suitable citations from the scientific
literature to throw into the critical apparatus of the book

But it would be very helpful to first of all decide upon
a proper consensus definition of what we are talking about
in this regard.

Is it Oliver Cowdery's burning bosom, or Moses' burning bush?
Is it Gautama sitting under the bodhi tree, or is it Dr.
Timothy Leary sitting beside his bong and magic mushrooms?

One description of mystical realization might be awareness
without cognition. Obviously the brain does not disappear,
there must be some synapse activity, some bodily functions
control -- but the attempts at description all lead us
away from the conscious mind.

Another attempted description is the experience of an
unborn infant in the womb -- whose brain is still in a
primitive state of development and whose interpretation
of perceptions differs from that of our own mature
state of consciousness and reaction. "Being one with all
things" is a natural description for the pre-conscious
unborn child, whose world is itself and a mysterious
enveloping environment.

Another attempted description is ecstasy -- bliss -- the
euphoria of a morphine drip magnified to infinity.

Another attempted description is annihilation -- the
blowing out of a candle flame. In which the conscious
self neither is, nor is not. Undefined. Inexplicable.

Mysticism will not conform to a rigid definition, but
perhaps we can at least begin to differentiate it from the
stories the town drunk has to tell about pink elephants.


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Posted by: Uncle Dale ( )
Date: May 16, 2013 02:10PM

Uncle Dale Wrote:
> Is it Oliver Cowdery's burning bosom, or Moses'
> burning bush?

From what I know of Mormonism, the vast majority of its
believing members do not claim any divine encounter beyond
the sphere of personal emotions, dreams, and what they
term "the still small voice." So when the typical LDS
member says "I know so-and-so is a true prophet," he is
not claiming personal revelation via a full blown theophany
or an angelic intrusion into the physical world. Such
higher level claims appear to be dealt with (suppressed)
by the Church authorities, who generally dismiss them as
the products of a disordered mind or demonic influence.

Probably the individual deconstruction of Mormonism need
not very often go beyond convincing the believer that
his/her "knowing Mormonism to be true" is actually a belief
set and not knowledge.

Setting aside classical mysticism, which LDS General
Authorities like Apostle McConkie have condemned and
prohibited within Mormonism, how is the Mormon's claim
to plenary knowledge separated from beliefs? Or, in
deconstruction, are the two factors dealt with as being
a single thing -- beliefs sometimes masquerading as
knowledge? Which pages in Riskas' book should I consult
to gain a better understanding of this subject, and to
better understand how the deconstructed former Mormon
typically views his prior claims to such knowledge?


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