Eric Boyd (6ceb3@qlink.queensu.ca)
Mon, 29 Mar 1999 23:55:00 -0500


Before I get down to business, I'll mention that graphs like this one:

>> Caring
>> .
>> . Belief
>> . /
>> . /
>> ./
>>Lies . . . . . -. . . . . Truth
>> /.
>> / .
>> / .
>> Proof .
>> .
>> Arsehole

Have been bandied about on virus before, try the cool picture at


A deeper modification of the above eventually came out, with three axis's instead of two -- Belief, Evidence and Meaning, with various names given to the eight quadrants thereby defined. Anybody seriously interested should search the archives -- try starting with

From: DJS <deron@pacifier.com>
To: 'virus@lucifer.com' <virus@lucifer.com> Date: Wednesday, July 02, 1997 3:06 PM
Subject: virus: Truth and Meaning

and searching in and around that area. Anyway, down to business:

Tim Rhodes <proftim@speakeasy.org> writes: <<
The "cement" you're talking about is what William James describes in his book _The Varieties of Religious Experience_ as having the four qualities of ineffability, passivity, noŽtic quality, and transcendence. ("NoŽtic" is a little used word that comes from the Greek for intellect or understanding. The same root gives us the word "knowledge." "NoŽtic" refers to a knowledge that is experienced directly; an illumination accompanied by a feeling of certitude.) In the book James speaks of a "noŽtic sense of truth" and the authority these states impart:

"Although so similar to states of feeling, mystical states seem to those who experience them to be also states of knowledge. They are states of insight into depths of truth unplumbed by the discursive intellect. They are illuminations, revelations, full of significance and importance, all inarticulate though they remain; and as a rule they carry with them a curious sense of authority for after-time."

Tim: I am interested in discussing this topic, although we may face the same difficulties as Reed and Robin are having -- how does one talk about the un-talk-aboutable? Another problem is that without a little conflict, virus discussions die down quickly -- one of us may have to play the devil's advocate.

Anyway, to start the discussion (and further solidify my grasp on phaith), do you see the same links between phaith and noŽtic experiences as I do? KMO proposed that phaith frequently results from "an experience of boundary dissolution and/or seeming participation in a wider, more pervasive consciousness than is the accepted norm", which is probably right, but a little wordy for my taste. Could we say instead that phaith emerges from noŽtic experiences?

To further clarify my understanding of noŽtic experiences, can we try to rule on what types of experiences are noŽtic and which are not? I have a few examples, let us figure out where they belong:

(1) "Enlightenment" -- that feeling of sudden intuition, the ecstasy of understanding.

(2) "Orgasm" (description omitted, although I'd like to see someone try)

(3) "Here and Now" -- e.g. the feeling you get after a really good work out, the awareness of yourself in-the-moment. Also to be had by resting on a warm couch in the sunshine (a favorite activity of mine)

(4) Religious Revelation -- I personally have no experience with this category, but I have read about it -- e.g. "Dancing with the Gods", which I have referenced here several times; and certain Christian conversion experiences I have had described to me.

While it's obvious (IMO) that (1) and (4) are noŽtic, are either of (2) or (3)? Does (4) count even if there is no *content* to the experience, i.e. the revelation feels profound but leaves nothing (I'm told some types of drugs can do this)?

Finally, what relationship do noŽtic experiences and phaith have to gnosis? (which my dict. of religions defines as "a self-knowledge or self-understanding both on the existential level and on the transcendental level")

In trying to understand religion it seems to me too seldom are asked the hard questions: How exactly does a /noŽtic experience/ impact the brain? What qualities does it exhibit and how do they come into play in the process? What is it about these noŽtic experiences that prompts the brain to assign a sense of certitude and authority to them which may be wholly (or seemingly) unrelated to their objective truth-value? And how does that all take place?

All good questions, Tim, but I'm not a neuro-scientist, and the only brain I've got to work with is my own. I think the second last question could be answered in a memetic framework, relating to self-fulfilling prophesies and the benefits of sounding sincere when trying to convince others... but, I'm having trouble believing that language and memetics have been around long enough to have made such a profound impact on gene's. A better guess would be that noŽtic experiences have evolved from something that is already present in our ancestors -- possibly only the primates, but maybe mammals in general. Now if I could just think up a plausable reason for primates to need something like noŽtic experiences, we'd be somewhere!