Caveman in search of meaning & Parapsychology:
In the last two segments of this article we covered the instinctual nature of human religiosity as well as the neuropsychological basis of human religious behavior. This segment is dedicated the role of religion in man's search for meaning of life and parapsychology.
Man in search of meaning
In my young ages, I had spent many hours thinking and talking about the meaning of life. My first exposure to a man worthy of listening to on this topic was when I met Dr. Victor Frankel in San Diego during my masters program.
Dr. Frankel is quite famous and does not need my approval to be who he is. However, seeing a man of his caliber struggling with the same problem as I had, provided me with the reassurance that my lack of success in this struggle was not due to ignorance.
As it is well known Dr. Victor Frankel was a psychiatrist who survived Hitler's concentration camps. He's the author of the famous book called "Man in Search of Meaning". He is also the founder of a treatment modality which is referred to as paradoxical intention, which is usually used in treatment of simple neurosis.
Dr. Frankel was of the opinion that that while being in concentration camps , those who were able to find some kind of a meaning for their life were able to survive that tremendous hardship and the ones who couldn't, would perish.*
In that class the only question that I posed to my honorable professor was "finding the meaning of life in a concentration camp is probably simple "survival", what about situations which are not so clear cut. He agreed with my assertion and quoted Sartre "problems start when we have choices".
I have been interviewing survivors of concentration camps and those honorable soldiers who opened those camps and left us with the films and the documentations so that human beings never forget how close they can get to being demon itself.
While watching a documentary on the Holocaust I heard another survivor who had a totally different take on his religious experiences during the Holocaust. He said "I was thinking either there is a god or not. If there is not then so be it, if there is a god, I don't want to have anything to do with him."
Since like all others born and raised in the Middle East .I have been exposed to a full array of religious beliefs. I have tried to distinguish superstitions from actual religious beliefs. Also, one need to develop a sharp eye to pick out charlatans and demogags. I hope all readers agree with me that there is plenty of each.
Today's superiority of religion to science is the same as a thousand years ago. A Religion can very quickly provide the believer with a meaning for his life .The fact that the explanation for meaning of life is logical, illogical, brilliant or ignorant is irrelevant. The very primitive polytheistic religions provided the same outcome as the elaborate monotheistic religions of today.
The main advantage of faith to science is the fact that religions do not require logical thinking, while science is totally hampered by its need for "reason".It is quite interesting that scientists and philosophers like Plato, Copernicus, and Omar Khayyam who were by far more intelligent and educated than most of us , were as inadequate in answering these existential questions as the rest of us. Ironically, a clergyman practicing in a village of Afghanistan can provide his followers socially acceptable explanations of human existence, much better than any known scientist. The task of the Afghan clergyman is quite simple; he has to collect religious stories which match the common beliefs of the villagers. It is astonishing that the belief system of the peasants of Afghanistan is not too different to the beliefs of the people of the most advanced countries of Western Europe and North America. The main difference between an Afghan peasant and an American high school graduate is the fact that the Afghan peasant has some knowledge of the Christian Bible while most of the American high school graduates have no knowledge of the content of the Quran.
It has been reported that when Freud was residing in London in 1939 he was working on psychoanalysis of Hitler. However, when he was asked what he would study if he had one more shot at life he said "Parapsychology". Having heard that about Freud and my identification with him at that time (my friends used to call me Sigmund), and the extremely unusual experiences I had had in the Middle East, it was one of my goals that upon my arrival in the United States, I would study two concepts in depth 1) parapsychology, 2) Marxism Leninism (badly detrimental to your health by Iranian secret police, the SAVAK).Studying Marxism Leninism was a pain in the neck as it didn't make sense and was full of errors but it was easy to overcome and refute. Studying parapsychology was interesting but so convoluted and mixed with superstitions and rubbish which never answered my questions then or now. Throughout history of mankind the use of unknown phenomenon has been the corner stone of religious explanations. If we want to cover the stories of the charlatans of the world and their victims we have to waste many valuable pages of to report rubbish. I will make just two references and leave the rest to our readers.
1) For hundreds of years whenever epidemics like plague, cholera or small pox or natural catastrophes like drought would occur in the Middle East or Europe, it was blamed on the Jewish population .Those events gave the population the permission to indulge in the most despicable behaviors recorded in history.