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Lessons from Van Helmont's Tree for frreethinking, rational mystics

READINGS: Edith Hunter quoted in “Freethinking Mystics with Hands” by Tom Owen-Towle (Skinner House Books, 1998, p. 27)

Perhaps we should realize that our need is not to “find something to believe” — but rather to discover what our lives indicate that we believe right now. This is the place to start.

The ‘Fallacy of Van Helmont’s Tree’ from “Words and Transgression” by Maurice O'Connor Drury (Thoemmes Press, 1996, pp. 10-11, 18)

[Jan Baptist] Van Helmont (1580-1644), as you know, was one of the great founders of chemistry. He was the first chemist to realise the importance of the chemical balance; of carefully weighing everything both before and after a chemical reaction. Indeed, it was hugely due to his work that the principle of the conservation of matter became an established axiom. Now Van Helmont performed a certain experiment with great care and accuracy, whose result seemed irrefutable and yet at the same time absurd. It was this.
          He weighed accurately to certain q…

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My photo
Religious naturalist and Unitarian minister in Cambridge UK, jazz bass player, photographer, cyclist and walker. Over the years I've tried various descriptions of "where I'm at" but, although they have been OK as far as they go, they've not fitted as well as they might. These days I find the following words of the philosopher, Paul Wienpahl, fit the bill better than anything else: 

"As I see it, the point is not to identify reality with anything except itself. (Tautologies are, after all, true.) If you wish to persist by asking what reality is; that is, what is really, the answer is that it is what you experience it to be. Reality is as you see, hear, feel, taste and smell it, and as you live it. And it is a multifarious thing. To see this is to be a man without a position. To get out of the mind and into the world, to get beyond language and to the things is to cease to be an idealist or a pragmatist, or an existentialist, or a Christian. I am a man without a position. I do not have the philosophic position that there are no positions or theories or standpoints. (There obviously are.) I am not a sceptic or an agnostic or an atheist. I am simply a man without a position, and this should open the door to detachment" Paul Wienpahl in An Unorthodox Lecture (1956)