Occam's Brillo Pad

Date: Tue, 30 Sep 1997 23:55:36 -0400 (EDT)
From: Lauranz
To: zee-list
Subject: Occam's Brillo Pad

Ohhhh, I think I get it now. I wonder if Occam was saying the same thing I was saying, but in rather different words....

I have noticed that most people cannot tell when they've crossed the line from empirical data to speculation.

Case in point: Quite a number of years ago I had an experience that was radically different from any I'd had before. I was opening a can of pickled radishes, and as the smell of the food came out, I had a vision. Not external hallucinating, but something internal. My consciousness shifted radically and was a state I'd never experienced before. In this altered state I saw a plain, on a rainy, somewhat chilly day. I somehow knew it was in the first half of the 20th century. I knew it was China. There was a group of unhappy people huddled together. There were guards with guns gathered around. Somehow I knew these people were Buddhists and were being taken from their homes and rounded up, and were being punished because of being Buddhist. They were probably going be killed eventually. There was a woman of indeterminate age in this group. She was holding a little girl of maybe five or six. The little girl was crying - and suddenly I knew that I was that little girl.

Now, what all this has to do with Occam, I believe, is that Occam, like me, understands that all I can legitimately say is what I said above. That's all. I can say that I had a subjective experience of such and such content.

But I told my new-age friends, and they got all excited. "See, Laura! You had a Past Life Experience! That PROVES that reincarnation is a reality!"

They multiplied entities. They crossed the line between empirical experience and speculation, and they didn't realize they'd done it. Occam would say, if I'm not mistaken, that this speculation is not valid. I could speculate if I wanted to, and wonder if it was too many zen books causing this vision, but I don't because I don't know.

I would not tell a shrink about this, because the shrink would multlply entities, too. The shrink would say I was fucking nuts and send for the men in white coats with the big butterfly nets. That, too is speculation.

On another occasion I had a rip-snorter of an experience, complete with white light and cool breeze. Later some people said, "That was the Hand of God touching you."

No. No good. We don't know that. We don't know if God touched me, or if I was momentarily psychotic, or if I was under too much stress, or ate too much chocolate. All I can say is that I had a subjective experience. I am the only one who can say it, BTW. You can say that I REPORTED having an experience - but you don't know if I'm telling the truth, or just lying. You cross the line into speculation when you believe me - or disbelieve me, or make judgements about the experience.

Not that I don't speculate, mind you. But I try to be clear and aware of what I am doing, and don't mistake speculation for facts.

Are you there, JB? Is this your understanding of Occam's Razor?

Best regards,

Sept 30