59. Are the Powers Real?
One of the first questions that people ask about the powers is, “Okay, but are they real?” Whether these experiences are “real” is a question that I am happy to avoid in the sense of some final and definitive ontology. More generally, the question depends on how you arbitrarily define “real”. Plenty of these experiences can be so extremely vivid that they can seem more “real” than much of the rest of the “real world”. Much more interesting to me is the point of view of the pragmatist, which is my default philosophical framework. The questions of the pragmatist are not what is real, but what is causal, meaning what leads to what, and what is the value in it?
For example, we might decide that our dreams are not “real” based on our own arbitrary classification scheme for reality. Still, everyone must admit that the experiences of dreams occur and that there are real world consequences of having dreams that cross into what is generally considered the “real world”. Being thus causal, they are consequential. Being consequential, they are worth paying attention to and understanding from a pragmatic point of view. The exact same logic applies to the experiences of the powers.
From my perspective, the gold standard for the powers is not so much the powers themselves, but how we interpret, handle, and relate to them, as well as the good that comes of them. It is true that with practice, strong concentration, and resolutions, they can become more common, more reproducible, more frequent, more apparently controllable, more accessible, more profound, more “powerful”, and so on. You might consider those achievements your gold standard for progress initially, as many people, such as myself at points, clearly find that to be the obvious gold standard. However, consider my first gold standard also, that of what benefit they finally produce and how skillfully we relate to them, as I assert it will serve you better.
The experiences are the experiences, and how we interpret them is something else. Besides, “real” or “not real” are only some of the many options we have for how we frame and interpret those experiences, which brings me to the next section.