Dr. Jurek Kirakowski, senior lecturer in Applied Psychology in UCC, was our speaker last night for the second meeting of Cork Skeptics in the Castle. He gave a wide ranging and entertaining speech about mystical phenomena from the Middle Ages to the present day.
Dr. Kirakowski framed the talk in terms of epistemologies, or “how we know what we know”. He explained that mysticism was treated as normal during the Middle Ages, when the teachings of Aristotle held sway. The modern age, ushered in by the likes of Francis Bacon and the Enlightenment scientists, has been much more critical of mysticism as it places greater emphasis on what can be objectively observed and measured than on individual personal experiences. In essence, mysticism and how it is treated by wider society, is indicative of a clash between two very different world views.
Dr Kirakowski has a long-standing interest in the moving statue phenomenon in Ireland during 1985. He was part of a team of researchers that demonstrated that the statues were not actually moving; instead it was shown to be an optical illusion caused by the way light is processed by our brains. The phenomenon was not just about moving statues, however. There was a plethora of intense personal experiences reported all over the country. Dr Kirakowski explains such experiences as “key events”, unlocking a part of our unconscious mind that is still poorly understood.
Dr Kirakowski calls himself a “radical skeptic”, skeptical about skepticism as it were. It was a fascinating talk, taking into account the bizarre world of stigmatics, the Knock apparitions and milk drinking statues in India. His engaging style gave us all plenty to think about on our way out of the meeting.
We had some feedback on the background noise last night which we should be able to sort out for the next get-together. We are very much open to any feedback, so if you have suggestions and comments, please let us know.
You can view some more photos from the night on our Facebook page.