So, I’ve been reading that in order to stay grounded in sound philosophical thought one needs to know what one believes and why one believes it. When I think about this, I can come up fairly quickly with the ‘what’ but the ‘why’ is often a bit elusive.
Take religion for instance; pretty hard to think about it outside the intuitive; no hard facts to be had and all; an inclination to believe in the existence of a heavenly realm is elusive enough to require the support of like-minds and require a pretty constant reinforcement. Those who deny the possibilities of such a pietistic realm, relying as they do on firm belief in science will rationalize their stance through a logical progression of empirical observations, but will never-the-less find the issue nebulous enough that they too will seek support of like-minded individuals. In either case the ‘why’, when offered will be subject to doubt if not the wrath of unbelievers.
There are those, I know, on both sides of the aisle who trust most implicitly their intuitions; are able to manipulate their ’whys’ beyond logic and shrug off the label of narrow-minded, hard-headed non-thinker that will certainly be leveled against them. Given the necessary support such folks may be able to sustain their invented fantasy land right up until the end times.
As for me, I will continue to seek my ‘whys’ and flex my ‘whats’ as necessary. I can think of no other reasonable way to proceed.
I’ve been reading, lately, about the likelihood the human mind may be considerably more than a physical compilation of billions of neurons, that, in fact, human consciousness is the manifestation of god within, giving humankind the capacity, through mental focus, to alter the material world.
The idea suggests that if we as a species were suddenly to realize the power within us we could bring about great advancements to our civilization not to mention world peace.
I understand there are those among us feeding their enthusiasm for the spiritual mysteries and hidden meanings in traditional religious texts like the kabbalah, Zohar, Gnosticism and the teachings of Hermes Trismegistus. These folks are organizing, believing there to be power in numbers and creating ‘focus groups’ they believe will cure the world’s ills by concentrating their collective consciousnesses toward what they may consider to be positive goods but which, in fact, if any credence may be attributed to the activity at all, may turn out to be not necessarily good for everyone.
But, of course, it’s pretty hard to prove that the human mind is anything more than an organic computer, sophisticated though it is, which allows us each to more or less function within our respective worldly milieus. The idea of being god-within is certainly intriguing and imaginative. I though, as I’m sure you can tell, remain skeptical. On the positive side, I suppose any group activity probably has useful social value.
Although the scientific method, empirical observation, was painstakingly pursued by the best minds of the 19th century, the theistic conceptions through which the empirical data was filtered produced some pretty bizarre conclusions.
Careful observation of fetal development revealed God’s hand in the progression of the fish-like embryo through resemblances of primitive animal life to ape-like higher animals including non-white species until reaching the perfection produced by a Euro-American mother.
The Genesis creation story of mankind originating from an original pair led to the notion of polygenism which determined separate creations occurred for the lesser animals and non-white races, a belief that accommodated a moral acceptance of slave ownership.
I suppose one of the difficulties with establishing any sort of factual truth is no matter where one starts the information gathering, pre-existing ideas must begin the process. Keeping those premises flexible is the key, I guess.
According to the 19th century psychologist William James, man creates the world he inhabits. The path one takes, says Mr. James, may focus on ugliness or beauty, a man may choose to concentrate and relate to the Good or the Bad. The idea here is that faith is required: an acknowledgment of that which is beyond the empirical, outside the domain of scientific certitude: the realm of God and immortality.
Which seems to imply the need for perspective: that the natural world isn’t all there is, suggesting those in the ‘natural world only’ camp will have a much harder (impossible?) time maintaining an optimistic view of things, of remaining positive, of retaining and maintaining a high moral outlook.
On a personal level, to my mind, there is no doubt considerable energy is required, as our daily travails weigh upon us, to stay upbeat all of the time; even most of the time. Still, if it’s perspective it takes to stay on one’s preferred path I wonder if the only play is the metaphysical one. Mr. James suggests unless one is oblivious, we’ve already made our choice: skepticism in moral matters is an ally of immorality; who is not for is against, he says.
Answers to the big questions must have appeared much clearer back then.
I got to talking to a presuppositional apologist the other day. He assured me everyone knows God exists whether they realize it or not, God being the source of all our knowledge.
I told him that I was presently seeking God and had a number of good candidates but wasn’t absolutely sure I had found the right one and was really questioning the idea of an entity with all the omni’s in tow.
He said that since I already knew that the one true God (specifically, the Christian God of the Bible) existed I was just obscuring that realization by pretending to seek; I was suppressing the knowledge of God; I was being unrighteous. He said God was behind my ability to reason and think logically, that there was only one true world view and that was the Christian one and said, once again, that I knew all of this was true.
Not being aware that I knew something of which I was unaware, I told him that now, since he’s explained to me that I do know these things that I didn’t know I knew that perhaps there were other things I knew that I didn’t know I knew. And, supposing these things to be outside of the empirical realm, maybe I knew when I felt particularly safe and secure that there were invisible protector beings keeping me safe or that my dreams weren’t just dreams but were a parallel reality visited in my sleep or, maybe, I didn’t know that I knew all along that I am God herself creator and maintainer of my world.
I think the presuppositional apologist thought I was truly an unrighteous individual suppressing the truth that he and I knew it to be and went away believing I was a lost soul. But, I must admit I kind of like the idea of maybe knowing things I don’t know.
Sister Chloe was enlightening me the other day about what to expect when the end times descend upon us. At some point, she said, the quick and the dead, provided they are/were true believers, will be raptured heavenward to live for eternity in paradise.
I got to wondering what ‘paradise’ might consist of; is the weather always temperate, the days sunny? Will the food be exceptional? Is exercise part of the equation even though it can be a bit painful sometimes?
Anyway, I was reading this book, The Leftovers, about these folks who didn’t get raptured so were left to their daily grinds. Well, the question that immediately arose after the rapture was why them and not us. It seemed that some of those folks raptured didn’t appear to have led all that great of a life in moral terms and some of those left had been fairly devout church goers. It was a real conundrum which led to the development of an extremist cult aimed at dealing with the leftovers’ apparent rejection.
Sister Chloe seems to think if I follow my conscience and try to always do the right thing I’ll be just fine-will have nothing to worry about when the Rapture happens. She’s so compassionate; naïve but compassionate.
Eastra, the doll of the season, was telling me the other day that in ancient times the beginning of spring at or about the time of the vernal equinox was celebrated with fertility rites which were meant to encourage a general fecundity among all living things animal and vegetable.
Many cultures had gods and goddesses honored in these rites; there was Artemis in Greece, Cebele in Phrygia, Diana in Ephesus and Attis the god of ever-reviving vegetation who was believed to have been born of a virgin and who died and was reborn annually.
I was trying to imagine what these rites might have been like. They probably involved a lot of fertilizing of various seeds and things and to get everyone into the mood, to get their energy up, to really get into the re-generation mind set there probably was a bit of strong drink, wild dancing and singing.
I found out Cebele the Phrygian Earth goddess was honored with a procession involving wild, high pitched flute music and drumming, scattered rose petals and clouds of incense followed by priests and priestesses scourging themselves with sharp knives.
But that was mild compared to the cult of Ishtar that may have involved child sacrifice, ritual copulation and virginal girls dancing around large male genitalia.
Whatever the rites involved the celebrants must have thought it worked. Besides the great fun had by all (excepting the sacrificial victim) animals reproduced, babies were born and crops grew. It does seem pretty magical and I guess it was hard for most people to take for granted the resurrection of the dormant (or dead) without providing some sort of penitential assistance even though we all know Mother Earth is a gigantic incubator and really doesn’t need that kind of help.
I think I’ll celebrate Mother’s magic with a nice contemplative walk in the woods.
I’ve been thinking about death lately. I know, I know, but it’s winter what can I say. Anyway, I was thinking if one is healthy and death suddenly appears it really has little effect on the suddenly deceased other than the fact he/she is dead, but, minimal pain is involved; healthy life, then extinction.
But, when I think about dying, anticipate it, I face the existential dilemma of no longer being here, in this my familiar environment which may not be perfect but certainly has pleasant aspects that I will surely miss, which is the reason, I guess, that thoughts of death are generally not thought of in a positive light.
Which then leads me to wonder what’s next; the idea of a descent into nothingness is pretty hard for most of us to bear, which explains the various incredibly complex explanations and anticipations of preternatural existences man has thought up over the millennia. There’s the heavenly realm, a Zanadu-like ideal city and Valhalla, the home of the gods. And then there are the more new-agie notions of rejoining the Collective Consciousness and the ancient Hindu notion of reincarnation leading eventually, if one is lucky, to re-unity with the Atman.
I guess some would call this fantastic, even delusional, but when I think of the absurdity of maintaining a sense of our individual significance in a world of billions of people and dolls in a limitless universe I guess entertaining thoughts of an after-life isn’t so terrible.
I was listening to my friends the other day discussing which of the big ‘W’s’ (you know, where, when, who, what, why) they thought was the most important. The Barbies were clearly in the ‘who’ camp: who was the hottest celeb, who would the next bachelorette pick, who would ask them to spring prom.
IMac girl thought space and time to be most significant; when and where the next notable meteorological occurrences and/or ecological disasters would take place. Being of a social nature, she also was concerned with the where and when of the next Philosophical Society Social.
Tiny Tina could be forgiven for seeing the importance of the ‘what’ her parents and teachers would next demand of her.
Poor Pitiful Pearl (who is neither poor nor pitiful) suggested that all that really mattered was ‘why.’ With ‘why’, she offered, one can question the legitimacy of those social values that have led us to believe short-term popularity is important; with ‘why’ we can question the importance of our artificial time structures as well as the legitimacy of our subservience to those who render power over us; with ‘why’ Pearl said, we can eliminate superfluous concerns and find the path to our true natures.
Pearl’s argument pretty much fell on deaf ears. The Barbies said they knew their true nature which was being the most popular girls in school; IMac girl said one’s true nature hardly mattered in relation to the immanent destruction of civilization as we know it and Tina said she might be able to overlook the demands of her father and teachers but her mother was simply not to be trifled with.
I felt like I had just witnessed a microcosm of the essential dilemma of doll-kind: It’s not simply that were not all reading the same page; some of us are making paper airplanes.
Have you ever had a supernatural experience?
It could have been something you dreamed was going to occur that, later, seemed to really happen. Or maybe you saw something that you were pretty sure couldn’t really exist in the world as we know it. Or, as you sat contemplating things a message from beyond seemed to pop up out of nowhere, maybe from an incorporeal being.
Apparently this sort of thing happened to people living in medieval times pretty regularly; the difference for them was they had a more fluid idea of what constituted the real world then we do today.
I was reading the journal of three 12th century monks who set out to find the ‘terrestrial paradise.’ As they traveled to the east they encountered little people ‘no more than two feet high’ and went through a mountain region where there were basilisks, unicorns and dragons. They passed through a region of constant darkness where ‘mournful shrieking came from sinners drowning in a sea of serpents’ and ‘a giant chained between two boulders’ was being tortured with fire….. Well, the account goes on and on, one extraordinary event after another.
In my rationalistic way of thinking it all seems very imaginative. They simply were encountering things they had never seen before and were interpreting them in terms of the magical world in which they lived.
I don’t know if I should be happy in my understanding of the natural world or sad in my inability to realize a truly magical kingdom.