Sunday, February 10, 2008

Are you a believer?

All I can say is that I do not and cannot know the circumstances that led to my consciousness. The physical body I inhabit and the planet upon which I walk are an abundant vessel for this consciousness, supplied by some agency that is beyond my control and outside of my personal knowledge.

There are arguments between those who favor evolution as an explanation of all that lives and those who favor a divine entity as one who created this rich environment and our overactive mentalities. There are those who think that these arguments have substance. I do not.

I am awed by the possibility that I am part some greater whole than is apparent on Earth. I am equally awed by the thought that I might not be part of anything beyond the apparent senselessness of our daily struggle for bread, water, mental and physical procreation.

The only certain knowledge that I have is that I cannot be sure how thoughts occur to me nor where they originate. My efforts to generate clear thought are merely those of removing obstacles. They are not generative; I cannot set about to manufacture a line of thinking as I might, say, set about constructing an article of clothing. All I can do is to follow the thinking that presents itself to myself, assuming that I can understand its merit and remember the point long enough to make note of it.

Scientists tell us that the physics of our known universe indicates that less than 0.00000001 percent (sic - some very small number) of our personal space actually contains 'matter.' We are beings largely composed of empty space; our bodies are held up by mutually repelling forces of elementary particles standing aground the same mutually repelling force fields.

This is extraordinary, and should, one would think, lead a person to consider the equally extraordinary gulf between our everyday experience of human existence and its physical reality.

It occurs to me that this may be the only subject worthy of religious examination. This massive discrepancy in our perceptive apparatus indicates that we are apparently beings inhabiting force fields rather than 'solidness' and that we do not generally relate to this fact. Thus, humans, by this one fact, can be defined as belief generators, living in the belief that we are situated with a solid "physical" reality.

Once this is established, notions of higher beings are just more of the same, generated by a talent we cannot suppress nor avoid. There may be truth to these beliefs or not. Whether we conceive of personal gods or impersonal natural forces, they are constructed as part of the act of consciousness and as unavoidable as life/death itself.

So, yes, I am a believer, just as you are.


Anonymous said...

I'm glad to see you writing again, Robin. My response below may seem less open inquiry, and more conclusive, for me, because I guess that's where I'm at. But I hear what you are saying. These are only my thoughts/illusions.

It is indeed helpful to start with what we can ascertain, before venturing out to create the fine details of our religious belief systems. As human beings we really can be very imaginative.

What we know is this: Earthly solidness is an illusion. And what we perceive with our five senses (including the enhancement with scientific instrumentation) is a tiny fraction of all of reality.

So just now I've been trying to consider this and follow it with the idea that there are no higher purposes than to pursue bread and water, and it's amazing how hard that is for me. (I realize this is not what you were saying, but these are just my thoughts.)

I have seen science fiction stories that propose we are all the gaming pieces of uncaring super-beings. I guess that's possible. But when I try to conclude that there are no realities beyond the vast inter-atomic spaces, this seems not even remotely possible. Even what I can see is beyond my understanding.

Something or someone is holding the illusions together, it seems to me, and not just mindless forces, but some sort of intelligence. Also, I just can't conclude that this intelligence possesses less love than I have (which is imperfect). I guess I've never been able to formulate even a remote opposition to St. Anselm's ontological argument for the existence of God.

When I fall into purposelessness, my wish to thrive withers and dies. So, I choose to continue in my illusions of purposeful livelihood, giving and receiving love, and doing what I can for others. I generally live as if my musings of nothingness are in themselves illusions.

There is the possibility that what we say and do really does count, and counts for a lot. Since our illusion of earthly survival is quite hard to dispel, and we are living here for the time being, we might be here to learn and do what we are here to learn and do. Sometimes, I feel like a gaming-piece, a pawn caught in the web of my own illusions and maybe even of some malicious entity. And if there is no other greater reality, then I can go ahead and wither away, and I'm no better off, because I am no wiser as to the nature of reality. But if my life really does count, I have work to do, it seems.

Thank you for your sharing, as this has been helpful for me, too. Please continue to share your inquiries. We all need each other to grow.


Robin said...

Thank you for your comments, which contain many interesting lines of thought.

My thought was to address just the issue of belief, i.e. being a believer, with this question. Many times and in many contexts, I have heard people assume that being 'a believer' implies that one accepts certain religious concepts or precepts.

It occurred to me that having human consciousness is identical with being 'a believer.' One who insists that (s)he is not a believer seems to me to under-represent reality. So, I wanted to take a more precise look at this quesiton of belief.

The second piece I intend to write is about what is beyond, in the senses that you address here.

As to St. Anslem and ontological arguments, I have to say that my response is that the concept is not the same as the reality, i.e. thinking about an entity is not the same as actually having that entity available. I would offer unicorns as an example. Perhaps I miss some of the subtlety of the argument. It seems to me to hinge on the use of the conceptual facility of human brains, but forgets that this facility manipulates concepts only.

Please keep adding your thoughts.
I really like them and will try to reply to some of them in later posts.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for bringing me back to the subject at hand.

This topic had reminded me of a blind alley I had pursued for years, ending in an existential crisis and with no more answers than when I started. Do I ward off when I perceive others go near what for me is the brink? Yeah, I guess I do.

From what you say now, I don't fear for you as I did when I first read this post. (Fear for another = fear for self.)

Lately, I've chosen to pursue topics that seem more immediately applicable to me - the development of character, compassion, and so forth. But I understand the value in taking a broader look to inform such practical applications.

I look forward to your next essay.