At the present time there still exist many doctrines which choose to leave in the shadow certain troubling aspects of a too complex situation.
– Simone de Beauvoir
Suppose you go into an ice cream store with the intention of getting an ice cream cone, but you are uncertain as to which flavor(s) you would like.
You may well find – that the person behind the counter is quite willing (by using a little ‘tasting spoon’) to let you try a taste, without (yet) buying it. You may say – “Could I try this one?” … and they’ll give you a little taste of it … and they’ll probably let you try a couple more flavors, if you ask them nice. But then, you’re going to have to decide … and say – “Could I please have a scoop of blueberry and a scoop of coconut, on a sugar cone? (or whatever you feel like having).
You have just made an aesthetic choice. (as you should have)
Next time you may make a different choice … and that’s fine. We make aesthetic choices for the (simple) purpose of maximizing enjoyment. [Actually, we (should, at least) make all our decisions for this same reason … only usually, the enjoyment is deferred or indirect. But, since most of our decisions have a predominating ‘practical’ component … we do not call them aesthetic choices; we simply try to ‘do the best thing’.]]
Suppose you are wondering what the truth is – regarding the Nature of Reality. This is a different sort of situation (and the consequences are quite different. We are no longer in the ice cream store.)
If you want the Truth (more than anything) you will find that the construction of a Personal Paradigm (formulating – what you think is true / what you believe is true … the Whole Thing) – this process has nothing to do with choice. A person who (simply & determinedly) wants the Truth … is NOT at liberty to choose what to believe. You may be able to invoke the truth; if you yearn for it, the truth may come to you … and then you may recognize it. But you do not choose it.
Everyone has some sort of relationship with the Truth; and this relationship is a Very Important one.
There are people whose lives are about deception … manipulation and control of appearances. (We all know this.) Con artists … Ad men … certain politicians (I will not bother to name any).
Such people may be wealthy … they may even be respected. Even so – I would NOT want my sister to marry one.
A person who is in a (close) relationship and is misrepresenting themselves to their partner … is lying to them (whether or not they are able to do so ‘successfully’). And such a ‘relationship’ is a phony one; it’s NOT a real relationship.
If you’re going to have a phony relationship … why bother at all?
(you’re just going to hurt people)
Our relationship with the truth … it matters a lot.
But – aside from social damage (hurting others) … it’s our relationship with the truth (our thirst for it) which equips us (more than anything else does) – to coax the truth into presenting itself … into putting itself where we may see it.
Think about everyone who has ever received a Nobel Prize … they wanted the truth! (and not just casually)
Anyway, I regard hunger for the truth to be the First Principle and the motivator which can impel us to more deeply understand anything (at all) – whether in the physical (material) world or in the realm of the metaphysical.
In (material) Science – what are the other fundamentals (besides the Spirit of Enquiry / the desire for the truth)?
- Observation / empiricism / respect for the ‘evidence’
- Experimentation (the ‘experimental method’ and replicability of experiments)
- Rigor & impartiality
The problem (of course) with metaphysical investigation is that it does not lend itself neatly to the ‘normal’ methods used by physical science.
We must try our best – not to be daunted by the (rather overwhelming) difficulty of ‘studying’ something as vast and apparently inaccessible as God (or metaphysics). We should maintain our integrity and simply go forward.
Here is a comment by J. B. S. Haldane, who was a nuts & bolts geneticist –
“The conclusion forced upon me in the course of a life devoted to natural science is that the universe as it is assumed to be in physical science is only an idealized world, while the real universe is the spiritual universe in which spiritual values count for everything.”
— J.B.S. Haldane
The Sciences and Philosophy: Gifford Lectures, University of Glasgow, 1927 & 1925 (1929), 273.
Also, he notes –
“The advance of scientific knowledge does not seem to make either our universe or our inner life in it any less mysterious.”
De Beauvoir says –
It is in the knowledge of the genuine conditions of our life
that we must draw our strength to live and our reason for acting.
– Simone de Beauvoir
And I offer these (following) comments (from the Urantia Book) as a (partial) description of the human Condition –
[certain words are ‘bolded’; this is my doing]
3:5.5 (51.4) The uncertainties of life and the vicissitudes of existence do not in any manner contradict the concept of the universal sovereignty of God. All evolutionary creature life is beset by certain inevitabilities. Consider the following:
3:5.6 (51.5) 1. Is courage—strength of character—desirable? Then must man be reared in an environment which necessitates grappling with hardships and reacting to disappointments.
3:5.7 (51.6) 2. Is altruism—service of one’s fellows—desirable? Then must life experience provide for encountering situations of social inequality.
3:5.8 (51.7) 3. Is hope—the grandeur of trust—desirable? Then human existence must constantly be confronted with insecurities and recurrent uncertainties.
3:5.9 (51.8) 4. Is faith—the supreme assertion of human thought—desirable? Then must the mind of man find itself in that troublesome predicament where it ever knows less than it can believe.
3:5.10 (51.9) 5. Is the love of truth and the willingness to go wherever it leads, desirable? Then must man grow up in a world where error is present and falsehood always possible.
3:5.11 (51.10) 6. Is idealism—the approaching concept of the divine—desirable? Then must man struggle in an environment of relative goodness and beauty, surroundings stimulative of the irrepressible reach for better things.
3:5.12 (51.11) 7. Is loyalty—devotion to highest duty—desirable? Then must man carry on amid the possibilities of betrayal and desertion. The valor of devotion to duty consists in the implied danger of default.
3:5.13 (51.12) 8. Is unselfishness—the spirit of self-forgetfulness—desirable? Then must mortal man live face to face with the incessant clamoring of an inescapable self for recognition and honor. Man could not dynamically choose the divine life if there were no self-life to forsake. Man could never lay saving hold on righteousness if there were no potential evil to exalt and differentiate the good by contrast.
3:5.14 (51.13) 9. Is pleasure—the satisfaction of happiness—desirable? Then must man live in a world where the alternative of pain and the likelihood of suffering are ever-present experiential possibilities.
It’s true – that there are now lots of Modern People … intelligent & well educated people who think that we have ‘outgrown God’. We have relegated God (& religion) to the dustbin where we’ve thrown all the ‘other superstitions’. And now – the biggest ‘church’ in our society … is the Church of Scientism.
But, ironically, the ‘faith’ with which the parishioners are devoted to their doctrine is unscientific; it has the same character as the faith that the old-fashioned ‘believers’ had.
You might like to watch – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JKHUaNAxsTg
(The Science Delusion – Rupert Sheldrake)
In this little video Noam Chomsky shares his personal relationship with ‘religion’ … and how he came to adopt that position.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SNDG7ErY-k4 (Chomsky on Religion)
Now, I greatly admire this man and am (extremely) grateful for his work. However, it seems to me that he allowed himself to take up the position of ‘not believing’ … not having ‘faith’ … by making an aesthetic choice; he simply “accepted’ Bertrand Russell’s counsel.
Certainly it is simpler – to just dismiss all rumors about God, about angels, and so on. The problem is – ‘What if these things actually exist?’
Bob Dylan says – “You’re gonna have to serve somebody.”
And while this may not be true … I am confident that we (all) must bet our lives on something. We (unavoidably) live our lives according to what we think is true; so, whatever that happens to be … that’s what we’re staking our life on! Mmm?
Given that we are sufficiently clear-headed … (and also truth-hungry) enough NOT to be able to choose what to believe … we need to admit that we are human beings; and this means that ‘all the information’ is NEVER going to be in. Therefore – we are (all) obliged to choose what seems to us to be the best Working Assumption available. Whatever sits heaviest upon the scales of Truth … (and NOT the scales of preference)
If you’re a bit ‘on the fence’ with regard to (God &) religion, I would suggest you read a bit of the Urantia Book.
For many years I regarded myself as being incapable of faith. I knew people of faith … I just reckoned I could not do what they were able to.
But after I joined the religious order (in which I would spend 17 years) … my view on faith shifted. I now regard faith as being mainly a matter of information … and of discipline / of practice.
The Urantia Book was (& is) the fulcrum of the studies at Global Community Communications Alliance; and I am (and remain) grateful for what I have learned from this (2,000 page) document.
I regard it as a (greatly) augmented ‘Bible’; and I know of no other place where one may learn so much (invaluable) information. I would not wish to try to live my life without it.
In October, 2014 I took it upon myself to write a reply to a question that appeared in ‘Quora’;
Here is that article (my response) –
(response by) Stephen Spyker
It’s my guess that you ask this question rhetorically. I think you’re suggesting that since the humans on this planet have created such a spectacular mess — that, in itself, should be enough to convince any thinking person that human beings have clearly proved that we are not little godlings … that, seeing how we deport ourselves … to claim (or even believe) that we are ”created in the image of God” would be somewhere between extravagant and crazy. I think that’s what you’re saying; and if it is — your point, while apparently sound … is, nevertheless, untrue.
During the famous Tennessee Scopes Monkey Trial (in which a school teacher was brought to trial for teaching evolution to his students) the prosecutor said (according to my memory), “You told your students that man created God.” To this, the defendant replied, “I never said that. What I said was that God created man in His own image … and man, being a gentleman, returned the compliment.”
That we have made a grand mess of things is certainly true.
We labor under enormous (self-made) problems — anomie/alienation (we do not feel connected to each other, or even to the very life-support systems which uphold us), selfishness/(self-absorption), greed, willingness to deceive and exploit, numbness, general (and thorough) neglect of our great, great grandchildren.
And (despite the fact that most of us claim to believe in God) – Godlessness is a big problem.
Lately, I have been wondering – maybe the whole of Western Civilization, (from the roots, from its outset, from its creation) is our very own “Hey. Let’s do without God” project. And if it is that, my first reaction is – that it is perverse. But perhaps that’s too harsh.
I think we’re like a bunch of teenage children who imagine our parents are away for the weekend … and now we can do what we want – with each other and the house. “Great! We were fed up with our parents anyway!”
What, according to Zorba (according to Kazantzakis) were the first words (to God) out of Adam’s mouth? : “Come on, Old ‘Un. Out of the way. Let me pass.”
You see what we’re up to?
One day when I was about 12, it came to me ( for no reason … that is, I had not been thinking about it) – that the question about the existence of God will never be resolved by reason or by “evidence”.
Someone asked Carl Jung (when he was a bit elderly) if he believed in God. At this question, he laughed and said, “No. When I was a young man I believed in God. Now Iknow.”
This is the way a real man lives his life.
It is possible to know God, to have a personal relationship with Him … but without commitment, you should not expect much.
Having done some theologizing without revelation (The Urantia Book), I can tell you that you’re better equipped with it. There’s lots of things in there that I would never (ever) figure out. (While I do not accept the whole thing as ‘true’, mainly I trust it.)
There are now lots of people who (quite casually and easily) regard anyone who believes in God as ‘soft-headed’.
But are you so sure that all the “God” business is superstition and nothing more than a myth – that you would bet your life on it? Well, you are betting your life on it (if that’s the way you’re living your life.) And if that’s the case, then you may, as Kabir says – “simply end up with an apartment in the city of death.” (Then he says, “If you make love with the divine now, in the next life you will have the face of satisfied desire.”)
Western Civilization is (perhaps) ‘about’ growing up and doing without God. In the midst of this, the Humanists generally abstain from (even concern about) the whole ‘God’ issue. And if you’re a Humanist Agnostic Fundamentalist (you worship in your Church of Science [& Technology] and you’re all but completely certain that God is just more ‘Hoo-Hah’) … I suggest you avail yourself of more information – (spend some time in The Urantia Book. If you have Christian roots, start with the Jesus papers [p. 1321] … otherwise, start with Paper 72, p.808; then read about Adam and Eve … then read the Adjuster papers [pp. 1176 to 1241] … then just use your intuition as to what to read next.)
Once you feel you have enough information, accept the Fact that you are a Child of God … and resolve to live as one. I have learned that faith is largely a matter of discipline. I used to think that I was not capable of being a person of faith, but I was naive … and I was wrong.
A person who wants the truth is not at liberty to choose what to believe. However, one may choose what to adopt – as a working assumption.
I would suggest – that you do not give up on God too glibly.
In her song, ‘Woodstock’, Joni Mitchell says that she ‘came upon a child of God’. She means this not in the strict sense. In the strict sense, we are all children of God. So, she means – that her encounter was with someone who had accepted his Sonship.
He tells her, “We are stardust … billion-year-old carbon. We are golden … caught in the Devil’s bargain (though that part is not really true; we’re creating our own hell) … And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the Garden.”
Watch these clips, and you will see – that “data” (impartiality & actual history) have their place in the Great War of Ideas –
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pWgyy_rlmag (Moneyball – “What is the problem?”)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tzin1DgexlE (Moneyball – ‘player value’)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JwjMXtI5oIU (Moneyball, part 3)