Welp, I was hoping to have something new posted over Thanksgiving weekend, but that plan failed miserably. Instead, we’re getting a flashback from my failed podcast “My Life With Kant”. This is actually two episodes put into one post. Additionally, since I don’t currently have access to a computer, everything is being posted through my phone. As a result, this post will look like shit because I don’t edit or spellcheck. Apologies. Enjoy! I’ve discussed my religious education in the past, and how, even though I reject most of what I learned, it still provoked me to think about the larger issues that we face in this life. Without my education, I never would have been interested in philosophy, most likely at least. But when we think of Christianity today, even though there are many different sects, there seems to be a common notion about it that we can all agree upon. Christ died for our salvation. That we can all agree upon, or I assume most denominations can agree upon that. However, throughout most of Christian history, there seems to be a dogma that casts a shadow over the believers. To many, Christianity isn’t an internal struggle for one’s own soul, even though it is for many others. But the internal world isn’t as important as how you live externally. Do you go to church? Do you give to your church? Do you pray? Do you act according to how the Bible tells you to act? If you answer yes, then for many that would make you Christian. But most don’t consider the gravity of salvation. Christians would tell you, or at least the one’s that I know, that if you don’t accept salvation then you’re damned to hell. For eternity! That’s an extremely heavy idea! But we take these ideas for granted in the modern world. I’ve always been interested in early Christianity. Think about the time immediately after Christ, would those followers have the same interpretation of Jesus’s teachings as we do? There was a lot of religious ferment during that era, and I imagine not long after the crucifixion, there was probably a lot of different people saying a lot of different things. However, the only interpretation that most people remember today is that of the Apostle Paul. His version of Christianity won out. But what were some of those other interpretations. Gnosticism is quite an expansive description. It doesn’t really explain a single sect of early Christianity, but rather it encompasses a multitude of them. Gnostics were searching for salvation for sure, but they were seeking it through knowledge. They were more concerned with the internal soul of mankind, rather than through any sort of external salvation. The work that I’m drawing upon is Stephan A Hoeller’s ‘Gnosticism, New Light on the Ancient Tradition of Inner Knowing.” He states that the monotheistic religions focus on the faith, or emphasizes the ‘I believe’. The Gnostics by contrast seemed more interested in obtaining knowledge that can liberate one out of the existence of the material world. Now it’s not hard to imagine how some of this might dive into mysticism of sorts, so I’m going to try to separate the mystical parts from the philosophical ones because Gnosticism has influenced a great deal of thinkers, to include Carl Jung and…So while most other religions were perfectly content with whatever sort of experiences their spiritual forefathers had, the general aim of Gnosticism was to get to the heart of understanding behind these experiences. So the individual believer can undergo a gnosis of their own and add to that understanding, and not have to rely on a priest or other ordained being to achieve greater knowledge. So while contemporary Christianity might emphasis phrases in the Bible, Gnosticism doesn’t rely on any sort of documentation, although there are infamously many Gnostic texts which contradict many of the claims made by the canonical Bible. The Gnostic Texts seem to indicate that the human soul is just an extension of the larger Divinity, however as Hoeller explains, we are existentially separated from it. And of course, when we say existentially, we can think of typical Nietzscheian themes like finding meaning, loneliness, etc. To many, this may sound like typical Eastern Religious thinking. So this line of thinking embraces the human condition, and the meaning that it seeks, as opposed to denying it like we find in typical Monotheistic religions. But perhaps one of the more interesting things about Gnostic thought is that it doesn’t take the perception that the world was created perfectly, and humans, through the perversion of dark spirits, caused it to be flawed. Instead, the world is seen as inheritably perfect. This is again, where existentialism is often compared to Gnosticism. The world is a dark place and we seek to escape from it. But the only way to escape it is by denying the material world, and the body that keeps our inner consciousness, or soul, imprisoned inside, and finally rise to a new spiritual realm. And of course, This would differ considerably from that of other monotheistic religions of the time, which insisted that man fell from grace and was in need of salvation. Humanity was therefore to blame. Instead, in the Gnostic tradition, God is more or less the owner and the initiator of the Universe, but other powers came to shape it. On its surface, it seems that Gnostic thought embraces a dualistic approach towards human beings. Our bodies are products of nature, but our souls are an extended part of the Divine. As stated before, in order to find union with the Divine, we have to deny our material selves. Therefore, we have to find salvation through knowledge of the spiritual realm. Even though the denial of the material realm is quite prevalent in Gnostic thought, there still has to be an embracement of life itself. Additionally, having Divine knowledge would require one to act morally. However, there are no set rules when it comes to ethical behavior. If one was committed to moral considerations, and understood the knowledge behind them, then their actions would reflect that character. But it doesn’t appear that the Gnostics took scripture as being literal. In fact, Hoeller points out that they found Adam and Eve to represent the psyche, where thinking and emotions originate, and spirit which is the transcendental consciousness. Adam represented the psyche, and Eve, the spirit. So the Gnostics tend to take a more positive view towards woman than what other religions would have been doing. These teachings were developed during a time when there was also a considerable amount of intellectual thought. So it would have to appeal to those who were well read in the works of the Greek Philosophers like Plato and Aristotle. To some, the works of the Old Testament were seen as nothing more than myths, and were treated as such. But to the Gnostics, it wasn’t the stories themselves that were important, but the knowledge and insights that were contained within them. When we read history, and we see who influenced who, and how so and so’s actions ended up creating a whole series of events that led to present day, I always wonder who the most important person in history was. And it doesn’t matter what you believe, but you have to admit, Jesus Christ has to be up there. I know that creating lists trying determine who the top 100 most important people of all time were, is sort of dumb. Because everyone is playing their part in history, whether or not we’re aware of it. If you take one of us out, history would look completely different, if not immediately, then a 100 years from now. But for entertainment’s sake, let’s go ahead and create a list of the most important people in history. For my money, Jesus Christ would definitely have to be number 1. There may be some difference between what I say and what someone else says, but he would definitely end up in the top 3. And what’s weird is, outside of the Gospels, there’s absolutely no other document that describes His life. Probably out of every figure in the top 100, He’s the one we know the least about. And even if you’re one of those people that denies that Jesus Christ existed, even as a fictional character, He’s still the most important person in history. I mean, something happened. Someone got crucified, and that event would forever change the course of history. But because we know so little about Christ’s actual life and teachings, outside of the Gospels, we can almost project whatever perceptions onto Him that we want. If we look back to the few hundred years immediately after the Crucifixion, we find that there are completely different interpretations of Jesus’s life than what we find today. I left off in the last episode on chapter 5 of Stephan A Hoeller’s book “Gnosticism, New Light on the Ancient Tradition of Inner Knowing.” And this chapter addresses the Gnostic Christ. And it appears that the Gnostics viewed Jesus as an inspirational figure, and not necessarily as an authoritarian one. And of course, ancient Gnostic texts were never considered canon, nevertheless, a few of their ideas might have slipped into the New Testament. The Gospel of John appears to be somewhat influenced by Gnostic thinking, but an example that Hoeller provides is from the Book of Mark, which I believe was written 30 or 40 years after the Crucifixion, but it’s the parable of the wheat and tares. And as Hoeller explains, because the book explains it better than I can, but it says: “A man sows good wheat seed in his field, but later finds that an enemy has sown weeds among the wheat. When the workers ask if they should pull the weeds out, the farmer tells them to allow both wheat and weeds to grow until the time of the harvest, when the two can be more easily separated.” Hoeller would go on to explain, quote: “According to Gnostic teaching, the world is a mixture of the seeds of light and of darkness. Though it is impossible to distinguish between them now, in the fullness of time, they will separate naturally, as ordained.” End quote. So who knows what influenced what. Who knows if the writings in the Gospel of Mark would later influence Gnostic thought, or if Gnostic thought influenced the Gospel of Mark. But it’s clear that there are different interpretations. One of which, is that Jesus was a Gnostic Teacher, although their basis for this doesn’t appear to be based on anything in the New Testament. As where we view Christ today as being the salvation of our Souls, Gnostic tradition would have placed more emphasis on Jesus being a liberator of our material existence. According to Hoeller, this could be found in the Gospel of Thomas. So in this text, Jesus seems to downplay the Divine aspects of His teachings, and focuses on our attachment to the material world. He also doesn’t want humanity to be focused on the more dogmatic aspects of religion, and instead wants us to focus on our journey from ignorance to knowledge. And an important verse that’s provided here is the saying “Be passers by”. So I guess that’s not all that different from the teachings that we all learned in Sunday School. It’s a saying similar to “Turn the Other Cheek.”, in that Jesus seems to be promoting a more passive (for a lack of a better word) way of life. But through this interpretation, I can’t help but think of Socrates or the Stoics. I mean, you gotta remember, that Greek philosophy was already established by this time, so it would have had to exercised a degree of influence in this world, especially since they were governed by the Romans. But, at any rate, Jesus would seem to promote a minimal lifestyle. One that didn’t emphasize the external material world, but instead focuses on internal development. So Jesus is very much a Sage. And by the way, I don’t think that this view is all that different, or shouldn’t be all that different, from Contemporary Christianity. This is why, I’m assuming, that the Gnostic Jesus would probably reject the Great Commission, or whatever that doctrine is called where every Christian must go out into the world preaching the Word. Preaching the Word, or enthusiastically stating the new insights that you’ve gained from reading about Jesus Christ is cool, but what does it matter if someone has a different takeaway. That’s why Gnostic Jesus is more concerned with you and your journey, rather than you and your relation to someone else’s journey. ANYWAYS…But even to the Gnostics, Jesus was still a Savior. If you took His message, and understood it, then your soul is liberated through the Gnosis, or the Knowledge that you gained. At least according to Hoeller.
Finally. Philosophy has returned.
In previous writings, I didn’t give a shit about ancient Greek philosophy. I made no secret about it. I don’t know why. Get off my back, okay? But now I’m reassessing that opinion.
So I’m starting with Heraclitus.
The fun thing about the pre-Socratics is that we can only speculate as to what their philosophy actually was. In fact according to some YouTube video with some professor (this isn’t college, I don’t have to reference my work), what we know of the first so-called philosophers (Thales, Anaximenes, Anaximander) are based on 8 or so sentences. I should remind you that this isn’t a history blog so you should probably always question my historical research. BUT, that just goes to show you how little information we have in making grand generalizations about these thinkers.
Heraclitus comes from my favorite school of philosophy: vague and difficult to understand. On it’s surface, as in the way how Plato and Aristotle possibly understood him, he appears to have denied the possibility of permanence, and in result, the possibility of true knowledge. The stereotypical image of Heraclitus is that he supported a so-called “unity of opposites” with his many clever sayings, but that’s a misunderstanding (if I’M understanding it correctly). In other words, it’s not all ONE thing, it’s a series of transformations of one thing to another. His use of paradoxical sayings is not a proclamation of philosophy, but are instead intended to jolt us into thinking about problems. Socrates would do something similar later on.
Heraclitus’ most famous “saying” is “you can’t step into the same river twice”. That’s a powerful idea, and perhaps that translation would later influence other schools of thought, but that’s not actually what he said. According to this, the literal translation is “on those stepping into rivers staying the same other and other waters flow.” Almost meaning that you CAN step into the same river twice, it’s just different water you’re stepping into. The river doesn’t change, just what flows through it. (The post I linked would extrapolate from that saying that water must flow if there is to be a river at all, as opposed to other bodies of water) Thus, change is embedded into the nature of things.
As stated previously, nearly everyone got Heraclitus wrong. Plato included when he thought Heraclitus denied the possibility of knowledge with his haphazard philosophy. In fact, why I wanted to start with Heraclitus was because he seemed like he was really “out there” with his epistemology. As I’ve said before and I’ll continue to say: even though evidence continues to pile against me, at the heart of my philosophy, I want to deny the possibility of absolute truth. But as for Heraclitus, it doesn’t appear that he shared that enthusiasm.
It appears as though his thoughts on this subject were mostly directed against his contemporaries and predecessors. Although Heraclitus embraces sense perception to receive knowledge, more is required. He infamously said that “learning things does not teach understanding”, and then fired shots at Pythagoras, Hesiod, and others. If you’re an 18th Century philosophy snob like me, this sort of reminds you of rationalism. But in truth, his philosophy of knowledge isn’t all that clear.
HOWEVER, Heraclitus does seem to think that we have the capabilities of having true knowledge, we just have to prepare ourselves in a way to receive it. I suppose it’s here that we can introduce his use of logos, which I’m not entirely certain that I understand (along with many others). I suppose that we can think of it as our path towards understanding the nature of the universe.
It’s with the introduction of this logos (commonly translated as “word”) that Heraclitus is his most influential while simultaneously most cryptic. The infamous introductory verse to the Gospel of John appears to borrow from this: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
During my Bible school days, this verse was oddly harped upon. My teacher wanted it to be clear that the Word is in fact the Bible, whose teachings have always existed, and the teaching and knowledge ITSELF is a part of God. It was odd because it seemed like such a simple concept, but they kept harping on it. Luckily for me, I later became interested in philosophy and now that verse takes on a new meaning….or at least it makes more sense for the reason why it was written that way.
Early Christians were attempting to appeal to the Hellenistic world and Greek speakers (again, not a history blog) by stating that Jesus Christ was the Logos…or the wisdom, path of knowledge, etc…that allows us to have an understanding of the world. Christ and His message is the final Word and has always BEEN the Word….therefore the final piece to the puzzle in regards to Greek philosophical discourse.
“What’s your point?” you’re asking.
At least under this interpretation, Heraclitus’ logos is a revelation of truth. And he seems to believe that it is something independent of us. It’s something that we ignore or fail to appreciate. Nevertheless, it’s truths persists. Which is why, according to the Christians, the words logos, Gospels, Bible, etc, are all easily interchangeable. Which is why we have to be properly prepared to receive and decipher such information….why “learning things does not teach understanding”. (Which is why to be a Christian, one must accept Salvation. In Gnosticism, one must access their “divine spark”, etc…)
But of course, Heraclitus was a pre-Socratic. He might not have believed any of this shit and academics and half-assed intellectuals like me are pulling this out of our behinds. Just keep that in mind.
I haven’t written anything in a week. And truthfully, there hasn’t been much to say.
I know that there are studies out there that discuss pornography’s ill-effect on the human mind (not that I have anything against pornography, by the way). But I wonder if there’s a study that discusses frequent reading/watching of cheap political punditry. Wouldn’t that have some damaging effect on reasoning and creativity? To me, that shit is just as toxic as pornography.
And I went on a bender, where I was listening to politically-charged podcasts ranging from Chapo Trap House to the Glenn Beck Program. And it ended up zapping away any sort of creative or critical thinking. In my opinion, cheap punditry is worse than pornography, and even DRUGS. It causes us to view the world in a narrow light, and instead of getting a better insight into the issues, we become LESS informed. So the next time a friend asks if you read or watch Breitbart, Huffington Post, Salon, Fox News, etc. JUST SAY NO.
It makes me sad really….that the way most of us become informed about events in the world is through cheap outlets. I know that it’s difficult to construct a thorough and unbiased piece about an event. After all, the media has to keep the people’s attention somehow. But you know what? I don’t give a shit. That’s just a lazy excuse. We should be more concerned with the TRUTH rather than reading any sort of agenda-conforming puff piece. Have higher standards for yourself!
But anyways, as I’ve discussed before, this shit literally makes me ill. Mentally and physically. So after that bender, I needed to clear my mind.
And honestly, as stupid as this sounds, at one point I though that I said everything that needed to be said about philosophy. Between My Life With Kant and this blog, I believed, shit you not, that I laid out my philosophical framework and that there was nothing more that I could deliver. So we might as well pack up our bags and close up shop because there is nothing left for philosophy to do….like I was Ludwig fucking Wittgenstein.
Clearly I ran into a wall. I believed that philosophy would reveal something to me….unlock a hidden side of myself and this universe…help me come to peace with the order of nature….SOMETHING….ANYTHING.
Instead it revealed the nothing that lies behind everything. Even myself. Behind the exterior, past my personality, all the way down into the darkest corners of my psyche….there lies nothing. All the things you see are facades, because the reality of nothing is far too terrifying to face.
Which brings us to a tragic question….is this the end of philosophy?
If not here, then where? When?
Now clearly this is just me being dramatic. Yet if we accept nothing, like it’s the gold at the end of the rainbow, what then are we chasing?
Perhaps this is a better description of what I’m going through: burn-out. I stated before that I’ve been attempting to write a post about Edmund Husserl for weeks now, but what’s the fucking point? There’s an academic sterility to many philosophers, particularly those in the 20th Century, I find. And this dryness nearly kills my interest.
Personally, I think philosophy should be struggled with. It’s best when it’s an art. Which is why it’s unfortunately true…the best artists and thinkers are CRAZY. And we just don’t have that sort of thing in modern times. There’s a few standouts, Slavoj Zizek being one, but has society progressed to the point where it’s too…..SAFE!
Now you might think that I’m a terrible person, but I include myself as one the people that I’m bitching about….so it’s okay….because I’m medicated for severe chronic depression. And many people that suffer this problem are medicated as well, particularly in our safe first-world society. We have access to therapy, doctors, support groups, and all kinds of shit that help us deal with these problems. And that’s great! Life has certainly gotten a lot better for those suffering mental ailments…..
…but it wasn’t always that way.
Nietzsche, Hemingway, and my personal favorite Charles Bukowski, all had demons that they wrestled with. If they have lived today, with all the advancements in medicine, would they have produced the same great works? Would they have traded in those demons for a shot at the ‘normal life’? I don’t know. But we have their works today, and it all came at a great price.
And our safe society too is coming at a price….at the cost of individual and artistic genius. Few, and even fewer in academia, are willing to rock the boat. No one wants to be labeled a ‘contrarian’. So we take to social media, because we want to conform to our friends, and become accepted into the mainstream…because it’s OTHER PEOPLE that determine our worth. So we don’t explore our own ideas, we just regurgitate what great thinkers before us said, never engaging with our own genius.
There are few independent thinkers left.
Philosophy has been a casualty in this new group-think. The social sciences are no longer discovering. The act of engaging philosophy has been relegated to arguing about how Kant, Plato, and others might argue about certain topics. Philosophy now only plays second-fiddle to other areas of study, no longer the behemoth it once was.
So we have seemingly ventured into a new era. An era where we must ask ourselves: “what more can philosophy present to us?”
Clearly I have a flair for the dramatics, as I really didn’t intend on discussing “the end of philosophy”. But as of recently, I have found it unsatisfying or incapable of engaging my imagination.
Perhaps I just don’t care about logic, or phenomenology, or epistemology, or “things-in-themselves” anymore. Yet I still ponder the…unponderable? Is that a word? Am I making sense?
Of course, if it were “ponderable” it wouldn’t be “unponderable”, but my intention is to stretch the limits of the mind. And I’m increasingly finding it difficult to explore that within typical philosophical literature.
I guess that would explain the “new theology” that I was writing about. In order to find this so-called “unponderable”, I have to reach into theology and religion. Not that I would call myself a “religious” person, I still consider myself a hardcore agnostic. BUT the only place I can find inspiration LATELY is through Gnosticism, Judaism, and early Christianity in general.
I haven’t figured that out yet.
But this nothing that I feel predicatbly leaves a void. I didn’t know where else to go with it. Perhaps this spiritual path will lead nowhere, but that’s where I’ll be going anyway.
Okay, this is the final chapter on this subject. I promise!
There is no Good and Evil. There is only knowledge of Good and Evil.
Knowledge itself is a problematic thing. As it is sometimes thought of, there’s the knowledge we receive through the senses, or a posteriori in Kantian terms. And then there’s a priori knowledge that is not dependent on sense experience.
(Of course an infamous example of an a priori statement is “all bachelors are unmarried”…because it’s true by definition. As where the statement “all bachelors are unhappy” is an a posteriori statement because the state of unhappiness is not found in the definition of ‘bachelor’ and would require a degree of sense data to justify.)
But how could we KNOW anything about God, IF such a Being actually governs over existence?
I stated prior that if God exists outside of our phenomenological field, we can’t know anything about Him. In a nutshell, we don’t have to rely on sense experience to arrive at knowledge. It is entirely possible that we can use our intuitions to gain higher insight. Because our mental phenomenon would be the one thing we share with God, our internal truths would be far more valuable for our spiritual well-being. Therefore we don’t have to rely on ancient texts or any sort of church-supported doctrine.
We are our own church.
So now the question we must ask ourselves is: how can we access and isolate this knowledge?
Perhaps not without controversy, Gnosticism as generally defined spoke of this “secret knowledge” that could liberate the “Divine Spark” within each person. This Spark is, I suppose, not necessarily a ‘soul’ that exists independent of God, but is actually a part of God Himself. So we all have access to God because WE ourselves ARE God. However, unlike the Gnostic tradition of frowning upon material existence, the physical world is a part of this Divine structure.
This means endorsing a pantheistic-like theology. Or, as I like to think of it, affirming a Spinozist-like God, where all substance IS made up of God. To clarify, not that God and material substance are the same thing, but that material substance (and indeed ourselves) are just modes of this Divinity. And each individual is a SPECIFIC mode, meaning that no two people share the exact same representation. Our internal revelations are specific to US, and only we have access to them. If we are to engage this Divine Spark, we must conduct rigorous reflection.
But does this Spark need to be liberated?
Is liberation what we are really seeking? Can we escape a material existence? The answer to the latter question is seemingly ‘no’. Because the material structure is embedded into our mode, an escape would be apparently futile. The only way “out” would not mean to retreat into “otherworldly” pursuits, but to find acceptance in this physical existence. Our demiurge-like deceptions (or the processes of the mind) tell us that we are in discord with nature, or we are not a part of it at all. We shouldn’t seek refuge from nature, but to engage this Spark, we must find our accord within material reality.
And material reality is not, as understood by human nature, a series of distinct causes and objects…but one continuous flow. If we consider Adam and Eve, and their fall from unity with God and Nature, their “knowledge” prompted them to view the world as a struggle between our nature and the Will of the Universe. This myth shouldn’t be considered a “true account” of the fall of man, but is instead a symbol of mankind’s attempt to rise above their nature.
Within us, are a set of truths which reveal something TO US. We don’t have to seek divine knowledge from a church, a priest, or even ancient scripture. Whatever we seek, we can find within ourselves, provided we are listening. When or where knowledge might reveal itself cannot be “predicted” I’ll say, so it requires us to remain ever conscious of reality. This Spark can be ignited at any moment. Provided we are in-tune with with this flow of reality, we can become enlightened at any moment.
This is why it’s important to not shut our minds off to certain ‘philosophies’, for a lack of a better description. It doesn’t mean to endorse those views, but it does mean to allow lessons and teaching to flow into your mind. Even ideas that are wrong, might reveal a shred of knowledge that was previously unnoticed. Ideas that support evil must also be examined, so that we may not venture down that path again. We cannot simply look the other way when knowledge and conceptions that contradict our worldview is presented. To combat problems, we must face them head-on. That’s the only path to find growth and acceptance within this ever-changing universe.
We deny the capabilities granted to us. We ignore the power of logic and reasoning, and just how powerful they are at presenting revelation. For a good part of life, we remain unconscious of our activities, non-curious about the reality around us. In short, we take life for granted.
But we don’t need a clergy to do our thinking. The great thinkers of antiquity have no greater insight into the universe than what we have. Whatever tools they used to arrive at their truths are available to us. We just need to empower ourselves, and engage our understanding to light our Divine Spark.
In summary, I’ve combined several philosophies and religions. Why? In short, because I can. But it has always bothered me to find people seeking inspiration from some charismatic source. Sources that are clearly just trying to sell books or peddle bullshit to the masses. And while ancient texts certainly contain nuggets of wisdom, those texts were written for an audience of a certain time. It’s the glorification of the past, and this false belief that the ancients were smarter than us, that is in fact HARMING us. Whatever tools they had, we can argue that we have better ones. But knowledge and inspiration isn’t limited to the ancient philosophers and the charismatic, it is embedded in all of us. We just have to open our minds to see it.
The reality is that I write A LOT. I’m sure this New Theology seems somewhat perplexing. That’s understandable. But this is only my musings on how to rethink normal theology. I don’t know if it will make sense, and frankly I don’t care it does. To me, philosophy is supposed to be challenging and daring. Through it, we are to find our own voice. And I believe that I have found that by entertaining this New Theology.
I doubt that I’ve constructed any sort of consistent “theology”, if you will. In the post regarding stoicism, I stated that passiveness is not a virtue. If we want to extend that out, I suppose we could argue that we should engage in the physical world rather than remain a mere passenger. Therefore, this allows us to create our own paths and maximize our “freedoms”.
And there are many variations that we could derive from that maxim. Yet I suppose that some might see it as an endorsement of the material world. Even though the skeptic within me wishes to err on the side of materialism/physicalism as the basis of all reality, the human side of me doesn’t want to reduce it to that end. As I’ve joked before, “I want to deny physical reality.” And as the history of knowledge has shown: we cannot wholly trust our senses and methodologies to arrive at “truths”. Old scientific systems get replaced by new ones,we find more truths buried under established truths, etc. Yet our inductive methods of learning the world are the best tool we have. And if we wish to discredit this tool, we have to apply more inductive research. Additionally, the senses we use to construct methodologies of research and understanding are notoriously misleading.
How we developed our sense of phenomenological perception is presumably due to evolution adapting us to a set of noumena (or the Kantian “things-in-themselves). It’s entirely possible that a different set of “intelligence”, which developed at a different part of the universe, would have a completely different phenomenological experience. And therefore having a different set of maths, sciences, etc. If ants grew to take over the world instead of us, would they have arrived at the same conclusions we have?
It appears that we are being “deceived”. We don’t actually have “true knowledge” of the real world.
Now I don’t want to venture off into the mystical, and then say that we are being actively deceived by some demonic force. But if I may steal some Gnostic terminology, our phenomenological field is our own “demiurge”; a misleading characterization of the things-in-themselves. Our perceptions may reveal qualities of the noumatic reality, but are not full and complete representations. EVEN THOUGH they are presented that way. And our minds appear to be limited by this demiurge. Any knowledge that we may receive should be questioned, or at least not taken at face value. I would even venture to say that we can apply that logic to, well…logic itself.
Now clearly we are coming across a MAJOR problem. The only way to refute the methodologies of the mind is to USE the methodologies of the mind. If we have to accept this, we might as well stop doing philosophy because it will reveal nothing real to us. So out of a lack of a better argument, I’ll just ignore this fact.
BUT, we can apply this line of skepticism down to traditional theology. If God exists, and there are things that we can know about Him, then we would have learned those things through our demiurge (i.e. our mind). And our mental capacities, as previously demonstrated, are fallible. Whatever supposed “facts” that we learn about God (either through ancient scripture, logic, or even empirical evidence!), we can question its validity. So whatever God or deities that might exist independent of perception would presumably go above and beyond any sort of human comprehension. A being that is not bound by our phenomenological existence would simply be…unfathomable. Therefore, in all likelihood, whatever information that WE HAVE received about God would be false or misleading regarding the totality of His existence.
Again, no demonic or mythical force is necessary here. Our minds simply act as our demiurge. And because of our finite and fallible capacities, it is likely that we are “cut-off” by a mind independent reality. And so we have yet to escape Kant’s philosophical conclusions: we don’t have knowledge of things-in-themselves. We are essentially “cut off” from God. Therefore there’s little sense in speculating about His existence.
UNLESS, we take certain presumptions about the capabilities of God. Namely, that God is capable of OUR phenomenological capabilities. Or, more specifically, our abilities “branch” out of His. If we are to take a physicalist/materialist assumption (and say that our minds are generated from a material substance) we could argue that, out of God branched out material substance. Or, perhaps more importantly, God is embedded into reality. The material world IS God. This would mean embracing a near (or total) pantheistic or panpsychic view of the universe.
Therefore, the demiurge-like deception lies not in the material world, but by providing an illusion that God is “out there” rather than “right here”…that God is somehow not a part of His creation.
I suppose we can say there’s an almost Manichean-like duality that permeates physical reality. This isn’t a battle between the material world and a supernatural world of ideas, but the struggle itself is firmly embedded into perceptual existence. And we directly take part in this battle. BUT (and here’s where I might completely derail if I haven’t already) this duality only exists within human consciousness. “Good and Evil” are the constructs of the mind. Obviously. And exact definitions of these two extremes vary among cultures. But, if I may make an assumption about all of humanity, such demarcations are made by all peoples. Somewhere, somehow, these two polar extremes become separated. Such constructions may have always existed within high-functioning minds. And if that were the case, is unification the end objective?
Again, I’m falling into a Hegelian-like argument that I wish to avoid. There isn’t an end objective for all of history. Good and Evil are not thesis and antithesis, which will later be synthesized. Instead it’s through our deceptive minds that such distinctions get made. It isn’t a case of HOW to unify, it’s a case of how to get RID of Good and Evil.
Mich has been made about mankind’s fall into damnation…how we somehow fell out of accord with nature. Perhaps the most famous mythical account is that of Adam and Eve: Once unified with nature, but through deception, they ate of the tree of knowledge and all subsequent generations were DAMNED. This burden of knowledge has been both our blessing and curse. Instead of living in accordance with nature, we’ve made ourselves a beast above it: dividing our knowledge into extremes…forever separating it into distinct phenomenological events. On and on this goes, with no end in sight.
It’s not as simple as turning back the clock. The knowledge we have gained cannot be put back into Pandora’s Box. It has become an extension of who WE ARE. So we could argue that this knowledge should not be forsaken. But because of our self-delusion, we have failed to understand what we DO know. We perceive the world as distinct and separate objects, and that they hold no relation to one another. So we ourselves have become distinguishable from nature. Clearly, to move past this barrier…the barrier must be removed.
A consistent theme with this “new theology” is the flowing stream of the universe. I’ve said previously that it was flowing FORWARD in time, yet it could be flowing in all directions. Yet our perceptions might only reveal a “forward only” direction (which may or may not conflict with traditional physics). But we apply division to physical reality because evolution needed to help us navigate a mind-independent world. Unfortunately, this division of material has brought us to near conflict with nature, each other, and ourselves.
As some quote that I recently heard stated (and I’m paraphrasing): “A flower doesn’t compete with a flower next to it. It just blossoms.” The only objective that we have in life (if we choose to accept it), is to blossom and grow.
And even though there appears to be many inconsistencies and contradictions embedded in phenomenological experience, it appears that mind shouldn’t be. There simply isn’t a reason for our reasons. Yet…they’re there. Descartes may have made many mistakes, yet the cogito ergo sum seems to be on to something. I may not be able to prove that “I” exist, but something is going on.
If I can’t know anything outside of this something, we may not know God. But if God isn’t capable of OUR something, could He really be considered all Powerful? Reality, or our existence, is a difficult thing to explain. And we often fail to appreciate how incredible this experience is. If we desire to understand something about God, we can’t search beyond to some supernatural world. If such a thing were possible, we couldn’t access it. The only direction to go isn’t “outward”, but to reach within. Because indeed, this consciousness would be the only thing we could have in common with God. If we are to know God, we needn’t look farther than our own material existence.
So do we actually possess this Knowledge?