ungodly gods and unreal realities

Little time these days to blog so I'm resorting to posting extracts from emails to friends and the like. So please forgive the unpolished-ment, the rough stuff. Sorry, but when the current rushness is over, things will settle down back to normal. The following is an extract from an email to an atheist friend of mine.

IMHO your statement "...my intellectual clarity around atheism..." translates into "I've arrived where I've arrived and I don't want to go anywhere else, nor consider the possibility there are other places to go to, thank you very much".

I feel it's impossible to be clear about a negative, a lack, an absence. It's like saying, "I may be unsure about what does exist, but I'm absolutely 100% certain about what doesn't". (Until one finds out that in fact it does exist).

But I think we're talking at cross purposes. I'm not trying to throw God or gods at you. After all, from his own lips Jehovah is wrathful and jealous, not to mention bloodthirsty (requiring believers to sacrifice their children; encouraging Joshua to lead the genocide of the canaanites, amorites, philistines, etc), petulant and given to bizarre acts, such as turning people into pillars of salt for looking over their shoulders. (And as for his son, do you know the story of Jesus and the fig tree?).

Of course Jehovah is by no means the only named god around, but he's the one I'm most familiar with, and all the comments I make about Jehovah are intended to apply to other gods as well, including Zeus (bad tempered rapist), Huitzilopochtli (the Aztec god of war and sacrifice), Baal (known in the Bible as "beelzebub", a major demon from hell), Thor (psychopathic hammer-wielder), and many others of similar disrepute and nasty habits. Noteworthy that these gods like nothing better than to kill each other and their parents/progenitors. Not to mention their extreme misogyny.

Quick but quite amusing story from the Old Testament. God sends Lot some angels (I think it was Lot, but not sure. Doesn't matter a lot, though). When the angels arrive, Lot invites them into his home, and washes their feet with oil. Outside, a group of townsfolk gather, demanding that Lot turn over the angels to them, so that they the townsfolk might "know" them, ie fuck them. How does Lot respond? He responds in a way that jehovah thoroughly approves of: Lot offers the townsfolk his daughters instead, so that they may "know" the daughters instead of the angels. Thanks Dad, very sweet of you.

You know, increasingly this is an age of specialisation. Our technology, our technical knowledge, has become so deep and complex that it's almost impossible for anyone to truly "master" multiple disciplines. A result is "silofication" --- deep silos of knowledge within which experts swim up and down but never outside of their silos. And in fact, within the silos are sub-silos and sub-sub-silos as well. That's how bad it's gotten. No cross-fertilisation of ideas. No holistic integration of narrow technical truths. The most brilliant minds on the Planet are imprisoned behind bars of their own making.

And yet, there is so much to be gained from a more holistic approach. I don't dismiss reductionism/materialism; I think we need those things as being complementary to wholism/holism and "spiritualism". We need both sides for a balanced truth. A bit of quantum physics here. A bit of Hindu metaphysics there. A bit of Jungian gestalt psychology. A bit of history. Maths. Philosophy. Mythology. Archaeology. Everything (except IMHO the mainstream monotheistic religions --- those we can do without!)

But there is a framework within which all apparently contradictory and hostile belief systems (including "science/technology" and religion), can be integrated and reconciled.

Hinduism is a good example. There are thousands of Hindu gods and goddesses, with their individual names and natures and powers, and all with large bands of adherents who interact with their god/s in different ways to different ends.

But. However. Strangely enough. But...

But... always with a wink. A sly wink indicating that although the adherent finds their personal god particularly congenial, ze does so in the full and conscious knowledge that "zir" god is simply a different aspect of the fundamental so called "ground of being", Brahman, from whence all else comes. Bit like the mysterious vacuum of quantum physics, from whence virtual particles flicker in and out of existence in spans of time too short to even imagine. But isn't a vacuuum, by definition, empty? Yes, that's what makes it so mysterious.

Not only are Hindu gods and goddesses gestaltishly recognised to be aspects of Brahman, they're also seen as aspects of each other --- continually morphing into each other, so that for example there's Vishnu and Shiva that are worshipped in their separateness, but also it's believed that in some contexts Vishnu and Shiva are one and the same deity.

A carnivore eats chicken as well as beef and pork. It's all protein, it's all meat. And all of the same fundamental structure: that of the carbon-based molecule. If you enjoy eating chicken, that doesn't prevent you from the enjoyment of eating pork or beef. What does this have to do with anything in this post? Simply to illustrate that the fact that a Hindu can and does "believe in" a particular deity or demiurge does not logically preclude the belief in "other gods", or "the main god", or "the fundamental ground of being".

In fact, let's not even use the word "god". It carries too much baggage. I prefer "numinous": a word that to me refers to that which has some of the "nice" qualities of a god --- the qualities that we like, that we find acceptable, as opposed to human sacrifice on the other hand --- but without the godishness, without a god. Deity-free numinousness --- requires no worship, issues no commandments, requires no intermediaries.

Brahman bears an uncanny resemblance also to the so far still theoretical "Higgs Field" that quantum physicists also describe as the fundamental ground of being, from whence all springs. The Higgs Field is believed to be formed by the interactions of the Higgs particle with other subatomic particles. Dawkins calls the Higgs particle the God particle, I think.

The framework I'm talking about encompasses the Big Bang theory and all that goes with it. But it doesn't depend on the Big Bang. When the next "scientific" theory of the nature of things is born, the framework will accommodate that as easily as it does the Big Bang.

It provides a route to higher meaning and purpose without "favouritism", ie all schools of thought welcome.

It's based on one core idea, one core definition: ETI.

Everything That Is. In fact, Everything That Is, Has Been, Will be and Could Be, including non-material things as well as material things, truths as well as lies, reality alongside imagination. ETI for short.

The whole of Reality, past present and future. Potential and Actual.

Everything. Literally. Every single fucking thing imaginable and unimaginable. ETI.

The above is the core definition. It doesn't require translation or interpretation. It's not a metaphor. It's not Reality at one or more removes. There's no leap of "faith" required. No specialised instruments or apparatus required. No intermediaries (eg priests, laboratories, editors etc). It's not really even an idea. It's a simple statement of fact: Everything. That. Is. What's there to argue with in the preceding three one-word sentences, or sentients if you prefer. [insert smiley winking]. Just as it is. Just as you find it, no more and no less.

Now for the core idea:

ETI is a real live organism, an actual creature, sentient being. The biggest there is.

Ze has more than enough complexity to satisfy information theorists in terms of the requirements for "emergent" qualities such as life or consciousness to emerge. Emergent qualities by definition emerge in the Whole, not in the parts. That's where the ability of humans (and others) to think gestalt-ishly comes in. Also dovetails neatly with the so-called "binding problem" of neurologists and psychologists: how multiple and fundamentally different streams of data and information are bound together into the apparent unity of conscious perception.

ETI is Alive, growing (expanding universe), will die (when the force of gravity overcomes the force driving the expansion, the universe will then implode upon itself as a reverse big bang, to be reborn in a new Big Bang thereafter. What some people poetically call "the heartbeat of the cosmos". The Big Bang/Big Crunch cycle): implode/explode/implode etc

(But the framework does not depend upon the Big Bang. It's as comfortable housing the Big Bang as any other scientific body of knowledge. And when a new paradigm comes along, it will fit very comfortably within Everything That Is. How could it not, being as it would be, part of ETI).

ETI: a real live organism that is born, grows, and dies. Relies upon energy to survive. Is mobile, dynamic, practises homeostasis (ie self-regulates). Includes parts of zirself that are also alive in their own right (eg Gaia, humans, fish, amoeba, red blood cells etc etc). [In the same way as a living cell in the body of a living person is alive]. Meets all of the criteria laid down by biologists and others as the fundamental qualities present in the thing called "life".

But that's ridiculous, I hear you say. How can a lump of rock be intelligent? How can a cloud of gas be aware? Well, firstly, everything is relative. There's no such thing as zero intelligence/awareness. For a rock, just sitting around being where it is is equivalent to intelligence/awareness/consciousness. Beingness houses all qualities. To paraphrase the German philospher Leibniz, the strangest thing in existence is the existence of existence.

But secondly, if you prefer a more logical less ridiculous argument, here goes: Just because my foot is not intelligent doesn't mean that I am not. Similarly, just because a lump of rock is not intelligent, doesn't mean the universe/reality/ETI is not., Which really is a rebuttal of an argument not an argument in its own right.

ETI: Doesn't require or request worship. Lays down no commandments to be obeyed. Requires nothing from anyone.

ETI imposes no values because ze encompasses all values, including what we humans would call "right" and "wrong", "good" and "bad". ETI cannot be seen or interacted with in any specific context, because ze encompasses all contexts. ETI is context-independent. One person's burning bush is another person's man-on-a-cross. ETI encompasses all forms, so that a specific form that resonates with one person, has no particular meaning or significance for another: see the "burning bush" argument above.

So that's it in a nutshell. A very simple idea but with very significant implications.

Everything That Is comprises one living organism, intelligent and aware, housing gazillions of other living organisms, who themselves harbour trillions of other living organisms.

So if true, what are the implications? Crudely, that everything is relative (including relativity itself!). No absolute right and wrong. No eternal truths. That every thing has a place, and there is a place for every thing.

And that sentient entities such as members of the species Homo Sapiens Sapiens, are free to create their own values, their own responsibilities, their own realities without being dictated to by some smartass god. But they can do so with a god, if they prefer. Numinousness is part of ETI. The Sacred is, and the Profane too. When everything matters, nothing matters.

All of the key concepts: gestalt thinking, context independence, values-freedom, emergent properties, holism, absolute relativity, the binding problem.


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Faycin A Croud said...

Hell, all of my blogs are unpolished. I either run with some quote I said in answer to a post by someone else, or I provide a link, or I do satire, or...basically, I'm a mess. So, I fling something out there and see if it sticks.
Either Jehovah is a complete dick or his followers are generally a-holes, which means I want very little to do with either. This is not to say that I don't know Christians whom I like and respect, and I do in fact like and respect Christ himself. But I have found that except for a few, there is very little of Christ in Christianity.
I came to a point where I was very jaded about any kind of religion, but I like to keep an open mind about spirituality. We don't know what's out there. I'd rather have fun speculating than take on a bitter, sneering attitude towards the whole spectrum. It's rather boring and depressing to think of oneself as simply an animated meat sack. Which I believe is a label that I got from you!

masterymistery said...

Hi Faycin, thanks for your comments.

I also know Christians whom I like and respect, and I also respect many of the teachings of Christ (except those relating to the Fig Tree!).

It's a fact though that more people have been murdered in the name of religion than in any other name. And in those murders Christianity looms large. As does Islam. As does Hinduism. As does Judaism.

So I do in fact have a bitter, sneering attitude towards the mainstream monotheistic religions.,

But I maintain strong links and relationships with the numinous via my own spirituality, which features an entity greater than myself (greater than all other beings) but I avoid labelling that entity as a god or God.

Up until the time of my "spiritual awakening" I had been a very depressed unhappy aggressive spiteful bitter person.

I was that way largely because of a crisis of meaning and purpose in my life. I was that way because I couldn't see how to arrive at any conclusion other than that people are walking sacks of meat.

As you say, boring and depressing.

So much so that during my life leading up to my spiritual awakening, I was suicidal for most of the time.

Everything changed, in a blinding moment of insight, when I realised that I could continue to choose to be a walking sack of meat. But that I didn't have to make that particular choice, that there are other choices "out there". One can be a walking sack of meat, if that is what one wants, but there's no necessity to make that choice, no compulsion, no inarguable logic.

So nowadays I still see myself as a walking sack of meat. But with a thing called "mind" and a thing called "heart" and a thing called "soul" and with more meaning and purpose than anyone could possibly eat in a thousand lifetimes.

Breaking out of the materialist / reductionist prison saved my life. And made the lives of those around me just a little bit more pleasant and bearable.