Friday, March 2, 2012

A Prologue: The Groundwork of a Story

It is my intention to share with you, my readers, a bit of my life over the next few weeks. I have a few reasons for doing this.

I believe that Philosophy and who a person is are inescapably linked. We create from our experiences, and I think it's a good idea to be transparent to be a good writer. I have always intended to provoke thought on this blog, to have it be a place for me to be a Philosopher above all else.

A lot of people I've talked to tend to fall on two different sides of things. They are either atheistic or they are very religious. In the process of doing something as simple as check the weather for my area tonight for details on tornado warnings, I saw a debate about religion being started. On This is relevant to all.

Religious experience is a key part of who I am, but so is unyielding allegiance to the truth, whether that be scientific, philosophical, religious or any other method. I've never fallen into any camp very easily, and I like that about myself. I'd like to think that people are a lot more than just these belief systems too.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, this is to help me figure out what's going on with my beliefs. To that end, I appreciate input and discussions conducted in a respectful manner. Please, feel free to respond to what you read here. I am at a crossroads in my beliefs at the moment, and this is one of the methods I choose to explore that crossroads and figure out what's going on.

To that end, here is my understanding of a few terms just so we're all on the same page.

Religion. There are a few kinds of religion, in my understanding. The modern common understanding of what religion is is an institution designed to communicate dogma and doctrine about cosmological, theological, and metaphysical truth. The religious institution I have most interacted has been the Protestant Christian Institution, stemming from the Roman Catholic Church and the early Christian movement being formed in the first several centuries by the early Church councils. I'll have more to say on this as I continue.

This definition is not what I mean when I say I am religious. Through my experiences and personal development I have come to reject and dissociate myself from the Protestant Church as an institution. This is not to say that I do not have a similar or the same faith as some within this movement/institution, but I do not fall within the bounds of this particular institution.

When I talk about being religious, what I mean is that my experiences have lead me to believe that there is something more than what my base senses tell me about the physical world. I am this way because of and in reaction to how I was raised, and through various explorations, still seek to understand what I feel about the universe. I believe I am not alone in feeling this way, and that the Protestant sensibility of "just reading the Bible" is inadequate to understanding this, as the thousands of contradictory denominations of protestantism show.

I also believe that religion, in some fashion, is relevant to any person, even if they are not religious in any way. This is due to it being so ingrained within culture and due to religion being about things that anyone can have a conversation about, whether they are all true or not.

Philosophy. Put simply, Philosophy is the love of wisdom. Philosophy is a currently dead discipline for seeking an often intellectual understanding of the nature of reality. I say it is dead because it has come to the end of itself in Nihilism, the system brought forth by the revolutionary Nietzsche as the logical progression of Modern thought. Philosophy is also dead in current Western culture, as it is viewed as merely an "academic" exercise with little practical uses.

Every person has a philosophy, even if it's something as simple as "have fun and live for the moment," or "Love, and do what you will." In this sense, philosophy is an approach to life, what some have called a worldview. When we think of it this way, philosophy's groundwork is a combination of morality and epistemology. Morality is the philosophy of what is good and bad, involving intention, action, and belief. Epistemology is the study of knowledge and its' origins.

Philosophy is part of how I am as well, for several reasons which should become apparent through these writings.

Science. I hesitate to offer definitions on areas that I am not extremely well versed in, but this is also relevant to what I have to say. Science is a method for understanding more about the universe by hypothesizing, testing and theorizing. Scientific theory is the groundwork for our empirical understanding of the universe. Some popular theories are the theory of gravity, atomic theory, string theory, thermodynamics, evolution, relativity, and cell theory. Science is rationalistic by nature, seeking an understandable explanation for observable phenomena.

This is relevant to what I am writing about because I do not believe that science is in opposition to religion at all. Obviously, there is history of these two "forces" being in conflict. The most easily illustrated example of this is Galileo's Copernican astronomical theory coming into conflict with the Roman Catholic Church's Aristotelian assertions. Obviously, Galileo turned out to be correct about this, despite being censored by the church.

The problem with Rome's approach to this matter is threefold, in my opinion. Firstly, they were treading on ground they did not need to tread on. One can be a scientist and be religious, but both should be sought with objectivity to the best of one's ability, subject to correction by what is real. Secondly, Rome sought to impose their will upon a person speaking truth to the best of their ability. They did this not with contradicting evidence, but with imperative dogma. Science is a different realm than religion in this sense, though in the West that fact is unclear at best. Lastly, Rome lacked belief in the progress of understanding of the universe. This is problematic because the Church by its' nature is supposed to be concerned with truth.

It is important to note that I am not attempting to attack the Roman Catholic Church here, but facts are facts. I do not believe science, religion, and philosophy create anything more than a delightfully dissonant tension when brought together because they are all concerned with one thing. Ideally, all of these forces and the people involved with them seek truth.

Mysticism. This last definition is probably the most relevant to where I am currently. Mysticism is awareness and experience of states of consciousness beyond normal human perception. More than the religious are fascinated by this, which is why people enjoy horror stories and movies, and certain paranormal fiction. Some argue that a "spiritual" sense of things comes from our instincts that we are still aware of, and some argue that it is evidence of another reality. Obviously, no one's going to win this argument, since we are discussing something without scientific proof at this point.

Mysticism, I believe, is a way of embracing mystery. One need not have special esoteric knowledge or be initiated into certain rites in order to be a mystic. In fact, if we are to posit that mystical experience is experiencing another level of reality, then this necessarily means that peoples' experiences are not disconnected, but merely aspects of a singular thing.

Mysticism is also one of the scariest things to write about, and I do so humbly, recognizing that a lot of people will probably think I've lost it. Perhaps they are correct. More on this later. For now, this all leads to one conclusion.

I believe in God. The reasoning for this can be seen above. I think that religion, philosophy, science, and mysticism all add up to there being something more, a personality behind and within the universe. Please understand that I have never made an argument for the existence of God, as I think any such argument is merely a logical progression from an initial presupposition. This is merely my reasoning and intuition at work.

Faith. Faith is a process by which one's experience points in a direction, and you move there with all of the tools at your disposal. Faith is not evidence in the scientific understanding of the word, it is much closer to hope. This is the process I have gone through, and am still going through in life with regards to many many things.

I have been told to "just have faith" when asking questions about religion, as if my questions betrayed my lack thereof. This is a serious misunderstanding of faith, similar to the understanding that says atheists have more faith than the religious. What is being spoken about here is a presupposition. When we frame statements like "just have faith" or "I don't have enough faith to be an atheist" in this light, we come upon a discovery that these are in actuality just condescending statements.

"Just have [my] presuppositions."

"I don't have enough [of their] presuppositions to be an atheist."

I would like to take this opportunity to distance myself as far as possible from this, as any person has a right to their own presuppositions and thoughts about reality. I will say no more about this, lest I begin to truly rant.

At this point, I've made several assertions and defined several things, as well as given several opinions and probably showed some of my irritation and bitterness, and hopefully some of my drive to move forward. I now wish to look back at some of the ways I've been influenced by institutions, people, and movements. Feedback is welcome. I'll have another update for you next week, if not sooner.


  1. Oh wow. I'm excited about this.

    Your definition of mysticism made me realize I've been a mystic all my life.

    "I have been told to "just have faith" when asking questions about religion, as if my questions betrayed my lack thereof."

    I'm just highlighting that bit because it was an elegantly simple way of cutting to the heart of why that quoted statement is so horrifying. Good work.

    I look forward to the next installment with great anticipation.

    1. Thank you sir, I appreciate it. More is to come!

  2. I have nothing to add that Derek hasn't already expressed in some way. I will say I've been exploring a little more deeply this "mystic" side of myself, and have come to realize that there is nothing inherently wrong with mysticism, but it so often has a bad connotation. I'm interested to see and read more of your thoughts as you procure them.