Wednesday, 25 April 2018

It's binary, isn't it?

There either is a God or there isn't one.

There either is life after death or there isn't.

It's binary, isn't it? Some people spend their time promoting either view with great fervour and passion. Atheists and the religiously devoted slog it out day and night online trying to convince the other side of the rightness of their arguments. On the one hand - religion - received truth, passed directly from God to man in written form. On the other - science - which tries to explain the universe with a series of defining laws and mathematical constants that rule out the need for divine / supernatural / metaphysical intervention from a supreme being.

But this scientific notion that we just happened to come into existence as an accidental merging of stellar dust which evolved into a conscious being is relatively new one. It began to take hold during the Enlightenment, as alchemy gave way to science, based on empirical results of repeatable experiments. No more mumbo-jumbo.

Prior to the Enlightenment, an atheist was someone who didn't believe in the same God as you did. Everyone believed in some form of supreme being or other. Just a question of what He was called. And nuances of doctrine.

Newtonian physics changed all that; no longer was a deity required to keep the universe ticking over. A deity was merely required to set the whole thing off, and then could step back. With the realisation the the universe was not a steady state, but that galaxies and stars formed from out of the Big Bang - was one needed at all?

It's binary, no?

The word 'binary' suggests either a male Godhead, omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient or no God at all. Well, it all depends how you'd define the terms 'deity' and 'afterlife'. Our understanding of the purpose, the meaning, the direction, the relevance of the universe is about as limited as our cats' understanding of electric light. Making the Godhead humanoid ("So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him" Genesis 1:27) smacks more of bipedal aliens doing a bit of genetic engineering on planet Earth than that of a universe unfolding to realise its ultimate destiny.

We humans have a hard time getting our heads around metaphysical concepts such as God or afterlife; it's easier to dismiss them outright or create some simple story around the concepts than it is to dig deeper. Many of us - by no means all of us - feel a natural draw towards the numinous, the mystical, the supernatural; for some, this yearning is assuaged by weekly church-going. For the more intellectually curious, accepting dogma passed on down the millennia is not enough; curiosity means reading around the subject, dipping into the received wisdoms of other faiths, but most of all being open to your own innermost feelings.

You either have those feelings or you don't - that much is binary. What you do about them isn't. For me, it's a lifelong quest, continual reassessment of belief, tested against hard science, seeking answers to the deepest questions concerning the purpose of our existence. It's not yes/no, black/white. And certainly, humanity will have a slightly better understanding in the future, as some of the mysteries of science (dark energy/dark matter, origins of life, seat of consciousness etc) are uncovered. This will help us probe the borders of the natural and supernatural, the physical and the metaphysical.

I believe that at our current human level of spiritual evolution, our supernatural powers are very weak, hardly noticeable, but nonetheless there. I feel it but can't measure it. Experiments into extra-sensory perception, premonition, telekinesis or spoon-bending powers are neither here nor there and belittle the whole field. Scientific experiments designed to prove or disprove such notions are doomed to fail as they are asking the wrong questions and using the wrong methodology.

My lifelong experiences of deja vu will not be put into a box and filed as 'random misfirings of synapses' because they do not subjectively feel like that. There's more to them than something that an experiment with lab rats can prove or disprove.

The shackles of Newtonian reductionist materialism, however, have been removed. Science has moved away from claiming everything can be explained - and if not now, then in a very few years - towards a more realistic view that maybe there are things that we can never know.

For the time being - please, accept the mystery.

In the long term, life after life will bring us closer to a universal unity of consciousness; everything understands everything. For that, you will have to wait an Eternity.

This time two years ago:
Work on the railway line, work on the golf course



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