Atheist Mysticism

Discussion in 'Belief and Spirituality' started by Cino, Jan 10, 2021.

  1. Bellator

    Bellator Catholic. Formerly StarshipEnterprise

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    Yes, it sounds like you'd fit my definition of materialist.

    Not sure idealism is really relevant here, idealism being the view that only ideas exist. [Edit: I should say idealism is the view than only ideas and minds exist] Its an uncommon position to take. Materialism should really be contrasted with dualism/hylomorphism. [Edit: really I should say materialism should be contrasted with (substance) dualism, as I go on to say hylomorphism is compatible with materialism.]

    When it comes to human spirits, I hold to the hylomorphic view, which I suppose is not mutually exclusive with materialism. This view was formulated by Aristotle, who spoke of the matter and form of physical objects. A table is a table because it is made of some matter--such as wood or metal--in the form (shape) of a table. Aristotle further said of living beings that the soul is the form of the body. This lies in contrast to some dualists like Descartes, who said the mind was a different type of substance from the body that interacts with it. Aristotle's view is more in line with what we know about the brain being responsible for cognition.

    Many materialists implicitly hold the hylomorphic view, as they have some idea of the soul. This is evident when they speak of transhumanism, and the idea of uploading their consciousness onto a computer. In this view, the soul/consciousness is the pattern of interactions of neurons in the brain, and if the same pattern of interactions can happen through transistors in a computer, the consciousness is preserved.

    As a Christian, I believe the soul continues to exist after our death. This is somewhat analogous to our consciousness being uploaded, but instead of being on a computer it is preserved by God. However, the soul being the form of the body means that this disembodied soul is in some sense incomplete without its body. At the final resurrection, we will be given perfected bodies.

    There also exist spirits who never had bodies, namely angels and demons. I think these can be said to be something more like what Descartes described as a mental substance. I hesitate to call God a disembodied spirit, as he is so much more. He is Being and Truth itself.

    There are several possibilities here. Our minds are complex, and a lot of thought happens on the subconscious level. These voices and visions likely come from your own mind, but it is also possible they come from other spirits, such as angels or demons. Possibly even from God.

    I'm not sure there is much more to be said here, except that it can be empirically demonstrated that this is the way human minds operate. Reverence for divinity has been the central basis for human value systems that have withstood the test of time.
     
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2021
  2. Cino

    Cino Big Love! (Atheist mystic) Staff Member

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    Actually, I know of a few more takes on the word "idealism": being German, at school we exhaustively treated the Romantics, who had their ideas about the concept; and then again there is Marxist dialectic, which is close to how I used the word in this thread, when I wrote that in my opinion, being determines consciousness. Common to them all is the discrepancy between what we think and what we observe or experience.

    (Cartesian) Dualism is one way of dealing with this gap between what we think there should be and what there is. I think dualism does not work very well, and neither do I think very highly of the transhumanist ambitions of certain wealthy people - I'm afraid they would be selective in how much of the amygdala or the hypothalamus they would digitize, if their project were feasible.

    If you believe that the universe was created by God, would I be misrepresenting that belief if I said that it is a form of idealism in the more extreme sense you mentioned, that ideas, ideals, logos - uncreated, indestructible, existing before the material universe - cause and fashion and sustain it according to plans as yet umanifest but ultimately more real and lasting than their fruitions? That the material universe is a temporary phenomenon occuring before a backdrop of eternal ideas?

    Hmmm, in the case of me perceiving them, they are embodied in the same body as I am, aren't they? They utilize or are contingent on this body's nervous system, if they are some aspect of my mind. On the other hand if they are caused by angels or demons, or God, they are still localized to my body, since nobody else can perceive them, so they are again embodied in the sense that they stay within the shape and volume of my skin.

    I'm not a proponent of dualism, but since you brought up the dualism of materialism vs. disembodies spirits, where in this spectrum do the above musings put me, in your opinion?
     
  3. Bellator

    Bellator Catholic. Formerly StarshipEnterprise

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    I did not think the term idealism was used in the same sense in the case of "German idealism". Then again, I am not very familiar with it. Since you contrasted it with metaphysical materialism, I thought you were talking about idealism in the sense of George Berkeley's metaphysics.

    I don't affirm or deny the above view. I don't claim to know what goes on in the mind of God.

    I'm not sure what new positions of your own you have asserted in this post. Let me ask, how would you identify your position?
     
  4. muhammad_isa

    muhammad_isa Save Our Souls

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    It is true that other people can't directly perceive other people's spiritual experiences.
    Nevertheless, minds can communicate with each other.
    It is up to the individual what they consider credible or what the cause of a particular phenomena might be.
     
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  5. Cino

    Cino Big Love! (Atheist mystic) Staff Member

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    Right, I was engaging with the questions you raised regarding materialism.

    My own position is not so much concerned with what is real vs. what is not, as with what is causal. Which conditions lead to which results, what is necessary, what is sufficient, and so on, in subjective, experiential terms. Grasping, comprehending this interplay to me is perception of truth and significance. Possibly a little bit like your pursuit of the fundamental laws of physics, only on an intensely subjective, personal scale rather than a subatomic one.
     
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  6. Ahanu

    Ahanu Well-Known Member

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    lol

    Indeed, it would. I do have an idea of materialism, but I really don't think your worldview really fits it honestly. I am aware that you differentiate yourself from reductionists ("I think the garden variety forms of scientific materialism are too reductionist to be useful"). I do believe you believe that. I just don't see any other honest pathway for materialists to take. Just being honest. Don't take it personally, Cino.
     
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  7. Bellator

    Bellator Catholic. Formerly StarshipEnterprise

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    I find it funny that the term reductionist is used as a pejorative. I don't see reductionism as a bad thing. I believed in reductionism as an atheist, and I still would if I were still an atheist. There is something elegant about it. If all the sciences reduce to physics, it doesn't mean the other sciences are useless endeavors. Biology may reduce to physics, but there will always be a place for biology in human pursuits. Since we have limited computing power, we cannot practically use physics calculations to replace biology.

    The only reason I am not a reductionist is because I believe there exist spirits that cannot be described via physics. It is possible there is some other science in the preternatural realm that everything reduces to. Or perhaps some super-science that both physics and the preternatural realm reduces to. But that's all highly speculative. Ultimately everything reduces to God's will.
     
  8. Aupmanyav

    Aupmanyav Search, be your own guru.

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    Has been discovered since long (perhaps 7th Century or older. Gaudapada, the teacher of the teacher of the first Sankaracharya). I am a strong atheist and a staunch Hindu. I consider that to live without following 'dharma' is criminal.
    Me too. I like the name Hinayana better than Theravada. And I am proud of being a pagan. (Hinduism is a pagan religion).
     
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  9. Aupmanyav

    Aupmanyav Search, be your own guru.

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    For me, nothing is inanimate. The atoms are whirring in all things, even in an stone.
    Mind is the result of the working of brain. I can hardly tolerate mysticism.
    When we die, we do not pass into nothingness, our atoms pass into other living or non-living things. Yes, I agree to your view on what happens to the atoms of our body. (Nothingness is a separate debate, which I may touch on later).
    Consciousness is fuzzy but it is NEVER aimless. Fuzzy thinking is a very smart way of thinking to arrive at conclusions quickly.
    There is no qualitative difference between animate and inanimate matter. Yeah, I am a reductionist, a minimalist. I do not see anything wrong with that. My desktops have no icons. I love BlackBox and OpenBox.
    Science explains consciousness reasonably well, just like creation of the universe or evolution. That does not mean that there is nothing more to know. As an atheist, I do not skirt any question, I face it squarely.
    No, I would not go through the Stanford article on Aristotle, time consuming; but if you have a question on your supposed "final causes", you can question me. As I said, I do not skirt questions.
    For an 'advaitist' like me, all things except Brahman are illusions.
    Now, this is a medical condition. The body is not working properly and correctives have to be employed. There are many such conditions, for some of them we may have an answer like stem-cell treatment or bone-marrow transplant.
     
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  10. Cino

    Cino Big Love! (Atheist mystic) Staff Member

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    "Make it as simple as possible, but not simpler", is a good yardstick to distinguish between minimalism and reductionism.

    Regarding physics: It used to be, about 10-20 years ago, physicists would go around explaining other sciences to those practicing them. It was not a pretty sight, and that generation of physicists has now got more pressing things to attend to, mercifully.

    My problem with reductionism as opposed to minimalism is that it ignores some fundamental issues, and that it is a highly one-sided idealist endeavour, to stay in that paradigm.

    Your sentence about computing power is telling of that position, in my opinion: Take an idea, then throw vast resources at it to make reality conform to it. That's not very minimalist. (But it does reflect what's going on in the field of software engineering!)

    One of the basic issues physicalist reductionism tends to ignore is the 3-body-problem, that there is no way to analytically solve the basic mechanical equations of a system with more than two bodies. Anything beyond, and you're back to rules of thumb, approximation, iterative methods, simulation... Or take a field like plasma physics. Oh my. Those guys and gals will roll their eyes at high-energy physicists droning on how everything could be in principle reduced to the standard model plus gravity. Plasma is a beast! It is not best understood by using the Dirac equation. And we havent even left the physics department yet!

    Anyway, I'm ranting. I'll close with one more unattributed quote: "As the circle of light of our knowledge grows, so does the circumference of darkness around it". The more we know the more questions arise. Reductionism seeks to deny the enormity of the circumference by keeping the circle of light small.

    Edited to add that the n-body problem has solutions using series, but they are impractical in that they hardly converge. Maybe future advances in mathematics will uncover more practical ways of tackling it. In any case numeric approaches like simulation are great for practical purposes like solving engineering challenges, but they do not advance our understanding of the universe.
     
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  11. muhammad_isa

    muhammad_isa Save Our Souls

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    Life is like a journey.
    We spiritually "travel" from plane to plane as we grow ..
    For example, when we are children we have little responsibility, but then we
    become adults and have to negotiate the consequences.
    .. and eventually die.

    Hopefully, we pick up some "light" on the way.

    "Come on you painter, you piper, you prisoner and shine" [ Pink Floyd ] :)
     
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  12. Cino

    Cino Big Love! (Atheist mystic) Staff Member

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    A thought: Might your views on the honesty of reductionism be a reflection or projection of a monotheist world-view? Slot in high-energy physics for God as the source of truth?
     
  13. Bellator

    Bellator Catholic. Formerly StarshipEnterprise

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    I like this actually. The very pursuit of natural science has its origins in the Christian idea of Logos (as I have previously stated), that there is a single order underlying everything.

    It still sounds to me like you are arguing against a strawman of reductionism. The reductionism I would/used to advocate for does not say that other disciplines would cease to exist or become obsolete once a grand unified theory of physics is discovered. Of course, that depends on your exact definition of reductionism.

    However, there are good arguments against even this non-strawman form of reductionism. It has been a while since I have thought about this. One such argument is an upshot of Godel's incompleteness theorem. In my layman's understanding of his theorem(s), the theorem states that, for any mathematical system, there will be statements within that mathematical system that are true within that system, but cannot be proven by its axioms. Thus for any mathematical system to truly be complete, it must have an infinite number of axioms. This casts serious doubt on the dream of the physicists who seek an grand unified theory of everything.
     
  14. Cino

    Cino Big Love! (Atheist mystic) Staff Member

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    ... that fits onto one t-shirt. (I'm all for fundamental scientific research. I always thought the t-shirt thing to be silly posturing) This last requirement is what I'm criticising, tongue-in-cheek, when criticising reductionism. You may be right about it being a straw man.

    But then, my criticism applies equally to attempts at reducing truth to "what my revelation says", what fits into one tradition. Is that also a straw man?
     
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  15. Aupmanyav

    Aupmanyav Search, be your own guru.

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    I have read recently that Christians changed the meaning of Logos. In Greek, it meant something like 'order in chaos' and not the word of word. It might have been your own post. Reductioniwsm is cutting all flab from any discipline.
    They say Godel's theorem cannot be applied everywhere and people have an incorrect impreswsion of it.
     
  16. Bellator

    Bellator Catholic. Formerly StarshipEnterprise

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    It is not quite the same, as we do not claim that knowledge in other fields can even in principle be derived from our revelations in a strict sense. There is perhaps a form of reductionism in that we believe revelation describes a complete way of life. I am of the opinion, for instance, that psychology is overrated, and a lot of problems people go to psychologists for can be solved via spiritual practice. This form of "reductionism" is otherwise known as simply having a defined worldview.

    If you have more details on either issue, I'm all ears.
     
  17. RJM Corbet

    RJM Corbet God Feeds the Ravens

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    :eek:

    My desktop at the moment:

    [​IMG]

    I saw it in the National Gallery in London. It is a picture of Alexander the Great meeting the mother of Darius the Persian king, after defeating Darius. She is appealing by mistake to Hephastion, Alexander's lover, and Hephastion is telling her: No, I am not Alexander -- he is Alexander. Alexander replied: You are not mistaken, Mother, for he too is Alexander.

    He treated Darius's family very well, and treated Darius mother as his own. He believed himself to be a god -- Ammon-Ra, the son of Zeus. I walked into the gallery, and suddenly I was standing in front of it. It's big: 4.75 metres 2.3 metres. But the image is from wiki
     
  18. Aupmanyav

    Aupmanyav Search, be your own guru.

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    Nice, but Darius' mother wearing European clothes!
     
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  19. Ahanu

    Ahanu Well-Known Member

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    Perhaps. You plan to show me?

    Might my view on the honesty of reductionism be an actual reflection of materialism?
     
  20. Cino

    Cino Big Love! (Atheist mystic) Staff Member

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    Well, a monotheist world view is reductionist in the sense that all can be traced back to God - first cause.

    Looking at materialism from a monotheist position, materialist reductionism looks familiar, "oh look, they have a first cause, a ground of being, too!".
     

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