Discussion in 'Belief and Spirituality' started by brian, Jul 12, 2003.
The land of the literal fundie
Don't have to wait for an uncertain afterlife to see this is not a good idea.
There are dreams. There are inexplicable impulses, blockades, desires, and aversions. There is more going on in our lives than rational discursive thought.
Belief in an afterlife, as a means of procrastination, is not a good coping strategy.
The assumption is that all paths lead to God, and no paths lead away from God, which is illogical, irrational and non-sensical, and mocks God as much as it mocks humanity.
No, not at all. Usually it's affirmed by those who have a product to market ...
I think that idea, of progressive reincarnations until we get it right, is the eastern equivalent of the 'blind faith' Western outlook. It's not actually supported by the doctrines of any Eastern Tradition, although it's very popular among those who believe without question, and has become very much a thing in the west, where the idea of 'progress' is much more embedded in the human psyche than in the east.
Same with the idea that a 'bad person' reincarnates as an animal or an insect, etc., it's not actually supported, and it ignores certain metaphysical realities. Insects and animals can only act according to their nature, therefore to say they are 'good' or 'bad' is anthropomorphism, any more than earthquakes or tsunamis are boad, sunsets and shooting stars are good ... it's a romance ... so if you were to reincarnate as an ant, that's it, you're done, there ain't no coming back from that ...
I find the idea that after a hundred incarnations, you can make one mistake and fall back lower than when you started, supremely pessimistic ...
I just find it silly as hell...literally
But that is the way the idea is presented. I don't think the East has the same empirical notion of 'progress' that the west has, so the idea that in the event of successive lives (itself a failure to grock the real meaning of the doctrine) each life is at least one incremental step 'better' than the life before is completely alien, an invention to make the doctrine palatable for a western audience.
Snakes and Ladders was popular in India, a children's game to teach the value of morality. The board is covered with symbols of gods and higher beings, animals, flowers and people. The ladders represent virtues, while the snakes represent vices. The snakes outnumber the ladders because the path of goodness is much more difficult to tread than a path of sin.
If understood properly, the whole idea is quite pessimistic, so the whole thing was reimagined for western consumption.
Lol, I understand it improperly and am optimistic.
What?! Have you not read John Piper, John MacArthur, Paul Washer, Albert Mohler, Charles Spurgeon, or Ravi Zacharias? You are clearly not familiar with the Christian book market in the Bible Belt.
Well, in (Theravada) Buddhism, this is exactly the point, this pessimism, as you put it. The cycle of birth, becoming, and death is endless. What goes up must come down. Everyone gets to be supreme being once in a (long) while. Everyone gets to be the lord of death. Or an ant. If this is off-putting, then there is always the noble eightfold path, hint hint, wink, wink...
But Buddhism does not teach that 'beings' are constantly reincarnated in this world. @Thomas has enlightened me about this.
In fact the Buddha said that the opportunity of birth as a human being is like a turtle coming up from the sea and putting its head through a hole in a floating bit of wood. A human incarnation is regarded as a special opportunity.
I believe it was the 19th Century western adaptation of eastern beliefs and the Victorian interest in spiritualist seances etc, that corrupted the eastern concept of rebirth to mean constant reincarnation here upon the planet Earth.
Instead Buddhism teaches that 'beings' are reborn into many different worlds and states of being.
My Father's house has many mansions.
EDIT: So perhaps all paths do lead to God -- in the sense that all beings will experience rebirth until reaching enlightenment?
Interesting, from the ideas of Buddhism I have from Marco Pallis (Tibetan Buddhist) and René Guénon (metaphysician — who initially rejected Buddhism as a 'Hindu Heresy' until Pallis and Martin Lings (like Guénon, a Moslem) put him right).
The key for me is not successive embodiment, but simultaneous, in that 'life' is all of it, and the ephemeral 'I' is a transient phenomena.
Here is one example:
“Death is the last enemy: Once we've got past that, I think everything will be alright." - Alice Thomas Ellis
This is why the wisdom of Rabia bint Basra’s words are so needed in our Unmah.
I've been resonating lately with the Apophatic type theology in thinking about God. With Apophatic theology, God is define by what God is not. The idea is God is perfect, complete, and whole. Since God is perfect, complete, and whole, God lacks nothing and God desires nothing. God did not create the Universe out of a lack or need but from an overflowing abundance of energy. This overflowing energy has no where else to go but to return back to the unity that is God. Everything in the Universe including us is drawn to the perfection and unity which is God.
This way of thinking about God is more in line with the Holy Trinity and not so much the Abrahamic type God who is a person like object with limitations and boundaries created by being experienced as a person. With this Apophatic way of thinking then God is a type of experience. Most religions have some form of a trinity as a common thread. For example, in Taoism you have Yin, Yang, Tao. There's a saying in Taoism. From the one comes the two. From the two comes the three. And from the three come the 10,000 things.
Google, "Apophatic theology wiki" for more details. Here is some interesting commentary on this more sophisticated way of thinking about God:
With the Apophatic way of thinking, "the essence of God is completely unknowable; mankind can know God only through His energies". So we can only know God through our experiences as an indirect way of seeing fragments or glimpses of the greatness that is God's infinite perfection.
"Apophatic theology, also known as negative theology, is a form of theological thinking and religious practice which attempts to approach God, the Divine, by negation, to speak only in terms of what may not be said about the perfect goodness that is God"
"Dionysius describes the kataphatic or affirmative way to the divine as the "way of speech": that we can come to some understanding of the Transcendent by attributing all the perfections of the created order to God as its source. In this sense, we can say "God is Love", "God is Beauty", "God is Good". The apophatic or negative way stresses God's absolute transcendence and unknowability in such a way that we cannot say anything about the divine essence because God is so totally beyond being. The dual concept of the immanence and transcendence of God can help us to understand the simultaneous truth of both "ways" to God: at the same time as God is immanent, God is also transcendent. At the same time as God is knowable, God is also unknowable. God cannot be thought of as one or the other only"
"[t]hat which is infinite is known only to itself. This it is which gives some notion of God, while yet beyond all our conceptions – our very incapacity of fully grasping Him affords us the idea of what He really is. He is presented to our minds in His transcendent greatness, as at once known and unknown."
I think what is important is for each of us to appreciate our God experience. In spite of our imperfections, there are moments of great beauty and great performance in our lives. Certain types of experiences bring us closer to having unity with God and experiencing God's infinite perfection. When we appreciate great beauty and great performance we are experiencing the ultimate greatness that is God's perfection. It may be just incomplete slivers of God's greatness but it is the juice of life making life sacred and valuable.
We are all drawn to be great because when we experience greatness in ourselves and in other people we feel closer to God. Regardless of which religious discipline we follow, the purpose of religion is to experience the absolute greatness and unity with the perfection that is represented by the word God. All the major religions direct its followers to the one place where we appreciate a God type experience that is both immanence and transcendence.
When I did my Divinity degree we played a somewhat irreverent game of 'The Holy Trinity Gong Show' — the idea was to talk about the Holy Trinity for 30 seconds without wandering into error or heresy ... and it's not as easy as it sounds. So we should both accept that in any dialogue we'll wander in and out of error, but that's OK because the heart is in the right place.
So if we were gong-showing, I'd say God can't 'overflow' because a) there's nothing into which to overflow, and b) the term 'abundance' is a bit dodgy because it suggests a quantity, and God cannot be quantified. God is no more abundant than He is defficient?
And yet the implication of the statement is true. The Greek philosophers said "It is in the nature of the Good to communicate itself" and Islam puts it somewhat poetically: "I was a secret treasure and wanted to be known"
Having said that, your above comment highlights the Greek distinction between God in His essence (ousia) and God in His energies (energia). The Greeks declared that God is unknowable in essence, but only knowable through His energies. Quite what that means has become the matter of theological debate down through the centuries ... so best leave it there. I only mention this because in this empirical age we have to be careful with the use of 'energies', because the theological term is not quite the same as the scientific.
Personally, I use the Latin, God is unknowable in essence, but knowable in act. For us, God is what God does, and God is Love (1 John 4:8). Love is the energia. Love, as they say, makes the world go round.
Oooh, my theology tutors would roll out the big guns rather than the small gong! They would point out that the Holy Trinity is a self-declaration of the God of Abraham.
I occupy a somewhat middle ground in reading the Old Testament as a journey of a tribe from the idea of a local god to a full-blown monotheism, that there is a progression of insight, intuition, inspiration and revelation from Noah, Abraham, Moses ...
The experience of non-experience, lol! Somewhat Zen, but nevertheless. Thus atheists get really riled by the idea that we can believe in, have faith in and know something that is not an object of experience per se. A dark knowing, or as the author of Hebrews said, "the evidence of things unseen" (cf Hebrews 11:1)
Well yes and no. Yes in that triunes occur everywhere in nature and have a certain appeal, but the Doctrine of the Trinity is quite unique.
Hmmm... I'd argue otherwise. Here we get into the knot of the thing.
Think about love. What is love. Can't be quantified, can't be measured, can't be defined, but we all know what it is, and we all know what it's like, what it feels like, we experience it directly ...
I do not have a Divinity degree so I am a bit of amateur. So please forgive me if I do not formulate what I am saying perfectly conceptually. I do have a lot of respect for everything you are saying. I have a basic ax I grind when it comes to having conversations about God in that people do not spend enough time researching religion, mythology, and comparative religions. I often quote the platitude, "just because you use a toilet everyday doesn't make you a master plumber."
Anyway, thanks for your thoughtful response.
I agree God is no more abundant than he is deficient. As I've said I like the idea of God as being absolute perfection in the sense of being fully complete needing nothing and desiring nothing. I think the creation of the Universe is a little like cloud algebra where one plus one equals one. God created all the energy in the Universe while at the same time it does not subtract from the absolute perfection and completeness that is God.
I really like the following video which conveys this idea and also the energy of the Universe has no place to go but to return back to God like some kind of electrical circuit:
I really like Rupert Sheldrake's way of thinking about science. Especially this video:
I thought about exactly this when I made the statement. However, I've argued with a number of atheists and philosophical materialists on the nature of God. It's funny how atheists and philosophical materialists believe they are experts. Not that I am either as I said I only consider myself an amateur. I get annoyed with the atheists and philosophical materialists view of God because I think they are too simplistic in the way they think about God.
Most people think of God in two ways based on philosophical materialism or realism. With philosophical materialism as a belief system, either God is an imaginary friend or someone you would be able to meet in reality. People then argue if God is an imaginary friend then he is irrelevant since he isn’t real. And if God is a person, introduce me to him and have him demonstrate his powers. So if God can’t be experienced in reality as a person, then God doesn’t exist.
This way of looking at God as an object in reality, or a figment of the imagination, requires the acceptance of the assumption philosophical materialism as an absolute fact. The thing is science has shown philosophical materialism is a delusional fantasy and just another belief system or dogma. Contrary to the chagrin of the philosophical materialists, we live in a spiritual Universe where consciousness exists and participates in changing reality through observation.
I agree there is nuggets of beautiful truth in the Bible but there are some pieces that make me think it should not be read as literal truth but something that should not be read out of the historical context in which it was written. I tend to be a little more egalitarian in embracing all religions as way or path to God.
I just like the idea God is experience in the present as opposed to a person-like-object you face in the afterlife.
I kind of think experiencing God as a person-like-object would imply God has some form of limitations created by being experienced as a person. This is another reason why I like Apophatic theology because it seems to me God is not bounded by any limitations. Of course, the nature of omnipotence would mean God can be more than one thing at the same time and not be a logical contradiction.
I always try to look for common threads across the major religions. Although I would consider myself basically a Christian I'm very much interested in many different traditions. A few months ago I spent a huge amount of time with the Tibetan Book of the Dead.
Maybe argue is too strong of a word. I would like to hear your views. I'm open to new ways of looking at this.
I agree with your love analogy with regards to God. This is what I was trying to say with my "seeing fragments or glimpses of the greatness that is God's infinite perfection." What we experience directly is a certain type of experience with a certain quality to it. I just like the idea of God is a word representing something a little more interactive than the traditional Abrahamic person-like definition.
Love is a interesting word in itself. I tend to favor a very simple definition of the word love as being small acts of kindness for another person without any expectations for receiving anything in return. The idea God is love is a confusing definition of love for me. Love like many words has multiple connotative and denotative meanings.
Thanks again for your thoughtful post. I really like your demeanor and ways of thinking.
Oh, no apologies on my account! You're endeavouring to put into words, in a format where nuance evaporates faster than steam, some really complex and profound matters, both objective and subjective. I'm enjoying every word of it.
The respect is reciprocated.
Oh, words to mine ear!
My daughter has a degree in philosophy and religion. She once sat in on a conversation (as I have accounted before) where I was defending Christianity 101 against a couple hostile to the whole idea. Later, privately, she expressed the opinion that she thought my deference to two people who were talking utter bullshit was amazing! The trouble is we're in an arena where 'general ignorance' often holds sway. You end up arguing against memes that are taken as articles of faith, never examined by those who argue for them.
LOL. Judging by the state of our toilets at work, using a toilet every day hardly qualifies some people to use a toilet!
My pleasure. I just thought your ideas are worth an answer.
I do too, especially the last bit. I think God desires to be known, absolutely, but being above humanity, doesn't require Himself to ram it down people's throats. "I'm here, for you, just ask."
Yup. There's enough to go round, be it algebra, love, whatever.
I was a great fan of Sheldrake (was in the sense I haven't read him in a long time). Morphic resonance has a lot going for it.
So do I.
And when God is allowed person-hood, it's assumed to be a rather irate 'Old Testament' one!
OMG! I'm currently reading "The Science of Storytelling: Why Stories Make Us Human, and How to Tell Them Better" (Will Storr). So far it's all neuroscience. Our reality is determined by consciousness, and while science can tell us the objective detail – he's conscious, or not – it cannot account for the content. Hence our narratives. We're just trying to make sense of it all! I could go on for ages, it's inspirational stuff.
I could bang on, but suffice to say, I agree.
Hence my delight in the dialogue on comparative religion in the Sophia Perennis, even if I sometimes disagree with the details as concluded.
That's where it's at.
Me too. I was quite ready to argue the Tao Triune, then read a bit, then thought, well, not so bad ...
I'm up for it. For me, it's all about Trinity and Incarnation. Happy to talk about that! (Old hands groan ...)
With all due deference to our Jewish friends, who perhaps read God a little more interactively than we suppose, I understand you.
Your 'simple definition', for me, lies at the heart of the Trinity. Where love is, even in the littlest thing, there God is, entirely.
Just returned from an hour in the dentist's chair. A lot of drilling. A lot! Got a head full of anaesthetic, so bear with my terseness.
An essay tutor once said, "Only Augustine writes sentences as long as you, and he had something more interesting to say!" Tongue in cheek (I hope!).
To paraphrase an old Morecambe and Wise sketch (it's the André previn one, if you know it), Your posts trigger all the right words, but not necessarily in the right order ... so I'll keep it short.
a path to a destination
So one girl friend is the same as the other girl friend?
Worse if it's:
She said: So one boyfriend is the same as the other boyfriend?
If God has his own definitive absolute eternal name, fame, form, personality, paraphernalia, entourage and pastimes [like everyone has btw] ---it would Not require absolute precision etc to arrive in His face-to-face presence?
We have experiences that we require pre-planning and research and EVEN LUCK and also the help of unseen multitudes of workers to take voyage to a distant place to meet up with the intended goal.
That a lot of particular & singular factors in taking a path to a destination.
Separate names with a comma.