February 26, 2017 in Views
I shared part 1 widely and quickly realized that what I had meant as a simple introduction to the philosophy seemed to create at least as many questions as it attempted to answer. I submit “part 2” as an attempt to elaborate on some of the apparently more elusive concepts.“Is pantheism just another label for atheism?” That depends on how you define “atheist”. The dictionary very simply states that an atheist is “a person who denies or disbelieves the existence of a supreme being or beings.” As pantheists do not subscribe to a belief in anthropomorphic “god” concepts or that of holy information revealed by supernatural powers, then indeed, atheists and pantheists are much alike. But is atheism also a denial that there is anything divine or worthy of ultimate reverence? Pantheists believe that nature, the entire universe, is an object most deserving of such feelings of humility, awe, wonder, and reverence.
ALL humans have the *capacity* for such feelings. That does not mean that all humans actively seek these feelings or that they attribute any special significance to the experience of those feelings, as of having importance in their lives.
Human spirituality has been with our species long before the first church was built and the first holy revelation was committed to papyrus or stone. From the most primitive superstitions and instinctive fear of things that go “bump in the night” to the modern social networking to be found in organized religion, spirituality has arguably been one of the key building blocks of society, written language, and in establishing a code of ethics. To the group it can provide a commonality upon which a sense of communal well-being may flourish. To the individual, the benefits of being part of such a community can be expressed in better health, more opportunity, and a mutual sense of inclusiveness…
As a pantheist I acknowledge a spiritual facet to the human experience, often manifested historically through religion. I recognize a perennial value in this, if at the very least as having value in terms of social survival. Pantheism is an organizational philosophy that strives to assist one in experiencing and growing the spiritual aspects of life, that is elastic and transparent, and yet offers the suggestion of guidance… and most importantly,without any insistence that one follow it. For myself at least, it is an awareness that by actively cultivating such experiences, through exploring a hunger for deeper understanding of the universe and the natural world as expressed by science, for pantheism is perfectly and completely compatible with science, that my capacity to develop feelings of awe, reverence and even love for that which I find, becomes stronger, more resilient, and easier to access in my day to day life. In a nutshell, pantheism is the cross-training regiment I use to strengthen my ‘spiritual’ muscles. I use insight as revealed by science, logic and reasoning, to refine and cultivate a personal sense of spirituality.
Perhaps the simplest way to think of it is pantheism as being atheism with direction, with a purpose; to help one actively develop this spiritual aspect. The most diaphanous of philosophical frameworks and yet, at least for the pantheist, much more than having none at all.“A religion old or new, that stressed the magnificence of the universe as revealed by modern science, might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths. Sooner or later, such a religion will emerge.”
This meme was used as a counterpoint to mine, in a discussion that devolved into a debate about atheism vs pantheism:
I love that quote! And it’s true! Further it’s the reason that some scientists are pantheists and vice versa. What is lost in that sentiment is the reality that most “scientists” devote a majority of their time in the study of a narrow field.
Pantheism, for me, is all the benefits of actively pursuing a sense of spiritual growth, much like a ‘religion’, without the baggage of belief in supernatural beings, places, supernaturally obtained knowledge, or the divisiveness that inevitably comes along when one infallible belief conflicts with another.
February 26, 2017 in Views
I am a PAN-THEIST, from the Greek roots πᾶν (pan), meaning “all, of everything” and θεός (theos) meaning “god, divine”… or “all” = “god” 🙂
January 17, 2017 in Views
Do consider: An appeal to something greater than oneself (imaginary or not) can remove self-imposed inhibitions, freeing up the reserves of will and fortitude that most would not have normal access to.
As thinking creatures we have mental inhibitors as well, often contributing a sort of color to our egos. Self-doubt, low self-esteem and confidence, negativity perceived as coming from others, fear of the unknown and untried, and even instinctual ones, again designed to preserve your life and limb.
AND NOW, TIME FOR SOME SCIENCE!
Schizophrenic patients are typically unable to filter sensory stimuli and may have enhanced perceptions of sounds, colors, and other features of their environment… is one or more voices simply screaming over the top of all the others?
December 22, 2016 in Views
A long post I wrote in a debate about consciousness, life, death and the afterlife. Posted here for posterity. Read it if you wish:
I don’t fear death any more than I feared birth. What’s to fear? Dying painfully, maybe. But even under the worst conditions that is still a brief segment of time, compared to the extent of things. Do we value a “before life”? Should we value an “afterlife”? Do either have any meaning outside of the singular context of simply being alive? Cells die all the time within our “bodies”, and most of them aren’t even human cells! Should we regard these with each passing?
Earlier I posted an excellent link about caterpillars becoming butterflies. I think it’s relevant. The caterpillar literally digests itself, including almost all of it’s brain, leaving tiny traces of it’s organized “self” behind and a soup (with tiny, rolled up framework for wings, etc.) that eventually reassembles into a butterfly (or moth). A microscopic speck in this caterpillar soup seems to contain at least some of the “memories” of it’s life and the butterfly can retain some of them but how relevant is the life of the caterpillar to the butterfly, once it has hatched? They don’t move the same way, they don’t live the same way, they don’t eat the same things, their lives are completely different.
Bearing this in mind, how relevant would our “consciousness” be to something that was no longer us, in our physical form? Our senses, our diet, our sleep cycle, everything is only relevant to who we are as living, breathing, humans… including the experience of finite life spans and the knowledge that one day these will end. Only… relevant… to… living humans. And in the context of the human experience, this is what comprises the experience in the first place. Growth, pain, love… impermanence. It is the core, the value, to being a human that is alive, not only for ourselves but for those around us.
That tiny speck of caterpillar memories? Our genes are passed on to other generations, we live in the memory of those whose lives we have touched; some may even be able to envision us, hear our voices, “know” what we might have offered as advice in a given situation.
Chemically we are all an assemblage of stardust, perhaps from many different stars, that all formed, “lived”, and then died. Without them, billions of years ago, we would not be possible. Once your heart stops beating and that assemblage is in one way or another decomposed (meant literally, not “rotting”, etc.) that stardust will remain for billions of years, almost eternally. The only exception is when it too might one day be transformed to energy. Will that stardust still be yours, be “you”? Will that energy? Was it yours, “you”, billions of years before it assembled in your particular form? I think the answer lies in how you truly define “you”. 😉
My meat machine? As I said earlier, it’s comprised of cells that “live” for a much shorter time than I have, being constantly replaced, replenished. A common meme is that most every cell in your body has been replaced approximately every seven years. Is this a new “me”, then, every seven years? Why don’t I fear the death of every single cell in my body, especially as it occurs so regularly? Are the cells not “me”? Further, consider that of the 100 trillion cells or so, in the human body, perhaps only one in ten of those is actually “you”. The vast majority are made up of bacteria (perhaps thousands of different strains), viruses, and other microorganisms. Do I fear their death? Do they feel concern about my death? Are they also “me” or not?
Even what we think of as our “consciousness” is forever changing. It’s easy to say “it comes from the brain” but that’s reductionist almost to the point of being useless. What part(s) of the brain? At what particular moments of time? The old idea of “voices in my head” may be closer to the truth than we imagine. In fact it would seem that modern general anesthesia works by suppressing all this chaotic chatter from various regions of the brain, almost hypnotizing them into a sort of mostly silent introspection. The drugs work by imposing order on the chaotic disorder that is what our “conscious”, wakeful state of mind bubbles up from. So when you are put “under”, do you die? Are you dead?
Last but not least is the realm of the unknown. It’s perfectly possible that our “consciousness” operates on a quantum level and may be impressed upon sub atomic matrices in a way that may not be entirely dissolute after ‘death’. I firmly believe the universe wastes absolutely *nothing*. Does that mean I expect to die and find myself in some heavenly meadow surrounded by all my beloved pets and family members that have deceased before me? Nope.
Perhaps the butterfly incorporates these tiny flecks of caterpillar memories into it’s behavior. But then again, don’t we all incorporate the experiences of those who came before us, genetically, mematically from those that came before us as well?
I find comfort in simply knowing that I am not only the universe but that at least for this brief moment of time, I am the universe made *aware of itself.* As it is said that neurons in the brain “fire”, so I think it is with universe and us. That like dolphins porpoising above the waves for a moment of free flight, through the air, that so too the universe is “conscious” and very much aware of itself. For me, that is enough.
December 12, 2016 in Views
I originally wrote this in response to seeing this quote by Thomas Merton posted in group I belong to. I had commented earlier, to effect, that five years wasn’t enough for me. I decided to elaborate in a later comment and what follows is that comment, edited slightly for context:
Thirty years ago I was 19 years old and in a very topsy turvy reality where everything I had “planned” was turned completely upside down, like being caught in a tornado. I didn’t know which way I was going, when I might touch the ground again (if ever), or if I’d even have the strength to put my feet under me again when that happened. It was in the darkest times though that I felt something stirring deep inside, like an ember slowly being coaxed to life with an occasional breath or a shaving of tinder. I had never felt this before but for some reason I found hope in it’s unexpected discovery. Well… OK, I had felt something like this once before, a decade earlier, but that’s for a different post 😉
A couple of years later I knew my first marriage was ending in divorce and I was busy learning to drive 18 wheelers (across the country), without killing myself or others. I saw the Aurora Borealis over the badlands of Montana, tornadoes in Iowa, supercells in Texas, blizzards in New Mexico and I watched the sun rise over the Atlantic and the sun set over the Pacific. I watched maples drop their leaves in the fall and the first green sprouts of spring wheat and corn. I met people of nearly every faith, color, and circumstance; and I tried to learn from all of these things.
Those first few years exploring the highways was the added breath and tinder needed to help that tiny ember develop into something consistent. I still wasn’t sure exactly what it was but it was there, and mostly reliably at this point.
Twenty years ago I kept that ember in a special place. I knew now that it was a part of me, as much as my right hand or left leg were. I found strength in it but most importantly it teased me by never telling me it’s name. It was a game I knew quite well by this time… Look under a rock, in the lyrics of some song, in the flash of lightning during a storm. “Can you tell me my name?”
It put me in a perennial state of mind where I took nothing to be what it first seemed and I learned to question everything. I learned to look everywhere. I learned the “here and now” of Buddhism and the grace and wonder of Taoism, so I could be a better player of that game. I read books of science, philosophy, and fiction; for a dream, even someone else’s dream, might hold the answer. I learned to be a stalwart debater. I learned to play “the devil’s advocate.”
Ten years ago I was still trying on different ideologies like one might try on different pairs of shoes, to see which one fit best. I self-identified as a pagan, wiccan, neo-pagan and even atheist for a short time in that period. All, in their own way, fed that flame and provided a sort of hearth for it but none felt exactly right. That’s when I really, REALLY started to consider pantheism. Of course I also had to examine the philosophies presented by the deists, the panentheists, and the cosmodeism hypothesis of Mordechai Nessyahu, et al. But the name game was complete without there ever being a clear winner. And I was OK with that.
Five years ago I was already pretty established in where I wanted to be in life; physically and spiritually. I would be pleased that I’ve somehow managed to maintain my goals.