Belief, Disbelief, and Knowing

Not long ago, a purveyor of a philosophically-oriented blog — I honestly do not know why I bother half the time — put forward a question he considered to be of depth, relevance, and interest. Namely, whether or not aliens could be expected to have religious inclinations. The way he framed it ticked me off…

Brave New Cosmos

Had his question merely aggravated me, I likely would have left matters alone. The percentage of daily new written opinion on the worldwide compost heap that one finds superficial grows exponentially. But the gust of emotion quickly subsided as I got my own filters out of the way and looked more plainly. What really came into clear view then was the nature and severity of the underlying bias. A bias not without serious immediate implications for our global social reality. Here’s the quote:

“Do you think intelligent alien species (from other stars or galaxies) would be likely to believe in gods, or not? Would they have religions? Or is that only a human phenomenon?” – Self-Generating Patterns

Consider it a moment. To begin with, let’s take notice of the anthropomorphic prejudice inherent in this question. In fact, on a galactic scale (as proposed) we would be justified in calling it terrestrialism. For entirely omitted from this hypothetical — apparently unwittingly — is the possibility that some extra-terrestrial sentients could actually know the answer to this question and thereby not be forced into a position of having to adopt a belief about it, either for or against. If a being possessed direct experiential cognition of creator beings — i.e. god(s) — then it would enjoy a completely different level of awareness or knowledge about the question at hand. Religion, if it existed at all, would have nothing to do with establishing a deeper certainty or suggesting a direction for maintaining faith in the possibility of a god. We can say that the following logical principle is blindly ignored in the quoted formulation:

If you know a thing, you no longer have to either believe it or disbelieve it. You simply know it.

To be fair, this cognitive arrogance applies equally well to the purely materialistic atheist case. If some future Klingon had direct experience of the fact that no cosmic scale creator beings have ever existed then this position would also not be in need of any belief to support it. Personally, I would add that this case would seem to demand far more ancillary direct cognitive experiential knowledge around just how, exactly, perceivable universal phenomena has come into existence elsewise, without the agency of creators. But that is beside the present point.

Once we, or any beings, are in the position to directly experience the process of cosmic creation (of some phenomena or manifestations) under the direct agency of some creator being(s), then the entire situation shifts. This is basically a spiritual question. For our present level of evolution it can only be a process of individual spiritual inquiry which carries the possibility of bridging this cognitive experiential gap. We cannot project this same level of evolution outward to all of the unknown universe of potential beings.

The Shifting Meaning of Religion

Imagine for a moment the situation of Eve and Adam within paradise as described in Genesis. Can they be said to have a religion in any meaningful sense? No. Their portrayed predicament is one with regular direct experience and communication with the God of their Eden, identified as one of the Elohim known as Jehovah or Yahweh. Their cognitive box is larger than the one a contemporary religious adherent must occupy (at least regarding this matter) who is forced to ‘believe’. Presumably this Yahweh is a supernatural kind of being. He is not depicted as bopping about among the ferns and flowers, but rather imagined as a disembodied voice. The tempting serpent can be seen this way too, easily enough, if one outgrows the childlike conceptualizing of literalism. In fact, Adam and Eve themselves may also very likely be beings in a far from commonly imagined condition of existence which we might solipsistically equate with our own contemporary ordinary human physicality.

It makes a lot of sense to view cognitive experience in Eden as some kind of spiritual condition, as hinted at above. The humans at that period of evolution could directly experience godly encounters. They were ‘above’ belief or disbelief concerning the question of theism because they possessed the capacity to perceive supernatural beings or phenomena. And the subsequent human destiny of being cast out of paradise is conceived about much more convincingly and productively by seeing within it a concomitant reduction of this spiritual perceiving capacity. If you contemplate it more thoroughly, you can sense the entire cognitional character of the Fall when you connect it with the desire to ‘eat from’ the Tree of Knowledge. Something about the deepening of worldly, earthly knowledge is/was connected to the diminishing of a more spiritual kind of cognition which permitted direct concourse with supernatural beings. This one image gives an imaginative picture of all of human evolution down through the proliferation of sacred devotions, rituals, myths, and conceptions of gods, and religions. It has even led into the current scientific revolution, and past it in a sense. Because we are now in a worldwide condition where it is intuited more and more widely that the paths of reason and strictly rational cosmos conceptualizing is insufficient and “missing something critical”.

Innocent Humility Or Pride?

This is the growing itch of our times. It is an intuitive longing to return towards the capacity for spiritual levels of cognition. But unlike before, as in Eden, it would now carry with it all that earthly knowledge and experience has augmented us with. We long to re-approach supernatural reality with our independent individualities intact, so as to know it as natural, a wider deeper nature. We are not satisfied with mere believing. And disbelieving fundamentally violates our intuition and sense of what we are as humanity. We now wish to know! We long to know. We would return to concourse with the creator beings on a different standing, now more as co-creators and cognizant of a redeeming spark of divinity we bear within. We would grasp gradually more and more of the mysteries of creation and the spiritual reality of the world. We sense, morally, the importance of undertaking this without pride. We intuit how pride itself is a hindrance for spiritual cognition.

Under this view the concept of Faith takes on a new coloration, and Religion evolves into a new significance. Faith does not mean a kind of justification for an arrogant repose, remaining satisfied inside a condition of humble ignorance in the face of cosmic and spiritual mysteries. (That notion of Faith is a caricature which has been dogmatically imposed by institutionalized and ossifying religious sects.) To dwell there is to descend into fossilized belief, and to cower from the authentic spiritual challenge coming more sharply into view. To imagine a sort of salvation connected with this self-satisfied stasis represents a bitter irony to someone who sees. Stasis always decays into evil eventually, because the spirit is alive and in continuous movement and forever wants to evolve. At the opposing polarity to fearful stasis is prideful egoistic seeking without community. (Wherever two or more are gathered in my Name…)

The antidote to stasis is inner courage. The antidote to pride is humility, devotedness, and concern for the divinity within others. The new Faith then has to do with summoning the inner activity to pursue spiritual inquiry with the anticipation and expectation that more will consistently be revealed as needed. It takes the livingness of something like Christianity seriously, and refrains from misconceiving it as something frozen in doctrinal time. It recognizes that all is not revealed within the scriptures of the past (even though we are far from comprehending them) but that more and more will constantly be added according as we are able to receive it. Revelation continues! Everybody is still a Samaritan. Best be a courage-filled and pride-less one, open to recasting one’s most precious concepts and ideas.

John 21:25 “And there were many other things that Jesus did; if all were written down, the world itself, I suppose, would not hold all the books that would have to be written.”

_______RS

[ Images : (1) Cut from the nicely done 2016 sci-fi film “Arrival” which deals not only with a spectacular alien encounter, but convoluted inquiries into the nature of language, perception, and time. Recommended! (2) Detail from painting by contemporary Turkish artist Cecan Berber imagining the forbidden fruit of earthly knowledge as a pomegranante. (3) Detail from Egyptian artist Mahmoud Said’s mysterious depiction of the moment of decision in Eden. ] (link1)(link2)(link3)

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8 Comments

  1. Profound and eloquent reflections, Rob. What a gift emerged from a post that provoked you like a grain of irritating sand – ultimately becoming the center of a pearl.

    Reply

  2. This has honestly given me so much to think about.
    So…religion🤔
    Isn’t religion something that can be felt only by our pure consciousness, not overshadowed by the principles of our consciousness? I think our brain will always come in between to pick apart the details and look for loopholes when it comes to certain aspects of religion. This is something I believe in. I really don’t like the modern approach towards religion that people have. That whole- ‘I want to believe in this, but also not. ‘ 😅
    Anyhow, to each their own. It’s all, alright👍
    Thank you for giving me this food for thought. I’ll be thinking more about this.

    Best wishes!

    Reply

    1. This is my favorite kind of comment, and it speaks to the chief reason I write such things: to move people to think/feel. So, I turn it around, and I thank you instead. 🙂 Not the quick sort of 2-minute thinking: analyze, categorize, and file away. But the kind which lives with a person and plants seeds whose meanings might become clear only years later.

      What is religion and how is it related to our consciousness, to knowing and to believing? That is the question you raise. It is symbolized, I think, by Christ’s utterance to Pontius Pilate as depicted in the gospels when Pilate finds himself, privately, in a position of judgement over Christ. He directly senses the moral goodness of the figure before him, and struggles to reconcile this with the accusations and anger of the mob, who he must satisfy in some measure. But when he asks Christ for help to clarify the puzzling ethics of the situation, Christ tells him that this is for HIM (Pilate) to decide. We are left free regarding moral decision. That is the truest deepest indication of the nature of real Christianity: we are never compelled. The sanctity of our individual moral considering is always respected, and in a way, demanded. Anything that violates this, in the name of, or posing as Christian dogma, is untrue and has been imposed by human or institutional interpretation over time.

      So, this leads back to the main points of the article. The world, the spiritual reality underlying it, and humanity within it, evolves. Nothing remains fixed. There is purpose and movement towards something. And this evolving includes our consciousness, as a species of being. In paradise no religion was needed or even possible. With the pursuit of worldly, sensory-governed, knowledge the paradise condition dissipated. With the decision to pursue knowledge through the physical senses, direct spiritual connection to the source was removed. Replaced. It was a trade-off. Religion developed because the longing for connection to this source remained and was intuitively remembered. According to the human consciousness of those times, images of truth were given via anecdote, parable, myth. Legend decayed into belief. Across numerous cultures and lenses. Religion was needed due to the absence of direct knowledge. Now, many sense, the arc is once again swinging back upwards. Thinking and reason and sensory-bound consciousness has exhausted the fruits it can yield within its given parameters. It must now be re-integrated somehow with direct spiritual perception. When this is accomplished, for those who do so, belief will become obsolete and be replaced by higher knowledge. Religion will have served its purpose. This is the new meaning of faith. There is a deeply mysterious connection between the Crucifixion and its aftermath and the opening up of this new pathway within human consciousness.

      All religions, myths, and legends have varying handles upon and open windows into this reality. That different religions contradict one another is an illusion caused by the myopic nature of our perspectives. That is what I intuit and have been trying to say. Hope it helps.

      Reply

  3. Thank you for your kind explanation 🙏
    I think the matter makes itself clearer in my mind, now. I get what you’re saying here. I especially loved the part where you mention that we are free regarding our moral decision. That nobody is forced, and we are left to draw our own conclusions. This statement, I believe, captures the true essence of knowledge regarding a higher power.

    This new meaning of faith that you highlighted here has given me a lot of insight. Basically what you’re trying to say is, and I apologize if I’m wrong, that the world is moving towards a new state of direct spiritual perception? I agree, there’s an increasing thirst within people to look beyond what they have known so far and try to understand the source more closely. So, in a way, like you very kindly pointed out, our consciousness is actually helping us in an indirect way to pursue the truth. We are not satisfied anymore with just the knowledge we are able to gather with our sensory-driven mind; we are looking to connect more with that ancient source we originated from.
    I must thank you profoundly for explaining everything so beautifully. You took what I said and added a lot of your knowledge to it. This’ll stay with me for a long time. I have much more to evaluate now. 🙏

    Reply

    1. You are very welcome. Your remarks prompt me to say one other thing: “the world is moving towards a new state of direct spiritual perception?”

      I would clarify this. The world is moving towards the possibility of the new state (of d.s.p.). It is like the boundary or veil between the physical reality we perceive in a sensory way and the underlying spiritual reality from which it issued forth is becoming thinner and more transparent. But no one is forced. Individuals must still make the independent efforts and choice to develop i this direction; they must assign it inner importance. Many will do this and some already have. But many will refuse and will cling to an exclusively sensory-bound physical worldview. Some will be adamant in refusal, others will merely be indolent or asleep to it. And also, some will push forward into spiritual reality without being careful and retaining the sober reason they have perfected under physical earthly consciousness. So there will be strife, conflict, misunderstanding, confusion, fear, pride, etc. This will be the central global issue for the next century or two. Some will come to know it; others will ignore it. There will be false prophets. There already are. The spiritual realm wishes to open to humanity but it requires something of each individual who tries. That is like a kind of cosmic truth or law, like the law of gravity on the physical level. The ego must be overcome to gain perception. Egotism in all forms functions like closed eyelids for spiritual perception. Well, I talked too much, so thanks again. 🙂

      Reply

      1. Wow..It took me a while to understand, but I see your point. Any change takes time to happen and you’re absolutely right that there might be global confusion regarding this issue. But then again, this is a sensitive matter that would take a lot of evaluation, correction and introspection on everybody’s part. Whatever the outcome, I hope we all find a comfortable ground when trying to reconcile our spiritual side with our worldly knowledge🙂
        And no, you didn’t talk too much. I learned a lot, today😌

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