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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20 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…religion๐Ÿค”
    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. ‘ ๐Ÿ˜…
    Anyhow, to each their own. It’s all, alright๐Ÿ‘
    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. ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 ๐Ÿ™
    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. ๐Ÿ™

    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. ๐Ÿ™‚

      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 knowledge๐Ÿ™‚
        And no, you didn’t talk too much. I learned a lot, today๐Ÿ˜Œ

  4. I believe God judges (tests) us 24/7. ‘Even to give everyone according to where their treasure is.’ I don’t know this, I ‘only believe,’ and so live in the 24/7. ‘Walk in the light.’

    Reply

    1. Hi Arnold. Living in the 24/7, in the now fully, is certainly a worthy goal. But there is nothing about it which restricts us to the position of having to believe rather than seeking to know. In fact, I could make a good case that “walk in the light” precisely means seek to know. Yes, it is true that all have their own gifts and styles of comprehension within this lifetime. But I think that humanity, spiritually speaking, is moving faster and faster in the direction of needing to know, to have a knowledge relationship concerning spiritual truth, and as such is moving away from an earlier reliance upon belief. I tried to show reasons for this in my piece. The other thing I would point out is that living in belief tends to close one off to further and deeper investigations because one gets comfortable in one’s position. I do not think that is our task. And I have met many who use it as a kind of support crutch to not ask any real questions. It is all well and good to declare simply “follow Christ”. But how many even know what that means or are able to coherently describe it? Not many, I have found. Good Luck.

      Reply

      1. I follow you, excepting, ‘humanity.. needing to know God.’ Because I think God can only be known of himself. I certainly didn’t seek him when I lived in the dark. When I was dead to him.
        Jeremiah 9.24 is a cry to know, and so delight in him. Echoed by Job, Paul et al. Knowing him by his rules- in life’s crunches.
        So I like your thoughts, and the direction your heading. Truly, to walk in the light is getting to know him, via himself. ‘Jesus Christ is come in the flesh.’ Our flesh.

      2. There is an area, or point, which remains unclear between us. I think it is this issue about needing to know God. I am not speaking about knowing God. Like you imply, that is far too remote and Icarus-like a goal to harbor. What I am speaking about is knowing the spirit, the spiritual reality of the world. How is that Paul, Job, Jeremiah, the gospel authors, the author of Revelations, etc… how is it that these figures could cognize and then transmit in what became scriptures all the thoughts, visions, and abilities they experienced? We have no clue. Churches have no clue. In fact, churches pointedly avert their minds and eyes from these capabilities, admonishing us to simply accept on faith. This capability is what I am talking about — the cultivating of it. That is what we are called to do, in my opinion. We are ripe now. The old prophets were harbingers of a kind of seeing/knowing that is to become much clearer and focused in the future. Direct knowledge of the spiritual. Knowing God is a fantasy. And quite prideful. The idea is to begin to learn his language.

      3. Okay, here’s my take on knowing God: Jesus said, ‘You must be born again, born of God;’ there’s a communication gap that can only be bridged by a new birth, a new life, a spirit-life. Because he also said, “God is a Spirit, and must be worshiped in spirit and in truth.”
        Prior to my response to your post yesterday we didn’t know each other. And then we were “born” into a relationship. Likewise, when I responded to Christ’s work of redemption, so began my personal relationship with God.

      4. thanks for your thoughts, which are interesting… I will reply after a day or two because I have gotten involved in writing a new piece and it is hard to disentangle myself from it ๐Ÿ™‚

      5. Hi Arnold… I recalled this conversation and had time to come back. OK, here is what I think the mysterious phrase “born again” alludes to. I think it means succeeding in developing the kind of spiritual cognitive power or capacity which I spoke of earlier. With this new means of ‘seeing’, the spiritual realities are unlocked and thus one can come to actually behold the reality of Christ, a distinct step beyond believing it. (Also many other true aspects of spiritual reality.) I think this theory or intuition of mine is echoed in the other phrases you cited: “a new life in the spirit” and “God is a spirit and must be worshipped and in truth.” In other words, one needs to develop spiritual seeing in order to know the truth.

        Risking to alienate you or others even further (if I have not already), I also do not think the term “worship” as it has come down to us in this context is correct for the present time. Maybe it even is a faulty translation, do not know. Worship is not what is asked for of us. (It may have been in the past, not sure.) The correct concept is something closer to devotion, and I would say devotion to truth. That is the path towards spiritual awakening. In my experience, most people who claim spiritual awakening have not actually had it. And this is connected also, with knowing as opposed to believing. But I am not hoping to offend, only to clarify these ideas.

        I think much damage and uncertainty has been caused by religious institutions and individuals insisting upon the fallacious concept that in order to be ‘saved’ one must believe, and that all of this transformation must occur within our one and present lifetime. The fear and anxiety spread around by this untruth is exactly what forces people into valuing belief over knowing when it comes to spiritual reality… and hence they do not try to know, or even declare it impossible and prideful. In connection with this, I really like your comment about waiting (patience) for spiritual revelation from one of our conversations. But I think of the waiting and the revelation differently from you, perhaps. The waiting is for spiritual seeing to develop, with faith and with humility. The revelation is the actual spiritual seeing itself. I sincerely hope this helps you see what I think about all these matters, and how I try to approach them. ๐Ÿ™‚

      6. You are not offensive at all- you’re telling me your opinion. Your tone is honest and innocent. To me, being born of God is receiving God, as a woman intimately receives a man. As Mary was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit: “May it be to me as you have said.”

        On waiting, I asked a wordsmith friend, How can I proactively wait (on God)? After discussing a bit it hit me- Hebrews 4’s, ‘entering God’s rest’ communes with God, lives in his presence, walks in the light of his standard. Waiting persists in personal relationship and so develops into a knowing union.

      7. OK glad to hear. That moment you describe between Mary and the Holy Spirit is very evocative; I like her clarity very much. But with this scene a question leaps out to me. How is it that Mary was in a position to hear and comprehend conversation with the Holy Spirit? This is the key for our times. How do we gain access to the spirit, consciously? The same thing applies to angelic messengers… there are also such scenes with Mary and many others.

        Something changed regarding this access between the Old Testament and the New, and it is connected with the Crucifixion sacrifice.

        In the Gospels, Sermon on the Mount, etc. Christ distinguishes between stages of readiness within aspirants when he gives stories, parables, to the masses and then expands upon them only for immediate disciples who are able to hear. He illustrates a further such distinction at Gethsemane, when three of the most advanced disciples are asked to ‘remain awake’ with Him. (I believe this wakefulness refers to a stage of higher spiritual perception… but they cannot do it.) The description you mention from Hebrews strikes me as more of an injunction or advisory aimed at masses, on the level of parables for those who are only ready to take in stories and images. Now… 2000 years have passed. I think more and more people need and want techniques for spiritual perception at the deeper level which Christ gave to disciples directly. If churches or individuals could give this, they would be successful. But they are not. So, now is the time for technique, for more explicit spiritual inner practice. This is how I see things. ๐Ÿ™‚

      8. I do not know how those mysterious comprehensions happened. Many-times-over stories told and written make the ways and means irrelevant, to me. Anyway, I believe. And I surely do appreciate your educated curiosity.

        I’m thinking higher spiritual perception is much lower than we realize, or maybe wish to admit. As in obeying Christ at the here-and-now ground level. Because I believe ‘God with us’ is in all of life’s highs and lows and mundanes. Obedience to him begins and ends in those very circumstances.

        The going hope in the OT was the promised Messiah, and although Christ reminded his disciples, it went over their heads. It wasn’t until he left earth and sent his Spirit that they began to understand.

        And pervert- crusades, mysticism, asceticism. I think Christians run amuck because we don’t listen to what’s staring us full in the face. Christ always waited for his Father- ‘Though he was a Son he learned obedience in the stuff he experienced.’

        Thanks! ๐Ÿ™‚

      9. well, I guess I would say that your opinion about the irrelevancy of the ways and means is a very key difference between us. I also disagree it is about obedience to the Father. I think the position expressed in your 2nd paragraph is very common, probably even mainstream. But I thik it is incorrect, and slowly being overcome. Things are not that simple. We are meant to evolve. Because people can generally only see within the scope of their lifetime, it is very difficult for them to drop the theory that everything, including salvation, is simple. I meet so many people who do not even know what salvation is, or who have a childlike idea about it. Yet they are certain they are ‘saved’. To know truth means to give up beliefs and subject them to open inquiry. About the 3rd paragraph, I think at least some of the 12 understood while Christ remained (during the time between Resurrection and Pentecost.) Especially the ‘disciple whom Jesus loved’ for example, who authored John’s Gospel.

        anyway, not trying to argue, just clarify my stance… sometimes it plants seeds for later. I know you believe… keep it by all means.

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