"The high-minded man must care more for the truth than for what people think." - Aristotle
Do we need a fresh theology?
Note that Jesus said to SEEK the truth; he didn't say to passively RECEIVE it.
"If it is something to be discovered by search, the search must be free and untrammeled. If, however, truth is something which has already been revealed to us by authority, then it has only to be expounded, and the expositor must be faithful to the authoritative doctrine. Needless to say, the latter was the mediaeval conception of truth and its teaching." - Haskins, Charles Homer, The Rise of Universities, p. 51
As true as the above quote is, there is a third option that deals with both an external authority and the internal authority of a spiritually alive man. This is the option where our volitional involvement is paramount, where NOTHING is allowed to violate our internal reference point of the ideal. Every statement and concept from the external revelation must be applied in a way that is consonant with what we think is the best. Nothing short of this working together of the internal and the external measures up to our being free and equal citizens of the universe with personal sovereignty.
"Recent philosophical investigation has shown that metaphysical assertions, and world views in general, are not verifiable in the fashion that statements about experience are verified. But many philosophers...have jumped from this springboard to the conclusion that statements about empirical experiences are validated in some direct fashion independently of any metaphysical assumptions. This epistemological position rests upon an implicit and unrecognized metaphysic which assigns a self-subsistent character to a "physical" world independent of man who is merely an observer of this world. At this point the methodological separation between observer and phenomenon required by scientific work has become a conclusion about the nature of the world itself." Emerson W. Shideler, Taking the Death of God Seriously; The Meaning of the Death of God, Vintage books, Random House, New York, NY p. 115.
Part of what is being said here is simply that one cannot "know" meaningful things without belief, and one cannot "believe" meaningful things without knowledge; and they both rely upon proper epistemology and metaphysics. You cannot start with one and arrive at the other, and it will not work to be active on one side and passive on the other. To have any hope of transcending our victimhood, the "human condition", we need to be actively seeking and be open to an external reference of revealed significant knowledge and truth. And the ultimate criterion should be whether it offers what we intrinsically want and need.
In order to find the assurance of ultimate meaning, we need to take charge and actively engage our volition. We need to be understanding and choosing what to believe from our own internal reference point in conjunction with that external source or revelation. Both we and that hopefully unimpeachable source must be committed and actively involved in the apprehension and comprehension of ultimate meaningful Truth. Any chance of that? To magnify that opportunity is the purpose of this site. Any other purpose would be merely shallow and mundane.
From Hunter, Robert, The Storming of the Mind, Doubleday & Company, 1972, p. 18.
"For now, it is our present dilemma which must be considered, the life situation with which we are confronted."
"Arthur Koestler has expressed it perfectly:
'All efforts of persuasion by reasoned argument rely on the implicit assumption that homo sapiens, though occasionally blinded by emotion, is a basically rational animal, aware of the motives of his own actions and beliefs–an assumption which is untenable in the light of both historical and neurological evidence. All such appeals fall on barren ground; they could take root only if the ground were prepared by a spontaneous change in human mentality all over the world–the equivalent of a major biological mutation. Then, and only then, would mankind as a whole, from its political leaders down to the lonely crowd, become receptive to reasoned argument, and willing to resort to those unorthodox measures which enable it to meet the challenge. It is highly improbable that such a mental mutation will occur spontaneously in the foreseeable future. . . . '6
"Koestler here recognizes the multidimensional nature of the trap in which we find ourselves. Not only are the meta-problems themselves completely resistant to our traditional problem-solving techniques, but the perceptions and cognitive and intuitive reflexes which we have at our disposal do not even allow us to see this failure; let alone clearly perceive the nature of the solutions now required. We are trapped, as it were, in an invisible prison, unable to see that we are, in fact, imprisoned by the limitations of our perceptions, and therefore more or less unconscious of the need to escape, to climb over the walls and move at will through other perceptual worlds wherein a new order of answers might be found. Unaware that we are trapped, bounded by very high walls, locked into complex cages, we fail–to begin with–to recognize our situation. This basic failure does not allow us to begin to act."
From a slightly different angle we can see, as reported by Will Durant in The Story of Philosophy, of what Schopenhauer observed:
"No: it is impossible to solve the metaphysical puzzle, to discover the secret essence of reality by examining matter first, and then proceeding to examine thought: we must begin with that which we know directly and intimately–ourselves. 'We can never arrive at the real nature of things from without. However much we may investigate, we can never reach anything but images and names. We are like a man who goes round a castle seeking in vain for an entrance, and sometimes sketching the facades.' Let us enter within. If we can ferret out the ultimate nature of our own minds we shall perhaps have the key to the external world."
"Nothing is more provoking, when we are arguing against a man with reasons and explanations, and taking all pains to convince him, than to discover at last that he will not understand, that we have to do with his will."
What is this "will" that is so perverse that it would override the rational intellect and so powerful that it can? "Will" is a wonderful thing in that it is an integral part of us as human beings, and the best of us treat other people's will as sacrosanct unless it threatens us personally. But how did it get to be an obstructor instead of a servant? How do people wind up with a will that can ignore the best and most humane aspects of the individual's own belief system, engender greed, wage war, alienate and kill other people, and even commit martyrdom over ridiculous doctrines and dogmas?
Religions have answers farcical and fantastical to these basic questions. The traditional “God” centered ones bring in “hierarchies of holiness”, demigods and demons, powerful "spirit beings" that all but control us, and personal pogroms that would cauterize our finest dimensions just because they are so powerful and thereby fraught with risk in usage. The newer “Godless” ones bring in vague, ultimate concepts like “evolutionism”, spiritual realities being “emergent properties” from organizations of matter, and concepts like the whole physical universe is an intelligent organism. But what they DON'T have is any assuring rationale for why their thinking is still not inside the "box" introduced by Koestler and Schopenhauer above. What they don't have is a truth package that gives real leverage on the will through SELF-INTEREST and INSPIRATION!
We know that the self-appointed "apostle" Paul was moved to cry out in desperation over his own perverse will that countermanded his best and fervent intentions. This leads us to question whether he found an adequate answer.
"I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing that I hate."
Paul wound up defending the idea that with his mind he served the law of God, but with his flesh he served the law of sin. In other words, it was quite all right with God to leave him in this abject state without material healing in order to constantly express his–God's–grace. The solution was to die believing in grace and be resurrected with a different, "sinless" body. Isn't this far from ideal?
Actually, what the "will" of Paul did not allow him to do was to question the whole foundation of his thinking, his whole paradigm. He had a paradigm of God being the source of fiat law backed up by punishment, corporate or individual, or, like in the mind of Paul, some adequate substitute person for punishment. Why is it that occasionally we are able to strain to see our own weakness but seldom if ever are able to challenge our foundational thinking? Equally importantly, why cannot we see that changing our foundational thinking changes our "will"?
What is being said in the above quotes is that we are obsessed and controlled by a confused will, a will that is NOT worthy of us, a will that is NOT trustworthy, a will that overrides that which we determine to do or not to do in our better moments, a will that clearly does NOT even consistently have the best interest of the individual and others, a will that shies away from dealing with ultimate issues. Even though this subconscious will is inconsistent, it is not WEAK but rather is STRONG. What can be done? Is there any leverage we can get to change it? Or is there a process whereby we grow toward a more desirable will?
This is where the hard question needs be asked, "Why, in the name of God and the spirit of goodness, can't the universe be set up to deliver the ENTIRE package of human needs and desires indicated by the acronym at the top of these pages?" Or, "Is the universe set up for us to win by the honest, universal human definition of winning"? And the ultimate CHOICE is to believe that it IS or ISN'T. Most people are quite uncomfortable in openly, consciously choosing to believe that it isn't, but are staggered at the thought that it might be. They might then have to live in the context of that choice and actually go for the ultimate reward. Yet, it always seems more comfortable and politic to stay in denial, to stay a victim with the herd or flock.
Inside the modern mythology the choice is an easy one for the godless evolutionist. The universe is the way it is, and Man had nothing much to do with the deplorable human condition. The best we can do is work for progress toward a better world, meanwhile coping and living like noble stoics and hedonists sucking all the juice out of our mortal lives that we can. Existentialism, the idea of creating temporary meaning within ourselves where otherwise none exists outside, is the acme of secular philosophy for the rational man. Believing there is no way to win and that there is no afterlife puts a fashionable "edge" on the enterprise, and seemingly justifies the drama to which we are all addicted.
But what if it IS available and the problem lies in our own misconceptions? And, what if the package cannot be delivered partially or piecemeal? What if it cannot come about unless we seek it and demand success in finding and receiving it?
One thing is clear: there is no indication that anywhere in the literature, ancient and modern, that man has entertained the delivery of the ultimate in what he really wants and needs! Unamuno–and others–go part way.
"All or nothing! ... Eternity, eternity ... that is the supreme desire! The thirst of eternity is what is called love among men, and whosoever loves another wishes to eternalize himself in him. Nothing is real that is not eternal." - Miguel de Unamuno
What Unamuno means is that nothing that is not eternal has any "real" meaning, a sentiment that Ernest Becker focused on in two powerful books, The Denial of Death and Escape from Evil.
"Death is an imposition on the human race, and no longer acceptable. Man has all but lost his ability to accommodate himself to personal extinction; he must now proceed physically to overcome it. In short, to kill death: to put an end to his own mortality as a certain consequence of being born.
"Our survival without the God we once knew comes down now to a race against time. The suspicion or conviction that 'God is dead' has lately struck home not merely to a few hundred thousand freethinkers but to masses of the unprepared. Ancient orthodoxies may linger, but the content of worship has begun to collapse. This is what makes our situation urgent: around the world; people are becoming increasingly less inclined to pray to a force that kills them - Harrington, Alan, The Immortalist, Discus Books, 1968, p. 11.
"The most imaginative philosophical and religious answers to the 'problem of death' have become precisely irrelevant to the fact that we die. Humanity's powers of self-deception seem to be running out. Modern theological word-games may be pleasing to seminarians. Let jazz be permitted in the old spiritual gathering places. Such developments must be understood as gallant but altogether pathetic holding operations.
"Emotionally, growing millions of us are in crisis. 'Men are so necessarily mad,' wrote Pascal, 'that not to be mad would amount to another form of madness.' Three hundred years later, with the mass-communication of anxiety, and new weaponry and drugs in our possession, we need only open the morning paper or sit down to television, or look into our own lives, to observe signs of a growing spiritual insurrection. Life as it used to be seems in the process of slowly exploding. We wonder at the bursts of 'senseless' violence that seem likely at any moment to invade our days and nights. Yet is this sort of behavior necessarily irrational? If sanity now calls upon us to accept death without hope, perhaps such recent ceremonials as smashing pianos and guitars on stage may be viewed as expressions of maddened realism." - Harrington, Alan, The Immortalist, Discus Books, 1968, p. 11..
"Having lost faith, a great many men and women have returned to the old superstitions now cloaked in new disguises. God may have retreated, but the gods today are by no means dead. Though disposed to destroy them, we simultaneously bow down to some of the weirdest assortment of deities ever known, such as History, Success and Statistics. We worship purveyors of Luck, Fashion and couches, sexual statisticians, psychological testers, polltakers, various merchants of paranoia, the manipulators of public relations and television personalities–the multiple gods of our quickening-century." - Harrington, Alan, The Immortalist, Discus Books, 1968, p. 21
"The Immortalist position is that the usefulness of philosophy has come to an end, because all philosophy teaches accommodation to death and grants it static finality as "the human condition." Art too, insofar as it celebrates or merely bemoans our helplessness, has gone as far as it can. The beautiful device of tragedy ending in helplessness has become outmoded in our absurd time, no longer desirable and not to be glamorized. The art that embellishes death with visual beauty and celebrates it in music belongs to other centuries." - Harrington, Alan, The Immortalist, Discus Books, 1968, p. 25..
"The Immortalist thesis is that the time has come for man to get rid of the intimidating gods in his own head. It is time for him to grow up out of his cosmic inferiority complex (no more "dust thou art, and to dust thou shalt return . . ."), bring his disguised desire into the open, and go after what he wants, the only state of being he will settle for, which is divinity." - Harrington, Alan, The Immortalist, Discus Books, 1968, p. 26
Ask yourself honestly if the glass is half full or half empty. Ask yourself if you would rather be an underling or pet, have eternal inferiority even to a benevolent dictator; or whether you would rather be an equal, a peer. Ask yourself if love can be demanded rather than inspired!
Divinity is Harrington's word for the IF-I-SEEK-US package being referenced in the site heading. One perspective on the human condition and why we remain in it is that we are not honest. We STAY in denial, we WALLOW in mysticism and we LIE to ourselves, and there is a part of us that knows this. Consequently, we do not trust ourselves and we have not enough confidence in ourselves to take total responsibility to sort out the truth for ourselves. The person with "no root in himself" feels it to be temporarily better just to plug into some popular or fetching belief system, easier to let some priests, religious experts, gurus or charismatic leaders be his authority figures. This type of person finds it better to be pliable, affable sycophants in the religious minions.
Another perspective has to do with the simple levels of sanity. The difference between being insane, unsane, and sane can be described thusly:
The insane person has a warped, distorted or malformed concept of reality or belief system, and he actively goes about trying to change the external to match his false internal concept. They are driven to obliterate objective reality by projecting or imposing their personal concepts upon it and actively try to force it to fit their internal ideas. This often is so disturbing or dangerous that society incarcerates this person in the relatively restricted and safe environment of an asylum.
The unsane person also has a warped, distorted or malformed concept of reality or belief system that he clings to with "faith". The unsane is by far the largest of all three groups. They don't try to directly change actual reality or information about it, but rather sometimes excuse but more often ignore, hide or deny it. They essentially embrace whatever information or concepts that come to them that "fit" their system and consciously or unconsciously ignore those that don't.
The sane person strives to keep his concepts and beliefs consonant with actual reality, and changes his personal construct to match the external, and does so without violating his internal reference point of idealism.
The bottom line here is that yes, we DO need a new theology, one that is framed NOT by tradition, sacred writings, mythology, prophets and mysticism but by the ultimate issue of fulfillment, by being consonant with our deepest, natural and legitimate needs and desires. We need our theology to be founded upon what we can KNOW directly: ourselves and our needs and desires! Failing that, just eliminate the fear-mongering and pass me another dose of hedonism, please!
And I DO mean to suggest that a proper theological interpretation of the reliable information that we have is as much or more an art, as much or more a work of the imagination and volition, and as much or more a product of sound philosophical reasoning as it is of historical and linguistic study. And of course, it hinges upon an earnest seeking of the truth with an irrepressible "God" spirit.