Sunday, October 19, 2008
opponents with personal attacks, I'd like to ask if we can avoid that please.
As this is the first post on this topic, I will be quite general. If you object to what I've written, then point out where and how you think I've gone wrong, and we can go into detail. Whether or not I get responses, I will go into greater detail later. As I mentioned in my previous email on Sin, Salvation & Hell, I am finding that I've bitten of more than I can chew, and finding it impossible to fit all the detail that I want into a single post, and that I don't seem to have the time at the moment to edit the posts to a level that I'm happy with. So I'll just post as-is and deal with any criticism I recieve.
The single most fundamental issue relating to Apologetics is Jesus Christ. Christian doctrine relies absolutely upon the belief that the Gospel accounts of Jesus are accurate and literal. Over the past 3 hundred years there have been many writers who have brought this into question, however they are generally seen as being in the fringe. The vast majority of "experts" on this topic today (Christian, Agnostic, Atheist or other) at least concede belief that there was a genuine historical figure called Jesus who founded the Christian religion. As well as the writers that believe that Jesus was a Myth, there are countless alternative theories on Jesus, as a Kabbalist Initiate, the Jesus that went to India and studied Yoga, and then some wacky theories about ET's or Freemason which probably aren't even worth mentioning. Most Christians consider the issue of Jesus to be non-debatable as fact, yet I would like to see some of the Apologetic writers engage in step-by-step debate with writers such as Kenneth Humphreys (author of the book and website "Jesus Never Existed" http://www.jesusneverexisted.com/). I'm convinced that there is good reason for debate, and as such I put forth the following challenge: If the issue is so clear cut as Apologists maintain, then they should find it easy to dismiss the claims of their oponents in a debate.
Whilst other Religions do have significant figures and stories related to them (Krishna, Buddha, Lao Tzu, Hermes Trismegistos etc), New Age and Eastern traditions can survive relatively unaffected if it were proven that the founding figures were in fact myths. Orthodox Christianity however could not survive such a revelation, without a literal Jesus you have Gnosticism, the Arch-Heresy of Orthodox Christianity, and according to the particular sect and how you choose to translate their teachings, Gnosticism fits in nicely with New Age as Perrenial Philosophy. So for this reason, debate will be very hot on this topic.
Ok lets start off with a common arguments that is used by Apologists. Their are a vast number of copies of the Bible texts, spanning over a wide period of time, all with very few inconsistencies between them. Apologists therefore argue that this proves that the texts are accurate, as this is one of the ways in which scholars test the accuracy of classical texts (works of ancient Greece and Rome), along with the period of time from when the events were believed to have occured and the earliest remaining texts. The closer the earliest texts to the date of the events, the more accurate according to this reasoning. Therefore, they conclude, that if you reject the accuracy of the Biblical texts then you should also reject all classical learning!
A related argument is the Gospel accounts and Pauline Epistles appeared too early for them to be myths, it is argued that Myths generally take a few generations at least too form, whereas the New Testament documents are dated by Conservative Scholars from the middle of the first Century AD. Therefore, the apologists conclude that as the origional writings were too early to be mythological, and that there is a vast amount of copies of these texts with very few inconsistencies, that therefore they are accurate. Going further, the New Testament texts contain the occasional reference to events and figures that have been confirmed via other means.
Now the fallacy of this is easy to see, this only shows that the current texts are accurate in relation to the way they were origionally written. It doesn't say anything about the context in which they were origonally written. The dating of the New Testament documents as first century can be contested and the assumption of them as being close to the actual events assumes that the events described really happened, something of which external proof is lacking. But in this situation, Apologists use circular arguments.
A major factor in Apologist arguments is the writtings of Paul, in that they cary on from the Ressurection and Ascension accounts to the formation of the early Church. However, on close scrutiny, these Pauline epistles fall apart completely, seemingly written by various authors, also from the mid second century. Have a read of these articles on Kenneth Humphrey's website, he clearly shows how absurd and impossible the claims of the Pauline Epistles are. A major tell is that the towns that are listed as being visited by Paul on his Journey show no evidence of early Christian settlement, where as the towns that Paul supposedly skipped (which are often the major ones in the most obvious locations, which would require unusual detours to avoid) actually contain evidence of Christian settlement in the Second Century. The claims therefore of the 500 eyewitnesses to the Resurrection of Jesus are nothing more than a single claim in a highly suspect document.
As for the famous non-christian attestations of Josepheus, Tactitus, etc, close inspection reveals them as frauds, references to other people with similar names to JC, and reports of the existence of people referring to themselves as Christians in the late first and second century. Obviously this movement called Christianty started at some point, so it is not particularly suprising to references to people referring to themselves by that name at some point in history. The question is of course how did the moment start, by the Orthodox account or as an allegorical myth that was gradually taken literally. Study of this evidence leads to the conclusion that there is really no evidence for the historical existence of Jesus Christ!
The Mainstream account of early Christianity puts the writings of Paul in the Mid-1st century, with the canonical Gospels following in the later half of the 1st Century, and then presents Gnosticism as a 2nd Century aberration, but I see good reasons to question this time-line. The arguments for the early dating of the Gospels is based upon very weak arguments (the fact that they do not mention the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD)
There are a handfull of references to historical people and places, that could easily have been pulled out of a copy of Josephus when they were actually written (in the second century). (There are heaps of stories in the Epistles that bear enormous resemblence to part's of Josephus writings). There is really no mention of Jesus, Paul or the Apostles in Historical records of the day (Hence, the argument from silence).
Christians proclaim that they have a mountain of evidence to support their beliefs, yet every single point they raise relies upon unproven assumptions (ie Jesus existed, the Bible is accurate etc).
Saturday, October 4, 2008
I must also state at this point, that I have bitten off more than I can chew at the moment. I would like to have edited this post to a higher standard, and expanded to a greater level, however I simply do not have the time, so I will publish this as it is, recognising that it can be improved. So hence, please comment if your so inclined, maybe I can continue on this theme later.
Christian doctrine states that Mankind is naturally Sinful (Sin being defined as that which is harmfull to ourselves and others, and contrary to God's law), and that as such we require Redemption or Salvation through God's grace (according to Christian doctrine the only available means of this is through excepting Jesus as Lord & Saviour). Now, the effects of this Redemption is said to have effects both in the hear-and-now, and in the hear-after. The effects in the hear-and-now, appear from an outside perspective to be in many ways relatively similar as those of other systems of philosophy, spirituality and self-help. Believers will claim otherwise, but to actually measure such a thing objectively seems impossible, if not extremely difficult.
Now, according to Christian doctrine, the effects in the hear-after of Salvation is that the believer is saved from the natural consequences of Sin, Death, in this case Eternal Death, Eternal seperation from God, Hell. (Once again, some Christians believe in Non-existence for the unsaved, I have already spoken with some believers that take this view. Just quickly, whilst I find this concept far less offensive than the idea of eternal torment, it still implies an infinite punishment for a finite crime, and many of the same arguments that I use against the doctrine of Hell also apply agianst this doctrine.)
Now, the concept of Hell is found to be offensive by many people, including myself, and I would like to go into detail regarding it. I will also argue that a literal interpretation of Orthodox Christian Doctrine with emphasis on exclusivity makes no sense without the idea of Hell, or alternatively Non-Existence, and that therefore Liberal Churches and Believers that avoid this issue sit in a theological grey area, in between Christianity and New Age. Take away Hell, and the concepts of Sin & Salvation become symbolic, rather than literal, or merely refer to self-improvement in the hear and now.
Ok, so I'll start with talking about this concept of Hell, and working backwards to Sin and Salvation. I have mentioned Hell in a few previous posts, but lets go further into the implications of this doctrine. The following is a typical Christian example of dealing with this:
From the website http://www.allaboutgod.com/)
"But how can an all-loving God send anyone to Hell? In a nutshell, God doesn't send anybody to hell - we decide to send ourselves there. The Bible tells us that God does everything possible to keep us out of hell, while maintaining our nature as free-will human beings. God made us in His image and after His likeness, giving each of us the ultimate power to say "yes" or "no". If we choose to reject God, we choose to spend eternity separated from Him. Some continue, "Why did God set up the world this way, including a heaven and a hell?" The only answer is that He's the Creator of the Universe. He has a plan and He established the rules. He's God, and we're not! He's an all-loving Creator, but He's a truly just Creator. If we decide to break His rules by writing our own, we will pay the consequences. Why would a loving God send people to hell? Because a perfectly loving, perfectly holy and perfectly just God will send people where they choose to go."
Ok, so lets go through it slowly, piece by piece.
"But how can an all-loving God send anyone to Hell?"
This is the crux of the whole issue. The concept of Hell implies eternal suffering, whilst the concept of infinite love implies mercy, forgiveness, compassion & grace.
"In a nutshell, God doesn't send anybody to hell - we decide to send ourselves there".
Ok, people do not reject Christianity making a conscious decision that they want to suffer an infinite existence removed from everything that is good (thus experiencing only those things that are polar opposites: pain, anguish, fear, hate etc), thus nobody decides to send themselves to Hell. People reject Christianity for a number of reasons. Many people do not see or experience anything which would point to a spiritual dimension of life, hence many people do not believe in God. Others, see Religious principles as being restricive, and choose to ignore them. Others like myself have considered different Religious and Philosophical systems and have concluded that Christianity is not what it claims to be, and that the Bible is not the Word of God. From where I'm standing, I reject orthodox Christianity because I wish to follow God.
"The Bible tells us that God does everything possible to keep us out of hell, while maintaining our nature as free-will human beings. God made us in His image and after His likeness, giving each of us the ultimate power to say "yes" or "no"."
Ok, now this implies that it would be obvious to everyone that the Bible is true and that Jesus is the way, however I do not find this to be the case. It is proposing that these are self-evident, which I strongly argue is not the case. Christianty does not stand out to everyone as obviously being truth. It takes a very significant period of time to reach conclusion on these topics, and even then we don't all agree. If this doctrine was indeed true then you would expect than that it would be clear and obvious.
"If we choose to reject God, we choose to spend eternity separated from Him."
By saying God, it implies Christian doctrines, practices and scriptures. Once again this implies that Christianity is self-evident. Interestingly I have found in discussion with Christians using reason that they tend to fall back on the assumption of the Bible as a trump card, essentially conceding that they are unable to use logic to back up the doctrine. God does not appear to us personally in a puff of smoke and ask us, would you like to spend eternity in Heaven with Me or in Hell seperated from Me. The assumption is that upon either/and/or, hearing the Gospel, reading the Bible, praying to God in their prescribed manor, attending Chruch, that Christianity would then become self-evident as truth, and that anyone that then remained unconvinced was making a conscious decision to reject God. Clearly this is not the case.
"Some continue, "Why did God set up the world this way, including a heaven and a hell?" The only answer is that He's the Creator of the Universe. He has a plan and He established the rules. He's God, and we're not!"
This is the heart of the matter, why would an infinite being who's nature was Divine Love create such an unjust way of rewarding and punishing His creations?
A very simple understanding of the nature of infinity and justice implies that an infinite punishment cannot be in preportion to a finite crime.
Unable to use reason and logic to defend this doctrine the conservative Christian must resort to Circular Reasoning, presupposing that the Bible has already been proven as fact, therefore it's doctrines must be true, therefore their response of "He's God, and we're not!" basically amount to an argument of "Just Because!". In a similar situation to a Father being tired out of the ineccesant question of a young child, and eventually just stating "Just Because", I'm the Dad and what I say goes! In doing so they have reduced their concept of God to a Cosmic Tyrant! How then, do you reconcile Infinite Love with a Cosmic Tyrant?
"He's an all-loving Creator, but He's a truly just Creator. If we decide to break His rules by writing our own, we will pay the consequences".
Just, here implying that somebody could deserve an eternity of Hell. Even the most heinous crimes would be swallowed up into insignificant in comparasion to Hell. The Biblical concept of Justice is completely different to how we humans naturally perceive Justice. When pointing this out in discussion we often get given the response that God's Justice is not our Justice, his ways are not our ways. Surely God's justice should be greater, and higher than our own? Surely, God should have greater compassion and love than we human beings.
"Why would a loving God send people to hell? Because a perfectly loving, perfectly holy and perfectly just God will send people where they choose to go."
This brings us back to the start, nobody wants to go to Hell. This only makes sense to people who have already convinced themselves that it must be true, and defies all logic and reason.
The New Age teachings on the contrary, allows God to express His unconditional love to all, even those that choose to reject Him and his Laws, whilst Justice is allowed to be served. If God is the source of Law and truth, it is ultimately in His power as to how He chooses to respond to the choices that we humans make. If God was constrained by Universal Laws, then the Laws would be the Absolute power, rathen than God. Therefore, he has the power to create Universal laws. Why would He therefore create laws that stipulated that the souls of human beings would have to suffer immense tortures indefinately? Doesn't the New Age doctrine of reincarnation (properly understood) seem more logical, reasonable and compassionate, as it allows both Justice and Mercy to operate?
In mathematics if you have part of an equation which asks you to divide by zero, than you know that both everything that comes afterwards in the equation must be incorrect, and that the previous workings which led to that point must be flawed in some way. The doctrine of eternal Hell seems to me to be a "divide by zero" moment, where as from where I'm standing, the New Age alternative works out much better.
Some people have proposed that this issue is related to the issue of free will, as God must allow Sin, so that we then choose Him by choice. But this presupposed that the punishment of eternal Hell for the imperfect is just, which clearly is not the case. The obvious philosophical point is that we must have free will for life to be meaningfull. However, God does not have to condemn us because we make mistakes. God can choose to show compassion to us imperfect humans, giving us oppurtunites to grow and learn from our mistakes, whilst making sure that we experience consequences for our mistakes, pointing to the natural laws that operate in the Universe.
God does not have to condemn people, because we are not perfect. If you believe that He has to, because He is Holy, then you are to believe that he is "compelled", limited by pre-existing laws that are greater than He, thus contradicting the definition of God as Absolute. Of course, I do not believe that God is constrained by anything, I am merely pointing out obvious problems with this doctrine.
Surely the New Age doctrine seems far more compassionate to us humans. This is a major point, as Christians maintain that Satan is the inventor of New Age doctrines. Accordingly they have then invisiged Satan as being able to propose a fairer and more compassionate reality than God Himself! Ok, obviously Christian doctrine isn't suggesting that Satan is in fact more compassionate than God, it does however suggests that Satan puts forth this doctrine to appeal to humans over the teachings of Judaism originally, and more recently with Christianity (as this New Age doctrine pre-dates Christianity by at least 3000 years).
As many Christians will acknowledge that the doctrine of Hell is a "hard" one, therefore the only reason Christians go along with it is that they are convinced it is the actual reality. Now as this isn't self-evident, then you need good evidence to support this. So, from here it's down to arguing whether the Bible is the infallable Word of God, basic Apologetics, and comparing life experiences in various Spiritual setting and explaining why we believe our Worldview is the best explanation for these experiences. Most Christians argue that it is a rationable and reasonable faith. However, if they are required to rely upon the Bible to back up their beliefs, after exhausting logical analysis, then it is falling back on Circular Reasoning. Whilst a small degree of Circular Reasoning is basically unavoidable, if it is relied upon completely for such major doctrines then it essentially fails in debate with it's alternatives!
Even the very worst of tyrants such as Adolf Hitler would have his crimes swallowed up into insignificance by an infinite and eternal punishement. Particularly if this punishment consists of either horrendous torture or gut renching nothingness. A punisment must be in proportion to the crime for it to be considered justice. Therefore the problem with the Christian doctrine of Hell is that this then implies that God is unjust. A human being can summon enough compassion and mercy to forgive the worst of criminals, how much more than must God show mercy to all of, if indeed His very nature is Love.
If a man rapes and murders a woman and is then caught, you expect the man to be punished. It is quite normal that the friends and relatives of the victim in a case like this will be very angry with the perpetrator, perhaps they would hold anger against him, this is human nature. Occasionally, you have a situation where some of the victims friends and relatives offer the perpetrator complete forgiveness, this is an example of the goodness within humans. However, showing forgiveness does not mean that the consequences of his actions are taken away from the perpetrator, in fact he still will have to serve the prison time. If in fact the man was then let off with no sentence, it would be a failing of justice, fake mercy. Alternatively, if the authorities were so angry with the perpertrator that they decided to begin torturing the man indefinately, then this would also be a failing of justice, this would be an example of sadistic hate, worse than the original crime itself. However, if the man was moved by the forgiveness and mercy he was shown and was thus motivated to devote himself to working back his sentence by serving others, this would be an example of Justice and Mercy in proportion.
If as Christian doctrine states the default position (without Salvation) of humanity is to be condemned for all eternity as the consequence of Sin (as they are born into it), then therefore the sole purpose of life is to "choose" the right Religion. A single lifetime on earth with maybe 80 odd years (give or take) pales in comparasion to eternity, so if the only thing that made any difference to our eternal abode was whether or not we excepted Jesus Christ as our saviour, then this in my mind devalues all the other things in life.
Therefore I would describe this as being a test, testing mankind as to whether they can sort through the mire of different philosophical systems to choose the right one, with the consequences of choosing the wrong one, eternal torture, or if you prefer, eternal seperation from God.
Biblical justice suggests that the blood of an innocent must be shed for the sins of the wicked (hence Old Testament sacrificies and the New Covenant of Christ), yet human conceptions of justice clearly suggest that the guilty must take responsiblity for their own mistakes, and the innocent should not be held accountable for what others do.
In his book "A Generous Orthodoxy", Author Brian McLaren writes about the trouble he had when his Son was home from College for the holidays.
"I asked him how he was doing spiritually.
"I'm struggling Dad", he said
"Tell me about this", I said
He replied, "Well, Dad, if Christianity is true, then nearly everyone I love is going to be tortured in the fires of Hell forever. And if it's not true, then life has no meaning. He was silent for a moment and then added, I just wish there was a better option."
My heart was broken. I asked, "Is that the understanding of Christianity you got from me?
He replied, "No, but that's the way most Christians think. They just kind of bottom-line everything to heaven or hell, and that makes life feel kind of cheap.""
This is always going to the bottom line with Christianity as long as it maintains it's fundamental exclusivity. Most Christians will not openly say this (some will, like Fred Phelps) I suggest, there is a better option. You do not need to reject Spirituality to reject orthodox Christianity as such. Being liberal and inclusive doesn't necessarily imply that you have to be philosophically "soft' either. Eastern Mysticism is anything but soft, and correctly understood, New Age is essentially an expansion of this.
Whilst Christians do not state in their language that God condemns unbelievers to an eternity of hell, this is an unavoidable consequence of their beliefs. They often respond to this kind of statement as a being a misrepresentation of their doctrines, (I have lost count how many times I've been told that I obviously do not understand Biblical Christian doctrines), however I respond that this is the logical conclusion of their belief system. If I'm wrong, then please, explain to me in detail where and how I have misrepresented Biblical Christianity.
There are other Christian doctrines in regard to it's exlusivity or inclusivity, but these are often vague, and end up sitting on the fence between Orthodox doctrines, and Universalism which is really a soft form of New Age.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
The Holographic idea was coined virtually simultaneously by Physicist David Bohm and Psychologist Karl Pribram, and made famouse by now deceased author Michael Talbot with his book "The Holographic Universe". David Bohm discovered that there were several unique features of holograms that could help explain some of the obscure elements of quantum physics. Similarly Karl Pribram also felt that the Brain could use Holographic principles to store information. The main features that were found to be of interest is that Holographic plates record information in a series of interference wave patterns. Each portion of the plate can be used to bring up the entire picture, only that the clarity of the hologram diminishes with the proportion of the holographic plate that is used. So this produces a principle, every part contains the whole. Also, holograms can appear to be 3 dimensional objects, when in fact they have no structure or mass, they are essentially visual illusion.
A common feature of the worlds Mystic traditions is the belief that the Universe is fundamentally a Mental creation, ie that Mind is in fact the absolute reality, and matter is a creation of it. This is diametrically opposed to the Naturalistic notion of the universe, whereby matter (or in truth, energy and natural law) are the fundamental realities, operating without any form of Consciousness, and that Mind / Consciousness comes into being when Energy/Matter has evolved to a suitable state as to bring into being all the necessary elements for "life" to exist. So Michael Talbot essentially linked the Holographic ideas to the Mystical concept of the Mental nature of the Universe, essentially taking Bohms work a few steps further (it must be noted that Bohm was a student of J.D.Krishnamurti, a teacher of Mysticism, so he would have been exposed to Eastern Philosophical ideas.)
Along with this Holographic idea goes the idea that our thoughts actually have some level of objective reality, and to some degree a direct effect on the world around us. This concept has become quite popular in the New Age, and you could be forgiven for thinking that this is actually a new concept, that the traditional Mystical teachings don't support it. There are countless books and DVD's written about Manifestation, creating the world which you desire, however, sometimes (in the case of the best seller "The Secret") the message has been unfortunately dumbed down for a mass audience.
This concept is in fact found in the older, traditional Mystic/Occult texts, although it's presented on a much deeper level, with a completely different focus, and is generally far more philosophically sound. In "The Secret", the draw card was encouraging people to believe that they could become rich by simply thinking it! (And suprise suprise, the author Rhonda Burne made a fortune of it!) The traditional context for such teachings was to enable the student to transcend suffering on the physical plane, and to realize how much power they have in changing their life. The Kybalion, for example teaches that there are laws that govern the unseen worlds / higher dimensions and that these laws can be used to affect the physical world. The New Age concept of the creation is that it begins initially with thought, and then descends in levels of density until it manifests on the Physical plane. The "law of attraction" that is so popular today, is proposed therefore to work via correspondence through different dimensions of reality.
Developing clarity of mind is a central theme in New Age, realizing that all the messy "monkey mind" junk that goes on actually has a unwanted effect upon the circumstances in our lives. Therefore the student concentrates on taking full conscious control of their mental and emotional procceses, so that they "create" the life that they consciously desire, rather than be effected by their individual neurosis.
Those with a Naturalistic worldview view this kind of talk as pure nonsense, responding that whilst positive thinking is always a good thing, it's not going to change our external world, for that we need actions. Perhaps this is where "The Secret" let down the New Age movement, for it came across as if it was saying that all you need to become rich is to think it, and not go out and make it happen. Whilst I usually shun the tabloid trash of current affairs shows, they did expose David Schirmer (one of the "Guru's from The Secret) as a Conman, a good example that not all that glitters is gold!
Alternatively, the Conservative Christian ranks tend to mostly follow Dualistic ideas of Mind and Matter, saying that Mind does not naturally effect matter directly, and that "paranormal" phenomena occur only by the intervention of Spiritual beings, Angels, Demons or God Himself.
As always I welcome feedback, if you have any comments or criticisms, please send them on to me. I might have to edit this post later, as I have rushed a bit to publish it.
Monday, September 8, 2008
Now, Quantum Metaphysics. Ever since Fritjof Capri's groundbreaking book "The Tao of Physics" the question as to whether or not the findings of quantm physics supports the New Age paradigm has been a controversial one related to the New Age movement. This is due to the apparent parrallels between the philosophy of easter mysticism and the philosophical implications of modern advanced physics. Since Capri's book there have been countless books released following this theme. Now skeptics maintain that it is a coincidence that there appear to be similarities , saying that in reality the two fields are discussing completely different things. The New Age movement therefore gets accused of making huge leaps between fact and conclusion. Often this certainly is the case. What I would like to do is therefore go through the points slowly, moving gradually from fact to conclusion, as the weaker writers within New Age tend to make huge leaps in this regard. As with the other topics, I'll start off with general descriptions and then try and go deeper into the specifics.
To quickly summarise, the main points which are put forth as being complematary between these two fields are the following:
1) The relativity (or lack of absolute reality) of Space & Time.
2) The interconnectedness of all energy / matter.
3) The importance of the "observer". In quantum physics this concept is central to wave/particle duality, first introduced in relation to light, then later to all sub-atomic particles. In Mysticism the Observer is the deepest aspect of Consciousness, the Spirit, which is unaffected by the constant change of the world, remaining in it's peacefull bliss regardless of outward circumstances.
Now, the major dispute is that the Scientists who don't support these parralles maintain that these attributes only apply to the sub-atomic world, and do not have any macroscopic effect or importance outside of the applications in advanced technology, or that they simply are being misinterpretated (I have heard someone argue that the oberserver in Quantum Physics is actually the equipment interfering in the experiment, must look this up). If, in fact the observer effect could be proven 100% to be general consciousness effecting reality (even just at the quantum level), than this on it's own would be a major concession, as one of the central premises of the Naturalistic worldview which is so prevalent in modern Science is that Consciousness is created by the brain and is thus limited to the brain.
The third point here is probably the most significant, the observer effect in wave/particle duality (popularly known by the twin slit experiment and Schrödinger's Cat), there is much debate over the implications of this. New Age movies such as "What The Bleep..." and "The Secret" have concluded that we create our own reality and that Quantum Mechanics supports this conclusion. The Scientific field however reacts with horror when such statements are made, particularly seeing such an advanced Science being used to support what many Scientists view as quackery.
Fritjof Capri received both praise and criticism for "The Tao of Physics". His critic's did however acknowledge that he did in fact have a strong understanding of both Physics and Mysticism. And it must be said that he was correct when he pointed out that when you place the statements of Physicist's and Mystics side-by-side, you can't tell who said what. A few examples should suffice to convince anybody of this at least. The question is, does it mean anything? Is it a coincidence, are the concepts found in completely different contexts as the Naturalist maintain, or is it an example of inner and outer Sciences coming to the same conclusions, albeit through different means as the New Age movement proclaims?
From what I've seen, conservative Christians seem to support the skeptics on these kind of issues, not wanting to support anything that would give evidence towards the New Age worldview. (However, I do know of some more liberal Christian books written which have a very similar theme to the New Age quantum metaphysics.) I'd like to leave it here for today, nice and short. Please comment if you feel so inclined, and I'd love to be sent any related links that you know of. I am writing mostly off the top of my head, so if you see any mistakes please point them out to me and I will attempt to resolve them.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Firstly, I will deal with some of the objections of Atheists. Now Atheists propose natural, biological explanations for the phenomena of NDE's in line with the theory that consciousness in created by the electro-chemical nature of the brain, therefore ruling out possibility that consciousness can exist outside of the functioning of a suitably developed physical form or that consciousness can directly cause any direct effect on "external" reality, except through the vehicle of a physical form. So the major argument of skeptics is that NDE's are hallucinations of a dying brain, they propose that after the brain stops functioning there is 30 seconds odd of Consciousness left, categorized by the massive release of endorphins producing a state of bliss and the sensations of bright lights.
However, in response to this, one of the most common features of NDE's is that they occur while EEG machines are flat-lined, meaning that there is absolutely no electrical activity at all in the brain, accompanied frequently by the cessation of heart and lung functioning. NDE reports are consistent in that the experiencer comments that their perception was actually clearer then normal, in direct contrast to a dream or hallucination. NDE reports are often quite long, generally beginning with leaving the body, travelling to another dimension and then travelling back into the body in sync with their resuscitation. If the dying brain theory was correct, you would expect resuscitated patients to report a brief period of intense bliss fading into unconsciousness. This clearly is not the case.
Also, there are many doctors and nurses that have witnessed and reported that the resuscitated patients were able to clearly and accurately describe the medical procedures that occured whilst they were flatlined. Also, these patients have frequently described conversations and events that occured in different rooms or different places during this time, providing strong evidence for OBE's. There are also other elements of NDE's which lend strong support to them being a real phenomena, such as: Blind people see during NDE's (I believe people who are blind do not see in dreams, if I'm wrong please, point me out), there have been cases where people have brought back important information from the NDE, I think I remember reading about a scientist who got the breakthrough for a particullarly important invention from his NDE experience.
Now, the other main points often used by skeptics is to point out that experiences similar to NDE's can be produced within the laboratory by either the administration of certain drugs, electromagnetic stimulation to the brain, or the circumstances of tremendous stress on the body as when potential astronauts are subject to extreme G-forces in training. These arguments however seem to assume that understanding the biological functioning of the brain during altered states of consciousness somehow diminishes the spiritual aspect of them.
The thing is that New Age does not deny the obvious fact that the biological functioning of the brain is connected to the states of consciousness. This however, does not necessarily imply that the electro-chemical activity is the creator of these states of consciousness. The New Age view is that the brain is a vehicle for consciousness whilst in the physical form and that causality goes both ways, from the body to the mind, and from the mind to the body. There are of course numerous examples of this being the case. Therefore, the examples where altered states of consciousness bearing resemblence to NDE accounts are produced by physical conditions does not therefore have any implication to the cause of NDE's, as previously stated NDE's occur whilst there is no brain activity. In my opinion it is only due to the misunderstanding of the New Age theory of Consciousness and causality that this is raised in opposition.
The New Age view of the body is as the lowest level of an interconnected system of bodies of various density: Soul (Absolute existence, no form), Causal Body (Mental, still formless), Astral Bodies (Amorphous forms of colour, sound & energy) and finally The Physical Body (Being the most relative level of existence). Administration of hallucigenic drugs therefore has a causal effect on the Subtle Bodies producing a shift in the state of Consciousness. Alternatively, Placebo Effects tricks the mind to believe that it is being administered a real medicince, thus having a causal effect downwards through the subtle bodies into the physical body. From this perspective, when the physical body ceases it's vital functions, the higher bodies literally leave it behind and continue to exist in a different way, most often moving upwards into the Astral Planes, but occasionally also remaining temporarily present on the earth. For a more detailed overview of evidence supporting NDE's check out http://near-death.com/evidence.html .
On the other side of the coin we have conservative Christians that believe NDE accounts to be somehow demonic illusions. I think Kevin Williams the author of http://www.near-death.com/ presents a very good argument against this. In using Christianity's very own teachings against this conclusion we present Matthew Chapter 12, V25 “Every kingdom divided against itself is bought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand:....You shall know the roots of a tree by its fruit”. In the context of the verse Jesus is accused of performing miracles by the power of demons. He responds by asking how could Satan drive out Satan by Satan? NDE's accounts present positive Spiritual teachings which show that there are consequences to all of our actions, thoughts and words. These teachings encourage people to show love, compassion, forgiveness, patience & tolerance to others, and to pursue the higher goals in life (creative expresions, pursuit of knowledge and wisdom, appreciation of loving relationships, philanthropic and charitable pursuits & ultimately, spiritual realisation). There are odd cases here and there where people have had trouble grounding themselves back into everyday living after an NDE, however, the majority of people who have had NDE's come back changed for the better (the perfect example is Dannion Brinkley, author of Saved By The Light). To believe that NDE's were somehow evil, is to therefore ascribe the positive teachings in them to also be evil.
If Christians maintain that since the only way to salvation is through Jesus then all satan has to do is to keep people away from Christ, then this creates a massive hole in their doctrines. Firstly, if the above were the case, then life on earth would be meaningless except for serving as a test for where we would spend eternity (I'll also raise this point later when talking about reincarnation), as the New Age paradigm specifically teaches principles which lead to both personal happiness, and overall community wellbeing (contrary to what some people contend, more on this later). If you read through the gospels taking particular note of the red-letter parts, then you will find a significant proportion of it refers to practical teachings on morality, ethics, ie it is not focused entirely on the concept of Salvation. Also, Christians today are very much into self-help, a signifanct percentage of sermons in modern churches are on self-help issues. Christians also maintain that this life does have meaning, and the little things are important.
Secondly, if God is the source of all good, and according to Christians, Satan is the source of all evil, then how could Satan preach love, compassion, forgiveness, self-lessness etc etc ? (this argument applies not just to NDE teachings, but to New Age in general and any non-Christian system of spirituality, psychology, ethics, morality and philosophy, with the exception of Satanism, the modern religion of ego-worship, hate, lust, anger and ultimate selfishness. I will use this argument repetitavely through the course of this blog, & hopefully refine it in the process.) The verse in Matthew has Jesus asking the same question. I am aware that other parts of the Bible say that Satan can perform miracles and healings. Isn't this a case of the Bible being consistently inconsistent?
(Insert: This is an add on to the post. I have received a number of comments regarding the above section so I thought I'd paste in a further explanation on the above points:
The purpose of Religion should not be solely concerned with our destiny after death (although this is important), it should lead to a truly fullfilling and happy life whilst here on earth, both for individuals and society at large. It is clear that following New Age and Eastern Mysticism has lead to many people finding true happiness, and also (depending on your understanding / interpretation of them) following their precepts should lead to one becoming self-less so as to serve others (the greater community), and serve God at all times. As both New Age and Christianity encourage morality, ethics, psychological development and humanitarianism (to different degrees depending on the denomination/sect/ or teachers that you follow), it should be clear that both these belief systems can lead towards a fullfilling indivual and cultural life. For some Christians therefore to denounce New Age as being demonic, is therefore to say that the sole significant aspect of Religion is belief in Jesus for the purpose of Salvation after death and true happiness.
Therefore, I conclude that 1) These Christians therefore do not believe that anyone can be trully happy without Jesus and 2) These Christians think it is not so much important how much much one live by the principles put forth in the Gospels as being the words of Jesus, as much as the following of orthodox christian doctrines and practices and having the outward label of a Christian.
For example, Mahatma Mohandas Ghandi was a Hindu, who lived by the teachings of the Bhagavad-Gita, following the words of Krishna. Ghandi did however see the moral, ethical, psychological and spiritual teachings in the Gita as being generally in line with the "red-letter" teachings of Jesus in the Gospels, and he believed in the importance of inter-faith harmony, basic New Age premises. Following conservative, orthodox christian teachings, Ghandi would be seen as a follower of "Pagan" religion, therefore not "saved", and would thus be denied "salvation" and Heaven. This would therefore take away the significance of his life that he led, self-lessly serving the greater community in the best way that he could. Ghandi is but one example of non-Christians who have devoted their entire lives to serving God to the best of his ability.
My experience has been that Christianity has way to many philosophical problems for me, and I never found fullfillment in it. I have however found the answers I wanted through Yoga, Vedanta and Spiritualism in particular, along with phenomenal inner bliss. Now, I understand that this isn't the case for everyone, I have heard many cases to the contrary. There are many people who have converted from New Age to Christianity, and vice versa, this in itself does not prove anything. The question then is, how to explain the various experiences that people have had with New Age and Christianity, and the philosophical and theological problems that different people feel can be solved by the various Religions.
Generally christianity proposes that the existence of evil is due to original sin (adam and eve's disobedience towards God in the Garden of Even), however this assumes the existence of the serpent in the Garden as the source of Eve's temptation. As this serpent is generally represented as Satan, this would conclude that the expulsion of Lucifer from heaven happened before the first sin of mankind. Now, whilst Evangelical Christians (and other conservative Protestant demoninations ) do not have a monopoly on Christian Orthodoxy, they are very vocal in their opinions. One popular belief amongst evangelicals is that every single "sin" has a related demon, and that therefore every temptation is a spiritual battle. Satan is portrayed as being consumed by hate and pervesion, seeking to eternally distance mankind from God. And God is portrayed as all-loving, wishing for mankind to return to Him, therefore Satan and his fallen angels/demons are seen as the source of anything which leads people from God (ie Sin).
There is a verse that say's that Satan does disguise himself as good, as "an angel of light" (see 2 Corinthians 11:13-15)." However, this proposes that he can therefore pretend to be good, for the ultimate evil purpose of leading mankind into Sin. It doesn't suggest that Satan is in fact loving, compassionate or anything of the such. The overall point of the post was this: NDE's give people hope and faith in the goodness of God, in his Divine Justice, Mercy and Grace, the continuation of life after death, and the importance of everything we say, do and think. They teach positive moral, ethical, psycho-spiritual teachings, the main reason why some Christians denounce them is that they generally support New Age doctrines, rather than literal, Biblical doctrines. Surely the true advesaries in this world are hate, anger, greed, lust, perversion, selfishness etc etc. End of Insert)
So, I'm still just getting started, and thus am still being quite general. But all this begs the question, OK, so what is the overall significance of this? If NDE's are taken seriously, what does it mean? It means quite frankly that the value systems of our entire society could change, for the better. If Science were to lend support to a Spiritual Paradigm, then we would have a new foundation for ethics and morality to to take their place as primary in the consciousness of mankind. Where as previously some Church's used fear and coercion to inflict puritanical notions of sin, guilt and punishment on mankind, and recent secular notions have tended to reject morality and ethics in general and embraced selfish materialistic consumerism in escaping from the inbalance of the past into a new imbalance, the new Paradigm promotes personal responsibility for our actions thoughts and words, whilst freeing us from guilt and fear. Justice & Mercy in balance. It also threatens the exclusivity of many traditional religious systems (not just Christianity, although it may seem like I think that way if you haven't read my earlier posts) who use the threat of Hell to scare their congregation into line.
Ok, I know I'm starting to stir the pot a bit now, so if you have an opinion on this, please share it with me. Post a comment and/or send me an email.
Bye for now.
Saturday, August 2, 2008
Basically speaking, this concept proposes that all living things are sustained by this vital energy, wether human, animal, plant, bacteria etc, and that no life could exist without it. Perhaps a good comparasion for those unfamilar with the concept could be the reliance of electric goods on a flow of electricity. Along with this basic concept goes the systems through which Prana functions, the Subtle Body/'ies (The aura), Chakras (Spinning centers of consciousness and energy), Nadis (Subtle Nerve pathways, pretty much identical concept to the Chinese concept of the Meridian).
Now, the existence of Prana is a hotly contested issue. Scientifically speaking, it's a concept specifically related to the field of Physics, with many of it's applications in medicine. Most Physicist's do not believe in the existence of Prana, citing no real Scientific proof of it's existence, nor seeing any need for it to fill any gaps in modern physics. Also, a significant percentage of Medical profesional's do not believe in the existence of Prana, and refer to any alternative therapies that work with this concept as being quack or fraudulent.
Now, there is in fact a small but growing field of Scientists investigating the field of Pranic research, probably the two most well known being Hiroshi Motoyama and Valerie Hunt, who have both produced very strong evidence to support Prana as a valid Scientific concept. There are also many more which I will mention later as I go deeper into this concept. Most sources regard Prana as being primarily sub-quantum in nature, however also having measurable effects on magnetic fields and different sources of radiation. (Like many other things, I will go deeper into this later.)
Despite the Scientific skepticism, many people like myself become believers in this concept due to personal experience. As a quick example to start, the first time I ever felt it was the first time I was given Reiki, about 5 years ago. The lady who gave it stood behind me with her hands hovering above my head. I had no idea really what to expect, and very quickly I felt a warm pulsating flow of "energy" moving downwards from the top of my head into the rest of my body. For about a week afterwards I had a constant pleasant sensation on the top of my head (corresponding with the Crown Chakra - Sahasrara in sankskrit) which was accompanied by a dramatic shift in my thought processes. Soon after this I started practicing Hatha Yoga, through which I continued to have experiences which I believe can only be explained properly with the concept of Vital Energy, Prana. Now, the experiences are an everyday occurence, and I have had many particularly unique and dramatic ones.
Skeptics usually explain these experiences as examples of Placebo effect and consider that they can be fully understood within standard biology (ie reactions of the nervous system, and the release of hormones into the blood). Alternatively, conservative Christians don't deny that there is an supernatural element to this phenomena. Once again however, they consider this to be another example of demonic activity.
I will leave it here, as I am still laying down the foundations of future discussions. Feel free to comment.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Well, the first and foremost principle is the rejection of exclusivity of Religion. This is in stark contrast to conservative Christian denominations which claim that they are the only valid spiritual path (it is not only Christian groups that take an exclusive approach. Islam and Judaism are very exclusive, some Eastern sects are too (ISKON - The Hare Krishna's for example). Some modern "cults" are exclusive, however it would be wrong to label every religious group to crop up in recent times as New Age (ie for example Raelians or Scientology)).
Taken to extremes this can mean total Relativism, ie the idea that all truth is relative to a range of variables and circumstances. In contrast, the exclusive Religions have a dualistic Absolute view of truth ie It's either their truth or its false. Certainly many people accuse New Age of being Relativistic, and in fact many people who follow a loose New Age approach are. I have met many people that don't believe in any sort of Absolutes. However, I think you will find that most of the serious researches & teachers do not advocate absolute relativism.
What I personally think is the solution is the concept of an Absolute truth, with a descending scale of Relative truths, some closer to being an Absolute truth, and some further down the scale. Specifically in relation to Spiritual/Religious concepts it means that there is Absolute truth that can be found non-exclusively in different cultures and religions, but at the same time not all Religious doctrines are equal. So, my conception of New Age will probably be different to others in that I believe in the importance of being firmly established in a traditional Mysticism, thus having an Absolute from which to ground beliefs, and than allow for the range of Relative experiences to have their place.
Probably one of the most important application of this is in relation to beliefs about an afterlife. Conservative Christianity has maintained that there are only two places one can go after death, Heaven or Hell, and that you must belong to a particular denomination and follow all their teachings in order to teach Heaven after you die (however, these teachings emphasise that Salvation is given by grace from God through Jesus Christ. However, this still implies that you authorize a specific group to dictate what is orthodoxy and what is heresy), (Jehovas Witnesses (JW's) and Seventh Day Adventists (SDA's) both believe in annilhation for unbeliever rather than eternal torment in Hell. However both JW's and SDA's are considered fringe groups by most denominations, despite the fact that they see themselves as Restorationists). Strictly, Christians maintain that the only possible method of Salvation is through Jesus. In contrast, New Age proposes that it is not so significant what title you use to describe your Religious beliefs, or what doctrines and dogmas you follow as much as how you live the Spiritual principles, or in strictly Eastern terms, how you realize the higher truths (Dharma) in your life. Specifically, what this means is that whilst doctrines can be significant in determining what one considers important and worth striving for, it is not our intellectual ideals and concepts that are important as much as how we treat others, how we speak, think and act. The perfect example of this is NDE's where many people have been told that the religious denomination is not important, the extent to which they allow love to be the driving force in their life is.
New Age does not believe in the traditional Dualistic doctrine of Heaven and Hell. Instead you have a more complex concept of varying planes or Dimensions. There are variations on these beliefs amongst different groups, however there are common elements. Many different sources describe an Astral cosmos, a universe comprised of less dense elements than our material world which exists both inside and outside our own. Within this Astral world there are considered to be many different levels to correspond with varying levels of Spiritual/Psychological development.Some of the lower levels might be considered "Hellish" prisons for corrupt Souls, however their is a major difference between this concept and the traditional one of Hell. The traditional model of Hell proposes that all those who reject Christianity (or any other exclusive Religion) will find themselves eternally seperated from God, in a realm of hate & torture, not just those who could be considered as sinners, immoral & evil. (To me this produces a major grey area in the doctrines of Christianity which I will address one day soon.) In the New Age conception, people who lived life selfishly, showing anger and hate to others, often find themselves after death in a dark world filled with torment and pain, surrounded by others of a similar inclanation. However, in contrast to the Christian view of Hell as eternal, this New Age version presents such nightmarish experiences as simply temporary, from which a Soul can escape by calling out to God. There are many NDE's where this kind of scenario has been reported.
Likewise, the view of Heaven is also remarkably different. Specifically the Christian conception of Heaven presents it as an eternal abode where one enters due to the grace of God and the sacrifice of Jesus. Alternatively, the New Age conception of Heaven is one of many temporary abodes in the Astral cosmos, where one enters for a continuation of experience, this time however free from the miseries and troubles of the material world. Descriptions from NDE and OBE reports as well as those from traditional mystical texts and information produced through mediumship presents a picture of many Heavens, of differing levels of density, leading up towards a realm of the Absolute. Sometimes, Eastern views are misrepresented in this regard, whilst the ultimate aim of Eastern Mysticism is to reach a realm beyond the transitory cycles of birth and death (ie Nirvana, Moksha, Liberation), this does not mean that they do not have a concept of Heaven & Hell. For example, look up the meaning of the Sanskrit word Loka. Also, for example the Hindu texts frequently refer to the "three worlds" physical, astral & causal (mental), whilst mainting that the ultimate goal is beyond all these.Ok, I will leave it here for today.
More detail later.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
The term Occult often conjures up images of Black Magic/Sorcery, but this isn't necessarily implied by the use of the term. Conservative Religions view all supernatural phenomena outside of their own as being therefore signs of Satanic/Demonic activity. Therefore the term Occult often is used with a negative connotation. However, traditionally the term was used to refer to a wide range of practices and beliefs.
The modern religion of Satanism is specifically concerned with expansion of the Ego (this word has different meaning depending on which context it is viewed), meaning seeing oneself as seperate from all others, identifying totally with the physical body and thus encouraging selfishness and hate. This is in complete contrast to New Age and traditional Mystical / Occult traditions which encourage dissolution of the Ego (see the sankrit word Ahamkara for the Eastern definition of Ego, which differs significantly to Freuds use of the term), meaning seeing oneself as interconnected with all life, identifying ultimately with the eternal Soul/Spirit and thus encouraging selflessness and unconditional love. To place Satanism in the same category as modern Spiritualism (for example) by defining them both as Occult is a gross misuse of the term, and is ultimately deceptive.
So, I use the term Occult to describe things like knowledge of the Astral realms, and laws that govern them. For example the Hermetic text The Kybalion is a short series of Occult Principles which relate to both natural science and metaphysics. Used in the context provided within the text, these principles can be used for positive spiritual growth. However, if one goes against the strong warning of all serious spiritual philosophies and chooses to use knowledge of such principles for selfish or destructive purposes then you are in the realm of genuine Black Magic.
So, the term Occult refers to the the Science (many people will object to my use of this term here, I understand) specifically and not the use of it. Just as modern technology can be used for either productive or destructive purposes, so can Occult knowledge. This is the traditional meaning of the term.
Friday, July 18, 2008
Some of the most significant basic ingredients of a NDE are as follows, the experience of leaving ones body, meeting with non-physical beings which radiate light (I'll refer to them as the Beings Of Light, BOL's), moving through non-physical worlds or dimensions, Heavens and Hells (which correspond very well with the occult concept of an Astral plane) and the life review, the experience of reliving every single experience of ones life in full detail, experiencing the consequences of ones own actions, words & thoughts on others.
Often also, the person having the NDE is given Spiritual teachings by the BOL's which in most cases correspond with New Age doctrines. Whilst from what I've seen there is not 100% consistency, there does seem to be a good deal of common ground between the NDE accounts. There are some obvious exceptions but the majority of books and websites on this topic seem to support this.
Now, as this all supports the New Age Paradigm, there is of course much dispute and opposition to this. Skeptics (generally Atheists) propose that the experiences are hallucinations caused by the dying brain and argue for purely biological processes as being the cause. They point to similarities in the experiences of fighter pilots who pass out under extreme G forces, or the experiences of Hypoxia (lack of oxygen to the brain), the ability to reproduce many elements of the experience with electromagnetic stimulation to specific parts of the brain (in particular the temporal lobes), and the common experiences of people in drug induced states (particularly hallucigons like DMT, LSD, Psilocybin and also Ketamine). Skeptics also point to the case that many people who die and come back to life later recall nothing at all, like a black out or deep dreamless sleep, ie a lack of consciousness.
Christians on the other hand present mixed responses. In my own upbringing I was not told of the New Age implications of NDE's, but I was told stories of people who had died, gone to heaven, met Jesus and come back. I was told about how after they died and before they went to heaven they moved around the hospitals and were able to later recall things that had been said in other rooms of the building whilst they were physically dead (a common claim with NDE's). So, first off, some Christians are seemingly unaware that the phenomena is generally used to support the New Age worldview, or choose to ignore this.
Secondly, some Christians choose to agree with skeptics in dismissing NDE's as hallucinations, mostly because of the New Age doctrines that are put forth, also because some (and I use that word cautuosly) Christians do not believe in the possibility of the Soul existing externally from the physical body (This is a major grey area from what I've seen. I would love to hear from anybody willing to let me know where their branch of Christianity stands on this. I do believe that the Bible is not specifically clear on this area of metaphysics, ie the strict definitions of Mind, Spirit and/or Soul. In contrast, Eastern and Occult traditions go very deeply into this area. I do know that some Christians believe that Soul is a combination of Body and Mind/Spirit, and that eternal life relies entirely on physical ressurection. Therefore any account of out of body experiences (OBE's for short) are rejected as either Hallucinations or evidence of Demonic activity.)
Others that I have seen tend to declare some NDE's as real and others as fake depending solely on what doctrines are put forth in them. ie If a NDE account makes no mention of doctrines which are in conflict with Christianity then it is accepted as being real, however if like a significant percentage of NDE's it presents doctrines that are in conflict with mainstream Christian beliefs then it is declared to be either a hallucination, a fantasy of the subconscious or a Satanic delusion. (It must be mentioned here that as there are common beliefs between Christianity and New Age, some NDE's will be presented as evidence for both of these conflicting worldviews.)
Now, I have much, much more to say on this topic, but I think I will leave it here for today and continue very soon. Please, I would love to get some comments, so don't hold back on your thoughts. Also, anyone, if you feel I have misrepresented a particular viewpoint please let me know and I will respond to your thoughts. I am trying to be objective, but it will be very difficult for me to achieve that so please bear with me. I will try to own up to any mistakes I make along the way.
Bye for now.
Sunday, July 6, 2008
All Christians believe that God incarnated fully in Jesus as completely God, completely Man, therefore they accept the writings of the Gospels (as well as the rest of the Bible) as being historically accurate and literal portrayals of actual physical events rather than as mythology/allegory. They believe that the primary purpose of this was to show mankind the way to live and then to provide a sacrifice for our sins by dying on the cross, and then rising after three days. Therefore, Christians believe that we must accept Jesus as our personal saviour, forming a personal relationship with God, and try to live by the principles layed out in the Bible to the best of our abilities.
Christianity has a unique concept know as the Triune God, whereby there is only One God, yet there are three distinct persons to God, Father, Son & Holy Spirit. Generally, Christians object to the conclusion that the three parts are aspects of the same God, proposing a new concept that they are independant, yet all only One (I'm interested to hear someone explain this in greater depth.) Christians generally believe that the world is in a fallen state due to origional sin in the garden of eden, and that mankind therefore is born into sin and needs external redemption. Therefore Christians assert that the only means of Salvation is through Jesus Christ, as a equal and opposite consequence of this belief, they generally stand opposed to other forms of Religion / Spiritual practice, maintaining claims of exclusivity.
Christians also generally believe in the existence of a Fallen Angel previously known as Lucifer, now known as Satan (literally, the advesary) who led a rebellion in the heavens against God. They believe that Satan and his Demons (other fallen Angels) try to tempt mankind away from God and into Sin. Generally, most Christians believe that human beings are restricted by naturalistic laws that govern the material world and that paranormal/supernatural phenomena are the result of the intervention of a spiritual force or being, whether Holy or Evil.
So, in the Christian doctrine, human being live only one life on earth, after which we recieve judgment as to our eternal destination between two places, Heaven & Hell. Due to the exclusivity of the beliefs, any paranormal phenomena or spiritual practices which are not condoned by the Bible, or the particular church, are viewed as being evidence of Demonic activity, with the purpose of leading people away from Christ, and by consequence away from Heaven to eternal seperation from God in the fires of Hell.
There are liberal movements within some churches, & certainly many people consider themselves Christians and do not subscribe to all the above views. However, the above views are considered mainstream, and generally those in the mainstream view any deviation from these views as being heresy. For a more concise understanding of Christian doctrine, you can read the Nicene Creed, or read the statement of beliefs on the websites of some Churches.
New Age is a general term for the modern application of spiritual practices and beliefs seperate from a traditional system of religion. It is a very wide open field currently with little organising structure between different organizations. There are however, many common threads that run throughout:
Most, if not all New Age beliefs can be found within Mystical / Occult based religions, with the major difference being that what was once kept secret for initiates is now published freely and openly. For example, Hinduism can be considered the foundation for the New Age movement, yet the elements of Hinduism that are used are the deeper esoteric teachings of Yoga, Vedanta & Tantra, rather then the daily home & temple rituals and the venerations of a multitude of forms of God.
New Age views Mysticism as a Divine Science, discovered by holy men & women, seers, sages, mystics, prophets, yogis, shamans, witches, & philosophers and sees it as a common thread throughout human history. Aldous Huxely coined the term "Perennial Philosophy" to describe this timeless teaching found in many (if not most cultures). This idea is also put forth in the writings of Joseph Cambell and Carl Jung to name a few. (However it must be noted that this idea is extremely controversial and is certainly not viewed as an accepted fact. It is disputed by many experts in anthropology, mythology and religion). So as a result, New Age excepts many spiritual paths as being valid, yet at the same time believes them all to be one path, ultimately being the same narrow path rarely trodden. Some people take this a bit too far and state that all Religions are the same, clearly this is not the case. However, the general idea is that the same spiritual laws and principles apply to different cultures and belief systems.
New Age excepts traditional Eastern Doctrines such as Reincarnation & Karma, yet explains & interprets them differently to many traditional sects. Much of this has to do with the influence of the study of NDE's (Near Death Experiences), OBE's (Out of Body Experiences) / Astral Projection, and the teachings presented through Mediumship, ie through Spiritualism.
At this point I could probably go on writing for a long time, so I'll cut this short and go into greater detail later.
The common thread amongst Atheistic/Naturalistic philosophies is the belief that there are no Supernatural realms or beings and that all claims of Paranormal / Supernatural / Psychic phenomena can be explained as either deliberate fraud, delusions/hallucinations/mental illness, mental or sensory tricks (ie visual illusions) or some currently unknown natural phenomena.
Therefore, they believe that Consciousness is created solely from the electro-chemical activity within the brain, coming into existence in early fetal development & disappearing with the cessation of bodily functioning at death. Hence as a consequence, Atheists do not believe in an afterlife of any sort, nor any sort of reward or retribution outside of the social laws governing physical actions.
Please keep in mind that I'm being very general at this point, I can go into specifics later. I've left out alot of points for the sake of keeping this post brief. As I stated in the previous post, by no means am I saying that these are the only three worldviews of any significance. What I'm saying is that these three are by far the most dominant here in the modern, westernized world. I am very interested in hearing any opinions. In this blog I will try to present different topics and examine the way these three different paradigms interpret the same information, seeing whether it is possible to resolve some areas of dispute.
Something else I intended to mention before but forgot. I stated previously that everybody has a worldview yet for many people this is somewhat subconscious. I meant to expand upon this and state that many people adopt simple, pragmatic philosophies or simplified, liberal versions of major world views, or simply choose to remain Agnostic, open to information without locking themselves in to belief systems.
Ok, I think I'll just cut this off here for today.
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
Now, I'm going to grossly oversimplify here, in the west, the debate rages mostly within three particular groups, the rest pretty much stay out of it. Christianity (mostly the conservative Protestant denominations), New Age and Atheism/Naturalism. That's not to say that others don't have opinions, it's just that these three groups are by far the most vocal. More to the point, these three groups are generally the only ones that attempt to explain other groups into their own paradigm. Christianity has been the dominant Religous worldview in the west for around 1700 years, Naturalistic philosophies have been getting popular over the last 2-300, and New Age started around 100 years ago, really picking up in the last 30 odd years.
Scientific paradigms are now moving away from mechanistic concepts (the clockwork universe) into more holistic, systems based paradigms. Within the scientific fields today, Naturalistic ideas are dominant in most areas. Most Christians today generally doesn't challenge much of what Science has to offer, with the major exception of the origion of life and the universe, hence Evolution vs Creationism/Intelligent Design. New Age however has alot of thoeries regarding the Sciences which are currently viewed as "fringe", or pseudo-science by a large percentage of proffesionals.
At this point I think I should state that I am not by any means particularily knowledgable about Science from a technical viewpoint. My interest lies in the philosophical side of Science. Anyways, this will do for today, any thoughts anybody?
Bye for now.
Sunday, June 29, 2008
What is a Paradigm/WorldVeiw?
A framework of ideas & concepts that help us to make sense of seemingly conflicting information. A paradigm is like a lens through which we see the world and interpret information. It can either distort and filter our perception of reality, or it could sharpen and clarify our view of the world. The aim must therefore be to hold a worldview that is as accurate as possible over a wide range of phenomena, thus a clear lens through which to process information, and hence live.
How is a Paradigm formed/ how is it created?
I think what I meant to ask was by what proccess's do individuals come to take on certain worldviews? The above question can actually ask, how in fact was the worldview initially formed? This is a different question altogether, and I think I might leave it till later. So, most people begin their live's by taking on the opinions and idea's of those that they have the most contact with. So parents obviously have the biggest effect on our thinking while we are young. As we grow older we are then influenced by extended family & freinds, schooling, media etc. Later again living in a modern world we are exposed to a huge range of different philosophies of which we can choose to investigate, or not. As adults we take resposibility for how we choose to view the world, whether or not we are consciously influenced by religious or philosophical system's. I think to some degree at least everybody has a worldview, although I suspect that for some people it is a subconcious thing.
How does it effect the way we see the world, and thus the way we live?
The worldview we subscribe to can effect the moral and ethical values that we consider to be important. It can affect the way we percieve ourselves metaphysically, ie What is mind? Matter? Do we posses something called a soul, and/or spirit? What are the psychological ideals we consider worth pursuing? The way we process world events and understand history can be filtered by our worldview. And finally what we consider important in life and thus worth pursuing is a direct consequence of how we view the world.
So, what do you think? Do you agree? Disagree? Are there points that I have overlooked? (There must be many, I'm sure.)
That will do for today.
Goodbye all. Peace.
Saturday, June 28, 2008
I will try and summarise why I have created this blog and what I want to get out of it, and what I hope other people will get out of it too. I have an idea for a website I would like to create covering the topics of world-views, paradigms primarily concerning Spirituality and Science and comparing the different ways of seeing the world. I envision this blog as an intermediate step towards the creation of the site, allowing me to discuss my veiws with other people, clarify and evolve my thinking and open myself up to criticism of my views. I hope that in doing so other people will learn more about some of the topics I will discuss and the different worldviews of others. I hope that many people will be interested in what I'm talking about and will partake in ongoing discussion with me, so particullarly I'm inviting everybody to post responses to my blogs, and also email me personally if you choose. I'm also asking people to spread the word, and invite other people into the discussion
I have yet to see any large scale project dealing with these topics. Whilst there are many website's dealing with comparative Religion and interfaith-dialogue (of differing quality!), and a few books dealing with world views (one of the only one's I have come across is "The Universe Next Door" by James W. Sire which didn't impress me particularly (I'll publish a full review of it soon), I have yet to come across any that have satisfied me. In general most discussion of these topics I've seen are either inconclusive, highly biased or most commonly, way too short.
You would have noticed from the above that I tend to write very long sentences, with brackets within brackets. Well, as I told someone recently that the side-effect of being partially self-educated, my English will probably be found lacking by those of you who are University educated. So, please excuse this, when I get around to making the website I will need to employ someone more skilled in this area.
I would like to be able to discuss controversial issues without the name-calling and personal, emotional attacks that are unfortunately quite common in the discussion of Religion. I will attempt to present my own opinions as objectively as possible, however being a human being (and hence imperfect) I will most likely fail in this from time to time (perhaps all the time!). So, please feel free to point this out to me. I would like to think that we can strongly disagree without having to result to calling each other bad, evil, stupid, brainwashed or any other such words (I particularily dislike swearing by the way, if anybody uses foul language in response to my posts I will delete the comments!)
So, what I think I will do is regularly post on different topics and then respond to the comments I get. So, I will start with a series of questions:
What is a Paradigm/WorldVeiw?
How is a Paradigm formed/ how is it created?
How does it effect the way we see the world, and thus the way we live?
I will write my own thoughts on these questions, but I thought it would be good to let people respond first. Thank you everyone for taking part in my "experiment", I hope it is a stimulating and productive experience for us all.