Posts Tagged ‘Perception’

In response to the post wherein I declared my newly developed polytheism, some people understandably asked something along the lines of “Okay, you say you believe in gods.  But what do you mean by that?  How literally do you believe that?”  And it’s a fair question–one I intended to write about anyway.  To what extend to I believe in these gods, and to what extent to I believe that they are separate, distinct individual gods?

I don’t believe that Dionysus, Aphrodite, and other hypothetical gods actually live bodily on the top of Mount Olympus in Greece from whence they literally created the universe and currently control natural phenomena.  I am not an idiot.  I want to talk about other possibilities.

I am open to the possibility that these gods no not exist at all outside my head.  I’m not eager to believe that it is flat-out mental illness, but I am definitely open to the possibility that I am talking about psychological archetypes–either universal ones that transcend my individual experience or personal ones that are completely local to my own psyche.  Human beings think and reason in symbol and metaphor anyway, and I have no problem with the possibility that I am encountering symbolic representations of aspects of my own psyche or aspects of a universal human psyche if such a thing exists.

I am also open to the possibility–in fact, I actually believe–that these gods are actual spiritual beings that have independent existence beyond the borders of the individual human mind.  Nevertheless, I would still insist that the gods’ involvement in the natural world is largely metaphorical, but that such an arrangement is only natural since humans make sense of the world primarily in metaphor.  If I say “I believe that Odin made the world out of the broken parts of dead Ymir,” I think that is not necessarily inconsistent with the scientific explanation for the origin of the universe.  Again, I am talking about metaphor and the way we make meaning out of what we perceive.  And I also feel like there is more than one way to understand “the world”–it doesn’t have to be the natural world at all.  We inhabit a “world” that is composed by our own psychology, perception, and experience.  While I do not think that Odin carved out the natural world out of Ymir’s bones, I am interested in the possibility that Odin carved out a psychic, psychological, and/or mythic landscape in exactly that way.  It is still the creation of the world, just not meaning the planet.

If this seems vague and ill-defined, that’s because it probably is ill-defined.  Like I said, my understanding of the gods is still in the early stages of development.

In the end, I think that when dealing with religion it is important, on the one hand, to remember that your gods might all be completely fictional, but on the other hand, that they might in fact be real.  The former keeps you from being a fundamentalist (and a good self-check: are your religious convictions overriding your basic human compassion? because if they are, then you’ve gone too far over the edge, buddy), and the latter keeps you from being a secular humanist.  Not that being a secular humanist is the end of the world, but that there’s just no point in bothering with religion in the first place if you’re going to be certain that it’s all messed up.

The thing is, I believe in the existence of divinity.  I think that the divine is real, and I hunger for it.  I acknowledge the possibility that it’s all in my head, but because I am not a fundamentalist, whether there is in fact an ultimate reality to Divinity or it is all in my head is actually irrelevant, because I am going to act the same way with regard to it either way.  But for the record, I believe that there is a divine reality that transcends individual human experience.

In terms of hard polytheism (i.e., the gods, whatever they are, exist independently and in a fully distinct fashion from each other) versus soft polytheism (i.e., the gods are different facets or manifestations of a greater divine reality), my answer is that I genuinely think that the latter is more likely, as ultimately my cosmological picture is formed by the conception of Maya and Brahman in the Baghavad Gita.  However, that requires some more elaboration, because I am definitely not saying that the gods are simply masks of one true god (although since I have only personally experienced one male and one female god, I might actually be dealing with a Wiccan-style fertility dualism, but more about that later).  If this model of godhood holds, then I am only claiming that the gods are parts of the same divine whole to the same extent that human beings are all also part of that same divine whole.  And with gods as with humans, the compelling illusion of Maya–the deceptive illusion of separateness that enables us to function in the world of sense objects while also blinding us to our essential oneness–applies to the gods as well as to humans.  And that means that, like us, although they are facets of a greater whole, they act for the most part as if they are separate and distinct, if interrelated.

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I talked about this before in another post, but I didn’t feel like I articulated what I was thinking as well as I would have liked, so I want to try it again.  Also, it’s still on my mind so I still want to talk about it.

I feel like I’m on the verge of believing, but I’m holding myself back because I am extremely conflicted.  I know I’ve been over probably a dozen problems that were “the thing” that kept me from believing, but this is the one that’s bothering me right now.

I’d like to believe, and I’d even like to be a Christian, but I’m uncomfortable with having to see the whole world and all of existence through the lens of Christianity.  Its what I was talking about before when I said I was reluctant to take on a worldview, but I don’t think that expressed what I meant to express very well.  I don’t want to have to interpret everything I experience and think about in terms of its relationship to Jesus Christ.  I just don’t know if I’m cut out for that, and I don’t see how I can be a Christian without putting on Christianity-colored glasses.

I don’t always want to see everything in that color, that’s all.  And I fear that if I’m always looking at things through a Christian lens, that my life will be poorer for it.  That life and existence will be less nuanced and less

Like I said before, I’ll be getting my head into a Christianity groove, and then I’ll hear some cosmic, mysterious Moody Blues song or something and Christianity will suddenly seem so small, provincial, limited, and limiting.  I feel like there’s so much mystery out there and I’m not sure that Christianity is a perfect fit.  Since it’s nit a perfect fit, you wind up having to cram the  universe into the Christianity shoebox, where either the universe or the box gets broken and warped in the process.

I don’t know how to articulate it better than that, so that will have to do.  I’m thinking about disabling comments on this post, though, because I’m afraid that what I’m trying to explain will once again be minimized, misunderstood, and dismissed.

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I’ve been thinking about truth and reality and the existence or nonexistence of objectivity. Here’s my conclusion (this may not be groundbreaking or novel or anything, but that’s not to point- it’s what I have settled on). Objective reality almost certainly exists. It’s out there, and we live in it.  However, from the human perspective it is purely theoretical, and for the purposes of our day-to-day lives, it is almost meaningless.

From the moment a stimulus enters your body via your senses until the moment that it leaves in the form of a response, the information is constantly being corrupted by faulty perception, being filtered through lenses of experience, worldview, culture, point of view, coping mechanisms, random neuron firings, insanity, and who knows what else.  There’s no point inside the system that is objective itself- the main processor is the brain, and the brain is the very culprit when it comes to putting a spin on reality- and so at no point is it even possible for a human being to perceive the world in a completely objective way.  Ever.

Certainly there is some level of consensus to reality, like if there was a fire, we’d pretty much all see it, feel the heat, maybe be scared of it, and we’d all probably burn and die if we were consumed by it.  That seems to be pretty objective (with maybe an unusual exception here and there), but that’s not what I’m talking about.  The difference is that we’re all perceiving the objectively identical fire from a different standpoint, both internally and externally.  We’re all ascribing different shades of meaning to it.

Objective reality probably exists, but we are completely incapable of accessing it because the only means we have of accessing reality by its very nature distorts reality as it accesses it.

What does this mean as far as religion goes?  It means that as I search for truth, the best I’m going to get is a subjective kind of truth, because even if objective truth exists, I have no way of apprehending it.

Why do people insist on objectivity, when everything we know about the human experience suggests that for all intents and purposes there’s no such thing?  Why do religious people in particular so often insist on the existence of knowable absolute truth?  I wonder if it has something to do with controlling other people.  I mean, if reality is largely subjective, then “sharing your religion” pretty much stops at “sharing.”  But if you can insist on Absolute Truth, then you are justified in being a little more belligerent.  It’s probably not fair to assign that kind of motive to so many people, though.  The more likely explanation is that many people simply aren’t comfortable with a lack of meaningful absolute truth.  It seems counterintuitive and it messes with one’s head.

For me, though, it means that I am looking for what is true for me.  Part of me still thinks that sounds lame after a lifetime of being an Absolute-Truth-Insistent Mormon, but at the same time, it only makes sense.  The only way I can sense and process and interpret reality is through my body and my mind, and those both have an inherent problem in that they severely warp anything they perceive.  So absolute truth may exist, but it’s impossible to find it out.  Therefore, the search for absolute truth, especially when dealing with things like “meaning” that stray from generally consensual aspects of reality, is a relatively futile one.

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