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May 16, 2018

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Hi Brian!

It's interesting you recognize the topic of love after having provided your response.
The writer says they believe in Love, or want to believe in a transcendent love.

When I was young, before I became a Satsangi, I used to engage in a simple conversation with folks: "Do you believe love exists?"

Most would reply something like: "Yes, but not as a thing, just as some quality of the relationship between two or more people or creatures."

Then they would ask me, "OK, so what's your belief about that?"

And my reply was the same as it is today: I do believe love is an actual, physical / spiritual thing.

It is an entity. And it is the fabric of everything. People witness it and call it different things. We are part of it. It isn't a part of us, under our control. We can submit to it.

Different systems of belief, different lives. Different outcomes.

An Atheist perspective, focused on just what is, just here and now, is also much closer subjectively to the connection we have to this creation. We are inseparable from it, and even our thoughts emerge from it.

That is much more refreshing and fulfilling than any conceptual understanding, unless that concept leads to a deeper connection still.

In that sense mystcism, if it is an honest pursuit of internal and external experience, even to find the connections of the two, could be said to be a form of Atheism. Because all spirituality requires at some point giving up all conceptual notions.

In Sant Mat the Masters teach that to follow a true Saint is a path within which we find is the basis of all religions and spiritual practices, they being perfect or less than perfect efforts, mirrors is the perfect path to connect with reality more directly.

But in a way you could say that Atheism, if it is an active pursuit of truth, is the perfect system within which all the others can be found in one form of perfection or imperfection.

Spencer, interesting argument about atheism being a perfect system to pursue spirituality, or any other pursuit of truth. I used to be much into the Via Negativa, negative way, in which all attempts to describe God, or think about the attributes of God, or conceive of God, are given up. This seems close to what you're suggesting.

Of course, at some point a negative way has to result in something positive if the way is deemed successful by a God-seeker, or the Via Negativa would be virtually identical to atheism -- since atheists consider that God doesn't exist, which is a perfect negativity.

Atheists are cowards who don't want to empower common man by hiding the secrets of Shabd/Atomic energy vibrating in the universe.

Vinny wrote: "Atheists are cowards who don't want to empower common man by hiding the secrets......"

Hey!? I think you're being a bit unfair to Brian here......he's merely a stooge!

""Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing."

Jesus

:o)

As the age of 72 embraces my being, I read this and feel content. From Catholic, to existentialist, to agnostic, to buddhism, to 18 years in Sant Mat and so forth. They all were stepping stones....some dry, some slippery, some demanding big leaps. There may or not be a God....but it does not matter to me. Beliefs have fallen away like leaves in the Fall. And what I am left with is the notion of kindness. Stay awake and Be Kind. The rest feels like intellectual musing.....takes up time, pushes one into corners, it can entertain. The fact is I walk my dog, watch the crows being chased by mocking birds, see flowers and feel what it means to keeps one's balance in an insane world.

Kathie..... Beautiful, thanks,!

Manjit

Vinny, some observations about your comment: "Atheists are cowards who don't want to empower common man by hiding the secrets of Shabd/Atomic energy vibrating in the universe."

(1) Scientists, including physicists, chemists and cosmologists, aren't hiding the secrets of atomic energy vibrating in the universe. This has been an understanding of modern science since the early part of the 20th century. And many, if not most scientists, are atheists. So what you said makes no sense.

(2) What is "secret," because there is no demonstrable proof of it, is the notion that atomic energy is linked to a supernatural spirituall force, Shabd or the Sound Current, that is present not only in the physical universe, but also in realms beyond the physical. I wrote a book about this, "God's Whisper, Creation's Thunder," so I"m intimately familiar with this notion.

If you have evidence that would un-secret this secret, please share it. But if it is only a belief, or perhaps an experience, within your own mind, then you have no basis for criticizing those who fail to recognize Shabd as a genuine reality.

Love, or the illusion of it, is my entire meaning in life. The realization that true altruism doesn't exist, that emotions are biologically wired into us for survival, and no relationship we form will survive death, is breaking me down. I don't need to believe humans are special or the last evolution (we're clearly not), but I'm afraid to believe in absolutely nothing.

I can only suggest, whether viewed through the lens of atheism or
mysticism or something else, the feeling of connection should extend
to each moment of life. Nothing should be suppressed, shunned,
replaced, or sublimated mentally. If fear that love is an illusion or that
we'll wind up believing in absolutely nothing comes, it's important to
accept it. To establish rapprochement. To arrive at our own answer,
not someone else's.

So, the message (if there is one) in my opinion is to seek a philosophy
that you can validate on your own. That addresses each doubt and
fear we have. That provides a way to accept, look at, and embrace
what is. Each second of it. And never accepts solutions that don't
want to deal with the dark corners of life, or that only work part of the time.
Fears, feelings, thoughts that arise should be be resolvable in the moment
rather than ignored, diminished, explained away, or denied.

For me, the struggle is to do just that. Be there every moment. Keep seeking.
The best way, again in my opinion, is to look within, and not outside. To reject
ritual or faith that can't be validated experientially. That includes any belief
that has no answers for some things or sweeps 'em under the carpet in a
"whack-a-mole" kinda way. Or one that assures us answers will come later.
Just keep doing it our way.

Nothing substitutes for experience and validation within.

Hi Brian

I was actually suggesting that Atheism is a path to truth, perhaps the highest, not to God.

If there is a God they won't be separable from this creation.

Therefore the pursuit of Spirituality and true knowledge must lead to relinquishing any notion of God.

And the mirror corollary is also that the basis of spirituality isn't seeking God, but seeking truth.

Everything Atheism sets as a principle of truth must be met. These are simple principles of rational thought and reality testing.

It is in this sense that true Atheism is the greater path that contains all lesser or less perfect forms of pursuing truth, including various forms of spirituality and religion that claim to be paths to truth.

Atheism then is not a denial of God. It is a denial of false concepts of reality.

God is not a knowable entity, being inseparable from all. They got it partly right when they said you can't name God, you can't actually know God.

But we can know great truths through a variety of means.

Spencer said: 'Therefore the pursuit of Spirituality and true knowledge must lead to relinquishing any notion of God.'

Or for some of us, there was no notion there to relinquish.
I was raised in a non-religious home, so I never was conditioned into any concept of God.

Later in life, when I sought to understand my existence, I tried to construct a concept of God, but along with traditional concepts on offer, nothing seemed to hang together as a viable idea.
As a consequence, I have lived my life without a belief in a God, and I feel fortunate that I haven't had to deal with what appears as an impediment to me, while pursuing an inner investigation of existence.

Thanks Dungeness.

Very good!!

Hi Brian!

You mentioned via negativa, the negative way.

I'd like to propose that from a scientific perspective there are at least four avenues of rational thinking to arrive at truth.

1. Induction. Among the related facts, find the pattern in them, induce a more precise principle or truth from them (hypothesis formation, development of theory) .

2. Deduction. Eliminate the facts that cannot be causally related to the principle and therefore cannot be casual factors. What is left are the true causal facts, or conclusion (reality testing, statistical analysis, controlled experimentation) .

3. Reduction. Eliminate all the items that are false to leave what is left, the facts. ( Via Negativa?) experimental design and construction.

4. Abduction. Look at all the available information, false and true, related and unrelated, and try to abduce (guess) from them a principle of truth (initial hypothesis).

People gravitate to one style of thinking or another, based on education, experience and their own cognitive strengths or weaknesses, believing that style to be the right path to truth. And that becomes their chosen path and its results becomes their truth.

But in scientific and engineering work all four are generally necessary. Arriving at a truth cannot be done successfully with only one approach.

Leaving out an approach generally results in dismissing important facts as unrelated to truth (that would be false) , or accepting information as factual that isn't (also false).

These methods of rational thinking are often used together in the reverse sequential order as listed above.

Though, through a process of refinement can appear in any order.

Hi Pooh Bear

You mentioned having no pre conceived notion of God in earlier years.

It occurs to me that this is closer to Atheism.

1. Theism. A system of belief about God.

2.Agnosticism ( a (without) gnosis (knowledge)...) A belief something divine might be there, but no knowledge or detail of that.

3.Atheism (without a belief or knowledge of divinity. A (without) theism (belief in divinity).

4. Anti-theism (anti (against) theism (belief in divinity).
Another system of belief, this one against divinity.

Some people who claim to be atheists are actually anti-theists. They claim an open mind, but actually harbor a strong belief system.

Atheism is just a blank page, kept beautifully blank by rational, disciplined thinking. A blank page can be written on. An open mind can learn.


Anti theists may find it difficult to understand they are not actually atheists.

To say "I hold no belief in God, for or against God" is true Atheism.
To say "I hold a belief that God doesn't exist, that the notion of God is false. " is anti - theism.

Spencer and Brian,

What you, Spencer, say about Atheism ; and what you, Brian, respond to with your reference to Via Negativa and your personal journey : it seems to me all of that would apply not so much to Atheism per se, as to Agnosticism.

Agnosticism -- at least as Huxley envisaged this term he coined -- stands on two legs : one, it clearly accepts that one does not know what one does not know, without pretending to knowledge that one does not, in fact, possess ; and two, it insists that one is to have faith only in that for which adequate evidence is demonstrated.

As such, Agnosticism is a process, and would answer closely to what you speak of here.

Atheism, on the other hand, is a conclusion.


Atheism is a conclusion -- one possible conclusion -- of this process of Agnosticism having been directed towards one particular question. Should an atheist have arrived at his particular conclusion through bona fide enquiry -- and of course, what is properly described as “bona fide enquiry” is ultimately a subjective assessment, but nevertheless it is at least possible to arrive at inter-subjective agreement on this -- then absolutely, that particular Atheist, in as much as he is also an Agnostic, would absolutely answer to your description. (And absolutely, I would agree that you, Brian, personally fit this description perfectly. You’ve paid the price, and won through to your own personal conclusion fair and square.)

On the other hand, some other atheist may have simply taken short-cuts to his particular conclusion. If he’s done that, then he’s no different from the schoolboy who’s cheated by copying the correct answers to his homework sums from some cheat-sheet or from the Answers section of his text-book or from someone else’s work.

I would say that the particular answer one arrives at for oneself is probably, seen in this light, far less important than the means one uses in order to arrive at the answer. Indeed, if one’s method is right, then it does not really matter if one’s particular answer is wrong (to the extent that one can really think of some objective ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ when it comes to questions of this nature).

I’d say that the unthinking follow-the-herd theist and the unthinking follow-the-herd atheist are equally misguided sheeple. The views of neither are of any consequence.


.


On the other hand, I suppose this POV of mine implicitly begs the question in order to support my own bias in favor of method : I suppose the theist can rightly argue his own POV that simply having arrived at his chosen God’s Grace is the only thing that matters, irrespective of method ; and I guess the atheist can equally well argue his particular POV that simply having gotten rid of both religion and spirituality, those nonsensical vestiges of an earlier and irrational age, is the important thing, quite irrespective of how it is one has managed to shake off these anachronisms.


.


But regardless : I was saying, that what you’re saying here, both of you, probably properly applies to Agnosticism, rather than to Atheism per se (except in specific instances when the two happen to converge).

Dungeness - great post, very deep & containing many truths and insights!

Hi Appreciative!

I'm sure it depends on who you speak to but the Agnostics I've known generally believe something is there, just don't know what.

Atheists generally are clear there isn't enough evidence, and possibly no necessity to believe in a divinity. But they are clear that evidence might exist at some point

It is anti theists who believe that a system of belief in God is wrong, even bad.

Reading through the Open Thread 13 comments... words words and more words lol. Its okay, I understand how intelligent and intellectual you guys are and I find it fascinating even when my mind starts to blur and I skim the words.

I enjoyed and read a few times the comment from Dungeness on this thread... "the feeling of connection should extend to each moment of life" and "Be there every moment. Keep seeking. The best way, again in my opinion, is to look within, and not outside".

Of all the spiritual paths I've looked into, the Tao makes the most sense to me.

Watch your thoughts; they become words.
Watch your words; they become actions.
Watch your actions; they become habit.
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.

Lao Tzu

Hi Jen

If our destiny starts with our thoughts, why not visualize perfection?

Spence,

"If our destiny starts with our thoughts, why not visualize perfection?"

Okay, I can try that !

Of course, at some point a negative way has to result in something positive if the way is deemed successful by a God-seeker, or the Via Negativa would be virtually identical to atheism -- since atheists consider that God doesn't exist, which is a perfect negativity.

In my opinion, it misses the mark to frame the search in that
kind of dualism. Of course, we stumble with any descriptive
words in trying to talk about something you must have direct
experience with to make sense of. Both the wannabe mystic
and devout atheist merrily paddle along in the same leaky
boat.

We parse conceptual notions or practices, try to grasp how
to say it, but wind up straitjacketing the words as "good'
and bad", "negative or positive.", ... As I understand it, a
successful search in the end usually means the searcher
just has to remain still and observe. Words and attributions
fall away. The mystics can only say God is, "Not this, not this".

Hey Brian

Reading your latest post with its included ‘young person’ content brought back memories.
It seems many of us had some sort of existential/purpose/God crisis in our late teens early twenties. I hope what follows may be of interest to the young contributor.

I too moved into a state of deep questioning re God’s existence at age 20. Shortly thereafter I was working out in the middle of nowhere (edge of the North Western Australian desert). On a day off I wandered up to a high vantage point atop what geologists call a ‘Banded Iron Formation’ - rocks billions of years old. As a wedge-tailed eagle soared past, this ‘I’ became immersed in a profound experience of what’s best described as ‘connectedness’ with all that was around. Further, it seemed clear that not only was ‘I’ part of all this, and all this was part of me, but any thinking I had connected to it all also. I’ve reflected on this as an experience of ‘expanded, connected consciousness’ and see it as a first glimpse of what life is really about or possibly the ‘what is’ that J. Krishnamurti and others have referred to. No, no drugs were imbibed and I came down from the hill feeling great - happy, full of wonder and interest. Maybe I’d hooked into Aboriginal dreamtime? Pretty cool if it was. Nevertheless, I radically changed my lifestyle after this, which is essentially the foundation for all my investigations into various yogas/meditations ever since. Nothing has topped this experience as yet.

I’d say this type of experience with variations in scope and intensity, is nothing new to the readers of this blog, many will probably have had something similar. Another example that comes to mind is Sam Harris’ description of his desert experience in the book ‘Waking Up’. I’ve researched this stuff for years - and can say aloneness in the desert/wilderness, free from distractions in a state of relaxed alertness is definitely conducive. Looking at the experience in context of your post, one can relate to the Buddhist/neuroscience pointers to ‘no self’ - there was no or very little sense of separation, the normal sense of an individual ‘I’ was not there. Another way of looking at it is that the ‘self’ expanded into or made way for ‘Self’. The Deep Ecologists coined the term ‘Ecological Self’ which I have always liked, it also gives strength to environmental activism - one will want to protect and look after what one is connected to - all life. Further, the idea that an individual has free will cannot operate within such a framework - not only is everything connected, affecting everything else, there is essentially no ‘individual’ there to exercise free will anyway.

However, something seems to instigate the ‘search’, prepare the ground, and was there to both participate in and witness this experience. Further realising who or what this is continues to occupy a lot of my attention and interest. I still consider that ‘soul’ plays a part. Perhaps soul is unlike anything we can get hold of mentally and as someone said needs to be ‘actualised’. I think Sant Mat’s general teachings preoccupation with a separate ‘soul’ confuses the issue.

Belief that we are a separate ‘self’ only - an illusory identity generated and maintained by thinking is the main barrier to ‘what is’. I remain of the view that realisations pertaining to the ‘what is’, or that ‘existence exists?’ is much closer to the truth of things/life than dogmas perpetuating notions that we are separate from it.

Best wishes to all

Quote Spencer:
I’m I'm sure it depends on who you speak to but the Agnostics I've known generally believe something is there, just don't know what.

Atheists generally are clear there isn't enough evidence, and possibly no necessity to believe in a divinity. But they are clear that evidence might exist at some point

It is anti theists who believe that a system of belief in God is wrong, even bad.


I take your point, Spencer, that many who self-describe as Agnostic do not, in fact, correspond to what Huxley himself may have envisaged when he laid out this term.

But then, by the same token, I’d say that there are a great many of those who self-describe as Atheist, whose beliefs and attitudes don’t necessarily correspond to the etymological meaning of the word Atheist. There are plenty of what you describe as “anti-theists” who themselves self-describe as Atheist ; then there are lots of out-and-out apatheists who similarly think of themselves as Atheists. I suppose it would be a very tiny fraction of those who do, in fact, self-describe as Atheist, who would correspond to the Noble Seeker of Truth whom you portray here.

I’m sorry, it is not my intention to nitpick : and I do fully appreciate the admirable ideal you hold up here (and that I know you yourself try to follow to the best of your abilities) : but my point is, to say of someone, whoever they might be, that such-and-such is not a true Atheist because they are not, in your assessment, noble disinterested seekers of truth, would be setting up a fallacious No-True-Scotsman argument.

The same objection can be raised if one were to generalize along those lines for Agnostics as well, I grant you that, absolutely : and nor is it my intention to somehow hold up the flag for the Agnostic camp, not in the least : but my point is, at least in the case of the Agnostic, while the argument remains fallacious (if it seeks to generalize), there is nevertheless at least the underlying certainty of what we know was Huxley’s intention, as demonstrated in his writings ; while in the case of the Atheist, even that purely semantic justification is lacking.

I applaud your ideal, absolutely, but I am questioning the wisdom of labeling that ideal with the term Atheism, especially if you will subsequently use this as premise to claim that some self-described Atheists are not ‘true Atheists’ or ‘real Atheists’ because they do not answer to this description.

What you’re effectively doing here -- as it appears to me -- is erroneously foisting on to others ideals that they themselves may not have, or have any need for.

(And I’m not suggesting for a minute that this is deliberate : I am only trying to point out what appears to me somewhat mistaken thinking that might set you off on unintended and unfruitful tangents.)

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