In this regard, I want to mention that I keep on telling TypePad, which hosts this blog, that they need to improve their comment features. It bugs me that only the ten most recent comments are shown on the left sidebar, and that it isn't possible for visitors to search through previous comments (I can, but others can't).
TypePad assures me that they'll get around to this. Someday. Guess I need to have faith.
Which brings me to a thought that's been stimulated by what others have been saying in their comments – and usually is front and center in my own questioning mind: What can we know for sure?
Really, not much. Even science recognizes this, because every scientific theory is provisional. Meaning, it can be falsified if new evidence comes along.
With religion, spirituality, mysticism, and philosophy, the knowing is even less certain. Here beliefs rather than observations predominate. And beliefs, being mental, always can be refuted by someone with a different mentality.
"Jesus died for our sins so that we may be born again and reside with our Father in Heaven."
"It's a matter of faith."
"No, it's a matter of bullshit."
So it goes in the arena of belief. Nobody can be declared a winner, except by those who refuse to recognize the other contestants.
God remains a mystery. We don't know whether God exists. So obviously we also don't know how God might exist. Yet every religion and spiritual path believes that it has the answer, ignoring the evident fact of mystery.
As many commenters keep saying, either directly or indirectly, it makes sense to start from the other direction: with another mystery much closer to home. So close, it's right before our eyes. In fact, it is our eyes – plus every other sensory organ.
Because it's awareness, or consciousness. This is just as much a mystery as God is.
Science has no idea (though notions abound) as to how consciousness arises or what it is, really. Much is known about brain functions related to mental events, but the hard problem of consciousness — what is awareness? — shows no sign of being resolved.
Why not start here, if you're a spiritual seeker? Why speculate about far off divinities or heavens when you've got an equally peachy-keen gigantic mystery right here?
I'm aware. You're aware. That's so freaking amazing (and also the most natural thing in the world) that there's no need to look beyond awareness if we're wanting to grasp What It Is All About.
This morning I picked up one of my favorite books, "Be As You Are: The Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi." The first chapter starts off by talking about the mystery of awareness.
The essence of Sri Raman's teachings is conveyed in his frequent assertions that there is a single immanent reality, directly experienced by everyone, which is simultaneously the source, the substance, and the real nature of everything that exists.
He gave it a number of different names, each one signifying a different aspect of the same indivisible reality. The following classification includes all of his most common synonyms and explains the implications of the various terms used.
1. The Self. This is the term that he used the most frequently. He defined it by saying that the real Self or real "I" is, contrary to perceptible experience, not an experience of individuality but a non-personal, all-inclusive awareness. It is not to be confused with the individual self which he said was essentially non-existent, being a fabrication of the mind which obscures the true experience of the real Self.
He maintained that the real Self is always present and always experienced but he emphasized that one is only consciously aware of it as it really is when the self-limiting tendencies of the mind have ceased. Permanent and continuous Self-awareness is known as Self-realization.
Now, there's quite a bit in "Be As You Are" that, in my opinion, edges into esoteric Indian mysticism and beliefs that need to be taken on faith.
But it's impossible to argue with the fact that each of us is aware. And this is a mystery that holds the key to every other mystery – because consciousness is a prerequisite for being conscious of anything.
For a long time I've had an itch to write a book called "My Best Guess About God." Because that's all I have: speculations on the subject. There'd be one line in the book, though, that would be incontestable.
And cribbed from Descartes. Who echoes a multitude of other philosophers, mystics, and sages across the ages.
"I'm not sure about anything except that I am aware…of not being sure about anything."
Each of us has to start from somewhere. Awareness. Whether we ever can move from this place is exceedingly unlikely. In fact, impossible.
So religious dogmas that skip over this evident fact are worthless. They ignore the mystery (many would say, divinity) of our own self and would have us believe in artificial human conceptions rather than the most natural thing in existence.
Consciousness of existence.