Nobody knows what ultimate reality is, which religious believers call "God." All we have are guesses, some more defensible than others.
Here's mine -- after some forty years of delving into mysticism, spirituality, religiosity, and philosophy.
Subject to change, of course. If I've learned anything, it's that there's always more to learn. Or guess about.
I'll be as pithy as possible, a shift from my usual wordiness.
(1) God doesn't exist. Not in the sense of an all-knowing, all-powerful personal or individual consciousness. Or even a universal consciousness, though this is more likely than an anthropomorphic God.
(2) The cosmos is, always has been, always will be. In some form or another. Existence always has existed. If you want an eternal "God" to worship, there it is: existence.
(3) It may well be that our universe is just a very small part of the cosmos. But reality is thoroughly natural, not supernatural. Other universes, if they exist, are as natural as ours.
(4) We'll never understand the ultimate laws of nature. Or even know whether they exist. "Ultimate laws" probably is a human conception, not the way things really are.
(5) The biggest problem with being a member of Homo sapiens also is our biggest evolutionary advance: self-awareness. We are aware of being aware. Unlike other animals, we construct an ego, I-ness, by looping our awareness back onto ourselves.
(6) This creates a fear of death, because we know we're going to die. This creates a desire to exist forever, because we can ponder our non-existence.
(7) Thus springs up religion. Along with notions of God, soul, spirit, eternal life, heaven, and such. All are products of a self-created "self," which actually doesn't exist in the sense a stone, sunflower, star, or snake does. It is conceptual, not physical.
(8) Enlightenment -- seeing reality as clearly as possible -- is recognizing that ego, I-ness, selfhood, individuality, or whatever you want to call it doesn't exist.
(9) We're part of the cosmos. And the cosmos is part of us. We just happen to be beings who can conceptualize ourselves as separate from everything else, which we really aren't.
(10) So when we die, we're dead, inasmuch as "I" consider myself to be a "Me." But the cosmos continues. And so will I. Just not as me. Whether this is a chilling or reassuring realization depends on how much "Me" is attached to my "I."
Just a few questions:
2) What about the option that it never existed and burst into being?
3) What about other universe(s) operating according to different laws to what we consider natural in our own?
5) Is that self-awareness not merely a matter of degree? Perhaps other animals also have a sense of I, albeit to a more limited extent. I sometimes wonder if evolution, or the universe, tends towards more complexity, expressed in the form of greater awareness of self, but also surroundings.
In any event, I agree that it seems we're just more evolved animals whose most powerful feature, the human mind, appears to be simulatenously our greatest strength and object of misery.
Posted by: George | May 03, 2010 at 03:14 PM
9) but what does one mean by 'seperate' and 'connected'? in what way are we connected to the cosmos?
Even if we assume there are certain elementary particles from which all matter in the cosmos is formed and from what we are made (stardust) - these particles are all put together in a unique fashion resulting in a seperate and unique individual.
I think Sagan said something along those lines.
10) What is 'me' and 'I'. If 'me' is your physical body (or uniquely assembled set of particles) then that too shall die or dissolve. Are you saying that ultimately only the elementery particles survive and will over time become assembled into other forms? If 'me' and 'I' are mental construct then that should die along with the body from which it arose.
The concept that I'm battling with is this nonduality aspect, of the One or oneness, which it seems everyone on here is partial too. I too believe it to be potentially be true, but I do wonder how we can reconcile this oneness with the particle model underlying modern physics.
If we are all one, then there should be some substance, which encapsulates or makes up or flows through every aspect of the universe, it is the universe. I dont know is there is such a substance, and certainly I dont know if there is any proof for its existence.
Posted by: George | May 03, 2010 at 04:06 PM
Brian, well thats a pretty darn good list regarding the way things (most likely) are, if you ask me.
Posted by: tAo | May 03, 2010 at 10:32 PM
We suffer from the fear of death, disease, ageing and loneliness.
We do not have a just world where honesty pays and equality guaranteed.
Some conmen exploit these helplessness and
there come GOD, HEAVEN, HELL.
Posted by: Pranati Banerjee | May 04, 2010 at 06:02 AM
I regret to note a sea change in your progress. Once upon a time you were trying your level best to realize God. Sooner the better..................Of late, you have come down to a guess.
Probably you are as ever as you were. It is the outer circumstances or milieu has changed.
Do not loose your self? I shall look forward to your new article- something refreshing and different.
Looking forward to my request,
with kindest regards,
Posted by: rakesh bhasin | May 04, 2010 at 09:15 AM
rakesh, what do you mean by "God"? That's the first question for you to answer. I don't feel that I have changed -- not in my entire life. I've always been looking for truth, which is what I mean by "God."
Again, what do you mean by this word? If you answer this question, I think the meaning of your comment will be clearer.
What I'm saying is, you seem to be asking me about something that really is only a concern of yours. Why should you be concerned about what my goals in life are?
Posted by: Brian Hines | May 04, 2010 at 09:57 AM
George, it seems to me that a better question is "How are we NOT connected to the cosmos?"
We take in air, food, water and expel waste products. Our actions affect the environment, and the environment affects us. Even when we sit quietly and attempt to do nothing, our body radiates heat and reacts to (and mildly affects) the air temperature.
Regarding "I" and "me," I was thinking along these lines (related to the above): each of us affects the world, and is affected by the world. We leave traces which live on after us. Children, trees planted, businesses, charitable activities, writings, works of art, conversations -- all kinds of stuff.
Douglas Hofstadter talks about this in his "I Am a Strange Loop." See:
His deceased wife lives on in his consciousness. So is she still alive, or not? Hofstadter doesn't find evidence of an "I," in pretty much the same sense as I used the term in this post.
As a distinct entity. A self. Something separate from the world. So what scares us about dying is the loss of something that doesn't really exist, according to modern neuroscience.
This doesn't make death any less distressing. But maybe, if we become "enlightened" and realize that I am not the "me" that I consider myself to be, life can become more enjoyable and less ego-centered.
Posted by: Brian Hines | May 04, 2010 at 12:43 PM
George, just came across your other comment. I don't see how it is possible that the cosmos (meaning everything in existence) never existed. Existence would have to exist eternally. Otherwise, how could something spring into existence from absolutely nothing -- no existence at all?
But sure, the universe could have come into existence from the "multiverse," a pre-existing cosmos. How else could the big bang have happened? Other universes certainly could exist with laws much different from our own.
Yes, research has shown that other animals do have self-awareness. Some apes reach out and touch their foreheads when they look in a mirror and see a sticker that the experimenter has put there. (However, our dog doesn't seem to recognize herself in a mirror; I've tried this with no success.)
People, though, clearly have much more self-awareness. This is generally a good thing. But when we obsess over our self, thinking about our thinking, emoting over our emotions, our reflexive capabilities can cause problems.
Posted by: Brian Hines | May 04, 2010 at 12:52 PM
Dear Mr. Hines,
Excuse me, but I am a first-time visitor, one whose first impression is an enthusiastic one, incidentally.
If it would not be rude to comment practically while crossing the threshold: your best guess at the god-thing is not unlike a cross-reference of all the agnostic best guesses I've heard over the last fifteen years, which is to say, partially, that it is a very safe guess and not overly prone to castigation.
About the consciousness attribute, though, which was your initial point, I sometimes grapple with an ancient concept that makes an awful lot of sense to me, one which I will elucidate in a moment.
First, though, I want to signify that I am not a believer, and indeed have neither faith nor belief in either faith or belief. Can't help but spin my wheels, though, and so here I am.
Yes, well, so there's this very ancient idea that says a thing cannot come as a consequent that was not involved in the antecedent.
Layman's version: there cannot be anything in the apple that was not in the apple tree.
There are vast, yawning holes in this basic argument, but it still gives me pause.
In case the implications are unclear for anyone, they are that whatever tree happened to drop us as apples, it has at least our attributes, all of them, from our egos to our mistaken judgments and in one form or another, our smelly armpits.
Fun idea, isn't it?
Enough out of me. I'll be back to say hello soon.
Posted by: BothEyesShut | May 04, 2010 at 03:54 PM
Yes, its an interesting question, but i wonder how much we actually do affect the cosmos, in any way. Its sheer scale is just so vast, that even on mars, let alone in another solar system, or nother galaxy - its hard to believe that we really make any impact at all.
Even if every lifeform on earth or indeed earth were not too exist, would it make any difference to the universe?
Regarding life itself, that is incredibly fleeting, the most long-lived and successful apex species to inhabit the earth were the dinosaurs, and they too came and departed, with whatever extinction event might have occurred barely leaving a trace.
Our loved ones comes and go, their memories will go too as we their descendants also will go (i dont even know what my great great grandparents might have been like or what they did). Everything appears impernant, and our human lives and relationships, especially so fleeting such that it dissolves as if it never existed.
I think the big bang theory is basically exactly that which you struggle to believe. The theory being that everything (the fabric of space-time itself) sprang into existence and being from an infinitely small dense mathematical singularity. nothing.
Yes, it does seem humans have the most awareness of any other species. We seem to be the only species capable of philosophical contemplation, and more importantly, asking what is our purpose. But of course, if we had to ask the question, what is the purpose of the ape, the answer seems simpler. There is no real purpose, the ape will be born, he might procreate, but eventually he and his offspring will die.
I wonder why we therefore feel we have any other more noble purpose, and why we spend so much time trying to answer this question. Perhaps, those folk that are less contemplative (or aware) are actually more in tune with nature.
Posted by: George | May 04, 2010 at 04:12 PM
You said, "I've always been looking for truth, which is what I mean by "God."
I fail to think as to how your God and my God can be different.
It is truth and truth alone.
with kindest regards,
Posted by: rakesh bhasin | May 04, 2010 at 10:42 PM
BRIAN,you said what if "never existed and
BURST into being".
Let's follow this thought for a moment: if (something) suddenly "burst" into being, you suppose that it did burst "out of nothing"- it means there was A CREATION. So, something or "somebody" created it. (Your position is the same as those of old religions and it is illogical.) Because that "creator" EXISTED before he created everything else. So, we come back to the beginning, existence allways existed and it is eternal - I think human mind cannot go further beyond that.
I agree with George entirely, Osho Rajneesh had the same conclusions in the 1980-ies.
"Big Bang" hypothesis can be applied to one, relatively 'small' part of Universe/ Existence.
Posted by: Namik ( a 'Westerner') | May 05, 2010 at 04:16 AM
George, the big bang singularity may seem to have been "nothing" from our perspective, but a singularity still is something -- a singularity. So it does seem like the cosmos is different from the universe. Meaning, there is more to physical existence than our universe. (Or, the universe goes through a series of big bang's and big crunch's, and has existed eternally.)
Namik, like you said, "creation" implies a creator, and there's no evidence of that. So I agree with you that existence is eternal and should take the place of "god" in our minds.
Posted by: Brian Hines | May 05, 2010 at 08:18 AM
No, as I understand it, all things, all matter, the very fabric of the universe (space-time itself) was created in an instand out of nothing.
Put simply, all space-time burst into being, this was the beginning of the universe and of time. There was no universe or time before the big bang, nothing.
A singularity is a mathematical expression or representation of an infinitesmally small dense point where nothing exists. The same as that swallowed by a black whole, all matter, including space-time is ripped apart and eventually ceases to exist.
This is the big bang theory.
I think the Big Bounce (repetitive theory) is an interesting one, but we not sure of this, nor of how the universe ends which might be a Big Crunch, Chill or Rip.
Posted by: George | May 05, 2010 at 02:59 PM
i guess its semantics, but i dont know if we can say with any degree of certainty that the universe is infinite or eternal or recurring.
Posted by: George | May 05, 2010 at 03:54 PM
George, the big bang theory says that the space-time of our universe sprang into being. It doesn't say that existence started to exist at the big bang. In fact, the "multiverse" hypothesis has a lot of adherents among scientists -- the notion that the big bang singularity is a quantum fluctuation related to a "bubble" from another section of the multiverse (in other words, another universe).
My point is that it seems exceedingly unlikely that existence started to exist at the moment of the big bang. What would bring existence into existence if there was nothing existing? That's why I favor the idea that existence has existed eternally (if "eternally" has any meaning in this context).
Posted by: Brian Hines | May 05, 2010 at 08:09 PM
I agree with Brian.
how could something ever arise out of nothing? nothing, in this case, means a beginningless absolute infinite void. so where could or would the 'something' arise from, if there was nothing prior for the something to arise out of?
so also, this idea that "God" created everything out of nothing, is obviouasly false and absurd as well. if there was nothing, then that means there was also no God. again, "nothing" means just that - an absolute nothing... no God, no space, no time, no matter. just an eternal and infinite void. so where would this "creation" come from, if there was no one and no something there to create it?
"nothing" is not a 'something'. it is a complete absence of something, an absence of any and all things... that means no space, no time, no matter, no energy, no creatures or beings, no existence, and no god.
so I don't believe that something came from nothing. i think that existence has no beginning. existence is beginingless. existence has always existed.... eternally. otherwise, how could or why would all of a sudden, existence arise out of a beginningless and infinte nothingness?
there is no "nothing", and there never was. other than perhaps as an artificial vacuum. (but even a vacuum has energy passing through it)
i think its obvious that existence (in some form or another, some universe or another) is eternal - meaning that its beginningless and endless.
existence did not come from out of some nothingness (non-existence). existence is totality. it can never not-exist. and there never was a time (even before time) that existence somehow came into being. the totality of existence has always been here.
the space and time that makes up the fabric of this universe may have come into being at the big-bang, but there was something -'existence' - prior to the big bang.
something does not, and cannot, arise out of nothing. the energy and space & time of this universe which exploded outward at the initial moment of the big-bang, had to come from somewhere else. it did not come from nothingness.
there has never been a "nothingness", except as a mere idea or concept. it is not possible. there has always been an existence... in some universe or another.
so infinite 'nothingness' is just an idea... an idea which is entertained by beings who EXIST within Existence. it is merely the polar opposite or the shadow notion of an infinite 'Everythingness'.
so what exists, is infinite Everythingness. not infinite nothingness. nothingness, by its very definition, does NOT exist.
so there is only an eternal and infinite EVERYTHINGNESS.... aka existence.
its actually very simple. youjust have to realize that there is no "nothing", and there never was any "nothing". so there is only an infinite and beginingless EXISTENCE.
so y'all can relax. even after we are all gone, some universe(s) or other will always exist somewhere.
Posted by: tAo | May 05, 2010 at 10:05 PM
I think your theory is quite plausible, but i am not sure it is the prevailing big-bang theory.
The Big Bang theory was used to explain the origins of the only universe we know to exist. All matter and energy and indeed space and time itself only came into being, into existence, upon the explosion of the big bang.
Your alternative presumes there has always been everything, but it just explodes and then contracts into different forms. I think its an intuituve model since we see these patterns in our lives and the stars around us, but i'm not sure your recursive model is the scientific consensus, tho it may well be proven correct eventually.
The model you guys talk of also assumes that everything (as opposed to nothing) has always existed just in different forms, presumably from singularity to explosion (expansion) to contraction and repeated. The One, something thats indivisible and immanent. But the One behaves strangely, since althought its nature seems infinite, its manifestations or forms appear to be finite(i.e. space and time appear to have limits, expanding limits, but limits nonetheless).
Yeah its a very interesting question - there's alot to be said about that theory and it appeals to me - nevertheless i'm not sure it cant be said with certainty "The cosmos is, always has been, always will be."
Existence in the plain meaning of the word requires space and time, and that burst into being according to the big bang. Now, let us assume that everything, as opposed to nothing, was stored in this inifinitely dense singularity - what then triggered its explostion?
So the questions remain, why something rather than nothing or applied to your theory, what lit the fuse?
Posted by: George | May 06, 2010 at 03:42 AM
George, the question "what lit the fuse?" does indeed remain in the big bang theory. The multiverse hypothesis, related to quantum fluctuations, makes some sense. But since it would be difficult, if not impossible, to obtain evidence of other universes, this might always remain a hypothesis.
However, the "why something rather than nothing?" question really isn't valid, in my opinion. I see it as an anthropomorphic product of the human brain, not as a query that leads us closer to reality -- as other questions do.
All we know are things that exist within the universe, or cosmos, if you like (again, I use "cosmos" to mean everything in existence, while "universe" is what we know exists -- most of our physical universe is beyond the light horizon, of course, so we will never be able to know it directly.)
When we apply this way of knowing and thinking to the entire universe, or cosmos, logic blows up. Asking why there is something rather than nothing presumes a standpoint outside of the universe/cosmos. We imagine ourselves looking at everything, then it disappears in our imagination, and we wonder "why isn't there nothing rather than something?"
But we're there asking the question. And its all imaginary anyway. Philosopher Milton K. Munitz does a good job of analyzing this in his "The Mystery of Existence," which I wrote about here:
We simply don't have the tools to answer the question, assuming it is a meaningful one. But again, there is a distinction between asking how/why the big bang "banged" and why there is something rather than nothing. A multiverse theory, for example, presupposes the existence of something, so it is a valid question to pursue.
However, asking why anything exists at all seems to me to be a spectacularly useless question. Interesting, yes. Provocative, yes. But unanswerable.
Posted by: Brian Hines | May 06, 2010 at 11:09 AM
BothEyesShut, the "apple tree contains the apple" idea is indeed interesting. I've seen it used by those who make the argument that the universe is conscious, because there are conscious beings who exist within it.
Like you said, there are big holes in this argument, particularly when applied to the entire universe, or cosmos. Science tells us that matter/energy can't be created or destroyed. So it seems that everything that banged into existence at the big bang is still with us.
So in that sense, the raw materials for the "apples" of the universe are in the "apple tree" of physical existence. However, we know that the universe has done a lot of changing, and life has done a lot of evolving. Complexity theory (which I'm not very familiar with) talks about new states coming out of creative combinations of old matter/energy.
Thus it seems simplistic to consider that everything in the universe today, like consciousness, always has existed -- albeit in a latent form. I realize that you don't believe this, and are simply attracted to exploring the "apple/apple tree" notion. I also like the idea that whatever we humans are, and whatever we experience, is the product of natural processes.
The universe is us, and we are the universe. Yes, absolutely.
Posted by: Brian Hines | May 06, 2010 at 11:29 AM
George, i assume your comment was directed at me?? it appears that you are attributing ideas or conclusions to me that i did not propose. you said:
"your theory is quite plausible, but i am not sure it is the prevailing big-bang theory."
-- but i didn't say that it was. i was primarily talking about the question of how did 'something' supposedly come from 'nothing'? i indicated that it is highly unlikely, imo. if the big-bang is true, then i think that there must have been something (loke another universe) prior to the big-bang. thats all i said. i don't think that there was some infinite nothingness, and then all of a sudden 'something' (space, time, and existence) occured and exploded out of that absolute nothingness. it is illogical.
so i neither support nor deny the big-bang theory. i just think tyhat if the big-bang is true, then there must have been another prior univere existing elsewhere. although that is most likely quite impossible to ever prove.
btw, have you ever heard of the "electrical universe" theory? the theory that the stars are basically electrical in nature, and not fusion? its very intersting. i could get you some info if you would like.
"The Big Bang theory was used to explain the origins of the only universe we know to exist. All matter and energy and indeed space and time itself only came into being, into existence, upon the explosion of the big bang.
-- i understand that all that.
"Your alternative presumes there has always been everything, but it just explodes and then contracts into different forms."
-- no, thats not really what i said. i did not say anything about contracting into different forms. i said that there must have been some other form of existence elewhere prior to the big-bang. i do not believe that the matter oand energy of the entire universe came out of nothing.
"i'm not sure your recursive model is the scientific consensus, tho it may well be proven correct eventually."
-- i really don't know. i rather doubt that there is any way to ever prove the answer to these questions.
"The model you guys talk of also assumes that everything (as opposed to nothing) has always existed just in different forms, presumably from singularity to explosion (expansion) to contraction and repeated."
Posted by: tAo | May 06, 2010 at 04:02 PM
i have not come accross an 'electrical theory', but stars surely are nuclear fusion where the different periodic elements are formed and the main fuel source being the most basic and common, hydrogen.
yip, i'd be interested in having a look at that. cheers.
Posted by: George | May 07, 2010 at 04:39 AM
george, i had always thought the same thing that you do... namely that "stars are nuclear fusion where the different periodic elements are formed and the main fuel source being the most basic and common, hydrogen".
however, the 'electrical universe' theory and its established scientific proponents disagree and sayotherwise... and they make a pretty good case. its quite interesting and significant.
i will post you some links within a day or so... as soon as i can dig them up.
Posted by: tAo | May 07, 2010 at 12:05 PM
Interesting... I recently listened to Wallace Thornhill being interviewed on Red Ice Radio, from Sweden, via internet.
Wallace Thornhill website:
"The Electric Universe" by Wallace Thornhill and David Talbott
Posted by: Jen | May 07, 2010 at 07:37 PM
Tao said as soon as i dig them up,
It means Internet is a Vast ocean and any kind of knowledge can be found here,
but then no accuracy guaranteed,
and about this topic guess about god,
its pretty much difficult,
from years n years of time,no one either had any answer about the god,and who had answers were never heard,and who were heard were never believed.
But whatsoever there is one powerful energy,behind the creation,nothing just happened out of blue,and i do not understand big bang theory,
there was an proper perfect planning in the creation of universe but then its difficult to understand,
its such a powerful research,that till now no one has any logical evidence and reason behind the existence and behind the power which manage this universe.
Posted by: Account Deleted | May 07, 2010 at 11:01 PM
yes that is correct, i (tAo) did say that "i will post you some links within a day or so... as soon as i can dig them up."
the reason being that i had to dig around in my own personal files for the appropriate websites, and i did not have the time to do that then.
but then this "jesus" (probably manish) [Brian can find out by checking his IP address) comes along and says:
"It means Internet is a Vast ocean and any kind of knowledge can be found here, but then no accuracy guaranteed"
no manish, i wasn't talking about searching the internet. i was simply talking about digging into my own personal files for the sites that i have that present the 'electic universe' theory. and i still have yet to find time to do that. [but i see that Jen has now provided one site... thanks Jen.]
Posted by: tAo | May 08, 2010 at 12:12 AM