I'm obsessed, in a pleasing way, with a cosmic notion: existence exists.
(A Google search of my blogs reveals the posts where I've tried to "eff" this ineffable subject. Some are here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.)
Seemingly there's not much I could add to what I've said about this ultimate mystery. Except... what I'm going to add right now.
Which is another attempt to speak about the unspeakable feeling that comes over me when I contemplate the fact that existence exists.
This feeling can't be produced on demand.
Right now I'm talking about a memory of it, not the feeling itself. For me, it's a sort of godless grace. When the feeling happens, I'm grateful for the sensation of getting a glimpse of what can't be known.
At least, I'm pretty sure, not by a human brain. Any human brain. Doesn't matter if you're a genius, a mystic, a Nobel prize winner, a poet, a savant, a philosophical mastermind.
I'm convinced that the feeling I've talked about in my blog posts is a cosmic lock, not a key. It vaguely points in the general direction of Ultimate Mystery, but in no way does it lead closer to an understanding.
Here's one of my attempts to talk about the cosmic lock.
It happened again today. That sudden "bottom falling out from under me" feeling, sort of the mental equivalent of being startled by an elevator going into free fall.
I like the feeling. It's the most genuine sensation of spirituality, not really an apt word, but best I can come up with, that comes over me in my churchless way of looking at the world.
What it is -- and I'm also struggling to find the right words here -- is awe that existence exists.
I was walking along with one of our dogs on a pleasant rainless mild Oregon day, enjoying the early spring sprouting greenness on a trail that leads through woods to a nearby lake.
I'd been thinking about how nature has no straight lines, no obvious rigid order, no firm demarcations between this and that. Only the human-built structures along my way possessed those features.
Then my vision of nature became much more cosmic. In an instant I was swept past all the various manifestations of nature into a void of mystery which was as much an ultimate fullness as an absolute emptiness.
Down the rabbit hole. Cut the elevator cable. Dive out of the balloon with no parachute. Exhilarating.
Time stood still. Or rather, time no longer existed. I was face to face with what is for me the only unarguably true spiritual sensation:
Existence exists. Always has. Always will. Is now.
After my most recent "bottom falling out from under me" feeling I had this intuition: that sensation is mind-blowing because the human brain lacks the ability to cognize the primal reality of existence existing... eternally, uncaused, uncreated, just freaking there.
Evolution has brought us Homo sapiens some marvelous cognitive abilities compared to other species. We have unraveled many cosmic mysteries -- quantum mechanics, relativity theory, and so much else.
There are significant gaps in our knowledge of the universe. But I agree with leading scientists that there don't appear to be any insurmountable obstacles to vastly expanding our already-immense grasp of how the cosmos is put together and operates.
When it comes to the sheer facticity of existence, though, the is'ness of reality, it seems extremely unlikely that we humans ever will be able to open that cosmic knowledge lock. The feeling I have when contemplating existence exists is akin to a psychological short-circuit.
My brain just doesn't seem capable of grasping the fact that all facts can be friends with "why?" -- except the primal fact of existence. I have the sense that natural selection has given us humans the ability to unravel complex tangles of cause and effect, but NOT the ability to grasp the meaning of existence pure and simple.
Assuming there is such a meaning. Or such a thing as "existence pure and simple."
Maybe advanced beings from an alien civilization in a galaxy far, far away possess the cosmic understanding of existence exists that eludes me, and seemingly every other member of my species.
But how would we know this, even if we came into contact with such a civilization? I strongly suspect that if an alien being handed me the key to the ultimate cosmic lock, I'd have no idea how to use it.
Or, how to grasp what lay beyond the open door.
Your description of an 'Elevator going into freefall' reminds of a time, when siting quietly, a huge feeling of compassion came over me followed by a falling into what felt like a whirlpool or black hole. Interestingly, into this 'black hole' also fell my self structure. It was quite joyous. Looking around and looking out of the window it was as though seeing everything for the first time. Although I knew what everything was it was somehow devoid of all the baggage that usually accompanies seeing.
Perhaps this can be attributed to brain processes (or lack of them) but I get the impression that what I call my 'self', my 'me' somehow overlays and obscures just seeing.
Posted by: Turan | June 13, 2016 at 02:32 AM
Even forgiving the tautology of 'existence existing', I'm having trouble making sense of 'the human brain lacks the ability to cognize the primal reality of existence existing.' We've only ever known existence, so surely it's non-existence that would be problematic to cognise, but this isn't an issue because minds exclude non-existence.
I'd agree that limitless phenomena like time without beginning or end are troublesome because we are finite creatures. But now we're stepping into unknown territory and by definition this can't be known. We get ourselves into all sorts of muddles when we over-reach like this. We end up with pseudo-explanations like God that simply further enmesh us in our own nonsense.
Then you speak of 'the ability to grasp the meaning of existence' and I've lost you altogether. What does this even mean? Why should existence have meaning beyond such meanings that creatures attribute to it? To imagine that it might gets us most of the way to a creator God, I suspect.
Posted by: David | June 13, 2016 at 05:46 AM
"" ""Maybe advanced beings from an alien civilization in a galaxy f . . . " "
They come and came again utterly amazed
how in heaven sake these 7 chakras creatures were developed
in the midst of so much chaos
If humans hadn't that 7th crown chakra , they would have destroyed us ( again ) long ago
as a total dangerous failure
Now they study and study how to carbon copy
this chakra Door directly to the Highest Realm Most subtle environment , The 7th Heaven
where IQ is zero.
Don't let lower than the eye brow chakras overwhelm your feelings Brian
Perhaps the Kings Falcon has landed on your shoulder after all
" " but NOT the ability to grasp the meaning of existence pure and simple. " "
You have very much that ability
Let me again on this blog ask you for the 5th time now :
Imaging 2 minutes you are the omnipotent, all knowing Presence, you call existence
having already everything imaginable
What would make you happy to receive ??
Posted by: 777 | June 13, 2016 at 05:53 AM
David, I didn't way there was a meaning to existence. I said "Assuming there is such a meaning." Personally, I simply see the universe as a matter of IS. The universe is. End of story.
Which is a difficult story to accept, as you said. Us finite creatures have a tough time with infinity -- existence having existed forever.
I understand what you're saying about this possibly leading to a belief in God. But what I was trying to get at in this post is that the easy way out is just that -- believing in a God who brought the universe into being. (Of course, we then have to ask, "who brought God into being?")
However, the opposite seems to be true for me. If I face head-on the mind-blowing nature of existence having existed eternally, then I'm less likely to believe in God. Instead of considering that there had to be a cause for the IS of the cosmos, I can try to grasp that it is existence which has existed forever, not God.
Posted by: Brian Hines | June 13, 2016 at 11:20 AM
It occurs to me that for a long time Christian philosophers have thought about God the way you are thinking about existence, though of course you would probably not use the word ‘God’. Nevertheless I thought you might find the following interesting.
Here is Thomas Aquinas: ‘I say that this proposition, “God exists,” of itself is self-evident, for the predicate is the same as the subject, because God is His own existence as will be hereafter shown.’
He goes on to say: ‘That which does not exist only begins to exist by something already existing. Therefore, if at one time nothing was in existence, it would have been impossible for anything to have begun to exist; and thus even now nothing would be in existence — which is absurd. Therefore, not all beings are merely possible, but there must exist something the existence of which is necessary. But every necessary thing either has its necessity caused by another, or not. Now it is impossible to go on to infinity in necessary things which have their necessity caused by another, as has been already proved in regard to efficient causes. Therefore we cannot but postulate the existence of some being having of itself its own necessity, and not receiving it from another, but rather causing in others their necessity. This all men speak of as God.’
Summa Theologiæ, question 2
Posted by: Rodric | July 10, 2016 at 11:21 PM