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murmsk

Reality Is Beyond Understanding

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I think this merits more discussion.

 

reality is beyond understanding and, therefore, our discussions are essentially meaningless. There is, again in my opinion, an attitude prevalent here that says that the world is exactly as it should be, that all is well and all is one, and that, therefore, all actions are also essentially meaningless.

 

reality is beyond understanding and, therefore, our discussions are essentially meaningless.
I do think reality might be out of our ability to understand but I don't think it makes discussions or working toward an understanding meaningless for several potential reasons.

 

First as a a person trained in science I understand that what is beyond understanding today may not be tomorrow. Consider understanding as a ladder ... ya have to take each rung to get to the next. An example might be the understanding genetics. 100 years ago we did not have the ability to understand genetics DNA and the like because instrumentation still needed to be invented. The instrumentation couldn't be invented because of a lack of understanding of basic physic due to a lack of some understanding of mathematics . Did that mean that the discussions were meaningless? Absolutely not it was critical to moving the body of knowledge along.

 

Second I am not sure the ability to totally understand is necessary to get benefit.

 

Third Maybe reality is what it is .... maybe we understand it but don't know it

 

 

 

the world is exactly as it should be, that all is well and all is one, and that, therefore, all actions are also essentially meaningless.
Ill work on this one later.

 

What do others think?

 

steve

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Steve, One of my degrees is in Biology and I respect science. I feel we don't see the world as it is, but as we are. Science can help us program our biocomputers and see the world and ourselves more clearly. A great tool to help us use our mind and body to go beyond our mind and body. A splinter used to remove a splinter. The new postulates of physics are like sutras or parables that take the mind to the jumping off edge into another realm. I hold the scientist standing on others shoulders building an awareness the same as spiritual leaders who also seek truth. Anyway it has helped me become less reactive and more in tune with the effortless Being who is beyond seeking and more about finding. We came to earth in minds and bodies so why not understand them and our environment using science to maximize our vehicles and service. I applaud you for bringing it up. Thanks

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reality is beyond understanding and, therefore, our discussions are essentially meaningless

 

To a certain extent I understand it in much the opposite way, that because ultimate reality is unknowable we CAN have meaningful discussions. This is what all the high flying language like "God is a circle whose centre is everywhere" suggests to me. To KNOW God intellectually would be idolatry, in as much as we would limit "him" to the pictures and words of our own minds, divide ourselves from others who have different pictures and words (yes, perhaps leading to some interesting discussions, but more often Crusades, Inquisitions and wars!) For me , it is becasue we do not take up a particular position that we are able to live existentially in communion with others, and hold discussions that - with goodwill - can more compliment each other rather than compete with each other. Why for me Jesus Christ is "sanctioned" by Christianity as a mirror/window through which we can "see" God, known and grasped by love only, not by concepts, by a life, a Person, not words or text. Within such lives genuine discussion can flourish, each looking thro' the eye not with the eye, each talking with each other, not at each other. I've sneaked in a William Blake line back there (!..... :P ) and here is Eckhart......"They do Him wrong who take God in one particular way, they end with the way rather then God." A "knowable" God would be for me an idol.

 

the world is exactly as it should be, that all is well and all is one, and that, therefore, all actions are also essentially meaningless.

 

For me, "things being as they should be"......this is a matter of "faith", a letting go of self. Resting in this completely is the transformative experience that leads to living truly within the world, and to live truly in the world is to aid in ITS transformation. Not by the assertion of "self" (works). So for me it is not a question of a judgement that "all is well", or that my actions are meaningless. It just does not follow. Its just that.....the earth bringeth forth fruits of herself, and "no working is true working".

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reality is beyond understanding and, therefore, our discussions are essentially meaningless

 

Very nihilistic thought. I would be disappointed if that held out to be fact. Nicely put, tariki. We can only comprehend with human comprehension. When we define God, God ends up looking alot like us.

 

What if our exsistence, the whole process of creation, was for God to become self aware. God created us in "His" image in an effort to know "Himself" better. So every experience we have, every conversation, every individual and varied perception of reality, is God's experience. Everything we do, is for God, and done by God. Every person we meet, and communcate with is an extention of God, and when they speak to us it is through God's mouth and into God's ears. Wouldn't that make it true, that reality is beyond our understanding, yet make every discussion, act, or experience essentially, and infinitely meaningful?

 

the world is exactly as it should be, that all is well and all is one, and that, therefore, all actions are also essentially meaningless.

 

I refer to my response to the first statement, and again, nicely said, tariki. The world is exactly as it should be, in flux, constantly transforming and moving through the process of creation. All actions are essentially and infinitely meaningful because each act is an act of God in the process of creation. I see my own place in becoming open to participation in that transformation by being fully present in the world and in the presence of God.

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There is, again in my opinion, an attitude prevalent here that says that the world is exactly as it should be, that all is well and all is one, and that, therefore, all actions are also essentially meaningless.

 

So, I haven't been here long enough to know whether or not this is an accurate description of how this board works. It would, however, seem odd to me for a progressive Christian board to assume the world is perfectly fine the way it is.

 

In either case, if one assumes there is a God, and that "all is well and all is one", then one might be making a case for an omnipotent God, everything happens according to God's will, and free will is mere illusion. Calvin gets accused of making this claim, though I don't know enough to agree/disagree in a substantive way. So, this creates a really fascinating question: Does an omnipotent God and no free will render human action meaningless? I know Calvin and Barth's answer (kinda-sorta no), but I'm not 100% sure about that.

 

I have a suspicion, though, that I'm misinterpreting the meaning of the sentence.

 

reality is beyond understanding and, therefore, our discussions are essentially meaningless.

 

This sentence becomes an extremely different argument if we're talking about scientific truth, divine revelation, or something else.

 

I could go on a loooooong rant about postmodernism here, but the Enlightenment Project of figuring out a direct line to perfect, eternal, objective truth through scientific and rational methods has not and cannot happen. This is where the postmodern critique comes in: science does not produce truth as much as it creates power relations. ...Well, that's the postmodern critique in 12 words. Philosophers and social theorists have written very long books that elaborate the argument.

 

I'm not actually a postmodernist, though, and I do not believe science is meaningless. I'm a huge fan of Bruno Latour's work on science. He's got a nice argument: truth (or more specifically huumanity's truth rather than whatever is "out there") is an artificial thing assembled by people using various practices and technologies. The better the truth is, the more it has been constructed in a fashion to account for more and more things. So, scientific truth is a valuable, useful, and meaningful thing. But it isn't fixed, and as soon as we change what technologies and practices are available in society, are constructed truth changes. We have lots of debates about what is true, what reality is.

 

IMHO, it's pretty easy to find evidence that human, scientific truth, limited as it may be, is nevertheless meaningful. We care about what is true, and we struggle, both as a society and as individuals, over what reality is and isn't. It's just that we fall short, or more accurately, we have to construct our own truth to a degree because we do not have a simple, consistent, and direct line to Ultimate reality. To put it in Foucault's terminology, we cannot escape language, history, and power. And sort of truth we discover will be 'inside' those three things, just like us. So, ultimate reality is beyond our (scientific) understanding, but that doesn't mean the search for truth is meaningless. It just means our products are contingent, temporary, and flawed, just like us. My work in sociology has made me very comfortable accepting Barth's argument that, generally speaking, there is no natural theology.

 

As for divine revelation, I believe there are moments of inspiration and revelation, within which one might glimpse part of The Truth but the problem with these is they are inherently personal, subjective, temporary, and do not guarantee how the person uses or reacts to that revelation*. So, if one believes in divine revelation, then one believes that reality can be understood by humanity, but not in a consistent way. As soon start acting off or trying to interpret revelation, you end up dealing with human and social capabilities, and Latour's (and Borg's) work becomes relevant again.

 

Divine revelation & religious experience create a very different form of truth than science and intellectual activity does. Both have value, but they are demonstrably different things.

 

 

 

 

* You can of course "double down" on the Sovereignty of God and say that how people react to a revelation is part of the revelation and part of God's plan. However, God's motives stay pretty well hidden from mortal view, so this doesn't change much in terms of how humanity can experience revelation or talk about it after the fact.

Edited by Nick the Nevermet

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These excerpts should be unpacked because they have so much hidden baggage. I'm not going to because of time restraints. Some comments

 

reality is beyond understanding and, therefore, our discussions are essentially meaningless.

 

tariki

To a certain extent I understand it in much the opposite way, that because ultimate reality is unknowable we CAN have meaningful discussions.

 

My thinking is similar to tariki's. In the face of the ineffable (Divinity, God, Universe) we are making it all up. We make the words and the words make us. This should be empowering and cautionary at the same time. Empowering because our words, that which we say and write, create our world: if we want a loving world we can move in that direction. Cautionary because if we realize that we have no place to stand to assert anything with any certainty we might use our words more humbly (not something I always do. :( )

 

There is, again in my opinion, an attitude prevalent here that says that the world is exactly as it should be, that all is well and all is one, and that, therefore, all actions are also essentially meaningless.

 

I think hidden in here is a misunderstanding of an approach to meaning that acknowledges that we are meaning-making people and an appreciation of detachment in the quest for feeling centered, at one, peace. We should be reserved to slapping meaning or meaningfulness on particular events or concepts. Remember we are making the meaning; it isn't there existentially (if I use that word correctly).

 

Detachment, if that is what "the world is exactly as it should be, all is well and all is one and therefore, all actions are essentially meaningless' is pointing to, is not about not caring, not about being rudderless, not about living without values. Values and meaning are different. Values can give direction to our lives and guide decisions but values claim no meaning.

 

The way I best understand detachment is

 

To practice nonclinging does not mean forsaking what you value—that would be indifference. Instead, it means practicing nonattachment to outcome. There is a subtle distinction between indifference and nonattachment, and it is crucial to understand this distinction if you are to have genuine happiness in your life. If you are indifferent, you have no value base—you literally don't care how life unfolds. This is cynicism disguised as "cool" or karmic apathy. Nonattachment means that you act from your values but are not fixated on the outcome. This perspective is taught in most spiritual traditions.

 

Life Dancing By Phillip Moffitt

 

Anyway I think that's how it is.

 

Take Care

Dutch

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This certainly is an interesting discussion and reminds me of another. In the movie 'The Matrix', Morpheus asks Neo 'What is real? How do you define real?' There is a 360 degree surround of questions and explanations concerning 'the real' with many going back thousands of years. Gnostics, for example, draw upon their ancient position that what we see as the real world is not the work of the Supreme Being, but that of another, the demiurge. I believe the question as to the reality or unreality of the real is more spiritual than philosophers can grasp and more philosophical than people of faith may understand. Reality is what we all personally experience everyday in our own lives, from the mundane to the tragic, from the joyous to the painful. Being unemployed for eight months and going through very tough times seemed pretty real and not so illusionary to me. That being said, the real/unreal philosophical Rubik's Cube discussion is irrelevant to me as it relates to my position that God, the Supreme God, is within each and everyone of us. We are all Spiritual Beings having a human experience and in this way God experiences 'the real' through the experiences of our daily lives. Instead of focusing on reality without, I choose to focus on God within. Yes, through science we can define and discover the universe, but within each of us a The Gateway where the edge of our own Spiritual selves meets the edge of The Universe beyond. This is where The Deep meets The Deep, a reality much more profound to me in my meditations and self definition than any philosophical conundrum of 'the real' could be.

Edited by Quaker Way
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" ... error is the mark of higher organisms, and is the schoolmaster by whose agency there is upward evolution. For example, the evolutionary use of intelligence is that it enables the individual to profit by error without being slaughtered by it."

 

A. N. Whitehead

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" ... error is the mark of higher organisms, and is the schoolmaster by whose agency there is upward evolution. For example, the evolutionary use of intelligence is that it enables the individual to profit by error without being slaughtered by it."

 

A. N. Whitehead

 

As a guy who will hopefully spend the rest of his life scaring Freshmen, I like that quote :)

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Russ wrote,

 

“Reality is what we all personally experience everyday in our own lives, from the mundane to the tragic, from the joyous to the painful.…but within each of us there is a gateway where the edge of our spiritual selves meets the edge of the universe beyond. This is where the deep meets the deep, a reality much more profound in my meditations and self definition than any philosophical conundrum of 'the real' could be.”

 

great post - I see it the same way

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