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tariki

The Age Of Nothing

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I have just finished reading "The Age of Nothing" by Peter Watson, sub-titled "How we have sought to live since the death of God". I read much of this when surrounded by grandchildren. They often sought to play "horsey" on Grandad's knee, always insisting upon a high fence so that poor old grandad had to lift them high at full gallop as they wooped for joy. The book proved a good escape at times. Anyway, the death referred to in the sub-title was announced by Nietzsche, via Zarathustra, in the nineteenth century and though the death seems to have passed unnoticed by the various Fundamentalists, it has been taken on board by many since.

 

I have read bits and pieces on and by Nietzsche and think he has come in for some unwarranted criticism. Here, in this book, it seems to be implied/assumed that he was an ardent nationalist and even anti semitic, this simply because he is often seen as some sort of precursor to the advent of the Third Reich. - the Nazis and Hitler.The whole thing is muddied by the sister of Nietzsche, who apparently was both those things and who played around with his writings after his death for her own purposes and according to her own limited intelligence and understanding. Whatever the truth, my own reading has told me that Nietzsche would have been dismayed and shocked by Hitler and all he stood for. But I drift from my theme, the "death" of God.

 

G K Chesterton has said that if we do not believe in God we will believe in anything, which seems to imply that "non-believers" will always be flippant and perhaps lacking in any genuine commitment to anything. This book, the "Age of Nothing", gives the lie to any such implication. A better title for the book would be "Life After God", which would have none of the unnecessary overtones of its actual title, which seems to suggest at least a whiff of nihilism. Nothing could be further from the truth. The life that has been found, I have to say, seems to me to be often profound, deep and life affirming in ways that that "old time religion", with God in His heaven, more often than not fell short of. This is all in keeping with Meister Eckhart, who prayed to God to free him from God, and of the spirituality suggested by certain passages of the NT, that he has died that we might live; from God conceived as a being to the divine as the ground of being.

 

The life found by so many referenced here, poets, authors, philosophers and more, makes for interesting, even inspiring reading. The potential of poetry to be a means of true communion between people is finely addressed. In fact the capacity for those who would seek true life amid the small things of existence runs throughout. More "down to earth" and not looking up to the heavens for inspiration. Rather looking across at those we share the earth with. Christians might well say "incarnational", those on the zen side "chop wood, carry water".

 

The book is a bit uneven at times. Some of the "life" found is questionable. Yet all in all a good book, offering much to ponder.

 

 

 

I found myself reading passages more than once and God willing ( :D ) will reread the whole book at some time.

Edited by tariki
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In North America ... the book is called The Age of Atheists (with the same subtitle).

 

What I took away from it was when people lost their belief in God, many substituted other beliefs in "God's" place.

 

http://www.agnosticsinternational.org/forum/viewtopic.php?p=33234#p33234

 

It was a Christmas present from my wife. She tried reading afterwards but gave up a couple of days ago.

I found it dense reading.

 

Curious about the change of title?

Edited by romansh

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In North America ... the book is called The Age of Atheists (with the same subtitle).

 

What I took away from it was when people lost their belief in God, many substituted other beliefs in "God's" place.

 

http://www.agnosticsinternational.org/forum/viewtopic.php?p=33234#p33234

 

It was a Christmas present from my wife. She tried reading afterwards but gave up a couple of days ago.

I found it dense reading.

 

Curious about the change of title?

 

Hi, as I implied, for me the book is mistitled. Whether "atheists" or "nothing", such titles point to - or at least imply - some sort of negativity, perhaps desperation, as people whose ability (or even wish) to believe in God has gone, reach out for virtually ANYTHING to fill the gap. The simple idea, articulated here in diverse people, that the gap is felt more as a welcome release from a transcendent purpose imposed upon us from above, leaving us free to find our own meaning in the world around us, is left to those who read the book - or not..... And I would emphasise "find" , with all its implications. "Find", not "imagine", "find", not "enter each to their own subjective world" where communion with others is a hopeless fantasy. Peter Watson's book gave many examples of those who had found and articulated such meanings and in doing so have bridged the gap between self and other. I found that inspiring. For me, in Christian terms, it is incarnational. Our relationships can be between others and ourselves, between ourselves and this world, here and now, not between our private selves and "God". The latter is what can be alienating, often pointing us towards a future world and "reward" and inevitably creating conflict between all the various idols of the mind projected onto heaven.

 

Yes, dense at times, but then I just blip over passages that are way over my head. Yet I found other passages, particularly on James Joyce and the purpose and potential of poetry in general, enlightening. And much more.

 

Anyway, thanks for your interest.

 

Derek

Edited by tariki

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Derek,

 

I enjoyed reading your posts here of which interest led me to read part of the Introduction included on Amazon.com for the book. I also read the quotes in the front of the book attributed to various authors. Enjoyed them but don't anticipate reading the book as It would take me years. When reading this type of content i only read a paragraph at time to absorb for the day. :)

 

Here is a copyrighted poem you might enjoy that i wrote and attached to one of my books also titled poorly "Throwing Away God".

 

A man can be about as happy,

as he will allow himself to be;

In spite of things and circumstance,

that happen to you and me.

 

A man can look outside himself,

to find the reasons why;

But the one that looks inside himself,

will do more than just to try!

 

A longer journey we all seek,

and refuge we do find;

But all our plans are spoiled at last,

cause time leaves us behind.

 

So if you understand my point,

then you will never ask;

To be satisfied by other,

than the current ... present ... task.

 

Joseph

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Derek

 

While I agree atheist historically has had negative connotations and still does for many even some here, eg Paul sees atheists as closed minded. I was surprised that you furthered this perception by saying:

 

... such titles point to - or at least imply - some sort of negativity, perhaps desperation ...

Any such negativity (or positivity) for those of us who wish to see the "good" in everything is a reflection of our inner workings and relevant environment.

 

That after God's apparent death we put art in its various forms on various pedestals which have come and gone as fashions wax and wain in seeing the noumenon. (reality a it really is). Things like spirituality waxed for a while. The more literal kind ... not the one we seem to profess here.

 

While Peter Watson may not have chosen the title ... he does not seem to profess a preference for either and did he did not suggest a third option.

 

I found he wrote extremely neutrally and rarely I found him expressing a personal view. This I think is why we might be putting our individual spins to the meaning of the content.

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Hi Joseph, yes, it was the quotes at the front that drew me in - always one for a good quote...I had tried a couple of Peter Watson's books before and given up on them so downloaded The Age of Nothing with some trepidation.

 

I have seperate books for contemplation and reflection, usually of an "eastern" flavour, and often just one sentence is enough.

 

Thanks for your poem.......part of what Peter Watson's book was about is the potential release of creativity when "father figures" disappear and we turn our eyes and hearts towards each other.

 

Thanks

Derek

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While I agree atheist historically has had negative connotations and still does for many even some here, eg Paul sees atheists as closed minded.

 

Just to clarify, I don't think all atheists are close-minded in general, I think that Atheists who take a position that denies any potential existence of God, by that mark they are closing their minds to any potential for God. It seems they have already made their mind up that God cannot exist, so therefore I don't think they would be very open-minded to the potential for God to exist. But I digress simply to clarify, not change the direction of the thread.

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Derek

 

While I agree atheist historically has had negative connotations and still does for many even some here, eg Paul sees atheists as closed minded. I was surprised that you furthered this perception by saying:

 

... such titles point to - or at least imply - some sort of negativity, perhaps desperation ...

Any such negativity (or positivity) for those of us who wish to see the "good" in everything is a reflection of our inner workings and relevant environment.

 

That after God's apparent death we put art in its various forms on various pedestals which have come and gone as fashions wax and wain in seeing the noumenon. (reality a it really is). Things like spirituality waxed for a while. The more literal kind ... not the one we seem to profess here.

 

While Peter Watson may not have chosen the title ... he does not seem to profess a preference for either and did he did not suggest a third option.

 

I found he wrote extremely neutrally and rarely I found him expressing a personal view. This I think is why we might be putting our individual spins to the meaning of the content.

 

Hi again, thanks for the link to the Peter Watson "Tale of two titles" blog. Interesting that there he spoke of the "latest theology" that refers to God as being undefinable. For me this would seem to indicate some sort of hole in Peter Watsons knowledge ( I won't mention the many holes in my own........ :D ) in as much as the the undefinability of God runs through all religion in diverse ways from the very beginnings. That said, Peter Watson says in the introduction that "neither God nor the Devil has all the best tunes" and that his book could well be called "The Age of Everything". He also indicates that he will concentrate upon those who see the present situation as offering opportunity and have greeted it with enthusiasm, rather then those who have ended up wringing their hands in some sort of insular and ultimately negative despair.

 

At times in the book we were asked to note certain things as being important to take on board and at the time I remember seeing such as Peter Watson expressing a personal view, indeed a preference. Whatever, for me the book was positive and life affirming.

 

Getting back to "holes", existent or otherwise, the lack of any link with "eastern thought" and its influence on the modern "western mind" was apparent. The books of Harry Oldmeadow can fill such a gap, particularly "Journey's East". Again, Peter Watson at no point addresses the deeper Christian Incarnational theologies wherein the Divine must needs "die" in order for us to live - I did touch on this before and in fact there is a review of the book on Amazon that speaks well of this (see that of Leslie C)

 

Personally I have no interest in dualisms of atheist/theist or whatever. Reality-as-is is greater than all our division and can reveal itself to all within our own uniqueness. Using labels can corrupt our judgement. As I see it

 

Thanks

Derek

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When you say Eastern religions ... I think primarily of Buddhism, Taoism and Hinduism in it various forms.

 

My understanding is Buddhism and Taoism are largely god free, so it would appear God had died there much earlier. I have heard Hinduism described as an atheistic religion, except for those that take it literally to various degrees.

 

Being agnostically minded ... I am not sure of the word "divine". From recollection my trusty Oxford describes it as pertaining to God or godlike. So I suspect many use the word divine as meaning something else, perhaps closer to transcendent. But this word is also difficult in the sense of "beyond all categories of thought".

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When you say Eastern religions ... I think primarily of Buddhism, Taoism and Hinduism in it various forms.

 

My understanding is Buddhism and Taoism are largely god free, so it would appear God had died there much earlier. I have heard Hinduism described as an atheistic religion, except for those that take it literally to various degrees.

 

Being agnostically minded ... I am not sure of the word "divine". From recollection my trusty Oxford describes it as pertaining to God or godlike. So I suspect many use the word divine as meaning something else, perhaps closer to transcendent. But this word is also difficult in the sense of "beyond all categories of thought".

 

As I see it the "death of God" is only applicable to our Western culture as it has developed over the past couple of centuries. That is, the idea of some singular transcendent being who has inspired a particular book informing us of all His requirements of us and dictated to us what our morality should be etc etc (just fill in your own version........ :D ) has gradually become seriously questioned by most educated people. We can question such "education" or point out that such a picture of God was never that of the mystics, but anyway, such is the "death of God". To many nowadays such a transcendent being is beyond our imagination or belief.

 

Again as I see it, yes, the Eastern religions have been free of such a God who thus has no need to die in our imaginations or sense of the divine. There are many correlations between many expressions of the eastern faiths and what could be called the deeper expressions of the Christian Faith, particularly the mystics - such names as Meister Eckhart, St John of the Cross. Therefore, as I see, many eastern thought forms would be of help to those struggling to cope with the death of God as they ( i..e., those eastern thought forms ) begin and end with the divine/reality as the ground of being, not A being.

 

I have no problem with using the word divine. Personally I do not distinguish between sacred/secular, spiritual/natural etc etc but divine does as some sort of word in conversation. Hopefully its not too confusing. I do think that "truth" can only be lived, not thought as such, therefore "beyond all categories of thought" will do. For me the truth is not a creed. The divine is freedom itself, We can share it and express it. As the "eastern" way has it, wu wei, Living and acting spontaneously according to and in response to the moment; or in Pure Land terminology, being made to become so of itself.

 

Just to add regarding Hinduism, I would be unable to recognise it from the description you say you have heard. :o

Edited by tariki
Addition re Hinduism.

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The Hindu scriptures are vast and very deep. They go into energy and the sub particles of it similar to Quantum physics, but they use symbolism, myth, philosophy, psychology and the metaphysics or science of that time to explain things in detail. There is something for everyone and people can choose what helps them and pass over what doesn't. They also have the limits of all the other religions where people exploit the system for their mental and physical benefit. The caste system is a good example of exploitation where it was originally a way to describe people's propensities, but was exploited to oppress and raise some castes over others. They have so many yogas not just the hatha yoga that is popular in the West. The four main paths of Yoga are : Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Raja Yoga, Jnana Yoga



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The four main paths of Yoga are : Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Raja Yoga, Jnana Yoga

 

 

 

There is also Yoga Bear which is a slightly westernised version! :)

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The Yoga Bear is a natural spiritual teacher trying to teach us about being natural. Have you noticed that many yoga postures and martial art Katas are named after animals. They observed their movements, copied and discovered the benefits. I think the Bear contribution is the importance of sleep.

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