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Friday, April 2, 2010

Objective and Subjective

How many times have we read or heard people attempt to analyze our thought processes and life's philosophies by using the terms objective thinking and subjective thinking? I submit that we humans utilize a blend of both. Our lives consist basically of the events or occurrences of each day, our appetites, and how we feel and react. Drama happens inside of our heads, tailored and personalized to each of us as individuals. It is, in fact, an integral part of what makes each of us unique and human. And, no way has ever been found to rid oneself of something so completely innate.

Nobody I've ever "met" is a 100% "objective" thinker, except possibly original Star Trek's Spock character, portrayed by the excellent actor, Leonard Nimoy. But, Spock is a fictional, hypothetical character, not a real person. What became painfully and often humorously obvious throughout the run of this TV series was that while Spock's contributions were often valuable, the fact that he was purely a creature of logic became a detriment. There's an axiom, originally taught to me by one of my managers about twenty years ago during one of my career opportunities: "Any strength, practiced to an extreme, becomes a weakness."

Seemingly, we humans must accept the fact that we are occasionally going to be able to detach our personal involvement and emotions from our thinking processes and to indulge in objective thinking, but since we are deeply invested in our own experiences, reactions, and governing beliefs, in most cases our normal patterns will involve subjective, or personalized thinking. This is one of the reasons why we sometimes seek the opinions of, or counsel of professionals, valued friends, or relatives who do not share our emotional investment in a particular situation. As with our Mr. Spock, their detachment is often beneficial in assisting us through some of life's difficult patches.

To eliminate the subjective is to divest oneself of one of the basic components of humanity. To suggest excision of it as part of our healing process is an indicator as to the graveness of our wounds. That would be considered to be an extreme measure. It would be preferable to concentrate on healing rather than excision, rehabilitating the damaged elements so that one can remain a functional human being with the full range of healthy emotions.

As victims of the Armstrong problem, not only was our concept of God misinformed and distorted, but also our basic sense of humanity, family, and community. Cause and effect. It has long been my contention that as a person reads a book, the parts which become memorable are largely a function of his or her own personality. When this is done with a book about God, the process becomes anthropomorphic. Herbert W. Armstrong, consciously or unconsciously, lifted from context and overly dramatized the elements of the Bible with which he personally identified, and which served his purposes. He taught us about a God whose primary way of expressing love was extreme punishment for the slightest hint of disobedience to His laws. This was a way of thinking that was not lost as it filtered down into the parenting skills of church members. HWA's distortions did not provide us with a full and accurate picture, and remain a source of the problems many of us have had with God throughout our lives. They were more of an intoxicant than an aid to mental or spiritual health. So, it is hardly surprising that in order to deal with this, some of our fellow travelers have explored and embraced the importance of objective thinking. I know a little bit about this, because it is a technique which I've explored myself. But, it's all too easy to take extreme measures in an effort to invalidate, eliminate, or compartmentalize activities and channels which have been used to hurt or damage us. Defensive measures often leave visible scar tissue, a remnant which serves as testimony to past injury. Others can sense this scar tissue, although they will not usually know the nature of the wound which produced it. Optimal healing involves regaining as complete functionality as possible, with minimal scarring. Hopefully with a dash of education seasoning the process.

For some reason, while I've been sharing this, the words to the Linda Ronstadt song (later covered by the Eagles) "Desperado" have been going through my head. (If you are unfamiliar with this song, Google it for the lyrics). In some way, they might illustrate the need and importance for healing which all of us share. I think it might even be a good soundtrack for this article.

Probably most people would agree that if there is a God, much of the way in which He could work with each of us as individuals would be through normal, healthy emotions, and a positive outlook towards spirituality. It would by very nature be a mental, highly subjective process, and produces passionate commitment. People of faith honestly believe that God is working in their lives, and many of us find evidence of this on a daily basis. Even while I was an atheist or agnostic, I was constantly amazed at the resilience and sense of well being and purpose of Christian people. This is awesome, and encouraging to watch sometimes, although there are some occasional cliff hangers! But, is what we seem to be seeing real? Isn't it subjective, and in the mind, possibly even imaginary? Some say that we would be better off in detaching ourselves from such subjective thinking, and focusing solely on objective thinking. They say that in so doing, we will become enlightened. But, is this true, or does it constitute yet another set of filters or blinders? How we treat it would seem to be a choice. The fact that some choose one course, while others choose the polar opposite proves this. Apparently, it's an area of our lives in which we can exercise some degree of control. And it would be a shame to make such a decision based on the hurt caused by false teachers.

We humans have five senses, recognized as being limited to specific areas of various spectra. And, if we're fortunate, we get to utilize these senses over a period of roughly 70 years. Science has helped us in building devices to help us perceive some of the events which are occurring outside of our human range, and over greater periods of time than a normal human lifespan. That seems to have expanded our capabilities and understanding, but we are still extremely limited in our perceptions. Seemingly, we are faced with two general paths to greater awareness. One is to look more deeply within. The other is to look to an external source, one more knowledgeable than our own species. One limits us to the here and now. The other would seem to expand infinitely. Each of us must decide which one has greater potential and reliability. Your mileage may vary.

BB

36 comments:

Anonymous said...

Even while I was an atheist or agnostic, I was constantly amazed at the resilience and sense of well being and purpose of Christian people.........

Well being? In the wcg all I ever saw was the wackos that stood out. Their purpose was to save themselves from a tribulation that never seemed to make it to the front door.

Ralph said...

Subjectively, as a combination of my experiences in the marines and in the WCG, I don't recognize human authority in any sense, church or state.

However, in studying the history of "due process" of law, I began to realize that our US founders and even their ancestors who came from England did not recognize any absolute human authority either.

In fact, the very term "due process" is considered to be outside and external to the US Constitution, and is a protection against Constitutional infringement.

Due process of law as it was understood 300 years ago was so different from the collectivist "christian" concepts we have today that there is no real comparison.

Due process was originally defined as lawful judgement of peers based in common law, and did not include the idea of constitutionally ordained judges to make laws and punish us. The presumption of innocence, as the early Puritans and Quakers saw it, stood absolute outside the boundaries of all human law. Due process was based in "accusatorial" law, while our statutory laws such as traffic court are based on inquisitorial laws.

People such as Billy Graham, HWA, all the evangelical types you see today, are an evolution toward a collectivist mindset that seeks to make us believe we are subject to human authority. We have "freedom of religion" but we have to apply for our tax permits. Like the old sixties joke, question authority, but raise your hand first.

Allen C. Dexter said...

Good starting article, BB. I, too, think balanced thinking has to include both objective and subjective components. Nobody can be totally objective. I'll mull over what you've written and may have more to add later.

Ralph said...

This is part of the point I've been making all along. Even assuming that you have a formal, consistent, axiomatic system, you will still end up with an infinity of undecidables. That's Godel's theorem.

So, objective decision-making leads to an infinity of propositions to decide. This is an inescapable mathematical conclusion.

So, wre only have to apply this conclusion to any decision we make regarding "God". If it's disciplined, axiomatic, fully formal and consistent, it inevitably leads to an infinity of different conclusions.

OTOH, if we decide that there is no God, the same formal, consistent, axiomatic decison procedure will lead to the same result!

We could all agree that the bible is therefore wrong and there is no God, except for a very basic fact: Paul and Jesus already said it, and predicted those very results in Matthew 10:34-38.

Ths leaves us with one inevitable and inescapable conclusion: if you choose to believe in God, you are forced to conclude by logic that the results of your search must lead to exactly the same conclusions as that of the atheist.

God or no God, you have artrived at a singular conclusion of truth: that it will make you free, as Jesus famously said.

The Third Witness said...

Mighty fine mature cheddar, Byker Bob!

I can't imagine how I could experience reality other than subjectively, so I think I agree with you about that.

Could it also be an unrecognised legacy of the WCG experience that some of us have come to distrust our own subjective perception?

Those of us who got involved with WCG by choice gradually learned to distrust our own feelings, observation, reasoning and judgement to the point that we would effectively let others do our thinking for us – or at least direct our thinking for us ("Even our likes and dislikes must change, if necessary", "You have no rights!", etc., etc.) After internalising that approach, it is hardly surprising that a lot of people simply didn't know what to think any more once they became convinced that the system itself was fundamentally flawed. Or they started singing "It Doesn't Matter Anymore". Or they found some other way to try to deal with the situation.

Sometimes I don't know what I think about a lot of stuff. But I believe I'm making some progress at learning HOW to think.

It is striking how ex-WCG people emphasise the importance of thinking for yourself. Allen's friend Betty Brogaard is an obvious example. The other day I found out that someone I knew years ago is also highly motivated to encourage people to think for themselves. His own thinking happens to have taken him in quite a different direction. I think it's a good sign when people don't all come to the same conclusions. At least they are attempting to think for themselves.

Back to more subjective "certainties": When it comes to trying to stay sane in the meantime, I think your reference to "Desperado" is inspired! I love that song, especially the way Linda Ronstadt sings it. "Take It To The Limit" is another of my favourites.

Cheers!

Allen C. Dexter said...

I agree. This first offering of "cheese" was great, and the wine is a good vintage too. I never paid too much attention to Desperado before, but it was an excellent song to refer to.

This blog is turning into a very helpful means of sharing our individual experiences, growth and conclusions. In the final analysis, our similarities far outweigh any differences we might have in thinking. Once we get past any feeling of superiority one over the other, its amazing what camaraderie we can develop.

Anonymous said...

Sabie Lantz has a good post re this

http://triangulations.wordpress.com/2009/04/26/dont-believe-me/

Neotherm said...

Byker Bob:

You have tapped into one of the great human dilemmas. What is our relationship to reality?

From one viewpoint, everything is subjective. We have only our minds with which to connect with reality. When I see a tree, is it really there or am I simply being given a "data feed" that causes me to perceive a tree. Everything that we know, including Christianity, can happen entirely in a subjective realm. But I don't believe that this is the subjectivity that you a speaking of. It seems to me that you are using the terms subjective/objective to mean emotional/rational roughly.

Those who appeal to objectivity as a medicine for healing from Armstrongism may really be talking about using caution and good sense rather than a Spock-like devotion to logic.

Herbert Armstrong did define God as he wanted, based on his life experiences and on misunderstanding the Bible. In many ways he was like the Great Oz in the Wizard of Oz. Just a medicine show guy projecting himself, probably unconsciously, into a larger context and calling that God. (I still have to constantly remind myself that God is not like HWA.)

But then in American evangelicalism, God's nature is defined by the free market. Preachers preach what the congregants want to hear about God. Authors write about the God that will sell in bookstores. The book "The Shack" is wildly popular for this reason. Its theological underpinnings are at best flimsy but people love the book and no doubt many will derive their view of God from it.

We are inherently subjective creatures. Woody Allen was asked why he married a woman in her late teens and he said "The heart wants what the heart wants". The heart does not always want what logic would require.

But for all of the pitfalls of subjectivity, we should not seek to repress our subjective natures but we should manage that nature. I do not believe that the decision to become a Christian lies in the objective realm. In my case, it was mystical and, hence, in the subjective realm. No amount of physical evidence or logical syllogism can prove the existence of God. It is of the heart and not of the material realm.

-- Neo

Ralph said...

Neo, one of the beauties of Godel's theorem, Church's theorem, and the general concept of mathematics as it applies to truth is that it also applies to mysticism.

It is quite possible for a "mystical" experience of God to occur, but if it ever becomes subject to language, it becomes subject to algorithms that can be programmed into a computer.

A human being can have a truth that is special to him or her self, but proof makes it subject to the laws and rules of science and therefore objectivity.

You can have such a truth, and it can transcend human understanding, but that very fact cancels any truthful ability organize in the name of God.

If such an ability ever occured, there would be no difference whatever between a human son of God and a computer son of God, since the exact, same information could be posessed by both the mechanical processes of the computer and a human being.

Once that occurs, it becomes possible to unite church and state into one unified system that has every right to rule over us, and with that, human life itself becomes unnecessary. It almost seems as if someone created it that way.

Logic in the form of metamathematics determines outcomes even of mysticism.

Neotherm said...

Ralph:

I would stress the impossibility of expressing a mystical experience in language. Mystical implies the concept of inexplicability. If such an experience could be encoded as a pathway in symbolic logic that leads to God, we could present atheists with a proof that God exists written on a piece of paper.

This we cannot do. We can accumulate circumstantial evidence but in the last analysis, a belief in God is of the heart.

C.S. Lewis became a Christian but was unable to explain how in his autobiography. He went with some friends to a park (as I recall) one afternoon, and when they departed, he was not a Christian and when he came back he was. Although Lewis is known for his carefully reasoned theology, he does not explain what happened that day.

I am a Christian because I have been, somewhere along the way, imbued with belief. Though this is fairly common among Christians, I cannot explain this mechanism in great detail. And this whole process lies entirely within the subjective domain.

One may accumulate all the objective evidence and it is still lacking. There is that mystical bump that has to occur for belief to be formed. This makes it impossible for Christians to prove the existence of God to someone else and it makes it impossible for atheists to disprove the existence of God. The effect is to make the mystery of who believes and who does not contingent on the action of God.

-- Neo

Ralph said...

Yes indeed, Neo. No matter how you go about it, proof or disproof of God, you end up with numerous ideas and beliefs along a continuum.

Anthony Flew, a fellow professor with C.S. Lewis, equally famous, and the son of a minister, was an atheist for about fifty years, I think, and has suddenly reversed his position. He believes there is a God.

Mr. Flew didn't profess a belief in a christian God, per se, but he does now believe there is an intelligence that is somehow shaping it all.

Flew goes over many arguments that have emerged in genetics regarding the recognition of code that we seem to be able to break, and a number of realizations regarding the laws of physics that physicists such as Paul Davies say had to exist very quickly after the Big Bang, and where did they suddenly come from?

The older argument is, given enough time.... A newer argument is, a multiverse, an infinity of infinities of universes, all possessing every conceivable possibility, with ours being only one system.

The question is, would there be a possiblity of one of those universes proving the existence of an all knowing, omnipotent God?

The answer would seem to be no, since if such a God existed in just one universe, unifying and representing the completion of all knowledge, the multiverse would simply vanish. All alternatives would be unnecessary.

There is no logical, rational evidence. You can't get there from here.

But if there were such a process, then humans would be goose-stepping all over the planet, legitimately ruled by one power that alone represented God and could legitimately destroy all unbelievers.

No separation of church and state, since all could be united in one comprehensive, complete, consistent power structure.

To believe in a God who allows freedom is, of necessity, to believe in a God that parallels the non-evidence presented by the atheist. Whichever you choose in the realm of logic and reason, you end up with the same result.

Neotherm said...

Ralph:

"To believe in a God who allows freedom is, of necessity, to believe in a God that parallels the non-evidence presented by the atheist."

Just so. The same God that grants people the freedom to believe in him also grants the atheist the freedom not to believe in him, at least under present conditions.

At one point in the past, I believed that the multiverse theory was something that presented atheists with an insurmountable brick wall. The anthropic principle says that the universe is fine tuned for humanity. The atheists countered by saying that there could be an infinite number of universes and this one just happens to be fined tuned for us. So God the Creator is replaced by probability.

My view was that atheists could not prove the existence of multiple universes so they are at a dead end. Moreover, they have to practice a religious faith to sustain their beliefs. This is because they have to trust in the truth of something they could not prove, i.e., a multi-verse.

I now believe that my line of reasoning is subject to the fallacy of the God of the Gaps. What if tomorrow some guys at MIT demonstrate the existence of another universe. The gap is suddenly potentially closed. So I do not make my belief in God contingent on the existence of anything material.

Here we segue from the objective to the subjective, from science to mysticism. But it is a mysticism that is highly individualistic and not collectivist. One of the characterisics of objective reality is that it has a specific nature. We all believe that a water molecule consists of two hydrogens and one oxygen. But my experience with God is very likely different from what others experience.

"I ... will give him a white stone,
and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it."

-- Neo

Ralph said...

Neo, I'm in full agreement. Well stated. But I would also add that the bible has always taught that such experience is not what "you" or "I" would choose, but what God would choose. Paul is explicit about this idea from Romans 8 thru Romans 9.

If any choice process existed by which humans are in control, then the entire process becomes subject to human manipulation, which, when you think about it, is precisely what the religions and governments of the world have been trying to do from the days of ancient Egypt. These are mechainical, predictable processes. Matthew 4 and Luke 4 says that Satan is in charge of them. That would make Satan more like a computer than a human being.

Objectively, therefore, the "plan of God", assuming one existed, would not be hased on organizing humans into some collective process that all can understand, but into a process that forces individuals to constantly search both within themselves and the external world, the mystical, the subjective, and the objective.

The Tower of Babel suggests that once people began to realize they were different, apart, smarter, etc., their main problem was one in which their collective existence was threatened by the possibility of overspecialization. "Let us build a tower, whose top may reach unto God".

In science, we have the principle of entropy. In closed systems, entropy increases or remains the same. Entropy, of course, being the measurement of that energy which is lost in the very process of transforming energy from one useful form into another.

The Tower of Babel was not a closed system, but one in which the people would have to borrow increasingly larger amounts of energy from more and more surrounding systems of energy, thus increasing the entropy around them. If the people have one language, one goal, one system of thought, you have accelerated entropy of all related systems. Not good.

From the Tower of Babel, to the creation of Israel, to the creation of individual "christian" faiths, we see the hostory of this process of individuation, not collectivism.

If we look at civlizations as biological organisms, we see that Israel "informed" them, altered their "leavening" process, caused them to react to more individualist cues.

Was there a Tower of Babel? Was there an exodus from Egypt? Is it iportant? What we see is a theme, which weaves its way throughout the bible, in which certain individuals follow a process that challenges the surrounding system.

Wat we see is "information" at work: that process which Shannon defined as the improbable message that both disrupts and informs systems. We may call it mysticism or subjectivism. Ayn Rand said objectivism had the same results.

But the bible is always about individuals who had some improbable effect on a collectivist system, altering and informing it. The very purpose of it is that it can never be organized or controlled by any human mind!

Purple Hymnal said...

"Those who appeal to objectivity as a medicine for healing from Armstrongism may really be talking about using caution and good sense rather than a Spock-like devotion to logic."

That's certainly my approach, and likely will continue to be.

"In my case, it was mystical and, hence, in the subjective realm. No amount of physical evidence or logical syllogism can prove the existence of God. It is of the heart and not of the material realm."

Ah Neo, but where do you draw the line between getting sucked in by one of those "free market preachers", and something like this? Also consider the fact that I, an atheist, can replicate "mystical" experiences through meditation, but that doesn't mean I believe in them, subjectively or otherwise. That may also be down to my unwillingness to give control over to my subconscious mind, however. (It's not pretty in there, folks.)

(I also have my own thoughts on the Raj Patel business, but I'm fairly certainly they will be either extremely unwelcome, or just dismissively ignored by the crowd here. That's fine.)

I find myself drawn back to the reality tunnels idea of late, much more strongly than I have been before. What it means for me, I can't say. Although, personally, I think the patently subjective reality of human consciousness, makes it miraculous that we can even connect with one another in the first place!

This idea is taken to its logical extremes with schizophrenia, which was probably the default for human consciousness long ago, before we evolved societies and working together. Less commonly, we may see echoes of how the "consensual hallucination" (to borrow a 1980s science fiction term) may have evolved, through the study of schizotypalism.

I've probably pissed off everyone with my comment, and so will retire to lurking once again.

I will also politely refrain from adding to the "cheese" train of thought here, except to add that I am lactose-intolerant. :-P In both senses.

Purple Hymnal said...

"If such an experience could be encoded as a pathway in symbolic logic that leads to God, we could present atheists with a proof that God exists written on a piece of paper."

Neurotheology may very well provide that. Unfortunately, it looks likely to prove that the gnostics were right (men create gods), not that an external force actually exists.

(Yeah yeah that's it I'm done.)

Neotherm said...

Purple Hymnal:

You wrote: "Also consider the fact that I, an atheist, can replicate "mystical" experiences through meditation, but that doesn't mean I believe in them, subjectively or otherwise."

This sharply differentiates your experience from mine. Your hypothetical mystical experience would originate in your own efforts. Whereas, I can render up no such explanation for my experience. It is the hallmark of the Christian conversion experience that it is difficult to express in words, even if the mechanism were knowable. Even though there may be a body of objective evidence to support Christian belief, in the last analysis belief is a subjective experience. And the body of objective evidence is not incontrovertible.

And the genuiness of the experience is something that only I can attest to. This does not make for good debate because we are placing the objective over and against the subjective.

I could never convince Richard Dawkins of the existence of God. I might pursue the non-existence of the multiverse argument ad infinitum and never really convince anybody. An atheist would simply side-step the issue by saying that he believed that the existence of the multiverse would eventually be demonstrated. In my mind this is an article of faith that borders on religious. But I cannot deny someone his subjective experience.

-- Neo

Ralph said...

Purple, I have no problems with your comments. I think you make valid points worth exploring, and they should be explored right here by all of us in a non-confrontational manner.

Here is where I walk the middle ground between you, Neo, and BB, because I agree with your statement earlier that you just can't get "there" from "here".

It's not only a logical conclusion to draw, but it goes directly in line with what Paul said. There simply exists no such decison procedure by which we can prove any special relationship to God, no matter how much we may wish to believe it or argue it.

There is no demonstrable superiority of the believer over the atheist, or vice versa.

I would probably tend to "piss off" both Neo and BB by insisting that there is nowehere in the teachings of Paul or Jesus by which any person, by a "free will" choice, can be any closer than you, or Retired Prof to God.

In fact, if you argue any biblical teaching, you're forced to admit that there simply is no such choice anybody can make that will make one bit of difference between him/her self and the most belligerent atheist, whom I consider to Be Richard Dawkins.

But I like Dawkins, because, while he proves the basis of christianity wrong, he shows what Paul says to be correct. :)

Ralph said...

BTW, I have to agree with Purple's idea on the subjectivity of consciousness and ideas of God. IF Romans 8:7 is correct, then all ideas about God will produce exactly what Purple wrote: very little agreement.

And Purple, I'm never against your comments or anyone else's. that's how we all learn.

Allen C. Dexter said...

Well, I try to see everybody's point of view and agree there's no way to know for sure about God or the lack thereof. I tend to get a little impatient with references to scripture, whether by so-called Paul or any other questionable biblical author. As I said in another comment section, I don't really care what the Bible supposedly says about anything anymore than I care what the Iliad or the Odysey says. One of my parents favorite statements when I was a kid was that you could prove anything by the Bible. I should have paid more attention to their wisdom.

While spouting philosophical and religious nonsense, whoever Paul was had to hit on something that could be interpreted as I've seen interpreted here. Again, I really don't care. Maybe that makes me a sore head or something, but my Bible has a great deal of dust on it and it's going to stay very dusty.

Neotherm said...

Ralph:

You wrote: "I would probably tend to "piss off" both Neo and BB by insisting that there is nowehere in the teachings of Paul or Jesus by which any person, by a "free will" choice, can be any closer than you, or Retired Prof to God."

Ralph, I am in agreement with you here if I understand what you are saying correctly. I do not believe that any of us can, through the exercise of free will, enter into a relationship with God.
Such a relationship would be pre-conditioned by the grace of God to permit there to be the potential for this. (I believe the grace of God is wide and extends beyond this lifetime -- something that places me at odds with evangelicalism.)

This is not to say that the Bible makes no disctinction between believers and non-believers. The Bible is, in fact, principally about that disctinction.


-- Neo

Ralph said...

Allen, it doesn't matter whether you care, since there would be no decision procedure in any case to determine any greater significance of your opinion than mine, which makes Paul's statements true.

Okay, you don't care. Nothing is altered. It becomes tautological. You don't care because you don't care, and that's as far as it goes.

So, you don't give a damn, and never will, and then we discover beyond a shadow of a doubt that Paul was correct. Would it matter? It couldn't, because if there was some necessity for you to believe something necessary to your salvation, the knowledge would be obvious beyond doubt. You cannot choose what you cannot know.

Now, in my case, I believe that Paul makes statements that are self evideently true simply by looking at the physical results corresponding to his statements. Romans 8:7 would result in exactly the kind of religious confusion we see today. That makes the statement true in a scientific sense. BUT, does it mean there abslutely exists a God to make it so? Even assuming that Paul has made a true statement corresponding with the results, it STILL shows no evidence of God whatever, nor does it show any particular choice you could make that would somehow place you "above" the 38,000 versions already in existence.

So, whether you or I care or not is actually irrelevant to what is actually occurring. The very best conclusion you can draw from it is that you are free from every possible human concoction of authority, church or state. Nothing Paul teaches would interfere with that conclusion. The flaw comes when we try to organize a system that somehow "simulates" God. Can't be done, and it will result in still more versions of God.

So, dusty or not dusty, your bible is true.

Purple Hymnal said...

Your hypothetical mystical experience

So, because it's subjective, and I acknowledge it's subjective, and I don't believe in imaginary beings after having the experience, that makes it "hypothetical"?

How would you like it if I called your mystical experience "hypothetical", Neo?


would originate in your own efforts. Whereas, I can render up no such explanation for my experience.

True, but I've had random mental oddities occur over the years (since I've left the church; I certainly wouldn't have paid attention to those thoughts when I was in, they being "demonic" and all), which I neither instigated, nor had any appreciable reaction to other than, "Huh, that's weird," and I went about my day.

"And the genuiness of the experience is something that only I can attest to. This does not make for good debate because we are placing the objective over and against the subjective."

This is true, and I would argue that my experiences, when meditating (at least in the Gnostic fashion; the Buddhist version never did do much for me, personally) were and are genuine in the moment.

But, so is reading a good science fiction novel, or watching an absorbing play. I no more come out of those experiences, believing that the fictional characters are "real" outside of the portrayals the author or the actors have presented to me, than I believe my subjective "mystical" experiences of Sophia/Christos/Logos are/were any more real than my own mind has made/makes them.

As I am so fond of saying, reality of the myths is not a deal-breaker for me.

Similar with the multiverse issue; I believe in multiple universes, but that we are each universes of one (clouded by our own egos, as the Gnostic myth of the Demiurge instructs), but I would never presume to say "Science has proved this ultimately!" because it hasn't. At the end of the day, it's still at the thought-experiment level, although the LHC might go a considerable distance towards testing the theory.

"I could never convince Richard Dawkins of the existence of God."

Am I to infer "Richard Dawkins" is your stand-in for Generic Atheist? Please don't. I've little in common with Dawkins, and he certainly does not speak for me (though I am an atheist).

Question is, Neo, would you be comfortable with the idea that "the existence of God" is actually "the existence of your God"? Because that is what we're arguing here.

Ralph said...

Your argument leads to the conclusions that Ayn Rand points out. If everybody has a "valid" truth from their own perspective, then you play it "deuces wild", as she wrote.

At some point, both objective and subjective arguments must break down to something which is simply self evident, and the self evident fact is, we have no proof that one choice of "God" is superior to another.

The whole argument becomes tautological: I choose what I choose.

Any conceopt of a "kingdom of God' in any sense would have to accept that as its self evident basis, that there exists no objective process by which "my" choice or "your" choice of God is absolute, and that leaves us, once again, with the results of Romans 8:7, and with the teachings of Matthew 24:23. No mind can be subject to God, and therefore we have no reason to follow any man who comes "preaching Christ"or Buddha, or whatever. Or as the book title said "If you meet the buddha on the road, kill him!"
Atheist or believer, therefore, the axiom is the same.

The basic teachings of John the Baptist, Jesus, and the disciples was, "the kingdom of God is at hand". Many say "Where? Show me? I see nothing".

In fact, the kingdom of God was at hand, and is now. It can be invoked. The process is actually quite simple. Jesus outlined it in Matthew, chapters 5-7.

All trespasses can be settled out of court if both parties are willing(Matthew 5:25), and all such decisions by two or more people for any offense or trespass is "bound" or "loosed", that is, fully recognized by God(Matthew 18:15-18).

The kingdom of God, and the basic framework of rules can be invoked by the terms of the "Lord's Prayer", with the main theme being forgiveness of trespasses or debts.

Paul advocated the same process by urging a form of trial by jury in 1 Corinthians 6, and any vengeance to be used was turned over to "higher powers".

Vengeance, however, was the last resort, not the first, as Jesus pointed out in Matthew 5, and Paul pointed out in Romans 12.

The principle of law, from England to the US, now badly mangled, was based on that idea. No person can be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process, which was lawful judgement of peers by common law, as Justice Story pointed out, and that process was actually begun when William the Conqueror brought with him a contingent of Jews in 1066 to establish a civil/criminal law over the Anglo Saxons. That was also Jefferson's idea when he wrote the Declaration of Independence.

The principle was that any community or even "two or three", could settle all matters lawfully by a non-vengeful method. Nothing more, nothing less. "He that would be greatest, let him be servant of all". Two witnesses for all offenses, presumption of innocence, right to face your accuser, and the necessity of an accuser in all trials.

Church and state has tried to merge the two functions so that men can have authority over other men, but it cannot be done, simply because of Romans 8:7. Every tiome you swear an oath in court, you are merging civil inqquisitorial law with accusatorial law, civil law with common law, which was condemened in England and later coded into our 5th Amendment, which is today ignored.

Every argument the atheist puts forward merely proves the original intent of Jesus' advocacy of law.

Neotherm said...

Purple:

My use of the word hypothetical was based on my misreading of your post. I thought you were meaning to say that it was possible for you to replicate a mystical experience (without having really done so). I did not mean to in any way depreciate any subjective experiences you may have had. My mistake.

And you are right, it would be the existence of "my God." Ones relationship with God is highly personal. Here again, we have a mix of the objective and subjective.

-- Neo

Byker Bob said...

Good discussion. Keep on truckin'

Since a few things were directed specifically to me, I'm issuing a Cluster Response Alert! (CRA). Watch for your name!

Anon 5:54: Most WCG members that I observed, though sincere, remained static or lost ground. Seemingly, from anecdotal evidence, there is a much greater performance factor amongst devout Baptists and Evangelicals.

Ralph: A relationship with God is a vibrant, interactive thing. Every new bit of information raises additional questions and possibilities. This is why legalistic groups who claim to have all the answers actually end up quenching one's relationship with God, and diverting the relationship to themselves.

Allen: I agree with your common grounds statement. Also, it's always a pleasure to return a musical favor. When I was a little kid, our music was greatly restricted, so I looked forward to any tidbits of information about rock music that might come our way. I had never heard of the Bristol Stomp by the Dovelles until an early 1960s sermonette you gave in Hotel Woodstock in NYC. It later became one of my favorite songs!

Neo: The reading I've done on NDE's has been very informative in that apparently the experiencers undergo a medically verifiable transformation to the right temporal lobe of the brain. That may or may not indicate how God calls and transforms Christians, but it is certainly interesting.

Third Witness: I hope we've got some even better cheese to serve up, but will let you and others be the judge of that.

BB

Purple Hymnal said...

"And you are right, it would be the existence of "my God." Ones relationship with God is highly personal. Here again, we have a mix of the objective and subjective."

Are you contradicting yourself here Neo? Did you not earlier state that it is impossible to be objective, about subjective experiences?

"Ones relationship with God is highly personal."

You're attempting to force YOUR god into the mould of existing in external reality. Which is a place that your God (and Bob's God, and Ralph's God, and James' or Allen's Deisms) simply cannot go. (Great, now I've got "God Speaks to Us" stuck in my head. :P)

Do you see where I'm coming from? On the one hand, you agree that your god is subjective, and exists only for you...but then you try and extend this subjective, interior mental landscape, out onto others outside of yourself, and your own head.

Can you understand how very ego-based that actually is? By applying your subjective beliefs in this manner, you are placing your own self, at the centre of the universe. Which is attractive, I will not deny it, and is likely a part of the human condition. But it's no way to live in society, fully as a part of the human race that you are a member of.

But maybe you don't want to do that, and that's OK too. "Be in the world but not of the world" is a common mantra amongst Christians as well.

Miguel de la Rodente said...

A couple quickies:

1) The parable of the elephant and the blind men surely comes into play here. There is both that and the anthromorphism dynamic. Together, they are a lollapalooza!

2) Mystic experiences without God? Isn't that kind of like running to the bathroom for a handful of some sort of cream rather than making love to one's spouse? I don't mean to take this discussion down into the gutter, but......

Neotherm said...

Purple:

What I am saying is that there are some subjective elements and some objective elements in ones relationship with God.

It is like a group of people who relate to you. Each of the will relate to you in ways that are both similar and different.

If God guides the relationship, one will experience what God wants him to experience. It will be in ways similar to the experiences of others and in some ways different.

-- Neo

Corky said...

Neo said . . .
At one point in the past, I believed that the multiverse theory was something that presented atheists with an insurmountable brick wall. The anthropic principle says that the universe is fine tuned for humanity. The atheists countered by saying that there could be an infinite number of universes and this one just happens to be fined tuned for us. So God the Creator is replaced by probability.

I don't know what ignorant atheists you have been hanging out with but the universe is not fine tuned to life on this planet. The life on this planet is fine tuned to this planet through the process of evolution.

Organisms that could not fine tune themselves to this changing planet's environment became extinct.

Therefore, it is an illusion that the universe is fine tuned to us. The fact is, we are fine tuned to the universe.

Purple Hymnal said...

"Mystic experiences without God? Isn't that kind of like running to the bathroom for a handful of some sort of cream rather than making love to one's spouse? I don't mean to take this discussion down into the gutter, but......"

Well, you win the award for missing the point completely. Or perhaps making my point for me. It's my contention that this is EXACTLY what believers in an external, anthropomorphized "deity" are doing, whether they acknowledge it or not.

Which is also, incidentally, why Eastern meditation cults, that encourage their followers to give up everything, including attachment to reality, and live only inside their own heads, are considered closed, high-demand groups (dangerous) as well.

Balance in everything, and everything in moderation, I say.

At least I openly acknowledge that it's only my own brain I am engaging with. To suggest to others, or to believe myself, that it is somehow otherwise...that way, madness lies, quite literally. But this also plays into the discussion we are having on schizotypalism. (Did anyone bother to read that link/watch Sapolsky's video that I posted?)

To wit, are literal religious believers more prone to schizotypalism, than those who just can't make the "leap" of "faith" to "believe" that there is anything outside of our own heads?

Let me reiterate that this is my line of questioning NOW; I believe that I (and my family, who were the direct cause of my being born into the church), in my zealous faith in the "truth once delivered" and "god's true church", was engaged in a projected schizotypalism from Armstrong himself (cult members take on the personality of their leader, to varying degrees).

Breaking free of the schizotypal personality that was entrenched in me from birth, was not easy, but doable, thanks to the changes.

Suspending my disbelief, and falling prey to another schizotypal disorder again? I'm not sure. Perhaps I will, perhaps I won't. This may also be a function of an aging brain; many people "get religion" as they get older, even if they have rejected it in their younger years. (Bob is an example of this.)

Since I am fully aware of what that mindset is, and what it entails (reduction to fantasy and living entirely in my own imagination), at least for me, it serves no useful purpose. Perhaps I have been inoculated against this, by virtue of the cult personality, that is the only personality I have ever had.

Those of you who came into the church with your own personalities fully-formed, likely will not have these issues, and that's fine. You're lucky. It also lets you "switch" personalities at will. I don't have that leisure, but I've long ago accepted that, and deal with it (or try to) on a daily basis.

The Gnostic meditation techniques did work for me, for a time, as mild anxiety-relief, and I believed they helped with a mild depressive episode I was going through at the time (which is why I should start it up again).

Ascribing any kind of literal, "spiritual" beings or reality to the meditations, beyond that? Really would be mental masturbation, at least for me.

I hope that makes sense. Thanks for your comment, Miguel.

Purple Hymnal said...

"What I am saying is that there are some subjective elements and some objective elements in ones relationship with God."

Which is where we shall have to agree to disagree. It may appear to you that there are objective elements, in your relationship with your god, but that's not the way it appears to those of us outside of your own head.

I hope I'm making myself clear, my last sentence is a bit complex. Suffice it to say, I firmly "believe" (hah!) in the Gnostic idea that men create their own gods, and it is purely subjective --- including the illusion that there are objective elements/that "god" is an external force to yourselves.

Purple Hymnal said...

"Therefore, it is an illusion that the universe is fine tuned to us. The fact is, we are fine tuned to the universe."

And not that fine-tuned at all, it turns out. Google "genetic drift" and "epigenetics" if you don't believe me....

Purple Hymnal said...

"Suffice it to say, I firmly "believe" (hah!) in the Gnostic idea that men create their own gods, and it is purely subjective --- including the illusion that there are objective elements/that "god" is an external force to yourselves."

Which is, in point of fact, the whole "moral" behind the fable of the Demiurge/the blind god, in Gnostic myth.

Ralph said...

I don't think anyone can relate to God by choice. I don't think it's possible But if it were possible, as I argued before, then there would be some evuidence of that interaction.

If not, then you would be forced to claim that interactions with God can only be with certain people whom, to all possible intents and purposes, are the ones whom God selects to interact with, which puts you right back at Romans 8 and 9.

Purple Hymnal said...

"...you would be forced to claim that interactions with God can only be with certain people whom, to all possible intents and purposes, are the ones whom God selects to interact with..."

First of all, Ralph, you are forced to claim this, no one else is, because that is your particular subjective reality.

Secondly, this is a core tenet of Armstrongism you are preaching here: The "special chosen elect of god".

Question is, which god? If you acknowledge a supernatural deity exists, you have to acknowledge (by your own reasoning employed above) that all supernatural deities exist.

So! Which god is it, Ralph? The Christian hydra-headed threefer, with ghost/zombie on the side? The Jewish (singular) Almighty God? The Hindu pantheon? The Greek pantheon? The Gnostic Pleroma/Sophia/Christos/Logos? The Quaker Inward Light? The Islamic Allah? The Baha'i Baha'ullah? The Samaritans' God on Mt. Gezirim? The newagers' pantheistic world-mother? The neo-Pagan Lord and Lady? All the other gods of the neo-Pagan pantheon?

The point is, none of these gods are true, including the Christian god. But none of them are false, either. They are simply concepts, held firmly in all-too-fallible human minds. Concepts which, sometimes, can lead to great evil being unleashed on large numbers of people.

But let's assume, for the moment, that your assertion, that Herbert Armstrong's doctrine of the Chosen Elect is, one of the "revealed truths" that were "kept hidden for 1900 years" is, objectively, rationally, 100% "true" (as true as truth can be, in the multiverse, that is).

Let us examine that truth, in the full light of the myriad of gods that are present (for their believers) in this universe, a small portion of which I have listed above. (There's a reason the title of Arthur Clarke's short story was "The Nine Billion Names of God".)

So! There are only a very special, chosen, "called-out" few, who "god" opens the minds of, to belief and understanding. This is, for the purposes of this discussion, an absolutely unassailable fact.

Each one of the nine billion gods of this world that we are breathing the oxygen of right now, have a very few, very special, chosen elect, that they have called out of this world, to understand them.

Nine billion. How many humans are there on Earth again? Oh, that's right.

The real trick is getting those nine billion "gods" (Nine billion superegos?) to interact with one another. Peacably, without war and contention, which is born directly of fundamentalism, and the inability to understand one's self as a small, tiny part, of a vastly larger whole.

Ralph said...

Purple, as usual, your logic is flawed. First, by biblical teaching itself, and by your own statement, there exists no decision by which we may get from "here' to "God".

Therefore, if there is a god, and if there xists no decision procedure by which we may show any special relaitonship, there is no logical process by which any of the nine million versions of God can show any special relationship to that 'true" god.

You can be certain, Purple, if knew a decision procedure by which to identify a/the true god, you would already have known it, but it is simply impossible, which is why Jesus pointed out in Matthew 24:23 that there is no reason to follow any of the human conceptions of God, and why Paul confirmed this by simply pointing out that we do not have such a capacity of decision-making skills, as you yourself have stated.

Therefore, it is quite possible that a God might exist who does foreknow and predestinate his own, and that, of itself,m would cancel the very arguments you present. Nice try, though.