Religion – Red, Amber, Orange (pt.2)

Posted: October 26, 2011 in Integral Studies, Philosophical Debris, Religion

Modern atheists regard religion, theism and spirituality as unnecessary in explaining the world.  Stephen Hawking makes that point in “The Grand Design”, although his conclusion seems to be that God is unnecessary, not that God is non-existent.

It’s a valid question though.  When someone achieves a state of reason where they come to doubt traditional religion, what stops them from throwing out the entire idea of theism?  A world that is illuminated by science and founded on reason doesn’t need religion, and would likely come to view it as unproven superstition.  The onus is on religion to prove itself and, until it does, it lacks credibility.  As a staunch fan of Ayn Rand in my teens, I was a pretty hard core atheist and considered myself a person guided by reason and logic.  What happened to slowly shift my world view back to a point that made room for the Spiritual?

I want to start by considering some definitions.  “Theism” is the belief in a superior, divine entity which may or may not intercede in human affairs.  “Religion” is a hierarchical organization of believers around a particular interpretation of that divine entity.  There usually is a church and a doctrine in the form of some kind of scripture, and usually involves individuals that are supposed to be enlightened in order to help the believers in their worship.  “Spirituality”, on the other hand, does not require an organization, a dogma or enlightened teachers, although it may contain elements of each.  “Spirituality” involves the study or belief or quest for knowledge and experience on a metaphysical level, which may or may not involve some kind of divine force.  It concerns inner states of consciousness and awareness of the kind that would pertain to the upper left quadrant in Wilber’s AQAL classification.  These are by nature subjective as they are inner experiences.  Dogmatic rationalists want to say that you can’t talk about these experiences in any meaningful way because they are subjective.  And yet, as I’ve said before, what can be more empirical than the experience of your own consciousness?  Subjectivity will always be suspect because your mind often interprets the world according to its own rules, but objectivity is suspect as well when scientists don’t use proper scientific methods or accurate instruments.  Both need to be considered carefully in order to ascertain their validity.

One of the main reasons that I consider the metaphysical or the Spiritual as a valid area for consideration is that my very faculty and respect for reason tells me that I should.  In the past, every level of development has thought itself the pinnacle of human thought.  The mythic thinkers of the middle ages thought that they were the be all and the end all of healers as they treated patients with prayer and leeches.  The physicists of the late 1980’’s discouraged students from pursuing a career in physics because they said that everything that could be discovered in that field had been discovered.  Human arrogance always thinks that the current way of thinking is the top of the pyramid, and there’s nothing better.  Looking at that pattern in history, I can only reasonably conclude that regarding reason and logic as the top of the pyramid is probably a flawed notion.  In time we will discover other ways of looking at things that will render reason and scientific method a subset.  –Not incorrect, just not the entire story.

And yet, the fact that something may exist does not prove that it does exist.  The above argument makes room for something beyond reason.  The fact that there are spiritual interpretations that do not contradict science and reason (such as the idea that evolution is the means by which God accomplishes creation) makes room for something beyond reason.  And yet it does nothing to specify or validate what that “beyond” may entail.

We can see the same idea in medicine and healing.  Just because we may accept that there are things about medicine and the human body that we currently don’t understand, this doesn’t validate acupuncture or homeopathy.  It is expected that they must provide their own validation.

But the fact that it is inexact and subjective doesn’t mean that we stop looking.  If we did that in science, we’d never consider String Theory or Holographic Models of the universe.

How do you evaluate something that is by nature subjective?  First you look at its results.  If you can’t evaluate the covert, you look at the overt.  You look at people like the Delhi Lama, Mother Theresa or Ghandi as expressions of an inner spirituality.  You look at the effects of meditation to see its consequences.  And you have to look for the cases where it has followed true.  There’s lots of bad spiritual expression just like there’s lots of bad science.  They both require sceptical scrutiny.  You don’t throw out all science because some studies were manipulated by business interests.  You show discretion and discernment.  You have to do the same with Spiritual beliefs and systems.

Is there a web of energy that connects all living things the way that the Native Americans believe?  I can’t measure it.  I can’t see it, -but if I could the rational sceptic would tell me that I was hallucinating.  And yet it comes up in both Native American and Taoist world views.  In Quantum Physics, it seems perfectly normal to have non-local simultaneous behaviour in electrons, where two subatomic particles at a distance from each other behave as if they are in communication or connection with each other.  A similar connection between living things should at least be considered.  How do you validate it?  I regard the long tradition which asserts this principle as part of a validation.  I regard the emotional rightness that I feel towards the idea (an intuitive rightness, if you will) to be part of the validation.  If I could do a meditation and witness that connection or even manipulate it in a demonstrable way, the idea would be ridiculed by sceptics.  The fact is that I can and I have.  So I have a personal validation.

The fact is that a majority of the most intelligent thinkers in history saw the need for some kind of spiritual thought.  Newton, Pascal, Descartes, …all believed, not necessarily in a church God, but in the necessity of a higher form of enlightenment that involved a creative force or impersonal, non-traditional divine entity.  Newton, in fact, spent many more years studying metaphysics than he did physics.  Einstein stated on several occasions that, while he rejected the traditional view of God, man needed the ability to recognise the mysterious wonder of the world.  He regarded himself as a Deist, if anything, i.e. one who believes in a divine, creative force in nature.  I would regard the two greatest thinkers of our time to be Stephen Hawking (in the science field) and Ken Wilber (in the humanities field).  Hawking falls short of out rightly rejecting any notion of God in his book, The Grand Design.  In fact, he states at one point that if any of the physical laws of the universe were to have been even slightly different, life as we know it would not have been possible.  He justifies the randomness of this by introducing the idea of parallel universes, which then makes ours just one of many, and the one that just happens to have had the perfect conditions.  Postulating parallel universes in order to sidestep any recognition of God or a spiritual force seems a drastic step.

Wilber, the founder of Integral Theory, regards the need for a progression of spiritual and religious thought to be absolutely necessary.  Spiritual thought, like all other human institutions, goes through a hierarchy of stages, moving from the fundamentalist and traditional religions of Red/Amber, to the more moderate, reason-tempered religions of Orange, and on to the multi-denominational acceptance of green and the second-tier transcendence of teal.  As it evolves, spiritual concerns change radically in nature, abandoning the personal, vengeful, patriarch of early religions and depending more on the question of personal enlightenment and expanded awareness.  Second tier spirituality is more about self-transformation and expanded awareness than it is about worship and deity.

Compared to these thinkers, high profile atheists like Dawkins are competent and respected scientists, but not in the class of mental giants like Newton or Einstein, each renowned for their multi-disciplinary talents and a philosophical nature.

Fundamentalist atheists are so preoccupied with rejecting traditional religion and deriving comfort from their own closed system of scientific method, that they have a definite blind spot, mostly rejecting all forms of spirituality.  Their scepticism is stifled, using the status quo of scientific method to question anything that may fall outside of that paradigm, rather than sceptically questioning that same status quo.

  1. Ron Krumpos says:

    In “The Grand Design” Stephen Hawking postulates that the M-theory may be the Holy Grail of physics…the Grand Unified Theory which Einstein had tried to formulate but never completed. It expands on quantum mechanics and string theories.

    In my free ebook on comparative mysticism, “the greatest achievement in life,” is a quote by Albert Einstein: “…most beautiful and profound emotion we can experience is the sensation of the mystical. It is the sower of all true science. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and most radiant beauty – which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their primitive form – this knowledge, this feeling, is at the center of all religion.”

    E=mc², Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity, is probably the best known scientific equation. I revised it to help better understand the relationship between divine Essence (Love, Grace, Spirit), matter (mass/energy: visible/dark) and consciousness (f(x) raised to its greatest power). Unlike the speed of light, which is a constant, there are no exact measurements for consciousness. In this hypothetical formula, basic consciousness may be of insects, to the second power of animals and to the third power the rational mind of humans. The fourth power is suprarational consciousness of mystics, when they intuit the divine essence in perceived matter. This was a convenient analogy, but there cannot be a divine formula.

    • pwiinholt says:

      Wilber says something similar to your last point when he talks about first, second, third, fourth person dynamics. He ways that the first person perspective is only from a single point, and as such has no creativity or deviance from pure determinism. A second degree perspective has a world view that can empathize with another entity and, as such, immediately embodies a limited degree of spirit, creativity and free will. The third degree perspective is not only capable of empathizing with the other two entities, but can speculate about how the other two parties may perceive each other. This perspective also understands what it means to be a collective. With each degree of perspective, consciousness and free will increase and determinism holds less sway.

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