What is Real? A beginning statement for the “Spiritual, Not Religious”
Copyright 2009 by Howard Pepper
The following is a statement designed to help in the process of forming clear, helpful language about key concepts that describe reality in ways helpful on a number of levels. It is neither “religious” nor “scientific” in the sense of the guiding dogmas of the main institutions of religion or science.
A few people are able to integrate both religious and scientific ways of knowing in a consistent manner, and thus create an effective “third way” of understanding reality and learning more about it. But most people cannot, even the “best and brightest” in both religion and science. Therefore, statements such as this one are needed. Otherwise, science tends to operate in reaction to religion and vice-versa. Witness the recent stirring of attack and acrimony between a few widely-read “new atheists” and religious leaders.
But it is not new. Both professionals and lay people within the influence circles of both religion and science avoid or deny things key to a desirable personal, societal, and global life. These blinders also restrict individual’s and humanity’s learning of more that is vital for enhancement of life, and help to threaten the very survival of humanity.
Religion tends to split all processes of life and the universe somewhat arbitrarily into natural and supernatural categories in which God can supercede or override the natural. (We say “somewhat arbitrarily” because the line does shift as science’s evidence of natural processes or new conclusions, such as heliocentrism centuries ago, eventually becomes undeniable on a given point.) On the other hand, science, by self-description, deals only with natural processes, but along the way tends to reduce everything to that… denying the existence of anything that is not capable of detection or being measured by any period’s tools or theoretical structures (paradigms). As spiritually-seeking “SNR’s” (spiritual, not religious), we find these positions and vantage points not well aligned with reality — misleading and limiting, in the cases of both religion and science.
Here is a beginning statement on a different, unitive approach to our understanding of reality, and ongoing research. (We invite all our readers to respond to, and offer your modifications, agreements, or criticisms.)
For all practical purposes, it appears most useful and realistic to say that everything came into being at once. If God existed prior to any creative acts by such a pre-existent God, as most religion contends, particularly in the West, it is an unknowable mystery what such an existence was like. It is not pertinent to us.
For the sake of communication with our religious friends, we are okay with saying there is God as Creator. In fact, we may personify God in this or other ways ourselves at times. (We try hard not to invoke God in any cursing!) But we are quick to add that a Creator God does not, for us, imply a being separated in any way from everything else and from us. Rather, we allow that “God” as “Supreme Being” or “Ground of Being” can be named while remaining consistent with the process of scientific inquiry.
God, conceived as universal consciousness, the information inherent in all that is, and necessary for all to function, could have always existed or arisen at some “time” as consciousness, energy, etc. For most practical purposes, it doesn’t matter. In a related way, traditional theism emphasizes both the “transcendence” and the “immanence” of God. We contend that when these aspects are truly in balance, it doesn’t matter whether God is labeled as distinct from creation or part and parcel of it, as its knowing and guiding force. Similarly, it doesn’t matter whether God is a “person” or a “force,” as long as “person” doesn’t imply “independent individual” and force doesn’t imply “devoid of characteristics of personality or personhood.” (To be continued….)
What are your thoughts or suggestions? Please contribute.