Skip to content

What is Real? A beginning statement for the “Spiritual, Not Religious”

October 9, 2009

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.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 14, 2009 11:32 am

    I smell a pragmatist! That’s a good start. Although I’ll have to wait and see “what is real”.

    Much of my thought is also pre-occupied with the science / religion dichotomy.

    Keep in mind that religious dogma (i.e. religion generally) is directly generated by attempts to finally pin down all the definitions the right way.

    “God” has dozens of meanings. Although I personally default to a pantheist’s definition (God = Everything) it is not what I always mean.

    One reason why foreign and esoteric systems are so popular among the new age movement is the spiritual vocabulary they offer.

    For example, we can have a conversation about Nirguna Brahman, Wuji or Ein Sof with the same cultural neutrality that a biologist utilises when using Latin.

    If we’re going to attempt a new ontology, maybe we should steer clear of common, hotly debated, terms. The alternative would be to either borrow “barbarous names” from other cultures, or create a new alphabet strictly for the purpose.

    Just a thought. I’ll wait and read part two before saying any more.

  2. naturalspirituality permalink
    October 14, 2009 4:52 pm

    I think “pragmatist” is fitting. At least I try to balance getting things accomplished (even if just in terms of understanding deeper, as it leads to better emotions, actions) and upholding some ideal.

    I could easily push ahead with part 2, 3, etc. but may go a bit lighter for a couple posts, maybe things more appealing to more people, so we don’t set an overly philosophical tone and narrow participation too much. If you or anyone has suggestions or wants to go “off subject” a bit, feel free.

    I do like your idea of avoiding particularly hot terms, and of possibly coining some new ones. Technically, it wasn’t recently coined, but the term panentheist, which I resonate with, was popularized a lot by John Cobb and David Ray Griffin and other Process thinkers. This kind of thing can probably be multiplied… let’s go for it!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: