September 13, 2016

Why Are We Here? (Religion for Dummies)

Few are the people these days who are interested in pondering the truly deep questions concerning human existence. 
The most basic dilemma is: why are we here, why do humans exist? 
If you're one of those whose response is 'Who cares?' then you are (-- be honest) hardly better than an intelligent animal, living day-to-day like an automaton.

It's in pondering the basic questions of reality that humans are most different from the rest of creation. This philosophical enquiry is the hallmark of consciousness and self-awareness. Yet most people shy away from such thinking, as if it's a waste of time, since 'it can't be answered anyway.'

In the mental realm, I like to go where others fear to tread. In this essay, I explore the question of why humanity exists. Of course, for the atheists, a century of indoctrination simply provokes the knee-jerk reply that we exist merely as accidents of 'evolution;' the highest life-form to develop, eons after the primordial microbes. I don't want to spend a lot of words showing the obvious flaws in that dogma. Those who believe in 'spontaneous genesis' haven't spent any more time studying that theory than they have on our existence.

For me, the starting point of all philosophy is the phenomenon of consciousness; i.e. the fact that we know that we know. Taken mostly for granted, consciousness is, in fact, a mystical or transcendent faculty of mind. No one has been able to figure out how it works. Sure, we have a brain, but it's a piece of biological hardware, possessed in some form by almost all living creatures. All brains process sensory data, using basic instinctual 'software.' Some mammals exhibit a certain degree of intelligence and awareness, but only humans can think about the reasons for our reality, our existence in the universe.

What's so important about knowing why we're here, anyway? (Ah, now you're thinking!) Well, if we're just here by pure cosmic fluke, then life is a free-for-all, and anything goes. It's survival of the fittest, even if we pretend that we're playing by some kind of rules. Look around; isn't that more or less how things work in this world? The US can barge into any country on Earth, because they've got the biggest military; the pretexts for these invasions is getting flimsier with every new misadventure.

On the other hand, if there's a deeper reason for human life, then maybe we are called to behave as more than intelligent animals. Since we know when we are doing wrong, then we are expected to behave in a moral/ethical manner. Consciousness rules over instinct.

Unless you're completely self-absorbed, you must have noticed that life in this 21st century has become at least complicated, if not outright bizarre. Whether you believe that terrorism is due to Islamic fanatics, or perceive the forces behind the scenes, you have to confront the fact that humanity is certainly not improving, but is rather regressing. The world has become more chaotic each year of the third millennium.

Why, one must wonder, are we in this constant, and worsening, mess called human society? Even at the interpersonal level, there is constant strife and conflict. Parents struggle with children; the rich suppress the poor; the races struggle with each other, and so on. Is there any fundamental or higher reason to this misery and suffering?

That question is interrelated to the one concerning existence. My contention is that we are alive for the purpose of spiritual learning. This world is the school of hard knocks. Each soul is here to experience life with other souls; to undergo the 'slings and arrows of outrageous people!' At the fundaments, it's about discovering that the cosmos is a battle-ground between good and evil.

This paradigm may be too much for most minds to absorb. The diehard atheist will deny this view out of hand (i.e. with no further thinking). Those of a spiritual bent will see that it makes full sense. There's no other rationale for higher-consciousness to exist in such inhospitable conditions as we are seeing in this stage of world history.

So it is that each of us fumbles our way from childhood and its limited world-view towards maturity and a more sophisticated view of reality. Some who are well-educated (as the world measures it) and well-travelled, regard themselves as being worldly-wise and thus more enlightened than others. Such people are no better than fools if they are ignorant of the transcendent (spiritual) aspects of human life!

Just because the higher dimension of existence cannot be seen or detected with the five senses, does not mean they don't exist. The point of consciousness is that it can conceive of that hidden realm, and at best, can even detect or tap into it. This access of a higher realm of reality has been demonstrated or experienced countless times, and described to the extent possible, over the ages and across all cultures. It can be in the form of clairvoyance; or a 'life after death' experience; or mind-to-mind communication; even 'divine inspiration;' whatever.

The problem is that the exultation of the 'scientific method' (mind-set) over the past two to three centuries in European culture has required the utter rejection of any recognition of the spiritual aspect of human existence. As promoted from cradle to grave in every facet of life, modernism denies anything beyond the material world. Thus, the contemporary populace is conditioned to embrace ignorance of the transcendent.

The rejection of the transcendent is at the root of our constant state of conflict and chaos. With no vision of what we could be, or should be, humans behave as tho this brief 'three score and ten' years is all we will ever experience, therefore let's grab everything we can whenever possible. Without recognition of our common spirituality, we see each other as mere fellow strugglers, at best, or as prey, at worst. Without a spiritual outlook, morality becomes more of a humanist option than a moral imperative.

At the end of the day-- or of the world, as it happens-- every human being is faced with a choice, or a dilemma: doggedly adhere to the pathetic belief that there is nothing beyond the material universe, or else, accept the existence of a non-material yet tangible dimension in which concepts exist in pure form. By that, I mean that qualities like truth, justice, love, and all the virtues exist only in their ultimate form; there are no lesser shades, and no opposites.

Over the ages of civilization, many have experienced the ineffable-- events big or small that cannot be explained in 'rational,' that is, material terms. Some have tried to write about those experiences, often with good success, in that readers can grasp some sense of what occurred, so that they vicariously share in it and believe in it.

Yet for some people, no amount of 'anecdotal' (hence, not 'scientific') evidence will satisfy them. We have circumscribed science within such strictly defined limits that it is hopelessly confined to dabble in the merely material realm, willfully blind to the vastness beyond. A shame it is! In this 21st century, not just a shame, but an accomplice to final disaster.

Unfortunately, spirituality appears almost a function of personality. Some types are entirely open to the possibilities of the transcendent domain, while others are endemically grounded in the material. Is that fair? I don't know. We all have 'free will,' at least morally speaking. What we choose to believe is subject to numerous subtle factors that have been studied by modern psychology with limited success. I've pretty much given up trying to convince anyone of anything. All I can do is present the best case for a belief, and then it's in the hands of the hearer/reader to do with as they please.

So it is with this essay. Even if you are one of those who holds to a materialist outlook, I hope to have given you something to ponder. Perhaps some day you will experience something that shakes your material world-- makes a crack in your cosmic egg (to borrow from Joseph Chilton Pierce). In that moment, you will have the blessed opportunity to glimpse the ineffable, feel the breath of God, so to speak. I pray that every reader will have that moment to reflect on the glory of the higher dimension and accept the reality of the spirit world.

Once you have had that encounter with the transcendent, you will understand that there is evil abroad in our world, yes; but as the holy writings have assured, there is Good/God in charge of all that occurs. His immense consciousness subsumes all else. Our being is miniscule in His sight, yet we still have that faculty of free will by which we can cling to God's grace... or we can, defiantly and incredibly, reject it. It's in your will. May you use it wisely, not stupidly!

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