God as Macrocosm: a personal essay on mysticism and philosophy
April 10, 2012 § Leave a comment
God as Macrocosm, originally written December 2010.
First of all, I will say that I cannot align myself fully with any logical argument attempting to prove or disprove the existence of God.
The ontological and cosmological arguments do not appeal to me because they are open so widely for criticism. The ontological argument falters under the critique that imagining the existence of something does not necessitate its physical existence. I can conceive of many things which will never be seen in nature. The cosmological argument is equally flawed: it claims that because all existent things are contingent, either this chain of contingency stretches back infinitely, or stems from a caused beginning. It claims that there can be no infinite chain of contingent things, since all contingent things have a beginning, thus it is necessary that God (or a First creator being) exists. However, a closer look reveals a logical inconsistency in its so-called “proof” — it proves merely that if God does exist, God must have existed eternally outside of time.
In my studies thus far, one of the most likeable arguments I’ve come across has been William James’s pragmatism. I really related to this idea that if a belief is subjectively beneficial to the individual, he or she should undoubtedly embrace it. Instead of trying to prove or disprove the existence of God, James left it up to the individual to decide. This makes a lot more sense to me than some of the other long-winded and circular “proofs” for the existence of God, since the individual can never escape his or her own subjective view of reality anyway. While seemingly bridges this gap, deeper communication flaws arise when one considers that a subjective slant on surrounding reality begins at birth. Honestly, sometimes I think it’s a miracle anyone ever manages to agree on anything.
On the topic of miracles, I would most align myself with the philosophies of McKinnon and Tillich. Hume’s very definition of miracles seems flawed to me, in that it is logically impossible to transgress the laws of nature. As McKinnon says, miracles are simply gaps in our knowledge of nature, as it would be extremely presumptuous to assume that we know every natural law that exists. The Contingency Definition of Miracles is more applicable to my system of beliefs — no laws of nature are transgressed, and a miracle is considered to be a series of coincidences which are too coincidental to be merely coincidental.
But in my view, there are no such things as coincidences. Rather, things are connected in minute and infinite ways that cannot be seen but through “coincidences”, or as Jung calls them, “synchronicities”. These, to me, are proof that something of a higher nature does exist. In my experience, the more synchronicities you experience, and thus the more you think about them, the more will present themselves. To me, this was proof that something was at work other than my own imagination. There have been times when I’ve felt I have literally caused things to happen just by concentrating on them, things which are far too coincidental to be coincidences. For example, at this time last year, I had been looking for a certain book for many months. The book was called Many Lives, Many Masters, by Dr. Brian Weiss. It was about Dr. Weiss’s experiences with the hypnosis and past-life regression studies he had done with a young patient of his, which completely changed his views on life, reality, and the afterlife. I had more or less given up on finding it in any local bookstore, and assumed I’d be forced to eventually purchase it online at some point. However, not long after, I was walking to work in Duquesne University’s Canevin Hall (I am a student aide with the Graduate School of Education), and there, on a table right outside my office, was a copy of Many Lives, Many Masters. Furthermore, it had a little sticker on it that said FREE! Now, this is not a book that I would typically expect to be lying around Duquesne University, even as a piece of free trash that nobody wants. But there it was, waiting for me, as though it had been there all along. For me, this went far beyond a coincidence and into the territory of certainty that it was there for me to find. A more skeptical person would call this a lucky coincidence. However, I have had far too many analogous experiences with this kind of thing to fully believe that anything is coincidental. I believe that for reasons I do not currently know and cannot possibly understand at this point, I was not meant to read that book before that time that I found it. And because it was then the correct time for me to encounter it, it was literally handed to me. Is it logical to consider this a miracle? Under Tillich’s definition, I believe so. This is even further reason for me to disagree with Hume’s view, as he basically says that nobody should believe in miracles unless they experience one themselves. As Hume has clearly never firsthand witnessed something unexplainable, he contends that belief in inexplicable events is unreasonable for anyone at all unless they have actually experienced it.
My favorite discussions are still on the topic of mystical consciousness. Mystical consciousness is something I have been passionately interested in for most of my life, and which has shaped my views on both God and reality. The idea of mind-body dualism is something I completely empathize with. Because my personal experiences have led me to believe in reincarnation, it is not difficult for me to understand how the mind/soul might exist independent of a physical body. The body is a vessel for the soul or individual — I do not identify with my body any more than a driver identifies himself with his car. My reasons for believing in reincarnation are complex and personal, and I will not expound on them too much here, but I have had several experiences in altered states of consciousness (hypnosis and dream states) which have left me unshakeably sure that I have lived in other times and other bodies. My unquestioning belief that this is correct is somewhat akin to the idea that mystical experience in and of itself is valuable to nobody but the one experiencing it. Obviously, my own belief in reincarnation does not apply to anyone else, and it does not matter that I feel reincarnation has proved itself a reality to me. I do believe that all souls are reincarnated many times, but I also recognize that I cannot present proof of this to anyone else, nor do I want to try. As far as I’m concerned, experiences of this nature are utterly subjective. I have had one experience in my life which I would consider to be a state of mystical consciousness. And although since then I have had similar experiences, or rather I have had sudden similar flashes of insight, my mystical experience was something I can never explain fully to anyone. It was and remains to this day ineffable. It was spontaneous and free-floating.
Walking home from school one evening, I suddenly found myself existing in a state where I could clearly see the connections between everything. Literally everything that is, was, has been and shall be. I saw the way absolutely everything affected everything else. Every which way I looked (or rather, thought) reminded me of something else, and something else, and something else, and in this infinite web of metaphors and invisible connections, I could see the nature of infinity. The “I” part of me, the individual, was wholly vanished in the face of this perpetuity. I knew without doubt that I was eternal, and I was not just part of something bigger that was eternal, I was the eternal thing. But the word “I” in this sense is completely meaningless. I, Kate Luketich, did not exist. The veil that usually separated me from all else had been lifted, and I saw that I was not an individual at all, but rather part of an indescribably huge mechanism — and I identified fully with it instead of with the individual self I had previously identified with. This experience did not last very long, but it forever changed my view on God, reality, and individualism. It showed me that I am eternal and undying, because although my body will die, I am ultimately neither body nor even a specific personal soul. I somehow am fundamentally both a tiny part of a much huger system, and I am the system itself. I believe this must be true for all other consciousnesses as well. (I don’t fully understand these things still, it is something that I am constantly revising and researching and thinking about.) According to experts, there are four key factors of a mystical experience — ineffibility, noetic quality, transciency, and passitivy — and I completely identified all of those in the experience I had had. Even if just with the barest tips of my fingers, I brushed reality as it truly is. Although you see me giving it the old college try right now, this experience would be impossible for me to impart to another living soul even if I was the most fluent, well-spoken person who ever lived. I knew, unquestioningly, that this was the most “real” thing I had yet experienced in my life. And yet, I was totally helpless in the face of it. In fact, while it was happening, I was not actually there. I was conscious of it, but my normal consciousness was gone. Or rather, it had been expanded to a point that I cannot adequately put into words. I had the consciousness of everything at once, is the best way to say it, although that is woefully inadequate. And, finally, this was a fleeting experience. It was remarkably short for the effect it had on me, and while it had a profound positive effect on me, it also left me feeling disillusioned and trapped in the trivial-seeming human life I was leading. Ultimately, I realized many ways that I could use this experience to make my life less trivial rather than being bogged down by the fact that I was “trapped” in singular, individual consciousness, but that post-mystical experience depression was striking. With this experience in mind, I will talk about my current views on God and reality.
Firstly, I would say I align myself with neutral monism. Under this philosophy, mental and physical elements are ultimately the same, and the nature of true reality is neutral elements which cannot be perceived by us in our current state. Physical, spiritual, mental, astral planes — these can all be reduced ultimately to one base plane visible only by the consciousness of “ultimate reality”, or “God”. So when I speak of the universe, I am not just talking about the physical world, but of reality in all of its possible forms.
I definitely believe that a higher power exists, although I am not certain of its nature. I do not believe that the universe could’ve been created, and must be eternal. As far as my views on God and reality go, I have literally no proof for any of it, and therefore cannot contend that I am right. I can only present things as they seem most logical to me, and this subjectivism is a strong part of my beliefs on God and reality: that reality itself is purely subjective at this individual human level, and nothing can be more true to one person than their particular perception. However, I strongly believe that there is much more to reality than we currently know or can perceive — the world seems to me a place of infinite mystery and connection, and I have had unexplainable experiences where I have somehow glimpsed the indescribable way all things are inextricably connected and related. I believe that the concept of God actually corresponds exactly with the concept of “ultimate reality”. It is the ultimate source, and what is referred to as the “clear light” in Buddhism. It is uncreated and did not create the universe, but rather is the universe. God, ultimate reality, and ultimate truth are all the same things in my opinion — something which cannot be perceived by the human mind at this stage, but which can be glimpsed in brief flashes of intuition. About this “ultimate reality”, the Dalai Lama says, “this ultimate source is close to the notion of a creator, since all phenomena originate within.” However, in both Buddhism and my beliefs, there can be no creator, since that would imply there was a time that nothing existed. And since something cannot arise from nothing, ultimate reality must logically always have existed. Consciousness itself also has no origin, since ultimate reality is another way of saying “ultimate consciousness”, or “ultimate truth”. God as a concept is the largest and most full consciousness in existence, the aggregate of all consciousnesses on all levels. God is not something separate from us, but rather we exist within God and God exists within us. Everything imaginable is made of God — things physical, mental, and spiritual. I believe that perhaps the goal of the soul is to mesh with this universal consciousness, thereby both gaining awareness of ultimate reality and fully becoming it. At this level there is no individualism and no sense of division between any level of consciousness. Would this make us truly happy? I believe, as do Buddhists, that the mind creates its world. And the human mind is a microcosm of the mind of God, or rather, the universe. Reality is composed of corresponding levels all working in perfect harmony, the smallest microcosm being a perfect working model of the largest macrocosm, which is ultimate reality. I believe that ultimate reality is uncreated and eternal.
Copyright Katherine Luketich, 2010. All Rights Reserved.