Within this website I explore whether there is a spiritual realm, a supernatural realm, containing God, mind, souls, consciousness with its contents (ideas, emotions, love, reason, etc) — this, from a purely philosophical and unreligious point of view.
In this article, I first assume there is a spiritual realm so as to explore the implications; then I present my conclusions elsewhere.
The goal of inquiry into reality should be to discover truth and knowledge.
The human mind is capable of comprehending certain truths. However, these truths are "true" whether or not humans exist to comprehend them. Therefore, the search for truth is a process of discovering truths that already exist: humans do not create truth. This implies (according to my hypothesis) that truth resides outside the physical realm, outside the human brain.
The two cornerstones of my view:
This second foundation proved to be untenable, so I had to discard it.
We should strive to ensure that our beliefs and faith correspond to truth.
Here's how I understand these following terms:
Note that you can believe something that is not factually true, and likewise, you can have faith in something that is not factually true.
People commonly use the term "knowledge" without requiring the knowledge to be true; and so, I use it this way.
To discover truth requires:
Here's what we can know:
But the fact of suffering refutes all of this so-called knowledge about God.
In studying the history of psychology I noticed that each theorist proposed a view, claiming it as true. Then the next one would come along with a different, conflicting view, and claim theirs was true. The same for philosophy. And sociology. And political science. And economics. And all the social sciences. (Yes, my B.A. degree was in social science.)
I suspected that you could never learn the truth about any of this; it would be forever presenting more and more modern ideas based on the culture of the day. The best you could do was learn a bunch of ways to view the topics, a bunch of perspectives. Certainly this is useful.
Modern science assumes materialism; that there is nothing other than the physical universe that we can perform experiments on. I sense this is merely another of those biases of the time, that in a future day science will be open to the possibility of mind-body dualism, of something (mind, consciousness, qualia) apart from matter/energy and space/time.
Whatever they discover will be part of the universe and its marvelous workings.
What a quandary. Physical matter forms itself into humans having consciousness and curiosity. These humans then get Ph.D.s after years of study. Then they study physical matter and discover, lo and behold! They are merely physical matter! Physical matter discovers its true nature!
There is something weirdly circular and tautological to all this. Seems that people are the ones who do science. Yes, a component of people is physical matter. But there must be more, a living, spiritual, conscious, willful aspect apart from the physical matter.
Physical matter doesn't study physical matter; people do. People are living; they are more than mere biological chemical reactions. And calling this an emergent property adds nothing whatsoever to the discussion.
By stories I am referring to fiction; things made up or invented via creativity.
The only knowledge possible is scientific knowledge of the physical realm using the scientific method. Everything else is fiction. Claims about the structure and functioning of the spiritual realm are, by definition, fiction.
Do we have a commitment to a conviction rather than to truth?
In other words, are we driven by truth, propelled by the quest for truth, willing to discard anything provably false?
Seems to me, we should only firmly believe things (in faith?) once we determine whether they are true or not.
Rather, I based my views on revealed religions or revealed spiritual paths; on revealed (usually untrue) knowledge.
I'm now of the opinion your views must be grounded in philosophy and science.
Talking about a composition played by an orchestra of instruments with a conductor.
Yes, they exist. But there is no truth to them, no provable knowledge.
The same with other ideas of philosophy. The ideas exist, but there is no truth to them.
Ideas are true only when they describe something about the physical realm, the universe, that can be proven via the scientific method, via science.
The idea of God, therefore, can't be proved and is not true, nor is it untrue. It is merely an idea. (This, from our perspective. It is different from God's perspective; he/she is not just an idea of humans.)
Religion consists mostly of ideas which either contradict science or which cannot be proved via science.
Therefore, truth is grounded in the physical realm. The spiritual realm contains only ideas, experiences, feelings, consciousness, and etc.
This morning out the back window it looked like light rain or dew on the ground, but the front porch was dry. I guessed I could trust the front porch, and that what I saw out the back was caused by light conditions and shadows or whatever. Then later, while out walking, my shoes got all wet from the dew of the long grasses along the trails.
Why is there dew in some places but not others? Perhaps the boards of the front porch were warm enough and dense enough to prevent it from forming?
But here's the point: I don't have an easy way to learn the correct answer. This specific case has a specific cause but who can know of it? When you don't know the answer, the best approach is to not just make up an answer and declare it's true.
Seems this is all-too-common in religion and politics.
I was listening to a famous scientist declare that consciousness is merely an emergent property. And others have other materialist/physicalist views based on their assumption of materialism/physicalism.
It is clear that reason can't be trusted to derive the correct answer about such questions as consciousness. And reason even leads people into believing untrue claims, such as various religious claims.
Scientists are just making up these ideas, the same as I am, but they are doing it within their scientific domain. The problem is when they call it science when it is actually mere speculation.
One provable fact about consciousness is that the brain creates it. How the brain does this is currently unknown (and speculating about this is philosophy, not science). Seems to me, to be a materialist/physicalist requires admitting there is an aspect of the universe, of reality, called consciousness upon which the brain acts to create our conscious awareness. Perhaps consciousness is like energy, entropy, information, and time: a property of the cosmos. The problem is that we have not yet been able to measure consciousness like we can measure energy and entropy. And so, it is tempting to call it an emergent property (but this explains nothing).
By wrong I mean: they don't agree. Examples are, their opinions about: (1) what consciousness is, (2) the origins of the universe, and (3) the origin of life.
There are many disagreements among them with no way to prove who is right and who is wrong; these questions are simply outside the domain of science. The best you can do is think about possible stories of what might have happened and whether these are compatible with the evidence and with the mathematical theories of provable truths.
Such considerations are within the purview of philosophy.
The same as with religious people who can be wrong yet think they are right. But they can't ever be right (except by accident) because they don't use the scientific method.
Whenever the experts (in science, these are the Ph.D.s) disagree, unless it is within the domain of experimentally provable truth, this is a good indication that they are just making things up. Two good examples, both unprovable: (1) consciousness is physical, and (2) wave function collapse results in many-worlds interpretation (MWI) multiple universes.
It's not that you can prove consciousness is physical; but rather, that you can demonstrate there is no such thing as a spiritual realm, a supernatural world.
It seems obvious, I know.
Someone (a spiritual person) objected to my views that spiritual teachers can't be trusted (in general) as sources of truth and knowledge, and my reason was because their views all contradict provable truth (via science, archaeology, history, document analysis, common sense) and each other. This person said:
"Who was I compared to the great spiritual teachers, the great spiritual masters? I should learn wisdom at their feet."
"Which one of these should I believe, since they all contradict one another? Give me a name please."
Their answer was to merely repeat their previous statement. In other words, they had no answer.
An important quality for anyone claiming to be a teacher of truth is that their teachings be true.
If they have too many provable errors, we should doubt their teachings in general. Or if nothing they say is provable or disprovable, perhaps they are speaking fiction, telling stories (fictional stories are neither true nor false; they are merely stories).
From my experience, revealed religions and revealed spiritual paths are not trustworthy sources of truth and knowledge.
My current view is that revealed religions and revealed spiritual paths are not trustworthy sources of knowledge and truth.
If you think they are, then you have to notice whether the truths they propose contradict one another (which they do). Or you can decide they don't contradict; that they are all really saying the same thing (an incoherent view).
And then you have to choose the one which is trustworthy among the others which are not trustworthy (so you reject all except one).
But what is the basis for choosing one? It must have corroboration with science, history, archaeology; it must be "provable". And the historical documents (scripture) that present the teachings and doctrines must be coherent and trustworthy.
And it would be a good idea if the outcome of these doctrines when lived out within the world stage; that these would demonstrate the moral goodness of the views.
My basic claim has been that you can't know anything about the spiritual realm beyond what is in it (such as consciousness with its contents, including: rationality and reason, mind, logic, math, emotions, feelings, love, ideas, etc.) But I now think there is a way to learn something more about it, because our conscious experience is so tightly coupled with brain activity. Certain brain structures are tightly coupled with certain aspects of the content of our conscious experience (such as feeling, cognition, etc). If you can demonstrate that the brain operates in a certain way, and that it connects with the corresponding conscious experiences consistently, then you can state that those aspects of the spiritual realm are true.
In a sense, everything in the spiritual realm is true, meaning, it exists. For example, when you imagine a unicorn, that unicorn (and the concept of unicorns in general) actually exists in the spiritual realm, in your experienced imagination. But this kind of truth (merely the truth of mere existence) is different than truth claims about things such as: whether angels exist as conscious entities (not mere imaginations); whether the soul lives on after death and, if so, what kind of experience it has without its body; and how much God controls the universe moment by moment.
But sadly, the truths we can know from studying the brain don't answer the more interesting questions about God, the afterlife, God's role in creating the universe (with its inherent badness and ugliness), why the universe can be explained by mathematics, and etc.
Another aspect of the spiritual realm that is knowable is: the existence of mathematics. Because we can describe the behavior of the universe using mathematics, therefore, the spiritual realm contains mathematics. Mathematics is simply not a physical phenomena, rather, it resides in the spiritual realm. But because it is so integrated with the physical universe, therefore, mathematics is more than merely contents of the imagination. Mathematics existed in the spiritual realm before there were any human mathematicians on earth to notice.
One more example is the scientific method which is based on philosophy. Philosophy originates with the mind, and the mind resides in the spiritual realm. Since the scientific method is so tightly correlated with all of scientific knowledge (you can't know anything without it), therefore, philosophy itself with the mind also resides in the spiritual realm.
The above is all based on my view that there is more to reality than the merely physical. The best example is the subjective experience of consciousness. Claiming it is merely an illusion or labeling it as an emergent property doesn't explain the subjective first-person experience. Therefore, there is another domain, another realm (which I call the spiritual ream) which contains at least consciousness with its contents.