What Can I Know? What Should I Believe?abracad, · Categories: consciousness, spirituality
The Significance of Faith
Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed. Jesus (John 20:29)
In this quote Jesus expresses the importance of faith - belief in that which has not / cannot be "proven". In actuality, much of what we think we know relies in varying degrees upon faith.
The Limits of Certainty
Descartes remarked in the 17th century: I think therefore I am. This effectively defined the bounds of certainty, since all else beyond one's own existence could be illusion.
Scientific quantum theory in the 20th century discovered the inherent randomness at the most fundamental level of the material universe. Heisenberg's "uncertainty principle" set a limit in principle on what it is physically possible to know.
It seems overwhelmingly likely that the true nature of reality is very different to that which is perceived through the physical senses.
Consciousness and Reality
I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness. Max Planck, Nobel Prize winner, originator of quantum theory.
The consequence of key concepts from quantum physics (observer effect, collapse of the wave function) suggest that consciousness (yours, others', God's?) doesn't just passively receive information about the universe but may play an active role in shaping/creating reality (eg see The Self-Aware Universe by theoretical physicist Dr. Amit Goswami).
Throughout the ages man has developed, and followed, numerous religions/philosophies in an insatiable quest to describe what is essentially unknowable. The various resulting -isms have inspired countless instances of self-sacrificing goodness, along with (equally many?) acts of unspeakable horror, as well as providing billions with a code for life.
Faith is Inevitable
Due to the inevitable limits of certainty, every paradigm (including fatalistic, materialist determinism and extreme atheism) must be based on faith.
Does speculation on the un-knowable serve any purpose, or should we simply focus on what we can (with reasonable certainty) know?
We need some concept of what reality is to live purposefully to any degree - that is what religion / philosophy / faith seek to provide.
Maybe we retain the (possibly implicit) beliefs of our upbringing or culture. Maybe we spend a lifetime exploring different explanations for what constitutes reality. Maybe we rationalize the choice based on what seems most likely or has the greatest potential benefit or least potential cost.
But how far we ought to contemplate the unknown, and what model of reality (ie faith) we end up with is entirely up to what feels right for the individual.
Filed in: consciousness, spirituality