RELIGION and I (Part 2)

There seems to be clear evidence, comparable to the stability of patterns found within chaos, of purpose within the complexity and apparent unpredictability of life, and of a uni-directional path of species evolution, and the personal development of many individual humans.  In the event, all that a Creator had to do was to set up a mechanism capable of evolving by itself, even as it related to the sentient forms within creation, and these forms too would evolve.  An arm’s-length Creator, not an interventionist god of the kind who baffles supplicants and frustrates the priesthood, makes good sense.

Such an objective analytic approach would fit life as experienced.  There seem to be trajectories for the universe we think we know, for the observable galaxies, individual suns, and planets, and for us occupants on planet Earth.  The pattern of an individual’s existence and the associated path of any personal development reflects, in my view, what might be termed as personal destiny. This is not fate, not something unavoidable.  It is a pathway for one’s current life created by each of us for ourselves, both reactively and through free will, during past lives.  With free will, one can also choose, during each life, to obey the imperatives of one’s own self-crafted destiny or respond in some other manner, much in the way a motorist might behave in a well-policed crowded city.

There is no need for the modified Hinduism of the New Age theorists of the Western world.  New Agers like the idea of a reincarnating soul choosing (often in a dialogue with appropriate others) the life to be led.  This deterministic Western approach (I can choose to be whatever I want to be) denies the concept of karma as an automatic and autonomous mechanism.  Worse still, the millions of babies born into a life of suffering in under-developed nations can be held by the New Agers to have chosen that suffering!  Unfortunately, there are Hindu gurus whose lack of understanding of karma also allows them to ignore the suffering of fellow Hindus as something deserved!!

How do I see karma?  In the Hindu framework I have set out above, it reflects the confluence of reincarnation and the law of cause and effect. 

As we paddle as best we can on our personal rivers of life, we exercise our free will to pay our personal cosmic debts, to access any opportunities to learn whatever we need to learn for our personal development, and to prepare for the next life.  We thus effectively create, as a consequence of bumbling through life as best as possible, the cliffs through which our river of life will flow during our next sojourn on Earth, and the rocky impediments and chasms we will find on the way.  How we deal with these and the cross-currents created by other personal destinies related to us will determine our future lives.  No gods, saints, or spirits are therefore necessary as determinants.  However, they may be able to intrude, to help, if they choose to;  presumably they too have free will.

Since each of us is an integral part of a number of collectives, there will result a complex network of personal destinies.  The expected web, and possibly nested mesh, of personal destinies would presumably be reflected ultimately in tribal and possibly national destinies.  These might influence species development, although a major contributor might also be genetic mutations, which are truly accidents of nature.

(The above are extracts from my book ‘Musings at Death’s Door: an ancient bicultural Asian-Australian ponders about Australian society.’)

Seeking to explain the Universe

I have great difficulty with the Big Bang Theory. I question the following: something arising from nothing; the origin of the vast energy necessary for the claimed initial expansion; whether light maintains its intensity through infinite space; how far does the Hubble Telescope see in infinite space; what is the role of ‘dark matter’ in this claimed expansion; is it not premature to claim that the Big Bang cosmogony is proven?

In the meantime, fellow-bloggers may be interested in the following extracts from ‘On the Cosmos’ in my book ‘Musings at death’s door.’

“Following a genuinely educational curriculum set by the British for Malaya, I read about the prevailing ‘Stationary State’ theory relating to the structure of the Cosmos.  So, modern cosmologists were agreeing with an ancient Hindu perspective of durability in the heavens.  Then, however, came the ‘Big Bang’ theory.  This presumably was needed to explain what the Hubble Telescope had shown; that all sighted cosmic objects were seemingly moving away from one another.

Then came the ‘Big Crunch’ concept, seemingly in recognition that unending expansion did not make sense even in an infinity of space.  I, however, wonder if a glimpse of Hindu cosmic speculations might also have been influential.

Then came the ‘Mini-Bang’ extension, presumably to explain the lack of accumulating empty spaces. That is, if everyone is moving out of a sports stadium through gates open 360 degrees, wouldn’t the stadium become empty eventually?  The idea of a ‘Mini-Crunch’ had logically to follow.  All that was to fit the Hubble Telescope’s observations within a durable Cosmos; and a hint that invisible matter (or energy) might be filling the spaces resulting from the expansion of visible galaxies.

We were now back to an enduring Cosmos, but with significant changes in structures.  It is durability but without stability – an interesting concept.  Did not some unknown Hindus postulate that the universe renews itself periodically?  There are two strands in this belief.  The first strand says that at the end of a ‘day of Brahma,’ Earth (and other worlds) are temporarily dissolved (another view is of a temporary suspension).  A ‘day’ is equal to 4.32 billion human years.  At the end of another 4.32 billion years, representing a ‘night’ of Brahma, regeneration commences.  Dissolved, suspended, crunched?

Brahma is the Creator God.  The other strand of this belief says that at the end of Brahma’s life, equal to 311.04 trillion years, the whole Cosmos is dissolved.  After a great cosmic rest period equivalent to the duration of Brahma’s life, yet another creative cycle will commence, with another Brahma creating another Cosmos.  What a quaint vista this is.  What kind of mind conceived it?

It all sounds so simple.  When and how did these concepts originate?  Why?  What was the trigger?  These speculations promise long-term durability, but with vast changes in structures occurring in a sequenced path.  What I was taught as a boy – that the universe is without a beginning or an end – seems to be quite correct.  Continuity is assured, but with gaps in the creative and regenerative process.  For some reason, the firefly’s winks of light come to mind.”

 

A useful guide to the Cosmos

I recommend the Hindus’ Upanishads as a useful guide to the Cosmos … … The Upanishads proclaim (according to Easwaran) that “There is a Reality underlying life”.  “… this Reality is the essence of every created thing, and the same Reality is our real Self, so that each of us is one with the power that created and sustains the universe”. That is, the Creator is both transcendent and immanent.

Easwaran goes on to say that this Reality or oneness  “ … can be realised directly, without the mediation of priests or rituals or any of the structures of organised religion, not after death but in this life, and that this is the purpose for which each of us has been born and the goal towards which evolution moves”. Complex, yet simple. Is it not inspiring and therefore attractive to those who love freedom? I believe it is.

And the yoga schools in Australia are indeed introducing this perspective to seekers of a better path to spiritual fulfilment. The goal of evolution may thus be said to be the realisation of One-ness. This is also the purpose of repeated human re-birth, where life between lives is a mere staging house.

The path to spiritual fulfilment is lit thus: since “… there is in each of us an inalienable Self that is divine”, mankind is “… in a compassionate universe, where nothing is other than ourselves …”.  Mankind is thus urged  “ … to treat the universe with reverence”.

Thus, man’s innermost essence, the Self (or Atman), is not different from God, the ultimate Reality. This Reality (or Brahman) is “ … the irreducible ground of existence, the essence of everything — of the earth and sun and all creatures, of gods and human beings, of every power of life”. This equivalence of the ground of one’s being (the Self) and the essence of every thing (Reality) is encapsulated in the phrase “Thou art That”.

Thus, metaphysics and morals merge in that simple summary. … … A close friend of mine, of European origin, and a staunch churchgoing Catholic, found the teaching of the Upanishads most agreeable!

The above are extracts from ‘On the Cosmos’ from my book ‘Hidden Footprints of Unity.’

Why blame God?

About a decade ago, a close friend who had cancer, said to the rector of her church “I thought God would have cured me by now.” A few years later she died. On the day preceding her expected demise, I had promised her that she would be going to a much better place, since she did not want to die.

Digressing – I have talked to a number of senior citizens who made it clear that they feared death. How could any old person live with such a terrible feeling?

I have also talked to many people who blame God for their tribulations and other disasters. Why? Because the Creator of all must be responsible for all that goes wrong (such as man-made wars); or which is morally wrong (such as evil intent in humans); or some personal misadventure. I am uncertain whether God is also blamed for natural disasters or cosmic catastrophes; I suspect many do.

Why set up a straw man and then throw stones at him? University courses may do that; but, in the real world, one’s expectations should surely be drawn from the observed, the known. Thus, is God really an interventionist Creator? Or, have some of us imagined God in the image of an all-powerful father? A father who can be blamed for not delivering that ice-cream we thought we had earned by behaving well?

Why not accept the strong probability of autonomous processes in our transit through life on Earth, from our distant historical origin to where we are now. There are millions of such processes in life, in Nature, including the miracle of the birth of fully-formed babies; the empathetic behaviour by humans such as contributing to civil society; the symbiosis between insects and plants, and plants and humans; the exceedingly complex inter-connection between almost everything in the Universe; and the evolutionary process which enables improvement through successful change.

Why not look for the simplest, but adequate, explanations? If a Creator exists (and we have no proof of that), all that is required is an arm’s-length Creator who set up a simple machinery, gave it the breath of life, of growth, of variation – and let autonomous processes to proceed thereafter. No one can then be blamed for anything not to our liking. Why expect the Creator to do more? So that we have someone to blame?

We do need to grow up, and face the dark; that is, accept what is unavoidable – and adapt and evolve!

 

Is the Cosmic Creator also an interventionist God?

I was asked this week whether God is sleeping. Presumably, this query arose because of the terrible tragedies occurring in the Middle East and elsewhere. My response is – why ask the Creator (called God) to intervene in human affairs, particularly in disasters initiated by evil people. Evil arises, and exists, only in the minds of humans.

Where the souls within humans who commit evil actions are not mature enough to recognise that fellow-humans are co-created by God, and that we all thereby bonded to one another, should God be required to intervene in every (significant) evil action?

Or, should Cosmic Justice apply only in the next Earthly life of the perpetrators of evil? Would that not be a more effective lesson by being registered and recorded in the reincarnated soul? Perhaps those who have suffered grievously in their current Earthly life could be asked if they have now become adequately aware of the Law of Cause and Effect (also knowable as Cosmic Justice)?

This is to ask whether any major tragedy or significant suffering may represent a balanced set of cosmic lessons, imparted over a period of time. My experience in this life, together with some faint intimations in my psyche about my immediate past life, and a vision of me in that past life which appeared in the mind of a clairvoyant recently, support such a view.

In my book ‘The Dance of Destiny,’ my turbulent (and often painful) life is described in Part 1 as ‘The wheels fell off’; and in Part 2 as ‘Falling into holes which were not there.’ Despite being a regular temple-goer, and offering prayers each evening before dinner – until I left home – God did not intervene in my disasters. I became clever at climbing out of those holes, and also at working my way (without complaint) up and out of that deep dungeon into which I had been cast.

One needs to accept unavoidable experiences implicit in one’s passage on one’s personal river of destiny. Such acceptance would be facilitated by realising that, consistent with the Law of Cause and Effect, one’s destiny was shaped to a considerable extent by one’s own actions in preceding Earthly lives.

God may, of course, intervene in human affairs here and there. Realistically, as demonstrated by billions of us over time, we do need to cope with life’s travails with equanimity, while believing that Earthly life offers opportunities to reach out to our Creator.

How Man arrived in the Cosmos

How soul-satisfying is the beauty of the Universe at all times, and which we are also made aware of in other ways. The majesty of the mountains which tower over all; the sibilance of the sea at rest; the scintillating sensual sunsets; the joyful bombasts of birdcalls; and the soothing scenery surrounding unprepossessing man-made constructions; are only some of the sights and sounds which uplift our spirits.

How incredibly complex is this Universe and its components. The miracle of birth; the very visible and innate love between the young – animal to animal (or bird), and between human and animal (and bird); the structure and functioning of our solar system which affect our lives insidiously; the strange balance between animate and inanimate life on Earth; the mostly unconscious bond between humans of all varieties; and an unavoidable instinctive yearning by many of us for merging with what we conceive of as the Divine; and the unbelievably complex arrangements within our bodies, such as the provision of energy by our cellular structure, which represents life; these are key features of Cosmic complexity.

These, and the totality of the inter-relationships discovered in the Universe, have led me to believe – and to accept – that logically there has to be a Creator of all that is. How and why are questions beyond our comprehension.

As one who was introduced to the scientific method, I follow ‘Occam’s Razor,’ the principle which says that that the simplest adequate explanation is best. Yes, it has to be minimally adequate.

Such an explanation of the origin, structure, and operation of the Universe and its components can be thus: An arm’s-length Creator set up a simple core ‘machinery,’ imbued it with a capacity for continuous change, with an associated sense of ‘purpose,’ and allowing evolution (change reflecting improvement or betterment) to occur.

Purpose (including human free will) can explain, in part, where we are now; possibly aided in our formation by ubiquitous bacteria, and by (Sitchin’s) 223 extraterrestrial genes (not found anywhere else on Earth) during our development. Chance and radiation/bombardment from distant space, as well as solar bursts, would also have had significant impacts on our path to the present.

No Earthly mind can prove – or disprove – this attempted explanation. No one can be blamed or receive credit for what has eventuated. Adding additional complexity may reflect only egoism.

What is postulated is an autonomous process, operating post-creation. A comparison – when sperm fuses with ovum to form a zygote. Asking ‘Why?’ would not be relevant.

Reversing Darwinian evolution by fear

Any established religion can be expected to offer a degree of complexity. I wonder, however, whether the great faith-teachers of mankind included any complexity in their original guidance; or whether they espoused a single belief, with an associated way of life, which was original in relation to the place and time of their initial utterances. I suspect that, as that teaching spread, those who became flag-bearers embellished the original message.

Their intention would have been to enrich the core belief, and to enthuse their followers. Were there to be available a degree of power (or only influence), complexity in belief structures and in the linked rituals could arise progressively. It would also seem to be in the nature of the human being for a priesthood to guard its citadel against any changes.

But there could always arise breakaway sects. These might reflect divergences in the interpretation of teachings; or preferred changes in the practice of some of the rituals; or contests of relative influence. What drives the need for change? Some egoism?

Take, for example, a belief in reincarnation. Reportedly, almost all durable cultures once held some sort of belief in rebirth, and the possibility of a continuity of existence. However, the early Christian Church leaders seemingly decided that they would guide their flock, rather than leave moral progress to an autonomous cosmic process. Priestly control over-rode individual free will!

Now that limbo and hell have been dispensed with, some of my devout church-attending friends seem uncertain about what could happen to them after their Earthly demise. This is terribly sad.

What is worse is the belief among obviously only a tiny fraction of Hindus, as well as the Buddhist religion, that, were they not to accept the opportunities offered for moral progress through the reincarnation process, they could be reborn as an animal; and that it would take a very long process of rebirths to become human again. I wonder if there are any adherents of the two faiths who actually accept that Darwinian evolution could be reversed.

It is bad enough that some Christian religionists talk of fearing a loving God. Now the risk of being reborn an animal – say, a snake – is a threatened fear for humans not making progress morally. Is it not time to give up using fear to encourage human beings to reach out to our Creator while also expressing compassion to co-created fellow-humans?

Leadership and guidance by fear seem more political than religious. The great faith-teachers would surely have offered only respectful guidance.