THE ETHICS OF ACCEPTANCE: BELIEF, TRUST and FAITH
There’s an old story about Amos at his baptism. After the first submersion he surfaces shouting, “I believe! I believe!” Coming up after the second dunking he sputters again, “I believe! I believe!” After the final immersion he’s asked: “Just what do you believe, Amos?” Amos: “I believe you’re tryin’ to drown me!”
We all believe—have beliefs—call it trust or even faith. You trust that you’ll be alive in the next instant, otherwise why bother surviving this one? The fact is that you believe it. You go to sleep fully expecting–trusting–that you’ll wake up alive. That takes faith. If you thought you’d die during the night you probably wouldn’t be so ready to fall asleep.
But just what do you believe? Well, you may as well believe WHAT IS. Believing anything more runs the risk of error. Anything less is crippling.
What IS? Well, gravity, light, time, consciousness, your life—these ARE. And not only will the sun ‘rise’ in the east and ‘set’ in the west tomorrow, you can bet your life on exactly where and when it will happen. The stars, moon and tides are on a schedule you can count on. They’re givens that operate without our approval or ability to explain them. And there are more.
In any case, living requires a conviction beyond the physical and sentient and the now. Merely accepting life requires trusting that our reactions to what happens from one moment to the next often are as much as we can do. This trust is, in fact, a necessary condition of life, and you have it (it IS). You know it, even though you can’t prove it and may even reject it out of hand because of your free will and sophistication.
But while there are any number of givens to accept and believe, actually making the commitment to trust in them is a matter of individual intellectual choice. You may, but don’t have to, do it, but if you’d move beyond what others would lead you to believe (in other words, if you would think for yourself and grow as a human being), there’s no better alternative than to start by trusting in what is. Any limitations placed on the givens are self-inflicted. Many are without explanation and beyond understanding; however, that doesn’t invalidate them.
Well, how do you go about believing? Just accept what is. Use your mind, and engage.
“Mind is the complex of cognitive faculties that enables consciousness and perception as well as, thinking, reasoning, feeling and judgment…” (Wikipedia). Notice that the term is mind, not the mind. Mind is not a physical thing—it’s a complex of faculties, abilities and capacities, a function of the brain and nervous system. But while mind is not material, it still is. Without it we would be not.
Your mind processes information that it perceives as well as what it generates within, combining real and imagined data, random associations, unique experiences and every other input seen or unseen, heard or unheard, touched or untouched, smelled or unsmelled, tasted or not, to create thought. The process doesn’t follow a direct path, but adapts with every new connection, unplanned but not random, moving unalterably toward its only goal–more. It constantly, automatically and individually just becomes, and you can’t stop it! You can only hope to control it, and it’s your ethical responsibility to do so.
Consciousness, the essence of life, enables the mind. Being universal, it exists apart from as well as within the person. Consciousness is a first principle, eternal and integral to the universe, that cannot be separated from the universe and without which humanity cannot exist. Perception, awareness, is how the mind receives information from our environment (that same universe—“everything that isn’t you,” according to Albert Einstein).
That part of the quintessential life force residing in the individual you is the consciousness—spirituality—that identifies your personality. Some call it soul, but it doesn’t imply religion. The soul is who you are—your self.
While we readily apprehend what the mind does by way of perception, it’s not so simple to comprehend random thought, curiosity, imagination, conscience and other intangibles that the brain does seemingly on its own. This takes intelligence, variously described in terms of mind processes: abstract thought, understanding, self-awareness, learning, reasoning, retaining knowledge, planning, problem-solving; William H. Calvin (Evolving Intelligence, Then and Now) says “…the mystery of intelligence and consciousness (is) solved… on the level of neurons, synapses and cortical layers.”
Consciousness as the foundation of the universe had to exist before the universe and, as such, cannot be explained by science, a product of it. In fact, consciousness can’t be explained by any known method. It’s known to exist simply because it does. IT. HAS. TO.
Every cause has an effect and every effect a cause. The chicken/egg question? Not really. While a cause is the very definition of its effect, an effect cannot describe its cause (because a resultant of its cause can’t predict itself). This demands a first cause—how could it be otherwise? While this first cause may be so far removed from (prior to) us that it has no apparent current significance, it’s still required. After all, there has to be a beginning. Enter quantum theory.
Before we go further, consider that everything except the impossible is possible. But we don’t know what’s impossible because we don’t—and may never—know all of the possibilities. Quantum theory is all about possibilities and the collapse of their wave functions into an observable entity (reality). While it’s true that we don’t know much about this “spooky science” (an Einstein quote), it makes sense to at least consider it when contemplating possibility.
Back to the subject: Consciousness (being the foundation of reality) can be anything it will be merely by intellectualizing as anything possible, at any time, in any place. Enter the Universe…
…and the realm of metaphysics. Metaphysics goes beyond what we perceive as physical reality. It enables physics and the whole of science itself. Metaphysics deals with ideas, products of consciousness, as does your mind.
We can’t use the product (the Universe) to prove its source (consciousness) any more than we can use science to prove its source (philosophy) or words to prove reality. We can’t explain the origins of that initial something-nothing that fuels our existence—we don’t even have the words to articulate it. For instance: Because of the non-existence of time before the Big Bang (our very concept of time depends on matter in motion, so time in our terms could not have existed before matter), that singularity must be by (our) definition ageless, dateless, timeless and continuous. And we can’t use the terms energy or force because their scientific/engineering implications can’t be applied to their precursor. Whatever this consciousness is, it’s perhaps best described by the philosophical term dynamis (from the Greek: meaning a vitality that is the source of all other), objectified by energy. Or not…
We may have to arrive at the first cause synthetically (by construction) rather than analytically (diagnostically), and may never ascertain it with scientific certainty. In other words, we may have to transcend known science (with metascience?) to discover the first cause using pure intellect (in the broadest sense of the word, as in awareness). This would take us back into the metaphysical and require…trust.
Put the word trust in terms of faith, and it may come as a surprise that this suggestion of some eternal singularity (and its undeniably spiritual overtones) comes from the very science that often seems bent upon proving otherwise. At any rate, we may postulate with some certainty that whatever preceded the universe not only still pervades everything in it (and perhaps–why not–beyond?), but also is uninterrupted within it, existing in an unbroken continuum within and between quarks, solar systems, constellations and galaxies. It was, is, and will be, at least until the end of the entire system that contains it. Disbelieving or not accepting this dynamis doesn’t change it; if the Big Bang makes any sense at all, so also does the idea that we must be given of it and whatever preceded it, whatever else we may be.
Let’s look at those spiritual overtones, but know up front that what follows has nothing whatsoever to do with religion. Religions and churches are institutions fashioned by man—they have hierarchies and agendas. It has everything to do with individual spirituality, the province of mind, ideas and ethics. You are able to deny your spirituality only because you have it to deny. It’s a part of you and without it you would not be. Remember that life has a spiritual dimension as well as a physical one. In case you have doubts, consider your mind.
We’ve had previous discussion of mind, that (spiritual) function of the brain and nervous system, and also dealt with intelligence and its connection with abstract thought, understanding, learning, reasoning and problem-solving. Remember: “…the mystery of intelligence and consciousness (may) be solved… on the level of neurons, synapses and cortical layers.” All of which brings us into the future, and particle physics.
Science is on a quest for TOE, the Theory Of Everything, and particle physics deals with the particles and forces that give rise to the world around us. Its Standard Model (known as the “theory of almost everything”) deals with known subatomic particles. It is a widely-accepted and remarkably accurate framework believed to explain almost everything in the universe except gravity. This is all pretty esoteric stuff, but it’s where physics is headed, and since it may help to explain non-physical phenomena, it would seem to be pertinent here. But there’s even more (or less, depending on your point of view)…
The Big Bang begins to make sense when we consider the possibility of something-from-nothing in terms of quantum theory, and something-from-nothing begins to make sense when we consider it in terms of the subatomic particles and forces known to (and those currently unknown by) particle physics. The fact is that if the Universe was formed some 13.7Billion years ago from what we currently perceive as nothing, and that nothing is the seed of all that followed, we have yet to discover it. Or perhaps not…
The Higgs boson and Higgs field were predicted to exist (indirectly, by their observable effect on other particles) about 50 years ago but so far have not been verified(?). The field is an invisible ground of dynamis(?) that pervades the entire universe. The Higgs boson (a fundamental particle) theoretically interacts with others, endowing them with the property of mass as they pass through its field. Its discovery would complete the set of particles predicted by the Standard Model and lend credibility to the prospect of something-from-nothing. Fascinating?
Well! In 2012 a “new” boson was discovered that some think might be the Higgs. If it is, it would confirm the existence of the Higgs field and validate the final unconfirmed part of the Standard Model’s explanation of why some fundamental particles have mass when theory says they should not. Something-from-nothing? Fascinating!
Before we sign off, consider that quantum theory posits that the ground of the Universe is consciousness. Could the Higgs field be (or support) that consciousness, that essence of life which enables the mind? Being universal, it exists apart from as well as within the person; it is eternal and integral to the universe, and cannot be separated from the universe, of which we are part. And consciousness (being the foundation of reality) could be anything it will be, merely by intellectualizing as anything possible, at any time, in any place. Ponder the implications…
…and consider the possibilities! (pun intended)
to be continued…