Radical Theology ― Is There More?

William Blake, sconfitta, 1795

William Blake, sconfitta, 1795

The question, “Is there More?” is deceptively simple.  Yet to my mind this may very well be the single most radical ―in the sense of most fundamental, most primary― interrogation one might make of their personal theology.  From this headwater, a vast ocean of religious and spiritual reflection flows.

We are of course, asking ourselves if there is something more to existence than the physical universe/cosmos.  Is there an aspect of reality that is spiritual in nature, rather than physical?  Another way of phrasing this question is to ask, do all dimensions of reality comprise only that which we may experience (or may observe/measure with scientific instruments)?

“Is there More?” may be answered in one of three ways:

 
1) Yes, there are aspects or dimensions of reality that are *not* limited by our physical universe/cosmos.

2) No, the physical universe/cosmos fully encompasses all that exists.

3) Unknowable;  we cannot answer this question.

 
1) Yes, there are aspects or dimensions of reality that are *not* limited by our physical universe/cosmos.

Do note that this is not the same thing as saying one understands all there is to be known about that which comprises More.  In fact, one need not know anything about It at all.  One is simply affirming there is “More.”

Some people hold this belief simply as a proposition, while others have had experiences which compel them to posit there is more to reality than is revealed by scientific, empirical method.  This response proposes there is a dimension of reality from which we are occluded, and which to some degree remains a mystery to us.

This position neither assumes or denies deism or theism;  nor does it assume or deny alternative propositions such as a more abstract “transcendental signifier” such as the “Ground of Being” in the language of Paul Tillich, or the Tao as expressed in Taoism.

2) No, the physical universe/cosmos fully encompasses all that which exists.   

This is a “hard” negation of the proposition of “More” which declares there is nothing more to life than we may observe.  One does remain open to what may be discovered through the application of the scientific method, but nothing more.

We are meat, consciousness is merely an electrochemical accident occurring in the physical brain, and upon death there is only annihilation.  Physics, once fully understood, will explain everything which may be known about the universe.

3) Unknowable;  we cannot answer this question.  

This position we might think of as a form of agnosticism.  The root meaning of gnostic is knowledge, and the root meaning of agnostic ―prefixing gnostic with an a― means ignorance, or lack of knowledge.

In other words, “I don’t know.”  In many ways this strikes me as a very honest, and even healthy position.  Ideally, one knows one is ignorant of a great many things, yet remains open to new information and new experiences.

How do we benefit by orientating ourselves to these three positions?

Religious apologetics is replete with debate between these propositions, as well as the subtle differences of their subcategories (pandeism, panendeism; Confucianism, Zen Buddhism; atheism, pantheism, panentheism, polytheism, agnosticism; etc).  But the point I wish to make is much more basic, and I believe radical (fundamental).

If we identify with the Unknowable view, we give ourselves permission to remain open to many wisdom traditions.  And all enduring religions have wisdom they have imparted for many generations, in many cases over thousands of years.  If one has the opportunity, it is my belief it behoves one to reflect upon the spiritual insights imparted by other spiritual traditions.

I do not mean to imply all religions are the same.  They are not.  But there are a number of tenets most share ―such as some version of the Golden Rule (do to others, as you would have them do to you)― and each enduring religion of which I am aware does offer some value to any sincere seeker.

If we believe there is only the physical universe ―nothing More― we must remain open to new discoveries.  Modern science is replete with discoveries which have completely reversed earlier models of the universe, or have completely upset previous paradigms.

One of the “hard” views of this position holds that all religions are illusionary ―if not delusionary― in nature, and as such are products of a weak, gullible mind.  There is nothing such as spirit-based beings, and those who claim to have encountered such beings are either lying or suffering from a hallucination or a malfunctioning brain.

While I cannot demonstrate this is untrue, I do observe that as the frontiers of science advances, sometimes that which was thought to be foolish is later found to be quite sound in principal, once properly understood.  This suggests to me a higher standard of humility than to denigrate all religious and spiritual teaching and practice as imaginary or magical thinking, or as simply as Iron Age superstition.

To those of us who hold there is More to the cosmos, I would appeal to one’s sense of the transcendent, and suggest that most of us should take this far more seriously than most do.  If this is a true proposition, then the “truth” will be far, far stranger than we can even imagine.

If there is a reality which transcends our own, by definition we are unable to apprehend It.  Therefore, we should be extremely humble in our declarations of Truth, and express a great deal of compassion when dealing with others, and their apprehension of the transcendent.

Is there More?

If we believe there is, or have had one or more experiences suggesting there is something More, then we may wish to embark upon our spiritual quest.

But even if we believe there is nothing More, we may still wish to improve our life and the lives of those we love through the expression of love and compassion.

So for me, while how one answers this question has a great impact upon one’s personal theology (or denial thereof) I still arrive at the same answer as how one might best live their life:  in the words of Bishop Spong…

Love wastefully.

May you be blessed,
Erik+

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