THREE ESSAYS ON THE MEANING OF LIFE
“Out of intense complexities, intense simplicities emerge”
– Winston Churchill.
These three essays have been a search for the Truth of the human condition and for any ultimate purpose and special meaning there may be to our existence. Our working definitions being: “T” Truth – that which is true for everybody all the time; “ultimate” purpose – purpose beyond the obvious and ultimately meaningless purposes of our mortal animal bodies; “special” meaning – being that which all our lives have (i.e. beyond the individual meanings which most of us construct).
Essay 1 examined the House of God to find out why it is emptying. We determined that while said House had some Truths for us (mainly brought by Jesus), it fostered too many sins and housed too many incredible “t” truths (like its primitive, human Abrahamic god and its unbelievable ideas of the meaning and purpose of life). Essay 2 examined the House of Disbelief and discovered that, while its foundations were sound (the Truths of our sciences), its disbelief in any ultimate purpose and special meaning to life was supported by too many unsound philosophical pillars. Essay 3 then set out to explore for Truths outside the walls of both our blinkering Houses – Along the Road to Truth.
Although I am not a Buddhist (nor I like to think an “anythingelseist”) the title for the third essay was taken from one of Buddha’s sayings: “There are two mistakes one can make along the road to truth – not going all the way, and not starting”. So, while we managed to obey one of Buddha’s injunctions just by starting, whether we managed to obey his other, harder, one to go all the way along it is – ultimately – for you to decide. All I can say is that our expedition stopped at nothing – exploring the unnatural as well as the natural; the metaphysical as well as the physical; the paranormal as well as the normal – and out of the “intense complexities” of the big existential questions: Purpose, Meaning, Life, Death, Love, Happiness, God, Everything – the following “intense simplicities” emerged:
The purpose of anything is what it does, and this our relative reality does creativity. Relativity does creativity by allowing the existence of things relatively good, better, best – whereas the absolute is – absolute. Relativity allows/forces selection for best – a process we call evolution. Nature selects for best to create our bodies – and we select for what best makes us happy about our selves to create our selves.
Anything which is creative cannot be meaningless, but any special meaning must rest in what is created. We are creative – therefore meaningful. Some have prodigious talents and create things of great beauty, but all of us create something of great importance – our selves – which self creation/evolution gives all lives special meaning (i.e. not just personal meaning).
Life, while often testing, is not a test that we can pass or fail – but an opportunity (that we can fail to take) – an opportunity to create/evolve our selves. To do this we must firstly, truly, be our self – because only then can we know our true self. “Know Thyself” is ancient wisdom – because it allows life’s ultimate opportunity to grow our self – until we are happiest with/able to love our self.
To be able to love our truly known self – is to be happy (not just feel passing happiness) – and the strongest evidence we allow that we are worthy of our own love, is if others love us. The only way people will truly love us – our self (not our power, money etc.) – is if we truly love them.
Our bodies allow us to feel animal contentment/happiness, but being happy is only available through our self. We have bodies, but we are our self. Happiness with true self, if achieved, is lasting – the self being not only the best source of happiness, but the only one totally within our control.
We have as many lives in this relative reality as the process of self creation/evolution takes – and death is just the end of one opportunity. There is no “Law of Once” – the fact that our spiritual self exists with an animal body, once, is only proof of one thing: that such can happen – not that it must never happen again.
The fact that our religions have incredible human gods does not disprove the existence of any real God. There is observably an intelligence higher than us behind this finely-calibrated universe written in an intelligent mathematical language. While the nature of God/Absolute must remain ineffable to our animal brain/minds born of the relative, our spiritual self experiences a wordless “D” Divine whenever we – our self – is “moved”, “lifted” (by beauty, for example).
The everything of this relative reality rests in its creativity.
Is the above the “T” Truth – or just our expedition’s comforting “t” truth?
Let’s see what others think, especially about whether the human equation has both physical and spiritual factors – because, whether we have a spiritual factor/self, or not, is key to the veracity of our conclusion that life offers said self the opportunity to grow/evolve. Let’s ask the man who wrote the book on evolution (literally) – Charles Darwin:
“In my journal I wrote that whilst standing in the midst of the grandeur of a Brazilian forest ‘it is not possible to give an adequate idea of the higher feelings of wonder, admiration and devotion which fill and elevate the mind.’ I well remember my conviction that there is more in man than the breath of his body.”
Charles Darwin, “Autobiography” (my emphasis).
This quote from his autobiography refers to Darwin’s time as a young man aboard the H.M.S. Beagle, sailing around the world on a voyage of biological discovery. On a stopover in Brazil, he explored the jungle, and at one point found himself standing and admiring its beauty – which led him to consider one of the mysteries of the human condition: that we can recognise and admire beauty – even in things inimical to our body’s survival. Further, he was moved spiritually by such beauty, experiencing: “higher feelings of wonder, admiration and devotion”. Darwin’s youthful consideration of this mystery led him to conclude, as we did in Essay 3: that the human condition is to be more than just an animal body: “I well remember my conviction that there is more in man than the breath of his body”.
But although Darwin’s conviction at that time in his life was that the human condition is to be more than just a physical body, it needs to be remembered that Darwin was spiritual as a young man (originally contemplating a career in the ministry). So we need to consider, what were his thoughts towards the end of his life – especially after his discoveries that our bodies physically evolve through the blind, mechanical process that is natural selection – did he still think that there was “more in man” than just our bodies? And what would he make of our conclusions above – that life has the meaningful purpose of allowing our self the opportunity to grow, evolve?
Towards the end of his autobiography, speaking as an older man, we get this from Darwin:
“By degrees it will become intolerable to him to obey his sensuous passions rather than his higher impulses, which rendered habitual may be almost called instincts.”
Charles Darwin, ibid. (P. 94)
We’ll ignore Darwin’s sexist language, which was common for the era, (by “him” and “his” he was referring to humanity) and consider that: “by degrees” is slowly/evolvingly; that behaviour “rendered habitual” is behaviour which has become your usual behaviour (in this case, to obey our “higher impulses”); and that such higher impulses are spiritual impulses (because above/higher than our base, animal “sensuous passions”). So, “By degrees … higher impulses … rendered habitual” is spiritual/self evolution – our self evolving to the point where we usually choose to obey our higher spiritual impulses rather than our body’s baser sensual passions – because the reverse has now “become intolerable”.
In Doubt? Consider “intolerable” to what?
“INTOLERABLE” TO WHAT?
Certainly obeying our “sensuous passions rather than [our] higher impulses” could not be intolerable to our body – which gets much contentment from meeting its sensuous passions (and spreading its selfish genes). Rather it could only be intolerable to our self/soul/spirit/consciousness (call such what you will).
So, all up, we have affirmation from the Master himself that there is ample evidence of separate physical and self/spiritual factors in the human equation and that self/spiritual evolution does happen (or, at least, can happen/is available) in the course of a life. While Darwin may not have meant to build a case for such, he certainly did notice the existence of both our separate spiritual factor, and its potential to grow (such that we can eventually prefer to obey it over our animal passions) when he drew back towards the end of his life to contemplate the larger, human picture.
Fine, but what about some of the other, perhaps even more contentious conclusions reached or implied by these essays – which are also crucial for our conclusions re the ultimate purpose and special meaning to our existence as listed above? Namely:
· that the above established nonphysical self/soul/spirit/consciousness survives bodily death;
· that we have many lives in this Earthly reality with an animal body as are necessary for our self/spiritual growth/evolution;
· that once so evolved, there are higher realities beyond this one which our self can evolve into.
The arguments from evidence sufficient to rationally reach these conclusions are in the essays, but we will reprise a little of them here for those starting with the Conclusion (something I often do myself, and as I advised in the Introduction).
EVIDENCE FOR SURVIVAL OF BODILY DEATH; MANY LIVES; HIGHER REALITIES?
We found plenty of evidence, just from an intellectual consideration of normal life experiences, to support a conclusion that the human condition is to be a self + body duality – and that the only way to lasting happiness was to be, know, and grow that self. However, evidence to arrive at conclusions of survival of self; that we have many lives; that there are higher realities – came from certain paranormal evidence from certain experienced and qualified researchers, which evidence we found credible enough to be considered in our explorations for Truth.
These essays did not start out with the intention of going anywhere near the paranormal, but our discovery of the nonphysical aspects of the human condition needed further exploration – and our physical sciences, religions, and academic philosophies were not much use because all denied such due to their various vested interests.
Unfair? Let’s see.
Our physical sciences, by definition, cannot contemplate anything “metaphysical” (literally: beyond nature or what is physical). The physical sciences concerned with the human body (physics, chemistry, biology) like to believe that they are on the verge of unifying together into a “Theory of Everything” which will successfully describe everything about the human condition but, should they succeed, they can actually only have a “Theory of Everything Physical” about us. The self, which is at the centre of this, our philosophy, is not made of physically measurable stuff – nor can it be described mathematically – so the best physical science can manage in an effort to maintain its self-perceived hegemony (“There is only physics, all the rest is stamp-collecting” – Rutherford) over everything in this universe is to deny that the self exists or, as we saw in the essays, rename it (as: our personality; our animal emotions; the mind; animal ego; etc.). We found this attempt by physics at hegemony seriously uncompelling because there is plenty of evidence that there is more to humanity than our physical sciences can convincingly explain.
So, in an effort to go “beyond what is physical” we then went to religion, because our Houses of God claim the metaphysical as their patch.
Essay 1 examined religion and found that while the House of God had some Truths for us (mainly in the words of Jesus), its metaphysics was concerned with devising and supporting the religious doctrine necessary to build, and sell, a powerful religion – rather than was it concerned with seeking spiritual Truths.
To build a religion with power over people, one of the main tenets of the House of God had to be that we must have only one life – the meaning/purpose of which single life was as a test for eternal heaven or hell (and, coincidentally, to pass that test you need the help of religion). However, the House of God’s “one life” theory comes up against the problem known in philosophy as “The Problem of Evil”. Basically this is the observation that: if life is a once-only test, it is surely a meaningless one – because life is not a level playing field and not everyone has the same experience/test. In fact, because some are so terribly disadvantaged, and because children, even babies, die – some people have no “test” at all. Many people, not only lose their faith in religion after the death of a child (Darwin was one) but also lose belief in any special meaning to life. Religion has various answers to this Problem of Evil (little children who die have been specially selected by God to go straight to heaven to be gathered unto Himself; parents who lose children get them back in heaven; God works in mysterious ways; etc. etc.) which the majority have found uncompelling (evidenced by the empty pews). Considering this particular incredibility along with its others – e.g. its needy male “g” god; its frequently incorrect Bible (astronomy, biology, etc); its evils committed in God’s name; its unbelievable doctrines (Salvation, Trinity, Original Sin); its frequent Biblical contradictions – the essays found the House of God to be an unsound place to seek metaphysical “T” Truths.
We then turned to philosophy, which, over the millennia, has often ventured into metaphysics.
Many philosophers, over the years since Aristotle wrote his “Metaphysics”, have claimed metaphysics to be within their purview, but after the Greek golden age of philosophy, our various Houses of God took over academe – founding/controlling most of our leading academies and universities – meaning religious metaphysics was that which dominated the philosophy of meaning. Eventually the Enlightenment loosened the religious shackles from academic philosophy but then, the burgeoning successes of our physical sciences in explaining our universe reshackled philosophy – this time as the handmaiden of science – the academically-correct philosophical position gradually becoming variations of atheistic physicalism/materialism. Hume, a leading philosopher of the Enlightenment era (an Empiricist, and one of the saints of the House of Disbelief) averred that any text of metaphysics should be: “committed to the flames, for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion”. Then came Darwin’s discoveries concerning natural selection, and evolutionary theory gradually dominated philosophy in the modern era – reaching full flowering in the post-modern era when neo-Darwinian biologists formed a triumvirate with physics and chemistry in an effort to develop a “Theory of Everything”. While this theory is not complete, many presume it is (or shrink from challenging it) – to the point where any academic taking the metaphysical seriously is now up against academic correctness (and risking any hope of tenure). Under the above physical science triumvirate the default position regarding the human condition is that we can have no separate soul/self, “we” being fully describable as just a body/brain/mind monism – there can be no “ghost in the machine” (Ryle) – no ghostly self in our machine/body because such was created mechanically by nature selecting for best amongst mutations which had happened randomly to accidental matter. Further, because “we” are only atoms, we must only have one life because our accidentally-living atoms break up when the body dies.
And the “New Age” claims the metaphysical as their patch.
THE NEW AGE?
Since the dawn of the new millennia, especially, there has been a growing quantity of best-selling New Age material generated to fill the gap in the meeting of our spiritual needs left by the dwindling credibility of our evangelical (ancient Book- based), increasingly fundamentalist religions. Various New Age gurus have proffered imaginative answers to metaphysical questions, however, our expedition found that although the New Age has some wisdom and apparent “T” Truths about the human condition, its lack of serious research, over-dependence on assertions, and its fuzzy logic – leave it difficult to be useful for any exploration of the human condition hoping to be rational.
This left us with the paranormal.
While some of the immediately above can be said to apply to much metaphysical information from many paranormal sources, the paranormal field has attracted much more in the way of credible and rigorous researchers than the New Age. Essay 3 investigated various fields of paranormal research and found them to be fertile for credible answers to metaphysical questions. However, such fields are equally fertile to fraudulent weeds – in the shape of cynical operators preying on the needy who frequently go to the paranormal for consolation from life’s traumas (commonly a recent bereavement) – which trauma generally leaves them quite vulnerable, and ready to believe anything that is comforting.
Given the uncertainty presented by the undoubted presence of fraudulence, should this exploration which is trying to be a rational exploration for the “T” Truth of the human condition, enter the paranormal at all?
SHOULD THE PARANORMAL BE CONSIDERED?
Paranormal experiences, whether you believe them or not, are part of the human experience – many sane and credible people have them. And, having accepted Buddha’s injunction to go all the way along the road to Truth, we have to consider all human experiences for any Truth. Not only that, but, after the first two essays we had concluded that no path to Truth was possible through our two main belief systems: theism or atheism – diametrically opposed fundamentalisms who were only concerned to protect their own “t” truths, rather than to explore for any “T” Truths which could prove to be inconvenient to their own power and comfort (yes Virginia, while atheists have long accused theists of seeking comfort, there is also comfort in “D” Disbelief) – and we came to believe that humanity needs to break this logjam which is preventing the flow of Truth, in whatever way works, to survive as a species. I say “to survive” because, as the essays observed, our spiritual evolution needs to catch up with our tearaway technological evolution – we presently have atom bombs in the hands of countries which are either: theocracies (governed by fundamentalist religion); democracies heavily influenced by fundamentalist religions (both of the above incorporating divinely sanctioned, end-of-days Armageddon scenarios); secular autocracies whose default philosophy is meaninglessness) – or countries somewhere in between (often with the worst of both). I’ll let you put your own names to these countries.
So, to the paranormal Essay 3 went – but with a healthy scepticism (as opposed to fundamentalist “S” Scepticism) – wide awake to the potential existence of fraudulence.
THE PARANORMAL AND HOW WE APPROACHED IT?
The paranormal contains plenty of fraudulent operators because, not only do vulnerable, recently-bereaved people go there – but paranormal information is attractive to ordinary folk as well. Our expedition, while not as needy (thus as easily deceived) as the recently bereaved, was still comprised of humans which had some fond wishes (e.g. survival of self after death; reunion with loved ones; a wonderful afterlife) and human fears (e.g. of death; judgement; hell).
Given all this, the credibility of any conclusions our expedition drew from paranormal experiences and research must depend very much on how we approached the material – i.e. who we allowed as reliable experiencers or researchers, and what we allowed from them as credible evidence. All up, we approached our exploration of the paranormal/anomalous (call it what you will) in Essay 3 with an open mind but also a healthy “s” scepticism (as compared to a fundamentalist, shut-minded “S” Scepticism). We were also careful to confine ourselves to researchers and experiencers who mainly had professional experience and academic qualifications, and who had already achieved much in life – successful careers, personal status, professional respect – i.e. they had much more to lose, than gain, by being fraudulent. Frauds, on the other hand, starting as dishonest, have nothing to lose but plenty to gain (usually money, a sense of power, fame etc.).
So, while it was agreed that there was still a risk of our expedition for Truth being derailed in the paranormal, not only by those who are fraudulent, but by those who are genuine but misguided, deluded, and/or incompetent, such was considered much reduced by our criteria for who we chose as guides therein. A risk worth taking because humanity only has to find one true paraphenomenon for classical physics’ entirely physical model of the universe to be broken. Even if only one experience of a next reality beyond this one (say via an NDE) is true; even if only one communication with a departed but surviving self/soul in another reality (say via a medium) is true – then the existence of higher realities and our self’s/consciousness survival of bodily death are true. In this we were encouraged by the words of the father of Psychology as a science: William James – who said: “If you wish to upset the law that all crows are black, you mustn’t seek to show that no crows are; it is enough if you prove one single crow to be white.”
ONE WHITE CROW?
Our expedition found, in fact, several “white crows” – credible evidence from rational, already successful, qualified and respected academic professionals – and in different areas of paranormal research (e.g. NDE’s, past life recall, mediums, ITC). Such researchers were people of the calibre of Professor David Fontana, Professor William James, Professor F. W. H. Myers (séances and mediums); Professor Ian Stevenson, Dr. Brian Weiss and Dr. Helen Wambach (past lives); Dr. Sam Parnia, Dr. Pim van Lommel, and Dr. Kenneth Ring (NDE’s); Professor Ernst Senkowski and Anabela Cardoso (ITC) – to mention just a few in each field. And general researchers and experiencers over the years of the calibre of Sir William Crookes, Sir Oliver Lodge, Dr. Robert Crookall, Lord Dowding, Sir William Barrett, Professor James Hyslop – and many other credible and academically qualified researchers who were/are members of the British and the American Societies for Psychical Research.
These researchers confirmed each other on the points most salient for our above conclusions. Those points being: the existence of separate self and body; the survival of self/consciousness after bodily death; that we have several lives; there are other realities beyond this one.
As stated above, the key conclusions reached by this exploration (that we have a nonphysical self; that the ultimate purpose of our existence in this relative reality is self growth/evolution; which gives our existence special meaning/purpose) were reached from a purely intellectual consideration of evidence from so-called normal life experiences – like: being spiritually moved by beauty; our understandings of nonphysical things like shame and dignity; the mysteries of consciousness; existential humour; our understanding of the language the universe was written in; the “spooky” revelations of quantum mechanics. But did that paranormal research only seem to confirm some of these positions which we had developed intellectually from normal evidence – because we had become victims of confirmation bias when we examined the paranormal?
Whether so, or not, is up to you to decide – but first, read Essay 3 – and the sources.
DEGREES OF PARANORMALITY
What also must be considered is that there are degrees of “paranormality” (to coin a word) in the paranormal studies we allowed as worthy of consideration. For example, the work concerning many lives conducted by Dr. Helen Wambach, Professor Ian Stevenson, and Dr. Brian Weiss (all academically qualified) is more science than paranormal. NDE’s, likewise, have been/are being approached scientifically by Dr. Sam Parnia, Dr. Pim van Lommel and others, and ITC has a certain (and growing) amount of objectivity and repeatability involved.
Perhaps, credible evidence from the paranormal should be, more truly, described as “anomalous” (deviating from what is usual/expected) – rather than “paranormal” evidence (outside normal knowledge or perception)? We will have a little look at just what we have come to accept as “normal” in a moment, by way of comparison.
But first, we need to examine the evidence that Sceptics base their complete rejection of all things paranormal on.
OF SCEPTICS AND SCEPTICISM?
As stated, an open but sceptical approach is essential for any honest exploration of the paranormal for “T” Truths, however, reading the prominent sceptics of our time reveals that there are people who could be truly described as fundamentalist “S” Sceptics. Such fundamentalist Sceptics are almost always philosophical materialists who, believing all must be matter/energy, thus devoid of all but our personal meanings – who have to shut their minds to the possibility of any Truths of the human condition existing outside of our physical bodies, and that Truths can only be established in the laboratories of our physical and evolution sciences. Such materialutionists (to coin another word), believe that the human condition can be, must only be, described in terms of matter and evolutionary theory. With such a belief they always approach the paranormal looking for the necessary fraud – and find proof of it in the slightest possibility – their analysis of the remarkable Scole séances being a good example. (Is this disconfirmation bias?).
All that said, we need to consider: is there any good evidence against paranormal evidence?
EVIDENCE AGAINST THE PARANORMAL?
We examined the evidence most commonly put forward by “S” Sceptics as disproof of paranormal phenomena, and found that there are four main facts upon which they rely:
1.) Some operators in the paranormal have been proven to be fraudulent – claiming to be genuine mediums but caught using such methods as “cold calling” techniques etc. to bluff people into thinking that they are communicating with the “other side”.
2.) There have been different descriptions of what happens after death and what the afterlife is like – if the “afterlife” is true, then every account of it should be exactly the same.
3.) Some of the information received from even the best mediums is occasionally wrong.
4.) There is no physical proof of paranormal phenomena.
Facts like these cannot be disputed – but what can be disputed is whether they are actually disproofs of all paranormal information. Let’s have a look:
Fact 1.): while it is a fact that there are plenty of fraudulent “mediums” and “psychics” must this necessarily prove that all paranormal mediums and mediumistic phenomena are fraudulent, especially those accepted as genuine by the qualified and experienced researchers that we investigated? Most fake psychics using techniques like cold calling (starting off with a series of broad statements, some of which are bound to be true for some people in the audience, then focussing in on those: “I’m getting a message from someone called Bob, I can feel chest pains, etc., etc.”) – are actually cynical performers, not the spiritual mediums they claim to be – making a lot of money from needy people by supplying them with simple, longed-for messages (“I have just spoken to your departed husband and he survives and is OK – he sends his love and is waiting for you.” etc. etc.) The sometime “hits” of such performers are remembered, their “misses” wilfully forgotten by those in need of comfort. However, the information received by those mediums who were accepted as genuine by the researchers we used as guides into the paranormal, went way beyond such simple stuff – into arcane, complex, spiritual and metaphysical content – often conveying very personal information unknown to anybody other than the séance sitter. Some of the most highly regarded mediums of the past sought no fame/notoriety (and often charged no money) – and were in a trance (i.e. not being able to talk to – thus elicit any information from the sitter – through cold calling or any other trickery). The séances which our researchers accepted as genuine and credible evidence for survival of self/spirit and the existence of other realities, were closely watched for fraud by experts – for example, the many scientifically qualified observers from the SPR (Society for Psychic Research) at the remarkable Scole séances – where a magician was also used to look for any tricks. Some other mediums tested, and eventually accepted as genuine, were closely watched 24 hours a day to see if they were indulging in any fraudulent information-gathering (one of the best, Leonora Piper, was closely watched for long periods over some years – even to the extent of being made to live in the investigator’s house during the course of a series of séances (often with sitters anonymous to her); being followed when not in séance; and having any mail she received opened. It must also be remembered that in Piper’s day there was no such thing as the ready information about people we have these days via the internet etc. Despite all this Piper was able, for years, to pass on lots of arcane, secret, and highly personal information from people who had died and were now in other realities. For Professor William James, Piper was his “one white crow”. All up, our researchers were not fools – highly educated and much too experienced to mistake charlatans for genuine mediums.
Fact 2.) stems from the fact that Sceptics include all weird/mental experiences as “paranormal” – if the experiencers claim them as such – e.g. “I’ve just had an NDE!”. Many experiences claimed/supposed to be Near Death Experiences are actually experiences caused by epilepsy; anaesthetically induced mental phenomena (e.g. especially from the drug ketamine); frontal lobe seizures; hallucinations; party drugs; carbon dioxide; endorphins; etc.. These are mental experiences of the body/brain, not paranormal phenomena, and such experiences vary widely – accounting for many of the discrepancies in experiences wrongly lumped together as NDE’s. Sceptics see any discrepancies as proof of fakery – arguing that, if true, all NDE’s should be the same. An international association comprised of NDE experiencers and researchers – IANDS (International Association for Near-Death Studies) – has developed an authentication scale of key determinants of a true NDE, and those NDE’s which rate highly thereon, agree on the two main points pertinent to the conclusions of our investigation into the Truth of human condition: 1.) survival of consciousness/self after bodily death; 2.) realities beyond this one. Commonly, those NDE’s accepted as genuine also describe a next reality of great beauty; intense feelings of non-judgemental love; a life review; higher beings. Reports from NDE’s accepted as genuine are bound to vary somewhat because, commonly, experiencers have great trouble in finding earthly words to describe such unearthly experiences – also encountered higher beings are often given different earthly names (Jesus, Buddha, etc.) in accordance with the experiencer’s religious knowledge and/or expectations.
It has also been found that reports from genuine experiences of the next reality can vary if said experience was brief (the experiencer revived from bodily death quickly). Researchers have found that, in the early stages after bodily death, the experiencer can encounter that which he/she expected to find after death – nothing, hell, conventional heaven – etc.
Fact 3.) stems from the fact that there are plenty of fake mediums and that small amounts of the information received through even the best mediums is wrong. But such mistakes are vastly outweighed by the sheer volume of correct information which has no explanation – most often private, personal, and/or arcane information known only by one of the sitters in the examining group – and from a medium in a trance (i.e. not able to speak to the sitter to get information from them through cold-calling techniques). It must be remembered that even mediums, although necessarily sensitive to the spiritual are human beings with only human brains/abilities – some communicators from “the other side” complain that getting the information to even good mediums is difficult at times – one described it as sometimes being like trying to dictate words to an obtuse secretary through a shut, frosted-glass window. It has also to be remembered that not every piece of information conveyed to such “an obtuse secretary” has to be proven correct to prove survival of self/consciousness – again, as Professor William James noted, just as there only has to be one “white crow” to disprove all crows are black – there only has to be one genuine message from a surviving spirit/soul/self in another reality to prove survival of spirit/soul/self after bodily death, and subsequent realities to this Earthly one. There certainly has been way more than one such white crow in the volumes of arcane and intensely personal information passed to us by mediums – about/from deceased people totally unknown to the medium – often supplied to sitters who were not only previously unknown to the entranced medium, but who also remained anonymous to the medium throughout and after the séance.
Fact 4.) stems from the assertion of materialists that if anything cannot be proven, nor disproven to exist – by physical science methods – then it cannot exist. This is a fundamentalist viscous circle – insisting that the nonphysical cannot exist because it is not empirically provable by physical means? However, while we can’t produce a lump of the self to be measured or felt – we can feel our said self being “moved”, “lifted”, “inspired” by beauty, for example (which beauty we also can’t run a tape over – Sceptics usually disparage it with dogma like: “beauty is only in the eye of the beholder”). Consider again Darwin’s reflections, quoted earlier, the fact that some nonphysical part of us can be affected by something nonphysical (in his case, the beauty of a dangerous jungle) establishes that we are more than our physical bodies (more than “the breath of our bodies” in his terms). And in order to properly assess the claim of materialist ideologues that the paranormal can’t be real because it can’t be measured with their normal ruler, we need to closely examine the reality of that “normal” ruler – and compare it perhaps with realities evidenced by the paranormal.
HOW REAL IS THE NORMAL?
Just how real is our “normal” reality – the ruler by which the reality of everything else must be measurable to exist – as our physical scientists and materialists claim?
For starters, have it even been proven that such normal reality, itself, actually concretely exists? Matter – once seen as so “solid, massy, hard, impenetrable” (in Newton’s words) has been shown by quantum physics to be largely illusory – overwhelmingly space. Further, even those subatomic particles of matter which are not space are actually a chimera of energy fields and quantum possibilities which can resolve/collapse as physical matter rather than waves through our nonphysical consciousness of it.
So, what’s more “normal” – the apparent normality/concreteness of this life in this physical world (which needs our nonphysical self’s consciousness of it to exist as concrete matter) – or the apparent paranormality of the “afterlife” – similarly existing because of our nonphysical self’s consciousness of it?
Quantum physicists Bruce Rosenblum and Fred Kuttner recount an argument between four fellow quantum physicists, during a physics conference they attended – about the weirdness of quantum theory and its implications for the “reality” we live in:
“A fourth summarised the argument by saying, ‘The world is not as real as we think.’ Three of these arguers have Nobel Prizes in Physics, and the fourth is a good candidate for one.”
“Quantum Enigma” (2011), Rosenblum and Kuttner. P.9
More from Rosenblum and Kuttner in a moment, but the above accords with information received by paranormal means (Professor F.W.H. Myers reported from “the other side” after his bodily death that the next reality which awaits us is the actual real one – being “the original of the earth” – the Earth being only “an ugly smudged copy”.
But some will continue to insist that the information which our expedition has gleaned from paranormal research, just seems too bizarre to be taken seriously. “Too bizarre” – compared to what – compared to our real world perhaps?
TOO BIZARRE COMPARED TO THE REAL WORLD?
You want bizarre? – I’ll give you bizarre – consider what our physical sciences are telling us about this real, normal, non-paranormal world:
· That there is no “first mover” of our universe – the original energy, which accidentally became the matter of our universe at the big bang, itself came accidentally into existence – even though the laws of physics tell us that energy cannot be created.
· That all the fine settings of the forces, ratios, constants, etc. which allow the universe to exist must also be accidental (even though they are written in an intelligent language – mathematics).
· That our universe must have been one of an infinite number of universes which came (also accidentally) into being – so that ours, with its intelligent mathematical laws, could exist by chance (such “chance” being trillions of trillions of trillions to one – against). Do I hear someone sharpening Ockham’s Razor?
· That inert/inorganic matter which emanated from a sterile, billion degree, big bang became accidentally organic – chemically, spontaneously – alive.
· That the original single physical cell(s) of spontaneously living matter should develop nonphysical factors like consciousness from accidental, random physical mutations of physical matter.
· That we should be able to speak the mathematical language that the whole accidental thing was accidentally written in – when such ability is not necessary to survive (no other animal on Earth can).
· That one bunch of accidentally living, accidentally existing, matter should be writing this, and another bunch should be reading it?
But if you want truly bizarre, we should consider what quantum physics is telling us about our normal, non-paranormal, physical world – and ourselves:
“In chapter 15 we describe several contending views, interpretations, of what quantum mechanics is telling us about the physical world – and, perhaps, about us. These are all serious proposals developed with extensive mathematical analysis. They variously suggest observation creating a physical reality, the existence of many parallel worlds with each of us in each of them, a universal connectedness, the future affecting the past, a reality beyond physical reality…”
Rosenblum & Kuttner, ibid. P. 10.
Let’s see – that’s:
· “a reality beyond physical reality” (isn’t that what the researchers into the paranormal are telling us about: a reality beyond this physical reality?)
· “observation creating a physical reality” (our consciousness creates this our present reality! – why can’t it create the next?)
· “many parallel worlds”?
· “each of us in each of them”?
· “a universal connectedness”? (more evidence of universal consciousness and the unity of everything which we received from paranormal evidence).
So, through our understandings of quantum physics we have entered, not only an era of post-classical physics, but a post-materialism era as well – again, it is actually “concrete” matter which is the chimera, not the much more real and normal nonphysical spiritual phenomena which we experience and live with every day – for example, our almost daily experience of being spiritually moved by beauty (as Darwin was in the Brazilian jungle) and our constant experience of our nonphysical consciousness. For a physicalist, a materialist – something nonphysical like consciousness must always be a mystery:
“…most contemporary experts admit a mystery, usually one encountering consciousness. Although it is our most intimate experience, consciousness is ill defined. It’s something physics can’t treat, but can’t ignore.”
Rosenblum & Kuttner (ibid. P. 10)
And it seems that, instead of our physical brain/body being ”us”, as materialists claim – we are our self/consciousness – the brain is just a tool, a transceiver for consciousness. This from scientist Dr. Bernado Kastrup:
“Your physical brain and body have been just tools of your consciousness: a highly-sophisticated, semi-autonomous transceiver…somewhat analogous to any other tool you may have used to interact with the material aspects of reality…From this perspective, your body is not you; you are just its user.”
“Rationalist Spirituality” – Bernado Kastrup, P.101.
What are the implications for our expedition towards the Truth of the human condition if “your body is not you”?
“It is inescapable to conclude from our argument that nobody ever truly dies and nobody is ever truly lost to others.”
– ibid. P.103.
Evidence from a physical scientist which supports the key finding from the “paranormal” field that we, our consciousness, our real self – survive bodily death.
While finding God is not one of the main aims of this expedition for the Truth of the human condition and what such implies for any special meaning and purpose to our existence, a Divinity has been quietly implied many times by some of the evidence we have been considering. So here might be a good place to consider what all the above implies about any God?
For starters, we know that “in the beginning” there was energy – because the big bang was energy becoming matter. We also know that energy is uncreatable and indestructible – thus absolute/eternal – basically the prime characteristics we ascribe to God. So, maybe God/Energy became the universe, rather than “created” it – making us, and every living thing some part of how God is conscious of/experiences all that is created – body and soul. Bodily through all the physical senses of our bodies (both pleasurable and painful) and through our nonphysical self/soul/consciousness (spiritual experiences – like when we are “moved”, “lifted” by beauty). “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matthew 25:40) comes to mind (to quote one of the better parts of the Bible).
The following purports to be direct from God – or at least from Neal Donald Walsch’s conversation with God:
“ ‘... what I am seeking is to know Myself experientially. I am doing this through you, and through everything else that exists.’ ”
“Conversations With God”, Neale Donald Walsch – Book 3, P.11
God, through our body and soul, experiences everything we feel and do – every thing done to us and every thing we do to others.
Which brings us neatly to heaven and hell.
HEAVEN AND HELL
Heaven and hell are, apparently, the one place. The more credible experiencers of the wonders of the next reality report that, eventually, we have a life review – where we review our last life, but through the eyes and experiences of others – experiencing all the joys and sadness we caused, all the pleasure and pain.
Now that’s Divine justice: heavenly for those who have been heavenly to others; hellish for those who have been hellish to others; a bit of both for most – but no eternal hell in a sea of fire – except for the likes of Hitler, Stalin, Mao, et al whose Faustian pact of trading one life of power and privilege for the experience of millions of painful lives must end up seeming like eternal hell. Present and future leaders of humanity look out!
After the past life review we are reunited with our loved-ones (even loved pets according to some accounts) – in a reality beautiful beyond our present experience, enveloped in a non-judgemental love. And the beauties continue from the immediate next plane after our Earthly reality, onto the even higher planes that we can evolve towards – beauties which communicators find hard to convey because there are no entirely suitable Earthly words – but some have talked of music which is too exquisite for us to tolerate at our present level of spiritual evolution. All pretty much heavenly.
THE ELEPHANT IN THE LIVING ROOM
There is an elephant in the living room of all philosophies of meaning – “WHY” – why did God create the universe?
Such is commonly called the “Mind of God” question – and probably best avoided if you only have a mind of man. The sensible answer is: “that is just how it is” – and our exploration for meaning and purpose could stop there – because just how it is, is purposeful and meaningful. And that is where Essay 3 (Along the Road to Truth) stops, but we’ll plod on here because we have taken Buddha’s injunction to go all the way along the road to Truth – and, as we have seen, the House of God and the House of Disbelief both have proffered dangerous speculations on this WHY question. Our Houses’ speculations are “dangerous” because both leave us drowning in the sea of meaninglessness which we encountered in the Introduction. If we hope to survive as a species, we have to do better (“this species could do better” – sounds a bit like my old report cards!?).
All speculations are only as good as the evidence they rely on, and the essays found both of our Houses had poor evidence for their speculations. Our House of God bases its speculation (that God made the Earth as a testing-ground for us – his prime creation) on an ancient and unreliable “B” Book written in a brutal era – which Book contains Abraham’s very human god who is not adverse to slaughtering disbelievers by the multitude, and also contains that god’s approval of an end-of-day’s bloody apocalypse. Whereas the House of Disbelief bases its speculation (of the accidentalness, therefore meaninglessness, of our existence) on the evidence which is our physical sciences’ almost complete understanding of the physical world (and those sciences’ totally complete inability to comprehend the nonphysical world).
So, what is our speculation, and what is the evidence for it?
We will attempt to approach closer to a credible WHY? of the universe (which the energy of God became) by looking closely at the WHAT? of the universe.
OK – “what” does the universe do?
What the universe does is creativity.
As we said at the start of this Conclusion, the purpose of anything is what it does – and this relative universe does creativity. The absolute is absolute, thus necessarily uncreative (everything just is – immutable, unchangeable) but, as we also considered in the same place, relativity is highly creative because it allows the existence of things relatively good, better, best – thus allowing/forcing creative choice/selection for best (by nature and by us – both creative agents of this universe). Nature mechanically selects for best from the various lifeforms which proceeded from original life to form all the various animal bodies. And we select for best from our behaviours which make us happiest with self – thus creating/evolving our self.
Overall, the fact of the creativity of the original energy and the creativity of its creatures, in turn (consider the beauty of some of our creations – especially of our arts) allows an answer to the WHY? question – but the creation of our eternal selves allows an even stronger one. Further, we found that our self’s growth/evolution is not limited to the plane of existence which is this physical universe – there is evidence that there are other, higher planes of reality beyond the next – upon which planes of existence our self/spiritual growth/evolution continues.
CREATIVITY AND GROWTH IN THE NEXT REALITIES?
Essay 3 considered credible paranormal phenomena and communications from “the other side” which indicated that the beauties and experiences which await our self/soul/consciousness on the planes to come are more amazing than we can imagine here on this basic plane – limited as we are by our restricted experiences inherent in this reality. According to them, our situation here on Earth is much like the restricted reality described by Plato’s story of cave dwellers, whose vision (hence experience) was limited to just shadows thrown onto their cave wall – just shadows of what was really happening outside the cave – in the real world. Highly evolved souls who have experienced the higher planes of the hereafter – and who are concerned enough about humanity to try and communicate with us report that our self/spiritual evolution/growth continues in the greater realities which await us. We evolve our self through several, ascendingly higher planes/realities of ultimate beauty (the source of our knowledge of archetypal beauty and/or of Plato’s “forms” perhaps?) towards our self/consciousness’s eventual reunion with God/Universal Consciousness.
In such ultimate Union (reunion?) with universal consciousness we exist beyond the strictures of time and space (like time lords?) able to experience the creativity and creations of the entire universe(s) – anything, anywhere, anytime. Able to experience the individual consciousness that all living things have – know what it is like to be them, to feel and experience all their feelings and experiences: what it is to fly like an eagle; swim like a porpoise; run like a cheetah; witness and/or participate in any event of human history – great or small – what it was like to create, perform, witness: the great music; sing the great songs; paint the great works; pen the great poems; rock the great concerts; win the grand prix; kick the winning goal in the World Cup; drive the great cars; drink the great wines; eat at the great tables; make love with the great lovers?
Golly! Got a bit carried away there – but, according to some credible reports, not so silly.
But, for some, this brings up another WHY? question: if existence on the next planes/realities is so fantastic – why continue on this often barbaric one?
WHY SHOULD WE CONTINUE TO EXIST?
Life in this reality can be hard, often unfair – too hard and too meaningless for some at times – and suicide (and suicide bombing) is becoming a bigger and bigger issue for humanity. As stated in the Introduction, more and more of us find ourselves drowning in a sea of meaninglessness – between the shores of two lands, both hostile to meaning – the land of Belief (upon which the House of God is built) and the land of Disbelief (accommodating the philosophical House of Disbelief). If we have credible evidence that we have many lives in this world – and, eventually, an existence in more beautiful, peaceful, and loving realities – why not shuffle of this present, unsuccessful, hazardous mortal coil and move on?
One of the things paranormal evidence is definite about, is that suicide – while not leading to hell, as most religious traditions hold – most often leads to another life on Earth where we will have to face similar issues to those challenging us now, which enable us to grow/evolve into the next realities (suicide in the face of dire illness is apparently a different matter). There are also reports from the paranormal that there is an in-between existence, similar to religious traditions of purgatory but not a place of torment – rather of rest, stasis, and decision – where we can remain as long as we will; but where, usually, glimpses of the beauties which await our spiritual growth eventually spur us on to take another life’s opportunity for such. Might as well face our present challenges/opportunities to know our self – and take the opportunity they present for growth?
So, that’s about it, folks – have we found the purpose and meaning of life; have we obeyed Buddha’s injunction to go all the way along the road to Truth – beyond reasonable doubt?
BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT?
Inspired by William Faulkner: “You cannot swim for new horizons until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore”, we announced in the Introduction our intention to courageously set out for new horizons which may give us some hope that our existence has some special meaning and ultimate purpose. Did our exploration for such meaning and purpose find enough of both to provide those struggling in a sea of meaninglessness with a little buoyancy?
I hope so. We certainly found credible information that we have, not only an eternal self, but that we have more than one life in this reality in order to truly obey that great dictum: “Know Thyself” – then take life’s great opportunity to grow our self – until we are happy with our self (humanity’s unique quest for happiness). Such self knowledge and growth not only allowing us to be happiest in this life, but to spiritually evolve into the next amazing realities which await us when we are ready.
Have we established this – beyond reasonable doubt?
No, but I think it fair to say that we have, on the balance of probabilities, established that there is more credible evidence for special meaning and ultimate purpose than there is evidence against. Indeed, if such special meaning to our existence was provable “beyond reasonable doubt”, then, as William James noted, life could not have any special meaning – everything would be clearly understood, laid out for us to follow, we would not be asked to make choices for our self, life would be just a tour through a theme park – pleasant enough but offering no self growth and essentially meaningless. Whereas, how life presently is, is redolent of special meaning and ultimate purpose – we are given no credible instructions to follow, but must make our own way through its dangers and delights, its thrills and spills, which constantly ask/force us to come to our own decisions and make our own choices – for our self (we become our choices). In this, “S” Sceptics are actually more doing God’s work than I am – by telling people that life is devoid of special meaning and purpose because we are just mechanically evolved, accidentally existing physical matter – they are inviting people to “just do it”: be their true selves – which is the necessary first step before being able to know your true self and enter the creative process that is in our self’s existence(s) with an animal body.
But some would say that this philosophy of meaning is just like religion, asking us to give up the only thing we “know”: the here and now of this immediate reality for an uncertain future comprised of better, but unseeable, untouchable – therefore unbelievable – realities beyond this one. Not so, this philosophy doesn’t ask us to “give up” anything; doesn’t ask for any sacrifices in the “here and now” – only indicates a way to live best in the here and now by being happiest about our self – being, knowing, and growing our self and so gaining the love (not fear or envy) of others. When others truly love our self (not our body, fame, power, money) such is the strongest evidence we allow that we are worthy of our own love – which is the key to lasting happiness. Even if the other tenets of this philosophy are wrong, and the death of our body is the end of everything, there is no downside – we still live this, one and only life, best – because happiest.
However, if this philosophy is right about life being not only an opportunity for happiness in this life/existence through our self growth/evolution – but also that such self evolution is the entrée into higher realities – then it will not only allow us “to live best” in this reality but also lead us best into a next reality way more heavenly than those imagined by our ancient religions (singing “sweet hosannas” to a needy god?; keeping 72 virgins happy? – what do the females get?) In this way, we are offered a win-win wager better than Pascal’s Wager – his wager involved losing a Sunday by getting all dressed up and going to hear unbelievable sermons from an incredible Book – just in case the Abrahamic god was real.
But Pascal and evangelical fundamentalists will reply that there is a downside: I will end up in hell for eternity – their idea of God must be right – because their ancient Book says so. But our exploration for “T” Truth found their “B” Book written by God is actually a “b” book written by man (it is obvious no woman had a hand in it) – which gets astronomy wrong, biology wrong, history wrong, Jesus wrong, and God wrong (envisaged as a misogynistic male brute). Such Abrahamic “g” god was/is a failure – failing the Hebrew tribes who invented “him”, time after time; failing the Muslim tribes now; and drawing the “Christian” tribes, over the centuries, into some of the worst behaviour known to man in “his” name. While we can’t know the nature of God, we can know what God is not – and such jealous, vengeful, murderous Abrahamic god is definitely what God is not.
As someone once tried to tell us – before his religion killed him – love, forgive, do unto others.
However, that’s just me – life, in its immaculate way, asks you to decide for your self – literally.
Graeme Meakin – last revised 19th October, 2017.