Saturday, 4 June 2016

The deep mystery of existence.1.Where does reality come from?

image from
In this first post in the series ‘The deep mystery of existence...’ I pose this question: from what does our reality originate?
I am not a qualified philosopher or academic.  However, like many of us, I feel driven to look rationally at the nature of the universe and our existence in it.  There won’t be a lot of citations and referencing. Much of what I say is based on the thoughts, ideas and insights of others, both published and unpublished, written and spoken;  but often I can’t remember the source and since this is not a peer reviewed scholarly article it won’t be taken seriously by  academia. Nevertheless, I believe there is a place for blogs like this  in the scheme of things. They allow ideas to be explored free of academic peer pressure and stimulate thought.

  Ironically, to be rational one has to recognize that the most important aspects of life cannot be accessed by logic. For example, human experiences of love and awe, justice and injustice, pleasure and pain, cannot be described  or communicated from one person  to another by scientific models and equations. Circumstances which commonly accompany or lead to them can to some extent be scientifically investigated, but the actual experience of them is outside the realm of reason. The nature and meaning of human experience must be the subject of philosophy, art, music, drama and literature.

First, what is reality? It is defined as ‘the totality of all things possessing actuality, existence or essence’.

 Some have tried to deny reality by claiming it is all illusion. This is a cop out, an attempt to evade the search for truth and be rational at the same time.

The main definition of ‘illusion’ in the online Free Dictionary is 'an erroneous perception of reality'. So there is no point in saying that all is illusion. The word has no meaning unless there is a true reality to serve as a reference frame. Moreover, the statement is self contradictory and so manifestly false. If all were an illusion then the statement ‘all is illusion’ would itself be an illusion, i.e. false.

Reality does exist. Or perhaps everything we experience in this life is indeed illusion but at some higher level there is a concrete reality to which it corresponds. 

So how did reality come into being?  It must have emanated by an act of will from some source which is so far beyond our understanding that it is not within our realm of investigation. It surpasses our understanding and always will do by definition.

All we can say with certainty is that we have been endowed with consciousness, relentless curiosity, a sense of justice and a desire to see it done, the ability to reason, the ability to create scientific theories to describe how natural phenomena occur, a moral conscience and the desire to procreate. To this list could be added the uniquely human and powerful gift of language which allows new concepts to be formulated and discussed, even by those who try to debunk the very idea of truth and purpose.

(NB: Any attempt to argue that reality is meaningless or without purpose defeats itself  since the words used to argue the case would also have to be pointless and meaningless. You can't  construct a meaningful argument using meaningless concepts.)

We have  been given experiences like love and hate, pleasure and pain, elation and despair. We also have a sense of the sacred or divine –expressed in people, in churches, in mosques, in stories, in holy books and in the natural world.

This must tell us certain things about the nature of the source, the uncaused first cause. But what about its purpose in creating us? There must be a purpose because our natural world is evolving with purpose, from a dimensionless point in nothingness to stars to galaxies to the Milky Way Galaxy to the solar system to the planet Earth to the living biosphere to conscious humans with the kinds of questions being asked in this and future posts.

 The source from which reality flows has purpose and a will. Our observations of the natural world and the universe, together with our reason, strongly indicate that human beings are the end point of a long evolutionary story, since the universe is fine tuned not just for life but for civilization and we are placed at a probably unique position in the cosmic space-time scheme from which its history can be observed and inferred with the minds given to us together with the gift of language.

 So the creative entity from which our reality comes has a plan for us and the will to create us.

See also
Our perception of reality, ancient and modern

 John Sears

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