A Spiritual Approach That Isn’t “Blind Faith” and Embraces Reason and Science
A simple tool for sorting spiritual apples from oranges
Maybe we need a new word for it.
Maybe this could do the job: “satibferas.”
Granted, it doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.
That said, it seems like we need some kind of word for it.
Umm, for what, exactly?
It’s a “Spiritual Approach That Isn’t ‘Blind Faith’ and Embraces Reason and Science.”
A new word? Why do we need this?
We can see it as a tool.
To start at the beginning, it works something like this:
We all face existential riddles, or “The Big Questions” of life. We can’t not answer these, one way or another. Ideally, our answers avoid as much nonsense as possible.
We all have to build and work from some sort of life philosophy.
We all “play games” in life. Hopefully we play games that are worth playing, and play them well.
We all search for happiness. Hopefully we don’t just search, but find it. But realistically, we all suffer, and we need to figure out how and why to push through it. And most of us either assume, hope for, or act as though there really is some kind of point to it all.
And so on.
So the question is, how can we be smart about this?
We can assume that these issues are important. If we want a good life, without regrets, we need good answers here.
Let’s also assume at this point that reason and science are good things, and “blind faith” isn’t.
Yet making an effort to crack these issues – existential riddles, The Big Questions of life, happiness, suffering, meaning and so on – brings us to the realms of spirituality and religion.
And here’s where things can get a little crazy.
Some approaches to solving these existential riddles deliberately try to avoid nonsense. They welcome science and reason, and avoid “blind faith.”
Others seem to embrace nonsense. They reject science and reason, and advocate “blind faith.”
We need a simple way to distinguish between those two.
We’re proposing this word as that simple way.
If a religion or approach is friendly to reason and science, we could say, “it’s satibferas.”
If it’s hostile to reason or science, we could say, “it’s not satibferas.”
This can be helpful when we want to know whether an approach is a good one for us, or not.
Why is this kind of thing becoming more necessary these days?
Once upon a time, religions relied heavily on what are essentially narratives.
Religions were once essentially verbal traditions. When it came to understanding what life is all about, a person would hear a narrative from Gramps, or The Council of Elders, or Yoda, etc. That narrative would say, essentially, “This Is The Way It Is.” And that, a person would often assume, really was “The Way It Is.”
But today, it’s different.
Today, we’re swimming through an avalanche of narratives, every day. It’s narrative mayhem. Wildly different perspectives come at us from all directions, and very different worldviews. For better or worse, we now have a whirling swarm of different versions of “The Way It Is” coming at us.
Simply assuming that the answers we grew up with are “correct” isn’t working the way it once did. That approach is often regarded as naïve, and often for good reason.
This can open Pandora’s Box.
Not wanting to be naïve can naturally turn all of us into “Seekers.”
This can mean trying to sort through the avalanche.
This means we often find ourselves questioning things, seeking out answers, testing different perspectives, and so on.
Sometimes, this can lead to incredible, life-changing discoveries.
Sometimes it can also lead to genuine hazards.
Soft Nihilism, for example.
Soft nihilism, by our read, is one of the potential side-effects of living through The Death of God.
A word like satibferas can be a highly effective tool for sifting through the avalanche and avoiding some hazards while doing it.
Without it, it can be like trying to dig holes with screwdrivers. It might get the job done, but it’s not terribly efficient.
“Satibferas” is a shovel.
It’s a quality. It’s not a noun, it’s an adjective.
It’s not a religion, it’s a quality of religions. It describes, in shorthand, an aspect or quality that a certain religion or spiritual approach either has, or doesn’t have.
LiveReal, for example, is satibferas. (Or at least, it aims to be.) It doesn’t ask for blind faith, and it fully welcomes reason and science.
Other approaches exist within every major religion, from Christianity to Buddhism to Hinduism and so on, that are also satibferas. They embrace reason and science with open arms, and aim for something that holds up quite well under probing. The basic idea is that if that any claim to knowledge of ultimate reality, it should be able to withstand some questioning.
Some approaches to spirituality deliberately exclude or reject reason or science. From a logic junkie perspective, they assume several starting points or axioms and proceed from there without ever stopping to examine those axioms. They often assume and operate within a basic worldview, but they do so unconsciously.
Approaches like those are “not satibferas.”
A satibferas approach means it’s OK to doubt. It’s OK ask questions. It’s OK not to know. It’s OK to think outside the box, to come at the problem from weird angles, to use creativity and intelligence to its full capacity, to avoid stifling thought-stoppers and to throw off mental straightjackets. It says “let’s just figure this out, using every resource at our disposal.”
We do need one major distinction here.
It’s one thing to avoid blind faith and to welcome reason, rationality, and science with open arms.
It’s an entirely different thing to assume that reason, rationality, and science is sufficient, or all we need to tell us everything we need to know about everything.
Let’s imagine you aren’t looking to solve a math or logic problem, but a genuine, experiential insight into Ultimate Reality.
Real Zen, for example, will state quite clearly that mere reason, rationality, and science will not take you the entire way there. Reason, rationality, and science can do plenty of wonderful things. But giving you a direct insight into Ultimate Reality isn’t one of them.
Cars, trains, and boats might be magnificent things, but they probably won’t help you too much if you’re trying to go to the moon. For that kind of trip, you’ll need a different vehicle.
But these different approaches seem to get confused and lumped together all the time.
Real Zen, for example, isn’t anti-satibferas.
Some approaches get accused – mistakenly – of being anti-reason, when what they’re saying something very different.
To draw a parallel: we could measure age by describing someone as “pre-teen” and “post-teen.” A “pre-teen” (aka a “kid”) hasn’t gone through the torturous teenage years. A “post-teen” (or “adult”) has gone through the torturous teenage years.
This doesn’t mean that an “adult” is “anti-teenager.”
An adult has been a teenager, embraced that period fully, and then moved on.
In the same way, there’s before rationality and after rationality.
We could describe this as “pre-rational” and “trans-rational.” “Pre-rational” hasn’t been through a period of rationality yet. “Rational” is in the middle of rationality. And “trans-rational” is the equivalent of adulthood. There’s also “pre-science” and “trans-science.” “Pre” hasn’t been through the ringer yet, which “trans” has been through the ringer and has come out the other side.
Some religious approaches are pre-rational (often called “Premodern.”) Others are rational. Others are post-rational. Ken Wilber described this as the “pre-trans fallacy.”
These often get lumped together.
But they shouldn’t be. They’re profoundly different.
To be “pre-rational” or “pre-science would mean, from the vehicle metaphor above, that a certain approach rejects cars, trains, and boats.
A “post-rational” and “post-science” approach fully appreciates everything cars, trains, and boats have to offer, but acknowledges that they just won’t take us to the moon.
A hammer can be a useful tool. That doesn’t mean it’s the only tool you need if you want to build a space station.
To say that you need more than a hammer to build a space station isn’t anti-hammer. In the same way, to say that mere reason or science alone isn’t anti-reason or anti-science.
It’s just saying you’re going to need more tools for this job.
So, that’s it.
Hopefully, we now have a new verbal tool in our toolbox.
If this tool is effective, we now have a shorthand way to describe perspectives that do take an approach of avoiding “blind faith” and embrace reason and science, and those that don’t.
Now, the challenge is to put that tool to good use.
(Or, to come up with a better one. We’re open to suggestions.)
And then maybe, someday, we can meet up. Maybe on the moon.