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Who or What is "God"?

The best answer we've found so far

Who is God?

There are realms beyond what the human mind can perceive. And the cell reception there usually isn't so great either.

article by LiveReal Agent Thomas

Who, or What, is "God"? 

Seriously.

If, as Orwell said, "We have now sunk to a depth at which restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men" - then let's try to be, well, intelligent about this.

Meaning, let's try to state the "obvious."

Before we start arguing and debating, contemplating and seeking, praying to and pleading with, let's get as clear as we can: what, exactly are we talking about?

What, in all the fog and frenzy around this little three-letter word, is real?

Phase I of our mission: simple data-gathering. Our task here is to exhaustively collect into one place all the various candidates that have been proposed as answers to the basic question...

Who, or What, is "God"?

(multiple-choice format God )

A) A big, bearded authority figure in the sky who makes the rules.

B) A fantasy, illusion, imaginary idea, or wild concept that mankind created in their own ideal image and likeness, which helps them cope with a life of inevitable suffering and death.

C) Whatever It (or He, She, etc) is, It (He, She, etc) definitely has a sense of humor.

Who is God?

Some folks say that He's been known to actually intervene from time to time.

D) Something that people pray to when they get into trouble, and forget about shortly after.

E) A "Something" who created mankind in order to teach them a few lessons.

F) A word that refers to something mysterious, genuine and sacred.

G) "Something" that created the universe.

H) Thomas Aquinas: The unmoved mover, the uncaused causer.

I) "I don't know, never will know, and think I don't want to know. Do I know that for sure? No."

J) An absolute, infinite, eternal, transcendent, immanent, intelligent, omniscient, omnipotent, good, something.

K) Richard Rose: "A being we conjure up that surmounts all space and time, and then pretend to know on a first-name basis."

L) Something that seems to have been very active a long time ago (in the days of the burning bush, parting of the Dead Sea, etc), but more recently has stayed hidden.

M) J. B. S. Haldane: "He seems to have an inordinate fondness for beetles."

N) A name we give to anything we don't understand or to anything that feels more powerful than us.

O) A something that has many human characteristics: desires, emotions, pleasures, jealousies, dislikes, and so on . . . to the extent that it seems as though we basically create It/Him in our own image and likeness.

P) Job: Something that bargains for your soul, lets you go through utter hell, and if you endure and pass the test, gives you a lot of sheep and cattle and other things.

Q) A highly effective name to drop when trying to win an argument.

R) Something that has a will that we are supposed to figure out and follow.

Who is God? according to South Park

...according to the creators of South Park.

S) An absolute state of non-duality which is the root of being, unknowable by the mind which cannot be captured by words.

T) "Love." (And what is "love"?)

U) T. S. Eliot: "The still point of the turning world."

V) Voltaire: "If God did not exist, it would have been necessary to invent Him."

W) Something that gives birth to us, and soon after, kills us.

X) Something that is, at various moments in history, angry, jealous, loving, threatening, forgiving, wrathful, comforting. intimidating, and confusing.

Y) A single actor who appears in many plays using a different stage name ("Allah", "Jehovah", "Tao", "The Void", "God", "The Absolute", etc).

Z) Something that enjoys praise and adoration.

AA) The answer to The Problem of Life. And, the one who created The Problem of Life.

BB) It is the Ultimate Advantage that each side of a war thinks is on their side.

CC) Something that created and gives us life, health, love, and sight, as well as death, disease, hate and blindness.

DD) Home.

EE) Something that is "outside" and "transcendent to" the world.

FF) Something that is "inside" and "immanent in" the world.

GG) Something that makes some people blind, sick, maimed, and crippled, and occasionally takes credit for healing a few of them.

HH) H. L. Mencken: "A comedian whose audience is afraid to laugh."

II) Something that created only the good things, and created something else which created all the bad things.

JJ) Something which "saves" very few and "damns" many more. (Also, Walter Kauffman (quoted out of context): "Surely, he must have some weaknesses if he saves only those who eat his son."):

KK) Thomas Szasz: "If you talk to Him, you are praying; if He talks to you, you have schizophrenia."

LL) Pindar: "What is God? Everything."

MM) Something you are born knowing, but soon forget.

Man made in image of God ohboy

"So if man is made in God's image... - what does that say about God?" - Mike White

NN) Something you are born knowing nothing about, and must find.

OO) Something that can be known, found, or experienced after death.

PP) Something that can be known, found, or experienced during life - for example, in "spiritual enlightenment".

QQ) The guy who lit the fuse on the "Big Bang."

RR) The "something" that created the whole of the immensity of the universe, the incomprehensible origin beyond the most staggering reaches of the mortal imagination, the designer of the splendor and magnificence of all of creation, and is only able to communicate with humans through a book.

SS) Meister Eckhart: "Why, oh why, do you prate of God? Whatever you say about God is untrue."

TT) "You," if you knew who "you" really are.

UU) "God is sex, unconscious and buried in the body."

VV) The Force: "...is what gives a Jedi his power. It is an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together."

WW) Nyogen Senzaki: "You cannot see it with your eyes. You cannot hold it with your hands. You cannot smell it with your nose. You cannot hear it with your ears. You cannot taste it with your tongue. You cannot form it in your thoughts. Here it is!"

XX) Whatever It is, if you are in touch with It, you'll be happy; if you're not in touch with It, you'll be miserable.

YY) Alexander Pope: "Know then thyself, presume not God to scan; The proper study of mankind is Man."

ZZ) Something that can be found by: chanting, lighting incense, praying, having sex, hugging, meditating, stretching, reading, being still, observing, worshipping, bowing, doing nothing, introspecting, immense effort, no effort, dying, sitting, being quiet, all of the above, none of the above, or various other methods.

AAA) Saint Augustine: A "circle whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere."

BBB) It is what is there when we - our "egos" - get out of the way.

CCC) Lee Lozowick: "The Divine is not meant to be discovered in heaven. If that were the case, we would be in heaven, not here."

DDD) Ananda K. Coomaraswamy: "...an incessant multiplication of the inexhaustible One and unification of the indefinitely Many. Such are the beginnings and endings of worlds and of individuals beings: expanded from a point without position or dimensions and a now without date or duration."

EEE) Meister Eckhart: "To get at the core of God at his greatest, one must first get into the core of himself at his least, for no one can know God who has not first known himself. Go to the depths of the soul, the secret place of the Most High, to the roots, to the heights: for all the God can do is focused there."

FFF) God is "IT".

GGG) The Old Testament: "I Am that I Am."

HHH) Something that must be known and understood in a very real way if we are to find any true happiness.

III) I don't know.

JJJ) Richard Rose: "We take too big a step when we conjure up a God that surmounts all time and space and then pretend to know Him on a first-name basis."

KKK) Ranier Maria Rilke: "My God is dark, like a knot with a hundred roots that drink in silence."

LLL) Omraam Mikhaël Aïvanhov: "We can sense the presence of God, but we cannot say who He is. Even the greatest initiates will not be able to tell you. And if you ask them, they will answer with silence, because only silence can express the essence of the Deity. Indeed, it is not enough to try and say everything God is, and to say what He is not is not enough either. To say He is love, wisdom, power, justice . . . is true, but these words overlook the divine reality, they say nothing about the infinity, the eternity and the perfection of God. We cannot know God by talking about Him or listening to others talk about Him. The only way of knowing Him is to enter deep within ourselves in order to reach the region of silence."

MMM) Simone Weil: "It is not for man to seek, or even to believe in, God. He only has to refuse his ultimate love to everything that is not God. This refusal does not presuppose any belief. It is enough to recognize what is obvious to any mind: that all the goods of this world, past, present, and future, real or imaginary, are finite and limited and radically incapable of satisfying the desire that perpetually burns within us for an infinite and perfect good."

NNN) None of the Above

OOO) All of the Above

PPP) Other _____________

What Is Your Answer? ________

When you finish your quiz, please pass your papers to the front.

Please note:
This is a quiz that, whether you know it or not,
you're kind of already taking;

and you will probably be graded, but may not be;
we're not sure when or even if you'll ever find out what your grade is,
and we might know who will or won't be grading your papers,
- but then again, we may be wrong.

OK, so...who or what is the "Real" (not phony) "God"? Here's the best we've found so far.

So, what's our "answer" on the Quiz above?

Which definitions of God do we think are real, and which phony?

Good question.

Let’s try to sort it out.

But before we have to do this, we have to answer one little question that seems kinda important.

Who the heck do we think we are?

Seriously, who the heck are we to chime in on this?

Who are we to presume to be able to decide what’s “real” behind the word “God” and what’s phony? Is that not the most arrogant, egotistical, conceited, presumptuous stance anybody in the universe could ever take?

Fair question.

Here’s our answer to that.

We don’t see ourselves as arrogant, egotistical, conceited, presumptuous and etc etc. In fact, quite the opposite.

We aren’t pretending to have settled the issue. We aren’t passing laws here. Heck, some of us around here barely know how to spell “html.”

We’re looking for answers.

And what we have below is, well, the best answer we’ve found so far.

A lot of folks seem to have the idea that there’s an Authority somewhere (Harvard, probably) who is THE EXPERT on the matter. And all we need to do in these matters, simply enough, is to consult that Expert. Because he or she really, really Knows Their Stuff, and the rest of us, at least compared to him or her, don’t know crap.

So what we should do, presumably, is leave the matter to the Experts, let them handle it, and the rest of us…well, should basically, in so many words, shut up about it.

If things were that simple, we’d be all for it.

The trouble is, we’ve had a rough time of finding that particular Expert in this particular matter.

Don’t get us wrong here. There are plenty of genuinely brilliant people out there. Tons of blazing insights. Crowds of folks who seem to really, truly know their stuff and have some seriously light-shedding things to say. (Many of those folks supplied the bulk of the material from the Quiz above.)

But they also contradict each other. They give different answers. Many of them seem to disagree, strongly and in some pretty fundamental ways, on what The Answer is. (We know, because we’ve been investigating them – “them” being the folks who are supposed to be, or are pretending to be, The Experts. Including the Harvardians.)

So when The Experts disagree…or when it isn’t even all that clear who The Expert is, or even if there even is one at all…where does that leave us?

Well, that means it’s up to us to sort it out.

“Us,” meaning, well, you and me.

And we’re all sorting it out.

Each of us, one way or another, in our own way, is working to sort this all out.

Everyone faces these questions on their own. Even if they punt the ball over to someone they decide as an Expert – folks who answer, essentially, “what he/she said” – that’s their decision to do that. They chose to punt the ball over to The Expert.

All of which is to say that, at the end of the day, we’re all working out our answers to this stuff on our own.

We – your lovable LiveReal Agents – are just doing it in public.

We are willing to be the proverbial pandas who are in the unenviable position of trying to mate in captivity. And on full public display.

So basically, we’re willing to make fools of ourselves and do this out in front of everybody.

So…really, we don’t see this as some kind of arrogant, egotistical, presumptuous endeavor.

In fact, it’s just the opposite. We see ourselves as pretty humble. Humiliating, even. The way we see it, we’re merely doing the same thing everybody else is doing: trying to work it out.

We’re just doing it in public, where we’re willing (and likely) to make fools out of ourselves. This means missing the obvious answer here, getting behind the wrong position there, showing that we had no idea about this or that, getting rocks thrown at us by folks who apparently enjoy throwing rocks at poor pandas who are just looking for a little love…and so on.

But as that happens, we plan on picking ourselves up off the ground, putting some ice on our bruised pride, wiping the egg off our faces, and revising this article so it reflects the better “best answer we’ve found so far.”

This article isn’t The Answer. It’s an ongoing chronical of our quest.

Now, with that out of the way, we can get down to business.

So…who or what is the real “God”?

First of all, let’s face it: there’s a lot of argument and insanity around this word.

That part is pretty clear.

That said, our job here is to try to strip those slimy peels of insanity away in the hopes of getting at any whatever good stuff there might be inside – whatever is good, true, rational, calm, grown-up, and real.

Again, we aren’t pretending to “settle the matter once and for all” for everyone here, and we aren’t trying to. What we’re doing instead is humbly offering…well, the best answer we’ve found so far.

“Us,” in this sense, (and it’s important to note), means your loveable LiveReal Agents: a group that includes, among others, a hardball scientific skeptic, a religious believer, and a no-nonsense pragmatist.

Our definition had to satisfy those three (and others.)

We had to get their signoff on the below. And we did. We left no one behind.

So, how did we get to this answer?

Phase 1 – our first priority – was to look under every rock we could.

The idea was first to gather as much data as possible. So our mission was to hunt down the greatest minds and hearts throughout history that we could find and explore what they had to say on the matter. We read everything we could get our hands on. We listened to anyone and everyone we could find. It was an open cattle-call on perspectives on the matter; everyone is welcome, come one, come all. This phase was basically a public restroom of ideas: it wasn’t pretty or graceful, but well, we had a job to do.

This, by the way, included hard-core atheists, skeptics, fundamentalist scientific materialists, folks who just don’t give a tin hoot about any of this business, folks who see “God” as the equivalent of a Flying Spaghetti Monster. If anyone had something to say, we were willing to listen. And some of them said some good things. And we listened.

Then it was time for Phase 2.

Time to sort through all those answers.

This was a really interesting process. We won’t give you the blow-by-blow here for brevity’s sake. (Hopefully we can show our math later.)

Then– Phase 3: share our findings with you.

Here is Phase 3.

The best definition of “God” that we’ve found so far…and the winner is…

“Why, oh why, do you prate of God? Whatever you say about God is untrue.”
- Meister Eckhart

OK, yes, that’s a bit of a copout.

But it does the job. Words fail.

After all, Thomas Aquinas reportedly had some kind of profound experience, and then said afterward, “All that I have written is like chaff to me.” (And that was after writing maybe around 50 entire volumes of stuff. Before laptops.)

William James said it well, and plenty of others agree: this stuff is ineffable at the core.

It’s hard enough to accurately capture anything in words. Most of us can’t communicate with any precision about a trip to Disneyland, or our feelings about celebrities, or what a glass of wine tastes like, much less about something that’s supposed to be infinitely beyond the cognitive reach of our everyday awareness.

So this little phrase, if nothing else, succeeds at what might be the most important job: not failing immediately. It reminds us not to get hung up on the wrong thing. Don’t get stuck on the finger pointing at the moon; look at the moon.

It also reminds us that this stuff is supposed to be profound.

These matters are beyond words. Any words you say can be picked apart, dumbed down, misunderstood, misused. (And these days, will be. It might be no coincidence that Socrates, Jesus, Buddha didn’t write anything themselves.)

This word is supposed to point toward something sacred. Sometimes the most profound answer to “what is truth?” is silence, because using words means bringing things down to a verbal, logical, rational level things that might be beyond words, beyond logic, beyond rationality. And when we bring something trans-rational down to the level of the rational, we might just be dumbing and watering it down to the point of losing the essence of it. As Richard Rose said, “We take too big a step when we conjure up a God that surmounts all time and space and then pretend to know Him on a first-name basis.”

(Important note there: “beyond rationality” doesn’t mean “irrational.” Exactly the opposite. We want to take rationality as far as it can go, until it’s exhausted. But if it won’t take us all the way, and we aren’t there yet, we keep going. Same with words: sure, let’s use as many words as we possibly can. But even after we’ve said a billion words, we might still find that we need a billion more to really explain what we were trying to say in the first billion. Same with logic. We want to push logic as far as it can possibly go. But eventually it crashes into a wall of paradox. The idea is to use all of these tools to the maximum extent possible, yes. We just might eventually find that these tools, even after we’ve used them so much we’ve worn them out, just aren’t enough to finish the job.)

That said, we have to say something.

However true (and safe from abuse) our first answer might be, we honestly aren’t trying to be slippery here.

After all, even Eckhart - who railed  so hard against folks prating on - did no small amount of talking about God himself.

Maybe it’s true that “the Tao that can be spoken is not the real Tao” and “he who speaks does not know, and he who knows does not speak.”

But if that’s the case, then we’re all screwed, and we might as well pack up and go home and start hitting the whiskey.

We aren’t ready to pack up and go home yet.

So let’s try this again.

Let’s ask Uncle Al.

“I’m not an atheist, and I don’t think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn’t know what it is. That, it seems to be, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God. We see the universe marvelously arranged and obeying certain laws but only dimly understand these laws. Our limited minds grasp the mysterious force that moves the constellations.”
- Albert Einstein

(Max Jammer, Einstein and Religion (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999), 44.

We think Big Al says it pretty well.

And he probably understands a thing or two about science.

So, we’re making progress.

But that said…

This doesn’t really seem to be enough either.

It’s still a bit vague. Yes, there’s definitely something or “someone” we don’t understand. But what? Has nobody figured it out any better than that? Do we have to sit around for a few thousand years, waiting for “science” to do all the hard work and figure it out in a peer-reviewed, double-blind, respected-journal-published, Harvard-approved, socially safe way?

Nope. That approach won’t work. None of us are going to be around in a few thousand years. We don’t have time for that.

So let’s try this yet again.

Let’s come at it this way:

If two different people live in completely different times and places – say, thousands of years apart and thousands of miles apart – yet they describe that particular something in a nearly identical way…

…then well, it seems that there’s probably something to it.

Kind of like the way Newton and Leibniz were both reportedly discovered calculus independently. Neither one of those guys knew what the other guy was up to (according to the story, anyway), but they each discovered essentially the same thing.

In our book, this counts as valid evidence. Calculus is a true, objective, real thing.

And if hundreds of other folks – or thousands, or more – all in different times and places – also describe the same thing in a nearly identical way…then well, it seems to us that there’s probably something to it. That should count, at the very least, as evidence, or something that should be explained.

What we’re looking for here is something that transcends particular times, locations, and cultures. It’s (to used a beaten-and-bruised idea these days) objective. It’s like gravity. It makes no difference who you are, where you come from, when you’re alive, what kind of person you are, what your story is, whether you have any particular quality or not. Gravity affects you. Gravity is pretty much the same for all of us. Each of us might experience it a little differently, but we’re still experiencing one thing. It’s one thing, but as Joseph Campbell might say, it has a thousand faces.

That’s a rough description of what we could call “The Perennial Philosophy.” Philosophia Perennis if you want to get fancy.

That phrase seems to get misunderstood quite a bit, so let’s clarify.

This isn’t saying that “all religions are the same.” All religions aren’t the same.

But there’s appearance and reality. There’s the surface, and there’s what’s below the surface. And if you look under the surface, beneath the literal, at the underlying essence of what they’re trying to get at…you might realize that they’re all trying to point to the same thing.

All languages, after all, are “different,” but “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” No matter what language you use to say “rose,” “sweet” or “smell,” when you’re holding that thing in your hand and you take a sniff, it still smells like a rose.

That can help bring this all down into something a bit more practical.

As Aldous Huxley describes it:

“Philosophia Perennis – the phrase was coined by Leibniz; but the thing – the metaphysic that recognizes a divine Reality substantial to the world of things and lives and minds; the psychology that finds in the soul something similar to, or even identical with, divine Reality; the ethic that places man’s final end in the knowledge of the immanent and transcendent Ground of all being – the thing is immemorial and universal. Rudiments of the Perennial Philosophy may be found among the traditionary lore of primitive peoples in every region of the world, and in its fully developed forms it has a place in every one of the higher religions. A version of this Highest Common Factor in all preceding and subsequent theologies was first committed to writing more than twenty-five centuries ago, and since that time the inexhaustible theme has been treated again and again, from the standpoint of every religious tradition and in the principal languages of Asia and Europe.”
- Aldous Huxley

(Aldous Huxley, The Perennial Philosophy, New York, NY: Harper & Row,1970), vii

Folks have described this in different ways – The Great Chain of Being (Lovejoy), The Transcendent Unity of Religions (Schuon), and etc. It’s nothing radical. It simply makes the claim that there isn’t one cool-kids clique that has a monopoly on truth any more than there is one one cool-kids clique that has a monopoly on science. It recognizes the (hopefully) obvious fact that there’s a word for “rose” in several different languages, and those words are different, but they’re all talking about the same thing. It’s respectfully cross-cultural without dissolving down into mushy blanket statements, and while also allowing for some folks to be closer to or further from the mark.

So this is becoming more useful. It gives us some traction.

But now perhaps we’ve swung too far over to the other side. Now, instead of a finger pointing to the moon, we have a thousand fingers pointing at the moon. And that can start to get a little weird.

At this point, it’s time to smell the rose.

OK, so what do we mean, “smell the rose”?

We touched on this above. Some folks who spend a lot of time and energy arguing whether the Spanish word for “rose” (“rosa”) is “better” than the Russian word for “rose” (“pоза”) is “better” than the Swahili word for “rose” (“akaondoka”)…

Yes, arguing about which word was "better" would get silly, fast. And then tiring. And eventually you realize that arguing about it endlessly isn’t going to settle the matter. And fighting about it is even dumber.

Here’s a better way to settle the issue:

“Go there.”

Instead of arguing about roses, or worse, arguing about your beliefs about roses…

Go experience the rose yourself.

"When you travel to the Celestial City, carry no letter of introduction.
When you knock, ask to see God - none of his servants."
- Henry David Thoreau

What we’re getting at here is firsthand experience. Not secondhand.

After all, this stuff is eventually, at least to some degree, personal. (Not solely personal, but at least partly. And that can be a key part.)

This brings us away from speculation and mere opinions and into the realm of real knowledge.

"In what concerns divine things, belief is not appropriate.
Only certainty will do.
Anything less than certainty is unworthy of God."
- Simone Weil

Once you’ve smelled a rose for yourself…you know what you’ve experienced.

Nobody can take that away from you.

(Proving it to someone else, of course, is an entirely different matter. And a secondary one. Can you prove without a doubt that you love someone (say a wife, husband, child, parent) to a hard-nosed, hard-headed, close-minded skeptic who is bound and determined to believe that you don’t really love someone, but are only pretending to? And if you can’t convince that skeptic, does that mean you don’t love that person you love? (Our answer: no, and no.))

Once you’ve had a firsthand experience, a lot of arguments become unnecessary. And without some kind of firsthand experience, arguments, theories, or mere secondhand beliefs will often just confuse things.

OK, but HOW?

But after all, isn’t all this stuff all about faith? Isn’t all this stuff about hearing something, and then deciding whether to believe in it or not? Isn’t it all about deciding to form an opinion, and then working really hard to stick to that decision?

Nope.

The way we approach it here, it can be like a series of experiments.

It parallels science. Science is less of a “belief system” than it is a method of searching for truth. Science doesn’t just sit back and pontificate, talk, argue, debate; it gets hands dirty. It tests ideas, verifies theories, puts concepts under pressure to see if they hold up or crumble. In many ways, with science, nothing is taken on faith; every idea gets put to the test. Anyone can repeat and experiment and verify or reject anyone else’s results. In this sense, it’s open-source; anyone can find the truth if they’re willing to do the work.

We can do the same thing here.

These matters can also be open-source and open to experimentation. We don’t have to merely adopt certain beliefs and sit on them, defend them, dig our heels in and really believe them even harder, and harder, and harder (as if we could even do that.)

We also don’t have to just wait around for insights, experiences, revelations. We can go seek them out.

That said, scientific experiments often merely confirm or refute a theory, yield data, maybe spawn a new hypothesis. All of which is fine…but in these realms, we can go further. Experiments in this realm are more designed to produce experiences.

“We do not need theories
so much as the experience that is the source of the theory.”
- R. D. Laing

After all, experience is supposed to be the best teacher, right?

It might be the case that a great deal of theology is the effort to put something into words that came about as the result of an experience. (Something that can’t be put into words very well, or at all.)

It could be something like getting an insight into a difficult problem, and then trying to explain it to someone else. Having the insight is one thing; being able to explain it to someone else is another. And the more profound the insight, the more difficult it is to communicate. And the more easily it gets misunderstood.

So theology and philosophy might be the effort to take something beyond words and make it verbal; beyond concepts and make it conceptual; beyond out intellect and make it intellectual.

Which is why they seem to fail and frustrate so often. Which is why they never seem to capture the essence of the experience. Which is why they always seem to miss the mark, grasp at straws, feel incomplete.

And maybe the best way around that is to ease up on the words, and instead work to replicate the original experience itself.

"The very beginning, the intrinsic core, the essence, the universal nucleus
of every known high religion...
has been the private, lonely, personal illumination, revelation, or ecstasy
of some acutely sensitive prophet or seer."
- Abraham Maslow

It might be the case that what you believe (and especially what you say you believe) matters much less than what you understand.

Or even further: what you believe might matter much less than what you realize.

And of course, in running experiments, skepticism is not only welcome, it’s necessary. As we discuss in Spirituality for Skeptics, the dilemma between an arid skepticism and a gullible faith is false. The apophatic wing of the Perennial Philosophy welcomes good, hard thinking. It can provide the concrete for a sturdy foundation to build from.

And eventually, once we get to this point, then idea is that we can answer like Jung did one time: “I don’t have to believe, I know.”

To be clear: this isn’t the kind of believing where you “believe” something so super-super-super hard that one day it crosses over into you “knowing.”

It doesn’t work that way. It’s closer to the way that you “know” that you love someone. It’s “obvious.” It’s so obvious that it’s easy to miss. Sure, you might not be able to prove it to anyone else. But it’s obvious to you.

Of course, that’s the ideal.

But getting there isn’t easy.

Getting to that point we’re talking about – of having conducted valid experiments and come to valuable, verified, validated firsthand knowledge – isn’t falling off a log. It’s closer to climbing Everest. There are hundreds, thousands, millions of opportunities for some severe self-delusion – hypoxia of the soul – along the way.

So this road can be hazardous. We can’t explore all the various hazards here, but as a general rule, caution in these matters is a pretty good idea. Investigating these issues can be a thrilling adventure – maybe the most thrilling adventure there is, if you’re into this kind of thing. But we need to be careful that we don’t let ourselves get carried away, as Nietzsche said, and devoured by some Minotaur of conscience.

So this might be a better way to say it:

Know Yourself.

(Maybe it's a cliche, sure - but that doesn't make it bad advice.)

We’ve put together a few experiments here. They aren’t perfect, but hey, there are worse ways to blow an afternoon.

(And we’re always looking for better ones.)

What we’re ultimately getting at here is what we could call "Inner Work." Which we can define here as really figuring out how to get firsthand knowledge.

It’s a journey. And a quest. And the way we see it, one worth taking.

And then it’s time for Phase 4.

Phase 4 is where we return to Phase 1. We start gathering more data and looking for better answers.

What we’ve laid out here is, well, the best answer we’ve found so far.

But we’re still searching for better ones.

Stay tuned.

If you liked this, check out:

Spirituality for Skeptics

What is "Enlightenment"?

Who am I?

Why are we here?

What is "Love"?

The Search for "IT"

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