“To see a World in a Grain of Sand and a Heaven in a Wild Flower, Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand And Eternity in an hour.” –William Blake (1757-1827)
In reading an article in a science magazine I noticed an ad for an organization dedicated to the denouncement of religion as a way of thinking. Now, much evil has been perpetrated through religion or rather people who want to dominate others have used religion as a means for legitimizing their urges. I guess you can forgive people for wanting to rid the world of something that they believe perpetrates or at least enables this evil. But this got me to thinking whether getting rid of religion was a good idea or in deciding that it wasn’t why would I want to defend religious thought as another way of perceiving the world? But first I wanted to dig deeper into myself to see what was there. For whatever reason as I looked closer at my beliefs two questions came up and framed my thoughts.*
As the universe expands what’s it expanding into?
This became a ‘creator’ (God) or metaphysical question, and the answer is “Nothing, no space, no•thing.” Astrophysicists, say that the universe is expanding at the mind-boggling speed of 163,000 mph. Every day our universe creates more than 3,912,000 miles more of itself. Beyond the universe there is nothing until the universe expands, or stretches, creating more universe as it goes. In short, the expanding universe creates as it goes. It is a creator universe. And it seems to be speeding up, why? We don’t know. It’s a mystery. And it still begs the question of what’s the purpose of all this?
It is said by many theorists that the general purpose of life is survival (of the individual, procreation is a secondary purpose), but other than survival, what is the real purpose of life?
This is also a metaphysical (God) question. So, what’s the purpose of all this creation? There are lots of beliefs that surround this question from Aristotle to creationists, Descartes to Darwin, the Bhagavata to the Quran, Torah to the Bible, with many more thousands of competing definitions of purpose. We humans have created all kinds of sciences, mythologies, study groups, research centers, telescopes, microscopes, spaceships and habitats, satellites, philosophies, and all kinds of “isms” to study, understand, and solve the mysteries of our world and religion has its place at the table as well because all are attempting to answer the mystery of why its all here.
So, what is life? Life is a form of material organization that strives to perpetuate itself. As we look at the evolution of life throughout time, we see that life has developed with ever increasing complexity. If we were silly or arrogant enough to think that human beings are the end product of this complexity continuum, then perhaps we would say that we are the purpose of life or that some god extends its purpose through us as its proxy for the manipulation of reality (Why this god needs us to do its work is beyond me, the purpose is also a mystery). But if the complexity continuum continues, and there’s no evidence to say that it won’t with or without us, we are not the endgame of life, but merely a steppingstone along the way, a Tiktaalik-like creature (an ancient similar to the modern lung fish) on its way from sea to land and from land to who knows what.
As I see it, in the dance of creation and destruction, all the different philosophies boil down to that there are those who believe there is a choreographer/director and those who believe there is not, and it is the tension between these that the mystery of life and its purpose resides.
For me, the operative word is Mystery. Inside of mystery exists an infinite existence that entertains the imagination of us humans and provides a myriad of purpose. Whether one believes in the principles of a religion, science, a combination of both, or nothing at all we are all living the mystery of life and are constantly seeking to find answers to it either to just survive, understand, or seek some satisfaction in it. The world’s religions and philosophies are all about mystery, discovering it, defining it, deciphering it.
I can’t imagine a life with no mystery. My mind is not so mechanistic, practical, scientific, and reductionist that mystery would have no place in it. How unimaginably boring life would be if there were no physical and metaphysical mystery in it. To decide as the non-choreographer people that something has no place in the panoply of life is to destroy part of the mystery and cut one off from a part of the universe which is a whole where everything is included as opposed to the universe of the ego where things are cut out and deemed unuseful.
I explore the mystery of life through the spirit, in religion, in the occult, in mindful everyday experiences, through art, poetry, writing, reading, and through the study of science. I don’t want to leave anything out of the experience.
In short, I “survive” to follow the mystery and in embracing the mystery in all its wonderful forms is how I survive.
“We gaze up at the same stars, the sky covers us all, the same universe encompasses us. What does it matter what practical system we adopt in our search for the truth? Not by one avenue only can we arrive at so tremendous a secret.”
― Quintus Aurelius Symmachus, Roman statesman (c. 345 – 402)
*some of this was explored in the book The Dragon’s Treasure