bradbradallen

Christian Objectivist

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"Mysticism is the claim that there are asoects of existence that can be known by means of a unique cogntive faculty whose judgments are above the authority of sensory observation and reason."

One does not have to acceot the idea that a woman should not be president of the United States to be an Objectivist; one may quarrel with many of the concepts that Rand claimed logically followed from her basic principles and still be an Objectivist. But just as one cannot, for instance, claim to be a Christian while denying the existence of God -- one cannot claim to be an Objectivist while denying the absolutism of reason.

And -- not incidentally -- when Rand characterized her philosoophy while standing on one foot, it is true she did not mention atheism, but she most certsinly named the absolutism of reason as essential to her philosophy. Her rejection of theism was implicit in that statement.

Barbara

While I believe there has been much discussion on mysticism already under epistemology, I will make the following comments:

Mysticism merely represents knowledge derived from a realm of perceptions. Mysticism is not above judgments of reason. Mystical perceptions stands no more independent of reason than sensory input and must be dealt with as such.

Sensory experiences are considered accurate representations of reality because multiple people act to observe (ex. look, listen...) the same stimuli and describe them in the same terms. Mystical experiences can be considered accurate representations of reality when multiple people act to observe (through meditation, etc.) the same phenomenal stimuli. Individuals from different cultures might cognitively label the same sensory stimulus as a different object. Person A labels the object as a rock, person B labels the object as a brick. Similary, mystical experiences can be cognitively interpreted through a number of ways (through various cultural symbols). That does not mean that the perception was necessarily unshared, it's just that although the perception is sensed in the same way between people, it was described or interpreted differently (as was the brick). Even so, we can state reasonably that they are in fact perceptions that can be shared among people; therefore, following the same logic as treating sensory perceptions as observations of reality, so we should equally treat mystical experiences with the same logic. And then we should deal with these perceptions reasonably. I give you that most people do not treat such experiences reasonably much as most people don't treat emotions reasonably. There's a problem with people considering phenomenal experiences logically.

Anyway, if Rand was wrong about psychology, I would have to admit that her views about theistic observations (arising from the mind) are equally inadequate to handle such a realm. As such, one can take the view above and be an Objectivist as well as a (dare I use the word) mystic.

Barbara, it's a good discussion. However, no one has yet undermined this argument. At best, on other threads people just state their beliefs against mysticism and evade any epistemological assertions to the contrary.

Semi-off topic response:

You haven't lived until you have heard Ayn Rand pronounce "mystic" or "mystical." That will grab your attention.

Bill P

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In Buddhist thought (just to remind, Buddhists are atheists), the highest value is compassion.

Compassion is different than altruism.

Buddhists are a-theists in that they don't have the concept of a personal god. But the "cycle of rebirths" with Nirvana as the ultimative stage of ending the cycle of earthly suffering is clearly a valuing concept. Which begs the question: "Who judges people to be reborn? What is the "valuing" instance?

Edited by Xray

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In Buddhist thought (just to remind, Buddhists are atheists), the highest value is compassion.

Compassion is different than altruism.

Buddhists are a-theists in that they don't have a personal god. But the "cycle of rebirths" with Nirvana as the ultimative stage of ending the cycle of suffering is clearly a valuing concept. Which begs the question: "Who judges people to be reborn? What is the "valuing" instance?

Xray, you have uncovered the "stolen concept" fallacy inherent in the claim that Buddhism is atheistic.

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Is it an oxymoron for one to identify themselves as a Christian Objectivist?

(I apologize for not elaborating much on the question. It is a fairly strait forward question that I have been trying to figure out myself, figure I'll ask the OL community and get some feedback on it.)

The answer is a clear YES. "Christian objectivist" is an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms.

You can find ample evidence of Rand's stance on faith in her writings.

For example:

Rand: "Religion .... is the first enemy of the ability to think. That ability is is not used by men to one-tenth of its possibility, yet before they learn to think they are discouraged by being orderd to take things on faith. Faith is the worst course of mankind, as the exact antithesis and enemy of thought."

[source: B. Branden, The Passion of Ayn Rand, p. 165)]

Edited by Xray

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She is talking about the politics of religion, the ecclesiastical world. She is talking about "blind faith."

Faith is, in that respect, not a very good word.

Look at Buddhist thought. They are very much in alignment with empirical science, in that they employ induction and deduction; evidence of the senses. Even Buddha himself said for people to prove to themselves, this way, anything they wondered about that he said.

Again, for the millionth effing time: separate the evildoers, be they religious ones or business ones or what have you, from all else. Science and business has now managed to cripple as much as religion owned. The key is looking at the synthesis between the two, and it is there on both sides.

And both sides resist equally. And some on both sides work for common ground. I find ~that~ to be rational.

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Rich,

You're a good man and I love having you on OL.

Chris

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The only thing I don't care for in Objectivist-leaning discussions of Christianity (or religion in general) is the traditional demonizing of people who are religious.

People can be (check one if you like):

(O) Flat out wrong from poor thinking

(O) Misinterpreting experience

(O) Confused

(O) Shallow

(O) Reporting experience to the best of their ability

(O) Impatient with big picture thinking

(O) Lacking time for big picture thinking

... or have any number of other benign reasons for being a Christian. Also, the same situation can easily apply to the thinking of such people about Objectivism. In other words, they could call themselves "Christian Objectivists" and not necessarily be devils.

I disagree with them, but once again I refuse to throw stones at them.

With a humorous exception, one of the things I like about this thread is that this issue is being pursued without descending (from tribal urges) into mockery of unknown people. The manner of discussion I now see is how I value discussion.

On another note, Christopher, in my thinking, makes an important point. If Person A claims to have a mental experience not open to sensory display so others can observe it, Person B claims to have the same experience, Person C ditto, and so on, are they all liars or worse because they call themselves mystics?

Then I look at brain scans under controlled conditions and see that there are similar patters of brain activity abundantly recorded of people who are on record as having "mystical" experiences. I think it is a good idea to at least ask what is going on rather than deny such evidence because it does not fit a previous assumption about reason—or faith for that matter.

I personally believe that a sense organ of some sort is evolving in human beings to provide awareness of a part of reality we do not discern clearly right now, but that is my speculation. It makes more sense to me than denying a widely reported experience I have felt myself or calling it God (as defined by this person or that).

I also believe that most people who report such an inner experience are doing so honestly in a manner they are given to understand it (i.e., by saying they had contact with God), rather than trying to articulate a self-generated description. I certainly don't believe they are trying to be evil, evade anything or are trying to lie to themselves.

I do believe they don't analyze their experience enough and often accept social proof over their own manner of thinking (such as when they face other issues in life) to explain what they actually did experience.

There is one thing I am certain of. When a non-coerced social pattern emerges in human affairs, this means it is satisfying something real within human nature. And I notice that all societies that I have ever read about or observed have churches or places of worship of some sort where people congregate to worship in group. I know of no society where this is not present.

So what human need or drive is being served by it?

That is a very good question and I have not seen it addressed too much in discussions of Objectivism.

Michael

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Christopher: "Mysticism merely represents knowledge derived from a realm of perceptions. Mysticism is not above judgments of reason. Mystical perceptions stands no more independent of reason than sensory input and must be dealt with as such."

You have just defined mysticism out of existence, But your statement is not what mysticism means, either in the discussions of its proponents or in the most sedate dictionary definitions. Here are some examples, from both sources, of what it does mean:

Merriam Webster:

"1. the experience of mystical union or direct communion with ultimate reality reported by mystics;

2. the belief that direct knowledge of God, spiritual truth, or ultimate reality can be attained through subjective experience (as intuition or insight);

3.a): vague speculation: a belief without sound basis; B): a theory postulating the possibility of direct and intuitive acquisition of ineffable knowledge or power."

Or: "The belief that union with ithe Deity or the absolute, or spiritual apprehension of knowledge inacessible to the intellect, may be attained through contemplation."

Or: "A belief in the existence of realities beyond perceptual or intellectual apprehension that are central to being and directly accessible by subjective experience."

Or: "The doctrine of the Mystics, who professed a pure, sublime, and wholly disinterested devotion, and maintained that they had direct intercourse with the divine Spirit, and aquired a knowledge of God and of spiritual things unattainable by the natural intellect, and such as cannot be analyzed or explained."

Or: "A doctrine of an immediate spiritual intuition of truths believed to transcend ordinary understanding,"

Or: "Having an import not apparent to the senses nor obvious to the intelligence; beyond human comprehension."

Or: "A philosophy based upon spiritual intuition that is believed to transcend ordinary sensory experiences or understanding."

Or: "Mysticism may be defined as the belief in a third kind of knowledge, the other two being sense knowledge and knowledge by inference."

Encyclopedia Britannica:

"The essence of Mysticism is the assertion of an intuition which transcends the temporal categories of the understanding. . . . Rationalism cannot conduct us to the essence of things."

Barbara

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Michael:

I like the cut of your intellectual jib!

Another reason why I had to take myself away from the rigidity of that point in the growth of objectivism.

I have found all deeply "spiritual" persons that I have met, whether they were put into some theological

behavioralist box or not, to be honest, sincere, thoughtful, compassionate and struggling to find that a rational

explanation of existence.

This is an issue to pursue free from pre-judgment. We have great minds here which can come to some common

definitions of human spirituality.

Can an objectivist accept man having a soul? And if so, what would man's soul look like? Sound like?

Adam

spir·i·tu·al ADJECTIVE:

1. Of, relating to, consisting of, or having the nature of spirit; not tangible or material. See Synonyms at immaterial.

2. Of, concerned with, or affecting the soul.

3. Of, from, or relating to God; deific.

4. Of or belonging to a church or religion; sacred.

5. Relating to or having the nature of spirits or a spirit; supernatural.

NOUN:

1.

1. A religious folk song of African-American origin.

2. A work composed in imitation of such a song.

2. Religious, spiritual, or ecclesiastical matters. Often used in the plural.

ETYMOLOGY:

Middle English, from Old French spirituel, from Latin spritulis, of breathing, spiritual, from spritus, breath ; see spirit

OTHER FORMS:

spiri·tu·al·ly (Adverb), spiri·tu·al·ness (Noun)

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Michael, my point is not to demonize people who are religious. It is not my view that they are demons, but only that they are mistaken. And as you well know, "mistaken" and "evil" are far from being equivalent in my understanding of psychology. There is a near-infinity of reasons why certain mistakes are made, and I rarely judge people solely by the label they attach to themselves. Besides, it's true that I have known religious people who are vastly immoral, but then I have also known atheists who are vastly immoral. I even (gasp!) have known people calling themselves Objectivists who are immoral, who find in Objectivism their one hope of achieving a longed-for intellectual superiority and who use it as a club, a justification for denouncing and demonizing those who have not understood what they understood only yesterday.

It is the true believer of every stripe that I consider dangerous, the fanatic who blindly follows the dogma of his particular religion -- whether that religion be Naziism or Communism or liberalism or conservatism or Catholicism or Mohammedanism or global warming or vegetarianism, or, yes, even Objectivism -- and who preaches hatred and intolerance of all those who do not see the world as he sees it.

Barbara

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:thumbsup: :thumbsup:

Ahh and so soon into the next decade, Barbara.

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Religion -- any religion--requires a belief in the supernatural, in a realm unknowable by reason. In The Art of Living Consciously, Nathaniel Branden defines mysticism as follows:

"Mysticism is the claim that there are aspects of existence that can be known by means of a unique cognitive faculty whose judgments are above the authority of sensory observation and reason."

I'm not sure I'd define religion so narrowly. And I'm also not so sure that I'd define mysticism to be about knowledge whose judgments are ABOVE the authority of sensory observation and reason.

I've discussed Ken Wilber's work on OL before (and Nathaniel has discussed it and disagreed with it in at least one of his books). I can't dig up the thread offhand, but I don't want to rewrite in exhaustive detail what I've written before; it was sometime around August of 2006, discussing his book "Eye to Eye: the Quest for a New Paradigm".

I would listen with respect to anyone claiming to be a mystic who also said that what their mystical experiences told them was consistent with what was ascertainable by sensory experience and consistent with reason.

Judith

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Hi Barbara,

I'm glad you brought this up. To be fair, a rational position in support of mysticism must be definable and logical. Many of the definitions you quoted seem to be consistent, albeit from different perspectives, on discussing mysticism. Perhaps I'm using the wrong word and I should be discussing spirituality. No matter... Because you've offered so many definitions, let's see what we can do to massage these definitions into a nice and rational form:

Merriam Webster:

1. the experience of mystical union or direct communion with ultimate reality reported by mystics

2. the belief that direct knowledge of God, spiritual truth, or ultimate reality can be attained through subjective experience (as intuition or insight).

'Experience' as used here is the form of perception that begets mystical knowledge. Mystical knowledge is felt to be meaningful in the context of an "spiritual truth, or ultimate reality."

3. spiritual apprehension of knowledge inacessible to the intellect, may be attained through contemplation.

4. A belief in the existence of realities beyond perceptual or intellectual apprehension that are central to being and directly accessible by subjective experience.

#3 - Apprehension (perception) of knowledge that cannot be gained through the intellect. This distinction is no different than arguing that perception of sensory knowledge (sights and sounds) cannot be gained through intellect. Indeed perception, as used in #4, represents sensory perception and is made distinct from intellectual apprehension. The latter half of the definition "central to being" describes what this knowledge is commonly understood to refer to. These definitions are fairly consistent with Merriam Webster's definitions, although different terms are used.

Encyclopedia Britannica:

5. The essence of Mysticism is the assertion of an intuition which transcends the temporal categories of the understanding. . . . Rationalism cannot conduct us to the essence of things.

I wonder what EB's definition of rationalism is. If rationalism is defined as originating from sensory and/or intellectual apprehension, then indeed mysticism cannot be found through this "rationalism." However, if EB suggests that mystical apprehensions/perceptions/experiences and knowledge cannot be rationally dealt with, then this definition is incorrect.

So I actually do think I defined mysticism quite well. Perhaps the only thing I would add is that mystical knowledge is often felt to pertain to spiritual truth (as per Merriam Webster), but I'm not so spiritually practiced as to define what spiritual truth is or is not. We'd have to ask an expert. Even so, I believe the integrity of my earlier assertions still stand.

Best,

Christopher

Edited by Christopher

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I should add that I do not limit perception to the senses alone. Since we're treading new territory, we have to expand our use of the definition "perceive."

American Heritage Dictionary:

1. To become aware of directly through any of the senses, especially sight or hearing.

2. To achieve understanding of; apprehend

Webster:

1. To obtain knowledge of through the senses; to receive impressions from by means of the bodily organs; to take cognizance of the existence, character, or identity of, by means of the senses; to see, hear, or feel; as, to perceive a distant ship; to perceive a discord. --Reid.

2. To take intellectual cognizance of; to apprehend by the mind; to be convinced of by direct intuition; to note; to remark; to discern; to see; to understand.

My temporary definition of 'perceive': To become aware of through the act of observation; to take cognizance of, apprehend through the mind, the senses, or intuition.

It's not perfect, but you see where I'm going. You are welcome to improve it.

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She is talking about the politics of religion, the ecclesiastical world. She is talking about "blind faith."

No, Rand is talking about religion, about faith in transcendence as such.

Faith is, in that respect, not a very good word.

I think she chose the apt word. Faith in transcendence is a philosophy which Rand rejects. She is clear as a bell on that.

Look at Buddhist thought. They are very much in alignment with empirical science, in that they employ induction and deduction; evidence of the senses. Even Buddha himself said for people to prove to themselves, this way, anything they wondered about that he said.

Buddha himself spoke he had been reborn many many times. How can such an idea be "in aligment with empirical science"?

BTW there are different branches ('schools') of Buddhism: Hinayana (Theravada) and Mahayana (which has several subdivisions). Which school do you adhere to?

One branch of Mahayana for example (Amida-Buddhism) even worships Buddha as a personal god (the personal salvation god which guides the soul to the so-called "pure land").

Again, for the millionth effing time: separate the evildoers, be they religious ones or business ones or what have you, from all else. Science and business has now managed to cripple as much as religion owned. The key is looking at the synthesis between the two, and it is there on both sides.

And both sides resist equally. And some on both sides work for common ground. I find ~that~ to be rational.

And who is to decide who the "evildoers" are?

Edited by Xray

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It is the true believer of every stripe that I consider dangerous, the fanatic who blindly follows the dogma of his particular religion -- whether that religion be Naziism or Communism or liberalism or conservatism or Catholicism or Mohammedanism or global warming or vegetarianism, or, yes, even Objectivism -- and who preaches hatred and intolerance of all those who do not see the world as he sees it.

My thoughts exactly.

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Merriam Webster:

1. the experience of mystical union or direct communion with ultimate reality reported by mystics

2. the belief that direct knowledge of God, spiritual truth, or ultimate reality can be attained through subjective experience (as intuition or insight).

'Experience' as used here is the form of perception that begets mystical knowledge. Mystical knowledge is felt to be meaningful in the context of an "spiritual truth, or ultimate reality."

There is just reality, "ultimate reality" is a meaningless term, there is no "penultimate reality" nor a "provisional reality".

3. spiritual apprehension of knowledge inacessible to the intellect, may be attained through contemplation.

4. A belief in the existence of realities beyond perceptual or intellectual apprehension that are central to being and directly accessible by subjective experience.

#3 - Apprehension (perception) of knowledge that cannot be gained through the intellect. This distinction is no different than arguing that perception of sensory knowledge (sights and sounds) cannot be gained through intellect.

You interpret the definition incorrectly. It is not the perception of knowledge that cannot be gained through the intellect, but the knowledge that cannot be gained through the intellect. Such "knowledge" is therefore by definition nonsense.

Encyclopedia Britannica:

5. The essence of Mysticism is the assertion of an intuition which transcends the temporal categories of the understanding. . . . Rationalism cannot conduct us to the essence of things.

I wonder what EB's definition of rationalism is. If rationalism is defined as originating from sensory and/or intellectual apprehension, then indeed mysticism cannot be found through this "rationalism." However, if EB suggests that mystical apprehensions/perceptions/experiences and knowledge cannot be rationally dealt with, then this definition is incorrect.

The only way to deal rationally with mystical experiences is to see them for what they are: illusions generated by a malfunctioning brain.

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My temporary definition of 'perceive': To become aware of through the act of observation; to take cognizance of, apprehend through the mind, the senses, or intuition.

Christopher,

I am still digesting some of your thoughts, but definition-wise, this jumped out at me.

I am in agreement with your definition (especially the "act of observation" part) until the clunker, "intuition." I find the idea of becoming aware of anything through intuition as an act of perception (a cognitive act) to be strange. I have always understood intuition to mean the subconscious connecting dots from experience and innate biological processes, thus intuition is a process of the brain subconsciously making suggestions to the conscious mind for focus based on previous knowledge, not direct perception per se.

But there is a mystical version of intuition meaning a "third eye" kind of thing that you operate not by focus, but by suspending focus. I don't mind the idea of "third eye" as a metaphor to describe awareness of things not otherwise explainable, but I do mind defining it as existing only by fundamentally turning the rest of the mind off.

In other words, if awareness of mental experiences is to have validity, it must add to what we know by our normal means and build on it, not contradict or deny it.

Michael

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Michael, my point is not to demonize people who are religious. It is not my view that they are demons, but only that they are mistaken. And as you well know, "mistaken" and "evil" are far from being equivalent in my understanding of psychology. There is a near-infinity of reasons why certain mistakes are made, and I rarely judge people solely by the label they attach to themselves. Besides, it's true that I have known religious people who are vastly immoral, but then I have also known atheists who are vastly immoral. I even (gasp!) have known people calling themselves Objectivists who are immoral, who find in Objectivism their one hope of achieving a longed-for intellectual superiority and who use it as a club, a justification for denouncing and demonizing those who have not understood what they understood only yesterday.

It is the true believer of every stripe that I consider dangerous, the fanatic who blindly follows the dogma of his particular religion -- whether that religion be Naziism or Communism or liberalism or conservatism or Catholicism or Mohammedanism or global warming or vegetarianism, or, yes, even Objectivism -- and who preaches hatred and intolerance of all those who do not see the world as he sees it.

Barbara,

I realize you were not demonizing. I was concerned that my comments could be interpreted to mean that. I merely wanted to mention demonizing because, from what I have seen in several Objectivism-friendly places, these discussions more often than not descend into demonizing religious folks as people chime in.

I also agree that the Christian God as presented in the literature—or Jewish God or Allah or any number of other Gods I have read about—are intellectual mistakes when affirmed to be facts. They are fantasies or metaphors to simplify understanding broad questions like "Why must we die"" and "What is the meaning of life?" at best.

But that still leaves the question of why people have sought this form of explanation throughout all of human history and why all societies have vast hordes of people congregating in places of worship. Do you have any thoughts on that? I feel like something important is missed if these facts are not addressed. (I refer to Objectivist thought in general when complaining about this omission, not you.)

Also, as you stated, studying Objectivism does not automatically give you a good character, just as becoming religious does not automatically make you unscrupulous. So what are the ways a person can obtain good character? What are the intellectual paths he or she must tread?

When dealing with others, I place top value on good character—more value than on any particular school of thought. I can discuss things and trade with people of good character—irrespective of whether they are Objectivist, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Umbanda deity worshipers, Democrat, Republican, or any intellectual bent whatsover—on a primary level without fear of getting shafted. With people of bad character, I always have to use a hidden agenda as my first concern in interacting with them. If I don't keep my guard up, I will get whacked more often than not. That has been my experience in life.

I have my own answers about how to obtain and develop good character, but they are by no means complete.

To start with, I believe a person has to want to be good as a conscious choice. This means that even if a person has strong urges not to be good, the person chooses to plant—deep inside his or her soul—the desire to be good alongside the bad urges and the person nurtures that desire to be good to let it grow. Another fundamental step in this process is the refusal to lie to oneself. That's a choice, too.

One problem with this approach is defining good, but on the level I am discussing, words do not work, much less splitting hairs over definitions. On that level, Rand's sense-of-life idea is more the standard used for choosing good over bad than words. This is not a "premoral choice" (as presented in your cousin's clunky rhetoric), but I do believe it entails a preverbal (or subverbal, or some idea like that) level of awareness.

This is one of the reasons I think the school of thought or religion per se has had so little impact on good character versus bad character results. This choice comes before words.

I fully intend to pursue this issue as I go along. I think I am on to something. How to build good character should be a critical issue in any philosophy. I am convinced that how to build good character as an individual thinker—and not as a follower of any "Objectivist leader"—is even more critical for Objectivism to be truly valid as a guideline (or philosophy) "for living on earth."

Even taking Objectisim out of the picture, how to build good character as an individual thinker is critical to my own approach to life.

Michael

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Even taking Objectisim out of the picture, how to build good character as an individual thinker is critical to my own approach to life.

One path is by relentless examination of the results of one's actions, no?

Then, if good has been done for oneself, others (for others without a, I dunno, er, "shameless self-sacrifice," that's just moving stuff around), to find the thoughts that made it so; others that seem in alignment with them, and attempt repeatability.

To find others who have done so in ways unfamiliar to you and discover what moved them to such.

And to contemplate the nature of those core motivators, figure out why they work so well.

Conversely, to examine the ones you and others have used that did not do so, and consciously eliminate them from your practices.

I don't think I have to go into "good," do I? You know, if a zealot thinks he did "good" by blowing up a cafe' full of innocents.

Good meaning what honors the self, and/or other sentient species on the planet.

That sort of thing.

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xray/Michael/Rich:

"Buddha himself spoke he had been reborn many many times." So since you apparently you were there, how was the voice quality?

Did you happen to hear Lao Tsu also?

Are there not current humans who contemporaneously claim to be "born again"?

"And who is to decide who the 'evildoers' are?"

Did you not know about Rich's machine that sounds an alarm when evil doers approach?

Michael: This is a workable, non-dogmatic or repressive approach which makes sense.

"I fully intend to pursue this issue as I go along. I think I am on to something. How to build good character should be a critical issue in any philosophy. I am convinced that how to build good character as an individual thinker—and not as a follower of any "Objectivist leader"—is even more critical for Objectivism to be truly valid as a guideline (or philosophy) 'for living on earth.'"

"Even taking Objectivism [sic] out of the picture, how to build good character as an individual thinker is critical to my own approach to life."

Precisely. There was good character before the philosophy of objectivism ever arrived in the mind of Rand. Or as Rich takes it,

"Good meaning what honors the self, and/or other sentient species on the planet."

I think that people group together for a sense of commonality. I also believe that we all possess self doubt which can create surrendering independent thought and action to the herd, but that is not what you were getting at in your question of why people throughout history and through completely different societies/cultures etc. tend seek out the presence of the group. Is that where you are going?

Adam

Edited by Selene

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Adam,

I am specifically interested in what human value is served by churches and places of worship.

I do not see this addressed much in Objectivism-friendly discussions. When it comes up, churches are usually dismissed as a sort of social club where you can also do marriages and funeral services. If that were the fundamental value, the spiritual seeking present all all such places would have been long gone by now.

I adhere to the idea that as a species, we have a herding urge as part of the mix, but that is not the idea I am trying to look at.

The proper order for the questions does not entail a group at first. The order is something like this:

Why do people feel the need to worship?

Then, and only then:

Why do people feel the need to worship in public?

The religious person will answer that all people seek God, but that sidesteps what I am trying to look at and presents dogma instead.

I suspect that the answer is multifaceted, not simple.

For an example of what I consider to be one part of the mix, as little people (infants), much of our knowledge comes from direct experience, but much also comes from rules and statements handed down by giants (adults). These giants also care for us—feeding us, cleaning us, fixing us when we hurt, and even punishing us. We have to obey them because we have no choice. After a while, these caring giants and the act of obeying them make us feel safe.

When we grow up, there are no more giants, but there are no answers as to why we have to die, either. And we still need to feel safe. That didn't go anywhere when we grew up. From that point, it is an easy step to imagine there is a giant we can't see on the other side of death and we will be safe once we can be with him.

I believe this is a powerful universal human feeling that explains a lot. But I also believe it is only part of the picture.

Michael

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Michael:

I think that is a solid analysis. I have walked into houses or places of worship all over this country. I have never traveled abroad. I have never felt like a "sinner" or felt shamed in any way. Even when I descended into a grotto-like cave that was used by some folks as a place of worship.

I have always felt awe. In some ways, the "giant" on "the other side of life" might be the sub text, but I think it is, at least in my case, an admiration for what man has built to reach up to "the truth" or the "way" or to "peacefulness".

That reflective wonder that I think all humans have as an essential part of their nature is what we all seek to understand. Furthermore, we enjoy sharing our thoughts with other individuals because we all know that we are alone with ourselves and we tend to communicate to others as to the why's and wherefores of our existence.

It just seems natural. Moreover, prior to having a written language which could record these thoughts and have our societies be able to time bind and pass on our knowledge, the only way to communicate with each other was by herding together in a group.

Adam

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Adam,

I am specifically interested in what human value is served by churches and places of worship.

I do not see this addressed much in Objectivism-friendly discussions. When it comes up, churches are usually dismissed as a sort of social club where you can also do marriages and funeral services. If that were the fundamental value, the spiritual seeking present all all such places would have been long gone by now.

I adhere to the idea that as a species, we have a herding urge as part of the mix, but that is not the idea I am trying to look at.

The proper order for the questions does not entail a group at first. The order is something like this:

[1] Why do people feel the need to worship?

Then, and only then:

[2] Why do people feel the need to worship in public?

(1) For the same reason we need art, to concretize our fundamental values.

(2) For the same reason that we enjoy being the audience of a live performance, and performing to a live audience.

Religious performance can include drama, poetry, and music, and places of worship can be or display masterpieces of painting, sculpture and architecture as well as such other aesthetic stimulations as inspirational lighting, the use of bells and incense and so forth. Religious worship is art.

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I am in agreement with your definition (especially the "act of observation" part) until the clunker, "intuition." I find the idea of becoming aware of anything through intuition as an act of perception (a cognitive act) to be strange. I have always understood intuition to mean the subconscious connecting dots from experience and innate biological processes, thus intuition is a process of the brain subconsciously making suggestions to the conscious mind for focus based on previous knowledge, not direct perception per se.

But there is a mystical version of intuition meaning a "third eye" kind of thing that you operate not by focus, but by suspending focus. I don't mind the idea of "third eye" as a metaphor to describe awareness of things not otherwise explainable, but I do mind defining it as existing only by fundamentally turning the rest of the mind off.

I wasn't too comfortable with the word "intuition" either, but I borrowed it from Webster to remain somewhat consistent with the current definition. Personally, I'm happy with "perceive" as meaning: to become aware of through the act of observation. But I don't want to limit that observation to just the senses as they are defined in the English language. There are perceptions that can be gained only through inner reflection, and this inner reflection leads to the same observations across people, so it is not personalized like emotions (it is not an individual's imagination).

There are difficulties talking about all of this in the English language because perception is limited to external senses, because all internal phenomena are labeled as "experience" without making any distinctions despite evidence to the contrary.

Christopher

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