God, Gods and Spirituality

  (23 October 07)
  by Greg Spearritt

Can we understand the notion of God, gods and spirituality without recourse to the supernatural? David Miller argues we can...

6 comments

greg,wouldnt it depend on what you mean by 'supernatural' and 'natural' ?

Posted by robert halsey

sorry about the mix up, david.i was calling you greg previously!! the question stands.

Posted by robert halsey

Yes, Robert. I apologise. I was assuming the commonly-held distinction between the natural and the supernatural. It is, however, possible to collapse one into the other.
At one extreme, there are those who claim that everything is Divine, that we are all part of God.
At the other extreme, there are the Occult Philosophies which claim that the supernatural is really all natural. It is just that science has not yet found sufficient evidence.

Posted by David Miller

Can we understand the notion of God, gods and spirituality without recourse to the supernatural?

Yes but only once we understand ourselves enough to ask why we have created such peculiar things.

Posted by Tony

There are a myriad of hypotheses as to why humans have a propensity towards holding religious, supernatural and paranormal beliefs. Tony seems to be suggesting that we select one hypothesis and put our faith in it, as a pre-condition to our being able to participate in this discussion. I can see no need for such a faith-based approach.
My favourite hypothesis is succinctly expressed (below) by John Wren-Lewis. It is based on the evolutionary process of natural-selection. It is an attempt to explain why out of all the hominin varieties only homo-sapiens survived. (But does it have any supporting evidence? A good question!)

"...the contention advanced by the noted American sociologist Ernest Becker in the 1970s, that our capacity for creating and living inside illusions was evolved as a necessary protection of our distincly human form of conciousness, because our intelligence, which is the great evolutionary advantage of our species, brings with it a terrible hazard. It makes us consciously self-aware in a way that no earlier species has been, and thereby confronts our survival instincts with the ghastly realisation that no matter how cleverly we adapt to our environment, death is still inevitable. Without some counteractive development, this would automatically paralyse us in total panic, and perhaps did indeed wipe out whole generations of our precursors long ago.
But we have survived precisely by evolving the power of suggestion to escape from reality into various kinds of imaginary BEYOND, leaving our intelligence free to work in THIS world, while we ignore our mortality by believing we transcend it."

Posted by David Miller

David
I believe that spiritual dialogue in the 21st century has sufficiently evolved in a way that it is no longer appropriate to use some of the terminology of the past centuries. The two chief inappropriate terms are "natural" and"supernatural". To continue using them invites cul de sacs that are nonproductive.
For instance, everything onthis planet belongs to the world of nature, the real physical world we are familiar with. Science has developed to the point that we are informed that at the core of this reality of the "natural" world is a ghostly empty space where there is only pure energy ( some say only pure abstract mathematics and probabilities) and the unimaginably tiniest of subatomic structures of the quantam world.You cannot apply the usual sensibilities of the natural world here.The terminology is inappropriate and misleading to the point of being purely and simply WRONG!

On the macro scene our tiny world is the smallest of planets in a setting that boasts in excess of 450 billion suns and planets. I cannot see this as having any relevance to the term "natural" any longer. We have at this point gone far,FAR beyond the limited horizons in which the distinctions between the natural and supernatural had some meaning. We have to lift our vsion and think beyond and begin to coin wors and phrases that are relevant. Quantam sciencs are doing just that and it is up to us to seehow our visions of life structures,our philosophies are embedded and made relevant in the new emerging scene.We cant keep talking the old talk in the new world.

Posted by Robert Halsey

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