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Here is another reply to Alex, my Talisman9 correspondent who has been gracious and patient with me. Please let me know what you think — & Thanks to Sen for his comments — I will reply to him later today.
Good Morning Alex,
Thanks for your thoughtful reply.
I think with religion generally and Baha’i in particular a leap of faith as you say is required in order to buy the whole package. Unusually one must hold his nose to some degree and then take the plunge.
But this requires a set of beliefs about the universe we live in. Belief in God certainly but also belief in some very particular attributes of God. The most fundamental of these beliefs is that the nature of God includes a conscious planning process similar to but far superior to that we humans use.
You cite the cruelty of evolution and natural selection. You wrote:
“I have had to come to terms with a God who uses Evolution and Natural
selection (with all its struggle and seeming random cruelty) as part of His
cosmic scheme to produce the big wide world and creatures (us) who can know
Him and love Him. Why does He do that? Certainly the Big Picture is well hidden from us… but I can’t accept that God is “fallible” – that is all
too human an attribute. Subtle but never perverse?”
I think this is square one in the Parcheesi board of religious thinking. Is God aware of the cruelty inherent in his scheme? Or is he opposed by an evil force that can challenge him going toe to toe? (Scratch the devil of course) And does he use this inherently cruel method so he can be loved? What a cad!!
Personally I reject these ideas. The forces of life that we humans have called God for centuries is a combination of things like the collective conscious, nature, the ineffable world of spirit (invisible part of life’s spectrum) and other stuff I’m sure. Religion tries to package all of this and then tops it off sometimes claiming infallibility!! Cool but I’m not buying.
The Baha’i writings say that all the books are open, all the letters of knowledge revealed. Doesn’t this imply that the writings tell it like it is? But aren’t we still dealing with allegory here? I think the term God represents a force in nature a power that propels existence but any personification of this is allegory near as I can tell. This is my way of explaining the cruelty of life. A personified God who was allows what goes on to continue? Unthinkable. Life as a struggle for the sun light? That’s the life I know.
The writings of Emerson tackle these issues pretty effectively — but not completely or infallibly. I’m reading (wading through is more like it) Kant now and therein lies lots of wisdom regarding how we arrive at ‘judgments’ and make decisions, learn. All good grist for the mill, but Kant is so dense and difficult that there is no consensus re: what he was trying to tell us. I still read Bahaullah and Abdul Baha from time to time but find them no more infallible than Kant or Emerson.
But lets suppose for a moment that Kant was and his writings are infallible. Would it matter? Put 5 expert philosophers in a room and you will have 5 differing views re: what Kant was actually trying to tell us. So Kant’s infallibility would be of no use IMO.
The same is true of much of what Bahaullah wrote. Some of it is very clear (as you say) — the laws for example – other parts are subject to interpretation and will mean differently depending on the reader. Other parts seem haphazard and not well thought out (The Aqdas). Of course the Baha’i answer to this amounts to “pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!” (That is – don’t judge God by human standards.)
I think at two ends of the Baha’i story there are important questions — was Bahaullah constantly in touch with the Godhead? Was he damn near God? (as Bahaullah implied and many Bahia’s believe – or even more extreme — many believe he was God). Did a God who knew exactly what she was doing put him here on earth or was he the outgrowth of a natural process? And at the other more worldly end of the spectrum is the Baha’i way of elections the best way and is the supreme governing body of the Baha’is — the Universal House of Justice — infallible here on earth?
If the answer to either or both of these questions is no then we humans are better off taking from Baha’i writings the nuggets that are helpful and leaving the rest behind. That’s my path; what about you, Alex?
I have often come across references to Immanuel Kant’s most famous work — “The Critique of Pure Reason.” So I finally decided to read it. One of the causes of this impulse is that I have a Kindle reader now and I felt that it might help me with this formidable task. So far I’ve read 10% of the book (according to my Kindle) and it turns out that the Kindle is an enormous aid to reading difficult material.
First of all when using a Kindle a reader has immediate access to a dictionary. Place the cursor next to a word and — bingo — there is the definition. And — as you read you will come across passages that have been highlighted by others. Pay attention to these — sometimes the highlighted passages are keys to understanding. And of course the reader can easily highlight passages for herself and read them later in summary together or singly.
What I’ve found really helpful is to be able to reference other texts along the way. I came across a book by Bertrand Russell entitled “The Problems of Philosophy.” This is a much lighter, shorter book that has a chapter called — “How A Priori Knowledge is Possible.” This book and especially the chapter on a priori knowledge, is very helpful in decoding what Kant was writing about and the points he was making. Russell disagrees with Kant’s conclusions but it is useful to note that Russell writes that there are many differing views among philosophers regarding what Kant’s point actually are. So Russell could be disagreeing with something that Kant did not mean to be saying!
So far I understand the purpose of “The Critique of Pure Reason” to be at least two fold: firstly to “… Make the experiment whether we may not be more successful in metaphysics, if we assume that the objects must conform to our cognition.” Kant writes that there is no good science of metaphysics. He wants to see if it is possible to change that. He wants to address the “… unavoidable problems of mere pure reason … God, freedom (of will), and immortality.” He writes that metaphysics has made miserable progress such that it does not exist as a science.
Secondly, knowledge of God and related concepts can’t be determined empirically, hence this knowledge might be determined via “synthetic a priori knowledge” — intuition, so to speak. But how does this work and can there be a science of it? In Kant’s attempt to define a science of intuition he writes “Time is the formal condition a priori of all phenomena whatsoever. Space, as the pure form of external intuition, is limited as a condition a priori to external phenomena along.”
BTW — a priori simply means preceding — a priori knowledge is that which is obtained prior to any experience in the world of evidence of that knowledge. Or so I understand thus far.
I was able to reference the Russell work and my notes on the Kant text via my Kindle — with great ease. Its simply an excellent aid to reading difficult material.
More to come in my blog about Kant, Russell and the Kindle.