Coming to Terms with Faith and God (P.II)

In my previous post (see here), I began my introspective exploration of Revelation. Here is Part II of this series, which I feel I am writing a bit hastily, but whatever. This is more of an artistic endeavor than a scholarly exposition. Welcome to my inner painting, I suppose.


 

It is in light of Foucault’s caution that I flee, like a coward, from the truths of testimony; that is, truth claims that are believed on the basis of the claimant’s testimony. Who can be trusted as a reliable source of metaphysical or “Divine” knowledge? If every mind is indeed envatted, then whose experience can be trusted to reveal the inner mysteries of reality? Perhaps this suspicion helps to explain why we have elevated the truths of science and empirical inquiry above others, as these have shown to withstand the corrupt inclinations of human ambition and dishonour; these have allowed us to cautiously navigate the realm of appearances without having to invoke the influence of spirits and Gods. 

To recapitulate, the empiricists would argue that as we only have access to our sensory experience, so we must rely on experience to justify our knowledge of things in the world. Therefore, prepositions about the world must be put forward in such a way that they can be verified or falsified through observation, measurement, and experimentation. Hence, empiricism relies on approaches that are a posteriori, or based on experience. It must be emphasized that NO truth claims are being advanced here. Only that we are limited to knowing our experience of things as they appear in the world. That even philosophy, which claims to engage with a priori truths (i.e., truths arrived at through reason alone), is simply the process of churning out concepts for things in the world as they appear to us. Concepts that survive the onslaught of empirical scrutiny are kept, while the rest are pruned. Successful concepts are gathered to form theories about the world of appearances, which give us greater mastery over it. In the end, what we arrive at is not the Truth, per se, but a version of reality that is less untrue.

The road to wisdom? — Well, it’s plain
and simple to express:
Err
and err
and err again
but less
and less
and less.

Piet Hein

The enterprise of science and of empirical inquiry has proven to be quite successful at navigating the realm of appearances. Through it we have amassed a certain power over Nature – an almost magical influence allowing us to bend her to our will. Through it we have flourished, expanded our horizons, and launched into the fathomless darkness of the heavens. Through it, we have harnessed the power of prophecy. However, it seems we’ve allowed the power of this tool to consume us, and have lost sight of its limitations. Not only have we lost sight, but we’ve contented ourselves with dabbling at the shores of knowledge “whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered” before us.

However, the vulnerabilities of experience have been exposed. There is too great a chance that we are deceived: whether through the ill-will of the Mad Scientist who has envatted our brains, or by the random betrayal of Nature who has concealed her true beauty from our gaze (perhaps as a desperate act of self-preservation). Either way, perception is blind to the affairs of the brain, and the brain is unquestionably deceived by Nature. The grandeur of the cosmos remain forever beyond the groping tendrils of the senses.

We have therefore wanted to say that all our intuition is nothing but the representation of appearance; that the things that we intuit are not in themselves what we intuit them to be, nor are their relations so constituted in themselves as they appear to us; and that if we remove our own subject or even only the subjective constitution of the senses in general, then all constitution, all relations of objects in space and time, indeed space and time themselves would disappear, and as appearances they cannot exist in themselves, but only in us. What may be the case with objects in themselves and abstracted from all this receptivity of our sensibility remains entirely unknown to us. We are acquainted with nothing except our way of perceiving them, which is peculiar to us, and which therefore does not necessarily pertain to every being, though to be sure it pertains to every human being.

Immanuel Kant, (1781). Critique of Pure Reason.

Released from the shackles of empirical inquiry (though its utility in navigating the realm of appearances has been praised and acknowledged), we can now contemplate the nature of truths that fall outside the realm of appearances.The wayfarer who dares venture deep into these frontiers is at risk of entrapment; can be carried away by fanciful ideations; and will find herself isolated by the chasm of thought that divides her from the common notions of Men.

Yet, if we are to journey beyond the comfortable boundaries of sensory experience to pursue the hidden mysteries and unravel the innermost reality of things, it seems we must still adhere to some reasonable epistemic principles. I propose the following:

    • Assumption of the metaphysical unity of reality: Reality as a totality, i.e., all things, both physical and metaphysical; perceptible and imperceptible; phenomenal and noumenal, are aspects of a single metaphysical unity. If reality is more than one thing, then each of its components should necessarily relate to other components in some way. This is a self-evident truth. For even if there were a great chasm between one component of reality and the other, that chasm would be the very thing that would relate the two components – making it part of the unity. That is, the interconnectivity of things necessitates the existence of a whole. Therefore, reality must be one thing, not many things.
    • The practice of measured judgement: Given the nature and scope of the question at hand, we should be willing to apply the necessary standards of proof and inquiry where appropriate. But should not consider these standards as mutually exclusive, meaning that a person should not feel compelled to adhere to a single standard for investigating the truth of a claim.
    • Existence of treacherous intent: The wisdom of the prudent seeker requires constant vigilance and wariness of the character and motivations of the claimant. Even the piercing gaze of the hawk is beguiled by the hunter’s ploy.

To these I will add the principles of relativity, symmetry, invariance, and complementarity, which were articulated by Frank Wilczek as the core ideas at the heart of modern physics. I have adapted them for broader application:

  • Relativity: Reality can be represented, faithfully and without loss, in many different ways.
  • Symmetry: The unity of reality is preserved or remains unchanged under some transformation, although it may appear different to the observer.
  • Invariance: Many aspects of reality are differently represented as we change perspectives, but some features are common to all those representations. Features that are common to all representations are said to be invariant.
  • Complementarity: There can be many different views of reality that are equally valid, in principle, but that to observe (or paint, or describe) reality you must choose a particular one. Further, each view is mutually exclusive, which is why each “compliments” the other.

Equipped with these principles, I can now attempt to contemplate the nature of Revelatory claims, and the  testimony of the Manifestations of God.

To be continued…

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