Posts Tagged ‘mysticism’

This inset from Raphael’s painting: School of Athens shows Plato (left) schooling his pupil Aristotle. The painting features many names from classic philosophy, but these two figures: Plato and Aristotle, are the centerpiece of the painting, which I believe is appropriate since these two great thinkers embody the essence of two opposing but equally compelling views on philosophy.

The hand gestures of the two men: Plato vertically pointing up at the vault of the ceiling, Aristotle gesturing to the ground along the horizontal plane, are representative of their differing views. In The Duel Between Plato And Aristotle, Leonard Peikoff describes their opposing views succinctly:

For two millenia, Western history has been the expression of a philosophic duel. The duelists are Plato and Aristotle.

Plato is the first thinker to systematize other-wordliness. His metaphysics, identified in Objectivist terms, upholds the primacy of consciousness; his epistemology, intrinsicism and its corollary, mysticism; his ethics, the code of sacrifice. Aristotle, Plato’s devoted student for twenty years, is the first thinker to systematize worldliness. His metaphysics upholds the primacy of existence; his epistemology, the validity of reason; his ethics, the ideal of personal happiness.

I’ve captured excerpts of Dr. Peikoff’s excellent article here under Critical Thinking Resources. I recommend aspiring critical thinkers to add a philosophical dimension to their critical thinking by reading his description of Plato and Aristotle and their latter counterparts: Immanuel Kant and Ayn Rand and how their conflicting philosophies shaped history.

As Dr. Peikoff ends his article:

To save the world is the simplest thing in the world.

All one has to do is think.

Aspiring critical thinkers have to agree.

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Is this guy really serious?

Kidding aside, one of the more serious proofs of God’s existence is that there is so much complexity in the world that it is impossible for the complexity and harmony to exist without an intelligent creator. Science states that as time progresses, entropy increases. And as entropy and disorder increases, how can life, which is an epitome of order, exist.

Atheists sometimes counter this with the “god of the gaps” idea.


The God of the gaps refers to a view of God deriving from a theistic position in which anything that can be explained by human knowledge is not in the domain of God, so the role of God is therefore confined to the ‘gaps’ in scientific explanations of nature. The concept involves an interaction of religious explanations of nature with those derived from science (see also Relationship between religion and science). Within the traditional theistic view of God as existing in a realm “beyond nature,” as science progresses to explain more and more, the perceived scope of the role of God tends to shrink as a result.

“God of the gaps” is often used to describe the retreat of religious explanations of physical phenomena in the face of increasingly comprehensive scientific explanations. An example of the line of reasoning starts with the position that early religious descriptions of objects and events (such as the Sun, Moon, and stars; thunder and lightning) placed these in the realm of things created or controlled by a god or gods. As science found explanations for observations in the realms of astronomy, meteorology, geology, cosmology and biology, the ‘need’ for a god to explain phenomena was progressively reduced, occupying smaller and smaller ‘gaps’ in knowledge. This line of reasoning commonly holds that since the domain of natural phenomena previously explained by God is shrinking, theistic or divine explanations for any natural phenomenon become less plausible. One modern example of God in the gaps is the theory of the origin of life.

The problem with this argument is that, as time progresses, the amount which is answered by science gets more and more, and the gap that God is supposed to create gets less and less. For example, during the prehistoric times, storms and other catastrophes like earthquakes were considered from God. God was supposed to give them to us to show us of his displeasure. Nowadays, science has explanation for these earthquakes. As the science explains more and more, the big question is, shall science eventually be able to answer all? or will science approach more but never all? If science gets to answer everything, then the idea of God is out of the picture. Isn’t God supposed to be above all and unanswerable by science, since God was the being which made material things and science itself?

But the gap is decreasing and science is beginning to answer and discover things which were previously impossible before. The funny thing is that science is now beginning to step in the realm of knowledge which was previously dared to be stepped on only by religion. A lot of religions have previously asserted that within God, no time exists. If you look at it, science has been able to theorize some cases where time indeed does not exist. Within a black hole time is non-existent and before the big bang, there is no concept of time. With the advent of the ideas of Albert Einstein, the concept of time has been stretched further. Time can now speed up or slow down. Mass of an object now may increase in special circumstances. Energy is now convertible to mass and vice versa.

So back to the issue, as of now, the major problems to answer are:

  1. How can an increasingly disordered universe actually create life. Will there be proof in the future that in certain cases entropy does decrease?
  2. How can something come out of nothing.

Probably only time can tell.

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Earlier, Doc had written about intuition being a source of knowledge. Now how about mysticism, isn’t it a source of knowledge, and is it related or the same as intuition?


Mysticism (from the Greek μυστικός, an initiate of a mystery religion, μυστήρια meaning “initiation[1]) is the pursuit of achieving communion, identity with, or conscious awareness of ultimate reality, the Other, divinity, spiritual truth, or God through direct experience, intuition, or insight.”

I would say that mysticism is a form of intuition in the pursuit of achieving awareness of ultimate reality. For theists, this ultimate reality would probably be god. For non-theists, this would probably be some ultimate reality which is answerable by science. For non-theists which believe in spirituality, this would be the knowledge of universal laws such as karma.

Intuition is like this gut feel or knowing which one may experience even without any process of rational thinking. Although it is known that there is no rational process involved in garnering information, some people assume that intuition is always correct. This usually happens in cases where religion is involved and when intuitive experience is re-labled as a mystical experience. Combine this ‘mystical’ experience with ‘authority’ and you have information which is supposed to be infallible. This information is sometimes stated to be a ‘message from God’. If all these mystical experiences were true, then why are the different religions saying different things. Religions can’t make up their mind if god is monotheistic or polytheistic. They can’t even make up their mind if God is personal or impersonal.

I myself have been intuitive for quite a time and a mentor of mine used to tell me that one should always validate information one derives from intuition. Not all information taken from intuition is true, just like not all information which comes from authority(another source of knowledge) is true.

Let us pit males versus females. Which gives you better information, the rationality of men or female intuition of women. As you see not all information from women’s intuition is true due to possible biases and moods. Until one has a very good track record of having good intuition, one had better rely on their rational mind first.

Whether the mystical experience came from God or not is out of the question, simply because one can not possibly know if the information also came from God. The idea it came from God is also based on the persons intuition.

The big question is, then why do some people claim that the mystical experience came from God, and why do so many believe it.

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