VERSIONS OF REALITY: Theism, Deism, Atheism, Wicca, Mysticism

An essay by Ken Wear, May, 1988, first published
in Integra, the journal of Intertel, in the fall of 1988

Is There Reality

Is reality determined by my own perceptions? As I believe, so it is? The light in which I perceive alters the reality being perceived? Nonsense! I have heard this thesis since college days but can't accept it. It is a dodge to avoid confronting the conflict presented by those who cling with tenacity to views supported primarily by unreasoned intuition.

I am convinced there is a reality -- a single over-all organization of the cosmos of which we are each individually a part -- a whole that is immutable and not altered by personal perceptions. It is our state of knowledge of that reality that produces our varying views. Consider the corollary of a house with many windows having an unobstructed view of a bustling courtyard. From each window the view is somewhat different, and at any one window the several of us focus on different areas of the courtyard. So it is with the House of Man: The one reality is viewed from different perspectives and through the eyes of various prophets, all overlooking the same panorama but each describing it from his own vantage point.

I have examined many of those perspectives in an effort to find a satisfying description, and I wish to share a collection of varying views from the House of Man. Despite generally interlocked ideas, let us try to deal separately with three aspects of reality:
1) Is this life part of a continuum so that my bodily frame carries some element which will experience consciousness beyond my death?
2) Is the physical world (or universe) of our five senses a part of a more comprehensive organization which includes an (to us) extra-sensory realm in which I participate as an aspect of my own continuum?
3) Is there a power or authority or intelligence or personality who function(s/ed) as author and guardian of this greater realm?

It is true we live within our minds, and all bodily parts are subordinated to the mind: Pleasure is pleasure or pain is pain because the mind recognizes it as such; the nerves sense but the mind interprets: Reality is what the mind perceives as reality. It is no less true of ideas: The mind receives and processes and interprets and imposes order. While an idea is, to us, reality or illusion as the mind perceives it, our perception does not alter the thing being perceived.

Again, if something does not affect us, it may as well not exist. If we accept an idea and act on it, then for us it has reality; but if we deny it and act on that assumption, then for us it has no reality. This speaks not of the reality itself but of our perception.

I have had one cardinal rule in examining reality: It cannot violate reason. All truths must ultimately be compatible, be they scientific or religious or philosophical, and at present none of these has been perfected. There may be scientific laws yet undetected or unsuspected; our inability to deal with them in no way negates them or lessens their impact; so also with other areas of thought, including religion. So we must interpret as best we can what evidence(?) is available to us, always within the bounds of reason.

I make no attempt to persuade in the comparisons of Theism, Deism, Atheism or Mysticism. You must pursue those notions that appeal to your own psyche.

Negations

Some say what we perceive as the passage of time is instead a shifting of frequencies: Time itself is a construct to explain variations in our perceptions. There is no time; there is neither past nor future, but only now, this instant; we co-exist with our ancestors a hundred generations removed as well as with our progeny a hundred generations hence; the "Big Bang" that initiated the universe has just commenced and its 15 billion years is a consequence of shifting frequencies in this interval of now, just as my perception of changes during editing of this sentence results from a shift. I question the idea.

Once we control our interaction with the frequencies we will move into what we perceive as the past and alter things there to change our perceived now, or move into the future to bring back the results of tomorrow's science. I conjure up mental images of the kaleidoscopic effect on me today as people from today journey into the past to alter events more to their heart's desire, each alteration triggering changes in the avalanche of consequences both in intermediate history and today. It could be terribly upsetting, especially when I reflect on the chain of events, some mere happenchance side effects, that brought me into the world and paved the way for happenings that led me to today. (I'm sorry: I use the word "frequency," which is used by advocates of the notion, realizing that our accepted understanding of frequency as a repetition with time is not appropriate because there is no time.)

Others say there is nothing beyond this life, that this life is all there is, that whatever spirit we have at birth disintegrates -- vanishes -- ceases to exist -- at death, that what immortality we enjoy lies in what we have planted in the hearts of others. Whether or not we are alone in the Universe, our species as well as life itself has evolved through the routine operation of physical laws, with variations produced by chance combinations of circumstance. No god, no pre-existence, death is total.

There is a variety of attitudes toward deity even among professing atheists. The spirit or personality God may have started it all but has directed His interests elsewhere, or the death of God was an event in recent human history, or the concept of God is irrelevant today. (I take the controlling thought to be that there is little point recognizing or worshiping a Being, no matter how powerful or awe-inspiring, if His influence is not interjected in some way into human affairs.)

I note in passing that profession of atheism does not necessarily carry with it a statement about after-life or about a larger non- physical realm; neither does belief in a spirit realm or individual continuity necessarily carry with it a statement about deity, nor does individual continuity necessarily require a spirit realm.

Continuity of the Individual

One idea of immortality is that the atoms of which our molecules and thence our cells, muscles, etc., are constituted are neither created nor destroyed and are therefore immortal. And indeed these atoms go on endlessly combining and recombining in perpetual and eternal activity. But such a view, if it excludes other aspects of immortality, must necessarily deny that there is a non-physical aspect of the individual that survives death.

We postulate a non-physical component -- call it soul or ego or thetan or self or whatever name you wish -- that by some mechanism escapes from or abandons the body upon death to pursue a separate existence in its own right. Now we can explore that ego's innate capabilities, its origin and ultimate extinction, the boundaries limiting its activities, even descriptions of the immortal component itself.

A widely taught idea is that the newly-created soul traverses once through life to an identity-preserving non-physical eternal reward, either tranquil or tempestuous; there is no chance to undo mistakes once made. Some interpose an intermediate station in which a soul not yet worthy of tranquility may remain to expiate the sins committed in the physical realm and then ascend to tranquility. Evidently there must be a realm beyond the physical and there must be some sort of organization, which imposes a political structure and therefore a Most-High Being. A newly- created soul is obviously not a reincarnated soul.

Some teach bodily resurrection in the hereafter so that the spirit is once again clothed with a body; this is part of my own heritage. As a youngster it troubled me that there may be conflict -- heaven forbid -- created by remarriage of those separated by death or divorce -- How would they be paired? And what apparent age would I have so both grandparents, who knew me as an infant, and grandchildren, who knew me as an oldster, would have equal claim to recognition? Infirmities are banished; peace will reign; love will rule, forever and ever, amen.

And some teach that a chosen few -- some 100,000 -- of the worthy will be physically resurrected at some point in the future to inhabit a physically reconstituted Earth. This teaching does not necessarily support a spirit realm and I am unaware that they speak of the residence of the soul during this interim. Evidently the reconstituted Earth must reflect a specific degree of scientific exploitation, so there is a question of the period in history that will be reconstituted. Moreover, an outside agency must choose the worthy since no one would willingly exclude himself, hence deity is necessarily a part of this teaching.

Again, there is only one passage through life, but a soul on the Other Side can create other souls and imbue them with his memories and then through continued contact with his progeny continue to experience the physical realm; he may create as many as he wishes, many living concurrently and often in psychic contact with each other.

Fundamental to most teachings of reincarnation (rebirth of the soul in another body) are Karma and the persistence of memory. Our sub-conscious memory banks carry full recollection of all experiences in each and every life, even though they have passed from physical-life recollection. Hypnotism and other second- party techniques have been used to encourage recollections of things beyond a subject's conscious ability to recall; similarly, through past lives regression, a person may tap recollections of one or another of his past lives or may tap attendant reflections from the spirit realm such as Karmic lessons, out-of-body experiences or contacts with beings in the spirit realm. Upon joining a newly created life a benign amnesia blanks conscious recollections of past lives even though they are retained by the sub-conscious. Since the carrier of these recollections vacates the body upon death without an attendant loss in body weight, it must be without mass. (Since memory is ordinarily thought to be a physical thing tied up with nerves and nerve connections in the brain, persistence of memory requires we postulate some other mechanism for memory by the spirit.)

Karma is the enforcer of absolute justice. If in a prior life others have been seriously harmed by our actions and retribution not exacted in that life then there is stored negative Karma, which must be atoned; acts in this life may store Karma against future physical lives. (Though I have never heard it suggested, we must surely store positive Karma as readily as negative.) Karma should not be confused with predestination, where free will is compromised by the agency outlining the predestined course; Karma is more the selection of circumstances conducive to acts or events to balance the scale of justice or to provide needed lessons, and the free will of the individual is not affected in any way. After all, in the larger sense, if the scales of justice are still unbalanced at the end of one life there are further opportunities so that justice ultimately cannot be denied.

How or by whom is Karma assessed? Some say that the individual in the spirit realm is possessed of all knowledge and wisdom and will determine for himself what is necessary to effect absolute justice or to learn mandatory lessons so as eventually to escape the wheel of rebirth. (Freedom to determine one's own Karma -- no political structure, we are all equals -- surely leaves a mechanism for self-serving that could greatly hinder absolute justice. Moreover, the list of lessons must be somehow established, as must be an end point where justice will have been achieved.) But with a political structure in the spirit realm it is reasonable to expect that Karma would be reviewed by responsible authority so as to ensure proper objectives for the physical-life-to-come. And with Karma thus established, a suitable birth setting may be sought to best effect these objectives.

At what point does the soul-to-be-reborn enter the body of the newly-created life? It must be after formation of the zygote and before the new-born begins to assert a personality. Does the soul enter when or shortly after the Karmic vehicle is selected?

In a scheme requiring neither deity nor spirit realm, the soul of the dead passes immediately to a new born so there is continuity in the spark of life; disparities in numbers of deaths and births is accommodated in part by exchanges between castes or between humans and other species. I am unsure how Karma is assessed since there is neither time allotted for evaluation nor Evaluating Committee. Further, one must ascend to the highest caste to become eligible for escape from the wheel of rebirth to nirvana (release into nothingness or absorption into the universal spirit, which carries with it loss of individual identity).

Most teachings of reincarnation I have encountered speak not of the origin of the soul. Reincarnation embraces both pre-existence and post-existence with description of neither origin nor destination (other than nirvana). Such was likely the teaching of the early Christians, since I have been told (unable to confirm) that the Second Synod of Constantinople in A.D. 553 purged the holy writ of the doctrine, leaving resurrection as the fate of the soul. (Barring physical resurrection, reincarnation differs by allowing -- not requiring but allowing -- multiple traverses through life.)

Context For Individual Continuity: The Spirit Realm

It troubles me not that there may be dimensions or forms of energy that have escaped detection and measurement by science. At the very least we admit that there is much to be learned of our world and universe. So let us postulate a spirit realm, a non-physical realm of which the physical is merely a portion, the residence of spirits after this life or between lives.

Some say there is no time in the spirit realm, that time is a creation of the physical realm. (Without time the question of continuity becomes moot.) While this is consonant with the idea of past and future being aspects of now, I have difficulty dealing with it. Our concept of time is related to motion, to velocity, but I contend that atomic processes in the sun and other stars proceed with the expenditure of raw materials to their ultimate depletion; surely time passes there too so the passage of time is not dependent on motion or velocity even though our perception of the passage of time is so dependent. Possibly through another dimension residents of the spirit realm can make a near-simultaneous appearance in distant places, but it seems to me that contact between the spirit and physical realms requires distance and time be experienced by both.

Little is known of the spirit realm since no pilgrims have returned. Some psychics claim contact with residents from the Other Side; through hypnotism or through simple relaxation and suggestion, many of us have experienced past lives regression, and there is a growing body of literature outlining such experiences. Persons approaching the end of life, especially in accidents or surgery, have survived to describe entry or near-entry through a portal into a region of serenity. But hard evidence we have not, not even a lexicon of the language of Atlantis by former residents who have regressed, revisited Atlantis, re-experienced their roles there, and reported conversations in the local language.

Does a soul entering the spirit realm incur conditions according to his beliefs in his physical life? That is, if he believed in Hell would he experience a penance of withdrawal into a self- imposed punishment for an extended period before awakening to other attributes of the realm and abandoning his imprisonment.

One would speculate that a spirit realm has several levels or dimensions and that the residents there may ascend or descend between levels. Should all spirits be equal there may be no spirit in charge; but the moment we postulate a political structure of any sort we postulate a spirit in charge, and indeed in immediate reincarnation or self-determination of Karma a political structure seems necessary for control, to ensure absolute justice.

While they use different terminology, Christians teach a political structure of the spirit realm. Souls of their dead exist in "Heaven," which in common with Earth is ruled by God and which is postulated to house other souls, angels, such outstanding personalities as Jesus, St. Peter, Elijah, and possibly subordinate gods. (Jesus clearly taught that God is a spirit.) In fact some mystics teach that WE are the subordinate gods or that we are gods who have forgotten our origin. With the single passage through life I, as Mark Twain, wonder what residents will do there after exhaustion of possibilities for communion with earlier arrivals; perhaps nirvana has its place here also.

While I am not familiar with details of ancestor worship I see no need to invoke either deity or reincarnation; in fact, reincarnation might pose problems for the living of the same genealogy.

Another teaching: Each male who proves worthy in this life will be given a planet for him and his wife(s) to populate, and thereafter he will be local head man. By extension, each of his children in this life enjoys the same promise, and I presume each of his children on their own planets will also be accorded the same. Before Palomar began revealing the extent of our universe I had doubted that there would be enough planets to go around, but with some 200 billion stars in our galaxy alone, the Milky Way being only one among some 2 billion galaxies, and possibly the entirety of astronomical observations being only a local agglomeration, there must surely be enough. While I have no idea what percentage of the human race may qualify, I see no real estate problems.

Nirvana is a pleasant concept. I may so improve as to qualify for freedom from the wheel of rebirth, and nirvana should afford a means of escape. And the Christian, after he has long since exhausted desire for communion with arrivals new or old may prefer total annihilation. Perhaps by extension a soul could split off from the spirit body, leave nirvana, and exist for additional periods in either the spirit or the physical realm.

Head of the Spirit Realm: Deity

I had a friend, a former minister of a fundamentalist Christian church, who described God in very primitive, child-like terms, not taking into account life's tragedies, miseries, unhappiness, . . . Then he declared he could not accept such a god and proceeded to try to convince himself there was no god.

When Sputnik first orbited our globe, Kruschev, leader of Russia and self-appointed spokesman for atheism, reported that the cosmonauts did not see God. Many people were shaken since the physical location of God's abode was thought to be "in the heavens." With astronomers poking into more places and the recognition that man may in some future time invade any one of these places, it becomes increasingly difficult to postulate a physical location that will forever remain inviolate by physical man. Where indeed must God be physically located if He is to be close enough to be knowledgable of our physical circumstances?

In the beginning there was Cause, and Cause proposed to have a Game so there could be Effect. So Cause postulated his Game into motion and the universe came into being. But other spirit beings were needed to flesh out the Game, and . . . Whether Cause was originally an aggregate of spirit beings which fragmented into a host of individuals, or whether spirit beings were later created as part of the Game, the present situation is that all of the spirit beings are wholly equal to each other and taken together control the Game. So the deity is the sum total of spirit beings taken together.

Before the turn of the century, in a landmark Physics experiment, it was concluded that, since the postulated universal ether could not be detected and its effect could not be measured, we may as well assume it is not there. That conclusion enabled scientists to direct their energies elsewhere; the existence or non-existence of the ether, while it may yet prove the most elemental fact of nature, ceased for them to be a matter of concern. Still, some mystics explain that something akin to the universal ether, pervading everything everywhere, provides the connecting link that makes the universe a single entity. I see no essential quarrel between the two points of view; in his pragmatism the scientist (correctly) insists he cannot detect an influence in his results, while the mystic (also correctly) insists we cannot deny the ether simply because we cannot measure it.

Some who accept that God made it all describe Him as amorphous, non-focused, spread more or less uniformly throughout the universe like the ether that physicists of the past sought to confirm. Thus God is equally accessible to all since we are immersed in and surrounded by His spirit. And being non-focused in time and space -- contrasted to my existence at particular coordinates at a particular moment in time -- His Being is not brought to bear on any particular happening at any particular time or place.

Other people embrace the idea of a universal, all-knowing, all- powerful God with His heavenly host; and some ascribe to Him purpose, will, a master personality capable of being pleased or displeased, the epitome of love, a personal and personable God with whom they can communicate and enjoy communion. How He can devote individual attention to so many at once is left as one of His secrets. (A political structure of the spirit realm seems necessary in that lesser beings are available for communication and assistance, always accessible to and carrying out the dictates of the Most High.

Every particle (sand, rust, cell) is endowed with a spirit and each aggregate of particles is endowed not only with the spirit of each particle but with an over-all spirit as well; so there are multiple spirits; there is an over-all spirit of creation itself. This teaching, prevalent among some American Indian tribes, seems akin to an amorphous universal spirit.

Another teaching adds to a universal spirit a second spirit which embraces all living things and is withdrawn upon death so that the presence of this spirit correlates to possession of the life spark.

Supposing the Big Bang theory is correct, what were the initial conditions that produced the Big Bang? It would certainly be a violation of our concepts of cause and effect to say that suddenly out of nothing, with no prior preparation and no physical existence to provide initial conditions, came this cataclysmic explosion. If the current cycle is 15 billion years old and only one of a sequence of oscillations, it may take several thousand years for astronomers to observe a slowing of galactic velocities as gravity asserts itself to bring the universe together for another perhaps Bigger Bang. Always, we have the question of ultimate origin. (Astronomers claim to have already observed galactic motions with accuracy sufficient to assert that galaxies are moving apart with increasing velocities. It may be difficult to place credence in such observations over a comparatively brief interval of time.)

Conclusion

I doubt that the history of man's belief has had a significant effect on reality. What it was a dozen millennia ago it likely is today and will be a dozen millennia hence. I personally tend to the "all or nothing" view: Either there is nothing beyond our temporal existence here and now, or there is a full-blown all-pervasive spirit realm with a head and hierarchical structure, and our physical realm is a subordinate component. (Existence in the spirit realm is an extension of life in the physical realm and conversely life in the physical realm is an extension of existence in the spirit realm.) But none of us has seen evidence beyond the testimony of individuals who have been affected by experiences they felt of religious origin, so, lacking objective proofs, I must be content with "It pleases me to believe . . ."

So what are we to make of all this? Is it possible that my prophets are the more astute, that their revelations more correct, that others of you are, heaven forbid, in error? Or suffering delusions of special inside information? It may be, as some say, that what you believe is true for you: It is a frightening thought that my dark forebodings may create for me dark happenings. It may be that the entirety of religious experience has its origin within the recesses of the mind, that all is indeed illusion. Or it may be that the truth -- reality -- is something as yet unsuspected.

I return to the concept of the House of Man. There is a reality -- only one -- though viewed in various ways. We all seek the same truths and ought, with good will, to seek them in harmony.


Have I left something out or distorted a truth? This essay is subject to revision but I need the thoughts of other reflective individuals as a basis. Should you care to comment via e-mail, have your comments ready and, in order to bypass my spam filter, use as Subject -- I read your post about Versions of Reality -- exactly as you see it here. Click here for e-mail form..


Added 2-9-03
To that eternal question, Did a deity design all, including the physical characteristics of the chemical elements and the physical laws that govern their actions and interactions? Or are these a consequence that naturally arose from the manner in which nothingness split and the coalescing of elementary particles and energies, resulting in the physical particles, and their proclivity to return to that nothingness?

I have not been content with the notion that the deity always existed since that quarrels with the notion that we somehow reflect characteristics of that deity. That we could be physical counterparts, as mirror images, implies many things that do seem out of keeping with the enormity of creation. Such as physical abode. Such as nervous system housed within a body of flesh and bone. That we should resemble the deity physically is both absurd and the height of arrogance on our part. But that we should resemble the deity in possession of certain traits such as intelligence, ability to love and appreciate, distaste for sordidness and depravity, curiosity -- these ideas seem entirely within the realm of reason.

Added 7-13-09
It seems an extreme absurdity to suppose that the products of coalescence in the Spirit Realm have been static, that evolution there ceased upon reaching the level of organization that produced deity. How much more realistic is it that there has been an effort to bring the pleasures of physical sensation to those inhabitants. Evolution has been a combined effort in a laboratory produced by the very erratic nature of nothingness. I would not think for a moment that this planet is the only locus in this vast universe for the experimental efforts to bring delight and enjoyment and happiness to the whole.


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