Monday, October 06, 2014

In Ourselves We Trust

It seems to be plausible to think that since the beginning of our conscious thought bearing days we looked towards the inexplicable with awe and bonded it with the desire to give a comforting explanation to the sources of our fears. For reasons that concern the survival of our groups, we gathered together and invented rituals so that we could feel more at ease with our mortal destiny. Over time, as we started using more and more extensions of our will (namely tools), our groups became increasingly larger and some kind of centralization of authority on a bigger scale was inevitable to establish some kind of collaborative order. We invented countless rules in the form of religion to govern the behavior of masses, and with a good reason. Little did we understand that behind the semantic messages of sacred teachings there are certain meta-meanings, which give form to thought and behavior, and are much more significant from the point of socio-cultural evolution. To take an example: if a religious principle declares that people are to legally bond and not practice adultery, and a person still performs such a natural act, They might feel self-condemnation, which can further lead to psychological torment between the legally bonded and possible disintegration of Their association.

If we consider evolution as not merely a biological process, we can certainly appreciate the thought of adaptation of culture. It is a necessary and inevitable course of progress. There is a neat overview of known human history as a single human life in the form of the "second insight" found in the book The Celestine Prophecy (although the theory is a bit flawed due to being inconsiderate to non-western influences). In the fashion of its style, if we look at our history as an evolution of a collective and not as segregated groups and individuals, as species we have just left our infancy and don't quite know what to do with all the natural changes we are experiencing.

If we examine the mentioned meta-meanings of schools of thought throughout religions (by which I mean what these ethical codexes actually propose to teach humanity), we can usually see how destructive these ideas are. With minor exceptions, the interpreted meanings of vaguely conceptualized "sacred texts" conditioned humanity to feel heavy cognitive dissonance when acting naturally. This is not always bad, as what religion provides us with is a collective shaping of moral sense, to which its followers can relate to. Sadly, existing religions are not based on actual empirical data, furthermore they claim their morality to belong only to their own followers. What this essentially means is that the religious morality (in most cases) is not free. To be able to attain these ethics, an individual must give up on certain liberties. This is one of the greatest meta-meanings of all religions: sectarianism. The underlying belief that we have to separate between different groups of people and that there must be a competition in the righteousness of morality.

The idea of having the right to be "more" moral than other people has to be among the most ludicrous of principles. One of the greatest and unsolved debates in philosophy is whether there is a universal morality or are ethics reserved solely for thinking life. There are many valuable arguments for different scenarios, but one truth remains unshaken: we all have our subjective and often relative sense of morality, and, at least for now, we cannot comprehend any potential objective ethical values.

The categorizing minds we have work on the very basic principle of comparison between ideas, objects and experience. For example Buddhism has a whole theory based on it. From the moment we realize that we require comparison and categorizing to make sense of the world, we can understand that there is no real division outside of our heads.

Star Wars versus Star Trek
There are two kinds of people...

What religion does is that it takes subjective perception and uses it to convey control. Usually, the magnitude of this accomplishment is confused with religion being means for certain people to gain rule over others (although he two have often been connected throughout history, unfortunately). The main idea was to set order between the many individuals that compose the human collective(s). Without such moral compasses, we would stray into rapid mutual destruction. The few of the religions that still mobilize masses have also become increasingly destructive in the era of global connection since they have their agenda based in uncritical acceptance and the schizoid idea of a constant omniscient judge. The meta-meanings of most of these religions are to accept certain behavioral patterns without analyzing them under the anticipation of punishment if done otherwise. Having such easily comparable axioms make people share them and from groups based upon them. Richard Dawkins bravely labeled these decadent memes as viruses of the mind.

The point is that we still need this control to live and work together successfully. Morals are arguably an extension of group cooperation. The more uniformed our collective moral compass is, the easier we get along. This is a dangerous idea, which can easily lead to fascistic, totalitarian and intolerant behavior towards other and/or subdued groups, which often might have different morals (however these dangers can be avoided by inventing the appropriate messages which shape common behavior). As morals are an evolution of our primal instincts, our society is still shaped in hierarchical order and we regard people on favors and wrongdoings (with the latter being based in some kind of suffering, and this pain sometimes originates from a discrepancy between behavior and semi-fabricated social norms). If we consider known history, the hierarchical structure is an unstable form of power and distribution of responsibility. Some people consider anarchy (an often misinterpreted term) or heterarchy (a model of rule where control shifts depending on the project and competency of people involved) to be healthier alternatives. Both require less regulation, which raises the hair on any statist's head who thinks people are stupid (which way of reasoning seems to be a common human trait).

The latter is political structure. It is not an intrinsic understanding of the values of being altruistic and cooperative. It has and should have nothing to do with morality, only with the well-being of citizens. Secular states became a reality for a reason. Yet, in the last decades it has become evident how our relativistic view on life that is based on free choice has made serious problems which threaten our very existence. We have lost some of our main moral teachings. Or was it that we never actually adopted them? Major religions have the ethic of reciprocity infused with the fundamentals of their root teachings. This is no chance, as having such a deep conviction is the ultimate regulator of conflicts. If statistics are correct, then taking normal distribution into consideration, there will always be marginal examples of people who can simply be called misfits; yet if the population of Earth could accept the simple logic of the ethic of reciprocity as our essential own, I bet the existence of all finance that most of our social problems would be gone. The most common contra-argument to the proposal of the Golden Rule (and its preventive sibling the Silver Rule) is that some people would prefer to be harmed. The examples for this kind of behavior are rare and considered to be disorders. To make it a more secure core value, the ethic of reciprocity should be viewed from the scope of self-exploration and altruistic cooperation, since peaceful coexisting in creative abundance is the highest of values for social beings such as we are.

wizard of id remember golden rule

There are, of course many mindsets against religion altogether, with perhaps the most intriguing being the egoistic future of Max Stirner. Even if we all accepted any kind of future as a desirable one, how to get there? The most obvious of paths, at least for me, is education, but it's definitely not the only one. A new kind of collective ethic thought, some kind of a new and mutually built religion could also help with the transitional period from the multiformity of crises to a new Renaissance. Instead of dogmatism, we could fuse a mindful philosophy of life that would draw from the pure sentiment of respect, responsibility, and knowledge. A concept of belief that is not imposed, but rather built fluidly without any mandatory frame of reference or expected result. Because, as Spinoza would put it, the supernatural is nothing more but the unexplained natural. What might help us thrive is a consensual value-system designed with the sole wish to soar towards the legends of tomorrow.

Yeah, go on, call me a utopist.

awake could be so beautiful transcendental art cameron gray

We were saying how very important it is to bring about in the human mind a radical revolution. The crisis − and there are always crises in the world, especially now − it seems to me, is a crisis in consciousness, a crisis that cannot any more accept the old norms, the old patterns, the ancient traditions, a particular way of life, whether it is the American way, the European way, or the Asiatic way. And considering what the world is now, with all the misery, conflict, destructive brutality, aggression, the tremendous advancement in technology, and so on, it seems to me, though man has cultivated the external world and has more or less mastered it, inwardly he is still as he was: a great deal of animal in him; he is still brutal, violent, aggressive, acquisitive, competitive, and he has built a society along these lines. The more one observes - and I think almost everyone sees it, unless he is totally blind, deaf and dumb - the more one is aware of the extraordinary contradictions of human beings, and of the great demands, intellectual as well as a demand at a different level; a demand which is not emotional, not built on enthusiasm, not sentimental, but factual. And to understand the factual, which is neither intellectual nor emotional, there must be a great deal of passion.
~ Jiddu Krishnamurti

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