Posts Tagged ‘Kepler’

From the Editor’s Perch

October 1, 2012

Does Christianity Help Us to Think Better?

(It’s what the evidence may say.)

 

It seemed to be a tradition of the Great Poets such as Blake and Yeats to fashion a personal cosmos of irrational actors and energies to describe underfuries of the real world; that is, the cosmological subtext.  And Poets various as Donne, Dickinson, Milton, Hopkins, and Elliot have used the testimony of religion to inspire and vivify their writing. And whereas we all expect of Poets a little irrationality, it’s little noted that the Great Sir Isaac Newton was a practicing Alchemist nearly all his life.  Or that Kepler, Voltaire, Paine, Washington, Franklin, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Edison, Gandhi and Duchamp held beliefs quite at odds with the modernist society they helped to create.

Einstein is famously quoted to have said, “God does not play dice with the Universe.”  All these personages held a belief in the irrational which is scorned in our scientific and atheistically oriented age.  But I wonder if such belief does not help us to realize on a grander scale and to orient our thinking towards what might be most successful?

Neurologists have found something contrary to what is nominally believed, which is that rational thought gives us our best decisions.  In fact, on the contrary, when the affective portion of our brains is severed from our rational thinking processes, the brain can reach no conclusions at all.  The person’s thinking is greatly impaired.  Apparently we need our emotions to orient and to direct us.  So, it would seem to follow, that some experience navigating irrational thoughts would be of benefit to the mind in its entirety.  So that rather than being just a useful tool to balance the checkbook, the mind can achieve its grander purpose, which is genius.

A lot of modern thinkers are repelled by the chaos of irrational thought and by the infinitely ambiguous quality of myth, as if it were contemptible to contemplate whatever is fanciful with a process less than ‘scientific’ and more than ambiguous.  But if we want our thinking to take us somewhere, doesn’t it make more sense to anchor our ‘vessel’ to a current, no matter how deceptive and inexplicable, than a fixed buoy?  How can we to travel to somewhere new, if we insist so upon knowing exactly where we are at each instant?

A Religion’s great benefit (aside from possibly being True J) is allowing the Believer to know where they are, even when their rational mind cannot identify any landmarks.  Religion lowers the anxiety threshold.  A strong faith helps us to endure when we find ourselves in strange terrain.  A great Religion is like a great river explorers follow, because they figure correctly that the river best knows the landscape.

It’s often said that all religions are the same, and so should be equally respected.  This is most often said, in my experience, by people who have very little respect for religion at all.  In truth, there are great differences between various religions; and some are better than others.  And how do we know which is which?  It is the age-old problem of locating the false prophets.  “By their fruits ye shall know them.”  What could be more practical – or even ‘scientifically minded’ for that matter – that to measure things by their results?

By this gage, Islam right now is looking like a few desiccated, blackened figs which smell of cordite.  Buddhism is still hunkered around its rice bowl in many poorer areas of the world, while pretending its mind is elsewhere.  And Christianity is looking for all intents and purposes to be in the lead.

Of course all of history is not yet written.  But if you want to use your mind to its best advantage, to gain the best life possible, it currently looks like Christianity is the best river from which to chart the landscape.  Why?

Don’t know for sure.  But it’s what the evidence may say.

Photo by Carl Nelson

Addendum:  After mulling the responses, I’m thinking…  Hey, conflict is fun.  But mostly, this tiny essay’s urge is just to toss this thought (which had occurred to me) out there:  That all of experience and happening is like rain falling on the landscape of our brains.  And the channels these experiences exploit and the rivers of thought they create say something about how the brain has found best to handle this overwhelming onslaught of experiential data which rains down upon it every day and night since time immemorial.  And the great religions might be thought of as the great rivers which move and channel this experience through our brains towards some productive end.  And if these religions mark the best way to drain these watersheds of experience; perhaps they also give us an insight into how best to follow a current of thought to its most successful conclusion… any thought.


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