Sunday, November 27, 2005

Religion, Spirituality and Fate


When I read through this series of what I have written and apply the same lens of rationality which I have ruthlessly applied over anything and everything, I cannot help noticing certain big loopholes in my loud thinking of what religion, spirituality and fate. Let me start with the title of the first series which I feel must be “What could be the purpose of Religion?” rather than “What is the purpose of religion?”. There is a sea of difference between the two. Over the period of time, one thing that I have realised from the discussions and the valued comments of various fellow bloggers, that there are views diametrically opposite to what I hold, held by more fanatical believers with equally logical arguments though debatable and convinced till their soul about the validity of the same. Hence in all humility I must accept that I haven’t been able to draw any solid conclusions in black and white.

I realise that the most conspicuous loophole which trounces all my arguments to smithereens, is that I have no explanation whatsoever for children born with handicap or terminal illness. Its hard for me to accept it as part of randomness. It rather pains me to apply any of my arguments of not succumbing to fate and fighting it out, on these special children. The blind, the deaf, the dumb, a child born with terminal disease or even those detected with painful diseases later in life caused by no fault of theirs!! What about mentally retarded people? I have no immediate answers. Also this series preposterously assumes that the theory of evolution is true, which like all scientific hypothesis could be proved wrong at any point in the timeline. Nevertheless, today, the theory of evolution has a standing backed by strong scientific evidences and as rationality demands, it has been interwoven in my beliefs as a possible and more probable approach for explaining life on earth.

The search for the soul would never end until we know the answers for the three basic questions that has remained a mystery for the majority of the human race until now. Who are we? Where did we come from? Where are we going? I must confess that I am nowhere near the answers I am seeking for.
Many spiritualists say that one must come out of the agitated state of mind before any attempt to find out these answers. Prepare the mind. Clear up the old thoughts to make way for new ones. Meditation is a easy way to start with. I am not contesting any of these approaches.

For me, these discussions itself are a part of that mental preparation. I could not find one good reason, why these answers must be beyond normal human comprehension or why does it warrant a higher mental state? Can’t a normal man know these answers? Should he always only believe them without knowing them? There must be a simpler way out. Sure, the best answers are always realised inside us. But aren’t these realizations, just analogies of what we already know and what we learn from what the collective mankind already knows, including opinions of others? Is there any law of conservation of knowledge? Can we create knowledge? Can knowledge be destroyed? Is it just change from one form to another and one analogy leading to another, leading to extrapolations, rephrasements and so on? Sounds weird, but it was just a passing thought and I am wondering.

This series is not an attempt to draw any definite conclusion but only do a loud thinking and conduct a thorough inquiry into my values that I have so fondly holding and defending. Though I have given an impression that I am little on the atheist side, I must clarify that I am not an atheist. I am just being inquisitive and ruthlessly at that. But from whatever little conclusions I am being forced to draw from this discussion is that when so much of it is so very inconclusive, then why let it affect my mind? Why must I handover the responsibility of living my life, of taking decisions in my life to a third unknown entity called fate, which may or may not exist?

Finally, I thank each and everyone of you who have taken active participation in this series with valued comments and those of you who taken pains to read through this series. It was a great learning experience for me from all the discussions through the reader’s comments. Also this happens to be my first concerted literary effort. The immediate goal of this search for me is to become a better human being, to shun my hypocrisies however bitter the process may be. The destination isn’t important to me as of now. But the journey is. The end is to become more humane. Means may be dynamic. Nothing more, nothing less. As a theist or as an Athiest.


Anonymous said...

Karthik! I am sorry I haven't managed to write back to you. I will ... hopefully soon.
I like this piece... this reflects that you are TRULY openminded.

Will write back soon, SK!
bye for now.
anbudan Lakshminarasimhan.

PS: I don't have a blog... no time to do that... atleast now!

The Soul Doctor said...

@ LN

Great to see you back. Take your time. Start a blog. It will be nice to read your posts.

anand said...

Let me start by saying that your final post has beautifully summed up your series, replete with all its questions and conundrums. I must say that I don’t completely agree with your characterization of “fanatical believers”. Not all belief is fanatical. In fact, it is possible to arrive both at a theistic or an atheistic interpretation through logic alone, which may give rise to beliefs of either denomination. Of course many of these logical arguments are “debatable” on both sides as u said. So your stated inability to reach a black and white conclusion is not necessarily a result of some inadequacy on your side, but as a property of the nature of the questions in themselves.

Let me put forth another logical question about this so called search for answers itself. Why has it not been possible for humanity inspite of all its progress in the sphere of rationalism and philosophy to settle these questions? Why still does the individual human being ask himself “why am I here”?
If the questions and their lack of established answers were simply a result of the dictates and properties of human society, then any rational individual , who can logically de-construct society's motivations, would have solved the problem long ago! So I am forced to conclude that these questions have a depth that is beyond social.

Or is it simply insufficient information? If this were the case, then as science progresses towards a “Theory of Everything”, these questions should be solved. But any such theory must by definition also describe this quest for answers by man. If man is to ultimately discover the workings of such a theory, then the theory in itself must contain an assertion that it will be sought after, discovered and fully understood! We are therefore faced with the following conundrum. Man must understand the “Theory of Everything”, to actually know that he has understood everything. Till he hits upon that “golden truth” he essentially doesn’t know whether he has any useful knowledge at all!! At this point a theist would say “Once you know perfect knowledge, you know it all. Till then you know nothing”. :-) The other possibility (equally probable) is that the “Theory of everything” asserts that it can never be completely understood. In which case these questions can never be completely resolved by anyone!

It has been shown by many philosophers both western and eastern through logical analysis that all these questions that you have asked (Who are we? Where did we come from? Where are we going? Etc) can be logically boiled down to one fundamental existential question (It could be formulated in many different ways such as Who am I? Why are we here? Who is GOD? Why is the universe how it is? etc...I won’t go into the logical arguments to prove this, for lack of space). If this fundamental question were answered all others would logically be answered as well. But this question is in itself so vast that it encompasses everything, even the very search for its own answer as I said before! So you are right, that if these answers which I shall call “knowledge” are possible, then they must already exist. Because they must encompass the workings of the universe in itself! So the knowledge must already be out there in some form, otherwise the universe wouldn’t work!!

Since the “mind” is part of the universe it must also be governed by this “golden theory” as well. But how can the mind which is a part of the system, know the working of the entire system? The only manner that this is possible is if the “mind” or the “soul” or whatever term you may use to describe this “knowing entity” (that we refer to as “I”, “Me”, “Myself”) encompasses the entire system! In which case, to know the nature of the mind/soul/self is to know the answer.

The other possibility is that the “mind/soul/self” does not encompass the entire system. So it will never have the ability to know the “theory of everything” In such a situation this “theory of everything” will govern certain events that the mind can never completely explain. This I humbly submit, is often misused and mis-stated as Fate.

Of course the very process of logic that I have applied is also part of the universe, so I cant really comment to its adequacy in addressing any of this!!