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Wed Jan 6, 2016, 01:10 PM

 

The rabbit hole of belief

If you want to reason about faith, and offer a reasoned (and reason-responsive) defense of faith as an extra category of belief worthy of special consideration, I'm eager to play. I certainly grant the existence of the phenomenon of faith; what I want to see is a reasoned ground for taking faith seriously as a way of getting to the truth , and not, say, just as a way people comfort themselves and each other (a worthy function that I do take seriously). But you must not expect me to go along with your defence of faith as a path to truth if at any point you appeal to the very dispensation you are supposedly trying to justify. Before you appeal to faith when reason has you backed into a corner, think about whether you really want to abandon reason when reason is on your side. -- Daniel C. Dennett (Darwin's Dangerous Idea)

Organized religion is in fact one of the easiest beliefs to get rid of - it's so obviously WTF? However, the rest of them take more work.

I started down the rabbit hole, discarding my beliefs one by one, about a decade ago. I had a head start because I was born an atheist. But there was still more work to do than I realized...

First I stopped believing what governments, history books and authority figures of all kinds said about what happened, and why, and who the heroes and villains were.

Next to go were all those cultural and social beliefs about myself and others that I had learned since I was about 3 years old.

Next went the belief that my sensory perceptions and mental reasoning were telling me some semblance of "the truth".

Then out the door went the belief in opposing values - good/bad, right/wrong, better/worse etc.

About this time I discovered Pyrrhonian skepticism, and realized that ALL beliefs were unsupportable.

Then Advaita showed me that even my sense of self was a constructed illusion, and the belief that there is something called "me" a universe "out there" that is somehow independent from me vanished like a soap bubble. All that was left to believe in was an abstract universal Consciousness.

Now I've realized that even the existence of an abstract Consciousness is just another story the illusory self tells whoever will listen.

Whatever Reality actually is, is not knowable, let alone believable.

So, down here at the bottom of the rabbit hole of belief there is ... absolutely nothing.

And yet life goes on. Or so I believe...

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Arrow 10 replies Author Time Post
Reply The rabbit hole of belief (Original post)
GliderGuider Jan 2016 OP
Manifestor_of_Light Jan 2016 #1
GliderGuider Jan 2016 #2
Manifestor_of_Light Jan 2016 #3
GliderGuider Jan 2016 #4
CanSocDem Jan 2016 #5
GliderGuider Jan 2016 #6
CanSocDem Jan 2016 #7
GliderGuider Jan 2016 #8
CanSocDem Jan 2016 #9
GliderGuider Jan 2016 #10

Response to GliderGuider (Original post)

Wed Jan 6, 2016, 02:41 PM

1. Past duality. Reality as illusion.

This sounds like Buddhism.

I have also read about people who have taken psychedelics and said that with LSD they got to ego death.

In that "There is no 'I', everything is oneness and everything is connected."

Comments?

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Response to Manifestor_of_Light (Reply #1)

Wed Jan 6, 2016, 03:51 PM

2. Yes, it's a decidedly non-dualist position.

 

I first experienced this "falling away into connection" 40 years ago using LSD, but over the last decade I've arrived there without drugs.

Along the way I've explored a lot of non-dualism, including Buddhism, Taoism, Advaita (which is the purest form I found) and various flavors of monistic idealism. There is no "I", but it turns out that there is also nothing else real either. That makes the question of what "I" might be connected to, or what that "oneness" actually is, a wee bit problematic.

The process of deconstructing and seeing through one's entire belief system is similar or identical to what a lot of modern non-dualist teachers describe as the path towards enlightenment. I don't use that word, it makes people think funny things.

My original goal was to find out the deep truth about what was really going on in the world, and why. What I discovered was so existentially disturbing (as in, everything I believed turned out on closer examination to be a lie) that I changed my goal to that of somehow finding ongoing peace of mind no matter what the circumstances (i.e. to end my own suffering.)

The only way I could find the complete peace of mind I was looking for was through radical acceptance - acceptance that any belief I examined closely turned out to be erroneous, so by inference there is no reason to hold any belief. So I've worked on discarding them all, as my OP suggests.

So far, so good.

PS: When I began this whole process I was a very strict scientific materialist, a position I'd held for 55 years. This was one of the first belief systems I questioned when I began my search. I still operate by it when I have to, because the world appears to be a physical place.

I now think of my worldview as a superposition, in which dualistic materialism and monistic idealism each operate at different times under different conditions. This is much like quantum superposition which allows an electron to behave as a wave or a particle depending on the conditions.

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Response to GliderGuider (Original post)

Wed Jan 6, 2016, 09:11 PM

3. I believe this is the deepest post I have ever read on DU.

Quite interesting.

This sent me on a trip through various topics on Wikipedia. I read about how Advaita is much like Mahayana Buddhism, which I have been trying to understand for a while. I read about Wittgenstein and Gurdjieff and many other things.

You've gotten to the ultimate questions about reality a bit sooner than I have.

"the existence of an abstract Consciousness is just another story the illusory self tells whoever will listen."

Wow. I'm impressed.

Neil deGrasse Tyson says God is just an ever receding pocket of scientific ignorance. I wonder if reality can eventually be completely explained by science. Just as we are wet cells on two legs, controlled by electrical impulses and chemical reactions.

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Response to Manifestor_of_Light (Reply #3)

Wed Jan 6, 2016, 09:21 PM

4. Even if science can never truly explain reality

 

...it will keep on trying.

Thank you.

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Response to GliderGuider (Original post)

Thu Jan 7, 2016, 09:48 AM

5. This part I don't understand:

 



"Next went the belief that my sensory perceptions and mental reasoning were telling me some semblance of "the truth"."


What else is there?



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Response to CanSocDem (Reply #5)

Thu Jan 7, 2016, 10:32 AM

6. "What else is there?"

 

Last edited Thu Jan 7, 2016, 02:12 PM - Edit history (1)

Well, when you get right down to it, what may really be "out there" as the structure of the universe and even ourselves is a quantum foam. Such a foam can't be perceived directly, so if that's true, everything we perceive is an interpretation of some sort. In fact there is no way to objectively prove that there is anything out there at all, since all perception happens in the brain/mind. This leads to ideas like the Matrix hypothesis of movie fame.

I have no way to validate my perceptions as being accurate representations of reality, so my decision is not to believe that they do. Instead, I act in day-to-day life as if they do, since that works well enough to get me a cup of coffee and keep from being run over by buses.

Does that help?

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #6)

Fri Jan 8, 2016, 08:36 AM

7. Yes.

 


And though there are many points in your post to consider, if I am going to post a reply today I better start with the easy ones.

"I have no way to validate my perceptions as being accurate representations of reality, so my decision is not to believe that they do. Instead, I act in day-to-day life as if they do, since that works well enough..."

I agree. One doesn't really need a science background or even a high school education to slide easily through life. You make do with what you see and believe to be true. It "works well enough". Up until you perceive something unbelievable. What then....ignore it???

Or see where it and all other beliefs come from...


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Response to CanSocDem (Reply #7)

Fri Jan 8, 2016, 09:59 AM

8. "What's *really* going on here?"

 

The moment one asks the question "What's *really* going on here?" the trap door covering the rabbit hole swings open. It really doesn't matter what issue that first question is about. It could be about politics, economics, climate change, human behavior - anything, really.

We might think of our worldview as a knitted sweater we are wearing. The question is like an anomalous loose end of yarn poking out of the arm of the sweater. Its presence disturbs our peace of mind. Seeking the answer to the question is like pulling on that oddly misplaced thread. Once you begin pulling at it, it has the possibility of unraveling the whole thing. All one requires for the unraveling to proceed is an earnest desire to answer the successive questions that are revealed as each one is addressed in turn.

There is a decision to be made early on, once the unraveling has begun but has not gone too far yet. The decision is whether one can do without the sweater, if whole thing eventually unravels. To continue to the end poses the risk that one will end up standing naked in the world. Whether one decides to continue depends on how committed one is the idea of truth, how risk-averse one is, and how much suffering one is experiencing from the chafing of the sweater with its loose threads.

Each of us will have a different starting point (that initial loose thread) and the unraveling will proceed differently depending on our nature, our circumstances and our unfolding experience. Important determinants of progress seem to include how fearful we are, how open-minded we are, and how determined we are to get “true” answers. As the process unfolds we will go through different emotional states (apprehension, fear, anger, defensiveness, resignation, euphoria etc.)

It really helps to have others to talk to as one goes through the different phases. Having a group of fellow-travelers (a “sangha” in Buddhist terms) will help keep our courage up, and will present various unexpected avenues to extend the exploration. There is a risk to having too tight a sangha though. People are social animals, and group-think sets in easily. Because this journey is so idiosyncratically personal, it can easily be derailed by our innate herding instincts, as we begin to follow the path of the dominant group members instead of our own. So while a sangha is essential for most of us, I would suggest that it shouldn’t be too structured. Keep it loose.

Some people may stop early in the process, deciding for whatever reason that their worldview sweater is too important for them to let go of. Often a teacher or a sangha can provide the energy they need to get past that blockage and continue. Usually there seem to be several such sticking points in the journey.

In my case the loose threads were 9/11 and Climate Change. My question for the first one was “Who is behind the curtain?” and for the second was “Why aren’t we acting to save ourselves?” 15 years later, I have finally achieved peace of mind, but it has cost me all of my beliefs – including the belief that I had discovered answers to my original questions.

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #8)

Fri Jan 8, 2016, 11:06 AM

9. "Standing naked in the world"....

 



...is actually a good thing, understanding that many disagree. And if this is where you are (with nothing but your 'peace of mind), my hat is off to you.

It is a liberating experience. It is liberating to know that you can choose your own beliefs even if it means standing in the cold. Most people would prefer the warmth and protection of a crowd but like to look at those crazy loners 'howling at the moon'....


"...it has cost me all of my beliefs – including the belief that I had discovered answers to my original questions."

So......you believe in nothing????



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Response to CanSocDem (Reply #9)

Fri Jan 8, 2016, 01:18 PM

10. Yes, that's pretty much where I am.

 

You ask if I believe in nothing. It's a very good question.

My ultimate aim is to "believe nothing", which is a bit different than "believing in nothing." IMO the former is a statement about my belief system, while the latter is a statement about my value system. Beliefs and values are normally very tightly coupled - for most people all values are based on some underlying belief(s).

I definitely still keep values, because they seem to be necessary for the proper functioning of the body-mind in a dualistic world where there are apparently other people. On the other hand, I believe that all beliefs are unjustifiable, so I try to recognize as many of my own beliefs as possible, discard the ones I can, and hold the others as lightly as possible.

I attempt to decouple my value system as much as possible from an underlying belief system. Whenever I can do that, I feel an expanded possibility for free choice in the thoughts and behavior that express my values. To do this I need to bring my beliefs up from the unconscious basement where we all normally house them, and into the sunlight of consciousness. I apply a lot of introspective horsepower to that task - every action, thought or feeling usually has a belief or several that drive it. Each of them are fair game to be recognized and relinquished.

So for example while I 'believe in' the value of justice I don't believe that "the moral arc of the universe bends towards justice" to use MLK's phrase, or that there can be a general expectation of fairness in human relations. However, I behave 'as if' I believe those things, at least sometimes under some circumstances.

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