It is said that science is now so complex that individuals find it difficult to even comprehend information produced by members of their own specialties talk about understanding what other fields are producing. In the past it was possible for a college educated person to understand all that was accepted as knowledge. A PhD in 1800 AD probably gave the person a fair understanding of all that exists as knowledge, science and philosophy, in the Western world. Thus, Western philosophers used to know pretty much all there was to know in their world and on that basis wrote their philosophies (Descartes, Spinoza, Leibnitz, Pascal, Hobbes, Locke, Hume, Berkeley, Voltaire, Kant, Rousseau, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, James and Bergson probably had understanding of the body of knowledge available in the Western world when they wrote their philosophies.)
Today no one is able to understand all that physics is producing about the nature of matter, let alone chemistry, biology, geology and the other physical sciences. Thus, no one is said qualified to make sweeping statements about the nature of the world, as old time philosophers used to do. It is now believed that the age when philosophers pretended to know it all and gave people sweeping statements about the nature of phenomena is over.
This is no longer the age of philosophy; it is now the age of science. Thus, scientists are the only ones allowed to make any kind of meaningful statements about the nature of phenomena. Notice that they are the ones now telling us how the world began and would end in a cold death. Astrophysicists have replaced old time religionists, pastors, in talking about eschatology.
Daniel and Revelation (in the Christian Bible) based talks on how the world would end have been replaced by speculations by astrophysicists on how the world would end. Both groups talk future doom and gloom for mankind (the one sees hell for people, the other sees an eternal cold and empty universe).
Is the age of philosophy over; are physical scientists the only ones allowed to pontificate on the nature of being? It all depends on what we mean by philosophy, if we mean what currently passes as academic philosophy, well, we might as well say that philosophy is empty and dead. Philosophy as is taught at our universities is not helpful in our efforts to adapt to the complex world we live in; science and technology is what enables us to understand our world and adapt to it.
On the other hand, if by philosophy we mean an attempt to use knowledge to give people a way to live their lives so that they find life meaningful and purposeful and find their lives worthy philosophy still can perform that function for mankind.
Philosophy can counter the view that people are nothing produced by physical scientists, evolutionary biologists and psychologists and somehow give humanity a sense that their lives are worthwhile and meaningful.
We obviously must accept empirical science and its findings that our bodies are nothing special but that is may not be all there is to us. There seems something in us that is akin to what the ancients called spirit.
However, the effort to rehabilitate human worth and give people meaning does not have to be based on the god delusion, for that would be giving them imaginary worth, the type found in paranoid persons, and in racists. Real meaning and worth must be based on provable facts about the nature of existence.
Moreover, religions tend to traffic in fear; they encourage people to fear God; fear is not what we want. We want a philosophy based on facts, not fear and fantasy.
Our desire to convince ourselves that despite our bodies’ nothingness that there is something of worth in us cannot be based on fantasy, wishful thinking and magical thinking but on demonstrable facts.
Western philosophers have long since given up the fight to give mankind a philosophy. Wittgenstein appreciated the triumph of science and concluded that traditional philosophy has no other job to do other than focus on language, on how language conveys culture etc. He seemed to believe that philosophy is no longer capable of stating the fundamental truths of our existence.
Academic philosophers now talk about the philosophy of science; they write loads of stuff on the nature of the scientific inquiry but do not contribute to science itself; they do not tell us how phenomena work. Karl Popper may have been useful in telling us that only ideas that are not only verifiable but falsifiable are scientific ideas but he did not contribute a thing to the understanding phenomena itself!
Clearly, science is correct in teaching that our bodies are nothing. However, we must examine the nature of that nothingness. Nothingness means no particular thing; nothingness means everything. Thus, the universe came from nothing means that it came from everything. What is everything? The ancients called it spirit.
The nothingness aka everything that the universe came from must be magnificent and grand. Thus, we came from grandeur and will return to grandeur; we came from magnificence and will return to magnificence.
Our bodies are nothing; there is no doubt about that. Our bodies are nothingness maintained by defense. Defense of nothingness makes it seem like something. Without defense our bodies die and their nothingness becomes apparent. Without defense our bodies die and we do not see anything where we had seen our bodies.
Defenselessness leads to the death of the body and reawakening of the awareness of something else in us. Death of the body (body does not even exist so it does not die, we are engaged in metaphoric speaking here…death of the body means forgetting the existence of one’s body, which can be attained in meditation) leads to the awareness of a different self, a self that the mystics of times and climes have talked about.
Mystics talked about their unified spirit experience in the language of their people’s religions. Thus, for example, the nineteenth century Indian mystic, Ramakrishna, talked about his mystical state as his unifying with his mother god, Kali. But such terms as Kali put us off for we assume that Kali does not exist. However, if we see Kali or any other god as metaphor for something we do not understand, metaphor for the wholeness of being anthropomorphized, what Ramakrishna talked about begins to make sense.
We do not need to return to any particular religion or embrace its gibberish talk about this or that god; what we need to do is examine the mystical experience itself to see if it is provable or not. When Hindus say that they experience Samadhi, Buddhists say that they experience Nirvana, Zen say that they experience Satori and Christians mystics say that they experienced union with God are they deluded or did they really experience a state that we can verify to exist?
If it is true that multiverses exist why shouldn’t one of those universes be a non-material, joined universe where all are joined as one self and are eternal? Why couldn’t there be a universe from which others emanated, from which our universe came forth?
I know that physical scientist do not like to give the origin of the universe any kind of purpose and when they see purpose they attribute it to chance. Nevertheless, the universe has a purpose. The universe came into being because we wanted to separate from each other and from the whole (God).
Physicists want to believe that the universe has no purpose and came out of nowhere. Nevertheless, quantum mechanics tells us that the observer influences what he observes. The observer is very crucial for the existence of the universe. Let us consider the old philosophical saw. If a tree falls and there is nobody around to observe it fall did a tree fall? In other words does the universe exist if there are no people to observe its existence? If we do not exist does the universe exist?
Materialists say that the universe exists with or without human beings. They point out that human beings gradually evolved over the last seven million years whereas the earth has been around for at least four and half billion years. The universe has been around for fourteen billion years. We dig up dinosaur bones showing that they lived millions of years before human beings evolved. Those bones are evidence that the universe existed without us.
Yet it took us, paleontologists, to observe the presence of the dinosaur’s bones and astrophysicists to observe how long the universe has existed. It took the agency of human beings to observe that the universe exists. If we did not exist we would not have known that the universe existed.
Before I was born on earth I did not know that the universe existed and if when I die I go to oblivion and finitude and no longer exist I would not know that the universe exists. If I do not exist I do not know that the universe exists. Therefore, I must exist for the universe to exist for me.
This is not a matter of ego arrogance; it is stating the truth, the truth that it requires the existence of human beings for the existence of the universe to be observed.
Physicists are showing us about such strange concepts as non-locality. In non-locality it is shown that the particle here appears to know what all other particles in the universe are doing and responds to them; indeed, that the same article appears to be everywhere; that it is as if one particle replicated itself into the infinite particles that exist in the universe and knows what all of them are doing (why should this be strange and difficult to understand if in the beginning there was only one particle that became hot and exploded to form infinite photons, which then recombined into quarks, protons, neutrons, electrons and neutrinos).
Physics is showing us that the universe began with one thing and is one thing; one thing that appears to have divided itself into infinite things and remains one thing; one thing is simultaneously infinite things.
There appears to be a mind at work in the universe. That mind is one and simultaneously infinite in numbers. As one mind folks call it God’s mind; as seeming separated minds folks call it each of our minds.
According to Helen Schucman, parts of that one mind wished to separate from it and could not do so in reality. As it were, they went to sleep and in their sleep dream that they are separated from each other and from the whole mind (from God). In their dream of separation they constructed a world of space, time and matter. They house themselves in bodies made of matter and walk around in the world of space and time. Their new world offers them the opportunity to seem separated and special, to be big selves, to be the creators of themselves and the universe. But their world is not real; it is a dream world. The real world is the joined world of God and all his parts, God and his children.
Mystics are people who have found a way to transcend the world of separation (the world of space, time and matter) and experienced the world of union where all selves are unified as one self, a self that is eternal, permanent and changeless. Mystics having experience union tell us that we are unified while pretending to be separated.
There is nothing wrong with separation but it can be made peaceful and relatively happy, though not as peaceful and happy as the unified world of unified self. Mystics tell us to have fun trying to figure out the world of separated selves we constructed (they encourage scientists to do their scientific work and help us understand our world but while doing it to remember that all things are one hence love all things). They tell us that Love is our essence. They tell us that we always live in love, in unified state, while pretending to be separated into fragments.
Regaining the awareness of union, mystics tell us, gives us a sense of peace and joy, bliss, for it means regaining the awareness of our true self.
By all means engage in causal analysis, understand how the world came into being, devise technologies to make the most of this world but do not forget to love you and all people.
There seem something in people that has worth; there appears spirit in them that has total worth. Unfortunately, that spirit does not get involved in preventing harm to their bodies. As it were, that part of them that is not body does not care to protect their bodies when nature attacks and destroys them; it knows that they are not bodies and merely identified with bodies in their dreams of separation and knows that the death of their bodies is not their death; it knows that their real selves is eternal. The spirit part of them is only invested in them awakening from the dream that they are separated selves housed in bodies; it wants them to awaken to their spirit reality. It gladdens when they do what awakens them to spirit, such as when they do what gives them mystical experience (that experience shows them that their true selves are eternal, joined and unified and all knowing).