A Secular Religion

Posted on November 28, 2007


Overheard.  “There is such a thing as religious discovery.  In one or another form religious experience discovers something.  Its logic is therefore about that which exists and that needs to be understood and to be made secular if we are to make headway with things.  The limits of scientific knowledge need to be grasped as pragmatically real.”  I am not sure whether I would agree, but these words contain a grain of what’s needed if sense is to be made of the experience of being alive.  There is an irreducible strangeness to it.  Life is – if you like – perfectly ordinary but at the same time ‘life’ – being – is not a scientifically describable phenomenon.  But there is no alternative – for example.  It is not as if we can step outside it and take a look back at ourselves.  That can never be anything more than metaphorical – feebly, self-reflectingly, vainly, stupidly, metaphorical.  The possession of awareness can only exist as a living ongoing indefinite process, a ‘path’.  There can only be sense that is made, not sense that ought to be made, or that might be made, if there is no such thing as an other than living awareness.  Life’s condition is essentially mythic.  Even now in the modern world this is how we live; though we may not say so, because in every circumstance we cannot but live according to the mythos that this logic produces: even if we refuse its implications it still remains.  I use these words mythic and logic because I want to emphasise the inevitability of this point.  I don’t mean for example that our understanding of things in this form derives from some sort of subjective and so marginal perceptual state (so that an objective rendering of the world can be put forward in contrast: there is no contrast).  I intend to show that there is a sense in which the concept of life has to be mythical, substantively and irreducibly thus: an imagined state if it is to be understood at all.  The apparent alternative, ”I am going to talk just about fact” does not exist where life is not a fact but a kind of judgement; something understood in an indefinite way or in the context of the infinite.   An analogy is perhaps to be found in the following idea.  “The fish is in the sea.  The fish is alive because the sea is alive.”  The fish is not alive in a dead thing, it is alive in a living thing.  The living thing, the fish, exists in a living world. The sea is living and it has to be such.  Similarly with the nature of human life – by analogy.  If we are living beings it is because we are in a living world. We are not alive but surrounded by what is dead.  Or again, living beings because made up of non-living matter.  We are living beings because made up of living matter.  As in a religious picture.  The universe is created by a living thing.  (According to the religion.)  That is, because the universe is surrounded by (is inside) the living thing that creates it even while also the universe thus created stands outside it.  The religious concept creates an image of life.  Its opposite, death, is rendered in terms that promote life.  So again, the universe is living, just as the sea is that the fishes live in: it promotes life: the dead too live on in it even if that is elsewhere – above it or below it for example.  However, modern life produces the golem, the robot, or the machine or the android – things which seem intermediate, both living and dead simultaneously.  The ‘morbidity’ is inherent.  As in Philip K Dick the fear is created, “I am not really alive!  Really, I am dead – dead matter because no different from a robot: just a configured stuff.”  But so, there can be no reductive state where the question simply goes away or becomes irrelevant.  In one form or another we have to have a picture, we must have an answer.  So, a logic.

Posted in: Metaphysics