BELIEF - FACT AND FAITH
When people fantasize about a perfect life, they usually envision great personal wealth; which frees them from the necessity of going to work each day, and worrying about apportioning out their income in order to pay the bills. It allows them to acquire the things they desire; perhaps even staff to take care of the mundane cooking and cleaning. They dream of having all the things that money can buy. The parts of the fantasy add up to what they truly desire: freedom from the stress of competition; where they no longer have to struggle to get ahead in life, but simply enjoy it.
When people fantasize about a perfect existence, such as the type promised by religions, they envision a state of bliss. Existence free from all stress and competition; unhampered by the pressures of the material world. For some it is a natural setting without the trappings of modern civilization: there are no expensive automobiles, yachts, or fancy clothes in this dream. Whether it is the vision of substance held by the Western religions, or the release from the physical realm desired by other beliefs, the result is the same: an end to the struggle that is part of life.
The two fantasies have the same fundamental goal, but the differences are significant. The first dream is constrained by reason: however unlikely, it is seen as a logical possibility. The second dream is spiritual imagery, and does not require an empirical connection to reality. One is only what people can hope for, the other is beyond what they feel is realistic to desire. The important point is that when people imagine perfection that is unrestricted by the physical world, materialism and competitiveness disappear.
There are two aspects to the way we perceive the world. There is that which is connected to the physical: things and concepts we can see, and verify logically. There is the spiritual: concepts of the mind which are abstract, without tangible substance, and frequently difficult or impossible to establish empirically. The two perceptions are often categorized as being based on either fact, or belief. The physical world is defined rationally, with substantive data to prove something, or sufficient related evidence to reason toward a conclusion. A mental perception of the world might not have adequate proof to define something as fact, and is therefore belief or theory.
Mankind’s mental ability to reason abstractly is responsible for that which separates our species from the others on this planet. To move beyond the obvious requires a spiritual nature; and much of our technology is built upon this ability to believe something, without having any hard evidence to support it. Most of our advanced scientific knowledge began with concepts that were not provable at the time: the notion of the atom was theorized by the Greeks thousands of years ago; and even today, the theory of Quantum Physics is not supported by any physical evidence. Complex scientific ideas often begin as mental explanations for observable phenomenon. Rules are created to account for events, and if the rules consistently work over a sufficient period of time, we consider them to be true.
Our ability to learn of the remarkable properties of the physical world is dependent upon our mental powers; and the conclusions we reach are subject to our perceptions, and a finite amount of knowledge: therefore, even what we see as the truest of “facts”, may actually be false. Every old belief, that we now find amusing, was at one time the product of the greatest minds and most advanced scientific techniques in existence: the situation today is no different. For example: we believe there are subatomic particles, and we build machines to verify that this is so. Each machine that does not give us the result we desire is discarded, because it obviously doesn’t work; and we continue to change them until we make one that proves our theory. If any subsequent machines disagree with our belief, we consider them to be flawed, because we only have faith in the one that provides us with the “correct” answer: yet logically, the only thing that makes this particular machine “right”, and all of the others “wrong”, is the fact that it validates our belief. This is an oversimplification of the concept, but the fact remains that much of our knowledge is based upon circular arguments: “our theory correctly explains the phenomenon, and the phenomenon occurs because our theory is correct”. As history has demonstrated, mankind will blindly cling to a belief until the evidence against it becomes overwhelming.
Fundamentally, there is only one principle that is unquestionable: you exist as a consciousness at this moment, because you are aware of your existence at this moment: all else, including a memory of a past prior to this instant, could be an illusion created by your awareness. Obviously, you cannot go through life accepting that this is the only truth, and nothing else is as it seems: our faith in the existence of the corporeal world allows us to function within it. This does mean, however, that everything beyond this unquestionable truth is by definition, only a belief; because you cannot prove otherwise. This is not to say that we should be skeptical of everything, but we must be prepared to question the “truest” of claims; and not simply accept them because they are commonly held to be infallible.
If everything aside from our own self-awareness is a belief, how does one determine between a logical belief, and one that is irrational? One must apply reason to all principles. Some may say that this is apparent: but in practice, such is definitely not the case. The most obvious example is organized religion: the thousands of different versions, each claiming to be the one true system, are all basing this conclusion on blind faith. The members believe that their particular sect is true, yet there is no sound justification for this: aside from the common principles of moral behaviour shared by all religions, the differences in doctrine are based on the unsubstantiated claims of individuals.
Religion may be the most easily recognized demonstration of belief without reasoning, but blind faith exists in many forms. The people who believe that capital punishment deters crime, in spite of the fact it has been proven beyond doubt that it does not; those who insist that the Earth has infinite resources, contrary to simple logic; and groups that insist that Caucasians are superior to other races, while “begging the question”: not only rely on blind faith, but actually believe in things that are patently false. They do this, because these beliefs are the cornerstones to the more complex ideals that they have built their lives upon; and to lose the myths that support their illusion of reality, is to lose their self-structure. The fear of such an event will not allow them to risk having reason affect their convictions.
Blind faith has always been a major part of human society. The vast majority of people lack the resources and inclination to establish that what they know, is actually true: we accept what we are told by experts, and live by the assumption that these individuals have proof of the soundness of their conclusions. This system works reasonably well, and common knowledge has been right more often than wrong. The drawback to trusting those who disseminate information, is that it can lead to the widespread acceptance of something that is untrue. Aside from the chance of error, there is also the practice of intentionally promoting a false ideal. The persons who control society rightly see the majority of people as simple sheep, who can be herded in a desired direction. Due to this conformity, beliefs are cultivated that control and manipulate society, often because leaders feel that the public cannot cope with the truth: you can be certain that a significant portion of your knowledge falls within this category.
Using deceit to guide society, in a way that is perceived to be in its best interests, can effectively maintain compliance and conformity: but there are two major problems with this. Although most people are incapable of dealing with the complexities of the technological and moral issues that govern modern society; a great many of them could, if given the opportunity. We are told what to believe, and how to behave, from birth. A minority of people are able to subvert this pattern of conditioning, and become the independent thinkers: many of whom develop into the controllers of society. We then have a relatively small number of individuals who are attempting to solve the world’s problems. Others, who need more information in order to “break from the herd”, could expand the total number of minds being applied toward understanding the universe, and how we fit within it.
The reason accurate knowledge is not readily going to be made available to the masses is due to the second problem with our control system. Whereas many leaders truly have mankind’s best interests at heart, a great many others use their power for entirely self-serving purposes, and can be a destructive force within society: it is not in their best interests to encourage free thought. These self-centered individuals may be reasonably intelligent, but they are narrowly focused on power and material gain; and accomplish these goals through utilizing the blindly obedient nature of the majority. Opportunistic leaders of this kind are actually casualties of the very system they now control: and have had the artificial ideal, that material pursuits are the meaning of life, instilled into them by their predecessors. Such people are as much victims of conditioning, as the bulk of humanity; and blindly strive for more power and money without ever completing their quest: continuing to compete, even after accumulating great authority and wealth. The truth of the matter is that for most of these people, materialism cannot satisfy their deepest desire for freedom, and they simply continue along the same path. Even after gaining billions of dollars, they feel unfulfilled, and have no idea of what else to do: so they desperately follow the same narrow vision, until death finally brings them peace.
Continuing to accept the manipulation of the general population may not seem to be a negative thing: after all, most people would rather live as sheep, without the obligations that come with independent thought. There will always be those who simply exist: they become aware, live as they have been trained to do, and then die; all without any comprehension of anything beyond their own day-to-day concerns, and with little or no positive impact upon the world.
The problem with the status quo, is that the system is not working. We have advanced to the point where we are capable of providing enough food to maintain the well-being of everyone on Earth; medical technology can cure a seemingly endless number of ailments and extend the human life span; industrialization has provided the means to shelter all people and give them a level of self-sufficiency: yet only fifteen to twenty percent of mankind sees any substantial benefit from our scientific prowess. The vast majority of people suffer as they have for thousands of years. Our inventiveness has not eliminated war, nor reduced violent crime: it has only given us more efficient tools for killing one another. Our population continues to increase, while we progressively strip the planet of resources and other life forms. Leaving mankind’s destiny in the hands of the few is not only failing to improve the lot of the majority: it is gradually leading all of us toward a crisis of epic proportions.
There are no quick solutions to the problems facing humanity, but there is a way to begin moving in the right direction. It does not demand revolution, or drastic upheaval; nor does it even require organization. All that is needed, is for individuals to begin to sort out their lives, and realize what is truly important to them. If people concentrate on eliminating the obstacles that prevent them from reaching inner peace, through acquiring understanding: the larger problems will take care of themselves. Just as all things are components of the whole; the difficulties of each individual are the components of our global dilemma. To understand, and appreciate, what is meaningful in life; and to see the artificial, conditioned ideals for what they are; not only frees you from the stress and competition in your life: it will eventually lead to a better life for all of humanity.