This web site represents the results of a lifetime of inquiry into the mystery of human existence.
This web site represents the results of a lifetime of inquiry into the mystery of human existence – both my own and that of the larger social world around me. From an emotionally secure midwestern American upbringing in the 1940s and 1950s, I have ventured forth on the world stage during the last half-century to live, work and study on 4 continents – in the quest of the one single truth that underlies all human existence. I have served as teacher, pastor, systems analyst – and even carpenter – in an effort to bring my sense of curiosity about the cause and purpose of human life into some kind of resolution.
These pages represent that resolution. They are pages "in progress" – just as this web site has been a web site "in progress" since it first was posted in 1993.
THE TWO COMPETING WORLD VIEWS FOUND AT
THE VERY HEART OF OUR WESTERN CULTURE
What I have discovered is that we "Westerners" – and Americans especially – are directed by not one but two major world views.
We talk about Western culture as if it were a single unified culture. But what I discovered along life's way is that there is a lot of confusion over what it means to be authentically "Western." In exploring the cause of this confusion I discovered a basic problem: we Westerners possess not one but two basic world views – both in direct contradiction to each other.These two world views are deeply divided over the issue of – what is truly real.
A "world view" really is the way a culture tends to view reality. Each culture has its own interpretation of the issue of "what is truly real." When a culture, such as our own, however, has two world views – each in direct opposition to the other – there is bound to be confusion, and even hostility.Both of these world views are what is properly termed "religion."
Yet despite an inability to bring these two distinct world views into harmony, despite living in some kind of tension between those who tend to be guided by one of these two world views over and above the other, we have learned to get along, to become moderately "tolerant" of each other -- an important (though not always consistent) feature of Western culture.
And what exactly are these two world views that have competed within Western culture for a hold over our hearts and minds?
One, the material or secular world view, asserts that the truly real is simply the material or physical world around us which our five human senses know simply as "fact." If you can see it, hear it, feel it, touch it, or smell or taste it – then you may consider it to be truly real. Anything else cannot be considered as real – only as fantasy, superstition, or just plain ignorance. Add to this the sense that the human mind is a fully logical machine able to work these sensory facts into an understanding of how things work, then you have the full picture of the material or secular world view. We in America and the West are most familiar with this world view as modern science and technology.
The other, the spiritual or theistic world view, asserts that the known world of the human senses is merely a shadowy reflection of a higher world of pure beauty and ultimate power, one that transcends our material world, one that belongs in the realm of God. This a world knowable only through the mysteries of divine revelation – acquired through a process of stilling our logical human minds and wills, and awaiting inspiration from beyond the self. We in America and the West are most familiar with this world view as Christianity or Judaism
By our own tradition, "religion" is a term applied usually only to the mystical / spiritual / theistic world view. But indeed both world views are religions. As any religion would, each world view informs its followers as to the nature and cause of all existence, the forces that stand behind all events on earth and elsewhere, the meaning or purpose of human life, and the ultimate value of all things. Each world view has its devoted adherents. Each has its theologians or philosophers to clarify its doctrines. Each has its "priests" and teachers to indoctrinate its followers and spread its views to others.
As differeing religions often do, each world view holds the other in deep distrust. Both work from such different cosmological foundations that there is hardly any mddle ground between the two. Secularists hold the Judeo/Christian world view to be nothing more than pious superstition – a horrible barrier to human progress. Judeo/Christians, in response, hold that secularism is merely self-blinded intellectual pride – always fated by its own logic to lead us individually and collectively to a kind of rootless, spiritless cultural death.
A FURTHER DISCOVERY:
THESE TWO WORLD VIEWS HAVE BEEN COMPETING
WITHIN WESTERN CULTURE FOR A VERY LONG TIME
This is an ancient issue within Westen culture.
In my efforts to trace the roots of this cultural division I was intrigued to discover that this debate did not merely arise with "modern" times -- with say the middle of the 1600s when the "modern" era (with the rise of modern science) supposedly loomed into view. I found that this issue is one that dates back to the time of the ancient Greeks 2500 years ago!The early secularists looked to physical nature in its own makeup itself as providing the forces that go into creating and shaping the Real world around us. Not gods, but simply the basic elements of life (they were then popularly considered to be earth, air, fire and water) combined with each other naturally (in accordance with "natural" laws) to form our world and its happenings.
At a time (approximately 500 B.C.) when a number of Greek thinkers began to look beyond the idea of human-like gods on Mount Olympus manipulating all events on earth, these two distinct viewpoints or philosophical groupings emerged at approximately the same time -- as they both sought to understand the force or forces that shape or determine all Reality.
One philosopher, Democritus (late 400s B.C.), even speculated that all of physical Reality is merely the result of unseen minute particles of basic matter (which he called "atoms," in Greek meaning: "not further subdividable") held together by unseen, eternal forces to form the larger stuff of Reality visible around us. All of this operated quite mechanically -- without the intervention of any godlike forces.The early spiritualists and theists.
The early spiritualists (also called "mystics," "idealists" or "transcendentalists") however, came up with quite a different understanding, seeing life as directed by forces not within but coming from above or beyond creation itself -- awesome, mathematically perfect forces which preside over creation, moving it this way and that. The mystic Pythagoras (ca. 550 BC) marvelled at the perfect mathematical proportions that could be found behind all material reality. And according to Plato (early 300s B.C.) what we see physically before us is merely a shadowy, less-than-perfect mirroring of this truly perfect higher Reality. To come to a knowledge of this higher or "transcending" Reality one had to go beyond mere empirical observation -- to a disciplined mystical "contemplation" of Truth itself, of the pure, transcending "Ideas" or "Forms" which stand behind all visible forms around us. He wasn't exactly talking about God. Yet he wasn't exactly not talking about God either.
Theists (those believing in the existence of God), especially those influenced by Judaism (which was widespread in Greek culture a couple of centuries after Plato) and its offspring Christianity, thus easily connected Plato's transcendentalism with their God-caused explanation of all Reality.