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On Assumptions and Perspectives
On Assumptions and Perceptions
An abstract concerning the many denominations of faith
In my own experience, living in a non-Christian home in a Christian-dominate society has been akin to riding a spiritual roller coaster that takes me in every which direction. My earliest recollections tell me that I was a devout theist unaware of any other explanation outside of that of God. Later on I found a similar devotion to atheism, which permitted no talk of God, or any other religion, to enter my mind. After I recognized the folly in this and had allowed myself to be exposed to the many faiths of the world, I adopted my own form of agnosticism. I believed in the possibility of God, the fact that He could exist, and that His lessons could potentially be correct. The only thing that stopped me from becoming Christian or from accepting any other religion was that I didn’t believe myself wise or intelligent enough yet to understand the Truth of any doctrine. I thought that when I was old and wise enough to recognize the Truth when I heard it, I would then pursue my own form of enlightenment.
Yet because the thespian language of society had imbedded itself within me, this passive faith slowly morphed into an ardent hunt. After having looked in every crevice and crossed every horizon within my reach, I picked up Parallel Worlds by Michio Kaku. I chose this particular book because I wanted a treatise on the workings of the universe written from an empirical point of view rather than that of an opinionated view. By this time the absolutism of both religion and atheism had become distasteful to me, so I sought for my answers in science, the only system that allows for the improvement or removal of its theories. To my lasting surprise, I found that the beginning of the first chapter was not concerning itself with cosmology or physics, but instead with mysticism and theology.
Compelled by the ambiguousness of it all, I continued to read. He went on to describe the two major dogmas that attempt to portray the origins of the cosmos. Genesis was the first: the assumption that God or some other superhuman being initiated the creation of the universe. The second comes from the belief that the universe is eternal and timeless, that it has always been and will always be. These separate thoughts puzzled the young Kaku, for they contradicted one another to such a high degree that neither could subsist in the other’s presence. “They couldn’t both be right,” he said.
After describing a number of other mythologies and divinities, he finally started to insert science into the equation. According to current thinking, our universe was created in a quantum event known as the ‘big bang.’ This, Christians and others will shout, is the evidence of their scripture. This is Genesis! But before they could rub these scientific papers in the faces of Buddhists and some Hindus, more data was brought fourth that suggested the possible existence of the multiverse. This possibility states that our universe does not stand alone in continuum, but instead exists with a number of other universes.
Here Kaku reveals the solution to this dual paradox. The multiverse has existed and will exist forever. Within this cosmos countless universes are sprouting from their separate Geneses. To quote directly from the text, Kaku says, “Perhaps, scientists speculate, Genesis occurs repeatedly in a timeless sea of Nirvana.”
Now what did this do to my raw mind? Why did I find this important? How did this affect my beliefs? The answer is strangely straightforward. Kaku was able to prove, at least on a philosophical level, that these two contradictory beliefs were not only compatible, but utterly and completely attuned with one another. If the theories of the multiverse are true, then one dogma cannot subsist without the other’s presence. By the time I finished the chapter, I set the book down and stared at the ceiling, my thoughts beginning to form a theorem that appealed to me more than any other secular or spiritual proposal.
To my new mentality, at its foundation no theology is false, incorrect, or flawed with the blight of misinformation. Every credence, no matter how primitive or refined, can be proven true by changing the perspective of the observer and comparing it to the other beliefs that mull over the same topic. To be put in the simple words of allegory, every idea can become a truism if it is scrutinized with the proper pair of glasses.
As much as I cherished the idea, though, the sheer vagueness and generalization I used to describe it could undermine any argument I might use to prove it accurate. Any declaration can be true if you state it in such a way that it can’t be disproven. For my own satisfaction I needed an example, a paradigm that no philosopher would be able to deny. I began to think. What event or theme persists through every spiritual system? Is there a topic about which every single person shares different view? What idea has been debated and fought over ever since man was able to reason? With quiet dexterity and long patience it came to me. Death.
No other religious proposal is as diverse in its procedure and perception as this legendary farmer. Every religion or spiritual faith retains its own position on the subject, its own basic assumption. Abrahamic religions declare that the soul travels to different planes of existence through the judgment of God. Hindus believe in a form of reincarnation that allows our souls to transmigrate to different animals or higher beings when we follow or scorn the moral rectitude of their creed. Buddhists follow another type of reincarnation that states that we continue to inhabit human bodies until we reach that higher state-of-being known as Nirvana. Native Americans believe that we become spirits that influence the reality of Earth just as much as the living. Atheists, in sharp contradiction to the other members of this list, deem that nothing happens after death. I could continue indefinably, but these five chief denominations of death are enough.
Upon first sight, these assumptions may seem too radically dissimilar to possibly coalesce into one coherent thought. One dogma deals with planes of existence, another discusses Nirvana…it’s all too much. Where is the common ground? Outside of that great exception known as atheism, which will be explained on its own terms, the great tether is the fact that the soul, or a concept similar to the soul, exists in every theology.
The following is a scenario based on the outlooks of my theorem and is more correctly defined by the explanation of possibility rather than that of definitude: When the soul first exits the body, it may follow the Native American tradition by wandering those places it knew in life. It can continue to do so if it wishes, but maybe the lessons it learned in life compel it to move on, but before it can go anywhere, thoughts of its life come unbidden to its unchanged mind. Does it feel like it did a decent job in life? Did it commit a great number of sins, or did it rack up enough karma in life to go along with? Is there some Supreme Being judging its transcript, or does the conscience have a say? After some immeasurable amount of time, this self-influx of thought settles down after it sees a light. It now only has one question in its mind. Where does it lead? It approaches, slowly and carefully, and then it hesitates, unsure and irresolute. Taking a deep breath, it immerses itself into its welcoming mass. When it next opens its eyes, it finds exactly what it expected to see.
As I said above, there are a number of different possible locations for this soul to be. It could be in Heaven, a wonderful place of paradise built for the righteous and beloved. It could be in Hell, a horrible region that desires no portrayal. It could be Xibalba or Jacob’s Bosom or Hades or whatever other destination both mythology and doctrine describe. Or it could be Earth.
I myself favor this last proposal because Earth, like death itself, is seen with many different pairs of glasses. To the depressed individual, Earth is Hell. To the well to do or optimistic, Earth is Heaven. To the indifferent, it is the random byproduct of those clusters of gases and dust that originated from the big bang. Of course anyone can insert their own opinions into this kaleidoscope of faith by saying such things as “The judgment of the Supreme Being and the conscience are one and the same,” or “When you reach Nirvana, you reach the true Heaven,” but it all amounts to the same thing. Perception drives our souls’ passage through death. This can even account for the atheistic statement “Nothing happens after death” because nothing changes after death. The spirit ends up in basically the same place it started with no reliable memory of the transition. Its all the same.
As I have grown weary of explanation, I now direct the essay to you the reader, the observer, my fellow human being. The power to comprehend, develop, or discover Truth is an arduous process and too much of a burden to be borne by any single individual. I therefore abandon any attempt to connect the countless spiritual topics I have yet to mention and write only one sentence more. I leave you to fill in the blanks.