I visited the Evergreen State College recently where I applied for a teaching position at their Tacoma Campus. The position description states, “The ideal candidate must have a strong background in analysis and applied mathematics, bridging theory and practice.” The full description is at http://www.evergreen.edu/facultyhiring/jobs/mathtacoma.htm
Would you be willing to write a letter of reference for me? If so, you can email the letter to email@example.com. The subject line should be “Mathematics Tacoma Program.”
I spent 8 days in the Washington, an evening in Olympia at the main campus of Evergreen State, which, you probably know, approaches education somewhat untraditionally and innovatively. I spent three days in Seattle, which I love. While there, I gave a copy of my latest publication -a booklet- to some of the faculty in philosophy at University of Washington. (There is at least one sentence in that booklet that you would appreciate. If interested, follow the link ‘Foundation’ from the main page of my site http://www.horizons-2000.org.) Then, in Bellingham, I shared the booklet with the faculty there. Nearby Bellingham is Mt. Baker, which is awesome - even though it is only 10,777’ it has ‘the only advancing glacier in the lower 48 states’
Hope all is well with you
Should you write on my behalf, I wanted you to know that...
In my application, I have not attempted to suppress the fact that I have not been teaching since 1985 or that I work in a completely different field –non-academic, non-educational, non-engineering, non-mathematical– or that I have a ‘huge’ interest in philosophy: in fact I have attempted to use the interest in philosophy as a positive point
The point is that you should not feel any need to suppress anything or, more importantly, think that I am expecting you to do so
I’ll be glad to send a reference letter. I’d need to base it on the time that you spent here though, since that’s the only first-hand info I could supply (that they couldn’t find for themselves in your supplied info). All’s well here. Mechanical Engineering at University of Delaware is expanding in the bio area and the related areas of robotics and controls. The environment is now much more heavily research money oriented than it used to be. Best, M. PS Have you read any of Ravi Zacharias? If so, do you have any feedback on it?
It is good to hear from you... and thanks for being willing to write a reference. Of course, no problem with basing it on what you know first hand - I would not expect otherwise
I did not know who Ravi Zacharias is but I just looked him up on the Internet. My personal approach when looking at something new is a combination of interest, hope for something enlightening, and openness. Openness is double edged because it means openness to truth as well as error in what is being said. My first impression is that there is an obvious truth content. “The weakness of modern intellectual movements.” “You will know the truth...” and “...the truth will set you free.” “The credibility of the Christian message.” To me, the message has at least two parts. Faith - “He died for our sins.” “He is risen from the dead.” Messages that I take from the articles of faith: he died for truth... and “rising from the dead?” speaks to the power present in the world and denied or ignored by the allegedly rational minded. The second part, the human message: “blessed are the...” and “love thy neighbor...” examine “the beam in your eye” ... and the message about who might “cast the first stone” ... all wonderful
I reorganized the home page to my site, http://www.horizons-2000.org, and the link I may have mentioned in my previous message is now near the top left “Journey in Being: Foundation.” The document itself is relatively short but still too long for its content. Anyway, it addresses a number of the issues noted above: faith, the possibilities and limits of thought... And somewhere in there you will find the sentence “Jesus Christ has risen from the dead obtains in countless cosmologies.” Not much point droning on here... the document itself explains my meaning and the significance that I see in the meaning. There is much more that might interest you... I might be arrogant but I do think that there is some truly fundamental material in the document. Two points - the essay is under revision since I had a number of ideas for improvement of it on my vacation and, second, my entire site views much better with the latest version of Internet Explorer than other browsers
Just to let you know that I sent a recommendation last week and have received confirmation of its receipt. Won’t have a chance to look over your web material till I think next week...
I looked over your web site and read your e-mail, and would like to share some thoughts and raise some questions and ideas that you might want to consider. You may be right about the fundamental material in your document - I’m not qualified about that.
By the way, I mentioned Ravi Zacharias for a couple of reasons. He grew up in India, I think within Hindu tradition, so I would guess that he has the same (or similar) cultural background that you do, he is a philosopher, and also because he writes and speaks so beautifully that one is hard pressed to put down his writing once we start reading it. For instance, I’d highly recommend “Jesus Among Other Gods” by him.
Thinking about your words about Jesus, here are some ideas:
Jesus (who claimed to be one and the same as the Father of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, namely, the God of the Jewish Bible, is entirely about relationships. When asked (by those trying to trip him up) what the greatest commandment was, he responded that the two greatest are to love the Lord thy God with all one’s heart, mind, and soul, and also to do unto others as one would have them do unto us; he said the whole law given through Moses hangs on these two. (Later, he gave what he called a new commandment - to go even further, to love even one’s enemies.)
I’ve possibly missed it, but I don’t see relationships in your work - or at least as prominent in it - but rather the concept of self. The focus of Jesus and the entire Bible is God and our relationship with him, not self. The commandment was to “love the Lord thy God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” One can hear that as a one-way commandment, but I hear it as two way, for how can we love him who we don’t know? So God was promising to be a near God, God “Immanuel”, who could be known intimately by us just as we are known intimately by him. That indeed is my experience of him, of Jesus. The relationships in my life that tower now above all else are my relationship with Jesus first, and with my wife Yisraela second.
Anil, let me share a little about that. I first found the Lord through Yisraela, who was a friend of mine back then. You know the image, in Snoopy, of Pigpen who walked around in a cloud of dust? Well, all I can say is that I saw Yisraela as walking in a cloud of miracles. She didn’t talk about them much, and I didn’t ask questions, but I could see them from the outside.
One time, she was moving from one place in Newark to another, and had some heavy things to move - so I went over to help. We were leaving a room and I moved to hit the light switch off and she said NO, don’t... but it was too late, I had already done it. The reason she didn’t want me to was that it was a VERY old house and was on only one circuit, so if there was a short then the electricity went off throughout the house. There was a short in that light switch and she’d turned it off a few weeks ago (this was winter) and lost all power. The problem was not that she couldn’t restore it, but that she didn’t have money for an oil fill up so the oil level (for the oil burner) was very low, and because it was low she had trouble re-starting the heater and had to spend $50 for a service call; she didn’t want to have to spend another $50.
So, I said to her ... “Well, you could pray about that...” (Not very nice of me.) We grabbed a flashlight and while we headed for the basement she asked the Lord to not let the oil burner go off - not “fancy” praying, as I’d known growing up in Judaism, just a sentence or two as though talking to a person. We got to the basement and, though there was no power anywhere else in the house, the oil burner electric motor was still running. No, I didn’t “fall down and worship,” as they say, but I did store it in the I-don’t-understand file. But I did start asking her some questions about this “Lord” and she answered them. She even shared scriptures from the Bible, written long before Jesus, that prophesized of his coming - he’d be born in Bethlehem, of a virgin, would live in order to die for us - to pay the fine that is owed by us - would be born at a certain time, from a certain tribal and family lineage, and so on, there being about 300 such in the Bible. Anyway, I read what she gave me but simply didn’t understand the words, even though with hindsight I can see that they were quite plain.
Nonetheless, it wasn’t about “understanding” or knowledge, but about something that was happening in the spiritual domain, and I did “ask Jesus to come into my heart”, as Yisraela had told me was the step that she had taken. The faith that you mentioned was operating here, if only - faith in Yisraela, for the issue was simple: if she was a reliable witness, then these things - whether I understood them or not - were true; conversely if she were not a reliable witness. Based on my knowledge of her I was clear that she was indeed reliable and I stepped out - really “in faith.” But what happens next is that Jesus does indeed deliver on his promises to come inside us and dine with us. He also “moves the furniture around” and my life, my desires, the big things in my life are now different. For instance, I always loved art and my ideal was to own art and have a home that was a museum. Now I still love art - but that exists within a larger and greater context rather than being the context itself.
Jesus spoke of wanting us to come to him not as lawyers but as little children, and that is surely how I came. But he doesn’t keep us as little children, and he didn’t give us good minds so that we should be stupid. As the Lord tells us in Isaiah, “Come, let us reason together...”. And as Jesus told Thomas who, when meeting Jesus after the resurrection, expressed his doubts, Jesus responded “Reach your finger here and look at my hands; and reach your hand here and put it into my side” [these were where his body had been pierced] “And Thomas answered and said to him, ‘My Lord and my God.’” (John 20:27). (Zacharias writes that Thomas later went to India to preach the gospel and died there doing that.)
Just as those writers noted that they couldn’t possibly write of all the things and miracles that Jesus did, likewise I couldn’t begin to write about all that he has done in my life, in Yisraela’s, and in the lives of those we know. But let me tell just a few things to give an idea.
Jesus had told Yisraela, back around that time, that he would bring a husband to her (she was a single mother). (He had also told her I would be “saved” - a month before it happened.) She responded to him that she didn’t WANT to be married again, but in any case she had no idea that the Lord meant me. Well, when I did ask her to marry me she said yes, but had reservations (though she didn’t share them with me then). For she was concerned since her “husband” during those years had been the Lord, and if she married me, a new believer and immature in these things, and the husband is, in God’s economy, to be the head of the household, then in a sense she could lose the sort of relationship that she had with the Lord if I weren’t up to the task. Now, we were having around a dozen friends over to do a ritual betrothal ceremony (Remember that Joseph was “betrothed” to Mary when she was found pregnant? Betrothal is like engagement, but deeper since there is not to be any turning back from that point.) Within the ceremony the bridegroom-to-be drinks a cup of wine. Now, the problem is that I was having an enlarged prostate and even a thimble full of red wine was enough to completely prevent urination - not forever, but for enough hours for it to be painful in the extreme. And Yisraela knew about that. Nonetheless, what does she do? Instead of giving me just a “ceremonial” amount of wine she gave me - truly - the equivalent of a water glass full. All I can say is that it didn’t seem appropriate to question the amount of the wine and I drank it all (and then awaited the results!). The next day she asked me how I was doing and I told her that it was quite remarkable, that not only didn’t it “kill me dead”; now the condition was even gone!! And it stayed like that for almost two weeks, when it returned (which I was aware of not because I continued to drink glasses of red wine but because there were many foods that triggered it to various degrees). Well, she asked again, around then, how I was doing, and I told her that it seemed to have returned. She then shared with me about how she was so concerned about marrying me and losing her relationship with the Lord, so she had gone to him and asked him to make it clear to her that the one he intended for her was me. She told him she would give me the wine, and if I were the one, then he should please keep me from having any ill effects. But even after I drank and indeed experienced no ill effects (but rather a healing of the condition!), she went back to the Lord (she’s unusual Anil) and said essentially, Lord, I want to be 100% sure, so if Michael is the one then give him the condition back again. (Yikes!) He did, and she was convinced.
Anil, this is what the Lord is like, and no closer loving friend could one have. That first year or so, around when we got married, was just incredible. The Lord was working in our lives in such ways that it would take a small book to describe it all. The oil-burner event was a true miracle in that one could not explain it as coincidence or as any other working of the laws of nature. But the things that I love much more are the more intimate ways he works with us.
For instance, and I really love this one, my Dad had great trouble first with my earlier divorce, and then with his son losing his mind and believing in Jesus, the “captain of the other team” as Jewish people usually see him. So our relationship was strained to say the least. Nevertheless, he did tell us, one time, that he would come and visit, for a Thursday Thanksgiving dinner. So now, Wed night we’re getting ready for his visit. Yisraela’s style is to go to great lengths at times like that, and indeed she literally didn’t go to bed that night at all, getting ready and preparing his room, etc. It was hard for me to help her because my standards (in cleaning for instance) are not very high. But I pleaded with her to give me some things I could do to help her. She said OK, go to the supermarket and get such and such, and then go to the laundry and wash and dry a certain quilt because it was cold in the house at night and we didn’t have enough blankets for us and my father without that quilt. Great. I went to the supermarket and got that done, only to come out and find that for the first and only time in my life I’d locked my keys in the car. By the time I got into the car it was around 9:10pm, the Laundromats closed at 10pm, and they would be closed the next day (Thanksgiving), and since a quilt is heavy it takes many drying cycles to dry it, and Yisraela had asked me to be certain it was completely dry or it would be of no use. So, I gave up and drove home, telling her I’d done one but not the other. Her response was a classic and I love her so much if only for that response: she said, “Go back and start it.” Figure it out Anil, an impossible task and she says go back and start it.
I must back up a bit here to give the background. Sometime before that my Dad was selling his home in Connecticut and wanted me to take a large and tremendously heavy bookcase (he had it made and was told it would be teak, but evidently the carpenter gave him particle board instead - which is very heavy). I didn’t like the piece and didn’t know how we could get it even if we wanted it, but Yisraela said - he wants you to have it so we will go get it. OK, we borrow a friend’s station wagon (to tie the piece on top of) and drive up to CONN. The two of us were able to get the piece, by pivoting it on one leg at a time, to the front door and out, and eventually next to the car in the driveway - which was around 50 ft long. But how to lift it onto the roof of the car? It was so heavy that it would have taken two moving men or four normal people, and there was no one around out there in the country, and we didn’t know the neighbors. So I say to her something like “Now what?” Her response was “Bend down and start lifting it.” You have to understand that we absolutely could not lift it, and here she’s saying bend down and lift start lifting it. So I did that, and just as I was tightening my muscles to give it my best shot we hear “Can we help?” from two people who had come up our driveway and were now standing at our side such that we couldn’t see them - till we turned as they spoke. So with their help we did put it up and headed home, and got 4 people to get it up to the second floor. So, anyway, when Yisraela said Go back and start it, I “got it” and headed right back to the Laundromat.
More problems: I start the washer and when it should be rinsing now it’s soaping! Defeated. I tell the girl there and she says “That’s funny, it worked all day.” I return to watch the quilt be soaped and she comes back in 5 minutes (it’s now around 9:30 and any dreams of many drying cycles have long since vanished) and she tells me that she called the owner and the owner is coming in the next day to do some things (even though the Laundromat wouldn’t be open then) and if I left the quilt she would do it in the morning and I could pick it up. So she did and I did. When I picked it up she said “you know that’s funny because that machine seems to be working fine.”
How do I know it was the Lord who did that? For one thing is he never let me down - before that or after. Also, he works with each one of us uniquely. What he had been doing with me in particular was giving me confirmations, through other people just before he did something for me, and then again just after it. But what I love so much about this particular event is that it was so consistent with his character. In the “wisdom of the world” the way to get the job done would have bee to get the machine to work better and faster, as I was thinking, but the way he did it was to break the machine.... just as Jesus was broken on the cross for you and me. What looked to his disciples to be the greatest of defeats was the greatest of victories.
Anil, the bottom line in the Bible, made clear even in Genesis upon the fall of man through Adam, was that we cannot cover, annul, or cancel our sins by our own works, and that God’s nature is such that he cannot abide amidst sin - one sin or many, small or large, it doesn’t matter. To understand his point of view we can go to the first occurrence of sin and see his response. Adam and Eve now know they are naked and try to cover themselves with fig leaves. God enlists the physical to explain to us the spiritual. In this case, we can imagine the futility of sewn fig leaves as a covering. Rather, God then clothes them in animal skins. Now, realize Genesis makes clear that there was no death before in the creation until that point; all the animals and Adam and Eve were to be vegetarians. Thus, the point is that Adam and Eve couldn’t cover themselves, only God could, and the covering involved the substitutionary death of innocent blood - those animals. One can imagine that it must have been a terrible sight for Adam and Eve. As the Bible continues, that formula of blood sacrifice is established in very great detail. In Leviticus 17:11 the Lord tells us that “the life of the flesh is in the blood and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.”
Thus, the idea is that sin leads to death (spiritual, is really the point) and if it is not to be the death of the guilty one then it is to be the stand-in death of one who is blameless.
The pre-Jesus Bible makes it clear that God himself would take on flesh to come down, and be the sinless sacrifice for us, to cover our sins past, present and future and to thereby restore us into the relationship the he wants with us and for which he created us. (Sure enough, after Jesus, the Temple was destroyed in 70ad and the sacrificial system was to disappear. Of course -- it was no longer needed.)
We strive for this and for that and yet the greatest thing imaginable is a free gift that we need merely accept. How much like a loving father, to pay the price himself because we could not do it ourselves. In the world the people die for the king, but in the kingdom of God the king dies for his people.
You mentioned the resurrection and its truth or falsity. There’s a large literature on this. For instance, former Supreme Court Justice Brewer said “The existing evidence of Christ’s resurrection is satisfactory to me. I have not examined it from the legal standpoint but Greenleaf has done so and he is the highest authority on evidence cited in the courts.” Simon Greenleaf was a chaired professor, the Royal Professor of Law at Harvard in the 19th century, and he and one colleague made the Harvard Law School great; his specialty was evidence - what constitutes evidence, how to test it, etc., and it is he who is cited in the courts. He wrote on the resurrection and the upshot is that the physical resurrection of Jesus is as well established a historical fact as anything from that time period.
I’ll share a mathematical point of view. When I was working on propeller theory a long time ago I had a singular nonlinear integral equation for a vortex density function, on 0 < x < infinity. I was using a collocation scheme and looking for a solution as a linear combination of various negative-exponential functions. To my dismay, the more collocation points I used the worse things got, with the output oscillating wildly with x. Then I finally realized from the form of the integral equation that the unknown had a square root singularity at the origin so I built that behavior into my solution form and, bang, the (iterative solution) converged beautifully and quickly. It may sound silly, but I believe the Lord did that to show me something: for the Bible is like that - without Jesus postulated the Jewish Bible makes little sense, is contradictory, etc. But if one - even tentatively - postulates the truth of Jesus then all the pieces fit and it is a most miraculous document.
So, I’ve shared with you not logic or philosophy but my experience of the Lord (the Lord who loves you as much as me). As Paul said in 1 Corinthians (1:19-25): “For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent’, Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block, and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”
Let me ask you another question - Why is the world (universe) beautiful (before we invented telephone poles)? Did it just turn out that way? How can we explain the beauty of a little bird or a grasshopper with such long and skinny legs that we wonder what sort of knees it has or what mechanisms are at work that enable it to bend its leg? Or was it a gift from our Father who made a place for us that was wonderful beyond comprehension? And why are our central nervous systems designed so that we FIND beauty in the universe, for a dog probably does not. Anil, read Proverbs 8:12-36. It is ostensibly about wisdom, but scripture often has a second meaning and I suggest that the one who is speaking, through Solomon, is not “wisdom” but Jesus. (Compare those scriptures with the opening of the Gospel of John.) When you come to verse 31 you will know about his love for us all and the purpose of his creation: “And my delight was with the sons of man.” The purpose of his creation was us, for him to love us and fellowship with us, to be in intimate relationship with each of us.
You mention things Jesus said that you like. But realize that you can’t take some of him and discard the rest. He also spoke at length about judgment and hell (though his mission on that occasion was not judgment but to die for us and, by his blood, to seal the new covenant that was promised to us in Jeremiah 31:31-34). The same Jesus as you quoted also said: “I did not come to bring peace but a sword. [The sword meaning the truth] For I have come to set a man against his father [I can attest to the truth of that], a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be those of his own household. He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me. And he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:34-39) This was no peacenik out of the 60s, and it’s interesting to imagine the scene of him throwing the moneychangers out of the Temple because they had set up a market therein.
He also issued a challenge to you and to all who seek the truth: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.” (John 14:6) “... to him who asks it will be opened” (Matthew 7:8) “Enter by the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.” (Matthew 8:14)
He does not say there are many ways and “howsoever”, he says he is the only way and there are no others that lead to life, but only to destruction. And he promises to answer your questions, to open it up to you, if you go to him and ask. I guarantee he will do that.
So, I don’t know if I’ve succeeded in exceeding the length of your Introduction, but at least I gave it a shot.
I was planning on sending you an email when I received your relatively long note... I am going to have to read and absorb it before I respond. Meanwhile, thanks for sending off the reference to Evergreen
I have used Microsoft software in producing my site, writing the html from scratch would be time consuming and detract from the content which is my main focus... so – the site is best viewed using a recent version of Internet Explorer
The document ‘Foundation,’ that I suggested that you look at is somewhat analytical in its nature though not in its motivation. My comments on actual belief as revealed or otherwise were introduced as illustrative. That does not mean that I am not intrinsically interested in the material but only that it was not the initial focus of ‘Foundation’
I had planned the current version to be the last version until I made some changes [job etc.] but had a number of ideas on my vacation. However, since ‘Foundation’ is the latest statement in the progression of my thought, though not at all the most complete, it is imperative that I introduce the new ideas – some having to do with the foundations and others with its presentation. The concept of faith and thoughts on actual faith are among the ideas... Of course, to do the whole thing justice would require more space, more experience and more thought than I am currently able to devote
Somehow, I can never quite seem to settle on a final system of understanding, knowledge and belief. I find myself, with regard to that and with regard to other aspects of myself, a little split – being in one state or another. ‘Foundation’ comes closest, so far, to an integration of faith and reason... in which, I think I have found, and that is not to suggest that no one else has done so, an integration of faith and reason in which the two are not in conflict
‘Foundation’ represents, I think, a milestone in the knowledge phase of what I have been calling ‘My Journey.’ Next, I want to experiment with feeling, intuition, and, perhaps, faith. [The usefulness, to me, of my being at mental health, here, seems to have come to and end. This is why I have decided to try to move on. My first choice would be a place where I would be involved in furthering the Journey; teaching, research in engineering / math... is my second choice]
I’ll end here and will be in touch after I have read your email
Before I forget... I always enjoyed your teaching and breadth of knowledge in math, and I still value the freedom that I enjoyed as your advisee at Delaware
Anil, I reread my e-mail to you and it felt a little harsh at the beginning. I didn’t intend it to and am real sorry if it sounds that way to you. If so, please forgive me
No... I didn’t feel that you were being harsh. Rather, I felt you were being enthusiastic and persuasive about something that means a lot to you. It seems clear to me that everything you wrote is well intended. Additionally, your caring comes through. At the same time, as you said, ‘truth is a sword’ and it is not possible to tell the truth - one’s truth - without coming into disagreement with others...
Something culturally interesting: in mainstream American culture it is not considered cool to be argumentative. Instead, everyone maintains cool and in a group setting everyone speaks in turn. Apparently it is not like that in France where everyone talks passionately and interrupting and anger / passion is not thought to be un-cool. I’ve read that the Jewish culture in New York is something like that. The culture that I come from is also like that...
I don’t remember how much I shared with you of my background. My mother was British [mostly Welsh, some Irish] and brought up Christian; my Dad said that he was ‘atheist’ and had been brought up in a Hindu environment. My mom would go to occasional Christian services and I would sometimes go with her. My dad would go to the local Hindu festivals that included worship. He was not a believer but went because he wanted to be part of the community - and wanted his children to experience the local culture. At home, there was no professed faith and no one was required to believe anything in the religious or spiritual dimension. Honesty, respecting one’s elders was important as was hard work. Anyway, so I did not grow up in any faith. I went to Catholic school because the Jesuits provide the best education in India. We were exposed to Christianity - Roman Catholicism and had ‘ethics’ classes whose content would depend on the temperament of the Jesuit teacher - some were fundamentalist, ‘dogmatic’; others were liberal and used ‘ethics’ as an opportunity to impart an open world view. It has been said that Hinduism is an umbrella for all kinds of beliefs. That is not true at the local level where the rituals, beliefs and deities are specific and concrete. However, it is rather true of Indian - Hindu - philosophy as a whole. I was not exposed to much of that explicitly but must have absorbed something of the Hindu philosophical sentiment just as a result of living in the culture. Most of what I know of Indian philosophy has been learnt since coming to the US
I have been thinking about a response to your email. Today is my first day off from work since I read it. If I have time I will respond later today. Working 40 hours a week on something that is not my main interest results in time budget problems
Thanks for putting my concern to rest. About the cultural differences in disagreements etc, a photo in the Jerusalem Post last week came to mind - from the Knesset, showing three members. One was obviously shouting heatedly, the guy in the seat in front of and below him was trying to duck the barrage and had his hands over his ears, and the guy next to the one leaning forward and (obviously) shouting was trying to catch a nap. It said a lot about the culture.
The purposes of this note include the following. I want, first of all, to thank you for the personal disclosure of your ‘long’ email. In addition to simple appreciation, I want to say that your thoughts are valuable to the development of my thought. I also want to share a little of my history with you. Finally I want to see what mesh there may be between my thought and the literal interpretation of religious scriptures and to see what relation there may be between ‘literal content’ and ‘message.’ I think I have found that there is some mesh and certainly no absolute rational ground –as the secular rationalists would have it– for rejection or dismissal of the literal interpretation. Even though, perhaps especially because, the mesh between your thought and mine is only partial, your contribution is useful – because thinking about conflicting ideas may result in clarification and because it is good for me to have doubts raised about the validity of my thought
The first paragraphs are repetition from emails I sent you: I don’t remember how much I shared with you of my background. My mother was British [mostly Welsh, some Irish] and brought up Christian; my dad said that he was ‘atheist’ and had been brought up in a Hindu environment. My mom would go to occasional Christian services and I would sometimes go with her. My dad would go to the local Hindu festivals that included worship. He was not a believer but went because he wanted to be part of the community - and wanted his children to experience the local culture. At home, there was no professed faith and no one was required to believe anything in the religious or spiritual dimension. Honesty, respecting one’s elders was important as was hard work. Anyway, so I did not grow up in any faith. I went to Catholic school because the Jesuits provided some of the best education in India. We were exposed to Christianity - Roman Catholicism and had ‘ethics’ classes whose content would depend on the temperament of the Jesuit Instructor – some were fundamentalist, ‘dogmatic’; others were liberal and used ‘ethics’ as an opportunity to impart an open world view. It has been said that Hinduism is an umbrella for all kinds of beliefs. That is not true at the local level where the rituals, beliefs and deities are specific and concrete. However, it is rather true of Indian –Hindu– philosophy as a whole. I was not exposed to much of that explicitly but must have absorbed something of the Hindu philosophical sentiment just as a result of living in the culture. Most of what I know of Indian philosophy has been learnt since coming to the US
…In mainstream American culture it is often not considered proper to be argumentative. Instead, everyone maintains cool and in a group setting everyone speaks in turn. Being argumentative is sometimes thought of as a sign of weakness. It is not like that in many other cultures. Apparently, in France –at least in some circles– everyone talks passionately and interruption and heated passion is thought to be a sign of involvement and commitment rather than weakness. I’ve read that the Jewish culture in New York is something like that. The culture that I come from is also like that...
The following paragraphs are new: … people from India do tend to be passionate in discussions but the culture that I referred to and that I came from is the Bengali culture from the east of India –the state of West Bengal– and Bangladesh. The Bengalis are especially passionate in talking of their interests which, among the educated, include politics, ideas and art. Educated Bengalis, especially men, tend to be critical of religion and frequently note the destruction in the name of religion. [I think] there is power in religion and humans will use instruments of power to further their goals – thus the fault is not in religion except when ‘religion’ explicitly encourages what is wrong. The examples of Stalin and Hitler –and even of capitalism– heighten our awareness that anything can be used as a pretext for use of power to destructive goals
As a Bengali, I’m not altogether typical since I tend to keep and nurture my passion within myself but I am comfortable with people being committed to and animated about their ideals. As long as I remember, I have had difficulty with things that I have not been passionate about. I.e. for me, things are not merely more or less passionate but range from extremely dull to passionate. I suppose everyone might be like that but I think it is especially pronounced in me. I think of that as a fact and not good or bad or better or worse… It is one factor that has ‘interfered’ with what may have otherwise been the normal progression of my education and career
[I think of work, especially hard work, without passion, without reflection, without direction as evil, as self-perpetuating without reason, as destructive of the good and of appreciation of what is beautiful and good]
A little more of my history… Although the name is relatively recent, my ‘journey’ goes back a long time, explicitly to my time in Newark but as a vague unnamed thing to some time in my teens or even earlier. Around 1983, I had something of a coherent philosophy and made a decision to develop that philosophy without knowing where that would lead. I took some years off from work, 1985 – 1989, and by 1987 had developed the philosophy into ‘Notes on Evolution and Design.’ Evolution was the guiding paradigm and I understood it in a scientific context which meant that material things were the only real things. I did not believe that but it was a useful place from which to work and much of my thinking was characterized by a un- or anti-dogmatic attitude and I have attempted to be un-judgmental in matters of theory and fact [except, for example, as an arrogant teenager when my mother –talented but uneducated in science– would talk of ‘non-sensory and non-material vibrations between people,’ I would be amused at her ‘primitive’ views.] Specifically, it seemed obvious that the traditional realm and methods of science were obviously and woefully incomplete if science pretended to represent the limit of even human knowledge and possibility. Of course, to make positive assertions and to do things –to act– one must make judgments. However, the question of dogma is one of one’s attitudes to one’s judgments… The evolutionary, rather mechanistic paradigm of ‘Evolution and Design’ had a number of loose ends. These included the nature and origin of consciousness –which contains the question of beauty– and vague questions about the place of the individual –specifically about me but not only about me and my awareness– in the ‘infinity of being.’ The corresponding intuition was that, while the modern secular paradigm is that of the individual as a lonely isolated accident, I did not feel either lonely or an accident. [This is my general bearing I think and does not mean that I don’t have the usual reactions to life’s events such as loss of someone one loves.] I also felt discomfort with the positivist attitude – if it isn’t known to or in science, it doesn’t exist or the less extreme version in which it should not be mentioned – that often goes along with [the ‘official’ version of] science but is not at all entailed by science or even the complete history of its institutional structure [I say that because Thomas Kuhn would have said that it is entailed by the institutional structure]
[I am not so sure of the ‘limitations’ of science anymore. Obviously, the science taught in universities cannot pretend to completeness with regard to human knowledge. However, what I question is the boundary between science and non-science]
Looking back over notes that I have kept –on my computer’s hard drive and on the internet so that I don’t have to maintain paper copies– I can see a progression in which I was trying to articulate the intuition. One question I asked was ‘What is the nature of death?’ The secular, existentialist view is that there is absolutely nothing after death. The typical existential stance is that this is frightening, but I [the existentialist] face it with courage [which makes me, the existentialist, proud – even though I don’t say so] and it is the source of anxiety regarding life and death that is the spur of my creative impulse… I’ve never felt particularly afraid of death –I haven’t analyzed that adequately to have an explanation, perhaps I’m not as sensitive as the existentialists– but do occasionally feel concern about the inexorable process of dissolution and decay that is old age. Now that I’m thinking about it I wonder whether fear is the natural human condition. I have thought that people living in natural environments must, naturally, feel ongoing fear in the face of the unpredictable elements. However, we don’t necessarily feel fear every time we drive on the highway. Perhaps, then, the fear of the modern existentialist is that of having grown up in some kind of faith to see the foundation of that faith [allegedly] destroyed by science and reason. That outcome is due, perhaps, to abortive thinking. Science does not actually destroy the foundation but only seems to do so. Before the existentialist completes the cycle of thought he or she comes up with a defense – anxiety courage creativity – and the defense and abortive thought pattern are mutually sustaining. An example is the ‘finality’ of death. Secular minded people are proud of their conclusion ‘there is nothing after death.’ Perhaps they are proud of their courage and the superiority of their thought over the thought of those who they may think of as spiritually oriented and ‘weak minded.’ Such people do not stop to consider that they have never –as far as they know– met anyone who has been dead or been dead themselves and so their belief, far from being logically necessary, is an unnecessary encumbrance of their paradigms of thought. Anyway, I am speculating that my relative indifference to ‘existential angst’ and my relatively un-dogmatic nature [though perhaps I’m deceiving myself] have something to do with the environment in which I grew up and described in my earlier email… that is not a complete explanation since my brother, Robin, is unlike me in this aspect of life
The other idea that I toyed with is ‘nothingness’ also referred to as the ‘void’ and which I may start to call ‘absence’ because that word comes closer than the others to describing the concept. The void creeps in to much of religious and philosophical thought – from antiquity. However, my use of the void, as it would turn out, is different from anything that I have read. One of the factors in my thought was the fact that matter coming into existence from nothing need not violate conservation of energy since the positive energy of matter –emcee squared– may be balanced by the negative energy of the gravitational field. Although this is not a foundation, it encouraged my thought on the void but for quite a while the idea that the entire universe was equivalent to the void was, for me, somewhere between wishful thinking and an article of faith with, perhaps, a trace of logic. I tried to show or think how the universe may be equivalent to nothingness. In 2002, I had the thought: instead of the focus on being or the universe, focus on nothingness itself and its nature. The key thought is that nothingness is not merely the absence of things but also of laws i.e. of what we think of as necessity. For, to imagine that we can take away things [in imagination] without taking away laws is to think that the laws came before things. In a state of nothingness, there can be no restriction of possibility for a state that includes restriction is not a state of nothingness. The result is that the void is equivalent to the entire universe. To continue the development would be to repeat what I have already written. Some conclusions are that ‘what is not contradictory is possible’ and ‘what is possible is materially necessary.’ [Logical necessity is whatever must ‘always’ obtain, material necessity is what must occasionally obtain. Hence the statement about Jesus Christ which was partly motivated in feeling and also motivated as an ‘in your face’ statement for the radical secular rationalists.] Other conclusions: recurrence – a favorite theme of Nietzsche who thought of recurrence as necessary and as occurring in time. I think of recurrence as in time but also in extension… but there’s more, since whatever is possible is materially necessary, individuals are parts of ‘higher being.’ And it is in this participation that there can be a meaning to ‘individual life’ that transcends the individual – somewhere I came up with the fancy name ‘The Principle of Ontological Psychology’ for this transcendence and the motivation to it although I later changed it to the more subdued ‘Principle of Meaning’… and somewhere in there is ‘relationship.’ The participation in ‘higher being’ has the following additional consequences: provision of some meaning for this life, effect of action in this life upon a next life, the nature of relationship among beings and between being and BEING. That sounds a little bit like karma but it is not a deterministic, not a moral, not strict, and –most certainly– not a universal version of karma. One further conclusion: from the ‘principle’ of material necessity: our corner of the universe is an infinitesimal part of the whole – it is a coherent phase-epoch of the whole [which cannot be the whole if God is outside it]
Does the void exist? Consider any part of the universe. Its complement exists. The complement of the universe itself is the void which, therefore, exists. The point is, perhaps, debatable. For this point, I have to refer you, at present to the discussions of ‘existence’ in the literature [the Cambridge Companion to Metaphysics is a start even though I do not agree with the position taken there] and in my writing on the Internet: in Foundation and in the much longer and already dated Journey in Being
There is a discussion in the literature, tangential to what is being said here, regarding the number of voids that there are. Some authors claim that there is one, others that there are many. Of course, there must be some who claim that there are not any but I haven’t yet come across this claim in the literature. I don’t think that the outcome of this debate is consequential since many voids are equivalent to one void – this follows from the ‘properties’ of the void. What is a little more consequential is that one may think of a void as being attached to any being or particle since the complement of a particle relative to itself is the, or a, void it follows that a particle is equivalent to the particle to which the void is attached. Written in equation form, particle - itself = void and, so, particle = particle + void. So, from the properties of the void it follows that every element of the universe is capable of self-annihilation. This sounds quantum-mechanical but is not derived from that theory. It also follows that every element is equivalent to every other
I admit that I wonder –at times– about the validity of the foregoing thoughts. My approach to the underlying logic was circuitous but the final statement of the essential properties of the void is so simple and appears to negate so much common sense and so much science that I have wonder about validity. The explanation of the apparently paradoxical nature is that we live in a coherent phase-epoch of the universe. It is part of the condition of becoming from the void [details in other documents] that whatever has relative permanence also has symmetry and structure – though not perfect symmetry. Therefore, while the elements are self-annihilating and while every element is equivalent to every other the realization of these truths as facts in our phase-epoch is improbable. Science describes normal behavior in this coherent phase of the universe. That is, exceptions to normal behavior are possible –though normally unlikely– and, beyond our coherent phase, our science does not have universal application. Also implied by the argument is the ‘fact’ that behind the apparent concreteness or solidity or reality of the experienced world is a ‘virtual’ world – not, however, as in virtual reality – or a ‘ghost’ world always ready to interact but not often interacting, at least at our level of being, with our phase. Perhaps hidden in the argument is the fact that two slightly different concepts of the void have been identified but the previous paragraph provides some justification for the identification
Regarding the existence of the void and its properties as a hypothesis, the hypothesis is equivalent to a statement of the following form: the only universal law is the essential law of logic. I have not yet quite formulated what that law must be but I am inclined to equating it to the ‘law of contradiction’ that the only impossibilities are those that are logically impossible [je: thanks] or its converse that whatever is not a contradiction is necessary. At least one part of the theory of the void is tautologous to the law of contradiction and I have not yet analyzed whether that extends to the whole theory of the void which may not be difficult when I get around to it
[A question. If God is that being that has no limits and if logic is what is universally necessary, are not logic and the law of God the same?]
The introduction to Foundation does not emphasize ‘relationship.’ However, relationship is in there, especially in the division labeled ‘A Map of the Journey’ or, in the August and September text editions, ‘A Sketch of Essentials.’ This was one of the original motives of the journey ‘the relation between the individual and the universal…’ One interesting issue is the interpretation of ‘relationship’ that results from the ‘THEORY OF BEING’ just outlined which implies a fluid character to the nature of the individual. Since the individual is seen as fluid, relationship results from transformation or ‘morphing’ in addition to ‘seeking.’ Or, we are already in God, but may be ignorant of our status
One of the thoughts I had in writing was ‘how can I reconcile Michael’s thinking with mine.’ Naturally, I do not expect that you will think that my effort at reconciliation is reconciliation at all. I cannot predict what you will think but it would not be inconsistent with your long email [about 4300 words compared to 11,500 in the introduction] for you to think that the following is not a reconciliation. From the previous paragraphs, however, the reconciliation is close to obvious: that the truth of the Bible is necessarily obtains i.e. is realized in countless cosmological systems. Hence the claim in Foundation, ‘Jesus Christ has risen from the dead’ is true in countless cosmological systems. This assertion must be qualified by requirements of consistency which include the following kinds. The first is that the Bible should contain no essential internal contradiction that could not be removed without an essential change in meaning. Secondly, the meanings of some symbols (words) may require modification to account for realization in countless distinct regions including, in some cases, the universe itself. It is conceivable that the second requirement may have implications for the Biblical text and or for what the truth of the Bible is
The idea that a suitable extract of the truth, the moral message, would not be a reconciliation with the material truth but might be so with the moral truth – unless the moral truth were essentially tied in to the material truth [and I’m not sure what your position on that is.] There is an essential way in which moral truth is tied into the truth of the way the world is. ‘The truth shall set you free.’ It is significant whether there was a rising from the dead and whether rising from the dead is possible. The individual is freer in a world where ‘normal reality’ is an approximation to the truth
Perhaps there is no reconciliation. It may be your position –I am not sure– that the literal truth of the Bible holds in the one universe as described in the Bible. That there is one cosmological system –this one– and that reference to countless systems is incoherent. However, the following is true. We have both abandoned earlier paradigms of thought and belief in search of truth
The THEORY OF BEING, as developed above and in Foundation, does say something about the question of beauty. Given sentience, it follows from the conditions of existence and of becoming that there will be positive and negative elements in sentience. Some positive elements are labeled beauty. This idea can be developed further from the theory of free vs. bound and inner vs. outer elements of sentience in Foundation and other documents. This shows a necessity to the origin of beauty and the fact that beauty –the beautiful– will have form but does not address the actual form. This is analogous to an explanation of the origin of structure that does not tell us what the actual structures are. But why is there sentience? It is a mistake to demand that theory explain the origin of sentience. Instead, one observes the empirical fact that there is sentience. I.e. sentience is a label for experience. Then: what is actual is possible and what is possible is materially necessary. Thus there will be sentience in countless though not necessarily all cosmological systems. There is a different line of argument in Foundation that concludes that sentience –of some kind– is as universal as existence but that argument is not as clear cut as the one here
The argument regarding evidence is interesting. It is not my intent to contradict what you said – what you said about that because I don’t see any. The Scottish philosopher Hume was critical of the philosophical attitudes toward science of his time and the belief in various categories of thought especially causation. He said that we cannot logically conclude causation from the fact that we see things occurring in series. You are acutely familiar with his logic. What is the next term in the sequence 1, 2, 4, 8…? The ‘obvious’ suggestion is 16, but as you know there is an infinity of functions on the reals that fit any finite or infinite series. In this way, Hume criticized the necessity of science because the number of observations is always finite; he also criticized the necessity of concepts such as causation because one cannot argue from the repeated observation of a sequence to the necessity of the sequence. Philosophers from Kant to Popper and Kuhn have addressed the issue. Here is my simple thinking. We live in a structured phase of the universe and the discoveries of science apply within that phase. As science progresses the extent of the phase [contained within the outer boundaries of extension, duration and the inner boundaries of the micro-world…] that comes under science grows but the phase remains a ‘speck of infinity.’ That nothing can be concluded (empirically) regarding the entire universe –but we may through reason be able to conclude something about the possible phase-epochs in addition to the one in which we live– is equivalent to the equivalence between the void and all being. One consequence is another way to see the reconciliation of a previous paragraph but that would continue to be subject to any objections or doubts that may have been raised earlier
[That no empirical conclusions can be made from data to laws requires qualification. From the fact that there is data, we conclude that there is being or existence here and now and, therefore, generally that being is possible. That there is being is not so much a conclusion as a recognition of what is in the nature of ‘existence.’ That no empirical conclusion from data can be made would not imply that no knowledge can be had. Thus, in the (my) THEORY OF BEING, we make a number of conclusions including the necessity of being]
[The following comment on Hume is an aside. It is interesting that Hume has been interpreted as justifying positivism, especially scientific positivism. Positivism is the view that the only true knowledge is positive or empirical knowledge. According to scientific positivism, science is the only way in which such knowledge may be obtained. From the previous paragraph, it is hard to see how Hume could be thought to have provided a direct justification for positivism. However, there is a way in which Hume’s work may be taken as an indirect justification for scientific positivism. Hume was critical of all claims to knowledge. He was especially critical of claims that the categories of our thought are the categories of nature. That we see causation in nature does not imply that there is causation in nature. Of course, this is obvious. Hume’s arguments were important because they went against the prevailing attitudes toward science i.e. that space, time and causation are indeed among the categories of nature. These attitudes had arisen, at least partly, because of the immense success of the Newtonian paradigm. That is not to say that Hume was the only critic of the paradigm. The poet William Blake hated the Newtonian world view. In addition to their timeliness, Hume’s arguments were influential because of their forcefulness, clarity and apparent novelty at the time of their publication. Hume’s claims, then, amount to a statement that there is little, if any, ‘positive’ knowledge i.e. all knowledge is tinged with doubt. In addition to his criticisms of beliefs and attitudes regarding science, Hume was immensely critical of metaphysics which may be thought of as the study of ‘all being.’ Although Hume was critical of science as positive knowledge, it is acknowledged that science attempts to have a basis in the empirical. Therefore, Hume may be interpreted as saying that if there is any positive knowledge it is certainly not in metaphysics and, by default, it must be in science. I don’t think that Hume actually said this. However, I do think he was willing to trust science as the only paradigm of knowledge but not as a positive paradigm. Certainly, Hume did not say that scientific knowledge is positive – as noted, he argued against this. However, it is easy to see how scientists and philosophers struggling to show that there is positive knowledge or that scientific knowledge is positive may have thought they found support in Hume’s writing according to which philosophical metaphysics and the scriptures were not knowledge at all. Firstly, there is a tendency to interpret ‘if there is positive knowledge, it is only in science’ as ‘science is positive knowledge,’ especially if one feels the need to justify or to have faith in science. I assume that there must have been a desire to have such faith because of the success of science and that without such faith it would seem that the new paradigm was shaky… and because, unlike the existentialists of a later era, men and women were used to having faith in something and the something, i.e. faith based in religion, was being threatened by the conflict with science. Although the great conflict did not come until Darwin’s theory of evolution, many thinkers from the time of Newton on found, in science, a reason to doubt their religious faith. The final motive to the appeal to Hume may have been due to the extent of his influence. Hume’s critiques were thought to have devastated the underpinnings of much of philosophy, faith and science to such an extent that Kant found it necessary to expound his ‘transcendental idealism’ (partially) in response to Hume]
I appreciate your self-disclosure. I recall your powers of persuasion, exposition and logic in teaching applied mathematics and see those same powers come into play in your exposition of what may be called ‘Biblical theory.’ Personal experience –the very real or apparently real data that constitutes the bedrock and the symbols which constitute our world views– is also important. I have not had the kinds of personal experience that you have had –the miracles that happen and happened in the presence of Yisraela– and therefore, probably, the truth of the Bible does not have the force for me that it has for you. [It seems to me that a miracle cannot be the occurrence of the impossible but the occurrence of what is thought to be impossible.] However, it is true that I see and feel a certain truth and power in the Bible and, it is an essential part of who I am and of the [my] journey to remain open to the possibility of personal experience. This is where I want to go next – to experience rather than think the reality of my vision. What I seek is personal experience of my truth –which means my truth so far– but I do not know where that seeking will lead me. I haven’t responded explicitly to the details of your personal history but your account contains power and I carry it with me as something positive whose full power may be revealed to me at some future time. The Biblical account is rich in human appeal and history and my account is rather abstract and bare of immediate human contact – I think I am being a little unfair to myself but that is good because it is a spur to improvement. The Bible is ‘ancient,’ my thought is ‘new.’ My thought is not one of competitive opposition but, rather, ‘What mesh, what integration may be possible? What instruction may I receive?’ Your ‘logic’ and my ‘logic’ are somewhat tangential and, despite my attempt at alignment, the mesh is incomplete. This is good [for me] in various ways. Already, your ‘challenge’ has wrought improvements in my thinking – fundamental and incidental. Especially because my experience is limited, it is extremely useful for me to be open to the experience and thoughts of others – especially those that refine my thought and, at another extreme, those that stand in –at least apparent– opposition to my ideas. And, I’ve always noted that it is challenges, especially uncomfortable ones, that bring out the best responses – provided of course that I have passion for the issue at hand
My account is not altogether impersonal since it is interwoven with my story. The thought arises that a novel –or myth or legend– could be written but I am not sure that I am the best person to write it. However, I do derive meaning from my story. It seems possible to me that any account of higher worlds –transcendent or immanent– might make this world appear mundane. This has not happened for me – the blue of the sky, distant horizons, forests and mountains, human kindness, love, the beauty of men and women, the occasional merging of truth and ego remain wonderful to me… still miraculous
[Jesus and Buddha went to nature for inspiration]
What next for my journey? Perhaps I could attempt to write a mythic account of the journey. I have thought that it might be useful to form a group of individuals to mutually work out my goals and ambitions. The essential goal, however, is to work out the reality of the [my] THEORY OF BEING. There are some details in Foundation. The goal of the theory is to address every significant issue in metaphysics and every significant human issue. The developments so far have realized the metaphysical goal although improvements are possible. To some extent I could make the same assertion with ‘metaphysics’ replaced by ‘philosophy.’ The force of the ideas in the THEORY OF BEING have acquired ‘intrinsic momentum’ and, to some extent, replaced my ego as far as their development and application are concerned. Thus, since the original insight of the theory it has become possible for me to be judgmental regarding matters of fact and action though not of individuals. I think that a broad range of human issues have been addressed but the form is relatively abstract and I have not reviewed the range for completeness
…In view of the doubts expressed above, let me assume that the THEORY OF BEING has force but falls short of logical necessity. What follows? I intend and want to realize the theory in action. Although, perhaps, as discussed in Foundation, a complete and independent symbolic knowledge is possible, I suspect that embedded knowledge must remain interwoven with action… I probably cannot predict what transformation will result. What will I be at the end of the Journey? The THEORY OF BEING makes it clear that there is no absolute restriction to the kind and extent of transformation that is possible. Although the likelihood of realizing the full extent of the theory in action [one of two main goals of the journey] may be small, the value of a realization is enormous. The combination [product] of the likelihood and the value [of the journey] is significant. There is, therefore, parallel to ‘being-in-the-present’ an imperative to the search – to the experimental i.e. the transformational phase…
I will not go into the details here. A good part of Foundation and of Journey in Being describe possibilities and plans for the realization [in addition to a ‘general’ realization there are two specialized projects in (1) algorithms and machines, and (2) group or social action]
I end with caring and an expression of appreciation for our ‘occasional’ friendship over the years
I don’t know whether you have yet looked at the reply that I posted to the Internet. It is most easily accessible at http://www.horizons-2000.org/Hi
Even if you have looked at it, you might look again because I uploaded a new version last night
I did go to the web address that you gave. Thanks for your thoughtful reply. If I may make one observation about your reply, I think you said in it that both Jesus and Buddha went to nature for their inspiration. I understand that that reflects your belief that Jesus did not create the universe, for if he did then it wouldn’t be reasonable to say that the creator of nature found inspiration in his creation. A few years ago an Indian grad student joined our home-Bible-study group, and at the end said that he now felt comfortable as to how Jesus fit into his (Hindu) understanding. I found it remarkable that he could have so missed the point, because we had studied the claims so thoroughly. I would say to the contrary that Jesus doesn’t fit into anything, he is the “singularity”, the only God, and the only path to redemption - only by his blood are my sins atoned and only under the cover of his hanging on the cross, an innocent substitute, the one who voluntarily paid my parking ticket, am I now able to be in relationship with him.
Perhaps the parting question might be this: IF the things I’ve said are true, then would you “want them”? If not, then there’d be no point in proceeding any further along this line. But if you would, then I’d suggest as a first reading the book of JOHN - his gospel account which is the fourth book of the New Testament. If you like, you could speak to the Lord first and ask him to remove any veil from your eyes so that you could discern the truth - or whatever you would ask of him.
Meanwhile, wishing you well...
I’m off to work... will read and reply [briefly, I hope] later One reaction, if something is true - or if I believe it to be true - then, of course, that is what it is most rational to want. And it is irrational, though not outside human ‘nature’ to not want it or to want it not
Arcata, December 1, 2004
Before I first contacted you this fall, I had looked at my bookshelves and asked myself which books I considered ‘fundamental.’ I.e. which books might illuminate ‘The Journey?’ I looked at the math, engineering and physics books – I have given away about 2000 books of all kinds; about three hundred remain and of these, about a hundred are technical. The technical books did not call out to me. Neither did the books on philosophy –even though they may continue to be useful– except, perhaps, the writings of Plato. Mostly, I selected books on travel and the outdoors – not, of course, because travel books are profound but because I want to travel. I selected a book on meditation because I want to meditate. I selected two ‘scriptures’ of which one was the Bible. I have these books in my truck so that I can read them whenever I want to
When I read the Bible, I will go, first, as a result of your suggestion, to JOHN
Regarding Jesus’ ‘inspiration,’ my point was that nature is inspiring and that this is found in many stories of inspiration from ancient myth to modern science. I too have found much inspiration in nature and the point is not in a comparison of my life with that of others but a statement of the significance of nature, i.e. hiking and spending time in remote ‘uncivilized’ places. I was not thinking of the possible logical consequence of my thought. Regarding the logical point, there appear to be difficulties when one considers the logic of unqualified use of ‘all’ or ‘nothing.’ These are difficulties that I have to address and or live with in my ‘THEORY OF BEING.’ If, e.g., ‘everything’ seeks inspiration where or in what does it do so? If it cannot seek inspiration within itself then it cannot seek inspiration at all. Does this imply that the net inspiration of ‘everything or non-thing’ is zero?
The example of the Indian graduate student is interesting. I said in an earlier note that ‘It has been said that Hinduism is an umbrella for all kinds of beliefs.’ If a formal system that includes all belief is entertained, it will undoubtedly contain paradox. Then, for all statements A, both A and NOT-A are true. In a sense, then, everything is true and nothing is true. Where does that place one? Regardless, it is possible to see how the Indian graduate student may have seen how the Christian faith fit into his own Hinduism – even if there are logic errors attached to the ‘fit.’ Of course, I do not know that that was the framework of the graduate student. Where does that place a faith that contains errors of logic? It is interesting that even in mathematics, the possibility of paradox is permitted in some fields because the richness of the results is too much to forego. Whether an individual mathematician chooses to work in such a field or to eschew it due to, e.g. purism, is a function of individual psychology. Regarding faith, if its content is its ‘meaning’ then reality resides in the individual and not every article of faith and the individual finds inspiration rather than reality in faith. This does not mean that there are no individual articles of faith that are true
As I have said, I do hold the Bible as truth but not the only truth. Early in life, I came up with ‘proofs’ that ‘God’ did not exist; I did not hold religious scriptures to be true. Later, I came to doubt my earlier convictions. I sought disproofs of my early convictions but did not come up with anything satisfactory. Still later, I came to intuit what was a primitive form of my THEORY OF BEING. I lived in this intuitive epistemic state (regarding being) until I arrived at the THEORY OF BEING. According to the THEORY OF BEING what is non-contradictory is possible and what is possible is materially necessary i.e. must obtain at infinitely many occasions. Thus, excepting contradictions, if any, the Bible must have truth but not the only significant truth. Further, as far as may be concluded from the GENERAL THEORY OF BEING, the density of the distribution of the ‘infinitely many occasions’ of the literal truth of any concrete scripture relative to ALL OCCASIONS is thin. I know you may see that as untrue but it is what I see [my] logic as requiring. So, in addition to its native appeal, I should read the Bible in order to see what implications it may have for the logic. The journey has a number of paths –writings to read, experiences to have– and I do not know where it will lead, what will be the outcome, for me, of the different ‘truths’
I see four significant possibilities regarding faith: atheism or having no belief; agnosticism or a state of suspended judgment pending logic or revelation; theism – a state of judgment regarding the possibilities i.e. a selection of a system of faith; and liberalism, an open state of perception in which belief is the sum of all truths, or, rather, is on the path to that sum. The last is like quantum superposition states in which systems can be simultaneously ‘up’ and ‘down’
I have a number of questions whose answers might help me. They are not disingenuous even if naïve and their purpose is to assist my understanding of the Christian Faith
Does Jesus expect reverence and why? Is reverence a good thing?
Is it possible that he might choose to meet and talk to a modern human being in person? Is there anything one can do to increase the possibility of that happening?
Is it necessary to read the Bible to understand the truth … meaning: might Jesus choose to reveal the truth through his person rather than the word?
Although I understand the reasoning and experience that is the foundation of the Christian Faith, I do not see how the Bible stands together as an INTEGRAL DOCUMENT in the sense that if it did so stand, its truth would then be manifest and it would not be necessary to verify every part of the Bible independently! How may the systematic or necessary truth, rather than merely empirical truth, of the Bible as an integral document be seen?
Sincerely and with warmth,