From Plato's time onwards, the relation between appearances and reality, and the possibilities of connecting the two, characterized different world views. Plato believed that it was possible for spiritually enlightened persons to release themselves from their shackles and turn towards the light.
From shamanistic rituals to psychoanalysis, faith is defined as inner attitude, conviction, or trust relating man to ultimate salvation. Whenever mankind has been deemed to need divine aid for salvation, there has been an emphasis on a personal relationship with the saviour-god concerned. This relationship usually connotes faith in and loving devotion and service toward the deity, and such service may involve moral and social obligations.
Some religions have grown so strong over time that virtually every detail of human behavior is prescribed. A person who doesn't want the responsibility of making life choices may gravitate toward a religious or military life. Joseph Campbell alluded to the Darth Vader character as an archetype who has given up individuality and come under the complete control of a system of beliefs. Campbell describes Vader as a worm-like creature hiding his shameful identity behind a mask of unfeeling obedience, capable of any atrocity. In that sense, the purpose of any "ism" is to devour individuation. Our behest is to gain what structured knowledge we can from established systems, but remain intact as a caring and feeling individual.
Deep within, most people apparently hold some religious values, and may not give much thought to conflicts between between appearances and reality, or science and religion other than to suppose that perhaps God allows the universe to evolve according to a set of laws. In religion, blind faith is supreme, and the belief that we are somehow living a sacred path is pervasive.
In fact, being completely sincere and completely wrong is all too common. Man's worst inhumanity to man has invariably come out of religious bigotry, ("if we are right, then they must be wrong"). The atrocities committed by science are also horrendous. But even worse is when bigotry is combined with science. Hitler's original intention was to transform the human species into something more godlike.
Western religious traditions stress divine grace, the inner certainty or attitude of love granted by God himself. The classic medieval understanding of faith, set forth by Thomas Aquinas, saw it as the belief in revealed truths on the authority of God as their ultimate source and guarantor. A leap of faith is a metaphor used by the 19th-century Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard to describe commitment to an objective uncertainty, specifically to the Christian God.
The Post-Darwin view, underpinning the physical sciences and forming the background of psychology, is usually expressed as some form of Scientific Realism. In this view, there is a well defined Real World, to be discovered, if not totally mapped and understood by the application of logic and the scientific method.
Human experience, in this world view, was very much a secondary construction, a product of sensory input which is elaborated into the perceived world by neurological processes within the brain. And, according to this view, although these processes are not at present wholly understood in detail, their main structures are becoming clear and no radically new principles will be required to complete the neurological picture, because the brain essentially lies within the "known" region of reality.
Consequently the only areas supposed to lie beyond our grasp, beyond the scientific knowledge of reality, are the remoter vistas of particle physics and cosmology which are in any case of no direct relevance to human experience. In this view, "unconstrued experiencing" could be a valuable category of thinking to bring to therapeutic practice, or to neurophysiology, but it tells us nothing about reality and is only of individual personal significance.
Scientism holds that only science can find truth which is presumed to be purely materialistic, and that ultimate reality is without conscious significance of its own. Actually, this is in itself an act of faith and points to the limitations of science. Since the psychological factors are not tangible, scientific knowledge is really limited when discussing on how the Mind works. We can have a lot of scientific knowledge and be miserable without a good state of mind.
Science does not have all the answers, and when we assume that it does, we can make errors of judgement. For example it was discovered fairly recently that 90% of the mass of the universe is unaccounted for. Life choices made entirely on the basis of physical evidence can be the cause of very real grief.
Faith may represent conceptualizations of the human encounter with the divine mystery, and usually imply some notion of levels and stages in the progress of believers as they move from the threshold of faith toward its fulfillment. Different conceptions of faith cohere with different views of relationships to reason or rationality.
For example, Jodo in Japan is known as the "Way to the Pure Land", and is a devotional sect. Since Buddhism does not specifically address a God in the Western sense, it is considered more of a philosophy than a religion. Buddhists knew, 2500 years ago, quite a lot about modern problems of psychology, the inner landscape that have not been measured or quantified.
Modern philosophers as a group are usually thought to be purely secular thinkers. Nothing could be further from the truth. From the early 17th century until the middle of the 18th century, all of the great philosophers incorporated substantial religious elements into their work.
The quantum theory of gravity has opened up a new possibility, in which there would be no boundary to space-time and so there would be no need to specify the behavior at the boundary. There would be no singularities at which the laws of science broke down and no edge of space-time at which one would have to appeal to God or some new law to set the boundary conditions for space-time. The modern form of phenomenalism known as the participatory view of reality opens the way for research that could for the first time bring an empirically based understanding into an area that could form the core of the human condition.
The central idea in psychology, is closely connected with philosophical issues concerning the relation of experienced phenomena to "reality." Whether you believe it or not, you are at least partly the creator of your reality. According to Pavlov, in animals there exists only what he called the first system of signals of reality. It is made up of these brain systems that receive and analyze stimuli that come both from within and without. In human beings, there exists, besides the first system of signals, a second one, language, that increases the possibilities of conditioning. For human beings words can function as stimuli which are real and effective even though words are symbols, abstractions. Stimuli can act as a sign and turn the conditioned reflex on. Symbolism a central concept of organized faith.
Why an inert substance, a so-called "sugar pill," or a fake surgery or therapy would be effective, is not completely known, but 30 to 40% of patients obtain relief with the use of placebo administered under test conditions. Many believe the placebo effect is psychological, due to either a real effect caused by belief or to a subjective delusion. If I believe the pill will help, it will help, even when the placebo is not given wittingly. The placebo response apparently works by expectancy.
Homeopathy or even some conventional treatments may work through partly through the placebo effect. Patients with cancer gain in optimism because of complementary treatments. This optimism clearly has medical value in and of itself. Within the body is a virtual pharmacy, including an arsenal of glandular substances that enhance or regulate the immune system. We know that positive emotions increase our immune responses, and can even elevate the IQ, and creativity.
Negative emotions have an opposite effect. Technology has surrounded us with stressors that chronically evoke alarm reactions, associated with the fight of flight response. Most of us have learned that the the principles of meditation and creative visualization are valid, even if we don't practice them consciously or consistently. Applying these same principles to the ills of society can act as a stepping stone past the pessimism of the nuclear age, into a brighter future, just as the Renaissance led us out of the bigotry and pessimism of the Dark Ages.
Whether or not the universe is ultimately conscious of itself may not be immediately knowable. The fact is that we are becoming conscious of the universe, and in a way our minds are the universe becoming conscious of itself. What an incredible moment in history! What a privilege we have to be born in these times! But, in order to usher in a new society propagating peace, harmony, and wholeness, we must change our perspectives of what is valued.
To have a dream come true, you must first have a dream. This is the key that unlocks the door to the future. The more often you hold this dream in the motion picture screen of your mind, the more complete and vivid it becomes. In mysterious ways your unconscious mind propels you toward that dream. Whatever we pay attention to is what we become.
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