Monday, November 1, 2010

The Independent Theist


At the present time our world has various types of people based on their religious beliefs or disbelief. First there are the atheists who do not believe that there is any significant higher power in the world than that possessed by humans. There is another category of atheists that admit to the possibility that there might me more advanced life forms on other planets in the universe considering the immense vastness of the universe and some might be more powerful or intelligent, further ahead in evolution, but there is no God, although perhaps the very advanced life forms may be called god-like or gods.

Some affirm their faith in only what has been ascertained by science so far. However many of these latter persons are themselves not scientists and do not have a complete understanding of science or the extent of its present reach. As regards the scientists themselves, many are/were firm believers in God including Einstein.

Theists or those who are not atheists are of several types. First, there are persons who belong to a religion, not just notionally because their parents belonged to that religion, but who have themselves affirmed faith in that religion as adults.

There are a variety of religions on our planet ranging from the mainstream religions of the majority to the fringe religions of a minority. Aside from followers of religions there are also theists i.e those who believe in God,  who do not belong to any religion at all i.e. they believe in God but do not conform to any one of the existing religions. They may however accept some parts of one or more religions and develop their own independent system of beliefs based on their personal experience and knowledge of different religions, philosophy and even science. These last may be called independent theists. I for one belong to this last category at heart although officially I am a Hindu. Fortunately Hinduism does permit much freedom and a wide variety of beliefs so that I am not a pariah when amongst the Hindus or when participating in any of their ceremonies or rituals.

An independent theist is like an independent professional. He may rise to great heights in the practice of his or her profession or sink into virtual nothingness. Another professional who belongs to an organization has the support and safety of his or her organization. It is so with independent theists too. Freed from the shackles of an organized system of beliefs they may attain a profound understanding of the universe,  as did the founders of many religions on our planet, or they may sink into foolishness and ignorance.

There is an old saying in Buddhist literature (Dhammapada) as well as Christian one (the Ecclesiastes) that a fool is to that extent wise that he knows he is a fool, but a fool who considers himself wise and his knowledge complete is indeed a fool. Independent theists must always be on guard that they do not sink into this last category. On the other hand a person belonging to an organized religion may suffer some from the erroneous beliefs and practices of his religion but if he begins to disbelieve in some of them, while not walking out of his religion, he or she may miss the full spiritual benefit that faith or religion has to offer. 

Independent theists who attained great heights in their spiritual quests are the founders of religions that exist on our planet. In my opinion they had a far greater understanding of spiritual matters than those who came after them to form religious organizations or to interpret the message and the words of the founder, and even when some of the messages of the founder are properly interpreted, there are mistakes at our end in further interpreting or understanding them  That humans make errors in this process is without doubt a certainty. If they did not they would not be human as the old adage summarizes - to err is human. By definition there is only one power or being in the universe that is completely error free and that is God. It is perhaps partly because of this reason that a Spiritual Master and also a friend from the Nainital region -  Baba Haidakhan -   described in a companion blog, http://nainitalgoddess.blogspot.com dealing with some of the Himalayan Spiritual tradition, spoke only a few words on spiritual matters all through his spiritual ministry, aside from the fact that he believed that the language of God is silence and everything else is at best an approximation..



Updates added on 7th of November 2010 and August 25, 2013


After writing this post entitled independent theist, I wondered what others may have thought on the subject and looked up the search terms ‘independent theism’ and ‘independent theist’ on google. Most results that turned up was of this blog post. It seems that terminology has not been used much. However another closely allied term was found called philosophical theism at wikepedia that meant nearly the same, although not quite because the former i.e independent theism can function perhaps best with silence because that is what the language of God is  but the latter functions with logic, debate and argument.  You may read more about that definition at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophical_theism was


Philosophical theism is the belief that God exists (or must exist) independent of the teaching or revelation of any particular religion. It represents belief in a personal God entirely without doctrine. Some philosophical theists are persuaded of God's existence by philosophical arguments, while others consider themselves to have a religious faith that need not be supported by rational argument.”
And
Philosophical theists may accept arguments or observations about the existence of God advanced by theologians working in some religious tradition, but reject the tradition itself. (For example, a philosophical theist might believe certain Christian arguments about God while rejecting Christianity.) Philosophical theism conceives of nature as the result of purposive activity and so as an intelligible system open to human understanding, although possibly never completely understandable. It implies the belief that nature is ordered according to some sort of consistent plan and manifests a single purpose or intention, however incomprehensible or inexplicable.”
Independent theism is the belief that God exists independent of the teaching or revelation of any particular religion. It represents belief in one unique God of the universe. Some independent theists may be persuaded of God's existence by philosophical or scientific arguments, while others may consider themselves to have a religious faith that need not be supported by argument or tradition. 

Independent theism may reject all or part of the tradition itself. It may accept the possibility of existence of God through scientific insights of scientists or merely through intuition in love and  silence. Freed of the percepts of organized religion, by default, independent theism may view nature and universe as a visible facet of God and not just a creation of God. It implies love of all life and nature since that is a part of God.  Independent theists are free to vary from this definition in details since that is what independent theism implies - being free of any prescribed dogma or preexisting definition while professing belief in God who has the limitless love, intelligence and power of the infinite universe.

independent theism may view God in everything and everything in God, although individual life forms as distinct from the inanimate world have the freedom to harbor ego, desires, and ignorance too.Any part of the universe that does not have this individual freedom or free will is therefore not a life form but a part of the inanimate world.

12 comments:

Hayden said...

"By definition there is only one power or being in the universe that is completely error free and that is God."

Humm. Somehow this doesn't set well with me, and makes me think that I am, once again, off on some other track.

I've stated before that I Believe that we all have God-stuff in us, though the extent to which we honor and celebrate it varies. More and more I believe that we ARE all one, and that our tiny understanding fractures this Truth and makes it invisible. If we ARE ONE, and therefore part of God, then the statement that he is error-free is in question. We are not error-free, we are learning, each at our own rate of speed and in our own way.

If we are NOT all one, and God holds all of the cards, He's got a lot of explaining to do, because what I see around me doesn't look much like perfection. The 300 CE Augustinian knot of Free Will and Predestination hasn't been well and truly answered: the argument always breaks down in sophism and contradiction.

This is the Idea of God that I've always steadfastly rejected, and still do.

Either that, or the idea of a dichotomy between error and perfection is false.

For myself, I'll stick with my own Independent Theist approach, and continue to regard God as the Creative Force, beyond the concepts of error/failure/good/bad, and actively participating in this evolving Universe. By "actively participating" I accept a god who experiments, possibly even throws dice with the Universe.

Hayden said...

"you seem to be saying that by definition God exists and has the attribute of perfection, and that doesn't make sense to me."

Thank you Vincent, you make this much more clear than I did.

The issue over "belief" is confused, too. As you know, I profess "belief" only on things I feel have been shown to me spiritually through adventures in other realities.

But it occurred to me recently that perhaps what I "see" or "experience" is similar to an animated story for a child. Accurate, (sort of) but told in a way that my mind comprehends... animated stories, if you will. It could just as easily be true that what I'm grappling with is pure energy, and my mind doesn't know how to deal with that, so converts it to a sort of cartoon. There are hints at this within shamanism, allegations that spirits take on forms that we find agreeable/believable/comfortable. In the materials I've studied that idea is there, acknowledged, dropped. But it has ramifications for this whole business of belief, particularly since shamanism is built on personal experience, not "received wisdom" - or "belief."

ashok said...

"At the present time our world has various types of people based on their religious beliefs or disbeliefs.

First there are the atheists who do not believe that there is --- "

Vincent, I am quoting again from the post here. The types of people here are classified according to their beliefs etc. not castes and Brahmins, untouchables etc. These posts have nothing to do with castes etc. and I am afraid my knowledge of those is very scant, simply because I have no interests in castes etc. You seem to be fascinated by this topic but unfortunately I do not share that interest. I am afraid you will have to find some other forum to pursue those interests. I can not be of any help in that direction.

Thanks for your blessings Vincent :-)

ashok said...

"I didn't want to be confrontational about this but I must be honest and ask the question "What is the value of categorising people into types?"


Vincent, I am afraid this question is without value except to be confrontational. I must ask what else is your purpose of asking this question?

I categorise people all the time such as for example into males and females when considering the questions of pregnancy etc.

"My seeming non-sequitur about the different Indian castes arose because of this idea expressed in the first sentence about "various types of people"."

In college I had some friends whom we called one tracked who saw sex in almost everything. It seems to me that you are one tracked about castes etc. These posts as wella s all of mine have nothing at all to do with castes etc. simply because I have no interest in that topic. Perhaps your interest in them arises from your thirty year long association with a caste based cult but I am afraid I can not be of any help to you in this direction.

I had to give the same answer elsewhere once to some Christians who are overly concerned about getting screwed behind the altar by the priests and kept coming back to that topic in unrelated discussions. I just had to tell repeatedly that I have no interest or knowledge in that topic although I sympathise with them.

"And when you say "By definition there is only one power or being in the universe that is completely error free and that is God", what definition are you referring to?"

mine.

"If you had said "We imagine a being called God who is perfect because we find a yearning for perfection within ourselves" I would have agreed enthusiastically."

No I did not say that. I believe in God.

ashok said...

"But you seem to be saying that by definition God exists and has the attribute of perfection, and that doesn't make sense to me."

No I am not saying that.
As per my belief God exists, not by definition and as per my belief He is Perfect.

ashok said...

"I've stated before that I Believe that we all have God-stuff in us, though the extent to which we honor and celebrate it varies. More and more I believe that we ARE all one, and that our tiny understanding fractures this Truth and makes it invisible. If we ARE ONE, and therefore part of God, then the statement that he is error-free is in question. We are not error-free, we are learning, each at our own rate of speed and in our own way."

Hayden, you have raised a very important philosophical dilemma here that philosophers and mystics have tried to deal with for centuries. One of the explanations as well as my own is that we have God consciousness and we have our on free will as well that drives us to error. To the extent that everything is part of God one might say that error is a part of God. However, our errors are transient and changing and because of their temporary nature may be regarded as seperate from the unchanging eternal God.

Some ancient mystics in the east had considered the concept of Maya or illusion to address the same problem and regarded the error part as being part of Maya but I have found that concept overly intellectual and try not to involve it.

ashok said...

Vincent as an engineering teacher I use to categorise my classes into groups according to their knowledge and ability in order to design different teaching programs for each group.

When I hired labor to construct this house I categorised them into types to assign different works Yesterday when I went shopping into the old city Bazzar I categorised the shop owners into those keeping quality goods and those keeping shoddy ones.

And when feeding a group of poor I categorised them into types that were hungry and those who were well fed offering only drinks to the well fed and a full meal to the hungry.

and so on. I categorise all the time and find great value in that but I have not categorised people into castes yet and have felt no need for it yet unlike you. Or made categories of people into Christians to throw questions of getting screwed by the priests or easterner to throw questions of caste.

May I make a request. Kindly keep you caste dilemmas to yourself or take them elsewhere. I am having to repeat this because I have found you falling back to that that repeatedly like the old gramaphone records that used to get stuck on a note.

ashok said...

Hayden, Vincent

Besides my belief and faith some manifestations where in my knowledge and experience I have found God to be error free is in the laws that created the universe and sustain it e.g. The gravitational law governed by the gravitational constant and the speed of light. Scientific experiments have failed to note any errors in these laws.

Vincent said...

I accept your admonishments, Ashok, and will behave myself in future.

ashok said...

Vincent, Inspite of the indignation expressed in my responses, you do know that your comments are highly appreciated as well as your views as I have affirmed repeatedly. You certainly have a much wider exposure and understanding of the matter at hand than most others I have met and also have the boldness to take a stand that differs from other views.

It is expected that diverse views must prevail when dealing with such profound issues and because this is a blog some informal chiding must also take place from time to time.

Best wishes.

Vincent said...

That's gracious of you, Ashok. Enjoy your trip away.

ashok said...

Just manage to catch your comment Vincent before departure. Thanks. It is appreciated.
Best wishes and hoping that you would have overcome or will speedily overcome your recent health issue.