Reason / Faith

Reason               -          Faith
Science              -          Religion
Fact                    -          Fiction
Literal                -          Metaphorical
Nomological      -          Mythological
Consistent          -          Inconsistent
Coherent            -          Incoherent
Convergent        -          Divergent
Mono                 -          Poly

The imposing arguments of science represent the highest degree of intellectual certainty yet achieved by the mind of man.

So at least it seems to the man of today, who has received hundred-fold enlightenment concerning the backwardness and darkness of past ages and their superstitions. That his teachers have themselves gone seriously astray by making false comparisons between incommensurable factors never enters his head.

Above all, the facts of faith, which might give him the chance of an extramundane standpoint, are treated in the same context as the facts of science.

Thus, when the individual questions the Churches and their spokesmen, to whom is entrusted the cure of souls, he is informed that membership in a creed is more or less de rigeur for religious belief; that the facts of faith which have become questionable for him were concrete historical events; that certain ritual actions produce miraculous effects; and that the sufferings of Christ have vicariously saved him from sin and its consequences.

If, with the limited means at his disposal, he begins to reflect on these things, he will have to confess that he does not understand them at all and that only two possibilities are open to him; either to believe implicitly, or to reject such statements because they are flatly incomprehensible.

Whereas the man of today can easily think about and understand all the "truths" dished out by the State, his understanding of religion is made considerably more difficult owing to the lack of explanations.

If, despite this, he has still not discarded all his religious convictions, this is because the religious impulse rests on an instinctive basis and is therefore a specifically human function.

You can take away a man's gods, but only to give him others in return.

[C.G. Jung]
The Undiscovered Self, p.45, 46

The standpoint of the creeds is archaic; they are full of impressive mythological symbolism which, if taken literally, comes into insufferable conflict with knowledge.

But if, for instance, the statement that Christ rose from the dead is to be understood not literally but symbolically, then it is capable of various interpretations that do not collide with knowledge and do not impair the meaning of the statement.

Is it not time that the Christian mythology, instead of being wiped out, was understood symbolically for once?

[C.G. Jung]
The Undiscovered Self, p.27

Temples and churches, pagodas and mosques, in all countries and ages, in their splendour and spaciousness, testify to man's need for metaphysics, a need strong and ineradicable, which follows close on the physical.

[Arthur Schopenhauer]
The World as Will and Representation, Volume II, p.162

Our time has been distinguished, more than by anything else, by a drive to control the external world , and by an almost total forgetfulness of the internal world.

By 'inner' I mean our way of seeing the external world and all those realities that have no 'external', 'objective' presence - imagination, dreams, phantasies, trances, the realities of contemplative and meditative states, realities that modern man, for the most part, has not the slightest direct awareness of.

People did not first 'believe in' God: they experienced his Presence, as was true of other spiritual agencies.

Sanity today appears to rest very largely on a capacity to adapt to the external world - the interpersonal world, and the realm of human collectivities [...] But since society, without knowing it, is starving for the inner, the demands on people to evoke its presence in a 'safe' way, in a way that need not be taken seriously, etc., is tremendous - while the ambivalence is equally intense.

Small wonder that the list of artists, in say the last 150 years, who have become shipwrecked on these reefs is so long - Hölderlin, John Clare, Rimbaud, Van Gogh, Nietzsche, Antonin Artaud ...

Those who survived have had exceptional qualities - a capacity for secrecy, slyness, cunning - a thoroughly realistic appraisal of the risks they run, not only from the spiritual realms that they frequent, but from the hatred of their fellows for anyone engaged in this pursuit.

Let us cure them. The poet who mistakes a real woman for his Muse and acts accordingly ... The young man who sets off in a yacht in search of God ...

The outer divorced from any illumination from the inner is in a state of darkness. We are in an age of darkness. The state of outer darkness is a state of sin - i.e. alienation or estrangement from the inner light. Certain actions lead to greater estrangement; certain others help one not be so far removed. The former used to be called sinful.

Already everything in our time is directed to categorizing and segregating this reality from objective facts.

Many people are prepared to have faith in the sense of scientifically indefensible belief in an untested hypothesis. Few have trust enough to test it. Many people make believe what they experience. Few are made to believe by their experience.

We live in a secular world. To adapt to this world the child abdicates its ecstasy.

There is a prophecy in Amos that there will be a time when there will be a famine in the land, 'not a famine for bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.' That time has now come to pass. It is the present age.

[R.D. Laing]
The Politics of Experience and The Bird of Paradise, p.115-8

[A man] must sense that he lives in a world which in some respects is mysterious; that things happen and can be experienced which remain inexplicable; that not everything which happens can be anticipated. The unexpected and the incredible belong to this world. Only then is life whole.

[C.G. Jung]
Memories, Dreams, Reflections, p.390

[...] our ancestors understood metaphorically at least five thousand years ago that the process of creative courageous encounter with the unknown comprised the central process underlying successful human adaptation, and that this process stood as the veritable precondition for the existence and maintenance of all good things.

Such understanding, however, was implicit and low-resolution – at best, procedural, embodied, encoded in ritual and drama – and not something elaborated to the point we would consider explicit or semantic understanding today.

We are constantly tempted to regard such understanding as superstitious, because of its continuing lack of explicitness, and to presume that our current modes of apprehension have rendered traditional beliefs superfluous. 

This attitude is predicated (1) on failure to recognize that empirical enquiry cannot provide a complete world description, because of the intractable problems of action, value and consciousness and (2) on an ignorance with regard to the content and meaning of pre-empirical or pre-experimental belief that is so complete, profound and unfathomable that its scope can barely be communicated.

Freud described religious beliefs as illusions, motivated by wish-fulfillment.

Such beliefs can be more accurately understood as culturally-shared and accepted strategies for pragmatically managing complexity.

[Jordan B. Peterson]
'Complexity Management Theory: Motivation for Ideological Rigidity and Social Conflict', in Cortex 38(3), December 2002, p. 453, 455

Whenever you try to understand anything, by whatever powers you have, you will discover [...] that what you are pursuing is inexhaustible [...] that you are trying to apply a formula to something which evades your formula, because whenever you try to nail it down, new abysses open, and these to yet other abysses.

When [the romantics] asked themselves how [...] one could begin to understand reality, in some sense of the word 'understand', how one might obtain some kind of insight into it without positively distinguishing oneself on the one hand as a subject, and reality on the other hand as an object, without in the process killing it, the answer which they sought to give, at least some of them, was that the only way of doing this was by means of myths [...]

[...] because myths embody within themselves something inarticulable, and also manage to encapsulate the dark, the irrational, the inexpressible, that which conveys the deep darkness of this whole process, in images which themselves carry you to further images and which themselves point in some infinite direction.

[...] the Greeks understood life because Apollo and Dionysus were symbols, they were myths, who conveyed certain properties and yet if you asked yourself what it was that Apollo stood for, what it was that Dionysus wanted, the attempt to spell this out in a finite number of words, or even to paint a finite number of pictures, was plainly an absurdity.

Therefore myths are at one and the same time images which the mind can contemplate, in relative tranquility, and yet also something which is everlasting, follows each generation, transforms itself with the transformation of men, and is an inexhaustible supply of the relevant images, which are at once static and eternal.

[Isaiah Berlin]
The Roots of Romanticism, p. 120-1

[...] all modern theories have as a common feature the desire to bring religion down to a purely human level, which amounts to denying it, consciously or otherwise, since it really represents a refusal to take account of what is its very essence […]

[René Guénon] 
The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times, p. 221

[…] perhaps the most astonishing thing of all is the speed with which it has been possible to induce Westerners to forget everything connected with the existence of a traditional civilization in their countries; if one thinks of the total incomprehension of the Middle Ages and everything connected with them which became apparent in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, it becomes easy to understand that so complete and abrupt a change cannot have come about in a natural and spontaneous way. 

However that may be, the first task was as it were to confine men within the limits of their own individuality, and this was the task of rationalism, as previously explained, for rationalism denies to the being the possession or use of any faculty of a transcendent order; it goes without saying moreover that rationalism began its work before ever it was known by that name, and before it took on its more especially philosophical form, as has been shown in connection with Protestantism; and besides, the 'humanism' of the Renaissance was no more than the direct precursor of rationalism properly so called, for the very word 'humanism' implies a pretension to bring everything down to purely human elements and thus (at least in practice if not yet by virtue of an expressly formulated theory) to exclude everything of a supra-individual order. 

[René Guénon] 
The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times, p.193

But the rise of science did not lead to the end of religion, however much Richard Dawkins might like it to be so. Instead - as noted by Illich - religion responded to the challenge by becoming immanent itself.

Western Christianity progressively abandoned its commitment to transcendence and was ‘resolved into philosophy’, allowing itself to be brought down to Earth, into the realm of social activism, politics and ideas. 

‘The conversion of a large part of the religious world to the idea of modernity’ said Del Noce, ‘accelerated the process of disintegration’ that the modern revolution had unleashed.

[Paul Kingsnorth]
‘What Progress Wants’

The task of the descriptive sciences is to describe.

The practitioners of these sciences know that the world is full of marvels which make all of man’s designs, theories or other productions appear as a child’s fumblings. This tends to induce in many of them an attitude of scientific humility. They are not attracted to their disciplines by the Cartesian idea of making themselves 'masters and possessors of nature.’

A faithful description, however, must be not only accurate but also graspable by the human mind, and endless accumulations of facts cannot be grasped; so there is an inescapable need for classifications, generalisations, explanations - in other words, for theories that offer some suggestion as to how the facts may 'hang together'.

Such theories can never be 'scientifically proved’ to be true. The more comprehensive a theory is in the descriptive sciences, the more is its acceptance an act of faith.

Comprehensive theories in the descriptive sciences can be divided into two groups: those that see intelligence or meaning at work in what they describe, and those that see nothing but chance and necessity.

It is obvious that neither the former nor the latter can be 'seen', i.e. sensually experienced by man. In the fourth field of knowledge there is only observation of movement and other kinds of material change; meaning or purpose, intelligence or chance, freedom or necessity, as well as life, consciousness, and self-awareness cannot be sensually observed.

Only 'signs' can be found and observed; the observer has to choose the grade of significance he is willing to attribute to them. To interpret them as signs of chance and necessity is as ‘unscientific' as to interpret them as signs of supra-human intelligence; the one is as much an act of faith as the other.

This does not mean that all interpretations on the vertical scale, signifying grades of significance or Levels of Being, are equally true or untrue; it means simply that their truth or untruth does not rest on scientific proof but on right judgment, a power of the human mind that transcends mere logic just as the computer programmer's mind transcends that of the computer.

[E. F. Schumacher]
A Guide for the Perplexed, p.127-8

[…] “the religious man, unless he happens to be a scientist, is unable to make a bridge between himself and them by producing the right initial argument, which must always be on the scientific plane.”

If it is not on the 'scientific plane', he will be shouted down ‘and reduced to silence by all sorts of scientific jargon'.

The truth of the matter, however, is that the initial argument must not be on the scientific plane; it must be philosophical. It amounts simply to this: descriptive science becomes unscientific and illegitimate when it indulges in comprehensive explanatory theories which can be neither verified nor falsified by experiment.

Such theories are not 'science' but ‘faith'.

[E. F. Schumacher]
A Guide for the Perplexed, p.134

Mythology, as [Niebuhr] understood it, offered a coherent account of human history, in the form of narratives that embodied ethical insight and emotional truth in symbolic form, but the truth of this account, because it rested on intuition and emotion (in the Christian case, on the emotions of trust, loyalty, gratitude, and contrition), could not be established simply by argumentation.

Niebuhr did not recommend the prophetic myth - the narrative of creation, the fall, God's judgment and redemption of history - as an object of aesthetic appreciation, a set of agreeable fictions. He maintained that it gave a true account of the human condition, superior to other accounts. Judeo-Christian prophecy, like any other myth, was prescientific, but it was also “supra-scientific.”

Myths originated in the “childhood of every culture when the human imagination plays freely upon the rich variety of facts and events in life and history, and seeks to discover their relation to basic causes and ultimate meanings without a careful examination of their relation to each other in the realm of natural causation.”

In this sense, mythical thinking fell short of science in its power to explain the world; but it also transcended science by virtue of its power to illuminate the "end of existence without abstracting it from existence.” 

In the latter sense, myth alone was "capable of picturing the world as a realm of coherence and meaning without defying the facts of incoherence."

[Christopher Lasch]
The True and Only Heaven, p.371-2

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