by Paul Kurtz
There is a class of overbeliefs, however, for which no amount of evidence seems to suffice, at least for some people. These generally may be classified as “transcendental beliefs.” It is here that faith or the will to believe intervenes. By the “transcendental,” I mean that which is over and beyond normal observations or rational coherence, and is enhanced by mystery and magic. This surely is what the great mystics have referred to as the “ineffable” depths of Being. Scientific inquiry is naturalistic; that is, it attempts to uncover the natural causes at work. Granted that these are often hidden causes, unseen by unaided observation, such as microbes or atoms; yet such causes can be confirmed by some measure of verification; they fit into a conceptual framework; and their explanatory value can be corroborated by a community of independent inquirers. Transcendental explanations are, by definition, nonnatural; they cannot be confirmed experimentally; they cannot be corroborated objectively.
We may ask, “Why do many people accept unverified occult explanations when they are clothed in religious or paranormal guise?” The answer, I think, in part at least, is because such accounts arouse awe and entice the passionate imagination. In an earlier book I have labeled this “the transcendental temptation,”1 the temptation to believe in things unseen, because they satisfy felt needs and desires. The transcendental temptation has various dimensions. It was resorted to by primitive men and women, unable to cope with the intractable in nature, unmitigated disasters, unbearable pain or sorrow. It is drawn upon by humans in order to assuage the dread of death—by postulating another dimension to existence, the hope for an afterlife in which the evils and injustices of this world are overcome. The lure of the transcendental temptation appeals to the frail and forlorn. There may not be any evidence for a transcendental realm; but the emotive and intellectual desire to submit to it can provide a source of comfort and consolation. To believe that we will meet in another life those whom we have loved in this life can be immensely satisfying, or at least it can provide some saving grace. It may enable a person to get through the grievous losses that he or she suffers in this life. If I can’t be with those I cherish today, I can at least do so in my dreams and fantasies, and if I submit to and propitiate the unseen powers that govern the universe this will miraculously right the wrongs that I have endured in this vale of tears. Thus the transcendental temptation is tempting because it enables human beings to survive the often cruel trials and tribulations that are our constant companion, and it enables us to endure this life in anticipation of the next. It is the mystery and magic of religion, its incantations and rituals, that fan the passions of overbelief, and nourish illusion and unreality. There is a real and dangerous world out there that primitive and modern humans need to cope with—wild animals and marauding tribes, droughts and famine, lightning and forest fires, calamities and deprivation, accidents and contingencies. Surely, there is pleasure and satisfaction, achievement, and realization in life, but also tragedy and failure, defeat, and bitterness. Our world is a complex tapestry of joy and suffering. The transcendental temptation thus can provide a powerful palliative enabling humans to cope with the unbearable, overcome mortality, and finitude; and it does so by creating fanciful systems of religious overbelief in which priests and prophets propitiate the unseen sources of power and thus shield us from the vicissitudes of fortune.
Note: thegrowlingwolf after emailing us the above has done a bunk and gone off into God knows where--he sent the above along with an attempt to explain Painleve transcendents and relate them to transcendentalism--you see, the Wolf Man is heavy into the music of Charles Ives and the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson who were both New England transcendentalists--the Wolf Man really can't stand it that these two miraculous Americans believed in a God, a vaporish, intellectual one, yes, but still a God. The Wolf Man can't understand God; we've recently overheard him arguing with thedailygrowlerhousepianist about "believing in God," the House Piano Player saying he believes in God even if God is only a dream. We would publish their dialogs but, like we said, our Wolf Man has done a bunk on us again. He's given us up to pursue his own writing and music endeavors, he babbles. He was playing the guitar around the fabulous The Daily Growler "Dick Cheney Memorial Bunker Offices" in one corner of Dick's seedy, moldy, and gunsmoke-smelling basement the other day saying he'd rather take his guitar out into the street and earn more money than he can earn writing for The Daily Growler. We the Staff thought that was a given--we thought his writing for us was a show of faith in us and the messages and massages we're trying to flush out into the Internet sewer lines of information!
In the meantime, if anyone out there wants to write a long philosophical or dumbass comment, we welcome your response whether highly critical, visciously mean, or just plain dopey--like intellectual Yahoos--what are they like?thestaff
for The Daily Growler
Happy Memorial (Decoration) Day
The Iraqis getting a dose of enforced "democracy" from a country that is a Republic and not a Democracy--we wonder when the Iraqis will finally get to have a Memorial Day of their own?