|Updated: 19 Apr 2014; 18:25 ET [Created 13 Mar 2006; first posted 16 Nov 2011]||URL: http://monismus.com/thirdsam.html|
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|The Book of Third Samuel|
The philosophy (theology) of Monismus,
the personal testament of
S. Berliner, III
Consultant in Ultrasonic Processing
Technical and Historical Writer, Oral Historian
Popularizer of Science and Technology
Light-weight Linguist, Lay Minister, and Putative Philosopher
[Note - this work is written in the first person singular and in a very casual form; it is a compiliation of many thoughts that have occurred to me (and grown) over a long life and which give me strength and comfort - hopefully these thoughts will offer the same to others.]
Home Page of the Monist Church.
This is a book of belief in the Laws of the Conservation of Energy and Mass, possibly the most important, and certainly the most practically useful of several conservation laws in physics, which state that the total inflow of energy into a system must equal the total outflow of energy from the system, plus the change in the energy contained within the system. In other words, energy (and thus mass or matter) can be converted from one form to another, but it can neither be created nor destroyed!
Although I have long believed that there was no beginning and will be no end to existence, the Laws of Conservation of Eenergy and Mass confirm that for me. Our way of life, our society as we know it, will almost-certainly end, and our species and even life itself may well end, but existence will not, indeed CAN not.
This premise flies in the face of almost every religion ever formulated. Mankind has a basic and overweening egotism that I find quite unacceptable and unjustified. We are insignificant motes on the face of the Earth, although we certainly have the power to disfigure our home and insist on doing so. The Earth, in turn, is a relativly insignificant part of the Solar System, which is an insignificant galaxy in our universe. Expanding our frame of reference, our universe is an insignificant part of the cosmos, of all existence. So much for our overweening ego.
Now, if there was no beginning, and can be no ending (to existence), there can have been no creation and thus [horrors!] no creator. In the dawn of human life, when we first developed the ability to question, we had very good reason to need a god; thunder and lightning alone justified a need for a benevolent and protective deity, and eclipses, winter, violent death, famine, pestilence, earthquakes, eruptions, and like disasters (or perceived disasters) simply cemented that need. When you found a warm cave in which to huddle and the sabre-toothed cat wanted it back, you had a very immediate and real need for a god. But, as we evolved (yes - I do believe we evolved rather than springing forth fully developed), we were able to afford the luxury of intellectual inquiry and examination and we found explanations for most things and concepts. This burgeoning fund of scientific and technical knowledge freed us (or, at least, some of us) from the superstition and idolatry that enslaved our minds. You need not fear that which you understand.
However, I postulate that you need not fear that which you do not understand, either. As Franklin Delano Roosevelt put it so eloquently in the fifth sentence of his first inaugural address of 1933:
So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that theOf course, FDR was speaking to the Great Depression, but his words ring just as true today.
only thing we have to fear is fear itself --
nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes
needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.
Former minister of the (then) North Shore Unitarian Church of Plandome, Long Island, New York, the late Rev. J. Harold Hadley, introduced me to the "TREMENDUM" (from which I derived "Tremenduum"), that great unknown out there, a take-off from the classical "Mysterium Tremendum"or the numinous (absolute unapproachability, total power, and immediacy), which, to me, gets into nonsense or clap-trap, as in contemplating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. The tremenduum represents the "great unknown", the "blackness beyond", awesome, fearsome, and unavoidable. Yet why fear it, why try to avoid it? Rather, say I, enjoy the mystery and revel in the awesomeness; you have nowhere to go but forward. One of the beauties of climbing a mountain (or even surmounting a hill) is the new vista revealed beyond. This is equally true of knowledge; the more you know, the more you know you don't know. To me, that is just wonderful (in both senses of the word). As long as I am alive, I hope to keep learning; there does not seem to be any limit to the need to know (or to the ability of a healthy mind to absorb).
How can you fear that which you do not know? I fear uncontrolled mobs; I have experienced them. I would have feared the Inquisition, just as I feared Joseph
McCarthy and his (so-called) Un-American Activities Committee and feared the immediate-past (2008) U.S. administration's equivalents. In Nov 2011, I should add that
I greatly fear the incredible ignorance of the far right.
Mysterium Tremendum - as partially noted elsewhere, I played with the idea of spelling this as the MysteriUUm TremendUUm, after Unitarian Universalism. I dropped the thought because it seemed "cutesy" but I must admit it still does appeal to me: (19 Apr 2014)
[* - I suppose I should note here that we DO interfere when a child's welfare is at stake or other such considerations (such as ritual sacrifice or polygamy) obtrude.]
The fact (if it is indeed that) that the cosmos is fully ordered in no way demands, nor even necessarily implies, that that order was (or is) imposed by any divinity or
supreme or sentient being. Far from that, matter, as part of the wonderful interdependent web of all existence, orders itself according to gravitational attractions
and such; no divine hand is required.
On the other hand, I believe with all my heart that we should always be grateful for all the good things that come our way; in sermons I have given, I almost always state that, "EVERY DAY SHOULD BE THANKSGIVING.
I firmly believe in maintaining an ATTITUDE of GRATITUDE. More than that, the attitude must be put into practice.
[As an aside, I like to joke that, especially with a Hungarian mother, humility runs in our family - long and hard!]
* - Original Blessing - Matthew Fox's concept of Original Blessing can be summed up rather neatly by reading (in the King James text) Genesis 1:27 and 28 (in the beginning - the sixth day): So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them - - - . The text then goes on through Verses 29 through 31 of Chapter 1 and thence on to Chapter 2, Verses 1 through 7, before God even created the garden of Eden and thence on to Chapter 3, Verse 7 before the Fall! Thus, even those who believe that the Bible is the inerrant word of the Judaeo-Christian God or Allah are faced with the dilemma that God created humans and blessed them BEFORE there was an Eden and even BEFORE there was sin!
I KEEP six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.
I send them over land and sea,
I send them east and west;
But after they have worked for me,
I give them all a rest.
I let them rest from nine till five,
For I am busy then,
As well as breakfast, lunch, and tea,
For they are hungry men.
But different folk have different views;
I know a person small--
She keeps ten million serving-men,
Who get no rest at all!
She sends'em abroad on her own affairs,
From the second she opens her eyes--
One million Hows, two million Wheres,
And seven million Whys!
To my mind, "Why?" is the eternal, and ultimate, question. To be human is always to ask, "Why?", knowing full well that it can not be answered; in fact, it SHOULD not be answered. The answer to "why?" is tantamount to death, since there would be nothing left for which to search. Science can answer all the other questions - how, where, when, what, who - but not why. Religions have always presumed to answer why but their answers are not much more sophisticated than "Because" - "Because I (Mama or Papa) say so!" Not much for a rational being to hang a hat on.
However, again to my mind, there should be EIGHT serving men or big questions! To Kipling's six, I would add Whence? and Whither?.
For me, these two are almost as significant as Why?  As sentient beings, we must always wonder "Whence?", from where did we come? and "Whither?", where are we
headed? Scientists, especially anthropologists and paleontologists, are busily expanding our knowledge of our origins and EVERY discipline of science and philosophy
and theology tries to answer "Whither?". At the very least, we do have some modicum of control over whither; how we exercise that control will determine if we wither
(deliberate pun - no apology) or prosper as a species.
(07 Nov 2011)
Thus atheism takes quite a bit of gall; I, on the other hand, in spite of having quite a well-developed ego, can not possibly summon up that much certainty. I have just enough humility to know that I might be wrong; I don't think I'm wrong, but I do think I'm probably right. That makes me an Agnostic.
Samuel Langhorne Clemens (writing as Mark Twain) said, "I am an atheist and I thank God for that!" (or words to that effect); no doubt that offended endless scores of people, but I love it.
I awoke on 02 Jan 2012 with this subject on my mind and decided to venture a bit further on the subject. I brought my children up with the dictum that one is an expert if no one can say, "NO!" to you. Further, I taught them (however facetiously) that, "if you don't know what you're talking about, say it with authority!" Harking back to my musings on reality and knowledge and mystery on the Primary Home (Index) Page, What we "know" is our reality; all else we take on faith (in other's knowledge) or as mystery. Let me use five personal examples here, not merely self-serving and self-aggrandising, but primarily illustrative. These examples have to do with:
In my life's work in ultrasonics, I became perhaps the leading exponent of how to apply high-frequency sound at high intensity to actually change materials (not "merely" examine them). Others are far more learned than I in theory and in mechanical and electronic design, but I'll take second seat to no one (yet) on how to "make it work". This is not a matter of "hooray for me" but the result of many years of practice and innovation (and failure). The mantle will be passed but for the nonce, it's mine and I share my knowledge as best as I know how on my website to facilitate that transfer.
The late John Campbell accumulated just about anything and everything there is to know about the first oil-electric (diesel-electric) locomotives, the so-called "boxcabs". At the same time, I was busily doing the same thing. When we learned of each other's passion for this bit of history, we began pooling our information. Unfortunately, John passed away prematurely, leaving me with our joint expertise (I recreated 99-44/100% of John's site). Again, the knowledge is passed along.
I once owned a fabulous 1931 Chrysler Imperial 8 close-coupled sedan which has since passed on to others and has now been meticulously restored. It came from the factory with wooden artillery wheels but one was missing when I got it and it is now running with six wire wheels. Most people wouldn't even know the difference, but I (and the present owner) do! Similarly, there are minute differences between the 1931 and 1932 Imperials, and rather more betwen the 1932 and 1933 cars which I detail on my site.
Similarly, I drove around as a young man in a big 1948 Jaguar drop-head coupé. Before WWII, the Jaguar was built by SS Cars, Ltd.; for some funny reason, they renamed the company but the block in my car's engine was old enough that it still bore the <SS> logo. Not many people know of this finesse, or of many other minor differences between the prewar and postwar cars. Being a detail hound and a car nut and such, I do. No fair; you guessed! Yes, it's all spelled out on my SS and Jaguar pages.
I had the great good fortune as a teen to drive one of the most famous old cars in existence, one that had been on display at New York City's Museum of Modern Art; it was the former D. Cameron Peck 1927 Mercedes-Benz Modell SS Typ 27/170/225 tourer. In my typical fashion, I ended up learning more about this car and its immediate predecessors and successors than most people would ever care to know and it's all out there on my site for all to see.
I also know more than most people about gigantic rail and road transport vehicles, and the Dudgeon steam wagon of 1861, and so on.
O.K.; what's all this got to do with reality? Well, What I "know" I know is my reality. For those with faith in my veracity and research, it becomes their reality. Why Preston Tucker stuck a third headlight in the middle of his ill-fated Tucker auto is a mystery to me; someone, somehwere, may know, but I don't (not that I particularly care). I don't doubt that there are those who know (or profess to know) why and how the Cretaceous-Tertiary Extinction really happened; should I want to know in great detail, I have Google and Wikipedia to start with, with gravely limited certitude, For more authoritative background, I could apply to the various museums and universities and learned societies that specialize in such (I shan't).
Everything else outside my realm of reality is to a lesser or greater degree a mystery. It takes guts to pretend to be an expert. To some extent, it even takes guts to be one. But it also takes guts to admit one's lack of knowledge, one's inability to answer all the questions about existence. "Oh, that's God's provenance" is such an easy way out. I may have said this elsewhere but I truly believe that there is NOTHING we humans can not know; it is just that we do NOT know (or do not YET know, or forgot) the rest. How's THAT for positivism (and brass)?
I acknowledge being a mystic; I'm proud to be so labelled, although my mysticism avoids any reliance on a deity for final answers (not that I believe there are any final answers, other than death). For those so inclined, I commend to your attention the Unitarian Universalist Mystics in Community, who believe that direct experience of transcending mystery and wonder is a wellspring for a life of faith. Right on!
Contributions - as noted on the home page, I do incur expenses in this venture and any contributions to further the work of this effort would be greatly appreciated.
THUMBS UP! -  Support your local police, fire, and emergency personnel!
S. Berliner, III
(Junk and unsigned e-mail and blind telephone messages will NOT be answered)
© Copyright S. Berliner, III - 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014 - all rights reserved.
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