Monday, July 24, 2006

A Minimum Working Hypothesis

This is a brief commentary on the first essay is the book "Huxley and God", which is a collection of essays by Aldous Huxley on religous experience.

This essay is an excellent opening for a book on religious experience. Huxley lays out the idea of religion as science, and the religious experience as scientific experimentation. As with all science a working hypothesis is called for. Huxley states that to have too little theory behind your faith will leave one ineffectual, but at the same time if one has too much theory behind their faith they will only “discover what they are initially taught to believe.” This second idea is leveled at what Huxley called “100 percent revealed religions” such as Catholicism, Judaism, and Islam. Another comment on this second group provided by Huxley that I think is quite revealing is this: “[They] go about forcing things to become the signs of [their] word patterns, when [they] ought to be adapting [their] word patterns to become the signs of things.” Basically what Huxley seems to be getting at is the concept of balance. That in order to properly engage the religious experience one must be balanced between apathy and agenda. One cannot sit idle waiting for enlightenment, but at the same time one can’t possibly know what that enlightenment will look like, so there is mystery involved. Huxley lays out what he believes the minimum working hypothesis is, and for the most part I agree with it. I will relay it here, but change it a bit to fit what I would consider my own minimum working hypothesis. 1. There is a God, the un-manifested principle of all manifestations. 2. It is possible for human beings to love, know, and gain an intimate knowledge of God. 3. To achieve this unitive knowledge of God is the final end and purpose of human existence. 4. That there is a Law that must be obeyed, and a Way that must be followed, if men are to achieve their final end. 5. The more there is of self, the less there is of God; and that the path is therefore a way of humility and Love, the Law, a living law of self-transcending awareness.

There’s something basic here, but yet quite revealing. Huxley is saying it’s more important to get the basics right FIRST, before getting into the details. What the “Way” is, and what the “Law” is, are up for interpretation. But that these things exist means one has to hold to the concepts of Absolute Truth. Huxley, in no way, is advocating the concepts of Relativism in this essay. To me, he’s just showing how broad the path might be to God. And while it may be broad, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t very specific.


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