The quest for truth

We live in an age where there’s a lot of cynicism towards media outlets, governments, and organisations that have a large influence regarding information and how it’s shared. Depending on the source, you could come across conflicting information, and if several sources make the same claim then it’s natural to be inclined to take the information as fact or knowledge. Oxford dictionary defines truth as being that which is true or in accordance with fact or reality. This is where the study of theology has left me full of doubt, as religion isn’t absolute and it’s subjective and relative to a person’s perspective or personal beliefs.

“Truth is certainly a branch of morality and a very important one to society.” – Thomas Jefferson

If you look at the root word for truth it’ll lead you to the Latin word veritas, who was the goddess of truth and the daughter of Saturn, and the Greek equivalent was Aletheia, and in Ancient Greece, philosophers used the word ἀλήθεια to mean that which is not hidden; the truth. The quest for truth was the biggest theme that the ancient philosophers debated. According to Plato the truth is objective, and is without bias and independent from subjective perceptions, opinions and unjustifiable beliefs.

“Truth is by nature self-evident. As soon as you remove the cobwebs of ignorance that surround it, it shines clear.” – Mahatma Gandhi

The issue with objective truth is knowledge, and is the knowledge accurate. Not too long ago people believed that the Sun rotated around the Earth and we lived in a geocentric solar system, until the Polish born mathematician and astronomer, Nicolaus Copernicus, corrected this and the beginning of the Copernican Revolution was born and scientists accepted that the Earth and the other planets revolves around the Sun.

In science, the purpose is to gather facts, and understand reality using doubt and scepticism, and no scientific theory is ever once and for all put to bed as new evidence is always ready to be discovered. Despite this, science and it’s relation to objectivity is about discovering a collective understanding, that’s not influenced by outside interference. When a scientific theory is established it’s often presented to a scientific journal where it’s peer reviewed by neutral scientists and they attempt to dissect it to to reach the same conclusion, or prove their doubt, and enforce the objectivity of the scientific method. Yet the truth can only be established if the evidence is substantial, and to prove something is incredibly difficult. So if people find it difficult to obtain the truth, then why do the majority of the world’s population surround their lives with the idea of a creator and an all knowing god, when there’s no objective truth?

Moral responsibility vs moral ignorance

Every day, without fail, there are narrow minded religious apologists claiming that their god provides morality, and some argue even further and claim that their god provides objective morality, or absolute morality, and quite frankly it’s embarrassing and a tiresome debate as they simply refuse to accept that morality is evolutionary and a social construct. Morality is knowledge, and it’s knowledge about recognising the difference between right and wrong. Doing something right is about promoting happiness, good will and treating others with respect. Doing something wrong is promoting distress, lack of compassion, understanding and empathy. As a social species we gain knowledge through experience and through the senses. We have emotions like a conscience that informs us when we’ve done something wrong, and with that usually comes remorse and regret. In future we tend to avoid the same actions as our conscience can haunt us and make us feel awful, even if the action was unintentional.

Everyone must have heard a religious apologist asking how a non-believer can make the claim that Hitler was objectively evil, or how torturing a baby is wrong. You really have to ponder the mental reasoning that they are devoid of to contemplate questions like that, and even provided with evidence that morality can be acquired, studied and observed through various philosophies and ways of life, they either claim that without god you’ve no moral framework, or if they are being backed into a corner, they suggest that we borrow the morality that was given by YHWH through Jesus, or Muslims claim through Muhammed and Allah. If they truly believe that their gods supply them with a moral framework then by all means let them live their lives the way they see fit, but don’t claim a moral superiority because you believe that an non-theist by default is nihilistic, narcissistic and a sociopath.

Moral ignorance is simply not understanding whether something is moral or not, and this is why theists, especially of the Abrahamic flavours, make the claim that you need god. But who’s to say that the opinions of the said god that’s written down in scripture is factually moral? Their argument usually comes in the form of god is perfect, he has perfect thoughts, so his morals are perfect. But is there any proof of this claim? First off, the burden of proof lies with them, as they make the claim that without god’s absolutes a moral framework can’t be established, but they not only have to prove beyond doubt that their god exists, but that what he claims are morals are actually morals, and not just commands that he wishes for. Wanting something because you are a megalomaniac who will kill if you don’t worship him, or dare to worship false idols, isn’t what I’d consider an appropriate agent for supplying a moral foundation, and I’m sure you’ll agree.

Moral ignorance, as an example is your neighbour is grooming children, but you don’t inform the correct authorities as you’re unaware what’s going on, so this is no fault of yours; but, what if you know that they are grooming children, but you’re unaware that it’s morally wrong? Do any of the religious scriptures suggest that it’s morally wrong to groom children? At a guess, I’d suggest not, but as a human being, who’s educated in social groups, we are inherently aware that it’s wrong in a number of ways. The first is it’s a child, so straight away a law has been broken as they are underage, and without the ability to understand what consensual means. Secondly, you are taking advantage of their naivety, and innocence and they more than likely aren’t even aware of what’s truly happening, and thirdly you are inflicting abuse against their rights as a human being, and will no doubt make them a future victim who will be left scarred from their tormentor.

Are we expected to adhere to moral standards? I’d argue that it’s our moral responsibility, and as ethical agents, we are obliged to apply good will to every decision we make that may affect, or influence another person. This is where consideration, and another person’s well being comes into play. If you witnessed someone have a seizure and inevitably begin convulsing, and despite knowing the recovery position, you just idly stand by watching, are you complicit in allowing that person’s death, and displaying an example of a moral failure? Of course you are, humans are hardwired by emotions, and upon seeing this you may panic, lose your calm and become flustered, but it’s natural to feel these emotions as you’re instinctive primary concern will be to try and save that person, even if they mean nothing to you. You do it because you’re expected through good will, regardless of the hope of reward, like Emmanuel Kant discusses in the Kantian theory.

“David Hume, 18th century Scottish philosopher, argues that actually our emotions can play a role in our moral makeup (as opposed to the Greco ideology of sole reason). For Confucius, benevolence — acts of kindness — is the prime virtue. Additionally, Confucian protégé, Mencius, in one of his books, utters, “Benevolence is the heart of man, and rightness his road” – Source

There are many theories, and philosophies surrounded ethics, morality and living a virtuous life.

Buddhism focuses on the ‘Four Noble Truths‘, which are;

• The Truth of Suffering;

• The Truth of the Cause of Suffering;

• The Truth of the End of Suffering;

• The Truth of the Path that Leads to the End of Suffering.

The Four Noble Truths are reached through the ‘Noble Eightfold Path‘, which are;

• Right Understanding;

• Right Thought;

• Right Speech,

• Right Action;

• Right Livelihood;

• Right Effort;

• Right Mindfulness;

• Right Concentration.

Stoicism isn’t too dissimilar to Buddhism, as it too is about reaching a virtuous, noble life, and they follow the ‘Four Cardinal Virtues‘, which are;

• Wisdom : Includes excellent deliberation, good judgment, perspective, good sense.

• Justice : Includes good-heartedness, benevolence, public service, fair dealing.

• Courage : Includes bravery, perseverance, authenticity, confidence.

• Temperance: Includes orderliness, self-control, forgiveness, humility.

Stoics primarily focused on what is virtuous, and not concerning yourself with what’s beyond your control, and having the ability to distinguish between good, bad, and indifference. The good being the Cardinal Virtues, and the bad being the direct opposite of them, foolishness, injustice, cowardice, and excessiveness.

Aretaic ethics, (virtuous) is an area of philosophy that many of the wise of Ancient Greece discussed, which focused around the areas of;

• Honesty;

• Courage;

• Compassion;

• Generosity;

• Loyalty;

• Fidelity;

• Fairness;

• Restraint;

• Wisdom;

• Principles;

• Ethics;

• Nobel;

• Righteousness

These were all the things that they considered to be essential to successfully function within a social community.

“Of all the varieties of virtues, liberalism is the most beloved.” – Aristotle

Liberalism is perhaps one of the most important social and political philosophies, as it covers the area of equality, and since many religions are oppressive, and disregard equality, then they stumble in their delusional world that they somehow have the moral high ground. Liberalism obviously focuses on liberty, and freedom, but also covers areas like;

Individual rights: human and civil rights;

Freedom of religion;

Freedom from religion;

• Secularism;

Democracy;

Gender, sexual and racial equality

These are social foundations that heavily influence the humanistic philosophical approach, where the focus is on the agency and value of humans as individuals and as a whole, using reason and empathy towards all sentient life. In the U.K humanism is a recognised, registered charity and are involved in many areas of reform which include;

Education

• Human rights: blasphemy laws; gender mutilation; forced marriage; freedom of speech; and pro-choice: abortion rights and assisted dying.

Animal cruelty

Secularism

Scientific method

Progressivism: morality; economic reform; efficiency and social welfare

Climate change and global warming

All the above examples are all adhering to a system of values and principles of conduct that’s expected for a society to flourish for the overall greater good, and I’d say the virtuous source of morality that comes from the Ancient Greek schools of thought are probably the most influential, particularly the Aristotelian views:

‪The ultimate end of human action is happiness. 
Happiness consists in acting in accordance with reason. 
Acting in accordance with reason is the distinguishing feature of all the traditional virtues.‬Source

‪Ultimately it seems that most philosophies are enforced by the use of reason, and reason is the ability to think, and form judgements using logical and rational understanding. I’ve already mentioned the Kantian theory, but at its basic level it amounts to this simple process:‬

‪You ought to do your duty (simply because it is your duty). 
Reason guides you to this conclusion.” ‬Source

Occultism

The occult is a category that involves the studying of the supernatural which cannot be described using the scientific method, and is not technically a religion, although cults have been born from studying the occult. Occultism cover a wide range of subjects including sorcery and witchcraft, alchemy, mysticism, astrology, demonology, clairvoyance, Ouija and séances, vampirism, lycanthropy, palmistry, tarot reading, or spiritual mediums, and anything else in the Metaphysical domain.

The word occult, as you’d expect, is derived from Latin, and is taken from the word occultare, which means secret, or clandestine, and occulere which means conceal. The occult has taken on a dark undertone due to some of the subjects related to it, and some of the people in history that have studied the dark arts to gain an advantage over others. Many religions frown upon the occult as they consider in direct opposition to their gods, and the Torah commands anyone who selves in sorcery to be executed, and the Qur’an treats it as treason, and the accused will most certainly face the death penalty in Islamic theocracies.

‪Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.” – Exodus 22:18‬

Occultism and Nazism

One of the most notable figures in history to have obsessed over the Grenzwissenschaft (pseudosciences of the occult) was the Nazi leader, ‘Adolf Hitler‘, and he yearned to discover some demonic force that would allow him to defeat the Allied armies. One quote by ‘Ernst Schertel‘ inspired both Hitler and his devout senior officials to study the dark arts extensively.

“He who does not carry demonic seeds within him will never give birth to a new world” – Dr. Ernst Schertel

Heinrich Himmler‘, the Reichsführer-SS, was just as obsessed, if not more so, and the SS even had a witchcraft division where they hunted for evidence of wizardry and witchcraft. Their aim was to turn the Aryan race into Übermensch (superior beings). He was also obsessed with devil worship, and was convinced, as were many other top Nazi officials that Jesus wasn’t a Jew, but was the first true Aryan, and his blood was the first of the master race.

‪The World Ice Theory, or Welteislehre, was a key belief in the Nazi party, which was a theory put forward by‬ ‘Hanns Hörbiger‘, in which he claimed the ice was the basic cosmic element, and it helped form the universe and all within it. The idea was two stars collided, and one was dead and frozen, and that created a massive amount of energy that propelled into empty space creating all of the stars and planets. This became the antithesis to the Jewish ways of thinking, and especially Einstein’s theory of relativity. Hitler and Himmler believed that it was significant enough to replace Jewish religions.

“…the word occult, despite conjuring images of devil worship, actually means ‘hidden’ or ‘obscured.’ In times of religious oppression, knowledge that was counterdoctrinal had to be kept hidden or ‘occult,’ and because the church felt threatened by this, they redefined anything ‘occult’ as evil, and the prejudice survived.” – Dan Brown

Occult scientists

‪It’s hardly surprising that science has entertained areas of the occult, as science has its limits within the physical world, but the people involved is rather surprising, and consist of non other then one of the most famous theist scientists, ‘Sir Isaac Newton‘, and the extremely eccentric genius that was ‘Nikola Tesla‘. Tesla was obsessed with attempting to contact the paranormal, and Newton was obsessed with alchemy. In the field of psychology and neuroscience, both ‘Carl Jung‘, and ‘Sigmund Freud‘ were fascinated with telepathic and psychic phenomena. ‘Pierre and Marie Curie‘, were both also keen believers of the paranormal and often organised séances. Both contributed heavily into scientific research, but they were unable to explain how the paranormal worked.‬

Thomas Edison‘, who invented the phonograph, movie camera, and the controversial light bulb, also worked on a device that he wished to communicate with the dead through. ‘Alfred Russel Wallace‘, who was one of the co-developers of the theory of evolutionary natural selection along with ‘Charles Darwin‘ was heavily into spiritualism and the paranormal and many people in the scientific community distanced themselves from him as he had a habit of bringing it up at inappropriate venues and science seminars.

“I have been at work for some time building an apparatus to see if it is possible for personalities which have left this earth to communicate with us” – Thomas Edison

The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn

‪In 1866 a group of Freemasons set up the ‘Societas Rosicruciana‘, who were fascinated by 15th century doctor called ‘Christian Rosenkreutz’, who studied the occult and was associated with a number of occult authors, and this started the Rosicrucianism movement. In 1888 three members broke away and formed the ‘The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn‘, who were dedicated to studying the occult, mysticism and metaphysics. Their aim was to promote and encourage the teachings of Hermetic Kaballah, Astrology, Tarot, Geomancy, and Alchemy, whose rituals became known as ‘Rosae Rubae et Aureae Crucis‘ (Ruby Rose and Golden Cross) and they created the Isis-Urania Temple in London. Several years later the society had grown in numbers and was in the hundreds, and ranged from doctors, lawyers and other high ranking Masonic members. One of the most famous was a certain ‘Aleister Crowley’. By the turn of the century, however, the movement splintered and the now two temples, Amen-Ra and Isis-Urania, separated.‬

Aleister Crowley and Thelema

‪Aleister Crowley was a self declared prophet who founded the Thelema occultist movement, which literally meant ‘to will‘ in Ancient Greek ‘θέλημα’. Due to an alleged spiritual encounter in Egypt, Crowley believed himself to be the ‘Æon of Horus’. Thelemites were known as ‘one who does their will‘, they use magick and study of the occult for self-exploration, and follow the guidelines written in Crowley’s book ‘Liber Legis’ (book of law), which he claimed was dictated to him by an angel named ‘Aiwass‘, who critics believe was the image of ‘Satan‘.

‪”If one were to take the bible seriously one would go mad. But to take the bible seriously, one must be already mad” – Aleister Crowley ‬

‪Thelemite doctrines:‬

‪• “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law”‬

‪• “Every Man and Every Woman Is a Star”‬

‪• “Love Is the law. Law Under will”‬

“The three most commonly discussed deities in Thelema are Nuit, Hadit, and Ra Hoor Khuit, commonly equated to the Egyptian deities Isis, Osiris and Horus.” – Source

Crowley was accused of being a Satanist in the sense that he admired Satan, and freely adopted Satanic images, and he’s been quoted as wishing to be his public relations officer. He adopted the status of being the ‘wickedest man in the world, due to his anti-Christian views and his admiration for the Book of Revelations. Even after his death, his spirit is considered to be one of the most influential in modern paganism, and Thelema is steadily growing around the world, and he was particularly admired by ‘Anton LaVey‘, who formed the atheist movement, ‘The Church of Satan‘, who was also extremely interested in the occult