Nihilism and Revolution

Veiled Reality

Mystery is not something negative that has to be eliminated.
Veiled Reality
Clotheline – Stacey Gardner

I’ve spent much of my adult life trying to quell my metaphysical leanings by training my mind to observe and deduce. Shining the light of reason into the darkest corners of my mind and soul, I’ve chased away ambiguities and replaced them with facts. I think it was Hegel who said that if you look at the world rationally, the world will look rationally back at you. I desperately want to live in a rational world: one composed entirely of black and white. Because it’s the gray where I get into trouble. Gray is the color of lone existential wandering – of mystery, uncertainty and fear.

“Mystery is not something negative that has to be eliminated. On the contrary, it is one of the constitutive elements of being.” There, in black and white, a rational defense of gray. It was an article about an esteemed physicist, Dr. Bernard d’Espagnat, who’d just been awarded the controversial Templeton prize, a $1.42 million accolade for work toward the reconciliation of spirituality and science. D’Espagnat, an 87-year-old professor at the University of Paris-Sud, certainly didn’t set out aiming to balance the two. Much of his career has been devoted to quantum mechanics, specifically work on Bell’s theorem: a groundbreaking theory that runs counter to the commonsense notion of locality. Locality states that an event happening in one place has no instantaneous effect anywhere else. If a star explodes, we find out only when the flash gets here.

Much of d’Espagnat’s work focuses on the theory of entanglement: a strange and troublesome idea that hasn’t been able to gain much traction in mainstream physics. According to the theory, once two particles have interacted, they remain bound in a powerful yet inexplicable way. If something happens to one particle, the other instantly feels the effects of that event. They may spin to opposite corners of the universe, but their connection is independent of distance. The particles are forever entangled, each one’s existence bound to that of the other.

D’Espagnat doesn’t regard our inability to explain entanglement as a reason to suspect a flaw in the theory. He regards the mystery of entanglement as evidence of a veiled reality, one that exists beneath what we perceive as space, time and matter. Science, he claims, can never hope to fully explain the nature of being. It can only offer us a partial window to reality – one through which we can steal fleeting glances at what lies beyond. The human mind, which d’Espagnat believes to be capable of perceiving deep realities, must turn to other methods – such as art or the belief in a greater cosmic force – to gain a greater, more complete understanding of the world.

Reading about d’Espagnat, I found myself taking comfort in the idea of an entangled reality beneath the veil. To live in a world of empirical fact is to believe only what we can observe to be true. But strive though I might to be a faithful empiricist, so much of what I want to believe requires far more faith than fact. I would like to believe that when I die I will somehow persist. Maybe not as a being but as a spirit, a consciousness or an energy. I’d like to believe that all I’ve touched is still out there, somehow affected by my movements and thoughts, bearing my imprint in some mysterious way. And I’d like to believe that I, in turn, carry the touch of all that I’ve experienced: all that I’ve loved and all that has wounded or moved me. I’d like to believe I am forever entangled with my existence and my existence with me. The idea of indelibility – of a mark that cannot be erased by space or time – makes the gray area seem less lonely, less frightening. I’m willing to step beyond the bounds of black and white for that kind of comfort.

–Sarah Nardi

40 comments on the article “Veiled Reality”

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Anonymous

I find it always interesting that when one wishes to hold onto a particular belief, be it that they will some how persist beyond death, or that the Christian God exists, they turn their argument first against rationality, as though to two are opposites. Rational thinking and its bedfellow logic, in fact, is a process of thought that can confirm one's belief. No, not that it can confirm the validity of that belief, but the validity of believing. Try this basic exercise in rational thinking: I am human. Humans die. Therefore I will die. Now, one step further: I am human. Humans believe. There for I will believe. Continued on, of course, and without hubris, one would eventually come to the logic that humans have and always will invent beliefs based on cultural biases, needs, understandings and fears and that unless one were to assume to possess all the knowledge of the Gods, one must then come to the rational conclusion that their belief, like those of others, is constructed of the same cloth. I am human. Humans invent beliefs based on temporal cultural biases, needs, understandings and fears. Therefore I will invent beliefs based on cultural biases, needs, understandings and fears. No true rationalist would deny belief. Belief, in innumerable ways and everyday, is the foundation of human existence by which we culturally and individually make order of our lives. The human mind can only ingest a small portion of our daily stimulus and make order of it, and often it is our beliefs that help us do this. I believe that time is worth more than money, that a short exciting life is better than a long dull one and that hard satisfying work is a akin to play. None of these are "religion," per se, though they are beliefs just the same, and nothing in me must insist they are the only way to believe. This is rational thinking that fully allows for belief, but what rational thinking also allows is for the inherent limits of those beliefs and therefore is left arguing against belief, not because of belief, but because of the value and insistence of "truth" the irrational attach to those beliefs. If all believers could rationally recognize human belief, see how belief has played out through history and not possess the irrational hubris to believe that their belief, above the billions others is the only "right" belief,then even the most profound rationalists, like myself, would happily leave belief be. Unfortunately, it is the desperate need to believe that belief is real that all too often makes it dangerous. James Askew

Anonymous

I find it always interesting that when one wishes to hold onto a particular belief, be it that they will some how persist beyond death, or that the Christian God exists, they turn their argument first against rationality, as though to two are opposites. Rational thinking and its bedfellow logic, in fact, is a process of thought that can confirm one's belief. No, not that it can confirm the validity of that belief, but the validity of believing. Try this basic exercise in rational thinking: I am human. Humans die. Therefore I will die. Now, one step further: I am human. Humans believe. There for I will believe. Continued on, of course, and without hubris, one would eventually come to the logic that humans have and always will invent beliefs based on cultural biases, needs, understandings and fears and that unless one were to assume to possess all the knowledge of the Gods, one must then come to the rational conclusion that their belief, like those of others, is constructed of the same cloth. I am human. Humans invent beliefs based on temporal cultural biases, needs, understandings and fears. Therefore I will invent beliefs based on cultural biases, needs, understandings and fears. No true rationalist would deny belief. Belief, in innumerable ways and everyday, is the foundation of human existence by which we culturally and individually make order of our lives. The human mind can only ingest a small portion of our daily stimulus and make order of it, and often it is our beliefs that help us do this. I believe that time is worth more than money, that a short exciting life is better than a long dull one and that hard satisfying work is a akin to play. None of these are "religion," per se, though they are beliefs just the same, and nothing in me must insist they are the only way to believe. This is rational thinking that fully allows for belief, but what rational thinking also allows is for the inherent limits of those beliefs and therefore is left arguing against belief, not because of belief, but because of the value and insistence of "truth" the irrational attach to those beliefs. If all believers could rationally recognize human belief, see how belief has played out through history and not possess the irrational hubris to believe that their belief, above the billions others is the only "right" belief,then even the most profound rationalists, like myself, would happily leave belief be. Unfortunately, it is the desperate need to believe that belief is real that all too often makes it dangerous. James Askew

Anonymous

"Science, he claims, can never hope to fully explain the nature of being. It can only offer us a partial window to reality – one through which we can steal fleeting glances at what lies beyond." No. Science can not even offer us a 'partial' window of 'reality'. All science is is a tool for accomplishing things, for exercising our will to power. It does not even offer a partial perspective on categorically objective absolutes. When science is taken as anything more than a tool for accomplishing goals, it becomes idealism. It becomes coercive, bullying 'truths' that enforce compliance. Destination oriented travel through time, space, evolution and dimension is, like the article asserts, fear based travel. Seeking to eradicate mystery in search of truth is the behavior of a fearful, controlling agent. Seeking to solve mystery as recreation, for personal pleasure, is the prospect of nihilism: IE no authority is legitimate but the authority of the individual to decide for themselves what to value, what to believe as truth. If Sarah feels coerced by her compulsion to make empirical judgements on 'reality', she may be overlooking that she is submiting herself to this compulsion. She is choosing to be a victim. Perhaps there's a little masochist in all of us. I know I enjoy solving mysteries, even though I always keep in mind that once solved, a dozen more will emerge. That is part of the fun of it after all. All the world's a stage. I am disappointed in the recent Adbusters move to portray nihilism in a 'negative' light. I feel that nihilism is the most free, least coercive philosophy there is. It places the responsibility on the individual to find, create, decide for themselves what is bad, what is good, what is true, what is false. As a nihilist, I believe in nothing, but what I believe. Nihilism is not a negative, bad or dark trend. It is that AND a positive, good, light trend. It is whatever YOU decide it is.

Anonymous

"Science, he claims, can never hope to fully explain the nature of being. It can only offer us a partial window to reality – one through which we can steal fleeting glances at what lies beyond." No. Science can not even offer us a 'partial' window of 'reality'. All science is is a tool for accomplishing things, for exercising our will to power. It does not even offer a partial perspective on categorically objective absolutes. When science is taken as anything more than a tool for accomplishing goals, it becomes idealism. It becomes coercive, bullying 'truths' that enforce compliance. Destination oriented travel through time, space, evolution and dimension is, like the article asserts, fear based travel. Seeking to eradicate mystery in search of truth is the behavior of a fearful, controlling agent. Seeking to solve mystery as recreation, for personal pleasure, is the prospect of nihilism: IE no authority is legitimate but the authority of the individual to decide for themselves what to value, what to believe as truth. If Sarah feels coerced by her compulsion to make empirical judgements on 'reality', she may be overlooking that she is submiting herself to this compulsion. She is choosing to be a victim. Perhaps there's a little masochist in all of us. I know I enjoy solving mysteries, even though I always keep in mind that once solved, a dozen more will emerge. That is part of the fun of it after all. All the world's a stage. I am disappointed in the recent Adbusters move to portray nihilism in a 'negative' light. I feel that nihilism is the most free, least coercive philosophy there is. It places the responsibility on the individual to find, create, decide for themselves what is bad, what is good, what is true, what is false. As a nihilist, I believe in nothing, but what I believe. Nihilism is not a negative, bad or dark trend. It is that AND a positive, good, light trend. It is whatever YOU decide it is.

Anonymous

This (Alan Watts) lecture may shed some light on the nature of your program.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pTNpx9N22ss

There are a lot of features of the world that are not susceptible to the scientific 'program'. We can be more rational (which is fantastic), but we cannot remove the irrational. The Zen answer: It is what it is. Personally, I like taking walks in the wilderness and appreciating that it's far beyond my little monkey-mind's ability to comprehend.

Anonymous

This (Alan Watts) lecture may shed some light on the nature of your program.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pTNpx9N22ss

There are a lot of features of the world that are not susceptible to the scientific 'program'. We can be more rational (which is fantastic), but we cannot remove the irrational. The Zen answer: It is what it is. Personally, I like taking walks in the wilderness and appreciating that it's far beyond my little monkey-mind's ability to comprehend.

Anonymous

Watts was a bantering, unoriginal, drugged hippie. After reading his "The Book", I have lost all reverence for him. Just another washed up 60's veteran ranting on irrelevant metaphysical nonsense when his intellect would much better have been served elsewhere in society.

Anonymous

Watts was a bantering, unoriginal, drugged hippie. After reading his "The Book", I have lost all reverence for him. Just another washed up 60's veteran ranting on irrelevant metaphysical nonsense when his intellect would much better have been served elsewhere in society.

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