This I Believe

Timothy - Holland, Michigan
Entered on January 5, 2007

Did matter come from Mind, or did mind come from matter? Did a supernatural entity with a mind create the physical universe we live in, or did the material universe self-organize, eventually giving rise to beings with a mind who are self aware and can ponder the

origin of their very existence? Is there a supernatural agent beyond the natural universe?

This most fundamental of questions, I believe, cannot help but be asked, and cannot, in fact, be answered. This is bedeviling because

one of the two alternatives is most certainly true. We humans are part of the natural world, and we become confident in our ability to learn things about it through our five senses. Our senses corroborate each other, and these

bits of knowledge are in turn confirmed by others. Thus there is no legitimate reason to doubt our knowledge of the physical world around us.

But if there is a supernatural beyond our natural world, is it even possible for us to learn of it? To know something about the

supernatural would necessitate interacting with it. If the interaction were done through natural means, we’d have no way to determine that the source is supernatural. If the means of

interaction were itself supernatural, we’d have no way to perceive it.

Or do humans possibly have a “supernatural sense organ” that can receive and interpret signals that are themselves supernatural? We

cannot say so with any confidence since, unlike the uniform conception we have of the natural world, the view of the supernatural varies widely from culture to culture, individual to individual, and even moment to moment. Moreover those who seem most certain of receiving information from a supernatural source and make predictions based on their knowledge are often wrong.

So we are still left with the two alternatives and have no sure way to choose between them. This situation is akin to placing a steel

ball between the poles of two magnets. The configuration is unstable; there is a strong desire to cling to one pole or the other. But I believe that an honest life is one that is willing to lie in tension between the poles.

Living with one’s belief so suspended might be termed “reverent agnosticism.” The reverence is revealed in a lifelong zeal to grapple with the mystery of the existence of a Supernatural Mind in an earnest desire to find the answer – much like taking a long ocean

swim to a distant point. But the agnosticism is a realization that struggling with this ultimate

question is like being tossed and rolled in a huge breaking wave. One aims towards the goal and strives to make progress, but all

the while is aware of the puniness of the effort in the midst of so huge a quest. Thus reverent agnosticism is a willingness to live awash in wonder at the sheer incomprehensibility of life’s deepest question.

It is, at its best, a life humbled by the inability to comprehend while enriched and energized by the very attempt.