Infinity & emptiness and roaming & domestication

Discussion in 'Religion Archives' started by grazzhoppa, Mar 7, 2008.

  1. grazzhoppa yawwn Valued Senior Member

    There's an unnerving parallel in the development of religious traditions, I'm familiar with, and people settling down into permanent communities.
    The morphing of an intuitive idea like infinity into a nuanced, internal grasp of "nothingness" is interesting. You see it with Hindu scriptures to Buddhism; Judaism to mystical Islam. European pagan traditions to secularism.

    Infinity is an intuitive concept based on my own experiences. It is far easier to feel insignificant in the face of anything so large that it appears to never end than it is to feel more significant than things around you to a point where external things are relatively insignificant. I assume this is a general human condition.

    Before settlements, people would be exposed to all sorts of things that tickle the intuitive feeling of infinity. Like any large swath of visually contiguous geography - sky, stream, mountain. They wouldn't be roaming the great outdoors all day, but the occurrences of being exposed to such things is particularly more frequent than while domesticated in settlement-cities.

    When there's a focus on minute things, there' s a tendency to over-emphasize your perception of things compared to what these objects actually are. As example, any type of shopping where you are scrutinizing the same product made by different manufacturers who present their products differently: What is a "warranty"; What does the aesthetics of packaging mean? Does it change the product, no. It's a minute psychological object that empowers your own perception over the reality of the object.

    So people go from an abundance of exposure of self-deprecating phenomenon based on physical perception to self-empowering, introverted phenomenon. I believe this has had its hand in the development of religious attitudes from a rooting in "infinity" to a focus on "nothingness."
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  3. cosmictraveler Be kind to yourself always. Valued Senior Member

    First let me say welcome back from wherever in infinity you might have "hopped" off to.

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

    This assumption that you feel I don't agree with for whenever humans seek to find just what "infinity" is , that's when they are finding that they are very intelligent beings. They have more knowledge to understand that they are very unique and different thereby fathoming their existance as more than just part of infinity but actually describing it, catagorizing it and exploring it . That way it isn't as overwhelming and mysterious as you say it is.
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  5. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Stone Age life exposed people to a physical infinity, which in those days was rather small. Even people who believed the earth was flat had no idea that it's as big as it turned out to be. They thought the sun, moon and stars were pretty close too, certainly no farther away than the dimensions of the solid earth beneath them.

    The intellectual growth that larger communities fostered, not to mention the formal discipline of scholarship that the surplus wealth of a city economy made possible, not only expanded the dimension of our physical infinity, but also exposed us to a virtual infinity of ideas, points of view, stories, etc.

    Measured solely by our concept of infinity, I think life is more humbling now than it was in the Mesolithic Era.
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  7. Avatar smoking revolver Valued Senior Member

    Please take note that two different societies existed. One is about which you are speaking about - the nomads. The other are the jungle people who lived in small settlements. It's very confined in the jungle and they never see wast distances, and there's always the roof of jungle overhead.

    When in the 19th century one such jungle dweller was taken out of the jungle he went almost mad, had no sense of perspective, and thought elephants in the distance were so small that they could fit on his hand.
  8. grazzhoppa yawwn Valued Senior Member

    I've reread what I originally wrote, and it may be too convoluted.

    The idea is:

    Emphasis on minutia & technicalities in daily living has empowered self-consciousness in people which in turn makes humans think they are more important than they actually are. But because humans have the ability to see their own faults, they turn against themselves and decide that nothing is important.

    This intellectual development is reflected, chronologically, in the development of religious traditions. First, outwardly projected reflection. Then, inward human-centric self-conscious reflection that eclipses externals. Finally, rejection of inward reflection because of the inadequacy of human morality. Human morality is inadequate compared to the now obsolete, yet idealized, outward reflections that were more perfect than humans because they are simply not human.

    Again, diluted and more conisely put:

    Not self-centered turned into self-centeredness which turned to rejection of the self which leads to minimization of everything because human and non-human have been rejected.
  9. Prince_James Plutarch (Mickey's Dog) Registered Senior Member


    Elaborate on the last bit.
  10. grazzhoppa yawwn Valued Senior Member


    Chronologically, religious emphasis on things that represent infinity preceded religious traditions that emphasize nothingness.

    Lifestyles that kept people in a relationship with nature helped to incubate the worship of things that represent infinity. Many phenomenon in nature inspire awe that degrade a person's ego. This deprecation of the human-self manifests as worship of the ultimate non-human concept - infinity.

    When lifestyles emphasize human creations rather than nature, a person's ego is no longer degraded and this focuses a person's consciousness in towards themself. This is self-empowerment and replaces the worship of infinity.

    - The above elaborates the first sentence.

    Because of the imperfection of people's morality which has been recognized by many/most religious traditions, the human-self is inadequate to worship. The human has been rejected and infinity has been rejected at this point. Religious emphasis now turns to "nothingness."

    Obviously, there are many religious traditions that still worship some concept of infinity and ones that worship human perfection. But, chronologically, new sects that emphasize nothingness have popped up.

    Forms of Jewish and Islamic mysticism take the concept of a Single/Infinite and incorporate the annihilation of the human-self into the Infinite. This is an example of a merging of nothingness and infinity in religious traditions rather than a clear cut worship of nothingness. Chronologically, these forms of mysticism were the latest to be developed.

    Buddhism is an example of outright rejection of, the Hindu concept of, infinity. Buddhism developed chronologically later.

    Secularism is a worship of literally nothing. It rejects the worship of infinity as well as human perfection. Secularism is a relatively late development as an organizational movement.
  11. Prince_James Plutarch (Mickey's Dog) Registered Senior Member

    So basically you see a decline of worship from the infinite sublime to utter religious nihilism?
  12. grazzhoppa yawwn Valued Senior Member

    No, not nihilism. As I said, "The human has been rejected and infinity has been rejected at this point. Religious emphasis now turns to "nothingness.'"
    There is difference between religious "nothingness" and nihilist nothing.

    Religious nothingness involves a merger between the un-illectualizable or all-powerful, depending on the religious tradition, and the human. While nihilism is concerned with society and the meaningless of actions within society, religious nothingness is oriented for individuals.

    By rejecting both human and "god" as perfection, there is a merger of the two concepts that becomes the goal of religious traditions. It is not literally nothing, but it can't be truly described in positive or negative terms, so I have to resort to ambiguous "nothingness." It's not a cop-out, but rather the way I think of it. In religious traditions, it's been termed "annihilation of the self in god", "joining of my soul with the universal soul", "liberation" or "enlightenment," "emptiness of emptiness," and "return to god."

    You could call it the ignorance-hole of people's consciousness that in the future will be filled with scientific understanding, but who really knows if science will provide enlightenment for that hole. That is one aspect of the imperfection of humans that has led to rejection of ourselves as perfection: our understanding of the unknownable. It has driven religious traditions to first embrace an external power, then our own power, and now the power of the "unknowable" that tugs at our intellectualization.

    And to get back to the title of this discussion, I think the environment we have lived in has helped to cultivate this gradual shift in religions.
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2008

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