Sunday, October 19, 2014

A Neopagan Theology (1): On Method & Inquiry

On Method & Inquiry
by Alraune

Philosophic Method

To undertake an honest inquiry into anything we must first begin by questioning what it is that we can know with the utmost certainty; that is, that in which we are most capable of holding the least amount of doubt concerning the surety of truth in regard to our knowledge. We are capable of ascertaining that this is where we must begin our inquiry for the simplicity of it, or rather, we can little doubt that if we are incapable of approaching the simplest and easiest of a thing we will most certainly fail to ascertain those things which are of greater complexity. This system of inquiry is known as methodic doubt (also known as hyperbolic doubt), and it is comprised of four steps:

  1. The acceptance only of information which can be affirmed true with certainty.
  2. The dismantling of truths into smaller units.
  3. Solving the simpler problems first.
  4. Making complete lists of further problems.

The system of methodic doubt was first used by the French philospher, mathematician, and physicist René Descartes. In brief, it was through this system Descartes deduced that, putting aside all perceived things, it would seem that there is but one thing which can be known with a higher sort of certainty than all other things, and that knowledge is: I am, I exist; I am that "I" am known by myself to be; or I think, therefore I am (cogito ergo sum). It is from this very simple and seemingly obvious; indeed, even seemingly insignificant conclusion, that two other conclusions were able to be further deduced, and what would come to be known as the Laws of Thought would be firmly established, or:

  1. The First Fact – I exist.
  2. The First Principle – Something cannot be that which it is not.
  3. The First Condition – I am capable of knowing.

The Laws of Thought state that an individual can know they exist; that therefore they are capable of knowing; and that because one can know they exist and that they are capable of knowing, it becomes apparent that something cannot be that which it is not (e.g. both existent and nonexistent). These three primary truths must be accepted at face value; that is, as they are, or all manner of reason must necessarily break down.

Subjective Truth & The Axiom of Self

Descartes' famous deduction brought one other very important revelation to light; that revelation being that, all knowledge, and therefore truth, which we are capable of knowing, is purely of an idealistic nature. That is, everything which we think we know through both deduction and perception is restricted to the mind of self. In other words, it may be that there exists an actual material realm which is divorced from the realm of ideas, but even if such is the case, we are, as conscious individuals, entirely incapable of knowing such a realm actually exists with any degree of certainty without first accepting the inescapable truth that everything we know to be true is, in all actuality, purely of the realm of the mind.

Furthermore, this realm of ideas from whence we perceive and reason all things, is of a purely subjective frame of reference. It is not necessary that all things which exist must be of some sort of subjective idealism, but that all that we know of existence, as individuals, must be from the reference of our own subjective consciousness. In other words, so far as reason is concerned there is no escaping the fact that the root of all truth which any individual is capable of ascertaining is firmly predicated on subjectivity (i.e. the "I" in the Laws of Thought) and the reality of the realm of ideas (i.e. the "thinking" that the "I" is, or is doing).

Now, certainly there has been and there still exists some considerable debate regarding dualism and the mind-body dichotomy and the philosophies of materialism (from which physicalism eventually developed) versus idealism, and in this debate is contained the underlying question as to whether or not ideas arise from purely physical properties, physical properties arise from ideas, or there are in actuality two distinct realms of the physical and ideas; however, even if one were to suppose that ideas arise from the physical realm, it would not negate the fact that any philosophical position taken is necessarily predicated on subjectivity due to the a priori truth on which all empirical knowledge rests. That is, one cannot experience one's existence but rather one who exists experiences things. The existence of self is ultimately a very personal existential revelation on which all subsequent rational thought is based (i.e. the "I" who is thinking).

That being said, it is not necessary that at this time we rationalize what constitutes the body and the mind, how they interact; or indeed, if they even exist independent of one another, but rather only that we simply recognize that the subjective self is the starting point of that certainty of truth which we are most capable of obtaining.

Nature As Reference

Once we recognize that the subjective self is the axiom on which all our future knowledge rests we are then able to begin asking the next most obvious question which arises: What am I, or what is I, and where did that which I recognize to be I come from?

The answer to at least part of our question would appear to be readily apparent; in that, if I immediately recognize that there is something which I refer to as myself, then there must also be that which I consider not to be myself, or I; for the First Principle clearly declares that something cannot be that which it is not. What is that which differentiates that "something" which is "I" from that "something" which is not "I"? Self-awareness. The self is cognisant of what it is in contrast to what it is experiencing. Hence, we readily know that the self is present, and it is from that subjective frame of reference that self is also able to determine that something else is present which self is experiencing.

However, we know that experience is necessarily subjective, and therefore anything which the self experiences must be known through thought, and thus is deemed to be of the idealistic realm. We also know that in order to have an experience one must first exist, and thus is deemed to be of the physical realm; therefore, it must be concluded that thought is contingent upon the mind, and the mind is contingent upon thought. Now, it could be that the natural realm is merely thought eminating from the self, and thus, is not truly separate from it, but merely an action which the self takes; it could be that the idealistic realm is eminating from the physical self, and thus also not truly separate, but merely a process of the physical self; or it could be that the natural realm is entirely separate from the idealistic realm, but so far as the self is capable of knowing, the two are both necessarily separate and contingent upon one another. Thought cannot exist without first having the self, and the self cannot exist without first having thought. In other words, any sense of self requires thought, and any self-awareness requires the existence of self.

"I" am both a physical, that is existent being, and a being of ideas, and furthermore, I can know no other way in which any thing which exists can exist except both in the physical realm and the realm of ideas. Taken one step further, I cannot know with any degree of certainty the existence of any thing without also accepting the idea of that thing as a necessary contingent of its existence. Although there may be ideas without physical representations and there may be physical things without idealogical representations, I, and all logic and reason which is founded upon the First Fact and the other Laws of Thought which any individual rationing "self" uses, must accept that the most "I" am capable of knowing with the utmost degree of certainty, is that ideas and physical existence are necessarily separate realms or states which are contingent upon one another.

Thus, we may conclude that a second axiom of truth exists which is necessarily part of the axiom of the subjective self – nature. That is, nature and the subjective self are both two separate parts of the same whole.

This does not mean that a thing is both that which it is and that which it is not, which would violate the First Principle, but rather that there are two polar halves of the same whole: I and existence. Taken further, it then follows that there can be no existence without self-awareness, and that it may be that there can be no thing that exists which does not contain some sense of self – panpsychism.

In conclusion, we now have two frames of reference, which are contingent upon one another, by and from which we may obtain knowledge of a higher sort of certainty: the subjective mind of self and nature. The subjective mind of self looks to nature as a frame of reference concerning the truth of "what is".

Revelation in Nature

By using our method of inquiry and the consequential axioms which it yields, we are able to conclude with a higher sort of certainty than we have in all other things, that nature (i.e. the universe) is equipped to provide us with a reference whereby we might be guided toward an existential truth; that is, because nature is, in part, a representation of what is likely to be true, then it also likely contains, at least in and throughout the entirety of itself, part of the revelation of any truth which is.

It is because of this realization that we look to nature as a whole, and in its entirety, as a means by which to discern what is and should be and what is not or should not be. Among the many questions nature is able to aid us in answering are:

  • Questions of truth and reason – Nature shows us that truth can only be known subjectively, and that reason is written into nature, of which the self is part, and that such reason essentially consists of logical consequence, or rather the relation between propositions as "either, or" and "if, then".
  • Questions of reality and existence – Nature provides us with a reference by which we might determine what is real and what is existent, such as the necessary contingent (so far as the self is capable of knowing) of physical existence with that of consciousness.
  • Questions of purpose and meaning – Through nature we can see that purpose and meaning are found in both individual liberty and interdependence, as parts of the whole, in which our own subjective experience plays a role in conjunction with its utility and support for the whole of existence.
  • Questions of ethics, justification, and moral behavior – Nature, since we are part of it and it is part of us, clearly reveals to us that that which upholds the sustainment of the whole, to the greatest degree; that is, with the least degree of unnecessary hinderence and interference upon others, and sustains the self by means of the most positive experience possible, must be that which is justified and ethical.


It is by using this method of inquiry that we are able to develop our philosophical system from which is derived the systematic theological presentation and argument for our particular Neopagan belief system; that is, a set of logical and coherent revelations which culminate in a full blown system of faith and which underline the basis for our own subjective world view.

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