In the very, very long time since I last blogged, I’ve been thinking (I probably should have written it all down somewhere, but let’s roll with it), and I’ve reached an unavoidable conclusion. I’m not the person I was when I started this blog. Obviously. Superficial stuff aside, I feel like I’ve changed on a fundamental level, and I like to think that it’s for the better*.
I’m not really sure where – or when – it started, but as I read more and accumulated information, I realised that books I had trusted were wrong. That things I believed in (to a greater or lesser degree) we at odds with the way I knew the world worked, and other things that I was interested in felt an awful lot like obligation and not genuine interest. I found myself in a self-re-enforcing thought process based on assumption, guesswork and what other people told me was true and it was really only a matter of time before the entire thing collapsed.
Fortunately, I noticed what was going on and was able to dismantle it before that happened.
I read up on science. I watched videos of religious apologists having their arguments dismantled with greater or lesser degrees of civility and empathy by atheists. I watched Penn and Teller’s Bullshit. I started browsing r/atheism. I stopped browsing r/atheism and started browsing r/science. I stopped reading some blogs and started reading others. I started watching Carl Sagan’s Cosmos. I read up on Pagan Humanism, scientific Humanism, Pagan atheism. Over a matter of months, I recognised the flaws in my beliefs and realised that they were irreconcilable with the fundamental laws of the universe, so I put them aside them one by one, starting with the most implausible, and after that, it got easier.
I’d expected it to leave me with a “god-shaped hole”, but it never arrived. I reasoned that I was grieving; I’d just abandoned a huge part of my identity. I know how my grief works, so I waited.
Nothing happened, or at least, nothing much. Once discarded, the things I’d lost my belief in – an afterlife, ghosts, gods, magic, psychics and psychic powers, ‘energy’, vibrations, crystals, aromatherapy, a purpose to the universe, and meaning to suffering – evaporated with barely a trace, and in their place stood the solid foundations of what I knew.
And they are WONDERFUL.
I get what Neil deGrasse Tyson means when he says “I want to grab people in the street and ask: have you heard this?”. The existence of our universe is so wildly improbably yet almost inevitable (given the potential for infinite universes). My ancestors are not only human, but every creature in our evolutionary history, and – atomically, at least – stretch back to the formation of the universe. We are tiny things in a huge universe, affected by such enormous forces that are sublimely powerful and enormously indifferent to anything on a human scale. Planets, suns, black holes, asteroids, gravity, radiation – if they were capable of empathy, none of them would care one whit about the will or wishes or physical effort of even the entire human race.
Although I flirted with atheism, it didn’t stick. I understand that the existence of spirits and souls can’t be proven by science. I know that the ecstatic experiences I’ve had are almost certainly complex hallucinations; chartable on a EEG or in an fMRI scanner. Yet at the end of it all, I am definitely still interested in ecstatic visionary experiences.
Just because runes and tarot cards depend entirely of my human need to see patterns, just because a pendulum’s movement is based entirely on involuntary muscle twitches, just because the visions I have are imaginary doesn’t diminish their effect. The sense of well-being I got after I hallucinated ‘reintegrating a fragment of my soul’ may well have come from 10-15 minutes of regular breathing and good posture, but that doesn’t mean that experience itself is wasn’t profound and life-changing. If I know what causes the twitching of a pendulum, I can use it to overcome the very real problems I still have without falling prey to threats or fears of ‘possession’ or ‘demons’, and I can use a pop-culture phenomenon that I know is bogus (a “Mayan apocalypse”, for example) to draw a line under my old thought processes, and begin anew.
With that in mind, I think I’ll be closing this blog down.
The name hasn’t fitted for some time now, and I don’t think I can pick a new one. If my readers (the three of you who subscribed, and the one of you who would still be interested) want to follow my experiments in fusing science and art and spirituality into some manageable thought process, I’ll post up a link to the new blog when I think of a good title that hasn’t been taken. Until then, have a good apocalypse, a merry Yule and a happy new year.
[ADDENDUM: What I feel like I need to stress to anyone who reads this is that what I wrote is about me and me alone.
It's like shoes: these are my boots and they fit my feet. Maybe your feet are bigger, or smaller, or narrower. It's not a value judgement on you if my boots don't fit your feet, or if you don't like the style, or have no need of steel toecaps ,or prefer trainers or something a bit fancier.]
* Which isn’t to say that I was a bad person, or that religion/faith made me less of a person than I am now, but it’s part of a package of changes that includes willingness to use my autonomy, greater self-confidence, more generous, less gullible, more focused, and happier overall.
Some of the blog posts and articles that provoked my mental shift: