Ultimate Reality
Up Faith
Ultimate Reality definitely is something. If ordinary reality is not so ordinary, if everyone experiences ordinary reality in his own personal way, and if science has established that reality is pretty darned extraordinary, what can people mean when they talk about Ultimate Reality? 
Religious, philosophical and scientific interpretations abound. Only the Solipsists deny that "something" exists out there . The rest of us know intuitively that there is something and that we are a part of it. We may vigorously disagree on the nature of that something and whether it is even possible in principle to know anything at all about it. But, there is a broad consensus that Ultimate Reality definitely is something.
  In the generations of Western scientists since Albert Einstein, there has been a gradual movement from the Realist to the Instrumentalist interpretation of scientific theory and more recently toward an entirely different Buddhist interpretation of scientific reality. In the past, scientists considered their theories to be reliable reflections of reality itself (the Realist view). The Instrumentalists, on the other hand observed that the theories actually are nothing more than elegant descriptions of observations which currently happened to allow for accurate predictions about related phenomena. 
Theories change when new experimental evidence arrives, often dramatically as the progression from Classical to Relativistic to Quantum to Super String has demonstrated. Einstein, hailed as the greatest scientist produced by the Twentieth Century, was wrong! Every theoretical physicist has been wrong, sometimes spectacularly. In spite of this, they have concocted some very useful theories and have dramatically altered the course of Western Civilization through the technologies which followed their theories. 
They have not, however gotten us any closer to understanding Ultimate Reality. This is no small matter philosophically, given that many consider a central object of scientific work to be the discovery of the nature of Ultimate Reality. To admit we never can be completely sure of any theory, no matter how carefully crafted, is to ascribe a mystical quality to the scientific enterprise and to acknowledge the central role of consciousness in the scientific process. In the East, Buddhist "scientists" have recognized the inherent difficulties with the Western approach and have focused their attention on consciousness itself, avoiding speculation about those aspects of reality which can never be observed directly. 
The inscrutable cosmic mysteries seem inconsequential

From the most learned to the most humble, we argue endlessly about questions which have no answers, often mistaking belief for knowledge or the current scientific theories for immutable laws. Why are we so preoccupied with the mysteries when it is pretty clear that it is the preoccupation rather than the mysteries themselves which define the dimensions of our existence. The high points in our lives, the great memories we cherish are brief moments of bliss, moments of infinite wonderment, moments of spiritual transcendence, moments of sudden realization that we are loved. If these mysterious moments are so wonderful, why have only a few obscure mystics claimed to have figured out how to make them last? What is it about the way we are that keeps us focused on the trivial, keeps us concerned about matters beyond our control, drives us to create problems for ourselves and then spend endless lives trying to solve them? The inscrutable cosmic mysteries seem inconsequential when compared to the mysterious wonder of a tiny baby's fascination with just discovered fingers and toes, or the sparkle in a blossoming lover's eye. 


Faith: the biggest mystery of all. 


In the next part I will look at the ways I think our myriad beliefs have contributed to the quality of human life; particularly from the individual's perspective, but also from a larger social vantage point. Like moths to a flame, the human mind is irresistibly attracted to paradoxical ideas. Our genetic programming leads us to an overpowering fascination with the occult, the mysterious, the contradictory, the enigmatic, esoteric views of perceived reality, and elevates those who profess to comprehend such inexplicables to the priesthood. A lot of what we believe is pure unadulterated bunk, but that same bunk often adds sublime dimensions to our enjoyment of life. River fairies, Santa Claus, Easter Bunnies, tooth fairies, gods and spirits of every conceivable description make the unbearable tolerable, the inconceivable obvious, the boring joyful, and the mysterious inspiring. 




Reference photo: author
 August 2002
Magnificent Illusions
Ordinary Reality - Personal Reality - Extraordinary Reality - Ultimate Reality
Mystery -
Faith - Wisdom - Peace