Anyone Else Agnostic?

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Zetherin
 
Reply Sat 5 Dec, 2009 01:54 pm
@TurboLung,
Robert wrote:
For the agnostic in question, the inability to have total certainty meant that there was no way to know and that anyone who held a belief was a fool.


Do you think this agnostic would think that if I believed my mom was in the kitchen, because I just saw her in the kitchen, and I said I knew, that I was a fool? In other words, was this yearning for absolute certainty only exclusive to things dealing with the metaphysical?

Quote:
When he finally acknowledged that we can't know anything and equated his agnosticism towards a god to his agnosticism towards an Easter bunny I realized we are just weighing the value of certainty very differently.


I find it odd that he came to the conclusion he couldn't know anything, simply because he couldn't he absolutely certain about anything. Do you think he took into consideration that you can know something even without knowing that you know (you may be unaware that you know)? Certainty is sometimes a complete non-issue when it comes to things we know.

Emil wrote:
I'm surprised that you got all of this correct. I'm very happy that you did.


Do you mean you were surprised I got the knowledge aspects right? Well, I am capable of learning! Very Happy

But the stuff dealing with religious stances I've been researching for quite some time now, and I often remind people of such in threads. So, you shouldn't be surprised about that (you can read other posts where I've pointed what I've said out).

KaseiJin wrote:
Even though one may make any claim, as to how one may feel, or think that one asserts knowledge of a thing, or matter, to any degree that that would be found to be in error, it would not have been the case that that had actually been known.


I did not claim that thinking one knows, and knowing, were the same. Where did you read this, or think I was implying this? I'll try to walk you through some of the things you've quoted from me:

1.) "We do not have to be certain to know" Do you find this untrue? I don't. I've often not been certain I knew something, but then found out that I did in fact know that something.

2.) "You can certainly claim to know" Do you find this untrue? One can claim to know, and be mistaken. Whether or not they know is a different story.

I think what you disagree with is nothing I have stated in this thread.

jeepers wrote:
What about gnostic? We hear plenty about agnostic. What about gnostic? Are there any of those around? How would you judge what they said?


Gnostics claim knowledge of the existence of gods (well, instead of saying "gods", perhaps I should say "metaphysical"). How would I judge what gnostics said? Can you be more specific?
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Sat 5 Dec, 2009 03:06 pm
@TurboLung,
Well, 'agnostic' is the negation of something. Something cannot be negated which does not exist. So what is agnostic the negation of? What would 'gnosis' consist of, and how would you go about getting it?

Generally we are aware of three attitudes towards the existence of deity - 'belief', 'atheism', and 'agnosticism'. But is there any basis for 'knowledge' in these matters, as distinct from these three positions? Because it seems to me that one has been left out.

It's true that 'gnosticism' refers to a particular sect, or group of sects, in early Christianity. In a more general sense 'gnosis' is an element understood in all the different religions. In Hinduism it is represented by 'jnana' - you will notice that the word is actually very similar. In fact the 'gn-' and 'jn-' particle are the same as the 'kn-' which the word 'knowledge' begins with. The same is also represented in Buddhism as 'prajna'.

Not all uses of the term 'jnana' or 'gnosis' are associated with belief in deity; some yoga schools and Buddhism generally are non-theistic. But the reason I am pointing it out is that this aspect of 'spiritual understanding' is generally ignored (there's that particle again!) or neglected and only discussed in its negative form.

So in answer to the question in the OP 'is anyone else agnostic'?, in my own case, I have moved from an agnostic, to a gnostic perspective. This means that I am neither a 'believer', nor an 'atheist', in the sense that these terms are generally understood. Which is why I wanted to draw attention to the meaning of the word.
 
xris
 
Reply Sat 5 Dec, 2009 03:19 pm
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;108421 wrote:
Well, 'agnostic' is the negation of something. Something cannot be negated which does not exist. So what is agnostic the negation of? What would 'gnosis' consist of, and how would you go about getting it?

Generally we are aware of three attitudes towards the existence of deity - 'belief', 'atheism', and 'agnosticism'. But is there any basis for 'knowledge' in these matters, as distinct from these three positions? Because it seems to me that one has been left out.

It's true that 'gnosticism' refers to a particular sect, or group of sects, in early Christianity. In a more general sense 'gnosis' is an element understood in all the different religions. In Hinduism it is represented by 'jnana' - you will notice that the word is actually very similar. In fact the 'gn-' and 'jn-' particle are the same as the 'kn-' which the word 'knowledge' begins with. The same is also represented in Buddhism as 'prajna'.

Not all uses of the term 'jnana' or 'gnosis' are associated with belief in deity; some yoga schools and Buddhism generally are non-theistic. But the reason I am pointing it out is that this aspect of 'spiritual understanding' is generally ignored (there's that particle again!) or neglected and only discussed in its negative form.

So in answer to the question in the OP 'is anyone else agnostic'?, in my own case, I have moved from an agnostic, to a gnostic perspective. This means that I am neither a 'believer', nor an 'atheist', in the sense that these terms are generally understood. Which is why I wanted to draw attention to the meaning of the word.
I understand the reasoning but not the explaination. So much about gnosticism is relevant but it still maintains belief in certain aspects without knowledge. It makes dogmatic statements with no more value than any theist might apply.
 
Zetherin
 
Reply Sat 5 Dec, 2009 03:30 pm
@TurboLung,
jeepers wrote:
Well, 'agnostic' is the negation of something.


Negation of something? Agnosticism can simply hold that one doesn't claim to know, as I've specified up top. If I say I do not know my mother is in the kitchen, am I necessarily saying that I can never know that my mother is in the kitchen, or that she is in fact not in the kitchen? I could mean the latter (this would be strong agnosticism, as I pointed out), but I need not mean this.

Quote:
Something cannot be negated which does not exist. So what is agnostic the negation of?


Agnosticism could be in reference to many things, not just those metaphysical. These days, even scientists use the term, as to indicate they don't have knowledge of something, or when they believe something is unknowable. But, again, I don't know why you think something is necessarily being negated.

Quote:
Not all uses of the term 'jnana' or 'gnosis' are associated with belief in deity; some yoga schools and Buddhism generally are non-theistic. But the reason I am pointing it out is that this aspect of 'spiritual understanding' is generally ignored (there's that particle again!) or neglected and only discussed in its negative form.


When I said earlier that I shouldn't necessarily say "god", and should instead say, "metaphysical", that was my way of saying that I understand that there are differences in how the word is understood. Gnosticism generally refers to the claiming of knowledge concerning the spiritual, whatever that spiritual is in a sect, culture, or religion. So, I agree.

Quote:
So in answer to the question in the OP 'is anyone else agnostic'?, in my own case, I have moved from an agnostic, to a gnostic perspective. This means that I am neither a 'believer', nor an 'atheist', in the sense that these terms are generally understood. Which is why I wanted to draw attention to the meaning of the word.


If you are a gnostic, shouldn't it be assumed you are a believer (in the sense that both of these words are generally understood)? One cannot know something unless they believe that something. I cannot know my mother is in the kitchen without believing my mother is in the kitchen.

Quote:
Generally we are aware of three attitudes towards the existence of deity - 'belief', 'atheism', and 'agnosticism'.


This is what I continually try to point out is a misconception. Agnosticism is not in the same set of stances as atheism and theism. Agnosticism is an epistemological stance, whereas atheism and theism are belief stances, so it would be misleading to say it's a third option when speaking of the belief of the existence of a deity.

Quote:
But is there any basis for 'knowledge' in these matters, as distinct from these three positions?


I don't understand this question. Please rephrase.

Emil wrote:
As for the thread. What god? How can I answer before I know what god we're talking about. Traditional/classical theist god? I'm a positive gnostic atheist. (= I think that I know that there is no classical theistic god.)


It really must be clarified what God we're speaking of. This is why I relate most closely with ignosticism.

That whole gnostic atheist thing seems very confusing. At first glance it appears you're saying you know, yet do not believe, in X god. You would need to add that parenthetical explanation every time you said that for confusion to not arise. Though the greek translation of "gnosticism" is "knowledge", it must be understood that we generally use gnosticism these days to refer to those who claim that they have knowledge of something spiritual.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Sat 5 Dec, 2009 05:19 pm
@xris,
xris;108425 wrote:
I understand the reasoning but not the explaination. So much about gnosticism is relevant but it still maintains belief in certain aspects without knowledge. It makes dogmatic statements with no more value than any theist might apply.


It is also possible that the gnostic makes statements on the ground of a particular type of experience which you or I don't have. Gnostics would say, for example, there is 'higher knowledge'. Now you might regard that as 'belief' because the very idea of a 'higher knowledge' implies a lot of things which we don't or can't recognise in the flatlands of secularism. So it will come across as 'dogma' because, to you, it is 'belief without evidence'. To those who have it, however, it isn't. It is knowledge of higher dimensions of being.

You see, we assume in the secular west, that all of the 'schools of higher knowledge' and in fact any religious culture at all, must just 'have dogmatic beliefs'. Yet we are unaware that our worldview is just as much a matter of belief as is theirs. The OP in this thread started (somewhat poignantly, in my view) with the statement 'I believe in Darwinism and science'. Whoever wrote that is casting about for something to believe in. And everybody believes something. It is just a matter of what. Secular society believes that conventional normality is reality and science is the only key to knowledge - but at the same time, forgets that this too is a belief which leaves a lot of gaps. Within which the viewpoint of 'agnosticism' is really quite sensible, but, I think, very much as a provisional stance.

---------- Post added 12-06-2009 at 11:16 AM ----------

you can also be too dogmatic in your rejection of dogma. It is possible to be religiously anti-religious. There's a lot of it about.
 
xris
 
Reply Sun 6 Dec, 2009 08:57 am
@jeeprs,
Knowledge has to be examined and if that knowledge can not be passed on with logic, its belief. You cant say my belief is more knowledgeable than others, it has to stand up to the same tests. I am against dogmatic beliefs and if I have become dogmatic then i am open to enquiry about my dogma. I dont understand how being anti dogma is itself dogmatic...:perplexed:
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sun 6 Dec, 2009 09:36 am
@xris,
xris;108524 wrote:
Knowledge has to be examined and if that knowledge can not be passed on with logic, its belief. You cant say my belief is more knowledgeable than others, it has to stand up to the same tests. I am against dogmatic beliefs and if I have become dogmatic then i am open to enquiry about my dogma. I dont understand how being anti dogma is itself dogmatic...:perplexed:


Don't you really mean that if a belief cannot be adequately justified, it remains only a belief, and is not a case of knowledge?
 
Zetherin
 
Reply Sun 6 Dec, 2009 12:18 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;108531 wrote:
Don't you really mean that if a belief cannot be adequately justified, it remains only a belief, and is not a case of knowledge?


What do you suppose gnostics mean when they claim that they have knowledge of the metaphysical (spiritual, perhaps)?
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sun 6 Dec, 2009 12:27 pm
@Zetherin,
Zetherin;108546 wrote:
What do you suppose gnostics mean when they claim that they have knowledge of the metaphysical (spiritual, perhaps)?


I suppose because they believe they have knowledge. People sometimes believe that they know when they do not know. One cause is they believe that knowing is a mental state, and that we can know that we know by simple introspection.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Sun 6 Dec, 2009 02:36 pm
@TurboLung,
I suppose empirically verifiable examples comes from studies of health and well-being arising from formal meditation techniques. There is plenty of published data showing benefits such as reduced anxiety, better concentration and attention, and even phyisological benefits such as reduced blood pressure and other improvments to chronic conditions. (Scientific American did acover storyon it a few years back) There are also studies of the application of meditation practise through programmes in prison which reduce recidivism and show many other benefits for the prisoner population. (Link here).

So how does this bear upon the discussion? Meditation is actually a cognitive discipline. It teaches the practitioner to understand the way his/her mind-body reacts and operates on a daily basis. That is how it works. Meditation teachers from the beginning of the tradition have pointed out that many humans are caught up in habit patterns (samskara) and cognitive constructions (vikalpa) which continually give rise to stress (dukkha) without their understanding the cause or origin of this stress.

Through a program of meditation practice, the mind gets insight (vipassana) leading to wisdom (janna) which alleviates stress and in the end completely eradicates suffering from the mind. These terms come from the 'Vipassana' tradition of meditation but have counterparts in many other schools. The term 'janna' is the Pali (=southern Buddhist) version of jnana.

So if by direct insight a person can understand the roots of their own suffering and achieve inner peace and emotional balance through liberation from their automatic habit patterns and conceptual constructions, I would regard that as 'higher knowledge'.
 
xris
 
Reply Mon 7 Dec, 2009 05:40 am
@jeeprs,
So this higher knowledge is the ability to meditate. Is that it? You may imagine a higher intelligence behind this phenomena or like the Buddha who never imagined a a reasonable being, capable of scrutiny.

Gnostic's take it that one step further and invent a higher idea that agnostics say is not within our comprehension. Buddhists are the nearest to agnostics in that a deity is not considered, but an acceptance of what is, not what might be. You can have union with nature, it does not concur it is a visible god.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Mon 7 Dec, 2009 08:30 am
@xris,
xris;108777 wrote:
So this higher knowledge is the ability to meditate.


He did not say that. He said he thought that higher knowledge could be reached through meditation.
 
Zetherin
 
Reply Mon 7 Dec, 2009 12:22 pm
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;108574 wrote:
I suppose empirically verifiable examples comes from studies of health and well-being arising from formal meditation techniques. There is plenty of published data showing benefits such as reduced anxiety, better concentration and attention, and even phyisological benefits such as reduced blood pressure and other improvments to chronic conditions. (Scientific American did acover storyon it a few years back) There are also studies of the application of meditation practise through programmes in prison which reduce recidivism and show many other benefits for the prisoner population. (Link here).

So how does this bear upon the discussion? Meditation is actually a cognitive discipline. It teaches the practitioner to understand the way his/her mind-body reacts and operates on a daily basis. That is how it works. Meditation teachers from the beginning of the tradition have pointed out that many humans are caught up in habit patterns (samskara) and cognitive constructions (vikalpa) which continually give rise to stress (dukkha) without their understanding the cause or origin of this stress.

Through a program of meditation practice, the mind gets insight (vipassana) leading to wisdom (janna) which alleviates stress and in the end completely eradicates suffering from the mind. These terms come from the 'Vipassana' tradition of meditation but have counterparts in many other schools. The term 'janna' is the Pali (=southern Buddhist) version of jnana.

So if by direct insight a person can understand the roots of their own suffering and achieve inner peace and emotional balance through liberation from their automatic habit patterns and conceptual constructions, I would regard that as 'higher knowledge'.


Jeeprs, I really enjoyed your post (even thanked you!), but I don't know how relevant it is to this conversation. All meditation is not spiritual. As you note, some do it only for the health benefits. One need not be spiritual to understand the great health benefits meditation can bring (and we're specifically talking about what people call spiritual knowledge, or knowledge of the spiritual, here).
 
xris
 
Reply Mon 7 Dec, 2009 01:21 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;108813 wrote:
He did not say that. He said he thought that higher knowledge could be reached through meditation.
I know but what is higher knowledge, if its not comprehending an entity that we cant comprehend. If its not this, then the knowledge must be explained.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Mon 7 Dec, 2009 01:21 pm
@TurboLung,
yes fair enough. It might be a little off topic. Anyway the point is that people often use the term 'agnostic' and it is worth considering the origin of that term and what it is the negation of. I will probably do some more writing on the related topics elsewhere.

One other point though, is that Edward Conze, who was a leading scholarly expert in Mahayana Buddhism, did assert in his biography that he believed that Mahayana Buddhism was definitely a type of gnosticism. I think, more generally, many of the 'new -age' and Eastern derived spiritual movements that are flourishing in the world today have a strong gnostic tendency.

Food for thought, that is all.
 
Emil
 
Reply Mon 7 Dec, 2009 01:27 pm
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;108921 wrote:
yes fair enough. It might be a little off topic. Anyway the point is that people often use the term 'agnostic' and it is worth considering the origin of that term and what it is the negation of. I will probably do some more writing on the related topics elsewhere.

One other point though, is that Edward Conze, who was a leading scholarly expert in Mahayana Buddhism, did assert in his biography that he believed that Mahayana Buddhism was definitely a type of gnosticism. I think, more generally, many of the 'new -age' and Eastern derived spiritual movements that are flourishing in the world today have a strong gnostic tendency.

Food for thought, that is all.


The word "gnostic" is often used to mean something that is entirely unrelated to what "agnosticism" means. That may be interesting etymologically.
 
TickTockMan
 
Reply Mon 7 Dec, 2009 01:48 pm
@xris,
xris;108920 wrote:
I know but what is higher knowledge, if its not comprehending an entity that we cant comprehend. If its not this, then the knowledge must be explained.


I thought jeeprs gave a pretty good definition of "higher knowledge" right here. I don't recall anything about meditation being used to comprehend any sort of entity.

jeeprs;108574 wrote:

So if by direct insight a person can understand the roots of their own suffering and achieve inner peace and emotional balance through liberation from their automatic habit patterns and conceptual constructions, I would regard that as 'higher knowledge'.
 
xris
 
Reply Mon 7 Dec, 2009 02:16 pm
@TickTockMan,
Im not questioning the benefits of meditation but it must be considered with his position, on his views. It either has value as a reason for his beliefs or it has not. I might say a good cup of tea makes me aware of my inner self, what value has it in describing my belief system. Gnostic's make claims , he claims to be a gnostic.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Mon 7 Dec, 2009 03:02 pm
@TurboLung,
In the case of Buddhist meditation, there is a psychological and philosophical structure described in a set of teaching called the Abhidhamma which provides the theory that supports the practise. As it happens the Buddhist view is not theistic - Buddhists don't believe in God - but it is gnostic, in that there is a kind of knowledge that is obtainable by meditation, called 'janna'. It is spiritual in one sense, but not necessarily as understood in the 'organised religions' in the West.

It is just that the dialog in the West has resolved into these antagonistic viewpoints revolving around whether 'God exists' or not. And around this question, your whole spiritual attitude to life turns - basically, 'believer', 'non-believer', or 'don't know' seem to be the options. I am trying to show that there are alternative perspectives on the whole question.

Incidentally, here is an interesting essay on 'Buddhism and the God-Idea' . It explains that Buddhism rejects the idea of a personal creator god, but it also rejects materialism and what most understand as 'atheism'. So perhaps it could best be understood as a non-theistic spirituality.
 
xris
 
Reply Mon 7 Dec, 2009 03:52 pm
@jeeprs,
Sorry jeeprs but dont Gnostic's believe in a creator? How do they differ from agnostics or atheists?
 
 

 
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