Philosophical Work

This page summarizes the theoretical work I have done in philosophy, much of which is embodied in my books and essays.

Influences

My early philosophical development, in my 20s, was heavily influenced by the Christian apologetics of C.S. Lewis. In my early 30s, I began reading Carl Jung and those in the Jungian school, as well as the prolific contemporary American philosopher Ken Wilber, whose grand syntheses and “integral” philosophy made a deep impression on me.

At the age of 35 I investigated the Baha’i Faith and found it to be the ultimate expression of that which I already believed and that which I aspired to understand. Becoming a Baha’i did require hard examimination and the eventual relinquishing of some formerly held beliefs, particularly in the realm of political philosophy.

As a Baha’i, my philosophical work has become an attempt to more deeply understand the teachings of this Faith. As such, some of what is below is the explicit teaching of the Faith; the elements that are not are products of my own conjecture using the Faith as the larger and ultimate framework. That is, I believe that what is not explicit in the Faith exists in harmony with it.

Cosmology

The physical universe is an emanation from the mind of its creator, and as such, can have no beginning or end without imposing a limitation on God, which is not logical. It is both infinite and eternal. Creation is ongoing. In this sense the universe may be considered steady-state, although it is simultaneously ever dynamic. Observations of an expanding universe might in time be discovered to be only one brief part of a heartbeat or “breathing” motion that expands and contracts over time. The universe is fractal in nature, probably consisting of infinite levels of worlds within worlds. Observations of an outer limit of the physical universe are probably describing the wall of something that is within an infinitely larger body of space. Our observable universe is bound to resemble the world of the Whos’ in Horton Hears a Who, which is but a speck of dust in an unimaginably larger scheme.

Triune Nature of the Human

The human being consists of three interdependent but irreducible dimensions: body, mind, and soul. These dimensions can be distinguished not only by their differing functions but by their internal structures. The body — neurologically — is holarchical or nested in its organization (neural chord > brainstem > limbic brain > neocortex >). The mind — or consciousness — is spectral. And the soul is polar. Through both function and structure these dimensions correspond with the main components of the sailboat, the body as hull, which gives us integrity in space; the mind as sail, which gives us power to move; and the rudder as soul, which allows us to choose our direction. This is the theoretical premise of my memoir The Hull, the Sail, and the Rudder.

At death, the mind and soul disconnect from the body like a rocket jettisoning its fuel tank as it escapes earth’s gravity. The soul continues to approach God in an asymptotic way, growing ever nearer but never “reaching” God.

Five-link Theological Chain of Inference

I have suggested five steps or questions that compel one from anywhere on or off the religious spectrum to the Baha’i Faith. Greatly abbreviated, they are:

  1. If we exist, then God exists.
    The existence of a painting implies the existence of a painter, and the universe is the painting.
  2. If God exists, then He is a personal God.
    By definition, God is a higher-level entity than a human, and every higher entity must logically embody all the capacities of the lower. Therefore, if we experience personal love, thirst for justice, etc. then God must have the same capacities, and to infinitely greater degrees.
    (At this point one must confront the theodices, or questions of why a loving God would allow innocents to suffer injustice. The twofold answer is that we suffer far more from our own collective heedlessness than we do at God’s hand; and that our earthly existence — designed for our individual and collective development — is but one small part of a much larger picture that we will experience in the afterlife, where justice is perfect.)
  3. If God is personal in nature, then He would want to teach us progressively.
    The love of a parent for a child is the highest love we can experience and therefore is the most apropos metaphor for God’s relationship to us. We can safely ascribe to God all the motivations of an infinitely wise and infinitely loving parent as a useful foundation for understanding the world and our place in it. It is natural for a loving parent to want her child to learn. Learning requires teaching. Teaching is never complete but rather is progressive.
  4. If He teaches progressively, then Baha’u’llah is teacher for today.
    The power of His words. The testament of His life story. The effect He had on eye-witnesses. The way in which His life fulfilled the prophecies of multiple religions. The fact that He unveiled the very concept of progressive revelation.
  5. If Baha’u’llah is teacher for today, then the Baha’i Faith is Baha’u’llah’s classroom.
    We should judge the tree by its fruit. Honoring the line of authority after Baha’u’llah’s death and remaining unified has resulted in a spectacular spread of the Baha’i Faith, whose teachings offer the only lasting solutions to the unique existential problems of modern global life.

These five steps compose the plain-text substance of my novella and film The Secret of Suranesh.

Web of Darkness

I have proposed that there are six enemies of humanity that reinforce one another, and by extension, that only by addressing all six can we hope to break the back of an invisible tyrant that imposes misery on humanity. These six enemies of humanity are war, poverty, disease, corruption, drugs, and promiscuity.

Parallelism of Worlds

The natural, preternatural, and supernatural worlds reflect one another’s essence, and as such we often can use one world as a Rosetta Stone to unlock mysteries of another. My first book, The Hull, the Sail, and the Rudder, uses my experience building and sailing my little wooden boat as a metaphor for the three-fold nature of human life: the body, mind, and soul. My book The Tree is an extended simile looking at the many ways trees are the reflection of the human spirit in the natural world.

Likewise, there are many parallels between seekers of truth in the preternatural world (UFO investigators, bigfoot researchers) and seekers of truth in the spiritual/religious world: Both require belief in things that exist outside our everyday frame of reference. Both require patience and steadfastness in the face of ridicule, both are fraught with misunderstanding, both evince great earnestness by the majority, and both are prone to occasional poisoning by the fraud of a few.

Matrix of the Mind

When consciousness, which is spectral in nature, intersects with the brain, which is holarchical in nature, the result is a matrix that can be mapped as a two-dimensional array, with bands of consciousness listed on one axis and layers of brain structure-function listed on the other. In this way we see that when the band of subconsciousness intersects the layer of the neural brainstem, the result is dreaming; when the band of waking consciousness instersects the layer of the limbic system, the result is the emotions; when the band of hyperconscious intersects the reptilian brainstem, the result is trance, and so forth. I have proposed this matrix and suggested some of its major categories and products but do not pretend to be able to fill in every cell of it presuming there even is a finite number of cells.

Matrix of Virtues and Vices

I have suggested that vices stem directly from the unchecked impulses and instincts of the animal mind, and that each has a corresponding virtue that can be imposed on it by a willful act of the soul. Taking three examples, an animal impulse of idleness, in the human becomes laziness unless checked by the “antidote virtue” of work. The animal impulse toward sex in the human becomes promiscuity unless checked by the antidote virtue of devotion. The animal impulse of territoriality in the human becomes greed unless checked by the virtue of contentedness. I have worked out this matrix for the impulses of idleness, fight, flight, sex, territoriality, and dominance.

Persona Typology

In The Hull, the Sail, and the Rudder, I postulate a system of 14 personae to which humans commonly default or mix to settle on an identity. This identity is primarily expressed through hair style, clothing, jewelry, and makeup. The 14 types are: the Intellectual, the Holy Man, the Barbarian, the Pioneer, the Respectable Man, the Respectable Woman, the Society Woman, the Seductress, the Authority, the Messiah-Rebel, the Poet/Artist, the Earth Momma, the Playboy, and the Shocker. These can be manifested in a pure form or hybridized for increased individuality.

Typology of Faith

I have suggested five categories of faith, which express themselves across religions:

  1. Fear-based Faith – reward-and-punishment fundamentalism
  2. Legend and Myth-based Faith – hyperliteralist fundamentalism
  3. Reason-based Faith – appeals to logical arguments and cerebral
  4. Compassion-based Faith – appeals to divine mandate for compassion
  5. Integral Faith – combines and synthesizes elements of other four types

Typology of Belief

I have proposed that when people are confronted with a reported but unproven phenomenon, whether preternatural  (cryptids, UFOs), unorthodox history, spiritual/religious, or any other mystery, they divide themselves into six types:

  1. Seekers
  2. Rational Believers
  3. Runaway Believers
  4. Knowers
  5. Skeptics
  6. Denialists (Irrational skeptics)

These categories extend to questions of spirituality and religion. The journey of faith is usually a journey between these types.

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4 comments on “Philosophical Work

  1. Hi, Avril,

    Wonderful essays — would you be interested in posting them on BahaiTeachings.org?

    Thanks,

    David Langness, Managing Editor, BahaiTeachings.org
    davidlangness@cs.com

  2. Eric Pierce says:

    Hey Avrel, how do you reconcile Wilber’s view that mythic-conformist belief is culturally limited and “less developed” with acceptance of the requirements of belief in the first paragraph of the Kitab-i-Aqdas? I’m an ex-bahai, integralist/buddhist. thanks.

  3. Dawn L Jensen Nobile says:

    Thank you Avrel–been traveling your blog a bit, having just discovered it. Grateful that you’ve been guided to formulate these precise and well-reasoned insights, clearly a help to many, including myself. I will be reading more, and may at some point be requesting permission to reference your work if I ever manage to complete at least one of my own projects.
    Turning to Eric’s comment, if I may: not a response re. Wilber, as I know little of him, and not a contradiction but just another thought vector springing from the word “reconcile.” I suppose there may be times when we need to reconcile one thing, one idea, one person to another–as we must for some compelling reason have them together and thus a forced fit is required. But far more often, it is not. If I go out into a field and pick flowers, after a time I may begin to imagine, based on the colors, forms and fragrances I have accumulated in my basket, a certain bouquet. Though I continue to look everywhere, I will from then on select those flowers that enhance the pattern integrity, the beauty, that is taking shape by degrees in my basket. I may discover a particularly delightful patch of peonies, pick a few, and take joy in the contribution they make to the bouquet–but I feel no need to reconcile the remaining peonies in the field to my purpose. Likely, they will be just perfect for someone else’s bouquet on some other day.

    • Avrel Seale says:

      Dawn, thank you so much for your multiple kind comments. It means a lot. I haven’t heard the Kate Bush song you mentioned, but I’ll look it up. 🙂 Stay in touch. –A.S.

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