Sunday, April 13, 2014

Cosmology and the Life of Pi

Whenever we analyze something, anything, we are only seeing a part of a larger whole. Thus, we rely on something other than our immediate reason to make sense of our choices. Why did we focus on this or that? Can we really rationalize why we do what we do?

Sure, we guess, speculate, estimate what our motives are, but the fact is that motivation is pre-intellectual. It happens before we think, because in motivation is choosing what to focus the mind on. This goes to the heart of major choices in our lives. Why did we choose this or that spouse? Why did we leave college for a time, and go back with a new goal? Why do we vote the way we do, if we vote at all?

What tools do we have to maintain a sense of sanity in this profusion of unconscious drives and a reason that may or may not conflict with the real workings of unconscious motivations? For many, it is a belief in God, or something mystical, The Force, the Great Spirit, Brahman, the Tao, and so on. In human psychology, the function of this is to explain in lump sum all the unconscious energies that control our lives.

Whether we include the Big Bang Theory with religious cosmologies or not is a question to be debated for a long time to come. I enjoyed the film Life of Pi on this subject. This beautifully photographed film examines the question of which story of creation one should believe.

In the film, the narrator seeks to know the meaning of God. The protagonist, Pi, presents two creation myths: the Christian version in which God sends his only son to Earth where he is crucified; and the story of Krishna, whose mother is afraid he has been eating dirt and looks in his mouth to check. There she sees the moon and the stars.

On a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger, Ang Lee
Life of Pi
Life of Pi is the story of surviving a shipwreck and Pi's sharing a lifeboat ride across the Pacific with a Bengal Tiger. Pi relates two stories to the Japanese Insurance company that insured the ship. One story concerns him and the tiger; the other, a fight to the death with his mother's murderer on board the lifeboat. One story is, of course, a metaphor for the other. Pi is the tiger.

Pi asks which story do you want to believe? It doesn't matter, he says. There was a shipwreck, and he is the only survivor. The Japanese insurance men prefer the tiger story. "...and so it is with God," Pi tells the narrator. Do you want to believe the Christian cosmology or the Hindu version? It makes no difference, since the world was created and we have to live in it. Believe whatever makes you happy.

It is faith that allows us to live day after day, faith that there is a larger spiritual medium that supports all we do and gets us through life. A loss of this faith causes people to despair, to lose hope, to become cynical and bitter. This is not the faith of a child who is taught that a parental God looks after us. Nevertheless, we accept the need for faith by understanding that one human life is trivial in the grand scheme of things. The daily newspaper bears witness to the tragic ways that people die — in hurricanes and tornadoes, landslides and plane crashes.

No, it is a faith that there is more to this life than a simple bio-mechanical construct that sees only a physical world. It is faith in the surrounding energetic world and the inner sensorium that drives us, these drives of living energy that push us forward through our days. That faith is a source of strength, of motivation, and of values.


  1. What you call faith, I believe Gopi Krishna called "The Evolutionary Impulse," a term I much prefer to faith, because it encapsulates mo' better the ideas in your last paragraph, namely, "that there is more to this life than a simple bio-mechanical construct that sees only a physical world. It is faith in the surrounding energetic world and the inner sensorium that drives us, these drives of living energy that push us forward" without the religious undercurrents that obscure the individual's responsibility in discovering and attaining the path to higher consciousness.

  2. I like the article because of its recognition of the importance of faith, but I can understand JJ Semple's perspective voiced above. I believe that through our particular "world view", we create, in a sense, our own reality. When faith or belief in God is a part of your particular "world view", it is very difficult to "not have" that as an important element of your life. I don't know what exactly causes me to have a particular "world view", but I know that it includes a faith and belief in God. It' right for me, but it is one that is not shared by some very close family members and friends. I refuse to let my difference in "world view" interfere with my relationship with them. I share an article that I put together on different world views. Most of us have a bit of each, but one may be dominate.

  3. These comments have caused me to contemplate what I indeed believe about faith and the "evolutionary impulse."

    Faith is pretty much universally defined as a belief without proof. I have felt since my nirvikalpa-samadhi experience that my faith, if you want to call it that, was based on a deeply religious experience, the reality of which was so unquestioned and the profundity of which was so thorough that I never doubt this spiritual medium. I have said that I "swam in God's swimming pool."

    I don't say this to compare my experience with anyone else's. I would say that psychic experience is universal, that we all have a psyche and are all "psychic" in a sense. The extraordinary idea of an impulse to evolve is something I believe in as it corresponds to my own understanding, and I have great faith (there's that word again) in Gopi Krishna's thoughts on the matter.

    The Nirvana experience, which Nietzsche compared to a bolt of lightning (Thus Spake Zarathustra), is a quantum shift in personal evolution, as the kundalini pumps supercharged chi up the spine and into the brain where it makes changes in a mysterious and predetermined way, exactly as Krishna described in his own experience. It can be argued that the exercise of conscience is that evolutionary impulse, to evolve into a higher state of being, to improve one's self. Is faith this exercise of conscience? I feel that faith is a verb, a muscle, and that to exercise it develops one's spiritual being. This requires living one's life based on one's sense of that Invisible Spirit. Lao-tse wrote, reach and you cannot touch, listen and you cannot hear, look and you cannot see it. Faith in my worldview (for what it's worth) is the exercise of one's spiritual sense, and believing in their validity in a world dominated by scientific materialism. That sounds like an evolutionary impulse to me.