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Atheism And Agnosticism: A Christian Mystic Perspective, By Abuchi Obiora

Misunderstanding unfamiliar words in a text can send the wrong signals as well as convey the wrong notions to the reader about the intentions of a writer. To assist the reader to have a proper understanding of the subject-matter of this discourse as well as decipher my intentions in authoring it, I want to start by first searching out the true Dictionary meanings of the three key words in this week’s work. These words are: atheism, agnosticism, and mystic.

The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, Special Price Edition, defines ‘atheism’ simply as “the belief that God does not exist”. Consequently, it defines an ‘atheist’ as “a person who believes that there is no God”. An atheist believes in nothing superhuman as to warrant him to worship it. He is simply there on his own, a materialist who is powered by his instincts and convictions, indulging himself to his family, social, intellectual and other commitments to which he maintains his allegiance and loyalty. Unlike people who believe in God/gods, an atheist can be said to be staging a subtle revolt against the natural order of things and the long history of nature.

People are not born atheists, so atheism in people could be triggered up by their experiences and worldviews. For this reason, atheism may be an acquired condition demanding certain mental and emotional debriefing of the atheist to release the spirit and the soul already chained and subdued by non-belief and prevented from communication with its primary source of emanation, the divine reality.

The same dictionary defines an ‘agnostic’ as “a person who is not sure whether or not God exists”. This means that ‘agnosticism’ is the middle way representing doubt in belief (existence of!) in God. I have observed through my wide contact with the biographical works of many great men throughout ancient and modern history that men of much knowledge and immense wisdom, very often, fall into the rank of the atheists and the agnostics. There are many of them in this class but I will mention a few of them in this discourse and find out, by their works, words and inner convictions, if actually it is possible for a human being to believe that God does not exist.

Known as an atheist, Albert Einstein, (born March 14, 1879 in Ulm Wurttemberg and died on April 18th 1955 at Prince-town, New Jersey, USA) a German physicist who developed the special and general theories of relativity, and won the Nobel Prize  for Physics in 1921, evidently one of the greatest scientist that the world has ever known, (having defined, through his scientific investigations the future of science), threw light to what is presently regarded in scientific quarters to be a veritable connect of physical phenomena to the spiritual domain of what can be called the realm of God, with his theory of relativity.

Albert Einstein’s explosive theory of relativity explored the philosophical background created by an earlier social theory, the theory of perspectivism by yet another atheist, a social scientist, called Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, another German who lived between 15th October 1844 and 25th August 1900. In his postulation, Friedrich Nietzsche who said, “I saw a monk mumbling at his beads and I told him that God is dead” considered the world and the sum of its physical and material compositions from the finite mind of man and man’s pretenses to pass judgment on those issues that fall beyond his understanding.

Though, he was said to be an atheist, Albert Einstein’s relativity theory, surreptitiously asserted the eternity of time, timelessness, and the awesomeness of the God concept. He proved with that theory that everything in reality is continuously in the presence (omnipresence) a factor which is one of the primary qualities of God as taught by all the religions around the world.

The theory of relativity asserted the laws of motion and gravity earlier mentioned in the Bible book of Job that the Earth is hanged on nothing! This collaboration came from another scientist, Sir Isaac Newton (4th January 1643 – 31st March 1727). Sir Isaac Newton, influenced by the works of such earlier philosophers as Aristotle (348BC – 322BC), Rene Descartes (31ST March, 1596 – 11th February, 1650) and Robert Boyle (25th January, 1627 – 31st December, 1691) was a mathematician, a physicist and an economist who was also versed in the esoteric sciences of alchemy, natural philosophy, theology and astronomy.

In his words, Albert Einstein said, “The distinction between past, present and future is only an illusion, however persistent.” Not only did he say so, Albert Einstein proved, with his experiments on relativity that time can change, warp, and even run backwards. These characteristics of time have been proved with details by several scientists and science authors in their books including Charles Berlitz (‘The Bermuda Triangle’ – Panther Books and ‘Mysteries from Forgotten Worlds’ – Corgi Books); Alan and Sally Landsburg (‘In Search of Ancient Mysteries’ – Corgi Books); J.F. Blumrich (‘The Spaceships of Ezekiel’ – Corgi Books); Alan Landsburg (‘In Search of Lost Civilizations’ – Corgi Books); Robert Charroux (‘The Mysterious Unknown’ – Corgi Books); Brinkley Le Poer Trench (‘Secret of the Ages’ – Panther Books), Clark Ashton Smith (‘Lost Worlds’ Volumes 1 & 2 – Panther Books),  etc.

Stephen William Hawking, (Born in Oxford, United Kingdom on 8th January, 1942 and died March 14th 2018), an English Theoretical Physicist and Cosmologist who, at the time of his death was Director of Research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology at the University of Cambridge, delved deeper into this clumsy, yet little known sphere of antimatter, suspected to be the veritable link to the realm of God. He did this with his book titled. “A Brief History of Time”, which among other things, explored the now popular ‘Black Hole Theory’. Stephen Hawking believed that the universe evolves according to well defined laws and concluded that “There is no God. No one directs the universe”.

Like his scientist forebears, Stephen Hawking, (maybe, unknown to him) explored what the Holy Bible calls the Ordinances of God, which I have severally identified in all my works as the physical laws of the universe but not God himself. These physical laws of the universe represent the ‘words’ of God, which the Bible says that they are infallible because even God honours them – his words. 

Like all the atheist scientists, Stephen Hawking researched extensively in this thing that the Holy Bible calls the Ordinances of God. In their researches, all of them, the scientists, may have asked the question: Is there a force, a supreme, infinite and divine force in the foreground responsible for the manifestation of these physical laws of the universe? Of course, there must be. The next question which may exist in the minds of the atheist scientists may not be that patterning to the physical laws of God which they are all adepts at exploring, but to that patterning to the connectivity of the God concept to the physical laws of science.

What the atheist scientists have been seeking for is an empirical, scientific proof to the existence of a supreme force or being called God, but my thought is that unless man pretends to be the final, most powerful intelligence on earth, man must admit that not even all his convictions about the nature of the universe can capture the wider spectra of knowledge about the intangible nature of the universe to which man has no glimpse of. Though Stephen Hawking insisted that God does not exist, even in his death bed, he was not able to prove in his lifetime what existed beyond his ‘black hole’.

Is it possible to obtain clear, scientific evidence as to the existence of God? I don’t think so! We were taught early in our lives that God is a spirit in the form of a human being. Yes, if God is not animate and indeed something with infinite intelligence and forms which must include the semblance of human beings, how did the concepts of all animate things and human being originate? This is the question no atheist scientist have answered in all their works that I have read. Not even Charles Robert Darwin’s (born 12th February 1809 and died 19th April 1882) thesis, “The Origin of Species” and other natural scientific laws of evolution and mutation as propounded by Charles Darwin and other natural scientists have answered the question of the very beginning of the gem, the animate algae of life which all the species or kinds evolved or mutated from.

It surprises me that man can get worried about not understanding all the details about the Ordinances of God which God caused to be before God formed man from the four components of those Ordinances (notably, water, fire, air and earth) of the habitable earth and breathed in man God’s essence (the spirit, the nature of God) to activate man, who should have been both lifeless and immobile, after creation. Is it not human folly to pretend that man – the atheist scientists inclusive, can actually understand everything about the creations of God, when the natural order of creation by God places the creation of the Ordinances of God (the physical laws of science researched on by man) and its details beyond the comprehension of man who was created much later than those Ordinances of God? Can man really have total knowledge of the physical laws of God? Wouldn’t scientists understand that God’s creation pattern has ensured several eons of years ago, that the evolving human intelligence must trail behind the equally evolving universal intelligence inscribed in all the physical laws of the universe in a manner akin to the inability to access the mathematical varnishing point?

Another atheist personality in human history worthy of mentioning in this discourse is Leonardo Da Vinci. Leonardo Di Ser Piero Da Vinci, an Italian polymath of the High Renaissance, who was active as a painter/visual artist, a draughtsman, engineer, scientist, theorist, sculptor, architect and mystic philosopher, was born in Anchiano, Italy on 15th April, 1452. He died in Chateau du Clos, Luce, Amboise, France on May 2nd 1519. His architectural masterpieces overwhelmed the imagination of the authorities of the Roman Church in his time. He was so close to the Church that he did so many legendary representations of Bible themes and historical motifs for the elaboration of the Christian doctrine and beautification of the Christian temples of worship respectively, with his contemporary and professional colleague, Michelangelo di Lodorico Buonarroti Simoni (known simply as Michelangelo 6th March, 1475 – 18th February, 1564) an, Italian sculptor, visual artist/painter, architect, and poet of the same High Renaissance period as Leonardo Da Vinci.

Two of the works of Leonardo Da Vinci for the Roman Church are ‘The Last Supper’ popular in Christendom today, and ‘Salvatore Mundi (Savior of the World), which was his last visual art work on earth. His closest friends, associates and professional colleagues were appalled at his atheist/agnostic belief in his lifetime and were embarrassed at his sick bed fearing that he would die and not have the expected and befitting burial of a noble by the church. Available details about his life show that he was a highly disciplined man who never wavered from his convictions, yet contrary to that, it was announced to the world by his friends that he did a confession of Jesus Christ (as the Churches always demand), as his Lord and Savior shortly before his earth, obviously to accord him the last respect deserving of a man who committed himself to the advancement of the work of Christ on earth. But Christian mystics generally believe that though Leonardo Da Vinci understood the works of Jesus Christ and had a deep understanding of God as a mystic philosopher, he did not actually believe in the organized Church. In essence, Leonardo Da Vinci may not actually have been an atheist as construed.

Why are some people, in spite of their great knowledge and wisdom, still find it convenient and accommodating to their intellectual erudition not to believe in God? Shouldn’t greater knowledge and more wisdom to understand the complexities of the universe be veritable assets to the appreciation of the awesomeness of God?

It was reported in the media that the very erudite and much revered Professor, the Nigerian-born Africa’s only Nobel Prize winner in Literature, Wole Soyinka, addressing an audience on 21st November 2022, commented on what his belief system is. There had been speculations that the esteemed Professor and Elder Nigerian statesman is an atheist. In that recent report, the Prof. said that he does not believe in religion. (He didn’t say that he does not believe in God!). He said that he does not subscribe to any religion. He also said that he feels free to believe in myth and mythology as people are also free to subscribe to their religions. Hear him, “But religion? No, I don’t worship any deity. But I consider deities as creatively real and therefore my companions in my journey in both the real world and the imaginative world”, he added that, “….people have a right and cannot help creating mythologies around them”.

What is Mythology? ‘Mythology’, a noun, may be defined as “the collection of myths of people, concerning the origin of the people, history, deities, ancestors and heroes”. My opinion of the Prof’s unique belief system is that he has a personalized, special form of acceptance of God adopted to strike a balance between his wide knowledge of the cosmos, and the general speculation of the presence of a supreme being within the cosmos. He is careful not to accept the existence of God through the religious connections with ‘mythological characters’ whose existence were recorded and promoted by the followers in those religions.

The result of the analysis recorded in this discourse is that it is becoming increasingly certain to successive generations of scientists investigating the nature of things, that there is a supernormal ‘something’, call it anything that pleases you, consistently eluding the investigative tools of science like the vanishing point at the far distant end of every scientific investigation. Scientific investigations have also proved that this ‘something’ is imbued with a certain superior intelligence to easily outsmart and evade all the means employed in search of it. What is not yet certain is the absolute nature of this ‘something’. Shouldn’t this ‘something’ be proof for the existence of God?.

Should it possibly be that having attained certain academic and social heights in the society, some people find it demeaning of their status to identify with the existence of God? Or could it be that the scientists are waiting to have a handshake with God in order to believe in the existence of God? But we have been told in all religious scriptures, ancient scrolls and manuscripts, that not until death, nobody has ever had the opportunity to see God, the infinite phenomenon that exists in the highest, intangible realm of nature and inaccessible to the finite intelligence of man and his numerous scientific equipment.

Beyond our pretenses, the truth is that all the convictions we have, always revealed in our activities on earth, like those of the personalities considered in this discourse, stand as veritable pointers to what we believe in or refuse to believe in. in all my works, I have always insisted that belief in God does not and can never conflict with scientific knowledge which is supposed to trace, trail and define the complexities of God exhibited through eons of time of the existence of the universe. Unless the mind of man has been warped and overshadowed with pride by the tedious process of trailing the complexities of the universe, the truth about the God concept is that it stands at the very beginning of all phenomena investigated and known to man. The inability of man to understand this beginning, therefore, is not enough proof for the non-existence of God.

Having gone this far in our exploration, let us find out who a Christian mystic is. The Thesaurus Online Dictionary has a sensational, sentimental and myopic definition of the word ‘mysticism’. It defines mysticism as “a religion based on mystical communion with an ultimate reality”. Though it is basically a doctrine of communion with an ultimate reality, ‘mysticism’ cannot be said to be a religion on its own, but an expression of the best a religion can possibly be. Mysticism is actually the gauge and true measure for the spiritual activities (and not social activities as is always the case nowadays) of the religions.

As opposed to deism (the form of theological rationalism that believes in God on the basis, solely of reason, without reference to revelation), Christian mysticism believe in and encourages direct revelation from the divine source, God, without a third party involvement (as Pastors) but with only Jesus Christ and the Holy Bible as reference points. Christian mysticism does not recognize that the direct knowledge of Jesus Christ can be swapped by pastors though it recognizes the importance of pastors as teachers of the Holy Bible.  

A Christian mystic, therefore, is he/she who seeks for the transcendental union of his soul or mind with the divine reality or divinity as identified and taught by Jesus Christ and not as interpreted by consecutive generations of Christian pastors most of whom do not emulate the virtues of Jesus Christ. As a doctrine, Christian mysticism is the doctrine of direct communication or spiritual intuition with the divine truth as enunciated by Jesus Christ of Nazareth and proclaimed by St. Paul of Tarsus and other contributors to the New Testament portion of the Holy Bible.

The Oxford Advanced Leaner’s Dictionary, Special Price Edition, has a definition of ‘mysticism’ which tallies with my specific understanding in this discourse. It says that ‘mysticism’ is “the belief (not a religion!) that knowledge of God and of the real truth may be reached by directing one’s mind or through spiritual insight, independently of reason and the senses”. This definition additionally proves my understanding that ‘deism’ is the direct opposite of ‘mysticism’. The Oxford Advance Leaner’s Dictionary, Special Price Edition, also defines a ‘mystic’ as one “having hidden meaning or spiritual power” as a result of direct contact with God, and “a person who tries to become united with God and so reach truths beyond human understanding”. The true marks of a true Christian mystic, therefore, are:

  1. Having hidden meaning or spiritual power as Jesus Christ.
  2. Reaching truths beyond human understanding as deeply etched in the Holy Bible.

Erasmus mentioned in the immediate past discourse in The Kaleidoscope Opinion Column and all the early Christians who had in their lifetimes contributed their intellect to the reformation of Christianity were all Christian mystics who had some background knowledge about the general working order of universal laws  before embarking on their lifetime calls. In the same manner that Erasmus Desiderius and his early Christian mystic colleagues worked hard to remove sensationalism from the early Church and restore the original teachings of Jesus Christ, modern Christian mystics must rise up to stem the tide of descent to powerless Christianity which is being championed by modern mercantilist Christian religious pastors. They must work hard to restore the mystical values of Christianity.

Quite unfortunately, and because most people out that are ignorant of the truth, preferring only to follow the crowd instead of seeking out the truth that lies within them, the word ‘mysticism’ has been ascribed with negative connotations as relating to either spiritism, magic or the occult. Sometime in a future discourse in this platform, I will have time to tell us something about spiritism, magic and the occult, differentiate one from the other and draw out the almost invisible line between the three and the power of the Holy Spirit as always made manifest to the true, practicing Christian.

Having made all these observations, it is time to reflect, once again, on the personality of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ raised the dead, healed the sick, walked on the sea, and did so many miracles including turning ordinary water into choice wine and feeding thousands of people with a few loaves of bread and few portions of fish. He ‘disappeared’ (yes, he did, because the Holy Bible reported it) and became invisible to his enemies on several occasions when it was not yet time for him to submit himself as God’s sacrificial lamb. I dare say that all these powers are still available till this day to the true Christian mystic who subscribes to them through purity of the heart, holiness and righteousness.

As we get close to rounding up this discourse, let us observe that it looks absurd and unreasonable that some people adopt personalities as their professional role models outside their native traditions, cultures and languages because those personalities satisfy their expectations of what they intend to become but insist that they must limit their choice of role models in such important and sensitive matter as their spiritual role models to their traditions, cultures and languages. If Jesus Christ happens to be the personality whose life satisfies my expectations of a spiritual role model, why wouldn’t I adopt him in the same manner that I have long adopted Albert Einstein and Professor Wole Soyinka as my intellectual role models?.

Religious racism is one of the sour fruits from a dark heart torn apart by an unhealthy condition which I have severally referred to as victim consciousness. Victim consciousness is still retained by some Africans as a result of our stints with the colonial masters. This set of people believe that freedom from colonialism must come with freedom to device and worship own local gods even if such local gods were made of sand and wood. No doubt, victim consciousness deprives one the capacity to think aright and to take good decisions because of a heart filled with jealousy and hatred.

Two other important words that are not captured in the title of this work, which have serious applications to the logic being drawn out here are ‘idolatry’ and ‘paganism’. A dictionary defines ‘idolatry’ as ‘the worship of idols’ and ‘the admiration of somebody or something’. The same dictionary defines ‘paganism’ (also called heathenism’ or ‘heathendom’) as ‘indigenous and polytheistic religion’ and ‘a class of religion often associated with nature rituals’. I have observed that the conflicts between how the personalities regarded as atheists want people to understand them and the direct implications of their works point to them as agnostics, pagans or idolaters. None of them is an atheist.  As pagans or idolaters, their belief systems may be their academic laurels.  Academic laurels can be gods to those who put maximum premium to them.

My submission is that atheists have never existed anywhere before in the ancient world, and they are still not in existence in our modern world. People could be agnostics (those who are not sure of what to believe in), pagans and idolaters (those who have made gods out of their academics laurels), but there is never an atheist. People always believe in something, though they may be confused, not knowing what they believe in.

As we conclude this discourse with felicitations to our Christian brothers and sisters on the celebration of Christmas, the Kaleidoscope Opinion Column wishes all Nigerians compliments of the 2022 end of year season of festivities. We will, by the grace of God, meet here again during the year 2023. Remain blessed.

ABUCHI OBIORA

abuchiobiora@gmail.com

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