So, what I really wanted to accomplish with the last series of articles is to point out how religion really isn’t as silly as atheists like to portray it, and that it actually contains a great deal of sophisticated rational thought, combined with a quite reasonable amount of faith, which essentially amounts to trusting the credible witnesses and, very often, your own experience.
What I will now do is show how science isn’t nearly as rational and reliable as some see it, and also requires quite a large bit of faith.
You see, in late 1992 I was studying physics at the University of Zagreb, and I was having a very troubling spiritual crisis. I had very strong reasons to believe in the existence of things that other physicists were clueless of. I knew about the NDE testimonies, but that wasn’t the main thing. The main thing was that I actually had significant spiritual powers, of the kind where someone felt pain, I focused on the painful spot and the pain would go away, at least temporarily. I could see the pranic shadow around the astral bodies of animals that died, with something between physical and inner sight, and I could actually spiritually communicate with the souls of those animals. I actually saw a human do astral projection and he confirmed that I followed his astral body with my eyes despite him deliberately “jumping around” in order to try to confuse me. I was speaking out people’s thoughts all my life, and everybody who had those experiences had them only with me. Essentially, I had as much reason to believe in the reality of those things as people usually have in their physical senses, and yet my problem was the interpretation. It’s true, but how can it be true? There must be some kind of physics behind it, some deeper law of nature that encompasses both ordinary physics and this stuff. That’s why I chose to study physics, because I hoped I will eventually discover some explanation. I did have two models that explained it all, but I didn’t have enough support for either.
According to one model, the physical Universe is the fundamental reality, but physics hasn’t yet discovered its most fundamental level. Somewhere beneath the standard model and its quarks and leptons there must be a deeper layer which might explain everything, both physics and the weird shit that I could do and see. I could, for instance, see that a photon can be intellectually broken down into more fundamental elements, into “alpha” and “beta”, where “alpha” is the vector consisting of direction and lightspeed, and “beta” is a scalar descriptor of wavelength. If there are more such “fundamentals”, and they can be combined in weird ways, who knows what shit is possible, and maybe somewhere in there I could find some satisfying explanation for my experience. But according to this model, the Universe is the “hardware”, and spirituality, including God, is “software”.
According to the other model, the reality experienced by the NDE witnesses is the actual reality – and they say that God is the basis of all reality, that everything is actually made of His light. In this explanation this physical reality is merely a persistent illusion, some kind of software that is run on the spiritual hardware, and spiritual experiences are merely glimpses of the other, non-material realities that are also simultaneously run on that same hardware, without there actually being any reason for things to make sense in a physical way because the “mechanics” of it all are quite arbitrary. This was before most people had any thought about virtual reality, and the computer I had at the time was a 80386 with 4MB of RAM, but I was a programmer and I thought in those terms. The concept of different virtual universes with consistent laws that existed within different pieces of computer software was quite ordinary to me, because I could actually write some of that.
Both models provided an equally good explanation for everything I experienced, and I couldn’t dismiss either of them based on evidence alone. However, the people who had too much faith in the materialistic paradigm were getting on my nerves, because they obviously didn’t know as much about the weird part of the world as I did, and consequently there was nothing to disturb their faith. They didn’t live lives where “how did you know?” or “that’s exactly what I was thinking right now” happened daily. They weren’t the ones who were trying to figure out a deeper layer of physics which explains how mind transcends a corporeal shell, and how this keeps working after death. Basically, I saw them as idiots who either don’t see or deny half of reality and are therefore happy with their half-assed explanations of the world.
At one point, during a lecture (I think it was mathematical analysis but it might have also been a linear algebra practicum, I no longer remember correctly) it clicked. I don’t know what happened but something in the inner workings of my mind made a decision that the second model is the real one. The physical universe is merely a specific case of software, and all its laws are as arbitrary as those within a video game. Studying them will not reveal anything really fundamental about reality, because reality is not contained within those laws, those laws are contained within a higher reality, reality which I had no hope of understanding by any means known to me.
So, basically, since I didn’t need physics to make a living since I was in the process of making a career as a programmer, and I didn’t have any hope of figuring out the deeper layer of reality on this course, I abandoned my study, and, having no better ideas, I got piss drunk. Other than a bad hangover, this didn’t do anything for me, so I started thinking about how I might find answers, and since I didn’t take religion very seriously because of its total non-overlap with my understanding of spirituality and reality in general, I simply read everything and counted on eventually getting lucky enough to find some clue. I found a book of upanishads and they gave me a whole new spectrum of ideas, and so I combined what I learned there about yoga with what I already knew from my practice of autogenic training and more-less involuntary applications of spiritual sight and influence and started experimenting. Obviously, it worked.
So, essentially, what I want to say is that materialistic people misunderstand the concept of “faith”, at least in my meaning of the word. Faith doesn’t mean that you accept things without evidence, it means choosing one valid interpretation of the evidence over the other, and seeing where it takes you. You never actually go against the evidence, but evidence is not a universal datum valid for all people indiscriminately. We all have our inner algorithm for weighing evidence and arranging it into a sensible, working universe in which we function. Materialism might be a viable explanation for someone who was more willing to dismiss inconvenient facts than I was, and therefore I was sufficiently troubled with the stuff I couldn’t dismiss that I couldn’t find the materialistic explanations satisfying. Does that mean that I stopped using my intellect? Not exactly; in fact, I think I used it more. Faith does not consist of suspension of critical and evidence-based thinking. Faith consists of choosing one interpretation of evidence over another, and testing this interpretation to see where it leads, until it is either confirmed or disproved.