Trust me, I still don’t understand

British philosopher Gilbert Ryle was once asked about the difference between “soul” and “thought”. He replied, “Your mind is that part of you with which you read books other than the Bible.” Chew for a while. I think it was a soft rebuke. Something along the lines of: You seem to turn off that part of yourself (the mind) when you read the Bible. I don’t think he’s guilty, but remember this question was asked inside a philosophy college by a philosophy student to a philosophy professor.

It is about the difference in mental attitude between someone like me, who reads the Bible without religious ecstasy, and a believer who kneels spiritually before opening the Bible to read. I was reminded of this distinction between soul and mind in Arjan Visser’s fascinating interview with the astronomer Heino Falk. In response to the First Commandment, Falk said, “God is the beginning and the end of everything for me. God is eternal. He is above time and space.”

At least a chance to meet

I can’t help but think: but if he stays there, the bad luck of the faithful, they will never meet him. Because they are not at all above time and space, they are right in the middle of it. Let’s just say he’s above and in time and space at the same time. I do not understand it, but at least there is a chance to meet.

Falk continues: “As an astronomer, I am discovering more and more about the wonderful universe, which increases my faith in God the Creator.” My astronomy is very rudimentary, as is homeopathy, but even in this dilution it is bad enough to scare me. Around 1660, Pascal already shuddered at the emptiness that surrounded us. Since then, the cosmic distances have only increased, that is, they have become worse and more frightening. The universe is millions of times more empty than Pascal thought. And because the universe is much larger than it was then, we have become much smaller. People like to put us somewhat gleefully in a “corner of the universe,” but I’m afraid that’s nonsense. The universe has no corners. There is no center where anything happens centrally. In a sense, we are nowhere.

Does Falk look at his “soul” and me at “my mind”?

What amazes me now is: Why is Falk becoming more and more a believer in the same thing that strikes fear in me, in addition to amazement? Does he look with his “spirit” and me with my “mind”? Crap, what do I know about astronomy compared to Falk? Is this the problem, that my knowledge of astronomy is so limited?

Suppose I can delve into the subject after such great mental effort as Heino Falk, do I also realize that “God is the beginning and the end of all things, and that He transcends time and space”? We do not wish, because if this deep astronomy is the path to the knowledge of God, then few will reach the Creator. Not an objection in itself, for “many are called, but few are chosen.” But no, believers want a choice, but not based on astrological knowledge. In addition, there are plenty of astronomers who have looked deeper into the cosmic glass than Falk without feeling God.

Wittgenstein, being religious himself, believed that statements like “God is this or that” seem merely statements of fact, but do not describe anything. For example, Falk says in reference to the universe: “God is above time and space.” “Look,” Wittgenstein would say, “that’s what you get from it, and then people start saying weird things like that.”

But what should you do? In the tractIn his first book, he came to the conclusion that there are no possible statements about God. “What happens in the world will never touch what is higher. God does not reveal himself in the world. He found the highly considered view (thought box) impractical, and admonished himself in his later memoirs: ‘Believe, it can’t hurt.'” Also, but I still don’t understand faith.

Bert Keizer is a philosopher and physician at the Euthanasia Center of Expertise. He writes for Trouw newspaper Weekly column About care, philosophy and connections between them.

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