We talk of God, the Transcendent ,in both philosophy and religion, in speculation and in prayer. What is the best way?
Repetition of my philosophic recipe for constructing concepts of properties to project upon the Transcendent is useful for the following comparison of philosophic and religious ways of talking of the Transcendent.
1. Argue, or merely claim, that an immanent feature exists independently of anything else in what is immanent.
2. Argue, or merely claim, that this independent feature exists contingently.
3. From these two conclude that the existence of this immanent feature is directly dependent on the Transcendent.
4. Under the assumption “ if the existence of X depends directly upon Y, then we can characterize Y as having something analogous to the properties of X”, we modify descriptions of properties of the immanent feature to characterize the Transcendent.
Here I merely claim that the immanent feature of human religiosity meets the conditions for being directly dependent for its existence on the Transcendent. I use an elementary “World Religions Course” four Cs sketch of human religiosity. People seeking the meaning of life with a sense of the holy form Churches, formulate Creeds and Codes while having Cults or set of ritual practices. My elementary “World Religions” sketch of religiosity leaves so much undone because I want to move immediately to the relation between philosophic attempts to characterize the Transcendent and religious attempts to characterize the Transcendent.
Characterizing the Transcendent is an essential property of human religiosity. It is an essential property of religiosity, in the sense that at least the “seed” of a Creed is every religion. I think that it was the anthropologist, Evans Pritchard, who claimed that primitive religions are danced; not believed. But I think what is permissible and impermissible in the dancing -Cultic practice- would reveal some thoughts about the “whatever” which is holy.
From the philosophic perspective we say that religiosity is directly dependent upon the Transcendent. So, from the philosophic perspective we try to develop descriptions of properties applicable to the Transcendent from descriptions of properties of human religiosity. For instance, we may try to describe the holiness of the Transcendent from a modification of the human sense of holiness.
At first glance, philosophy’s role of developing characterizations of the Transcendent from religious ways of characterizing the Transcendent seems to put philosophy in a superior position with respect to characterizing the Transcendent.
But philosophy’s role is not superior and may even be dependent upon religiosity in characterizing the Transcendent. Religiosity leads philosophers to their attempts to characterize the Transcendent. It is leading me. When I work seriously at the first two steps of my recipe I may find that I cannot separate philosophy from religiosity. Creeds and codes (morality) lead to reflection, speculation, critical thinking and theology. Purely secular philosophy might be basically the intellectual tools for theology and moral theory. The independent immanent reality directly dependent upon the Transcendent for its existence might be human religiosity with human philosophic thinking as only a part. It is an open question as to whether a development of a way of thinking is superior in all ways to that from which it developed
Philosophers are in no position to say that philosophic characterizations of the Transcendent are better than non-philosophical religious characterization. We philosophers have reached the conclusion that the Transcendent is utterly unknowable by philosophical thinking. We philosophers establish skepticism about what we can discover by our philosophizing. For all that we know via philosophy, we may be acquiring truths about the Transcendental via non-philosophical religious thought, sentiment and prayer.
I should emphasize that when I refer to religious ways of thinking and feeling about the Transcendent, I am not writing as some secular philosopher imagining what some benighted religious people still believe. I reflect primarily on myself. I am a practicing Catholic. Weekly I publicly and sincerely profess the Nicene Creed. I believe in the Real Presence in the Eucharist. I find a great similarity in my philosophic thoughts about what I am here labelling “the Transcendent” and my religious thoughts about God Indeed it is hard to separate them. In both cases, I say words with various thoughts and images. Sometimes I think these thoughts and images are really stupid. On occasion I think they give insight and inspiration. But always, be it philosophy or prayer, I think that the thoughts and images are never correct; they do not give the truth. What we can rely upon are the words.
If you and I try to determine whether or not we hold the same belief, we do not try to decide whether we share the varying thoughts and feelings running through our minds. We discuss a variety of claims and facts until we can agree upon using the same words to express our beliefs. In actuality, the hammering out of an agreeable formulation of a creed occur amongst many people over a long period of time. It then becomes an item in a collective consciousness in human intelligence as would a poem or song. Through the ages many people find those words apt for professing what they belief