Episode 13: Worldviews
… and this is Episode 13. Today, we’ll tackle a huge question: What is reality?
A good sense of reality is vital for peacemakers. Most unresolved conflict is the result of false views of reality. And the way individuals respond to conflict is determined by their personal philosophy — their view of reality.
Let’s take a closer look at this idea. A person who fails to perceive reality becomes confused and disoriented. They stumble through life and collide with other people. Confusion leads to conflict.
Then, during a conflict, each person insists they are seeing clearly — even though their views of reality do not match. Each individual sees the world differently. Each is certain they know what is real and what is not.
A basic axiom emerges: Faulty views of reality lead to faulty actions, which in turn lead to conflict. A person who cannot see clearly, cannot act wisely — they soon experience conflict.
When someone needs to navigate a journey, they often rely on maps. If they travel across country they will seek out a quality map or GPS system. But what if the journey is a spiritual journey? Here, too, a navigation aid is helpful. Rather than a road map, we need a reality map that correctly charts the nature of reality.
The idea of a reality map for the spiritual journey sheds light on the function of a personal philosophy. It serves as a navigation aid for life. With proper directions, people sail along with few crashes. They avoid misadventures. And, when necessary, they find detours and alternate routes.
Crafting a personal philosophy is not an academic exercise. It is a practical endeavor. Unfortunately, few people spend time charting a reality map. They wing it. They hope to pick up tips along the way. They limit their travels to a few paths in the same neighborhood. Lacking a reality map, they must cope. If they are forced out their comfort zone, they often panic.
Faced with a crisis they may try to borrow a crude reality map from a close friend. Or they may sort through an elder’s notes seeking clues. But these stopgap measures are a poor substitute for a finely crafted personal philosophy.
Peacemakers encounter a clash of two primary worldviews: The dominant secular culture advances Materialism. The other worldview, a spiritual worldview, rests on the philosophy of Idealism.
Materialism is a philosophy or worldview that sees the material world as self-created. In this view, the material world exists independent of any conscious creator. Furthermore, man is seen as solely a biological entity. Materialism denies the existence of God. It rejects the existence of immortal souls.
In contrast, Idealism rests on spiritual foundations. The view of reality is consistent with religious beliefs — though in many cases people of faith are not conversant with Idealism. They cannot articulate its principles, though they more or less understand that Creation emerges from the Mind of God.
Idealism turns out to be the only worldview fully consistent with the Christian Creation narrative. It acknowledges the existence of God. It recognizes man’s essence as an immortal soul.
A person who understands Idealism understands how prayers work. Miracles make sense. They are real. The power of the sacraments can be more easily understood. The reality described by Idealism is the reality in which men of faith go about their lives.
Perhaps peacemakers will find the most important aspect of an Idealistic worldview is the recognition that humans are spiritual beings. This factor makes a huge difference in how humans treat one another.
Ultimately, a person’s worldview determines their ability to find happiness. Their worldview affects their relationships. It determines whether or not they will have success in realizing their divine nature.
So peacemakers go out into a world where two major opposing worldviews clash. In the majority of cases, you will find that people simply fall into step with the main culture. They allow the dominant cultural worldview to dictate what is real and what is not.
There is some upside to this option. When people simply mimic cultural norms, they experience fewer collisions. They go along to get along. But this approach has risks. A person may succumb to Groupthink. They may behave like a robot. They risk slipping into a mindless, mechanical existence.
There is an additional liability with the dominant cultural worldview — it fails to track with comprehensive reality. It manufactures a limited reality and then enforces conformity. People know what they are expected to do. They know what they are expected to believe. But these views diverge from actual reality. Life feels empty and false. It becomes mechanical, even nightmarish.
The dominant culture argues religion is the realm of illusion, delusion, and fantasy. The culture believes reality can only be found in the “objective” universe of material objects. Men of faith schooled in Idealism assert the opposite. In later episodes, I will compare these worldviews in more detail. But for the purpose of this episode, I will simply assert that Idealism best aligns with reality. And, with this reality map in hand, people can chart their course through this life and beyond.
So where does someone who seeks a valid reality map begin? How do they go about constructing a personal philosophy? How do they prepare to assess what is real and what is illusion? The works of Benedict XVI provide the best support for this search for a personal philosophy. His theology is the best aid for reality mapping.
Benedict XVI starts with basic truths found in scripture. And he consults the works of the earliest theologians. He builds a foundation for reality. Then he adds the axioms of Idealism, which fit perfectly with Christian faith — as Origen, Augustine, Bonaventure and many other theologians recognized.
Idealism comes together with faith most powerfully in the Gospel of John, which describes Creation emerging from the Word, from the Logos, from the Mind of God. In John’s account we discover the most profound description of the nature of reality.
In the study of scripture and the philosophy of Idealism, the peacemaker discovers we live in a paradoxical world. Things of spirit, those things that are most real, are treated as delusion and fantasy. At the same time, the dominant philosophy of the culture, materialism, based pushes man into a mechanistic, Orwellian future.
Peacemakers must help people craft accurate reality maps. But before a peacemaker can lead others through the process, they must craft their own personal philosophy.
Perhaps these ideas will inspire you to spend time in prayer and reflection attempting to marry your faith with a valid philosophy. Hopefully, they will inspire a personal philosophy that enhances your work as a peacemaker.