There are two types of atheists: those who do not believe that God exists and those who strongly believe that God does not exist. The former are reluctant to believe what they have no experience with. The seconds do not admit that there may be something above their experience. The difference is the same as between skepticism and the presumption of omniscience.
Above the distinction of atheists and believers there is the difference, noted by Henri Bergson, between open souls and closed souls. I will explain it my way. As everything we know is circumscribed and limited, we live within a dome of uncertain knowledge surrounded by mystery on all sides. This is not a provisional situation. It is the very structure of reality, the basic law of our existence. But the mystery is not a homogeneous paste. Without being able to decipher it, we know in advance that it extends in two opposite directions: on the one hand, the supreme explanation, the first origin and ultimate reason of all things; on the other, the abysmal darkness of the meaningless, the non-being, the absurd. There is the mystery of light and the mystery of darkness. Both are inaccessible to us: the half-light sphere in which we live buoys between the two oceans of absolute light and absolute darkness.
The immemorial symbolism of the “heavenly” and “infernal” states marks the position of the human being at the center of the universal enigma. This situation — our situation — is one of permanent discomfort. It requires an active, difficult and problematic adaptation from us. Hence the soul’s options: openness to the infinite, the unexpected, the heterogeneous, or the self-hypnotic closure in the enclosure of the known, denying the beyond or proclaiming with dogmatic faith its homogeneity with the known. The first gives rise to the spiritual experiences from which myths, religion and philosophy were born. The second leads to the “prohibition to ask”, as Eric Voegelin called it: the repulsion to transcendence, the proclamation of the omnipotence of socially standardized methods of knowing and explaining.
Religion is an expression of openness, but it is not the only one. The simple sincere admission that there may be something beyond the usual experience is enough to keep the soul alert and alive. It is possible to be an atheist and be open to the spirit. But the militant, doctrinal, uncompromising atheist opts for the peremptory refusal of the mystery, delighting in the hatred of the spirit, in the eagerness to close the door of the unknown to better rule the known world.
Dostoevsky and Nietzsche well saw that, when transcendence was abolished, all that remained was the will to power. The one who forbids looking up makes himself the impassable top of the universe. It is a tragic irony that so many nominal adherents of freedom seek to achieve it through anti-religious militancy. Religions may have become violent and oppressive at times, but anti-religion is totalitarian and murderous from birth. It is no coincidence that the French Revolution killed ten times more people in one year than the Spanish Inquisition in four centuries. Genocide is the natural state of “enlightened” modernity.
The detractors of religion use and abuse this argument that they found in Humboldt (not the explorer and naturalist Alexander, but his philologist brother Wilhelm): Human morality, even the highest and most substantial, is in no way dependent on religion, or necessarily linked to it.
All civilizations were born from original religious outbreaks. There has never been a “secular civilization”. A long time since the foundation of civilizations, nothing prevents some values and symbols from being separated abstractly from their origins and, in practice, becoming relatively independent educational forces.
I say “relatively” because, whatever the case may be, its prestige and ultimately its meaning will remain indebted to the religious tradition and will not survive long when it disappears from the surrounding society.
All “secular morals” are just an excerpt from previous religious moral codes
This cut can be effective for certain groups within a civilization that, in the end, remains religious, but, if this fund is suppressed, the cut is meaningless. The secular Europe’s inability to defend itself against Muslim cultural occupation is the most obvious example.
The present state of affairs in countries that have detached more fully from their Judeo-Christian roots is demonstrating with the utmost evidence that the so-called “lay civilization” never existed and cannot exist.
It lasted only a few decades, it never succeeded in completely eradicating the religion from public life, despite all the repressive devices it used against it, and in the end, its brief existence was only an interface between two religious civilizations: dying Christian Europe and nascent Islamic Europe.
Humboldt’s opinion is based on a double error, or rather, on a convergence of errors that give the impression of confirming themselves as truths. On the one hand, he makes a logical deduction from the general meanings of the terms and, seeing that the generic concept of morality does not imply any reference to God, he applies to the world of facts the conclusion that one thing does not depend on the other.
This is an addiction to abstractism: inferring facts from reasoning instead of reasoning based on facts. On the other hand, however, he observes that around him there are atheistic individuals “of high and substantial morality”, and believes that with this he obtained empirical proof of his deduction.
What he doesn’t even realize is that their morality is only good because their conduct schematically — and externally — coincides with what the principles of religion demand, that is, that the very possibility of good lay conduct was created and sedimented by a long religious tradition whose moral rules, once absorbed in the body of society, began to function more or less automatically.
In short, only the abstract man — or the heir more or less unaware of religious traditions — can have a moral without God. The first is a logical fiction, the second is an appearance that covers the reality of its own origins.
Taking them as realities, and even more so as universal and unconditioned realities, is a primary philosophical error, which shows little ability to analyze the experience.
If there is a well-proven fact in this world, it is the extrasensory perception during the state of clinical death. An inert body, with no heartbeat or any brain activity, suddenly awakens and describes, in great detail, what happened during his trance, not only in the room where he lay, but in the other rooms of the house or hospital, which from where he was he could not see even if he was awake, in good health and with his eyes open. This has been repeated so many times, and it has been attested by so many reputable scientific authorities, that only a complete ignorant in the matter can insist on remaining incredulous. But even some of those who recognize the impossibility of denying the fact are reluctant to draw the conclusion that it necessarily imposes: the limits of human consciousness extend beyond the horizon of bodily activity, including that of the brain. The reluctance to accept this shows that the “modern man” — the product of the culture that we inherited from the Enlightenment — has identified himself with his body to the point of feeling frightened and offended at the mere suggestion that his person is something else. It is evident that this is not just a conviction, an idea, but an incapacitating self-hypnotic trance, an effective block of perception.
This state is implanted in souls by the tremendous anonymous pressure of the collectivity, which keeps them in a state of spiritual atrophy through the threat of scorn and the fear — imaginary, but no less efficient — of exclusion. Infinitely multiplied and enhanced by the educational system and the media, what was once a mere philosophical idea, or pseudophilosophical, is incorporated into individual personalities as a reflection of self-defense and, to the same extent, restricts the self-perception of each to the minimum necessary for performance in the immediate tasks of socio-economic life. It is all a self-fulfilling prophecy: if overwhelming evidence of extracorporeal perception is denied, it is not just because people do not believe it — it is because they have become truly unable to live it consciously. They live alienated from their deepest and constant psychic experience, locked in a circle of banalities in which the “cultural” and “scientific” triumphalism of the popular media instills an illusion of wealth and variety.
The “real world” in which these people believe they live is the Galilean-Cartesian dualism, already totally demoralized by the physics of Einstein and Planck, but that the media and the school system continue to impose on the souls of the crowds as the definitive truth: everything that exists in this world are “physical things” and, on top of them, “human thought”, “cultural creations”. On the one hand, the harsh reality of matter governed by supposedly inflexible laws, on which the universal and unquestionable authority of “science” is based; on the other, the soft and ductile paste of the “subjective”, of the arbitrary, where every opinion is worth the same. This “subjective” sphere includes “religion”, which is the right to believe whatever you understand, with the proviso that it never proclaims objective truth or universal value.
Under these conditions, the exercise of religion itself becomes a grotesque caricature. As much as the atheist, the religious man of today believes strongly in the existence of an autonomous material sphere, governed by specific laws that science enunciates, only occasionally broken by the interference of the “miracle”, the “inexplicable”, the “divine”. As much as philosophy skunk the “God of hiatus” (the one who only acts through the gaps in scientific knowledge), he is the only one left on the altar of the multitudes of believers. Officialized by the governmental, university and media establishment, the strict Kantian separation of “knowledge” and “faith” has become the gospel truth for most religious souls, although it is, in itself, perfectly heretical in the light of Catholic doctrine, interposing an unbridgeable chasm between dimensions whose interpenetration, on the contrary, is the very essence of the Christian conception of the cosmos. It is self-fulfilling prophecy in action again: the mutilated perception of the individual self corresponds to a mutilated religion, and vice versa.
When I say mutilated perception, I am saying, emphatically, that the image of the self as something that resides in the body or identifies with it is fantastic, illusory, sick. It imposes limitations on consciousness that are by no means natural, much less necessary. All spiritual traditions in the world, all wisdom disciplines start with the obvious realization that the self is not the body, it is not “in” the body, but in a way it encompasses it as the supra-spatial transcends and encompasses the spatial (this is marked out by certain mathematical relationships that, in themselves, are nowhere in space). But it is one thing to understand this by pure logic, quite another to be able to see it in the living fact of extrasensory perception in cases of clinical death. Strictly speaking, a single episode of this type would be enough to completely refute with the nonsense that the brain, that is, the body, “creates” cognition, thought, consciousness. But the episodes are thousands, and the lack of interest of believers in this type of phenomena (more studied by atheists, New Age followers and Buddhists than by Catholics, Protestants, or even Jewish believers) denotes that the religious mind has already conformed to a diminished state of existence, in which the supracorporal soul, a fundamental condition of access to God, will only come into existence in the other world, through some magical transmutation of the bodily psyche, instead of already constituting in this life our most concrete, most substantive personal reality and more truthful, present and active in our most minimal acts as in our highest and most sublime experiences.
For millennia each human being, when pronouncing the word “I”, immediately and automatically referred to his immortal soul, the only one who could pray and answer for his own actions before the altar of divinity. Of this soul, the bodily psyche was a minor part and function, focused solely on the material and social environment, alien to every sense of the eternal and, strictly speaking, incapable of sin or holiness, only of socially recognized crimes and virtues. From the moment that the bodily psyche was assumed as an autonomous reality, each individual only sees himself as a member of an animal species and as a “citizen”, amputated from that dimension that underlies the ultimate sense of responsibility and then he cultivates, in its place, the mere instinct of social adequacy, adorned or not with “religious morality”. Imagine the difference it makes, for example, in your understanding of the Bible: if you don’t read it with your immortal soul, perhaps it would be better not to read it at all, because you read it with the flesh and not with the spirit.