Does God Exist?

- a wizard's point of view -

by Joel A. Wendt

I am a journeyman wizard.  Not an apprentice, or yet a master, just a journeyman practicing as best I know how.

I know, there are supposedly no such people.  Its all just fantasy - Harry Potter and all that.   The thing is that all such legends are born in some kind of truth (a wizard is an idea that has been part of our history for a long time).  This little essay is partially about that legend, and how what I write in the title will turn out to be completely, and scientifically, true.

The word wizard is a kind of contraction of wise-headed, or wise-hearted.  It is mostly old-English in etymology.  The term has parallels in all kinds of other historical cultures, and often elsewhere (and else-when) meant priest or initiate.  There were in the deep past mystery schools, where priests and initiates were trained.   The idea of Hogwarts is a kind of dim (and very confused) memory of this aspect of what a wizard (or wise-man) really is.  To aspire to wisdom is to undertake a work, and requires effort and all manner of schooling about which most people have no idea at all.  I make references to Harry Potter in large part because so many readers of this will be familiar with its basic premises, most of which are completely false when compared to the path of true wizardry.

Anyone who wants to go to the New Age section, or other similar places in book stores, will find a very large literature about these themes.   At the same time, the modern natural scientist will consider books of this kind to be just one more false, irrational, and perhaps dangerous, point of view.  The astrophysicist Carl Sagan wrote a book in which this worry was carefully expressed: The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark.

From a certain point of view there appears to be a war going on between scientific thinking and knowledge, and acts of faith or belief in various kinds of belief systems and religious ideas.  Religious thinkers even fight among themselves (scientists do too, but their arguments are less visible to the general public).  The New Atheists (often itself merely a belief system that there is no God) find almost all religions irrational, and filled with ideas that science seems to have disproved.  Keep in mind the warning: seems.

At the root of all this apparent conflict of points of view is a very legitimate question: What is the truth?  Hidden in that question is an even more important one: How do we know what the truth is?

It should surprise no one (although many will still be surprised) that those two questions have always been the heart and soul of the inquiries of the truly wise - the wizards of old, whether called Druid or Priest or Initiate in the Mysteries. 

Most of what gets argued in public places, between hyper-rationalists (lots of New Atheists are not scientists, they are just believers in scientific points of view) and hyper-religionists (those who retreat into their irrationality at the expense of common sense) is very poorly thought out and poorly reasoned.  While there is a big spectrum of points of view within these dialogs, there is also a lot of efforts to reason to a foregone conclusion.   Such individuals already have their belief or what they think they know, and all subsequent thinking involves the marshaling of support for what has already been decided to be true.

We could follow Burke's and Santayana's dictum here: those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it.  In this case the past matter overlooked is not historical events, but rather the history of ideas.   The questions being poorly debated today are not new, and were far better examined in the past, both the deep and the near past.  No doubt what we observe here is something connected to inadequate education (from certain points of view).  A lot of those engaged in these debates only have a superficial understanding of the underlying questions in terms of the history of ideas.  No one showed them this past, and unless one of the sides of the debate struggles to enter into those realms, little real light can be shed on these questions.

For example, Karen Armstrong, a well recognized writer on religious history entered the debate with her book: The Case for God.   This resulted in a deepening of the debate, although it did not lead to any resolutions, and many counter arguments were subsequently offered, such as Sam Harris's essay: The God Fraud

I'd like here to enter this debate/discussion myself, but first I want to shift the ground a little bit.  We could ask the question: Does God exist?   However, I think we need to ask an additional question: Does anything exist?, because without appreciating what we mean when we use the term exist, we might well end up talking at each other, but not to each other.

Nor do I want to merely debate the meaning of terms, either.  I want to even go behind what we mean when we use such a term (exist),  and go to our direct experience, that is to be empirical.  When the natural scientist wants to advance his discipline, one of his tools is observation.  The other main tool is thinking, but often that is little understood in a very precise way, in part because of our assumptions about the limits to thinking that result from our subjectivity.

I could interject here that it is possible in this day and age to know the Divine Mystery directly, and details on this can be found on the Internet by googleing my name.  But it is not my intention in this essay to but forward those more complicated ideas and instructions.  Rather I have other matters I am trying to illuminate.

Nor do I expect to come to any answer in this essay - no ultimate answer at all.   These questions are so fundamental and basic, that in my view any effort to arrive at finished and ultimate answers shows a lack of respect for the questions themselves.  All I really want to do is walk around the territory a little bit, and perhaps refine and improve the fundamental nature of the overall dialog by posing improved questions.  I find it unwise (contrary to true wizardry) to seek to fix our understanding of such basic questions, whether one wants to fix this understanding from a scientific or a religious point of view.  All efforts to fix (set in stone) and finalize our understanding lead to a fundamentalist spirit, to dogmas and and sectarianism, and then too often eventually to unnecessary conflict and even violence.

For the fun of it, let me spiral around to the beginning once more, and look at what it might mean to be a wizard in modern times.

We noted previously the existence in fantasy books of Schools, such as the Hogwarts of the Harry Potter stories, or the Wizard's School on Roke Island of the Ursula K. LeGuin stories about Earthsea.  These concepts are remnants within the history of ideas of more ancient times when Mystery Schools existed and were known.  The Roman Church systematically destroyed (as much as possible) many ancient mystery schools and temples in a effort to stifle competition from the older Goddess religions.   There was a valid meaning to that activity, but its details I'll leave to my books and essays.  A wonderful recreation of these issues can be read in Marion Zimmer Bradley's: The Mists of Avalon.

There would appear to many folks to be, today, no such Schools.  Well, this is not true, there are many.  Tibet once was a nation which remained essentially a theocracy (albeit one in which there lived no theistic idea), in that a system of extensive spiritual training existed for the creation of Lamas, whose inner capacities were carefully developed, and upon whose skills the government (such as it was) rested (the trained Lama being a kind of practical realization of Plato's idea of the Philosopher King).  In Japan there are many schools of Zen.   In India, schools of Yoga.  In the middle East, schools of Sufism.   The further West we go, however, the matter starts to change, in large part because of what the Roman Church intentionally set out to destroy.  What can be called in a general sense practitioners of heretical Christianity (the Essenes, the Gnostics, the Manicheans, the Hermeticists, the Rosicrucians, the Alchemists and so forth) were often tortured and murdered for having differing views.

We think today we are beyond such intolerance of differing views, but even in the fields of natural science, to espouse religious convictions, to pursue matters seeking spiritual answers, or even to disagree strongly with the dominant point of view, often leads to being shunned and denied access to funds and equipment necessary for the practice of ones chosen livelihood.  If you don't believe me, take an objective look at what has happened to those scientists who became part of the community of those called today: Aids denialists.  Disagree with the dominant point of view within the establishment powers in institutional science (and its allies in the pharmaceutical industry) and you will become personally hounded, attacked, and driven out of your profession.

Today in the West there is little that could be called a true mystery school, although Rudolf Steiner, the discoverer of Anthroposophy, tried to found such in his School of Spiritual Science, which still maintains headquarters in Dornach, Switzerland.  The reality is, however, that if you seriously ask, seek and knock, an encounter with the Divine Mystery will not be withheld.  Yet, all manner of people have today religious experiences, but in this scientific age the rationalist is correct to want something more grounded and real (empirical?).   Remember that question about what the term exist means?

The more seriously you ask, seek and knock, the sooner you find your way to the School.  Today it is found in Life, and most people are in this School at various levels, all the way from kindergarten, to post-doctoral studies, research and work.  The spiritual does not hide from us, but it does require that we approach it with certain attitudes of soul.  That statement/concept  (attitudes of soul) leads us then to the next place to be.

Out of the ancient Greek mysteries we have this idea: know thyself.    This doesn't mean be familiar with our subjective nature, but rather to become deeply and objectively awake to our universal nature - that which we share with all other human beings.   The mind sciences so many admire of the East (Zen and Tibetan Buddhism, for example), have corresponding disciplines in the cultural West. 

Harry Potter goes to Hogwarts to learn to wave a wand around and violate all the rules of physics.  In the West, when you get into the right stages of the Mystery School of Life, you will find deeper rules than physics yet knows, but which are completely scientific - that is based upon careful observation and thinking.  The beginning rules involve our own interior life.  We are to learn to discipline thought and emotion and perception in a way quite beyond what the natural scientist yet imagines is possible.

The science fiction stories of the early 1960's, mainly Frank Herbert's Dune series, and Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land, both posited the existence of elaborate mind sciences.  Dune clearly contained various schools (for mentats, the Sisterhood etc.) and for Stranger, the idea of teachers: the discarnate Old Ones.  Even there, however, a certain confusion is created because of the latent idea regarding powers, involved in all legends of wizardry under whatever name.  The wish and desire for magic powers is strong in many, and rightly raises skepticism among the scientific minded.  George Lucas's Star Wars movies repeated this fantasy.

Here we now come to a core problem on the path of asking, seeking and knocking - desire and its consequences.  Our inwardness must be consciously prepared before it becomes capable of meeting the Divine Mystery, and the problem of desire is central to that preparation and purification (e.g. the desire for powers).

The Buddha's Four Noble Truths confronted this problem directly.  In the Gospels, and certainly in the letters of Paul, the matter is faced directly as well.   Christ says in Matthew: wash out the inside of your cup first if you want the outside to become clean.  Rudolf Steiner's seminal work: The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity begins there as well, by asking: can we want what we want.  That is, can we control desire - determine what we desire - or are we fated to be victims of our desires and baser instincts.

Now that is clearly a factual question.  Yet, people will have beliefs about it, and the idea of original sin seems to declare from the religious side that human beings are born flawed, while the ideas of blind chance and genetics etc. declares a similar conclusion from the so-called scientific side.   We are, as regards desires and emotions, hard-wired - at least that is the way many say it today.  In a sense the human being is not free, from either a religious determinism (original sin, all is the will of Allah etc.) or a scientific determinism (neo-Darwinian evolution, DNA, brain chemistry etc.).

Steiner's book is sometimes translated into English as: The Philosophy of Freedom (in German: Die Philosophie der Freiheit), although he didn't want it that way - he wanted it's English title to be as noted above (The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity).  A few could assume that what is meant by the use of the word Philosophy is some sort of elaborate belief system, but that would be mistaken.  Lets explore this a little bit because it is very significant if we wish to discover true wisdom (wizardry) and remain within the spirit of science.  For example, the subtitle to Steiner's book is: some results of introspection following the methods of natural science.

Some will know that mathematics, without which there would be no science, is sometimes called: the Queen of the Sciences.  If there is a Queen, then, there must also be a King - and that is: Philosophy, particularly that aspect of formal philosophy known as epistemology - the science of knowledge or of knowing.  In the deeper regions of scientific and philosophical disciplines these matters are still argued today, whether it is by such as Rudolf Steiner, Owen Barfield, Karl Popper, Michael Polanyi or the post-modernist thinkers in France such as Michel Foucault.

To weave in a previous theme, the works of such authors just noted remain unknown to the most noisy of the debaters concerning issues between science and religion, and as a consequence these debates tend to the uselessly superficial.  They may satisfy the desires of the partisans to accuse each other of irrationality and various related vanities, but little light is shed on the fundamental question of whether or not spirit is as real as matter.

The naturally quite wise writer Neal Stephenson, in the latter part of the third volume of his Baroque Cycle: The System of the World, creates a very interesting imaginary scene.  He has the historical figure Princess Caroline of Ansbach (about to become Queen of England) call to her drawing room two other historical figures (Issac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz) as well as a fictional character, one Daniel Waterhouse.  With these characters in place, Stephenson imagines the following dialog (runs about ten pages and is far more elaborate than what I am about to write).

Princess Caroline, having been tutored for years by Leibniz, points out to the three gentleman that Newton and Leibniz have two quite conflicting views on the nature of matter.  She suspects that upon the resolution of this conflict, that major aspects of the future culture of understanding of her world will depend.  Newton's view is that there is a smallest bit of matter, that is essentially a thing - an atom, and which has no vital properties.  Leibniz's view is that his monads (his smallest things) have both consciousness and some degree of will.  [Certain recent discoveries in Quantum Physics are suggestive that Leibniz may have been right after all.]

All are confronted by an obvious fact (forgotten today in our superficial debates), which is that the matter of which a human being is made up is animated.  We move and talk and think, something a desk or a rock seem unable to do.  Up to this point in time (around 1720 or so, in which this imaginary dialog is staged), thoughtful people were beginning to understand this unfolding paradox, which was a root matter in all scientific thinking to come: that the matter which comprised the human being seemed filled with some kind of spiritual presence, which fled the field (so to speak) upon the event of death.  Keep in mind that even today, for all our scientific progress, the connecting relationship between the physical brain (matter) and consciousness and self-consciousness (spirit?) remains a mystery.

In the drawing room in the novel the question is not resolved.   A later examination of the history of ideas would show that it never really was resolved, but rather one view more and more socially dominated the other, and once having achieved its supremacy as a belief, it then reinterpreted all facts consistent with its essential theory (all is matter, there is no spirit). 

For example, look up Uniformitarianism on Wikipedia.   That debate (mostly taking place in the 19th Century) involved the question of whether it was possible that what we were discovering today as apparent physical constants, had always been throughout all time the same - that is: constantly constant.  Mostly this concerned geology and its inquiries into the past based upon its discoveries in the present, but other sciences were involved as well.  Since it was/is not possible to go back in time and know empirically through direct observation whether or not these constants were the same a million years ago as they are today, it was basically and consciously just assumed that they would be, a view reinforced by modern thinkers such as Stephen Jay Gould (see the Wikipedia entry).  This is a bit strange as an assumption, however, given that Nature everywhere presents itself as a kind of rhythmic flux.  Change and variation in Nature is the one true constant, albeit many processes are cyclic.  Why then would Nature maintain as constant over the long eons of time, any law we believe we have understood in the present.  For example, is the acceleration we describe as gravity (our observation is that objects fall), always throughout all time been the same fixed rate?   We assume so, but we don't know so.

It is we who seek to fix matters.  Nature seems uninterested.

In a sense a very fundamental question was shoved into a kind of theoretical black-hole, and then mostly forgotten.  The same as with the question of the animation of matter by spirit.  Proof was not forthcoming, perhaps not even possible, but in a kind of sociological sense one paradigm achieved domination over the thinking of most practitioners of science.  For more on the problem of paradigms, see The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, by Thomas Kuhn.  For logical and philosophical details of these problems, google: Dogma and Doubt by Ronald Brady.

It is this process of not resolving fundamental questions that has led to there coming into existence Scientism, which is a belief system that many scientists hold dear, and would be very bothered to question.  In reporting this, by the way, I am not suggesting that the story the Creationists tell is any better than the story the geologists (or the New Atheists) tell, but rather I am simply pointing out that in spite of the desire for fixed answers and an absence of ambiguity, neither scientific nor religious belief systems should be accepted as the highest models of truth seeking.   Recall those two questions:  What is the truth?; and, How do we know what the truth is?

As a practicing wizard, that's where I work - in the truth seeking business ... you know ... the one where one is scientific and religious and artistic, or ask, seek and knock.  What I do is work inwardly, and learn to discipline my thinking and emotion and perception, so that my potential capacity to know something becomes more deeply enhanced.  I've been to the wizard's School of Life, and been trained to have more control over thoughts and feelings and perceptions than most believe possible, through long years of trials by fire, and I've learned one really certain thing: there are always better questions, and most of these are preferable to believing I have any answers.

That said, we might consider that in such a process of inner illumination and work (learning to appreciate more dynamically our universal human characteristics), we come upon multiple levels of inner phenomena, such that precise distinctions can be made (and applied) between that state of attentive consciousness we might call belief, and that state we might call understanding and that state we might call knowledge.  As a consequence, an empiricism of inner life unfolds that leads to many conclusions not before appreciated as possible.  On this path of practical wizardry or wisdom, a whole other world emerges.  Even so, this also needs to be approached in a detailed and disciplined fashion, which is why I write books, not just essays (and create videos for Youtube).

All the same, where are we Now, with this question: Does God exist?  Well that depends upon what we mean by God and by exist, does it not?  It also concerns questions of desire and determinism, and questions of the fundamental nature of stuff.  What do we mean by matter?   What do we mean by spirit?  Does our idea of God exclude the human being?  Is God outside or inside or both?  What is the nature of the Divine Mystery?   Something unknowable and then totally dependent upon Faith?  Or something quite knowable, and thus dependent upon developing the skills, crafts and arts by which such knowledge becomes possible.

It would be nice if we could have a rational debate, would it not?  Sadly too many want to take hard and fixed positions - they hold strongly to the truth as they see it, and are not really interested in explorations of deeper questions.  They assume (or desire) to learn nothing new.  But what do their lamed and dogmatic views (the fundamentalists of both science and religion) have to do with the truth.  Perhaps there are many apprentice and journeyman wizards out there - those who would seek to answer such questions in a wise fashion.   What kind of dialog might they produce?


Joel Wendt's writings and videos on these and many other related questions can be found on or through his website Shapes in the Fire [] where almost everything can be read or seen for free.  If you want to purchase a book you can hold in your hand, then go to: Joel Wendt's Theory of Everything Emporium []