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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 [http://ipwebdev.com/hermit]
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 [http://stores.lulu.com/joelwendt]