Metaphorical Certitude

People, as individuals and as societies, need a mental framework covering the important aspects of reality that are still unknown. Our minds are wired this way and so we create a Metaphor that represents our best case, inspired guess as to what the Big Picture is all about. It is only with reference to this Metaphor that we can make reasoned decisions, chart plans and set goals and directions.

Historically, these Metaphors have been provided by our religions. Early religions hypothesized spiritual powers and gods that held sway over the mysterious aspects of reality. Later, when these early religions were no longer credible and became inadequate to explain humanity's enhanced awareness of reality, the second level religions with more sophisticated metaphors were born, such as Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism.

Today, even these second order religions are no longer adequate to our increased scientific awareness. For some, science itself, especially quantum physics and modern cosmology, represent the new Metaphor. Still, even these scientific paradigms fail to offer answers to the biggest questions, those involving ultimate values, purpose and those questions beginning with the word "why".

So, we as individuals and especially as societies need a new Metaphor to provide common values, purpose, norms of behavior, and goals. Our scientific knowledge must be cherished and honored, and certainly not contradicted, but we still need to make that metaphorical leap that has always been provided by religion.

The Book of Certitude, written by Baha'u'llah in the nineteenth century creates just such a Metaphor, based on the best aspects of our second level religions, those religious aspects that do not contradict science and reason as we now understand them. I have accepted that Metaphor as the finest one available to us at this time, as embodied today in the Baha'i Faith.

Certitude is an abstract noun, which is appropriate as the Metaphorical Certitude that is the best available to us as humans is abstract, relative, partial, and temporary. Someday the state of human knowledge will increase to the point that a new, updated version of the Metaphor will become necessary.

Religious truth, the kind that underlies the Metaphor, is historically and sociologically determined. That is, there is no fail-proof logical test to determine whether one proposed metaphor is superior to another. We each as individuals must choose, once the need for a new metaphor is recognized, which one to follow. Only with the passing of generations does one particular religious truth emerge as historically approved and endorsed by the underlying society.

This is even more true in this day and age, since we live in a global society. But it was also true in the early days of the previous religions. When one became a follower of Christ, Muhammad or Buddha in their early days, one couldn't be sure, logically and rationally, whether one was following a Leader who would be subsequently recognized and endorsed by the broader society. It was an act of supreme Faith to follow such a new Leader.

This actually highlights the great honor and worth of those early followers of new religions who suffered and were martyred for the Cause. They took the supreme risk, for if they were wrong in their endorsement, they could have suffered and been martyred for a cause that was subsequently lost to history. How great a Faith it is to be martyred for a Metaphor.

But all religion is metaphor. Metaphor is not to be held in low esteem; the greatest causes, ideas, beliefs, and conceptions of the human race have always been metaphors. Metaphors contain more meaning than mere syllogisms; metaphors leap beyond mere logic and embody truth in a higher form than can be put into literal formulations. Inspiration, intuition, and symbolism allow metaphor to express what is otherwise inexpressible.