How much is that dogma in the window?




By popular definition, dogma is a doctrine or code of beliefs accepted as authoritative. The contention of this essay is that if we explore the meaning of: “authoritative” we will find that dogma is a great deal more than generally accepted. Dogma is that which provides the framework within which humanity tries to come to terms with how the universe operates. By further extension, it is the way all life and all matter frames interaction.


Dogma is a term generally applied to human belief and is usually perceived in a negative light. At its worst it has been responsible for more violent human death than acts of nature or disease combined. At its best, dogma has given humanity the ability to formulate ideas which promote tolerance and understanding. Humans have the distinction of combining the best and the worst in a single creed. Religion is the most obvious, but by no means the only example.


Life is complex and humanity has always tended to take the easy path and follow ideas which are organized in a culturally understandable and acceptable format. It should be no mystery why this is so. To begin with, man is only one intellectual step removed from other higher mammals and all of those other species are behaviorally disposed to accept leadership from dominant individuals. In humans, dominance has been refined to include the power of ideas. People are only too ready to abrogate responsibility to popes, politicians, shamans, seers, royalty, chieftains and generals. Often their power over us is in their ability to convince us that their ideas are “right”, based on evidence which we as a cultural group find adequate. Convince a few big, ugly and mean people that one should be heeded and it isn’t long before those goons encourage everyone within reach to fall into line, but the power of organized ideas alone is often enough to guarantee sway over a group. The reason dogma is so very effective for religion and politics in particular, is that these two credos deal with both ideas and ideals and so by definition are free from having to be proven as factual and true – instead depending purely on the power of belief.


Dogma is a term applied to primarily to theology, but in fact any idea which is codified is, by definition, dogmatic. Science has a long history of developing new understandings and then refusing to accept breakthroughs until either the old guard is dead or new evidence is so overwhelming as to be irrefutable. There are still people who believe the earth is flat; that man has never been to the moon; that fossils are recently created. Many individual scientists invest so much time and energy developing their own ideas that when evidence shows their work to be misguided or wrong, they are unable to accept or integrate that new evidence and speak out against it.


Engineering and architecture are by their very nature dogmatic and necessarily so. If engineers had to reinvent the wheel every time they designed a car, nothing would ever be accomplished. We are forced, just for practicality to make assumptions that what has worked in the past will work in the present.


That is the crux of the problem – if we presume that dogma is problematic.


In our personal lives, dogma is the lynchpin which anchors our grasp with reality. We are required by sheer expediency to defer to preconceived notions, first impressions, popular opinion and ideas or concepts qualified by other people’s beliefs, but which we respect at some level or another. Living completely in the moment is all well and good but is functionally impossible if we are to interact with a world where assumption is the glue which holds reality together. We make tacit agreements with the world around us all the time and in all things. Cultural, community, family and personal rules allow us to focus on more immediate concerns of daily living. These rules are only reevaluated by us when we decide that some balance is unacceptably out of whack. When we broaden our concepts to include new ideas we may pat ourselves on the back but by necessity those new ideas immediately become dogma until re-examined.


We depend on memory to provide the majority of our world view but new studies have shown that the very act of recollection changes those memories and the more we “remember” something, the more our current recollection diverges from the original. These studies show that we need to either record events in some way or accept that the more we recall our past experiences the less “true” they will be.


On a more granular level, we construct dogmatic viewpoints when creating literature, art and music. In fact, all our perceptions are frozen by the act of recording them. Language may be the most obvious way of organizing perceptions but it is by no means the only device. However, until we find some way to record the fullness of individual experience though all the senses and perceptual modes, it is the most immediate and available means. Sadly it is like trying to prune a rose bush with an atomic bomb.


Much of our interaction with the world is based on subconscious dogma. “Looks like rain”, “Wolves are dangerous”, “Classical music sucks” and uncountable other statements or thoughts – even when unspoken or not consciously expressed – are representative of just how much we are willing to accept that what once was so will always be so. As often as not we may be wrong, misguided or uninformed and either ignore that fact or when in some way proven wrong, simply adjust our view without being aware we have done so. The vast majority of our moment to moment existence is predicated on the assumption that what has been true will always be true until shown otherwise. The definition of proof is different for every individual too. Assumption is dogmatic by definition.


Time for the inevitable perceptual stretch.


I think it is obvious that humanity uses dogma as a tool to successfully cooperate as a race and in very real terms to interact with the universe. We presume, wrongly I believe, that human awareness is required to formulate conventions which allow cooperation with reality.


Mention was made earlier in this essay about other mammalian species, a few of which we now know have consciousness similar to humans. For the purposes of this discussion that is not as important as is recognition that all animals, (including man) and in fact all life must make assumptions – at some level – about their interactions with the world around them. These assumptions, which all other life makes, are every bit as powerful as humanity’s conscious, subconscious and unconscious assumptions and have just as profound an effect on their interactions with reality. Bears hibernate when day length, temperature and food supplies reach certain levels – even in an El Nino year where they may wake up unexpectedly. Whales migrate to locations where ocean currents concentrate food, even if those currents have temporarily changed and the food source is no longer there. Black spruce trees grow in bogs even as they and other plants deposit biomatter which will turn the swamp into grassland more suitable for aspens. Although to human eyes, the world is a pretty stable place, the interaction of life with the world can never be presumed to be static. Life and living it change the world. Life forms which are capable of adjusting will endure but most life depends on the changes being small enough to tolerate. However, we have a propensity to forget that life tends to exist at the mercy of majority consensus.


DNA is a genetic “alphabet” which records the language of life. Life forms evolve in various ways to effectively fit into certain niches and once successful, are predisposed to greatly reduce their rate of change or stop evolving altogether. With few exceptions, changes are small and slow. When we draw a parallel with human languages, DNA is simply life’s dogmatic way to manage interaction with reality.


While consciousness in the traditional human sense is not involved in genetic variation, awareness is. Without awareness of the environment, DNA would not be able to respond to better interact with that environment.


Awareness absolutely relies on stability. This is as true for you and me as it is for all living things – including the genetic components which define life. If every moment were unique, there would be no way for life to identify structure or organize intellect. Dogma provides opportunity for change without demanding it.


In a very real sense, consciousness can be even further qualified. Granted, we are not always able to apply the traditional “I think, therefore I am” precept to all forms of consciousness, but frankly, if original thought is a benchmark for perception, most humans would fail to measure up to the standard. We do, however, function very well – brilliantly even – with the “chemical” consciousness all life exhibits. Taking this idea one step further, I think it can be argued that awareness need not spring from things which are “alive” in the traditional sense, for dogmatic principles to apply.


All matter has some level of awareness with the reality around it. Atomic structures tend to move toward stable configurations in much the same way traditionally recognized life forms (including humans, as a thinking life form) do It is a good thing too. If atomic structures were inherently unstable, the universe and life as we know it would be impossible. Atoms have enough awareness to “know” which ones can combine into molecules that are stable enough to exist. Once stable, it takes significant external force of some kind to change that configuration. It is really no different except in scale to what happens in human ‘belief” where we seek a stable physical, emotional and intellectual comfort zone until forced to re-evaluate our position. Just as with all other life and by extension all matter, outside forces can not only make us change our way of thinking but our very physical existence.


Taken one small step further, the little bits which combine to make up atoms also have not just simple awareness but a basic sense of self-identity. Protons and neutrons (and the even smaller components which make them up) only interact in particular ways with each other and with other atomic and sub-atomic particles. In a very real way they are self-aware. Granted, their dogmatic behavior is limited to interactions at the same scale but neutrons “know” how to be neutral. Electrons and protons are always attracted to each other. Unless convinced otherwise by external forces, they group into stable configurations and stay that way.


My contention is that the popular definition of “doctrine” is far too limited. It must be expanded to include non-conscious methods of communication. If we are able to get our minds around that concept we will see that dogma is neither good nor bad but simply the way that this reality manages complex interactions. The curse and the blessing of humanity is that we are able to effect change based on the power of thought alone. Examining interactions allows us to find new ways to influence them and in that way, physically change our reality.


I “believe” we will eventually find that thought and awareness are far more powerful and complex than we currently imagine and much more entangled in the creation of reality than we ever “believed” possible. In that sense, dogma is simply a tool. No, dogma is THE tool with which the framework of this reality is built.


If one is interested in creating or shaping one’s own reality, one simply needs to learn how to use the tool.


One Response to “How much is that dogma in the window?”

  1. ceo Says:

    You summarixe…I “believe” we will eventually find that thought and awareness are far more powerful and complex than we currently imagine and much more entangled in the creation of reality than we ever “believed” possible. In that sense, dogma is simply a tool. No, dogma is THE tool with which the framework of this reality is built.”

    I will re read, study and ponder. Then, When we are together, I will formaulate and dispense with my percieved response to you essay.

    YOur Bro’

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