Chapter 1: Understanding reality*: a basic human need*

Philip Booth

When words marked with an asterisk are first used, they are further explained in the Glossary

For Hlatky, a proper understanding of our own lives is possible only when we have a proper understanding of reality, and a proper understanding of reality is possible only when we have a proper understanding of the original cause* and meaning* of reality. On the basis of the axiom* that activity*can be caused only by a conscious*, living being, Hlatky argues that the original cause of our everyday reality - a reality that we know to be pure activity - must be a single, conscious, living being. Traditionally, the name that has been given to the concept of a conscious, living original cause is 'God' or some equivalent. Hlatky follows theological tradition - Judaism, Christianity and Islam - in using that name too, but he parts ways with theology on major points.

For example, most theories of creation* and of God the creator see God as separate from his creation. Hlatky's hypothesis is based on the idea that God is the invisible original whole* of which we are the original parts*. In this hypothesis, God must create within himself - since if there were something outside him, he would not be the whole.

Hlatky views God - this invisible, original whole with its original parts - as the invisible, omnipresent reality behind creation. On the basis of the axiom that every conscious, living being has the need to be understood as like* and thereby to be loved, he argues that God, as a conscious, living being, must also have that need. It is this need that motivates God to give out creation: he wants to be understood by us, his equally conscious, living parts. This is the meaning and purpose of creation, viewed from God's perspective.

As the whole, God cannot show himself directly to his parts, but he lets us know about himself indirectly through the activity that is creation. He does this by giving us experiences that can lead us to infer his and our own original existence*, as well as to understand him, which means to understand his purpose with creation.

In Hlatky's view, God does not create us. Each of us is a non-created, unchangeable, conscious, living part of God's original reality - this original reality being traditionally called the Being*. This part becomes connected to a human body that is created along with the rest of creation by God. Hlatky argues that in the original situation in the Being, the conscious parts* have virtually no experience, hence God's purpose in creating creation: so that we can have experience of each other, indirectly through our created bodies, and also of him, indirectly through the whole creation. If we infer God's purpose with his creation, we can start to experience love*: first in relation to God, and then, consequently, also in relation to each other. In this way God's need for love can be satisfied, and ours too. [This central idea is broached in several places. See, for example, Dialogue 1, 'The need for mutual love'.]

So creation is where we can come to an understanding of our original relationship to God and to each other, with huge consequences for the way we lead our lives. Hlatky believes that unless we are conscious of these relationships, it will be impossible for us to escape a feeling of alienation: from the world around us and from each other.

Hlatky argues his hypothesis on the basis of certain axioms which, by the nature of axioms, cannot themselves be argued for, but can only be accepted or rejected by any individual, on the grounds that they are, or are not, self-evident*, that is, they do or do not fit the individual's own total, current experience. These axioms are thus derived from Nature*, and can be checked* against our own total, current experience of Nature, both outside and inside our created bodies. We in fact have to use axioms in much practical thinking - that is, the thinking required for us to be able to deal with our bodily needs and our everyday existence* - but historically they have not been used in discussion in the domain of philosophy*, that is, in relation to the problem of the original cause. Historically, the problem of the original cause has only been discussed in relation to tradition, that is, in relation to what other people say about reality, rather than in relation to people's actual total experience of it.

The main axiom [for the principal discussion of axioms, see Dialogue 4] is:

No thing can arise, originate from nothing. Not even activity can arise out of nothing.

On the basis of the first part of this axiom, Hlatky argues that the original reality cannot have arisen out of nothing. On the basis of its second part, he argues that creation, which is only activity, cannot arise out of nothing: there must be an unchangeable thing - the original reality, the Being - behind it.

From this basic axiom follows the next:

That which exists, that which is a real, existent*, permanent, and not illusory, something, can never change, become some other thing, or cease to exist, that is, become nothing.

On the basis of this axiom, Hlatky argues for the unchangeability of the original reality that God is and of which we are parts. Creation, on the other hand, as constant activity, has nothing unchangeable within it.

From these two axioms follows the next:

It is impossible - even for God - to create anything other than activity.

A further axiom, which relates to the idea of consciousness*, and which has already been referred to, is:

Only a conscious, living being who is conscious of its own existence can be active out of itself and thus be an original cause of its activity.

This last axiom combined with the main axiom leads to the further axiom:

Only a living something, body, object conscious of itself and existing unchangeably can be the unchangeable, original cause of activity.

If these axioms - these self-evident statements or basic premises for practical and philosophical thinking - are accepted, then we can argue from them to Hlatky's view that the activity that is represented by creation can only be caused by something that is existent, conscious and active.

So creation in Hlatky's view is not a permanent reality. It is only seemingly permanent, existent. It is just activity - what he calls 'abstract'*. In his hypothesis only the original reality, God's Being, is existent - what he calls 'concrete'*. [The discussion of the terms 'abstract' and 'concrete' is taken up in Dialogue 1.] Everything that we interpret with our senses, within creation, as an existent reality is, in fact, simultaneously constructed and destroyed by Nature. Our senses, too, are created and destroyed by Nature.

Hlatky points out that we also know from science that what we see as matter is not matter, that is, not existence in the true sense. He suggests, however, that if we accept the axioms to which he draws our attention, then logically there must be a real existence behind all visible matter, but one that we cannot experience with our senses. This existence is living, that is, it is active, but it can only move, it can only express itself, in the form of vibrations, which, Hlatky suggests - in line with modern physics and also with ancient traditions - is the basis of all other movement in the visible creation. Visible matter, which gives us a distance-based*, external perspective on reality, is created by these vibrations for our senses, so that we can understand the necessity of presupposing an original, invisible existence - the Being - as the original cause behind it.

In Hlatky's view, the whole creation should be regarded as having God's consciousness behind it - rather than as being basically dead and only living and becoming conscious on the Earth's surface, as is the general view. He sees God, therefore, as having an immediate, direct, ongoing relationship to creation - that is, not as having created creation outside himself, as we humans create things outside ourselves. If God is seen in the way he is suggesting, Hlatky reasons that humans must function in relation to God, the whole, in a similar way to how the individual cells of our own body function in relation to our own body as a whole. In contrast to our body-cells, however, we have the possibility of understanding the whole, God, and of understanding ourselves in relation to the whole.

Hlatky regards this need to understand the cause and meaning of the visible reality as a basic need of humans. He views it as ultimately much more important than the existential* needs connected with our created bodies - even though we can temporarily ignore it, because it is not inescapable in the same way that the existential, bodily needs are inescapable.

The question of the original cause of creation was seen historically - as it is also seen by modern science - as two separate problems: What is the origin of life, that is, of our own existence on Earth? and What is the origin of the whole surrounding reality, that is, of the Earth and of the universe? Hlatky suggests that the two problems are the same problem. He thinks that if we accept the idea of a conscious, living being behind creation, viewed in the way he is suggesting - in other words, if we accept the idea that Nature is not basically impersonal and meaningless, as modern science would have us believe - then this offers a solution to the problem. He sees the universe as like a single, large arrangement of image-projections. He thinks that, instead of staring blindly at creation's ever-changing image, we can interpret it, if we are guided by the above axioms, and can understand the original, never-changing existence, the Being, and ourselves as original, conscious parts of that Being.

In Hlatky's view, there are two quite distinct forms of understanding. One is mechanical* understanding, which is based ultimately on touch, the sense that gives us the experience of matter and form*. The task of coping here on Earth requires us to be able to associate every function* that we experience in the surrounding reality with its correct form, e.g. sunshine with the sun, a bird's song with a bird, and so on. All our experiences start with the ability to experience, which is common to living beings and God. This common ability is in living beings bound by a nervous system to their experience of their own body. The absolute difference between God's experience and the experience of the different species - which also varies between the different species - is that God's experience is bound to the non-created reality and to his need to create.

The other form of understanding is philosophy, and its goal is to make a total synthesis of all our experiences, with the aim of understanding ourselves and everything else in our visible surroundings as parts in an invisible whole. This requires us to reflect on our everyday experience - but as it actually is, and not in the purely language-based*, theoretical ways in which we have generally been taught to think about it. Hlatky argues that such understanding is human beings' specific goal, in which case the objective* position of standing outside things, of viewing reality as if we were outsiders, is inappropriate. We can be aware* of the visible reality outside us, but we must remember that we are connected to creation through a body, so we must take our consciousness of our body into account too.

Hlatky makes the point that in the past the great world religions tried in vain to help people place their disparate objective and subjective knowledge in the context of larger unitary systems of thought. But this was done in an authoritarian way, so gradually people began to react against it. Nowadays each person tries to fit their jigsaw-pieces together in their own way. It can be said, with a certain exaggeration, that we now have over five billion religions rather than a few great ones. So the problem is not so much the enmity between the great religions. Rather it is that each person struggles independently to make their own sense of life.

This has led to a catastrophic loss of community. That is why, Hlatky believes, we have such a strong need these days for a philosophical understanding of the original cause, so that we can bring our objective and subjective knowledge about creation together. The need for such a philosophical understanding has been suppressed throughout history - because it can be suppressed without existential consequences for our own lives, though not without consequences for our relationships with other people and for the environment in general. Hlatky thinks that we can answer the question of the original cause in a way that satisfies our need for a common understanding. If we were able to find it logical that even God has the need to be understood as like, Hlatky thinks that this would make it clear for us in what way we are like God, and it would remind us that we, too, have the same basic need.

For Hlatky, logical* thinking starts with knowing the need behind an activity. In the case of God's activity, this is the whole creation. We can then check whether the activity is understandable as a consequence of that need, that is, whether the activity is purposeful or not. [For elaboration of this point, see Dialogue 4, 'Philosophical logic'.] Hlatky believes that if the original cause can be understood logically in this way, it will not be so easy for the need for non-authoritarian, logical understanding to be suppressed in our philosophical discussions of the original cause. And he sees the common need to understand logically and to be understood on a logical basis as the key to a feeling of community and love.

To set Hlatky's views briefly in historical context, I quote him:

'Greek philosophy was the first public attempt to use scientific thinking to anchor religion. But after the full emergence of Christianity, the Church took control of philosophy, and it did not become a public matter again until the 12th century when the first university was founded. The Church was then forced to argue the background of Christian belief. In the absence of logical argument, it decided to limit the field of philosophy by valuing a particular form of human experience, 'revelation', as absolutely true perception not requiring the support of logical reason.

'In the 16th century rationalist scientists, such as Galileo, Kepler and Francis Bacon, laid the foundation for modern science by dividing up everyday experiences of reality into the non-measurable (subjective) and the measurable (objective). Only the measurable was regarded as scientific. The subjective - that is, the basic part of our experience - then fell outside the scope of science. 'Warmth', for instance, was seen at that time as an example of subjective* experience: before the thermometer was invented, warmth could not be measured objectively.

'The more techniques that were developed, the more confidence in exact, objective science grew. When Wöhler succeeded in creating an organic substance, urea, out of inorganic components, this was interpreted as scientific proof of atheism and of the idea that life is a mechanical process driven by necessity and chance.[1]

'Gradually more of the subjective has become measurable and has been transferred to objective science. But at the same time there has been a growing realization that there must be a fundamental mistake in this view. My hypothesis is an attempt to correct this fundamental mistake without falling into irrational, and therefore authoritarian, alternatives.'

[1] In 1828 Friedrich Wöhler synthesized organic urea out of inorganic ammonium cyanate. The discovery that there is no bondary between inorganic, 'dead', and organic, 'living', matter, was mistakenly taken as proof of the mechanistic* nature of the universe and as an argument against the existence of God. For further discussion, see Dialogue 2, particularly 'The need of consciousness: undivided love*'.