Autotheistic You

Maybe we’re all a little autotheistic. We hear an inner voice—no not the voice a schizophrenic hears—that wells up from deep inside, a voice that tells us holistically how to interpret the world and how to accept our own part as makers of reality. It is our self-deification, our apotheosis. You listen to yours daily. It says, “Accept this; deny that; question that; and create a worldview.”

From early on we all act as creators. Some choose to create places with endings, universes that are closed, limited, and pressing. Others create openness. Those inner voices fashion the universes in which we live.

 No, I’m not repeating Milton’s famous lines from “Paradise Lost” that the mind can fashion a Heaven from Hell and a Hell from Heaven. There are external realities with which we all must deal, and mind, regardless of what the virtual reality proponents say, can’t change those realities. You will get sick, and you will die. There’s no mental escape from the latter. The individuals that harbor inner voices—and that’s all of us—dwell in places over which we have only partial control. But minds can control much, such as tolerance to pain and commitment to a goal.

 Your worldview is your chief creation. It is more important than your character because it is more fundamental. Character, according to Robert A. Burton, is “at best a partial truth; our behavior can be dramatically and involuntarily affected by circumstance…the smell of bakery goods increases one’s likelihood of being generous.”* Burton cites a study of the phenomenon in front of a bakery and a corollary study in front of a neutral-smelling business, where people were less generous. Then there’s the famous Stanley Milgram study of people willing to harm others simply because the circumstance called for them to do so. But worldview underlies even behavioral changes. Worldview can impose, for example, guilt on someone who lets a circumstance change a “moral” to an “immoral” character—but just for that occasion—and impose recognition of the change.

 Unlike an Infinite Creator who can fashion outside finite situations, you did acquire through situational experience the makings of your worldview. That means that your character itself has undergone change and is subject to the whimsies of the moment, sometimes conforming to and at other times contradicting your worldview.

 You continue, regardless of character failings, to hear that inner, organizing (or creating) voice. What is the voice telling you about how to understand the world you now encounter? And how is it currently shaping your character? Or, should I ask how your character currently conforms to or contradicts your worldview?

 

*A Skeptic’s Guide to the Mind: What Neuroscience Can and Cannot Tell Us about Ourselves, St. Martin’s Press, NY, p. 208, 209.