Somewhere Over the Rainbow: The Metaphysicians’ Support Group
Be it the Christian heaven or Plato’s Forms, the idea of a dualism has a long history. The dichotomy between the apparent world (earth, empirically demonstrable, etc.) and the real world (Augustine’s ‘City of God’, Plato’s ‘Forms,’ Christian ‘heaven,’ etc.) have found quite a following among our species. Yet, one must keep in mind that many of these formulations came at a time in which either science and/or psychology was in infancy.
I have discussed the effects that certain religious doctrines can have on its most devout proponents, but what about just the notion of the ‘other-worldly’? As Nietzsche points out as early in his 1868 critique of Schopenhauer, one must marvel at the fact that the conceptions of an ‘other world,’ or ‘real world’ came out of simple negative deduction. Simply stated, enough time on this planet one simply sees the process of ‘Becoming’- this continual Heraclitean flux of change, life, death, growth, decay, etc. which intelligent people simply created a realm of the inverse of the aforementioned realities. These postulates came at a time in which man couldn’t explain a rainbow, prayed to numerous gods to help with the upcoming harvest, saw such conditions as we now know as epilepsy as a form of demon control.
In a world of constant turmoil, war, fluctuations in socioeconomic concerns with little laws of say…economics or of the physical sciences; the idea of an after-life or of at least denigrating this world, this life; as something other than the real world became an effective defense mechanism. Either one was deserving of the punishment offered by the natural world (think of the ancient Jews’ view on divine punishment), or this world being seen as a test in which those who perform/believe successfully shall be rewarded in a realm filled with the inverses of all the horror this world perpetuates, or if not that- then that this world is of error- in the Platonic sense; in which our senses deceive us and all we sense are crude derivations of the pure which our minds should constantly be aiming to understand.
One mustn’t search far for examples of this in literature, philosophy, and religion. Be it St. Augustine’s ‘City of God’ in which the metaphysical dualism of Plato is coupled with the teachings of the Bible, or the numerous theodicies that culminate in Hegel’s notion of the ‘Absolute.’ It is undeniable, albeit careful contemplation, that the notion that all of one’s turmoils shall eventually be compensated for serves as a powerful form of coping…with the threat of a debilitating psychosis.
The psychosis previously mentioned is not an attack but merely the results of a psychological coping mechanism that isn’t based in reality at all, in fact, it rejects reality. The obsession with the after life, the fear of eternal damnation or any number of theoretical punishments threatening us post-flat-line creates a wall between experiencing the world ‘as-is’ and seeing it merely as a formality for the faithful.
The notions of a ‘real world’ separated from this world is senseless both in the epistemological sense- since we can’t ever use our senses to discern it’s actual characteristics, and senseless in the evaluative sense. The latter judgment simply stems from the psychological implications mentioned earlier. Religions and certain philosophical systems have, in one way or another, attempted to blind themselves from both reality and all that makes man significant. Between the absolute prohibitions which with a bit of reflection would serve as a capital example of the impracticality of such systems, to the emphasis of the other-worldly while routinely rejecting this world through categories such as ‘secularism, illusory, sinful,’ etc. it becomes quite apparent that perhaps the evolution of dualistic metaphysics have in fact created the psychosis alluded to earlier.