The Universe Next Door: A Basic World View Catalog

James W. Sire 1976/1988

Theism: Middle Ages: 500-1500 (1000 yrs)
Deism: Renaissance: 1500-1630 (130 yrs)
Naturalism: Enlightenment 1630-1870 (240 yrs)
Nihilism: 1870-1930 (60 yrs)
Existentialism: 1920-1965 (45 yrs)
Eastern Pantheistic Monism: 1950-1975 (25 yrs)
New Age: 1965-1990 (25 yrs)

Preface to the 2nd Edition

1. A World of Difference
What is a World View?
Seven Basic Questions and Some Common Answers
     What is prime reality -- the really real?
          The gods
          The material cosmos
     What is the nature of external reality, that is, the world around us?
          The world as created or autonomous;
          As chaotic or orderly;
          As matter or spirit;
          Emphasizing subjective, personal relationship to the world, or its objectivity apart from us
     What is a human being?
          A highly complex machine
          A sleeping god
          A person made in the image of God
          A "naked ape"
     What happens to a person at death?
          Personal extinction
          Transformation to a higher state
          Departure to a shadowy existence on "the other side"
     Why is it possible to know anything at all?
          Because we are made in the image of an all-knowing God
          Because consciousness and rationality developed under the contingencies of survival in a long process of evolution
     How do we know what is right and wrong?
          We are made in the image of a God whose character is good
          Right and wrong are determined by human choice alone
          The notions simply developed under an impetus toward cultural or physical survival
     What is the meaning of human history?
          To realize the purposes of God or the gods
          To make a paradise on earth
          To prepare a people for a life in community with a loving and holy God
Examples of Other Issues that Arise within a Worldview
     Who is in charge of this world?
          No one
     Are we as human beings determined or free?
     Are we alone the maker of values?
     Is God really good?
     Is God personal or impersonal?
     Does God exist at all?

2. A Universe Charged with the Grandeur of God: Christian Theism
Basic Christian Theism
     1. God is infinite and personal (Triune), transcendent and immanent, omniscient, sovereign and good
     2. God created the cosmos ex nihilo to operate with a uniformity of natural causes in an open system
     3. Human beings are created in the image of God and thus possess personality, self-transcendence, intelligence, morality, gregariousness and creativity
     4. Human beings can know both the world around them and God himself because God has built into them the capacity to do so and because he takes an active role in communicating with them
     5. Human beings were created good, but through the Fall the image of god became defaced, though not so ruined as not to be capable of restoration; through the work of Christ God redeemed humanity and began the process of restoring people to goodness, though any given person may choose to reject that redemption
     6. For each person death is either the gate to life with God and his people or the gate to eternal separation from the only thing that will ultimately fulfill human aspirations
     7. Ethics is transcendent and is based on the character of God as good (holy and loving)
     8. History is linear, a meaningful sequence of events leading to the fulfillment of God's purposes for humanity
The Grandeur of God

3. The Clockwork Universe: Deism
Basic Deism
     1. A transcendent God, as a First Cause, created the universe but then left it to run on its own. God is thus not immanent, not fully personal, not sovereign over human affairs, not providential.
     2. The cosmos God created is determined because it is created as a uniformity of cause and effect in a closed system; no miracle is possible.
          Closed to God's reordering, because he is not interested in it
          Closed to human reordering, because it is locked up in a clocklike fashion (de-emphasized)
     3. Human beings, though personal, are a part of the clockwork of the universe.
     4. The cosmos, this world, is understood to be in its normal state; it is not fallen or abnormal. We can know the universe, and we can determine what God is like by studying it.
     5. Ethics is limited to general revelation; because the universe is normal, it reveals what is right.
     6. History is linear, for the course of the cosmos was determined at creation.
An Unstable Compound

4. The Silence of Finite Space: Naturalism
Basic Naturalism
     1. Matter exists eternally and is all there is. God does not exist.
     2. The cosmos exists as a uniformity of cause and effect in a closed system.
     3. Human beings are complex "machines"; personality is an interrelation of chemical and physical properties we do not yet fully understand.
     4. Death is extinction of personality and individuality.
     5. History is a linear stream of events linked by cause and effect without an overarching purpose.
     6. Ethics is related only to human beings.
Naturalism in Practice: Secular Humanism
Naturalism in Practice: Marxism
The Persistence of Naturalism

5. Zero Point: Nihilism
The First Bridge: Necessity and Chance
The Second Bridge: The Great Cloud of Unknowing
The Third Bridge: Is and Ought
The Loss of Meaning
Inner Tensions in Nihilism

6. Beyond Nihilism: Existentialism
Basic Atheistic Existentialism
     1. The cosmos is composed solely of matter, but to human beings reality appears in two forms -- subjective and objective.
     2. For human beings alone, existence precedes essence; people make themselves who they are.
     3. Each person is totally free as regards their nature and destiny.
     4. The highly wrought and tightly organized objective world stands over against human beings and appears absurd.
     5. In full recognition of and against the absurdity of the objective world, the authentic person must revolt and create value.
A Saint without God
How Far beyond Nihilism?
Basic Theistic Existentialism
     1. Human beings are personal beings who, when they come to full consciousness, find themselves in an alien universe; whether or not God exists is a tough question to be solved not by reason but by faith.
     2. The personal is the valuable.
     3. Knowledge is subjectivity; the whole truth is often paradoxical.
     4. History as a record of events is uncertain and unimportant, but history as a model, or type, or myth to be made present and lived is of supreme importance.
Concluding Remarks

7. Journey to the East: Eastern Pantheistic Monism
Basic Eastern Pantheistic Monism
     1. Atman is Brahman; that is, the soul of each and every human being is the Soul of the cosmos.
     2. Some things are more one than others.
     3. Many (if not all) roads lead to the One.
     4. To realize one's oneness with the cosmos is to pass beyond personality.
     5. To realize one's oneness with the cosmos is to pass beyond knowledge. The principle of noncontradiction does not apply where ultimate reality is concerned.
     6. To realize one's oneness with the cosmos is to pass beyond good and evil; the cosmos is perfect at every moment.
     7. Death is the end of individual, personal existence, but it changes nothing essential in an individual's nature.
     8. To realize one's oneness with the One is to pass beyond time. Time is unreal. History is cyclical.
East and West: A Problem in Communication

8. A Separate Reality: The New Age
The Radical Transformation of Human Nature
The Panoramic Sweep of New Age Thought
          Drug Therapy
          Transpersonal Psychology
          Sociology and Cultural History
          Natural Science
          Science Fiction
          Psychic Theorists
Relationship to Other World Views
The Basic Tenets of the New Age
     1. Whatever the nature of being (idea or matter, energy or particle) the self is the kingpin -- the prime reality. As human beings grow in their awareness and grasp of this fact, the human race is on the verge of a radical change in human nature; even now we see harbingers of transformed humanity and prototypes of the New Age.
     2. The cosmos, while unified in the self, is manifested in two more dimensions: the visible universe, accessible through ordinary consciousness, and the invisible universe (or Mind at Large), accessible through altered states of consciousness.
     3. The core experience of the New Age is cosmic consciousness, in which ordinary categories of space, time, and morality tend to disappear.
     4. Physical death is not the end of the self; under the experience of cosmic consciousness, the fear of death is removed.
     5. Three distinct attitudes are taken to the metaphysical question of the nature of reality under the general framework of the New Age
          (1) The occult version in which the beings and things perceived in states of altered consciousness exist apart from the self that is conscious
          (2) The psychedelic version in which these things and beings are projections of the conscious self
          (3) The conceptual relativist version in which the cosmic consciousness is the conscious activity of a mind using one of many nonordinary models for reality, none of which is any "truer" than any other
Shirley MacLaine: A New Age Exemplar
Cracks in the New Consciousness

9. The Examined Life
Choosing a World View
Christian Theism Revisited


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