"Begin at the beginning,and go on till you come to the end: then stop." (Lewis Carroll, 1832-1896)

Alice came to a fork in the road. "Which road do I take?" she asked."Where do you want to go?" responded the Cheshire cat."I don't know," Alice answered."Then," said the cat, "it doesn't matter."

"So long as I get somewhere," Alice added as an explanation. "Oh, you're sure to do that," said the Cat, "if you only walk long enough."

"All right," said the Cat; and this time it vanished quite slowly, beginning with the end of the tail, and ending with the grin, which remained some time after the rest of it had gone. "Well! I've often seen a cat without a grin," thought Alice; "but a grin without a cat! It's the most curious thing I ever saw in my life!"

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Human Thought And Religious Revelation

What's the difference between a human thought and a religious revelation?

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I am lying in bed one night, staring at the ceiling and suddenly, I have the solution to a problem which has been vexing me for months. The solution is compellingly simple, yet amazingly novel. I am overcome with emotion. I feel refreshed and yet ecstatic. I quickly write down the solution in my diary which I keep beside the bed, and then slip off into a wondrous and peaceful sleep.
Religious revelation? Or human thought?


Blogger pissed off patricia said...

You can't have a religious revelation without a thought, but you can have a thought without having a religious revelation. :)

14/3/07 3:17 am  
Anonymous Gadfly said...

Define your terms: Are you restricting the definition of thought to the observed pattern of neuro responses in a thinking brain, or the content which is produced in the mind in a given instance?

Revelation - are you restricting it to those kind experiences within the brain when a person believes that a "thought" has come from a source outside of them, or are you talking about an external provision of thought content such as a "burning bush" provided Moses?

The question is too vague as posed. It would require an essay to seriously answer.

14/3/07 6:00 am  
Blogger Krystalline Apostate said...

I think this is simply a discussion post, left up to the commenters to flesh it out.
Am I right?

14/3/07 9:24 am  
Anonymous ted said...

I think need to think about this one a little more...

14/3/07 11:03 am  
Blogger beepbeepitsme said...

Yes, this is where you get to say what you think or believe is the difference between a religious revelation and a human thought.

I have a couple of ideas mysef on the subject, but I would like to hear what other people have to say first.

(Yes, I know, highly unusual that I have an opinion.. ;)

14/3/07 11:11 am  
Blogger beepbeepitsme said...

KA is right. I want your views on the difference.

14/3/07 11:21 am  
Blogger beepbeepitsme said...

RE gadfly

I have given you some information to work on now in the post. Your thoughts?

14/3/07 11:59 am  
Blogger Krystalline Apostate said...

Well, rather than re-invent the wheel...I've expounded at length both here and here about my agreements with Jaynes, I've discussed the physiological aspects here and I've gone off on a bit on how religion is an evolutionary modality here.
I align myself w/Jaynes' theory, that the brain was originally halved, thus there wasn't anything resembling introspection, & primitive man heard & obeyed.

14/3/07 12:01 pm  
Blogger beepbeepitsme said...


Very interesting. I can see that you have thought on this issues in some depth. I don't find a great deal to disagree with you on. But that isn't surprising.

The concept of a biological evolutionary trend towards self realization and self-awareness and the social and cultural constructs which influence this pattern; is a compelling, yet perhaps not widely researched concept.

14/3/07 1:12 pm  
Blogger beepbeepitsme said...

RE patricia
Makes sense to me too :)

14/3/07 1:13 pm  
Blogger L>T said...

Having been a Christian who had revelations from God. Also growing up in & belonging to a Pentecostal church where these kinds of things are common... Back then I would of said divine revelation. Now that I'm now longer a Christian, I'd say human thought.I'll give an explanation based on my experiences.

When I was growing up & in the Pentecostal church, we were indoctrinated with the idea that God did talk to you. We were told to open ourselves up to it. There was alot of emotional persuasion. Pentecostals do this stuff alot. They pride themselves on being feverent in that way like the very first churches. I didn't speak in tongues like alot of the people around me, or fall down & twitch or anything(you have to really be able to let go to do that)but I did have some real mind trips where I really believed God was talking to me. The feeling is "ecstatic" & you do let go in a sense...
As I started becoming disillusioned with Christianity I started to see it as a self-induced high w/out drugs that could be orchestrated by a skilled preacher.(it's not fake there are real emotions & thoughts involved, some people even see visions)
Acually, as close as I've come to describing the experience is "Spiritual Masterbation".

14/3/07 2:39 pm  
Anonymous ted said...

Having spent a bit of time in a pentecostal church, your description is about the best I've read l>t...:)

Personally, I think that both are pure human thought. A thought only becomes revelation when it is thought to be a revelation by those who believe in such things.

14/3/07 6:52 pm  
Blogger La Arquitectura como Hecho Cultural said...

There is no such a thing as religious reveletion... just thoughts.. wonderful electrical and quimical activities.

So... your definition?

15/3/07 12:57 am  
Anonymous Gadfly said...

Broadly, rather than technically - so don't jump on the imprecision.

Revelation has more to do with content and thought has more to do with mechanism.

I>T & Ted:
I'm Presbyterian & Reformed (Calvinist) so there are lots of "in-house" differences with the Pentecostals on some of the things you discuss.

Revelation, if and when it actually occurs, differs from thought in origin. Revelation is always external to man concerning things which man is incapable of discovering for himself.

Thought is internal to man in origin and may respond to revelation either correctly or incorrectly. There is no guarantee that revelation will be accepted. See what is told the Rich Man in the Parable about Lazarus.

15/3/07 1:06 am  
Blogger The Atheologist said...

Well beepbeep, I would need a little more information in order to give a definitive answer.
I think it all depends on how the solution to this problem revealed itself.

If a godly looking being appeared on your ceiling and gave you the solution, then of course it was a religious revelation.

If on the other hand, the thought just came to you then this is proof that you are getting smarter every day.

15/3/07 1:21 am  
Blogger beepbeepitsme said...


I see no way to concretely determine that which is religious revelation from that which is human thought. And as we can demonstrate the existence of human thought as it originates in the brain, I will be left to consider that man's thoughts are of his own making whether he calls them a revelation or not.

Those who believe in revelation essentialy believe that a force external to themselves, transmits information into their minds. Perhaps they consider it some sort of divine osmosis.

Now for people like myself who consider that without matter, (as in the case of human beings, a brain), that there is NO thought, or no mind; the concept of a mind without matter which transmits or channels information synonomous with human speech into the neural pathways of the human mind, seems just a tad far-fetched. (Value of the understatement.)

I might have to go along with Thomas Paine who "maintained that revelation can only be considered valid for the original recipient and when subsequently communicated by the recipient to a second person it ceases to be a revelation but rather becomes a hearsay second hand account, and consequently they are not obliged to believe it."

15/3/07 1:54 am  
Blogger L>T said...

Very interesting post beepbeep. The quote by Thomas Paine is awesome.

I think I can see where gadfly is coming from too.

I really like everyones definitions. It's been a bit of a "revelation".

As you can see us Pentecostals didn't approach these things from an intellectual level. :)

15/3/07 3:09 am  
Blogger Krystalline Apostate said...

Revelation is always external to man concerning things which man is incapable of discovering for himself.
Oh my, that sounds almost superstitious. ;)

15/3/07 3:40 am  
Blogger beepbeepitsme said...


RE: "Revelation has more to do with content and thought has more to do with mechanism."

I am not sure what you mean by this.

By a matter of example - Theoretically, a person can "think". This act of thinking is a process. A person can also have a "thought" and this thought would be content.

Likewise, theoretically, a person can have information revealed. This revealing of information is
supposedly a process involving an outside source. And theoretcially, a revelation would be the content.

15/3/07 11:03 am  
Blogger beepbeepitsme said...


The idea of a what a revelation is, seems to depend on who believes it is one. And one has to have faith that such a process can occur, before one could believe that such a thing happened.

15/3/07 11:05 am  
Blogger Chris Bradley said...

I think that religious revelation must be human thought, because religious events are not in the mind.

If some sky fairy comes down from the sky, all invisible or whatever, and says something to me, I would then have to be the person who interprets it in a religious way. What is the voice of god to one person is a clever idea to the next, and it is the person who decided which is which. That seems to be interpretation, which I think puts it clearly in thought.

(I get this sort of thing semi-often. I say that there's no evidence of the existence of any god and many theists will say stuff, like, "I see god in a child's smile, in a sunset, in the shape of the clouds" or something corny like that. What is, to me, just an experience is transformed b them into an religious experience.)

Tho' it is also possible that what many people consider religious revelation isn't either thought or the voice of god, such as psychosis or another form of mental illness.

15/3/07 11:59 am  
Blogger beepbeepitsme said...

RE chris

I think it is at its simplist level a process of word association. Kind of like Pavlov's dogs if you will, except that the association isn't one of sound and food, but one of sound and emotional response.

A certain word triggers an emotional or psychological response. The word itself becomes the trigger for all the cultural associations one has with the specific word.

Which is why some people will say that "god is love" or "god is a child's smile." Those words or phrases trigger a positive emotional response. The positive emotional or psychological response then becomes the "evidence" of the existence of said concept.

15/3/07 11:35 pm  
Blogger Chris Bradley said...


Yeah, I suspect that it's something akin to that association. A lot of people are trained -- and well trained -- to associate any goodness or happiness with their religion. After being told for all the years of your life that goodness and beauty equal religion, I'm not surprised that with some that it sticks because challenging the reasoning behind it challenges . . . lots of things, the truthfulness or intelligence of their parents, their own deeply held beliefs, thousands of years of social conditioning, etc.

16/3/07 2:54 pm  
Anonymous John P said...

K.I.S.S. a/k/a Occam's Razor

Human thought = revelation

Nothing more.

Speaking of simple, Steven Pinker , when asked by Stephen Colbert on the Colbert Report how the brain works, in 5 word, said "brain cells fire in patterns". That pretty much sums it up.

17/3/07 2:15 am  
Blogger breakerslion said...

..."brain cells fire in patterns."

That's like saying "sex is an attempt to fertilize an egg." One should not, in my opinion, lose sight of the intrinsic beauty and intricacy of the electrochemical dance.

17/3/07 1:42 pm  
Blogger beepbeepitsme said...

RE john:

I think that religious revelation is synonomous with human thought. Religious revelation is just attributed to an "outside source." As I doubt that this "religious thought osmosis from an outside source occurs, I am left with the concept that we create our own thoughts, even those we attribute to supernatural entities.

18/3/07 6:25 pm  
Anonymous John P said...

Bingo! BeepBeep. We are in complete agreement.

19/3/07 4:38 am  

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