The philosophical concept of Idealism has been voiced since ancient times. Remnants of the concept can be found in Greek Pythagorean writings from approximately 530 BC and within the writings of Plato from around 390 BC. Within Christian writings "The Acts of the Apostles" from approximately 75 CE attributed the following to the Apostle Paul speaking about God while in Athens
"For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring." (Acts 17:28)
In India during the 4th Century Vasubandhu and his half brother Asanga's Yogacara philosophy introduced Idealism into the Buddhist Community.
During the 6th to the 9th century a Sanskrit book of versus "The Yogavasishtha," by an unknown author, supported Idealism within India's non dualistic traditions.
The study of Being is termed in philosophy Ontology and like all philosophies is complex with many different categories and subdivisions. The focus of this presentation is on Idealism and Grace. Grace is beyond concepts, time and space and is substratum to all concepts. Thus it is available to those who hold a physicalism/materialism world view (That consciousness forms from matter); a dualism view (That consciousness and matter are separate) and an Idealism view ( That Consciousness is primary and the experience of matter is within consciousness). We must be careful not to distort our experience (relationship) with neurotic or narcissistic fantasies. If a spiritual crisis emerges we should seek help. Grace manifests within and without and help can sometimes come from a spiritual adviser or mental health professional.
Berkeley was born in Ireland. He was educated as a philosopher and most of his writings on philosophy are from an early age. He later became an Anglican Bishop. He was a man of his times, a slave owner (an inhumane activity) and a great proponent of tar water, now known to be toxic, as an elixir for illness. Within philosophy he was categorized as an Empiricist. One whose philosophy was based on experience. Those who philosophized that anything that the human mind can conceive of or understand are based upon things that can be experienced, primarily by objects of sensory experience. Opposed to this thought were the Rationalists who felt that human understanding can go beyond sensory experience, being inborn and intuitive, such as the idea of God.
John Locke also an Empiricist and contemporary of Berkeley, felt that things that can be experienced had Qualities that inform us of objects. Primary Qualities independent of the mind perceiving them and Secondary Qualities that are dependent on the mind perceiving them.
It has been a problem for philosophy to reconcile the duality of how mind and material objects interact. Mind being mental and objects outside of mind being seemingly physical. Lock's theory of Representative Perception attempted to answer this problem by positing that intrinsic to objects outside of mind are the Primary Qualities of size, shape, motion, solidity and number or amount. They are properties within the object itself. The mind does not directly perceive an object outside as Naive Realism would posit. Instead these primary qualities cause within the mind learned patterns of thinking that indirectly REPRESENTS the object being perceived.
Secondary Qualities of an object are not intrinsic within the object being dependent upon a perceiver. They inform the perceiver about the object through the senses. The color green is not a thing but an object can appear green. Warm or cold is not a thing but an object can appear warm or cold.
Berkeley did not accept Locke's theory of Representation. If experience within our mind is all we ever know or can know then the inference that there is cause of something independent and outside of that mind cannot be substantiated. It is important to realize that Berkeley and Idealist's after him do not deny the reality of the existence of objects, separate from our will. Berkeley was for the investigation of science and understanding the behavior of nature. For Berkeley, those objects are not material substance but like mind and experiences within mind, mental. How can a person (Spirit) who is consciousness (mind) act upon an object (idea) within a different media? The simplest (parsimony) explanation of objects seemingly outside of consciousness are that they are within consciousness.
Berkeley called us and God minds or spirit's, defined as one who knows or perceives and who acts on what is perceived or known. The acts of perception: seeing, hearing, tasting, feeling, smelling are not only acted upon by mind, they are also acted upon within mind. Not only are they acted upon by mind and within mind they are also composed of mental aggregates of perception that are recurring and grouped into categories, all within Mind and not outside of it. Thus, Berkeley's famous statement:
"To be is to be perceived"
For an object to exist it has to be perceived. When viewed as aggregates of perception gathered into categories within the mind it can be realized that a circle is not a thing, small is not a thing, the color silver is not a thing, goes onto a finger is not a thing, yet I perceive a ring in front of me that I think of as a thing. There is no change in the way an Idealist or Materialist actually perceives the ring. However, there is a profound way in the way they think they perceive.
Objects seemingly outside of our personal experience have an independence of both will and movement. Our will does not seem to effect them. Berkeley was a Spiritual Pluralist. For him minds or spirits with God as the primary and their relationship to one another made up the universe. Nature as a whole existed as an object of perception within the Consciousness of a Benevolent Creator God who arranges this for the good of humanity. Berkeley viewed God as Infinite Mind with no change, variation or succession.
Berkeley opened the door to the discussion of Idealism. Shortly after the German Philosopher Karl C.F. Krause, a friend of Schopenhauer, coined the term Panentheism. For Krause there was one Infinite Essence of willing, feeling and knowing that can transcend nature of which we are in oneness with. Many other philosophers of his day and current try to avoid the word symbol God because of its various cultural meanings.
Today Quantum Field Theory is pointing more and more, experiment after experiment to the possibility of Consciousness as primary with matter created within consciousness. Instead of a Benevolent Creator God language has turned to a Universal Mind or Universal Mind at Large within which we all partake within. Whatever language or philosophy is used (dualism, physicalism or idealism), Grace can be realized by everyone.
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