lördag 10 oktober 2009

The limits of language - and the difference between asha and law

Dear Clint

You're absolutely right!!!
I personally stopped using the term "law" in connection to physical reality a long time ago. Isaac Newton spoke of the laws of the universe in the 17th century but the metaphor is a lot less productive today with our knowledge of how the universe works and how relative physics truly is.
The beauty of the concept of asha of course being that asha is fundamentally how things work no matter how they work, and that the ethical principle of asha takes its starting point in the something that does exist rather than in the nothing that does not exist. Zarathushgra just spoke of asha, he never used it in connection to the term "law". Zoroastrianism is rather the only religion without laws. Or rather, we identify with our actions rather than have our actions submitted to any law.


2009/10/10 wagnerian1

Ushta Mehran,

Let me try to explain. Way before there was a scientific method, kings and councils were already making laws to govern the behavior of people, for obvious reasons. This word, "law" refers to this code of expected behavior and the semantic content, or first/primary/foundation meaning of the word "law" deals with expected behaviors that are imposed upon people to circumscribe limits that are theoretically healthy and beneficial for society as a whole. Understand so far?

So, as people began using their good minds to observe the natural world, which includes Us by the way, they began noticing that certain things act in predictable ways, and that even people act in predictable ways in many cases. The sun always rises, it is always warm at a certain time of year, if there are dark clouds there is a better chance of it raining, etc. The animals do this at this time of year, and do this other thing, when it is a different time of year. You add water to substance X and it does Y, etc. For whatever reason, these scientists, or philosophers as they called them back then, began to use the language of "law" to describe their theories as to why these things happened, and why they were so predictable.

Now think about this for a minute. As these observations began to be gathered up and talked about, and taught to other people, the world was still a very wild and uncontrolled place. For everything they knew, there was VERY MUCH that they did not know, and what they didn't know was very scary. Just like people can be scary if there aren't any "laws", if there aren't any rulers to put a boundary around their behavior, if there aren't any parents and children grow up wild, etc. It was a natural consequence of this mix of ideas, to see the few predictable and understood natural processes as being "governed" by "laws" in an otherwise lawless and chaotic, and not understood, natural world.

In our time, we can see many more predictable situations, we can read about and observe many things in action that our ancestors just hadn't found out about yet. But we still use the word "law", at least in normal, everyday conversation among non-scientists, to label our scientific observations and predictions. But this is a borrowed word from a totally different field of human knowledge and experience, and because it is borrowed, the word "law" does NOT entirely express the reality of what is going on and what has been observed and/or participated in. The word law, like I said above, refers to something imposed on behavior by someone else, either a king or a council of some sort. This is true of society. This is not true of the workings of the Universe. It might be a metaphor, or a convenient word to use, to speak of the "Laws of the Universe", or the "Law of Asha", but the word "law" is a much narrower word for a much narrower situation, the situation of setting limits upon human behavior so that Order might occur. Order is not imposed by laws, by the way, the laws only define limits, and these limits can change if we see that more order and harmony and all the rest might occur if we change the limits.

What it comes down to, Reverend Mobedyar, is this: the word "Law" is only borrowed as a metaphor to help describe the workings of the Universe. It was borrowed at a time in which the word "Law" seemed to describe what was going on, but as our knowledge has increased, to use the word "Law" can only be understood as a pale, inadequate shadow of what it is we are really talking about. Likewise, it is very easy to use the word "Law" when referring to the way the Universe works, then say "there must be a Law-giver!" because there are lawgivers and lawmakers in human society. But again, the word "Law" is only a substitute, a borrowed word from a different kind of human knowledge than the scientific. It is a word with moral and/or ethical connotations, and if used of science, philosophy, cosmology, theology and the like, should only be understood as a figure of speech. Unfortunately, this has not been the case, and the figure of speech has been literalized and carried too far. The only real Laws there are are those Laws which have been devised by human beings to try and create a functioning and effective society.

So, the above is an explanation of why the word "law" is problematic in our discussions, except when talking about man-made codes of conduct. My sentence, that you wanted an explanation about, was cautioning all of us to examine our words carefully, and to understand that for the most part, we are trying to use very limited language to describe that which has no limits; to please keep in mind the limits of not only the words of our language but of language itself. No one knows for sure, no one has totally understood everything, and this is even more true when we are speaking of the things of Ahura Mazda, the Amesha Spentas, life and death and the survival or non-survival of consciousness. In some native European traditions, they always say that, on this side of death or whatever, you never see the Invisible World straight on, but rather just off to the side, just out of the "corner of your eye". As I go forward in life, I find this is entirely and completely true, when referring to the things of God, or gods, or religion in general. Symbols and peripheral vision, side-glances, that is what we have to go on. If we understand that, we also understand this is a blessing, for that means that NO ONE has all the power, and if they claim all the power concerning religion and spirituality, then they are either self-deluded or liars.


--- In Ushta@yahoogroups.com, MoobedyAr Mehran Gheibi wrote:
> Dear Clint
> dorood
> I could not understand this your words. "...However, I would say be VERY careful in referring to the ways and means of the great Universe as something so easy to list and categorize as "laws" and other such language. Ahura Mazda is so much greater than this, I think, and more complex. There are so many things we just don't know, nor have control over, that one can never be too sure that they have Asha, or anything else Divine, all figured out. That includes all y'all, not just Mehran!...."
> Would you please explain them more?

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