Portrait of David Hume (Scottish Enlightenment philosopher 7 May 1711 - 25 Aug 1776) by artist Allan RamsayIn our everyday existence we live in several different areas of experience. Firstly there is the world of objects – things with mass, length, density, hardness etc., i.e., having measurable properties. This is the physical world.

Another world consists of thoughts, ideas, plans, memories and hopes. It also involves reasoning, logic, critical evaluation and the making of judgments and decisions. We must also include feelings, emotions, empathy, sympathy, affinity with others, kindliness, love, generosity, goodwill, self-discipline, persistence and creativity. These outlooks and behaviours result from activities going on in the brain. This is the mental world.

It is claimed by ‘true believers’ that there is yet another world. They claim that this is the spiritual or supernatural world. A dispassionate examination of this claim leads me to suspect that gods, devils, angels, heaven, hell, the afterlife, prayer and miracles are all part of the second category, i.e., the mental world, because all of the alleged manifestations of this ‘spiritual world’ may be no more than the hopeful or fantastic creations of human minds. To many, if not most, believers the sense of comfort and security produced by a mindless faith in a probably non-existent being is better that the feared emptiness of an otherwise godless world. Their lack of mental and psychological fortitude cannot accept this (to them) terrifying prospect.

For example, faith healing by which belief and prayer are supposed to produce helpful intervention from the supposed divine being. Any positive effect, i.e., remission of symptoms, healing or cure, is attributed to divine intervention and is claimed to be evidence of his love and concern for our well-being. A more realistic evaluation of this result would be to acknowledge the existence of the placebo effect, thereby freeing a situation like this from the unnecessary baggage of supernatural belief.

So, are there two or three ‘worlds’ or zones of experience? I am suggesting that there exists most probably only two, i.e., the physical world and the mental world. The purported third world – the spiritual – may be nothing more than a creation (or invention) of activities going on in the brain, i.e., in the mental world.

This outlook does not deny that there are noble feelings, altruism, aesthetics and appreciation of beauty. These are again all products of the intricate workings of the brain (source of the mental world) and are part and parcel of being human. It is but shallow and fatuous thinking to claim that they are evidence of some other-worldly super being.

Copyright © 2016 Don Allison

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