A review of Understanding Reality, written by Mats Lönnerblad, which appeared in the Swedish Newspaper FinansTidningen (The Financial Newspaper) in April 2001. The human being – a part of a divine universe
Two books have come out that deal with the same subject of the philosophy of life, one in England, one in Sweden. The central theme is humanity’s eternal basic questions about the original cause and meaning of life. The books go against the stream in so far as they want to communicate a unified wholeness-perspective in our splintered time where absolute pluralism is the guiding-star in almost all contexts to do with the philosophy of life.
One book has the title Understanding Reality: A commonsense theory of the original cause and is written by the Hungarian-born philosopher, Stefan Hlatky, in collaboration with the psychotherapist, Philip Booth, from Oxford.
The second book, Humanity’s Inescapable Questions about Life, is authored by Bruno Mårtensson. Mårtensson, who has worked for many years as a secondary-school teacher in religious knowledge, is very familiar with Hlatky’s philosophy and refers to his teacher in his forward. In Mårtensson’s survey there are passages taken directly from Stefan Hlatky.
Both books build, therefore, on Hlatky’s theories and wish to present logical answers to the basic questions that every child puts: ‘Why are we alive?’ ‘Where do we come from?’ The problem is not the child’s questions; the problem is the adults’ replies. The lack of satisfactory replies creates human confusion and anxiety in the face of existential questions. Each person becomes basically a mystery to themselves and to others and has to go around like a Diogenes (300 year s BC) with a lantern and looking for the Human Being, which means, his own identity.
Stefan Hlatky’s thesis is that we can never understand ourselves if we do not understand the reality in which we live – and we cannot understand this reality if we do not understand its original cause. In his book, Hlatky argues that the original cause is a non-created and invisible living being, a conscious being – a whole, of which we ourselves, in our capacity as non-created and invisible consciousnesses, are parts. To use a simile: in the basic situation we are like cells in an organic whole; we are enclosed in the whole.
Hlatky calls the whole ‘God’, but does not emphasize prevalent conceptions of God. God is neither unfathomable nor punishing. Hlatky argues instead that God has the same need that all conscious beings have: the need to be understood and thereby loved.
The need for love is God’s motivation for expressing creation, the visible world. God wants to be understood by his parts, us human beings. The whole universe, including the Earth and all the heavenly bodies, is an image, a meaningful energy-projection, ‘God’s talking to us’, so that we can understand our Nature-given relation to God and one another – giving us a perspective on our situation as enclosed parts.
Our physical bodies, which are part of creation, are seen by Stefan Hlatky as purposeful tools that allow us to cope with this task. In contrast to animals, we humans have purely theoretical thought and spoken language. Thus we can communicate our situation and live in a commonly cultivated, logical God-consciousness, the condition for ethics and peaceful living together.
Hlatky criticizes irrational elements in both theology and pantheistic (New Age) approaches – as well as blind faith in science.
If we start from science’s mechanistic world-view, with the Big Bang as the absolute starting-point, the question of the whole gets split into two questions. On the one hand, we want to understand ourselves, and on the other we want to understand the rest of reality – but without being able to connect these two in a logical way.
That is why human life together is becoming more and more splintered and in want of ethics. Each human being is in practice their own species, which leads to power-struggles, alienation and a constant race for the means to power: money. One cannot help thinking of the words of Christ: ‘You cannot serve both God and Mammon’.
Understanding Reality is constructed as a dialogue between Stefan Hlatky and Philip Booth in the best Platonic tradition. The book also gives a number of texts from screen-exhibitions that Hlatky has presented in libraries and study circles over the years.
Both Hlatky and Mårtensson treat the subject of philosophy in its classical intent as the ambition to present a tenable answer to the question of the whole, a general explanation of the world that meets children’s logical questions about life.
This feels freeing in a time when, in the spirit of the holy name of pluralism, the subject matter of philosophy is most often restricted to every sort of limited issue.
The repercussions of the tidal wave of analytical philosophy over the previous century seem yet to have exercised their grip on many so-called philosophers, Torbjörn Tännsjö [a Swedish professor of ethics] foremost amongst them.
[Translated from the Swedish by Philip Booth]
[Stefan Hlatky regards this review as a good presentation of his views, with the exception of the misleading title. He would say we are part of a non-created whole. The formulation in the title could be interpreted pantheistically.]