On Authority

What makes you expert enough to decide who to believe?

Authority is the almighty footnote (or now days, the link) But by what authority does one appeal to such authority? If you are using the work of another to heighten your virtue to the conversation, what expertise gives you the authority to endorse it? Authority simply means you are the author—it is a shame, really, that books now multiply by osmosis and libraries are filled with books about books—and the more footnotes the better! How on earth do you generate an original thought when inundated with opinion from all sides? How do you know the truth? By seclusion and solitude, by experience and not words from a page

Experience is not words or symbols that make them. Nor can experience by gained through the biastic process of reading what you agree with and dismissing what you don’t.

It seems that everyone is right, so everyone is also wrong, which means the amount of truth in the world could fit in a thimble. Each side vehemently believes they are right—it makes an interesting game, though not a very fun one. Is this game really worth the candle? Are things really that way, or are we all caught in the trappings of belief?

By endorsing the authority of another, it shows one must have some kind of expertise, that this person or group has a leg up on the situation and now you do too. Yet, if you have the expertise to make the judgment you are making, then you yourself are claiming some kind of authority—or that you don’t trust yourself but simply fall in line to the opinions of others based on how you were raised, which makes your opinions meaningless.

I can’t believe people can be this stupid!

If you are right and they are wrong, how can you decide they are wrong unless you are more expert on what they believe than they are?

If you believe you are right? in whose dogma are you believing that makes you more qualified to assess other beliefs of which you know less?

Bias is a funny thing—and like common sense, has been redefined by those who think they have it by some pure, determined analytical prowess (bias on steroids) versus the masses who don’t? Common sense is better defined as culture that acts in a commonly accepted behavior, but it really isn’t—only to you.

But in the end realize, the only common sense of today is this; that in spite of one’s beliefs about the other, the world is getting along just fine without them—nearly 8billion, one at a time, that can’t believe how stupid people are. We are right-on that—finally can agree.

For many millennia the world has been populated by an idiot majority—and realizing you play a part in that success should make you wonder (or sonder) and lead to a little tolerance, I would hope. Nevertheless, it’s an incredibly interesting show!

What makes you expert enough to decide who to believe? I have it on good authority (me) that by disconnecting from the grid and living in solitude for a few years, a life of living without words, not by the book or the videos (because that compels us to belief in another) that there is no monarchial boss of the universe. There is no father in heaven, nor are we separate from the whole thing.

Sonder: the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk—John Koenig—The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows


Author: jimoeba

Alternatives to big box religions and dogmas

25 thoughts on “On Authority”

  1. Sonder? I don’t like the word. It doesn’t seem to contain the definition being given to it. I don’t accept it. But it’s definition, I like that, for the most part.
    Meanwhile, I have it on good authority–my own–that what I believe is correct, for me. It comes to me through experience, consideration of such experience, living life through the lens of that experience, reconsideration, and continually questioning myself, does this still make sense to me: why? or why not? Does it still have meaning to me: why? or why not?
    And then it’s corallary, this is my belief, and everyone else gets to do as I did, find their own belief.
    Basically, Jim, you have just written the rules I use to live my life. Yes, I have taken the time to write down what I believe–in my blog rawgodsspiritualatheism–on which I am the one and only authority–but I have tried to write it so any reader will understand, this is my truth, but I don’t expect it to be theirs, or even yours. The thing is, in this world today, our culture is such that everyone wants to be the one who is right, the one everyone else should believe has the keys to understanding the cosmos. And it is damned hard not to sound like one does not have those keys. I think it comes out in the writing that one believes so deeply in what they are saying, if it is right for them, it must be right for everyone. How can it not be? Even I am guilty of this at times, though I try my damnedest not to.The line is so easy to cross. And over and over I try to remind my readers that they should find their own truth, though I do qualify even that statement. I admonish them to find their own truths within themselves, not from without. If a person relies, to my way of thinking, on outside authority, including religion, politics, history, or whatever, even on science, they run the risk of overestimating those truths, and underestimating their own.
    So, except for the word sonder, I love this post, Jim. It encapsulates the whole structure of my philosophy ( not necessarily the content), but definitely the structure.
    Well said, well read.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you sir. Contemplation is at a premium theses days. So much noise and distraction, every one has something to sell that is not even a self actuated experience, but the persuasion of another’s anxieties.


      1. Yeah, but really it has been that way pretty much since the dawn of history. Spirit-talkers, especially the fake ones (Weren’t they all fakes? Don’t answer that! Lol.) spoke to their own advantages. They got something out of it, especially free food and women.
        As for me, I do hope that I am not trying to take advantage of anyone or anything.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. How do you know the truth? By seclusion and solitude, by experience and not words from a page

    For certain types of questions that rely on experience, sure. However, as I already pointed out to you: no amount of seclusion and solitude in the middle of the jungle is going to furnish you with knowledge of the European Middle Ages, Ancient Greek society, how the Dewey Decimal System is organized, how the plumbing in your toilet works, how to perform open heart surgery.

    Going into seclusion can teach you things about yourself. It can give you insight and perspective into what really matters in the world by getting you away from all that other stuff. It can make you come to the understanding that belief in God is a cultural construct.

    Different questions require different methods and approaches to find the answers. It really depends what you want to know and learn.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you and I always appreciate your thoughts. In no way am I forsaking intellectualism, for as you pointed out that leads to useful methods. But, as this is an irreligious blog, let me put it to you in your own frame of reference.
      Where did Abraham, Moses, Muhammad, even Crazy Horse and others realize the Self? Although they interpreted the experience through their current culture, it was in solitude, away from the chatter and self talk distractions of every day living. Had they been born in a Hindu or Buddhist culture they simply realize I Am that I Am and the entire works is our doing. It’s been that way, regardless of time and culture as far back as we can recall.
      Even the New Testament in St. John is quite clear. Jesus did not think this situation peculiar to himself, he thought everyone could have the experience and be one if only we would wake up and realize who we are. We’d “do on earth like it is done in heaven”.


    2. Why, I agree with you fully.
      What would an original thought look like? How would we originate it without at least some outside influence, from nature, from others or through action?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I like this comment Mak. ”What would an original thought look like?” Well, like the origins. It would look like ontology without the bias. It would look like it would look “in the beginning”. I dunno.


        1. Look at our great thinkers. Name any of them and there you will find someone who stood on the shoulders of others. Originality is found in the way they express common place ideas or in how they use what’s there already.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I’ve been reading about Greek to English translation of the Bible and how the use of the indefinite article in Greek is always translated to favor the christian dogma. Simple a’s and the’s completely change the meaning. Like, I am a son of god, versus I am the son of god. It’s the difference between a monarchy and a republic.
            Is it too much to give solitude a chance at contemplation? Had it not been for that I’d still be posting apologetic comments on Violets blog.
            I agree with you, but only to a point. Those philosophies can be a useful starting dialog that encourage a personal exploration. They are not, nor did they ever have a final say or impeccable conclusion. They were confined to the restrictions of language, which words and language (a huge cross cultural barrier) dissipate after a few weeks, and they are no longer used as in-the-head-chatter-bias and labels that clutter our thinking.


            1. It would be unbecoming of me to say they had a final say. But they had interesting things to say, some of which we have not nor can we improve. Some of the teachings of Solon, Lycurgus or Seneca or Cato we may not improve in years. I think of philosophy as preparing us to ask questions and at the end training on how to live so we can know how to die.

              On the translation of the Bible. Thats hardly surprising.

              Liked by 1 person

    1. a few summers ago, i went to see an Indian guru that came to Ottawa. there were about 2 dozen people in the room. he came in, sat down, and asked “why are you all here?? haven’t you heard of the Buddha? have you not heard of Jesus, of Kabir (a great Indian mystic), of Mohammad? what else do you want to hear??”

      truth, in so many flavors, is already out.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think people would like a method to liberation without all the pomp. Christianity will admit that god may have revealed himself to Buddha, or Muhammad…but! There way is the only way, even though they have totally misunderstood the message. His status was not anything peculiar to himself. He thought everyone could do it.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. yes. simplicity is always a great indication of real spirituality. it should be unadorned, plain and unassuming. you’ll find that the most spiritual people are extremely simple and child-like. when i see those Christian churches with all that opulence, turns my stomach. look at Ramana, all he owned was the loin cloth around his midriff and his walking stick. but his inner luminosity was so strong, all sorts of animals came to sit around his when he was out. people were transformed by just being in his presence. that is power! you create change just with your being, no need to to anything.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. I think in an anthropological sense, authority is born as a tribal survival strategy. Everything that follows is a form of emulation or derivation. To a certain degree we’re probably even built to function within a hierarchical system of authority 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Hello sweetheart. When giving someone any type of authority you accept submission. Religion is good for that. Keeping their parishioners subservient and wallowing in unworthiness. Kinda like a spiritual s & m relationship minus a happy ending.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Political parties seem to have the same effect on people. Never ending anxiety without the happy ending. We got rid of Donald for Joe, and I’m not sure that isn’t any worse, just a different kind. Now the offense plays defense, same struggle.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. This is the koan of belief. “ a paradoxical anecdote or riddle, used in Zen Buddhism to demonstrate the inadequacy of typical reasoning and to provoke enlightenment”
          The first step is to realize that this is what belief is.


  5. My elders taught me to respect and obey authority, but the lesson didn’t take. Respect must be earned; and calls for obedience are the command of a tyrant. Unfortunately, many would rather check their brains at the door and follow the dictates of others than think for themselves.

    “You’ve got to remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land. The common clay of the new West. You know . . . morons.” ~Jim “The Waco Kid” (Blazing Saddles)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It can definitely be difficult to get to the truth in some of these political controversies. And, its doubly difficult if your political views are more a mix. I think with people with whom we disagree it’s best to find common ground and work from there. I tend to assume that most people do have good intentions anyway.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. You Stated — “For many millennia the world has been populated by an idiot majority”

    My Response — I would disagree, the world is fairly intelligent and capable. I think where we falter is based on the fact that we don’t care unless it affects us directly. Bad ideas or dangerous policies are ignored (also supported) until they harm the majority. It’s at that moment people start to care and make a change, not because of their intelligence level.

    If people in America had to pay 10 cents more for gas every time a child making clothes for Walmart was hurt in a sweatshop, then kids in that country would be fully protected before the weekend.

    The blame is on our selfishness and possibly laziness, but I don’t believe anyone (or very few) could claim ignorance, I’m not letting the human race off that easy 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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