Let me open with a few definitions:
1 a : incapable of being expressed in words : indescribable
b : unspeakable
2: not to be uttered : taboo
1 a (archaic) : fidelity, constancy
b : sincerity in action, character, and utterance
2 a (1) : the state of being the case : fact (2) : the body of real things, events, and facts : actuality (3) often capitalized : a transcendent fundamental or spiritual reality
b : a judgment, proposition, or idea that is true or accepted as true
c : the body of true statements and propositions
3 a : the property (as of a statement) of being in accord with fact or reality
b (chiefly British) : true 2
c : fidelity to an original or to a standard
1 : the analysis of a set of facts in their relation to one another
2 : abstract thought : speculation
3 : the general or abstract principles of a body of fact, a science, or an art
4 a : a belief, policy, or procedure proposed or followed as the basis of action
b : an ideal or hypothetical set of facts, principles, or circumstances —often used in the phrase in theory
5: a plausible or scientifically acceptable general principle or body of principles offered to explain phenomena
For most of recorded history mankind has, in some form or fashion, searched for what can be considered as ineffable truths.. Many of the realities of today were completely inconceivable to people that lived a century ago. Just imagine for a second what men like Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Hobbes, Isaac Newton or Socrates would have tweeted! We live in a world so technologically interconnected that it almost rivals the interconnectedness of nature itself.
We live in an age where we’ve mapped the observable cosmos and every discovery is a venture not only in the future but in some ways they are echoes of the past. With each discovery we unravel a mystery of the past and yet to many people this progress is threatening. Religions have held a significant amount of influence over not only culture, but the way people think and how they reason. This is why many well researched scientific theories come under unnecessary fire and criticism. Part of the problem here is the understanding of the word theory as well. There is a difference between the modern vernacular use of the word theory and the scientific use of the word. In the world of science in order to label something a theory requires a substantial amount of experimentation, research, and evidence. Evolution and the “Big Bang” theories are viewed as threats to religion when they should not be. The men that wrote the Jewish Bible were one group of people in an obscure part of the world. One group out of many groups, and while all of them had their cosmological legends and myths, none of them had the knowledge we have today. Few knew the earth wasn’t flat and that the stars were much bigger than the earth. They didn’t know the molecular structure of carbon or have the ability to even know what DNA was. So to rely on their presumptions of how everything came to be and reject what we are learning is foolish. We need to embrace facts and relegate myths and legends to their proper place as allegorical lessons and historical perspectives.
We have seen a tremendous amount of changes in society in the last century and it is due primarily to advancements in science and technology. Vaccines have eradicated the majority of fatal viruses, computers can calculate and rapidly retrieve data faster than the human brain, and the internet coupled with mobile technology has enabled information to travel across the globe in seconds when it used to take weeks and even months for information to spread across a single country. Somewhere in the world someone’s very life is being spared because a very skilled surgeon is performing surgery on them. Somewhere in the world a child is walking for the first time on their own because a skilled engineer crafted a prosthetic leg for them. The scientists and doctors of today are what people of old would call miracle workers, but what they do is not miraculous in a supernatural religious sense. We have progressed to the point to where we have a little more control and are subject a little less to random chance.
Yet with all we know we are finding there is still so much we don’t know. For now there remain many questions that science still cannot answer. What caused the “Big Bang” and what was there before it? How do cellular structures “know” to evolve at the micro and macro level? And while it is obvious that the universe is beyond our comprehension in size and structure we still wonder if we exist for a reason. Do we cease to exist when we die? Perhaps most perplexing of all is why, if we just happen to inhabit an obscure planet in a solar system on the outer reaches of a several billion year old galaxy, do we have an emotion as powerful as Love?
Religions tend to answer these questions in dogmatic ways, but the questions still remain for most people. The idea of any kind of intelligent design is easily brought into question when children are born with life threatening diseases. Yet when one takes a step back and considers the ineffable enormity of all that exists, how can we be so bold as to assume that if there is a god behind it that we are even capable of adequately describing it’s nature or intentions? As an old Talmudic theme teaches – If we cannot gaze upon the sun, which is an object of existence, how can we gaze upon that Source from which it came?
The knowledge one claims to have of whatever they believe to be God is purely a mental construct because the existence of any god is ineffable. We are like specks of sand on a cosmic sea shore. We roll in with tides and we roll out. And much like the specks of sand on a beach, we have no way of seeing where the tides came from or where they might take us next. The Hebrew name of God has traditionally been ineffable. This less about taboo and more about the consonantal nature of the Hebrew language (there were no vowels). Perhaps the ineffable name alludes to the ineffable existence of the god being written about.