As always, I’m interested in your thoughts, while I ask that people be kind in the process of being critical of what I articulated if they should feel the need to do so (which I certainly do welcome).
Off the top of my head, I can think of three basic kinds of “mystery” relating to human experience. The first one (usually present in dogmatic religion) is the kind that intimates rather strongly that “this mystery of which I speak actually is–“and objectively so “–the way things truly are, and is appropriated by faith, reason, tradition, and sometimes experience.
The second is in the form of a puzzle having yet to be solved (usually found in scientific reductionism) which purports that all there is to reality is that which consists of matter/energy (including the forces of electromagnetism, gravity, and both the strong/weak nuclear forces), and the mind itself can be introduced into the idea of the yet-to-be-solved puzzle as well. The idea of the puzzle is that while we don’t have the answers we are seeking after at present, one day, we will discover them (and certainly this may be true in many cases, no doubt).
The third kind of mystery is much more agnostic in nature. It respects both human dynamity (sp) and its very limited and fallible nature. It also respects the notion that we as humans possess an endless number of perspectives in life predicated upon so many very nuanced contributing factors related to what it simply means to be human, which usually determines extensively how said human will interpret things to be, and although these views can tend to be more static or progressive in nature–depending upon the human being in question–there yet remains a respect for others who view “reality” differently than themselves.
For me, the third form how “mystery” can be perceived resonates best, and I admit this is a very parochial statement, very perspectival in nature in light of my own preferences. Viewing reality as I do at present may be better for me at this time in my life, as may be the case for others’ being where they happen to be at a given point in their lives as well.
What seems most unfortunate to me, though, is how impassioned so many of the outspoken can be when it comes to advocating for their particular rendering of mystery. Two of the above-mentioned have a tendency to be very adamant to the point of either being indubitably certain of their claims of reality, with graded manifestations of lesser certainty (and thankfully so from my perspective), though, often times still holding on to a rather high degree of certitude.
With the third kind of response to mystery there is the admission that “I really don’t know for sure,” it can still find enough room to believe what is perceived apart from such certitude, and doing so with their personal integrity left intact (without denigrating the others in the process). I only wish this were the “dominant” form of how people handle the dilemma of mystery, for this approach makes a lot of room for others to question and to doubt, without being too hard on others who fall into the other two groups, or no group at all.
I think all three approaches to mystery can be held with a good dose of humility, but all three are also subject to being held on to with such a tight grip (I know this for sure, I know that for sure, I know that no one can know anything for sure) that their alienating effects will no doubt be felt by many.
The question is, can we make room for others who view and experience reality as they perceive it without pushing them away, by either telling them they must be delusional by one group, or by another telling others that they will be held accountable to “their” god, usually via some issuance of a serious threat, often times having to do with an everlasting eternity of deserved pain and suffering?
I happen to believe that virtually any form of absolutism (including the absolutism of full-blown relativism) is unhealthy for those who are absolutists, no less their perceived counterparts. After all, we are not only incredible humans in some many ways, we are also only human in others.
I’ll end with this quote by the philosopher Richard H. Jones: By acknowledging that some questions may be unanswerable and understanding the importance of that fact even as the answers remain ambiguous, our true situation in the world is revealed. Mystery should be reinstated as a basic feature when we reflect upon the nature of what we know and who we are [philosophically, scientifically, religiously, and in relation to mystical experience]. Mystery frames all of our claims to fundamental knowledge, and we must accept that it will remain a permanent fixture. Thus, the importance of mystery needs to be reaffirmed today, during an era when the fullness of reality is often ignored.