The American Heritage Dictionary defines a worldview as, “The overall perspective from which one sees and interprets the world.” Everyone has a worldview, a philosophy of life, but few are conscious of it. This is because a worldview is like a pair of glasses, it is something we look through, not something we look at.
Most people don’t consciously choose their worldview, rather it is inherited through one’s family, peers, or culture. The problem is that not all worldviews are equally true or promote human flourishing. And people stubbornly refuse to change their worldview, even when it is no longer working for them. This is especially true of people raised in a strong religious family or culture.
But some people do become aware that their worldview does not match up with reality and decide to change. The problem for many of us is that all ancient worldviews were born before modern science, so their picture of the universe and humankind is inaccurate. Humanism is the only popular and modern worldview that is honest with what science has revealed about the Cosmos. But Humanism generally lacks a spiritual dimension. Spiritual Naturalism, also a newer worldview, has done better, but it is more of an umbrella term covering many traditions attempts to secularize and modernize (such as Secular Buddhism and Humanistic Paganism).
So how does one go about developing a worldview of their own. What does one need to think about and what issues does one need to work through? I will warn you that it will not be easy. It is was easy everyone would be doing it. You will need a knowledge of science, psychology, religion, and philosophy to begin with. The deeper your knowledge of these areas the better. Let’s call your worldview by your first name. Mine would be Jayism.
Epistemology is the theory of knowledge. How do you know that what you believe is true? You must first answer the question of what truth is. There are three popular conceptions of truth, the correspondence theory, the coherence theory, and the pragmatic theory. You have to decide which one is the right one. You also have to decide how the other theories relate to it.
You also have to decide whether truth is subjective, objective, or something else. If you say that truth is subjective, then no one is right or wrong. If it is objective, then you have to determine how it can be outside the human mind. Where in the outside world is truth located? Animals don’t know the truth. And if it is something else, what is it? And is truth even possible?
You will also have to decide what knowledge is. Is it justified true belief? Then you have to answer the Gettier problem. When we say that we know something is true, are we speaking of how sure we are (which is subjective) or how right we are (which is objective). How do these relate to knowledge.
Then you will also have to deal with the issue of justification. By what standard do you just the truth or falsehood of a claim? Do you base it on evidence? If so, then which evidence? Most people choose their beliefs based on what they like. Is is the path to truth or deception?
Should we trust science or not? Is their divinely inspired revelations or not? Do spirits of the dead or ascended master communicate through mediums? Where does personal experience fit into one’ theory of knowledge?
Metaphysics is a branch of philosophy that deals with what exists and how the universe came to be. Does God exist? If so, what kind of God? Is there one God or many gods? Is this God transcendent, immanent, or both? Is the universe God, or did God create the universe? Are their angels, demons, heaven, hell, or other supernatural beings?
If you don’t believe in God, is the universe eternal or did it have a beginning? Is there only one universe or is there a multiverse? Is the universe sacred, or is nothing sacred? What is the universe made of? Is it matter, energy, information, or something else?
Where did life come from? Where we created by God or did we evolve from apes? If you accept evolution, was it a natural process or did God have a hand in it?
What is culture and what influence does it play in personal beliefs and practices? What is society and what influence does it have? How much is nature and how much is nurture?
What is human language and what affect does it play in shaping our thoughts and beliefs?
What is a human being? Do they have souls? Do they have spirits? What is the mind? Is the mind what the brain does, or is it some spiritual essence? If we have a soul, when does it enter the body? At conception, at birth, or at the age of accountability?
What is temperament, personality, and character? Where is it located? Is it in the intellect, the will, the emotions? What are emotions or thoughts or choices?
Animals don’t need worldviews, why do humans seek meaning in life? What is wrong with humans that we suffering, kill others, harm others, and are generally unhappy? What went wrong? When did it go wrong? And what is the cause or causes of these problems.
How should we live our lives? What are the rules of right behaviour? How do we become better people? What does it even mean to be better people?
Should we love our neighbor as ourselves, or should we look out for our own best interests? Is goodness dependent on the consequences of our acts, or does it deal with intention? What’s the difference between hot cognition and cold cognition, and how does this relate to virtues
Do we have any responsibility towards animals and other living things? Should we treat the earth with respect, or should we use its resources in whatever way makes us the most money?
Does happiness (eudaimonia) have any connection to virtues and right living? If so how?
Is there such a thing as spirituality? Can you be spiritual but not religious? What is spiritual awakening?
Does your spirituality include acceptance, mindfulness, and the seeking of inner peace? What do these even mean?
Do you believe in mystical and the mystic way (Purgative, Illuminative, Unitive). Are mystical experiences real, or are the just mental? If there are just mental, do they tells us anything about the real objective world?
Do you believe in spiritual direction, churches, memberships, clergy, or religious orders? What kind of organization should your worldview promote? Or do you believe in the sole practitioner and go it alone?
If you believe in spirituality, what spiritual practices do you think will help you live out your worldview? Let me list a bunch: Solitude, Silence, Fasting, Sabbath, Secrecy, Submission, Reading, Prayer, Friendship, Service, Meditation, Study, Simplicity, Confession, ,Guidance, Celebration, Frugality, Chastity, Sacrifice, Giving, Stewardship, Journaling, Accountability, Spiritual Direction, Affirmation, Fellowship, Chanting, Concentration, Lovingkindness Meditation, Tonglin, Body Scan, Mantras, Mindfulness of Breathing, Mindfulness of one’s Posture, Mindfulness of one’s Physical Activities, Mindfulness of the Parts of the Body, Aspirations, Rites of Passage, Shinrin Yoku, Physical Exercise, Self-Compassion, Tantra, Visualization, Self-Dialog, and Walking Meditation.
How will you determine which ones are good, and which ones are helpful? Which spiritual traditions will you borrow from? How will you customize them to your needs?
Developing your own worldview is difficult to begin with, but if you want to make one that is in harmony with the real world and systematically coherent, you have quite a challenge on your hands. Most people find it easier to take a ready made worldview and customize it. I think this is the best route for most people.
But then there are people like me. I tried to customize two religions, Christianity and Buddhism. But after I was done, I didn’t feel like I could really call myself Christian or Buddhist. I know call myself a Spiritual Naturalist, but that it too general. It says enough to separate me from other religions and philosophies, but not enough to really get at what I believe.
I have spent 34 years studying philosophy, religion, psychology, and science, and only now feel confident enough to develop my own worldview, which I call Bodhidaoism. I have answered all the questions I have asked above, and I have carefully came to my own conclusions. It is in hopes of helping others, that I share my own worldview with you.