There are four disciplines that Bodhidaoism draws on for evidence and guidance. They are science, psychology, philosophy, and religion. I have listed them in the order of authority. Science is our most sure means of knowing the objective world. Psychology, and its various sub-branches, are the next surest means of knowing about the brain, behavior, and to a lesser extend the mind. Philosophy comes in as a close third to psychology, because a lot of psychology is philosophy. And last is religion, which is so diverse and contradictory that finding stable ground is hard.
Remember that Bodhidaoism is based on philosophical naturalism. That means that the more naturalistic a religion is, the better and more evidence based are its conclusions. This means that Buddhism, Taoism, and Stoicism are better are at reflecting the real world than Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. But there are aspects of these, and other religions as well, that may offer insights into our relationship with nature, humans, and the universe.
Science is, according to Webster’s New World College Dictionary (2014), “systematized knowledge derived from observation, study, and experimentation carried on in order to determine the nature or principles of what is being studied.” As I have said, science is our most reliable means of knowing the objective world. Who can deny its success in explain the world? As Carl Sagan explains, “One of the reasons for its success is that science has built-in, error correcting machinery at its heart” (1996, 27).
There are two major branches of hard science, the natural sciences and the formal sciences. The natural sciences include cosmology, geology, chemistry, and biology. The formal sciences include mathematics and logic. This is the source for our surest evidence about the world.
Psychology is, according to the APA College Dictionary of Psychology (2016), “the study of the mind and behavior.” It includes psychology proper, and I would also include the other social sciences as well. This would include economics, political science, human geography, demography, sociology, anthropology, archaeology, jurisprudence, history, and linguistics.
The problem with psychology is that is part science and part philosophy of mind. And the parts are not always even. Freudian psychoanalysis has been largely discredited as a valid psychotherapeutic system. Most scholars agree that psychology is an infant science that is still struggling to become a full fledged science. Part of the reason is because psychology is trying to study the subjective mind. This is beyond objective observation and experimentation.
From a psychological perspective, phenomenology is an important help “in which mental events should be studied and described in their own terms,” to quote the APA College Dictionary of Psychology (2016). In other words, it attempts to understand the workings of the mind from the inside. In this sense, it has some similarities to Buddhism.
It should be noted that both Buddhism and Stoicism have had a major impact on psychology, being the inspiration for Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Cognitive Behavior Therapy. This goes to demonstrate the psychological insights of both Buddhism and Stoicism. This is one of the reasons that these wisdom traditions are important to Bodhidaoism.
Philosophy literally means “the love of wisdom.” Seneca said it best, “Philosophy is the love and pursuit of wisdom” (Letters 89.4-5; Long 1984, 160). It used to be about the art of living, but has become more specialized and disconnected from the world. The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy gives the best modern definition, “philosophy is roughly the critical, normally systematic, study of an unlimited range of ideas and issues” (1999, xxix).
Only philosophy and religion give a person an overall view of reality and life. A worldview, as defined by The American Heritage Dictionary (1999), is “The overall perspective from which one sees and interprets the world.” We need this to even function in the world. All people have one, but most are not aware of theirs. Most have a religious worldview, formed and shaped by a religion, usually Christianity in the United States.
The difference between religion and philosophy is that philosophy is more naturalistic and critical. It questions everything, sometimes to an extreme. Science grew out of philosophy, and was for centuries known as natural philosophy. Philosophy, then, is the birthplace of science. Until science answers a question, philosophy is out next best place to find answers.
Religion is defined by Daniel C. Dennett as, “social systems whose participants avow belief in a supernatural agent or agents whose approval is to be sought” (2006, 9). It is this supernatural aspect is one of the things that corrupts the conclusions of any religion. The more the supernatural is present, the less reliable is the religion.
Another thing that corrupts the usefulness of any religion is the submission to authority. The founder said it, they believe it, and that settles it. Contrary evidence is either ignored, rejected, or reinterpreted to fit what they already believe. The founders authority condemns them to live at the level of the founders knowledge. Since most religions were founded before the age of modern science, these religions are old and out of date.
That means that anyone dealing with a religion must approach it with a critical eye. You must sort out the wheat from the chaff. We can see many trying to do this through secularizing their religion. We see this in Humanistic Judaism, Secular Christianity, Secular Buddhism, Philosophical Taoism, Humanistic Paganism, and many others. This secularized version provide helpful insights into what a religion can offer once the supernatural is eliminated.
Bodhidaoism is not a religion, it has no social system and avows no belief in supernatural agents of any kind. It is a philosophy, a way of looking at the world through the eyes of science and philosophical naturalism. If religion was humankind’s first attempt at understanding the world, then Bodhidaoism is the updated version.
Dennett, Daniel C. (2006) Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon. New York: Penguin.
Sagan, Carl. (1996) The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark. New York: Random House.