I realised recently that I was not as open-minded as I thought I was. Basically I realised that I am mostly ‘conditionally open-minded’ and not so often ‘unconditionally open-minded’.
When I say ‘conditionally open-minded’ I mean being ‘open’ to new possibilities or ideas but ONLY if my current system of beliefs i.e. scientific, spiritual, political etc. can be imaginatively expanded to ‘fit’ these new possibilities without too much disturbance.
Whether or not I choose to ‘accept’ a new possibility as possible, true or right depends on how much I have to ‘stretch’ my current system(s) of beliefs to fit in this new possibility.
So for example if I were to ask whether ‘telepathy’ might be possible, I can ‘expand’ my scientific beliefs ‘analogically’ as follows e.g. ‘We can obviously communicate with radio waves. Could telepathy be something LIKE communicating with radio waves? In adapting to new environments, species come up with amazing ways of taking advantage of any new forms of information or communication that might increase their chances of survival. Could certain species have learned to take advantage of ‘telepathy’ in the same way? Or when it comes to auras, I can at least ‘imagine’ that an aura might be something ‘like’ an electro-magnetic field around a living body.
But when it comes to things like channelling spirits or life existing outside of a physical body* (heaven, reincarnation etc.), I find it much more difficult to see how this might ‘work’ scientifically – it involves too much ‘disturbance’ to my current system of beliefs and so its more difficult for me to accept that these phenomena might be ‘real’.
So what then is unconditional open-mindedness?
Unconditional open-mindedness is when you are able to accept the possibility of existence of something without a pre-existing system of beliefs at all. This is not the same as ‘gullibility’ because you don’t actually BELIEVE that this thing exists either. The issue of ‘belief’ is left out of the question altogether.
It’s the mind that says ‘I don’t know’, or ‘Maybe’ or ‘Perhaps’ and it does not need to classify something as ‘possible’ or ‘impossible’, ‘true’ or ‘false’, ‘right’ or ‘wrong’.
* That said, I might be able to ‘permit’ the relaxing of certain long held materialist assumptions e.g. that the brain ‘produces’ consciousness, if it allowed for a scientific theory of great explanatory power and predictive capacity.