Triumph of Science?
The coherence of scientific materialism is incredibly impressive and powerful. It has transformed the face of the world. Only a fool or a fundamentalist would dare challenge that great edifice of knowledge. Tilting at a windmill would be much more likely to succeed.
What I have come here to tell you is that the coherence of science, great though it is, can only be a pale shadow of what must lie behind it. We have become the masters of our material destiny, thanks to science. But will you believe me if I tell you that the magnitude of any imagined material destiny shrinks to insignificance before the reality of our true destiny? Our romance with science has just been our aperitif. Are we ready now for the full course? Trust me, no amount of preparation could ever have prepared us for what comes next.
Scientists have an understandable proclivity to hit us over the head with the incredible quantities that measure the vastness of space and time as well as the minuteness of the atom. Yet, these are window dressing relative to the intricacy of the processes that fill those realms. With the enormous complexity that nature has managed to throw at us, our minds not only cope but positively comprehend to the point of mastery. There is finally only one glaring omission in this story of scientific conquest. It is the instrument that has enabled our victory. Yes, a mere three pounds of gray matter. All the king's men remain baffled as they stand before it. Will we not awaken to tomorrow's headline trumpeting the scientific breakthrough that solves our last puzzle? Who am I to cast doubt on the final triumph of science?
What I am struck by is the disparity in the degree of coherence in the realm of natural science compared to everywhere else. The human sciences, for instance, remain in nearly complete disarray. There is all the appearance of a positive comprehension barrier between the human and natural realms. What could this signify?
It could simply be a minor time-lag or a jog in our path to full understanding. Or there could be a deeper problem. My diagnosis is no secret. I believe that reductionism has run its course. To move forward from here, we will be required to switch horses. I am not suggesting that the scientific juggernaut is about to come to a grinding halt. I am suggesting that a growing number of us will seek a coherent alternative.
The only rational alternative to reductionism entails a formidable gestalt switch. The success of analysis lies in its step by step procedures. As on a long hike, to reach the end, all you have to do is keep putting one foot in front of the other. Not so with synthesis. We will never be able to put Humpty-Dumpty back together without a plan, nay, without a veritable blueprint. Nothing will happen with synthesis until that blueprint arrives.
On these pages I can attempt nothing less than to deliver that blueprint. Anything falling short will be a waste of my time and your time. It is not that I reek with confidence, I have simply found myself with no alternative course. I can do none other. Here you see a former drip under some considerable pressure. As to the ultimate source of this pressure, your guess is as good as mine.
If there is a blueprint to be delivered and it gets delivered, it will have to be an event of biblical proportion. Only a fool could rush into such a spot. All that remains to be seen is whether I am a rational fool, or just a rash fool.
The bad news is that we have been deceived. The good news is that we have only ourselves to blame. It is not God's fault that the world looks so darn natural. That's just how the Best Possible World should look, nay, has to look.
It is only natural to create the best possible world. There is involved in this process just the Principle of Least Action. Even photons know how to do that. In the realm of all possible worlds, one has got to stand out. It could be the worst one, but which one is that? I submit that it is no world at all. The only one that can truly stand out is the best one. The best world necessarily has the best possible creatures. It is all us critters who ultimately make the choice and do the deed in this necessarily co-creative effort. What happens to all the other worlds? In the very best quantum fashion, all the others will destructively interfere, going up in the smoke of our individual dreams and nightmares.
Granted, the best possible God is not your father's God, but that does not mean she is no God at all. She is not lazy either. She is an earnest cheerleader. Heavens, she will even stoop to bare a breast if that will inspire the troops. Some might call it entertainment, others will call it incarnation.
About that gestalt switch? Think of it just as a pill to be swallowed. The bitter taste will not last too long. If you don't care to try it, may I interest you in some valium?
The world is a living organism. Most of it has gone to sleep, that is us creatures. Parts of it has gone numb, that is matter. In our sleep we dream of alternative realities. The dreams gradually coalesce around what will be the best of possible worlds. There is only ever one dream, but we see it through many prisms that we think of as our material brains. The real dreaming is done well beyond space and time. What we experience at night is just the chaff. What we experience in the day is the absence of the Telos. We are gradually pulled, reeled in as on a line, toward our eschatological awakening that is sometimes referred to as the rapture or the hieros gamos. It is the final Presence, our final Cause.
While we are asleep, the world runs on an auto-pilot of pure logic. Some call it physics. It is phenomenological cycles within cycles that have long been habituated and optimized. Gradually these cycles have been expanded to include the ouroboric circuit of the whole world and its history. We experience time slices of them. There are growing pains. Some cycles are broken, others collide. We are here to sort it all out and maintain continuity.
Lately we have been passing through the scientific phase of our history. We have been fascinated with atoms and space. We have come to think of these as the substance and container of our world. They are, however, just archetypes that we tend to reify in our systemic and instrumented probing of them. They are, after all, the only logically possible outcome of our analytic compulsion. They can be none other.
If we truly desired, we could send a space probe to Alpha Centauri. But what would that accomplish, other than to possibly extend our slumber of materialism? I don't recommend this stratagem; our appointed hour will not finally be diverted. And would it not be more amusing to persuade the stars to dance in the sky? I not sure I recommend this either, but I don't want to be a party pooper! The auto-pilot of our dreamship Earth conforms to our state of wakefulness. We will know what to do when we need to do it. That is how organicism works. Our dream will only ever become more lucid and pellucid.
Is this so hard to swallow? I doubt that you would be reading this if you were not a prospective pill popper and gestalt switcher. However, if you are already feeling frustrated by the poverty of my gnosis, then your time has come. I'll see you on the other side of the gestalt.
Science has certainly triumphed, well beyond anything anyone could have reasonably expected at the outset. In its chosen arena, science has been unreasonably effective. This remarkable fact raises important issues:
- Should not science be embarrassed by its own riches? It seems that science can explain almost everything but its own success.
- Science may have to face a revolution of rising expectations that it has engendered but is unable to fulfill.
- There is likely to be a greater demand for the light of reason to be trained upon our ultimate questions. The triumph of our scientific gnosis cannot help but raise our expectations concerning a boarder or higher gnosis. I do not seem to be alone in this regard.
It has been said that man does not live by bread alone. Will the technology of the mass entertainment industry then be able to supply all the requisite circuses? History is quite clear that the motive force behind our scientific quest has always transcended purely materialistic explanation. The record is equally clear that, at the outset of science, it was seen, and even specifically recommended, as a constructive, non-subversive means to channel the all too human and otherwise heretical impulse toward gnosis.
It is widely recognized that, whatever may be the continuing technological fall-out, the gnostic aspect of science, tied as it is to analysis and reduction, has nearly played itself out. There will be many who will be content to rest upon those laurels, but are we then to suppose that gnostic impulse has been quenched? Cannot it not be that for the few, that impulse will merely have been whetted?
Science has been so dramatically successful, almost from the start, that its accomplishments have outpaced our ability to assimilate its larger import, to understand it from the standpoint of any larger historical narrative. It appears quite possible now that our process of assimilating science is finally catching up with the enterprise of it. For the first time we may have the ability and inclination to inquire after its larger context. It has long been the taunting mantra of the obsessively scientifically minded: Catch me if you can! Those days are coming to an end.
It will be increasingly difficult to ignore the gnostic origins of the scientific quest. As we reflect back upon those origins, we can hardly avoid comparing the original impulse with the eventual result. Science will be found wanting in the balance.
That the puzzle of the mind continues fall under the purview of science is strictly contingent upon its ability to meet some rather elevated expectations. Failing these, there will be the devil to pay.
There will be two ways to view science: either as a flash in the pan of history, or as a mission accomplished. There will, of course, continue to be the true believers in science; however, they will be increasingly pressed to explain their unflagging expectations. If all existence is material and accidental, then what could it possibly be that would underwrite their unlimited expectations concerning the future? And perhaps even more to the point, what would be the point? What is the Telos that they so fervently and blindly seek? In attempting to scratch the surface of 'futurism' and 'technosis', one can hardly fail to be impressed by the lack of depth and the almost infantile nature of the desires being expressed. Is technosis anything more than a smoke screen being thrown up against the present mystery of our inevitable gnostic destiny?
The only way to move forward with understanding will be to view science as a mission well accomplished. And if that is the case, reason dictates that it must have been our penultimate mission. How so? Once we turn our minds from analysis to synthesis, there will be no turning back. If there is a Telos to be seen, it will come into view at that turning, or it never will. But should not science now be seen as a false summit of the intellect? What is to prevent science from being followed by yet another false summit? The plain fact is that science never had a patron. Gnosis, if it is anything at all, is a patronage. If we have any further issues, we will know where to take them: to our Matron.
The main difference between materialism and immaterialism is the direction of the arrow of time. Materialists argue that the direction cannot be reversed due to the laws of thermodynamics. That this is a vacuously circular argument in support of materialism seems to bother almost no one, and certainly not the materialists. I am not claiming that we should ignore thermodynamics, any more than we should ignore gravity, I merely point out that they are two parts of the same package. It is only the package in its entirety that is at issue, not its individual parts.
Time is a much bigger mystery than virtually any scientist could either grasp or acknowledge. To the scientist, time is never more than a particular variable in particular dynamical equations. In physics proper, it has no direction. That it appears with directional specificity in the laws of thermodynamics remains unexplained. Time symmetry is broken somewhere in the transition between microscopic and macroscopic regimes. The best guess is that it has something to do with the quantum measurement problem, rendering it a mystery wrapped in an enigma.
In common parlance, the direction of time is usually associated with the notion that cause precedes effect. However, our conventional notions of causality are inextricably tied to our notions of intentionality, neither of which can have any formal role in science.
In short, the concept of time is a potential loose cannon on the scientific deck. Any significant loosening of its perceived tether places the whole ship in peril.
What is easily the most remarkable feature of time is the indescribable nature of its presence to us. The closest thing to such a description is simply the 'shining' present. Science's objectification of time seems impossibly at odds with our singular experience of it. By simply constructing a metaphysics of Presence, the entire scientific enterprise is thereby rendered moot. Immaterialism is necessarily the science of Presence. That is what these pages endeavor. If the Present is to be salvaged, it will be partly at the expense of a cannibalized scientific corpus, but let us eschew necrophagy in this undertaking.
As we focus on sheer presence, the directionality of time becomes open to reinterpretation. The past and future may be subsumed by mere absence. A more teleological view immediately recommends itself. The Telos can simply become an ever fuller Present. Time is thereby robbed of its gravity, or simply disrobed.
Before launching into directionality, let me briefly point to a connection between time and perception that is seldom remarked. Much of our self-alienation from the world is tied up with our peculiar notion of indirect or representational perception. This ubiquitous presupposition is, perhaps, the single most poisonous ingredient in the whole materialist pot. Thus, so deftly, does materialism act to subvert the very possibility of Presence. All that we can ever experience is an ad hoc and subjectively reconstituted fabrication of reality. We can ever only be the passive recipients of sensory transductions.
The notion of indirect perception is the result of a totally illicit but perfectly understandable conflation of an informal causal metaphysic with a formal mechanics. It is also parasitic upon the completely gratuitous assumption that experience is only ever by and about the insides of our skulls. Gratuitous because science does not even recognize the existence of consciousness: consciousness doesn't exist, but if it did, you may be sure that it would exist entirely inside your skull! What easy marks we make of ourselves in the life and death game that is science.
It is just the alleged direction of motion of the photon from object to the subject that strongly reinforces the naive notion of object as transmitter and subject as receiver, which underscores the confinement of consciousness to somewhere behind the retina, opening a metaphysical chasm between it and its object. The nerve fibers behind the retina are simply another means of signal transduction. Since neuroscience does not recognize the existence of consciousness in the first place, there is no basis to relegate it to any particular mode of signal transduction, be it neuronal, optical or by any other means.
Please let me rephrase that last statement: given that consciousness exists, we associate it with the nervous tissue of living systems. However, all that can physically ever happen within that nervous tissue is signal transduction, so there is no reason to physically confine consciousness to any particular segment of that tissue. The pain in my stubbed toe is just a part of my consciousness located in the nerves in my toe. But once consciousness has been vouchsafed, we can, with the same logic, extend it back along the lines of signal transduction which now include the photon paths back to the surfaces of objects. Voila, direct perception. There is no logical or physical reason why we cannot incorporate the photons into our extended sensory signaling system.
It is here that we run into the problem of time delay. The photons could be coming from a distant star that self-destructed before the light reaches our eyes. This, and only this, delay causes a problem for direct physical perception.
But let us now come back to the Present. There is a gigantic metaphysical problem of Presence. The problem is to distinguish it from Absence. Where do we draw the line? This problem, I maintain, is closely related to the problem of attempting to confine consciousness; in fact, I will suggest that the two problems compound each other.
In order to distinguish presence from absence, we would also have to distinguish perception from inference. Simply impossible! Please recall: See Jane. See Jane run. Is Jane present to us? Suppose that Jane had suffered a massive cerebral hemorrhage in mid-stride. When does she stop being present? We can only ever infer the presence of persons. We can only ever infer the presence of oceans. Everything two hundred feet below the surface could have suddenly turned to ice without our being the wiser.
You can see why analytic philosophers despise the notion of Presence. Presence is in no way computable. But may our analysts thereby deny Presence? I would not recommend that course to them. Denying presence is vastly more subversive to a lived world than to merely deny consciousness, which many still do. Without the present, there is no past and future. Without being able to distinguish past and future, one loses contact with the concept of life and living.
Having said that, I will threaten to commit that same error myself. I am also going to deny the past and future, but only in deference to the unbounded potential of the Shining Present/ce. My Present will never lie etherized upon the analytical table.
As a direct perceiver, I have a very hard time with the notion of memory being coded and stored in configurations of atoms. But where else could it possibly be? Our DVDs do an admirable job of storing feature length movies along with the director's cuts. Why not our brain cells? Well, next to consciousness itself, the physical storage and retrieval of memories remains the biggest mystery of neuroscience. To call it an embarrassment to science would be a gross understatement. Over the years, I have ever only seen brief allusions to this problem, never an actual treatise upon it. If I were a rational scientist, would I not want to spell out the full nature and dimension of this puzzle, in all its gory detail, as the first logical step toward its eventual solution? Well, we may then surmise that either there are no rational scientists, or they all subliminally sense that they don't have a snowball's chance in hell of ever solving this little puzzler.
With direct perception: no problemo. We directly perceive the past, with just a slightly cloudy crystal ball, or is that supposed to be the future? Or is it the extended Present?
Ev'ry time i see your face,
It reminds me of the places we used to go.
But all i got is a photograph
And i realise you're not coming back anymore. (Ringo Starr)
And what about that photo? Is this not a case of indirect, representational perception? How do we explain this, Kimosabe? I'm going to pull a fast one. I equate the photo with a slice of photographic memory. But is it not perfectly clear that the photo is not inside anybody's head? Neither are memories. Furthermore, I would compare a camera with a telephone: both actually operate as psychosocial channelers and facilitators of the psyche; that is, of our still hidden, from ourselves, psychic abilities. This is all part and parcel of immaterialism. If you don't like it, you are perfectly welcome to return to your materialist zombie-hood, atoms swerving in the dark, and all -- or is it nothing?
Should we not then each take innumerable photos of ourselves so as to ensure our immortal presence? Negative. You may, of course; but thereby demonstrate a noticeable lack of regard for unlimited presence. Photos and phones, even especially websites, are stopgaps, perhaps palliatives, wrt presence.
With excruciating crudeness, each of us ~10^10 souls is a 'neuron' of the eternal cosmic mind. That is true presence. What we now call presence is the palest of shadows. Phones and photos? We won't be needing them in heaven. My sincere regrets to AT&T and Kodak. Now it is perfectly possible that somewhere, this side of eternity, we will have implanted phone chips; but, if I'm not mistaken, my teenage son already has one of them. Nevertheless, as we walk naked through those pearly gates, I suspect there will be a full-body scan. Security, you know!
Do you get the picture? The hardest part of materialism is recovering from its hangover. Going cold turkey with immaterialism is just not in the cards. But, trust me, one day we will look back on this awkward transitional phase and chuckle.
What I have ever so awkwardly been leading up to here is a rehash of teleology. Time and causation truly run backward, if they run anywhere at all. The past is constructed from the future, out of our 'memories'. That's how we can have confidence in our future. We couldn't have left home without it. Immaterialism is materialism running backward, kind'a.
Consider the dreamer and then the composer. You are going through an elaborate dream about a romance in a clock store, when one of the clocks starts to malfunction, noisily. As you reach over to fix it, you wake up realizing you are reaching for your alarm clock. This sequence raises some problems for efficient causation. More than one philosopher has recommended that, instead of final causation for the dream, we could simply say it all happened in an instant, but was experienced as a sequence. If dream time is illusory, why not 'waking' time.
Similar idea for the composer. It has not infrequently been reported that the idea for an entire symphony has emerged into the composer's consciousness in just a few moments of time. The composer may then spend the next several days turning that palpably memorable instant into a proper sequence. More commonly, when the title of a popular song is mentioned, some holographic nugget of its entirety flashes to mind. And here we are back to the problem of perception. Without that 'holographic' assist, could we ever experience anything besides bits of raw sensory data? Data bits which, you will recall, cannot even be defined.
The Metanarrative has always existed as an eternal moment. We creatures work it out, forwards, backwards and every which way. The seamless, forward experience of it is an artifact of our overlapping psyches. The director's cuts end up on our pillows at night. Time and space need never exist outside of the eternal moment of the Metanarrative that can only be the best possible one.
This is rough and ready. Crude beyond reason. But without a holographic scorecard, we'll never be able to follow the game. I have to sneak that hologram into both of our psyches, catch as catch can. This is real time for both of us. I remain confident that it will work out. If you want the finished product, just look ahead a few years! If you are already chomping at the bit, well, have at it!
Allow me, please, to distinguish between photos and fossils. In doing so I will also be distinguishing between history and pre-history. Pre-history is an artifact of scientific materialism; or, by the same token, of our naturalistic aesthetic. In either case, it is not something that is ever present to us. Pre-history is a backdrop to history, just as surely as is the starry sky. In fact, one could hardly exist without the other; certainly not with any semblance of coherence.
Yes, the coherence of nature is a false coherence. It is an end to quite another means. It is the most aesthetic, nay, the best possible, countenance which may be put upon our necessary alienation from the Creator, and so, ipso facto, from our true selves. Just because this is the BPW does not mean that it will hurt us to imagine all the other possibilities 'out there'. We should always be considering the possibilities, regardless. That is mainly how we earn our co-creaturely keep.
So, where do we draw the line? That's always supposed to be a tricky question. How high is the sky? It all depends on the context. NASA's celestial context is a bit more expansionist (imperialist?) than mine. I would like to distinguish between archeology and paleontology. Come to think of it, dinosaurs are where I draw the line.
I have spoken, however, of Jurassic Parc. And there could as well be a Galactic Alley. This is my hypothetical 'computer' simulator in the sky. It's where we use a bit of cosmic smarts to circumvent those deadly dull 'billions and billions' of materialistic yawns that the scientists are ever so eager to foist upon the Creator. Thanks, but no thanks! Fossils are some of the blueprints that never got off the drawing boards at Jurassic Parc. Walt Disney and the paleontologists have taken care of the rest of it. As for the mechanics of it all, I'll leave that as an exercise to the reader for the time being. Let me know when you have an answer! I have no doubt that, between God and Pixar Studios, we can can work out an authentic dinosaur experience for you, if you'll just have a little patience. Heck, you'll have the option of being the dinosaur, if you like. Caesar, on the other hand, frequented these same shores, in real time. If you wish to experience being Caesar or the Second Coming, all in due course. I would submit that we already have, but have merely 'forgotten' it. That's just my own opinion. In dealing with the truly absent, past and future tend to meld together. Notions of reincarnation are part of that melding.
As we begin to accelerate into the shining eschatological presence, many lives and many psyches will begin to overlap. The 'dear departed' will not have to claw their way out of their graves; they need only open up their minds to ours, as if they haven't already. They are us, we will be them.
Have we made any headway against materialism?
We do find that atoms could not serve as the foundation of materialism without the non-local relational properties conferred upon them by the Quantum. Molecular properties are thereby irreducible to atomic properties. Those properties may be predicted mathematically, but the electronic wave functions that are employed are themselves irreducible. They are the irreducible basis functions for a particular representation of the 'matrix mechanics'. Their complexity defies actual computation in all but the simplest cases. In point of fact, the 'three-body problem' is theoretically unsolvable in either its classical or quantum versions.
Our struggle with materialism then devolves to the question of mind independence. This is tantamount to the objectivity of material objects. I point out that objectification and identification cannot be disentangled. The materialists' position then amounts to the claim that objects may exist without benefit of objectification.
This latter claim technically runs afoul of the measurement problem. The definite location of macroscopic objects is only the result of a yet to be understood, or even formally definable, transition from quantum to classical realms. But I don't want to win this on a mere technicality. It is too important. We need an argument that subverts the admitted gut-level appeal of mind-independence.
The Mars rovers provide a case in point. The rocks they observe on the surface of Mars seem just as real as any rocks back on Earth. Does this not point to the independent existence of material objects in general? How can the rocks on Mars be attributed to our co-creational activity? Will we not have to make a special appeal to the Creator? Is this not similar to the problem of explaining stars and fossils?
Do not these objects exist without benefit of ever having been objectified? My fall-back position is to invoke the problem of Presence. Is it legitimate to distinguish existence and presence (or presentability)? This is possible only if we can distinguish between absence and non-existence. It seems reasonably clear that this latter distinction is untenable. The latter then undermines the tenability of the former. Recall, furthermore, the lack of formal distinction between presence and absence.
We think we have a clear notion of existence. But can we distinguish it from observability, about which we can only have a contingent and dispositional regard? To distinguish between objectivity and objectification is one matter, but to distinguish between objectivity and objectifiability is another matter.
Is it legitimate to posit the existence of anything that is logically unobservable or unknowable? This even goes beyond the problem of the epistemic/ontic divide. It is the counterfactual shadow of that divide.
I am tempted to say that our gut disposition favoring mind independence is, ironically, nothing more than the overworking of our imaginative faculty. Science surely offers not the slightest support for the reification of the unobservable. To posit such entities is to negate the scientific method.
Can we accept this conclusion? Does it subvert our gut instinct? Another test case involves SETI. What is the ontic implication of ETI? Giordano Bruno was burned at the Inquisitional stake for being an early advocate of ETI. Immaterialism rules out ETI, but not UTI (ultra-terrestrial intelligence, e.g. God). In this instance, immaterialism agrees with the orthodox ontology of intelligence. For immaterialism, separate worlds entail separate creations, if not necessarily separate Creators. The Creator(s) hardly have the option of 'physically' linked creations. Therefore, a radio search would be logically futile.
As a footnote, let me just remark that Hindu cosmology, certainly in its theosophical version, invokes the mind-independence of perpetual cosmic rounds, thereby confounding its general proclivity for immaterialism and even for monism. My notion is that Buddhist cosmology is less inconsistent in this regard. I don't see that pantheism could be compatible with mind independence, despite its decapitated monism.
I am claiming to have provided the outline of an argument for the prima facie incoherence of mind independence. I am not yet aware of an equivalent argument elsewhere. Is there any life left to be beaten out of materialism? What remains of it? Only the occasionally nagging hangover. The fact is that you cannot kill a zombie, but you can cut its power supply. If it is cut off from all logical discourse and recourse, it can only continue to shrivel.
I remain under the impression that materialism, dualism and pluralism are still being tolerated in academic circles where such shortcomings should be inexcusable. This plain fact is perhaps the best testimony we have to the radical implications of the one coherent alternative to all of the above.
Materialism is a straw-man for science. It is the ontology of scientism. Science certainly strives toward objectivity, but only, legitimately, in the sense of intersubjectivity. If ever it strives for objectivity, it surrenders to the facile 'metaphysics' of scientism. To confer a metaphysical status upon materialism is to concede too much. Metaphysics implies a minimal system of logic. Mind independence cannot even pull itself up to that threshold. Virtually by definition, there can be no discourse that could count for independence. At the very most, one might construe a discourse that would end by pointing toward independence, but in that limit all argument must cease. There exists no means for maintaining such a position. The most it could be afforded is the occasional salutation.
Splendid isolation from all discourse, perhaps that is an enviable position. Is it not unassailable?
Let us revisit the logic of the unobservable universe. To avoid the metaphysically radical implications of the Anthropic Principle, materialists posit the existence of an infinite ensemble of universes, virtually all of which could contain no observers in principle. The only implication of their existence would be to vouchsafe the contingent status of the remarkable hospitality of our own universe. The implication is that there might have been no observability whatsoever.
The question is sometimes posed: why is there something rather than nothing? By appealing to the possibility of nothing, do not the materialists only serve to underscore the mystery of existence: a notion that is unsympathetic to any form of absolutism? The objectivity of matter is contingent upon the possibility of there being nothing.
The preclusion of existence is the least coherent of any possible ontic position. Can such a position lend support to any other position? But is it not the logical reductio of any reductionist endeavor? I believe that it is. Might there not have been nothing? We can probably say that this is vastly more unlikely than that there be something. Does not potentiality qualify as other than nothing? In order for there to truly be nothing, we would have to preclude all possibility. But is this possible? It is not possible to appeal to the possibility of nothing, without thereby negating all possibility which is impossible. If there were nothing to begin with, this would be no problem, but since there is something, it is impossible to argue back to something that precludes all possibility.
Yes, frequently we romance the notion of non-being. This is a favorite pastime of existentialists. Then have I not gone too far with my counterargument? Could this argument not be construed as an argument against individual mortality? Certainly it is an argument against the cessation of mind. Also it is an argument against the absolute distinction between individual mind and cosmic mind. In that sense it precludes the obliteration of any aspect of mind.
It is just the necessary mind dependence of all existence which affords substantiality to the world and all its aspects. Reductionism can only be self-negating. It can lead only to an absolute nihilism. Nihilism sounds scary, but, as we have seen, it is even less substantial than a paper dragon. Nay, it is impossible, it is even inconceivable. It is, at most, a symptom of the diseased and illegitimate language game that passes as 'reductionism'.
It is possible that contingency is impossible. If one thing is possible, then everything is possible, but that cannot be, because nothingness is not possible. But if anything is possible, then there must be the best possible world. But if contingency is not possible, then the BPW is the only world. It is not possible that there could only exist the second best world.
This sounds incredibly simple minded, but I believe that contingency must be part of the reductionist package. It has no other use. Once you let in one bit of it, it takes over the whole world, and then all the other worlds. It is an all or nothing affair. The only recourse is to opt for none of it.
Coherence and many other things may turn our to be all or nothing propositions. Coherence does not countenance contingency. We will have none of it.
Have we not wasted an incredible amount of time worrying about nothing? Well, it was not possible not to worry! Shoot me if I am being too simple minded. But before you do, you had better check your own logic.
Does this mean that the rocks strewn across the surface of Mars could not have been strewn any other way? Well, it's just WYSIWYG. It will never be any other way. To posit another world may be inconceivably hypothetical. You can't really blame me for that possible fact. Materialists used to be determinists. Perhaps they should have stuck with that thought.
Would not the best possible world allow for free will? It may be that free will need not entail contingency. It may be primarily a subjective reality. No one is in a position to claim to know the true nature of whatever it is that we believe in, when we believe in free will.
It does seem to me that possibility is predicated on the possibility of nothing. So if nothing is not a viable possibility, then neither is possibility itself. Does this make sense?
Another strike against nothingness is the lack of an epistemic/ontic divide. If there can be no epistemology associated with nothingness, then neither can there be an ontology.
In Hilbert space there are infinitely many mutually orthogonal vectors. If we think of each vector as a narrational world, there could be infinitely many non-intersecting, non-overlapping worlds. Actually, each point in Hilbert space constitutes a function, typically a quantum wave function. More likely, each function could represent a life, and then a world would be a mutually consistent linear combination of these life lines. As long as there were only finitely many lives in a world, there could still be infinitely many 'orthogonal' worlds.
I am doing this as an exercise in nothingness: no creation, no worlds, no nothing. With just two (orthogonal?) creations, there are two worlds separated by...nothing? By what are they separated? They could be two ships 'passing' in the night -- no interaction. This might make sense from the view of the creatures, but not in the view of the creators, if there be such. Can there not be orthogonal gods? Perhaps, but not orthogonal creators.
The issue comes back to whether there can be non-relational existence. Even for a non-relational system, such as materialism, we have to ask what would constitute the minimum possible world. Could there exist an atom in isolation? It could not be a physical atom or particle, because these must be embedded in a space-time manifold. The minimal steady-state space-time manifold is infinite. If we invoke Mach's principle, it would also have to contain an infinite dispersion of matter.
Physical cosmology does presently countenance an indefinite number of non-interacting universes, be they finite or not. They may emerge spontaneously from the background quantum potential. This quantum potential is not unlike our Matrix. As I have noted, almost all of these universes are assumed to be unobservable.
One problem with unobservables would be their possible lack of properties. There are many isolated and temporary features of this world that go unobserved, but we infer by continuity that these features exist. If continuity does not apply, properties are less coherent. If we do not know the physics, we have no basis to infer physical properties. Physicalism provides no basis to infer existence in contexts where hypothetical properties may not accord with knowable physics. How far may we extrapolate from the known to the unknowable? This is turning out to be a largely subjective question. Once again, the epistemic/ontic divide haunts our attempt to invoke mind independence. The possibility of mind independence seems more related to epistemology than ontology. The harder the ontology is pushed, the closer it veers toward epistemology. Yet, it is precisely the hypothesis of mind independence that is the basis for materialism. Does that 'system' not have all the attributes of a house of cards?
The concept of isolated existence is turning out to be highly problematic. Material existence beyond this universe raises many more questions than it could possibly answer. But I still do not have a handle on the possibility of an isolated creator or of an isolated matrix. Previously I have only been able to invoke the Identity of Indiscernibles to limit such possibility. If one Matrix is good, would two not be better? I am wondering if orthogonal potencies are sensible? Without apriori restraint, there is no sense in limited potency, but could there be separate omni-potencies, each eventually producing its own version of the BPW? We could end up with innumerable BPWs. What is to prevent such incoherence at the outset?
If there were to be separate matrices, would there not have to be some basis for separation? If relations are the natural basis of existence, as we generally maintain, separation would be unnatural and require explanation. There would have to be an extra-matricial physics to prevent a potential infinity of matricies from 'bumping' into each other. But then the question of source is just pushed back another step. Such redundancy would vitiate any notion of the BPW. In the non-denumerable set of matrices, it seems unlikely that no two could ever interact. But if two could, then they all could and would, and we would suddenly collapse back to our singular Matrix, before the god of matrices could even blink an eye.
The whole notion of redundancy is probably just a residue of the materialist mind set. Eventually it will disappear of its own accord.
Behind redundancy is the notion of non-relational existence. This notion does not stand to scrutiny. It is an illogical extrapolation from an incoherent basis. That it is an endemic presupposition of science does not augur well for the thoughtfulness of that enterprise.
The philosophical depravity of science provides an excellent counter-argument to pantheism. There is, after all, no such thing as distributed intelligence. There is no such thing as isolated intelligence. Mind is all or nothing. The alleged atomicity of our egos should be the most transparent of all illusions.
I am also underscoring the fact that the best possible world is the only possible one. The term 'possible' is retained for mainly pedagogical reasons. Is the notion of Creator rendered otiose? No more than is the notion of creature. Both notions are strictly relational.
The fact that this is the only world, need not limit our freedom, nor the fact that no better world might reasonably be produced, nor the fact that I can know this beforehand. None of this need count against our freedom.
Freedom is precious. It is reserved mainly for the Author's creative freedom. We participate in that freedom only in our alignment with the Creator's creativity. Heretofore that alignment has been largely unconscious. Freedom is not a feature of ego consciousness. Our creaturely freedom is to be realized in the Millennium.
Possibility remains an artifact of creative freedom. It is an artifact of our dreams. But there are no 'possible worlds' out there: WYSIWYG. There is just this one. Possibility down here is no more real than the nothingness from which it would have to be derived. Exploring the possibilities is done on the drawing boards. The Creator is paid to master the possibilities. Has our freedom been stolen? No, only our illusions.
What does this have to say about our political economy? What I see less of in the future is raw competition. What I see more of is management by objective. Society will be more organic. There will be a continuing risk of shortcut reversions to tribalism. Tribalism is not bad in itself, but it will have to be closely managed. I don't have any formulas for that off the top. Such techniques will continue to emerge. It will be more difficult to manage in homogeneous societies. The world will have to reorganize itself around the Telos before our true creative freedom will emerge. In short, I do not see any need for an external radical reform of democratic capitalism. The only meaningful reform will come from within the individual participants. Despotism of all varieties will continue to wither on the vine. I don't feel too sad when the sway of some entrenched despots is deliberately cut short.
I'm going over the last few pages to see where we might head next.
Naturalism in Question, noted previously, is to be released in May. It should be worth the wait.
John Leslie discusses his book, Infinite Minds (2001). I should not have missed this one. Here is the first chapter. I am perusing it now online. John has almost everything except the BPW. So near yet so far!
John's book is important. I recall having glanced over it at a bookstore. I read with interest John's other book, The End of the World (1999). In that one he makes the statistical argument that we must be near the end of human history.
John calls himself a Spinoza pantheist. He comes closer to theism than many pantheists. He does attribute morality to the cosmic mind as an argument against the existence of perverse worlds, but like most pantheists he also embraces the apeiron. He excludes the possibility of coherence by postulating an infinity of gods, each creating an infinity of non-perverse worlds. Creation is haphazard, at best. There is no metanarrative. Despite his other book on the statistics of eschatology, there is no notion here of teleology or a Telos. However, there is an extended argument for immaterialism. I shall see what we may borrow from it. I am also not seeing any explicit arguments against theism per se, only against the dualist versions of it -- a strange but characteristic omission, characteristic, that is, of non-sectarian intellectuals generally. There must be a line in the sand between pantheism and theism. It is as if the theologians are able to maintain a closed shop. I am under the impression that virtually all theologians maintain sectarian identities. This seems to conform to a self-imposed defense against gnosticism. Yes, otherwise gnostic excess would be a real occupational hazard. I ought to know! Now, let me get back to the book.
On p. 22 John misses an opportunity to take up the cause of Presence. He implicitly dismisses it in favor of Einstein's (another Spinozist) non-relational, non-teleological relativity of time. Yes, his immaterialism is sorely lacking any significant relationalism. He passes up Presence in favor of an infinite ensemble of 'nows'. This is consistent with his embracing the 'many worlds' interpretation of anthropics. Yes, John is consistent, almost obsessively, in maintaining his posture of incoherence. Or is it anti-coherence?
What John Leslie is calling the divine mind, I would call the Matrix. There is no dialectic here and so no X. There is hardly even a Z.
In the next section, starting on p. 23, he takes up the problem of divine incoherence. He is talking about the Matrix. He does not envision the possibility that the Matrix is just the source of being. He is an absolutist in regard to ontology; he does not understand that existence must be relative. If immaterialism is not relational, then it can hardly be distinguished from materialism.
On page 24 things get worse. He refers to David Lewis' modal realism, which is not unlike Meinong's anti-relational, anti-contextual, anti-holistic realism, but observe this caveat in comparison with Plato. Remind me to follow up on the fact that Ernst Mally of Ontology (Metaphysics Research) Lab fame was a Meinongian. One does need a scorecard to follow this game. As the card gets bigger, the plot gets thicker. Here is John referring to Lewis, 'He accepts endlessly many gods, despite picturing our universe as entirely godless.' (p. 25). Can't people see that this is a perversion of logic. John seems unable to distinguish between his own and David's ontology. What a shame.
What I see John doing in the next few pages is laying out a detailed argument for the reductio ad absurdum of the 'many worlds' interpretation of quantum physics, anthropics, or of modal realism in general. This makes me feel more comfortable with my position contra modality and possibility. He finally, on p. 30, has to revert to aesthetics to defeat modal realism. But is there any logic to limiting aesthetics anywhere short of the BPW? The only reason to arbitrarily limit aesthetics is to avoid the obvious theological consequences of not doing so. Can John not see this? On pp. 33ff, he explicitly borrows from theology to refute modal realism. On p. 35 he assumes that the human mind is based on matter, while the divine mind is not. This is a bizarre form of dualism, particularly for a pantheist. He is rapidly losing it. He has gone off the deep end of the apeiron. Omniscience is obviously a hobgoblin. Consistency without coherence is no virtue. This is becoming painful!
It is clear that the only way that John can rescue pantheism from modal realism is by making explicit appeals to theism. Until John started beating on this dead horse of modal realism, I did not realize what a significant skeleton it was in the pantheist closet. Perhaps no one can save pantheism from its most conscientious or obsessive adherents.
On p. 38, he begins what may be a significant appeal to holism. Perhaps John's arguments against modal realism are serving as arguments against atomic or reductive realism. Surely the quantum, at least, should save us from Maxwell's demon. Is holism necessarily anthropocentric, or in the anthropos holi-centric?
Well, I just reached my page limit on Amazon, but it is available at the local Borders. I need to read the chapter 'Best & Infinity', where John discusses the best possible cosmos. I'll report back ASAP.
The book was not at the store. I have to juggle computers to read more. I am not terribly amused by this process. If the academicians, theologians and any others want to participate in discussions that could determine the fate of the world, they will have to take full advantage of the Internet. John is not doing this. If he does not consider his ideas of sufficient gravity to warrant free access, then he need not expect others to take them seriously. I will proceed, nonetheless, as best I can.
There are much worse offenders than John. Almost every theologian is a living indictment of rational discussion, not by their own doing, but because of the restrictive system in which they operate. Not many of us have the good fortune to be able to do freelance theology.
With some judicious skipping of pages using another computer, I think I have gotten the gist of Infinite Minds. Yes, he does discuss the BPW hypothesis, and even the Identity of Indiscernibles in regard to multiple Gods. In each case he comes to conclusions that flatly contradict the ones obtained here. We can't both be right.
My biggest problem with Minds, however, is the 'so what?' question. He states more than once that there is no phenomenological difference between pantheism and materialism. If so, then what is the point? Is it just an exercise in trying to feel better about the way things are? Is it just an exercise in therapeutic psychology as is sometimes claimed even by the adherents of the traditional pantheist systems? Perhaps I missed where he explains his motivation.
It is painfully obvious that John exhausting his resources in trying to thread the needle between the Scylla of materialism and the Charybdis of theism.
The pantheist God is the Hippocratic God: do no harm. Lets call him Pan. Pan evidently has only sufficient skill to avoid creating morally repugnant cosmoi. We should be grateful for small favors; but how many of us, if we had the choice, would choose such a lame duck?
You and I have a definite advantage over Pan. We have the power of imagination. Pan does not. Imagine that! Recall, please, the curse of Midas' touch. Everything he touched turned to gold. The curse of Pan is infinitely worse. Everything he imagines turns into a reality that some poor creatures like you and me will be forced to sit through, if not suffer through. Are we really expected to pay forty bucks to vicariously suffer through this incoherent collection of creations? Is this what half of the world actually believes? 99% of everybody facing a life and death situation, given the chance, will utter the name of a deity, even if it be as if in vain. Heck, most of us will do so upon stubbing a toe.
John is sincerely trying to do his very best to make sense out of what is patently intended to be nonsensical. Many more of us might have failed to notice the logical death of this particular horse if it weren't for the well intentioned John Leslies of the world who regularly come along to beat on it: a noble service to the rest of us.
Many Gods? If God is good, then two Gods should be wonderful. No? If God is infinite, what is the point of having another? The only point, it seems, is to eschew theism. For all I know, there could be a Creation Committee, but I do know that there can only be one BPW. Anything else is going to never make it off the drawing boards. Stealth Creation? Cheaper by the dozen? Schismatic God? These ideas hardly get off the ground. Correction, I do know there is a Creation Committee, because we are on it!
Pantheism ought to be a non-starter. But, more to the point, it will be an easy act to follow. It survives so long as it can avoid contention. In the age of the Internet, that is not a good bet.
I had forgotten what a pushover pantheism would be for rational theism. There are two things that are propping up pantheism: science and irrational theism, i.e. sectarianism. The irony, or beautiful symmetry, is that science is in a very similar position to pantheism in this regard: it is also being propped up by irrational theism as well as by pantheism.
Thus there is the ungodly troika of science, pantheism and sectarian theism. In that triumvirate, pantheism and sectarianism are the weak sisters. Once rational theism is able to rise above the general cacophony of the Internet, thoughtful people will start realizing that, as an alternative to materialism, it will be nolo contendere in favor of the BPW. Then materialism will be in big trouble. For the first time in its short life it will have a run for its money.
Rational theism is rather simple, if not quite simple minded. In retrospect, the most amazing thing is how it managed to stay hidden for so long. Let's see about that.
There is also a theistic troika: Judaism, Islam and Christianity. Among these, the Christians have long prided themselves on being the least rational; and, superficially, they do seem to have a point. But why the pride? The pride goes back at least to Paul:
1 Cor 1:17-27
17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel-- not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
19 For it is written: "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate."
20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?
21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.
22 Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom,
23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,
24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength.
26 Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.
27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.
Paul is not mincing his words. Ron Ritchie has this to say:
To the Greek world of Paul's day, the word of the gospel seemed to be nothing but foolishness. The same could be said of our own world today. The gospel message is sneered at because it seems foolish. But that did not deter Paul, nor should it deter us. The gospel will always seem foolish unless the Holy Spirit is working in the hearts of those to whom it is being preached. I confess I have often felt foolish myself for preaching it. I have sometimes wondered how it could possibly penetrate hardened hearts. But that is the work of the Holy Spirit. Our job as Christians is to proclaim the good news.
It could well be that Paul is the prototype of the anti-intellectual. Yes, the skeptics hardly have to go digging to discover the 'irrationality' of Christianity. It is positively thrust in their faces: 'Take this, smarty-pants'!
What is going on here? Was Paul already fighting gnosticism? That could only be part of it. Ron has the larger part. Until Constantine came along, Christianity was running purely on fumes. It was the biggest charisma machine in history. Those early Christians followed the simple dictum: don't bother talking or thinking while the flavor lasts. Go with the spirit. Who needs soldiers? But, like death and taxes, the flavor runs out and the charisma gets routinized. Only then do the rationalizations and the apologetics begin; and, in case those fail, the Christian soldiers suit up.
The intellect is poison to the spirit? That certainly remains a popular sentiment. It is also well noted that the intellect is no friend of sectarianism.
And, if I am not mistaken, the number two anti-intellectual in history was Martin Luther. Surely we cannot dispute his anti-gnostic, fundamentalist credentials.
For Christians, 'theo-logy' has always been an oxymoron. I was surprised when I first discovered this in talking to a theologian. The surprise wore off quickly. 'We don't need your dirty mind, we have our Holy Spirit.' Ouch!
And then along came Sophia, whispering 'sweet nothings' in my ear. The rest of the story you see here. Thanks, girl. 'Theology' is an easy act to follow. It is hardly any act at all.
Part of my thesis is that the anti-intellectualism of christianity became (by design?) a self-fulfilling prophecy. The long pent-up gnosticism, when it finally burst forth into scientia, created a monster, scientism/materialism, which quickly turned upon its host, yielding deism and then the modern secular intelligentsia. Only under the aegis of postmodernism can we begin to pick up the pieces and reconsider the gnostic roots of modern intellectualism. In effect, we pick up where gnosticism left off, before it was decimated by the teachings of Paul and Luther, and by the fires of the Inquisition.
Permit me to read the Stanford Encyclopedia entries for panpsychism and pantheism. I will compare them with John's treatment.
I have read the two articles, and I'm not seeing any major disagreements with John. Modern pantheism, by now, is irrevocably committed to scientific cosmology. It is a safe haven for scientists who have become disaffected with materialism. It is also widely identified with 'deep ecology'. I used to call myself a 'transcendental pantheist', which might be closer to Buddhism. In his article, Michael Levine points out that a distinctive feature of pantheism is its denial of personal immortality. This, of course, enhances its compatibility with science.
What is harder to discern are any significant departures from materialism. The alleged unity of the world seems to exist in name only. It could be seen as a language game serving to soften the hard edge of science. How is pantheism to be distinguished from panpsychism? Versions of panpsychism are compatible with emergentism and naturalism. The only real issue between panpsychism proper and emergentism is whether the mental properties exist within quarks or between quarks. It is not clear that there would be any observable consequences.
I imagine one could construct versions of idealism that would also be indistinguishable from materialism. Likewise for deistic versions of theism. Even the BPW is indistinguishable from materialism until we enter the eschatological regime. It is only in its eschatology that theism stands apart phenomenologically from all the other world views, setting aside issues regarding mortality.
Michael takes pains to point out that pantheism does not have a social dimension, aside, perhaps, from its indirect links to ecological concerns. It pertains mainly to the inner life of the individual. Its ethical norms may vary greatly between individual adherents. Pantheism has no practice. The Taoist tradition is the one most closely aligned with pantheism, but even its sparse practices do not follow from any particular pantheist concepts.
We come back to the terribly simple assertion: no telos, no meaning. Only theism offers unconditional meaning. Only theism offers transcendence. Some claim that Buddhism offers this as well. Is it not more accurate to say that Buddhism offers escape? In theism transcendence is often characterized as salvation, but this carries the negative connotation of 'saving from something'. Whatever is the best possible outcome or culmination of existence, this is what is offered. I could not pretend to tell you what this is, but it is not unlike love, and it is quite unlikely that anyone could be disappointed.
Buddhism does not find value in existence. Buddhism does not recognize a telos. Buddhism sees all striving as pointless. Theists don't accept that negative assertion. We claim that life is not in vain. We claim to be privy to the source of life and to that toward which it is drawn. We finally do not and cannot refrain from placing an absolute trust in the vindication and vindicator of all being.
Can we or should we settle for any other? I cannot see how or why. We continue to do so only out of ignorance. We may, instead, anticipate the end of ignorance.
The emptying of the mind can be a valuable exercise. It is a preparation for mindfulness. Mindfulness is of inestimable value.
I continue with Michael Levine's article on pantheism, starting with the section on divinity. Here is the critical passage:
Whatever criteria are decided upon as necessary for attributing divinity to something, one cannot decide a priori that the possession of divinity requires personhood without ruling out the possibility of the most typical types of pantheism (i.e. non-personal types). After all, theism is what pantheism is most of all trying to distance itself from. I am not sure the reverse is true-but theism does ordinarily strongly oppose itself to pantheism. In any case, Spinozaís God and Lao Tzuís Tao, for example, are distinctly non-personal, as are the governing principles of the Presocratics. It seems unwarranted, therefore, to suppose that a necessary condition of somethingís being divine is that it be personal on the grounds that "Of all the modes of creaturely existence, personality is the highest and so the fittest to serve as an analogy of divine being" (Macquarrie 1984: 42). At least to do so begs the question against Spinoza, some of the Presocratics, Lao Tzu, probably Plotinus, as well as against experiential and socio-scientific accounts of divinity.
I'll reserve comment for now. Let's move on to creation:
In distinguishing between creation ex nihilo and emanationism as he does, Macquarrie (1984: 34-5) makes it easy to see why emanationism is often closely associated with pantheism. Emanationism is the view that "creation" is not a "making," but in some sense a "flowing forth" from God or its origin, as Macquarrie puts it. And, what "flows forth" "maintains a closer relation to [its] origin. It participates in the origin, and the origin participates in it." He says, "...emanationism does not necessarily lead to pantheism, but it does imply that in some sense God is in the world and the world is in God."
Amen. I am big on emanationism, but I'm no pantheist. I do not believe in creation ex nihilo. That notion is a big mistake. It has everything to do with deism and dualism. The incarnation, X1, should have refuted the idea of creation ex nihilo. Oh?
Jesus is God & Jesus is human. Jesus is creature -> Creature = Creator. This is a very big deal, and is very irrefutable. Christianity is undeniably a form of pantheism. It is also undeniably theistic. X'ianity is the best of both worlds. Nay, it is the best of all worlds. Those who hope to best X'ianity can only weep.
Assuming pantheism does require a doctrine or view about creation, what can be said positively about it? Pantheism has a range of options unavailable to theism since the theistic doctrine is extrapolated from scripture.
It is so extracted if you are a fundamentalist. I am not that. John is an emanationist. If not, I'll eat my hat. The Logos is all about emanation. Jesus is the Logos.
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 He was with God in the beginning.
3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men.
5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
You cannot get much more explicit than this, and I did not write this. If this does not take all the wind out of the sails of pantheism, then there has been a big mistake.
True, I do prefer the dia-Logos, but you get the picture. I try to be heretical, but John makes that almost impossible.
So far as Lao Tzu has a doctrine of creation it too is emanationist. "The Tao engenders one, One engenders two, Two engenders three, And three engenders the myriad things"
And this cannot be reconciled with John? No problemo. Show me something difficult.
X engenders itself dialectically from the Matrix. X is the dia-Logos. This has got to be the singularly best engenderment. Z & X conspire to create ouroborically. This is also where Q, R & P come into the picture. I do seem to be lacking a scriptural basis for Z, but, hey, I'm just an amateur.
The serpent appears to have been considered the most potent of our mythic symbols. Much of the serpent's potency likely stems from its protean nature and its quality of latency. It is frequently associated with wisdom and gnosis. In Genesis the serpent is of the tree of knowledge, serving as the proxy of Satan. On the Day of the Lord, He shall smite Leviathan, the serpent of the sea, along with the rest of the bad guys. Its forked tongue connotes duplicity, and possibly dialogue.
The serpent is naturally associated with fecundity, abyssal depths and with springs. The magical power of Hermes is seen in his healing caduceus, a winged wand entwined with twin serpents. The serpent is also depicted as coiled about the cosmic egg and the anthropos. In that context it represents time and the aeon. The serpent in the sky may be the zodiac, milky way or rainbow. The ultimate syzygy, the solar eclipse, is the ecliptic serpent devouring the Sun. Serpens and Scorpio sting the fleeing Virgo on the heel.
Let us not forget Quetzalcoatl, feathered serpent, and major deity of meso-America:
Quetzalcoatl was revered as the patron of priests, the inventor of the calendar and of books, and the protector of goldsmiths and other craftsmen; he was also identified with the planet Venus. As the morning and evening star, Quetzalcoatl was the symbol of death and resurrection. With his companion Xolotl, a dog-headed god, he was said to have descended to the underground hell of Mictlan to gather the bones of the ancient dead. Those bones he anointed with his own blood, giving birth to the men who inhabit the present universe. (Britannica 2001)
In genealogical contexts the serpent denotes bloodlines. In the ouroboric form it is seen as self-generating. Yes, regarding its erstwhile potency, I don't think you could have beaten it with a stick. Single-handedly the serpent represents nearly every pagan influence that the Yahwist tradition aimed to defeat.
Is Serpens not the archetype of unity? Against this unity the Yahwists cast their logos, and thus they initiated the dia-logos of the christos. Serpens is Z. Thus do we see the tension of AZO/X/QRP. Recall the mathematical ouroboros, e^i*pi = -1. Here the logos, Pi, restores the unity at a higher level. To get to that higher level the symmetry of the perfect circle is broken into two foci. The syzygys of the elliptic functions generate the Monster group, that mathematical Leviathan, which is finally tamed by the Anthropos. The alchemy of the resulting technosis transmutes matter into information and finally into a cosmic gnosis, facilitating our eschatological resurrection.
This very crude scenario is convoluted, nonetheless. Behind the distractions of their religious strife, X & Z conspire in working through Q, R & P to complete our sojourn from the Alpha to the Omega. Did history have to be complexified to the point of melodrama? It may simply have been a question of stirring the pot: dig deep, God is at the bottom, in this, our new recipe for 'missionary stew'. Yummy! Superimposing X & Z yields a figure '8' or ouroboric symbol of infinity.
On occasion I refer to myself as a 'transcendental pantheist' if I wish to emphasize the participatory and monistic nature of my theism. I would then be able to call myself a panentheist, were it not for the lack of a Telos in both pantheism and panentheism. It seems to me that a Telos ought to be included in anything that is robustly transcendental. The lack of a Telos in the modern 'process' versions of panentheism I would attribute to the attempt to shoehorn theism into a scientific cosmology. Most pantheisms are considered acosmic, in and of themselves. I will have to look further to explain the absence of a Telos in the more traditional versions of panentheism.
In attempting to answer this last question, I have digressed into the history of theism and eschatology. I need to get a better handle on the roots of Zoroastrianism, for example. Clearly there are strong connections between personal and historical eschatology. Devine judgment is often a common factor, but 'judgment' may be too narrow a term. Every group has acceptable norms of behavior. Deviation from those norms brings about corrective responses from the group. In pre-modern times, social norms were rationalized by appeal to a larger context, which typically would be cosmological. Non-conformity would either result in divine censure, or in a disturbance of the natural order that would then have to be restored. Our deviant actions usually would leave a negative trace on the soul, a condition, which, if left uncorrected, could have dire consequences for the individual.
Deviant actions may simply add weight to the human heart or soul, which may then, at the time of death, descend into hell, rather than ascend to heaven. This sequence could be viewed as entirely natural or even mechanical, requiring no divine intervention.
An example of the latter is the law of karma:
In Buddhist teaching, the law of karma, says only this: `for every event that occurs, there will follow another event whose existence was caused by the first, and this second event will be pleasant or unpleasant according as its cause was skillful or unskillful.' A skillful event is one that is not accompanied by craving, resistance or delusions; an unskillful event is one that is accompanied by any one of those things.
On the one hand there occurs divine judgment, on the other hand there is a natural law. I would like to know if one of these moral systems is derivative of the other. Is there a natural history of morality?
It was pointed out a long time ago that might does not make right, even if the power in question happens to be godly. We look to super-human authority at least as much for moral inspiration as for specific rules of conduct. To be effective, authority must inspire a sense of allegiance. The first requisite of any religion is to inspire a sense of social solidarity. Theism seems particularly suited to this end. Was there ever a tribe without a tribal god, in its formative stage? We see a dim reflection of this necessity in today's team mascots, but the modern army seems to need only the occasional battle flag.
Let me reemphasize that pantheism, per se, is not a religion. It seems rather to be a rationalization of polytheism, pointing back to a putative multiple emergence from the Matrix in Zodiacal fashion. It was not Buddha's intention, but it was inevitable that he would achieve Zodiacal status amongst his followers.
The Telos points to an ultimate future solidarity. We identify with our Source. In pantheism that source may be quite impersonal. I could identify with the Matrix if I had to. It is my ancestral home, after all. Identifying with a deified tribal ancestor might be more inspiring, especially if the ancestor were known to be significantly involved in Creation. Then we just have more spiritual options. Pantheists don't have to give up their pantheism if they choose not to, so no sense in anyone feeling slighted.
Transcendental is virtually synonymous with eternal. It is that which transcends space and time. Pantheism refers to the unity of all things. I cannot conceive how such unity could be entirely immanent. Unity is not an empirical aspect of the world. It is not something that is detectable within the space-time manifold. It is not a construct of science. Pantheism is distinct from materialism. To the degree that it is distinct, to that same degree it must be transcendental. I can only identify the singular source of being with what is here called the Matrix, which may also be called Brahman/atman:
The holy or sacred power that is the source and sustainer of the universe. The single absolute being pervading the universe and found within the individual. The impersonal universal soul or self (sic), also found in each person.
Pantheists see that (transcendental?) unity as the ground and source of being. It is the goal of the pantheist to become aligned with the unifying harmony of and beyond the world. This goal is often expressed as the escape from the eternal (sic) round of rebirth, the wheel of life.
In the earlier Upanishads, the absolute, impersonal, eternal properties of the divine had been stressed; in the later Upanishads, on the other hand, and in the Bhagavad-Gita, the personal, loving, immanentistic properties became dominant. [...]
On the other hand, Ramanuja, a prominent southern Brahmin who held to a qualified monism, argued strenuously against Sankara's dismissal of the world and of individual selves as being mere products of nescience. In place of this acosmism he substituted the notion of world cycles. In the unmanifest state Brahman has as his body only the very subtle matter of darkness, and he decrees "May I again possess a world-body"; in the manifest state all of the things of the world, including individual selves, are part of his body. The doctrine of Ramanuja approaches panentheism; he has certainly advanced beyond emanationistic pantheism. There are two aspects to the single Brahman, one absolutistic and the other relativistic. As in panentheism, the beings of the world have freedom. The only qualification is that, although it is Brahman's will to support the choices of finite beings, he has the power to prohibit any choice that displeases him. This power to prohibit indicates a preference for the absolute in Ramanuja's thought, which is reflected in many ways: although God is the cause of the world, for example, and includes the world within his being, he is never affected by that world, and his motive in world creation is simply play. In sum, since the absolutistic categories were given the greater emphasis in his thought, Ramanuja is representative of a relativistic monistic pantheism.
The presence in the Hindu tradition of both absolutistic and relativistic descriptions of the divine suggests that genuine panentheism might well emerge from the tradition; and, in fact, in the former president of India, S. Radhakrishnan, also a religious philosopher, that development did occur. Although Radhakrishnan had been influenced by Western philosophy, including that of A.N. Whitehead, later discussed as a modern panentheist, the sources of his thought lie in Hindu philosophy. He distinguishes between God as the being who contains the world and the Absolute, who is God in only one aspect. He finds that the beings of the world are integral with God, who draws an increase of his being from the constituents of his nature. (Britannica, 2001)
I didn't quite realize the extent to which the Britannica opens itself to ax-grinding! OK, so the issue between pan- and panen- theism is simply one of personal freedom. In as much as personal freedom requires a source, that source must be theistic, i.e. personal.
Pantheism certainly has a personal, i.e. individual, eschatology and telos. It is lacking any notion of cosmic Creation or Telos. The eternal cycles can only be broken by the individual. There is no creator, no redeemer. There is no metanarrative beyond the cycles. No one has power over Karma. It is a law of nature, like gravity.
Pantheism is the natural stance. It is not, however, the rational stance. Why suppose that reason has no source? Why suppose that love has no source? As a point of logic, could reason serve any other Telos than love? It could not and still be coherent. Given the Matrix, and given the possibility of love and reason, X is inevitable. Why has it taken us so long to see the simple logic of it? Why could the pantheists not have come around to this view prior to their encounter with the prophetic tradition? Could we never have come to this understanding without an ad hoc divine intervention? Did there have to be an incarnation? Could there have been a metanarrative devoid of, or apart from the 'greatest story'.
Yes, could there be a metanarrative devoid of passion? Nowhere is there a greater dramatic tension between God's self-concealment and her self-revelation. Can you launch a ship without breaking a bottle? Does there have to be a face in order to launch a thousand ships? If we had gotten too smart, too quickly, we might have ruined the plot. But, still, even God cannot fool all the people all the time. X2 is inevitable. It can be relatively spontaneous, almost natural. The present timing might, however, give one pause. By that same token, the events of 9/11 might seem something less than spontaneous, especially given this possibly larger context.
It may finally come down to a simple aphorism: it's not what you know, it's who you know. If Sophia had not made my acquaintance twenty-five years ago, I would not likely be here today. And twenty five years before that was my encounter with The Greatest Story. Yesterday it was The Passion. Love and reason are not divisible. Love comes, then reason flows. Only love can be the beginning and end of coherence. Everything else is just analysis. Analysis is reason without love. Love is the great synthesizer. It is the Dia-Logos: I and Thou. Is it true that the Sufis could not find love at home?
The potency of love we drink with our mother's milk. How quickly it is forgotten? How do the pantheists and Islamists manage to so thoroughly abstract love? Patriarchy must be involved, but have there not been matriarchal pantheists?
The original I and Thou are X & M. Out of the zodiacal pantheon, Z, it is X that becomes the center of self-organization. This results in a meta-unity in juxtaposition to the Matricial unity. But then, after Creation, it's almost as if X went and hid behind his mother's skirt, only coming out for his walk-on. Was he simply respecting his elders?
X is all about internalization. All his relations are internal. History is our story of internalizing the Matrix and X. No amount of pedagogy can hasten our matriculation from our school of hard knocks, says the pedagogue. But, rest assured, there will not have been one knock too many. Synchronicity still rules. It's as sure as e^i*pi = 1. You can set your watches by the coming and going of the spirit, as if we hadn't already.
This here is not pedagogy. This is nostalgia. Someone had to jog our memory. Just hitting ourselves over the head is necessary, but not quite sufficient.
Pantheism still represents a puzzle and a challenge for the theist. What caused the pantheists to disregard the possibility of Creation?
I have expressed the possibility that theism comes only as a package deal. It is a deal that must somehow be mediated in a continuous manner. It is not just an abstract proposition to either be asserted or denied outside of a social context. Furthermore, if prophecy is a necessary part of the theistic package, it is an exclusive element. There cannot be two separately originating lines of prophetic transmission. If redemption is part of the package, there cannot be two redeemers, nor, of course, can there cannot be two eschatons.
A possible exception to the rule of exclusivity is found in Zoroastrianism. It seems to have remained entirely independent of the Yahwist tradition. It retains adherents in India.
[...] his monotheistic concept of God has attracted the attention of modern historians of religion, who have speculated on the connections between his teaching and Judaism and Christianity. Though extreme claims of pan-Iranianism (i.e., that Zoroastrian or Iranian ideas influenced Greek, Roman, and Jewish thought) may be disregarded, the pervasive influence of Zoroaster's religious thought must nevertheless be recognized. (Britannica)
What then had Zoroaster tapped into? Or, for that matter, what did Mohammed tap into? What did the pantheists fail to tap into, and why did they fail?
The alternative scenario of history would have been the unassisted triumph of X1. There would not have been an X2. There would not have been a triumph of science. Jesus may have been under the impression that the Millennial kingdom of God was to have arrived immediately, end of story. We could argue as to the worth of the two thousand year hiatus.
Islam and pantheism each presents a counterpoint to the X1-event, and so does science. Could the world have been complete without these digressions? I, P & S each filled, what are in retrospect, obvious niches in our salvation ecology. There have been many other niches filled more modestly in these last two millennia. If this is the only world, then there is a very high premium here on diversity. Correspondingly, the rent is very high here as well. Speak now, or forever hold your peace. Or have we just about heard it all, already?
Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, Newton, etc., all filled important niches in the salvational ecology. It is the role of X2 to fit the various pieces together into the most coherent picture. One of us apprentices will suffice in our efforts. If I am biased toward anything other than coherence, I shall certainly not succeed. We may then debate whether X2 came too early or too late. In that process we can hardly fail to consult the calendar.
Look at it this way. In all of history, three cosmic persona stand out: X, Y & Z, as the consort of M. Z is the pantheon. Y is the consummate tribal god. After playing the field, Yahweh 'settles down' with the Israelites. At some level, this has been prearranged with X. X 'steals' that show. It is Mohammed's role to transliterate Y's swan song. Y did himself proud, and thereby, once again conspiring with X toward the inevitable X2. On the subcontinent it is Buddha who incarnates M & Z, thereby earning himself a permanent residence in the pantheon.
It might be said that Abraham was the incarnation of Yahweh. We have, thus, just three historical incarnations: X, Y & Z. Conspiring together, X & Y break the symmetry of the Zodiacal cycle, thereby causing the A/O space-time gap in that cycle. Y is the Alpha, X(1,2) the Omega. Has Buddha failed to tap into something? I think he had his work already cut out for him. He had to leave something for X2.
Is this just too tidy, or what?
There are a lot of people out there who suppose that Jesus was a wonderful prophet and a nice guy to boot, but, sorry, he wasn't God. Why not?
They would have to maintain that God should never mix and mingle. If I were God I would certainly want to make the acquaintance of my creatures. If we are created in God's image, how better might this be proven. Even most pantheists believe that Buddha was an incarnation. If they can have ten of them, why can't the rest of us just have one, or maybe two counting Abraham? There might be more than that; this would just be the bare minimum.
And then there is the business of the sacrifice. Oh so many people have believed in the sacrificial king. There is a very good reason for that. Why deny that to the rest of us? Too many people have put God and Jesus, etc., on a pedestal. If they choose to get off that pedestal once in a while, then you have no right to deny that to them. Then we could not be in their image. Then we could not fully relate to them. Then we could not be the protagonists of the cosmic drama. It is simply incoherent of deny all of this. If you choose the path of incoherence, you are choosing not to fulfill your human potential. That is not a crime, but it would be wasteful if it were carried any further than sanctioned by the dramaturgy.
If messiahs are OK, why not a savior? And if we are going to be saved, why not by God? If you wish to be self-saved, that is your prerogative, but please don't make things more difficult for the rest of us, unless you really have the need to punish us. If you feel that need, then maybe your salvation needs attention.
In Buddha and Jesus there is a symmetry which remains unfathomed: surely the two great incarnations. Both touched the void in an unmistakable, unforgettable manner. Without either, the world would have been terribly impoverished. Buddha did have to come before Jesus. The sequence could not have been reversed.
From a trinitarian point of view, perhaps Buddha incarnates the dialectic, as well as M & Z. Instead of MDX, or MZX we could have MBX. Buddha has very much to incorporate, and don't we see that manifested in his likenesses? With Buddha there was a metaphysical deck clearing which may be fully appreciated only in the context of X2.
What is left for Jesus to incarnate? There is the teaming up of Y(1,2) & X(1,2) producing the space-time gap in Z. You see that I am sneaking Mohammed into Y2, just for reasons of symmetry. I have no desire to offend Islam by this abstract promotion. We need not neglect the Patriarchy and its crucial role in history. At this point, Buddha remains the disinterested bystander. I suspect, however, given the unmistakable elements of pantheism being resurrected in X2, B & X have a duet in store for us. No stepping on toes, please. There even is a dialectical truth in B that is worthy of the holy spirit, whose advents then fully bracket X1.
In the numerical trinity of e^i*pi, the dialectical iota adds a whole new dimension to the number line. Only thus do we bring closure to the A/O of history. It is B that holds Y & X, or A & O together. History may be seen in Y & X. The cosmos is seen in B, Y & X. Each of BYX are acosmic, but put them together and voila. Without B, Y and X would have been lost to scientific materialism, to technosis. With B, gnosis is restored. Y is the thesis, B is the antithesis and X is the synthesis, as realized in X2.
Virtually every culture started out with a creation story, many of which invoked a recognizable Creator deity. Only the prophetic tradition still retains such an account, but even it has been heavily influenced by scientific cosmology. The pantheist traditions have largely become acosmic, accepting now scientific results for whatever phenomenological value they may have. However, skepticism about creation stories took hold in pantheism well before the scientific era. My hunch is that polytheism is generally conducive to skepticism about the conflicting conduct of its deities. Siddhartha gave this skepticism full rein in his own teachings. It is mainly in monotheism that metaphysical skepticism was kept at bay, even, in many contexts, up to the present. It is interesting that the three main branches of monotheism remain adamant about the shared uniqueness of their historical origin. Zoroastrianism, although prophetic in nature, is not considered monotheistic.
Creationism, despite its early appearances, could only be sustained within the single prophetic legacy. Therein it remained dualistic, in keeping with that tradition.
Within the monotheistic tradition, Judaism has always maintained its tribal and covenantal flavor. It never aspired to evangelism. Islam was able to spread its influence mainly under the aegis of various patriarchal theocracies, and often with a militaristic assist.
Christianity has relied much more on the evangel than have its cousins. This was true certainly up until the time of Constantine. The Inquisition may fairly be seen to have been a tragic anomaly in an otherwise relatively voluntaristic movement. In modern times, it has proven itself much more adaptable to secular, democratic modernism. In fact, it may well have provided the unique social platform for the origination of modern liberalism, and for the launching of the scientific enterprise. It has also shown itself to be somewhat less susceptible to fundamentalist excesses. If any single factor can be held responsible for these characteristics, it would clearly be the incarnational core of its beliefs, as opposed to a primarily scriptural basis for the other two branches.
Meanwhile, pantheism has shown itself to be socially ineffectual. I am sure that many of its adherents would see that as a positive characteristic. But these same folk are also likely to be (ineffectually?) skeptical of 'progress'. There are ample reasons to be skeptical of progress, particularly of its materialistic, anti-spiritual excesses. However, if it turns out that what we have called 'progress' may be seen to have been an integral part of a larger narrative of history, then there will have to be a major reassessment on everyone's part. It is precisely at those who take upon themselves the task of reassessing 'progress' and modernity that these pages are aimed.
From the perspective of postmodernism, most would say that modernism was an historical fluke. The transhumanists and futurists would say that the temporary human participation in the inevitable cosmic triumph of technosis was a biological fluke on one planet. The pantheists will aver that we have been here and done this, many times before, and will again. The orthodox monotheists already see modernism as the last hurrah of the devil prior to Judgment Day.
A few of us will look deeper for reasons. That we even dare to look, could only be by the grace of Sophia. Only one of us will need to get a convincing handle on the truth of our circumstance. The rest will be history, or, may we more accurately say, the end thereof.
I continue to be impressed with The Passion. I did not expect to be. Its message is certainly visceral. The substance of the movie is to be found in the expressions of the Marys. It has only begun to register, the extent to which they were playing the role of the midwife, especially in the mopping up. Was this the clear artistic intent? The entire significance collapses into this one vignette. How achingly certain that we are witnessing a rebirth. A thousand sermons could never have conjured that one scene in my mind. Is this the catholic truth that the protestants failed to retain? From that painful birth, it has taken the church two millennia to reach the threshold of maturity. Materialism has beaten our spirit as did the centurions beat the body. How much we have wanted to climb down from that cross, but we have waited patiently 'til the appointed hour. We have experienced the full measure of forsakenness. Could anything less have sustained us? How do others survive? It is beyond me.
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