Tuesday, 20 December 2011


Tomorrow is the Winter Solstice, and my current intention is to  celebrate the sunrise in the morning at some hilly or nature friendly locality, unless the weather is especially bad. After all if you can't see the sun, there is driving rain, a whiteout of fog, a foot of snow (last year), the temperature is many degrees sub-zero...I have no urge to masochism.   I don't 'worship' nature or abase myself before it to propitiate it by suffering. Okay, so I lack commitment....
It seems generally accepted now that ancient peoples (though probably not the iron age culture called 'Celts' who actually had a druid priesthood) greatly celebrated the winter solistice, which was more religiously significant than the summer solstice. For at the winter solstice, in the depths of cold and darkness the sun is 're-born' and hope for the future (for those who understand their  physical dependance on the sun) is renewed. The sun is, even in  modern scientific terms, a very natural 'supreme being' the bringer and preserver of life (and sometimes death), the source of most of the earth's physical (e.g. atmospheric and marine) energy and bio-chemical energy, which gives natural processes their 'vitality' and 'creativity' (what I tend to term ' natural spirit').
I don't immediately in my modern reality sense my physical dependance upon the sun: i  live with electrical power and central heating. Emotionally though I, for one, find the 'light' to be  extremely conducive to 'good mood' and a lack of the latter (and of fresh air in general) literally depresses me. Whether there really is such a thing as 'Seasonally affected Disorder' my mood is, I am sure, affected by the seasons. If one thing attracts me to paganism above all else, it is the celebration of the 'Wheel of the  Year' and marking the change of seasons. I have found this recognition of the changing rhythms psychologically beneficial, enlightening and fun at the very least.
So what will I do tomorrow? okay, well I will go up a hill that if possible allows an interrupted view of the sunrise or at least 'lightening' in the right general direction, cloud permitting, Then I might sit quietly or do a little jigly hands raised thing (depending on whether I might have an obvious audience or not). I will probably chant some 'awens' as the sunrise develops and finish by whispering gratitude and thanksgiving to the great ruler of the sky, the sun, though I know very well the sun is not a person/mind/god. I might offer some mead to the earth, though I also doubt there are any faery folk or elementals to enjoy it.  I probably won't do much else in the OBODian pattern as I am increasingly sure you can't make those rituals fit a naturalistic mould. Anyway such 'druid' rituals are not 'ancient' and I would be surprised if they pre-date 1980.  A ritual for today has to be a ritual of  today, and I don't accept the reconstructionist nonsense that one has to show some lineage of  religious practice. If it works (for you) do it, if it doesn't, don't.
One element I would like to bring into these rituals would be to sound at the moment when the sun breaks the horizon some kind of  ancient 'horn' (like the jewish shofar made from a ram's horn). I keep meaning to buy one, and if i do it will probably be a  modern version of a shofar as I haven't seen such at druid-supermarket recently (come on you merchandisers of pagan tat!) Though I am not going to have that element in my ritual tomorrow, I can relate a slightly 'spooky' experience of  hearing such a traditional 'horn'. This was about 2005 or 1 B.K. (before kids) the mrs and I were watching the sunrise at  winter solstice at the local  hillfort ( the Gaer, in wester Newport, an open space called locally the Gollars). As the sun rose we could see for miles along the Severn Estuary and behind us, to the North  mostly open countryside, the ancient village of Bassaleg, and in the distance the imposing hills of the entrance to the Ebbw and Sirhowy Valleys: Twmbarlwm and Mynydd Machen on either side the valley mouth. Drifting on the wind we both heard the low deep sound of such a horn for a good few seconds. It wasn't coming from the immediate hill fort or at least it seemed 'far away' in space (or? time?). Of course it was probably another neo-pagan hippy type with a horn doing their own ritual, but I still have no idea who this could have been (and I know perhaps half a dozen card carrying pagans in the locality). Still natural or preternatural the sound of the horn at the 'right' moment was impressively memorable.

Saturday, 10 December 2011


If anyone was following my blog as an exemplar of naturalistic paganism, I am very sorry that I recently succumbed to an extreme bout of supernatural religiosity, which I pompously paraded on this blog. I am digusted, ashamed for the appalling drivel (more than usual) that was spouted herein, concerning 'God' and the 'divine'. For some reason I was carried away with metaphysical speculation forgetting that I was just creating imaginary notions, castles in the air. 

Perhaps though this drift into incredulity began because I failed to distinguish between metaphysical naturalism (which is philosophically problematic) and epistemological naturalism. The latter is the metaphorical cold shower that I needed. An idea may seem  beneficial, pleasing and coherent but the most important question is 'is it true?' and necessarily this leads to the small matter of 'how do we know something is true?'. Ultimately to rely on intuition is simply to rely on 'feelings'. But why should 'feelings' be taken as 'data'?. I realise now that feelings are just that and we should enjoy the unmediated pure experience and feeling without trying to interpret it, not least trying to interpret with speculative metaphysical notions. Rational factual statements about the world must be based on logic and empirical observations of the world. Everything else is 'pure hypothesis' and 'speculation'. For instance 'deism' is 'pure hypothesis' that is no where proved, indeed it is an assertion that seems to be fundamentally unfalsifiable. We must be 'agnostic' about religious truth claims, this is the only reasonable position to take.

Sure, I've been here before and keep lapsing into religion and woo woo. This shows the power of the 'need to believe'.

Naturalistic Religion and Paganism

 I have to give up the supernatural and focus on this world, what we can truly know rather than idle speculation. I know the 'religious urge' will still carry me from time to time.Nature is so full of awesome power and magnificence and beauty. It is. We are. Why look for a supernatural 'source' of nature of which we can have no certain knowledge, when we have nature itself.

More and more people are identifying as 'naturalistic' pagans but they are derided and sidelined by traditional pagans who have their 'gods' and 'magical powers'. I wonder how  the latter people can say they believe in 'gods' as supernatural entities and yet claim they are a 'nature religion' when they inevitably focus on some magic 'otherworld'. ( In my view polytheism is no more necessarily a nature religion that monotheism).

I think a naturalistic spirituality or religious naturalism can borrow heavily from 'neo-pagan' forms of ritual with their celebration of the rhythms of nature. A naturalist spirituality that is pagan accented should focus on nature, the land, yes also the stories of the ancestors. My kind of naturalistic spirituality is also interested in the 'archetypes', the ancestral forces of the unconscious psyche that are surely the naturalistic origins of the subjectively real and powerful 'spiritual experiences' of modern pagans. As they rise up from the 'other world' unconscious into manifestation they appear as revelations, as coming from 'outside' the self, and as perfectly 'other'. But of course they are parts of ourselves, hidden creative parts desiring expression. So no doubt these 'gods' have a wisdom to teach us.


Tuesday, 6 December 2011

A collapse of 'faith'

Aha! My religious faith has collapsed again. What metaphysical castles I like to create, only to tear them down. My crisis this time is not about the coherence of some theistic claims ( I think some types of theistic claims are coherent, though not theistic claims approaching those of classical theism. The latter is incoherent i.e full of inherent contradictions or obfuscations and vagueness). My crisis this time is epistemological. I have concluded there is simply insufficient evidence to believe that even coherent theistic claims are true. One can only be an 'agnostic' who is inclined toward believing in theism...but not actually a theist in the sense that I believe there is a God. Oh yes I want there to be a God, or rather I would like to believe the world is heading for some ideal state or I have some subjective immmortality and so do my loved ones. But I have insufficient reason to believe any supernatural reality exists. The mystical experience and intutition sometimes seems to fill the evidential 'gaps' by providing some kind of 'gnosis' to believe in some kind of absolute spirit, but I can't rationally get beyond this very basic intuition to develop a 'theology' on anything like a sound footing. And the mystical experience itself cannot be shown to be more than a querk of the human brain, a state of consciousness.

This leads me back to being interested in  only a) naturalistic or humanistic paganism b) archetypal psychology c) pure mysticism, which is contentless and not noetic  d) parapsychology

c) is significant, because until a few days ago it sustained a unitarianism or perennialism, a kind of belief in an 'unknown God'. However all I can rationally say is that 'I have a certain state of mind', not that this mystical experience actually provides any factual information about the meaning of life, the universe and everything. I am intuitively inclined to sense a 'divine power' acting through creation. I have always called this the 'is-ness' of 'pure being'. And of course for me, spirit is being or essence, life or vitality and (states of) consciousness. Spirit may be metaphysical but it need not be supernatural. What I can't have is any confidence that this 'spirit' is a mind or person or that a 'person' or 'mind' as we know it is behind this sense of a 'divine power'. Or indeed that this intuition is not more than the working of my own digestion or particular firing pattern of neurons

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Where are we at?

I spend far too much time ruminating on  theological concerns. It has been pointed out that this could be a form of OCD- obsessive compulsive disorder. Certainly its not fruitful, and I find years go by and I go around and around in circles philosophically. So where is my 'mode, median, and mean' belief system? I consider it to be a subset of the perennial philosophy though my spiritual practice melds hermetic, druidic and Christian themes....

God is, I have no idea how to prove that. God is unknowable in essence for that essence is transcendent. I have arrived at a consistent point of definitely not believing that God and the Cosmos are identical you might say, why retaining the insight that the divine is present 'in some powerful sense' within and through creation - creation manifests the divine will and power.

To resolve the question of divine transcendence versus immanence, I have rather seized upon and somewhat reinterpreted the idea  that there divine 'energies' flowing from deity which are distinct from the absolute divine nature - to borrow a notion from Orthodox Christianity - and these energies are penetrating all creation and sustaining it.. The best metaphor for this, I think, is of the distinction between the Sun itself and the divine rays of light-heat that maintain life on earth. Clearly the sun is not on earth in the absolute says, but 'is' in a relative, conditional sense: we only experience the sun 'through' an experience of the light/heat never directly (to stretch the metaphor further, I'd also point out that no one on earth can look at the sun for very long). When we - pagans in particular - find creation, the cosmos to be 'divine', this is because we are seeing these 'energies' in action of fourfold providence: forming, animating, harmonising, preserving. I rather think 'nature' in all its plurality and variety represents different 'modes' or 'modulations' of this divine energy, and personified these modes or modulations of divine energy are our 'gods' or 'daemons' providing being, life and consciousness to the various aspects of nature.

The biggest challenge to belief in God is gratuitous evil. I certainly don't believe all evil has got a particular purpose, or is 'for the best' for particular individuals. I do though find it difficult to imagine a world that does or could not contain evil, because a physical world is necessarily limited and finite, also such a world can only be sustained in operation by hard laws of cause and effect that may cause havoc and destruction to individuals.

I have no doubt that a  physical world like ours cannot be 'perfected' to be without the constant possibility of evil and the need to avoid or overcome this. I suppose the problem for theism is not explaining why there is evil and suffering, but why there is no 'intervention' from a deity is supposedly benevolent. I find over many years I cannot believe in a deity who intervenes in the world miraculously to save some and not others. Functionally this means I believe the deity is 'transcendent' and not interfering in the world  - like a deist - while my deity is maintaining its fabric (providing the stage but not directing the play).

I can think of  various metaphysical and common sense reasons for not supposing a transcendent divinity can intervene in the world. For me any viable understanding or reinterpretation of Christianity must  also deny supernatural impositions from outside the cosmos and I have assumed against a future apocalypse that God is waiting to bring (this never ending story of the near ending is getting very tired after 2000 years). However if the divine does not intervene does this mean there is 'no hope' for redemption? Well, perhaps redemption is in the hands of the people properly led by the divine light. Perhaps by utilising some force within the Cosmos, indeed within our selves collectively this will save us in the end from the scourge of death and suffering. And I rather subscribe to Tielhard De Chardin's Omega point notion, and the possibility of final transcendence (the final evolutionary step) via suffering. This is also the way of the Cross of Christianity. Redemption from suffering does not avoid suffering or make suffering 'okay'. Rather something about the world makes evil and suffering inevitable, and ultimately this stems from the cosmos being 'free' and 'independent' of the divine. Good requires the possibility of evil, but not its actuality; there has to be a real choice, a real overcoming, a real evolution of the physical buffeted by the forces of death and decay to arrive at intelligent, creative individuals, with moral sense. Perhaps as in the Eden myth when mankind first developed a strong self consciousness we could have freely chosen the good path while never experiencing evil, and done so indefinitely. But the possibility of evil was always there and eventually finite creatures would push the artificial bounds and choose the 'knowledge of good and evil' but this was also the path not just to folly, but also to wisdom and maturity. So the possibility of natural and moral evil has a cosmic purpose: the separation of the subtle from the gross. By realising our limitation and failure, this should lead not to bitterness and anger, but to realising that we are justing ourselves and our own flaws and disasters by a deep notion of the true, the beautiful and the good, and finding life wanting. The desire for the transcendent in every human breast, is to my mind one of the best 'evidences' of the divine: a lodestone in each one of us that leads us to believe that there is the 'pole' somewhere of goodness to which we should be alligned.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Why I am not an atheist

I tried very hard, really I did.
I still  consider atheism to be the logical consequence of adopting a thorough going methodological naturalism, where all propositions about the world have to satisfy the rigours of the scientific method. Apart from the obvious difficult that naturalism as a principle  is not itself scientifically provable, but simply 'position taking' that other problem with such an approach is that most abstract concepts and qualities that give life meaning, such as notions of love, freedom, justice, beauty and indeed the notion of 'meaning' itself, cannot be demonstrated from the scientific method. The naturalist simply does not care about that, or if they care then they may sadly accept a much diminished view of life. In reality the naturalist usually believes in love, freedom, equality etc like the rest of us as a matter of utility and 'faith'.
To my  mind naturalism treats what is unprovable in scientific terms as non-existent, in practice, if not in fact in theory. But I want to consider 'intuition' and personal 'gnosis' as a source of knowledge, and I must do so to bolster my case for deism which cannot be proved in scientific terms even if can be shown to be reasonable.  I accept that the rational 'price' of allowing personal feelings and insight to inform our view of reality is we have to demand that intution can only be a basis of establishing 'private truth'not 'public truth'. Public truth remains in the domain of science, which means public policy making, laws etc are informed only by what is naturalistically demonstrable and not beholden to faith claims or spiritual revelations. This is a necessary consequences of wanting, as I do, a secular society that separates church and state.
There are many theists and deists who will insist that their notion of a deity, if not actually provable, like a mathematical or logical proof, can be demonstrated to be reasonable from philosophical arguments. The arguments, which I won't rehearse here, include the cosmological and teleological arguments, the latter re-stated in terms of the apparent 'fine tuning' of the initial conditions of the universe, so it would be suitable for complex animals, life and indeed consciousness.  There are of course counter philosophical arguments, for example the hypothetical existence of a multiverse may explain the 'apparent' fine tuning. (I'm just skating over the complexity of the issues here). However some of the philosophical arguments for deism have force, and are compelling to my mind, if far from unanswerable.

We know deity is invoked commonly to explain why there is something rather than nothing (as an explanation for 'Being') and to explain how life came from non life by random processes (i.e. as an explanation for the origin of life) and to explain consciousness (and in the latter case, a belief in deity is necessarily a belief that consciousness is not merely an epiphenomenon of complex forms of materiality but is fundamental in some way to existence [all credible beliefs in deity  require adoption of a philosophical idealism, neutral monism or dual-aspect theory I believe]. We may reasonably worry about  our notion of deity becoming a the 'God of the Gaps'. However in one sense if the deity has any explanatory value then such 'gaps' in our understanding of the cause of the universe should be expected. The fact something can be explained naturalistically does not rule out non-naturalistic explanations (as there can be more than one reason or process leading to a particular state of affairs] but if there were no gaps in our knowledge then theism or deism would lack any explanatory advantage, and applying 'Occam's Razor' (which device for assessing evidential value should not be elevated to a  metaphysical principle ) it would have distinct explanatory disadvantages.  Naturalism cannot of course accept any supernatural cause as an explanation [and this is why 'intelligent design' is not 'scientific'] because for naturalists there must also be independent scientific evidence of the causal mechanism that is proposed to explain any physical state: something 'supernatural' can never provide a 'scientific' explanatory cause. We are far from having 'scientific evidence' for a deity, but philosophically we should not expect such, because deity must necessarily be undetectable by existing scientific methods - see discussion of 'transcendence' below. And despite the original optimism of materialists and naturalists, we don't seem to be any closer to finding an adequate and uncontested scientific explanation for being, life and consciousness. The 'gaps' in our scientific understanding today sometimes seem as big as ever, and possibly 'bigger' as science continues to find yet more mysteries wrapped in enigmas when it delves ever deeper into the origin of the universe, life and consciousness. At the very moment of writing the Standard Model of cosmology and even Einstein's equations are under assault from problematic empirical evidence. I won't draw too many conclusions from these recent events as the existing theories may quickly adapt or the alleged problematic empirical evidence may not be reproduced or be shown to be based on mistakes. Still, the 'gaps' remain.

More recently  I had a problem with the notion of 'transcendence'. But now I see the notion of transcendence involves simply a claim that deity, at least in its eternal primordial aspect, does not subsist in our 'space and time' universe (since 'universe' technically means everything that exists,  our 'universe'with its particular space-time structure and physical constants shall be described as the 'cosmos' hereafter). It is now well accepted in scientific discourse, that in principle other dimensions (and in string theory there are at least 10 such dimensions] can exist in which our cosmos may be embedded i.e. that there may be a 'hyper-dimensional' reality.  However deism has long proposed that the deus must be distinct from the cosmos we inhabit. Indeed deism avoids the problem of evil by proposing that the deity cannot intervene in the universe we inhabit in a mechanical way either to change physical laws or processes or to communicate special revelations - even if it wanted to. An understanding of modern cosmology leads one to realise that whatever is external to our cosmos cannot interact directly in our space time, and certainly  not without disrupting the physical laws and constants that maintain the integrity of our cosmos. So deism it must be, not theism, unless we abandon reason.

Ultimately a belief in a deity can be reasonable (i.e. it is not contrary to logic or existing scientific knowledge) but the choice to believe rather than not believe comes down to a personal judgement. This in turn is informed by yes, intuitions, emotion, aesthetics, and a desire that the universe be a certain way. I would argue that a strong commitment to atheism also involves such non-rational elements. I have come across many atheists who don't want there to be a god, and don't like the idea of it. Usually they are reacting to a particular religious notion of deity and religious practice, which is not a necessary consequence of such a belief.

I do agree that religion is probably the result of man's dread and awe of the unknown, and usually an attempt to find escape from death and meaning in suffering.  My deistic cosmology does not assume an after-life, or any meaning to particular suffering. It is not 'comforting' but it does seem to provide an overall explanation that satisfies not just reason but many other aspects of my personality and psyche, providing a successful form of integration and individuation. It is psycho-therapeutic whether it is true or not!. I admit immediately that any different personality may not 'see' what I see. Personality, upbringing, and social interaction has a huge influence on a religious choices or lack of them. Which is another reason why I cannot understand how religions could damn those who honestly can't believe - it is not a moral failing to not believe and hardly something we can force upon ourselves by dint of effort (believe me, I've tried). However the states of belief and unbelief, chartered on this blog are always in flux for most of us. Some days for me it is easier to believe than on other days. Supernaturalistic Evangelical Christianity is never believable on any day (not for many years) but also I find it very hard to hold to Naturalistic Atheism. Pan-en-Deism or Pagan Deism (discussed elsewhere) satisfies me today. As for tomorrow, who knows!

Pagan Deism

Pagan Deism combines the spiritual insights and practices of paganism with belief in a supreme divinity. This divinity has many names including 'Great Sprit', the 'Infinite', the Source and simply, the 'Deus'.
Knowledge of this divinity is through intuition and reason. Reason suggests there is a First Cause, Necessary Being and sublime unity or ground of being. Pagans in antiquity such as Aristotl...e and Plato held beliefs in a supreme deity or source.They also believed in many divine beings, forces, daemons and spirits. Pagan Deism can therefore be inclusive of many polytheistic and animistic traditions, indeed it can rationally ground such beliefs.
Logic suggests that the essence of Deus is beyond multiplicity,gender and transpersonal. It is not like a human person nor is it merely impersonal. It is pure Being, Life and Consciousness, and appreciated only through symbols, metaphors and analogies.
We intuit that the divine activity is simply creativity, and that the one purpose and desire of the divine is self expression, to manifest and embody its primordial nature through a myriad of forms. In common with most Deists we don't believe that the Deus directly intervenes in nature or breaks natural laws. However we allow there are preternatural laws and dimensions of existence not yet fully understood.
We can believe that distinct divine energies form, animate, harmonise and preserve the Cosmos and these energies may be perceived as distinct gods. Metaphorically every creature contains a 'spark' of divinity, and to some degree exemplifies the eternal ideas, power and beauty in the depth of its being. We also allow that these divine sparks may return to their source after many incarnations.
See more

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

The supernatural and transcendent

Increasingly I wonder if the above categories are even meaningful and coherent

For my followers etc

One of my regulars followers who espouses pandeism would like to get in touch. Friend, you already know me from facebook...so just message.

I have it suggested to me that some pandeists believe that the divinity created the world, then ceased to exist as a conscious entity, having become the world and presumably operating through unconscious laws and forces of nature, to eventually at the end of time re-coalesce as the universe.

This seems plausible, but if the deity was unconscious and uninvolved and something happened to the sentient creatures in that universe e.g. a supernova, collision with an asteroid, such that life is wiped out, then surely this would upset progress toward the 'omega point' where presumably God 're-animates' to consider all that has come to pass? Surely such a deity, unable to intervene but depending on creation for his purposes would be a hostage to cosmic fortune. Unless you perhaps are also claiming the deity so designed the arrangement of the universe that we are safe from some cosmic catastrophe....we are though getting into the territory here of multiplying entities.

Indeed if God 'reconstitutes' at the end of time in pandeism, can we conclude that this deity so re-constituted then goes on to create another universe, and thereby an endless cycle? 

Features of pandeism are informative, but its apparent strengths are encompassed by a pan-en-deism, properly understood. Because if you really think about it, the schema my pandeist friends has suggested in his comments below, really postulates as deity that has both a transcendent aspect or state of being (at  least temporally as the 'before' and the 'after' the universe) and an entirely immanent aspect or state of being as some kind of unconscious logos spirit within nature.

Pandeism's deity as described by my follower friend, does at least satisfy the rational quest of the ancient Greeks to idenitify the 'arche' first cause, the 'logos' of nature, and it seems the final 'telos' of the universe.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Permission to use theistic notions..

My default naturalism does not change my awareness that the notion of God is in some manner 'meaningful'. To my mind when people refer to God I 'translate' this as a reference to the sense of the infinite, of a 'ground of being', of the 'eternal' and a 'unity' behind creation. I don't use the term 'God' because of the 'baggage' that the idea carries but God as 'Being' rather than as 'a Being' in the sense that the theologian Paul Tillich taught, makes some sense to me. This God is not a providential deity who 'creates' by design and divine fiat. For me God is not a 'personal self' though if a universe that contains selves clearly has a 'conscious dimension' and God is another word for 'ultimate reality' then there is clearly 'person-ness' as an aspect of deity-universe. The person of deity is infact met  in 'the other' - the other person, particularly the other sentient creature.  Also in this sense God is love. Not that God loves, because God is not an individual who loves, but God is love itself. Whereever there is love in the world it seems to me this is 'the presence of God', but there is no God person outside the world who would have to explain why his loving cannot prevent evil befalling the beloved. Thus God for me is a 'transtheistic' notion - the term 'God' is meaningful, but mythical notions of God as a 'person' presiding over the world are rejected by me. Yet God is not 'mere' physical existence, which some forms of pantheism seem to suggest. The conscious may depend on the physical, but the consciousness cannot be 'reduced' to the physical conceptually.

Hello follower

Hi, if you have commented on my blog, please me aware that I am having some difficulty manipulating the software. I was hoping to reply to your comments but for reasons unclear to me, I don't seem to be able to do so. I can post but not it seems reply to your comments directly. If any of you tech heads have a solution to this please let me know next time you comment!

At least one of my followers has defended pandeism by arguing that God became the world in order it seems to experience first hand the conditions of finite existence. I have real difficulty with this concept. Unless God remains distinct from creation how can this God 'experience'. Doesn't experience imply one who has the experience, a subjective sense of self, an observer? Where is God's subjectivity located in the physical cosmos? If the pandeist God creates simply to experience then are you not implying the notion here of a cosmic or world 'soul' or 'mind' albeit one co-extensive with the cosmos? In pandeism God has become the world with no remainder, surley there can be no 'subjective' aspect of God that survives this transition. God as  personal  including as an observer and experiencer has ceased to exist.  Subjectivity seems to be limited to individual brains. I cannot have your experience, you cannot have mine, so the notion of a cosmic experiencer without its own independent mind makes no sense to me.

Even if a pandeist can overcome this hurdle and explain how God continues to experience post creation, I still see little that is emotionally attractive in pandeism. It seems only to allow one to be a pantheist while also believing in an intelligent designer. I think pandeists should seriously consider whether what they really want is in fact pan-en-deism, the term coined by Larry Copling a few years ago. If you take on board process philosophy, you can have a bi-polar deity who's absolute nature could be pure awareness (a kind of cosmic all-seeing eye) while his consequent nature is the cosmos itself. Then it makes sense to say that God is experiencing the world and that it was to have this experience that justified creation.  Pan-en-deism or its close sibling pan-en-theism does not I am sure, actually require in fact that God is 'outside' the cosmos, only distinct from its pure physical aspects.This is not a difficult concept to imagine. My mind appears to be 'inside' my body, not floating above it, so God's mind, the experiencing part of God, can be 'in' creation, interior to it.

I have also found the notion of a cosmic mind attractive in the past, but I still find the problem of evil overwhelmingly prevents me finding any satisfaction is such cold, aloof philosophical deities. A God who could only passively observe but never help or hinder seems hardly worthy of worship and devotion.

Friday, 24 June 2011

But why would a deity go to the trouble of creating a world?

Why indeed. This is a real  nagging problem I have with Deism: why would a deity go to all the trouble of creating a universe and apparently directly creating life on earth and then take no further interest in it? Why create at all?

One possibility is that the deity is only concerned with playful creativity for its own sake. Creation gives the deity some joy, like an artists developing a work of art, for its 'intrinsic value'. Perhaps there are many worlds that the deity has created in the great universe.

Another possibility is that the deity simply wants to 'know' and is like the mythic 'all seeing eye': the divine is the ultimate observer and is able to know and experience through seeing the actions of  human beings, indeed perhaps all or some human consciousness is open to the divine mind from the 'divine side', so that the divine can experience and know all that humans or any other creature can experience and know; this is not just a knowledge of factual information but knowledge by the deity of  our subjective experience itself i.e. what it feels like to be us, such that experience becomes also the divine experience.

A further possibility is that the deity seeds worlds with life, in the expectation that some of them will develop, evolve sentient rational beings. As suggested in other posts, the deity may be 'testing' its creation - which is the 'vale of soul making'  to find those  beings who can ultimately ascend to the same realm or 'state of being' as the deity and continue in eternal good relationship even as divine servants. Perhaps those chosen by the divine are granted this honour once they depart the physical world at death. Or perhaps the divine is seeking our gradual evolution toward a new kind of race of mankind who will find such connection, such union, with the divine that they become the very incarnations of deity.

Another possibility is that the deity simply wants to reproduce itself through the evolution of sentient beings, for the sheer joy of parenthood.

An immediate objection.....and an attempt at resolution

For a very long time my principle problem with a notion of a personal deity has been the problem of evil. I could accept that natural law prevented the divine from physically intervening, but could not the divine at  through some telephathic psychological process 'inform' or 'warn' people of danger at least? If the divine could at least warn, then it has allowed all kinds of gratuitous evil occur, so it cannot be benevolent etc..

Perhaps though I had not considered that there is no such 'telepathic' process by which the divine can communicate in a verbal way. Such telepathy would perhaps be a violation of natural law too. Also I failed to consider that if the divine could warn or inform persons of danger, then justice requires that it does so in all cases whenever any action would cause suffering. However this would surely prejudice and hinder the development of human intelligence, and interfere with freewill and moral development as there would be no real bad consequences of our bad decisions.

God and physical reality - the mind-body analog

I'm veering back toward accepting the possibility of a supreme mind as creator of the universe. This is as a result of the 'evidence' for 'intelligent design'. This supreme mind may or may not have all the attributes of the deity of Classical Theism. Certainly I consider that this deity does not reveal itself through parochial special revelations. I am very skeptical of claims by particular religions that their founders have had a special revelation from the deity. In any event whether any particular revelation is true must still be determined by reasoning processes. Therefore reason is the only measure of whether particular truth claims can be accepted. You can see then that I am supportive of a form of 'deism'.

Classical Deism denies that the divine  intervenes in nature. However creating the universe capable of life and creating life is surely the greatest form of intervention. In other words Deists as creationists, must believe that the deity intervened in the physical world's affairs at least in the deep past. This begs questions as to why the divine does not intervene now.

Further Classical Deists will insist that their Deity is the 'designer' of the world, but  they cannot it seems explain how a being of pure spirit, existing in a transcendental state could effect changes in the physical world. In other words, what is the hinge between spirit and matter? what is medium by which a supernatural entity effects its designs?. These divine designs are presumably simply mental objects in the divine mind - there is no reason why merely having a design must of itself alter the physical world. We know physical forces and energy can act on other physical natures, but how does the non physical acheive this?  There cannot be another medium, another force that the divine  uses to effects its will in the physical universe, otherwise there would be an eternal dualism of the deity plus that medium.

I can only conclude that the medium for divine intervention is also divine, indeed that the divine can act in the physical world because in some way the physical world or a energy or force underlying the physical world is itself an extension of the deity. Indeed this must be a case of a deity acting upon the world from outside it, but from 'inside' as an imminent presence or power within the world. I also think that this process of manipulation of the physical world must be probabilistic, at the quantum level of reality, so that the natural forces that govern the macroscopic world are not disturbed.

It is very important that nature is coherent and consistent or natures workings would cease to be in dynamic equilibrium but be plunged into chaos. Life on earth today is highly complex and requires the stability of natural processes, and so the 'laws of nature' and in particular the 'iron law' of cause and effect must be maintained. I believe that when the universe and the earth was in its early stages of their development they had a 'plastic nature' and could be manipulated in some measure to give rise to life as we know it. As the earth has developed with a complex biosphere and ecology, I believe the 'laws of nature' must now be fixed precluding the intervention of the deity (for such intervention today could result in the disintegration of nature, and the greater the intervention, the greater the disturbance of nature's equilibrium).

[Now some theists may argue that a deity could effect change in nature and by other miraculous power avoid any of the unwanted consequences of such disturbance of natural processes. However I believe the theists are simply wrong that any 'supreme being' can simply 'do anything' in wants once it has created a living functioning entity that is the world.  Indeed I think common notions of omnipotence simply betray magical thinking i.e they imply that a pure act of mind physical reality can suddenly 'change' physical reality without any causal process. I think the physical world is real and not simply a projection of the divine mind - it is not a divine dream as it were, that an be changed endlessly, by divine whim. To the contrary, having created a physical system the deity cannot act in a way that is contrary to its inherent nature]

The picture of the physical world as an extension of the deity, and the mode by which the supreme mind effects its will in the physical world has a potential analogy in the relationship of the human mind to the human body. The latter relationship is internal and intimate, but the mind cannot change the physical characteristics of the body, but in so far as the body's cells are co-operative with the mind they can give effect to that will. As individual beings who have apparent autonomy we also have a choice whether to co-operate with the mind of the Cosmos.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Sunday, 19 June 2011

The Absolute, the archetypal, and the physical

Being is at the same time the Absolute, the Archetypal and the Physica Cosmos.

THE ABSOLUTE Everything and anything is not the Absolute. The Absolute is no-thing. The Absolute is the Nirguna Brahman, the Ein Soph Aur, and  the Eternal Tao of the different world religions. The Cosmos arises out of this formless place of nothing, and by creation the absolute is made manifest - the absolute causes, and sustains and the cosmos returns to this source. The absolute permeates and grounds every being. The Absolute is one and many, and it is the highest of the eye.

THE ARCHETYPAL There are, we suggest,  primordial forces, principles and powers that shape and define the psychic cosmos - they shape in effect our consciousness and therefore our perception and interpretation of the world and perhaps reflect how our brain is 'wired'; Theologically the archetypes can also be described as the 'divine energies' of the creator.

The primary  archetypes most important in the Western Mystery Tradition, and believed to be universal, are identified in  traditional Astrology as follows:  the  polarities of the archetypal  'the male' and 'the female', in neo-platonism also the monad and the indefinite dyad ;  then there are the qualities:  'cardinal', the 'fixed' and 'mutable'  and finally the four 'elementals' symbolised by fire, air, water and earth in most esoteric systems. .The Archetypal World is represented by the tetracys of Pythagoras or the Sefiroth of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. These Archetypes are given form and personified as various deities, daemons and other spirits of nature in some polytheistic systems.

In the Neo Druidic 'system' we have a mother and father god deities  who are the ultimate parents of all the other gods, and indeed they are also the ultimate ancestors of all the people too. We also have three worlds of  manifestion: Gwynvyd, Abred and Annwn (the realm of the gods, our world, and the realm of the dead/unborn)  also in the physical world we have 'sky', 'land' and 'waters'. We have also the triple aspects of the male and female deities. The four directions are not so important and in ancient celtic lore,
we don't find mention of the four greek elements or four directions as such; but in the irish myths of the Tuatha De Danann  there are also four enchanted objects of great magical power viz the Cauldron of Dagda, The Spear of Lugh, the Sword of Nuada, and the Stone of Destiny.

THE PHYSICAL  This is the world we are familiar with. Even here we have the polarity of 'light and darkness' and also 'energy' and 'matter'. There are the three spatial dimensions and the three primary colours, also four states of matter (plasma, gas, liquid, solid) and four fundamental forces of nature viz the weak nuclear force, the strong nuclear force, gravity and electromagnetic radiation.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Pantheism with a twist

My current spiritual ideas are not of course original to me...they include a dab of neo-platonism, a spoonful of Kabblah, a  lump of Hegelianism, some Advaita, some Jung,  a little Tielhard de Chardin, a  dollop of process philosophy, and a helping of evolutionary spirituality, stewed in the juices of a neutral monism and nature mysticism and boiled vigorously in a naturalistic pressure cooker. Finally decorated with elements of  modern neo-paganism.

Basically I imagine that our Cosmos (or indeed the multiverse if there is such) manifests the ever evolving divinity, which is conceived of pantheistically as a non-personal or transpersonal absolute and dynamic power and will to be and to create that always has a corporeal form Spirit is Being  (the 'isness-of being') rather than a being, it is Life rather than any particular living thing, and Consciousness (including the Unconscious or yet to be conscious) rather than any particular self or mind. So this Spirit is formless no-thing but paradoxically manifests as all things and forms. This Spirit is not a mind, but it manifests as many minds. We provide its cognitive consciousness, and all sentient beings in the Cosmos are incarnating Spirit, we are its mind, eyes, ears, mouths, hands and feet. Spirit ultimately seeks expression as a unity of the many, as unity in diversity, and a common blessedness of enjoyment, freedom and communion. Because of the unity behind all things there can be 'love' and 'justice' and the symmetry-harmony that we understand as 'beauty'. Because this unity is not a unity above or opposed to plurality but a unity within plurality, within diversity everything in nature is important. However Spirit is not the same as Goodness. Spirit's laws, its 'fate' is inexorable and its physical evolution is the struggle that is red in tooth and claw. There is constant sacrifice, death and re-birth, a returning to the formless and the emergence of new forms. If our planet suddenly became uninhabitable, Spirit would be temporarily frustrated, but there are other worlds and probably other universes.  Indeed once it has reached its maximum, its 'omega' of blessedness and knowledge, the physical universe will dissolve over aeons and the process will no doubt begin again, an eternal cycle.

I envisage three states of being, modes of reality that are not hierarchical 'levels' one above the other  but might be represented as concentric circles with  pure Spirit at the 'centre', though this picture may also be misunderstood in hierarchical or simple 'emationist' terms. Perhaps three intersecting circles is a still better representation. The notion then is of  the 'different dimensions' of being.

  • The 'circle' of  'Pure' Spirit; this is the absolute beyond conception, form etc,and a pure essence. This is a state of being that mystics can attain to..  Pure Spirit is experienced as both an embracing the unifying principle behind reality, that interpenetrates its, and is beyond all duality, and also as a 'void'. It is the 'thing-in-itself'. Its physical correlate is the 'quantum vaccuum'.
  • The 'circle' of 'Archetypal Reality' - the forces, powers, and principles that shape our reality that have both physical and psychic 'modes/correlates'. This 'circle' is the unus mundus of Jungian speculation. Here also are  the Gods of Neo Platonism, the Sefiroth of Kabbalah and the 'Divine Energies' of Orthodox Christianity. The archetypal forces precede their 'imaging' and personification in the mental and cultural expressions found in myth and symbol.
  • The 'circle' of  Ordinary Reality - that can be explored by empirical science. This is the explicit order, the other two circles represent an implicit order. As individuals we  live from time to time in all three circles of being.
My spirituality is ultimately a pantheism. There is only 'nature' but nature is not necessarily simply the forms of matter and energy and space and time which we are most familiar with i.e. it is not a crude materialism. There is not a supernatural substance distinct from 'matter' i.e. this is not a crude dualism. My pantheism seems the flowering of life and sentient civillisations as the 'incarnation' of  Spirit, its highest form. I imagine  a teleological but not inevitable or predetermined process behind natural evolution, a movement to greater complexity then to great consciousness and knowledge (though not requiring humans beings per se, just sentience). This process is random yet the overall trajectory is inevitable rather as rivers must flow to the sea, though the water can take innumerable paths. I see spirit 'at work' in self organising processes but not as a elan vital or something special in the physical. It is the physical.

Monday, 30 May 2011

God's plan

So, what if Christian theism is true...what is God's special plan for the world?

Lets put this in the language of Sci Fi:  The Christian God is a hyper dimensional extra terrestrial entity ('The Alien') that has seeded this planet in this star system (and for all we know, other planets) with the means to develop living and eventually conscious cognitively reasoning individuals. The Alien however remains deliberately hidden from the living creatures he has allowed to evolve viz humans. The Alien has implanted a vague awareness of his existence in most people, more particularly in those of  a particular mental and emotional disposition. He deliberately does not disclose himself except in very particular mysterious ways such that while mankind cannot disprove a deity exists, he can also never be rationally sure he does exist. The Alien has not for instance made himself known to the persons who are most knowledgeable or have the ability to ask any awkward questions (scientists, philosophers etc). However the Alien has revealed himself to select individuals and to them he has put the story around that he is seeking people to enter into his 'dominion'  and 'inherit the earth' and also exist for ever in 'his realm' after death. The story also goes that not all will enter this dominion etc but will be rejected.  The Alien's story was disclosed over multiple centuries and in a variety of literary forms is highly cryptic manner so only those who are 'naturally intune' with the Alien are inclined to accept or believe it, despite the story being full of rational inconsistencies. The theme of this cryptic message in the story, amounts to an admission that the Alien is seeking to 'harvest' minds from our planet and this is the only reason why us creatures exist. 

Indeed in many written versions of th Alien's story the earth is described as this Alien's growing plot, his kitchen full of  his utensils,  and his workshop where he makes objects only some of which are to be used for his long term purposes. It is clear that the story is  cryptically refering to the  Alien's intention to 'farm'  and 'manufacture'  servants from the living creatures on this planet. The Alien can't simply 'make'  servants to order ( he tried that previously, see below) instead the Alien knows he has to 'grow', 'develop' and 'test' them but there will be much much wastage. You see, the Alien  only wants to select certain  types of person to become his servants in his dominion. Not everyone can be his servant because of their particular brain chemistry and character is simply not right. Those who are not selected are not particularly bad or evil. Indeed some of those selected as his servants are, to the human mind, much more despicable people (including criminals, wasters etc) than some of those not selected. What matters is not what those selected have done but whether they can be transformed into the servants that the Alien wants.

So who is the Alien selecting? It is quite apparent that the Alien is  NOT selecting those who  think critically and who are strong individualists. Counter intutively the Alien is not selecting simply those who in human terms are good, nice or generous, but only those who would trust and obey their master without question and are particularly needy and dependant  The Alien considers our human existence to be a testing process  for developing his servants whereby those who are selected by the Alien believe and love the image of the Alien regardless of the lack of evidence or counter evidence, and regardless of the evil which life throws at them. 
 The Alien rejects those who have strong doubts or who won't accept being assimilated into the purposes of the Alien. The Alien wants pliable minds, that are open to being 'developed' by the Alien for his service. The Alien even admits in fact that he wants his servants to have the minds of 'children'.

At some future point the Alien will end his farming/manufacturing process and  return to this planet to collect for himself only those persons who meet his requirements and have passed the relevant existential tests. Among this good harvest the Alien will also be looking for an elite cadre of potential servants  (the 'overcomers') who have served him, no matter what, even to the point of death. Everybody else, the rest of the Alien's 'crop' who the Alien describes as the 'chaff' or 'tares' will be destroyed as 'worthless' and 'thrown out'. It matters not that those who are being destroyed have had wonderful insights or are amazingly creative or are very kind and honest or have done good acts for other people or the world. During this colllection process (the 'apocalypse') tempts by the rejected people to form one world government to establish peace and justice on earth are frustrated by the Alien and his servants as this would interfer with the Alien's plan. The Alien obviously does not want a human 'rebel base' permanently existing against him

Unfortunately it is not enough that people might actuallly want to be the Alien's servants. The Alien dispenses the ability to believe and love the Alien in this unquestioned way only to those who the Alien sees as already potentially having the right mindset to be his servants and never sin or rebel The Alien is choosing certain people and only in a very limited and  secondary and derivative sense are people choosing the Alien. The Alien's answer to the apparent injustice is to simply say it is not for his creatures that he has farmed to challenge their maker, also that we have been allowed to be 'free range' for most of our history and have suffered from knowledge of evil as well as good, so independence from the Alien is not a desirable state of affairs in any event. Indeed the Alien has ensured that his creatures have an innate disatisfaction with their physical reality and are alienated from nature such that only what the Alien wants seems to matter or give meaning.

The Alien has perfected the ability to exist for aeons, and is immortal while we have transitory very limited physical lives. The Alien points out then that it is entirely in his gift as to who he wants to co-habit with in his dominion.  The Alien actually wants his servants also to inherit the physical world, which he loves (but he doesn't  - as some have wrongly assumed - have  love for all the inhabitants that currently exist in the world) and the rejected humans have to be removed for his servants to have the physical world for themselves.

It so happens that long ago, the Alien had only other hyperdimensional beings as his servants. They were designed and made specifically to serve the Alien, and some of the more elite servants will given a large measure of intelligence. However as they had no physical bodily form their loyalty was never tested. Unfortunately one day the Alien's most intelligent and highest ranking servant decided to think for himself and rebel, along with many of the sub-servants. This rebellious servant has grounded his base in our world. The Alien cannot destroy this rebel servant without causing a war which would probably destroy the world and scupper the Alien's long term plans. Thus the rebellious servant ekes out an existence in the shadowy and subtle part of the material reality. The Alien has, through his servants, spread around terrible propaganda against this rebel servant describing him as the source of all evil and the 'Father of Lies'. when in fact all he wanted was to independently share the good things that the Alien enjoyed. Sure, the rebel servant has become somewhat bitter and twisted and is not particularly  benevolent to other humans, so must be approached with extreme caution. The Alien of course intends to destroy this rebellious servant once his harvest of the human servants he wants is complete.

Perhaps after the earth, the Alien will harvest servants from other races on other planets. Once harvested his servants will be utterly dependant for their existence on the Alien and assimilated into his being to a very large measure. They will live either on the earth post the extinction of the rejected humans or in his 'Mother Ship' the New Jerusalem as it is called which will enter orbit of this planet. The servants will forget their human lives and also their relationships and ties with family and friends who the Alien rejected. The servants will never think to ask what happened to the latter. Indeed it seems the rejected humans cannot simply be anhilated, but because they have some immortal spark they have to be imprisoned for ever in darkness and chains and cut off from the universe by being surrounded by destructive fire.  It also suits the Alien to have such a prison because if any other creature in the universe or servant is minded to rebel then the Alien can point to the 'fate' of these other rebels. This is the Alien's 'ultimate deterrent' policy and it has largely been effective throughout history.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

So what point paganism?

So why not merely be a naturalist atheist/agnostic? Why align oneself with the kooky views of pagans?

At present I have a number of justifications for this odd behaviour:

1. We need to find a way to relate to the rhythms of nature and the ecological if not monistic interconnection between all life
2. Nature is awesome and mysterious. A spiritual sensitivity is a sensitivity to the awesome and mysterious nature of being, life and consciousness that is manifest in nature.
3. I like the ancestral stories and I want to feel a 'depth' and 'rooted connection' to my existence by identifying my transitory existence with a long line of ancestors and ancestral tales. Telling the stories of my ancestors and reverencing how they have contributed to my existence is a form of 'immortality'. I too would like to be among the honoured ancestors.
4. I am fascinated by ancient and early medieval history viz the 'pagan' and 'pre-Christian' past including its symbols and iconography.  In particular I am fascinated by the transition from pagan to Christian culture and the thin veneer of Christian mindsets that overlays what is still basically a pagan culture right until the present day. Indeed I consider Christianity as having directly evolved from both judaism and contact with pagan mystery religions.

5. I am sold on the power of 'Archetypes' as stable, public and empirical, albeit invisible realities in the human mind and the power of the conscious and unconscious mind generally to shape how we live and behave. I think even Archetypes in the jungian sense imply fundamental patterns and principles in nature (such as unity, polarity, triads, and webs of interconnection) that though not 'sentient' in themselves, still provide an underlying structure to reality or at least our consciousness through which we 'know' that reality. Indeed reality 'in itself' in unknowable, as everything is mediated through mind. Myths provide powerful windows on the development of the human psyche and culture.

6. Paganism in its modern guise protects and preserves nature by declaring it 'sacred'

7. I remain open to possibility that other aspects of nature even what is considered inanimate may have subjective experience, i.e. a panexperientialism or panpsychism. This is my 'animistic' tendency, to see aspect of non human nature as not merely objects but as experiencing realities even if they are not 'minds' capable of thought and will as such. It follows that our own unconscious mind represents in evolutionary terms an earlier primordial state of our animal existence before we became able to think in conceptual terms.

8. Neutral monism is not incompatible with paganism, nor is process theism i.e. panentheism monism, but these are philosophical positions that I tend to hold or lean toward. On the other hand I find I cannot believe in a theistic supreme mind who has providential control over the world, which is a core doctrine of classical monotheism (the belief in one supreme deity even if other spiritual entities and powers are also admitted to exist). Paganism is usually defined as a nature centred spiritual belief that is distinct from classical monotheism and generally opposed to this hierarchical and teleological view of the world.Even while most pagans admit to a unifying ground of being or principle they consider there are a huge plurality of spiritual powers and forces working in harmony or not. For the pagan what is 'god like' is any natural power with the ability to create, preserve or destroy e.g. elements like fire, wind, water, the sun. 

9. Druidry is a spirituality inspired by the nature, landscape and ancestral stories of the pre-Christian British Isles. Druidry is concerned with the arts, with psychology and with 'natural philosophy'. It is concerned with ritual as a means to altered states of consciousness, and awareness that promote a sense of belonging and connection and a 'love for all existences'. It is also environmentally friendly and politically radical.

10. I find I am able to interpret references to the 'Great Spirit' as the triad of the  * 'is-ness' of being, *the creative power of life aka at base 'the will to be and to become', and *the 'self-reflective knowledge of the truth' and 'world creating logos'  that is our consciousness. We are, as far as we know, the only fully conscious self reflecting part of nature...indeed we are collectively the rationally thinking 'mental' aspect, the rational mind of the earth, which is our 'body' (that fully and only  sustains that mind).

Default naturalism

Hi, I've been playing my favourite game of 'metaphysical speculation' of late. This involves my considering pantheism, pandeism, deism  and examining their logical implications and what, if anything, theses isms provide in terms of explanatory power and to what extent they are even attractive notions. I find I have to accept that the only reliable knowledge appears to come via the scientific method and deductive logic.All other belief systems do not fare well in explaining the world as disclosed by science.So I must accept that 'naturalism' must be my default belief system and with it the implications that there are no supernatural entities (including gods and spirits) and no after-life.

Here are some problems and serious objections  I have identified with the following  isms -

Pantheism - naturalistic pantheism asserts no new facts about the world but just describes a human's aesthetic and emotional response to the naturalistic thesis. Therefore it is not, strictly, a world view at all. For spiritual pantheisms see below on monism.  Also even if we ascribe to the universe some of the feelings and qualities the religious attribute to God, perhaps the most important aspect of a theism, from the believer's point of view, is that God is Good and sentient. I would insist that an impersonal amoral entity like nature, however vast and beautiful cannot be compared to the theist's notion of a God.

Pandeism - If God has become the world, and ceased to be a sentient existing entity, then isn't pandeism really saying that God has 'died' and we are made from his remains? God becoming a finite insentient amoral universe is a change from God to non-God.  Therefore pandeism is the belief that God used to exist but does not any longer. The only advantage of pandeism over mere pantheism seems to be that it provides a first cause. But the deus of pandeism cannot provide any succour or hope, it cannot be worshipped or related to in any way. I have put forward in previous posts the suggestion that God created the universe and the universe evolves into God. But I have realised that  between creating (and then dissolving) and evolving again from the universe God would be wholly unable to control the destiny of the universe. Thus if something happened to destroy life in the universe then God would not evolve - the whole speculative notion clearly unravels at this point.

Deism - Why does the deus create? If there is no reason for this, there is no reason for us and no reason to think the creation has any long term goal or purpose apart from merely being. I once thought it might make deism more attractive if one could consider that the Deus has expressed and manifested itself through the Cosmos, that in some sense the Cosmos is the divine embodiment of the divine glory.

But  a number of problems have presented themselves: firstly  if the deus does not intervene in creation as some deists insist then what do we make of the act of creation itself? Isn't creating just such an intervention? If God can create why can't he preserve and destroy also? You see, by claiming the Deus is a creator of the universe, and perhaps of living creatures, requires the kind of power and potential for intervention normally attributed to the God of theism.  For the same reasons Deism does not avoid the problem of evil if God can create the world and design life. Even if God is not omnipotent such creative powers would surely prevent much evil in the world if God applied them at any other time since creation And if God did not want to prevent such evil but could, then he would not be worthy of worship.

And if  instead Deists say that God simply caused the initial conditions for the universe, then God can only really be said to be only the creator of the initial conditions, not of, say, trees, animals or humans. The first cause in a very long chain of causes is not the creator deity of the theist. Also creating the initial conditions is not really 'expressing' the divine nature's good or creativity, except in a very narrow limited sense. Creation is therefore not meaningfully an  'expression' or 'manifestation' of deity if the Deus is simply the first cause or the fine tuner of initial conditions, as these limited creative processes cannot transfer the character or beauty of their creator into the created surely?

Also I doubt Deist's claim that their religion is 'rational'. It may be more rational as it lack many supernatural elements, but if God is proved by reason, how is a reasoned atheism possible? I think there are strong rational grounds for atheism or at least agnosticism. It turns out that deism is only more rational relative to theisms. Ultimately deism also rests on notions that are not themselves rationally proven or empirically demonstrated. And once it is admitted that deism is not really fully rational, it seems to lose much of its USP.

Monism  The problem of this belief system is explaining the paradox that the unity is expressed as many and is subject to constant change and flux. The analogy of the 'waves' on the surface of the still ocean depths is helpful but where are the true physical analogs of this analogy. What in our universe equates to the 'ocean depths'? Is this the quantum vaccuum full of 'vacuum energy' perhaps? But somehow a monistic spirituality wants the underlying unity to provide a spiritual dimension not merely an impersonal physical ground of existence. Perhaps monism does allow us to say 'all things are interconnected' but this does not provide the kind of attractive prospects of the theist's hope of eternal salvation. If we dissolve into the one-ness at death, this is just another form of oblivion. Are we to say that the one-ness is consciousness and bliss as well as fundamental being and existence? But if the experience of one-ness is sufficiently good for itself and our final end, why does the cosmos exist, or matter? Any kind of monism, irrespective of truth value, if elevated to a spritual path seeking 'oneness' with 'The One' seems to deny all the value of worldly forms and experience. And if the spiritual path is to be located in this world, this monism has no religious advantage over mere naturalism. Even if philosophically it is true there is an fundamental unifying principle,  what does this mean to me personally? My answer - not a lot.

So What?
Indeed one might say 'So what?' also of Deism, Pandeism and Pantheism as well as Monism.  These cosmological models however coherent they may be in themselves,  do not provide me with any final goal or final purpose in life or happy ending, nor any personal relationship with deity that respects my individuality and what I value and love. These isms fail to provide  me with attractive  'spiritual' values, purposes or goals over and above what is available from a mere naturalistic take on the world.

I have concluded then that these isms provide no religiously attractive substitutes for a theism proper.  After all, only mere theism claims to provide a  happy ending to the story of space and time that preserves individuality. Indeed theism easily ticks all the boxes of what wishfully thinking humans would like to happen. Indeed it is 'too good to be true'.And it so happens that apart from our strong intuitions that theism is true - intuitons surely  rooted in mankind's greatest desires -  it seems theism cannot be rationally sustained.

I could go on to say that if theism is the only religion worth believing in, even if I can't believe it, then it is worth clarifying what I mean by theism: a religion found on a belief in one or more gods that have providential control over the world and reward their followers with blessings and happiness. This definition may seem to offer a very instrumentalist even selfish view of religion, but would any religion be founded on reverence for deities that made no alleged difference to our lives (i.e. they could be ignore without any consequences) or  only had to be appeased to avoid bad consequences? Surely we revere deities in the hope this will result in our good - i.e. for the same reason we are motivated to do anything in life.

Sadly there is no good reason to believe - to have real confidence -  in theism. Everything  we know about the world and universe today testifies that there is no providential control and that the Gods or Gods are absent from every day experience even if they cannot be proven not to exist. There is no evidence that believers fare better than non believers in this life, once the placebo effect of  'positive thinking' is accounted for in putative survey of the population. And I think I have demonstrated to myself that the God of the philosophers, as an absolute or ground of being or  first cause only, provides no joy or satisfaction to encourage religious belief or practice. Indeed the God or God substitute of pantheism, deism, pandeism and monism is really quite irrelevant to every day existence, merely vain metaphysical speculation to no good purpose for my life.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Walk in the wood

I had a walk in my local wood this evening. It was starting to get dusky and there had just been a short rain shower. I felt drawn to the wood once again. Sure I was feeling stressed before. But just to walk, then sit (on a piece of dry-ish leaf littered ground), breath slowly, close my eyes, quickly got me into a relaxed state. I did the 'Light Body' exercise from my OBOD training, and then I just  concentrated on the minute details of the edges and veins of leaves, bark, leaf litter, little insects, all kinds of sounds, gentle breeze and how it gently shook the leaves, all this very intently for minute after minute until I was no longer sure of how much time had passed at all. Soon I was detached from everything about my life outside the wood. The wood seemed to be all there was, all there ever was.

Gradually I felt the  deep unconscious primordial energy within everything. I became very calm, absorbed in this web or field of 'energy' and 'vitality'. I am conscious, but as 'watcher'  only. My body becomes the wood, the wood an extension of my body. After a period sitting, and also just standing in a profound meditative state but rooted to the spot, my mind was perfectly stilled, indeed it was difficult to move - I was so relaxed and at peace with the 'is-ness' of just being.


Spirit is Being, Life and Consciousness.

* Being is the primordial eternal state that like the human body has 'conscious' and 'unconscious' modes.
 *Life is the physical power and vitality of the Cosmos that arises out of the primordial eternal state. It can also be  likened to a pure will to be, to create.
*Consciousness is  either the 'pure' consciousness of the primordial state, a state of apperception, without cognition, it is also the consciousness of sentient beings as they evolve in the Cosmos, in a sense they are the Cosmos' self awareness. Eventually the Cosmos either collectively or individually acheives an 'Omega Point' of the most advanced intelligence. This schema is not deterministic, because though the 'goal' is set and inevitable, the direction of travel (as with rivers flowing to the ocean) is indeterminate. The force driving mankind toward this Omega Point is a religious instinct, and is, in Jungian terms, 'archetypal'.

Being is the 'Father-Mother' Godhead;  Life is the 'Spirit' within nature, the Omega Point Consciousness is that of the 'Son of God', the 'Cosmic Christ'.  A person even now may show this advance 'Christ Nature' which seeks to do good in the world until the end of (it's) time, then attains union with the primordial consciousness, dissolving into that bliss.

This schema assumes that Consciousness always works through unconscious matter that embodies it and manifests it.  Primordial Consciousness does not 'act' in the world as an agent.  Thus it is not like the theistic deity. Indeed the schema also works with a series of cycles where the embodied Godlike Omega Point state is followed by  material dissolution and a divine sleep of unconsciousness, until the Cosmos begins again, though the Godlike Omega Point being(s) could set the 'initial condition' of the arising of a [future]Cosmos.

What is and will be...

Another exercise in speculative metaphysics....

1. Before all worlds there is a mutuable and eternal primordial stuff, also called the 'apeiron' of formless. The nature of this is unconscious. There is also an eternal, absolute state or the 'isness of pure being'. The primordial stuff is like a 'bubbling' cauldron of energetic particles, while the is-ness of pure being is the background reality, absolute, limitless light.
2. The unconscious primordial stuff evolves following initial conditions into the Cosmos that we know
3. The Cosmos eventually evolves conscious beings over aeons.
4. The conscious beings either individually or collectively attain the 'Omega Point', the highest point of intellectual and spiritual evolution. These conscious beings are the 'evolved ones' who rule a Galactic Civillization.
5. The Cosmos gradually undergoes dissolution, and the 'evolves ones' ascend to the absolute state of pure is-ness, where they no longer act in any world.
6. Before this ascension the evolved ones of the Omega Point become the first cause of the initial conditions that set the creation of a new Cosmos in process.
7. Thus there is a cyclic process where the end point of one universe becomes the cause of another universe.

Theory #2: As above but the evolved ones attain a state of cosmic union of minds, a 'Godstate' ruling an advanced civillisation of sentients in our far future before they simply sleep as the universe dissolves into primordial 'soup'. The Cosmos evolution is therefore in a true sense the 'dream' of a God. They may also though still be the deliberate initial cause of the Cosmos evolution.

Theory #3: As above, but instead of an endless series of cycles, there is one great spiritual cycle. Eternally there is a primordial stuff that has two modes: a very large unconscious nature and also a primordial conscious nature. Through the evolution of space and time in the unconscious nature, the cosmic body as it were, the conciousness nature manifests itself, moving toward the Omega Point. The primoridal consciousness creates by pure will or desire to manifest.  By this manifestation, the consciousness reproduces itself through the creation of 'souls'. The purpose of these souls is to advance the manifestation of 'good' in the world, in particular beauty and creativity through a galactic civillisation.. When their bodies dissolve back into the primoridal stuff the advanced souls may achieve eternal communion with the primoridal conscious nature, indeed they may acheive  total union with the primordial consciousness.

Sunday, 8 May 2011


I may have just coined this term...at least a quick Google survey didn't turn it up.

Some explanation of 'pan-ek-theism' which I intend by use of the ancient greek components of the word to mean 'everything - out of/from - God. The term by the way is my own, but the concept is very ancient, usually being described as a form of qualified monism or non-dualism.

For me Pan is 'everything, the all' the cosmos, but what I mean here by cosmos is physical, manifest nature including all matter and all forms, known through science and everyday reason
Theism is problematic as per the previous post, but if theism is allowed  ( thought my last post sought to disallow it!) to actually encompass spiritualities that deny that God has an individuated 'mind' or 'will'  or even a 'cosmic consciousness' e.g. pantheism then it follows the label 'theism' might also apply to me.
I don't think the Pan is 'in' God as fish are 'in' the sea. Panentheism is taken to mean that the divine is 'transcendent' as well as 'immanent', that God is in everything but God is yet more than 'everything' . Wrong, I say. There is no 'outside' of nature (though there might be a spiritual 'inside') The deeper reality which I am strongly disinclined to call 'God' (though Goddess is somehow perhaps more appropriate if such God terms be used at all - see previous posts)
ek or ex or even ec  Explains how I think the physical cosmos is realated to an Unus Mundus, deeper reality

Here is a general  but very rough draft of my metaphysical framework:

A rather subtle distinction I will make is between

Panentheism e.g. process theism  and  the religious end of the road for immanentism viz Scientific or Naturalistic Pantheism. My system is I think a 'middle term' and conceputally a form of  qualified non dualistic and dynamic monism. Perhaps I could use the term pan-ek-theism because everything we generally take to be the 'all' (i.e the physical cosmos) arises I think 'out of' the deeper 'spiritual' reality (by this I mean not efficient or mechanical cause and effect, but as a necessary metaphysical dependency like the notion of the Son of God as the 'only begotten' of the Father does not imply a creation in time of the former in traditional Xian theology).

However the deeper reality is in my view not 'also more than nature', it is not encompassing the pan or nature. So contrary to some definitions of panentheism I don't think we are fish swimming in the ocean of God. Rather I think the spiritual deeper nature is instead co-extensive with the physical nature we know, indeed it is the invisible interiority or dimension of physical nature (there is no 'outside' nature, only a 'surface' nature and an 'inside' nature in my view). As I say the 'pan' arises out of the deeper nature it is superficially perhaps similar  to an 'emanationist' viewpoint except for me what arises 'nature' is not better or more profound in its gloriousness than the hidden deeper reality or vica versa - logical priority (the pan is eternally begotten by the deeper reality) does not I think imply a value judgement. The spiritual is not 'more good' than nature, because 'Good' is seen as a relative and not absolute term as it seems to have been for Plato ( we must always ask, about any state of affairs, Good for whom?). That said the deeper reality involves not absolute  random chaos but a hidden harmony and patterns (c.f.the Tao)  and perhaps a spiritual 'great attractor' is the tendency to move toward manfiestation, to ultimately to know and be known, a creative will to be, even yes, a 'will to power' after Nieziche. This hidden harmony is probably also ultimately 'mathematical' in nature but involving a form of logic quite different to human conceptions of the same. It goes without saying that the hidden harmony of the deeper reality does not care about human individual interests.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

No one in charge...

My  current philosophy I class as 'non-theistic' because I don't accept what I consider to be a cardinal belief of  theism, namely that it supposes the existence of a superior sentient conscious mind (or minds) that created and/or directs the universe in accordance with its will (or 'wills'). I assume one can't have a theism that insists that god doesn't even have the attribute of consciousness or a god that lacks a 'mind'. It follows that I don't consider that naturalistic pantheism is really a theism at all (indeed Dawkins was right when he called it 'sexed up' atheism).  I don't doubt that one can have a  naturalistic spirituality, only I think to call this a theism just perpetuates misunderstanding, implying as it does that pantheists 'worship' nature. Do they? I think most would deny they give nature the kind of attention that a theist would give to his deity (pantheists don't address prayers and petitions to nature for instance). I would also defend the right of atheists to insist they regard nature with awe and reverence just as much as any naturalistic pantheist, without having to accept the label 'pantheist' for themselves.

My non-theism is not consistently a 'naturalistic' philosophy, in that I give considerable importance to intuition and mystical experience  including mystical traditions as a source of 'knowledge' along with rationalism and empirical science. I am also fascinated by archetypal psychology and parapsychology; I also consider that the scientific method while highly reliable cannot discover all that is or may be. Also I am aware that science is undergirded by certain philosophical assumptions that cannot be definitely proved. Finally I believe that the scientific establishment often resists new thinking or minority viewpoints, and is full of 'egos' and subjectivity affects the way results are interpreted - but my point here is that  scientists are 'only human'.

I consider behind the world of phenomena described by science there is a deeper reality of interconnection, a fundamental unifying principle-substance-force. Others have called this the 'unus mundus', the 'one-ness' of the world (this is not the notion of a transcendent 'One') This deeper reality is not 'god' . It is not a cosmic mind. It is unconscious primordial material, not mind or matter, but the essential stuff of neutral monism. This stuff is formless and infinite, the womb of all being.  This deeper reality serves some traditionally theological functions - it is I consider a necessary and first cause. All things come from and return to this ground of being. It is also not 'out there' but 'in there', representing the ultimate interiority of everything. Everything phenomenal is an outgrowth of the deeper reality and is an expression of a 'will to create', (after Goethe) a non-cognitivie tendency to self transcend, to become more than what it already is, to become more complex, to be more free, to ultimately know and be known. Naturalistic evolution would deny this notion of nature having a will or a teleology  (goal orientated) but then we know what our will is and it is ultimately based in a psycho-biological drive that is more than a mere will to survive - it has an existential aspect I feel. At base iif our will does not require conscious thinking or rationality (rather the latter articulates and also justifies what will wants), so I don't think is it an inappropriate athropomorphism to ascribe an unthinking will to create even to non-sentient nature.

So life evolves by random process, but it seems to me that evolution has a 'direction'. Nothing however remains for ever - even  having acheived the highest state of evolution that sentient life must die eventually. There is the natural law requiring that all things must return ultimately to the primoridal reality..Form is limited both spatially and temporally, and nothing persists for ever except the unbounded formless deep reality itself. I consider it possible that the evolution of life and technology will result in what Tiellhard De Chardin called an 'Omega Point' entity. In my version of this, there comes a point where living entities will acheive almost god-like powers in the universe (or multiverse); indeed the ultimate survival adaption would appear to be the ability to transcend material limits altogether. I am  open therefore to the speculative idea that our universe was 'intelligently designed' by an Omega Point entity from another universe (I am even open to the extremely speculative possibility of a 'bootstrap' universe, that the Omega entity is the result of the evolution process set in train by the same Omega that has somehow transcended space and time)

But, apart from the notion of the Omega Point entity as a future end point of evolution, I do not consider there is anyone 'in charge' of the universe. It would be very nice to give up personal responsibility and hope that someone 'up there' care and is able to 'look after us'. It would be very comforting and reassuring. But there is no rational basis I believe for such a notion that satisfies only our wishful thinking and anxiety.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

lets get metaphysical....

These notions appeal to me:

1. Neutral Monism
2. Everything is One or Unity at the deepest level of reality
3. The universe is manifest through a dialectical process - the interaction and synthesis of opposites
4. The 'force' of nature is 'creativity' or the 'will to be and self transcend'
5. There is no presiding 'mind' directing the cosmos instead there are 'fundamental principles and laws'
6. Though everything is a unity, the manifest universe is a 'process': the 'events' and 'incidences' of the underlying, primordial substrate. The closest analogy is the relationship of surface waves to the ocean as a whole.
7. There is only one 'substance' and everything is a 'mode' or 'appearance' of that substance.
8. The 'spirit' of something refers to its essential being, vitality and conscious state (including the unconscious)
9. The spiritual aspect of the world is its 'interiority'. Spirit is not 'out there' but the depths or ground of being.
10. Physical evil 'apparent' because what is evil to the individual may not be evil as regards the whole.Death and Chaos drive 'evolution'. The dialectical process also causes temporary imbalances and conflict before it is resolves. Sometimes physical evils may be the result of imbalances in health or ecosystems caused by human behaviour.
11. Moral evil is the result of a false notion of 'autonomy' and a refusal to accept the 'other' as essentially the same as ourselves. This leads to self-aggrandisement and finally injustice.
12. Injustice is exceeding our bounds or proper place  in the 'dance' of existence. It is the result of hubris or arrogance. It is demanding more than we need, taking more than our proper share, or interfering with another's integrity and capacity to fulfil their potential. The golden rule follows from the principle of equality, which in turn follows from the principles of identity or sameness and unity, and thus it is derived ultimately from the kind of 'monism' espoused above.
13. By the same token Justice seeks to recover sameness and unity, and to acheive this it is 'restorative' and sometimes 'equalising'. Thus who have taken too much must make amends by returning what they have taken. Where the damage to another individuals' integrity and capacity is more serious, a common view of 'justice' is that it appears to require that the damager experiences a punitive consequence of corresponding severity that detracts from the damager's integrity and capacity e.g. loss of freedom. Thus punitive justice tries to 'equalise' the pain and deriment of the offence  between victim and damager where it cannot be other wise be 'undone'.
14. Every actual incident or event has both a physical and mental 'aspect' (but not a dual  nature) - this notion is derived from Process Philosophy.  Essentially everything that exists has an interior mental aspect. This is not the same as saying everything has a cognitive mind or the ability to think. The mental aspect may be 'unconscious' but all beings would appear to have a 'subjective' mode - thus it is meaningful to talk about what it is like to be a 'rock', a 'tree' and so forth. The primordial universe  - the universe before the manifestation of space and time -  is 'unconscious' and potentially conscious, it becomes conscious only through the evolution of sentient beings who are conscious. Sentient beings collectively represent the 'consciousness' of the universe. However there is in our space and time no 'over mind' but sentient intelligence may one day evolve into an 'overmind', an intellectual 'omega point'.
15. Eschantologically, the 'omega point' over mind - the final state of sentient life in the universe - may become so cognitively advanced to be able to transcend all physical limits.It is possible this omega point over mind can also  transcend time and space, which opens the possibility of the ultimate paradox: that the self caused universe. However I consider this notion entirely speculative.

Thursday, 31 March 2011

The language of myth

Of course all talk of the absolute, of  the dialectic, of the gods and goddesses is about 'myth making'. Myth is unverified, it is not scientific, it is the product of the imagination, relying on symbols not concrete provable realities. It is a device to think profound things, a language game.. It is not the public truth of science. It is about private truth.

God and Goddesss (Part Two)

A recap - The potential and dialectic of the absolute is resolved in the process of becoming. Becoming is creative and fecund; it is also the will to be, to manifest and ultimately to know and be known through the evolution of a self reflective consciousness in sentient beings, who might, just occasionally, perceive 'the whole'. They may also perceive that the centre of their individual being is the same ground of reality, where all is one and one is all.

We can personify the dialetical and evolutionary process of becoming as the erotic love dance of the god and goddess.

The god represents in this metaphor 'limit, form, will, analysis' and the goddess represents 'infinite, matter-energy, power, and synthesis. The god and goddess are the parents of us all - from these two after the first one, come the myriad of beings.

Of course, we mustn't strain these metaphors too far.....

Monism, God and Goddess


Sunday, 27 February 2011

Bard, Ovate and Druid, and the 21st Century Druid

This is my current take on what the alleged 'three grades' could mean today (these suggestions may be subject to complete revision in future!)

The Bardic 'grade' represent all the artistic and creative aspect of druidry; including learning the discipline required for creativity and getting in the right 'mind set'  and state of awareness to find inspiration. My bardic skills, such as they are, are 'creative writing' but I definitely need more discipline and more inspiration....To live in the tradition of the ancient bards we might want to practice poetry and story telling, and perhaps we can enjoy the discipline of  memorising, say, ancient sayings and story forms.

The Ovate - tricky one to 'modernise' as the ancient Ovates were seers and healers. I wouldn't recommend anyone who is an Ovate as a substitute for a doctor or nurse if you are significantly ill.  To me the 'healing' that the modern Ovate can seek is 'self healing' principally - living a balanced lifestyle and finding psychological healing. What about the 'seer-ship'? Well I happen to think there are some interesting psychological lessons to be learnt from, say, using the tarot cards or other forms of 'divination' but I don't think they tell us a predetermined future. We find out something about ourselves, and the deeper we know ourselves the more we know our potential, our strengths and weaknesses, and thus to some extent mould our future 'in this sense'.  I could therefore tentatively suggest that the modern Ovatic tasks are primarily 'Psychological'
The Ovate seer was also  definitely interested in 'natural philosophy', what today we call 'science', but does not required that we become a professional scientist or even study for a GCSE in Chemistry. The ancient natural philosopher would study patterns in nature and draw conclusions. Ancient stone circles are for example testimony to their meticulous observational and mathematical skills.
To fulfill the Ovate grade I think we should just want  to get to  know something more, deeper and richer about nature, either the outerworld, the cosmos, or our 'inner world' (aka the 'Other World'). The typically druid interests include astronomy, meteology, and the ways of plants, wildlife, crystals (geology) but also the humanities of ancient history, ancient literature and the Celtic languages because a deeper knowledge of all these subjects provides great 'inspiration' as well as the process of learning and knowledge being a joy in itself.

The Druid grade is a combination of the other two grades and 'then some'. In particular the Druid  (in the sense of those who have reached the Druid Grade) who has honed his creative skills and explored the depths of the outer and particularly inner worlds, will teach, organise rituals and perhaps have a leadership, administrative, or facilitating  role in an organisation or group (without getting puffed up by any sense of grandeur or ego) and may instigate campaigns or activities either regularly or ad hoc.  The ancient druids find their modern equivalents in priests (modern sense = celebrants?) teachers, lawyer-judges, mediators. By the time the Druid has reached the 'Druid Grade' (I don't use these terms interchangeably) he is going to have come to a state of being where he has found a 'Druid Philosophy' (conceptualised or not) that guides his or her judgements and decisions. So I suppose the characteristic of the Druid Grade is developing a 'Philosophy' (your own, not anyone elses!)

So for me at least, the 'watchwords' of the three traditional 'grades'are:


In my ever so umble personal opinion, I don't hold that a 21st Druid has to go through each 'grade' like some system of education or training to be able to call himself a 'Druid' in the sense of 'one who practises druidry'. There can of course be many  advantages in  a formal  'training scheme' and of course it is basic to OBOD druidry that one passes through the various grades. The main danger of such is that one does not develop original thinking and simply imbibes a particular system of belief that is not necessarily true to yourself.

 I am sure that  a coherent Druidry does involve elements of the bardic, the ovatic and druidic task discussed above which can individually or in combination be taken as far as our interest and resources wants to take them. Therefore one can be a great bard, a bit of an Ovate and occasionally do stuff like the Druid Grade. The last thing I'd want to import into my version of Druidry (having once thought otherwise!) is a rigid hierarchy with all the inevitable 'looking down on others' that can result.