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.