Sunday, April 23, 2006

If God Does Not Exist, Then Only He Knows It

The other day, I was thinking about what a wonderful outlet this blogging has proven to be for me. Petey immediately corrected me, saying “you mean inlet.”

How right he was. For this is not an outlet for my creativity, but an inlet for someone--or something--else’s. Which is true of life in general. We imagine that we are in charge and that we “give birth to ourselves” and to our children--both our material children and our immaterial children (i.e., our creative productions).

But do we really? Does anyone actually know where thoughts--much less creative thoughts--come from? Yes, leave it to the godlike little ego to think that it could produce even so much as single thought ex nihilo. Soon it will “understand” the human genome, as if this will solve the mystery of how the most complex text ever written can both compose and read itself.

But we do not give birth to ourselves, only to the God that gives birth to us.

What?

Let me try to explain.

One of my influences, the psychoanalyst James Grotstein, has attempted to rescue the concept of the unconscious from its unfortunate reduction to a mere cauldron of uncivilized desires and impulses, and restore it to its true place as a sort of alter-ego, or “stranger within” that shadows our existence in a most intimate, creative, and mysterious way. Far from being “primitive and impersonal” (although it surely includes primitive “lower vertical” elements as well), it is “subjective and ultra-personal,” a “mystical, preternatural, numinous second self” characterized by “a loftiness, sophistication, versatility, profundity, virtuosity, and brilliance that utterly dwarf the conscious aspects of the ego.”*

Grotstein's ideas are unusual in the field of psychoanalysis. Although there is nothing in his writing that conveys a conventional approach to religiosity, he has developed an extraordinary appreciation of the spiritual implications of the unconscious as it manifests in our day-to-day experience. Understanding this “higher” aspect of the unconscious can greatly enrich one’s spiritual life, if for no other reason than it represents such a comparatively larger aspect of consciousness itself. Otherwise, it’s a little like living your life in a tiny boat and never looking around to appreciate the immense ocean upon which your insignificant vessel is floating.

Grotstein sees the unconscious as a sort of “handicapped” god who needs a partner in order to accomplish its mission. The goal of psychotherapy is not merely knowledge of, or insight into, the unconscious, but something far greater. Rather, it is to establish a sort of dynamic collaboration between the phenomenal ego--our conscious self--and the “ineffable subject of being” upon which the ego floats, and into which it infinitely extends (for the boat is paradoxically made of the same water upon which it floats).

Through a creative resonance between these two aspects of ourselves, we are much more spontaneously alive, creative, and “present.” It is like adding another dimension (or two or three) of depth to our being, through which we become something that has never actually been, but is somehow more real than what we presently are. A new entity emerges, a “transcendent subject” that lives harmoniously in the dialectical space between our “foreground self” and this mysterious “background subject” that surrounds and vivifies it.

This novel way of looking at the unconscious has much in common with the 14th century Christian theologian Meister Eckhart. Eckhart liberally relied upon various rhetorical devices such as paradox, pun, and oxymoron in the effort to use language to transcend language. Language cannot ultimately capture God, and yet, it is all we have. As a result, Eckhart said many things that are easy to misunderstand and which landed him in some trouble during his lifetime.

For example, Eckhart wrote that “In my birth all things were born, and I was the cause of myself and of all things... And if I did not exist, God would also not exist.” Just what did he mean by this? (the Catholic authorities asked). In fact, it was something very similar to Grotstein’s description of the godlike aspects of the unconscious. That is, the God that we can know cannot exist without our first “conceiving” and giving birth to him--God needs our assistance, or cooperation, to manifest here below. He needs an inlet.

First of all we have to back up a bit, and make it clear that God in his essence so surpasses our conceptual categories that he is beyond being or knowing, beyond the very horizon of knowability. What he actually is in himself, we cannot say, and he certainly doesn't need us to not say it. Apophatic theology holds that the only true things we can say about God are what he is not. Therefore, only by achieving the “negative capability” of unknowing, can we paradoxically know him in his essence.

Perhaps this is why, as Grotstein writes, God is the only true atheist, “because only He knows for sure that He doesn’t exist.” Furthermore, we are His children.

But we can certainly know God in his energies and activities on this side of manifestation. That is, in Eckhart’s understanding of the incarnation, God is eternally taking on human nature, not just once, but for all time, in the ground of our being. Furthermore, Eckhart adheres to the ancient Christian idea that God became man so that man may become God--not literally, but in Grotstein’s sense of transforming the ineffable, nonlocal God-beyond-being into a local manifestation of his presence. The reason we may know God is because he is perpetually being born in the depths of our soul, but only if we cooperate and act as “midwife” to the process. God gives birth by speaking the word, but we are only born (from above) by hearing it and conforming ourselves to it.

Our secular friends have it backwards. It is not God that requires explanation, but us. God alone properly has real being. God does not understand us because he exists--rather, he ex-ists by our understanding of him, which is ultimately his self-understanding. That is why Eckhart said that the eye with which we see God is the same eye by which he sees us. We are each of us an opportunity for God to exist. Or perhaps more accurately, without us, God is orphaned in the cosmos, with no earthly parents to (p)raise him.

Grotstein even has a fascinating take on the Garden of Eden story. One of the intriguing things about Genesis is that it can be interpreted from so many different angles, each of which is true. Grotstein notes that infants (and secular leftists, I might add) necessarily have what is called an autochthounous notion of creation. Webster’s describes the autochthon as “one who has sprung from the ground he inhabits.” Unlike purely solipsistic leftists, babies eventually move on to other theories, for example parthenogenesis, the idea that mother is the sole creator. Many primitive, pre-monotheistic and post-literate peoples remain in this matriarchical mode, such our academic vaginocracy and other assorted clitterati.

Grotstein identifies the initial God of Genesis with the omnipotent infant. “Like all God-Infants, He believed that He had created everything that He opened His eyes to, including Himself first of all, then everything around Him, including his mother and father, Adam and Eve.” As creator of His parents, He naturally believed that they should be at his disposal. Those of you with infants recognize the pattern.

Despite the clear injunction against knowledge of his real situation, “as time wore on... the God-Infant became more aware of His separateness, and along with this realization He also realized His littleness, helplessness, and vulnerability--and His need for His parents to help Him.” Moreover, at the same time, He “became aware that mother, rather than being His solely devoted object, was involved additionally in another relationship... with father.”

This disturbing knowledge is the “primal treachery” that placed “a dark shadow on the whole phenomenon of knowing.” It “terminated forever the illusion of bliss and innocence.” For the God-Infant did not really create his parents. Rather, they created him. With this knowledge, reality expels us from Eden, which, of course, is guarded on each side by an infant with a flaming sword.

Thus, infantile omnipotence is forfeited, but not completely. From this point onward, it is tempered by awareness that it requires others in order to give it birth. Our a priori “symmetrical” union with all of reality must be channeled into the asymmetrical and reality-based ego. But it is a fully dialectical relationship, one feeding the other.

In other words, we must actually negotiate a “cyclopean” or “double worldview” between fantasy and reality, something that the psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott emphasized as well, with his idea of the “transitional space” of consciousness. We can never actually be just one or the other. We are perpetually giving birth to God, while God is perpetually giving birth to us. Both statements are equally true. Otherwise, we live in the dry desert hell of egoic separation from our source, or the alternate "fluid" hell of engulfment in symmetrical being with no way to express or communicate it--no way for anything to "evolve" out of the formless and infinite void.

Creation means "giving existence to," or bringing something out of nothing. God’s creativity gives existence to us, but we give existence to God in our creative response to his actively present absence. That is, in both Judaism and in Eckhart’s thought, God actually must withdraw from the world in order to create it--otherwise, the world is simply identical to God, and there is no freedom.

We are a creation of the absent God-beyond-being, but in making present our potential and becoming who we are, we take part in God’s creation of us, which paradoxically gives birth to both God and to ourselves. In surrendering to, and cooperating with, our own mysterious ground of being, our self-knowing and God’s self-knowing become a single act of essential knowledge. We give birth to the living God.

*****

*The title of this post is from the book The Symmetry of God. The Grotstein quotes are taken from his book Who is the Dreamer Who Dreams the Dream? (Both are in the sidebar, but Grotstein may be a bit of a challenge for the layperson.)

*****

And on the seventh day he rested, because he was pooped after creating reality. Pay no attention to that serpent in the background.

26 Comments:

Anonymous Helene said...

Skipping the hard parts, I had to go get the Mac wipes to clean the computer I laughed so hard(as did my husband) at the wording of the next sentece.
" Many primitive, pre-monotheistic and post-literate peoples remain in this matriarchical mode, such our academic vaginocracy and other assorted clitterati." With the notable exception, I might add, of the islamists.

4/23/2006 09:44:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Funny thing about the feminist vaginocracy. They overstate the collateral damage in the Muslim world, but minimize the far more widespread clitoral damage.

4/23/2006 10:32:00 AM  
Anonymous will said...

>> . . in both Judaism and in Eckhart’s thought, God actually must withdraw from the world in order to create it--otherwise, the world is simply identical to God, and there is no freedom.<<

(far-out ramble on the way caveat)

And maybe withdraws in stages while, paradoxically, setting the course for the eventual divine union with all of us. Thus Jehovah was the "selecting" God Who meted out necessary "punishment" in order to prepare all souls for the eventual union. Jehovah then "withdrew", ie., changed manifestation so that He could give birth to Himself in and through us rather than exist as Other.

Well, fair to say that, generally speaking, we as a collective have as yet to give birth to Him. So . . where is He? He doesn't serve as Jehovah any longer, no matter how much some muslims would think He does. Was this a case of premature withdrawl?

In some ways, it might be fair to say we are in a state of cosmic limbo. Here's my take - Jehovah withdrew so that we might then fully manifest Him, give birth to Him. This might even have been a pre-scheduled birth, with a certain due date. Only, whoops, we weren't ready. Not good. God fully manifesting in a spiritually corrupt humanity is an untenable concept. Were this to be the case, all life would have to be destroyed. So a Rescue Plan was initiated - one person, one individual, would be prepared to fully manifest God for all of us. Thus the "due date" would be extended, oh, say, for a couple of thousand years or so, giving us time to get our act together, using the aforementioned individual's example as a guide.

Meanwhile, this individual Who is fully manifesting God, is, in effect, Jehovah, and when He returns to the earth plains, will "raise the vibe" of the earth so that God will then manifest fully through all those who have prepared the way. At that point, we will be giving birth to God to the fullest extent.

Perhaps a sign of this individual's impending return to earth would be an increasing polarization of Good/Evil as all fence-straddlers feel compelled to choose a side.

Yeah, well, there it is. Makes sense to me, at any rate.

4/23/2006 10:49:00 AM  
Anonymous will said...

Oh yeah - seems to me that if God must withdraw (in a sense) from his sentient critters, indeed, His entire Creation, in order that they be independent and thus viable partners to Him, wouldn't it make sense that He introduce the element of randomness into His Creation? A random "by chance" element over which He willingly relinquishes control and which insures the independence of His critters?

And wouldn't evolution be the manifestation of such randomness? You know, throw the die, see what comes up.

To me, the concept of evolution ultimately enhances the idea of an immimant God, one Who is apart from, yet at one with His Creation.

4/23/2006 11:56:00 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

As usual, that seems to make sense to me, Will. I especially like the part about "raising the vibe". I believe the microcosms of our own physical body need to raise the frequency of the vibrations as well. The correct physical alignment of a body is very important to keep it running at the highest and smoothest vibrations. I think there is some high rate of vibration throughout each cell in the body that eliminates dis-ease. It is our obligation, especially in the moral sense if we are required to re-birth God on the earth, to fulfill. Energy can flow freely in a body that stands erect like a human being. Has anyone else noticed that the more sedentary we become in our lives and jobs (sitting at a desk all day), the more hunched over and ape-like we become in stature? The sedentary forces of evil are trying to pull us back into the horizontal trees.

4/23/2006 12:55:00 PM  
Blogger LiquidLifeHacker said...

Philippians 2:5-8

4/23/2006 02:53:00 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

I just ran across a great article relevant to many discussions here at One Cos and thought ya'all might be interested,
The Psychomyopic Democrats .

4/23/2006 03:47:00 PM  
Anonymous ben usn (ret) said...

Wow!
The spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord,
Searching all the inner depths of his heart. Proverbs 20:27
I just read that verse before reading your post, and it seems appropriate.
I'm still pondering.
Good verses LLH.

4/23/2006 03:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Hoarhey said...

Bob,

You sure have been loading me down with homework these past couple days. I'll need to contemplate and digest this post all day and then some.

LLH,
Thanks for linking to those Bible verses. I had heard them at various time in my life but had no clue where to find them.

4/23/2006 04:53:00 PM  
Anonymous kahntheroad said...

Bob, great post!

I’m fascinated by Grotstein’s Eden interpretation. Does he analyze other biblical stories in the same vain? And when you say difficult for the layperson, do you mean he has a dry or complex writing style or that I need the background of a doctorate to make sense of his work?

Will,

A while back Bob said something about God playing by his own rules, even though he’s an omnipotent and all that jazz. In this respect, God has to have as much faith in us as we in him. A parent, no matter how desperately they may want to hold their child’s hand through every tough time has stand back and allow him to fail and learn – even when that might be gut retching. Of course, at times, he’ll pop in and nudge us in the right direction, and even there he’ll do so in such a way that preserves reasonable doubt.

I don’t think God withdraws, so much as we drift away from him; and, as we awaken, we draw ourselves back to him.

“Perhaps a sign of this individual's impending return to earth would be an increasing polarization of Good/Evil as all fence-straddlers feel compelled to choose a side. __Yeah, well, there it is. Makes sense to me, at any rate.”

Oh, absolutely. The clarity between good and evil that has become so stark, combined with the willful blindness and desperate equivocations of what seems like the vast majority of the modern world, sure forced this atheist brain to shake it’s dust. Also, this absolute confidence in my core values has given me the confidence to trust my instincts, give in to my ‘destiny’ and follow paths – in artistic, spiritual, and personal directions – I had scoffed at for years. Although I still maintain my skepticism and critical mind, I’m at the point where my burdens of proof have switched to the opposite sides of everywhere they'd been.

Do you believe that the “Second Coming” is of another individual messiah or avatar? Perhaps intention (or hope) when Jesus came the first time was that people would follow him not so much as a God, or leader, but as an example of their own potential. Or, perhaps, more likely is that he would foreshadow – instill his example in our minds to fester for 2000 years.

I’ll add that I still think of these things in metaphoric terms, which apply both to our individual and collective evolution. Of course, events do lend to a somewhat literal interpretation. In that, the general process described in Revelations – Anti-Christ, Armageddon, the whole shebang - may be as necessary a stage for our quantum leap as a messy slide down the birth canal is to a baby’s escape from the womb (well, unless we can figure out how to do a C-section…a Christ section? Resurrection?…. okay, well, maybe this analogy only goes so far…).

Lisa,

“Energy can flow freely in a body that stands erect like a human being. Has anyone else noticed that the more sedentary we become in our lives and jobs (sitting at a desk all day), the more hunched over and ape-like we become in stature? The sedentary forces of evil are trying to pull us back into the horizontal trees.”

Let me concur with Will from the other day – you express yourself just fine. ;)

4/23/2006 06:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If any of this were true all I could say is- "God help us!"

4/23/2006 08:58:00 PM  
Anonymous will said...

Kahn -

>>I don’t think God withdraws, so much as we drift away from him; and, as we awaken, we draw ourselves back to him.<<

I agree, of course. In a different context, however,I think God can be said to have withdrawn in the sense that He no longer manifests as a selecting, "rough justice" Deity, ie., as Jehovah, just as previously He withdrew from His own steady state of Oneness in order to manifest Creation. He withdraws in order that He can manifest directly through us. This, BTW, is the general meaning of the transition from Piscean Age (devotion to an image/ideal) to Aquarian Age (directly experiential)

>>Do you believe that the “Second Coming” is of another individual messiah or avatar? Perhaps intention (or hope) when Jesus came the first time was that people would follow him not so much as a God, or leader, but as an example of their own potential. Or, perhaps, more likely is that he would foreshadow – instill his example in our minds to fester for 2000 years.<<

I think you got it. Christ said we'd do greater things than He did. I think He illustrated just what is possible for the human spirit to attain. Personally I think it will be Him Who returns - there's a certain symmetry there, even a necessity. Some think the 2nd Coming might be more along the lines of a "universal waveform", a vibe, so to speak, and I can see their point. However - I think the 2nd Coming has to, by necessity, be dramatic, something that severs history completely, something that separates "time" from "timelessness", "realism" from "reality". It has to be such that everybody knows it, without doubt or any obfuscating factors.

4/23/2006 09:03:00 PM  
Anonymous will said...

Kahn -

BTW, re the "metaphorical reality" of all of this - you might say that Anti-Christ is already present. Obviously, the philosophy is entrenched and is doing its thing in myriad ways.

It simply figures that such an anti-philosphy as it exists in its extreme polarity must eventually manifest itself in the flesh, just as the opposite polarity of Divine Love manifested itself in the flesh. As it is within/so it is without.

4/23/2006 09:13:00 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Could it be that both the Christ and the Anti-Christ are already present on earth in each of us? It is up to each individual to choose the Christ vibes and help others to choose the same. I think this "group awareness" may be a prerequisite of the messiah in the flesh appearing, Old Testament style.

4/23/2006 09:44:00 PM  
Blogger Mr. Spog said...

While I didn't really understand any of the post, I especially didn't understand this bit:

We are perpetually giving birth to God, while God is perpetually giving birth to us. Both statements are equally true. Otherwise, we live in the dry desert hell of egoic separation from our source, or the alternate "fluid" hell of engulfment in symmetrical being with no way to express or communicate it--no way for anything to "evolve" out of the formless and infinite void.

Is this really a "fluid hell" or is it a paradise (which has to be grown out of)? Would you say that there are psychiatric patients who experience this state as hell, for example?

4/23/2006 10:14:00 PM  
Anonymous will said...

Lisa - I think definitely the spirit of the Christ and antichrist are with us. And yes, it's for us to choose. In a way, we might be compelled to choose. The two sides are being made quite clear - and it's interesting that the two are increasingly finding the other to be more and more incomprehesible, which would make sense if a true polarization of good/evil is underway.

4/23/2006 10:16:00 PM  
Anonymous jwm said...

I've been thinking of the parable of the talents lately, and not being able to make much sense of it until this moment when I sat down to type- I gotta write right now rather than run for the citation. But perhaps this is the question of making God's will manifest on this plane. We all have been given the capacity in varying levels to manifest the divine nature latent within us. Some, through investment of effort (faith), will reap great rewards, others lesser. You do the best you can with what you have. God rewards the honest effort. Some will bury their potential and make nothing of it.
In Buddhism they speak of polishing the mirror until it reflects the divine.

It's interesting how often I hear conversations drift into 'end times' (eschatology is the word, isn't it?) And what Khan wrote about the parent having to sit back and watch the child fail on its own makes sense. We have created our own share of rotten governments and institutions, and we've had to bail ourselves out of them, often at horrendous cost. The American civil war, and the world wars for instance.
But now we're choosing off against rotten religion and the animating factor behind it has the mark of the anti-divine.

Western civilization and the religions that spawned it would have survived if the commies had won the cold war. It would survive in a crabbed and diminished form to be sure, but it would not have been beyond redemption.
islam would chain the human race forever in the bleak horizontal plane of spirit forever enslaved to a false and cruel dogma. It would extinguish the spark of divinity forever. No accident that the symbol for islam is the crescent moon- the phase in which the earth is closest to darkness.
It's going to take more than human effort to get us out of this one.

OK- stream of conscious dwindling to a trickle now. Hello , and good evening to all.

JWM

4/23/2006 10:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Sal said...

Bob and b'heads
this is one of those that separates the Seekers from the Interested Observers. Perfectly fascinating.
I'm slightly getting a picture of the good and brilliant Dr. Whosit muttering through clenched teeth "Must.Make.Theology.Fit.Already.Held.Psychological.Theories." Which is, I guess, the flip side of geo-centric creationists doing same re: science.

One thing I haven't seen mentioned in the discussions of God-knowing-Man-knowing-God: the Trinity. Which says that God, though One, was also Three. So He was not alone, but was exisiting in a perfect communion of love. And so did not need Man to do anything for Him, but created him for the pleasure of his company. ("Why did God make you?" "God made me to know Him, love Him, serve Him and to be happy with Him forever in Heaven.")Not sure how that would fit in, but mention it fwiw.

Off to get a tetanus booster.
Alas, no toy from Target after...
There might be yarn, though.

4/24/2006 06:12:00 AM  
Anonymous Sal said...

That should be "Theory" up there.
PIMF.

4/24/2006 06:13:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Blogspot is having technical difficulty, so today's post will be delayed until they fix the problem.

4/24/2006 08:17:00 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

That's a relief. I just got back from my morning internet news update and thought, "I wonder if Bob is okay or just busy today? Something should be up by now!" Glad to hear you are A-OK and looking forward to some more pearls of wisdom!

4/24/2006 09:01:00 AM  
Anonymous Helene said...

Looking forward to it! Meanwhile, Lisa, check out Michele Malkins new Hot Spot podcasting - first day!

4/24/2006 10:16:00 AM  
Anonymous txjxvcpb said...

Opps, I meant hotair, for Michelle Malkin, that is. Sorry.

4/24/2006 10:21:00 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Thanks for the suggestion, Helene! Did you catch the Pajamas Media podcast for a review of last week's news? It was very good!

4/24/2006 10:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Quantum Mechanic said...

I find your discourse on the unconsciousness a bit of an anthropomorphic narcissistic foray into pseudo science. It is as flawed as Freud's fairy tales on the division of mind and consciousness and personality.

Moi -- I tend to believe that the mind is nothing more than an over-developed consciousness consisting of a million and one different tropisms. Any layers of abstractions are merely a design accident of Darwinism where millions and millions of parallel connected neurons form random connections that sometimes have a framework of coherence but often not.

Unconsciousness itself is merely the ballet of the muscarinic and nicotinic cholinergic receptors compromising the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system combined with overseer neural nets trying to form coherent connections with other neural nets in a dream state.

Any other verbose, idyllic explanation borders on the fantasy. I say this from the frame of reference of a technical architect who has created neural nets with electrons and silicon, and who marvels at the complexity of mental operations (even in cognition and learning) that far surpasses his own abilities in those areas.

12/19/2006 03:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Petey said...

Quantum Mechanic:

I find your pristinely ignorant discourse on the unconscious a frankly scientistc foray into areas of which you posses no subjective knowledge whatsoever, and more generally, a buffoonish waste of human intelligence on a priori metaphyiscal silliness.

12/19/2006 04:07:00 PM  

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