Your Father Says You're Grounded For Eternity!
Yesterday we touched on Eckhart's understanding of the ground where the divine and human meet. As McGinn explains, a fruitful way to understand Eckhart's thinking "is through the dynamic reciprocity of the 'flowing forth' of all things from the hidden ground of God, and the 'flowing back,' or 'breaking through,' of the universe into essential identity with this divine source."
This is obviously a different way of looking at reality, but this eternally circular flow is what I was attempting to convey with the abcircularity of my book, which ends in the middle of the sentence it begins with. It is not so much a horizontal circularity as a vertical one, in that it is the essential structure of each now, in which an entire cosmos comes into being and vanishes back into the ground from whence it came.
The river flows,
It flows to the sea
Wherever that river flows
Is where I want to be. --Ballad of Easy Rider, the Byrds
Eckhart wrote that the "first grace" "consists in a type of flowing out, a departure from God," while "the second consists in a type of flowing back, a return to God himself." This may not be entirely kosher, but he spoke of how the Father is the "Principle," while the Son is the "Principle from the Principle" -- "Principle" referring to the "ideal reason" within God, "in which the essences of all things are precontained in a higher, or virtual way." He wrote that "what is produced or proceeds from anything is precontained in it. This is universally and naturally true, both in the Godhead and in natural and artificial things."
Elsewhere Eckhart speaks of a maternal aspect of the Creator, who is "eternally pregnant in his foreknowledge of creation": "before the foundation of the world, everything in the universe was not a mere nothing, but was in possession of virtual existence." But he draws a sharp distinction between God and Godhead, noting that "God acts, while the Godhead does not act." McGinn adds that "In the Godhead God 'un-becomes,' so that this ground must be described as pure possibility, the unmoving precondition of all activity..." Again, God's becoming is his "flowing out," while our return is his "flowing back," or "unbecoming."
This got me to thinking about the nature of this strange cosmos, which has hatched beings capable of pondering its own strangeness. In his book Mortality and Morality: A Search for God After Auschwitz, Jonas talks about the tendency of nature "beginning from structures of a lower order, to create a higher order such as we know. The hypothesis [is] that at the universe's moment of origin (the so-called 'Big Bang') there had also arisen, apart from the total energy of the cosmos, the information that would lead to further developments." Therefore, the Big Bang already contained a "'cosmogonic logos,' an idea that makes room for the concept of a 'cosmogonic eros'...."
The cosmos begins with the mystery of matter and proceeds to the mystery of subjectivity that has somehow arisen "from" or "through" matter. As such, as Jonas points out, the universe evolves from the outer to the inner: "historically, from the earlier to the later; quantitatively, from the most frequent to the rarest; structurally, from the simplest to the most complex; developmentally from seeing and feeling to thinking. Then from that which is innermost, rarest, and latest we turn back to that which is first of all, which even preceded matter."
As we inquire into the nature of "universal matter," we must ask: "From what principle of progress can its development -- that of the whole cosmos and then especially of the Earth up to the most subtle forms of the organic world -- be explained?" For Jonas, the answer is a kind of "universal information," or "cosmogonic logos." As far as we know, information is something that must be "stored" in a differentiated and stable physical substrate, but the Big Bang had no time to store anything and no place to store it, since time and matter didn't exist.
The ascent of nature might be able to be explained naturalistically if it produced machine-like entities with no "residue," so to speak. But as we know from our own experience, this is far from the case, "for there exists the dimension of the subjective -- inwardness -- which no material evidence by itself allows us to surmise, of whose actual presence no physical model offers the slightest hint." "Nor would the fullest description of the brain, down to its minutest structures and most delicate ways of functioning, provide any clue of the existence of consciousness, if we did not know about it through our own inner experience -- precisely through consciousness itself."
Jonas was one of my inspirations in attempting in my book to analyze the human phenomenon on a cosmological basis -- in particular, subjectivity, or the "interior horizon," as an irreducible ontological fact. As Jonas writes, "it is universal matter itself which, in becoming inward, finds its voice in subjectivity. Matter's most astounding accomplishment may not be denied it in any account of Being." Science proceeds by abstracting certain qualities from matter, by "quantifying" it, but these are only abstractions. They are not the reality, which clearly transcends -- or subtends -- the abstractions.
Therefore, at the very least, "we must grant to matter that developed from the Big Bang... an original endowment with the possibility of eventual inwardness.... matter must have been more than what physicists ascribe to it in their speculation on the beginning of things and what can be derived from that for the development of the cosmos."
Now, the question is, who endowed matter in this way, and did this endowment have anything to do with the manner in which cosmic events unrolled in time? In pondering this question, I suppose it is somewhat bizarre to think that our own thinking could solve the problem, but even more bizarre to think that it couldn't. This is because, as Jonas points out, it is difficult to imagine that our subjectivity is an entirely indifferent and "neutral contingency whose occurrence involved no favoring preferment of any kind."
In short, "since finality -- striving for a goal -- occurs in a certain natural being in a manifestly subjective way and becomes effective there in an objectively causal manner, it cannot be entirely foreign to nature, which brought forth precisely this kind of being.... It follows from this that final causes, but also values and value distinctions, must be included in the (not utterly neutral) concept of the cause of the universe... "
Well, I don't really have time to wrap this up, so I'll have to continue tomorrow. I'll just leave you with a quote from McGinn: "Just as creation, for Eckhart, is a continuous and eternal process, so too the Word taking on flesh is not a past event we look back to in order to attain salvation, but rather is an everpresent hominification of God and deification of humanity and the universe -- an incarnatio coninua."
What in carnation? He expectorated a mirrorcle, now you're the spittin' image! You haven't perceived the hologram to your private particle? Come in, open his presence and report for karmic duty.