Unthinking About the Absent God
Well, no, that's not exactly right. Even with infants. The great psychoanalytic theorist D.W. Winnicott wrote about the mother's capacity to be alone-together with her baby, which is the greatest form of intimacy.
In other words, there is a balance between being too intrusive -- for example, of responding to the baby's needs before it even has a chance to be aware of them; or, on the other hand, neglecting its needs, so that the baby internalizes only hopelessness and despair -- as if the cosmos itself is hostile or indifferent to its needs and desires. There is a balance between allowing the baby to feel too much pain vs. not enough pain. Both can be developmentally catastrophic, for if you cannot suffer pain, you cannot suffer pleasure.
One of Winnicott's most widely known ideas -- and Winnicott was a deceptively simple but extremely subtle and profound thinker -- was that of the transitional object. This is an object the baby uses to symbolize the mother, as he makes the transition from symbiosis to separation and individuation.
I well remember my own transitional object -- a very special washcloth which I called my "nong." (I assume that's how it's spelled, but I never thought about it before. Probably derived from "gnawing," which is what I used to do with it). Last night my nong was a cold beer while riding the Love Train. Oh, mama! It's like being back in the womb, only this time with fabulous sound.
But I digress. And reveal too much information. The point is, the baby can't just suddenly go from being merged with mother to being separate from her. Rather, he must go through a transitional stage, in which he re-projects the internalized mother into the nong, I mean, transitional object, and gradually crosses the bridge to autonomous selfhood. Therefore, the transitional object is intrinsically ambiguous, in that it symbolizes both the mother's presence and absence. Also, it is simultaneously subject and object, another key point. So many people see the cosmos as either entirely dead (materialism) or else "too alive" (pantheism) when it is something in between.
Now, what does this have to do with the Creator? Not so fast! I don't yet have any idea. I'm still making the transition from merger with the Dreamer to the wideawake world of unambiguous separation and solidity -- from the Night Mother to the Daytime Father.
UF makes the extremely important point that "the existence of the universe is rendered possible by the act of contraction of God within himself. God made a 'place' for the world in abandoning a region inferior to himself."
This is the Kabbalistic idea of tsimtsum, or "the withdrawal of God in order to create freedom." It adds a vital dimension to the otherwise unthinkable idea of creatio ex nihilo. In other words, it helps us to think about the nothing with which the cosmos is made. For as every pneumanaut knows, the cosmos is a very real present absence; compared to the Absolute, it is nothing. And yet, it is. But how is it?
As follows: "in order to create the world ex nihilo, God had first to bring the void into existence. He had to withdraw within in order to create a mystical space, a space without his presence -- the void. And it is in thinking this thought that we assist in the birth of freedom" (MOTT).
This is why the Void is such a "pregnant mystery," so to speak. Our own subjectivity is aglow with the absent-presence of the divine Subject. The realm of the "mysterious" is not at all synonymous with "ignorance"; rather, it is a mode of knowing. More precisely, it is a mode of unKnowing, a paradoxical "unthought-known" that coincides with the Creator's absent-presence.
Nine out of ten great mystics agree that the unKnown God is "superior" to the known God. How could it not be so? It is foolish to imagine that we could ever contain the uncontainable within our borrowed being. It would be like taking out a loan from the bank in order to try to buy the bank. And we all know where that leads....
If you think the financial "credit bubble" is bad, just wait until the bill comes due on all the stuff secular society has borrowed from religion. There is a huge spiritual bubble at the foundation of materialism, scientism, secularism, and leftism, and I don't want to be around when it bursts.
You can well appreciate why classical liberalism is such a hard sell, being that freedom is an echo of the nothing that makes our very existence possible. In other words, a conservative, in order to be true to his principles, must promise nothing. He must swear to protect our God-given nothing from the enemies who would diminish it, and he must always endeavor to give the people more of the nothing they deserve.
In contrast, the leftist promises everything, but in so doing, usurps our precious nothing, until there's nothing left of it. The leftist give us something for nothing, which is a terrible bargain. The leftist state is like the bad mother who anticipates our needs before we can even feel them, so we become an enfeebled nobody instead of a robust nothing. From there, it is a mere step from being a full-blown EUnuch who can't even be bothered to reproduce. Soon there won't be enough children to feed all the hungry grown-ups, at which time the Muslims will eat them.
As UF further explains, the mystical space of nothing is not only the space of freedom, but of potential. Therefore, it is not an empty nothing, but a plenum that is filled with unborn preconceptions that will become future realizations once they are properly fertilized and conceived. Why does tiny Israel have more patents in a year than the entire Muslim world in a hundred (or whatever it is)? Because the Muslim world cannot tolerate the nothingness of freedom. Instead, its people are swaddled in an allah-too-present, "in your face" god who gives no slack. And yet, I am quite sure there are Sufi teachings compatible with the ideas we are discussing today.
The divine withdrawal and creatio ex nihilo are also related to the idea of kenosis (the self-emptying of God) and the crucifixion. In fact, you could also say that these ideas are linked to sacrifice, in that God must sacrifice, so to speak, a portion of himself, in order for you to exist. He must become "nothing" in order for you to become "something." It is better for you that I go away, because when I do, the Holy Spirit will come, just like a nong.
Obama may be my president, but he will never be my master, as much as he would like to be. For my Master rules by his intrinsic authority, which can only be freely recognized in his absence.
Unknown origin prior to time and space, fount of all being, unborn thus undying, beginning and end of all impossibility, empty plenum and inexhaustible void. Who is? I AM. A wake. A lone. Hallow, noumena! --The New Testavus for the Rest of Us