Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Unthinking About the Absent God

How can free will exist if "all is One?" When we left off yesterday, we mentioned that in order for freedom to exist, there must be a zone in which the Creator is "absent," so to speak, from his own creation. In a way, this is no different than any other good enough parent. If you want to have psychologically healthy children, you obviously must provide them with a zone of personal autonomy. Not when they're infants, of course.

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

36 Comments:

Blogger Niggardly Phil said...

From the link: "God's failure to satisfy Ray's needs immediately induces the latter to compensate for his temporary deprivation by mental activity and by understanding."

Ray are you getting all this?

10/22/2008 07:44:00 AM  
Blogger walt said...

"For my Master rules by his intrinsic authority, which can only be freely recognized in his absence."

From your blog to my mind.

10/22/2008 08:29:00 AM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

Yes! The authority of being. Deep calls out to deep. Or as one of my father teachers has said:

"Distinction in Speech and Action. By this you gain a position in many places and win esteem in advance. It shows itself in everything, in talk, in look, even in gait. It is a great victory to conquer people's hearts. It does not arise from any foolish presumption or pompous talk but in a becoming tone of authority born of superior talent combined with true merit."

It goes without saying that one's heart knows it's own. So whomever you are conquered by, you may know your heart thusly. Even my Orthodox friends who support Obama don't do so with glee. They do so with trepidation.

God save the King.

10/22/2008 08:58:00 AM  
Blogger Robin Starfish said...

not and yet it is
the flavor of d'oh-not wholes
a heart shaped vacuum

10/22/2008 10:17:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

GB says: So many people see the cosmos as either entirely dead (materialism) or else "too alive" (pantheism) when it is something in between.
....

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.


Jesus linked three words: way, truth, and life. A way is a void, of sorts.

A potential potency?

10/22/2008 10:23:00 AM  
Anonymous Petey said...

The keys to. Given! A way a lone a last a loved a long the...



...riverrun....

10/22/2008 10:35:00 AM  
Anonymous scatter said...

past Steve and Eydie's....

10/22/2008 11:16:00 AM  
Anonymous LaFayette said...

from Dinah Shore to Tammie Faye...

10/22/2008 11:20:00 AM  
Anonymous will said...

>> . . . we mentioned that in order for freedom to exist, there must be a zone in which the Creator is "absent," so to speak, from his own creation<<

I would think by degrees, in stages, in terms of spiritual/historical evolution. Thus the need for a "Jehovah" at one time, a fatherly, judgmental, rewarding, punishing manifestation of the Creator. I think we're drawing near the time for the Divine Creativity to fully manifest through humanity, the Jehovah manifestation already having been withdrawn. For those who are not prepared for such . . . well, separation of goats and sheep, etc.

I was also thinking that for the Creator to insure that his potential co-creator partner was indeed separate - for without a separation, there can be no true partnership - there would have to be a certain element of randomness in Creation, a programmed randomness, so to speak. Thus the randomness of evolution, programmed to eventually produce sentient, self-aware life.

I dunno, maybe Einstein was wrong, maybe God does play dice with the universe so as to assure the separation between Him and his creatures. Who knows, maybe there exist whole galaxies in which no sentient life evolves, maybe there are galaxies that teem with sentient life preparing itself for partnership with God.

10/22/2008 11:34:00 AM  
Blogger Ray Ingles said...

EUnuch who can't even be bothered to reproduce.

Or, well, not.

Phil: Um... not sure what "link" you're referring to.

10/22/2008 11:50:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

W--

Absolutely. There can be no game and no creativity in the absence of a random element.

10/22/2008 11:57:00 AM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

Which segues into Scatman John:

Why should we be pleasin' all the politician heathens
Who would try to change the seasons if the could?
The state of the condition insults my intuitions
And it only makes me crazy and my heart like wood.
---
I hear you all ask 'bout the meaning of scat.
Well I'm the professor and all I can tell you is
While you're still sleepin' the saints are still weepin' cause
Things you call dead haven't yet had the chance to be born.
I'm the Scatman.

---

Sometimes you got to take the A-Train.

10/22/2008 11:57:00 AM  
Blogger Niggardly Phil said...

The link was the Wiki article on "Good-Enough Mother" at the beginning of the post from Bob.

Couldn't resist a cheap shot at you.

10/22/2008 12:05:00 PM  
Anonymous christopher said...

"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?"

I have long made the perhaps simplistic distinction between God's World and God's Permitted World. This is the world God Permits. This withdrawal is a "finger pointing" to the "action" or dynamic of that Permission. No Free Will is possible without the dynamic behind these words.

It seems to me that the freedom of co-creation all up and down throughout the cosmos is the whole point. Thus the idea of God's withdrawal is a primary precondition of the manifest cosmos. And the withdrawal is of course not complete, only that which is necessary.

At that point of thought the critical that is left is that some "fragment" of infinite God is still present. But a fragment of the infinite is still infinite unless deliberately truncated still further. Why would God do that? At least to me, God is therefore still infinitely present even though absent "enough" for my freedom (and yours). I admit freely that He could be by His own choice only finitely present.

Are there people who are genuinely not where God is, because He chooses this?

10/22/2008 12:09:00 PM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

Wind is the result of distant air withdrawing, usually because it is heating and rising.

Let that one settle in yo noggin for a moment, man.

10/22/2008 12:18:00 PM  
Blogger Robin Starfish said...

OT, but there are a couple well-placed segues included in today's WSJ photos (Obama / firefighter and McCain / Biden).

10/22/2008 12:34:00 PM  
Blogger Ray Ingles said...

Phil - Ah, feel free. For an insult to actually bother someone, a couple conditions have to hold. First, they have to be aware of it (Bob's original theory was that I was unaware of the insults). Second, they have to think either that it's true, or that people whose opinion they care about will think it's true.

Since neither of the latter hold, go ahead if it makes you happy. :->

10/22/2008 12:38:00 PM  
Blogger NoMo said...

Ray - So you don't care about the opinion of anyone here...yet still you return. Hmmm.

10/22/2008 12:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Petey said...

You wouldn't understand. It's a machine thing.

10/22/2008 12:54:00 PM  
Blogger QP said...

No Nong!

Dont be making home altars with these things!

Devoid of any potential transition to reality.

10/22/2008 12:55:00 PM  
Blogger Ray Ingles said...

Nomo - Just 'cause I don't particularly worry what you think of me doesn't mean I can't learn something interacting with you.

10/22/2008 01:07:00 PM  
Anonymous christopher said...

Seeking

I want to find you.
They tell me you've gone away
Far enough. I feel
You gone but I don't want that.
I want to sit beside you
Or on your warm lap -
Or may I live in your heart.
Never let me go.

10/22/2008 01:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank God we liberated Afghanistan:

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-afghanistan22-2008oct22,0,7466691.story

10/22/2008 02:37:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Ho! Science catches up with the Coonifesto. Key quote:

"Now Egan and Lineweaver have taken a pragmatic approach, reasoning that the only time in the history of the universe that it would be possible for us to exist is around now -- when stars have been formed, galaxies coalesced and planets have evolved for us to live on."

It may have been said elsewhere/ when, but I first looked at it that way when Bob pointed it out. So imo (emphasis on the O, lest any of the usual suspects rush to prove me wrong [in which case, how can you stand by the idea that life here was seeded by some previous alien species?]), the Coonifesto is ahead of the curve on that score.

10/22/2008 02:51:00 PM  
Anonymous ximeze said...

Anony's link

10/22/2008 03:07:00 PM  
Anonymous ximeze said...

Anony's link that actually works

10/22/2008 03:11:00 PM  
Anonymous christopher said...

Yes, Julie, that observation has been around in speculative science circles (there are racoons in that realm too). To say in this circular way that life has to be inevitable and humans too and they would happen just about now in a locale like this in the way the universe is formed - this is what is called an anthropic principle, or more precisely "weak anthropic principle". It is called weak because it is indeed circular if you argue this way without God.

There are strong observations about varying this or that primary constant and finding out that there can't be stars, or that everything burns up too quick, or some other problem. All such that this universe is fairly fine tuned. People in science who care about such things, and there are many, find this a remarkable mystery. The others simply say you can't really pin this stuff down and the anthropic argument is circular (doesn't go anywhere) and this whole "mystery" just isn't very interesting.

I prefer to focus more on the science guys who LIKE this stuff and leave room (in my opinion) for God, and you guys focus more on doing combat with the science doofusses who proselytize for nontheistic randomness. The guys I like write lots of books too, by the way.

10/22/2008 03:25:00 PM  
Blogger NoMo said...

Who chooses who? Although indications are everywhere, for me a definitive answer lies in all the scenery along this path (walk very slowly and deliberately) … and you gotta love the ending: “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.”

10/22/2008 03:59:00 PM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

Nomo: Or if you're Orthodox:

"For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to Him be the glory, to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, both now and ever, and unto ages of ages, Amen."

Just gotta represent with the Trinity up ins.

10/22/2008 05:57:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Whoa - is everybody else seeing this new blogger format?

10/22/2008 06:52:00 PM  
Anonymous cousin dupree said...

Not my fault! I didn't touch a thing.

10/22/2008 06:54:00 PM  
Blogger QP said...

Not to us, O Lord, not to us,

But to your Name give glory.

10/22/2008 06:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks nomo

10/22/2008 07:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

where is everyone's icon? back to nothingness?

10/22/2008 08:11:00 PM  
Blogger Ray Ingles said...

Christopher - Actually, that whole "fine-tuning" argument isn't quite as ironclad as it's been presented.

10/23/2008 06:15:00 AM  
Anonymous austracoon said...

"If you want to have psychologically healthy children, you obviously must provide them with a zone of personal autonomy."

Jos 24:15 But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.

10/23/2008 11:44:00 PM  

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