Monday, January 12, 2009

The Creator: Just How Lo Can He Go?

Today's invocational blessforme:

Because God's ground and the soul's ground are one ground, the human intellect is not other than the Only-Begotten perfect Image in the Trinity... --Bernard McGinn

In Self and Spirit, Bolton discusses the influence of Greek thought on the development of Christian theology, which I think is often misunderstood, being that it was more a case of the latter "baptizing" the former (just as I bobtize Darwinism, big bang cosmology, neurodevelopmental psychoanalysis, or anything else that tries to get between me and O).

In any event, Bolton argues that Pythagoras, in effect, set off an epistemological revolution with deeply ontological consequences. If you learn nothing else today, just remember that last phrase, because you can whip it out during arguments in order to rattle your opponent.

The point is, the discovery of these mathematical theorems revealed "whole classes of problems capable of the same methods of solution." In turn, this began to liberate knowledge from the purely concrete, the result being that "problems which had once seemed quite different from one another could now be seen to be subject to a single principle valid for all of them." (Remember what we said yesterday about both science and religion reducing the world from multiplicity to unity.)

This new mathematical approach to reality had a "purifying effect" on on the mind, in that it allowed it to "contact," as it were, essences of things. Afterwards, Plato would expand and market this idea, which resulted in "a new meaning and value for the individual," what with man's unique ability to mediate "between two different orders of reality." Once this connection was made, a whole occident was just waiting to happen, what with the idea of the logos, which "signifies an absolute reality which is also inseparable from its productions and manifestations."

And here's the ontological part: the logos "is a reality in which transcendence and immanence are specially combined, and are fused but not confused" (emphasis mine). In short, we now have a kind of paradoxical duality, in that "the terms of the duality are united in the operating Logos itself," so that One is always two and two are always One. Again, if this were not the case, both scientific and religious knowledge would be strictly impossible, for they partake of the sophsame and selfsane principle.

Now, if Man is the being who knows the logos, this means that the logos must in some sense be recapitulated in Man. As a result, we now have the precursor of the idea that man is the "image and likeness," since it is clear enough that he is the microcosm that potentially embraces all levels of reality within himself. Each person is a microcosmos who is "in some sense equivalent to the world."

Here again, to affirm any scientific truth at all, one must implicitly have the underlying faith that mind = reality, otherwise there is no possibility of truth. And this is why it is so absurd for scientific fundamentalists to deny this implicit reality in order to discredit religion, being that the latter is rooted in the same idea that man may know the Real.

Here again, this logoistic balancing act is unique to, or at least uniquely emphasized in, Christianity (also in Aurobindo, but that's the subject for a different post). For example, Bolton points out that for Shankara -- the undisputed godfather of Vedanta and hardest working manas in moksha business -- "this idea of God as being a mediator between Himself and creation must be meaningless, because it recognizes no reality between the Godhead and the realm of Maya; it can thus have no place for the Divine Logos or for the Trinity."

In other words, Christianity brings with it a new dignity, both for the creation and for the individual, and therefore the finite, which is not some kind of accident or mistake, but a reflection of the Creator. The infinite implies the finite, which now gives us a context within which to think about the idea of how the Word could become flesh, God could become man, and the Universal could become the particular. Indeed, in a sense, the infinite would be less than infinite if it did not take on the finite, would it not? For this would mean that the finite possessed something that is lacking in the infinite, which is impossible.

In ether worlds, "if God were solely a pure spirit, man would in some sense be more than God, since he he is a spirit who is also united with all the material levels of being." This would be absurd in light of the idea that we are made in the image of the Creator. In reality, "what is a mediating function in man between the intellect and the natural order is, in Christ, a mediation between God and the whole of creation." Christ "awakens the Logos principle in the individual person, saving it from being a mere potentiality."

No longer is God an intrinsically hidden God who cannot be known so much as apophatically unknown. Rather, in the Incarnation, we have the very archetype of the Creator within the creation and the Absolute within the finite. We also have the eshcaton, or cosmic end, appearing within this "middle" that we call "history," but that's another story.

This antinomy of finite-infinite is not a pernicious dualism but "a generative principle by which the Good brings about all the lower orders of being without any direct or substantive transfer from itself." The ontological and epistemological consequences are "momentous," "since the supremely other-worldly reality now becomes the source of innumerable other realities... which are not simply the play of illusion, because all degrees of real being are distributed in them." The barrier between God and man is bridged, but in a way that avoids pantheism and/or materialism, even while allowing for the partial truths necessarily embedded in each.

Oops. Out of time. To be continued. (All quoted material taken from Self and Spirit.)

27 Comments:

Blogger walt said...

...the ontological part: the logos "is a reality in which transcendence and immanence are specially combined, and are fused but not confused". In short, we now have a kind of paradoxical duality, in that "the terms of the duality are united in the operating Logos itself," so that One is always two and two are always One.

I have not seen this expressed this way before. It interests me very much.

I was reading Kallistos Ware yesterday about "image and likeness." I don't disagree with what you/he says, but I "imagine" the whole subject quite differently. So I'm struggling to formulate coherent thoughts about it. But I appreciate the kind of rolling study you are feeding us!

1/12/2009 10:46:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Yeah, I'm just describing what I see out my window, so I wouldn't be surprised if someone higher up has a better view.

1/12/2009 10:53:00 AM  
Anonymous bob f. said...

"No longer is God an intrinsically hidden God who cannot be known so much as apophatically unknown. Rather, in the Incarnation, we have the very archetype of the Creator within the creation and the Absolute within the finite. We also have the eshcaton, or cosmic end, appearing within this "middle" that we call "history," but that's another story."

Might that story involve Fr. Teilhard?

Ainta that good news?

1/12/2009 11:59:00 AM  
Blogger walt said...

Well, part of what I meant was that I come to understand bits and bytes of the concept, but don't seem to grasp to "significance" of it -- ha-ha, that's how I know I'm not getting it. When the conversation gets around to "Logos," I know it's important.

Also that we come to the table with the references we have, and the images that we've conjured or adopted -- so I'm still translating, and learning a new language.

Apparently, I'm not the only one!

1/12/2009 11:59:00 AM  
Anonymous maineman said...

I had the same reaction. If yesterday was like Mozart, today was more like Coltrane

1/12/2009 12:13:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

B'ob says: Indeed, in a sense, the infinite would be less than infinite if it did not take on the finite, would it not? For this would mean that the finite possessed something that is lacking in the infinite, which is impossible.

Though Buzz Lightyear might not agree, that's a good point. The infinite, by definition, must include the finite, as any set of numbers is a subset of infinity.

1/12/2009 12:26:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

"so I'm still translating, and learning a new language."

No Walt, you're definitely not the only one. And for some of us, this is virtually all new material, so frequently it's less like translating and more like trying to learn several tongues at once by studying the most opaque and obscure texts available (thus guaranteeing that the native speakers won't be of any assistance).

But who ever said raccoons like to do things the easy way? ;)

1/12/2009 12:30:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Speaking of numbers, for that matter, infinity can be sort of recapitulated between 0 and 1.

"Up" or "within".

1/12/2009 12:35:00 PM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

Countably or uncountably infinite? There are kinds of infinity, even.

Walt: did you see my last comment yesterday?

wv: cheticin?

1/12/2009 12:38:00 PM  
Blogger walt said...

River -

I have now!

"...we require transformation and comprehension of the degrees of things..."

Well said! (the whole comment)

1/12/2009 01:08:00 PM  
Blogger QP said...

Prayer Request:

My dear yoga teacher, Donna was in an accident this weekend. She has a broken neck.

Thank you ♥

1/12/2009 01:52:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

QP - what dreadful news! Prayers going out...

1/12/2009 01:55:00 PM  
Anonymous maineman said...

Yes, QP. We'll hope and pray for the best.

Speaking of which, is there a raccoon consensus regarding prayer as a means of affecting horizontal events exterior to the self?

1/12/2009 02:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To awake one day to find like some biblical prophecy this planet moving ever so slowly nearer the sun, our goose cooked, who's calling the shots now.

1/12/2009 06:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Martin the Troll said...

In other words, Christianity brings with it a new dignity, both for the creation and for the individual, and therefore the finite, which is not some kind of accident or mistake, but a reflection of the Creator. The infinite implies the finite, which now gives us a context within which to think about the idea of how the Word could become flesh, God could become man, and the Universal could become the particular. Indeed, in a sense, the infinite would be less than infinite if it did not take on the finite, would it not? For this would mean that the finite possessed something that is lacking in the infinite, which is impossible.

But you cannot apply the infinite to God for to be infinite, as you point out, contains the finite: that is to be divisible and God is by nature not divisible. Both concepts, finate and INfinite require creation. Without creation we have an uncreated indivisible three persons. And even though we speak of three Persons in one nature we commit a serious intellectual error if we imagine God the Son having a conversation with God the Father as if they were two people in the same room.

As for the Incarnation, the more I understand the less I comprend.
wv: lazin: Iza lazin on my bed.

1/12/2009 06:54:00 PM  
Anonymous jwm said...

Martin the troll:
Would Jesus' prayer at Gethsemene not be an example of the Son in conversation with the Father? (I'm asking, not posing a rhetorical question.) Perhaps Nomo could provide some insight here.

Mainman: Holy cow, that's one of the sixtyfour thousand dollar questions, isn't it? I'm sure everyone can find at least one example of a prayer that has been answered (in the affirmative, that is), and one that has not been answered (or answered in the negative). Which brings me to this:

A few years back there was an incident here in Orange County wherein the musical director of the Crystal Cathedral barricaded himself in the pastor's office, and committed suicide. I could not help but assume that the fellow was a man of some faith, elsewise he wouldn't have been associated with the church. And if he was a man of faith I would likewise guess that he had on numerous occasions petitioned God for help in fighting his inner demons. I know I do, and I bet a nickel that I'm not the only one here who has.
Did God refuse help? Did the man refuse God's help? It's way too easy to toss a glib answer at it.

We know all too well that God doesn't routinely suspend the laws of the physical universe for the faithful. They get sick and die just like the heathens. It's more disturbing when the problem seems to be of a spiritual nature. Some find their lives transformed through prayer. Others find themselves barricaded in an office.

wv: weeighen (a wiccan vegan?)

JWM

1/12/2009 08:58:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

QP-
I'll keep her in my prayers. does she still have the use of her arms and legs?

1/12/2009 10:06:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Mushroom said...
Speaking of numbers, for that matter, infinity can be sort of recapitulated between 0 and 1.

"Up" or "within".

Word.

1/12/2009 10:06:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

JWM-
Did God refuse help? Did the man refuse God's help? It's way too easy to toss a glib answer at it.

I cooncur, John. Personally, I'm always amazed at the way God does answer prayer, or perhaps that's just Destiny workin'...I dunno.

But the answer is never what I would have the answer be...nevertheless, it's always the best answer.
And I'm not just talkin' about the answer to prayer but everything it touches and goes to.

For example, I might not get what I think I need, but I will get what I truly need. Sometimes it may take a long time for me to recognize it, but it's always been that way, even during the most tragic ordeals.

One thing I can say with certainty: God will not violate free will but He will lean on you with an O-ffer you can refuse but would be a fool to do so because it's so...youcrative.

Clearly, some things are to remain a mystery, or partial mystery...for now, but I do believe God does answer earnest, heartfelt prayers, but rarely in ways we can immediately grok.

Do some things seem to be unfair?
Of course. You, I, most anyone would definitely answer prayers totally different than God does.
And we would cause all sorts of unforeseen chaos in the process too.

Yet God, as unfair and evil as some circumstances are, can never be to blame. Not if He is Good and He is.

Therefor, the blame or problem lies with us, or perhaps simply "unlucky" sometimes, for lack of a better word at the moment.
The "shit happens" stuff. No one's fault kinda stuff.

I think, ultimately, for me anyways, the main thing I remember is that Jesus prayed for God's will, not his own when he was in the garden hours before being crucified.

And that prayer God always answers, each and every time.
Oh, and when you ask to be humbled (please God, don't hurt me no more!). :^)

I like your thoughts about it, John. Very thought-provoking.

1/12/2009 10:31:00 PM  
Blogger Magnus Itland said...

Prayer shades off into magic, and magic into sorcery, unless the heart keeps adding the "not mine will" as needed.

The day we pray for God to overrule someone's free will, we have definitely left the field of real prayer and got onto another frequency. Blessings should always be OK, though we don't always know what will be another person's blessing.

wv: refireed

1/13/2009 12:37:00 AM  
Anonymous maineman said...

It seems like prayers get answered when they are essentially grounded in a request for help in conforming with God's will. Just like there are times when events demonstrate that we are acting in congruence with the broader reality.

But I have also been acquainted with a situation in which a prayer and physical contact resulted in a shot of divine heat and apparent cure. The "practitioner" -- a 94 year-old Pentecostal -- claims the physical contact is essential to the influx of divine energy.

1/13/2009 05:55:00 AM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

There is a natural healing touch. Think of the gifts as the natural powers of mankind made unusable by the fall.

(As to how this actually works like the rest of the stuff I ain't got no clue.)

Prayer - what is asked in his Name - that is, in his power, which is again, asked in accordance to his will - is always answered. It helps to recognize that God's will is mysterious and since he is not a puppeteer it does not consist of a set of linear things thus making prayer just 'going along with what is already going to happen.' From what I understand (which is of course limited...) prayer works insofar as we are able to tell that we are in communion with Him, and to ask certain things we will become aware will break that communion. There's also the time in which he will deliver on his promise - that's something we just don't know unless he tells us.

I think Schoun defined prayer as a type of union between God and man, he used the word 'Orison'... nevertheless, I've found that certain activities make it 'impossible to pray' - i.e. I can not genuinely commune being in that state of mind. The only way I know of to have this awareness is to pray a lot but when you pray, do not pray to evoke emotions since they will bar comprehension of these subtler feelings. Not that we should block emotions if they arise, but we don't pray with the goal in mind to roll on the floor wailing to the Lord. If it feels robotic at times, that's part of the challenge.

I think that - and I may be wrong - if we find we can not do something - like go to bed - without praying, we might be on the right track.

1/13/2009 06:44:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Here again, to affirm any scientific truth at all, one must implicitly have the underlying faith that mind = reality, otherwise there is no possibility of truth. And this is why it is so absurd for scientific fundamentalists to deny this implicit reality in order to discredit religion, being that the latter is rooted in the same idea that man may know the Real."

Scientist already know the mind does not accurately portray reality. You're the one making assumptions, assuming that truth is possible. Science only seeks to explain our observations, not justify them as a whole truth or reality. Hence why science is always changing and still doesn't have all the answers. Again you make an argument based on a straw man. What truth do you provide by never providing truth?

1/13/2009 06:49:00 AM  
Blogger Magnus Itland said...

Maineman,
the gift of healing and prayer are two alternative channels to draw God's healing power. Those who have become established in the gift of healing may use it even without God's approval in each case - arguably even despite God's disapproval. One should not be quick to lay on hands.

1/13/2009 06:57:00 AM  
Blogger NoMo said...

Perhaps in answer to the question, "The Creator: Just How Lo Can He Go?"...and definitely some insight on prayer -

"In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will."

Romans 8:26-27

Aren't you glad for that!

1/13/2009 07:24:00 AM  
Anonymous jwm said...

Magnus, Nomo, Mainman, River, and espescially, Ben:
Your comments on this thread have been some of the richest fare I've had here at OC. I'm a little choked up. Thank you.

wv:weisms (indeed)

JWM

1/13/2009 08:06:00 AM  
Anonymous M. the T. said...

Would Jesus' prayer at Gethsemene not be an example of the Son in conversation with the Father?

Only sort of but not in the sense I meant. Jesus had one Person in two natures thus in flesh he could speak of "his will not mine". The Son and the Father have the same will and thus the Son could not have said that while Jesus the Son could.
Now i'll crawl back under my bridge and leave the better coverastaion to others.

1/13/2009 06:36:00 PM  

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