Thursday, June 04, 2009

God's Eternal Surprise Party: Just Add Love

Thesis: God is love. Antithesis: God is dead. Synthesis: Love conquers death. That seems to be the secret formula -- one of the "abstractions" we were discussing yesterday. Or, you could say that God is the "negation of negation," which I believe is what Meister Eckhart said.

By the way, I'm going to try to speedblog a bit, otherwise we'll never get to the end of this. Do you realize that nearly every post this year (excluding reruns) has been about Balthasar, and yet, we've hardly made a dent? We never got beyond volumes one of the Glory of the Lord and the Theo-Logic, and now I'm only on page 68 of the Theo-Drama. I'm afraid that old readers will drop off one by one, and that no new readers will want to come on board because they'll think this is a hyper-specialized blog catering to Balthasar freaks and stalkers.

I don't want that to happen, because I do still want to convey a "universal" message. As I have mentioned before, even if I were officially Catholic, I'm not so sure I'd want to be a "Catholic blog," because then I think I'd have (even) less credibility to outsiders, and it would be much too easy to categorize and dismiss me, instead of being relatively easy to do so.

And although I realize I am fooling myself, I would also like to appeal to a secular audience, at least those for whom their intellectual condition is not fatal. Remember, despite appearances, we are not arguing "from" Christian orthodoxy, but toward it. (In fact, you could even argue that this movement "toward" Christianity is the proper mode, but we'll let that go for now.)

To cite just one example, I talk about the Trinitarian nature of God. Christian theologians say that this is something that mankind could never have arrived at independently in the absence of God revealing it to us. Otherwise, the highest conception of man can only be the One (a la Plotinus) or "beyond being" (a la Shankara or Schuon).

But I think I actually did kinda sorta more or less arrive at this idea independently. I don't think it's so difficult. All you have to do is posit "love" rather than "one" as the highest state. Once you do that, then love automatically implies threeness: lover, beloved, and the love that passes between them. The rest is just commentary. A lot of it.

In my case, oddly enough, I arrived at this conception via modern psychoanalysis, not theology, much less revelation. As I have mentioned before, the structure of my book mirrors somewhat my own journey from lukewarm atheism to promiscuous poly-monotheism.

But in chapter three, in analyzing how man became hu-man and how God put the sapiens into a bunch of homos, I explained how the emergence of man would have been strictly impossible if it hadn't rested on a foundation of being "members of one another," which is an extremely unusual state to be in, i.e., interior relatedness. Human relationships are not like two atoms coming together, but more like an organism with diverse parts. Or, you could say that the private particles are a function of the holographic wave, and that waving to yourself would be stupid.

In short, intersubjectivity is prior to individual subjectivity ("maleandfemale He created them"). And since intersubjectivity is an ultimate ontological category, it was sort of a no-brainer for me to jump to the conclusion that God, whatever else he is, must be intersubjective, consisting of distinct and unconfused "parts" that are nevertheless inseparable "members of one another."

And, just as it is for human beings, it turns out that love is the medium in which this intersubjectivity has its being. Love is what floats your boat on those holographic waves of being. This can be misleading, because we cannot think of this love in any abstract way -- as if it can somehow exist outside a lover and beloved, or ship and lighthouse.

Again, if everything reduces to one, then love gets blown out of the water. Indeed, if you start with One, and then add love to it after the fact, then -- anyway you try to spin it -- you're talking about a narcissistic God who is in love with himself, or who lives allone in a pineapple under the sea.

Furthermore, God being God, you would have to say that love is only an illusion, an aspect of maya. It's just God pulling the wool over his own eyes. But let no man say that O stands for Onanism.

Again, once you posit love as ultimate, then an intrinsically "flowing" intersubjective trinity follows from that. What does that mean? Many things.

For example, the "highest state" cannot be any kind of empty void or static unity, but must be the essence of love, which is boundless self-giving and grateful receiving. You will notice that power has nothing to do with it.

Indeed, as we touched on yesterday, to live in this state is to be peculiarly powerless, since one does not "control" the loved one. Or, to the extent that you do try to control the beloved, love withers and shades off into possession, or you end up like that Othello fellow. Love is a dangerously vulnerable position to be in -- the more love, the more vulnerable.

There again, this would imply that God does not "possess," or horde, or withhold. Just as his power is in his powerlessness, his treasure is in his giving. Here is how we may understand the "paradox" of the powerless and abandoned Jesus on the cross being the highest expression of God's power and love and glory, hallelujah. I would say that without this master key of intersubjective love, it makes no sense at all, and we simply have to accept it on faith: "Er, I realize this looks bad, but trust me.... "

This also implies that the Godhead must be eternal surprise, the very opposite of predictability, boredom, tedium, LGF, MSM journalism, etc. I've heard atheists argue that even if heaven existed, they wouldn't want to be there, because it would be too boring.

Au coontraire! God by his very nature must be "full of surprises." Indeed, why do you think human beings like surprises? Have you ever noticed that all other animals hate surprises? We used to have an extrarordinarily intelligent dog who was a freakishly good security guard. It was a kind of OCD. If anything in the house was in a slightly different place, she'd notice. And she wouldn't like it. She didn't even like it if I did something unpredictable. I might jump up and cheer at a base hit, and she'd start barking at me. Sit down! Shut up! No sudden movements! Achtung!

Now, children especially love surprises. Perhaps they know something we don't know. As a matter of fact, as I explained in chapter three of my book, neoteny is a key that unlocks or breaks down many doors, neoteny being none other than a state of "permanent immaturity." Think about that: only human beings are (potentially) in a state of permanent immaturity. All other animals have a fixed endpoint to their development, but a proper human being keeps developing until he draws his last breath.

But there are two types of immaturity, aren't there? In a way, you could say that these parallel holy vs. assouly childlikeness. In order to enter heaven -- which is where God makes his crib -- you must be childlike, never childish -- you know, just a touch of infanity.

Children live in a state of trust and spontaneity, at least so long as they are given the proper environment. But the childish are only caricatures of this: not spontaneous but impulsive; not faith-ful but gullible; not obedient but conformist; not grounded but stubborn; not affectionate but clinging; not loving but narcissistic.

But enough about liberals.

Wo. Getting late. Where are we, anyway? Oh. Page 68. Do you see the problem? I started on page 68. And now I've gotten up to page 68. Same old same mold, to put it mildewy. If God didn't keep placing all these unpredictable surprises in my Way, I'm just sure I'd find him....

27 Comments:

Blogger Warren said...

"But I think I actually did kinda sorta more or less arrive at this idea independently. I don't think it's so difficult."

I think you're right, actually. The Trinity is really a tantric-like idea (or, as it would be more chronologically correct to say, the tantric conception of God is a Christian-like idea). But the essential difference is that the Indian tantrics got there by contemplating a Godhead of Power rather than Love.

"This also implies that the Godhead must be eternal surprise"

Another parallel with Indian tantric schools. It must logically go with the (Trinitarian) territory:

http://www.amazon.com/Yoga-Delight-Wonder-Astonishment-Vijnana-Bhairava/dp/0791410749/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1244130611&sr=1-1

6/04/2009 08:59:00 AM  
Anonymous Petey said...

Yes, God is a tantrickster.

6/04/2009 09:04:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

A couple things today - first, okay you've convinced me that Athos is worth adding to my ever-diminishing hard drive space.

Second, I would also like to appeal to a secular audience, at least those for whom their intellectual condition is not fatal.

As to acquiring new readers, I was talking with my friend yesterday about the book. She's taking it all in very slowly, having read and re-read the Opening section several times. So now that she's in chapter one, she's getting excited. I've recommended that she get through the book before tackling the blog - partly, I just don't know how much time she has each day, and partly, I'm hoping the slow and gentle approach will be more lasting than the full-on cluebat experience. Only time will tell.

Indeed, as we touched on yesterday, to live in this state is to be peculiarly powerless, since one does not "control" the loved one. Or, to the extent that you do try to control it, love withers and shades off into possession. Love is a dangerously vulnerable position to be in -- the more love, the more vulnerable.

Indeed. Good posts, today and yesterday.

Oh, and hearkening back to shoes for a moment: Skechers - half the price of MBTs, twice as cute...

6/04/2009 09:07:00 AM  
Anonymous Petey said...

Just remember, the opening and closing sections of the book are to be read aloud in a rhythmic manner, with no initial grasping after meaning.

6/04/2009 09:18:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

I know - I tried to tell her that. Of course, speaking for myself that's easier said than done, the first time through. You just can't help it. She's enjoying it, though, and as long as that's the case I'm not going to intrude. And if it's ever not the case (which I doubt), I'll just ask for my book back :)

6/04/2009 09:45:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I need to do a recording of what it's supposed to sound like...

6/04/2009 09:51:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

That would be awesome.

Speaking of sounds, so I'm listening to Athos right now and was struck by the relationship between the notes in the chords.

This can be misleading, because we cannot think of this love in any abstract way -- as if it can somehow exist outside a lover and beloved, or ship and lighthouse.

Second song in (I think), when the low voice joins in after the major change, there is this wondrous resonance that happens between the low and the high voices that transforms what was already beautiful into a sound-object with a depth of being in and of itself - this opening-up and flowing-forth interaction that really could be seen (heard) as an image of the love that flows between the higher and lower. The flute solo part that comes next seems almost lonely by comparison, except that the resonating somehow implies a listener receiving.

Lovely.

6/04/2009 10:07:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Off topic, but they used to say of FDR that "his specific policies might have been harmful, but at least he saved capitalism." Of BHO they'll say, "yeah, his specific policies were harmful, but at least he saved socialism."

6/04/2009 10:18:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Or as Spengler just noted,

Embracing backward societies with no clear path forward while breaking faith with allies is a prescription for declining American influence in the world. If Obama had set out with malice aforethought to lower America’s standing in the world, he could not have done more damage.

6/04/2009 10:24:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

(My apologies for hogging the comments - obviously, I must be making up for yesterday's silence)

One more observation about Athos (I was listening again, but trying to give it some less-divided attention; heady stuff). So back to the neginning, musically it really serves as a good metaphor for the Theo-drama, to my ear at least. The opening piece is like the Word appearing out of the darkness - there's a palpable sense of longing, isolation, expectation and anticipation that comes through; any moment now there will appear something in the nothing, and the knower will be known.

Again, lovely.
And now I'll shut up and get back to listening :)

6/04/2009 11:05:00 AM  
Anonymous Gazriel said...

I know that as Love has entered my heart in the vertical dimension, my experience of it in the horizontal has evolved, becoming more consistent and potent. When I go out to get some coffee or a similar activity I find myself grounded in perfect respect for people, places, and things exactly as they are, ready to offer service at a moments notice if the need arises. Before I was needfully grasping for others to love me, which stemmed from a sense of unworthiness and shame, unconsciously fearful that I was somehow defective. Now that I know that I am worthy of Love (because I partake of it from its Source on a regular basis) it easily flows into affection given and received with my brothers and sisters.

It is also amazing how easily Love turns into insight as well. Having a tremendous amount of respect for each person or thing as an individual, from a blade of grass to the enormity of the sun to a sub-atomic particle floating in deep space, has blasted me off into the Platonic realm of numbers, where I experience the Idea of One replicated infinitely. My individuality is so precious amongst this sea of Infinity, and so is everyone else's.

Love, respect, transcendent awareness, intimate bliss, freedom, fullness, caress without the desire for domination.

Hmm, to be face to face with another, mere inches apart, waves of Delight engorging organs and swelling Heart. The Energy pulsing back and forth, but there is no need to grasp, no need to start. This is it, this is Love, in the Presence of God.

6/04/2009 11:14:00 AM  
Blogger Dougman said...

Remember, despite appearances, we are not arguing "from" Christian orthodoxy, but toward it.


The Naked Ark e-logos-jest!

6/04/2009 11:20:00 AM  
Anonymous ximeze said...

Koko Taylor R.I.S.

6/04/2009 11:29:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"To cite just one example, I talk about the Trinitarian nature of God. Christian theologians say that this is something that mankind could never have arrived at independently in the absence of God revealing it to them. Otherwise, the highest conception of man can only be the One (a la Plotinus) or "beyond being" (a la Shankara or Schuon)."

Yeah... my own experience goes against that too. Sort of. I came to the Three through a philosophical root, starting with all of existence as an interconnected, integrated whole, and that the ultimate root lay in Existence, Identity & Consciousness; that no human examination or explanation of reality can reduce beyond these three. Then I was working on applying that naturalistic outlook, to providing explanations of 'uninformed' suppositions by spiritual and religious ideas.

I thought it was cool and even obvious that any Trinitarian notions were 'just' poetic explanations for poorly understood philosophic truths.

It wasn't until stumbling across OC, that I began to suspect that perhaps I had my explanations somewhat out of order.

6/04/2009 11:50:00 AM  
Blogger robinstarfish said...

OT in the backyard...

"What is a garden if not a miniaturization, and celebration, of where we are in, the universe?" -The Garden of Cosmic Speculation

6/04/2009 11:52:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"But let no man say that O stands for Onanism."

That would give new meaning to being blinded by the light.

!

wv:nopsis
agreed. nope bro', too.

6/04/2009 11:53:00 AM  
Blogger NoMo said...

Koko - RIP

6/04/2009 11:55:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"God by his very nature must be "full of surprises." Indeed, why do you think human beings like surprises?"

Definitely. I think surprises, 'Aha!' realizations, humor and Love are all related, and involve to different extents, degrees and contexts, unexpected conceptual integrations.

Phooey... no time.

6/04/2009 11:58:00 AM  
Anonymous ximeze said...

Robin, lookit, it comes in musical form too.

6/04/2009 01:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, Gazriel, I like your comment. It gives a good sense of what it is like to operate as a spirit person on the street or detail level.

Descriptions of this kind are somewhat hard to come by.

Your last paragraph, which describes a suspended sexual encounter, is interesting.

I've thought to myself, as did the Chinese, that the workup to final union is where alot of the power resides, and much can be said for suspending the resolution.

Anyhoo..

6/04/2009 01:28:00 PM  
Blogger robinstarfish said...

ximeze -

Nice! And it starts in the Zeroroom!

Hmmm...the Motel does need a garden. And a party.

6/04/2009 02:47:00 PM  
Anonymous ximeze said...

Robin,
Heh. But are we talking koinkidink or coonfluence?

6/04/2009 03:46:00 PM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

Some of the best jokes today, Bob. Love, joy and humor may be another trinity of sorts.

“I need to do a recording of what it's supposed to sound like...”

I tried this. It was harder than I thought. Sort of like doing a live translation (whatever that’s like) yet the same language. Sort of. They’re so similar you have to unconsciously not pronounce them the usual way. Definitely more difficult than reading it. Or was it easier. Maybe someone will recognize my voice and tell me I don’t sound like myself at all.

Here’s my attempt, lyrickys included.
Click the subtitle: "Ear Ear a Voyce On" for the audio file.

6/04/2009 05:28:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

If you really want to do the recording, ask Robin about microphones. He can recommend a good usb mic (which Costco doesn't have anymore, or I'd put in the link myself).

6/04/2009 05:42:00 PM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

If you want to unhire an unprofessional you can unpay me to undo it for you.

I'm serious, I'll do it for free. But I'm gonna needs 6 months prep time.

I think QP gave a link to Joyce reading from his book. That's where I got the idea. Which was easy, being 2nd hand an' all.

6/04/2009 06:02:00 PM  
Anonymous bobf. said...

Less bark
More wag

For the doggie in us.

6/04/2009 07:05:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

I am getting around late today and trying to imagine a Balthasar stalker. My wife used to work for some Thomas More stalkers down at TCU. They were the people who turned me onto Walker Percy. My wife always described them as "just a little creepy, but nice".

6/04/2009 07:22:00 PM  

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