Wednesday, July 15, 2009

You Are What You Eat: Losing Existential Weight with the Deity Diet

We are discussing creation in light of John Scottus Eriugena's dialectical immaterialism, which is my ironic term for his use of language to say what cannot be said about God in the only way you can say it. As the Taoists warn us, "only error is transmitted." I think John's approach ensures that we can talk about God with the minimum degree of error.

Note again that when we speak of God, it is -- or should be -- analogous to God speaking (of) creation. As McGinn explains, creation for John is "the expression in manifest speech of the unmanifest Word of God," or "the diffusion of invisible light in its visible form." Thus, just as the invisible Word speaks the visible world, the visible world "speaks" the invisible Creator. Either you see this or you don't, but certainly not with eyes of flesh.

What follows is going to sound controversial or perhaps even blasphemous, unless you read it very carefully. But I believe, among other things, it helps to resolve the question of whether and how God suffers with us. The problem with this is that if he does, it implies that God "changes," which violates one of the a priori definitions of God, which is that he is changeless. It also speaks to the hurdle that traditionalists have with evolution, which they understand to imply an evolving God (e.g., process theology), if not outright godlessness.

As a brief aside, I have in the past mentioned the story of how Bion said before a lecture that "I can't wait to find out what I'm going to say" (or words to that effect). I adopt the identical approach to blogging. Like him, I try to suspend memory, desire, and understanding, so that my "speaking" is simultaneously a "learning." In short, I come to each post completely unprepared for what follows.

That is, I am hardly any kind of scholar, conveying to you some information I have stored away in my melon. Rather, I am discovering as I speak. Only after I'm done, do I reread it as if it were written by someone else, and try to appreciate it from a different angle. Bear this analogy in mind in what follows.

For John, "Creation is God coming to know himself in speaking himself." Admittedly, "it may seem strange to say that God does not know himself until he creates himself," but John means this in a very precise way.

That is, to know something means first of all to place a boundary between what something is and is not. For example, to even see this coffee cup in front of me, I have to exclude everything surrounding it. Any object -- or object of knowledge -- "is inherently circumscribable or limited." It must have boundaries, or we can't think about it. And often, thinking imposes boundaries that aren't even really there, which engenders all kinds of mischief, but that's a subject for a different post about what liberals do with the Constitution.

Now, I think we can all agree that God as such certainly contains no limits, which is again why we must use the paradoxical dialectic of cataphatic/apophatic (or positive/negative) language to describe him.

Yes, God is limited in a sense by his own nature, but his nature includes limitlessness -- i.e., he is infinite and eternal. Thus, when God "speaks," he is also intrinsically limiting himself, which is none other than creation. At the same time, creation is God's self-knowledge, again, because knowledge is only possible by imposing limits and boundaries.

The easiest way to understand this is again through analogy. Being that we are in the image of God, there must be something similar that occurs with us. I'll take the example that is most readily at hand, the low-hanging fruitcake of the B'ob. You could say that the arkive is my "creation." No single post exhausts the arkive, and the arkive in its totality does not exhaust me. And yet, both a single post and the whole arkive are not just "symbols" of me. Rather, I try to make it so that they are of my very substance. Scratch one of these posts and they bleed real blood, type O. You could even say that they are little "fractals of Bob," simultaneously me and not-me.

And this again goes back to what I was saying about suspending memory, desire, and understanding, which amounts to "speaking from O." This may be too much information, but I'm not just "sharing knowledge," but my very substance. In turn, this allows us to understand what is otherwise a rather shocking -- not to mention tasteless -- statement of Jesus: "take, eat; this is my body."

In other words, "don't just know me. Comsume me," with all this implies: chew, swallow, digest, metabolize, assimilate. You are what you eat, especially psychically and spiritually (eat pp. 233-235 of the Wholly Coonifesto).

In other words, you might say that our task is to "reverse imagineer" the incarnation, or the process by which God "knows" himself through his Word.

Now, all of creation is summarized in the Word, or second person of the Trinity. He is the "lens" through which all of the Father's energies are focused, so to speak. (I'm not trying to be theologically correct here, so just stay with me. You can always spit it out later.) I believe the disciples who witnessed the transfiguration were seeing the blinding unveiling of this uncreated light-energy. Note that Jesus is Alpha and Omega, meaning that he is both Word and Understanding, speech and comprehension: "Christ who understands all things is the understanding of all things" (JSE).

Here is how the Scot expresses it: "The universal goal of the entire creation is the Word of God," culminating in the God-man. "Thus, both the beginning and end of the world subsist in God's Word, indeed, to speak more plainly, they are the Word itself, for it is the manifold end without end and the beginning without beginning, being without beginning save for the Father." His Word is his Wisdom, and his Wisdom is his co-eternal Word, "the center in which the primordial causes find their unity" (McGinn).

Thus, the Word is God's endless soph-knowledge. Eat it and shed those flabby pounds from your bloated and bunk food addicted ego.

20 Comments:

Blogger Warren said...

It is precisely because God is limitless that He is free to assume limitations, which in turn do not affect His limitlessness one whit.

7/15/2009 08:16:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

If that's what I was trying to say, I agree with me.

7/15/2009 08:22:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I am reminded of a most excellent comment by Magnus the other day:

'I believe that God is not static, or even pulsating, but is rather continually growing. Our universe is one aspect of this. There may be others, but that does not concern me. I believe that the "Big Bang" is merely the shockwave that preceeds God entering into the nothingness of pure, absolute absence, of what was not even a void. God is coming, and all that we see -- light, matter, energies -- are merely the ongoing shockwave of God's expansion. The end result will be, to use a Christian phrase, that God will be all in all.

'This does not imply that the earlier God is incomplete. The unfolding of time is vivid to us because our bodies are chemical processes who exist along the time axis. In eternity however it is already complete. Imagine that I hold my arm our and you follow it with your eyes from my shoulder all the way to my fingertips. Does that mean that I was incomplete until your eyes arrived at my fingertips?

'So am I saying that God's "victory" is unavoidable? Yes, on a cosmic scale. Even should we fall silent, the stones will wake up and speak. But is it unavoidable in each of us? Hell no . We can opt out at any time. But we can't keep the world from God. It is already his.'

7/15/2009 08:32:00 AM  
Anonymous Peter said...

This has the stamp of "authentic reality", ie the unmistakable aura of holiness that surrounds deep truth. Human suffering can have not other adequate explanation.

7/15/2009 09:01:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To muse on what Petey and Magnus said about eventual "victory--".

If victory (the returning of the cosmos to God) is indeed inevitable, then certain conclusions follow:

1. If the striving after victory merely accelerates the inevitable but does affect the outcome, then striving then becomes only a factor in how long the process of achieving victory is to last. More striving, shorter interval. Less striving, longer interval.

2. This leads us to ask, "What does it boot?" Is shorter better? How can we know? This calls into question the wisdom of blind striving without trying to ascertain the desired rate of your own evolution. Is faster always better? We tend to think so but it should be questioned.

3. Can an individual soul successfully resist the inevitable victory, at least on its own little piece of the turf? Of this I am skeptical. It seems to me no matter how contrary one soul can be, no matter how many eons one can cast oneself into a self-created hell, eventually the soul stuff is going to be recalled into the main mass. Straggling pieces of God are unlikely to be left behind. So yes, you can sulk in Hell as long as the process lasts, but when the cosmic play is over, all souls should get reabsorbed.

This is because the unity of God would be ruptured if individual remnants were cast off to subsist on their own terms for eternity and I feel this scenario is intuitively unlikly, although not impossible.

7/15/2009 10:09:00 AM  
Blogger Magnus Itland said...

Well, if the universe is a kind of surface between God and pure nothingness, then I believe you may be granted to go to nothingness instead. I have no plans to test this out however.

7/15/2009 11:02:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The enigma of how to properly live calls to mind "Lakeins Question." Lakein was a 20th century motivational speaker. His constant question was:

"What is the best use of my time right now?"

Answer that question and act accordingly, and you will accelerate your path, in whatever direction it may lead.

7/15/2009 02:03:00 PM  
Blogger NoMo said...

The Word (Logos) put an extraordinarily high value on His words (logoi). Which ones, exactly, I wonder?
My words.
My words.
My words.
My words.
My words.

Which words?
To whom was He speaking?

“But He (the Word) answered and said, "It is written (Deut 8:3), 'MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.'" Matt 4:4

Now go eat!

7/15/2009 02:34:00 PM  
Blogger Matteo said...

It is true, Bob, that you are what you eat. The Blessed Eucharist is waiting for you to take the plunge and make the commitment!

7/15/2009 04:00:00 PM  
Anonymous bob f. said...

"...it helps to resolve the question of whether and how God suffers with us. The problem with this is that if he does, it implies that God "changes," which violates one of the a priori definitions of God, which is that he is changeless. It also speaks to the hurdle that traditionalists have with evolution, which they understand to imply an evolving God (e.g., process theology)..."

Change comes with time and the perspective from within time that we use to see everything that we see; God does not change because God exists outside of time and envelopes time; He appears to change because we consider him from within time, sort of like watching a film, which creates the illusion of movement where there is none.

7/15/2009 04:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Time=Life. Waste your time, and you waste your life. Master your time, and you master your life.

Failing to plan is planning to fail.

Carpe Diem.

----A.L

7/15/2009 04:52:00 PM  
Anonymous "Mark" said...

I agree with Matteo.

7/15/2009 07:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So Bob, the question on the table is why don't you take RICA and become a Catholic? What's stopping you?

7/15/2009 10:38:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"In other words, you might say that our task is to "reverse imagineer" the incarnation, or the process by which God "knows" himself through his Word."

Reenigami? It does have a nice ring to it. :^)

7/15/2009 11:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Skully said...

Have I told you the story of the Little Imagineer That Could?

7/15/2009 11:10:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Gagdad Bob said-
"If that's what I was trying to say, I agree with me."

I cooncur ho-heartedly, Bob.

7/15/2009 11:20:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

IRT God growing/changing:
Well, Jesus grew and changed as He got older, and he is both God and man. Certainly during the time He was within time, however, in eternity He has (and did) already fulfilled Alpha and Omega, and through Him the world was created, so He did both, and still is.

So I do cooncur. Much like Eckhart, John's words require much contemplation, and can't be taken ONLY traditionally, although it ain't "opposed" to tradition when fully understood.

"Evolved, evolution, evolving," are NOT EVIL words, just as "liberal" is Not an evil word.

Those words are only loaded because they have been hijacked by the word rustlers, and used ad nauseaum to mean what the word rustlers want them to mean in a seductive and deceptive way.

Word rustlers want us to think they really are liberal, progressive, elite, intelligent, and at the highest rung of evolution.
But word rustlers will never collectively admit what they truly are and what they truly want (even if they may be unaware) which is the subjugation of Truth and Liberty for the "good" of the collective.
Which is why they rustle words and attempt to change their meanings, so they can feel like they are "validated," "evolved" and more "civilized" rather than the devolved, infrahumans they actually are, armed with only old and failed philosophy's, destructive and relative "principles" (subject to change at a moment's notice) and lukewarm religion (or gaia or self worship).

Word rustlers are insidious, and we ought never to allow their attempts to change meaning and truth itself (through changing words and language) to affect us when we see these words they have violated.

IOW's we should see "evolve" or "liberal" as it actually means, and most importantly, as the author (John, in this case) means.
What is John saying? Ignore the urge to be distracted or repulsed by the words he uses and see the reality of the language instead.

I'm ashamed to say I used to believe that liberal was a bad word, until I realized I am a liberal...a classical liberal.

People on the left who identify themselves as liberal are, in truth, illliberal asses.
Reading John, Bob or Eckhart with this in mind really does help to grok what they are sayin' (and usually requires rereading. rerereading, and deep coontemplation to say the least).

Good stuff, Bob! :^)

7/15/2009 11:58:00 PM  
Blogger Magnus Itland said...

It may seem strange that people who cleave to experiential religion have opinions on the beginning and completion of the universe. However, these events are not fundamentally different from a certain process that occurs through history, and which can be experienced by any willing human with a spirit.

The mundane world has numerous small and large "cracks" (that's where the Light gets in). Some are widely advertised, others local and unexpected. When one finds such a crack, one can attach to it and sink one's root tendrils into it. (This process proceeds at the speed of organic growth, not a hit & run burglary.) Then the plant is watered by regular practice appropriate for that particular location, such as meditation, prayer, chanting, contemplation, reading, writing, pious discourse, enlightened communication, ritual or the presence of a guru or a group of disciples. Over time, the crack will widen and Light will increasingly flow into the world. (Or Eternity into time. The two go together.) This element that enters the world is uncreated and indestructible. Light destroys darkness but can not be destroyed by it. Unfortunately we start out consisting mostly of darkness, so the experience is not necessarily pleasant.

7/16/2009 04:42:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"Thus, when God "speaks," he is also intrinsically limiting himself, which is none other than creation. At the same time, creation is God's self-knowledge, again, because knowledge is only possible by imposing limits and boundaries."

Wo, lots of punching power in that One.


"In turn, this allows us to understand what is otherwise a rather shocking -- not to mention tasteless -- statement of Jesus: "take, eat; this is my body."
In other words, "don't just know me. Comsume me," with all this implies: chew, swallow, digest, metabolize, assimilate. You are what you eat, especially psychically and spiritually (eat pp. 233-235 of the Wholly Coonifesto). "

Oh my... you are banging the gong with this post!

"Note that Jesus is Alpha and Omega, meaning that he is both Word and Understanding, speech and comprehension: "Christ who understands all things is the understanding of all things" (JSE)."

Gonggg!...GoOonggg!...GoOonggg! ....


"Thus, the Word is God's endless soph-knowledge. Eat it and shed those flabby pounds from your bloated and bunk food addicted ego."


Outstanding post tod... er... yesterday... it's going to be reverberating for many days.

7/16/2009 05:27:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Ben said "Word rustlers are insidious, and we ought never to allow their attempts to change meaning and truth itself (through changing words and language) to affect us when we see these words they have violated.

... I used to believe that liberal was a bad word, until I realized I am a liberal...a classical liberal.

People on the left who identify themselves as liberal are, in truth, illliberal asses."

That's some good stuff yourself, Ben!

7/16/2009 05:39:00 AM  

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