Playing Dice with the Cosmos and Taking a Chance on God
Nevertheless, it "involves a partial and contingent aspect of badness because, not being God while existing nonetheless, it sets itself against God or tends to be the equal of God" (Schuon). The left rebels against God, while the tenured think they are God. Which is why the tenured radical is such a destructive demon.
This correlates with the principial (vertical) distinction between Being and Beyond-Being, which is the basis of theodicy, through which the problem of evil is explained and God's goodness is vindicated.
In case you've forgotten, this whole discussion started last week, with a post about fate, luck, and free will. Human freedom is derived from the Divine freedom. Again, our free will could never be explained from "the bottom up." Nor could we know good and evil, truth and illusion, beauty and ugliness, and choose between them. If we didn't have free will, we could never know it (just as, if we couldn't know truth, we wouldn't be able to know it).
Having said that, although there are analogies between divine and human freedom, the differences are even greater. Human beings live their lives along this ambiguous vertical bridge, with God at the top and biology, physics, and other principalities down below (sort of like the sewer pipes under the city).
As Schuon writes, "creation implies imperfection by metaphysical necessity." And the fact that we have the freedom to choose badly makes matters even worse!
One problem we encounter right away is that freedom implies change, whereas we are told that God is immutable. Perhaps we need to distinguish between the freedom that applies to Beyond-Being, vs. that which applies to Being.
In Beyond-Being, freedom is in a way meaningless, because there is nothing from which to be free. Freedom only comes into play in the context of restraint, of other, of world -- of subject over and against object.
And the highest purpose of freedom is "the possibility of choosing between the Substance and accident, or between the Real and the illusory" (Schuon). Since there can be no accident "within" God, our freedom is obviously quite different, being that our world is a tapestry of chance and necessity.
Speaking of which, the chance aspect of the world is insufficiently appreciated, both by the tenured and the wider population. I'm currently reading a very interesting book, The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, and would like to work some of Taleb's contrarian and counter-intuitive ideas into the mix.
It seems that people hate the idea of pure luck holding so much sway over their lives, which is why both the tenured and the religious invent various ex post facto mythological narratives to explain the past. In this regard, Darwinians are no better than any other fundamentalists.
I should hasten to add that Taleb shows no signs of being in any way religious (I'm only halfway through the book), so that he seems to be trapped in his own narrative that chance is all -- and more importantly, that chance is only chance.
But in my view, the cosmic purpose of chance is to create a non-deterministic space in which the higher can operate on the lower -- or through which final causes can influence souls and events.
If the world were a deterministic machine that functions only from the bottom up, there would be no freedom and no chance. But being wholly determined from the top would make us no more free than being determined from the bottom.
Thus, freedom and chance go together like matter and law. It is largely because of freedom that the future is completely unpredictable. But because we are aware of the past, we superimpose narratives on it that make it seem as if the future will be similar. Thus, we are always surprised by the "black swans" that no one predicted, and yet, have the most impact on history.
For example, to the very eve of World War I, no one saw it coming. But in hindsight, historians invent narratives that make it appear inevitable. Likewise other large-scale and highly impactful events such as 9-11, the recent real estate bubble, or the Great Depression.
One thing that eludes historians -- by definition -- is all of the evidence of things that didn't happen. Obviously, we cannot know what we don't know (the unknown unknown), which is probably the majority of (potential) knowledge.
It seems that history is always on a knife-edge, and can easily be tipped one way or the other by sometimes trivial causes. This is true of any complex system with an infinite number of variables.
But we'll have to get back to black swans later. I just wanted to introduce the idea that randomness is both our friend and our enemy, like water or electricity. Without it we couldn't be free, but with it we're always in for an adventure.
There is no accident in Beyond-Being. But the creation, in order to be separate from God, must involve relativity and therefore contingency.
Thus, one of the purposes of a spiritual practice is to distinguish between those things that must be versus those things that may be.
Again, the world is a tapestry of vertical and horizontal causes, of the real and the contingent, so we always see the one in the other. This is why, for example, matter, which is otherwise so "distant" from God, has the metaphysical transparency through which beauty and truth nevertheless radiate.
And it is certainly why man may use his freedom to turn toward truth or illusion, atma or maya, O or Ø. The ego is a bipolar, janus-faced entity, which it must be if we are to be free.
As Schuon describes it, being that we are the "handiwork" and not "the Principle which alone is good," man "is a good inasmuch as he manifests the Principle, but he is not good inasmuch as he is separated from it."
Evil and falsehood remind us both that the world is not God and that there is no one good but the One.