Nothing is Impossible
Which means what, exactly?
It essentially means that I was attempting to speak as a traditionalist while ambulating in the manner of a process philosopher. Sort of a distant cousin of hypocrisy, which is when one's actions don't conform to one's values.
This book by David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God, presents a timely summation of the traditional view, so as to provide a vivid contrast with my old New Truth.
Of course, suffice it to say, no one is under any pressure to agree with me. This is not that kind of cult. I realize this is a contentious area, and I still sometimes wonder if I am falling into some sort of ontological trap. I mean, one doesn't lightly disagree with 2000 years worth of people who are wiser or smarter or holier than thee. However, there is no question that they were laboring under an extremely misleading but nevertheless presumptive picture of reality.
Reader Van plucked the following passage from bobscurity, adding that he was on pins and needles waiting to hear about the many implications! Okay, I added that last part, but here's the passage:
"There was a time, not too long ago, when I would have explicitly agreed with Hart, even while implicitly agreeing with Hartshorne. And that's a problem, i.e., when what one explicitly thinks doesn't jibe with what one implicitly feels, experiences, or 'knows' in a direct and unmediated manner. Call it cosmic dissonance"
In many ways, The Experience of God is structured just like One Cosmos, except that, instead of Matter (or material existence), Mind (or psyche), and Spirit (nous, pneuma), Hart -- whom I believe is an Orthodox Christian -- uses the Hindu triad of Sat (Being), Chit (Consciousness), and Ananda (Bliss). However, he covers much of the same ground, albeit coming at it from a more purely logical and metaphysical perspective, whereas I begin with the world as we experience it and as disclosed by science.
If you were going to be uncharitable, you would say that he begins with a priori concepts, whereas I begin with reality. However, if you were going to be uncharitable to me, you would probably say that one cannot derive metaphysics from empirical reality.
Which is a little ironic -- I think -- because, if I am not mistaken, Thomas Aquinas begins with the proposition that there is a real world external to us, and that, in order to know it, the knower must conform himself to it.
But more generally, where can we begin but with experience? And there is no experience that is not "of" something. So it seems to me that it is rather critical to understand the "experience of experience." In other words, we cannot just take experience for granted, but must try to get beneath it and understand just what it is.
Now, here's the rub -- or at least a rub: experience is intrinsically temporal. Indeed, I would say that it is impossible to conceive of "nontemporal experience" -- that it is an oxymoron. And just as there is no experience without time, there is no time without experience.
If you have difficulty wrapping your tail around the latter statement, you need only examine your own experience of time, which is intrinsically bound up with memory of the past. Without this memory -- this conservation of the immediate past -- there would only be an atemporal now; being, but no becoming.
To jump ahead a bit, in the process view of Whitehead/Hartshorne, this examination of our own experience reveals how all of reality is structured. Clearly, just as in our own mental experience, nature exhibits continuity with, and conservation of, the past. And yet, nature ceaselessly flows forward, always manifesting novel configurations. Therefore, just as in our own minds, nature is a combination of conservation and change, memory and creativity, sameness and novelty, boundary conditions and adventure.
This further leads to the view that creativity is woven into the very fabric of being. But oops! That word being: it no longer makes sense in this new context. In the traditional view, becoming is just a persistent illusion (there is no other way to put it), completely parasitic on changeless Being.
But in the process view the terms are reversed: Being is just an abstraction from Becoming -- and an empty abstraction to boot. It is either literally unthinkable or only thinkable, for it is not anything we can actually experience, experience once again requiring duration.
Now, my point about feet and heads is that no one (or do they?) really treats God or relates to God in this abstract manner. Indeed, from my perspective, perhaps the most earth-shattering implication of the Incarnation is that it should be an inoculation against the Greek ideal of the immutable, unmoved mover.
This is probably going to rattle some cages, but Hartshorne dismisses the notion of "nothing" being a meaningful concept, as in "creation from nothing." There is frankly nothing in the Bible that mandates such an interpretation.
But for Hartshore, nothing is impossible -- that is, it's just another human abstraction. Nothing is the negation of something, and therefore something.
For my part, I have never really wondered "why there is something rather than nothing." Rather, there's gotta be something, right? Might as well be this. Nothing isn't even thinkable unless we have something with which to compare it. I'm still in awe of this particular something -- just not in comparison to nothing, but rather, compared to all the other possible somethings.
(This is not to be confused with the big Nothing that opens and closes the Coonifesto, because that Nothing is intrinsically at play with Something; you might say that it is part of the rhythm of eternity, like diastole and systole, inhalation and exhalation, catabolism and anabolism, etc. It is ultimately how creativity happens. Don't get me wrong -- I still believe in nothing. I just think it is eternally in relation to something -- not either/or, but both/and. Or as old Heraclitus put it, The Aeon is a child at play with colored balls.)
Hart fundamentally disagrees, affirming that "the 'distance' between being and nonbeing is qualitatively infinite..." True, but is nonbeing real, or only a mental abstraction? For me, the important distance is not between an absolute nothing and a fulsome something per se, but rather, between reality as it is and reality as it could be: in other words, creativity. Creativity is what links nothing to something, but that link is everything. It's not as if you can start with nothing and then get all creative with it, because where did the creativity come from?
Excuse me, but are we getting into angels dancing on pinheads territory? Is anyone else on board, or just bored?
Well, we've come this far. At least allow me to complete the trip and drop you off at the station.
In the traditional view, of course, God is "the infinite to which nothing can add and from which nothing can subtract..." Therefore, in order to properly think about God, we can really only unthink about him -- that is, if you hold to the traditional view.
Thus, we arrive at a "deductive negation of all the obvious conditions of finitude," which basically leaves us with nothing. I mean, right? Again, experience is temporal and time is finite, ergo, no experience of God is possible. Yes, you can certainly have spiritual experiences, but God is "beyond change" and "cannot be affected... by anything outside himself." Frankly, he's really not that into you.
Okay, I get that. In theory, anyway. But does anyone actually live as if God couldn't care less, which must be the case if he is completely immune to any form of change whatsoever? Is change really so intrinsically bad a thing that it must not contaminate God? It seems to me that there is literally no way to relate to such a being, not even by way of analogy. Is that really the way It Is? Just asking.