Friday, September 25, 2015

Creator Creates Creation

Whitehead can sometimes be difficult to understand, but at least he is trying to describe what is going on beneath what we all experience, as opposed to those pseudo-profound postmodernists who painfully and pretentiously describe what no sane person has ever experienced.

I can only hope I don't sound like the latter, but I can well imagine a stranger to these parts thinking my blah-blah-blogging is no different from theirs -- as if I am trying to imitate the tenured rather than distinguish mysoph therefrom.

Yesterday I linked to a bleat in which Lileks serves up some examples of postmodern pneumababble (scroll down past the first break). The writer in question "elucidates the slippery, gendered in-betweenness of everyday ritual in a manner reminiscent of Derrida’s disquisition on the chora -- that most mysterious and mundane of spaces, not unlike the anonymous corridor of a hotel."

You can't just say that staying in a hotel is different from being at home. No, that would be too banal. Rather, "The hotel becomes a kind of disorienting counterfeit to the authentic shelter of the home, which is the dominant space of traditional Western values because it’s a place of permanent or rooted dwelling -- in the Heideggerian sense of the word."

Then again, "Homes have a lot of blank spaces. It’s easy to get lost there," so you're Heideggered if you do, Heideggered if you don't. Which I think is the point: verbal mystagoguery masquerding as intellectual depth.

The good news? "If we could shift our traditional notions of 'placeness' from the home to the hotel, we could find a new way of considering modern space."

Notice what a trivial project this is compared to a Christian metaphysic in which we shift the space of the entire cosmos. Nor is doing so a matter of will ("if we could shift..."), because whatever we merely will will merely be more whatever. Rather, the opposite movement is required, surrender to, and cooperation with, a power that transcends and contains us.

Anyway, my point is that Whitehead can at times sound like he is depaking the chopra with the worst of them (especially in Process and Reality), but he's really just trying to say something new and difficult with the limited arsenal of existing language. Sometimes you have to invent new terms -- that's my excuse, and I'm sticking to it -- or use the old ones in a novel way in order to shock or annoy the reader out of the familiar.

We've discussed this many times over the past decade, the problem of saturation. A word or concept becomes saturated when it can no longer... how to put it... attract the unknown. This is especially problematic in religion, where we can imagine we know what we're talking about merely because we have a word for it.

Even (or especially) "God" -- literally the most unsaturate-able word imaginable -- routinely loses its depthless unKnowability in the mouths of fundamentalists -- both the religious and atheistic kinds, who speak of a God in whom I cannot believe.

The first and surest thing we can say of God is that while he is nameable, he is not knowable. Thus, we can name the mystery, but that is hardly the same as knowing the mystery. I have a name for Alaska, but it doesn't mean I've ever been there or know much about it.

Indeed, the more I learn about it, the more I will realize there is to know. Often when we know little, we assume that's all there is to know. But the little we know is superimposed on vast stretches of ignorance. But enough about Obama.

If the postmodern bullshit artist cited above (above Obama) really wants to rock her own crock, she should try unsaturating what she thinks she knows. This will plunge her into a very different space -- the space of reality -- irrespective of whether she is at home or in a hotel.

Regarding early Christians, Whitehead writes that "A gracious, simple mode of life, combined with fortunate ignorance, endowed mankind with its most precious instrument of progress -- the impracticable ethics of Christianity."

A better word would be "non-utilitarian" ethics, or one always converging upon the absolute instead of the everyday; or better, the everyday seen through the prism of the absolute. Lileks for example, is a connoisseur of the everyday. What is the bleat but the mundane under the aspect of a jehovial witness?

I think the unknowability of God goes to the creative novelty of the world; they are two ways of approaching the same reality. I agree with Hartshorne that God couldn't "wish not to go on experiencing novel content," if only because "his ideals are incapable of final exhaustive realization." Again, God is the ultimate instance -- the very source -- of unsaturatability.

The divine inexhaustibility goes to "the intrinsic nature of his own primordial essence," which is to say, ceaseless creativity. This is reconciled with his changelessness in that creation is "his eternal and unchangeable purpose."

Think about it: God's creativity must be his alphOmega, for how could creativity ever be created without a creative act?

So, creativity is prior to, or at least coequal with, any other branch of the Ultimate Principle. Love, truth, beauty, freedom, and oneness are all bound up with it. Each of these must also be uncreated, in that how could one create freedom if not in freedom? How could one honestly speak truth without it? How could the many ever become one without oneness? Etc.

Again: In The Beginning, Creator Creates Creation. These three are one, and the one is always now. But not in the Heideggerian sense.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Good & Bad Newness

Since we've spontaneously veered into the mode of Whitehead, let's continue down that cosmic limb and see what we can shake from it.

Here's a bold statement: "Apart from God, there could be no relevant novelty. His unity of conceptual operations is a free creative act, untrammelled by reference to any particular course of things" (in Sherburne). You might say that creativity is necessary, but never this or that particular creation.

This is another way of saying that we live in the sort of cosmos in which anything might happen. You just never know.

For example, after 10 billion years, it might suddenly come alive. Or, it might start thinking. It might be capable of knowing and relating to its own source -- i.e., the very source of creative novelty.

Novelty is obviously "newness." And while what is new may not be creative, what is creative is always new, i.e., something that hasn't existed before.

As we have pointed out many times, the very first thing the Bible tells us about God is that he likes to create. Therefore, he is not so much mathematician as novel-ist.

And it is remarkable how much the Bible novelgazes on the subject of newness. Indeed, the Gospels are good news; now that I think about it, since bad + new = destruction, good + new must = creation.

"Behold," he says in Isaiah 43:19, "I will do a new thing" -- for example, make roads in the bewilderness and rivers in the desert. Later, in 65:17, he advises us to "be glad and rejoice forever in what I create." Revelation 21:1 implies that the creativity continues forever, and I say, why not? Why should God ever stop creating? "And I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and earth had passed away." Indeed, with Christ we "walk in the newness of life" (Rom 6:4).

That is remarkably strange language, but let's try to tie it in with a modern conception. Whitehead is about as modern as one can get without passing over the peak and proceeding down the windword slide into dumb-as-a-postmodernism and other psychopneumatic pathologies.

Or, since he was ahead of his time, we might say that metathinkers such as Whitehead and Polanyi are the post-critical antidopes to the tenured sophists who erode and desiccate man.

To paraphrase Schuon, these latter either freeze us under a thick sheet of ice or dissipate us into incoherent fragments. The latter in particular can be misperceived as creativity, since it is certainly "new." New, like a tumor.

Another good one: "God is not to be treated as an exception to all metaphysical principles," but "is their chief exemplification" (in Sherburne).

Thus, "apart from the intervention of God, there could be nothing new in the world, and no order in the world. The course of the world would be a dead level of ineffectiveness," with any progress cancelled out by horizontal crosscurrents. Death would be the rule instead of the exception.

Bottom line: "The universe is thus a creative advance into novelty." But what does this mean to you, the coonsumer? "[O]f course, there is no meaning to 'creativity' apart from its 'creatures,' and no meaning to 'God' apart from the creativity and the 'temporal creatures,' and no meaning to the temporal creatures apart from 'creativity' and 'God'" (ibid.).

Therefore, if you are as far out on the limb as I am, you could go so far as to say that God is the meaning of man -- no shock there -- but that man is the "meaning" (in a manner of speaking) of God -- big or small shock there, depending upon where you sit.

Then again, not such a big shock if you read some of the early fathers, who, if I remember rightly, made this point quite explicitly: that in Jesus we simultaneously have man's icon of God and God's icon of man.

An icon is something through which we see into the beyond which the icon instantiates. Its meaning is not itself -- for that would be idolatry -- but beyond itself.

Whitehead also talks about the "novel togetherness" of each temporal occasion, in which the many become one. You don't have to understand what I just said in order to see how this relates to a trinitarian metaphysic, which is whatnow?

I'm not saying this is correct, but in my mind I see a continuous relationship of "novel togetherness," meaning ever new, ever creative, and ever one-ing; it reminds me of a kaleidoscope, in which new patterns of oneness are constantly coming into being as a result of the shifting parts.

Thus, "the ultimate metaphysical principle is the advance from disjunction to conjunction" -- a more perfect union, to coin a phrase. "The world expands through recurrent unifications of itself," such that "the many become one and are increased by one." This is the literal meaning of One Cosmos Under God.

Think of birth: at first, the baby and mother are literally one in the womb. Then the mother gives birth, and the task of motherhood is to prolong the oneness into a psychic union. As the child develops, he is able to break away from this oneness, only to rediscover it anew in a mature love relation.

The point is that this follows the metacosmic trinitarian pattern of loving within higher and deeper unions of novelty.

It may indeed be said that this is one of the first philosophies which has any intellectual right to speak of divine personality. For personality, as any psychologist knows, is a sort of cluster of habits and purposes and ideas... --Hartshorne

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Adventures in Blogging: Let There Be a Post!

Continuing with yesterday's theme, note that in Genesis it specifically states -- over and over -- that the Creator creates by simply allowing things to be, as in let there be light. That's a curious way to express it, and yet, there is an analogue to our own creativity, which also cannot be forced, cajoled, or willed.

Like right now: I would like for a post to happen, but it's more a matter of Let there be a post. I suppose that's why I enjoy the process: it's nothing like, say, school, where you are forced to write something on demand. None of my teachers ever said, let there be an essay on the Civil War; rather, write what is expected or suffer the consequences.

Again, "the command is not authoritarian. It is, rather, 'let it be.' God gives permission for creation to be. The appearance of creation is a glad act of embrace of this permit" (Brueggemann).

Yes, God wants the creation to be; but back off, man, he's an artist, not a mechanic.

Note also that this cosmic artwork isn't just situated in space, but in time. It is a ceaseless outflow of creativity, such that time itself a mode of creativity in the Whiteheadean sense: "Cut away the future, and the present collapses, emptied of its proper content. Immediate existence requires the insertion of the future in the crannies of the present" (Adventures of Ideas).

He's not talking about weeks or years or decades, but seconds or even fractions of seconds; the present is immediately entangled with its own future, and vice versa, otherwise it could never arrive. There are no gaps, and God is in them.

It is in this transitional space from present-to-future where all the novelty gets in. Novelty is what hasn't happened before, and thus, creativity: "The intermediate stage in this transition is constituted by the acquisition of novel content..." You could say that the future is implicate in each moment, and that time renders it explicate via the creative attractor, the cosmic telovator. It's an overall movement, like waves endlessly crashing on the shore of the now.

Each moment is a janus-faced occasion looking toward its own past and future. "In between there lies the teleology of the universe." In this sense we are hurtling toward our own destiny, but again, not in a deterministic way. Some aspects of the present are indeed dominated by the past, and each moment has more or less slack, or Cosmic Wiggle Room.

One reason, I think, why we so value art (both the creating and consuming), is that it is the residue, as it were, of this cosmic ingression of novelty, to a maximum degree. Creativity is always present -- it cannot not be -- but there are degrees.

But so too is necessity always present; we could say that in each moment it is as if there is a dial that goes from extreme necessity at one end to complete freedom at the other. Obviously, existence is woven of freedom and necessity, as is creativity.

However, orthoparadoxically, real freedom can never be free of a degree of necessity; as Whitehead says, "It is the reconciliation of freedom with the compulsion of the truth," the latter being identified with "the indwelling persuasion towards the harmony which is the height of existence." (This is how and why the truth sets us free.)

I'm just flipping through the book in search of some additional nuggets, and I see this: "The creation of the world... is the victory of persuasion over force" -- which places Pope Francis in a rather bad light, being that leftism represents the victory of force over persuasion.

And "the worth of men consists in their liability to persuasion," which is why with leftism we are not permitted to be good or to love truth for its own sake. Rather, we are forced by third parties to imitate their version of the good. This they call "social justice," a system so perfect that no one is free to do bad -- or good.

Whitehead well describes the opposite of social justice: "reverence for that power in virtue of which nature harbours ideal ends, and produces individual beings capable of conscious discrimination of such ends. This reverence is the foundation of the respect for man as man. It thereby secures that liberty of thought and action required for the upward adventure of life on this Earth."

Captain Beefheart said something to the effect that art is the organization of accidents. And I say: if accidents are good enough for man, they ought to be good enough for God! People seem to recoil from the idea that there are "accidents in God," but we have to think of accident in a non-pejorative way, because if there were no accidents there would be no fun. And no creativity. Again: God lets, he doesn't force. He is not a control freak. He is not a leftist.

Hartshorne quotes Schelling, who wrote that "It is necessary that accidents happen [in God], though not necessary just which accidents." Again: creativity.

Later Hartshorne observes that "Divine power is an ability to deal with free beings, not an ability to suppress or avoid their existence or to manipulate them so thoroughly that they would not be free." If God is in total control, then we can't properly exist -- be -- at all. But the reverse is equally true: if we are in total control, then God cannot be. Thus, as God lets us be, we must let God be. God suffers our freedom; it is only fair that we suffer his.

The last word in God's creativity is the Nothing, or nihil-O, from which creation emerges:

"We start, then, with nothing, pure zero. But this is not the nothing of negation.... this pure nothing is the nothing of not having been born.... It is the germinal nothing, in which the whole universe is involved or foreshadowed. As such, it is absolutely undefined and unlimited possibility -- boundless possibility. There is no compulsion and no law. It is boundless freedom" (ibid.).

And we are spirals within that vast creative arc.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Ben Carson and the God of Slack

We left off with the passionate interiority which characterizes our vertical openness to the infinite. This vibrantly intersubjective space extends from the deepest within -- our part so ptee -- to the highest beyond -- the toppermost of the poppermost.

Thus, within and beyond -- or depth and height, or immanence and transcendence -- are the immeasurable measures of the soul. These dimensions explain why it is so roomy in here -- but also, why some people feel so cramped and confined within themselves -- but more problematically, toward others upon whom they attempt to impose their own strangled sense of self.

For example, Hitler infamously sought lebensraum, or living space, but why? There's more than enough room for everyone, at present about 2.3 acres of inhabitable land for every person on earth. Clearly, there wasn't enough space in Hitler's head, which he projected outward.

Some on the left imply that there isn't enough space in Trump's head, but he's talking about a very different phenomenon. It is not so much that we don't have the physical space, but rather, the psychic space. Since so many immigrants refuse psycho-cultural integration (or are prevented from it by the left), this does represent an aggressive invasion of our psychic space. With enough of them, it will no longer be our cultural space at all (whereas in Germany, Jews were completely assimilated and even proud to call themselves German).

Indeed, in California, where I live, it has already happened. Thanks to illegals, we have one-party rule. There are a few pockets of conservatism left, but they have no influence on the overall cultural-political atmosphere (the space of freedom), which has gotten progressively smaller in my lifetime. How small? This small.

Speaking of space, one of the important characteristics of the Christian God is that he leaves us plenty of it. Or in other words, our God is a God of slack. You might think this is funny on the one hand, or just irrelevant on the other, but you would be wrong. In Christian metaphysics, slack is of the essence. It is the infinite space in which we live, such that no seelor can circumnavelgaze the soul, whereas for he whose soul is flat -- the sky / Will cave in on him by and by (Millay).

This is one of the organizing themes in Barron's explorations. For example, he writes that "In almost all the mythic and philosophical accounts of the God-world relationship, something like a zero-sum game obtains: the more one attributes to God, the less one can attribute to the universe and vice versa."

This is how it is in Islam, where there is literally no room for man's freedom. At present Ben Carson is undergoing his Ritual Humiliation by the left for adverting to this elementary truth.

It is the same with any form of predestination. Predestination is not only wrong, but anti-Christian to the core, because it leaves no space for human freedom. Indeed, to affirm predestination is to say that there is no distinction between Creator and creature. It is literally as if there is no creation, since the creation is just an extension of God.

But "the Christian tradition holds just the opposite." This is how Jesus can be man and God, without the one overwhelming or displacing the other. Somehow there's room for both! Which is a wild idea: in the same space there is room for the ultimate-universal and for the individual-particular.

"A second implication is that God can give and give and in no way be exhausted, for the world cannot take away from the infinity of the divine being." Indeed, "the divine life increases in the measure that it is given away," such that we may participate in this soul-expanding "self-forgetting generosity."

I can't help thinking of poor Pope Francis, who seems to have a rather narrow and cramped view of God's creation -- as if there isn't enough of it for everyone! Our immortal Sowell touches on this today, asking "which has a better track record of helping the less fortunate -- fighting for a bigger slice of the economic pie, or producing a bigger pie?"

Or in other words, when smallminded souls enviously fight over their piece of the flaming pie, we all lose. Not too long ago a million people a month were being lifted out of poverty in China thanks to Pope Francis's dreaded capitalism. Has there ever been a leftist program that accomplished a tiny fraction of this?

Want to know how to make a leftist miserable? Just double everyone's income. Everyone will be more affluent, but "income inequality" will be twice as wide, so envy will eat away any joy.

Now, God-world, or Creator-creation, is a relationship. Unlike in ancient metaphysics, the world is not an emanation, or mere prolongation, of God. In many ways, creation is the key to biblical metaphysics; or better, as Brueggemann suggests, the irreducible trinity of creator/creates/creation (or creatures), for a creator by definition creates, and creatures are what he creates.

Thus, the intellectual tradition animating Genesis is concerned with "the large issue of the relation of creator and 'creature'" (emphasis mine). Here again, we cannot have a relation to God if predestination is the case. A relationship can only exist in the space of freedom, and we could even say that freedom is literally a kind of higher dimensional phase space of potential choices.

And as alluded to by Barron, this represents a sharp break with both the ancients and the recents, in that the "'mythological' perception of reality... assumes that all the real action is with the gods and creation in and of itself has no significant value." For example, in Greek mythology, the gods just fuck with us for the sport of it, like Obama.

For the same reason, this latter metaphysic cannot support science, since science assumes an autonomous space that is free of God's direct meddling, so to speak. In other words, he allows us to figure stuff out instead of, say, putting it all down in a book from which we are not permitted to deviate. There is a reason why science did not develop in the Muslim world, and why it is under assault by the authoritarian left.

In short, "the world has been positively valued by God for itself," and "must be valued by the creatures to whom it has been provisionally entrusted." Like science, environmentalism -- the sane kind -- is a thoroughly Christian phenomenon.

Unlike that irascible nonlocal y'oql known as Allah, "the purposes of the [Judeo-Christian] creator are not implemented in a coercive way nor imposed as a tyrant might. The creator loves and respects the creation. The freedom of creation is taken seriously by the creator" (emphasis mine).

Thus, the Judeo-Christian God "authors life, but there is no hint of authoritarianism" in the text. Rather, gnoetry of Genesis valorizes a "movement towards a unity of harmony, trust, and gratitude."

In short, "the creature whom [God] has caused to be, he now lets be." That's cosmic slack, baby, and without it, life is scarcely worth creating.