Saturday, July 11, 2009

Timelessness Takes Time

In selecting something to rewordgitate from two years back, I chose the one with the fewest comments. Of course, this potentially cuts both ways, for perhaps the absence of comments was a polite way of saying I shouldn't have reposted it the first time.

However, just by cooncidence, it touches on a bobjection raised by yesterday's dyspeptic troll, to the effect that there is no way to reconcile evolution and Christianity, and that any attempt to do so should induce vomiting in the faithful.

For the traditionalist, this is an a priori argument, in that there is no amount of evidence that can convince them that evolution has taken place. Their argument is "principial," in that they would essentially say that the greater cannot be derived from the lesser, whatever the empirical evidence.

I fully agree that the greater cannot be derived from the lesser. And yet, lower things routinely precede higher ones. For example, I can't help noticing that my son no longer fits into his test tube. But does this mean that the embryo produced the four year old -- who just woke up -- excuse me...

Back. So, contained within the DNA is a kind of arrow pointing toward its own destiny. Therefore, in some way that transcends the usual categories of biology, the future is "contained" in the present, since the organism always "strives" toward its own future.

In fact, one could say the exact same thing of the self. One of the central "streams" -- or timelines -- of spiritual development involves the discovery and articulation of the true self. Here again, your future is present to you, but must be actualized in time. You might say that time is the measure of the distance between you and your true self. Call it whatever you want, but this is an evolution, which literally means to "unroll," like an ancient scroll. Darwinians just appropriated and redefined this venerable word to make it synonymous with natural selection.

So, is the cosmos an unrolling play? Or is it a fixed game?

Anyway, on to the post....

So, is it possible to reconcile Christianity with the type of evolutionary cosmos envisioned by Sri Aurobindo?

Obviously, religion must have a context, or matrix. While the religious message is absolute, its cultural container is necessarily going to be relative. What makes it tricky for Christianity is that its "absolute message" is actually extended in time -- it is a story that continues to unfold in history. In other words, unlike, say, Vedanta, Taoism, or Buddhism, Christianity is intrinsically historical, which I believe offers us a clue right away as to its evolutionary nature.

As Wright explains [I just happened to be reading this book at the time; I don't recommend it], Jesus' appearance is the climax of a long story through which "a great door has swung open in the cosmos which can never again be shut. It's the door to the prison where we've been kept chained up. We are offered freedom: freedom to experience God's rescue for ourselves, to go through the open door and explore the new world to which we now have access."

So, Christianity is fundamentally about a hole in the fabric of spacetime, through which certain "healing" energies flow: a hole into wholeness. In one sense, the creation of this hole is the end of the story: it is accomplished. But in another sense, it is only the beginning. The beginning of what?

Again, according to Wright, Jesus central proclamation was that the kingdom of God is at hand. At the time, people had certain ideas about what he meant by this, but they all turned out to be wrong. Obviously, many interpreted it in terms of traditional Jewish prophecy, of God restoring Israel and smiting her enemies. But "the whole point of Jesus' work was to bring heaven to earth and join them together forever, to bring God's future into the present and make it stick there" (emphasis mine).

Furthermore, the Holy Spirit is given so that "we ordinary mortals can become, in a measure, what Jesus himself was: part of God's future arriving in the present; a place where heaven and earth meet; the means of God's kingdom going ahead" (emphasis mine).

The Spirit is given so that we might "share in the life and continuing work of Jesus himself," and "to begin the work of making God's future real in the present." This Spirit "comes to us from that new world, the world waiting to be born," so that to live as a Christian is "to live by the rules of God's future world, even as we are continuing to live within the present one." Which is why Paul "speaks of the Spirit as the guarantee or down-payment of what is to come." He actually uses the Greek word for "engagement ring," as "a sign in the present for what is to come in the future."

Now then. We have several arresting ideas from the heart of Christianity through which we may look at the cosmos in evolutionary terms, as an unfolding drama of union with the creator -- or what I call cosmotheosis -- and of bringing the future into the present. Recall what I said above about my son's development. Is it the present moving into the future? Or is it, more mysteriously, the future drawing the present toward it -- or "reaching" down and back, like a reverse arrow of time?

There are two ways we can look at evolution: the secular way and the religious Way. It has always been understood that the secular way actually makes no philosophical or metaphysical sense, being that the greater cannot be derived from the lesser -- let alone something of the magnitude of the human subject. So, what are we doing here? The human subject is so superior to the physical cosmos that the gap between them is infinite.

As a matter of fact, it seems that the cosmos is hardly worthy of our being here. On the one hand this is a great source of existential pain and bewilderment, but on the other hand, perhaps it provides a clue into the true order of things. For as Schuon has written, "One of the keys to the understanding of our true nature and of our ultimate destiny is the fact that the things of this world never measure up to the real range of our intelligence":

The first ascertainment which should impose itself upon man when he reflects on the nature of the Universe is the primacy of that miracle that is intelligence -- or consciousness or subjectivity -- and consequently the incommensurability between these and material objects, be it a question of a grain of sand or of the sun, or of any creature whatever as an object of the senses.

The secular way of looking at evolution involves an arrow of time that moves only in the direction past --> future. Furthermore, the second law of thermodynamics maintains that the entire cosmos is "winding down," so to speak, although it does allow for local areas to temporarily violate the law. Thus, Life itself is a kind of cosmic scofflaw, but you can only be a fugitive from the law of averages for so long. Entropy prevails in the end. It's all ultimately meaningless and pointless.

At least according to the scientific view. The religious view maintains -- as implied by Wright's comments above -- that the ultimate source of our order is the future, not the past. Furthermore, there is an arrow of time that operates in the direction future --> present. That is, the divine future is ontologically real, and it is waiting to be born: in other words, timelessness takes time. Evolution is the means of God's kingdom going ahead and the work of making God's future real in the present.

On a personal level, Wright notes that "instead of being simply a part of the old [entropic] creation, a place of sorrow and injustice and ultimately the shame of death itself, you can both be a part of the new creation in advance and someone through whom it begins to happen here and now."

You may not be able to know the future, but you can be the future. For as Andrew Louth writes, "the central truth, or mystery, of the Christian faith is primarily not a matter of words, and therefore ultimately of ideas or concepts, but a matter of fact, or reality.... To be a Christian is not simply to believe something, to learn something, but to be something, to experience something."

I would say to become something, and thereby actualize your future.

To be continued....


swiftone said...

Not exactly a gabfest going on here at Coon Central. Re the lack of comments about yesterday's post, sometimes they reach way back and launch some meditations that don't "rewordgitate" easily. Yesterday's and this both hit me the same, way behind the eyeballs, deeper in. I know only the first question of the Baltimore catechism yet these posts keep pulling that "chief end of man" thought up and braided. Glorifying God may need to first take the form if knowing who I am, and acting in knowledge of who God intends me to be. Listen in that place for the beat of the drum, step into the light...accept His adventure.

And as I try to sort through it I lapse into lyrics from songs, phrases that have acted like velcro but there's something calling....

WF: whedgerr. Be a whedgerr at your own risk. Lots of company there. But the path less taken may be better.

robinstarfish said...

The yellowjacket trap on my back porch is full of the pesky little buggers. Each one flies up the conical tube and even though it could easily turn around and go back out the way it came in, not one ever does.

Do we face the same simple dilemma? How hard is it to figure out that the way out is through the future, the way we came in?

There is an arrow of time that operates in the direction future --> present.


sehoy said...

I was thinking yesterday, "What if I really believed what I say I believe? That the Holy Spirit lives inside of me, so I take Him everywhere I go. Wherever He is, so also is Jesus the Son and God the Father. And wherever They are, there also is Heaven. So at every point where God is, Heaven has invaded too."

Here is something for you since it is Shabbat:

sehoy said...

Art as Prayer, Prayer as Art.

Maybe this link will work.

Magnus Itland said...

You know what I believe about this. 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.

wv: derstime.

Van said...

"But "the whole point of Jesus' work was to bring heaven to earth and join them together forever, to bring God's future into the present and make it stick there" (emphasis mine).

... I would say to become something, and thereby actualize your future."

To know thyself, to know that you are one of many of the One I AM, THAT I AM.

I'm a bit tapped out at the moment, but that has the feel of slipping, slipping, slipping, into the future.

I laugh at it all the time too. Respectfully.

Skully said...

On a personal level, Wright notes that "instead of being simply a part of the old [entropic] creation, a place of sorrow and injustice and ultimately the shame of death itself, you can both be a part of the new creation in advance and someone through whom it begins to happen here and now."

Kinda like an advance uppayment. All we gotta do is RSVP and show

Skully said...

Aw, heck. I'll be back. My wench is givin' me the "eye" sayin' I should go to sleep now, I need my rest, blah blah.
When did wenches start gettin' all uppity? Sheesh!

Northern Bandit said...

I know nothing about Bruxy Cavey but this book is generating some buzz. Thought I'd give this a quick pass through the Raccoon filter and see what emerges before I bother investigating further.

Any thoughts?

Ricky Raccoon said...

RE being drawn vs being pushed, Bob you often use the “consciousness” of a dog to describe, effectively, the difference between theirs and humans. Tomberg may say that that may be a purpose of dogs. Similar to the point of this post (or was it yesterday's?) I think, I would say that a dog’s degree of consciousness, its present evolution, owes something to the great(est) deal of (all) time spent hanging around humans. As in, God’s “O” radiates toward us, and because the radiation is "so great" that it spills over to our pets. (If your pet is one of the lucky ones) That little bit of “ground” they share with us is simply owed to the Absolute source. We are the intermediary. Maybe you could say, God is to us, as we are to dogs. Wouldn’t dogs be like any other wilderbeasts without our inflowance? Like a wolf raised by wolves.

Anders Branderud said...

I recommend you and the reader of this post to do an extensive research of NT and Pauls doctrines at the below website (and learn what the followers of first century Ribi Yehoshua (the Mashiakh - Messiah) – the Netzarim - said about Paul and the Church) to find about its origin and the origin of the Church.

Anders Branderud
Geir Tzedeq, Netzarim