Monday, December 12, 2011

Is God a Verb or a Noun?

For you newly puzzled readers out there or in here, we've been psychopompously conducting a chapter-by-chapter meditation on one of the classics of Christian meta-thought, Meditations on the Tarot. We are now up to XVII, The Star.

This is the aracanum of the evolution of life and of consciousness, which are two phenomenal slides -- or better, mayafestations -- of the same noumenal cosmic process.

To say that life or consciousness "evolve" is equally to say that evolution is none other than life and consciousness deployed on the planes of matter and time (which is why time takes time, especially if it's going to get anywhere meaningful).

As the previous arcanum speaks to the problem of construction (of the Tower), this one discloses the secret of growth, a very strange and surprising property to find in a supposedly dead cosmos.

Whatever else growth is, it is spiritual through and through. To meditate deeply on the nature of growth is to meditate on the workings of the Spirit (without which spiritual growth would obviously be impossible, for it is not something a mere man could ever accomplish or even conceive on his own).

Exactly what is growth? Growth in the sense we are discussing is always a process of complexification of interior relations, whereas construction is an exterior phenomenon only. The tower is built by laying autonomous brick upon brick, but this is clearly not how a body (much less, mind) grows. And as it so happens, it is not this latter type of growth that is the cosmic anomaly.

Rather, just as the mechanistic and atomistic plane of Newtonian physics is a local phenomenon floating atop the deeper processes of the subatomic world, the simple world of Aristotelian logic and linear relations is a kind of local exception to a more fundamental world of process, nonlinear causes, interior relations, and wholeness.

In other worlds -- the real(er) one, to be precise -- biology and evolution presuppose a nonlocal and internally related cosmos, otherwise life -- let alone mind -- could never get off the ground. If Darwinian dogma fails to acknowledge this antecedent principle of nonlocal wholeness, it is a metaphysical house built upon sand, for interior wholeness cannot somehow be shoehorned into an atomistic and materialistic paradigm after the fact.

Indeed, we can only "com-prehend" evolution at all because of the interior cosmic wholeness that permeates both mind and matter, for to understand something is to see into the deep unity beneath its appearance.

A machine has a oneness of function, but no interior unity. In contrast, the body and mind have an essential wholeness which permeates each of the parts (for example, each cell in the body contains the genetic blueprint for the whole).

Furthermore, you can take away many of the parts of a human being -- legs, eyes, pancreas -- and it is still a whole human being. But if you take away the wheels, seat, and handlebars from a bicycle, it isn't a bicycle anymore. This is because the human being is animated by a nonlocal essence, which is his true form (i.e., the soul is the form of the body).

A living thing is full of innumerable flowing circles (both interior and exterior), whereas the tower is static and "dry," so to speak. And even if it requires some exchange of energy -- like an internal combustion engine that requires gasoline -- the engine obviously doesn't engage in autocatalysis. It will always remain an engine no matter how much gas you put into it. (I should add that to grow is to convert the circle to a spiral, more on which in the following card, the mʘʘn.)

UF has a lot of regard for the philosopher Henri Bergson, with whom I have only a nodding acquaintance. I tried, but found him a trifle too French. However, Bergson's ideas have some overlap with Whitehead's, and I prefer my philosophy to be made in America anyway, if possible.

Whitehead was at Harvard (which at the time was still in America) when he switched in his mid-60s from mathematics and physics to philosophy; his metaphysical cosmology wouldn't have gone over in Great Britain, where they were stranded in the nul de slack of logical positivism; and his serious interest in religion would have consigned him to irrelevance in that endarkened intellectual atmosphere. Nor did he fit in with Eliot, Lewis, Tolkien, Dawson, and the rest, since his interest was more scientific and metaphysical than mythic and theological.

I note that the wiki entry says that "prior to World War I, he considered himself an agnostic. Later he returned to religion, without formally joining any church." What is interesting about Whitehead is that he is the first person, to my knowledge, to seriously and fundamentally "think his way" back into religion via modern (post-Einstein and Darwin) science.

As kooky as things are today among the tenured, the 19th century was actually the pinnacle of simplistic scientific mechanism, determinism, and reductionism. Partly because he was one of the few people capable of both understanding quantum physics and grasping its deeper metaphysical implications, Whitehead eventually made the grand Round Trip back to Cosmic Religion (albeit in a somewhat ex-centric manner, more on which later).

Like Whitehead, Bergson recognized that "the essence of duration is to flow," and "the fixed [or externally related] placed side by side with the fixed will never constitute anything which has duration" (MOTT).

In other words, what Bergson calls "duration" is a result of dynamic flow, not of any static extension in time and space. Thanks to modern physics, we now understand that even the most solid-looking object is a flowing iteration of subatomic processes; likewise, if you look close enough at your body, you will see that it is a hive full of billions of buzzing cells going about their quirky business. Just don't do it on acid.

As mentioned the other day, it is absurd to speak of growth in the absence of final causation, or teleology, for that way lies only Cosmic Cancer, i.e., disorganized and self-interested blobs in rebellion against the Whole.

For Teilhard de Chardin -- who is right about some things, wrong about others -- the final cause of the world is what he calls the "Omega point," but we prefer to call it O (or on an individual level, ʘ). It is "that toward which spiritual evolution is tending," which would constitute "the complete unity of the outer and inner, of matter and spirit" -- whom he believes to be none other than the resurrected Jesus Christ (which is, appropriately enough, getting beyond our current head light; like Tebow, we'll comeback to it later).

As Omega point, Jesus is the cosmic archetype, or logos, who both participates in history while transcending it and "luring" existence in his wake. Thus, he is simultaneously -- and necessarily -- fully present in the diverse modes of past, present, and future, each an inevitable reflection of the other. History "drew" God into it (so to speak) in the fullness of time, just as God draws history back to Him in the fullness of eternity. More on this later, since I am pressed for time at the moment.

Here is how UF expresses it, speaking from the First and Final Person perspective: "I am activity, the effective cause, who set all in motion; and I am contemplation, the final cause, who draws towards himself all that which is in movement. I am primordial action; and I am eternal waiting -- for all to arrive where I am."

Which is why we live "outwardly" in a world of dualism, but "inwardly" (or inwordly) in a nonlocal spiritual sensorium that transcends and heals the wound(s) of duality, seen in light of the future unification (not unicity, which destroys distinction) of all -- which is always available now.

This is to unify science and religion, evolution and salvation, or what we call salvolution. It is similar to what Whitehead is trying to convey in the following:

"God and the world are the contrasted opposites in terms of which Creativity achieves its supreme task of transforming disjointed multiplicity, with its diversities in opposition, into concrescent unity, with its diversities in contrast."

Or, call it the transition from an alienated static duality that can never reach O, to an inspiraling complementarity that never really left. This latter (or ladder) is pretty much the purpose of Stayin' Alive, gosh!

Assume the Raccoon position: on the ground but happily looking up:

Vs. static duality:


Rick said...

"It will always remain an engine no matter how much gas you put into it."

And never becomes and replaces the engine as new engine material. Even though it's made of the same building blocks of non-life as is the engine. There's no essense riding under these tires.

ted said...


Just finished "Introduction to Christianity" as per one of your recommendations. Amazed to find that our current Pope was influenced and orientated towards Tielhard de Chardin's evolutionary cosmology. Not what I expected at all!

mushroom said... isn't a bicycle anymore...

It's a Prius!

mushroom said...

This is like a dessert bar. I can't even pick a favorite.

julie said...

Ha - what Mushroom said @1:11™. Plus FL, as always, is a great illustrator.

However, this gets me thinking:

As kooky as things are today among the tenured, the 19th century was actually the pinnacle of simplistic scientific mechanism, determinism, and reductionism.

Considering how much more scientists today know that we don't know, one would think there would be more room for faith as a ground for science than there was then, when so many were convinced of the purely Newtonian and mechanistic nature of reality. The more we discover, the more mysterious it all becomes - and the more some strive to cling to an absolute faith in the godlessness and knowability of everything.

julie said...

Slightly off topic, re. Riverrun to Livy, just going by the blurb it occurred to me that Joyce wrote in fractals, which is why he's both simultaneously so compelling and so dense. Not that I've read any Joyce yet, but what little I've seen suggests it may be so.

ge said...

The truly amazing [i spent the morning finally checking out his life/'mission']
Tebow ministering

his parents

Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, Joyce definitely wrote in fractals because he thought history was fractal -- which is also the biblical view, in the sense that we see similar patterns repeat themselves at various levels while resonating with archetypal narratives, e.g. Genesis.

mushroom said...

I have always thought there was a teleology inherent, if you can say that, in DNA. It works itself out the best it can at the various levels but it runs into deadends and occasionally extremes as it moves toward the "measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ".

How else do you get an Elvis monkey and a psychedelic gecko.

(The monkey strikes me as more Michael Jackson than EP -- given that it is 'noseless', but that's probably too close to a racial slur to be used in a headline.)

mushroom said...

ge, I have to confess I quit watching football for the most part somewhere around the time Jerry bought the Cowboys. But I can't help hearing about Tebow and the comparison that comes to mind is Staubach. From the sound of it, Staubach was a better QB than Tebow, but he had the same kind of unbelievable 4th-quarter luck.

Staubach's luck even extended to the guys that played behind him, e.g., Clint Longley.

horatio said...

ge said...

God a verb or noun or a coach?

el Rushbo:
One of the linebackers for the Dolphins is a guy named Karlos Dansby, who used to play for the Arizona Cardinals, and according to Karlos Dansby, what happened when the Broncos played the Dolphins in week seven was this. Dansby said that the Dolphins saw God working through Tebow and, in the process, Dansby became closer to God himself.

He said, "Us losing to Tim Tebow the way we did, we seen it first hand. Young man is blessed. Young man has a special anointing on him. And for God to show himself in that game the way He did, through the guy He did it through, it opened a lot of guys' eyes on our team. And it brought a lot of guys closer to God, so like I said, everything happens for a reason. ... My hat goes off to Tim. And God working through him like that, it opened up a lot of eyes. He’s a blessed young man and I wish him much success the rest of his career." Karlos Dansby. He said that on the Jim Rome Show.

[reminds of some of Washington's early enemies who saw sumpthin' 'aculous in his unscathedness]

mushroom said...

It's just a game, some might say. But is it any different than the games that are played in D.C. for power or Wall Street for money or in Afghanistan for life and death? The only thing that matters in the end is for whom you played.

Van said...


"History "drew" God into it (so to speak) in the fullness of time, just as God draws history back to Him in the fullness of eternity."

"Is God a Verb or a Noun?"


vanderleun said...

Garcias por las linka!