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.


mushroom said...

Rather, the opposite movement is required, surrender to, and cooperation with, a power that transcends and contains us.

To a lot of people that sounds "nice" enough, but the reality can be terrifying, especially until you get used to it. Thirty years, and I am not sure I'm used to it yet.

mushroom said...

"...combined with fortunate ignorance..."

That is a beautiful phrase. As I am riding today, I will thank God for all of which I am fortunately ignorant.

Fortunate ignorance is probably related to what Reagan described as all the things the left knows that aren't so.

Gagdad Bob said...

Sowell has a whole chapter devoted to the subject in Intellectuals & Society. I was going to try to work it in, but it would have been too much. However, it is sufficient to just remember Hayek and Godel.

julie said...

This is especially problematic...

Speaking of a word that has become saturated of late...

"Creator creates creation" - talk about a holy trinity!

ted said...

A word or concept becomes saturated when it can no longer... how to put it... attract the unknown.

I feel this about every word on a campaign slogan these days.

Kurt said...

I would suggest that God while God is not knowable in His Totality (to anyone but Himself, of course) He is amazingly knowable in our individual experience of Him. And the really wonderful thing about it is that He wants us to know Him, as much of Him as we have the will and the heart to make space for in our lives.

What UF said on the subject has always stuck with me: ‘‘...'salvation’ is life under the open sky, where each day is new and unique - a miracle in the infinite chain of miracles...For God is not unknowable, but rather, knowable – through inexhaustible and infinite knowledge.' (Letter X, 243)

It might even be said that knowing Him is an integral part of our salvation.

To me (and I am an acknowledged idiot) when something is labelled as 'unknowable' is denotes a dead end, nothing to see here, don't waste your time, move along now. And that is not the God that I know...