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


julie said...

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

It occurs to me once again just how novel a belief system Judeo-Christianity really is. At least, I don't know of any others where people are (literally!) called out as individuals and raised up as beloved children.

julie said...

This is certainly new...

I suspect he's probably right, though.

mushroom said...

Then again, not such a big shock if you read some of the early fathers...

I'll bet some of the early fathers would be pretty shocked at the state of Christianity in America.

Churchianity inanity is fine, but they don't want any of that mystical, gnostic, freewill stuff.

mushroom said...

RE: the Dalai Lama. This is just unbelievable. They are words. What does it hurt if someone uses words I don't like?

Everybody is so offended by what somebody says. If someone says something that is false, it can be refuted. If somebody doesn't agree with me, I think might they are uninformed or of limited intelligence. I'm not offended. I don't think stupid people should be silenced. Let 'em talk. It's like fair warning. Talk on, fool. Open your mouth and remove all doubt.

But then I am a victor not a victim.

Anonymous said...

Eskimos and ice cubes. Ghosts and antimatter. Fathers and Sons. Marketing.

Probably should not so much buying and selling. gravity does not care about the business.

Does not really fade, or market. Seems like no profit. Just rule, and wait.