Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Cosmic Freedom and Divine Presence

Not much time this morning... Continuing with our theme of divine omniscience, it seems to me that God can either be omniscient (in the traditional sense) or free, but not both. After all, to be free is to be undetermined, but to know everything in advance is to be completely determined.

I feel as if I'm beating a dead horse, but the vast majority of believers would apparently disagree on this point. Rather, God by definition knows everything that has happened, is happening, and will happen. I can go along with the first two, but not the third, because the second -- the present -- includes a space of real freedom and therefore uncertainty. Woo hoo!

We used to have an irreligious reader who would come by and flog his theory that man has no free will, but is totally caused by antecedents. I could never make him realize that if his theory were universally true (and it was probably more or less true of him), then truth itself would be impossible because there would be no point of vantage outside the deterministic system. (I say true "of him," because the theory was likely an autobiography of his sense of being enclosed in and determined by his mind parasites.)

If everything is just an effect of antecedents, then there can be no exception for your little theory. So the theory falls by its own standard: eliminate freedom and you simultaneously abolish truth and creativity. D'oh!

There is existence and there is experience. Perhaps the central mystery of the cosmos is how the former becomes the latter -- how experience gets in here at all, and what is its meaning.

Now, one of the first principles of the ancient Raccoon teachings is that you can't derive experience from existence. There's not even a theory for a theory of how this would be possible on a purely scientific basis, i.e., how an objective universe can become subjective -- how the outside can become inside and then perceive and understand its own outside.

It's difficult enough to comprehend how a single cell can become a human being, but an even deeper issue is how a dead cosmos can come to life without presupposing Life.

Experience can only take place in the present, and indeed, in a certain way, is the present. If that is the case, then "presence" and "experience" co-arise, such that each moment is reality presencing itself.

But if there were no being to experience the presence, then the present wouldn't exist. It seems to me that there would just be a kind of perpetual "pasting," i.e., one damn objective thing after another, each determined by its immediate predecessors. But how can you even say "object" without implicitly positing the Subject?

Is the present a function of the experiencer, or vice versa? I think ultimately the whole existentialada falls apart unless we posit a Divine Experiencer. Remove him from the equation, and I don't see how you get to subjects, to human beings, and to the present (in which freedom and creativity are expressed).

Hartshorne: "To live is to decide, and decide anew, each moment." If each moment is already decided for us, then life is a kind of illusion. We are really dead, or at least there is no fundamental difference between being dead and being alive.

Here we go: "we shall never understand life and the world until we see that the zero of freedom can only be the zero of experiencing, and even of reality" (ibid.). And another Raccoon principle is that it is experiencing all the way down, because the manifested world is really a prolongation of the Divine Experiencer; or, to put it another way, God can create nothing that doesn't reflect his God-ness.

The cosmos is shot through with organicism, or internal relations, which is why every teeny weeny, right down to the last itsy bitsy, "is in some measure free; for experiencing is partly free act. Thus creativity, emergent novelty, is universal" (ibid.).

To see this, one must only look through the correct end of the cosmic telos-scope. Among other benefits, "with the admission of universal creativity, dualism loses its necessity."

Experiences are facts; the only question is, what else is fact? --Charles Hartshorne


julie said...

A couple of weeks ago, Just Thomism had a post about Eternity, not determinism.

"Eternal knowledge makes determinism only if it were seen as making the whole of time like a film already shot, so that we could no more change the future than we could change the past. But a whole film differs crucially from the whole of time – the whole film exists at one time, but all time does not and cannot exist at one time."

Magister said...

Egads, I was writing a long response and realized Bob's post was making me think about things I had no business thinking quickly about. I won't bore my fellow raccoons with a lot of over-determined sequential stuff, freedom to scroll past notwithstanding. Briefly: whether the film is already shot is a matter of perspective. To those immersed in time, it can never appear to be already shot. But to God, who is at least both in and outside time?

The question to me is this: how must we understand the relationship between God’s be-ing and His knowledge? If God's being is infinite, then so too must be His knowledge. Otherwise, it is difficult for me to understand how God could be present to something and not know it. The two must be co-extensive. I’m not sure then what to make of a claim that God’s omniscience and his omnipresence can be separated. Jewish thinkers have speculated about a "void" (tsimstum?) that God created to put a space between Himself and creation, a space where He is neither present nor, presumably, even aware. I get the metaphor, but have a difficult time seeing the logic in it.

Emotionally, I'm all for freedom, joy, unpredictability, improvisation, and unpredictability. I completely agree with Bob:

"I'd want to create a little realm of unpredictability just to relieve the tedium!”

I'm a reckless American and proud of it. But the word "tedium" struck an odd note with me. In the Thomistic view, God is an infinite supernova of creative love. All be-ing is present to Him, the good and the evil, He sees it all elapse, He responds to its elapsing, and He has it all, every bit of it, in His embrace. But here we can only resort to metaphor. God does not experience the sequential thing called “tedium” because God is not only in time.

Existence is One thing to God, and it is infinite, so perhaps (speculating here) His delight in our creative action is that He gets to watch it all happen, those crazy humans, everywhere, all at once! An infinite delight!


julie said...

To those immersed in time, it can never appear to be already shot. But to God, who is at least both in and outside time?

I like to go back to the difference between 2 and 3 dimensions. To someone in 2d, it would be crazy-making to try to figure out how one slice of a 3d being could possibly relate to another slice, much less determine how it is that all of the slices could exist simultaneously.

I guess for me it comes down to a matter of faith: that God granted us free will, with all that entails, while existing in an eternity that contains our lives without doing violence to that freedom.

mushroom said...

It seems to me that there would just be a kind of perpetual "pasting," i.e., one damn objective thing after another, each determined by its immediate predecessors.

I agree with Julie (I think). We are confused by seeing "the arrow of time" moving in one dimension. There is an eternal "depth" to time like a spring boiling up from beneath.

Van Harvey said...

"Experience can only take place in the present, and indeed, in a certain way, is the present. If that is the case, then "presence" and "experience" co-arise, such that each moment is reality presencing itself."

I'm firmly against the fundie conception of predestination, and fully Free Will because... cause.


If I were to try to imagine a situation, another dimension where our conception of Free Will, could be incorporated into a that-dimensional situation of creativity... try this on:

Starting first with our idea of a Sculptor and his intended sculpture. He has the final image in mind before he begins, and that image neither limits his creativity, nor downgrades his skills in sculpting it, not before beginning, not during the sculpting process, nor after it is complete and standing before him and meriting his approval.

Now take that image up a notch, imagining a sculpting material not of inanimate clay, but of clay brought to life, a material (us) that is not only responsive, but interactive in the sculpting process... it is being both molded and molding, according to its nature, And to the sculptors intentions and actions.

Stick with that, and imagine the sculpture complete... a massive, extraordinairily beautiful creation of additional dimensions (how many more? We fail at imagining a single additional dimension, but if another is possible, why not more than that?), and imagine each particle of its surface, as being Active, add if a single frame of a film, but holographic, in motion; them you'd have a Creation that is both created, and in the act of creating, in every spec of its form.

In that unimaginable (to us) situation, we the materials, would fully have Free Will, and the Artist would have creativity in creation, prior, during, and after creating it, all at 'Once'.

Note: Pot for sale at Good Friday bargain pricing!

Gagdad Bob said...

I think this is consistent with today's new post, i.e., that it is as if God sculpts not just sculptures but sculptors.

Van Harvey said...

Yep, just read it, it seems I was typing through the OC Party Line.

Fortunately I've got the unlimited data plan.