Monday, January 29, 2018

In the Beginning...

A brief review before we dive further into No God, No Science.

One of the most fundamental distinctions in traditional philosophy -- by which I mean the Aristotelian-Thomist stream leading to us -- is that between act and potency, which are as opposite as opposites can be, conditioning the distinctions (in my opinion) between change and permanence, many and one, time and eternity, necessary and possible, whole and part. At least from our standpoint, all of being is a division of these two rascals.

One purpose of the distinction is to account for change, for it is by no means obvious how and why it exists. But it does, which means it must ultimately be relative to something changeless -- to the ultimate cause of all change, but which does not itself change. That would be pure act, AKA God.

Conversely, potency is the potential for change. In order for that change to occur, it needs to be actualized by some other cause, since things can't cause themselves.

Let me just remind the reader that I have no actual training in this sort of thing. Rather, my only training is in psychoanalysis. Philosophy has just been picked up along the way. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing, because it has allowed me to cross-reference certain home truths.

For example, I regard the act/potency distinction as one of those home truths. What would be its equivalent in my psychoanalytic bag of tricks? Well, one rough equivalent -- or at least prolongation -- would be that between ego and self, the latter being the much more expansive of the two.

In this context, you could say that a purpose of life is to become one's self, or in other words, to actualize one's potential. Being that we are in the image of God, the self is analogous (a distant analogy to be sure) to God: specifically, it shares something of God, who is pure act.

It can only be expressed orthoparadoxically: compared to God, who is pure act, we are indeed potency. But compared to the potency of the ego, the self is like act. Which, in a way, it is; recall what the Meister says about it, that "there is something in the soul which is above the soul, divine, simple." It is "higher than knowledge, higher than love, higher than grace, for in all these there is still a distinction." For me, it can be conveyed visually by the symbols O and ʘ. If God is the circle of being, we are like a circular fractal of that primordial circle.

Put it this way: God is necessary. Everything else, including us, is possible. And yet -- miracle of miracles! -- we are given a share in God's necessity. How do we know this? Well, for starters, because we know it.

No, that is not a just a cute comeback. Rather, as Schuon takes pains to elucidate -- and this is one of those principles that one either sees or doesn't see -- "The worth of man lies in his consciousness of the Absolute." You could say that in all of creation we are the only potency that knows of act. For

Man is made for what he is able to conceive; the very ideas of absoluteness and transcendence prove both his spiritual nature and the supra-terrestrial character of his destiny.

In this regard, our "destiny" can be none other than our source, in an inspiraling adventure from potency to act -- or of actualizing our divine-human potential. And if I'm wrong about this, then to hell with it. Life isn't worth the hassle of living. Here's is some further explanation by Schuon:

"Our deformity implies that our spirit is made of absoluteness" and "our will of freedom." In case you were wondering, that is how all this otherwise inexplicable truth and freedom get into the cosmos. They get in here because they share in God's eternal act.

We needed that little review in order to understand what Hanby means when he says that "The universe is an inherently metaphysical idea because the unity of the universe is a unity of being-as-act." Its presumptive unity is derivative of the transcendent unity of its creator, who is at once infinitely beyond the creation and within it; his immanence is a function of his transcendence, which is why everything is what it is, and yet, transcends what it is, most pointedly in the case of man.

Which is why we can know all about, say, an ant, and yet, never have complete knowledge of so much as an ant. The world is radically contingent, but traces of absoluteness are everywhere. All true knowledge is really a vapor trail of God.

This is all by way of trying to understand what Hanby means when he says that

The Incarnation of Christ disclosed a God at once nearer and more remote than that of the Greeks and was indeed both for the same reason: being no part of any cosmic monism, this God was so wholly other as to be able to become "non-other" in Christ without diminution of his divinity or negation of his humanity.

The universe, which is radically contingent, is paid a visit by its ultimate principle. Which makes one wonder: how did the cosmos not simply explode on impact? Well, maybe it did. How else do you explain that giant hole in history, the divine asteroid that ripped the space-time continuum such that we continue to mark time relative to its appearance?

In a way, creation is the "first book" of revelation. Adam must be the second. On the most abstract level these are subject and object, intelligence and intelligibility, which ultimately reduce to the logos that permeates everything. That's the logos that was with God from before the beginning, and with whom he made everything that was made.

Before Christ, the logos is implicit. With Christ, logos is made explicit. God first has to nurture a culture in which such an event is possible before it is made actual. Pregnancy precedes birth, even though birth is the point of pregnancy. Likewise, Mary precedes Jesus, but before Mary was, He Is.

Now, perhaps the most consequential error of scientism is to revert to a cosmos that, as it were, becomes pure act, or its own cause and explanation. It is no longer a contingency that depends upon something necessary, but becomes a kind of self-sufficient absolute. As a result, the scientistic philosopher who "knows" this is granted (by himself) a kind of sham omniscience. Science not only explains everything, but explains everything that can be explained. If it is not reducible to scientific categories, then it doesn't exist.

So, it's an inverted image of the truth:

In the beginning was Matter, and Matter was with the Facts, and Matter was the Fact. It was factual in the beginning. Through Matter all facts were made; without Matter nothing was factual that was factual.


julie said...

between change and permanence, many and one, time and eternity, necessary and possible, whole and part.

Also potential and kinetic...

Abdulmonem Othman said...

If there is no god, there is nothing ,after all he is the originator of everything physical and non-physical. It is strange, how after realizing that truth we retrace our epistemological origin to other humans like ourselves and forget the original source. The theoparadoxical is the source of the orthoparadoxical and the anthroparadoxical. The unknowable one essence that can not be reduced to human level nor can any human be elevated to his level. We are participators in his epistemological realm of his transcendental and immanent manifestations. Navigating in his qualities because he is timeless,limitless quantityless that is why it is unpalatable to raise the quantifiable human to his level, that is why some Christians find the necessity of moving out of the trinity box, realizing that trinity is a human box and not a divine box. The three of everything the knower, the known and the knowledge. the original mover the moved and the motion and everything in constant motion. The father the mother and the son. It is that possibility that
can never be able to embrace potentiality. He is the source of our knowledge not the books or other likes, that is why all sages call upon us to look for his wise knowledge. Prayer and meditation are our tunnels to him when his flashes unexpectedly strike in silence. No wonder mother Teresa when she was asked how she dialogue with him she said in silence and how he replies she said in silence also. Let us all enter the abode of silence more time than leaving ourselves in the mansions of noise and know that only truth is our path to salvation.

Anonymous said...

I like your philosophizing, Dr. Godwin. So few are active in that discipline of inquiry, and despite no formal training, you are a sharpie.

The "worth of man depends on his consciousness of God," can more aptly stated "the worth of man consists of God's consciousness."

I find your emphasis on Christ's visit here carries the un-examined assumption of singularity; how can you be certain 100 such agents of God have not been sent here, but received less publicity? What about Krishna? How about Akhenaton? How can you be certain such an agent, or multiple agents, are not here now, but laying low?

And finally, regarding Abdulmonem's thoughts about the Trinity, of course he has no recourse but to cleave to the teachings of his faith. But even for those without any faith, the Trinity seems oddly unnecessary. Does not the Sun produce heat, light, and gravity? Yet do we call it a Trinity? No, it just called the Sun.

Well that's my irritable little deposit for the day.