God is freedom as such, whereas we only participate in this freedom -- identical to how we are conscious of truth, beauty, and goodness, without ever being the source of these transcendentals. If we were the source of these, then... well, for starters, man would not be such a mystery to himself.
Supposing you're not a mystery to yourself, I can't think of many good excuses. Most likely, you're just living in a mind-forged reality tunnel, or worse, assimilated into the Matrix created by everyone and no one, prick by prick. Either way, you are existing in a state of ontological contraction in order fit into your shrunken counter-world.
Our mystery is at once an absence and a presence. Schuon:
Whether we like it or not, we live surrounded by mysteries, which logically and existentially draw us toward transcendence.
For -- you will have noticed --
One of the keys to understanding our true nature and our ultimate destiny is the fact that the things of this world are never proportionate to the actual range of our intelligence. Our intelligence is made for the Absolute, or else it is nothing.
Either/or: if our intelligence isn't made for, and conformed to, the Absolute, then it's not even intelligence: "To claim that knowledge as such can only be relative amounts to saying that human ignorance is absolute." The absolute relativity of postmodernity confines us to one of those reality tunnels or matrices alluded to above.
Thus, "the world scatters us, and the ego compresses us," such that "forgetfulness of God becomes a habit." Man "ceases to be himself; the soul is ensnared by the periphery, it is as if deprived of its center."
I don't know about you, but I hate it when that happens. For "The greatest calamity is the loss of the center and the abandon of the soul to the caprices of the periphery." Genesis 3 All Over Again.
Bad news / good news: "It is a fact that man cannot find happiness within his own limits; his very nature condemns him to surpass himself, and in surpassing himself, to free himself."
More bad news / good news:
On the one hand, one has to resign oneself to being where one is, and on the other hand, one has to turn this place into a center through the Remembrance of God; for wherever God is evoked, wherever He is manifested, there is the Center.
Echoing what was said in the first paragraph about freedom, "This freedom would be meaningless without an end prefigured in the Absolute; without the knowledge of God and of our final ends, it would be neither possible nor useful."
Like the intelligence from which it flows, an impossibility or a nuisance, a dream or a nightmare.
With those prelumenaries out of the way, let's complete our dive into Norris Clarke's The Philosophical Approach to God, specifically, to the last chapter, which delves into exactly how God is related to the world.
For in the classical view, it is as if we are related to God, but God isn't truly related to us, since the latter implies relativity, and relativity implies mutability. As I've mentioned before, I have no problem with this -- I can't even think about God in any other way -- but apparently it's a Big Problem for theologians who are way above my praygrade.
Although I don't consider myself to be one, Clarke credits "process thinkers" with the conception of God as
profoundly involved and personally responsive to the ongoing events of His creation, in particular to the conscious life of created persons as expressed in the mutuality, the mutual giving and receiving, proper to interpersonal relations (emphases mine).
Not to belabor the point, but I don't see how we can have it both ways, i.e., that God is immutability itself, from all eternity, and that "what happens in the world makes a real difference to the conscious life of God."
I've heard sophisticated people defend the doctrine of immutability and absolute foreknowledge of God by comparing it to a mother who tells a child not to eat a cookie, knowing full well that the moment she leaves the kitchen, the child will "choose" to reach up to the counter and pull the cookie out of the jar.
But this isn't an adequate analogy if the parent knew from all eternity that the child would inevitably eat the cookie -- and indeed, created the child to eat it. Either we're free or we're not free; I don't see any wiggle room.
Is there really no contingency this world? And if not, then how is the world distinct from God's own necessity? If we deny contingency, then the world seems to merge with, and be indistinguishable from, necessary being, and how is this different from a monistic pantheism?
Granted, I'm a simple man, but there seems to be a simple way out. Clarke speaks for me:
our metaphysics of God must certainly allow us to say that in some real and genuine way God is affected positively by what we do, that He receives love from us and experiences joy precisely because of our responses.
Does it not say somewhere that there is more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner repenting than ninety-nine who don't need to? How does that work, exactly, if heaven knew all along that the sinner would repent? "Joy" doesn't seem compatible with a jaded I knew it all along.
Back to the easy way out of this conundrum -- easy for me, anyway. Schuon often discusses it in the context of God's infinitude, but I'll save that for a subsequent post. Let's first review how Clarke deals with the question, because I think there's some overlap. He speaks of a "relational consciousness" in God, which nevertheless
does not involve change, increase or decrease, in the Infinite Plenitude of God's intrinsic inner being and perfection -- what St. Thomas would call the "absolute" (non-relative) aspect of His perfection.
At the same time, "To receive love as a person"
is not at all an imperfection, but precisely a dimension of the perfection of personal being as lovingly responsive....
if we examine the matter more fully, we realize that God's "receiving" from us, being delighted at our response to His love, is really His original delight in sharing with us in His eternal Now His own original power of loving and infinite goodness which has come back to Him in return.
An image floats into my head: God has set before us two cookies, one carrying the false promise to transform us into gods, the other actually accomplishing what it symbolizes. Perhaps he really doesn't know which one we'll choose, but he will be delighted if it's the latter.
I'll conclude with this passage:
As to what God's timeless knowledge of our changing world is like, we have no clear idea and should be more willing... to leave this as a mystery, not prematurely closing off any metaphysical options....
The mode of the divine presence is left entirely mysterious. In other words, it is impossible for us ever to say in our language when God knows anything. Any translation from the all-inclusive Now of God into any of our exclusive "nows" or "whens" is irremediably equivocal.
Only God knows.