Saturday, January 20, 2024

Can You See the Real Me?

We're officially sidetracked into Walker Percy's semiotic musings about the mysterious coupler that unites word and thing. He's definitely on to something. I'm not sure if he himself ever grasped the full implications, so that's down to us. After all, he was only a distinguished novelist, not an impertinent blogger.

This post will probably be somewhat scattershot, since I'm working from the book Conversations with Walker Percy, which covers the same ground in different ways from interview to interview. 

One of the points that jumped out to me was his assertion that man is an irreducibly triadic animal who tries to describe everything -- including himself -- in dyadic terms. And to the extent that we do this, the result will be what the modern world calls "alienation" -- or what in a later book he would characterize as being Lost in the Cosmos.

I agree 100%, even if I'm not entirely sure what I am agreeing with. Rather, I just know it. Here are some other passages with which I agree:

Q: An anemone on a tidal flat is perfectly at home as far as I can tell.

A: [The anemone] is himself neither more nor less, whereas a man can either be himself or not himself -- he doesn't necessarily coincide with himself. So you have this tremendous gap between accounting for animals..., which can be done by fairly adequate mechanistic models, and accounting for man, who can erect theories and utter sentences about these very creatures.

Now, the conduct of science would be inconceivable without this gap, so it's another one of those things it ignores. Which is fine, so long as we don't conflate this dyadic methodology with a properly triadic ontology.

Another subtle point is that "it is a burden of science to establish continuities, not discontinuities." As Rosen might say, science reduces evident discontinuities to manageable continuities, doing inevitable damage to the very nature of anything more complex than matter-in-motion. 

We've written before -- including in the book -- that the (vertical) hierarchical continuity of the cosmos cannot possibly be explained from the bottom up, rather, only from the top down. 

There is, of course, both continuity and discontinuity -- for they are complementary -- but as with all Primordial Complementarities, one must be ontologically prior, in this case continuity, because -- obviously -- no amount of discontinuity, no matter how fine, results in continuity. Which is why good vinyl sounds better than digital, even though the latter is more convenient.

Likewise, now that I think about it, thinking dyadically about reality is also more convenient. But applied to Life, Person, Consciousness, Spirit, God, and other tricksy wickets, it is ultimately self-beclowning, as we shall see. I AM is not your clown.

Scientists never even address themselves to the gap, let alone try to explain it.

And with good reason, for this is not the role of distinguished scientists, rather, for impertinent bloggers.

I think it's a kind of misplaced religion. The "biological continuum" is almost a sacred dogma.... [T]he qualitative gap between non-speaking and the speaking animal is offensive to a person who posits continuity as the sine qua non of science. But supposing there is a qualitative gap -- what are you going to do about it? 

Me? Keep writing, of course. As we have said on Many Occasions, there is literally an infinite gap between matter and life and between life and self-consciousness: man in particular, in case you haven't gnosissed, is discontinuous, which in turn is a mystery -- the infinitely intelligible kind.

Why? Because the intellect is conformed to the Infinite, that's why. Let's bring in Thomas for some backup: "Our intellect in understanding is extended to infinity." And "This ordering of the intellect to infinity would be vain and senseless if there were no infinite object of knowledge."

Correct: it could be vain and senseless, but we're betting on... the antonyms of vain and senseless, which is to say, productive and sensible. 

As to the Gap, Thomas affirms that "Created things are midway [i.e., in the Gap] between God's knowledge and our knowledge." Thus the Gap abides unless or until we become God. Or unless God becomes man, and has some skin in the game.

Oh, but it is a game, Dude -- a kind of language game, or better, a game of metalanguage. 

I take it as axiomatic that one should settle for nothing less than the infinite mystery and the infinite delight, i.e., God. In fact, I demand it. I refuse to settle for anything less.


Q: What kind of Catholic are you?

A: Bad.


Q: How is such a belief possible in this day and age?

A: What else is there?

Reminds me of when Stephen Dedalus is asked why he doesn't abandon Catholicism:

What kind of liberation would that be, to forsake an absurdity which is logical and coherent and to embrace one which is illogical and incoherent?

I also can't help thinking of Preacher Harry Powell and The religion the Almighty and me works out betwixt us.

As for Percy,

The only answer I can give is that I asked for it, in fact demanded it. I took it as an intolerable state of affairs to have found myself in this life and this age, which is a disaster by any calculation, without demanding a gift commensurate with the offense. So I demanded it.

We've said before that we are -- no offense -- owed the courtesy of an explanation. Perhaps this sounds impertinent -- again -- but God does not give us the gift of intellect only to leave us lost in the cosmos. Rather, he wants us to find him, you might even say desperately. 

We've only just scratched the surface of the Gap. We will continue the discontinuity in the next installment. 

Friday, January 19, 2024

Cosmic Alienation and the Great In Between

This post took off in an unanticipated direction, for two reasons: it began with a meditation on the mysterious nature of the coupler introduced in yesterday's post.

It then occurred to me that the coupler cuts both ways, in that it is necessarily bound up with both freedom and alienation. I began pursuing the latter angle, before my brain ran out of gas prematurely due to low blood sugar. We'll get back to the generative nature of the coupler per se in the next post.     

Yesterday we spoke of the mysterious "coupler" between symbol and symbolized, word and referent, subject and predicate. Most people don't bother to think about it, while Percy is so bothered he calls it an "ultimate mystery." 

Of note -- and he was a science-minded, trained physician -- it cannot be reduced to any material, neurological substrate, for it is fundamentally immaterial:

The coupler remains a mystery, and in my opinion will never be accounted for mechanistically..., because the coupler has the freedom to couple any elements of language (Percy).

It's why man never stops talking, and yet, never says anything in the same way twice (unless reading from a script). Human language is simultaneously constrained and yet infinite. Could this be because, unlike other animals, man is conformed to the Infinite?

When lower animals reach a state of homeostasis, they fall asleep. But for man, this is when the trouble starts. Give him food and shelter, and he starts dreaming of alternative realities and living in a parallel looniverse. When its instincts are satisfied, the lower animal is "perfectly at home." But for man, it is as if he discovers This is not my beautiful house! 

Alienation. No animal is alienated, whereas it seems that man cannot not be alienated from this world. We have written many posts on how the left reformulates this existential alienation in political terms in order to exploit it for the acquisition of power. Genesis 3 is simply our ur-myth of man's alienation, and oh how many aphorisms go to this truth. Myth?

Whoever does not believe in myths believes in fairy tales.

Neo-Marxist fairy tales of the tenured. 

The left is made up of individuals who are dissatisfied with what they have and satisfied with who they are.

The self-satisfaction takes the form of their supremely punchable smugness and superiority, the arrogant wisdom of the unlearned. 

If the leftist is not persecuting, he feels persecuted.

Or in other words, cannot stop persecuting MAGA extremists and horrible deplorables in order to manage their own persecutory mind parasites projected into us. It's why we are the THRETS TO DEMOKRISY! 

He who wishes to avoid grotesque collapses should look for nothing in space or time that will fulfill him.

Sorry, the alienation is baked into the cake, which was left out in the rain in a park east of Eden, and there is no manmade recipe that can build it back better again. 

Hell is the place where man finds all his projects realized.

The Democrat platform is the Good Intentions Paving Company: destination Hell.

The proclamation of our autonomy is the founding act of Hell.

The atomistic individualism of the progressive herd of conformists.  

The promises of life disappoint no one but the one who believes they are fulfilled here. 

The promises of the left disappoint anyone foolish enough to believe them. 

To be a conservative is to understand that man is a problem without a human solution.

 To be a progressive is to be the disease it pretends to cure.

He who jumps, growls, and barks has an invisible collar and an invisible chain.

They call it "institutional racism," but it's just the pleasure of participating in one's own subjugation, i.e., auto-victimization for fun & profit. 

The liberal is capable of sacrificing even his interests to his resentment.


Activism is the asylum for one who has nowhere to dwell and nowhere to go.

In other words, alienation pretending it has a political solution. 

Social problems are the delightful refuge of those fleeing from their own problems.

The left never stops trying to put us out of their misery. 

Human nature always takes the progressive by surprise.

Because postmodern philosophy begins with the denial of essences, including human nature.

Man prefers to apologize by offering another person's guilt, rather than his own innocence, as an excuse.

White privilege, patriarchy, transphobia, et al.

Today the individual rebels against his own inalterable human nature in order to refrain from amending his own correctable nature. 

There is actually a cure for gender dysphoria or autogynephilia short of cutting off your johnson. Of course, here in California the cure is illegal. 

Man matures when he stops believing that politics solves his problems.

The intrinsic and permanent immaturity of the progressive left. But

The only possible progress is the internal progress of each individual. A process that concludes with the end of each life.

Again, illegal in California. 

The soul is the task of man.

For the left, the soul doesn't exist, and besides, they killed it. 

We only know how to carry ourselves with decency in front of the world when we know we are owed nothing. Without the pained grimace of a frustrated creditor. 

Life isn't fair, and the world doesn't owe you a living. But it helps to make yourself useful to your fellow man.  

Man is the animal who imagines itself to be Man. 

As we shall see, one of the consequences of the coupler is that man is never finished, but he is oriented to a telos -- a telos that is present in history. 

Self-satisfaction is pathetic proof of lowliness.

And no matter how far they dig, don't be surprised that the left can always go lower.

Thursday, January 18, 2024

The One, the Two, and the Coupler

The gap of the Gods. I thought that was a pretty good line to describe the Spirit. It deserves more than an ignominious burial under the next shovel of pneumabobble. 

Exactly what couples a couple? What is the nexus between two whos -- the we between the I am and the you are?

Who is the third who walks always beside you? / When I count, there are only you and I together / But when I look ahead up the white road / There is always another one walking beside you

He doesn't exactly say. But speaking of the coupler, yesterday I was perusing a book called Conversations with Walker Percy, he being the Catholic novelist who also wrote a mock self-help book called Lost in the Cosmos. In general he preferred to incarnate his novel ideas via character, but in one of these conversations he delves into metaphysics and his theory of language, suggesting that

it is more or less obvious that there is such a thing as a "coupler," an agent which couples, just as in Descartes' Cogito, there is an "I'" which thinks. If subject and predicate or name and thing are coupled, there is a coupler.

For example, to say I think, therefore I am presupposes an implicit link -- a mysterious coupler -- between the two affirmations, and it turns out that this coupler is -- in my opinion -- everything.

If subject and predicate or name and thing are coupled, there is a coupler. I do not presume to say what it is.  

He cites the famous example of Helen Keller, who "couples the liquid water" -- or the experience of wetness -- "with the word 'water.'" 

He refrains from speculating on the ontological status of the coupler, only that there is one.

Where does this leave us? We'll put it in the vertical hopper for now, and hopefully return to it as the post proceeds. 

Back to the book PneumatologyKärkkäinen adverts to "the communion of the Holy Spirit" which ultimately encompasses

the whole "community of creation," from the most elementary particles to atoms to molecules to cells to living organisms to animals to human beings to communities of humanity.

Different comm-unities, same coupler that unites them? For it seems there is a "fellowship as process" which lives "from the exchange of energy with them," such that "Any kind of community of creation is the fellowship of the Holy Spirit."  

Lots of peaches to unpack from that fruitcase. What is the ontological glue that binds these diverse manifestations of community-in-process? Why, it's none other than the gap of the Gods: the Spirit is "guiding, luring, wooing, influencing, drawing all humanity, not just the church." 

Wooing? Is that too woo-woo? Or not enough?

Back to Helen Keller's water, only transposed to a higher key: conversion "can be described as... an event of the life-giving Spirit. It is living water within, springing up to eternal life."

Let's bring in a coonsultant, Stanley Jaki, whose book Means to Message says it all in the title:

philosophy and science depend on a means, an object, some physical reality, which even spoken words are, as the carrier of their message.

The coupler? Kärkkäinen writes that 

Father and Son are not two, but they are not one either; it is the Spirit who unites and distinguishes them.... To use an ancient metaphor, the Father is the source of the river, the Son is the river that flows from the source, and the Spirit is the ocean in which the river ends.

A blissful wave of the immortal now, rising forth from the effulgent sea of existence. inhere in here... A drop embraced by the sea held within the drop.

Consciousness tends, like a spider, the lexical web, in order to capture the ideas that fly into the interior spaces like drunken insects.

Everything is a drunken insect caught in the conscious web of the One, the Two, and the Coupler.

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

The Gap of the Gods and the Experience of Experience

We suggested a few posts ago that the Spirit is God's own wild card, and it seems that many of the mysteries of the cosmos come down to the influence of (): life, subjectivity, freedom, creativity, transcendence, teleology. 

Can the same principle be responsible for such a diverse list? I don't know, Bob -- it sounds a bit vague and jumbled, as if the Spirit is just the same old "God of the gaps" covering over our ignorance. 

Maybe, but I suspect there is indeed a deep relationship between O and (), because absent the latter we could never know of the former, but rather, would be sealed in immanence -- like a bad case of metaphysical autism.  

Besides, perhaps () is the God of the gaps -- beginning with the "gap" between Father and Son. Earlier in the book Kärkkäinen suggests that "pneumatology is present in all theological topics," and come to think of it, the Aphorist himself says 

Only God can fill even the tiniest gap.

So maybe we're on to something. It goes to the old problem of the One and the Many, because to say many is to say gaps between things, and yet, absent the underlying oneness we could never even know of the maniness -- the many manies would not be intelligible to Intelligence.  

The Aphorist also says that

Monism is an attitude that violates half of the experience.

And that 

Every discontinuity is an approximation of pure materiality to time.

Which implies that the mysterious experience of Experience accounts for the continuity -- and indeed is Continuity as such -- but we'll have to think this through, or at least leave this seedling for now and hope that something sprouts from it in the course of the post. Did someone say seed?

A seed of God grows into God (Eckhart).

I wonder if the following aphorism has some relevance to our subject, that

The most important thing in philosophy is the line that demarcates the territory of a mystery. The anonymous person who first said: the individual is ineffable, did something more important than one who envisions a bold speculation.

At any rate, the theologiaJürgen Moltmann "highlights the critical role of the Spirit of God in giving birth and sustaining life," aiming "to create a pneumatology that does not exclude any area of life" (Kärkkäinen, emphasis mine).

Eckhart would like to jump in again:

From all eternity God lies on a maternity bed giving birth. The essence of God is birthing. 

In fact, he has much to say about the divine birth in the soul, which strongly implies a feminine aspect of the Spirit, a subject to which we will return below right now:

We are all meant to be mothers of God. 

"Blessed is the fruit of Bob's womb"? That sounds more than a bit sacrilegious. Hey, don't look at me. Blame the Maestro: 

Pay attention now to where this birth takes place: this eternal birth takes place in the soul, totally in the manner it takes place in eternity. 

Eckhart asks

What good is it to me if this eternal birth of the divine Son takes place unceasingly but does not take place within myself?

So hail Bob, who may or may not be full of it.

Moltmann also adverts to the relationship between the Spirit and the miracle of subjectivity, of the revelation of 

God's immanence in human experience, and in the transcendence of human beings in God. Because God's Spirit is present in human beings, the human spirit is self-transcendently aligned toward God. 

Thy will be done, and all that. An alignment -- over the Gap -- of wills.

As to its role in the mystery of creation, Moltmann writes of "the Spirit of God as the power of creation and the wellspring of life":

Every experience of a creation of the Spirit is hence also an experience of the Spirit itself. Every true experience of the self becomes also an experience of the divine spirit of life in the human being. Every lived moment can be lived in the inconceivable closeness of God in the Spirit.

Here again, there is no closeness without the Gap, the Spirit being what closes Gap, precisely. In one of his more famous formulations, Eckhart writes that

The eye with which I see God is the same eye with which God sees me. 

Seeing at once implies distance and yet a unity in the distance. Physicists, for example, can see all the way back to the moment of the creation of the cosmos, i.e., the background radiation of the big bang.

But you needn't be acquainted with physics to see even before the big bang, to its vertical ground and source in the womb of O, which gives birth to the cosmos. The cosmos is a creature, and "Every creature is a word of God" (Eckhart). And "God creates all things but he does not stop creating."

Hardly. For "creatures are always being created and in the process of beginning to be created." Ultimately, "Being is God's circle and in this circle all creatures exist." Moreover, "All creatures are interdependent," which means that the Gap is both real and a kind of illusion.  

Gosh, we've covered an awful lot of goround. Let's leave something for tomorrow's now.

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Two Divided by Love

Again, organisms are open systems that exchange matter, information, or energy with the environment. Our argument is that man is also a vertically open system, open to... let's just call it () for now; () is not matter, nor is it exactly information, but many authorities -- especially in the east -- regard it as a kind of energy.

I was referring to the Christian Orthodox east, but he may have a point. A later chapter of Pneumatology is devoted to cross-cultural conceptions of this mysterious energy, but for now let's stick with Christendom.

Here's something:

If the church is founded by the sovereign action of the Spirit, then the church is an "open system" (emphasis mine).

Analogously, consider the structure of, say, an ocean current, or the jet stream, both of which exist only because of the matter and energy flowing through them. Being that these process structures can persist for hundreds and thousands of years, they are characterized by a kind of "stable instability" on the border between order and chaos.

Come to think of it, this must be why, on the human level, life and anxiety are such cussin' cousins. No matter how stable things appear, we're no more than a damn banana peel from catastrophe. Some of us are more constitutionally sensitive to these perturbations, while others are haunted by the feeling that something good is about to happen.

That was originally a joke, but consider the martyrs, who in the face of the worst possible circumstances, were convinced of a happy ending. This must be the inverse of anxiety -- call it existential unxiety.

Which, they say, is a gift -- a gift of the (). For, what exactly are the gifts of the Holy Spirit, Mr. Google? "The Holy Spirit works in each person in one way or another for the good of all," e.g., faith, fortitude, or serenity now! 

 () also seems to exert a teleological pull; again, it is the strangest of strange attractors:

"God's gracious self-communication in the Spirit has become manifest in history," writes Kärkkäine, and the "world is drawn to its spiritual fulfillment by the Spirit of God, who directs the whole history of the world in all its length and breadth toward its proper goal" (Rahner).

Unless you're the anxious type, in which case the world seems to be spinning off its axis. It was fun watching MSNBC last night.

Kärkkäine cites another theologian who conceives the Spirit "as the efficacy of the energy of God." Moreover, it is God's "vitality," i.e., his "inspiring breath by which he grants life in creation and re-creation." 

Another fellow regards it as "the personal presence of God," or his "personal outreach," and you know how we feel about Presence --again, Schuon says something to the effect that God manifests as truth and presence.

And maybe freedom too, in that "The Holy Spirit is the one who establishes and guarantees freedom." Which makes perfect nonsense, since truth can only be present if it is freely accepted, so these three are intimately related. Come to think of it, where the Spirit of the Lord is, [boom] there is freedom.

Now to say telos is to say meaning, and "the Spirit of God is the life-giving principle that makes human life and the life of the whole creation meaningful." 

Kärkkäine next discusses the theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg, who it seems is very much in our attractor. The following passage caught my attention, for he claims
the relationship between science and theology is essential. They are not two fields but have the same object of study, namely, creation. What theology claims has to be consonant with what other fields of inquiry claim. There can be only one truth.
Correct: one God, one Cosmos, one Truth, and one human nature in potential conformity to that Truth, the latter being communicated to us via some sort of subtle energy, as per the above: "the Spirit is the divine energy and 'bond of love' between Father and Son."

In modern physics, any bond is a function of energy. In fact, if the movie Oppenheimer is correct, you can release an awful lot of energy by messing about with such nuclear bonds. I am become death, destroyer of worlds. Then again, Oppenheimer was a tad highly strung, i.e., anxious. I don’t want to see that crybaby scientist in this post again.

For quantum physics, everything comes down to fields of energy:
Regarding the engagement of science and theology, Pannenberg was drawn to a concept of "force-field" as a potential common theme between the two. He borrows it from modern physics. He notes that in the Bible, the Spirit is depicted as the life-giving principle to which all creatures owe life, movement, and activity.

Furthermore, he wonders -- as do I -- whether "this view of life can be reconciled with modern biology," and why not? One Cosmos One Life One Truth.

Except to say that (O)therness or alterity are are built into this One, for "The Son is the model of an 'otherness" different from the Father." Again, different in relation but not in substance. Nevertheless, I agree that "the Son's self-differentiation from the Father" must be "the basis for the independence of the world."

Thus, perhaps a better word is interdependence, since the relationship abides. This interdependence "facilitates participation of creation in the divine life," so we definitely have that going for us. The Holy Spirit 

is none other than the Creator of all life in the whole range of natural occurrence and also in the new creation of the resurrection of the dead. 

Which must be the first and last Word in unxiety. 

Monday, January 15, 2024

In Tune With the Infinite Tune

Reality is an open system because the Godhead is an open system. 

Which is not the best way to put it, because God can't literally be a system, which is to say, composed of parts. We'll clean that up later. 

What is an open system? Last I checked, it is a spontaneous organization that emerges under far-from-equilibrium conditions. Such systems are open to the surrounding environment, exchanging matter, information, and/or energy, while dissipating entropy. 

Again, it makes no sense to regard God as a "process structure." Then again, there may be certain fruitful analogies to our situation herebelow. 

Back to the book we're discussing. It has a section on Karl Rahner's "transcendental pneumatology," and Rahner seems to be in the same not-so-strange attractor tugging at us in vertical phase space:

His basic thesis is that God reveals himself to every person in the very experience of that person's finite yet open (to God and revelation) transcendence (emphasis mine).

If we're on the right track, then the Godhead must somehow be infinite and open -- which sounds paradoxical until you realize it's quite orthoparadoxical after all, furnishing the key to many mysteries.

Rahner is notoriously obscure and even German, so he is perhaps not the best authority on himself. Nevertheless, let's kick the tires of the following passage and drive it around the block a couple of times:

not only are humans always by nature open to God, they are also always supernaturally elevated by God in that transcendental openness, so that such elevation becomes an actual experience of God in every human life (emphasis mine).

Not only is that refreshingly clear, it highlights all the conditions required for the evolution of a vertical process structure in celestial phase space. In other words, we are all -- by virtue of our humanness -- "pulled" up and into God, who

actually communicates himself to every human person in a gracious offer of free grace, so that God's presence becomes an existential, a constituent element, in every person's humanity.

Now, one thing we want to do is keep this discussion strictly scientific, and yet experiential. Of course, there is no "science of experience," since the very conduct of science presupposes experience. Thus, we're talking about a transcendent meta-level that somehow "feeds" experience from outside and above. 

And when we say "feed," we're being rather literal, because what does nourish the soul? Even people who believe in neither the soul nor God will concede that it dries up without the input of truth, love, and beauty, i.e., the transcendentals. We are always nourished from above. Unless we're malnourished from below. 

This is an unexpected sidestreet, but at the moment I am reading a biography of the immortal songwriter Johnny Mercer. In it there's a description of how he worked. His father wrote that during a visit in 1939, he asked Johnny to

"tell me how it is that a boy of your age [30 at the time] can write over 500 songs and does not know music and cannot play an instrument. How do you account for it?" 

After pondering and thinking for a few minutes, John turned to me and said, "Pop, to tell you the truth I simply get to thinking over the song, pondering over it in my mind and all of a sudden, I get in tune with the Infinite."

The Aphorist reminds us that 

Aesthetics is the sensible and secular manifestation of grace.

 Again, very experience-near.

From an aesthetic experience one returns as from a sighting of numinous footprints.

Mercer's father sensed the footsteps and suggested that his son's inspiration came from "very high sources. That's why I believe that John's talent is from above and that he is a musical genius." 

Aesthetics cannot give recipes, because there are no methods for making miracles.


Every work of art speaks to us of God. No matter what it says.

Back to Kärkkäinen: "God's self-communication means that God makes his very own self the innermost constitutive element of the human person." God

has already communicated himself in his Holy Spirit always and everywhere and to every person as the innermost center of his existence (Rahner).

Always everybody everywhere? 

Only God and the central point of my consciousness are not adventitious to me.

AdventitiousArising from an external cause or factor; not inherent; Of or belonging to a structure that develops in an unusual place. 

And nothing could be a more unusual place than human consciousness. Which is never "alone" but always "with": 

The experience of self and God is never an individualistic experience but rather something that takes place in relation to others. 

The very structure of consciousness is not a structure -- a static one -- but a dynamic and open process structure that again imports and "metabolizes" truth, love, and beauty.

You know the feeling / Of something half-remembered, / Of something that never happened, / Yet you recall it well. / You know the feeling / Of recognizing someone / That you've never met / As far as you can tell,

Well, it's like that. Hard to describe... 

I'll never find the words / That say enough, / Tell enough, / I mean they just aren't swell enough. --Johnny Mercer

Sunday, January 14, 2024

Relational Cosmology and Process Pneumatology

Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. --God 

No one knows what God is or what Life is. On the other hand everybody knows what God is -- atheists included, or they couldn't reject him -- and everyone knows what Life is, even babies, who have no trouble making the distinction. Ever see a baby encountering a dog for the first time?

They say you can't mix science and religion, but in reality you can't unmix them unless I say so. 

On a tangential note, this especially applies to political disputes, which are ultimately religious in nature (and these days quite religulous, but we'll come back to the left later. Suffice it to say that the idea of the state offering free genital mutilation to illegal aliens was quite beyond even the wildest nightmares of the founders).

I see a deep connection between God and biology, because -- come to find out -- both are deeply and irreducibly relational. But "relation" is a tricksy concept, in particular, when we try to regard it as prior to that which it relates. Which we must do if we are to see rightly. 

For example, in the Trinity, the persons are defined strictly in terms of relations: the Son is related by way of engendering, while the Spirit proceeds from the two thus related: the only distinctions of the one substance are a "consequence" of the prior relations, or rather, the distinctions are the relations. This is our model for how "all things are made"-- both the visible and invisible -- and for the "giver of life," AKA the bio-logos.

To further set the stage, I'm going back and forth between two books, and explicating a deeper relation between them, one on Pneumatology, the other on Life Itself. Will the post succeed, or end in a train wreck?

Again, Rosen proposes a new paradigm for Life itself, which he calls relational biology. Let's consider some of his main ideas in the raw, before I cook them up into something more digestible:

reductionism dispenses with the organization as the first, essential step in analysis. It expects to recapture the organization later.

I call that a promise it can't keep, since you can't get from analysis of the organization back to the holistic presence of Life. 

Conversely, "In a relational approach, it is the matter that is dispensed with," so just the organization -- the relations -- remains. Obviously, in biological organisms, this organization 

is at least as much a part of its material reality as the specific particles that constitute it at a given time, perhaps indeed more so. 

I say there's no perhaps about it: looked at this way, Life is not a "ghost in the machine," rather, the biological system is a corporeal ghost of Life, so to speak. 

Now, to say Life is to say open system, and  

there is still no "physics" of open systems. Largely, this is because of the insistence on thinking of an open system as only a closed system with some additional terms.... 

In every case, the strategy is then to regard the "open" system as an underlying closed system plus something.

But if we turn the cosmos back right-side up, the closed system is just a mental construct; we might say it is an open system minus x

Now let's switch gears and talk about God, in particular, the Spirit. Again, as described yesterday,

As God's divine energy that permeates all life and everything in the cosmos, the Spirit is... the most intimate "contact point" between the Triune God and human beings (Kärkkäinen, emphasis mine).

That all sounds very romantic, but can we be more specific? Kärkkäinen references a book called Process Pneumatology. I don't know anything about the book, but I am definitely yoinking the phrase, because the human being is a kind of process structure that is open to x, AKA the Holy Spirit. This is the same x to which Life Itself is open. For example, the Spirit 

can stand for life itself as a gift of God. God is the source of human (and animal) life (ibid., emphasis mine).

Eh, still too vague.  

The Bible often uses the term ruach for the Spirit. It variously refers to 

the principle of life, in other words, the force that vivifies human beings; [and to] the life of God himself

Similar to Rosen's idea of abstracting relations from matter, "It is a subtle corporeality rather than an incorporeal substance" (emphasis mine). It is "not discarnate. It is rather what animates the body." Ultimately, "God is the only one who gives the life force," and "related to this concept" is "the Spirit's cosmic function, which goes far beyond the human sphere of life."

Again: IT'S ALIVE! But this is still too animistic sounding. Can we do better? 

Let's get down to cases, to human experience. For example, "the first Christian communities experienced the Spirit in their life and ministry with visible signs." This Presence "was indeed so powerful that those signs were taken as the evidence of the work of God," a "source of extraordinary power and guidance." 

The Spirit was discerned to be working everywhere in the church and in the personal spiritual lives of believers.

Good for them, but what about the restavus? Maximus the Confessor confesses that

The Holy Spirit is not absent from any created being, especially not from one which in any way participates in intelligence.

It is "the office of the Holy Spirit to make alive," and why not? I don't usually quote Calvin, but he's not wrong: it is through the Holy Spirit 

that the world is daily renewed, because God sends forth his spirit. In the propagation of living creatures, we doubtless see continually a new creation of the world.

No, this post didn't derail. We're just stopping at the station to pick up some more passengers, including this guy:

I have come that they may have life, and have it in abundance.

Theme Song

Theme Song