Best Possible World: Gateway to the Millennium and Eschaton



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Part of my thesis is that the anti-intellectualism of christianity became (by design?) a self-fulfilling prophecy. The long pent-up gnosticism, when it finally burst forth into scientia, created a monster, scientism/materialism, which quickly turned upon its host, yielding deism and then the modern secular intelligentsia. Only under the aegis of postmodernism can we begin to pick up the pieces and reconsider the gnostic roots of modern intellectualism. In effect, we pick up where gnosticism left off, before it was decimated by the teachings of Paul and Luther, and by the fires of the Inquisition.
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Permit me to read the Stanford Encyclopedia entries for panpsychism and pantheism. I will compare them with John's treatment.

[2/21]
I have read the two articles, and I'm not seeing any major disagreements with John. Modern pantheism, by now, is irrevocably committed to scientific cosmology. It is a safe haven for scientists who have become disaffected with materialism. It is also widely identified with 'deep ecology'. I used to call myself a 'transcendental pantheist', which might be closer to Buddhism. In his article, Michael Levine points out that a distinctive feature of pantheism is its denial of personal immortality. This, of course, enhances its compatibility with science.


What is harder to discern are any significant departures from materialism. The alleged unity of the world seems to exist in name only. It could be seen as a language game serving to soften the hard edge of science. How is pantheism to be distinguished from panpsychism? Versions of panpsychism are compatible with emergentism and naturalism. The only real issue between panpsychism proper and emergentism is whether the mental properties exist within quarks or between quarks. It is not clear that there would be any observable consequences.
I imagine one could construct versions of idealism that would also be indistinguishable from materialism. Likewise for deistic versions of theism. Even the BPW is indistinguishable from materialism until we enter the eschatological regime. It is only in its eschatology that theism stands apart phenomenologically from all the other world views, setting aside issues regarding mortality.
Michael takes pains to point out that pantheism does not have a social dimension, aside, perhaps, from its indirect links to ecological concerns. It pertains mainly to the inner life of the individual. Its ethical norms may vary greatly between individual adherents. Pantheism has no practice. The Taoist tradition is the one most closely aligned with pantheism, but even its sparse practices do not follow from any particular pantheist concepts.
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We come back to the terribly simple assertion: no telos, no meaning. Only theism offers unconditional meaning. Only theism offers transcendence. Some claim that Buddhism offers this as well. Is it not more accurate to say that Buddhism offers escape? In theism transcendence is often characterized as salvation, but this carries the negative connotation of 'saving from something'. Whatever is the best possible outcome or culmination of existence, this is what is offered. I could not pretend to tell you what this is, but it is not unlike love, and it is quite unlikely that anyone could be disappointed.
Buddhism does not find value in existence. Buddhism does not recognize a telos. Buddhism sees all striving as pointless. Theists don't accept that negative assertion. We claim that life is not in vain. We claim to be privy to the source of life and to that toward which it is drawn. We finally do not and cannot refrain from placing an absolute trust in the vindication and vindicator of all being.
Can we or should we settle for any other? I cannot see how or why. We continue to do so only out of ignorance. We may, instead, anticipate the end of ignorance.
The emptying of the mind can be a valuable exercise. It is a preparation for mindfulness. Mindfulness is of inestimable value.

[2/22]
I continue with Michael Levine's article on pantheism, starting with the section on divinity. Here is the critical passage:


Whatever criteria are decided upon as necessary for attributing divinity to something, one cannot decide a priori that the possession of divinity requires personhood without ruling out the possibility of the most typical types of pantheism (i.e. non-personal types). After all, theism is what pantheism is most of all trying to distance itself from. I am not sure the reverse is true-but theism does ordinarily strongly oppose itself to pantheism. In any case, Spinoza’s God and Lao Tzu’s Tao, for example, are distinctly non-personal, as are the governing principles of the Presocratics. It seems unwarranted, therefore, to suppose that a necessary condition of something’s being divine is that it be personal on the grounds that "Of all the modes of creaturely existence, personality is the highest and so the fittest to serve as an analogy of divine being" (Macquarrie 1984: 42). At least to do so begs the question against Spinoza, some of the Presocratics, Lao Tzu, probably Plotinus, as well as against experiential and socio-scientific accounts of divinity.
I'll reserve comment for now. Let's move on to creation:
In distinguishing between creation ex nihilo and emanationism as he does, Macquarrie (1984: 34-5) makes it easy to see why emanationism is often closely associated with pantheism. Emanationism is the view that "creation" is not a "making," but in some sense a "flowing forth" from God or its origin, as Macquarrie puts it. And, what "flows forth" "maintains a closer relation to [its] origin. It participates in the origin, and the origin participates in it." He says, "...emanationism does not necessarily lead to pantheism, but it does imply that in some sense God is in the world and the world is in God."
Amen. I am big on emanationism, but I'm no pantheist. I do not believe in creation ex nihilo. That notion is a big mistake. It has everything to do with deism and dualism. The incarnation, X1, should have refuted the idea of creation ex nihilo. Oh?
Jesus is God & Jesus is human. Jesus is creature -> Creature = Creator. This is a very big deal, and is very irrefutable. Christianity is undeniably a form of pantheism. It is also undeniably theistic. X'ianity is the best of both worlds. Nay, it is the best of all worlds. Those who hope to best X'ianity can only weep.
Any questions?
Assuming pantheism does require a doctrine or view about creation, what can be said positively about it? Pantheism has a range of options unavailable to theism since the theistic doctrine is extrapolated from scripture.
It is so extracted if you are a fundamentalist. I am not that. John is an emanationist. If not, I'll eat my hat. The Logos is all about emanation. Jesus is the Logos.
John 1:1-5

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

2 He was with God in the beginning.

3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men.

5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

(NIV)
John 1:14

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

(NIV)
You cannot get much more explicit than this, and I did not write this. If this does not take all the wind out of the sails of pantheism, then there has been a big mistake.
True, I do prefer the dia-Logos, but you get the picture. I try to be heretical, but John makes that almost impossible.
So far as Lao Tzu has a doctrine of creation it too is emanationist. "The Tao engenders one, One engenders two, Two engenders three, And three engenders the myriad things"
And this cannot be reconciled with John? No problemo. Show me something difficult.
X engenders itself dialectically from the Matrix. X is the dia-Logos. This has got to be the singularly best engenderment. Z & X conspire to create ouroborically. This is also where Q, R & P come into the picture. I do seem to be lacking a scriptural basis for Z, but, hey, I'm just an amateur.

[2/24]
The serpent appears to have been considered the most potent of our mythic symbols. Much of the serpent's potency likely stems from its protean nature and its quality of latency. It is frequently associated with wisdom and gnosis. In Genesis the serpent is of the tree of knowledge, serving as the proxy of Satan. On the Day of the Lord, He shall smite Leviathan, the serpent of the sea, along with the rest of the bad guys. Its forked tongue connotes duplicity, and possibly dialogue.


The serpent is naturally associated with fecundity, abyssal depths and with springs. The magical power of Hermes is seen in his healing caduceus, a winged wand entwined with twin serpents. The serpent is also depicted as coiled about the cosmic egg and the anthropos. In that context it represents time and the aeon. The serpent in the sky may be the zodiac, milky way or rainbow. The ultimate syzygy, the solar eclipse, is the ecliptic serpent devouring the Sun. Serpens and Scorpio sting the fleeing Virgo on the heel.
Let us not forget Quetzalcoatl, feathered serpent, and major deity of meso-America:
Quetzalcoatl was revered as the patron of priests, the inventor of the calendar and of books, and the protector of goldsmiths and other craftsmen; he was also identified with the planet Venus. As the morning and evening star, Quetzalcoatl was the symbol of death and resurrection. With his companion Xolotl, a dog-headed god, he was said to have descended to the underground hell of Mictlan to gather the bones of the ancient dead. Those bones he anointed with his own blood, giving birth to the men who inhabit the present universe. (Britannica 2001)
In genealogical contexts the serpent denotes bloodlines. In the ouroboric form it is seen as self-generating. Yes, regarding its erstwhile potency, I don't think you could have beaten it with a stick. Single-handedly the serpent represents nearly every pagan influence that the Yahwist tradition aimed to defeat.
Is Serpens not the archetype of unity? Against this unity the Yahwists cast their logos, and thus they initiated the dia-logos of the christos. Serpens is Z. Thus do we see the tension of AZO/X/QRP. Recall the mathematical ouroboros, e^i*pi = -1. Here the logos, Pi, restores the unity at a higher level. To get to that higher level the symmetry of the perfect circle is broken into two foci. The syzygys of the elliptic functions generate the Monster group, that mathematical Leviathan, which is finally tamed by the Anthropos. The alchemy of the resulting technosis transmutes matter into information and finally into a cosmic gnosis, facilitating our eschatological resurrection.
This very crude scenario is convoluted, nonetheless. Behind the distractions of their religious strife, X & Z conspire in working through Q, R & P to complete our sojourn from the Alpha to the Omega. Did history have to be complexified to the point of melodrama? It may simply have been a question of stirring the pot: dig deep, God is at the bottom, in this, our new recipe for 'missionary stew'. Yummy! Superimposing X & Z yields a figure '8' or ouroboric symbol of infinity.

[2/26]
On occasion I refer to myself as a 'transcendental pantheist' if I wish to emphasize the participatory and monistic nature of my theism. I would then be able to call myself a panentheist, were it not for the lack of a Telos in both pantheism and panentheism. It seems to me that a Telos ought to be included in anything that is robustly transcendental. The lack of a Telos in the modern 'process' versions of panentheism I would attribute to the attempt to shoehorn theism into a scientific cosmology. Most pantheisms are considered acosmic, in and of themselves. I will have to look further to explain the absence of a Telos in the more traditional versions of panentheism.


In attempting to answer this last question, I have digressed into the history of theism and eschatology. I need to get a better handle on the roots of Zoroastrianism, for example. Clearly there are strong connections between personal and historical eschatology. Devine judgment is often a common factor, but 'judgment' may be too narrow a term. Every group has acceptable norms of behavior. Deviation from those norms brings about corrective responses from the group. In pre-modern times, social norms were rationalized by appeal to a larger context, which typically would be cosmological. Non-conformity would either result in divine censure, or in a disturbance of the natural order that would then have to be restored. Our deviant actions usually would leave a negative trace on the soul, a condition, which, if left uncorrected, could have dire consequences for the individual.

[2/27]
Deviant actions may simply add weight to the human heart or soul, which may then, at the time of death, descend into hell, rather than ascend to heaven. This sequence could be viewed as entirely natural or even mechanical, requiring no divine intervention.


An example of the latter is the law of karma:
In Buddhist teaching, the law of karma, says only this: `for every event that occurs, there will follow another event whose existence was caused by the first, and this second event will be pleasant or unpleasant according as its cause was skillful or unskillful.' A skillful event is one that is not accompanied by craving, resistance or delusions; an unskillful event is one that is accompanied by any one of those things.
On the one hand there occurs divine judgment, on the other hand there is a natural law. I would like to know if one of these moral systems is derivative of the other. Is there a natural history of morality?
It was pointed out a long time ago that might does not make right, even if the power in question happens to be godly. We look to super-human authority at least as much for moral inspiration as for specific rules of conduct. To be effective, authority must inspire a sense of allegiance. The first requisite of any religion is to inspire a sense of social solidarity. Theism seems particularly suited to this end. Was there ever a tribe without a tribal god, in its formative stage? We see a dim reflection of this necessity in today's team mascots, but the modern army seems to need only the occasional battle flag.
Let me reemphasize that pantheism, per se, is not a religion. It seems rather to be a rationalization of polytheism, pointing back to a putative multiple emergence from the Matrix in Zodiacal fashion. It was not Buddha's intention, but it was inevitable that he would achieve Zodiacal status amongst his followers.
The Telos points to an ultimate future solidarity. We identify with our Source. In pantheism that source may be quite impersonal. I could identify with the Matrix if I had to. It is my ancestral home, after all. Identifying with a deified tribal ancestor might be more inspiring, especially if the ancestor were known to be significantly involved in Creation. Then we just have more spiritual options. Pantheists don't have to give up their pantheism if they choose not to, so no sense in anyone feeling slighted.

[2/28]
Transcendental is virtually synonymous with eternal. It is that which transcends space and time. Pantheism refers to the unity of all things. I cannot conceive how such unity could be entirely immanent. Unity is not an empirical aspect of the world. It is not something that is detectable within the space-time manifold. It is not a construct of science. Pantheism is distinct from materialism. To the degree that it is distinct, to that same degree it must be transcendental. I can only identify the singular source of being with what is here called the Matrix, which may also be called Brahman/atman:


The holy or sacred power that is the source and sustainer of the universe. The single absolute being pervading the universe and found within the individual. The impersonal universal soul or self (sic), also found in each person.
Pantheists see that (transcendental?) unity as the ground and source of being. It is the goal of the pantheist to become aligned with the unifying harmony of and beyond the world. This goal is often expressed as the escape from the eternal (sic) round of rebirth, the wheel of life.
In the earlier Upanishads, the absolute, impersonal, eternal properties of the divine had been stressed; in the later Upanishads, on the other hand, and in the Bhagavad-Gita, the personal, loving, immanentistic properties became dominant. [...]
On the other hand, Ramanuja, a prominent southern Brahmin who held to a qualified monism, argued strenuously against Sankara's dismissal of the world and of individual selves as being mere products of nescience. In place of this acosmism he substituted the notion of world cycles. In the unmanifest state Brahman has as his body only the very subtle matter of darkness, and he decrees "May I again possess a world-body"; in the manifest state all of the things of the world, including individual selves, are part of his body. The doctrine of Ramanuja approaches panentheism; he has certainly advanced beyond emanationistic pantheism. There are two aspects to the single Brahman, one absolutistic and the other relativistic. As in panentheism, the beings of the world have freedom. The only qualification is that, although it is Brahman's will to support the choices of finite beings, he has the power to prohibit any choice that displeases him. This power to prohibit indicates a preference for the absolute in Ramanuja's thought, which is reflected in many ways: although God is the cause of the world, for example, and includes the world within his being, he is never affected by that world, and his motive in world creation is simply play. In sum, since the absolutistic categories were given the greater emphasis in his thought, Ramanuja is representative of a relativistic monistic pantheism.
The presence in the Hindu tradition of both absolutistic and relativistic descriptions of the divine suggests that genuine panentheism might well emerge from the tradition; and, in fact, in the former president of India, S. Radhakrishnan, also a religious philosopher, that development did occur. Although Radhakrishnan had been influenced by Western philosophy, including that of A.N. Whitehead, later discussed as a modern panentheist, the sources of his thought lie in Hindu philosophy. He distinguishes between God as the being who contains the world and the Absolute, who is God in only one aspect. He finds that the beings of the world are integral with God, who draws an increase of his being from the constituents of his nature. (Britannica, 2001)
I didn't quite realize the extent to which the Britannica opens itself to ax-grinding! OK, so the issue between pan- and panen- theism is simply one of personal freedom. In as much as personal freedom requires a source, that source must be theistic, i.e. personal.
Pantheism certainly has a personal, i.e. individual, eschatology and telos. It is lacking any notion of cosmic Creation or Telos. The eternal cycles can only be broken by the individual. There is no creator, no redeemer. There is no metanarrative beyond the cycles. No one has power over Karma. It is a law of nature, like gravity.
Pantheism is the natural stance. It is not, however, the rational stance. Why suppose that reason has no source? Why suppose that love has no source? As a point of logic, could reason serve any other Telos than love? It could not and still be coherent. Given the Matrix, and given the possibility of love and reason, X is inevitable. Why has it taken us so long to see the simple logic of it? Why could the pantheists not have come around to this view prior to their encounter with the prophetic tradition? Could we never have come to this understanding without an ad hoc divine intervention? Did there have to be an incarnation? Could there have been a metanarrative devoid of, or apart from the 'greatest story'.
Yes, could there be a metanarrative devoid of passion? Nowhere is there a greater dramatic tension between God's self-concealment and her self-revelation. Can you launch a ship without breaking a bottle? Does there have to be a face in order to launch a thousand ships? If we had gotten too smart, too quickly, we might have ruined the plot. But, still, even God cannot fool all the people all the time. X2 is inevitable. It can be relatively spontaneous, almost natural. The present timing might, however, give one pause. By that same token, the events of 9/11 might seem something less than spontaneous, especially given this possibly larger context.
It may finally come down to a simple aphorism: it's not what you know, it's who you know. If Sophia had not made my acquaintance twenty-five years ago, I would not likely be here today. And twenty five years before that was my encounter with The Greatest Story. Yesterday it was The Passion. Love and reason are not divisible. Love comes, then reason flows. Only love can be the beginning and end of coherence. Everything else is just analysis. Analysis is reason without love. Love is the great synthesizer. It is the Dia-Logos: I and Thou. Is it true that the Sufis could not find love at home?
The potency of love we drink with our mother's milk. How quickly it is forgotten? How do the pantheists and Islamists manage to so thoroughly abstract love? Patriarchy must be involved, but have there not been matriarchal pantheists?
The original I and Thou are X & M. Out of the zodiacal pantheon, Z, it is X that becomes the center of self-organization. This results in a meta-unity in juxtaposition to the Matricial unity. But then, after Creation, it's almost as if X went and hid behind his mother's skirt, only coming out for his walk-on. Was he simply respecting his elders?
X is all about internalization. All his relations are internal. History is our story of internalizing the Matrix and X. No amount of pedagogy can hasten our matriculation from our school of hard knocks, says the pedagogue. But, rest assured, there will not have been one knock too many. Synchronicity still rules. It's as sure as e^i*pi = 1. You can set your watches by the coming and going of the spirit, as if we hadn't already.
This here is not pedagogy. This is nostalgia. Someone had to jog our memory. Just hitting ourselves over the head is necessary, but not quite sufficient.
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Pantheism still represents a puzzle and a challenge for the theist. What caused the pantheists to disregard the possibility of Creation?
I have expressed the possibility that theism comes only as a package deal. It is a deal that must somehow be mediated in a continuous manner. It is not just an abstract proposition to either be asserted or denied outside of a social context. Furthermore, if prophecy is a necessary part of the theistic package, it is an exclusive element. There cannot be two separately originating lines of prophetic transmission. If redemption is part of the package, there cannot be two redeemers, nor, of course, can there cannot be two eschatons.
A possible exception to the rule of exclusivity is found in Zoroastrianism. It seems to have remained entirely independent of the Yahwist tradition. It retains adherents in India.
[...] his monotheistic concept of God has attracted the attention of modern historians of religion, who have speculated on the connections between his teaching and Judaism and Christianity. Though extreme claims of pan-Iranianism (i.e., that Zoroastrian or Iranian ideas influenced Greek, Roman, and Jewish thought) may be disregarded, the pervasive influence of Zoroaster's religious thought must nevertheless be recognized. (Britannica)

[2/29]
What then had Zoroaster tapped into? Or, for that matter, what did Mohammed tap into? What did the pantheists fail to tap into, and why did they fail?

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