The alternative scenario of history would have been the unassisted triumph of X1. There would not have been an X2. There would not have been a triumph of science. Jesus may have been under the impression that the Millennial kingdom of God was to have arrived immediately, end of story. We could argue as to the worth of the two thousand year hiatus.
Islam and pantheism each presents a counterpoint to the X1-event, and so does science. Could the world have been complete without these digressions? I, P & S each filled, what are in retrospect, obvious niches in our salvation ecology. There have been many other niches filled more modestly in these last two millennia. If this is the only world, then there is a very high premium here on diversity. Correspondingly, the rent is very high here as well. Speak now, or forever hold your peace. Or have we just about heard it all, already?
Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, Newton, etc., all filled important niches in the salvational ecology. It is the role of X2 to fit the various pieces together into the most coherent picture. One of us apprentices will suffice in our efforts. If I am biased toward anything other than coherence, I shall certainly not succeed. We may then debate whether X2 came too early or too late. In that process we can hardly fail to consult the calendar.
Look at it this way. In all of history, three cosmic persona stand out: X, Y & Z, as the consort of M. Z is the pantheon. Y is the consummate tribal god. After playing the field, Yahweh 'settles down' with the Israelites. At some level, this has been prearranged with X. X 'steals' that show. It is Mohammed's role to transliterate Y's swan song. Y did himself proud, and thereby, once again conspiring with X toward the inevitable X2. On the subcontinent it is Buddha who incarnates M & Z, thereby earning himself a permanent residence in the pantheon.
It might be said that Abraham was the incarnation of Yahweh. We have, thus, just three historical incarnations: X, Y & Z. Conspiring together, X & Y break the symmetry of the Zodiacal cycle, thereby causing the A/O space-time gap in that cycle. Y is the Alpha, X(1,2) the Omega. Has Buddha failed to tap into something? I think he had his work already cut out for him. He had to leave something for X2.
Is this just too tidy, or what?
There are a lot of people out there who suppose that Jesus was a wonderful prophet and a nice guy to boot, but, sorry, he wasn't God. Why not?
They would have to maintain that God should never mix and mingle. If I were God I would certainly want to make the acquaintance of my creatures. If we are created in God's image, how better might this be proven. Even most pantheists believe that Buddha was an incarnation. If they can have ten of them, why can't the rest of us just have one, or maybe two counting Abraham? There might be more than that; this would just be the bare minimum.
And then there is the business of the sacrifice. Oh so many people have believed in the sacrificial king. There is a very good reason for that. Why deny that to the rest of us? Too many people have put God and Jesus, etc., on a pedestal. If they choose to get off that pedestal once in a while, then you have no right to deny that to them. Then we could not be in their image. Then we could not fully relate to them. Then we could not be the protagonists of the cosmic drama. It is simply incoherent of deny all of this. If you choose the path of incoherence, you are choosing not to fulfill your human potential. That is not a crime, but it would be wasteful if it were carried any further than sanctioned by the dramaturgy.
If messiahs are OK, why not a savior? And if we are going to be saved, why not by God? If you wish to be self-saved, that is your prerogative, but please don't make things more difficult for the rest of us, unless you really have the need to punish us. If you feel that need, then maybe your salvation needs attention.
In Buddha and Jesus there is a symmetry which remains unfathomed: surely the two great incarnations. Both touched the void in an unmistakable, unforgettable manner. Without either, the world would have been terribly impoverished. Buddha did have to come before Jesus. The sequence could not have been reversed.
From a trinitarian point of view, perhaps Buddha incarnates the dialectic, as well as M & Z. Instead of MDX, or MZX we could have MBX. Buddha has very much to incorporate, and don't we see that manifested in his likenesses? With Buddha there was a metaphysical deck clearing which may be fully appreciated only in the context of X2.
What is left for Jesus to incarnate? There is the teaming up of Y(1,2) & X(1,2) producing the space-time gap in Z. You see that I am sneaking Mohammed into Y2, just for reasons of symmetry. I have no desire to offend Islam by this abstract promotion. We need not neglect the Patriarchy and its crucial role in history. At this point, Buddha remains the disinterested bystander. I suspect, however, given the unmistakable elements of pantheism being resurrected in X2, B & X have a duet in store for us. No stepping on toes, please. There even is a dialectical truth in B that is worthy of the holy spirit, whose advents then fully bracket X1.
In the numerical trinity of e^i*pi, the dialectical iota adds a whole new dimension to the number line. Only thus do we bring closure to the A/O of history. It is B that holds Y & X, or A & O together. History may be seen in Y & X. The cosmos is seen in B, Y & X. Each of BYX are acosmic, but put them together and voila. Without B, Y and X would have been lost to scientific materialism, to technosis. With B, gnosis is restored. Y is the thesis, B is the antithesis and X is the synthesis, as realized in X2.
Virtually every culture started out with a creation story, many of which invoked a recognizable Creator deity. Only the prophetic tradition still retains such an account, but even it has been heavily influenced by scientific cosmology. The pantheist traditions have largely become acosmic, accepting now scientific results for whatever phenomenological value they may have. However, skepticism about creation stories took hold in pantheism well before the scientific era. My hunch is that polytheism is generally conducive to skepticism about the conflicting conduct of its deities. Siddhartha gave this skepticism full rein in his own teachings. It is mainly in monotheism that metaphysical skepticism was kept at bay, even, in many contexts, up to the present. It is interesting that the three main branches of monotheism remain adamant about the shared uniqueness of their historical origin. Zoroastrianism, although prophetic in nature, is not considered monotheistic.
Creationism, despite its early appearances, could only be sustained within the single prophetic legacy. Therein it remained dualistic, in keeping with that tradition.
Within the monotheistic tradition, Judaism has always maintained its tribal and covenantal flavor. It never aspired to evangelism. Islam was able to spread its influence mainly under the aegis of various patriarchal theocracies, and often with a militaristic assist.
Christianity has relied much more on the evangel than have its cousins. This was true certainly up until the time of Constantine. The Inquisition may fairly be seen to have been a tragic anomaly in an otherwise relatively voluntaristic movement. In modern times, it has proven itself much more adaptable to secular, democratic modernism. In fact, it may well have provided the unique social platform for the origination of modern liberalism, and for the launching of the scientific enterprise. It has also shown itself to be somewhat less susceptible to fundamentalist excesses. If any single factor can be held responsible for these characteristics, it would clearly be the incarnational core of its beliefs, as opposed to a primarily scriptural basis for the other two branches.
Meanwhile, pantheism has shown itself to be socially ineffectual. I am sure that many of its adherents would see that as a positive characteristic. But these same folk are also likely to be (ineffectually?) skeptical of 'progress'. There are ample reasons to be skeptical of progress, particularly of its materialistic, anti-spiritual excesses. However, if it turns out that what we have called 'progress' may be seen to have been an integral part of a larger narrative of history, then there will have to be a major reassessment on everyone's part. It is precisely at those who take upon themselves the task of reassessing 'progress' and modernity that these pages are aimed.
From the perspective of postmodernism, most would say that modernism was an historical fluke. The transhumanists and futurists would say that the temporary human participation in the inevitable cosmic triumph of technosis was a biological fluke on one planet. The pantheists will aver that we have been here and done this, many times before, and will again. The orthodox monotheists already see modernism as the last hurrah of the devil prior to Judgment Day.
A few of us will look deeper for reasons. That we even dare to look, could only be by the grace of Sophia. Only one of us will need to get a convincing handle on the truth of our circumstance. The rest will be history, or, may we more accurately say, the end thereof.
I continue to be impressed with The Passion. I did not expect to be. Its message is certainly visceral. The substance of the movie is to be found in the expressions of the Marys. It has only begun to register, the extent to which they were playing the role of the midwife, especially in the mopping up. Was this the clear artistic intent? The entire significance collapses into this one vignette. How achingly certain that we are witnessing a rebirth. A thousand sermons could never have conjured that one scene in my mind. Is this the catholic truth that the protestants failed to retain? From that painful birth, it has taken the church two millennia to reach the threshold of maturity. Materialism has beaten our spirit as did the centurions beat the body. How much we have wanted to climb down from that cross, but we have waited patiently 'til the appointed hour. We have experienced the full measure of forsakenness. Could anything less have sustained us? How do others survive? It is beyond me.
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You might have noticed that on these pages I have assiduously avoided Dr. Thom (see, however, here and here). Rumor has it that he is a panentheist. My avoidance has come to an end.
I was searching Google for the philosophy of being, and up comes St. Thomas Aquinas. I lay my burden before the good Doctor. If atoms are not the be-all and end-all of existence, then one must formulate a philosophy of being. It seems that the good Doctor has maintained his lock on Being ever since 1257. His only competition may have been Jean Paul Sartre, but I think Jean Paul was more into non-being. Would one not sell one's soul to have an honorary doctorate in angelology from Harvard?
If something other than atoms exists, what could it possibly be? Don't think I haven't beat my head on this wall. Perhaps I thought I could outsmart the Doctor. I figured he must be a dualist, so imagine my chagrin as once again my professional ignorance is paraded in public.
The pantheists seem generally to agree with Jean-Paul: atoms may not exist and neither does much of anything else. Thomas is adamant that whatever exists besides God, exists through his willing of it. Thomas is not a Matrician. Thomas gets away with his idealism by being an absolutist about God. I am rather more of a relativist or relationalist. In practice, there may not be too great a gap between our positions. For Thom, everything exists in God. For me, everything exists in the Matrix. It is the love of Christ that coordinates existence beyond the level of M & Z. Existence is in the Matrix, coherence is in Christ.
I struggle with being. 'Process' is not a satisfying answer. It is a non-answer. Recall our little discussion concerning panentheism and the Telos. Clearly, Thom is no Whiteheadian concerning the Telos or lack thereof. So 'panentheism' is setting the bar rather too low for Thom: he certainly is a transcendentalist as well as an eschatologist. But, still, even Spinoza might not feel uncomfortable in a Thomistic, God saturated cosmos. I'm wondering how great is the difference between Hegel and Aquinas. Nor do I know who on the subcontinent came closest to Hegel. I'm guessing no real competition for Georg from back East, although that was the source for some of his inspiration.
I came across chapter 1.54 in Thomas' Of God and His Creatures (c. 1260): 'That the Divine Essence, being One, is the proper Likeness and Type of all things Intelligible.' This title struck my fancy: certainly a delight to monists' ears; if, hopefully, I interpret it correctly, and Thom and I are on the same wavelength. As an idea emerges through the process of compositional(?) thought, it must wind up as something simple to be intelligible, i.e. coherent. In that sense, a coherent idea, like a color or odor, does not have proper parts. Even Beethoven's Fifth does not have proper parts. Its four movements may be separately understood and appreciated, but there is also the being of the Symphony. It can in no way be just an aggregation. The parts must function together organically. If you heard the different movements separately, unknowingly over a period of months, you would not have heard the Symphony.
What then is the being of the Fifth Symphony? Is there only one being that can ever be played, heard or understood? Suppose something were added or omitted. Some have claimed that, besides atoms, only living organisms may be said to exist unitarily. What then of the mind or self?
Consider a person. Persons are usually supposed to be the prime candidates for the status of 'being', if such there be. There is no doubt that persons change. Often personal identification is vouchsafed by the posit of an individually created, immaterial, indestructible soul. This is pure Platonism. Thomas and I are more monistic. In Thomas' case, he was more inclined to the Aristotelian polarity of form and substance, with whatever was the pre-scientific meaning of substance. This was less idealistic than Plato, but only by degree.
For me, being may only be understood in the context of M, D, X & Z. For Thomas, the only context was his absolute God by whom all polarities are subsumed. I am more inclined to the bootstrap, as mediated by the relational dialectic, D.
We are social animals. We exist in the context of the Metanarrative. B5th is a bona fide part of the narrative. Neither we nor it exist or may be understood outside of that context. We and it are necessary components of the BPW. Beethoven may not be known independent of his symphony. As a child, Ludwig was still a potential being. So are you and I. The Metanarrative short of the resurrection is also a potential being. Creator and creature are also not independent. Thomas might disagree. I would say that God, or rather Christ (X), is fully absorbed in Creation. We exist only because all creatures are co-creators. Everything exists sub specie aeternitas. That we can have even the smallest of thoughts is due to our participation in the cosmic hologram. Participation is a Whiteheadian Process, but it is a process with a Telos. Plato did not understand process. Neither do physicists when they think of an isolated atom.
Rather than Forms, there are Norms. Our deviation from the norm constitutes our individual identity. Jesus is just the supreme deviant relative to the Matrix and most everything else. Jesus pushed the envelope of the dialectic. We strive to hear the deviation of the Fifth from the symphonic norm. The Fifth may also substantiate that norm by no small measure. Before the Fifth, our symphonic comprehension was correspondingly impoverished. Each being is a piece of the puzzle toward whose comprehension we strive. For Plato there was the Good, a kind of telos; but I think it was understood passively.
I have been remiss in not previously engaging with the good Doctor, but it is never too late. I will now be in a position to make a detailed comparison between my cosmology and that of the pre-modern philosophers. Of the modern philosophers, only Hegel and possibly Whitehead presently seem relevant.
Thomas can be my stalking horse from the past. His historical fortune should shed some light on the present situation. Thomas' posthumous career was nothing short of meteoric; and, considering the primitive state of communication and publishing, it would almost have to be considered miraculous. He was canonized in 1323, only fifty years after his death. His philosophy became canonical forthwith. Beginning in the next century with the Renaissance, however, there gradually developed a distinction between theology and natural philosophy, with Thomas stuck in the middle. The split was not formalized until the Seventeenth century by Descartes' dualism of mind and matter. From that point forward it has just been the case of religion v. science: the tale to two dogmas. The fortunes of theology and philosophy have been in decline ever since. It is sad to think that 1323 was the high-water mark of philosophy. Seven centuries of decline presents to me both a challenge and an opportunity. The deck has certainly been cleared.
There was a Thomist revival in the latter part of the Nineteenth century, probably in conjunction with the brief ascendancy of idealism following Hegel. But the much more steady ascendancy of scientific materialism could not be turned back. Since the turn of the last century, it is just the acosmic philosophies of existentialism, phenomenology and the 'process philosophy' of Whitehead that have had any impact on what little remains of theology.
The struggle for premodern dominance in philosophy was mainly between Plato and Aristotle. This division was reflected in the contrast between Thomas and the Church Fathers, notably Augustine, who followed Plato. Aristotle may simply have been too subtle for them. It was the Spanish-Islamic philosopher, Averroes, whose Twelfth century commentaries reintroduced Aristotle to the West, thereby stimulating Thomas Aquinas and ultimately the European Renaissance. Averroes was virtually the last flower of the earlier Islamic revival of classical learning. The dark age of Islam has reigned since, or at least until the advent of the Internet. Islam may not be able to survive its liberation from eight centuries of fundamentalism. At the least, though, its collapse would produce a spiritual vacuum of unprecedented proportions. This might present an opportunity for the BPW hypothesis, an opportunity unavailable elsewhere.
My best guess at this point is that it was Thomas' lingering dalliance with a Platonic dualism between Creator and Creation that anticipated Cartesian dualism and the ultimate eclipse of Thomism. It is hard to see how Thomas could have embraced monism and not been disbarred from the ecclesia. Pantheists were being used as tinder in those days and right into the Renaissance. It may be those smoldering ashes which continue to dampen monist enthusiasm in the West. A teleological panentheism is what now awaits us. Its summit rises only dimly out of the mists of history. Perhaps in bio/semiotics we see the hint of a revival of a purer, monistic version of Aristotle. Plotinus' (AD 205-270) neo-Platonism may be another horse to watch, if this race is ever to be restarted.
In his 28th year--he seems to have been rather a late developer--Plotinus felt an impulse to study philosophy and thus went to Alexandria. He attended the lectures of the most eminent professors in Alexandria at the time, which reduced him to a state of complete depression. In the end, a friend who understood what he wanted took him to hear the self-taught philosopher Ammonius "Saccas." When he had heard Ammonius speak, Plotinus said, "This is the man I was looking for," and stayed with him for 11 years.
Ammonius is the most mysterious figure in the history of ancient philosophy. He was, it seems, a lapsed Christian (yet even this is not quite certain), and the one or two extant remarks about his thought suggest a fairly commonplace sort of traditional Platonism. A man who could attract such devotion from Plotinus and who may also have been the philosophical master of the great Christian theologian Origen, must have had something more to offer his pupils, but what it was is not known. That Plotinus stayed with him for 11 years is in no way surprising. One did not enter an ancient philosophical school to take courses and obtain a degree, but rather to join in what might well be a lifelong cooperative following of the way to truth, goodness, and the ultimate liberation of the spirit. (Britannica 2001)
[...] That a Greek philosopher, especially at this period, should be interested in Oriental thought is not extraordinary. Plotinus' own thought shows some striking similarities to Indian religious philosophy, but he never actually made contact with Eastern sages because of the failure of the expedition. Though direct or indirect contact with Indians educated in their own religious-philosophical traditions may not have been impossible in 3rd-century Alexandria, the resemblances of the philosophy of Plotinus to Indian thought were more likely a natural development of the Greek tradition that he inherited.
[...] Some members of his circle of friends were Gnostics (heretical Christian dualists who emphasized esoteric salvatory knowledge), and they provoked him not only to write a vigorous attack on their beliefs but to organize a polemic campaign against them through the activities of Porphyry and Amelius. Plotinus' reasons for detesting Gnosticism also would have applied, to some extent, to orthodox Christianity--though there is no evidence that he knew anything about it or that he had any contact with the church in Rome. Gnosticism appeared to him to be a barbarous, melodramatic, irrational, immoral, un-Greek, and insanely arrogant superstition. Plotinus' own religion, which he practiced and taught with calm intensity, was the quest for mystical union with the Good through the exercise of pure intelligence.
Well, excuse us, but it does seem that fortune has lately been smiling more on the Gnostics than on Plotinus. I'm not clear about the dualism attributed to them, but imagine that it must be similar to Plato's. Reportedly, though, it was a value laden version of Cartesian dualism: spirit - good, matter - bad. Perhaps I have been a bit liberal in my use of the term 'gnosticism'. I am more concerned with gnosis than with gnosticism, per se. However, if we recast the gnostic 'evil' world as that posited by materialism, then the dualism can still be instructional.
Let me just note here that Plotinus' redactor, Porphyry (AD 234-305), also wrote an influential commentary on Aristotle.
According to the Britannica, neo-Platonists posit a quasi-spontaneous emanation from the One. Their One is not my Matrix, although they may be usefully compared and contrasted. The sensory, and possibly atomic, world is the final emanation, and it may be seen as a positive reflection of the One. The body, viewed in more negative terms, is a drag on the soul. Through moral and intellectual effort the soul may reascend to the contemplation of the One. Its original descent into a body may have been necessary, or simply a fall. The material world is eternal, and possibly infinite. There is only an individual eschatology.
What saves the BPW from the excesses of neo-Platonic hierarchialism, is its insistence on relationalism for all its elements. There is not a chain of being. There is a network of being. This relationalism is very amenable to the strongly social aspect of the entire prophetic tradition. The words of the prophet almost always concern social action or lack thereof. Is this just a residue of tribalism, or is it a reflection of the unfolding of the Metanarrative? It is ultimately the dia-logos that is stressed.