|From a purely secular perspective, religion is very widely perceived to be high on the list of world problems. There are many polarizing issues in the world, but surely religion ought to be counted as among the most divisive and gratuitous of these. Religious passions are often seen to divide region, nation and family. Secular and sectarian interests are often at variance. My own introduction to the practical significance of religious beliefs came with my concerns relative to the detrimental consequences of population growth. It was clear that religion played a crucial role in decisions effecting fertility.
What secularists persistently fail to see is the other side of this coin. Can our human potential be realized without evoking those passions which seem so amenable to religious arousal? If the world's problems are simply amenable to solution by market forces, then perhaps the only human emotion required will be that of material greed. That unbridled greed could be the answer to our problems seems oxymoronic. Reducing humanity to its lowest common denominator might be preferable to constant religious strife, but even that trade-off seems highly questionable.
What seems perfectly clear is that materialism fails to engage the human psyche in anything but the most superficial manner. Scientific materialism has attempted to reduce every problem to technologically manageable proportions. Specialists in every field of expertise stand ready to tackle each specifiable portion of our predicament. Every special interest marshals its own experts. That the resulting mishmash of conflicting interests is totally lacking in coherence is the problem of no one. The result can hardly fail to exacerbate the underlying condition of alienation or anomie, which most observers would place high on the list of human problems.
If then, in our search for answers to the human predicament, we were finally forced to confront the spiritual dimension of it, how might we possibly proceed? It would seem that the historical solution to the religious problem has already been well established. It is just pantheism. Is not pantheism the religion that could have been designed by a committee of relatively disinterested observers? It is certainly the most tolerant and most inclusive of all the traditions. Has not pantheism already made remarkable inroads amongst those secularists who have become disillusioned with modernism and scientific materialism?
My concern with pantheism is that it seems too much to be a watered-down theism. By definition it has no solid core. Most of its adherents have historically continued to embrace a devotional practice that takes the form of a limited theism. Only the most austere of its intellectuals ever seem able to 'embrace' the impersonal Brahman. Furthermore, the popularity of pantheism among our moderns seems to rest just on its refusal to place demands on their lives. Pantheism is the solace of the private individual. Its social dimension appears deliberately muted.
Indeed, pantheism may well suffice in its newfound role as the spiritual complement to scientific materialism. But that seems to be the extent of it. It provides no greater vision or coherence. In as much as our problems manifest a crucial social dimension, pantheism brings only the most limited resources to the table. Pantheism has never been known for the reshaping of communities. That has never been its function. Pantheism seems deliberately designed not to engage the human spirit. In contrast with the crusading excesses of monotheism, that may be a positive feature.
Playing with spiritual fire is bound to entail risks. Are these risks that we can afford not to take? Perhaps yes, perhaps no. Let me just say that if we are indeed creatures, then by continuing to ignore that fact we cannot possibly expect to address our creaturely predicament. These pages on this site are intended just to explore our putative creaturely status and its possible entailments.
Long before science came on the scene, our creaturely status was left in doubt under the aegis of pantheism. This I find curious. It is difficult now to reconstruct the primordial myths of creation. We cannot ascertain the degree to which the pantheist downplaying of creation was a departure from the primordial base line.
I review Britannica's (2001) very concise summary of the basic creation themes. I notice that I have, wittingly or not, borrowed significant elements from each of the basic themes. In each of these elements I depart from the absolutist, ex nihilo view of the monotheist, prophetic tradition. But, in upholding the coherence of Creation, I yield nothing to any tradition or myth. I continue to be perplexed by the fundamental incoherence of traditional monotheism, and this incoherence is most emphatic in the dualism between the Creator and Creation. We need to get to the bottom of that dualism in order to meliorate it. The Incarnation event should have severely undermined that dualism. That it did not is the greatest of historical puzzles.
When it is stated that the supreme being created the world and that there was no primordial matter prior to his being, then the determination of the world is in the mind and will of the deity. This leads to distinctive conclusions regarding the destiny of the world and man. The end (and meaning) of the world is thus not determined by the primordial matter but by the deity who created the world. It is he alone who determines the preservation, maintenance, and end of the world. (Britannica 2001)
This is the distinctive element of theism that I wholeheartedly endorse, with the caveat that our full participation in this scheme does nothing to detract from the value of the Creator. Also, please note that the Matrix, while primordial, is in no way material. Mind over matter is the core idea of the BPW hypothesis. The only way to ensure this outcome is to give free-rein to coherence. God is self-limiting only in respect to coherence. Incoherence is of no benefit either to Creator or Creation, as if they could ever be truly distinguished.
God emerges from the Matrix just in the act of Creation. To deny the Matrix is actually to deny the power and being of God. It is to deny the very possibility of the Incarnation. My point is that God is self-created out of the Matrix. To deny to God the power of self-creation is to deny almost everything. The Matrix is not that. Does God share the glory of the Matrix? Does God become a demi-urge relative to it? These are issues that do not need to be swept aside by anyone's fiat. The Matrix underwrites the possibility that makes possible the best possible world. Perhaps even God cannot fathom the end of that possibility.
If the X1-event could not persuade the monotheists of monism, what chance does X2 have? Obviously science will have to play a role. The Matrix is the logical ramification of the Quantum. Monism is the ramification of the Matrix as it is informed by neo-Platonism in the context of a Pythagorean inspired mathematical physics.
Was the Incarnation not, then, premature by two millennia? Did it not fall on deaf ears? No. The Gnostics did get the message. They paved the way for our gnostic detour through science. The Alchemists saw divinity in matter. The 'Al' in alchemy speaks even to the Islamic detour of this gnosis. I do not claim to understand the ins and outs of the complex historical transduction of gnosticism. The impetus it received from a Hellenically informed monotheism was, however, not to be duplicated. This was the singular, oracular axis of Delphi and Jerusalem. Monism was the perennial philosophy, which only now is set to show its colors. Monism and the Millennium are virtually synonymous. Monism is all about God's inevitable kingdom. With the final and teleological advent of the Internet, the cosmic coherence of monism is no longer to be denied. We have here the electrified Logos. It comes upon the world in a veritable flash.
The exclusionary dualism of the fundamentalists, in all of its unthinking obduracy, will be the greatest obstacle to our inevitable, teleological, universal gnosis. Surely it will be their Antichrist. It will also be their tar-baby, once they can no longer pretend to ignore it.
Such is the inevitable solution to the otherwise intractable problem of religion. The irresistible force of gnosis meets the immovable object of religion. The dramatic potential could not have been lost on our dramaturgical Metanarrator. If the problem of religion can be solved in a single stroke, can our other problems long remain problematic? Will they not also have to give up the ghost?
Fundamentalism, literalism and bibliolatry are the scourge of the prophetic tradition. The Incarnation is what saved Christianity from the worst excesses of fundamentalism that have, for too many centuries, stultified the mind and spirit of Islam. Christian fundamentalism is, in large measure, the inevitable reaction to an equally intransigent scientism.
The strict monotheists see Christianity as only christolatry. This is just their charge against us. Our excessively overworked trinitarian formulations do little to dispel this notion; nor, even, does the empty cross.
On these pages, rather than its trinitarianism, I stress the monism of the Advent. Yes, the cross, empty or not, is the stumbling block of the trinitarians. It seems that their formulaics is meant only to put a distance between their absolute God and the messiness of the Christ event. The cross is a scandal, even or especially, for the trinitarians. One thing that we learn from the mythos is that Creation is just the self-sacrifice of God. Trinitarians see Jesus as the substitute for God. Substitutional atonement convicts us of christolatry.
Not the monotheists, not the pantheists, not the Platonists could ever comprehend the 'mystery' of the Advent. The meaning, however, is plainly stated in the mythos. Creation is necessarily and deliberately a sacrificial act which can only be atoned in the Telos of the resurrection. The resurrection is no gratuitous reward for good behavior. It is the heart of the cosmic logos. It is universal or it is nothing.
Christolatry is a confusion perpetrated mainly by Christians who, ironically, downplay the full measure of the Advent. No one fears monism to the extent of the monotheists. We can bear to take our truth only in portions. Are we finally prepared to bear the burden of Creation? Only now is there no logical choice. We are left with no way out.
What then of the pantheist/polytheist avatars? What of Krishna and Buddha, etc.? Thus are so many of us instructed in our divinity. Thus is monism comprehended. The only thing missing is the oracular Telos: the axis or omphalos of Delphi and Jerusalem. The avatars then are actors. They are not the Metanarrator. The truth was duly apportioned between East and West. The alchemical recombination is just the final, universal advent.
I started off today with the NY Times review 'Is Terrorists' Hatred of the West the West's Own Bastard Child' of Occidentalism: The West in the Eyes of Its Enemies. This then led me to:
* save the world, or your soul,
* The Enlightenment- The Rise of Modern Paganism,
* Enemies of the Enlightenment- The French Counter-Enlightenment and the Making of Modernity,
* Civilization and Its Enemies - The Next Stage of History.
Some useful ideas, these. Are we the 'bastards' of the Enlightenment? The Enlightenment was the deracination of the Western mind. It was rationalism without coherence; surely one of the deadliest toxins ever. It made the world safe for nihilism, fundamentalism, communism and fascism. Democracy is nothing without the 'Created Equal' presupposition of the Constitution. We were left with the bull-dozer of modernism, and now the cacophony of postmodernism. Remind me to contrast paganism and pantheism.
Here is a useful comparison: paganism and pantheism. This leads to Creation Spirituality (1991) of Matthew Fox. I have not given Matthew a hearing, yet. Yet, are we to revere Creation without understanding the Creator and our role as co-creators? The BPW is of scant value outside of the spirit that gave rise to it and with which it is imbued. It seems that pantheism cannot escape its compulsive depersonalization. Is pantheism a glorification of reductionism?
I think I'm still having a little problem with the intrinsic value of Creation. It is still possible to be pessimistic about the world. Both theism and pantheism traditionally support the negative view. There is a human predicament which can only be overcome with either an individual or historical eschatology. Does this not deprive the world of intrinsic value? Would we not have been better off without Creation? Could we not just have basked in nirvana, and skipped all the pain in the world? Who would need samsara and salvation? Only when we are on the brink of self-annihilation do we seem to harbor doubts about the negativity of existence.
Now I could point out that without Creation, the world remains a figment of the imagination, but would that discretion not have been the better part of divine valor? What was the compulsion to go through this exercise? Why did Eve have to eat that apple? What did all her gnosis accomplish? Wasn't the real temptation just to have avoided the taste treat? We can see the culpa, but where is the felicity? Is the passion not masochism?
Does it not finally come down to the fact that without creation the cosmos would be radically incomplete? There is a higher aesthetic of the pleroma which overrides pain, regardless. To say that this is the best possible world is not to say that it must be intrinsically pleasurable. It is something that can best be appreciated in retrospect. Is it only fear of death that prevents suicide? There remains that vital impulse which is simply not to be denied. Since it cannot be denied, we can only hope to minimize its often deleterious consequences. The half empty cup, is still vastly superior to no cup at all. Why do the traditions fail to make this point? The point, I think is always implicit in theism, but not necessarily in pantheism. But then in pantheism, is there not also the pagan impulse of a deep ecology, a valorization of nature that is much too often absent in theism. Why can we not do Matthew's creation spirituality and embrace both the immanence and transcendence of life? We do this instinctively, but then we argue about which is better. We let ourselves into the logic trap of either/or. The world cannot possibly be big enough for both immanence and transcendence. Or can it be? Does our salvation just consist of relinquishing our obduracy? We cling to our agnosis just as we cling to life. In some sense they are synonymous. There is also an impulse to coherence that finally cannot be denied. Matriculation is not always easy. We have to give ourselves permission. The salutation of God is almost always simply: fear not.
The worst thing that we might say about this world is that it is a work in progress. Does that place too great a burden upon ourselves? Do we not measure up to the task? Can we not rise to the occasion? God's stick is pretty obvious. The carrot may be less so.
I still struggle with trying to explain the dualism that is endemic to the monotheist tradition. Several issues arise.
Science might not have been possible without the Cartesian dualism that seems to have followed from the earlier dualism. Is it the ex nihilo Creation that is responsible for the original dualism? Why then ex nihilo? Is it coincidental that the Big Bang hypothesis epitomizes this form of Creation.
Strict monotheism implies that God must exist ex nihilo. There can be no other being that is coeternal. Creation then must be an act of pure will, but is this fact not more compatible with a mentalistic rather than a materialistic world. It must exist as a mental construct, in line with the similar pantheist view.
The traditional gnostics and pantheists generally agreed that the material world in general and the body in particular is a trap or cage for the spirit. But both traditions also posit a pristine state of the world that runs down and/or is corrupted by human malfeasance. It is human evil or karma that is set apart from Brahmin or deity. Is matter then the corruptor or the corrupted? There seems to be ambiguity. Eve's partaking of the apple is the most concise statement of this conundrum. The Garden of Eden was a pantheist's paradise up to that point. God walked with us in the garden. The ouroboric serpent had to be put asunder. Procreation came into the picture. It is almost as if the original sin was just our own act of self-identity. That was our false gnosis that we would spend the rest of creation trying to overcome. Objectification is the original sin, but how could that act be distinguished from the act of creation itself? Being created in the image of God, we would necessarily recapitulate that act. Analytical reductionism must play itself out to its logical nihilist conclusion, which somehow reflects the original ex nihilo act.
How did the pantheists manage to overcome this metaphysical dualism, while the theists did not? They did so only by neglecting creation and salvation. Atomism seems unavoidable. It must apply either to matter or to the soul. The anthropocentrism of theism may also be a factor missing from pantheism.
What I am struggling with here is the historical limitation of gnosis. Is the limitation internal or external? Either supposition is problematic. Another factor here may be the dismemberment myth of Creation as seen in the Egyptian myth of Osiris, for instance. This is part of the equation of creation and sacrifice, also seen in the Incarnation and in communion. There is a semiotic nexus here that resists analysis, but which is the source of the analytic imperative. It almost rises to the status of world knot. Pantheism glosses over this knot, while theism practically smothers it.
This knot may also refer back to the Freudian discontent of civilization that is acted out in the iconoclasm of the terrorist/nihilist . Jesus was the ultimate iconoclast. There is that irrational, anti-Hobbesian core of civilization which the rational theist must resolve. The resolution is necessarily eschatological. It has to do with the finitude of the BPW. One wonders that there is not a mathematical analogy. The Monster Group is perhaps an expression of it. Was Girard the anthropologist who dealt with this? Something about violence and the sacred....here is a website, here is the book, here an exposition.
Many years ago I read Rene Girard's Violence and the Sacred. I note that its influence has hardly diminished. It seems to have maintained a nearly cultic status in academic circles. If anything, I am more disappointed now than I was then. There are, however, some useful points. Between Girard's mimetics and Dawkins' memetics, there is bound to be an interesting connection. Furthermore, Rene's thesis certainly adds to my thesis concerning theism vs. pantheism. However, as an 'explanation' of religion, could there be a more grotesque trivialization? It may well be this gothic twist that provides the cultic cachet.
With Rene & Co., does materialism not parody itself? Chercher la corpse. Where are the CSI boys and girls when we need them? Did Rene miss the whole point of the non-extant corpus delicti? What is the point?
My point is: as above, so below. This is a phrase that does not roll off the tongue of the materialist. It all goes back to AZO/X/QRP, along with M & D, and now with the conspiracy theory, I have one-upped Rene as the plot thickens.
It is strange how the pantheists even manage to ignore the pantheon or Z(odiac), that pillar of paganism. I like these expositions of Chronos or Saturn. Zeus (Jupiter, Thor, Thursday) usurps Chronos (Saturn, Saturday). Perhaps I should stop here, but, heck, what is there to lose? What about Friday? Venus/Freya intervenes between Zeus and Chronos. Is it too great a stretch to assign X to Venus? X breaks the Zodiacal cycle by conspiring with and/or tricking his neighbors, Zeus and Chronos, and history is created over his dead body. They did not appreciate the trick, perhaps. Eve eats the apple, and then tramples on the head of the zodiacal serpent/ouroboros. It looses its grip on its tail. Eve usurps its implied procreativity to fill the gap. Mind the gap. The whole story is in the mythos, the pieces just have to be rearranged. Monotheism has to be a conspiracy, no way around it. The violence and the sacred, the concealing and revealing are all bound up in this one gnosis or one apple, if you will. The hermaphroditic ouroboros must await the hierogamos. This is not rocket science, is it?
Is it then the case that theism has attempted to conceal the conspiracy by adopting dualism? Why should the concealment be worth that cost? The pantheists also conceal the conspiracy and the sacrifice. There is still something I'm missing here. Is there still a part of mimetics that is missing? Was X the zodiacal scapegoat? The problem must have been cosmic. What was it? Why was it? Creation was just scapegoat-ism carried to an extreme?
On my previous website I spoke on occasion about the 'inversion' of the cosmos, by way of its 'recycling'. This was, mind you, only meant to be a one time event. Here is a more recent reference. To avoid discontinuity, the major portion of the inversion was done in the microcosms of our minds. Thus could we avoid a 'naked' singularity, the bane of physical cosmology. I'm not sure how this inversion would play out in the context of the Matrix (first mentioned here), which is more recent emendation. I'm speculating there could be a link here to the concealment of sacrificial violence. I recall various diagrams of circles being replaced by figure-eights. X was the center of the 8. The central intersection could be elaborated into a horizontal '8', with the two additional intersections being the Alpha and Omega. The entire figure was composed of one continuous line. The '8' was like the elliptical symmetry breaking of the circle that ultimately produces the Monster Group.
I start out with Britannica's exposition of sacrifice. And until I read about it just now, I had been under the impression that sacrifices were meant mainly as food offerings to the gods. Now, be honest, how many of you are laboring under this same impression? Wrong! Thus the true offering would be a cremation, with the food being delivered to heaven as holy smoke. Not always wrong. But here's the real deal. It is the life that is being offered. Thus does the primordial ritual of sacrifice almost always involve animals, with the animal's life generally seen as a substitute for a human life.
For an eschatologist, this is an awkward admission of ignorance. Is the eschaton not the harvest of souls? Are we not the ultimate soul food? No, the gods are not crazy, they're just hungry. All of our sacrifices are micro-eschatons. They are simply our feeble attempt to postpone our personal and historical eschatons.
When did sacrifices stop? At some point sacrifices became identified with paganism. In the prophetic tradition, the transition probably coincided with the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD. This marked the transition from the priestly to the rabbinical form of Judaism. This was also when monotheism took on its universalist, absolutist ambitions. Creator and Creation were separated, the latter becoming entirely gratuitous. The eschaton was no longer a harvest, but simply a reward or punishment. In the nascent Christian communities there was even a reversal of the sacrifice as seen in the communion rite.
What has been thoroughly concealed by theists and pantheists is any semblance of mutuality between Creator and Creation. The pantheists fall back on subjective idealism or illusionism. The theists fall back on absolutism and either a Cartesian or sectarian dualism.