Originally posted by Grampy Bobby
[b]What do you believe? - Revision 1.2
1) Something? 2) Nothing. 3) Unsure. 4) Nobody else's biz. 5) None of the above. 6) All of the above. 7) Please repeat the question. 8) Seems I forgot. 9) Everything. 10) Those things I can see, touch, taste, smell. 11) Only things I can measure, weigh and test in the lab. 12) Facts with narrow parameters. 13) I'm still thinking. 14) Sermons in the general forum Thread 143629.
Since I am so often willing to spin the intended parameters of a discussion a bit my way, and guessing (from the general context of his posting on this forum) that Grampy’s question has something to do with what I’ll call a spiritual or religious metaphysics (what kind of understanding of being/non-being might lie behind a particularly theology, for example), and since I find it helpful to write this stuff down for myself periodically, and since I often learn from informed criticism on here, and since I am sometimes presumptuous enough to post anyway—
1. I think that the best and most reasonable way to think of all-that-is is as a nonfragmented Whole. That is, all-that-is coheres
; it is coherent.
2. By definition
, there is nothing “outside” (or “beyond” ) the Whole, else we could not call it the Whole. For example, there is no dimensionality other than that of the Whole, since any such dimensionality would imply something larger than or outside or beyond the Whole (such as space). There are no beings
beyond the Whole.
3. The Whole has no beginning. What we call the physical universe may not always have had the form we know today; there may be some “singularity” beyond which we cannot get to know what, for example, a “pre-bang” universe might have been like. I’ll let the physicists sort that out.
For the Whole to have had a beginning would entail, to my mind, both (i) some kind of causal something, as well as dimensionality (e.g., time) that either must be some “pre-singularity” aspect of the Whole—again, by definition—or (ii) either a creatio ex nihilo
or some kind of sui generatio ex nihilo
(if I have my lingo right).
—The concept of multiple universes is sometimes brought up. From my perspective, it can make sense to speak logically of multiple “possible universes”; and it can make sense to speak physically of a “manifold universe”; but it makes no relevant sense to speak of multiple, unrelated physical universes—since, (i) sans any relationship, we cannot in principle know, and (ii) if they are related, then we are back to a (manifold) Whole, for which we then may need another word, if we do not call that the universe.
3.a. I don’t like to rest an argument with extra-naturalist theism (i.e., the proposition that there exists a being, called theos
, outside of the natural universe) with just a semantic criticism—but, to conceive of a
being requires some dimensionality by which that being is bounded, and can be so identified. And I confess that I have no idea what a so-called “spiritual dimension” might be, since (i) I don’t think of spirit as a dimension, and (ii) people who posit such a dimension also generally say that God is spirit.
—Jewish theology has an artful way of dealing with the objection: they say that God is, among other things, makom
: place. Thus, God ‘s being is the dimensionality of the universe—but, this also leads to the orthodox Jewish non-dualism, in which God is not a
being, but (as Protestant theologian Paul Tillich also said): being-itself.
3.b. I reject creatio ex nihilo
because, as it is generally presented anyway, it entails a creator that is other-than and prior-to the Whole—in which case, the Whole is no longer…the Whole. Extra-natural theism does not allow the creator to be part of the creation, or the creation to be part of the creator, or the creator part of a larger Whole (which would mean that the creator did not create everything
, but was somehow dimensionality bounded [see 3.a. above].
3.c. I reject sui generatio nihilo
on other grounds: basically, nihil
, nothing is nothing, no being of any kind (nonbeing), not, as the philosopher G.E. Moore quipped, “a queer kind of something”. And it’s interesting, again, that we can’t really talk (I would say, or think) about “nothing” without treating it as a “queer kind of something”—e.g., it makes no sense to say something like, “Before the universe, nothing ‘was’.” “Was” is a being verb. And I would say—unless the physicists have a noncontradictory alternative explanation—that ex nihilo, nihil fit
—Note: The above also applies to creatio ex nihilo
, in that either something exists other than God, or God creates the natural universe out of Godself—and we’re back to some version of nondualism.
—As has been pointed out on here before, appeal to some mysterious, indecipherable way that something might come from nothing—a way that we may never understand—does not entail an “external” first cause, but can be satisfied by some unknowable mysterious “way” embedded in the natural universe itself. Not only does that latter view satisfy Ockham’s Razor, but I think avoids other problems associated with extra-natural dualistic theism, that I may hint at here, but that have been discussed often on this forum.
4. The ontological being/nonbeing dichotomy is not about this
being or not, or that
being or not (e.g., my own particular existence)—it is about any being at all, or not. I don’t think that there “is” or ever ”was” any such “thing” as nonbeing. That does not mean that we either do or can know the “limits of being”; I think that it is likely that “the grammar of our consciousness” is not such that it can decipher the entire “syntax of the cosmos”. In any event, I don’t know any way to talk/think about ontological nonbeing coherently—and suspect that most people have some picture in their mind, like endlessly expansive empty space: another “queer kind of something”.
—Those aspects of the cosmos that we may not be able, even in principle, to “decipher”, remains ineffable. Even if one senses/intuits that “There is something afoot in the universe” (Teilhard de Chardin), it must remain ineffable
. And that is where, I think, “spirituality”—for unfortunate want of a better word—resides; and the proper language for religion in the face of the ineffable is (i) apophatic, (ii) deliberately paradoxical, (iii) metaphorical/symbolic (i.e., poetic), (iv) allegorical, or (v) elicitive.
5. My own view I sometimes call “gestaltic non-dualism”: the Whole is a figure/ground gestalt in which we can only ever discern the figure(s)—which may be singular: a tree; or collective: a forest—vis-à-vis a ground that is always implicit; If it were explicitly discerned, it would become—figure.
—There are different forms of nondualism: most particularly, pantheism, which can view the Whole as a kind of sum-of-parts ultimate set; monism, which can view the Whole as the only actuality, in which the figures/forms are delusions. [These terms are sometimes used synonymously with nondualism per se, without those implications, which can be confusing.] In my version of “gestaltic nondualism”, all the forms/figures are real manifestations in-from-and of the Whole which includes both figures and ground—but includes them inseparably and reflexively (recursively?), so that all talk of separate aspects of the Whole is at best paradoxical. The Gestalt also inseparably includes us, trying to decipher the Gestalt.
—I also have to accept panen
theism—however one chooses to define theos
here—as a version of nondualism. This, I think, is closest to how the Christian mystics such as Gregory of Nyssa and Meister Eckhart view it (as well as mystics from other traditions such as Judaism and Sufism in islam).
I did not use the word “believe” at all in the above, deliberately substituting “I think”. The English word “believe” originally (i.e., when the biblical texts were first translated into English) meant something like “to hold dear”. As such, it was not a bad translation of the Greek pisteo
, which is an active verb meaning “to trust”, “to faith”, to “confidence”—not really to have
trust/faith/confidence, so that “to believe” was an acceptable alternative to “to trust”.
But, as such, “believe” was not really an epistemic term, which is the way it is generally used today. And this may be, in part, why, for example, St. Paul often used the word gnosis
instead of episteme
—a usage which continues in the Greek Orthodox church today. Episteme
might be thought of as referring to discriminating, logical, “ratio – nal”, “left-brain” knowledge; gnosis
might be thought of as referring to intuitive, holistic, recognitional, “right-brain” knowledge. The aspect of mind that relates to gnosis
, usually translated as “repentence” means a transformation of the nous
Not all traditions may discern the differences in that particular way, but Greek Orthodox Christianity, rooted in the Greek (even with the grammatical problems of the Koine Greek used in the NT), does discern it that way. Also, translation can be problematic, as nous
is I think sometimes translated as “intellect”, which sounds—to me at least—more like the epistemic, rather than the gnostic, understanding. (Note that “gnostic” here is not capitalized, since it does not refer to particular—often very dualistic—schools of Christian thought.)