Archive for November, 2008

Without Self-Consciousness We Could Not Live The Way God Wants Us To Live

November 29, 2008
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Without The Time Of Non-Being Science Couldn’t Get Done–In The Time Of Non-Being Only Becoming Exists

Halifax Bar Conversation Concluded

“God is a frame of reference, and more,” I said.

“Am I hearing a broken record or what? Why do you keep saying the same thing over and over? God—if God existed—would have to exist outside of time,” Bruce replied. “All traditional religious views say so; otherwise, God would be limited by time. God is not limited by time, or, are we talking about something different here?”

“No, we’re not talking about something different,” I responded. “Because God exists in time, because power and knowledge exists in time, God is in it all and it is for this reason that I can say that God is all powerful, all wise, and all present. Traditional descriptions of God remain unaffected. Within this view God becomes the condition of the possibility for any description at all.”

“What are you saying? What’s that got to do with reference frames?” said Bruce.

“Einstein was right,” I replied, “but not totally. He described the time of ‘things,’ space-time events, but so too does a different kind of time exist, a second time, the time of self, or I should say the time of ‘no-self.’ If that time didn’t exist, science couldn’t get done. For Einstein, the observer is enmeshed in space-time, but that didn’t stop him from questioning why we can comprehend nature. Indeed, nature’s comprehensibility was a big issue for Einstein, but, for the most part, he remained silent on that issue. Deep down, though, he believed that the comprehensibility of nature was no less than a miracle, and for him that meant that everything was a miracle. The time of ‘no-self,’ the time of non-being, is only found in our consciousness of becoming—our free will. In that time ‘surprise’ becomes an event. In Einstein’s space-time I live and die, but before I die I leave behind a history, and that history is fully represented in the cross-section of events—world lines– that we call ‘a life.’ Adding a second kind of time to that equation changes everything.”

“What about God? It seems you have excluded God in your ‘no-time,’ if that’s what you want to call it!” responded Bruce.

“Far from it,” I replied. “In the time of non-being ‘world lines’ are replaced by motives and actions. In the time of non-being only ‘becoming’ exists. In that time responsibility is birthed. In that time the consciousness of ‘right and wrong,’—the stuff that remains invisible to science—speaks for God.”

“You’re telling me that humans exist in a timeframe different from the rest of nature? I don’t buy it. The last time I checked,” Bruce responded, “my cat lived in the same time that I do. If you want proof, come to dinner.”

”Your cat lives in the present,” I said, “but not in the time of self-consciousness. Self-consciousness is reserved for those who can judge good and evil, right and wrong. “God is made manifest in that consciousness. In a manner of speaking, God reaches out and touches everybody in self-consciousness.”

“That sounds so tacky,” Bruce replied. “You know what Freud said about self-consciousness don’t you?”

“No I don’t,” I replied. “But I imagine he had something to say about everything?”

“He said self-consciousness was a late product of evolution,” responded Bruce. “As the brain became larger, consciousness grew more complex, and finally it was mere size that ushered in self-consciousness. All hell broke lose after that.”

“How so?” I replied.

“Before self-consciousness, life was simple,” Bruce said. “Hunger and sex dominated waking consciousness. People lived and died in an endless pattern. With self-consciousness came the capacity for self-transcendence and, according to Freud, it was only then that a sense of meaninglessness entered the world. All anxieties and neuroses can be traced back to our recognition of impeding disasters, death, and decay. It was, in fact, that sense of meaninglessness that opened the birth canal out of which religion dropped. Traumatic events became bearable with religion. As a result, the psyche, made fragile by religion’s false gods, became vulnerable to psychological tumult. Your God, I’m afraid, would not impress Freud. Does that surprise you?”

“Not really,” I said. “Everything good comes with a price, and self-consciousness is not exempt. Our freedom to ‘do the right thing’ pays that price. Call religion a crutch if you want; no matter though, without self-consciousness we could not live in the way that God wants us to live.”

“And what, pray tell, is that– the way God wants us to live?” responded Bruce.

“To be determined,” I replied.

“What does that mean?” exclaimed Bruce.

“The right way to live follows from first principles,” I said. “Once principles are determined—agreed upon—the stage is set for what is to follow. Principles like ‘doing unto others as you would have others do unto you,’ ‘reverence for life,’ and caring for the environment are all guiding principles from which a ‘religious life’ can proceed. Of course, there are always going to be challenges and controversies. For instance, how do we define happiness? Even more to the point, when personal happiness feeds off another’s pain, is that justifiable? Answers to questions such as these arise only after the behaviors in question are measured against the agreed upon first principles that determi
ne ‘right’ for ‘wrong.’ Identifying first principles is the hard part. Like the freedom principle, first principles tend to be general in nature, and therefore open to some degree of interpretation.

“Why do you say that? What kind of controversy can come from the freedom principle?” replied Bruce.

“You should have continued reading your Freud,” I said. “Unbridled freedom has always been a threat. Before civil authority, a system of taboos kept freedom in check. Obey God or go to hell, or leeches, if reincarnation is your bag. ‘The divine enforcer’ has always been the principle behind social control, and on the flip side, behind social bonding. ‘Shall we pray;’ get the picture? But now it’s different. Now we are on the cusp of a new consciousness. The God that resides in each and every one of us, simply asks: Look at one another and see God, then act appropriately.”

“And act appropriately,” said Bruce, “how exactly do you decipher that? How am I supposed to tell the difference between appropriate and inappropriate activity?”

“I’m not exactly sure,” I replied, “but, when appropriateness is determined, it will be both consistent with what has gone before and unique to that particular moment. Think of it as the stuff that nourishes life.”

“Oh, then its got to be chicken soup, eh!” Bruce replied.

“What? Well, yes, maybe it does, or is, or whatever,” I said. “That metaphor is as good as any I guess. However, the soup I’m talking about does not require stock. It comes with already added stock. Freedom and God provide the flavor. To give it more substance, reason, compassion, and justice need to be added to the mix. And further, while simmering, season it well with knowledge, consistency, and first-principles. When ready, serve it hot and often. There is enough nourishment there to provide for the needs of the entire Commonwealth. There’s enough energy there to sustain a balance between government and individual autonomy, and to sustain a balance between the law of unity and the claims of the community. But don’t forget the garnish! This soup requires generous amounts of garnish, –in the form of educational opportunities. Without a good education there would be no agreement on what nourishment is as opposed to what it is not. Providing fair, productive, and sustainable living conditions for all, that is the goal. Without universal educational opportunities, that goal—to provide fair, productive, and sustainable living conditions for all, would be impossible to even imagine let alone achieve.”

“Ah, romance!” responded Bruce. “Without the Romantics the world would die a wicked death, or at least I remember somebody saying that once. But realistically, wouldn’t it take a miracle for people to live like that?”

“It probably would my friend, it probably would!”

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It’s All About The Mystery That Gives Insight Into The Workings Of The Universe

November 22, 2008
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Where God Is In Nature, Comprehensibility Follows, Where God And Nature Part-Incomprehensibility

Halifax Bar Conversation

July 31, ‘82

While on Cape Breton, Dorothy and Bruce came into our campsite and asked if they could videotape Mike and I. At the time, we were setting up our tent. Dorothy wanted to include a camping scene in the advertising campaign she and Bruce were putting together. Before the evening was over, we were invited to Bruce’s place if and when we arrived in Halifax. Since Bill and I had just arrived in Halifax, it was time to see if that invitation was still good, and it was.

After spending a very pleasant evening with Bruce, in the morning, he asked Bill and I if we wanted to go with him to a photo shoot that he was doing down at the docks. Bill agreed, but I opted for a different kind of sightseeing. I went to the Mariners’ Museum and after that took in Halifax’s art gallery. Later in the afternoon, however, the three of us met at a prearranged spot—Bruce’s favorite bar. Just as I arrived at the bar, Bill got up to leave. He had rendezvoused with the girl he had met on the train, and the two of them left to have dinner.

Bruce was in a talkative mood. He and Bill had had a few beers before I arrived, so he was overflowing with questions. Bill had told him about my beliefs concerning God and Bruce wanted to know more. “You know,” he said, “I used to talk a lot about God too, but it wasn’t very flattering. Your God seems different; that is, if I understood Bill correctly. So tell me, what’s the deal, are you talking pantheism or something else?”

“Bill must have turned over a new leaf,” I replied, “he was never really into religion. But, no matter, it’s my favorite subject, and, yes, I believe in a kind of pantheism, but it’s even more than that. I guess you could say I believe in the mystery of understanding, the mystery that gives conscious insight into the workings of the universe—a divine universe.”

“What are you talking about? Some kind of conscious pantheism?” Bruce responded.

“Yeah, something like that,” I replied, “but I’m also talking about why the universe is predictable and behaves according to law.”

“Excuse me,” Bruce said, “can you explain that?”

“I’d rather we just enjoy our beer,” I replied. “But, in a nutshell, it works like this: nature becomes comprehensible because God is in everything, and that’s the reality of it.”

“I like that,” said Bruce. “At least the reality part; my camera and I know a little something about that. But you know, what you just said, sounds a lot like Hegel. History, for Hegel, was the self-realization process of God.”

“I only know Hegel through Marx,” I said. “Someday I would like to know more.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t waste my time if I were you. He’s dense,” Bruce responded. “I was on the debate team in school and my professor was a religious fanatic. The class spent the whole semester debating the consciousness—divinity thing. I was on the nay-saying side. Those guys—Hegel, Whitehead, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin—if you ask me, were up a creek without a paddle. If you want to know about God all you have to do is look through my camera. That’s reality; it’s also my bread and butter. It doesn’t get any more real than that. Beauty, guts, and glory, I capture it all, right here, through this lens. Believe me, in the end, if it’s not in the picture, it doesn’t exist. The camera doesn’t lie.”

“That’s one way of looking at it, I guess.”

“That’s the only way,” replied Bruce.

“I beg your pardon, you won’t object if I continue to believe in God will you?”

“To each his own,” Bruce responded.

“Good—because that’s one thing I can’t do without—even if we don’t agree,” I said, “even if I’m wrong. I still get to believe whatever I want. That’s called free will, or don’t you believe in that either?”

“I’ve never seen it in a photograph,” said Bruce.

“Aw, yes you have,” I replied, “it’s right there in front of you, in the frame of the photograph. It’s found in the picking and choosing of the ‘right’ picture. Photographs tell stories! How could it be otherwise? Think about it, and then tell me I’m wrong!”

“I never thought about it like that,” Bruce replied. “Maybe?”

“Maybe yes,” I said, “in fact, if I’m wrong than I’m wrong about God too.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Bruce responded.

“It means God is woven into everything, into the smallest detail. It’s all just a moment for God, a divine moment.”

“You’ve got to be kidding,” said Bruce. “That’s stupid. Haven’t you heard? Time has taken a hit. After Einstein, it was knocked off its pedestal. Time is relative now. Your divine moment is meaningful only as a frame of reference. Is your god a frame of reference? If so, God is absolutely irrelevant because ref
erence frames change with the observer, or more specifically, with the observer’s momentum!”

To be concluded…

I Am In The Father And The Father Is In Me—We Are One

November 15, 2008
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When We Love God Above All Things With Our Whole Heart And Soul, Only Then Do We Come To Love Ourselves And All Other Things Truly And Equally

Meister Eckhart Conversation Concluded

“He came awfully close to making the connection between self-consciousness and God’s transcendent nature,” said Bill. “In fact, existence, for Eckhart, was characterized by levels, levels of ever higher divinity. According to the Meister, ‘mere being is life in living being, and living being is intellect and intellectual being.’ Each of these different levels of existence—being, life, and intelligence exists in the next highest level of itself, and, for Eckhart, the union of the soul and the divine comes together in the last level, the level of intelligence. Thus, he held, at least in some of his teachings, that the essence of the divine is intelligence, or understanding, and this became the common ground of God and soul, so much so that the Meister was able to specifically state, ‘I am in the Father, and the Father is in me; the Father and I are one.’ Jesus taught how to do this, how to achieve union with God. According to Eckhart, one could not know Jesus without knowing himself first. Indeed, if my memory is correct, Eckhart’s exact words were, ‘to get into the core of God at his greatest, one must first get into himself at his least.’ If that doesn’t sound like your dialectic of freedom, I don’t know what does. Am I right?”

“Absolutely,” I said, “the Meister just put freedom’s dialectic in the language of his time—the only language available. But I’m still confused about Jesus; how did he, as a historical figure, fit into Eckhart’s mysticism?”

“Lest we forget,” said Bill, “we’re not talking about church dogma here!”

“But who was Jesus,” I responded, “a man of high degree perhaps, or something more?”

“According to the Meister, the return of all things to God can be described in two stages,” said Bill, “’as the birth of the word in soul and as the breaking through of the soul into that divine ground that is God.’ Jesus knew this, and he lived accordingly. That made him extraordinarily special. Jesus would say things like: ‘I wish the man who follows me, who comes to me, to be where I am,’ and Eckhart would add that ‘no one is where the Son is except for the one who becomes One in the Father’s bosom and heart.’ The Meister pleaded for us to open our eyes and to see what has always been the case, ‘that the soul is nearer to God than it is to the body which makes us human;’ that is the deepest ground, the ground where God and the soul are One. In other words, following Jesus meant seeking union with the divine. The Father gave birth to the Son and if the soul is one with the Father in giving birth to the Son, then it must also be one with the spirit of love proceeding from Father to the Son.”

“Then it all comes down to what Jesus preached, and even the church got that right—the gospel of love,” I said.

“That’s about right,” Bill replied, “but it was even more significant than that for Eckhart. For him, love, in the truest sense of the word, meant loving all things equally. Indeed, he said that ‘when we love God above all things with our whole heart and soul, only then do we come to love ourselves and all other things truly and equally.’”

“Jesus, doesn’t it seem like we’ve come an awful long way just to get back to the beginning,” I said, “back to the gospel’s original message?”

“Yeah, you could say that,” Bill said, “but don’t forget, this whole little chat started because you thought your belief in God was unique and that’s just not true. Eckhart expressed something very similar a very long time ago.”

“I’ll have to give that some thought,” I replied. “I’m to tired to think right now.”

“Me too,” Bill said.

“I do have one more thought, though,” I said. “If an identity exists between my soul and God, and, if soul is the same thing that I call self-consciousness, then that God-consciousness-connection must exist for the Meister too. Is that right?”

“Indeed it is,” responded Bill. “According to Eckhart, the soul may achieve union with God, but the ‘spark of soul’ is already there, in union with God, and it is through that spark that God experiences human consciousness, so much so in fact, that when we suffer God suffers with us. ‘He truly does;” says Eckhart, ‘He suffers in his own fashion, sooner and far more than the man suffers who suffers for love of him.’”

“Okay,” I said, “one last question and I’m off to bed. How exactly did you market Eckhart?”

“I didn’t,” replied Bill, “I wrote a short paper explaining that you can’t sell a product that is already owned. I added that it is unethical to fool a person into believing that they do not have a product they already possess. I added that that kind of behavior violates the good business code, and I got an A on my paper.”

Double Negation, The Purest Form Of Unity

November 8, 2008
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God’s Intention In Creating, Fell First On The Whole, On A Harmoniously Working Universe Designed To Reach Its End In God’s Absolute Unity

Meister Eckhart Conversation Continued

“Don’t forget, Meister Eckhart was put on trial for heresy!” said Bill. “But, I think more was going on there than that.”

“How so?” I replied.

“The Son,” Bill said, “the image of God, for Eckhart, in addition to being made flesh, was also identified with the Logos, with truth—the truth that saves and, ultimately, sets one free. Jesus said, ‘I am the truth, the life, and the way.’ He understood who he was, and dared to speak it because he was the ‘truth’, and he lived his life that way. Eckhart’s teachings were problematic. It should be pointed out, though, that he believed he was unfairly accused, and he was probably right. They don’t call it mysticism for nothing you know.”

“But, I still don’t understand,” I replied. “How are Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and double negation connected?”

“Well, to the best of my knowledge,” Bill responded, “the Holy Spirit and the Son represent God’s goodness. In the Godhead, Son and the Holy Spirit are not from nothing, but are God from God, light from light. They are three in One. Priority is given to the hidden Godhead, but without the Son and Holy Spirit there would be nothing to unify, nothing to affirm. Eckhart’s concepts for Son and Holy Spirit are—or may be understood, as being isomorphic with your being-what-is-not-while-not-being-what-is. In other words, the affirmation that both you and Eckhart call the ‘ground of God’ is implied in the double negation, the purest form of unity. Therefore, the Meister was able to make statements like: ‘Unity exists between God and God’s creatures,’ and ‘God’s existence must be my existence.’ It is God’s inherent oneness/threeness relationship that unfolds, as the transcendent-immanent relationship of God. But, of course, Eckhart’s accusers saw only a contradiction—for them, the transcendent God was separate from nature. Throughout his trial, though, Eckhart never wavered. For him, God was both absolute unity and transcendent. In the eyes of the church that contradiction constituted heresy. How could it be otherwise?”

“But that’s not heresy,” I replied, “it’s not even a contradiction. It’s simply freedom’s dialectic working itself out in the human Logos. Eckhart’s “image of God made flesh,” or the Son of God, is that part of the Logos that allows you and me to seek out an answers to questions, “why or why not.” The Holly Spirit–Goodness of God, or as Eckhart says, the Three in One part of God that unifies and affirms, is, on the other hand, that part of the Logos that separates, embeds and connects—connects to the space of logical implication, connects to the “Presence of God.” Not only does this double negative aspect of the Holly Spirit–Goodness of God, connect everything to transcendent God, it also connects God to all life affirmations and self-conscious affirmations. Life affirmations are affirmed in the restrictive physical environment, while self-conscious affirmations are affirmed in the factual environment of physical events. Life, therefore, is not separate from its negation—the physical environment, and, self-consciousness is not separate from its negation–the physical event. More specifically, in the language of the Logos, built into the Logos is the conservation principle that keeps everything connected to its opposite, that keeps everything unified and affirmed in transcendent God–the Three in One God of Meister Eckhart.

“Yes, that seems to all follow,” Bill responded, “but try explaining that to someone who doesn’t want to understand. Eckhart defended himself by saying that ‘God’s intention in creation, fell first on the whole,’ on the levels of a harmoniously working universe ‘designed to reach its end in God’s absolute unity.’”

“I see what you mean,” I replied, “what else could he say, given the spirit of his times? And even further, it doesn’t seem as though the Meister made the connection between self-consciousness and God’s transcendent nature. Is that right?”

To be concluded….

He Was Describing The Mysticism Of Meister Eckhart

November 1, 2008
dark side of moon

In The Language Of The “Eternal Now,” We Are Speaking Of God As Simultaneously Immanent In Creatures, As He Is Also Transcendent To Them

Sitting Around The Campfire Discussing Meister Eckhart

July 29, ‘82

The weather has been super, and so has the traffic. I’ve waited a long time for that kind of luck. Until this trip, I had been under the illusion that, yes, biking is a tough-it-out experience. It doesn’t have to be that way, and this trip proves it. I’m sitting on the back steeps of a hardware store in Sheet Harbor, Nova Scotia. Bill has gone to dinner, so I have time to write. Bill has been an excellent partner. I almost forgot how enthusiastic he could be. When he’s up, he’s just like a little kid in a candy store, and he’s been up the whole time.

Two days ago we biked along freshwater lakes and rivers, while yesterday we enjoyed the even more beautiful scenery of ocean inlets and off shore islands. Last night we camped in a picnic area. Bill was still bubbling over with spirit, the kind that Nova Scotia draws out of a person. Sitting around the campfire, we got to talking about the “good life.” When the conversation turned to God, I did most of the talking, but judging from Bill’s questions, he had an uncanny understanding of what I was trying to say. I certainly didn’t expect that form him; religion was not his bag. By the end of the evening I began to understand better. He was describing the mysticism of Meister Eckhart, but he could have been talking about my own belief system.

Bill had just finished taking a class at CMU. The students were given a marketing paper to write. The product, or the idea that they had to sell, was drawn from a hat. Bill picked the name Meister Eckhart. The Meister was a 13th century Christian mystic, but when Bill read the name he thought the guy was the founder of Meister Brau, the first brewery to market can draft beer. Maybe he was joking when he told me that. I’m still not sure. Anyway, he took the assignment seriously and came away from the project with a basic understanding of Eckhart’s religion, philosophy, mysticism??? By the end of the evening, I was surprised to find a lot of “Eckhart” in my own religious views.

Meister Eckhart sermonized during the “age of knighthood,” or the time when armor-clad roustabouts respected chivalry and honor more than they did the heads they lopped off during a joust. When I asked Bill, “How could that be, how could a catholic theologian, a foot soldier in the Pope’s army, reject God and get away with it?” He said, “he didn’t; Eckhart was put on trial for heresy in 1326, and he died during the proceedings.” The rest of the conversation went something like this:

“That figures,” I said, “Anyone who dared turn the Christian view of creation into an argument for continuous creativity had to be a threat to the church. What I don’t understand, though, is how he reconciled his belief in the Trinity with continuous creation, and where did the double negatives fit in?”

“Yes, that was a problem,” Bill responded, “but only if the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are conceived as separate from God. Of course, the Persons of the Trinity are both separate from, and one with God. That is the Christian paradox isn’t it! Eckhart’s ‘eternal now’ concept solved that problem. In the ‘eternal now,’ the Persons of the Trinity became one with the creative process as they affirmed God. They became a necessary and integral part of transcendent God as they permitted God’s immanence in the ‘here and now.’ For the Meister, the Son and the Holy Spirit made possible both creation and creativity.”

“They substituted for the double negative aspect of God then?” I said.

“If I understand you correctly,” replied Bill, “yes. From a functional perspective, your double negative and Eckhart’s Trinity are interchangeable concepts. Were it not for the Trinity there wouldn’t be a God and, according to Eckhart, we wouldn’t be having this conversation! The Godhead, which is the affirmative ground of God, is indescribable, but creation—past, present, and future—is the manifestation of the Persons of the Trinity. In the language of the ‘eternal now,’ we are speaking of God as simultaneously immanent in creatures, as He is also transcendent to them.”

“Without the Persons of the Trinity,” I said, “there wouldn’t be a ‘now,’ eternal or otherwise?”

“You bet,” said Bill, “for Eckhart, the Trinity and God are the same thing. And because of that, he sometimes referred to God as pure intellect or understanding.”

“God is limited by reason then?”

“I wouldn’t put it like that,” Bill replied. “The divine addresses what is; it does not limit possibility.”

“But what about miracles?” I said. “What about Jesus? He was, at least according to scripture, immaculately conceived.”

“The Bible tells us that God’s Son was made flesh,” Bill replied. “What the church understands as flesh and blood might, given some of Eckhart’s statements, be better understood as a symbolic representation for all Sons and Daughters of God—the human race.

To be continued…..