Wednesday 29 May 2013

What seems static is actually cyclical


(Metaphysics alert! Please ignore if not interested in such matters.)

Since I began to reject my former plain-man's-Platonism;

and my rapid adoption of what might be termed a Mormon Metaphysics

(i.e. derived from Mormon Theology - which is, roughy speaking, Christianity seen through the lens of Old Testament modes of thinking, theology understood as God's relationships with Man through history, and with the Bible as a whole understood as-close-to-face-value as possible, especially in terms of the nature of God);

instead of Classical Theology

(CT being Christianity seen through the lens - and categories - of Greek philosophy - i.e. mainstream Christianity since about the death or disappearance of the Apostles)

- I am finding it hard to imagine or acknowledge the reality of stasis.


Stasis now seems to me to be the same thing as non-existence or extinction.

If everything is always moving, then what seems to be stasis is perhaps actually cyclical - it appears unchanging because it is going around in circles:

Either circles too small to be perceived, circular movement too slow for the movement to be noticed, or movement in circles so rapid as to blur into apparent stasis.



sykes.1 said...

Harold Bloom classifies the Mormon faith (several other Jewish and Christian sects) as gnostic. He thinks that is good thing.

So, your conception of God is of interest. Most gnostics regarded YHWH as an evil demon and the material world he created as intrinsically evil.

Then there is the OT lens. In the OT there are 60 names for God, which suggests there is more than one god. Most of the time, the name is YHWH plus an adjective, but there are over 20 other, distinct names.

Also, the OT describes a God (or gods) who does not create from nothing but rearranges the pre-existing Chaos (in typical Mesopotamian fashion). YHWH is not omniscient and cannot predict the future. He doesn't know where Adam and Eve are nor what they will do; He doesn't know anything about Abel, or Babel or Sodom and Gomorrah or Job. He is strictly localized in space and time. He is not all powerful. And, importantly, He is not benevolent, although He will forgive sins if there is appropriate regret and penance.

As to Jesus, nowhere in the OT an d NT is he identified as part of the God, and there is no reference to the Trinity in the Bible.

So, if you are drifting away from the Greek philosopher's God (the modern Judaeo-Christian God) with its Godhead and emanations of Consciousness and Wisdom, where are you going?

Bruce Charlton said...

@sykes - While you make some interesting points with which I would agree, I would very strongly disagree with some parts of your characterization of the OT, which in fact sounds self-evidently absurd!

Also, it seems to me that on the whole you seriously don't understand Mormonism; and are begging the question in the sense of judging from the perspective of the correctness of interpretation of Christianity in terms of the Greek philosophers' God.

Harold Bloom had some very interesting things to say about Mormonism - from a perspective sympathetic to Old Testament Judaism - but after five years of study (in contrast he his few months) I think I now know more about the subject than he does!

I am always unsure what people mean by gnostic - certainly there are 'gnostic' elements everywhere, including Mormonsim (perhaps any secret ceremony could be labelled gnostic?) - but it would be a mega-distortion, indeed just plain false, to regard Mormonism as a type of gnosticism (however defined).

If you want to fit it into a heresy, you would get much further with Pelagianism, but that would fall down too if you were honest.

The debate can only proceed if it is agreed that the Christian God is what He is, and that there are various second-order ways of conceptualizing this primary reality.

If we assume from the beginning that that it is ultimately and abcolutely correct to conceptualize Christianity through a Greek lens, then there can only be one - predetermined - answer!

One thing I have learned in the past five years is that Mormonism cannot really be understood as a combination of other, pre-existing doctrines - it can, just about, be hammered-into such a framework - but Mromonism is essentially something new, something with a new essence (or essences) and a new type of systemization.

I certainly agree with Bloom that Joseph Smiths achievements were at major genius level (although I think this was due to him being what he said he was - a Prophet - and not due to his outstanding abilities).

This means that non-Mormons ought to approach the religion with an expectation that understanding it and explaining it is a big task - because creating it was a big achievement.

But one of the motivations was to avoid black box incomprehensible philosophical pseudo-explanations - such as a timeless eternity, a reactive stasis such as a God who loves but does not change, an unbounded personality, a traid of personages who are yet one personage and who do not change...

Instead, Joseph Smith's (vast) achievement seems to have been based on a reading of the Bible which (substantially, and more than anyone else - but not wholly)took the stories at face value and made a coherent meta-story from these ingredients.

This was then elaborated in the Book of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants etc - aand a Church was established (with unique and highly effective forms of organization) - and then the doctrines were systemized and made memorable - and a few aberrant passages of the Bible were assumed to be mistranslated.

But underneath and underpinning all this superstructure is a hyper-Protestant ('fundamentalist', 'literal') close-reading of the Bible.

Where am I going with this? Where I am now, I suppose!

FHL said...

I don't know anything about Mormonism.

Nor Plato, for that matter. "But you graduated university with a degree in Philosophy!" Ya, I know. They got thousands of dollars from my family but I got them to sign a certificate qualifying me as an expert in metaphysics.

I still have no idea what metaphysics is.

I'm still not quite sure who robbed who in that case.

But I just wanted to drop by and say: Aha! I've been trying to show that you keep repeating my same thoughts since damn near forever! (-and I've been bringing this up as a proof of Christianity's universal transcendent Truth.) So now I ask: isn't this exactly what I stated before?

But of course I expect that, like always, every single time, you'll just say something like "no, that's not what I meant, but maybe I am confused?" and I'll look over your post again, and after a more careful, less reckless reading, I'll have to reluctantly conclude that your perception is correct by saying something like "well ok... after careful consideration, it turns out you are not confused at all, I'm just drunk."

But also, like always, I'll still agree that this was a very good post even though I missed the point!


The Crow said...

Stasis is a state of incomplete experience. What appears to not be in motion, is in motion, if experienced a moment longer.
Time does not appear to move, until the mind wonders why it is not moving.
Everything is eternal, until the mind sees it as not being eternal. it is, in fact, the subjective rendering of mind, when mind is applied to reality.
Meanwhile, reality is whatever it is, regardless.
Is this what you were referring to by 'metaphysics'?

josh said...

I did not realize that you now accept Joseph Smith as a prophet. Gosh.

Bruce Charlton said...

@josh - Pay attention lad!

Vader said...


Do you know anything about the standard model of physics and the role that certain symmetry groups, particularly U(1), SU(2), and SU(3), play in it?

I have drawn an analogy you may perhaps find interesting.

I should acknowledge that this is not orthodox Mormonism, or orthodox anything else.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Vader - Nice of you to comment (I read your stuff on JrGany)- but I got completely lost!

But, as an armchair and purely theoretical and unbaptized Jack Mormon (sort of)- I would have supposed that "All of time is present before Him" was not true of the Mormon conception of God, who exists within linear Time (as do we). Since each human has existed eternally (in some basic form as 'intelligences', before becoming spirit children of God) and really do have real agency, then there is no possibility of God knowing for sure (but only probabilistically) how we will choose at any given moment.

But at this level of multiple abstraction upon abstraction, even Mormon metaphysics becomes far removed from common sense evaluation...

Vader said...


I think it was C.S. Lewis who pointed out that observing the future is not the same as determining the future. In other words, the fact that God sees what our choices will be does not mean that those choices are not real.

Bruce Charlton said...

@V - Indeed he did, but he was a Platonist.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Vader - I should explain - my understanding of Mormon theology comes mostly from Sterling McMurrin and Terryl Givens.

From them I got that our God cannot exist out of Time, and also be a personage, capable of Love and of weeping at Man's suffering - because if God lived out of Time, then He could not change, and all these things entail change.

(That's more or less the argument.)

Anyway, it convinced me to abandon my earlier (sort of) Platonism and embrace Mormon theology.

Arakawa said...

I suppose my only problem at imagining Heaven existing within linear Time is that there would be so many things to attend to, that I can scarcely imagine them being arranged in any linear order.

I suppose, next to the alternatives of imagining just one thing to attend to (nothing but an endless worship of God, without reference to any of the people you loved on Earth -- "most of whom would be damned anyways"), or imagining just some eternal crystallized stasis to the same effect, a complex arrangement of cycles is the far better way to try to apprehend the Heavenly state through a linear consciousness.

And, if Time is indeed linear, that is how I imagine it would be arranged in reality. Witness the seasons of the Earth, as confirmation; as if four different planets, joined in one and available to our experience without the hassle of interplanetary travel -- though only those with the virtue of Patience could truly perceive this fact.

Bruce Charlton said...