Friday 21 March 2014

If (Christian) love is the primary thing; this implies an animistic (living) universe


Following from this:

if the primary reality (force) of the universe is love (specifically Christian love) then this entails that the universe - the whole universe - be alive.

The primacy of love implies an animistic universe.


Why this must be derives from the properties of love, and from the unacceptability of the alternatives (the alternatives are either that nothing in the universe is alive, or that some things in the universe are alive and the rest is not).


The nature of love seems obviously to require intentional communication, and at least the potential for reciprocity. That seems to restrict love to living things.

If love is to be primary as an explanation for reality, that means that at least the important things in the universe be alive.

(Accepting that of course, being alive is capable of many quantitative degrees and many qualitative forms - the life of a bacterium is different from a tree is different from a sheep is different from a man - and the principle would have to extent downwards to viruses, molecules, atoms and the like.)

Which leads to a choice between some-things or all-things in the universe being alive.


Historically, the earliest abandonment of animism was that only some things were alive - for example biological-things; and among them only animals, and only some-animals - perhaps only humans - could be capable of love.

The only sense that can be made of this is that the whole universe exists only for the benefit of those things capable of love - that is humans and God - plus presumably angels.

This is a fairly common Christian idea - that everything is dead - or rather non-alive - except Men and Angels and God: everything else exists 'merely' to serve these.

So we live in a life-less universe, with a 'bubble' of love between Men and with God and Angels - and the rest is darkness, meaninglessness, and has nothing to do with love.


But in such a universe love is not really primary - it is more that everything else except Man and God can (and ultimately should) be ignored.

Furthermore, it seems that to deny the aliveness of everything, and to try and draw a line around God and Man and between alive and non-alive is actually to set foot onto a slippery slope...

In doubting the importance and aliveness of everything except God and Man, we end-up by doubting the reality of God and the aliveness of Man.

So, now the standard, secular, mainstream academically prevalent view is exactly this: that God is not alive (i.e. does not exist); and Man is not really alive; in the sense that there is nothing special (or 'vital') to distinguish between the living and the non-living, or the sentient and the non-sentient...

And therefore that any feeling or belief we may have of being alive - and of loving - is just a feeling or belief; inessential, delusional; a mere epiphenomenon of lifeless mechanical processes.


Thus in practice it proved impossible to hold the line and assert that Man really is alive and capable of love - and that love matters more than anything - in a world view that asserts the non-alive nature of everything-else.

Given the unacceptability of nothing-is-alive, and the unsustainability of some-things-are alive - this leaves as the only coherent alternative that everything-is-alive.


If the universe really is alive - if we really do inhabit an animistic universe (as all children start-out believing, and many hunter gatherers and others tribes people continue to believe through adult life) - then the mainstream, secular modern view of things amounts to a denial of the basic structure of reality.


So, it seems that we are forced to conclude that pretty-much everything is more-or-less alive.

We are forced back into adopting animism as the default belief - unless, that is, we are prepared to abandon the primacy of (Christian) love.



MC said...

This corresponds somewhat the common and fairly animistic LDS belief (I have no idea if it is common among other Christians) that the Flood was the baptism of the Earth by water, and that the eventual burning spoken of by Malachi will be its baptism of fire and the Spirit:

David said...

I have always felt like this then had it 'educated' out me at school. I remember suggesting to my physics teacher that 'love' might be considered a fundamental force at work in the universe, a fundamental part of the universe, and not just idiosyncratic to the human experience but something we can sense or detect like the fundamental forces: gravity, the strong nuclear force, weak nuclear, Evil?

My ideas were not particularly well received. I was 14 then. They managed to educate these intuitive beliefs out of me for quite some time after that. I wonder whether my later 'depression' in early attitude was in part due to my severance from a common sense understanding of reality. So much for education. Quite a destructive thing indeed in many ways. I am not allowed to discuss such matters as spirituality with depressed patients in the NHS. My feeling is nihilism is often what lies underneath a lot of suicidal ideation and risky behaviour. They often ask "What is the point?" Well quite. There is no point if you are a secular aethesist apart from short-termist pleasure seeking. Interestingly, the religious patients (whom are still not immune to the vissitudes of human suffering, andreconnectpression/anxiety - all humans are) rarely report suicidal ideation because they sense it will compound their problems and faith is a protective factor. Anecdotal observations from my own limited experience but I am bewildered that this is quickly explained away. I really do think we should be able to invite diacussions about spirituality with patients more often as part of the (hopeful) recovery and 'reconnection' with reality. Again, my managers regard this as irrelevant, wrong and a very bad idea above my station. CBT is God in the modern primary care mental health field. This does not fit and is rejected forcefully. I have to talk about Christianity with Christian patients secretly or risk breaking the rules of the game.

Bruce Charlton said...

ADAM G said - "I don't know if its the same was what you're saying--I think it is--but I have long felt that for our interactions with creation to be meaningful CREATION MUST BE AN END in itself, not JUST a means to an end."

The Crow said...

The primary reason I abandoned Christianity was because its leaders actively prevented/frowned upon, any actual spiritual growth.
Nothing could be observed, noticed, learned, that didn't seem to dovetail perfectly into scripture.

Of course the universe is alive. That life is loosely known as consciousness. Rocks are considerably more conscious than most modern Westerners.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Crow - As you know I have been fascinated by the animistic perspective for a couple of decades. What is interesting is where, at what point, we get the impression that animism has been disproved, has been 'discovered' to be false - that it is *obviously* a childish delusion. Some kinda trick, I think...

The Crow said...

Humans seem addicted to the smug idea that human is everything, even creating God in human guise. Humans see nothing but humans. As if the other 99.9999% of creation were of no account.
Which would more than account for their generally miserable state.
Kinship with a rock can take you very much further than the assumed kinship with another human.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Crow - Luckily an animistic universe and a human God are compatible - perhaps metaphysically entailed.

Otherwise we would face a choice between alienation (dead universe) versus meaninglessness (no personal God).

HofJude said...

Do you know Galen Strawson's arguments for panpsychism? I admire them at least as a weapon against the pretensions of the discipline calling itself "neuroscience."