Thursday 13 March 2014

The basic components of reality - the 'back story' to Mormon cosmology


I find that my compulsive philosophizing has generated a fairly complex schema to account for what I regard as the major facts of existence: the basic components of reality.

In a nutshell I am trying to explain Mormon cosmology here: I am trying to flesh-out the 'back story'.


Initially there is matter, laws of nature - including moral laws, there is God (the Father) (and perhaps a Heavenly Mother, I'm not sure: either God is the one entity without sex, or the duality and incompleteness of sex are universal facts, and the basis of all action and movement and purpose)

...and there are individual (but not personalized) essences of agency, which are differentiated by sex (i.e. male and female agents).

At this point in history, only God has agency and free will - plus many other great primordial powers and attributes.


That is the set-up. The assumptions. This is what JUST IS.


So we have an eternal pre-existence, eternal autonomy as pre-persons - but at that point we had no self-awareness, and no capacity for free will - no capacity to act.

God wanted to have children, he wanted to raise-up these children to become friends, eternal companions, allies in living...

Why? Either because he was alone and lonely; or because he was an incomplete half and eternally accompanied by a Heavenly Mother - such that the basic dynamic of the universe is to seek completeness in celestial marriage and the loving company of children, and therefore to raise these children to the same maturity as their parents.


When we became children of our Heavenly Father, our agency was additionally endowed with conscious self-awareness and the capacity to choose and act - free will.

At that point we became disembodied spirits (spirit children)


So we began as an eternally pre-existent, unaware, tiny and helpless, but autonomous, individual flame; to which (at some point in time) God added the divine flame with consciousness and the ability to act - and we embarked upon a spiritual existence.


When we chose to come to earth and live this mortal and incarnate life, we did this by earthly parents - so as we are born as mortals we have three sources of 'fire':

1. The individual eternal flame of agency. Unique to us.

(This is the reason why we have genuine and inviolable autonomy and are not merely aspects of God. This is why we are of the same kind as God - we share this basis. )

2. The divine flame - shared with God and with all God's children. This is the reason why all Men are brothers and sisters.

3. A family flame, blended from the individual flames of our earthly parents. 

To this is added personal experience, as a consequence of our choices, the choices of others, and the 'physical' constraints of earthly life.


So we are compounded of these - we are unique individuals, and we are embedded in relationships as Sons and Daughters of God, Family members, and a product of our choices and chances including friendships and broader human society (maybe Churches).

Our purpose is theosis, to become like God: starting from our shared essence with God to build upon this and to progress through incremental stages of learning and experience; we are now in the midst of this process - being incarnate mortals with avast history behind us including pre-mortal spiritual existence - and an eternity before us of post-mortal first spiritual then resurrected existence.

And this process is foundationally relational, although we are indeed individuals and intriniscally different from every other individual - we are embedded in relationships: the relationships by virtue of sharing in the status of being God's children, and also additional between-human family relationships.


More than this, the very movement, purpose and direction of reality depends upon sexual differentiation - upon there being men and women neither of whom are complete humans: the only complete human is a man and woman united, eternally sealed, but this unity is internally structured: is of its nature both dyadic and dynamic.

Sexuality and its union in marriage, and its seeking fulfilment in children and families bound by love, is what makes the universe go.



josh said...

Does Christ have a wife?

Bruce Charlton said...

@josh - I presume you mean NOW? Clearly there is no positive scriptural statement on Jesus being married - so the only evidence could be rational extrapolation or revelation. It depends upon one's concept of the nature of God the Father and the Son, and the extent to which the Father and Son are of the same nature or kind as Man - or else qualitatively and utterly different. Since I assume that we must be of the same kind as the Father because we are Sons of God, and so is Jesus Christ - then by rational extrapolation I think the answer might well be yes - although clearly it is not a matter of doctrine, but of personal belief. This is indeed what some Mormons have assumed -

Commodore said...

@josh, resoundingly and definitively through the whole of the Bible: "no, but He has a betrothed." The Church is His Bride, and the Wedding is coming, although we know not exactly the time.

Bruce Charlton said...

@C - I would regard that line of reference as obviously metaphorical - albeit true; but beside the point in relation to this particular question.

Much hinges on the attitude to marriage - for mainstream Christians marriage has been a temporary aspect of mortal life, and marriage is therefore generally regarded as inferior to the life of ascetic celibates, and sex-less/ no-sex angels and resurrected persons. So the idea of marriage and procreation seems disgusting, insulting and grossly blasphemous when considered in relation to the highest beings.

George Goerlich said...

As Commodore said... also The Lord refers to himself as "the bridegroom."

I think Mormonism describes things in literal plain language which is easier to understand yet essentially true, where the Church traditionally sticks with descriptions that appear mystical or paradoxical, yet are incorrectly and wrongly assumed to be mere metaphor by many protestants and modernized Catholics.

"But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them."

Adam G. said...

The family flame idea really struck me. It's clear that lineage and descent mean something in scripture and in real life, and there should be an explanation for it in spiritics.

josh said...

I know. I should have asked if Christ is married to a woman. My question was in response to this:

"the only complete human is a man and woman united"

If he is not, he is not a complete human man, which strikes me as a strange statement. Also, Adam and many of the greatest saints are not complete human men. I admire Bruce's fearlessness in following his reasoning where it leads, but my feeling is sometimes you need to check your answers against the ones in the back of the book.

Bruce Charlton said...

@josh - Well, these metaphysical speculations are always far from straightforward, and always have problems. The mainstream classical theology has no room for genuine free will, for example - unless you accept black boxes as an explanation. For me this inability to make sense of free will is a much bigger problem than abandoning the mainstream Christian notion of 'omnipotence' which is contradicted by the whole of the Bible.

Ditto the problem of evil - a very real problem to which mainstream Christianity has no honest and clear solution. This is a mainstream Christian distortion inherited from Classical Philosophy and the refusal to conceptualize God as anything other than omnipotent.

But fixing these metaphysical problems does open other ones - none of the solutions are logically and common-sensically perfect, all have problems - it boils down to which problems are best tolerated by Christians.

"If he is not, he is not a complete human man, which strikes me as a strange statement. Also, Adam and many of the greatest saints are not complete human men."

I think Christ's perfection is supposed to be in relation to Goodness - not as a self sufficient unity - indeed, Christ says again and again that he is not self sufficient with respect to his Father.

Adam was not, of course, complete - he needed a companion, a wife, as first priority. As for Saints - again, they are not supposed to be perfect except in their faith, goodness etc.

But I agree that a Christian faith built around the model of ascetic, celibate monasticism as the highest mode of human life can never be whole hearted and clear in its defence of Christian marriage when put into a corner - as we are seeing.

This is a major reason (not the only one) why Mormonism was necessary in the history of Christianity -

David said...

Beginners question time:

How does Satan and the fallen angels fit into this mormon (or your own) cosmology? This basic set up for 'theosis' appears to be contingent on the possibility of not developing, or worse, theotically regressing! Does this then imply the angels had to fall and be lead by an 'adversary' to create a fallen world 'petri-dish' for this high risk event called mortal life to play out? God rooting for us to grow up and take up an offer for joining a heavenly family, the fallen forces of darkness, on the contrary, whispering doubts and wickedness into mans ears until he decides dinosaurs and the human appendix are sufficient doubts to cause us to migrate to the wrong side of the petri dish for an eternity? If the Angels had free will to choose then fell from grace in pride then surely God would not have known a rebellion in heaven to be preordained, it had to be chosen, or did it not happen like this? It stands to reason that in this scenario and as far as I am aware Jesus was tested by Satan the desert, and successfully resisted, that Satan was helping move the story along in a very important way. Again, suggesting that there could be no way of doing away with evil, or its main champion and leader, if theosis is to exist; rather the temptation of evil would seem inextricably linked to any spiritual growth through resistance, faith and worship of the Good (meaningful only by knowledge of its opposite and rejection of the fruits after biting but not before tasting) a human being can experience. Furthermore, if jesus preached forgiveness as vital to enter the kingdom of heaven, why then are these angels and Satan himself not forgiven and ultimately reconciled with our heavenly father, or does Satan spitefully chose defiance, eternally, despite the agony he is supposed to endure in his separation from God; a separation that makes him hate and envy humans for the gift offered to us still in salvation but not to him? This is as far as i have got with todays theological musings but something seems like it doesnt pan out in the cosmology without accounting for the essential function of the bits we dont like and are actively avoiding I.e. evil and Sin, without which theosis is a plant with no fertile ground to grow in?

Bruce Charlton said...

@David - I have covered all of these points at various times on this blog - but I am not sure exactly where.

One general point is that I do not believe God foresees the future in the way you seem to assume - from a perspective outside of time. In particular, God does not know with certainty the results of future free choices.

Alo I don't think theosis logically implies the possibility of decline after death - although it certainly does allow for stasis. It may be that mortal life is the only period when decline is possible, and when other great benefits in progression are also possible.

Mortal life and death only makes sense if it is *necessary* to accomplish some thing or things.

Standard Mormon doctrine is that Satan and the demons have never been incarnate - they were never *allowed* to receive bodies - and therefore remain at a pre-mortal spiritual stage and unable to progress.

(Other humans have also chosen not to suffer mortality, not to come to earth - and also remain at this pre-incarnate stage. These are considered to be one type of angel.)