Thursday 11 January 2018

We need a post-mortal utopia to guide us

Man cannot live without some reasonably-clear notion of the good society - and for most people mostly that relates to what happens after death.

It seems to me that different people, in different times and places - have, individually on average - different utopias.

These hopes can be seen in variety of hoped-for outcomes in the various religions (and ideologies)...

Some hope for oblivion after death; some for bliss without self-awareness (just-enough awareness to experience bliss).

Some for a world of pure thinking - others for a world without thinking: a world of pure feeling... 

Some for a kind of static situation of perfection; others for a dynamic and creative situation.

Some for autonomy, independence; others for deeper and permanent relationships.

Some for eternal marriage and heavenly families - others to escape marriage and get-away-from their family.

Some for endless and unbounded creativity; others for an end to the need for it.

Some to gratify their desires; others for a harmonisation of their desires with those of God.

Some hope to live in a Heavenly City, with many specific roles and jobs and responsibilities, tailored to each willing individual - while others yearn for the simple, unplanned individuality of a spontaneous, small society.

Some hope that Heaven will be perfectly organised, down to the smallest detail; others that Heaven will be an end to organisation.


What sense can be made of all this? Is there one Utopia, one Heaven - and by-that-time, it will be the Heaven that everybody wants (even though they don't want it now).

Or is this all nonsensical wishful thinking - and the entirely of Mankind has been deluded throughout history until modern times, places and people? Really there is nothing-but nothing-ness - no meaning - either randomness, or mechanical determinism, or nothing at all.

Or who knows? Who cares? What can we do about it anyway? 

The answer I favour is that God, as both creator and loving Father, has a Heaven that he wants for us - and hopes that we also will want... by the time that decision arrives; but that God also provided many other outcomes and destination (many 'Heavens') according to the deepest and truest wishes of each individual person's heart.

If, therefore, we get what we want, and we get to choose... we ought to reflect more than we do, in more depth and detail, on what we really want from utopia.

NOTE ADDED: This is partly prompted by the observation that some people in this world, perhaps a lot of people, don't appear ever, at any time, to want what God has to offer them - and this makes me wonder why they are incarnated. Of course, there are those who are corrupted to evil... but there seem to be others who simply don't want Heaven. It strikes me that there may, for example, be some pre-mortal spirits who have decided that this whole conscious-life thing is a thing they don't want to persist with... It may be that, in some fashion, incarnation is a 'route' for such spirits to reach what they most aspire to (oblivion, Nirvana or whatever...); just as incarnation is in a very different way a route to death, resurrection and eternal life of the kind that Christians most hope-for.


Nathaniel said...

I think your "notes" are often worthy of their own posts!

What you wrote is the best explanation for Christian "predestination" that I've ever heard.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Nathaniel - Well, I don't believe that there is any predistination - God does not know what will happen to a soul because we have genuine agency. However, perhaps for different people, mortal agency has a different starting point: some have come intending to retunr to Heaven, perhaps other have come with other intentions (although I presume None are incarnated with the advance intention of actively-choosing hell - that happens during mortality). All this - maybe...

Seijio Arakawa said...

In the beginning, any strong desire comes of God and is fundamentally good. (As suggested by William Blake's concept of Energy.) However, the nature of that desire is typically misinterpreted and can be mixed-up with a self-delusion about how to achieve the desire. Desires that are really-satisfied separately can be joined-up together, and desires that ought to be joined-together can be separated, producing a delusion of 'impossible' or 'immoral' desires. Corrupt culture and mass-media helps to entrench such delusion and make it universal, and then use that as a basis to motivate reality-denying and meaningless behaviours.

In practice, most successful and appealing depictions of utopia are mortal, and not particularly utopian at that. It is very hard to depict post-mortal utopia without coming up with something insipid, or veering into a morass of distracting technical questions about how things that obviously work one way in a mortal, decaying world would work in an immortal, undecaying world. In a sense, this is like someone settling down to write a novel that captures the essential differences between Britain and America, and then getting completely sidetracked by an inability to explain why the electrical outlets are shaped differently. On the other hand, projecting post-mortal utopia down onto a mortal world can allow an author to convey the feeling of a completely meaningful existence without being distracted by the machinery required to enable it... even if the resulting secondary world has an underlying inconsistency to it.

TheDoctorofOdoIsland said...

My take on the Afterlife has always been that it is, by definition, a place where there's other people- indeed, where everyone is. So any positive Afterlife is necessarily one that involves relationships with other people, and this is a natural consequence of the way mortal life is ordered: you're born, and thus you have parents, and a family, and a nation. That becomes part of your body, and your body is part of your soul, it's who you are. So to not want to connect with those other people is an injury to your soul and to the souls of those people you sever yourself from. It's an inherent injustice. A just world is necessarily built on continuity of human relationships.
- Carter Craft

Chiu ChunLing said...

I still think that there has to be a difference between knowing something and deciding it.

I am willing to assent to the idea that God will not tell us whether we have qualified for Heaven or not till we tell Him whether we want it.

Bruce Charlton said...

@SA - good comment.

@DOI - I agree mostly - but it is surely a constraint that not everybody wants Heaven - even if we want them there.

@CCL - On the whole, too much is made of qualifying for Heaven - Heaven is reality, 'qualifyting' is coming to know and live byt the real, and those who know reality are qualified...

But there is a superficial level of wanting that clearly is out of step with reality - the way that we 'want' something, until we have it - then we don't want it. In other words, what we want is not real, and reality is what we want. Thus the need for theosis/ spiritual development; and the need for many 'levels' of Heaven (in some sense) - through which (post-mortal) people can develop toward full divinity (if they choose).