Wednesday 7 February 2018

What could we possibly *do* for Everlasting Life?

Jesus promised us Everlasting Life, if we wanted it - but it is usually hard for us to imagine what we could possible find to do forever that would not become utterly intolerable sooner or later - and probably sooner...

I regard the idea of 'Nirvanah' or suchlike to be a response to this intolerability - the goal of losing self-awareness in a permanent bliss state... But this is not what Jesus offered - and Nirvana is not a solution to giving each of us everlasting life, because it entails us no longer being us... Eternity is made tolerable by obliterating awareness of it and of ourselves.

I am not arguing against Nirvana for those who want it - but to want it is to want Not To Be to want to escape from being.

Nirvana is not a solution to the problem, it is a deleting of the problem.

So, let's get back to what Jesus was offering, or meaning by offering everlasting light on the understanding that it would be A Good Thing and would be experienced by each of us, as selves and personally. What kind of a thing might this be?

Well, I'm not happy with saying that we will be changed, perfected, and that will make the difference. That - because of our sins and other imperfections, we cannot yet imagine what everlasting life would be like - but when we have been resurrected and saved, we then will understand...

That is another evasion. Yes, we do need to be changed, perfected to enjoy everlasting life - but that does not make it clearer what kind of a thing that our perfecting will make enjoyable. Jesus clearly expected people to know what he meant, the kind of thing he meant, when he gave the Good News of everlasting Life.

The only kind of a thing that I personally can imagine being Good to experience Forever, is something that endlessly grew and changed in such a way that there was continuity; it remains the same kind of thing, while getting greater...

Jesus told us the key - which is Love. For myself, this is loving marriage and family - plus close friendship... Families grow by procreation and are linked by lineage - and these families become linked by marriages and by friendships.

I can quite easily imagine that a situation of love can change, expand, develop - while remaining itself; and I can imagine this going-on forever and remaining not just tolerable but getting better and better forever.

I am fortunate enough to have experienced reasonably close approximations to this exact situation in my life to recognise that - with love as the basis - the complex of romantic love, love between parents and children, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and between siblings... the whole 'network' of relations... that this is the kind of thing which would be an eternal delight as the core of a larger life of creativity.

There seems to me a reciprocal relation between this extended concept of family-based human relations and creativity: our personal creativity is for the extending family. They are the necessary 'audience' for any act of personal creativity.  

I can see that individuality needs to grow from the embeddedness in family - such that we develop our own distinctness by growing-into the niche we envisage. By our own personal growth and development, we make new and unenvisaged actualities...

What is creativity, in this ultimate sense? Creativity is personal participation in reality - in everlasting life (and sometimes in mortal life, partly and briefly) we live realty; and because we are individual 'agents', by participating in reality, we change reality.

The archetypal creativity which makes possible all other is God's creation. God's is primary creation and we are sub-creators in and from God's creation - but to be a subcreator is to be a real creator - a creator working in the medium of reality...

And when God's creation is understood as something with which we can personally participate; I find it easy to imagine waking up every morning forever with unflagging delight at the prospect of the day ahead - because each day will be new, and yet there will be the continuity of love; we will retain what we most value, yet the scope of everything will expand; and the expansion of everything will be in a loving harmony with what already-is.

In sum, I have experienced sufficient in the way of partial and temporary approximations to it, to recognise that an everlasting life embedded in a loving and growing family, 'cross-linking' with other such families by marriages and friendships, is the kind of medium or basis of a wholly gratifying Everlasting Life; and that within that medium or on that basis the completion of life would be creativity - of an unique and personal kind; with loved people who that creativity is for.

When, and equally, there is the creativity of others for us ourselves. There is our own unique creativity, and there are the unique (and developing) creativities of everybody else... 

How might such a vision be related to Jesus? In what sense did he enable us to have this, and give it to us?

Without getting too detailed, I see Jesus as having been the first actually to do this; and by that act beginning the whole process, making it possible for all other men and women. Both in its general sweep and its specific details; both in its literal surface and in the intuited depths; in its full pre-mortal, mortal and post-mortal context and scope... the life of Jesus was a beginning of the eternal and divine and human family; linking mortal Men with the already fully-divine.

The creativity of Jesus can be overlooked, but it is there. Every day was different, every day was a development of his nature. Each conversation, each personal interaction, each parable or lecture, each surprise and twist that is immediately seen as 'right'... there is a continual and personal creative growth in action in the Life of Christ.

Of course, Jesus being in mortality and among flawed men and evil powers - there is a great deal of the horrible too: Jesus experienced many sins of others, pain, sorrow and other flaws. Such experiences were a necessary learning.

But - having learned, having experienced mortality and death; I do not find it difficult to imagine a world, an everlasting life, in which these aspects were absent; yet life was open-endedly and forever a learning and creating in that context of loving family and friendship.

It is what I already know, raised and refined to a 'perfection' that is a dynamic and evolving perfection - and its dynamic and evolving nature is its perfection completed for eternity.


Chiu ChunLing said...

I suspect that a good bit of what makes the prospect of doing anything for 'eternity' daunting is the uncertainty we feel in life with regards to whether our efforts will be rewarded as we hope. There are two problems, one is that many of our efforts will not be rewarded as we hope, because we are simply wrong about what is likely to result from what we are doing. The other is that, for those things in which our actions are informed by a divinely inspired communication of the outcome, we often lack faith in that inspiration.

But this is covered in the crucial distinction between merely living forever and Eternal life, in the latter we are filled with faith and inspiration so that we act always with confidence that the outcome at which we aim in our actions will be the real result of them.

Love is key to this, but mostly because it is only those who love God who can have that kind of faith and who could be trusted with that kind of power to shape Eternity.

Bruce Charlton said...

@CCL - Agreed. But, wrt your last sentence, I wonder if the causality is that those who lack Faith, Hope and Charity self-select themselves out of any possibility of participating in the work of creation.

There is a deep sense in which dishonesty - that is Un-Reality - is the essence of evil. Because evil does not acknowledge reality, reality is imperceptible to evil.

Evil can only imagine, make-models-of, and have-theories-about reality; but cannot know reality - because reality is God's creation; and one essence of evil is that there is no such thing as reality: evil is the denial that we inhabit and subtantially Are God's creation.

What makes evil *possible* is that we are not wholly God's creation - we are each built-from an eternal primordial being that was pre-existant, and this is what makes genuine agency/ free will possible. But our eternal reality as primordial beings is merely a part of pre-creation and unorganised chaos, and lacks effective consciousness and agency.

Insofar as we are beings that can make decisions and choices and have knowledge - we are a part of God's creation, indeed we are precisely God's children... but this reality (I think) is what evil denies.

In sum, evil involves that paradox of using God-given agency to deny the reality of God's creation. And I think the consequence is that evil is self-excluded from participation in creation.

Thus, only insofar as we are Good, can we participate in creation. A person of mixed good and evil (such as all mortal humans) participates only in their Good aspect: insofar as, and for as long as, they are Good.

When Good ceases, so does creative, agent participation.

William Wildblood said...

Bruce, you talk about dishonesty being the essence of evil. This is something I am coming to feel more and more. I don't know if it's because I'm getting older but dishonesty and wilful blindness to truth really seem to be becoming more and more prevalent. Of course, dishonesty is supported by culture, education and science these days, sometimes even by religion too.

I am reminded of the passage in 2 Thessalonians which says "He (Satan) will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie, and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness."

They refuse to love the truth and so be saved. This is the condition of countless numbers of people in the modern world. Why do so many people turn away from goodness and truth? It's hard to understand. You might think it's because they feel they can't live up to goodness but the whole point of Christ's message is that our personal goodness is not so important if we turn ourselves over to him. He can repair any damage.

Unknown said...

BC: "The creativity of Jesus can be overlooked, but it is there. Every day was different, every day was a development of his nature."

The creativity of Jesus was an absolutely essential element. Note that Jesus had an *informational advantage* over everyone around him: he always knew what they were up to and they almost never expected his next move. This indicates that he was bringing in more information from outside the system than they were -- this is the mathematical definition of creativity.

Jesus was free / liberated in ways that others were not because he was not constrained by normal in-universe causality in the same way that those around him (thought they) were. This statement is equivalent to saying that Jesus was able to bring in information from outside the system.

BC: "There is a deep sense in which dishonesty - that is Un-Reality - is the essence of evil. Because evil does not acknowledge reality, reality is imperceptible to evil. "

Dishonest individuals *decrease* the information available to other people. (Q: can evil people *remove* information from the Universe? I suspect they cannot do this, but can merely temporarily hide information -- yet another crippling weakness of evil.)

Imagine living forever without access to new information -- this would be supremely boring, the ultimate Hell. In this state we would exhaust all the possible permutations of the existing information and things would repeat. (Perhaps this is like Buddhist reincarnation in the negative sense?)

This is what awaits individuals who voluntarily cut themselves off from the external source(s?) of creativity / information. Note that doing this completely requires total isolation from creative / Good elements, which is why evil we encounter is so hostile and destructive. Perhaps some entities succeed in cutting themselves off completely from Goodness, in which case we would have no way of knowing of their existence by studying creation directly. This may be why so many people have a difficult time observing demons or other forms of extreme evil.

-- Robert Brockman

Chiu ChunLing said...

The attempt to physically quantify information in terms of objective reality is always doomed to fail. Proper information theory must always recognize and respect the subjective nature of "information loss".

The universe cannot lose information because it has no use for such a thing in the first place. We care about information because it is used to predict events so as to prepare our responses to be adaptive...the universe is supremely indifferent to predicting anything because it has no need to adapt to anything.

The pertinent question is whether God, not the universe, can be deprived of information. At the most superficial level the answer is "No, man cannot deceive God." But at a higher level, the answer is "Yes, God suffers for the loss of creative potential from each damned soul." The implicit definitions of "deprived of information" necessary to either view should be obvious, and clearly different.

Bruce Charlton said...

@RB and CCL - There is no such thing as information. Or rather, information is a biological, indeed psychological, indeed human concept ultimately...

Information has no objective existence in physics, can neither be detected nor measured; because all that defines information as information is put-into physics by assumption and theories derived from Men (albeit perhaps implicitly, without self-awareness that this is happening). All information systems are devised and need to be checked by the overview of Men.

What makes something information is that which interprets it.

Indeed, ultimately communications are not really real. The field refutes itself.

Such were my conclusions after living-inside the world of complex systems theory for several years of my life, in the early noughties.

Gabe Ruth said...

Thank you for this post, I believe it is one of your best. As a father of young children who put out prodigious volumes of artwork, I have no problem believing eternal life will not become a bore.

Bruce Charlton said...

Thanks Gabe - nice to know you are still around.