Tuesday 23 July 2019

Alternatives to Heaven - active and passive evil or love

'Regular Readers' will know that I have an understanding of Christianity that sees God's creation as emerging from Chaos; that God made creation from a disorder of pre-existing primordial beings, which were already and from eternity somewhat alive and conscious.

Creation therefore began with God, grew from God's work, and is a dynamic and expanding thing. 

God's creation is made with love as its glue; creation 'uses' (to be materialistic) love as the attractive force that orders chaos into creation.

This is, ultimately, why Christians regard love as primary - because love is that which makes creation. Without love there is chaos.

So, creation (or Heaven) is ultimately an opt-in thing. because love is not compelled, we can only opt-into Heaven.

Creation has-been set-up, and is an ongoing project; and our primary decision is whether to join this project or not. To join the project we must share its aims. To share the aims entails joining the web of love which binds the participants, as creation continues to grow.

Love is what enables creation to be dynamic and open-ended, while not flying-apart or drifting off-course - love is what gives direction and coherence' and this love is the interpersonal love of beings.

For this to work, creation needs to be ruled by love; to be ruled by love means that the participants in creation must have chosen it - and that choice must be both freely made and irreversible.

(We must be able to assume that this is indeed possible: that part of free agency is the freedom to make irreversible commitments based on love.) 

So creation is much like an ideal family - in that when a family loves one another; they can continue to hold together through time, while constantly and permanently growing and changing. 

This view makes evil a very different thing from traditional Classical Christian metaphysics. For me, most evil is a form of parasitism; it is the choice to feed-off creation without making the commitment to love.

There is an alliance of evil (the devil, demons and other beings) - but ultimately this alliance is merely a temporary - because expedient - mutual exploitation. The purposes of evil are not aligned, there is no commitment to evil; there is merely a shared motivation to favour self over creation.

Different evil beings may be more selfish on the one hand, or more motivated by a negative, destructive hatred of creation.

Probably self-interest - that is 'using' creation for pleasure - is the commonest evil. But at higher levels of strategic evil there is a hatred of creation that goes beyond selfish, emotion-based hedonism in taking an abstract delight in the destruction of creation; turning creation against-itself.

I think there are two strands at work in evil (distinguishable; but not fully separable and tending to converge over time)*. There is the kind of Luciferic selfish hedonic evil that seeks not to destroy but to 'farm' creation for personal gratification. This is evil as a parasite; and insofar as it is strategic, the goal is to get as much personal pleasure as possible for as long as possible. All of creation is to be used.

But, like any parasitism, there is no real balance point between maximising the short and long term; and the innate tendency is, sooner or later, to take too much from the host (especially when competing with other parasites) over the immediate and short term; and thus 'accidentally' to destroy the host, like a cancer.

The cold hatred of Ahrimanic evil is more purely destructive. The motivation is resentment rather than pleasure; negativity rather than desires like pride, lust, greed, or sloth. For the satisfaction is in reduction.

The ultimate goal is destruction of all creation (including God); reducing it down to the level of unconscious chaos. Implicitly, the goal is to kill everybody and smash everything until one is the last conscious being; and then to kill oneself. The desire is to undo creation.

(In practice to destroy one's own consciousness; and return the universe to primordial disorder; but minus God. This may be impossible, but is the implicit ideal of the purest form of evil.)   

There is, however, a third strand - another alternative to Heaven; which is Nirvana. The key to Nirvana is the obliteration of consciousness, the loss of awareness of the self. It is a total opt-out from both Heaven and selfishness in the only way possible - since being is eternal. Thus it aims at total unawareness of anything - mere simple being.

Total lack of consciousness may be impossible for eternal indestructible beings. But it seems that God can gift people a minimal, here-and-now, awareness of a blissful kind; if they are willing to commit them-selves to an impersonal, abstract and non-specific or general love of creation.

This, I take it, is what happens when Hindus or Buddhists achieve their religious goals.

I think these three - Heaven (active personal love), Evil (exploitation or destruction of creation) and Nirvana (passive abstract love) are probably the only possible alternative 'destinations' for our souls.

Love must actively be chosen - so, in this sense, evil is the 'default choice' - it is where we begin. But in another sense, we are all born-into God's creation - inside the web of love that sustains creation.

So the choice of love may be seen as simply the choice to remain where we already are, that is 'in' creation. Therefore, in another sense, evil is also chosen actively, since it involves rejecting our actually-existing situation.

In sum; for those who love, evil involves an active rejection of that love; for those who do not love, evil is the natural default choice. Since most love is personal, love is what draws us to Heaven.

*Note: Ahrimanic and Luciferic evil can also be understood in terms of Morgoth's versus Sauron's evil; according to a distinction Tolkien made in some unpublished later writings, which are quoted here


Stephen Macdonald said...

Thanks for this Bruce. I'm sure there are many for whom your writings would be shocking, however for me (and I assume many others) there is a ring of Truth that is impossible to deny.

Jonathan said...

Are you changing your definitions of "Luciferan" and "Ahrimanic"? If I recall right, you previously classified the mass murders of the 20th century as Luciferan, in contrast to the subtler bureaucratic Ahrimanic evils. But the genocides of the 20th century weren't about personal gratification; they were about the quest for chaos that you're calling "Ahrimanic" in this post.

Bruce Charlton said...

@J - I think you misunderstood, or I phrased myself wrongly. No change intended.

Lucinda said...

The way I simplify motivations (to aid examination in myself) is: Active motivations are either love or hate, passive motivations are either wanting to be loved or wanting to avoid being hated. Arranged in a hierarchy:
to love (create)
to be loved (enjoy creation)
to avoid being hated (Nirvana)
to hate. (Hell)

I think these motivations exist in a mixture, but that over time, one will come to dominate. I guess the difference I have with you is that I think there are four alternatives, I add those who simply want to enjoy being in love and creation without really adding to it. Probably because the passive motives can remain permanently in mixture (with imbalance), since dislike of being hated by the beloved would seem to be the main reason for failing to progress from being loved and enjoying creation to a state of active loving and creating.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Lucinda - I suppose your first two correspond to the degrees of glory; which I have come to regard as a simplification of a Heavenly reality that probably treats each individual as unique, and tries to place everyone for their best. It also seems to me that people probably want different levels of creativity, responsibility, participation - I would expect that some people (post-mortally) would actually prefer to remain at a child-like level on a 'permanent' basis. This would be at your second level, more or less.