Tuesday 30 August 2022

A metaphysics of creation is not a middle way between Christian monism and chaos - it is the only way that makes sense of what most needs to be explained

The history of philosophy from the Ancient Greeks until now has mostly been an oscillation between - or attempt to find a middle-way, a compromise, between - two extremes; which have various labels but any choice of these two extremes always runs into the same problems. 

One is that this is (or was) a single and unified reality (monism); which has either apparently split into a multiplicity - or else people have the illusion that it has split. Unity is ultimate, variety is merely temporary, or an illusion. One God created everything from nothing, The principle of the universe is order - chaos is contained within order, order will prevail. We Men are pieces of God, seeds, droplets from a divine ocean - but everything we are is Of God. Everything In Total is Good - and evil is temporary, a transitory kind of imbalance. God is omniscient and omnipotent. This mortal life is - by comparison with divine unity - utterly insignificant, and cannot affect anything that is eternal. 

The other extreme is that which supposedly derives from Heraclitus: everything flows, everything changes, order and stasis are temporary and illusory; ultimately chaos rules. All 'understanding' is temporary, contingent, or merely delusional. There is no purpose or meaning to reality - it Just Is. There is no God. This apparent mortal life is everything - but it is nothing, really... a succession of subjective impressions merely. The are no real values: no truth, beauty or virtue - neither good nor evil.  

By my understanding, neither of the above traditional extremes offer any meaning or purpose for this mortal life; nor do they provide a solid basis for our individual freedom or creativity, nor for the reality of both good and evil.

I regard Christianity as having become trapped by the metaphysical assumptions of monism, in opposition to the chaos which it regards as the only alternative. As a result, Christianity - as taught and exemplified by Jesus Christ, and described especially in the Fourth Gospel - has been distorted into a pre-existing monist framework which really does not make sense. Although by complexification and mystification - and by the false dichotomy with chaos (regarded as the only alternative) - an illusion of sense can be made and sustained by diktat, threats and authority.  

Yet there is at least one metaphysical alternative to the above two, and that is the metaphysics to which I have adhered for about the last decade. This begins with the existence of beings in the midst of chaos, and has God as the creator, and creation as the making of a world of harmony between beings, aiming at greater freedom, hence greater consciousness; and always increasing creativity.  

This harmony of beings is love - analogous to the love within an ideal family; and it can be understood as shared creative purposes and the mutual accommodation and help which is the consequence of love. 

Therefore is the two classic and traditional views are monism and chaos; then this third view is rooted in creation. We began with chaos as a background, but with innumerable beings already existing. Creation began with God, and it was God who made possible the cooperation (harmony) between beings that began to change the universe. 

Reality is neither and ultimate order, nor is it disorganized randomness; but reality changes, evolves, develops through time - and towards increasing love, harmony, purpose, meaning. This changes happens by the development of beings, under the influence of God. Initially being can passively be raised towards greater consciousness, by adding to their equipment  

The advantages I find, up-front, are that it explains the origins of evil in chaos, the nature of evil in opposition to the Good; the nature of Good in God's creation - and the movement through time from evil towards Good: as God began with a chaotic universe and then made Heaven, and (since the work of Jesus Christ) began to people heaven with those beings who chose to subscribe to the project of Good. Thus it also explains the work of Jesus Christ, and accounts for his essential role in the divine project.

It accounts for the reality of freedom in our independent eternal origin as beings; the spiritual war whereby beings (such as ourselves) choose either the side of God and divine creation; or else to oppose that. It makes sense of the possibility of beings such as ourselves becoming genuine co-creators (ie, bringing something new, additional to God) in the creation that God began. 

It provides a model for the meaning and purpose of this mortal life - its meaning in love which is working with the divine harmony, and acts of co-creation (even in this mortal life, but more so in resurrected eternal life); and as a time for learning and preparation for immortality to come.  

So far, this metaphysics of creation has proved itself absolutely solid in response to the tests and critiques of my interrogations and life-experiences. 

But this third metaphysics seems not to be understood by the adherents of Christian monism, or chaos; and the reasons is that they do not follow the implications of their metaphysics to their conclusions; but instead introduce 'unprincipled exceptions' or 'auxiliary hypotheses' so as to provide a pseudo-rationalization for (in particular) the meaning of mortal life and the reality of freedom. 

These incoherent elements serve to take away the demand for something different; yet they fail to solve the incoherences that have been evidence for thousands of years, and are so obvious to adherents of the opposite views. I mean, the incoherence of traditional Christian metaphysics is obvious to evil-atheist-'materialists', and vice-versa

The metaphysics of creation is only seldom held explicitly and consciously; yet I regard it as essentially the simple, instinctive, innate metaphysics of childhood (and, probably, ancestral hunter gatherers) that has been raised to a higher level of conscious awareness.  

It is the metaphysics of the Fourth Gospel ('John') - and implicitly what Jesus lived and taught - and completed by his opening of Heaven to Men. 


Gary Bleasdale said...

I think the main reason for this is precisely because it is "childlike", which I think is inimical to intellectuals, who feel like they need to build something which is sophisticated and thus opposed to 'childlike' notions - even if they're wrong - as a matter of (unexamined) principle.

It is also a profoundly joyful metaphysics (probably because it is true), which is also offensive to a lot of intellectuals, who have been trained to look suspiciously on emotions, especially strong emotions, especially strong positive emotions.

It makes you wonder, of course, why intellectuals as a class have these very serious unconscious biases (which I am convinced they do), and why after thousands of years, very few become acutely aware of these biases. Perhaps "intellectuals" as a class genuinely are "agents of the Matrix", so they have been encouraged to stray from what is Good, by telling them that they will instead pursue and get the "truth, and then leaving them with neither. All the time whilst hailing them as paragons of wisdom to the "educated", or the "masses" (depending on the time or place).

Note, I am not conflating "thinkers", or thoughtful men in general, with "intellectuals".

Bruce Charlton said...

@GB - I wonder how many people who are interested in philosophy realize that - by the account of the best and most honest 'insider' philosophers, by its own criteria; philosophy has *failed* to give a coherent and comprehensive understanding of the most important things?

For example, Plato's later work was intended to make coherence from the various 'Pre-Socratics' (and Socrates himself); but Plato was massively revised by Aristotle; who was revised by Augustine; and then Aristotle and Augustine were integrated-revised by Aquinas - whose system was the most complete ever... yet Aquinas was being picked-apart within a generation by Duns Scotus and William of Occam et al; and this has continued apace.

Among moderns (who regard epistemology as primary) Kant is regarded as the greatest; yet the serious problems with Kant were made clear by Schopenhauer and Hegel, and others - and have never been satisfactorily dealt with since.

What all of these share is an underlying monism that was only challenged in the 19th century - initially implicitly by Joseph Smith and a few other Mormons, then later and explicitly by William James e.g. in Pluralistic Universe (who acknowledged that the Mormons had been saying much the same as him for a couple of generations).

Yet for all his great fame and influence; this aspect of James, which he regarded as by far his most fundamental idea - setting him at odds with essentially All other philosophers (before and indeed since) - was almost completely rejected and neglected.

James was still working at a pretty high level of abstraction; as was Coleridge - who was more explicitly animistic ('beings'-based), and Steiner and Barfield - because it is extremely difficult to leave-behind deep metaphysical assumptions that one has absorbed unconsciously.

I have certainly found this to be the case - I keep discovering such abstractions in my own understanding; perhaps because all 'models' (made as brief as possible, to be explained to others) are abstract by their nature.

Perhaps this is why, as you say, intellectuals are prone to this kind of error; since it is the power to think abstractly that (pretty much) defines 'intelligence'. Yet, of course, Christianity is not *for* intellectuals - therefore; it is up-to intellectuals to understand Christianity as it is (simple, childlike); and to avoid to making it something complexly-incomprehensible to children and simple folk (while *still* retaining its innate incoherence!).

Karl said...

I think this view is more acceptable in Jewish circles also, as some thinkers in that stream believe that God moulded the world from a pre-existent chaos and that our job as humans is to sanctify the world through our acts. In other words, they reject creation ex nihilo.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Karl - I think you are on the wrong track, except in terms of some scattered vague selective similarity! - What I am saying is extremely different from the metaphysics of a pure monotheism. Only the whole picture makes sense.