Natural Science and Spiritual Science

My recent comments on Pharyngula

Excerpts from my comments:

I should have written “all-loving” instead of “all-powerful” twice. Just a typo, nothing esoteric. The “etc.” was a placeholder for all the other typical attributes (infinite, eternal…).

I wouldn’t say these attributions are necessarily incorrect, they are just inadequate descriptors. Cataphatic theology must be balanced by apophatic theology, where God is defined negatively (Not this, not this…). Language ultimately fails to fully describe even trivial matters, like our day to day emotional states. Trying to describe God is even more difficult, because (at least in some traditions) God is the “Word” or “Logos” itself, that which makes all the meaning and order of our language (and the universe itself) possible in the first place. So trying to describe God with language is like looking for the glasses you’re already wearing. God is that which makes meaning possible.

The intellect can approach God, but there is a threshold that seems to be reached, at which point rationality and empiricism are no longer useful, or even relevant. Luckily, we have other psychological functions besides the intellect (Carl Jung came up with 4: thinking/intellect, feeling, intuition, sensation). God and religion generally seem to have more to do with intuition and feeling than sensing and thinking. Not to say that the latter two are necessarily inept when it comes to approaching God… just look at thinkers like Hegel or artists (masters of sensation) like Raphael.

God is a unified transrational reality, and so is the cosmos (I don’t think creator and created are separate, though I’m more a panentheist than a pantheist–perhaps this difference can be explained in another post, or by a visit to wikipedia).

I offer it reluctantly, but if you want my cataphatic theology, my analysis of the nature of divinity, then I would leave out all-powerful, and keep only three others: all-knowing, all-loving, and all-present. This is a drastic over-simplification. But in trying to approach the nature of God intellectually, it seems the dynamism of this Trinity gets us closest. These three omnis are the thinking, feeling, and willing of God, respectively. Humans are the likeness of God (so the story goes), and also think, feel, and will. But our will is not all-present. It is present only “here” in my body and my soul (i.e., my motor activity and mental imagery). God’s will is present here, there, and everywhere. There is nothing that God doesn’t do. When it comes to thinking and feeling (or knowing and loving), humans are made in the image of God (…just play along), and so are capable of participating directly in the thoughts and the feelings of God. It is within our human potential to see and hear with the eyes and ears of God and to feel with the heart of God. “The eye with which God sees me is the same eye through which I see God.” -Meister Eckhart

This is all nonsense, of course. I have no idea how I know it. The origin and cause of my thinking and my feeling is unknown to me, unconscious. Some would say it is the brain floating in my skull that produces the “psyche” (i.e., the scientific object studied by psychologists and, if materialism is true, neurologists) but as a psyche, a thinking, feeling, willing “I” that is not sure where his thoughts come from or how they get there, I cannot be at all certain of the scientist’s theory of their origins. It is too abstract, too removed from human reality. Is it “true” nonetheless? Who is to say? We are all human. We are all uncertain of our own origins. At least in a nominal sense, unless we (not believe in but) perceive God in our heart-mind. Empirical science is discovering some amazing things about how the soul is embodied, but none of it proves the soul is bounded by the body. Paradigms in cognitive science like Enactivism (Varela, Thompson) and Ecological Psychology (J.J. Gibson) suggest that consciousnes/soul/psyche is just as extended as it is “internal.”

All of this is an attempt to get closer to answering “why”–if as you say “we don’t know that God’s there to even invest time trying”– I persist nonetheless taking theology seriously as a form of study, or better, play. Can one live truly, in accordance with goodness and beauty, without talk of God? Sure, but even atheists seem to spend a lot of time talking about God. I think for better or worse, whether we call it anthropology or theology, humans will be trying to think and talk about God.

 

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Marciano Escutia says:

    Matt, I’m an English teacher from Spain interested in philosophical questions as well. Thanks a lot for eveything you share with us so generously. I’ve written you a couple of times and recommended you both Mere Christianity and the Problem of Pain by CS Lewis in the hope that they might give you some insights. I’ve watched you in youtube very often and I basically agree with most things I’ve heard you say about the relationship between consciousness and the soul. In your latest video, which I like very much (the pulling of the rug under the scientists’ feet was a good metaphor for the emptying of meaning of the research they carry on), you said that there is no hope in the Catholic Church anymore as a watchdog for the spiritual dimension of man. I would recommend that you read Benedict XVI’s recent speeches in England, as well as his book Jesus of Nazareth in order to see the best way I’ve seen of putting together faith and reason and showing how they complement each other.

  2. jcharvey says:

    The concept of “God” has been a transitory one riddled with the bullets of dogma. We humans seek to connect to something omnipotent that is external and internal. We struggle with and against ourselves because we have only a fleeting glance of that connection. Our attentions are cut short as we lose ourselves into technology and petty hatreds. We have become so detached from ourselves and each other. Can we as a species re-discover our connection to this world? To the source that created us? How? Meditation? Constant prayer? Most people it seem like the placebo of a one hour Sunday service.

    I have been watching your videos since I discovered them by accident while stationed at Goodfellow AFB in 2008. You have challenged my mind and changed my perception of this “reality” and inspired me on my own personal path to reconnecting with the “source”. Thank you for sharing your mind and soul with this world. It is refreshing to see someone so dedicated to understanding himself, his creator, society and what there is of relation.

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