[Note: the contents page for this series can be found here. The previous entry, the conclusion of chapter 23, can be found here.]
[This entry constitutes chapter 24, "Creation or Creator?".]
I have been discussing the application of principles of self-generation, which must be the most basic possible action of the Independent Fact. By such an action, God begets Himself; and because His property characteristics include rational sentience, which implies consciousness, then I think it must be true that the begetting and begotten unity of God must be a unity of distinctive Persons.
This is admittedly a rather difficult concept to picture, but I think it can be most usefully analogized by saying that God the Father eternally begets God the Son, Who eternally submits in self-consistency back to the Father. The Son is of one mind with the Father and does the Father's will, and indeed does nothing except what the Father does, being the very action of God Himself. The Son may be said to be dependent upon the Father, but only in the sense that God is dependent upon Himself for His very existence.
Doubtless, if the analogy is pressed too far, it will break down; there can be no such thing as a 'full' analogy, for the fully similar would be the thing itself. This is why other analogies can be devised which help illustrate the basic principles involved; the multi-sided cube, for instance, can help us to understand the unity of something which in some of our other experiences we only find utterly distinct or altogether smeared.
But it is important to recognize the limitations of an analogy, in order to ensure the analogy is serving to illustrate the principles without superseding the principles. To require that the two Personalities must be utterly (even physically) distinct at their most fundamental level of existence--as a human father and son would be distinct--would be an error of arguing from the analogy, rather than letting the analogy be informed (and limited) by the principles involved.
Be that as it may, I am now faced with this concept: reality consists of at least two distinctive states--Maker and Made--yet at the most fundamental level these two properties are 'proper' to one Reality, as they must be for the self-existent IF. So where do I, and/or the things I find around me, fall into the picture?
I conclude that I must presume I can reason; and that I must exist; and if I am arguing to you, then I must assume that you (and the medium of our communication) must also truly exist in some fashion--although it may not be quite the fashion I am inferring 'at first glance' from my senses.
As entities who (and that) exist, we must be caused. And at the most fundamental level of reality (which is what I am currently considering) it is God Himself Who is caused, by Himself.
So: am I, are you, is the medium between us, or any combination of these three, the 2nd Person of God? Am I God the self-Begotten? Are you? Is what we call Nature actually God the Begotten, the 2nd Person of God? In short, I will now begin to consider the question of whether--or to what extents--pantheism can be true.
If I began by hypothesizing as a presumption that pantheism (theistic naturalism, or naturalistic theism) is true, then I would proceed by studying the interrelations of Nature (including those of men) throughout history; and thus I would proceed by inferences from my examinations, to conclusions about what characteristics God must have.
One conclusion I might reach almost immediately, is that if all things are fully divine in status, then God must either be both good and evil, or must be functionally amoral--and I might state this amorality in terms of God being "beyond" good and evil, which qualities I would then consider to be subjective illusions.
This is a fairly simple inference from the premise "Everything is God" and the observation "A large percentage of Everything seems to me to be what I call 'evil'." Since it is contradictory (on the face of it) for a single entity to truly be both good and evil in full measure, insofar as these are treated as exclusive terms (I perceive, mistakenly or not, that I am sometimes 'good' and sometimes 'evil' myself; but we are now talking of the sum total of everything which cannot be said to go through transitory states in the same way I do in my partiality), then I might logically conclude that my perception of good and evil must be faulty. And since I must presume that my perceptions nevertheless have a certain amount of relevance to what actually exists, I would (in such a case) conclude that what I am perceiving when I judge something to be 'good' or 'evil' must be something real, yet the quality of 'good' and 'evil' which I detect in it must be an perceptive illusion based on (and only on) my current circumstances. Not surprisingly, many pantheists say something very much like this. (I am not really now considering the questions of ethics, however. I will return to that topic later, in my next Section.)
I might also decide that God (being Everything, per the premise of pantheism) seems to be both sentient and nonsentient, because I perceive that many events take place which fit both categories. I might therefore proclaim God to actually be both sentient and nonsentient; as some pantheists do claim.
However, I doubt I would actually draw and defend this conclusion myself, for such a position is inherently contradictory. (Consider my arguments from Chapter 5 and 10.) Instead, I would probably take the next step and, rejecting the contradiction, proclaim that every event (whatever its appearance may be) is really the direct result of fully divinely sentient guidance (for if I went the other way, I would be espousing atheism, not pantheism). And, once more not surprisingly, I don't think I need to look hard to find similar positions within pantheism.
(One of the interesting qualities of pantheism in general, is its tendency to exhibit drastic variations within the general branch of philosophies which posit or conclude it. I think this comes, among other reasons, from the attempt to reconcile the behavior of Everything in a fully divine fashion.)
These are, I repeat, some positions I might come to (or pass through) if I started with pantheism as a necessary presumption.
However, I have not done that; I have reached where I am now by another route. Therefore, my task now is not to consider which pantheistic tenets are or are not intrinsically possible and/or supported by evidence; but whether pantheism per se is viable. Can it withstand being deducted from the option list?
I don't think I have salted the tea (so to speak) by reaching this topic in this fashion; up until now, pantheism can (I think) still be considered 'in the running'. Even when (at the end of Section Two) I was considering the (relatively minor) question of how to speak of God genderwise, I granted for fairness that my conclusion to use masculine personal pronouns might best be reversed if pantheism turned out to be true. Whether pantheism can stay in the running depends on the extent to which I can possibly maintain pantheism without necessarily presupposing it; and that depends (at the moment) on whether or not I can find something which must not be fully divine.
Throughout my book, I have begun my lines of argumentation at the only place where I really can start: with myself. So, here, I will also start with myself. Do I exhibit any qualities which necessarily indicate that I am not fully divine? (This topic obviously has links to the notion of Incarnation. I am deferring such questions for a while, but I will return to them later.)
Remember that the Person of the Begotten God shares every characteristic with the Person of the Begetting God, except the distinctively willed action of self-generation. And even then, the existence of the Begotten Person depends on willed submission to the Begetting Person of the Unity--so both by His own action and by virtue of sharing substantial final reality with the Begetting Person, the Begotten Person (as the living action of the Begetting Person) has eternal self-generating Life in Himself. The Persons, including the Son, are fully alive and active within the total Unity of their substantial reality.
So I ask myself: am I omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, in relation to my own reality? Or again, am I in any way self-generatingly Independent, even as the only Begotten Son of the Father?
It does not seem to me that I am any of these. For example, there are actions which are intrinsically possible but which I obviously am not exhibiting however much I might wish. I exist in one place and not another. And my knowledge is very limited. Moreover, I find that whether I live or die is not ultimately dependent on my voluntary choice, even in union with something that is not personally myself.
To be fair, many pantheists would, I think, agree not only with the form but with the content of these observations; therefore (these pantheists would say) I should try to escape my limitations and fulfill my destiny by becoming one with the Absolute, so that I can partake in the properties of full Divinity.
If I was presuming from the getgo that pantheism is true (or if I had already established it on other grounds), I might accept this. Then again, I might not, either. Such a solution only puts the problem one stage further back: if I am fully divine, why am I in this state and why would I be capable of choosing to stay in this state?
A pantheist might now (with some real justification) say I am being contrary, even needlessly contrary.
And the fact that I can be contrary raises a serious problem with the proposal that I am, in reality, fully divine.
If I am honest with myself, it seems to me that I willingly choose to do things which furthermore I seem to know deep down I should not do. If I began with the presupposition that I am fully God, then I might eventually conclude that whatever I happened to want to do was after all fully permissible; but then I would be faced with the question of why I thought those actions were not permissible in the first place.
Put more succinctly, there are times when I seem very clearly to be in rebellion against something; but under pantheism [u]every[/u] 'something' is equally God, including myself. God cannot be in rebellion against Himself at a fundamental level. That would mean God is not self-consistent: more simply, that reality is not self-consistent. More strictly speaking: the Son cannot rebel against the Father, or the Father betray the Son, and still exist as the self-generating God. Their personal faithfulness to one another is necessary for their substantial existence.
Perhaps reality is not ultimately self-consistent; but as I argued earlier in Section One, if that is true I can have no way to tell. I must presume reality is self-consistent; therefore I conclude that the IF (which I have discovered to be God) is self-consistent; therefore I further infer that God does not rebel against Himself; and if I rebel against something or even if I am deluded into seeming that I rebel against something, then either way I am not behaving consistently with the fully divine.
Therefore, I conclude: whatever else I am, I am not the fully Begotten of God; I am merely created. (I will also be developing this same argument in a bit more depth from another direction soon.)
This puts a huge dent in pantheism's intrinsic possibility. A pantheist could reply that I am not fully divine, but rather partly divine. I might agree with him; but a partly divine entity is not the Self-Begotten God, ground of all reality.
Something distinctively exists other than the Begettor and the Begotten (Who, though distinct Persons, are still the same single personal entity): me.
The Unity of the IF may be considered one level of reality, despite its Personal multiplicity, because the Begetting and Begotten aspects of the self-existent IF must be fully united and (in substantial essence) equivalent. But with the recognition of something other than the fully divine--myself--I necessarily introduce at least one more level of reality into the theory.
With (at least) two levels of reality, I have now concluded that some type of Nature/Supernature relationship exists--and a self-consistent pantheism is ultimately a one-level reality claim.
But some notions distinctive to pantheism might perhaps be salvaged if the physical world within which I operate turns out to be the ultimate reality (and therefore God "Incarnate" in many senses of that word)! To this topic I turn for my next chapter.
[Next up: Supernaturalism]
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[Note: the contents page for this series can be found here. The previous entry, the conclusion of chapter 23, can be found here.]