Archive for the ‘Theology’ Category

h1

An Apology for Alyosha

September 24, 2009

Ethics is not mathematics. A balanced equation of right and wrong does not justice make. The most dangerous individuals had the best intentions supported by earthly logic and balanced equations. It is not right to murder one innocent child to save the entire universe.

You must only commit good acts to prevent bad acts. Doing a bad act to prevent a worse outcome is still vile, contemptible, and a sign of our base nature – the nature which craves justification for our inner most demons. The devil is a logician too, after all. So despite your desire to help or save another, you mustn’t commit an evil act to do so.

The question is – can we live like that?

h1

On Genesis

September 10, 2009

“We always know who we should love \ but we’re never certain how.” John K. Samson.

From the dark silence of several weeks… a spark. A spark to start a fire. A spark from the void to ignite a word, and from that word spoken comes words written. The word is genesis and the words follow beneath. The subject is a particular genesis, the beginning of a book that represents the beginnings of humanity. Nothing in my life has intrigued me more than this particular account and it is often during the genesis of new and wonderful things in my life that it returns.

The book of Genesis speaks to the beginnings of humanity. That is to say, it gives an account for the root of human nature by creating a theoretical beginning. It is not a historical or scientific account but rather an observation of the things that were happening around the author at the time. Perhaps divinely inspired, perhaps not, it stands regardless as one of the greatest summations of human experience in the western cannon. Not because it accurately describes a moment in time, but rather because it describes every moment in time.

The stories, whether divinely inspired or not, serve as guides to human nature that tells how man lived, how we currently live, how we will most likely live in the future, and how we should live despite all of this. It is a summation, a prediction, and an ethic. Not only is it this, but it is all of those things for an individual life, for a community’s life, and for humanity in general. It accounts for personal ethic, political life, and ethical existence for people and does so while confronting man’s natural desire to wrestle with meaning at its metaphysical core. 

One story, the topic of this entry, is the story of Cain and Abel. Cain and Abel are brothers who live their lives in unfettered contact with God. This becomes important later. It must be noted that God is a character in Genesis and as a symbol means a great deal. Cain and Abel give worship to God through sacrifice. It is assumed by the reader that this is not a faith based worship but rather a necessity. They seem too close to God to really require faith to believe. He is more a fact. As if all the barriers between physical and metaphysical reality have been stripped.

Cain kills Abel. But why? After both brothers give sacrifice Abel’s is favored over Cain’s. Cain, assumingly out of envy, kills Abel. But why? For what end? I posit this – to achieve God’s love. Cain’s crime, one that is the ultimate in damnation, heinous in nature, and base in motive was caused by his desire to be loved by God, and his love for God. Having failed to achieve God’s love through worship, Cain removes the one that God favors, eliminating the completion if you will.

Thus Genesis not only confronts such base human behaviors as murder but does so while intertwining vicious behavior with the one true God. God, the greatest of all things, the good to which no other good should be sought, even without the veils between physical and metaphysical existence, gives man such great desire that man, given his freedom, will commit the ultimate atrocities to achieve His love.  

Thus we, whose mode of existence is weighed down by the barrier between physical and metaphysical beings, are even more likely to have our love misguided or to love improperly. Yet faith tells us to love God with all our hearts. Was Cain any different? We always know who we should love, we are never certain how. This to me, is most true with God himself.

The truth is we are all more like Cain than Abel. We will always love improperly, will always have misguided attempts at love, and will often confuse where and who God is. The punishment for this human flaw? Homelessness.

Following Cain’s atrocity he is punished by God. He is not killed, nor harmed, but rather exiled to forever wander and never rest. Cain is not only spared by God, but protected with a mark. Any of those who commit the atrocity of murdering Cain will be punished 7 fold. Cain must live, must carry the weight of his body, and wonder forever. This is humanity in the embodied state. Disconnected and wandering without true rest. For true rest comes in God. “Our hearst are restless until they rest in you.”

This is more bleak than hell, or at least equivalent. Unlike Cain, we are told of mercy and a possible return home but are left to wander until then. The possibility of mercy and home is a topic for another discourse on Genesis. For now, let us drain the final lessons for the story of Cain about how to deal with ourselves in the state of wandering.

Cain having been banished builds a city. A curious fact for a homeless man. Once again showing that earthly buildings do not provide man a ‘home’. The city is called Enoch, after his son. So Cain also has a family whose lineage continues. Cain’s family begets all those that play the lyres and pipes, and the forger of all instruments of bronze and iron. A pretty prestigious class that gives birth to things so intimately woven with human culture that one cannot divorce humanity from them. They are the very finger prints of man.

Music shares in Godliness because its power can insight man to do both evil and good things. Music itself evokes love and as a product of love comes hate. It is the very lineage of Cain playing in our cars, or homes, while we run, while we read, from our computers, IPods, and stereos. In reminds us of the Cain inside all of us.

Beauty is a terrifying thing as much as it is an uplifting thing. The most beautiful and good things guide us but our weakness misguides us. Our love, coming from such flawed things, move with the power of all mighty God, but with the direction of the wind. We are pushed and pulled to the paths of least resistance. Yet even without resistance we would still be Cain. So engrained is freedom in our lives that even in the presence of God himself we can still falter. Faith is not loving God, no that is easy if you try. Faith is not thinking He loves you back, He does. Faith is thinking that His mercy will outweigh his justice, and that despite your flaws he will bring you home.

h1

The Great Gig in the Sky

June 9, 2009

“I think its time we compiled a list of places that we shouldn’t go.” – Maximo Park.

So here I sit, listening to Pink Floyd and Jazz music. I mindlessly go from thought to thought, and occasionally write. Yet as each thought rises from my mind it becomes too vague to exist outside me, and it dissipates. To grasp at it, is to destroy it outright, to let it go, is to let it drift away into the abyss of the physical world. I am here again, at the point I always come to, the point of reflecting on the mirror’s surface, the knowledge of knowledge, the knowledge of self.

In the name of unquenchable desire for knowledge many realms of thought have been explored and perhaps invented using this vague ancient defense as validation. Yet, as we focus our telescopes on the sky and trail our microscopes across strange alien fungi, we forget where knowledge comes from, to where it goes, and why we desire it to begin with.

We desire knowledge because we desire things like us – we desire ourselves. This is why we cherish such qualities as freedom and equality – the ability to make one’s self and to make others be like you. The greatest scientific discoveries in the world have always been immediately followed with questions that escape the realm of science. Until recently, this was a shame to even scientists.

Yet, this post is not an attack on science (like most of my others), it is instead an attack on everything – perhaps out of some metaphysical angst that must manifest itself as anger in order to make my feeble flawed soul feel empowered like some ancient Greek warrior. But none the less, I lash out violently at the entirety of my generation, in the process scourging myself.

How oft I failed to stop and understand my own argumentation. How oft have I walked the tight-rope between logic and emotion claiming clemency from either attack on the basis of its counter point. I am, after all, a lingual illusionist. The David Blaine of philosophers. The Criss Angel of poetics. Have I garnered anything but applause from my audience, who seeing the trick are convinced of magic, yet go home knowing that it can’t be true – despite any emotional response.

Just like everyone else when I finally settle back upon myself I cannot put a finger on where I am. (Anyone who tells you differently is one of two things. A liar, or an idiot). Yet, like most people I still claim a ‘selfhood’ to which I am obligated to be ‘genuine’. The tension between these two ideas gives the birth of such beautiful concepts as freedom, free will, and choice. I am concrete that changes. The result is the amazing ability to stroke the passions regardless of logic, and then collapse back into a world of 1+1 justifications. Proof. Poof.

The greatest pleasures arise from this tension and furthermore by this tension is magnified like an echo chamber. This equality of opposites within our souls allows the passions to win just often enough to make us miss it when its gone. Then in its victorious return it is all the more glorious. Furthermore, I am not entirely sure that this is a necessarily bad thing, but rather a misdirected good. Part of me wants to embrace this passionate side and perfect its music – while another part, the equality of reason, demands I embrace something “higher” – an emotion that is not without its own pleasure.

The result of continued friction and tension is, of course, orgasm. The release of the self in favor of one or the other. In the release there is always simultaneous guilt and pleasure, immortality and death, love and hate. The person is either truest or most false in the midst of this orgasm wherein the ‘pure’ form of the two sides is most dominant. But in so doing, in so stepping into purity, we have betrayed the things that got us there – the tension of two opposites. So have we become more pure by dissolving one side in favor of the other – or have we become less human because we have too much clarity. Perhaps we add this to the list of places we shouldn’t go. Perhaps we draw a map and mark it with an x. Perhaps we just sit here and listen to The Great Gig in the Sky.

h1

Walking Shadow

June 2, 2009

“A representation, however, changes neither the environment for the condition of the organism itself. An image making creature, therefore, is on that indulges in the making of useless objects or has ends in addition to the biological ones.” – Hans Jonas The Phenomenon of Life pb 158.

The image itself does not change the organism, but does the process? Does the ability to ‘create’ a ‘useless’ object imply an unbiological desire of man to do so? Can an ability be discovered prior to any desire to do so? What are the biological ramifications of this? Furthermore, does the viewing of the image have any affect? Here of course comes the idea of aesthetic beauty but also visceral repulsion. Doesn’t this constitute a use, even biologically? (Like a butterfly changing colors to frighten). What if other things had this desire and ability – Hans Jonas says that makes them one of us – is that so? Can we tell something about a creator by their creation? If so, then doesn’t that constitute a change in that creator in terms of its ontological revelation of self.

“I am very sorry, good Horatio, that to Laertes I forgot myself, for by the image of my cause I see the portraiture of his.” – William Shakespeare’s Hamlet Act 5 Scene 2.

How much can one reveal about himself? Only so much as one knows about oneself. At least on purpose, I suppose. At what point do we become what he represent to others? At what point do we become the representations that we see from others? It is one biological question to say that we create these images to begin with (as Hans Jonas points out) but completely another to say that we fight and kill other humans over these images. Such fruitless killing has no evolutional advantage at the best and is completely contrary to evolution at its worst. What tie do images have to us? That they can go from being what connects us to what control us? Are we telephone operators connecting images together – or puppeteers – or puppets.

“I, the godhead’s image, who thought myself \ close to the mirror of eternal truth, \ and stripped of my mortality, \ saw Heaven’s light and clarity reflect on me. \ I, more than Cherub, with unbounded power \ presumed to course through Nature’s arteries \ to create and live the life of a divinity — \ now I must do penance without measure;\ one thunder-word has swept me off to nothingness.” – Goethe’s Faust Part I lines 614-622

It is not a new idea to say that we have a nature inside us that seems most particular. It is however a new idea to assume that such a power might not be good – at all. Certain doubts have always been raised, but we have come to a point where it is acceptable to completely mistrust man’s possible divinity. Unfortunately, by removing possible divinity (whether it was ever there or not) you remove the possible divine responsibility. The images that once connected us, or even enraged us, are now sedating us. We are the anti-Faust who have unshackled ourselves from the divine cravings so as to avoid the devil’s temptations. Rather than delve into our own image-making and discover ourselves (“Is parchment then the sacred fount \ from which a draft will quench our thirst forever? You must draw in from your inward soul \ or else you’ll not be satisfied.”) we use those same images to keep our eyes peering outside on digital parchments, in electronic hymns, and in bestial behavior, often violent and sexual.

“…what is man that You have been mindful of him, \ mortal man that You have taken note of him \ that You have made him little less than divine, \ and adorned him with glory and majesty.” Psalms 8 5-6.

what is man that he is not mindful of himself, moral man that he cannot take note of himself, that he has made himself little less than divine, and adorned himself with glory and majesty.

h1

The Valiant Never Taste of Death But Once

March 30, 2009

“I do not fear death. I fear that I may somehow inadvertently or purposefully bring it about.” – My paraphrasing of Timothy Holmes.

I wish I could take credit for this extreme lucidity and eloquence when I responded to the same question… I cannot. Though I did answer the question in a similar way: “No I do not fear death. I fear the deaths of others”. I for one have always confronted the idea of death with more curiosity than fear – even the darkest hours of my atheism whereupon I still agreed that the deaths of my loved ones was far more painful than my own death.

This question did arise rather suddenly and externally when myself and Mr. Holmes participated in an interview wherein the subject of death was discussed in relation to spirituality and politics. It is important, beyond the urging of my words, that we understand the entirety of modern politics is based around death and the complete desire to avoid it at all costs. Beginning with Machiavelli, and then Hobbes, and finally with Locke the idea of death becomes the foundation of rights. Natural rights flow from the nature of death.

Death’s introduction to the political order makes any answer extreme. Since our idea of life, and it’s rights, are based on death – killing becomes either grim natural reality or perverse execution. In reality it is neither.

“Death is the respite from life. It is possibly joyous and maybe even preferred.” (again another paraphrase – Tim please send me the actual quotes if you can remember them and I will errata this entry). Death as respite is something I could never believe as an atheist (though many have tried to put forward a similar concept). This understanding does come about it is in the esoteric writings of select secular philosophers who then get misquoted and misunderstood by others. It is equally important that we understand that such a concept can never be the popular understanding of the masses in a secular state.

This is not a defense or justification of religion – it is reality. The post-enlightenment birth of secular states coincides with political revolution based on the concept of death. The two need each other. If we are to understand death in a Hobbesean or Lockean way then we must see it as flowing from nature and to be the subject of reason. Thus the state shouldn’t indulge itself in the particular mythologies of churches. Thus we arrive at our modern state.

Modern religious freedom creates an accepting environment by refusing to have any religious beliefs. Thus when confronting issues of death the state must make decisions without metaphysical guide posts. This has a tendency to make the regime either act too brutally or too late. Almost every war since the Enlightenment has been a total war, an ideological war, and a devastating war. The wars have been so gruesome that even the “good guy’s” virtue was often clouded or downright abandoned. America entered the war late to save American lives – then they ended it early by dropping two nuclear weapons. Again to save American lives. Here is not the time to discuss just war theory but it is important to point out this phenomenon historically.

But here is the not the time to talk about such politics either. It is the time to point out the reasoning of a secular state. Reason, as it turns out, is no different than blind faith. It indulges itself, justifies itself, and is often used to do all sorts of bad things. Is fighting over democracy abroad any different than fighting for the glory of God? Our love of democracy is based only on post-enlightenment reason that is ultimately based on a new death theology.

What I am about to say is perhaps the most extreme thing I have ever committed to public dissection. Perhaps death isn’t all that big of a deal. Perhaps life (as we know it) isn’t all that big of a deal. It seems the greatest virtues eventually push individuals to put their own lives out of the picture. Ultimate humility, ultimate courage, and even ultimate justice sometimes demand a lack of regard for one’s own life. We are going to die. So don’t waste time fearing your death but rather fear you have not lived. Fear that you will die alone sitting watching the TV. Fear that you will have never changed another person’s life for the better. Fear that no one will mourn your death.

This idea is also dangerous. For once you realize the meaningless of death you no longer have the whip of the slave driver. The clear direction to the stars is cut short of its gravity and you’re left to drift in an apparent void. The temptation is to dive into meaningless and arbitrary faith – do not do this. This is not a justification for such irresponsibility. The fight is hard and it may flirt with that old slave driver like a mistress. It may find the bitter sting of the whip pleasant and what was once your master is now your ally. This is the most tempting and problematic effect of this new belief – one that for ages lead antiquity to the heights of greatness.

In the end, it is most likely our proximity to death that allows us to transcend and understand the things beyond our body. Only in the comfort of science could we embrace cold unfeeling atheism. Only with the soft despotism of the television could we finally give up the freedom we fought for. Only in the age of medicine and health could we devote our lives to living healthily only to realize too late that we never did anything with our 75 years. This proximity fueled our pre-science ancestors in the Renaissance who watched a great empire fall, a plague strangle Europe, and a 100 year war over a holy land they’d never see. They saw it every day and they clawed with clenched hands at the dark sky to let some light through.

The enlightenment itself started in the mild rumblings of an Earthquake in Lisbon. Such tremors have shaken the world and crumbled entire foundations. We now fear death or worse, we ignore it. But why? For what good does all this fretting and worrying do? Do we not shake the earth so badly that the ghosts of Lisbon pity us? Do those wraiths sit somewhere beyond it all fearing that one day they will be thrown back into a body and reintroduced into the fear of our skin? Perhaps I will ask them when I meet them. Perhaps they don’t even know the movement that started in their name. In which case I won’t tell them, I won’t make them worry about us, I’ll just ask about the weather or how the weather used to be.

h1

Heresy

March 23, 2009

Time, as a formal structure does not exist. So let us first set out by understand future and past without relation to time. We first become aware of our present – that which we experience currently. As those current experiences vanish we arrive at some understanding of the past. Using this understanding of the past we come to understand that our current present will eventually be past and hence we talk about what will eventually be present (and then past) as future.

Hence Future is: All that has not happened yet that will.

Past is: All that was that is no longer.

It is important to realize that the future then, by definition, doesn’t exist. EVER. ANYWHERE. TO ANYONE. Hence, even God doesn’t know future.

Likewise, past too no longer exists – though it clearly has an effect on the present and in that way its indent exists.

All that exists is the present. This present is under the pressure of past causes and our ability to perceive the future. Just because the future doesn’t exist doesn’t mean that jumping off a cliff won’t necessarily leave dismember at the bottom – it merely means that the dismemberment will exist in the present and the present alone.

So much is evident from experience alone. Then why when confronted by the idea of God do we throw out this easily understood observation. Why do we thrust future into the realm of his “all-knowing” when it causes clear contradictions and confusion around our everyday experience. The answer is prophecy.

The only problem with prophecy is that it only ever happens in the future. If I tell you that I will give you five dollars tomorrow – then I do – have I committed an act of prophecy? No, because it was in my power to do that. Now make me infinitely powerful and infinitely good – any promise I make will be made (because I am all good) and I will be able to keep it (because I am all powerful) and hence any promise is as good as true but does not become true until acted out in the present.

Why is this a big deal? Because Christian Theology is losing – or has lost. It is detached from its Christian root and fails to pass the vigor of modern philosophy. Science has become the new idol in its place and in light of all its trouble it still fails to make sense of common experiences like time. Why? Because they hang on to an aspect of God that is not as it seems. God cannot know that which doesn’t exist – hence he cannot know what will happen (from His, or our perspective). Instead they convulute things by hiding behind his omnipresence as a product of his all-powerfulness. To say God is everywhere throughout time makes no sense to any laymen or philosopher and hence only a scant few theologians can ever agree on its precise being.

h1

Much Ado About Nothing III

March 18, 2009

Evil is the product of duality being introduced to freedom. It is understood afterward as a negative being (defined by a lack) but is definitely the product of an actuality.

A duality is the product of a schism, a disjointed whole, and hence is separated by a something composed of nothing. It is a negative being as we understand though when viewed in the whole this schism is part of a actuality.

Freedom is a quality only understood internally. An outside observer can never know if any given action was free. Freedom is understood by external forces by the absence of external pressures on a subject. It is in actuality a useless term. One invented to express an inward feeling that cannot be understood externally. It is, in fact, completely unknown to a subject whether or not it is free.

Nothing is that which stands between two distinct somethings. It is only understood with material analogues to frame such nothingness in somethingness. It is, however, possible that such a void could exist in an immaterial way. Evil, freedom, and duality are signs of this.