The Black and Blue Books

 

 

[1] I don’t know exactly how it happened, but one day I realized that you can 'derive' our universe from God (from an existence/characteristics standpoint), but not vice versa. You can 'start with' God and produce the rest of created reality by making sub-sets of His character/nature/whatever…but you cannot go in the other direction…
 
 

[2] If I start with God and remove some of the omni-attributes, I can get angels…If I take angels and remove some of their 'freedom' from material-relations (i.e., they can appear and disappear, implying some relative freedom from optics--or at least freedom from perception by sentient creatures such as humans and animals) I can get humans…if I remove the more transcendental functions of humans (e.g., ethics, language, vastly symbolic existence, massively recursive consciousness, total community dependence) I can get the animals…if I remove various levels of mobility and adaptive behavior from the animals, I can get plant life…if I remove the capability of identity-preserving regeneration (i.e., life), I get rocks and such.
 
 

[3] Another way of looking at this might be 'levels of freedom'. God would have absolute and unconditional freedom--in all areas and directions. The angelic beings would not be free to create from nothing (presumably) but be free to not have to terminate a material relation (e.g., be one endpoint in a gravitational attraction with the Moon)…the human would not have this latter freedom, but still live in complex organizations (as apparently the angels do) and live lives totally permeated by symbols, transcendentals, creativity (for good or ill), and contact with the spiritual aspects of existence…animals would have the capacity for group organization/life, emotional lives, play, functional communication, but lose the radical freedom of choice that comes with massively recursive self-consciousness and symbolic existence…
 
 

[4] a note on this last point: we do know that animals are clearly sentient, and that they do have internal 'maps' of their histories and selves…and, in the research at the edge of animal communication, we know that a couple of the higher species can be taught reasonable language skills…the more public and impressive of these projects have simians that can express emotions such as sadness or jealousy, make up jokes, and put together novel word combinations to express ideas new to them…they can map existing vocabulary to get 'close enough' analogues to what they are confronted with…these specialized training programs cost gazillions of dollars, require immense amounts of specialized planning and work, and in some cases, expensive equipment…human children who could not survive even a week in the wild learn this "automatically"---the difference is staggering and systemic…
 
 

[5] The human's freedom of choice (as higher than that of the animals), can be found in (at least) three elements: (1) the power of oppositional thought; (2) massively recursive self-consciousness; and (3) the power of symbol processing.
 
 

[6] Oppositional thought is that ability to consider a course of action, a possible decision, a value, or simply another thought and 'negate it'…(I have discussed aspects of this more fully in the Linguistic Wall)…I literally, as a human, can feel a compulsion, an 'instinct', a 'drive', a pattern of behavior learned from my parents or peers, a virtue demanded by my religion, or a duty demanded by my community, and say "NO!"…just "NO"!…for no reason, or any reason, or some reasons…if I can think it (at any level of conceptualization), I can reject it and run the other way…If I don’t want to fly south for the winter, I don’t have to…
 
 

[7] By massively recursive self-consciousness, I am referring to that strange ability I have (and share with others, of course) to be aware that I am aware that I am being aware that I am aware…and so on until I pass out and lose awareness…grin…This vastly transcends simple self-maps of higher primates and the 'appearance' maps of other animals, and the internal physiological maps of babies (i.e., how they can mimic with their facial expressions what they see an adult do). I can literally watch how I respond internally to other internal 'thoughts'…and "they" seem to "watch back"…when you couple this with the capability of oppositional thought, you get a freedom-generator of extreme power
 
 

[8] By symbol processing, I am referring to that ability to abstract some 'concept' or 'image' or 'aspect' of something and then play with that abstraction…generating transformations of it…evaluating those…recreating them…morphing them. I can construct a notice of 'justice' and then probe that for implications…I can "see myself" and tweak that, visualizing an alternative me…and I can do the same for my history, my present mental states, and even my value sets…I can soar with the angels and touch the edges of the Forms…
 
 

[9] but to return to the hierarchy of freedom…the animals have varying levels of freedom over plants (e.g., social organization/life, locomotion), and plants have a freedom over matter, in that life forms have a freedom over entropy (via regeneration--they are subject to decay, but 'outrun it' by renewal processes that preserve core-identity over time). I am personally convinced that the 'spiritual dimension' is present in all life, although I will have to explore this further…the fact that a single-celled paramecium (without the benefit of a single brain cell,obviously!) can 'learn' where an edge is, and avoid it in subsequent movements, suggests to me that the spiritual "dimension" which seems to be related to higher levels of organization, freedom, patterns, and goal-oriented behavior, made be the single defining characteristic of life…
 
 

[10] the hierarchy is one-directional: you can get simpler forms out of more complex, but not vice versa…I can produce individuals out of societies, but not the other way around…I can only make a society out of an agglutination of individuals if the individuals are already 'socialized'--and, in the case of humans, who unlike the animals do not have the ability to survive from birth for many years and are dependent upon the community to feed/nurture them, we carry this already in our developed souls…
 
 

[11] this hierarchy is the basic reason why reductionism cannot work…the whole is always greater than the sum of the parts…if the parts do not already somehow 'carry' the whole (or enough of a template for it), then you cannot construct a whole from the parts--you only get a group of interacting parts…
 
 

[12] non-linear systems (often thought to support the notion of "complexity from simplicity") are no exception to this…super-cooling a random mixture of atoms of iron, silicon, neon, and helium wouldn’t produce non-linear systemseffects…you have to super-cool a very, very specific mix…and the interactions between the particles are what constitutes the non-linear effect--not necessarily the elements themselves.
 
 

[13] in addition to this, of course, is the rather obvious fact that elements exist in a massive context of physical "laws" and initial conditions that produce the individual behaviors to begin with…this is why the phrase "a self-organizing nothing" is so absurd…

[14] this hierarchy has a major implication for theology--where do we get our initial paradigm model for God? The biblical model of God is supremely personal…God is a living, caring, emotionally robust, volitionally powerful, wise, good, relationship-oriented Mind that we have 'to do business with'…to map this biblical God to something like a rock, and analyse Him/Her/Them/It as matter or 'essence' is strangely backward…
 
 

[15] The highest complexity we know as creatures so far (with the possible exception of quantum effects) is that of human and human group behavior…our models of God (which we use in theology to explore the implications of the biblical statements about God) must accordingly start there and not lower.
 
 

[16] If the biblical witness reveals a God who is a "Person" first, and a "nature" second, then theology has to start there in exploring the implications of its God.
 
 

[17] To illustrate how critical this might become, consider the contrast between a "Perfect Being" philosophical theology, and a "Perfect Person" theology…
 
 

[18] the older "Perfect Being" theology, would use the dignum deo principle: only those ascriptions could be made of God that were in accordance with His dignity and greatness…in other words, whatever the theologian thought was 'worthy' of God could be ascribed to God, and anything less that worthy of God could not be ascribed to Him…this is sadly subjective, as you can probably tell…
 
 

[19] but the kinds of things that got said about God were descriptions of 'being'--immutable, impassible, simple, eternal…and over the centuries even the more personal attributes of God got mapped away…God's knowledge of His creatures became God's knowledge of Himself (He could know nothing external to Himself, or else He would be 'dependent' on it); God's love for us became either His love for Himself ( a perfect being could only love a perfect being, they said) or disappeared altogether into the "effects on us" of our actions of worthiness or unworthiness (to be subject to passions such as love or grief, was to be subject to change, and a perfect being could not change…)
 
 

[20] of course, a timeless, unchanging, passionless Being presents huge challenges to those who believed that God became a human and suffered (really) on the Cross of Shame…still does…(that's part of the reason the majority of the Christian philosophical community has abandoned the "classical" view of God)
 
 

[21] A main problem, of course, was how to define 'perfect' or 'worthy of God'…a perfect rock would be indestructible, immovable, prior to all other rocks and forces, unable to decay (and therefore, ontologically 'simple'), eternal, without internal competing forces, not dependent on other things for its position in space/time, and unable to experience changes in relationships or state, etc…
 
 

[22] and some think that is the kind of theological "god" we inherited from classical/traditional theology.
 
 

[23] If we turn to "perfect Person" theology, what would that look like? Again, we would be making some king of dignum deo type argument, but would we on better ground this time? Do I have a better sense of what a 'perfect person' would be like, that what a 'perfect rock' would be like? Do I have more insight into persons (via my social nature) that I do into rocks (via my physical nature)?
 
 

[24] what would Perfect Person characteristics look like? Would they be detachment from suffering, or immersion into the suffering of others--with true, heart-clawing empathetic capabilities? Would it be heightened sensitive to pleasure and joy and art and music? Would it be higher experiences of parent-love, or of lover-betrayal, or of teacher-fulfillment? Would it be love more constant and 'unchangeable' than any experienced on earth? Would it include higher levels of commitment and integrity? Would it involve higher levels of respect for personal worth and personal freedom? Would it take more personal relationship risks than other persons? Would it be supremely responsive to the needs of others? Would it include ultimate freedom to befriend and come along side to help?
 
 

[25] would it include the same mixture of power and weakness, self-worth and other-focus, tenacity and responsiveness, that we find in Jesus, the express "etching" of God?
 
 

[26] before we pursue this further, we have to go back to the issue of complexity…as we moved 'up' the ladder of freedom, we also moved "up" the levels of social organization/life/interaction…atoms exist in a 'society' of sorts, simple chemical and physical organizations (compounds), that evince higher-order characteristics as a unit…hydrogen and oxygen make a water molecule, radically unlike the 'parts' of which it is composed…organic compounds 'work together' in living organisms…fertilization exists in plant life…animals display a wide range of social organization patterns (e.g., bees, wolves, birds)…humans organize in cultures than grow and shape the individual humans…angels apparently have extensive hierarchical arrangements as well…and God is a Trinity…



 
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