Why Rejecting the Category of the “Supernatural” Can Be a “Spiritual” Step Forward

I think the main problem in discussions between theists and atheists is the assumption that static categories like “the Divine,” the “supernatural,” the “natural,” and the “material” exist other than as our dualistic semantic projections upon the whole of reality as we can perceive it. Our experiences are never reductionistically “materialistic,” even in the proverbial “hard, cold” lab. Process theism, by whatever name (Whitehead, Hartshorne) seems a better way of thinking about our “reality” even if “God” might not be the word one choses to use, given the connotations from “Classic” theism (omniscience and omnipotence).

Bottom line: the very nature of reality presents us with what appear to be “mechanistic” “time and chance” “atoms and the void” phenomenon (as per Jacques Monod), but also “mind” “thought” and other transcendent “spiritualist” phenomenon as well, that seem to exhibit will, reason, and the aesthetic–hence this very blog, this topic, and the any discussion thereof. It is a simple truism that there is no way to step outside of things and make “meaningful” nihilistic declarations about the non-meaning or hyper-subjectivity of our existence. As the old joke goes: “There are no absolutes?–Are you absolutely sure of that?”

“Mind and Matter”are no opposing realities but of one whole “panentheistic” reality as witnessed by our every thought and word.  Most of us agree that “magical” thinking is not a credible casual factor in our universe (angels, demons, fairies, and projected illusions) but who among us can reduce to the “normal” or the purely “material” (i.e., the four forces/fields of gravity, electromagnetic and strong and weak nuclear) our wondrous and marvelous minds and our common as well as not-so-common experiences of reality? In other words, all natural phenonema are by definition supra-natural, if by “natural” one means a truncated mechanistic view of both our inner realities and all that we experience in our world of “nature.”

So in the silence of the soul I listen for the still small voice, which is God’s call to each of us to engage in the work of love and creativity, to bring new life into the world, and to care for it and nurture it during its years of vulnerability. And whenever I see people engaged in that work of love, I sense the divine presence brushing us with a touch so gentle you can miss it, and yet know beyond all possibility of doubt that this is what we are called on to live for, to ease the pain of those who suffer and become an agent of hope in the world. That is a meaningful life. That is what life is when lived in the light of God’s presence, in answer to his call” Rabbi Jonathan Sachs

Our deepest sense of value and meaning in this world are not an anomaly or fluke, projected onto an otherwise uncaring universe. This inner sense of self is not somehow “outside” reality, and thus unreflective of its fundamental nature. Our capacities of self-consciousness, our sense of time, our existential becoming, is emergent from the “ground of being,” that nameless process rooted in the most fundamental reality. Our best clue as to the deeper nature of nature is our inner selves, reflective of the inherent capacities of reality–defined simply as “what is.” Cogito, ergo sum is not a bad beginning, if one can excise the dualism of Western language and assumptions. Whitehead called it panentheism. JDT
When I heard Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, I knew there was joy at the heart of the universe. Paul Claudel

 

Being a Hebrew in 2021…

So in some metaphorical way I guess you can call me a “Hebrew,” one who wants to leave behind the “Babylonian” ways of our world, and with Abraham,  walk before and toward “completion,” toward an unknown land of promise–a dream fulfilled. In that dream  the broader household of Abrahamic faith reflects the ways of truth, justice, love, and righteousness, and the “God of all the earth,” in good Whiteheadian fashion, mirrors our own microcosmic sense of justice and truth or is broken and cast aside as another idol (Genesis 18:19-25).

Beware When all Men Speak Well of You…

You have no enemies, you say? Alas, my friend, the boast is poor. He who has mingled in the fray of duty that the brave endure, must have made foes. If you have none, small is the work that you have done. You’ve hit no traitor on the hip. You’ve dashed no cup from perjured lip. You’ve never turned the wrong to right. You’ve been a coward in the fight.

Charles Mackay

Bits and Bites Here and There


From some of my recent television viewing of various shows, both documentary and scripted:

I don’t really do that. Chat.
Amy Adams in the first episode of Sharp Objects HBO

Whoso would be a man, must be a nonconformist, nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind.
Emerson

Come away with me my love, they will not see us for the dust!
Frank Lloyd Wright to Olgivanna

I am guilty only of the deadly sin of having ideas.
Frank Lloyd Wright regarding his love affairs and unconventional choices

Everything Happens for a Purpose?

Everything happens for a purpose? There is a grand plan for every person on earth, every moment of their lives. It is all guided and orchestrated, like a lovely mosaic, only visible from afar. The universe at all times is unfolding precisely as it should be. We just can’t see the whole.  Zeno of Cyprus ( Ζήνων ὁ Κιτιεύς), 4th Century BCE (paraphrased) 
NO! NO! NO! A trillion times NO!
The Keyhole of our Existential Existence
I absolutely do not believe that. I know it is seductively comforting to some but it runs against all historical logic and moral sensitivity. It removes us from the reality of choice and freedom, happenstance, and flukiness. Time and chance happen to all things. Major events turn on the flip of a coin, the bounce of Woody Allen “matchpoint.” Yes, Crimes and Misdemeanors do often pay. All things are contingent. The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley. Worst of all such a view mitigates the horrible reality of tragedy, senseless suffering, and just plain evil. Let pain and suffering and genuine grief and loss be acknowledged. That sort of repression can never in the end be healthy or good, despite any temporary delusion. The truth has a way of breaking in. True character–love, joy, peace, goodness– arises out of the midst of a “world gone wrong,” as Dylan would say–yes, wrong, genuinely wrong, not a scripted set on a stage, but regrettable, horrible wrong! The “sighs and cry” over the “abominations” of our humanly directed world are holy and sacred, not contrived and staged. The “core” of our truest and most honest Selves, however labeled, as God or “Ground of Being” or the “Force,” weeps and cries and struggles with us, as the Process unfolds. This is, by definition, the “best of all possible worlds,” for the split second present, but we can choose in the next future second to steer ourselves and others in a better path.

Losing a Child…

I was totally knocked out by these lines in the HBO series “True Detective” tonight.

A lost child is a void, that echoes backwards and forwards in time. It encompasses not just the rooms you were in with them, and are no longer, or even those rooms you will never enter together. The negation is deeper. It is the knowledge that every room you enter for the rest of your life, they should be there, and are not. And your memories of them become totems to that absence. A lost child is a story that’s never allowed to end.

True Detective, Season 3, Episode 6 at 54:33 minute mark…

Parts Unknown…

As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, leaving your marks behind however small. And in return, life and travel leaves marks on you. Most of the time, marks on your body and heart are beautiful, but sometimes they hurt.

Anthony Bourdain 1956-2018

 

Insulations

By some miracle of smoke and mirrors one can appear much more substantial and accomplished in the eyes of others than we know ourselves to be. We are capable, with wide eyes and clear vision, to see ourselves within and without if we dare to allow that bright light to get in. It is easier to function in a dimmer mode, softening, fading, or even just ignoring this or that feature of our landscape. Professional position, with its day to day demands and drummed up accomplishments, can serve as a most effective insulation against any momentary intrusion of sober truth. Ordering ones surroundings is also an amazingly effective buffer. And thus we muddle on, most days too busy to even reflect on anything that might painfully open any of these vistas. Tabor

Lying to ourselves is more deeply ingrained in us than lying to others. Dostoyevsky