Friday, October 21, 2011

I seek to honor the inexpressible

Everyone who has heard of my change of mind concerning God is waiting to see what church I will start attending. Yet accepting the idea of God is not, in all honesty, identical to induction into religion.

If I take a step toward religion, it will likely involve the Christian metaphors and stories with which I am familiar. But it might not involve a new baptism, a being "born again."

After all, God is a vastly incomprehensible being who propelled into existence, and conceivably sustains, a universe about which we know barely a smidgen.

If neutrinos can indeed travel faster than light, as recent scientific news seemed to propose, then perhaps Einstein is wrong and physicists, the philosophers of our day, face searing soul-searching about the fundamentals of their field. We scarcely know anything is the genuine scientific outlook.

The adherents and professionals of religion make a crass error when they think they've got God in their pockets, just as atheists who rely on science err in proposing that we know enough to put God in the dustbin of history.

God is someone so outside our experience, so profoundly unobservable that all we are ever likely to know about her* is an intuition of a light that shines through many, many veils.

It's not like even Christians know God through Jesus.

The Galilean woodworker of the gospels was not recognizably divine to all and sundry when he walked the Earth like you and me. People were surprised when he performed wonders that we think humans cannot do. And who knows what Jesus was thinking 2,000 years ago, much less what he might be thinking now, if he is thinking at all?

In a similar vein, Islam and Judaism are attempts at approximation. Mohammed's angel and Moses' burning bush are at best literary images of inexpressible and intuitive experiences in these men's psyches. Not false images necessarily, but not likely what an empirically minded modern would accept as factual.

Christians may think Christianity is better than either one, but do Christians know definitively? No, faith is not knowledge.

This is why I was struck several days ago by words attributed to Dionysius the Areopagite: "With a wise silence we do honor to the inexpressible."

* I do not contend that God has a sex, for reasons best discussed elsewhere. To offset the use of capitalized masculine pronouns for God for the past 20,000 years or so, I propose to use uncapitalized feminine ones for the next 20,000 years or so, just for balance.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Feeling, thinking and praying? There's an App for that!

A friend of mine who is a philosopher recently gave me an image that fits my present understanding of what traditionally has been called the "soul," that central part of us that animates our body and infuses life, self-understanding, a psyche: software.

The metaphor is an idea that Umberto Eco pioneered in his 1994 essay "The Holy War: Mac vs. DOS," in which he dubbed the Apple computer "Catholic" and the PC, then dominated by DOS "Protestant."

I'd go so far as to say that at the core of us is an human operating system that controls, without our even realizing it, our body and its peripherals, while running application programs such as personality, feelings, thinking and spirituality.

As users, we barely understand the HOS, which explains why marvels such as relatively new psychiatric medication, much less brain surgery, don't quite work as desired. Might they one day? Perhaps, perhaps not. I don't know.

I do realize, however, that there is something a bit beyond our biochemicals and our neurons that decidedly makes us who we are, integrating our inheritance with our experience and our learning, quite distinctly, yet not fully independently of our body.

Here's where matter vs. spirit dualisms collapse: our software and our hardware are inextricably linked. This is why some men engage in spiritual adoration of goddess figures they deem to be near-perfect and some women experience seemingly divine ecstasy in orgasm.

All of which is indicative of a non-material or metamaterial realm, what Aristotle called metaphysics.