This was sparked by the following topic:
but since that thread has become more a discussion of the usefullness of religious belief in general, I wanted to make a new thread.
[WARNING: This is a huge ramble of ideas, and I am almost embarrassed to share it, but since I am not a professional theologist/philoshopher/academic I doubt I will ever have the time to structure it more precisely. And I hope that this is the audience who might gain some usefulness from my sharing these ideas, and who might be able to help me develop them further or correct them where they are wrong. Please also overlook grammatical errors since I just don't have the time to be meticulous at the moment. Thank you for your indulgence.]
Note, I am a huge proponent of the scientific method, but I understand its limitations. Its insights are based on "observable" phenomea, and so, until science can "show me" the beginning of the universe (which it will never be able to do), I am left to rest on my other chosen method of discovery: logic and bare reason.
By Creation and Universe I mean the physical universe and whatever spiritual world(s) exist, and whatever objects, concepts, realities, and denizens they might contain. In otherwords TOTALITY.
The laws of cause and effect which seem to tie all material (and spiritual?) things together, calls for a paradoxical assertion. That this Universe must needs have a Cause, and yet at the same time, that Cause must have a Cause, and that Cause must have a Cause... ad nasuem... but implicit in that chain is still the need for a First Cause, otherwise where would that "chain" of casuation come from. All theology aside, simple logic forces me to conclude that what "created" Creation was "outside" it so it could be independent of that cause and effect problem. I for a lack of a better word, and since it seems to fit in with most concepts of God, attribute this "out of bounds" Creator of Creation to be God. It's not implicit in the concept, but I find no objection to attributing it to God (and that is where the theology comes into it).
Ok, now it begins to get tricky... how can I (convinced as I am of the Law of Cause and Effect) begin to understand the "Begining?" Sure, I may accept that Creation was created by a God Who exists outside His creation, but how do I (stuck inside this universe of Causation) deal with that "moment" where something came from nothing?
The short answer is (perhaps sadly): I can't - because I'm bound by the limitations of being part of the infinite chain of causation. However, I can become more comfortable with the idea when I contemplate the following:
In the chain of cause and effect, one thing can cause another, but can never be the cause of its own self. So, we are comfortable with the idea that an effect of one cause can be the cause of some other thing (without of course being the cause of its own self), so we can be comfortable with the idea of a "First Effect" which while not being the cause of its own self, was none the less the cause of everything else. And God (or whatever) created that "First Effect," before which there wasn't this cause and effect universe (or maybe there were/are other universes, but we will never know of them) - the "Darkness" before "Creation" in theological terms.
While this concept of a "First Effect" is comforting, it really offers no help in determining "when" it happened, since I find myself trapped in the chain of casuation which "pushes" that First Effect farther and farther away from me the more and more I try to trace back to it.
Science will never tell me "how the universe was created," since the scientific method itself rests firmly on the principle of causation; it will always be getting us "closer and closer" to the First Effect, but never reach it.
Ok? That's it for me. Creation is infinite. No need to try to pin down "when" it happened (though it is a fun exercise, and I'm convinced its chase will lead science to the discovery of laws we can make use of to do amazing magical things like - make things invisible, co-location, "time travel", etc.)
So Creation is infinite, at least in the direction of "The Beginning", since it is bound by this law of causation. I accept that its also infinite in the direction of "The End" since my experience of the Law of Casuation implies that it won't simply all of a sudden "stop," but I haven't found a logical proof of this, except to say that it is bound up in the concept. (I would appreciate help to this end if anyone can offer it).
Now, if you can accept that the Universe has a "Beginning that hath no beginning" and an "End that hath no end" it should not be any struggle to accept the possibility of an infinite ordering of material "stuff" that the material universe is composed of, and which is alluded to if not explicitedly explained by 'Abdu'l-Baha in the Tablet of Universe. (Is Tablet still in its "Provisional" form of translation, or has it been made authentic or whatever?) And of course as quantum physics is altering our understanding of the "realness" of the material world, and the sameness of energy and matter, its not really that far fetched to intuit some point of "contact" between the material and spiritual worlds. Indeed their distinction may be simply a matter of pure accident of perception and not an actual division. (Meditate on that one for awhile!)
When you start thinking about the spiritual world, it too has a Creator, and as far as I am concerned, seems to have been "Created" by the same "Creator" and at the same "time" as the material universe, though these are not nessassarily the case. Its interesting to note that most theologists and philosphers agree that time is a matter of the material and not spiritual condition, so who knows, maybe its an irrelevent distinction either way.
When Creation is viewed in this Light of a Creator outside its Creation, an infinite material and spiritual Creation, with all the ideas about the soul and God and Spiritual things from Baha'u'llah, all kinds of cool things start happening in your mind when you meditate on such concepts of:
The Primal Will
The Manifestations of God (Who exists "inside" Creation with us)
The reason why Creation is divided into Physical and Spiritual, into various "Worlds of God"?
Here are some things that have come to me in meditating on these ideas (these are only my own thoughts so don't accuse me of heresy, I would give them up in a heartbeat for Baha'u'llah):
Consider the statements that every thing in creation has been given a name or attribute of God (and humans the potentiality of reflecting all of them). It follows then if you "add up" each item of the Universe you will get the equivelant of God, or rather as close an "image" of God as is possible in this Creation. And if God is "infinite" then so to must be the sum of everything in creation (material as well as spiritual), meaning there is an infinite amount of "stuff" in the Universe (material and spiritual).
Now consider that the human soul can mirror the fullness of the attributes of God, that means (spiritually speaking) the human soul is also infinite.
If each human soul is able to manifest all the names and attributes of God, and each reality in Creation manifests a single name or attribute (and of which there is an infinite amount) then *each* human soul = the sum of the entire Creation.
The concept of infinity now is no longer a count or measure, its more of a condition, the approximation of the "Oneness" or "Unity" of God.
Ok, so what does that suggest about our souls being "divided" into separate pieces? It suggests that we are not actually divided at all, but that each of our souls represent the condition of infinity, and where is there room in the universe for multiple infinities? Or a single object of infinity inside an infinite array of realities the sum of which is infinte? Doesn't make any sense at all. (Ok maybe semantically an infinite container can hold an infinite amount of infinite things which are themselves infinite - but the concept of infinity as I use it implies a single infinitness). It only (easily) makes sense, if ALL of Creation is One. So really, there is no distinction made between the material and the spiritual, between my soul and yours. Between us and the Manifestation of God. One thing sort of "melts" into the oneness of all things. I think this might be what the last few Valleys are describing. I have never felt or been aware of any of this, its just my logical mind's understanding of the concepts involved.
Then what are we to make of all the warnings of joining partners with God? That God exists beyond all this? And what of the Manifestations of God?
The Manifestaions of God represent Perfect Human Souls, fully manifesting the entirety of Creation. They also seem to have "something extra" which sets them apart from other human souls, or in the concept of oneness described above, "something extra" then the sum of all Creation (which I'm not convinced is a something extra, but maybe only a "something in particular"). I recall this something is "The Holy Spirit" which is that ultimate reflection of the Will of God. The Manifestations it seem contain both a human soul with Free Will, as well as some other kind of faculty that represents the Will of God in its totality. This is how we accept that entering Their Presence is the same as entering the Pressence of God, Their Face is the Face of God, and so on. It also explains such cryptic statements as all the names and attributes we attribute to God actually revolve around the Manifestation of God. How all the Manifestations of God are the "same" and yet distinct and so on.
We (humans, plants, solar systems, atoms, spiritual entities, everything) are mirrors reflecting each other, and that ultimate reflection represents the fullest expression of "Godness" in Creation. And somehow that ultimate relfection is found simply and immediately in the reality of the Manifestation of God.
Its like all of the Universe is a kalidascope, each reflecting a reflection of a corner of the reflection (and so on) of the whole, and yet, utlimately there is only One thing being reflected. Gazing upon the Manifestation therefore is to gaze upon everything in its most manifest, un-divided form. Its like turning the kalidescope into position where there are no longer relfections but that single thing at the bottom. A poor anology, but maybe it will be useful for someone. Also, even in this material world, we find such patterns of universal in the particular (Chaos Theory Fractals, the Fibonacci Sequence, the Golden Mean, etc. etc.) so the Manifestation then represents the Universal (zoomed out) Image of each and every thing (materially and spiritually).
Why don't we all just "poof" into a sensation of oneness from the begining?
I am convinced there is some purpose to us alternatingly feeling divided and feeling unified, to experiencing all these different things, to having a material experience and a spiritual one, to having Free Will and having it taken away.
Consider the explanation of Baha'u'llah that after we die we loose our ability for free will and our journey towards God is by His grace alone (and interestingly enough, by the wishes of those who still have free will).
I think too here is a hint to the purpose of Free Will. I think Free will is the closest direct experience you can get of what the Primal Will "feels" like, as might be experienced by God Himself. After all, His Will caused creation, apparently because He simply "wanted" to do it. Therefore, we can learn about that part of God by having the will to "do whatever we want." Of course there are limitations, but when you again consider that if you add up ALL the free will of everyone that has ever/will ever exist, that's an infinite amount of Free Will Power to approximate the Will of God.
(And as an aside: i think it is by the bounty and great generosity of God that He does not condemn us to our own free will forever.)
What is it about the material universe that makes it possible for Free Will? That is another lengthy meditation.
I think the material creation is to Free Will what the Creation is to the Primal Will of God. Without Creation what proof is there of the Primal Will? If there was no material world to bend to our will, what proof is there of our Free Will? (Granted, the material world is bound by strict laws, and we can not change them, but due to the disjointed nature of things, we can gain the impression that we are controling and choosing things, and that might be the closest thing to the Primal Will that we are allowed). The spiritual world is made up of spiritual things which, 'Abdu'l-Baha names in "Some Answered Questions" as "unified wholes" whereas material things are made up of "component parts." I think it might be this "unifiedness" of the spiritual world(s) that prevent us from experiencing the condition of free will there, we are left to be more directed solely by the Will of God, as set up by whatever spiritual laws operate in the spiritual realms.
So, we can, experience a material experience where we have Free Will, and experience the full range of choices (turning away from God and turning toward God), in addition to experiencing the lack of "free will" in the next world (and presumably the further worlds of God, but who's to say in another world of God we won't experience free will again, or in another form?). This gives a greater appreciation of God, because we know what Will is (the condition of Creation) and we know what the absence of Will is (the condition of Unity). Thus by having a material (willful) and spiritual (willess) experience we gain an appreciation for the Will of God and the Unity of God.
This also explains one of the reasons we have the Manifestations of God. They act as sign posts in both the material and spiritual worlds of what the Will of God is and what the Unity of God is. Since we can make our own choices using free will, we might choose to turn away fully from God, in which case when we die and are "stuck" in that very slow "trajectory" towards God, we feel so far removed and guilt ridden that we didn't turn towards God, and so on. So the Manifestations of God show those of us "willing" how to shape our will to the Will of God as expressed by the Manifestations of God, so that we can already be on a "trajectory" towards God once we die and our spiritual development is no longer in our hands. God bountifully gives us each an opportunity to better our condition through eternity by recognizing and obeying the Manifestation of God (which are really indentical things - "twin duties" and all).
Also, consider how powerful it must be to exist in a realm where one has free will, and at the same time by aligning that free will with the Will of God, for a brief moment be able to experience simultaneously both the condition of Free Will and the Will of God. I think that is probably the acme of material experience, and a unique gift to those of us who are able to achieve it. I don't know if we are ever given a chance for such a unique and sublime station ever again.
I am convinced that the Manifestation of God is, being as He is the Ultimate Reflection of an Inaccessable God, our ultimate Goal. And that attaining His Presence is the Presence of God (as far as we will ever know) and that in such a Presence all sensation of uniqueness dissappears. How wonderful it is that we can know both seperation and nearness.
I think here too is why all the exortations against joining partners with God. If you ever think you are God you are obviously not God, since even at the fullest expression of "Godlikeness" for a human soul (that above descibed aligning with the Will of God) such distinctions as God and Not God are not even possible, you are in evident error, and likely to be condemning yourself to your own desires and not the Will of God. Likewise to say "all things are God" is also incorrect, since if you ever reached that sublime station of awareness, you would be more likely to proclaim "God is God!" though even then, there would be no point to saying anything at all.
I think at some point, we realize (some mystics in this world, most of us in the next or later worlds) what the Unity of God is all about, and how connected we all really are. Considering that perhaps my soul is only distinguishable from yours due to whatever makes our material existance a possibility, You are in a very real sense Me, and I You. Viewed in this light, the *collective* experiences and choices of humanity, over past, present, and future history, humanity will make every single possible choice! I can think of no better approximation of the Unconstrained Will of God than this. And at some point we may become fully aware of all these choices made by our other "selves," and thus gain an intimate picture of what we all have chosen, and our ultimate choice to unite as one with all things.
And on a related matter is why the heck are we divided into multiple humans who are living on a planet (multiple planets?) together going through all these periodic social evolutions? I think that there must be some purpose to our collective unification socially as there is in the material junk of the universe coming together to form complex patterns of solar systems and planets with life. Our social coming together is I think great historical analogy of our ultimate unification. It is also, a collective map of each and all of our spiritual journies from individuals to United with God. Imagine that moment in history, when all people everywhere (and at that point it might be all human souls across a multitude of alien planets, maybe not even reachable by physical means but somehow psychically or spiritually aware of one another), when we all collectively submit our will, wholy and completely to the Will of God. Presumably (since prayers of the living can effect the journey of souls in the next life) all humans everywhere, in the material world, and in the spiritual world will be experiencing the absolute Unity of God (those in the material world using their Free Will, those in the next by being pushed along by the will of those in the material world and by the grace of God). At that moment, everything in the spiritual and material worlds will be aligned such as to be the fullest expression of God in Creation.
Ok, I hope I may have sparked something positive in someone, or someone is able to enlighten or correct me, or in some way this rambling hasn't wasted peoples time.
All research or scholarship questions
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