The Energy to Exist

At the center of the “religion” question for me is the challenge of reductionist science and the “new atheists” that derive their vision and energy from it.  I am referring to Daniel Dennett and Richard Dawkins among others, who are material reductionists.[1]  They reduce everything to matter as it appears in its most primitive forms, which are studied by physics and chemis­try.  These men share a strident antipa­thy toward religion, which predictably has earned them the sobriquet, atheist.  But just as to be anti-religion is not necessarily to be atheist … so too, to be materialist is not necessarily to deny the exis­tence of a transcendent material dynamism in the universe, the source of our human selves and our sense of the sacred.  I am a materialist, but this is where the reductionists and I part companyThey deny any such dynamism.  I am speaking of material energy as the very mystery of existence itself that displays a depth and significance that deserves to be explored on its own terms. For I claim matter’s energy is, very simply, the energy to exist.  The implications of that statement are transcendent. They explain our experience, our world, and everything in it.

What the anti-religion people rightly denounce is the fantasy that there is another world different from this one, built of a different kind of existence, that explains and controls what goes on here and of which religion has in­fal­­lible knowledge.  I agree with their denunciation, totally. There is no other world.  I can easily under­stand why they fulminate against the reli­gions whose rival claims to the “truth” about that non-existent world have been used to justify some of the worst intra-species violence that humankind has unleashed upon itself.  But that is not all.  The “atheists” rightly excoriate religions for explaining disasters, from earthquakes to genocidal holocausts, as events consciously “permitted” by a supposedly loving personal “God” — who resides in that other world — who could prevent these horrors if “he” wanted, but inexplicably chooses not to.  The fact that belie­vers are not fazed by such patent absur­dity, reveals the extremes to which people will go to pre­serve their illusions.  Religion­ists who claim to eschew “naïve” providence, for their part, insist that “God” abso­lutely respects the natural order.  But these same people are loath to explain the so-called miracles that are adduced as proof of their own religion’s unique status with “God,” and the encouragement they give their mem­bers to ask this “God” for a wide range of favors that by-pass the natural order.  They can deny it all they want, but miracles are, in fact, the very stock-in-trade of the western religious enterprise. Religion built on this kind of “God” is called “theism.”

The “God” characterized by theist theology is a “God” of intervention and miracles, a hover­ing micro-managing providence, a “person” who saves us from the very same death that his own alleged intentional design of the universe is said to have created.  The real “God,” I sub­mit, does none of these things, as we may have noticed, and therefore is not the kind of “God” characterized by theism.  In the real world, theism is simply not credible.  I am not a theist.

I take my stand with science.  It is the one and only arbiter of the “facts.”

There are no physical “facts” known to religion that cannot be observed and verified by science, but that doesn’t eliminate reli­gion.  There is nothing supernatural, but that doesn’t eliminate the sacred.  There is no other world, but that doesn’t eradicate the unfathomable depths of this one.  There are no miracles of any kind and never were, but that doesn’t deny matter’s self-transcending creativity.  There is no “revela­tion,” but that doesn’t mean we do not intimately understand who we are and how we are related to existence. And the anthropomorphic humanoid “God” that all the religions of the book claim literally “inter­vernes in human history,” simply does not exist, … but that doesn’t mean there is no “God.”

The “God” that actually does exist, is the self-donating, self-extruding source and matrix of the material energy responsible for the existence and character of this universe, exactly as it functions and exactly as we see it with our telescopes and mircroscopes and endoscopes and exactly as we describe it with our mathematical measurements.

It bears emphasizing that, even in the perennial categories developed by our own tradition, the “divine” characteristics of matter’s existential energy existence — are staring us in the face.  Material energy is neither created nor destroyed, thus approximating the esse in se subsistens[2] which is the classic scholastic “definition” of “God;” it is the universal matrix in which all things “live and move and have their being” which was exactly Paul’s characteriza­tion of “God” that he gave at the Areopagus in Athens;[3] it is responsible for the existence of every form and function in the universe which was the whole point of the Genesis account of creation; it has displayed a self-transcending creativity whereby new things — including living and intelligent things — emerge from a seemingly limitless potential, the sharing of its very “self,” which evokes a kenosis (self-emptying) acknowledged as the unmistakable hall­mark of divinity.[4]  And, most important of all, the “things” that emerge from and remain im­mersed in this matrix universally display a conatus a blind drive for endless existence — that reveals the interior dynamism that they receive from their existential source.  All things bear a striking resemblance to what they are made of.  They are its image and likeness.

All things have but one interest and one goal, derived from one energy with one self-expla­na­tory purpose — esse, “to be,” to exist. 

religion

Traditional theistic religion, by insisting, as it does, on a metaphysically separate “spirit,” cannot accom­pany us into the world that The Mystery of Matter reveals; and those who think they can simply “tweak” our perennial religious terminology to make it fit, risk sliding us back into an illusory dualism by the back door, and our last state would be worse than the first.  Let me be clear: matter’s existential energy is not “spirit,” it is matter.  A superficial attempt at a semantic syncretism — taking “energy” as “spirit” — would belie the scientific reality and it would have us continue to maintain two contrary worlds with their correspon­ding concepts to which we would have recourse as the needs demanded.  It is a dysfunc­tional practice we have employed in the West for 500 years at least … and we are schizoid because of it Our new unitary vision is better off, perhaps, not being contaminated with any association with traditional theism, and especially the “G” word.

The “G” word, of course, is “God.”  I use it reluctantly, fully aware that even the quotation marks cannot eradicate the permanent scar of humanoid theism it carries.  Our vision offers a new ground for understand­ing this amazing universe and our unsuppressible sense of the sacred … and it opens the door to religion in a new key: one that plumbs the depths of this world and ourselves as its progeny, rather than trying to blast us at escape velocity out into another.

The mystery that I speak of does not refer to an enigma to be solved, but rather, in the sense of the Greek word mysterion, “the place where the numinous resides, and reveals itself.”[5] With this perspective the material universe becomes the sacred ground from which religion emerges and in which it remains rooted and draws its life.  Such a religion will not look to another world for explanations, nor will it direct us there for “salvation” or our ultimate des­tiny.  If it “saves” us at all it will be by healing the schizoid notions that up to now have split us asunder — body from soul, person from person, individual from community, human­kind from the earth.


[1] Daniel Dennett, Breaking the Spell, Religion as a Natural Phenomenon, Penguin, 2007; Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, Haughten Mifflin, Boston, 2006

[2] Esse in se subsistens, “Self-subsistent being.” cf Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologíae, Prima pars, q.3 ff, passim.

[3] The Acts of the Apostles, ch 17

[4] Pope John Paul II, Fides et Ratio, 1998

[5] The Mystery of Matter, IED press, 2010, preface. Mysterion is traditionally translated into Latin as sacramentum.

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10 comments on “The Energy to Exist

  1. Leon Krier says:

    Tony,

    “Thanks” for the continual clarification and refinement of terminology, concepts, etc. I appreciate the invitation to share in this process.

    When I thought no one was looking, at least I didn’t think anyone was observing, I gave a final push to “God” and over the cliff it (the anthropomorphic word, concept) went! Your own comments indicate your reluctance to use “God.” However, I suggest that it’s time to move on… it simply is not a useful word given its baggage.

    “Self-donating,” “self-extruding” are risky terms to apply to “God,” that is, the new “God” that does exist. “Self” easily leads to “individual” which easily leads to “person.” Likewise, “self-transcendence” regarding material energy is potential for misunderstanding.

    I hope I’m not nitpicking regarding the word and application of kenosis. However, there are nuances that have relevance (at least for me). Kenosis as a noun is “emptiness.” In the New Testament the noun form is not used; kenoω, the verb, is used 5 times and according to my Greek NT, ekenosen is used in Phil. 2:7 referring to Jesus “emptying out of himself.” (Wikipedia & A Reader’s Greek-English Lexicon of the NT). Reflecting with the verb form kenoω, the universe, all of existence, is “emptying out.” Matter’s energy is fundamentally characterized by this relentless dynamic. This includes human beings whose essential condition is “emptying out.” We are ephemeral, momentary, always changing, always “emptying out.” However, we don’t usually recognize this condition. What we think we are and what we are certainly differ. What Jesus (being human and only human) did was to affirm this condition. By ekenosen , Jesus demonstrated what he truly is and what we truly are, namely, “emptying out.” This enabled him to know how to die. Humans learn how to die by doing likewise: affirming, embracing their true nature… “emptying out.” Such “emptying out” eliminates the illusion of “self.”

    The effort to connect matter’s existential energy to the Catholic and Christian tradition is a part of your agenda and I can appreciate its value, but I get frustrated with this effort and want to move on to the newer language, concepts and the developing philosophical project. Religion as a system of hieratic authority is dying or may even be dead. “Religion” of the future may well be a more personal and individual endeavor best described as being “religious,” i.e., having a sense of the “sacred” or “mystery.” This search, this journey, is what the arts are all about… the “mystery,” “sacred.” It would be helpful to me if you sketched out what “religion” based on matter’s existential energy would look like. (Is that what the new book is about?) If such a “religion” is in my interest, then I need some vision of what this might look like. At this point, art really serves that need and it’s done in a completely free manner.

    Regarding the “new atheists” and “reductionistic science,” I have not read Dennet or Dawkins books but am familiar with them. However, I just read Atheism: A Very Short Introduction by Julian Baggini. First of all, I would highly recommend this book. Baggini is a “moderate atheist” and is quite critical of “militant atheists.” His primary goal is to define atheism as a worldview in and of itself rather than being defined vis-à-vis “theism,” i.e., “a-theism.” It is based upon naturalism and rationalism, is an ethical and meaningful way of life. His approach to religion is critical of religion but is not oriented to the destruction of religion. He seeks to establish a rapport with theists and engage them in dialogue. He asserts atheism as having the best, truest and most mature approach but is not dogmatic about it; he is, in fact, critical of dogmatists, fundamentalists, of both atheism and religion. His goal is not to make atheism the worldview of the state; he wants secularism to have that role. Under secularism, both religion and atheism can co-exist with respect for each other. Baggini is also opposed to “human exceptionalism.”

    As far as his understanding of what this one and only world is made of, is not really different, as far as I can determine, from what you are presenting. He does not use technical language like “matter’s existential energy” but is speaking more to the general audience. “What most atheists do believe is that there is only one kind of stuff in the universe and it is physical, out of this stuff comes minds, beauty, emotions, moral values—in short the full gamut of phenomena that gives richness to human life. It should be remembered that most atheism is rooted not in the specific claims of physicalism but the broader claims of naturalism. All we need to remember is that the natural world is home to consciousness, emotion, and beauty and not just atoms and the fundamental physical forces.”

    What I especially like is that he roots atheism in the ancient Greek thinkers especially the Pre-Socratics. This has been a dawning realization of my own in my research into ancient Greek medicine. What Hippocrates did for medicine the Pre-Socratics did for an understanding of the universe. Hippocrates said disease, illness, death has a rational not theurgic explanation. The Pre-Socratics did likewise for the explanation of the constituents and causes of what the universe is made of and how it functions. Both are naturalistic and rationalistic analyses.

    Congrats on the book!!

    Leon

    • tonyequale says:

      Leon,

      Thanks for your contribution. I’m sure those who check out my blog post will have their view of things expanded and deepened by your commentary.

      Yes, the book which is in the last stages of preparation is on “Religion in a Material Universe.” I would short circuit my own efforts if I tried to encapsulate in a few sentences or even paragraphs what I try to do in the 250 pages of that book. The only thing I would say at this point by way of clarification is that my reflections, however non-revisionist they are, are part of an ongoing dialog with myself … which is another way of saying with my own tradition and the companions who have traveled this path with me during our time under the sun.. My terminology is clear and consistent, but it also unapologetically reflects “where I am coming from” and maintains a valence with my fellow travelers insofar as that is possible.

      There is a community dimension to the religious quest that can be so taken for granted that it risks being ignored. How that dimension might be woven into a particular individual’s need to “move on” is not an easy call. Moreover, this communitarian side has been so abused in our tradition by the imperious impositions of an arrogant authority that personal liberation seems to equate to the abandonment of the community dimension altogether. All this is grist for the mill.

      The book directs itself to some of your suggestions and concerns. But I’m afraid you will have to decide yourself how much of what is important in your eyes may have to be elaborated by you for the benefit of all of us. I encourage you to do so. This is a community enterprise and your scholarly contributions are deeply appreciated.

      Tony

      • rjjwillis says:

        Tony, I have read with interest your latest posting, and also the dialogue between you and Leon. I may be able to add a useful perspective.

        Once a patient, discussing his experience of the course of psychotherapy with me, expressed the following: When I came into therapy I was tottering on the edge of a deep abyss. I felt like I could fall into a vast unknown. I was deeply fearful; I seemed trapped. Over our time togethr, you got me to move fifteen feet to the left, turn sidewise, and look down the edge into the distance. Finally, I saw a river winding out of what I now saw to be a canyon, a reflecting ray of liquid and sunshine that flowed along the canyon’s bottom. I felt no longer afraid; and I now had a future.

        It’s all a matter of perspective.

        Like you, Tony, I find the theistic perspective wanting. Many years ago I greatly disturbed an examining team in a master’s oral exam when I asked: “How can God be All-Being and we be beings somehow created outside of God and not God?

        Nor does the atheistic, materialistic reductionism fit my experience. I know that matter is alive and moving in a direction. Matter is not just a solid given, with no meaning other than just being there for as long as that may be.

        I understand and applaud your effort to translate the sacred and the religious out of a theistic paradigm into one that is continuous with theistic traditions. But I also understand Leon’s impatience with this effort ina desire to create a new paradigm.

        For me, you and Leon, together point to a new paradigm, one that fits both my experience and my life. Leon speaks of art; you speak of community. They join for me in this way.

        I notice in myself a four-step process: relaxtion, attention, concentration, and active reception as I become one with what at first blush seems to be other than me. I could be a sunset, it could be a symphony, it could be a lover, it could be a forest glen. With them, and many other occasions, I gradually lose track of time, place, any sense of separate existence. In the beginning I am a relator drawing near to a related through the intensifiying of my connecting. At some point, I lose all sense of myself, all sense of the other, such that all that remains is the connecting. The connecting, a vibrating aliveness, is all of the experience: no me, no it, no me and it, just us: community. Oneness was becoming and now is becoming until oneness alone is. But that oneness is a vibrating aliveness which only is.

        For me, relation is the key to bridging the perspective gap between theism and atheism, between religion and art.

        Thank you, Tony, for your deep reflections, and I also thank you, Leon, for your thoughtful and penetrating sharing in reaction and with sure reflection.

        My best to all, Bob

  2. Christina Hebert says:

    Tony,

    I think “science” is to “god” as scientist is to theologian. Science and religion are the best examples of how two extremes meet, they are much more alike than different. Scientific theories and religious theologies both have “followers” who then precede to see the world according to that perspective.

    In, quantum physics scientific “law” is broken. In the sub-atomic world, it seems the observer changes the observed … “science as truth” has always been based on it’s supposed objectivity. You mentioned facts being “observed and verified by science” but “science” is a concept, a term for a way of investigating our world. But only people observe, people verify and most importantly only people can be “arbiters of the facts.”

    Therefore, in religion, if we say god is arbiter of the facts, we really mean the priests, etc, because those people are the most knowledgeable about god. So, if science is now the “only arbiter of the facts”, we mean scientists, those people most knowledgeable about science. I don’t see any fundamental change in the paradigm … in both science and religion, “theories” become “facts” become “beliefs”…

    Your “humanoid” god is, to me, ironic, in that christian theology mostly stems from Philo. Didn’t he try to reason away all human emotions of the god of the old testament? I am not that familiar with the details of his particular assertions, but theology seems to have come into existence to rationally explain how un-human god is, aka how and why we are so far from god. I find your matter/energy theology furthering this idea by replacing “god” with energy. So, “god” is now further from us in the sense that she has no conscience.

    From there I find myself mulling over your notion of matter’s kenosis, this emptying out being “the unmistakeable hallmark of divinity” (is it?) because it leads to Leon’s assertion “human beings whose essential condition is emptying out.” Why do we need an essential condition of God or ourselves? Anyway, this seems the same kind of logic that led to original sin theology, with a different result, god’s essential nature is opposite to our human flawed essential nature … is Leon’s (which I am musing on as a ‘representative christian’) response toward your use of the term self (because it leads to ‘individual’) a scar from the belief in original sin? Why else would we have an aversion to ourselves???!!

    Once self-aware I become aware of others … “self-emptying” is done continuously as is “self-filling” … I give to others what I have to give. Awareness of self and others is very important because it is the precursor to community and relationships.

    Maybe, Life, the living, IS the sacred? The limitless potential of existence is quite similar to our modern notion of “god” because both have very little to do with our daily lives.

    I can find “God” in our christian tradition in the life of Jesus and the epistle of James BUT NOT IN the death of Jesus and the letters of Paul. Beyond our traditions, I first glimpsed god in science and nature, like you mention here. Matter, matrix, material, etc all stem from the root mat/mater which is mother. I think it fitting that when we get down to the building blocks of life we find matter, mother!

    Matter and energy, along with their potentials, exist in the universe, but gravity is needed for those potentials to produce LIFE. Gravity has been as elusive as God in my search …

    Thank you for helping.
    Christina

    • tonyequale says:

      Cristina,
      Thank you for your comment. It is, as usual, intriguing and provocative of thought. I am going to try to reply to what I see as separate points.

      (1) By saying “science is the only arbiter of the facts” I am not assuming that science exists in any finished state, or that there is not a considerable amount of dispute about what “items” have made the transition from hypotheses to facts, if that is ever supposed to happen. I am simply trying to clarify the exclusively interpretive, poetic role of religion in our lives. Science tells us what exists; religion tells us what it means to us.
      Both science and religion are tools of the human spirit. The human being is “one” … and the world we relate to is “one,” and the relationship between them is “one.” The only thing “multiple” are the tools and avenues that we use to observe, interpret and communicate that unitary reality.
      I claim there has been a confusion of tools. We improperly use religion to provide us with “facts.” Before science, it used to. It was all we had. We cannot do that any more, because now we have science. But when religion tries to, it shortly finds itself at loggerheads with, science, which contradicts it. The result is that the “one” human being becomes split — schizoid — because we have let ourselves be dominated by our tools. Instead of using them, they are using us. “The sabbath is made for man, not man for the sabbath.” That most insightful saying of Jesus suggests that the absolutism with which we invest our religions is itself a major part of the problem. It was central to his message; they killed him for it.

      (2) Philo and his syncretist school in Alexandría were indeed the first “Yahwists” to metaphorize the anthropomorphisms of the bible. They began a long “academic” tradition that reached its apogee in the middle ages. Scholastics like Aquinas warned constantly against anthropomorphism, but their arcane theology carefully avoided confronting the Church on its pastoral practice which, as we all know, characterized “God” in humanoid terms. For the church, anthropomorphism was the very basis of its “business.” For if you cannot control a changeable “God” for the benefit of your clients, why would they ever give you money? Post-plague 14th century literature — Langland, Chaucer, Juliana of Norwich, Petrarch — all record the perplexity of people that the Church had failed to prevent the plague. There was no thought that “God” was anything but a changeable person with moods and feelings that could be affected by human behavior and ritual appeasement. The “apophatic” tradition was esoteric and marginalized in monasteries and scholasticates. It was a “minority report” within the Christian tradition.

      (3) I was using the term “Kenosis” to try to evoke a subjective dimension to matter energy’s total availability. It was metaphorical, of course. All the “divine” characteristics adduced in that paragraph were metaphorically applied to matter’s energy. But religion is poetry, and I am trying to use the poetry of our tradition to focus our sense of the sacred on matter’s existential energy. Science tells us “what” matter is; religion suggests how to relate to it.

      (4) I am quite aware of the parallelism between universal material energy and scholasticism’s “being.” Thomas himself was aware of it. The application of these notions to everyday life requires the poetry that is religion … which translates them into human terms.

      (5) The semantic connection between “matter” and “mother”had not occurred to me, Cristina, thank you for that.

      I look forward to your future observations.
      Tony

      • Christina Hebert says:

        Tony,

        I am seeing, more clearly, that you are a warrior poet trying to save us from the dreary existence inherent in a world where science is worshipped as truth. Poetry is the best form of art with which we understand and express things unexplainable with mere words. Here goes.

        I am that I am the poetry. My role in my existence is to interpret and say what “matter” is and determine what it means to me. This is heresy to western culture, more so now that science has taken over. I use the tools of religion and science and art and poetry in my experience of life. I no longer want the authority figures within these ‘tools’ to construct and control our world. I am that I am arbiter (not any entity that we have made) and I respect you and all humans as fellow arbiters.

        You mention the sabbath is made for man, not man for the sabbath … but so is everything else! Science and religion and poetry are made for man BY MAN, not man for science and poetry. I now see that Jesus was trying to tell us this; that any ‘entity’ between you and your fellow man is wrong. These ‘entities’ are religion and science and anything else we make that separates us from ourselves and others. A woman needs healing and I can heal her … if I let that religious entity interfere with my responsibility than I am away from god. We see this more clearly with religion, thanks to this story, but what about how science interferes? If, in order to heal a woman of cancer I harm her body more with the treatment of that cancer (because current science says to) than i am away from God. When our entities of science and religion do more harm than good what are we letting happen? We have bowed to our own creation.

        I realize this may be too much ripping apart! It does seem to turn everything upside down! I may have turned into Nietzche …

        I have some more thoughts but I will have to continue later, I have 3 rowdy kids to see to!

        Respectfully,
        Christina

    • rjjwillis says:

      Tony, I have been puzzling over Chritina Hebert’s reply of May 5th. I find it troubling for these reasons.
      1. “I think ‘science is to god’ as ‘scientist is to theologian.'” I don’t accept this equation. Why?–because a scientist employs an inductive method to verify his theories while a theologian uses a deductive method from authoritative–and non-verifiable–first principles.
      2. “‘science as truth’ has always been based on its supposed objectivity.” I don’t accept that. Science as truth is based on it’s verifiability. Scientists form hypotheses which if verified and repeatedly verified support a proposed scientific theory. That theory, that scientific truth, is, however, open to correction by subsequent and new findings.
      3. I do accept that so-called truth is affected in two ways by the observer: a) In the first place no one gets an object objectively; neither a theologian nor a scientist gets his “truth” objectively; all observations are of objects as a subject perceives them; b) In the second place an observer, after observing, may interpret the observation subjectively; this is usually done in order to bolster the credentials of the theory which the observer supports. Both the theologian and the scientist must be aware of a) above when proclaiming “truth.” However, as to b) above, religion is more usually the culprit as by its very existence it is out to support unchallengeable and unverifiable dogmas. Science, at least, must constantly repeat and verfiy, and science does not proclaim absolute and unchallengeable truth.
      4. “…christian theology mostly stems from Philo.” This ia an assertion that needs verifying. I would say that it mostly stems from Augustine. Augustine had two tasks: against the Manichaeans he had to make Christ human; against the Pelagians he had to make Christ divine. It would not be fair to say that augustine turned Christ into an un-human god. It would be truer to say that Philo effected the thinking and practice of the Gnostic Christians more than he did orthodox Christianity.
      5. “…kenosis…’the unmistakeablehallmark of divinity (is it?)…” I would say that it is if we allow a)that we exist, b) that we didn’t iniitate our existence, c) if we know within an inbred urge to live and grow. And until someone can demonstrte to me that matter and energy are NOT convertible, I would maintain that kenosis is the unmistakeable hallmark of matter also.
      6. “‘human beings whose essential nature is emptying out’. . .same kind of logic that led to original sin. . . our flawed human nature.” Hevbert appears to equate “emptying out: with “being flawed.” I don’t when it is an act of love.
      7. “self (because it leads to individual)…” No, ego leads to individual; self leads to community.
      IN conclusion, I found her repsonse provocative, but really not intriguing, for the reasons stated above. Best to all, Bob

      • tonyequale says:

        Bob, Thanks for your thoughtful observations.

        AD 1. I felt that Cristina adduced that proportionality in the simple terms of subject matter and competent practitioner. I don’t think she was focusing on their respective methodologies. But if I were to direct myself to that issue I would agree with you and say that, yes, traditional theology has tried to be very self-consciously deductive, justifying itself by claiming to draw true conclusion from unassailably true premises by a process of flawless logic. But even a cursory reading of Aquinas belies that self-projection, as he actually uses a variety of avenues to arrive at conclusions that were anything but deductive … like the arguments ex convenientia. But aside from that, I personally conceive of a new “theology” as a philosophical interface between the facts and methods of science and the metaphors and rituals of religion. As such, my “theology” proposes to learn from the sciences (including psychology) and the arts (including psychiatry) what the “facts” are about our universe and these human organisms it has extruded by evolution and to use religious metaphors as heuristic guides that encourage the thrust of our relationship to those facts. In this way “theology” evolves from its deductive and scientific pretensions and molts into a discipline and art that works from data and “interprets” scientific facts in a way that makes them usable by relationlly-focused family-dominated human beings. Whether Cristina had all this in mind is less important to me than the evocation of responsibility for the practitioner in each area of concern.

        AD 2 & 3. I completely agree with your clarifications in ## 2 and 3 above. While I think we may understand what she said as “short-hand” for your more complete articulation of it, it is good to be reminded of the limits of what “objectivity”means. It goes only so far; and we need to defend ourselves against the pretensions to “truth” from a runaway scientism almost as much as from the arrogance of religious absolutism which, as you point out, can be much more egregiously self-serving. Thank you for the reminder and the clear exposition.

        AD 4. The followers of Jesus were all Jews, even Hellenizers like Paul and “John.” When I look at the sea-change in that branch of Jewish theology that developed in the first or second generations of Christians after the death of Jesus, I see Philo written all over it. I don’t know exactly what Cristina had in mind when she said that. But I know what I have in mind, and it covers the entire field from the metaphorical interpretation of the sciptures which encouraged Christians to find “prophecies” about Jesus everywhere, to the conflation of Plato’s Demiourgos with God’s “Wisdom” and God’s “Word” in the OT. It was Philo who used the stoic term “Logos” for this “first-born of creation” through whom all things were made. It was Philo as the spokesperson for a Hellenized diaspora Judaism that created the first and definitive break from Talmudic thinking and started Christians down the long Greek road. Augustine “organized” 350 years of Philo-Platonic syncretism that had already made Christianity almost unrecognizable as a Jewish progeny by the time the Vandals sacked Rome in 410.

        AD 5. I am confused. The point of my remarks was EXACTLY that “kenosis is the unmistakable hall mark of matter.” I was trying to evoke for religiously educated readers that there are things that suggest that “God” is “matter” or, less jarringly, that material energy is divine … in the terms our tradition uses for “divinity.” I was not trying to define “God.”

        AD 6 & 7. How she understands “kenosis” may not be clear. What is clear to me, in any case, is what I mean, namely that if “matter” is kenotic, then we, who are matter, find our fulfillment in being what we are … which is, like “God,” kenotic: i.e., generous, forgiving, creative, compassionate, self-transcending, self-donating, self-emptying. Being “kenotic” is the polar opposite to “rugged individualism” and the solipsist, navel-gazing, self-centered self-absorption that is the product of the “doctrine of original sin.”

        Thanks for the chance for further reflection on these questions

        Tony

      • Christina Hebert says:

        Bob,

        My intentions were neither … apologies for any offense. My response is tailored to your #s.

        Tony,

        I realized, after posting, that I did not explain a couple things very well. I will try to clear some things up now, and thank you for organizing my thoughts in your response!

        (5,6,7)
        First, I failed to finish this thought …
        “Once self-aware I become aware of others … “self-emptying” is done continuously as is “self-filling” … I give to others what I have to give. Awareness of self and others is very important because it is the precursor to community and relationships.” ***** These are a cornerstone for human life, so a “god” that lacks awareness of itself or others might seem quite useless to many. Our interactions are as “aware beings” …. “god” without “thought” would quickly become obsolete because it lacks a function in our lives. We should not dismiss our ancestral beliefs about god; they had a purpose that seemed logical at the time.******

        Now, I am not sure yet how to address your thoughts on the ‘kenosis’ issue, but I will, hopefully, clarify mine. Although I understand Tony’s reasoning, Leon was right on, when he mentions that the use of “self” in regard to Tony’s notion of “god” could be problematic in that it circles back to anthropomorphism. I bridged their two concepts of kenosis while extending Leon’s “self” argument to that of humanity. (LEON AND TONY, I SHOULD HAVE MADE THIS CLEAR, SORRY) Tony describes “god’s” nature as kenotic; Leon describes human nature as kenotic! My only proposal was that this was similar to original sin theology is that they both assume the same premise; both “god” and “human” have an essential nature. Stemming from this “first notion” we have human and god with the same nature rather than opposing natures. I was not clear, obviously, but in no way ARE HUMANS INTRINSICALLY FLAWED. I have spent a lot of time and effort in trying to understand the ridiculous doctrine of original sin and to make sense of the damage it has done.

        Tony mentioned a scarring from our current traditions. I referred to this because I assert that “finding” the concept of “emptying out” AS the hallmark of divine or human nature is a result of our Christian tradition. What I am saying is subtle …. but what are we first? … a constant giving of ourselves is not what we need in order to be full, complete beings … no one discovers this through doing for others ONLY. Could this be a “scar” of original sin in that we assume the only “religious” or GOOD acts/thoughts should NEVER focus on ourselves. You mentioned self versus ego … this furthers our war against ourselves. In psychoanalytic theory the SELF is divided into 3, the ego plays the worldly devil, the id is that basic animal urge we have to control and the superego is what? our goal of perfection? Why? If to be selfish is the ultimate N0-NO then we are already empty.

        You want a demonstration that energy and matter are not convertible to disprove your belief in the kenotic nature of matter? If I have understood this correctly, I will first say that your belief in science extends beyond the scientific method. I am not sure there is a way to ‘demonstrate’ a process that does not happen … but since everything is energy, including matter, which is a condensed form of energy, I do agree with you that they are convertible. Of course, keeping in mind that the transformation we refer to is in form only, not essence.

        (4)
        Everything I write, like everyone else, is my opinion. Science is just like religion in this regard: there is no way to verify an opinion … but the terminology they use make us believe there is. Scientists learned this from theologians. I am getting ahead of myself … but to reiterate, it is not that you questioned my reference to Philo, but that you needed verification of its truth. This is the heart of my theory, which is that our created entities for evaluating the world are trapping us into thinking destructively. With the belief in an ultimate truth, whether it is Philo’s contribution to Christian theology or matter’s kenosis, or God, all else becomes an ultimate lie. Please do not be offended in any way, I have also thought this way my whole life. It took seeing the dogma in science for me to come to this conclusion. Tony’s writing, among many, helped me sort through some of this.

        TONY, I also “see Philo written all over it.” Christian theology, I mean. I had not thought about his influence on the “prophecies” though that makes sense! It was, as you said, his “logos” term (stoic, Greek, like you said) for the first creation, his embarrassment of the human Yahweh, to list a few. So, when I was reading, ‘something’ about your forms of expression made me think about the eastern church, it is more mystical …. I now wonder if there is less or more Philo influence there. Then I remembered reading about the Arabic new testament, when it is translated, “manifestation” is used instead of “the word” … so, when reading “john” using manifestation it “reads to me” similarly to your The Energy to Exist..

        (1,2,3)

        True objectivity is equivalent to the ultimate truth. It can and should always be used as a guide and goal but the BELIEF in it’s attainment must BE LET GO OF. It is unnecessary to distinguish between inductive and deductive methods, not only because science and religion use both, but because when we realize everything is a theory or hypothesis and all is subject to change by “new findings” we can think more clearly.

        Although I agree with you about verification playing a central role in science, I will stick to my initial statement; objectivity is the “truth” that science seeks. Religion, after science took over truth, seeks “love” by equating it to God. An ultimate love … which IS beautiful, but encompassed within religion, each one with it’s own “method” of obtainment …. we know better now. What IS hard to see is that science is the child of religion. I am beginning to wonder if anyone else has seen this …

        FINALLY, I do hope this; you will not find my response provocative. Intriguing, perhaps? One can hope.

        Respectfully,
        Christina

  3. tonyequale says:

    Leon, Cristina, Bob, Mon., May 14

    Thanks for your contributions to this discussion. I am only intervening at this point to emphasize the semantic nature of many of the difficulties we have in communicating. The “scarring” to which I referred, is the permanent humanoid imagery with which the word “God” has been saddled. I was not talking about any other kind of scarring. I put the “G” word in quotes in order to evoke the fact that it is a metaphor for something about which we know nothing.

    “Self-” is a phenomenological descriptor of what we perceive as a relational attitude of donation on the part of matter’s energy. It has a similar problem. It is meant to indicate OUR necessary perception AS RECIPIENTS of the “direction” of availability of matter’s energy; it is not meant to make any metaphysical claims of any kind.

    The “divine” characteristics of matter’s energy — one of which is kenosis — is not an attempt to come up with a new definition of “God.” It is rather intended to encourage the application of our sense of the sacred to the real source of our existence — to give our sense of the sacred a new and utterly undefinable proper object. The point is to provide a credible competitor for the entourage of notions associated with the “G” word. To call it “God” without serious qualification vitiates the effort entirely, for it suggests material energy is exactly the rational and humanoid thing that I am trying to get away from.
    I realize that I can be accused of “not qualifying” sufficiently whenever the “G” word is used. I will try to be more careful. But it is not always possible to get all the nuances in on-the-fly, i.e., when the word occurs subordinate to another idea. I was hoping the two later posts, 5/5 and 5/12 as well as my response to Leon’s comment, would make up for any lack of clarity in the “Energy to exist” post.

    Thanks for your forbearance and for pointing to the lack of clarity.

    Tony

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