Who is God? (Introduction)

by David Turell @, Tuesday, December 15, 2020, 21:25 (316 days ago)

Words cannot describe Him:

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/quantum-mechanics-the-mind-body-problem-and-...

"Philosophy addresses questions that probably can’t be solved, now or ever. Examples (and these are of course debatable, some philosophers and scientists insist that science can answer all questions worth asking): Why is there something rather than nothing? Does free will exist? How does matter make a mind? What does quantum mechanics mean?

***

"When I say a problem is unsolvable, I don’t mean we should abandon it. Far from it. I love reading, writing and arguing about intractable puzzles. For example, I don’t believe in God, certainly not the God of my Catholic childhood. But I enjoy smart, imaginative theology (defined as the study of God) in the same way that I enjoy good science fiction. Two of my favorite theologians are physicist Freeman Dyson and psychedelic adventurer Terence McKenna.

***

"I’m especially fond of what is known as negative theology. Negative theology assumes that God exists but insists that He/She/It/They transcends human language and concepts. Negative theologians try to say—over and over again, and sometimes with great eloquence—what they acknowledge cannot be said.

"Negative theology is an outgrowth of mysticism. Mystical experiences, as defined by William James in The Varieties of Religious Experience, possess two seemingly contradictory properties. They are on the one hand “noetic,” that is, you feel you are gaining profound insight into and knowledge of reality. They are on the other hand “ineffable,” meaning you cannot convey your revelation in words.

"Mystical aphorisms often emphasize ineffability. “He who knows, does not speak,” the ancient Chinese sage Lao Tzu says, violating his own dictum. “He who speaks, does not know.” Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, a medieval monk, describes mystical knowledge as being “at one with Him Who is indescribable.”

***

"But I’ve also become increasingly wary of our craving for absolute knowledge, and absolute certainty, especially when it comes to riddles like what is reality and what are we. People convinced that they possess ultimate knowledge can become self-righteous fanatics, capable of enslaving and exterminating others in the name of truth.

"Negative theology helps us avoid fanaticism by keeping us humble. We acknowledge, as an axiom, that ultimate truth will always elude us. Those who have a hard time accepting this anti-truth—and hence the premise of negative theology—should keep two points in mind. First, if we cannot grasp ultimate truth, we can pursue it forever, never losing sight of the mystery at the heart of things.

"Second, I’m not proposing negative theology as a model for science as a whole. Science has answered, conclusively, many questions, and it will answer many more, including, I hope, those listed at the beginning of this column. Problems related to infectious disease, mental illness, climate change and war will surely yield to dogged empirical inquiry. Although science will never entirely explain reality, it can make it more bearable."

Comment: this discussion is exactly on point with Adler's admonition that in thinking about God, realize He is a person like no other person. That is why I reject any sense of humanizing Him in discussions about what He did/does and why He did/does it.

Who is God?

by George Jelliss ⌂ @, Crewe, Saturday, February 06, 2021, 15:17 (264 days ago) @ David Turell

I agree with a lot of what Horgan says.
But I don't think a sense of mystery can be interpreted as a god belief.
I wrote a poem on the subject years ago:

MYSTERY

Mystery,
The magic word,
That with its peaceful black, starred cloth
Confounds the reasoned mind
Deceives the teeming brain
And stems the flood of thought.

Mankind has ever sought
For ends, but sought in vain
For ends are undefined;
Mere shadow-play of paradox,
Of formless shape,
Absurd

Evolved
From cell to ape
Though higher yet we strain
To scale perfection's peak
Before we end the human tale
Of ever-restless search

Fear not, no creed or church
Of truth or grace can hold the grail
For, ever though we seek,
For ever will remain
Some unsolved
Mystery


This has gone through several versions, and I'm still not happy with it,
but it is the best I can offer at the moment.

It is only if you have a sense of mystery, as Newton did,
that you can continue discovering new things.

--
GPJ

Who is God?

by David Turell @, Saturday, February 06, 2021, 18:59 (264 days ago) @ George Jelliss

George:I agree with a lot of what Horgan says.
But I don't think a sense of mystery can be interpreted as a god belief.
I wrote a poem on the subject years ago:

MYSTERY

Mystery,
The magic word,
That with its peaceful black, starred cloth
Confounds the reasoned mind
Deceives the teeming brain
And stems the flood of thought.

Mankind has ever sought
For ends, but sought in vain
For ends are undefined;
Mere shadow-play of paradox,
Of formless shape,
Absurd

Evolved
From cell to ape
Though higher yet we strain
To scale perfection's peak
Before we end the human tale
Of ever-restless search

Fear not, no creed or church
Of truth or grace can hold the grail
For, ever though we seek,
For ever will remain
Some unsolved
Mystery


This has gone through several versions, and I'm still not happy with it,
but it is the best I can offer at the moment.

It is only if you have a sense of mystery, as Newton did,
that you can continue discovering new things.


George: Thank you for this wonderful contribution. I'm always filled with a sense of wonder and mystery.

Who is God?

by dhw, Sunday, February 07, 2021, 10:55 (263 days ago) @ George Jelliss

GEORGE: I agree with a lot of what Horgan says.
But I don't think a sense of mystery can be interpreted as a god belief.
I wrote a poem on the subject years ago:

MYSTERY

Mystery,
The magic word,
That with its peaceful black, starred cloth
Confounds the reasoned mind
Deceives the teeming brain
And stems the flood of thought.
Mankind has ever sought
For ends, but sought in vain
For ends are undefined;
Mere shadow-play of paradox,
Of formless shape,
Absurd

Evolved
From cell to ape
Though higher yet we strain
To scale perfection's peak
Before we end the human tale
Of ever-restless search

Fear not, no creed or church
Of truth or grace can hold the grail
For, ever though we seek,
For ever will remain
Some unsolved
Mystery

This has gone through several versions, and I'm still not happy with it,
but it is the best I can offer at the moment.
It is only if you have a sense of mystery, as Newton did,
that you can continue discovering new things.

DAVID: Thank you for this wonderful contribution. I'm always filled with a sense of wonder and mystery.

Thanks from me too, George. You’ve captured the essence of our quest and of the feelings that have inspired it. And I completely agree with your introductory remark concerning mystery and a “God belief”. When circumstances (e.g. funerals) have compelled me to attend a church service (pre-Covid), I have always felt the urge to shout out some of the sentiments you’ve expressed so clearly.

I hope it won’t seem churlish if I pick on two things that didn’t seem to me to fit in. I don’t think mystery ever “stems the flood of thought”. I’d say it’s the contrary, and your brilliant poem is proof of that! And I don’t know why the last verse begins with “Fear not”. Those who cling to their different fixed beliefs - and I include the atheist faith that all the mysteries will one day be explained by “natural” reasons - think they have found a solution to the mysteries. Maybe in some cases, they cling to these beliefs because otherwise they would be afraid. (I love the neutrality of “creed” here!) Tiny, tiny cavils amid paeans of agnostic praise. Thank you again.

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