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Does the Divine exist ?

prolegomena to a possible religious philosophy

© Wim van den Dungen
Antwerp, 2014.


Can the transcendent be conceptualized ? No. Is the world conserved & intelligently designed ? Yes. Is there gnosis beyond atheism & agnosticism ? Yes.


"Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muß man schweigen."
Wittgenstein, L. : Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, 7.


Table of Contents

Abstract
Introduction

1. Windows on the traditional proofs of God.

1.1 Aristotle on the Supreme Being.
1.2 To battle over universals.
1.3 Anselm of Canterbury's ontological proof.
1.4 The "quinque viis" of Thomas Aquinas.
1.5 Ockham's first Conserver.
1.6 Cusanus and the coincidentia oppositorum.
1.7 The Cartesian proofs of God.
1.8 David Hume and the cause of order.
1.9 Kant and the architect of the world.

2. A revised ontological proof of Divine existence ?

2.1 Kant and the ontological proof.
2.2 Phenomenology and the question of Being.
2.3 The logic of the revised proof.
2.4 Process philosophy and God.
2.5 The a priori argument rejected.

3. Towards an exposure of the Divine.

3.1 The Münchhausen-trilemma in science & religion.
3.2 The genetic approach to knowledge.
3.3 The argument from design - the anthropic principle.
3.4 The "Anima Mundi" and the worship of Nature.
3.5 Memorial & wager-argument of Pascal.
3.6 Uncertain objectivity in authentic existence.
3.7 Objective chance.
3.8 The case of Raja Yoga.
3.9 The God-spot : a brain wired for the Divine.
3.10 Atheism - agnosticism - gnosis.

Bibliography


Abstract

Can logical atheists, arguing against the existence of the Divine, be refuted ? Can the concept of a theist, omnipotent, omniscient & transcendent God be made meaningless ? Is a rational discourse on the Divine possible ? Answering these three questions with a yes is the aim of this essay.

Studying movement, Aristotle conjectured a Supreme Being. Rooted in fideism and Platonism, Anselm of Canterbury tried to prove God's existence a priori, from mere concepts. Thomas Aquinas offered five arguments a posteriori intended to help believers apologize Divine existence by observing the world. Like Ockham, Kant argued with success the impossibility of any possible proof of a transcendent God, but like the Franciscan, accepted a highest cause in the finite order of actual things. Although no definite concept of it is possible, its greatness, intelligence and conserving power can be admired.

What formerly was called "cognitio experimentalis Dei", although deemed possible, is limited by genetico-cognitive criteria, leading up to a "desperate leap" (Kant) or a "leap of faith" (Kierkegaard), and a reevaluation of the "psychic mechanism" (Breton) advocated by surrealism and put into practice by the Dadaists. First Patañjali's yoga is taken as a historical, non-Western, example of a common religious practice of spiritual emancipation and experience, and then the neurological structures computing this are referenced.

These considerations lead to a re-evaluation of "atheism" and "agnosticism", bringing to the fore the quest for a gnostic (Hermetical) interpretation of the existence of the Divine, in terms of an immanent metaphysics of becoming (cf. Whitehead) and a henotheist pan-en-theism. The experience of the unity of the world serves as the exclusive stepping-stone to a non-conceptual, mystical experience of outwordliness and transcendence. These exceptional experiences, so do mystics testify, may be poured in non-propositional statements of the most sublime poetic excellence, exemplaric of God. This pataphysics is suggestive, intimate, subtle, tactful and non-directive. True religion is applied poetry.


Introduction

"How can cosmic religious feeling be communicated from one person to another, if it can give rise to no definite notion of a God and no theology ? In my view, it is the most important function of art and science to awaken this feeling and keep it alive in those who are receptive to it."
Einstein, A. : "Religion and Science", New York Times Magazine , 9 XI 1930.

§ 1

According to Sextus Empiricus, it was the skeptic Pyrrho of Elis (ca. 365 - 275 BCE) who taught that conflicts between two (or more) criteria of truth automatically lead to an apory or an antinomy, i.e. a contradiction posed by a group of individually plausible but collectively inconsistent propositions. The truth of a given criterion can only be argued using true propositions. But, whenever a given criterion is justified, a petitio principii or circular argument is involved. Discussions about the criterion of truth are therefore unending and without solution.

This holds true within and between the monotheist religions, based on a criterion of truth rooted in a particular "revelation" of "God", called "Adonai" by the Jews, "Father" by the Christians and "Allah" by the Muslims.

Ad intra. Catholics claim the New Testament is true because Jesus and the authors of these books were inspired by the Holy Spirit and thus expressed the "Word of God". Because of this, the New Testament is absolutely true (Ratzinger : Dominus Iesus, § 8). But why believe God is the author, and not some malin génie ? Because these books say so. Muslims claim the Koran is the last and most true revelation of God. Why ? Because God said this to His prophet Muhammad. How do we know this ? Because the Koran says so, and authors claiming the presence of Satanic verses in it should be executed.

Ad extra. As major differences between these faiths occur, no truth-bearing communication is possible between them, for none will relinquish the "sacred" set of beliefs adhered to, and this despite the conflicts with the other revelations (of the same God). For example, the ontological identity between Jesus Christ and God will never be accepted by the Jews and the Muslims, whereas the revelation of the Koran to Muhammad by God will never be accepted by the Christians, who see Christ as the fulfillment of Judaism. Neither is it likely for them to ever change their core dogma's. Because of this, in every communication, an implicate, silent and hidden a-symmetry will be maintained by both sides, each considering the other as holding a lesser truth, a lesser view on God. Hence, only strategic action is possible, but truth-bearing communicative deeds are out of the question.

This emphatically points to the pivotal importance of science in a possible religious philosophy, for ecumenism is bound to book marginal advances only, which, given the popularity of the Abrahamic "religions of the book", nevertheless may be of crucial practical significance (like peace).

§ 2

The existence of God is the propositional core of the doctrine of theology. God is not merely symbolical, but always theo-ontological, not only restricted to myth, language and mentalities, but involving nature, humanity and the future of creation. One cannot worship God if there is not something worthy to be worshipped. To not take the proposition "God exists" literally, is equal to not believing in the existence of God, which is the thesis of historical atheism. The matter of God's existence is the core dogma of all possible theologies and its "proof" the task of religious philosophy.

To facilitate the entire argument, let us avoid a relative treatment of the subject, i.e. one posited from the perspective of a single theological system of beliefs among many. Hence, in what follows, "the Divine" is divorced from the exclusive milieu of Abrahamic monotheocentrism (Judaism, Christianity, Islam). The question is not : "Does the God of Abraham exist ?", but : "Does the Divine exist ?". This intention calls into being the "fuzzy" set called "Divine", encompassing all possible supernatural entities (like the Abrahamic God, Hindu, Jain, Shinto, Taoist, Shamanist Divinities, etc.), as well as all natural entities with unequivocal supernatural capacities (like the Buddha, Guru's, Masters, etc.). Logical concerns thus invite the non-casual use of the word "God", suggestive of historical monotheocentrism and religious philosophy (cf. the "God of the Philosophers").

Hence, the words "Divine" and "Divinity" will cover monotheism, henotheism and polytheism, yes, even non-theist Buddhism. The complete fuzzy set of the Divine is targeted when we ask : "Does God exist ? Do Gods exist ? Does the Buddha exist ?", in short : "Does the Divine exist ?" Atheism then, is the denial of Divine existence, exceeding the rejection of the Abrahamic, sole God Alone, but covering the whole range of mystical, religious and spirito-communal phenomena in all religions of all times. To better identify the contents of this fuzzy set, let us distinguish between four historical theo-ontological models of the Divine :

  1. Semitic model : God is One & Alone. He, the sole God, is an unknown and unknowable Divine Person, Who Wills good & evil alike (cf. Judaism & Islam), calling man to do what is good ;

  2. Greek model : God is a Principle of principles, the best of the best (Plato), the unmoved mover (Aristotle), the One even ecstasy does not reveal, impersonal and in no way evil or tainted by absence or privation of being (Plotinus), the First Intellect (Ibn Sina), a "God of the philosophers" (Whitehead). This abstract God figures in intellectual theologies, in humanism & in atheism. In the latter, by the "alpha privativum" of the Divine, as in a-theism, an absolute term is produced, but this time by negation instead of by affirmation ;

  3. Christian model : God is One essence in Three Persons : God the Father revealed by God's incarnated Son, Jesus Christ, because, in and with God the deifying Holy Spirit. A God of Love, never impersonal, always without evil (pure of heart) and sole cause of goodness (Christianity) ;

  4. Oriental model : God, The All, is One sheer Being present in every part of creation in terms of a manifold of impersonal & personal Divine Self-manifestations (theophanies), as we see in Ancient Egypt, Alexandrian Hermetism (gnosis), Paganism, Hinduism (Vedanta), Taoism & Hermeticism.

§ 3

Also in science, the problems posed by skepticism had to be addressed. Especially since Kant, the question "What can I know ?" has been crucial. The apory between "realism" and "idealism" (cf. Rules) is also without final result. The foundational approach favored since the Greeks has caused a pendulum movement between two criteria of truth (consensus versus correspondence). To move beyond this, the antinomic problems of justificationism (foundational, fundamentalist thinking within science) must be clear : if, on the one hand, real "sense data" are the only building-blocks of "true" knowing, as realism maintains, then why is the definition of the word "sense datum" not a sense datum ? Also : how can a "naked" or "raw" sense datum be observed if our mental framework co-constitutes our observation ? If, on the other hand, ideal linguistic symbols and speech-situations are the exclusive arena of truth, as idealism maintains, then how can knowledge be knowledge if it is in no way knowledge of something (i.e. a "res" and not only "flatus voci") ?

A focus of truth "behind the mirror" (as Kant put it) comes within reach if and only if both perspectives, experiment (correspondence, objectivity) and argumentation (consensus, intersubjectivity) are used together, and this in a regulative, non-constitutive (unfoundational) way. The criterion of truth is not justified by a sufficient ground outside knowledge, but by discovering the normative principles governing all possible knowledge. The latter are bi-polar but interactive and never exclusive, as 19th century, Newtonian scientific thinking claimed. Insofar as either realism or idealism are accepted, the logical problems of science's truth claim do not exceed the religious criterion of truth. It cannot escape the apory as long as it identifies with objectivity at the expense of subjectivity and intersubjective symbolization (as in logical positivism, materialism, scientism, instrumentalism, reductionism and epiphenomenalism) or with subjectivity and intersubjective symbolic activities with disregard for entities independent of the human sphere (as in spiritualism). Facts are not only experimental and not only argumentative. Empirico-formal object-knowledge is always the product of two vectors at work simultaneously. Not because of some ulterior reason, but because it must be so and has always been so.

The problems of foundational thinking are summarized by the Münchhausen-trilemma. It proves how every possible kind of foundational strategy is logically flawed. For every time a theory of knowledge accommodates the postulate of foundation, three equally unacceptable situations occur. A justification of proposition P is a deduction with P as conclusion. How extended must this deductive chain be in order to justify P ?

  1. regressus ad infinitum :
    there is no end to the justification, and so no foundation is found ;

  2. petitio principii :
    the end is implied by the beginning, for P is part of the deduction ; circularity is a valid deduction but no justification of P, hence no foundation is found ;

  3. abrogation ad hoc :
    justification is ended ad hoc, the postulate of justification is abrogated, and the unjustified sufficient ground is accepted because as it is so certain, it needs no justification.

Kant's epistemology is a attempt to adhere to the postulate of foundation, for synthetic judgments a priori are rooted in the cognitive, categorial apparatus of the subject of experience, without which no thinking is possible. These categories hold true for the object of experience insofar as this object is constituted in observation by our capacity of observation and knowledge. For Kant, scientific knowledge (empirico-formal propositions) does not deal with reality-as-such, but with reality-for-us. However, as relativity & quantum mechanics disagree with the principles of Newtonian physics Kant thought to be anchored in our minds, it becomes clear these categories are not absolutely certain and not a priori. Kant's attempt to anchor science failed.

It took more than a century before the antinomy between realism and idealism was critically superseded by a normative theory on the possibility and the production of knowledge. In contemporary scientific practice, scientific facts are the outcome of two simultaneous vectors, on the one hand, objective experiments and their repetition, and, on the other hand, intersubjective communication between the community of sign-interpreters. Logic provides a few a priori conditions, related to form, clarity and elegance of the symbols of the theory. Epistemology adds a few objective and intersubjective criteria and the local research-unit will foster a series of a posteriori rules of thumb. Nevertheless, despite all possible care, scientific knowledge cannot be absolutist or radical, but instead delicate, prudent & provisional.

Hence, empirico-formal knowledge, or knowledge of facts, is conditional, relative, hypothetical and historical, although a clear theory, explaining lots of phenomena will (provisionally) always be called "true", meaning "very probable", not "certain". A set of such theories will constitute a tenacious scientific paradigm, covering entities which "kick" and "kick back". But things may change ...

"It is an hypothesis that the sun will rise tomorrow : and this means that we do not know whether it will rise."
Wittgenstein, L. : Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, 6.36311.

§ 4

Historical atheism, the proposition denying the existence of the Divine, has attacked its counter-thesis on several fronts :

  1. theology :
    There are conflicting revelations and faiths. This makes every fundamental theology trivial ;

  2. theodicy :
    If the Divine is deemed good, then the massive amount of evil history records could not exist, so the Divine is nonexistent ;

  3. irrationality :
    The theologies of the world evidence triviality, lack of elegance, inefficiencies, major contradictions and apories, absence of fact and poor argumentation, in short : irrationality ;

  4. criterion of truth :
    A religious criterion of truth cannot be justified, for the attempt will always entail a circular argument ;

  5. logic :
    It can logically be demonstrated the existence of the Divine is either an empty set or untrue.

  6. science :
    The existence of the Divine is not corroborated by contemporary science.

Contra 1

In a philosophical context, fundamental theology is unnecessary. The revelations and their dogmatic theologies are not the only possible superstructures of direct spiritual experience. Conflicts between superstructures prove the point of mysticology : the phenomena of spirituality have to be put in the center, not their symbolization. Fundamental theologies are indeed trivial. Moreover, they are the origin of fanaticism, closed mindedness, reactionary reflexes and misplaced conservatism. In the context of monotheism, they have been the cause of too many bloody conflicts. Religious philosophy in tune with reason is deeply "protestant", and thus against the canonization and eternalization of spiritual symbolizations, instead promoting the idea of permanent revolution and personal experience.

Contra 2

Directed against Christianity, this argument is valid and strong. The goodness of God cannot be reconciled with the massive presence of evil and death, despite Christ. Tertullian's "Credo quia absurdum est" is the only escape for Christian philosophy, for all the rest is vanity. The just order of the good God and the NAZI death camps form an eternal conflict. Unfortunately, the latter were real.

A religious philosophy in harmony with reason will necessarily have to accept the evil, dark side of the Divine. Divine wrath cannot be avoided if we wish to understand why omnipotence allows us to suffer as we do. To acknowledge this dark side, does not negate the possibility of Divine goodness. Instead of the Platonic "agathon", a balance of Divine attributes prevails. To confess a theological impasse, no "mysterium inequitatis" needs to be invoked. The inability to escape this dead-end, causes a spiritual standstill, a dangerous deadlock in which most world religions fossilize.

Contra 3

Irrationality implies an open conflict with reason. This can be in terms of the norms of thought, affect and action, trivial complexities, multiplication of entities or operators, lack of elegance, inefficient paraconsistency, major contradictions and apories. Irrationality may also manifest as absence of fact and/or poor argumentation.

Unfortunately, in terms of the questio facti, the religions have indeed excelled in irrationality. This has many causes. A religious philosophy has to pose the questio iuris, and first investigate the possibility of a possible knowledge of the Divine. The fact most (if not all) world religions failed to ask about their proper limitations, does not imply religious philosophy has to follow their example, quite on the contrary. The challenge is this : is true religious knowledge possible ? If we limit ourselves to history, the answer will surely be negative.

Contra 4

As long as this argument is raised in the context of the foundational view on science, it may cause harm in all forms of religious knowledge, for its logic is flawless. Circular arguments cannot justify knowledge, but nothing can. If this is not understood, and reality (or ideality) is deemed the rock bottom of knowledge, i.e. a sufficient ground to stop the chain of justification ad hoc, then the circular arguments of fundamental theology are considered inferior to those of science. Then science becomes the only game leading up to true propositions, either as "real facts" or as "ideal symbols". Epistemology has made null the pretence to absolute knowledge, i.e. the complete identity between "real" and "ideal", between "experiment" and "theory".

Scientific knowledge is a system of empico-formal propositions involving "facts" produced by an experimental set-up and a chain of dialogal processes, both strategic and communicative. Besides scientific knowledge, metaphysics speculates to arrive at a global perspective on the world. Being no longer the foundation of science, metaphysics aims to understand the world and man, feeding its arguments with scientific facts, the condensation of the activity of objective and (inter)subjective principles, norms & maxims. Situated "next" to "physics" (or science), speculative philosophy is meta-physics, the inescapable background of all possible scientific knowledge. The demarcation between both is clear, for science is testable and arguable, whereas metaphysics is only subject to the laws of logic and argumentation. Metaphysics is speculative and argumentative, but never experimental and factual.

We define "rationality" as the set of cogitationes uniting three subsets :

  1. normative philosophy :
    the normative disciplines delving up the principles governing thought (epistemology), affect (esthetics) & action (ethics) ;

  2. scientific knowledge :
    all empirico-formal propositions which are probably true in most tests (regulated by the idea of correspondentio) and for most concerned sign-interpreters (regulated by the ideal of a consensus omnium), but never absolutely true ;

  3. metaphysics :
    all speculative propositions which have been the subject of a dialogal & argumentative process (argued plausibly, i.e. backed by arguments).

Religious knowledge is not necessarily anchored in a sufficient ground. If so, circularity ensues. Like scientific knowledge, it is the outcome of objective and subjective states, conditions and symbols. Just as scientific knowledge changes and evolves, so may our insights of the spiritual world grow and emancipate.

Contra 5

If the existence of the Divine is kept outside the set of facts (the "world" in scientific terms), then it is deemed exclusively apophatic, or object of un-saying only. For to those accepting the definition of rationality as the union of normative, scientific and metaphysical knowledge, this exclusive apophatism holds the thesis of the meta-rationality of religion. Then, even metaphysics would be unable to say anything sensible about the Divine, making religious philosophy impossible.

"How things are in the world is a matter of complete indifference for what is higher. God does not reveal himself in the world."
Wittgenstein, L. : Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, 6.632.

The thesis of the meta-rationality of religion can never be put to the test, for according to the thesis, there will never be a fact (in the world) able to objectify the Divine. Likewise, nothing can be said about the Divine, and so no argumentation is possible. The "thesis" is thus not even metaphysical. Logically, this implies the Divine and the empty set are identical. If such exclusive apophatism is maintained, the conclusion of logical atheism is indeed inevitable : the Divine does not exist, for this fuzzy set is not a normative principle (it is not clear how the denial of the Divine involves a contradictio in actu exercito), not a fact of the world, nor a possible concept in an argumentative metaphysical discourse.

Even ps-Dionysius paired apophatism with the kataphasis of the Divine in the world. For the mystics of many religions (but not so for theologians and fundamentalists), Divinity is simultaneously far and near, remote and close. This bi-polarity, the two "eyes" of the Divine, makes logical atheism impossible. Of course, the burden of proof now falls on religious philosophy to demonstrate how the presence of the Divine in the world, Divinity-as-fact, can be a valid hypothesis one may put to the test and argue about.

The theologies accept the katapathic side of the polarity, for otherwise they have nothing to reveal. They eternalize a series of propositions and negate all other possible theophanies. To succeed, they must believe to possess a superior revelation. Even if they accept other (conflicting) revelations (i.e. the Divine as experienced by other believers), they must eventually consider theirs as better and the last word to be said about the matter. This is the hallmark of fundamentalism.

If, avoiding logical atheism, we accept to give factual contents to the Divine, then religious philosophy is burdened to provide the answer to the question : How are Divine facts produced ? If no experiments are possible and/or dialogue is always power-driven, then it is clear that, for the time being, we act "as if" the proposition "The Divine does not exist." is true. For, ex hypothesi, the Divine is not only a speculative object of metaphysics, but also part of the world as a radical experience "totaliter aliter". If conflicting theological foundations may lead to the same spiritual datum, then how to (in the stage of theory formation) isolate genuine spiritual facts and define the Divine in terms remaining close to the phenomenology of its direct experience (mysticism) ? These terms are not to be derived from religious superstructures, although they can never be completely devoid of theoretical connotations. Perhaps religious philosophy may provide a minimal framework derived from the principles of participant observation and critical hermeneutics ?

Suppose the Divine is nowhere found. What does this imply ? Only that for the moment science finds it highly unlikely for the Divine to exist. Just as it is improbable for the Sun not to rise tomorrow. This is something else than certainty, which is not provided by scientific knowledge. As we do not know for certain the Sun will rise tomorrow in the same way as we know it rose yesterday, another question is : How is the Divine probable ?

In short : the factuality of the Divine negates logical atheism, placing the burden of proof on all spiritual people. If the latter are unable to back their musings, based on the fundamental proposition ("The Divine exists."), then religion is not an absolute untruth, but, insofar as our knowledge goes, relatively untrue. In the latter case, we can only confirm (for the time being), that the ideas and practices of religions are indeed insignificant and silly. As such, they should not be allowed to play their games, especially politically and education-wise.

Contra 6

So even if the hypothesis stating the disclosure of the Divine is found to be not (yet) factual, we never absolutely know Divinity not to exist, nor whether some day the Divine may indeed become factual. In the supposed case, we only take a bet on a high probability, nothing more.

"Progress in truth -truth of science and truth of religion- is mainly a progress in the framing of concepts, in discarding artificial abstractions or partial metaphors, and in evolving notions which strike more deeply into the root of reality."
Whitehead, A.D. : Religion in the Making, 1926.

The overall probabilism of science has weakened the position of historical atheists persuing the last line of attack, especially the pretentious roarings of logical positivists and materialists. If no certain foundation is given, then no certain conflict with it can be ascertained, and so the thesis of Divine existence cannot be absolutely negated, only relatively. This does not diminish the obvious fact worshipping an entity that very probably does not exist is rather silly and in conflict with scientific rationality. If so, then in no way must this fictional belief be granted constitutional powers or way of law. This does not take away the right of the most bamboozling of faiths to become a pressure group and influence the democratic process.

In short : atheism's proposition ("The Divine does not exist."), if well argued, is as likely as the rising of the Sun tomorrow. But this is not the same as to know for certain and eternalize the nonexistence of the Divine. This certain knowledge falls outside the domain of normative, scientific and metaphysical knowledge, i.e. outside reason. Hence, dogmatical atheism is impossible. But, it is to the spiritualists and a possible religious philosophy to argue why this position is meta-rational rather than irrational (speculative arguments) and how the experience of the Divine can be produced (experiments).

In what follows, the following main ideas recur :

  1. the traditional & revised proofs a priori of God are flawed ;

  2. because of the intrinsic limitations of human cognition, no absolute proof (justification) or disproof of any proposition of fact is possible, not in science, ethics or religion, and this a priori - there is no certainty, only probability ;

  3. a relative, genetico-cognitive justification of knowledge is the applied epistemological corollary of this ;

  4. it is possible to justify the existence of the conserving architect of the world by means of the argument from design and the argument from conservation ;

  5. spirituality is impossible without un choix fondamental ;

  6. the experience of the Divine is dependent of a specific, rather unique psychic mechanism ;

  7. it is possible for the experience of the Divine to be triggered by sustaining this fundamental choice over a long period of time, along with the systematic application of spiritual exercises aimed at the development of the special psychic mechanism of spirituality ;

  8. Yoga is a non-Western, historical example of a testable and arguable spiritual research-unit, operating a meditative protocol rooted in factual neurological knowledge ;

  9. the principles of the scientific study of mysticism are participant observation and the delineation of religious symbols.


HISTORICAL WINDOWS


1. Windows on the traditional proofs of God.

"The proofs of God have an impressive tradition. The greatest minds of humanity have been concerned with this. Their foundations were laid with the 'pagans', Plato and Aristotle ; they became acclimatized in Christianity, particularly through Augustine ; then, in the Middle Ages, extensively systematized by Aquinas ; and freshly thought out in modern times -in connection with Anselm's 'ontological' argument- by Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz and Wolff ; but, after that, they were all involved together in a radical crisis and replaced by Kant with a moral 'postulate', eventually reinterpreted speculatively by Fichte and Hegel and finally restored by neo-Thomism in neo-Scholastic form."
Kung, H. : Does God exist ?, 1980, III.

§ 5

In the West, since Christianity turned imperial (in the first half of the 4th century), the truth of revelation was no longer in doubt, and fideism became the leading mode of thought, enforced de manu militari. Augustine (354 - 430), the bishop of Hippo, affirmed the continuity between rationality (identified with Platonism) and faith, in casu, Christianity. Without (the Christian) God, reason leads to the worship of idols. For him, reason and faith are not in conflict and should not be separated : "itinerarium mentis in Deum". But, the gospels have no philosophy to offer. They provide no rational system, but a proclamation of the "Kingdom of God" (in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ). If the former is a Greek ideal like "agathon" or the unmoved mover, the latter is a revelation of the Divine : a Divine datum. The tensions are obvious. Is reason equipped enough to arrive at a comprehensive explanation of what works ? If so, then no "eye of faith" needs to be postulated. For Tertullian (ca. 220 CE), Christianity abrogated reason, or "worldly wisdom". The folly of faith ?

In the course of Western philosophy, four major positions between "reason" and "faith" came to the fore :

  1. continuity : faith is the accomplishment of reason, the pyramidal capstone finishing its construction ;

  2. separation : faith and reason each belong to separate domains of human knowledge, the former revelational (meta-rational), the latter rational ;

  3. conflict : faith and reason are in conflict, for the former is empty and/or untrue ;

  4. harmonization : meta-rationality and reason are stages in the genetico-cognitive development of the cognitive apparatus, the former being a high-order texture based on stable low-order distinctions or rational categorizations.

Contra 1

Cognitive architecture is not devoid of crucial "leaps", and the considerable differences between reason and meta-rationality (the factual component of "faith" explored in religious philosophy) also point to the fact meta-rationality initiates, besides affectional and volitional novelties, a new cognitive standard of measurement (comparable with the bracketing of the context in the step from pre-operative proto-rationality to operative, rational thought). To do this, the spiritual data were cause of the irreversible crisis and disequilibration of the system (to trigger an autoregulative response). The genesis of human cognition is not a continuity, but a stratified texture, completed in steps and jumps.

Contra 2


If meta-rationality is completely outside rationality, then it lacks an object. Also : the continuum of human knowledge is "broken up", with an enduring polarity between dogma and fact.

Contra 3

Accept, for the sake of argument, science evidences the non-factual nature of the Divine. This means science, by a consilience of inductions, or convergence (quasi verisimilitude) of certain propositions about the order of the world and the place of man in it, considers the existence of the Divine as very unlikely. This statement of probability is not a priori, but a posteriori. These empirico-formal propositions are not based on any sufficient ground, but solely on the product of test and argument. The way we observe the world co-determines how we observe the world, but how the world truly is, so must we think, also feeds our senses. The fact thus ascertained are never absolute or in any way eternal and definitive. It can not be excluded in an absolute way the Divine is not a fact, for scientific knowledge is not certain knowledge but probable knowledge. Moreover, suppose a Divine datum can be isolated, then surely a lower probability has to be calculated and a spiritual research-programme initiated ? Have scientist not dismissed the hypothesis because they considered non-spiritual theories to have given an exhaustive explanation of spirituality ? What if these theories have missed the point ?

Pro 4

Affective, cognitive and moral development happens in stages, as explained elsewhere. Meta-rationality, the stage of Self-actualizing spiration, is not a priori in conflict with reason, but, ex hypothesi, entertains a larger perspective. Because of this aspired openness, unconditionality and continuous possibilities, reason may continue to develop, for a new horizon is always presented and the mental attitude of the beginner is never lost. To seem to return from behind the horizon, from behind the surface of the mirror, is the inspiring and heuristic Pharos of intuition and its intellectual perception (the intellect witnessing itself). Of course, given the criterion of testability, the spiritual datum must be repeatable. This must go hand in hand with a clear and concise theory on spirituality. Otherwise spirituality is a mere fiction (like Hamlet saying : "To be or not to be ...").

De iuris
, reason cannot reject high-order distinctions, although the post-rational stages of human cognition always involve un choix fondamental, i.e. the fact of freedom. There is no coercion in religious philosophy. A rational system cannot function properly without choice. But for each choice there is a price to pay, and is the price for rejecting the amor intellectualis Dei a mental handicap (the "dry bones" of the "nature morte", the horizon of the pigeonhole) ? Logics of finity function properly in imperial, Fregean calculi, but are inefficient, marginal or too static when non-linear, dissipative systems are studied.

This harmony between reason and meta-rationality implies their distinction as well as their being part of the stratification of the proposed modes of cognition (cf. mythical, pre-rational, proto-rational, formal, critical, creative and nondual).

§ 6

Regarding the justification of its truth claim, science developed its argument in three stages :

  1. uncritical & foundational : true knowledge corresponds with real, repeatably observable objects (naive realism under the guise of materialism) or true knowledge is the object of an ideal theory (naive idealism under the guise of spiritualism or ideology). In both strategies, the error consists in the implicate use of the contra-thesis. Real objects are also co-determined by the theoretical connotations of their observers. Ideal objects are always also a "something" outside the grasp of a theoretical discourse. The foundation of science is objectified : the "real" world "out there" or the "ideal" theory of reason ;

  2. critical & foundational : asking for the limitations of human knowledge, Kant rooted cognition in the cognitive apparatus (cf. the Copernican Revolution). In this way, the foundation sought was interiorized and its a priori categorized. By making the ego cogito (the "I Think" or factum rationis) the foundation of knowledge, Kant succeeded in making reality-as-such fall outside science ! Likewise, for Kant, meta-rational knowledge (intellectual perception) was denied to science, which, divorced from any contact with "das Ding an sich", seems trivial. The foundation of science is subjectified (not in an idealism but in a transcendentalism) ;

  3. critical & normative : in the previous century, the foundational approach was relinquished and in this way, the aporia threatening justification was avoided. Science produces empirico-formal propositions treated "as if" they represent a high probability, but never a certain truth. This likelihood is posited by repeatable tests and the intersubjective dialogues and argumentations of all involved sign-interpreters. The end result is fallible knowledge, although highly probable. The existence of the Divine is (very probably) a fact or not. But even if today the Divine is not a fact, It may be one tomorrow.

With the end of foundational thinking, the time of confrontation between incompatible foundations (reason versus faith) is over. Scientific knowledge is probable, historical and relative. Facts may change over time, and nobody is able to predict for certain what the future will bring. Moreover, scientific investigations are always conducted against the background of untestable information. Insofar as the latter is arguable, metaphysics is possible. But the latter is never testable. Finally, who decides who the "involved sign-interpreters" are and/or when a certain threshold is "critical" ? In order to define these and other matters, science evokes a series of a posteriori conditions representing the idiosyncrasies of the local research-unity, the "opportunistic logic" of their fact-factory and the style of their pursuit of scientific, factual knowledge.

Science has no longer a reason a priori against the existence of the Divine. It may, and does move against it a posteriori. If it finds no evidence for Divine existence, then it is entitled to dismiss the hypothesis as very unlikely, and consider Divine worship as silly insofar as it is not deemed fictional (like art). However, "worship" and "fiction" are incompatible. He who worships, truly believes to worship something more than a personal fiction, more than just sacral art. It is this "something more" which religious philosophy must isolate and make available. For it to do so, philosophy and science should remain open and postpone their final judgments. Both must be totally recuperated from the hang-over of their shameful foundational history over the last two millennia. The only role of science is to confirm or deny probable fact. Is "modern" education not meant to dictate the futility of meta-rational knowledge in the light of independent, rational thought ? Suppose it can be demonstrated such bias is precisely what hinders the emergence of the spiritual fact (just as the rejection of independent thought halted science) ?

§ 7

In the Abrahamic faiths, God as Adonai, God as Father and God as Allah is intensely personal and immanent, either in terms of His elect (Israel), of His Son Christ or of His Koran. This One God Alone is omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, transcendent (supernatural), creative and personal (a "He"). He differs from the henotheist "Amun" of Ancient Egypt or the "Brahman" of Hinduism because He is singular (like the Aten of Akhenaten). He does not manifest as other Gods or Goddesses, nor are their appearances His many theophanies. There is no God, but the God.

This monotheocentrism is monolithic. Theology is a petrified entity struck with the unveilings of God. Revelation is a truth of God and hence final. Nevertheless, in order to develop an individual spiritual superstructure or a solid apology to win supporters, rational arguments are necessary and so the need to provide "proof" or "evidence" of God becomes unmistaken.

In what follows, a series of windows are described. Although as such these philosophical speculations are outdated, in each, a "nugget of gold" is isolated and added to the technical apparatus. Together, these assist the argumentation developed in the second and third section, proposing one revised a priori and three a posteriori proofs of the Divine.

1.1 Aristotle on the Supreme Being.

"We hold, then, that the God is a living being, eternal, most good ; and therefore life and a continuous eternal existence belong to the God ; for that is what the God is."
Aristotle : Metaphysica Lambda, XII.VII.9.

§ 8

In chapter 1 of his Metaphysica Lambda (or twelfth book of his Metaphysics), shortly written after Plato (428 - 347 BCE) died, Aristotle (384 - 322 BCE) tries to demonstrate the existence of two physical beings and one unmoved being. These three beings, or meanings of the word "ousia", are : (a) physical and eternal (planets), (b) physical and moved (plants & animals) and (c) a "first" being beyond physics and eternal ("the God"). The first two beings are the objects of physics. The last is not and demands another approach coming "after" and/or next to physics, or metaphysics, a word Aristotle did not coin. "Metaphysics" appeared as a separate discipline only after the Aristotelian corpus was put together by Andronicos of Rhodos (ca. 40 BCE). He used to place the books on metaphysics "next to" those dealing with physics.

In book 6, the existence of the "first being" is discussed. Although physical considerations are also "wisdom", they are not "first". Instead of thinking this eternal being as a transcendent "idea" (as Plato had done), Aristotle tries to develop its meaning by radicalizing his ideas about the physical world. Physics, as conceived by Aristoteles, discovers an eternal movement.

"time seems to be a circle"
Aristotle : Physica, 223b 29.

In Ancient Egypt, creation was also deemed cyclic and eternal. The deities (or natural differentials), except for Osiris, were born, culminated, died and reborn after the model of the Solar cycle. This "time" was called "neheh" or eternal repetition, and contrasted with "djedet" or eternal sameness or everlastingness. This eternal repetition was the "motor" of rejuvenation, as evidenced by the Amduat. The influence of Egyptian thought on certain pre-Socratics was discussed elsewhere. It cannot be excluded the Egypt of Alexander the Great (356 - 323 BCE), influenced Aristotle, although not in the Afrocentric measure evoked by James (1992).

Indeed for Aristotle, there is no creation at all, no autogenous act in precreation, as in Heliopolitan theology. No "Atum" sui generis splitting in space, life and order (Shu and Tefnut), emerging spontaneously from the primordial matrix of endless possibilities (the Nun). The world is eternal. There is no beginning of time. No exploding singularity (cf. the "Big Bang" theory, remaining silent about what happened at t = 0). Both the poets of the gods (like the Egyptians), who claim the world rose "from the night" (or nonexistent precreation) and the philosophers of nature, who say all things are simultaneous, are wrong.

In De Caelo, Aristotle writes :

"The actualization of the God is immortality, in other words, an eternal life. Hence, it is necessary that there is an eternal movement in the God. Because heaven is of that nature -for it is a Divine body- therefore it has a circular body, by nature always moving in a circle."
Aristotle : De Caelo, 286a 9 - 12.

His demonstration of the Divine involves the justification of this eternal movement (of the world), and this in a necessary and thus not-contingent way. In terms of the famous Peripatetic pair potency versus actuality, this means "the God" is devoid of latency, fully awake, conscious and actualized. As it is possible to think potency as nonexistent, the principle of movement must be "pure" act, or realization without potency and without matter. The principle sought is immaterial & spiritual. It is not necessarily transcendent, as the Stoic "pneuma" proves.

In book 8 of his Physica, the existence of a first mover is justified by considering an infinite, horizontal series of mediating causes cannot be accepted. If every thing moved is caused to move by something else, then the first mover moves itself. This is the concept of the unmoved mover. This mover is not a point of beginning in time, but the sufficient ground of all movement. In De Anima, we read how the "Nous poiètikos" (430a 18) or "active intellect" stands on its own, cannot be influenced, is unmingled and in essence realization (pure actuality). It is inevitable to accept this unmoved mover, not only by the necessities of our mind, i.e. in order to arrive at abstractions and "theoria", but also to provide a sufficient ground for physical reality.

Greek concept-realism is not critical. Hence, the foundational approach is cherished and the "essential tension" of the aporia of reason appears : realism versus idealism. In the Platonic system, "anamnesis" is possible and by its own efforts the mind arrives, by contemplating the world of ideas, at Divine, eternalized truth. There is a "spiritual eye" enabling us to "see" the world of prototypes ("paradigma"). By means of this "intellectual perception" avant la lettre, absolute knowledge is within reach (a similar thesis is proposed by intuitionism). For Aristotle, knowledge derives from the senses, but abstractions are impossible without a Divine active intellect.

For these most influential of Greeks, theoretical knowledge is certain, eternal and sufficient. Plato thinks the "chorismos" or separation between the "world" of ideas and the "world" of becoming, Aristotle does not divide the world in two, but the soul. The Platonic difference returns in his psychology, namely to distinguish between "passive" and "active" intellect. Grosso modo, identical problems will be at work in later, modern, pre-Kantian rationalism and empiricism, albeit in a different conceptual framework and adjacent historical situation. Like the latter, Greek conceptual rationality is entrapped by the Münchhausen-trilemma.

Greek concept-realism, discovering the antinomic logic of the sufficient ground (Plato in ontology, Aristotle in psychology), did not yet make this study the focus of its attention. In Medieval philosophy, the issue of the existence of the Christian God would become of first apologetic importance. Reason was there to serve theology and accommodate the diffusion of faith. Was the God of Christ this sufficient ground ? Could the existence of the Divine be demonstrated a priori ? The answer to these questions was linked with the status of universal concepts, or, in terms of the Medieval dialectica, the position of genera and species in the logical category of substance ("ousia"). For the Augustinian Platonists, the world of ideas, revelation and intellectual perception interlaced. For the Thomists, knowledge only derived from the senses, and so the idea of God could only be acquired a posteriori.

1.2 To battle over universals.

"This universe would never have been suitably put together into one form from such various and opposite parts, unless there were some One who joined such different parts together ; and when joined, the very variety of their natures, so discordant among themselves, would break their harmony and tear them asunder unless the One held together what it wove into one whole. Such a fixed order of nature could not continue its course, could not develop motions taking such various directions in place, time, operation, space, and attributes, unless there were One who, being immutable, had the disposal of these various changes. And this cause of their remaining fixed and their moving, I call God, according to the name familiar to all."
Boethius : The Consolation of Philosophy, Book 3, Proza XII.

§ 9

Medieval philosophy is defined by the tension between Christian "revelation" and Pagan "philosophy". It may be divided in three stages :

  1. fideist (IVth - XIth) : before the XIth century, science and philosophy serve theology (cf. Gerard of Czanad's "ancilla theologiae"), and "knowledge" is a gift of the Holy Spirit. Thanks to the Carolingian Renaissance (IXth century), the seven "artes liberales" (or pillars of wisdom) emerged : logic, grammar, rhetoric (trivium), and geometry, arithmetics, astronomy and music (quatrivium). These are contrasted with the "artes serviles", being directed to the satisfaction of a need. Because of political disintegration, the decay of monastic and ecclesiastical life, the degradation of the Papacy, and the attacks of the Norsemen in the ninth and tenth century, the fruit of this renaissance did not come to maturity. Of Greek philosophy, little was known. Part of one dialogue of Plato and only Aristotle's logic were attested. Neo-Platonism was studied through Augustine. Besides the Bible, an intellectual read the works of the fathers of the church. Philosophy was reduced to logic (dialectica). Education was meant to confirm the futility of independent, rational thought and to give a teaching rooted in fundamental theology. Dialectici as Anselm of Canterbury (1033 - 1109) tried to understand the contents of the revealed truths of scripture and to defend it against heretics  ;

  2. philosophical (XIth - XIIIth) : in the West, about 1150, Latin translations of unknown Greek philosophical texts become available. Among them, the complete works of Aristotle, as well as the extensive writings of his influential Arab commentators, Avicenna (980 - 1037) & Averroes (1126 - 1198). Aristotelism caused a major crisis. These teachings formed a coherent whole, explained nature and articulated a vision of the world and of man contradicting the tenets of fundamental Christian theology (creationism contradicted the concept of an eternal world). From Padua to Paris, intellectuals debated, and although philosophical knowledge was deemed "according to reason" and not the absolute knowledge of revelation, radical thought slowly emerged. Perhaps reason could provide a comprehensive explanation ? Perhaps revelation could be set aside ! It would take three more centuries before intellectuals dared to openly reject fundamental theology. Meanwhile, Thomas Aquinas (1225 - 1274) was first to address these new sources and harmonize them with Christianity.

  3. via moderna (XIVth - XVth) : with the assimilation of Aristotle, a new vision on reality and knowledge emerged. Strict nominalism, with William of Ockham (1290 - 1350) as its protagonist, broke away from Classical Greek and Scholastic thought. Only particulars exist, and universals are not rooted in a sufficient ground, neither inside (Platonism) nor outside (Aristotle) the mind. Universal concepts are nothing but a common name ("nomen") given to different particulars sharing a certain similarity. In this way, thought is more and more considered an empirical phenomenon, and the possibility of transcending a particular physical reality to intuit (or abstact) its essence is questioned. Statements are terministic, not necessary.

After three centuries,  the "spirit" of the European Renaissance broke down the dogma of a revealed God known by faith alone. From within (Reformation and Contra-Reformation) as well as from without (natural science, in particular physics & astronomy) the Feudal model of Christianity came under severe attack. Modern science emerged in the XVIIth century, and in philosophy, the fideist context was eliminated by René Descartes (1596 - 1650) and his clear and distinct intuition "cogito ergo sum" (cf. infra).

§ 10

In Late Hellenism, and particularly in Stoicism, language became an independent area of study. Logic was not longer embedded in metaphysics, but a science of language, or linguistics. Physics studies things ("pragmata" or "res"'), whereas dialectica and grammatica study words ("phonai" or "voces"). This is the approach of "the first scholastic and the last Roman", Boethius (480 - 524 or 525). He created the term "universalia" (the translation of Aristotle's "ta katholou") to denote the logical concepts genus and species. The original metaphysical apory between Plato's Ideas and Aristotle's immanent forms is no longer part of the Stoic context. A reduction took place which brought logic and linguistics to the fore.

In his Isagoge, translated by Boethius, Porphyry (232/3 - ca. 305) wrote :

"
I shall not say anything about whether genera and species exist as substances, or are confined to mere conceptions ; and if they are substances, whether they are material or immaterial ; and whether they exist separately from sensible objects, or in them immanently."
Porphyry : Isagoge, 1, introduction.

For Boethius, the answer is Aristotelian : the universals have an objective existence in particular physical things, but the mind is able to conceive genera and species independent of these bodies.

For Isidore of Sevilla (died in 636), etymology was the crucial science, for to know the name ("nomen") of an object gave insight into its essential nature. There exists an implicate adualism between the name (or word) and its reality or "res". This symbolic adualism does not differentiate between an "inner" subjective state of consciousness and an "outer" objective reality, which is a typical characteristic of ante-rationality (cf. psychomorphism).

Thanks to the Carolingian Renaissance, and the organization of the Palatine School, a remote ancestor of the Renaissance "university" ("turned towards unity") was created. Europe, under the political will of Charlemagne, was awakened to its "rational" inheritance and embraced the importance of education and learning (for the upper classes). Although short-lived, its influence would not completely vanish.

Clearly the problem of universals touched the foundation of thought, in particular fideism, which tried to identify general names (like "God") in the mind with universal objects in reality. On the one hand, there is the ultra-realistic position, or "exaggerated realism", found in the De Divisione Naturae of John Scotus Eriugena (ca. 810 - 877) and the work of Remigius of Auxerre (ca. 841 - 908), who taught that the species is a "partitio substantialis" of the genus. The species is also the substantial unity of many individuals. Thus, individuals only differ accidentally from one another. All beings are thus modifications of one Being. A new child is not a new substance, but a new property of the already existing substance called "humanity".

On the other hand, and very early, heretics in dialectic rose. For Eric (Heiricus) of Auxerre (841 - 876), general names had no universal objects corresponding to them. Universals concepts arise because the mind gathers together ("coarctatio") the multitude of individuals and forms the idea of species. This variety is again gathered together to form the genus. Only individual exist. By the process of "coarctatio", many genera form the extensive concept of "ousia" ("substantia"). In the same line, Roscelin (ca. 1050 - 1120) held that a universal is only a word ("flatus vocis") and so "nihil esse praeter individua" ...

§ 11

This apory between exaggerated realists ("reales") and their opponents ("nominales") is best illustrated by the confrontation between St.William of Champeaux (1070 - 1120), and Abelard (1079 - 1142) a rigorist dialectic arguing against the "antiqua doctrina", and, according to St.Bernard of Clairvaux (1090 - 1153), an agent of Satan. In his early days, William taught, against his teacher Roscelin, that the individual members of a species only differ accidentally from one another. This identity-theory came under severe attack and later he changed it. Abelard argued, that according to William, only ten different substances or "essences" exist (namely the 10 categories of Aristotle). Hence, all living beings, subsumed under "substance", are substantially identical, and so Socrates and the donkey Brunellus are the same. Some say as a subterfuge, William replied with his indifference thesis, according to which two members of the same species are the same thing, not "essentialiter" but "indifferenter". Peter and Paul are "indifferently" men (possess humanity "secundum indifferentiam"), because as Peter is rational, so is Paul, whereas their humanity is not the same, i.e. their nature is not numerically the same, but like ("similis"). In fact, he is saying that the universal substances of both are alike, applying indifferently to both or any other man. This position was also part of Abelard's polemical interpretations.

Abelard's "nominalism" is a denial of ultra-realism in epistemology, i.e. against the adualism between "vox" and "res". He does not refute Platonic "ideae" preexisting in the mind of God, but understands these as the metaphysical foundation of the real similarities in status between objects of the same species, and not of the objects (as Platonism insists).

Abelard's analysis states the distinction between the logical and the real orders, but without the denial of the objective foundation of the universals. This early nominalism is a moderate realism. He demonstrated how one could deny exaggerated realism without being obliged to reject the objectivity of genera and species. For Abelard, universals were by nature inclined to be ascribed to several objects. They are only words, not things (against the "reales"). When identified with words, universals are not reduced to mere "sound" (which is also a "res"), but to the signifying power of words (against the "nominales"). This "significatio" of words is not a concept accompanying the word (a mere contents of mind, i.e. exclusively subjective), but gives expression or meaning to the objective status of the word (semantics). This status is a human convention based on real similarities between the particulars, but these real "convenientia" are not a "res", not "nihil" but a "quasi res" : it is not the substance "homo" that makes human beings similar, but the "esse hominem".

Summarize these positions with the distinctions introduced by Avicenna :

  1. universale ante rem : the universals exist before the realities they subsume : Platonism ;

  2. universale in re : the universals only exist in the realities ("quidditas rei") of which they are abstractions : Aristotelism ;

  3. universale post rem : universals are words, abstact universal concepts with a meaning attributed to them by human convention, giving expression to real similarities between particulars. The latter are not "essentia" and not "nihil", but "quasi res".

This dialectic juggling may conceal the larger issue at hand : if extramental objects are particular and mental concepts universal, then how think their relationship ? Does an extramental foundation of universals exist ? The Greeks as well as the Scholastics answered affirmatively.

For the Scholastics, given their preoccupation with God, the problem was to know whether an objective, extramental reality corresponded to the universals in the mind ? If so, then the mere concept of "God" might entail Divine existence, as the a priori proof tries to argue. If not, rational knowledge resulted in scepticism and Divine existence might be argued a posteriori only. Greek rationalism was conceptual and ontological, whereas the Medieval dialects were foundational and logico-linguistic (psychological).

Abelard's solution is a crucial distinction : universals are not real, but they are words (real sounds) with a significance referring to real similarities between real particulars. Because of their meaning, they are more than "nothing". The foundation of his nominalism is "the real" as evidenced by similarities between objects, whereas the "reales" supposed an ante-rational symbiosis between "verbum" and "res", between Platonic ideas and material objects ("methexis"). A similar Abelardian line of argumentation is found in David Hume (1711 - 1776), ending in a skepticism preventing Kant (1724 - 1804) from sleeping (indeed, Hume rejected the world of ideas and so could not back the observed similarity between objects with the mind of God). When Aristotle was finally translated into Latin, Abelard could and was recuperated by High Scholasticism.

His pivotal contribution to the historical process of reason becoming conscious of itself is not limited to logic, epistemology and semantics. In his Ethica seu Scito Teipsum or "Ethics of Know Yourself", he stressed the importance of intent ("intentio"). Good and evil are not situated in the action itself (cf. Aristotle's Ethics Nicomachea), but in the intention of the acting subject. Conscience ("conscientia") is therefore crucial, for "non est peccatum nisi contra conscientiam". So also in his ethics, Abelard puts emphasis on the subject of experience, moving far away from the shores of the objective morality of his age (focusing on the virtue of the deed and not on the doer and his motifs).

1.3 Anselm of Canterbury's ontological proof.

"But if through your eternity You have been, and are, and will be ; and to have been is not to be destined to be ; and to be is not to have been, or to be destined to be ; (then) how does your eternity exist as a whole forever ? Or is it true that nothing of your eternity passes away, so that it is not now ; and that nothing of it is destined to be, as if it were not yet  ? You was not, then, yesterday, nor will You be tomorrow ; but yesterday and today and tomorrow You are ; or, rather, neither yesterday nor today nor tomorrow You are ; but simply, You are, outside all time. For yesterday and today and tomorrow have no existence, except in time ; but You, although nothing exists without You, nevertheless do not exist in space or time, but all things exist in You. For nothing contains You, but You contain all."
Anselm : Proslogion, XIX.

§ 12

Usually depicted as a transitional figure between monastic and scholastic theology, the Benedictine Anselm of Canterbury (1033 - 1109) was a protagonist of the Augustinian tradition. Philosophy is dialectica and part of theology. Nevertheless, his position within this movement is rationalistic, for he seeks the "rationes necessariae" of the existence of God, but also for revealed data as the Holy Trinity and the Incarnation of Christ. However, his rationalism is provisional, for Anselm believes so he may understand ("credo ut intelligam"), but does not seek to understand in order to believe. The context in which he operates, does not allow him to make the distinction between philosophy and theology, and so, even if he was unable to find the necessary reasons for Divine existence, he would not reject the existence of God. Perhaps is it fair to say Anselm is the most dialectical pole within the Augustinian movement and its fideism.

Anselm's Platonic theory of truth contains four pillars :

  1. universale ante rem : universals are the "essentiae" of the particular individuals ;

  2. the universals are real : universals exist independently of the particulars participating in them ;

  3. independence of truth : truth is independent of statements and of things, for every being comes after its truth or "rectitudo", each being "has its truth" ;

  4. summa veritas : truth exists in the ideas of God. These are what they are "per se", i.e. by themselves. They are the causes of the essences and their truth.

In the Monologium, Anselm develops two a posteriori arguments of the existence of God, defined as the best, the greatest and the highest being, namely the argument from goodness and the argument from greatness.

  1. argument from goodness : The fact good things, despite their differences, are identical in goodness, implies they are good "per aliquid", i.e. not of themselves, but by a cause exterior to them. To avoid an infinite regression of causes, we have to posit a best "per se", a good possessing goodness by itself. This highest and greatest good is the best. And God is the best. Summarized : as there are good things and better things, there must be a best thing and this is God ;

  2. argument from greatness : beings exist not of themselves, but because of a self-dependent, uncaused, sufficient ground "per se". Because what exists by itself is greater than what exists by something else, it is "maxime omnium", the highest being outside all possible hierarchical series, being-of-itself in which all participate, or God.

Here, the common feature is the argument from perfection, for both arguments apply only to perfections which do not of themselves involve limitation and finiteness, like quantity. Two "outer" sets of arguments have to be introduced, depending on (a) the study of the order of creation and (b) the Platonic context, dictating that when various beings have one feature in common (receive the same predicate), an exterior cause must be present for that "truth" and self-possess this feature "per se", i.e. by itself and without any other. The autarky & autonomy of this exterior cause is deemed self-evident and ideal. Hence, the argument from perfection is complex, and composed of chains of various arguments a posteriori. In accord with his Platonic streak, Anselmus sought for a more simple proof, one necessitating no empirical study, but only logic.

§ 13

In the Proslogium, the ontological argument a priori is developed. After long, obsessive concentration on the issue, one evening, during night service, Anselm's faith in God's existence suddenly found the "insight" ("fides quaerens intellectum", the original title of the Proslogium).

Anselms defines "God" as "something than, which no greater can be conceived", or "aliquid Quo Majus Nihil Cogitari potest", "QMNC", Anselm's concept of God. This is not an analytical, self-evident proposition, but a description which may also have meaning to non-believers. The proposition "God exists" is not self-evident, as later Thomists will say ("per se notum").

Moreover, faith is not a necessary condition to understand the meaning of this concept of God. The argument is directed against those who deny Divine existence, but affirm to know God's nature if God would exist (like the atheist claiming God is good and denying His existence because of the evils of creation). Anselm adds even a fool understands QMNC, proving its existence "in intellectu" and making this concept of God a psychological reality. How to demonstrate QMNC necessarily also exists "in res" ? The proposition "God does not exist." is a contradictio in terminis if (a) "God" is defined as QMNC and (b) it is "greater" to exist "in res" than "in intellectu" only. The steps of the argument are as follows :

  1. Major Premiss : God is QMNC ;

  2. Minor Premiss : It is greater to exist in reality than only to exist in ideality ;

  3. Conclusion : QMNC exists in reality and in ideality, so God exist in reality and in ideality.

  4. Lemma : If QMNC only exists in ideality, then something than which no greater can be conceived is something than which some greater can be conceived (namely that which exists in both orders), which is a contradiction, hence QMNC not only exists in ideality but also in reality, ergo God exists in reality and in ideality.

Plantinga (1974) gave another, more sophisticated version, namely a reductio ad absurdum, based on the acceptance of QMNC :

  1. God exists in the understanding, but not in reality.

  2. Existence in reality is greater than existence in the understanding alone.

  3. God's existence in reality is conceivable.

  4. If God did exist in reality, the He would be greater than He is (from (1) and (2)).

  5. It is conceivable that there is a being greater than God (from (3) and (4)).

  6. It is conceivable there is a being greater than the being than which nothing greater can be conceived (from (5) and QMNC).

  7. It is false it is conceivable there is a being greater than the being than which nothing greater can be conceived.

  8. ERGO : It is false God exists in the understanding but not in reality ((6) and (7) contradict).

  9. ERGO : God exists in the understanding and in reality.

In this reductive form, the argument proves that either (1), (2), (3) or (7) are untrue. For Anselm (1) was untrue because (2), (3) and (7) belong to the structure of the argument. Historically, only (2) and (7) prove good candidates for refutation, although Duns Scotus (ca. 1266 - 1308) objected against (3).

(2) What is "existence" ? Either existence "in thought" and existence "as such" are differentiated (cf. Thomas Aquinas), or "existence" is not considered to be a predicate (cf. Kant).
(7) Has QMNC meaning ? If QMNC has no meaning, then how can this meaninglessness be made clear ?

§ 14

Historically the argument has attracted two major problems :

  1. QMNC : What is the meaning of "greater" ? Clearly qualitative greatness is intended, i.e. "more perfect" in the Platonic sense, i.e. something with a higher degree of being. The truth of the argument thus depends on the ability to compare realities in an absolute sense (implying an absolute being transcending the order of the world). In the world, a being can never be that "great" that no "greater" can be found. Like the concept "greatest number", QMNC has no concrete value in the order of reality. It is a limit-concept, and so the meaning of the word "existence" is not the same for QMNC as it is for other objects. For Anselm, QMNC had a "special" status. His critic, the Benedictan monk Gaunilo of Marmoutiers  (1033 - 1109), in his On Behalf of the Fool, constructed an ontological argument for the existence of the perfect island. He argued as follows : it is enough to conceive the most perfect island for it to exist, for it would not be the most perfect if it would only exist "in intellectu".

    Anselm replied such a most perfect island only exists in the world and so its "perfection" is relative, not absolute. QMNC is the concept of something absolutely the greatest, outside or beyond the world. But this answer means Anselm already presupposed the existence of God before he proves it (a fact he accepts), and QMNC is the projection of this. Hence, the statement "QMNC exists" has no meaning. Neither has "QMNC does not exist". Indeed, if the same kind of "existence" of God needs to be demonstrated as the "existence" of objects of the world, then absolute greatness should not be introduced. But if this is not the case, then the argument fails ;

  2. "existence" is not a predicate : for Kant, inconsiderate of the specific background of Anselm's thought, "existence" is not a predicate as "great, beautiful or good". The fact something exists "in res" is not an additional quality next to what it is "in intellectu", for otherwise the concept would be incomplete. Anselm may answer that only in the unique case of QMNC "existence" is analytically contained in the concept of God. If we define the logic of "existence" as positing a subject-for-predication, then a proposition as "Dragons do not exist." means the subject "dragon" does not function as a subject of predication in reality.  But QMNC could then be reformulated : "to function as a subject of predication in a proposition about reality is 'greater' than to function in propositions referring to fiction, imagination or concepts".

Apparently, Anselm's argument is not easy to undermine, and several authors have reformulated QMNC in order to counter the attacks by Thomas Aquinas, Kant and others. It "works" against semantic atheists who accept the concept of God having meaning but refuse God any existence. For logical (positivist) atheism, the proposition "God exists." is not equivalent with "Dragons do not exist." (for "in intellectu" the subject is meaningful like all shared fictional objects), but rather with "Square circles do not exist." Logical atheism asserts "God" and "QMNC" are meaningless, i.e. just a series of nonsensical sounds or dots on paper, equal to the empty set. However, if Anselm is bound to show the "meaning" of QMNC, then his opponents must prove QMNC meaningless. Hence, the logical atheist is compelled to demonstrate how the things within our empirical experience are necessarily the only things (a logic of finitude). But if only non-foundational a posteriori arguments are available, then such a feat may prove to be impossible. At best, it may be probable QMNC is meaningless but not certain. QMNC may be semantically richer (and less complex) than the supposed proof of the "greatness" of empirical knowledge at the exclusion of all other types of knowledge : revelation, faith, the Platonic eye, intellectual perception, intuition, gnosis, meta-rational knowledge, mystical experience etc. Is a logic of finitude possible without infinity ?

Anselm's ontological argument makes one crucial point clear : one cannot at the same time state "God exists." has meaning and is untrue. The possibility excluded by the semantic atheist realizes itself precisely when the latter denies God's existence ! This atheism is auto-destructive. Logical atheism is impossible without a terministic proof of the fact empirical experience is the only possible reality.  Certainty can hardly be given, except by the entrapment of knowledge by the Münchhausen-trilemma, stopping the series of final justifications ad hoc, presumably in some form of materialistic and reductionist realism.

1.4 The "quinque viis" of Thomas Aquinas.

"For from the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their Creator."
Wisdom of Solomon, 13:5.

§ 15

In accord with Aristotelian thought, the provisions of the proof of God made by the Dominican Thomas Aquinas (1225 - 1274) differ from those of Anselm of Canterbury. Although the latter does not consider QMNC (God is "aliquid Quo Majus Nihil Cogitari potest") to be an analytical statement of a self-evident, intuitive idea, the existence of God is proven to be self-evident if (a) QMNC is accepted and (b) existence "in res" is considered "greater" than existence "in intellectu" (cf. supra). In his Monologium, the Platonic "methexis" or essential connection between the order of existence and the order of ideas is presupposed. This is precisely what Aristotle rejected, as does Aquinas. Also epistemologically this fundamental difference ensues. For Aquinas, truth is "adaequatio rei et intellectus" (ontological realism), for Anselm truth is "rectitudo sola mente perceptibilis" (ontological idealism).

Thomas Aquinas rejected the ontological argument a priori. Firstly, he took Anselm to be arguing the self-evident existence of God, which was not the case, and denies everyone understands QMNC. Secondly, he distinguished between "existence" in thought and existence as such. The jump from existence "in intellectu" and existence "in res" is illicit. At best, Anselm proves only we must think God, defined as QMNC, as existing. But this does not prove God exists "in res", outside the mind. The argument may be structured as follows :

  • Proposition 1 : Circles must be thought as round.

  • Proposition 2 : God must be thought as existing (Anselm).

  • Conclusion 1 : Round circle do not therefore necessarily exist.

  • Conclusion 2 : God does not therefore necessarily exist.

Did Aquinas grasp QMNC ? Apparently he did not. For Anselm, this definition of God is a description, not an immediate intuition, per se notum, as Thomas thought. Moreover, this description and the conclusion a priori drawn from it, fit only one Being, namely God as QMNC. Although valid for all other objects, Thomas' counter-argument does not work for "God" defined as "QMNC", for God is the only Being (Э!x) that is its own existence, and so if it is possible for such a Being to exist "in intellectu", then it must also exist "in res". In other words, the Being than which no greater can be thought is the Being existing necessarily "in intellectu" and "in res". It would indeed be absurd to speak of a possible necessary Being, i.e. a Being who's essence is existence but somehow only "in intellectu". Of course, only God is a Being that must exist, round circles and other analytical (tautological) statements do not.

In Thomas' view, we cannot come to know God as He is in essence ("quid sit"), but only that He is or exists ("quod sit"). The idea of God's existence is not, as such, an innate idea, nor is "God exists." a statement with no conceivable opposition (analytical or a priori). John Damascene (676 - 749) had asserted the knowledge of God is innate in man. Bonaventure (1221 - 1274) recognized an initial, implicit awareness of God to be made explicit by interior reflection alone.

Aquinas accepts man's natural desire of happiness (beatitudo), to be found in God alone. But between this "natural" desire of happiness and the realization of God's existence (as happiness), stand powerful side-tracking sensual and imaginal forces (pleasure, wealth, power), making the innate idea of happiness too vague to sufficiently lead to God. To be made explicit, the existence of God has to be elucidated. The proofs given by Thomas will therefore proceed by way of the (outer, exterior) world. This means they are all a posteriori. Can reason, by radicalizing his ideas about the physical world, come to the proposition "God exists." ?

This position is in accord with his Peripatetic premiss : Nihil est in intellectu quod non prius fuerit in sensu (there is nothing in the intellect which was not before in the senses). The human intellect is confined to knowing corporeal entities and can thus not, while on Earth, transcend the world of sense-experience. However, this orientation does not stop the intellect from producing general statements, and if physical objects bear a discernible relationship with a transcending cause, then the intellect can know such a cause exists. Nevertheless, corporeal objects are and remain the natural object of the intellect.

The way to proceed then, is to study God's effects in the world. But because God is infinite and material causes finite, there is an absence of proportion between cause and effect making every a posteriori argumentation indeed imperfect. So although we cannot reach a perfect knowledge of the cause, we nevertheless can come to know its existence, and this is the issue at hand. If we move from effect to a cause in such a way the effect can only proceed from a certain kind of cause, we argue to the existence of a cause of that kind.

§ 16

Aquinas argues in favour of five "paths" to God. In fact, these are not logical deductions leading to certain conclusions, but statements every believer would accept, for they correspond with what is said about God ("et hoc dicimus Deum"). Thomas' arguments intend to proof the "praeambula fidei" (steps before faith) or "motiva credibilitatis", but not to convince atheists.

(1) argument from motion :

Found in Aristotle (cf. supra), Maimonides (1135 - 1204) and Albertus Magnus (1206 - 1280), the patron saint of scientists, the argument, called by Thomas "manifestior via", the more manifest way, points to the fact all things are on the move, or, in Aristotelian terms, they evidence a reduction of potency to act. This reduction is always caused by something already in act, for every moving thing is moved by another thing. Since an infinite series cannot exist in a finite world, in the end, an unmoved mover is arrived at.

With "infinite series" is meant an endless succession in the horizontal (sequential) order of actually depending causes. But, the series as a whole is finite. To be able to give an ultimate and adequate ontological explanation of this experienced world of causal chains, the series must depend on something outside the series. This would be lacking if one would never come to a full stop, and envisage an infinite, historical series. But, in this case, a comprehensive ontology could not be arrived at. Science and philosophy are then impossible.

(2) argument from efficient causes :

Used by Avicenna (980 - 1037) and Albertus Magnus, it focuses on the series of efficient causes. As nothing can be the cause of itself (if not, it would exist before itself), every thing is caused by another thing. Ergo, rejecting an infinite series of efficient causes in a finite world order, a first cause must exist, which all men call "God".

(3) argument from necessity :

This argument, found in Avicenna and developed by Maimonides, brings the contingent nature of all things to the fore. They come into being and perish, they rise and fall. Every thing can be or not and hence no thing is necessary. If it would be otherwise, it would never stop being or pass away. But it does. To understand why such unnecessary beings come into existence, there must be a necessary being, for otherwise nothing at all would exist, nothing could ever have been reduced from potency to act, and actuality would never have been. There would only be nonexistent potency. Ergo, a being, not itself dependent, exists. A necessary being exist, whom we call "God".

(4) argument from perfections :

This argument was favored by Platonists like Augustine and Anselm. It starts from the degrees of perfection, implied by making comparative statements about various actualities, like beauty, truth, goodness etc. If we assume the difference between beautiful and more beautiful has objective foundation, then the most beautiful, the best, the most truthful, etc. must exist and this is the supreme being ("maxime esse"). This a relative best, for there must be one being or several beings which are comparatively supreme. But, what is supreme in beauty, for example, is supreme in all things. Ergo, there must be a supreme Being, which is the cause of all perfections in every other being, "et hoc decimus Deum".

(5) argument from design or finality :

The observed order of inorganic objects cannot come into being by chance, but is the result of intent. Objects without knowledge can not tend towards an end unless directed like "the arrow is directed by the archer". Ergo, there exists an intelligent Being directing all natural objects to an end. The natural world is composed of different objects with conflicting qualities. Nevertheless, these work together towards the realization of the one order. Ergo, this must proceed from an intelligent cause or Providence, and this is what we call "God".

§ 17

A first point. The outstanding logical factor in these a posteriori arguments is the presence of an "infinite series" in the finite ontological order of dependence. Thomas is convinced the world can be explained in an adequate ontological way. For him, this implies the transition from cause to effect refers to a sufficient ground outside the subject of experience (cf. his metaphysical realism), to wit : the reality of the existence of God (taken for granted). For Kant, this refers to the subject of experience (cf. Copernican Revolution), for all rules regarding this transition refer to possible experience only and are categorial. They are valid nowhere except as referring to the object of the world of sense. Hence, there is no "bridge" available for reason to move from a finite "chain" or series of conditions to the existence of a purely, infinite intelligible Being, as Aquinas claims. Hence for Kant, the existence of a transcendent God cannot be inferred, because all the rules involving the argument are meant to work with sense objects and with nothing else. They certainly are not meant to move from the immanent order of causes to the transcendent order of Divinity. The safe route supposed by Thomas is just not there. Instead, there is an unbridgeable gap, necessitating a leap. Hence, the a posteriori arguments are invalid to demonstrate God as QMNC.

Secondly, a necessary supreme Being, intelligently directing the world, unmoved mover & first cause, is not yet the God of Jesus Christ, but this is less a problem for religious philosophy than it was for Thomism and its audience. Indeed, for if the last proof of Thomas Aquinas is valid (in this or another form), then the atheist thesis stating the impossibility of the Divine fact (as effect) is refuted, as will become clear when studying Kant's objection.

"... I say that the properties of the infinite being which refer to creatures are either of causality or of pre-eminence. Those of causality in turn are twofold, the properties of efficient and final causality. What is added about the exemplar does not involve another cause different in kind from the efficient, for then there would be five kinds of causes. Wherefore, the examplar cause is a certain kind of efficient cause, namely an intelligent agent in contradistinction to a natural agent ..."
Duns Scotus : De Esse Dei, Articulus Primus.

Thirdly, for Thomas, the first proof was the "via manifestior". But, in his Oxford Commentary, the Franciscan monk John Duns Scotus (1265/6 - 1308), argued that it is a more perfect and immediate knowledge of the first being to know it as a necessary being than as the first mover. The argument from motion cannot transcend the physical world. As the cause of all motion, the first mover cannot be conceived as the cause of all beings, but only as a necessary hypothesis to explain physical motion. In his De primo principio, he reworks the argument from necessity (contingency), and considers it as more comprehensive than the arguments from motion or causal production, both dealing with specific cases. The argument from necessity asks : Why is there something rather than nothing ? In Aristotelian terms : Why has potency ever been reduced to act ?

If A is the cause of a contingent object, it must either be caused or uncaused. As contingent objects cannot be uncaused (for if so they would not exist), A must be caused. If contingent being is caused, it is caused by nothing or by itself or by another thing. As it cannot be cause by nothing or by itself, it is caused by another thing. Eventually, we arrive at the first cause, and we find what we are seeking. The Doctor Subtilis is right : we cannot proceed for ever in the ascending, vertical order of dependence (as we can in the horizontal), or in the words of Scotus : "Infinitas autem est impossibilis in ascendendo."

Suppose otherwise. Granted the possibility of an infinite horizontal series of successive causes, then the whole chain needs to be reasoned. This reason must be outside the chain, for every object in the chain is caused and so contingent, making the whole series contingent. Therefore, only by postulating a vertical, transcendent cause, can the totality of ordered effects ("causatorum") be understood. This final cause is no longer directed to any more ultimate causes. To postulate an eternal world is of no avail either, for the eternal series of contingent beings is itself in need of a cause. This is a necessary cause, outside the eternal world.

1.5 Ockham's first Conserver.

"All the conserving causes simultaneously concur for the conservation of an effect ; if, therefore, in the order of conserving causes we go on ad infinitum, then an infinite number of things would be actually existing at the same time. This, however, is impossible ..."
Ockham : Questionis in lib. I Physicorum, Q.cxxxvi.

§ 18

With the Franciscan monk William of Ockham (1290 - 1350), theologian & philosopher, the "via moderna" received its most logical of defenders. Thomists, Scotists and Augustinians formed the "via antiqua". It is their realism, Platonic (the essence is transcendent) as well as Aristotelic (the essence is immanent), which was firmly rejected. Instead, nominalism was promoted, but one without objective universals. It was hence more radical than Abelard's. No reality ("quid rei") is ever attained, but only a nominal representation ("quid nominis").

For Ockham, the metaphysics of essences was introduced into Christian theology and philosophy from Greek sources. So, contrary to Abelard's moderate nominalism, his strict nominalism did not incorporate them. There are no universal subsistent forms, for otherwise God would be limited in His creative act by these eternal ideas. This non-Christian invention has no place in Christian thought. Universals are only "termini concepti", terms signifying individual things which stand for them in propositions.

It was Peter of Spain (thirteenth century), who's exact identity is unknown, who had distinguished between probable reasoning (dialectic), demonstrative science & sophistical reasoning. Ockham was influenced by this emphasis placed on syllogistic reasoning leading to probable conclusions. Hence, arguments in philosophy (as distinct from logic) are probable (terministic) rather than demonstrative.

For Ockham, who took the equipment to develop his terminist logic from his predecessors, empirical data were primordial and exclusive to establish the existence of a thing. The validity of inferring from the existence of one thing to the existence of another things was questioned. He distinguished between the spoken word ("terminus prolatus"), the written word ("terminus scriptus") and the concept ("terminus conceptus" or "intentio animæ"). The latter is a natural sign, the natural reaction to the stimuli of a direct empirical apprehension. Only individual things exist. By the fact a thing exists, it is individual. There cannot be existent universals, for if a universal exists, it must be an individual, which is a contradictio in terminis (for universals are supposed to subsume individuals).

This focus on the objects which are immediately known, goes hand in hand with the principle of economy to get rid of the abstracting "species intelligibiles". What is known as "Ockham's Razor" was a common principle in Medieval philosophy. Because of his frequent usage of the principle (cf. the Franciscan vow of poverty), his name has become indelibly attached to it. In Ockham's version it reads : "Pluralitas non est ponenda sine neccesitate." (plurality should not be posited without necessity). In general terms, this principle of simplicity or parsimony is to always prefer the least complicated explanation for an observation.

Radical nominalists, like Nicolas of Autrecourt (ca. 1300 - ca. 1350), who belonged to the faculty of arts, would say no inference from the existence of one thing to the existence of another thing could be demonstrative or cogent, but only probable. Hence, necessity and certainty, idolized by the foregoing metaphysical systems, were gone. No demonstration of God's existence was possible. Such matters have to be relegated to the order of adherence to revealed knowledge or faith. At this point, theology and philosophy separate and the latter becomes a "lay" activity. This is not yet apparent in Ockham, who remains a theologian seeking to find a way to rethink the "proof" of God's existence in merely a posteriori terms.

§ 19

Against his predecessors, Ockham accepts "being" as one concept common to creatures and God, meaning "being" is predicable in a univocal sense of all existent things. Without such a concept of being, the existence of God could not be conceived. But, this does not mean this concept acts as a bridge between empirical observation of creatures and sense data about God (cf. supra : positing the series and then transcending it). Nor can we form an abstract concept of being and then deduce the existence of God, as Anselm thought. The concept of being is univocal in the sense this concept is common to a plurality of things, neither accidentally or substantially alike (thus avoiding pantheism). The proofs of God's existence given by his predecessors are all rejected. Not to feed skepticism, but because they are not logically conclusive.

Embodied nature is the primary mental object. No direct, natural apprehension of God's essence is given. "God exists." is not a self-evident proposition. God's existence can therefore never be proved with certainty. God is not an object of demonstrative science. Is the existence of God probable ?

Against the first mover, Ockham shows how the basic premiss of the argument is neither self-evident or demonstrable. Angels and the human soul also move themselves. Such exceptions show the alleged principle is not necessary, and so not a sufficient basis for a certain proof. It cannot be proved an infinite regress in the series of movers is impossible. Perhaps infinite objects exist. Perhaps the world is not finite but infinite, not temporal but everlasting. As it is more probable there is a first unmoved mover than no first unmoved mover, the argument from movement is only probable. A first mover probably exists.

Against finality, Ockham argues as follows. In the case of things acting without knowledge and will, they act because of a natural necessity, with is not the same as to say they act "for an end". In the case of intelligent agents of will, voluntary actions are rooted in their own will. Only if one presupposes God's existence, can one speak of things acting for ends, but God's existence is not a given.

The only way to prove God's existence would be as efficient cause of all things, remaining within the finite order. Indeed, Ockham stops at the first efficient cause. The reasons for this move also explain his rejection of the arguments of necessity and perfections. Infinite transcendence is thus avoided. But to identify this cause with God is not possible, for this cause could be a heavenly body (Quodlibet). It cannot be proved this supposed heavenly body is caused by God, for we have only immediate and mediate sense data of corruptible things, not of any transcending concept.

Against the semantic pattern of previous arguments, Ockham argues the difference between Divine attributes like omnipotence, infinity, eternity, absolutely supreme, perfect, unique, the power to create out of nothing, which cannot be demonstrated, and "God" as the first conserving cause of this world. Although we have no certain knowledge about its nature, one can prove its existence as probable. This is Ockham's argument from conservation, a subtle form of the argument from efficient causes (and developed in the commentary on the Sentences). The existence of God as the unique and absolute supreme being cannot be demonstrated, but the existence of the first conserving cause can, and this existence is probable and wholly immanent.

§ 20

The core of the argument favors the move from (vertical) conservation to Conserver, rather than from (horizontal) product to Producer. In this way, the infinite regress is avoided, for this infinite series is conceivable in the case of efficient causes (existing one after the other and so forming an infinite world), but impossible in the actual order of conservation "hic et nunc". If not, actual reality would be inflated to an actual infinity, which is it is evidently not, as everybody agrees.

In the traditional argument from efficient causes, it is assumed an infinite regress in causes of the same kind is not possible. The world was deemed finite and the world of ideas infinite. In Christianity, the former was associated with "fallen nature" and the latter with the Dionysian angelic choirs. To say the world was infinite was sheer blasphemy, for it ruined the strict line drawn by the theists between a finite creation and an infinite Creator. In such a context, free natural inquiry was repressed. The "via moderna" is no longer devoted to apology. For Ockham, the finitude of the world cannot be strictly demonstrated. Maybe an infinite series exists, maybe not. All previous proofs presupposed the truth of the proposition "The world is not infinite.", but this is not necessarily so. Nevertheless, probabilities may be assessed and calculated.

To avoid the question of the infinite ingress in time, i.e. as a sequence of interacting and interdependent efficient causes, Ockham jumps to the actual, vertical order of events "here and now", i.e. as they are happening in every moment. By doing so, he avoids an infinite regress, for it is a solid premiss to affirm the world is not infinite in each actual moment.

As a contingent thing coming into being, is conserved in being as long as it exists, its conserver is dependent, for its own conservation, on another conserver or not. As only necessary beings conserve themselves and the world contains contingent things only, every conserver depends on another conserver, etc. As there is no infinite number of actual conservers "hic et nunc", there must be a first Conserver. An infinite regress in the case of things existing one after the other (like horizontal causes of the same kind) is conceivable. But an infinite regress in the actual, empirical world here and now would give an actual infinity, which is absurd. Indeed, to avoid the first Conserver, actual reality would become infinite ! Ergo, the first Conserver probably exists.

This elegant proof of the first Conserver is completely a posteriori. It avoids the order of infinity, and considers the world finite. No limit-concept is invoked, no transcendent being deduced. The "essence" of God cannot be known, lies outside reason. The existence of God cannot be demonstrated by necessity, but argued by probability, for the finite order of contingent beings cannot be conserved without a first Conserver. So, according to Ockham, in the order of rational, empirical knowledge, natural necessity and a first Conserver is all philosophy can infer as proven, probable knowledge. Nothing which is really God can be known by us without something other than God being involved as object. There is no simple concept proper to God mirroring the essence of God adequately. We are left with the first Conserver, and can advance no further (cf. infra, Kant and the architect of the world).

In Late Medieval thought, the ultimate reduction introduced by Ockham was the final organ point closing the process of (1) the assimilation of the new sources in the dialectica, in particular Aristotelian thought, Arabic science and the "Orientale Lumen", and (2) their subsequent rejection. With radical nominalism, a conceptual framework was set in place describing the logical and epistemological conditions for the study of nature that was to follow. Platonism and hylemorphism were rejected. Knowledge derived from direct, actual experience is deemed valid. All other knowledge is constructed. Propositions in which universals operate, may be certain or probable. Logic deals with certaintly, but scientific knowledge is probable. The world is a contingent, corporeal whole. The existence of God lies outside reason, as an object of faith. Natural necessity and a first Conserver of the world are the two pillars of natural theology, based on probable knowledge.

1.6 Cusanus and the coincidentia oppositorum.

"What other, O Lord, is Your seeing, when You look upon me with the eye of mercy, than Your being seen by me ? In seeing me, You, who are Deus absconditus, give Yourself to be seen by me. No one can see You except insofar as You grant that You be seen. To see You, is not other than that You see the one who sees You."
Cusanus : De visione Dei, chapter 5, 13.

§ 21

Nicolas Cardinal Kryfts or Krebs (1401 - 1464), born at Cusa, was a Renaissance philosopher, a transition-figure between the traditional Catholic & Scholastic way and the first, pre-critical stadium of modernism, characterized by humanism, philosophy of nature and empiricism. Clearly, his interest in our knowledge of God and the world's relation to God reflects a strong Medieval root. But, this remarkable system integrated preceding thought and combined it in such a unique way that it looked ahead and stood by itself. He often quotes ps.-Dionysius the Areopagite (4th, 5th or 6th century), and was influenced by Eriugena (ca. 810 - ca. 877), Meister Eckhart (ca. 1260 - 1327/8) and mystical Platonism.

He inspired Leonardo da Vinci (1452 - 1519) and influenced Renaissance thinking, in particular the philosophy of nature of the priest Giordano Bruno (1548 - 1600), who developed his ideas far beyond the convictions of Cusanus. Was Nicolas of Cusa the first Christian pan-en-theist, thinking both transcendence & immanence in an overarching harmonious unity ?

The philosophy of Cusanus aims at unity as the harmonious synthesis of differences, both in nature as a developing and self-unfolding whole, and in God, who transcends the world but also includes the distinct perfections of creatures. This ideal of unity without the suppression of differences accepts comparison, similarity, dissimilarity and distinction hand in hand with the absolute eternity of God.

§ 22

In De coniecturis, three degrees of knowledge come to the fore : sense-perception, reason ("ratio") and intellect ("intellectus"). Senses only confirm, never deny. Reason confirms A and denies B, while the intellect denies both A and B disjunctively and together (not A, not B, not A and B). The Peripatetics, so we read in De docta ignorantia, are right to deny the actual, real existence of universals, for only individual things exist and universals belong to the conceptual order. Members of the same species have a common nature, existing, in a contracted state, in each of them as an individual nature. But no individual realizes the perfection of its species, and each member has its own individual features. Discursive reason cannot penetrate the nature of God. We rather know that He is than what He is. Hence, insofar as positive knowledge is concerned, our minds are in a state of "learned ignorance", which is not absence of knowledge of God, but comes from realizing God's infinity and transcendence.

As such, the intellect, a superior activity of the mind, grasps God as the "coincidentia oppositorum". But, we cannot have a positive understanding of this. Reason is approximative (like an ever increasing polygon inscribed in a circle) and so only conjecture. The highest possible natural knowledge of God cannot be attained by this kind of discursive reasoning. However, intuitive knowledge can never be stated in language, for the latter is the instrument of reason only. So, to express the contents of the intellect, the mind is bound to suggest meaning rather than to affirm, or state it.

The creation of the world, the "explicatio Dei", is unity contracted into plurality, infinity into finitude, simplicity into composition, eternity into succession, necessity into possibility. Here the doctrine of Eriugena shines through. The universe "vero est ipsa quidditas contacta", and so God is the absolute essence of the world. The world is God in a state of contraction. Hence, God is in the world and the world is in God. In De visione Dei, God is declared as invisible in Himself (as He is in essence), but visible "uti creatura est". This is no pantheism, for man, the microcosm or a certain human world (uniting attributes found in separately in other beings) deemed a representation of the Divine coincidentia oppositorum, is but a human God ("humanus est igitur Deus"), not God in an absolute, essential way. In De docta ignorantia, the world is "infinitas contracta" and "contracta unitas", but in Apologia doctae ignorantiae, Nicolas explicitly rejects pantheism, for the contraction is not the essence.

The universe is one and composed of finite things. But, as Plato said, time is the image of eternity. Indeed, before creation there was no time, so it proceeded from eternity and thus participates in eternity. The world is eternal but not eternity. Time is a measure of motion and intrinsic to the world. Without motion, no time. The universe has no bounds and so in way is spatially infinite. It has no fixed centre and every point is its centre. God may be called the centre of the world because He is everywhere or omnipresent, and, as its circumference, nowhere by local presence.

Up and down are relative. The Earth is not the centre of the world, nor has the Sun any privileged position, for everything moves. As there are no fixed point, there is no absolute, universal frame of observation. A man in a boat on a river unable to see its banks or the moving water, would assume the boat was stationary. All observation is relative and so all knowledge is approximate.

The universe does not exist apart from the things in it and so these individual things embody all the perfections of its species. The absolute greatness, the "absolutum maximum" or God is never contracted or rendered "concrete". The "concretum maximum" is hence a Being uniting all levels of created existence and also God. This mode of union is a mystery. This Being, the perfection of the universe, is both the "maximum concretum" and the "medium absolutum", the unique and necessary means by which human beings can be united to God. For Cusanus, in De visione Dei, that being was Christ Jesus, and the Roman Church His Body.

Regarding Divine nature, he stressed an infinite object is not an empirically given object. Instructed ignorance is precisely the realization of God's transcendence. God alone is "possest", for He is in act what He can be, He is His own definition, He defines everything else, He alone is the source and conserver of all things (cf. De possest, De veneratione sapientiae). Apart from God, the world would not exist, but nothingness would. But the contrary is true, for the world is a mirror of God. Nicolas thought the via negativa to God superior to affirmative theology. The former posits the absence of positive affirmation about the nature of the Divine not in need of any negative qualification. But, in his last work, De apice theoriæ, God is called "posse ipsum", possibility itself or being able Himself, Herself, Itself. This is a positive statement. As nobody would be ignorant of "posse", when knowing that he can eat, run and speak, it would be absurd to ask whether one can do something without the power to do so. Likewise, God as absolute "posse ipsum" is the cause and conserver of all motion, of the world. Both perspectives, the transcendent and the immanent come together in the idea of God as coincidentia oppositorum, of which man is a finite representation.

§ 23

Before Nicolas of Cusa, the proofs of God (a priori as well as posteriori) focused on the proof of the transcendence of God. This in accord with Christian theistic beliefs. Indeed, fundamental theology (Augustinian & Thomist) avoided pantheistic associations, and so exorcised God out of the world (even mystics like Jan of Ruusbroec was charged with pantheism, a heresy). In a sense, this is also at work in the reduction of the fuzzy set "Divine" to the theological "God" of the dialectics. Cusanus (and already earlier John Scotus Eriugena), overcame this exclusive theism, for "God" is conceived as entering the world (albeit in as Christ Jesus).

Indeed, Cusanus has a pan-en-theist perception of the Divine. Bi-polarity is acknowledged, and "God" is absolute as well as relative, unlimited (as the circle) as well as limited (as the polygon multiplying its angles within it), remote as well as near. Moreover, this polarity forms an unconceivable unity, a vanishing-point of all distinctions. God contains all things, He is "omnia complicans". At the same time, He is "omnia explicans", the source of all things. The latter, because they exist, reveal something of Him. He contains them complicative, and is immanent in all things explicative, for they are essentially dependent on Him. He is both transcendent and immanent.

Nicolas brings both ways together in a copulative theology and does away with the "middle" term invoked by the former dialectics. Pushed by logical technicalities (cf. the difference between transcendence and the limit of the finite world at work in the a posteriori arguments), they had construed a "tertium comparationis" between the transcendent God and the finite world. This interstitial entity is then the "Anima Mundi", the Platonic demiurge or some other intermediate between God and the world (like Christ). But, if God is truly a unity, then this division is not ontological but only conceptual. And so although logically the existence of a first Conserver is probable, ontologically this Conserver is none other than a transcendent Being, although philosophically this can only be suggested, and never demonstrated (not for certain and not in probability).

There is no stage between the actual infinite or transcendent God and the potential infinite or created world. The latter is but a contraction or theophany of the Divine being.

While combining neo-Platonic and Peripatetic components, other parts of this remarkable philosophy anticipate Leibniz (1646 - 1716), Schelling (1775 - 1854) and Hegel (1770 - 1831).

§ 24

The Medieval dialectics raised the question of the existence of God in terms of logic and linguistics. Regarding the way of argument, two strategies were used : either Divine existence is demonstrated from within (a priori), i.e. using the concept or idea of God one moves to God's existence, or from without (a posteriori), i.e. from phenomenal experience to an underlying Divine reality. As the foundational postulate was accepted by most, these strategies are either Platonic or Peripatetic. The former is the "via antiqua", the latter the "via moderna". Platonist invoke a nexus between empirical reality and the real world of ideas, rejected by the Aristotelians. Hence, the latter do not develop an argument a priori. Both these Platonic as well as Peripatetic "reales" oppose the "nominales", who, in their radical format, cause the Peripatetic movement to turn into skepticism.

Regarding the arguments a posteriori, the arguments from efficient causes and design are strong. But they do not prove a transcendent Being, the aim of theology, but make probable a first, conserving and intelligent cause well within nature (cf. the Stoic "pneuma").

It is interesting to note both Ockham and Cusanus stress the probable, approximate nature of knowledge. In their writings, we can witness the first cracks in fundamental philosophy. Although they would affirm the existence of a sufficient ground, they nevertheless deny human knowledge the capacity to arrive at certain knowledge (an ideal cherished by Platonists & Peripatetics alike). Ockham is critical of knowledge because of his insight into the logic of demonstration. Cusanus thinks in approximations because he is convinced our knowledge is but a contraction, a finitude in comparison with God's omniscience.

Medieval thought circumambulated God. This dependence made it impossible to arrive at a more critical position, i.e. one not already assuming God's existence. This seems very important, for atheism cannot be rejected a priori. It would take another three centuries, largely filled with religious conflicts and wars, before the free study triggered by the Renaissance gave birth to a new, human-centered beginning in Western philosophy.

"Man, being the servant and interpreter of Nature, can do and understand so much as so much only as he has observed in fact or in thought of the course of nature. Beyond this he neither knows anything nor can do anything."
Bacon, F. : The New Organon, Aphorisms (Book One), I.

1.7 The Cartesian proofs of God.

"Il y a déjà quelque temps que je me suis aperçu que, dès mes premières années, j'ai reçu quantité de fausses opinions pour véritables, et que ce que j'ai depuis fondé sur des principes si mal assurés ne saurait être que fort douteux et incertain ; et dès lors j'ai bien jugé qu'il me fallait entreprendre sérieusement une fois dans ma vie de me défaire de toutes les opinions que j'avais reçues auparavant en ma créance, et commencer tout de nouveau dès les fondements, si je voulais établir quelque chose de ferme et de constant dans les sciences."
Descartes, R. : Meditations, 1, § 1a.

§ 25

To seek indubitable truth, René Descartes (1596 - 1650) turned to methodological doubt. He left the Jesuit college of La Flèche and was ashamed of the amalgam of doubts and errors he had learned there. Traditional philosophy consisted of various contradicting opinions, grosso modo Platonic or Peripatetic. History was a series of moral lessons (cf. Livius) and philosophy was still restricted to logic. The experimental method was absent, and various authorities ("auctoritates") were studied (Galenus, Aristotle, Avicenna, etc.). Aim was to harmonize the magisterial contradictions (cf. the "sic et non" method). In the interpretation of these sources, a certain creativity was at work. However, in the mind of Cartesius, the only constructive point of his education, so the Discourse on Method (1637) tells us, was the discovery of his own ignorance.

This discovery prompted Descartes to reject all prejudices and seek out certain knowledge. Nine years he raises doubts about various conjectures and opinions covering the whole range of human activities. Eventually, doubt is raised regarding three sources of knowledge :

  1. authority : as contradictions always arise between authorities a higher criterion is needed ;

  2. senses : maybe waking experience is just a "dream" or a "hallucination" ? Can this be or not ? Also : the senses give confused information, so a still higher criterion is needed ;

  3. reason : how can we be certain some "malin génie" has not created us such, that we accept self-evident reasoning although we are in reality mislead and in fatal error ?

However far doubt is systematically applied, it does not extend to my own existence. Doubt reveals my existence. If, as maintained in the Principles of Philosophy, the word "thought" is defined as all which we are conscious of as operating in us, then understanding, willing, imagining and feeling are included. I can doubt all objects of these activities of consciousness, but that such an activity of consciousness exists, is beyond doubt.

Thus, the "res cogitans", "ego cogitans" or "l'être conscient" is the crucial factor in Cartesian philosophy. Its indubitable, intuitively grasped truth ? Cogito ergo sum : I think, therefore I am. That I doubt certain things may be the case, but the fact that I doubt them, i.e. am engaged in a certain conscious activity, is certain. To say : "I doubt whether I exist." is a contradictio in actu exercito, or a statement refuted by the mere act of stating it. The certainty of Cogito ergo sum is not inferred but immediate and intuitive. It is not a conclusion, but a certain premiss. It is not first & most certain in the "ordo essendi", but as far as regards the "ordo cognoscendi". It is true each time I think, and when I stop thinking there is no reason for me to think that I ever existed. I intuit in a concrete case the impossibility of thinking without existing. In the second Meditation, Cogito ergo sum is true each time I pronounce or mentally conceive it ...

Having intuited a true and certain proposition, Descartes seeks the general criterion of certainty implied. Cogito ergo sum is true and certain, because he clearly and distinctly sees what is affirmed. As a general rule, all things which I conceive clearly and distinctly are true. In the Principles of Philosophy, we are told "clear" means that which is present and apparent to an attentive mind and "distinct" that which contains within itself nothing but what is clear. Although he has arrived at a certain and clear proposition, he does not start to work with it without more ado. Indeed, suppose God gave me a nature which causes me to err even in matters which seem self-evident ? To eliminate this "very slight" doubt, Descartes needs to prove the existence of a God who is not a deceiver. Without this proof, what I conceive as clear and distinct, may in reality not be so.

§ 26

In the third Meditation, Descartes starts by examining the ideas he witnesses in his mind a posteriori. He finds ideas referring to colors and other qualities which might have been produced by himself. And as he is a substance, it is possible other modes of substance (like duration, extension, motion) might be eminently contained in him. But if we define "God" as a substance which is infinite, independent, all-knowing & all-powerful, the question is whether this idea of God could have been produced by himself ?

Insofar as I am substance, I can form the idea of substance, but only as a finite substance. I cannot possess the idea of infinite substance, unless it proceeds from an existing infinite substance. Although I can negate finitude and arrive at infinity, the latter is not merely negative, for I clearly see there is more reality in infinite than in finite substance. Hence, the idea of the infinite must be prior to the idea of the finite. Otherwise I would be unable to recognize my finitude, except by comparison with the idea of an infinite and perfect being. As a blind man cannot form the idea of color, so a finite substance cannot possess an infinite idea by itself.

Another way to come to this is to ask : Can I be the author of my being ? Or : can I conserve myself at the present time ? If this would be the case, then the idea of a perfect substance would be caused by my own mind. In order for this to be, I should have to be God Himself. As this I am clearly not, infinity is before finitude.

Formally, the a posteriori argument has this form :

  1. Major Premiss : it is a fact I have the idea of an infinite, perfect being in my mind ;

  2. Minor Premiss 1 : a finite being like myself cannot be the cause of the idea of an infinite perfect being ;

  3. Minor Premiss 2 : if the effect exists, the cause exist ;

  4. Conclusion : the cause of this idea must be infinite and real.

Descartes also tries to prove God's existence without reference to the external world, i.e. a priori. Let us formalize the argument :

  1. Major Premiss : what we clearly and distinctly conceive as belonging to the essence of A really belongs to this essence ;

  2. Minor Premiss : after considering the idea of a perfect, infinite being, we clearly and distinctly conceive existence as belonging to its essence ;

  3. Conclusion : God must exist in reality.

Regarding 1

This is the fundamental postulate of rationalism and idealism. Spinoza (1632 - 1677) gave it this form : "leges cogitandi sunt leges essendi", or : the laws of thinking are the laws of reality. Hence, all things possible in the mind (i.e. without contradictions) are also possible in actuality. Clearly, this postulate is a recuperation of the Platonists, albeit as far as regards the preestablished nexus between the extramental and the mental.

Regarding 2

The premiss affirms the infinite perfection of God. Is this idea truly "clara et distincta" ? As it cannot be derived from sense-perception, and differs from a mental fiction variable at will, it must be innate in me, just as the idea of myself is innate in me. It is like the mark of the workman imprinted on his work (third Meditation). This privileged idea is the image and likeness of God placed in me when He created me. I am conscious of my imperfection only because I already possess the idea of the perfect.

Descartes concludes God, who is perfect, cannot be a deceiver. Hence, those propositions I see clearly and distinctly must be true. This certainty about God's existence enables me to apply this criterion of truth universally.

§ 27

Two major problems undermine the Cartesian proofs of God :

  1. the ego as substance : both in the Meditations and the Principles of Philosophy, substance is demonstrated after proving the existence of God. However, the "I" in Cogito ergo sum, is not a transcendental ego (a mere formal condition of knowledge), but "me thinking". Despite various contents of thought, the thing that cannot be doubted is not "a thinking" or "a thought", but a thinking ego conceived as a substance. This ego is not formal, nor the "I" of ordinary discourse, but a concrete existing "I". Descartes uncritically assumes the Scholastic notion of substance, while this doctrine is open to doubt. Thinking does not necessarily require a thinker, and the ego cogitans must not be a thing which thinks, but a mere transcendental ego accompanying every cogitation (cf. Kant) ;

  2. a petitio principii : if the validity of the conclusion, namely the affirmation of God's existence, is used to assure myself of the validity of the principles on which it rests, then a circular argument is at hand. The circle can be specified as follows : Descartes has to prove God's existence before using "clara et distincta" as criterion of truth. But in order to prove God's existence, his arguments incorporate the criterion. It is unlikely Descartes can escape this, although he tried so by invoking the difference between what we perceive clearly and distinctly here and now and what we remember to have perceived so in the past. He then needs to prove the employment of memory is not essential in proving God's existence. But, as he still needs to show God is not a deceiver, how can he be assured this is the case if the latter rests on axioms which are themselves subject to doubt until the conclusion has been proved ?

With Descartes, we witness the return of a Platonizing way of thinking. Of course, as the focus of attention is on the conscious ego (and no longer on God), this feature is not immediately apparent. The original intuition of Cogito ergo sum, the reduction of reality to extension, the quest for a mathematical formula of the complete material universe and the strict dualism between "res extensa" and "res cogitans" are the new themes of this Platonizing rationalism. As was the case in Medieval philosophy, this idealism triggers its counter-thesis, namely the realism of empiricism.

1.8 David Hume and the cause of order.

"Nature is always too strong for principle."
Hume, D. : Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals, 12, 2, 128.

§ 28

In his Treatise of Human Nature (1739) and Enquiry concerning human Understanding (1748), David Hume (1711 - 1776) seeks to develop a science of man. As Locke (1632 - 1704), he envisages a critical and experimental foundation.

"Perceptions" are the contents of the mind in general, divided in impressions and ideas. The former strike the mind with vividness, force and liveliness, whereas the latter are faint images of these in thinking. Impressions are either of sensation or of reflection. The latter are in great measure derived from ideas.

Like Ockham, Hume is a nominalist. Real or ideal universals are not the foundation to erect the science of man. Unlike Descartes, he is an empirist : the senses are the foundation of knowledge. Two kinds of propositions are possible :

  1. analytic : the predicate is part of the subject - these tautologies are universal and necessary, but restricted to geometry and arithmetic. All a priori propositions are analytic and have nothing to say about the world of fact ;

  2. synthetic : the predicate is not part of the subject and an extramental reality is implied. All synthetic propositions are a posteriori and have always something to say about the world.

The extramental reality sought can be no other than the one offered by direct or indirect empirical experience.

  1. direct synthetic propositions : the predicate is attached to the subject because of what is immediately empirically perceived here and now ;

  2. indirect synthetic propositions : the predicate is attached to the subject because we move from what be know to be a direct, given fact to a state of affairs which is not (yet) empirically given. These propositions are problematic because a necessary and objective connection between our idea of causality and real events cannot be demonstrated. Moreover, logically the move from a finite series of particular observations to an infinite, necessary law can never be warranted (cf. the problem of induction in naive realism).

Suppose the observed psychological connection between fact A and fact B is continuous. Is it necessary ? My (or our) witnessing the connection more than once, does not imply that it will work tomorrow. Skepticism results. The universal value of scientific laws cannot be demonstrated, neither can the reality of the world (within and without). Science is restricted to statements of probability.

The Achilles Heel of this position is the status of the sense-data and the formation of concepts. It is not clear how sense-data can be identified without some conceptual connotation, which is not a sense datum. Moreover, sensation is introduced as a sufficient ground. "Adequatio intellectus at rem" is presupposed (as in all forms of realism). Finally, how can similarities between sense-data be observed ?

§ 29

And what about God ? Hume refused to accept the validity of the traditional arguments, for he did not accept that God's existence is demonstrable. Hume did not profess himself an atheist, but one can hardly call him a theist. He studied the argument from design, leading to the "religious hypothesis". In the Dialogues, arguments drawn from the analogy between human constructions and the world are rejected as anthropomorphic. But, Hume admitted "organization" was at work in the world, in particular vegetable and animal life, instinct and intelligence. We know the effects of their order and pattern by experience. And although their principles remain mysteries, points of analogy between them exist. However, in this "experimental theism", we can move no further than direct experience and probability.

Perhaps Hume would agree with God's existence if we mean to merely affirm a remote analogy between the ultimate cause of order in the universe and intelligence. This is not a full-blown intelligent Designer, but the minimal hypothesis arrived at in empiricism and skepticism. To arrive at such a minimal hypothesis concerning such a critical issue as the existence of the Divine is not trivial. Maybe Hume realized this and so was reluctant to deny the existence of God in the unequivocal sense suggested by "atheism". It may be the first step to a larger view if another, less restricted, and foundational framework can be better argued. However, for Hume the strength of the argument from design is not its rationality but its inevitability, grasped in terms of human passions and tendencies which lead up to religion (cf. his Natural History of Religion and Dialogues concerning Natural Religion).

With David Hume, we arrive at the final chapter of the apory between Platonic and Peripatetic foundational thinking. In fact, Ockham had walked that path before, but he was a theologian. Hume is no longer bothered by the dictates of religion, but his empiricism is so strict the science of certainties is no longer possible. Instead, as Ockham and Cusanus had emphasized, we are left with a science of probabilities and approximations.

In all previous approaches, the foundation of science was uncritically identified with an external objectivity, i.e. a sufficient ground : Platonic ideas versus sense-data, idealism versus realism, a perfect thought versus a correct observation. Each time, a special antinomy appeared, for realism is unthinkable without intramental and intersubjective similarities and idealism is unthinkable without extramental realities. For the Greeks, the basic problem of pre-critical conceptual rationality involved the nature of the universal ideas, forms or archetypes : transcendent or immanent. For the Medieval dialectica, the division existed between the "reales", for whom the universals were real, and the "nominales", for whom they were mental constructions. In modern thought, this "scandal of reason" (Kant) was the apory between rationalism (Descartes) and empiricism (Locke), ending in skepticism (Hume).

1.9 Kant and the Architect of the world.

"We thus see that all the wrangling about the nature of a thinking being, and its association with the material world, arises simply from our filling the gap, due to our ignorance, with paralogisms of reason, and by changing thoughts into things and hypostatizing them."
Kant, I. : Critique of Pure Reason, A394-398.

§ 30

With his "Copernican Revolution", the self-reflective movement initiated by Descartes, focusing on the subject of experience, was completed by Kant (1724 - 1804). Incorporating rationalism and empirism, he avoids the battle-field of the endless (metaphysical and ontological) controversies by (a) finding and (b) applying the conditions of possible knowledge. Inspired by Newton (1642 - 1727) and turning against Hume, Kant deems synthetic propositions a priori possible (Hume only accepted direct synthetic propositions a posteriori). There is a categorial system producing scientific statements of fact which are always valid and necessary (for Hume, knowledge is not always valid and not necessary). This system stipulates the conditions of valid knowledge and is therefore the transcendental foundation of all possible knowledge.

So Kant's aim was to find the conditions enabling statements of fact to be universal & necessary, i.e. as binding as the analytics of mathematics. Hence, a universal and necessary science is possible. Without apory, philosophy explained how the universal physical laws of Newton are what they are. The scandal is over ...

With Kant, rational thought matured. Unlike conceptualism (Platonic or Peripatetic) and nominalism (of Ockham or Hume), critical thought, inspired by Descartes, is rooted in the "I think", the transcendental condition of empirical self-consciousness without which nothing can be properly called "experience". This "I", the apex of the system of transcendental concepts, is "of all times" the idea of the connected of experiences. It is not a Cartesian substantial ego cogitans, nor an empirical datum, but the formal condition accompanying every experience of the empirical ego. Kant calls it the transcendental (conditional) unity of all possible experience (or apperception) a priori. Like the transcendental system of which it is the formal head, it is shared by all knowers by necessity.

"What can I know ?" is the first question asked. Which conditions make knowledge possible ? This special reflective activity was given a new word, namely "transcendental". This meta-knowledge is not occupied with outer objects, but with our manner of knowing these objects, so far as this is meant to be possible a priori (A11), i.e. always, everywhere and necessarily so. Kant's aim is to prepare for a true, immanent metaphysics, different from the transcendent, dogmatic ontologisms of the past, turning thoughts into things.

The transcendental system of the conditions of possible knowledge (or transcendental logic) is a hierarchy of concepts defining the objective ground of all possible knowledge, both in terms of the synthetic propositions a priori of object-knowledge (transcendental analytic covering understanding), as well as regarding the greatest possible expansion under unity of understanding (transcendental dialectic covering reason). These transcendental concepts are not empirical, but are the product of the transcendental method, bringing to consciousness principles which cannot be denied because they are part of every denial. They are "pure" because they are empty of empirical data and stand on their own, while rooted in (or suspended on) the transcendental "I think", the "factum rationis". For Kant, reason, the higher faculty of knowledge, is only occupied with understanding, while the latter is only processing the input from the senses. Reason has no intellect to inform it. There is no faculty higher than reason.

"All our knowledge begins with the senses, proceeds thence to the understanding, and ends with reason. There is nothing higher than reason for working up the material of intuition & comprehending it under the highest unity of thought."
Kant, I. : Critique of Pure Reason, B355.

The process of acquiring knowledge runs as follows :

  1. transcendental aesthetic : empirical knowledge : a variety of direct, multiple, unordered, nameless impressions (Hume), called "Empfindungen" (or sensations) are synthesized by the forms of representation "space" (related to geometry) and "time" (related to arithmetics) and turned into "Erscheinungen" (or phenomena). These representations reflect the structure of our receptive apparatus. They are meant to structure sensations into phenomena ;

  2. transcendental analytic : scientific knowledge : phenomena are only objectified by thought, but do not constitute an object of knowledge, for this is realized in propositions. The phenomena need to be structured by the 12 categories of understanding, corresponding to 12 different types of propositions (quantity, quality, relation and modality, each viewed from three angels). This categorization of phenomena leads to object-knowledge (synthetic propositions a priori). The categories are meant to structure phenomena into object-knowledge ;

  3. transcendental dialectic : metaphysical knowledge : the variety of objects known is brought to a higher unity. A last, sufficient ground is sought and found in the ideas of reason : "ego", "world" and "God" (derived from the category of relation). These words are not things and only serve understanding, nothing more. While stimulating the mind's continuous expansion, these ideas regulate understanding and bring it to a more comprehensive, reasonable unity. They are meant to structure understanding into an immanent metaphysics.

The 2 forms of representation, 12 categories (brought to unity by 3 ideas) make the object possible, rather than vice versa. The human mind is the active originator of experience, rather than just a passive recipient of perception, as Hume thought. The mind could not be a tabula rasa, a "blank tablet", Descartes is right. The whole transcendental system is innate. Even on the level of the transcendental aesthetics, sensations, the only source of knowledge acknowledged, as Locke claimed, must always be processed to be recognized, or they would just be "less even than a dream" or "nothing to us". Both sensations, representation and categorization are necessary to constitute an object of knowledge.

In his "transcendental dialectic", Kant deals with the negative, deceptive meaning of the word "dialectic", namely as antinomy and paralogism. These scandals occur each time the barriers given by our  transcendental logic are not upheld and the ideas are changed into things, which is far worse than a mere mistaken use of the categories.

"I do not mean by this the transcendental use or abuse of the categories, which is a mere fault of the faculty of judgment, not being as yet sufficiently subdued by criticism nor sufficiently attentive to the limits of the sphere within which alone the pure understanding has full play, but real principles which call upon us to break down all those barriers, and to claim a perfectly new territory, which nowhere recognises any demarcation at all. Here transcendental and transcendent do not mean the same thing."
Kant, I. : Critique of Pure Reason, B350.

When the landmarks are removed, transcendental illusion ensues, or reason forgetful of its own, changing thoughts into things. This fundamental falsehood perverts the principles of reason itself. This natural "dialectic" of reason does not go away once realized, but requires to be removed again and again, for it "will never crease to fascinate our reason" (B354). Human reason has a natural inclination to grossly overstep these limits, to give in to the pull of the "unconditional" idea, to fill the gap between what we can know and what we fancy to know, thereby regarding the transcendental ideas as real things, whereas they are wholly subjective, only needed to organize understanding and have no meaning outside this regulative, non-subreptive way. This reveals a fundamental demarcation or difference in the use of the transcendental ideas : regulative (as it should) or constitutive (as hypostases). In the latter case, they step outside the barriers of transcendental logic.

§ 31

In the Critique of Practical Reason, Kant defines the existence of God as a necessary subjective condition to solve the antinomy between virtue and happiness. Together with the existence of the person and the existence of human liberty, God is one of the three postulates of practical reason. Even in the Critique of Pure Reason, the idea of God, derived from the causal chain between things, is crucial to co-guarantee the unity and expansion of understanding. Nevertheless, in the same work, he demonstrates how every rational proof of the existence of a transcendent being like God involves an illegitimate use of reason. Hence, just as Ockham had said before him, it is impossible to prove the existence of God defined in transcendent, theistic terms. A natural theology of the transcendent God is impossible.

Those who try to prove the theist God make the same mistake : they objectify beyond all possible experience the unconditional unity of all possible predicates, fill the gap, pass beyond the conditioned, and inevitably end their search for the most perfect being ("ens perfectissimum") in a hypostatized "ens realissimum". Reason cannot cross the borderline of the world. We cannot move outside it and experience the world as an object.

Kant reclassified the proofs of the existence of God as follows :

  1. ontological : whatever our concept of an object may contain (for example, the idea of the "ens realissimum" as the idea of an absolutely necessary being), we must always step outside it in order to attribute existence to it. Existence is not a predicate and adds nothing to an object, not even in the unique case of the most perfect being. To say something "exists" is to posit the subject with all its predicates. To say "God does not exist." is to annihilate all the predicates, not just "existence" ;

  2. cosmological : this proof will always complete the series of phenomena in the unconditioned unity of a necessary Being, and by doing so, overstep the boundaries of reason, for the categorial principle "everything contingent has a cause" is only valid in the realm of sense-experience (the world) and it is only there it has meaning, never outside it (cf. the arguments from motion, efficient causes, perfections & necessity) ;

  3. physico-theological : this proof of finality, aim or design is based on an analogy from human adaptation of means to ends. We can move from the idea of design to the idea of a Designer, but not from the latter to the transcendent Creator of the world. This would again involve a misuse of the transcendental ideas of reason, a crossing over of the ring-pass-not of pure reason.

Kant retained a real respect for the argument from design, being the oldest, clearest and most in conformity with reason. It can prepare the mind for practical theological knowledge and give it "a right and natural direction" (B665). Moreover, it gives life to the study of nature, "deriving its own existence from it, and thus constantly acquiring new vigour" (B649).

To posit a necessary and all-sufficient Being means it is so overwhelming and so high above everything empirical and conditioned, we never would find enough material in experience to fill such a concept. If it is part of the chain of conditions, it would require further investigation with regard to its own still higher cause, but if it stands by itself, it is outside the chain and thus a purely intelligible Being. But then, "what bridge is then open for reason to reach it, considering that all rules determining the transition from effect to cause, nay, all synthesis and extension of our knowledge in general, refer to nothing but possible experience, and therefore to the objects of the world of sense only, and are valid nowhere else ?" (B649).

With regard to causality, we cannot do without a last and highest Being, but such a transcendental idea, although agreeing with the demands of reason, would only give a faint outline of an abstract concept (emerging when we represent all possible perfections united in one substance). It would favour the extension of the employment of reason in the midst of experience, guiding it towards order and system, and would not oppose any experience. But this is not the same as proving the existence of a necessary and self-sufficient God and Creator.

The inference, proceeding from the order and design observed in the world as a contingent arrangement (one with a possibility of happening) to the concept of a cause proportionate to it, teaches us something quite definite about this first cause, namely that it is a very great being of an astounding and immeasurable might and virtue, but not what the thing is by itself. Or, in other words, the harmony existing in nature proves the contingency of the form, but not of the matter or the substance in the world (we grasp the form, but do not observe the matter). To prove the contingency of matter itself would require us to show that in the substance of the things of the world, the product of a supreme wisdom exists. But the latter is not part of the world and thus no object of the senses. The conclusion is clear :

"The utmost, therefore, that could be established by such a proof would be an architect of the world, always very much hampered by the quality of the material with which he has to work, not a creator, to whose idea everything is subject. This would by no means suffice for the purposed aim of proving an all-sufficient original Being. If we wished to prove the contingency of matter itself, we must have recourse to a transcendental argument, and this is the very thing which was to be avoided."
Kant, I. : Critique of Pure Reason, B653.

This argument, although using a variant terminology (rooted in the transcendental method) is in tune with Ockham's first Conserver (of each entity hic et  nunc). In the vertical order of simultaneity, the a posteriori series (of conservers) has to be stopped before exiting the order of the world. Hence, the apex reached is well within the world and at the top of the chain. The first Conserver too is a cause proportional to the arrangements within the world, and does not step outside the world.

Kant's system, although transcendental, and thus devoid of any attempt to explain the possibility of knowledge by ontology, retains the postulate of foundation, by which true knowledge is certain, universal and necessary. Scientific knowledge is a system of synthetic propositions a priori, and so indirect synthetic statements pass the critical test (while for Hume only direct propositions were certain). Kant's philosophy is Newtonian, and so absolute principles are acknowledged both in understanding (forms, categories) as in reason (the ideas). At the same time, clear demarcations avoid their abuse and potential corruptive effect on thought.

§ 32

Kant wished to retain for science the certainty of the sufficient ground. Not finding it in the objective, outward reality (as a world of Platonic ideas or universal forms immanent in matter), his transcendental method cleared the foundations of the subjective apparatus of thought. By thus making the subject of experience active after the reception of the sensation (analytic object-knowledge after of the aesthetic synthesis of phenomena), all possible knowledge is about the "thing-for-us" and never about the "thing-as-such". It is this failure to realize synthetic propositions a priori about the world-as-it-is which proved to the German Idealists Kant's epistemology was flawed.

The first to point to this major problem was F.H.Jacobi (1743 - 1819), who in 1787 asked : Were does the "matter" of the sensation ("Empfindung") turned into phenomena ("Erscheinung") come from ? Kant supposed our sensations were somehow caused by reality-as-such, the famous "Ding-an-sich". How can this be ? Causality cannot be invoked, for the nameless sensations are pre-categorial. Neither can the world-as-such be thought as temporally first and the sensations last, for the former is outside time. Hence, the way our senses receive information is obscured, compromising Kant's epistemology. If Kant needs the "noumenon" to start up the engine of the categories, then he clearly does not use the "thing-as-such" as a negative, formal and empty limit-concept, and the Copernican Revolution is incomplete. And if this is the case, and it is, then his attempt at justifying knowledge a priori fails.

In the previous century, neo-Kantianism, doing the exercise all over again, reconstructed Kant's system. A series of rules could be inferred (cf. Prolegomena, Kennis and Rules). What can I know ? is answered without presupposing synthetic proposition a priori are possible. The science of certainties is replaced by the science of probabilities and approximations.

The Münchhausen-trilemma is avoided by stopping to seek an absolute ground for science. In mathematics and physics, major changes have happened since Newton, and who is able to disprove the revolutions of tomorrow ? Hence, the categorial system is not absolute, although some of its general features are necessary in a normative way (for we use them when we think). Object and subject of thought are fundamental critical concepts. Experiment and argumentation are crucial for scientific method. Realism and idealism are the proposed transcendental ideas of reason (instead of ego, world and God, who remain important in psychology, cosmology and religious philosophy).

The end result of the proper regulative use of the ideas of the real and the ideal (leading to experimentation and argumentation), is not a synthetic proposition a priori, but object-knowledge which is considered, for the time being, as very likely by the community of sign-interpreters. These empirico-formal propositions are always a posteriori, and may be direct (reality-for-me) or indirect (reality-for-us). However, Kant's dialectic, critical epistemology is there to remind us of the natural tendency of reason to hypostatize its ideas.

If the idea of the real is turned into an object, then knowledge is a mere "adequatio intellectus ad rem". But, knowledge is not made possible by a real world. For if so, then how to reconcile this with the fact that observation co-depends on theoretical connotation and observation unfolds in a conceptual pattern which develops in the act of observing ? If the idea of the ideal is turned into an object, then knowledge is a mere "consensus omnium". But, knowledge is not made possible by an ideal theory or ideology. For if so, then we blind ourselves from the fact that synthetic propositions are also statements about some thing extramental, escaping subjectivities. These two criteria of truth operate together, and regulate the development of thought.

In the domain of science, producing empirico-formal propositions, the idea of the real and the idea of the ideal are both necessary and operate simultaneously. Likewise, science is the product of two vectors : objective observation (experiment, test) & intersubjective dialogue (argumentation). In the concrete research-unity, these a priori rules are complemented by a posteriori rules of thumb or practical, opportunistic hypothesis assisting the efficient functioning of the research community. On this level, the difference between what should and what is (between theoretical epistemology and the sociology of science) is felt most ... Indeed, like the rest of us, scientists are not perfect.

In accord with Ockham's terministic probabilism and Cusanus' view of all knowledge as "approximative", contemporary criticism finds comfort in the fact no certain knowledge is possible, and no sufficient ground for the possibility of knowledge needs to be found. This position is open and so free to investigate all possible expansions of knowledge. Dogmatic and ontological fossilizations are excluded from this safe but narrow point of view.

§ 33

So, after these historical windows, where do we stand ?

On the one hand, the problems of the a priori argument evidence the unlikelihood of moving from the concept of God to the reality of God. On the other hand, the traditional form of the argument makes clear semantic atheism (of those who accept the concept of God has meaning but refuse God any existence) is as unlikely.

Take the case of logical atheism. If God equals the empty set, the proposition "God exists." is not equivalent with "Dragons do not exist.", for fictional objects are poetically meaningful, but rather with "Square circles do not exist." Words like "God" or "QMNC" are meaningless, i.e. just a series of nonsensical sounds or dots on paper. How to prove QMNC or for that matter any concept of the Divine (whether theist, pantheist or pan-en-theist) meaningless ? How to demonstrate the things within our empirical reach are necessarily the only ones, except by axiomatics or convention ? But, if only a posteriori arguments, in which the Münchhausen-trilemma is avoided, are available, then such a feat may prove to be highly unlikely. If so, then the attribution of meaning to the concept of God is not illegitimate.

Moreover, how to refute the claims of those who do understand the word "God" to have meaning ? They are not few, despite the fact modern science and virulent atheism have become fashionable. Indeed, the sociological fact of religion can not be denied and needs explaining. Even the most educated of individual may give meaning to the concept of God. How is this possible ? Can an atheist explanation of the fact of religion be given ? Is it possible to have a natural antenna (like the God-spot in the brain) but no broadcasting source ?

My position is clear. The Divine is not meaningless. Hence, a few results of the ontological argument may be used to back the central hypothesis : "The Divine exists." Although the Kantian arguments against the ontological argument are accepted, because "existence" is truly not a predicate, in section two, the logical possibility of a revised ontological proof, based on the aporic axiom existence adds something to an object, and the phenomenology of being are given way.

Together with Ockham and Hume, the absurdity of natural (theist) theology is acknowledged. An a priori proof of the existence of the Divine is highly unlikely. The transcendent essence of the Divine is not an object of knowledge. It is not self-evident, not factual and beyond argumentation. The religions believe it is an object of faith and invoke, in grand Platonic style, an intellectual perception of this essence. But, this meta-rational cognition is, as the mystics and Cusanus rightly observe, not propositional, not even linguistic ! Nondual intuition cannot be spoken of, only shown in what one does and what one does not, which is ultimately rooted one's intention (cf. Abelard's "intentio").

The failure of the theology of theism does not exclude pantheism. If the Divine in the world is not likely, then the logical atheist is right to say the fuzzy set of the Divine is empty. In that case, the presence of religions can be explained à la Feuerbach, namely as collective illusions soothing our fears, in Freudian terms, as sublimations of the Eros/Thanatos drive or à la Marx, namely as systems devised by the upper classes to keep the masses stupid and addicted to their own stupidity.

So at this point, distinguish between the Divine outside the world (transcendent) and the Divine inside the world (immanent). The sterility of any demonstration of transcendence does not by necessity affect the possibility to prove Divine immanence. Hence, the a posteriori arguments, put into perspective in the third section and proceeding from phenomena to their first cause, are crucial. They remain within the order of events and articulate arguments drawn from the world.


2. ARGUMENT A PRIORI

 A revised ontological proof of Divine existence ?


§ 34

We find, at the heart of the argument a priori, this  conviction : pure concepts and existence can be bridged. The "gap" between our experience (of the physical world) and the transcendent reality (the absolute as it is) can be crossed. Hence, a rational approach of Divinity is possible (cf. Graeco-Alexandrian intellectual mysticism). Why ? Because pure concepts are conceived as connected with the "higher" world of being, deemed empty of becoming. The world of sense is of "lesser degree" than the world of ideas. The latter provides permanency, identity and essence to the contingent (the shadows of the empirical). Without such Platonic presuppositions, the argument a priori is invalid.

Surely, as it is more difficult to argue the Platonic scheme than its negation, must we not concede its failure ? Note this : if and only if, and this contrary to the critical way of science, "existence" is allowed to play the role of predicate, positive results can be obtained. But, the failure to prove the Divine a priori without calling in such controversial axioms, entails the impossibility of a self-evident transcendent metaphysics. Positing a Divine transcendent ad hoc, turns out to be explicative either as meta-rationality or irrationality. As the former is not conceptual, the philosopher (not the poet) is left with silence & namelessness.

2.1 Kant and the ontological proof.

"Being is evidently not a real predicate, or a concept of something that can be added to the concept of a thing."
Kant, I. : CRV, B626.

§ 35

If we define God as "existent, omnipotent, omniscient ...", and say "God is not existent.", then we contradict ourselves. Just by the meaning of its subject-term, the proposition "God is existent." is true. So, the proposition is analytical, necessary and tautological. This is how Kant reads the ontological argument.

"Existence can no more be separated from the essence of God than can its having three angles equal to two right angles be separated from the essence of a triangle ..."
Descartes, R. : Fifth Meditation.

The word "exist" is a verb describing what things do, and, like all the rest, "God" is also a (possible) "thing". "Existent" is not a determining predicate belonging to the set of predicates defining the concept of a subject. "Being" cannot be added to the concept of a thing, for it is not a property, nor a quality. Neither does it report any detail about it. At times, this verb and its variants behave as predicates, like in : "Unicorns don't exist.", and then seem to report something not done by unicorns, namely "existing". In fact, each time, the verb is only qualified as a grammatical or "logical" copula.

For Kant, "existence" only instantiates, designates or posits the concept. So when the "existence" of something or someone is thus posited, the totality of known predicates of a thing or an individual is affirmed, adding nothing to it. When this existence is denied, the whole set of predicates vanishes and the referent with it. An object is what can be ascribed to it, nothing more. To affirm the set A "exists" is to instantiate (posit) its concept, but does not instantiate the richer concept "existing A". Every statement of existence  ("there is", or "there are"), says about a concept it is instantiated, rather than it exists. Any legitimate existential statement must be built out of propositions of the form : "There is an A.", where "A" stands for a determining predicate.

In general terms, Kant rejects the ontological argument because a pure concept, or transcendental (not transcendent) idea of reason, like God, regulates our object-knowledge, but never constitutes it. Hence, the speculative argument from mere concepts devoid of contact with any perception of facts, cannot provide a safe "jump" to existence as such, i.e. as it were transcend the domain of possible knowledge (the world) to demonstrate God's existence ! One cannot soar above all possible experience on the wings of mere ideas ...

Kant's core axiom is the logical identity between a predicative and an existential (ontological) use of the copula "being". Science, using synthetical propositions only, affirms there is such a thing as "x" or "Эy (y = x)", i.e. empirico-formal knowledge articulates a mere connection between an object and a predicate (cf. the scholastic "esse"). Now determining object x has the property of existence, i.e. the affirmation of existence ("existit"), or "E!x", is deemed unnecessary, for this adds nothing to our knowledge of "x", logically reduced to the set of determining predicates, of which "existence" is not part. Saying "A exist." is asserting something instantiates the concept of A. It does not suggest the richer concept "existing A", for existence does not add a property, nor a quality.

In this Fregean approach avant la lettre, the Platonic-Augustinian intuition of "being" as "some thing" is completely replaced by an affirmation of instantiation by some observer. Here the Copernican Revolution is complete : there is no conceptualization of being as such possible, for only appearances are left. Not being as such is the origin of our knowledge, but the transcendental ego and its categorial synthesis. Of course, this "transcendental idealism" conflicts with its own premiss, namely the quasi-causal relation between being as such and our senses (necessary to provide material contents to the transcendental motor) as well as the problem of temporality (cf. supra). But these issues are of lesser importance, for a neo-Kantian reconstruction of this part of Kantianism is possible, leaving being as such totally empty and conceptually unreachable (like the ever-escaping horizon).

For those who make sense out of the a priori argument, it is this emptiness with regard to the essence of being which is counter-intuitive and smacks of excessive constructivism. If being as such is totally empty and we are left with appearances only, then it is doubtful whether Hume's skepticism has been overturned. But if all concepts are relative and no normative system exists, then all possible knowledge is trivial and our technological advances cannot be explained, nor predicted in probable terms.

Against this forgetfulness of being, one may affirm saying "A exists." is both asserting the concept of A is instantiated plus the fact A is "existing" or "in being". It is this return to the things themselves which phenomenology investigates. Both in Husserl (1859 - 1938) and Heidegger (1889 - 1976), the "Platonic" intent returns as the perception of the essence (or "eidos") of something. After clearing the dross by successive reductions, the untainted core of "being" is observed, and this is the rock bottom upon which to erect, ex hypothesis, the true science of consciousness (Husserl) and being (Heidegger). These are clearly not protest philosophies, sacrificing reason to irrational factors, like Schopenhauer (1788 - 1860), Nietzsche (1844 -1900) or Kierkegaard (1813 - 1855). They pay tribute to Kant, retain a sufficient ground, but without the trappings of German idealism. How does this approach work out ?

2.2 Phenomenology and the question of Being.

"Then if there is not some other substance ("ousia") besides those which are naturally composed, physics will be the primary science ("proto episteme") ; but if there is a substance which is immutable, the science which studies this will be prior to physics, and will be primarily philosophy, and universal in this sense, that it is primary. And it will be the province of this science to study being qua being ; what it is, and what the attributes are which belong to it qua being ("eta on")."
Aristotle : Metaphysics, VI, I.12, 1026a.

§ 36

Making the things themselves pivotal is consistent with conceiving the coming into the light of the immutable essence of being as prior to every possible understanding of the natural composition of what is, i.e. presupposed by the actual entities investigated upon by the empirico-formal sciences and their categorial classifications of entities and intersubjective states. The latter answer the question What ? and so describe a specific behavior of the human being, a game aimed at producing object-knowledge, or the sum total of limitations or contractions of being exposing an actual entity, caught in this form of a particular actual entity that is. This is being-what, a conceptual subset of the totality of the being in question.

Metaphysics does not seek to produce propositional statements of fact. It is not limited by what is actual, but by what is possible in thought. It has no research-cell in which knowledge is produced, sold and exported. Because no actual, factual, contracted entity can be its object, it is not a science. The study of being qua being is not a "study" in the same way or in the same sense as this word is used in science. But, this inquiry into being is not devoid of organization or arguments.

For Aristotle, a unique science was possible before those singling out some actual entity. Only this speculative "science" (from "episteme", or "epi" + "histanai", to cause to stand) differed from all other sciences, and this because of the extension of its object and because it was deemed prior to all others. Aristotle tried to make this science stand, but because the object aimed at, namely the Being which makes all actual entities be, is a supreme generic concept, it can not be objectified. There is no standpoint outside this absolute, sheer Being, no subjective stance or possible vantage point "outside" the all-encompassing totality of all what is. Being cannot be equated with any object, and so Aristotle was in error when he viewed speculative philosophy as a science. Metaphysics is not.

"There is a science ("episteme tis") which studies being qua being, and the properties inherent in it by virtue of its own nature. This science is not the same as any of the so-called particular sciences, for none of the others contemplates being generally qua being ..."
Aristotle : Metaphysics, IV, I.1, 1003a

In Ancient Greek, the "beyond" of something is expressed by "meta". To inquire into being qua being is "meta ta physika" and goes beyond entities. It transcends the limitations of science, which are the boundaries of the entities made public or unveiled by categories of thought focused on the being-what of the physical world. Accordingly, the investigation of being qua being is "peri physeo", concerns the being of the entity, not only its being-what, and moves beyond the pre-Socratic concept of "physis". However, as Aristotle identifies being with substance, and takes the latter as object of the first science, it is clear that already in his case the inquiry into being remained unalterably a study of entities, i.e. "physics". Aristotle missed the point, and had better isolated "ousia" from the categorial scheme.

In The Twilight of Idols, Nietzsche called such "highest concepts " as being, "the last cloudy streak of evaporating reality". For him, the study of being qua being is nothing less than the "error of being". As the reversal of Plato, Nietzsche heralded the end of classical metaphysics. This end does not silence the question of Being, for classical metaphysics was a special kind of physics, but not "peri physeo". Although curtained by the diversity of entities and their subsequent localizations in schemata or paradigms, the fact of being remains the heuristic idea enabling the sciences to render their work existential. Although quantum-phenomena appear only in mathematical categories, nobody doubts the atom in some way is a part of what is. Although statisticians calculate probabilities on the basis of abstract tables of frequency, they do not doubt the sum of all frequencies (the population), stands for an actual social entity etc.

But can the question of Being be answered ?

The Wiener Kreis, and with them all radical nominalists, reduced the whole realm of being to sense-data and their formalization in symbols. There is no such thing as "sheer Being" besides the sum total of all observable entities, each predicated as a being-what. Wittgenstein (1889 - 1951), Popper (1902 - 1994), Habermas (1929), Lakatos (1922 - 1974), Feyerabend (1924 - 1994) & Kuhn (1922) put into evidence the co-determining influence conceptual connotations (or subjective viewpoints) have on the macroscopic  observation of the being-what of actual entities. In the subatomic realm, the Copenhagen interpretation of the wave-equation of Schrödinger takes this influence of the observer on the observed for granted. A particle is also a wave and subatomic entities become one or the other only at the moment of measurement. Ergo, (inter)subjective constructions (like a particular experimental setup or metaphysical background knowledge) are always part of the formation of propositional statements of fact.

In a Platonizing phenomenology, object-knowledge, the product of an inquiry into the What ? and Who ? of the entities of entities, does not escape the duality between the reality-as-such of an actual entity (its contraction from Being) and reality-for-us (its appearance as fact). The being-what of entities, disclosed by scientific knowledge, is then but a disclosure veiled by the limitations of the discovered "what-ness" (by the type of question posed) and by the form of the observer, his or her conceptual connotations.

By unveiling that Being which makes that there are things (and not what they are), no new science is born. This being is not mathematical, physical or theological. The study of this Being is logically prior to the sciences, but historically later. It is logically first, because the being-what of entities is also a disclosure of being, albeit colored (as water is by the glass). It is historically later, because there was a time when no humans existed to unveil it through and in their true contraction from Being, or being-there. 

"But all these sciences single out some existent thing or class, and concern themselves with that ; not with being unqualified, nor qua being, nor do they give any account of the essence. (...) And since physical science also happens to deal with a genus of being (for it deals with the sort of substance which contains in itself the principle of motion and rest), obviously it is neither a practical nor a productive science."
Aristotle : Metaphysics, IV, I.1, 1025b

Being is glimpsed by posing the question of Being and unveiling the essence of Being in the questioning. This exceptional, extraordinary and profound human question is the true guide of those who are perplexed by the variety of changing oppositions between the actual, existing entities. The wondrous homeland of Being stands always & everywhere erect in every conceivable actual entity, for the latter limits itself to its being-what instead of revealing its truth, rectitude or being-there, its contraction from Being itself.

"Indeed, the question which was raised long ago, is still and always will be, and which always baffles us - 'What is being ?' - ("ti to on") is in other words 'What is substance ?' ("tis eta ousia"). Some say that it is one ; others, more than one ; some, finite ; others, infinite."
Aristotle : Metaphysics, VII, I.7, 1028b

What is Being ? We experience entities or beings and ask ourselves then Why is there something ? For the moment, we do not question this question, nor the questioning. And this deliberate, primordial choice of the intellect is crucial if the philosophy of being has to come into the light and overcome any departure from this permanent question & questioning. By accepting this fundamental meditation on Being and its flow, every actual entity is made object of the process of questioning, for there is no thing that is not covered by the fundamental question : Why is there something ?

"The question aims at the ground of what is insofar as it is."
Heidegger, M. : An Introduction to Metaphysics, Yale University Press - New Have, 1959, p.3.

The pull of the entities is the tendency of differentiation between the beings, making entities to be categorized unequally. The account of the being of the entity as such eclipses the fundamental Why being-there ? The question of Being is therefore the most difficult of questions, for to really ask it demands not a bracketing (one does not need to move away from the natural world), but a onefold union with what stands as being qua being in all the entities of the natural world. We need to be present in the presence of the essence of entities, namely in their being-there. We have to realize entities, despite our absence, disclose Being.

But also, and foremost, realize all entities pull our consciousness towards the affirmation of their limitations without standing in these limitations. For if the latter were the case, the Being, which the fundamental question elucidates, would be unveiled by the What ? of the entities alone. But this is not so. Science cannot answer the question of Being. The being-what of the beings makes consciousness return to the particularities which the Why ? tries to supersede. In returning, we forget the Being of the entity as such, its being-there, and the entity as a whole is closed to us. For to affirm entities in their limitation, is only given to being-there.

To ask : Why is there something ? opens the possible ground of every thing, including the Why ? of the Why ? Indeed, why ask this question ? For some, the question itself is pointless and the word "Being" empty. Do they realize the fundamental contradiction-in-the-act present in this conceptual performance of theirs ?

The act of questioning is truly the first initiation and exordium into being, for repeated questioning allows the pull of the entities to be firmly countered by a concentrated conscious act of coming forth or engagement for Being, which always implies a functional gathering of consciousness in consciousness. Those who never seriously pose themselves the question of Being are lost to being-there. They have, by their own hands, murdered their father and resorted to useful categories. They threw, in the clear pond of their own consciousness, the pebble of ego and made their tiny ocean fluctuate, like turbulence in a glass of water. They wander about from limitation to limitation, forgetful of the very breath they breathe while its vital being feeds their mental caprices. If they would reflect upon their scattered and dislocated positions or loosen their panic-stricken hold on physical and social being alike, their innate humanity would be able to reflect the light of being, the natural light of the "ens in genere" which falls upon all entities, and the disclosure of which is the sole task of metaphysics, not as a "higher" discipline, but "next to" all possible sciences. Indeed, the proper name for this discipline is thus not "metaphysics", but rather "metascience".

The reader reads a text. The text is "before" the reader. It is an object, an entity, a thing that is. The text is written on a medium. That too is an object, with its particulars. Everything our sciences may know about the text and its medium does not encompass the complete object. For the first preoccupation, which can never be the object of any science, is the primordial, original fact the text and the medium stand in themselves, are there in their being-there, in their own essence. The variety of categories aroused by the What ? does not explain us why anything is in the first place. Why is there something ? How to understand this Being making all beings be ?
 
§ 37

"Gott ist, aber er existiert nicht."
Heidegger, M. : Was ist Metaphysic ?

"Existence" refers to the Latin word "ex-sistere", or "ex" : out of, from, free from + "sistere" : to stand, "stare", to stand (cf. in Greek "histasthai" : to stand or "histanai" : to cause to stand, set). In the present phenomenology, "essence" and "existence" present their being-there as mutually exclusive. From this point on, the word "existence" shall be mutilated (as did the Ancient Egyptians with the demonsnake Apophis) to protect us against ek-sistence. This phenomenology is thus not an existentialism. Neither is it a humanism. Being and essence are the sustenance of being-there. Ek-sistence is the departure from being, which causes an entity to be singled out insofar as its accidental properties, attributes or names (categories) or being-what are concerned.

We do not ask : Why is there ek-sistence ? The question of Being makes Being and ek-sistence depart from each other, Being to the immutable, ek-sistence to the ever-changing. With Being, we aim at the ground, essence, foundation, support & sustenance of all possible entities. Their standing in themselves is not an arising or standing-out-of, as in science, but an enduring, permanent ground, covered, veiled or curtained by the multiplicity of ek-sistence. So what is ek-sistence else than the affirmation of this singleness which allows us to transport every single entity in one of the categories of science ? 

Ek-sistence is the exclusive domain of the entities, the beings caught in their ek-sistential thrownness, the manifestation or contraction of Being as being-what (things) and being-who (individuals) solely. Each actual entity is a variable, a spatio-temporal bundle of accidental events and happenings, i.e. ek-sisting actual entities, permanently coming to pass, ceasing and rising again & again in universes (worlds of worlds) ending, disappearing and appearing again & again. This is the great wheel of ek-sistence, which never stops turning and which transforms every entity into every other. But this intellectual perception is not made. Instead, spatiotemporal ek-sistence is experienced as constantly moving and changing like the water of a swiftly flowing river. 

The same goes for the empirical subject and its ego. Physical, psychological and sociological dispositions and acquired attitudes, prejudices, beliefs, norms, expectations, values and the countless experiences of an entire lifetime together constitute the ek-sistence of the sense of ego. As soon as our mind has acquired to say : "I", an ex-istential quantifier is positioned by asserting there is at least one value of a variable. But the ek-sisting "I" is a fiction, an explicitation of the implicate hidden variables of Being which encompass the whole and interpenetrate every entity, ek-sisting to be accessed or opened up by each and every entity given to its being-there, which is the polishing of the mirror of Being, sullied and dulled by ek-sistence.

Ek-sistence is not exorbitant. It respects the limitations, boundaries, forms, frontiers and bridges of all possible entities insofar as they appear, rise and outwardly project their fiction of aloneness & personality, a dreamworld which can always be allocated to the categories of ek-sistence, to which they are gladly chained. Hence, ek-sistence is precisely that What ? which has to be annihilated for Being to step into the light and grant us the bliss of the joy of Being. By utterly destroying ek-sistence, being-there is brought before ek-sistence and the openness of the latter manifests. Being-there transcends the thrownness of ek-sistence by confronting it with the essence of Being which stands within and without the natural limitations or own-form of every entity.

This openness for Being is out of order, moves beyond the orbit & scope of ek-sistence. It can never be an object of science. Scientific statements never disclose the essence of the totality of beings, neither the Being of any singled out actual entity. In other words, science does not raise nor answer the question of the sense of it all, nor of the sense of any instance. Science is senseless, but not useless. It pertains to ek-sistence, its entities and their accidents or categorial allocations. To properly pose the question of Being and find ways to understand it adequately (the question, the questioner, the questioned) is not the object of religion, bound by its "summum ens increatum". 

Only descriptive philosophy inserts ek-sistence in the possibilities of essence. This radical conflict decenters ek-sistence and unmasks it as an illusion, which can not be taken away, but which can be stopped deceiving us. Entities which ek-sist are the fictions of Being. They are the false doors closed by being-there alone. In this process of reaching Being, philosophy is a midwife (care) and a jester (cunning). The final end of the deception of ek-sistence, the bottling of the evil jinn in its lamp, coincides with the active use of the false doors, which, because of this process, become gateways and ladders to the invisible and subtle essence of Being. Opened up, each and every actual entity is constantly and everywhere being transpierced and interpenetrated by the Being standing there. This being-there is like an infinite, indiscriminate, endless light burning in the core of the purest diamond, eclipsing its facets by the dazzling Sun of sheer Being.

This fundamental questioning, which reveals Being to being-there, may endure as a permanent revolution, a perpetually turning around and away from the changing positionings dictated by the categories of the sciences. This revolution never ends, for the science of chaining entities to what they are and not to that they are, the need of being pulled by the gravitation of the beings to the center of common consciousness, namely the demon of ek-sistence, the blinding of the awareness of the underlying ground revealing itself through the fundamental question, will continue to darken the meaning of Being and make human cultures decline. There is never a station in which the question of Being is finally put at rest. The highest revelation is therefore a station-of-no-station, in which revolution endures, as does the revelation of being. Human culture shines in this presence of eternal change only.

The fundamental question is the most daring of questions. This perpetual revolution is a turning around and away from ek-sistence, revealing that this light which allows us to witness entities is unstable and changing. The light of the Sun makes the Sun to be seen. The light of the sciences eclipses the immutable essence of Being. The circle described by the revolution defines an area in which this dark light of ek-sistence can not conceal the bright light of Being, witnessed as standing upright in the torrents & turbulences which present entities as singular, local, individual instances of a general category of being-what, which, as such, have fallen out of Being. This darkening activity of common being, exemplified in the sciences, is a wasting away, constant misinterpretation and repression of the most daring question and thus leads to active demonism, the glorification of the mediocre and the cult of death.

"Pourquoi il y a plutôt quelque chose que rien ?"
Leibniz, GW : Principes de la nature et de la grâce, 1714.

Why is there something, rather than nothing ? In this Leibnizean format, "nothingness" is introduced and opposed to the things themselves, the self-evident principle of all principles (Husserl). Nothingness seems overcome by this Being of the things. Nothingness is made into nonbeing, absence of Being. However, the elucidation of nothingness is impossible. It runs against the concept itself, for by positioning nothing one makes it into a predictable something. To understand nothingness one has to stop objectifying it. The process of Being entails nihilation (of Being by ek-sistence) and annihilation (of ek-sistence by being-there). Everything happens as part of the perpetual great wheel of sorrow, death and transformation. This is the being-there of the nothingness of ek-sistence which can not be compared with what traditional metaphysics had to offer. Leibniz' formulation is the first step towards the nihilation of Being. This tendency to reshape metascience into a science is detrimental to the authentic philosophical inquiry intended in phenomenology. The fundamental question of Being is wholly focused on the Why ? of Being.

Something ek-sists ! Why ? The fact something ek-sists is confirmed. Something ek-sists ! Then, simultaneously, this ek-sistence of an entity is annihilated by standing in its limitation after having asked : Why does it ek-sist ? Thus Being comes into perspective by the light of being-there. The entity opens up its Being because being-there posits itself, stands there as endurance, permanence and fundamental groundless ground of this particular ek-sistence. In the finite entity an infinite possibility is disclosed. Ek-sistence becomes, within the limitations of the entity, the epiphany of the unlimited essence of Being.

§ 38

Can this phenomenology, which does not really convince, be more than a sophisticated philosophical mysticism ? Does it convey a small spark of its fundamental Platonic intuition : to "be" is more than the sum total of determining predicates ? This "more" is being-there in the world. It cannot be articulated, for it exceeds the sum total of predicates, even if the latter are only abstract, and never instantiated (for I am not yet the person I will be tomorrow). This essential face, own-form or contraction from Being, may be shown or suggested, but never identified. It is not an occurrence, but a sempiternally given.

Considered in this light, the essence of sheer Being implies its existence. Only the All necessarily exists, for otherwise there would be nothing. This Platonic inspiration runs through the arguments of Anselm and Descartes and returns in phenomenology as the un-disclosure of the truth, suggestive of the contraction of Being, or being-there. For Kant, and later Frege (1848 - 1925), existence is nothing more than instantiation, the confirmation or positing of a concept or set of predicates. Existence is not a real predicate because it adds nothing. Being-there is something posited, not contracted or revealed. Hence, it does not differ from being-what. With such presuppositions, it is impossible to appreciate the fine tuning of the ontological argument on the basis of the property of existence, i.e. by affirming existence ("existit"), or "E!x".

Consider the two-step program of metaphysics, of which only one can be completed within the boundaries of reason :

In an immanent metaphysics, staying within the limitations of possible experience, the world is all there is and existence is only instantiation. Science observes and argues a series of predicates ascribed to objects, and pours these connections in non-eternal, probable, approximative synthetic propositions a posteriori. No necessary Being can be inferred. Meta-reason is empty. The highest being to be inferred a posteriori, the "Anima Mundi" and Her burning Word, although implying intelligence and freedom (cf. infra), remains proportionate to the world. But, the existence of the Divine Architect of the world can, with high probability, be inferred from facts. An immanent natural theology is possible.

In a transcendent metaphysics, there is more than the world, for the latter, in phenomenological terms, i.e. as revealed by the things themselves, is the theophanic contraction of absolute Being. Hence, each fact reveals more than the series of predicates ascribed to it, for each fact is (also) an epiphany. To supersede the world, is to stand in one's own essential Being or being-there. The a priori arguments aim to posit this transcendent Being as an existing Being analytically, thus including the finite world in infinite Being. They fail to deliver this. "The Divine exists." is hence not self-evident. A transcendent theology devoid of ineffable meta-rationality is impossible.

2.3 The logic of the revised proof.

"Meinong supposed that whatever can be thought about is an object, and he believed that something is an object if it satisfies some such principle as the following : x is an object if it corresponds to a definite or indefinite description (one having the form 'the F' or 'an F') appearing in a grammatically correct sentence having a truth value."
Crittenden, Ch. : Unreality, Cornell University Press - London, 1991, p.4.

§ 39

Proper names, seemingly failing to refer, such as "Santa Claus", "Atlantis", or "Hamlet", pose difficult problems in semantics and metaphysics. If "Santa Claus does not exist." is true, then "Santa Claus" does not refer. So the sentence is about nothing. But then it seems the sentence should be meaningless, and so not true after all. Consider also a typical utterance like "Hamlet does not exist. He is just a fictional character". The utterance "Hamlet is just a fictional character." seems to be true. If it is true, then (it seems) there are fictional characters. But what are fictional characters ? Moreover, if there are fictional characters, then (it seems) fictional characters exist. But then the utterance of "Hamlet does not exist." is false. To be or not to be ?

The logical reading of Anselm's Proslogium II, inspired by Parsons (1980), Oppenheimer & Zalta (1991), turns on the difference between, on the one hand, affirming that there is such a thing as "x" or "Эy (y = x)", i.e. the articulation of a mere connection between an object and a predicate ("esse"), and, on the other hand, affirming x has the property of existence or "E!x", i.e. the affirmation of existence ("existit"). Note "Э!x" is the quantifier asserting uniqueness, whereas "E!x" is the existence predicate. This distinction exploits the difference between quantifying over x and predicate existence of x, allowing for nonexistent objects and their logic. Parsons asserts there are non-existing objects. For him, the existence of x or E!x entails the being of x or Эy (y = x).

(1) E!x » Эy (y = x)

Anselm reflects the same difference as a regimented use of "in the understanding" and "in reality". Hence, in the argument, the notion of being (expressed as quantification or "Э") corresponds with "being in the understanding". "Being in reality" is covered by the notion of existence, a property of x or "E!x". For argument's sake, (1) is accepted. Although critical thought adheres to the Kant-Frege view, the logic of nonexisting objects has found applications in the study of fiction (Crittenden, 1991).

With this in mind, we also accept the regimented use of "being" and "existence" replaces Anselm's regimented use of "in the understanding" and "in reality". This allowance is made to let the argument gain in simplicity.

§ 40

Query : Does God (Gd) exist ?

A. The factors of the argument to be defined beforehand are :

  • denotation of being :
    Эy (y = x) : there is an x

  • description of being :
    Эxφ : there is an x such as φ

  • denotation of existence :
    E!x : there is an x with the property of existence

  • denotation of conception :
    Cx : x can be conceived

  • denotation of magnitude :
    Gxy : x > y : x is greater than y

This gives the formal outline of the query :
Either E!Gd or ¬ E!Gd must be true.

B. The logical tools of the argument are :

Premise 1 captures the expression "there is a conceivable object x such that nothing greater can be conceived" (there is no object y greater than x and there is no object y conceivable as greater than x), or :

(2) P1 : Эx {Cx ^ ¬ Эy (Gyx ^ Cy)}
with
φ1 = Cx ^ ¬ Эy (Gyx ^ Cy)
with ¬ Эy (Gyx ^ Cy) = "there is no y (¬ Эy) conceivable (Cy) as greater than x (Gyx)"

The added clause ¬ Cy makes explicit any such object y is itself inconceivable.

To work with Gxy or Gyx, following axiom is introduced : either x is larger than y, y larger than x or x equal to y, or :

(3) A1 : Gab v Gba v a = b

Lemma 1 proves if something satisfies (2), then this something uniquely satisfies it :

(4) L1 : Эxφ1
» Э!xφ1

Description theorem 1 : Let δxφ be a definite description of x such that φ. Then it can be determined that if condition φ is uniquely satisfied, then δxφ is guaranteed to have a denotation :

(5) DT1 : Э!xφ
» Эy (y = δxφ)

Let the definite description "δ1" be the proper formalization of Anselm's key phrase "something than which no greater can be conceived" ("aliquid quo majus nihil cogitari potest") and the formal definition of "God" :

(6) Def : Gd = def δ1
with P1 :
φ1 = Cx ^ ¬ Эy (Gyx ^ Cy)

Anselm gives a second premise when he writes "For if it is at least in the understanding alone, it can be imagined to be in reality too, which is greater."

Premise 2 : if that than which none greater can be conceived does not exist (in reality), then something greater than it can be conceived.

(7) P2 : ¬ E!δ1
» Эy (Gyδ1 ^ Cy)

Description theorem 2 : if there is something that is the Q-thing, then it must have property Q.

(8) DT2 : Эy (y = δxQx)
» QδxQx

C. The ontological argument :

Given (1)
E!x » Эy (y = x)
given (2) P1 : Эx {Cx ^ ¬ Эy (Gyx ^ Cy)}
with
φ1 = Cx ^ ¬ Эy (Gyx ^ Cy)

it follows by (4) :
Э!xφ1
it follows by (5) : Эy (y = δxφ1)
it follows by (2) and (8) : Cδxφ1 ^ ¬ Эy (Gyδxφ1 ^ Cy)

Now by reductio, assume the negation, or ¬ E!δ1, then by P2 it follows : Эy (Gyδ1 ^ Cy), contradicting ¬ Эy (Gyδxφ1 ^ Cy), hence : ¬¬ E!δ1 or E!δ1
it follows by (6) : E!Gd
God exists.
QED

2.4 Process philosophy and God.

"Speculative philosophy is the endeavour to frame a coherent, logical, necessary system of general ideas in terms of which every element of our experience can be interpreted."
Whithead, A.N. : Process and Reality, 1929, part I, section I, chapter I.

§ 41

Alfred North Whitehead (1861 - 1947), the mathematician who, together with his ex-pupil Bertrand Russell (1872 - 1970), wrote Principia Mathematica and converted to philosophy, developed a system of thought no one will ever succeed in writing a short account about. His work evidences shifts of opinion and in the course of his long life, he developed many loose and at times obscure expressions, producing desperation in anyone trying to be his chronicler. Hence, Religion in the Making (1926) and Process and  Reality (1929) are fundamental, while dispensing with the technicalities. He is an important figure because he integrated mathematics, biology, relativity and quantum physics into his thought (cf. his The Principle of Relativity, 1922).

In his The Concept of Nature (1920), we learn about his view on the philosophical ideal in general, and metaphysics in particular, as the attainment of "some unifying concept" able to unify science. The metaphysician has a descriptive role to play. He seeks to understand the general characteristics of reality, setting these up tentatively as categories. This description of the most general features of experience is not argumentative, but rather in accord with the "I'm telling You !" method.

Four concepts provide an entry into his complex but interesting system of thought, always circumambulating the relatedness of things, namely the "self model", "creativity", "eternal objects" and "God".

§ 42

Whitehead seeks to introduce a new "ontological principle" able to think becoming and change. The "ousiology" of past thinkers was unable to do this, for it was based on the changeless, permanent nature of the essence and its identity (cf. the Platonic "eidos"). In this traditional view, only accidents change and the "ousia" remains identical with itself. This creates a difference between a "supposed but unknown support" (Locke) and the subjective accidents of predication, returning in Cartesian thought as the polarization between "res extensa" & "res cogitans". Whitehead disagrees with this distinction and seeks to integrate it on a higher level.

The Cartesian "ego", which is ontological (as Kant also stressed), is also rejected. To distance oneself from substantialist thinking means to deobjectify all elements of metaphysics. Being more radical than Kant, Whitehead underlines the subjective nature of reality. He does not need the "fuel" of "objective" sensations to turn on the "engine" of the categories. On the contrary, all is subject. Hence, reality (nature, the world) is a subject. So the whole is an organic unity of those elements disclosed in the analysis of the experience of subjects. We cannot go further. We cannot pull ourselves outside ourselves. Knowledge is subjective, for nobody escapes his or her own form of definiteness.

This "subjectivist principle" is another way to state the principle of relativity. All things are qualifications of actual occasions and there is nothing else. The Platonic world is unmasked as the root of all ousiological constructs. The world is a unity of actual entities and without the latter there is nothing. There is no transcendent world, no ontological stratum "above" the world we observe. The exercise of metaphysics is immanent, not transcendent.

In this "self model", the "cogito" is thus the definition of actuality. Only "actual occasions" of "actual entities" are the building-blocks of reality and the universe. Only entities exist. An event is then a "nexus" of actual entities. Causality is also implied. If there are no events, then there can be no causality. But events happen. If event A exerts its influence on event B (or "causal efficacy"), then B cannot be totally explained by A. This because the "novelty" of event B cannot be explained in terms of past initial events only. So, besides efficient causality, he conjectures a "formal causality", which is the cause of the becoming of the "novelty" incorporated in B. This formal causality aims at Self-realization and Self-creation.

This Self-creation of the actual entities is the Self-constitution of an experience. In the process of the non-I exerting an influence, something is experienced (this is the causal efficacy). Besides, there is the "subjective immediacy" of the Self-experience, which accomplishes a new synthesis between the multiplicity of the many influences and the own form of definiteness. Hence, the actual entities are not solipsist (like monads), but continuously enter in each other's Self-creation. "Being" is hence always to be in another. Being (events) & becoming (Self-creation) imply the capacity to enter in another, new actual entity. The universe is hyper social.

Whitehead understands being from the vantage point of becoming. He does not eliminate the eternal, for not only does he wish to replace a teaching on substance with a teaching on events, but he virulently reacts against the "vicious separation" between "flux" and "permanence". This distinction introduced the bi-polarity between temporality (becoming) and eternity (being) and the adjacent aporic pendulum-movement between the two (the same dyad returns in all areas of Greek, scholastic and pre-Kantian thought and influenced most religions).

"Undoubtedly, the intuitions of Greek, Hebrew, and Christian thought have alike embodied the notions of a static God condescending to the world, and of a world either thoroughly fluent, or accidentally static, but finally fluent - 'heaven and earth shall pass away'."
Whithead, A.N. : Process and Reality, 1929, part V, chapter II.

Traditional metaphysics conceptualized being and identity and so construed a static God, an "aboriginal, eminently real, transcendent creator". Instead, metaphysics thinks "permanency in fluency, fluency in permanence". This slogan reminds us of the philosophy implied by the Taoist Tai Chi symbol, by Buddhism, as well as Bohr's famous complementarity inscribed in his Kopenhagen interpretation of the Schrödinger wave-equation.

Although becoming is the sole point of view, one cannot grasp the ultimate nature of the universe without simultaneously thinking both the changing world of events and the eternal realm of pure potency. The dyad remains, but devoid of possible substantialist antagonism. The universe is dual, for it is both transient and eternal. Each actual entity is both physical and mental. There is nothing "outside" the universe.

§ 43

Although nothing except actual entities exist, the world of events is not the whole world. Although there is no world "behind" the world of events, and this changing, phenomenal reality is all there is, one is able to think (conceptualize) the eternal and the permanent. This is not an ontological realm, source of being, transcendent sufficient ground, "prima materia" or pre-creation initiating a "creatio ex nihilo", for actual entities are the only real things. In separation from actual entities, there is nothing, merely nonentity. A "category of the ultimate" can and should be thought. The actual entities are "real" (concrete, immediate), except for God, who is "abstract" (universal, without spatiotemporality).

In Religion in the Making, three "formative elements" are called in to guarantee order & novelty in the actual world :

  1. creativity realized in actual entities : thanks to creativity, the real actual world lapses into a new world order. The dynamism of the universe of actual entities, grasped by the senses, implies novelty, for the unity of experience here and now is an original concrescence of previous experiences and my own form of definiteness and determination. Ultimately, the creativity of the actual universe demands everything influences everything, bringing multiplicity to unity. The actual course of events is not self-evident. The sheer ongoingness of the universe speaks of permanent creativity, from the smallest subatomic particle to God's eternal valuation of possibilities. Creativity is the "natural matrix of all things" and actual (real) when realized in an actual entity. The Self-creativity of the entities is an instance of this creativity, which itself is not a substance, nor an entity, nor a reality. It is a "category" qualifying (determining, limiting) all actual entities ;

  2. potential eternal objects forming actual entities : the "perpetual perishing" of actual entities cannot be "saved" by something which is itself an entity, for all entities are "on the move", all what is real changes. Next to (not behind, nor underneath) the world of actual entities, Whitehead postulates a world of pure potency and possibility. This abstract world is the domain of "pure potential for the specific determination of fact". These eternal objects are implied by the fact no two actual entities are completely identical although similarities can be determined. The latter point to a "form of definiteness". These forms participate in the becoming of actual entities, but are themselves not actual or real. Neither are they unreal, but potential, i.e. indicative of possibility. Because they remain identical with themselves, these objects are called "eternal". They escape the permanent change of the real world, and so because they are in no way "subject", i.e. an actual, real entity, they are called "objective" and "grasped" by mental "prehension". Hence, the "objective" is not "the real" (for only actual, subjective entities are "real"), nor is it "unreal" (as nonentity or fiction). The objective is sheer potentiality ;

  3. an abstract God harmonizing endless potentiality : the domain of pure potentiality is per definition limitless. The eternal objects give form to actual entities but are themselves without borders. By giving "graded relevance" to the various endless possibilities, God harmonizes these different possibilities and so orders the becoming of the actual entities from within, receiving form & structure. The "key" used by God is called "harmony" and "beauty". God embraces all possibilities but offers them as the esthetic possibility of Self-creation. God rules all possibilities and is also the principle of definiteness. God grasps all possibilities and harmonizes them. God limits the limitless domain of pure potentiality so something may enter actuality. Every valuation is contingent, and without God no possibility can become actual. Because of God's "vision of beauty", continuous pressure is put on all events. As God is not creativity itself, God is not responsible for all what happens.

Among the formative elements, God is an actual entity, while the eternal objects are not. God is the anterior ground guaranteeing a fraction of all possibilities may enter into the factual becoming of the temporal world. Without God, nothing of what is possible, can become some thing, change and create. The universe, its order and creativity are the result of a certain valuation of possibilities. However, God is not the universe, nor its order (derived from eternal objects) or creativity (at work in actual entities). These are real actual entities, while God is an abstract actual entity.

  1. real actual entities (the real) : all what exists in the world of facts and events ;

  2. potential eternal objects (the potential) : selfsame, "pure" forms outside the stream of actual entities, organizing them ;

  3. abstract actual entity (the abstract) : God as the Artist who makes a beautiful world more likely.

God is the instance grounding the permanence and continuous novelty characterizing the universe. This primordial nature of God is completely separated from the actual world. For although an actual entity, God's activity is "abstract", namely in the esthetic (artistic) process of valuating possibilities, which are no fictions. God is engaged in the factual becoming of the actual entities, but cannot be conceived as a real actual entity, a fact among the facts. God is the only "abstract" actual entity possible.

§ 44

In this rather pantheist philosophy, idealism and realism are mixed in a remarkable way.

Whitehead is not an absolute idealist, although his "self model" is suggestive of Hegel's "Geist". Indeed, by radicalizing Kant, we end up in relativism, relinquishing any hope to ground the possibility of knowledge in a sufficient ground outside thought. Although observation of fact is a constructed synthesis of, on the one hand, theoretical connotation and, on the other hand -so must we believe- sense-data, it must be acknowledged that by way of empirico-formal thought, reality-as-such is not known. Hence, all our knowledge is, at best, intersubjective, but mostly highly subjective. Moreover, for Whitehead, only these subjective, ever-becoming actual entities are real, which is in tune with the empirist tradition. The eternal objects are only "potentialities" valuating reality, not reality. Neither is God "real", but "abstract".

Nor can it be said Whitehead is a realist. Although there is nothing more than actual entities, and creativity is the process of relatedness between them, objectivity is nothing more than the potentiality and possibility of the eternal objects. The similarities between actual entities, does not emerge from the process between them (as Hartshorne tried to show), but demands a transcendent potency within the order of the world, namely that of the eternal objects. Moreover, without an abstract but actual God valuating and directing these unreal but virtual potentialities, nothing would enter becoming and no real actual entities would exist. So although God is not a real actuality, this abstract entity is necessary to let anything enter becoming. The sheer ongoingness of the world is impossible without eternal objects and without an artistic God. God is "the organ of novelty, aiming at intensification" ...

2.5 The a priori argument rejected.

"Time and labor therefore are lost on the famous ontological (Cartesian) proof of the existence of a Supreme Being from mere concepts ; and a man might as well imagine that he could become richer in knowledge by mere ideas, as a merchant in capital, if, in order to improve his position, he were to add a few noughts to his cash account."
Kant, I. : KRV, B:627-630.

§ 45

The arguments deriving the existence of God from His essence depend on the inherent connection between the universals (at work in the mind) and the Platonic ideas. Without this implicate symbolical adualism between the name (or word) and its reality or "res", they fail to deliver. Hence, existence is turned into a predicate, although by merely stating something "exists", nothing is added to our knowledge. Intuitively, we may appreciate the exclusive nature of God, and so understand why a non-existing most perfect being is "less" perfect and hence not a most perfect being, but it is only possible to demonstrate this logically if symbolical adualism is introduced as an axiom. This runs against what is common in science since Kant, to wit : "existence" instantiates, but does not describe an object. Ergo, the a priori arguments of the proof of God are not valid and so do not demonstrate (nor even make probable) the existence of such a transcendent, necessary Being. They make only some sense in a fideist context, i.e. one in which the existence of the transcendent is already accepted (as in theism), or in a phenomenological discourse, positing a "being" next to "existence" (cf. supra). Both are in conflict with the principle of parsimony, for neither a belief in the Divine, nor a quasi mystical experience of Being restrain the number of entities. Moreover, by their own principle, these efforts lead to complete un-saying.

So far, the debate allows to distinguish between three possible options regarding the proof of the Divine :

  1. the transcendent approach : God is the sole necessary Being, posited outside the world (theism) and given Divine Names such as  "summum bonum", omnipotent, omniscient, infinite, spiritual, etc. The latter do not convey His essence, object of apophatic unsaying, but are katapathic affirmations derived from the direct experience of God, either by meta-rationality (intuition or intellectual perception) or by revelation (dogmatic theology). God is summoned to create the world "ex nihilo" and to reveal to creation His intended Divine mediation (a sacred history, a Son, a Book). This position integrated Platonism and with it the identity between essence and existence insofar God or the Divine ideas are concerned. In such a perspective, the concept of a necessary Being must include Divine existence, for otherwise God would not be God. At the heart of the a priori argument we thus find the ontological "nexus" between the real, clear, distinct universals and the illusionary, vague and shadowy particulars. This connection has been overthrown by science and so the a priori argument fails ;

  2. the immanent approach : the Divine is the subtle breath, fire and "logos" of the cosmos (Stoicism), sustaining its operations according to natural laws (pantheism). Because of the theist imperative dominating the West for nearly two thousand years, this so-called heretical approach has been divorced from Western thought. Hence, the a posteriori arguments always exceed their logic and transgress the limitations of possible experience to once more arrive at a transcendent Deity. To stop at the limit of the world and explain the ongoingness of things in it with no other means than what the natural world itself has to offer, is truly a "Pagan" exercise no transcendent theology will persue. It belongs to religious philosophy to persue it ;

  3. the unitary approach : the Divine is a unity of essence and existence, both outside and inside the world (pan-en-theism). The essential nature of God is unknown and remains so, for mind cannot step outside the world and observe the Divine essence (apophatism). The proof of the Divine is two-tiered : starting with the world and its becoming, a series of revised a posteriori arguments are given. They do not prove the Divine to be a transcendent God, but only an immanent conserving and intelligent first Conserver and Architect, to be conceptualized by the mind as the "Anima Mundi". Next, the direct experience of Divine immanence is approached and systematized in a spiritual protocol. Finally, the idea of the transcendent God is derived from the universal characteristics of the mystical experience. The latter does not prove the existence of the transcendent, nor provide us with conceptual knowledge of it. Stepping outside the world (transgressing the limits), the purifying, totalizing and actionalizing experience of radical otherness may, Deo volente, only suggest and point to God. Without poetry, this cannot be explained or described. It is no object of science or philosophy, but of art. It also reflects in each and every action a mystic does, adding sublimity to his or her exemplaric morality.

The meta-rationality suggested by the  mystics is wholeheartedly affirmed, and the mystics are indeed the grand examples of religious philosophy (cf. Bergson). If we accept the Divine as being continuous (which is not much to ask for if the Divine is thought of as One - cf. Cusanus), then what seems to our rational minds, operating inside the world, as two aspects (namely the immanent soul of the world versus God, the transcendent essence of the Divine) are in reality, from this "impossible" vantage point attained in the state-of-no-state outside the world (cf. Ibn 'Arabi), the One Thing. In this way, the entelechy of the universe may be a stepping-stone to the realization of the meta-rational possibility pointing to the unique transcendent essence of the Divine. A natural, immanent theology and religious philosophy are possible and may be the proper preparations for such meta-rationality, never contrary to reason, although beyond it. This does not involve a rational elucidation, demonstration or conceptualization of God of any kind. Suggestion follows poetic license, not empirico-formal science. Divine revelation is never literal or factual, except in the poetic manifestation of Divine Presence.

§ 46

The failure to provide a valid proof a priori should be pondered upon. Foundational, exclusive dogmatisms are in conflict with reason and science. As there is no formal (architectonic) "nexus" between a "better" world and "this" world, whereas the world ongoingly happening is the only actual occurrence there is, science & metaphysics are silent about what lies beyond the "ring-pass-not" of the mind. In short : the "essentials" of the Divine remain a priori veiled to reason. This makes any "revelation for all times" highly unlikely, a thought undermining all contemporary religions of the Deus Revelatus ...

This fact also makes the distinction between science and organized religion, between propositions containing a truth-claim about the world and revelations of a dogmatic theology (like in the religions "of the book") important. Meta-rationality kept in tune by reason is a suggestive, poetical discipline, like an object of art. But devoid of this corrective bond, it is sheer irrationality. To delegate this to a separate domain and allow it to putrefy on the dunghills of human folly and fundamentalism is dangerous. Not only can every fool then use this waste to produce terror in the name of the Divine, or erect a brontosauric monolith to be worshipped, but the presence of so much idolatric, idiotic, silly and superstitious nonsense, in the light of so much science and metaphysics, is offensive to the dignity of our spiritual intellect, hampered to extend its influence on the mind by this unwholesome quantity of dross and circumstance, causing ontological illusion.

It is not because a possible religious philosophy found a tiny opening in the dense, pristine forest enabling us to climb the mountain of the world and appreciate the panorama offered by its soul, that some of the more grotesque positions of the religions, pretending to hold a transcendent claim, are backed by this effort.

On the contrary, a possible religious philosophy can only underline the importance of a renewed spiritual impetus and discard anything which could force the ship of our common evolution to be stranded or shipwrecked on the deserts of human blasphemy. If the proof of Divine existence is to be used to back the contradicting dogma's of the religions, then nothing has been learned (as is often the case). A possible proof of the Divine, albeit a posteriori, is not an apology for the existing religions, but a plea for a possible spirituality of the future based on science and a metaphysics embracing science. This is not some kind of atheist religiosity, but a philosophical religion. Indeed, the harmonization sought, does not condone irrationality, neither avoids an open conflict with it. But, our cause is not decided by way of arms, but with voice, pen and paper. Its intention is to reach the heart of the intelligent, not to convert the stupid and the already convinced. With gigantic compassion, over & over again, the latter must be (re)educated to better ideas & ends.


3. ARGUMENTS A POSTERIORI

Towards an exposure of the Divine.


§ 47

The trace of the Divine is observable and arguable in both nature and man. This is the core of the approach a posteriori. This proof only takes natural phenomena, events & happenings into account. The ongoing world-process is considered given and not questioned. Access to this process is given by the senses and the mind. When facts are cast in empirico-formal propositions, and rational object-knowledge is acquired, the natural condition of possible experience has been satisfied. When the broader, speculative horizon is argued in terms of these propositions, an immanent metaphysics is at work. Both perspectives are part of the rational approach of the world, and define it, for observation (testing) and communication (arguing) are the two vectors producing factual knowledge.

Because the proof limits itself to the natural perspective, it cannot demonstrate the transcendent God. As no proof a priori is possible (cf. supra), the affirmation of the existence of the transcendent God of theo-ontology can no longer be made probable and is either an object of meta-rationality or the product of the fictional and the irrational. The a posteriori proof, because it stays within the natural order (of which humanity is also a manifestation), demonstrates the existence of a necessary Conserver, without which the natural order could very probably not exist. Hence, natural religious philosophy studies what can be known about this Architect of the world. Speculating about this first cause, a complex network of concepts may be derived, expressing greatness, wisdom, power, authorship, intelligence etc. This "stage of admiration", as Kant put it, is wholly religious and spiritual. It also probes deeper into the natural mysteries of the Divine than does atheist religiosity. It never crosses the "ring-pass-not" (containing the finite), and is dedicated to the immanent view, albeit panoramic.

§ 48

Distinguish between speculative and experimental arguments a posteriori.

Composed of argumentative (not empirico-formal) propositions, speculative arguments are part of an immanent metaphysics, a theoretical speculation on the presence and function of the Divine within nature, and this starting in the atom and reaching out to the outer limits of the observable universe, like in the case of efficient causes (at work everywhere).

Is the production of the Divine fact possible ? Can empirico-formal propositions objectify the Divine ? Is there an experimental methodology, itinerary or protocol leading towards the spiritual experience ? If so, then an experimental argument a posteriori can be inferred. Finally, if the mystics give an exemplaric account of a bi-polar Divinity (transcendent as well as immanent), then can we allow transcendent metaphysics to merely poetically suggest the improvable existence of the absolute totality, entirely impossible on rational grounds ? Can the religions, as institutions of poetry of a certain quality, be given new meaning and momentum ?

In Kant's general argument in favour of the intelligent design of the world, the fitness and harmony existing in the works of nature point to an Architect of the world. Although intelligent, this being is always hampered by the quality of the materials used, but nevertheless shows us the "right and natural" direction. For Ockham, contingent beings are unable to conserve themselves and if we take the complete vertical chain of conservers hic et nunc, we must conclude, hand in hand with natural necessity, the first Conserver exists. Both positions are strong.

To make clear what an immanent perspective means, let us take the example of the rejected a posteriori argument from necessity.

If it is legitimate to ask, which is not beyond doubt, how the world composed of contingent objects was caused, then the totality of objects must have a reason external to itself. Why ? This reason cannot be part of the contingent world (rise and perish), for then it could not be a satisfactory explanation of the reality of the world (it would also rise and perish). Hence, and here the category-mistake creeps in, a transcendent necessary being exists, for an infinite series is deemed impossible. The arguments of motion, efficient causes and perfections (cf. supra) also stop this infinite regress as hoc by "filling the gap" and jumping outside the order of the world. Only the argument from design avoids this problem. However, if Bertrand Russell is right, and the world is "just there and that's all" or "actual process", as Whitehead thought, and together with Kant we reject any illegitimate transgression in the use of the ideas of reason, then the "optimum" our reason arrives at, is a strong form of pantheism, positing the concept of a necessary, first conserving, most perfect, intelligent immanent Conserver of the world.

§ 49

The argument a posteriori calls forth the following witnesses :

  1. the fact of design : the world is not the work of a blind watchmaker, but of an intelligent Designer ;

  2. the fact of spiritual experience : the experience of the Divine can be (re)produced and its protocol transmitted ;

  3. the possible entelechy of the world : the order and beauty of the world point to a final end : to actualize all possibilities (which is an ongoing, endless process).

The fact of design can be demonstrated without the fact of spiritual experience. But, by fulfilling the conditions to experience Divine immanence, one furthermore acquires the necessary "form" or "spiritual attitude", a key to open the "doors of perception" (cf. Huxley). Indeed, the direct, immediate observation of the Divine is not self-evident, nor necessary. Self-realization is only triggered by a free intention. There is no "natural" necessity to seek out, see and meet the soul of the world.

By a strong focus on orthopraxis, the problem of the production of the spiritual fact comes into perspective. A direct plug-in or access to the supposed "soul" of the world must, ex hypothesi, be given. Otherwise, the concept of an immanent Designer would imply remoteness and inaccessibility, which is in contradiction with the relatedness shown in the design. The Architect is not in one place, but in all places all the time. Moreover, if a plug-in (a software) is postulated, then a material manager (a hardware) must be identified to compute & process (execute) this own-form of human spirituality. This line of argument boils down to the presentation of a spiritual protocol with minimal orthodoxy, one which is all about doing, practice, discipline and constant devotion (a userware). This spiritual methodology is then a series of actions, affects and thoughts producing at least a direct experience of the immanent totality conserving the world-process, if not more. A "spiritual reduction" enabling the prehension of the vastness of the universe in the limitations of a single point of density.

3.1 The Münchhausen-trilemma in science & religion.

"... if the process of demonstration can continue to infinity, it would be possible for there to be an infinite number of middles between two terms. This, however, is impossible, if the series of predications has an upward and a downward limit."
Aristotle : Posterior Analytics, I. xxii.

§ 50

Grosso modo, the quest for an "Archimedic point" for knowledge, drove the epistemologies of the last two thousand years to develop Platonic (idealistic) and Peripatetic (realistic) methods to justify knowledge. In each, a sufficient ground was invoked to explain and demonstrate that true propositions are true and wrong propositions wrong. Like the famous "fulcrum" of Archimedes of Syracuse (ca. 287 - ca. 212 BCE), who also introduced the concept of a center of gravity as the average location of an object’s weight, this fixed ground or support on which a lever rests, was supposed not to constantly change. It is a solid standpoint from which one could measure and lift the world. Likewise, the sufficient ground of knowledge must be immutable or no certainty is possible.

In his Life of Marcellus, Plutarch (ca. 45 - 120 CE) tells us that Archimedes, in writing to King Hiero, whose friend and near relation he was, had stated that given the necessary force, any given weight might be moved. In his Book of Histories, John Tzetzes, a XIIth century Byzantine poet and grammarian, quotes him saying : "Give me a place to stand and with a lever I will move the whole world."  In his Meditations On First Philosophy (1641), René Descartes also mentions him : "Archimedes, that he might transport the entire globe from the place it occupied to another, demanded only a point that was firm and immovable ; so, also, I shall be entitled to entertain the highest expectations, if I am fortunate enough to discover only one thing that is certain and indubitable." (Meditation II). Hence, this solid rock-bottom could guarantee our knowledge to be eternally valid.

These foundational efforts may be categorized as idealism, realism & transcendentalism :

  1. idealism : there is a world of ideas which never changes, the contemplation of which enables us to intuit eternal knowledge. This is the Platonic line of reasoning, which was nurtured by the scholastic "reales" and returned in Cartesian thought as a series of innate ideas. The fulcrum lies outside the actual world, in being as such ;

  2. realism : there is a world of realities observed by our senses and independent of our subjective states, providing the solid rock-bottom of reality as it is. This is the Aristotelic line found in the writings of the "nominales" and influencing empiricism and logical positivism (or, in more radical form, leading to skepticism, as in Ockham and Hume). The fulcrum is the actual world, namely becoming and process ;

  3. transcendentalism : rejecting both previous foundations as stepping outside the limitations of possible experience, Kant's "Copernican Revolution" situates the unchanging ground in the subject of experience, namely as the categorial motor (fueled by the senses) producing synthetic proposition a priori by virtue of the cognitive activity of the transcendental unity of apperception, the "I think". The fulcrum is the set of laws the human mind utilizes to know nature (as appearance). Like Newton's laws, these are absolute and unchanging ...

Kant made the last effort to provide a solid ground for knowledge, but also failed. Indeed, in the XIXth & XXth centuries, both mathematics & physics went through paradigmatic shifts (relativity, quantum, chaos & string), bringing on the scene alternative synthetic propositions (natural laws) regarding the world (thus reducing their status from a priori to a posteriori, i.e. from universal and necessary to singular and contingent). This heralded the final exposure of the postulate of foundation as an illusion. To root knowledge in a sufficient ground was impossible, and epistemology was back at square one. How is knowledge possible ? How can knowledge advance ?

§ 51

The "Münchhausen-trilemma", mentioned in Albert's Traktat über kritische Vernunft (1958), is an elegant and conclusive thought-experiment to clarify why the various efforts to root knowledge indeed fail, inviting a new concept of rationality, one without a fulcrum.

A justification of proposition P is a valid deduction with P as conclusion. How extended must the deductive chain be in order to justify P ? When is a sufficient ground arrived at ? If a theory of knowledge invokes the postulate of foundation, i.e. tries to root the possibility of knowledge outside knowledge, three unacceptable possibilities arise :

  1. regressus ad infinitum : P is justified by P', P' is justified by P", P" by P''' etc. ... there is no end to this chain of justifications, and so no foundation is found : skepticism is the outcome (knowledge has no foundation)  ;

  2. petitio principii : the conclusion P is part of the chain of deductions leading to P. Circularity is a valid deduction, but no justification of P, for P justifies P, and no foundation is found : again skepticism ;

  3. abrogation ad hoc : the chain of justification is ended at P and the postulate of justification (the condition to justify P by P') is abrogated ad hoc. The unjustified sufficient ground P is then accepted as it stands because, as it is deemed certain, it does not need to be justified : here dogmatism takes over.

The trilemma is a pat situation. Like the Baron von Münchhausen, who tried to pull himself out of the water by his own hair, the traditional models of rationality end up with an absurd apory : skepticism versus dogmatism : knowledge is either unfounded or its foundation irrational (arbitrarious). Science and philosophy are sophisms, i.e. clever illusions. Every possible kind of foundational strategy is logically flawed and scandalous. What is the next step ? The excesses of foundationalism can be avoided if and only if true knowledge is no longer deemed sufficient in a necessary, absolute way. Simply put, the postulate of foundation should no longer be maintained and faillibilism embraced. Knowledge is not certain, but only unlikely, likely and very likely. The science of certainties is to be replaced by the science of probabilities.

For faillibilism asserts uncertainty, incompleteness, relativity, indeterminacy and probability belong to every proposition. In the simile of Otto Neurath (1882 - 1945), we are forced to rebuild the boat of science plank by plank while staying afloat in it. Indeed, there is no external vantage point, no first philosophy by which to remodel it from outside. This boat is never docked and crewless on dry land. Philosophers and scientists are like sailors forced to repair the ship of rational knowledge while still at sea. This is a gigantic appeal to modesty, away from the brontosauric monolith of foundational science, which considered rational knowledge as superior and final (cf. Auguste Comte). Even Popper, who remained a realist, wrote :

"Theories are built on piles driven down from above into the swamp, not down to any given base, although they are really firm enough to carry the structure."
Popper, K.R. : The Logic of Scientific Discovery, 1934.

This non-foundational view on reason as fallible, joins nominalism, pluralism, hypothetism,  relativism, constructivism, methodologism, contextualism, "as if"-thinking and verisimilitude. It goes hand in hand with logical simplicity, elegance, opportunism and parsimony. The essential tension between the fundamental ideas of reason, namely "the ideal" and "the real", is managed by a triplicity instead of by a duality. A trichotomic logic avoids the confrontational, pendulum-swing problems of justificationism. Replace :

Dualism
object of knowledge real versus ideal
fact
versus mind
res
versus vox
subject of knowledge
is the real
"res extensa"
is the ideal
"res cogitans"

with :

Triadism

reality
object of knowledge
"correspondence"

ideality
subject of knowledge
"consensus"

"real"
(world)
"my"
reality
"our"
reality
"our"
theory
"my"
theory
"ideal"
(theory)

When knowledge is no longer certain knowledge, but at best only probable knowledge, then the two criteria of truth, namely realistic correspondence and consensus do no longer function as doors to either reality or ideality.

By shaping the unconditionality of the object of knowledge, the idea "reality" ("Ding-an-sich") guarantees the unity & the expansion of the monologous object-oriented mental knowledge. By shaping the unconditionality of the intersubjectivity of knowledge, the idea "ideality" (ideal subject) guarantees the unity & the expansion of the dialogous subject-oriented mental knowledge.

Both ideas converge towards an imaginal point which, as an postponed horizon, shapes the idea of a complete, universal consensus on the adequate correspondence between our knowledge and reality-as-it-is. This is a heuristic fiction which suggests a position "beyond the mirror surface", a "Hintenwelt" which never grounds (constitutes) but regulates the possibility of knowledge. So, the idea "reality" regulates the objectivity of knowledge and the idea "ideality" its (inter)subjectivity.

The imaginal, heuristic point of intersection between these ideas is a knowledge-leading & knowledge-regulating fiction guaranteeing the progress of knowledge without ever constituting knowledge itself. If not, it would mislead knowledge, thus curtailing its unity & progress. The ideas of contemporary epistemology thus voice the fundamental property of thinking, i.e. the continuous & permanent confrontation between "test" (objects of knowledge) and "argument" (subjects of knowledge).

On the side of the objects of knowledge, we have to think the "Ding-an-sich" as knowable (without being mentally equipped to know whether this is the case). Facts are both intra-linguistic (are co-determined by the theories of the subject of knowledge) and -so do we fancy- extra-linguistic, i.e. the messengers of the "Ding-an-sich". Hence they correspond with reality-for-us ("Ding-für-uns").

On the side of the subjects of knowledge, we have to think the "consensus omnium" as possible (without us ever reaching it in fact). In this way the distinction between "my" consensus (with myself), "our" consensus here & now (i.e. the agreement between the users of the same language) and the "consensus omnium", the regulative idea on the side of the subject of knowledge, ensues.

§ 52

Although we do not know whether a subatomic event is a particle or a wave before it is actually measured, the probabilities given by the equation of Schrödinger are high, yielding operational results and technological applications. However, the good results of quantum theory do not eradicate the possibility of a better theory, one encompassing both relativity, quantum and chaos (such as string-theory ?). The results of science are relative and historical. What is held true today may be a falsehood tomorrow. Modesty does not pretend to know more than possible. Science is not a triumphalistic ideology promoting direct access to reality with a perfect key. Facts reveal the real but only partially. What vastness is eclipsed by our preconceptions, presuppositions, prejudices and idiosyncratic pigeon-holes ? With this in mind, the wise scientist does not indulge in final and certain propositions. By knowing the limitations of reason, s/he ongoingly opens up endless possibilities to be rationally known.

Likewise, the philosopher of immanence, bound to speculate on the basis of such fallible propositions, has nothing more than logic to persue his activities. As such, he may study the rationality of moral and religious needs, aware of the transient nature of his work. Maybe he eventually transcends rationality all together and appreciates a direct insight into the world and beyond. The examples of the mystics suggest the actuality of meta-rational "intellectual perception", but critical reason can no nothing else but to regard direct intuition as non-conceptual and non-propositional. Evidently, it cannot directly contribute to our scientific knowledge.

As such, the indirect, exemplaric role of intuition, like all arguable (immanent or transcendent) metaphysics, is heuristic, suggestive, innovative and spiritualizing. But, the essence known by meta-rationality cannot be articulated but shown as an object of art or given as holiness.

§ 53

And what about the religions ? In order to clarify the issue, a logical analysis of the concept and its evolution is at hand, for a study of the process of justification in religious models always shows an evolution of religious conceptualizations moving away from the original mystical source of the religion to a constructed canon. Consider the process from singular concept to tradition :

Axiom : 

  • concept C is a mental construct based on perceptions in time & space of a subject x ;

Given are :

  1. a singular perception p of a particular fact f by x or p(x)f ;

  2. a string of perceptions P of facts f, f', f"... f n in time (.dt) by x or P(x)f.dt = p(x)f, p(x)f',  p(x)f" ... p(x)f n ;

  3. an ungoing process of perceptions in time (.dt), shaping a perception-bank B concerning P(x)f.dt or BP(x)f (1 ... n).dt.

(1) each p(x)f is an elemental building block of C :

In p(x)f, f is not written as f(x), for no fact can be totally subjectified. 

(2) Hence, p(x)f depends on fact f and the mindgrid mg of x or p(x)f = mg(x) + f which also applies to string of perceptions with co-relative mindgrids : P(x)f.dt = mg(x) + f, mg' (x) + f', ... mgn (x) + f n.

(3) the generalization C arrived at by a particular subject x on the basis of the given perception-bank BP(x)f
(1 ... n).dt  is a general notion which has been combined over time.  As it is not logically possible to justify when the jump from the particular to the universal is to be made lawfully, the logical genesis of the concept remains a priori incomplete (cf. non-foundationalism). Comparison (i.e. convention) alone explains why singular perceptions become strings. In fact the only thing we really know are singular instances, nothing more.

(4) The original concept C is communicated to other subjects and confronted with other people's perceptions of facts. Through dialogue & argumentation a consensual, intersubjective concept C
(1 ... n) regarding f (1 ... n) arises. The movement from C to C', C" ... C n is the evolution of a concept. If the process of perception stops, the evolution is halted and gradually the meaning of the original C withers.

(5) Over a period of time the process of ungoing perceptions coupled with quasi permanent intersubjective confrontations define a constellation of consensual general notions C
(1 ... n) regarding  f (1 ... n) which form a tradition T(f (1 ... n)).

Now consider the following rules governing the evolution present within the five major religions (like Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity & Islam).


The basic mysticological rule is :
 

  • a human subject x  < >> the Divine (!)

(1) < or from subject x to the Divine : in 4 nominal dimensions of space-time x aspires to transcend (cf. "ascendat oratio") and there exists a preparative spiritual protocol ;
(2) >> or from the Divine to subject
x : more than 4 dimensions of space-time answer the call (cf. "descendat Gratia") and this answer has objective validity ;
(3) < >> or the "crux", the experience itself : a direct, immediate, individual experience of a paradoxical, ineffable, totalizing nature.

! : this rule is coherent

The theological set of rules added by the religions is :

(1 - 3) a human subject
x = founder x < >> the Divine (!)
(4) the founder = the sacred symbol par excellence (?)
(5) subjects
y, z, ... < the sacred symbol >> the Divine (??)

? : this rule is questionable but acceptable
?? : this rule is questionable & unacceptable

Ideally, the authentic poetical elocutions & actions of a founding mystic (1) become the sacred symbols of the tradition initiated by the first direct witnesses or companions of the founder (4). These symbols encompass a model of the world, a theory on man, ethics & the afterlife and a salvic road, defined as the "right path". This superstructuring becomes political when meant to organize a growing mass of believers (cf. (5) the stage of the followers).

Mostly shortly after the founder's death, a large number of texts or parties see the light, and a so-called "sacred" tradition ensues. A lot of this may be purely legendary & mythical, evidencing composition, interpolation and borrowing from other sources for apologetic reasons.

So after the physical death of the founder, corruption occurs, redundancy & conflicts rise, schisms are proclaimed & battles are unleashed. In all five religions, differences operate and continue to do so and hence the fundamental message of unity was and is -historically- lost (each in its own way and with its own particular stories & intensities).

Mystical experiences are far more independent of the imaginations and conceptualizations of the religious group than are religious experiences. The act of adhering to a religion is impossible without assimilating a particular religious doctrine or code. This indicates religious experience calls for a group standard (a totem, flag, waymarks). Mystical experiences move beyond a particular religious doctrine, which does not mean (a) the mystical individual has no theoretical superstructures or (b) he or she does not adhere to a religion (the latter condition is however not necessary for the experience to happen). Self-creation and (to say the least), adherence to the longing satisfied by the unconditional (absolute reality), often serve to prepare and to (afterwards) understand what is implied by radical otherness. But also : these superstructures may (for example in the case of a social mystic who reveals Divine signs in the different phases of an intense prophetic life) become the dogmatic articulations characteristic of a particular religion, fideistically considered holy and eternal.

Religious experiences are always mediated by doctrine. The latter is "invented" (in the constructive sense) by those who claim to have witnessed the founding mystic and to have collected the necessary information for posterity. They (at the stage of companionship) formulate a common picture for the group to imitate (at the stage of the followers). Unfortunately, the limitations of their religious experiences are such they are only allegorically or metaphorically entitled to say anything about the contents of the founding mystical experience (which is an exclusive, vertical matter between the founder & the absolute). Hence, religious experiences, because they are more indirect than direct (i.e. more determined by explicit or implicit religious dogma), are not radical.

This analysis raises the following points :

  1. a gifted mystic has more or less an immediate access to the direct experience of radical otherness and reveals this ;

  2. the companions guided by the mystic collect (after his or her death) the stable components of what they think (or have been told) the superstructure of the founder looked like, changing it into a religious dogma or a particular canonical discourse on radical otherness ;

  3. those who adhere to the dogma -which usually calls for an imitation of some of the practices of the founding mystic- may indirectly experience radical otherness through the eye-glasses of the particular dogma, veiling & limiting the real thing. This is then their religious experience ;

  4. a religion is born if the soteriological (salvic) power of the dogma triggers the formation of a solid spirito-social structure (i.e. the companions have followers). This can only mean the eye-glass was strong enough to allow for a succesfull albeit derived and indirect imitation of the founder's mystical experience, transforming it into the religious experience of the followers and their disciples, who too claim to walk the path of the original master ... ;

  5. the more time has elapsed between the mystical experiences of the founder and the religious experiences of the followers of the companions, the more likely the original superstructures (of the founder) become intermixed with elements which are foreign to the original direct experiences of radical otherness, moving the religion away from the message of its founder (as has been the case in all world religions).

3.2 The genetic approach to knowledge.

§ 54

In Jean Piaget's (1896 - 1980) theory on cognitive development, two general functional principles are postulated : organization & adaptation.

The former implies the tendency common to all forms of life to integrate structures (physical & psychological) into systems of a higher order. The latter (to be divided in assimilation & accommodation) shows how the individual not only modifies cognitive structures in reaction to demands (external) but also uses his own structures to incorporate elements of the environment (internal). 

Organisms tend toward equilibrium with their environments. Centration, decentration (crisis) & re-equilibration are the fundamental processes forcing this cognitive texture of humans to complexify.

Mental operators are the result of the interiorization of this cognitive evolution. An original, archaic sense of identity is shaped. After prolonged exposure to new types of action -challenging the established original centration and its equilibrium- a crisis ensues and decentration is the outcome. Eventually, a re-equilibration occurs because a higher-order equilibrium was found through auto-regulation (re-equilibration, autopoiesis).

Over time, various different strands, levels, layers or planes of cognitive texture unfold. The process may be analyzed as follows :

  1. repeated confrontation with a novel action involving motor functions (original, initial coordinations of actions) ;

  2. action-reflection or the interiorization of this novel action by means of semiotic factors : this is the first level of permanency or pre-concepts which have no decontextualized use ;

  3. anticipation & retro-action using these pre-concepts, valid insofar as they symbolize the original action but always with reference to the initial context ;

  4. final level of permanency : formal concepts, valid independent of the context of the original action & the formation of permanent cognitive (abstract) operators.

In this way, Piaget defined four layers of cognitive growth :

  1. sensori-motoric cognition, between birth and 2 years of age ;

  2. pre-operational cognition, between 2 and 6 ;

  3. concrete operatoric cognition, between 7 and 10 ;

  4. formal-operatoric cognition, between 10 & 13.

In his Le Structuralisme (1970), he defines "structure" as a system of transformations which abides by certain laws and which sustains or enriches itself by a play of these transformations, which occur without the use of external factors. This auto-structuration of a complete whole is defined as "auto-regulation". In the individual, the latter is established by biological rhythms, biological & mental regulations and mental operations. These can be theoretically formalized.

Piaget refuses to accept that "real" dialectical tensions between physical objects are the "true" foundations of thought and cognition (its possibility, genesis & progressive development), as in most other types of psychology and pedagogy. Piaget never fills in what reality is like. He maintains no ontological view on reality-as-such, considered to be the borderline of both the developing subject and its objective world, stage after stage.

The cognitive is approached as a process, for rationality grows in developmental steps, each calling for a particular cognitive structure on the side of the subject. What reality is, is left open. Why ? Every objective observation implies an observer bound by the limitations of a given stage of cognitive development, i.e. a subjective epistemic form, containing idiosyncratic, opportunistic and particularized information.

Neither did Piaget choose for a strictly transcendental approach. Conditions which exist before cognition itself (like in Foucault) are not introduced. What Popper called the "problem-solving" ability of man, can be associated with Piaget's notion on "re-equilibration". Popper introduced the triad : problem, theory (hypothesis, conjecture) & falsification (refutation). In his dynamical and actional anthropology and psychology Piaget introduced : activity, regulation, crisis & re-equilibration (auto-regulation).

§ 55

His psychogenesis (based on the observation of children) shows how knowledge develops a relationship between a thinking subject and the objects around it. This relationship grows and becomes more complex. Stages of cognitive development are defined by means of their typical cognitive events and acquired mental forms. This development is not a priori (pre-conditions), a posteriori (empirical) but constructivist : the construction eventuates in its own process, in other words, the system has been, is and will always be (re)adapting and (re)creating new cognitive structures, causing novel behavior & different environmental responses, which may be interiorized, forming new internal cognitive forms, etc. 
The foundation of this process is action itself, the fact its movements are not random but coordinated. It is the form of this coordination, the order, logic or symbolization of the pattern of the movements which eventually may stabilize as a permanent mental operator.

Two main actions are distinguished :

  • sensori-motoric actions exist before language or any form of representational conceptualization ;

  • operational actions ensue as soon as the actor is conscious of the results & goals of actions and the mechanisms of actions, i.e. the translation of action into forms of conceptualized thought. These operations are either concrete (contextual) or formal (decontextualized). The latter are identified with rational thought.

The last three decades has seen the rise of many applications of these crucial insights regarding the functional, efficient (educative) side of the process of cognition. An example is schema theory, at work across the fields of linguistics, anthropology, psychology and artificial intelligence. Human cognition utilizes structures even more complex than prototypes called "frame", "scene", "scenario", "script" or "schema". In cognitive sciences and in ethnoscience they are used as a model for classification and generative grammar (syntax as evolutionary process). 

The schema is primarily a set of relationships, some of which amounts to a structure, generating pictorial, verbal and behavioral outputs. The schemata are also called mental structures and abstract representations of environmental regularities. Events activate schemata which allow us to comprehend ourselves & the world around us.

The term is thus used to define a structured set of generalizable characteristics of an action. Repetition, crisis & reformation yield strands of co-relative actions or stages of cognitive development. Knowledge begins in the coordination of movement. Ergo, in genetical sequence,
these consensual types of schemata emerge :

  • sensori-motoric, mythical thought (the notion) : aduality implies only one relationship, namely with immediate physicality ; object & subject reflect perfectly ; earliest schemata are restricted to the internal structure of the actions (the coordination) as they exist in the actual moment and differentiate between the actions connecting the subjects and the actions connecting the objects. The action-scheme can not be manipulated by thought and is triggered when it practically materializes ;

  • pre-operatoric, pre-rational thought (the pre-concept) : object and subject are differentiated and interiorized ; the subject is liberated from its entanglement in the actual situation of the actions ; early psychomorph causality. The subjective is projected upon the objective and the objective is viewed as the mirror of the subjective. The emergence of pre-concepts and pre-conceptual schemata does not allow for permanency and logical control. The beginning of decentration occurs and eventually objectification ensues ... ;

  • concrete-operatoric, proto-rational thought (the concrete concept) : conceptual structures emerge providing insight in the essential moments of the operational mental construction : 
    (a) constructive generalization ; 
    (b) the ability to understand each step and hence the total system (1 to 2 to 3 ...) and 
    (c) autoregulation enabling one to run through the system in two ways, causing conservation. The conceptual schemata are "concrete" because they only function in contexts and not yet in formal, abstract mental spaces ;

  • formal-operatoric, rational thought (the formal concept) : abstract conceptual structures positioned in mental spaces which are independent of the concrete, local environment. Liberated from the substantialist approach but nevertheless rooting the conditions of knowledge outside the cognitive apparatus itself ;

  • transcendental thought (the critical concept) : abstract concepts explaining how knowledge and its growth are possible, rooted in the "I think", the transcendental unity of apperception (or transcendental Self) ;

  • creative thought (the creative concept) : the hypothesis of a possible (arguable), conceptual immanent metaphysics ;

  • unitive thought (nondual & non-conceptual) : the suggestion of a possible, non-conceptual but meta-rational transcendent metaphysics (or pataphysics).

§ 56

These modes of thought contain two important demarcations : the lower threshold defines the border between ante-rational thought (mythical, pre-rational and proto-rational) and reason. The higher threshold declares the difference between reason (conceptual and transcendental) & immanent metaphysics.

Each time a threshold is crossed, a crucial potential of the mind has been added to its actuality, deepening the subtle complexity of the cognitive texture and enlarging its ability to communicate with its environment and to continue to grow. Three important stages of cognition emerge :

  • prenominal : mythical, pre- & proto-rational (instinctual) ;

  • nominal : rational and transcendental (rational) ;

  • meta-nominal : creative and unitive (intuitional, ex hypothesi).


from action to ante-rational thought


ANTE-RATIONALITY

1. MYTHICAL or PRE-LOGICAL THOUGHT :

First substage :

  1. adualism and only a virtual consciousness of identity ;

  2. primitive action testifies the existence of a quasi complete indifferentiation between the subjective and the objective ;

  3. actions are quasi not coordinated, i.e. random movements are frequent.

Second substage :

  1. first decentration of actions with regard to their material origin (the physical body) ;

  2. first objectification by a subject experiencing itself for the first time as the source of actions ;

  3. objectification of actions and the experience of spatiality ;

  4. objects are linked because of the growing coordination of actual actions ;

  5. links between actions in means/goals schemes, allowing the subject to experience itself as the source of action (initiative), moving beyond the dependence between the external object and the acting body ;

  6. spatial & temporal permanency and causal relationships are observed ;

  7. differentiation (between object and subject) leads to logico-mathematical structures, whereas the distinction between actions related to the subject and those related to the external objects becomes the startingpoint of causal relationships ;

  8. the putting together of schematics derived from external objects or from the forms of actions which have been applied to external objects.

Comments :

The earliest stage of mythical thought (first substage) is adual and non-verbal. The only "symbols" and "forms" are the material events themselves in all their immediacy and wholeness. It is this non-verbal core, which makes the mythopoetic mind analogical. In mythical thought, everything is immediate and the immediate is all. Ergo, myth goes against the differentiation which feeds the complexification of thought & cognition. The myth of myths is the "eternal return" to the primordial state of absence of differentiation.

Before the rise of language, mythical cognition is imbedded in action and allows for the distinction between an object & a subject of experience by being conscious of the material, exteriorized schematics connecting both (cf. the myth of water & the sacred feminine in Ancient Egyptian Predynastic Gerzean ware-design).

The first differentiation occurs when, on the level of material, actual, immediate actions, the object is placed before the subject of experience. This emergence of subjectivity implies the decentration of the movements of the physical executive agent (the body), which unveils the subject as source of action and prepares for the interiorizations of pre-rational thought. By this foundational difference between the body & the empirical subject, consciousness can be attributed to a focus of identity (ego). 

Mythical thought is non-verbal but actional. Nevertheless, actions are triggered by a subject conscious of a whole network of practical and material actualizations, although without any conceptual knowledge but only through immediate, exteriorized material schemes. Hence ritual comes before narrative myth.

In terms of cognitive texture, mythical thought is the "irrational" foundation of ante-rationality. Indeed, the earliest layer of human cognitive activity is devoid of logical necessity, although patterns & schemes are present, but their flexibility and plasticity are a function of the direct environment and what happens there. There is no cognitive permanency. Action and its source are distinguished, but coordinations which suggest any reflection on the action itself (or on the actor) are absent. Hence, idiotic schemes are obsessively repeated. The "irrationality" being the total absence of means to communicate meaning in other ways than in immediate physical terms (offering something, going away, kicking the other, smiling, crying etc.). Nevertheless, the subject is conscious of being a source of action. There is a non-verbal sense of identity (the I-am-ness of the empirical ego).

2. PRE-RATIONAL THOUGHT :

  1. because of the introduction of semiotical factors (symbolical play, language, and the formation of mental images), the coordination of movements is no longer exclusively triggered by their practical and material actualizations without any knowledge of their existence as forms, i.e. the first layer of thought occurs : the difference between subject & object is a signal which gives rise to the sign ;

  2. upon the simple action, a new type of interiorized action is erected which is not conceptual because the interiorization itself is nothing more than a copy of the development of the actions using signs and imagination ;

  3. no object of thought is realized but only an internal structure of the actions in a pre-concept formed by imagination and language ;

  4. pre-verbal intelligence and interiorization of imitation in imaginal representations ;

  5. psychomorph view on causality : no distinction between objects and the actions of the subjects ;

  6. objects are living beings with qualities attributed to them as a result of interactions ;

  7. at first, no logical distinction is made between "all" and "few" and comparisons are comprehended in an absolute way, i.e. A < B is possible, but A < B < C is not ; 

  8. finally, the difference between class and individual is grasped, but transitivity and reversibility are not mastered ;

  9. the pre-concepts & pre-relations are dependent on the variations existing between the relational characteristics of objects & can not be reversed, making them rather impermanent and difficult to maintain. They stand between action-schema and concept.

Comments :

A tremendous leap forwards ensues. The formation of a subjective focus (at the end of the mythical phase of thought) is necessary to allow for the next step : interiorization, imagination and the actual articulation of pre-concepts, leading up to pre-relations between objects, but the latter remain psychomorph.

The reality of objects is always individualized or made subjective. Natural phenomena, stones, trees and animals "speak" just as do human subjects. Important objects are those with the strongest positive (attractive) subjective potential : family, teachers, ancestors, Divine kings, prophets, angels, Deities, God, etc. These "mediate" when pre-rationality fails to bridge the gap between what is stable (the architecture) & what constantly moves (the process).

Early Dynastic Egypt (ca. 3000 - 2.600 BCE) and the Old Kingdom (ca. 2600 - 2200 BCE) provide us with examples of pre-rational thought. The literary sources evidence a mode of thought less developed than the monumental record would suggest. Incredible motoric skills and organizational abilities were the building blocks of the Pharaonic Old Kingdom State. The link between linguistic abilities and cognitive structure is pertinent and fundamental.

3. PROTO-RATIONAL THOUGHT :

  1. for the first time concepts and relations emerge and the interiorized actions receive the status of "operations", allowing for transformations. The latter make it possible to change the variable factors while keeping others invariant ;

  2. the increase of coordinations forms coordinating systems & structures which are capable of becoming closed systems by virtue of a play of anticipative and retrospective constructions of thought (imaginal thought-forms) ;

  3. these mental operations, instead of introducing corrections when the actions are finished, exist by the pre-correction of errors and this thanks to the double play of anticipation and retroaction or "perfect regulation" ;

  4. transitivity is mastered which causes the enclosedness of the formal system ;

  5. necessity is grasped ;

  6. constructive abstraction, new, unifying coordinations which allow for the emergence of a total system and auto-regulation (or the equilibration caused by perfect regulation) ;

  7. transitivity, conservation and reversibility are given ;

  8. the mental operations are "concrete", not "formal", implying that they (a) exclusively appear in immediate contexts and (b) deal with objects only (i.e. are not reflective) ;

  9. the concrete operatoric structures are not established through a system of combinations, but one step at a time ; 

  10. this stage is paradoxal : a balanced development of logico-mathematical operations versus the limitations imposed upon the concrete operations. This conflict triggers the next, final stage, which covers the formal operations.

Comments :

Thanks to transitivity, a formal system of concrete concepts arises. It is not combinatoric (but sequential) and not formal (abstract concept are not present). Concrete thoughts manipulate objects without reflecting upon the manipulation. The latter is stored as a function of its direct use, not in any overall, categorial, librarian or antiquarian fashion, although within a given manipulation a series may be present. The contextualism, pragmatism and use of the concrete concept is its stability.

Proto-rationality is always limited by a given context. Moreover, there is no reflection upon the conditions of subjectivity (just as in the pre-rational stage objects remained psychomorph). This contextualization leaves in place uncoordinated actions and concepts which are the expression of many serious (fundamental) contradictions.

With the advent in Ancient Egypt of the "classical" Middle Kingdom (ca. 1940 BCE), cognitive (literary) and motoric (architecture, art) attained a proto-rational equilibrium, as the Maxims of Good Discourse of Ptahhotep, the Instruction to Merikare and the Discourse between a man and his soul put into evidence.


from ante-rational to rational thought


RATIONALITY

4. RATIONAL THOUGHT :

The formal operations leave contextual entanglements behind, and give a universal, a-temporal embedding to the cognitive process through abstraction, categorization & linearization. Cognition is liberated from the immediate events and able to conceptualize logical & mathematical truths (deduction) as well as physical causalities in abstract terms, without any consideration for their actual occurrence, if any (cf. the inner thought-experiment). Thought is able to combine propositions.

However, although object and subject of thought are differentiated, and grasped as abstract parts in an epistemological inquiry about the origin of human knowledge, continuity and stability in the becoming and fluctuating world is found by projecting these conditions outward (instead of inward, i.e. as particular conditions on the side of the subject of experience), with idealism (Plato and the tradition of a subject without an object) and realism (Aristotle and the tradition of an object without a subject) as a result. The antinomies caused by these major set of solutions, have dominate pre-Kantian thought. Therefore, pre-critical rational thought is the first, somewhat primitive subphase of the mode of decontextualized conceptualization, as it were the infancy of reason.

The Greek miracle initiated the rational mode of thought. Indeed, by the end of the Dark Age (ca. 1100 - 750 BCE), the Greek cultural form had persistent "Aryan", Indo-European characteristics of its own :

  • linearization : "Mycenæan megaron", "geometrical designs", mathematical form, peripteros ;

  • anthropocentrism : warrior leaders, individual aristocrats, poets, "sophoi" and teachers ;

  • fixed vowels : the categories of the "real" sound are written down & transmitted ;

  • dialogal mentality : the Archaic Greeks enjoyed talking, writing & discussing (with strong arguments) ;

  • undogmatic religion : the Archaic Greeks had no sacred books and hence no dogmatic orthodoxy ;

  • cultural affirmation : the Archaic Greeks were a "young" people who needed to affirm their identity ;

  • cultural approbation & improvement : the Archaic Greeks accepted to be taught and were eager to learn.

The inventive, Greek adaptation of these strong direct influences, the linearization of the underlying ante-rational thoughts and eventually the rational universalization of ante-rationality itself, constituted the formalizing streak which characterized Hellas. Indeed, in the eighth and seventh centuries BCE, a fair number of technical processes and decorative motive of Mycenæan Art reappeared in Greece. They are probably reintroductions from the East, where they had been adopted in the days of the Mycenæan empire and kept alive throughout the Dark Age. Mycenæan Linear B was however never used again, but parts of the "old" Greek cultural form had survived and was presently seeking its renewal by good, strong & enduring examples : Phoenicia, Egypt, Mesopotamia.

"Perhaps the greatest contribution of the Bronze Age to Classical Greece was something less tangible, but quite possibly inherited : an attitude of mind which could borrow the formal and hieratic arts of the East and transform them into something spontaneous and cheerful ; a divine discontent which led the Greek ever to develop and improve their inheritance."
Higgings, 1997, p.190 (my italics).

5. TRANSCENDENTAL THOUGHT :

When reflection upon the conditions of object and subject of thought happens and the internal, transcendental pre-conditions of the cognitive apparatus are discovered (cf. Rules, Prolegomena & Knowledge), a new mental world is opened up. The "natural" approach is over, and a new "transcendental" (not "transcendent" !) layer becomes active. This marks the birth of critical rational thought.

With the completion of the rational mode, and as soon as the conditions of the process of thought become the object of thought, a new conflict arises. The transcendental approach aims to understand the reflection of the process of thought on itself, as it were unveiling the ongoing operations of thought without disturbing the flow of empirical consciousness and its continuous cognitive, affective and motoric activity circumambulating an empirical ego. However, the transcendental "I think", placed at the heart of the whole edifice of transcendental inquiry, is formal and devoid of intellectual perception of itself.

The intellect integrates and unifies the two ideas of critical reason : the real (correspondence) and the ideal (consensus). Fed by the senses, the categories produce empirical-formal propositions, or statements of fact. This manifold is brought into focus by reason by means of these two ideas (which constitute the essential tension of reason) and their various categorial schemes. These mechanisms are discovered by transcendental thought.


from scientific to metaphysical thought


META-RATIONALITY

6. CREATIVE THOUGHT :

According to Thomas Aquinas, metaphysics has its own mode of knowledge, ascribed to what he called the "intellectus". This mode captures one single truth, and implies a direct, immediate intake of knowledge which differs from the mediate ways to gather it. So "ratio" (related to science) and "intellect" were divided. Metaphysics offers a unique synthetical, intellectual insight regarding being-as-such. But Thomas (like Kant), denied reason its "terminus". A direct knowledge of what lies outside the "ratio" was deemed impossible. It was Nicolas of Cusa who introduced the famous expression "intuitio intellectualis" to define the direct knowledge of an evident truth.

To experience the unity of apperception as an active, dynamical and creative Self, is, ex hypothesi, a prehension of the unique, individual ideas of the immanent Self of each individual, i.e. the true observer. To witness these ideas is the origin of all creativity and also the fundamental completion of the individualizing cognitive process, for this wholeself is the intuitional stepping-stone to the non-verbal, unknowing, ineffable "special knowledge" of poets and mystics alike.

The Self-ideas witnessed in the creative mode of thought thirst for manifestation and succeed through intellectual flashes of insight to inspire, initiate & engage new, creative activities of reason. Although immanent metaphysics works with arguable statements, and in tune with the unification reason seeks (namely that of understanding), the own-form of creativity of every actual entity in general and of human beings in particular, i.e. their specific form of definiteness, escapes reason and belongs to the ontological Self. Hence, insofar as immanent metaphysics tries to objectify man (in a possible speculative anthropology), it cannot do away the real ideal Self of every individual, the "soul" of consciousness. The realization of this (higher, more aware) Self being the conditio sine qua non for every truly creative act, whether occasional or sustained over long periods of time. The true observer, a Self different from the empirical ego and its wanderings, is more than "of all times". Here a hidden, invisible and intimate inner ontological stratum is delved deeper into. Intuitional philosophers do accommodate the creative ideas of the Self and are thus able to witness, from the vantage point of the true observer, the latent possibilities of consciousness and its potency to expand its creative and inventive horizon.

7. UNITIVE THOUGHT :

On this stratum of cognition, transcendence is touched by way of intellectual perception. This non-conceptual and non-propositional mode of thought allows us, so our living examples teach, to integrate knowledge beyond the point of scientific & speculative thought and relate the immanent whole achieved by immanent creative thought with the suggested transcendent totality. Beyond any possibility to describe or explain God, this mode involves a direct experience of the Divine of which nothing affirmative can be said, completing the "similitudo Dei". Here, speculative, arguable thought itself is left for namelessness and silence.

Transcendent metaphysics is ineffable. Even the latter qualification is only poetical and suggestive. This mode of thought reveals the most subtle aspect of cognition, one most philosophers would not consider to be "thought" at all (although something is experienced by someone, without the latter being able to say anything about it). This mode is put into evidence by the way of life of the great mystics. But such examples of grand sublimity are always paradoxical and incomprehensible to reason. Indeed, it seems as if the pinnacle of thought and its startingpoint (namely non-verbal myth) touch. Mystical elocutions are works of art, not of science or philosophy. As such, they can be an object of faith, which at best, does not coerce and is veiled by mystery, silence, hiddenness and secrecy.

HUMAN COGNITION : 3 STAGES OF COGNITION and 7 MODES OF THOUGHT

I
pre-
nominal

ante-
rationality

1. Mythical
libidinal ego

INSTINCT

2. Pre-rational
tribal ego
3. Proto-rational
imitative ego
barrier between ante-rationality and reason

II
nominal

rationality

4. Rational
formal ego

REASON

5. Critical
formal Self
barrier between rationality and intuition

III
meta-nominal

meta-
rationality

6. Creative
true Self

INTUITION

7. Transcendent
living Monad

§ 57

In this genetico-epistemological corollary of a possible critical theory and practice of knowledge and its growth, human cognitive growth is not halted at the level of reason. The nature of things is the constant dynamism of mental forms, propensities and differences (energies, particles & forces). As long as conflicts remain, the process continues. All actual entities are dynamical. "Panta rhei !" (
all things are in constant flux) is one of the more famous sayings of Heraclitus (ca. 540 - ca. 480 BCE), the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher of Ephesus quoted by Plato. In his view, as in Whitehead's, the world is all there is and all of that is constantly changing. This ongoingness of the world-process or universal dynamism does not deny the presence of architecture and lawfulness (forms of definiteness). Without these (for example in the form of the constants of nature, the laws of physics or biology), all this movement would have no order or coordination. Hence, no forms would have come into actuality and nothing but the primordial soup would have continued to exist.

Thinking change and an evolving cognitive texture, leads to inquire after meta-rational states of cognition. Is a faculty of cognition exceeding reason possible ? This faculty of creativity, exerts its efforts either on the totality of the universe, lacking facts but arguing a totalizing intent (immanent metaphysics), or, as
suggested by the most sublime art and poetical harmony, tries to promote faith in the transcendent Being, encompassing -so do His revelations tell- the complete contingent world-process. Clearly, this Supreme Being is also the Supreme Witness and hence, at the end of the chain, the only Witness of whatever there is to be witnessed.

Reason occupies the middle-ground between instinct and intuition, between, on the one hand, multi-layered thought (a variety of different approaches) and, on the other hand, at best, an arguable immanent metaphysics and/or the echoing suggestion or poetry of a non-conceptual, transcendent mode of thought (rooted in the nameless One). Reason, as the string of a violin, is stretched between affect and sublimity.

The exercise is to understand thought as both instinctual, rational and intuitional, i.e. conjunctive rather than disjunctive. To properly think, the three stages of cognition need to be integrated and functional. Although science must limit itself to rational, formal structures, thought is not confined to these boundaries necessary to produce probable empirico-formal object-knowledge. Thanks to science's modesty, instinct and intuition may be checked and curtailed. Exceeding its own possibilities, science delegates instinct to the realm of inferior tendencies (cf. the Greeks) and/or ridicules intuition (cf. the logical positivists). Without limits, it becomes dogmatic and a perversion of reason (cf. Kant). But staying within its domain, it exercises its crucial intersubjective and factual role and assists the development of thought beyond its own domain. Intuition is possible but not contrary to reason. In the tribunal of our cognition, mind is the defense (bringing in evidence), reason the prosecutor (putting into categories) and intellect the judge (unifies the two scales in one judgment). To separate them when they work together is essential to know and continue to know.


Even if reason is critically watchful and not deluded by ontological illusions, so that the ideas of reason (the "real" and the "ideal") are not seen as ontological hypostases, but as regulative principles holding a hypothetical (not an apodictical) claim, reason entertains a conflictual interest (cf. Kant's "widerstreitendes Interesse"). On the one hand, it seeks unity in the variety of natural phenomena (the multiple is reduced to a type). On the other hand, in order to guarantee the growth of knowledge, reason wants heterogeneity (the unique, not repeatable & singular). Kant could not reconcile the law of variety and the law of types (as there is no intellect, there is no "faculty" of cognition higher than reason, as it were working from behind the surface of the "mirror" of reason). The genetic process is stopped ad hoc and the "nominal" is made absolute. In Kant's court, the seat of the judge remains at best empty, or, worse, reason is the only player, leading to confusion and apathy.

§ 58

If the organization of the mind may be characterized as "dual" (sensoric versus categorial), the overall logic behind reason as supreme faculty of consciousness, although layered, is "monadic". Reason is prepared & equipped for the immanence of the intellect, but has to give up its role of master and become a servant of the own-form of its own Higher Self. This ontological necessity, in particular its constant negation, reflects on the creative potential.

If variety & unity are active on the same level, reason is crippled. A schizoid fluctuation between variety & unity is accommodated. Judgment is constantly postponed and knowledge becomes anecdotal. Kant projected the inherent dualism of the mind on reason. Nothing can be its own tribunal except in madness. Reason needs intellect to replenish itself and acquire the intention of the beginner unhindered by the consequences of wrong thought, unbridled affects and immoral actions.

Distinguish between three factors :

  • mind ("Verstand") :  together with the senses, co-conditioning  facts tending towards differentiation (variety) ;

  • reason ("Vernunft") : regulating dualism with ideas converging on unity & the unconditional ;

  • intellect : faculty or stage of cognition allowing for the creative, intuitional manifestation of one's immanent own-Self and the intellectual perception of its unconditional transcendent core.

The law of types is more fundamental to our prosecuting reason than the law of variety, which is fundamental to our mind, the advocate of the senses. By working with the law of types, reason invokes the intellect, who's role Kant tried to limit to the bare, formal minimum necessary to make the mind work properly "for all times"... He eliminated the notion of "own-Self", the specific, unique ontological form of actual definiteness characterizing each and every individual and crucial to promote creative thought.

The critical position defended here can thus be summarized as follows :

  1. in human cognition, rooted in action (coordinated movements), sensoric synthesis, affect, mind, reason & intellect prevail ;

  2. under the ægis of the transcendental unity of apperception (the formal, transcendental Self), the mind, hand in hand with -so must we think- sensoric and affective events, produces knowledge in the form of probable, fallible empirico-formal propositional statements of fact ;

  3. reason is meta-mind unifying & expanding mind ;

  4. intellect is meta-reason unifying reason ;

  5. the unification of mind by reason implies a transcendental Self, the capstone of the pyramidal structure of the spatio-temporality of the mind ;

  6. the unification of reason by intellect implies a Higher Self, the own-form of the individual and unique ontic definiteness (difference and thus energy). Immanent in the ontological sense (not exceeding nature as such), this Self is "transcendent" in the epistemic, creative sense (transgressing the possible experience of the empirical ego and its mental cogitations) ;

  7. "intellectual reason" is the ideal of a real harmony between ante-rationality, the science of facts, immanent metaphysics and transcendent pataphysics.

Two stages in the meta-nominal & meta-rational stage of cognition are distinguished :

  • the contemplative, creative activity of the arguable but non-factual ideas of the transcendent, ontic Self (studied by immanent metaphysics) and 

  • the monadic, unitive activity of Sheer Being suggested by the intellectual perception of the unconditional core of being.

Two types of rationality ensue :

  • the rational mind : preoccupied with the growth of scientific knowledge gathered by the mind through synthesis, unable to contemplate the transcendental Self as ontic and transcendent, but discovering the transcendental norms of reason which regulate the mental process of producing knowledge (one-dimensional reason) ;

  • intellectual reason : serves the purpose of the complete expression of the actual own-form of the unique Higher Self  of the individual, encompassing its creativity, inventivity and stepping-stone to the direct experience of the light of reason (the intellect). This light does not inform about the world but about ourselves as Selves. This Self-knowledge constitutes a creative dynamization of reason, mind & perception (multi-dimensional reason). Formally, this intellectual reason is two-tiered :

    1. the intuition of the transcendent Self of creativity ;

    2. the intellectual perception of absolute reality.

3.3 The argument from design - the anthropic principle.

"The transcendental idea of a necessary and all-sufficient original Being is so overwhelming, so high above everything empirical, which is always conditioned, that we can never find in experience enough material to fill such a concept, and can only grope about among things conditioned, looking in vain for the unconditioned, of which no rule of any empirical synthesis can ever give us an example, or ever show the way towards it."
Kant, I. : CRV, B646.

§ 59

The Platonic strategy of the ontological argument a priori favored by theism fails. Its aim was to prove a necessary, absolute Being beyond nature, not a principle existing inside nature. This peculiar immanence is not the ultimate, absolute cause, which is transcendent, but exists within nature, as it were coinciding with her. The degree of perfection of this cause lies within what is possible in experience, and so could be called the first immanent cause. It explains the over-arching unity, order and harmony of the world without advancing further, without stepping from this likelihood of immanent excellence to its determining concept as an all-embracing Divine transcendence, as it were bridging the broad abyss between immanent existence of actual entities and the necessary transcendent Being. The cause advanced in the argument from design is not the absolute unity of a transcendent Being beyond reason, but the peculiar unity explaining the skilful edifice, a cause proportionate to the order and design everywhere to be observed in the world.

"This present world presents to us so immeasurable a stage of variety, order, fitness and beauty, whether we follow it up in the infinity of space or in its unlimited division, that even with the little knowledge which our poor understanding has been able to gather, all language, with regard to so many and inconceivable wonders, loses its vigour, all numbers their power of measuring, and all our thoughts their necessary determinations ; so that our judgment of the whole is lost in a speechless, but all the more eloquent astonishment."
Kant, I. : CRV, B649.

The logical core of the argument from design is a procession from the observed contingent order to the existence of a very great cosmic might, one making the peculiar unity of the world possible, i.e. the first immanent cause. As no cause outside the world can ever be definite, no rational principle of transcendent theology (the theist concept of a necessary Being), forming the base of religion, can be given. But, if we can infer an immanent cause of the world, then an immanent metaphysics can be used to construct a natural religious philosophy, the pantheist ideal of a necessary being inside the world. Although such a concept suggests a still higher cause, one explaining ultimate Authorship, no transgression is allowed and so, from this natural vantage point, the concept of the Author of the world remains empty.

Summarize the logical steps of the traditional argument from design as follows :

  1. Major Premiss 1 : the world is an organized, contingent whole, evidencing variety, order, fitness and beauty ;

  2. Major Premiss 2 : it is impossible for this arrangement to be inherent in the things existing in the world, i.e. the different entities could never spontaneously co-operate towards definite aims ;

  3. Minor Premiss : definite aims need a selecting and arranging purposeful rational disposing principle ;

  4. Conclusion 1 : ergo, there exists a sublime and intelligent cause (or many) which is the cause of the world, not only in terms of natural necessity (blind and all-powerful), but as an intelligence, by freedom ;

  5. Conclusion 2 : the unity of this cause (or these causes) may be inferred with certainty from the unity of the reciprocal relation of the parts of the world as portions of a skilful edifice so far as our experience reaches. Ergo, the intelligent cause or causes of the world forms or form a unity of design ;

  6. Lemma : if this cause is projected outside the world to explain its activity, then the domain of reason is left and the argument from design becomes the refuted argument from necessity (cf. the cosmological argument). Ergo, the argument from design does not prove an ultimate, but a proximate cause.

For Kant, the argument from design led to the "stage of admiration" of the greatness, the intelligence and the power of the Architect of the world, who, unlike a Creator or Author, who is self-sufficient, necessary and transcendent, is very much hampered by the quality of the material with which to work.

This argument from design works well together with Ockham's revised a posteriori argument from efficient causes :

  1. Major Premiss : in the contingent order of the world nothing can be the cause of itself or it would exist before itself ;

  2. Minor Premiss 1 : an infinite series is conceivable in the case of efficient causes (existing horizontally one after the other), but impossible in the actual (vertical) order of conservation "hic et nunc" ;

  3. Minor Premiss 2 : an infinite regress in the actual, empirical world here and now would give an actual infinity, which is absurd ;

  4. Minor Premiss 3 : a contingent thing coming into being is conserved in being as long as it exists ;

  5. Minor Premiss 4 : as only necessary beings conserve themselves and the world contains contingent things only, every conserver depends on another conserver, etc. ;

  6. Conclusion 1 : ergo, as there is no infinite number of actual conservers, there is a first Conserver ;

  7. Lemma : if we suppose an infinite regress in the actual, empirical world here and now's, then an actual infinity would exist, which is absurd, ergo, the first Conserver exists.

The conclusions of both arguments, given the terministic nature of logic, are not certain but probable. This is in tune with our non-foundational epistemology. They support a conserving cause of the world, intelligently pre-planning the universe in a design, like an architect or demiurge, with a freedom limited by the own-forms of the actual entities "at hand", working on the "tick" of the cosmic clock to conserve and maintain the universe. Clearly such a very great being, possessing the highest natural wisdom, is not a final concept. But immanent metaphysics cannot advance further.

The Intelligent Conserving Cause itself cannot be explained by ante-rationality, reason or the creativity of immanence. A "desperate leap" across the "broad abyss" between the unity of the world and the Author of the world may be attempted, but without any reason. For it is all together a different thing to be creative thanks to casual intellectual flashes in an airy, shaded room, than to be constantly a witness of the full blaze of the Sun and its brightest light. As Ionescu (1909 - 1994), the founder of Absurd Theater, one may choose to walk away from it ... To posit transcendence is impossible. This truth is the major obstacle in any serious apology. Absolute totality can only be suggested by sublime poetry. Religions are poetical constructs of a certain quality.

Transcendent meta-rationality (nondual intuition) is non-conceptual, like an intuition without image, a merging without seed, a union without means, an experience of silent namelessness. The meaning of grand poetry is the object of metaphysics. Arguments can be presented. But in a transcendent metaphysics, these poetical forms become revealed cosmogonies explaining the creation of the universe. In the deepest sense they try to fathom the unconditional, and have, like koans, an exemplaric relevance. But to those who adhere to them, they are windows to the transcendent God. Is this true ? No one can tell.

To solidify the argument from design even more, its pivotal second major premiss needs to be studied and backed in more detail :

  • Major Premiss 2 : the different entities composing the world could never spontaneously co-operate towards definite aims.

Indeed, central to the debate (cf. Dembski & Behe (1998) and Hamilton (2002)), is the question whether the organization of the universe and the emergence of life are accidental ? Hoyle (1986) concluded random events and change occurrences are insufficient to account for the complexity of living organisms. Since Prigogine (1917 - 2003) wrote La Nouvelle Alliance (1979), a weak form of finality is gaining ground in science. He suggested the return of finality in open, dissipative (physical, biological and social) systems. Hoyle compared the likelihood of the random emergence of higher forms of life with the probability of a tornado sweeping through a junk-yard ending up assembling a Boeing 747 ! A highly unlikely event. He also seriously tried to show why Darwin's theory is not supported by the mathematics of evolution. Perhaps the "grand story" of (neo-) Darwinism is over too ...

Four analogies provide a strong backing for the case presenting the non-spontaneous becoming of the actual world process.
How to detect non-spontaneous "design" ?

  1. design by analogy of human products : the proximate cause proportional to the order, harmony, fitness & freedom observed in the world can be identified (named) by following the analogy of products of human design. In doing so, only the "form" aspect of the world is observed to identify design. In this way, the "matter", or substance of the world, is not targeted, and it is no longer necessary to prove in addition, that the things of the world, given the laws of nature, were in themselves incapable of such order and harmony. Hence, to avoid backing the premiss, it is accepted no supreme intelligence exists in the material substance of the things of the world. In the traditional Peripatetic account, four causes are at work in the world : material, efficient, formal & final. By analogy of human products, the design involves the formal and final causes only ;

  2. design by analogy of outcomes in living organisms : all living things seem tailor-made for their function and appear to interact purpose-fully with their environments : animals use camouflage, most parts of our bodies, down to our DNA helix, are very delicately engineered, and large numbers of apparent coincidences exist between various living organisms, etc. These highly ordered biological schemata seem places of reference to back the premiss, for how could such a complexity rise out of simplicity without a pattern of intelligent choices ? The chances are small enough, given what science demands in other areas, to dismiss spontaneous, random activity. Nevertheless, this study of outcomes was seriously affected by the discovery of the Darwinian principle organisms evolve by natural selection, adaptations and (random) mutations. If all biological events can be explained by this principle (turned into a paradigm), then indeed there is no "purpose" behind the grand natural symphony. Darwin (1809 - 1882) and neo-Darwinism were able to explain much of the data of his time and the first half of the previous century. Even societies could be studied in terms of the survival of the fittest (Monod, 1970). But, recent studies show how the theory has been unable to account for certain more subtle phenomena uncovered by the biochemistry of the last 50 years, mostly related to complex events such as protein transport, blood clotting, closed circular DNA, electron transport, photosynthesis etc.

    Progressive metamorphosis, with the emergence of increasingly complex and intelligent species in a step-wise, sequential pattern was recently proposed (Joseph, 2002). Large-scale protein innovation (Aravind, 2001), "silent genes" (Henikoff, 1986, Watson, 1992), the precise regulatory control of genome novelty (Courseaux & Nahon, 2001) and the overall genetically predetermined "molecular clockwise" fashion of the unfoldment of the human being (Denton, 1998), underline the evolutionary metamorphosis theory of life and intelligent design. So, beyond the grip of Darwin's macroscopic view, on those more subtle levels of biology and biochemistry, design may be detected and purposeful arrangement of parts suspected. A revised analogy of subtle outcomes becomes thus again possible, leading to a more comprehensive backing of the premiss ;

  3. design by analogy of the forms of the laws of nature : Maxwell (1831 - 1879) pointed to molecules as entities not subject to selection, adaptation & mutation. The contrast between the evolution of species, featuring biological changeability, and the existence of identical building blocks for all observed actual physical entities is crucial.  Given the effectiveness of Newton's laws on the mesolevel (the inverse-square law of gravity being optimal for the becoming of the Solar system), our knowledge of what happens in stars (in particular the production of carbon and oxygen) and the cosmology of the Big Bang, then calculate the odds of spontaneous emergence. A choice has to be made between either an intelligent design (which does not offend except the ill informed) or a monstrous random and blind sequence of accidents producing a gigantic complexity, in other words either a natural higher intelligence or the ongoing mathematical miracles of a blind nature morte. Indeed, ad contrario, the form of the laws of nature underlines the presence of a deep-laid scheme, representing an accurate mathematical descriptions of the natural order (both in genesis as in effect). Although no "consensus omnium" has been reached, the laws of nature likely accommodate biology ;

  4. design by analogy of fundamental constants : the actual irreducible mathematical presence of immutable natural building blocks such as the natural constants, gives a palpable proof of the existence of something independent of every human measurement (and its biological constitutive). These constants define the fabric of physical reality and determine the nature of light, electricity and gravity. They make particles come into existence and fundamental forces work. They actualize the laws of physics by giving equations numerical quantity and are necessary in the logic of physics. What can be said about the particular values takes by these constants ? The conditions for order and eventually life to develop have been found to heavily depend upon these constants. Indeed, although mathematically, the equations of physics, representing the fundamental architecture of the order of the world, also produce outcomes when other quantities of the same constants are introduced, the world would be lifeless and barren (instead of a haven for incredible complexity) if even a small amount of these values would be changed. Ergo, the various values of the constants of nature were designed, and pre-planned. An infinite number of different worlds are possible, but only in one are order, fitness, beauty and life actual. Only our universe has observers witnessing it.

§ 60

Instead of blind chance, the universe has "finality", i.e. an ultimate aim or purpose. This "causa finalis" is the notion backing the "anthropic principle". For if any of the natural constants were to vary from the fine-tuned values physics determined, life as we know it would not be possible. This "weak" anthropic principle posits cosmological features conductive to a universe tuned to and generative of life as we know it. Accepting life is bound to be observed, the "strong" principle affirms the universe is bound to produce conscious and intelligent beings. This addition of the observer or witness is a demand of quantum theory, for to look at quantum events yields particles, whereas to look away causes waves (interference). The observer is thus always part of the experiment. The strong version argues for an immanent Architect of the world (explaining the unity of the world).

  • weak anthropic principle : the fabric of the world is conductive to life ;

  • strong anthropic principle : the fabric of the world is conductive to the observation of life and the continuum of all observations imply an immanent Witness of all possible forms of life.

The order of the world proposed by science is no longer Newtonian, although most equations of relativity can be made "classical" by eliminating the Lorenz-contractions accompanying high speeds. To solve the equations covering most practical matters at the mesolevel of the macroscopic, the Euclidian and Newtonian notions about reality are adequate. But deep down, at the microlevel of physical reality, in the vast so-called empty spaces between electron and atom core and within the core itself, potentialities and propensities exist which are ruled by a different set of laws.

Besides the strange logic at work in classical quantum mechanics, the more "revolutionary" zero-point physics, or
free energy physics (Puthoff, 1989), understands the vacuum of space as a "plenum", i.e. a fullness of energetic potentialities in balance. This equilibrium prevents the enormous energy potentials from becoming actual, which therefore appears as a void or a vacuum. But every point in empty space, is a locus of convergence of humongous energies, coming from all directions simultaneously, balancing them out. At any point where there is an imbalance or asymmetry in this omnidirectional canceling of energies, there appears a disturbance known as matter. All particles of quantum physics are various modes of asymmetry of the zero-point field of the vacuum with itself. This zero-point energy is seen as the result of the unpredictable random fluctuations, which, in classical theory, are all zero. But, even at a temperature of absolute zero, where no thermal agitation can have effects, the flux remains.

3.4 The "Anima Mundi" and the worship of Nature.

"
... regarding the whole material universe he (Xenophanes) stated that the Unity is God."
Aristotle : Metaphysics, i. 5 986 b10.

§ 61

In Ancient Egypt and Presocratic philosophy, the Divine and cosmology were closely related. The Divine order was invoked to explain the creation of the world. To think the Divine without creation was pointless. The transcendent and immanent sides of the Divine were not distinguished.

In Egypt's Old Kingdom (ca. 2670 - 2198 BCE), the virtual clause "n SDmt.f", i.e. "before he has (had) ..." or "he has (had) not yet ..." (Gardiner, § 402), was used to denote a prior, potential nonexistent state, namely one before the actuality of that state had happened. To be nonexistent, precludes existence, but does not preclude the possibility of becoming existent (expressed by the verb "kpr", "kheper", "to become", which also means "to transform").  Nonexistence was not divorced of its transformation into something actual or created.

Examples of this virtual clause are : "I am sorry for her children,  I grieve for her children broken in the egg, who have seen the face of Khenty (the crocodile-god) before they have lived !" (in Discourse of a Man with his Ba) or "... do not rejoice over what has not (yet) happened." (cf. "m Haw n ntt n xprt" in The Eloquent Peasant, a Middle Kingdom text).

There is something before every thing, before the order, the architecture and the life of creation. The latter manifests as a transformation or change from a nonexistent, virtual state of potentialities to an existing actuality. The virtual state is not actual, but confirms possibility, latency and potentiality. As a potency anterior to creation, it is conceived as a nonexistent object, before "form", i.e. anterior to space and time, and before the creation of sky, Earth, horizon and their "natural" dynamics. In the Pyramid Texts (ca. 2300 BCE), Pharaoh is said to originate from beyond the natural order, beyond creation of space (Shu) and moist (Tefnut), sky (Nut) and Earth (Geb), life and order (cf. Liber Nun).

"I was born in Nun before the sky existed, before the Earth existed, before that which was to be made form existed, before turmoil existed, before that fear which arose on account of the Eye of Horus existed."
Pyramid Texts : utterance 486.

In Presocratic Greece, the "archē" was also conceived before anything else. It too provided a causal explanation for the world. It had not to be explained (like the Nun, it was a given). Being a "beginning" for other things, it had no beginning itself. It was therefore deathless ("athanatos"), the Homeric synonym for a god. Surrounding everything, it contained the whole and explained its direction. To this conceptual cluster were added : continuity, pervasiveness, control, psychic vitality and mind. This cosmic Divinity was recognized as non-anthropomorphic and characterized by an intellectual dynamism keeping the cosmic structure moving.

For these early Greek philosophers, "theos" was not yet separated from the order of the world, and "god" was foremost a cosmic Divinity, necessary to explain the order of things. Thales of Milete (ca. 624 - ca. 545 BCE), speculated that all material is endowed with latent life or "hylezoism" (from "hyle", matter, originally "lumber", and "zoe", life). He also affirmed all things to be "full of gods", suggesting a mechanistic explanation of nature is not enough. Theology and cosmology were confused.

"1. God is one, supreme among gods and men, and not like mortals in body or in mind.
2. The whole sees, the whole perceives, the whole hears.
3. But without effort he sets in motion all things by mind and thought."
Xenophanes : fragments (Clement of Alexandria, Sextus Empiricus and Simplicius).

Even for atheists like Xenophanes of Kolopbon (ca. 570 - ca. 475 BCE), rejecting the gods of Homer (ca. 750 BCE) and Hesiod (ca. 700 BCE), the material cosmos is a unity. Later approved by Aristotle, Xenophanes conceives a mind at work throughout the cosmos, a cosmic intelligence : "a principle in things which is the cause of beauty, and the sort of cause by which motion is communicated to things" (Aristotle : Metaphysics 984b17). This principle causes existing things to be or become well and beautifully disposed, and it is deemed unsatisfactory to commit such an important matter to "spontaneity and chance" (984b15).

In the extant fragments of Parmenides of Elea (ca. 510 - ca. 450 BCE), said to have been the disciple of Xenophanes, the word "theos" is never used. The two parts of his famous poem, On Nature, of which only fragments are left, distinguish the way of truth from the way of opinion and deception. The latter is the way of the natural world of plurality and change. In doing so, Parmenides, defined a divide between reality (truth) & appearance (falsehood), between unity & plurality, between rest & movement, between "what is" (being) & "what is not" (becoming), crucial in later Platonism. For Parmenides, the validity of logic is controlled by justice ("dikē"), invoked in the "prologue" as the speech of a goddess. In the section dealing with cosmology, he introduces another female Divinity (a "daimōn"). She "steers all things". The same metaphor as used for the Milesian "archē" & the Heraclitean "fire" :

"The narrower circles are filled with unmixed fire, and those surrounding them with night, and in the interval, a portion of fire is found spread. In the midst of these circles is the Divinity that steers all things. Everywhere is she principle, for she rules over all painful birth and all begetting, driving the female to the embrace of the male, and the male to that of the female."
Parmenides : On Nature, fragment B XII (Simplicius).

The Eleatics posit the "chorismos" between transcendent being and immanent existence. Thanks to this, Divine immanence (the cosmic Divinity) can be defined devoid of transcendent connotations.

Empedocles of Acagras in Sicily (ca. 490 - 430 BCE), a follower of Pythagoras of Samos (ca. 574 - after 500 BCE), trying to counter the "dark opinions" prevalent about the gods, conceived the elements of the world (water, air, fire and earth) as well as the principles working on them all as Divine, while the "gods" were but longer-lasting combinations of these elements. The Divine per se is mind alone :

"... holy and ineffable, darting through the whole cosmos with swift thought."
Empedocles : fragment 134 (Ammonios).

This new theology embraced the cosmos as a whole : the material substances in it, their forms of life, the agencies bringing about these forms and the "holy mind" or "Nous" darting through it.

His contemporary Anaxagoras (500 - 428 BCE), a pupil of Anaximenes (ca. 585 - 525 BCE), rejected hylezoism and the Divine nature of the celestial phenomena, but still refers to the activity of a cosmic intelligence or "Nous". His language is no longer theological, for "theos" and its derivatives are avoided. The Nous is the "finest" and "purest" of the material elements, and has no spatial or temporal limits. Independent and self-identical in the midst of constant ongoing change and becoming, it recognizes the ingredients of the cosmos, executing majestic power of initiation & conservation.

"The intellect has known all things, also those who are mixed together as those that are dissociated and separate ..."
Anaxagoras : fragment 7 (Simplicius).

In his Phaedo (97b - 98c), Plato describes how Socrates
(469 - 399 BCE) was delighted to read about Anaxagoras "Nous" but quiet disappointed to find it was only introduced to start the initial rotation of the cosmos (cf. deism), a solution, in view of the greatness of this intellect, considered too mechanistic and reductionist. Socrates' interest in a just order, associated the highest being with goodness. In Plato's thought, inspired by the former, the ontological and epistemological difference between the two worlds is irreducible and fundamental. Being and becoming are like day (Sun) and night (Moon). The latter only reflects the light of the Sun.

"
For the Deity, intending to make this world like the fairest and most perfect of intelligible beings, framed one visible living being comprehending within itself all other living beings, who by their nature are closely related to it."
Plato : Timaeus, 30d, my italics.


In the Timaeus, Plato introduced the notion of a "world soul". The atheists addressed by the legislator in the tenth book of the Laws, are those sophists and physicists who identify nature as the source of all things, and like materialists, derive soul from the physical world as mere art ("technē") and convention ("nomos"). This Plato cannot allow. To initiate & conserve the world, the soul ("psychē") of the world must have cosmic priority over the material bodies and their elements. The universe is constructed as an artifact. A craftsman or "demiurge" imposes order on pre-existing disorderly material. Thus, in space and time, a copy or "eikōn" is produced. This approximates the atemporal model ("paradigma"). Between the transcendent original and the immanent copy the "Anima Mundi" initiates and conserves.

In Plato's system, the idea of the good ("agathon") can still be interpreted as a limit-concept. It is not clear whether infinity can be attributed to it in the same way as it can to the ideas or paradigmata. With Plotinus (ca. 205 - 270) and his pupil Porphyrius (232 - 304), the "One" is firmly situated outside the being of the infinite ideas of the world of originals. The One, defined as a non-being on the other side of being, is wholly transcendent. In accord with the intent of the Eleatics, the "chorismos" or divide between copy and original was completed.

For the Stoics, this immanent Divine nature was a "fire" (active energy) and a "logos" (reason) diffused throughout the cosmos. It was wholly material, but of subtle quality. There is nothing beyond the material universe, but this "pneuma" pervades in all things all the time. The laws of nature are the material presence of this Divine, subtle material soul of the universe. As cosmic reason, the Divine was providence & fate (natural necessity). Providence ordained all things, while Fate imposed upon humanity a certain determinism allowing for freedom only within the context of a person's inner acceptance of natural, cosmic necessity (as given by the logos). Like a subtle "celestial fire" burning inside every atom and in every galaxy, this "Anima Mundi" permeates the whole of the enduring world.

With the coming of Christianity and the "creatio ex nihilo", interest in this Divine soul of the world tarnished. In the exclusive pursuit of the transcendent God, any hint of a possible Divine nature became anathema as soon as the battle with the Christian Gnostics had been won (between 150 - 250 CE). Nature (like the physical body and its desires) is "fallen" and so of no interest to the faithful. The body is the door to the demonical. In the three monotheisms, the role of the receptive, feminine, intimate side of the Divine was eclipsed, as was the feminine symbolism of generation, fertility and fecundity (cf. the contrasting concept of a virgin birth in both Christianity and Islam). The theist God is transcendent, active, essence, omnipotent & omniscient, a "He" rather than a "She" ... The tragedy of God's remoteness is then the ridicule of the Divine soul of the world.

In Arabic philosophy, born in the milieu of the translators, we find Al-Kindī (ca. 800 - ca. 866), who in his On the Intellect (translating "nous" as 'akl) introduced the "intellect-in-act", conceived as actual and eternal, thinking all intelligibilia. Linked with the Peripatetic "nous poiētikós" or "intellectus agens", the world soul became a fashionable concept in Islamic thought. In his Risāla fī al-'Akl or  Letter on the Intellect, Al-Fārābi (ca. 870 - ca. 950) posits an "active intellect", a "light" related to the "passive intellect" as the Sun is to the eye. It is identified with the "10th Intellect" emanated from unity and ruling the sublunar world (a wording reminiscent of Hebrew qabalah). This last quality will be rejected by Ibn Rushd (Averroes,  1126 - 1198).


INTERMEZZO

§ 62

Upper Paleolithic humanity (ca. 40.000 - 10.000 BCE), being wanderers, had no local horizon. Unable to plot the natural cycle of the Sun, this slowly emerging human consciousness had only the Moon to orientate itself, for only this swift Light presents its ever-changing face always the same to the entire Earth, no matter in which direction one wanders, and provided a natural source of light during the hours of darkness. The horns of the consort of this "great goddess" and "great sorceress", the "Great Moon Bull", are the two crescents of the Moon. Fertility, sexuality and the mystery of the uterus rule supreme.

the Lunar Phases : astronomical

The Moon is a temporal device. The unchanging Lunar phases were charted on deer antlers and thigh-bones because of the vital information they represented. A purely nomadic lifestyle obscures the daily and annual cycles of the Sun (apparent and seasonal). So the nearest fixed point is the ever-changing face of the Moon. The Lunar cycle of 29.5 days starts when the Moon is "invisible", standing between the Earth and the Sun, on the Sun side of the Earth (i.e. New Moon or Sun conjunct Moon, angle = 0°). During the period of increased light that follows (its face forming a "p"), the Half Moon midpoint is reached at the end of the First Quarter (Sun square Moon, angle = 90°). Before this First Quarter Moon, the Moon is crescent, after it, her movement is gibbous (approaching Full Moon or Sun opposite Moon, angle = 180°) or waxing.

A Full Moon always rises in the East at about the same time as the Sun sets in the West. After the Full Moon, the face of the satellite forms a "d". The Waning Moon. After the Last Quarter Moon, the Old Moon is visible. These fixed temporal intervals or quarters of the Lunar cycle, and their co-relative dual phenomenology of light versus darkness, were symbolized in myths (Osiris in Ancient Egypt). This stable calendar of the wanderers assured fertility, but offered no seasonal plan, no prospect ahead, no long term aim.

the Lunar Phases : magico-religious

Are there, besides the mystical quest for the radical altered state of consciousness, other religious and magical purposes for entering the Paleolithic "cave of darkness" ? In order to steer his environment and himself, the wanderer, caught in the Lunar cycle of light and darkness, of plenty and want, seeks, in a mythical mode of cognition and by sympathetic imitation (by magical mirroring), to unite with the projected "types" of nature. The mountain is the ultimate natural type, representing stability, strength and the will of the deities. Likewise, the heart of the mountain is its secret, and becomes the sanctum or sacred uterus of the great goddess, the womb of (re)birth. This holy space protects and feeds spiritual growth.

Three stages characterize the Upper Paleolithic cave mysteries :

  1. "the entry" : the tunnel : the process of differentiation from light to darkness by initiation ;

  2. "the sanctum" : the cathedral : the secluded place of the mystery of the hidden light kept alight in gestation ;

  3. "the exit" : the return : the process of integration from darkness to light and the actual rebirth.

Light and darkness are the physical underpinnings of the cave mysteries. In mythical thought, the metaphor is physical and the physical metaphorical. The cave is a protected mediating area were the human and the archetypes of nature touch. Its heart is an uterus, a place of new birth. The tunnel is a crawl or passage-way between stages & stations of life and the otherworld (the beforelife and the afterlife), the path of the seed to the ovary. In the natural darkness of the sanctum, events such as the death of a hunter could be relived and the causes combated in a symbolical, allegorical way. Initiations could happen. The womb was the temple of the great goddess, she who (as the cave surrounds the initiate), enfolds nature as a whole.

Upper Paleolithic rock art and its magico-religious sense reflect the spirituality of these free wanderers, the gatherer-hunters who roamed a large territory, identifying (sanctifying) important landmarks, such as mountains and rivers (during the day), as well as the phases of the Moon (at night). These sacred waymarks represented the "great goddess" and her consort. She is the space-time continuum embedding the powerful, ongoing drive of the life-force of her consort, the Bull, at maximum strength when the Moon is Full (Moon or Sun opposite Moon, angle = 180°, with a brightness of magnitude -12.7).

When the Neolithic dawned (ca. 10.000 BCE), semi-nomads and farmers began to experience the annual cycle of events in a fixed number of places. Small changes could be observed and logged. Finding an efficient balance between both approaches (the still dominant Lunar and the emerging Solar) preoccupied humanity during the Neolithic as a whole. The great goddess was still very important and pre-dominant (matriarchy), but her influence waned. As soon as village life commenced, the local horizon became political, and the long-term annual cycle of the Sun was paired with the short-term Lunar month. Analogous preoccupations were projected upon these astronomical cycles.

Finally, farmers worked out change within a local horizon, and so identified the overarching, all-encompassing natural, primordial type of life : the annual cycle of the Sun. The changes marked by this longer cycle are seasonal and horizon-related relationships between the Earth and the stars. What a difference from the wanderers ! The horizon of these nomad was unfixed, with no reference to a stable element of the local, immediate environment (the daily average speed of the Moon is ca. 13°, of the Sun ca. 1°). Wherever the nomad stops, there the Sun sets, and the moving celestial vault remains un-measurable. The synodic movement is detected, but the sidereal remains unknown.

the Solar cycle in the Northern hemisphere
and daily magico-religious sense

The Neolithic ended in Ancient Egypt with Amratian culture (ca. 4000 BCE). It then takes only a millennium for an omnipotent divine kingship to rise (ca. 3000 BCE), a "follower of the god" assimilating the powers of the great goddess (in his regalia) and ruling supreme as a transcendent principle with his consort(s) next to him. A dual theology emerges, in which Solar (Re) and Lunar (Osiris) currents are intermixed, with outstanding complementarities :

  • SOLAR : fire, the Sun, light, activity, creation, Horus - Atum, sky ("pet"), Eye of Re, self-awareness ;

  • LUNAR : water, stellar expanse, darkness, passivity, generation, Isis - Osiris, netherworld ("duat"), Eye of Horus, physical body.

The important & enduring role of the sacred feminine was confirmed by the frequent representations of female figures in Late Naqada II iconography (ca. 3400 - 3300 BCE). The complex, composite nature of some of the Predynastic female deities (like Hathor, both Cow- and Sky-goddess or Nut) is still a powerful manifestation of the Upper Paleolithic and Neolithic great goddess, who combined many of the functions later assigned to other deities. The crucial role of the sacred feminine persisted in the Predynastic Period, but when history dawned (in Egypt ca. 3000 BCE), the great goddess had lost her dominant position. She did however not disappear. This is demonstrated by the prominent role played by goddesses in the later pantheon, by the equal status women enjoyed in Early Dynastic society and by the link between women and the sacred domains of existence (birth, fertility, generation, death, rebirth & healing).

In the historical period, initiated by writing, the light of the Sun, grasped as the ultimate symbol of vitality, plenty and divinity, is associated with the awareness made free by the surplus of food (control over the annual agricultural cycle) & a stable economy (or household) favoring the development of an inner, individual life (consciousness perceiving its proper mode of being) and the blossoming of high culture. The "Solarization" of the Lunar fertility myths, or assimilation of the powers of the sacred feminine by the divine king, goes hand in hand with a stronger centralized control.


§ 63

The Prehistorical Lunar and Solar symbols represent an ante-rational treasure-house of images, metaphors and contextual concepts which inspired future metaphysics. They underline that from the start, the bi-polarity of the Divine was part of human spirituality :

  • TRANSCENDENT : Solar symbols, archē, essence, world of being, God, Creator, He, theism ;

  • IMMANENT : Lunar symbols, phusis, accidental existence, world of becoming, Demiurge, Generator, She, pantheism.

The soul of the world is the "form" of the world and one being with it. As a "feminine", receptive principle (linked with the double movement of inspiration & expiration), She (following Parmenides) is wholly "of the world", inviting us to posit a transcendent Creator outside the totality of events. Her immanence mirrors the pataphysical, the transcendent aim. But as She only brings into actuality what is potential, She is the entelechy of the universe itself and does not transgress its boundaries. In all points of the universe, She encompasses everything all the time.

In the metaphor of a double concave mirror, one side turned to the world and the other to the transcendent principle, She reflects to the world its own natural unity and simultaneously captures the artistic intent of the He-God, influencing the propensity of the endless forms of definiteness to enter existence as actual entities (cf. Whitehead). She co-generates actuality by coinciding with the intent of the Author of the world, the absolute totality. As a "Nous" or "Intellect" of the world, this actual "soul" is not a real actual entity. The transcendent and immanent sides of the Divine (He and She) are one abstract actual entity, namely the absolute totality of the Divine. The primordial nature of the He-God and the immanent unity, conservation and intelligence of the She-Soul, although only one actual abstract entity, differ. The Divine is thus a paradox of which only the immanent side can be approached by reason (for although meta-rational, immanent metaphysics is still able to pour its intellectual flashes -triggering creativity- in arguments) :

  1. real actual entities (the real) : all what exists in the world of facts and events ;

  2. potential eternal objects (the potential) : selfsame, "pure", organizing forms outside the stream of actual entities ;

  3. abstract actual entity (the abstract) : as transcendent Artist and Author, the He-God promotes a beautiful world by way of His She-Soul, the natural Divine medium or natural Divine unit of cosmic conservation and intelligent designing, assisting the process of adding weight to the intention of beauty working in every point of the universe. God is transcendent and abstract. His soul of the world is immanent and abstract.

Immanent metaphysics, arguing the existence of this Great Soul and focusing on its conservative and designing nature, cannot explain Her, except if reference is made to the world as a whole, and nothing more. In the latter case, only the immanent polarity of the Divine comes into perspective. Surprisingly, along with Sartre (1905 - 1980), virulently rejecting the transcendent, theist God of Christianity, we may posit the Anima Mundi as a concept of the Other "pushed to the limit" (cf. L'Ête et le Néant, 1943), and understand this immanent Nature as an all-embracing "Look".

If the monotheisms exclusively invest in the remote, transcendent side of the Divine, we may ask how it is possible for them to succeed in gathering support for their cause ? For if no immanence is posited, no mediation between this world and the transcendent is possible. If so, how to save humanity ? Even if revelation is accepted, it seems strange to posit a God unveiling Himself (in a sacred history, a Divine Son or a holy Book) without attributing to Him any immanence or preoccupation with His creation. How can God be unconcerned with the world ? Theism is not deism. The question of Divine nearness and presence hic et nunc cannot be eclipsed. And it was not. Besides the "canonical" ladders between God and the world, each of the three monotheisms "of the Book" subreptively introduced other mediators :

  1. Judaism : the Divine Presence ("shekinah") accompanies Israel everywhere. At the ultimate point in sacred history, a Messiah will come and the Creator will be perfectly emulated by everyone. For the spiritual elite, a practical Qabalah is posited enabling a theurgy of restoration ("tikun"). In this system, the soul of the world is the "Kether" of "Assiah" (the highest entity in the world of manifestation, identical with the "Assiah" of Briah, the world of ideas - cf. Jacob's Ladder) ;

  2. Christianity : those who completely accept the salvic power of the Cross of Christ have the Holy Spirit and His Virtues & Gifts fully at work in them and receive the complete (esoteric) truth. Meister Eckhart identified the Anima Mundi with the Holy Spirit, while in Christian Gnosticism, Holy Mary (like "Sophia") is the world soul ;

  3. Islam : the Names of Allah are the Self-manifestation out of the "hidden treasure" of God (cf. Ibn 'Arabî). The prophets embody (assume) all these Names (encompassing the perfection of perfection and imperfection) and their coming is not ended (cf. Shijite thought). In the Koran, Allah is said to be nearer to a person than his jugular vein (50:16). The Koranic concept of God encompasses both nearness and remoteness (although Sunnite orthodoxy emphasizes the latter). In Sufism, even in Her Presence He is remote, and even in His remoteness He manifests Her Presence. An ultimate arabesque ...

The intelligence, architectonic scope, immensity and extraordinary powers of this watchful world-soul, makes it a viable object of worship, broadly defined as the response to the appearance of the holy and sacred as "mysterium fascinans et tremendum" (Otto). Historical examples of this worship of the "form" of nature as a receptive and generative Great Goddess are found in many cultures attuned to the cycles and formidable constructions of our natural environment.

In Ancient Egypt, Her cult was the last to survive (namely in the form of Isis on Philae). In Hinduism, the cult of the "shakti", the female aspect of the Deity, was and is essential (cf. the "Divine Mother" as "Mahashakti" or supermind in the spirituality of Ramakrishna and Aurobindo). In Judaism, wisdom ("Chockmah" or "Sophia") stood between the transcendent God and His creation, whereas the Divine Presence of Yahweh ("shekinah", a feminine word) is named with a masculine plural of a feminine noun ("Elohim"). In Christianity, the Holy Virgin became a powerful symbol of this "Great Mother" of the universe, whereas before Islam, the Arabs worshipped the "daughters of Allah", for the Moon god "al-Ilah" (Allah) had three daughters : al-Lat, al-Uzza and Manat, and in verses of surat 53, later abrogated as "Satanic", they were called "the exalted cranes (intermediaries) Whose intercession is to be hoped for".

In a certain way, this feminine aspect was assimilated as the Ka'aba located in Mecca, the "house" of a massive black meteorite, and the sacred stone of Islam (in Egypt, meteorites were worshipped in the star, sky & Sun cult). Wherever a Muslim is located, he is instructed to pray towards Mecca and the Ka'aba. Every Muslim must make a pilgrimage to the Ka'aba once in their lifetime and circumambulate the structure seven times (a number associated with the Egyptian Hathor, the Greek Aphrodite, the Hebrew "Netzach" and the Christian Holy Spirit). Indeed, like coming home to "the mother of us all", the Ka'aba is the physical focus of the worship of Allah on Earth. Pilgrimage to Mecca thus creates a distinct and peculiar unity between the Muslim people.

3.5 Memorial & wager-argument of Pascal.


"The heart has its reasons which reason does not know ; one knows this in a thousand things. I say that the heart loves the universal being naturally and itself naturally, in proportion to how it gives itself, and it hardens against this or that by choice. You rejected this and conserved that ; is it reasonable that you love yourselves ? It is the heart that feels God and not reason. This is then faith ! God sensitive to the heart, not to reason."
Pascal, B. : Pensées, 423 & 424 (277 & 278), non-classified fragments.

§ 64

As Descartes, Blaise Pascal (1623 - 1662) was a mathematician (he laid the foundations of infinitesimal calculus, integral calculus and the theory of probability), and as Cartesius, he asserted the supremacy of the mathematical method within the field of inference and demonstration. But Pascal did not conceive the latter to have the same extent, applicability and usefulness as Descartes did. Outside a limited domain, the method is useless and uncertain. He contrasted and counterbalanced the spirit of geometry with the spirit of
finesse, meaning in French a sense of subtlety, the ability to see with the "eyes of the heart", and to be gifted with depth perception. It is with this "heart" the first principles from which reason derives other propositions are derived. The spirit of finesse is a more extensive organ or instrument of knowing. It implies immediacy, spontaneity and directness. In Pascal's method, both reason and heart are at work, the one never divorced or separated from the latter (as in Cartesian thought : "we do not think that the whole of philosophy is worth an hour's labor" (Pensees, 79).

In 1654, he underwent a mystical experience recorded in his Memorial. It forced him to abandon himself to the personal God of Jesus Christ, but he did not renounce his scientific interests, but came to look on them as part of his service of God. The
Memorial was recorded on a scrap of paper. After his death, this witness of Pascal's mystical experience, was found in the lining of his coat. He carried this reminder always with him.

"The year of grace 1654,

Monday, 23 November, feast of St. Clement, pope and martyr, and others in the martyrology.
Vigil of St. Chrysogonus, martyr, and others.
From about half past ten at night until about half past midnight,

FIRE.

GOD of Abraham, GOD of Isaac, GOD of Jacob
not of the philosophers and of the learned.
Certitude. Certitude. Feeling. Joy. Peace.
GOD of Jesus Christ.
Deum meum et Deum vestrum.
(My God and your God.)
Your GOD will be my God.
Forgetfulness of the world and of everything, except GOD.
He is only found by the ways taught in the Gospel.
Grandeur of the human soul.
Righteous Father, the world has not known You,
but I have known You.
Joy, joy, joy, tears of joy.
I have departed from him :
Dereliquerunt me fontem aquae vivae.

(They have forsaken me, the fount of living water.)
My God, will You leave me ?
Let me not be separated from him forever.
This is eternal life, that they know You, the one true God, and the one that You sent, Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ.
I left him ; I fled him, renounced, crucified.
Let me never be separated from him.
He is only kept securely by the ways taught in the Gospel :
Renunciation, total and sweet.
Complete submission to Jesus Christ and to my director.
Eternally in joy for a day's exercise on the Earth.

Non obliviscar sermones tuos
.
(May I not forget your words.)
Amen."
Pascal : Memorial.

This highly intense experience is unique and has concrete temporal boundaries. In the previous centuries, the universal characteristics of the religious, sacred, numinous, mystical peak-experience have been summarized as follows (cf. Pahnke & Richards, 1972) :

  • temporality : this state is only exceptionally permanent (deification), one "returns", to settle at the nominal level without loss of memory of what has been experienced ;

  • space-time-shifts : everything happens in the perpetual "now" ;

  • noetic quality : a conscious state, capable of contemplative, intuitive and creative thought ;

  • ineffability : the essence of the experience can not be verbalized ;

  • paradoxal : the experience involves the conjunction of opposites ;

  • unity : the nominal distinctions between object & subject dissolve.

In my Knowledge & Love-Mysticism (1994), the love-mysticism of the Flemish mystic Beatrix of Nazareth (1200 - 1268) was scrutinized. The critique of her Seven Ways of Holy Love (1995) shows how mystical experience decentred the empirical ego in order to re-equilibrate the observer's whole system so that a new element of eccentricity comes into play.

This is what had happened to Pascal. In his case, he assisted his memory of this radical experience of Self-declared total Otherness, by writing it down and carrying it on his person. Unlike others, he did not wish to repress this extraordinary event. With the power of a real, enduring and effective initial founding act "in illo tempore", the experience slowly transformed him and he renewed his personal acquaintance with it by putting on his clothes. Doing so, the primordial mythical moment of his initial "sacrifice" (the service of God) was daily repeated, reinforced and ritually reacquired by way of sacred gestures. This same pattern reappears in the life of mystics in general. As Plotinus (cf. his biography by Porphyrius), Pascal, a mathematician, scientist, philosopher and genius, was a mystic. He had perceived the Intellect of the world and moved beyond. Hence, his memory had recorded the Lilliputian dimensions of reason (as apparently seen by the intellect) and Pascal could no longer acclaim the way of geometry as the universal method of truth (cf. Descartes). We may look upon the method of the Ethica ("de more geometrico demonstrata") of his contemporary Spinoza as a good example of reason overstepping its limitations.

The metaphysical demonstrations of God are so remote and complex, they have little effect on the state of mind of people. They never convince hardened atheists but are useless and sterile because they lead to knowledge of God without Christ. The best they do is promote deism, the quest of God apart from Christ. Knowing God without knowing one's own misery and the redeemer to heal oneself, is very dangerous. It produces either the pride of the philosophers, who refuse to see their own misery, or the despair and pessimism of the atheists, who know their own misery but do not know their redeemer. Although the geometrical method does lead to certain truths about the Divine, it cannot bring supernatural knowledge of God as revealed in Christ. Without the latter, no salvation is possible and no direct and personal experience of the Divine can take form.

Pascal's famous wager-argument is not a proof of God's existence, but is addressed to those who are unconvinced by all proofs and rejections of the Divine. Those who suspend judgment may still be compelled by Pascal's argument, for belief would be the only reasonable course of action.

Either God exists or there is no God. The only proper thing for a reasonable person to do is to wager. For to remain indifferent or to suspend judgment is itself to make a choice, namely against God. One cannot help choosing one way or the other. Either God exists, or not. What will it be ? A reasonable person must consider where his interest lies. It is obviously advantageous for happiness to wager for God. If one wins, one wins it all. If one looses, nothing is lost. Do You wish to gain an infinity of an infinitely happy life or the chance of missing such an opportunity ? A chance of infinite gain against a finite number of chances of loss and what You stake is also finite. As the finite is nothing in comparison with the infinite, no further deliberation is needed and the intelligent person wagers for God. Every gambler stakes a certainty to gain an uncertainty, how much more if everything can be won ? The urgency of the matter is contrasted with people's trust in the probability of them being alive the next day. It is not certain we indeed shall see tomorrow. It is for You to begin now. For if You are not redeemed, your second death is certain.

In the Pensées, the urgency of his original experience, the heat of the FIRE can still be felt. Transcendence infuses immanence and a supernatural (meta-rational) organ is at work (the heart). The personal, highly intimate, intense, irreversible, transforming, deeply engraved experience of the "totaliter aliter" should be noted. He kept the Memorial hidden as a good secret. His involvement with mysticism is exemplaric of the personal and highly transforming effect of meta-rationality on reason, in casu the heart.

Once the outer rim of immanence is reached, and arguable flashes of intuition become, as it were, blazing stars, then a "jump" most dangerous is at hand. Reason is about to loose the last outpost of consciousness, architecture & momentum (the fundamentals of nature), and the world will be left. In Christian terms, the soul is transfigurated and made Divine.

The three steps of the "scala perfectionis" leading to mystical experience, namely purification ("purificatio"), totalization ("illuminatio") and actionalizing ("deificatio") are universal, but in each, the individual mystic becomes a living poem, giving form to a unique treasure of non-conceptual, transcendent intuitions and intellectual perceptions and so develops, as a function of his or her "service of God", his or her own proper language, actions & metaphors. Mystics are God's poets, even when scientists. Pascal's text, with far greater liberty than Plotinus writings, over-indulges in the ideological side of his experience, although the Memorial was clear : FIRE.

§ 65

In materialist circles, it is fashionable to understand mystical experience as a form of schizophrenia. Mystics are psychotics. Buddha, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, Ibn 'Arabî, Ruusbroec, Jeanne d'Arc, John of the Cross, ... Pascal, et j'en passe, are in fact very sick individuals to be put on neuroleptics. This would eliminate their hallucinations and excessive emotional states ... Suppose Moses, Jesus and Muhammad would have been treated that way, then today we would not have to endure the end result of their madness, namely three insane religions claiming to worship the God of their founder and fighting each other to gain the exclusive monopoly on that God, each affirming to be to only possible salvic way. Although there is some truth in this position (for trance is, statistically speaking, an abnormal state), the moral scope of the master mystic cannot be compared with the state of wretched people.

Indeed, schizophrenics do not become more ethically aware because of their fits and hallucinations, and they do not, as genuine mystics do, turn into sublime examples of love & charity. It is true radical, uncertain experiences pose very grave risks (cf. infra, Kierkegaard), but this does not necessarily lead to psychopathy (although psychotic episodes may be part of the itinerary of the mystic). On the contrary, neurotheology suggests the presence of neuronal networks accommodating spiritual experience (cf. infra, the amygdala). Biofeedback and the study of the protocol of yoga put into evidence the ability of the brain to autopoiesis and the computation of the "fourth state" (next to waking, dreaming and the dreamless sleep).

Adjacent to this reductionism, God is blamed for the many mistakes of the religions. But, as soon as the genesis of traditional concepts is understood (the redundancy of a concept increases as a function of the temporal distance from the original idea) and the various actors in the spirito-communal play are taken into account (cf. the founder of a religion, the contemporary companions and the later followers), then the crucial difference between the object worshipped (God) and the way this is actually done (man) must be made (cf. the list of sins confessed by the Roman Church in 2000). Moreover, comparative religions shows how the traditions develop their own kind of myths, at times far removed from the teachings of their founders (if identified). Hence, past and actual misuse of the Divine by the institutionalized (orthodox) religions, does not affect the status of the Divine in a possible religious philosophy, although it does reflect the crucial role played by the Divine, as it were rooted in the "heart" of our human emotions, ranging from excessive joy to agonizing fear. Clearly no religion, except the concert of all genuine religions worshipping Divine unity, can make firm an exclusive salvic claim for humanity.

3.6 Objective uncertainty in authentic existence.

"... without risk, no faith, the more risk, the more faith ; the less objective credibility, the more deeper possible inwardness becomes."
Kierkegaard, S. : Concluding Unscientific Postscript, chapter 2, 1846.

§ 66

Pascal, like many other mystics, insisted on vehemence. Without strong devotion, nothing can be gained. Mysticism is not a dry intellectual love ("amor intellectualis Dei"), but a fiery, demanding and passionate love affair between the human soul (the bride) and the Divine (the bridegroom), as Hadewijch of Antwerp, Beatrice of Nazareth & John of Ruusbroec testify. If making a "desperate leap" (Kant) on the "wings of ideas" (KRV B657) is refused on the basis of a free will choice, then one should not persue any spiritual advancement. The latter is intimately linked with individual intention and enthusiastic engagement. Apparently these initial conditions of the whole exercise are outstanding tests (crisis & observation) and so the more they are stressed and placed before the aspirants, the less likely opportunists get initiated in things mystical, hidden and secret. Spiritual experience, although natural, is not automatic. The need to Self-realize is satisfied by intention and will. This is not triggered automatically, but depends on freedom. If one is content with the freedom of the cage, then the cage is all there is. There must be an initial intention to change one's situation, and this choix fondamental is the conditio sine qua non of the experimental approach of the Divine.

Nobody has better underlined human existence is a category relating to the freedom of the individual than Søren Kierkegaard (1813 - 1855), one of the early protest philosophers. When he attended lectures on idealism by Schelling, the Dane agreed with the latter's attack on Hegel, but rejected Schelling's own positive philosophy concerned with the "that-ness" of things, i.e. their existence. He truly admired Hegel as the greatest speculative philosopher. While completely missing the point of truth, Hegel nevertheless had, by tour de force, captured and convinced his audience with a universalizing dialectic, while existence slipped through its meshes. Absolute idealism misrepresented human existence, which is not concerned with universalism but with the actual, concrete life of the individual and his or her free choices.

To exist, is to become more and more an individual, self-committed and free to choose between alternatives. Less and less a member of a group, this individual is not a moment in the life of universal thought (as Hegelianism preached), but a responsible and authentic existence, self-committed to a free choice.

He had a new idea of the Christian religion, and firmly rejected Protestantism without being a Catholic. A lot of Kierkegaardian themes later recur in existentialism (cf. Sartre on the "choix fondamental") and Protestantism (cf. Karl Barth).

§ 67

In his Concluding Unscientific Postscript (1846), he writes "there are three spheres of existence : the aesthetic, the ethical, the religious". In Either-Or (1843) and Stages on Life's Way (1845) these spheres or stages are described in more detail. Each transition from stage to stage is not the result of thinking but of choice, by an act of will and a leap. This is not a dialectic of continuity, like in conceptual mediation, but transitions made by choice, in a discrete, discontinuous fashion.

  • the aesthetic : by dispersal on the level of sense, the aesthetic man is ruled by sense, impulse and emotion. Like in Don Juan, fixed moral laws and religious faith are not present. Poetical imagination and romantic states are possible, but a bad sense of infinity prevails, namely the absence of limitations other than those imposed by taste. If this man becomes aware that he or she is living in the cellar of the soulish-bodily synthesis, despair ensues, for there is no remedy or salvation possible at this level. His individuality (to become what he really is) cannot be realized at this stage ;

  • the ethical : this person accepts moral standards, obligations and the voice of universal reason. Like Socrates, the tragic hero who renounces himself in order to express the universal, or as in the institution of marriage (bridling the sexual impulse), freedom is given up to satisfy the conditions. This person encounters his or her own lack of moral self-sufficiency, as well as sin and guilt. Not despair, but sin forms the antithesis to the ethical stage, overcome by relating oneself to God ;

  • the religious : the individual affirms his or her spirit, grounding the own Self in the Power constituting it. This involves an absurd leap, i.e. an adventure and a risk. It demands recurrent self-commitment to an objective uncertainty, to the absolute Thou, beyond the reach of speculative reason. Faith cannot be transformed into speculative knowledge. Proofs of God are futile. We contemplate nature in the hope of finding God. And although we do experience God, there is much else that is disturbing and excites anxiety. Hence, God is an objective uncertainty. Because of this, inwardness becomes intense, for it embraces this uncertainty with the passion of the infinite.

Although he does not say there are no good reasons at all for making the act of faith, which is thus not capricious, it does seem as if for Kierkegaard faith is an arbitrary act of will. As Pascal had argued, the core is intent and not reason. The experience happens in the heart, not by thought. He who has not yet decided has to wager, and God is the best bargain. For Kierkegaard, the existing individual is more an actor than a spectator, more a doer than a thinker. He who exists commits himself, and so gives direction to life. He chooses this and rejects that. To be authentic, a human being becomes what he or she really is : individual before God. Hence, with his concept, Kierkegaard is a forerunner of the notion of "authentic existence" as used by modern existentialists.

Pascal and Kierkegaard, both working with a theist superstructure (the one Catholic, the other Christian existentialistic), were mystics (and so had at least one mystical experience). In the Spring of 1848, the latter had a mystical encounter which, as he writes, changed his very nature and impelled him to speak out for his views. Pascal was still a rationalist, and posits the spirit of finesse to counterbalance this (for the latter still offers its first principles to reason). But in the process of becoming an authentic individual, Kierkegaard no longer understands reason and cognition as all-important. Instead, will, freedom, choice and self-commitment are crucial and without them, no authentic existence is possible.

Both men had the privilege to experience the Divine, and were drawn near to Divine transcendence. A radical departure from the principles of reason resulted, one forcing them to posit either a new organ (the heart) or contemplate the discontinuous dialectics of authentic existence, realized only before the objective uncertainty called "God". In that, they do not distinguish themselves from mystics like Beatrice of Nazareth, John of Ruusbroec, John of the Cross (1542 - 1591) or Dag Hammarskjold (1905 - 1961). The pull of transcendence on reason is so demanding, that a higher meta-rational, supernatural or pataphysical state is sought. The mystic is not really interested in staying within the boundaries of the world, and if he or she is, transcendence pushes them over the edge of the broad abyss, passionately inviting them to make a desperate leap into the unknown and the absurd. Even mystical philosophers cannot do otherwise. This is an additional universal characteristics of the mystical episode or state.

Although Divine bi-polarity is acknowledged, eventually the quest does not end with the experience of Divine immanence. Although necessarily part of the phenomenon (in both men, life, ministry and presence of Jesus Christ was the immanent side of their mystical equation), the mystic eventually jumps into a non-conceptual embrace and has, when face to face with the Self-declared absolute Thou, an inexpressibly deep experience of joy ("jubilatio", "mentis" or "cordis"). This encounter is so transforming, that even an a-social and withdrawn individual like Kierkegaard is compelled to speak out and inform the world about this extraordinary possibility, open to all, neglected by most and rejected by a small minority (despite decades of conditioning, atheists have not been able to "convert" the billions of humans believing in the transcendent God, not even those emerced in contemporary technology).

Kierkegaard emphasized choice. Although, when the driver is asleep, the cart moves by natural necessity, only by consciously slapping the reigns of choice will the horse change its direction. Without existing as an individual this is not possible. If one has traded one's authenticity for the values of a group-entity (like organized religion or science), no spiritual advancement will be made. As was observed many years later in the context of parapsychological studies, the conditions imposed by science (like a complete rational control of the situation) often, if not always, annihilate the possibility of the phenomena to emerge. Although the proof of the pudding is in the tasting, one still needs the possibility of opening one's mouth to eat. To smell and conclude the pudding is good is not enough. Pudding is not wine.

§ 68

This paragraph was not meant to back the arguments of those who say religious experience is always ineffable and remote. If so, science and religiosity indeed belong to two separate domains and no communication between them should be sought (not even, as dogmatic atheists try, to "prove" spiritual experience is balooney). A possible religious philosophy which is natural, i.e. limited to the events of the world, can prepare and accommodate the direct experience of the Divine. Of the two-tiered process, the first step can be taken rationally. It remains within the boundaries of the world and can thus be an object of speculative philosophy. Indeed, a proof of the intelligent cause of the world can be given. If, and only if, a protocol can be found to assist the evolution from rational to meta-rational, then an experimental test of Divine immanence is possible.

However, together with Kierkegaard, the necessity of self-commitment should be affirmed. In the context of our experimental set-up, this implies a long and sustained effort to open the doors of perception in order to witness Divine immanence directly. Like sportive or academic training, time and effort should not be spared to realize this goal. Prejudices and emotional rejection (caused by the evil effects of organized religion throughout the ages) should be set aside (for they are manmade). The speculative arguments backing Divine immanence make the possibility of a direct experience of the Anima Mundi possible, and so this is not a vain, illusionary prospect, but a likely one. As Ockham and Kant said, these speculations, underpinning the stage of admiration, are there to clear the path. Their arguments are serious. If, and only if, a mystical experience is given, can the next step be taken. But as the boundaries of the natural world are then overstepped, nothing can be said about this, except by way of poetical metaphor and in artistic terms. A natural theist theology is impossible. But a natural pantheist (or immanent) religious philosophy is possible. This does not demonstrate the non-existence or existence of the transcendent God, but the impossibility of reason to speculate beyond the limitations of possible experience, to wit : the observation of the world of actual entities.

In short : logic, science and (immanent) metaphysics cannot grasp the transcendent God. Kierkegaard is right to say theist faith is not a matter of reason & speculation, but of a repeated choice for an objective uncertainty.

3.7 Objective chance.

"SURREALISM. Pure psychic automatism by means of which one proposes to express, either verbally, by writing or by any other means, the real functioning of thought. Dictation of thought in the absence of all control exerted by reason, beyond every esthetic or moral preoccupation."
Breton, A. : Manifeste du surréalisme, 1924.


§ 69

Can the existence of Divine immanence be experienced ? At first, extraordinary everyday experiences may, by means of participant observation, be studied and emulated : prolonged orgasm, strong & intense emotions, awe, enthusiasm, athletic vehemence, falling in love, artistic and intellectual wonder etc. In each, the excellence of the physical world is brought to the fore. Next one seeks to understand more peripheral phenomena like serendipity, Aha, inventivity, synchronicity, psi-events, near-death experience etc. They point to the limitations of our knowledge about the physical world. Finally, the "eccentric" experience of radical otherness is at hand. Can the latter be methodically approached ?

Is there, besides the speculative demonstrations of conservation and intelligent design, which (as Pascal said) are too complex to be trusted by most, a empirico-formal protocol allowing consciousness to witness the Divine repeatedly ? If not, then (as Kierkegaard claims), religion is divorced from science. If so, then atheism is only successful in refuting theism, and mysticism may involve a mysticology or a science of spiritual emancipation. Insofar as this is a science, it is wholly immanent. Insofar as it adheres to the metaphysics axiom of the unity of the Divine, it at least anticipates a poetical elucidation of Divine transcendence is possible, but never without the descriptive axiom of the non-conceptuality of the latter (in accord with apophatism). If transcendence is rejected, the extent of the operation is brought within the boundaries of the world and pantheism ensues (the sole worship of the Anima Mundi).

§ 70

Historically, the rise of surrealism paralleled the radical rejection of traditional values and beliefs. As the power of the great religions waned, more new visions of spiritual emancipation were conjured through a mix of poetry, art, mysticism and the occult. For many surrealists, what began as a more objective approach to life, often wound up more steeped in ritual and dogma than the religions they rebelled against.
The idea of a personal God was rejected for that of a mystical force : objective chance.

So although the surrealists were opposed to organized religions, they did not reject trance, mysticism, gnosis or science. Quite on the contrary. These phenomena are considered fundamental to understand thought as a whole. Salvador Dali (1904 - 1989) used to say mathematics & physics prove the existence of God, which was a good reason to mistrust both ... The pure mechanism of thought was conceived as far more extended than reason and science. The concept of the unconscious was assimilated and ways devised to make it useful. This unconscious played a crucial role in the central notion of this interesting surrealist "automatism", namely objective chance ("hasard objectif").

In the Western tradition, happiness is associated with spiritualized standards, elevated above the immediacy of the "street". Although the surrealist agrees triviality and banality need to be transcended, he stresses this does not happen in a life adapted to an elevated moral and/or intellectual ideal, but in the direct encounter with the reality of the sur-real, "le merveilleux", identified by Breton (1896 - 1966) with the form of a wonderful, fairy-like woman. This encounter is so intimately linked with objective chance, that a "taste for chance" ("goût du hasard") is deemed important. To place oneself in the state of grace with chance is the "new spirit" ("l'esprit nouveau") of surrealism.

Objective chance is not a common coincidence or chance event. It differentiates itself from the latter precisely because it is the geometric place of these chance events, a meetingpoint or point of contact between necessity (of nature) and freedom, between natural necessity and human necessity. Objective chance is a natural bond between the personal subjective mechanism and the universal automatism, between personal unconscious and collective unconscious. This wonder is the totality of phenomena manifesting the invasion of the marvellous in everyday life. It shows chance events are not "random", but explicate expressions of a deeper, implicate reality. It elucidates the connectivity between the psyche and the cosmos. In this sense, the exploration of chance is an adventure into reality, not of scientific reality, for perceptual, but of the true, underlying sur-reality connected by and in the perceptual. In Nadja, Breton is mesmerized by the wonderous. He wanders aimlessly through Paris and constantly encounters objective chance. The perceived world is then transformed into a world of phantoms, much like in the pictures of De Chirico (1888 - 1978). 

§ 71

There are four "Ways" to encounter objective chance :

  1. waiting ("l'attente") : for Breton, the world is a gigantic waitingroom. There is no aim, no goal or expectation. All what is needed is disponibility : one acts "as if" called to be suddenly united with objective chance and the marvelous. One does not wait for events or things, but for people. There is escape from the world, but an interest in the happenings of objective chance among human beings. This allows us to receive the signs of objective chance. This waiting is the awareness of our being chained to ordinary reality hand in hand with the intervention of the most unlimited freedom ready to move us deeply. Freedom is this total openness for what is possible, a negation and denial of what is thought impossible. It is a book with white pages upon which the pen moves at random. Bizarre drawings emerge and one starts anew, again and again ... To be more and more surprised because nothing is expected, aspired, wished or desired is surreal freedom ;

  2. automatic psychism ("automatisme psychique") : in 1919, Breton and Soupault (1897 - 1990) published two plays ("Vous m'oblierez" and "S'il vous plaît") written in accord with the method of the "écriture automatique" (automatic writing). In his Philosophie du surréalisme (1955), Alquié (1906 - 1985) defines it as : "It implies writing, without preconceived subject and without logical, esthetical or moral control ; to allow the exteriorization of everything in us which tends to become language, normally found to be hindered by our conscious surveillance." Reflective thought is thus made available for disponibility. Normal language is deemed false, fixated, unreal and not able to manifest the internal "tout court". This frame has to be opened up, so the real sur-real manifests. The formed reality is in fact the malformed reality, a non-reality. The real thing is per definition formless, freed from the biological restraints on our humanity. It is the pressure of and subjugation to the immediate empirical world which makes our spirit the toy of the external world and so this misforms the process of us forming new ideas. Jules Monnerot (1909 - 1995) defined this method as "une prise the sang de l'âme" (bloodtaking of the soul). To really know is something else than what is offered by science and metaphysics, for this is re-cognition, and therefore "real life" or "practiced poetry". Surreal mystic experience is then a fusion of object and subject, of knowing and existing, of reality and non-reality, of being and non-being ;

  3. the dream : is the "royal path" leading towards objective chance. This is not an isolated world within the limits of sleep, but an open area communicating with ordinary life and with super-conscious worlds. Freudian interpretation of dreams is not the issue, but exploration. The energies of the dream have to be made useful to man. The dream has a meaning of its own, which should not be translated into the language of familiar things. It does not need to be dismantled, but understood "from within". The building must be left intact, and we should go an abide there. We should wander in the world of dreams and explore it to find the signs of objective chance. Like a sponge sucking water, we should make the dream useful and make it a source to drench our thirst ;

  4. love : to meet the woman one loves, she who is the elect, is already a mystery and the secret of objective chance. This woman always appears as a fairy of sorts. This "love" is as spiritualized as the "courtly love" celebrated in the songs of the troubadours. She has two surreal qualities : reminiscence and premonition, of which she is the instrument.

Outside the current of Christian (mostly monastic) mysticism, the surrealists and dadaists were the first to persistently seek a method to encounter the Divine as "le merveilleux", in casu in an occult, Hermetical and immediate way. They rejected organized religions, but not their leading idea : the Divine. Not by eliminating the world of sense (as an escape behind a walled enclosure), but precisely by observing the seen with other eyes, the heard with other ears, etc. To find "my" dada is to discover the specific and unique way to meet objective chance and witness the marvellous in everyday life. Objective chance and Divine immanence denote the same extraordinary meaningful happening. Although it is possible to express this in art (poetry being most suitable), clearly "my" dada is never "your" dada. Although there are objective structures (for this special hasard is geometrical and immanent and so connected with the collective unconscious, also called "cosmic" unconscious), the unmistaken "form" and "necessity" of "my" dada are "my own" only. This dada has however the power of exteriority, even more than a good example. This dada, by virtue of a repeated encounter with objective chance, may assist others to suddenly realize their "authentic existence" (Kierkegaard) by opening their "heart" (Pascal). Like living poetry, this dada has to power to command hearts and change intentions. All depends on the intention to encounter one's own, in an immediate, non-directive, meta-rational (supernatural) way.

§ 72

Ponder the historical meaning of the surrealist movement. Although atheist (in the etymological sense of the word, namely "not theist"), they promote the mystical experience of the marvellous, splendid & sublime, and this in a persisting and immanent way. In the first decades of the XXth century, and belonging to the wider wave of discontinuity sweeping over Europe between World War I and the end of World War II, this bizar group of very intelligent and artistic people formed a short-lived, international movement, with a loose "orthodox" core of sorts (Breton). The presence and vigour of surrealism counters the often repeated claim of historical atheists that outside the organized religion, no spirituality or "cognitio Dei experimentalis" exists, it being an ideological phenomenon only, not an object of fact. In the latter case, so they argue, there has to be the production of spiritual events by following a protocol, if possible backed by a broad social movement, as surrealism.

Surrealism does not focus on art or poetry (the excellent organs of the marvellous), but on the structure of thought making these marvels appear. Not necessarily Christian, on the contrary, or for that matter of any other denomination of faith, surrealism rejects the domination of reason (both religious and scientific), focusing on the structure of thought in its broadest, multi-dimensional sense, including science, mysticism and the occult. Being religious atheists, they refute logical atheism. The transcendent God is not the leading theme, but the encounter with the immanent "Goddess" (at the cross-road of necessity and freedom) ...

This marvellous exteriorisation of the sur-real (the deeper infusing the ordinary) may happen everywhere and everytime, and is not necessarily linked with superior intellectual or moral standards.

The surrealist movement evidences the fuzziness of "the Divine" (as a set) encompasses "le merveilleux", the immanent presence of objective chance, connecting natural necessity and cosmic necessity in a beautiful geometry of chance events : dada. That a systematic approach of the sur-real is possible, refutes the idea the immanent experience of the Divine cannot be persued outside the conventional ways of the religions, each promoting "our Lord", whereas "our dada" is always a lie. The marvellous as meaningful chance occasions, dada exteriorizing the deeper sur-real, these are the constant preoccupation of the surrealist, for whom silence speaks and written words thunder.

3.8 The case of Raja Yoga.

"Union-without-seed is preceded by faith, energy, mindfulness, union-with-seed, insight. This is near to him who is extremely vehement in yoga. Because this can be modest, medium or excessive, the result differs."
Patañjali : Yoga-sûtra, 1.20-22.

§ 73

And in the East ? The specific context of Indian philosophy merits a study on its own. However, the underlying intention of Hinduism is enlightenment, the realization of the fundamental unity between the individual psyche and the natural world ("jivâtman" = "Brahman"). Of the six schools of philosophy of Hinduism, one concentrates on the orthopraxis of this experience : "yoga", from the Sanskrit root root "yuj", to bind together, yoke or union.

The story of yoga may go back to the Indus-civilization (3th & 2th millenium BCE), expanding from the Arab Sea till the first mountains of the Himalayas. Scholars like Eliade & others found evidence of early forms of yoga. Carved seals in the south (Mohenjo-Daro) suggest the god Shiva. But, at this point in history, only iconographical material is available. The literal, historical start of the yoga system is to be found in the commentaries on the Vedas, especially Katha, Svetâsvatara, Maitrâyanîya, Îsa, Mundaka, and Mândûkya Upanishads,
older than 600 BCE, i.e. anterior to the rise of Buddhism. Recent studies (Feuerstein, Kak & Frawley, 1995) situate the composition of the Vedas around 1900 BCE.

Philosophical India has six traditional approaches, point of views (or "darsanas"). They are "traditional" or "âstika" (orthodox) because they do not question the authority of the four Vedas (unlike Buddhism & Jainism).

These ancient disciplines are grouped as follows :

  • Vaisesika (Kanânda) & "Nyâna" (Gotama) form the Nyâya-Vaisesika-system, dealing with ontology and logical analysis as method of knowledge ;

  • Sâmkhya (Kapila) & Yoga (Patañjali) investigate the relationships between the Self ("purusa") and the external world ("prakrti"). What is the nature of the Self ? How can it be realized ?

  • Mîmâmsâ (Jaimini) & Vedânta (Vyâsa, Sankara) study the criteria for the validity of knowledge and see the conclusions of the Upanisads confirmed by the rational investigation of knowledge and reality.

Between the 5th to the 2th century BCE, around the time of the Bhagavad-Gîtâ (i.e. chapters 13 till 40 of the sixth book of the great epic Mahâbhârata), the various forms of yoga were present (hatha, karma, bhakti, jñâna, mantra, kriyâ, kundalinî, sahaja, laya, dhyâna, nâda etc.) but a systematic & synthetic picture was lacking. The Yoga-sûtra of Patañjali, the foundational text of the "Royal Path" or "Râja Yoga" offers such a panorama. Being a complicated synthesis of a universal yogic protocol for spiritual emancipation, it represents at least a millenium of experience of the systematic approach of the Divine.

The available evidence about the author of Patañjali's Sûtra's is not without the usual confusion typical for more than one Indian text. Earlier scholars affirmed that Patañjali -the yogin- (ca. 3th century CE) and Patañjali -the grammarian- (who wrote the Mahâbhasya in the 2th century BCE) were most probably not the same person. According to the intelligent majority, this text is the product of the third century CE. This school of yoga became known as "classical". In the 11th century, Al-Bîrunî translated the Yoga-sûtra in Arab. This allowed one of the six classical schools of philosophy of India to directly influence Sufism. No commentary on these Sûtra's by a member of the classical school has ever been found. The two classical commentators (Vyâsa in the 5th & Vâcaspati Misra in the 9th century) were outsiders (Vyâsa belonged to the school of Sâmkhya).

This work is a technical treatise on yoga, not a popular digest. Most renderings of this text are naive because they misunderstand the importance of this fact. Hermeneutical investigations make it belong to the category of canonical discourses. Being the "magnum opus" of a well-established group-identity, the Yoga-sûtra initiated an era of yoga in which the variety & the wealth of the past was assimilated using ideas unlike Sâmkhya. Because of the activity of Patañjali and his school, yoga became a "classical" perspective on a reality which radically differs from all realms of nature.

§ 74

The general, yogic "protocol" I have in mind, has four stages. These are consistent with the layout developed in Classical Yoga, as it can be found in Patañjali's Yoga-sûtra. Neurologically, it moves from relaxation to arousal (active spill-over), which is the safest (but longest) approach. Classical Yoga is the only traditional spiritual system of techniques focusing on all aspects of the human being, the physical included. Its aphorisms are consistent with neurotheological tenets. Moreover, it can be combined with various creeds, being more an orthopraxis than an orthodoxy.

Hyperarousal (or passive spill-over) is far more difficult to sustain and should only be practiced if deep relaxation has already been achieved. Because our urban societies induce stress, a movement from arousal to relaxation is less efficient (because this heightened activity will reverberate with the "normal" presence of stress). In relaxed environments & societies (living in harmony with nature), hyperarousal will prove more satisfactory. The "violent" species of arousal-techniques (involving pain, mutilation and extreme exhaustion) are usually found in natural societies and happen on special occasions (as in rites of passage).

"Restraints, observances, posture, breath-control, sense-withdrawal, concentration, contemplation & union are the eight."
Patañjali : Yoga-sûtra, 2.29.

The fundamental operational distinction in this text is that between the so-called "outer" and "inner" members of this eightfold path :

  • outer members : restraints, observances, posture, breath-control and sense-withdrawal ;

  • inner members : concentration, contemplation and union.

The outer members address the Autonomous Nervous System (ANS) and the reptilian brain. They do so by stimulating a relaxation-response, whereas the inner members target the higher order functions of the brain, especially its limbic system and cortical processes, to lead consciousness from deep relaxation to powerful "inner members", introducing the yogi's unique, higher, "transcendent Self" (in fact still part of the world) and its unqualified, unaffected Divine core ("purusa"). The eight members are trained sequentially, although during spiritual experience they "walk" together.

The yogic protocol works in four stages :

  1. Preparation : the purification of person, space & time ;

  2. Initiation : practice & detachment ;

  3. Completion : binding & releasing ;

  4. Perfection : the five layers of union.


STAGE OF PREPARATION
restraints & observances

The restraints & observances sketch the yogic way of life. The fact that these come first, clearly shows how important a spiritual attitude is to prelude one's spiritual emancipation, affecting all areas of one's existence. Set apart from other activities, meditation becomes a fourth state next to waking, dreaming and dreamless sleep (cf. Vedânta). Moreover, to meditate well, all sorts of changes in one's daily routines are usually necessary. This "yogic morality" is meant to train a person's voluntary control (the prefrontal cortex) and to set up a series of new routines facilitating the occurrence of meditation. Hence, one's "entry" in the "abode of the Goddess" always implies preliminary, generalized updates and adjustments of conscience, leading up to effective changes in behavior (triggering the formation of a "new" mental operator in which the spiritual function is an integral part). In a sense, they are a buffer or safety-net for possible extreme responses to extraordinary stimuli, like visions, contemplation or various forms of union (enlightenment or direct experience of Divine Presence).

The traditional scheme runs as follows :

  • restraints : non-harming, truthfulness, non-stealing, chastity and greedlessness ;

  • observances : purity, contentment, austerity, self-study and devotion to the Divine.

It has been said that the perfection of these values is nothing less than enlightenment. They are the ideals to be followed by the yogi and used to regulate outer and inner behavior. "Devotion to the Divine" could be operationalized as the vehemence with which the daily spiritual protocol is executed. The stronger this is, the more likely results will follow.

1. Restraints & observances (yama - niyama)

a) Practical :

- clean body & the cavities inside of nose & mouth - wait 1h after meals - eat wholesome food properly ;
- make sure that the space You selected can not be disturbed by anyone or anything ;
- make sure that the time You selected can not be interrupted by anyone or anything ;
- make sure You have a diary ready in which You write down date, duration & comments ;

b) Psychomental :

- sit down & recall all negative & positive experiences which recently happened to You ; 
- try to understand your experiences as the outcome of your own past actions ;
- make sure to start meditation with a good intent ;

c) Moral :

- when in doubt, act on the basis of those universal vows You experience to be just ;
- do not harm other forms of life, speak the truth, do not steal, in all cases be moderate, never be greedy ;
- be pure, content, disciplined, (self)studious & devoted to spiritual experience.

From a neurotheological perspective, these directives will trigger a relaxation-response and prepare the neocortex for the spiritual journey. The whole procedure starts in the neocortex and is intended to create a feeling of nuptial anticipation. In a sense, this has the same function as foreplay in human erotic art, namely a sensitive enhancement of the readiness of the organs of pleasure. Not yet a direct stimulation though, but clearly an unmistaken indirect proposal. A transitional stage.

STAGE OF INITIATION
posture, breath-control, sense-withdrawal

2. Posture (âsana, "to sit")

The best posture triggers relaxation & feels comfortable. The physical body is free from restraints (of too much clothing, excessive heat or cold).

The "Egyptian posture" is a form Westerners feel comfortable in. The "Lotus posture" is however recommended.

Sit straight on a chair, do not lean back & fixate open eyes on a point in front of your brow. Place your feet parallel (the distance between your feet should be equal to the length of the right hand). Make sure your legs make an angle of 90°. Place straight hands (palms down) on each leg. Both elbows are at right angles. Your spine is in one line with your head (back straight). Keep this posture for at least 3 times 10 minutes daily (dawn, noon, dusk). Asana will provide stability in discipline.

In the beginning, the aspirant may experience difficulty maintaining the posture. But after practice, once the posture is established, an immediate relaxation-response follows. At this point, posture has become a landmark or a key. To the amygdala, the assumption of posture signals that the spiritual function is being addressed. Whenever a special, inexplicable, odd, unpractical gesture or posture is assumed & maintained, the amygdala holds attention. After repetition, the assumption of posture initiates the meditative process. The influence of posture on the endocrinal system has been a theme evoked in many Eastern systems.

The transition between the profane and sacred space/moment is realized by a clear, marked action : the person temporarily withdraws, prepares and assumes posture. The repetition and devoted execution of this phase-change from "worldly" to "spiritual" will cause the formation of a personal memory-bank related to one's own spiritual experiences. The same contextual parameters of this activity will be stored by the hippocampus and be recognized the next time (allowing for easy enervation of the saved sensoric and personal parameters). Universal conditions, such as fasting and abstinence, can be understood in terms of the necessity of temperance to trigger the spiritual functions of the amygdala-hippocampal and temporal brain structures. Indeed, a peaceful mind enters the "abode of the Divine". As the amygdala are interconnected with the neocortex, their "interest" in odd postures interacts with higher order processes. The more symbolical meaning a posture has, the better the neocortex can synchronize and focus on its form. This "steering" is relayed to the limbic system, which makes the posture "feel good" and spiritually rewarding. 

Perfected posture (stable, enduring, strong, noble) becomes a gate (an opening).

3. Breathing (prânâyâma, "to restrain")

When posture is firmly established, focus on your breath. In the East, breath-control is a science on its own. It is intimately related with all vital functions and with health.

During an In-breath, visualize a force flowing downwards from the navel to the perineum (see it as a point of light traveling in a transparant channel). Then to the back of the right knee, from there to the mid-point of the sole of the right foot and to the top of the big toe of the right foot ; next it jumps to the top of the big toe of the left foot, moves to the left mid-point of the sole of the left foot and goes from there to the left knee to flow back to the perineum. From there it moves upwards through the spine and stops in the middle of the brain. Next it moves down (Out-breath) from the palate via the tongue touching it to the throat and from there back to the navel. It stops there and the cycle is repeated.

The In-breath has an ascending quality, the Out-breath feels like an inpouring, whereas the two stops symbolize the "fourth state". This aerial orbit generates a lot of zeal. Perform breath-restraint for at least 3 times 10 minutes daily (dawn, noon, dusk). It provides vitality, health and strength.

Rhythmical breath regulates the inflow of air, which directly influences the brain. As breath is a vital function, the smallest change is immediately detected by the hypothalamus. Hyperventilation creates arousal, but long rhythms trigger a relaxation-response and synchronize the neocortex. By keeping attention on breath, the "form" of the posture (assumed from the vantage point of the neocortex) is cleared from the mind. This is like diving from a high rock into deep water. The mind will seek ways to produce thought-forms and streams of thought simultaneous with this conscious focus on breath (in alchemy, the mind is associated with Mercury, quicksilver, for its changing, adapting & reflecting qualities). These "intrusions" (and thus deflections from focus on breath) happen as soon as breath-control has become habitual. By always returning to one's ongoing, rhythmical breathing cycle, the beginning of the true education of the mind begins, and a new "mental" operator is formed, namely one that causes the conscious use of the spiritual function. Breath-control is the first theme of the prelude to concentration.

Daily spiritual exercise is the only existing method to introduce a new state in the existing ones. New neuronal pathways have to be made in order for the spiritual circuit to work. This takes time. Sudden enlightenment (although possible) may encounter physical, mental, social and spiritual dangers. The whole CNS has to readapt to this change. Especially the reptilian brain (the ARAS) will need some time to accept a totally new functional arousal state, executing altered states of consciousness (put together as the "fourth state").
 
The old yogic wisdom that strong vehemence will give splendid results makes clear two things : (1) to integrate the spiritual function, the Homo sapiens sapiens will reap what he has sown (or, in other words, it takes time to readapt the Central Nervous System (CNS) but in principle everybody can and should be spiritually intelligent) and (2) some people have special spiritual talents (or : natural born mystics find their own spiritual protocol).

4. Sensoric zero (pratyâhara, "sense-withdrawal")

Before starting meditation (i.e. in the preparatory stage), make sure that no excessive visual or auditory stimuli are present and repel ordinary odors by clearing the air.

Given your focus on breath (the regular movement of inspiration, retention & expiration) is deep and continuous, move your hands and place your right palm over your left. Stop visualizing and close your eyes. Keep breathing in rhythm. Empty the mind. If the mind is active, try to observe your mental states and do nothing else. Detach yourself completely from what You smell, touch, taste, hear or see. Learn to observe all inner events without interpretation. Watch every feeling and/or thought closely.

Withdraw for at least 3 times 10 minutes daily (dawn, noon, dusk). It provides endurance.

Sensoric zero is the second theme of the prelude to concentration. Here, deafferentiation is practiced. The sensoric and motoric cortex are quasi totally deafferented. This may put the hypothalamus on alert and open its "valve" to let more sensoric input through to the neocortex. The resulting "fine" hearing makes one conscious of noises & sounds never heard before (one's heart-beat for example may sound like a huge drum). Sudden tastes and odors appear, and in a deep state, visual flashes and imaginal images are formed. This activity should be observed without interpretation, implying the partial deafferentiation of the left cortex, and a calm limbic system. Because the eyes are closed, the visual association area is deafferented and spatiality is experienced differently. Instead of delimited, one may feel like "floating" in an immense space. If prolonged, sensoric deprivation leads to active spill-over. In yoga, this effect is not sought. Withdrawal only puts the brain in a deafferented mode, causing the "internal logic" of the deafferented structures to become active and produce their typical "inner" events. These have to be observed without interpretation (and thus calmed and integrated, when they vanish).

At the end of this stage of initiation, the yogi has achieved endurance in the outer members of yoga. No activity, feeling or thought is able to hinder daily practice. On average, this stage is reached after six months of training. This may seem short, but except for physical illness, there are no exceptions to the rule and if broken, one has to start all over again. To construct new neuronal pathways, effort must be continuous. Miss out one little ring and the chain is broken, especially in the beginning (when no powerful, personal spiritual memories have as yet been stored).

The relaxation-response "seeking" the "abode of the Divine" (computed from the neocortex to the limbic system - cf. infra) has been associated with bodily form, ongoing rhythm and "inner" space. Besides the natural flow of breath and the ever-present, silent watchfulness of the "point" of personal identity, the yogic "seer" attributes no thought and no affect to the "seen", although s/he is alert and focused and maybe witnessing streams of emotion and meta-emotion or thought. The ANS-response is adequate. Too deep a relaxation would induce a neurological spill-over (not needed yet, for too superficial and short). At this point, consciousness has to issue a voluntary "top-bottom" command : the "inner" elocution of the "Word" or "mantra". The liaison-brain for this being the prefrontal cortex (assisted by the verbal association area and the speech-areas).

STAGE OF COMPLETION
concentration, contemplation

5. Concentration (dhâranâ, "to hold").

Concentration is the binding of consciousness to a single "inner spot". This means attention is focused in such a way the mind, being totally occupied with its object, stops producing other thoughts & feelings.

After posture, breathing & sensoric isolation have been firmly established, the yogi is able to observe and be detached from all possible floating inner associations, feelings and arousals his mind may produce.

The mind is confined to a limited space and immediately brought back if it strays out. When foreign objects enter it, concentration is considered to be broken. The objective aim is to reduce the frequency of such interruptions progressively and ultimately to eliminate them completely as long as one wills.

The object of concentration, called the "seed", may be anything belonging to universe, i.e. all physical plus all mental states. Then it is a "coarse" seed. A "subtle" seed pertains to the invisible and subtle strata of nature. When the seed is auditory, it is called a "mantra". In yoga, the mantra is spoken with the "inner voice" and heard with the "inner ear". In the East, Buddhist monks sit together and recite long mantra's together. Recitation always implies outer, vocal expression.

After being established for 10 minutes in withdrawal, let every breath by accompanied by a mantra of two syllables, internally repeated with every breath. During the In-breath, the first syllable is heard. During the Out-breath the second. During the Stops silence prevails.

A good mantra is lyrical (sound), inspirational (meaning) and has a very strong personal meaning. Patañjali recommends the traditional "O - M" (the "pranava"), for it rapidly leads to contemplation and is said to be attuned to the fundamental frequency of the universe ...

When established in posture, breathing and withdrawal, concentrate 3 times daily (dawn, noon, dusk). Synchronize the mantra "O (In) - (Stop) - M (Out) - (Stop)" with breath and concentrate on it.

Sickness, languor, heedlessness, sloth, dissipation, false vision, non-attaining of the stages of yoga & instability in these stages are the distractions. They are accompanied by symptoms like pain, depression, tremor in the limbs & wrong in- & exhalation.

The distractions are counteracted by the yogic discipline of daily "
sâdhana" : practice  & dispassion. The more they occur, the more firmly the yogi must keep to the letter of the stages of yoga. Only when inward-mindedness is habitual (which is the fruit of concentration), can the obstacles to yoga be dealt with. Daily practice means that the yogi has worked hard to become stable in the restriction, i.e. in the elimination of flux within consciousness, the ultimate goal of yoga. Dispassion means that he has cultivated being without thirst for earthly objects & the experiences promised in the sacred texts. He must do the task "without why, for nothing".

If such unwholesome deliberations do occur, the yogi should concentrate some time on their opposite & cultivate this in order to repel them. The "golden" rule being :

"For the repelling of unwholesome thoughts cultivate the opposite."
Patañjali : Yoga-sûtra, 2.33.

Concentrate for at least 3 times 30 minutes daily (dawn, noon, dusk). It provides mental balance.

The deafferented mode mentioned earlier (cf. the inner members), did not tackle the rise of thoughts, feelings and inner sensoric experiences. Attention was high and sensoric information relay was reduced. Thoughts and feelings were witnessed, not interpreted. With the sudden invocation of the mantra, the verbal association area is activated (left angular gyrus) as well as Wernicke's & Brocas area's, while its lyricism triggers the right frontal lobe (melodic-emotional speech area). After the deep, profound silence of the withdrawal, its "inner" elocution works as an anti-climax. The inner meaning of the mantra (human brain), its rhythmical features (mammalian brain) and repetition (reptilian brain) has a totalizing effect which, because of its spiritual intent, is the first step in the process of the formation of the "God-circuit".

Mantric concentration synchronizes the hemispheres & deafferents associations outside the range of the verbal and lyrical dimensions of the mantra. This process is not easy. Resistances like the rise of other thoughts and/or melodies, sudden visual images, boredom, dream states, depersonalizations etc. are natural and should not be resisted but restricted. This is done by returning to the mantra and learning to stop foreign cogitations, impressions and so forth.

6. Contemplation (dhyâna, "to contemplate").

Perfect concentration on a seed leads to the doorstep of contemplation.

"Dhyâna" is usually translated as "meditation", but it is better to use the word "meditation" to refer to the whole yogic protocol and translate "dhyâna" as "contemplation". Contemplation comes from the Latin verb "contemplare" or "cum" (together) + "templum" (sacred space). To "contemplate" is also used in English to designate a mental activity which tries to consider all possible aspects of a given object (physical, psychological, social & spiritual). Contemplation is an intensified and universalized perfect concentration.

Intensification is caused by a complete contraction of the mind to a single point (an object-centered activity has arisen which holds the mind in total steadiness on the seed).

Universalization is caused by the fusion of object (seed) & subject (seer), by making the seer an integral part of the "Gestalt" created around the seed and witnessed by a new focus of identity : the Self ("jîvatman") instead of the empirical ego.

Concentration implies a set of notions determining the object of concentration. In a perfect concentration, no notions foreign to the mental area defined by the object of concentration are able to enter consciousness. The yogi (subject) remains clearly distinguished from and opposed to the seed (object).

Technically, intensification will result as soon as the various notions defining the seed form one whole and so the subject becomes conscious of nothing else except of this one & complete object of ideation (to which it is drawn and of which it slowly becomes part). This is the one-directionality of the notions ("prataya-ekatânatâ") with regard to the object of concentration in contemplation. An uninterrupted flow of the mind towards the object of concentration occurs.

In contemplation, the seed of concentration becomes a "lotus-flower". The yogi (subject) and his seed (object of ideation) are no longer differentiated, their border has become rather diffuse. Universalization will be forthcoming as soon as the seed unfolds and blossoms, generating its "lotus-flower", manifesting an infinite number of possibilities gravitating around its core (to which the yogi is drawn). The yogi is not yet himself an unfolding lotus flower. Intense, beautiful & universal contents move rapidly before the fixed, unchanging eye of the witness of the contemplating mind. This witness is the new (sacred) centre of contemplation. It is the jewel altar of the yogi's soul, his higher, transcendent Self ("jîvatman").

During concentration, subject & object were still differentiated and formed a pair. In contemplation, the yogi (ego, subject) & the seed (object) are no longer differentiated. The yogi is part of the lotus but remains witness. Hence, contemplation will only occur if and only if a "tertium comparationis" has been established, namely the soul ("jîvatman"). During contemplation, subjectivity & objectivity are witnessed by a new center of conscious identity. Contemplation implies Self-realization.

Contemplation is built on a triad : (1) subject (yogi), (2) object (seed), and (3) the witness or soul : the steady flame in a windless place.

Contemplate as long as You can.

The CNS is not used to produce only one thought. But in perfect concentration, only the seed prevails in consciousness, for all associations are part of the inner meaning of the seed. All unconscious contents are emptied by this one-directionality. The general law of distractions works on a higher level, for all "new" associations entering the mind are immediately recognized as "part" of the "seed". This synthetic and integrative quality suggests the synchronized activity of the two hemispheres. This allows the right temporal lobe to add its "visual" and "spatial" connotations, to be assimilated by the "sound" and "meaning" of the "seed" by the left hemisphere.

The bizarre experience of becoming part of the seed, may point to the enhanced activity of the amygdala. Indeed, contemplation is such a tremendous experience (in Western tradition, the realization of the Self is called the "Watchtower-experience"), that we may conclude with contemplation, the "abode of the Divine" is finally entered. If concentration "opened" the gate to the "God-spot", contemplation makes the yogi "taste" and "touch" the enervated spiritual function. Because of the ongoing mantric repetition, relay to the neocortex is continuous and simultaneous.

The "higher" Self is the "persona" or mask of the "God-spot". The contemplating person still has a focus of identity and if no stage higher than contemplation is yet attained, two foci and a pendulum-swing between them is the strange result (caused by the spiritual exercise). Two hearts are living in one body (Goethe), and the oddness of experiencing the world from two totally different vantage-points (one down to Earth and the other panoramic) is in itself the greatest obstacle to come, for it tears the mind in two.


The constant voluntary effort to make all inner members "walk together", is executed by the neocortex, as is the will to concentrate (prefrontal cortex). The deafferentiation of the sense of identity caused by contemplation is automatic as is the feeling of getting drawn into the seed (this is the first stage of the ultimate arousal breakthrough sought). These last phenomena indicates a consciousness confronted with the totalizing quality of the spiritual function, computed by an aroused amygdala-hippocampal complex. The latter relays this totality to the neocortex, allowing for the experience of a vast, all-encompassing Self. The experience of his Self may throw the yogi off concentration and disrupt the inner members. It is as difficult to remain in contemplation as to walk on a rope with wet feet of soap.

The contemplative own-Self "masks" the unitive tendencies of the spiritual function, leading to an annihilation of any sense of identity. The Self is thus the last "fluctuation" of consciousness before the experience of spiritual union is forthcoming. It is probably the strongest and most difficult self-referential flux to restrict. On the one hand, the yogi who identifies with his Self will never move beyond one limited panoramic view (which seems to encompass all views, an illusion processed by the amygdala). This identification leads to "spiritual selfishness" (cf. the "small vehicle" in Buddhism). On the other hand, the yogi needs his ego to function in the world, as he needs his Self-soul to move through the transition space between contemplation and enlightenment. Ego and Self are foci of consciousness and can not be found in the brain (cf. the binding problem in neurology). Certain neurological structures (such as the prefrontal cortex) allow for the manifestation of ego (the personality). Likewise, the state of contemplation opens a conscious window to the "higher" Self and its perceived Self-ideas.

Concentration is (a) processed by the neocortex (especially the prefrontal), (b) synchronized through rhythmic breathing and (c) made one-pointed by focusing on the mantra, evoking a cognitive & visio-spatial context, which, because of its deep felt meaning, triggers an emotional pull, a "dive" into the "abode of the Divine". Perfected concentration enters this abode as soon as the seed flowers. The lotus of the seed reveals an incredible number of thoughts, feelings and imaginal actions all centered around the unified connotative field of the seed (as it were circumambulating it). This contemplative flowering produces a special Zen-state, characterized by a very low basal skin resistance (extreme relaxation) and the presence of Beta waves (alert, waking activity).

If the yogi has not gone astray by restricting the beauty, intensity, meaningfulness and decorum of the elaborations of the seed, i.e. after having practiced contemplation long enough, this flowering is "witnessed" from a new conscious vantage point. This happens when the yogi seems to become an integral part of the seed. This situation is a prelude to enlightenment, and it would be just that if the Self did not manifest at the precise point of fusion between the yogi (his ego) and the lotus flower of contemplation.

The confusion of these events is suggestive of a special, unique neuronal event. Perfected contemplation, ex hypothesi, manifests a new functional state in the Ascending Reticular Activating System (ARAS) of the reptilian brain. When achieved, the "routines" of the slowest neuronal structure are transformed. The new vantage point (the Self) is processed as a "fourth state", next to waking, dreaming and dreamless sleep. This Self-experience is not yet stable and voluntary. However, when Self-experience is young, the panoramic sweep is "breath taking" and profound. The ARAS overwhelms the limbic system as well as the neocortex with a new functional arousal state, which involves activity in all parts of the brain (ARAS, limbic & cortical). This state influences the other states even more directly than say, dreams may affect waking.

The profoundness of this stage of yoga eclipses the relativity of the own-Self and the possibility of an infinite number of perspectives. The more Self-love prevails, the less likely enlightenment becomes. This makes the yogi decide that nothing but restriction will do.

The restriction of the own-Self of contemplation is the beginning of union.

STAGE OF PERFECTION
union

7. Union (samâdhi, "putting together").

In the various religious systems, union has been given different names  : nirvâna (Buddhism), satori (Hinduism, Buddhism), born again (Christianity), rapture (Christian mysticism), oblivion & survival (Sufism), Chockmah-consciousness (Jewish qabalah), peak experience (transpersonal psychology), cosmic consciousness (comparative mysticism), one-with-the-universe (New Age), etc. Here, the ultimate state of yoga, samâdhi, is simply translated as "union". There are five layers.

The union arising from contemplating a coarse seed is a meta-rational union, i.e. moves beyond the nominal formal-operational mode of thought or reason. This union is accompanied by spontaneously arising ideas. They constitute instant acts of insights and immediate understanding, which, although sprung out of a coarse seed, have a very special quality or "feel" about them. Not vague or rambling, but clear & one-pointed. Ordinary thought processes lack the formers immediacy & lucidity. These are the Self-ideas or "flashes" of creativity & inventivity studied by immanent metaphysics.

This meta-cognitive union is restricted and so
becomes an a-cognitive union. The mind's conceptualizing tendencies have been brought to halt. The fact such "flashes of genius" are able to bubble up at all bespeaks the incomplete degree of union achieved. The yogi is only content with the ultimate restriction. Nothing less will do. When the reactors responsible for the conceptualization of experienced reality (situated in the depth-memory, i.e. linked with the "samskâras" (or "reactors") are thus temporary warded off (as is the case in a sustained negation of meta-cognitive union), a complete "coincidence" ("samâpatti") ensues. It is no longer possible to distinguish the yogi from his seed. It makes no sense to ask whether the yogi's consciousness is in the object or vice versa. Both have merged without witnessing. The own-Self is annihilated.

The union arising from contemplating a subtle seed is a reflective union, or the reflection of the invisible & subtle planes of nature ("loka") in consciousness. They terminate in the undifferentiated. Its negation, or a-reflective union, is the ultimate form of union with seed, accompanied by lucidity, awe, unsurpassable joy, supra-wakefulness, alertness, a clarity without progression revealing the thing-in-itself, truth-bearing & infallible. An unmediated non-conceptual apperception, once & for all.

A perfected a-reflective union is called "autumnal brightness", suggestive of the extraordinary brightness of the autumnal sky of northern India. This sublime union generates, because of the suspension of all ideas, a special reactor. It runs counter to the subliminal forces of the depth-mind. A permanent insight into the difference between the absolute ("purusa") and the relative ("prakrti", nature + mind) ensues (vision of discernment).

It is this perfected restriction of all mentation which leads to seedless union, for as soon as the regressive & obstructing reactor (gradually destroying the subconscious web) is in turn restricted, this ensues.

Two fundamental classes of union are thus clearly distinguished : union with seed and union without seed. The former has an objective seed which may be coarse or subtle, leading to two subtypes, each with their restriction (in total four forms). The latter type has no support whatsoever, but is completely oriented towards "purusa".

The final, highest consummate phase of seedless union (its optimum optimorum) coincides with the end of physical body, mind & soul of the yogi : the "dharma cloud" union. All primary constituents have been discontinued. The process-of-evolution as such is over. This is "aloneness of seeing" or "awareness in its own form", devoid of purpose for relative nature (matter plus mind). The yogi becomes something about which nothing more can be said.

Where is the yogi who fuses with his object of contemplation, who relinquished the witnessing Self ? The "putting together" characterizing enlightenment, is radical and annihilates all sense of identity. The prefrontal cortex control is given up. Apparently, union goes hand in hand with a massive arousal breakthrough, which has 5 fundamental interlocked sheets or layers :

  • cognitive enlightenment : in this elementary form of union, the yogi's consciousness is so devoid of fluctuations, that the lotus completely reveals itself as it is. Direct cognitive insight is available as well as a whole array of special knowledge & powers ;

  • a-cognitive enlightenment : the second stage comes about by negating this "higher" mentation, which,  because of the intensity of the hyper-order conceptualizations of the previous layer, is extremely difficult. The lotus must be negated. With the Self as coarse seed (in yoga, ego & Self are part of visible "nature"), a-cognitive union annihilates the Self completely and shuts down any association with the fruits of the previous layer (depending on the Self as empirico-formal cognition depends on the empirical ego) ;

  • reflective enlightenment : the state of the "Deities" of the traditional pantheons, expressing the Divine as its manifests on the subtle, invisible planes of nature, i.e. the immanent "heavens". To abide there is deemed dangerous and avoided. The Self being absent, "Divine forms" could be assumed instead, leading to immature enlightenment. The yogi restricts even that part of consciousness ;

  • a-reflective enlightenment : the "heavens" are in fact so many veils hindering the ultimate experience, namely : transcendent, and seedless "samâdhi" ("union without means"). By even negating the "Deities", the yogi is at the threshold of the final stage while alive. This state is extraordinary joyful, truth-bearing, lucid etc. Moreover, when its perfected brightness is achieved once, a special "reactor" is created, which "empties" the deep-mind of all possible causes-of-affliction. Now, "heaven on Earth" is realized, and the state automatically, without any effort, leads to the terminus of yoga :  

  • seedless enlightenment : ineffable, ultimate state of consciousness, i.e. absence of flux : the potter (primary cause) stopped turning the wheel, but the past momentum (secondary causes) still keeps it turning for a while (this is then the life of the yogi after seedless union - cf. the "jîvanmukti") ;

  • "dharma cloud" enlightenment : ineffable, ultimate state of all components of the yogi, i.e. absence of flux and absence of secondary causes.

During the arousal breakthrough, the yogi discovers various processes at work. After having contemplated on coarse and subtle seeds, he is able to distinguish between a cognitive union, characterized by immediate, lucid thoughts and a reflective union, drawing consciousness near to Divine states as expressed by the various pantheons. This is the immanent experience of the Divine aimed at in this repeatable experimental proof of the Divine a posteriori. Consistent with practice & dispassion, s/he restricts his consciousness and negates all hyper thoughts and all Deities. The latter operation perfected, triggers the ultimate stage, preluded by ultimate bliss and the production of a "reactor" emptying the mind completely and on all possible levels. The automatic nature of seedless union depends on this reactor, for this enlightenment happens when its work is over and the reactor itself is restricted.

Besides conjecturing a long arousal breakthrough, we may assume all functional components of the spiritual function are being executed by the brain, the "God-circuit" being established & operational. The effect of these profound experiences on personal memory (amygdala-hippocampal complex) is evident. The presence of a "fourth state" having become "final" (ARAS), the yogi is "one" with "eyes open" (neocortex transformed enough to enervate the visual association area). The wondrous perplexity of this complex state of simplicity is beyond words.

§ 75

This description evidences the presence of a yogic protocol in tune with a long tradition and understandable in terms of contemporary neurological data. As everybody is able to execute this protocol, consistent testing is in principle possible. This is a scientific and participant study of mysticism (in casu Indian) instead of the psychological, sociological, hermeneutical, historical and biological point of views. The latter are "armchair" methods which are not adapted to the subject at hand, namely the direct experience of Divine immanence, arguable  by the speculative arguments of immanent metaphysics. Only by seeking out the Divine can one acquire sufficient facts to find out whether higher states of consciousness and their adjacent Divine objects are possible.

The protocol refutes the claim spiritual experience is subjective and so cannot be prepared and initiated. Like Pascal, Kierkegaard and Breton, Patañjali underlines the marvelous nature of the Divine and the possibility to encounter it. Reason is not negated but complemented. Mind is not rejected but no longer one-dimensional (Marcuse). Apparently, if an a posteriori approach of the Divine is given, then the problem is not the absence of a protocol (as atheists claim), but the unwillingness of the latter to seriously seek out the Divine in themselves. These dogmatic atheists ("The Divine cannot exist because it cannot exist.") are like religious fundamentalists. Of course, it may take more time than futile prejudice to meet Our Lady !

3.9 The God-spot : a brain wired for the Divine.

"A  nos yeux, l'aboutissement du mysticisme est une prise de contact, et par conséquent une coïncidence partielle, avec l'effort créateur que manifeste la vie. Cet effort est de Dieu, si ce n'est pas Dieu lui-même. Le grand mystique serait une individualité qui franchirait les limites assignées à l'espèce par sa matérialité, qui continuerait et prolongerait ainsi l'action divine."

Bergson, 1984, p.233.


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Neurotheology furthers a non-dogmatic approach of the Divine as Presence, and hence a concept which is not dependent upon dogmatic theology. Instead of holy words, the individual experience of the Divine is intended. And surely, words remain a path to this too as long as they remain inspirational and poetical. These "grand stories" about Divine Presence are cultural superstructures of "our Lord" and/or "our Lady", constituting the many conceptualizations of this direct experience of the holy (complete) and the sacred (set apart). Their invention generally moves hand in hand with the socialization of the religious movement (the establishment of its canon, tradition or "magister fidei"). Hence, a concept and use of the word "God" is broader than what is aimed at in neurotheology, to wit : the understanding of spiritual experiences or encounters with Divine immanence, on the basis of the executant, processing, computing, expressive features of the right temporal lobe (in right-handed people), in particular the amygdala-hippocampal complex.

In monotheism, religious & mystical experiences are studied using dogmatic theology, instead of trying to repeat, deepen and understand the experience of Divine Presence itself. Neurotheology is therefore far more better placed than dogmatic theology to assist people in deepening and understanding their religious experiences and, if they wish so, realize a mystical experience of Divine Presence for themselves. The model of neurotheology is in accord with what is known about the neuronal executants of the experience. Hence, instead of being exclusively rooted in supposedly authentic religious traditions, its suggestions are inspired by a neurobiology all human beings share.

With the discovery in the limbic system of the "abode of God" (Joseph, 2002), in particular the role played by the right, anterior, temporal lobe and the amygdala-hippocampal complex or "God-spot" in computing extraordinary presence, profoundness & realness (Saver & Rabin, 1997), the biological deep-rootedness of Homo sapiens sapiens' affinity with these extraordinary experiences is confirmed. Spirituality is not an opiate, a fiction or an invention, but an integral part of the biological make-up and wiring of the brain. For there is a neurological area in the living human brain which is so intimately linked with religious & mystical experience, that the metaphorical title of "God-spot" (the domain of the neuronal executants for this privileged "experience of the Divine") seems justified. Interestingly, this same area in large part also executes sexual, bizarre, unusual & fearful memories, dissociative states, depersonalization, hallucinogenic & dreamlike recollections (Gloor, 1997), déjà vu, illusions (Weingarten, 1977) as well as feelings of fear, terror and rage. Fear being the common reaction associated with the activation of the amygdala (Davis, 1997).

As parts of these particular executant material structures are not acquired (through a learning-process), but indeed endogenic to the structure and dynamics of the limbic system of the living human brain, then surely, the least one may affirm is that religious and mystical experiences (like cognitive and motoric experiences) have a series of privileged neuronal executants. The exclusive element being the fact other skills need training to acquire (causing new neuronal networks to form), whereas the limbic "God-spot" is part of an already acquired, automatic (internal) hardwiring, given at birth, and part of human evolution at least since the time of the Neanderthals, if not earlier (Homo erectus). The presence of the "God-spot" implies the experience of the Divine is part of the natural set of basic experiences the brain (as a sublime executant) has in store as a result of the forces of its biological evolution.

The study of the "God-spot" does not entail a biological "proof of God". But, the human brain seems to be called to execute spiritual experiences. As the "spot" is not necessarily a "circuit", human consciousness is required to bridge the gap between what is only a possibility (a potential) and the actual occurrence of deeply religious to advanced mystical states and stations of consciousness. So neurotheology allows us to redefine "enlightenment" as the dissolution of the "spot like" nature of the "God-spot" and the emergence of a new wave-like circuit in the brain, playing out the brain to its own evolutional advantage, resulting in an enhanced mental efficiency, a more inspired creativity and a continuous inner well-being (greater conscious steering of neuronal functions).

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Why did the brain adapt to the point of producing the "God-spot" in the amygdala-hippocampal complex ? Materialism proposes the thesis of the naked ape. Without structures to execute the illusion of the hereafter, this creature would have been eliminated because of its awareness of identity and so of its own possible annihilation. Without a brain arranging a meeting with its ancestors in a dream, this intelligent animal would not have moved beyond its existential loneliness and anxiety. Without adapting, by shaping a "God-spot", man would not have been able to make sense of it all and survive on this planet. 

"Si Dieu n'existait pas, il faudrait l'inventer."
Voltaire.

But for Joseph (2002), if there was nothing to experience visually, we would not have evolved eyes and a visual cortex. So, should the same evolutionary principle not apply to religious and mystical experience, i.e. the activity of the spiritual function of humanity ? Some neurons seem to be naturally selected to execute the experience of the Divine. Is the "God-spot" that limbic area of our mammalian brain which (like an antenna to be calibrated) is able to receive the "messages" of the "other" shore of being, able to compute the numinous aura of and the fear for a higher, holy being, profoundly real and present ? If we only knew the key !

This bring us again to conscious human choice, moral conscience and free will to act and change the world. To commitment, vehemence, devotion and endurance.

Can, in a materialistic philosophy of mind, human freedom be taken seriously ? Freedom contradicts strict determinism. Freedom is unthinkable without a first person perspective. To be free one needs more than just an abstraction (as in predestination and formal ethics - cf. Kant). Freedom must imply the activity of an element beyond all possible determination or lawfulness. This factor abides in its own intentional world and can purposefully interact with the material and informational worlds, causing environmental change far more tremendous than any other known aggregate of typical events.

Can material events harbor such a nondetermined cause of direct change ? Clearly not. That is why materialism has no higher, spiritual values and disregards others for adhering to them. Higher human concepts such as freedom, equality, fraternity, truth, justice, beauty, goodness etc. have no meaning and use without a first person perspective. When recorded in language they become third person perspectives, but never do they have their origin in the outer world of material events. Neither is their active intentionality an informational event. The concept of human freedom is intimately linked with a first person positioning of objects, typical for a self-consciousness able to act without constraints in its own intimate reality and interacting with both material and informational events. So, are we willing to take ourselves seriously and take the first person perspective for granted, or shall we continue to hide ourselves behind the fabric of our own conceptualizations, rationalizations and other mental constructions ? 

"The proper study of mankind is man."
Multatuli, 1868.

To guarantee "I am free.", philosophy of mind must acknowledge that "I" exist. Twentieth century philosophy has been reluctant in precisely doing that. As a result, the higher human values have been desubjectified (objectified), so as to turn human beings into producing and consuming automatic devices (cf. Chaplin in "Modern Times"). The end of alienation (a worker having lost touch with his product) precisely comes with this "prise de conscience", which is the vital, sympathetic, attracting component often overlooked in the description of intentionality. The end of intentionality is unthinkable. 

Because of free will, "I am" the nondetermined cause of autopoiesis (self-production), autoregulation & reprogramming, which affects my mind profoundly, while causing changes in the neuronal wirings of my brain and affecting others. Consciousness is the source of choice and the intersubjectivity of language, socialization, culture and spiritual emancipation (metanoia). Consciousness events have an irreducible, primitive, basic (substantiating) ontological status.

§ 78

The biofeedback principle applied to the brain, or neurofeedback, is the most rewarding tool of practical neurotheology. In general, the biofeedback principle states that one can become conscious of an internal physical event of which one is normally not aware and then can learn to steer some aspect of that event. For example, one can learn to recognize various brain waves and reproduce them at will. Biofeedback is an instrumented kind of yogic bodily control. By becoming aware of the brain waves produced by the brain in "real time", the distinction between non-spatial consciousness and the mirrored brain-waves is more easily realized. Where is the decision-maker ? What are the natural limitations of the brain ? Indeed, how is voluntary control of internal states of the brain achieved if the causal agent is deemed to be part of the brain (as in materialism) ?

Although one of the end result of neurobiofeedback is control, this is learnt in a relatively short time. In learning to control some aspect, one needs first to identify the biological process. The feedback signal is just a label to identify the correct response once it has been elicited. We are not learning the produce Alpha-waves, but the calm, detached state of mind which happens to correlate an Alpha rhythm. If the feedback signal has been correctly identified, it is stopped by ending the causing activity. Training may be a "closed-loop" or involve "guided imagery". In the former, the subject watches the signal (meter, light bulbs) continuously or listens to a variable tone while trying to relax. The reactions of the signal will be co-relative to the thoughts and feelings processed by the CNS. Once the correct mental "groove" is found, the wanted machine-response happens. If not, one continues to relax, seeking the "door" to reduce tensions & allow other states of consciousness to be processed.

Although helpful, this instrumented yoga has one disadvantage : the machine has no ability to identify those fundamental, cortical patterns, habits and repetitive attitudes that make our lives unspiritual. It may identify blocks (like the inability to arouse Alpha-waves), lateralization (cortical asymmetry), fear and "hot" spots and help the trainee or trainer to adjust the parameters of the biofeedback session, but the machine on its own does not reveal the mental reasons for the observed eccentricities.

Persinger (1987, 2002) reports how the application of weak, complex magnetic fields through the cerebral hemispheres, in particular the right temporal lobe, elicits experiences of a "sensed presence" or "Sentient Being", i.e. Divine Presence. For him, the amygdala are associated with cosmic meaning and the hippocampus with memory. Direct electrical stimulation of the amygdala-hippocampal area results in recollection of important, personal images, but also in the formation of complete visual and auditory hallucinations and hyper lucid visions. 

The "God-spot" emerged in an area of the brain which also computes sexuality and violence, as well as a whole range of emotional functions like emotional arousal, pleasure, joy, socio-emotional recognition & reward, personal emotional reactions, emotional memory, learned fear, terror, rage, aggression, anxiety, illusion, fiction, hallucination, apparitions, dream states, depersonalizations, déjà vu etc. The "God-spot" executes the experience of a "higher" profound, sentient, holy, spiritual Presence, generating tremendous religious awe, yet comforting and near in an inexplicable way, except in signals & icons. 

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The root of spiritual experience is emotional. Neurotheology confirms the story of all love-mystics, who repeat that only through love the soul is able to experience the love of the Lover, making love the "Via Regia" to the heart of spirituality. The "straight path" of peace is nothing else than the way of love, the Dantesk voyage from the "dark wood" of the prefrontal cortex to the spiritual domain of the limbic system, a "shamanistic" descent (hell, purgatory) carried to a good end because Vergil (synchronized neocortex) acts as a guide and Beatrice is one's leading star of love (or "higher", transcendent Self). It is she who introduces the heavenly experience of the Divine, computed when the amygdala-hippocampal complex is aroused to the point of producing hyper lucid visions, accompanied by hypothalamic states of exaltation. 

These profound personal experiences make powerful engrams and are stored in these basal centers of the temporal lobe. These memories can be evoked later, and potentialize the reverberations caused by adjacent sensoric inputs meant to trigger in the brain the necessary conditions for spiritual experiences and/or states. As Patañjali remarked : special types of spiritual experiences have a deep effect on memory and irreversibly alter the way new inputs are stored (the amygdala may remain stimulated even when the stimulus is gone).

The "God-spot" is not cortical but sub cortical. It was very likely at work in the Neanderthals but flourished in the Cro-Magnon, Neolithic and historical man. It developed in an area of the brain which is not verbal but highly sensoric, visuospatial and emotional. Hence, spirituality is not an "invention", for the mammalian brain does not invent. 

The Homo sapiens sapiens is neurologically wired to have spiritual experiences. Just as a visual system was developed because there is something to see, a spiritual function emerged because there is some spiritual agent to experience. This "agent" is the holy, the Divine ... the radical other. That we have a retina, does not produce light. That the spiritual function is a fact, does not make "God" exist. But : would there have been a retina without light or a spiritual function without Divine Presence in the universe ? Is the mark of the Designer not present in the design and is the human brain not the "locus naturalis" to find this trace, namely as the spiritual function enabling the human being to experience its Designer ?

Insofar as the adjacent features of the amygdala are concerned, we may conjecture radical otherness is an "inner" agent, to be seen with the "inner eyes" of vision, hallucination & apparition (cf. Augustine and the "visio spiritualis" of the "homo interior"). The vicinity of the "God-spot" to other emotional processes makes clear why the spiritual quest has always been deemed dangerous, leading to fanatical atheism (limbic deafferented and withdrawal in the prefrontal cortex - cf. henotheism), insanity (loss of ability to taxate reality, i.e. distinguish the real -neocortex- from the illusions -amygdala-) or death (seizure).

We are not wired to enter the domain of the holy with ease. The Cro-Magnon aspirant entered a tunnel leading underground. He had to crawl in the total darkness of narrow spaces for quite some time before he arrived, probably exhausted, in a gigantic rock-cathedral lit by fire with huge drawings of real and fantastic animals on its walls, flickering in the light, and shamans singing and dancing. An initiatoric ritual happened which would "mark" the individual for life. Likewise, before the Catholic aspirant priest is consecrated by the bishop, he prostrates his body on the ground and a dark veil is pulled over him. This symbolizes the "end" of his "profane" life prior to consecration. The sacerdotal "mark" or "imprint", the result of the imposition of the hands of the bishop, is permanent and irreversible (although the Church may hinder its practical use). But once a priest, always a priest. The neophyte enters the Masonic temple blindfolded and pronounces his oath with the point of a dagger touching his throat. After a series of ordeals, the blindfold is taken off. A new life begins ...  

The religions and their approved ways made use of such devices to simulate the approach of the limbic without unforeseen turbulences. They partly deafferented the spiritual function in space and time. In doing so, they remained within the boundaries of mass psychology and group dynamics and offered a collective object of worship. This "our Lord" and/or "our Lady", is a function of history and the needs of circumstances. Insofar as religions are "living", their ways still generate a genuine spiritual experience, comforting enough for people to recognize Divine Presence. And this may be enough for the majority at large. But, to remain strong and inspiring, living religions need a mystical core influential enough to cause adjustments within or beyond the framework of their respective dogmatic theologies. And this is mostly not the case.

§ 80

The world religions make use of the approved ways to stimulate the "God-spot" and trigger a mediated, indirect religious experience. They develop fundamental teaching and condition their believers from early childhood onwards to accept their dogmas. These tenets are never questioned, but blindly accepted. As history shows, these religions were and are antagonistic towards other religious systems and rejected (if not persecuted) unbelievers. Because spiritual experiences and violence are neurotheologically close, it is not surprising people satisfy their blood-lust for "their God" and think they will be martyrs when, crusading for this self-created, cortical "God", they fight for "the good cause" and destroy as many unbelieving lives as possible. These extreme reactions show that despite the approved ways, most -if not all- religious systems establish and maintain an unwholesome cortico-limbic imbalance. Although the spiritual abode is not completely deafferented, its output is channeled & processed by heavy cortical superstructures, keeping the controlling influence of the neocortex in place. Spontaneous spiritual experiences with conflicting contents are made impossible and if they do happen, mistrusted and marginalized. The violence associated with these religions further suggests that this imbalance causes neurological decompressions, resulting in aggressive behavior justified by religious creed.

Clearly, world religions, and their largely "cortical" spirituality, have had their time. But why were they so successful ? The "nuggets of gold" present in the approved ways were the only procedures that "worked", but nobody knew why and so their salvic effectiveness was "explained" in terms of "grace", i.e. "God's favor". Unaware of the biological executants of the spiritual function, theologians could do nothing more than (reinterpreting scripture) invent cortical explanations for the spiritual experiences that happened (or bluntly deny the experience and attribute them to the devil). "Holy books" were written down to superstructure the direct experience of Divine Presence. By "explaining" limbic spirituality, they encased it and once "in the box of letters", spiritual experience slowly dried up, at times rejuvenated by the narrow beams of light still able to penetrate the thick canon of exoteric rule.

Inde
ed, in all world religions, mystics and profoundly religious people continued to be at work. They reestablished a more direct link with the limbic "God-spot", founding new orders and spiritual movements (cf. Nichiren in Buddhism, Francis of Assisi in Christianity, Ibn-'Arabî in Islam). But after their death, the same process happened : cortical structures emerged narrowing down the extent of the new spiritual momentum, utilizing dogma to redefine their heretical nature (recuperation) and/or to summon the devil into existence to attribute the novelty to the adversary of "God". The movement may also be institutionalized (cf. the Franciscan order), and the fossilizing process happening at large is repeated in particulars (cf. the influence of Asoka on Buddhism, of Constantine on Christianity and of Mu'awiyah on Islam). When man tries to manipulate the "God-spot" by inventing a manmade religion ("our Lord" instead of "my Lord"), the result spells disaster.

The history of the religions since the European Renaissance, confirms a slow retreat of "God" from the neocortex. This was enforced upon the institutionalized religions by the new scientific approach, which indeed eventually killed the cortical, rational "God". "God" was subjected to the laws of the secular, humanist society in which everybody is allowed to worship the "god" of his or her free choice. In fact, religion became a separate language-game, tolerated and funded (as folklore and good examples), but eliminated as a public source of empirico-formal knowledge, i.e. as explicit truth-bearing insights influencing political decision-making. This emancipation of the neocortex has had its effects all over the planet. Democracy, freedom and a constructive, participative globalism are the children of this radical change of conscious perspective, namely the replacement of "God" by the free choice of communicating ego's (cf. the French Revolution & the Independence of the USA).

The executant brain structures of the spiritual function (enabling us to experience the spiritual) are intended (as are all various structures of a neurological network executing some task) to work together. If they do, a special spiritual balance is achieved, computed by an ongoing "God-circuit". This is, ex hypothesi, a multiple relay of information between the sensing, receiving amygdala-hippocampal comple
x (and its hyper lucid visions) and the symbolizing, processing synchronized neocortex and its prefrontal voluntary association area. This cortico-limbic circuit implies a double integration :

  • interhemispheral : the circuit stops with lateralization or hemispheral deafferentiation and runs on a synchronized neocortex only ;

  • intercortical : the circuit links neocortex with its basal telencephalon (amygdala, hippocampus), and the latter is part of the Papez-circuit (linking with the hypothalamus and the reptilian brain).

The mystics exalt the "God-circuit" by their example. They manifest the glory of Divine Presence in their actions. Although constantly in touch with the visionary, they refrain from being possessed by anything else but themselves. They dare to enter the "abode of the Divine", but remain what they are (i.e. humble). Their neocortex may be dogmatic or scientific, their spiritual experiences are stronger and push them to symbolizations beyond what they have learned (theology, science, art, etc.). They manifest complex symbolizations, which serve as momentary, fleeting superstructures and wavering constructions erected upon a limitless and eternal spiritual station-of-no-station, which is un-saying love for the Divine and which they never wish to grasp or contain, although this Presence always remains with them and stays comforting them to the point of charity for all other sentient beings and an active life in pursuit of the spiritual ideal of goodness, solidarity, justice, equality, freedom and forgiveness.

In the mystics, the two sources of religion (the frontal superstructure and the limbic experience) come together and constantly interact. Thanks to the recent "secular turn", mystics have been freed from the burden of futile "exoteric" teachings and rituals. They turn to the source and revitalize their traditions for themselves. This is a considerable step forward. It turns out mystics do not entertain a solid, inflexible, dogmatic set of rules and regulations, on the contrary (cf. Zen Buddhism, the "via negativa" in Christianity, "fanâ" in Sufism). Beyond the rule of "virtue", these people experience spirituality in its direct "nakedness". Spiritual superstructures are at best inspiring and necessary to communicate a framework or spiritual symbolism to be changed by the user on the basis of his or her direct spiritual experiences.

3.10 Atheism - agnosticism - gnosis.

§ 81

On many occasions in the course of this text, the bi-polar nature of the Divine surfaced and was shown to be consistent with the a priori and a posteriori arguments of its existence. The Divine, the metaphorical He-She (and She-He), features two sides :

  • He-side of absolute transcendence : the transcendent essence of the Divine posited outside creation, as poetically hinted at by non-conceptual, nondual intuition, is the object of the pinnacle of mystic experience and its poetic elucidation. This is the object of dogmatic theology, claiming to capture the infinite God in finite worldly glyphs or meaningful states of matter (special people, oral traditions, holy books, holy objects, rituals, customs, etc.). If "existence" only instantiates, what we must think to be the case, then the positive, actual existence of the essence of the Divine cannot be proven. The a priori arguments fail and about the omnipotent, self-sufficient Creator & Author of the world nothing affirmative or negative can be said ;

  • She-side of subtle immanence : the existence of the Divine within creation, the immanent Presence of a Designer and the power of overall conservation is put into evidence by the speculative arguments backing a non-creational argument from design and the direct experience of this by way of a protocol. The a posteriori arguments make the existence of the Architect of the world probable enough to warrant further metaphysical studies.

Although this distinction can be found in nearly all mystical and religious systems, historical atheism has mainly focused on the He-side of the equation. It rejects the transcendent God of theism, and in doing so posits the precise equivalent of the etymology of "atheism", namely "a" + "theism", the "alpha privativum" plus "theism", or : against theism. Although many forms of theism exist, atheism aims at immanence and the natural order. Precisely because of their focus on nature, the Divine cannot exist, has been refuted by the above speculative and experimental arguments. Identifying all religions with theism, atheism has not been able to formulate a comprehensive denial of the Divine.

Clearly intelligent design does not prove the God of theism, and so does not back the "creationist" system of belief. It provides a probable course of demonstration of the first immanent cause, deemed intelligent and so able to make free choices. Intelligent design successfully argues against random natural necessity (cf. the metaphor of the blind watchmaker or other mathematical miracles), but does not embrace the theology of creationism & its omnipotent, omniscient and necessary Being. It is not a proof of dogmatic theology, and it does not imply a return to the traditional religious systems. It does not provide an apology for faith. It opens the path for an immanent religiosity, a religion of nature adhering to the idea of a single power sustaining and organizing the world, and this hand in hand with creativity and the freedom of actual entities.

Indeed, grosso modo, monotheism problematizes the immanent, rather feminine Anima Mundi (as well as women in general). "God" is "He", not "She". This male-dominated theology, gaining power since the end of the Neolithic, is not the complete picture. Even in Ancient Egypt, and its focus on the Divine king, goddesses and queens placed a key role in both religion & politics. In the Abrahamic traditions, the sacred feminine was repressed.

The superstructures of the monotheisms were dictated by men and the Divine was deemed the He-God. He was the creative origin of the universe and worshipping His transcendence was deemed the salvation of the world and of oneself. Subreptively, to keep traditions going, the subtle, invisible, immediate Presence of the Divine was introduced into theology. Never was the case made for the She-soul of the world, the reflection of what we may witness of Him ... This situation is not universal. In Hinduism, the role of the "shakti" is beyond doubt, as is "yin" in Taoism. The monotheisms are the victim of their desire to dominate the receptive, generative Natural world with an expressive, creative God ruling it from the outside. The She-God then turns into the Lady of the Shadow Realms, the Dark Moon Lilith.

Etymologically, historical atheism is anti-Abrahamic. In an extended definition, it is the negation of the Divine as such. This negation was countered by the arguments a posteriori. Extended atheism has to proof the universe emerged at random. It has to be able to reproduce a fraction of this natural beauty by stochastic means only. It has to explain the unlikelihood of this being the case in an entropic, random model. Otherwise, its thesis cannot be accepted. Semantic atheism needs to explain how something which has no significance can have relevance ? Logical atheism has to disprove the arguments of design and conservation as well as the emancipatoric protocols and explain some of their significant results. By absence of all this, immanent Divinity may be called a probable explanation of the order, beauty and creativity at work in the world. Without a Designer, the world would probably not have come into existence. Indeed, only an intelligent selection of natural constants produces intelligent life. Moreover, nothing could here and now be conserved without a first Conserving Cause.

It is futile to defend atheism on the authority of a foundationalist science, producing certain knowledge. As all knowledge is probabilistic (terministic) and the possibility of knowledge cannot be grounded in a sufficient principle (real or ideal), nothing else but the modesty of science is left over. This is not skeptical (or dogma in disguise), nor dogmatic, but critical. All possibilities are accepted, but certain crucial rules of logic and methodology are saved from the ship-wreck of foundationalism. It is vain to reject atheism on the authority of a fundamental theology, keeper of a unique, exclusive salvic "revelation". As the core of all religious phenomena is the direct, individual experience of the Divine, organized systems are bound to adhere to "our Lord" or/and "our Lady" at the expense of "my Lord" and/or "my Lady". They fossilize the original current by canon and dogma and overgrow the essence with the vanity of superstructures, sacred scripture, theologies and traditions. Moreover, in monotheism, the remote "He" aspect of the Divine has been emphasized and the subtle "She" aspect veiled.

Agnosticism is atheism in disguise. Pascal tried to make clear that, facing the question of the existence of the Divine, the only proper thing to do for a reasonable person is to wager. For to remain indifferent or to suspend judgment is itself to make a choice, namely against the Divine. One cannot help choosing one way or the other. Either the Divine exists, or not. In such an important matter, there is no middle ground, for if one suspends judgment then one denies answering a fundamental existential matter. This in itself constitutes an action. Maybe this is nothing less than self-condemnation, for suppose the Divine exists, how will one make amends ? Suppose the contrary is true, how then to face the billions of believers in an authentic way ? The agnostic betrays either oneself, the religions or the Divine.

Gnosticism is not necessarily theist and may be defined in pantheist or pan-en-theist terms. Direct spiritual experience and knowledge are crucial here and this vertical approach of Divinity is in tune with the proposed spiritual protocol. For the "gnosis" which is the object of Gnosticism is a special knowledge, a truncated pyramid, with non-conceptual, nondual direct experience as its cap-stone. Historical Gnosticism opposed centrist, orthodox systems of religion. A hidden knowledge was imparted to its adherents pertaining to the secret ways to emancipate the spirit within. Gnosticism is esoteric.

Gnostic speculations, remaining immanent, i.e. thematizing the Architect of the world and not its Author, except poetically, are metaphysical. Like yoga, existentialism and surrealism, they point to the experiential Presence of the Divine within the world. Thinking this Presence, is the task of religious philosophy. Devising new ways to encounter Divinity in the world, is the work of mysticology.

In metaphysical terms, Divine Presence is approached with the known facts of science. The speculative argument of conservation can be explored with the tools of the physics of the natural constants (the co-relativity of their values and the intelligence of their choice). The argument from design reveals a broader scope, and makes clear the existence of an overall order, beauty and very great might & intelligence working in the universe. This is more than just blind natural necessity, working at random and without a clear aim or "telos". On the contrary, this intelligence or Anima Mundi, is an all-powerful nature beyond "unconscious fecundity" (KRV, B653), operating by means of freedom. This made Her choose for certain proportions accommodating life and human intelligence, the genesis of a universe balanced to the detail and working in harmony with an implicate scheme. This cause proportionate to the world and never beyond it, is not a highest wisdom or self-sufficient Being. The soul of the world, like a Great Architect, is dependent of the choices made by the actual entities, existing in their creative and interlocked process of becoming. She, as a complex supermind, holds the rule of beauty and balances our worse choices by valuating some possibilities more than others.

These arguments clear the way to ascend to the stage of admiration. Although reason cannot advance further and claim a definite concept of the Author of the world (the He-God of ineffable mysticism and negative theology), although it cannot make the impossible step leading to absolute totality, it can conceptualize the greatness, wisdom, power and all-comprehensiveness of the She-soul of the world. Beyond this stage of admiration, conceptual thought cannot move. Reason stands still in awe before the skillful living & intelligent edifice, but never meets its Creator, only its Generator. It may define the origin of the universe in terms of the Big Bang, but not who or what banged, for t = 0 escapes its equations. It may be baffled by the extraordinary scope of the universe, glimpse Her gracious moves and subtle, tactful and stylish Presence through the elegant structures of mathematical beauty, but without ever being able to write down the formula explaining Her Author.

So thanks to the protocol, a direct, systematic approach of the marvelous being may be realized. Staying within the universe, this immanent experience counters the atheist claim no experience of the Divine is possible, for the set is not empty. Of course, only the immanent objects of the set become, so to speak, "personal" and "interpersonal" experience. This step does not transcend the order of possible experience altogether, completely and without trace. Because the approach is a posteriori, the essence of the Divine has not been addressed. If so, nothing more can be said, except what the absolute is not. Atheism negating transcendence has not, and cannot been countered. Part of the claim of atheism is satisfied, for there is no way to conceptualize transcendence but in poetry.

If so, then all religious unveilings & revelations are sublime poetical elucidations, suggestions, hints and metaphors, but not scientific statements of fact or propositions with a conventional truth claim.

As only "my Lord" and/or "my Lady" are able to offer beatitude, the critical mind is left with authentic commitment and the development of the open spirit of finesse ever anticipating the marvelous to happen.

Bibliography

General Bibliography on Philosophy (2005)
Bibliography on Egyptology (2004)
Bibliography on Neurotheology (2003)


                 

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initiated : 07 VII 2005 - last update : 04 VII 2010 - version n°3