Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Improvisational Theology

Originally posted on April 30, 2016

In 1979 Elaine Pagels wrote a book titled The Gnostic Gospels (Vintage Books), in which she noted that for the Gnostics, being considered “spiritually mature” or “initiated” was to write something that is stimulatingly original. That’s how I understood it. We have been living through millennia of quasi-worship of those who presume to know enough to make truth-claims, either because what they have written about seems true not only for them, the authors, but for everyone. Some of them have inherited this “knowledge” in whole or in part from their teachers or ancient text. It was assumed that “they” in the past knew, had figured it out, had the real dope.

I dare to make stuff up! I empower you to do likewise, if you choose. I figure that our minds are all sort of brain-cells of God, and I don’t presume that God thinks human-type thoughts. Such distinct thoughts are bounded by even sort-of rationality and are thereby far too puny for the God of ten billion or more galaxies spread over fifty billion or more light years to bother with. But in my imagination, God enjoys the trip of evolving mind—all forms of evolving mind—and that includes the activity of interpreting and then re-interpreting of myths.

Now the problem is that some of these myths might laced with error, or omission. A website article my son sent me about who will debunk the debunkers provoked these thoughts about mistakes.

So I view these “discoveries” and “counter-discoveries” sort of through the lens of Hegel’s dialectical process—(it turns out that Hegel himself did not contribute much to the elaboration of this idea, but that Fichte and others really presented it—another debunking!)—that mind is always forming, re-forming, and that truth, as far as we can tell, evolves along with so many other things. Whoa! I was always taught that truth doesn’t have to evolve—it’s above that. But maybe not.

What if these same principles are applied  with even a 5% per century modification to sacred texts? My theory (for what it’s worth—nuthin’) is that truth is what we take it to be, and then we change our minds, and then truth is what we take it to be, and then… It reminds me of some of those optical illusions that you see first one way and then there’s a shift in the gestalt and then you see it another way. But of course good theology can’t jerk you around this way. It’s way to sacred, important, holy. But wait—what if theology is made up to rationally coordinate mystic intuitions—as the philosopher Whitehead suggested—and indeed it’s a human creation well worthy of re-evaluation again and again?

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