Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Implications of Science on Theology

Originally posted on April 7, 2011

I contemplated God today and took a turn for the apophatic in contrast to the cataphatic way to appreciate divinity. While cataphatic speaks of the positive qualities of God, the apophatic speaks of what God is not, how God must transcend all notions that can be conceptualized by humanity.  

In supporting my thinking, I considered the discoveries of science in the last two hundred years:
– The universe is many billions of times larger than we knew
– There is a micro-world billions of times smaller than we knew
– There are levels of complexity millions of times more subtle and varied than we knew
– Life multiplies this complexity by a large order of magnitude
– The nature of complexity is such that almost everything in the vast universe is unique—and the more complex it is, the more unique it is
– The nature of complexity, mixed with the subtlety of interactions thus far discovered, brings in the dynamics of chaos and fractal mathematics
– Events progress at speeds a billion times faster and also a billion times slower than the human mind can imagine
– Events progress with forces that are again many magnitudes more powerful and more subtle than can be conceived of by the human mind
– The mind is riddled with illusions and self-deceptive dynamics that preserve its ordinariness, but there are accumulating hundreds of examples that suggest that there is far more that can be perceived by subtle senses than has yet been described
– The pace of discovery has not lessened and it is not unreasonable to assume that it will do so within our lifetime; if that is so, all these frontiers may expand yet by another order of magnitude or more
– Awareness of other cultures, religions, philosophies, the bias that other languages give to worldviews, and so forth continues to expand
– The discovery of electricity, followed by the electromagnetic spectrum and all that comes with it, suggests that there may yet be other dimensions of being at the edge of being discovered, yet to be discovered, with as much complexity and as many implications that may change our very way of thinking about the world
– The pace of all sorts of developments, the inflow of information, new research, sharing ideas around, participation via electronic devices and computers, and so forth seems to be accelerating
. . . and so forth.

What does this have to do with theology? Only that whatever images of God have been entertained two hundred years ago need to run through the filter or screen of how a God that operates at least at this level of complexity and inclusiveness might be imagined. My hunch is that such a God cannot begin to be imagined. Indirectly, I dare use the term used by Whitehead, the “Creative Advance.”  If that is so, attempts to image the God of at least a hundred billion galaxies (presently visible to telescopes) and who knows how many other universes will transcend any human attempt to imagine this great unfolding. Thus, it may be better to turn away from efforts to know and be at one with God.

This is not to say that a modest mysticism, getting past the illusions of separateness, experiencing at times some degree of union with the great unfolding Flow, is not possible for the human mind. (Philosophically, though, I would be inclined to say that such experiences, though sublime, hardly need be thought of as knowledge of the fullness of God’s potential.) I’d even be willing to concede the existence and operation of transcendent realms, perhaps many levels of them. Again, this need not be the same as knowing the source of all this, any more than the discovery of galaxies beyond our own in the 1920s meant that we saw the ultimate in “heaven.”

The implications to me suggest that it may be wisest and most useful to let go of trying to grasp with our minds the grandeur of the Truly Everything and focus instead on the next step—or at most, the step after next. Those are quite challenging in themselves. There are many such steps: How to generate more sustainable populations and environments with people living more equitably, with less oppression and more empowerment and freedom, with consciousness raised a step or two, more interesting art, and so forth.

My own mission fits well within this more modest theme. I use two metaphors: Helping God be “born”—which means to shift to a new state of greater awakening. I expect that I can help this happen to a tiny degree—analogous to what a blood corpuscle contributes in helping me be alive and conscious. But still it’s helping rather than harming. The other metaphor is that of being God’s water-boy—not the team players in the cosmic football game, but maybe of help in bringing some water to those on the bench. I get to wear the team jacket and feel excited that I’m helping.

In more specific ways, I get to help by spreading the word about others’ creative efforts that are worth finding out about. I know most folks might not be interested, but even if some are, that still multiplies the psychic energy, the awakening spirit. Second, I add a little originality to the process by thinking of some fresh ideas, or elaborating those others have generated. Third, and though it’s more indirect, I don’t doubt that it’s meaningful, I get to spread the lights of love, play, being part of life, with friends, family, community, nation, world. I’m doing these things and know I’m doing the right thing. I sort of hope I can do this for a good long time, but I’m getting older and know that my time is limited. So I just surrender and keep doing it today. That’s it.

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