The Cause IN Appearances Vs. The Cause OF Appearances

This post is an elaboration of my comment on this article– The Open Universe  –which addresses the idea raised by some that the universe could be a computer simulation.

matrix_hologram1y

Leaving aside the idea of a computer simulation, per se, the idea of a holographic universe is, in fact, being seriously entertained by top-notch physicists and woo-woo-wackos, alike (as this YouTube search demonstrates).  As I see it, however, this theory– if confirmed –would dovetail quite nicely with some form of philosophical idealism (e.g. Neoplatonism or some form of transcendental idealism a la Kant).

Indeed, it is with that in mind that I sometimes use the following (popular) presentation of the holographic hypothesis to show that the appearance of evolution (which seems, to me, to be undeniable) would, from the stand-point of a holographic universe, be true as phenomena (similar to the way in which the sun appears to rise and set) but not ultimately explanatory.  The video is from an episode of Nova:

“The illusion of third dimension : the universe as a hologram or holographic universe”

With regard to the relationship  between the earth and the sun, it is undeniable that the more precise, scientifically accurate observation is that the earth revolves around the sun.  Still, we acknowledge the geocentric  appearance — honor it, even — when we speak of “sunrises” and “sunsets” (even though we know it is not, strictly speaking, “the truth”  — or at least not the whole truth).   Likewise, it seems to me, I can reasonably acknowledge that my (apparent) body appears to be the result of evolutionary processes without conceding that “I” am the product of biological evolution, per se.  Evolutionary biology illuminates the natural history (or genealogy) of  the form that we see when we look in a mirror, to be sure–but it is crystal clear that there is more to us than meets the eye…

Nevertheless– even if we were to confirm that the spatio-temporal world is a holographic image that reflects some sort of transcendent intelligence/idea/datum –we could still point to (and speak of) the phenomena of biological evolution (as we currently understand it) as having taken place over the last several hundred million years, but we would also subordinate that phenomena to the more precise understanding that the real cause of these apparent processes transcends the flow of appearances in time and space (somewhat as we now subordinate our experience of the rising and the setting of the sun to our more precise understanding of the solar system).

[NOTE:  Immanuel Kant lays the groundwork for this distinction in his discussion of “The Fourth Antinomy” in his Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics:

Thesis: In the Series of the World-Causes there is some necessary Being.

Antithesis: There is Nothing necessary in the World, but in this Series All is incidental.

He concludes the section as follows:

“…provided the cause in the appearance is distinguished from the cause of the appearance (so far as it can be thought as a thing in itself), both propositions are perfectly reconcilable: the one, that there is nowhere in the sensuous world a cause (according to similar laws of causality), whose existence is absolutely necessary; the other, that this world is nevertheless connected with a Necessary Being as its cause (but of another kind and according to another law). The incompatibility of these propositions entirely rests upon the mistake of extending what is valid merely of appearances to things in themselves, and in general confusing both in one concept.” ]

Leaving aside the holographic universe, however– along with Kant’s fourth antinomy –let us turn to the hard problem of consciousness which refers to the fact that we cannot seem to arrive at an understanding of consciousness through the analysis of matter and material processes alone.  Even Sam Harris– one of the so-called new atheists –acknowledges this problem in his recent work on spirituality without religion, Waking Up:

“However we propose to explain the emergence of consciousness—be it in biological, functional, computational, or any other terms—we have committed ourselves to this much: First there is a physical world, unconscious and seething with unperceived events; then, by virtue of some physical property or process, consciousness itself springs, or staggers, into being. This idea seems to me not merely strange but perfectly mysterious. That doesn’t mean it isn’t true. When we linger over the details, however, this notion of emergence seems merely a placeholder for a miracle” (56).

“The fact that the universe is illuminated where you stand— that your thoughts and moods and sensations have a qualitative character in this moment —is a mystery, exceeded only by the mystery that there should be something rather than nothing in the first place” (79).

[Note:  See also my Two Arguments Against Physicalism.  One of those “two arguments”, BTW, is that it makes no sense to say that consciousness, as such, is selected for if it is reducible to physical structures and processes–and yet some scientists never tire of generating “just so” stories that explain why certain modes consciousness, as such, evolved.  Sam Harris and David Chalmers seem to agree…]

In short, even though our bodies appear to have evolved over time from non-human species, that does not account for consciousness as such–which, as I see it, is the gift of God (an inexplicable mystery).  In Christian terms, that which is born of the flesh is flesh (cf. those who understand themselves exclusively according to their natural history and/or genealogy and identify themselves exclusively with the form they see when they look in a mirror–and with their personal autobiography) while that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit (cf. those who participate in the life of Christ which is represented in terms of the virgin birth and incarnation–our eternal life from above).  As such, we are invited to be “put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the Spirit” — invited to take up our cross and enter the kingdom NOW.

Indeed, as Valentin Tomberg explains, the Divine image in which we are created is in-tact, but because we do not recognize and honor it, the Divine likeness has become disfigured and, thus, it is said that we “must be born again/from above” (i.e. we must become “The Hanged Man” — see Letter 12 of Meditations on the Tarot— see Letter 14 for the discussion of the Divine image and likeness).

–> Recognizing and Honoring the Light of Awareness

Christianity, Platonism, and the Tarot of Marseille

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7 Responses to The Cause IN Appearances Vs. The Cause OF Appearances

  1. Cassiodorus says:

    Hi Wayne,

    I just discovered your blog by way of your comments at Gornahoor. I just finished reading a series of your prior posts and I am intrigued. I apologize for not addressing the subject of this post- but, if I may beg your indulgence….For many years, I have struggled to see how Christianity is compatible with the tenets of the Perennial Philosophy. Or more specifically, whether or not the doctrine of maya in Divinis is compatible with Christian theism. To my lights, a true Christian gnosis (the Supreme Identity) is problematic because classical theism regards the Creator-creation as the fundamental distinction whereas the (Advaitan/Valentianian) nondualist regards Atma/Maya as the fundamental distinction. As one of my Thomist friends recently quipped, a consistent unqualified nondualism totally changes the meaning of both the Incarnation and the Trinity because they are, in effect, reduced to the exoteric- “relatively real” or the “unreal”.

  2. Cassiodorus says:

    Thank you very much Wayne!I appreciate the links that you provided. I must say that I really enjoy your style of writing- it is quite pleasing to me. I’m not 100% sure, but it seems to me that your perspective is that of a “strong” form panentheism or, perhaps, more accurately described as a qualified nondualism. God is all but differences are real- is that a fair statement? This position, I think, has major affinities with the Vishishtadvaita school of Vedanta. I am partial to this point of view myself. The trouble to me though is that the whole “Perennialist project” stands or falls with that ever so important distinction within the Divine Principle itself- that of Nirguna Brahman and Sauguna Brahman or as Frithjof Schuon called it, the Absolute and the “relative Absolute”. As I eluded to in my prior post, it seems to me that this perspective cannot really be reconciled to Christianity because it is fundamentally patronizing to bhaktic theistic religion. God, the Creator, or Being is relegated to the maya side of the Absolute/relative divide- to the side of illusion. And if that is the case, then so is the Trinity. I apologize for repeating myself, I just wanted to clarify how I see the problem.

    Kind Regards

    • That helps a lot to clarify your question, Cassiodorus–and, yes, I think you have me pegged pretty well (I don’t like labels, but when push comes to shove, I call myself a “Trinitarian Panentheist”). Here’s the important thing, though, as I see it: The exoteric tradition (which is conceptual and dualistic) points to the esoteric realty (which is intuitive/unitive and nondual). Once reality is “seen”, the imperfections of the tradition matters little (or so it seems to me). Until it is seen, however, the tradition also functions to defuse the more dangerous aspects of the ego. My concern is with those version of Christianity that create right-wing ideologues and/or cultivate sloppy and self-deceptive thinking (see “Our Sunday School Theology”). If Christians can only acknowledge that the truth is universally accessible by reason of our common humanity–and also come to value real critical thinking, I think the it remains a viable path (I assume you are familiar with “Mediations on the Tarot”, for example–or Mouravieff?).

      Alas, while I have been exposed to several of the “orthodox” Traditionalists “after the fact”, so to speak, I come to all this via the rather questionable path (in some people’s eyes) of Aldous Huxley and Eckhart Tolle. As such, I am not so much interested in promoting the “Perennialist Project” as I am pointing people (by what ever means) to the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Thanks again for your questions and feedback–I will continue to think about your question and may have more to say on the subject later.

      https://jwayneferguson.wordpress.com/nonduality/

      https://jwayneferguson.wordpress.com/about/the-most-important-books-in-my-life/

      https://jeshua21.wordpress.com/skeptics-corner/our-sunday-school-theology/

  3. Cassiodorus says:

    Hi Wayne,

    This comment is a bit of a digression, but related I suppose from my earlier posts. It seems that we have some common ground in our intellectual/spiritual journey. I was raised nominally Catholic, you know, more in a cultural sense than in a believing sense. I rejected Christianity during my adolescence and eventually dipped into contemporary spirituality literature in my thirties. I covered a whole lot of territory, from the really poppy stuff like Neal Donald Walsch to more serious thinkers like Ken Wilber. Eventually, it was the Perennialist writers like Aldous Huxley, Alan Watts and Huston Smith that helped me to “re-discover” the traditional religions. In the last few years, however, my immersion in the Christian faith has moved me (surprisingly) into a more orthodox point of view. I do share the same concerns with you vis a vis “Sunday School religion” , but I’m equally distressed (perhaps more so) with the vapidity and banality of contemporary “spirituality” culture. And this leads me to the following point…..

    I am totally on board with the importance of recognizing the deeper dimensions of exoteric belief structures so as to realize transformation of consciousness. But there is a danger in seeing the creeds as merely a means to an end. (I’m pretty sure you agree) From a Christian pov, regarding Jesus Christ as the fulcrum of an “upaya” or as an “avatar” among many other avatars is, strictly speaking, a problem for Christian orthodoxy. Why? The esoteric is inextricably bound up with the exoteric dogmas, and one leads to the other. Difference in dogma results in difference of spiritual experience. I’m inclined to say that Christian theology and worship are inherently mystical and there is no hidden interpretation which is reserved for “gnostics”, except in the sense that those further on the path of deification will grow deeper in their understanding of the revelation. All too often, unfortunately, people tend to understand that as relegating/reducing the particular historical facts of Revelation to the domain of metaphor. That’ the very common with the spirituality crowd.

    In any event, my view has moved from a more “Perennialist” perspective to a more “inclusivist” one- one that recognizes the reality of natural theology and the capacity of reason to apprehend the “underlying religion”. But does that “Perennial Philosophy” coincide more with the “classical” theism” of the likes of the Aristotelian-Thomistic tradition or more in the vein of monism/nondualism?

    • yeshua21 says:

      [Eventually, it was the Perennialist writers like Aldous Huxley, Alan Watts and Huston Smith that helped me to “re-discover” the traditional religions. In the last few years, however, my immersion in the Christian faith has moved me (surprisingly) into a more orthodox point of view. I do share the same concerns with you vis a vis “Sunday School religion” , but I’m equally distressed (perhaps more so) with the vapidity and banality of contemporary “spirituality” culture.]

      Yes, we do seem to have traversed quite a bit of the same territory. Perhaps I am a bit less inclined to disparage popular spirituality–after all, it seems to have played a significant role in both our lives when the tradition (speaking somewhat loosely) did not seem to suffice (for whatever reason).

      [I am totally on board with the importance of recognizing the deeper dimensions of exoteric belief structures so as to realize transformation of consciousness.]

      I’m not sure I agree with this. It seems to me we don’t begin to recognize the deeper dimensions of the exoteric belief structures until after we have realized (or begun to realize) the deeper dimensions of Reality. The exoteric tradition (beliefs, doctrines, symbols, rituals) often operate in the dark — “nocturnally”, as it were… And, in point of fact, many of us seemed to need exposure to Eastern philosophies and religions before we could begin to see the truth in our own tradition.

      [But there is a danger in seeing the creeds as merely a means to an end. (I’m pretty sure you agree) From a Christian pov, regarding Jesus Christ as the fulcrum of an “upaya” or as an “avatar” among many other avatars is, strictly speaking, a problem for Christian orthodoxy. Why? The esoteric is inextricably bound up with the exoteric dogmas, and one leads to the other. ]

      The believer (psychic) will always have a problem with the gnostic (pneumatic) — can’t be helped, eh? Still, better if both could grow together within the same general framework (if only the church had more spiritual leaders and fewer ideologues holding sway). Once again, Tomberg’s project is (in part) to offer a framework work for eosteric realization (i.e. “Christian Hermeticism”) within the broader framework of the Roman Catholic Church. If I had been raised as a Roman Catholic, I would have no problem practicing it now. As things stand, however, I seem to be too much of a protestant to convert. Time will tell, I guess…

      [Difference in dogma results in difference of spiritual experience. I’m inclined to say that Christian theology and worship are inherently mystical and there is no hidden interpretation which is reserved for “gnostics”, except in the sense that those further on the path of deification will grow deeper in their understanding of the revelation. All too often, unfortunately, people tend to understand that as relegating/reducing the particular historical facts of Revelation to the domain of metaphor. That’ the very common with the spirituality crowd.]

      I’m not big on historical facts. At its best, History is always a construction as far as I’m concerned. Most people fight over the contours of this construction insofar as it effects their material resources or personal prestige. My concern is how integrally plausible it is–how conducive to social harmony and Spiritual realization. I think we can teach the Christian myth to our children while at the same time acknowledging (when real questions arise) how little we know in any “factual” sense (stressing, however, its symbolic truth, in any event). Along the way, however, their hearts and minds have been (more or less) “entrained” with those of their families and community and also prepared in advance for a deeper realization which will come in the fullness of time. In the meantime, however, chances are they will not become parochial ideologues (and will not, therefore, be low-hanging fruit for demogogues or become demogogues themselves).

      [In any event, my view has moved from a more “Perennialist” perspective to a more “inclusivist” one- one that recognizes the reality of natural theology and the capacity of reason to apprehend the “underlying religion”. ]

      I rest my case… 🙂

      [But does that “Perennial Philosophy” coincide more with the “classical” theism” of the likes of the Aristotelian-Thomistic tradition or more in the vein of monism/nondualism?]

      I don’t see why it has to be one way or the other. Consider A.E. Tayor’s summary of the ways in which the so-called active intellect in Aristotle was, historically, interpreted:

      One important attempt to clear up the difficulty is that made by Alexander of Aphrodisias, the greatest of the commentators on Aristotle, in the second century a.d. Alexander said, as Aristotle had not done, that the ” active intelligence ” is numerically the same in all men, and is identical with God. Thus, all that is specifically human in each of us is the ” passive intelligence ” or capacity for being enlightened by God’s activity upon us. The advantage of the view is, that it removes the ” active intelligence ” altogether from the purview of psychology, which then becomes a purely naturalistic science.

      The great Arabian Aristotelian, Averroes (Ibn Roshd) of Cordova, in the twelfth century, went still further in the direction of naturalism. Since the “active” and ” passive ” intelligence can only be separated by a logical abstraction, he inferred that men, speaking strictly, do not think at all ; there is only one and the same individual intelligence in the universe, and all that we call our thinking is really not ours but God’s.

      The great Christian scholastics of the following century in general read Aristotle through the eyes of Averroes, “The Commentator,” as St. Thomas calls him, ” Averrois che il gran commento feo,” as Dante [page 98] says. But their theology compelled them to disavow his doctrine of the ” active intelligence,” against which they could also bring, as St. Thomas does, the telling argument that Aristotle could never have meant to say that there really is no such thing as human intelligence. Hence arose a third interpretation, the Thomist, according to which the ” active intelligence ” is neither God nor the same for all men, but is the highest and most rational “part” of the individual human soul, which has no bodily ” organ.” Aristotle had said of it that it is the only thing in us which is not contributed by our parents, but comes “from outside.” In Christian theology this becomes the doctrine that the ” rational soul ” is directly created by God.”

      https://archive.org/details/aristotle00tayluoft

      To be honest, I am inclined to side with Alexander of Aphrodisias. On the other hand, as one who has been strongly informed by Neoplatonism, I can easily see it Aquinas’ way, as well (which I take to be consistent with the idea of our “prior” existence in the “Nous” since the “Divine Intelligence” is both One and Many–just as Christ is One body with many members and we are “chosen/created in him before the foundation of the world”). But while these are interesting philosophical questions/puzzles, they are at best a stepping off point into the Reality that is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Moreover, it seems to me that it is impossible to predict what set of beliefs or teachings might be most conducive to someone recognizing and authentically participating in that life (i.e. it may differ from person to person depending on their background, temperament, and circumstances). At least that is the way it seems to me. I understand that others may see it differently.

      Thanks again for the feed back. Follow this link if you are inclined to connect on Facebook:

      https://www.facebook.com/J.WayneFerguson

      p.s. I just noticed that I posted under my Yeshua21 persona (sorry for the confusion, if any)

  4. Cassiodorus says:

    Hi Wayne,

    I appreciate your thoughtful and well- measured response. Thank you. I’ve been reflecting on what you said in your last comment……and I think I have identified what has been troubling me. Plainly stated, (Orthodox/traditional) Christian metaphysics are not nondual. The fundamental distinction in the Christian worldview is that between Creator and created. The universe and the souls that inhabit it are ontologically different from God, but NOT “discontinuous”. The Aristotelian- Thomistic tradition teaches the doctrine of concurrentism or Divine conservation, which states that creation is being created at every moment in the present. The world and individual souls have no being of there own, but are completely dependent on God at every instant in the now. Catholic/ Orthodox mysticism features union (theosis) , not identification (moksha). I would call this a “weak” form of panentheism perhaps.

    With regards to what was said about historical facts, I think this poses a big problem for Christian orthodoxy. If the data of Revelation is fudamentally symbolic/instrumental for what’s “really important” – the truth of nonduality, then I think you no longer have Christianity, you have some something else.

    ‘If Christ was not raised…..then your faith is in vain”

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