Sunday, April 04, 2010
Incorruptibility Chaos and Inertia
(fm the BC thread "A Reason to Believe")
We are all balancing between the ideal and the world that exists. Is God the manifestation to a flawed and bounded human perception of the principle of the incorruptible that exists outside? That is almost a tautology in that it could be used to bind together and justify every theology from Hinduism to Christianity to Modern Physics. It can even leave you open to manipulation by the cultist who offers themselves as "the Incorruptible" channel to a Divine Being. Does Reepicheep worship Robespierre?
He is really correct. The Universe as it is is governed by the principles of Entropy and Inertia. That means that things tend to go to Hell and stay there. In most Jewish and Christian theologies the Earth is claimed by Satan as his Kingdom. This is where the two great principles operate. God is largely abstracted in a perfect place but can has and will again intervene.
The differences between that and Judaism, except for the most obvious as to the "has intervened" part, are subtle. In the Jewish tradition God is not competing with a Devil that is of his same substance. Satan is a far lesser being that may be a projection either of material creation around us or as I see it from within us of our limited and flawed abilities to perceive the world as it. He is not an independent actor from outside. God also is not solely outside in the perfect place but here and retains perfect knowledge. However God limits his infinite capacity to act for reasons that ultimately we cannot comprehend. We hope that he does so due to his love of his creation. That grants us Free Will, the capacity to make errors and discover truths. To repeat, little of this is incompatible with most of Christianity.
In Islam god is almost entirely abstract from the world. The world may not even really exist except as a transient dream. Allah is both malevolent and unfathomable yet given to a peculiar incapacity that makes him unable to know and act effectively due to physical conditions. For example the idea that a physical mutilation could limit God's ability to know the truth and control the granting of rewards after death is peculiar to Islam. Islam as a communal force both violently reacted against Gnosticism and as a belief system shows the influence of Gnostic, Nestorian and Manichaen beliefs as discussed below.
Such manifestations in Jewish or Christian beliefs would be viewed as heretical. For example Medieval beliefs in vampirism lead to the mutilation of corpses to prevent satanic spirits from taking possession and to free the spirit. The idea that a physical act could bind a spiritual, even if diabolic, act is a cult like superstition. God as such is though never seen as being limited even under those conditions. He sees the soul not the body. The use of ritual in Judaism is more an engine to remind the humans of the truth then to remind God. The religion survived the loss of the ritual based temple sacrifice. God still sees and can act even without the physical acts but we remember those acts as a means to open a window within us. Ultimately though there are limits to my distinction. Christianity depends on sacraments, to a believer the presence of flesh and blood in the Eucharist is real. However Christians repeatedly claim that the act is, like the Jewish reading of the Temple sacrifice, a method of opening within the believer the capacity to receive a spiritual communication. Protestantism reduced and simplified the sacraments to make this point clear.
In other religious traditions God as the manifestation of principles of good, reason and order is more present in the world. In Hinduism the world is a temporary presence in an infinite stream and the principles of Creation, Preservation and Destruction are in tenuous balance. While Brahman is infinite and abstract his manifestations and their avatars are not. In Gnostic or Dualist faiths such as Manichaeism or Mandaeism the struggle between forces that are equal, or who humans lack the capacity to judge between, takes place in the physical world.
to set up such a kingdom with force ... furthering Satan’s kingdom
Merely existing in the world means confronting challenges and causing some damage that can increase the amount of entropy. Simply eating and procreating can involve some degree of at least sublimated force. Leftists are fixated by the realization that every transaction involves a power relation. That gives the world an inescapable aura of evil that they try to expiate, often with blood. Religious communities that have tried to eliminate all traces of force from their lives, such as Jains who carry their respect for life to its logical conclusion and Shakers who avoided the corrupting influence of sexual relations, have remained at best isolated sub-groups or have failed altogether. The problem then is one of degree and how one uses a belief system to relate to others. Some belief systems stress force within the world and some refute it and some seek a balance.
Robespierre claimed to be the mildest of men and began by condemning the death penalty. His effort to bring Virtue to earth showed how any system, even one based on Reason and the Rights of Man can degenerate into the Terror. The guillotine itself was designed as a more humane and logical way to execute justice. The problem was that in this irrational world even the most sincere and best intentioned methods to place people in communication with the incorruptible ideal faces resistance or rivalry from other equally sincere systems.
You are correct that the more one tries to rely on force to compel conformity with perfection the more one increases disorder. That can be called the Devil's work. Perfection being to hard to attain and to complex to understand those who rely on controlling force usually settle for reducing the complexity of the world to a simplicity that they can at least comprehend. That is partly why both Socialism and Islam result in not just material poverty but intellectual poverty as well.
Some capacity to use force is still needed as long as we live in this world. The forces of Islam mustered the use of force more effectively than the Christians of Constantinople could. When the Emperor went to the Patriarch and the Metropolitans and begged for a doctrine that could compete with the Islamic promise of Paradise in the Koran that inspired the Muslim warriors he was refused.
I thought that I spent 600 words in making clear that the point is how man relates to the abstract perfection outside and the entropy within the world. Different religions use different mechanisms to address this. While these beliefs are distinct they are also related both because of the nature of humans who are drawn to study these issues, some of these patterns may be hard wired in us, and also due to historical transfers of concepts. Later religions are both syncretic in taking from their predecessors and also reactive in developing to stress their distinctiveness and reject potential rivals. Some are more successful than others. If you are asserting that you find one approach correct in resolving the problem of Job of how a perfect God tolerates evil in the world then I congratulate you and wish you well. If you are claiming that all other religions are not even aware of the issue or are all agents of that entropic force known as Satan then I would disagree with you.
Add to the wish list the ability to view a thread with comment replies either as sub threads or with all in time sequence, so you do not miss the latest.