Jump to content

Musings On Anselm And Transcendence


Mike
 Share

Recommended Posts

It seems rare for progressives to spent much time musing over the ancient, traditional theologians of the church. Or maybe I'm just talking about myself here, since it certainly hasn't occupied much of my time. :) But I picked up a book, 'The Christian Theology Reader' by Alister McGrath, and happened read some selections about Anselm of Canterbury.

 

Anselm is known for what appears to be an outrageously convoluted 'proof' for the existence of God.

 

McGrath explains,

Anselm of Canterbury offers a definition of God as "that than which no greater thing can be thought"...He argues that, if this definition of God is correct, it necessarily implies the existence of God. The reason is as follows. If God does not exist, the idea of God remains, yet the reality of God is absent. Yet the reality of God is greater than the idea of God. Therefore, if God is "that than which no greater thing can be thought," the idea of God must lead to accepting the reality of God, in that otherwise the mere idea of God is the greatest thing which can be thought. This however, contradicts the definition of God on which the argument is based.

 

 

 

McGrath also notes that, contrary to popular conception, Anselm's "argument" was not really intended to be a rigid philosophical argument, but belonged to one of his meditations.

 

A monk named Gaunilo responded to Anselm by pointing out the obvious truth that the mere idea of something is no guarantee of its existence. However, McGrath goes on,

 

 

The response offered by Gaunilo is widely regarded as exposing a serious weakness in Anselm's argument. It may, however, be pointed out that Anselm is not so easily dismissed. Part of his argument is that it is an essential part of the definition of God that God is "that than which nothing greater can be conceived." God therefore belongs to a totally different category than islands or dollar bills [previous examples of finite objects]. It is part of the nature of God to transcend everything else. Once the believer has come to understand what the word "God" means, then God really does exist for him or her.

 

(Bracketed words and italics mine.)

 

Anyway, after reading this and getting a sense of what Anselm was really getting at, I found the argument to be quite interesting. The main idea I get from Anselm is of transcendence or a transcendent reality. It seems inevitable that once one accepts that finite objects are not the true, actual reality, that transcendence is already real for him or her. Or to put it another way, if one looks to what is more than, or deeper than, one's categorizations, objectifications, and reifications, that a transcendent reality, again, has become real to that person. In this way the very notion of transcendence implies the reality of transcendence. The phenomena of life seem to look beyond themselves for their meaning and identity -- I recall someone once wrote something like "transcendence is the mark of the real; what is confined to a well-defined concept is abstraction" -- and in looking beyond themselves (having denied themselves?) it follows that there is a 'Beyond'.

 

OK I'm done. If this made your head explode I apologize. I'll get a mop.

 

Peace,

Mike

Edited by Mike
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Bring on the mop Mike,

 

A bit too much a play of word definitions and logic to me. :blink: While transcendence and proof of God are words i can relate to, i find God too paradoxical to put in meaningful words (non abstract) except possibly to try to contrast with forms or structures of experience which can only take place in the conditioned mind. I don't think we can really identify or define God as 'any thing' or by thought, except to say that God is perhaps in and beyond thought. Perhaps that is what is implied by Anselm's definition. To me, the only real proof of existence of God is not in such a logical argument as he has tried to make but rather God being self-evident by subjective experience.

 

Perhaps if one can accept how attempting to know God even by comparisons doesn't make real logical sense, one might then have a sense of God.

 

Perhaps now we need 2 mops, :D

Joseph

Edited by JosephM
spelling
Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

...

 

Anyway, after reading this and getting a sense of what Anselm was really getting at, I found the argument to be quite interesting. The main idea I get from Anselm is of transcendence or a transcendent reality. It seems inevitable that once one accepts that finite objects are not the true, actual reality, that transcendence is already real for him or her. Or to put it another way, if one looks to what is more than, or deeper than, one's categorizations, objectifications, and reifications, that a transcendent reality, again, has become real to that person. In this way the very notion of transcendence implies the reality of transcendence. The phenomena of life seem to look beyond themselves for their meaning and identity -- I recall someone once wrote something like "transcendence is the mark of the real; what is confined to a well-defined concept is abstraction" -- and in looking beyond themselves (having denied themselves?) it follows that there is a 'Beyond'.

 

OK I'm done. If this made your head explode I apologize. I'll get a mop.

 

Peace,

Mike

 

In 1919, C. G. Jung took Anselm's argument and inverted your explanation. The Transcendent Function, according to Jung, Is the immanent striving for a goal or purpose that trancends the immediate reality of ego-consciousness. For Jung, the "beyond" is "within" and the acceptance of a true self which is greater than the ego. The true self may include an intuitive awareness of G-d denied by the ego under the pressure of pure logic.

 

Myron

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Joseph,

 

In all fairness, Anselm's argument I think strikes just about everyone as, " :blink: ". Nevertheless, your thoughts on the matter express an intuitive understanding that resonates with what I too got out of it. You write,

 

I don't think we can really identify or define God as 'any thing' or by thought, except to say that God is perhaps in and beyond thought. Perhaps that is what is implied by Anselm's definition.

 

By going beyond the idea of 'things or object', God's existence can become real.

 

Peace,

Mike

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Myron,

 

In 1919, C. G. Jung took Anselm's argument and inverted your explanation. The Transcendent Function, according to Jung, Is the immanent striving for a goal or purpose that trancends the immediate reality of ego-consciousness. For Jung, the "beyond" is "within" and the acceptance of a true self which is greater than the ego. The true self may include an intuitive awareness of G-d denied by the ego under the pressure of pure logic.

 

I like this, it seems to equate 'the transcendent' and 'the immanent' - beyond is within. By ceasing to grasp at objects through the ego-centric way of being, we can identify with what is deeper than objects, God being "greater than that which we can objectify", to offer a gloss on Anselm's definition.

 

Peace.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I feel our heads explode because transcendence dissolves solid facts and the negative feelings associated with them like the radiance of the sun shinning upon ice. The ice once again becomes water in the radiance of the ocean of pure consciousness.

 

Modern science sees energy forming the material universe; the same energy in the material universe changes into various forms in the physical universe and then resolves back into energy in one big circle. Through scientific induction modern thought agrees with the spiritual deductions of many realized individuals that "All is one". Investigators see variations of consciousness clearly defined from simple organisms to complex personal beings and have recorded and observed a scale of unity from the atomic level to simple intelligences and from the complex personalities to universal transcendence. They show us a continuous path where everything is united in the universe. Therefore, I would say there are various degrees of transcendence.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

terms of service