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Fundamental (not -ist) Theology


FredP
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Inspired by Lily's post in "What is P.C.?" on the "Third Becoming," I took it upon myself to ask some questions and propose some ideas by way of reply. After crafting it on and off all morning long, I concluded that we should probably have a thread to discuss fundamental theology (not just Jesus' Divinity, which is what the "Progressive Christology" thread was for), because this post was quickly going in that direction.

 

Lily's original post:

http://tcpc.ipbhost.com/index.php?showtopi...=4492#entry4492

 

In my original post (most of which is now the first post on this thread), I wanted to deal specifically with 1) how the suggested model avoids (or doesn't avoid) an original dualism of God and Man/Universe/Nature, and 2) how it plugs into notions of divine identity in Christian thinking. Is there a primal duality, with God at one pole, and Man at the other; or does Man originate in God, as Christianity traditionally teaches? If Man originates in God, does the meeting of Man and God really engender a New Being? If not, then where does Man originate? Does God give way to a yet higher form of being? Is this higher form of being -- the "Third Becoming," "New Creation," "Christ," etc. -- also God? Etc. But I'm opening the floor to any thoughts on God's fundamental nature.

 

Have fun!

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Ok, so apart from wanting to pose those initial questions for thought, the first thing I wanted to explore was how they reveal some fundamental weaknesses in a purely unitary view of God. As the Trinitarianism question has come up once or twice in the genealogy of this discussion, let's bring it up again. Alethia brought up the Hegelian thesis / antithesis / synthesis model in her reply to Lily, which turns out to be a really great lens through which to view all this. If God is unitary, then God is always thesis; but each T/A/S triad becomes the thesis of another triad, hence there's no end to the integration of God into higher and higher forms of God, which is an infinite regress. At each stage, there is some God and some not-God that integrate to form a higher-level God^2. Moreover, in this universe, there's exactly as much not-God as God, so we're left with a primal Dualism that is manifestly not Christian.

 

To apply the Hegelian model to the Trinity: God is not thesis, but the eternal dynamism of the triadic relationship itself. God is always Unity-In-Relationship: each member of the triad is distinct, and yet it forms a single, inseparable, structural whole. Unfortunately, living in an era newly enamored with the ideas of evolution and progress, Hegel only saw the upward movement of the triad; we're left to suppose that original theses and antitheses are just primally "out there" waiting to be integrated into more complete wholes. But it turns out that this isn't possible: T/A/S is a structural whole. It must be just as true that T/A generate S, as that S generates T/A. In other words, ontologically, thesis and antithesis already have to belong to the same structural whole, for them to even contain the possibility of integration. While Hegel's triadic model is fundamentally correct, there is an upward / downward polarity that is necessary to hold it in place. (Trinitarian thinking not only predates Hegel by ~1500 years, but corrects one of its fundamental flaws. ;))

 

Anyway, the point is: upward and downward (i.e. "God becoming Man," "Man becoming God") are structural poles of the same dynamic process, which is really the internal dynamism of the God-Relationship. (Alethia should like this.) If when you say things like "God and Man meet in Christ" you're using those words as placeholders for the distinct aspects of the God-Relationship, and not for the Divine Being-In-Itself, I think that's exacly correct. But fundamentally, "God becomes God by way of God." That's what Reality is.

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Wow! Ummm, so many thoughts, so little time. B)

Alethia brought up the Hegelian thesis / antithesis / synthesis model in her reply to Lily, which turns out to be a really great lens through which to view all this.

Thank you. :)

If God is unitary, then God is always thesis; but each T/A/S triad becomes the thesis of another triad, hence there's no end to the integration of God into higher and higher forms of God, which is an infinite regress.

This is not what I was thinking of when I mentioned T/A/S. <_<

To apply the Hegelian model to the Trinity: God is not thesis, but the eternal dynamism of the triadic relationship itself. God is always Unity-In-Relationship: each member of the triad is distinct, and yet it forms a single, inseparable, structural whole.

This IS what I was thinking of when I mentioned T/A/S. :)

Unfortunately, living in an era newly enamored with the ideas of evolution and progress, Hegel only saw the upward movement of the triad; we're left to suppose that original theses and antitheses are just primally "out there" waiting to be integrated into more complete wholes.

When I read a little (very little) Hegel and learned that his T/A/S was primarily turned towards society and politics, I became disinterested in him. Also, the never ending progression didn't make sense to me either. Some progression yes. Microcosm to macrocosm. But in my mind, God is the final "synthesis".

But it turns out that this isn't possible: T/A/S is a structural whole. It must be just as true that T/A generate S, as that S generates T/A.

I think I get what you mean. Care to put it in laymens terms? ;)

In other words, ontologically, thesis and antithesis already have to belong to the same structural whole, for them to even contain the possibility of integration.

Doh! Nevermind. This I get. (I hope.)

While Hegel's triadic model is fundamentally correct, there is an upward / downward polarity that is necessary to hold it in place. (Trinitarian thinking not only predates Hegel by ~1500 years, but corrects one of its fundamental flaws. )

And as I understand it, the Socratic method is intrinsically dialectic, which also predates Hegel.

Anyway, the point is: upward and downward (i.e. "God becoming Man," "Man becoming God") are structural poles of the same dynamic process, which is really the internal dynamism of the God-Relationship. (Alethia should like this.)

I do!

If when you say things like "God and Man meet in Christ" you're using those words as placeholders for the distinct aspects of the God-Relationship, and not for the Divine Being-In-Itself, I think that's exacly correct.

Placeholders ... exactly. I like that.

But fundamentally, "God becomes God by way of God." That's what Reality is.

God is the ultimate Synthesis, the One which contains the dance of all that is.

Edited by AletheiaRivers
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God is the ultimate Synthesis, the One which contains the dance of all that is.

Yes, the ultimate synthesis, NOT the ultimate thesis. Thesis is always one pole in a triad, it always imples further antithesis, and so on ad infinitum.

 

In Jung's Quaternity, Pure Godhead generates the Christ/Lucifer duality, whose synthesis is the Holy Spirit. Jung cites many O.T. passages that refer to the origin of Evil, as well as Good, lying in God. I actually prefer the Neoplatonic resolution, picked up by Augustine and Christian theology, that Evil is privatio boni: it has no being in itself, but is a privation of being -- a mirror image of being, if you will. In either case, one doesn't have to suppose that God set out to create Evil, to imagine that a dynamic universe based on a triadic T/A/S structure is rife with the potential for it, and that it will arise wherever Good arises, to balance it out. One might say Satan is the first antithesis, and the universe broke loose when he supposed he could become powerful enough to take over the Prime Triad. Of course this would mean the destruction of everything, if only it were possible. But it's not possible, because wherever Evil grows, Good sacrifices itself in proportion to resolve the balance. This is why Christ's self-sacrifice and descent into Hell is so important to Christian theology.

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But fundamentally, "God becomes God by way of God."  That's what Reality is.

 

I've read and re-read this post starting late last night and keep stumbling over words in an effort to respond. I understand that I keep approaching this topic from the God-Relationship angle, because it is my premise that we can not understand who or what God is, or who and what Jesus is, if we do not know who and what we are. I also understand that saying that "God and Man meet in Christ" is only a way to understand the "dynamic process" without necessarily explaining "the whole structure" in which, and through which, the "dynamic process" takes place...(unless, of course, the "dynamic process" is "the whole structure" which may be what we are getting to)

 

Michael, my partner, asked, "What did a Roman wear to a toga party? (toga's btw, were a sacred garment, and therefore NOT to be worn to a party) The answer: a synthesis. The synthesis consisted of a chiton or tunic and a himation or wrap. So a synthesis is a combining of two distinct garments to make a third distinct garment. Neither the chiton or the himation existed apart from Being because nothing that is not can exist and all that exists is Being. So, the synthesis is no more Being than the chiton or himation and yet each is a distinct *thing* with integrity apart from the other two. But when you combine the two, the chiton and himation, you no longer have two distinct and separate garments, but a third garment that is both chiton and himation and yet neither. A new, distinct garment, the synthesis, is created. So, when I speak of a third creation, I am not talking about something that exists apart from all that is; in fact, I am talking about something no more mysterious as what happens when a man and a woman combine or unite to create a third thing: a baby...but then, of course, this is really quite a mysterious thing in and of itself. So, yes, I am speaking of a "new creation" resulting from a synthesis of thesis and antithesis...something not purely "chiton" or purely "himation" but something altogether new: a synthesis.

 

and right now, because the language makes me feel a bit insecure that my thoughts are relevant, I'm not even sure if I am commenting meaningfully or if I am saying the same thing I said before over again.

 

I am hoping that Fred will expand on his "God becomes God by way of God" because I don't want to assume that I know what he means by this...although I feel that I do.

 

lily

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Yes, the ultimate synthesis, NOT the ultimate thesis.  Thesis is always one pole in a triad, it always imples further antithesis, and so on ad infinitum.

 

In Jung's Quaternity, Pure Godhead generates the Christ/Lucifer duality, whose synthesis is the Holy Spirit.  Jung cites many O.T. passages that refer to the origin of Evil, as well as Good, lying in God.  I actually prefer the Neoplatonic resolution, picked up by Augustine and Christian theology, that Evil is privatio boni: it has no being in itself, but is a privation of being -- a mirror image of being, if you will.

 

But "privatio boni" seems to contradict everything you've suggested concerning the nature of Being. How can what is not exist? And if it exists how can it exist apart from Being? As Parmenides said, "For what exists for thinking, and being, are one and the same." In other words, if you can think about Evil then it must exist for thinking and can therefore not not exist, otherwise to think of Evil we would have to share this "privation of being", otherwise Non-existence is unrecognizable, unmentionable, and unthinkable. (and I'm not stating unequivocally that we do not partake of "privation of being" I am only suggesting that a duality of Being and Non-Being contradicts the statement made earlier that "God becomes God by way of God"...unless I'm missing something. So Fred, please elaborate on what you mean by "God becomes God by way of God".

 

lily

 

at any rate, this seems to be getting too far away from what we've only just begun in this discussion...and here I was thinking it too soon to bring up questions concerning free will...lol...

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In Jung's Quaternity, Pure Godhead generates the Christ/Lucifer duality, whose synthesis is the Holy Spirit. Jung cites many O.T. passages that refer to the origin of Evil, as well as Good, lying in God.

 

I'm not familiar with the term "Quaternity", so bear with me please. I have heard that Jung believed that good and evil originate in God. I'm not sure EXACTLY what HE MEANT by that, but I know what I MEAN when I say I currently believe the same thing.

 

I actually prefer the Neoplatonic resolution, picked up by Augustine and Christian theology, that Evil is privatio boni: it has no being in itself, but is a privation of being -- a mirror image of being, if you will.

 

I don't know what "privation boni" is either, but the metaphor you used of evil as being a "mirror image of being" set off a light in my brain. When I say that good and evil originate in God, it is this "mirror image" idea that I'm thinking of. When I've used the term "God is neutral", it is this mirror image idea that I'm thinking of.

 

I'm coming from the perspective that EVERYTHING "originates" in God. There would be NOTHING without God, so any "THING" that is, comes from God. It's not that God actively created evil. It's that any single thing MUST have a "mirror image". Any single thing must have a contrast. Everything comes from God and God contains all possitives and negatives, all images and mirror images.

 

So when Jung said good and evil come from God, did he have this idea in mind, or did he believe God actively created evil? I know Jung was deeply influenced by Gnosticism, so I imagine, if he believed in the Demiurge, that he might have actually believed the Demiurge was purposefully creating evil. This is NOT even close to what I mean when I say "good and evil arise from God".

 

In either case, one doesn't have to suppose that God set out to create Evil, to imagine that a dynamic universe based on a triadic T/A/S structure is rife with the potential for it, and that it will arise wherever Good arises, to balance it out.

 

I think you might have just said in one sentence, what it took me a few paragraphs to state? God (the Godhead) created a DYNAMIC universe, a free will universe, where any given action or thing MUST have an opposite.

 

One might say Satan is the first antithesis, and the universe broke loose when he supposed he could become powerful enough to take over the Prime Triad. Of course this would mean the destruction of everything, if only it were possible. But it's not possible, because wherever Evil grows, Good sacrifices itself in proportion to resolve the balance. This is why Christ's self-sacrifice and descent into Hell is so important to Christian theology.

 

And I can affirm this statement, that satan is the first antithesis, even though I don't believe in a fallen angel named Satan. The satan, in Jewish theology, is simply the "accuser" or advocate or voice of OPPOSITION, which still fits in with the T/A/S triad. Jesus would be the "thesis".

 

In my mind now, I'm picturing the yin/yang symbolism as Jesus/Satan or Christ/Lucifer (possitive/negative, image/mirror image, thesis/antithesis) "surrounded" by the circle of God. I know that takes the Holy Spirit somewhat out of the picture, which isn't a stretch for me as an ex-JW, because JW's believe that the Holy Spirit is God's "active force" and not a seperate entity. So by saying "God surrounds" the thesis/antithesis, the Holy Spirit would be part of that.

 

Anyway ...

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But "privatio boni" seems to contradict everything you've suggested concerning the nature of Being. How can what is not exist? And if it exists how can it exist apart from Being? As Parmenides said, "For what exists for thinking, and being, are one and the same."  In other words, if you can think about Evil then it must exist for thinking and can therefore not not exist, otherwise to think of Evil we would have to share this "privation of being", otherwise Non-existence is unrecognizable, unmentionable, and unthinkable.

You're confusing the concept of evil with evil. The concept exists, but that's not the same thing as the... er, non-reality of it. You don't become evil by pondering the concept. But yes, Non-Being is unrecognizable, unmentionable, unthinkable -- as privation. We recognize it, mention it, and think about it, because we see Being attacked and deteriorating all around us. Fundamental privation is just as much an ineffable mystery as fundamental being: we have big $100,000 words for them, but we tremble at the mystery of what they really are (or are not). Things in the world around us are always a mixture of being and non-being, integrating, disintegrating, synthesizing... Fundamentals are primary ontological categories, not things to be seen floating around out there in the world of, well, things. (Talking about this stuff is just so goshdarn fun, isn't it?)

 

The alternative to privatio boni is that God actually, materially wills the horrible evils that occur in the world. Saying that God doesn't actually will them, humans do, doesn't solve the problem at all: if all that is materially human originates in God, and our evil choices arise out of what we are, then God must be a pretty lousy creator. The P.B. theory isn't so much a definition of evil (you can't define Non-Existence), as an assertion that evil's intrusion into the world is 1) a mystery, and 2) cannot have come from from any existing source, because All That Is originates in God.

 

AHA!! I just got it! An even better way to think about privation, with the benefit of scientific imagery, is not Non-Being, but Anti-Being. Not mere lack of being, but, like anti-matter, rips apart the Being it comes in contact with. Anti-Being doesn't exist any more than you can have -2 apples, but if you add -2 apples to your 2 apples, well you know what you get. Anti- is a better prefix to describe privation anyway, because you have to have something before you can be de-prived of it.

 

Thanks for putting me to the task, I think I just fixed my last remaining hesitancy with privation theory! :D

So Fred, please elaborate on what you mean by "God becomes God by way of God".

You might be investing that statement with more goods than I intended! I really only meant to say that Godhead is an eternal dynamic between upward and downward, manifesting and resolving opposites. Both upward and downward movements, "God becoming God," as well as the synthesizing role, "by way of God" are all properly, as you say, Very God.

 

Thanks for your thoughts and critiques everybody. I've wanted to bang this stuff out in conceptual form for a really long time. This has been a great help to me.

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From the article

 

Here are a couple of sentences that struck me:

 

Abraxas, however, was a true coincidence of opposites , truly good, and yet evil. Both the Lord Christ and the Devil were his creatures, manifestations of his paradoxical unity.
Jung outlined the figures of rooster-headed Abraxas, the good Lord, and the Devil and described a three stage development in the human perception of God. The first stage was that God appears undifferentiated. The second stage is the perception of a benevolent Lord and an evil Devil in which each are separated to the point where the Devil is finally banished. The final stage is the integration of the Lord and the Devil.
necessary to a polymorphous cosmos
compounded from two ancient worlds: 'abir' meaning 'bull,' and 'axis' meaning 'pole.' This stymology refers to the motion of the earth commonly called the alteration of the poles.
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I'm coming from the perspective that EVERYTHING "originates" in God. There would be NOTHING without God, so any "THING" that is, comes from God. It's not that God actively created evil. It's that any single thing MUST have a "mirror image". Any single thing must have a contrast. Everything comes from God and God contains all possitives and negatives, all images and mirror images.

It's subtle, but if negatives don't propertly exist, there's nothing for God to contain -- even though the negative follows the positive around like, well, a shadow. :) (Yes, that's a very conscious Jungian pun!) But yes, in manifesting the world, God generates the (structurally necessary) Being/Non-Being polarity.

 

And I can affirm this statement, that satan is the first antithesis, even though I don't believe in a fallen angel named Satan. The satan, in Jewish theology, is simply the "accuser" or advocate or voice of OPPOSITION, which still fits in with the T/A/S triad. Jesus would be the "thesis".

Yes, exactly.

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It's subtle, but if negatives don't propertly exist, there's nothing for God to contain -- even though the negative follows the positive around like, well, a shadow.  (Yes, that's a very conscious Jungian pun!) But yes, in manifesting the world, God generates the (structurally necessary) Being/Non-Being polarity.

God generates the structurally necessary Being/non-being polarity, so in that sense, good and evil "come from" God. Yes, that is what I mean.

The alternative to privatio boni is that God actually, materially wills the horrible evils that occur in the world. Saying that God doesn't actually will them, humans do, doesn't solve the problem at all: if all that is materially human originates in God, and our evil choices arise out of what we are, then God must be a pretty lousy creator.

God doesn't actually will evil, I agree. God does provide the free will ability to choose any given action or the lack of action or the active opposition to an action, etc ... ad infinitum. I don't see how that makes God a lousy creator. I do see how it makes free will more important and loving than making us robots.

Lily wrote: and here I was thinking it too soon to bring up questions concerning free will...lol...

Guess not. LOL! :lol: Of course free will, including free will for God, is the current basis of my ontology, so it's part of my whole foundation. ;)

AHA!! I just got it! An even better way to think about privation, with the benefit of scientific imagery, is not Non-Being, but Anti-Being. Not mere lack of being, but, like anti-matter, rips apart the Being it comes in contact with. Anti-Being doesn't exist any more than you can have -2 apples, but if you add -2 apples to your 2 apples, well you know what you get.

-2 apples added to 2 apples = no apples (0, NEUTRALITY). And here is where I'd like to throw a (another?) wrench into the discussion. Does good EXIST any more than evil does? What if the universe and God are "neutral"? Isn't that what you get with thesis/antithesis, Christ/Lucifer, matter/antimatter? A THIRD option?

Edited by AletheiaRivers
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Fred wrote: In Jung's Quaternity, Pure Godhead generates the Christ/Lucifer duality, whose synthesis is the Holy Spirit.  Jung cites many O.T. passages that refer to the origin of Evil, as well as Good, lying in God.  I actually prefer the Neoplatonic resolution, picked up by Augustine and Christian theology, that Evil is privatio boni: it has no being in itself, but is a privation of being -- a mirror image of being, if you will.

 

Lily replied: But "privatio boni" seems to contradict everything you've suggested concerning the nature of Being. How can what is not exist? And if it exists how can it exist apart from Being?

 

I wanted to revisit this, even though I've already commented on it somewhat, because my husband and I were discussing it this morning.

 

Evil as "privatio boni" - a lack of something, a mirror image of or "anti" something (all degrees of the same thing) - a good example is heat and cold.

 

Cold doesn't exist scientifically. Cold is the absence of heat. But think about it - there comes a point where heat is SO ABSENT that cold takes on a life of it's own and is so complete that it would take massive amounts of heat to drive it away.

 

So saying "evil is a lack of good", although sounding trite and not quite right at first, makes sense to me. A "little lack-of-good" doesn't seem evil, but if enough good is taken away, then it takes on a life of its own.

 

Saying that Hitler was a "lack of good" doesn't seem to sum him up very well, but it makes sense if you see that "lack of good" comes in degrees. A little lack-of-heat doesn't = cold, but it will if the lack-of-heat progresses far enough.

 

I think it is when something progresses far enough along the "lack of" line that it eventually becomes "anti".

 

So I think I understand what Lily is saying about "how can what is, not exist"? Evil exists in that it is polar to good. Good exists in that it is polar to evil. Good and evil exist as choices.

 

Anyway, just some thoughts ... Open to revision at any time without notice. ;)

 

PS - In case someone thinks "Yeah but heat exists objectively", my question is "But does it?" :unsure:

 

If cold is a lack of heat, can heat be a lack of cold? If there were absolutely no cold anywhere, would it then be hot everywhere? I'd say yes. This comes back to my question - Does good exist objectively where evil does not?

 

How would we KNOW what cold is without something to compare it to and how would we know what heat is, without something to compare it to?

Edited by AletheiaRivers
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God doesn't actually will evil, I agree. God does provide the free will ability to choose any given action or the lack of action or the active opposition to an action, etc ... ad infinitum. I don't see how that makes God a lousy creator. I do see how it makes free will more important and loving than making us robots.

Alright Lily, you asked for it! :)

 

There are actually two very different understandings of free will out there, and this creates a lot of confusion. The modern version you're talking about equates free will with open-endedness: "I'm free to choose any action available to me." But to philosophy and theology before modernity, free will means the lack of external restraint on one's action: "I'm free to act of my own accord." The difference is, freedom isn't about choice, it's about restraint -- specifically, the lack of it. A perfectly good person (I realize this is a hypothetical construct) would by definition choose the good all the time, and do so freely -- and there's no inconsistency. My point is, free will doesn't make people do evil: evil must be present in the heart already. So if evil exists materially, it has to originate in God, free will or not, hence the "lousy creator" comment.

 

-2 apples added to 2 apples = no apples (0, NEUTRALITY). And here is where I'd like to throw a (another?) wrench into the discussion. Does good EXIST any more than evil does? What if the universe and God are "neutral"? Isn't that what you get with thesis/antithesis, Christ/Lucifer, matter/antimatter? A THIRD option?

Materially, Being exists, and Non-Being doesn't. Structurally, Being and Non-Being both very much exist. This is where the mathematical analogy actually really pays off: Evil isn't a ZERO, it's a Negative Good. While there aren't negative quantities of things running around in the world; mathematically, negative numbers play an crucial structural role in the physical universe. If I had to put privation theory in a nutshell, that's how I'd do it.

 

Yes, I think God is "Neutral" in the sense of containing / manifesting / synthesizing / etc. the Being/Non-Being polarity. I don't think neural with respect to Good and Evil though -- but I haven't yet gotten into why I think the Being/Non-Being polarity isn't quite the same as the Good/Evil one. I've been throwing around both sets of terms loosely so far, but I'm going to need to devote another post to this... (Not today, I'm afraid.)

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How would we KNOW what cold is without something to compare it to and how would we know what heat is, without something to compare it to?

Our knowledge of the difference doesn't make it what it is though. :) Materially, you can have 1 apple, but not -1. So Being and Non-Being are mirror images, but they don't have equal status materially. Heat and cold actually follow this analogy perfectly: heat is a measure of positive molecular movement; cold is the lack or reversal of that movement. There's no such thing as "absolutely no cold anywhere" because cold itself means "absolutely no heat anywhere." :) Heat is the positive; cold is the negative. Heat exists materially; cold doesn't. You're confusing the structural interdependence of heat and cold with the material status of heat and cold. Does that make sense?

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Alright Lily, you asked for it!

Did you mean me? I wrote it. :)

The modern version you're talking about equates free will with open-endedness: "I'm free to choose any action available to me."

OK, so I'm talking about the "modern version" of free will. OK, good.

But to philosophy and theology before modernity, free will means the lack of external restraint on one's action: "I'm free to act of my own accord." The difference is, freedom isn't about choice, it's about restraint -- specifically, the lack of it.

But I'M talking about choice. That's my point. I don't (for the sake of argument) care about the pre-modern definition of free will. I'm talking about choice: For any action there can be an opposite action.

Materially, Being exists, and Non-Being doesn't. Structurally, Being and Non-Being both very much exist.

Like you said (and I agree) to avoid further confusion, we need to stick to one or the other, material or structure, and not bounce back and forth because they are a bit different and things are getting (getting? :rolleyes: ) confusing. I've mostly been talking about abstracts, about structure.

I wrote: -2 apples added to 2 apples = no apples (0, NEUTRALITY). And here is where I'd like to throw a (another?) wrench into the discussion. Does good EXIST any more than evil does? What if the universe and God are "neutral"? Isn't that what you get with thesis/antithesis, Christ/Lucifer, matter/antimatter? A THIRD option?

Fred wrote: This is where the mathematical analogy actually really pays off: Evil isn't a ZERO, it's a Negative Good. While there aren't negative quantities of things running around in the world; mathematically, negative numbers play an crucial structural role in the physical universe. If I had to put privation theory in a nutshell, that's how I'd do it.

I didnt say evil is a zero. I'm still coming from the yin/yang, thesis/antithesis/synthesis, Christ/Satan polarity idea, the mirror image idea. In this idea, zero isn't the "evil" half of the synthesis, it IS the synthesis.

Yes, I think God is "Neutral" in the sense of containing / manifesting / synthesizing / etc. the Being/Non-Being polarity. I don't think neural with respect to Good and Evil though -- but I haven't yet gotten into why I think the Being/Non-Being polarity isn't quite the same as the Good/Evil one.

I think the "neutrality" (care to think up a better word, I'm not to fond of it but I'm stumped for another) of God HAS to encompass all metaphysical, material, theological and philosophical (in a nutshell - ONTOLOGICAL) opposites and choices.

 

Even if God was completely good, unable to make any other choice besides good (which seems like a rock to big for god to lift scenario) then WHY would God create a universe in which we can choose to do bad things? If God cannot choose, why give us the ability to choose? Saying God is all good doesn't remove the "blame" as far as there being evil in the world because the way that God set up the universe allows for Hitlers and so, ultimately, God originates evil in that the universe is set up ontologically, to allow it. It's a "turtles all the way down" problem. It all has to end somewhere. If God is the ultimate synthesis, shouldn't it end there?

Materially, you can have 1 apple, but not -1.

How do you KNOW? ;) Kidding.

You're confusing the structural interdependence of heat and cold with the material status of heat and cold. Does that make sense?

Actually, I was trying to use a material example (kinda like apples) to explain an ontological "structural" idea. I was talking more about the nature of good and evil than I was about heat and cold.

Edited by AletheiaRivers
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Fred wrote:There are actually two very different understandings of free will out there, and this creates a lot of confusion. The modern version you're talking about equates free will with open-endedness: "I'm free to choose any action available to me." But to philosophy and theology before modernity, free will means the lack of external restraint on one's action: "I'm free to act of my own accord." The difference is, freedom isn't about choice, it's about restraint -- specifically, the lack of it. A perfectly good person (I realize this is a hypothetical construct) would by definition choose the good all the time, and do so freely -- and there's no inconsistency. My point is, free will doesn't make people do evil: evil must be present in the heart already. So if evil exists materially, it has to originate in God, free will or not, hence the "lousy creator" comment.

 

I can think of at least one other understanding out there and that would be the concept of Fate and the Web of Wyrd which is subtle and complex at once but which negates a personal, separate, "free" will at all. (This is nothing like automation or robotics Aletheia, so relax, but it is a bit of a mind bender.) In this way of thinking, and I'm no expert, nothing happens independently of anything else, everything is trembling in response to everything that is, here and now, right now. This is actually not a modern concept though, it is ancient and pre-Christian, but from a modern perspective the Western Mystery Traditions teach that there is only One Will...that we are each Lights powered by a common Source, much like the way your light in your house has the same source as the light in your neighbors house and the light in his neighbors house and etc. There is none or nothing separate from this Source or that has its being apart from It. The light shines or dims according to the density of matter, or as Paul would say, the density of the carnal mind, which is enmity to God, or to the Light Source. It's nothing personal mind...its a principle...the more matter the less light; the more ego the less Self and so on...

 

My point is, free will doesn't make people do evil: evil must be present in the heart already.

 

This is a contradiction. How can a will be free if evil must be present in the heart already for an evil choice to be made? Where is the choice in that? Where did the evil in the heart originate? And how can a will that is free be anything but the cause, for if it is not the cause of its own actions then it is not free, for something outside causes the "availability" of choice, which is no choice at all.

 

quote=AletheiaRivers,May 26 2005, 11:11 AM]-2 apples added to 2 apples = no apples (0, NEUTRALITY). And here is where I'd like to throw a (another?) wrench into the discussion. Does good EXIST any more than evil does? What if the universe and God are "neutral"? Isn't that what you get with thesis/antithesis, Christ/Lucifer, matter/antimatter? A THIRD option?

 

You may benefit from looking at the glyph of the Tree of Life as the structural pattern or paradigm of this triad and the "third" thing. The Tree is built of ten sephira or spheres, which "hang" on three "poles", the middle pillar or pole is the mediating pole of the other two. One pillar is called the Pillar of Mercy, is masculine in principle and the other is called the Pillar of Severity, and is feminine in principle; the third pillar is called the Middle Pillar or the Pillar of Equilibrium. At its center stands the sphere of Tipareth, which is the sphere of the Son. This sphere mediates both between the two other pillars, and between the lower sephiroth from the higher, which is separated by what is called "The Abyss". In simple terms the lower numbers attributed to these ten, starting at ten, is where "matter" or "manifestation" is densest. The tenth sephira, btw, is called Malkuth or The Kingdom.

 

 

I don't think neural with respect to Good and Evil though -- but I haven't yet gotten into why I think the Being/Non-Being polarity isn't quite the same as the Good/Evil one. I've been throwing around both sets of terms loosely so far, but I'm going to need to devote another post to this... (Not today, I'm afraid.)

 

Maybe because it doesn't make sense that Evil and Non-Being are synonymous. Good and Evil are dualistic categories of Being that can not exist in Non-Being because Non-Being must transcend or be outside dualistic concepts such as good and evil. Evil must necessarily be just as much an aspect of Being as Good is or both terms are meaningless, as has already been pointed out. Evil in my mind is misuse and misunderstanding of a principle which "though men in their ignorance take for evil, God intends for the good", in other words, one could say that there is no Evil only evil. Structurally evil doesn't exist. What we call evil is empowered by the same source as is what we call good. The source is neither good or evil, it just is; neutral if you will. But this is getting involved and my famdamly is getting hungry....

 

...later,

 

lily

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The light shines or dims according to the density of matter, or as Paul would say, the density of the carnal mind, which is enmity to God, or to the Light Source.

Made me think of Merton's comment about our needing to do what we can to become transluscent to God.

You may benefit from looking at the glyph of the Tree of Life ...

I've studied (a little mind you) the Kabbalah and the Tree of Life. Pretty interesting stuff. It made me go "Ooooh, it's the Jewish yin/yang." LOL. :rolleyes:

Maybe because it doesn't make sense that Evil and Non-Being are synonymous. Good and Evil are dualistic categories of Being that can not exist in Non-Being because Non-Being must transcend or be outside dualistic concepts such as good and evil. Evil must necessarily be just as much an aspect of Being as Good is or both terms are meaningless, as has already been pointed out.

Yes. :) In my pondering of God and "all that is" (being), I realized that "evil" is just as much a part of Being as good. Without both we would not KNOW. Thanks for putting my words into better words. ;)

Evil in my mind is misuse and misunderstanding of a principle which "though men in their ignorance take for evil, God intends for the good", in other words, one could say that there is no Evil only evil. Structurally evil doesn't exist. What we call evil is empowered by the same source as is what we call good. The source is neither good or evil, it just is; neutral if you will.

I agree. I'd still like to find a different word for "neutral". I tried "Isness" for a while, it didn't work either. :lol:

Edited by AletheiaRivers
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I wanted to add that I really didn't mean to define evil as being the absence of good, because that only shows one side of the picture that I have in my mind.

 

I think what I'm trying to flesh out is that God originates a universe that allows us to make choices and that these choices can help us to become more "solid" or more "translucent" (which Lily's words made me think of).

 

In my scenario, good and evil are naturally necessary because they have to exist as options, but that doesn't mean that choosing good isn't what God wants us to do. And saying that God has "free will options" doesn't mean that God isn't GOOD and would ever choose to do bad. Saying that someone COULD do something doesn't mean that being ever would, but the option has (imo) to exist.

 

When I say "neutral" I don't mean "morally neutral", but "options".

Edited by AletheiaRivers
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Evil must necessarily be just as much an aspect of Being as Good is or both terms are meaningless, as has already been pointed out. Evil in my mind is misuse and misunderstanding of a principle which "though men in their ignorance take for evil, God intends for the good", in other words, one could say that there is no Evil only evil. Structurally evil doesn't exist. What we call evil is empowered by the same source as is what we call good. The source is neither good or evil, it just is; neutral if you will.

 

Think about the *powers* or forces that flow through your own body/mind. Think of your sexuality or the powers of your libido. Are these powers in and of themselves good or evil? Most of us will have to admit that a tension exists between the two poles of "good and evil" by which we negotiate or equilibriate our libidic powers. The power in itself is neither "good" nor "evil"; the power can operate either as a force for good or as a force for evil, but the force or power surges or flows according to the way open to it, without discrimination. To use specifically Christian language now, this place of tension, or mediation, or equilibriation is empowered by Christ in you and brought to a place of masterful Equilibrium. In this Way the forces (which originate at the Source where the duality of Good and Evil do not exist), that flow and surge and swarm within you, are transformed and a "third" way; a Way beyond the knowledge of good and evil opens.

 

...just food for thought

 

lily

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Alright Lily, you asked for it!

Did you mean me? I wrote it. :)

I was just referring to Lily's threat of bringing up free will. ;)

 

This is where the mathematical analogy actually really pays off: Evil isn't a ZERO, it's a Negative Good. While there aren't negative quantities of things running around in the world; mathematically, negative numbers play an crucial structural role in the physical universe. If I had to put privation theory in a nutshell, that's how I'd do it.

I didnt say evil is a zero. I'm still coming from the yin/yang, thesis/antithesis/synthesis, Christ/Satan polarity idea, the mirror image idea. In this idea, zero isn't the "evil" half of the synthesis, it IS the synthesis.

Yes. I actually wasn't saying that you said evil was a zero, just saying that it isn't. :) The negative number analogy is just so damn cool, that I'll probably be saying it a lot until the excitement wears off. ;)

 

Even if God was completely good, unable to make any other choice besides good (which seems like a rock to big for god to lift scenario) then WHY would God create a universe in which we can choose to do bad things? If God cannot choose, why give us the ability to choose?  Saying God is all good doesn't remove the "blame" as far as there being evil in the world because the way that God set up the universe allows for Hitlers and so, ultimately, God originates evil in that the universe is set up ontologically, to allow it. It's a "turtles all the way down" problem. It all has to end somewhere. If God is the ultimate synthesis, shouldn't it end there?

God's always choosing the highest Good does not preclude each and every choice being completely free. Indeed, it is God's very nature to choose the highest Good. Moreover, our "freedom" to choose evil often (not always) isn't freedom at all, but bondage to the karmic consequences of desire and other prior choices.

 

As far as God "setting up the universe to allow for Hitlers," etc., this is the paradox we're trying to address, isn't it? :)

 

My point is, free will doesn't make people do evil: evil must be present in the heart already.

This is a contradiction. How can a will be free if evil must be present in the heart already for an evil choice to be made? Where is the choice in that? Where did the evil in the heart originate? And how can a will that is free be anything but the cause, for if it is not the cause of its own actions then it is not free, for something outside causes the "availability" of choice, which is no choice at all.

You're exactly right. My point actually holds in the context of supposing that evil materially exists. If evil is an ontological positive, then God is the material cause of it, and our deck is already stacked against us. But if evil is an ontological negative, then it exists structurally as a choice to be activated: to negate the Good that really does materially exist.

 

All this seems to lead inexorably to the conclusion that the first choice to "fall" away from Harmony had to have been made in perfect freedom and perfect knowledge (i.e. by God), and so had to be somehow, paradoxically, the highest Good. I haven't fleshed out this theory very much yet (Augustine's Felix Culpa is something like it, but not exactly), but I can't seem to avoid the conclusion. Maybe this is the meaning of I Corinthians 5:21: "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." That Christ truly, literally, became sin, in order to manifest the dynamic of the God-Relationship in material form. That the truly enlightened one, upon attaining the highest realization, looks in the mirror and says, "Huh. So I did all this." Or something like that.

 

I don't know if I feel like arguing anymore today, it's really nice out, and I've got to get some work done. :)

Edited by FredP
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I didn't have a clue what "privatio boni" was when Fred mentioned it yesterday, so I looked it up. Here's a definition:

 

"Privatio Boni can be loosely translated as "lack of good."

 

It is a theological doctrine that good and evil are, in some circumstances at least, asymmetrical. Strictly speaking, it holds that evil is insubstantial, so that thinking of it as an entity is misleading: it would be more constructive to speak only of relative amounts of good.

 

Our perceptions are based on contrast, so that light and dark, good and evil, are imperceptible without each other; in this context, these sets of opposites show a certain symmetry. But a basic study of optics teaches us that light has a physical presence of its own, whereas darkness does not: no anti-lamp or flashdark can be constructed which casts a beam of darkness onto a surface that is otherwise well-lit. Instead, darkness only appears when sources of light are extinguished or obscured, and only persists when an object absorbs a disproportionate amount of the light that strikes it.

 

The relationship between light and darkness is often used to frame a metaphorical understanding of good and evil. This metaphor can be used to answer the problem of evil: If evil, like darkness, does not truly exist, but is only a name we give to our perception of privatio boni, then our widespread observation of evil does not preclude the possibility of a benevolent, omniscient, and omnipresent god.

 

If the metaphor can be extended, and good and evil share the same asymmetry as light and darkness, then evil can have no source, cannot be projected, and, of itself, can offer no resistance to any source of good, no matter how weak or distant. In this case, goodness cannot be actively opposed, and power becomes a consequence of benevolence. However, in this case evil is the default state of the universe, and good exists only through constant effort; any lapse or redirection of good will apparently create evil out of nothing."

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All this seems to lead inexorably to the conclusion that the first choice to "fall" away from Harmony had to have been made in perfect freedom and perfect knowledge (i.e. by God), and so had to be somehow, paradoxically, the highest Good. I haven't fleshed out this theory very much yet (Augustine's Felix Culpa is something like it, but not exactly), but I can't seem to avoid the conclusion.

It doesn't surprise me that Augustine said something like that, since he was, well, a Calvinist, i.e. an Augustinian. heh. But I wouldn't go so far as to say like some Calvinists that God actively willed the Fall, thereby making Christ's atonement necessary. Which is what this kind of sounds like.

 

Why did Adam choose to sin? I don't know... If you take the classical version of free will, there was some desire in him to choose evil. So when God made him "good", it wasn't immutable perfection, but perfectly able to choose good or evil. (But then you get back to classical free will which says you only choose good or evil because there's some desire in you to do one or the other, i.e. there's no neutral will.) Somehow, Adam's being created with a will to do good or evil was better than being created with a will only to do good, like God himself. People usually come back on this by saying God didn't want robots, but Jesus wasn't a robot, and loved the Father perfectly, and was able to always choose not to sin.

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I didn't have a clue what "privatio boni" was when Fred mentioned it yesterday, so I looked it up. Here's a definition:

 

"Privatio Boni can be loosely translated as "lack of good."

 

It is a theological doctrine that good and evil are, in some circumstances at least, asymmetrical. Strictly speaking, it holds that evil is insubstantial, so that thinking of it as an entity is misleading: it would be more constructive to speak only of relative amounts of good.

 

 

Thanks Aletheia...that was helpful. The definition of "privatio boni" sounds much like, or seems to amount to, what I said, which is that there is no "structural evil" or "structural good", but a single Force, 'Energy or Power that surges through all that is that is neither Good nor Evil, but transcends these dualistic categories and is beyond what we can think or know from a dualistic perspective. The difference is that I am suggesting that "Good" and "Evil" are dualistic perspectives of the same essential Impulse or Force, while the theory of "privatio boni" seems to assume a Reality or Force which is "Good" and "Evil" as an illusion caused by lack of "Good" or diminished "Good".

 

Perhaps the important point in agreement, in the context of this particular discussion, is that we are establishing in both that God is not the creator of Evil and that Evil is not a part of the nature of God. Still, this doesn't get us very far in resolving the problem of the existence of what we call evil in the world.

 

It is my understanding (which I consider limited and still sketchy) that all of the instincts, impulses, and forces operating in man and in the whole of creation are not in and of themselves either good or evil...in other words, any instinct or impulse can be directed toward the "good" or toward the "evil", but the instinct or impulse in and of itself is neither. Thus *anger* as an instinctual emotion can be used for the good or for the evil, depending on the conscious awareness of the one directing this instinct, but there is no judgement against *anger* itself as either good or evil. Therefore there is no evil act of which anyone is capable that arises apart from the instincts and impulses we all share and therefore there is no good of which anyone is capable that arises apart from the instincts and impulses we all share. "Good" and "Evil" then are flip sides of the same coin, or two "poles" between which the One Life mediates the "Truth", which essentially transcends these divisions and unites them as One.

 

lily

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The difference is that I am suggesting that "Good" and "Evil" are dualistic perspectives of the same essential Impulse or Force, while the theory of "privatio boni" seems to assume a Reality or Force which is "Good" and "Evil" as an illusion caused by lack of "Good" or diminished "Good".

 

 

After reading the thread on "Star Wars" it occurs to me that what I've written above sounds frighteningly like "The Force" depicted in the movie. Arghhh. :huh:

 

lily

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