On The Nature of God

One could suggest that it is simply futile to discourse over issues such as the nature of God or any other political and social issue, given the schismatic nature of debate which lead to a variety of conclusions and thoughts. Perhaps there will never be a global consensus on any issue and there will always be a variety of opinions regarding all political and social issues, regardless of one’s discoursing. Discourse and ideas cannot be imposed on others. As a result, one can always bring into question the usefulness of endeavoring into the very public espousal of a particular discourse. Yet, once there is an “intuitive” grasp of a certain issue, it might be beneficial and constructive to share one’s insights in the way of shedding light on a particular discourse that is outside of the mainstream but perhaps is sought out by seekers of information and truth.

Discoursing with the aim of shaping one’s own weltanschauung as well as that of others is necessary in order to have a deeper understanding of our world as well as the greater reality of things. The full development of the intellect and the mind also requires the corroboration of one’s personal discourse with data and science. Furthermore, the development of a discourse is also contingent upon an in-depth analysis and a combination of thoughts that are incorporated with cosmological insights. In addition to grasping the broader reality of things, the development of the intellect through the fostering of a discourse also has a soteriological factor, given that the only thing which remains after physical death is the intellect, according to some philosophers.

As it pertains to the nature of God, it would perhaps suffice to touch upon only a handful of points, given that a discussion on this topic has no visible conclusion or endgame. Nor will there ever be unanimous agreement amongst such a wide range of people on such a complex subject. But to add one’s view to the mosaic of views pertaining to God would perhaps aid in the evolution of the collective notion of God.

The notion that one’s personal reality is identical with the divine reality stems from a theological school known as “pantheism.” There is both a “heavenly” state and a “hellish state” for individuals and groups. Based on pantheistic thought, God is both transcendent and immanent. Because God is immanent and thus permeates reality, adherence or a lack thereof to such a reality produces both a heavenly and hellish state for individuals and groups even on earth. As a result, humans are sorted out between the “elect” and the “condemned” based on their ontological state. Nevertheless, the fostering of a heavenly state is viewed by some as a science with its own method and procedures. For one, it begins with repentance, followed by patience, asceticism, fear, hope, contentment, and finally the incorporation of compassion and love as an ontological state. “Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.”

Pantheism is an ancient concept that predates the Abrahamic faiths. Also, pantheism is a repudiation of a materialistic narrative of being and existence, given that God is viewed as the sole reality in a particular instance of pantheistic thought. As a result, intellectualism in its truest sense and materialism are mutually exclusive entities that cannot be reconciled. As the French existentialist writer Rene Guenon once said: “Material development and pure intellectuality go in opposite directions: he who sinks himself in the one becomes necessarily removed from the other.”

Because God, according to pantheistic thought, is the sole reality and at the same time is eternal and infinite, it follows that both space and time are illusions given that space and time are not absolute. The notion that space is not absolute has been iterated by Sir Isaac Newton, and the notion that time is not absolute has been iterated by Albert Einstein through his famous “Theory of Relativity.” Also, according to the writings of J.M.E. McTaggart, existence is based on perception, which in turn is based on information and one’s depth of thought. While eternity and infinity cannot be grasped by human knowledge and intelligence, it is also impossible to deny the possibility of eternity and infinity. Moreover, as Leibniz has stated, everything is possible as long as it has not been proven impossible. Thus, one can assume without error that God exists. God is something that cannot be proven or disproven in a syllogistic sense. As a result, Blaise Pascal conjured his famous “Pascal’s Wager” suggesting that it would be better to bet in favor of God’s existence because the loss one would incur if he did exist would be great in the event that one were to bet against his existence and be proven wrong.

Pantheism has a natural pairing with determinism, whereas “panentheism,” which is the theory that suggests God is transcendent and does not permeate the material realm, pairs naturally with free will. It is worth noting that Aristotle was a strict panentheist in the sense that he saw God as being something that was totally transcendent. Panentheism attempts to drive a wedge between the “creator” and the “created” but pantheism asserts that everything flows forth from the creator and thus the creator and the created are one and the same. One substructure of pantheism is “acosmism,” which suggests that finite objects and events do not have an independent reality and thus God is the sole reality. Another substructure of pantheism is “immanentism,” which suggests that the “spirit” permeates the mundane. In any case, a description and explanation of God requires one to go beyond a rational description towards an “intuitive” grasp of the divine, which in the case of pantheism requires a person to adopt the belief that God is being rather than one being amongst many beings.

Perhaps in a counterintuitive sense, the rather humanistic science that is psychology is exactly where an understanding of God would derive from. The term “psychology” comes from the Greek words “psyche,” which stands for the soul, and “logos,” which stands for “the word of God.” Thus, psychology in a very classic sense pertains to the “word of God” that manifests in the soul, which in turn brings forth the intuitive grasp of the divine that extends beyond rational descriptions. Thus, the intellect, which is supposed to lead one to an intuitive grasp of the divine, is situated in the soul. But in order for the intellect to act through the soul and for the soul to act through the individual, the individual must first annihilate what is known as the “ego” and a sense of “self.” The role which education and experience play in an understanding of pantheism is that they elevate human consciousness towards a particular social outcome, which the late Ali Shariati called the transition from “dust” to “God.” Thus, humans are tasked with the deification of the universe through the elevation of consciousness by eliminating the ego and a sense of selfhood, which in turn spurs the spiritualization of the universe through the acknowledgement that God and everything that exists are one and the same.

In a material sense, the most basic substances are quarks and leptons. But the force that holds these substances together is of a mysterious nature and is subject to speculation. For one, there is speculation that the force could involve light, given that the interaction between these substances produce “photons,” which are the building blocks of light. Nevertheless, the force is often considered to be electromagnetic energy, which in religious traditions is considered to be “love.” The connection of everything to the first cause is analogous to the connection of the human body and its constituent parts to the intellect and the spirit. What unifies everything with the first cause is a singular essence which many scientists consider to be “energy.” Ancient Eastern traditions such as Taoism call it “Tao.” In Ancient Greece, Parmenides called this force “love.” Thales considered it to be “water.” Heraclitus called it “fire.” More recently, transcendental thinkers like Ralph Waldo Emerson considered the singular essence to be light, which emanates from what he called the “over-soul.” For Christians, the over-soul stems from the soul of Jesus Christ, whereas for Muslims the over-soul stems from the soul of the Prophet Muhammad.

In the end, while the essence of being and existence is subject to debate, the qualities of the essence are manifest. Nevertheless, the divine essence and man’s essence are one and the same, given that essence can be found in substance, according to Saint Thomas Aquinas. Why essence is embedded in substance is because man is not an autonomous creature. Man’s being and existence is contingent upon what is considered by some to be the divine “intellect” and the over-soul alluded to by Emerson. Plato, in the tenth book of Laws, argued that the soul is the initial principle preceding the creation of anything physical.

            Saint Augustine of Hippo, in “City of God,” argued that God is the cause of all causes, but not of choices. This is how Saint Augustine reconciled the divide between free will and predestination. Destiny, or predestination, according to the Islamic tradition, cannot be fully disclosed because the forging of destiny or predestination is the source of divine power. If humans had the ability to shape destiny or to determine predestination, they would no longer be humans. They would be gods. Also, the only way evil can be reconciled with God’s existence is the fragmentation of the human mind that fails to trace the teleology of existence to a single source. But according to Al-Ghazali, because there is a single source and given that intellect and will come from that single source, it follows that free will is an illusion and nothing is in our control.

            An underlying factor in the description or explanation of God is the issue of “necessary” versus “contingent” being put forth by Avicenna many centuries ago. Based on Avicenna’s logic, God is a necessary being because there is no cause or reason for his being. The need for a necessary being from which all else is contingent upon is the condition which precludes the possibility that there could be a cause for the ultimate cause. Everything else besides the necessary being is a contingent being because there is a cause and a reason for the contingent being.

            But ultimately, any explanation for why God exists is something that must be developed through conjecture and opinion, which in turn are fostered either by religious or scientific thought. The Islamic tradition has stated that God exists simply to be known. Otherwise, there is no discernible reason for why God, an all-powerful and self-sufficient being with no need for anything, would bring everything into existence. Given that God’s aim is to be known, “God-consciousness” is simply the acknowledgement that there is a “causer of causes” in the words of Al-Ghazali. Thus, to believe that there is a causer of all causes would include the inference that something caused what is considered to be the cause of existence, namely, the “Big Bang” which emanated from a speck of energy approximately 13.8 billion years ago. Moreover, something cannot be created ex nihilo. Whereas nothing can come out of something, something cannot come out of nothing. This is the core argument behind the “Kalam” cosmological argument put forth by Al-Ghazali and other medieval thinkers.

            Religion also states that before anything physical came into being, God created three things, namely, his pen, the intellect, and the soul. Pan-psychism, which is a secular notion, suggests that the human mind is a unique instance of a more universal conception of the mind, which is an all-pervasive entity. Religious notions of “reward” and “punishment” pertain to the intellect and the soul in the sense that reward is a certain pleasure derived from the development of the intellect and soul, whereas punishment is the torment of failing to develop the intellect and soul. Thus, world order is predicated upon two things, namely, intellect and natural law which equates to nothing else but the spiritualization of the universe. If both the intellect and natural law were uprooted by corruption, then punishment would be something far-reaching and wide in scope.

One of the foremost proponents of pantheism in the Islamic tradition was Ibn Arabi, who put forth the notion of “Wahdat al-wujud,” which translates into “unity of being.” It is the idea that everything subsists from an all-permeating, singular soul and thus everything is interconnected and interdependent. Furthermore, what follows from this proposition is that nothing exists except for God, given that the source of the unifying soul is none other than God himself. All else other than God ceases to exist. Ultimately, through the annihilation of the ego and the sense of selfhood, “He” and “I” become one and the same, thus Mansur al-Hallaj’s famous proclamation of “I am God.” Upon realizing the non-duality of being and existence, which is known as “Tawhid” in the Arabic language, a person becomes “Insan al-Kamil,” or “the complete man” in the Islamic tradition. What defines “Insan al-Kamil” is his realization that the only thing separating the necessary being from the contingent being is the ego and the conception of selfhood. Spinoza proclaimed that the realization of such a truth leads to an “intellectual love of God.” For Hegel, the mind and the spirit are absolute and individuals were dependent on the absolute mind and spirit, otherwise known as “Geist.”

            Goethe, through Faust, expresses Spinoza’s pantheistic “intellectual love of God” in the following words:

“Flood your heart and mind all through,

And weave their everlasting spell

Unseen, yet visible beside you?

Just let it fill your heart, and when

You feel the highest bliss, why, then

You call it what you will:

Joy! Heart! Love! God!

I have no name for it;

Feeling is all,

A name’s mere sound, a haze that veils

The radiance of heaven from view.”

Evolution, according to Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, equates to the long and arduous process of the spiritualization of the universe and man. But this process of evolution is something involving the efforts of man. The basic premise of novel scientific groups such as the “Global Consciousness Project” is that humans are co-creating the universe with supernatural forces in an effort to develop the universal intellect and spirit. All else is vanity.

According to Socrates, the greatest achievements of man result from “God-sent madness.” Socrates adds in Phaedrus that God loves nothing more than the person who immerses himself in philosophy and engages in philosophical discussions. Moreover, “God-sent madness” is the sole determinant between the elect and the condemned. Still, in a scientific sense, the realization of the oneness of being and existence that prompts “God-sent madness” leads to a greater understanding of novel scientific concepts such as “quantum entanglement” as well as the quantum “feedback loop” that enables humans to take part in the spiritualization of the universe, which one can argue is the sole natural law. The end result of such insights is the attainment of divine attributes and power through the fostering of compassion and love for the cosmos and humanity. As Karen Armstrong wrote: “After enlightenment, a man or woman must return to the marketplace and practice compassion for all living beings.” It is perhaps necessary to show compassion and love even to one’s enemies. By no means is the journey towards compassion and love a path of least resistance. It could resemble Camus’ “Myth of Sisyphus” more than anything else. But the journey towards compassion and love, which leads to a greater understanding of God, is undoubtedly worthwhile.

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