Does God have an Agenda?
By Ben Iscatus
(This is a guest essay submitted to the Metaphysical Speculations Discussion Forum, reviewed, commented on and approved for publication by forum members. The opinions expressed in the essay are those of its author.)
|"God blessing the seventh day," by William Blake.|
Idealism takes many forms, but in what follows, I am assuming that monistic Idealism is true. This means that God (or Consciousness) is all there is. What we call 'matter' is just how ideas or thoughts in God's mind appear and register to the senses of avatars (humans and animals) in God's dream of Planet Earth. I will use the terms "God" and "Consciousness" interchangeably here. (Conventionally, I refer to God as "He", but the "She" and "It" pronouns are implied). The essay is an informal and sometimes avant-garde exploration of some of the issues, and I hope you find it entertaining.
OK, that's the premise. So what is God dreaming and why?
First, there doesn't actually have to be a "why." God could be dreaming the World (the Universe) just because that's what He naturally does. No reason is intrinsically necessary. This is the view that Ancient Chinese philosophy takes. However, if human beings are delimited aspects or sub-personalities of God, then we might be expected to share some of God's mental attributes. Curiosity about our origin may therefore be something that derives from God Himself.
Now, it may be that only humans have this need to search for a "why" because (to borrow Bernardo's analogy), being little whirlpools cut off from the sight of the great river makes us self-reflective (I can't see the river or feel its flow, so how on Earth did I get here and why do I exist?). In this analogy, animals would be swirls and eddies rather than full whirlpools, not cut off from the natural flow of the world, and God, being the whole river itself, would instinctively know who and what He was. Nevertheless, He might like to see how He appears from multiple different, limited perspectives, which is why he creates or permits the human whirlpools...
In spite of this possibility, if you can accept the idea that a Creator God may not be utterly ineffable and may indeed have reasons that humans might understand for His thinking and dreaming, then we can speculate what these reasons might be.
The most obvious religious idea about what God is to us in the West, is the Christian one of 'Love', though many polytheistic gods have not been loving, so we might wonder where that monotheistic idea comes from. God as Love may simply derive from the way that parents behave towards children. Right across Nature, parents of many animals show care and nurture of their offspring, particularly mammals. Even alligators carry their newly hatched young gently in their mouths down to the river. Without Love, the young more easily die and the whole species is put at risk.
Yes, Religion extends this Love beyond death, due to a faith in having an immortal soul or a belief in our connection to God, but the whole concept may originally derive from a powerful strategy for survival which is found throughout the natural world.
Love is also our name for sexual attraction, of course, another powerful evolutionary strategy. Freud showed how sex can be sublimated, and it is easy to imagine with the Christian Church's distrust of sex, how enforced celibacy has affected monks, priests and the faithful. In nuns, the added complication of a frustrated maternal drive might well be expected to lead, on occasion, to ecstatic visions of God.
Going against this pragmatic explanation are (ahem, celibate!) mystics who say that Heaven is indeed a realm of blissful Love. Those who have Near Death Experiences often concur (though not always). But who is to say that any mystical experience of loving ecstasy is a final truth, any more than what religious seers and prophets have said about the future is the truth? Here's a poem I wrote in sonnet form that expresses this idea in terms of near death experiences:
LooshWhat is this 'Light' the near-dead rave about
Which sucks them up into its shining sphere—
The atheists as well as the devout—
Kiss-blisses them, then spits them back down here?
In a hypnotic haze of love and awe,
The ravished claim this White Light is divine,
But how can all the rest of us be sure
Its ministrations are, in fact, benign?
We know it exercises mind control
And avidly observes each life review.
Perhaps it licks the loosh from human souls
As ants milk aphids of their honeydew.
'Above is as below', the mystics say:
Are we too proud to think that we're its prey?
"Loosh" is a term first coined by Out-of-Body researcher Bob Monroe. You get the idea; we're being duped, love-drugged and cunningly harvested, our life-energies are being fed upon by higher-dimensional beings.
This recalls the old Gnostic notion of a false god in charge of Creation, a Demiurge. It's not a silly idea. Look at life as we know it on Earth: there is a food chain, Life is obliged to eat other life or its products. There's a lot of killing as well as loving going on in this Dream/Nightmare we're in. (As I write, a great tit is foraging gracefully in the ivy outside my window. Do I say, "Shoo! Leave those poor insects alone!", or do I say, "Charming!"? The latter, of course. Where is my compassion?) Ironically, the most benign sort of life to eat is a fruit, like an apple, which is 'purposefully' produced by the tree so that its seeds can be spread far and wide. Yet the apple is, according to the Biblical parable, what got us into trouble in the first place!
Putting the idea of an evil Demiurge to one side for a moment, why do animals exist at all? Why didn't Consciousness simply choose to express itself on Earth in sentient plants happily absorbing the sunlight and soil nutrients in a Botanic Paradise? Why did animals have to evolve and enter the dream? Why teeth, why claws, why stings?
The answer, presumably, is that Love is not enough. In wildlife behaviour, Consciousness expresses itself in many other ways. For instance, in Fear. Without fear of danger, a species might become easy prey, and like the flightless bird the dodo, get clubbed to extinction by sailors landing on their islands. Religions have picked up on the importance of Fear: for example, the Old Testament Jehovah is to be feared, as are the Zoroastrian god Ahriman and the Aztec goddess Coatlicue.
Evolutionary activity can be construed as Consciousness moving into species and phenotypes in order to explore its own qualities and characteristics. Clear evolutionary strategies apart from Love, Sex and Fear include Dominance (I'm the monarch of the glen, so I get the females), Cunning (the trapdoor spider), Concealment (the stick insect) and Co-operation (the wolf-pack). At any rate, through all the changing predators, prey and ecosystems (99% of all species that ever existed are extinct), creative dreaming by Consciousness through Nature remains a constant.
We humans have evolved a greater self-awareness and cultural intelligence because we are not simply immersed in the natural flow of life—we moved out of our natural habitat, out of Africa; we need clothing and complex artefacts for cooking and storing food, unlike animals. Because we are partly outside the natural flow, Consciousness has discovered many new and interesting ways to explore itself in us—artistic, scientific, technological, sporting, as well as in complex emotional bonds. And now, God's self-exploration has gone exponential in our global human civilization.
For sure, the quest for experience and self-exploration both in nature and human nature is a highly believable 'folk interpretation' of what a Manifesting God is doing.
All our complex human behaviours must be hard on God the Dreamer. It seems reasonable to suppose that such intense dreaming cannot be sustained for very long. The current dream-image of a world under strain does suggest that this is so.
But, going back to the idea of an evil Demiurge, and looking at the history of the Universe as a whole rather than just our planet Earth (which we can now do, thanks to science and technology), one can speculate about a very different, alternative agenda. This Big Picture 'shadow agenda' might be that the Original God, from whom the Demiurge sprang, actually finds manifest life complete anathema. The true Unmanifest God may not have wished to dream at all; He may only have wanted to find a way to be Unconscious.
In this scenario, The Big Bang would be seen not as an act of Creation, but as an act of Destruction—an exploding suicide bomb—God's attempt to self-destruct, emerging from Infinity and Eternity into the finite structures of space and time. It's been suggested that the Universe as a whole looks rather like a brain. So the Universe expanding out into the Big Rip can be seen as an image of its synapses stretching and its neurons flying apart, dissipating until there is no longer a Mind left to speak of. Perhaps the True God cannot bear His own lonely, ever-wakeful Consciousness, so is seeking to die to Himself.
Self-extinction or achievement of "Notself" has a perfectly respectable Buddhist tradition in the context of dissolving the human ego—a will to nihilism, Nirvana, which in one translation means "blown out": let's interpret that expression as blowing outwards like the Big Bang, as well as like a candle flame being snuffed out.
So why may God not be intending to achieve this sort of Nirvana? Presumably, because He is seen first and foremost as a Creator and Sustainer. But that's not appropriate if Creation was not a conscious intention. Looking at the cosmos as a whole, you have to wonder—where is all the life? There's not much, is there? The vast volume of the universe is at least 99.99% lifeless desert. Despite many years of searching, SETI has found no technological civilizations. In fact, so far as we know, in the dimensions available to our senses and instruments, we are it!
We and the Sun that supports us, might symbolise some of God's remaining, living Neuron-clusters. Gravity, across the universe, signifies their means of trying to get back together. This view might explain why for so long the only life on Earth that could be dreamed was simple bacteria. Traumatised by the separation, the Neuron-cluster 'Our Solar System' had to try to relearn what it was before the Big Bang 'brain damage.' Slowly, it has been healing and growing. Life on Earth forms an evolving, networked cortex.
It may even be that humanity, and the Demiurge which sustains us even as it uses us, really represent the pro-Life Resistance! In which case, Nietzsche would be wrong—God is not dead, at least not yet. The laws of thermodynamics are against us, but let's hope we're not predestined to snuff ourselves out or blow ourselves up...
Copyright © 2017 by Ben Iscatus. Published with permission.