Eternal Being and Manifestation of Spirit
This installment is long so I’ll give you a quick preview. It covers Stephen Hawking’s recent take on God’s creative role, some relevant opinions on cosmology, and, finally, my thoughts on the manifestation of spirit from the individual person, as well as the aggregated manifestation from all persons, and then to the manifestation of a greater spirit that resides in the fullness of being. I’ll close by looking at some implications that arise from all the above.
Trevor and I went out to walk tonight just after sunset. There was no doubt about the appearance of the first star of the evening. Actually, it was the planet Jupiter, still very large and bright in opposition, as it arose over the eastern horizon in its transit past the sea of “The Great One,” Aquarius.
In spite of the gathering darkness, we ventured onto the western end of the Forest Loop Trail getting a hill-climb in for the evening, raising pulse and respiration while stepping high to avoid stubbing my toes on stumps, roots and rocks. It was dark enough, without the waning moon, that in the most-dense portions of the woods, it was almost impossible to see the path ahead. So, rather than press my luck against the hard obstacles on the trails, we went up the path to the parking lot trailhead into Ault Park.
Once out of the woods, it was dark enough to make out the brightest stars. Immediately in front of us Sagittarius hung over the southern horizon surrounded by fully five percent of the Messier Catalog including, M4, 6, 7, 8, 20 and 22. As we walked out of the park down the Observatory hill, the Big Dipper clocked the creeping change of seasons, with its handle falling toward the approaching winter horizon.
“The Grand Design”
So, not long after I posted Woods Walking #9, the circumstances and experience of my own Beatific Encounter, publicity broke surrounding the release of Stephen Hawking’s new book, “The Grand Design,” co-authored with Leonard Mlodinow. The element of the book that has created the most buzz is Hawking’s proposition that God was not necessary to create the universe; that the “Big Bang” was an inevitable consequence of the laws of physics.
According to the Reuters story, “Hawking says a new series of theories made a creator of the universe redundant.”
Hawking states, “Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist.”
“It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.”
Of course, Hawking’s comments are based on theories so their validation awaits testing with accepted scientific methods. The mechanics of such testing–perhaps on a universal scale–would seem to be daunting! Although, the research currently underway at the Large Hadron Collider, may eventually shed some observable scientific light on such foundational questions.
So for the person of faith, does the new learning of men and women, such as Hawking’s, diminish or eliminate the concept of “omnipotence” assigned to the traditional concept of “Creator”? A strict Creationist view would emphatically say no; that we demonstrate the deadly sin of pride with such statements.
Nonetheless, humanity has altered its perception of the heavens, and even our very Earth, many times over, as our capacity to observe and measure the nature before us has benefited from the evolution of our scientific technologies. To provide some historic perspective, think of the cosmological challenges presented against the 1,500 year-old Ptolemaic geocentric model of the day by Copernicus and Galileo. These great men became outcasts in their own day only to have their Heliocentric model of the cosmos later validated, as their leading edge thinking became accepted as the scientific norm, and eventually embraced by the major religions of the world.
It is clear over time that humanity gradually uncovers, observes and comprehends an extant reality that patiently awaits our study and understanding. After all, humanity itself arises from and is sustained by this very reality. And in this process of human development and discovery–uncovering, really–there are still questions that we simply cannot answer today. And some questions may always remain beyond our temporal and theoretical reach. To wit: how many universes are there?
Cosmology at the Limits
Some astrophysicists propose that theories point to there being more than just the inflating bubble of our own observable universe. So, is there a universal twin, a multiplicity, or are universal “bubbles” as numerous as the billions of galaxies in our own universe? Most notable among “multiverse” theorists is MIT’s Max Tegmark, author of “Ultimate ensemble theory of everything”, and his postulate that “all structures that exist mathematically exist also physically.”
Tegmark need only to spend some time with consumer packed goods (CPG) professionals to know that not every idea on the “drawing board” sees the light of day.
The number and nature of universes is essentially an un-testable question currently, much like the unknown that Columbus faced before he set off to establish new trade routes to the Far East. How much ocean lay ahead of him and his frail, modest fleet?
To further compound the questioning, some cosmologists, such as Martin Bojowald of Pennsylvania State University, posit that there is a universal cycle of inflation and contraction. Instead of there being a singular creative “Big Bang,” there is a cyclical “Big Bounce.”
It is reasonable, in such a cosmic model of universal cycling, that a “Creator” is not necessary as an efficient agent since the cycle is the natural outcome of physical laws. Reconciling to Hawking’s current thinking, perhaps omnipotence is lessened in such a model, but what of omniscience?
Manifestation of Spirit
In my comments after Woods Walking #2, “The Metaphysics of a Fork,” I recalled the words of the Ancient philosopher Parmenides, “ex nihilo nihil fit:” Latin meaning nothing comes from nothing.
The traditional idea of creation is that of making something from nothing, and thus, the idea of an Omnipotent Creator is attractive. It is a convenient answer to the ageless question, “Where and how did all of this start?” After all, humanity is faced with beginnings and endings as a fact of our own existence: from night to day; from birth to death; from freshman to graduation; from star formation to super nova; from the Alpha to the Omega.
Equally important to the discussion of creation is consideration of the matter of degree. It is impossible for something to be spontaneously created from nothing — “nothing” taken as an absolute state, in an absolute sense–from nothing to something. However, what can be spontaneous is the creation of an idea, or concept of “something new.” But that new “thing,” that new idea will be the form given to some underlying substance. And that new idea, that new form, will only be realized when it is imposed on its intended substance: the potter throwing clay–the artistic idea comes to life under creative hands.
And further, from Woods Walking #2, the most fundamental causal elements are intelligence, i.e., Final Cause (extrinsic), and substance, i.e., Material Cause (intrinsic). The Final Cause, i.e., intelligence is one of the two extrinsic causes, Efficient Cause being the other. Intelligence is the reflective, aware entity wherein the idea resides and also possesses the will toward creation of something apparently new and drives the creative process. Meanwhile, substance is the essential intrinsic causal element, i.e., the material cause; as calcium is to bone and cellulose is to wood. Formal Cause is the other intrinsic cause.
So, all of this begs the traditional question from the vernacular, what comes first, the chicken or the egg; the substance or the intelligence? Given that human intelligence is contingent upon the substance and proper functioning of the human brain, the apparent answer is that substance “came first.” But this solution implies a “first intelligence,” in the sense of “none before.” Then, however, some new intelligence comes to be upon a pre-existing substance.
Either case seems to violate Parmenides statement, “nothing comes from nothing.”
Seemingly the only logical solution is the idea of “Eternal Being,” i.e., some substance has always existed. How could there ever be nothing, in an absolute sense, because nothing comes from nothing? Even for Stephen Hawking’s idea of “spontaneous creation,” the contingent prior condition was some natural law or laws. Are these laws contingent upon some pre-existent substance, or a pre-existent intelligence? The existence of laws presupposes “some thing” upon which they are based.
The solution seems to be that concurrent with Eternal Being there is the intelligence that manifests itself from this fundamental, eternal being, and on a universal scale. Such a “Grand Intelligence” would be defined as the Supreme Being, if not at least the Supreme Intelligence, the awareness that manifests from the primal act of being.
That deep emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible universe, forms my idea of God.
~ Albert Einstein
Assuming the idea of “eternal being,” and revisiting the competing cosmological concepts of The Big Bang or The Big Bounce, it would seem that the Big Bounce is the most logical solution consistent with eternal being. Given a likely permanent, eternal state of “existence,” whatever the quantum state of the most fundamental substance in being might be, temporal being would likely be cyclical and repeating.
The idea of Grand Intelligence requires some degree of “faith.” In fact, from a rigorous scientific perspective, the concept cannot be supported. And what has traditionally been challenged is the idea of Intelligent Design, the centuries-old, classical concept toward a teleological systematic; one where some prior design yields an ordered existence toward an end.
An idea that reconciles a seemingly random universe that obeys certain physical laws with a well ordered universe that follows a preconceived “plan” is that of a Grand Intelligence that inseparably emanates from the basic “stuff” of “existence,” from all being on a universal scale.
The substance and intelligence together would be Eternal Being, a concurrent, inseparable foundation to all that is on an absolute scale.
Human intelligence is manifest upon a living person and is scientifically recognized, and given the vast energies of the cosmos, is it not possible that there is some awareness that arises from the aggregate energies of the very act of existence? Humanity has only recently recognized the existence of dark matter and dark energy, and neither of these are fully understood. Yet both are suggested within the limits of our own observable universe by virtue of observation and theoretical calculation. Dark energy currently drives universal inflation, as confirmed by red shift measurements observed and calculated by astrophysicists.
How can humanity authoritatively affirm or deny a Grand Intelligence via empirical methods?
All Souls Day & Galilean Implications for Our Age
Faith traditions over the past 5,000-plus years of recorded history point to such an intelligent presence that manifests from being. And as described in Woods Walking #10, there is personal, experiential evidence of a non-corporal state–a spiritual state of being. My recounting is only one of many. Both personal experience and recorded religious traditions point to a Loving Presence that we call God.
Beginning with Woods Walking #2, I’ve talked about “substantial lineage,” the idea that the very stuff we are made from is traceable along a continuum, perhaps back to the “Big Bang,” or maybe the “Big Bounce,” and by extension to the fundamental being that exists outside of our observable universe. The idea of Eternal Being points to the source of this substance upon which we base our corporal existence.
If this “stuff” is from Eternal Being—the sands of time–something that has always been, and from which a Grand Intelligence manifests, we gain a new concept of the eternal.
But these concepts also point to a regenerative universe. This very idea implies an infinite progression of temporal coming to be, that we are 13.8 billion years into our current generation. From a religious perspective, this implies an infinite, yet constantly growing Body of Humanity.
Perhaps we are in “the day of temporal existence,” which would be followed by an equally long period of rest. Such cycles are in our very being, in proper proportion.
The echoes of contemplation then are both Eternal and Infinite. It also implies that God so loves the Body of Humanity that the Grand Intelligence would send Its “Only Son,” or perhaps in some instances, Its “Only Daughter” to deliver a Salvific message over many generations, both universal and to many “worlds” within each universal generation. Again, these are questions of Holy Mystery that lay before us, now.
Nonetheless, tonight, on the eve of All Souls Day, I will look deep into the starry night, giving thanks for my own being, and observe the humility that comes from being part of an Eternal, Loving and Expanding Whole.
Glory to God in the Highest for All.
Copyright © 2010 Rudolph Siegel
Sagittarius via the Interactive Sky Chart: http://skychart.skytonight.com/observing/skychart/getjava.html
Reuters: “The Grand Design”: http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20100902/lf_nm_life/us_britain_hawking
Max Tegmark: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Max_Tegmark
Martin Bojowald: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Bojowald
Woods Walking #2: https://excelsisdeoomnibus.wordpress.com/2010/08/07/woods-walking-2/