Divine wrath

divine_wrathWhy is it we enjoy thunderstorms, hurricanes, tornadoes and blizzards so much? Even if they are disastrous, even if our day is ruined, even if people die, we secretly enjoy them. Why?

We enjoy them because we are reminded that we are not really in control. Secretly we don’t want to be in control. We love to not be responsible; we love to be at the mercy of fate.

So then what is responsible for the bad weather we might ask? The weather patterns of course. But what is responsible for the weather patterns? Why, the wind, of course. But what is responsible for the wind? Well that would obviously be Boreas, Eurus, Notus, and Zephyrus the Greek Gods of the Winds.

You laugh, but in all seriousness what exactly accounts for these infinite number of factors working together all at once down here in reality? And not just what accounts for the factors, themselves, but what accounts for the working-together, itself, and what accounts for the all-at-once, itself? You know it is in bad form to laugh at the question of a child.

The Greeks were really on to something. How sad it is to relegate The Iliad to mere artifact from the past, its only destiny to be “analyzed,” catalogued and put in a museum. We are so busy with meaningless time-wasters that we have no time to answer the questions of the child. Even Plato, the most rational of men, knew that there was more to reality than meets the eye. Intellectuals isolate parts of The Republic because they are “useful,” but do not forget that trippy ending in Book X. Even Socrates had to resort to narrative.

So perhaps even knowledge, logic, and our rational faculties have a limit. Perhaps this is why so many great men and so many great civilizations have posited and assumed there is a God.

With this in mind, we shall not get into specifics, nor shall we get into this religion’s conception of the Divine, or that religion’s conception of the Divine. We shall not talk about absolute knowledge or proof. We shall simply talk about the possibility of the Divine; the possibility of some entity that cannot, itself, be accounted for, cannot be explained and cannot be symbolized or represented.

First principles and beginning assumptions are incredibly important, even if impossible to answer, because everything descends from that. It is not surprising, then, that when it is assumed and posited that the universe created itself out of nothing, that the individual assumes they create themselves out of nothing. We are not talking about the material body. We are talking about essence: personality, talents, role in life, and duty.

Do you want to get to the root cause of things? Let us posit a Big Bang. But the Big Bang, or spontaneous manifestation, is the ultimate non-root cause, as it is not a cause whatsoever. Do you not see how this assumption parallels the supposed futility of life, existential angst, and general purposelessness?

This is not to say that the Big Bang did not happen, but the Big Bang begs the question: what caused the Big Bang? When the universe is all by itself, the individual is all by themselves. When the universe creates itself the individual assumes they create themselves. This all parallels the assumption that the individual comes before reality and has a privileged perspective as if outside of reality.

Furthermore, this notion of spontaneous manifestation is just as miraculous as a God creating the universe. All we are really doing here is substituting terms. I have long maintained that science is merely different vocabulary and brings us no closer to understanding.

The strength of a description of reality is not judged by “accuracy,” but by how well it accounts for overall structure and organization. If science calls the wind from the north the wind from the north, and Greek mythology calls it Boreas, and if science calls the wind from the west the wind from the west, and Greek mythology calls it Zephyrus, there is no difference as far as structure and organization is concerned.

If you want to get to root causes, then the Divine is the most supreme concept that accounts for this face-melting mystery of reality, the universe, and why there is something, not nothing. All other accounts of reality try to skip the mysterious questions as they are not useful in everyday life. Scientific accounts of reality are essentially tautological explanations, whereas religious and mythical accounts of reality are in narrative form.

When I was a child, I always asked my parents, “Why did God always talk to everyone back then in the days of the Bible? How come God doesn’t seem to talk to anyone anymore?” I never received an adequate answer to my impossible question! A cute story, but it’s more than that. As far as a general outlook on life goes, a childish curiosity slays all analysis, science, knowledge, proof, facts, data, and information. There are more questions than answers and the question is always much more powerful than the answer.

People say that the imagination is not real, that a story is not real, or that a film is not real. But that is not true at all. That is lazy language. All of these things are real. A story may be mythical, a film may be fictional, the imagination may be fantastical, but this is not the same as unreal.

What is supremely realistic must take into account myth, fantasy, and the unknown. A fictional film is real insofar as you are literally watching it, you are not dreaming, you are not in another world, the film was filmed on actual film, an actual person wrote an actual story, you are perceiving the story with your eyes, your mind and your mind’s eye. Even dreams, themselves, are real! Do not confuse this with the unreal.

The non-fictional account of reality and the creation of the universe are weak precisely because they imply these categories of existence and life are essentially a “mistake.” They deny imagination and phantasmagoria – yet these things are possible and experienced literally every day by human beings. The implication is that they are a bug, not a feature.

In my article Jury Duty I critique doubt. And now you may say, but if you are positing that the fictional is real and that the imagination is real aren’t you contradicting yourself? Doesn’t the imagination and possibility of supernatural account cast doubt on the reality of reality?

Not at all, it is precisely the opposite assumption that casts perpetual doubt. When it is assumed that all things are knowable and must be known, outside of the realm of imagination and filling in the blanks, then what happens is man waits and waits and waits for quintessential knowledge. He can keep imagining a possibility for doubt.

A man may commit a crime on camera, but the irrational insistence on quintessential knowledge forces him to ask: but is this video of the crime real? How do I know this isn’t edited? How do I know this isn’t all a set up? When one posits mystery and the unknown then one is not in doubt, because one knows that an element of doubt is already worked into the equation and that this is nothing to be frightened of. This is why I say doubt the doubters and be skeptical of skepticism. What is supremely realistic is to posit mystery and the unknown as the basis of reality.

My hypothesis is that when reality is assumed to be mysterious, man has no choice but to act rationally. When reality is not assumed to be mysterious, man acts irrationally. There is an inverse relationship between man and his assumptions of reality. One does not have to rationalize reality in order to act rationally, themselves.

In fact, rationalizing reality is not befitting of reality. This is not a matter of deluding oneself and there is really no paradox or contradiction. Man and his faculties are of reality, but they are not synonymous with reality. Reality is a miraculous mystery and only mystery captures the imagination.

As Amerika.org commentator crow has pointed out, a lie is not the same as a belief. A lie is when you assert something that you know is not true. A belief is when you assert something that is not known to be true or untrue. A story operates precisely on this level. A story fills in the blanks of the unknown. It is not a lie. A mythical account or narrative is not untrue. The imagination is not unreal as it operates within reality and we have access to it.

I thoroughly reject all explanations that the origin of religion stems from some need for authoritarian control on the one hand, or the need for some consolation for the wretched on the other. They may, at times, turn into that. But religion and the notion of the Divine stems from logic and it is neither irrational nor mystical. It is not a daydream. When logic hits its limit, you are still left with a question. The only worthy complement to logic is the Divine, anything less than the Divine is an injustice to logic.

Like thunderstorms and blizzards, Divinity reminds us that we are not in control and that we know very little. Thankfully, on the other hand, we are also absolved of total responsibility for the world and perfect explanations of every last thing.

26 Comments

  1. Anon says:

    This is interesting stuff – I’m particularly interested in your hypothesis relating to the inverse relationship between the assumption of reality’s rationality, and the resulting action. Can we see some more on this? :-)

    There are little tidbits which you could explore further all over – I think you covered the justification for the Divine fairly well, though, overall.

    What’s intersting is that this article will be lost on most atheists – to them, it would be just another religious person justifying why they believe in fairy-tales, but to me, it’s like you are echoing and clarifying my thoughts. Which itself is an interesting lesson in context, and communication. The receiver needs to be able to receive the message if it is to be of any use. This was discussed previously on this site, but it’s interesting how it keeps cropping up. I’m rambling here, but this article has sent my mind ruminating on the mysteries of reality…

  2. NotTheDude says:

    Last paragraph of last comment is very true and i feel the same way. ‘Face melting mystery of reality’ Lol that’s true. I have stopped thinking about what we don’t know so much because we can’t know. The point about Spontaneous Manifestation being a mirror of Divine Manifesation explains why I have drifted from the Righteous Atheist crowd, even though it is a good reason to shun organised and dogmatic religion. We should be looking at the outcomes of the interactions of our Universe and not beating each other up so self-righteously over our attempts at explaining it without thinking about the claims we make.

    1. Atheism is one of the grimmest philosophies ever. To dedicate yourself to proving the absence of something, and blaming all of life’s problems on those who believe it, is as straight up stupid as a Down’s baby with its fingers in a light socket.

      1. RiverC says:

        Not all atheists were, or are, like that. Thus, Alexandre Kalimiros, an Orthodox writer in recent years, was convinced that what we are experiencing is not genuine atheism, but anti-theism. Nietzsche probably predicted this when he was talking about the death of God – essentially, that for some the loss of a religious age is a sort of freedom, but for most men it is a grave torment. And many will be angry at God for not existing (or rather, if you will, not preventing men from disproving his existence for them.)

  3. Lisa Colorado says:

    “My hypothesis is that when reality is assumed to be mysterious, man has no choice but to act rationally. When reality is not assumed to be mysterious, man acts irrationally. There is an inverse relationship between man and his assumptions of reality. One does not have to rationalize reality in order to act rationally, themselves.”

    I can go along with this. In Utah, where I grew up, there was a strong belief in God and the Holy Ghost and spirits that could talk to people and guide them. Mormons have a lot of rational beliefs and standards for their lives–ones that I wouldn’t adhere to but I admire for those who stayed. It’s one of those things where if you ask the big question of why people should cooperate with one another, the answer to it plus the consequences of living it do not add up very well much of the time–unless you believe there is divine guidance that will bless you.

    “a lie is not the same as a belief. A lie is when you assert something that you know is not true. A belief is when you assert something that is not known to be true or untrue. A story operates precisely on this level. A story fills in the blanks of the unknown. It is not a lie.”

    Indeed. In order to properly lie or fake something, you must know the truth first. Nowadays they don’t even start out faking from a true origin. It’s all cascades of falsehood.

  4. Owl says:

    I stopped reading at all of the big bang talk, no offense to the author.

    Plasma cosmology has totally ruined my ability to sit through any writings or discourse after hearing the words “big bang.”

  5. Humans construct a very narrow “normal” world in which they live. The reality is the inverse. Almost nothing is known, and most things are deceptions or ambiguities. That scares people, so instead we make official statements about what is or isn’t true, without it necessarily having any validity.

  6. RiverC says:

    Ted,

    Lewis seems to have been convinced that all religion had its origin in the experience of the Numinous – the thing which was dreadful not because of what it could do (like how we fear fire because it burns us or a bear because it could become a deadly killer) but because of what it is.

    In all scripture accounts (and I don’t know if this is limited to the Jewish and the Christian) malakhim (‘angels’) always have to tell people to not be afraid. We must assume this is because malakhim are, as alien beings of pure intelligence, majorly dreadful by their very existence.

    About the old kid question (I remember asking it too) as to why God does not talk with us the way he used to, is a very important question. It is perhaps more of a quest than a mere question, isn’t it? It is precisely the sort of question a religious soul ought to be asking.

  7. Ben says:

    when logic fails, you just need stronget mathematics. Life is complex. It is a non-linear system. non linear systems can give rise to random behaviour. however, a greater order still lies in the bedrock of such systems, waiting to be reveald (and it can be revealed, you you know how to plot the proper attractor). The order appears in form.
    That is why I just cannot accept your mystical thinking. You can think logically of existance and be logical yourself. All the things you said about sceince were a form of mysticism.
    A wind coming from the north is not a “northern wind”, but a solution of flow equations for the entire planet. It is the product of all that affects it (ground spin, temeprature, pressures), and the non-linear equations describing it, which you can’t predict, because they have no analytical solution.
    More mystical thinking on the big bang. That’s a bad name, and not a cause, but an observation. Just a label for the fact that everything in the universe is moving away from everything else, so if you would roll the timeline back, you would get everything in a single point. The proper mathematics are still lacking.
    The problem with mystical thinking is that it lodges itself in the holes of science.

    1. crow says:

      “The problem with Mystical Thinking” is that it doesn’t exist.
      You can think, or you can be mystical, but not both.
      Thus it is no problem at all. Pick your path.

      Mysticism is the suspension and absence of thought. No more, no less.
      The calm of observing what-is, before the chaos of thinking it to pieces.
      Any fool can ruin a perfect work of art, and claim it to be thought.
      But who can stand back and calmly admire it?

      Leave it be, and its beauty remains.
      Mess with it, and its beauty is gone.
      At least, from the sight of the one who messes with it.

      1. RiverC says:

        FWIW, the Damascene believed that some things were knowable, while others were unknowable, some thing were expressible, while other things were unexpressible. In short: some mystery is just confusion (Musashi called this ‘bewilderment’ and ‘not the true void’) but some of it is genuine and impenetrable. The mystic is one who does not presume on the manner of the mystery and maybe knows that it has a way of revealing itself without striving, if it is comprehensible at all.

        1. crow says:

          I’d call bewilderment being unable to figure out a mystery when you wanted to figure it out. I was referring to the state of having no wish to figure anything out.
          Which sounds quite stupid to those who do not know such a state.
          I remember my own initial bewilderment upon reading tao te ching, where it refers to The Master as knowing nothing, and being like a fool.
          Not easy for a westerner to make any kind of sense of something like that.

          1. RiverC says:

            This is a matter of personality, perhaps, as we come to understand that some in the Christian tradition were ‘simple’ – that is to say, they did not pry into anything really. It is these same ‘simpletons’ that tend to also be ‘wonderworkers’ – i.e, the doers of miracles. If there is a reason why we ‘don’t see miracles’ or ‘hear God’ it is because we are too complex.

            Being a simpleton though, takes a bit of faith. Symeon points out that for most they must exhaust the realm of the sensory and intelligible before they can step beyond it.

            As I recall there is a story wherein only the truly ‘uncarved block’ possessed the Tao; the man who simply forgot everything was *more like* one who possessed the Tao, but not one who did.

            1. crow says:

              For all practical purposes, an uncarved block wouldn’t be a lot of use in this particular context. Difficult to discuss these things with a plant, or a frog.
              We humans have a special set of circumstances to deal with.
              We get loaded with conflicting stuff before we have any ability to sift it into the useful and the useless.

              Anyway: nothing ‘possesses’ tao. One either goes with it, or runs counter to it. A binary condition. You might imagine this to be a simple proposition, but it seems it is not.
              Humans get ruined, almost immediately, in most cases.
              Then life becomes about either continuing down a ruinous path, or making supreme attempts to become unruined.

              1. RiverC says:

                I was actually just quoting a Taoist story I had heard. I would assume that the word ‘possess’ was a difficult to translate word and the translator chose ‘possess’ instead of ‘dwelt in’ or ‘lived in accordance with’.

                Also, I’d guess there’s a difference between merely forgetting (as in being forgetful) and actually unlearning things. It’s like the bad habits you learn when learning a physical activity in a slightly wrong way are harder to unlearn than the activity was to learn.

                If you had a perfect Teacher you might be able to simply walk the straight Way.

                1. crow says:

                  The whole idea of a Teacher – perfect or otherwise – is one I have often pondered. Mainly because nobody can actually teach me anything. I seem unable to learn anything from anyone, although I learn a great deal, sometimes, from the interaction itself. Lateral learning, you might call it.
                  Whenever I hear teachers teach, all their words are no more than unintelligible noise, somehow beyond my ability to understand them. Maybe it’s a personal disability that I’ve learned to live with.
                  Anyway: taoism, to me, is the removal and discarding of every unnecessary thing. Especially opinion about anything. Many people imagine me to be very opinionated, as well as many other things that they themselves are. But I see opinions as things that take the place of considered observation. Observing what-is, and reporting it, does not – in my ‘opinion’ – constitute ‘opinion’.
                  Haha:) I’ve had a horrible stomach-flu, lately, but it looks like I am feeling better, today. Hooray!

      2. Ben says:

        I don’t see how ‘messing’ (if I understand your meaning, analysing) with something would ruin it. I can appreciate life and delve intro its depth. What I refer to as mysticism is exactly this syncretism of thinking and non-thinking. talking of the acausal. While you can talk of hollow unicorns, and can even imagine them, you cannot force them to exist.

        Strange attractors are beautiful, with or without measuring their dimention.

        1. crow says:

          You don’t see it, and that is clear.
          To me, this is unfortunate, because it is also clear that very many people share this inability to see. And there seems to be no way to communicate what can not be seen, in order that it may be seen.
          Like a magic-trick, to a child: it actually is magic, which leaves the child with a sense of wonder, until an older child scorns this wonder, and explains how the trick is done. Leaving the first child unable to ever see the magic again, and instead, to see only the trick.
          This is the tragedy of ‘understanding’. All it really is, is the termination of wonder. I also suspect that the very notion of ‘understanding’ is illusory, reducing what is ‘understood’ to a shallow shadow of what it actually is.

  8. Magnus says:

    This is a refreshing article; i’m so used being confronted with condescension at the question of whether mythology may contain more truth than a mere whimsical fairy tale that once sufficed as an explanation for what holy Science can now, or almost understand for realz (“Oh weren’t we silly…are you still?” the arrogant smiles seem to say.”)

    I think that humanity is sick of the idea of Divinity because of the negative behaviour displayed by so many people and groups of people who believe in the existence of the Divine. The result is a pendulum swing into the atheistic extreme (just a bunch of stuff moving in predictable ways, starting with a random, singular movement). “Do you not see how this assumption parallels the supposed futility of life, existential angst, and general purposelessness?”

    We all (readers and/or contributors of this blog) — i think it’s safe to say — know some or many of the ways in which a belief in a Divine reality can lead to disconnection from reality. But what about how it can actually connect one to reality?

    “I thoroughly reject all explanations that the origin of religion stems from some need for authoritarian control on the one hand, or the need for some consolation for the wretched on the other.”

    Indeed, it seems that most secular people believe that one or both of the above causes for belief in the Divine are by far the main, or perhaps THE causes for belief in the Divine — and they are certainly very popular–. But I believe in a more noble cause for such a belief: reverence for the mysterious, all-prevading intelligence of the universe.

    Personally, whenever I have had one of those experiences which are popularly called ‘spiritual experiences’, when i sincerely feel for a moment that I am intimately connected to the great wholeness and essence of existence, — whether through perceiving a beautiful plant, witnessing a jarringly synchronistic situation, meditation, feeling genuine love for an other, making something beautiful etc. — the word that most often comes to mind is “God”.

    In this context, God doesn’t represent a tyrannical patriarch or an ultimate nanny-force. It represents the consciousness behind the vast, incomprehensible energy and order of the universe. And it because these kind of experiences tend to occur in response to clear perception of order and beauty, and not to wishful thinking or hidden intentions of denying weakness or shortcoming, it seems that God prefers life.

    So, in this case, to live for God is to live for beauty, order, and love of existence. My gut tells me that it was along similar lines that man originally thought of God.

  9. lost wanderer says:

    Mystery lies between the numbers of a mathematic equation like mystery is the silence between the notes in a song.

    If you focus hard enough on the sound or notes, the silence will ”hit” you, often when you don’t expect it.

    approximately a year ago, as I was walking, I was thinking logically or at least with my intellect about the number zero and is relation with the creation of this universe. Suddently, a sort of ”feeling” came over me. There’s no words or thoughts that can truely explaine what it was. But I felt the mystery burst in me for a bref second.

    It was like a sort of non-thinking but not in a way of when you stop thinking about a particular thing and going to a numb state.

    The nature of the human is that we got to focus on the tangible to reach the intangible. It’s a paradox.

    intuitively, I realised that the mystery was the foundation of the world , the real life or essence so to speak and the rest was just logical parameters who shapes the world like it is. It’s like a computer. The electricity is the mystery. We don’t know it’s true nature from but we use it to bring the circuits that we create ”to life”.

    I don’t know, at least the ”rational” part of me don’t know if I experienced a true non-thinking like the enlighted claims to have but it was a real experience nonetheless, whatever it was.

    1. crow says:

      Moments like that can fundamentally transform your life.
      A doorway appears, out of nowhere, into a completely different dimension.
      Nobody and nothing makes you walk through it, though.
      Still, you have the opportunity to, or not.

  10. Jay Lars says:

    I thought this appropriate.

    “People are said to believe in God, or to disbelieve in Adam and Eve. But in such cases what is believed or disbelieved is that there is an entity answering a certain description. This, which can be believed or disbelieved, is quite different from the actual entity (if any) which does answer the description. Thus the matter of belief is, in all cases, different in kind from the matter of sensation or presentation, and error is in no way analogous to hallucination. A hallucination is a fact, not an error; what is erroneous is a judgment based upon it.”

    -Bertrand Russell

    1. crow says:

      Hmmm. I found that difficult to decipher. But eventually, I would agree with the (presumed) expressed view, that believing in anything that is defined by terminology is fraught with uncertainty and confusion.
      Believing, for example, in the Christian portrayal of God, is, for me, impossible. Beyond absurd.
      However, my own perception of God makes it eminently easy, simple, and natural, not only to believe in it, but to know it, intimately.

  11. 1349 says:

    Another link in comrade :) Swanson’s chain mail of cold logical, and thus useful, argumentation for the need of religion and mythology. Thanks. Marx & Engels turn over in their graves.

    People say that the imagination is not real, that a story is not real, or that a film is not real. But that is not true at all. That is lazy language. All of these things are real. A story may be mythical, a film may be fictional, the imagination may be fantastical, but this is not the same as unreal.

    A fictional film is real insofar as you are literally watching it, you are not dreaming, you are not in another world, the film was filmed on actual film, an actual person wrote an actual story, you are perceiving the story with your eyes, your mind and your mind’s eye.

    Somehow these paragraphs triggered in me a recollection of my childhood thought process. I could often say things along these lines…

    It all now seems even “worse”.
    What can be conceived / imagined, can turn real, even tangible, so we should watch out.

    1. RiverC says:

      It’s useful to point out that the distance between thought or idea and empirical reality is the time of the realization of that idea. So even to the materialist, they cannot avoid the reality of the idea, even if they are able to temporally shift it. I think Eliot was thinking about this in The Wasteland.

      The fulcrum of realization is desire, which is why Christ asks the person if they want or believe in nearly every case (mutes and paralytics may not be able to express their desire in that way) before he heals them.

      In an essentialist way of thinking, if an idea exists, an essence exists, and therefore what is thought is already real even if only atemporally. I say ‘even if only’ since the realization is always the proof; if you will, the person of vision becomes a stage magician of a sort here. Those who enjoy stage magic may still be interested in the ingenuity behind the trick, but knowing that doesn’t ruin the magic of the trick when you first see it, since magicians routinely ‘reveal’ their secrets (i.e. tell you how a specific trick is done, but that doesn’t tell you how any other tricks are done.)

      Belief or faith as the ‘evidence of things unseen and the substance of things hoped for’ To all but the one who experiences it, are the ‘pledge’ – the turn is where Noah builds the boat for a God-awful long time, and the prestige is where the door closes and everyone drowns. Or is it? Perhaps it’s a bad fit, or perhaps the core of belief is the hope in the good; the ‘turn’ (like the bad turn of many magic tricks) is where the boat closes and the flood consumes all flesh. The prestige is where the boat lands on the mountain and the pledge is made true for those who believed it.

      1. 1349 says:

        It’s useful to point out that the distance between thought or idea and empirical reality is the time of the realization of that idea.

        The fulcrum of realization is desire…

        When i said “what can be conceived”, this included things one would hardly ever want to realize and things one wouldn’t ever consider realizable.

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