Sunday, June 10, 2012

Fish eye lens: A Parable

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A fish scientist who was hired by the high council of Tuna to find the strange substance humans believe in called “water.” The fish had never seen any water so they wanted to know what it is. The fish scientist was told that water collected in depressions in the ground, so he examined every hole and depression he could find but found no water. He eventually concluded that humans are deluded about water because he could find no examples of it. It never occurred to him it was the medium in which he lived, through which he gazed, and from which he took every breath. As a fish empiricist our scale clad investigator was certain that what he was looking for had to be an object that he could see, he forgot to look at the substance he was always looking through. So it is with being, we write it off as “just what is” and go on looking for this “God” who can’t be found because we don’t understand he’s nearer than our inmost being. Such is the pitfall of scientific empiricism.

The point of course is that God is too basic to our being, too much a part of the existence we share that we don't see any indications of presence. We take for granted the aspects of being that indicate God's reality. Some of the those indications might be physical or cosmological, such as fine tuning or modal necessity. Others are experiential. The atheists pointed out that water is physical and can be detected. It's only an analogy and all analogies break down at some point.Analogies are nt proofs anyway. I don't offer this as proof but as a clarification of a cocnept. In so clarifying we find a link to being; the connection bewteen God and Being itself.

Heidegger approaches being in its ready-to-hand aspect. In other words like a carpenter using tools we find being as so inherently part of our experience, so ready-to-hand that we don't notice it. This is the point of the parable; we are too close to being, it's fundamental to what we are to realize that our place in it is to be contingencies based upon the reality of God. God is also "detectable" but of cousre, not in the sense that water is. Given certain assumptions we can understand the correlation between experience of presence and the nature of eternal necessary being. When we experience the reality of God through the presence of holiness we experince the nature of being as eternal and necesary. All we need to do is realize the necessary aspect of being to realize the reality of God. This is why Tillich says:


The name of infinite and inexhaustible depth and ground of our being is God. That depth is what the word God means. And if that word has not much meaning for you, translate it, and speak of the depths of your life, of the source of your being, of your ultimate concern, of what you take seriously without any reservation. Perhaps, in order to do so, you must forget everything traditional that you have learned about God, perhaps even that word itself. For if you know that God means depth, you know much about Him. You cannot then call yourself an atheist or unbeliever. For you cannot think or say: Life has no depth! Life itself is shallow. Being itself is surface only. If you could say this in complete seriousness, you would be an atheist; but otherwise you are not."
"Depth of being" and being itself are synonymous. Depth just means that there's more to being than appears on the surface. The surface is the most obvious aspect, that things exist. The existence of any given thing is the surface level. If we go deeper to probe the nature of being that entails the realization of the eternal necessary aspect of being and thus being has depth. Then we realize our own contingent nature and thus, we are at one and the same time realizing the reality of God (that is after all the basis of the cosmological argument and the ontological argument as well).


This is why God appears to be hidden. It's not that he's hidden. It's not that God is hiding himself. According to Hartshorne, "only God can be so universally important that no subject can ever wholly fail or ever have failed to be aware of him (in however dim or unreflective fashion)." Now the issue of why God doesn't hold a "press conference" has do do with the fact that God does not communicate by violating normal causal principles. In process terms, the "communication" of God must be understood as the prehension of God by human beings. A "prehension" is the response of an occasion to the entire past world (both the contiguous past and the remote past.) As God is in every occasion's past actual world, every occasion must "prehend" or take account of God.

It should be noted that "prehension" is a generic mode of perception that does not necessarily entail consciousness or sensory experience. Impervious postings I explained that there a two modes of pure perception --"perception in the mode of causal efficacy" and "perception in the mode of presentational immediacy." If God is present to us, then it is in the presensory perceptual mode of causal efficacy as opposed to the sensory and conscious perceptual mode of presentational immediacy. That is why God is "invisible", i.e. invisible to sense perception. The foundation for experience of God lies in the nonsesnory non conscious mode of prehension. So now, there is the further question: Why is there variability in our experience of God?. Or, why are some of us atheists, pantheists, theists, etc.? Every prehension has an initial datum derived from God, yet there are a multiplicity of ways in which this datum is prehended from diverse perspectives.

I agreed with Hume that sense perception tells us nothing about efficient causation (or final causation for that matter). Hume was actually presupposing causal efficacy in his attempt to deny it (i.e., in his relating of sense impressions to awareness). Causation could be described as an element of experience, but as Whitehead explains, this experience is not sensory experience. From Hume's own analysis Whitehead derives at least two forms of nonsensory perception: the perception of our own body and the nonsensory perception of one's past.

But this is at an unconscious level. However, in some people, this direct prehension of the "Holy" rises to the level of conscious experience. We generally call theses people "mystics". Now, the reason why a few people are conscious of God is not the result of God violating causal principle; some people are just able to conform to God's initial datum in greater degree than other people can. I don't think that God chooses to make himself consciously known to some and not to others. That would make God an elitist. Now, the question as to why I am a theist as opposed to an atheist does not have to do with me experiencing some exceptional religious or mystical experience. Rather, I believe that these extraordinary experiences of the great religious leaders are genuine and that they do conform to the ultimate nature of things. It's not necessarily a "blind leap" of faith, as my religious beliefs are accepted, in part, on the basis of whether or not they illuminate my experience of reality.

The experience of no one single witness is final the "the proof" but the fact that there are millions of witnesses who, in differing levels from the generally intuitive to the mystical, experience must the same thing in terms of general religious belief the argument is simply that God interacts on a human heart level, and the experiences of those who witness such interaction is strong evidence for that conclusion.

2 comments:

Miles said...

Not a bad analogy. Especially with God always being compared to the ocean, with us as salt in the sea.

Metacrock said...

Glad you like it. I don't really remember what gave me the idea. I've used that for some time.