The edge of immanence

Whence comes the creativity we see in nature and our human world? If we push back to the beginning we are apt to say this is beyond our human powers to answer. Or we use the word God, with more or fewer anthropomorphic features. Or we may say the known universe rests on nothing, a Zen approach which avoids the proliferation of mysterious entities.

Philosophical proofs of the existence of God have fared badly in recent decades, with the possible exception of the argument from design. However it is worth recording Leibniz, who said ‘ Why is there something rather than nothing? For nothing is simpler than something. Further, supposing that things must exist, it must be possible to give a reason why they exist just as they do and not otherwise… The sufficient reason, which needs no further reason, must be outside this series of contingent things … and must lie in a substance which is the cause of this series, or which is a necessary being, bearing the reason for its existence within in itself … And this final reason is called God.’ ( Principles of Nature and Grace). We feel uneasy with this and Kant shows the difficulties through his antinomies of pure reason in his first Critique.

Einstein made a number of remarks about God. Here are my two favourites. ‘There is a stage of religious feeling which I shall call cosmic religious feeling. It is very difficult to explain this to anyone who is entirely without it, especially as there is no anthropomorphic conception of God corresponding to it.’ And this: ‘ God does not care about our mathematical difficulties, he integrates empirically.’ ( I should note my personal love of the words integer, integrate, integral and integrity. Integrity, in particular is a word which can suggest a link between aesthetic and moral judgements.)

I tend to the common sense view that each of us is finite, although allow that mystical experience is perhaps evidence of a finite intuition of the infinite. And if this is the case then perhaps consciousness is better thought of as the manifestation of a receiver more or less attuned to the vast complexity of the external world, rather than as emergent property of the brain. On the next post I will print the poem I wrote after attending a Buddhist retreat at Gaia House in Devon some years ago, called Nothing Imagined. It is an attempt to express an intuition at the edge of immanence.

Published by davidcookpoet

I am a husband, father and grandfather. I retired from a busy working life as an adult psychiatrist in 2014. My interests are in literature, philosophy, modern jazz and horse racing. I might represent those four fields by Shakespeare, Kant, Charlie Parker and Lester Piggott. Like nearly all of us, I can identify a number of formative experiences, one of which was a psychotic episode in my first year as a psychiatrist. This reinforced an already established interest in mystical experience, and a sense of how little human beings know. My intellectual bugbear is reductive materialism, and I am surprised at the lack of moral imagination of those who promulgate such views. It seems to me they need to consider ,perhaps by exposure, just why totalitarianism is so horrific.

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