Sunday, 10 February 2019

Who Designed the Designer?


The idea behind this question is that if you say that God created the universe, you must then ask who or what created God. For every cause must have a prior cause. Atheists come up with this  challenge sometimes, thinking they have thereby undermined the thought processes of the religious believer, but it actually shows their inability to think metaphysically. Who designed the designer is a meaningless question because it doesn't recognise the difference between spirit and matter. That is to say, between something that exists in time and space, and something that just exists. God is existence itself and therefore absolute being-ness. He needs no design because of his perfect wholeness and oneness. He is not caused because he is not a thing. He just is. And if it is asked how something perfectly simple can be intelligent, the answer is that God does not think. He knows. His being is his knowing, instant and complete.

The material world is one of cause and effect, and when I say the material world I mean the created world so not just physical matter. This is the world of time and space, movement and change. But the spiritual world or state that gave rise to this is not subject to time or space or movement or change, and so notions of cause and effect do not apply to it. This is why certain ancient teachings can say that being came from non-being. I would prefer to express this as becoming came from being but it amounts to the same thing. The world of cause and effect came from uncaused being. Who designed the designer is a question that can only apply to the world of material existence. It has no meaning in a spiritual world which exists outside time.











21 comments:

Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

"God is existence itself" -- I know this is a standard formula in Hellenized theology, but what on earth can it possibly mean? How can an abstraction like "existence itself" possibly do anything or love anyone or have any of the other personal attributes ascribed to God? Even to say that existence-itself exists seems like an obvious category error.

I say this as one who is increasingly sympathetic to theism and would sincerely like to understand. If there's any way you can make this concept clearer, it would be much appreciated.

Otto said...

Wim Jas,

I urge you to watch this video: "What Is God? - A No Bulls**t Explanation For Smart People".

Briefly, the only possible answer to the question "Who created the Creator?" is "The Creator created Himself"!

William Wildblood said...

Wm Jas, in trying to make one point (that God does not need a cause) I've obscured another. When I say that God is existence itself i don't mean impersonal, abstract existence. I don't actually see how there could be such a thing. I mean he is I Am. Being is personal.

But I think that ultimately this has to be more a matter of faith and intuition than an intellectually provable proposition even if that can take us part of the way.

Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

Otto, I'm severely allergic to videos. Can I read the same message anywhere?

"The Creator created himself," while it obviously has its paradoxical side, is more coherent than "God is existence-itself," and it is in fact pretty much what I believe. (Basically, agency is primary, and agents such as God exist because they/we choose to exist.)

William, I don't see how being-as-such could be anything but an abstraction or how it could exist. And I don't expect the proposition to be proven, just to be rendered intelligible enough that I can understand what it is that is being asserted.

William Wildblood said...

What I mean is that God is conscious being, the sole, self-subsistent conscious being from whom all other beings take their rise. He calls himself "I am" or "I am he who is" which is being, the being that existed before creation. It is uncreated but not abstract.

Edwin Faust said...

John the Baptist, in St. John's Gospel, says that no one at any has seen God, but the only begotten one has revealed Him. Perhaps one reason Christ - the Logos - had to become flesh was the need most of us have for sense-based images. In Jesus, the principle of Creation becomes individual, personal, capable of relationships on the physical plane. We can approach God as spirit through God as man. As far as the question "who made God" is concerned, it does assume that cause and effect is an unbreakable chain, even beyond the material world. But there is no reason why this should be so. Do we really know why we love someone, or anything? Is there not an intuitive certainty about certain things that is irreducible?

Chris said...

William,

A somewhat related question to the comments above.....

Do you think Actus Purus or Being Itself of the classical theistic tradition is fundamentally the same as the Advaitan's "Beyond Being" or Nirguna Brahman?

I'm not sure..... "Being" is determinate and an attribute. Nevertheless, as one of the commenters eluded to, the designation of "Being Itself" is terribly apophatic- so much so that another category had to be made, that of "theistic personalism".

William Wildblood said...

Well, Chris, at one time I would have said yes because there is a logic to that idea but now I think that the personal nature of God goes all the way down to the bottom, so to speak. Which is not to say he does not have an impersonal aspect but I don't see that as primary.

Maybe the confusion arises because of the difference between God in creation and God beyond creation. But even God beyond creation, the unmanifest Father, is 'I am'. Can there be being without I? As a thought experiment perhaps but not really.

We can only speculate but one day we'll know. Until then I think we can take Jesus' word for the real personal nature of the Father.

edwin faust said...

With regard to William's question about Advaita and nirguna brahman and actus purus: these are concepts without content, unthinkable thoughts, negations. The only way to approach these concepts is with other concepts that do have content; we then try to subtract the content until there is nothing left. But we cannot really reach this zero sum. The feeling that one gets from reading what Jesus said and did is not something that resonates static being, but dynamic being, i.e. becoming. It is easier to imagine endless becoming, a ceaseless expansion of love, than a point where everything stops and freezes. Perhaps, Steiner's insight into life is nearer the mark than classical metaphysics or advaita: the spiritual world is constant activity, but without restlessness or anxiety: joy in motion, love unfolding anew.

William Wildblood said...

Yes, I would go along with what you say, edwin. Concepts without content is a good way to describe the attempt to strip the living God of intrinsic reality and leave behind just an abstraction.

Chris said...

I wouldn't say that Actus Purus or Being Itself is a concept without content- surely Being or Esse is a thinkable thought. What's difficult to square is the claim that Being Itself is "personal". Now, as I understand it, classical theism insists that God is most definitely not "a" person or "a" being, but that's also not to say that God isn't personal.

So the question is, what does "personal" mean in this context. I'm inclined to say that it is intellect and will. Now, I think the Advaitan would still regard the God of classical theism to be Saguna, precisely because being is not beyond the categories of human thought.

William Wildblood said...

God is not 'a' person because that would imply other self-subsistent persons. I would say he is 'the' person. All other selves come from participation in him though they still have their own independent selfhood but that is freely given by him.

Will, yes. Mind, also yes. But don't forget love.

Chris said...

There are two points that I think are important here that are problematic for their respective perspectives.

One issue comes from "above" and the other comes from "below".

For the latter, the theistic personalist, classical theism is objectionable because it makes God too impersonal and abstract- not consonant with the God of the bible.

For the former, the non-theist, even Being Itself is too personal- that is, a graspable concept and still within the domain of relativity and therefore not the "Pure Absolute" or "Beyond Being" On that pov, the ultimate reality, the Real, must be, by definition, beyond all categories of human thought and not relative in any sense.

William Wildblood said...

I would agree that God in himself is way beyond human thought but that doesn't mean we can't approach an idea about him that is true on our level. After all, if we are made in his image we should be able to respond to him. The most fundamental thing about human beings is individual self-consciousness and the thing that makes us feel most alive is love. It doesn't seem unreasonable to suppose that here is a clue to the nature of God.

edwin faust said...

The desire to know God is, at bottom, a desire to escape from our sense of being isolated beings, cut off from the outer world and from one another. We want it all to come together, to make sense. Metaphysics in the West looks for a unifying principle outside of our experience, in a creative force or being, a ding an sich that is both unknowable and yet the ultimate reality. Why look outside of our experience? Perhaps because we want to perceive God as we do each other and the world of objects. But our perceptions would not be intelligible without complementary concepts. It is thought that completes the world of perception. And God, it would seem, stands for the totality of our experience: the ultimate unity of percept and concept. We don't need to search for a ding an sich or torture our minds trying to picture an actus purus. I may be speaking above my pay grade, but I think that the intuitions that arise in our minds come from the Divine in our nature, from the Logos. I am working my way for the fifth time through Philosophy of Freedom. It's hard but wonderfully liberating. I would recommend it to Chris.

Chris said...

I read Steiner's work several years ago- perhaps it's time to re-visit it?

I often come away from these kind of discussions with the sense that it all boils down to one of two claims- that jnana is "higher" than bhakti or vice versa. This is typically done by simply asserting that the other path is "preparatory" .

I recall that I first began to question unqualified nondualism when I realized that folks like Ramanuja, Nimbarka, and Madhva came after Gotama and Shankara.

William Wildblood said...

I'm not sure that bhakti is love in the full Christian sense. It's more devotion. But if we call these things truth and love then both are necessary and both in their complete forms include the other anyway. They are two sides of the same coin and , spiritually speaking, one can't be conceived of without the other.

Chris said...

But it seems to me that one has to predominate. Love and devotion naturally entails some form of theism- after all, it takes two to tango.

The path of knowledge "centers on a cognitive event which is recognized when experienced" - an event that some describe as nondual. (as you know)

William Wildblood said...

One will be more to the fore in each individual according to temperament but both must be fully responded to. They are, after all, the higher counterparts to thinking and feeling .

Personally I would forget the teaching about the two paths of jnana yoga and bhakti yoga. It's just an attempt to describe different initial approaches. The reality is that God can only be known through love but love must be rooted in intelligence and, eventually, wisdom.

Alternatively, you could say that jnana and bhakti lead to different places and neither is the true goal. That is only known when they are combined and 'transmogrified' into a higher third, like the point at the apex of a triangle.

edwin said...

In advaita, there is no bhakti. Some try to conflate jnana and bhakti, saying that devotion to the truth leads to jnana and the two are inseparable. The main problem, however, with nonduality is that its goal eliminates both knower and known. Who is it that sees the truth of nonduality? An illusory personality? If the Self is looking at the Self, then there are two, yes? Nonduality is a concept that can only be thought about in duality, by a person trying to bridge the division between subject and object.Love is really alien to nonduality, whose adherents import it from elsewhere or make the light and airy detachment that dismissing life's problems as illusory and unimportant a substitute for it. Benevolent indifference is not love and any kindness that issues from it comes from a source other than nondual thinking.

William Wildblood said...

That sums it up perfectly, edwin. Advaita expressly denies love and if it tries to incorporate it, as some of its adherents do because they know they must, they can only do so by taking it from elsewhere, just as you say