Saturday 17 November 2018

Free Will and Evil

Does everything that happens do so in accordance with God's will?  Or, to put it another way, is evil part of the plan for the unfoldment of spiritual consciousness?

People have long struggled to make sense of why there is evil in the world if God is both loving and omnipotent. It seems to many that either he doesn't care about the evil or he is unable to stop it, neither of which is very reassuring. The traditional Christian response is that human beings fell at one point early on in their history, and evil came into the world through the misuse of free will. If you want to have a fully conscious and free good then you have to have the possibility of evil as well. I think this is correct as far as it goes but it doesn't answer the question completely for, after all, if we take the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden seriously (I don't mean literally), then we must ask what was the serpent doing there in the first place? Clearly evil was already up and running.

God creates a universe that is properly alive. What this means is that he creates beings who are free because only in this way can real love and real goodness be expressed. Only by doing this can God have a world which is created but also creates itself and so is more interesting to him. The free will of created beings is absolutely essential to this end. However, according to the scriptures, one of the greatest of created beings, a mighty angel, rebelled against God's plan for creation and dragged many other angels down with him. These demons constantly war against the Creator. They have corrupted the natural world and also humanity and they continue to do that. What is their aim? Why should any being rebel against God? The answer usually given is pride but I imagine it is more complicated than that. Love of power, the desire to be worshipped themselves, hatred of a goodness to which they cannot match up because of their wrong choices will all have played a part in their downfall and will continue to ensure a lack of repentance.

What all this amounts to is that this world is a damaged environment due to the activity of these fallen powers. Now, God could eradicate their influence by speaking a single word. He could banish all suffering and return to the world to a pristine innocence. But that would effectively mean destroying the world. Once God has given free will to his creation, he cannot withdraw it. If he could, it would not have been really given in the first place. A conditional free will, one dependent on making the right choices, is not free will at all. So, God is all loving and he is omnipotent but he has resigned some of his power and given it to his creatures in the form of free will. To get back that power, which he could do if he wanted, would mean returning his creation to the complete reflection of himself and he does not want that. He wants it to have its own individuality so that eventually (this is my notion, I'm not sure if it is orthodox) it may be his loving bride. That is what this whole process of creation and unfoldment through time is all about. 

There is, therefore, no contradiction between God being loving and omnipotent. His omnipotence is total but voluntarily and necessarily restricted so that we might have some power which is essential if we are to be real individuals.

Jesus ransomed the world from the devil who had usurped this earthly kingdom from its creator. Whether the devil had originally been assigned a vice-regent position which he abused or whether he, as it were, stole the world is not clear. What is clear is that he took it over, and it needed the Incarnation to put things right. Not that they are right yet because that depends on humanity's full acceptance of spiritual truth but the groundwork for the redemption and salvation of the world has been laid. Satan's power has been overturned and he is now, hard as it may be to believe, on the defensive. But, of course, as is obvious, he still has great power because we are still so recalcitrant to truth.

The conclusion here is that the evils of the world are mostly caused by the dark powers whom we aid and abet by responding to evil within ourselves. God can use evil to bring about good but this is not a justification for evil which is wholly bad and not part of God's original intention for his creation. Our suffering in this world is therefore not ordained by God. Some suffering is spiritually creative but it has to be recognised that some suffering is simply due to the power of the demons in the world and forms no part of God's will. It does not have some ulterior spiritual purpose even if it can be used to some ulterior spiritual purpose because God can bring good out of ill.


Unknown said...


What do you think of the idea that every term we have is one of a pair of opposites, and can only be understood in relation to its opposite.

We can't understand the good without understanding evil, and so forth.

So a world in which good is possible is a world in which evil is possible, because without evil, we couldn't even understand the good.

This would logically suggest that there is only good-evil as a pair, and neither can exist alone.

It is this idea that underlies the conceit of non-duality. Not that good and evil are one, but that they are a pair, and cannot be separated. You cannot even "think" of one without the other because understanding either term means distinguishing it from the other term.

Saying what something "is" means saying what it is "not".

So, the two are undoubtedly different, but they are non-dual - have no existence without the other.

The world is full of different things but they all go together and cannot exist alone.

So we have non-duality, which ironically can just as easily be expressed as non-singleness.

I will understand William if you have no wish to deal with these issues or answer them, but I would be curious to know what you think if possible.

Unknown said...

Also, what seems related to this, what do you think of "Indras net" - the Buddhist metaphor to describe non duality, where each jewel is perfectly reflected in every other jewel in the net while retaining its unique individuality - complete inter connectedness and mutual dependence.

Again, if you don't wish to discuss these issues any more and prefer only comments that share your assumptions I would understand.

William Wildblood said...

Regarding good and evil, I do think that in our current state (the word current emphasised) we do need this duality in order to get a more active sense of the good. However it may be that if we hadn't fallen as depicted in Genesis this might not have been necessary. The greater good could then have been seen in the light of the lesser good. After all, there are no 'bad' colours. So once consciousness had, so to speak, been corrupted, a good/bad duality became inevitable and could be used by God to effect evolutionary growth but if it had not fallen this growth might have come about without death and suffering or without them in their painful forms. I think that spiritual growth continues ad infinitum, but after we have left this world and moved into heavenly consciousness, it will not need the good/bad duality but be impelled by a kind of inner unfolding. And even in this world there are opposites that are different but both of value and then there are good and bad opposites. The former are real, the latter not, not really real anyway.

Nevertheless as things are now good and evil do probably form a tandem with the latter enabling the first to become clearer. This is temporary and to be overcome as soon as possible though.

Indra's net is bit like a hologram, isn't it? I believe that individuality and unity are complementary not exclusive but whether the net is anything more than a metaphor, I don't know. I think it may have a limited application to reality in that God is in all things and all things are in God but I don't take it literally. What it lacks is what Buddhism in general lacks and that is a proper sense of the value of the personal.

Comments that just share my assumptions? Heaven forbid! I'm not that bad!

Unknown said...

Thank you for your response!

That's a coherent position. You'd be surprised how many people won't publish politely worded comments that diverge even mildly from their assumptions :) It's a sign of the times, where a hunkering down mentality is gaining ground and we are clipping our intellectual wings. Glad to see a bit if the old European respect for ideas is still alive :)

I want to share some radical and perhaps shocking thoughts I've been having lately, and ask for your reflections if you have any. I understand these thoughts may go against your beliefs very strongly, but that's why its worth getting a different perspective. And shouldn't two men interested in religious questions be able to discuss radically divergent viewpoints amicably?

I will of course understand if you find these points too divergent to address.

I think Buddhism doesn't just devalue our personal selves, but deflates everything - every "thing" - including the whole universe.

More and more I think Buddhism is just a kind of cheerful nihilism - life has no meaning, value, or purpose, nothing needs to be done. The world has no weight, substance, or importance - it is just essentially unimportant.

This is the liberation of which Buddhism speaks I am beginning to think.

I wonder if I am a terrible person for finding this view appealing? Everything in society tells me that this should be a terribly depressing view, but I become cheerful and un depressed and find life enjoyable and approach it with a new zest when I think this way.

I feel suddenly light on my right, light as a cloud and as carefree.

I think most people cling to life not because they enjoy it but because they fear death - but clinging to life, finding it important and valuable, seems to go along with anxiety, care, and misery.

Whereas not clinging to life, finding it essentially frivolous and accepting death, seems to go along with laughter and mirth, merriment and enjoyment.

Can this be what Jesus meant when he said you must lose your life in order to find it? That only by not seeing life as valuable and important can you be free to enjoy it? Is this what Buddha meant that we suffer when we cling to life and the world?

Nihilism has been associated with being unhappy and depressed because people are really thinking about the disappointed idealist - some one who does believe in values but thinks the world fails to realize them. This person finds life important.

But the nihilist does not believe in values. He simply sees things as unimportant, and is not disappointed.

Chesterton said Angels can fly because they don't take themselves seriously, or something to that effect, and the whole tone of his writing is shot through with a humorous and almost frivolous tone.

Can it be that some kind of antinomianism is essential to religion?

Everything in our modern world is based on the search for happiness and meaning and nihilism and antinomianism is supposed to be a terrible thing - yet I keep on finding these attitudes expressed on the ancient traditions, Christian or Buddhist or Hindu, again and again, and am wondering if I am seeing things.

Unknown said...

I also wonder if true respect for the personal and individual comes from not trying to deliberately cultivate it but letting it freely express itself.

Deliberately cultivating individuality may simply force our personality into a stereotyped mold, whereas giving nature fee reign will result in eccentricity and quirkiness, true individuality.

It is noteworthy that the modern world which consciously celebrates individuality is notably conformist and stereotyped, whereas pre-modern England was rich in characters.

The notable feature of the modern world is trying to consciously control and direct life and rather than let the exuberance of nature play out. But isn't this repressive and suppressive?

And isn't desire for conscious control based on fear and doesn't it betray a real lack of faith in God's creation?

Unknown said...

And finally, I want to suggest how nihilism can be cheerful by pointing out that it is the same thing as complete acceptance of the world as is, which is generally recognized as an optimistic attitude.

If the world has no serious significance or importance, there is no need to fight it oppose it, or change it, we simply accept it as is - because it doesn't really matter anyway.

Nihilism is not a despairing rejection of the world because it fails to measure up to our ideals nor rejection of the world in an attempt to reach a better one, commonly thought the standpoint of religion.

It is acceptance of everything as is as ok, since nothing is really that important anyways.

Might this be the only truly affirmative attitude to life? Might this be what the Buddha called the Middle Way, and Jesus the Narrow Way (between rejecting the world out of despair and rejecting it out of hope?)

Can hope for a better world cause as much suffering as despair over this world as inadequate - are hope and despair at bottom really just forms of rejecting the world and thus hope is no more affirmative than despair?

I find these ideas dizzying and don't know what to make of them.

Adil said...

The problem of evil is a pseudo-problem since it takes a humancentric view and questions God. Suffering makes perfect sense if we are to become self-sufficient individuals and earn a good life. It's not like we would sit here today with computers and a comfortable life if our ancestors didn't endure great hardships. Life without suffering is escape and stagnation. I suffer a lot for my own reasons but I don't become angry with God. Some suffer more than others but God suffers with us.

Same goes for evil. What looks "bad" for some humans may be Good in God's eyes. So who is doing the judging? Our personal little egos or our higher self? Bad acts may always be needed for Good ends. The problem of evil only exists from a worldy perspective of the body. We are not our bodies, and the body has to suffer for the sake of the growth of the soul. Animals eat each other but they fulfill higher purpose, because they know they form part of a higher eco-system - and they lack the cognitive apparathus for getting lost in the virus of individualism.

The reason God is good is because he knows everything and obviously cares for his creation - but that doesn't mean he's always "the nice guy". He is Good, but he also has a weapon which is his wrath. But that doesn't equal evil. Darkness is not evil to my mind. Evil is something else, something wicked, and often masks itself as the light itself. Evil is the falsehood built upon the momentum of resistance against God.

We can know God is good by doing good deeds and putting ourselves right with him - and we will always be rewarded with strength and happiness. No exception. We know this to be true, so what's the point of questioning God except clever mind games? Once you realize God you can't create a straw man out of him and beat it with a stick.

William Wildblood said...

Unknown, my belief is that if people have sincere, well thought out beliefs that, even if you differ, you can still learn something from them. The Buddhist position is a well-established and coherent one and is worth taking very seriously even if, as I believe, it does fall at the final hurdle.

What i mean is that it approaches consciousness by going to its roots and seeing these as primal which they may be but then that ignores that roots grow and give form to branches, flowers and fruit etc and these can't just be dismissed. They are part of the whole thing and maybe the reason for the whole thing, in terms of creation or manifestation anyway. So I think that is what the position you mention does. it's a valid position but I think it misses the purpose of our being here and having these pesky selves in the first place. It essentially misses out on the truth of relationship which, when all is said and done, might be at the heart of the reason for everything that is and why there is something rather than nothing.

You're clearly not a terrible person because seeing the emptiness of everything in a Buddhist sense is very liberating, in that it does free us from all the horror and unpleasantnesses of the material dualistic world but i do think that a better thing is eventually to take this messy duality and make of it something new. I see this as possible in Christ in that the sacrificed self can arise, phoenix like, from the ashes of its immolation into something totally pure and good.

William Wildblood said...

Then you say this "It is noteworthy that the modern world which consciously celebrates individuality is notably conformist and stereotyped, whereas pre-modern England was rich in characters." You are absolutely right. I remember people used to have more interesting faces. Now people are better looking in the conventional sense but without the individuality of the past. You can even see this in film stars, especially male ones. Gregory Peck, John Wayne, Robert Mitchum and so one all had much more individuality than their current versions.

Perhaps, as you say, this is because when people self-consciously try to be something then they inevitably fail whereas if they just are themselves without thought then they actually are individual. it's effortfulness (as the Buddhist might say!) that gets in the way.

William Wildblood said...

Some really good points there, Eric. Thanks. I particularly like "Evil is the falsehood built upon the momentum of resistance against God." Very true.

William Wildblood said...

Unknown, I'm not sure if I've answered your question but I have to go now. I'll have another look at your comments later and maybe get back to you. I would just add that what you are calling nihilism does seem a more positive and, as you say, affirmative thing than what normally goes by that name. I don't think it's right because I do think there's a point and purpose to existence but, given a Buddhist position, it's not unreasonable. However it leaves out God and I think that's the mistake it makes.

Adil said...


My pleasure. I think we need to guard the holiness of God and not let him fall into the mind to become an object for intellectual scrutiny. Blaming God for evil and suffering is the luciferian fallacy. Suffering and pain lack value, they are just that. Good or bad depending on the results. In their worst suffering people make their best break-throughs. People who sidetrack their suffering remain unripened versions of themselves. It's not possible to get away with anything in life!

There is also a clear limit to pain and suffering, as the body can only take so much until God's hand will swich you off. There are greater forces watching us. God chastises every son whom he loves, for the betterment of his creation, like a good father. You can hate your father, but he will always be right in some fundamental way.

In the end, mistrusting God for evil is like blaming art for ugliness. Art is beautiful, and if someone makes ugly art, then it is not art. So watch out for those who are trying to distort the sacred image and creation of God. Our own dignity rests upon that.

Adil said...


As someone who went from passive agnosticism, to nihilism, to Christianity, here's my view. Nihilism was a valuable tool for me to strip off any implicit assumptions and values about the world and get in contact with raw reality in and by itself. For sure, there is utility in such a view - but the problem is it does away with the human entirely and get's stuck in nothingness - and doesn't see far enough to come back to God. From the perspective of nihilism, the world lacks any inherent value - which is actually true relatively speaking. Things happen in the world and they don't really mean anything in and by themselves. But what made me break up with nihilism was its dismissal of the human being.

Nihilism says reality is out there, and if a tree falls somewhere and no one saw it, it simply happened. We should note reality, and adapt to it - not impose any human prejudices upon it. But nowadays I think reality is more contingent upon our perception than nihilism grants. I don't think reality is a naked external left-over in infinite unknowable space floating around. If a tree falls, God saw it! Reality seems inside us and outside us simultaneously - so we should marry the perspectives. Therefore, I also find materialism superstitious as it sees the picture only - but never knocks at the door.

Nihilism ultimately reduces humans to recycled stardust with microscopic relevance, and doesn't grant the individual enough dignity (the ethic that made the west great). If the world is overpopulated - it simply says "most people should die" - which is not a healthy orientation towards your kin. I agree with nihilism up to a point - namely that humans in a sense have to find meaning and create an affirmative world view based on realism, but I also find that synonymous with discovering God. Get out of your way and then you find God! Then you can accept the world and recieve the law innstead of inventing a scewed one.

When one appreciates and loves life it looks more as if we are actually at the center of the universe, in a tiny oasis called earth - and we are watched. Reality is watched - not just an abandoned occurance in nowhere - but in the mind of God. This seems the most sensible human POV to me now, whereas materialism and nihilism indicates a lack of confidence in the human soul.

ajb said...

"Some suffering is spiritually creative but it has to be recognised that some suffering is simply due to the power of the demons in the world and forms no part of God's will."

One criticism I have of some Christians is they think suffering is the proper state for a Christian to be in *typically*. That there is something noble and proper about suffering. In a way, they make idols of suffering, of all things.

The problem is that this doesn't seem to jibe with most of Jesus' message. A lot of people focus on the suffering of Jesus on the cross, while missing this was a brief, transient state. Instead, Jesus' life was typified by love, peace, and joy, and his suffering on the cross can't be understood without understanding the glory of his resurrection.

(A reference will often be made to Jesus saying one has to 'pick up one's cross, and follow after him', incorrectly inferring he is referring to suffering instead of dying to oneself.)

Yes, suffering sometimes comes about as part of our vocation, in particular in response to persecution. Yet, the extent of emotional suffering is usually an indication of separation from God. A Christian should see his life having more and more incidences of joy, love, harmony, and so on. Emotional suffering is not usually an indication that one is doing things right, but that one is doing things wrong.

I don't think the point of most emotional suffering is to have solace in that suffering, but rather to *figure out what one is doing wrong and then do what is right instead.*

William Wildblood said...

ajb, I agree with what you say but would just add that God does "chastise those he loves" (Hebrews 12:6-7) and suffering does form a part of our spiritual education in that it can detach the ego from the self. In fact, I would say it's the only thing that really can except, perhaps, for love but that does it in a different way and you probably need both for the full work to be done.

What you refer to I think is people making an idol out of suffering, treating it as though it were a mark of virtue which it certainly isn't. But we do have to be stripped right back to the bone to be purified of our residual sins and take away our false image of ourself. We should not indulge in suffering and always strive to be cheerful but real joy will only come after death in most cases.

Unknown said...

I am sorry guys, I was unable to post the past few days.

Thanks for your reply William and Eric - both thoughtful and considered replies that help in my ongoing effort to understand these ideas.

I think Buddhism says that there are no independent selves, in other words, all selves exist in relationship with everything else. Indra's net, etc.

And likewise there are no independent things.

Everything is a web.

The question is how does this relate to notions of purpose, goal, and importance - goals are when we lack something and want to get it. Either we are not what we wish we were or we want something we don't have.

Buddhism says this goal-oriented behavior is the source of all suffering. If we understood ourselves correctly, we would realize we are perfect and lack nothing. We all have Buddha nature.

When you see life this way, the driven quality of life disappears and you are at peace with your self and the world - able to finally appreciate its beauty and magic without anxiety that you are inferior or need to acquire more things.

Now this also means life does not have weight, in the sense of importance - at bottom, it is a lighthearted affair in which nothing can truly go wrong.

I used the word nihilism to describe this attitude which is maybe eccentric but to deny purpose, goal, or importance to life can either mean life is so perfect it needs no improvement or life is so imperfect it is beyond redemption.

In the West, the starting assumption has always been that life and humans are imperfect - original sin is our dominant idea. In that context, to deny purpose, goal, or importance is to condemn life. We are terrible and there is nothing we can do about it. Give up and despair.

However, if ones starting assumption was that life and we ourselves are at a deep level perfect, then we would simply have no need for any goal, because what is there to accomplish? And life would not be a heavy and weighty affair because you can't lose - you can't lose at life.

Buddhism accepts the existence if God and gods who are on a superior stare to humans more or less as Bruce describes in his blog - a god who is not omnipotent. And one is frequently encouraged to turn to Gods for succor and help if needed. So it does not differ from all forms of Christianity.

I wonder if the major difference between Buddhism and Christianity can be described as a choice between the starting assumption of we are perfect or imperfect - in Christianity we are imperfect and in a state of lack, and must work really hard to acquire and gain and improve,and life is weighty and serious in that you can seriously lose. You are not already in a relationship with God and everything else and need to work really hard to get into that kind of relationship. In Buddhism, you lack nothing and are perfevt already, and already in a relationship with everything else - you merely don't realize this, and have to awaken to this fact. But life is fundamentally perfect and nothing needs to be gained.

Unknown said...

So at first sight Christianity seems to start from a position of opposition and split from the world - both ourselves and the world must be opposed and rejected in order to gain perfection.

However, I wonder if this is a misunderstanding - many sayings of Jesus suggest that we are already perfect and lack for nothing, and instead of goal oriented behavior we should put our faith in God and accept everything. And the whole notion if Sons of God can be interpreted as a suggestion that we are already in a state of perfection.

And the figure of St Francis seems to suggest a Christianity at one with nature and the world rather than striving to overcome it.

I also wonder if this pertains to Barfield's notion of Final Participation.If participation is something we can genuinely lose - and not just be under the delusion that we have lost as Buddhism says - then of course one must now strive hard to maintain participation.

But if participation is our birthright and we can't ever lose it, then ironically its the striving for it that may blind you to that fact. It's like the Zen saying the more you seen it the further from you it goes.

Unknown said...

I mean the more you SEEK it the further it recedes...

Unknown said...

That's why there's this curious similarity but difference between East and West, maybe, because they value the same thing but start from exactly opposite starting assumptions.

And yet not quite - there are forms of Buddhism that are about striving to perfect oneself rather than realizing one is already there, like Theravada, and there are forms of Christianity that assume the perfection of all, see no need to attain anythung, and so tell us simply to have faith in God and that all is well.

William Wildblood said...

A few quick thoughts in response to your comments.

I'm not sure if thinking in terms of us being perfect or imperfect is helpful. Clearly we are not perfect though there may be something within us that is uncorrupted. But what does perfect mean anyway? Is it something that is incapable of further growth? Surely not. A stone is a perfect stone but very limited compared to a plant let alone an animal. So perfection is not the issue. We need to be aware of imperfection to become more perfect on a higher plane.

As for there being no independent selves, this statement again can cause confusion. By its very nature an individual self is independent. That's what it means. But it is not isolated and does exist in relation to other selves. Buddhism, as so often, limits itself by looking at just one part of the picture. So it's not wrong in what it says but it is restricted in its outlook.

It's not being goal-orientated that is wrong. It is attachment to one's goals. Again, the fact of self is a good thing but the corruption of the self to self-centredness is the evil and the cause of suffering which Buddhism recognises but then throws the baby out with the bathwater. God wants us to be creative as he is and that means having goals but this should be in the context of an alignment with the spiritual self not the separate ego.

The Buddhist gods are part of creation so quite different to the Christian idea of God who is omnipotent, one etc. Bruce's conception of God is not one I share though I agree with him on many other things. But a God who is embedded in creation is not the real God in my estimation. Cannot be.

I suppose no one doctrine encompasses the whole of what are and what we have to do which is why there can be confusion if one sticks to any particular philosophy. The fact is, though, that Buddhism does negate the individual self in its pursuit of enlightenment and so it might be said to refuse the gift God offers his creation. Buddhism returns to the source but Christianity in my view seeks to extract the benefits from creation to make of the human soul something new.

Unknown said...

Thanks William -

I think instead of growth a better term might be unfoldment - perhaps we can see things as unfolding their nature. The child develop a into an adult, but both have their own kind of perfection. And a man of 70 is not in every way more perfect than a man of 40.

The Buddhist idea would be that a stone actually is alive, like in animism, and has Buddha nature just like we do, and that if life is a web of relationships the stone, by being a part of this, is part of the larger perfection.

It's interesting you mention a stone as being perhaps lower than a plant because while I love green and flowing countryside I have also always been deeply moved by deserts and canyons. I can't explain why such seemingly lifeless landscapes can touch me as much as a green forest, but maybe we are wrong in seeing stones as lifeless.

As for independent selves - would you accept the relationship of the self to everything else as that of a branch to the tree? The branch is distinct from the trunk but not independent of it, they exist together as part of one organism despite being distinguishable, and draw their life from the same source.

Or would you say the independence of the self is more pronounced than this - that the self exists entirely on its own and potentially completely cut off, but wishes to enter into relationship with other entirely independent selves as well.

And if so, does this mean that you one idea says relationship exists and the other that it must be created but the end state is the same? Entirely independent selves that enter into relationships can no longer said to be entirely independent. They remain distinct but their radical independence has lessened at least somewhat.

Or do you mean something else entirely that I do not understand.

And as for creativity, there seem to be two types - one is the driven, obsessive, perhaps anguished kind that is an attempt to supply a lack and the other is creating things of beauty our of joy in life - the first is driven by lack, the second by over-fulness.

The first kind if creativity seems goal oriented and to be characteristic of the modern West. The second type is not goal driven but spontaneous and expressive of a state that is already there and is characteristic of Medieval Western creativity and the art of Asia.

I agree with your remarks that Buddhist Gods are not the same as the Christian God. The Buddhist idea corresponding to the Christian idea of an uncreated God most closely would be the idea of a mystery underlying it all that is the support of all but we cannot get at intellectually - the Nothing. This leads to a kind of pantheism, also, and is quite different from mainstream Christianity but similar to the Christian mystics.

For a Buddhism negate the individual self? It negates the separate or unconnected self that exists without relation to anything else - or that can exist that way. Bit it does not deny that we exist as distinct beings - it says, of course you exist as you, but look deeper, and you will see can only exist as you along with everything else. So you aren't opposed to it or split off from everything else and there is no need for anxiety or that anxious driven quality of life.

Unknown said...

I also envision a life of creativity but one in which it is a joyful expression of harmony with the world rather than creativity driven by the need to supply a deficiency.

Such a creativity is not oriented towards growth or improvement but towards expressiveness of joy at the world. Perhaps like the Medieval cathedrals and craft traditions.

It seems to me that this is why God created the world - he created it, and behold, he saw that it was good. It expresses Gods joy and delight. And our delight can be to express the same state of fullness as God by celebrating some aspect of the world. In other words, art that is celebratory, like a beautiful cathedral, rather than art that seeks improvement, like modern art. And creation is endlessly mysterious, and we can never fully plumb its depths as we joyfully express aspects of it.

Now, isn't the idea of growth and improvement a modern idea and maybe a leftist idea? Isn't it the idea behind neo liberal economic systems based on perpetual growth, that has impoverished so many people in the West especially the working classes, and the growth of technology as an end in itself without regard to its impact on us or the world?

I would like to point out that there is n alternative to growth and improvement that is not mere inanition and passivity - action that expresses a pre-existing state of perfection joyfully rather than action oriented towards supplying a deficiency.

Unknown said...

I think the vision I am articulating here is life as celebration - the choir of angels signings Gods praises out of overflowing gratitude.

Not life as growth or improvement, but life as a hymn of gratitude to God and a celebration of his work - without an anxious driven quality but with faith that God is good.

Does any of this make sense?

The vision I am describing here seems to have been steadily diminishing in the modern period but I keep on thinking that I encounter it in the pre modern sacred traditions - but it is misleading because even in the ancient traditions it is by no means a simple story of the vision of life as celebration. Life as anxious striving towards growth exists side by side with life as celebration of wholeness in the ancient traditions and sometimes is even more pronounced, as in Theravada.

That is why all the endless debates about what Buddhism or Christianity truly is. But some traditions like Mahayana, Taoism, Zen, Catholicism and Orthodoxy, seem to really being out the non growth vision fairly well, although even here there is overlay and contradiction by the other vision.

Perhaps the task for us now in modern times is to finally consolidate the tradition of life as celebration rather than growth once and for all, as the modern period shows us the follies of a life of growth?

The two strands seem to have separated out in the modern period do we can see them more clearly, where a before they were always confusing my intertwined and now one, now the other dominating.

Perhaps the gift of the modern is to see the folly of life based on growth.

Or perhaps to create some kind of harmony between the two traditions as each may represent a different and legitimate human mentality?

Just throwing these reflections out there and seeing where they land - I realize we may have profound disagreements here.

William Wildblood said...

I didn’t say a stone was lifeless! There’s life in everything. What’s that saying? Life sleeps in a stone, wakes in a plant, moves in an animal and thinks in a man. Something along those lines.

I don’t think the self is like a branch on a tree. A bit like perhaps and I see what you’re saying but it has more independence than that. Everything is connected on the one hand but selves can also isolate themselves if they wish. That’s the consequence of oneness, multiplicity and free will, all of which exist.

When I talk about Buddhism I am mostly talking about it as taught by the Buddha. I really do think that the Mahayana was a response to the Christ impulse and so influenced by Christ in his universal form. But I can’t prove that, of course!

For the rest, I think your point about creation being like a celebration with the angels singing to God in gratitude is quite right. But the growth I talk about is like God or us always becoming more. The materialistic distortion of that is the wrong response on a lower level to a correct impulse. But the impulse towards greater unfoldment is correct. Growth or unfoldment, it’s the same, isn’t it? Behold! I make all things new is what it’s all about.

I think we are probably on the same page in many things but express ourselves a little differently.