What Transcendence Means
Why God is Such a Difficult Concept for People
Part of what seems to be a problem with how we talk about this concept is the fact that it does not have an ontic referent that shares the characteristics of how we, as minded primates, conceptualize the world.
I was reading through The Basics of the iQuad Coin today, and came across this passage about the concept of “Marrying the Coin to the Tree in the Garden Under God.”
The first part of this saying means that you work to get into “right relation” with what is the case. One way to do that is to see your self as a (1) wave of energy information that is also (2) a material object in space and time that is also (3) a living organism that is also (4) a minded animal that is also a (5) self-conscious cultured person, all in a nested “ontic epistemic functional identity matrix” that can be seen from the inside-out (represented by the Coin) or outside-in (represented by the Tree of Knowledge). In doing this, you are aligning your subjective world with the world as mapped by science.
That “wave of energy information” reminded me of the UTOK Theory of the Week, in which Monday is “Void Darkness Day.”
The idea occurred to me that God, “the Alpha and the Omega,” precedes the realm of Void Darkness and Mathematics. A lot of people get hung up on that and think “you’re saying there’s a secret sauce to all of it?!”
“The question of Creation is ontological — it is the modal plausibility of the existence of any physical state at all.” — David Bentley Hart
As though math itself wasn’t a secret sauce, I respect the critical point. “You’re saying there’s an intelligent being who created all of this.”
No, I’m not. I’m saying that Being, pure Being, transcends all of these categories, including time. That’s part of what is of such value in turning to God in prayer for forgiveness and direction. It is to say, “Please let me let go of my egoic, personic, and experiential selves in favor of a frame which allows me to best make use of my salience landscape to increase my agency within this arena.”
So why the term God? Part of what seems to be a problem with how we talk about this concept is the fact that it does not have an ontic referent that shares the characteristics of how we, as minded primates, conceptualize the world.
The term God is paradoxical for us, because it is symbolically represented in scripture in ways that link it to human ideas of being with a lower case b.
Scripture does that because it has to in order to form a coherent, intelligible narrative. God becomes a character in a story. In the Abrahamic past, “Father” had specific overtones deliberately intended to be connoted, but this is no dictate for how we need think today.
Some have said, “Nevertheless, I can’t abide by this. Due to the history, the word is too laden with Patriarchal, oppressive overtones.”
Fine, but what do we use in its place? People have proposed “Universe,” but that term limits itself to the varieties described in the Theory of the Week. The only seemingly sufficient candidate that I have heard is “Source,” which does have the capacity for that transcendence.
But replacing God with a term that has no human overtones, strips of us of our ability to cognize it, unless we’ve done a considerable amount of theological work.
Further, while the term “God” may have good cause for being replaced, millions of people still find it useful in their daily prayer life. Throwing the onion out with the skin cuts us off from the potential to participate with these people in mutual reverence, humility, piety, and, well, honesty about the vastness of that which we can not (yet?) comprehend or understand.
UTOK happily uses the term (with caveats) in its symbolism, albeit despite its paradoxical self description as an agnostic, atheistic, syncretistic system. (Why not transtheist? Or metatheist? How can you have a concept of God while also being without a theity?) It’s one of the things I love about the system — it’s totally grounded in the Culture of the Absence of Faith, while still leaving a door for the religiously inclined to visit for the psychological care and scientific understanding they need.
If you really feel that you don’t need an idea for that which exceeds our ability to notate or chart, God bless you. I’m certainly aware that I have no capability to change your mind.
In the meanwhile, I find so much help personally by using the word in an old-fashioned cognitive psychotechnique called “prayer.” I can only say that I wish I could share it with you. And that, my friends, is part of the isolation inherent in the Meaning Crisis.