Matt is someone whom I have recently met after he started commenting on A Tippling Philosopher’s facebook page. As a local, he was also interested in coming to The Tippling Philosophers, which we recently resurrected and look like having some interesting new additions, of which he is one. He’s a good bloke, and this is an interesting piece. Discuss away! – JP
I often state that I am a pantheist. As a pantheist, I believe that reality essentially is divinity. It’s really that simple – everything is God. I should state that there was some reservation in capitalising the word god: I do so, almost certainly in ignorance of some favoured convention, in order to retain something of the “all-ness” and “one-ness” associations possessed by the capitalised form used in the mainstream religions. Indeed, if the Universe is a single being, then a proper noun should serve. The effect on this proposition, of the Universe also being the totality of all things, should be observable by the end of this inquiry.
As a philosophical position, pantheism allows me to get on with, perhaps not ironically, everyone. In conversation with Christian thinkers, I generally receive the notion that God is in everything (panentheism). This, of course, implies that God is distinct from the things that it occupies, so is ultimately non-pantheistic, but it’s close. Hindu friends have often suggested their religion is pantheistic in nature (as well as, confusingly, polytheistic and panentheistic). In fact, there is some common ground with all religions, and discourse on pantheism can be found in most theologies. It also seems to offend scientific, and even atheistic thinkers less than the other theisms. For them it can be seen as a depersonalisation of the concept of God – perfect for their anti-bearded guy/creator rhetoric – and may even support materialism, when you consider that God is not a single “thing” within the Universe, but simply a nomenclature for the totality of things, whose definition can safely retain materialistic or even mechanistic properties.
But these aren’t my pantheism – for me, it is a necessary conclusion from a few basic premises.
- The Universe is the totality of all things, and all things are interconnected.
The first portion is tautologous perhaps, but let’s take a look at this. By The Universe, I mean, quite literally, everything that is. The totality of all things. I do not differentiate between real or imaginary things, since these latter are also by definition phenomena. Trees, dreams, me, you, galaxies. Perceptions, and things-in-themselves (if these exist). I also include parallel universes, multiverses, whatever there is, whatever is traversable, or even more simply, perceptible (whether currently or potentially). I suspect that time presents some difficulties here, and will attempt to deal with these later. As regards the multiverse, I propose that even here, there is a continuity of traversability – if black holes, for example, lead to big-bangs, then there is a sense of traversability between the parent and child “universes”. I am essentially asserting that there are no two “things” that are in no way connected.
- The Universe is one thing.
Those continuously traversable domains are in their totality, The Universe. Given its continuous traversability, I argue that it is, in fact, one single domain – manifold in its expression and form, but nevertheless a single domain. Total disconnectedness seems implausible, certainly “uncaused” (since any causal interaction would require connectedness). If disconnectedness is not possible, then this effectively proves at least deep interconnectedness, if not total traversability. Even setting these concerns aside – conceiving of a disconnected realm necessitates the idea of an intervening space, or at least barrier, between the disconnected realm and the, if I may, “master realm”, which implies a contradiction – since both realms would be limited by the same “intervening” phenomena, and thus are in fact, interconnected.
- Consciousness is in the Universe
We’re in the Universe and we’re conscious, this alone should suffice to prove the premise. Should even hold for solipsism.
- The Universe is Conscious
If the Universe is one thing, and within that one thing there are beings describable as conscious, then the Universe is conscious. A rock isn’t conscious, but the Universe is. The Rock is part of the Universe, an unconscious part of it. Consider that my left hand is not conscious, but remains a feature of a system (me) that possesses consciousness.
- God is The Universe.
What do I mean by God? Why is it not preferable to assert that we merely exist within a singular, conscious Universe? Why call this God? Oxford Dictionary definition of God:
“(in Christianity and other monotheistic religions) the creator and ruler of the universe and source of all moral authority; the supreme being.”
Oxford Companion to Philosophy – opening two sentences:
“The three main Western religions – Christianity, Judaism, and Islam – have all claimed that God is the supreme reality. Sometimes their thinkers have said that God is so great that we cannot say anything in human words about what he is like.” (RG Swinburne).
This says enough. God is regarded as:
- The creator
- The moral authority
I assert that these properties also belong to the singular, conscious Universe as described above. Spinoza held that there is only one substance, and that it is divine – hence his term “Deus sive natura” (God or nature) (PL Quinn).
If the Universe is conscious then it’s self-aware. In this sense, it’s personal – even if in some unimaginably complex manner. Even if there is no over-arching super-consciousness containing this unimaginable complexity, we can say that it is at least multi-personal – since everything is the Universe, and the Universe contains personalities.
The singular, conscious Universe (SCU) is transcendent in two senses. (i) If there is an over-arching super-consciousness, then this is beyond the grasp of ordinary, singular, human experience. (ii) If there is no over-arching super-consciousness, then the many-personalities contained within the Universe are, also, beyond the grasp of ordinary, singular, human experience. In either scenario, the SCU is transcendent.
- The creator.
I don’t believe that the Universe is necessarily its own creator, since for me the jury’s out on whether there was a beginning to the Universe. If metaphysical intuition is meaningful – for me, the Universe had no beginning, but I am yet to fathom a significant argument in support of this.
- The moral authority.
There can be no greater moral authority than either:
- An over-arching super-consciousness, aware of all perceptible material, all moral philosophies, and all pleasure and pain.
- The totality of all singular, but deeply interconnected minds, collectively aware of all perceptible material, all moral philosophies, and all pleasure and pain.
Having satisfied the generally held criteria for “God”, I believe the argument, or attempt thereat, is complete. Everything that is, is God. Whether it created itself or not doesn’t matter.