Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Paths to the Inexplicable

Current scientific cosmology tells us that as we go back in time we lose organization, we lose complexity, space shrinks and eventually we come to something called a singularity, which is next to nothing.  In this view, more arises from less; the logical conclusion of more arising from less is that something arises from nothing.  That something can arise from a nothing, however, is inexplicable.

Western religious cosmology tells us that for all eternity there is a “More,” a God or Absolute, and at some point in eternity, this More gives rise to lesser creatures like us.  The presence of  this superabundant being from the git-go is inexplicable.

Thus, both scientific and religious cosmologies lead us back to the inexplicable.

Can any reasonable cosmology escape the inexplicable?  I don’t think so. But there is an interesting middle ground between the view of Western Science and Western Religion on this topic.  If we are to escape the inexplicable at the base of getting more from less, than we have to posit an eternal something.  (Here eternal can mean either an endless sequence of time or that which exists outside of, and gives rise to, time.)  But that eternal something does not have to be “a More.”   It could be the simplest something capable of giving rise to more.  It could be merely the potential for being – a potential that inevitably become actualized.   This is the nature of Lao Tze’s Tao.

Western theology posits its deity as grand and splendid.  Its predominant analogy is with the earthly King or Emperor.  Its focus is power.  The Jews sought power but were constantly under the feet of conquering forces.  The Christians aligned with the Roman Emperor and became themselves imperial.  Islam created its own empire by force.  (The best way to beat the devil, it seems, is to become the devil.)

Old Lao Tze had seen enough of empire to think it the opposite of the divine.  For Lao, the divine was the lowest and the humblest.  It was the soil into which the seed could be planted and the water which brought the plant forth.  In this cosmology, the eternally Less “gives” rise to ephemerally More.  But the Giver and the Given are a two that is also One; even less than one, perhaps, but never quite a None.  Inexplicable still, yet humanely so.

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