Thursday, 5 May 2016

An Anchorite's Advice

(The Cathedral of St Corentin.)

A work of fiction by Poul Anderson or, in the case of The King Of Ys, by Poul and Karen Anderson can generate discussion of any important issue:


I have been learning about the nature of gods by rereading Ys.

The Christian hermit, Corentinus, advises Gratillonius:

"' not all Creation a miracle? Look around you, my son, and think.'
"'...think. Look around you at God's world and ask yourself how it could have come to be and what this life of ours is all about. Think.
"' your mind. Listen. Think.'" (Gallicenae, pp. 149, 151-152)

What do I agree with? Yes, Creation is a miracle although this leaves open the question of whether particular miracles occur. Gratillonius has just witnessed an undoubted miracle but that is because this is a work of fantasy. The Andersons incorporate an implausible legend into their narrative.

" [the world] could have come to be...
"' all about...
"' your mind. Listen.'"

This is all sound advice but it is the project of the natural philosophers and of modern scientists. The latter have formulated scientific cosmogony and Darwinism, non-theistic explanations of the universe and life. I thought that the question why there is being instead of nothing was forever metaphysical but now physicists discuss quantum fluctuations in the vacuum and the momentary creation and mutual annihilation of particle anti-particle pairs in the void. (See here.) I do not share Corentinus' assurance that thought about the world must lead to monotheist, let alone to Christian, conclusions.

There are three traditions in Western Europe:

the intellectual/philosophical/scientific tradition from Thales;
the prophetic tradition from Abraham;
an occult tradition from Hermes.

Official ideology synthesized the prophetic and philosophical traditions and suppressed occultism. Aquinas thought that philosophical reasoning would lead unerringly to monotheism whereas philosophers in general do not agree on this or on anything else.

Sangharakshita, the Founder of the Western Buddhist Order, observed that Buddhism, based from the beginning in philosophical and spiritual inquiry, developed from within itself distinctive philosophical systems and spiritual practices and did not need to adopt or adopt any already existing philosophical tradition. The Buddha's analysis of consciousness and the world led to teachings of impermanence and emptiness.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

But I do believe that pondering on how the world or universe began can lead to conclusions that do not contradict Christian faith and belief. After all, it was a Catholic priest from Belgium, Georges Lemaitre, who worked out the "cosmic egg" theory (more familiarly known as the Big Bang) of how the universe began.

And Buddhist theories about the impermanence and emptiness of the universe leads me to dismiss it as, ultimately, a philosophy of despair.


Paul Shackley said...

"Emptiness" means not nothingness but absence of any permanent, underlying substance in individual subjects or objects. I suppose that does seem nihilist to someone who believes in immortal souls.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

No offense is meant, but to say that NOTHING is permanent has to logically look like nihilism. I hold that God is the ultimate Cause of all that exists.