The following is the response I made to someone’s comments regarding the nature of God on Google+ I imagine if you are interested in finding the full conversation you can do a search on Google+ but I did not consider my previous entries to be important enough to affect the following writing that it was necessary to ask the other speaker for permission to publish the conversation. If he has a particularly interesting reply to the following that I then follow up on then I may ask his permission to publish the conversation in its entirety.
The topic is the nature of God. Which I do not believe to be an anthropomorphically imagined old man sitting in the sky with a long white beard. Such, is a ludicrous idea that is far less appealing than believing in Santa Claus. I believe God instead to be infinite and omnipresent; to a contemporary reader a good starting point would be to consider the Force in StarWars though that is far more limited in conception than what I consider God to be as well. Anyway, read on.
Those who say they have a degree of understanding of god say they could explain it to us but we would simply be unable to understand. That is why spiritual masters seem to be somewhat inscrutable, instead of explaining to us in words they try to prepare us. They treat us like children until we are ready to understand and then we realise all by ourselves.
Language is precise enough to explain how to build a computer but if you were to explain it to a 5 year old would he be able to build a computer? Lead him into a certain pattern of life though and 20 years later down the line he might become an engineer at Apple. We are like children spiritually, we have to grow and learn, then we won’t need people to understand because we will realise when we are ready. The destination is not the point, the journey is the point. If life was all about the destination then we would be constantly hoping to die as soon as possible because what else is the final destination in life, but people prefer to walk in parklands and drink wine, to read books and chat with friends. These are all about the journey, not the destination.
The development of greater understanding does not belittle what we have learnt before. I read the Lord of the rings when I was nine, I loved it but when I read it when I was in my twenties it seemed like a completely different book. Instead of loving the first two books the most as I had before, I enjoyed the third book far more. This did not take away the enjoyment I had when I was nine though. Everything that happens on the journey is of importance. Often when we progress we find that what we left behind was what we really wanted all along. Consider youth, when we are very young we wish to be grown up but when we are grown up we realise we are closer to death and those childhood years are irredeemably behind us.
As for your problem with God being outside the universe he can be outside the universe and inside the universe at the same time, that is what omnipresent means. The whole point with God is that he isn’t limited by the same things that limit us. For instance, we are held to the ground by gravity. Imagine hypothetically that there were such a thing as anthropomorphic Gods; perhaps Thor the god of thunder. Now if he hypothetically existed, and you imagined his existence then do you think that he would be limited by gravity in the same way as us? If I remember my comic books Thor would throw his hammer and it would pull him through the air. Ludicrous, but this is hypothetical. I will be surprised if you should imagine that such a mythical god as Thor, god of thunder would be limited in the same way as us. If he were then he would more likely be something like Thor, god of serving tables at cafe rouge on Brighton pier or Thor god of installing broadband for Virgin in region 14. Not really what a god is traditionally thought to be. But lets escape the idea of such a ridiculous image as an anthropomorphic god conjured up to explain the rumblings in the sky as a member of a vast pantheon.
Having established to my own satisfaction at least even if not yours that a god is by definition not limited in the same way as human beings to obeyance of physical laws may I ask you what you think about mathematics. It occurs to me that mathematics must exist because without it I could not work out how to pay my bills yet even the mathematicians themselves admit that they work with imaginary members. Mathematics can exist even when you do not have things to count. Do you imagine that once we escape the limits of space that mathematics might cease to work? Physics is a different matter; people often debate the laws of physics and hypothesise that physics may work differently in different places but mathematics is immutable. Even outside time mathematics will exist. A good question would be whether mathematics continues to exist when there is no one to think in numbers, very similar to God, but then as God is unlimited and omnipresent then he must as well as all other things encompass mathematics. If mathematics can exist both outside the universe and inside the universe then it would not be logical to deduce that mathematics had a greater reach than a philosophical concept that is defined as being omnipresent and unlimited.
I have already described how the carousing pagan warriors fearing the sounds made by the sky invented their god of thunder. I imagine a Christian might laugh at them as being primitive even whilst believing in their own controversial creator of all. It is possible that religions will die out soon as the world grows more logical. I personally believe religions will die out very soon. I think they are all a load of hocum, I just don’t believe God will because of my personal views on what God is. Once again if we consider a hypothetical situation of religions not dying in the near future, perhaps they continue for another thousand years; as far beyond contemporary Christianity as they are beyond the Norse warriors. Wouldn’t the developments made in culture and world view lead their God to be one which would leave them laughing at the primitive Christians of the 21st century? If we leap ahead another thousand years from there maybe they will again laugh at our imaginary future believers with the same contempt they showed to our contemporaries; the same contempt our contemporaries show the Norse.
Maybe sometimes their beliefs would be more rational than those currently held, maybe sometimes they would be less rational. Perhaps the Spaghetti monster will be discovered by future students of philosophy and perhaps they will not recognise his satirical nature. The point is that there are many different conceptions of what God maybe. Admittedly none of them are accurate; even though I am a believer I will grant you that. However as we evolve and our minds become more powerful as they may well have done over the last 50000 years our ideas develop. It is a little arrogant to assume that because something does not make logical sense to the primitive man apes of the 21st century that it therefore cannot be. Imagine how our conception of the world might be if we had a brain twice as large as we have now; very different. What if we evolved two brains. Perhaps this is a bad example as we have a bihemispheric brain but imagine we evolved four brains then; our world view and any God we imagined would be very different. I was watching an interview with Laurence Krauss last night to publicise his new book on the origins of the universe and although he is a staunch anti creationist it occurred to me that many of his ideas were considered by many in the field of theoretical physics to be impossible. I would not go so far as to say heretical but then Galileo saw plenty of that for his contributions to physics.
The central tenet of science in my mind is that until you prove something it can not be said to be a fact. Certainly things like the evolutionary theory carry the name theory but really very few of us would doubt that it adequately explains the development of every living thing on the planet though there is still not a universally accepted theory in the scientific community as to exactly how life was originally sparked. I like to think that there may have been a number of different triggers as it would give more hope of extra-terrestrial life elsewhere. However, my point is that God is not the sort of thing that is open to being disproved. As I said, I believe in evolution. Creationists say that God created the universe in seven days or some poppycock but to me it seems God, which I will colourfully describe as having some direction, even if it is only an urge to greater complexity, with a mind (pardon the expression, I cannot find a more adequate word), the size of the universe and everything beyond it, would most likely seek to develop complicated biological organisms through testing every possibility over billions of years and allowing those who fail to die out. Simply because evolution has been proven, in my mind at least, beyond all reasonable doubt does not mean that such a concept as God cannot exist. And without proof science cannot positively deny God’s existence.
I am very fond of Julian Jaynes’ theory of the bicameral mind leading to the belief in God. The idea that millennia ago the two hemispheres of our brain were separate and as they grew together to become vaguely linked as they are now, the subconscious mind in one hemisphere started to communicate with the conscious mind in the other hemisphere. The subconscious mind is of course privy to information that the conscious mind cannot deal with due to filtering systems built into consciousness so the subconscious would give directions and commands based upon the more complete picture of any situations in which the owner of the brain would find themselves. These commands would seem to be voices from God that the person would act upon to their benefit and then consider it to be the input of a supernatural being. Perhaps this is an explanation for the phenomenon of atman.
Richard Dawkins described this theory as being “one of those books that is either complete rubbish or a work of consummate genius, nothing in between! Probably the former, but I’m hedging my bets”. I am sure there are many theories to explain these sorts of ethereal voices but for personal reasons I believe this one has potential. However, it does not explain God as atman is merely a psychological phenomenon; what about paramatma? The words of the Pete Townshend song ‘O Parvardigar’ taken from the universal prayer written by Merwan Sheriar Irani, known to his followers as Compassionate Father, or Meher Baba, read in part, “You are the Beyond God and the Beyond-Beyond God also; You are Parabrahma; Paramatma; Allah; Elahi; Yezdan; Ahuramazda, God Almighty, and God the Beloved.” I would be surprised if this idea that God or Allah or whatever you prefer, due to his nature being ‘the beyond god and the beyond beyond god also’ is new. The problem with a concept that is defined as the manifestation of infinity and omnipresence is that, even if with a primitive monkey brain that has only been able to write its thoughts on paper for a few thousand years, you are able to define what it is that causes people to believe in it then you are still overlooking the fact that due to this infinite nature you have only actually succeeded in explaining the tiniest part of it. So far those seeking to destroy God are looking only on its effects on the human mind, but like an imaginary number it exists on such a large scale that if we were to fully explore it then the universe would have eventually atrophied to nothing before we had succeeded.