The cosmic duh

There are some things that cannot be verified or falsified. These would include all axioms of logic; even those of post-modern “paraconsistent” logics, wherein the very Law of Non-Contradiction is (implausibly) denied, but which are axiomatic on their own terms. We are out of science and into faith territory when we discuss logic; or the principles of mathematics for that matter. All we can say is that the world makes sense if the axioms are correct; or if they’re not, then the world makes no sense at all and everything we know is illusion, including, “cogito ergo sum.”

From the point of view of “science,” or “human knowledge” more comprehensively, God is not an hypothesis, but an axiom. Start in Aristotle, if you will, to see it demonstrated: that the world makes no sense, has no purchase on sense, without that Unmoved Mover. The “Five Ways” by which the inevitability of God was demonstrated by Thomas Aquinas in my beloved XIIIth century, and the related ways in which this was done by others before and after him, are easily misunderstood, because they are not proofs of an hypothesis but, as it were, recursions to an axiom. They show that nothing makes sense without this axiom: motion or change, causation in itself, being in itself, gradation, direction to an end — none are conceivable except from the uncritically axiomatic Still Point. This cannot be hypothesized. It is too simple for that. It must be taken on faith, like math or logic. You need to assume it in order to get anywhere. And when you pretend you are not assuming it, really you are. For you need it even to contradict it: you need that metaphysical Still Point from which to proceed.

I should think that “post-modern,” or at least, post-existentialist developments in “natural theology” (not the theology of nature, but theology constructed without Revelation, from reason and experience alone) — thinkers like Jean-Luc Marion — are onto something when they say that we wrongly attribute  “causation,” “being,” “ends” and the like, to God. But as Marion and others suspect, they are onto nothing new: just a new way of expressing the same old inexpressibles. That, when we come to it, Christ the Messiah must be accepted as pure and perfect Gift; and that the Holy Spirit brings a peace that is quite beyond understanding.

There is not merely an extreme difference between our being and God’s being. It is instead a case in which, by our standards, God can have no “being” at all. He is prior to being; He is being’s ultimate cause; as, too, the cause of causation, the end beyond ends. These are not relative terms. To my mind, what follows is that God does nothing without angels; or nothing without mediation; or in some mystical sense, nothing at all. He does not in any way need his Creation, which lies necessarily outside Himself. There can be no gradations, between we and He, such as we are small and He is large. All such are only metaphors. Any other position implies pantheism, which is atheism by halves: it affirms immanence only to deny transcendence.

Yet we must affirm transcendence without denying immanence.

We are created in His image. What can this mean but that we are endowed with an irreducible “spark” of the same axiomatically perfect Stillness, from which we proceed, and would proceed inerrantly, were it not for the subverting Adam within us all. But that “spark” remains, and is ineradicable, immortal. (Or one might call it freedom: which is what makes the evil we do so terrible, for it is not involuntary.)

Too, we were made to resemble Christ: the perfect self-giving of this Triune God, prior to all being. The embodiment of Christ is beyond thinking. But so is the embodiment of ourselves. For even to begin thinking of ourselves as being, we must consider ourselves from a standpoint in which we are not, or could never have been — penetrating the counterfactual by means of this “spark,” which makes us unlike any other animal. The situation resembles what they call a “singularity” in physics, but is more fundamental. Through faith, we look beyond being.

Observe, now by Revelation, that God is Love, not being; and that on Love, all being depends. That in persona Christi, walking as He did, in history, upon this earth, we have Love, embodied. That God, beyond all being, brought Himself even into being, and for Love: descending below all His angels, and conceiving Himself in the Virgin’s womb.

For some time I’ve been trying to get my mind around that: about what is axiomatically true, bound to what is true by Revelation, and for that very reason beyond thinking, and beyond that beyond. Or to put this another way, it is the Mystery, in itself impenetrable, but out of which all things come; the Mystery presented in that little disk, given at the Mass, of Christ Incarnate.

This thought is not reducible, nor reductive. Were it so, there would have to be some original being, some primordial but particular egg or atom, to which God could be reduced. The universe might be so reduced, and was, in the hypothesis of Georges Lemaître (the so-called “Big Bang”); but the universe is not God. At one hundred billionth the breadth of a proton, that cosmic egg from which we were hatched would be far too large. Ditto, at one hundred trillionth, and with a whole multiverse tucked inside. We are NOT dealing here with gradation, and the relativists can all go fly.

Or, to bring out paradox in a season of folly: to be an atheist is to believe too much. It involves too much clutter. It is to deny a god who would first have to be created. It is to hypothesize a god, then deny or disprove one’s own hypothesis — missing the point that God is not an hypothesis; indeed, that without God, no hypothesis were possible, for there could be nothing to hypothesize about. Then, in the face of all this, to stipulate Nothing, from beginning to end. As the Psalmist pointed out, only a fool would do that.