Sunday, June 23, 2019

Pandeism, Catholicism, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church

As the next book from the Pandeism Anthology series, Pandeism: An Anthology of the Creative Mind, will come out in August 2019, we are reflecting on a unique aspect of this series -- that we invite people of differing and even anti-pandeistic views to publish their views in our collections. Our first Anthology covered perspectives including Hinduism, Islam, Biblical Unitarian Universalism, and Atheism. Our second has pieces from perspectives including Judaism and Stoicism.

One topic which we intend to cover in a future writing is the interesting relationship between Pandeism and Catholicism. The position of the Church as to Pandeism is addressed to a degree in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, a work intended to be comprehensive, as such things go, in presenting the positions of the Roman Catholic Church on issues needing addressing. Within it, Part 1, Section 2, Chapter 1, Article I, addresses a certain set of philosophies thusly:

285 Since the beginning the Christian faith has been challenged by responses to the question of origins that differ from its own. Ancient religions and cultures produced many myths concerning origins. Some philosophers have said that everything is God, that the world is God, or that the development of the world is the development of God (Pantheism). Others have said that the world is a necessary emanation arising from God and returning to him. Still others have affirmed the existence of two eternal principles, Good and Evil, Light and Darkness, locked, in permanent conflict (Dualism, Manichaeism). According to some of these conceptions, the world (at least the physical world) is evil, the product of a fall, and is thus to be rejected or left behind (Gnosticism). Some admit that the world was made by God, but as by a watch-maker who, once he has made a watch, abandons it to itself (Deism). Finally, others reject any transcendent origin for the world, but see it as merely the interplay of matter that has always existed (Materialism). All these attempts bear witness to the permanence and universality of the question of origins. This inquiry is distinctively human.

Now I do grant that there are a great many metatheoretical theological variations out there, so it might seem unfair to ask that this Catechism cover all of them. But in higher circles of theological thought, both Panentheism and Pandeism are long-standing enough (both coined in Germany by the mid-1800s) and well-enough known that they at least merit passing mention in a work intended or supposed to be comprehensive as to Catholic thought. But perhaps, just as the reference to the 'myths' of those "ancient religions and cultures" is likely intended to encompass Polytheism without needing mention it by name, perhaps it is assumed that other theologies not mentioned by name are encompassed by those that are. There is, after all, commentary upon the notion that "the development of the world is the development of God" parenthesized as Pantheism (one element of Pandeism), though Pantheism alone does not encompass all formulations of this conception. And there is commentary upon Deism (the other element of Pandeism), though many species of Deist would take issue with the summary as eliding the deistic property of a deity discernible by reasoned examination of our Universe, such that even those never privy to one of the claimed divine revelations could discover this possibility.

Panentheism, interestingly, may have gone unaddressed for another reason altogether -- that being that there is often reason to correlate Catholic doctrine with Panentheism more than with pure Theism, as Panentheism pairs the theistic aspects of an overseeing, intervening deity with the pantheistic properties of everything within the Universe itself being "within God." Such assertions have not gone without controversy, as there are those within the Church who dismiss elements of Panentheism, and at the same time fret and grumble when others within the Church embrace those elements and deem them doctrinally sound. But this dissension is mild compared to those "renegade" elements of the Church who decry the movement of the larger body as a shift towards Pandeism itself, and go so far as to accuse Pope Francis of being a secret (or not-so-secret) Pandeist in his own right.

But this modern quandary had escaped mention in the Catechism itself. In fact, the Catechism's dismissal of the parts of Pandeism without considering the whole eerily mirrors that of Richard Dawkins, who otherwise stands quite opposite the Catholic Church in its conclusions. Dawkins put it somewhat more abruptly, even, contending that "Pantheism is sexed-up atheism. Deism is watered-down theism." Reading the Church's summaries of these philosophies, it is hard to imagine that the Catechism's authors would at all disagree with Dawkins' characterizations on this score, and would quite likely agree with whatever characterization Dawkins might arrive at as to Pandeism as well.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Pandeism and Suffering

What is the purpose of suffering? Of feeling pain far in excess of what is needed to keep us from injury? Many years ago I went on a snorkeling trip to Isla Espiritu Santo out of La Paz, in Baja California. I had too close of an encounter with a patch of fire coral!! The pain was intense and I was stunned to the point that I feared I would drown!! After dragging myself to the surface, I got my friends to pull me over the side of the wooden boat we'd rented. I flopped like a caught fish, gasping from the burning that pulsed through my hands, shoulders, stomach and chest.

I had by then long since settled on Pandeism as my guiding spiritual principle, but as I lay there I wondered, why a thinking, designing Creator -- especially one destined to share in our sensations -- would create a Universe where such pain would be possible. The secretions of the fire coral, though dangerous in large doses, were not so deadly that my body should go so far to warn me away from such contact. The burning persisted for days, gradually declining, but forever marking my memory with that moment.

As I healed I came to realize that some suffering lets us know the blessing of the time when we are not suffering. The Creator that became the Universe did so in order to experience those things that it could not know -- not only pleasure for its own sake, but the pleasure of overcoming pain, even of escaping from suffering in the final surrender that comes with death. I was grateful that, over all those hours that I suffered from the fire coral burns, it touched only one surface of my body. Laying on my back on cool sheets helped ward off the pain.

Many look back on their painful experiences as psychic scars, shuddering to relive them but forever forgetting to cast a relative eye on their current and future circumstances. I revel in the fact that I was burned by fire coral precisely because this was a moment of revelation, a breakthrough. I revel because I healed; those parts of me that were in pain were ultimately at peace. And, I may be grateful to know that I am capable of enduring and surviving such a thing, and doubly that with such pain as I am capable of enduring, I am not now enduring it.

In a short time (compared to the life of the Universe), those who are living in this moment will no longer be, and whatever suffering we know now, will be known no more. And in some time beyond that, we all may return to the oneness which we all first came from, sharing all of these memories and sensations. You, my friends, may know how I felt at the moment I was burned with fire coral in the Gulf of California; and the seeming bliss of cool sheets against my back as I healed; you will know my joy and my peace when the pain had finally passed, and indeed my relative pleasure in all but a few moments of my life. Most parts of most of us rarely suffer, but we do not bother to recognize absence of suffering as a significant benefit. But in the end, the absence of suffering might resonate in our shared experience most resoundingly, for our suffering is fleeting even as joy endures eternal.

Most particularly, we may share the joy of knowing how much better we spent most of our lives feeling than could have been the case!!

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Pandeism: An Anthology of the Creative Mind -- title page

Pandeism: An Anthology of the Creative Mind is coming soon....

Here is the title page:



Authors who have written or released materials for this book include an outstanding group of contributors to a variety of areas of philosophical thought (alphabetically, by surname):


  • Michael Minogue (student submission, Illinois)

  • Amy Perry (transcendental poet, United States)

  • Scott Somerville (student submission, Canada)

  • Jayson X (World Union of Deists, United States)

Friday, July 06, 2018

Is Reality a Simulation?

Our brilliant friend Antonin Tuynman has recently put together a quite masterfully assembled anthology of articles on the question of Simulation Hypothesis -- the proposition that our Universe is in fact possibly simply a simulation being run on the system of somebody else's Universe.  With contributions from Dante Rosati, Tim Gross, Knuje Mapson, Eva Deli, Alex Vikoulov, Donald King, Sean Byrne, Dirk Bruere, Matt Swayne and, naturally, Antonin Tuynman -- it is available in print form via Lulu.com, and in electronic form via Amazon.com.



And here is the first page of the Pandeism chapter -- which chapter actually covers a great deal of ground beyond Pandeism -- love to see how it plays out across the printed page!!



Monday, April 30, 2018

This is not a sphere.

This is not a sphere.

This is, instead, a 2D representation of a 3D collection of points, arranged in lines, which themselves would not constitute any single solid surface. On close enough inspection, the lines themselves are neither solid nor consistent in their architecture. And yet we perceive it as a sphere.

This, then, is a reminder that not everything need happen for all experiences to be approximated. A Creator need not set forth a Universe in which every possible thing happens to learn about what sorts of things might happen. What we have, instead, is a Universe which generates trillions of actual experiences (consider all our experiences, every day of our lives, across all the lifetimes ever lived) and trillions of trillions more possible extrapolations of experience. Blessings!!


Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Chris Fisher - Traditional Stoicism And How It Fits With Pandeism

Excellent interview -- achieving truly great depth in discussion of some very deep concepts -- well done!!