INTEGRAL WORLD: EXPLORING THEORIES OF EVERYTHING
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
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is a sociologist student in the Certificate program leading to a Master's degree in Integral Theory at JFK University.
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Does it make sense to think of 'God' after modern and postmodern criticism? Does 'God' even 'exist' in addition to our conceptions? I think 'it' does.
Does it make sense to think of 'God' after modern and postmodern criticism? Does 'God' even 'exist' in addition to our conceptions? I think 'it' does and that 'it' is essential to any thought process and experience, including those deemed to be 'integral'. First of all, if 'God' cannot be defined using an always incomplete sequence of contingent terms, I think that we must include and transcend the concept that only that which possesses exteriority is 'actual' or 'actually' exists. In relation to 'God', the phrase 'to exist' and 'actuality' refers to the ultimate Source of etymologic and ontologic meaning.
Trying to expound on what I consider as St. Anselm of Canterbury's “rational and transrational revelation,” I'll restate that if “God” is necessarily conceived as the Ultimate Supreme Being; as being of which nothing greater can be conceived; as that which cannot be conceived as less than absolutely infinite and perfect, then, because of this very conception, by necessity and according to reason, “He-She-It-We” must exist. 'God' must exist whether considered actual or potential (because even potential existence 'is'). Whether 'God' is personal, impersonal, both or neither is besides the point. The Source of being, Being itself, cannot be limited to the consideration that only 'actual' (here meaning externally verifiable) things exist. God must exist because, without existing, He wouldn't be that of which nothing greater can be conceived.
For lack of greater terms, the words 'infinite' and 'perfect' come to mind but they do not refer to 'things' or even to mathematical ideas (as Cantor showed that the human mind can conceive of greater and lesser infinities). The definition of 'God' as unsurpassable Being wouldn't be conceived without 'God' existing and being recognized. Again, “God” wouldn't even be conceivable as unsurpassable (and as necessarily 'infinite' and 'perfect' in an absolute sense) if it didn't exist. Furthermore, 'God' would be the only referent for which its conception necessarily refers to a true, or rather, to an 'actual' existent beyond the limits of conceptual contingency. “God” is not 'defined into existence' because He is beyond a 'thing' that can be contrasted or compared and whose definition might or might not stand for its actual reality. These are very subtle considerations stemming from a transcendental link in our own beings, a link that is ultimately indefinable but which allows us to think in relative and, even, in absolute terms. We have, we are the recognition of 'God' embedded in us and not only as a necessity with 'survival value'. It is more fundamental than that. In fact, “God” would be the origin of the capacity to define a 'thing' as such and, quite unlike contingent 'things'; its self-reference would remain logically adequate. Only this Being would reconcile etymological and ontological understandings. “God” -thus understood- is what we could refer to as 'Absolute Being', the Source of self-reference, standing at once (or as “The One” as Plotinus might say) outside and inside of that self-reference, panentheistically escaping solipsism.
St. Anselm would say that “God is that against whom nothing greater can be conceived.” Because the mind normally understands that 'perfection' cannot be surpassed, this superlative and absolute greatness is understood as 'perfection'. As mentioned, it wouldn't even be possible to conceive of an inexistent 'perfection' if we understand 'perfection' as that which lacks nothing. Thus, as St. Anselm tried to show, it's impossible to think of perfection without necessarily thinking that that perfection exists. Nevertheless, I think he was trying to refer to 'absolute perfection', not to the kind of 'perfection' as a contingent conceptual thing that can be surpassed through mathematics and modern logic. In other words, the very thought of (absolute) 'perfection' wouldn't even be possible without the existence of that (absolute) perfection and, since the thought is possible and experienced (exists along with our recognition of our own thinking), therein lies the proof. Differently said, the actual existence of (absolute) 'perfection' is contained in the idea of (absolute) perfection. Nonetheless, this (absolute) 'perfection' entails a degree of reality that encompasses its apparent negation and potentiality. It is the 'all possibility' referred to by esoteric ecumenist, metaphysician and 'Sophia Perennis' proponent, Fritjoff Schuon (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frithjof_Schuon). If we conceived of a 'perfect island' (as a monk called Gaunilo thought against Anselm's argument) it wouldn't necessarily exist in actuality. I agree because it wouldn't entail absolute perfection as the concept of a perfect 'God' does because -in thinking about this island- we also are referring to a thing which –however perfect- can be contrasted or compared to (perhaps another 'perfect' island?). As we'll soon realize, only God can compare to God and only God's perfection compares to itself.
This Absolute Being's existence becomes necessary not only to think but (as Descartes) also to realize -in the recognized fact of our thinking- that we are. Thus, the one ontology, the one existence we can be sure beyond all doubt (our existence) is inextricable from the fact that we can think and recognize that we think. Only Absolute Being (which transcends any inappropriate, solipsistic self reference used as the way to demonstrate that a thing is) is the thinking, the Source of recognition and being. Understanding and ontological reality coincide. This being common to understanding and ontology transcends and includes (or allows) thinking styles, logics, realisms, idealisms and, even, Buddhist and postmodern arguments against definite existents and certainties. Pure Being, pure 'isness' transcends and includes in an Integral manner all plausible stages and degrees of sophistication about 'God' in thought and coincides with personal recognition and experience. It is the wordless, mystical 'experience' of consciousness without an object, of radical oneness of which anything that can be said is a metaphor. It is the Essence that remains after all definitions (as definitions) are understood as 'incomplete' or, even, as 'empty'.
Every recognition of anything (including an idea) solipsistically (and simultaneously transcendentally of any further contingent contrasts and re-definitions) first recognizes being itself and this traces back to the one stable, perfect, absolute Being which remains behind all modifications. Without this Being, already implicit and necessary in the simple recognition that that which is is, no other recognition or thought would be possible. It wouldn't even be possible to say that, because something is defined as 'perfect', it doesn't mean that it must exist. The existence of this universal Being in all particulars (or, rather, allowing all particular expressions of it), the existence of this I AM THAT I AM, becomes necessary for thinking anything, even its denial. Furthermore, the existence of this Being becomes necessary whether expressed as an exterior, physical, subtle or causal actuality or potentiality.
Anselm, of Canterbury, St. (1077). Proslogium
Blackburn, S. (2005). Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Schuon, F. (2000). Survey of Metaphysics and Esoterism. Bloomington: World Wisdom.