Conclusion: Divine Imagination

Iluvatar said to them, ‘Behold your Music! This is your minstrelsy; and each of you shall find contained herein, amid the design that I set before you, all those things which it may seem that he himself devised or added.’ – J.R.R. Tolkien

            I set aside in this short chapter my reservations here and say, I do believe in God. I believe in the Divine Imagination, the symphony of all truths on the spectrum from science to mathematics; I can see no out from it, no recourse from its presence in any corner of the universe. I grant to you readily that I may have, at some point, or more correctly, probably at many points, made errors. But I have tried to account for them as best as I could, and tried to show that, even in error, the concepts lend themselves to a belief in the truth of things even beyond my error. As I said at the outset, making a case for the existence of God cannot be like making a case for the existence of a species of frog, because God is not like frogs, or like unicorns, or like spaghetti monsters or perfect islands or any of those silly examples those hostile to the belief will posit. The case for God is not in science alone, but, as I have said, in the interdisciplinary function of all means of knowledge-making.

If this argument I have set down gets any kind of readership, I suspect it will be attacked in many different ways, both kindly from fellow believers in God, viciously from believers in another kind of God, kindly from good hearted agnostics and atheists, and viciously from other atheists. In the event that my argument is simply bad, it will probably get little readership anyway, and what can I do about that? Nothing, really. However, I do not think this argument should be treated like a children’s game where you stack sticks in a tall tower, and pulling out just a few, the whole thing collapses. I think it would be very rash, and missing the spirit of the argument altogether, to simply show some weak points and say, Ah ha, your argument is a failure! I see this argument less like such a tower, and more like a large raft. The raft may have some rotten or broken planks, but we should not cast ourselves into the sea on their account; we should, instead, hope to find better rafts and planks to put in their place. That is not to say that my argument should not be disagreed with; far from it. But I think that if you are going to take a raft away from some ragged sailors drifting out at sea, you had better think of a better one to give them, or in the end, you’re really not being terribly fair. If my raft isn’t floating, show me where the water is coming in, but don’t push me overboard, please!

It has not been my goal to “disprove” atheism, as it has been the goal, lately, of atheists to disprove Christianity or other theistic beliefs. I am not interested in disproving other people’s worldviews; I don’t think it is a very productive way to spend my time. This short work is not an attack, and not really a defense, though the language of defense has in some places been unavoidable (argumentation has that quality, I often find). It is instead, I think, a fairly good set of ideas which hang together rather plausibly, and show that those who believe in God are not merely anti-intellectual fools who have no care for evidence. They hang together conceptually in a way fitting as do colors in a painting, and as Ockham’s Razor tells us, fittingness does have something to do with reasonable belief. I think that any New Atheist (I am thinking of the particularly aggressive kind I have encountered mostly online or in the form of Dawkins or Hitchens) who reads this argument and simply dogmatically claims that I am wrong, hateful towards me for a position I hold and derisive of me for it, is the one with the problem, not I. Clinging to some little error somewhere that I have made doesn’t seem sufficient, either. Now, if a friendly atheist looks at my argument and intimates kindly that my argument doesn’t convince him, I can respect him for that, and I’ll listen with interest to fairly laid out criticism. I don’t dislike or disapprove of him for honest intellectual dissent. I commend him for his intellectual independence, and I’d rather like to hear his reasons for disagreeing. But I am not interested in attacking atheists for their beliefs, and I am definitely not interested in them attacking me.

I want to turn away from that issue, and say a few closing words about the ramifications of the argument I have laid out for theism, and for Christianity as well. The quest of mortals is, it seems to me, to reproduce the likeness of God through a balance of spirit and law, but due to our finite nature we can never reach a totality of balance between the abstract and the motive, math and philosophy on the one side and history, science, in short, energy on the other. There is a natural tendency to gravitate towards the one or the other, and this is not wrong. In even a prelapsarian state we would have inclinations; our fallen nature leads us to a deadlier quest to learn whether the mind or the body rules (and impinges upon that freedom spoken of in chapter 7). It is a futile battle which pits communist against capitalist, Christian against Jew, public versus private and man against woman. It is not the business of the abstract to rule energy; it is not the business of energy to silence the abstract, though this is what their imperfect spokespersons hope to do.

The imagination is that which creates a whole where nothing else implies such wholeness. Divinity is the purest imagination, the space of fullest possibility where all abstract and motive truths can exist without conflict. Here in our fallen, finite world, however, failures of imagination result in a conflict between the abstract and the motive. God’s first creative act was to bring the material into the abstract, and create spirit creatures. His second act was to bring the abstract to the material, creating the universe. An illusion of hierarchy between angels and men exist only because of our postlapsarian nature. In perfection, humanity is the spiritual capstone of the material world, much as the angel is the material capstone of the spiritual world. But for all moral possibility both had to be created, and so God created according to His own moral demands.

Reason and Passion are by nature irreconcilable, if taken separately. Imagination alone, in its mystic quality, can bring them together. Satan appeals to both, excites and feeds both, but he drains the imagination to mere fancy. He can twist reason and engorge the passions; to use the imagination to his ends he can only diminish it, for a stronger imagination is a shield against demons. Having lost the Divine Imagination, they exist now in Tartarus, in the fire of matter and the ice of spirit, which burns and freezes, for they are touched by both and comforted by neither.

This state they have hoped to thrust upon mortals, and it can be seen. Communism is an icestorm of mental attacks on the body; capitalism is a bodily revolt against reason. Freedom is not in regulation nor in rights; it is in reconciliation of rules with passions, and such reconciliation can occur only in the imaginative Divine. For God so imagined reality, that he placed the word in Flesh, for Christ is the holy ambassador of the worlds, and the holy spirit, the dove, the activity of the Divine Imagination which made salvation real.

So God is the highest imaginative union of the worlds, and as his creatures we can share, in a much lesser way, in this same divine activity. Yet as we learn in the scene of the tree of knowledge, our imagination must repose on God’s finer imagination and seek to explore His, not merely expand our own. We have a calling, as God’s creatures, to work together in an interdisciplinary appreciation of the cosmos, to better understand the beauty of the celestial symphony God prepares for us, day after day.

Chapter 7: A Good Problem

“After all, he’s not a tame lion.” – Mr. Tumnus

                This chapter I shall present, as in the last, in rather formalized logic. It may seem a bit redundant to have two chapters which look at the problem of evil, but I think that a second pass is worthwhile, because it is, indeed, a very powerful argument. So, my hope is to present, in this chapter, a case against the problem of evil in another direction: that the Problem of Evil implies a corresponding Problem of Good, which is as difficult for the atheist, I think, as the Problem of Evil is for theists. My hope is that in approaching the issue of evil from a second direction, one not from free will but from the concepts of good and evil themselves, the plausibility of the complete goodness and absolute power of the divine mind will be more wholly defended. After all, we do not call a table with only one leg stable; it takes a few to stand well.

Let’s look at the Problem of Evil as usually presented: 1. There is evil. 2. God exists. 3. God is all-good. 4. God is all-powerful. 5. These premises imply a contradiction because a good being tries to end evil. Therefore, God cannot be all good and all powerful, because obviously he has not eliminated evil. There are two problems if this is the argument the atheist is using. First of all, this does not disprove God. It only disproves his being both all-good and all-powerful, or attempts to do so. There are pantheons in certain religions which certainly have such gods. This, however, is not my point.

The Problem of Good is as follows: 1. There is evil in the world.2. Either evil is objective or subjective.

  1. If evil is subjective, then the atheist cannot use it to disprove God’s goodness or power. The very nature of subjective is to say that it is specific to human experience and response; if evil is only a matter of subjective experience and no objective morality gives rise to it, then it is not a ‘fact’ in the way the atheist needs it to be. In short, the Problem of Evil needs evil to be an objective fact. Because objective claims cannot be made against the postulated objective good and powerful qualities of God from a subjective experience. Put another way, we cannot say that the sun is not bright based on the fact that I am not looking at it. Even if we say it is the experience of human vision which makes the sun bright, then we can say that the sun is subjectively bright. We can not say anything from it of the objective brightness if we argue that the experience of brightness is merely subjective. Similarly, if we say that evil is subjective, then we cannot use it to postulate about the objective nature of God.
  2. If evil is objectively true, then so is the good. For I take evil to mean either “that which fails to be good in some way” or “that which opposes the good in some way.” Evil necessarily implies good, because the first is defined in terms of the second. Good is a standard, evil is a type of deviation from that standard.
  3. If this is the case, then good must also objectively exist. We cannot say now that good is a subjective truth and evil an objective one, because one is derived from the other. Either morality is subjective or not. We are following the thread of not.
  4. If it can be said that the good exists, then we can say that the unexplainable exists. By the very nature of the atheist’s invective, it is the unexplainable aspect of evil which stands against the power and goodness of God. Often it is said by these thinkers that “Such senseless evil denies the existence of God.” But by their admission, evil is outside of logic. In this way, good is also outside of logic. By outside I do not necessarily mean that we cannot understand what is good and evil through logic, but only that the existence of good and evil cannot be explained by it. How individual cases come to be are one thing; it is the objective reality of both which is unexplainable.
  5. If we hold that good is as senseless as evil, in the sense that we cannot understand it, then we cannot logically connect the senseless evil to the senseless good in such a way to disprove the existence of the good. In this case, the good is God. Senseless evil cannot be used against senseless good by the very fact that both are senseless.
  6. Should we say, however, that good and evil are not senseless but entirely apprehendable, we stil must contend with the fact that the good exists. If it does exist objectively, then we must see that it exists outside of subjective humanity. In what sense does the good exist? Does it exist like a number or a philosophical point? In what senses do these things exist? These are difficult questions, but I don’t think we need to answer them to see why now the problem of evil fails. If the good indeed exists objectively, then it exists objectively regardless of evil’s existence.
  7. In short, we can say: Objective evil implies objective good. Objective good is outside of human subjectvity, and so cannot be contained or limited by evil, for this is what it means to exist. Just as evil implies good, it is good from which evil is understood, so the objective good is seen to be higher. Based on the reality of any evil, the reality of any good cannot be disproved; in fact, belief in its existence should only be made stronger.

Finally, I will conclude this chapter by saying that by objective good, I think it has been shown that I mean God. As I see it, there is no difference whatsoever between these terms. Whatever the objective good is, that is God. We may not understand goodness, and so we may not understand God, but these terms are identical. Whatever goodness is in its purest form, that is God. Of course this does not clarify what God looks like, but that is not the issue here. We do not need to know anything further than that God is the good. Now, this claim runs the risk of sounding circular: behind my assumption of moral reality is my belief in God’s existence. But that is not the direction the argument takes. I assert first that morality is somehow “real,” and once having shown that, I think that it must be seen that this reality must have its origin with the same origin of all other realities. On this grounds you will often hear me say something like, where you have perceived a moral truth, you have been given a glimpse of God.

Chapter 6: The Problem of Evil

One who went to the truth by mere impulse would be a holy animal, not a true man. Relations, truths, duties, are shown to the man away beyond him, that he may choose them and be a child of God, choosing righteousness like Him. Hence the whole sad victorious human tale and the glory to be revealed. – George Macdonald

            The problem of evil is, I do not deny it, a real problem. I think I see where the medieval tradition of calling evil a privation comes from; indeed, I think there’s probably some truth to it. I am legally blind in my left eye, with no present possibility of correction either with glasses or with surgery. I do not feel comforted by the fact that this natural evil is simply a privation; it does not really make my experience of the evil any more palatable. I would certainly like to end this whole discussion at the previous chapter. It seems to hang together plausibly; I rather like it, and could be content with it. But the problem of evil, as I have said, is a real problem. As C.S. Lewis put it, with his characteristically acute insight, “Pain hurts. That’s what the word means.” So, like Lewis in his far better book on the subject (I do recommend reading The Problem of Pain at your nearest convenience), I do not claim that this chapter will make pain hurt any less than it already does. I wish I could. My purpose here is simply to mount a defense against the use of it to undo the arguments I have made.

Now, notice that the problem of evil does not immediately contradict what I have argued. I have argued that human reason can be supposed to be successful if and only if something like reason had already been present in the world. I have further argued that since science cannot answer the first question, Why is there anything?, we can assume that science doesn’t have a grasp on the whole of truth. To get at that thing which began the universe and which has been involved with it ever since, we must take an interdisciplinary approach. What I have suggested is a picture of something very much like a mind, the imagination of the very universe which holds within it the whole of abstract truths and dynamic power, showing why I think belief in such a mind is not wholly implausible, and showing too, I hope, why such an image should be compelling; and also mounting, I think, a reasonable defense against the psychoanalytical argument that it is all merely my feverish projections into the cosmos which results in this picture, in my chapter on subjectivism. As far as I can tell (and I may be missing something, though I don’t believe I am), the problem of evil doesn’t really contradict this conceived cosmic mind. That is, perhaps, because I have not yet ascribed to it the sort of qualities of being which are susceptible to the argument. The problem of evil is simply than an all powerful, all good God would remove evil from the world. I haven’t quite called the cosmic mind all powerful or all good, in any sense. Though I think that positing such qualities to this being, at this point, might seem less far-fetched, now that its more general existence has been made more conceivable, if my attempt has been successful at all.

First, let me say that I do ascribe to this being the qualities of being both all good, and all powerful. Let me tell you why. I did not discuss, to begin with, moral knowledge in the previous chapter. And this is for a very good reason: I was saving it for this chapter. It will be argued, I expect, yet again that morality is a subjective, perspective-bound concept. For that, I turn you back to chapter four. If chapter four does not do it for you, then I have a couple of other suggestions. As usual, C.S. Lewis has something a lot smarter to say about it than I do in Mere Christianity. I won’t attempt to reproduce his argument, because I’ll probably just botch it by comparison. But let me say it to you this way: Some things are just bad. Saying that it is bad for an innocent person to be killed because of some sort of social contract theory or appeal to the scientific nature of humans fails, which I will demonstrate with the following illustration. Let us say that there are two men on an island. They have enough food for the present time, but if they are not saved, they will probably run out of food eventually. Further, there is a third person, a woman, on the island. Let us say that help never arrives, and that one of the men kills the other to keep the food supply going. Further, he asks the woman to be his mate, and she refuses, and so, he rapes her. Now, I do apologize for this sort of blunt discussion, but this is the problem of evil we’re talking about here, and that is, I think it will be agreed, a pretty evil situation. Now, this man has defended his biological need for food and his biological desire to reproduce, and the constraints of society are removed from him. Eventually the woman dies, and he is left alone; and eventually he dies as well, never repenting his actions, never feeling sorry for them. Is he a good man? Or is he a bad man? I think I am brave enough to venture and say that he is a bad man, in some objective way, and that no discussion about anthropological studies can really satisfy the badness of his character. But if we are to say that, somehow, there’s a reality to the badness of his behavior, we are further saying there is an ought to his behavior. He ought not have killed his friend or raped the woman; he ought have tried to built a boat or a smoke signal or whatever, or perhaps nobly abstained from eating and let his two companions have the food. There’s no reason to suppose this on any grounds science as shown me that I can think of; from an empirical position, I can’t see why this other mode of behavior is in any way “better” than the one I have described. So, I think that within the “ought” of his behavior, there exists something like moral truth. If that is so, then moral truth, how we should treat other human beings, how we should treat animals, how we should take care of the environment, and whatever other moral “oughts” there are, have, in some sense, their reality apart from the human mind. The human mind, though, as we have already said, is made up of the same swirling atoms in the cosmos; our moral consciousness comes to us, somehow, through that cosmos, and so I think that we can say that moral truth is as much a part of the cosmic imagination described in the previous chapter as science or math. Indeed, morality seems, to me, more a product of philosophy and imagination than anything else, and perhaps to some degree of emotion as well; morality is, in some sense, itself a sort of interdisciplinary concept. If we can accept that morality has reality apart from human consciousness, then it must, in its reality, have a whole reality. That is to say, the moral truth is totally good, and that is why all evils are evil; because they do not totally conform to moral goodness. And if the moral truth is totally good and, in some sense, exists objectively, then it, too, must have its origin in that strange, wonderful place before the universe began, as part of the divine imagination. In a similar way, if the energetic truths of science were all present within that cosmic mind before the universe began, we can also posit absolute power to it. Now we have qualified this divine imagination to the point where it does, I think, become susceptible to the problem of evil. And so, what follows is one argument to suggest why this divine mind, called by people on earth God, should allow evil at all.

I will argue the theodicy that God is morally required to allow evil in order to make moral excellence possible. This requires that the evil actions be possible so that one might demonstrate in acts of free will one’s moral standing. If the possibility of evil is necessary for the highest good, that is, moral free will which chooses to do good, then God cannot intercede last-minute to stop evil, but must allow it. Two strong objections are: one, that there is no free will, and two, that if morality must preclude the ability to do evil, then God must be able to do evil, or he is therefore morally neutral. I will use Aquinas’s Five Ways to consider an argument for free will, and inquire into the nature of God to offer speculation on how we could view his moral nature.

These are the premises of my argument. (1) Moral goodness from free will is the highest good. (2) One should want to achieve the highest good, and do what is possible to do so. (3) Moral evil must be possible, or humans cannot be morally good. (4) God, all-good and perfectly moral, must allow evil so that moral good can be possible.

Our morality is ethical decisions which come from our free will: moral good is done freely, and moral evil is done freely. We intuitively praise as highest goods which come from free will, such as the good of love, or of charity, or of friendship. It is my understanding that for one to be morally good, it must be possible for moral badness. For example, say that it is morally repugnant for a human being to sprout wings and fly (setting aside for the moment the demand for a clear cut definition of good and evil). If someone were to come to you and say, “My, what a splendid human being you are! You did not sprout wings and fly! You are a morally excellent creature!” odds are good that such a statement, if made in any seriousness, would be the object of ridicule. Obviously, since it is not in one’s power to do such an action, it cannot be considered moral. Therefore:

(1) To be a relevant moral law, it must be conceivably breakable.

(2) If an action is impossible, even if it is conceivably evil, one is not morally excellent for not committing it.

For example: I have never murdered anyone in China. I am not a good person for this: I have never been to China, nor do I have the resources to get there, so my omission of such an action is irrelevant to my status as a moral being. Assuming a God in the conventional sense, one who is loving and thoroughly righteous, it is understandable that despite his presumed perfect goodness and omnipotence, he would be morally required to allow the very worst of evils to be done. In fact, to allow for the true status of moral excellence, God would have to make it possible for free wills to choose evil, or else they would not be free, and therefore he would be preventing the highest good. And it is not enough that God only allows a smaller degree of evil. The very worst evils result, ostensibly, from the breaking of the highest moral laws. For if it is not possible to break the highest of moral laws, then it is not possible to be the most excellent of moral creatures. Suppose that:

(A) is a trivial moral law.

(B) is an important moral law.

(C) is the greatest moral law.

If I was able to conceivably break laws A and B, but was physically restrained from breaking C, then I am not morally excellent for adhering to C, and am in no way responsible for upholding it. For me to be at my moral best, I must uphold moral laws A, B, and C, while being fully capable of breaking them all. So, if God were to make the greatest moral good possible, he would have to create a moral free will capable of committing the greatest of evils, or the will is not truly morally free, and therefore not as excellent as possible. And we have agreed that we intuitively hold things in highest esteem that result from our free will, such as love, and in this case, morality. And since God is perfectly good, his desire is to create a world in which the highest moral excellence is possible, so he must create creatures both capable of upholding all moral laws, from trivial to great, and of breaking them as well.

In summary, maximum evil must be possible, or a person cannot prove maximum goodness. As the perfectly moral being, God must create beings fully capable of doing moral evil and moral good, for if he did not, he would be creating a world in which the highest moral good is not possible, which as the perfect moral being he cannot do, for he must allow for the greatest of goods.

A strong argument against this is simply determinism. If determinism is true, then there is no free will, and talk of moral excellence is nonsense. Determinism states that everything happens as the result of a cause: our actions are the results of causal reasons, which can be traced down a causal chain without ever needing to mention free will. And for any free actions, it seems that one cannot have a reason for acting, or that reason is the determining factor and therefore it is not free will. But I think consideration of Aquinas’s proofs for God could yield something of an argument for free will. In the universal causal chain, there is either an infinite regression, or there is not. If there is not, there is an uncaused cause. The person who rejects infinite regressions is not considered irrational, even though one is possible, because though we cannot disprove one, an uncaused cause may appear more rational to that thinker. God, of course, is assumed to be this uncaused cause. Now certainly, Aquinas’s proof does not prove God, but it demonstrates that an Uncaused Causer is rational. With this in mind, we could inquire into what motivates the Uncaused Causer. Why does it cause things? Randomness? Surely not, or randomness would be causing it, and then it would not be uncaused. Other factors, reasons for action? Again, no causes can be moving God: he is uncaused, either by ordinary causes or by randomness. So, he must move somehow, and that is by a sort of eternal motion of will, what I will call Uncaused Causality. In this sense, God’s will is the most free. It is caused neither by randomness nor other causes. As is famously said, I postulate that God created people in his image. An aspect of this, the Free Will Defender says, is Uncaused Causality. Now, this free will is not nearly as dynamic as God’s. We are limited by our bodies, by our talents and by our environments in the realm of physical possibility. But what we are not limited by is our ability to choose our actions freely, from inside our determined system. The determinist will argue that our Uncaused Causality is irrational, but my reply is: But the ultimate Uncaused Cause is acceptable to anyone considering the universal causal chain. So our wills can be said to freely make new moral causal chains, and when we move to do so, we have neither ordinary causes nor randomness moving us, but the third force, Uncaused Causality, our limited version of what God instances most perfectly.

The second, equally strong, objection is that if moral evil is necessary, and God is all-good and so incapable of evil, he cannot be moral by this theodicy, which most theists would be disturbed by. When God acts, classically he can only do good, and therefore is not moral, since he cannot freely choose otherwise. Now, I have argued for Uncaused Causality as the root of free will, and God is completely uncaused, but invoking this doesn’t seem to get us out of the problem. My reply is that God is the supreme instance of morality; he is the standard Being and isn’t separable from moral law. It’s not that he causes morality or that it causes him, but that morality is in the very essence of God, so he cannot deviate from it. God is not the exception to the rule; he is the rule by which free wills measure themselves. So, moral laws A, B, and C cannot be broken by God, anymore than I can choose to stop being a human being. My moral free will has parameters of my physical person; God has the parameters of being the morality to which one ascribes. We might not like limiting God in this way, but likes and dislikes are not philosophical arguments. The objector may reply: But why didn’t God simply make more free wills that were perfect instances of morality? Because you can’t duplicate a standard. The standard is itself. If God is the standard, he must be the only instance of it. We cannot be the standard; we can only try to emulate it. You cannot have more than one of a standard; you can have multiple things which fit a standard, but those things can deviate or return to it without changing the standard itself. So with God. He is the spiritual incarnation of the standard of morality: we can emulate it, maybe even perfectly, but we cannot ourselves be the standard. According to the standard, we must choose to ascribe to it freely, so must be able to deviate from it; but a standard cannot deviate from itself.
I have argued that for humans to be moral, we must be able to choose the highest of moral evils in order to perform in moral excellence. I have noted two objections; from determinism, and concluded that our free will is a miniature form of Uncaused Causality; and from God’s morality, and replied that God is the only standard of morality, so does not need to measure up to himself to be himself. This is my theodicy for the problem of evil.

Chapter 5: The Celestial Rail-Road

Imagine a set of revolving concentric circles . . . The relationship between the ever-changing course of Fate and the stable simplicity of Providence is like that between reasoning and understanding, between that which is coming into being and that which is, between time and eternity, or between the moving circle and the still point in the middle . . . For the best way of controlling the universe is if the simplicity immanent in the divine mind produces an unchanging order of causes to govern by its own incommutability . . . – Boethius

            As a high school student, I remember being fascinated by the concepts of science. Earth science, biology, chemistry struck me as beautiful. I was never good enough at remembering specific facts to ever be much of a scientist; I had fun being perplexed about the concept of gravity, that the whole earth is trying to prevent my movement with its pull, but that for somewhere between seventy and eighty years, with a bit of good fortune, my will could, to some extent, resist that of the planet’s. There is an inconceivable thrill in recognizing our place in the solar system, this strange gem of blue, brown and white whizzing around a giant ball of fire, itself yet another trinket in the hands of the cosmic juggler. More than memorizing facts, however, there was a part of science which is simply requisite for entering into most parts of the field, especially those which interested me, and it was this part precisely which I found myself entirely incapable of comprehending: mathematics. It should come as no surprise to you that a student of literature suffers with math. So how is it that science could have so much compelling interest for me, and yet that imbedded structure, mathematics, of the scientific conversation was simply beyond me? It doesn’t seem like a simplistic binary, and yet, somehow, they are different.

I am going to present a picture in this chapter which I readily admit to be far too simple, and probably erroneous in some important ways. But it is this relationship, that between math and science, which holds the key to many things, I believe. So, I am going to try and figure out how they relate, a bit of a ridiculous notion considering my ineptitude in both. But I will do my best with the limited insight I have.

Science, let us venture to say, is the study of movement, or of energy, in some sense. Science must test, and test, and test again, before it is willing to say much of anything, because the realm it is attempting to grapple is in some ways fairly chaotic, at least to the unknowing observer. While trees are absorbing sun rays for food, human skin is absorbing those same rays for vitamin D and for skin cancer. At the same moment that a baby is being born, its life just beginning anew, its mother is many more years closer to her death and, in many cases historically, that birth has been the cause of mothers’ deaths. Simultaneously, lions are consuming their prey and black holes are consuming planets, stars and other matter. Fireworks can explode in the same world where snow falls. It is a wondrous place of implacable, dynamic movement, every moment of time and every part of space a flurry with every kind of movement and excitement.

Math is in some sense the photo-negative of this picture. It is, at least in my mind, a static set of abstractions which hold themselves apart, almost coldly, from the world. Oh, yes, I know, science is everywhere infused with math; I’ve already said that above. But if I hold my body at a certain angle or do not, the angle itself does not much care. It stays where it is at, and I come to it, if I lean to the side, and move away from it, as I straighten my back. All numbers, on both side of the zero, are forever those numbers; adding two and two equals four whether or not we can find two apples and two more, or whether we can find two gorillas and two sandwiches to make a group of four. In the realm of science we see a world of constant flux, even if that flux is generally patterned and comprehensible; in the realm of math, every equation imagined by the human mind, and not yet imagined by the human mind, exists in static perfection. It can be found everywhere in the universe; no, more correctly, the universe can be seen everywhere taking shape within math. And yet, how could this be?

Now, has been argued to me that 2 plus 2 does not always equal 4. I am not really familiar with Looking Glass math, as it were, though I am familiar with Lewis Carroll, though I think that he is somehow misunderstood by the mathematicians who try to use him (though I won’t stick to my guns in that regard, not knowing enough regular math to know if some odd magical math works or not). But it seems to me that even if they are right, they have not “changed” the equation of two plus two equals four. Instead, all they have really done is found the equation to have actually been more complex than we once realized. If it is simply the subjective human mind which makes the difference here, than I must ask, what is the value of Looking Glass math? I could simply reject it out of hand and ignore its precepts. On the other hand, if there is something real to math, shouldn’t I allow for Looking Glass math, if it is viable, to impact my conception of mathematics in general? It seems so. Having accepted that, I further hold that mathematical “reality,” unlike scientific reality, is not in flux; it is only the flux of our minds which we are revealing. We have gotten a bit closer to the mathematical truth, if Looking Glass math shows us something we didn’t know about before. After all, we do not think that a child learning algebra for the first time has changed the state of algebra. All he has done is moved his mind towards something which is, indeed, true.

Allow me to neaten up this conversation into two axioms: 1. Abstract truth’s eternal reality is unchanging: One plus one is always two, or the equivalent equation to one plus one equals two, whether known or not, is always true. 2. Absolute energy is total real movement, no atomic structure, simply pure, unrestrained action. Let us demonstrate that, of their own accord, these two “worlds” could never touch each other. Atoms cannot bounce against mathematical formulas and equations cannot alter reality. As V in “V for Vendetta” says, “Ideas are bullet proof.” This works in both directions. No matter how many times 1 is added to 1 to equal 2, two things need never actually manifest in the world of energy. On the other hand, in the world of energy, even if all pairs of things were destroyed, 2 would remain in the world of the abstract. On their own these two worlds could never meet. The brilliant miracle of reality is that some how, in spite of reason, beyond our comprehension, they do meet. Matter can be arranged into numbers, and abstract truth can be illuminated through reality. The possibility of communication between these two worlds depends entirely on the existence of a third power, a power as strange as the world, a power strange enough to tie energy and truth together to form universal law.

Before we come to this power, we must see how math and science begin to become reconciled. What means of truth seeking compromises, on the side of mathematics, towards the direction of science? To me, I hold the answer to be philosophy, especially analytical philosophy. If you question my assertion of the deeply mathematical nature of philosophy, I point you to any textbook on the philosophy of logic, which will probably have an equation which looks something like this: If p, then q.
P. Therefore, q. Let’s fill it in with a likewise stereotypical philosophy example. If Socrates is human, then Socrates is mortal. Socrates is human. Therefore, Socrates is mortal. These sort of constructions are, to be horrifically reductive, the basic job of philosophy. It takes thought and puts them into formulas, and judges whether these formulas are first valid, and then sound. This is not quite math, of course, because the concept of one has nothing but itself there; it is the unit, stripped of all other significance. P and Q look suspiciously like ones, but they are not ones. They are filled with concepts, the humanity and the mortality of Socrates. Now, of course, we can do the same thing with math. We can say that one apple, cut in half, with one half eaten, is now half of an apple. But really, the function of this problem is usually not intended to help us understand apples. We know, without knowing any math, what half of an apple is. But we do not, without the half apple, necessarily conceive of the concept of fraction. Math can certainly be used to help us understand the world, but math is less dependent on what actually happens in the world. After all, if all apples were destroyed on earth, the concept of two apples plus the concept of two apples would still, conceptually, equal two apples.

Philosophy, in a similar way, is untouched by scientific actuality, or if not untouched, it is not wholly dependent on scientific reality. After all, I have argued that philosophy is a sort of compromise between science and math, from the perspective of, let us say, the Cosmic Mathematician. To bring math to the world, one begins to fill it with all sorts of concepts which no longer depend on their numerical reality, but also on the conceivable reality of things, of objects. That is not to say that philosophy can only deal with objects, or that math cannot. But when a math problem integrates objects from the real world (those problems I personally hated, where Sally has a certain variety of coins, gives some to one friend, gets some more from another, and then you are supposed to figure out how many coins Sally has), it edges towards science through philosophy.

In some sense, philosophy retains the metaphysical static nature of math. Unicorns are possible, a philosopher can rightly say, and not only are they possible, they are, in pure metaphysical terms, necessarily and always possible. Much like one plus one equals two, the actual state of the universe can’t do anything to hurt the idea of unicorns, on its own. The actual state of the universe can say, “There are no unicorns about,” but it cannot ever say, “Unicorns are impossible.” Metaphysically, they are absolutely possible; that they do or do not exist does not change this fact. Even so, the concept of the unicorn is bound up in ideas about the actual world, in testimonies of their existence, of fictional stories about their lives, in the actual animals which roam about, sometimes looking an awful lot like unicorns, even if, fundamentally, there simply are none anywhere. So, I hope my point can be seen, that philosophy is a sort of compromise from mathematics, towards science.

Now, granted, science uses math all of the time. We must admit that these things exist, in some way, in the same stuff of the universe, somehow, or they could never come together. After all, in chemistry there is the concept of the mole, a unit of measurement which I never really grasped, to be perfectly honest. Nonetheless it is measurement, and measurements are the watchword of scientific inquiry. So science has necessarily admitted math into its questioning of the empirical world. But science has found its best friend on the opposite spectrum of question making, as I have attempted to demonstrate. So what is the compromise made by science, towards math? I think that the answer is history. History is the study of events, a story about how events happened, which is precisely what science tries to find. Now, science has some things in view which are properly historical, in that it has actually seen them. Scientific inquiry has actually seen the sun, the planet earth, the growth of trees, and so forth. Science has not seen, however, the circumstances by which life began, the behavior of every population of species which it seeks to study, or the movement all of the chemicals and atoms which it hopes to quantify. I do mean here, of course, human science specifically. If science is defined as a method which forms beliefs based upon a catalog of events, what we are saying is, in other words, that science is the process of creating history out of data. When we are told about the process of a tree making food out of nutrients of the sun and of soil, we are being told the collective story of actual trees which have been looked at across the planet. The fluctuating data of the empirical world is captured, photographed, as it were, to hold it still in one’s mind, so that a scientific premise can be made. By freezing empirical data in this way, by weaving it into a scientific history, the scientist can then look for the mathematics holding it all together.

History, of course, does not primarily attempt to study natural science. However, history does attempt to be as scientific as possible; or at least, modern history does. History is built from a great deal of fragmented evidence, fragments of poetry and bad attempts at history of earlier human beings, which are then rummaged through for plausible explanations of what happened. The historian looks for a variety of empirical data, including anthropological data, like clay pots, burial remains and building remnants, combined with whatever written testimonies may accompany them. We may not be able to attest that a battle happened because Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote that it did, but we can attest that someone, namely, Geoffrey, did write about the battle, and that he thought, for some reason, it was important to do so. This evidence is pointing at something, even if it is not that the battle in question actually happened. With these glaring fractures in the evidence, historians must play the part of philosophers, sifting through theories and looking for the most plausible evidence, and also must consider what science tells us is actually part of reality, and thus be a bit suspicious when William Butler Yeats compiles the history of fairies in Ireland.

But our whole soul need not be suspicious of the fairytales, for it means something that humans thought to write them, though that writing may not be apparent, as with the battles of Geoffrey of Monmouth mentioned above. The philosopher and the historian must come together in this, then: they must have imagination. When presented with artifacts which only tell part of the story, testimony which gives a no doubt skewed vision of the story, and philosophical doubts as to that vision, the historian must then use his imagination to think up ways of explaining the evidence at hand. This does not mean, of course, that scientists or mathematicians are not imaginative. I believe that they are, and that the imagination is greatly involved in what they do. As I said, the picture I am building is just too simple. But I hope what I am showing will get the gist across. For you can see, I hope, that as history is a compromise from science to get at help from math, so imagination is employed by the historian to get at the help philosophy offers. Imagination, poetic expression, is the space between philosophy and history, and both must look to it to perform their function on a routine basis.

It will be rightly asserted that I am biased. I am a literary scholar who studies poetry for a living, and so putting the imagination at the center of knowledge will sound like a glib advertisement for my services to the cynical reader. But that is not my intention, and I can only hope that I am taken at my word. I do not mean to say that imagination is necessarily more important than any other means of intellectual discovery, but I do think it is, in a sense, the crux of the function of mind. Evidence, whether mathematical or scientific, all amounts to little more than a bunch of noise, if there is not some means of bringing them together to create a coherent structure. Reason is certainly useful, but reason only helps to explain that which has already been, to some degree, apprehended by the mind. But all other kinds of knowledge are simply having an effect on the mind; science, history, philosophy, and math are all things which the mind studies. Poetry, on the other hand, is the response of the mind to those things which it studies. Poetry is the mind feeling all of this information, and creating a single, if complex and not always consistent, experience of it. When we are told about science, our imagination looks at our sensory knowledge, and can make the leap necessary to belief, even when we do not wholly see the thing for ourselves. I said this was not a book about faith, and it is not, but here is where it does bear mentioning. Scientists give us information which, from our end, is incomplete. We cannot see all that they see, but our imaginations are able to stretch and accommodate the wild things they say with a combination of empirical and rational experiences we have of the world on our own. If there is any faculty which I would attribute faith to, I suppose it would be this one, that of imagination. The scientist has painted a picture of hydrogen and oxygen molecules working together to create water; I consider it logically and see no contradiction there, and then I bring these two experiences together imaginatively to create the belief that water is, in fact, dihydrogen monoxide, as odd as that claim sounds.

Now, it could be granted that this image of knowledge-making, with the imagination reaching to the right towards math and philosophy and to the left towards history and science, is simply a product of one human’s fancy. To some extent, that’s true; it’s the product of my experiences, biases, and prejudices. But where, precisely, do you get off board with me? To reject my picture, will you destroy the field of science, or of math? You must find some other way of accounting for the relationship between science and math, and I have heard none which satisfy me any better. It may be, indeed, that in reality these things hook up in different ways. But even if that is the case, in reality the mathematical, philosophical, imaginative, historical and scientific truths do still hook up; if we think they don’t, we must scrap them. If we do scrap them, we are lost in subjectivity, and theism and atheism are equally impossible. But if we think of these five kinds of knowing are true, then they are all true together, and they were true at the very origin of the universe. I imagine a celestial rail-road, with one track being math, the other science, with the imagination the ties which are welded or nailed to each side of the track with philosophy and history, respectively. It is a total rail-road, existing throughout all time and space; it stood there at the origin of the universe, and upon it moves the engine of the entire universe.

This is, of course, a rather crummy analogy. A more beautiful one would be of the conductor of an orchestra, with each means of knowing being a sort of musical instrument. But musical productions, like rail-roads, work because they are put together properly. They are conceived and structured with care and varying degrees of precision, usually the more beautiful for the amount of both. The rail-road, too, can only function if its elements are properly aligned. Without philosophy or history, imagination will become detached from science and philosophy and begin, in our minds, creating all sorts of monstrous fancies. Science which has lost its sense of history will begin to make claims about humanity which are reductive (it already has, I believe), and similarly, math, without its philosophical connection to the rest of the search of truth, will reduce the world to lifeless formula. To perform the proper function of belief-making, all these means of inquiry must be brought into balance with one another. And it is this assumption, that at some point they do come into perfect harmony, or perfect symphony, with each other which makes the pursuit of knowledge possible at all. We must think that in the universe, the truths of these five realms come together in proper balance, for if we assume their discord, then all of them lose their potency.

I have argued that the origin of the universe must be, can only be, a thing of interdisciplinary reality. I have defended myself against the complaints of subjectivity on the grounds that subjectivity stems from actual things in the world and that there could be no other means of learning, and that our subjective minds have, generally, drawn up beliefs from these five means of knowing. We must assume that if the universe contains mathematical truth, that truth was present when it all began. If it contains imaginative truth, and scientific truth, the same must also be true. Aristotle says that insofar as X may produce Y, if nothing else helped X to produce Y, then X must contain within itself everything which Y possesses. In the same way, if the universe is a place which has the abstract truth of math and philosophy and the motive truth of science and history, and the mental faculty of imagination which brings them together, then these things, too, must have been present before the universe began. If these pieces are removed, we lose the whole picture; but everybody loses, atheists as well as theists. Having assumed what I have said to be correct, for the moment, permit me to explore some of the ramifications which result.

It seems to me that the highest and fullest reality must be a complete union of truth and energy. We could imagine there being two “worlds,” one of the abstract and the other of the motive. Neither is superior to the other, for without motion the abstract can never obtain and without the abstract the motive is mere chaos. In the world we see, we tend towards the motive, since it is easier to perceive. But the motive aspects of the world are apparently inseparable from the abstract, to our ordinary perception. In the ultimate, both worlds are one being and where all abstract and all motive truth join, God is. A pure abstract could be posited to exist, and a pure motive (or world of energy), whether one never touches the other, could also be imagined to exist. What brings about the existence of these worlds, whether one precedes the other, is a question I cannot answer. But in God, and in God alone, can both fully obtain.

Somehow, there was in the universe the power to reconcile the motive and the abstract. This power, Divinity, is the First Imagination. This is the error of Intelligent Design: They start with God as a being of analytical truth. On the other hand, the anthropomorphist makes God so human his creative nature becomes incredible. But it must be understood that Divinity is the highest imagination, for matter and the abstract apart could never depict God, and bringing them together is an act more holy than we can conceive. That we do it every moment we think does not make it less miraculous. The joining of two essentially opposed realities could take only a stroke of omniscient genius, for a mind composed of both worlds could never be God.

Composition of matter and formula can only create; the possibility of that composition must exist prior to its being effected. Imagination must precede the joining of the worlds though imagination, and so Imagination, by marrying these things, these “worlds,” becomes the first cause. God is, therefore, the total reconciliation of energy and mind, destiny and ratio, inside the verdant vacuum of imagination. The mind of God is manifested in this celestial rail-road, the divine symphony, in operation behind every human effort to learn about the cosmos.

Chapter 4: The Power of Subjectivity

Far from finding chaos, we find exactly what we should expect if good is indeed something objective and reason the organ whereby it is apprehended—that is, a substantial agreement with considerable local differences of emphasis and, perhaps, no one code that includes everything. – C.S. Lewis

            It is at this point that I must step back from the argument I’ve been building. Now that I have been unveiling my methods, which are rather optimistic about the possibility of the human mind answering questions, I must make answer to those gnawing questions of subjectivity. I feel its power in myself. We have been fed a great deal of ideology about subjectivity’s powers and dangers, not all of it false; it started out rather hopefully with the Romantics when they thought to turn the tide against problematic aspects of Enlightenment values, but which became, in the end, a postmodernism landing us squarely and, some might say, hopelessly in Plato’s cave, with no chance of ever getting out. If anyone wants to find a much better discussion of subjectivity and its relationship to Christianity, I suggest reading the essays contained in C.S. Lewis’s posthumously published collection, The Seeing Eye. For a much more difficult and complicated discussion of subjectivity and its relationship to “truth-making” and “knowledge-making,” I recommend looking at the philosopher Immanuel Kant. My goal is to rescue subjectivity just enough for our purposes, to build the case that subjectivity can, and even must, have a place in answering questions like, ‘Why is there anything,’ and, ‘Is there a God?’

My hope is to do this in two directions. First, as Kant would call it, I want to rescue the “noumenal realm” or, in more common language, things which actually are, having their reality apart from the human mind, as something which in our subjective states we can comfortably assume to exist. In the other direction, I wish to rescue subjectivity itself as not fundamentally depraved, but a necessary part of truth-making. I think it a very Calvinistic atheism indeed which thinks the human mind so depraved as to be incapable of having plausible ideas about reality; if they are right that the human mind is so frail in its subjectivity that we cannot trust it, how can we begin to hold positions like atheism or theism in any sense? You see, I have argued that all means of knowing, together, point to something real, and this is a very upsetting concept to many people. So, since reality and the minds used to apprehend it have been slandered, here is how, in my thoughts, I attempt to set the record straight.

Rivers of Subjectivity

Let me begin with a picture. Imagine that there is a beautiful river flowing through a forest. This river is filled with clean, good water, and on the banks can be found many places comfortable for humans. The river is filled with fish, and it flows along at a nice pace; fast enough for boating, but not so strong that it would make swimming dangerous.

What is the proper use of this river? The answer is, well, there is no one proper use. One can say, in fact, that the proper use of the river is somewhat subjective. For an athletic swimmer, the proper use of the river is to swim. For the fisherman, the proper use of it is to fish. For a person running a shipment business, the proper use of the river is to float his barge down the river. For someone living near the river, the proper use may be to get water to feed his plants or cook. For an artist, the proper use may be to paint a picture of the river, for the musician, to create an electronic synthesized version of the sound of the river, maybe with other kinds of music too. For the novelist, if this is the Mississipi, he may want to write the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. For the weary traveler, he may want to simply lay beside the river, like Aeneas in Virgil’s Aeneid, and simply take a nap. Which of these approaches is the “true” way to use the river? None of them. They are all valid, and depending on your subjective approach, these may each seem more or less appetizing. You may have never learned to fish or swim, so you may only want to take a boat ride down the river.

Subjective attitudes towards the river are fascinating. Many people have believed rivers to be sacred or magical, others have looked at them with capitalistic greed, others with the eyes of military strategy. But what if we are to say that rivers are really only subjective, social constructions? If rivers are really only a product of human thought, let me ask you a question: Had you never seen a river, could you imagine one any better than a color you’ve never seen?

Let’s look at the term “construction.” What does it mean? Con literally means “with,” and “struction” comes from a word meaning “to pile up with.” It implies the act of building. “What are you building that house with?” “Bricks.” “What are those bricks made of?” “Bricks.” “No, I mean, what are the BRICKS made of.” “Bricklike matter.” “Where did you make the brick?” “In a brick-producing place of brickery.” “How did you make the bricks?” “With bricks.” Frustrated yet? This is the answer of the social constructivist, when left unchecked. “Where did this social norm come from?” “Social construction.” “And where did the society which constructed this social norm come from?” “Social construction.” “And where did this social construction come from?” “From previous social construction.” . . . Not very helpful, is it? Let’s break it down to the individual level: “Where does your perception that it is cold come from?” “From my subjective perspective.” “And where does your subjective perspective come from?” “From my subjective experiences.” We eventually need to leave this place of subjectivity to fulfill its purpose.

A river is not made from subjective experiences. A river is made from rocks, soil, water, debris, perhaps fish, sand, etc. A river has hard, objective reality. Yes, rivers can be man-made or diverted by man-made activity, but what does it mean to divert or make something unless it is really there? Now, philosophers will get into all kinds of crazy arguments about what it means for something to be there, but there are really only two kinds of answers: the river is really there, or it is only there because of the human mind. The second answer, I hope, I have shown to be unsatisfying above. What the human mind does with the world is only understandable, only comprehensible, if the human mind is doing something with something other than itself. The subjective enjoyment of swimming in the river, fishing in the river, boating down the river, or painting the river is not made less subjective or poignant because the river is real. The opposite is true. The subjective experience of the river is enriched by the fact that there is actually a river. Consider this: What if you have read about rivers in books for years, but never seen one physically present? I have read about the Mississippi in Mark Twain’s writing, yes, and that is a real experience, but the river was not really a part of my experience until I had been to it. Mark Twain’s writing is interesting without ever having visited the Mississippi, but that it is a real, historical river means something different for his novel, than if the river had simply been imaginary. What the different meaning is, may not be easy for the critic to explain fully. But if Huck had sailed down the river where Gollum found the One-Ring, this would mean something different for the story, because the river is not a place I can then visit. The reality of the Mississippi allows for stories, both true and imagined, to spring up around it with a significance different from stories told about rivers which do not exist.

I think that people are scared that if they find there is a world which is really out there, that if there is such a thing as truth, that they will somehow lose their freedom. A world which just is, without our consent, is a very scary thing indeed. But that is the world we live in. It is there, and pretending like it is merely a product of social construction is a very foolish thing, for the reason that to be deluded about the nature of reality prevents us from actually being able to change it. There is no doubt that the human mind has a vast impact on its world. To paraphrase Henry David Thoreau, the sun may rise a thousand times, but the noteworthy fact is that a mind was there to witness it. I agree with him, but I think he agrees, too, that the value of subjectivity, even if it is higher than mere objective actuality, stems from, and is not in spite of, the present universe.

Pure subjectivity, I believe is empty. As I showed in the mock “dialogue” above, assuming an infinite regress of subjectivity limits our apprehension of the world in a very serious way. I agree with the principle that to be a perceiver is to be subjective, to be biased, so there is no doubt in my mind that we cannot escape our subjective perspectives. But the very fact of this, that we cannot escape our subjective moment, is an objective fact, a reality as hard as a bullet wound or a thunder storm. I cannot see things from your point of view because I am me, and this subjectivity is as much a proof of objective reality as anything science can throw at us. Believing in a world which is really out there does not limit or weaken human subjectivity; such a recognition empowers us to interact with the world in a more honest and fulfilling way. For if we concede to the radical subjectivists, then we will let them dump waste in the river, for it’s all relative anyway. And when the fish have died, the boats can no longer travel downstream, the swimmer could only swim at his peril, and the painter no longer sees beauty in the ruined river, I ask you, what has a belief in pure subjectivity done but destroyed our ability to live, and live well?

That is, of course, a side point. Whether our lives are better or worse with an assumed objective reality underlying our subjective experience is, admittedly, a subjective opinion, though I would say that our subjective opinion on the matter is only possible because of something actually present in reality which allows us to have the opinion. We do not need to think that the beauty of subjective experience is not undermined by the realness of reality behind it; it seems more useful to intellectual inquiry to assume that human interpretations of the world are vindicated in their intricate splendor by a corresponding intricacy and splendor in the actual world.

The Subjective Lens

Generally, we are told that our subjective positions blind us from being able to see the truth. Psychoanalysts will say, for example, that trauma experienced as a child makes one unable to see certain events as they really are; you are “blinded” by the damage to your psyche, so that you cannot see the objective. Historicism, such as the episteme suggested by Foucault, similarly traps us in old ideas which hide in new forms, so that our ability to think about ideas on their own is ruined by an inherited bias. Marxism argues that capitalist ideology prevents us from seeing humans as humans or things as things; feminism suggests that we are unable, because of the patriarchy, to see men or women as we should, that our “sexual vision” is warped by societal norms.

I do not propose to reject out of hand the above statements. I can agree, in fact, that they are all on to something. I will grant that subjectivity is a force to be reckoned with, that our lack of an “out” from our subjective lens, whether created intentionally or not (or somewhere in between), should inhere in us a certain skepticism about premises we find in the world, in others and in our own minds. I do propose, however, to provide an alternative: that the subjective does not only always blind us from “Truth,” but that the subjective can in fact empower us to see more clearly, to see better than before.

I have two basic arguments for this. First, imagine that you are God, and you have created the world. The world is not merely a place to be molded, according to your laws, by subjective truth. No; you have actually designated a “way things work,” an order to the system of the universe. Now, you have a task before you. It is your intention that your creations will be able to learn about the world. How would you do this?

Well, being God and therefore very clever, you have given qualities to the world. You have given it textures, tastes, appearances, odors and sounds. You have also created certain arrangements of the world which cannot be tucked so neatly into those five categories, but which nonetheless do exist and can be learned. So how do you do this? Well, of course, you must create these beings with some means of learning, right? If you want them to learn, you must give them some sort of function to take in these aspects of the world. So, you might give a creature a nose to smell the flowers, eyes to see the sunset, ears to hear the sea breaking on the shore, skin to feel the breeze of the air, and a palate to taste delicious ice cream! Ah, hmmm, ice cream . . .

What is the difficulty here? Well, the problem is that all of these things are “subjective.” In other words, there is mediation implied in the act of creating a subject; you could create a being which only smelled, but insofar as this being is a Nose, this being is a subject, subjected to the senses it has of the world. Indeed, to be a creature of sense is to be subjective, for that being will have its experience of the world. It is, it seems to me, impossible to create a creature which is both distinct from God, and can learn about the world, but who is not a subjective being. Even animals, with their lack of higher level cognition, are subjective beings in the sense that they experience the world, and the world, as it exists, is not reducible or equatable to the experiences the animals have as subjects of sense. And yet, would you call an animal with a nose that does not work more or less empowered to learn about the world? Less, I should dare say. And therefore, does it not follow that, in creating a subject, by allowing, at base, subjective experience, is not this the only means to give a creature the power to learn at the sensory level, short of directly informing the creature’s brain? But then, the creature’s brain would still be the sense organ, as would its soul, or whatever is “getting” the information.  Again, short of being God, to be a perceiver, to have sensory experiences, is to be subjective, and it appears that the only way to help a creature learn about the world is by empowering it with subjective senses. Therefore, it would be impossible for you to teach your creatures about the objective world, unless you made them subjective creatures.

At this point, of course, it will be objected that I am being circular. I am using the concept of God to prop up subjectivity, and then using subjectivity to prop up God. But that’s not actually what I am saying, of course. The use of God is only an illustration; putting yourself in a position like God’s, I am saying, what other option could there be? Or even simply positing the possibility of learning at all, what other means could one imagine other than having perceptions of things, in one form or another, for a creature to be capable of learning? I see no possibility of escaping a being which is subjective, if we wish to make it able to gain knowledge about the actual, objective world.

Let us entertain a somewhat more sophisticated argument, however, because the aforementioned argument falls short of the difficulties posed by skeptics, Marxists, feminists and psychoanalysts. They argue that the issue is not the senses, but the more complicated mind which has to sort through the senses. Remember before that as God, in addition to the five aspects of the world you created which correspond to the senses, you also made certain aspects of the world more complicated than those which the mere senses can allow discovery of.  It takes a combination of senses and reason, for example, to come up with the concept of cause, or the senses, reason and imagination, to come up with the concept of beauty. These higher order truths of the objective world take a different kind of work to discover, a kind of research and testing of the world which would require activity on the part of the subjective creature. Now, this is the argument of the postmodernists and others mentioned above: Events in the environment and in the psyche prevent us from seeing the world in an unbiased way, so that we cannot trust our judgment, in order to posit anything like truth.

So far as it goes, this might sound reasonable. After all, an abused child or an oppressed minority clearly cannot see the world the way a child raised with love or an individual born into privilege can. However, is it not the case that subjective experience, in these cases, are also used by postmodernists to support the idea that some subjective experiences are better than others? The woman, who has experienced patriarchal oppression, is more able to discover chauvinism than men, who instead benefit from the patriarchy (or better, as I would argue, are fooled into thinking they benefit from the patriarchy). In some sense, does not being a woman, which in a sense inherently biases a creature from being a man or being a girl, give a special insight into the truths of healthy feminism? Much as having a nose empowers one to smell flowers, doesn’t having an experience potentially empower one to use reason to better organize the world? How can a man, who has never been shown the pain women have because of the patriarchy, or the ways in which he himself is oppressed by patriarchal norms, begin to care? Does not a subjective lens actually empower him to contact the world in a superior way than the man oblivious to such experiences?

Or another way. A child raised in the middle class who never comes into contact with poverty may well live out his adult life believing only the precepts of middle class adults. Never seeing upper class privilege or lower class poverty, he may never come to see that his life could be better, or worse. A child tied only to the middle class is in someways limited, debilitated, by his experiences; his subjective lens is not improved in its contact with the actual world for lack of experiences, but worsened by them.

Or again, let us take a nun who has lived her whole life in a monastery. She has taken a vow of chastity, and obeys this vow, as well as a vow of poverty. She thus never has to experience the pain of not feeling good enough for being unable to keep up with the materialistic society around her, and never feels pressured into sexual deviance, never has to experience the pain of child birth or the pain and embarrassment of STDs. Now, in some sense, we could be upset about this person’s estrangment from experience. But could we not also argue that she might have a sort of pure wisdom, an adult yet innocent experience of the world which may have an acuity far beyond the “world-wise” people who have grown calloused to their ways of life?

We tend to think of subjectivity as a barrier between us and the truth of the world, a premise we have inherited from the tradition of Western philosophy, going back to Plato, forward to Descartes, Kant, Hegel, Kierkegaard and so forth. But can we not see different subjective perspectives not only as barriers, but as lenses into the world? Could we instead of seeing Christianity, atheism, Buddhism, gender, economic and political positions and so forth, as only impairments, and instead see them as lenses giving some sort of insight into the real world? Is it not possible that by having a perspective, much like having eyes, one is not merely impeded, but also potentially enabled, to see some part of the world as it really is?

So here, I think, I have articulated two plausible premises which work together. The first is simply that our subjectivity seems to indicate, and is in fact enriched by, a superstructure of actual, real things. Second, I have argued that subjective apparatus, whether biological or psychological, can not only be barriers, but could also be gateways into learning about the aforementioned superstructure of reality. Having thus, hopefully, somewhat reduced the power of the subjective argument against forming theories about reality, in the next chapter I will talk more in depth about the concept I had touched on in the previous chapter, that an interdisciplinary approach to the cosmos is the path to seeing God.

Chapter 3: Origin of the Universe

There is geometry in the humming of the strings, there is music in the spacing of the spheres. – Pythagoras

            The existence and consistency of the universe is cited by theists as proof of God. This has been done since the philosopher Aquinas, really before and probably long after now. I, too, wish to make this claim, but to do so in a way which builds upon the previous chapters. Generally, theists will try and use scientific assessments of universal order to prove God. Whether this argument bears out, I know not, though I do admit I find it rather persuasive. But there is something both historically and philosophically earlier than the science of this question, a fact I have seen neither atheists nor theists fully put their finger on. This is because a merely scientific answer to the question, “What is the origin of the universe?”, is, I believe, an impossibility.

Science is, you see, the study of the universe. Now, we have small minds, so we have a long way to go. And science has come very far in beginning to tell us about the universe. However, to understand the origin of the universe, science alone is not enough, for science is the business of studying the universe, or empirical reality. When asking, “What is the origin of empirical reality?”, what we are asking is, “What is the origin of the very possibility of science?” Science cannot go past this point. It can only go as far back as empirical reality goes; any farther, and we are no longer doing science, but something else. Now, it may be argued that empirical reality exists in an infinite regression; we do not know that it does, but we also do not know that it does not. I grant that empirical reality may have always existed, but all such a supposition does is more firmly root the answer to “What is the origin of empirical reality?” outside of empirical reality. For then, empirical reality existed always because of something. Why should an infinite regression exist, rather than an empirical reality having a specific beginning, or why does it not have different events making up its infinite regression?

Popular scientists have often, even recently, come out to argue that God is not necessary to explain the origin of the universe. If they were to convince me, they must clearly show me in what way their proof goes past my argument above. If they start with, Well, the laws of the universe made the universe necessary, they miss that the laws are of the universe. Once the law of gravity exists, it is real, present, there. I’m not sure what a pre-Big Bang world looks like, but it existed, I assume, and furthermore, it probably existed in a scientific way. “Big Bang” arguments, “a scientific event created the realm of scientific data,” is an easier argument to disprove for the genuine origin of the universe, because we can ask of it, “Well, what happened before? What caused it?” Arguments which say, “Things can randomly come into existence because of the laws of quantum physics,” or, “The laws of nature made reality possible,” masquerade more easily for philosophical answers to the origin question because they are not, like the Big Bang, a mere chronological occurrence. But by positing these forces as the origin, we have really only moved the location of inquiry, or as philosophers say, begged the question. Laws of the universe, if they exist, exist in the fabric of the universe, for they are, indeed, the origin of many chains of cause. Within the realm of science, these laws look the most philosophical, but they do not truly leave the realm of science in the way the Origin question must. We can ask, “Why are the laws this way, and not some other way? Why should these laws hook up with reality this way, and not differently? And how, for that matter, could they ever come to be at all? What is their origin?”

Science could possibly find a scientific answer and say that the laws of nature come from another thing, say, guidelines of nature, or a special kind of molecule. And for this explanation, they may find yet another scientific origin. But as far back as we go if we stay in the scientific realm of inquiry, we can never really leave it to say, “Here, at last, is the origin of the universe.”

Philosophy can step in at this point and give it a go. It could say that there is an infinite number of realities, all of which exist, and so we just happen to be in this one, or that randomness is at the center of reality, with no need to posit God. Philosophy is, I think, a better contender than science for answering the origin of the universe question. But philosophy, like science, cannot do it alone. Philosophy, like science, is only part of the question. For as humans we use science and philosophy to study the world, and so both must answer the origin of it. Really, think of it: all methods exist in the actual world, the poetic, the historic, the philosophic, and the scientific we discussed in the last chapter are all the means of studying the world. I argued before that since the world is amenable to thought, something like thought must be present in it. On a similar note, I argue that to answer the question, “What is the origin of the universe?” all forms of inquiry must be present. The nature of the thing, whatever it is, that gave rise to the existence of the universe must include beauty, rational solvency, historical presence and scientific, traceable data. Every viable means of knowledge tells us something about the nature of the universe, and by extent the nature of what gave rise to its existence. The Origin question is in this regard, I believe, the most fundamentally interdisciplinary question of all.

Permit me a somewhat imperfect analogy, conceding that all analogies are probably to some degree imperfect. Suppose that you are looking for the beginnings of human psychology, the origin of human psychology. You might study Freud, or Lacan, or Foucault, or Wilhelm Wundt, or any other number of psychologists. You may have many patients come to you and tell you about their lives, and master virtually the entire discourse of psychology. But no matter how long you study human psychology, you will never, as a psychologist doing the work of psychology, come to understand the origin of human psychology. It is only as a scientist, by moving outside of the field of psychology, and learning about human biology, that you can learn about an individual human’s origin, where its psychology first came from. It is only as an evolutionist or a proponent of Intelligent Design, both creatures who study in a different way from the psychologist, that one can answer the total origin of human psychology. Now, this does not invalidate psychology; it does not ruin the science of psychology or demean its study. It simply shows that psychology, though very complex and important, cannot answer all questions it raises. It must partner up with other kinds of science in order to answer some of its questions.

I believe this to be true of the universe. In fact, I believe that to understand the origin of the WHOLE universe, there must be a setting aside of the compartmentalization which divides our current pursuit of knowledge as the human race. After all, the universe does not make possible only scientific truth, but also musical truth, poetic truth, artistic truth, linguistic truth, and so forth. Let’s not become grumpy about my use of the word truth; you see what I am saying. That anything exists shows that it is part of the wholeness of the universe, that the elements of the universe make that sort of existence possible. Thus, a satisfying answer to the question, “What is the origin of the universe?” cannot be fully scientific, or not fully scientific in the sense we usually think. In a larger sense, to answer the question, Why is there anything?, is the most “scientific” of questions, for it would incorporate all means of seeking answers, all methods of questioning, from every conceivable discipline. This would take a far greater amount of time than any single human being has in his or her life; we can do our part, in the fields we specialize in, to contribute our answers to this question. And yet, where will we be heading if we do not also have our hypotheses? We should have both our question, why is there anything?, and our general answer, for this is how the scientist does his work. And this is not a purely empirical method; it is a means of questioning used by every field of inquiry. On the day that all means of knowing are brought fully together to answer the question, Why is there a universe?, we shall see laid before us, I believe, a grand tapestry the likes of which there are only whispers in the finest poetic verse and most moving of musical symphonies. It shall have the hardness of science, the delights of art, the abstract flavor of philosophical insight. It shall be, I believe, God, in the end. But we are not there, not just yet, and to get there will take more chapters indeed.

Chapter 2: The Limits of Science

‘What,’ it will be questioned, ‘When the Sun rises, do you not see a round disk of fire somewhat like a Guinea?’ O no, no, I see an Innumerable company of the Heavenly host crying, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty.’ – William Blake

            Previously, I attempted to show the plausibility of a sort of consciousness behind the ordering of the universe, not by challenging or ignoring the precepts of science, but by embracing them. Now, I recognize that the skeptic, granting the challenges to the atheist which I have posed as worth consideration, may yet say, “And still, is not positing the Judeo-Christian God a pretty big leap?” I readily agree that an anthropomorphized, theistic God is not proven; only that there exists something like mind in the universe (or behind the universe’s mechanics) is not a wholly irrational belief, but one with some reason behind it. Calling this mental aspect of the universe “God” may be too big a jump, from the scientific point of view. Therefore, I will show the next step in my thought, to demonstrate how I begin to justify calling this “mind” God.

As I mentioned in the previous chapter, the atheist generally uses science to argue that since there is an explanation for X, the need for God as respects X is diminished. Evolution, for example, is a theory which explains how life-forms have come to their present state, mitigating the need for a God designing them. I do feel, personally, that the atheist needs evolution to be true more than the theist needs it to be false. After all, should science ever demonstrate, for whatever reason, that the story of evolution does not work, I should like to know how human beings could justify not believing in a creator. On the other hand, evolution is a terribly complex theory which admits to a great deal of ingenious aspects of life which, however guided by chance, are also only possible given very precarious conditions. The standard theist’s position that a God is needed to answer the complexity of the world is not out of place where evolution is concerned which, if the problems in the theory were wholly solved, would certainly strike us with a great deal of sophistication, probably more than it already does.

Logically, the argument that since X has an explanation scientifically, God is superfluous, ignores other types of experiences. One could describe how automobiles work, and even the tools which put them together, without ever mentioning human beings. Indeed, it is not far-fetched to imagine a factory run only by robots which make automobiles. Were such factories to replace all human labor on cars, the skeptic of history could doubt that humans ever made them, on quite scientific grounds. The language of automobiles (that is, used by people to think about automobiles) could come to entirely exclude humanity’s involvement in their manufacturing. But that there is an explanation for an existence of these cars without human involvement does not mean that humans were never involved. We have the benefit of recorded history, for only history, not a science of automobiles, could make clear that the plausible conclusion of our imagined future skeptic is wrong. Scientific assumption lacks the benefit, when talking about pre-human or early human times, of history, which makes its plausible assumptions about data less certain. This problem, of course, does not go away when we enter into “history,” but that, I think, supports my point rather than harming it.

History, however, is not really terribly different from science. Science has tried, in evolution for example, to recreate a plausible history of life. Historians, too, try to recreate events from the past, when the information is not complete (which it usually isn’t). The job of history is a combination of empiricism and intelligent guesses, which ultimately make history a sort of science. Scientific inquiry into past events is always limited to mere plausibility where it has no reliable historical account of actual events. This is not an attack on science; it is only an admission that natural science is limited where it does not have certain backing from the science of history.

Science can also not explain why all things are true. It can explain why paper burns, but how can it explain that two and two are four? It may be able to give an account of how two apples came to sit on my table, and then how two more followed, but how can it explain that two and two are four generally? The equation two and two equals four is not a strictly empirical observation, so the scientist must either call each instance of two things and two more things adding to four things as a nice coincidence, or, natural science must admit that mathematics is somehow true differently from the way paper burns. The second seems more plausible, to me.

Science is also limited in its ability to interpret beauty. It can say, “When certain things are arranged as X in the world and as Y in the mind and eye of the perceiver, the result is beauty.” But why should the relationship of a painting to an onlooker or a book to a reader result in that perception of beauty? Explaining that neurons cause us to experience beauty is not enough, because then what is beautiful? Does the beauty exist in the neurons? If so, why do I need the painting to see the beauty to begin with? Or is it in the thing the neurons are processing? We could imagine a being wired differently than we are, but looking at a sunset and thinking, “Ah, this is beautiful,” so it seems like the perception of beauty is not contingent upon the way our biology is set up. Science can tell us how something is experienced as beautiful, but not why. Even as the scientist examines nature and discovers beauty in it, his discovery of beauty is not as a scientist but as a person. How shall the beauty of a sunset, or a person, or a rose be calculated? Why is a green meadow more lovely than a dismal swamp? The scientist may respond that some combination of pleasurable perceptions, symmetry and asymmetry, are pleasing to the human brain, explaining how beauty is seen: but why should be beauty be seen at all? There is a certain poetic faculty of perception which seems real, yet is not, in the pure sense, “scientific.”

Science can also give us neither morality, nor philosophy. Science can tell us what happens to a child when it is abused, and can catalog the reactions of parents who are outraged at the sight of such abuse. But, like beauty, science can only study the surrounding empirical evidence of morality, but not morality itself. As for philosophy, science can tell us whether a person is convinced of Descartes’ famous line, “I think, therefore I am,” and of the psychology which went into arriving at the belief, but cannot prove empirically whether the logic therein is sound.

The scientist should not be offended to find out that the questions of his field and the jurisdiction of his wisdom is limited from these areas. This is not to say that science has no place in history, poetry, morality and philosophy. Such a claim would be preposterous. All of these paths of wisdom are employed by beings who exist in the physical world, and so for any of them to have a full discourse everything science has to say should be examined. But we must forego the modern inclination to use science as a means to trump all other fields of study. Certainly, when the philosopher or moralist wanders into scientific territory, they too can receive correction if their ponderings should betray scientific consensus. These means of knowledge should all work together in a system of checks and balances, scientist over the poet, philosopher over the scientist, moralist over the historian, and every other combination of these. In our use of science to ask the question, “Is there a God?”, we must be careful to, however we answer, not let science go uninformed by these other means of inquiry. For if God exists, then in some sense his existence must be poetical, historical, moral and philosophical, as well as scientific.

Chapter 1: Science

As the moon it will be firmly established for time indefinite, and as a faithful witness in the skies. – Psalms 89:37

The universe is a striking combination of beauty and ugliness, order and chaos. I think that anybody who does not find our world mind boggling at the scientific reality of our world has not looked hard enough. Often, theists use the argument that because there is so much order, so much careful ‘set-up’ to the way things work, there must be a God. This is interesting in contrast to the atheistic argument which generally runs, “Because science explains how X works, there is no God.” The atheist argues that because events in the universe are explainable and quantifiable, positing a being, God, which is not explainable or quantifiable goes against scientific inquiry and common sense. Interestingly, the philosopher John Locke held the view that as a scientist one must assume this perspective, though he was himself a Christian theologian.

There are two questions to ask of science: first, why should it be that the world is quantifiable? In other words, I reverse the elements of the ordinary atheistic formula, “Because science can explain how the world works, there must be no God.” However, you must wonder, how is it possible that the world could be explained at all? Theists are accused by atheists of creating something more complicated than the state of affairs as an explanation, and just making the whole question of the universe worse. But let us just remember how complicated things are. The solar systems, galaxies, gravity, lightning bolts and tornadoes; how lightning bugs light and sting rays sting, why objects are distorted when covered in water. Our universe is so consistent towards us that we have come to assume a methodic, scientific explanation for everything we perceive. It is one thing to claim that there is always “order” in the universe; that may or may not be true. But what even mythology and science have in common is the shared belief that things can be explained in the physical universe. A tribal leader in primitive times assumes a grander, universal leader who ordered the heavens: this is an explanation for how things work, and it makes sense according to his experience of things. A scientist discovers that gravity is holding the solar system together: of course, for the scientist lives in a culture which takes personhood out of the world. The chieftan of planets is simply no longer a “person;” it is now a “force.” The scientist has more careful methods, but his assumption is that he can create an account of how the world works, that it is possible, in theory, to explain every occurrence in nature.

I think this is, if not wholly proof of God, in favor of God. Why should the universe be translatable into the language of science? Even though virtually every scientific theory has been attacked by someone, most people believe, I think, that the natural world can be scientifically explained. Either this assumption is right, or it is wrong. If it is wrong and science meets natural events it is helpless to explain, not only temporarily but intrinsically inexplicable, then we must wonder what other type of rules govern the world. On the other hand, if nature is always explainable, we must ask, why? Why should it always be, or so frequently be, apparently open to human inquiry? How is it that plants, which have nothing to do with humans in their daily life (I assume they do not consciously grow in a way we can understand), can be explained by us? Why should any part of the world be possible to submit to any human explanation? We could turn one way and say, Well, perhaps it doesn’t. Science is merely a social construction of human beings and will never be anything more. But if this is the cause, how can science be a proof against God? Isn’t the edgy, tough claim of atheism that empirical reality is really explainable and that God is not a part of that empirical reality? For the atheist’s argument to work, if he is to use science, he must agree with me that the world is terribly vulnerable to the inquiry of the human mind. The human mind gets it wrong often enough to be sure, but there is enough overwhelming consistency to believe that the human mind can understand, eventually, virtually every occurrence of the natural world.

Now, again, it may be argued that humans are only projecting themselves into the world through science. But remember, this point of view destroys the atheist’s argument that because the world is explainable there need be no God. But we must reckon with this fact, that the physical universe, not designed by us or made by us, older and very strange to us, can be explained by our searching into it. Theists will argue that the probability of such a carefully designed world occurring without something consciously deciding to make it that way is simply inconceivable. Atheists will agree that the world is strikingly ordered, but will argue that positing a “someone” is more problematic than the solution to a mathematical question. What neither notes, though, is that the world is sitting there, letting them posit theories, and on both sides they are confident that their theories are somehow pointing towards something like truth about the world, in spite of their radically different opponent. Why should the world ever be discoverable to the human mind? Why does everything always have a “way it works,” and why do we think we can know it?

Let’s not to resort to human psychology in explaining this thought away, because it really only avoids the question, and doesn’t hinder the theist anymore than the atheist – or help them, for that matter. (I respond to this a bit more fully, in any case, in Chapter 4: The Power of Subjectivity.) If we agree that things in the world have a way they work, and that the human mind can discover those works, we have agreed that the universe has some sort of relationship to thought. Thoughts consider the way things are put together, thoughts make explanations. There is no scientific evidence of a thinker (though I hear there are arguments for a low level, consciousness principle in the universe), but how else shall we explain the persistent nature of nature, that however mysterious it may be to us presently, it still guides us to believing that there will be an explanation? How could the world be so subjected to the mind, unless it were because something like a mind had been involved in its coming together? Explanations, remember, must work because there are actually features of the world which make the explanations plausible. How can we totally accept the fact that science and reason can explain the world, if we reject the premise that a sort of science and reason had something to do with its making?

Perhaps I have not proven God through empirical study, but I submit the question, if a mind was not involved in ordering the universe, why believe that the human mind should ever succeed? My belief is that there must exist such a force of mind, involved in the empirical world, for otherwise the potential intelligibility of the world is itself, to me, fundamentally unintelligible.

Introduction: Take My Musings Lightly

The question of God’s existence is one which has been asked, I think, for about as long as questions have been asked, or at least not long after. Many people have attempted to prove God the way one proves a species of frog exists: to go out, demonstrate he is there, and settle the issue one way or the other. I don’t have so much confidence in my ability to do so. If you do not believe in God, I am not very sure that my arguments here will convince you. If you don’t want my arguments to convince you, I am pretty sure they won’t, in fact. So why write this out at all? To be honest, it mostly began as a selfish venture. Having believed in God for a very long time, I was curious as to why. What convinced me? What made me believe in God? As Anselm would say, I did not begin writing this from a position of doubt but from a position of “faith seeking understanding.”

Now, that doesn’t mean that I have always had faith, or that I always believed in God. On the other hand, unlike some Christian philosophers who are very impressive to me, I can’t claim to have ever quite been an atheist. I did, for a little while, try to be an atheist, but I admit readily it was pretty much an experiment, and I doubted its success the whole time. Coming to believe in a larger “something,” I spent a long time searching before I came to be relatively settled in the faith I now espouse. Of course, faith has become something of a dirty word in our culture, but I am not going to defend that word. Faith is really not the subject of this book. All I will say about faith is that if you do not have it, you believe in nothing, no science, religion, or lack of either. Even to believe in skepticism is to believe in the power of doubt. So do not chase me out of your realm of inquiry because I have faith. We all do. That’s just life. The question is not whether we have faith, but what we have faith in.

I have faith in God. I am not writing this as an apology in either sense of the word. I am not sorry that I believe in God, and I am not trying to defend myself or anybody else. All I am doing is, because I am curious, making an explanation for my own belief, as I have gathered it from life experience, from consideration, and from the pages of those whom I have read. Although many of my thoughts are unoriginal in the sense that I have encountered them in some form elsewhere, I don’t claim to know that anybody else holds this set of ideas set out the particular way they are here; they probably don’t. So I shouldn’t be made to speak for all theists, especially where I fail to do justice to the view I share with them. I’m also not claiming that my reasons are better than anyone else’s. My hope for sharing these ideas at all is not to convince, but to provide another tool for the complicated process of thinking about the world around us. There are plenty of other great tools, far better than this one, but I suspect that the world has enough room for more ideas. Tyranny is the result of less ideas, not more, in my opinion.

It will be wondered, of course, what the sources for these ideas are. I have kept most of this as a sort of journal, writing this introduction retrospectively about halfway through the project. To be honest, because these are ideas I’ve chewed on at some length, I can’t say that I know the origin of each idea. Very close to my heart are Christian thinkers like C.S. Lewis, George MacDonald, and Anselm. Among Greco-Roman philosophers, I do of course count Plato, Aristotle and Boethius as prime influences, while among medieval thinkers I have always preferred Anselm the best, with a good appreciation for Aquinas and John Duns Scotus. Of course, Immanuel Kant, George Berkeley, and Descartes have long informed my thoughts on almost every matter. Thinkers Christian orthodoxy might deem heretical who have mattered a great deal to my process of inquiry have been Nietzsche, Baruch Spinoza, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and William Blake. Of thinkers more current, I have been very interested in David Chalmers, Alistair McGrath, and Alvin Plantinga. And there are innumerable others, of course, to whom I owe a tremendous debt, least of all for this little piece of writing and more for the hours of delightful contemplation I owe them. Which exact moments in my argument come from which thinkers I might be able to figure out, were I to try, and those readers who know those named well could probably do so even more carefully than I. My desire has not been, however, to write great scholarship, because this is not a scholarly book.

This book is written for anyone who is interested, and I want the ideas to be fore-grounded over their source. I also do not want any of my logical failures to be blamed on any writers greater than I am, for I am sure that I have not understood them as well as I would like to. So where you note similarities in their thought and mine, suppose that I’ve read them well where I am making sense, and getting them wrong when my arguments devolve into nonsense. But my goal is not to write an account of the history of proofs of God here. I may mention one of these thinkers here or there where I think it is useful, but I will try and abstain from that for the most part. This is a far friendlier, informal exposition of what one person has found in his private musings, sharing them at the risk of ridicule, and in the hopes that someone will find them interesting at least, useful at best. Though I do not hide from my stance as a Christian, let me emphasize that this is not an argument in favor of Christianity per se, though it is, overall, a belief in a God which I think highly amenable to the tenets of that faith.

Wrath and Laughter in The Silmarillion’s Beginning of Days

The first chapter of Middle-Earth’s history begins with the war between the gods for the fate of the world, and ends with a meditation on the unique calling of Men to be Free and to Die. Like the Trees that will light the World until the making of the Sun and the Moon, the foundation of Arda is watered with tears. How are Men to meet such a world, how are they to use the power, the “virtue to shape their life, amid the powers and chances of the world” (41)? Iluvatar knew from the start that they “being set amid the turmoils of the powers of the world,  would stray often, and would not use their gifts in harmony” (42). The calling of Men is to one day shape the harmony of the world from outside of it, but in the meantime unlike Elves seem most vulnerable to evil, and indeed even resemble it more than any other part of creation, “for it seems to the Elves that Men resemble Melkor most of all the Ainur” (42). We don’t fit into the way of things the way we should.

It is often commented how surprising life is, and how surprising it is even that life should be surprising: for how could the only thing we ever experience be a surprise at all? There is plenty of record from past lives to know what to expect, and yet we all discover emotions as if we were the first to encounter them – just listen to any teenager angry at his or her parents for confirmation of this. Anger is a product of surprise, unknown encountered with fear, as both Elves and Melkor fear Men: “…the Elves believe that Men are often a grief to Manwe…. [Melkor] has ever feared and hated them, even those that serve him” (42). But according to the Elves, the evil of Melkor and the waywardness of Men are a mirror of each other.

This is, of course, because Melkor does not follow the natural relation between himself and weaker beings: “For Elves and Men are the Children of Iluvatar; and since they understood not fully that theme by which the Children entered into the Music, none of the Ainur dared to add anything to their fashion. For which reason the Valar are to these kindreds rather their elders and their chieftans than their masters” (410). Melkor fears “even those that serve him,” and one might extrapolate that perhaps it is those that serve him whom Melkor fears most, for he is usurping Iluvatar’s authority over beings that he does not understand. Even the Ainur sometimes overstep their bounds “in their dealings with Elves and Men” when “the Ainur have endeavored to force them when they would not be guided,” and “seldom has this turned to good, however good the intent” (41). More kindred in nature to the Elves, the Ainur interact the most frequently with them rather than Men, but Melkor cannot be satisfied with partial tyranny.

It is a striking theme of mythology that the source of evil is so singular in spite of its apparent multiplicity, in spite of the fact that we seem to live “in a world where to think is to be full of sorrow” as Keats wrote in “Ode to a Nightingale.” Through one man sin entered into the world; through one fallen angel lies were fathered, and through one Ainu the best laid plans of Gods, Men, and Elves are “filled with shadows and deceit” (41). And there are of course the unnamed allies of Melkor, the lesser Ainur and the people of Middle Earth who succumb to his ill conceived counsel. But even in their commitment to goodness and justice, the Valar and their peoples are not always up to the task of facing Melkor’s evil. They build a walled off paradise away from Middle-Earth, away from their responsibilities as stewards of the world, and succeed in making Valinor beautiful at the expense of the other lands of Arda. In their own ways, the Valar each contribute something to the peace of the wider world. Manwe continues to watch from his high seat; Ulmo brings life through the secret waterways of the earth; Orome hunts monsters and chases away shadows with the sound of his horn; Yavanna secretly ministers to the flora and fauna and even advocates war against Melkor on their behalf.

But the most effective figure against Melkor is not Manwe, the closest to him in majesty; it is Tulkas, who came from outside of the circle of Arda when he saw the havoc Melkor wrought in the primeval war of the gods. Melkor could not face him in battle; before destroying the Lamps that were the original mode of lighting the world attempted by the Valar, Melkor awaited the opportune time when Tulkas was tired from battling, from rebuilding the world alongside his fellow gods, and from the following celebration of their labors and his marriage to Nessa. “Then Tulkas slept, being weary and content, and Melkor deemed that his hour had come” (36), and this divine nap leads to the destruction of Almaren, the first home of the gods on Arda and the destroyed hope that angels and men could dwell together when the Children of Iluvatar awoke. The disaster of the overturned Lamps distracted the Ainur as Melkor fled as “the earth trembled beneath the feet of Tulkas” (37).

What makes Tulkas special is not his strength alone, but the energy and presence of will that he brings which Melkor dares not try to match directly. We are told that “in the midst of the war” (the first war with Melkor), “a spirit of great strength and hardihood came to the aid of the Valar, hearing in the far heaven that there was battle in the Little Kingdom; and Arda was filled with the sound of his laughter” (35). Battle cries are common enough, but battle laughter has greater power still, and it is the combination which defines the presence of Tulkas: “So came Tulkas the Strong, whose anger passes like a mighty wind, scattering clouds and darkness before it; and Melkor fled before his wrath and his laughter”…. “and his hate was given to Tulkas for ever after” (35). He fears and hates Tulkas, who came from outside the circle of Arda; he fears and hates the race of Men, whose destiny lies outside that circle as well. Elijah too used laughter as a weapon against the spiritual darkness of Baal: “And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened” (1 Kings 18:27), but it was Tulkas, not Melkor, who was sleeping. And indeed after the second battle in which the first attempt at Arda’s paradise is destroyed, Tulkas is never reported as laughing again.

Yet it is that laughter mixed with wrath, as it is the mixing of the two lights of the Lamps or the two lights of the trees, and the mixing of the sorrow with beauty in the first song of the Ainur, that marks Tulkas as the foe whom Melkor is afraid to meet in battle, and whom resembles in the account most the Men whom Melkor wishes to subdue. This is not a likeness acknowledged by the Elves; it is something we as readers must discover. Melkor understands wrath, but wrath is its goal; the laughter of Tulkas gives his wrath limits and purpose. He brings his joy in the natural order and in the harmony of his people into battle with a demonic belief that laughter should be silent before power. As he does not understand Men, we can say that Melkor “has not discovered” why Tulkas laughs, and so his only strategy is to flee from joy and strike at it when asleep and silent. A disantly warlike quality of vigilence in our joy is needed to resist despair, for when our Almaren is cast down and like Keats we “cannot see what flowers are at our feet,” we do not ask, “Do I wake or sleep?” Carried instead on “the viewless wings of Poesy,” where the Queen Moon is clustered with her starry fays, we can hold on to the light that becomes laughter when faced with darkness.