DID YOU KNOW?
This week’s DYK is excerpted from Chapter 6, of a soon to be released book written by a prominent professor with long-term sobriety. The title of Chapter 6 is; The Ground of Being: In calculus and in the construction of infinite series, mathematicians can sometimes talk intelligibly about processes which are infinite in the sense that they proceed without limit, but the only processes which give us useful information are those which converge toward a finite limit. The ground of being cannot be described by mathematical formulas of this sort, because it involves infinite processes which do not converge toward any finite limit.
The ground of being not only created all the matter and energy in the physical universe, it also supplied—and continues to supply—the laws of nature which the physical universe is constrained to follow. The electrons and protons and various kinds of energy which make up our physical universe do not create these underlying laws of nature which the scientists explore. This realm of scientific law was also supplied by the ground at the time of the universe’s creation, and it is this underlying ground which continues to maintain and enforce all these fundamental laws of physics.
What this means is that the ground of being not only created our physical universe 13.7 billion years ago, but that it is still there today, and that it is still connected to our physical universe today, in such a way that if our physical universe lost its link to the underlying ground, it would blink out of existence on the spot.
The ground of being is what the philosophical theologians of traditional western theism—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all three—have always called God. In classical Hindu philosophy, this ultimate ground was referred to as Brahman.
Whether regarded as personal or impersonal, the ground is the ultimate divine Mystery. In ancient pagan Greek neo-Platonism, the ground of being was called the One, the single and unitary divine Mystery which stood above everything else: the gods, the human soul, and even the power of reason itself. It was regarded as a completely impersonal transcendent ground. It was not a personal being because it was above and beyond all multiplicity, above all thoughts and concepts, and above and beyond everything which could constitute a distinct personality filled with individual cares and concerns and desires.
In Hindu philosophy down through the centuries there have been a variety of interpretations of this ground of being. In the philosophical system called Advaita Vedanta for example, Brahman (the ground of being) was described as a kind of infinite cosmic consciousness and infinite bliss, from which shone the infinite radiance of the outpouring of pure knowledge itself. But this was not the same as a truly personal God, since Brahman was still being regarded as an impersonal reality without attributes, which functioned as an abstract ultimate ground from which other lower forms of being could emerge. Vedantist philosophers of this school taught that fully personal understandings of God, where God was personified as one of the particular Hindu gods like Vishnu or Shiva, were simply reflections of Brahman (like the reflections of the moon in a pool of water) down into the realm of Maya (the domain of the illusions which rule the material world). So it is clear that they regarded any kind of belief in a deeply personal God as part of the realm of ignorance, illusion, and fantasy from which good spirituality was supposed to save us. In early and medieval Christian theology, we see the full gamut of interpretations. To be continued…
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