Monday, February 9, 2015

Predestination and eternity

From The Temptation of St. Anthony, Hieronymus Bosch

Yesterday's essay, which examined — in extremely brief format – Meister Eckhart's concept of eternity, which was central to his understanding of God, leads us to an interesting observation about predestination and eternity.

In order to understand this point, it would be helpful of readers went to the link here on Boethius and read section 6.

 There has been an argument, since the early days of Christianity, about whether or not God's omniscience creates a state of predestination for man. After all, if God creates all things, knows all things, and determines all things, from the moment of his birth to his death, a man's fate is already decided by God, so he can have no impact on the future.

One of the arguments advanced in the consolation of philosophy is that God cannot affect predetermination, since all time exists within a eternity in God. That is to say, within the scope of God's Being, all time is simultaneous. In such a condition, there can be no past and no future; all events take place at once, together. If this is true — and I think readers must agree it positively stinks of truth — then there can be no predestination, because predestination supposes a progression of time, in which one act leads to another.

The concept is not only sophisticated, it dovetails neatly into Buddhist concepts of the Dharma. What we encounter is a moment in which all moments depend upon one another: they are not only simultaneous, they coexist in the way that they are arranged as a whole and single thing. One cannot be separated from another; and perhaps this reminds us of Gurdjieff's comment that for one thing to be different, everything would have to be different.

We might call this the doctrine of inseparability; that is, one's life is of a whole substance within God. I don't think Meister Eckhart would have argued that point; and it calls us to examine ourselves from a different point of view, in which everything is connected.

Gurdjieff's idea of the fragmentation of the self into many different I's supposes a collapse of understanding in which a separated existence — in fact, what one might: infinite number of separated existences — take place. And indeed, if we look at the world, we see that this reductive kind of reasoning and consciousness is exactly how we perceive it: everything is separate from one another. Failing to understand the function of things and how they depend on one another for their existence leads to a failure to understand not only how our inner existence is completely dependent on the whole of ourselves; we also fail to understand how outer existence is dependent on all of our existence. One cannot destroy one part of one's outwardness or inwardness without destroying all of the parts that depend on it: and in the same way that Gurdjieff told Ouspensky that, for simplicity's sake, "chief feature" was all of him,  so, in the same way, we are all of ourselves.

Of course, ecosystem engineers and biologists have begun to understand this from a strictly mechanical and physical point of view; hence the great alarm with which scientists from these disciplines view the way we are destroying the outward circumstances of the planet. We do much the same thing inwardly; and yet we take it for granted that we are this way, or that way, and can affect it.

There is a need to come to an understanding of the whole of ourselves within this inner eternity, which requires a different sense of who we are — a substantial difference rooted in the organism.


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