Imagine a state of being prior to the manifestation of the universe-prior to the Big Bang if you prefer it- in which there is no differentiation between subject and object; it is a universally diffused blend of subjectivity and objectivity. There is no focus of awareness to which anything could appear as an object. So there is no I and no It, no here and no there, no now and no then. It is uniform, all over at once. Mystics describe it as nothingness, or as being-consciouness-bliss.
We know from the study of physics that our universe uses the same stuff to make you and me that it uses to make everything else, from unyielding granite to gentle breezes, from rigid teeth to delicate eye tissue, from radiant stars to passing thoughts. Everything is ultimately made of the same substance and bound by the same laws – four cosmic forces, a handful of particles, a hundred or so elements; and yet, like an embryo developing within the womb of existense the universe differentiates within itself, creating finer patterns and more complex forms as it quickens through the course of time.
Unfortunately, we can never actually stand “outside” this process, any more than the developing embryo can take a peek from outside the womb to see how things are going.
Like fruit from a tree or infant from mother, we don’t come into the world, but out of it, a conglomeration of elements that were forged in the billion-degree heat of exploding stars, then scattered through the fathomless reaches of the deep universe.
So, if the laws of nature were all there before the Big Bang, then they must be nonphysical, idealike entities dwelling in some kind of permanent mathematical mind, be it the mind of God or the Cosmic Mind etc.
It is indeed odd that the universe should instantaneously behave so lawfully, instead of simply degenerating into chaos. Physics tells us that our senses delude us into confusing the universe with its physical content, when in fact, a universe is simply the instantiation of the transcendent laws that govern it – it is the underlying laws that result in the relatively stable domain which our senses perceive as “matter”.
In the beginning was, if not a word, at least a sentence of encoded information of some sort. And indeed the creation of this universe was very good, for unlike most universes, our at least contained in its essence and origins the potential for the good – not to mention the true and the beautiful – to appear at some point in its later development.
The laws that undergird the universe are invisible to our evolved senses; rather they can only be “seen” with the mind’s eye, the eye of reason.
And yet, physics has no explanation for how its impressive mathematical scaffolding can relate to, much less generate, what we experience as objective reality.
So, why metaphysics? Which is a little like asking a monkey, “why the banana?” Human beings are built in a certain way and therefore have specific needs. To engage in real metaphysics is to touch the divine. This must be so, since metaphysics is the study of being qua being, and God is….
No, let’s just leave it at that: God is, period.
Metaphysics is the quintessential business of isness, and God is isness as such. Therefore, “metaphysical truth concerns not only our thinking, but penetrates also to our whole being.”
As such, “it is far above philosophy in the ordinary sense of the word.” Perhaps we should call it transphysics, because it is both above and beyond the call of nature.
Back to the monkey and his banana. A monkey, has certain intrinsic needs, and to deny him the object of those needs would be a cruelty. So hand over the banana already!
Likewise, we have certain intrinsic needs, and to deny these is to make a monkey out of us. However, our needs are not limited to the biological sphere, or even the social sphere, although food, grog, and sex is certainly a good start.
But no man can live on bananas alone, nor even on human love.
Rather — and this is a key to appreciating what man is — man has a need of truth and of salvation. Allied with these is a need for morals, which represent truth in action, or, say, truth prolonged into the social sphere.
Man also needs spiritual practice, which, you might say, is a systematic way to assimilate and embody truth and morality. In short, in order to get anywhere he needs Truth and Way, or Doctrine and Method, or Ass and Roadmap.
Authentic religious traditions already embody metaphysics, and this may be sufficient to satisfy the average believer.
For example, Genesis is chock full of metaphysical arguments and insights, and there is no intrinsic reason why an intellectual explication of them is superior to an implicit, right brain understanding.
I mean, it’s all there: radical creation (and the goodness thereof), deiformity, vocation, destiny, judgment, woman trouble, sibling rivalry, and much more.
It’s clear that the historical ubiquity of religion proves that it answers and speaks to a genuine need in man, because to think otherwise is to posit an effect with no cause. What this suggests to me is that we have the same needs man has always had, because man is man, a self-tautology.
In order to be unaware of the pain caused by this unfulfilled need, we must engage in all sorts of distractions, displacements, replacements, and substitutions. But still the need will be there because the void will persist, a void that cannot be filled by the world, any more than the need for human companionship can be satisfied by food.
Ultimate truth, like its divine sponsor, just is, and has no reason. And we cannot rest until we are conformed to it.
Live and Learn. We All Do.
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