A Fragment of a Fable (for Sunday Night)

Two friends on a summer evening:

“What if God had created the universe, and -”


“- had created the entire universe, and being powerful was omnipotent over the entire universe? But this is the thing. The universe got too big for him.”

“How’s that?”

“Just got out of control, kept getting bigger and bigger, but it just kept growing larger and larger, until God couldn’t control it anymore. That’s why things go wrong. God’s not there to set things right. Too busy, literally, elsewhere, trying to get his universe back. Make it orderly.”

“You’re saying – let me get this straight, understand this – that where God is absent, there anything can happen, or is it that only bad things happen there, in the nullity of God’s non-presence?

“I’m saying there… there… anything can happen. There are other laws ruling there. The sequences of the universe. The causation of things, but outside divine intervention.”

“Oh, yes, you’d need a god for divine intervention.”

“A God, yes.”

“Or two Gods.”

“What do you mean?

“Well, you posit a God that let the universe grow too big for him, that slipped out of his control, if you will. Looking at the Hubble Deep Field picture, you readily see the soup of galaxies and stars, spilling and twirling willy-nilly throughout time and space, like bright, differential molecules in a dirty drop of water, and that is the godless universe, run according to the laws of chaos.”

“You are going beyond what I aimed to say. I posit something that happened once in time, or was, perhaps, the start of time, when God lost control over his own creation. But what is it? A godless universe, or one run by two gods? You’re not making sense.”

“I readily admit that I said ‘two Gods’ to be provocative. No, I am suggesting that there was only one creating entity, but rather than lose control, the creation represented a split in the mind of God. There was a God who wished to be self-contained, pure self-sufficiency with his own creation self-contained. And there was another side of God who wished to spin off creation to see what it would do. To make a machine, in other words, and order that machine, or perhaps better, a game, and here’s the rules, and what will happen when that – no… a program! Yes, a computer program of a universe that would run according to deep algorithms. But the other God -”

“I’m barely following you now.”

“The other God, the one in His head – I mean, his head, his mind was divided, his intentions split. So he created a universe, meaning to control it, as an emanation of his mind. But it got away from him, as you explained. I’m only giving it psychological motivation, or a theodicy, if you will.”

“I think I see. Let me rephrase it. God, having made the universe, did so under a divided sense of purpose, so that his tendency towards oneness was manifest, and a separate tendency, a creative impulse or fecundity gave total independence to his creation, or wanted to, as if God were giving life to a Pygmalion-like universe.”

“You could say that.”

“But is this theodicy, if that’s what you want to call it… isn’t it surprisingly close to what a human parent might feel towards its child? Divided between control and self-identity, and a generative impulse to facilitate independence. But should such human attributes be given to a being so powerful, so divine? That’s asking a lot. In fact, I’d dispense with fancy words like theodicy. Even more, I’d say you’ve fashioned your own creation myth.”

“As have you.”

“But you haven’t spoken to my point, the anthropomorphizing of the godhead.”

“This is a prison that we cannot escape. We can only think of it that way.”

“So, are we talking about divinity, or humanity? Which is it?”

“We are talking about the cosmos.”

“I don’t accept that. We are either talking about things outside ourselves, or really about ourselves, revealing our inner psychology. An old metaphysical debate, I’m sure you know. Kant vs. Hume. The idealists vs. the materialists. In the end, you’ll be saying that the real truth is mathematical, is in physics. Whereas I was only saying something much more simple, about the nature of where God is and isn’t, as a metaphor, something to explain evil, or randomness.”

“The divided mind is all we know, if we apprehend even that. The physicists can’t deal with that. Intention.”

“Inner psychology again. That’s all it is.”

“If you wish to see it that way, that’s fine. I have no argument with that. We are not opposed. Except that you wished to create a metaphor and a myth, and I wanted to say something about divided purpose as an engine for the universe.”

“The divided purpose of a god. The split mind of God. That dynamism…”

“Yes, because we cannot see it any other way, of that you seem to be well aware. Except in your version, the universe is static: an absent God, a god with an unruly adolescent creation that got too big for its britches. My god is more anguished, trying to decide which is right, as if, to parrot the old philosophy books, he could not make up his mind between monism and dualism. The truth is in the conflict between the two.”

“Very zen, very much like a koan. Eastern, a pinch of Heraclitus and a soupcon of Lao Tse.”

“I don’t know what you’re referring to. I was only following our own thoughts, the internal logic of our own discussion. I meant to speak of an anthropomorphic God, like the God of Genesis, making the world and then, lost in doubt after the light left his imminence, unsure, terribly unsure what to do about it.”

“And what follows from this vision then? From mine, there is solace that the world runs according to some law. That the absence of God is explainable, if regrettable. We go on. And you?

“For me, there is only the battle within, the struggle to make things real and meaningful, ever renewed by the separation from godhead, by the failure of God to make up his mind. So that in the end, we are God’s mind.”


    • Valtin on June 9, 2008 at 8:07 am

    For those poor souls who can’t sleep on the night that divides the day of rest from the week of work.

    I thought a few here would enjoy reading it. A step away from my usual postings.

    • Edger on June 10, 2008 at 1:05 am

    Interesting congruence here…

    “There was never a time when the world began, because it goes round and round like a circle, and there is no place on a circle where it begins. Look at my watch, which tells the time; it goes round, and so the world repeats itself again and again. But just as the hour-hand of the watch goes up to twelve and down to six, so, too, there is day and night, waking and sleeping, living and dying, summer and winter. You can’t have any one of these without the other, because you wouldn’t be able to know what black is unless you had seen it side-by-side with white, or white unless side-by-side with black.

    “In the same way, there are times when the world is, and times when it isn’t, for if the world went on and on without rest for ever and ever, it would get horribly tired of itself. It comes and it goes. Now you see it; now you don’t. So because it doesn’t get tired of itself, it always comes back again after it disappears. It’s like your breath: it goes in and out, in and out, and if you try to hold it in all the time you feel terrible. It’s also like the game of hide-and-seek, because it’s always fun to find new ways of hiding, and to seek for someone who doesn’t always hide in the same place.

    “God also likes to play hide-and-seek, but because there is nothing outside God, he has no one but himself to play with. But he gets over this difficulty by pretending that he is not himself. This is his way of hiding from himself. He pretends that he is you and I and all the people in the world, all the animals, all the plants, all the rocks, and all the stars. In this way he has strange and wonderful adventures, some of which are terrible and frightening. But these are just like bad dreams, for when he wakes up they will disappear.

    “Now when God plays hide and pretends that he is you and I, he does it so well that it takes him a long time to remember where and how he hid himself. But that’s the whole fun of it-just what he wanted to do. He doesn’t want to find himself too quickly, for that would spoil the game. That is why it is so difficult for you and me to find out that we are God in disguise, pretending not to be himself. But when the game has gone on long enough, all of us will wake up, stop pretending, and remember that we are all one single Self-the God who is all that there is and who lives for ever and ever.

    “God is the Self of the world, but you can’t see God for the same reason that, without a mirror, you can’t see your own eyes, and you certainly can’t bite your own teeth or look inside your head. Your self is that cleverly hidden because it is God hiding.

    “You may ask why God sometimes hides in the form of horrible people, or pretends to be people who suffer great disease and pain. Remember, first, that he isn’t really doing this to anyone but himself. Remember, too, that in almost all the stories you enjoy there have to be bad people as well as good people, for the thrill of the tale is to find out how the good people will get the better of the bad. It’s the same as when we play cards. At the beginning of the game we shuffle them all into a mess, which is like the bad things in the world, but the point of the game is to put the mess into good order, and the one who does it best is the winner. Then we shuffle the cards once more and play again, and so it goes with the world.”

    “The Ultimate Ground of Being” is Paul Tillich’s decontaminated term for God” and would also do for “the Self of the world” as I put it in my story for children. But the secret which my story slips over to the child is that the Ultimate Ground of Being is you. Not, of course, the everyday you which the Ground is assuming, or “pretending” to be, but that inmost Self which escapes inspection because it’s always the inspector. This, then, is the taboo of taboos – you’re It!

    –Alan Watts, interpreting Vedanta in his “The Book: On The Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are”

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