Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Defining the Indefinable. Was Baruch Spinoza right?

Baruch Spinoza was born in Amsterdam. His thoughts on the Divine were both controversial and unacceptable to the Jewish community that raised him. They kicked him out. Later, the Catholic Church put his book on the Index of Forbidden Books. The poor guy couldn’t win. By the time he turned 23 he became homeless. Nevertheless Hegel said later that: “You are either a Spinozist or not a philosopher at all.”
 Spinoza came into the orbit of my thoughts when I read his words that: “To define God, is to deny God”. There goes the Sistine Chapel…
Of course, he was right. To define means to “bring to an end”. To limit. And, surely, one can neither terminate nor limit the Infinite. For many years I agreed with Baruch. Still do. Yet now it seems that the influence of the anthropomorphic divinity on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is so powerful that something has to be said about the nature of the Absolute.

Think of poetry. It does not define but suggests, implies, alludes, nudges one into a direction wherein an image of that that has no image is gradually taking on an idea of an illusive presence. Perhaps while we cannot define the Infinite, we can postulate some of Its attributes.
We can think of a concept that is omnipresent yet expressing singularity, omniscient, outside any restrictions, and thus outside the confines of space or time, hence outside our concept of the Universe or even Multiverse.
To my mind there is only one option left.
‘God’ can be thought of as Infinite Potential. Once that potential is manifested in any tangible form—be it material, emotional or mental—it becomes definable. It may not be outside the Infinite, but it qualifies as only a tiny fraction of the Infinite, which, by having been created, by having had a beginning must also have its end. It is no longer undefinable.
Ergo, we are back to the Potential. 
Goodbye Sistine Chapel.

Times change. With the exception of my fundamentalist friends, I don’t expect to have a cherem issued against me. In Hebrew cherem means a banning, shunning, ostracism, expulsion or excommunication. That’s what happened to Spinoza. 
I am neither the first nor the last to speculate on what is really beyond speculation. The fun, however, is in the journey, in that brief moment before we revert back to the Potential. Perhaps a few billion years, at most?

There was a man who also speculated on the nature of reality and, perhaps, on its Source. It seems that he got closer to the truth than most of us, although we are, according to him, all “children of the same Source”. He didn’t fare any better than Spinoza. In fact, a lot worse.
The wonderful thing is that we, humans, have the equipment that allows us to speculate. To reach beyond the limits set by the material Universe. Some of us even use this ability. For me, this alone, is reward in itself. 

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