09 October 2008

Nightmares of God: Theodicy, Miracle, and Analysis

Previously I wrote that Universe resembles a vast web of self-consistent thought, a kind of cosmic dream. But that raises the question of theodicy : if the dream is dreamed by the Abrahamic (Jewish/Christian/Islamic) God who supposedly loves His creation and His creatures, why is so much of the dream a nightmare?

The short answer is that you wouldn't take life seriously if it never hurt, or if those hurts could be fixed.

The universe imposes on us the discipline that actions have consequences, yours and everyone else's. And for actions to have consequences, there must be an arrow of time so that what is done cannot be undone. And for us to be unconstrained in our actions with respect to God - for us to have free will to experience those consequences - there must be cause and effect. The cosmic dream must be mathematically consistent. Miracles must be so rare as to be almost non-existent (a set of measure zero) compared to the set of all other events in the universe.

At least, that's my explanation for accidents and disasters - the kinds of thing philosophers used to call Natural Evil - and for the scarcity of miracles to provide relief and rescue from them.

Human evil - the ways in which we make each other miserable - is another story. Specifically, it is our story, the part of the cosmic dream that we make up. Couldn't we just dream something else?

Have you ever had a nightmare, and while you were having it, tried to just dream something else? Sometimes you can do it, and sometimes not. When you can't, the nightmare has you in its terrifying power. But that power is your power, because you are the dreamer. Maybe nightmares are your attempt to practice/process how to deal with your real fear in an unreal setting - safe fear. But the point is that the dream both is and is not under your control. You both make up what's coming next and are surprised by it. And most often you are stuck with it.

Does God, in whose Image we are made, also separate Himself into the Dreamer and the Experiencer of the Cosmic Dream? Does the Father know, while the Son must guess?

And then there is the question of how much we participate in dreaming the cosmic dream. Tom Ogden writes of the "psychoanalytic third," that part of the interaction that belongs neither to the analyst/therapist nor to the patient/client but to both when they are together, and leaves vestiges of itself in each when they are apart. The "third" is the field of interaction, where the real work of therapy is sparked, where the therapist and client lower their barriers to each other and risk being absorbed. Is the Holy Spirit a kind of psychoanalytic third that is arises between us and God when we experience God's presence? Is this how God enables us to re-dream ourselves, to experience conversion?

Is the Son how God experiences with us the nightmare side of the Father's Cosmic Dream, and the Spirit how God heals us of its evil?

And what about you know who?


VanceH- said...

Hi Scooper, A very interesting post. Your question: "Does the Father know, while the Son must guess?" Is something I have been thinking about too, not only for Christ's time on earth, but also as an aspect of the trinity. Certainly makes some Old Testament situations make more sense (e.g. God regreting that he chose Saul).

Undergroundpewster said...

This character (me) in God's dream or nightmare sometimes shakes its fist at God. After reading your post, maybe I should have been shouting "Wake up!" instead.

Scooper said...

You might also note that the Son said of the apocalypse that no one knows the time except the Father.

Underground Pewster,
God's "waking up" ends the Cosmic Dream. "Wake up!" is thus a call for the apocalypse. Sort of like, "Amen, come, Lord Jesus."