Monday, March 15, 2010

An Outline of Cosmologies

All kinds of cosmologies vie and have always vied for recognition, with one or another dominating particular times and cultures. Cosmologies, ultimately, answer the most important Why-question that occurs to us: “Why are we here on earth?” Over the months I’ve put up discussions of these cosmologies. The general interest in this subject is close to nil, I realize. The posts rank close to the bottom of subjects I’ve pondered here. Oh, well. I’ll add another one. In this post I’d like to present an outline of cosmology considering only the meaningful kind. Materialism is, I propose, meaningless. Its assertion is that all is matter or some derivate therefore, that all that happens happens because matter is organized in a certain way—and by chance. Using the word matter, as always, I include energy as one form of it. Materialist cosmologies don’t interest me. Herewith then an outline followed by some brief comments.

I. We are here because we were sent here.
     A. We were already in being when we were sent here.
          1. We were sent here by an unconscious agency.
          2. We were sent here by a conscious agency superior to us.
               a. We were sent here in the course of a natural process of development.
               b. We were sent here as a kind of banishment.
     B. We were created and placed into bodies.
          1. Embodied existence is our natural place in the order of nature.
          2. Embodied existence is the first stage in a more complex existence.

II. We are here because we chose to be here.
     A. We came because something attracted us - curiosity, challenge, some positive cause.
     B. We came because we wished to get away - assertiveness, rebellion, a negative cause.

The two big divisions in this Tree of Choice is whether or not our being here was involuntary or voluntary. What most of us know is that we don’t remember any earlier existence. But that doesn’t mean that we did not exist. The very fact of being in this dimension may also explain our lack of memories. We may well have preexisted our birth; and in another “life” may have chosen to be here. Thus the choices presented are legitimate.

If we came here involuntarily but we were already in being, the issue of memory is pertinent. If we were created at the conception of our bodies or a little later (once that event was held to be a little later), the memory problem is moot. To be sure, some people remember a previous life in childhood, which clouds that whole subject.

In both of the big options (sent or chose) the assumption is that something created us—thus that we’re not self-created. Some may object by citing Hindu or Kabbalistic beliefs that souls are tiny sparks of divinity. But a part is not a whole. And in that context the moment of separation, of the spark from the whole, may be understood as the moment of an individual’s creation.

In Option I.A. (we were sent but we were already there, somewhere else) I present two choices. The first of these might be labeled “Cosmic Disaster,” thus some kind of event that simply happened—and in doing so disorganized the dimension in which we were—disorganized it enough so that we had to find another kind and, by implication, an inferior kind of home. That “home” is material existence. This choice, as it stands, assumes a naturalistic framework in the cosmos where conscious communities exist, can’t be destroyed, but their environments can be changed by events over which the communities have no control.

The second choice presented is that Divine Providence caused us to be sent into an inferior world for one of two reasons. In the first (2.a.) it was to unfold our potential through a process of development. The second (2.b.) represents the consequence of free acts that result in a some kind of failure to develop, to conform, to participate, or, in general, to obey the prevailing laws; we could call this punishment, but is more properly rendered as a consequence. In my lexicon God doesn’t punish but does create the environment, not least its limits—that we overstep at our own peril.

Option I.B. (we were created as our bodies formed) is the prevailing view of Christianity. Here I elaborate that option by presenting the Thomistic view (2.a.) namely that Reality describes a hierarchy of beings. In that reality the human presence has a certain fixed place in a hierarchy, both matter and spirit. Below us is matter, above us is immaterial spirit. Here the traumas of earthly existence and of death are explained as the Fall, thus corresponding to a negative choice on our part that disturbed the cosmic harmony, but it shall be righted in the end when we are resurrected into glorified bodies. The second sub-sub option here (2.b.) assumes that a bodily existence is the first stage of a much longer course of future existence in which physical bodies such as we here possess will no longer be needed. Thus it corresponds to the developmental option above it under I.A.

Turning now to the second big option (we chose to be here), I subdivided that into two categories. The first (II.A.) represents a positive option (however nasty it might actually feel in practice). We are here because we were drawn to this dimension. You might say that we volunteered; indeed that is the essence of Mazdaism; we volunteered to participate in the creation. A less dramatic form of that is that soul communities encountered the material realm, became fascinated with it, and, descending into it, often find that state unpleasant. They are released from it at death—and may escape if they can overcome the “attraction” of the lower realm.

The second (II.B.) presents a negative option. It corresponds to the willful word of Lucifer who, pronouncing that he wouldn’t serve (Non serviam) fell from the heavens with his following. This option suggests that we are part of a rebellious soul community members of which, having now tasted of this dimension, are having second thoughts and are split into those willing to return and others who are still inclined to stay at arm’s length.

I’ve excluded from the scheme above the Gnostic conceptualization. It asserts that the cosmos was created by a secondary god, an aberrant angelic being. That low-level creator is usually called the Demiurge. I omit that variant because it merely creates a conceptually unnecessary layer in which the whole idea of a Fall is semi-deified. I put this exclusion here because it helps to see the scheme before this variant is mentioned.

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