A Prayer for Yahweh
This is one page of the Metaphoriuminomicon
Quotes of the Day
- Compatibilism is the belief that
- free will and determinism are mutually compatible
- and that it is possible to believe in both
- without being logically inconsistent.
- Compatibilists believe freedom can be present or absent
- in situations for reasons that have nothing to do with metaphysics.
- ― Wikipedia - Compatibilism
- In their hearts,
- humans plan their course,
- but the LORD establishes their steps
- ― Proverbs 16:9
Contemplation for the Day
You are sitting astride your elephant on a gently rolling ridge in a familiar pink spongy landscape. In a ravine, in front of you a massive skin mite grazes on the pink debris at the bottom of the ravine. Beside you, the statue of Edith stands looking over its shoulder at the skin mite, a look of horror on her face. You look at the skin mite and know both that Edith would have been even more horrified to see it and that her look of horror is for another less surreal scene. You look up and see the face of Yahweh looking down on you. You wonder where the Sophia-bodies are.
But Yahweh's gaze locks with yours and a blanket floats down from above and settles on your shoulders, warming you and giving you a feeling of serenity you are not expecting. "Yahweh," you ask, "How can you give me a feeling of serenity when you don't promise that the future will be good?"
"You are confusing serenity and hope, Determined One." Yahweh replies, "I am not the part of the Trinity from which hope springs. I give you serenity because I show you that so much of your future is fate-like rather than choice-like that you have no choice but to let go of your need for control."
You glance down at your hand and see that you are gripping a detached steering wheel painfully hard. Your grip relaxes and your elephant reaches up and takes the steering wheel from your hand, "Thank you. It does feel good to let go of my need for control." you reply, "It doesn't remove my desire to contribute to a better future." Your elephant has placed the steering wheel on Yahweh's hand by her feet, within easy reach, "It doesn't even go away. I just feel less driven by it."
Yahweh sighs, "It was pushing you toward despair, Determined One. You imagine that you will find the right button to press, press it and bring balance to the entire universe. Yet you know that you are not likely to be the one who does that even if it happens. Only when you are tightly gripping your desire for control, determined to make the universe conform to your vision, will you despair over your inability to change a future you cannot even see."
Nearby you notice an old well, covered in cobwebs, it's rusty bucket and chain creaking as they sway over a dark opening which seems to emit darkness rather than just absorb light. Your elephant sidesteps away from it. "But, if I am pre-determined, then what is the point of doing anything?" you ask suddenly wondering if you ever had any choice, "You know which choices I will make before I make them. Everything follows your plan. What am I other than a cog in a machine of your devising?"
Yahweh sighs again, "The point of living, making choices, all of that comes from emergence; the Holy Spirit will tell you about that. All I can tell you is that, in the short term, every event is caused by an earlier event. If most of the recent events which add up to cause your behavior are inside the zone you call 'you', then you can say that you have chosen your action. Can you imagine any other way that would be better?"
You feel a weight on your back, causing you to stoop forward. You reach up and feel a heavy steel gear glued to the back of your neck. Your back aches from carrying it. You try to dislodge it. You can feel a latch that, if flipped, should release it. But you can't understand how the latch works. While you fiddle with it, you respond to Yahweh's question. "What if all my actions were caused only by events that originated inside me? Wouldn't that be true free will?"
Yahweh smiles and patiently explains, "If information enters you from outside and you consider that information before making your choice then your choice is partly determined by that information. If you lived with no information coming into you or if you could utterly ignore the information coming into you, then you would not be predetermined by that information. But then you would be disconnected from the universe. It would be lonely and horrid. It would not be better than your current relationship to the universe."
You manage to get the latch on the heavy cog turned but are uncertain how far to turn it in order to free it to flip. You are certain that if you can just flip it to the left the cog will release. While you fiddle, you ask Yahweh, "What if I was entirely determined by information coming into me after I was born? Then I wouldn't be determined by events before my birth. Maybe then I would have true free will."
Yahweh is amused by your logic but continues to explain patiently, "Your state at the time of your conception is your nature. Your nature evolves over time both due to outside influences and due to your initial state, like your genetics. You have a specific nature and that nature influences your actions and so, yes, you are partly determined by your nature and through your nature you are partly determined by events that precede your existence. But again, does the alternative really seem better? If your actions were not determined by your nature, then in what sense would they be yours? That your nature and the information you receive from the universe are predetermined is just to say that you were predetermined to exist in this universe."
You feel that you have the latch turned to the right angle. It now has some give; you can move it back and forth a little. But there is a catch and now you must figure out how to get around that catch. While you fiddle, you ask Yahweh, "Would I have true free will, if I did not exist?"
Yahweh laughs, "Perhaps that is why some people who believe in me as a personal God rather than a personification, say that I don't actually exist in some sense. Perhaps they are hoping that by both denying my existence and believing in me they can give me free will and then that I can give them free will in turn, retroactively as it were." Yahweh laughs again and it seems to shake the universe, "But that alternative is horrid. You would not exist, if it was predetermined that you did not exist. There is no point on the gradient between existence and non-existence where you can have free will. Free will requires that you have a will and you must be very close to the existence end of that gradient in order to have any will at all. On the other hand, in order to not be caused to exist, you must be very close to the non-existence end of the gradient. There is no overlap between the two."
You release the catch and the latch flips. Now the cog is released but it still isn't free. How to lift it away from the mechanism locking it to your neck? "What if the universe were not determined at all. What if there was no cause and effect? Would I have true free will then?"
Yahweh laughs again, "If the future were not determined by the past, then there would be no assurance that your existence in one moment would lead to your existence in the next. You would be likely to blink out of existence at any moment. Such a likelihood would remove all chance of hope. That the universe is predetermined is really for the best."
You pull the cog off the back of your neck and your elephant takes it from you and tosses it away. You sit up straight and as you do the glue and the device that was holding the cog in place fall away also. You are as free as you can ever hope to be. You consider what Yahweh has told you for a moment, "Determinism means that I can make reasoned choices based on observing the universe around me; it means that I am the one making my choices because my nature determines my choices and it means that I am likely to continue existing from moment to moment because my existence in one moment determines my existence in the next. My freewill is actually only possible in a deterministic universe. Why did I think that freewill and determinism were in opposition?"
Yahweh sighs again, "You were confused about the nature of time and thought that choice implies multiple futures to choose from. Choice simply implies that the collections of events in space-time, which you call 'you', intertwine to determine the overall outcome of those events, rather than each minute outcome being determined only by a small subset of those events. Choice simply means that eddies of cause and effect swirl about and intertwine and combine inside the space you define as 'you' for a while before outputting a forceful coherent collection of events which you call an 'act'."
"That makes sense, Yahweh," you say, "Thank you for making that clear to me. But my life would be so much easier if I could, like you, know the future. I wish so much that I could. It would be less frightening to know, at least, whether things turn our all right."
"Determined one, you should be grateful," Yahweh replies reproachfully, "If the universe was not predetermined, then you couldn't hope to predict what would happen from moment to moment at all. It would be a confusion of random events in space-time. But similar cause always gives similar effect and so you are able to learn to predict the future. Not exactly but I give you a chance at having an inkling."
You find that a lantern has appeared hanging from your left hand, "Thank you, Yahweh," your reply humbly, "for giving me that much."
"You do not yet understand, Determined One," Yahweh says with an air of mystery," Go and speak to the Holy Spirit, to El and to my son, Jesus, and you will learn to be grateful as much for the knowledge I make possible as for the doubt that they make possible."
You return to your reality and consider the serenity that Yahweh grants through the knowledge of your mostly fate-like future. You consider the understanding of freewill and determinism that compatibilism gives you and are grateful to Yahweh for your freewill, for he truly does grant it; true freewill is only possible in a deterministic universe. You consider that the deterministic nature of the universe gives you the power to predict the future however imperfectly and for this you feel gratitude. You decide to make your next prayer to the Holy Spirit. Is Yahweh right? Will the Holy Spirit give you a reason to be grateful for doubt?
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