Thursday, July 12, 2007

Is "God" a Being or an Experience?

I'm up late and thinking about God. After all, this is Colorado Springs -- there's not much else to do this time of night but think about God.

For some people, mostly mystics, the word "God" refers to a certain kind of experience.

Their meaning for the word "God" is somewhat at odds with what most people might mean by "God". For most people, "God" is not an experience, but instead an entity that exists independent of anyone's experience. That is, a being.

I sometimes think the two camps are a bit like folks who have traveled to France versus folks who have stayed home. The travelers think of France in light of their experiences. But the homebodies don't have any such experiences, and without any actual experience, they have no reality-check on their thoughts about France.

Perhaps the homebodies resort to reading maps to learn about France. That often seems to propel them headlong into very quaint arguments over which maps of France are true or not.

Quaint, because so often the arguments focus on such absurdities as whether it is more accurate to symbolize Paris with a dot or a circle, or on which map is the oldest and thus in some thoughtless sense "primal".

Most of the billion or so arguments about the nature of deity that this world has seen are not arguments between mystics -- mystics more or less tend to agree on the nature of deity. Instead they are remarkably petty arguments between non-mystics.

Whether or not the mystic's experience of "God" is of an entity that exists independent of the mystic herself is an interesting but ultimately trivial question. Of what final importance is it whether France exists independent of my experience? All that really matters to me is whether I can make reasonably accurate predictions about France. I need not assume the country exists independent of my experiences of it to do that -- although, it seems that by assuming such I can create the simplest possible model for predicting my experiences of it.

So, too, it's of little final importance whether anything -- including "God" -- exists independent of my experiencing it. All that really matters is whether I can make reasonably accurate predictions about my experiences of something -- including "God". It is just as feasible to model "God" as merely an experience as it is to model "God" as a being. Either model can predict with equal accuracy our experiences of "God".

Does any of that make sense, or should I have gotten some sleep before tackling the subject?


Mystic Wing said...

Well, you know where I stand on it...God is an experience, a state of mind, not a being.

But why did you have to pick the silliest, the most superficial of world cultures for your metaphor?

The French?????

The Finns, the Swedes, the Alutian Eskimos....but not the French!

Good blog, other than this.

Paul said...

Good question, Mystic! I confess that I'm fond of the French. I think it has something to do with that stunningly attractive French teacher I had in my senior year in high school. Couldn't understand a word she said, but loved the class.

Brendan said...

Both. Without a fixed being, there is no experience. First enlightenment, then the laundry.

Paul said...

Of course, if "God" is a delusion, "God" still remains an experience. The question then becomes whether the delusion is beneficial, harmful, or both.

Brendan said...

I agree Phil. "God" is usually thought of as a "thing" to the exclusion of being an experience. That's a delusion.