Existence, reality, god 157

In response to some lively comments on our post God and scientific enquiry (December 12, 2011), we contribute the following for our readers’ entertainment.


Contrary to common belief, the Hebrews were not the only people in the ancient world to postulate  the existence of one and only one god. They may have been the first, but there were others, some known to us among the Greeks, who believed (philosophically, while usually remaining in practice faithful to the many gods of their culture) in a singular divinity – or a divine singularity. They reasoned their way to it thus:

Of every sort of thing there is the appearance of it in our base world, and the essence of it in a higher immaterial world. The higher world is the true reality. So our world is a kind of illusion. Most people observe it without knowing that what they see is the mere shadow of the higher reality.

Though there may be many samples of anything you care to name  in our world, there can only be one essence of it. For example, there’s an essence of trees – treeness. There’s an essence of hamburgers – hamburgerness. And there’s an essence of abstract things, such as love. Many may love in many different ways, but there is an essence of love – loveness. Or to put it another way, since loveness is the reality and examples of it in the world only the appearance of it, that essence is Love Itself.

Now take existence. Many things exist. But the essence of existence is Existence Itself.

So how did many manifestations of existence come out of Existence Itself?

Existence Itself is unchangeable. Unmoving and unmoved. Yet something happened that brought about our world of appearances.

What happened was a process that went like this: Existence had a thought. So then there was another aspect of existence, Thought,  which was still part of the Essential Existence. And Thought extended itself with Reason, or Word. So then there was a third aspect of existence which was also still part of the Essential Existence. The three together were – are eternally, the philosophers held  – the Godhead.

So there we have the first Trinity. The Source – or Depth, as it was sometimes called (there were many other names for it, and for its first emanations) – and Thought and Reason: Bythos, Nous, Logos.

As they were hypostasized, that is personified as beings, Being in its fullness consisted of three Beings.

The pair of emanated beings or hypostases, Nous and Logos, begat (not “emanated”) other pairs of beings, which in turn begat other pairs – a pair being called by the enchanting word syzygy – in a long line of descent. In some schema they are male and female. Among the low descendants was an immortal demiurge, or artisan, and he it was who created this material world of ours. 

Logical flaws in these ideas have been pointed out by many generations of philosophers. But they had their effect not only on almost all subsequent philosophy – they have to be dealt with even if only to be dismissed – but also on religion, including Christianity (as we’ll explain in a later essay).

This idea of a Godhead is purely philosophical. There is nothing scientific about it. If you believe that the stone you stubbed your toe on is unreal, and the pain you feel is unreal, and only the essence (or “ideal”) of toe and stone and pain is “real”, science can do nothing about it except mark that you say you believe it.


Jillian Becker   December 14, 2011