motes in the eye

26 February 2009

I’ve been reading a great deal of theology lately, especially process theology and panentheism. Though I don’t really understand all of the details, I find it fascinating. One of the interesting assumptions, especially in panentheism, is that what we conceive of as God is at once coterminus with the universe, but also something greater. This means that God isn’t separate, outside, and substantially different from existence; s/he/it doesn’t exist apart from humanity (or anything else) in an unchanging and unalterable way. Neither, though, is God the god of pantheism, exactly consisting of everything in the universe and not extending beyond it.

Panentheism instead holds that the universe is indeed God, but that God is something more than the universe. In other words, for a panentheist, God would certainly be found in the trees, rainfall and humanity. All of these things, though, do not limit the boundary of God; they, taken together, form a God that is greater than nature alone. The clearest analogy for me is the human body. In its most elemental, we are nothing but a collection of carbon, various minerals, etc. Different types of cells have structured themselves, over time, to form muscles, fat, hair and skin, teeth and toenails. Some of them have formed our brain. What is the brain, physically, but soft tissue? Of course, it’s so much more. It is the seat of consciousness and reason, of love and belief, of humanity. Check out these images of neurons in the brain and the way they connect:

Now keep that in mind, and consider the superstructure of the universe. When I was a bit younger, I was really into astronomy (ok, I’m still really into astronomy). The first time I saw pictures of the cosmos, of the universe, I was amazed. I’m not talking about the solar system, or even the galaxy. No, these pictures are of the Universe, capital U, everything that is actually in existence. Theoretically, this is what all of existence looks like, if you took a slice of it and zoomed really, really far out:


I found this somewhat extraordinary the first time I looked at these pictures side by side. To see that the universe, that collections of stars, galaxies and galaxy filaments mirror the structure of the brain, is astounding

In light of my growing belief in God as the universe, but so much more, this has some interesting implications. I have no idea how this set up actually functions, what role we play in constituting God and how everything relates. I don’t know whether I actually think that the structure of the universe serves as a network of neurons for the consciousness of what I call God, the consciuosness that is aware of itself, in the way that we are aware of our bodies and neurons. But what an exciting possibility, that our very bodies and consciousneses form an integral part of some vast whole, and that whole is the structure of the mind of God! So we are not, in fact, tiny bits of dust in God’s eye (and yes, I know the original quote isn’t about that), but that we are in fact the components that constitute something so much greater than ourselves. Every one is integral, even if we don’t realize it, because we all, every day, with every decision and with every thought, affect God.

This might sound a bit weird, and it assuredly is, but like I’ve said, I think about this kind of thing quite a bit. So here you have my thoughts.

“Jesus said, “I am the light that is over all things. I am all: from me all came forth, and to me all attained.

Split a piece of wood; I am there.

Lift up the stone, and you will find me there.” – The Gospel of Thomas

ps, I couldn’t get the stupid picture to be where it’s supposed to be without putting it in twice. Sorry!