The only way to remain outside of God, distinct and separate from God, is to trump Spinoza by creating God, in effect, trumping God. In his 1925 work Essays on Magical Idealism, Julius Evola declared that ‘God does not exist. The Ego must create him by making itself divine.’ The youthful Evola was onto something here. He was rejecting God as a presuppositional object of idolatry, locating the divine instead in the mind of man. I sense too that this was something Rainer Maria Rilke was expressing in his Letters to a Young Poet when he wrote of God - ‘As bees collect honey together, so we fetch the sweetness out of everything and build Him.’ Notably, Rilke added parenthetically to this ‘(so long as this comes about through love)’.
God the Father Juan de Juanes
I would not say that in trying to become divine we search within ourselves for the Nietzschean superman. We have already emphasised the need to be more human, not super-human, or Übermensch (beyond-man). We become more divine by becoming more conscious, more human. By Coleridge’s definition, we exist through most of our lives in a dead state - a sub-human state, i.e. not thinking or creating, but rather accepting the pre-existing. We live at the frozen pole, afraid to shoot the albatross. The implication is that there is an alternative, a resurrected state, a fully humanised state. The implication also is that we can know an object when the object is neither found nor discovered by our thought as existing before we began to know, i.e. we can truly create - and in Evola’s and Rilke’s terms this means creating God.
The chance encounter, love, has no pre-existence. God is love and love is God, but there is no need for the God metaphor in the sense of needing to define an object as pre-existing knowledge. To define God in such a naive way is nothing short of idolatry. Creation is always now. Gentile recognised this. Nothing pre-exists creation. Nothing begets the creator. Coleridge thought that those individuals who acted at the creative level of the ‘secondary imagination’ attained a God-like power.
I am aware that in this idea of trumping God, or building God, I am in danger of succumbing to a polarity of thinking. Deification of the human may be the opposite pole to Spinoza’s Absolute Substance, but it is polarity nevertheless and thus Spinozist. In order to escape this trap let us reassess some of the recently introduced themes and ask - where do these themes come together?
- To remain distinct from God
- To pursue Evola’s point and trump God…by somehow internalising Him
- The freedom to choose
- The need for creativity and constant renewal
- The love encounter - the authentic moment when nothing else matters
The themes come together in John’s Gospel and the reconfiguring words of Jesus of Nazareth. Reconfiguring, because it was Jesus who confronted the Jews with a reconfigured cosmological understanding. This new understanding was centred on the love encounter; and this love encounter is dependent upon the inner core of humanness. It is not dependent on law - be it natural necessity, or manmade, such as Marxian historical necessity - this is to be subject to externalities.
But what is this love? Some bang on about agape, but this has nothing to do with love, it is ‘do-gooding’, or charity, which was the word in the Bible where the meaning of love was lost in translation. Love is internalised. It comes from the inner core of man. It comes from the God within. Define it? It cannot be defined. Here lies the mystery. If you are looking for mystery in your life, then here it is. There are no criteria by which love can be defined. It is this inner core of the individual that Jesus saves.
The Pharisees about to stone the adulterous woman were the sinners, in that they were responding to the statutes of the Law and, as such, were driven to barbarity by an externality. Jesus saw through them.
'He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.' And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders.
In contrast to an externalised motive to stone the woman, the pharisees now responded individually, ‘one by one’, to an inner call upon their actions
To the adulteress Jesus said, ‘Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?’ She said, ‘No one, sir.’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more’. (from John 8: 4-11)
It is the Pharisees in this instance who have been saved. The woman was not even condemned. The admonition to the woman from Jesus to ‘sin no more’ thus has deeper significance than simply to ‘go away and behave yourself’. A life without sin is one in which an authentic choice comes from the very core of the individual’s inner being, rather than externally driven motives, be it the Law or a moment of fun in bed with another woman’s husband.
Jesus is presented by John as the Saviour of the inner core of the individual. He saves us from simply getting by in the world in an inauthentic way. This was the point that Rudolf Bultmann made, taking his lead from the existentialists Kierkegaard and Heidegger. It is one thing to obey the Law, it is another to respond to a situation authentically. It is the latter course which offers the hardest path to follow, indeed the impossible path. You might obey the Law, but you will sin nevertheless, because we are all driven by externalities, i.e. the world, in the actions we take and even in our very thoughts.
For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world (1 John 2:16).
And it is here that the authentic way, i.e. that which comes from the inner core of our being, is associated with or even called the Father. The words Love and Father are not bandied around because they make silly shallow people feel a warm glow inside. Rather, these precisely selected words hold deeply serious philosophical and eternal truths, which makes their translation in John’s Gospel and, more importantly, the understanding of them so vitally important. In the words Love and Father we recover that which Coleridge believed Spinoza had destroyed, namely a‘moral, intellectual, existential and personal Godhead’ There is something in the word ‘personal’ which is individual and human, but Coleridge was right to stress the word in its connection with God.
It may appear perverse to the modern understanding of humanism, which is essentially Spinozist, but I contend that the only true humanism takes the form of love, which is an unconditional relationship with God. And Ido not mean God as a pre-existent entity - that would be idolatry. The idealists were on the right track with regard to this issue, as was Bultmann. I have also emphasised above that the chance encounter, love, has no pre-existence. It is present or it is nothing.
God is Love and is only present where Love is present. ‘He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.’ (1 John 4:8)
Shunning idolatry, John emphasised that no one has seen God as a pre-existent entity, but rather that God lives in each of us if we love one another (i.e. if his love is ‘perfected in us’ and is not simply agape or shallow lurv). God is not a thing-in-itself to be experienced.
No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. (1 John 4:12)
This comes close to trumping God, or the originating Substance. Rather than being subsumed in God à la Spinoza, each one of us can choose to have God dwelling inside him. The tables are turned on God in this manner. But then this would be to fall into the Spinozist trap of polarity, recognised by Coleridge in his critique of the German idealists. However, and this is the breakthrough, John rescues us from the circularity of the argument.
And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. (1 John 4:16)
Whatever love is, it is dialectical. It is upon love that the mystery turns, i.e. upon the fact that there are no criteria by which love can be defined. This is the wonderful mystery of Love and God.
'God is love' (1 John 4:8, 16)
© John Dunn.