Words Mirror Mysteries

Subtitle

 THE PARADOX OF OMNIPOTENCE                     -Essien Joshua Ukoh  (M.A.)

           

     Progressing from the position that only a Realist approach to any cognition and interpretation of phenomena is the key to the clarity and purity of visions, to mental stability and also that of the founding of a sensible and concretizable theory of societal peace and progress, this essay will x-ray the problematic in , and solutions to, any purely socio-philosophical (i.e. emotional) investigation of the divine essence. These solutions, in the form of existential ontology will not only serve as the focus of our interrogation of counter-cultural theologies but also inform our suggestions of the sensible basis for a more truer Humanism.

TOWARDS A TRANSVALUATION OF VALUES

    The concept ''Omnipotence'' connotes the all-powerfulness of a Being. It means the ability to do whatever one feels is right to do irrespective of the opinion of, or opposition by others. It is the traditional thinking of Christians when they care to meditate on the reality of "GOD". People now-a-days say that such habit of thinking is not based on sound reasoning or rationale but is a mere manifestation of some form of received social Consciousness or worldview. Actually this writer and others see an element of  truth in this statement simply because we know that nobody pontificates on anything which has no relevance to, and is not conditioned by, his experiences or by History. Weltanschauungs are, nothing but, merely abstractions, from the experiential and the regular. Few Philosophers today still think that the Lockean notion that men lack innate knowledge is wrong. Scholars examining the many analysis of the sources ,nature and frontiers of the conceptions of God in literature and religious texts say that it is best done with a view that the background or origin of these positions is nothing but the author?s internalized socio-cultural impulses (see P. Berger (1964)). Merleau-Ponty equally avers that in reality man is the interpreter of Being. Thus N. Clarke (1977) and Luijpen (1964) laments that Christians? hardening of attitudes towards the Atheist reflects a crowd mentality:a non-critical reflection on the socio-ontological advantages derivable from atheistic thought.

      The conscious articulation of atheistic thought is not just a contemporary pastime. It is equi-primodial with thinking Man. However, the Durkhiemian notion that the idea of God arose as a tool for moral integration in the society is usually the earliest example given in an introductory lecture on Philosophy of Religion. According to Durkheim, ?God? is in reality an objectification of the clannish vision of the ultimate source of moral and spiritual sanctions in that society. A transposition of a clan?s orientation on good mores with a universal posture on morals; a universalizability of that clans? sense of the valuable and the precious. Only the devil worshippers in any society would refuse to so acknowledge and imbibe those precious doctrines.All such beings deserve hatred and pain. Same reactions and treatments (i.e as devilish souls)should and can be given to those who create their own values.Funny enough we hear some Africanists (or Pan-Africanists , if you please) argue that traditional African ontology encouraged inter-communal cooperation and accommodativeness but that the Judeo-Christian/Islamist faiths do not. The oddity of such reasoning is that everybody knows about the existence of tribal wars in the pre-Christian history of our people. It is also true that those battles were fought with the aid of the gods. It would seem then, to atheists, that the gods are innately foolish because those very same communities have become forcibly integrated by missionary colonizers and do now live harmoniously with one another. What the people?s gods did not think is possible was engineered by people of contending religious disposition. According to Bertrand Russell modern man should readily accept the idea that religions are not only ?untrue? but ?they do harm?. Critical attitudes to the Commoners? thinking about the notion of God would thus seem a legitimate intellectual pastime.

      Beyond the attack on the usefulness of religions in the literature of Philosophers of culture, is the problematic of a logically sensible articulation of the concept of Divine essence. Scholars took umbrage at the fact that, if clearly examined, the Common man sees ?God? as an entity, an objective-there, who he, the Commoner endows with anthropomorphic qualities. J. L. Mackie says the Christians even defines ?God? with the attributes of (1) omnipresence , (2)omnipotence and (3)omniscient. But he points out that such a view is incompatible with the problem of evil in the world. According to him any dissertation attempting to explicate a conception of God which explains away the reality of moral and natural evil will land such scholarship in a paradox. Dr Thomas Warren?s reply to this was that the counter-adoption of the Mackian posture is itself a strong and adequate rebuttal of Mackie?s notion. According to him, if there is anything like objective Evil then there has to be an objective Good. On this ground people can ask: ?If man is truly the decider of what is good of bad why can?t we downplay this glorification of Theism and Atheism??. Such is the thought and logic of critical Phenomenologists. They wonder why we (scholars) do not spend our time only in the examination of the frontiers of man?s cognitive powers and consciousness and justify the beneficence of such powers to humanity. Man according to this reasoning can be programmed to become a god, a judge of all values and the locus of history.

THE PARADOX OF OMNIPOTENCE

      Of all the attributes of God, the most crucial to this critical thought is the notion of an omnipotent Being. Atheist cannot doubt that if ?God exist?, He?s bound to be omniscient and also, as of necessity, have a presence in all cultures at the same time. But it is not the case, they say, that such a Being is extremely powerful as is said of him by the believers, but He cannot do for us some things we finite ones care for, or has been able to do ( by ourselves) for mankind. If God is all-wise and has good impulses (omnibenevolent ) why doesn?t He use some of His omnipotent powers to banish natural evil in the world. Here Atheism becomes only an anti-notion-of-omnipotence of any Being. Such a position also revealed a subtle basis for its official critical posture. Humanism .To critique Theism is to say you are the only person most concerned about the human predicament and history, about positive social experiences and about how humans can take their destiny into their own hand. But how can such concerns be shown and humanistic creeds advocated without assuming the atheism of the unrefined, of the hopeless, say of someone who lost a girlfriend to the Pastor?s son; the frustrated who converts his helplessness over a wrong committed against him to hatred for that believer?s deity. On this score,it could be argued that refined atheism only be done by matured contemplation on reality. A contemplation of the adult mind-set : a cognition of the fact that non-physical entities do exist and have primacy in world history, even as Jung and Freud has theorized. Matured contemplation seduces us , such a reasoning continued ,to the fact that our mastery of our Unconscious Self is the key to molding our future and of those around us .Theological debates is irrelevant. Man working with God or gods or Reality is the Shaper of destiny. Like Deism would teach, our true vocation is to be Gods, ?Now ?! After all, even the Christian Scripture says that man is the decider of what is good, right, doable and create-able. Man is finitely infinite. He is a finite omnipotent. His being is so constituted. He possesses power of finite transcendence, a grace to be able to leave this life-world for a time, in thought, and if he is properly coached by rational phenomenological-existentialists can, with knowledge gained from the Unconscious in him, return to the lebenswelt (life-world)to better the human condition. Herein is a paradox-the reality of a finitely infinite Being. Man is God.

       Most of the rationale for these Gnostic reasoning (outlined above) , rested on arguments of religion itself, especially from clerics who regularly laments the loss of the sense of the Spiritual among the worshippers. K. A. Balogun believes the normal Muslim does not ?experience Allah daily in his prayer?? again. These days the cleric does his meditations for him, and interprets the will of Allah for him. The Imam embodies Allah?s Spirit, the worshipper does not. We can understand how the Clerics of today is able to shape the minds of silly Muslim youths towards suicide bombings. The Cleric?s children however, live on in this world , can imbibe non-Islamic cultures such as music, dressing, dances and acting, and they are even allowed to fornicate with pretty girls from differing Faiths. But the kids of the seemingly faithful without the Spirit should ?rush to paradise NOW !?.If the Cleric is not bound for Hell because of  this form of hypocrisy, then either God loves such double standard or there is a secret of the divine which the Crowd does not know. On the other end of the spectrum i.e. Christian theology ,St. Paul the Metaphysician says that in the Christ principle all things stand and fall (?by Him all things consists ?Col.1:17) and says that the ground for a proper union with this divine principle is the quality of the mindset (Col.1:21).Stated simply the state of the Mind shapes the reality or otherwise of theism. Put simply Man is the cognizer of Reality-the appropriator of gifts from Nature and also the judge of the goodness or otherwise of such gifts.

       Thus in both the Christian and Islamic religions, there is room for existential consideration of omnipotence. As Paul would have us believe ?God worketh in us both to will and to do for his own good pleasure? (Phil.2:13).So if man suffers in the world there is information somewhere that he is lacking. At least most of today?s Motivational speakers do so argue. Knowledge (of ?lords temporary and spiritual?) is power.

      All of the above were commonsense justification of mystic Atheism. What were the real philosophical arguments marshaled out to buttress these notions in ways that religious Apologist would even either nod in sympathy or really go along with?

EXISTENTIAL ONTOLOGY AND NOTIONS OF FINITE OMNIPOTENCE

      With the religious mystic, especially those of occult leanings and the Power gospellers (i.e Pentecostals) hammering out schemes of ?the world in your pocket?, the rejection of theism as ordinarily defined became the only tempo of theological discourse. Nietzsche led the attack. Or at least we can say that he gave atheistic scholars the anchor to justify their position.

      Man, according to Nietzsche, will only grow up to his own Self Expectation if he rejects traditional Christian morality wherein he is forbidden from exhibiting all of his natural impulses and also being able to express his true desires. This posture is even more urgent, Nietzsche reveals, because men already live according to how they like, despite the dictates of the scriptures. Men live as if ?God is dead?. Men have actually abrogated His existence in their lifestyles; in essence we (i.e. men) have killed Him. In other words, according to Nietzsche, the paradox of omnipotence is this: ?God? and ?man? are omnipotent in that man can transcend God?s (or Christian) morality and become a ?Superman?.

     The atheistic phenomenological ontology of Sartre and Heidegger brought this theory to its logical conclusion-not omnipotence per se but the total ?absence of God?. What is now more urgent in the investigation of the divine is the interrogation of the claim to be able to do so. Scholarship should now be about the investigations of the structure of cognition in the consciousness of man. The review of those elements of pure reason which makes it possible for man to metaphycisize and able to seek for better choices (Jim Unah, 1997:17). According to Heidegger?s analysis of thought ,man is the interpreter of, and active lexicon of ,the boundary of Being. As the definer of the nature, power and limit of the ultimate Being, man is ?god? .The paradox of omnipotence in Heideggeran thought is clearly in the seeming absurdity of an ?all-wiseable? Dasein. The implication of this position for social or communal growth is this-he (the man, Dasien) is the 'One' competent enough to appropriate the forces and elements in nature to achieve his (and society?s) destiny.

      For post-Heideggeran existentialist theologians -Tillich, Robinson and Bultmann the above argued phenomenologicalposition is unassailable. Paul Tillich was bold to remind us that it is folly to think of God as an ?individual substances? a ?cause alongside other causes? because it would make defenders of such conceptions ?more dangerous for religion than the so-called atheist scientist?. For him God is the ground of our being and the central motivation of our actions. In other words God is our ?spirit? in its purest form and from this ?strongman? level (i.e. pure intellection and uprightness) man can ?move mountains??. Robinson adds that this power level or pure thought level is the level of love. Meaning that the power of making the seeming inhumanly impossible, possible; the power of finite omnipotence in the structure of Man?s will, is located in good personal relations. In a kind heart and disposition. A moral being who thinks well of his neighbor. Paul Edwards reveals Robinson?s reasoning for theism as this: ?whatever the Believer is saying is that love is the element in which all things move and have their being. It is what draws the whole process of evolution onward and upward to its fulfillment in Mind and Spirit? (1970:400).He likens this Robinsonian notion to the metaphysical thought of Taoism. We think that such reasoning is evident in all mystical religions but that the Christian religionists and Apologists who felt that they needed to please the Heideggeran atheistic scholarship of the immediate post Second World War era (a scholarship which was coupled with the counterculture philosophies of United States youths of that epoch) simply used Chinese traditional religions. Countercultural literatures and religion from the post WW2 period was, and is, really a renaissance of ancient Eastern philosophies. The Love or communalistic notion is also evident in traditional African philosophy hence our rejection of the over glorification of African culture and vilification of western thought in today?s integrating human history. Simply restated, 'Love' according to Phenomenologists is the logic for nature?s, and societal, progress. A key to good and lasting humanism, a proper foundation for a rational non religion shaped smooth and loving cohabitation with a fellow human being in society. A sensible base for any existential Philosophy.

      Some atheistic Theologians still felt that the ?God is Dead, let us help ourselves ? theology of Robinson and others were inadequate justification of religion especially the Christian kind. Rudolf Bultmann typified this approach. Bultmann gave credit to Heidegger for teaching them ?what theology has to say and how to say it?. The lesson of his demythologization principle is that religious texts are myth and they only give analogical truths; hence man has to see them as such and accept the uncomfortable reality that he is the architect of his own life, that there is no real Supreme Being to pray to since he (man) is aware that the items for sustenance of his Christian faith like miracles are not realities but myths. Bultmann believed that by such reasoning pure atheists will tolerate religion because only his own theory gives room for, and justifies scientific knowledge. Albert Einstein in agreement with this position claimed that all true scientists appropriate the powers of the cosmos to aid them in their scientific ventures for higher and true humanistic goals. Man, according to Bultmann, is omnipotent -he is god (John 10:34-35).However Bultmann?s mediating position did not fully convince all scientific minded philosophers. B. Russell pointed out that we do not need religion to anchor morality and humanitarianism, that ?the forming of moral rules is a matter for sciences?.

COMMENTARY

      The notion of finite omnipotence arising from the possibility of finite transcendence raises some issues worth noting. Logically it is a circular reasoning-we investigate the frontier of the power of being by examining the investigator who himself is embedded inside of that being. Such is hardcore metaphysics (e.g. Taoism) and eliminates the grounds for atheistic existentialist analysis, if that venture is understood as only the investigation of man?s existence to the exclusion of other existents. At least Heidegger theorizes that God is but does not exist. Gordon Clarke in his book Religion, Reason and Revelation argued that ?all mediating position between religion and atheistic naturalism are reducible to incoherence?. One such culprits who had to leave the preaching job because of this counter-culturalist beliefs, Ray Billington concedes this fact. The point being made here is that omniscient projections (for the society or for the self) cannot be done properly from reflections on existential experiences. Bias and ignorance will color it. We also know that today?s experience come from yesterday?s projections which proceeded from manifest realities of projections embarked upon the day before, from months, years, centuries, aegis ago. Boethius warned metaphysicians to remember the folly of this domino-effect reasoning. He argued that the entrance to the speculative or mystical brings minimal knowledge; that having ?divine knowledge? does not ?change the nature and propensity of things?.

      A deeper concern on ethical grounds is the message that man?s ability to use the forces in nature ?for the benefit of mankind? depends on his level of involvement with the divine. We believe that pride, dogmatism, hatred, warfare etc. would readily present themselves in history most especially in climes where people are respected because of their spiritual ?power?. Even Heidegger felt that such a fear is genuine. ?Conflict in modern times is thus for Heidegger not the consequence of passion, human partiality ,the will to power, class antagonism or disputes about the nature of justice but the result of attempts to decree human freedom in the natural order through technology. Conflict is therefore unavoidable since what it means to be human in the modern world is to measure, master and subdue nature? Gillespie (1987:897).Technology is Heidegger?s metaphor for artifacts of civilization. But look here ?the theory of Humanism rests upon the promotion of these artifacts as the proper mode of, and vehicle for betterment of Mankind?s lot. Heidegger is saying that the struggle for the appropriation of higher status among the gods meaning, unequal levels of forces or power of transcendence, which the existentialists think is supposed to bring about humanism dreams in reality leads to conflict in the world. Put simply mankind?s search for grace of omnipotence is far more dangerous that allowing such grace to be the sole power of a non-this-world super entity. An entity which all Christians call ?God?.

      It is a fact that in traditional non Caucasian cultures like Africa, knowledge of the spiritual is not based solely on the love for artifacts i.e. for technological growth. At least not for things which concern the whole of mankind . The spiritualists seek the divine for self and not even for their kinsmen. For example it was reported of the former Chadian ?Emperor? Jean-Bedel Bokassa that he possessed supernatural powers (which he used to dominate and repress his subjects) gotten ?from animals-lions, crocodiles and snakes?. Meaning that he willingly entered into were-animal cults. Note that these animals are the kinds that usually dominate their own habitat or sphere of existence. By Bokassa?s vision of reality, if man is a political animal and a ruler of his sphere of existence then he should pick up the animal instinct that typifies that logic. Thus Heidegger?s views on the consequences of a Superman morality are, in actuality a Christianity informed morality in another guise. Note also that the Eastern religions and philosophies, which  so often is the object of admiration by the contemporary articulators of finite transcendence, is replete with stories and myths of celibate potentiates and religious men. But people think that the same practices among the Catholics are untrue to human nature. Fact: mysticism calls for pure thought, celibacy and a monastic (ascetic) lifestyle as is exampled by the Shaolin and Lama Temples? initiates. Today?s World abhors such mode of living. Even the Existentialists would regard such as stultifying and a limitation of natural impulses. The search for divine consciousness in all these mysticalised cultures is in reality a search for the ?will to power?. By Heidegger admission, Bokassa?s and Idi-Amin?s lifestyle during their reign, including the Haitians? preoccupation with Voodooism , as an example of ?working with God? (2 Cor.6:1), could justify anti-social tendencies. The principle they advocate is known as ?might makes right?

     The basic premise of the writers of the position under review (i.e. that they are better friends of Mr. Science than the pretender, the Naive-Religionist) is not justified adequately .Nothing in their logic proves that non mystic religionists hate scientific investigations. Forget the Galilean period-it is of no consequence today. Truly Bultmann rejects metaphysics for anthropology-but such is a position that critics say makes him imply that religion gives man news only about himself since there are no objective entities in any non physical world. His views on these matters is not Philosophy. It is a biased criticism of Christianity. We have noted how the ?Superman morality? can become dangerous for society, but we would like to also note that there is wishful thinking in Humanist rhetoric about the goal and means of scientific progress. Before the advent of Colonialism in Africa and the introduction of Caucasian technology, environmental pollution was of a different tempo. At a lower degree. Similarly the western medicine for Japan?s Second World War morality was what introduced radiation to their cultural experiences and consciousness. These were existentialist experiences. Of course before this time Heidegger, Sartre, Nietzsche and Bultmann have had their say. They had already shaped the Western thought process. Heidegger, just for a petty lecturer?s position, gave inaugural lectures that in justifying German Mystical Thought directly championed Nazism and Racism. We are sad that so-called Africanists look to his philosophy as liable to help Africa escape the neo-colonialist rhetorics of Heidegger?s racist friends.

      It is paradoxical that atheists blame those consequences of perverse technological inventions on Christians who they had originally wanted to mock as old-school, as haters of science and mankind, when they developed those technologies. When they see children deformed at birth because their parents were exposed to radiation, these same people blame God. They argue that these are ?objective evils? which  God is unable to stop. We feel that they are fraudulent in this regard. These kinds of scholars declare war on believers and yet cry out for tolerance by religionists. They force simple believers out of the academia so that they would not pollute youths with religious conscience yet they call for universal acceptance of Fundamental human Rights (which includes religion and politics).They pour out literatures that support occult principles yet they forbid simply Christian mysticism while at the same time using the Christian?s articulated principles of getting graces from the highest force in existence. They would have you notice that in the Bible, Jehovah sanctioned Israel?s wars with their neighbors; yet they accept their own occult principle that there is no objective Evil anywhere, that there is a unity and struggle of opposites in nature and also that it is right to think that an anti-thesis knocking out the thesis is the proper mode of synthesis in nature. That such is the secret of evolution of entities in existence. Their misguided brothers in Africa teach that there is nothing good in Colonialism (in spite of the sensibleness of the doctrine of ?thesis; anti-thesis and synthesis?) that it brought an intolerance attitude to Africans. We cannot know where they got that notion from but we know it is not founded in history. Witchcraft did not come to Africa in the ship that brought Mr. Colonialism. The warfare of the Shaka Zulu era was engage in by indigenes.

      Like Bultmann, Tillich?s reasoning is open to attack. According to him the Ground Being (or Ground of our Being as he put it) is a suffering God .He suffers as a result of Human failures and pain. Paul Edwards notes that ?if God is identified with the deepest aspirations of human being, then there would be no God if there is no human being. If this is what Tillich?s position comes to ?it is highly misleading and a kind of verbal deception to say that we still believe in God?.

CONCLUSION

     This essay did not agree with the position of the atheists and their theistic collaborators because they failed to see the difference between the social and human dimensions of man. Because of this they stressed the ?individuality of everyman? to the point of exaggeration. They seem also to imply that man creates himself simply because man can create artifacts. Like all of Existentialist thinking, especially in Heidegger?s Philosophy, there is the attempt to make metaphor denote reality. Their petty reasoning is like this: men create technology (artifacts) hence they are omnipotent like God. We are the architects of our destiny hence we are God. We have power of finite transcendence or imagination and we are able to project into the not now here. Gods do that naturally, hence we are also gods. This mode of thinking is childish.

     We sympathize with their humanism but their metaphysics is not sound. Atheism is not necessary as an anchor for Humanism. As Christian Existentialists we agree that man should be analyzed to reveal the perimeter of his rights, sights and finitude. Preoccupation with reality or otherwise of objective non-physical entities is not society?s central problem but rather the failure of men in society to accord the next fellow equality status. If Love is the logic of nature?s growth and unfolding where is it among men. Among Philosophers there is at times verbal attacks based on culture which detracts from their real business, which is basically the articulation of paradigms for sound communalism in today?s world. We mean here a diplomatic Caucasian's writings against people of other races and the ethnocentric apologia or reply by, say, a Pan-Africanist. Note that all this cultures haves ways of embarking on spiritualist exercises. With the advanced stage of hatred and injustices we see in the world in spite of all this mystical contemplations, we have to assume that what these spiritual exercises are is devil worship.

    Existentialism (as a principle of reasoning which takes it queue from the empirical and regularly experienced in verifiable history, meaning the life time of the interrogator) is realistic Philosophy. It moves us to comment on today?s evil, commend today?s bliss and provide paradigms for such bliss to continue tomorrow. It empowers us with such ability to know what we do not like today and to create blueprints necessary for existential growth. This reasoning does not affect good religious attitudes. It desires it .Hence our rejection of atheism or the sophisticated version called Philosophical Atheism. To reject metaphysics or the believe in extra physical entities like God but dwell by religious morals is fraudulent. Without an anchor for positive social morals, we endanger the human race. We make men foolish and hypocritical by deceiving them that they (men) cannot afford to admit to theistic beliefs. But when these men are in dire straits as when terrorist are about to crash their plane into a bridge or landmarks we picture them calling on God and upon the Blood of Jesus that we Philosophers had already made them abandon. We confuse the crowd that we claim we seek to save, by weakening their faith in the Being we know they identify with in secret. Atheism makes the masses, they claim to love, weak before the negative forces of the universe.

    Our position is this-God and Man exists but have different roles to play in this world. Idealism is okay if the point of reference is an utopia to lull mankind towards good morals. But the idealism of the imaginative, speculative, mystical for everybody could and will take man away from his natural chore of helping himself and his fellowmen towards seeking to be what he cannot be. The encouragement of, and, the tendency to try acquiring higher spiritual powers in order to play God to other men in the society is stupid. Philosophers should only call for purity of the self, for a moral mindset, for pleasing the divine.But it is wrong and criminal to call for men to seek to be Overlords. Consider Richard Schacht?s reflection on this theme of atheistic idealism: ?the ideal can prove to be the enemy of both the possible and the actual. Extreme and absolute conceptions of such principles can only too easily contribute to the emergence of contrary social development through their power to distort people perception, alter their commitment and dispose them to courses of action or inaction that in reality serve to further such (contrary) development. A strong dose of realism would thus appear to be in order?.