Last week on View from the Right, Lawrence Auster mentioned Indian spiritual teacher Meher Baba’s ideas about evolution. Frequent commentator Laura Wood then criticized Baba’s views and noted how they contrast with her understanding of Christian doctrine. Wood comments:
Baba’s pantheism is as faulty and erroneous as Darwinism, and far more pernicious as few people truly believe that earth was created in a mindless, random process whereas many people believe in pantheistic creation and the idea that we have many lives in which we might gradually improve ourselves and correct our mistakes. The God Baba admits into the evolutionary scheme is superseded by his creation: the god-like evolving soul assured of ultimate union with its Creator, who is immanent in nature. In essence Baba says the soul creates itself, progressing from mindless matter into intelligence through its own seeking, its own internal purposiveness. You wrote: “[T]he soul is seeking ever greater intelligence, ever greater consciousness.” In other words, it possesses intelligence and consciousness even in inanimate forms. This entails some form of divinity in matter, a notion that in one sense is not all that different from the Darwinian idea that consciousness evolves from matter. The difference in the Baba view is that matter has been endowed by God with awareness from the beginning. But if a stone had a soul in the beginning, it would have a soul now. And if there is this spiritual kinship between human beings and all of nature then we must naturally identify with some of the passivity and indifference of non-human creation. Genesis is then entirely wrong in its distinction between human beings and the rest of nature.
Indeed, we do identify with the passivity and indifference of nature; I am often mindful of my animality. Moreover, that there is a distinction between man and the rest of creation does not equate the rest of creation’s utter lack of relationship with God. The Seraphic Doctor teaches that the world is God’s footprint (vestigium) and man is his image (imago); both bear a resemblance to God, though in different ways. Consider also psalm 148. It is poetry—but poetry that reflects the truth that all creation worships God in its proper manner—even a stone. Similarly, the Prophet Isaiah declares: “For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” Of course, those Hebrew prophets were known for their rampant pantheism.
Auster replies by noting how Baba’s teaching differs from pantheism:
However, Baba’s scheme is not pantheism. He does not say there is anything divine in matter. To the contrary, he says that the material universe, and all the living forms through which the soul passes, are God’s dream—a dream God experiences (in the form of evolving souls) in order to come to full consciousness. Also, the soul as he describes it not immanent in nature. To the contrary, the soul is beyond nature, beyond not only the physical body, but the astral and mental bodies. The soul, which he describes as an individualized drop in the infinite ocean which is God, takes on bodies and has experiences through them, but is beyond all bodies. The main point of Meher Baba’s teaching is that only God (and the soul which is a part of God) are real. The universe and all its phenomena and experiences are a dream or illusion through which the soul must past in order to come to the truth.
This is what you would expect from Ammonius were he to become a Hegelian. I suppose that we see something similar with Teilhard de Chardin, who seems to be a Hegelian Empedocles, though perhaps such is a bit redundant.
Anyway, Auster and Wood’s brief Babasque discussion reminds me of a quick note that I sent Andrew a few months ago:
When I first started delving into metaphysics and theology at college, I remember reading about panentheism. I think that [Bishop Timothy Kallistos] Ware brings it up as a possible Orthodox position. However, I recently realized that non-Platonists are incapable of understanding the transcendent/immanent relation of God to the world. For them, “panentheism” is how they interpret what we believe. They do not have the necessary metaphysical categories in their own world views. As such, non-Platonist Christians accuse us of paganism, which is what panentheism would imply, though perhaps the very best form of paganism. It’s another example of the flatland principle.
As hypothetical two dimensional intelligent beings would have much difficulty comprehending three dimensional reality, folks with a flat metaphysical horizon have trouble understanding any view that denies that God is a being among beings. Just ask John W. Robbins.