Saturday, March 03, 2007

Creative emergence is rooted in ancient pagan philosophy

Ken Wilber himself affirms that his idea of "creative emergence," by which he attempts to combine spirituality with the recent evolutionary concept of "punctuated" evolution, is rooted in ancient pagan philosophy. It was given its most detailed expression in neo-Platonism, which issued the last major challenge of pagan philosophy to Christian theology at the dawn of Orthodox Christian civilization in the fourth century A.D. [Wilber claims that Plotinus (A.D. 205-270), the main thinker of the neo-Platonic school, was "arguably the greatest philosopher-mystic the world has ever known" (The Marriage of Sense and Soul, p. 19. He sees the Indian philosopher Nagarjuna (second-third century A.D.), who taught that Absolute Emptiness manifests itself as all form, as Plotinus' contemporary counterpart in the East (Wilber, Sex, Ecology, Spirituality: The Spirit of Evolution, pp. 638-69, 692-97).] In one form or another, it has been found in virtually every strain of false mysticism (theosophy, kabbalah, etc.) since that time. It is perhaps the highest idea that humanly devised metaphysics can arrive at when the fallen mind of man is not submitted to -- and raised up by -- Divinely revealed theology.

According to the pagan philosophical notion, the deity does not create ex nihilo in the classical Christian sense, but rather diffuses or emanates itself onto creation. Forms and beings appear suddenly, but this is an "emergence" out of an impersonal Godhead rather than a creation by a Personal God Who is in essence wholly "other" than His creation.
As against the pagan view, the Orthodox theologian Vladimir Lossky elucidates the true meaning of creation according to the Scriptural-Patristic Christian doctrine:
Quote:Creation ex nihilo does mean just such an act of producing something which is "outside of God" -- the production of an entirely new subject, with no origin of any kind either in the Divine Nature or in any matter or potentially of being external to God. We might say that by creation ex nihilo God "makes room" for something which is wholly outside of Himself; that, indeed, He sets up the "outside" or nothingness alongside His plenitude. The result is a subject which is entirely "other," infinitely removed from Him, "not by place but by nature," as it is expressed by St. John Damascene [St. Gregory Palamas writes that "every created nature is far removed from and completely foreign to the Divine Nature" (The Philokalia, vol. 4, p. 382), even though God creates and sustains the creation through His Divine grace (energies).]

The creation is not a kind of spreading out or infinite diffusion of the Godhead.... "The Good diffusing itself by itself" of neo-Platonism is not the God of St. Paul, Who "calleth those things which be not as though they were" (Rom. 4:17).
According to the neo-Platonic idea, since Absolute Being is ultimately impersonal, it has no Personal will. Therefore, the production of beings cannot be an act of free will, but is rather a natural diffusion that occurs by virtue of some necessity of the Divine Nature. In other words, it is the nature of the Godhead to diffuse itself into the realm of form and appearance; there is no "choice" involved.
In the Christian revelation, on the other hand, since God is Personal, he creates by a free act of will, Vladimir Lossky writes:
Quote:The creation is a work of will and not of nature.... In the act of creation God was under no necessity of any kind whatever. There is, in fact, nothing in the Divine Nature which could be the necessary cause of the production of creatures: creation might just as well not exist. God could equally well not have created; creation is a free act of His will, and this free act is the sole foundation of the existence of all beings....
Creation, which is thus a free act of the will, and not (like the shining forth of the Divine energies) a natural outpouring, is an act proper to a God Who is Personal, to the Trinity Whose common will belongs to the Divine Nature.
In the Orthodox Christian vision, then, God creates not out of necessity but out of love. He loves us, His creatures who are in essence external to Him, and He wishes us to meet Him in a personal relationship of love, so that we may participate in Him through His grace. Vladimir Lossky writes that, in the Christian vision,
Quote:the created universe is thus not seen, as in Platonic or Platonizing thought, under the pale and attenuated aspect of a poor replica of the Godhead; rather it appears as an entirely new being, as creation fresh from the hands of the God of Genesis "Who saw that it was good," a created universe willed by God and the joy of His Wisdom, "a harmonious ordinance," "a marvellously composed hymn to the power of the Almighty," as St. Gregory of Nyssa says.
Thus, the impersonal God of the pagan (and neo-pagan) conception is shown to be vastly "weaker" than the God of Orthodox Christianity. It cannot volitionally create ex nihilo in the true sense, but can only of necessity manifest forms out of its own nature.
While this view of "God" and "creation" is indeed nothing new, we have seen how it has been given a new evolutioanry frameowrk in modern times by thinkers like Teilhard and Wilber. In Wilber's words, the ancient pagan teaching of a series of diffusions of the Divine Nature has now been "temporalized" by the modern theory of evolution.
The pagan idea of "creative emergence" appears to fill in all the gaping holes which exist in the currently competing models of naturalistic evolution. Integrated with the "punctuated equilibrium" model devised by atheist/agnostic evolutionists Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Edgredge, it provides a vague "Spirit" to explain both the lack of intermediate forms and the lack of a purely naturalistic mechanism of evolution. Once the evolutionist admits a vague concept of deity, the idea that Wilber has synthesized makes absolute sense, fitting in perfectly with the evolutionary framework of billions of years of earth history. According to this view, God has "emerged" into the world over billions of years in successively higher forms. It is still evolution -- as Wilber affirms at every turn -- but it is far removed form the old naturalistic paradigm.
Rose, Fr. Seraphim (2000). Genesis, Creation, and Early Man: The Orthodox Christian Vision. Platina: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 2000, pp. 557-567. March 02, 2007

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