Stoicism and Paul: Making a Cosmology-Anthropology-Ethics for Today

BHelmet

Jedi Master
Corvinus said:
BHelmet,
I do not think Pauls end game has much similarities with mainstream Christianity, only in writing, because mainstream is all about Law and even more about obedience to religion until heaven comes by itself, and Christ living in human person is seen as blasphemy because we are seen as unworthy and seperate from divine, distinct, unimportant and unrelated in anyway.
I agree - what I meant to imply was that in theory, the idea of manifesting or accessing (words fail) Christ from within should be the cornerstone of Christianity, but in practice, religion can only pretend to play lip-service to this idea.

Yes, Christ manifest in human form is blasphemy to this day. If "Jesus" actually walked the earth today and 'talked the talk', they'd have to kill him 'again'! An ultimate tragicomedy.
 

Joe

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Approaching Infinity said:
Laura said:
Hopefully we'll be able to find some corresponding terms and descriptions in Collingwood and possibly elsewhere. Perhaps Gurdjieff's idea of bankruptcy can serve temporarily for the "struck" part?
I think that's a part of it. Collingwood describes how each mode of thought - e.g., art, religion, science - has an error built into it that is transcended by the next level of thought. I think bankruptcy can apply to each of those modes - the experience of the limits of your mode of thought/way of life, as the illusion comes crashing down. I'd just say at this point that the bankruptcy seems to me to be the state that allows or facilitates the "strike". It's the opening, but something else has to "come in". So maybe we can also think of it in terms of B and C influences. The "influence from above" can take the form of insight/inspiration/channeling/a book/a teacher. But the ground has to be prepared, as in bankruptcy. And maybe what comes into us can be thought of in terms of a "higher truth", a higher level of information that re-organizes us and our thinking/feeling/acting.
It may also equate to what the Cs call "DNA changes"
 

PERLOU

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Merci à tous pour vos commentaires et partages, surtout à Approche de l'Infini qui me permet d'avoir accès aux livres non traduits en Français...

Thank you all for your comments and sharing, especially Approach of Infinity that allows me to have access to untranslated books in French ...
 

Approaching Infinity

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Joe said:
Approaching Infinity said:
Laura said:
Hopefully we'll be able to find some corresponding terms and descriptions in Collingwood and possibly elsewhere. Perhaps Gurdjieff's idea of bankruptcy can serve temporarily for the "struck" part?
I think that's a part of it. Collingwood describes how each mode of thought - e.g., art, religion, science - has an error built into it that is transcended by the next level of thought. I think bankruptcy can apply to each of those modes - the experience of the limits of your mode of thought/way of life, as the illusion comes crashing down. I'd just say at this point that the bankruptcy seems to me to be the state that allows or facilitates the "strike". It's the opening, but something else has to "come in". So maybe we can also think of it in terms of B and C influences. The "influence from above" can take the form of insight/inspiration/channeling/a book/a teacher. But the ground has to be prepared, as in bankruptcy. And maybe what comes into us can be thought of in terms of a "higher truth", a higher level of information that re-organizes us and our thinking/feeling/acting.
It may also equate to what the Cs call "DNA changes"
Good point! And maybe you can't even have one without having the other - DNA changes being the physical manifestation of a "renewed mind", and vice versa.
 

Laura

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I'm reading "Information and the Nature of Reality" (Davies and Gregersen, 2010), and there are several chapters that are particularly a propos to certain threads here in the forum. Since the focus of the chapter below is interpreting early Christian thought, including that of Paul, in Stoicizing and Information Theory terms, and since the author was influenced by Engberg-Pederson, I think I will include it here. The early part of the essay explains his terms pretty much so that you can get where he is going in the short bit about his interpretation at the end.

13 God, matter, and information: towards a Stoicizing Logos Christology

Niels Henrik Gregersen

Information and the Nature of Reality: From Physics to Metaphysics, eds. Paul
Davies and Niels Henrik Gregersen. Published by Cambridge University Press
© P. Davies and N. Gregersen 2010.

Up to modernity, the majority of Christian thinkers presupposed the world of creation to be composed of two parts: the material and the spiritual, existing alongside one another as independent yet interacting realms. In the traditional exegesis of Genesis 1, for example, the creation of light in Genesis 1:3 (“Let there be light") was interpreted as a spiritual light for spiritual beings in a spiritual world (kosmos noetos), preceding the creation of the corporeal light of the sun in the empirical world (kosmos aisthetikos) in Genesis 1:14.

This two-stock universe lost its plausibility with the advent of classical physics in the seventeenth century, when nature came to be seen as a seamless unity. The scientific intuition of the oneness of the universe, however, was initially combined with a narrow interpretation of the nature of the material. As Isaac Newton (1642-1727) argued in his Opticks, matter is basically atomic: “solid, massy, hard, impenetrable, moveable particles".

“All these things being considered, it seems probable to me, that God in the Beginning form'd Matter in solid, massy, hard, impenetrable, moveable Particles, of such Sizes and Figures, and with such other Properties, and in such Proportion to Space, as most conduced to the End for which he form'd them; and that these primitive Particles, being Solids, are incomparably harder than any porous Bodies compounded of them; even so very hard, as never to wear or break in pieces; no ordinary Power being able to divide what God himself made one in the first Creation." (Newton, 1952, p. 400)

According to Newton, these particles, formed in the beginning by God and held together by the mechanical laws of nature, serve the divine purpose of the universe while at the same time being embraced by God, who is ubiquitously at work ordering, shaping, and reshaping the universe. For Newton, mechanism and theism were two sides of the same coin. How else to explain the orderliness of the otherwise arraying particles? God, the creator of the world of matter and the author of the deterministic laws of nature, was continuously providing the collaboration and ends of all biological creatures:

the Instinct of Brutes and Insects, can be the Effect of nothing else than the Wisdom and Skill of a powerful ever-living Agent, who being in all Places, is more able to move the Bodies within his boundless uniform Sensorium, and thereby to form and reform the Parts of the Universe, than we are by our Will to move the Parts of our own Bodies. (Newton, 1952, p. 403)

How else to explain the growth and appropriateness of biological organs? And finally, despite the physical determinism, there was supposed to be room for the causal efficacy of moral and spiritual powers of human agents. Human duty towards God and human beings “will appear to us by the Light of Nature," as Newton concludes his Opticks (1730, p. 405). Hence, there are not only laws of nature, but also a natural law guiding the human deliberation about right and wrong.

As time went on, however, the philosophical doctrine of classical materialism, reigning in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, made the further claim that the world of material particles is the sole reality, and that all genuine information about nature and humanity therefore must be reduced to the causal powers inherent in the interplay between basic physical constituents. Julien Offray de La Mettrie's L’homme machine (de La Mettrie, 1748) exemplified the programmatic reduction of the soul to the mechanics of the human body, just as Pierre Simon Laplace's Exposition du Systeme du Monde (Laplace, 1813) a little later epitomized the conviction that the universe at large is a closed physical system of interacting particles, leaving no job to be done for a god (apart, perhaps, for initiating the world system). According to these versions of materialism, matter replaces God as ultimate reality, while the mental world is excluded from the inventory of genuinely existing things. For what is real evidences itself through causal powers, the innate powers of material objects.

Neutral monism and the irreducible aspects of matter

The options for theologians of that day were either to oppose materialism radically, as the traditionalists and philosophical idealists did, or to dike materialism by claiming that the choices of human freedom, guided by ethical principles and sentiments, cannot be causally reduced to natural movements, as proposed by Immanuel Kant (1724-1804). Assuming a split between nature and culture, the Kantians - friendly, but disinterestedly - handed over nature to scientific determinism. Leaving ontological questions aside as “speculative metaphysics," the so-called liberal theologians subsequently occupied themselves with axiological questions of ethics and aesthetics. Human experiences of beauty, love, and moral sensibility, they said, are themselves pointers to a transcendent reality that is more ultimate than the deterministic order of natural events.

Reflective theologians of today seem to have more intellectual options. For as physicists Paul Davies and John Gribbin have put it, during the twentieth century the matter myth was broken, for “Matter as such has been demoted from its central role, to be replaced by concepts such as organization, complexity and information" (Davies and Gribbin, 1992, p. 15).

Another way of phrasing the new situation is that the concept of matter has been significantly enlarged so as to include the stuff-character of matter (as evidenced in quarks, electrons, atoms, molecules, etc.), the energy of matter (the kinetic potential and changeability of physical matter), and the informational structures of matter (its capacity for pattern formation). The distinction between the aspects of mass and energy took place with Albert Einstein's special theory of relativity (1905), which showed that mass and the energy of motion are equivalent in a quantitative sense without being simply identical. Matter comprises both energy and “rest mass" (see Ernan McMullin in Chapter 2 of this volume). In the wake of this discovery, philosophers of science began to discuss whether relativity theory eventually demands a “dematerialization" of our inherited concept of matter. For example, in today's cosmology entirely new forms of “matter" are hypothesized; “dark matter," for example, has a mass responsible for gravitational attraction but without emitting any radiation.

The next blow to the matter myth came with the quantum theory of Niels Bohr and colleagues in the 1920s, in which material particles lost quite a few of their former “primary qualities," such as simple localization, duration, and indivisibility. Finally, since the end of the 1940s, the new sciences of cybernetics (Claude Shannon, Norbert Wiener, John von Neumann, and others) and biological information theory have shown that informational properties of matter seem to exert a specifiable causal influence, and hence should be seen as irreducible aspects of the material world. In short, the new picture is that matter is not just the kind of physical bricklike stuff that Newtonian physicists used to think of, and that mass, energy, and information constitute three irreducible though inseparable aspects of the material world.

A possible rejoinder here is that information differs from the mass and energy aspects of matter by not being quantifiable in a manner comparable to the mass units of grams and the energy units of joule. And indeed, as we shall see below, the term “information" takes different meanings depending upon whether we define each individual quantum event as an informational event (a qubit, as suggested by Seth Lloyd in Chapter 5 of this volume), as a computational digit (Shannon information), as patterned information (Aristotelian information), or as meaning information (semantic information). However, as information in all these forms seems to play a causal role in the history of nature, there are strong reasons for giving information a central role in a scientifically informed ontology.

First, information could be said to be at the bedrock of physical reality in terms of the generative capacities of quantum processes. “Information" is here simply what generates differences. And second, informational structures play an undeniable causal role in material constellations, as, for example, in the physical phenomenon of resonance, or in biological systems such as DNA sequences. “Information" is here about differences that make a difference in the story of evolution. So, just as informational events are quintessential at the bottom level of quantum reality, so informational structures are at work as the driving forces for the historical unfolding of physical reality (see Chapter 1 of this volume).

Within contemporary theology, coherent ways of understanding God as ultimate source of all-that-is, and the world of creation as based in physical processes, have been presented. One such version (that I am following) works on the basis of a “neutral monism," which accepts the principle that all-that-is-and-will-evolve in the world of creation is based on a “natural" substrate with some structuring capacity, while not identifying this substrate with particular sets of physical descriptions thereof. The point here is not prematurely to eliminate the causal capacities of higher-level properties, such as information and intentionality, as part of the comprehensive picture of what is ultimately real. The term “neutral monism" was used by both William James and Bertrand Russell to indicate the view that the world is one in origin and enfoldment (“monism"), while admitting that we cannot do justice to the complex evolution of natural systems by only using the physical terms of mass and energy (hence “neutral" with respect to particular physical theories of matter). The agnosticism implied in the term “neutral" monism acknowledges our inability to describe ultimate reality from one particular perspective (say, “mass," “energy," or “information"); neutral monism thus favors a pluralistic set of explanations of reality, although under the serious constraint that any viable monism must include what we have come to know as basic physical terms. No informational structures, no mental events, and no human agents emerge unsupported by mass and energy, and no flow of information happens without a suitable physical basis. And yet, the one world as we know it through the sciences as well as from everyday experience is multifarious. The sort of neutral monism that I wish to defend is thus a “multiformed monism."

15.2 BALANCING PLATONIZING AND STOICIZING TENDENCIES IN CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY

How can contemporary religious reflection deal with the multifaceted concept of the material that came out of twentieth-century physics? Elsewhere (Gregersen, 2007) I have argued that theology should take a strong interest in scientific suggestions of a comprehensive concept of matter as a field of mass, energy, and information. The Christian idea of a Triune God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - may even be seen as a preadaptation to later developments, and hence be a unique resource for developing a relational ontology that is congenial to the concept of matter as a field of mass, energy, and information. Already from the fourth century onwards, the Cappadocian Fathers (Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory of Nazianzus, and Basil the Great) developed a concept of divine nature and life according to which God is not conceived of as a single entity or person (as suggested by later seventeenth-century theism), but as a community of persons or interacting poles. The being of God is here not taken as a pre-established substance. Rather the incomprehensible divine nature (ousia) and the consistency of divine generosity and love result out of the co-determinative actions between three divine centers of activity: Father, Son, and Spirit. The “Father" is the ultimate source of divine life and the existence of cosmos, the “Son" or the Logos is the formative principle in God, and functions also as the informational resource of creation, while the “Holy Spirit" is the divine energy that also energizes the world of the living.

There is not only a formal parallel between the three irreducible modes of divine being and the triad of matter as mass, information, and energy. From a theological perspective, there must also be an ontological connection between God and world by virtue of the incarnational structure of the doctrine of creation: God is present in the midst of the world of nature as the informational principle (Logos) and as the energizing principle (Spirit). Only the originating principle of the Father remains consistently transcendent, thereby responding to the metaphysical question: Whence the universe? Accordingly, the idea of a divine Logos answers the question: Whence the informational resources exhibited in the history of the universe? Finally, the idea of the Spirit answers the question: Whence the energy and unrest of natural processes? It is only in the interplay between information (Logos) and energy (Spirit) that the world of creation produces evolutionary novelties rather than mere repetitions (Gregersen, 2007, pp. 307-314). On this view, of course, what is ultimate reality from a physical point of view is penultimate from a theological perspective. A theological ontology will thus assume that God is intimately present at the core of physical matter as described by the sciences (and beyond that), without thereby conflating God the Creator and the world of creation.

The conception of God as Creator, hence as the ultimate source of all material processes, points to a remaining Platonizing element in all kinds of theism (here broadly conceived of as including the Trinitarian view). The notion of God's transcendence retains the religious understanding of God's ontological priority (as Creator) and of the consistency of God's self-determination to love and generosity (as Redeemer and Fulfiller) during the ups and downs of temporal flux. A coterminous logic, however, demands that God as Creator should be conceived of as actively creating within, through, and under the guise of material processes (where else in this monist world?). This points back to an often-forgotten Stoicizing tendency within Christian belief, especially with regard to the central Christian belief in God's incarnation in time-space.

In what follows, I am going to discuss how the concept of information as arising from the perspective of physics and biology may inform the idea of a Logos Christology, which is not confined to the historical figure of Jesus, but has universal scope from the outset. But I am also going to work the other way around: How can a Christian theology redescribe, from the specific perspective of a Logos Christology, the idea of information as already described and (partially) explained by the sciences?

The point of a theological redescription here is not to establish an inferential argument from the irreducible aspect of information in the material world to the “existence" of a divine principle of Logos. I am not entertaining a “natural theology" based on science. Rather, I am propounding a theological hypothesis that claims that the theological assumptions of a Logos Christology are highly congenial with basic assumptions of the understanding of matter and the material that came out of twentieth-century scientific developments. As such, my theological reasoning is working under both scientific and philosophical constraints.

First, the theological candidate of truth that the divine Logos is the informational resource of the universe would be scientifically falsified if the concept of information could be fully reduced to properties of mass and energy transactions.

Second, its philosophical plausibility would be significantly reduced if the actual outcomes of the interplay between energy and information during evolution would be so pointless that the religious assumption of a generous and caring creator would be existentially counter-indicated. “All work, and no play, makes the universe dull," to rephrase an old saying.

MASS-AND-ENERGY ASPECTS OF MATTER

Already in the mid nineteenth century the concept of matter became more comprehensive and less solid than hitherto assumed. Eventually, the concept of energy was taken to be equally important, or even more fundamental, than the concept of mass. In his “Remarks on the Forces of Inorganic Nature" (Mayer, 1842), German natural philosopher Julius Robert Mayer formulated a principle that pointed forwards to a fundamental change in the scientific concept of matter. The essential property of force or energy, according to Mayer, consists of “the unity of its indestructibility and convertibility" (Mayer, 1980, p. 70). A little later, in 1851, English physicist William Thomson (the later Lord Kelvin) intimated: “I believe the tendency in the material world is for motion to become diffused, and that as a whole the reversion of concentration is gradually going on" (Thomson, 1980, p. 85).

Thereby the intuitions were formed that were later formulated in the first and second laws of thermodynamics. The first law of thermodynamics states that energy is conserved when its energy is put into work and converted into heat; heat appeared to be a general property of matter. In 1865 Rudolph Clausius then formulated the second law of thermodynamics, stating that energy exchanges are irreversible. In a closed system, a portion of energy converted into work dissipates and loses its force to do the same work twice. Thus, the energy is at once a constant feature of matter and a more and more inefficient capacity of matter, as time goes on. Understanding the universe as a closed system by assuming the first law of thermodynamics, the law of entropy predicts the bleak perspective that the universe is going to be less and less capable of producing the heat necessary for living organisms to survive.

With Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity (1916), the concept of energy was further generalized by understanding mass and energy as quantitatively equivalent. In a vacuum , energy (E) is numerically equal to the product of its mass (m) and the speed of light (c) squared: E = mc2.

At a closer look, this famous formula can have two different philosophical interpretations (both compatible with a neutral monism). It can mean that “mass" and “energy" are two equal properties of an underlying material system, or it can be taken to mean that energy and mass constitute the same stuff, which then appears with different emphasis in different systems. In some systems, the mass-aspect of matter dominates, while at other places, matter takes the form of a field. In Einstein's and Infeld's The Evolution of Physics, the latter view is expressed, as follows: “Matter is where the concentration of energy is great, field where the concentration of energy is small" (Einstein and Infeld, 1938, p. 242).6 This distinction between matter and field especially highlights the fact that most matter is not visible in any form, but can be evidenced only indirectly by its gravitational force. Eventually the old concept of matter being composed of solid material particles became obsolete with the time-space and energy-matter unities of relativity theory. The new situation was clearly perceived by Bertrand Russell:

Matter, for common sense, is something which persists in time and moves in space. But for modern relativity physics this view is no longer tenable. A piece of matter has become, not a persistent thing with varying states, but a system of interrelated events. The old solidity is gone, and with it the characteristics that, to the materialist, made matter seem more real than fleeting thoughts.(Russell, 1961, p. 241)

Even more revolutionary for the concept of matter was quantum mechanics, which gave up the idea of material entities having a simple definable state at the ultimate level of matter. The uncertainty principle of quantum mechanics suggests that particles emerge out of and perish into a field of subatomic events with an ontological status that defies description in terms of simple location or duration. The stochastic nature of the decoherence of quantum events into classical events and the continuous entanglement of otherwise distant events give evidence that there is no scientific basis left for the com- mon-sense view of matter. Matter has become a deep but elusive concept. Atoms are not undividable entities, as the old etymology of atomos (Greek for “un-divided") suggests. Nor are atoms, according to entanglement, always separated from one another according to the Human scheme of disparate causes and effects.

Discussing the impact of relativity theory and quantum mechanics, philosopher Norwood Russell Hanson has even spoken of the “de-materialization" of the scientific concept of matter: “Matter has been dematerialized, not just as a concept of the philosophically real, but now as an idea of modern physics ... The things for which Newton typified matter - e.g., an exactly determinable state, a point shape, absolute solidity - these are now the properties electrons do not, because theoretically they cannot, have" (Hanson 1962, p. 34). Hanson's point, of course, is not that physical events do not have a material basis, but that the concept of matter is undergoing serious revisions. The visibility, indivisibility, and locality of old-style materialism have gone.

Also biology poses new questions for materialism by bringing information into the center of attention. Despite all claims of causal reduction, physics (not only classical, but also modern) has failed to explain basic features of biological evolution. For whereas the properties of some chemical compounds (for example, those known from the chemical table) are formed under specific circumstances as a result of atomic affinities fully explainable by physical laws, there exists no law for the sequences of DNA macromolecules. Thus, genomes are arbitrary relative to underlying chemical affinities. Genomes are as they are because of contingent historical circumstances. But if DNA sequences are causally efficient instructors by virtue of their informational structure, information can no longer be left out of a comprehensive picture of what drives nature. For again, what is causally effective, is real. As a matter of fact, information co-determines how organisms make use of their available energy budgets.

INFORMATION IS ABOUT DIFFERENCES

The question here arises: What is meant by information? In what follows I assume that information, taken in a generic sense, has to do with the generation and proliferation of differences. In this sense, information lies at the root of material existence in the form of quantum events, which incessantly produce differences when potential quantum fields decohere and become realized as individual events. This is the main thesis of Seth Lloyd (2006), discussed in Chapter 5 of this volume. However, most quantum events cancel each other out so as to produce a rather uniform result. Only where quantum events not only produce differences, but differences that make a causal impact with long-lasting effect, do we have “a difference that makes a difference" (to use Gregory Bateson's famous term). Finally, when we approach phenomena of salient difference, we have “differences that make a difference for somebody," who evaluates a difference as important or salient in some or other respect.

By defining information by the production and proliferation of differences, we can go back and differentiate John Puddefoot's helpful distinction between three types of information (Puddefoot, 1996, pp. 301-320).

The first is counting information, or the mathematical concept of information as defined by Claude Shannon. Here “information" means the minimal information content, expressed in bits (binary digits), of any state or event: 1 or 0. In order, for example, to know which of 16 people have won a car in a lottery, one would expect to need 16 bits of information, namely the 15 losers (symbolized by a 0) and the one winner (symbolized by a 1). However, if one began to ask intelligently (is the winner in this or that group of 8, and so on), one would only need 4 computational steps (log2 ( 16) = 4).7 Here “information" means mathematically compressible information. This quantitative concept lies at the heart of computational complexity studies.

The question is, however, whether this mathematical concept of information has an ontological status. At first sight, it does not. Shannon information is not an ontological theory about the world per se, but a procedure about how to analyze chunks of information using the minimally necessary steps, and how to transmit that information. However, there must also be some ontological basis for the mathematical theory of information. Not only is any information state always embodied in a concrete physical medium, but this physical medium also determines what Terrence Deacon (in Chapter 8 of this volume) calls the “information potential," that is, the very capacity of physical media for carrying and storing information. No information without an information apparatus (a calculator, a digital machine, a human brain).

Secondly, ontological issues come to the fore as soon as Shannon information is used to achieve information about something (“information" in the semantic sense), say: “Find the winner of the car." Here the information system refers to physical background conditions distinct from, and absent from, the informational system itself. In the example above, the background assumption is the equiprobability of winning the car among the 16 potential winners (that is, a situation of high entropy in Boltzmann's physical sense), plus the one “winner" who has not yet been singled out. Imagine, however, that we had a background context of inequality; say, the information that the winner happens to wear a moustache. In this case, we might find the winner in fewer computational steps, starting with step one: “Identify men with moustache." We would then be able to find the winner in one step (if there were only one with moustache), in two steps (if there were two), in three steps (if there were up to three or four). As formulated by Deacon, whereas the Boltzmann entropy concerns the possibility that an informational signal will be corrupted, the Shannon entropy of a signal is the probability of a given signal being present in a given physical context. In short, the informational concept of entropy cannot be reduced to the physical one, as the former, when used about something, specifies something as standing in the foreground of attention (“the potential winner"), while countless other aspects of the physical situation are deemed irrelevant (say, the armchairs in the room, or the interaction between molecules).

Different from Shannon information is what Puddefoot calls “shaping information," which is the form or pattern of existing things. Here the interest lies in morphology, the study of forms, or specific characteristics. Shaping information may derive either from internal sources (such as a zygote) or from external constraints that cause something to have a definite pattern in relation to its environment. This shaping information is what Shannon information is about when used to acquire knowledge about the environment. But notice that shaping information is pervasive in the world surrounding us, depending on all kinds of boundaries that could fall under observational interest, as well as on the scale of investigation. For example, is the snail and its house one shape, or a compound of two? I therefore suggest making a further distinction within the general category of “shaping information." Shaping information seems to have two forms, either in form of the mere production of differences (as in quantum events), or in the form of larger-scale, semi-stable or resilient structures in the classical domains of physics, chemistry, and biology. In the next section, I refer to these two forms of shaping information as “cutting information" and “channeling information," respectively.

The third type of information is what we refer to in daily parlance: coming to know something of importance. In meaning information, information is not only about something, but is of interest for somebody in a given context. An approaching military helicopter can be a neutral fact of no importance, a salient sign of a fatal combat, or a long-awaited rescue. In meaning information, we are not only interested in the fact that there is this or that feature in our environment (to which we may refer), but we are interested in what it means to us. Information here is part of a process of communication, as pointed out by Bernd-Olaf Kuppers (in Chapter 9 of this volume).

As argued by both Deacon and Jesper Hoffmeyer (in Chapters 8 and 10 of this volume), the aspects of salience and aboutness may already be present at biological level. However, wherever we identify the entrance of meaning information (at basic cellular level, at brain level, or at the level of human communication) we cannot slide easily from one aspect of information to another. Novel informational features emerge during the course of evolution. It seems to me, however, that the concept of shaping information is basic in relation to the two other forms of information. Counting information seeks to model or compress shaping information (as derived from either quantum or classical sources). Meaning information enters into the picture whenever biological agents take interest in their own future. The capacities of such agents, however, are themselves based in higher-order structures of the shaping kind. Meaning information comes about when interpreting shaping information for a specific purpose.

The question is now whether it is possible to identify different types of shaping information from physics to biology. This is a vast task beyond my competence. Let me therefore identify just a few relevant types of shaping information that are of importance for philosophical and religious reflection.

FROM QUANTUM INFORMATION TO BIOLOGICAL INFORMATION: CUTTING AND BUILDING UP

In Programming the Universe (2006), Seth Lloyd sets out to present a picture of the universe as a universal computer. The universe, however, is not like a digital computer, as suggested by Stephen Wolfram (2002). The universe is a computer, but a quantum computer whose bits are qubits (quantum bits). “Every molecule, atoms, question (email of 13 May 2009). But I leave the discussion here, since my interest is on the potential causal effect of meaning information, a causal role that presupposes some recipients for whom a given information is of importance. For biological agents, new meaning information usually elicits new actions with world-transforming effects, and elementary particles register bits of information. Every interaction between those pieces of the universe processes that information by altering those bits. That is, the universe computes" (Lloyd, 2006, p. 3). The universe began computing from its start, and what it computes is itself.

My interest here does not concern Lloyd's challenging thesis of a self-computing universe, which involves the view that the universe literally (not only metaphorically) “registers" itself. For my purpose, the generative capacity of quantum events to produce differences is important. According to Lloyd, “Information and energy play complementary roles in the universe: energy makes physical systems do things. Information tells them what to do." This view also involves that “the primary actor in the physical history of the universe is information" (ibid., p. 40).

In a minimalistic reformulation of Lloyd's thesis, this means that each and any quantum event not only does something on the basis of the immediate situation of the universe (performing an energy transaction), but also, by its occurrence, instructs (informationally) the immediately following situation in which other quantum events are going to occur. Since the relation between two quantum events (A and B) is not unilaterally preset from A to B (although the overall relations between As and Bs take place within the statistical limits of quantum mechanics ), qubits do not behave, and do not make instructions, in the same manner as a digital computer, which runs its programs on a classical hardware system. Qubits do not behave like binary digits, where, in each computational step, there are only two possibilities (0 or 1), one of which is predetermined by the software program (when x, do 0, when y, do 1). The behavior of qubits often has many more possible outcomes.

While the processing of information on a digital computer is in principle foreseeable (although often totally unexpected from a practical point of view), the processing of qubits is in principle unforeseeable. One could therefore never be able to make an exact replica of the quantum history of the universe on a technological quantum computer. Seth Lloyd's proposal, however, involves the idea that much less could do the work for us.

Assuming that the universe at large is a computer (in the sense of doing minimal steps and instructing the conditions for future steps), the universe is indistinguishable from a quantum computer (ibid., p. 54). That is, if we technologically can establish local quantum computers, using qubits and not digits and working almost as fast and as efficiently as quantum processes themselves, we could analyze chunks of quantum processes bit for bit. As a consequence, our knowledge of the real-world informational processes would be manifold increased, and we could begin to make inferences from local qubit behaviors-and-instructions to a more general picture of the cosmic processes at large. I am intrigued by this proposal, and I believe this view of reality has interesting implications.

(1) Quantum events, “the jiggling of atoms,” make decisions for the future universe via quantum decoherence.
(2) The universe is at the bottom level of qubits a generator of differences; hence of informational novelty.
(3) Accordingly, information tends to grow with the history of the universe.
(4) Entropy is reinterpreted as a measure for the “invisible information” (not as a loss of information); that is, the information that we are not able to harvest (although the information necessarily exists because quantum events continue to occur and generate differences).
(5) Since the universe is indistinguishable from a quantum computer by making steps and instructing further steps, the universe is continuously computing itself, whatever the consequences may be for large- scale systems (which is of concern to living beings).

Thus, the information we are dealing with here is indifferent to meaning information. Accordingly there is no specific storage of the “interesting" forms of information. The universe as a quantum computer just goes on computing in a stochastic manner, without concern for outcomes. In this sense, one might say that the language of the quantum machinery is like saying “cut-cut": that is, carving out specific physical pathways under specific pressures while eliminating possibilities.

This view changes if we enter into the classical domains of thermodynamics. Although quantum differences mostly even each other out when entering the medium-sized world, some do indeed have causal effects (as quantum chemistry repeatedly shows). Causal amplifications must have their first-time instantiation in quantum processes, but once the higher-order systems have come into being many examples of amplification also take place in classical domains, owing to the fact that classical systems tend to build on previously established structures. The formation of crystals offers one such example of amplification processes; tornados another. Self- organizational structures emerge by keeping up the delicate balance between positive amplification and negative feedback. In the context of specific boundary conditions, pathways are carved out with far-reaching historical consequences. History and topology begin to matter. Hence, the language of pattern-formation via amplification and self-organization is like “build on, build on.” We are no longer only dealing with stochastic “cutting” information, but with historically oriented “channeling” information. Historically stable forms of information are beginning to take over.

This development reaches a new level in the world of biology, when a strong chemical storage of information takes place in the macromolecules of DNA, and when the distinction between what is inside to an organism and what is outside to an organism begins to matter. In his programmatic article (in Chapter 7 of this volume), John Maynard Smith points out that information is a quintessential concept in biology, because DNA - like culture - is concerned with the storage and transmission of information. He argues that there is a fundamental difference between the genes, which are “codes" that instruct the formation of specific proteins, and the proteins, which are coded for by genes. Even if proteins themselves often have a strong causal effect as inducers or repressors of genes, their causal role is arbitrary in relation to the genes. Thus, there is no necessity about which inducers regulate which genes; it is a question of happenstance or gratuite (as Monod called it). By contrast, the genes code for something very specific to take place, such as the production of eyes. Genes are not only informational in the sense that they store information about a biological past; genes are also informational in the sense of providing instructions for adaptive purposes. In this sense, argues Maynard Smith, genes are not only of central importance for molecular biology, but also for developmental biology. Genes are intentional, not in a mental sense but in the sense of seeking desirable outcomes. This element of post-hoc “intentional- ity" is itself a result of natural selection.

This view clearly gives DNA a special status, because DNA instructs for specific outcomes rather than just working in a haphazard way. This biochemical concept of information is unilateral in orientation. Genetic information “codes" for the epigenetic processes of proteins, while there is no structural feedback from the developed cell to the genetic instruction, other than the subsequent feedback on differential survival. By contrast, the biosemiotic approach, represented by Jesper Hoffmeyer and others, wishes to extend the informational perspective to the level of the cells (Emmeche, 1999). Any cell “interprets" its environment by using its available resources in accordance with the “interests" of the cell. As put by Hoffmeyer, the “inventory-control system" of the DNA always “goes through a user interface" (Hoffmeyer, 2008, p. 166). This interface is provided by the cell in its immediate context (usually the organism itself); the “habits" of a cell's conduct are thus the product of a long and intertwined evolutionary history. Thereby the specific role of the genes as carriers of information and as instructors for protein formation need not be challenged. The biosemiotic proposal is not Lamarckian, if we by Lamarckianism understand a notion of DNA-based heredity of acquired characteristics. But biosemiotics assumes a bigger part to be played by the “interpreters" of the genetic information: that is, the local organisms, acting under environmental possibilities and pressures. The behaviors of cells and organisms are themselves a product of a long (“Baldwinian") learning history (Deacon, 2003).

It remains to be seen whether the biosemiotic approach will be able to point to forms of causality that cannot be explained by more standard biomechanical approaches (such as chemical bondings and attachments). However, from a philosophical point of view, the biosemiotic approach has the advantage of explaining how the emergence of meaning information, or biological “interest," can come about, so to speak, on the shoulders of the instructional information of the genome. Although the biosemiotic approach presupposes the notion of instructional information in the well-known biochemistry of genes and proteins, it places the gene story in the wider context of the life of the basic units of the organism: the cells.

Expressed in continuation of the metaphors used above: the formation of the biological “habits of interest" is not only about cutting information (which generates differences for evolution to work on), nor just about instructional information (which builds up protein structures), but also about an information of connectivity (of absorbing and bringing into resonance a given situation with the interest of biological systems), from cells to organisms. As we are now going to see, all three aspects of information are central to Christian theology.

INFORMATION AND LOGOS CHRISTOLOGY: THEOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES

In what follows, my aim is to explore how the scientific and philosophical reflections on matter and information, as presented above, may elucidate cosmological claims inherent in religious traditions, here Christianity. At the same time I hope to give evidence of the extent to which a premodern text, such as the Prologue to the Gospel of John, remains sensitive to different aspects of the concept of information, as laid out above. Thus the idea of the divine Logos in the Gospel of John relates to both cutting and shaping information (Logos as “Pattern"), to the life-informing aspects (Logos as “Life"), and to meaning information (Logos as “Word"). And despite its divine origin, Logos is even perceived as embodied (becoming “Flesh").

The early Patristic exegesis of the first verse of the Gospel of John (“In the Beginning was Logos") shows that Christianity was not from the beginning coined in purely Platonic terms, but rather evidences an influence from Stoic physics, the standard philosophy in the Roman empire between 100 BCE and 150 CE. Unlike Platonism, Stoic physics was basically materialist, while giving ample room for the “informational" (and even rational) aspects of the material world. Earlier New Testament scholarship, however, has widely neglected the Stoic influence on Early Christian thinking. Nineteenth-century historian and liberal theologian Adolf von Harnack found in John only a Platonic-Hellenistic thinking. In the early twentieth century existentialist Rudolf Bultmann perceived John as a reflex of a “Gnostic redeemer myth." Moreover, in contemporary Johannine scholarship, especially of Roman Catholic origin, one can notice a tendency to underline the Jewish and Biblical resources behind the Gospel, even to the point of neglecting the cosmological horizon of John.

Strands of more recent New Testament scholarship, however, again emphasize the influence of contemporary Stoic physics for both Paul and John, thereby opening up new possibilities for understanding the way in which the theologically reflective writings of Paul and John presuppose a synthesis of Stoic and Middle Platonic ideas, common with many of their contemporaries. Hence God and matter are not simply divided into two separate realms, as in Platonism and in Gnosticism; nor is the meaning of the Gospel explained in purely personalist terms. According to this new perspective, early Christian thinking may have more in common with contemporary scientific questions than so-called “modern" existentialist interpretations of Christianity, which presuppose that both God and humanity are divorced from nature. An important part of this new scholarship is developed within the Copenhagen School of New Testament scholarship; see Engberg-Pedersen (2000). As Gitte Buch-Hansen portrays John: “Neither Platonic philosophy with its world of shadows and unstable, unreal phenomena, nor apocalypticism with its judgement of this evil world captures the affirmative aspect of God's relation to the world in the Fourth Gospel" (Buch-Hansen, 2007, p. 5).

The Prologue to the Gospel of John (1:1-14) starts out by placing the significance of the historical figure of Jesus in a cosmic perspective. The divine Logos is seen as both the creative and the formative principle of the universe “in the beginning" (John 1:1-5), and as the revealer for all human beings since the dawn of humanity (John 1:9). It is this universally active divine Logos that became “flesh" in the life history of Jesus of Nazareth (1:14). Logos and “flesh" (sarx) are thus two correlative concepts, both of cosmic extension.

The divine Logos was said to be “in the beginning" (en arche). The Greek term arche, like its Latin equivalent principium, denotes not only a temporal beginning but also an ontological beginning. The arche thus signifies what we today might call ultimate reality: Logos is the (everlasting) Beginning from which all other (temporal) beginnings take place. Logos was therefore also “in God" (en theo). Being “in the Beginning" and being “in God" are correlates, insofar as God is the generative matrix of all that was, is, and will be. Logos, however, is not said to be identical with God (later in the gospel identified as “the Father"). Logos is God in the predicative sense of being divine (theos), but Logos is not said to be God in the substantive sense (which would have been rendered as ho theos, with a definite article). Logos belongs to God, and is God, but is not flatly the same as the reality of God.

Now the Greek term Logos can be translated differently. Still today it is most often translated as “Word" in continuation of the Latin translation Vulgata dating from the fourth century. Writing around 200 CE, however, the Church Father Tertullian does not even consider this translation. When discussing the meanings of the Greek term Logos, he rather points out that in Latin it could be rendered both as ratio (rationality) and as sermo (speech). Tertullian, however, finds it inconceivable that God should be thought of as “speaking" from eternity, before the temporal beginning. Rather, in God's eternity, Logos must denote the divine rationality or mind (ratio), which may involve an inner dialogue (sermo), but does not speak out until the creation of the world when there are creatures to speak to. Before creation Logos is not talkative.

Tertullian is here presupposing a distinction from Stoic school philosophy between the “logos inherent in God" (logos endiathetos) and the “outgoing divine logos" (logos prophorikos). Among the Greek Church Fathers such as Theophilus of Antioch (c. 190 CE), this Stoic distinction is explicitly used, an indication of the fact that Stoic physics was well known among Christian writers in the Roman Empire.

These early interpretations of John testify that Stoicism (and not only Platonism) has been inspirational for Christian thinking, also among the orthodox, anti-Gnostic Church Fathers. As a consequence, there is the strongest possible link between God's “inner" nature and God's “external" creativity. This interpretation is founded in the very text of the Prologue. For it is about the divine Logos that it is said: “Through this Logos all things came into being, and apart from this nothing came into being" (John 1:3). Applied to the discussions above, one might say that Logos is identified as the divine informational resource, which is creative by setting distinctions into the world (carving out 'this' and 'that') and by bringing informational patterns into motion and resonance (combining 'this' and 'that'). We may speak of the Logos as the informational matrix for the concrete forms that have emerged and will emerge in the world of creation.

In Stoic thinking there is no gulf between God and world as in the Platonic tradition, for Logos is all-pervasive as the structuring principle of the universe. Logos thus expresses itself both in the harmonious order of the universe, in the desires of living beings, and in the rational capacities of human beings. Accordingly the Prologue of John states: “In Logos was Life, and that Life was the light of human beings" (John 1:4). “Life" indicates biological life, especially with respect to the flourishing of life, and by “enlightened human beings" are meant not only specific religious groups such as Christians, but any human being born into the world: “The true Light gives light to any human being who is entering into the world" (John 1:9).

While seeing the divine Logos as the active principle, and the logical structures of the universe as passive qualities, the Stoics retained a distinction between world and God. They claimed, however, that God was no less material than the physical cosmos, just finer and more airy and fiery. Their concept of the material, however, was not the corpuscular theory of the rival school of the Epicureans; rather, they presupposed the cosmos to constitute one homogenous field of energy and matter (related to the elements of Fire-Air and Water-Earth, respectively). “The only way fairly to describe Stoic physical theory would seem to be as a field theory, as opposed to the corpuscular theory of the atomists," says Johnny Christensen in his Essay on the Unity of Stoic Philosophy. But the role of the divine Logos is exactly to explain the unity of differentiation and structure within cosmos: “'Motion' is most closely connected with structure (logos). It refers to the parts of nature, implying maximum attention to structure and differentiation" (Christensen, 1962, pp. 24, 30).

I do not claim that the Johannine concept of Logos is derived exclusively from Stoic resources, for the Logos concept is semantically flexible, and has Jewish, Stoic and Middle Platonic connotations. However, I do believe that it would be wrong to tag the Gospel of John exclusively on Platonism, or a version of Gnosticism. There is in the Gospel of John no split (Plato: chorismos) between the eternal Logos of God and the Logos at work in creation within the one field of physical differentiations, biological life, and human enlightenment. “He was in the world, but the world, though it owed its being to him, did not recognize him. He came to his own, and his own people would not accept him" (John 1:10-11). What is said here eventually is that the Logos is “at home in the universe." The problem is not that there should be principled distance between God and the world; rather the problem lies in the failing human awareness thereof.

Needless to say, Christians departed from the Stoics in their insistence on the pre-material status of the divine Logos. There was a fleshless Logos (logos asarkos) before the Logos became incarnate (logos ensarkos). It is here that the Christian retained a Jewish and Platonic sense of God's transcendence, while balancing this “Platonizing" element with a strong “Stoicizing" doctrine of the incarnation of the Logos: “Logos became flesh (sarx)" (John 1:14).

Like the idea of Logos, the term “flesh" is also semantically flexible, which may well be intentional. “Flesh" can mean simply “body and flesh," thus referring to the historical person of Jesus. This is the case, beyond doubt. But sarx can also mean “sinful flesh," thereby intimating that the incarnation of Logos as Jesus Christ already anticipates the death of Jesus for all humankind. What is born by flesh can only give birth to flesh, whereas it is spirit that makes alive (John 3:6). Moreover, the final word of Jesus according to the Gospel of John (19:30) is rendered as follows: “It is accomplished!" The process of incarnation was not fulfilled until the end of the life of Jesus on the cross.

But third and finally, flesh usually simply denotes “materiality" in its most general extension, although perhaps especially with respect to its frailty and transitoriness. In this case, one could speak of John 1:14 as involving a notion of deep incarnation: The incarnational move of the divine Logos is not just into a particular human person in isolation, “the blood and flesh" of Jesus. The incarnation also extends into Jesus as an exemplar of humanity, and as an instantiation of the “frail flesh" of biological creatures. With the cosmic background of the Prologue in mind, we can now also say that divine Logos, in the incarnation, unites itself with the very basic physical stuff. In other words, the flesh that is assumed in Jesus of Nazareth is not only the boy from Jerusalem, but also a human being, an animal, and the material stuff itself. In Biblical language, God became a human being, a sparrow that flies and falls to the ground, became the green and withering grass, in order to become one with the earthly matter (sarx).

This latter interpretation has significant consequences for understanding the relation between God and the material world at large. The divine Logos is then not only locally present in the particular body of Jesus. Logos is present - as Creator and as Redeemer - at the very core of material existence. The death of Jesus, then, fulfills the self-divesting nature of the divine Logos for all sentient and suffering beings, human or animal. And Logos would be the Light not only for every human being entering the world, but also the “Light of the world" and the “Light of the life" (John 8:12).

Such universalistic interpretation of the Gospel is possible already with the Jewish background of the idea of God having his “home" (shechinah) in the midst of the world. But the interpretation is made even more plausible by understanding the Prologue as having a Stoic inspiration. For here Logos is affirmed as the living bond between the ultimate reality of God and the penultimate reality of the world.

Seen from this historical context and applied to today's context of an informational universe, the divine Logos could be seen as the informational resource active in the world of creation, both by generating distinctiveness from within the core of stochastic quantum processes, by channeling energetic drives via thermodynamical processes, by building up and reshaping biological structures, and by facilitating connections and communication at whatever level possible. Some of these aspects have a rather strong law-like character (at least in terms of overall statistics), while others rely on more contingent historical processes.

On this background it would be possible to see a deep congeniality between a Logos Christology explicated in its cosmic framework and contemporary concepts of matter and information. The “flesh" of the material world is by John seen as saturated by the presence of the divine Logos, who has united itself with the world of creation - by creating differences (“cutting information"), by shaping and reshaping (“instructing and building up"), by creating constructive resonances between organisms and their environments (“absorbing and connecting"), and by making meaning and communication possible (“making sense" of things).

On such a background it is perhaps also possible to affirm the beautiful Hymn to Matter, formulated by the Jesuit paleoanthropolo gist Teilhard de Chardin in a distinctive moment of amazement after having experienced the shock of World War I. Nonetheless, Teilhard was willing to accept the world as it is, including its harshness and riskiness. While one might not want to share Teilhard's overall evolutionary progressivism, his hymn to matter shows a deep sense of the unity between a creative God and a material world saturated by a divine presence:

Blessed be you, harsh matter, barren soil, stubborn rock: you who yield only to violence, you who force us to work if we would eat.
Blessed be you, perilous matter, violent sea, untamable passion: you who unless we fetter you will devour us.
Blessed be you, mighty matter, irresistible march of evolution, reality ever new-born; you who, by constantly shattering our mental categories, force us to go ever further and further in our pursuit of the truth.
Blessed be you, universal matter, immeasurable time, boundless ether, triple abyss of stars and atoms and generations: you who by overflowing and dissolving our narrow standards or measurement reveal to us the dimensions of God ...
I acclaim you as the divine milieu, charged with creative power, as the ocean stirred by the Spirit, as the clay moulded and infused with life by the incarnate Word.
(Teilhard, 1978, pp. 75 -76)
 

Gaby

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That was a fascinating way to explain Christian thought! I got the impression that the author was well familiarized with Collingwood, but maybe it is just the objectiveness of the approach. I think it is very inspiring the way he unites the "universal" with "its particulars" for those of us who had felt "cut-off" after materialistic thinking or programming.
 

John G

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Yeah I kind of like to focus on two of those information ideas. One is that quantum computer growing entropy for the whole universe idea. That kind of gives an "average" of sorts for how the universe evolves over time quantity of information-wise. Then there is the logos-like information that describes what exactly exists at different spacetime vertices and how these relate to each other. This can include things like future effects past for different possible future states and "seeing" a future using your current universe state. So would logos-cross be a rose-cross-like consciousness/silence to body sort of thing (with perhaps a Paul-like Cross ascension too)? A Sige/Logos (silence/word) to Horos/Stauros (cross) thing in Valentinianism?
 

Voyageur

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Gaby said:
That was a fascinating way to explain Christian thought! I got the impression that the author was well familiarized with Collingwood, but maybe it is just the objectiveness of the approach. I think it is very inspiring the way he unites the "universal" with "its particulars" for those of us who had felt "cut-off" after materialistic thinking or programming.
Yes, interesting discussion and direction. As for the bolded part on Collingwood, it appears possible that is the case - one example:

Assuming a split between nature and culture, the Kantians - friendly, but disinterestedly - handed over nature to scientific determinism. Leaving ontological questions aside as “speculative metaphysics," the so-called liberal theologians subsequently occupied themselves with axiological questions of ethics and aesthetics. Human experiences of beauty, love, and moral sensibility, they said, are themselves pointers to a transcendent reality that is more ultimate than the deterministic order of natural events.
There were many contributors to what Laura cited - see pdf http://assets.cambridge.org/97805217/62250/frontmatter/9780521762250_frontmatter.pdf (Contents, About the authors and Acknowledgement). Names are: Paul Davies, Niels Henrik Gregersen, Ernan McMullin, Philip Clayton, Seth Lloyd, Henry Pierce Stapp, John Maynard Smith, Terrence W. Deacon, Bernd-Olaf Küppers, Jesper Hoffmeyer, Holmes Rolston, Arthur Peacocke, Keith Ward, John F. Haught, Michael Welker.

Aside from amazon etc. it can be ordered right from Cambridge press http://www.cambridge.org/us/academic/subjects/physics/general-and-classical-physics/information-and-nature-reality-physics-metaphysics-1#5ymcS0zcySXT2y93.99
 

Laura

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voyageur said:
There were many contributors to what Laura cited - see pdf http://assets.cambridge.org/97805217/62250/frontmatter/9780521762250_frontmatter.pdf (Contents, About the authors and Acknowledgement). Names are: Paul Davies, Niels Henrik Gregersen, Ernan McMullin, Philip Clayton, Seth Lloyd, Henry Pierce Stapp, John Maynard Smith, Terrence W. Deacon, Bernd-Olaf Küppers, Jesper Hoffmeyer, Holmes Rolston, Arthur Peacocke, Keith Ward, John F. Haught, Michael Welker.

Aside from amazon etc. it can be ordered right from Cambridge press http://www.cambridge.org/us/academic/subjects/physics/general-and-classical-physics/information-and-nature-reality-physics-metaphysics-1#5ymcS0zcySXT2y93.99
It's a steal at 20 bux! :scooter:
 

lainey

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Wow, that was really interesting! Also, a great article to exercise the grey matter :halo:

I enjoyed AI's explanations of Philippians and Galatians too.

All this leads to what TEP calls Paul’s “maxim”, found at 2:5: “do not consider your own interest, but that of others.” You could call it the distillation of the whole Christ story/myth.
The maxim is the meaning behind it all: it exemplifies Christ’s mindset and his actions. As such, it is also a model to be followed. Just as Christ acted not for his own interests (as a divine being) but for others (lowly humanity), Paul does the same thing, and so should we - if we are truly “X” people. So Paul actively ‘bends down’ to peeps on their own level with the hope of stretching them up - a recapitulation of Christ’s saving act, and specifically, Christ’s “grasp” of Paul himself. Paul needs to make them see what he sees, what they SHOULD see; not just to follow orders, but to truly understand themselves to be “in Christ” in the way he is “in Christ”. He’s not looking for mindless ritual or convention, but a self-aware practice based on true knowledge.
This part in particular made me think of putting someone on the step behind you. Thanks for sharing!
 

Laura

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lainey said:
Wow, that was really interesting! Also, a great article to exercise the grey matter :halo:

I enjoyed AI's explanations of Philippians and Galatians too.

All this leads to what TEP calls Paul’s “maxim”, found at 2:5: “do not consider your own interest, but that of others.” You could call it the distillation of the whole Christ story/myth.
The maxim is the meaning behind it all: it exemplifies Christ’s mindset and his actions. As such, it is also a model to be followed. Just as Christ acted not for his own interests (as a divine being) but for others (lowly humanity), Paul does the same thing, and so should we - if we are truly “X” people. So Paul actively ‘bends down’ to peeps on their own level with the hope of stretching them up - a recapitulation of Christ’s saving act, and specifically, Christ’s “grasp” of Paul himself. Paul needs to make them see what he sees, what they SHOULD see; not just to follow orders, but to truly understand themselves to be “in Christ” in the way he is “in Christ”. He’s not looking for mindless ritual or convention, but a self-aware practice based on true knowledge.
This part in particular made me think of putting someone on the step behind you. Thanks for sharing!
It's pretty much the essence of the Cs version of STO networking.
 

Phill4

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Approaching Infinity said:
So there is a battle of forces within each of us. Paul ascribes agency to both of them: spirit (which is God’s spirit and Christ’s spirit), and sin (satan). If one lets oneself by led by spirit, the flesh loses the inner battle. The Law cannot ever win the battle, because the Law operates on the same level as sin. It was designed to counter the flesh - but that’s it. For Paul, the Law only existed to keep down moral transgressions until the Christ event, like teaching a kid “this is wrong” before he can really understand it and know for himself that it’s wrong. Like any legal system, it will discourage some acts, but cannot actually change a person. The Law merely imprisoned the person who was still ‘under sin’ in order to prevent sin, but not to get rid of desire completely, which is what the Christ even was designed for: to will for ourselves what before we were merely obliged to do. Instead of “thou shalt” and “thou shalt not”, it is “I will”.

For a Jew who isn’t yet infused with the spirit, the Law is there to issue commands against acts of the flesh. But it won’t always work, because the flesh will win at least sometimes. It’s a constant battle between flesh and Law. Only spirit can renew the mind so that sinlessness is possible. In such a state, one is no longer under the Law, because there is simply no need for such a Law. No works of flesh are possible when in spirit - there’s nothing for the Law to operate on.
This is whole thread is very interesting, I finished catching up with it a few days ago, thanks AI for putting it simple and concise, in the quote above i find interesting the reference to the nature of sin.

The C's indicated that we wanted to sensate, and that was the reason we accepted to come to this world, we were unaware of all the consequences involved in this apparently "simple" decision, it implies that we are bound to the pleasures of sensations, and the avoidance of pain. We are subjected constantly to the bodily needs, but this event of the crucifixion is the creation of the will to reach X from our position and conditions. I.e. Salvation, from our nature through awareness and growing of will through spirit which is universal.
Sensations are not all that Paul means by "flesh" it also refers to the ego centered attitude towards everything, it sets us in a frequency to absorb to fullfil the whims of the body and ego, but when we become aware of this, and start to question it and looking for the spirit in everything that frequency starts to break up, we look for ways to satisfy the needs of the spirit by serving others.


It reminded me also of this session 24 November 1994:

Laura said:
Q: (L) So we just have to stay on our toes at all times?

A: Absolutely don't let others distract you. You have suffered many attempts at distraction away from truth. Now follow some proclamations: Pause. All there is is lessons. This is one infinite school. There is no other reason for anything to exist. Even inanimate matter learns it is all an "Illusion." Each individual possesses all of creation within their minds. Now, contemplate for a moment. Each soul is all powerful and can create or destroy all existence if know how. You and us and all others are interconnected by our mutual possession of all there is. You may create alternative universes if you wish and dwell within. You are all a duplicate of the universe within which you dwell. Your mind represents all that exists. It is "fun" to see how much you can access.

Q: (L) It's fun for who to see how much we can access?

A: All. Challenges are fun. Where do you think the limit of your mind is?

Q: (L) Where?

A: We asked you.

Q: (L) Well, I guess there is no limit.

A: If there is no limit, then what is the difference between your own mind and everything else?

Q: (L) Well, I guess there is no difference if all is ultimately one.

A: Right. And when two things each have absolutely no limits, they are precisely the same thing.
I think our mind connects us to the universal mind, having an spiritual empathy for another could be similar to having an spiritual empathy for everything, not meaning in the sense of "rejoicing in oneness" but in the context of what Paul was referring to, I->X , I think it a transformative process that takes us to X then to S, the event of crucifying the "flesh" is an act that surrenders the ego centered desires,and turn it into a desire of spirit, which no longer focus on the self but on all creation.

The question here arises: What is meant by information? In what follows I assume that information, taken in a generic sense, has to do with the generation and proliferation of differences. In this sense, information lies at the root of material existence in the form of quantum events, which incessantly produce differences when potential quantum fields decohere and become realized as individual events. This is the main thesis of Seth Lloyd (2006), discussed in Chapter 5 of this volume. However, most quantum events cancel each other out so as to produce a rather uniform result. Only where quantum events not only produce differences, but differences that make a causal impact with long-lasting effect, do we have “a difference that makes a difference" (to use Gregory Bateson's famous term). Finally, when we approach phenomena of salient difference, we have “differences that make a difference for somebody," who evaluates a difference as important or salient in some or other respect.
I had to stop and get familiar with quantum physics (I am not very well versed on the subject :-[ ) and found it very interesting, I read some things about black body radiation and quantum decoherence. I don't know if I understood it correctly,, subatomic particles, behave as waves AND particles, depending on the conditions, it doesn't loose its "integrity" or conservation of energy, because it is bound by information? it is a particle and when it acts as a wave the information in transferred and can reappear somewhere else?

When a particle behaves like a wave it becomes a "potential" like information scattered, and become something else, a quantum event?
 

whitecoast

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I am about a fifth through Paul and the Stoics. The first chapter was a difficult read, talking about the many philologists before TEP about reading Paul. I think that reading The Idea of History helped with my comprehension a little bit, teaching me to think more historically.

I've been thinking about the "I-->X-->S" model that TEP gives as a roadmap to find the overlaps in thought between the Stoics and Paul. It may be a coincidence, but I also think it (at least in part) applies as well to my own experiences with brain training with Neuroptimal.

I'll give an example. I have an automatic negative thought, or some reactive feeling that gets worked up over some unintegrated perceptual fragment of my total (potential) experience. This comes from my (epi)genetics, environment, and certain bad thoughts or attitudes I've held historically.This is like the "I" of the model, which characterizes the ego and self-centered drives and privileges the self over others. Contrasting this is the higher, more sophisticated mental processes in the cortex, which process information in a more integrated fashion. This the "X" of the model, which to the Stoics represented Reason, and to Paul Christ.

When I have an NO session, I feel my automatic negative thoughts/feelings/instincts either disappear or diminish significantly. This may in part be due to the Neuroptimal gently releasing some trauma in my body, but an equal or greater role is played by the brain now making use of traditionally underutilized brain frequencies and grey matter to regulate itself and other areas. These more sophisticated parts of my brain in a sense are greater removed from the reactive thoughts/feelings/instincts, and having a more complete perception of reality are more able to give each program its due: allowing the expression of those that fulfill its higher (more noble?) aims, and forbidding the expression of those which detract.

This increase in ability to see one's own inner landscape from a higher perspective is central to "I --> X" portion of the model. Paul and the Stoics alike held this higher perspective in the abstract ideals of Reason or Christ. On a microcosmic level, relating the model to brain training, the "X" is much more nuanced. It deals with the nity-gritty nuts-and-bolts of how the brain processes and manages information feedback loops and its variegated programs and subroutines. I and I know many others who use Neuroptimal say they've experienced significant changes in their own minds, but often it is hard to describe the specifics in words without concrete examples.

So that's the "I --> X" portion of the model. I'm not sure how "X --> S" factors into things vis-a-vis Neuroptimal, and it may not (it is only a model after all). I think of Jonathan Haidt's work The Righteous Mind, where he says that humans behaviorally are 90% chimp and 10% eusocial insect. In terms of society, the Stoic Zeno was known for saying that only the wise and good are capable of being citizens of the state, and that in fact many elements of society (such as laws, regulations, even currency) would become obsolete in a society where people were no longer ruled by "I" (the baser instincts) but by "X" (a unified undertsanding of higher ideals). In a society where everyone values the well-being of people other than his or her own self (as all who adopt "X" do), spontaneous coordination, trust, and creativity would flow naturally and society (it seems to me) would be much more naturally STO (think 50% eusocial insect instead of 10%).

Where NO falls short in this current take on the "I --> X--> S"model is that it cannot teach people what to value in terms of abstract ideals (such as gaining knowledge of reality)-- only how to help the brain become more unified in its ability to fulfill the goals it chooses for itself. So a mind that uses NO could become "more X-oriented" in its own internal processes, but may do so in a way that doesn't fulfill other elements of the model (such as X always gearing towards a more objective understanding of reality, according to TEP). For that a lot of other elements belong in the picture, such as striving toward consciously set aims that require conscientiousness to accomplish alongside likeminded individuals, gaining technical knowledge of our our mind and the world works, cleaning our bodies and minds, etc.
 

hlat

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
If Christ was X --> Paul was I, and then Paul was X --> Philippians and Galatians were I (and then Christ, Paul, Philippians, and Galatians come together in S); then perhaps X will not be one eternal unchanging thing for everyone but X will be different things for different people. It will be a chain or network, sort of like a food network but instead of feeding below, it will be striking inspiration below. So an inspiration network instead of a food network.

Their growth in understanding comes through application of what they already know.
It's a reminder that it is not enough to know. Doing has to happen based on the acquired knowledge.
 
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