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  • Okay, well I thought this time that I would actually

  • cover some of the biblical stories.

  • So, and, hopefully a number of them. Um.

  • As I said last time, I'm going to go through this,

  • well, as fast as I am able to,

  • I want to do as complete a job as possible

  • and of course, the probability that I'll get through the entire Bible is very low.

  • But we'll get through a lot of the major stories in the beginning of it

  • and that's a good start.

  • And then, you know, assuming that this all goes well

  • then maybe I'll try to do the same thing again either in the fall or next year.

  • Assuming everything is still working out properly next year.

  • It's a long ways away.

  • Alright, so...

  • I guess we'll start.

  • So, last week I talked to you about a line in the New Testament that was from John,

  • and it was line that was designed to parallel the opening of Genesis.

  • And it's a really important line and I thought

  • I would reemphasize it.

  • Because the Bible is a book that's been written

  • forward and backwards in time,

  • in some sense, like most books.

  • Because if you write a book, of course,

  • when you get to the end, if you're the writer,

  • you can adjust the beginning and so on.

  • So it has this odd appearence of linearity

  • but it really isn't linear.

  • It's like you're God, in some sense,

  • standing outside of time,

  • that's your book,

  • and you can play with time anywhere along it.

  • And the people who put the books together took full advantage of that,

  • and that makes the story...

  • It gives the story odd parallels in many, many places

  • And this is one of the major parallels, at least

  • from the perspective of the Christian interpretation of the Bible,

  • which of course includes the New Testament.

  • And so, there's this strange idea

  • that Christ was the same factor or force

  • that God used at the beginning of time to speak habitable order into being.

  • And that's a very very strange idea,

  • you know,

  • it's not something that can be just easily dimissed as superstition

  • partly because it's so strange.

  • It doesn't even fit the definiton of a superstitious belief.

  • It's a dream-like belief, in some sense,

  • and what I see many of the ideas in the Bible as

  • is these dream-like ideas that

  • underlie our normative cognition and

  • that constitute the ground from which our more

  • articulated and explicit ideas have emerged.

  • And this one idea is so complicated that it's still mostly embedded in dream-like form

  • But it seems to have something to do with the primacy of consciousness,

  • and this is one of the biggest issues regarding the structure of reality,

  • as far as I can tell,

  • because everyone from physicists to neurobiologists debates this.

  • The stumbling block for a purely objective view of the world seems to me to be consciousness.

  • And consciousness has all sorts of strange properties, for example:

  • it isn't obvious what constitutes time or at least duration in the absence of consciousness.

  • And it isn't also easy to understand what constitutes Being in the absence of consciousness,

  • because it seems to be the case...

  • Well, if a movie is running, and there's no one to watch it

  • - I know it sound like the tree in a forest idea, but it's not that idea at all -

  • if a movie is running and no one's watching it,

  • then in what sense can you say that there's even a movie running?

  • Because the movie seems to be the experience of the movie,

  • not the objective elements of the movie.

  • And there's something about the world, at least insofar as we're in it as human beings,

  • that is dependent on conscious experience of the world.

  • Now, of course, you can take consciousness out of the world and say:

  • well, if none of us were here, if there was no such thing as consciousness,

  • then the cosmos would continue running the way it is running,

  • but, of course, it depends on what exactly you mean by the cosmos

  • when you make a statement like that,

  • because there's something about the subjective experience of reality

  • that gives it reality.

  • Or at least that's one way of looking at it.

  • And since we're all pretty enamored of our own consciousnesses,

  • although they're painful, because they define our Being,

  • it's not unreasonable to give consciousness a kind of metaphysical primacy.

  • And it's a deeper idea than that,

  • because there are physicists and they're not trivial physicists,

  • like John Wheeler,

  • who believes that in some sense consciousness plays a constitutive role

  • in transforming the chaotic potential of being into the actuality of Being.

  • He actually thinks about it - he's not alive anymore, but

  • he actually thought about it as playing a constitutive role.

  • And then, from the neurobiological perspective,

  • or from the scientific perspective,

  • counsciousness is not something we understand,

  • I don't think we understand it at all.

  • It's something we can't get a handle on

  • with our fundamental materialist philosophy.

  • And I don't know why that is.

  • It's quite frustrating if you're a scientist, but it isn't clear to me

  • that we've made any progress whatsoever in understanding consciousness,

  • even though, well, we've been trying to understand it for hundreds of years

  • and even though psychologists and neurobiologists and so forth

  • have really put a lot of effort into understanding consciousness from a scientific perspective

  • in the last 50 years.

  • Anyways, what seems to me is the idea

  • that God used the Word to extract habitable order out of chaos

  • at the beginning of time, which is roughly the right way of thinking about it,

  • seems to me deeply allied with the idea that

  • what it is that we do as human beings is encounter something like a formless and potential chaos,

  • I mean, we're not omniscient, obviously, and we can't just do whatever we want,

  • but we encounter a formless and chaotic potential.

  • That's always what we're grappling with

  • and somehow we use our consciousness to give that form,

  • and this is how people act.

  • Like, if you look at how they regard themselves, it's how they act,

  • because you say things to people, like: You shoud live up to your potential.

  • And you make a case that there's something about a person

  • that's more than what is, that yet could be,

  • if only they participated in the process properly.

  • And everyone knows what that means, no one acts like a mystery has been uttered

  • when you say that.

  • And you can see a situation in your own life that's full of potential,

  • you're often extremely excited when you encounter something that's full of potential

  • because what you see is something what could be, you see a future beckoning for you,

  • that could be if only you interacted with it properly,

  • and it activates your nervous system, in a very basic way

  • we even understand how that happens, to the degree that we understand how the nervous system works

  • because the systems that mediate positive emotion,

  • which are governed roughly by the neurochemical dopamine

  • and which have their roots way down in the ancient hypothalamus,

  • a very very archaic and fundamental part of the brain,

  • that responds to potential, which is the possibility of accruing something new and valuable,

  • it responds to potential with active movement forward and engagement,

  • and so we're engaged in the world that has potential and it looks like consciousness does that.

  • And so there's this idea that -

  • - and this is the main idea that I think is being put forth in Genesis I -

  • it's something like -

  • and you see this in mythology:

  • from what I've been able to gather, there's always three causal elements

  • that make up Being at the bottom of world mythology:

  • One is the formless potential that makes up Being once it's interacted with,

  • and that's generally given a feminine nature,

  • and I think that's because it's like the source from which all things emerge and rise.

  • It's something like that, it's more complicated than that, but it's something like that.

  • And then there's some kind of interpretive structure

  • that has to grapple with that formless potential,

  • and I think that's the sort of thing that was alluded to

  • by Immanuel Kant when he was criticizing the notion

  • that all of our information comes from sense data,

  • which would be the pure empirical perspective.

  • Because when you encounter the world,

  • you encounter it with that cognitive structure that already has shape,

  • and so it's already in you, this structure,

  • and without that a priori structure you wouldn't be able to

  • take the formless potential and give it structure

  • and I think that's akin in some way to the idea of God the Father,

  • and I'll try to develop that idea more,

  • it's the notion that there's something in all of us,

  • that transcends all of us, that's deeply structural,

  • that's part of this ancient, I would say evolutionary and cultural process,

  • that enables us to grapple with the formless potential and bring forth reality, roughly speaking.

  • And then there's the final element, and that element seems to be

  • something like consciousness itself, the consciousness that actually inheres in the individual,

  • so it's not only that you have a structure, it's that the structure has the capacity for action in the world.

  • And it's like...

  • You're the spirit that gives the dead structure life, it's something like that.

  • And, as far as I can tell, the triniterian notion that characterizes Christianity

  • is something like formless potential, which is never given the status of a deity in Christianity,

  • and then the notion that there's an a priori interpretive structure

  • that's a consequence of our ancient existence as Beings,

  • it goes back as far in time as you can go, the notion of a structure.

  • And then the idea of a consciousness that is the tool of that structure