Monday, February 13, 2012

The God That Doesn't Exist [Part One]

I know this might come as a shock to many readers, but atheists aren't the only one who deny the existence of God.  I had to remind my mother about this the other day who is both Jewish and an atheist.  According to all the great Jewish mystics, it is in the highest sphere that we find the God who does not exist.  This conception is sometimes referenced in books as if God both exists and does not exist.  But this is merely watering down the shocking implications of the Hebrew term ayin (= 'not being').

I think I am one of the only people alive today that is sufficiently versed in early Jewish and Christian mysticism to see the inherent agreement in the sources (of course in the case of the Jewish tradition it is only as old as the oldest surviving literature which means from the last millenia).  I think Scholem and Idel and a few others have attempted to make the connection.  The difficulty of course is that their knowledge of the Christian gnostics was superficial.

In any event, I am confident that the kabbalists did not 'invent' the idea of a non-existent God.  The idea is already present in Irenaeus's description of the heresies.  I think one can even argue the concept is fundamental to Philo's system.  Yet even more fundamental than of all of this is the manner in which the concept agrees with the underlying sense that is in the heart of 'believers.'  God isn't in the world.  He isn't a 'thing.'

All our mystical sources - Jewish and Christian - speak of a deity who weaves all existence out of the out depths of his own nothingness. I don't understand religious people who argue with atheists about the 'fact' that God 'exists.' Has anyone actually looked up what the dictionary definition of existence actually is? Our word comes from the Latin existere or exsistere which means "to step out, stand forth, emerge, appear; exist, be." This is exactly the opposite of what Philo, the early Church Fathers and all the great Jewish sages knew to be true about God.

So what are we really arguing over?  The fact that God is a particular being like that cat who comes to visit the fringes of my property during the day and drives my dog wild?  Is God supposed to be like the mailman who fills my postbox?  Or my father who once had existence and now doesn't?  This is so utterly stupid.  Rational people should be able to agree that God does not exist.  He doesn't step out.  He doesn't stand forth.  He doesn't emerge or appear.

In any age of profound illiteracy and unsophistication we have to at least learn to express what we mean (I can't even endure the Food Channel any longer because all the chefs keep repeating that this or that meat is cooked 'perfect' as opposed to 'perfectly').  To have existence one must necessarily die.  One steps out into being, but one must also recede back into nothingness.  All the early sources acknowledge the understanding that the 'real God' cannot create directly in the world because he is outside of the world, outside of being and becoming.

So what is God?  Nothingness. Non-being.  Non-existence.

What do religious people 'think' is the God who is 'in the world'?  They are acquainted with a series of emanations who came forth from the God who does not exist.  This isn't just Jewish kabbalistic speculation of the medieval period.  I am quite certain I can demonstrate to intelligent people that Philo and the earliest Christians basically agreed that a chain of events unfolded in the beginning which led to the creation of the world.  Yet we must stress that the true God, the source of all things, was originally not a part of the process.  It is at this point that Irenaeus steps away from the pack and develops his own idiotic variation of the original understanding - namely that God and his Son were together responsible for the creation of the world but this is not the understanding of the Philo, the original Alexandrian Christian tradition of St Mark and the Jewish sources.

The real story goes something like this.  The true God who doesn't exist willed the creation of what is commonly called 'his substance.'  I strongly suspect that the original Hebrew terminology for this creation was yeshu - the Aramaic name for the God of the Christians - but as it stands the Sepher Yetzirah and other early sources use the accepted Hebrew term yeshno, even though Ibn Ezra and others acknowledge the nun here (= the letter n) is 'superfluous.'

In the age where lines between 'Jews' and 'Christians' were blurred or simply did not exist (I suspect the original Hebrew term for this tradition was yesharim = Gk. chrestoi) Jesus was identified as the hidden God, the first created thing in Creation.  He may well have been identified with Wisdom.  The point is of course that the Son who eventually established all things was not Jesus.  This was the orthodox innovation precipitated by Irenaeus for reasons I simply can't fathom (unless it was to attack the mysticism for being subversive against the Roman state).

As Irenaeus reports over and over again, the original Christian understanding (although he denies it is authentic) was that Jesus secretly assisted the Son in fashioning the universe and creating man.  He was not recognized as the firstborn and the heavenly material that gave true life to all things.  It was only at the end of times - the age in which this yeshu descended down into Jerusalem in order to reveal himself that the Creator learned the actual source of his power.

I am not here to argue with atheists or even believers that this actually 'happened' (for it is alleged to have 'occurred' in an age beyond 'history' per se).  It was a myth developed from the Jewish sources which brought forth an understanding which certainly scandalized a lot of people.  Nevertheless it is impossible not to see that the basic form of the narrative agrees with the structure at least of Jewish mystical beliefs.

I do believe I have finally solved where Jesus fits into the Marcionite schema of creation.  He was not the Creator but a hidden God which was and is understood by Jews and Christians to be intimated in the Pentateuch.  How strange is that?

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