Notes to a Friend, or “The Godwork Machine”

Note: My recreational fiction writing was slammed into an extended pause following my coming down with the worst cold I’ve ever had (lasted basically the month of March 2020. Antibody tests indicate it was not COVID, but that is almost beyond belief for me). In the meantime, I have written a lot, but have not yet come back to my fiction. The following is one of the things I wrote during this time.


My dear friend Chris Corwin wrote a journal entry he created in response to a daily journaling prompt and kindly shared it with me today.

The prompt was “do you believe in God”.

I’m going to comment on some specific portions here, after summarizing it.

Summary:

G_d is a result of the sum total of the universe. Possible sentient, but in a way that would be more or less alien to us. Some sort of super-sentience or an alternative sentience possibly more akin to the way that botanical organisms are sentient, but at a near infinite order-of-magnitude larger complexity.

The Bible hints at this in it’s statements about time distortion or “clock time” vs “perceived time”. He interprets the Bible’s statements about great spans of time being as but a blink in the eye of G_d to being merely a one-way relationship pointing at an ancient being and how fast their perceived time must be going.

If G_d has a “sense of self” this requires a background framework on which to place that sense (and presumably lends credence to the concept of G_d as an emergent feature). Any sense of self is merely an emergent trick or useful illusion used to contextualize into pragmatic categories, partially centered around control and proximate awareness.

G_d is a label that we apply to a long-running process that need not have a sense of self, but which for our own conceptual convenience and contextualization, is more conveniently thought of as a “being”. This process is perceived to us to be the driving force behind all things that seem to have a driving force, or be otherwise separate from The Void. Therefore, G_d is what we call the driver behind what we perceive to be anti-Void emergences such as Wisdom, Intelligence, Design, Control, Fate, Destiny, Cause and Effect, Life, etc.

G_d is useful because it allows us to conceptualize and talk about these phenomenon in a way that even children and politicians can understand.

Analysis:

Corwin begins and ends by borrowing Jordan Peterson’s response that he “behaves like someone who believes in God” (although I don’t recall him ever explicitly stating what that means, in what ways he believes himself to be doing this, or what specific impulses/tendencies/behavioral changes are informed by this belief).

Peterson typically goes on to define who this God is. He does so in a way that while it overlaps with some aspects of Christianity, also at least partially misses the entire personal intimate relationship between Bride and Bridegroom. He does so as a Bride sitting in the vestibule of the church, describing in detail the ways in which the Groom is deserving of love and praise, but shyly reticent to enter into the marriage ceremony due to some ill-conceived notion that perhaps if he stays in the vestibule long enough, applying enough make-up, doing enough exercises, standing up straight with his shoulders back, improving himself, some day he might make himself worthy of walking through those doors to meet the Groom. Peterson is admirably but sadly mistaken. Having been married for many many years, he damn well ought to know better. It is the marriage that makes you worthy of it (or discover that you are not and never will be and are yet loved).

Corwin by contrast seems to describe instead of a Groom, a general mechanical force that could only in superficial ways be identified as part of God’s nature, but inverts everything to instead have God be the emergent result of what I would call some of His creations and some of the results of His nature. Corwin describes no explanation as to how his belief in God has informed his behavior, although such behavioral information can be extrapolated or guessed at if you know him well enough (granted there isn’t anything that stands out in the blog to me that could be described as behavioral information, except perhaps the belief in a certain pragmatism in a belief in a G_d).

In Corwin’s vision of God, God is a created being –or rather a super-being– that is the result of emergent processes and experiences. As if a neural construct that began, and grew, and from that growth resulted in a being so vast and beyond our comprehension that the only way it could reveal itself to us (if indeed it had any interest in doing so), or perhaps be conceptualized by us, is as a G_d, or as I will call it henceforth: the “Godwork Machine”. 

This Godwork Machine is therefore limited by and bound by time, just as we are. It experiences the same time perception distortion as we do. It is subservient to it, and subject to certain rules and limitations. This being is decidedly not the Christian God, as conceptualized by either the East or the West (perhaps though it is closer to the accidental Western conceptualization).

An interesting aside here is that due to time perception distortion, the Moment of the Big Bang at which this God Machine emerged would have felt as if an eternity in comparison to a single “moment” for it today. One could almost guess that, if it so existed, this God Machine could be (unforgivably) mistaken in a belief that it was indeed an Eternal Being. Echoes of the Big Bang which vibrate through space even now could serve as vague memories of some sort of infinity from which it emerged and which it might mistakenly believe it “came from” or that it was somehow “outside of” “the universe”. Memories of this eternal moment of being a singular point in literal nothing (prior to the expansion of The Big Bang) could well be misconstrued as awareness of a “different place”, a “super-natural state”. The obvious answer to this is that if I’m smart enough to have dreamed this up then the God Machine would have to be either entirely self-deluding or somehow less intelligent than me to not have realized this contingency.

Corwin transitions into a de-facto discussion of his belief in the non-existence of “free will”. It is not entirely clear whether he assigns this lack to the Godwork Machine or not, although I believe that the implication is there that not only is the Godwork Machine a result of the universe rather than the progenitor of it (and is therefore a creature), but furthermore the Godwork Machine is bound by and fully subject to time, as well as lacks what many commonly think of as “free will”. Therefore the Godwork Machine is a feature of creation, no more symbiotically important than Yeast in any way other than its vast pervasive nature. The Godwork Machine isn’t a discrete entity but rather the result of the sum total of the component parts of the universe. 

Another interesting implication is that the Godwork Machine, to the extent that it has what we recognize as “consciousness”, could have a vested interest in eliminating the malignant parts of itself. Such a motivation could explain something approaching “separating the sheep from the goats”. Especially if the Godwork Machine has an inkling of the millions of years potential of human beings to expand beyond the Earth and easily become a malignant nefarious force of untold pain and destruction for not only themselves but any other (illusory or no) forms of consciousness throughout the Universe.

There are some large gaps between Corwin’s thinking and an Orthodox understanding of God, although there are some inverted overlaps.

Corwin states:

Some — naively — will insist that G_d is “entirely outside of time” but that doesn’t hold up — an agent entirely outside of time would be unable to perceive time at all.

Indeed! He is correct! That’s an important miscommunication. I am almost certainly a culprit for one who has perhaps even stated those very words, but meant something very different than how I am now understanding it is easily taken. By “entirely outside of time” I mean that Time exists because it is something that God created and that it exists inside of Him. He is bound by it only at-will, which means it’s more like a “rule he chooses to follow” than a force that exerts control over Him (thus making Him subservient to it). Time obeys God, not the other way around.

God declares himself to be the only thing with ontological Existence.  The only Existing One. In Him and at his Will and Pleasure all creation came, rests, and exists. None of “this” actually exists at all in a true sense of the word. This is an inversion of Corwin’s belief that the God Machine is a result of the sum total of the universe. He has the emersion backwards, as all things emerge from God. He also has the “reason” backwards, rather than the God Machine being an Accidental or Random or Fatalistic result of the Universe, the Universe is instead an intentional result of God.

The Word (Jesus) is God and is the one in whom the beginning is (“in the beginning was the Word” or, stated again, “The beginning was in the Word” but NOT “the Word was contained/produced by the beginning”, “and the Word was God”). The Word is the one from which all things receive their being (“All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” this implies an outside causal force being the progenitor and bedrock foundational of the fundamental existence of all things, the directional flow is clear. Creation is a result of conscious will and effort of an outside force which yet contains and sustains creation within itself and is itself an active participant in creation). 

“No one has seen the Father at any time, the Word who is in the Father has revealed Him”. The Father IS (“I AM”, “YHWH”). The Word (Jesus) is the incarnate physical manifestation of the Father. He is the One who walked with Adam and Eve in the garden in the cool of the day. He is one of the three who came and dined with Abraham. He is the burning bush out of which the Father spoke. He is the “angel” who wrestled with Jacob. Given this understanding, and that all incarnate manifestations of God are said to be the Word, it only follows that the Christian God, as described by those who have spoken to Him and walked with Him, has declared Himself to be entirely independent from all things, but also that all things have their being “in His bosom”, and that he and the Father are One and that the way we are able to experience God to the extent that we do is through Christ the Word.

In summary, only the most loosely generous interpretation of an understanding of God could describe Christ the Word as the Godwork Machine. Even given this understanding (inconsistent with historical Christian/Judeo understandings) though, the Godwork Machine fails to actually accurately encompass or account for God the Father (not to mention the Holy Spirit) as understood by either Judaism or Christianity.