Monday, September 30, 2013

A Bottomless Word Pit

Scriptural Speculations on Transhumanist Gods

It was suggested to me that I refer to Doctrine and Covenants section 93 as a reference to characteristics of God. I will do so, but I continue somewhat hesitantly. There are an awful lot of ambiguous words in the descriptions of D&C 93. This is compounded by the use of these words to describe things with which we have no earthly experience. So any interpretation I give is necessarily mixed with huge amounts of guesswork. Some elements have corroboration in other parts of scripture and in this-worldly knowledge, and I will try to draw some of those connections, but I'm not sure how useful this section will really be in attempting a semi-concrete description of the characteristics of an evolutionarily successful god.

I could just quote large sections of D&C 93, with all their superficially straightforward statements of what God is and does, but that seems useless for my current purposes. Instead, I will write things in my own words, unapologetically, with my own interpretations. I do not claim that my interpretations are the correct, or even a correct interpretation, but I don't want to be couching every sentence in hesitancy. Assume my thoughts are tentative, and you can go read the section for yourself to decide if I've abused its words.

Christ is the true light, in the Father, one with the Father, the Father, the Son, from the beginning, before the world was, the light of the world, the redeemer of the world, the Spirit of truth, the stuff all things were made of, the life and light of humans, 'tabernacled' in element, the friend of anyone who will become an heir with him.
Christ lights everyone who comes into the world (is born into, or also those who come by some other means?), made flesh (elements) his tabernacle, dwelt among the children of humans, made manifest the works of the Father, made the world, made worlds, made humans, made all things, received grace for grace, received the fulness, received all power in heaven and on earth.

Now I'd like you to notice some things that this revelation says about us: Christ is through all things, and all things (us included) are of him. Christ is the Father because the Father gave Christ of his fulness, and we will receive of the fulness (conditionally). We, like Christ, were in the beginning with the Father. We are spirit temporarily connected with element. We are God's tabernacle (maybe not exclusively).

I think a few things are pretty clear from all of this mess of words, even without getting all of the details right--
  1. God is interconnected with us, and we with Him, and we with each other, in some way that is fundamental to our existence and to His glory. It may be literal, meaning we share some of the same matter (my hand is literally a part of my body), it may be completely relational (the way we are part of a family or an organization), or it may be some combination of the two.
  2. We share a lot of important characteristics with Christ. We can receive of the fulness, and if it means the same thing it meant when Christ received the fulness, then each of us will be God. To get around that, you have to argue that the same words mean significantly different things in the same revelation, with no textual reasons for such an assertion that I can see. It's possible, but I would need a pretty detailed argument to convince me of an alternative interpretation.
  3. God is spirit and element inseparably connected, and that is the object of our being, since that is how we receive a fulness of joy (see previous post). It seems that element is the observable stuff of this earth--at least what was observable in Joseph Smith's day. I still don't know what spirit is.
  4. Intelligence, light, and truth, whatever they mean here, are important characteristics of God.
There are some additional interesting things that I don't know how to turn into anything concrete. Intelligence is the light of truth and is uncreated. Truth and intelligence are independent (able to act) within limits (spheres), and that independence is necessary for existence. Receiving light is how you avoid condemnation. It is possible to be confounded in this world, and in the next. This last one I think is curious. Two possible meanings are that we can be surprised at how things really are in the next life (more likely meaning, I think), or we can be mixed up so that our individual elements are difficult to distinguish. I would discount this last, except parts of this section are talking about what we, and gods, are made of, and how we are interconnected. I don't think any of this last set of observations can be ignored, but I think I will have to come back to them when trying to answer specific questions. There is too much uncertainty in the meanings.

Getting back to God's purposes in giving this revelation--He wants us to know and understand how to worship and what we worship so that we can become gods. We need to know what Christ is and does so that we can become Christ. With all the tumult of words, that has been pretty easy for me to overlook, but reading D&C 93 this time, I don't know how else it can be interpreted. I'm willing to debate what becoming Christ means, practically speaking, but this revelation strongly favors a literal leaning interpretation. To share some feelings as I studied and wrote this, I was a little bit confounded to have this conclusion staring me so intently in the face. I guess that's one more reason for me to take Transhumanist thought seriously. Seems like the more I look the further I dig myself into a Mormon Transhumanist pit that I can't escape--or maybe a better picture is I'm getting closer and closer to the gravity well of a Mormon Transhumanism black hole. Hopefully it's a gateway to a heavenly universe. If it's a hole to hell, the community is pretty good so far, and I bet Joseph Smith would be pleased if we made something better of it.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Iconic Mormon scriptures on God

Scriptural Speculations on Transhumanist Gods

God's work and glory

In LDS scripture, God tells us what his object is:
For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.
We have a fairly standard interpretation of this, although many Mormons don't think it through fully. The immortality is probably just what you might think it means--God wants us to live forever. Maybe sometime I'll explain why I think this problem is already solved, and why I don't give greater importance to studying the how of making humans immortal over the how of several other aspects of Godhood, but basically, most Latter-day Saints believe the resurrection of Christ took care of this. The eternal life part is what is of more interest to me and many other LDSs, (and if we are right about the resurrection, maybe you can understand why). Eternal life is living with, and like, God. Unfortunately, many LDSs have a concept of eternal life that is so vague as to be indistinguishable, to my point of view, from mainstream Christian perspectives of worshiping God forever in a state of eternal bliss. And it's not just "mainstream" LDSs, it's some thoughtful, unorthodox Mormons, too.

I'm about to be critical of two of my favorite Mormon personalities, but consider this an advertisement for them and for my current favorite LDS themed podcast, Mormon Matters. Go pick some episodes on topics that look interesting to you. You won't be disappointed. On an episode about the pros and cons of keeping Mormonism weird, Dan Wotherspoon and Joanna Brooks, along with two other panelists, talk about the idea of "having our own planets." They start out great by saying the Mormon conception of godhood is more complex than simply making and ruling a planet, but the complexity they suggest is a rather nebulous, participating in the creative process. Come on! After all the thoughtful things you all have said and written, I guess you haven't thought deeply about every Mormon topic, after all, Dan and Joanna. You've fallen from your pedestals. You can breathe sighs of relief. I think you are right, that creation will be participatory (we'll go into the ample evidence for that sometime, probably), but it's not that nebulous. We will make worlds. We will make universes. We will make gods. So we haven't figured out (or remembered, or learned) all of the how to's, but what else can life like God mean? That's a serious question. I'll consider any suggestions anyone wants to give me, as well as criticisms of the details of my speculations. I hold most of the details quite tentatively, but what is so hard about accepting that becoming gods is what it means to become like God? I haven't seen anywhere where we are commanded to become mostly like God, or as much as possible like God. God's goal is to give us lives like His. And what do we know about what God does, day to day? Not much, really, but if He's there, He created this and many other worlds--without end.


That's more than I thought I would write about Moses 1:39, but I still want to bring up another iconic Mormon scripture from the Book of Mormon prophet, Jacob:
Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.
This one is causing me a little trouble to understand. I think a full treatment will require defining, or at least describing, joy. Then one can hypothesize how joy might be evolutionarily advantageous for gods. I'm not sure where to start, but the dictionary and psychological and neuroscientific research into happiness might be good starts. If this world is designed to help us on our way to godhood, then maybe there is a correspondence between joy in this life and joy in the eternities. It's an assumption I can't prove, but if it isn't true--at least to a degree--then this whole process of speculation isn't worth much. Some correspondence between heaven and earth underlies my whole exploration. I guess this gives me something else to study. Anyone want to recommend some good books on joy?

Monday, September 23, 2013

Gods Grow on Love

Scriptural speculations on Transhumanist gods

From Mark:
. . . thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.
And from Matthew:
Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all . . .
It is possible that love is not the greatest commandment outside of this life, but I'm willing to bet that it is. I'm willing to bet that, without perfect love, God just wouldn't make as many universes, have as many kids, keep them all alive, and turn them into successful, creative, creator-gods. So however else we understand any of the characteristics of God, if we can't refer our understanding back to love of God, self, and others, our thinking is likely flawed. The details will be tough, but this is a framework we can never ignore, since no other traits are greater than these.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Not an Angry God

Scriptural Speculations on Transhumanist Gods

. . . whosoever is angry with his brother shall be in danger of his judgment. And whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council; and whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. Therefore, if ye shall come unto me, or shall desire to come unto me, and rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee— Go thy way unto thy brother, and first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come unto me with full purpose of heart, and I will receive you.

I've been wanting to get back to figuring out what it takes to be an evolutionarily successful God in the vast expanses of reality. The Beattitudes are done, but I think there are more clues a little later on. It appears that anger toward, accusation of, and ridicule for others are grounds for keeping a growing god from reaching his or her potential. These verses don't just say that there are earthly consequences for anger, accusation, and ridicule, but that there are heavenly consequences. (Remember, these posts are for believers. I'm not interested in discussing how hyperbole can be a tool for controlling the masses, but in learning what I can from these scriptures that I'm choosing to take at face value, within limits.) Beyond avoiding attacks--even if they are just emotional--on our siblings, we must be reconciled with our brothers and sisters. I see in this one more little evidence that God doesn't do it alone, but that worlds--and universes--are created and maintained by communities. Why else would good relations be evolutionarily essential?

That was both a rhetorical and a sincere question, 

and that's all for this post.