Deducing the Nature of the Gods, Part I

Deducing the Nature of the Gods, Part I February 28, 2016

A dialog about whether the Gods are infinite or not sometimes begins with “Gerald Gardner wrote that the Gods of the Wica are ‘little gods.’” Yes, he did, but he was not very interested in abstract theology. I don’t think he was asserting that, if the Abrahamic God is infinite, then our Pagan Gods must be finite. Rather, his point was that, whereas (many) Christians believe in a God who is distant, arbitrary, angry, vengeful, and punishing, Witches believe in Gods who are nearby, kind, compassionate, supportive, and benevolent.

The mere concept of any sort of Infinite God sends people into a panic if they think that such a God must be like the “Old Testament Nobodaddy” whom Blake parodied. No, infinitude does not require any of those objectionable traits. One of my favorite Anglican theologians is J.B. Phillips, a colleague of Alan Watts. Among his many books is one titled Your God Is Too Small, in which he explicates the difference between the Very Big and the Infinite. It is thinking of God as Very Big that leads to those negative traits. An infinite divinity is very different. A “finite God” is an oxymoron and a logical impossibility.

The temptation to argue that, “Since the Christian God is infinite, our Pagan Gods must be finite” arises from the unexamined assumption that there is only one infinity and that Old Jehovah Nobodaddy has an exclusive claim on it. Again, no.

There is more than one infinity. In fact, there are an infinity of infinities, of an infinity of different types. I know it doesn’t occur to many people, even if they understand what theology is all about, that theology can be done mathematically. It can be.

One symbol used for the concept of infinity is the “sideways eight”: . It is not very useful, because it drags along with it an unexamined assumption: that the infinite is a never-ending homogeneous blob. No, it’s not. We can deduce many details about the internal structure of the infinite, and each of those details has theological significance.

Even in a simple mathematical model, there is an infinite number of infinite sets. The set of all cardinal numbers, the ones we use for counting, is the smallest “transfinite humber.” Georg Kantor labeled it “aleph null”; for simplicity I will use A0. Any infinite set for which one can have a rule that counts each of its elements once and only once, that is, places those elements into one-to-one correspondence with the elements of A0, is equal to A0. These sets include that of all rational numbers, as well as A0 raised to any finite power. However, the set of all irrational numbers (e.g., π) cannot be counted; since an irrational number can be placed in between any two irrational numbers, there can be no rule about which number is “next.” Kantor called this set “aleph sub c; I’m using Ac. Likewise, whereas any finite power of A0 can be counted by using the (0,0,…) notation, A0 to its own power cannot be counted, since again there is no “next” number. (A0 to its own power may or may not be equal to Ac; I haven’t checked the upstate returns on that.)

Hence there are at least two different infinite sets. If we define A1 as = {A0, Ac, and A0 to its own power}, we have a larger transfinite set. If we then define A2 as = {A1, A0, Ac, and A0 to its own power}, we have an even larger transfinite set. Ad infinitum. Given an infinity of infinite sets in just a mathematical model, what can be extrapolated about the nature of an infinite consciousness?

One can see immediately that the existence of different kinds of infinity answers some long-standing questions. For example, it has often been asked,, “If the universe is infinite and ‘God’ is infinite, then is ‘God’ the same as the universe?” Obviously, these can be two different infinities, with one larger than the other.

If the universe is infinite, the finite amount we know about it can be measured as a. Then a as a percentage of infinity approaches asymptotically to 0, which relationship can be notated as -> 0. The amount we know about the universe can be steadily increased by means of the scientific method, but a will always -> 0. That is, the pursuit of scientific truth will never end. There can never be a final Unified Theory of Everything. Any theology is also an attempt to create a map of infinity and therefore also -> 0.

Suppose that, as Goswami proposed, the ultimate reality that manifests as the universe we experience is consciousness. That consciousness will be infinite and must be aware of itself. Goswami and Wheeler both proposed scenarios to explain how that manifestation can happen, and why we cannot understand the origins of matter or of our self-aware consciousness if there were no such universal consciousness. It seems plausible that our brains do not manufacture consciousness, but instead concentrate it to the point where it becomes our self-awareness.

There is an objective universe, but if it is infinite (as the physicists are currently suspecting), we finite beings can know only part of it, never the whole, because any map of infinity, being finite, will always ->0.

What could we finite beings know under our own power with any certainly about an infinite consciousness? As with any infinity, what we can know also -> 0. That is, it is impossible for us to understand the Gods by our own efforts. Further, since whatever we think we know about that consciousness amounts to an NDH, our knowledge cannot be increased by means of the scientific method. I propose that we could know nothing certain about that infinite consciousness unless it chooses to tell us as much as we can understand about its nature and its plans. However, I do not think it is an It, an impersonal and uncaring Force; I think it is a Person, a He or She or They, all at the same time. That is, the Gods are simultaneously both One and Many, as the Greek philosophers already knew. We do not have a pronoun for what is simultaneously One and Many.

Why would He/She/They choose to communicate with us? Out of compassion, simply because it is harder to explain our capacity for compassion, if the ultimate reality is uncaring, than it is to explain the existence of consciousness. Gods with whom we cannot communicate, whose existence we cannot know about, would be as useless for our lives as those possible multiverses before the Big Bang, outside this particular universe, that we can never communicate with (at least, not in the foreseeable future). Of course, the Gods will always face problems in attempting to communicate with finite beings, and we finite beings will almost always misunderstand the communication. But I think the Gods will continue trying, until someone gets at least part of the message.

One may ask, since the Compassionate Person thus deduced looks a lot like a deity, does He/She/They need to be infinite? Could there not be a finite deity, what Gerald Gardner called the “little gods”? I think not, for the following subjective reason.

My sobriety in AA became solid on the day when I realized that, during the preceding nine months, the impossible had been done for me: I had not taken the first drink, even though I knew I has no more power to do that all by myself than I had had on the day of my first AA meeting.[1] However that was accomplished by my Higher Power, it must have required a certain amount of energy or something equivalent to energy. Doing the impossible for human beings about other illnesses, in order to invisibly save our lives, will also need that something-like-energy, of which a finite deity could have only a finite amount.

Suppose the human species continues to be fertile and multiply, expanding out into space, filling the Milky Way Galaxy with our kind of beings, expanding to other galaxies in an endless universe. At some point, the total amount of something-like-energy needed to do the impossible for us must exceed the amount of it possessed by a finite deity. The miracle of sobriety would cease happening, which would be the same as a failure of divine compassion. At that point, the deity, who could no longer exercise compassion on our behalf, would become merely an impersonal force, not a deity, and unworthy of love. Why would one think that a “useless deity” is a deity at all? Such a force would be inconsequential for us, and thus fails James’ Pragmatic test.

Reduction ad absurdum: a genuine deity must be infinite, and because in even a simple mathematical model there are an infinite number of different infinities, there must also be an infinite number of unique, infinite deities, each with infinite power.

More will be revealed.

[1] I’m not sure which aspect of the Gods, which particular deity, is the one responsible for maintaining sobriety. Maybe Dionysos?


You can find my books on Amazon:

A Tapestry of Witches: A History of the Craft in America, Vol. I, to the Mid-1970s.Tacoma, WA: Hierophant Wordsmith Press, 2015.

Aradia and the Books of the Sacred Marriage: A Tale of Love, Witches, and Gnostics. Tacoma, WA: Hierophant Wordsmith Press, 2016.

Hippie Commie Beatnik Witches: A Social History of the New Reformed Orthodox Order of the Golden Dawn. Tacoma, WA: Hierophant Wordsmith Press, 2011.

Theodyssies and Paradoxologies: Collected Poetry. Tacoma, WA: Hierophant Wordsmith Press, 2012.

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