Selection from Theistic Psychology: The Science of Immortality
by Leon James. Available on the Web at:  www.soc.hawaii.edu/leonj/theistic

 

Section 2. Theoretical Implications of God's Omnipotence, Omniscience, and Omnipresence

The concept of God in theistic psychology has logical implications that must apply to all explanations and models.

God is the only concept that implies infinity.

In the Writings of Swedenborg it is revealed that "in God-Man infinite things are one distinctly" (DLW 22). This means that God is the unifying concept that explains how the universe is integrated in a coherent whole. No detail, event, or quality in the dual universe (natural and spiritual) can exist detached from this whole. "Omnipotence, Omniscience, and Omnipresence " are logical implications that follow from the definition of God as infinite, which means that God has no beginning or end. Rationally, there can be only one infinite. Two infinites are not possible--it's a logical contradiction since infinite means no limits, and if there are two infinites, each is limited, and this is illogical. Therefore only God can be infinite.

Infinity has several logical implications, besides there being only one infinite. Since God is infinite He cannot remove Himself from anywhere, since there cannot be a limit to God's infinity. Every attribute one can assign to God must be infinite. To say that God is infinite is the same as saying that whatever is in God is infinite. We know from God's revelations to humankind that there are many things in God, and they can be summarized as Divine Love and Divine Wisdom. Divine Love includes God's Goodness, Mercy, Grace, Benevolence, and Sympathy for the human race. God loves every human being endlessly, passionately, and maximally all the time. Divine Wisdom includes God's Truth, Rationality, Intelligence, Omniscience, and Inventiveness. Clearly, God is a Human since He Has all the Human traits we know of. People have these traits--love, sympathy, intelligence, rationality, etc. But in fact these traits are God's traits in people.

This is a logical necessity implied by the concept if infinity. Infinity cannot be limited or be absent. Nor can infinity give something away since it would then have less than before, which is putting a limit on infinity, and this is illogical. Hence God cannot give away His Humanness to people He creates. God cannot give away some of His love, some of His life, some of His rationality, to people. However God created a method that achieves a result that appears similar to giving His Divine infinite things away.

This is the method of appearances.

In other words, God makes it look like He is giving away some of His Humanness to individual human beings that He creates.

Birds fly and look for food and raise a new generation of birds. It seems that they are each doing it from themselves. A plant grows, becomes a tree, gives fruit we enjoy, and provides for its the survival of its own species. Galaxies burst apart into pieces that cool down and evolve into planets that are governed by natural laws. God is hidden from these events, short like a Brownian motion of electrons, or long like the formation of new galaxies. God has not removed Himself from these natural events, for this would put a limit to His infinity, something which is illogical. God cannot be removed from anywhere. But God is managing things from within what is visible. God is present within every sub-atomic particle of the created universe, and from that omniscient and omnipotent position, God activates each component of an atom, integrates the many motions of a living cell, and brings about the galactic developments of the expanding universe.

God has not given away anything to natural laws and therefore natural energy and lawful action is not the action of "nature" but the action of God who is within the inner framework of every motion and energy. To me it is clear that one would be foolhardy and irrational to say that there is some force or energy or power that is not God's or that God has removed Himself from it. In other words, nothing can run by itself, but God makes it look like it does by acting from within the visible plane of events or objects.

It's common for people to say: Well, if there is a God, why can't you prove it to me? Or: If you can prove that there is a God I will believe it. Until then I don't have to.

But from the discussion above we can see that "believing in God" is not the issue! We don't have a rational choice to believe or not to believe. We must examine the issue rationally and we choose the outcome of the rational investigation, for this is what makes sense. Do we have a choice about whether the earth is flat or round? It's not a question of belief, but fact, proven in many ways. Similarly, it's not rational to limit God's infinity by what we believe. We have to think logically, starting with the scientific concept of infinity, as explained above. Infinity must exist. Infinity cannot be divided. Infinity includes all human traits like love and rationality or intelligence. Therefore these traits are in infinity, not in ourselves, which are finite. The infinity that has these human traits must therefore be Human. A Human infinity is called God. Hence God is referred in the Writings as the "Divine-Human" or "God-Man."

Just as the Divine-Human makes it appear that the world runs itself, He also makes it appear that human beings run themselves. God not only synchronizes the action of brain cells, but He also manages the operations of the mind--our thoughts, memories, dreams, motives, loves, and enjoyments. God synchronizes the precise one-to-one relations between operations in the mind and in the body. God blocks your memory at times, so you can't remember something or forget something. At other times, God makes you recall something or notice something. God is therefore a "hands on" manager of your mind. Clearly He doesn't let us see His management. It appears to us as if we are managing ourselves. This is why the Writings use the expression "as-of self" instead of the "self." This may sound disturbing at first.

What, we don't have a self? It's only an illusion? We are really robots caught in a Divine Matrix?

We don't have life of our own but only god's life in us. We don't have intelligence of our own, but only God's intelligence in us. The choice is not between "we are God or we're robots." There is another rational alternative. We are not God, for this illogical. We are not robots, for this is would unloving, and we cannot say that God is unloving, for then His love would have a limit, and this is illogical. The rational alternative is to say that we are "human as-of selves."

We are human because we are created in the "image of God" who is the Divine-Human, the only humanness there is. To be created "an image" refers to the "human as-of self." This is an actual creation. It is not a robot, for a robot is not human. Humanness must come from God in the created object. Only people have humanness because only people are created with the organic structure for receiving human traits from God. "Receiving" refers to the appearance of as-of self to our conscious awareness and rational thinking. It is necessary to have conscious awareness and rational thinking in order to operate the as-of self in every individual human being.

In the Writings of Swedenborg God has revealed the method He uses to operate the as-of self. It consists of connecting the mind of every human being with every other human being in a vast network across space, time, and world. I call this our "vertical community" (see Section xx). Simultaneously, God controls the communication or mutual influencing process, so that different types of people influence a person at different times. In a single episode like cutting a slice of bread, there may be several societies of people in the world of spirits whom God brings into more direct contact with our mind as our hands handle the knife and the bread on the counter. Our as-of self is the conscious agent who manages the cutting. We become aware of thoughts from one society: "Be careful. Focus." These thoughts are joined to the rational motive of prudence and self-preservation. We also become aware of thoughts from another spirit society: "Wasn't that fun last night." and "Oops, I'm late." These thoughts are joined to the irrational motive to want to save time by being careless. We, the as-of self agent controlling the hands, are not conscious of these societies which activate some of our thoughts and motives. We are only aware that the thoughts somehow suddenly occurs to us. We are less aware of the motives that direct these thoughts, though we can become conscious of them through self-witnessing (see Section xx).

If we cut our finger, are we responsible?

Yes, because it is the as-of self agent who is given power by God to accept or reject the societal influences of the vertical community. Accepting one amounts to rejecting the other. God makes certain that the balance between accepting and rejecting a spiritual influence on our mind, always remains focused between a choice for either heavenly traits vs. hellish (see Section xx). This is the mechanism God uses to keep us developing into a mind that can mature and live in our immortality of heaven. Because this mind can only grow through free choice we make, God also gives us the power to choose to follow the motives and thoughts of evil spiritual societies. In this way we are responsible for our character, whether it is good or bad, that is, altruistic and heavenly, or selfish and hellish.

As you can see, God is a rational concept that is not up for believing or disbelieving. 

Omnipotence refers to the fact that no power exists in the dual universe that is not God's power. This is true at the macro and micro levels of events, e.g., the formation of galaxies, the motion and path of an electron, the falling of a fruit from a tree, the results and events of a war, the random distribution of raindrops on a leaf, the weather or cloud formations,  a car crash and the particular injuries, the trigger finger firing a gun, the sequence of words in any sentence, the answers someone gives on a quiz or test, something remembered or forgotten, something felt or sensed, etc. Every event or property requires power to exist and God is therefore that power without any exception.

Omniscience refers to God's infinite knowledge and intelligence. The Writings of Swedenborg reveal that to God all the past, all the present, all the future is present to view simultaneously (e.g., "for in Him the past and the future are present" (AR13). And: "God is omniscient, that is, He perceives, sees and knows down to the tiniest detail everything that happens according to order; and from these things also what happens contrary to order." (TCR 49). Note also that Omnipotence and Omniscience logically imply that God is an intelligent Person with Divine-Human qualities that are infinite. This implies that God has motivation, intention, and purpose in the exercise of His Omnipotence. Through scientific revelations God has made it known to the human race what His purpose is for creating the universe. According to the Writings of Swedenborg: "This mighty system which is called the universe is a single unit coherently organized from beginning to end, because God had one end in view in creating it, to create from the human race a heaven of angels. The means to this end are all the things of which the world is composed; for he who wills the end, wills also the means. (TCR 13).

In the Writings the uppermost regions of human consciousness and life is called heaven and people who reach that state are called angels. God's purpose in creating a universe is to form a basis or environment for supporting the life and existence of human beings in that state of heaven to eternity. This purpose is also called Divine Love.

Omnipresence refers to God's "presence" everywhere through His Omnipotence and Omniscience. Omnipresence is the logical consequence of Omnipotence and Omniscience. Because of being present everywhere, God can be addressed by human beings wherever they are and talk to Him, knowing that He is present, listens, and cares. Note that Omnipresence cannot be a physical presence because physically the same object cannot be present in more than one location. That would be illogical. Therefore it's not rational to expect to see God physically or to hear His voice through sound waves. Instead, Omnipresence refers to spiritual presence. Within every physical object  the underlying framework is spiritual. Another way of saying this is that the spiritual world of no space is within the natural world of space. This becomes understandable if you know that spiritual=mental. There is no space in our mental world. Instead, there are mental "states" in our mind. Our thoughts and feelings change, not by moving around, but by changing state.

At first we think that the finite is within the infinite because the finite is small and the infinite is large--so the small must be within the large, not the other way around. But this is physical or materialistic model. It does not apply to the mental or spiritual. Think about having a large sum of money in a dream you have. How much money can you have in that dream? There is no limit. You can imagine that you have an infinite amount of money and that all the money in the world is yours. There are no limits to quantity or space when you are in the spiritual or mental world. And yet the mind is within the physical, though not part of the physical body. What is limitless can be "within" what is limited because they are each in their own non-overlapping planes of existence, one natural, the other spiritual or mental.

Another example is that of Sacred Scripture which, when written down in a natural language, is of a specific limited length consisting of x number of words. And yet, within this limited number of sentences, there is an infinite number of hidden spiritual truths. This is the character of Divine Speech because the Divine is infinite and everything in itself is infinite. When Divine Love or Divine Truth radiate outward from the Spiritual Sun the love and truth that enters human minds is infinite. God cannot divide Himself into parts, with one part given to one individual, and another part to the next individual. God is infinite, therefore indivisible. But every individual human mind is unique in its form and structure, and therefore the infinite Divine Love and Truth streaming in, is received differentially and uniquely by every human mind.

As the Writings of Swedenborg reveal: "God is present in space apart from space and in time apart from time. (CAN 34).

The concept "apart from space" refers to the spiritual or mental world in which there is neither time nor space. Any object or event in the natural universe is an effect whose cause is in the spiritual world. The two worlds are thus tied together as cause and effect are tied together, one for one. Space, time, and motion are events in the natural world. Therefore each has its cause in the spiritual world. These cause-effect relations are called correspondences and have been revealed in the Writings. God's Omnipresence is therefore in the source and cause that lie within each created event, object, or quality. Since it is the cause that creates all of the effect, and controls it, God is present in every event that occurs in space and time, but He is present  apart from space and time, in a different plane of existence. In theistic psychology there are two planes of existence--natural and spiritual, or in other words, physical and mental.

God is in the mental or spiritual plane of existence, which is the underlying framework of the physical or natural plane of existence. This is what's really different in substantive dualism, namely that God in the spiritual world is the same thing as God in the mental world. This sounds strange at first because we are trained to think about the mind in materialistic terms, so that it seems to us that "mental world" is less real than "physical world." But the opposite is actually the case since mental world=spiritual world, and the spiritual is the cause of the natural. This makes sense when you consider that God is an infinite Spiritual Being without beginning. So the spiritual substances in God are eternal and were there before God created the physical world. God's mental world is the origin of all physical things. Another way of saying this is that God creates everything out of Divine Truth, which is a permanent immortal rational substance with infinite power to instantiate or create physical objects and space.

To understand this more clearly, consider the sentences you say when you talk. The grammar of the language is omnipresent in all your sentences. But note that  this omnipresence of the grammar is not in the physical sentence spoken or written, for if we look there we only see or hear words, syllables, letters, sounds--but not grammar. It cannot be seen physically though it is omnipresent. Further, the grammar is also omnipotent because it completely determines the sequence of the words and their phonology or script. Where then in the sentence is the omnipotent and omnipresent grammar?

The grammar is a rational or spiritual object that is  within the sentence yet apart from the physical sentence. "Within" refers to a "discrete degree" which means that the grammar is not present physically but rationally (or spiritually). The grammar is the cause of the word sequence and it shapes the sentence.

The cause of any natural event is always in the spiritual world, not the natural world. Hence the idea that God's Omnipresence is "apart from" physical space and time, or not in space and time, means that it is the spiritual or rational presence as the cause, and through the cause in the effect, but not directly in the effect. God control every physical event or space through its spiritual underlying cause or framework.

Another example might help still further. When we dream of walking on the beach or flying an airplane, there is only the appearance of space, but no physical space. The appearance of space that looks and acts just like space is called the spiritual or mental world. When we arrive in the spiritual world immediately after the death of the physical body, we awaken in the spiritual body which appears to move in space, just like we're used to on earth. But actually there is no physical space that separates people or objects, only the appearance of space. This is because the spiritual world is the world of the mind and imagination, of thoughts and feelings. These cannot exist in physical space.  Our mind lives in the spiritual world which is why we can have thoughts and feelings in the mind. Thoughts and feelings are not possible in the physical body or brain for they support only electro-chemical events, and these are not thoughts or feelings. All rational things like the mind exist only in the spiritual world and are made of spiritual substances radiating from the Spiritual Sun, in the midst of which the Divine-Human can be seen by the inhabitants of heaven.

Since there is no physical space or location in the mental or spiritual world, objects and events there are distinguished by their quality or state.

This is why the quality of your thoughts and feelings determine your existence in eternity (life after death). If you arrive with a hellish character, your living environment will be just like an endless nightmare called "hell." If you arrive with a heavenly character, your living environment will be just like an endless dream of wonder and conjugial happiness. This would not be possible in a physical world but only in a rational or spiritual world.

It's important to understand the full rational implications of God's omnipotence and omnipresence. Is it possible for God to remove Himself from what He created? For example, intelligent scientists like Newton, Darwin, Einstein, and others, have acknowledged that God created the universe, but that after creating Nature, God is no longer directly in charge of routine events but the laws of nature are. And therefore we can study and understand natural laws without any reference to God. It is surprising that these scientists, so used to rational and logical thinking, are yet able to think illogically when it comes to God.

It is not rational to say both of these statements:

(a) God is omnipotent and omnipresent.

(b) Natural laws are running things in the physical world.

This is a rational contradiction. If (a) is true, (b) cannot be true. If (b) were true, God would not be omnipotent and omnipresent.

A student using this book in a course wrote this about the idea that all details are administered directly by God, including a little thing like the healing of a scratch on the finger.

I donít believe this to be so, I think the lord has created nature to be able to take care of itself to a certain extent in matters of simple scratches at least. The lord has a hand in much of life but I think he created an immune system to take care of the trivial minor details, at the same time if that scratch were to get infected and get gang green and the person dies then god had a hand in that because it was that persons time to go. I think god has bigger fish to fry, but if you wanted the lords help in healing your scratch and asked for it then he may help you or, just for asking and believing in him. I therefore believe in the healing power of god, medicine and our immunity.

The idea of this student, in company with some of the great scientists in history, is that God created nature "to take care of itself" in "trivial minor details." Swedenborg points out that God could not determine the overall course of history or the universe unless He determined every single detail, no matter how small. This is because the whole is made by the parts and if you don't control the parts you cannot control the whole.

Therefore it's a rational necessity to say that God's omnipotence means that He controls every detail. And also, that there is no such thing as something that runs by itself. For instance, what controls the pattern of a wind current? It's not a random motion but the resultant of many separate contributing factors. Each contributing factor must be controlled by God since nothing can run by itself from itself. What causes the electrons to flow between two points that vary in potential? One can say that it's a natural law, or one can say that every electron must be kept in flow by God's omnipotence and omniscience. If God is omniscient, there cannot be a single electron flow that is not known to Him, and if God is omnipotent, there cannot be a single electron flow that i snot controlled by Him.

So it's a matter of rational necessity to be consistent about the idea of omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence. Whatever God created has no power to move or to have life. All things are dead and inert. God moves every particle, energy field, or galaxy. Every neuron in the brain that we use for thinking and sensing, and every spiritual fiber in the mind, is operated by God to reach a specific goal-state. There are endless levels of specific goals that God brings out through these motions, events, and states. There are universal goals like the endless evolution of creation. There are general goals like the outcome of a war between nations. There are particular goals like the Dow Jones average at closing time on a Monday. At all levels of goals God must manage every event to bring about the goal.

Every human being is born immortal. God must manage every detail of the endless sequence that makes up the days of one person, and all human beings to eternity. God has universal goals for an individual such as the inherent quality of the mental states one ends up in at the second death, which is unchangeable and forever (see Section xx). Some goals for an individual are general like the events in our biography. Some goals are particular, like what we remember at any one moment, or what we enjoy.


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