This is the home of the 'serious' a4g. To visit my dark side, go to Point Five. (The dark side seems to post every day... Why do you think that is?)

Friday, April 22, 2005

On Science, Supersymmetry, and the Holy Trinity

When contemplating the nature of God, I believe it is most instructive not to study scripture, which, to me, is the doorway to his will(and the subject of other contemplations), but rather the physical world, which I see as the doorway to his being. For although the world is not God, God is most certainly the world; the world itself is the umbra of God's essence.

The beginning of this study is the acknowlegement that the world must be what it is, there is no other world that God would have created. This is not to fall into the heresy of determinism, for God is not limited to the creation of this world in any sense other than that his Perfect Justice emanates a world that is perfectly suited for his purposes. This does not straightjacket God, but is rather a free choice (if that earthly term can have any meaning other than as an analogue) of the Divine Being to fulfill his perfection in physical form. As I tell my daughter, anything that you see here that doesn't make sense means that you need to look harder, for it all must be perfectly beautiful to God, completely with God, for divine Justice to blossom.
Because creation contains within it a complete Truth about the nature of God (a complete truth, not the complete truth, again in the sense of the shadow containing a complete truth about that which casts it), scientific study serves not merely to advance the physical comforts of man through understanding and technology, but those inquiries must necessarily reveal some deeper reality of the complexity of God's nature.

It is with this in mind that I approach the mystery of the Trinity. One God, three divine persons, wholly one, and yet each individual. God wishes us to contemplate Him, and see fully the Holy Trinity in that limited way which is possible through human understanding. Science offers avatars.

Symmetry exists throughout nature. Humans are symmetrical left to right, starfish radially. Myriad symmetries exist within the physical world, which are everpresent to the eye. The contemplation of string theory, however, uses the concept of supersymmetries, symmetries which cannot be experienced directly, but must be arrived at mathematically in order to be seen. They exist in dimensions above the three to which our mortal eyes are privy. Here is a relatively elementary discussion of supersymmetry (which means it is unbelievably complex). The basic concept, however, is that the substances of which we are created only seem to be distinct particles because of our limited way of looking at them. Through mathematics, they can be examined from a point of view unavailable in the physical world, and seen to be different views of the same object.
For example, look at the pictures below:

They are three different shapes. A triangle, a rounded rectangle, and the infinity sign. But look again, below, when I show you the object, and not its shadows:

All three are separate shadows, distinct in their true shape, their true essence, individual in every way. And yet seeing not the shadow, but the object, we discover that they are one. This does not diminish the truth of the shadows, for in this example, the shadows are the physical reality of the three persons of the Trinity*, whereas the object is the fullness of God's Perfect Being.

Another analogue would be the physical forces. We know electricity powers our computer, and magnetic forces store data on our hard drives, but these separate entities are really just emergent properties from the cooling of a higher order unified force, electromagnetic. When sufficiently excited, electricity and magnetism recombine from the states which they have crystallized into. Even when cool, they interact and relate, though they are separate and distinct. In the current state of physics, forces can be sufficiently excited to incorporate two other forces, the weak and strong nuclear forces, creating a four-part unification (I wonder if the Trinity is the limit of God's persons, or if more than three persons exist beyond that which has been revealed... hmmm.)

Well, anyway, such is the boundary of where my current thinking on this subject has reached. Off to the contemplation cave!


*This is where a theologian would help. I have not been able to determine if the three persons of the Trinity must necessarily exist as what we would call separate beings within the context of the fullness of God's completeness. In other words, when in heaven, when the full beatific vision is revealed, does the concept of the Trinity dissolve, in some way, because the higher, supersymmetric truth can be conceived and the shadows of the three persons are seen, but seen within the context of the whole, or does the individuality of the persons of the Trinity remain. The two options are certainly not exhaustive, and the distinction is exceeding slight, but it certainly offers many years of contemplative excitement!

Thursday, April 07, 2005

It Depends on What the Meaning of 'Is' is

It is perhaps the quintessential Clintonism, and I’m sure has been the source of many giggles beyond those it provided within my family. And yet, I find myself suddenly chilled by what the definition of ‘IS’ actually is.

It started with my wife, who had encountered a group of kids in a church group who stated affirmatively that “scientific testing of the Eucharist revealed cardiac tissue in the consecrated Host.” Bypassing the obvious question of scandal in producing His Body Blood Soul and Divinity for scientific testing, I suspect the children took stories such as this, and did a bit of their own ‘transubstantiation.’

So what, asked my wife, is the full teaching of the Church in regards to the doctrine of Transubstantiation?

The Council of Trent stated:

By the consecration of the bread and of the wine a conversion is made of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the Body of Christ our Lord, and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of His Blood; which conversion is by the holy Catholic Church suitably and properly called transubstantiation.

The Church teaches that two forms of transformation are possible in the physical world, that of accident and that of substance. The accidental transformation is not one of misfortune; rather it refers to the physical change; the water at Cana pouring forth suddenly as wine. But here, too, is the substantial change at work. For not only have the physical properties of the water changed to wine, but it is also no longer the liquid called water, but now the liquid called wine.

The “miracle” of the Eucharist has always seemed to me a rather harmless quirk of the Church, and certainly has been the source of many a raised eyebrow even among other Christians. But the subtle power of the logic burrowed deep.

So what is ‘Is’? Descartes wondered how much of himself he could cut away and still be himself. We scienticians suspect foggily that ‘Is’ is an emergent phenomenon, a glorious adaptation that our massively parallel minds can float like a dust mote through air lighter than itself. We observe sufficient classes of patterns, and those patterns form a concept, and when sufficient data enter through our senses to trigger a threshold cascade, we call the thing a desk, or a chair, or an amphora of wine because it fits well enough for hunting the conceptual creation of desk or chair or amphora.

So if the edges of definition get blurry sometimes, it is only because ‘Is’ is only an illusion, an artifact of needing to identify things more efficiently than specifically so as to expedite the killing and the eating portion of the festivities.

But what the Eucharist tells us is not that Adam created the definition of Tiger when he looked at the four legged eater with stripes, but rather he gave a human name to that which had already been secretly named by God. The Tiger by any earthly name is in its very essence a tiger by virtue of God’s creation. God is the investor of substance. When we bake bread for consecration, it is bread not because we have named it so, or because we identify it as such, but because God has allowed its essence to become that of bread.

We discover the essence by use of the senses—does it smell like bread, look like bread, taste like bread? But these properties are not its true nature, rather they are only clues into its deeper reality. We know it is bread because we see its physicality, but God knows it is bread because He sees what it IS.

The soul, then, becomes not the semi-transparent avatar that rises from deceased cartoon characters, an otherness dwelling inside, but instead the IS that God sees when He looks at us. [ed.-- would this concept naturally require the resurrection of the body, as the carrier for the IS? Grain for another post. Must get to the mill…]

The miracle of the Eucharist seems no longer difficult. God has breathed life into each thing, and knows its secret name. He knows what everything IS. Through the transubstantiation, he changes what bread and wine IS, into something else. Sure, we see the bread and wine, we smell the bread and wine, we taste the bread and wine (figurative we—the atheist hasn’t scandalized the Holy Host!), but God has passed his hand over the altar and now the-thing-that-was--is-no-longer. And if God knows that it IS Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, how is that theologically difficult?

If His breath gave everything substance to begin with, how can it not change anything at will?

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