The biggest challenge of God

“You, the europeans, have clocks, but we have the time” African proverb

Any God’s doctrine can’t be complete without referring to the place of victims. In opposition to a divinity that is presented to us as kind, God’s concept in the religions of the book is dissonant with a world that seems everything but sacred. How many times have we felt defrauded and angered with God due to something bad that has happened, for that child who knew war? Victimisation and its causes is the most frequent complaint against the God that comes from Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and for a good reason.

Sin, evil and their effect, victims, are the biggest challenge to a moralist God in the sense that for him to keep being coherent with its kindness he must choose between not including everything (only be goodness, love, and other synonymous) or to be incoherent but to include everything (to be the good and the bad, the sin and the miracle). Let’s see how Epicuro puts this quandary:

“Is it that God wants to stop the evil, but is not capable? Then it is not omnipotent. Is it capable, but does not wants to? Then it is malevolent. Is it capable and wants to? Then where does the evil arises from? Is it that it is not capable and does not wants to? Then why call it God?”

That is why, when God becomes a doctrine he faces incoherences like the one Kundera satirically presents:

“Without any type of theological preparation, spontaneously, I understood as a child the incompatibility between shit and God and, hence, how doubtful the basic thesis of the Christian anthropology is, according to which man was created by the image and resemblance of God. One of two options: either man was created to resemble God and then God has intestines, or God has no intestines and then man is not like him”.

This way, it seems like the topic of victims is crucial to understand any God´s concept. Nevertheless, there are lots of ways of conceiving God, since historically the search for the divine has been the search for a sense, an immutable reason that explains the movement of the world. That’s why, to understand the way the world moves for someone is to understand its concept of the divine, something that can take the form of reincarnation, evolution or Jesus Christ.

In turn, it is not possible to separate a specific conception of God from the concept of time that accompanies it. For Plato, time is the mobile image of the eternal. Consequently, the way time is understood shows how God´s work is conceived and, by this token, its character. Thus time, movement, and God are all interrelated concepts that create our sense of victims.

Nevertheless, time is one of those things that everybody knows what but nobody can define. It is one of the concepts that changes the most from culture to culture, coming to concepts so creative as to conceive it like a web or a snail. Therefore, we will present eight different conceptions of time that, although they do not include all possibilities, they do present a general map of the conceptions of time and God in different cultures.

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The first conception of time is called Newtonian because it was Newton who instilled on physics the positivist idea that time was a variable independent from us and, therefore, was measurable. With this the inexorable cosmic tic tac would begin to mark every second, indifferent to any event of life. Seeing this pressure, we can understand the actions of Paris´s revolutionaries in 1830 of destroying any clock in sight. Objective time creates scarcity in something that is synonymous of life, shouting at all times that to live is to die.

Nevertheless, Einstein came to complexify the Universe with the Theory General Relativity. Definitely no theory about something considered absolute like time could be understood without taking into consideration the relative, so this becomes our inception into all the subjetctive conceptions of time. 

The first subjective conception of time is called Modern because it is related to the period that would come with the liberal Revolutions up to, we might say, the end of the Second World war. Here, there is a clear destination that feeds on the medieval idea in which life is an interval towards the beyond (in the individual realm) or towards the Apocalypse (in the collective realm). According to this optimistic but also short-sighted spirit, history would be interpreted as a movement from a point A, inferior, to a point B, superior. With this conception, Europe would justify colonialism and would conceive natives as beings who had lost the train of history. Curiously, it is unknown whether Darwin´s theory of evolution was supportive of this idea or if it was the interpretation of people like Herbert Spencer to defend the brutality of the capitalist society.

Paradoxically, while under Social Darwinism Europeans believed to be above animals, children and aborigins, they justified all of their society under the premise of precisely following the laws of the nature. In this manner, the system of “the end justifies the means” obliterates the offenders, since their actions are understood by finalist promise of a better tomorrow. If we are to understand wickeness as something unjustifiable, in this system it would not exist, since it would explain itself as a problem of efficiency.

Milan Kundera expresses the invisibilization of offenders in the linear conception of time. In The unbearable ligthness of being he describes terrified when, seeing a few photos of Hitler, he felt a certain nostalgia for those times where war coincided with his chilhood. Astonished, he writes:

“This conciliation with Hitler demonstrates the deep moral perversion that is linked to a world essentially based on the nonexistence of the recurrence, because in this world everything is forgiven in advance and, therefore, cynically authorized”

Each and every of these conceptions of time can have an expression in the personal realm. Particularly, this conception of time comes to be the idea of that life, days or any fact have an intention. Utilitarianism hides under the slogan that we are here to learn, to do or to pay something. Under the speech of karmas, dharmas and the original sin, hides the idea that all human beings or even the whole of life has the same final goal, and that, having achieved it, there will come “The end of history”, as Francis Fukuyama would name it.

Under this spirit to be successful in life would consist in internalizing the laws of the game and then behaving according to them. To study hard, enter a good university, invest well  yourmoney, not waste time in hobbies so a given day you are given a pension and can finally do what you wished for from the beginning, if by this point you remember what it was. In the spiritual realm, to guide everyday towards enlightenment and in this way ending the cycles of reincarnation, or to live in God’s grace for dying one day and going to paradise. As it is shown in the next drawing, every time a goal is set there is a space between the actual and the ideal, and therefore time to cover up that distance. It is the urgency for reaching something what creates, as in a Cartesian plane, the euclidean concept of the shortest distance between two points: the straight line. It is here where the method is created, the technique and the impulse for efficiency.

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Beware, this is not a generalized call against all goals. This would be too simplistic, born from a person “tired of life”, as Nietzsche would say. Goals have their place in technology and all linear processes, and it´s perfectly valid in realms like learning a language or physical exercise. Nevertheless, for all of the non linear phenomenon, like morality or interpersonal relations, basically everything human, a goal turns into a distraction of who we really are and, in this way, it prevens us from reaching our potential.

On its part, the third concept echoes in Nietzsche´s writings and it is his macabre solution to the problem of morality. In a world where God has died, where man must now create his own values: how should we live life? Any speculation would die under the inmense weight of the Eternal Recurrence, the idea that all events that happen will come to their death and will be repeated exactly in the same way, create a cycle that is infinetly replayed. 

There are two ways of living this conception of time in the personal. If one reads Nietzsche like supposedly Hitler did, Eternal Reccurence is the perfect justification for extreme efficiency. However, this might only arise from a great ambition proper of Modernism. Without this one there comes the second position, which affirms the absolute responsability of being free, the enormous weight of being light. Here the dichotomy between game and work, freedom and responsability is abolished. Until what point has the hope of a life after death made many of the problems of the world tolerable and, in this manner, it has perpetuated them indefinitely? If we are going to repeat this and only this life incessantly, we better make out of it nothing but a paradise, without repentances nor frustrated desires.

Althought it is usually thought that Eternal Reccurrence is the conception that existed in the indigenous world, an idea product of the work of Mircea Eliade, this is not so clear anymore. According to Luis Guillermo Vasco, the real conception of time in the natives is that of the Spiral, which is the fourth concept of time. Here, facts have a certain circular logic that is applied to different situations that go on expanding the understanding of this logic. Thus, the same cycles and structures recur but in different planes, without advancing towards  final goal but expanding a common origin.

Subjectively, sometimes this conception blends itself with modernism and one beings to speak about processes in which people repeat a cycle but in lower or higher planes. The problem with this speech is when it hides a hierarchy to justifiy a life style and evade the responsability of choosing, as when a vegetarian considers himself higher because he or she consumes food of a “high vibration”.

The next conception of time is called Dialectic because it follows the process of thesis, antithesis and synthesis. For example, someone affirms that smoking is good (thesis) and another person opposes by saying smoking is bad (antithesis), from which arises a conciliatory position that says that it depends on the context (synthesis). This synthesis becomes the new thesis, and the process repeats itself.

In the personal, this vision of time is translated in a glasses that see everything as opposites, therefore looking up for ways to reconcile them. In Taoism, everything in the Universe is yin or yang, which are complementary opposites that throught phenomemons like sex, can be reconciled. In its literal version, it can lead to the totalizing of life in schemes as femine / masculine forcing, for  example, a hermaphrodite person to choose an official sex. In this scheme, everything has its place, since evil can be the counterweight of good so that harmony exists, or vice versa. Like this, victimization justifies itself as a inevitable residue of this process, something that converts the cosmos into an implacable system of additions and substractions. 

Also, this vision permeats the discourse of the middle way. In a world of extremes, it is said to us that we do everything with moderation and without loosing balance, keeping an equilibre between dichotomies that turns life into a tightrope act.

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On its part, postmordernism has to do with the reaction of a world that saw in the Nazis the direct consequence of modernism taken to the extreme. So, Postmodern time would say that everything is relative and would come to replace the arrow of destination with a web where every point is independent from the others. Just like in Chaos Theory, where a system with certain initial conditions produces indeterminable randowm results, in postmodernism the origin determins neither the way nor the goal. This would then replicate the vision of the American democracy, where every person can achieve what he or she is wishing for without much care from where its coming.

As Nietzsche announced it, the XX century would kill God, since with postmodernism came the elimination of any class of predetermined destination or logic behind the word, and life would come to resemblence the lawlessness of the joker saying “Do I really look like a guy with a plan? You know what I am? I´m a dog chassing cars. I wouldn`t know what to do with one if I caught it! You know, I just do things”. 

The latter vision can express itself in the personal like an anxiety comming from the absense of guide in life and the possible inaction that this generates. If every person is living through his own process, it is not possible to position opposite to them nor to judge anybody. In this world where oppening our minds is promoted, everything is potentially acceptable, it is possible to forgiven everything. Is it not possible to coexist in between disharmony and complexity? In a world where freedom becomes the main emphasis, victims stop existing, since every person lives through certain experiences due to individual conditions, therefore a newborn baby who has cancer can live that due to having done something that he shouldn´t in a past life. 

For example, in the book Conversations with God it is said: “When you understand that Hitler went to heaven, you will have understood God”. Also, in The Secret reality can be changed from our attitudes and thoughts about it. It is always neccesary to wonder, I repeat, if this vision of time does justice or not to the victims. Is it fair to say that a girl who saw a terrible massacre in her first years of life simply is paying a karma and can overcome it by believing everything is fine?

The seventh conception of time is called Brownian due to the complex movement that create, for example, flying flies. To understand it, we can see this fragment of the movie American Beauty:

As you can see, this movement is seemingly chaotic and meaningless, since it is destroying with its spasmodic rythm any class of pattern. What difference exists between this movement and that of postmodernism? The difference resides in the motive. This is the context: in the creationism vs evolutionism debate, both positions coincide with the premise that things move by external forces. 

For science, everything has a cause that represents a force that moves something towards a direction, in this case, evolution. For Christianity, God is the immobile engine that animates all the things of the Universe, the principle behind movement. Although they are seen as adversaries, both science and religion have the common mission of finding this cause that moves the world, coinciding that nothing can move by itself. Thus, it is assumed that the Universe is all but sacred, that matter by itself is everything but intelligent.

For example, Osho speaks of only two types of religions existing in the world, those of meditation and those of prayer. The first ones believe God is inside of us, and the second ones believe it is on the outside. However, a third option exists. What happens if a distinction does not exists between the internal and the external? What if thing move for themselves, if our lives are like the bag in the video? The Newtonian world of physics is one where impersonal forces move objects, and the Christian world is one with a celestial God who is the immobile engine of everything existing.

Nevertheless, physicists as David Bohm bring into play the option that the cause and the effect are part of the same phenomenon in which, for example, the creator and the created coincide. Inside this thinking, the Chileans humbert Maturana and Francisco Varela proposed the idea of autopoiesis, which means “a system capable of reproduce and being supported by himself”. The system is itself a nation, which does not need of an external force to move or to be created.

It is difficult to imagine how this conecption can be lived on the personal realm, since it leads to phrases as unassailable as “The observer is the observed”. Much more than the conception of time in Spiral, this vision of an intelligent Universe is the one that permeates the indigenous communities and animism, where God does not reside in the world but it is the world. That´s why, the next someone says “everything has a meaning in life”, we may wonder if they refer to the modernist conception by which a destination exists, or to the completely different conception from the animism where everything has a logic behind itself that does not neccesarily determines its destination, since the Universe is intelligence.

If one examines it, it seems impossible that, for example, a human being digest the food by his own account. To do it, it depends on the bacteria that constitutes the gut flora. Although without digestion we wouldn´t survive, we don´t normally consider these bacteria to be part of us. Then, the definition of being is a basic aspect to understand the Brownian conception of time, since in this one there aren´t isolated and autosufficient universes, but rather separation is inexistent: the cause and effect of any phenomenon ends up being the whole Universe.

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May it be that the victims and offenders are part of a same process without definite states? What if neither victims nor offenders existed, but only victimization?

After all this, it is necessary to come to the last conception of time, called Static. In this vision, which is part of some philosophies in India and which is already being discussed in some scientific spaces, time is an illusion. It is possible that there are phenomena of creation and destruction, but in fact everything is calm and nothing really happens, since time is the measurement of the duration that takes to move from one place to another, and everything is just tightly held together.

Therefore, if the part is calm or if it moves with everything, it experiences the totality of time in only one moment. So, all the past and future events would happen at the same instant, and would only need a movement to move from one to another. As in Strings Theory, the possibility of time travel would be opened.

The latter resonaets with the Myth of the Cave of Plato. The world of the cave and of the shades is that in which time exists, since all matter is subjected to change and therefore to a movement that leads to deterioration. Also, in the cave there is a loss of energy called entropy, which is characterized by the increase of randomness. On the contrary, the outside of the cave is a world without movement as we know it. Here, time would not exist as there would not be a change in energy states, any movement or any class of deterioration to which matter is subjected to.

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The curious thing is that for Heidegger this world outside the cave that he would call nothing, by opposition to everything, still moves, although it is not possible to determine how. In his words, nothing nothings. Anyhow, it is only possible to say something moves in regard to another something that is still. However, if everything in the Universe moves jointly like an indivisible package, it might be said that it moves but that it is simultaneously still, since its reference is itself. In other words, for there to not be time there would have to be something in the world that can be still, or everything would have to move in synchrony. 

Coming to this point, we can give voice to the big problem in which victims place us. Although real victimization is unjustifiable, God´s idea is that of meaning to life. That´s why, victims leads us to an alley with two exits. On the one hand, it may be that believing in God separates us as human beings and turns us into more violent than what we were trying to get, that is, that love is prevented. This, because the only way of justifying victimization is by preventing direct contact with their pain, so it means becoming desensitized. On the other hand, there is the possibility that our conception of a moralist God is completely mistaken. if one sees, human being have a tendency to label things under good or bad: we are moral beings. Therefore, what says this second option to us is that God is a reality that transcends the human realm, a phenomenon much more extensive than what our ideas can grasp and determine. Namely, that we cannot believe in him. 

In a few words, if God is a humanized moral being, to believe in him feeds a vision that justifies and perpetuates the victims, turning us into offenders and removing us from its divinity. Or, if God is a non-humanized amoral being, we cannot believe in him, so sinfulness (offenders) and its effects (victims) exist beyond the human realm, so calling someone a offender or a victim is only a easily malleable theatrical act. Whichever way it is seen, believing in any class of God is a fact that can hardly coexist with the victims, since it increases enormously the possibilities of denying their real quality and, by doing so, it turns the believer into one more offender. Until what point has the belief in God perpetuated wickedness in the world? It may be that directly meeting the fact, without mediation of any idea, is the only way of doing justice to them.

That is why, if this article looked to showed something it is the difficulty of choosing. Each of this conceptions of time is problematic when it is taken to the extreme. What is clear is that the way we understand God, movement and time cannot go over those who came to be the greatest challenge of God: the victims.

If you´d like to know more about these topics, I reccomend the work of Jiddu Krishnamurti and Charles Eisenstein


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