The Physics Of Blessings: Ideas In Our Reenchantment & Rectification

The Physics Of Blessings: Ideas In Our Reenchantment & Rectification

This belongs to the realm of supposition. I do not know if it’s true, only that it seems possible.

I do know that there must be a “Reenchantment of the World“, as John Carter says, or a Rectification, as Alexander Macris says. I also know that science is busted, stalled, in thrall to a stale false bad idea of mechanistic materialism, which needs replacing.

This article is written in that spirit.

First, a brief (and thus incomplete) review of Aquinas’s Second Way for proof for the existence of God. Now, the example I’ll use is the standard example, which has become a cliche, but it has value nonetheless because it is simple to understand.

Grab hold of a stick and use it to push a rock. What caused the rock to move? Well, you pushing on the stick. But what part of you pushed? Muscles in your arm contracted, in accord with your will. By what mechanism did your muscles contract? You somehow activated your nervous system, which sent a signal to the muscles and then certain chemical reactions take place, causing the muscles to contract.

How do these chemical reactions take place? Without lapsing into jargon, one thing pushes another, with the proteins being operated on from below by molecules, and they by the atoms which comprise the molecules, and they in turn by the protons, neutrons, and electrons and whatever fields are in operation, and they, again from below, in whatever comprises these, and so on, down we go.

But not forever. This efficient causal chain, which operates simultaneously but which has a definite order or precedence to each element in the chain, cannot go on to infinity. Because if it did, then nothing could ever get started. It would take forever for anything to get going. I have written about it before, but Infinity is much bigger than you have imaged, and much bigger than any of us can imagine. We should always be very, very nervous when invoking Infinity. At any rate, since the chain is not infinite, it has to have some base, it must have some place of origin which is the First Cause in the causal chain. And this we call God.

And this is so for every efficient causal chain, as is obvious.

What caused the nervous system to send the signal? You did. How did you get the thing going on your end? Well, let’s save that for the end.

Taking all this for granted—you have to assume you did not have breakfast to read further—there is nothing in this proof that says how long each efficient causal chain is, except that it is finite.

All we know is that God is the anchor of every efficient causal chain, which is the conclusion of the Aquinas’s argument. But there are no details of how God brings out the first cause in the chain. He may delegate. Suppose he does.

There are any number of purely non-material beings composed of will and intellect; which is to say, angels and demons. These creatures are all different from one another, by which I mean they have different knowledge and capabilities, a point made clear in scripture. There are also many philosophical arguments for this premise, also given by Aquinas and others, but we’ll pass these by as granted, because if you have got this far you are unlikely to quail against the powers of angels and demons.

Now nothing can happen without God’s permission. He knows. So if he delegates to angels and demons to take over, as it were, after the initial causal chain is set in motion by himself, God knows what each of these creatures will do. If God being immaterial can cause material things to change, it seems angels and demons can, too. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence for this ability in scripture.

How does God start an efficient causal chain in motion? And, supposing we have answered that, how do angels or demons, or a chain or collection of the same, for there is nothing stopping multiple creatures from cooperating in the chain, continue the chain? What powers do they bring to bear? How does immateriality effect materiality? At what point does the immaterial become the material?

I have no idea.

But neither does any scientist have any idea how it is that, say, quarks or strings or whatever is “below” them, starts things in motion. For instance, we hear that strings “vibrate”. How? By what impetus? Or by what will or causative force? No answer. Indeed, science has largely given up on cause in those instances where our knowledge of it fades into the murk. (In Class we’ll learn why this mysterious missing cause cannot be probability.)

Both science and theology are in the same causal ship (named SS Uncertainty). With the advantage that theology has an excellent metaphysical argument, whereas in science there is none, except for what I call the Great Bluff.

It works like this: a scientist acknowledges that a materialistic explanation for a thing (like consciousness) does not exist, but promises it will some day arrive; he then argues from that promissory note that therefore the explanation is as good as already here, so we should give up on non-science explanations. Or he uses the note to say that all other explanations, like the theological one advanced here, are necessarily wrong because strict materialism must be true. I trust you see the fallaciousness of all this.

Point is, granting that God sometimes delegate powers of continuing an efficient causal chain, we have an explanation for why certain places and things can seem cursed or blessed. Because there are entities at these places are “in” (affecting and not residing materially) these things participating in the causes of and originating at those places. These entities can be up to no good or to good. (Aquinas gives another argument for how angels can be in a “place” and be immaterial, which we’ll skip.)

Our world is fallen, which I also take to be granted and obvious. It would seem, then, that there should be many more places and things which have entities attached to them that are up to no good. And indeed we see shrines, altars and other markers to designate these kinds of places all through history and all over the world. This includes charms, talismans, “lucky” objects and the like. Of course, the untold number of stories associated with these objects and places could all be fictions, and passed off as mere superstitions. Doubtless many are. But all? Perhaps. Perhaps not.

It is a matter of faith either way, and I don’t mean of the old-fashioned religious kind. Faith comes because we must accept some kind of theological or materialist explanation, a metaphysics, for which empirical proof there is none. (This we also learned in Class: there is no empirical proof for all our of deepest beliefs, that all rests on faith.) There is no escaping faith.

Which brings us to blessings, the effects of which should now be obvious. A blessing removes the “curse”, or removes entities up to no good associated with the object or place. God must cooperate in this blessing, of course, and so must agree with the motives of the man giving the blessing. In short, a blessing removes the demons and replaces them with angels, or perhaps with nothing except God himself.

Is this true? I don’t know. I do know that there must be some explanation of how the immaterial affects and interacts with the material, and I think Aquinas is right about the origin of efficient causes. Intellect and will, argue many (and convincingly, I think, by men such as Ross, Searle, Feser, and to a point even Stove), are not material. But they are not ghosts in our machines: they are us.

The argument for how the immaterial affects the material will ultimately be metaphysical. Traditional science has consigned metaphysics to Outer Land and pretends not to notice those men who have visited it and came back with strange tales. Science needs to embrace a new metaphysics so it can explore this interface.

We will explore these ideas.

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  1. Cary D Cotterman

    We can’t identify the origin of a causal chain, therefore it’s God? That just seems like makin’ stuff up. It’s impossible for the human mind to grasp infinity or eternity. Maybe the origin of cause is equally impossible to comprehend. Perhaps there was no beginning; eternity goes both directions. The older I get, the more I drift from atheism to agnosticism.

  2. Johnno

    Seems even the peery scientistists are befuddled that things don’t seem to work from below, hence Dr. Wolfgang Smith’s proposal of Vertical Causation from above. “YOU” not only move the nervous system, but also demand the right to measure things, and the physics of the physical world obey.

    As to the association of physical objects with blessings or curses. There is probably no actual physical change in general excepting the 0.000001% that for Divine reasons clearly manifests. The prime cause for the majority is association. Repeatedly God demands physical action or material to be associated with something else He’d do. Those actions and materials aren’t necessary elements for what they provide, at best they are symbolic associations such as water with cleanliness, but the most important function is their relevance to the human cooperation that their presence demonstrates.

    God, the angels and also the demons work through human cooperation. God, because He desires it to be so. The Angels and demons, because God binds them so. Human will is involved. Will commited to something performs a concreate action, and material things because humans interact and correspond to a material world using corporeal bodies intrinsically created and linked to their souls.

    So concreate actions and matter are signifiers of the spiritual agreements being engaged in. Both for the purposes of obedience and rebellion. Those serve as intermediary proofs of a human will cooperating, both by spoken word and deed and provision of material forms, the full extent of the intellect and will’s commitment made manifestly public.

  3. John M

    “How does God start an efficient causal chain in motion?”

    Try re-reading Gensis 1. God speaks the universe into being.

  4. C-Marie

    From comments: “God, the angels and also the demons work through human cooperation. God, because He desires it to be so. The Angels and demons, because God binds them so.”

    God works with and without human cooperation. Angels work with and without human cooperation for they do only as God instructs them. Demons are allowed by God to do certain works because of unrepentance of sins committed by human beings. And human beings can and do, work good works and works of malice against each other.

    And why did God set all of this up? God wanted us to love Him, and genuine love involves free will, and free will involves using the will for good or for evil. And God taught us all. And we choose to do His will, or to not do His will. We choose. It is in our hands. Choose Him Who is Life.

    God bless, C-Marie

  5. @Cary D Cotterman
    > We can’t identify the origin of a causal chain, therefore it’s God?

    Incorrect. We can tell the causal chain has an end. We can rule out an infinitely long causal chain. Obeserve: for thing X to happen, then X-1 has to happen. In the sense IT HAS TO HAPPEN. It’s not sufficient to infer what X-1 is, and it’s not enough to predict it will cause X. No, it has to ACTUALLY happen, in the same way me writing this out has to ACTUALLY happen before you can ACTUALLY read it. But, for X-1 to ACTUALLY happen, X-2 has to first happen. And so on backwards. But, if there is no starting cause, then your chain will NEVER EVER END! You will never ever have something ACTUALLY happen because it’s predecesor will never actually happen because it’s waiting for it’s predecessor, etc.

    And it’s not enough for things (X-1) to be causative of other things (X), even if X-1 is 100% of the cause of X. Because then you can imagine an event Y that could also actually happen, which has it’s own predecessor Y-1 and it’s own infinitely long causative chain, completely different than X’s causative chain. But, look: you can only have either X or Y. Because Reality is obviously one and only, you can’t have an interpretation that a chain being well defined is equal to a chain actually existing. Because both X and Y chains coexist in being equally well defined. If being well defined is sufficient for a chain to ACTUALLY exist, then infinitely many mutually contradictory chains would be simultaneously existing… which obviously isn’t the case. I very definitively can’t see the top of this post, so the alternative reality where I only wrote a oneline comment clearly doesn’t exist. One chain has to ACTUALLY exist, which means “ACTUALLY existing” is an attribute that isn’t immanent to causes (X, X-1, Y, Y-1, …), but is attached to no more than one chain. One of those has to ACTUALLY exist, which means that either one item from X or one item of Y has to be the first to ACTUALLY exist (no infinite regress), which anchors the entire causality chain, of either X or Y.

    That first cause has to be able to cause, directly or indirectly, EVERYTHING THAT WILL EVER BE! “God” is the only entity in human lexicon that fulfills that description.

    So, we observe nature, we deduce the existence of a “root” entity, and we realize this entity matches the definition of God, which means this entity IS God. We have proven God exists.

  6. Rudolph Harrier

    One of the most common misunderstandings of Aquinas’s argument is that it is usually viewed as a temporal argument. For example, I exist, so I must have a father. And my father, must have had a father for him to exist, so for me to exist I must have a grandfather, etc. Thus we have a chain of ancestors. It is either infinite or finite. If it is infinite then obviously the universe must extend infinitely far backwards in time, but plenty of people (including the classical pagans) are willing to accept this. While such an infinite chain is difficult to parse with the modern mindset, it is hard to say that it is intrinsically contradictory. The reason is that for the chain to continue, the previous parts of the chain no longer need to exist. That is, I can still father a child even if my great grandfather, or my grandfather or even my father have died. They needed to exist at some point for me to exist, but their existence is not necessary for my CONTINUED existence, or my generative power, or the existence of my children (and even I do not need to continue to exist for my children to go on.) We can call these “accidental” chains because the existence of the whole chain is not essential.

    The trouble is that this sort of chain is precisely NOT what Aquinas is talking about. He allowed for such things in principle, though not in reality. His objection against them existing in reality was the finite length of time that the universe has been around, but he thought that without that bit of knowledge (at the time, only knowable through divine revelation) that it would be impossible to deny such “accidental” chains.

    The stick and rock chain is clearly something different. The stick moves because my hand is moving RIGHT NOW. If I stop moving my hand, the stick will stop moving. The rock moves because the stick is moving RIGHT NOW. If the stick stops moving, so too with the rock (absent another force taking over like gravity drawing it down a hill.) It doesn’t matter if the universe is eternal or not in this argument, because it’s all happening now.

    Another way to look at this is that the rock only moves because the stick does. If the stick were not to exist, then the rock would not move. Similarly, the stick only moves because my hand does. If my hand did not exist, then the stick would not move and therefore the rock too also would not move. But my hand does not move on its own, etc. The key thing is that in this chain, however long it is, all parts must exist simultaneously because if any part was missing, then there would be no motion. If there is not something which can provide the motion without being moved by another, then nothing in the chain will move since each thing being moved would not moved unless moved by the thing before it.

    If you say “ah, but I will accept an infinite chain with no beginning, where everything moves despite no prime mover in the sequence” remember that you are postulating this for EVERY act of change in the universe. That is, not only would every action be uncaused and inexplicable, but every action would involve an INFINITE CHAIN of events which were ultimately uncaused and inexplicable.

    Otherwise these chains have to end, and have to originate from something that is not moved by another (i.e. is entirely actual in this respect, as opposed to being moved from potential to actual.) At this point it may not be clear that we are talking about God, but with more reasoning it will be clear that the beginning of each chain must be entirely actual in all respects, which implies many other factors like uniqueness (and thus the same being originates every chain), simplicity, the source of all existence, etc. Once these are established, it is clear that we are talking about God.

  7. Johnno

    That we know our consciousness exists also indicates that there is a great grand father for all of these in the chain. Thus the originator God is also a person, and that God is also simultaneously distinct persons, makings relationships possible between dictinct separate beings in the chain. There is only so far that humanity can rationalize. The gap can only be bridged by Revelation from the other side.

    C-Marie, in the specific examples of blessing or cursing physical objects, human cooperation is particularly required for anything past the 7th Day… Of course, under exceptional circumstances, God may permit angelic or demonic actions of their own accord to intervene directly, like to test Job, or to talk to Balaam, and certainly many cases that we are not deemed necessary to know of, but those tend to be exceptions to the rule.

    In the cases of sacramentals, and the Eucharist in particular, human action and proper matter are required essentials. Even the demons require particulars, mainly repeated obstinate sins and signifiers of openness to things on the other side as a rite of passage to inhabit an object or someone; all of course also as a twisted mockery of God’s relationship with humans.

  8. Jan Van Betsuni

    Thank you William Briggs ~ for all that you do.

  9. Which would we rather believe: “there is no God” or “it’s turtles, all the way down?” I think God wins, by an Occam’s Razor’s edge.

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