For the Promotion of Reason Based Spirituality...

DEISM Philosophical Essays

The Adjustable Analogy
by Jay Boswell

I often like to compare the universe and my ideas of God with the house that I live in and the person who built it. I don't have to be concerned about good vs. bad, or kind vs. cruel, just that God is more constructive than destructive. Here are some comparisons and flexible thoughts that flow from this analogy.

1. I have never met the builder, and I don't know his/her name. I've learned about him/her from examining the handiwork.
2. I was not the first resident of the house, and I don't expect to be the last one.
3. I wonder if the builder still sees my house regularly or drives by occasionally to see the changes.
4. I don't expect a builder's son who did not take part in the construction to show up and tell me its history.
5. My house doesn't have an owner's manual.
6. I recognize that many necessary but dangerous objects exist in the house like a stove, stairs, and furnace.
7. I recognize that beautiful and purposeful things like trees are growing in my backyard, but that they could grow excessively into a dangerous condition.
8. I realize that I could be injured in the house from actions that are either careless or purely accidental.
9. I wonder where the builder got his/her materials.
10. If I have an immediate need like food, I don't expect the builder to bring me groceries.
11. If I have an emergency, I don't call the builder first.
12. If I have a major repair situation like a leaking roof, I don't expect the builder to come back and repair it him/herself, but I wonder if the builder could actively come back and perform more work.
13. I wonder if the builder could still send a roofer or repairperson to me.
14. Based on the age of the house, I think of the builder as retired, but I wonder if the builder is still active somewhere else, or is deceased.
15. I wonder if the builder could be reached by telephone or by mail to accept my expression of appreciation.
16. I wonder if the builder could get to know me.
17. I will at least take care of my house and make an effort to express thanks.

Copyright © 2003 Jay Boswell

Analysis Of The Deist Claim To A Belief In God Through Reason And Nature, Part 1: Reason
by Travis Clementsmith

One of the common assertions against Deism, by Freethinkers and Atheists alike, is, "how can one reasonably demonstrate the existence of God; what proof does one offer?"

I believe that misunderstanding of the term "reason" is at fault. Most opponents take reason to mean "rationality". Only things that can be rationally demonstrated through empirical evidence can be said to be credible. Without empirical evidence, a proposition is not "really real", by these standards, and thereby neither testable nor falsifiable.

What just happened in this conversation is that they have turned the assertion of a "belief in God through reason and nature" into "a belief in God through empirical evidence". Since one has none to offer, the claim is deemed to fail for lack of reasonable evidence.

But, reason is not limited to conclusions drawn from empirical evidence. Just because the evidence is not empirical does not render it useless or meaningless. To help illustrate this fallacy I will reprint and comment from excerpts of T.K. Seung's, Kant's Platonic Revolution in Moral and Political Philosophy. Most of these excerpts are drawn from Chapter 3, "Normative Platonism in the First Critique", (subsection) "Practical Rationality". Mr. Seung's words will be denoted in quotations and any inserted commentary on my part will be bracketed.

Kant's "Knowledge", "Belief", and "Opinion" Defined

"To differentiate the moral argument from traditional arguments, Kant says that the moral argument is not really a proof but only a practical postulate. A proof is required for knowledge; a postulate is an object of belief. Knowledge belongs to the theoretical world, and belief to the practical world. This Kantian distinction is quite confusing, because belief can be, for us, as theoretical as knowledge is. Let us consider Kant's threefold distinction of knowledge (Wissen), belief (Glauben), and opinion (Meinen). He explains this distinction by using the notion of subjective and objective grounds for holding a judgment or making an assertion. When the ground for holding a judgment is subjectively and objectively sufficient, Kant calls it knowledge. When it is only subjectively sufficient, he calls the judgment belief. When it is neither subjectively or objectively sufficient, he calls the judgment opinion."

The realization of which level is being postulated has to be an important one. Subjective judgment stresses that personal attitudes and feelings are the sole determinants of moral and aesthetic values. Objective judgment stresses the external, independent existence of what is perceived or known, and that the validity of ethical assertions can be determined objectively. What is confusing is how a judgment can be neither subjective nor objective, as in the case of opinion. The difference, I suspect, is whether the subjective judgment appeals to Platonic Form or to individual preference.

For an example, let's take the moral dilemma of killing a human being:

"Knowledge" would hold that killing another human being means that one has been deprived of one's life by the will of another.

"Belief" would hold that killing another human being is morally wrong and non-productive to producing a tranquil society. We institutionalize the act in legal definition, either as "murder" and thereby render it punishable, or as lawful penalty, thereby institutionalizing the practice.

"Opinion" would be based on why the assailant decided to act on that impulse. It is important to note that if an assailant's "opinion" is consistent with a target institution's "belief" (such as the belief in the right of self-defense), that opinion will be reconciled. In any case, the knowledge portion does not change.

Pragmatic Belief

"Kant's characterization of belief in terms of the subjective sufficiently of its ground is quite unusual. According to him, there is no objective ground for holding a moral belief: it is based on purely subjective ground. Why should we hold a belief, Allen Wood rightly objects, if there is no objectionable reason for holding it? [Wood, Kant's Moral Religion (Ithaca, 1970), 17.] To hold such a belief is clearly absurd. Perhaps to answer this question, Kant introduces the concept of pragmatic belief. A physician is uncertain about the cause of his patient's illness but feels the need to do something immediately for its relief. He can only form a contingent belief about the nature of the illness but has to act on it. This is a case of pragmatic belief; it is the belief we are prepared to act on. And Kant wants to regard moral belief as a special case of pragmatic belief.

Pragmatic belief is defined in reference to action, which is quite different from defining it in reference to the subjective ground of its truth. To be sure, if I believe in a proposition, I will be prepared to act on it. The subjective ground of truth can be translated into pragmatic considerations. But the pragmatic definition of belief cannot discriminate practical from theoretical beliefs. As Kant notes, any theoretical judgment can become an object of pragmatic belief. In fact, his example of a physician's conjecture about the case of an illness is a theoretical belief; it becomes a pragmatic belief when he acts on it. Moreover, as Kant notes, there are two kinds of pragmatic belief, technical and moral. Technical belief is contingent, he observes, but moral belief is necessary. How can our belief be necessary if it is supported only by our subjective ground? There is no clear answer to this question in Kant's text."

Phenomenal and Noumenal Worlds

"How is a moral belief different from a theoretical belief? This is the important question for Kant because he holds that these two types of belief are fundamentally different. Since none of Kant's own attempts to clarify this question have been helpful, I propose another way of differentiating moral and theoretical belief. Let us consider the distinction between phenomenal and noumenal grounds for holding an assertion. Theoretical belief is concerned with the objects of the phenomenal world; those objects provide what Kant calls objective grounds for holding a belief. Moral belief is based on the moral laws, which are derived from the Ideas of pure reason. Since those ideas belong to the world of noumena, they cannot provide objective grounds for holding a moral belief, because they are not objects of experience. But they should not be called subjective grounds, because they are not mere subjective ideas. They are the noumenal grounds of belief."

Here we enter the Platonic distinction between "model" and "copy". For example, an artist begins on an original piece of artwork. The "model" is the Idea in the mind of the artist. The "copy" is the finished work. The copy will never be as complete or perfect as the model, and there may be elements in the copy never taken from the model.

The "phenomenal" world is the empirically objective perception of "things". The "noumenal" world is the embodiment of the perfect "Idea". Consider "Justice": Perfect justice is not known to exist in the phenomenal world, but the pursuit of it occurs because we have a conception of its existence. We try to copy the model. But the model is only available in the noumenal world. According to this line of thinking, "Morals" and "Justice" are subjective in a phenomenal world, but not necessarily in a noumenal one where they may be fully realized.

Are Both Worlds "Really Real"?

"The phenomenal grounds of belief is open for empirical confirmation, the noumenal ground is not. Hence the acceptance of the latter is a matter of faith rather than knowledge. The novelty of Kant's moral argument for the existence of God lies in proposing the noumenal ground for belief. If the physical world is the only reality accessible to us, we have to accept it as the only premise for proving the existence of God. However, if the moral world is as real as the physical world, there is no reason to restrict our premise to the physical reality. For Kant, the existence of the moral world is not a hypothesis; it is as real as the moral law. But the acceptance of moral law is not knowledge, but belief or trust. It is like the acceptance of logical principles, which cannot be vindicated by empirical data. Just as we accept logical principles on trust, so we have to accept moral law, because we cannot live without it any more than we can reason without logical principles. Hence Kant holds that moral belief is necessary, thoughit is not objective, that is, not subject to empirical confirmation."

Reason, or more accurately, Pure Reason, has made a convincing argument for another "real" world that is simply at another level of perception. This is the perception of Ideas or Forms as opposed to just sensory perception. Without such a world, Justice and Laws have no credibility, no base. We will return to this at the conclusion.

Why Teleological and Ontological Arguments Need Help

"Moral and theoretical arguments for the existence of God differ not only in their premises but also in the rules of argument. Both cosmological and teleological arguments invoke the causal principle: the existence of God is asserted as the ultimate cause for the existence of the physical world or its order and design. Hume and Kant have shown that these causal arguments are inconclusive because the physical world may have the power of producing its own order. Leibniz tries to make a case for the teleological argument by establishing the premise that the world of matter is totally inert. If it is inert, its order can only be introduced from the outside, namely, by God. All of these arguments depend on empirical laws; even the inertia of matter belongs to the empirical world. Kant's one common objection to these arguments is that empirical laws cannot be extended beyond the domain of phenomena, and the existence of God transcends the world of phenomena.

The moral argument for the existence of God does not rely on any empirical laws. Its main force stems from the notion of rationality and absurdity. The highest good is demanded by the requirement of rationality; its denial is a practical absurdity, and the existence of God is required to avoid this absurdity. The whole argument is a reductio ad absurdum. [This point is well explained by Allen Wood in ibid., 16.] In this regard, it resembles the ontological argument, except for one important point. While the moral argument appeals to practical absurdity, the ontological argument relies on theoretical or logical absurdity. Nevertheless, the comparison is worth making.

The ontological argument begins by laying down as its premise the definition of God as the most perfect being and then shows the logical absurdity of denying the existence of God; that is, it contradicts the premise. In his critique of this argument, Kant says that the alleged contradiction arises because the existence of God is illicitly presupposed in the premise; that is, existence is taken as one of the predicates required for the conception of the most perfect being. But Kant holds that existence is not a predicate, that its inclusion in the definition of God is logically illegitimate. Thus, the alleged contradiction or absurdity is due to the illegitimate conception of existence as a predicate."

Enter the Moral Argument and the Lack For Need of a Personal God

"The cosmological and teleological arguments are not arguments of absurdity. Consider the two hypotheses (1) that the world is created by God and (2) that the existence of the world is primordial. It is impossible to say that either of the two hypotheses is rational and the other is irrational, or that one of them is more rational than the other. The same thing goes for the two hypotheses about the order and design of the world: (3) that it has been created by God and (4) that it has been produced by the evolution of the world. These two accounts are equal as far as their rationality is concerned. In this regard, the moral argument for the existence of God is different from the cosmological and the teleological arguments."

As Lewis White Beck claims, the moral argument may resemble the teleological argument in one respect. It appears to appeal to the principle of causation: it claims the existence of God as the cause of a perfect moral order for the realization of the highest good. But this step of the argument is not essential for the integrity of the moral argument. All it is set out to prove is the existence of a perfect moral order that assures the exact apportionment of happiness to morality, and the question of how it comes about is irrelevant to the argument. There is no need for such a perfect moral order to depend on the existence of a personal deity. It may be achieved by some impersonal force, such as the karma of Buddhism or the T'ien (Heaven) of Confucianism. [Or The One of Platonism or the Blind-Watchmaker of Deism] In whatever manner it operates, it fulfills the requirement of rationality. On the other hand, its nonexistence is an absurdum practicum. Hence Kant's moral argument is not for the existence of God but for the existence of a perfect moral order and the realizability of the highest good. As Yirmiahu Yovel correctly observes, the ultimate object of the moral argument is not God but the highest good. The existence of God is only incidental to the moral argument. [Yovel, Kant and the Philosophy of History, 116]"

Here we undercut the Christian criticism of Deism in that a "living, personal God" is necessary to instill morals that allow societies to develop, and science and technology to be pursued.

Comparing Moral Laws to Laws of Mathematics

"In the Critique of Practical Reason Kant presents his arguments for the existence of God and the immortality of the soul by constructing the antinomy of practical reason. [The antinomy of practical reason is so poorly stated that his commentators have difficulties in identifying its thesis and antithesis. Lewis White Beck tries to formulate the antinomy in two versions in Commentary, 246-48.] But the antinomy does not change the character of his arguments; he again appeals to the requirement of practical rationality. What is the basis of this requirement? Likewise, the moral Ideas of pure reason, such as the Idea of justice, have their own requirement of rationality, because they are rational Ideas. For example, the punishment of an innocent person is an absurdity not on logical but moral grounds. So is the nonfulfillment of the highest good. To be sure, this analogy holds only on the condition that the moral Ideas of pure reason exist in the same way that the ideas of set theory and mathematics do. This is the essential basis for Kant's moral argument for the existence of God."

The first part of the paragraph addresses the contradiction or inconsistency between two apparently reasonable principles or laws, or between conclusions drawn from them (antinomy), with regards to practical reason (based on phenomenal understanding).

Difference Between Logical and Practical Absurdities

"Even if we accept the existence of moral Ideas as noumenal entities, we cannot overlook the difference between logical and practical absurdity. Logical absurdities are impossible in all possible worlds. The nonexistence of a perfect moral community is a practical absurdity, which is clearly possible in this world. Why should Kant assume that such a practical absurdity is impossible in the other world? Kant seems to give two answers to this question. One answer is based on the assumption that the noumenal world is morally perfect, while the phenomenal world is imperfect. He often says that the moral imperfection of this world is due to our natural inclinations and the natural forces, which are indifferent to moral order. He also assumes that the intelligible world is devoid of these intractable natural elements. This view of the two worlds is a long standing Platonic legacy. According to this view, a perfect moral community is possible in the intelligible world. For Plato, the other world is not only the domain of eternal Forms but also a perfect moral order in which those Forms are fully realized. And this moral theology moralizes the entire universe."

Let us recap. A logical absurdity contradicts its own premise, such as "On Zulu world, only Betas reproduce. Betas have been extinct for centuries, yet the birth rate has increased threefold in the last decade." This is a logical absurdity and therefore impossible in every possible world.

Practical absurdities occur in many possible worlds. Utopian societies may be a logical possibility, but they are not a practical possibility. The later half of the first paragraph recalls our analogy of "model" and "copy".

The Two Moral Hypotheses

"If we take seriously Kant's cognitive limitation of our knowledge of the noumenal world, his moral argument becomes much weaker. At most, it lays out two moral hypotheses: (1) the existence of a perfect moral community in the other world and (2) its nonexistence. The latter hypothesis clearly offends against the requirement of moral law and thereby produces a practical absurdity, while the former hypothesis fulfills the rational requirement of moral law. Given these two possible pictures of the noumenal world, we have a choice to make. Is there any rationality requirement for making this choice?"

Bertrand Russell's Refutation

"As mentioned above, Bertrand Russell said that it is more rational to assume that the noumenal world has the same sort of practical absurdity as the phenomenal world. But this assertion also goes against the spirit of Kant's Critical Philosophy. Russell assumes the continuity and similarity of the two worlds, which is equally incompatible with Kant's claim that we have no knowledge of noumena. If we know nothing about the noumenal world, there is no rational or theoretical basis for choosing one of the two moral hypotheses. In that case, we have as much right to assume that the noumenal world is a perfect moral community as we have to assume that it is not. Cognitively, there is no reason to prefer either of the two hypotheses, but there is a practical difference: one of them turns our moral experience into a massive practical absurdity, while the other enables it to meet the requirements of rationality. Given these practical differences, Kant seems to say it is practically rational to accept the hypothesis that the highest good can be realized in the noumenal world."

The Choice

"According to this interpretation, the moral argument does not really assert the existence of God or a perfect moral order. It only claims its possibility, and it links its possibility to the requirement of rationality. In the end, it comes down to the rationality of moral experience and the whole universe. But the rationality of the whole universe or even our whole morality cannot be proven, we can only hope for it. Hence it is a matter of faith. We should accept the existence of God and a perfect moral order in the other world if we believe in the rationality of our universe and our moral experience. If we do not accept the existence of God and the possibility of realizing the highest good, then we have to admit that our moral experience and the universe as a whole constitute a gigantic mass of irrationality and absurdity. This appears to be the best way to interpret the moral argument within the framework of Kant's Critical Philosophy."

Deists claim the only true miracle is the "creation" itself, and that by observing the interactive whole we see the resemblance of design. A design not meant to make perfect human beings, but to allow its possibility (among others). There is a transcendent association that makes the physics fundamental and gives the noumenal more depth. That is, physics is transcended by biology, which is transcended by noumena, which is transcended by ... spirit? Speculation to be sure, but not outside the confines of reason. It does not contradict "knowledge". It does, in fact, allow its accumulation by stabilizing the various "opinions" to align with a certain moral "belief". The result allows many different individuals to reasonably coexist. The more universal the belief is, is proportional to the manageable population size a society can incorporate into itself. A society that does not willingly accept its government's beliefs, will eventually have a government that fails or splits.

This was the genius of the formation of the United States of America embodied in its Constitution. It was also the root cause behind the Civil War. If the framers had intended for this to be a Christian nation, as some contend, it would have surely failed by now as it would have had to expel or execute its non-Christian members. To illustrate, as pre-civilized families bonded together for mutual support, a means other than direct blood ties needed to be established for the groups to effectively cooperate. Gods were conceptualized to form a common bond of some sort. "We both worship a Sea God because we are either beach combing or seafaring people." "We both worship an Agricultural Goddess because we both have learned the art of cultivation." "We both worship a War God because we are both warrior clans", and so on. As these larger tribes began to interact with each other, new ideas to assimilate different Gods were devised that gave way to entire pantheons. These pantheons eventually gave way to monotheistic ideas that had to incorporate broader ideas of acceptable morals. If one group ate seafood, and the other livestock, specific prohibitions on diet types would detract from social cohesiveness.

As larger nations' principal ways of worship became opposed or irreconcilable to a particular sect, expulsion, to the Western Hemisphere in the 18th century in Europe, to other locales, such as southern Africa and Australia in the 19th, seemed a suitable, even humane option. As these diverse groups in the English colonies in North America recognized a need for cooperation despite theological differences, they found themselves agreeing to consent to certain laws no group saw as particularly unreasonable. This type of governing became so effective that it eventually gave way to the idea of constitutional governments. These constitutions not only defined limits but also protected liberties. As ideas of what morality meant with regards to slavery grew more opposed to one another, the nation had to split before the issue could be resolved. The recognized "higher principles" of law were so accepted by this time, however, that in only 50 years time, this nation would be ready to fight as a unified whole again in WWI. Because the issue was not effectively enforced, it would again take race riots and legislation to make the intent stand up. While we may not be all the way there, we have made progress. It wasn't an appeal to any anti-slavery writings in the Bible that brought about this moral change. Indeed it was an appeal to the Idea that all men should be created equal under the eyes of the Law.

As is plain to see, this country was founded on the rule of Law, which transcended a mythic religion. Because "Law" is a noumenal aspect of reality, its existence is based on a moral order not beholden to a personal/mythic God or simple empirical evidence. This reasoning does not demand that an atheist believe in God, it only demands that he abide by the moral order, deemed rational, which is a copy from the Moral World/Form, i.e., the model. This is not a God one has to worship or appease. It is simply a God one acknowledges because one recognizes reasonableness. We are able to comprehend our reasonable world because we are endowed with reason. This is really a way of saying that a little bit of the reasonable universe is inside each of us. When we use our reason, we act divinely. Because reason is not empirically real, but noumenally real, it lends itself to the reasonableness of the existence of God.

How to put this within the Deistic idea of God? The simple allegory is to the blind-watchmaker. God created the cosmos and then stepped away. If we incorporate the idea of cosmos to the Greek idea of Kosmos, which includes all aspects of reality, then we conceive of God as having created the phenomenal world, the noumenal world, and possibly the spiritual world at the same time. All of these worlds, set in motion, each with a particular method of operation and means of experiencing them. The five senses for the phenomenal world, the mental abstractions for the noumenal, and, what about…the spiritual? Might such a path include intuition to empathy to telepathy? While worth investigating, I feel it is more important to concentrate on the noumenal, to make it as knowable as the phenomenal is to us now. These worlds include their own methods of operation. The phenomenal is based on physics and the noumenal on realizing the perfection of Ideas. And, what about the spiritual? The possibly may be actualizing the working harmony of the whole and the illusion of the self.

The constant in approaching each of these worlds, however, must be Reason. It's important to recognize the phenomenal workings of the world devoid of mythic conceptions. It's important to recognize the completeness of Ideas devoid of prejudices. It's important to recognize the dissipation of ego without losing oneself to an infinity of emotional pleadings. Each level adds more completeness, but if the lower level is severely deficient of knowledge or understanding, a false belief may arise that sabotages the whole experience and credibility. Say one wanted to begin meditation, because one wanted to gain some experience to the spiritual world. If one learns from an instructor, and the mentored effort actually produces a mystical experience, the credibility of such an instructor is high. Now imagine this instructor gives you a working theory behind the phenomenal correlation. He explains how the activity around a certain portion of your brain associated with polarizing your physical experience to space and time is relaxed to the point where the polarizing effect dissipates. The feeling associated with this dissipation results in the connective feeling one has with all of creation. This instructor's credibility has just gone through the stratosphere based on his knowledge of a phenomenal aspect. In other words, he has appeared more sound because he does not relate the experience to some trans-dimensional travel via a silver chord. If we continue to expose the myths to increase our real understanding, the experience becomes more real, not less. This is why Deists want to see the myths exposed, not the experiences we associate with the existence of God.

Unless, of course, you believe you live in a world constituting a mass of irrationality and absurdity. If such were the case, why would you trust the seasonal patterns, the prediction of eclipses, the car you take to work, the plane you take on vacation. Why respect the trust you put into a friend, the love you give and receive from another? The mythic appeal to a personal God fulfills the need to experience our existence, but not to objectively understand it. The atheistic approach fulfills the rational observation of the world, but not the subjective experience of it. The Deistic approach validates both the subjective and objective experience of reality. It recognizes that although an objective analysis can record the chemical and electrical exchanges within the human body when "elation" is experienced, it cannot tell you the experience or thought or memory that created it in the first place. If we want to know that, we have to resort to asking the individual to relate his experience via communication. We have to relate the communication to our concepts of ideas, and then, if we really want to connect with another's elation, we have to practice some sort of empathy. Of course, if it does not follow that some sort of design is responsible for our comprehension of such things, it is irrational to attempt empathy, to relate language to concepts, to bother studying chemical and electrical interactions. In short, there would have no model to copy.

About the author of Kant's Platonic Revolution in Moral and Political Philosophy:

T.K. Seung

Jesse H. Jones Regents Professor of Liberal Arts, Philosophy, Government and Law

PhD 1965, Yale, BA 1958

Professor Seung's interests range widely over moral and political philosophy, Kant and post-Kantian Continental philosophy, and ancient philosophy. Among his many books are Kant's Platonic Revolution in Moral and Political Philosophy (Johns Hopkins, 1994) and Intuition and Construction: The Foundation of Normative Theory (Yale, 1993).

Copyright © 2002 Travis Clementsmith
Analysis Of The Deist Claim To A Belief In God Through Reason And Nature, Part 2: Nature
by Travis Clementsmith

"When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation."

Thomas Jefferson, The Declaration of Independence

In the first analysis, we took an in-depth look at "Reason", the misconceptions concerning Reason and God, and how Reason is the indispensable guide in the path towards God. Reason is often the Deist's champion. It is the most easily to fall back on because Reason is intimately connected with the accumulation of knowledge on a personal basis.

The problem with Reason and Reason alone is that it is flat. It is initiative with no purpose. It is reckoning without the recognized. It is not even the path less traveled, because there is not yet the path set forth. What I am alluding to, of course, is the "silent partner" in the Deist's definition of Deism. And it is this silence (or ambivalence) that may have been 18th century Deism's fall.

Why did not Deism "catch on" in America the way Thomas Paine had imagined it would? He envisioned a spiritual revolution to coincide with the political ones - the American and French Revolutions. This question has come up often among Deists. Various explanations range from the lack of mass media and communication potential to the general populace's low education level, to the inherent individuality of the religious philosophy to the simple strong hold Christianity still had on the minds of the majority of Americans.

This list could go on, but I think the main culprit may be the lack of development of one of the aspects that define Deism. If Reason is the Deist's guide, Nature is the territory. Perhaps the early Deist's maps were incomplete, and, like Columbus, did not anticipate a huge new territory in the path to God. What is to follow may be somewhat controversial and insulting to the Deist, but if we are afraid to explore the early shortcomings and missed potentialities, Deism may be as dead as the 18th century.

Wilber, in Sex, Ecology, Spirituality, writes:

"The Deists - Toland, Tindal, Voltaire, Rousseau, Jefferson, Franklin - would try to salvage what they could of some sort of God - a God that originally created the world, "wound it up," and then retired from the scene entirely. Unlike Aristotle's Pure Omega God, from which nothing issues but all aspires, the Deist's God was the pure Alpha Source, from which all issued but toward which nothing moves. The two paths of Ascent and Descent at this point had utterly and totally separated, dissociated, divorced, anemic and fractured, with no point of contact, no point even of discourse, let alone integration. And the Deist's God, it soon became obvious, served precisely no function whatsoever, either morally, practically, or even theoretically - and was understandably dropped altogether." [1]

Well, obviously not "altogether," or there wouldn't be us few stragglers trying to revive it! But, in such an attempt, it is important to understand why it was "dropped". In my first analysis I related how the Deist could sufficiently explain a "noumenally real world" of morals in order to explain our appeal to them. This was a Platonic concept of Forms appended to the Deistic idea of Creator. This same sort of surgery may be needed to develop "Nature".

Deism was based on Stoic philosophy. The Stoic idea of God is termed the "Alpha" God. It is the God from which "goodness" flows, and the material creation is the result of that. This is opposed to the Gnostic "Omega" God, which, through the pursuit of the "good," one attained spiritual well being. This is the idea of denying the "physical" creation to know the "spiritual" one.

While the pursuit of the "good" is not denied by Deism (it is, in fact, encouraged) it is left to one's own conscience to pursue it. If the territory is not known to us, then where to pursue it is vague. It is vague because the term "nature" is vague. By defining what we mean by "nature," we not only make the known territory more accessible, it brings into view the undiscovered territory. Once again, relying on outlines by Wilber:

1.) NATURE: The entire Kosmos, the Great Chain of Being, including empirical objective reality, subjective interior reality, and inter-subjective cultural reality.

2.) Nature: The entire sensory and empirical world or cosmos.

3.) nature: as opposed to culture or history; the biosphere (life) as opposed to noosphere (mind) or sensory body versus rational mind. [2]

Perhaps Deists need to understand what "through Nature and Nature's God" mean. Understanding the meaning in these definitions opens up new vistas via Deism.

The understanding and exploration of NATURE should have some property that makes it accessible to Reason. To just say, "God did it", is not a very reasonable explanation. The exterior sensory realms of Physics and Biology have been probed to a great extent and found to work in a complimentary fashion. That is, a theory in biology should not contradict known workings of physics. What constant do we have in these disciplines that might be extended to Psychology, Theology, and Mysticism?

Evolution is the key ingredient. Evolution appears to always move from the simple and fundamental to the complex and deep. It moves from wholes towards being parts of greater wholes, which are in turn parts of even greater wholes, and so on. If we think past the misconception that the only things that are really real are empirically real things, the evolution from matter to life to mind to soul to spirit is a natural evolution. Matter is the most fundamental and has the greatest span while spirit is the most complex with the greatest depth. What was originally thought of as Nature (physics and biology) is Spirit expressing itself, Mind (psychology) is Spirit aware of itself, and Soul and Spirit (theology and mysticism) are Spirit actualizing itself.


It is impossible to say where the smallest unit of physics begins. It was once thought it was atoms, then quarks, now possibly "superstrings". For simplicity, I'll use atoms. Atoms are, in and of themselves, a whole. They have an integrity to them we have termed "atom". But, by becoming a "part" with other atom "parts" they are able to evolve into an element. This element is itself an integral whole. It is more complex than its individual atom parts, but it is incorrect to call an element, just a bunch of atoms. It has properties an individual atom never will. If, however we delete atoms, there are no more elements. If we delete elements there will still be atoms. This is the difference between being fundamental and having more depth. These elements then go on to form molecules. This, of course, is a simplistic summary focusing on the micro, but also works in the macro of physics as well.


At some point, matter makes the great leap to life. Molecules form into single cell organisms that form into cellular organs that make up a complex bio-organism. Take away cells, no organs; take away organs, no organism, but not vice versa. The exact factors for these evolutions are not necessary for our discussion. The important factor to note is the natural hierarchy of things. Note also, "biology" is an evolution of "physics." Take away molecules and the whole biological sphere comes crashing down, but elements and atoms are unaffected. Biology transcends but includes Physics. Biology cannot deny its more fundamental NATURE, it requires it for its own existence even though it is more "valuable" based on its depth.


Biology now makes its great leap into the next great realm, the realm of "Mind". Mind evolves into personal awareness or sentience. Mind itself is not empirical, but few would deny that they have one. This is not to say that Mind does not have biological correlates, just as Biology has its physical correlates. But, just a biological life form, a rose, for instance, is not just a bunch of molecules, the mind is not simply a brain. Mind creates our personae and ego for how we relate to and interpret the creation. It is by these constructs that like sentient beings are able to communicate and form expectations of each other. Each level of transcendence has particular means of interaction. Physics has "like attractors" and energy exchanges, Biology has pheromones and colors, Mind has personae and egos. Mind evolves from images to concepts and opinions to logical faculty (formal operations) to creative vision. Take away images, and there are no concepts, take away concepts there is no logic, take away logic and there is no creative vision, but not vice versa. Mind transcends Biology, which transcends Physics, but take away the more fundamental, the more complex is erased. Remember, although the more complex transcends the more fundamental, it is incorrect to think of it as "bigger". The fundamental has more span, the complex more depth.


As Mind turns form mere observation towards inward reflection, the depths of Soul begin to become known. Wait a cotton pickin' minute! One can't even prove there is a soul! How come you arbitrarily choose to make it so! Fear not. The purpose here is not to empirically prove a soul. We left the empirical world as we transcended to the personal Mind. We are now entering the transpersonal state of awareness. If one doesn't want to explore such, it is their choice; there is no forced exploration in Deism. Nothing presented will offend against the established patterns of the physiosphere, biosphere, or noosphere (Mind). The exploration of the soul is nothing more than knowing the inner "I" of existence. It does not require ectoplasm or physical death. Without even realizing it, we have already immortalized the inner "I" in everyday speech. When we ask things like, What would 'I' be like if 'I' had been born to different parents, raised in a different location or culture or economic class?" "Where was 'I' before 'I' was born; where will 'I' go when 'I' die?" "Why do 'I' do the things 'I' do?" Notice how the "I" seems to be beyond time, culture, desires and emotions. The exploration of Soul transcends from the archetypical images of Jung (world culture consciousness) to the impersonal witness (Oversoul). It is the actualization of "I have personae, ego, and mind, but I am not personae, ego, or mind." Once again, if we take away the creative vision of the mind, the soul is not actualized. But, if the Jungian archetypes are not actualized, the creative vision of mind is unaffected. If Deism allows one to explore God via the dictates of their own conscience, then this is an acceptable outline. It does not require belief in a revealed religion to understand one's own soul; it is a personal exploration, although it does not prohibit one from seeking the tutelage of another as to methods to attain such. The important aspect is that the experience revealed is not dictated to you, it is yours to discern. Because this is the point where most have difficulty in pursuing, we will discuss its first manifestation, "Nature Mysticism" at length. What follows Nature Mysticism, Subtle Mysticism, is simply a deeper level of awareness. A brief overview of the next stage will be given before we return to this subject.


This word strikes the greatest hesitation in inner depth exploration. Images of wizards and experimental drug cults often come up. In other words, people who seem to have no grasp on reality. Most wouldn't expect names like Einstein, Heisenberg, Planck or Eddington associated with mysticism, but they were. R.D. Laing is quoted as observing, "Mystics and schizophrenics find themselves in the same ocean, but the mystic swims whereas the schizophrenics drown." In the book, Why God Won't Go Away, neurobiologists, Andrew Newberg, MD, and Eugene D'Aquili PhD, explain the differences between psychotic episodes and mystical experiences despite similarities of unusual thoughts and behaviors:

"For example, while both states may be accompanied by religious visions, voices, and other unusual events, mystics and psychotics respond to their experience in dramatically different ways. Mystics almost always describe their experiences as ecstatic and joyful, and the spiritual unity that they claim to achieve is most often described using words such as "serenity," "wholeness," "transcendence," and "love." Psychotics, on the other hand, are often confused and terribly frightened by their religious hallucinations, which are often highly distressing in nature and often include the presence of an angry, reproachful God.

Similarly, both mystics and psychotics experience what seems to be a break with normal reality. For mystics, this period of withdrawal is welcomed and even longed for. When the separation ends and they return to "normal" reality, they are able to share their experiences coherently with others, and to once again function effectively in society. For the psychotic, however, withdrawal from normal reality is an involuntary and usually distressing occurrence. Delusional psychotic states can last for years, and they inevitably drive their victims into progressively deeper states of social isolation. Mystics, on the other hand, are often among the most respected and effective members of some societies.

Finally, mystics and psychotics tend to have very different interpretations of the meaning of their experiences. Psychotics in delusional states often have feelings of religious grandiosity and inflated egotistical importance - they see themselves, for example, as special emissaries from God, blessed with an important message for the world, or with the spiritual power to heal. Mystical states, on the other hand, usually involve a loss of pride or ego, a quieting of the mind, and an emptying of the self - all of which is required before the mystic can become a suitable vessel for God." [3]

Mysticism is the practice where the transpersonal witness itself dissolves into unity consciousness with Spirit, or non-duality. People experience brief glimpses of such without even realizing it. Have you ever appeared to have "stared off" with no recognition of even yourself only to have to snap back and apologize for your apparent "space cadet" state? What was that? Why did you have to consciously snap out of it? Were you at any point really "not aware"? Believe it or not, all were not simply "momentary lapses of reason" but the actualization of the highest reason of all. Does it appear too good to be true? Fair enough. But, that may only be because you have not considered such explorations. If one does not want to waste their time with such explorations, then so be it. But tell the same people you don't believe in Darwinian evolution, they will ask if you have ever bothered to study it, and if you reply that I don't want to waste my time with it, get ready for the tongue lashing. We are always puzzled why some people don't want to come to the same level of understanding some currently hold, but are always defensive about exploring a level of understanding they don't have. Maybe, in order for these people to feel wise, they have to establish the "acceptable" boundary of knowledge, which is their own personal limit. As Schopenhauer said, "Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world." Spiritual explorations have been classified as Causal Mysticism and Nondual Mysticism.

It is important to note that to explore any of these aspects of NATURE, one does not have to join a cult, die, or give up all their worldly possessions. One does not even need to discard their persona or ego. They simply don them when it suits their purpose. The important distinction is that they are no longer attached to them. Exploring depth in NATURE is liberating oneself from the constraints of "reality". This doesn't mean one has to change jobs, or drop out of society, or personal responsibilities. Enlightenment is nothing more than being fully aware of the here and now without laments of the past or anticipations of the future. You can experience enlightenment listening to music, enjoying an activity, or even doing a mundane chore, as long as one is focused on their present state of awareness. No need for a divine godman for that, now is there?

Nature or Psychic Mysticism

Who could we use as an example of what a practice to actualize one's soul might entail? For the Deist, one would want an individual that doesn't appear to be overly compromised by a revealed religion. Someone of some repute not only as a mystic but as a distinguished scholar in American history (for American Deists, of course), but who's findings wouldn't necessarily be confined to Americans. We have such an American teacher in Ralph Waldo Emerson. Educated at Harvard, and initially trained to be a priest, Emerson came to the conclusions of the shortcomings and lack of true spiritual understanding within its dogma. Emerson has been credited as severing the link to British intellectual and social thought and establishing a uniquely American pursuit of such with his essay, The American Scholar. The essay we will mostly draw from, however, is appropriately entitled Nature.

Emerson's essay Nature is divided into eight sections, of which we will discuss five. His introduction sets the current state of affairs. Namely, that it is retrospective. Emerson maintains that man's mystical or spiritual downfall is twofold. One, that we have given all spiritual inquiry to past personages, either real or imagined, and don't believe there is anything left for us to uncover, and thus explore. Two, that we have substituted pure empirical observation of what has become in the method of "description" as our "new" knowledge. This serves as something novel for us because it appears those sages of old could not have comprehended "things" the way we have expanded upon them today.

The second may indeed be true. But the search for this type of knowledge required it to be studied separately and without personal attachments. So, in our zeal to describe as much as we can see, we forgot, and then abandoned how that knowledge was supposed to help us understand our "selves". In fact, the "self" was no longer considered of much import. It was regulated to a mere side effect, an afterthought, to the grand "bigness" of the universe. We had thus made the "Pursuit of Knowledge of Nature" our God, as opposed to the understanding of Nature's God.


In his first chapter, Emerson lays out the distinction between Nature and NATURE. He remarks how most observe the former and then mistake it as the latter. The true experience of NATURE, however, does not require Nature. It (Nature) is simply an expression of Spirit (NATURE). NATURE, therefore, is not Nature, but rather Nature is expressed "through" NATURE. This is why the Deist says his belief in God is "through Nature" and not "of Nature", and why Jefferson distinguishes "of Nature's God" from "the Laws of Nature". Emerson then divides Nature into four classes.

"To speak truly, few adult persons can see nature. Most persons do not see the sun. At least they have a very superficial seeing ... . Crossing a bare common, in snow puddles, at twilight, under a clouded sky, without having in my thoughts any occurrence of special good fortune, I have enjoyed a perfect exhilaration. I am glad to the brink of fear. ... . Within these plantations of God, a decorum and sanctity reign, a perennial festival is dressed, and the guest sees not how he should tire of them in a thousand years. In the woods, we return to reason and faith. There I feel that nothing can befall me in life, - no disgrace, no calamity, which nature cannot repair. Standing on the bare ground, - all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eyeball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of Universal Being circulate through me; I am part and parcel of God." [4]


Here Emerson lays out the benefits of Nature. He explains that it is the result of what has occurred and that all men are able to perceive it. It is what Paine called the only "true revelation" or "miracle" in the sense it could be witnessed by anyone. Emerson explains that it's (Nature's) purpose is ministry to man. It is there for man to experience and to use. It is from this great symbol (Nature) that man will gain his clues to the understanding or communing with God.

"Nature, in its ministry to man, is not only the material, but also the process and the result. All the parts incessantly work into each other's hands for the profit of man." [5]


The next function of Nature is to give some idea as to the essence of "Beauty". He says it accomplishes this by 1.) The simple delights in perceptions of natural forms, 2.) the presence of a higher, namely, of the spiritual element essential to its perfection, and 3.) how it is viewed as it becomes an object of the intellect.

The first is the lowest type of "seeing". It is our empirical "refresher." When the monotony of work or the city life has become too much, many find a rejuvenating quality in watching the sunset, the clouds, or the birds. The problem with this sort of "seeing" is that it is temporal, it will pass, and one day, it may not be there at all.

Reflecting on this, we proceed to a higher type of "seeing" or comprehending. We marvel not just at the physical objects, but also at the complexity and natural balance, or symmetry, behind the outward manifestations. Many complex things constantly changing form that give the impression of seamless cohesion, of unity. It is in this type of seeing we begin to identify beyond just "ourselves" and feel the connection one has with all of creation embodied in the Soul:

"We see the world piece by piece, as the sun, the moon, the animal, the tree; but the whole, of which these are shining parts, is the soul [the Over-Soul, the World-Soul] ... . And this deep power in which we exist and whose beatitude is all accessible to us, is not only self-sufficing and perfect in every hour, but the act of seeing and the thing seen, the seer and the spectacle, the subject and the object, are one." [6]

That is the beginning of the third type of "seeing." If we continue this contemplative mood, we may reach a point where we are no longer just perceiving, but part of the perceived. A "transparent eye" as he describes it, where we seem to exist only in "thought." We recognize that all we are "seeing" in the first two types are only interpretations by the Intellect itself. When we realize that our "awareness" finds its closest source in Intellect, we see more clearly that the answers to the question of who am "I", are not to be found by looking more at the "about", but by looking more at the "within."


"Language is a third use which Nature subserves to man. Nature is the vehicle of thought, and in a simple, double, and threefold degree. 1.) Words are signs of material facts. 2.) Particular natural facts are symbols of particular spiritual facts, and 3.) Nature is the symbol of spirit." [7]

What are words? Their only purpose is to relay concepts and emotions that are "experienced" by someone to someone else's "experience". They are therefore symbols. What do we have to relate symbols to but Nature? We identify "strait" with "right" and "twisted" with "wrong". We identify "thought" with the "head" and "emotion" with the "heart." But this is certainly not the same as saying a strait stick is right and a twisted stick is wrong or that the heart is emotion and the head is thought.

Instead, we proceed by relating these words into meanings. We use natural facts to help relay these spiritual or internal feelings and emotions.

"An enraged man is a lion, a cunning man is a fox, a firm man is a rock, and a learned man is a torch. A lamb is innocence; a snake is subtle spite; flowers express to us delicate affections. Light and darkness are our familiar expressions for knowledge and ignorance; and heat for love. Visible distances behind and before us, is respectively our image of memory and hope." [8]

But for some reason we expect to gain greater insights by dissecting the symbols, or Nature, than probing the source of the true meanings behind them, or NATURE.

Because one cannot experience another's experience, how to relate a path to higher understanding is most easily accomplished by using Nature as the symbol of spirit. Thus we have parables, proverbs, fables, and allegories. The problem with these vehicles is that they have the dangerous quality of being worshipped themselves as opposed to helping one understand oneself. This is the basis of mythic or revealed religions. They have tried to make the allegories historical. This is why one can arbitrarily find a "truth" and an absurdity" in the same passage. The "truth" is in attempting to understand the allegory; the "absurdity" is making it historical, and thus authoritative. Why should "history" be our authority? Was "virtue," "love," and "courage" worn out by history or historical figures? How could our hope for what "is" or "is to be" only be found in the past? Emerson asks:

"All that Adam had, all that Caesar could, you have and can do." [9]

The soul that animated them is the same soul that runs through you. Would you bow to these people when it would be, in essence, bowing to your own soul? The soul animates you for your present existence, not the past's.

"If therefore a man claims to know and speak of God and carries you backward to the phraseology of some old mouldered nation in another country, in another world, believe him not. Is the acorn better than the oak which is the fullness and completion? Whence then this worship of the past? The centuries are conspirators against the sanity and authority of the Soul. Time and space are but physiological colors which the eye makes, but the soul is light: where it is, is day; where it was, is night; and history is an impertinence and an injury if it be anything more than a cheerful apologue or parable of my being and becoming." [10]


The last class of Nature is discipline. It is the education of the Understanding and the Reason.

"The understanding adds, divides, combines, measures, and finds nutriment and room for the activity in this worthy scene. Meantime, Reason transforms all these lessons into its own world of thought, by perceiving the analogy that marries Matter and Mind." [11]

The first subset is what we now think of as "the sciences." It is the collection of data from the empirical world in order to better know its working and interactions. Knowledge of this sort helps to ensure a healthier and lengthier existence. It is important and fascinating in and of itself. But it does not disclose NATURE itself. For that we must go to the second subset.

NATURE is disclosed through a transcendental quality, not mere observation. The old adage, "If a tree fell in a forest with no one around, would it make a sound?" is the principle here. If the expression, (the physical reality), doesn't have a receptor (the senses) and a reflector (the mind), is it there at all? All sensation is touch. Sound waves touch the ear, light waves the eye, odors the nose, etc. But even these organs do not "interpret." They collect the messages, which is transferred to the brain, where it is organized and then interpreted by the mind. The mind makes sense out of the sensations, establishes patterns and continuity into unity. Why an appeal to unity? It is because unity is the fundamental nature of things. Or, to put it in contemporary terms, "Nature abhors a vacuum." We have the appearance of boundaries, but no thing is ever truly separate, there are only areas where things meet.

"All goes to show that the soul in man is not an organ, but animates and exercises all the organs; is not a function, like the power of memory, of calculation, of comparison, but uses these as hands and feet; is not a faculty, but a light; is not the intellect or the will, but the master of the intellect and the will; is the background of our being, in which they lie, - an immensity not possessed and that cannot be possessed. From within or from behind, a light shines through us upon things and makes aware that we are nothing, but the light is all." [12]

Agency Versus Communion

Every natural transcendence is a struggle between a whole's agency (or autonomy) versus it's increased potential as a part in a greater whole (community). The more complex the form, the greater it's desire to remain autonomous will be. Concurrently, increased complexity of a whole will also reveal a greater utility in a particular type of communion. And so this tug-of-war ensues. How much of one's self will one sacrifice for a greater whole. A tree cares not if it is regarded as "a tree" or part of "a forest". This is because it has not developed into the psychological sphere of being. A psyche, on the other hand, because it is self-aware, may deeply resent and resist any invitation to become part of a greater whole.

The psyche, aware of its own existence, has self-preservation as one of its most basic instincts. Even the law recognizes that if placed in a situation where only one of two individuals can survive, each individual has as much right to choose their own existence over another's. But, the person who voluntarily and without much ado sacrifices themselves for another individual's existence is viewed upon as "nobler". This is because (excluding a person with a death wish) the person who sacrificed their self recognizes something greater than their self in the sacrifice. This is the philosophy behind military cohesion. Members will voluntarily sacrifice themselves, place themselves in harm's way, for the "idea" of the group, that the group will be accomplish things the individual never will.

Death may be the greatest sacrifice, but it is not the only one. As a member of a family, the individual will make personal sacrifices for the higher identity of "family." As long as the family also allows the individual it's personal developments while within the construct of "family", a healthy understanding of both will ensue. When we tell someone who does not have direct blood ties that "You are family to me.", it is relating to that person that they would make sacrifices for them that they would not normally sacrifice to just any individual.

These are examples of who the individual "psyche" begins to view it's "self" as part of a larger common "whole". It is within this concept that the idea of "Soul" becomes a little easier to comprehend. It is an embrace not just of one's self, or family, or country, but of all the creation in its entirety. This doesn't mean that one doesn't get angry with or disappointed with aspects of that greater family, or that it won't have the capability of feeling the disappointment and hurt of it more deeply as well. People who "speak from the soul" seem to have grasped some air of authority that is beyond their individual selves.

An example of this type of awareness can be demonstrated using George Washington. Washington had that transcendent quality about him that made the "whole" of his being more important than the individual "part" that was his ego. Many believe it was his personality-plus that kept the Continental Army together. Joseph Ellis, in his book, Founding Brothers, describes it as such:

"Washington was the core of gravity that prevented the American Revolution from flying off into random orbits, the stable center around which the revolutionary energies formed. As one popular toast of the day put it, 'the man who unites all hearts.' He was the American Zeus, Moses, and Cincinnatus all rolled into one." [13]

His presence transcended the political squabbles, it transcended even individuals whose personal belief systems were different than his own. Many of Washington's Christian contemporaries enquired as to his religion, hoping he would admit the Christian revelation as central to his own being. He never did. They could not, however, disparage his character, having to reluctantly admit he was neither a communicant nor a professing believer, but a just and honorable man all the same. No one, however, doubted that he was a man of a certain faith, a faith that engendered him with an almost Olympian quality. As noted by the Rev. Dr. Wilson in one of his sermons: "Washington was a man of valor and wisdom. He was esteemed by the whole world as a great and good man; but he was not a professing Christian." [14]

And as supported by Thomas Jefferson:

"Dr. Rush told me (he had it from Asa Green) that when the clergy addressed General Washington, on his departure from the government, it was observed in their consultation that he had never, on any occasion, said a word to the public which showed a belief in the Christian religion, and they thought they should so pen their address as to force him at length to disclose publicly whether he was a Christian or not. However, he observed, the old fox was too cunning for them. He answered every article of their address particularly, except that, which he passed over without notice." [15]

When he alluded to his officers he would not accept an emperor status at the close of the Revolutionary War, for the advancement of the "idea" about what this nation should be, even George III himself was amazed. He was said to have remarked, "If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world." Washington's concept of this source, he often called "Providence," allowed him to be beyond just "George Washington". Benjamin Rush said, "He has so much martial dignity in his deportment, that there is not a king in Europe but would look like a valet de chamber by his side." [16] He was known in 1776 (before there was a country) as the "Father of the Country", a tag that resonates to this day.

So, transcendence and identity with the soul is not the dissipation of ego. It is, rather, beyond ego. It is personality-plus. This plus is the ability to see even beyond one's own ego as something owned, not beholden to. It allowed Washington to resist the temptations of "Emperor" or "President-For-Life" because his ego was not the most important aspect about him. This wasn't just some show of humility, for it resonated with people the way deception never will. Identifying with and speaking from a "collective soul" is more, not less. And this is why development and explorations of such are fruitful. Emerson describes any human such as Washington thus:

"A man is the façade of a temple wherein all wisdom and all good abide. What we commonly call man [as an "individual person" or ego], the eating, drinking, counting man, does not, as we know him, represent himself, but misrepresents himself. Him we do not respect, but the soul, whose organ he is, if he would let it appear through his action, would make our knees bend. When it breathes through his intellect, it is genius; when it breathes through his will, it is virtue; when it flows through his affection, it is love. And the blindness of the intellect begins when it would be something of itself [be as "own person"]. The weakness of the will begins when the individual would be something of himself. All reform aims in some other particular to let the soul have its way through us ... ." [17]

"But when, following the invisible steps of thought, we come to inquire, whence is matter? And Whereto? Many truths arise to us out of the recesses of consciousness. We learn that the highest is present to the soul of man; that the dread universal essence, which is not wisdom, or love, or beauty, or power, but all in one, and each entirely is that for which all things exist, and that by which they are; that spirit creates; that behind nature, throughout nature, spirit is present; one and not compound it does not act upon us from without, that is, in space and time, but spiritually, or through ourselves: therefore, that spirit ... does not build up nature around us, but puts it forth through us, as the life of the tree puts forth new branches and leaves through the pores of the old." [18]

Wilber correctly sums up Emerson's mysticism as follows:

"Here, then, is a summary of the widely accepted interpretation of Emerson's view: (1) nature is not Spirit but a symbol of Spirit (or a manifestation of Spirit); (2) sensory awareness in itself does not reveal Spirit but obscures it; (3) an ascending or transcendental current is required to disclose Spirit; (4) Spirit is understood only as nature is transcended (i.e., Spirit is immanent in nature, but fully discloses itself only in a transcendence of nature - in short, Spirit transcends but includes nature). Those points are largely uncontested by Emerson scholars." [19])

Why Distinctions Are Important

When we understand "transcendence" and its principles of "include but transcend" or "some of the higher is in the lower, but none of the lower is in the higher," we can better make some distinctions when discussing some controversial issues. One such issue is Intelligent Design. As a matter of Deistic Theology, it is a centerpiece. But, as far as having it taught in science classes, most Deists are opposed. Understanding the transcendent nature of these spheres makes it easier to distinguish this apparent "conflict of interest."

Because the Biosphere is at a lower level of transcendence, none of it (biology) is in the higher, in this case, theology. One does not have to have any appeal to a divine source in order to study and reconstruct the principles of biological interaction. Because biology, as laid out in this essay, has been termed only an expression of nature, and therefore empirical, only things that are empirically observable are required for the study of biology. Because some of the higher, biology is in the lower, physics, it may use principles of physics to support its findings. For example, the biological organism uses gravity, principles in atmospheric pressure, pumps, and contractors and other mechanisms to move vital fluids and gases through the body. The "autonomous brain" regulates these systems, but "mind" is not required to validate them. And if the realm of psychology isn't required to explore or explain physics or biology in and of their selves, then certainly theology or mysticism are not required as well.

Once again, the preceding was presented only for the inquiry of the interested. I am quite aware there are Deists who will never have a need to explore such issues, and that is quite all right. On the other hand, it would be incorrect for such Deists to criticize other Deists for such pursuits. Nothing about what has been presented contradicts the known discoveries of science and psychology.

One may ask, "Why bother?" That question will be left up to each individual Deist. The three great areas of life (pre-personal or body, personal or mind, and transpersonal or soul) are always present, and it is up to the individual what areas will be developed and to what extent. Some will overemphasize one over the other(s) such as the "health-nut", the "study-geek", or the "space cadet". But emphasizing the body does not mean one does not use the mind or experience the soul. Because one over pursues intellectual knowledge does not mean one does not need nourishment or creative release. Because one seemingly always has their head in the sky does not mean they no longer require a healthy body or inquisitive mind.

I, personally, have always been of the opinion that all three need to be exercised. Some have the misconception, that simply because they exist, these faculties will come to fruition all on their own, especially the soul. I think that is a holdover from mythic religion that assures one that if they only have "faith", God will take care of the rest. God helps those who help themselves, and that includes one's spiritual development as well. If life is a theater, physics is the stage, biology are the props, psychology are the actors and director, theology is the audience. And mysticism ... is simply the experience of and the immersion in the theater itself. So, maintain a strong stage, develop great props, embellish your roles, and watch and enjoy the drama that is your creation!

"Life is the soul's opportunity and adventure!"

Sources and Notes:

[1] Ken Wilber, Sex, Ecology, Spirituality, p. 424.

[2] Ken Wilber, Sex, Ecology, Spirituality, p. 454.

[3] Andrew Newberg, Eugene D’Aquili & Vince Rause, Why God Won’t Go Away, p. 109-110.

Note: All Emerson quotes are taken from The Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson in One Volume, Black’s Readers Service Company, NY, NY.

[4] Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature, p. 529.

[5] Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature, p. 530.

[6] Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Over-Soul, p. 174.

[7] Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature, p. 534.

[8] Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature, p. 535.

[9] Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature, p. 554.

[10] Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance, p. 105.

[11] Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature, p.539.

[12] Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Over-Soul, p. 174.

[13] Joseph J. Ellis, Founding Brothers, p. 121

[14] John Remsburg, Six Historic Americans-George Washington, 1831 sermon published in the Albany Daily Adviser,

[15] Thomas Jefferson, Jefferson’s Works, Vol. IV, p. 572.

[16] Joseph J. Ellis, Founding Brothers, p. 124.

[17] Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Over-Soul, p. 174-175.

[18] Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature, p. 549.

[19] Ken Wilber, Sex, Ecology, Spirituality, p. 297-298.

Copyright © 2002 Travis Clementsmith
Consciousness Unfolding
by Travis Clementsmith

I understand that sometimes it would seem better if religion had never developed, but I think it was as inevitable and yet necessary for it to unfold the way it did. Just as an individual goes through different growth levels in awareness, so does a society, just at a much slower pace.

Wishing to go back and cut out the particular level that we presently find revolting, however, would undermine everything that evolves afterward. The level to which an individual grows to and then a little beyond is relative to the level that the overall society has also evolved to. The higher the level of consciousness of a society, the further they will include those aspects deemed important to that society.

For example, and this a rough outline: A child begins by first learning the distinction between themselves and their environment, then between themselves and others. Later the environment is understandable in a magical context that proceeds to a myhtical context that proceeds to a rational context that then produces what we hope is the leading edge of consciousness termed genius, gifted, or visionary, that is, vision logic.

This is our society today, which is, numbers relative, a mythic to rational based society (speaking of the U.S. or Western Euro). During the Middle Ages, The leading edge of society was mythic, with the general population of a magical to mythical understanding.

During hunter-gatherer type civilization, magic was the leading edge of consciousness (shamanism), while the majority of the population was still muddling about trying to comprehend the roles as "others".

Although it may appear as though revealed religion is winning out these days, I don't think so. I think it is making its last big grasp to hang on to its power base and influence on society. I think it will also take a reasonable approach to the concept of spirituality before large numbers of people begin to leave their mythic memberships. People intuitively know there is more to life than scientism has to offer, but also know that science is an invaluable method towards understanging what has become, just not what is becoming. As spiritual sciences evolve, finally divorced of their mythological tags, the next level of consciousness unfolding will become. Imagine a society where genius is what is expected to be developed, not which seems to occur sporadically. This is not to say that all of our problems will be solved. With each new expansion into understanding brings also a new level of problems that were simply not known or understood to have occured. But, that is evolution.

Remember, the Macedonians thought Alexander was a God. He convinced them that he was by performing a divine power in front of his troops. He took a parchment that had many magical runes on them, focused on them, and divined what their intention was. In other words, he "read" in front of them. Now "reading" is a common function of our divinity that we view as commonplace and about as magical as speaking. How much more of our divinity will become commonplace, and, what is to come that will seem to us, magical ... ?

Copyright © 2002 Travis Clementsmith
A Perspective Of God'S Will
by Travis Clementsmith

I think it's dangerous to think in terms of "God's will". I mean this only in the sense of personal purposiveness. If it is meant as the simple continuation of forces It set in motion, I have no problem with it.

I think life is there for the experience of such, and that that experience includes a drive to actualize ourselves. I believe there are no boundaries in reality except for the ones we create. We continually create boundaries to establish safe zones, and then hopefully transcend them. Some of these boundaries are difficult to see past, especially the "skin boundary". I think Internet forums are a kind of surrogate for escaping that boundary, on a limited basis. The free exchange of ideas without another recognizable biological component speaking them, just pure thought. And when we attempt to internalize another post, we make that post a part of ourselves.

When I meditate, I don't ask questions because it tends to distract me from the experience I seek. There is an old Eastern proverb that goes, "Those that know, do not speak; those that speak, do not know." Or as Plato related, that there is that part of philosophy that can never be related but will always remain fractured footnotes to true knowledge.

I love pondering such questions, but my closest proximities to God come from the experiencing of life, not the relation of it. It's like looking at a mountain, and all of sudden there is no "you", only the mountain, and there is no separation. Or being swept away by music, and there is no "you", only the music, and there is no separation. For me it occurs in the "perfect golfswing" as it does in hearing my three-year old giggle uncontrollably. There is no way I can tell someone how to do that, it just does. It is simply beautiful, true, and good without effort or need to be so.

The universe is aptly named, it means "one song". It doesn't just have the objective elements of manipulated air vibrations, or subjective elements of words and notes combined into meaning, but also the aesthetic quality, or beauty, when it is well sung. When those three things mesh together, as in song, it may not be what we generally think of as "divine", but maybe what we hope it will be.

Copyright © 2002 Travis Clementsmith
Deists As Detectives In A Court Case Analogy
by Jay Boswell

In talking with current Deists via the Internet, I occasionally hear concerns about where does Deism fit into the spectrum of philosophies and religions, in what direction is it going, and with what other philosophies and religions is it most aligned. Deism as I see it is grounded in science and adaptable in its perspective of how a Creator might have been involved with the beginning of our universe and the living organisms which sprang from it. The Theory of Evolution and mechanistic views of motion have pushed God's involvement back to the Big Bang, but the General Theory of Relavity and Thermodynamic Entropy suggest the universe is finite in size, steadily degrading in useable energy, and likely finite in lifespan. With these factors in mind, Deists usually conclude that the forces, energies, and matter that went into shaping the universe have not been eternally in existence, and that and as yet, nothing known in this universe has been self-created, thus we have the belief based on circumstantial evidence that there was some external Creator (God) or causal agent.

This process of thinking can be compared to a detective in a judicial court case in which the case for God's existence is on trial. The Deist would be analogous to the detective that collects and examines physical evidence from a crime scene, completely after the act has been committed. Anyone who has watched detective shows on American TV has seen detectives portrayed from rural sheriffs and police officers such as in "In The Heat Of The Night"; to overcoat-wearing, big city inquirers like in "Columbo"; to teams of forensic scientists in fully-equipped labs such as in "CSI". The Deist detective discovers and examines physical evidence and draws as strongly as possible a decision of who and what caused the events by how and when. Once he/she reaches a conclusion, the case is turned over to the prosecuting attorney for the trial.

In this analogous trial, the prosecuting attorney is the traditional religionist, such as a Christian, who is in agreement with the Deist detective about the existence of God, the defendant, but might be more zealous in promoting or proving its existence. The prosecutor usually seeks to bring in supportive eye-witnesses, which are comparable to fundamentalist religionists like many Christians who claim to know God and be His witness. The defense lawyer is analogous to the Atheist, whose interest it is to argue that God does not exist, and whose cross-examination has thus far rendered the eye-witnesses' accounts as shaky and unreliable. The Deist detective at this point is already reasonably satisfied with his/her conclusion and is not dependent on trial witness' evidence. The judge and jury in this court case are analogous to Agnostics who must and should sit in a position of neutrality until all evidence has been presented, and belief beyond a reasonable doubt is found, which has not occurred in real life as of yet.

After reviewing the previous analogy, I realize that I might have given the impression that Deists are in a legal or formal alliance with traditional religionists such as Christians when that is not the situation. They share the common ideals of a belief in God and that the universe was created, including the possibility of it having a purpose. In real legal situations Deists have been allied with other freethinkers including Atheists and Agnostics for the common goal of keeping government from getting involved in religion, and when it does, that it doesn't play favorites. It is interesting to note that when Christians have been legal combatants against Deists and other freethinkers, such as in cases of teaching Biblical creationism in public schools or maintaining the words "under God" in the U.S. Pledge Of Allegiance; Christians have tried to borrow Deism's good name and ideas to gain favor by claiming the Pledge is "ceremonial Deism" and that their Theistic creationism should be called the work of an "intelligent designer".

Copyright © 2003 Jay Boswell
General And Special Revelation
by Eric Sherman

The purpose of a revelation is to tell us something we don't know or can't know. Should God reveal something about himself it would be because it is a mystery or unclear to those whom he is revealing himself. If, according to the Judeo-Christian tradition, God is wholly different than his creatures and directly imperceptible by the sensual faculties of man how can we KNOW God as he is? There are two possibilities: 1) If God gave us additional faculties to experience him as he truly is or 2) If God were to reveal himself to us

These two possibilities are really one and the same. For to apprehend God or a revelation from him who is supernatural, we would need supernatural faculties in order to perceive him. Thus anyone who has claimed to be given a revelation from God is either claiming to possess a set of supernatural faculties that humans do not possess otherwise or that the revelation(s) were situated in a way that were naturally graspable. In other words, God adapted himself to ideas that man can understand so that he might know something about God he could not come to know through reason alone. If it is the latter, what distinguishes the difference between revelations given BY God from the revelations this person has ABOUT God? In other words, What is the difference between visions given BY God than hallucinations ABOUT God? How does one distinguish one from the other?

Many since the time of Jesus have declared "dreams, visions and revelations" from God, Jesus and the Saints, informing mankind of new teachings, prohibitions, etc, etc. all of which are generally discounted as spurious. If we discount modern day revelations why do we give credence to ancient ones? What reasons are there for doing so? What makes one person's professed revelation superior to another person's professed revelation especially when claimant's religion that profess special revelations from God end up being contradictive? It is precisely these considerations that make the claims of special revelations highly dubious.

Moreover, what further complicates the nature of special revelation is that in most cases the mystery is compounded not clarified. Many revealed religions proclaim something about the nature of God that unaided reason cannot arrive at and at the same time postpones clarification of that mystery for a distant dispensation.

Finally, the most persuasive apsect against revealed religions is their geo-historical limitations. Every professed religion in which a revelation of God is given for ALL of mankind is given to a person or group of persons in a historical and geographical setting. This complicates the matter for if God, the creator of all mankind, reveals himself to one part of humanity and not the rest, what does this say of God? That he is arbitrary and ultimately unjust for if what it is he is revealing to a small part of humanity is the criterion that ALL men will be judged by this makes his judgments baseless, unfair and cruel. In summary, the idea of revealed religions and/or special revelation is problematic for these reasons 1) the subjective, second hand nature of the revelation 2) the geo-historical limitations of revelation and 3) the provincial nature of the revelation that renders the culpability criterion unjust.

For the Deist, General Revelation is the means and medium in which God has revealed something of himself to all people, since the beginning of time, namely through 3 primary means 1) nature, 2) conscience and 3) experience.
1. Nature. Because nature is viewed as being created by God what we learn about nature is learning something indirectly about God.
2. Conscience. Because mankind is differentiated from animals in that we are moral in nature, the Deist takes this as a clue about his relationship to God as a moral governor.
3. Experience. Because man is not only a rational, intelligent being but also a being of emotions, the Deist posits the idea that man can experience God through direct apprehension, intution and feelings.

This said, the superiority of General Revelation (GR) to Special Revelation (SR) can be summarized as follows: 1. GR is universally accessible, at all times and places. SR is not. 2. GR is first-handedly experienced. SR is first-handed only to the one recieving the revelation, but second handed to all others. 3. SR dogmatically asserts the nature of God. GR reasons about God's nature analogically. GR recognizes the deity of God and constructs analogies to say something about God, albeit not comprehensively. 4. SR asserts God as the cause of natural diasters. GR attributes natural disasters to natural causes (For example: According to SR, God destroys and drowns the whole world. God is the cause of calmities. According to GR, an earthquake is not CAUSED by God, but is rather part of a naturalistic chain of events in God's created order).

Copyright © 2003 Eric Sherman
What Can We Learn About Our Creator From Our Own Reasoning?
by Peter Hilbig

This is the first in a series of essays which will seek insight on our Creator we call God, based on current scientific theories and their implications. Hopefully the reader will be able to use them to build a personal mental picture. [Editor's Note: The author invites other authors to write their own sections to add to this series.]

Part 1: Omnipotence

Current scientific theory states that the universe came into being some billions of earth years ago in an event called The Big Bang. Since time and space came into being with this event, it is incorrect to speak of anything 'before' that.

On the face of it that barrier seems impenetrable. Our knowledge of the universe is one of cause and effect, and the cause must always come 'before' the effect. We must bear this in mind as we consider the following. We deists believe that our Creator is responsible for the Big Bang so what can we infer? [Editor's Note: The frequent calling of God a "he" is used to conform to a traditional and easy to understand convention; the author acknowledges that many Deists do not describe any type of form or gender to God.]

1. He creates time, space, energy and matter.
2. He creates all the laws which govern our universe.
3. These things come into being at the point of the Big Bang.

Most importantly we must consider logic. It has been held in the past that because we see order and logic in the universe, then our Creator must be ordered and logical. But is this true? The universe is logical to us in most respects. Notable exceptions are

1. 'Before' its beginning
2. 'After' its end
3. The 'edge' of space.

This implies that our Creator also creates logic to go with our universe, and leaves some tantalizing loose ends 'outside' it for us to contemplate. This is sound reasoning if the Creator is omnipotent.

An omnipotent Creator is not subject to logic. Is the Creator bound by laws not of his making? No, he is his own master. Does the Creator have a form which can be seen? No, he creates light and matter for us and our universe. Does the Creator have a spiritual form which exists in time and space? None that we know of, he creates time and space for our universe. It is not necessary that he dwell in time and space. Any attempt to assign him any sort of form is futile. Only he can create a form to be perceived by us.

He is the creator of logic, therefore the creator of all concepts we know of. True and false are his creations, with these we can reason the universe. But we cannot use them to reason beyond the Creator. The story ends there. The concepts of 'something' and 'nothing' are his creations. We cannot reason, for example, that nothingness can exist beyond our universe. Mathematics and physics are his creations. Our concept of good and evil is his creation. We cannot reason that the Creator himself is 'good'. Even our concept of a God is a result of the logic he has given to the universe.

Observation of the universe and deduction tell us that logic is a part of Creation. We cannot say that the Creator must himself be logical. It is not necessary for instance that he have a purpose for us, but for a start we can reason the extent of his power, and appreciate and bow to his authority.

Most non-believers reason that they do not believe because the Creator does not show himself. This essay is written to offer one reason why he does not. He does not because nothing would be an adequate representation in our limited logical world; nothing, except perhaps his works, both seen and unseen. These we must continue to explore. I would like to encourage all scientists, philosophers and theologians to contemplate what omnipotence means.

Copyright © 2004 Peter Hilbig
What Can We Learn About Our Creator From Our Own Reasoning?
by Peter Hilbig

This is the second in a series of essays which will seek insight on our Creator we call God, based on current scientific theories and their implications. Hopefully the reader will be able to use them to build a personal mental picture. [Editor's Note: The author invites other authors to write their own sections to add to this series.]

Part 2: Is God A He, She Or It?

When browsing through deist essays, the reader will notice different approaches to the pronoun which is used to denote God, and also a variation on the upper and lower case use of the first letter. This is a little disconcerting to the newcomer so some clarification is necessary. Most theistic literature refers to God in the male gender. In the Hindu religion and others many gods are female. Modern society refers to Mother Nature. It is also quipped that when God created man she was only joking. In the Star Wars episodes The Force (it, neuter) is invoked.

According to current deistic views God is neither masculine nor feminine nor neuter. God is God, or is The Creator, and many writers will seek to avoid the use of a pronoun. The problem is that on Earth we are limited to the three genders because we have no other alternatives. This can be likened to gaps in the vocabulary of various peoples. For instance, in Mongolia the people have no word for the sea because they've never seen one.

Most people regard God personified as we know of no other kind of intelligence other than that encountered on Earth. The absolute truth remains a mystery, one which must not be resolved because we cannot reason beyond our limited capacities as humans. Consider these approaches.

1. "God's creation shows her attention to detail and her wish to manifest herself as the one true God." This flows and is easy to understand, but perhaps not too popular.
2. "God's creation shows its attention to detail and its wish to manifest itself as the one true God." The meaning of this is unclear.
3. "God's Creation Shows His attention to detail and His wish to manifest Himself as the One True God." Some may say this is excessively sycophantic by the use of capitals, others would say it is a mark of respect. If this use of capitals was reserved for God only then it could be reasoned that 'His' and 'Himself' refers to God only and does not imply gender. However protocol also imposes capitals on royalty etcetera.
4. "God's creation shows God's attention to detail and God's wish to manifest the God self as the one true God." This is cumbersome in the English language, not a good sentence because the same word appears five times.

Perhaps someone will offer a new set of pronouns which will solve the situation. New words need not be limited to technical innovations. Failing this, the answer is to exercise free thinking. All writers should be encouraged to write freely as fits their personal view. Variety is beneficial as it helps to open the mind of the reader - who should in turn accept the method of the writer.

Copyright © 2004 Peter Hilbig