American Syntheist Philosophy: Robert Corrington on Ecstastic Naturalism

Dear Friends

I have had the most fascinatiing email discussion recently with American philosopher and theologian Robert Corrington. He is the author of the much recommended books Nature’s Sublime: An Essay in Aesthetic Naturalism, A Semiotic Theory of Theology and Philosophy and Nature and Spirit: An Essay in Ecastic Naturalism.

Robert Corrington

Corrington has basically studied and written about what we conduct here at syntheism.org for almost three decades. Unsurprisingly, he shares our love for Leibniz, Schelling and most of all the great American Pragmatists, such as Charles Sanders Peirce and William James.

As for the question on how to handle “The God Concept” from a Syntheist perspective, here is the response Corrington gave me and which I now publish here at syntheism.org with his kind permission.

First, I affirm that whatever is, is a natural complex, that is, that ‘it’ is in and of nature and is complex. There can be no such thing as a simple. There can be nothing out of nature, as nature has no boundary or circumference, and by the same logic, nature can have no center and no telos either internally or externally. It follows logically that God must be a natural complex that/who is in and among all of the other orders of nature natured. This is a finite but LARGE god that has great but not infinite scope—I prefer to say “indefinite” scope instead—a bit like the view of William James in his 1907 Pragmatism Lectures.

Hence, in terms of immanence, god is active in the world but in profoundly limited ways. For me, this is where god-ing and involution operate—on the outer edges of evolution. Our encounter with microbursts of spiritual energy lifts up our metaphysical gaze to an expanded consciousness and to an enriched sense of the infinite modalities of nature that simultaneously enables us to look downward into the abyss of nature naturing. Nature is all that there is and a deep pantheism starts from that realization—hence there is no place for an ontological act of creation in Neville’s sense. Rather we get my definition of creation in this definition of nature naturing: “Nature perennially creating itself out of itself alone,” while nature natured is: “the innumerable orders of the world where there is no order of orders.”

Following Feuerbach I argue that 99% of what we call God is in fact a species driven ego-ideal that comes from a kind of wounded narcissism in the pre-Oedipal stage that tries to replace a non-existent or weak parental ideal with a fiction of an omnipotent father idealization that operates as a projection of the idealized idol of our species-being. In one sense Karl Barth is right; namely, after Schleiermacher, theology becomes anthropology. And I say, yes it does, and that is a good thing—up to a point. The ego-ideal is a valid projection that quickens the selving process—its pilgrimage in the dark world of space, time, and causality. However, further individuation requires both deconstruction of these species-wide idols and reconstruction on the other side were we see images of wholeness coming out of the arts and no longer just out of religion with its tendency to lapse into heteronomy and violence.

Thus far we have the gods of the collective unconscious that get projected onto the infinite motility and movement of nature, and a unifying drive to find just one God to anchor the self in history and place. This drive fails for finite Dasein (Heidegger) or Existenz (Jaspers) as the psyche is geared to embrace a wild free zone of polytheism. Heidegger’s a-theism (and Neo-Paganism) has this part right—his topos is in the no-person’s land that is pre-Socratic and post-Christian. Few Heideggerians realize that the ‘master’ developed contempt for both Catholicism and Protestantism.  His eschatology is absolutely not Christian even if he uses language from the Christian world—but how changed in meaning!  There is no bridge connecting The History of Being with The History of the Sacred (Geist).

Second, we have the issue of nature naturing. Some simply equate it with God. I do not—that would be too simplistic. Nature naturing is the fecund ground of the potencies (Schelling), which serve as the enveloping womb for the complexes that are ejected into the world of nature natured. This transition, like Schopenhauer’s idea of the objectification of the Will, is a profound mystery right on the extreme edges of ordinal phenomenology and its own remarkable powers. The gods and goddesses of the collective unconscious, working through projection, arise in the liminal zone between the collective and personal unconscious—sometimes reaching consciousness and sometimes not. They are the standard bearers for the archetypes.

But, God is curled up in the very abyss of nature naturing—different from ’it,’ but an absolute kind of prevalence that I call, following Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine. I will have more to say about nature naturing and the Life Divine in the books I will be writing in the months and years ahead.

 

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