The problem with beginningless human spirits

February 5, 2006    By: Geoff J @ 1:13 pm   Category: Eternal Progression,Spirits/Intelligences,Theology

Several months ago I wrote a post titled “Are we eternal or is it just our parts that are eternal?” (Also see follow up posts here and here.) The basic question had to do with the nature of our Intelligences/spirits/souls. There are many in the church who believe that human spirits are simple and irreducible and beginningless. In other words, they assume that each of our spirits have existed as they are now forever. I like to call this the “whole cloth” model of spirits. This idea comes from an understandable reading of both modern scriptures and of sermons from late in the life of Joseph Smith (like the King Follet discourse). But others in the church have read the same sources and concluded that our spirits are actually made up of particles of intelligence that cleave unto each other and that while those particles are beginningless and irreducible, the new whole that is us has a beginning. This idea, often called “spiritual atomism” was first championed in the church by apostle Orson Pratt.

After giving the subject quite a bit of thought, I have concluded that there are obstacles for “whole cloth” model that render it unacceptable and inconsistent with the whole of modern revelation.

Time and Progression

The first thing that needs to be addressed is the subject of time. I have posted on the idea that God always has and always will live within time several times here already. The same thing must also apply to us for several reasons. One is that we are made of matter and matter takes space and space is inextricably connected with time. Even our spirits are made of matter according to modern scripture. Another major issue is that without time there can be no motion or progress or change. I like the way Sterling McMurrin put it:

There cannot be time without motion or motion without time.

Therefore, if the Mormon concept of eternal progression is a true doctrine then we and God always have and will live within time (even if we don’t all measure time in exactly the same way).

Infinity Plus One?

So if we have always lived within time and our spirits are beginningless as human spirits we face a paradox… We have already lived forever and have not progressed to become like God. Therefore, it makes no sense that more time could be required or even useful. We have already lived an infinite amount of time in that scheme after all. It is not like “infinity plus one” makes any sense. In other words, it seems logically impossible for us to progress to something more than human spirits (godhood) in the “whole cloth” model. If we have not progressed, over all eternity, to our current level from below; then how is it logical that we can somehow progress above our current level? Answer: It is not.

The spiritual atomism model solves this paradox and allows for eternal progression. It says that while our “spiritual atoms” are beginningless, we — who we are now — do have a beginning. We are emerging and constantly changing. We started well below where we are now and have potential to end up far beyond this point; but the point is that we had a start.

All things that have a beginning must have an end

One objection to the idea that we have a beginning is that Joseph used his ring as an analogy and stated that anything with a beginning must also have an end.

I am dwelling on the immutibility of the spirit of man, is it logic to say the spirit of man had a beginning & yet had no end, it does not have a begining & yet had no end, it does not have a begining or end, my ring is like the Exhistanc of man it has no begining or end, if cut into their would be a begining & end, so with man if it had a begining it will have an end, if I am right I might say God never had power to create the spirit of man (Ehat & Cook’s Words of Joseph Smith 346)

One way to look at this idea is the way Paul described progress by using a seed as an analogy. His point seems to be that when we plant a seed, that seed dies and has an end, but in its place something better arises. So likewise, he tells us, is our resurrection — one thing ends and a better thing replaces it. So likewise is all of our spiritual progress (or retrogression) I think. The old me is constantly ending and being replaced by the new/current me. Since we will always be in time then I think we can safely assume this will always be the case.

So here is the challenge to those of you that insist on the “whole cloth” model of spirits. How is the notion of beginningless human spirits as human spirits even logically possible without jettisoning eternal progression?

[Associated radio.blog song: All the Things You Are (as performed by Gerry Mulligan and Paul Desmond). It is in honor of all the different things you have been and will be over the eternities.]

91 Comments »

  1. “We have already lived forever and have not progressed to become like God. Therefore, it makes no sense that more time could be required or even useful. We have already lived an infinite amount of time in that scheme after all.”

    I think that this paradox is a little forced. For starters, as I assume you acknowledge, there is no absolute limited to eternal progression. Thus eternal progression can be seen as a number line: [0,infinity) or perhaps (0,infinity). God will be at the number “G” while I will be at the number “M.” I see no contradiction whatsoever in claiming that “M” is significantly lower than “G”. Since infinity can’t be reached even with an infinite amount of time, of course our values will be some number between 0 and infinite.

    Furthermore, why is it that eternal progression must only occur in one direction? Why can’t we allow for some form of spritual retardation? Additionally, why is it that we must assume that spiritual progression should increase by certain indivisible increments? Couldn’t the values of progression be infinitely indivisible where one could (in principle anyways) be always progressing toward say the value “50″ without ever actually reaching it?

    I see absolutely no logical reason as to why the whole cloth model cannot work. That said, however, the spiritual atomism would seem to be more in line with a naturalistic derivation of values as I posited in my “spenetics” series. It might also concord more with modern version of cognitive science which denies that there is any “I am” center in the brain in which “it all comes together”. The “I am” is all of the brain, not any particular center in it.

    Perhaps, as are many apparent contradictions in JS’s teaching, they are harmonizable by positing a doctrine of limited eternities. Individuals might ultimately be reducible to spiritual atoms of sorts, but in this eternities, or maybe even in the most recent series of eternities, we are “whole cloth” entities. I think that this would probably be the best path to take, however I would be quite uncomfortable with the idea that God completely created our entire spiritual identities. This would NOT be in harmony with JS’s King Follett discourse at all.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — February 5, 2006 @ 2:09 pm

  2. Jeff,

    Several things…

    First, I don’t think I buy your 0 to infinity example. It seems to me that -infinity to infinity is more accurate and a much better match to Joseph’s ring analogy. Second, I don’t know for sure that there are no limits to eternal progression. If we take the ring analogy we could conclude that there is a recycling aspect to forever too.

    As for spiritual retrogression being equally possible as progression — I have written affirming that idea on many occasions. While it is possible to envision a spirit following some kind of spiritual sine wave for all eternity (in progression then retrogression) it still doesn’t solve the problem of the whole cloth model. If one has lived an infinite amount of time as the same type of spirit then additional time won’t help.

    Good point about the “I am” being the whole rather than specific parts. That is what I am leaning toward with spirits as well.

    And I think the multiple eternities tact is usually used mostly as a word game. Multiple “eternities” is just a way of segmenting forever I think. It think the paradoxes I bring up here still exist even when smoke and mirror tactics are employed.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 5, 2006 @ 2:50 pm

  3. What is the world is negative spiritual progression supposed to refer to? I took zero to be the rock bottom, the value at which rocks lies pretty close to. It simply makes no sense in my mind to speak of progression below zero.

    I also have no clue what a “recycling aspect” of eternal progression would be either. Can somebody progress so much that they circle arond to 0 or in your case negative infinity? That absurd as I’m sure that you will agree. If there is anything which we can call eternal progression then mustn’t it be, by very definition, a progression which can go on without limit forever?

    It should also be made explicit that while I do not consider intelligence to exhaust spiritual progression, I do consider it to be it’s essential feature. That is why there is no such thing a ‘intelligence’ which is below zero. That is also why more intelligence can always be gained, since a beginningless, endless and boundless space would always provide more information which can be gained by any intelligence.

    I disagree about your views concerning multiple eternities as well. Eternities, I would assume, could possibly be equated with “creations” or something like that. They would have to be stages of spiritual progression of some form. The compatibilist position which I referred to would be one where God would include pre-existing intelligences in His plan in this eternity, however these intelligences would have been created in some form before God did anythinig with them at all. Thus the doctrinal points which JS used in the KFD would all be preserved while still potentially allowing for some form of atomism.

    Given this form of pre-eternal intelligences many other beliefs could enter the picture. For starters, intelligence can be constantly emerging from a limitless source in various eternities. Secondly, pre-eternal progression would be significantly slower and variant than that in the eternities which we are now conscious of. Third, just because one has existed for an infinite amount of time, does not mean that they have been living for an infinite amount of time.

    In many ways, these two phases might be as parallel to what happens to us here. For nine-months we certainly exist, but we don’t really have lives in any significant way until we leave the womb. After the we leave the womb is really when the real progression begins. Of course the analogy isn’t perfect by a long shot, but it does serve as a some-what adequate illustration of what I mean.

    Of course it will be correctly pointed out that this model isn’t the traditional whole-cloth model, not by a long shot. No, it’s not, but it does preserve most of the doctrinal points which JS taught and seem to presuppose the whole-cloth model with getting into any of the funk which you mention. This model does not, however, save the idea that God created everything about us.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — February 5, 2006 @ 3:15 pm

  4. I’ve concluded that this doctrine can only be resolved through fisticuffs. I got $50 on Jeff, any takers?

    Comment by David J — February 5, 2006 @ 3:35 pm

  5. I misunderstood your earlier comment, Jeff. I thought you were talking about time in that 0 to infinity scale. (I’ll save talk of recycling for another time as well.) So I agree that we can have a scale of intelligence with the minimum being none (Abraham 3 indicates this) however I think the maximum is not necessarily “infinity” (I’m not sure that even makes sense). I will readily agree that the maximum is where the supreme God is at any given time though.

    however these intelligences would have been created in some form before God did anythinig with them at all.

    If they were created they have a beginning. This model you are proposing (wherein spirits have a beginning) is not the model this post takes issue with.

    Third, just because one has existed for an infinite amount of time, does not mean that they have been living for an infinite amount of time.

    What does this sentence mean as applied to spirits? You lost me.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 5, 2006 @ 3:58 pm

  6. Geoff, your question is easily resolved. The flaw in your thinking is that intelligences could progress on their own before God takes them under his wing. Individual intelligences could exist from all eternity but not progress at all—like a seed that lies dormant until it is placed in soil, given water, exposed to light, etc. Joseph spoke of God finding himself in the midst of the intelligences, and instituting laws that allowed them to progress. Until then they had unrealized potential.

    Comment by Christian Y. Cardall — February 5, 2006 @ 4:07 pm

  7. Geoff said: “The old me is constantly ending and being replaced by the new/current me.”

    Eventually a “me” will become God, so replace “me” with “God” – does your phrase still work? Is there a time when there is no more replacement for a particular “me”? Doesn’t LDS doctrine teach that God has reached perfection?

    Comment by Daylan — February 5, 2006 @ 5:14 pm

  8. Christian,

    I think the flaw in your solution is that you assume there are “whole cloth” human intelligences/spirits in the universe that are somehow “dormant”. I reject that assumption. I think the spiritual atomism model makes much more sense (and has much more prophetic support) than the model you suugest.

    Daylan,

    If God continues to progress (and Brigham adamantly insisted he does) then the same principle applies.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 5, 2006 @ 6:51 pm

  9. WE will never Progress to be where God is, Becasue God is also Progressing. God, at one point, was where we are, according to KFD. The problem with Quanitfying Infinity is that it requires circular reasoning.

    Comment by Matt Witten — February 5, 2006 @ 8:53 pm

  10. Perhaps “dormant” is not the best word. The point is, their progress had clear limits regardless of the length of their existence, and couldn’t really begin until the Father brought them into the plan of salvation, presumably through spirit birth (whatever that may mean).

    I’m surprised you see spirit atomism as so obviously having prophetic support and making the most sense of Joseph’s thought. Bushman seems like a reasonable and careful observer unlikely to miss anything obvious, and he discusses eternal uncreated intelligences in some depth in three or so separate places in RSR, always referring to them as individuals, and never mentions anything remotely like spirit atomism. (Of course Bushman is not the great arbiter of truth—I will admit that in your corner you have Bruce R. McConkie!)

    Comment by Christian Y. Cardall — February 5, 2006 @ 8:55 pm

  11. I have to go with the spiritual atomism idea, and agree that the “whole cloth” thing has some problems. I say this because of my facile literalist ideas. Being the simpleton that I can be, the whole cloth idea doesn’t make sense because
    • we’re taught that God created us. How could He create us if we’re already existing as a whole being?
    • our spirits are made up of matter. I just got through watching a Nova on DNA and it talked about how proteins fit together and, if you will, cleave unto each other, to form us. I imagine that tere must be some sort of spiritual dna/protein building going on somewhere to create spirits.
    • The Sons of Perdition thing. I’ve mentioned it before, but for the life of me cannot find the reference. I’m under the impression that what happens the Sons of Perdition is that their very spirits – their essence – will be reduced to their parts and destroyed. yes, their very spirits will be destroyed into parts. (To later be reassembled?) If our spirits weren’t created of little components, how could this be. Has anyone heard of this before? Did I dream it? Maybe I had a personal revelation!

    Comment by meems — February 5, 2006 @ 9:13 pm

  12. Christian,

    McConkie went for spirit atomism? I may have heard something like that before but had forgotten. I wonder what heading that would be under in Mormon Doctrine… In any case, it is good to be in agreement with Bruce on occasion at least.

    Anyway, I think the whole “spirit birth” idea is problematic, and frankly, I don’t believe in it. I have been posting recently on how I think the Garden of Eden narrative recounts the progression of our own spirits from pre-sentience into sentience (knowing good and evil). No spirit birth in that model (though MMPs are invloved).

    I’m not saying Joseph specifically taught any form of spiritual atomism. But his sermons declared that we are co-eternal with God and that God was once a man. This post is simply pointing out the paradox that arises when thinking that our spirits in current condition are beginningless and at the same time assuming we can progress to become something much different — as in become as God is — with just a little more time. One or the other has to go to resolve the paradox so I happily jettison the beginningless human spirit idea and keep the eternal progression idea.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 5, 2006 @ 9:20 pm

  13. Meems,

    No you didn’t dream that. Here are a couple of references that were cited in my eternal progression thread over at T&S:

    “The rebellious will be thrown back into their native element, there to remain myriads of years before their dust will again be revived, before they will be re-organized.” (Brigham Young, JD 1:118)

    “When the elements in an organized form do not fill the end of their creation, they are thrown back again, like brother Kimball’s old pottery ware, to be ground up, and made over again. All I have to say about it is what Jesus says-I will destroy Death, and him that hath the ower of it, which is the devil. And if he ever makes “a full end of the wicked,” what else can he do than entirely disorganize them, and reduce them to their native element?” (Brigham Young, JD 1:275)

    I actually also like your other reasons. I don’t doubt that some of the same basic patterns we see with physical bodies could apply to spirits. Also, I agree that the scriptural idea that God “created” us works at lot better with the atomism model. He at least has a hand in our progression from start to finish with that model — whereas he has nothing to do with our reaching the point we are at now in the “whole cloth” model.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 5, 2006 @ 9:33 pm

  14. Thank you for those quotes!!! Wow, all you guys are like walking dictionaries! :-)

    Comment by meems — February 5, 2006 @ 10:11 pm

  15. Geoff,
    I’m feeling you on this one. In the recent creation sunday school lesson, I braced myself for the usual mixing of properly cited canon with stuff people heard was said by some apostle in some talk some time. The instructor was teaching from the manual and other reliable sources that we were “spiritually created” by God but that Joseph Smith revealed that matter is eternal and was merely organized. Funny thing is that in the same place Joseph revealed the nature of matter (KFD) he revealed that the intelligences, or “thinking part” of our spirits, are also eternal. So how does the idea of a spiritual creation jive with that?

    I have come to feel as you do, that God “created” our spirits in the form they are in now by organizing existing spiritual matter and connecting that organized spiritual mass with an “intelligence”. I don’t feel like that idea blasphemes God’s dominion over us in any way. Every “creation” we make in our own lives works exactly this way. We merely make a new thing out of existing things. The greatness of creation is in how much more valuable the new thing is. True synergy. (I just threw up a little in my throat while typing that word.)

    Comment by Clay — February 6, 2006 @ 7:51 am

  16. Geoff, the philosophical sympathy with McConkie is that he apparently didn’t believe intelligences were backwardly eternal individuals. Instead he thought intelligence was the self-existent undifferentiated “stuff” from which God created spirits (though presumably McConkie believed he would have done it by spirit birth). Probably this is under “Intelligence” in Mormon Doctrine.

    I don’t the the spirit birth idea precludes the Garden of Eden being a metaphor for the premortal existence. What do the phrases “continuation of seeds” and wives who are to “bear the souls of men” in Sec. 132 mean to you? Maybe you can’t imagine how the biology of resurrected beings could give rise to literal spirit birth, but to be blunt, I wouldn’t take Geoff’s lack of imagination as a fundamental limitation on metaphysical possibilities… ;-> Brigham had a model I think something like the following: eating “eternal” stuff and quickened by spirits in their veins, they procreate spirit beings. Coming down to earth and partaking of earthly food, they “fall” and kick off the procreation of the human race’s physical bodies.

    I guess we just have to agree to disagree about whether your concern really is a serious paradox.

    Comment by Christian Y. Cardall — February 6, 2006 @ 8:12 am

  17. Clay – Thanks. I suspect we might differ on a few details but I’m glad to hear you generally agree with the arguments I’m making.

    Christian – Yeah, now that I think about it I had heard that BRM went for a variation on Pratt’s atomism. I’ll do some digging on that.

    Have you read my variations on the Garden of Eden metaphor? I didn’t envision a place for literal spirit birth in there, but maybe there is. I think the MMPs make literal spirit birth unnecessary, though. As I imagine it, the “birth” in that model is replaced by countless progressive probationary periods wherein the intelligence progresses and slowly becomes sentient. As for the section 132 verses: I think the “continuation of seeds” is through a covenant relationship like ours with Christ; the “bear the souls of men” verse seems to be talking about doing so in mortaility to me. Even if not, it could mean that deity bears each of our souls even now as God helps us struggle through mortality and provides an atonement for us.

    So when you say we’ll have to disagree about the paradox I see, your solution is that there are innumerable beginningless “dormant” human souls in the universe waiting for God to wake them up? If that all you’ve got then we will have to agree to disagree I guess… (Though it proves that you do indeed have an imagination ;-) )

    Comment by Geoff J — February 6, 2006 @ 9:36 am

  18. I don’t think spiritual atomism resolves the paradox (if, indeed, there is a paradox).

    If we have not progressed, over all eternity, to our current level from below; then how is it logical that we can somehow progress above our current level?

    If the “we” in the above question refered to spiritual atoms at some time before they became part of a coherent spirit, how would their progression to coherent spirits be any more logical than our own progression to godhood?

    Comment by Last Lemming — February 6, 2006 @ 9:47 am

  19. Good point LL.

    At some point the idea of recycling must come into play to resolve the paradox. What I mean is that maybe there is a point at which divine spirits voluntarily send intelligence particles out of the perfect unity and Oneness into chaos and separateness again to start over… (New agey sounding I know, but it resolves the paradox when using the atomism model. Plus it takes Joseph’s ring analogy literally. I’ll have to think through it and post on it some time.)

    Comment by Geoff J — February 6, 2006 @ 10:08 am

  20. There is an interesting post over at BT on a new theory of the Universe that is consistent with this model I am envisioning (one that allows for all matter to be beginningless and yet ultimately sees all reality as a closed and finite system… If that were true then it would require this recycling idea I mentioned to be true as well.)

    Comment by Geoff J — February 6, 2006 @ 1:24 pm

  21. What’s going on? Have I been banned from the Thang? I have tried making 4 comments and none of them have come through.

    Comment by Eric — February 6, 2006 @ 4:27 pm

  22. Well, the last one worked.

    I am a believer in a type of spiritual birth from Heavenly Parents. I think this is where a transition happens from being never created intelligences to being begotten spirit beings. Therefore I believe I have a spirit ‘birthday’. Does this contradict what you are proposing? I don’t really think it does.

    Is it possible that some may be taking JS’s quote of everything that begins has an end a little to absolute? What about a resurrected body? It has a beginning – will it have an end?

    Comment by Eric — February 6, 2006 @ 4:31 pm

  23. Eric,

    The spiritual atomism model is not inconsistent with the idea of spirit birth. In fact Orson Pratt himself favored spirit birth. I just happen to be personally unconvinced of it. But that is a separate issue than the question I am really addressing in this post. So far no one has succeeded in explaining why a beginningless human spirit would need more time than infinity to progress to another level (and yes that statement is a bit of a paradox in itself). The closest thing to an answer was Christian’s “dormant” spirits idea, but the infinity thing is still a problem even there.

    Now admittedly infinity is an extremely difficult concept no matter how one slices it. But I do think we might discount Joseph’s ring analogy and statement too blithely. “The course of the Lord is one eternal round” after all. Perhaps there is more to the ring analogy than most of us think. Maybe (uber speculation alert!) after a trillion years or so a Deity can decide to condescend by willingly deconstructing some or all of the intelligence particles he/she is made of and sending those back to help the intelligence particles that are not One with God… (Just a thought I have recently entertained as I have tried to figure out how to wrap my mind around the concept of infinite amounts of time…)

    Comment by Geoff J — February 6, 2006 @ 5:15 pm

  24. How do you (or anyone reading this) jive the idea that “God progresses” (or rather that He will always be ahead of us on the progression chart) with the idea that He will give us everything He has? Don’t we have to assume that everything includes knowledge, power, honor, glory such that we become equal with Him?

    Comment by Daylan — February 6, 2006 @ 9:00 pm

  25. In Wilford Woodruff’s journal for June 26, 1847, he records Orson Pratt’s speculation about how the first God was formed:

    “…As eternity was filled as it were with particles of intelligence who had their agency, two of these particles in process of time might have joined their interest together exchanged ideas found by pursuing this course that they gained [double?] strength to what one particle of intelligence would have & afterwards were joined by other particles & continued until they formed a combination or body though through a long process.” -Waiting For Worlds End, ed. by Susan Staker, Signature Books, SLC 1993, p. 119

    I disagree with the idea that there was a first God, or that a single particle of spirit matter by itself has much intelligence to it. I do believe though that the omnipresent particles of spirit (i.e. intelligence) facilitate eternal networks of thought activity which are individual but associated, i.e. intelligences (perhaps there are also male-like and female-like ones that interact in a complementary way). I believe that they are co-equal with God and are part of God (see J. of D. 2:342 about a lost revelation of Joseph Smith that says that the Father, Son, men and angels are all parts of God). I believe that God the Father can dissolve at will the physical tangibility of his body and procreate spirit children with his wives while they are in a similar state, and that they provide spirit bodies and identities for the intelligences in this way (see Heb 12:9).

    The First Presidency, Joseph F. Smith, John R. Winder and Anthon H. Lund, in their official statement on the origin of man in 1909 said:

    “All men and women are in the similitude of the universal Father and Mother, and are literally the sons and daughters of Deity. ‘God created man in His own image.’ This is just as true of the spirit as it is of the body, which is only the clothing of the spirit, its complement; the two together constituting the soul.” -Messages of the First Presidency Vol. 4, Bookcraft, SLC 1970, p. 203.

    I think that all who gain exaltation can say that they are/were/will be God “from everlasting to everlasting”.

    _____________________________________

    Any thoughts or comments on the above ideas?

    Comment by James D. — February 7, 2006 @ 1:51 am

  26. James,

    Thanks for the interesting quotes. I am tempted to get into discussions about pantheism/panentheism or to explain why I think there is no such think as polygamy for exalted beings but I’ll save those discussions for future threads. Any thoughts on the question I pose here on whether the idea of beginningless human spirits qua human spirits renders progression logically impossible?

    Comment by Geoff J — February 7, 2006 @ 10:47 am

  27. Daylan,

    The idea that God progresses has been a predominant view in the church over the years with Brigham and many others vigorously defending it. But others like Orson Pratt and McConkie believed that God absolutely perfect and cannot progress. Apparently the jury is still out on that one… (I’ll post on it later in relation to my McMurrin reading series)

    Comment by Geoff J — February 7, 2006 @ 11:10 am

  28. Geoff,
    I don’t think we had a need to progress until after our spirit birth and entering our first estate. I do believe that God progresses as far as his posterity is concerned, but I don’t know about his progressing in knowledge, since I don’t understand completely the nature of his omnipotence.

    Comment by James D. — February 7, 2006 @ 4:47 pm

  29. Oops, I mean omniSCIENCE.

    Comment by James D. — February 7, 2006 @ 4:48 pm

  30. James,

    That sounds a little like the dormant intelligences idea Christian mentioned earlier. The whole infinite time thing is a problem still (I’m starting to think that can only be resolved by taking the ring analogy literally and allowing for recycling, actually) but at least this model allows for a beginning of spirits. The problem is, what were we doing FOREVER before getting the “spirit birth” call up, and why do some intelligences get the call up to the Big Leagues when others don’t? Is it just random? Also, were we awake and sentient forever as intelligences? If not, how can we properly call it existing?

    Comment by Geoff J — February 7, 2006 @ 7:34 pm

  31. I’m not saying that the intelligences couldn’t progress without God’s help as Christian did. I’m saying that they shared in God’s attributes before spirit birth to the extent that they didn’t need to. I believe that we were both awake and, to some degree, sentient. I think there must’ve been gradations in intelligece. I don’t know if we would’ve been “doing” stuff beyond exchanging ideas or cooperatively calculating. I would imagine that our “spirit birth” call up would be about as random as a mission call, and perhaps based on the degree of our intelligence. I suppose there must’ve been some limiting factor on our intelligences as far as the extent of their thought networks. Just as the cells of our bodies function at a certain size, they must have found an optimally efficient size to function at.

    Comment by James D. — February 7, 2006 @ 10:48 pm

  32. Geoff: Your argument from infinity is multiply flawed. First, it is modally flawed (that is, it mixes up possibility with necessity). It is possible that we will have progressed to whatever state we are now long before now, but it isn’t necessary. The same argument, if sound, would show that any actual infinite (which you assume) is impossible because we should have always, at any given prior time, already arrived at the present. It is a logically fallacious argument. Your argument assumes that it is necessary that we will have progressed to whereever we are now long before now — but it isn’t necessary, merely possible.

    Second, given that there is no upper limit on the nature of progression, no stopping point, we will never in any infinite amount of time have already progressed to the point where further progression is impossible. So we have progressed to the point we have and we shall progress more. You state: “If we have not progressed, over all eternity, to our current level from below; then how is it logical that we can somehow progress above our current level? Answer: It is not.” However, this too is logically fallacious given that there is no limit to progression. What is the greatest possible number and shouldn’t we have reached it already? Same logical problem.

    Comment by Blake — February 8, 2006 @ 11:35 am

  33. Blake,
    Would you say that Aristotle’s argument that all possibilities should already have been realized in an infinite amount of time is also guilty of the same fallacious reasoning?

    Comment by Craig Atkinson — February 8, 2006 @ 11:47 am

  34. Blake (and Craig),

    Good points. I have to admit that this entire notion of eternity — infinite time — is uncomfortable. Really thinking about “forever” is disconcerting and even terrifying at times I think. Having said that, I tend to agree with Aristotle’s argument that Craig brought up. It seems to me that in an infinite amount of time all possibilities really should and must have been realized already.

    But the ring analogy gives us an explanation of how that can be I think. I don’t think it is a given that there is no upper limit on the nature of progression. It is a possibility I suppose, but not a given. Using Joseph’s ring analogy there would presumably be an upper limit and a restarting point — “one eternal round” and all. (Or if you are a Disney fan, how about “the circle of life”.)

    Now I think it is safe to say there is no discernible upper limit to progression. But in terms of absolutes, I am not yet convinced.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 8, 2006 @ 12:48 pm

  35. “all possibilities”?

    This argument only works if there are a finite amount of possibilities. However, what must hold for Mormon doctrine is that reality is not only boundless and infinite temporally, but spatially as well. Since space and matter are also boundless and infinite, then “all possibilities” will never be acheived, because there is no such thing as “all” in this context.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — February 8, 2006 @ 12:57 pm

  36. Interesting point Jeff. Does Mormon doctrine actually teach infinite space and matter? I know the word “innumerable” is often used for things like planets and stars, but is it really infinite? (The word is not used in the scriptures as far as I can tell… but perhaps in sermons by modern prophets?)

    Comment by Geoff J — February 8, 2006 @ 1:15 pm

  37. I feel like I’m playing devils advocate here. I actually side with Blake here, but these are issues I’ve struggled with as I’ve thought about this issue.
    Jeff, you argue that the argument presupposes that there are a finite number of possibilities. But if you were to say that there are an infinite number of possibilities, then wouldn’t you essentially be saying that nothing is impossible? Once you say that something is impossible are you not not limiting the number of possibilities? I also do not see how infinite space has any immediate bearing on how many possibilites there can be. I’m not saying that it doesn’t have immediate bearing on the subject, but only that your going to have to explain.

    Comment by Craig Atkinson — February 8, 2006 @ 2:28 pm

  38. “But if you were to say that there are an infinite number of possibilities, then wouldn’t you essentially be saying that nothing is impossible?”

    No, not even remotely. Just because you can write an infinite number of different books, would that mean that nothing in those books would be nonsensical? Of course not. (This is an appeal to the philosophers “Library of Babel” thought experiment)

    Just because something is infinite and unbounded doesn’t mean that there aren’t any constraints on it at all. Saying that a set is infinite doesn’t mean that everything must be included in it. Take the set of natural numbers, integers, rational numbers or real numbers. Each set is infinite and unbounded, but there are clearly some numbers which are left out nonetheless.

    I never said that all possibilities are realized. In fact, that is what YOU said and what I was arguing against. My point was that there is no such thing as “all possibilities.”

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — February 8, 2006 @ 3:12 pm

  39. Geoff,

    If we are really going to claim that there never was a first “uncreated creator” in the geneology of the gods, then yes there must be an infinite amount of space an time. Brigham Young taught this (I know that for sure) and I’m sure there must be somebody else who did as well.

    Besides, with the number of ‘gods’ that exist at any given time increasing exponentially, doesn’t that require an infinite amount of material for them to work with? If there isn’t an infinite amount of space and material to work with, then your post argues VERY strongly against any form of self-existent reality which a Mormon would believe, both whole-cloth and atomism.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — February 8, 2006 @ 3:18 pm

  40. I’ve not had time to comment in this. Just one point: infinite doesn’t necessarily mean unlimited. Consider the set of even integers. It is infinite but clearly has limits. (i.e. no odd integers)

    Comment by Clark — February 8, 2006 @ 3:45 pm

  41. Jeff: If there isn’t an infinite amount of space and material to work with, then your post argues VERY strongly against any form of self-existent reality which a Mormon would believe, both whole-cloth and atomism.

    I don’t think so. Haven’t you noticed all my references to recycling, and Joseph’s ring, and “one eternal round” here? If ‘gods’ have the ability to step down or condescend from ‘godhood’ and to revert back to the simple and irreducible parts from which they are made then we could have finite amounts of matter and space but still have infinite time and beginningless Deity. I’m not expecting you believe that model (and I’m not necessarily sold on it myself) but it is incorrect to claim that infinite matter and space are required to have infinite time.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 8, 2006 @ 5:04 pm

  42. Geoff,

    You tentative solution is to throw eternal progression to the wind?! If that’s the path you are going to take then I don’t want to hear any criticism at all for my ideas not being taught in Mormon scipture all that much. I don’t think that your recycling idea accomplishes much anything at all (like that was much of a secret ;-p) in addition to its seeming totally absurd.

    Why in the world would a god EVER want to reduce himself to a thoughtless simple and irreducible part? This would essentially be the same as a God commiting spriitual suicide from which no return could be imagined. (After all, how could a simple and irreducible part ever “choose” anything, let alone to re-become the god it once was?)

    These are the reasons which I haven’t even addressed the “recycle thoery.” It simply seems bogus on all accounts; an attempt to take a questionable interpretation of a highly ambiguous verse (that “one eternal round” phrase which only Nibley and his disciples think has any kind of special meaning) and use it cover up some cracks in a questionable theory. While it might only have been Brigham that taught that there is an infinity of material, at least I have somebody who taught it.

    (For all who aren’t aware of my past exchanges with Geoff, he knows that while my language isn’t as amiable as it probably could be, my strong language is not meant as a person insult of any kind.)

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — February 8, 2006 @ 5:46 pm

  43. Jeff,

    As your punishment for taking a less-than-amiable tone I’m not going to fix your typos!

    First, the model I am toying with keeps the idea of eternal progression completely intact. Second, it simply means taking Joseph’s famous ring analogy more literally than it has traditionally been taken. Third, just where is the quote from Brigham you are touting and why should it trump the ring analogy for me?

    You seem to have all sorts of assumptions about the nature of God that I am not so convinced of to begin with. We don’t know just how literally becoming One with God will be. For instance, it maybe that full exaltation means becoming One with the Godhead (and our spouse) to such a degree that we are joyfully and lovingly giving up some or much or all of the autonomy that we cherish so deeply here in mortality. Therefore, the recycling idea might not be giving up identity because being One with God might mean we have largely given up separateness already. Therefore this model I have in mind could simply mean the One God (whatever that means) sending intelligence particles back into the universe.

    Again, this is admittedly sci-fi thinking on my part. I don’t claim any of it is true. But I do think that the idea that we will eternally cling ferociously to separateness and autonomy is contrary to the scripture about becoming One with God. (Blake really got me thinking about this idea actually). My sci-fi uber speculation is simply following that idea to one of many possible conclusions so don’t get too bent about me thinking out of the box a little here. This infinite time thing causes lots of problems in general and I am not ready to buy off on your infinite matter and space notion just because you say I should (any more than you’re buying my alternatives).

    Comment by Geoff J — February 8, 2006 @ 6:42 pm

  44. I guess that means that you will not be EDITING my comment! Score!!! (That one was for you Steve EM)

    First, I don’t see how progression can really be considered eternal in any comforting way in your analogy; Second, Joseph’s ring analogy was only meant to establish that if something has a beginning then it can have an end and that’s all; and third, here are some quotes for you:

    “There is an eternity of matter before us, there ever was and there ever will be, there is no bounds to it.” Discourse given 7/14/61

    “All creations are in the midst of eternity, and that is one eternity, so they move in one eternal round…
    “Consequently, when you hear philosophers argue the oint how the first God came, how intelligence came, how worlds came, and how angels came, they are talking about that which is beyond their conception; about that which never was, and never will be, worlds without end. It manifests their folly. It shows they know nothing of such matter…
    “I will proceed a little further with my preliminaries before I commence with my subject. Inasmuch as I have taken the ground that there never was a beginning, nor end – I wish to say further; there is an eternity of elements, and an eternity of space… There is no beginning, no end; there is no bounds, no time, when the elements will cease to be organized into bodies with all the variety you have a faint specimen of on this Earth…
    “Those who wish to be taught eternal principles, and become true philosophers, their minds can reach forth into the unlimited fields of eternity and still discover no end to the boundless expanse, and to its fulness.” Discourse given 10/8/54

    That second quote came from a discourse which, although it did not make it into the JD due to its centering on A-G, was considered by Willford Woodruff to be the best discourse he had ever heard. It can easily be seen as Brigham’s continuation of Joseph’s King Follett Discourse.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — February 8, 2006 @ 7:11 pm

  45. “We don’t know just how literally becoming One with God will be. For instance, it maybe that full exaltation means becoming One with the Godhead (and our spouse) to such a degree that we are joyfully and lovingly giving up some or much or all of the autonomy that we cherish so deeply here in mortality. Therefore, the recycling idea might not be giving up identity because being One with God might mean we have largely given up separateness already. Therefore this model I have in mind could simply mean the One God (whatever that means) sending intelligence particles back into the universe.”

    That is about the scariest and uninspiring version of exaltation I have ever heard in my entire life. If fact, this is more or less what, according to Brigham and other 19th centurey apostles, becoming a son of perdition amounts to.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — February 8, 2006 @ 7:51 pm

  46. It seems to me that although our universe is finite (perhaps in time as well as space) that doesn’t mean that God is limited because he can, I think, create other universes. Joseph Smith mentioned that he “took the liberty to go into other heavens.” (TPJS p. 311)

    What do you guys think about that idea?

    Comment by James D. — February 8, 2006 @ 8:49 pm

  47. That has long been my view James.

    Comment by Clark — February 8, 2006 @ 9:37 pm

  48. BTW – I agree with Jeffrey, the idea of a true unio dei in which we lose our identity is scary. If that’s heaven I want no part of it.

    Comment by Clark — February 8, 2006 @ 9:43 pm

  49. Well I actually agree that a true “unio dei” is an unappealing concept. And while I mentioned it in passing I am not actually arguing for it. In fact I think the evidence (such as the temple narrative) argues against it. But I do think there is probably much more to the unity of the Godhead (and the unity among all divine persons) than we commonly conceive. My point is mostly that, contrary to what Jeffrey claimed, one could without too much difficulty conceive of a universe wherein there is finite space and matter but infinite time. The problem (for Jeff at least but surely for others as well) would be that it would require voluntary “recycling” of intelligence particles/atoms. Now if in the spiritual atomism model there is some kind of volition by each particle of intelligence (as is commonly assumed) then voluntary dissolution could be seen as condescension.

    This is obviously some wildly imaginative guessing I’m pulling out for this conversation. I am certain that I am missing massive amounts of information that helps the universe and eternity make much more sense than that. Having said that, I still don’t think the whole cloth model of spirits works at all either. I also think that dismissing Joseph’s ring analogy with a hand wave is presumptuous and unwise.

    I have not heard any answers to the problem I presented in the post that are remotely satisfying to me. The dormant intelligences (or eternally non-progressing intelligences) theory makes no sense at all to me. And Blake’s response, that our progress beyond humanness will indeed require infinity plus whatever time also doesn’t make any sense. Infinity of time is not enough? It especially makes no sense based on what I know about myself — if it was my spirit that lived an infinity of time already I would have knocked this job out already. If it was not me (as I know myself at this moment), then who or what was it for all eternity?

    Obviously it is a lot easier to slam the other guy’s ideas than come up with one that works. Anyone care to speculate on a model that does make sense?

    BTW — thanks for the BY quotes Jeff. Interesting stuff. (Even if it doesn’t give me a satisfactory answer to this question…)

    Comment by Geoff J — February 8, 2006 @ 11:12 pm

  50. James D. (#46)

    That idea still doesn’t solve the dilemma I’m discussing. Infinity of time is still infinity of time no matter how many universes come and go during that infinity.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 8, 2006 @ 11:14 pm

  51. Geoff,

    Yeah, I didn’t offer that idea as a solution to the original spirits & infinite time question. It was in response to Jeff’s comments about space and time being infinite or not.

    Comment by James D. — February 9, 2006 @ 12:30 am

  52. Geoff, as I said at one point above, “dormant” may not be the best choice of words in describing a pre-spirit-birth individual intelligence, so I wish you’d stop calling it the “dormant spirit theory.” In the (imperfect!) analogy with a seed before it is supplied with the conditions necessary for germination and growth, “dormant” is a good description of a seed; but the point to take away from the analogy is not (at least not necessarily, we can’t know) that a pre-spirit-birth individual intelligence was somehow not “awake,” just that there were definite limits to what it could become before spirit birth, regardless of the amount of time it existed.

    This should not be such a hard concept to grasp: surely you would agree that there were definite limits to a spirit’s development before mortal birth. Same thing for an intelligence before spirit birth.

    You say, The problem is, what were we doing FOREVER before getting the “spirit birth” call up, and why do some intelligences get the call up to the Big Leagues when others don’t? There’s no justification for thinking of at least the first part of this question as a “problem.” You’re acting like the universe as a whole must somehow be efficient, economical, pleasant, etc., as if the universe as a whole were of necessity well-designed or something. In Mormonism, the universe simply is what it is, and God (and us) do what we can within it. Your concern for the boredom of eternal intelligences simply has no bearing whatsoever on what the metaphysical characteristics of the universe ‘must’ be.

    Comment by Christian Y. Cardall — February 9, 2006 @ 6:22 am

  53. Christian,

    My problem is that I can’t think of title for the idea better than “dormant intelligences model”. It describes the idea quite well I think. If you can come up with an alternative that works I’ll make that switch in terminology for you though.

    The problem I have with your explanation is that you seem to be employing the normally contradictory metaphysics of both being and becoming in your model. You seem to be saying that an intelligence can be essentially static and unchanging for all eternity (while somehow awake and thinking) and then suddenly shift gears to a becoming state. But I believe that all of reality is about becoming. The only exception might be the existence of static Universals (sometimes call laws in Mormonism), but those universals are not candidates for change — ever. Your mixing of the two opposing views isn’t working for me. Am I missing something?

    Comment by Geoff J — February 9, 2006 @ 10:11 am

  54. Goeff: My point wasn’t a solution to a problem but a dissolution of the problem. The problem is of your own making and it is based on logically fallacious reasoning. There isn’t a problem. The mere fact that you cannot understand how something is doesn’t show it to be a problem; it just shows that you don’t have the background experience to understand it.

    Comment by Blake — February 9, 2006 @ 8:13 pm

  55. Hehe…

    You are probably right that I lack the background experience to understand how beginningless human spirits can somehow change into something other than human spirits even though they haven’t done so in an infinite amount of time. But I am a pretty quick study. Do you happen to know of any individuals that do understand this issue? I’m sure they could explain it to me in some way other than simply insisting that it is just so.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 9, 2006 @ 9:16 pm

  56. Geoff, I never said pre-spirit-birth individual intelligences would have to be static and unchanging. The seed analogy could be misread that way, but only if taken too far and too literally, beyond its intended point, which is this: it is entirely possible that spirit birth opens up new, qualitatively different channels or opportunities for change that simply were not available to pre-spirit-birth intelligences.

    Does taking on a mortal body allow for kinds of development/change/progress/experience that were not open to spirits without a mortal body? (Yes.) Would a spirit that never took on a mortal body be “static,” or “asleep”? (No.) Would it be unable to exist indefinitely without a mortal body? (No reason at all to think so!)

    Now drop this sequence of questions back one step, replacing the terms mortal body/spirit body with spirit body/individual intelligence, and there is no logical barrier to the answers being the same.

    Perhaps one difficulty you’re having is conceiving of change or “progress” as a single variable along a one-dimensional line. This is obviously false.

    Comment by Christian Y. Cardall — February 10, 2006 @ 6:45 am

  57. Christian,

    Thanks. I’m afraid that my assumptions about reality being all about becoming (“where there is time there is motion” and all) make the examples you give unimpressive to me. For instance, I don’t think there has ever been any significant amounts of time (certainly not eternity) before we had bodies. My preference for the MMP model of eternity makes me thing that all eternity is about pregression and retrogression via successive probationary periods. Therefore, I don’t see any “qualitatively different opportunties for change” suddenly openening to us upon entering this life. Rather, I suspect this is part of the pattern of the universe that we have always followed.

    My question is: If “pre-spirit-birth individual intelligences” were not “static and unchanging” and they had the potential to become spirits how do we explain that they did not if it was really infinite time? I’m not talking about “a really super long time”, but infinite time. Again, we back to the “infinity plus one” problem. Why is more time needed if it has been infinity of time already?

    Blake says this perceived problem is a based on a logical fallacy, but he has not responded to the Aristotle quote Craig yet or explained his assumptions either. Maybe the real issue here is simply the paradoxes that are associated with eternity…

    Comment by Geoff J — February 10, 2006 @ 9:24 am

  58. Geoff, if your argument depends on acceptance of multiple probations you should say so, rather than claim that backwardly eternal individual intelligences are logically impossible. Set MMP aside for a moment so we can talk about what is or is not logically necessary rather than that which is dependent on your preferences.

    Is it your position that spirits do not need the intervention of a god to enter a mortal probation? Or that an intelligence could take on a spirit body without the intervention of a god? If so you might have a point (don’t know for sure), but I don’t think such an idea is consistent with Mormonism.

    Why is more time needed if it has been infinity of time already? If there are and always have been an infinite number of individual intelligences, who could not take on a spirit body without god giving them one, why should I expect that even an infinite number of gods with unlimited time would have gotten to them all? There will always be more intelligences who still need a spirit body.

    Infinities are logically tricky, but a mathematician (which I am not) could maybe shed some light here. My understanding is that there are different “orders” of infinity. There are, for example, both an infinite number of integers and an infinite number of real (all rational and irrational) numbers; but I am given to understand that there is a logically rigorous sense in which there are nevertheless “more” real numbers than integers. The infinity of real numbers is of a higher “order,” if you will.

    Now it could be that of all the individual backwardly eternal intelligences, the infinite number that are gods and that will become gods (the “integers,” so to speak) is of a lower order of infinity than the totality of individual intelligences (the “real numbers”, so to speak). If so, and if obtaining spirit bodies and/or mortal bodies requires the intervention of a god, then it would always be guaranteed that at any given point in time there will be some (actually, an infinite number of) intelligences who do not yet have a spirit body, whom the gods have not yet “gotten to.”

    Comment by Christian Y. Cardall — February 10, 2006 @ 11:59 am

  59. I’m not sure that anybody really understands what this problem is that Geoff sees. I sure don’t for one.

    Here is my take on it:

    “Since we have already existed forever, he should have progressed to X by now, but we haven’t so this is a problem.”

    But what is X? In the post he says “like God” but we could also say that God hasn’t progressed to become like His father yet either. In fact, for any given individual which exists anywhere they have not yet progressed to be, ‘a little bit better than they have ever been’, and by very definition they never will. There is only a problem of any kind if we believe there to be some sort of limit to spiritual progression. I don’t. Neither do a lot of Mormons. Nobody, according to this picture, will ever reach ‘a little bit better than they have ever been’ and this by very definition.

    I simply don’t see any problem here which needs resolving at all.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — February 10, 2006 @ 12:21 pm

  60. This is helpful Christian.

    Let me first say that my argument is not dependent on MMP — rather is dependent on a belief that reality is based on becoming rather than being. MMP is a natural outgrowth of such a metaphysical view I think. (And it seems to me that the forever unchanging intelligence idea is inconsistent with a metaphysics of becoming).

    The second assumption you make that I question is that there is a difference between an “intelligence” and a spirit. I think that are probably the same thing (and I think it was Blake that convinced me of that with some arguments in the ‘nacle previously). Now I am now certain if progress for spirits/intelligences requires active intervention from God to enter mortality or if it simply happens as the result of a universal law. I think it is entirely possible that it is the latter.

    I have done a little reading up on infinity and you are right that there appear to be different orders of infinity. For instance, a ray has a starting point and still continues for infinity in one direction. That might have been useful to solve this issue if the teaching wasn’t that we not only will continue forever but that we also are beginningless. (More like the concept of a line heading infinitely in both directions.)

    Let me finally add (for all) as my defense for bring up the “recycling” concept earlier this note from wikipedia under the term Eternity:

    Eternity is often symbolized by the image of a snake swallowing its own tail, known as Ouroboros (or Uroboros), though the symbol can also carry a number of other connotations.

    At least I’m not alone in considering this idea! (That’s for you Jeff)

    Comment by Geoff J — February 10, 2006 @ 12:38 pm

  61. Geoff, I don’t think there’s much more I can contribute, but I want to correct one thing: I do not require backwardly eternal intelligences to be forever unchanging as you incorrectly impute to me. A particle could be confined to a line (say the x-axis), but always in motion on that line (compare to a pre-spirit birth intelligence, or a pre-mortal birth spirit). If the confinement to the line is lifted (compare to God providing a spirit and/or mortal body), it can now move in the y-direction as well, so that its range of possibilities spans the entire x-y plane and not just the x-axis (compare to the new possibilities allowed by obtaining a spirit/mortal body).

    You have genuinely surprised me with entertaining the idea that spirits can enter mortality somehow independently of God’s intervention! (It seems philosophically even closer to atheism than God being inside the universe already is.) I would be pretty surprised if there is even a single other believing Mormon who agrees with you on that.

    Comment by Christian Y. Cardall — February 10, 2006 @ 2:06 pm

  62. Reading led me to wonder, Geoff, what implications would not believing in “spirit birth” have for the notion of a Heavenly Mother? If we base Her existence on the earthly construct of creating life, does changing how we view spirit creation change the way we do/don’t view Her?

    Comment by Téa — February 10, 2006 @ 2:25 pm

  63. Jeffrey,

    The problem for me is in the inconsistency of trying to employ the competing metaphysics of becoming and the metaphysics of being at the same time. If we have always been human spirits and if we have always been in motion (becoming) with a beginningless goal of becoming gods, then we have had forever to do so; so claiming we need an infinity of time plus one millenium (or whatever) to do so is nonsense.

    So your appeal to relative progression is an interesting addition to this conversation. The problem is that such an approach only works if humanness is a relative property rather than a fixed one. If we (humans) have indeed been progressing forever but have forever been the same relative distance from a progressing God then your idea basically works. The problem is that if humanness is relative then we will never progress beyond humanness unless we catch up with God, right? I don’t see how such relativism solves the problem of us being human for all eternity already (and that is the specific idea I am questioning in this post) unless you are saying that becoming God means we necessarily “catch up” to our progressing God.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 10, 2006 @ 2:39 pm

  64. Christian: You have genuinely surprised me with entertaining the idea that spirits can enter mortality somehow independently of God’s intervention! (It seems philosophically even closer to atheism than God being inside the universe already is.)

    Not atheism Christian, but perhaps leaning toward Deism a bit. The idea being that lots of things happen on their own in the universe as in nature and that that God only intervenes when it is necessary to do so to bring about his purposes. This is very much in line with Widtsoe’s theology wherein God grew to understand and manipulate laws of the universe.

    I would be pretty surprised if there is even a single other believing Mormon who agrees with you on that.

    Ha! That is rich coming from a Mormon who believes God has no free will but rather is entirely caually determined by the “great causal chain”. As I said, I think my belief on that is right in line with Widtsoe’s basic theology and thus probably fairly common.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 10, 2006 @ 2:52 pm

  65. Tea,

    Well I think there is no question that men and women have equal chance at progression. But as you srumise, I thin this notion of MiH as eternally pregnant is completely inaccurate. I and a friend have a paper in the works that looks at the ancient views of the relationship of diety to male/female roles. Stay tuned.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 10, 2006 @ 3:11 pm

  66. (#63) seems to me to be a logical train wreck.

    “If we have always been human spirits”

    Who ever said that?

    “and if we have always been in motion (becoming)”

    Becoming is certainly a subset of motion, but to equate motion with
    becoming would not at all be accurate.

    “with a beginningless goal of becoming gods,”

    Whoever said that these self-existent intelligences were always human, or alway had goals or any kind?

    “then we have had forever to do so;”

    I’m sure you will intepret my response here as some form of “recycling” but I’ll say it anyways, who says that we, or parts of us at least, haven’t progressed a great deal in the past? Spiritual progression is by no means a one-directional process, and at absolutely no time is any being ever absolutely secure from spiritual retardation.

    “so claiming we need an infinity of time plus one millenium (or whatever) to do so is nonsense.”

    Given that most all of your premises are wrong, you argument, no matter how valid its structure may be, is simply false.

    “The problem is that such an approach only works if humanness is a relative property rather than a fixed one.”

    humanness is definitley a relative property. I think that the safest reconciliations between Mormonism and Evolution require this. Perhaps it would be best to call it an emergent property of sorts.

    “If we (humans) have indeed been progressing forever but have forever been the same relative distance from a progressing God then your idea basically works.”

    My argument works whether we are the same relative distance from God or not. Who says that we can’t “gain” on Him or “fall further behind?” Additionally, we have not been humans which have been progressing forever; we have been intelligences.

    “The problem is that if humanness is relative then we will never progress beyond humanness unless we catch up with God, right?”

    I have no clue what this is supposed to mean. Maybe I misunderstood your version of humanness being relative above. If I did understand it, then who says that we will be humans forever, or that humanness is an indication of progression at all?

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — February 10, 2006 @ 3:21 pm

  67. As to #64; at least Christain has one other Mormon in his position. ;-p

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — February 10, 2006 @ 3:22 pm

  68. Jeff: Who ever said that [we have always been human spirits]?

    Ummm… Did you read the post? Lots of people say that. Are you agreeing with me that such a notion is a crock all of a sudden?

    Becoming is certainly a subset of motion, but to equate motion with becoming would not at all be accurate.

    What’s your point?

    Whoever said that these self-existent intelligences… alway had goals or any kind?

    I assume that (along with others, no doubt). Do you think we have beginningless spirits but that our goals to progress do have a beginning?

    we have not been humans which have been progressing forever; we have been intelligences.

    So you agree with at least part of my point.

    I have no clue what this is supposed to mean.

    Hehe…

    Alright, the point is that if humanness is defined as the phase below godhood (taking this relative humanness idea you seemed to push) then it has nothing to do with amount of intelligence we gather but rather our intelligence relative to gods who are above us… (I think it is false, but I was just trying to flesh out the implications of humanness being relative to godhood if both are progressing)

    Comment by Geoff J — February 10, 2006 @ 4:01 pm

  69. (1)There is a difference between being a human spirit and simply being a spirit, just as an “intelligence” could probably be taken as something different from either of those. While I certianly saw a lot of talk about spirits and intelligence in the post, I didn’t see much anything about “humans”.

    (2) I guess by “motion” you meant either progressing or regressing spiritually rather than simply “motion.” Lot’s of things move without progressing, but I guess that that is beside the point. I think that the most straight forward reading of the KFD is that it is indeed very possible (perhaps even probably) that total stagnation is an option. In others, it is possible for an intelligence or spirit to be neither progressing nor regressing. Thus there is not continual motion of any kind that really means any thing in this context.

    (3) While I hestitate to say that “goals” had beginnings, I would definitely say that there was a time at which intelligences did not have goals which was followed (probably MUCH later) by a time in which they did have goals. The emergence of goals would be a very gradual process and searching for the beginning of a goal is probably akin to search for the first mammal. Additionally, it might not be a question of having or not having goals altogether but rather an issue of taking already existent goals and exapting them into different ones.

    (4) It depend on how one means “intelligences.” I’m not very commited to any specific definition on this matter, and it is this matter, as you seem to see, which is really at the whole heart of the matter.

    (5) I take humannes to be not some kind of progressional stage or anything like that, but rather is the sense of being a homo-sapien. God, I maintain, became a homo-sapien just like we did when He came to this world. Before that I’m sure He was a “man” in some form of the word, but I wouldn’t hold too strongly to the idea that He was a homo-sapien. Thus, one can be or become a human over a very broad range of spiritual progression stages. Clearly we are all behind God in this process, with some gaining, or merely falling behind less quickly than others. Humanness is not an eternal property to us. Nor is our progressive state relative to God’s.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — February 10, 2006 @ 4:15 pm

  70. Geoff et al.: I explain a few of the different orders of infinity at: http://www.fairlds.org/apol/TNMC/TNMC01.html I also explain why the kinds of arguments Geoff takes up here are unsound.

    I think that you didn’t understand what I said the logical fallacy was in your argument. The fallacy is that your position requires the modality of necessity; but the notion that eternal spirits progress only entails that it is possible that they progress to any given point; not necessary that they shall have done so. Necessity, possibility and impossibility are the most basic logical operators of modal logic. You have confused them. The problem arises from this confusion. I address the same confusion in Craig’s thinking when he argues against the possibility of an actual infinite.

    BTW I didn’t respond to Aristotle because what he said is entirely irrelevant. Aristotle wrote before the development of Cantorian infitiary logic and thus cannot be expected to write with any knowledge of the issues you discuss given modern developments in set theory and mathematics.

    Comment by Blake — February 11, 2006 @ 9:02 am

  71. Goeff: I thought I’d just post here the response to your argument that I give to Craig’s similar argument> Craig argued:

    “In order for us to have ‘arrived’ at today, existence has, so to speak, traversed an infinite number of prior events. But before the present event could arrive, the event immediately prior to it would have to arrive; and before that event could arrive, the event immediately prior to it would have to arrive; and so on ad infinitum. No event could ever arrive, since before it could elapse there will always be one more event that had to have happened first. Thus, if the series of past events were beginningless, the present event could not have arrived, which is absurd!”

    Indeed, the scenario painted by C&C is absurd because it does not accurately characterize the nature of the infinite past and its relation to the present. Just what does it mean to “traverse” an infinite time or to “arrive” at the present? If “traverse” means to “pass through” or “complete” a temporal series beginning with an event and ending with an event – as I believe the term implies – then the infinite past cannot be traversed in this sense.15 However, the argument then would not apply to the infinite past since the infinite past has no beginning term. In fact, this seems to be the meaning of “traverse” implied in C&C’s argument. Note first that C&C treat the past once again as a well-ordered infinity that has a first member – the first member of this set is the present event and we begin this set by counting backwards into an infinite past. We begin the thought experiment proposed by C&C by thinking of the present event, and then regress to the event before, and then the event before that ad infinitum. Since we begin with the present event, the infinity is merely potential and is in fact never completed. In fact, it is no infinity at all but merely an open-ended finite series. Since no matter how long we count we cannot complete the infinite past, C&C conclude that the past cannot be infinite. But counting backward again treats the actual past without beginning as a set that has a beginning term, i.e., the present event. There is a way, and perhaps only one way, to create an actual infinite by counting or marking each successive moment, and that is to have been counting in each moment of existence of the eternal past as it occurred. Thus, the argument is a non sequitur, for it does not follow from the fact that past is infinite that it cannot “reach” the present, for there has been an infinite time in which to do it! Nor does it follow that no event could ever arrive because there will always be one more event which “had to happen first.” All that follows is that there is in fact an event that preceded the present event, and an event before that and so on.

    In another article, Craig protests that his “traversal” argument does not implicitly presuppose a beginning term. He says:

    “It is not obvious to me that to say a beginningless infinite series cannot be traversed means that it has no first member. The best I can make [of this] claim is that the notion of traversal entails a beginning point, so that a series with no beginning point cannot be traversed.” But such a construal of traversal seems clearly wrong. A man who just finished counting all of the negative numbers, for example, has ‘traversed’ a beginningless, infinite series. To traverse a series means just to cross it or pass through it one member at a time. Hence, I am quite at a loss to understand how the Kalam Cosmological Argument begs the question by assuming implicitly that the past has a beginning point.16

    But this protest of surprise isn’t really a response at all. C&C implicitly assume that the series of past events has a starting point by asking us to imagine the past as a series that begins with the present event as the first term of a regress and counting backwards. They give us a well-formed infinite series when they must give us an example of a not-well-formed series that has no beginning term and terminates in the present. Moreover, the very activity of counting assumes that a count has been started by a beginning number. However, lets take C&C at Craig’s word that to traverse means to “cross” or “pass through” a series one member at a time. If that is all that traverse means, then there is no reason why an infinite series cannot be formed by successive addition in this sense, for all it means is that an infinite time has been “crossed” or “passed through” in an infinite number of days or years each of which has been passed through one member at a time. There is nothing absurd or impossible about that.

    C&C suggest that the infinite past is like the task of having “completed a count-down of the negative number’s, ending at zero, a task which seems impossible.” And why is it impossible? If one has existed in every moment of the infinite past, he could have counted a number for each past moment because there is a one-to-one correspondence between the past times and the past numbers counted. That of course is not impossible. Yet C&C counter: “But that only pushes the problem back a notch: how could an infinite series of moments elapse sequentially? If the past is actually infinite, then why did one not finish his count-down of the negative numbers yesterday or the day before, since by then an infinite series of moments had elapsed? No matter how far along the series of past moments one regresses, one would have already completed his count-down.”17 But there really is no problem at all. Our (finite) experience of counting includes the necessity that we begin counting with some number. But that is not the case if we set up the thought experiment correctly. There is a confusion in the example suggested by C&C which is important to note. First, they suggest that the count-down ends with zero. Yet they say that the counter is “regressing” as he counts a “count-down” which suggests that the counter has begun at zero and is “counting down” the negative numbers backwards. But if we follow the example suggested by C&C in a way that actually reflects the infinite past, then there is no beginning to the counting. Yet if there is no beginning to the counting done by the counter, and in each new moment the counter counts a new number, it follows that the counter could have counted all of the negative numbers ending with zero. For there would then be a one-to-one correspondence between the infinite number of times in the past and each act of counting. Say that in fact I had been counting for all eternity, what follows is that I would have finished counting an infinite number of terms yesterday, and when I counted one more today I would have finished counting an infinite number of terms again today. As Wes Morriston argued in response to a similar argument by Craig:

    It is true that yesterday the infinite counter would have counted infinitely many numbers. Indeed, it is true that on any day during his count he would have counted infinitely many numbers. But it does not follow that on any day prior to today he has finished his count. Why? Because he was counting down to zero, and on no day prior to today had he reached zero. Yesterday, he had only reached -1, the day before he had reached -2, and so on. So there is no reason to conclude that the man has ‘always already’ finished the countdown to zero.18

    Yet as usual Craig has a response which suggests that clearing up the confusion in the argument really just makes matters worse for the proponent of an infinite past:

    If we were to ask why the counter would not finish next year or in a hundred years, the objector would respond that prior to the present year an infinite number of years will have already elapsed, so that by the Principle of Correspondence, all the numbers should have been counted by now. But this reasoning backfires on the objector: for, as we have seen, on this account the counter should at any point in the past have already finished counting all the numbers, since a one-to-one correspondence exists between the years of the past and the negative numbers.19

    Yet Craig makes a modal error here. Craig (and C&C in their article in NMC) asserts that the infinite counter necessarily must have finished counting “all” of the negative numbers prior to today. The fact is that a person counting for an infinite number of years could have reached zero yesterday, but it is not necessarily the case. Remember, the concept of “number” is equivocal when speaking of infinite numbers. The counter could also have reached – 10 or – 1,528 yesterday, or any other finite number. The infinite set of negative numbers consisting of {n … – 13, – 12, – 11}, where there is no beginning term and ends in – 11, or the set with no beginning term and ends in – 1,528, or any other finite number for that matter, can also be put into a one-to-one correspondence with all past years because the number of terms in each of these sets is infinite. Thus, it is simply false that the counter must have finished counting all of the negative numbers prior to today. C&C confuse “all negative numbers” with “infinitely many negative numbers.” The two sets are not necessarily the same. Yet Craig’s argument works only if, necessarily, the counter must have counted all negative numbers by today. The argument is simply modally confused.

    Comment by Blake — February 11, 2006 @ 9:20 am

  72. Thanks for the link and the excerpt Blake. This is the kind of meaty stuff I like to learn about and dig into around here. I’ll have some comments and questions a little later (I want to read the entire paper at FAIR first).

    Comment by Geoff J — February 12, 2006 @ 4:58 pm

  73. Jeff (#69): While I certianly saw a lot of talk about spirits and intelligence in the post, I didn’t see much anything about “humans”.

    One assumption I was blasting is that we have spiritually been essentially in current form forever. If we have not always had human spirits (or at least spirits at the light/intelligence level to be human now) what level/form do you envision us having forever?

    Comment by Geoff J — February 12, 2006 @ 5:03 pm

  74. Easy, that of an intelligence. I know that you are looking for something more concrete than that, but I think that seeking more concreteness in this matter is exactly what shouldn’t be done. The intelligence which makes us ‘us’ has always existed in some form or another and anything beyond that will actually work against this notion of “formal” flexibility.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — February 12, 2006 @ 5:12 pm

  75. Jeff,

    I can buy that argument in terms of “form”, but it doesn’t work as well in terms of “level”. For instance, a dog presumably has a spirit/intelligence — the “form” unembodied spirits/intelligences take may not make a difference but the “level” surely does. So what do you think about this question of level? Do dogs have beginningless intelligences that are at a dog level? Can dogs progress to become higher levels or orders of spirits/intelligences? What is your take on this?

    Comment by Geoff J — February 12, 2006 @ 5:27 pm

  76. Geoff, it seems to me that Abraham 3 tells us that intelligences are ranked from all eternity according to their “intelligence,” which I interpret as a capacity for learning and change. The most straightforward reading of the existence of animals in eternity (e.g. D&C 77) and also the existence of kingdoms of glory (D&C 76) is that both dogs and people have beginningless intelligences with different capacities for learning—levels or orders, if you like, that won’t change (a dog will not get to “higher level”, nor a telestial to a celestial).

    Comment by Christian Y. Cardall — February 13, 2006 @ 5:28 am

  77. Christian,

    The inconsistency of that position is what I have a great deal of difficulty accepting. So you say dog intelligences have always been and will always be dog intelligences. No progressing for them. But human intelligences have always been, but may not always be human intelligences. Human intelligences get to progress to a much higher order — and perhaps continue such upward progress for all eternity (if we can ever manage to get off the the schneid as humans — it has literally taken FOREVER for us to this point…)

    I’m afraid that just doesn’t work for me. It doesn’t fit with how I read Abraham 3 nor does it fit with how I read D&C 88 (“For intelligence leaveth unto intelligence”). It seems to me that there is more flexibility in “intelligence” than that. And probably that intelligence between the top and bottom of the continuum Abraham saw differs only in degree rather than in type.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 13, 2006 @ 10:12 am

  78. Geoff,

    Your #75 shows that you aren’t understanding my position yet.

    I agree that the “level” matters while the form does not. No problem here.

    Where you go off is when you speak of a “dog level.” “Dog” is not a level, though the intelligences which (presumably) inhabit dogs are at a certain level in progression. There are so many more colors in the spectrum than mere black, white and all shade of grey. “Dog” is simply one form in which an intelligence which happens to be at that particular level of progression could be embodied. Just as “human” is only one of the (presumably) many forms which intelligences at our level could have taken.

    In addition to there being a variety of forms of manifestation, there are also different aspects/qualities/characteristics which are emphasized more in each of these forms. Thus, progression, it would seem, is not simply a rating in only one category, but rather a function of many categories. Bats have far more intelligence in the form of echolocation than we do, while our symbolic capabilities go unmatched in this world. To say that “smartness” is all that counts as we experience it is to overly anthropomorphize the entire process.

    That said, of course the intelligences which currently are embodied in dogs can progress to higher levels of intelligence by being embodied in some other form in some other probation some where, some time. This is the point which J. was missing in his cricket criticisms. Its not that dogs or crickets will become smarter, but rather than the intelligences which undoubtably inhabit them will do so.

    Clearly some life forms, such as jelly fish, will not gain all that much intelligence from this life, while others such as crickets, even more so dogs, and most of all humans will gain much more.

    Why have some intelligence not progressed all that much? Because they simply haven’t been embodied either very often or at all. Remember, if there are an infinite amount of intelligences, then there are always more than however many have been counted.

    Here are some of the issues which should really be addressed:

    Is the infinity of intelligences denser than the infinity of existing probations? In order to understand and answer this we must also know:

    How many probations are there? Are there a finite number which have been repeated with modifications an infinite number of times, or are there also a potential or even actual infinite number of them going on at any one time? The quote from Brigham above would seem to suggest the latter of the two.

    Now, are all intelligences involved or in some probation or another at any given instant? This is getting back to the question of density.

    Is the infinity of intelligences due to an infinity of probations, or is it an infinity independent of the quantity of probations? I think that if we are going to accept any form of a beginningless existence is simply must be the latter.

    Thus I would conclude that regardless of how many probations are currently in play, there will always be more intelligences which have not been embodied even a single time. Given this, the infinity of intelligences would be infinitely more dense than the infinity of probations. The reason why some intelligences have not yet progressed to become like God or whatever it is that you think we should have reached by now is due to the fact that even in the infinite time which existed before “now” we did not get embodied until relatively recently (in comparison with God or his God or whoever else came before them). Additionally, there are an infinite number of intelligences which have not as of yet been embodied yet (after all, there is ALWAYS more) and these have not progressed at all.

    I simply see no reason for this account of uncreated intelligences to be in contradiction with itself. (I should mention, that while these are good ideas for some forms of Mormonism, I don’t accept that intelligences are necessarily uncreated. As you know, I embrace a fully reductionistic account of intelligence (cognitive capabilities) where in intelligence is not an object, but rather a process.

    As an after thought, perhaps a fully reductionistic account of intelligence could be harmonized with a form of informational semantics. Since almost anything in nature (given a naturalistic outlook on it) can serve as a sign for anything else just so long as one reliably follows or is caused by the other. This potential sign or information could be considered (with an admitted amount of stretching) a form of proto-intelligence. Who knows?

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — February 13, 2006 @ 12:01 pm

  79. Geoff: But human intelligences have always been, but may not always be human intelligences. Human intelligences get to progress to a much higher order-

    You lost me here. I never said human intelligences would ever become anything other than human. I would consider Heavenly Father’s intelligence to be “human”: Mormonism involves anthropomorphizing divinity (or theomorphizing humanity, if you like).

    But more generally I think you and many other Mormons take “eternal progression” to mean something that is not warranted by scripture (I don’t even think the phrase is scriptural), in terms of boundless increases in knowledge and so on. This essentially denies that there exists such a thing as a “fullness”, which the scriptures require. The only eternal increase warranted by scripture is increase in progeny.

    Comment by Christian Y. Cardall — February 13, 2006 @ 12:42 pm

  80. Jeff – I can see how with the assumption you make about infinite intelligences, space, and matter that the conundrum I posted on does not exist. I suppose the assumptions are what really ought to be looked at first. The lack of shared assumptions have made this thread way too squirrelly for my tastes, actually.

    Christian – I’m afraid you lost me too. You seem to say that there is little or no difference between the degree of intelligence of man and God-is that what you mean? How far do you think we can progress in terms of God-like intelligence?

    Comment by Geoff J — February 13, 2006 @ 1:19 pm

  81. Geoff, it seems you’re changing the way “intelligence” is being used in this discussion. In #79 I thought both you and I were both meant “intelligence” as the backwardly-eternal uncreated individual. But in #80 you seem to be using “intelligence” to mean a degree of knowledge and power. I agree that God has more knowledge and power than us, just like I have more knowledge and power than my children; but my children and I are of the same species or race, and I my understanding of traditional Mormonism is that the same is true of Heavenly Father and us. I understand traditional Mormonism to say there are separate “kinds” of biological species, and corresponding separate kinds of spirits and/or intelligences, with some having reached maturity and others not yet reached maturity.

    Comment by Christian Y. Cardall — February 13, 2006 @ 2:34 pm

  82. Now we’re getting some where.

    I imagine that it was the treatment of infinity rather than the nature of intelligences which cleared things up. I wonder if Blake really accepts those forms of infinity which I suggested, or if he holds to a form of infinitesimal progression. Either way, I doubt he is still following this tread.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — February 13, 2006 @ 3:04 pm

  83. Christian,

    Again, we have gotten too squirrelly here because we are not defining the assumptions well enough. And the “intelligence” (amount of it) vs. “Intelligence” (or spirit) confusion is always trouble in these conversations to begin with. I tend to think more along the lines of Jeff regarding “Intelligences” and their ability to increase in “intelligence”. But I imagine that working best with an atomism model (though clearly I can’t properly defend such speculation).

    The difference between the two models is that in Jeff’s model all “Intelligences” can progress to eventually become like God, whereas in yours only the human intelligences can make such progress I think.

    But again, I get the feeling that we aren’t making much progress here in this discussion because the foundational assumptions are not set.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 13, 2006 @ 3:06 pm

  84. Jeff: I remain agnostic about whether the magnitide and number of intelligences is actually infinite (because underdetermined by scripture) but I cannot see any logical problem in them.

    Comment by Blake — February 13, 2006 @ 6:47 pm

  85. Blake,

    Do you have an opinion about this question whether all intelligences have potential to progress to be like God or not? That was really mostly what I was complaining against in the post — the idea that our beginningless spirits have always been at the “level” where we are now as humans.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 13, 2006 @ 8:38 pm

  86. Geoff: I don’t really have a view on that, tho I tend to favor a view that intelligences vary in gradient of intelligence (like a quotient I suppose) and some may have inherent limits. I tend to believe (tho I’m not sure quite why) that there are intelligences that are like natural kinds and their capacities are determined by the natural kind that they are — something like discrete quanta. So we have intelligences from quotient 10-20 that are apes and then there is a quantum leap of 70-140 for homo sapiens. But it wouldn’t upset any deeply held view if I found out that intelligence is non-discrete and all intelligences can progress without limit.

    Comment by Blake — February 13, 2006 @ 11:54 pm

  87. Very interesting… Thanks. Well, as I said — that was the core subject I had in mind in this post. Mixing in atomism and infinity arguments distracted from that core (though this discussion that followed has helped me separate them all out in my mind better). I’ll have to explore the question of intelligences and whether they are all boundless in capacity or if they come in discrete “kinds” with clear upper limits as many saints tend to believe. As you said, this subject is largely underdetermined by the revelations; but maybe a model could be constructed by looking at the evidence we do have… (We’ll see).

    Comment by Geoff J — February 14, 2006 @ 8:28 am

  88. BTW there is a great discussion regarding the Trinity going on at the Prosblogian here: http://prosblogion.ektopos.com/

    BTW we will be discussing the Trinity with Stephen Davis of Claremont at the SMPT conference. Will you be there?

    Comment by Blake — February 14, 2006 @ 10:19 am

  89. Thanks for the link Blake. I’m not sure if I’ll be at the SMPT conference again this year or not yet. I need to get some snowboarding in with my brother Rss who lives up there so the odds are not bad that I’ll make the trip. That session you mention does sound very intersting.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 14, 2006 @ 12:37 pm

  90. Christian Y. Cardall wrote (#6)

    Individual intelligences could exist from all eternity but not progress at all–like a seed that lies dormant until it is placed in soil, given water, exposed to light, etc. Joseph spoke of God finding himself in the midst of the intelligences, and instituting laws that allowed them to progress. Until then they had unrealized potential.

    This reminds me of a story:

    There was a man who lived in the desert who wanted to create a garden. There was no water so he spent years building an access pipe to a water source many miles away.

    He then took packets of seeds of all kinds which he had collected during his life and grew his beautiful garden in the midst of a dry and barren desert.

    A priest was travelling through the desert and came upon the man and his garden. He, knowing the source of life was God, remarked, “That’s a fine garden God has grown for you there”.

    The man replied, “Well, God wasn’t doing much with it before I came along”

    An appropriate parable to this discussion, imo.

    …….

    Geoff,

    If i understand the way blogs work, this is your blog and only you can start a topic thread? If I have a topic that might merit discussion, could i email it to you for your consideration?

    Comment by David West — February 19, 2006 @ 3:34 pm

  91. David,

    Yes. Feel free to email me any time.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 19, 2006 @ 7:12 pm

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