What are “intelligences”?

June 1, 2006    By: Geoff J @ 3:55 pm   Category: Eternal Progression,Spirits/Intelligences,Theology

Joseph Smith introduced the idea of “intelligences” in both modern scripture and in non-canonized sermons. In this post I want to explore what exactly it is that “intelligences” are. I don’t expect to come up with definitive answers because I don’t think enough has been revealed to find such, but I do hope that a fruitful discussion will ensue that helps us all sort out the various ideas that relate to the concept of intelligences.

Intelligences (plural) are not the same as intelligence (singular)

One of the problems with the whole notions of “intelligences” is that intelligences (plural) are reportedly things – usually thought of as proto-spirits, or essences, or sometimes as another name for spirits. Intelligence (singular) is usually referred to in the more traditional meaning of the word and is synonymous with knowledge of truth.

Here are some examples from the LDS canon.

Intelligence as knowledge of truth:

The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth. (D&C 93: 36)

Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection. And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come. (D&C 130: 18-19)

Accordingly, as I had been commanded, I went at the end of each year, and at each time I found the same messenger there, and received instruction and intelligence from him at each of our interviews, respecting what the Lord was going to do, and how and in what manner his kingdom was to be conducted in the last days. (JS-H 1: 54)

Intelligence as autonomous proto-spirit or spirit:

Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be. All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence. (D&C 93: 29-30)

21 I dwell in the midst of them all; I now, therefore, have come down unto thee to declare unto thee the works which my hands have made, wherein my wisdom excelleth them all, for I rule in the heavens above, and in the earth beneath, in all wisdom and prudence, over all the intelligences thine eyes have seen from the beginning; I came down in the beginning in the midst of all the intelligences thou hast seen.
22 Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones;
23 And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born. (Abr. 3: 21-23)

Intelligence used in a way that could mean either of the above (though seems more like the knowledge usage in context):

For intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence; wisdom receiveth wisdom; truth embraceth truth; virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light; mercy hath compassion on mercy and claimeth her own; justice continueth its course and claimeth its own; judgment goeth before the face of him who sitteth upon the throne and governeth and executeth all things. (D&C 88: 40)

There are two main models that LDS thinkers have come up with regarding intelligences. One is the intelligence particles model as first described by Orson Pratt and the other assumes that each person (or animal or plant?) is powered by a single beginningless intelligence.

The intelligence particles model

When describing the particles model Orson Pratt wrote:

If the human spirit be nearly the same form and magnitude as the fleshly tabernacle in which it dwells, it must be composed of an immense number of particles, each of which is susceptible of almost an infinite variety of thoughts, emotions, and feelings. Whence originated these susceptibilities? Are they the results of organization? Did each particle obtain its susceptibilities by being united with others? This would be impossible; for if a particle were entirely destitute of the capacity of thinking and feeling, no possible organization could impart to it that power. The power to think and feel, is not, nor can not be derived from any arrangement of particles. If they have not this power before organization, they can never have it afterwards. It follows then, that if ever there were a time when the particles of the human spirit existed in a disorganized state, each particle so existing, must have had all the susceptibilities of feeling and thought that it now has; and, consequently, each particle must have been a separate independent being of itself. Therefore, under such circumstances, one particle would have been no more affected with the state or condition of others, than one man is affected with the pleasures or pains of others with whom he is not associated.
(Orson Pratt, Absurdities of Immaterialism, Liverpool, 1848)

Preceding that period there was an endless duration, and each particle of our spirits had an eternal existence, and was in possession of eternal capacities. Now can it be supposed, for one moment, that these particles were inactive and dormant from all eternity until they received their organization in the form of the infant spirit? Can we suppose that particles, possessed of the power to move themselves, would not have exerted that power, during the endless duration preceding their organization? If they were once organized in the vegetable kingdom, and then disorganized by becoming the food of celestial animals, and then again re-organized in the form of the spirits of animals which is a higher sphere of being, then, is it unreasonable to suppose that the seine particles have, from all eternity, been passing through an endless chain of unions and disunions, organizations and disorganizations, until at length they are permitted to enter into the highest and most exalted sphere of organization in the image and likeness of God? A transmigration of the same particles of spirits from a lower to a higher organization, is demonstrated from the fact that the same particles exist in a diffused scattered state, mingled with other matter; next, they exist in a united form, growing out of the earth in the shape of grass, herbs, and trees; and after this, these vegetables become food for celestial animals, and these same particles are organized into their offspring, and thus form the spirits of animals. Here, then, is apparently a transmigration of the same particles of spirit from an inferior to a superior organization, wherein their condition is improved, and their sphere of action enlarged. Who shall set any bounds to this upward tendency of spirit? Who shall prescribe limits to its progression? If it abide the laws and conditions of its several states of existence, who shall say that it will not progress until it shall gain the very summit of perfection, and exist in all the glorious beauty of the image of God?
When therefore, the infant spirit is first born in the heavenly world, that is not a commencement of its capacities. Each particle eternally existed prior to the organization; each was enabled to perceive its own existence; each had the power of self-motion; each was an intelligent, living being of itself, having no knowledge of the particular thoughts, feelings, and emotions of other particles with which it never had been in union. Each particle was as independent of every other particle as on individual person is of another. In this independent separate condition, it would be capable of being governed by laws, adapted to the amount of knowledge and experience it had gained during its past eternal existence.
(Orson Pratt, “The Pre-Existence of Man”, The Seer, 102-103. 1853)

The single intelligence model

This model assumes that there is a single intelligence that powers (or is the same as) all spirits. Some assume that uncreated intelligences are limited in their potential, so for instance a dog-level intelligence can never progress beyond the level of dog. Others seem to think that each intelligence is beginningless as something like a blank slate and that each has infinite growth potential. (If anyone else has something to add here please chime in!)

Both of these models have some strengths and some weaknesses. I am not firmly in one camp or the other, but of the two I lean toward the particles model currently. It may be that neither of these models is correct though. One question I am interested in with both models is if intelligences vary in “degree of glory” in their most fundamental, beginningless and irreducible states or not. If anyone has an opinion one way or the other about this question please share. So sound off friends – what is your theory of “intelligences”?

(See my previous related posts here and here.)

[Associated radio.blog song: The Waterboys - Spirit]

123 Comments »

  1. I think the particles model is the most fruitful, and goes along with the idea of spirit being purer matter. My vote is on particles, and I have always felt that was what Joseph meant from the beginning with this notion, and never viewed it any other way until hearing about it as a synonym for an entire spirit here.

    Comment by Jeff Day — June 1, 2006 @ 4:47 pm

  2. Intelligences are discussed primarily in three places: D&C 88, 93, and Abraham 3.

    In Abraham 3, it tells us that spirits are “organized intelligences.” That suggests that prior to becoming spirits, intelligence is unorganized or disorganized.

    We know that intelligence is “light and truth”, that it cannot be created nor unmade. We also know that it is animated by the Light of Christ. Individualism does not necessarily seem to take place until Intelligence is created as spirit.

    I agree with Blake Ostler in his Volume I of Attributes of God that intelligences are any particle, element or thing that is animated by the Light of Christ. Since the Light of Christ is in and through all things, that means all things (including God) is an Intelligence. But so is every individual atom and subatomic particle. When God organizes elements into “higher” forms (atoms into molecules) they retain their old “memories/abilities” and add new abilities, as well. For example, hydrogen has certain capabilities and aspects, but when combined with oxygen can form water molecules, which have new abilities or intelligence.

    These can later be formed into higher forms of intelligence, until we become spirits – where individuality and agency begin. As mortals, we are continuing on the process of developing into higher forms of intelligence.

    Comment by Gary Smith — June 1, 2006 @ 5:32 pm

  3. Don’t the scriptures say that some intelligences were of higher quality, and that there was one in the midst that was more intelligent than they all – or something to that affect.

    This leads me to believe that intelligences, whatever they were, had free will and ability and knowledge etc. If not, what would distinguish one aboth the other? Particles don’t do this for me. If we allow that God had very much to do with the quality of our intelligence through some near absolute creation, we begin to face some theological problems I feel. So the less ‘organization’ God does at the intelligence stage the more comfortable I am.

    I want to believe that even intelligences have some matter to them, but I do not necessarily believe they have any particular form until they receive a spirit body. Since they are eternal, perhaps they do not move – and not subject to time? Silly thought perhaps.

    Comment by Eric — June 1, 2006 @ 5:55 pm

  4. I’ve always believed that intelligence is the matter that spirit is formed of, and that it is beginningless and endless, being matter. Intelligences are spoken of in the plural because they already denote individuality, or an ability to be classified, hence “noble and great ones.” While the concept of intelligences denotes formation, the idea of intelligence denotes a more fluid and ambivalent substance.

    Is intelligence equal to spirit then? No, for spirit can be good spirit or evil spirit. Intelligence is the matter for the spirit of truth, hence light, hence the Light of Christ, sometimes said to be, “Pure intelligence.”

    Comment by Nate Jensen — June 1, 2006 @ 6:12 pm

  5. Geoff,

    In the post, you said there are two main models with regard to intelligences, but I don’t think you’ve divided up the topic quite right. Historically, the biggest debate has been between those who said intelligence is a stuff out of which individuals are created, verses those who said individuality is beginningless. I hate to start things off with a huge blockquote, but I think this quote from Eternal Man expresses the B.H. Roberts view very well.

    Individuality is difficult to picture. That has led some to the view that “intelligence” is a name given to a primal stuff out of which, perhaps, the spirit personality is constructed, but that individuality does not really emerge until then. The doctrine of the Church, however, is clearly a doctrine of individual, separate intelligences. This is required by the original statements of the Prophet in Nauvoo. The Journal of Wilford Woodruff, for example, shows that the phrase “a spirit from age to age” refers to an entity, a person, and individual. (See footnotes to the sermon in Teachings, especially p. 354). It is required by the logic of the Prophet “Anything that has a beginning may have an end.” It is required by the use of the plural “intelligences” in many passages in the Standard Works. Finally, it is required by official pronouncements of the Church. The issue became a matter of wide discussion in the early 1900′s. B. H. Roberts’ Seventy’s Yearbook, Volume 4, assumed the co-eternity of individuals. The book was read and approved by the First Council of the Seventy. Later controversy resulted in an article titled “The Immortality of Man.” By assignment, Elder Roberts read this article first to President Fancis M. Lyman, then to the First Presidency (President Joseph F. Smith was President) and seven of the Council of the Twelve. It was thoroughly discussed. The article was published with their encouragement and endorsement. (April, 1907 Improvement Era). This article teaches the “existence of independent, uncreated, self-existent intelligences” which, though they differ, are “alike in their eternity and their freedom.” (p. 419). This is a doctrine, Roberts often said, “from which spring most glorious and harmonious truths.” (Truman Madsen, Eternal Man pg. 24-25 note 5)

    Now, I don’t agree with Madsen that the doctrine of the church is clear, but I do agree with his view. The Orson Pratt view you quoted heavily in the post is in the same basic camp as B.H. Roberts and Truman Madsen (individuality is beginningless for Pratt), but he had his own system built on top of it about spirits being created out of multiple individual intelligences.

    I find the Pratt view quite problematic. I have yet to see anyone make a compelling case for how a bunch of independent wills can be joined together to create the one will I experience as me. It seems to me Pratt glosses over this very serious problem with the sort of mystical explanation he scoffed at in trinitarian doctrines (which similarly try to say that multiple people are mystically one person at the same time that they are independent).

    Here is the sort of glossing over I refer to: “The intelligent particles of a man’s spirit are by their peculiar union, but one human spirit” (Orson Pratt, Absurdities of Immaterialism, ed. 1849 pg. 26).

    Thanks Orson, that explanation clears it up for me.

    Comment by Jacob — June 1, 2006 @ 8:47 pm

  6. Thanks for the comments all.

    Gary Smith – I read Blake’s Volume 1 but don’t recall anything like what you described. As I understand it, Blake is in agreement with B.H. Robert’s view on intelligences — that is that they are the same as spirits and that our spirits/intelligences with our current personal identities are beginningless.

    I certainly don’t remember him ever implying that God somehow takes any old inert matter and transforms it into intelligence particles with the light of Christ. That very notion implies that intelligence particles are somehow created by the light of Christ to me which is contrary to the D&C 93 quotes in the post.

    Eric – To be clear, Pratt taught that each individual particle is autonomous but that they join together in perfect union and a new personality or personal identity emerges from that union. So each particle could be referred to as an intelligence but a unified new personality that arises could be called an intelligence too. Now the question of whether intelligences are matter is a good one. If they are the same as spirits then we know the answer is yes. If they simply power spirit bodies as the tripartite model holds then I assume the answer is no.

    I personally think the tripartite (intelligence->spirit->body) model has too many problems and lean toward the idea that there is no difference between intelligences and spirits. The Abraham 3 quote in the post implies that they are the same. Abraham calls them intelligences in one clause of a sentence and then refers to them as souls in the very next clause implying that the terms are interchangeable:

    Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones; And God saw these souls that they were good,

    Nate Jensen – I think if you are going with the idea that intelligences are made of matter then you will have an uphill battle defending the idea that they are not the same thing as spirits I think. It seems terribly redundant to me.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 1, 2006 @ 10:21 pm

  7. I suppose I always just assumed that my intelligence was basically the existence of free will, that it always existed within its own sphere, and that God just gave it the power to have expression by granting it a spirit, followed by a body.

    Call it a “blue print.” It would make sense to me that my *identity* was eternal, always was, always is, always will be. I look at identity, agency, and intelligence as synonomous in some respects. “Independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also…” (D&C 93:30)

    Comment by Rhapsidiom — June 1, 2006 @ 10:31 pm

  8. Jacob,

    I actually framed my first two posts on this subject in the way you suggested here. In those I labeled the Roberts view where we have beginningless personal identities the “whole cloth” model of intelligences/spirits and the Pratt model the “spirit atomism” model. Mark B. got confused by these terms in the last thread so I shied away from them here. I wanted to change the pace a little for this post anyway.

    I agree that there are problems with the Pratt model. However, I have even bigger qualms with the Roberts model. The main beef I have with it is that if seems completely implausible to me that every person on this planet has lived any infinite amount of time with the same basic personal identity and with the capacity to repent and become one with the Godhead, and yet in that infinity of time only one person actually did that (Jesus Christ) whilst many billions of the rest of us didn’t accomplish it. Further I find it completely implausible that after literally FOREVER we now get a mortal probation of maybe 70 years to do what we couldn’t or wouldn’t do in the infinity of time prior to this mortality. Infinity of time was not enough but infinity of time plus 70 years will be “just right”. It frankly seems like a ridiculous claim to me.

    Now Blake avoids part of my criticism by assuming that Christ and the Father have been Gods forever as well and are beginningless in their state of Godhood. But you and others agreed with me in the last post that Joseph specifically taught against that position in the Sermon in the Grove. So when it comes to defending the Roberts model, you have a tougher task than Blake does I think.

    Now you said that individuality is beginningless for Pratt but this is only partially true. Pratt believed that the individuality of particles of autonomous intelligence in beginningless, but that personalities also emerge from the union of these particles and those emergent personalities (which would include you and me in his model) do have a beginning.

    Regarding the union of intelligence particles to create new emergent intelligences/spirits Pratt said on page 104 of The Seer:

    The particles organized in an infant spirit, can no longer act, or feel, or think as independent individuals, but the law to control them in their new sphere, requires them to act, and feel, and think in union, and to be agreed in all things. When the same feelings, the same thoughts, the same emotions, and the same affections, prevade [sic] every particle, existing in the union, the united individuals will consider themselves as one individual: the interest and welfare of each will be the interest and welfare of the whole: if whole: if one suffers, they all suffer: if one rejoices, they all rejoice: if one gains any information, it is communicated to all the rest: if one thinks, all the rest think in the same manner: if one feels, they all feel: in fine, the union of these particles is so perfect, that there can be no state or affection of one, but all the rest are immediately notified of it, and are thus by sympathy in the same state or affection. And, therefore, they live, and move, and think, and act as one being, though in reality, it is a being of beings. So far as the substance is concerned the spiritual body is a plurality of beings; so far as the attributes or qualities are considered, it is but one being. We should naturally suppose, that individual particles which have been accustomed to act in an individual capacity, would, at first, find it very difficult to act in perfect concord and agreement. Each individual particle must consent, in the first place, to be organized with other similar particles, and after the union has taken place, they must learn, by experience, the necessity of being agreed in all their thoughts, affections, desires, feelings, and acts, that the union may be preserved from all contrary or contending forces, and that harmony may pervade every department of the organized system. Now, to learn all this, there must be a law given of a superior nature to those by which they were formerly governed in their individual capacities as separate particles. A law regulating them when existing out of the organization, would be entirely unsuitable to their new sphere of existence. New laws are wanted, requiring each particle no longer to act in relation to its own individual self, but to act in relation to the welfare and happiness of every other particle in the grand union. All disobedience to this law by any particle or particles in the organization, would necessarily bring its appropriate punishment: and thus by suffering the penalties of the law they would in process of time become martialed [sic] and disciplined to perform their appropriate functions in the spiritual system. The appropriate place for this grand school of experience, is in the Heavenly world, where, from the time of their birth as infant spirits, until the time that they are sent into this world to take fleshly tabernacles, the organized particles are instructed and educated in all the laws pertaining to their union, until they are made perfectly ONE in all their attributes and qualities; but not one in substance, for this would be impossible; each particle, though organized, maintains its own identity in the system. The oneness, therefore, can only consist in the sameness of the qualities which are attained by ages of experience through strict adherence to the wise and judicious laws, given to govern them in their united capacity.

    More long block quotes – it’s contagious!

    Comment by Geoff J — June 1, 2006 @ 10:40 pm

  9. Rhapsidiom,

    It sounds like your assumptions also match the Roberts school of thought. This is the single (or “whole-cloth”) beginningless intelligence with free will and a beginningless personal identity model that I have qualms with as described in #8. (As well as in my previous post on the subject)

    Comment by Geoff J — June 1, 2006 @ 10:45 pm

  10. Rhapsidium,
    Your assumptions about eternal Identity are in disharmony with President Brigham Young:

    We have no shirt-collar dignity to sustain, for we have no character, only such as our friends and enemies give us. It is only a shadow, and we are willing that they should have the shadow, and make the name of our President honourable, if we can. They are welcome to traduce our character, if they choose; but they must not undertake to walk us under foot, contrary to every principle of the Constitution, right, and law. The character of those who are such sticklers for it will perish, for they are taking the downward road to destruction. They will be decomposed, both soul and body, and return to their native element. I do not say that they will be annihilated; but they will be disorganized, and will be as though they never had been, while we will live and retain our identity, and contend against those principle which tend to death or dissolution. I am after life; I want to preserve my identity, so that you can see Brigham in the eternal worlds just as you see him now. I want to see that eternal principle of life dwelling within us which will exalt us eternally in the presence of our Father and God. If you wish to retain your present identity in the morn of the resurrection, you must so live that the principle of life will be within you as a well of water springing up unto eternal life.
    –JD 7:57

    And…

    When the spirit overcomes the evil consequences of the fall, which are in the mortal tabernacle, it will reign predominant in the flesh, and is then prepared to be exalted, and will, in the resurrection, be reunited with those particles that formed the mortal body, which will be called together as with the sound of a trumpet and become immortal. Why? Because the particles composing these bodies have been made subject and obedient, by the law of the everlasting Priesthood, and the will and commandment of the Supreme Ruler of the universe, who holds the keys of life and death. Every principle, act, and portion of the lives of the children of men that does not tend to this will lead to an eternal dissolution of the identity of the person.
    –JD 7:287

    Just to name a few. He spoke on the subject on several occasions. Whatever it is, it is not Identity that is protected from having an end.

    Comment by Jeff Day — June 1, 2006 @ 11:57 pm

  11. Geoff,

    It is a good idea to explore Pratt’s version rather than rehashing the standard debate, just wanted to make it clear that his was not one of two main views in the church…

    The big quote from the Seer is a good example of Pratt trying to give a clear description of his view–I take back my criticism that he glossed over the problem. After reading it laid out so clearly, I have a hard time believing anyone accepts it, but perhaps I lack imagination. I’ll be interested for more people to chime in.

    Comment by Jacob — June 2, 2006 @ 12:03 am

  12. “Abraham calls them intelligences in one clause of a sentence and then refers to them as souls in the very next clause implying that the terms are interchangeable:”

    Geoff, that is not a valid argument. I can use substitute B for A in conversational discourse as long as A is a necessary part of B. So sometimes we speak of a soul as the union of spirit and body, sometimes we speak of a soul (following convention) as an intelligence.

    Same goes for substituting spirit in context for intelligence – as long as all spirits have one and only one intelligence (the cardinality mapping is one to one) then using the term spirit to refer to an intelligence is a pretty standard rhetorical transformation.

    The problem is the term “intelligence” is awkward, so once you have made your point (as Joseph Smith did quite well in the KFD), you can just talk using familiar terms, “spirit” in this case. Unfortunately Western language does not provide good terms for a three part division of agent (my preferred term), spirit body, and temporal body.

    Remember that “spirit” != “spirit body”. When we say spirit we mean “intelligence” + “spirit body”, whenever intelligence has a meaning like Joseph Smith used it in Abraham 3 at all.

    So all spirits have a one to one correspondence with intelligences. The “intelligence” or agent is what makes a spirit a spirit. Without a controlling intelligence, a spirit would be a clump of spirit matter, on my account at any rate.

    In any case an intelligence is something less than a spirit, or there is no reason to use both terms in the first place. We should just discard that use of the term as a perversion of the language.

    We have four basic alternatives:

    (1) An intelligence is thinking/feeling particle of spirit matter
    (2) An intelligence is thinking/feeling primal agent
    (3) Intelligence is a emergent epiphenomon of matter
    (4) Intelligence is the light of God shining within us

    Advocates are Pratt/McConkie, Roberts/Widstoe, Mormon materialists, and apparently Blake Ostler, respectively. I do not think that Mormonism is materialistic by the way, any form of matter that thinks and feels is not what materialism has ever meant. The introduction of metaphysically distinct intelligences moves Mormonism back into the dualist or tri-alist camp. The Pratt view is hylozoistic monism, not materialism in any conventional sense.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 2, 2006 @ 1:02 am

  13. By the way, the idea that truth is independent to act for itself in D&C 93:29-30 seems to be a typo or a mistake in editing. The sine qua non of truth is absoluteness of some sort, not independence, let alone willing independence. Law is truth-like, and sometimes is independent, but not willingly so.

    People create law, not the other way around. If truth is self-willing then it is either higher than or equivalent to God, and truth-God equivalence is a disaster with a temporal God – reduces truth to arbitrariness, and eliminates how we can distinguish God from the devil. Truth is not a manifestation of the Stockholm syndrome.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 2, 2006 @ 1:08 am

  14. Of course people do not create natural law. Nor does God, for the term to have a distinct meaning in LDS discourse. Natural law is absolute, divine law is ordained.

    Of course givine infinite backward recursion, it is rather difficult to tell the difference in many cases. IBR as generally conceived looks like Platonism for all practical purposes. Elaborate forms, symbols, and laws no one ever made.

    If we reintroduce a healthy amount of divine discretion into IBR, we still need a distinct independent natural law – a common absolute ground of being for multiple divine persons to relate to each other in, unless we are all processionary emanations from the ONE as Neo-Platonism holds.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 2, 2006 @ 1:17 am

  15. I reject the McConkie/Pratt/Penrose view of Intelligence from which other intelligences are derived as subparts. I’m an advocate of two types intelligences. Lower-grace intelligences that act according to a natural propensity and spirits/intelligences that act as they will or choose of LFW. Lower grade intelligences are analogous to Whitehead’s actual occasions, where spirits are eternal intelligences of humans. Natural law arises from the natural propensities of lower grade intelligences as I ellaborate in ch. 3 of the first vol. I agree with Mark that Mormonism is not materialistic in the classic sense of dead matter — but there must be some type of panpsychism and emergent properties as well.

    Joseph Smith is pellucidly clear that spirits/intelligences are the same thing, that they manifest intelligence in the ability to act for themselves independently, and that they are uncreated. I don’t believe in spirit birth in the traditional sense, but I do believe in further organization which gives rise to further emergent properties that arise from the inherent intelligence in all things.

    I have two very long articles on this subject, one in Dialogue (1982) and another in Line Upon Line. The view that I write of here is ellucidated in ch. 3 of vol. 1.

    Comment by Blake — June 2, 2006 @ 7:13 am

  16. Blake, right on.

    Comment by J. Stapley — June 2, 2006 @ 11:13 am

  17. I think there are four models. One is the quasi-spirit model. One is the Cartesian mind model (from B. H. Roberts and probably the most popular today). One is the Pratt model which is basically Leibnizian monads which are “in” space rather than immaterial like in Leibniz. I suppose one ought allow for a more Leibnizian form of this as well although I can’t think off hand of anyone advocating it. Then there is the idealist realism form which I think Brigham Young at least verged upon. I suppose one could add a fifth model which is that intelligences are “nothing” but are opening to information. This is roughly a Sartrean, Heideggarian or Ricoeurian view. I don’t think anyone’s formally espoused this although I suspect most of the Continental leaning Mormon philosophers end up espousing that. I think this latter view could easily be reconciled with D&C 93 as well.

    I can’t comment on Blake’s Whitehead reading since I tend to always get Whitehead wrong despite reading him many times. I suspect he might be close to a halfway place between Leibniz and Heidegger.

    Of course I don’t think there are really many compelling theological reasons to pick one above the other. The typical approach (as we see here) is to make appeals to the language Joseph used to express the ideas. But that presupposes that Joseph both had a clear understanding of the matter and clearly expressed it. Neither of which I’m convinced of.

    Comment by Clark — June 2, 2006 @ 11:55 am

  18. Jacob: I have yet to see anyone make a compelling case for how a bunch of independent wills can be joined together to create the one will I experience as me.

    I think Leibniz gave a fairly good answer to this several hundred years ago. While Pratt doesn’t go into it one clearly ends up requiring a kind of “master atom” which is the seat of perception.

    The alternative is to argue that all these intelligences are quasi-mind out of which a full mind emerges. That is consciousness is an emergent property. Once again a lot has been written, especially the past 10 years, on the mind as an emergent system.

    So I don’t see this as a serious objections. Those who reject emergence can take Leibniz’ solution while for those that accept emergence (either reductive or ontologically radical) don’t have a problem.

    Mark: I do not think that Mormonism is materialistic by the way, any form of matter that thinks and feels is not what materialism has ever meant.

    That’s a fair comment although this raises the very problem of defining materialism or physicalism. They are moving targets. I think though that an emergentist could claim Mormon is materialist. I do think, however, that either panpsychic or quasi-panpsychic approaches make the most sense to reconcile to Mormonism. Whether those should be called materialist is a matter of debate. (For instance is C. S. Peirce a materialist?) But generally you are right that materialism is equated with a reductive and eliminatist view that all that exists is what is now described by physics. It’s great failing is that physics doesn’t agree upon what is fundamental.

    Comment by Clark — June 2, 2006 @ 12:04 pm

  19. I think you are right Clark that there do not seem to be sufficient theological reasons to definitively pick one model over the other. I think most of us prefer whatever variation that best fits our other theological preferences down the line.

    I think the categories you mention probably are simply subcategories to the two main paths I mentioned. In the single intelligence camp one could go for a tripartite model with intelligences quasi-spirits/ pre-spirits or one could go with intelligences being essentially Cartesian minds. Likewise the Pratt parts model could have variations with the parts being matter or not; but both variations could be roughly categorized in the “eternal parts not eternal whole” camp. In fact is seems to me that one could conceive of the particles Pratt envisioned as little Cartesian (or immaterial) minds that can choose to unify as he said. It may be that Pratt had something like that in mind since he has these unified intelligences being “born” into spirit bodies only after they have sufficiently unified. I can’t imagine why they would need to be “born” if they had already formed a spirit body so he seems to be pushing a tripartite model too. The question is whether he saw these intelligences as material pre-spirits or immaterial minds a la Descartes… (Perhaps he answers this question somewhere and I am not remembering it though).

    Comment by Geoff J — June 2, 2006 @ 12:26 pm

  20. The reason I have a problem with the whole-cloth idea, is that I can clearly see my body, and I am pretty sure I could cut off an arm or a leg. I expect that I could do the same thing with my spirit. I also know that “heavenly father organized our spriits” (whatever that means), we were formed, and therefore something must have existed from which we were formed. I guess I see no good reason not to call these things from which we were formed particles, or intelligences, or spirit matter (which seems to imply a substance that can be manipulated into forms).

    Comment by Jeff Day — June 2, 2006 @ 12:27 pm

  21. Jeff,

    Folks like Blake and Stapley would argue that spirits were organized in the same way people are organized here — that is they were organized into groups of various kinds. The argument about limb amputations would also be applicable to resurrected bodies so the “whole cloth spirits” camp would not have much difficulty dismissing that one either. I don’t prefer the whole cloth model for various reasons, but I can see why it is a reasonable belief to hold considering the dearth of revelation we have on the subject.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 2, 2006 @ 12:38 pm

  22. Geoff, Pratt denied anything was immaterial. He had an ontology in which “to be” meant “to exist in space and time.” Unfortunately he was philosophically naive in a lot of ways. In “The Absurdities of Immaterialism” he acts like he’s arguing against immaterialism whereas he’s really just critiquing it in terms of his fundamental concept of Being, from what I can see. Of course his fundamental notion of being is tremendously problematic. Pratt was influenced by Reid and the other Scottish thinkers of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. So some of the odd things he allows may be due to the influence of direct realism as an epistemological approach. I suspect, although I’ve not seen evidence for it, that he was influenced by Leibniz as well.

    The big question with Pratt was whether all atoms were intelligent (a true panpsychism) or only some were. This is basically the question of emergence in Pratt’s thought. We discussed this a few years back. I’m convinced, myself, that he’s inconsistent on this point. But I do think that as a practical matter he adopts a Leibnizean approach to emergence but is undecided about whether all atoms are intelligent. I think that his typical approach is to say they are and this is why things like gravity work.

    The big question then becomes whether human intelligence is emergent, whether there is a dominant monad ala Leibniz, or whether all the atoms that are unified are in identical states. (Sort of the Leibniz dominate monad replicated to all atoms in the unified body – for a human our spirit body)

    I confess at one time I found all these questions much more interesting than I do now. Mainly because I simply found too many problems in the approach Pratt took to find the questions as compelling.

    Comment by Clark — June 2, 2006 @ 12:45 pm

  23. Just to add, I think the idealist interpretation of intelligence is the most interesting. Not because I buy into it as such. But mainly because I think it has been unanalyzed historically, even though from what I can see it is a natural way to read D&C 93, fits into the philosophy of the day (especially German idealism), and probably fits Brigham Young’s and others views.

    Had I the time (which I won’t for some time) I’ve thought about writing a paper on the subject.

    Comment by Clark — June 2, 2006 @ 12:47 pm

  24. Thanks Clark — it’s nice to lean on some of the work you have already done on this. I can see why this might be a dead-end road though with the scarcity of revelation and data to draw on.

    Yes I agree (as we have discussed in the past) that there remains a big question regarding monism vs. pluralism in Pratt’s model. As we discussed in the past, Orson Card went with a true monism idea when he lifted from Pratt in his Enderverse. Cleon Skousen reportedly said he was taught a form of dualism by his mission president John Widtsoe with the division being between “things that act” and “things that are acted upon; or intelligences and inert matter. I also agree that whether there is a dominant/controlling intelligence particle or not would have massive implications. Card assumed there was in his sci-fi version but Pratt is less clear. If there is then each of us can indeed be reduced to a single organizing intelligence after all (even if our current personal identity is emergent from a union of many.) The downside is that it tends to grade us all based on beginningless nature — a concept I find hard to embrace.

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

  25. Just to add since I don’t think I was clear in that paragraph, I think Pratt thinks that when multiple intelligences are One that they are in identical states with respect to the properties of the joint body, although they may be in individual states with regards to subgroups. I think here that his strongest parallels aren’t to Leibniz but to the Stoics who had some similar views in their panpsychic form of materialism.

    The Widstoe version you mention is the Stoic view, btw.

    Comment by Clark — June 2, 2006 @ 2:54 pm

  26. We have excellent physics for describing the properties of inert matter – a physics which demonstrated to the level of available evidence that ordinary matter is deterministic. If matter were intelligent we should see actual evidence that they sometimes violate statistics *en mass* – a material conspiracy of sorts, and not one at at time, so to speak.

    So I see the “free will” explanation for quantum randomness as a non-starter. Bohmian non-locality is more than adequate to explain all the “randomness” we see. I personally do not give the idea of metaphysical randomness or swerve any credit.

    I believe all randomness is an epiphenomenon of missing information (epistemology) or the consequential echoes of the sui generis acts of free intelligences (agents). No one can hold an agent morally responsible for something that is randomly uncaused or coincidental.

    Continuing, we have good meta-ethical and phenomenological theories as well. What we do not have is a clue as to how information and action cross the mind / brain boundary. The intelligence, whatever it is, is the mind. Everything else in our head is the brain, whether spirit brain or temporal brain. How do they talk together?

    Does anyone have a good model as to how a LFW free agent intelligence, localized, distributed, whatever interacts with a largely deterministic quantum mechanics?

    My own speculation is simply that an intelligence is a localized agent-”particle” that shares the same infinite dimensional quantum field as more ordinary matter, such that it is coupled both spiritually (field wise) and physically (direct collision or particle exchange) to the brain on a distributed, non-local basis (Quantum non-locality again).

    That lets the intelligence *feel* and *perceive* what is going on in the brain, according to what must be a very subtle, but also fundamental coupling mechanism, but also to affect what is going on in the brain by indirect information injection.

    This injection or control process works as follows. According to the Bohmian realist version of quantum mechanics a particle is swept along in a multidimensional field – and deterministically at that. That is fine for inert particles. Now if we have an intelligence, it would also naturally be swept along – we do not naturally vacate our brains when we move or are physically impelled to do so. Our intelligence is bound to our brain in some sense.

    So now we have this intelligence (literally “us”) and we have an agent causal capacity to change. how so? Not by violating natural law to any great degree, but by small, purposeful perturbations that we introduce into our trajectory in phase space, perturbations that affect the rest of the brain in a manner similar to the way the rest of the brain affects the intelligence. The difference is the intelligence knows what it is doing, such that it can be the master rather than the slave when the brain is properly functioning (not damaged, on drugs, etc).

    Now if anyone else has an idea for introducing LFW or even causal idealism into physical reality I would most like to hear it.

    (Clark: I wouldn’t consider Peirce a materialist either, although any strictly deterministic system bears unavoidable similarities – I get the impression that Peirce moved away from determinism toward the latter part of his life though – what else is agapistic causation if not freely offered love? Can love be deterministic or tychistic? Doesn’t it have to be a unique act of will? If it were mechanistic there wouldn’t be a need for a third category.)

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 2, 2006 @ 3:28 pm

  27. Clark (#18),

    Which work of Leibniz should I read to get his good explanation you refer to?

    My argument in #5 is not really leveled against the emergent theories–I have different problems with emergence. Back on Pratt: I have never studied his theology in any rigorous way, so I don’t know if he ended up going for a “master atom” or not. He does not seem to be going that direction in the quote Geoff added from the Seer. I find the idea of a “master atom” quite difficult to swallow, since the sine qua non of the “slave atoms” was supposed to be their independence/freedom, and now they are slaves of a master atom?!? Besides, wasn’t the whole point that they were all seats of perception to begin with? What makes one of them become the “master atom,” and do the rest become less than a full independent mind?

    I see incentives to go for the emergent theory, or for the Cartesian mind theory, but this hybrid of Pratt’s seems totally unappealing to me. Trying to merge all of these independent minds into a single mind causes nothing but a headache, and leads to some of the same problems as trinitarianism. Now, it will not only be God in three persons, but Jacob in one million persons.

    Comment by Jacob — June 2, 2006 @ 9:15 pm

  28. Hear, hear.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 2, 2006 @ 10:25 pm

  29. The Monadology is a good place to read, although I’d suggest Anthony Savile’s Leibniz and the Monadology for a nice thorough discussion of the text. (It includes the Monadology in an appendix) It also situates quite well Leibniz’ thought.

    Mark, Peirce never was a determinist. His Epicurean notion of swerve is very important in his thought and was from early on.

    Jacob, the “master” term is perhaps a bit misleading. Also note that Leibniz is a determinist so when one brings his thought over one has to realize that he argues everything develops rationally as the best possible world. In that sense it is hard to reconcile with the kind of freedom Pratt discusses, although it’s never clear what kind of freedom Pratt accepts – perhaps he is a compatibilist. (I suspect he is myself) Anyway “master” simply means where the seat of consciousness is. There is a relational aspect to the atoms and one atom because of the kinds of relations it enters into ends up being more intelligent. I’d note that one could argue that in Pratt’s theology God the Father is our master and we subject our will to his freely. But clearly we don’t have his consciousness but our own. So that’s the analogy I’d go with.

    Comment by clark — June 2, 2006 @ 11:11 pm

  30. Now, it will not only be God in three persons, but Jacob in one million persons.

    It seems to me that Pratt assumed that the One God was perhaps millions of persons already too, so his theory simply pushes the irreducible parts back below us. With revelations about innumerable inhabited worlds already passing and the KFD explaining that “God” the Father of Jesus was once a mortal man like us it would makes sense that there are also innumerable members of the Godhead or One God already. The strength of his approach is that it allows for at least some explanation of how plants and animals can “find joy” and how they and the earth somehow could “fill the measure of its creation“. It seems that that somehow by meeting their full potential intelligences get to graduate to “higher spheres” in later “eternal rounds”. I recognize that this is not definitive but it does play well for the Pratt model. (Especially if there is no such thing as a single governing particle which I agree with you has far too many problems.)

    Anyway, I think that the evidence for a unified One God is a pattern that could legitimately be considered both above us and beneath us. Perhaps “Jacob” is indeed the emergent you from millions of unified intelligences. Pratt’s logic seems to be that the entire thrust of the Gospel is to get us to freely choose to completely and unreservedly turn our wills over to God. In essence to give the one thing we truly own to God — our wills:

    In conclusion, the submission of one’s will is really the only uniquely personal thing we have to place on God’s altar. The many other things we “give,” brothers and sisters, are actually the things He has already given or loaned to us. However, when you and I finally submit ourselves, by letting our individual wills be swallowed up in God’s will, then we are really giving something to Him! It is the only possession which is truly ours to give!
    (Neal A. Maxell, Ensign, Nov. 1995, 22)

    If that is the pattern to get us to progress beyond our current state perhaps it is the pattern that ended up creating an emergent “us” to begin with…

    The other thing I want to mention in this discussion is that the idea that our current personal identity is eternal seems ludicrous to me. We arrive on this planet with essentially no identity. See the amnesia thought experiment I blogged on a few months ago here. Complete amnesia like we experience in mortality gives us a nearly blank slate when we come here. We have no personal identity per se until we develop it through experience in this life. What we do bring with us might more appropriate be called an “essence” as Jeff Day dubbed it in another thread. As I mentioned in that thought experiment, the personal identity we have here is 100% guaranteed to be obliterated in either model when the current us is subsumed in the flood of memories that return from the old us. (In the thought experiment an American gets amnesia and wakes up to start a new life as a German… check out the post — I think the argument that our current personal identity is guaranteed to be washed out in any model is solid.) So if our personal identity as we know it here is already going to basically be destroyed anyway much of the value of the “whole-cloth” or beginningless personal identity model is out the door to begin with. Even if we had a beginningless personal identity it is not the one we have now so what does that model buy us? Then add the problems I mentioned in #8 and the severe problems with the eternal personal identity model start adding up.

    Now to be fair, the Pratt model has some pretty severe problems as well. For instance, I can’t buy his line about how unified particles (or divine persons for that matter) “can no longer act, or feel, or think as independent individuals”. I think he goes too far in this. In the Godhead (no matter how large it really is) the members must be in that unity because of freely chose love — not because they can’t get out. (I think Blake is right on in this idea.) And since we are comparing the Godhead to the particles then the same principle must be true of said free intelligence particles if they exist. That is, they must freely choose the Oneness out of love of some kind too. Of course this gets to the difficulty of giving these “particles” perhaps too much autonomy or personifying them to an absurd degree. And that absurd personification is a major knock against the Pratt model too I think…

    Comment by Geoff J — June 3, 2006 @ 12:10 am

  31. Clark,

    Thanks for the Leibniz reference.

    I’d note that one could argue that in Pratt’s theology God the Father is our master and we subject our will to his freely. But clearly we don’t have his consciousness but our own. So that’s the analogy I’d go with.

    I am trying not to construct a straw man, so if I am off base please correct me. First, the analogy clearly doesn’t hold if we’re talking about us in our current state. Currently, we haven’t freely subjected our wills to God’s. Our behavior is characterized by disobedience to God’s will, whereas, the particles of my spirit seem to be remarkably obedient to me, or perhaps I should say they have aligned their wills to mine in a remarkably complete way. I am never even aware of them as separate beings from me.

    Since the analogy is not talking about us in our current condition, it must be referring to our relationship with God as it will be in the celestial kingdom. Already, this makes the analogy surprisingly unhelpful since I have no experience with what it is like to be in the celestial kingdom. Thus, the analogy seems to compare one mystical union to another, both of which are matters of heated debate. Analogies are supposed to help us conceive of things by relating difficult concepts to things we are already more intimately familiar with, so it seems to be failing on this front.

    However, I will try to hang with it a bit longer. Assuming the particles are to me (the master atom) as celestial sons of God are to God, that indicates a remarkable level of unification (as Pratt indicated) between all of these supposedly lower level intelligence-particles. When people are able to align their wills to God, that union makes them divine. This level of unification seems to be a big part of the requirement for Godhood, and, if the analogy is correct, the task of unifying all the particles into a spirit is essentially the same challenge as us unifying under God. So, if all these little particles can pull off something this impressive, I have to wonder why they are not the master atoms running the show and becoming Gods.

    But–someone might object–the difference is that when we align ourselves to God’s will it is a more difficult task because God’s will is also synonomous with the moral law. Thus, aligning to God’s will is a far more impressive feat, and much more signficant morally. But this raises two issues:

    First, it points out what a bad idea it is to have a bunch of particles spending eons aligning their wills to a hugely imperfect and immoral master atom. Wouldn’t their time be better spent aligning their wills to God’s will to start with? Knowing what a bad person I am much of the time, it hardly seems fair to tell some particle that it needs to freely align its will to mine. After all, there is nothing inherently worthy about aligning one will to another if the other will is largely evil.

    Second, my will is not nearly as stable as God’s will. I am always changing in my ability to live the moral law and my willingness to obey the moral law. Presumably, all of these particles have to change simultaneously with me in order that we remain agreed in all things. And if I dive off the deep end and start stealing the retirements of old ladies, all these little particles have to keep their wills aligned. This seems neither plausible nor desirable.

    Also, notice that I keep having to talk about the particles of my spirit as aligning their wills to mine. That is not just me being sloppy in my language. Even if someone else aligns their will to mine, they don’t become me. The me is inextricably tied to my consciousness, so if one atom is the seat of consciousness, then it is never really one person with the rest of the particles. Pratt does not seem comfortable accepting this eventuality, which is why he says things like:

    The particles organized in an infant spirit, can no longer act, or feel, or think as independent individuals, but the law to control them in their new sphere, requires them to act, and feel, and think in union, and to be agreed in all things.

    So, it seem to me like a constant equivocation between all of the particles becoming literally one (“no longer independent individuals”) and them remaining separate individuals (“in reality, it is a being of beings”).

    Comment by Jacob — June 3, 2006 @ 12:24 am

  32. hey, sorry, I don’t have time to read all the comments (I have to give the connection to another soldier), but I just wanted to say that I don’t like to look at intelligence (or spirit!) as protons, neutrons and electrons.

    I know Joseph Smith said that spirit is matter, just a lot finer than we can see with our current eyes. But he also said that spirit matter (and intelligences!) are eternal, that they can’t be created or destroyed.

    Well, protons and electrons are created all the time in atomic accelerators.

    They’re also destroyed in a bright flash of energy whenever they come into contact with anti-matter.

    Matter then, as we know it, cannot be the building blocks of the spiritual universe.

    I think spirit and intelligence exist on a completely different plane than we do, a different dimension perhaps. Only that dimension and ours are very entwined.

    Ok, sorry again about saying this without reading all the comments. I’m going to now though (working offline).

    Comment by Jason — June 3, 2006 @ 8:58 am

  33. Geoff: JS was very clear. Intelligences/spirits are eternal and uncreated. He was clear that spirits are individual identities. None of your arguments against eternal personal identity are persuasive to me. Moreover, how do we become individuals having an identity on your view?

    I will also suggest that the notion that the universe is simply deterministic reduces to mere evolution of natural necessity without any agents anywhere needed to explain anything. It is an atheistic view from inception of its premise. “God(s)” then becomes merely an accidental outcome of an eternal process which God did not create, did not organize, had no control over and remains at he mercy of this inevitable natural necessity — not to mention that it is totally meaningless. (I’m not suggesting that Geoff adopts this — it is more of an observations of where Mormons who adopt determinism and total naturalism must end as the logical outcome of their unverifiable assumptions).

    Comment by Blake — June 3, 2006 @ 9:05 am

  34. Geoff (#30),

    It seems to me that Pratt assumed that the One God was perhaps millions of persons already

    I don’t get this from Pratt, where did he say this. He had his whole thing about worshiping the properties instead of the individuals, but when he spoke of God, he meant a person as far as I am aware (I’m open to correction).

    it would makes sense that there are also innumerable members of the Godhead or One God already.

    You keep going back to this analogy with the Godhead, but you have yet to nail down for me whether the snowflakes in your snowball melt or not. I need to get a definitive position from you on whether people melt into the Godhead, and whether snowflakes (particles) melt in the snowball (person). I thought (on the previous thread) you said they didn’t melt in both cases, but when I criticised the non-melting model, you retorted that perhaps they actually do melt. Which is it?

    The strength of his approach is that it allows for at least some explanation of how plants and animals can “find joy” and how they and the earth somehow could “fill the measure of its creation”.

    Yea, but his explanation is just that they get disorganized and reorganized as something else, which doesn’t seem like a great explanation to me (especially for the Earth which is supposed to become the celestial kingdom, not get disorganized to later become a person as your interpretation of Pratt seems to suggest).

    I will get to your other arguments (about infinities of time and personal identities) in a separate post later.

    Comment by Jacob — June 3, 2006 @ 9:14 am

  35. Here’s how I see it so far.

    The monad is irreducible. This is an intelligence.

    It is material.

    It can progress and become sentient.

    A higher monad can organize lower monads, into a whole body or separate entities.

    To know and to organize is eternal progression, or order and progress.

    The higher monad’s purpose is to bring lower monads up to a higher level, until they eventually all become equal. (Kind of like Nibley’s definition of syntropy: “The best of the best of everything is eventually going to happen.”)

    At some point a monadic organization is converted into a human spirit and tabernacle. It’s evolution into the resurrection is the highest level of monadic organization.

    Before the human level monads progress something like the Hindu/ Buddhist model.

    After the human initiation monads progress along the Joseph Smith/ Brigham Young model.

    After the resurrection monads progress along the 7th heaven kabbalist model (from Angels to Seraphim; see D&C 121:28-32). This might be the Multiple Mortality Probations model.

    The purpose of eternal progression is to eventually develop the 3 key components of existential happiness: Creation, Opposition, and Equality. As long as there are monads who are unequal there will always be a distribution of justice and mercy to apply Equality. As long as there’s Love (through Celestial Marriage and Priesthood) and Imagination (through the irreducible nature of intelligence itself) there will always be Creation. And as soon as we realize that we can only realize our potential through opposition there will always be Opposition.

    There’s an infinite quantity of intelligences, or monads, in the Universe (or multiverse). Even if intelligences somehow ran dry, I guess yet more intelligences would spring out of other intelligences like zip files. That’s why this eternal round will never end.

    Comment by cadams — June 3, 2006 @ 10:17 am

  36. Clark, Point taken. I should not have said “strict determinist”. My main point is that Peirce ended up with three modes of causation – a third mode agapistic causation that was not captured by either determinist or tychist causation. Given that many cannot distinguish from LFW and randomness, I believe this show some fundamental insight.

    Is “swerve” tychist or agentist or a mixture of both in Stoic thought?

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 3, 2006 @ 10:37 am

  37. If someone wants to pursue the Pratt model, they should look at Whitehead, Hartshorne, and process metaphysics. It is along the same lines, but much more up-to-date. The problems that Jacob describes so well are still problems with these later views, however, and indeed any particulate hylozoistic system.

    I would like to echo what Blake said about determinism, and also about the clarity of Joseph Smith’s views as to the eternality of personality. We were discussing determinism over at Defensor Veritatis – my point was that given ex nihilo creation, the conclusion that God caused Adam to sin is unavoidable. Evil may be a no-thing a privation of grace, but wherever grace isn’t God caused it not to be.

    Now eternalist determinism is more plausible than that, but it defies understanding for us or God or anyone else to be responsible for anything. An eternalist determinist world is a painting without an author. I do not think many determinists realize that in determinism the distinction between the future and the past is immaterial. Rightly the greek determinists concluded that time was an illusion. They had no idea how right they were. Determinism turns not only God, but all of creation into a hologram.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 3, 2006 @ 10:59 am

  38. Re grace & time – those lines are for the purposes of argument, not my actual positions if that is not obvious. I understand that the Stoics had an idea of inner light that was much closer to our views, at least those semi-Pelagians among us, as opposed to the neo Arminian all grace is from God perspective.

    The reason why I think the latter argument fails in LDS theology is that grace is not a substance. The phenomena it represents may share common properties, but since God is not the ground of all being in our theology, neither is he the author of *all* good, except by *adoption*, the same way we say the Satan is the father of *all* lies.

    This neo-Hellenistic substance based essentialism is quite a drag on LDS theology – it makes it hard to take neo-orthodoxy seriously. Too many look like they are cribbing from the Hellenist “apostasy” without proper reflection, a situation that is highly ironic.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 3, 2006 @ 11:16 am

  39. Jason,

    hey, sorry, I don’t have time to read all the comments (I have to give the connection to another soldier)

    Where are you serving?

    Good points about the difference between spiritual matter and protons/electrons (#18)

    Comment by Jacob — June 3, 2006 @ 1:06 pm

  40. Clark, the problem with panpsychism is no one has a clue how it works – in particular what is the difference between the will of the atoms in a rock and the will of the atoms in a human being? Are they all equally dumb? How can two or more minimally dumb atoms get together and be more intelligent than they were before? Isn’t it impossible for any one of those minimally dumb atoms to have a clue as to what is going on?

    So what advantage to cognition, free will, and moral responsibility do we gain by having a collection of minimally dumb atoms, above strictly inert ones? Materialist panpsychism is still in the stone age.

    Somewhere there has to be a ‘commanding facility’ that is and always has been self aware. That is what Joseph Smith taught. If there were not, neither we nor God would be self-existent, we would be accidental freaks of nature.

    How minimally dumb atoms have a clue to what they are doing, have an intent for a higher and greater design, when it is impossible for them to have a sweeping picture of conciousness? Even if this greater design happend accidentally, the atoms would no know more about it than cogs in a machine know about its function.

    So ultimately we are left with two possibilities either some atoms / monads / whatever are *really* intelligent, as in Pratt or Roberts, or nature is Platonistic, that the human soul and the human form is a reflection of immanent reason in the world, which we might as well identify with God.

    Personally I much prefer the idea of a God who actually has free will and thinks and designs things as on a drawing board, than an epiphenomenon of a bunch of Platonic forms, or a God who is indistinguishable from them.

    The minimally dumb atom idea leads to God as the mysteriously unlikely product of evolution. A God whose very identity would dissapear if someone dropped an appropriate nuclear bomb on him. Joseph Smith did not believe in this kind of annihilationism. If identity were so easy to destroy, the first order of business should be to execute Satan for treason. Exile is such a mild punishment.

    On the Pratt model we have a similar problem – we blow a spirit up, now all of them have their old memories – because they were completely unified together. Lo and behold we end up with umpteen zillion human class intelligences, each of which could be clothed with a new body of lesser intelligences and teach them everything in a spiritual mind meld. That way one could lift 10^32 or so intelligences up to the same level in a few hours or years at best. Think of the fan-out factor. Maybe our spirit children are currently denizens of various parts of our body? Ever wonder where Jewish mysticism comes from? Somebody had a wild idea – some *really* wild – “the kingdom of God is within you” stuff, taken literally. Some people think that the testes are the pre-mortal spirit world. Some Catholics have a similar mysticism with regard to the Body of Christ. I think this is all craziness of course.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 4, 2006 @ 12:40 am

  41. HA! The testes are the pre-mortal spirit world! Ha ha ha.

    That is a wild idea indeed. Caused me a good laugh…

    Mark’s #26 seems like a very plausible way that our intelligence actually controls our mind and body. I like it.

    Jacob: Where are you serving?

    Ar-Ramadi, Iraq. Been here almost a year, and leave in almost a week!

    Comment by Jason — June 4, 2006 @ 8:38 am

  42. Godspeed Jason!

    Comment by Blake — June 4, 2006 @ 8:54 am

  43. Jeff (#10), In regard to this quote:

    They will be decomposed, both soul and body, and return to their native element. I do not say that they will be annihilated; but they will be disorganized, and will be as though they never had been, while we will live and retain our identity

    The distinction Brigham Young is trying to make here with regard to the proper semantics of the term annihilated is sophistry. Joseph Smith taught that the doctrine of annihilation of souls was wrong and Brigham Young is trying to avoid the impression that he is contradicting him on the matter. They clearly have rather different opinions on the subject, and since Joseph Smith’s opinions reflect scripture (Abraham 3) and Brigham Young’s do not, I think this is a case where we can say that BY was in disharmony.

    Now the interesting thing is that despite the immense power and influence Brigham Young held, he apparently never attempted to get any revelations canonized. One of the reasons may have been that too many other leaders disagreed, and unlike the simple view of the prophetic infallibility we sometimes hold, he needed a consensus of the quorum of the twelve, and a sustaining vote of the membership of the Church to canonize new scripture. So he said that his talks in the Journal of Discourses were scripture, which they are of course, to the degree he was moved upon by the Holy Ghost (in other words neglect them at your peril).

    But in this case, as in all cases when leaders of the church disagree, we can assume that one or more of them do not have the full story – that is the reason for the consensus rule in D&C 107. (This is LDS conciliarism for those Catholics reading). Of course Joseph Smith gets special treatment anyway, something about which Pres. Young sometimes bitterly complained (e.g. with respect to unwillingness of the people to accept A/G in a Deseret News article a decade and a half later)

    So if the stuff isn’t canonized, nor clearly taught by present and past prophets in clarity, no one has an obligation to do other than ponder it in the context of other statements. Not in harmony with X sounds like a mild way to tell someone they are leaving a narrowly defined catechism, when in fact the bounds of LDS discourse are far broader, at least at this stage in our development.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 4, 2006 @ 9:02 am

  44. Jason: Ar-Ramadi, Iraq. Been here almost a year, and leave in almost a week!

    This is great news! Thanks for your service, our prayers are with you.

    Comment by Jacob — June 4, 2006 @ 10:39 am

  45. Mark, you are on a roll with #40 and 43, I agree with your sentiments in both. The part that I am not sure about is your fanout factor and mind meld statements (end of 40):

    we end up with umpteen zillion human class intelligences, each of which could be clothed with a new body of lesser intelligences and teach them everything in a spiritual mind meld.

    If I understand Pratt correctly, the part about teaching lesser intelligences through a mind meld would not work in the way you are describing it. I keep referencing the quote in #8 from the Seer. Admittedly, the idea being expressed contains some incoherencies, so maybe your idea is a valid reading, but here is what I see:

    Pratt envisions a mind meld of sorts, which he calls a union:

    after the union has taken place, they must learn, by experience, the necessity of being agreed in all their thoughts, affections, desires, feelings, and acts

    The interesting thing is that after the union, they still have different thoughts, affections, desires, feelings, and acts; else, the sentence above makes no sense. This makes me wonder what the union consisted of, and my best guess is that each particle was given access to the thoughts, affections, desires, feelings of all the other particles. It also seems to be related to a new set of laws which govern their union:

    New laws are wanted, requiring each particle no longer to act in relation to its own individual self, but to act in relation to the welfare and happiness of every other particle in the grand union.

    So, no one is controlling anyone else, they are just all independently learning to work in concert:

    All disobedience to this law by any particle or particles in the organization, would necessarily bring its appropriate punishment: and thus by suffering the penalties of the law they would in process of time become martialed [sic] and disciplined to perform their appropriate functions in the spiritual system.

    It sounds, from his description, as though these new laws work on them in the same way the moral law works on us here. They feel guilty, or are punished in some way, when they “do the wrong thing.” Now, it is very interesting to ask what this new law is really telling them to do. What are they unifying to? It doesn’t seem to be some master atom. What else can it be? I am at a loss to answer this question.

    Another seeming inconsistency arises in relation to the different functions they may or may not have in the union. The quote above speaks of them having “appropriate functions” which implies that they remain independent and are supposed to keep acting separately and differently, even in the union. However, I have no idea how to make this consistent with the following (from the same paragraph):

    The particles organized in an infant spirit, can no longer act, or feel, or think as independent individuals, but the law to control them in their new sphere, requires them to act, and feel, and think in union, and to be agreed in all things.

    Now, if we take this last quote seriously, then the union is supposed to lead to all the particles having the same thoughts, feeling, emotions, desires, and actions. The only thing that keeps them from totally merging into one being is that all the particles must retain their own separate streams of consciousness. But how can anyone accept the idea of a bunch of separate particles becoming identical to the point of acting and thinking identically in every situation? It is absurd. It really needs no refutation. How I react emotionally, what I think, and how I choose to act based upon those things is simply who I am. It contradicts the whole notion of self-existent independent beings to believe that groups of them can just become identical with some practice.

    This is where the mind meld Mark mentions comes in. Pratt does not seem to allow for one greater intelligence transferring knowledge or discipline to lesser intelligences through a mind meld. It is all done through the free will of each particle, acting according to the laws of their union. Somehow they must become identical through their freely willed actions, and then they must stay identical, each independently making identical choices, freely initiating identical thoughts and emotional responses for the whole time they are in union. These “particles” make the olympic syncronized swimmers look like bumbling idiots.

    Is there anyone who believes this stuff? Geoff, you seem to like some parts of Pratt’s theory, but you reject other parts. Can you give a summary statement of your view similar to the one Pratt makes in #8?

    Comment by Jacob — June 4, 2006 @ 11:18 am

  46. Jacob,

    I have been re-reading the relevant parts of Pratt’s The Seer this weekend and have found it frustratingly inconsistent and at times self-contradictory. (See an online version here.)

    For instance at some points he seemingly teaches a Stoic dualism of matter where some matter is eternally inert and yet there are also eternal intelligence particles that can independently act:

    There is no substance in the universe which feels and thinks now, but what has eternally possessed that capacity. These capacities may be suspended for a season, but never can be annihilated. A substance which has not these capacities now, must eternally remain without them. The amount of matter in space can never be increased nor diminished, neither can there be a new elementary capacity added to this matter. (Section 84)

    But then later he implies a panpsychic monism where all matter can think and act independently:

    It matters not how far we may, in the imagination of our minds, go back into the infinite depths of past duration, we are still obliged to admit, that every particle of matter which now exists, existed then; that it was then capable of self-motion; that it was then capable of exercising the eternal capacities of its nature, and of progressing onward and upward, until it should be perfected in all the fulness of wisdom, knowledge, and truth. (Section 103)

    Another example is that he in some places argues for a metaphysic of becoming:

    To suppose that all the spiritual matter of the universe, which is now so powerful and active, has once been eternally at rest, would seem to be absurd in the highest degree. Every thing now is in motion; every thing is highly active: every thing is acting under some law, or guided by some motive or will. Such a thing as an inactive particle of matter is not known in the universe. (Section 103)

    But that is shortly after he argues for a static metaphysic of “being” for the One God and insisting that once becomes One with the Godhead there is no more possibility for progress because the One God knows all that can be known and we will share in all that God knows by virtue of entering the Godhead:

    This perfection and equality in knowledge among the Gods of all ages and worlds, serve to produce a perfect oneness among them all. Having equal knowledge, they would of course have equal wisdom and equal power, and would act with the most perfect union, and harmony, and consert [sic] in all things. But what inextricable difficulties and confusion there would be, if they differed in knowledge and all of them were progressing. The oneness, so necessary for the peace and good order of the Heavenly worlds, could not exist; one for the want of the requisite knowledge would undo what another of superior knowledge had done: upon the progressing principle, they never could be made perfect in one, worlds without end. (Section 102)

    Also, in answer to your first question in #34 about whether Pratt saw the Godhead as composed of many more than three persons, Pratt said:

    In the twenty-second paragraph of this article we showed that there could not possibly be but one God, so far as the attributes are concerned, but so far as it regards persons, that there were an immense number of Gods. Now we wish to be distinctly understood that each of these personal Gods has equal knowledge with all the rest; there are none among them that are in advance of the others in knowledge; though some may have been Gods as many millions of years, as there are particles of dust in all the universe, yet there is not one truth that such are in possession of but what every other God knows. They are all equal in knowledge, and in wisdom, and in the possession of all truth. None of these Gods are progressing in knowledge: neither can they progress in the acquirement of any truth. (Section 97)

    So this leaves us with some interesting questions. Pratt is taking the concept that many of us accept today about the Godhead and applying it to independent “particles” that make us up. The “mind meld” complaints about the particles that make us up can be equally apply to the “mind meld” most of us attribute to members of the Godhead after all. It is sometimes called “indwelling unity” and was nicely described by Blake recently in a thread when he said:

    The notion is fairly straightforward: We join as one with the Godhead in such a way that what one does, all do; what one knows, all know; what one wills, all will.

    Now I don’t know if there is such a thing as independent and autonomous “intelligence particles” or not, but I think y’all should be careful not to inadvertently attack the entire concept of a unified Godhead with “mind meld” snipes. Pratt seems to believe that the personal identity that is “us” now is somehow emergent from a unity of intelligent particles in us. Likewise, he seems to believe the “Head God” is an emergent “person” from the unity of the persons that make up the One God.

    there were innumerable worlds in existence, each peopled with myriads of personages, and each were filled with all the fulness of Jesus Christ, or the fulness of Truth, which is called by various names, such as, God, the Great I AM, the Father, the Son, Jesus Christ, &c. All these names, as well as the personal pronouns He, His, and Him, are applied to the FULNESS OF TRUTH, wherever it or He may dwell, whether in one tabernacle or in unnumbered millions. This Great God–the FULNESS OF TRUTH, can dwell in all worlds at the same instant—can be everywhere present–can be in all things, and round about all things, and through all things. He is in the personage of the Father; He is in the personage of the Son; He will be in the personages of all His Saints when they receive of His fulness; and in fine, He is the only living and true God, and besides Him there is no God: He is the only God worshipped [sic] by the righteous of all worlds; for He exists in all worlds, and dwells in all his fulness in countless millions of tabernacles. He has no beginning, neither have His works a beginning, but each of His organized tabernacles had a beginning: each personal spirit was organized out of the elements of spiritual matter. (Section 106)

    It was apparently this idea (an emergent Head God which we can become constituent parts of) that Brigham took such issue with. I can see merit in both sides of that argument.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 4, 2006 @ 1:04 pm

  47. Geoff,

    The problem with Pratt’s doctrine of God is that it is Neo-Aristotelian. In that last quote there Pratt is not talking about God as a person or collection of persons he is talking about God as an abstraction, a “fulness”. Basically the worship of divinity, what all the gods have in common, rather than any particular divine being. Pratt’s concept of the Most High is not a person, but a feeling, a trans-personal absolute essence. People become divine not by becoming one with other exalted individuals per se, but rather by participating in this essence – which “knows” all things.

    Now I consider this idea to be a classic example of the metaphysical fallacy, the idea that Truth for example, is a *thing*. (Or grace, or love, justice, mercy, …). This is unquestionable heretical – in many ways it is worse than the Hellenistic doctrines of the Trinity that we identify with the Apostasy. Much worse – Pratt’s God doesn’t appear to be a person at all, more like the God of Plato – all these other “gods” are strictly secondary, ones whose will or discretion is immaterial. Is it any mystery that they come to *absolute* unity under such a system?

    As for myself, I think theological absolutism is an unmitigated disaster. It always results in an impersonal, incomprehensible God of mystery, one with a heart of stone.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 4, 2006 @ 1:25 pm

  48. Geoff, we also need to be very careful to distinguish when we or Pratt are talking about the unity of multiple persons in one Godhead and the unity of multiple intelligences in one person. Now Pratt’s ideas on the former may very well be the key to understanding his views on the latter, but in general they are radically different problems.

    I should say that I think the idea of the Godhead or extended Godhead as thinking exactly the same thoughts, sharing exactly the same feelings, etc, as a practical denial of personality. It is another form of theological absolutism – one that defines theosis as nothing but submission or absorption into a single will, rather than a definition of theosis as many wills creatively working together, greater than the sum of the parts, *communicating* thoughts and feelings by an indwelling spirit of glory, not extinguishing identity through it.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 4, 2006 @ 1:36 pm

  49. Mark,

    It is true that Pratt is moving in the direction you assert in his comments. But in the context of the whole, I his point is Neo-Aristotelian in the sense the higher “persons” (including Mark, Geoff, and even the Head God) are emergent from the unity of other constituent intelligent parts. In the case of humanity it the parts are intelligence parts and in the case of the Head God the constituent parts are perfected humans. But you are right that Pratt does vacillate between hinting at this emergent person idea (mostly set up through his equating our personhood to the personhood of the Head God) and then hinting at some Platonic-like non-personified Universal he calls “The Fullness of Truth”. This is just another example of the frustratingly murky teachings in this tract of Pratt’s…

    Comment by Geoff J — June 4, 2006 @ 1:45 pm

  50. Well, it is the latter idea that we worship the attributes of God, or GOD as divinity itself, rather than GOD as the society of the gods, the divine concert (Elohim), that was first on the list of what was condemned by the First Presidency in 1865. Another problem was Pratt’s conception of the third member of the Godhead as a particulate spirit fluid, rather than as essentially a person.

    This is no doubt why we prefer the term Holy Ghost to the Spirit of God or Holy Spirit when talking about the latter. The “Spirit” is a person, the “spirit” is not. When we sing the Spirit of God like a fire is burning, it is clear we mean the glory of God, what Eastern orthodox call the energies of God, and not generally speaking the Holy Ghost immanently present everywhere simulataneously.

    It is an interesting question of course – how often (if ever) does the Holy Ghost as a person, enter into us as people, rather than us feeling his influence, and influence which is hard to associate with just him, and not the Father and the Son as well. And if that is actually the case, I think it is a foregone conclusion that the Holy Ghost delegates some (half?) of his responsibilities to female spirits.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 4, 2006 @ 2:07 pm

  51. One other thing, unless we descend into Manicheanism, we have to carefully distinguish between senses of the latter, impersonal “spirit” :

    (1) “spirit” as the natural quantum wave function coupling all particles, or something equivalent, neither good nor evil
    (2) “spirit” as the manifestation of divine influence, presumably modulated onto (1), like a radio signal modulates the E/M field.
    (3) “spirit” as the manifestation of satanic influences, presumably modulated onto (1) in an imitation of (2).
    (4) “spirit” as the natural emission or glow of intelligences, embodied or unembodied, presumably modulated without mental effort.
    (5) “spirit” as the all purpose Hebrew metaphor for influence or idea

    Now it is a fundamental question of metaphysics what type of scalar or vector field is necessary to cross couple spiritual and physical matter. Is the manifold quantum wavefunction as we know it today, adequate for the purpose?

    In my opinion, yes, spirit matter operates on the same principles as “physical” matter, and is coupled and cross coupled the same way via the quantum field. Intelligences are also coupled to everything else the same way, they just have sui generis properties, like intentionality.

    The second fundamental question is that if we construct the right type of radio receiver, or spirit demodulator, can we tell by mathematical analysis the difference between the transmission of a good influence, and the transmission of a bad influence?

    If I were to guess, there is no simple mapping, that spirit is modulated according to intention, whatever serves the purposes of the modulating intelligence – just like communication in general, whether it be art, language, music, and so on. Such that we would have to analyze a message or signal in terms of its semantics, not its essence.

    In other words there does not not *metaphysically* such a thing as spiritual darkness, something blacker than black – if there was it would have to be a substance like a nebular gas, not a transmission.

    Black is silence, not confusion. Of course, if our “antenna” picks up nothing but cacaphony it is hard to identify that with good – but certainly “white” noise sounds better than a vacuum cleaner. Is there any modulation that is analytically evil, before semantics are taken into account. The closest I can see are signals that naturally disrupt order, the equivalent of the sound of a sand blaster. That cannot be conducive to peace or serenity.

    So does the adversary really have much of an ability to construct material mists of darkness, that block spiritual transmissions, obstructing the Light of Christ as it were? Maybe, but I think in most cases the spirit (as divine influence (2)) is present, we just are not “tuned” to recognize it.

    It is too bad Orson Pratt did not live to see Quantum Mechanics, or perhaps even appreciate Maxwell’s Theory.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 4, 2006 @ 2:40 pm

  52. So I should say we have black as “nothing”, or silence, and black as opacity or opaqueness, and that neither is evil per se. Evil is the result of intentionality, or a semantic of opposition to intentionality, not any sort of substance or property of natural things. The latter is Manicheanism, and it is all too present in “folk” interpretations of scripture.

    Now the Catholics properly have generally considered Manicheanism, the idea that evil is a substance, as a heresy because God is not the creator of evil. So all evil becomes the privation, or absence of grace. The problem is that Christian orthodoxy tends to treat grace as a substance, like jello. And that is a serious problem relating to free will and why people are good or evil, as if God could make a bad person good just by pouring grace on him – the inevitable result is Calvinism, and the more moderate form is classical Arminianism, where grace is necessary for any good thing to happen, whence prevenient grace, and the idea that all is inevitably chaos except for the Light of Christ, the Weselyan name for the same thing.

    Can intelligences band together and accomplish anything without God’s help? The symmetry of KFD discourse says yes, D&C 88 seems to imply no. In other words the KFD appears to be semi-Pelagian, or Stoic in its metaphysics, and D&C 88 appears to reuse some of the language of the Arminians improperly – a classic example of where using absolutist language tends to bite you in the end. It is all for the greater glory of God, right? Yes, but then where does that leave everyone else? Worms, nothing but worms – and hardly even that more like a bubbling pot of fluid.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 4, 2006 @ 2:57 pm

  53. Of course evil is not *just* a semantic of opposition to intentionality – some intentions are better than others.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 4, 2006 @ 3:40 pm

  54. Geoff: I think y’all should be careful not to inadvertently attack the entire concept of a unified Godhead with “mind meld” snipes.

    First, the term “mind meld” seems to be a reasonably accurate description of what Orson Pratt believed in. More to the substance: Mark already responded exactly as I would, but let me go on the record as well. I think the view of the Godhead you described where they all have the same thoughts and feelings and wills is a clear rejection of God as a person. There is no such thing as personality if everyone thinks, feels, and wills identically. Joseph Smith said that the “same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there, only it will be coupled with eternal glory, which glory we do not now enjoy.” (D&C 130:2). This scripture is completely meaningless if the Godhead exists as you descibe it. So, I don’t see the mind meld “snipes” as attacking the idea of a unified God. They only attack a certain kind of unity which I do not accept in either case.

    Now, this is another in a string of comments where you have equated or likened the Godhead to the idea of intelligent particles becoming one person. I have repeatedly argued against the validity of this analogy, pointing out that the Godhead has multiple people, but our spirit is by all accounts one person. To this point, I haven’t seen a response. Did I miss it?

    Comment by Jacob — June 4, 2006 @ 3:48 pm

  55. Geoff,

    In case it was not clear: At the end of #45 when I asked if anyone believes this stuff, I did not mean that to be taken rhetorically, I meant it as a real question. You have distanced yourself from some parts of Pratt’s theory, and rejected other parts explicitely. I started wondering if there is anyone here who actually believes what he is saying, or if I am spending time critiquing a theory that everyone here already disagrees with. That is why I followed the statement by asking if you can sketch out your theory (which parts do you like from Pratt and how do you fill in the holes left by parts you reject). It will be much more interesting to attack your theory than attack parts of Pratt that you already reject. After all, Orson isn’t here to defend himself.

    Comment by Jacob — June 4, 2006 @ 4:01 pm

  56. Mark: I should say that I think the idea of the Godhead or extended Godhead as thinking exactly the same thoughts, sharing exactly the same feelings, etc, as a practical denial of personality.

    I think there are lots of Mormon thinkers that would disagree with you to large degree here. Blake said “what one does, all do; what one knows, all know; what one wills, all will” after all. If they have a real indwelling unity how are their thoughts not shared thoughts?

    Now I suppose it may very well be that their capacity allows them to simply have separate thoughts and yet to know every thought of one another at the same time. I blogged once on our human limitation of only being able to think of one thing at a time and how this likely does not apply to God. Maybe that is a better approach to take on this sort of thing…

    But I do think this needs to be carefully worked out because the other risk you deal with is a theology with vast numbers of essentially autonomous Gods with potentially competing interests (what Blake called “ultra-individualistic view”).

    Comment by Geoff J — June 4, 2006 @ 6:07 pm

  57. Jacob: That is why I followed the statement by asking if you can sketch out your theory

    If it is not clear, I don’t have a theory to defend yet. I see massive holes in all of the theories discussed so far. The beginningless personal identity concept seems totally untenable to me for reasons I have already stated. Many parts of Pratt’s theory are also non-starters.

    One question I would like to explore further with you and anyone else who wants to chime in is: How unified are the members of the Godhead? It seems that there are perils on both sides of the unity line — on one side you get an “ultra-individualistic view” Blake rails against and on the other you get a unity so complete that all thoughts are the same and what Mark and apparently you would reject as “a practical denial of personality”. So my question is where is the appropriate middle ground then? How can we conceive of the Godhead as sufficiently “One” without being too much “One”?

    (BTW – I recognize that this is a variation on the classic Trinity debate with modalism/Sabellianism on one side and tritheism on the other.)

    Comment by Geoff J — June 4, 2006 @ 6:54 pm

  58. It seems to me that if we allow members of the Godhead to be capable of thinking seperate thoughts and even willing different things but insist that they cannot act with divine power unless they are in complete accord, we have a notion distinct beings that are truly distinct but must act as one God. However, if they know exactly the same things, and they are all perfectly rational in virtue of their complete knowledge and wisdom, then the possibility of a significant conflict is then avoided. So they have complete power only in unison and their shared knowledge and faculties of ratioality insure that they will not be in endless conflict — the real problem with polytheism. Thus, we have distinct individuals but not seperated or warring gods.

    Geoff, with all due respect, none of your arguments against a beginningless personal existence are logically sound (and you don’t offer any scriptural or textual arguments against it) and the scriptural and textual arguments in favor of such a view are very clear it seems to me.

    Comment by Blake — June 4, 2006 @ 7:24 pm

  59. Geoff: If it is not clear, I don’t have a theory to defend yet.

    Ok, fine, but you do seem to have something you like about the Pratt model. Is it just that it is not the beginningless personal existence model?

    I guess we should get to your objections, if that’s the real issue. I have identified three so far:

    (1) The “infinite time already” argument (see #8). Your concern here is that an infinite time has already passed, yet in that time, we have not become celestial.

    (2) The “infinity + 70 years” argument (see #8). Your concern here is that after an infinite duration of time in which we did not become celestial, a short 70 year stint on earth is enough to get us there.

    (3) The “personal identity” argument (#30). I am not entirely clear on this one, but I will try to summarize and you can correct me. It seems your concern here is that personal identity (as you have defined it) is fleeting, and can’t sustain itself for an eternity, especially if there are veils of forgetfulness tripping it up.

    (You also mentioned as part of argument (1) in #8 that Christ is the only one so far who has become one with the Godhead, but I have no idea why you assert this. D&C 132:29 says that Abraham has already entered into his exaltation. Also, it is generally believed that lots of worlds have come before us wherein lots of people have already been exalted, but God told Moses that he was only going to give us an account of this world, which is why we don’t know a lot about them. So, I left this part out, since it does not seem essential to argument (1) and is questionable at best.)

    Please fill in any of the arguments that I have missed. Other people will likely have different responses than I do, which I’ll be interested to read. As for myself, my initial reactions are as follows:

    In response to (1): This is really an argument against an infinite regress of time. You think that Pratt’s model helps here by saying our identity came into being only recently, but it really doesn’t help. On Pratt’s model, there were a bunch of self-existent particles which combined to make you, and they had already been around for an infinite duration of time. By your logic, it should be considered ludicrous that an infinite amount of time had passed without them coming together to form you until just recently? The argument can be leveled against absolutely anything that happens. An infinite amount of time has already passed, how could [fill in the blank] not have happened yet. For example, your argument could be used to say how ridiculous it is to think that God could find “matter unorganized” from which to fashion the earth. After an infinite duration of time, shouldn’t God have organized all the matter by now?

    Your real beef, I suspect, is with the idea of time stretching back infinitely in the first place. Your logic seems to say that with an infinite amount of time passed already, everything should have happened that can happen and we should be done. In your comment #133 on the previous post you used argument (1), but that time in favor of time being circular. The circular time argument legitimately solves the thing that concerns you, the Pratt model does not.

    In response to (2): If the 70 years was just about a few more years of time, this would be a better argument. However, the 70 years is important in Mormon theology because it is unique type of experience, which is much different than the type of experience available to us previously. Just as there is an eternity of unorganized matter out there for God to find and fashion into things, there is an eternity of intelligences. They are not likely to become divine on their own. This is why Joseph said in the KFD that God, finding himself in the midst of lesser intelligences, instituted laws whereby the lesser intelligences could progress to become like himself. God got to us, and we are participating in his plan designed to help us progress. I predict that you are going to think it ridiculous that there would be intelligences out there that God has not gotten to yet. The alternative is that God has already gotten to all the intelligences, and in a relatively short amount of time, his work will be done (everyone will be either exalted or banished to outer darkness). This leaves a lot of time for nothing to happen, so you will keep things changing in the universe by disorganizing Gods and sending them around to go through the whole thing again. I’m not sure that is better.

    In response to (3): There is an interesting philosophical question about what ties the “me” in the present to the “me” of the past, but I don’t see this as an argument against beginningless personal identity. You suggest that if I get my memories of pre-mortal life back, my current identity will be annihilated, but this argument really implies that personal identity itself is untenable. The implication of what you are saying is that any change in a person annihilates the old identity and creates a new one. To which I reply, this definition of identity is never what we meant when we said identity is beginningless.

    Comment by Jacob — June 4, 2006 @ 9:13 pm

  60. Geoff, I do not think my view is ultra individualistic, but rather a healthy compromise between no unity and no personality. I will grant that it may seem that way relative to neo-Aristotelian orthodoxy, but I give the latter little credit in any case.

    Down here on earth, the Quorum of the Twelve and the FP form an adequate model of what I have in mind. The present rule of the Church is that no major change on policy is effective unless both Quorums agree unanimously. As you might expect unanimity is sometimes difficult to achieve, so this process is slow at times. However, we have been told that major mistakes have been avoided by following this policy.

    Of course in times of exigency the unanimous vote of any of the three leading quorums can act with plenipotentiary authority, theoretically the Q12 + the Q70 can outvote the FP, although in such a case a general council of the authorities of the Church is called (cf. D&C 107)

    Now note the effective balance of powers we have here – effectively a tricameral system, where under normal conditions there are theoretically 210 “votes” to be cast, and a Q70 member has the equivalent of one vote, a Q12 member gets just under six votes, an FP member gets 23 votes. Sort of like our U.S. bicameral system where theoretically a Senator has the same power as 4.35 House members, and the President has the same power as 290 House members or 67 senators, at least in the negative on any piece of legislation.

    And what is our country’s motto? e pluribus unum, not many out of one, as the Neo-Platonists and our former Vice President have it, but rather one out of many.

    So we have a practical, inspired example of the formation of the will of the concert, with principles to avoid the weaknesses of a pure democracy, including protecting certain fundamental rights via, in our case judical review.

    Now why the difference? Might it be because the legislative branch is up in heaven, and the Quorums here are the local civil service, the executive arm of the Lord? And is are not the Bishoprics among other things evidence of judicial / executive separation of powers?

    As I see it the reason (besides heritage) that everyone favors the mind meld model of celestial unity, is they cannot imagine a procedure, even when coupled with celestial glory, for righteous government. They think that some dirty rotten scoundrel will turn the whole scheme upside down.

    And with a view of sovereign power where if God blinked an eye incorrectly whole galaxies would disappear, that rightly frightens them, even more then letting one God have a personality in the first place.

    Jesus Christ came down to tell us what divinity was really like, and within a century it was back to idol of stone or thundering voice from the heavens. The God of Aristotle and the God of the Deutero-Calvinists, take your pick, but definitely not one like the Son of the Living God.

    So metaphysically speaking, we have to say that the Neo-Platonists had metaphysics wrong on one end of the spectrum – it was not one out of ONE, many, nor the Borg doctrine of out of many ONE, But out of many, both the many and One – in a proper dynamic balance. And that is why I see the last part of D&C 121 as the most metaphysically significant doctrine ever recorded.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 4, 2006 @ 10:46 pm

  61. I should add that the idea of a God with absolute power both in time and in eternity is exactly where Calvinism came from. The God of Aquinas is benign by comparison.

    So basically LDS theological history (which rarely makes the papers) looks like we have covered nearly 1500 years in a tenth that time. Let’s just hope we don’t get stuck in a corner, with the same chains that bind every other form of Hellenistic orthodoxy.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 4, 2006 @ 10:52 pm

  62. Save the doctrine of the Stoics, of course, the only Greek metaphysics that has an ounce of common sense.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 4, 2006 @ 10:55 pm

  63. Blake (#58),

    I think the model you suggest is a reasonable one. I’m glad you clarified your position here (I’m sure you’ve already clarified it elsewhere) to the effect that various Gods are capable of thinking different thoughts and willing different things.

    I would suggest a somewhat different model, but with similar goals in mind. Firstly, I hold open the possibility that Gods continue to progress in knowledge eternally. Secondly, I think that sometimes Gods disagree as to the best course of action. I think this because I believe the future is unknown and I believe in a consequentialist theory of meta-ethics.

    Despite the room this leaves open for real differences between Gods, I believe they are completely united in their intentions to bring about goodness. Thus, although they may disagree on occasion, they would never be at war with each other.

    Comment by Jacob — June 4, 2006 @ 11:13 pm

  64. I think that if the unity of Godhead is less than total then Pratt’s hinting at an emergent personal identity necessarily fall apart on all levels (micro and macro). If the members of ther Godhead really do share the same thoughts and will as a result of their perfect indwelling unity then I think Pratt could have legs to stand on with his theories since that model could apply on many levels. Since we don’t really know the answer to that question I’ll simply have to keep that one filed in the “don’t know” cabinet.

    Jacob: To which I reply, this definition of identity is never what we meant when we said identity is beginningless.

    Good point. So what exactly do you (or Blake or Mark) mean when you say personal identity is beginningless? What definition of personal identity are you using?

    Comment by Geoff J — June 5, 2006 @ 12:18 am

  65. Geoff, You seem to either be switching backing and forth among the two issues at hand here (the unity of the extended Godhead or divine concert and the unity of the components of a single person), or to be adopting a radical Judeo-Christian mysticism about the body of God/Christ – The Kingdom of God is within you style. I think the rest of us take Paul to be making a metaphor when he talks about the Church as the body of Christ, not making an assertion to be taken literally.

    I do not see any evidence that Pratt thought that our resurrected bodies would join into a single resurrected body after this life, he was just makeing a neo-Aristotelian account of consensus of exalted persons – share the same attributes of perfection and presto absolute consensus – free will, or the idea that the unified will is partly *discretionary*, like a choice between chocolate and strawberry, instead of Platonic does not seem to play a part in his account of divinity. His idea of divinity is very much like Aquinas’ account of resurrected persons a large number of “exalted” persons who “participate” in Absolute Glory of the “Father”, but do not determine it in any way. No divine discretion, a very Catholic rather than Protestant perspective. In fact more Aristotelian than Catholic, because there was no Creation at all. At least the Catholic divinity is a Person, and not merely a collection of attributes.

    So I have to admire Pratt for his creativity, but this particular aspect of his account is radically foreign to the perspective of Joseph Smith re divine sociality – Joseph Smith and most of classical Mormonism is unusually free will oriented, about the most classically liberal Christian theology of any denomination by far – Pratt on the other hand took divine pluralism and negated its most interesting implications, not by getting rid of the bodies of exalted persons, but by making an impersonal account of divinity itself, a sort of Augustine on steroids, and I suspect Augustine would say he went much too far.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 5, 2006 @ 6:50 am

  66. It is worth remembering that Pratt opposed the Adam-God theory on the account of the Book of Mormon scripture that talks about how our resurrected bodies will never more be divided, or become “mortal” again. To take him as arguing that resurrected persons have a 1:M correspondence with mortal persons would make his objection rather weak. I mean are Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob particles inside the resurrected Christ’s head? Scarily enough I recall seeing a diagram (I don’t know if it was Pratt’s) implying just that.

    An idea like that is a pretty “conventional” aspect of Hebrew mysticism – perhaps some of the early leaders of the Church spent too much time listening to the learned Jews in the land. You can go down to your local Barnes and Noble “metaphysics” section and read all about it.

    Can you imagine the “fan-in” factor, we could have the exalted intelligences of billions of worlds merging into a single person – so instead of having a Malthusian population explosion, we would have a population implosion, such that the hosts of heaven could be reduced to half a dozen people sitting around a table. I do not think that is what Joseph Smith had in mind in D&C 130:2 about the same sociality in heaven as we have here on earth, only coupled with eternal glory.

    Whatever Pratt thought, Joseph Smith and the Old Testament do not give any evidence of intelligences merging together in such a mystical fashion, particularly into a single human form.

    The ancient Hebrew view is that of the divine council – multiple God / angels, with El Elyon, the Most High presiding, the Angel of the Lord, Jehovah being his representative, or God unto Israel, and the rest of the Sons of God, also as angelic spirit persons. The Deuteronomists tried to cover all this up and monotheize the Hebrew faith, rather successfully I might add, and in a certain sense properly. If angels do not act together in relative unity, how can they be said to be righteous at all? If ye are not one, ye are not mine saith the Lord, and so on.

    So, avoiding Greek absolutisms, I do not see Elohim as a person at all, it is literally “gods” or the concert of heaven, the only way a person can be Elohim is by divine investiture. So the more traditional question is not how do angels materially merge together into a greater angel, but rather what is the decision making process of the divine council, and how does divine investiture operate – what gives the act of an exalted person or council legitimacy.

    Well there are four classic ways to derive legitimacy – Monarchy, democracy, patriarchy, and federalism. Monarchy in purest form is despotism, democracy in purest form is mob rule, patriarchy is division of authority by descendancy, and federalism is division of authority by geography. Most systems are hybrids – constitutional monarchies like Englands set considerable constraints on the power of the King, more liberal systems turn the King into a Preside-nt, no personal divine right at all. Patriarchy is not a feudal despotism either when practiced in righteousness, but fathers (and mothers) have a natural authority or divine right to preside over their posterity. And of course executive and judicial branches have been divided by geography in a quasi-federalism since time immemorial. The Hebrews (and the English) tried to unify family authority and geographical authority through the law of primogeniture and entailment, such that the Land (and the accompanying authority over it was partitioned by (noble) family or tribe, and stably maintained that way over generations.

    Now on the account of Joseph Smith in D&C 130, literally on heaven as it is on earth, just glory/glow/righteousness far exceeding what we see here, why isn’t the idea that a system like this prevails in heaven, was reflected here on earth, and will still prevail when we get there, the most plausible account of celestial society?

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 5, 2006 @ 7:53 am

  67. Mark: I agree with your assessment of the divine council where all of the gods are in the service of the Most High God. I believe it is clear from scripture that this Most High is the Father (and indeed that is the name or title of the Most High God in the texts). In fact, my 3rd volume is an exploration and support for this very view.

    However, I am not comfortable with the blanket statment that elohim always means gods. It doesn’t function that way in the Hebrew texts. Further, I’m not sure what you mean by the Deuteronomist. One of the most explicit texts regarding the divine council is Dt. 32, as you know. Do you mean Josiah is the Deuteronomist?

    Comment by Blake — June 5, 2006 @ 8:55 am

  68. I am not an expert on the subject by any means, I am generally relying on Margaret Barker and the descriptions of the Documentary Hypothesis for my definition of Deuteronomist. First association is the theory that the Deuteronomist authors tried in general to either hide or eliminate the idea that Yahweh, Elohim, or El Elyon were separate persons with a host of additional angelic sub divinities, also “elohim” in many Hebrew scriptures. So we see the more particular emphasis in Deuteronomy on the one-ness, if not the absolute singularity of God. I believe that aspect was particularly emphasized in the Inter-testamental period, due to Greek influence, sort of the Hellenization of Judaism.

    Now I do not know enough to say whether Josiah and company were the Deuteronomists or not, it is Margaret Barker’s theory however, that Josiah et al were not just ridding the temple of Canaanite corruption, but were discarding the original mysteries and theology of the temple, an idea we can certainly relate to with regard to the possible loss of the endowment and so on. By scriptural accounts Josiah is a good fellow, so I am not inclined to see the change in black and white terms by any means.

    In any case, the Old Testament regularly uses “elohim” in both singular personal and plural personal sense. The latter is obvious, the former is a bit of a mystery, as to whether we are talking about a pseudo-plural, just an honorary name for El Elyon, divine investiture, or what. Certainly by the Deutoronomist period no one is talking about radical divine plurality in public, except a few angels here and there – we have Yahweh and Elohim merged into a single personal figure, and perhaps a further discussion reserved for “mystical” contemplation or private discussion among the Priests. An amazing parallel with what happened in the Patristic era of course.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 5, 2006 @ 9:27 am

  69. “except about a few angels or sons of God here and there”

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 5, 2006 @ 9:28 am

  70. Of course the really interesting question is whether the original Deuteronomists were intending just to hide the plurality of divinity for pragmatic reasons or whether they really didn’t believe in it at all. I am inclined to the former position, the historical parallel with what we did after the excesses of Adam-God and Pratt-onic absolutism is clear – first a mystery, then a denial, then a heresy, or vice versa. Official secrets tend not to last very long, cf. also the corruption of the true Christian gnosis from umpteen sources and its subsequent rejection.

    Of course even the Catholics today have “mystical” aspects descended from that type of gnosis, the doctrine of the body of Christ and the Eucharist in particular. I am told that PJPII was quite the “mystic”, but did not talk about it in public, which makes sense. The recent book the “Theology of the Body”, which is a collection of his discourses, apparently makes these themes more apparent.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 5, 2006 @ 9:39 am

  71. As I’ve stated before, I don’t see Barker’s views as compelling or even persuasive. The evidence she points to is much more easily explained by new elements and influences in sectarian Jewish thought during the Second Temple period. It is clear to me that the epithet elohim began to function as a title/name for the god yahweh. I address these issues at soem length in vol. 3 so I thought I would look into your views. I begin an assessment of Ugaritic material and the influence of ancient near eastern views on the Israelite world-view and how it plays into scriptural views. It is clear to me that at some point in the textual history (and demonstrably with the Masoretic text) someone decided to suppress the notion of plurality of gods and the divine council in favor of a mono-yahwistic view (that is still different from metaphysical monotheism by a long way).

    Comment by Blake — June 5, 2006 @ 10:28 am

  72. Mark: You seem to either be switching backing and forth among the two issues at hand here (the unity of the extended Godhead or divine concert and the unity of the components of a single person)

    They might or might not be two separate issues. That is the point of my inquiry on that particular subject. If our personal identity is the result of an emergent mind out of unified panpsychic intelligence parts then it is feasible that the “Head God” is likewise an emergent mind from unified exalted persons (and vice-versa). That seems to be where Pratt was headed. Therefore, your later comments about one single physical body seem to be straw men in this conversation. We are talking about emergent minds here, not physical components of actual bodies. The problem is that we don’t have enough data to know exactly how unified the Godhead is when if comes to their minds, thoughts, and wills so we can’t even use that as a template to compare to so I am left to shelve this idea of Pratt’s for lack of revelation on the subject.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 5, 2006 @ 3:01 pm

  73. Blake: none of your arguments against a beginningless personal existence are logically sound (and you don’t offer any scriptural or textual arguments against it) and the scriptural and textual arguments in favor of such a view are very clear it seems to me.

    First, I still await a definition of personal identity from any of you three that could possibly be a candidate for being beginningless. It seems to me that our personal identity is largely a fleeting thing and that they change dramtically over the years. Then when you throw in the amnesia thing what is left of personal identity? One might refer to an “essence” of sorts but is a subconcious essence really a personal identity?

    Second, I don’t see any overt support for beginningless personal identities in the scriptures. Here is a link to “spirit bodies” in the topical guide. It seems your best supports in the canon are:

    Howbeit that he made the greater star; as, also, if there be two spirits, and one shall be more intelligent than the other, yet these two spirits, notwithstanding one is more intelligent than the other, have no beginning; they existed before, they shall have no end, they shall exist after, for they are gnolaum, or eternal. (Abr. 3:18)

    This one does not say that personal identity is beginningless though — only that spirit is or spirits are. But we already know that all matter is beginningless and spirit is a form of matter so that is hardly “proof” of you claim.

    Every spirit of man was innocent in the beginning; and God having redeemed man from the fall, men became again, in their infant state, innocent before God. (D&C 93:38)

    This one is less convincing than the Abraham one since it simply refers to “the beginning” which usually means before this earth.

    Are there other better canonized verses I am spacing?

    In the KFD your position finds some support:

    The soul. Doctors of Divinity. God created in the beginning-he never the character of man. dont believe it.-who told you God was self existent? correct enough.-in hebrew put into him his spirit.-which was created before. Mind of man coequal with God himself. friends seperated for a small moment from their spirits. coequal with God. and hold converse when they are one with another- If man had a beginning he must have an end.-might proclaim. God never had power to create the spirit of man
    Inteligence exist upon a self existent principle no creation about it. all mind & spirit God ever sent into the world are susceptible of enlargement.-all things God has seen fit proper to reveal while dwelling in mortality, are revealed. precisely the same as though we were destitute of bodies.- (Richards Diary)

    The learned says God made it in the beginning, but it is not so, I know better God has told me so. If you dont believe it, it wont make the truth without effect, God was a self exhisting being, man exhists upon the same principle. God made a tabernacle & put a spirit in it and it became a Human soul, man exhisted in spirit & mind coequal with God himself, you who mourn the loss of friends are ownly seperted for a moment, the spirit is seperated for a little time, they are now conversant with each other as we are on the earth. I am dwelling on the immutibility of the spirit of man, is it logic to say the spirit of man had 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, God himself could not create himself. Intelligence is Eternal & it is self exhisting, All mind that is susseptible of improvement, the relationship we have with God places us in a situation to advance in knowledge. God has power to institute laws to instruct the weaker intelligences that thay may be exhalted with himself (Woodruff Diary)

    we say that God himself is a selfexisting God, who told you so, how did it get it into your head who told you that man did not exist in like manner- how does it read in the Heb. that God made man & put into it Adams Spirit & so became a living Spirit77-the mind of man-the mind of man is as immortal as God himself-hence while I talk to these mourners-they are only separated from their bodies for a short period-their Spirits coexisted with God & now converse one another same as we do-does not this give your satisfactn. I want to reason more on the Spirit of Man for I am dwelling on the body of man on the subjt. of the dead-the SP of man I take my ring from my finger and liken it unto the mind of man, the im[mor]t. Sp. bec. it has no beging. Suppose you cut it into but as the D[evil] lives there wod. be an end all the fools & wise men from the beging. of creation who say that man had begin-they must have an end & then the doc of annihilitn. wod. be true-but if I am right I mit. with boldness proclaim from the housetop that God never had power to create the Sp of Man at all-it is ne God himself cod. not create himself-intelligence is self existent it is a sp. from age to end & there is no creatn abt. it (Bullock report)

    Another subject-the soul-the mind of man-they say God created it in the beginning. The idea lessens man in my estimation. Don’t believe the doctrine-know better-God told me so-Make a man appear a fool before he gets through if he dont believe it. We say that God was self-existant who told you so? It’s correct enough but how did it get into your heads-who told you that man did not exist upon the same principle (refer to the bible) Don’t say so in the old Hebrew-God made man out of the earth and put into him his spirit and then it became a living body The mind of man-the intelligent part is coequal with God himself. I know that my testimony is true. hence when I talk to these mourners what have they lost-They are only separated from their bodies for a short season but their spirits existed coequal with God and they now exist in a place where they converse together as much as we do on the earth. Is it logic to say that a spirit is immortal and yet have a beginning because if a spirit have a beginning it will have an end-good logic-illustrated by his ring. All the fools learned & wise men that comes and tells that man has a beginning proves that he must have an end and if that doctrine is true then the doctrine of annihilation is true. But if I am right then I might be bold to say that God never did have power to create the spirit of man at all. He could not create himself-Intelligence exists upon a selfexistent principle112-is a spirit from age to age & no creation about it-All the spirits that God ever sent into this world are susceptible of enlargement. (Clayton report)

    That’s some pretty decent if uneven evidence for the notion of beginningless personal identities. One could argue that the reports refer to “the mind of man” always existing do not necessarily mean that your and my personal identity have always existed but rather that there have always been minds of men in existence though.

    But again, I am still baffled at what definition of our personal identity could be beginningless. Who’s willing to step up and explain that one to me?

    Comment by Geoff J — June 5, 2006 @ 4:09 pm

  74. I can see your point Geoff, however the plausibility of any particular theory or principle of will unification greatly depends on the context. If we accept Pratt’s metaphysics then the idea is plausible, but Pratt himself did not teach it explicitly, if he did he would have been doubly ridiculed, and early on. Who aspires to literally be part of God’s toenail?

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 5, 2006 @ 4:12 pm

  75. Who aspires to literally be part of God’s toenail?

    This is the very straw man I have objected to. Nobody claims this possibilty but you. The real question is who wants to completely give up their will to God. Neal A. Maxwell apparently was one person who did (see #30). He saw it as the ultimate act of love for and faith in God.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 5, 2006 @ 4:20 pm

  76. The conventional mind meld model, the one I believe Pratt is advocating with regard to exalted persons, bears a striking similarity to the Borg, minus all the amorality and mechanical robotics. If need be I will call it the Borg model of exaltation from now on. “We will take your distinctiveness and add it to our own – Resistance is futile – you will be assimilated”

    It would make for a much more subtle critique of Borg doctrine if they good rather than evil, of course. Contemporary writers lack the subtlety to make a persuasive critique of this kind of unity. Their attitude is the true radical individualism – no unity at all, except the accidental and the temporary. The doctrine of the revolution exalted from now and then to whenever I feel like it.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 5, 2006 @ 4:21 pm

  77. Blake, my long standing understanding is similar to what you just described. I don’t think Margaret Barker’s particular theory re Josiah is particularly relevant here, more to temple theology and the doctrine of Christian apostasy than anything else – and of course the evidence is rather vague and suggestive at this point.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 5, 2006 @ 4:24 pm

  78. Mark: If need be I will call it the Borg model of exaltation from now on.

    This is also a ludicrous straw man — I would expect better from you than this. Borg is by very definition a model of compulsion and slavery. The invitation from God is one of loving unity. If the idea of indwelling unity among exalted persons in an extended Godhead is correct then one could conceivably believe that total indwelling loving unity could result in a shared mind as well.

    I wouldn’t say I believe that but I also don’t rule it out as impossible yet.

    (I personally suspect that since God can read all of our minds simultaneously, the members of the Godhead also read all others minds in real time without losing autonomy.)

    Comment by Geoff J — June 5, 2006 @ 4:34 pm

  79. Geoff (#75), I am glad we have that cleared up – the switch from talking about sub-bodily intelligences to agreement among persons was rather indefinite.

    Now, in regard to Elder Maxwell’s position. The issue here is *whose* will are we submitting to. The possibilities are:

    (1) El Elyon (enlightened despotism)
    (2) Our particular heavenly father (dictatorial feudalism)
    (3) The consensus of the divine concert (heavenly democracy)

    If (1), then the Most High is the only one with any valid discretion
    If (2), then we presumably have something like the French aristocracy
    If (3), then we presumably have something like a heavenly republic

    Now the mind meld model with (1) is a lot like crystal formation, the result depends on what kind of seed you have. Or alternatively like a society with all the rules set by the first member, with no possibility of later revision, or a constitution that places all authority solely in the founder. With (2), the mind meld model doesn’t work unless it is softened quite a bit.

    With (3) a mind meld model could work, sort of like democracy conducted at the speed of light, as long as there is no room for principled disagreement. I do not think morality is that well defined. People obey the law, or gracious accept chocolate instead of strawberry, despite disagreeing with it, or the consensus of the group, invalidating a absolutist mind meld model, but certainly allowing a Maxwellian one, both on earth and in heaven.

    The question remains though: whose will are we conforming to? That is a more important question than how much we conform, and whether the conformance is both mental and “praxical” or mostly the latter.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 5, 2006 @ 4:42 pm

  80. I might add that you can turn a more flexible model into an absolute one by dialing up the tension, but not vice versa. Loyalty is like a spring, and absolute loyalty is a rod of zero compressibility. Solids fracture, the lower the compressibility the greater the inclination. So if there is any free will in heaven at all, I think even jello is a more likely model than a crystalline structure. Crystals can anneal, but flexible structures return to form far more quickly, *even* if uniformity is the goal here, and personality is devalued.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 5, 2006 @ 4:47 pm

  81. Geoff,

    The KFD is certainly the best textual support for beginningless indentities. As to the scriptural support for beginningless identity, you didn’t mention what I consider to be the best:

    29 Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be.
    30 All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence.
    31 Behold, here is the agency of man… (D&C 93)

    Any one little snippet from here is less convincing than the whole quote in the context of the entire section. By itself, “man was also in the beginning with God” is not hard to explain. Likewise, “intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made” can be explained in various ways. However, the fact that these statements are part of the same thought makes the meaning more definite. Verse 29 connects “man” to “intelligence” which is uncreated. Verse 30 says that all intelligence is fundamentally independent in its ability to act (this requires some basic elements of consciousness as B.H. Roberts pointed out). Verse 31 says that all this abstract stuff is the basis of man’s agency as we understand it today.

    I think it is a stretch to interpret these verses as anything other than supporting the idea of beginingless individual centers of will which are radically different than passive matter in their ability to act, and which are the basis for man’s agency in the world today.

    Comment by Jacob — June 5, 2006 @ 5:17 pm

  82. The soul, the mind, the spirit, the intelligence. JS repeatedly used all of these terms interchangeabley. The spirits/intelligences form a continuum from most intelligent to less intelligent. If the notion of an intelligence that has a mind that is not created is not enough to convince Geoff of the beginningless personal existence, then nothing will do. But then, Geoff it may be that you are just being intransigent. So a personal identity could be defnined as an enduring mind with memory and/or spirit body continuity. The memory can be parsed as not always occurrent, but capacity to recall one’s own past experiences under the right circumstances. That ought to suffice to define eternal personal identity. In fact, the very notion that a personal identity has a beginning lessens man in my opinion — and I am quite sure that JS was of the same opinion.

    Comment by Blake — June 5, 2006 @ 5:36 pm

  83. Blake: So a personal identity could be defnined as an enduring mind with memory and/or spirit body continuity. The memory can be parsed as not always occurrent, but capacity to recall one’s own past experiences under the right circumstances. That ought to suffice to define eternal personal identity.

    Well I’m glad my question isn’t being completely dodged.

    So apparently “occurrent” memory is not a requisite part of this type of personal identity. Yet if all it takes to have a “personal identity” is a spirit with a working mind then what is really enduring about this so-called identity? It sounds like you are describing an eternal computer of sorts where the hard drive can be erased from time to time. But isn’t our real personal identity the software and not the hardware? Where is our former software now — on a backup drive somewhere? The brand new software we have here on earth is destined to be overwritten isn’t it? If not overwritten, then at least the tiny drop of personal identity from this life will be lost in the vast ocean of our former personal identity… But if that is the case who will we be then? And who will our spouses be then? Not the people we are here.

    Something is missing from this picture. It just doesn’t work. It seems that Pratt’s model has too many holes too though. That leaves me without a decent working model so far…

    Comment by Geoff J — June 5, 2006 @ 6:34 pm

  84. Geoff: identity is a challenge for any arena. In fact, it is a challenge to define even what remains identical for mortals — for an single person. So your “challenge” of identity isn’t really a challenge as much as simply a challenge for the notion of identity. However, merely having bodily continuity and memory is quite sufficient on any theory of identity. We could add that we have continuity of character also — and forget the computer metaphors.

    Comment by Blake — June 5, 2006 @ 7:17 pm

  85. Yea, I’m with Blake on this one. I agree that identity is hard to nail down, but your argument, as currently formulated, is not answered by any of the models we have been discussing. It suggests that we did not have a pre-mortal life, because due to the veil, the “me” of today didn’t exist then. So, “I” wasn’t around before I was born. Likewise, you are arguing that our current identity will be “annihilated” when we gain our memories back from the pre-existence, but then how will you account for there being consequences after this life for the things we did here? I don’t remember anything from when I was three years old, so does that mean the three year old in my parents picture is not really me? When I found a box of stuff from my childhood and I suddenly remembered a whole bunch of experiences I had forgotten, did that annihilate my old self and leave a brand new on in its place? Can you step in the same river twice? As Blake said, it is really a challenge to the notion of identity that you have put forward.

    Of course, to account for identity, we are always looking for some sort of continuity: physical, consciousness, memory, character. It seems to me that none of these totally carries the day on its own, but in concert they do pretty well. Continuity of character seems like the most important in supporting my committment to progression and becoming as the purpose of existence. I suspect there is a physical continuity that exists as well. The scripture about these things that cannot be created seems to imply that they exist as something, and Mormons generally can’t imagine something that is not physical in some sense.

    Comment by Jacob — June 5, 2006 @ 10:20 pm

  86. Well, I am not convinced that anything other than an indivisible, eternal, personal intelligence can give a robust account of the plan of salvation. Saving a bunch of stuff hardly seems worth the trouble.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 5, 2006 @ 10:50 pm

  87. I have given it some thought and I don’t really object to the idea that the “mind” of man is beginningless as long as one does not try to insist that our current personal identity is somehow eternal because it clearly ain’t. I mentioned in the post the notion some people hold that single intelligences are “beginningless as something like a blank slate and that each has infinite growth potential”. This discussion is pushing me in that direction.

    Staying with my computer analogy (I see the universe in analogies after all) — If we conceive of “intelligences” as a form of hardware upon which software (personal identities via experiences and memories) can be loaded and erased via veils then it is easy to imagine the hardware having no beginning. Of course there is a component of this analogy that doesn’t really work — the “character” aspect. I suppose I could compare the intelligence to “the box” and the character to hardware upgrades or downgrades within the box though. Improving character is like upgrading the processor or RAM or something. That sort of upgrade endures even when the hard drive is erased via a veil.

    So yeah I probably could buy that sort of single, beginningless intelligence model — some parts (hardware) could endure between veils while other parts (much of what we consider personal identity) erase and we start from scratch when we pass through veils of forgetfulness.

    So one big question is: Do all intelligences start with the same blank slate or are there different types/classes of intelligences for humans vs. lower forms of life? For instance, was Cro-Magnon man powered by a box like ours but simply without the upgraded hardware our intelligences have attained over the eternities? (I assume that our box is similar to God’s; only divine persons have the most upgraded hardware plus the highest form of interconnectivity…) Joseph said “All the spirits that God ever sent into this world are susceptible of enlargement/All mind that is susseptible of improvement, the relationship we have with God places us in a situation to advance in knowledge/all mind & spirit God ever sent into the world are susceptible of enlargement”. Does this statement mean all intelligences are the same in their primal state? Does it mean all “boxes” are the same and the differences are in the internal hardware upgraded over the eternities? It’s hard to tell from the text.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 5, 2006 @ 11:59 pm

  88. Holy cow, you’re using the Waterboys!

    Comment by Susan M — June 6, 2006 @ 7:17 am

  89. Yep, Susan. I’m glad someone appreciated it… :-)

    Comment by Geoff J — June 6, 2006 @ 8:26 am

  90. Geoff, I find it rather amusing that you can simultaneously accuse me of radical individualism when you do not believe in the essentiality of personal identity at all. Pratt is a conservative essentialist compared to the idea that intelligence is just raw material that will run any program.

    I see the intelligence as have aspects or quasi-”parts” but aspects that are not disassociable, connected by springs that change configuration but will won’t break. Obviously something happens to an intelligence as it progresses, I think it is untenable to regard such progression as an accidental property of things (e.g. physical memory representation) external to the intelligence. If an intelligence does not have essential internal state of some sort, it cannot be an intelligence, but rather an accident, like a microprocessor.

    The components of a microprocessor do not have any essential properties except physical characteristic. The operation is contigent on imposed form, however such form is an artifact of intentionality, not equivent to it.

    Or in short computers do not “think”, they only simulate a mechanistic model of thinking. They do not create, they only simulate a psuedo-random model of creation. They have no intentionality at all. They cannot rise above their programs except by the sheerest of accidents. The problem for the eternal progression of a computer, is essentially the same as the problem for evolution in a deterministic or tychodeterministic world, an issue we have discussed in considerable detail over at Mormons an evolution. In summary, my conclusion is that robust evolution without intentionality approaches an analytical impossibility.

    If we are all just machines, then personal identity, and essentially all theology is just an accident of nature. So how do we distinguish between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of the devil again? If God is a machine without a soul? And the devil one running a different operating system – neither designed nor intended by either?

    Since when was a microprocessor good or evil? When did a computer ever love? or hate? How does a computer have free will? How does a computer have moral responsibility? How does a computer invent things? Compose art, poetry, and music greater than that of its programmers?

    The knee jerk denial of the life of the mind and spirit would be amusing if it were not so very serious.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 6, 2006 @ 8:41 am

  91. I apologize for the abundant spelling errors. Obviously not enough or non-effective sleep.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 6, 2006 @ 8:43 am

  92. Geoff, I explicitly mentioned the Borg minus their necessarily evil qualities. The usefulness of the term (appropriately qualified) is that anyone who has seen the appropriate ST: TNG episodes knows exactly what kind of mental unity that type of denial of personality implies.

    As I said, the example would be much more compelling if there were a non-pejorative righteous version of the Borg in contemporary culture. Unfortunately, contemporary liberals do not care much for unity and loyalty in any form.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 6, 2006 @ 3:36 pm

  93. Umm, Mark. My computer example was an analogy. You are reponding as if I meant it in some literal sense.

    Whatever is essential to continuity of an intelligence, it is not memories. Yet what we consider our “personal identity” in this life is generally the sum of our memories and experiences. That is why when someone loses all memories due to dementia/alzheimers or something people often say that the memory-less person is no longer the person they used to know.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 6, 2006 @ 3:38 pm

  94. Mark:Geoff, I explicitly mentioned the Borg minus their necessarily evil qualities.

    “Borg” by definition is a compulsive/coercive model so if the “evil” qualities were absent then it wouldn’t be Borg would it? I simply object to your using such rhetorical ploys because they are not helpful in this conversation. Many faithful people have implied a unity of will among members of the Godhead and your attempts to summarily dismiss their position by labeling it “Borg” is a cheap rhetorical trick in my opinion (even if they are indeed wrong.)

    Comment by Geoff J — June 6, 2006 @ 3:43 pm

  95. Well! Found this link from Clark’s blog and I must say it has been a freth of bresh air compared to wading through forums for interesting posts. I don’t have much to contribute to the discussion, but I must thank those who have participated and shared some very thought-provoking ideas.

    If the current conversation is dying, maybe we could try to work reincarnation (multiple mortal probations) and evolution into these concepts of individuality vs unity?

    Comment by CE Digger — June 6, 2006 @ 8:03 pm

  96. CE,

    Thanks. See a whole bunch of MMP related posts here and a few evolution-related posts here. (See a whole blog on Mormons and evolution here.) Also, you can check out any number of other categories of posts in the side bar.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 6, 2006 @ 8:13 pm

  97. Geoff, of course Borg minus their necessarily evil qualities would not be the Borg. X – 1 != X. They would the righteous counterpart of the Borg. You are reading malicious intent where I have explicitly denied any. I might object to your calling the standard model of the Millennium, etc. the My Turn on Earth model – I have never seen MToE and so I don’t know what you mean, except to give a funny name to what virtually everyone has always believed. So if you quit calling the standard model the MToE model, I will refrain from referring to a righteous, soft and fluffy counterpart of the Borg.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 6, 2006 @ 9:31 pm

  98. I think we have discussed MMP rather enough for now, but if everyone else wants to, please go ahead.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 6, 2006 @ 9:35 pm

  99. Fair enough Mark. Perhaps I read more into the “Borg” title you were using than you intended. (For the record though, I think that evil compusion/coercion is an essential characteristic of what we call Borg so Borg-evil = Not Borg.)

    Comment by Geoff J — June 6, 2006 @ 11:02 pm

  100. I agree that Borg minus Evil is Not Borg. However, I do not have an Aristotelian semantic of being, so there are a wide variety of semantics that fall under the classifiation of Not Borg, including ones that have some, but not all the essential properties of Borg culture.

    Or in other words, I generally believe the more common semantics of the term “is” is not identicality, but logical class membership, a semantics of constraint, that “to be or not to be” is a false dichotomy – that there is a multi-dimensional gamut of synthetic being or fuzzy set membership, some more like the archtype and some less, such that I can modify a concept in a certain direction and not have lost the semantics completely.

    That said, I agree that as a general term, the “modified Borg model” is likely to be misleading and it definitely appears pejorative.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 7, 2006 @ 6:42 am

  101. See the sad thing is that nearly all debates about scriptural exigesis boil down to people insisting that language has absolutist, hard Aristotelian semantics by default, to the degree that a careful writer has to interperse his statements with endless qualifiers to not be misinterpreted, especially by those who have been trained in classical logic. A strict bivalence of logic applied to the natural language of being leads to naive, Aristotelian realism about *all* concepts, even synthetic ones.

    In other words, an insistence that concept set membership is black and white, instead of shades of gray. There are ways to deploy classical logic accurately, physics does it rather effectively using advanced mathematics, but classical logical arguments applied to most natural language propositions can only be suggestive, not conclusive, because natural languistic concepts are not generally metaphysical categories, but rather more often impressionistic associations.

    Now, I was reading one of Blake’s articles recently on how the Greeks in general made this distinction, with regard to semantics of “non” vs. “not in any way, mode, or manner” (in the context of divine creation), but Aristotle generally denied the distinction, as a matter of metaphysics of all being.

    In logic this shows up in the denial / negation distinction, which has no place in Aristotelian logic, the difference between:

    (1) I deny that X is Y
    (2) X is not Y
    (3) X is not Y in any way

    Well, if Western language were not so heavily corrupted by Aristotelian bivalence of being, the distinction between (1) and (2) would be superfluous. i.e. not Y could still have Y-ishness.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 7, 2006 @ 7:03 am

  102. So long story short, most purported proofs by contradiction, or applications of logical negation, De Morgan’s law, etc. to natural linguistic propositions are faulty because they incorrectly apply Aristotle’s Law of the Excluded Middle to the semantics of being. The law of non contradiction (LNC) has an implementation in “fuzzy” logic, but it is not bivalent like the LEM. The LEM only works in classical, first order predicate logic, either naive realism, or a similar semantic carefully imposed for a given application, notably natural science, which uses mathematics to handle fuzziness instead of fractional logic per se.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 7, 2006 @ 7:08 am

  103. So in the quote from Elder Maxwell, it is not a fair assumption to conclude a priori that he intends an Aristotelian semantics of all of his terms.

    In conclusion, the submission of one’s will is really the only uniquely personal thing we have to place on God’s altar. The many other things we “give,” brothers and sisters, are actually the things He has already given or loaned to us. However, when you and I finally submit ourselves, by letting our individual wills be swallowed up in God’s will, then we are really giving something to Him! It is the only possession which is truly ours to give!
    (Neal A. Maxell, Ensign, Nov. 1995, 22)

    Now “swallowed up” is pretty explicit – indeed minus the absolutist interpretation of that qualifier I agree with this statement, although I would also have to go into the semantics of God as or representing the divine concert.

    See I read D&C 58 as the practical, and *canonical* denial of the truth of an absolutist semantic of will-swallowing, indeed exactly the opposite, so either E. Maxwell is allowing some leeway or he is contradicting the scriptures:

    For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward. Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;

    For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward. But he that doeth not anything until he is commanded, and receiveth a commandment with doubtful heart, and keepeth it with slothfulness, the same is damned.
    (D&C 58:26-29)

    An ethic of absolute will swallowing effectively denies this principle, especially in the world to come.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 7, 2006 @ 7:19 am

  104. Mark, I’ve not had time to follow this thread, but isn’t there a difference between doing X because God tells you and doing X because you share similar beliefs and desires to God? In the latter your will is also swallowed up but the nature of this will-swallowing seems fundamentally different. My sense is that will swallowing in Mormon discourse is in terms of having a similar nature. It isn’t (as some argue) a kind of divine command theory.

    I also agree with you regarding the Law of the Excluded Middle. With fuzzy logic or vagueness it just doesn’t apply. And I tend to think that scriptural concepts in particular are extremely vague – and I think sometimes in theological disputes we don’t acknowledge this.

    Comment by Clark — June 7, 2006 @ 9:10 am

  105. Clark, the exact opposite of the DCT (in LDS theology) is Pratt-onic absolutism, namely the idea that the one true God is divinity itself, or alternately that God himself submits to a divinity that is independent of his will.

    Now the classical Christian solution to this conundrum the doctrine of divine simplicity, but since we have multiple exalted persons, we cannot (and do not) even make a pretense of the idea that the nature and the will of the divine concert are absolutely identical.

    So we have in Orson Pratt, a doctrine of collective submission to an impersonal absolute – in the worst sense, worshipping divinity rather than the holders thereof, that in any case where the will of a person departs from the absolute, it is an error.

    Well there are a bunch of problems with a strictly absolutist conception of ethics that are dealt with in technical treatises on meta-ethics, creativity, and free will. I think a absolutist meta-ethics is a denial of the significance of divine discretion, or collective agreement. It makes God *opinion* on anything irrelevant. Divine law becomes not in *any way* personal will, or collective consensus, but simply a matter of scientific or analytical discovery of what could not have been otherwise.

    My position is that there has to be a healthy balance between the natural, or absolute and freely determined or socially constructed aspects of morality. i.e. things are wrong in part because they conflict with natural symmetries, and lead to non-subjectively negative consequences (e.g. the reality of pain) and in part because they conflict with a *system* synthetically established by the authorship of one or many to allow us to avoid such consequences.

    In other words, I do not think that morality is nothing but natural law, any more than I think beauty is. There are many different implementations of fundamental principles that are comparably moral, or beautiful, just as the beauty of a painting or a musical composition is at best a *partial* ordering. There is not *one* true symphony, or novel, or culture. Heaven has a culture to be sure, but it is ridiculous to conceive of every aspect thereof as a law of nature.

    Thus the formation of the culture of heaven is a question of the formation of a relative unity of will, the classic problem of government and society in all ages. Absolutism will not cut it, and discretionary mind meld-ism is a cop out, a practical denial of D&C 130:2.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 7, 2006 @ 9:37 am

  106. I agree with all of that, but I think Geoff’s complaint is still valid. One of the points Mark is making is that analogies can be drawn to a wide variety of things because all you need for an analogy is one aspect that is the same. Then you can say that it is analogous to the thing in this one way. The problem is that it is very easy to slip into a guilt-by-association implication if you choose an analogy to something with other negative baggage. It is easy to do this on accident, but it certainly happens on purpose a lot as well.

    So, Geoff is rightly pointing out that the Borg are known for compulsive assimilation. There might be a good analogy there if it weren’t for this. I don’t think it is fair to initially qualify by saying you don’t mean the evil parts and then start calling it the Borg theory of unification. I think Mark’s point about calling the standard model the My Turn on Earth model is also valid. It implies the model is cheesy or childish (baggage that goes with MTonE). I am guilty of this whenever I refer to the theory that exaltation is a matter of getting a bunch of people under you to give you glory as the “pyramid-scheme theory of exaltation” (of course, I do it on purpose in this case). This is one of the real dangers of analogy, and I think anyone who uses analogies needs to be constantly on guard against choosing analogies that obscure more than they clarify.

    Comment by Jacob — June 7, 2006 @ 9:38 am

  107. That argument, by the way, also leads me ultimately the conclusion that God is God *because* of what he *does*, and not simply because of what he *is*.

    We indeed have to take upon ourselves divine attributes, but the ultimate attributes are not passive, but active. Love is a verb, Love without action is meaningless. If God quit acting, he would cease to be divine. Grace is not a substance welling up inside of God’s heart, it is a metotnymy for God’s saving *acts*. And that is why the purported dichotomy between grace and works is ultimately an illusion. Grace is good works – God’s works – Christian service from the Most High down to the lowliest saint.

    The service of any one will not save, because salvation is a collective enterprise. So “works” = “our works” and “grace” = “the works of the divine concert”. There will be and cannot be any Zion without work. God is work. (metonymically speaking)

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 7, 2006 @ 9:58 am

  108. “There will not be” that is. God is Work in the same (imperfect) sense that God is Love. Good Work.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 7, 2006 @ 10:02 am

  109. “Clark, the exact opposite of the DCT (in LDS theology) is Pratt-onic absolutism, namely the idea that the one true God is divinity itself, or alternately that God himself submits to a divinity that is independent of his will.”

    Well hopefully we aren’t given the choice of a false dichotomy.

    BTW – I’ve long seen Pratt’s focus on the attributes of God as God to be a way of rescuing the more traditional Trinitarian notion of God as the one ousia in three persons with the focus being on this ousia. (One of many reasons I find the notion that Mormons aren’t Trinitarian to be problematic) I agree here with Brigham Young that our focus is the persons and not the essence.

    Regarding divine simplicity, Pratt’s relation to that is obviously problematic if only because of what one might term a nominalist tendency.

    I think, however, the main problem with Pratt’s view is its absolutism (which I think translates to his approach towards the unity of body or spirit within any particular being as well). I think the Stoic notion of matter disposed to X solves the problem if one wants to adopt the kind of naive approach to space and time that Pratt does. (Obviously Pratt’s desire for atoms is already problematic and is a relic of the atomist ferver of the 19th century — Stoic continuity is simply more conducive to physics although I find their conception of space/time problematic)

    If one rejects absolutism. That is the tyrrany of a “single way” of mind then I think the notion we share a will with God becomes much more reasonable. That is there are numerous behaviors in harmony with the divine nature. Combine that will with communication and I think one can achieve a lot of what Pratt is after without some of his problematic metaphysics.

    Comment by Clark — June 7, 2006 @ 10:23 am

  110. Clark, you know I don’t believe in binary dichotomies, as a general rule. I am defining endpoints on a spectrum. We can then tune parameters to get something viable in the middle. The classic problem with absolutist / extreme models is that they are untunable, so we have to mix ones based on different ideals to get something plausible, generally with a non Aristotelian semantic of interpretation of quasi-authoritative sources. Half of the physicists I know do this rather than solve more complex problems, but it is a good starting point either way. Call it the interpolative version of the Hegelian dialectic.

    The reason why LDS are non trinitarian is not due to the disbelief in the indwelling unity of the spirit, it is due to the Trinitarians insistence that the unity our ousia of the Godhead is indistinguishable from the personality of the members. This *almost* works in a strict monotheism, but in a divine pluralism (including a trinitarianism) it can only be considered an incomprehensible mystery at best. Since we do not believe in such mysteries, as a general rule, we actually have to solve the problem.

    Pratt’s solution is not divine simplicity, it is splitting out the members of the Godhead from the essence of divinity. That is considered a heresy in the Christian world – it makes God divine, because of what he *has* rather than because of what he *is*, either that or denies the personality of God in favor of the absolute and impersonal God of Aristotle.

    As I said, I think this focus on attributes and properties is secondary. God is God because of what he *does*. An active, process based idea of divinity, not a static Aristotelian one. A divinity that is a function of the free creative expression of God in the salvation of his children, grounded in a handful of natural laws and principles – such that we can judge between good and evil, harmony and cacaphony and avoid religion as might makes right or the Stockholm syndrome.

    That is the balance between either a DCT or a divinity of anarchy on one end, and a Prattonic absolutism on the other.

    [By the way, If you can point me to a good reference on stoic metaphysics, preferably online, I would appreciate it Clark]

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 7, 2006 @ 8:11 pm

  111. Mark, I put the Stoic stuff on my blog.

    I think that Pratt’s attempt is to make it so you can’t distinguish the personality from the ousia. That is as individuals bind themselves to the divine substance they become one with it.

    Comment by Clark — June 8, 2006 @ 1:44 pm

  112. Mark: I suggest that the reason LDS are not “orthodox” trinitarians is that the unity of the persons is metaphysical and logical for traditional Christians such that they have no choice as to whether they are in the relationship of divine unity. I argue in vol. 2 that the essence of fellowship love, the highest form of divine love, is freedom to say “no” to the relationship and therefore I suggest that the traditional view of the Trinity adopts a logical and metaphysical reading contrary to any sound scriptural hermeneutic and it devalues the divine love.

    Comment by Blake — June 8, 2006 @ 2:05 pm

  113. I agree with that, Blake – involuntary love is not love at all. A healthy relationship must be freely entered into and maintained through the active effort of both parties. An unreciprocated love is *necessarily* much weaker than a reciprocated relationship, because of the lack of consent on the party of the second part. Draw near unto, me and I will draw near unto you, and so on.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 8, 2006 @ 2:29 pm

  114. And it follows that outer darkness is not a *punishment* it is the natural state of those who are not willing to love and sacrifice. They end up alone wandering in strange roads, subject to the random highwayman, in a Hobbesian state of fear, or go in for a more perverse kind of love/rule by intimidation in the anti-Kingdom, the combinations of the devil.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 8, 2006 @ 2:34 pm

  115. Thanks, Clark.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 8, 2006 @ 2:34 pm

  116. Mark Butler you have made some beautiful and insightful comments on this thread (as have the others). Just wanted to say thanks… again… :)

    Comment by CE Digger — June 8, 2006 @ 11:08 pm

  117. Thanks, CE.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 9, 2006 @ 11:03 am

  118. Clark: I thought you’d find this article particularly interesting. It argues that quantum mechanics entails panpsychism. See it here: http://cogprints.org/3064/01/qpan.pdf

    Comment by Blake — June 9, 2006 @ 3:28 pm

  119. If: Physical creations are patterned after Spiritual creations…

    Then: “Cells” are to the physical body, like “Intelligences” are to the Spiritual body.

    Think about it, the light should come on.

    Comment by Simple-Simon — June 16, 2006 @ 6:08 pm

  120. Simple-Simon,

    So you’re saying that intelligences are powered by mitocondria, right?

    Comment by Jacob — June 17, 2006 @ 9:25 am

  121. Jacob,
    In a way…yes, but we’re talking billions and billions of times smaller than that!

    Look up: “String Theory”

    Matter is all inconceivably small 1 dimensional energy WAVES or strings, i.e., [remember E=MC2]

    Sounds are WAVEs
    Lights are WAVEs
    So, if all Energies are WAVEs
    Then, all Matter is made up of WAVEs too.

    The most elementary particles are really 1 dimensional [First Estate]tiny waves of energy. Vibrating [2 dimensions: 2nd Estate], like sound waves – only really fast.

    Genesis:
    And God said•, Let there be light: and there was light.
    and
    John:
    In the beginning was the word.

    Quick little side note:
    The Hebrew and Aramaic word “Abracadabra,” or the phrase “avrah ke dibrah” literally translates into “By my word, I create” or “It happened as it was said.”

    Sound was used to create Light,
    And light can be used to create all the matter in the Universe; E=MC2 – into [3 dimensions: or the 3rd Estate] or MATTER.
    And so on, and so on.

    It all began with a single WAVE…..

    Comment by Simple-Simon — June 19, 2006 @ 8:43 pm

  122. I truly enjoyed this entire string. So interesting! Thanks to all especially Mark Butler.

    Comment by Jason — September 27, 2011 @ 2:34 am

  123. Schöne Webseite, ich komme mal wieder vorbei.

    Comment by web site — June 21, 2013 @ 2:37 am

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