When God Became a Rival to the Market

When God Became a Rival to the Market

By

Isaiah E. Jones

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I Love therefore, I Am Human.

I Love therefore, I Am Human

By: Isaiah Jones

      When Rene Descartes, a 17th century philosopher, said I think, therefore I am or cogito ergo sum, the mind-set of most of the world changed significantly. One of his main arguments was that the act of thinking guaranteed the existence of the “self”. Should Descartes paradigm, I think therefore, I am; be of concern to us as modern thinkers of the 21st century? I argue it should. A general disclaimer before I begin this discussion is that I am not going to pretend I know or have all of the answers to life’s biggest mysteries. However, I will say that I am not convinced by this form of thinking entirely, although I do have the highest respect for philosophers such as Descartes, and I am speaking for the most part as an amateur in philosophy and a novice in professional history. So let us now begin.

       Who are we? What is our purpose? And why are we here? Those questions must have originated at the time of our ancestors thousands of years ago. Most religious traditions have acknowledged the mystery of our existence, and have applied wonderful narratives about who we are in the deepest part of our being. As beneficial as science is, the questions of who are we and what is our purpose? Philosophical discussion on our purpose as human beings is not the center of the scientists focus; mainly because those questions are not the primary emphasis of their scientific training. For example, a pianist may know very little about how to conduct a hemispherectomy.

      Who are we? Many people today with their simple “YOLO” (i.e. You Only Live Once) outlook on life appear to have come up with something profound and perhaps they have. Who am I to judge?! It appears as though we were all made by something supernatural. As C.S. Lewis put it in Mere Christianity,

“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”1

The human experience in our physical bodies and our sense perceptions that occupy space and time, we seem to be in the constant pursuit of happiness. There seems to be an obvious past, present and future, but is there? The present moment, as many spiritual teachers have told us, is the most important and most real thing in our lives. Meister Eckhart once said,

“The most important hour is always the present. The most significant person is precisely the one sitting across from you right now. The most necessary work is always love.”2

In the Judeo-Christian tradition, God makes man in his image and humans today have been trying to return the favor ever since. If the divine made us in his image could one say that WE are off track and in desperate need to return to “the way” that divine creator intended? According St. Peter we are to “partake of the divine nature,” (2 Peter 1:4). Our human vocation is to become our true self. In some Christian traditions, this process is known as theosis, deification, or divinization. As St. Athanasius of Alexandria said, “The Son of God became man that we might become god.” Now it should be noted, St. Athanasius does not mean that we will become what god is by our own works, or effort. Precisely what God is by NATURE, human beings become by his divine GRACE. Genesis 1:26, supports this when it says, “God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” The fact that we are said to made in the image/likeness of the divine is key in our discovery in who we are.

        Now it is important to note that in the fall, man tries to become divine on his own, by self-will/ambition, by his own pride, without the gift of grace and understanding that came from the creator himself; man simply lost his humility and obedience to his creator. This essentially kept human beings at one with each other, and at one with their divine creator. Man supposedly knew that any spirituality or divinity that he obtained was due to his oneness/union with the creator of the universe and his humble obedience to him. However, as man has done today, he now thinks of anything he has both material and immaterial, as his own doing/making/effort, and that he knows more than nature itself. Like the ancient pagans, he has begun to worship the created matter, or the world of forms, as Plato puts it, instead of the creator that is behind and moving through all material and matter. I would say that even the sun and the moon worship the one supreme creator.

         So, I conclude, if it is true as St. John says, that the divine himself is love (1 John 4:8), then perhaps we too are love. If the divine or God is a mystery, then perhaps the human person is a mystery too. One of the ways to become fully human is to return home to our union with the divine by letting go of our obsessions with simple pleasures and distractions. We will become fully human as we continue to grow in our self-emptying and mutual love for those around us. The potential error with the “I think therefore, I am” paradigm by Descartes is that it neglects the relationships of human beings with each other and human beings’ relationship to their creator. I am guilty of this. At times I find myself thinking, I, ME, MYSELF, very self-centered, I know. I have come to realize that in order for me to love and be truly loved, I cannot do it all by myself. I need the divine creator to transform me into who/what he is, which I conclude is ultimately love (Gk.agape).3 If I think of myself a separate individual from humanity, this may lead too self-centeredness, which leads to egotism, hedonism, pride, and selfish ambition that removes us from the path of love. So where do we go from here? Throughout history, humans have created ideologies or beliefs that people with mental disabilities, or long-term psychiatric disability as not human. Equating thinking/reason as the only thing that makes someone human, on the extreme leads to abortion, segregation, and other vices. For example, if the fetus cannot think, than it is not a human being etc. Love is what makes us human, not just thinking. Thinking/reason are a tools, but not meant to be idolized. If love grows in our relationships with others many of the problems of this world may pass away.4

          I suggest a shift in our awareness, in who we think we are. We are ONE. We are connected or interdependent. What we do for each other, be it good, or bad, we do to ourselves. I am not suggesting that the goal of life is to become spiritual only. That also can lead to a sense of pride and delusion, as if we became spiritual by our own efforts/reason/thinking. Any progress we make in becoming more loving and more virtuous will be because of the creator’s divine grace.5 Be well!

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  1. Lewis, C. S. Mere Christianity. Special centenary ed. London: Fount, 1997.
  2. Blakney, Raymond Bernard. Meister Eckhart, A Modern Translation,. New York: Harper & Bros., 1941.
  3. Agape is Greek for “unconditional love, please see “Wikimedia Foundation. “Agape.” Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agape (accessed February 7, 2014).
  4. An exceptional Christian ascetic, monk, and mystic of the twentieth century, Archimandrite Sophrons particular volume was one of my key inspirations of writing this blog. Check out his brilliant & critical theology in Sakharov, Nicholas V. I Love, Therefore I Am: The Theological Legacy of Archimandrite Sophrony. Crestwood, N.Y.: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2002.
  5. In his volume, Fr. John Behr gives great insight in what it means to be human. Behr, John. Becoming Human: Meditations on Christian Anthropology in Word and Image. Crestwood, New York: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2013.