The Square Root of God
Mathematical Metaphors and Spiritual Tangents
Excerpts from a book by Dr. Tim Carson
Companion reflections can be found in
Morgan Freeman introduces the Quantum World
and Faith as Trust in Metaphors and E = MC2: A Love Poem.
JJB is glad to offer an excerpt from a mind-stretching book by Tim Carson called The Square Root of God. He has a Doctor of Ministry from Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri, he is the pastor of Broadway Christian Church in Columbia, Missouri, USA. Tim is the author of four other books: So You're Thinking about Worship, Your Calling as a Christian, Transforming Worship, and Liminal Reality and Transformative Power. You can see a list of them by clicking here.
For those of us in the JJB community, Tim is a good example of a creative, thoughtful pastor who knows that he is part of a much larger journey, about thirteen billion years in the making, of which stars and planets are also a part. To get a sense for what we mean, see The Milky Way: Process Theology and the Journey of the Universe. We appreciate Tim because he wants to be humble in the presence of this journey, knowing, as need we all, that our own lives are journeys within the journey of our planet, which is a journey within the universe, which is a journey within God, who is also a Journey, albeit a deeply inclusive one who dwells in covenantal love with the whole of creation.
There's still another reason we appreciate Tim. He likes science and religion, and we do, too. Those of us in the JJB community think it is very important for people to move beyond sharp boundaries between religion and science and think of them on the analogy of a yin-yang diagram. They are different but they are not mutually exclusive. They fold into one another in the very depths, which expresses itself in an indwelling lure toward truth, goodness, and beauty.
Many years ago Ian Barbour offered four models for thinking about religion and science. (1) They are conflicting and competitive, (2) They have nothing in common but can both be respected for what they do best, (3) They are different but have a few areas of overlap, and (4) They offer insights that can enrich one another. Many process theologians are in the fourth group. They believe that scientific experience offers insight that can enrich religious experience and that religious experience offers insights that can enrich science. They believe that the philosophy of Whitehead offers a unique cosmology that integrates insights from both religion and science into a larger whole that is both scientific and religious.
Moreover, Whitehead was himself a mathematician. He believed that mathematical patterns, while not being more actual than the world, have a reality in the very mind of God, which means that, when we entertain them conceptually, we are exploring a dimension of God's own ongoing life. In this sense mathematical patterns are like icons: windows through which divine light shines. But so, of course, are plants and trees, hills and rivers, atoms and molecules, stars and planets. And people, too! For those with eyes for beauty, God is found in many places.
It is in this larger context of wonder that Tim Carson explores numbers and the mystery of faith from the vantage point of their shared intersection. Understanding that concepts from both science and religion act as symbols and metaphors, Carson connects the shared symbols of both, allowing them to inform one another. The presumed theological world of the book is heavily influenced by Process thought and Quantum Physics. You can order a copy through Amazon; click here.
Excerpt from The Square Root of God:
The navigator of the sacred realm discovers a God already there, immanent yet not fully disclosed or revealed. Faith intuits that God is knowable, but only in part, accessible by finite minds as they search out the infinite. In that sense the authentic religious enterprise is a process of uncovering what is there and striving to complete or finish it, at least as far as finishing by finite minds is possible.
A parallel also exists with the depth psychology that emerged in the early 20th century. The psychoanalysis of the Freudian school and analytical psychology of the Jungian school both plumbed the depths beneath the surface of the conscious mind. For Freud it was unearthing the repressed contents of the personal subconscious. In Jung’s case the subconscious held not only personal contents but transpersonal or collective contents, universal symbols and structures shared by all minds in a common deep well. Regardless, both schools presented the subconscious as highly symbolized. And the interpretation of the symbolic content allowed access to the deep layers of consciousness it represented.
The connection of religious consciousness with depth psychology is evident in at least two ways. The first is the recognition that the surface of consciousness is just that, the surface, a layer that conceals something beneath it. What is seen is but part of the picture and the most significant aspect of reality is masked or veiled by our conscious minds.
The second is equally important, namely, that this personal or transpersonal subconscious content is expressed primarily in symbolic terms. The religious person or group insists that, much like the view of dreams or symbols in psychoanalysis, religious stories and universal symbols reveal a deeper layer of consciousness. When the deeper shape beneath the shape is named we experience spiritual epiphanies, the deep calling to the deep (Psalm 42.7).
When a mystic contemplates an icon, sings a psalm, or waits in silence, he or she acts on a conviction similar to that held by physicists, artists, psychoanalysts, mathematicians and poets; much more resides beneath the apparent surface of what is seen, a substantial unseen domain holding treasures, a deeper story.
That is precisely why religious language is first and foremost the language of symbol, metaphor, poetry, and the stuff of dreams and visions. No one can access these deeper levels without faith and trust, leaping off the ledge of rational proof, just as a physicist or astrophysicist cannot speak of atoms or dark matter with only what the unaided eye provides.
With a little help from Process Theology and Quantum Physics, we may embrace the deep purposeful power and patterns of the universe, embedded in the creation, co-creating life with an immanent God.
The creating God participates in the process and unfolding of the universe rather than existing as a coercive being external to it. As such, the active purposeful God is always discovered to be present in the world, beneath its surface, leading and luring all created beings toward unrealized potential in the spirit.
Similarly, Quantum Physics, especially particle physics, recognizes that the real story is always told on the sub-atomic level. In that ordered but seemingly chaotic world beyond ordinary observation, the energy of the universe unfolds, a hidden mystery within everything. For billions of years it has unfolded to this very moment, a massive past leading to those of us who inhabit this tiny continuity within time and space.
Taken together, the insights of Process Theology and Quantum Physics usher us toward a new shape of faith, a new understanding of God and ourselves in the universe. We have moved from Newtonian spirituality to Quantum spirituality. And our models of God shifted as we traveled.
A dynamic spiritual practice consistent with this model of God searches within the unfolding process of life for what is already there: deep, purposeful and sacred patterns that are immanent, hidden and embedded in the world. The universe is a single gigantic field of pure energy, the body of the divine spirit which is veiled to our knowledge of it. Spiritual apprehension seeks knowledge of and union with this purposeful energy and power, what we have called God
-- Tim Carson
If you are interested in ideas such as these, you might also enjoy some other articles in JJB. We are an informal community of scholars, artists and friends from many parts of the world who are interested in ways that process thinking can help make the world a more hospitable place for all. Many of our readers are in China. Some of us belong to one or another religious communion: Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist. And some of us are spiritual but not religious. Here are some articles you might enjoy:
The Numinosity of Rocks, by Patricia Adams Farmer
Replanting Yourself in Beauty, by Patricia Adams Farmer
The Quaking and Breaking of Everything, by Patricia Adams Farmer
Lennon/McCartney: Magic and Metaphysics, by Patricia Adams Farmer
E = MC2: A Love Poem, by Jay McDaniel and Lauren Bowden
Whitehead's Idea of God, by Jay McDaniel
Whitehead and Relativity Theory, by John B. Cobb, Jr.
Whitehead and Mind-Brain Relations, by John B. Cobb, Jr.
What do Process Thinkers believe? by Jay McDaniel
What is Process Thought?, by Jay McDaniel
The Constellation of Process Theology, by Rabbi Bradley Artson
Nature is My Bible, by Stephen Hatch
Theology for Nones, by Stephen Hatch
God Almighty, No Way, by Rabbi Bradley Artson
What are we doing when we pray? by Rabbi Bradley Artson
The Fire is Raging, Prayer for a Daffodil, by Christine Zalocusky
The Wind is Blowing: Finding God in Autism, by Christine Zalocusky
Faith as Trust in Metaphors, by Jay McDaniel