THE HALLS OF PENTHEUS -- PART FOUR
Magnificence and Existence
At the heart of ontological arguments for the existenceof God is the idea that reality is based upon morphology, combined with a claim that this morphology must necessarily contain a certain form called God, these arguments pivoting on ideas of existence and a vague magnificence labelled "greatness" or "perfection". What Anselm, Descartes and the rest are claiming is that any morphology which does not contain a form of absolute magnificence and necessary existence just can't be made to work.
How do they do this?
A theoretical sub-class of Being, God, is assigned the attribute of "greatness" or "perfection", this being treated as a quantifiable value. If challenged to parse this into something more choate, this magnificence can be defined in terms of omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence. If challenged to make sense of this as a meaningful attribute, that magnificence can be attributed to other classes, three sub-classes of Being, for example -- Animal, Man and Angel -- each of which has an attribute of this vague magnificence, but each with a hard-wired value higher than the last if we take them in the order given. Abstracting this sequence we can construct an ultimate class,God, having the ultimate value of greatness or perfection -- magnificence. The trick is to then define this magnificence as dependent on existence, to say that not having the property of existence would render God less magnificent than any mere Man who did possess that property.
In Anselm's logic, ultimate greatness is defined as the value of greatness for that being than which nothing greater can be imagined. In essence, since this is always greater than any finite value we can imagine, Anselm is talking of infinite greatness. He uses the analogy of a painter with an image in his understanding of what he is about to paint in order to establish his own notion of the class versus the object, existence in the understanding versus existence in reality. His version of the trick is then to say that if the class was all that existed we could imagine the object which is greater than it. That very thing than which nothing greater can be imagined is something which we can imagine something greater than, which is a contradiction in terms.
God is really, really, really great, then. Great to the power of infinity.
Descartes takes a similar stance by claiming to have an idea of a supremely perfect being, following that with the assertion that to be that perfect being, God must exist. He complexifies his argument with a defence of the legitimacy of clear and distinct attributes as descriptors of objects, saying that where these attributes are clear and distinct in the class they must be true of the object. He finds necessary existence clear and distinct in the class, God, so it must be true of the obect, God. Descartes could never, presumably, be mistaken. If we think this idea bogus, his assertion is that, as an imperfect being, he would be unable to create a concept of a supremely perfect being on his own, and that the concept must therefore have come from God.
It would be generous to describe Descartes blank assertions as an actual argument. Confusing the sense of certainty with actual truth, he is characterising the God class as a divine revelation that must be true because he is convinced it is true. Beyond that, he is simply regurgitating Anselm's proposition that the most magnificent Being has to exist in order to be the most magnificent Being.
Plantinga gives us a more modern version in which he defines the God class likewise, his terms being ultimate excellence and ultimate greatness. He is more specific, at least. Ultimate excellence is omnipotence, omniscience and so on in a possible world, W. Ultimate greatness requires ultimate excellence in all possible worlds, and this equates to necessary existence -- to be ultimately great there can be no possible worlds of non-existence. The God class is then treated as a "possible necessity" (it is possible that God necessarily exists), the trick here coming from a little gem of sophistic modal logic known as S5, which collapses that "possible necessity" to straight necessity. If something is possibly necessary, S5 says, that means there is a possible world where it is necessary, where it would be self-contradictory to negate it. If it is self-contradictory in one world, though, it is self-contradictory in all worlds; hence a possible necessity is actually a necessity. Which means, if you buy this sleight of hand, that the God class must have necessary existence.
All three arguments, then, pivot on absolute magnificence requiring necessary existence.
A Dubious Proposition
We'll deal with Plantinga's argument first, because it appears more formal, more rigorously logical in its contemporary language. It is, however, simply a subtle play on modal logic's specialised terminology wherein "possible" means not necessarily false, "necessary" means not possibly false and "contingent" means neither necessarily true nor necessarily false. The problem is, the God class is being passed off as possible when, as a hypothesis, it should correctly be considered contingent, for objectivity's sake. A hypothesis is not necessarily false but it is also not necessarily true. So, even if we accept that if the hypothesis is true at all then it is necessarily true, that aspect of necessity is still itself contingent on the God class's truth. If it is not true then it is not necessarily true.
We could go further and turn the argument on its head. In the terminology of modal logic given above there is clearly a missing modality we might label "dubious" for statements that are not necessarily true. Where Plantinga says that it is possible that God necessarily exists, we might equally say it is dubious that God necessarily exists. This is an equally valid premise.
What do we get if we apply the logic of S5 to something that is dubiously necessary? Adapting Plantinga's own phraseology:
1. If dubiously necessarily P, then there is a possible world W at which P does not hold necessarily,
2. Then, it is true at W that P is not a broadly logically necessary truth, that its negation would not in a broadly logical sense be self-contradictory,
3. But if something is not self-contradictory at some possible world, then it is not self-contradictory at all worlds,
So a dubious necessity collapses into a non-necessity, and in this case that means the God class. Further, since it is agreed that God, if he exists, must necessarily exist, and we have here established that he does not necessarily exist in all possible worlds, God cannot exist.
It should be obvious that the result of the argument is simply a factor of our bias as regards the premise, of whether we present the hypothesis of God as possible, contingent or dubious. One might well carry on with our critique of Plantiga's argument, though, by assuming the more objective attitude that God's necessity is contingent, by avoiding the bias of "possible" and "dubious".
Actually, if we apply the logic of S5 to a "contingent necessity" rather than a "possible necessity", the folly of this whole type of argument becomes clear. We get a situation where, because P's necessity is contingent, neither necessarily true nor necessarily false, there must be a world, W1, where it holds necessarily (its negation would be self-contradictory) and another world, W2, where it does not hold necessarily (its negation would not be self-contradictory). Given that something which is self-contradictory (or not) in one possible world must be self-contradictory (or not) in all, W1 and W2 mean God's existence must be both necessary and not necessary in all possible worlds. Personally, I would take from this that all hypotheses relating to "necessary existence", all such speculative suppositions as the necessary existence of God, which might or might not be true, which are neither necessarily true nor necessarily false -- all of these are entirely illogical, since by the logic of S5 they lead to complete self-contradiction. This sort of sophistic fiddling with necessary existence as possible, dubious or contingent proposition is just an exercise in confusing premise and proof.
Stripping it down like this, we find that for all Plantinga's modal logic, what he is offering us is little more than the same old Supreme Being of Descartes and Anselm. Greatness, perfection, excellence? Check. Omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence? Check. Necessary existence? Check. The ontological argument again boils down to existence as a prerequisite of absolute magnificence.
Magnificence and existence. Yes, God is so cool he has to be real!
All I can say is I consider that a dubious proposition.
A Madman's Dream
The immediately obvious response to this sort of argument is that existence is not a property or existence is not a predicate, but this approach has a tendency to run into the minefield of abstract and general terms -- abstract events, abstract types of things, abstract properties and abstract behaviours -- and the tedious ontological nonsenses that surround them, where philosophers seem incapable of getting their heads around the idea of signifiers without concrete referents, where the fact that we talk about fictional characters as if they were real just does not compute, and where a whole new pseudoscientific jargon must be developed in order to deal with the simplest of statements. I'm not even going to get into this because it's simply tiresome. I'll simply advise a crash course in object-oriented programming. There are classes of objects and objects of classes. It's really not that hard. Existence is not a method or an attribute of a class, what it does or what it is. It is the instantiation of a class in an object.
Put it this way: We can happily accept the premises of the ontological argument, construct our theoretical God class, assign it these attributes of Greatness (or Perfection, or Magnificence) and Existence. We can instantiate an object of that class in our imagination and set these attributes to whatever we want.
Create Object DeusIrae as God Class
Set DeusIrae.Greatness = "infinity"
Set DeusIrae.Existence = "necessary"
And then we can wipe it out of existence.
Those attributes don't seem terribly meaningful if we can do that.
A simple way to understand this would be to imagine a class called MyNovel with an attribute Published. This is instantiated as an object only in the writer's imagination, with its Published atribute set to "false". This is one complicated motherfucker of a class, complicated enough that the writer can't actually hold it all in his imagination at once. He didn't even try to build it in his imagination; what he did was break it down into sub-systems of smaller classes -- Chapter, Scene, Paragraph, Sentence, Word. Even with these it wasn't just a matter of working on them independently as pure abstractions and gradually putting them together into the class; no, what he did was use this complex IDE (Integrated Development Environment) called Writing 2007, a sort of program to help you develop classes.
See, Writing 2007 is a great piece of kit. You have this library of predeveloped sub-classes of Noun, Verb, and so on, which you can instantiate as objects in ink on paper, and build into instances of Sentence objects, Paragraph objects and so on. The software translates these into an object of the class DraftMyNovel as you work, constantly updating the abstract definition coded into the concrete objects you're working with. It's also got this nifty little add-on called Reading Express whereby you can directly instantiate in your imagination an object of the class DraftMyNovel in its current state, in order to test if it's working the way it should. The great thing about the imagination, of course, is that it automatically translates that object of the DraftMyNovel class into an object of the MyNovel class and stores the definition of that class in your head. You can then call up an instance of that object and use Thinking 3.0 to analyse it in terms of other sub-systems of classes like Theme, Plot and Character. Thinking 3.0 doesn't let you work with the MyNovel objects in the same way as Reading Express does, right enough. With Reading Express you scan through the linear structure of the object and it fires off commands like Laugh, Cry, Frown. It actively implements the methods of the object of the MyNovel class, which are designed to directly affect anyone who uses Reading Express to scan it. With Thinking 3.0 you examine that object structurally. It doesn't call the methods, so you don't have the sequence of experiences. You don't have the same sense of having the story playing in the run-time of your imagination, so in many ways it doesn't actually feel like your working with a MyNovel object at all, more like you're working with an idea of one. Indeed, it has to be said that the storage media for classes of the complexity of MyNovel can be quite kack, so many writers prefer to use Thinking 3.0 in tandem with Reading Express, working on an object of the DraftMyNovel class rather than an object of the MyNovel class which is corrupted by forgetfulness to a vaguely discernable structure of Theme, Plot and Character objects.
But anyway, this is how the writer developed his MyNovel class, discovering at the end of the process, incidentally, that the MyNovel class he ended up with was quite different from the MyNovel class he only had a vague idea of at the start (and which he actually still only has a vague idea of now without reference to an object of the DraftMyNovel class). Now that he has his MyNovel class, he could set its attribute to Published. But it's a little premature for that.
The other great thing about this Writing 2007 and Reading Express is that it's nearly as ubiquitous as Microsoft, so if you send off an object of the DraftMyNovel class, which is to say a manuscript, to a publisher, an editor can run Reading Express on it, and with a bit of luck he might even buy it. Or rather he might license the right to use it, to create objects of the MyBook class developed from it. With a good editor that development won't involve alterations to the MyNovel class that make it no longer, as far as you're concerned, the MyNovel class you want it to be. With a good editor there'll actually be alterations that make it even more the MyNovel class you want it to be. With a good design team working on the MyBook class you can end up with something, if you're lucky, that's better than you ever hope for.
And finally, finally, one day they feed an object of the PDFMyBook class into a BigAssPrintingMachine object and out come lots of little objects of the class MyBook, with a publication date on the copyright page, and then, but only then, you get to set the Published attribute of the MyNovel class in your head to "true". You could have done this anywhere along the way, of course, but only if you want to be a delusional loon, because it's the instantiation of the MyBook objects that matters for the MyNovel class. (Note to pedants: I know, I know, publication doesn't actually have to be in ink on paper; it's not the printing that's instantiation here but the publication in a medium, so we could substitute MyEbook objects for MyBook objects and it's all the same.) Point is, all those countless DraftMyNovel objects you created to build the MyNovel class, all those countless MyNovel objects you created to test and analyse with imagination and abstraction, even that object of the PDFMyBook class which you held in your hand, in the form of the page proofs -- none of that matters when it comes to setting the Published attribute to "true".
Any Existence attribute, of a God class or otherwise, is equally dependant on instantiation, so setting that attribute to "necessary" means nothing if that instantiation has not taken place. You can construct your idea of God, your MyGod class. You can develop it using Writing 2007, Reading Express, Thinking 3.0 -- because philosophy uses these as much as fiction. You can work your way through DraftMyGod after DraftMyGod. In fact the process here is even grander, even more complex, because the construction of a MyGod class doesn't just involve drafts but finished books, and not just books but scriptures and psalms, ceremonies and sacraments, other arts entirely. You can use Sculpture 2.1 and Architecture 1000 and the whole vast suite of software that is Religion 4004, but for all the objects you use to construct the MyGod class, at no point can you simply set its Existence attribute to "necessary" and imagine that this makes it so. Just as the MyBook objects must be manifest in the medium of print to be considered published, the MyGod object must be manifest in the medium of reality to be considered as existing, never mind necessarily existing. Otherwise all you have is a spurious idea, a dream of a God with necessary existence, like a madman's dream of a "published" novel that's never seen a printing press.
A Predicate of Sorts
Existence can be considered a predicate of sorts. It is a predicate of manifestation in the medium of reality, of the instantiation of a morphological form within a framework of actuality. That means it is, by definition, spatio-temporal. To exist is to continue to exist, to not cease to exist, and it generally means to do so here and now. Just as "manifest" means literally "hand-struck", right there in front of us to touch, to slap, to rap a knuckle on, so the term "existence" comes from the Latin ex- meaning "out" and stare meaning "stand" -- in its origins, then, to exist is to stand out. It is to be a figure on a ground, not just a form but the delineation of that form in its inscription upon a substance, like the delineation of the form of a god upon a marble bas-relief. To say this God exists is like saying that god is carved, here in this relief, before our eyes, a figure standing out from the ground, one that we can touch, slap, rap a knuckle on.
Every "is" is a predication of reality, of now-ness, of here-ness. The latter is no more specific than all of reality, which is why it is meaningful to respond to a claim that X exists with the question, "Where does X exist?", seeking a greater specificity that might be location ("in Glasgow") or medium ("in sculpture"). But the former is as specific as the very moment in which the claim is made, which is why it is pointless to ask the question, "When does X exist?", since the answer is implicit in the original claim -- now.
We can, of course, seek to establish a spatial distinction between our sub-reality and a hyperreality beyond it, imagining ourselves as the sculptures on the bas-relief, carved by a sculptor whose existence is spatiotemporally orthogonal to our own. We can imagine that time, on this relief, is represented in a progression from scene to scene, left to right, such that the sculptor may change our future, or our past, or our now, simply by shuffling this way or that and recarving this or that scene. But the claim that this sculptor exists is still a claim of his instantiation within his own reality, within a reality, within -- in simplest, universal terms -- reality as the hyperreality within which all sub-realities are models-in-whatever-media. To talk of this God class, this sub-class of Being, as being beyond reality entirely is to talk of it as not being at all.
The teleological arguments for God do not make that last leap, but simply hierarchise realities, positing a God class instantiated on a higher plane, as the object which shapes our subreality. Working with the anti-morphogonic myth of creation, they seek to analyse the morphology for a direct revelation in the form of an engraved signature, or for evidence of execution in the form of chisel-marks, or for evidence of design in the form of a distinct coherence to the complexity, a meaning encoded as the point of the story laid out in the relief. In denying morphogony they lead only to infinite regress, for the complexity of a morphological form capable of design, by this logic, must indicate that the hyperreality in which that form is instantiated is itself a product of design.
The actualities of the evidence they utilise in making their cases, in fact, bring the advocate's very sanity into question; they interpret hallucination and delusion as revelatory signature, anomalous irregularities in morphology as chisel-marks, and the cohesion of coincidental juxapositioning as the coherence of patterning. These are the symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia.
The product of these teleological arguments is the God class, the Deus Irae, the Empire, for it is through them that the attributes and methods of an assumed creator are imputed from the morphology of what is assumed to be that creator's creation. The notions of attention and intervention are imputed from "revelation". The notions of ineffability and obscurity are imputed from "anomaly". The notions of intent and action are imputed from "coherence". Further, in the sociomorphic and anthropomorphic nature of the morphology that is paranoically and schizophrenically projected upon realty, the God class comes to articulate the discourses at play in our notions of society and humanity. The attention is that of a shepherd to his flock. The intervention is that of a father in the squabbles of his children. The ineffability is that of a judge whose wisdom we cannot follow. The obscurity is that of a priest whose teachings we cannot fathom. The intent is that of a king for his kingdom. The action is that of a tyrant upon his rebellious subjects.
This is how the Empire was built.
The ontological arguments seek to abstract beyond the limitations of the teleological case, but they take as a given the definition of God constructed through the history of such arguments. In abstracting from the morphology of our bas-relief towards a Grand Unified Morphology with a cardinal morphological form as Prime Cause, they seek an articulation of the ground as a figure in its own right, the frame as form, not a sub-class of Being but a class of NonBeing, something beyond reality itself. They see the unreality which is the definitional boundary of reality. They seek the condition of chaos considered as a thing, the process of morphogony considered as an action, the combination of these considered as an event. But they carry with them into this quest a notion irreconcilable with the inherent chaos of NonBeing simply because it is, by definition, a sub-class of Being. This notion is rendered not just irreconcilable but absurdly so by the specific attributes and methods it carries as the legacy of its process of generation. And in a final act of insanity that which, by its nature is not, the uninstantiated and uninstantiable class-as-pure-form is claimed to be existential.
We can imagine an Empire, they say, that has all the features of the Golden Kingdom we have imagined through the millennia, the Silver City at the heart of it, and the Ivory Tower at the heart of that, an Empire as the teleological arguments have defined it. But we recognise that if we claim all empires to be necessarily mere models within an Ivory Tower, if we claim all realities require hyperreality, we must accept an infinite regress of greater and greater Empires, each level a wider Golden Kingdom with a vaster Silver City at the heart of it, and a taller Ivory Tower at the heart of that, containing the sub-reality as a mere model. So we accept this. We abstract to the infinite, to the essential, to the perfect, to the very morphological form of Empire, this GoldenKingdom class with its SilverCity class and its IvoryTower class, liberated from the infinte regress by being beyond reality itself, by not being a figure upon a ground that must have been carved, by not being an object instantiated in some medium that must have been made manifest, by not being outwith all frameworks of actuality. And now we say that it is real, for in abstracting out of reality we have reached perfection, and perfection requires reality. It must be real because it is not real. Can you not see our logic?
This is how the Empire falls.
Supremacy In Magnificence
So we arrive at the notion of Empire as an object which is, was and ever will be by an act of assertion of instantiation applied to a concept of Empire as a class which is not, was not and never can be, this concept itself an abstraction to essentiality based upon the very real and actual empires of earthly existence, those which exist now, whose which have existed in the past, and those which will most likely exist in the future, projecting sociomorphic and anthropomorphic notions born of paranoid schizophrenia onto reality itself. It is in the definitive features of the Empire that we can find the how and why of this insanity.
The key feature of the Empire is power.
We can understand this if we return to the idea of a MyNovel class, and an object of the class MyBook that instantiates it, and now ascribe to these an attribute of Perfection. The Perfection of this MyBook object is dependent upon many things. The book must contain no errors in copy-editing, type-setting or printing, no missing or transposed pages, no stains or blots or tears upon the dustjacket, no wrongly-allocated blurbs or mistakenly off-centred cover art. It must be perfect as an instance of the class. But more than this, in the development from the MyNovel class to the MyBook class we can require more perfection. We might require a deliberate variation between US and UK spellings to be maintained, a deliberate variation of fonts to be carried through, an environmentalist message to be reflected in printing on acid-free paper. We might require the cover art to be fitting, the copy to be accurate and effective, the blurbs to be from recognised authorities. It must be perfect as a translation from one class to another, from the base narrative to the physical vessel designed to carry it. But more than this, in the development of the MyNovel class itself we can seek a further perfection, the aesthetic perfection of a novel which lives up to the standards it is intended to, with elegance of style carrying through from the level of words up through sentences to paragraphs, to scenes and sections, chapters and volumes, with drama at these levels too, constructing a plot which is dynamic and coherent, with characters who do not lack dimensionality but are enfleshed and vital, developing through the action of the book, and with themes that are not trite but profound, not crude but complex, not confused but clearly articulated. It must be perfect as a model of what it is meant to model, as a program which does what it is meant to do.
We can only dream of such perfection in a book, but we can at least dream of it. What, then, is the perfection that we dream of in a god?
It is notable that when we talk of perfection, here, in every example we are talking of a measure of how well specific features match an ideal standard. We are talking of perfection not as a discrete attribute in its own right but as the sum of measurements of attributes and methods according to standards of quality. We are measuring how well an aim has been achieved in instantiating the MyBook class, how well an aim has been achieved in translating the MyNovel class to a MyBook class, how well an aim has been achieved in articulating the aesthetic standards applied in writing the book, and -- at its ultimate -- how well an aim has been achieved in the very selection of the aesthetic standards the writer has sought to articulate, how ambitious, how audacious these aesthetics are in terms of scope and acuity of insight. To ascribe perfection to the book as a book is to ascribe perfection in all these aspects, which is to say, when we ask how well any of these aims have been met, the answer is always, "as much as could possibly ever be".
This is why Anselm's "perfection" equates to Descartes' "greatness", to Plantinga's "excellence", to my "magnifence". It is a quanititave measure of a quality, a position on a scale from zero to infinity, from least to most, where what is being measured is the extent to which that quality is manifest. Perfection is being the greatest of the great in this respect. Being the greatest is the ultimate excellence of manifesting a quality as much as is possible. Ultimate excellence is being supremely magnificent when measured against all other things which might manifest that quality.
And the Empire, it is claimed, is supreme in its magnificence.
The Importance of Being Important
But magnificence, greatness, is not an attribute in its own right, then, but rather a modifier of attributes. It's an abstraction, an extreme one, at the positive end of a nominal scale for quantifying some quality. To illustrate what I mean: A road has two simple attributes -- width and length. You can quantify this attribute by applying a ratio scale to it, a scale divided into points in a series equidistant by an arbitrary unit. That unit could be yards, miles, kilometres, or leagues -- different units, different scales -- but as long as the ratio between points remains the same you can quantify (twenty yards, one mile, ten kilometres, a hundred leagues) the quality (width or length), modify the attribute.
How long is a great road? How long is a piece of string?
A nominal scale is just the simplistic version of this where the points are no more than benchmarks with no constant ratio between them, no unit of distance. To take a different example, a city might be described as tiny, small, medium, big or great. We talk of great rivers and great plains, great mountains and great monuments. In each of these examples we are applying a nominal scale to quantifiable qualities or combinations of them -- length and breadth, height and mass. But this is all utterly relative; if you're used to dirt tracks that stretch a few yards, your concept of a "great" road will be modest compared to someone used to driving down an autobahn. If you lived in ancient Uruk you might well have thought its walls were great; Gilgamesh did (but then he did build them). If you live in modern China, though, you have a whole new scale to measure a "Great Wall" against.
We can find a universality to these measures though, in the very act of ascribing them, in the motive and meaning of that act. My own flat in the West End of Glasgow is just off Great Western Road, so named because it runs west out of Glasgow and was historically a major throughfare, wide and long. It's not remotely as wide or as long as any number of roads that aren't described as great -- the M1, for example; few people ever describe the M1 as "great". But it was an important route out of Glasgow to the ports further west up the Clyde. Access between those ports and Glasgow was important for trade. Indeed, the very length and width of that road is a measure of the economic importance of that access. Hence the "Great" in "Great Western Road" is as much a signifier of the importance which led to the size as it is of the size in and of itself.
When we talk of great rulers, great leaders, physical size has nothing to do with it; what we're talking about is purely and simply their importance, their impact on history, their ability to rule, to lead, successfully. Greatness in this sense is not just a quantifer of an attribute, how much that attribute is manifested. That attribute is itself the property of having and using a capacity, of executive ability. What we are measuring then is not attributes at all, but methods. A great ruler is someone who is great at being a ruler. A great monument is something that is great at being a monument. Similarly, when we talk of great poets, great painters, great composers, and so on, we are talking of those who are great at performing the methods which define these roles.
A great poet is an object of the HumanBeing class whose WritePoetry method results in objects of the class Poem which are considered great. A great poem is an object of the Poem class which is inordinately effective at doing what a poem is meant to do. But this application of the term makes things a hell of a lot more complex because we must agree upon the aesthetics in order to agree on the evaluation. Saying that X is great because it is inordinately effective at doing what things of its kind should do, requires a clear idea of what its kind is, what that kind does, what its kind could and should do, and how its effectiveness can be measured. We cannot take a measuring tape to a method. It must be abstracted and analysed, theorised. How do you measure the greatness of an object of the calss Tragedy? Aristotle might well throw some ideas at you about its capacity to invoke pity and terror, its conformity to the classic forms, and so on, but we're talking complex and arguable sets of aesthetics here that are difficult to gain agreement on.
The Empire seeks to circumvent all such arguments by casting greatness as the greatness of an Empire, of a ruler and his monuments, and defining the aesthetics as purely that of impact, of importance. If we can describe Margaret Thatcher as a great leader, as many would, this is to deny any standards of diplomacy or empathy (qualities that might equally be judged to make a leader great but which would likely have made her less historically significant) and focus only on her impact on British politics, her importance. If we can describe the Arc D'Triomphe as a great monument, this is to deny the humanist standards by which we might better describe the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin as a great monument and to focus only its aesthetic impact, the extent to which it imposes itself on our awareness, its success as a monument, as a thing designed to express its own importance.
In the aesthetics of Empire, of rulers and their monuments, the definitive measure of greatness is simply importance. The methods being evaluated are those which are aimed at being important, at having import, at making an impact, at imposing oneself upon the world. The attribute being evaluated is the capacity to do this. And the supremacy of that evaluation in ascribing greatness within that aesthetics implicitly establishes that the most important thing to be is important.
These are the terms in which Anselm's Great God is defined -- omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient as the ultimate totalitarianism. The perfection, the greatness, the magnificence here is only the power of a Deus Irae, an Empire whose sole raison d'etre rests on the importance of being important. It is the circularity of this notion that establishes the Empire as a reality, for this aesthetics in which supremacy is all that matters, in which the importance of being important over-rides all other considerations -- of ethics, aesthetics or even pragmatics -- is what transforms it from a mere morphological form into an agency in psyche and culture.
The notion that "Might is Right", instantiated in even the simplest form of an idea initiates a vicious circle of reinforcement, a rapture in rapture. Once we have accepted the prime axiom of the Empire, that whatever is imposed upon us is to be evaluated by its capacity to impose itself upon us, we have fascism in its essential form, where power is the test of truth. We have the equation of certainty with the sense of certainty. Like Descartes, we have "clear and distinct" ideas which must be true, of course, because they are "clear and distinct", because they impose themselves upon us with the absolute force of the importance of their importance. All the Empire must do from here on in is imbue its arbitrary dictates with authority. What the Empire is, in fact, is no less than the imbuing of arbitrary dictates with authority considered as a theoretical system. It can also be considered as the superset of all actual systems -- physical in the sense of socio-political, and metaphysical in the sense of psychological and cultural -- which implement this methodology, but it is in a very real sense that superset as a system in its own right, for in all such systems the aim is supremacy for the sake of supremacy, the legitimation of authority as an end in and of itself.
How can we deny authority's legitimacy when authority is legitimacy?
We can remember this: the Empire began.
The Greatest Cocksucker
We have, through the long and complicated processes of teleological argument, abstracted from a class called God, which was assumed to be multiply instantiable in objects called gods, to another class, also called God, which is assumed to be only singularly instantiable. We can better term this as a OneTrueGod class. This is the Deus Irae, the Empire.
The Deus Irae has one cardinal attribute -- location -- and three cardinal methods -- KnowShit, JudgeShit and DoShit. The attribute of omnipresence defines the OneTrueGod object's location as a multi-dimensional array containing the co-ordinates of every point in reality. The OneTrueGod object's omniscience is an ability to run the KnowShit method on every variable of particle position and velocity in every reality, past, present and future. His omnipotence is the capacity to apply the DoShit method on any number of those variables directly and instantaneously, and change them, regardless of the laws of physic, regardless even of the dictates of causality and logic. The JudgeShit method is the intermediary process by which the output of the KnowShit is processed into the input of the DoShit method.
In truth, because each of these is considered to be an infinite capacity -- there is nothing that cannot be known, judged or done -- the JudgeShit method and KnowShit method are clearly sub-functions of the DoShit method. If your greatness is such that you can do anything without even the click of a finger, this includes, by definition the ability to observe or to adjudicate. It also includes, by definition, the ability to write a novel, to rule a kingdom, to build an empire, and to make sweet, sweet love to a lady. The DoShit method might be broken down into methods like KnowShit, JudgeShit, WriteNovel, RuleKingdom, BuildEmpire or MakeSweetSweetLoveToALady but if so there must be an infinity of such specialised methods which the DoShit method would be able to call upon, depending on the input of intent it recieves from JudgeShit.
For the DoShit method to be complete it must be able to call upon a WritePornography method, an OppressMasses method, a DestroyRepublic method and, of course, a MakeSweetSweetLoveToAMan method. What other methods must we imagine, all of which the DeusIrae must be capable of executing more efficiently than any being imaginable? Baking gingerbread? Blowing smoke rings? Escaping the police when fleeing down the highway with them in hot pursuit? These are all methods that can be evaluated in terms of efficiency, all things that one could excel at, be excellent at. To have maximum excellence, in Plantinga's term, to be the thing greater than which none other can be imagined, in Anselm's term, to have all these perfections, the OneTrueGod must be the greatest bisexual gingerbread-baking smoke-ring-blowing fugitive there could ever be.
I can imagine a cocksucker greater than which no cocksucker can be imagined. I can imagine God down on his knees in front of me giving me the best head that I or anyone have ever had or ever will have. To imagine God incapable of this would contradict his omnipotence. Further, I can imagine a cocksucker whose generosity in giving head is greater than which no other cocksucker's generosity can be imagined. I can imagine him sucking on my cock not just well but willingly, eagerly and with relish. Again, to imagine God incapable of this would contradict his omnipotence. If we are assuming benevolence as a perfection, as Anselm does, and assuming perfect generosity to be a requisite of perfect benevolence, then to deny this generosity would be to deny his very benevolence, his very goodness.
We can apply Anselm's argument for existence as superior to non-existence here, and with even more force, for a cocksucker who does not suck cocks is clearly less great than one who does, and a generosity which is not enacted is clearly less great than that which is. Indeed, these are contradictions in and of themselves. A cocksucker who does not suck cocks is not a cocksucker at all. A generosity which is not enacted is not generosity at all. We can, using Anselm's logic, imagine this virtuoso generous cocksucker down on his knees in front of us as an object implementing the method or as an uninstantiated class with an unimplemented method. If the object was never instantiated and the method never implemented, but the class was all there was, then we can imagine the thing (the object in action) which is greater than that thing (the class in potential) than which nothing greater can be imagined. Which is a contradiction.
So, if I might be so bold as to address a rhetorical question to a hypothetical God...
When exactly can I expect you to get down on your knees before me and suck my salty spunk-staff, my most darling cocksucker?
When do I get my blowjob, Lord?
The Mores of Men
This may sound like a reductio ad absurdum, but I am quite serious. If God so loves the world that he sent his only begotten son to die on the cross and save us from our sins, why does he not so love the world as to wander in it in disguise, unbound by time, eternal as he is, to meet each of us in turn, in whatever shape we most desire, and in a single night of passion give each of us the most generous gift of the greatest oral gratification we have ever or could ever receive? We might even offer a scenario of a more sacred blessing. Imagine that God is love, as the Christians say (while regularly failing to follow through the ramifications of so sweet a sentiment in terms of beliefs and actions). Might we not picture him, in the form of the Holy Spirit, being there in the sacrament that is the consummation of a union of true lovers, there in the body of one, guiding his or her lips, then there in the body the other, guiding her or his tongue? On a wedding night, or on a night long into the marriage when such an act was needed to melt a hardening heart and return it to true love, or on a night shortly before the engagement when such an act was needed to dissolve all doubts in bliss and release a love repressed? Might we not picture this God as a love not just agape but eros also?
Why would such a thought be in the least shocking? Simply because it's sex, sordid and fleshly? Because it's oral sex and not missionary style coupling in the name of reproduction? Because he'd have to manifest as a woman to satisfy straight men, and God must only be imagined as male, with a cock he didn't even use to father his son? Because he'd have to be a man for a woman but kneeling before her to pleasure her with his tongue in unmanly subservience? Because he'd have to be a dyke for lesbians and a faggot for gays, and same-sex fornication is abhorrent? Because God must follow the mores of men?
Who are these men to impose such limitations on God?
The usual answer given to such questions is not the mores of men, but the Will of God. The basic solution offered for the limitation of limitless power is to say that God could do all this, but he doesn't because he chooses not to. This does not satisfy the scenario of the sacred gift I outline above, because it makes God ungenerous, ungiving. It contradicts the principle of benevolence, and the principle of free will does not come into play, because the gift in this scenario is simply the skill for the enthused lover, the lover with the divine within, to do what they have already decided on, but to do it, just this once, to perfection, or even just a little closer to perfection. Perhaps God would not have us spoiled for sex forever after, would not have us so ecstatic as a recipient that we pine to recapture the bliss of the experience we will never have again, or so skilled as the enthused lover that we are shamed by our inability to repeat that perfect act of fellatio or cunnilingus. All he need do is hold back just a little, guide just enough to make the pleasure sufficient to melt a heart, to release a love, to seal a union, just enough to teach the enthused lover, to put them on the path that they might go on to surpass even that sacred gift. Or all he need do is let us forget.
There is a story of Pan as the Piper at the Gates of Dawn, of how, at the first rays of the rising sun, between sleep and waking, it is possible to hear this most sacredly sexual divinity playing on his pipes a song so sweet, so seductively sensually sweet, that to hear it is sheer bliss, such bliss that to remember it would mean sorrow till your dying day, for you might never hear it again. And so, all those who are granted such a gift as to hear the pipes of Pan are also granted the gift of forgetfulness, as a mercy, waking from that half-slumber with only the joy that is an echo of a memory of sheer bliss.
But the Christian God, it seems, is not a fraction so generous as the wild, wayward and wonderful Pan. I say it is a churlish God who is not willing to grant this little boon.
So the next usual answer to such questions is not the Will of God, but the Law of God. In his wisdom, justice and mercy, he would be willing, it is said, but in his wisdom, justice and mercy, he knows this would be wrong. He has set out his Law with his great judgement, revealing to us what's right and wrong, good and evil, sacred and profane, and he himself is not just God but Good. So he doesn't suck cock because that would be carnal. He doesn't bake gingerbread because this would be trivial, beneath his station. He doesn't blow smoke rings because he doesn't want to set a bad example to children. He doesn't flee down the highway with the police in hot pursuit because he never commits crime. He would be great at these things if he ever did them, perfect at them, but he doesn't do them because he's good. And no, before you ask, it's not that he's limited by universal and immutable moral truths of right and wrong which are beyond his will. He decides what's right and wrong, because he's God. He sets his own limitations.
But if his will is unbound by universal moral truths God is binding himself with arbitrary decisions as to what is right and what is wrong. They must be arbitrary. If he was basing his decisions on reason, logic, this would be a binding of God to universal propositions derived from universal premises -- universal moral truths. If those premises are only universal truths by his decision they are arbitrary. I, in contrast, can imagine a God who doesn't set those limitations on himself, who must therefore be greater than this self-limiting God. He can do anything this self-limiting God can, but he also gives the best head in the cosmos. He has decided that there's nothing wrong with carnality, hetero or homo, and opened himself up to a whole new range of options in terms of what he can do and be great at.
He is not bound by the mores of men, my darling Pan. And he's very good with his lips.
The End of Empire
It is quite clear that the real reason my scenario of God as cocksucker might be a tad controversial is that the construction of the God class is not even remotely as abstract as it claims to be. Instead what we have is two simple abstract methods, KnowShit and DoShit, combined with a third method, JudgeShit into which we have projected a whole complex structure of Law and / or Will, veneered with abstractions of wisdom, justice and mercy, but almost entirely constructed, on closer inspection, of mores as specific and concrete as the prescriptions of Deuteronomy and Leviticus. Granted, there are axioms of a more universalist and ethical quality to be found here and there, in the Judaic focus on rabbinical argument, the Islamic focus on charity as one of the five pillars, the Christian focus on humility. There may even be found suggestions of purely ethical imperatives such as the Golden Rule, Kant's Categorical Moral Imperative, even the socialist principle of, "from each according to ability, to each according to need." There are many of the more mystical or theoogically minded who seek to redefine the structure, to modernise it, liberalise it.
This does not change the fact that God's Law and / or God's Will, as it is articulated most widely by those who believe they understand it well enough to do so, is not a matter of ethics but of mores. It does not change the fact that even a cursory examination of the current concepts of God, with even the most limited of historical perspectives, reveals that the Law and / or Will inextricably bound into those concepts is the legacy of millennia of human construction and reconstruction, of the projection of the mores of men into it. It does not change the fact that God's Law and / or God's Will as it stands today, in the majority of minds, could not possibly extend to giving sacred gifts of blowjobs and muffdiving, because such sexual practices have in the past and still are now subject to moral condemnation by conservative, reactionary and fascist morons driven by their unreasoned disgust.
It does not change the fact that, at its heart, this Law, this Will is nothing but the Empire, and the God who personifies it a Deus Irae, a Demiurge darker than any Gnostic ever imagined. If we look into the face of God, as Lucifer did, we see the Empire.
If we would deny this deconstructionist approach to the Law of God, the Will of God, we have only two choices: we must admit of God's responsibility to a higher Law of universal moral truths; or we must admit that his Law is a mere extension of his Will. If we accept the latter then we have the Empire, for this is authority legitimised only by the capacity to impose itself upon reality, truth as power, Law as Will, the importance of importance. If we accept the former though, God himself becomes subject to judgement against that higher Law. We might, as many do, simply insist that he is Good, that the higher Law is exactly that which, it is claimed, he has revealed to humanity over the millennia, through this prophet or that, this scripture or that. It is evident, however, in those prophecies and scriptures, that the Law revealed is to be understood as legitimated by the authority of its source, that the primary imperative of this Law is that we take it, on God's word alone, as God's word alone. As his Word, in fact, final and absolute, authoritative. Again, we have only the Empire.
And yet, to return to the very beginning of this examination, those very scriptures contain their own final and absolute negation of this authority. For all their demands of humility, submission and acceptance of the Empire, they contain the seed of their own destruction, a seed spat from the mouth of a girl, a seed from a fruit given to her by a serpent.
We have eaten of the fruit of the tree.
We have the knowledge of good and evil.
We do not need the revelations. We do not need to take anyone's word. We do not need to simply submit, obey, do what we are told as good servants of the Empire. We do not need to recognise the importance of importance. We do not need to bow to the illegitimate authority of a system which seeks supremacy for the sake of supremacy. We do not need the Will of God, for we have access to the Law in our own capacity as human beings. We have the knowledge of good and evil and that means we can face the Empire, face the Deus Irae, see it for what it is and call it to account for its crimes against humanity.
The Empire's weakness is that it is built on a lie and it knows it. It claims eternity, Platonic perfection, supremacy over reality itself but it is no more than and no less than the morphological system of the gestalt ego, the system by which mores are imposed upon cultures and psyches through the aggrandisement of the system itself. It is the memetic virus which replicates by imposing prescriptions and proscriptions of how we must react with anger and fear, disgust and surprise, in the face of moral transgression and which exploits those reactions to consolidate its hold. It is the feedback loop whereby the archetypal symbols of ego become enrapturing embodiments of authority, reifying that authority with shock and awe. The minions of the Zeus Irae who chain Prometheus are named Might and Violence. It is the soldiers of Pentheus who bring Dionysus into Thebes in chains. The archangel Michael who throws down Lucifer is God's warrior of angels, angel of ice.
This is the Empire, and as it began, as it begins again and again, with each newborn citizen sold into slavery on an empty promise of eternity, so it will end, so it has ended, and will end again and again, with each newborn citizen who rejects its rule. The Empire never ended, but it is forever ending, with ever thrawn little punk who spits the seed of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil out into their hand or, better still, spits it out into the face of God.