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Saturday, November 29, 2014

Incarnation

Mike Montague taught us "Philosophy of Man." (By "man" of course he meant humanity, i.e. women too.)

Once he had us shout out together: "I am my body!" He wanted us to recognize that the body isn't some appendage to the real self. He was urging us to reject the Cartesian dualism that is wrecking havoc on so much of our psychology, religion, and politics. He did not take any stand on the eternity of the soul or life after death. But the implications were ominous for true believing Christians--or, for that matter, many other religionists.

"I am my body" helped us to appreciate both the magnificence of the human body as well as its defects, transience, and limitations. And it helped us to value matter and understand its convertibility into energy, not just physically but also spiritually.

And what about spirit or mind? Am I my mind? Neuroscience demonstrates that the mind is the body with reflective consciousness thanks to its neural system centered in the brain.  But we know that the mind is also the unconscious or preconsciousness of the brain. No body? Then no self consciousness with its unconscious foundation and its preconscious background. So if I am my body, I am also my mind. There is no more a duality of body and spirit. No more than there is for matter and energy or space and time.

But isn't the mind more than the body at least at any given time or place because we are influenced by memory and anticipation all born of imagination. Yes. The spirit is the body in connection with other body/minds throughout space and time.

Now humanity is in the process of creating an artificial intelligence (AI) that is greater than any one person's intelligence. Perhaps even greater than the intelligence of all humanity past, present, and future. Perhaps. But knowledge is much more than intelligence. Will the post-human be human? Will AI have a mind capable of spirituality, that is, of transcendence, constantly aware consciously or not, of being in transition towards eternity, infinity, and universality? Without a flesh and blood body with a neuronic brain evolved to extend and use one's body to create images (gestures, symbols, formulas) that communicate with other bodies? And without a body that is nourished to nourish and born to die?

Will AI have the knowledge of good and evil sprung from its sexuality, its intercourse with others, its interaction with the earth, its pursuit of the gods, and its sense of transience (as the biblical myth of The Garden so intuited)?

The joke is that when the final Master Computer was asked if there was a God, it checked all its connections and made sure that it could control them without any technical help before answering: "There is now."

But a god without a human body and its sexuality, its earthiness, its particularity because of limits, its sense of wanting more is quite a lacking god it seems to me. Lacking in the sense of flesh upon flesh, lacking in innovation and novelty, and above all lacking in the satisfaction of continually trying to push beyond its lacking. Can infinity be known without a sense of finitude?

And perhaps that is the meaning of the myth of the Incarnation and Christmas. To achieve the fullness of spirit we must be fully body. Mind becomes in matter and matter becomes mind in my body which extends itself to others through symbolic communication. AI is just another tool we use like words, formulas, models, and other symbols. Universal Spirit, the Spirit of Life, the Spirit of Love, becomes in our body-minds in communication.

So God became man so man could become God. It's in the becoming that both realities exist.

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