Over at Orthospherean Bruce Charlton’s Notions, I rattled off a comment about what a truly basic thing would have to be like, which upon reflection I believe may be worth promoting to a post here. Bruce had critiqued monotheism; I then pointed out that God in the OT had rather supported the idea, and said that monotheism is not monism; to which Bruce replied that Christian theology is certainly monist. I commented:
I should have written: NB: monotheism is not monism, simpliciter. It depends what you mean by monism. If you mean substance monism, on which there is only one type of thing, then Christianity is not monist. If you mean existence monism, on which despite appearances there is only one thing, then Christianity is not monist. If you mean priority monism, on which there is some basic thing that is prior to all others, then Christianity (like almost all religions) is monist.
If there is more than one basic thing, then creation cannot have a single origin, precisely because it has in that case a plural origin – or rather, origins.
Is there more than one basic thing? To answer that question, we need first to understand what a basic thing must be like.
- A basic thing must be simple. It must not be composed of other things, for if it were, those other things would be its bases, and it would not itself be truly basic.
- A basic thing must not be contingent. If it were contingent, its causes would be its bases, and it would not itself be truly basic.
- A basic thing must be immutable. If it were mutable, it would be both contingent on and composed of other things, which would be its bases, so that it would not itself be truly basic.
- A basic thing must be necessary; for, if it were not necessary, it would be contingent, etc.
- A basic thing must be eternal; for, if it had come into being, it would be contingent, etc.
- A basic thing must be ultimate. If it were subultimate, there would be some greater thing or things that, as greater, conditioned it. Those greater things then would be its bases, and it would not itself be truly basic. Thus to say that a thing is basic just is to say that it is ultimate, and vice versa.
- A basic thing must be perfect along all dimensions of perfection. If it were not thus perfect, it would be subultimate, etc.
- A basic thing must be singular. There cannot be more than one. If there were more than one basic thing, each would condition or limit the others, and so each would be conditioned or limited by the others. In that case, all of them would be bases of each other, and none of them would be itself basic.
- A basic thing must be prior to all other things. If it were posterior to any other things, those things would be its bases, and it would not itself be basic.
And so forth.
Evidently, if there are any basic things at all, there can be no more than one of them. Either there is one basic thing, then, or there are none. If there are no basic things, nothing is basic to anything. In that case, nothing has any bases. There is then at bottom no reason or cause or basis or foundation to things; no order or coherence or integrity; no world, in other words. But there is a coherent world, so it cannot be true that there are no basic things.
So there is one basic thing.
Which is a good thing, for if there were not, then there were nothing, and then no such thing as (in particular) our world, or any other.
The fact of the one basic thing enables all other things. It is therefore understandable why all men have felt the monotheistic urge that Steiner notices. It is the urge to comprehend a world that can in principle be intelligently comprehended (however partial our comprehension in practice) because it is thoroughly intelligible on account of its integral and orderly coherence. No coherence of things, no order and integrity in their mutual coordination, then no world. We find ourselves in a world, mirabile dictu. In it, things happen coordinately, regularly, lawfully; they adjust themselves to each other immaculately. This world must therefore be integrally orderly and coherent, and therefore intelligible; for the coherence of things consists in part in [the] mutual intelligibility of things.
If the monotheistic urge is doomed to frustration by the intractable chaos of things, why then there is just an intractable chaos, not a world; and then we can have no basis for asserting anything at all, *including the assertion that there is an intractable chaos of things.*