powers

Linked Glossary of Terms
(references to De Wijsbegeerte der Wetsidee, unless indicated. See concordance for correlation with pages in the New Critique. The concordance is in pdf format.)

powers “Leugen en Waarheid over het Calvinisme,” 90
Roots of Western Culture, 30
Vernieuwing en Bezinning
, 58
NC I, 119

Dooyeweerd refers in several places to the “powers” that are within the temporal world and which need to be disclosed by us:

The powers and potential which God had enclosed within creation were to be disclosed by man in his service of love to God and neighbour. (Roots 30)

Within the spheres or aspects there are “slumbering powers” that need to be developed. Dooyeweerd speaks of the slumbering powers in the spheres that need to be developed. [ontplooing van iederen levenssfeer met alle in die sfeer sluimerende krachten] (“Leugen en Waarheid over het Calvinisme,” July 1925, 90)

In Vernieuwing en Bezinning (p. 58) he also refers to the powers, which God has enclosed in His creation, and which man now must unfold. (“waarop de mens de krachten, door God in Zijn schepping besloten, gaat ontsluiten.”)

Sparks of the original glory of God’s creation shine in every phase of culture, to a greater or lesser degree, even if its development has occurred under the guidance of apostate spiritual powers (Roots 39).

He says something similar at NC I, 119, although this does not come through because the word powers [krachten] has been mistranslated as ‘faculties.’

No single serious current of thought, however apostate in its starting-point, makes its appearance in the history of the world without a task of its own, by which, even in spite of itself, it must contribute to the fulfilment of the Divine plan in the unfolding of the faculties which He makes to perform their work even in His fallen creation

Humans are responsible to assist in the perfecting of the temporal world:

“De anorganische stoffen, het planten- en dierenrijk, hebben geen zelfstandige geestelijke of religieuze wortel. Hun tijdelijk bestaan wordt eerst volledig in en door de mens” (Vernieuwing en Bezinning, 30).

[The inorganic materials, the plant and animal realms, have no independent spiritual or religious root. Their temporal existence first becomes complete [fulfilled] in and through Man]

Baader also speaks of the powers that are to be developed by humans. He says that God’s Word is the central action, producing rays [Strahlen] within temporal reality. The original human task (before the Fall) was to return those rays into their unity. This task was not done, and a new root was required.

The original goal of humanity was to heavenly fruit and shapes on this earth, to give a similar service in a higher sense, than the Sun gives to us, which brings the closed powers in the earth to growth, blooming and bringing forth of fruit. Just as the outer organism unfolds itself in the aspect of the outer Sun, so in the aspect of God’s image (in its totality) in humans should the outer nature be made capable of unfolding and effecting an inner higher organism (Begründung 51).

Baader refers to time as differentiating what he calls ‘Intelligentzen’ or “intelligences.” Time performs a “separation and setting out” [Ausscheidung und Heraussetzung] of these intelligences. They seem to be what he has referred to as the first production of God–the archetypes or powers. They do not have a selfhood. They each have their own proper nature, but they also have together a coherence among themselves. (Elementarbegriffe 550).

Christ was reduced to the humble state of the germ or root, in order to seed Himself into fallen beings. By this seed, the fallen being is given the possibility to ascend again [Wiederaufsteigung] or of growth [Wachstum]. In this way, the fallen beings are united again within the Center and are lifted up into ‘true time.’ The dispersed powers are united, and the suppressed powers of potential growth are led on high (Zeit, 30).

We follow Christ in this movement of kenosis. In this way, we can free temporal beings from the bounds of their temporal individuality. What we free in this way can be a feeling, a belief, a conviction, or a science (Wissenschaft); these then obtain a higher objectivity that will then work on its own even without further action by ourselves. They then work, as freeing or as restraining, also without my acting. Sometimes they even work against myself, just like a word that I speak can be used outside me and without me, for or against me. According to Baader, what is thereby integrated becomes ‘illabile.’ This is a permanence, a state from which that reality cannot again fall. Even the angels can see what we have done.

The movement that we make in the Gegenstand relation is also caused by our love. Baader cites St. Martin:

Wir selbst treten aus unsrer eignen, geistig besondern Sphäre heraus, wenn wir irgend ein Veränderung in uns gewahren, sei es eine moralische, sei es eine physische; wir bemühen uns, durch unsere zentrale Kraft die Herabwürdigungen, welche wir bemerken, wider gutzumachen, und wir können es nur, indem wir selbst die Stelle jener Vermögen in uns einnehmen, welche nur Organe sind, und indem wir ihre Kanäle mit allen Kräften erfüllen, die wir aus unserem Zentral-Prinzip ausfließen lassen; aber man bemerke, daß dieses bewirkt wird, ohne daß doch unser Zentral-Princip leer wird und ohne daß wir es verlassen (Zeit 30, ft. 10).

[We ourselves step out of our own, spiritually separate sphere, when we become aware of a change in us, whether it be moral or physical; through our central power we strive to restore the degraded beings that we observe, and we can do this only if we gather within ourselves those faculties, which are only organs, and if we fill all their channels with all the powers that we let flow out of our Central Principle; but take note that this takes place, without any emptying of our Central Principle, and without us leaving it.]

Powers as Uncreated Energies of God

Dooyeweerd sees law as one side of temporal created reality. Vollenhoven disagreed Dooyeweerd; he said that law stands outside the cosmos. Michael Morbey criticizes Vollenhoven’s view of the law, at least as interpreted by Evan Runner, as positing an intermediary realm between God and creation. He cites Runner’s Syllabus for Philosophy 220, 1958-59:

The law, which is the boundary between God and cosmos, is neither divine being nor is it created. It is with God and cosmos, a third mode of being…

Morbey cites Bavinck in support of his opposition to Vollenhoven’s idea of law as intermediary:

In the O.T.[Old Testament] ‘word’ and ‘wisdom’ are not viewed as intermediaries between God and the world, but stand wholly in the side of divinity. They pertain to God and are the originating causes of the created universe. In Philo the mediating entities are self-contradictory. They are neither divine nor human, neither persons nor attributes, neither independent substances nor energies, but they partake of the nature of both. They indicate that the boundary-line which in the O.T. always separates the creature from the Creator has been erased, and pave the way for the philosophy of gnosticism and for the cabala. (Bavinck, The Doctrine of God, p. 261).

For Dooyeweerd, the law is not outside the cosmos, but is one side of the cosmos. Morbey interprets this in terms of Orthodox thought; he says that the law represents the uncreated energies of God, and that is is these uncreated energies of God that are the law-side of the cosmos.

Morbey points out that Bavinck incorrectly describes the original teaching of St. Gregory Palamas when Bavinck writes,

The Palamites of the fourteenth century, named after Gregory Palamas, an archbishop of Thessalonica, even believed in an emanation, and represented the divine activities of creation and providence, etc., as well as the attributes of omnipotence, goodness, wisdom, etc., as eternal radiations from the unknowable divine essence, really distinct from that essence, and to be regarded as a kind of lower deities. (Bavinck: The Doctrine of God, 128)

Morbey says that Bavinck also incorrectly describes the Byzantine doctrine of the Uncreated Light when he states

In the year 1431 the council of Constantinople of the Greek Orthodox Church approved of the doctrine of an uncreated, divine light, distinct from the being of God.” (Bavinck, p. 250).

And Bavinck’s critique of Kabbalah is also incorrect insofar as he interprets it in terms of intermediaries. Gershom Scholem says that Kabbalah should not be interpreted this way. Scholem says that the powers are powers of God, and not intermediaries. Kabbalah distinguishes between the hidden God, of whom nothing is known to us, and the living God of religious experience and revelation. But this distinction is not a dualism. The hidden God and the revealed God are one and the same. The hidden God is the Root who reveals himself in the branches of his creative powers, the sefiroth:

Insofar as God reveals himself, He does so through the creative power of the sefiroth. […] This Kabbalistic world of the sefiroth encompasses what philosophers and theologians called the world of the divine attributes. But to the mystics it was divine life itself, insofar as it moves toward Creation. The hidden dynamic of this life fascinated the Kabbalists,who found it reflected in every realm of Creation. But this life as such is not separate from, or subordinate to, the Godhead, rather, it is the revelation of the hidden root, concerning which, since it is never manifested, not even in symbols, nothing can be said, and which the Kabbalists called en-sof, the infiinite. But this hidden root and the divine emanations are one […] For the Kabbalists […] ‘Creation of the Torah’ was the process by which the divine Name or the divine sefiroth […] emanated from God’s hidden essence. The Torah, as the Kabbalists conceived it, is consequently not separate from the divine essence, not created in the strict sense of the word; rather it is something that represents the secret life of God…In other words, the secret life of God is projected into the Torah; its order is the order of the Creation…” (Scholem: On the Kabbala and its Symbolism, 35-36, 41).

For Jewish mysticism, the law or Torah is not just chapters, phrases and words in a book.

…rather it is to be regarded as the living incarnation of the divine wisdom which eternally sends out new rays of light. It is not merely the historical law of the Chosen People, although it is that too; it is rather the cosmic law of the Universe, as God’s wisdom conceived it. (Scholem: Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism, 14).

We may compare this to Dooyeweerd’s view of Word-revelation as more than just written Scripture.

Scholem says,

According to the Kabbalists, there are ten such fundamental attributes to God, which are at the same time ten stages through which the divine life pulsates back and forth. The point to keep in mind is that the Sefiroth are not secondary or intermediary spheres which interpose between God and the universe […] The difficulty lies precisely in the fact that the emanation of the Sefiroth is conceived as a process which takes place in God and which, at the same time enables man to perceive God. In their emanation something which belongs to the Divine is quickened and breaks through the closed shell of His hidden Self. This something is God’s creative power, which does not reside only in the finite universe of creation, although of course there, too, it is immanent and even perceptible… (Scholem, Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism, 205-206, 208-209).

Scholem says that the word ‘sefiroth’ can be roughly translated ‘spheres’ or ‘regions’ (Ibid., 206). It is this view that Morbey uses, together with Orthodox ideas of uncreated energies, to characterize Dooyeweerd’s law-spheres. For Morbey, the knowledge of these law-spheres is a kind of “theosophy” in the way that the word ‘theosophy’ is used by Scholem:

By theosophy I mean that which was generally meant before the term became a label for a modern pseudo-religion, i.e. theosophy signifies a mystical doctrine, or school of thought, which purports to perceive and to describe the mysterious workings of the divinity, perhaps believing it possible to become absorbed in its contemplation. Theosophy postulates a kind of divine emanation whereby God, abandoning his self-contained repose, awakens to mysterious life; further, it maintains that the mysteries of creation reflect the pulsation of this divine life. (Scholem, Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism, 206).

Theosophy is therefore the observation of how God reveals Himself in the world and in our experience. It is the wisdom of God disclosed in Scripture, in the “book of nature” and in our own selfhood [It is also in this sense that Baader’s philosophy is theosophical].

Morbey says that “it is only as a Christian contemplative and theosophist” that Dooyeweerd could write,

In the Idea of a meaning-modus philosophical reflection oriented to our cosmonomic Idea passes through a process of successive meaning-coherences in the transcendental direction of time. The internal unrest of meaning drives it on from anticipatory sphere to anticipatory sphere, and so from one anticipatory connection to another. At last we arrive at the transcendental terminal sphere of our cosmos and reflect on the insufficiency of the modal Idea.
We then direct our glance to the transcendent meaning-totality and the Origin, in which at last our thought finds rest in its religious root. (NC II, 284).

Morbey interprets this unrest and being driven from one anticipatory sphere to another as a kind of “ladder of contemplation”:

For Dooyeweerd as Christian contemplative mystic and theosophist the cosmonomic order of the Law-spheres functions as a “ladder of contemplation” also in philosophy. In theosophic contemplation (theoria), the inter-modal meaning synthesis gives rise to a transcendental synthetical Idea (to be distinguished form a foundational concept) which is “in the full sense of the word, a limiting concept par excellence, the final transcendental foundation or hypothesis of philosophy, in which we retire into ourselves when thinking” (Morbey, Parallels to the Byzantine-Hesychast Essence/energies Distinction, 20, referring to NC I, 87-88 and II, 187-188 and 434-435).

The retrocipatory direction gives a provisional resting points in this journey through the spheres, but these provisional resting points are done away with as we move in the transcendental direction. Morbey cites Dooyeweerd:

In other words, the retrocipatory direction of time offers to theoretical thinking, at least provisionally, some resting-points in the original meaning-nuclei. It is true that these resting-points are again done away with by the transcendental direction of time without which they would become rigid and meaningless […] …the point of comparative rest in this way offered to philosophic reflection on the possibility of the modal meaning-opening, is only a provisional resting-point. In the transcendental direction of thought it must necessarily be resolved into the essential unrest of meaning (NC II, 190).

This idea of a provisional resting point seems to be similar to what the temporary epoché or refraining from the fullness of time. This provisional epoché is cancelled when we return to our (deepened) naive experience.

I believe that there is much to be learned from Morbey’s theosophical view of the law-spheres. Because humans are the supratemporal root of creation, when we describe the structure of the cosmos, we are also speaking of our own inner dimensions, or our true selfhood. True knowledge of God and self gives us true knowledge of the world or cosmos:

The religious meaning of the created world binds the true knowledge of the cosmos to true self-knowledge, and the latter to the true knowledge of God. (NC II, 560).

Note: Morbey refers to “inter-modal synthesis.” This term is used in the NC translation, but it is confusing. The original Dutch only speaks of a meaning synthesis [zin-synthesis]. The theoretical synthesis is between our actual thought [an act from out of our selfhood] and the Gegenstand of abstracted aspects, which is not actual or ontical, but only intentional. See synthesis.

Notes revised Nov 2/05

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