Out Of Your Mind - A Philosophy Of The Origins Of The Universe
I'm going to post some passages, here and in the comment section, from a series of lectures given by the new age philosopher Alan Watts in the 60's and 70's, which were then accumulated into a book "Out Of Your Mind" by his son Mark Watts. I have been listening to it as an audiobook and find it endlessly interesting.
The ceramic model of the universe originates from the book of Genesis, from which Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all derive their basic picture of the world. And the image of the world that comes from the book of Genesis is that the world is an artifact made by the Creator—just as a potter forms pots out of clay, or a carpenter fashions tables and chairs from wood. Don’t forget that Jesus, the Son of God, is also the son of a carpenter. So, in this way, the image of God we have is one of a potter, carpenter, technician, or architect who creates the universe in accordance with his plan.© 2017 Alan Watts.
Essential to this first model of the universe is the notion that the world consists of stuff—primordial matter or substance. And just as the potter takes clay and imposes his will upon it, so does the Creator craft the universe out of this fundamental stuff. He takes it and makes it into whatever he wants. And so in the book of Genesis, the Lord God makes Adam out of dust—he fashions a clay figurine, breathes into it, and it becomes alive. The clay becomes informed. See, by itself, the clay is formless and comes with no intelligence, so it requires an external intelligence—an external energy—to bring it to life and put some sense in it.
This is how we’ve inherited the concept of ourselves as artifacts, as things that were made. In our culture, children ask their parents, “How was I made?” or “Who made me?” But these aren’t questions asked by Chinese or Indian (specifically, Hindu) children. Now, a Chinese child might ask her mother, “How did I grow?” But growing and making are entirely different procedures. You see, when you make something, you put it together—you arrange its parts, you work from the outside to the in. Again, that’s how a potter works on clay, or a sculptor works on stone. However, when you watch something grow, it happens in the opposite direction—that is, from the inside to the out. Growth means that something expands, burgeons, blossoms, and happens all over itself at once. The original, simple form of a living cell in the womb will progressively complicate itself.
That’s what the growing process looks like, as opposed to the making process. Note that in this model, there’s a fundamental difference between the maker and the made thing, between the Creator and his creature.
Where did this idea originate? Basically, the ceramic model of the universe came out of cultures with monarchical forms of government. And so, for them, the maker of the universe was also conceived as the king of the universe—“King of kings, Lord of lords, only Ruler of princes . . .”—I’m quoting from the Book of Common Prayer here. People who orient themselves to the universe in this way relate to basic reality as a subject relates to a king, and so they’re on very humble terms with whatever it is that runs the whole show. I find it odd that here in the United States, citizens of a democracy still hold to such a monarchical theory of the universe.
So the idea that we must kneel, bow, and prostrate before the Lord of the universe out of humility and respect is a holdover from ancient Near Eastern cultures. But why? Basically, no one is more frightened than a tyrant. That’s why he sits with his back to the wall while you must approach him from below with your face to the ground. See, you can’t use your weapons that way. When you approach the ruler, you don’t stand up and face him, because you might attack him. And very well you might, because he rules your life, and the man who rules your life is the biggest crook in the bunch. In other words, the ruler is the one who’s allowed to commit crimes against you; criminals are just people we lock up in jail.
Preface © 2017 Mark Watts.