Theology

The Experience Machine, the Nature of Reality, and God

Have you heard the thought experiment of The Experience Machine? If not, it’s roughly as follows:

Imagine there exists a machine, such that when you enter it, you experience a perfect universe. Everything you desire, is there. A personalised universe designed to make you as perfectly happy as it’s possible to be. Would you enter? Would you ever leave?

I think leaving would be the right choice. We ought to choose reality with suffering over happy illusions.

But I’m trying to pin down why the virtual reality of the machine is less real, and also less good, than the world outside it, and it’s not so clear to me. It feels real. Yes, it’s not physically real, but what’s the difference between our physical world and the virtual world, that behaves the same?

The best I’ve come up with so far, is this: reality doesn’t revolve around me. It lies outside of me, and isn’t dependent upon my will. It has a life of its own.

And this is infinitely better. Why? Because it makes communion, love and graciousness possible. The machine can provide every pleasure, but not these things, which make life life. The beauty of life is in being intruded on by the Other, giving ourselves to the Other, and both creating/becoming something new as a result. It’s sex, as opposed to masturbation. It’s the Trinity as opposed to the monad.

My questions seem to have found their answers 🙂. Even my next question, which I will share anyway.

If reality is outside of my power, is nothing real for God? Is God alone in an experience machine?

The answer is, that God is Trinity. God is the Lover, the Beloved, and the Fountain of Love between the two, and all three exist only in and as this Love. They do not exist, then love, or exist, then be loved. They love and are beloved and conceive love, from all eternity, and this is what God is.

May God bless you, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit

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Books that deserve a standing ovation pt1

I’m always looking for the best book for me to read next, so I thought I’d “do unto others” and share my top book recommendations. I figured the best way to distinguish the cream of the crop, is the standard of giving a standing ovation (if the book were a play…) I’ve made a rough list of about 17 so far, but I’ll share them bit by bit, in no particular order.

Ilia Delio, Making All Things Whole: Catholicity, Cosmology, Consciousness

This is a genuinely extraordinary book… It has transformed my ideas of Catholicism and the whole universe. I wish that I could explain it, but it’s just too much. It touches on some crazy ideas from science, and I guess is perhaps the beginning of a new Christian Cosmology, that’s been largely lacking ever since Galileo and Newton destroyed the mediaeval Cosmology. But it’s more than that… It’s a renewed Christological Cosmology and a Cosmological Christology.

Bonaventure – The Major Life of St Francis

Nothing has made the gospel seem so clear to me as the life of St Francis, and this book especially. Bonaventure uses Francis’ life to teach us the ways and power of true holiness and virtue, and shows us St Francis in his uncompromised madness. St Francis is fairly called a “second Christ”.

St Therese of Lisieux – The Story of a Soul

This is possibly my favourite book of all. St Therese’s life is, on the face of it, very boring. In terms of events, there’s very little of significance. But what it has, is an extraordinary relationship of total surrender to God’s merciful love. This book teaches the true way of salvation, not by our own strength, but entirely by God’s merciful love.

And once you’ve read this, read My Sister Saint Therese, by the saint’s sister Celine. It’s a collection of recollections, that show Therese from another angle, from someone so close to her.

Let me know your thoughts if you’ve read any of these, and or any books that you’d give a standing ovation.

God bless!

Everything is theology

Our whole universe was spoken into existence by God. We live on the tip of His tongue. Creation is a song that God freely sings into being 1 .

Everything that is, is a revelation of God, because every creation speaks of its creator. Therefore creation is theology. God-words. And in fact, it is God’s own theology.

This includes you and me. We are each of us a God-uttered theology. But if we’re so special already what is left for us to do? To become what we already are 2 .

Each and every one of us is a theology by existing at all, and a theologian because we must engage with the world. We must listen to the theology all around us, and by our lives speak theology also (and when necessary, use words3).

The below song made me think all of this, mainly because I love it and wanted to share it, and needed some justification. Hope you enjoy!

God bless!


1. St. Bonaventure

2. St. Augustine

3. St. Francis

Nothing to say

I really like writing my various thoughts on this blog, but often, including now, it doesn’t feel like I have anything to say. I want to reveal something profound, or deep, or life changing, but it all seems to be simple to me for once.

The gospel is the gospel. The faith is the faith. God is God. There’s no need for my insight. All we need is right in front of us.

It’s nice to realise that my religion doesn’t need me. I don’t need to add anything new. There is no secret ingredient.

This isn’t to say I won’t be writing again. Just that I have no need to write anything new or original.

In fact, if I were to be new or original (regarding the faith), I would only be diverging from the truth, and bringing about corruption and confusion and misery. On the other hand, if I merely stick with the faith, I may end up being swept up in the eternal newness of the Beauty Ever Ancient, Ever New. Like every sunrise, breaking out as though it were its first time. Or every blossoming flower in every new spring. Or every newborn’s first cry.

The gospel is simple. Don’t overthink it. Just listen to it, live it, and let it transform you.

God bless you!

Does prayer change things?

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I find the idea of prayer often tests my faith. It brings out my inner cynic. When I see #PrayFor____ on twitter, or 1 like = 1 prayer on Facebook, I find myself cynical. Almost instantly, I think the whole thing is a pointless ego boost for the poster, and that we should care enough to actually do something. I even stumble when I hear about sincere religious, devoting their entire lives to prayer in isolation from the world.

It’s easy to believe the boring explanation that prayer works simply by changing us. At its most basic, that’s obvious psychology. And it’s not too tough to believe that prayer “allows” God to change us, or that we “open ourselves” to God. Or to believe that we send out spiritual energies or whatever you like, which become reality. But to really believe that simply asking can actually make a difference to the world, that God actually listens and reacts in the world, is a challenge.

Yet this is at the very heart of our faith. Our age has a tendency and desire for divine principles over divine persons. Why? Because principles can be harnessed and made useful, whereas people are free, and therefore (we fear) free to oppress. We want something to tap into, not someone to live in us. This idea can even seem more “spiritual” to our modern minds.

But our God is personal. This doesn’t mean that He is some guy in the clouds, with a will and attitude as temperamental as our ours, nor even that He’s the best guy in the universe, and so the least temperamental. He doesn’t possess an arbitrary will like we do.

It means God is free, and God is freedom. He is not bound by any rules (*gruff voice* not even his own). But God’s freedom is not merely our freedom from, by which less external force constrains the fulfilment our wills; God’s freedom is the entirely positive freedom, to truly exist, to truly and completely go out from Himself, as Himself. And even further, He Himself is this going out from Himself. Nothing conditions God’s existence or actions, not even an arbitrary “divine nature” we might (wrongly) suppose God in some sense was given. God’s personhood, God’s freedom, God’s love, is His nature.

Now if we truly believe that God is personal and God is free, we must believe that He can act on behalf of those He loves. We have to truly believe that God acts.

It is true that in prayer we do not, and cannot, change God. God cannot be bought or bartered with. Nor can we change God’s plans or actions. God is not within time, and so neither God nor God’s choices can change. And yet, from His throne, in the Divine Eternity that He Himself is, He subjects Himself to the temporal wills of His beloved creatures. From Eternity, He accepts requests from time, which He answers from Eternity and within time.

When God answers a prayer, He was always going to answer that prayer because it was always going to be prayed. The answer to the prayer was determined from the foundation of the world, because the prayer was heard at the foundation of the world.

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God bless you

I’m writing a book!

For a while now, I’ve been slowly working on a book of Philosophy/Theology. It began as just one or two philosophical thoughts, but as I wrote them down, I found myself stumbling into other thoughts, including some very theological ones. I don’t really know where it is heading, because every time I revisit it, it seems to lead me in some new direction.

I don’t want to give any details away just yet, firstly because the paint’s still wet, and secondly because I think these thoughts need their proper space. So please forgive me for being vague. I believe these ideas are powerful, and I need to handle them carefully.

I will say that I’m very excited by them. They’ve changed my understanding of basically everything. They’re not particularly similar to anything I’ve written on this blog so far, probably because they can’t easily be slipped in, one at a time. Also, they’re just not ready.

Please say a prayer for me and my book. That I’ll write in humility and truth. That I’ll actually write it, and not get scared and bury it in the ground like the wicked and lazy slave in the parable of the talents. That whatever is true in it thrive, and whatever is false in it wither.

Thanks, and God bless you!

The root of all sin is fear

‘The root of all sin is fear: the very deep fear that we are nothing; the compulsion, therefore, to make something of ourselves, to construct a self-flattering image of ourselves we can worship, to believe in ourselves — our fantasy selves. I think that all sins are failures in being realistic; even the simple everyday sins of the flesh, that seem to come from mere childish greed for pleasure, have their deepest origin in anxiety about whether we really matter, the anxiety that makes us desperate for self-reassurance. To sin is always to construct an illusory self that we can admire, instead of the real self that we can only love.’

– Herbert McCabe, OP, quoted in ‘Why Go To Church?’ by Timothy Radcliffe, OP (a very good book so far)

God bless!

The River of Tradition

‘In protestantism, the believer is always looking to the fresh rain of the scriptures, but in Catholicism, the believer looks to the fresh rain of the scriptures, as well as the great torrents of the river of reflection and consideration by the saints upon those same scriptures, going back to their source in the incarnate Son of God. To take this analogy a step further, the puddle corrupts and muddies the water it receives far more than the fast flowing river.’

I wrote this in a post a couple years ago, and I just wanted to post it again on its own.

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God bless you!