The Experience of God Quotes

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The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss by David Bentley Hart
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“Late modern society is principally concerned with purchasing things, in ever greater abundance and variety, and so has to strive to fabricate an ever greater number of desires to gratify, and to abolish as many limits and prohibitions upon desire as it can. Such a society is already implicitly atheist and so must slowly but relentlessly apply itself to the dissolution of transcendent values. It cannot allow ultimate goods to distract us from proximate goods. Our sacred writ is advertising, our piety is shopping, our highest devotion is private choice. God and the soul too often hinder the purely acquisitive longings upon which the market depends, and confront us with values that stand in stark rivalry to the only truly substantial value at the center of the social universe: the price tag.”
David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss
“Wisdom is the recovery of innocence at the far end of experience.”
David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss
“The reason the very concept of God has become at once so impoverished, so thoroughly mythical, and ultimately so incredible for so many modern persons is not because of all the interesting things we have learned over the past few centuries, but because of all the vital things we have forgotten.”
David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss
“This is arguably the besetting mistake of all naturalist thinking, as it happens, in practically every sphere. In this context, the assumption at work is that if one could only reduce one’s picture of the original physical conditions of reality to the barest imaginable elements—say, the “quantum foam” and a handful of laws like the law of gravity, which all looks rather nothing-ish (relatively speaking)—then one will have succeeded in getting as near to nothing as makes no difference. In fact, one will be starting no nearer to nonbeing than if one were to begin with an infinitely realized multiverse: the difference from non-being remains infinite in either case. All quantum states are states within an existing quantum system, and all the laws governing that system merely describe its regularities and constraints. Any quantum fluctuation therein that produces, say, a universe is a new state within that system, but not a sudden emergence of reality from nonbeing. Cosmology simply cannot become ontology. The only intellectually consistent course for the metaphysical naturalist is to say that physical reality “just is” and then to leave off there, accepting that this “just is” remains a truth entirely in excess of all physical properties and causes: the single ineradicable “super-natural” fact within which all natural facts are forever contained, but about which we ought not to let ourselves think too much.”
David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss
“The very notion of nature as a closed system entirely sufficient to itself is plainly one that cannot be verified, deductively or empirically, from within the system of nature. It is a metaphysical (which is to say “extra-natural”) conclusion regarding the whole of reality, which neither reason nor experience legitimately warrants.”
David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss
“So much of what we imagine to be the testimony of reason or the clear and unequivocal evidence of our senses is really only an interpretive reflex, determined by mental habits impressed in us by an intellectual and cultural history. Even our notion of what might constitute a “rational” or “realistic” view of things is largely a product not of a dispassionate attention to facts, but of an ideological legacy.”
David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss
“One of the deep prejudices that the age of mechanism instilled in our culture, and that infects our religious and materialist fundamentalisms alike, is a version of the so-called genetic fallacy: to wit, the mistake of thinking that to have described a thing’s material history or physical origins is to have explained that thing exhaustively. We tend to presume that if one can discover the temporally prior physical causes of some object—the world, an organism, a behavior, a religion, a mental event, an experience, or anything else—one has thereby eliminated all other possible causal explanations of that object. But this is a principle that is true only if materialism is true, and materialism is true only if this principle is true, and logical circles should not set the rules for our thinking.”
David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss
“Those who have entirely lost the ability to see the transcendent reality that shows itself in all things, and who refuse to seek it out or even to believe the search a meaningful one, have confined themselves for now within an illusory world, and wander in a labyrinth of dreams. Those others, however, who are still able to see the truth that shines in and through and beyond the world of ordinary experience, and who know that nature is in its every aspect the gift of the supernatural, and who understand that God is that absolute reality in whom, in every moment, they live and move and have their being—they are awake.”
David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss
“When one forgets the distinction between method and truth, one becomes foolishly prone to respond to any question that cannot be answered from the vantage of one’s particular methodological perch by dismissing it as nonsensical, or by issuing a promissory note guaranteeing a solution to the problem at some juncture in the remote future, or by simply distorting the question into one that looks like the kind one really can answer after all.”
David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss
“Physics explains everything, which we know because anything physics cannot explain does not exist, which we know because whatever exists must be explicable by physics, which we know because physics explains everything. There is something here of the mystical.”
David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss
“It is true that a great deal of the rhetoric of the new atheism is often just the confessional rote of materialist fundamentalism (which, like all fundamentalisms, imagines that in fact it represents the side of reason and truth); but it is also true that the new atheism has sprung up in a garden of contending fundamentalisms.”
David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss
“Beauty is gloriously useless; it has no purpose but itself.”
David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss
“This is the path of prayer—contemplative prayer, that is, as distinct from simple prayers of supplication and thanksgiving—which is a specific discipline of thought, desire, and action, one that frees the mind from habitual prejudices and appetites, and allows it to dwell in the gratuity and glory of all things. As an old monk on Mount Athos once told me, contemplative prayer is the art of seeing reality as it truly is; and, if one has not yet acquired the ability to see God in all things, one should not imagine that one will be able to see God in himself.”
David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss
“Popular atheism is not a philosophy but a therapy.”
David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss
“But, in fact, materialism is among the most problematic of philosophical standpoints, the most impoverished in its explanatory range, and among the most willful and (for want of a better word) magical in its logic, even if it has been in fashion for a couple of centuries or more.”
David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss
“God so understood is not something posed over against the universe, in addition to it, nor is he the universe itself. He is not a “being,” at least not in the way that a tree, a shoemaker, or a god is a being; he is not one more object in the inventory of things that are, or any sort of discrete object at all. Rather, all things that exist receive their being continuously from him, who is the infinite wellspring of all that is, in whom (to use the language of the Christian scriptures) all things live and move and have their being.”
David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss
“To speak of “God” properly, then—to use the word in a sense consonant with the teachings of orthodox Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Sikhism, Hinduism, Bahá’í, a great deal of antique paganism, and so forth—is to speak of the one infinite source of all that is: eternal, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, uncreated, uncaused, perfectly transcendent of all things and for that very reason absolutely immanent to all things.”
David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss
“In another sense he is “being itself,” in that he is the inexhaustible source of all reality, the absolute upon which the contingent is always utterly dependent, the unity and simplicity that underlies and sustains the diversity of finite and composite things.”
David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss
“What makes today’s popular atheism so depressing is neither its conceptual boorishness nor its self-righteousness but simply its cultural inevitability. It is the final, predictable, and unsurprisingly vulgar expression of an ideological tradition that has, after many centuries, become so pervasive and habitual that most of us have no idea how to doubt its premises or how to avert its consequences. This is a fairly sad state of affairs, because those consequences have at times proved quite terrible.”
David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss
“The mind unlearned in reverence, says Bonaventure (1221–1274), is in danger of becoming so captivated by the spectacle of beings as to be altogether forgetful of being in itself; and our mechanistic approach to the world is nothing but ontological obliviousness translated into a living tradition.”
David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss
“And the best way to escape the comfortable familiarity of an inherited picture of reality is to try to return to something more original, more immediate: to retreat from one’s habitual interpretations of one’s experiences of the world and back to those experiences themselves, as unencumbered as possible by preconceptions and prejudices.”
David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss
“Contemplative and philosophical traditions, Eastern and Western, insist on this: that the source and ground of the mind’s unity is the transcendent reality of unity as such, the simplicity of God, the one ground of both consciousness and being. For Plotinus, the oneness of nous, the intellective apex of the self, is a participation in the One, the divine origin of all things and the ground of the openness of mind and world one to another. For Sufi thought, God is the Self of all selves, the One—al-Ahad—who is the sole true 'I' underlying the consciousness of every dependent 'me.' According to the Kena Upanishad, Brahman is not that which the mind knows like an object, or that the eye sees or the ear hears, but is that by which the mind comprehends, by which the eye sees, by which the ear hears; atman—the self in its divine depth—is the eye of the eye, the ear of the ear, the ground of all knowing.”
David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss
“Even so, putting all exaggerations aside, sound neuroscience really is providing us with an ever richer picture of the brain and its operations, and in some far distant epoch may actually achieve something like a comprehensive survey of what is perhaps the single most complex physical object in the universe. That is all entirely irrelevant to my argument, however. My claim here is that, whatever we may learn about the brain in the future, it will remain in principle impossible to produce any entirely mechanistic account of the conscious mind, for a great many reasons (many of which I shall soon address), and that therefore consciousness is a reality that defeats mechanistic or materialist thinking. For the intuitions of folk psychology are in fact perfectly accurate; they are not merely some theory about the mind that is either corrigible or dispensable. They constitute nothing less than a full and coherent phenomenological description of the life of the mind, and they are absolutely “primordial data,” which cannot be abandoned in favor of some alternative description without producing logical nonsense. Simply said, consciousness as we commonly conceive of it is quite real (as all of us, apart from a few cognitive scientists and philosophers, already know—and they know it too, really). And this presents a problem for materialism, because consciousness as we commonly conceive of it is also almost certainly irreconcilable with a materialist view of reality.”
David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss
“Computational models of the mind would make sense if what a computer actually does could be characterized as an elementary version of what the mind does, or at least as something remotely like thinking. In fact, though, there is not even a useful analogy to be drawn here. A computer does not even really compute. We compute, using it as a tool. We can set a program in motion to calculate the square root of pi, but the stream of digits that will appear on the screen will have mathematical content only because of our intentions, and because we—not the computer—are running algorithms. The computer, in itself, as an object or a series of physical events, does not contain or produce any symbols at all; its operations are not determined by any semantic content but only by binary sequences that mean nothing in themselves. The visible figures that appear on the computer’s screen are only the electronic traces of sets of binary correlates, and they serve as symbols only when we represent them as such, and assign them intelligible significances. The computer could just as well be programmed so that it would respond to the request for the square root of pi with the result “Rupert Bear”; nor would it be wrong to do so, because an ensemble of merely material components and purely physical events can be neither wrong nor right about anything—in fact, it cannot be about anything at all. Software no more “thinks” than a minute hand knows the time or the printed word “pelican” knows what a pelican is. We might just as well liken the mind to an abacus, a typewriter, or a library. No computer has ever used language, or responded to a question, or assigned a meaning to anything. No computer has ever so much as added two numbers together, let alone entertained a thought, and none ever will. The only intelligence or consciousness or even illusion of consciousness in the whole computational process is situated, quite incommutably, in us; everything seemingly analogous to our minds in our machines is reducible, when analyzed correctly, only back to our own minds once again, and we end where we began, immersed in the same mystery as ever. We believe otherwise only when, like Narcissus bent above the waters, we look down at our creations and, captivated by what we see reflected in them, imagine that another gaze has met our own.”
David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss
“Physical reality cannot account for its own existence for the simple reason that nature—the physical—is that which by definition already exists; existence, even taken as a simple brute fact to which no metaphysical theory is attached, lies logically beyond the system of causes that nature comprises; it is, quite literally, “hyperphysical,” or, shifting into Latin, super naturam.”
David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss
“The whole power, beauty, and (for want of a better word) piety of the sciences lie in that fruitful narrowness of focus that I mentioned above, that austere abdication of metaphysical pretensions that permits them their potentially interminable inductive and theoretical odyssey through the physical order. It is the purity of this vocation to the particular that is the special glory of science. This means that the sciences are, by their very nature, commendably fragmentary and, in regard to many real and important questions about existence, utterly inconsequential. Not only can they not provide knowledge of everything; they cannot provide complete knowledge of anything. They can yield only knowledge of certain aspects of things as seen from one very powerful but inflexibly constricted perspective. If they attempt to go beyond their methodological commissions, they cease to be sciences and immediately become fatuous occultisms. The glory of human reason, however, is its power to exceed any particular frame of reference or any single perspective, to employ an incalculable range of intellectual faculties, and to remain open to the whole horizon of being’s potentially infinite intelligibility. A wise and reflective person will not forget this. A microscope may conduct the eye into the mysteries of a single cell, but it will not alert one to a collapsing roof overhead; happily we have more senses than one. We may even possess spiritual senses, however much we are discouraged from trusting in them at present. A scientist, as a reasoning person, has as much call as anyone else to ponder the deepest questions of existence, but should also recognize the threshold at which science itself falls silent—for the simple reason that its silence at that point is the only assurance of its intellectual and moral integrity.”
David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss
“Yet the most pervasive error one encounters in contemporary arguments about belief in God—especially, but not exclusively, on the atheist side—is the habit of conceiving of God simply as some very large object or agency within the universe, or perhaps alongside the universe, a being among other beings, who differs from all other beings in magnitude, power, and duration, but not ontologically, and who is related to the world more or less as a craftsman is related to an artifact.”
David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss
“The soul’s unquenchable eros for the divine, of which Plotinus and Gregory of Nyssa and countless Christian contemplatives speak, Sufism’s ‘ishq or passionately adherent love for God, Jewish mysticism’s devekut, Hinduism’s bhakti, Sikhism’s pyaar—these are all names for the acute manifestation of a love that, in a more chronic and subtle form, underlies all knowledge, all openness of the mind to the truth of things. This is because, in God, the fullness of being is also a perfect act of infinite consciousness that, wholly possessing the truth of being in itself, forever finds its consummation in boundless delight. The Father knows his own essence perfectly in the mirror of the Logos and rejoices in the Spirit who is the “bond of love” or “bond of glory” in which divine being and divine consciousness are perfectly joined. God’s wujud is also his wijdan—his infinite being is infinite consciousness—in the unity of his wajd, the bliss of perfect enjoyment. The”
David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss
“(...) one should never be too naive regarding the quality of the current philosophical culture, or imagine that the most recent thinking is in any meaningful sense more advanced or more authoritative than that of a century or a millennium or two millennia ago. There are certain perennial problems to which all interesting philosophy returns again and again; but there are no such things as logical discoveries that consign any of the older answers to obsolescence. Certain classical answers to those problems endure and recur, sometimes because they remain far more powerful than the answers (or evasions) produced by later schools of thought. And, conversely, weaker answers often enjoy greater favor than their rivals simply because they are in keeping with the prejudices of the age.”
David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss
“Materialism is a conviction based not upon evidence or logic but upon what Carl Sagan (speaking of another kind of faith) called a “deep-seated need to believe.” Considered purely as a rational philosophy, it has little to recommend it; but as an emotional sedative, what Czeslaw Milosz liked to call the opiate of unbelief, it offers a refuge from so many elaborate perplexities, so many arduous spiritual exertions, so many trying intellectual and moral problems, so many exhausting expressions of hope or fear, charity or remorse. In this sense, it should be classified as one of those religions of consolation whose purpose is not to engage the mind or will with the mysteries of being but merely to provide a palliative for existential grievances and private disappointments. Popular atheism is not a philosophy but a therapy.”
David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss

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