The God of the Living

Whether or not we profess a particular faith, most of us, deep down, assume that matter is inanimate. If we are religious, we are probably dualists, which means that we believe that there is a spiritual as well as a material reality, a soul as well as a body. But even so, the material side of our dual nature is still just material. So actually dualists are still materialists (although they are not monists).

Imagine you have access to an electron microscope. You train it on the tip of your little finger. As you increase the magnification, you see the skin cells, the cell membrane, the mitochondria, the nucleus, the proteins and peptides, perhaps actual atoms. You zoom in through the realms of biology, chemistry and physics, apparently passing from the living to the dead.

Now imagine that next to the electron microscope is a telescope. You look through the aperture and zoom out past the few straggling clouds on this beautiful clear night into the immensity of space, past the moon, past Mars and the gas giants, to the Milky Way and beyond. Awesome though it is, what you are looking at is an immense wasteland of cold rocks and burning stars, all pointlessly spinning through the infinite void.

Between the microscope and the telescope, you find yourself precariously balanced between two infinities, a sliver of conscious life between two immensities of unconscious, inanimate, dead matter. As Prospero put it, “we are the stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded  by a sleep”. Bounded by inanimate matter on all sides, we are like a tiny bubble of life floating on an infinite sea of death.

But what if we look through a panpsychist lens? Then we see not endless graveyards of inanimate matter as far as the eye can see, but infinite consciousness. Then we are no longer an anomaly, a weird aberration, a strange exception to the rule of universal death. We are an integral part of a living universe. And our God is “the God of the living, not of the dead.”