l enjoy marveling at a primal marvelousness: That the cosmos exists. Recently I wrote a piece for the Spiritual Naturalist Society about this -- "Wow! Existence has always existed."
I boldfaced That because there's a unbridgeable gap between the What and That of existence. We can talk about What existent things are. It is impossible to talk about the That'ness of existence: That existence exists.
Recently on a bookshelf I came across Milton Munitz' "Does Life Have a Meaning?", one of my favorite books. For the third time, I read it.
Munitz also was fascinated by the brute fact of existence.
Being a Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the City University of New York, in this book, his last, Munitz was able to ponder the difference between things that exist, which can be described with all sorts of What's, and Boundless Existence.
Few people, he says, have an awareness of Boundless Existence. I can't be sure that I have the same sense of it as Munitz did, since it is very difficult, if not impossible, to put this awareness into words that begin to capture the intuitive experience of it.
Here's a quote from "Does Life Have a Meaning?"
If one accepts the distinction between the existent universe and Boundless Existence as drawn by the world picture I have sketched, then it is part of that acceptance to recognize that Boundless Existence is neither an existent, a collection of existents, nor even the supposed totality of existents.
Since it is not an existent, Boundless Existence cannot act on us, nor can a human existent interact with it. Since, too, it is not an existent in the way in which the observable universe or any of its parts is, it cannot be explained, modified, perceived, investigated, or understood.
Moreover, it is a fundamental dimension of Reality, and as such is not only to be accorded equal status with other fundamental principles on an ontological level of the world picture we are exploring, but should also receive full and equal attention in a philosophy of life that purports to serve as a schema for envisioning our place in Reality, i.e., as a guide for our actions and as a way of judging the possible values of life.
As far as we know, it is exclusively given to human existents not only to interact with and progressively understand other existents, but to become increasingly aware of Boundless Existence.
To bring Boundless Existence into intensified awareness and to let its presence permeate and affect all our interactions with other existents, is, however, for the vast majority of human existents, a relatively rare achievement and practice. Whatever benefits such awareness could bring is, therefore, absent from the lives of most human existents or the dominant philosophies by which they are guided.
In other words, most people are only concerned with existent things, not Boundless Existence. Yet even if a God were proven to exist who created everything in existence, this divinity would "only" be another existent thing. The mystery of Boundless Existence that makes existents possible remains.
The capitalized expression Boundless Existence represents the basic ontological and epistemological fact that the very Existence of the observable universe (as distinguished form the type of potentially intelligible existence exhibited by any interactive existent) is transcendent both to any form of conceptual understanding -- to the use of any scheme of conceptual bounds -- and of course beyond even the slightest degree of human intervention or control.
Boundless Existence is everywhere associated with the observable universe and its contents as an irreducible and uneliminable aspect of it, though it defeats and transcends all ordinary cognitive modes of access relying on observation or understanding.
The notion of Boundless Existence, as I employ it, is to be distinguished from the way the term "God" is employed in most theistic religions. Boundless Existence does not stand to the universe in the relation of a creative source to its created product. Nor does Boundless Existence stand to human life in the way this is construed in most theistic religions and philosophies.
As viewed under the aspect of the omnipresent "emptiness" of Boundless Existence, the lives of human existents cannot find any preassigned purpose or intelligibility in the Boundless Existence of the observable universe.
In contrast with theistic conceptions of God as the source for the existence of human life and the ultimate focus for a person's worship, obedience, or love (theism's standard view of the basic goals and standards for a spiritually meaningful human life, a deep awareness of the dimension of Boundless Existence enforces the conclusion that such meanings as humans can find in their lives are not generated by, or selectively, supported and controlled by, Boundless Existence.
Instead, they largely emerge from the choices and responses that human existents, as autonomous agents, make in their interactions with other existents.
Well, I don't agree that we humans are "autonomous" agents. Unfettered free will seems impossible in this lawfully interconnected cosmos.
Otherwise, though, I resonate with Munitz' central thesis. Along with him, I accept the fact of Boundless Existence.
More... as noted above, I marvel at Boundless Existence. Here's a quote from one of my earliest posts on this blog, which I included in a 2010 post, "The Beauty of Boundless Existence."
My head hurts when I think too much about existence. But I get an enjoyable chill up my spiritual spine when I simply try to wrap my psyche around existence. Not in a wordy way. In, well, an existential way. This happens when I try to let the stark reality of existence blow the roof off all my notions about what exists, when I try to strip away thoughts about all that is until the skeleton of a bare is remains.
For me, existence pure and simple is absolutely real, though I’ve never seen, heard, smelled, touched, or tasted it. I have no idea what it is, this essence of everything that can’t be a thing itself and certainly isn’t nothing either. I feel it much more than I think it. Not emotionally, but like sensing an invisible presence in a dark room that you know you’ll never be able to put your finger on.
Here's other posts I've written about Munitz' book and Boundless Existence.