In my upcoming book, DMT and the Soul of Prophecy (Park Street Press, 2014), I present a new model for a particular type of spiritual experience: Hebrew Bible prophetic consciousness. This model, which I call theoneurology, proposes that God communicates with someone experiencing prophecy through alterations in brain function, and that DMT may play a role in this process.
In the buildup to the new model, I go to great lengths explaining the Hebrew Bible’s notion of the deity. I draw upon a group of medieval Jewish philosophers’ skill in extracting a coherent system of ideas from the confusing and competing viewpoints of God that the text presents. The two most important issues they address regarding God consist of a) what God is and 2) what God does.
I know that this is rather far afield from DMT experiences and serotonin psychopharmacology. However, my new book addresses theological theories that most people in the psychedelic and psychopharmacological worlds are not familiar with and that they may wish to explore in various “thought experiments.” Many of us during a psychedelic drug session have a sense of something “like” God, and the more we know about God’s features, as discussed over the millennia by generations of sophisticated theologians and philosophers, the more we can compare what we know with what we experience. We can fine tune our understanding of that “God-like” thing and grow in our relationship with it.
Objections to even beginning such thought experiments may come from atheists who flatly deny God’s existence. One stock “challenge” to the idea of God existence or attributes relates to God’s omnipotence. That is, atheists claim that nothing is omnipotent. If nothing is omnipotent, then an omnipotent God is impossible. And since omnipotence is one of God’s characteristics, this negates the possibility of God’s existence.
In DMT and the Soul of Prophecy I take a stab at this objection by pointing to the logical impossibility of God doing the impossible, even if God is omnipotent. The example I give (not knowing at the time that it is Thomas Aquinas’s example as well) is that because God cannot create a triangle the sum of whose angles is not 180°, this does not mean that God lacks omnipotence. It simply points to the nonsensical basis of the argument.
However, since completing the manuscript, I have come upon a more common, classical argument for the impossibility of an omnipotent being. This is the “paradox of the stone.” It poses the question of whether an omnipotent being–in other words, God–can create a stone too heavy for God to lift. I recently found two articles from the 1960s addressing this paradox and believe it is useful to present their arguments. Both papers are relatively short and appear in the journal “The Philosophical Review.” Certainly, much more ink has been spilled concerning this question than these two articles have spilled, but since they are the first ones I encountered that systematically address this paradox, appear in a flagship journal of philosophy, and use relatively straightforward arguments, I believe it may be useful to briefly summarize them.
The first paper, by Mavrodies (volume 72, pages 221-223, 1963), takes a similar approach to the example of the triangle I presented above. In other words, when discussing the power of someone to perform something, that “thing” cannot be self-contradictory. The question then is: Can God do a self-contradictory thing? The fact that God cannot does not damage the notion of omnipotence.
If one assumes the existence of an omnipotent God, then it is possible to solve the paradox this way: God indeed can create such a stone, because God is omnipotent. And God can lift it because he is omnipotent. However, if one doesn’t begin with the assumption of an omnipotent being, the problem is solved in such a way as to maintain disbelief in such a being’s existence: Either He is incapable of creating such a stone, or He can create it but cannot lift it. But this does not address the atheist’s argument that there cannot be an omnipotent being. One solves the paradox in one way or the other depending on your pre-existing belief. The solution of one who believes in God maintains God’s omnipotence in the face of a seeming paradox.
Savage (volume 76, pages 74-79, 1967) takes issue with Mavrodes’ argument in his solving of the paradox. He rephrases the paradox by breaking it into several parts. Here Savage is dealing with the argument against an omnipotent God. He, like Mavrodes, wishes to argue for the logical possibility of an omnipotent God. He first asks whether an omnipotent God is unable to create stones of any weight. The answer is no. He then asks whether an omnipotent God is unable to lift stones of any weight. And the answer is no. Therefore the solution to the paradox is: “God cannot create a stone He cannot lift” but this solution rests on the belief in God’s omnipotence and does nothing to address whether or not such an omnipotent being may exist.
The upshot of these two solutions to an atheist’s challenge regarding God’s omnipotence depends on the form of his/her question. If s/he asks, “Can an omnipotent God create a stone He cannot move?”, the answer is “No.” If s/he asks, “Is it possible for a being to be omnipotent?”, the answer is “Yes.”