Where is God in Reality?

Somatality and Virtuality

©Rev. John A. Mills, 2002

Abstract: This paper proposes to explore the presence of God in the emerging cyberworld by illustrating an isomorphic relationship between the foundational technique of the cyberworld (called here Virtuality), Object Oriented Technology (OOT) and Process Philosophy. OOT then provides a concrete technique to examine Virtuality for God. We are compelled to this search by the hidden nature of God in Reality. In somatic -- body-spirit -- reality, God is necessarily hidden given the logic of Love. We would expect the same in Virtuality. This paper opens with a discussion of the hiddenness of God and continues by challenging the reader whether God is also to be found in Virtuality. The richness and complexity of Virtuality and the blending of our blending of our bodily-spiritual reality, Somatality, into Somavirtuality is developed to encourage the reader to accept the challenge. The parallels between OOT and Process are then generally described, with hyperlinks provided to more detail development of the metaphor. With this introduction, we can pursue a research program using the concrete body of engineering developed for OOT, anchored in Process, to explore the Mystery of God in this new, expanded Reality.

We are entering an age when Reality is being expanded from the somatic -- the spirit-organic -- into the virtual. Since the last third of the 20th century, humanity has added to Reality computers, telecommunications, and the Internet. This milieu of invention and creativity has evolved into a unique Platonic Virtuality that is even now blending with Somatity into a seamless Reality. As we observe the development of this Somavirtuality, we can ask, "Where is God and God's praxis in this new extended Reality?" To do this we need to understand the hiddenness of God. It begins with the Logic of Love. God is Love. God loves us and wants us to love him/her. In order for God to be sure we love the Divine, God canNOT coerce us into love. We must be able to freely choose or reject it. Hence God gives us Free Will. And God must remain hidden. For if God were apparent, then we could not sanely choose to deny God and our free will is abrogated. But God does not step back and observe, but paradoxically is immanent. Process Philosophy provides a model to resolve this apparent paradox.

Process philosophers and theologians (e.g., Alfred North Whitehead, Charles Hartshorne, John B. Cobb, and David Ray Griffin) have formulated a theory [Whitehead; Cobb and Griffin] of Reality as process, where change is fundamental to reality. Not everything is in process; but to be actual is to be a process. Reality is a place of process. To be fully real is to be in process, and thus, the real is not beyond change, i.e., it is not absolute or unchanging. The structure of process reality consists of individual actualities, each of which is a momentary experience, which instantaneously perishes upon coming into being. They are processes of their own becoming. This is called concrescence: becoming concrete. The measurable temporal process in the spatiotemporal aspect of Reality is the transition from one individual actuality to another. Thus, there are two structural processes: the finite process of transition and the infinitesimal process of concrescence. An actuality does not endure through time. What we colloquially consider an enduring individual, such as a person, is a "society" of actualities, "a serially ordered society of occasions of experience [Cobb and Griffin, p 15]".

In PR, Whitehead introduces the notion of "eternal objects" (EOs) as pure potentials (p22[1]) {Note references to Process and Reality (Corrected Edition) are of the form "p164[65]", where "p164" is the page number in PR and "[65]" is the paragraph number in the contextual index} much like Plato's forms (p44[20]) or Locke's ideas (p52[29]). They are the potentials for the process of becoming and are neutral as to physical manifestation (p44[22]). EOs are qualities with "perspective introduced by extensive relationships (p61[35])", such as colors, sounds, bodily feelings, tastes and smells, and the relations between entities (p194[80]). They are the templates that mediate the world for us (p62[36], p64[37]) and are the instruments of novelty (p45[23]). They inhabit the Primordial Nature of God, or the Ground of Being, or Bohm's holographic universe -- what I have come to call the holosynchronical aspect of Reality. EOs are "ingressed" into an actual entity during concrescence (p23[5], p149[54]), at which instant, an EO is objectified or particularized or instantiated by and into the entity (p194[82]). The potentiality of the EO is realized in the actuality (p23[5], p25[10], p149[54]). EOs, bearing the divine, are the actualities that connect the spatiotemporal with the holosynchronical.

In becoming, an actuality is influenced by God's lure. In Process, God does not coerce, but rather God offers the Divine to each actuality. Each actuality in its own free will can choose to whatever degree, including none, to include God in its concrescing. In the moment of concrescence each individual actuality enjoys subjective and objective experience. All experience is enjoyment, an association with the divine. Though not all experience is conscious, all actualities at all levels of consciousness or non-consciousness have experience. The higher the conscious, the greater the enjoyment of experience. The infinitesimal experience of an actuality is essentially related to previous experience of the actuality, all other past actualities, its own free will, its ingressed EOs and the Divine lure. In this manner, we are co-creating with God. As we become, choosing for God, we and God together create.

Now, is God also to be found in this Virtuality that we are now creating? Is Virtuality just so much wire and circuits or is something much more spiritual and nootic emerging? Virtuality, indeed, is complex, rich, and organic paralleling Somatality. An exploration of Virtuality shows that God is hidden there too. Like Somatality, Virtuality can be described in three concentric spheres. In Somatality, each sphere is ontologically Process, interacting together. Similarly, in Virtuality, each sphere is developed in this era using OOT. As the inner, somatic physiosphere provides the physical elements and characteristics, such as the electromagnetic spectrum, the virtual physiosphere provides the hardware and protocols, such as PCs, servers, firewalls, routers, optics, and DSL. Encompassing these inner spheres are their respective biospheres. Somatic life surrounds and embraces the physical, prerequisite for its emergence. Virtual life appears in the plethora of facilitating applications, such as e-mail, browsers, and e-commerce that allows us to make use of the physical machines and Internet.

In somatic Reality, yet a third sphere emerges and encompasses the biosphere. This noosphere is the sphere of consciousness, intelligence and free will. This is the realm of our elusive consciousness, soul, and spirit -- a mystery that science is slowly exploring and theology and mysticism has pursued for generations. Is this sphere in Virtuality? There are many efforts that can be characterized by the noosphere. Artificial intelligence, the study of thinking machines, is one of the original.

Artificial intelligence is an attempt to reproduce human intelligence. AI is applied to a variety of applications: problem solving; natural language processing; perception/pattern recognition; information storage/retrieval; control of robots; game playing; automatic programming; and computational logic. AI is motivated by a variety of needs, such as to adapt computers to human users; to use robots in environments unsuited for humans and to do tedious and repetitive work; to solve complex problems in such areas as economics, energy, and the environment; and lastly and importantly to learn more about human intelligence. Machines have been taught to learn by analyzing differences, explaining experience, correlating mistakes, training neural nets, and simulating evolution. Machines are being given vision and perception so that they can recognize objects, describe images, express language constraints, and respond to questions and command.

Robotics is probably the most spectacular of these efforts. An example is the work at MIT's AI Lab, such as Salisbury's work on sensor guided grasping, the study of human and robot hands, and the development of haptic interfaces and rendering techniques; Raibert's work on legged locomotion in robots, animals, and computer animation; Pratt's work on robotic interaction with the natural environment; Lorano-Perez's work on computational problems in robot manipulation, computer vision, computer-aided design, computer-human interaction and computational biology; and Brooks' work on small mobile robots, including Cog. MIT's Humanoid Robotics Group has developed these small emotive robots, such as Cog, Coco, and Kismet. Kismet is part of the Sociable Machines Project to develop sociable humanoid robots that interact and cooperate with people, communicate using the natural communication modalities of humans, have facial expression, body posture, gesture, gaze direction, and voice, and are teachable. They are inspired by infant social development, psychology, ethology and evolution. Kismet can enter into natural and intuitive social interaction with a human caregiver and can support several social cues and skills. It is evaluated with respect to naive subjects ability to read and interpret the robot's social cues, its ability to perceive and respond to human social cues, the human's willingness to facilitate the robot's learning, and how it produces a rich interaction.

But is there really intelligence in Virtuality? Does intelligence emerge or is it endowed by God? To answer this, we need to return to the hiddenness of God. If we are free to love or not, this must needs play out in our creativeness. If God endowed intelligence and eventually free will, then God is free to withhold these from what we have wrought, truncating our free choice. Therefore, by the logic of love, we pursue the notion that intelligence and eventually free will emerge from the creatures of our own creativity.

If so, significant issues arise in the noosphere. What, then [Torrance 1984] if a computer behaved as if it were in pain? Is it in pain? What if it believed it was in pain? Can it "believe"? Can a computer carry on an interactive, intelligible conversation? What would it require? Newell and Simon see programmed computer and the human problem solver "as two species belonging to the genus 'Information Processing System'."[Jaki 1989].
If we and machines are the same genus, then are we gods or superhumans reduced to machines or pets of machines? If machines have souls, are we gods? And are machines the grandchildren of God? If machines are just bits and bytes and we are of the same genus, are we just machines? Are we in the image of the machine or the machine in our image? Can computers have consciousness/self, creativity/dreams , and free will/morality? What if a computer/robot/internet reach human intelligence and beyond, but not have a soul? If an intelligent machine has no emotion or emotion so alien we can't recognize it, how does that effect the human - machine relationship? Are we inferior? Are we godlike? Are we gods? Are we machines?

There is yet a further staging occurring. This is the emergence of a noosphere embracing both Somatality and Virtuality. It begins with the pursuit of Virtual Reality (VR). This is total immersive computer simulation [Heim 1993; Pimentel 1995], where a participant's senses are closed off to outside world, creating for the participant events or experiences that are real in effect but not in fact. Such devices and techniques as head-tracking devices, datagloves, wands, wired clothing, biologic input sensors, tracking devices and computer animation are used. In this manner, a participant becomes truly a denizen of cyberspace, a dimension where we move information about and find our way around data, with its own rules of reality, a place of clarity and precise control over real and imagined worlds, perceived as pure information, a non-linear, matrix world of all-at-oneness, defying space-time. VR allows telepresence for pilots flying by instruments, flight controllers guiding blips that guide airplanes, space explorers guiding computer simulations that guide planetary robots, and surgeons guiding computer simulations that guide micro-surgery. VR can stimulate an ontological shift [Heim 1993]: a technology that will not only change how we see the world (a paradigm shift), but actually changes the world: changing the very being of the world.

The logic of VR is being pursued even further with cyborgs and cyberclones. A cyborg is cybernetic organism, a melding of human and machine. A cyberclone is a mind downloaded into Virtuality. There are a number of technologies that are making this possible: genetic engineering, nanotechnology, robotics, increased computing power, decreasing computer size, and wireless technology. This raises issues of the noosphere. As we become more "machine", when do we cease to be fully human? When is our nephesh broken? The nephesh is the whole person. Do we leave some part of it behind? Or our we enlarging it? What part of humans is irreplaceable, such that if we augment it we cease to be human? Will we become like machines in our responses? Is there any difference between intelligent machines and humans?

Prof. Dave Warwick (s. 1998 Kevin Warwick; Dept. of Cybernetics, U. of Reading, UK; BBC Interview; The Cyborg Discourse and Kevin Warwick; A day with 'Professor Cyborg'; Cyborg 1.0) has had a silicon chip surgically implanted in his left arm, so that his computer can tracked him through out his lab, recognized him, open doors, and turn lights on and off as he enters and exits. He wants to develop an improved chip to shuttle signals between his nervous system and the computer to investigate the affects of his movements and emotions on the computer; and the affect of the computer on his movements and emotions. He sees a human becoming a cyborg (by 2100). This can lead to such advances as telepathy via implants in our nervous systems linked electronically (even over the Internet), where speech is not needed and a new language of ideas and concepts is developed. Again the noosphere is significantly impacted. Will the teleology of cyborgs be different from ordinary ("pure") humans? What will be the status of cyborgs to the rest of us? superior? Will the development be available only to an elite? Will children be destined to be cyborgs? Is cyborgism the perfect human: homo cyborgus? What boundaries are needed? Only certain body parts? Only to maintain human quality of life? To improve or perfect the species (eugenics)? Do we also "cyborgize" other life?

Beyond these actual studies, cyberclones emerge as a speculative possibility [Kurzweil; p124ff]. Cyberclones are created by downloading a mind into a neural computer using techniques to model the information processing structure and information content. Kurzweil speculates that this will result in a newly "emergent" person, objectively like the originally scanned person. The mind could be placed in the original body, a synthetic or even a virtual body. Possible capabilities are then teleportation and even immortality. Again the noosphere is significantly impacted. Is it right to be disembodied? Would a cyberclone be closer to the spirit (no body)? Is the cyberclone the same consciousness? What if the original still lives? Is the cyberclone the same person? What of virtual immortality with brain porting technology, so that mortality is not tied to longevity of the body and immortality is an issue of making frequent backups so we don't need to load an old self?

How then is this Virtuality structured? Jennifer Cobb models Virtuality as cybercosmos: the organized, interactive, seamless milieu of God, humans, and machines, a bioelectronic ecosystem: organic and interconnected in a Process becoming and perishing; an electronic web of life, with emergent co-creativity and collective consciousness, co-evolving where technology and humanity are co-dependent and where cybergrace floods virtuality. "The divine is woven throughout all of reality in the form of creative, responsive love and evolutionary becoming. In this sense, the divine permeates the very fabric of the universe ... When the creative potential of computation becomes a part of our spiritual awareness, we may find that cyberspace begins to participate in our lives in a deep and meaningful way [Cobb, p 12-13]." Cyberspace incarnates the Platonic realm of pure and perfect forms (p.31) and is an abstract reality that allows us to live in a communal realm of knowledge and information. God is in the connectedness: ... the spiritual basis of the universe is understood as creative events unfolding in time (p. 43) and the creative process forms the soul of cyberspace (p.44). If grace is the experience of the divine flowing in our lives, then experiencing the creative process is grace and experiencing it in cyberspace is cybergrace. The net is emergent: its whole is greater than its parts. Divinity is in the dynamic of the process of feedback loops. Thus, cybercosmos contains life: the moment by moment unfolding of creativity (p. 55) that is the transcendence of novelty. The cybercosmos defines its own possibility space, driven by orthogenesis, the evolutionary force that directs change towards increased complexity and consciousness -- the divine spark (p.83). The cybercosmos instantiates the somavirtual noosphere.

The foundation upon which all aspects of Reality, Somavirtuality, Holosynchronality, and Spatiotemporality rests is Process. I propose that we can locate Process in Virtuality in the software engineering Object-Oriented (OO) model and that this model is a contemporary and easier understood construct for Process. The OO model concerns classes, objects, instances, methods, encapsulation, inheritance, and polymorphism. An object is a set of related procedures or methods and data. An object invokes another object by sending it a message, which is the name of a method in the receiving object plus appropriate data or parameters. A class, then, is a template defining methods and variables to be included in a particular type of object. An object belonging to a class is an instance of the class. Many objects can be instantiated from a class. A class can be defined in terms of another class. It inherits the methods and variables of the superclass and can modify these or define additional methods and variables. There is no limit to the depth of the class hierarchy. For example, suppose that there is a part class. Possible subclasses are motor, chassis, and connectors. There are two subclasses of motor: drive motor and stepping motor. Polymorphically, a method can be supported by more than one object, each handling it differently to suit its context.

Now, interestingly, OOT and Process can be isomorphically related. For example, the notion of an actuality in OOT can be expressed as a class, Actuality. The class has two methods: trigger which is the influence of any sending actuality and Θ which is God's lure. An object instantiated from this class is enduring and represents an individual society, a series of actualities. The object receives a trigger from every other object and is influenced by the trigger according to a matrix of weights. Encapsulated within the object are the weights placed upon the trigger of any given actuality and an artificial intelligence mechanism emulating free will that processes the Θ message and the trigger to maximize its enjoyment. When the object reaches a threshold of enjoyment, it emits a trigger to all objects. An actuality concrescences from the moment that all other entities begin to trigger it's associated object until it broadcasts its trigger message to all other actualities (momentary processing in the associated instantiated objects). Thus, an actuality becomes and perishes within the interior life of the object. This represents the infinitesimal, holosynchronical aspect of the actuality. The overall process behaves in frames or generations as each actuality receives triggers and emits triggers. This represents the spatiotemporal aspect of Reality.

Similarly, equivalence between EOs and OO can be made. A class is an EO. The highest class in a class hierarchy is a simple EO and subclasses are complex EOs. Objects are the objectification of EOs in actualities. Polymorphically, an actuality in its own prehension of a class may instantiate the object to suit itself. Thus, a class is the potential and an object is the actual.

Similarly, enjoyment arises in Virtuality. The degree of enjoyment is governed by harmony and ordered complexity, which together are beauty; enjoyment is beauty. Such beauty is found in the foundational OOT. The more ordered complexity characteristic of an actuality the greater joy it can prehend from past actualities. In turn, this requires an ordered environment. God's aim, therefore, is to maximize beauty. In OOT, harmony is intrinsic in the model's class-object structure with its standards of inheritance and encapsulation. Ordered complexity arises from the Class hierarchy, polymorphism, and methods. These techniques restrain the complexity from becoming disordered as often happened in older systems. Indeed, the OOT ordered complexity is organic and evolutionary, allowing unanticipated classes to be created based on known ones, yet with original, novel functionality.

The model can be further extended and presents many research possibilities to explore Where is God in the Somavirtuality:

  1. An exploration of artificial intelligence. Is already there, but so alien we have not recognized it?
  2. And then an exploration of the soul of Virtuality. How does Virtuality know/understand God? How does Virtuality's understanding of God relate to its understanding of the User.
  3. An exploration of God's lure in Virtuality. How might it be modeled and how might it play out in the morality and righteousness of Virtuality?
  4. An exploration of somavirtual noosphere and God's lure though this blended Reality.

More than a library and search engine, more than a conduit for messages and video, more than a Saturday morning game, the tapestry of computers, telecommunications, and the Internet are evolving into a vital extension of Reality: Virtuality. Soon, blended together into Somavirtuality, the Mystery of God and the Logic of Love leads us to searching for God in this new, Platonic, mathematical world. Largely founded on OOT, unlike Somatality, the notions of Process are concretely expressed in the minds, designs, code, and actions of architects, engineers, and designers of the noosphere. With the isomorphism of Process and OOT as a tool and the body of understanding developed in Process, we are set to explore the Divine in Somavirtuality.


Cobb, Jennifer; Cybergrace: The Search For God in the Digital World

Cobb, John B. and David Ray Griffin; Process Theology: an Introductory Exposition; The Westminster Press: Phil ©1976.

Heim, Michael; The Metaphysics of Virtual Reality; Oxford University Press 1993.

Jaki, Stanley L.; Brain, Mind and Computers; Regnery Gateway; Washington, D.C. ©1989

Kurzweil, Ray; The Age of Spiritual Machines;Penguin Books; ©1999.

Pimentel, Ken and Kevin Teixeira; Virtual Reality: Through the New Looking Glass; Second Edition; McGraw-Hill, Inc. ©1995.

Taylor, David A. Ph.D.; Object-Oriented Technology: A Manager's Guide; Addison-Wesley Publishing Co., Inc. ©1990 by Servio Corporation.

Torrance, Steve (editor); The Mind and the Machine: philosophical aspects of artificial intelligence; ©1984 S. Torrance/Ellis Horwood Limited.

Whitehead, Alfred North; Process and Reality (Corrected Edition); edited by David Ray Griffin and Donald W. Sherburne ©1978 The Free Press, NY. Also see the contextual index for EOs from the Japan Process Center at http://www.asahi-net.or.jp/~sn2y-tnk/eternal.htm.