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Understanding Religion as Playing a Game - Johannes Aagaard

- Our Causality Does not Exclude Other Causalities


If we assume that time, place and causality are our projects, our projections, our ways of organising existence, and that through these projections we so to speak construct and constitute reality and create cosmos out of chaos, then there is a possibility, indeed a probability, that other realities exist - that is, other forms of time, place and causality than ours. Nor can we exclude the possibility that other systems of time, place and causality can influence our systems, and that in the nature of things we cannot determine such an influence, since, as a projection from elsewhere, it does not have its cause in our reality and is therefore outside it (extra nos).

But one could imagine that we are able to act in such a way as to put our own causality out of order, so to speak, If this is possible, then in such a causality-free form of activity possibilities of influence from elsewhere cannot be excluded. But if they exist, they must be inexplicable by definition, that is, outside any system known to us and therefore indefinable.

This is precisely what we do when we play dice. In such a game we put our own causality systems out of order. We may attempt to create a magic causality by crossing our fingers or knocking on wood, but it never works. In a genuine game of dice we cannot manipulate. It is pure chance.

Or rather: it ought to be pure chance; for it is often clear that it simply is not. It is as if there are other causality systems at work that we cannot explain. We may be lucky all the time in a particular game and "have the run of the dice", but in the next game our luck runs out and our opponent gets lucky. We can throw a series that should statistically be impossible, but it turns out that it is not.

This is also true in other areas where we let chance decide; that is, where we try to withdraw our own causality projections. The chance that thereby comes into play is often far from being characterised by  a series of "chances"; indeed, it seems to form a pattern that cannot be explained.

But an inability to explain something does not mean that it does not exist. In these cases we can almost predict beforehand quite logically that if other causality sequences than our own are at play they must of necessity be inexplicable according to our causality. If they are real, they must be incomprehensible to us!

In some respects we are perhaps touching on something here that is related to miracles. Miracles are real, but inexplicable. But using our explanation model they must by their very nature be inexplicable, if they are real. Our incomprehension is not a fact that undermines the reality of miracles, indeed it rather supports it.

Continuing this line of argument, we cannot manipulate a miracle. If we attempt to, it fails to take place. Miracles cannot be produced. If we are to expose ourselves to even the possibility of a miracle, it must be through some form of game where we allow for "the power of chance", that is, where we do not attempt to allow any cause-and-effect factor to operate, but set ourselves outside the power of causality in complete passivity. We are active but what we do is not done in order that the miracle can take place.

In such a game-dimension it might be possible for other causalities to break through into our system and create a surprising set of circumstances that are not from our world as we know it. This is precisely what many religious people speak of. They know that miracles are real and comprehensible, but they cannot be explained. This is in no way a belittlement of miracles but an underlining of them. Logically this is how miracles must be.

How then can one "play the game" in a religious sense. This is possible with true liturgy. True divine service, true worship of God has no other goal whatsoever than to be a goal in itself. If we place the liturgy at the service of some purpose or other, we take the meaning out of it, for it is its own purpose. In "playing the game" of the divine service all manipulation is inoperative. We are not seeking a purpose in what happens. We are not attempting by magic means to make something happen; or if we do, then reality disappears between our fingers. We wish merely to "play" for our Lord. It is pure being - not action - to celebrate the festival of the liturgy. The divine service is a mode of being, not a mode of acting - "in order that". It is its own meaningfulness - like all acts of love.

If we thus revoke our own causalities, we are then open to miracles, to something reaching us which must have a cause but which is quite inexplicable. This is what we call God.

The same thing happens in true meditation, where there is no purpose, no "in order that". Or if there is, then it is not true meditation. In the pure being without purpose we try to revoke our own causalities so that we are unconditioned, that is, without our own conditioning. We cannot do this of course, but we can act as if we can. We can play "unconditioned", and in that game other forms of causality can quite logically break through into our world in ways that are real but quite inexplicable, for they come precisely from the outside into our causality system.

All in all there is good reason to regard this attitude to the divine and the eternal as a determining element in what we call religiosity. Through the centuries in which we can trace the life-view and life-style of religious people, religiosity has meant something along these lines. Men and women have "played" for God, and their religious game has in various ways given them the feeling that "there are powers at work" which they cannot explain - but which they cannot explain away either.

Religiosity cannot get much further than this, not from provisional ignorance but from a principal lack of ability to understand the forms of causality that are at play here, precisely because they do not stem from the causality that we ourselves are objects and causes of.

In other words we do not understand what we can sense from the basic religious experience itself, but we realise why we do not understand it. And that at least is something.