Book Review -- The Divine Constitution

reviewed by Dr. Stephen M. Modell

In The Divine Constitution Tienzen (Jeh-Tween) Gong develops a personal synthesis of God's nature and God's fit into the modern concept of the cosmos. The author relates that since youth he has yearned to go beyond simply sensing and feeling God's existence, to know how God came to be and what God's essence might be like. To try to pinpoint the essence of God is an extremely daunting if not audacious task, and throughout the book one gets the impression that Jeh-Tween is trying to pack more into his system than can possibly fit, sometimes not without bias as to how the parts should be orchestrated. But the reader never gets the feeling that the author is at a loss for ideas. The book brims with profound views on the deeper nature of God and the God-enshrouded universe.

Dr. Gong approaches his task using "the Bible as the root, Christianity as the trunk, and the sciences as the branches" (p.184). In the chapter entitled "The Grand Detour," he takes a brief historical look at the evolution of the Judeo-Christian concept of God. The author holds that what started as Jesus' teaching of the coming of God's kingdom became supplanted after Jesus' passage by messianic hopes. The long delayed parousia created a sense of "doubt" amongst believers in Jesus' fulfillment of prophecy, which created a counterbalancing need for "faith," further flamed by the concretizing of stories of miracles between the writing of Paul's epistles and the synoptic Gospels. The inexplicabilities, the existence of miracles and the Pauline Trilogy, led to a pendulum swing that give birth to the critical tenor of modern science in the Renaissance. Dr. Gong contends the search for God's nature should be neither too rigidly scientific nor too religiously unquestioning. Gong seeks to go beyond the traditional principle of induction dealing with particulars of the same kind. He argues for a type of "transcendental faith," which attains "utmost truth" by sewing together elements of different "kinds" from science, philosophy and religion. Gong's notion of "transcendental faith" parallels Kant's "transcendental synthesis," but the former knits together conceptual blocks from differing fields, not just representations within the sphere of personal consciousness.

Transcendental faith becomes the vehicle for uniting antinomies ingrained in the universe that relate to the nature of self, totality, and God, covered in chapter 3. Cantor's paradox points out the contradiction inherent in the notion of "Self," that the "power set," i.e., the set of all subsets of its elements is always greater than the "set of all sets" (the "Self") which contains the elements. Russell's paradox suggests a similar contradiction in the notion of "totality." The paradox of Jesus is that his mortal self is seemingly subsumed by his immortal self. The author claims what is needed to resolve these metaphysical paradoxes is the recognition of a higher symmetry structure binding the contradictory halves of each. In the case of set theory, the notion of transfinite numbers must be introduced to make equivalent the power set and the original set of elements. In the case of metaphysical categories like elements of a totality and aspects of the self, he claims they emerge from a perfect symmetry which makes them equivalent to the Totality and the whole "Self." This perfect symmetry makes it possible for the same being to have both a mortal and immortal nature.

In chapter 4, Dr. Gong describes the breaking of the universe's perfect symmetry into two complements, the mortal universe and a "ghost partner." This dyad contrasts with the "immortal sphere" at the apex of the triangle. A weakness of the book is that it does not clearly define or describe the "ghost partner." In section VI of the chapter he suggests God's essence is the union of an "utmost chaos" with two opposites, infinity and nothingness, which infuse the immortal sphere. The infinity of which he speaks is the condition of unboundedness, and the nothingness is the universe infinitely curved in upon itself as a totipotent singularity. The reader should not be fooled into believing these polarities of God's essence represent only the initial and final states of the universe -- they are the matrix for creation at every point of the universe's existence. As for the immortal sphere, Gong describes it as a "timeless" realm, the storehouse of concepts, moral principles, and "fictitious objects" represented by myths (pp. 65, 69). The contents of the "immortal sphere" could stand some unpacking, which is to some extent performed in later chapters, but the main contribution of this chapter is to describe a cosmology. God's triune nature, the union of the utmost chaos with infinity and nothingness, gives rise to a triune universe, containing an "immortal" and a "mortal sphere" plus its complement.

One question Gong tackles is, "Why should there be a universe at all?". For us mortals this question seems unanswerable, but the author mounts a reasoned scientific response. Like the scientist-philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg living three centuries before, who also believed in a multi-tiered triune universe and was also concerned with different levels of truth and faith, Jeh-Tween Gong considers the universe to be made of "degrees." In the cosmic sense, the degrees are dimensions in which the universe is free to develop. The maximal number of degrees of freedom represents the highest symmetry and the utmost chaos. Dr. Gong uses a mathematical theorem and the 2nd law of thermodynamics to show that it is the inherent nature of this totally homogeneous chaos to degenerate into pockets of orderliness, i.e., beings and entities in time. That is, the immortal sphere and the mortal sphere are intertwined -- if one exists, so must the other.

A consistent feature of Jeh-Tween Gong's book is that it takes a piece of knowledge from science or mathematics and shows the religious or spiritual significance behind it. In the general theory of relativity, the universe is laid out like an expanding beach ball, with each point seemingly expanding outward from any given observer. Gong equates objects on the ball's surface with persons and galaxies inhabiting the relative, mortal sphere. Each observer has an equivalent perspective because they have the same relationship to the center of the ball, which Gong posits as absolute and eternal. Gong asserts the absolute and relative aspects of the universe are the outward manifestations of the transcendent and immanent aspects of God. He conceives the Einsteinian universe as a divine one. In chapter 5, Gong equates the center of the ball with a region of infinite possibility. "Possibility" here goes beyond the physical notion of "quantum possibility." It is "ontological possibility," giving rise to categories like thought, feeling, and love, binding self to God. Thus, the quantum realm is spiritualized. Gong also introduces a "ball-donut transformation" into his model to make it dynamic and open-ended. The chapter "Sutra of All Sutras" highlights several differences with Buddhism, which labels the temporal as false and ultimately illusory and in the end claims God is totally transcendent and indefinable (The Diamond Sutra). Gong's model is a bit more warm-blooded, leading to a final concept of essence, an infinite recursion from absoluteness to relativity, then back to absoluteness (p. 86).

The separation of the immortal and mortal spheres in Gong's system, which leads to the first appearance of gravity, time and space, is the start in a series of symmetry-breaking steps. The skewing proceeds from the ungluing of the quark colors to the separation of the weak and electromagnetic forces, leading to galaxies, creatures, and consciousness. In chapter 7 - 10, Gong uses the principle of "example-in-kinds," or what both Russell and Swedenborg referred to as "correspondences," to describe this Whiteheadian succession. Taoism comes very close to the author's ideal for an explanatory system that meets the physicist's needs. Dancing between the Chinese sage Fuhsi's "trigrams" and physicists' quark colors, he shows how both the ancient and the contemporary can be used to construct the fundamental particles of the universe, quarks and leptons, from a "prequark" structure. One conclusion the author reaches in chapter 10, that the universe has 64 dimensions which reduced down to the more limited number of quark colors, seems almost like an attempt to make physical theory comport with the Taoist concept of "Kwa forms" and its 64 hexagrams. Though the author claims be developed his ideas prior to looking back and rediscovering the religion of his paternal ancestors, there can be no doubt the essentials of that religion influenced the threads of his thought.

The book also has sections that will appeal to the life sciences audience. The author refers to DNA replicability, cancer cell mutation, and histocompatibility, giving the deeper meaning of each of these processes. In chapter 7, he uses embryogenesis, from zygote formation to brain organogenesis, to create homologies illustrating the development of consciousness. The embryo example also demonstrates how the divine process of transformation recapitulates the ternary pattern at numerous levels. The book fails to mention that it is the very nature of chaotic systems to replicate the same basic pattern in novel arrangements at different levels of structure, a property called "self-similarity."

The Divine Constitution contains chapters dealing with philosophical implications. Like Whitehead, the author holds that Platonic ideals, including moral truths, have an eternal reality and relationship with the temporal world. Gong writes that moral truths are not divinely given, but in the more modern sense, bring the moral agent into proximity with God. The soul in Gong's metaphysics is the aggregate of truth and love, thus partakes in their inheritance of immortality. In part this view of personhood is a derivative of Gong's model of the universe, that two spheres exist and humans, being a reflection of the divine, stretch between them. Human beings share in Jesus' immortality. The author's belief in immortality also exhibits a strong Taoist influence. Being and nonbeing are as natural together as Yin and Yang. The human being is like Chuang Tzu's butterfly, not knowing whether it is a person dreaming it is a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming it is a person. One side is birth and life, the other death and immortality.
Dr. Gong's system is sure to unsettle materialistic readers as well as religious conservatives. Process philosopher Charles Hartshorne once wrote, "In the era of relativity physics the concept of inextended mental events is peculiarly inappropriate" (Hartshorne, "Panpsychism: Mind as Sole Reality," P. 115). Hartshorne would also be reluctant to claim that humans leave more than a trace in God after their death. On the other hand, many theologians would no doubt feel disoriented in basing their faith and experience of God's personal presence on cosmic concepts. Nevertheless, Jeh-Tween Gong has proposed a model of the divine universe that reaches farther than many other modern cosmologies in linking philosophy and religion with physicists' and biologists' current view of the universe. Some of the technical examples he uses are a bit challenging, but do not involve equations and are within bounds for the lay reader. The book's greatest weakness is also its most commendable strength -- that it covers too many areas to specialize in any, yet it fashions them into a progressively coherent whole. Jeh-Tween Gong makes considerable strides in formulating a modern concept of God's makeup and explaining how a transcendent God could create a material universe. After reading "The Divine Constitution," the reader will want to take stock in what the book has done to expand their worldview, and ponder what facets of the divine universe still crave explanation.

The Divine Constitution by Tienzen (Jeh-Tween) Gong, 1991, Adams Press, Chicago.

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 91-90780
ISBN 0-916713-05-9

This book breaks out of all old methodological barriers and into the ranges of total absoluteness. It also provides much insight into three major religions -- Taoism, Buddhism and Christianity. Prequark theory was discussed in Chapter X [The Triune Universe (X), p139] of this book.
Buy now (new, paper back), $30

A book review was written by Dr. Stephen M. Modell, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and it was published at Zygon, Journal of Religion & Science, Volume 34, Number 4. It can be reviewed at Blackwell Publisher, the url is

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Table of Contents
  1. In Search of God
  2. Knowledge and Truth (A new Methodology)
  3. Paradox Axioms and God's Attributes
  4. God's Essence
  5. The Language of God
  6. The Moral Truths
  7. The Origin and the Rise of Consciousness
  8. The Sutra of All Sutras, the Buddha Lands
  9. Tao of Life and of God, the first TOE (Theory of Everything)
  10. The Triune Universe
  11. The Souls
  12. Providence and Divination
  13. The Grand Detour
  14. Book of Worship, the Holy Communion