Monday, December 29, 2008
I will be taking a hiatus from blogging for a while. Fortunately, I left behind a lot of material for anyone interested in reading my writing. Additionally, one will find on this blogpage a link to Don Coorough on WritersCafe. Please feel free to have a look at that site. On it, I have compiled my manuscript, titled "Love-ism," in a manner which reflects how I want to see it presented. One will discover more poems in the manuscript than have been published on my blog as well as additional essays not published on this blog. The poems are separated into type groupings. The essays are placed in a specific order to give individuals an appreciation for my philosophy with an arc leading to a positive ending. Thank you, one and all, for reading any portion of my blog. Everything presented on it has been presented out of my sincere love for people everywhere and a desire to leave behind a snapshot of the best of who I've tried to be and the best of what I've learned in my 56 years. Peace and love to all.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
One might feel as if one has been spun in a tight circle until becoming dizzy after reading the material in the discussions for On Rejecting Arguments Supporting the Existence of God and On the Nature of Consciousness. In the first, the reader was asked to look into the face of superstition in order to come to grips with the impossibility that the universe sprang forth and exists as the result of the willed creation of a perfect, all-loving, all-knowing, conscious supreme being. Then, in the discussion on consciousness, the nature of mind was plumbed, revealing my theory regarding a kind of mystical force, in the form of electromagnetic fields which exist in symbiotic conjunction with the life force of creatures, as providing the medium for the manifestation of mind. Finally, the reader was asked to consider the possibility that electromagnetic fields which exist in relationship with ecosystems, as living systems, are also repositories of minds: Planetary Minds, Galactic Minds and Universal Minds.
One may wonder, “Just how can these seemingly contradictory systems of thought co-exist without giving rise to irrationality?” Another may question the value in pursuing any line of thought which has no apparent roots in spirituality. Many will seek insight into the sympathetic effects which often become apparent out of accident or happenstance. Still others will find many questions left unanswered regarding who is the intrinsic self from the results of the inquiry into consciousness. These are questions which are more metaphysical in nature, less definable by science, and yet, extremely urgent to anyone seeking to attain their fullest potential while creating a personal philosophy which can assist an individual to live a moral life and find fulfillment.
As the introduction of the concept of Universal Principles should indicate, modes of behavior exist: first action, response, interaction, community and lifestyle, which support and cooperate with the harmonious propagation of Universal Purpose and yield the realization that one’s Universal Purpose reveals itself everywhere one looks. The understanding that spirituality is a vital property which expresses the relationship of every living thing to every other living thing, to the immediate ecosystem, to the planetary ecosystem and to the solar system, galaxy and universe, consequently, must infer its presence. As that mindset arises, it infuses the individual through every human activity, emotion and belief.
Like everything else in life, spirituality is a process, not an end state. Spirituality is not expressed by going to a congregational gathering one day a week and then living a lifestyle during the rest of the week in competition with one’s neighbors, angry with, jealous of and/or resentful of them, committing all kinds of unkindness and selfishness along the way. True spirituality is expressed when one lives one’s beliefs in complete awareness, moment by moment, in as many of life’s moments as possible. This kind of spirituality is available to everyone.
At this juncture, it seems advantageous to reframe the perception of what spirituality is. Most people will look at the root of the word, spirit, and determine that spirituality, to be valid and have meaning to both individuals and humanity as a whole, must be inextricably tied to spirit. I would never argue that point. However, what we mean by spirit lies at the crux of coming to terms with our place in the cosmos as well as developing a proper relationship with our neighbors and our environments.
To some people, spirit is synonymous with soul. For folks with such an outlook, the two words can be interchangeable, and they infer an everlasting vessel of that which constitutes a particular human’s intrinsic self. It is invisible to the physical world. However, this vessel, of what can only be considered as being essentially the most basic element of human composition, is never really defined by any religious (or other spiritual) tradition which I have ever studied.
However, other people do not share a belief in the individual soul which expresses its life force only through a single lifetime. For some, there exists a belief in a reincarnating spirit. They believe in the existence of many lives experienced by the same individuality expressing various personalities, different variations of what they term as being the individuality, from lifetime to lifetime.
Finally, others express a belief in a spirit which need not be eternal, which need not express more than the greatest hopes, wishes, dreams and love within each of us. In this sense of the term, a person may be described as having spirit (intense energy, a sense of personal identity expressed through universal interconnection). In this sense, agnostics and atheists can be referred to as being spiritual if they subscribe to the presence of such an intrinsic spirit. I would suggest that this definition of spirit is synonymous with Nietzsche’s “will to power.” That will has to come from somewhere. I suggest it is that intrinsic and indispensible part of the individual which lies at the deepest inner reaches of our psyches and minds, that part of us which directs words from our mouths which we didn’t pre-consider prior to uttering in conversation, which solves mathematics problems we couldn’t consciously solve while we aren’t even thinking about them, or which drives us to write books we didn’t even know we had in us before we began typing. Our spirit is our most essential self; it is that which is our fire, our drive, our highest hopes, our deepest love, our strength and character, and our most serene contentment.
One may wonder at a few questions. How and why did humanity ever conceive of the notion they possessed an everlasting soul or reincarnating soul? What have been the ramifications from the spread of this notion? Why do people invest so deeply in beliefs concerning the existence of an everlasting soul or reincarnating spirit? Is there any basis upon which to accept or deny the existence of the soul or spirit?
Each individual must arrive upon uniquely satisfying answers to these questions. Some of you may prefer to accept the arguments offered by someone or some group you trust (a clergyman, a religion, or a philosopher). Many will choose to investigate the matter thoroughly, internally and arrive at their very own specific insights into these questions. Others may choose not to consider the question at all. However, any individual, who hopes to arrive at a reasonably comprehensive philosophy of life which incorporates the reliability of scientific knowledge with the very human need to find acceptance within social conventions while also developing a system of morals and ethics for regulating interpersonal relationships and relationships with the environment or among and between nations and who aspires to be the best person they can be while also fulfilling their most burning, lifelong desires, cannot ignore the questions: does the soul exist, and what is the nature of human spirituality if they also seek to infuse their life with meaning and purpose.
The word soul carries a Judeo-Christian connotation with it. The Judeo-Christian tradition suggests that before creation, God existed. Then, God created everything in the universe by dividing up elementary polar opposites (light and dark, heavens and earth, etc.) out from what could only be interpreted as a pre-divided, unified state. However, the Judeo-Christian tale of Genesis does not provide an account for when the angels and archangels were created, or when the orders of angels came into being. The Judeo-Christian explanation generally infers that the creator caused angels to come into existence prior to causing the physical world to manifest and that these angels seemingly will live eternally, after having been created (they had a beginning, but will have no end). We do know that, according to the Judeo-Christian tradition, out from the roster of archangels Lucifer separated himself from God’s following, that Lucifer imagined himself as equal with God, and that Lucifer, later, allegedly seduced Eve with the apple as a means of destroying God’s plan for a perfect creation. According to the Judeo-Christian tradition, God created Adam from the clay of the Earth and then breathed the spark of life into Adam. I assume it was in the moment when God is alleged to have breathed that spark of life into Adam when he created Adam’s soul. As far as the rest of us, who knows? Most Christians allege that the embryo has a soul and that is why it should not be aborted. Such an allegation hardly meshes with the idea that God breathed the spark of life into Adam, and consequently his soul at that time too, after God had already created the fully formed human body. Anyway, one can certainly see there is one heck of a gap in this story of creation which, allegedly, is the unaltered and divine word of God.
Now, my reason for pointing that out was not to ridicule the contents of the Book of Genesis. No, my point is to grapple with the meanings and usage of the word spirit. Genesis gives us almost zero insight into what spirit is, other than with regard to God’s ruach. In Hebrew, the ruach can be defined alternatively as breath, fire, spirit or wind. God breathed animation into the body of clay God made for Adam to spark Adam with life. In the Kabbalah, the ruach can be thought of as akin to the spiritual body, or the animating spirit for human life. It is the Kabbalah’s concept of that human ruach which has come down to us today as signifying and symbolizing the human soul.
In order to more fully delve into the true meaning of spirituality, a clear understanding of the origins and evolution of human approaches to the search for meaning through religious doctrines and spiritual pursuits must be cultivated. Such a pursuit demands one begin by researching, comparing and contrasting the various creation myths and their origins.
The Origins of the World’s Creation Myths
Let us consider how ancient the texts are for the Book of Genesis. It is generally taught that Moses was the author of all five books contained in the Pentateuch, of which Genesis is the first book. Prior to the 19th century, the accepted view purported that Moses authored the books sometime in the 2nd millennium B.C.E. In the 19th century, a new view advanced by Julius Wellhausen suggested that oral traditions gave rise to three different documents written between 950 B.C.E. and 500 B.C.E. (one penned by worshipers of Elohim, one by worshipers of YHVH, or Yahweh, and one penned by the Aaronid priesthood), and that these were combined into the form currently accepted somewhere around 450 B.C.E.
In the first half of the 20th century, the so-called science of Biblical Archaeology was developed by William Albright and his followers, combining the then-new methods of biblical scholarship known as source criticism and tradition history (developed by Hermann Gunkel, Robert Alter and Martin Noth). Their determination was that the Book of Genesis was based on material which could be traced back through oral traditions to the 2nd millennium B.C.E.
By the 1970s, this view came under attack. Thomas L. Thompson in his book The Historicity of the Patriarchal Narratives (1974) and John Van Seters in his book Abraham in History and Tradition (1975) each explained that the references to the oral tradition could as easily apply to the 1st millennium B.C.E. as the 2nd and oral traditions are not as easily recovered as Gunkel suggested. In 1987, R. N. Whybray wrote his book The Making of the Pentateuch (1987), which analyzed Wellhausen’s work only to find the underlying assumptions illogical and unconvincing. William G. Dever (an American archaeologist who specializes in Israel and the Near East during biblical times and who received his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1966) argued against the philosophical foundations for Albright’s biblical archaeology suggesting that it is neither desirable nor possible to use the Bible to interpret the archaeological record. The generally accepted view today is that the Book of Genesis (and the whole of the Pentateuch) was codified into its final form between 500 B.C.E. and 450 B.C.E.
No matter the date one wants to attribute the final version as having been compiled, whether in the 2nd millennium B.C.E. or the 1st, one must conclude that the material within the pages of the Pentateuch (including Genesis) had to have been derived, at least in part, from oral tradition. Why can I say this? Well, the most obvious reason springs right from the material within the Pentateuch. Judaism did not originate with the writings of Moses. Moses was instructed in the oral tradition by Jethro, a Midian priest who gave him shelter, and whose daughter, Zipporah, Moses later married. So, the most logical deduction is that he (or whoever the author or authors of the Pentateuch may have been) had taken upon himself (or themselves) the task of compiling the lore and oral traditions of the Hebrews, Canaanites, and Jews into written form which could be preserved for the future, and out of which a curricula of study could also be culled.
The most ancient piece of European writing is alleged to be The Iliad. Not much is known of Homer’s life, and there are no good indicators as to when he lived. Most scholars, however, date Homer and The Iliad to approximately 850 B.C.E. (The Odyssey seems to have been written much later, perhaps decades later). Homer seems to capture a few basic elements in his writing. He presented a kind of historical fiction which was rooted in the popular tales of the gods and goddesses (much like the material contained in the Pentateuch vis-à-vis the Biblical, monotheistic tradition) and which permeated the oral traditions of the Greek city-states of the times, but which also provided a framework of beautifully crafted verse upon which entertaining storytelling soared. Homer, however, did not impart to his audience a creation story.
The task of encoding into written verse the Greek creation myth was tackled by Hesiod who lived in about 700 B.C. Hesiod codified the Greek cosmogony in his work titled Theogony. One scholar, Edith Hamilton, in her book Mythology, [Mythology, Edith Hamilton, Little, Brown and Company, 1942, 1969, pg. 16] suggested that Hesiod must have been, “… the first man in Greece to wonder how everything had happened, the world, the sky, the gods, mankind, and to think out an explanation.”
I’m not so sure it is fair to attribute to Hesiod that he grappled with the subject of conceiving the Greek cosmogony as he presented it: how the world and the stars were created or even what roles the various gods and goddesses may have played in the creation of everything. However, I find it far more likely that he brought together a vast amount of divergent material contained in the oral traditions of the Greeks, reasoned out for himself which were most consistent with one another, brought sense to them, ordered them, tried to make them cohesive and complimentary as opposed to fragmented and contradictory, and ultimately crafted a piece of beautiful, artistic and entertaining storytelling in verse out of the stuff of myth and legend, working in much the same way Moses must have when he codified Genesis into written form and how Homer culled from the vast lore of both Greek mythology and legend to write The Iliad and The Odyssey.
The Rig-Veda provides the account of Hinduism’s creation story. Most scholars determine that the Vedas were written between 1500 B.C.E. and 1000 B.C.E. (this era is called the period of historical Vedic religion). Though they were actually written down during that time period, again, the Vedas were based in the oral traditions of Hinduism. Scholars conclude that the evidence for the earliest prehistoric religion in India date to the late Neolithic period (which spans the years from 5500 B.C.E. to 2600 B.C.E.).
Any study of Hinduism (the oldest continually practiced, contemporary religion on the face of the Earth and third largest behind Christianity and Islam) reveals the religion’s tenets (like the religion of the ancient Egyptian, Pharaohic era, which was contemporaneous with the historical Vedic period) included nature worship, deification of natural phenomena, and deification of certain animals as being intrinsically symbolic of aspects of deity. The gods and goddesses of Vedic mythology often correspond with gods from the pantheons of other Indo-European mythological traditions, exhibiting highly suggestive similarities. Some scholars attribute the similarities to the Aryan invasion of Middle Eastern and European lands by the early Vedic Aryans, a subgroup of Indo-Aryans, and their consequent bringing to newly conquered/settled territories the religions and mythologies from the Aryan homeland.
Something which I feel stands as extremely important in this brief summary of just a few creation myths regards the seemingly persistent view of so many different early cultures that the creation of everything began with the yawning open, or the breaking open, or the hatching of a cosmic egg. Now, this symbolic explanation does not exist in all cultures, and I can’t even say it exists in most, but that particular symbolism arises over and over again, and in such divergent regions and belief systems one would be remiss not to mention it and consider how fertile that image was to the early developing spirituality of Neolithic to Bronze Age human minds.
Variations of the egg myth can be found among: the African Mandinka tribe; in Taoism through the myth of Pangu; among the ancient Finnish peoples; within classic Greek mythology, incorporating stories passed down in the sacred writings of the singer Orpheus which were preserved by his disciples (seemingly more of a tale coming from the ancient forest people than those of the sea coast) of a cosmic egg which was laid by Night and which birthed the Rushing Wind; the Norse and Germanic peoples’ belief in a yawning gap but this was not properly described or attributed as being related to an egg; Sikhism; Surat Shabda Yoga; the ancient Egyptians’ beliefs expressed three differing creation myths, one of which (the Ogdoad) suggests that Ra arose from an egg (or alternatively a blue lotus), in a second of their creation myths, devoted to the worship of Ptah, creation occurred much like that described later in the Hebrew Book of Genesis as Ptah spoke the words and the gods and the world emanated from his “divine words”; while the Seminole tribe of Native Americans creation myth recounts a tale wherein a supreme creator put all things into a large shell and when the timing was right, the shell opened and all things emerged from it.
While the ancient Sumerian creation myth does not contain reference to an egg, it bears examination here because, through its documentation on a fragmentary clay tablet known as the Eridu Genesis, scholars attribute it as being the earliest recorded creation myth – dating back to approximately 1800 B.C.E. Of additional note is that the Babylonian creation myth, known as the Enûma Elish, dates to the 2nd millennium B.C.E. I feel it is also significant to point out that, while the Australian aboriginal people do not have a single, specific creation myth, their rich traditions of diverse mythologies contain among them a belief that the Earth was created by one of the gods of Dreamtime.
The Essence of Human Spirituality
You must be wondering, “What does all this have to do with arriving at a useful understanding of the significance of spirituality among humanity?”
One significant revelation which arises from an inquiry into creation myths regards the apparent worldwide need of human populations during the 2nd millennium B.C.E. on through approximately 500 B.C.E. to codify their oral traditions, creation myths and religious philosophies culled from divergent, but similar and related, localized tales expressing a broad and basic definition concerning who they and their ancestors were as well as their place in the cosmos. In order to arrive at such a definition, most found it necessary to grapple with the process of creation. They could not define their place without defining the nature of their god or gods and what kind of beginning they had. Their understanding of the nature of deity was inextricably linked to the creation of everything, from hierarchies of gods to the emergence of human beings and their natural hierarchies. In this context, the most significant element of spirituality can be seen in the relationship of people with their gods and nature.
The most unifying principles among all religions, ancient or contemporary, is that God, a god, or gods and goddesses created the natural setting first and then placed humans into nature. The natural world possessed everything humanity would ever need for our sustenance. However, while human beings could modify nature and sometimes harness some of nature’s properties and processes (agriculture and husbandry), humanity remained subservient to their god or gods at least insofar as they depended upon that god or those gods to continue to provide the benefits of nature (rain, sun, arable land, a fruitful growing season, animals to hunt, fertile mating relationships, etc.) in order to maintain their societies and receive their rightful share in the bounty nature provided.
As people gained greater control over their environments, they depended less and less on their deity or deities as providers. I would suggest this statement provides a great insight into the meaning of “original sin.” The “knowledge of good and evil” can be seen as the knowledge of agriculture and husbandry. Humans, once they exerted control over the environment to the degree that they no longer required the intercession of a benevolent God (or gods and goddesses), soon discovered they no longer needed to worship that God (or gods and goddesses).
The symbolism of the story of Genesis reveals a God who had needs (to be loved and worshiped), who created a system whereby God would give people what God deemed worthy expressions for human wants and needs in return for obeisance. When Adam and Eve discovered that they, too, could create life by giving birth to offspring and growing crops, God grew angry at their audacity, at the challenge directed at him by people who became co-creators. God wanted to be the sole creator, to remain unchallenged in this arena. Humans rose to the level of demigods when they created on their own. God perceived the new creative ability in his creation as a threat. The natural order God created would no longer remain untouched or solely exhibit God’s intent.
The slowly subtle, yet constantly certain, erosion in the natural order God imposed upon creation by human intervention would likely yield commensurate erosion in humanity’s obeisance to God. Such a schism in the relationship between human beings and God had to be thwarted by early Hebrew theologians. So, the story was written in a manner which placed the broad mass of humanity under the subservience of a priestly class who people needed to intercede for them with God.
God exiled Adam and Eve from the Garden and stopped speaking to them. In this manner God withheld his love from humanity. In order to regain small doses of that divine love, people had to prove their worthiness. Since God no longer entertained direct communication with people, people had to group together when worshiping and had to incorporate elaborate rituals. Those rituals demanded the presence of the class of priests. Hence, people subjugated themselves to a new class of overseers. The purpose of the story becomes clear: the priestly class sought to perpetuate their authority over the rest of humanity.
In time, nature lost its mysterious cloak as science began to discover natural laws. Without mystery residing in nature, humanity lost its reverential connection to the natural world and all of its inhabitants. Soon, people saw themselves as superior to, and masters over, their environment and its creatures. Through this evolutionary process, humanity devalued the beauty, majesty, mystery, awesome power and seemingly endless bounty which nature offered. Consequently, our spiritual link with our ecosystem was severed, eventually spawning the currently arising potential calamity which is Climate Change.
Every early human society and culture found the expression of its most fervent spiritual passion within the inescapable wonder which is our interconnection with every other human being, every living entity and every natural resource on the planet. However, as human technological invention grew and spread, we exalted human pre-eminence over the planet and its resources. In so doing, we not only unleashed our basest narcissistic arrogance, but we placed human desire, greed and the pursuit of fame and wealth above our spiritual passions. Humanity doused the flame of spirit with the waters of self-importance, ultimately leading to the rise of enslaving hierarchies, castes and classes.
In the “cosmic egg” subtext so common to creation myths we can see another rich example of what spirituality originally meant to humanity. I find in the egg story a truly beautiful poetic device which explained creation in a manner consistent with how people of early times understood life. There is a bit of irony here, as well. As a metaphor, the cosmic egg myth beautifully represents the Big Bang. Though the similarity to the Big Bang is certainly an accident, the cosmic egg myth reveals to us a similar truth held within the understanding derived from the Big Bang, and that is our oneness with everything. This oneness with of all of creation underlies every aspect of true spirituality as well as truly pure scientific inquiry.
Consider the symbolism within this presentation of how everything was created. The entire universe is contained within an egg, everything: people, plants, animals, minerals, mountains, seas, darkness and light, the stars, the sky, our Sun and Moon. In this sense, we are all one and the same. We are all born of the same stuff with the same cosmic parents. By the word “we,” I mean the entire universe. When the egg breaks open, all of creation spills forth from the shards of the broken shell, each thing finding its proper and natural home in the cosmos (the expanding universe) or on the Earth (through evolutionary natural selection). In other words, everything wells up out of the same primordial soup, everything is made of the same stuff, everything is interconnected, and everything (and everyone) has equal value and importance. Such a view of the cosmos can only yield a loving point of view among and between all beings and things. This is the core of spirituality.
Another topic I’d briefly like to touch upon regards the Australian aboriginal belief that the Earth was created by one of the gods of Dreamtime. This is richly suggestive of the origins of human spirituality as well as early human beliefs in gods and goddesses, especially as they embody natural forces (fire, rain, etc.). To our most ancient ancestors, dreams must have offered an amazing paradox. On the one hand, dreams and their subject matter are involuntary (although some people claim to be able to exert co-control over their dreams through what is known as lucid dreaming in which the dreamer realizes he/she is in a dream, and consequently, can take charge of the dream from that point forward). However, among early humans, dreams and their contents must also have seemed like alternative ways to explore life. There is a mystical or magical nature to dreams. No matter what the story line, when one awakens, one finds oneself unharmed and back in one’s bed. Additionally, during the dream state, one can surmount the insurmountable, accomplish the impossible, and attain the unattainable. Where else could such a world exist to the minds of pre-Neolithic humanity but in the realm of the gods? This is why I suggest that dreams led to the invention of the concept of gods (which over time evolved into the concept of a single God). I contend that the views of the Australian aborigines on this subject support my hypothesis.
Early humans would have discovered everyone shared the ability to dream. However, there quickly would have arisen within some individuals a deeper understanding for the symbolist nature inherent in dreams. Someone would have seen that the dreams were not real experiences in the sense daily activities are. There were no consequences to events transpiring in dreams, but in daily activity, death was very real. Just as cave painters expressed early human fascinations with art, with expressing the deepest urges within us, early storytellers would have woven together a tapestry of lore and imagined events to devise local creation myths retold and passed on around the campfire, binding the group together. Soon, storytellers would likely have discovered both the mind-altering properties and the medicinal capabilities within a variety of herbs and other plants. The restorative and curative abilities of the herbs would have led the rest of the group to perceive the medicine man/storyteller as possessing magical abilities. The influence those mind-altering properties would have exerted on the medicine men/storytellers probably led to a divergence into two approaches to appreciating the wonder and splendor of the world while giving them an additional authority over the rest of the group.
No doubt, most of the newly emerging medicine men/storytellers remained content to sit around dining room tables and communal eating rooms, warmed by the fire and community, and those medicine men/storytellers would have shared stories from their group’s rich tradition. However, others likely found the means to wheedle and exert power over the group by manipulating their facility with symbolism and fortune telling. Consequently, a third schism occurred. Many would have been seduced by the power they could exert over others, so they would have formed a priestly class, exerting influence on others, and placed themselves high in the hierarchy, right there with the leader. Others, however, likely true seekers for knowledge and divine experience, probably went off to live as hermits.
In these divergences, we see the four main classes of people. Three seek direct knowledge of the divine: the mystic, the spiritual individual and the priest of a religion. The fourth class of people accepts what the priestly class tells it, the group’s religious dogma, and that they cannot have a direct relationship or direct knowledge of the divine. This is how it always was, how it has always been and how it continues to be.
Gaining Awareness of the Higher Self
Everyone experiences moments of exhilarated exuberance which give them an appreciation for all which is and all which can be. In those most lucid of moments, when we find ourselves overcome by the awe and majesty of this infinite, interconnected universe, we gain insight into our individual spiritual nature. Universal Love is the primary emotion experienced and expressed in that context. One also experiences an innate knowingness about all things, a certitude concerning one’s place, and a grand serenity. In bridging one’s reality to not only be aware of the moment, but to comprehend its personal significance in spanning the chasm of all fears and insecurities as we glimpse for the first time our inner originator of thoughts and activator of actions, the true self which manifests its will from within – what many call the Higher Self.
There is an element or quality of consciousness within me greater than the sum of my experiences and which has lived as an adult consciousness within my mind from as far back as I can remember. This more mature version of consciousness from within me often seems to spring forth, offering sudden insights, possible alternatives, and the most passionate of my highest aspirations and emotions. However, when I guide myself by its aims (which I can ascertain by discovering those aims never seem to express a desire for personal gain nor infringe on the free will of others), I find myself always feeling exhilarated as life unfolds and meaning seems to always provide a sense of accomplishment and understanding whether or not material manifestations or trappings of material success appear along with that sense of connection to wonder. In fact, in my life, it invariably seems as if the closer I get in touch with my essential self, the further I must wander away from material reward of any kind, meaning both monetary reward and critical or social acclaim or respect. I’ve learned not to care about those things anymore.
The voice of the Higher Self does not sing songs of self-love, grandeur, wealth, luxury or opulence. The songs it sings are of wonder, awe, nature, beauty, connection, compassion, cooperation, understanding and acceptance. This is where humanity’s spiritual nature resides and how it expresses itself. Our spiritual nature always exposes itself as pure, altruistic Universal Love. When two sentient beings experience each other by expressing from the deepest well of their most true natures, they are living out the will within their Higher Self and expressing it in natural union, creating a self-perpetuating generator out of the cycle of flowing love currents, expressing their honesty, and finding fulfillment and meaning in purpose.
Human beings invented spirituality as a tool in a quest for meaning and fulfillment. They ultimately discover the only fulfillment and meaning which can be derived arise from the search, the greatest meaning and fulfillment to be gained, are gleaned by dedicating one’s life to discovering, unfolding and expressing one’s spiritual nature. In that paradox, we discover that the invention of spirituality occurred as a natural response to our inner yearning to express our inner nature, and which has actually grown to be more than a device for assisting in discovering our unique, individual answers from that inner nature. The quest reveals its own answer; the quest itself confers truth, meaning and fulfillment personified.
“How does one go about making contact with one’s Higher Self?” you may be wondering. There are many systems taught which suggest their approach is the only path to enlightenment. I would take with great skepticism any claims containing the word “only” in the phrase. Honestly, what works for one person may not work for another. Each must find one’s own path to discover oneself. The reason each claims to be the only way is because, for the group of people who find it works for them, nothing else did, but the diversity of people naturally requires there be a diverse number of approaches, each of which will work for someone, and none of which can work for anyone. Certainly, people variously explore: psychiatry, prayer, meditation, yoga, Zen, Kabbalah, ceremonial magick, pathworkings on the paths between the spheres on the Tree of Life, chanting, dancing, drumming, fire walking, vision quests and ingesting hallucinogenic drugs as means of seeking to discover the elusive Higher Self. Sometimes an individual may have to experience many of the different possible avenues to their Higher Self before one of the methods works.
Personally, I’d say it takes the totality of the richness of experience in life along with a deep desire in order to discover your Higher Self. I honestly do not believe it takes more than an intense desire, a lifetime of focus on the desire, a lifetime of meditation and a willingness to listen to the quiet voice from within as it counsels you in what direction to travel, who to meet, where to live, and what to do for work and play. Along with this, one must do one’s best to live as moral and kind and considerate a life as possible. However, that does not mean leaving yourself open to attack or abuse from others. It is always wise to merely extract yourself from a situation or relationship that seeks to make you conform to some other idea of what your purpose and path are than your own inner truth.
Before I go on, allow me to digress for a moment.
The Buddha taught all suffering arises from our karma which itself accrues from our expression of our earthly desires. The Buddha was explaining that our desires are the impediments to our ability to experience our true selves. In other words, our conscious longing to escape ennui through accumulation impedes our ability to discover serene bliss free from our irrelevant, lustful appetites. The Buddha is saying, “You must learn to stop allowing your conscious mind to be in control and demand its way if you want to find peace, contentment, fulfillment and inner harmony.”
Lao-Tze explained through The Tao that one knows one is traveling on one’s proper path when the road beneath one’s feet is no longer rocky. Again, the admonition is to get the conscious mind and its irrelevant interests, only and always designed to puff up one’s self-importance, out of the way of living in harmony and balance. Now, the rocky path may or may not include a rockiness of material desires. The rockiness of which Lao-Tze spoke was of an inner nature. He meant your inner peace and contentment. He spoke of your feeling of peace with the world, your sense of inner righteousness and honesty, that sense of truth to your ideals which only you know and which is the only thing that satisfies your inner nature, and your steadfast focus on whatever causes burning and yearning in your heart. In this sense, Lao-Tze spoke of the same thing which Nietzsche sought and directed us to pursue, each of our individual “will to power.”
By placing that lesson in the context of one’s search for one’s Higher Self, one can begin to see, that when one strives too hard, one consequently gets in one’s own way of finding their true self, which is always right there for one to discover anytime one is finally willing to give up the reins of life. In such a circumstance, one chases away that which one seeks by metaphorically filling up the void in one’s life with one’s one focus on the act of striving instead of just on striving and letting go, knowing the hole will naturally be filled by the universe on its own accord simply because the hole exists. Now, this path is not a path of wealth building. This is not a lifestyle which focuses on accumulating possessions, overindulgence in personal taste, or excessive waste. No, the Higher Self reveres nature and the living force of Universal Love which underlies the basic structure of everything of real value in the universe, none of which ever manifests in material gain, critical acclaim or fame. On strives for one’s yearnings because that process is fulfilling, knowing there are no ends (or rewards which are the material symbol of ends) which create fulfillment.
There is no particular rigor which one can undergo to guarantee one will overcome the audacious tyranny of the ego. Any particular mnemonic device might unlock a trigger in any individual’s mind. That is all each system is, a rigorous attention to mnemonic devices, details which so distract the conscious mind that the supra-conscious mind is able to awaken and forge a link to the Higher Self. It’s also possible that peer pressure can lead to individuals so expecting to have a particular experience that they manifest an illusion of the experience in their own minds. Those illusions can be so strong that the individual may take it for the real thing. All I can say is this, there is a difference in intensity, the authentic experience is so utterly overwhelming that it completely changes one’s outlook on life and thoroughly fills one with so much Universal Love that one feels compelled to share it, though knowing it is impossible to share. If you think you know what to tell someone about it, or if you think you can convey what it is, or if you think you can teach others a method to unlock it, most assuredly, you have not experienced the real thing.
Near-death experiences all yield extremely similar, general emotions and perceptions. NDEs also provide confirmation of individuals’ belief systems, even when among the various people who undergo near-death experiences the varying belief systems to which each subscribed are all confirmed, and even where there existed mutually exclusive dogma among the various experiencers. Thus NDEs make contradictory confirmations. Viewed in this light, the mind seems to be able to manifest what it wants to manifest or needs to manifest under various circumstances and stimuli, thus fostering for every individual during their final conscious moments a sense of completion, righteousness and worth. However, at the same time, near-death experiences do impart the sense of interconnection and intense love providing an approach to the authentic experience of communion with the Higher Self. As such, they open doors in the mind and create psychic links to the Higher Self which can aid the true aspirant in their quest. Some psychedelic experiences are able to accomplish the same process of opening doors facilitating one’s quest for communion with the Higher Self.
However, I think each discipline attempts to get the individual to so focus on the ritual, on the mnemonic, keeping the mind so busy as to ultimately help the individual get the conscious mind out of the way. The problem with these approaches is that, first off, they aren’t honestly explaining what their method is, and second, they make you buy into all the mumbo-jumbo in order to trick the mind into letting go. You can do this for yourself, just train your mind to let go. In fact, if you learn to train your mind to let go, you’ll be way ahead of those who rely on whatever the mumbo-jumbo mnemonic technique is that they use. They actually have to deceive themselves in order to acquire the ability to contact the Higher Self.
Find what works for you and don’t be afraid to experiment. Maybe your mnemonic device will be meditating during a rainstorm, focusing on the clicking sound of the gas heater, and you’ll fly out of your body. Maybe a jolt from some really great acid on your perfect day will ring the morning alarm. Maybe, for you, it will be morning yoga as the sun rises over the ocean, or surfing the perfect wave. You can find it on a hike in the wilderness. You might even be a baby seeing infinity for the first time. I think that living each day consciously aware of the meaning and implication in every single one of our actions is the least we should expect of ourselves and one another. In that process, you will be on your road to unlocking the particular and peculiar personal door which leads to your Higher Self. You can’t be aware of your Higher Self if you are not aware of every action you take, the implications of every utterance you express and the implications of every emotion running its course through your heart. One must be able to stay in the moment and maintain complete focus on and exert control over everything occurring, transpiring, being exchanged and communicated, and everything thought instant by instant.
The starting gate for every, and any, search for one’s Higher Self lies in contemplation of the interconnectivity of everything and everyone. No one can truly express or experience Universal Love who does not grasp that everything in the universe is interconnected. It is contemporary, technological society’s greatest failing not to respect the interconnectivity of all things which has led us to the door of potential catastrophe through human induced Climate Change. The contemporary world attaches value only insofar as marketability and profitability present themselves. Where economic rewards are lacking, captains of industry find no value and, consequently, the land harboring plants and animals (or seas, lakes and rivers) are renovated for use in a commercially profitable venture. When individuals, corporations, nations, cultures and/or societies determine profits as being the only, and greatest, evaluator of value, they express narcissism as the paramount motivation. In so doing, they not only fail to make spirituality a part of their daily lives, they actually devalue spirituality as having any relevance in the contemporary world. Spirituality must remain at the core of what one does and how one acts every bit as much as who one is if one wants to validate one’s life as having purpose, meaning, morals and ethics.
Another important focus for contemplation in the search for one’s Higher Self issues from perceiving the vastness of the universe in conjunction with the miniscule significance of the individual. An appreciation of one’s insignificance lends a second approach toward battling with the conscious ego’s narcissism. Self-importance and self-indulgence have no place on a truly spiritual path. Narcissism and the accumulation of things, position and wealth express the antithesis of spirituality. True spirituality always reveals itself through altruism. One cannot contact the Higher Self as long as one’s primary foci are steeped in self-importance (including the false sense of spiritual importance or a smug sense of spiritual superiority, neither of which vests in any truly spiritual individual who has attained any level of actual spiritual awakening), accumulation of things and/or wealth, publicity, fame, social status and/or physical beauty. All of those concerns remain rooted in the temporal existence, in materialism and/or in self-gratification. The Higher Self not only doesn’t express any of these pursuits, it rejects them as indicators of self-worth. No, to approach the Higher Self, one must transcend all notions of the physical self and hierarchies of status. It is said that attainment of communion with the Higher Self only arises after the death of the ego. I concur with that line of reasoning.
The path to knowledge of, and connecting with, the Higher Self lies in expressing and receiving Universal Love in as many of life’s moments as possible without feeling any need for ego gratification or ego exaltation. One can find many roads to travel in the effort to express Universal Love: giving of one’s time and efforts in charitable causes, promoting kindness and generosity among others, working to clean and protect the environment, advancing ecological causes, investing in peace and non-violence, and expressing courtesy and respect to others. However, one must take care to engage in these activities with the right mind. One should not pursue any of them out of guilt, to improve one’s social position (even, and perhaps even especially, in one’s own eyes), or to consciously seek the Higher Self. Those motivations are all self-serving. One must act rightly for the sake of acting rightly; there can be no thought anywhere within the mind of seeking a reward or expecting a reward. Once that thought enters one’s mind, it chases away the Higher Self at the moment it enters.
Ultimately, the Higher Self reveals its presence to those who incorporate all those strategies for the sake of the joy which arises from expressing altruism, honestly, openly, thoroughly without any conscious regard for self. Love for the sake of loving and give for the sake of giving. Never love with the hope of being loved. Never give with the expectation of receiving a return. Altruism, to be really manifest in one’s life expresses itself without having to think about it. One simply gives up trying to glorify oneself and begins to act with and towards others in a giving, loving manner simply because one knows instinctually this is the way to be, for indeed, that is the truth. Altruism is also selfless from the point of view that no care enters the mind for how one is disadvantaged, encumbered, financially affected or how much time must be invested. By giving others the gift of ourselves, in any and every way, we give ourselves the gift of spiritual attunement with and to Universal Purpose. That, indeed, should be reward enough.
Effecting Change in the World in Conformity with the Higher Self’s Will
This is a topic on which Aleister Crowley wrote volumes, however, his ideas and methods do not necessarily coincide with mine. Nonetheless, much of what I know about this topic I learned through discovery, trial and error, deep contemplation, and finally making contact with my Higher Self.
Before I go on, I’d like to comment on some of the side benefits of entering into communication with the Higher Self. One of the first discoveries I made was an ability to concentrate more deeply and intensely, and for much longer periods. I also discovered I could control my heart rate. Through deep breathing techniques, I could engage the Higher Self for extended periods. Over time, I learned to listen to the still silence within, and out of it came thoughts, ideas, projects and dreams.
The Higher Self actually seeks to communicate with each of us individuals all the time. Most people are too busy to listen or create too much of a cacophony in their life to hear the voice above the din. It’s there, however, always counseling, coaxing, enticing, and trying to lure you onto the path of your heart’s desires. However, if you are so caught up in worldly things, materiality; if you can be seduced by status; if you care about what others think and consequently are driven to conform to whatever may be the rules and styles of the particular group to which you belong, then you’ll never hear that voice and never feel the tug on your sleeve. Consequently, you’ll never know what your heart really does desire.
Knowing your heart’s desire is the most critical aspect in finding fulfillment and in opening the pathway to your Higher Self. This is the aspect of yearning which Nietzsche understood and expressed as the “will to power.” Have you ever noticed how some people are utterly driven to accomplish something in particular? They might be drawn to skateboarding, playing guitar, hitting a baseball, writing poetry, painting canvases, making movies or mountain climbing. It doesn’t matter what the thing is, what matters is the drive, the absolute single-minded focus which cannot be diverted and which must be fulfilled at all costs. This will, this focus, this single-minded drive which cannot be diverted is the expression of the “will to power,” the heart’s desire and the will of the Higher Self.
The Higher Self is connected. “Connected to what?” you might ask. It is connected to the all, to the planetary mind, in other words. It is in communion with the will of the overriding group consciousness. It is in communication with the Higher Selves of others and can work with those others on various levels in a variety of endeavors.
I am convinced that The Beatles were four men who knew their heart’s desire because they were able to tune in to that call from the Higher Self, whether consciously or subconsciously, and work together to achieve a higher end result. The reason they achieved that higher result is that their Higher Selves, when combined, could tune in to the planetary consciousness’ will for change at the same time as they were turned on by universal form of communication which flowed through them when working in combination as a group. Consequently, they dropped out of the traditional merry-go-round and touched an entire generation’s intuitive understanding that The Beatles represented the next evolution. The revolution of human evolution The Beatles led still resonates as can be seen by their continuing popularity nearly 40 years after they broke up. Their ability to call their separate Higher Selves into a single unit and work together as a group touched some part of every Higher Self in my generation and it still touches the Higher Self of every new generation coming into contact with The Beatles’ work. This explains the incredible resonation.
I am also convinced that George Lucas is in contact with his Higher Self, and that the stories he tells so magnificently in his films touch people so deeply because they come from that place deep in his heart, from his true “will to power.” I believe that the stories he tells resonate with the public so pervasively and so deeply because they speak directly to our Higher Selves in much the same way the Beatles communicate to generation after generation. If you look carefully at these two examples, one thing becomes clear immediately, both communicate a positive message, a message of love and peace, a message of freedom and liberty, a message that each, The Beatles collectively and Lucas individually, tuned into be delving into the deepest reaches of their heart’s desires, and turned on the world with in a way that sent shock waves through the culture, demanding a certain change in society, prodding all of us on with a revolution in our collective evolution. But each example completely dropped out of the traditions from which they emerged – The Beatles were four lads from Liverpool who otherwise should have worked on the docks or dug in the mines, and Lucas completely renovated the way movies were made from marketing strategies, to the fascination with outer space, and ultimately even to the methodology of movie making, ushering in CGI and THX sound.
What did all that lead to in terms of cultural awareness and cultural movements? It led to a whole new experience of the Acid Tests, in its own way. The Beatles’ music was, quite literally, acid influenced and with projects like Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts’ Club Band and Magical Mystery Tour helped define what psychedelic meant. They literally turned on the entire world. Lucas did the same thing for the next era and generation, but in a different medium (film). What Lucas gave us hasn’t been called psychedelic, but it certainly qualifies, right down to the religion he invented with The Force. The Beatles spread the initial word of Love. The Force is essentially another manner of advocating Love. Both expanded everyone’s consciousness in the same way Leary and Kesey advocated. They just represented with their art the kind of consciousness change which Kesey and Leary experienced and spread through the use of LSD. At the same time, both are amazing examples of effective use of Nietzsche’s concept of “will to power.” They were so good at expressing their “wills to power,” they brought everyone along on their trips with them.
There is another way in which the Higher Self can effect change in the world. This can be done individually, however, it also requires the cooperation of masses of people, and there must be an underlying attunement with the planetary consciousness and group will, just as with The Beatles and George Lucas. However, one can do this through meditation. If one is sufficiently in tune with one’s Higher Self, one may acquire an understanding of their heart’s desire that is completely different from turning on the world with art, one may affect the collective consciousness in such a way as to induce a change like bringing down the Berlin Wall and ushering out a repressive government like Communism from controlling the minds and lives of half a continent, like in Easter Europe. If it is what one burns to do, one will discover one must, and will, unfailingly focus their meditation on the single-minded goal of their heart’s desire – say freedom from oppression. One will create a symbol for that, for instance something like the Berlin Wall. Then, one will create a mnemonic which will allow the individual to wash away the old order and usher in the new. For instance, one might conceive of a blank wall inside a pyramid temple and, say, call that wall the Wall of Writing the Future. One must then focus all one’s intent on washing away the symbol of oppression, for instance in this case, on tearing down the Berlin Wall, and then, the individual must write on the Wall of Writing the Future, a new order of freedom, independence, liberty and self-determination. There is a careful balance one must exercise in the writing, because one must not overwrite the independent wills and self-determining hopes and dreams of those who must effect the change on their own for themselves and their future. Now, if the timing is right, and if this kind of change lies in the true heart’s desires of the broad mass of people, if this kind of operation is in conformity with the collective consciousness and resonates with the Higher Selves of the broad mass of humanity, then the operation will have an opportunity to take effect and occur in the annals of history. In such an instance, a bloodless revolution can occur and free half a continent from the shackles of a repressive government.
This kind of operation can never be done for personal gain. In other words, one is not able to will the sale of their book or their movie or their album of music. One must be working under the premise of creating a revolution in evolution which is attuned with the principles of non-violence and Love. One must be tuned in to their own Higher Self and working an operation which is a reflection of their burning heart’s desire. One must be able to turn on the spirit of humanity in a positive manner for change which is necessary and for which the time is right. One must be dropping out of an existing order in order to replace it with a new one built on freedom, liberty, peace and Love. One will not be successful if: 1) it does not resonate with the mass group will, 2) one tries to override the free will of the world and/or those who would be affected by the operation, 3) one seeks to advance one’s own reputation or self-image through the operation, 4) it lacks an utter adherence to the principles of altruism on any level, 5) the general timing (in the sense of the period of history and the readiness of the people to initiate the acts, the leaders to acquiesce, and the new order to be instituted) for the operation is not right. However, if all the conditions are ripe, and the operation is conducted out of true Love for humanity and completely adhering to the principles of altruism, then a psychedelic change can occur which will touch the Higher Selves of the broad mass of humanity and revolutionize the hearts and minds of the world.
These are merely examples of what can be accomplished when one meets one’s Higher Self, learns to communicate with that Higher Self, discovers their burning desires and effectively gives up all other interests, devotes oneself exclusively to achieving one’s burning desire without any account for self interests, personal gain, acclaim or popularity and then acts in accordance with one’s “will to power.” One will find the principles of tuning in, turning on and dropping out always invest in such an endeavor. The result is a psychedelicizing of the minds and hearts of humanity into new levels of consciousness which bring about an attunement with freedom, liberty, self-determination, Free Will, peace and Love. This is the true potency of spirituality in humanity.
What you do with that potency is up to you. Not everyone is meant to lead a major change in the culture or political makeup of the world. Most of us will never accomplish much more than learn to adhere to Universal Principles and spread Universal Love in the circle of their acquaintances. However, that in itself is a major accomplishment, and one worth pursuing, because it signifies the revolution of your character which affects the evolution of humanity.
In the end, your spirituality will define you. Is dedicating yourself to the God you had chosen for you by your parents and the culture into which you were born really the measure of your spirituality? Could it be that your sense of connection to nature, to protecting and advancing its unfolding evolution, and your connection to all your brothers and sisters on the planet, and your dedication to living a life of Universal Affluence based on Universal Principles built on a framework and foundation of Universal Love, with or without great wealth, while respecting the wisdom revealed by moderation of appetite is what actually constitutes your spiritual nature? If selflessness is really to be prized above selfishness, as every religion on the planet asserts, then the accumulation of wealth has no place in any moral system.
No, real spirituality ties us together and never divides us. Real spirituality breeds cooperation and understanding. The larger and more diverse the community, the greater and more dispersed must be the spirituality and cooperative framework. This is the underlying foundation for any sustainable, global culture.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
God as Creator
To accept the concept that God created everything requires one to accept that there was a time and a place before there was anything other than God. I am using Sir Isaac Newton’s concepts of time and space in this portion of my discussion on the nature of God because they correspond and conform to the manner in which humans perceive the cosmos. However, to subject this analysis to Einstein’s explanation of the way the universe works and how it exists does not change the outcome of this analysis. The concept of an intelligently designed universe created by an objectively “good” intelligent designer, then, yields the simplistic description: God was; God thought to Godself, “I’m bored; let Me make some stuff.” Then, God made the universe.
Where was this God before God created the universe? God had to have existed in a realm outside the universe. For convenience sake, let’s use the term “God’s home.” “God’s home” may be synonymous with “heaven” for some, but not for others. That is why I choose “God’s home” over a term like “heaven.” This place, “God’s home,” must have been in existence at least as long as God has been in existence. If “God’s home” has existed as long as God has existed, God could not have created “God’s home.” If God and “God’s home” are both eternal but “God’s home” preceded God so God could arise in a place (or “God’s home” came into being simultaneously with God) and therefore was not created by God, then God is not the ultimate creator. However, if God created “God’s home,” then where was God’s residence before the creation of “God’s home?”
One might ask, “Why does there have to be a place where God resides, or at least resided, before God created ‘God’s home?”
If God is the creator, God is the “Prime Mover,” meaning God has a consciousness and created the universe from that consciousness for God’s own purposes. If God does not possess a consciousness, then God has no intelligence. If God has no intelligence, the term God cannot fairly be used to denote an objectively good, thinking creator who created from a willed purpose. Rather, God is just The Big Bang, and everything which followed is accident. In such a condition, the use of the term “God” instead of Big Bang still does not provide meaning to creation, existence, consciousness or life. Within the framework of a belief in God, for creation, existence, consciousness and life to have any meaning, they have to have been created by this conscious being.
Consciousness requires self-awareness. It is only possible to be aware of self if there is something other-than-self of which self can also be aware. All notions of self are derived by dividing the world into things which are self and other things which are other-than-self. Distinctions arise in the awareness of relationships between self and other-than-self. This something which is other-than-self of which God would have had to been aware in order to also be aware of “Godself,” by definition, would have to have been the environment in which God arose. That environment is the place where God dwelt/dwells.
What it all boils down to, quite simply, is that a monad cannot have self-awareness. Without self-awareness, consciousness cannot exist. Without consciousness, there cannot have been a willed creation with meaning. Without a willed creation with meaning, everything which is exists by accident. If everything exists by accident, there is no God.
The word “monad” was a term first applied by a variety of ancient Greek philosophers from the period of human history dominated by pantheistic cultures (including Plato, Aristotle, Pythagoras and Plotinus) to denote the concept of “first being” or the totality of all beings. Once Western Civilization became dominated by monotheism the term applied to the idea of God as a single, supreme being. Gottfried Leibniz used the term to denote the basic unit of perceptual reality. Bertrand Russell subscribed to a theory of knowledge which he based on the concept he termed neutral monism and which was an outgrowth of his earlier theory of logical atomism and was influenced by dialogues he shared with Ludwig Wittgenstein. Essentially, neutral monism provides a framework for dividing up the known and the knowable based on the idea that the universe is comprised of only one kind of stuff, neither physical nor mental, but comprised of neutral elements. This was, to Russell, an objective reality. Russell theorized this objective reality existed a priori (before we came into the world), and do not exist by or in the mind. Russell sought to create, and did create, a new kind of logic by which the subjective reality can be converted into the objective. His method for this was to substitute mathematical symbols for subjective words, and convert a philosophical analysis of any topic into a mathematical equation. In this way, Russell believed the subjective mind could analyze the objective reality which exists outside our minds and when is rendered subjective when considered by the mind. I am incorporating all those ideas in my use of the word.
For everything to exist due to a God-willed act of creation, I contend God cannot be a monad, because I disagree with Russell’s premise that the objective can ever be considered by subjective minds even when employing his method of extracting human subjectivity during the process of analyzing and considering the objective. My reasoning goes a step beyond the platform from which Russell based his criteria for contemplation of a monad. My point is that the monad cannot be conscious in and of itself. As stated above, consciousness only occurs by juxtaposing self with other-than-self, and once we enter that platform of consideration, the monad is rendered one element of a duality, and suddenly subjectivity colors every aspect of that universe. Consequently, if God was a thinking being, then God had to exist as one element of a duality, and God had to be one of two eternal elements – God and God’s environment (Godself and other-than-Godself). Since God had to have an eternal environment for God’s consciousness to exist, that environment had to exist a priori, without God having created it. Consequently, the idea of a God as a conscious, ultimate creator is an impossibility within the parameters of consciousness only being able to exist within an environment also containing something other-than-self as the other part of that duality. Hence, it is impossible for a conscious, ultimate creator to have ever existed. Thus, no single, conscious creator of everything can exist.
To be fair to Bertrand Russell, he did not subscribe to a belief in a conscious creator who created from a willed creation, either. His impulse was to accept the universe as a non-thinking neutral monad, and then to do his best to find a way to try and fathom as many details about that neutral, non-thinking monad which was the universe at the moment of creation and as it then developed. He wanted to reconcile physics, cosmology and human understanding.
God as a Perfect Being
For God to be perfect, God’s creation would also have to be perfect. The universe is far from perfect. Many examples of the imperfection of the universe exist. I will present just a few for convenience sake.
Science has recently discovered that there are super-massive, black holes at the center of every known galaxy. These super-massive, black holes suck up matter and energy which come into close enough proximity. However, they will not suck up all matter in their galaxy. This is one imperfection. If viewed from the idea that God has incorporated the super-massive, black holes as a means of gathering parts of creation back into “Godself,” then the imperfection lies in the failure to set up a system whereby all of God’s creation will eventually be returned to “Godself.” Since the Universe is expanding, it will actually end up with a far different fate, one in which all black holes will eventually die, all energy will be used up, with the sole remnants existing as inert, icy cold bodies drifting off into (or more likely, finally finding a motionless resting place within) the oblivion of eternity. If, on the other hand, setting up a system guaranteeing the return of all of God’s creation into “Godself” is not the purpose, and if a thinking God created this system as part of his plan, then God is imperfect because God has created a system whereby the universe destroys itself willy-nilly – creation is in a constant state of self-destruction – and that is illogical, hence imperfect.
The Sun will, in approximately 5 billion years, burn out, meaning there is a finite period during which life on our planet will be capable of existing. This reveals another imperfection because one observes a limitation on the possibilities for life in our solar system (and consequently, also on our planet). If life on our planet has meaning, to place limitations on the potentialities for that life is a negation of that meaning as well as Free Will unless: 1) God has predetermined a length of time during which meaning will, can or must unfold (in that case God has placed a limitation on both Free Will and meaning), 2) God has a finite period of existence (in which case God cannot be God), or 3) God already knows what is going to occur and when the end of life on Earth is reasonable to occur (in which case there is no point to creating anything since the outcome of everything is already determined – again, displaying a negation of Free Will).
It is a statistical imperative that at some future point in time a large object from space will impact the Earth and destroy all life on the planet. Actually, science is sure this has happened at least once, and science is coming to believe perhaps many times, in the planet’s past, revealing an obvious imperfection as the argument folds back into a recapitulation of the discussion regarding the Sun above.
Disease exists on our planet. If God created everything, then disease is also one of God’s creations. Disease is an impediment to the potential for individual consciousnesses to reach whatever those consciousnesses’ ultimate states might be, exhibiting yet another imperfection.
Stillborn consciousnesses (the term being used is not meant to include aborted life; the term “stillborn consciousnesses,” as used here, only intends to relate to natural stillbirths) exhibit an imperfection in “God’s perfect plan” insofar as those consciousnesses never have any opportunity at all to achieve any of their potential. If the bodies of such stillborn life are merely potential vessels for consciousness but not yet containing consciousness, their creation and death prior to becoming imbued with consciousness is also an imperfection since that means there was no point to the creation of any stillborn fetus at all!
Young children die before having a chance to discover their potentialities let alone the opportunity to aspire to reach any of those potentialities. What is the point of that? There is neither fairness nor equability toward providing full opportunities for the expression and experience of life to some “souls” and not to others, exposing yet another example of imperfection in “God’s perfect plan,” since it indicates God plays favorites in terms of one soul over others.
Some people are born into relatively affluent, free and productive societies. Other individuals are born into abject poverty, rife with disease and possessing little or no chance for any real improvement in the quality of their lives. Again, we are presented with an example of an imperfection in “God’s perfect plan” due to preferential treatment for some souls over others. Why would God play favorites? If God does play favorites, then God has biases, making God a bigot, imperfect, and again, in that case, not God.
How about the continued presence of an appendix in the human anatomy? Why did God give us one if we never needed it? If we did need it at one time, we don’t any longer. So, why does God force humans to keep being born with an irrelevant organ which sometimes leads to death? Requiring humans to continue being born with an appendix expresses another imperfection in God’s creation.
These are just a few examples relevant to God being imperfect. I do not believe there remains a need to provide more. In a God created universe, which would have to be exemplary of a perfect creation containing a plan for humanity for God to be perfect and have created a perfect plan, that universe must, by its very nature, provide equal opportunity for all of God’s creations to realize the ultimate meaning inherent in God’s plan. Since the universe which exists does not provide that framework, the creation itself is imperfect. If the creation is imperfect, so is the creator. If God is imperfect, God is not God, and again, God does not exist. So, in either postulation, God cannot exist.
God as Eternal
For God to be the ultimate creator, God must have always existed and must always exist. That means God is timeless, extant prior to the beginning of time and beyond the point when time will cease to exist.
Before we can analyze this concept, it would behoove us to define time. Einstein proved that neither space nor time is a separate entity. Space and time are interwoven into a single, unified whole which science now calls spacetime. I don’t believe it is incumbent upon me to recapitulate the Einsteinian explanation of the universe in minute detail. I do want to relate the famous story of what led a young Einstein to fascinate on the apparent incongruities pertaining to Newton’s explanations of gravity and then give a brief explanation of Einstein’s findings. To do so, I will relate a brief synopsis of the famous story on how Einstein sought the answer to the riddles of what are space and time, and how he comprehended gravity and light functions.
Einstein came to his discoveries as a result of conducting research into a puzzling quandary upon which he pondered as a teenager. If one could travel at the speed of light, one ought to be able, then, to look at and perhaps grasp a particle of light which would be traveling along next to one at the same speed. “What would that particle of light look like?” he wondered. The point of view Einstein was trying to arrive at is: if he and light could be traveling at the same speed, then light should appear motionless in relation to him. However, according to the equations formulated by James Clerk Maxwell in the 1820s, it is impossible for light to appear motionless, even to an object moving at the same speed as light and even if moving in the same direction. Einstein’s goal was to make sense of that paradox.
One of the conclusions of Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity is that light does not require a medium through which to travel in order to be able to travel. In other words, light can travel through emptiness. If one takes a particular beam of light heading in a particular direction, logically, that beam should appear to be traveling somewhat less than 670 million miles per hour relative to one’s own movement and perception if one is chasing that beam. However, just as logically, that beam of light should appear to be traveling somewhat faster than 670 million miles per hour relative to an individual’s perception if the individual is running in the opposite direction, again relative to one’s own speed (the definition of speed being the distance traveled divided by the length of time elapsed while traveling that distance). Every experiment conducted out from that logical basis (that logical basis being the Law of Gravity according to Isaac Newton and the properties of light and light speed as revealed by James Clerk Maxwell) still explained that light always travels at 670 million miles per hour. It does not matter if you measure the speed of light against a stationary object or an object in motion and it doesn’t even matter in which direction the object might be moving. The speed of light is constant to everything.
The only way for Einstein to approach this paradox was to arrive at some different conclusions from those Newton had regarding the nature of space and time. Einstein made a brilliant leap of deduction. Space and time are relative. They are relative to that which perceives them. Einstein discovered that space and time adjust themselves to whatever attempts to perceive them. The relativity can be explained in the following way. Everything in our physical universe moves through both space and time. If a thing is stationary in space, it is still moving through time. However, when something changes from stationary in space to at motion in space, some of the motion through time is converted into motion through space. Likewise, if something is moving through both space and time, and then comes to a stationary position in space, the process of motion through space is slowed and correspondingly converted to motion through time.
This is how Einstein showed the relativity of the spacetime continuum. One cannot exist in space without also existing in time and an individual’s motion through one dimension affects the corresponding motion through the other dimension. The degree one moves through space affects the degree to which one moves through time. The fact that they affect one another indicates that the two are inextricably interwoven. Hence, they are not two things, but rather, two expressions of interrelated properties of one thing. Space and time are a singularity: spacetime.
Now, let’s get back to the question regarding the possibility of an eternal God’s existence. The result arrived upon from understanding Einstein’s discoveries is to realize time is not a thing. Time is a measurement relative to the existence and location of matter. Since time is a process, not a thing, nothing can be said to be eternal. Since God is not matter, God has no relationship to space, time or spacetime other than the unsupportable allegation that God created them. Furthermore, God cannot be reduced to being a measuring device, which is all time is.
The only apparent way to perceive time, as science has recently discovered, is through a place in the core of the brain which constantly beats as it also constantly requires specific neurons to fire. This activity records the passage of time in the brains for all life which has a brain. Plants and microbes also have encoded in their DNA mechanisms for marking the passage of time. If God is not physiological, then God cannot even perceive time. To define God in relation to time reduces the whole concept of God to both a contradiction and an absurdity.
One can assert that the statement, “God is eternal,” is just another way of saying God transcends the measuring device of time. One can even go on and say, God transcends both measuring devices: space and time, or in the world according to Einstein, God transcends spacetime. I accept each of those statements in the sense that I agree, both would have to be true for a God to exist. If a God exists, that God cannot be of the physical universe because that God would have created that physical universe and the creator cannot also be that which the creator created. Hence, God could not have a relationship to space, time or spacetime other than to have been their creator if, indeed, God exists and is the conscious, original creator.
As previously indicated, spacetime is nothing more than a measuring device anyway, and God cannot be reduced to a measuring device and remain a sentient, conscious being. I would also have to point out that is all any of these concepts are, measuring devices convenient for humans to use in order to impose some sense and order amid chaos, to quantify and qualify human experience in terms humans can comprehend, and to facilitate ways of exchanging information between one another. Consequently, neither space, nor time, nor spacetime can be used as a definition for God or as principles or qualities which express God since none has any relationship to any non-corporeal thing or being. God cannot be eternal, since there is no such thing as eternity and God cannot be merely a process, quality, attribute or measuring device and still be a sentient creator.
I would like to introduce one last point on this topic. If we accept God as the creator of everything, then God created spacetime, and that act of creation occurred, logically, before God created anything else. To qualify something as eternal is to define something with relation to time. In other words, to say God is eternal would be to qualify God in terms of that which God created. The creator cannot be the creation, nor can the creator be quantified or qualified by the creation. God cannot be space, time or spacetime because those are things that God created. Since, under this view, God created spacetime, God cannot be spacetime or eternal in relation to spacetime because eternity is a quality, concept or quantification found only in spacetime.
God as an All-Knowing Being Who Granted Humans Free Will
These two qualities and principles used to express God are mutually exclusive, which is why I combined them. If God is all-knowing, then we cannot have Free Will. If we have Free Will, then God cannot yet know what we are going to do. Hence, in that scenario, God cannot be all-knowing.
The reader may wish to assert that God is eternal (neither defined by time nor bound by time) and gave us Free Will, but because God is eternal, and God, being God, is capable of time travel, God has already seen what we will do with Free Will, and in that sense God remains all-knowing. If that is the case, there is no logical purpose to creating anything. In that scenario, God already knew what an eternity of human activity would reveal, even during the moment of creation. So what was the purpose to making all of us suffer when God already knew the outcomes of our lives? If one answers, “To make sure,” then one reduces God to either being imperfect, to not being all-knowing, or both.
One might also assert that God exists outside space, time and spacetime; where existing outside means that God would have to be other-than-physically manifesting as either energy or matter. In such a scenario’s supposition, God would have created the universe and everything in it as a willed creation. However, once created, God would lose the ability to affect the progress of creation. “Why?” you might ask. God, by being other-than-physically manifesting, could neither be energy nor matter as well as neither dark energy nor dark matter. Hence, Godstuff, whatever, where ever, and whenever that may be, would have to cede the ability to have an effect on the creation which is made up of energy and matter. God cannot affect energy and matter if Godstuff is neither matter nor energy.
I would like to interject a side topic which is casually related to the above discussion. The inability for any other-than-physically-manifesting-God to affect spacetime, results in the understanding that no attributions to gods and goddesses for abilities to exert control over certain functions, relationships and natural phenomena can be made as having any foundation in reality since such claims become irrational and impossible. Likewise, the ideas that some Creator had conversations with humans like Abraham or Moses, or that such a Creator could cause miracles to occur in battle, form stone tablets out of rock, or cause to occur any other erstwhile impossible event or occurrence, are just as much also irrational beliefs in impossibilities. Furthermore, the Creator could not have expressed God’s word into the minds of those who wrote God’s book; nor could this Creator have sent God’s “Son” onto the Earth to sacrifice himself so that humanity would be lifted from the burden of “original sin” which was bestowed upon everyone equally. Again, each of these allegations are founded on beliefs in irrational impossibilities since that Creator is neither energy nor matter, and consequently is incapable of interacting with energy or matter.
Besides, what kind of unjust God is still making people pay for Adam and Eve taking a bite from a piece of fruit off a tree? Of course, we know, the bite of fruit was actually a metaphor for sex. Still, why would God forbid sex (or make of it a taboo) in the Garden of Eden, and yet, once Adam and Eve were expelled from their home, why would that same God tell them to go forth, be fruitful and multiply? These are incongruous inconsistencies emblematic of having been conceived and written by fallible humans and not some kind of actual historical description of the machinations of an infallible God. The concept of original sin was a great way for religious leaders to make sure all succeeding generations would be indoctrinated with the same propaganda, thereby perpetuating the influence of a priestly aristocracy of the wealthy and well-positioned over everyone else.
To be all-knowing, and therefore cognizant of the outcome of all efforts and processes throughout eternity, and yet to have continued with creating everything, evinces no degree of rationality or logic. For God to be God, God must be perfect. To have created from an illogical and/or irrational perspective of causing suffering, especially when knowing the incredible suffering which would be inherent in the creation, renders this God the Creator irrational, illogical and sadistic. If God acts illogically and irrationally, then God is imperfect, and hence, not God.
Why would an all-loving creator bring us into a world of suffering? There is nothing truly loving about that. Why would an all-loving creator provide greater opportunities for personal expression and experience for some over others? I don’t see anything truly loving about exhibiting preferential treatment for some over others, to do so is to express biases. An all loving God would not have endemic prejudices. Why would an all-loving God create a world contaminated by disease? There is no love in subjecting the objects one loves to diseases which run the gamut from mildly annoying to painfully fatal. Why would an all-loving God allow anyone to be born in areas where famine exists? There is no love in starving one’s own creation. Why would an all-loving God allow some infants to be stillborn? That would not be the expression of a truly loving being, since it reduces God to being a “degifter” (the term “degifter” is a variation of the term “regifter” coined and used by the Seinfeld television show) – one who takes back one’s gift before the recipient can enjoy any benefits of the gift.
Given the universe God has allegedly created for us, if there is a single Creator, that single Creator, God, cannot be all-loving.
God as a Being Who Has a Plan to Allow All Humans to Ultimately Join with God
I only see three modes of expression through which this can occur.
One possibility, yielding two modes of expression, is that God created a “heaven” where all the “good” people go when they die. In this theory, humans have to be permitted either one opportunity to earn a right of entry into heaven [mode of expression one], or multiple opportunities (reincarnation) [mode of expression two].
The third mode of expression arises out from a theory whereby only one consciousness exists in the entire universe: God’s consciousness. Pieces of God’s consciousness would be said to be imbued upon humans (our consciousness does not reside in our body), or transferred into humans (human bodies are the vessels which contain consciousness), enabling all people to experience as much of life as possible. At the end of each individual’s existence, that piece of God’s consciousness would then reunite with the greater God consciousness and all the experiences, thoughts, feelings, emotions, desires and actions of the incarnated consciousness would be reincorporated with, or reunited into, the collective God consciousness becoming part of God.
Let’s look at these one by one.
If we only get one lifetime to earn our right of entry into “heaven,” there must also be a place where those who are unsuccessful in earning that right are sent, in other words, “hell.” The creation of a place like “hell” would not be an expression of will from an all-loving God. An all-loving God would want every being created to ultimately find a place in “heaven” with God. For God to create a system which damns some souls to “hell” means that God created an imperfect system in the first place because God failed to create a system allowing for all beings to reach perfection. Again, if God created something imperfect (imperfect beings who cannot attain a place in “heaven”, and a system which is imperfect because in that system some beings are imperfect as well as because the system does not devise an avenue for all of creation to earn the right to enter “heaven”) that makes God imperfect, meaning God is not God, and no God exists.
If God is all-knowing, there is no purpose to proving through deeds that, as individuals, any of us has earned the right of entry into “heaven.” God would already know which of us will and which of us won’t earn that right of entry. In that case, God need only create those beings who God knows will earn their place in “heaven” and never create any of the individuals who God knows will not earn that right of entry. For God to have done otherwise only reduces God to the level of being an imperfect being who created an imperfect universe.
To assert that the creation of the beings who will not earn a right of entry into “heaven” is necessary for those souls who will earn that right of entry to accomplish their goal is to reduce God to being: 1) imperfect, because God created the imperfect souls who will not reach the goal, 2) not all-loving, because God created souls who will be damned, 3) not all-knowing, because God has to set up a laboratory experiment to prove which souls will earn their place in “heaven,” and 4) God doesn’t trust God’s own foreknowledge of events. All four items signify, again, God is imperfect, so, not God.
If one impinges awareness upon the postulation that God created all human beings, then one must come to realize that under the theory that humans get one chance to earn their right of entry into “heaven,” one uncovers within the doctrine no allowance for any evolution of the human species or soul. The failure to incorporate an evolution of the species and the soul in any spiritual system imposes a deterrent to the potential for each human to eventually reach the goal of entry into “heaven.” You see, without an evolutionary arc for humans to travel, one becomes forced to accept that all human beings are, and always will be, imperfect.
The imposition of the tenet that all humans are, and always will be, imperfect (the real intent for denying the possibility of an evolution of souls lies in the position of authority which religious hierarchies can wield over the masses and extend in direct proportion to the degree of guilt which can be imposed by those hierarchies upon the broad mass of humanity) yields commensurate limitations that a) God created imperfection, so b) God is, ultimately and eventually, going to allow some imperfect humans into “heaven,” hence, c) God is reduced to being imperfect for having created imperfect humans, imperfect for allowing some of those imperfect humans into an allegedly perfect “heaven,” and actually, “heaven” is, ultimately, also rendered imperfect because of the presence of imperfect humans in “heaven.”
Let’s look next at the theory of reincarnation. At the time of this writing, there reside on the Earth some 6.6 billion people. However, we also know there have never before been that many people alive at one time. For instance in the late 1960s, it was estimated that there resided on the Earth less than half that amount (about 3.25 billion). My initial and most obvious objection to the premise that humans reincarnate in a variety of lifetimes until each individual, reincarnating spirit has perfected itself and thereby earned the right of “union with God,” is that there is no adequate explanation for the proliferation of human souls as the number of incarnations present on our planet has grown, and continues to grow, exponentially over time. One would expect God would have created all the souls in the beginning, incarnated them at that point in time, and then the roster of souls would be slowly diminishing as souls, slowly over eons, one by one, earn their right of entry into “heaven” or into “union with God” and no longer must reincarnate.
Since that is not the case, where do all the new souls come from? Does God constantly create new souls? If not, where do the souls dwell until they have the opportunity to incarnate? It can’t be “heaven” or in “union with God” if they have not yet earned the right to reach what is alleged as being the goal of existence. It would be illogical for God to allow all the souls to exist in the “goal state” prior to having earned that right and then later force those souls to incarnate in order to earn, over eons of reincarnations, the reward of reaching the goal. When one views the ever-expanding population census, one wonders, why does God force some souls to incarnate before others? There is neither logic nor equability in that kind of system.
Another objection arises from a forward view of the theory of reincarnation. The last objection looked backwards over time. This one looks into the question of the future.
Let’s look at recent trends in population growth. There were approximately 3.25 billion people on the planet in 1970, whereas by 2005, the planet contained some 6.5 billion people. The numbers essentially doubled in the 35 year period which is called a generation. So, it seems in another 35 years we will at least double our population again. If we can’t feed, house, clothe, care for the health of, and meaningfully employ to a reasonable level of prosperity the 6.6 billion people residing here now (2008 estimates), how are we going to provide for the needs of 13 billion in 2050, and 26 billion in 2085 and 52 billion in 2115, etc.?
The refuse created by the 6.6 billion of us presently in existence is destroying our planet. The seas are becoming too polluted to sustain many coral reefs, which are the basis for life in the oceans. There are indications that the Great Barrier Reef and the coral reefs in the Caribbean are both dying. [In July of 2003, a team of United Kingdom scientists compiled data from 263 separate reef sites in the Caribbean. Their study revealed the coral cover of the reefs in the Caribbean has dropped by about 80% during the last three decades. “A lot of the important causes come from things people are doing on land, like pollution, sedimentation resulting from development, and deforestation,” said study author Isabelle Cote, a biology professor at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England.] We are warned that tuna (and all other ocean life caught, processed and sold to the public as edible food) contains toxins like mercury which are hazardous to human consumption due to the toxins in the oceans in which the sea life resides and which is the result of human activity. We treat the oceans as both sewer and pantry!
We have depleted the ozone layer to such a degree that it is unsafe to spend much time in the sun without wearing protective clothing or sunscreen lotion. To be fair, ozone depletion seems to have started to enter a phase of reversal at this point. In a study published by the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences in September of 2005, scientists inform us that the decline in ozone levels stopped during the period from 1996 to 2002, and there even appear increases in some areas of the ozone. However, we are warned that it could still take decades to restore the ozone layer to its original state. Additionally, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released information in May of 2006 stating that there has been a decline in two chlorofluorocarbons which cause depletion of the ozone layer, so the ozone’s outlook is trending toward a general improvement, I am happy to report. However, the new discovery in 2009 that rocket launches also deplete the ozone and the rise in the number of launches as well as the number of nations planning and executing launchings creates a potential for even greater ozone depletion in the future, so let’s not get too overjoyed about the ozone recovery just yet.
The air we breathe contains toxins, which are becoming ever-more hazardous too, and not just to us, but to trees, plants and all other life on the planet as well. This effect extends even to our oceans. A July, 2005 report by the Royal Society, the United Kingdom’s leading scientific academy, indicates that rising carbon levels caused by the burning of fossil fuels had dramatically increased the acidity of seawater. This threatens the oceans’ ecosystems. Negative effects threaten plankton, coral, shellfish and starfish. Larger marine life may face extinction as they find it increasingly more difficult to extract oxygen from the seawater and their food supplies dwindle. Climate Change and ocean acidification combine to pose a threat to tropical and subtropical reefs, such as Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and the hundreds of thousands of species which live off them. This will also have negative effects on human communities who depend on the reefs for food and as natural coastal defenses to tides and tsunamis. Professor John Raven, chair of the Royal Society working group on ocean acidification has said that the burning of fossil fuels over the past two centuries has changed the chemistry of the oceans at a rate which was 100 times faster than occurred naturally for millions of years.
We funnel so many greenhouse gases into the atmosphere that we are already seeing the effects in disrupted weather patterns, increased storm activity and severity, more severe and more numerous forest fires, and the slow but constant melting of not just the polar ice caps, but also sea ice and the last remaining glaciers in North America, Greenland, Iceland and Europe. Not only will this raise ocean levels, but it will also dry up humanity’s (and all other planetary life’s) sources for fresh water. There won’t be enough water for everyone to drink once the glaciers have all melted. Meanwhile, population totals continue to increase, using up all our planet’s resources at rates which continue to increase exponentially.
“An analysis of 20 years’ worth of real-life observations supports recent U.N. computer predictions that by 2050, summer sea ice off Alaska’s north coast will probably shrink to nearly half the area it covered in the 1980s, federal scientists say. Such a loss could have profound effects on mammals dependent on the sea ice, such as polar bears, now being considered for threatened species status because of changes in habitat due to global warming. It could also threaten the catch of fishermen. In the 1980s, sea ice receded 30 to 50 miles each summer off the north coast, said James Overland, a Seattle-based oceanographer for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. ‘Now we're talking about 300 to 500 miles north of Alaska,’ he said of projections for 2050.” [“Scientists: Dramatic sea ice loss by 2050”, Planet in Peril series, CNN, September 7, 2007.] By the spring of 2008, scientists anticipated that 2008 would be the first year in which North Pole sea ice would completely melt. By mid-July, Russian scientists had to pack up laboratories and return home because the sea ice was rapidly disappearing. It seems, in spite of claims made by Republicans, the Automobile Industry and Big Oil for the last 30 years that Climate Change is a hoax, projections by scientists are not only proving true, but the effects of Climate Change are occurring much more rapidly. In a study released in April of 2009, scientists had discovered that the rise in temperature of the planet had occurred to a level of 5 degrees C (9 degrees F) during the period from 2005 to 2008, and amount that scientists had not expected in their models to occur until 2070! We are roughly anywhere from 40 to 60 years ahead of the schedule previously anticipated. That fact portends some serious exposure to calamitous events in the not too distant future.
The ultimate effects of the ever-increasing accumulation of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere is, perhaps (giving those scientists hired by oil companies and automobile makers to protect the business interests of those corporations a benefit of doubt to which they really are not entitled), debatable to varying degrees. However, there is no denying we are altering the climate of our planet at an increasingly and alarmingly rapid pace. That cannot be good.
Now, why would an all-loving God, who is also all-knowing, continue to cause the planet to be proliferated with ever-increasing numbers of human souls, in a manner guaranteed to ultimately result in the elimination of all life on our planet? Is it so that God can amuse “Godself” watching humans reincarnate until each reaches perfection? Furthermore, why would this God create a system (reincarnation) guaranteed to exacerbate the problem by continuing to create new and additional souls with which to overpopulate our planet by doubling planetary population every 35 years?
If reincarnation is part of God’s plan, then the geometric increases in our population are due to God’s plan, which includes ever-increasing numbers of souls (the creation of babies would not be humanity’s fault for failing to control natural urges, but God’s for creating souls to indwell those babies as part of his system of creation as well as for creating those natural human urges which lead to overpopulation). These are signs of a fallible God, with no clear plan for humanity, who does not love us enough to protect us from our own self-destructive instincts, and who, in fact, gave us those self-destructive instincts in the first place, if indeed this God exists and created us.
Why would God even give us self-destructive instincts? After all, if God created us, he also had to have created our instincts. Why would God create a system which enables us to rush headlong into increasing levels of all these dangers as our population continues to grow exponentially with neither an instinct to control our procreative urges, nor the group will to act on the scientific intelligence which sees the ramifications of our actions and seeks to warn us so we can save ourselves from the impending calamity?
None of this is the work of either an intelligent design or an intelligent designer. If anything can be truly said about the state in which we find ourselves, it was ill-conceived, rife with imperfections, biased with prejudices for some souls over others, and guaranteed to lead to mass suicide. We are like lemmings, rushing as fast as we can toward the precipice. Unfortunately for the rest of life on the planet, we seem intent on taking all of that profligate beauty and myriad diversity right along with us into oblivion. I don’t think humanity does itself any favors by attributing everything which occurs to the will of God (instead of taking personal responsibility).
“What about the possibility which I posed where we might all be pieces of a single consciousness which is God consciousness, and we were created so God consciousness could experience the infinite possibilities of the universe, and all our pieces of God consciousness ultimately reincorporate or reunite with God consciousness after death?” you might ask.
Well, one problem with this is it reduces God to no longer being all-knowing. This God requires the experience of life to know life. Another problem is that, again, it reduces God to a fallible being, since all our actions and thoughts are the actions and thoughts of pieces of God’s consciousness, yet we are imperfect as evidenced by the imperfections of our actions and thoughts, hence so would be God by definition and extension since all those actions and thoughts would be God’s actions and thoughts under that theory, even the actions of men like Hitler, Napoleon and Stalin. It is also true, in this system, that all our wars could be reduced to the understanding of God fighting “Godself” since everything would be a piece of God and every action an integral piece of God’s experience. This of course, renders the notion of God utterly absurd.
Furthermore, that theory of existence would mean we don’t even really exist, that only God really exists. Hence, God would have no plan for humanity outside of God’s own desire to experience through human units and the only thing God could ever understand is more about “Godself.” Captain James T. Kirk of the Starship Enterprise would probably ask, “Why does God need to experience anything?”
The lack of logic within this potential explanation of God’s plan as unveiling through reincarnation is patently absurd and irrational, rendering any God one might postulate as existing, and as being the creator of that system, equally irrational and absurd.
God Gave Human Consciousness the Means of Surviving Beyond Death
Once the brain is dead, apparently, consciousness ceases. That can be inferred because consciousness in humans is dependent on the presence of a fully functioning brain. Where ever brain functions are diminished or enhanced, we observe a like decrease or increase in mental functioning exhibited by the individual. In a coma, the mind shuts down and stops registering new data. Consequently, we can infer that once the brain has stopped functioning upon death, the organ necessary to access consciousness ceases to function. Logically, that would indicate the end of consciousness based on what we can infer from impaired and enhanced consciousness and their relationship to the brain. If, indeed, that is the end of consciousness, then there is nothing of us left to exist in an afterlife. If there is nothing of us left, there can be no afterlife. However, to deny the existence of life after death, all one need do is realize that there is absolutely no evidence of any kind whatsoever to suggest there is any kind of life after death.
Do Buddhist or Taoist Systems of Thought Provide an Apprehension of God?
Neither Buddhism nor the Tao are religions. They are more aptly described as philosophies which provide some meaning to life and offer suggestions on modes of right living. It is also true that neither Buddhism nor the Tao contain any belief in the existence of a “supreme being.” They also contain no references advocating the existence of a “supreme being.” Tibetan Buddhism does posit a realm called the Bardo which is an afterlife existence. Really, the stories associated with it are about as ancient and plausible as those the ancient Egyptians told regarding the Underworld and ancient Hebrews related concerning the hierarchies of heaven. Zen Buddhists conceive of satori, and other Buddhists conceive of Nirvana. However, these are not accurately attributed to an afterlife. They are states of perfect oneness which any individual may attain during their lifetime, but not after.
Most humans believe in a God of some type, and most of those believers are members of some faith or religion. In 1999, a Gallup Poll revealed that 86 percent of Americans believed in God and an additional 6% believed in the existence of a “universal spirit” or “higher power.” So, 94% of Americans in 1999 shared a common belief in the existence of a “supreme being” and that the universe is the result of a willed creation by that “supreme being.” One should contemplate the comfort most gain from a belief that, no matter how bleak things may be now or at any time in one’s life, God will equitably settle all scores. In a world where universal justice does not exist, the idea of an authority higher than any human who will ultimately mete out real justice makes living amid injustice more bearable.
Certainly, another factor assuring the perpetuation of belief in God and the various religions preaching God’s existence arises from the practice of parents in submitting their children to religious indoctrination prior to a time when the child is really able to grasp all the concepts under discussion, weigh out all the arguments and come to a reasoned decision on what they choose to believe. No, parents fail to respect the rights of their children to self-determination and Free Will with regard to beliefs on the issues of creation, origin, ethics, morality and what happens when one dies. Instead, they unwittingly cooperate with those who are intent on indoctrinating everyone possible into their faith, since those parents are taught to believe it is their duty to save the souls of their children. Thus, the doctrines are implanted in minds too young to argue. Then, the belief system is reinforced by the threat of an eternity of hellfire and damnation. In this way, superstition is passed on from generation to generation.
An underlying, inherently pessimistic view of humanity permeates Judeo-Christian dogma. Allow me to explain this assessment by introducing the following, brief critique. Consider that both Judaism and Christianity believe humans are incapable of evolving either as more perfect beings or into perfected societies on their own. Each suggests an end time will occur, and that only God (or Jesus, or both, perhaps even including angels depending on which version of many to which you may subscribe) will be able to settle the disputes by saving the faithful and damning everyone else. After completing the cleansing of humanity (if we did it to ourselves, we’d call it genocide), God will raise from the dead all those departed who God determines as being worthy of salvation. They will then either live forever in the new Eden on Earth or they will ascend to heaven to be with God (depending on the particulars of each religious sect).
The point is that the dogma becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. This is the case because nearly everyone (at least in the Western world) is indoctrinated into the Judeo-Christian belief system and, on some subconscious level whether they choose to consciously believe in that dogma or not, learns to believe humanity will never solve its own problems. They believe “The Fall” made it inherently impossible for humans to overcome their base, animal natures and urges.
Most humans already invest themselves with what they consider the knowledge that humanity will eventually destroy itself. Because of that belief, there is no sense of urgency with regard to ending conflicts, learning to get along, living in harmony with nature, reversing Climate Change, or even ridding the nations of the world of all atomic weapons. No, every potential avenue to abet self-destruction is safely guarded for that moment in the future when God wills a complete genocide of humanity. Remember, according to dogma, this moment is to be rejoiced. This will bring the end, judgment, and redemption for the worthy. Heck, why wait for God to will it? Let’s get started right now! This is how “conventional wisdom” is informed, and how civilizations commit suicide.
A particular incongruity strikes me. The “so-called” Christian Coalition (those who backed George Bush in his two runs to the Presidency, and who also supported the war in Iraq) seems to be populated by people who believe in the Apocalypse and/or the Rapture. George Bush counts himself among those believers. If these people decide to read current events as signaling the “end times,” they might abet the cataclysm. [In 2008, it was found that 22% of all Christians in the United States believe that the Rapture will occur in their lifetime and an additional 22% believe the Rapture will probably occur in their lifetime. So, 44% of Christian-Americans possess a belief which gives rise to an inherently vested interest in assuring that the Rapture does occur in their lifetimes, meaning they may vote in a Jim Jones and Jonestown-like manner to accelerate and/or guarantee the war which they believe will hasten the onset of the Rapture, or at least they are predisposed to vote in such a manner due to the influence of sermons they hear from preachers advancing that point of view.]
Here is where I find the incongruity. First, let’s assume for a moment the belief system is accurate. How would one ever be certain the times one is living through are the end times? I know there are certain “signs” to which believers subscribe which suggest the immanence of the Apocalypse, and that some of those “signs” are alleged to have recently taken place. However, there is a degree of interpretation which also must be put into consideration to determine the validity of the “signs.” What if this is not the time God has set for the Apocalypse? What if people have their interpretations wrong? (After all, people made the same claims regarding the immanence of the Apocalypse around the year 1000 A.D., too! They sure were wrong.)
These people could destroy the world before God is ready, before God’s timing for the Rapture. Would this not (to paraphrase Jim Morrison) cancel their subscription to the resurrection? Furthermore, if they acted to cause, promote, incite, exacerbate or proliferate some conflict, would they not be as culpable in the eyes of God as any other participant in causing the Apocalypse?
What is the criteria determining one’s worthiness for redemption? Is the criteria determining the worthiness of individuals merely their belief in God and Jesus? One’s complicity in destroying life on the planet is irrelevant in God’s eyes? I do not understand why believers do not see just how this particular tenet of their faith is completely antithetical to the rest of the dogma, and any sane notions of what God’s essence would have to be for the God to be as they otherwise claim him to be.
Another significant aspect of the Judeo-Christian tradition rears its ugly head in the dogma contained within the pages of the Bible stating that God selected a specific group of people to be the “chosen” people. God not only selected this group (the Hebrews of the Old Testament) but also presented the chosen ones with the gift of God’s words. A real God, a universal God who is God for all people (assuming God created all people as God would have to have done to be the ultimate creator and not just some of the people) would not select any one group over all others and proclaim that group as chosen favorites. Such a God is reduced to a bigot who intends to perpetrate genocide on every human not among God’s chosen. This kind of attribute sounds like it must come from a time when modern humans (Cro-Magnon) were eradicating their planetary competition (Java Man, Neanderthal, etc.).
Consider for a moment weighing the differences between religion and philosophy. Hegel pointed out that religions tell us what to believe and adherents must acquiesce if they are to maintain any hope of salvation. Philosophers reject the notion of accepting others’ dogma unquestioned. In philosophy, one finds a variety of systems, all of which keep evolving, and everyone is expected to subject each to rigorous scrutiny, thereby each individual works out for themselves the truths which resonate most with their unique viewpoint and total life experience. It is expected that each individual’s understanding will evolve over time, modified by life experiences, new data, and breakthroughs in science or other gains in knowledge. As each individual evolves, so does the society comprised of those evolving individuals. Consequently, societies and cultures evolve. Philosophy holds out the hope that, over enough time, humanity can approach developing an “Eden on Earth,” with or without the assistance or alleged existence of a “supreme being.”
Hegel goes on to point out in this analogy that religious cultures require the individual to sublimate the self to the whole. However, the philosophical approach would lead to a society in which the individual is required to develop their individuality through a personal approach to life which has been subjected to rigorous scrutiny. However, at all times, all that is asked of the individual vis-à-vis the culture or society is integration. In other words, one is given tools and time to work out their philosophy. One is not required to subscribe to any specific belief system. One is encouraged to be unique, to be their “true self” as opposed to an automaton-like cog in The Great Wheel of the Economy. One can do this in one’s own time. One’s significant responsibility in return is to be kind, fair, understanding, accepting and nurturing to everyone and everything external to oneself, which would be the same treatment expressed toward the individual.
Nietzsche uses stronger terms in his rejection of religion. His assessment was that religion is rooted in slave mentality – everyone becomes a slave to the code imposed by the religion. That being the case, Nietzsche informs us, no individual adherent is free to realize their true potential. He suggested that life is like a work of art, and should be lived the way a great artist would create a work of art, through will to power. The power is not over others, but evocative, impressionist, painfully honest, daring and intense. The power is beauty. The power lies in the art; not in the conclusion, but more appropriately in the method and meandering path which led to the conclusion. In other words, the value in life is in the variety and intensity of life experience, not in the ease and comfort of lifestyle or in the degree to which the individual enjoins in social integration, conformity and sublimation to group norms and expectations.
As an example of how subtle religious indoctrination can be, let’s look at the Biblical treatment of “The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.” God is alleged to have created a specific tree in the Garden, the fruit from which Adam and Eve were not allowed to partake. A logical analysis yields a first realization that God, consequently, created temptation, not Satan. Since God created temptation, God cannot be a “perfectly good” being! Next, Adam and Eve ate the fruit of temptation as a result of Satan’s coaxing. God banished them from the Garden for that transgression – the first ever transgression, I might add. This shows us how unforgiving God was. You don’t get a second chance, one screw-up and it’s out of the Garden.
The underlying message in this example of religious indoctrination is to stay away from knowledge, both good and evil. “Why?” you might wonder. One clear reason was because the humans who created the dogma felt a need to prevent people from learning too much in order to maintain their positions of power. Any in-depth study of nature, the heavens or interpersonal relationships would disprove much of the alleged and perceived historical accuracy and authority within the Bible, just as such studies ultimately did. Humanity is, thus, left suspended in an approach-avoidance syndrome with regard to knowledge.
Another point which demands our attention arises from God holding Adam and Eve accountable for their transgressions. This is the first lesson in “personal responsibility for one’s own actions.” When an individual does wrong, the individual doing the wrong is held accountable. However, in God’s system, not only were the perpetrators held accountable, but so were every human to follow through the doctrine of “original sin.” How can I be held accountable for what my father did, who he was and how he lived? Is that part of a fair and equitable system? No! But it is a belief to which the Judeo-Christian tradition demands believers subscribe. Sadly enough, with this as our model of how a “superior being” treats inferiors, humanity has treated the planet, all life on it, and each other. We are unforgiving, demanding, judgmental and punishing, emulating the example from Genesis (or did the example given to us in Genesis actually find itself modeled by the human author on all he ever knew – other humans).
Most believers in God raise another objection to denying the existence of God. That objection regards the broad term, “morality.” “Without a God, and heaven and hell, or without karma and reincarnation, there is no reason to live a moral life,” is the argument I hear often. These people believe that a system of rewards and punishments is required to force and bribe humanity into living moral lives. “Without that system, people would run amok,” they state assuredly.
I find this an extremely sad commentary on the level of morality at this time in history as well as a sad commentary on humanity’s view of its own basic nature. These people do not live rightly for rights’ own sake. They have to be bought off (by God or karma) to live rightly. They do not live rightly because they know that makes them a better person at the same time as it creates the climate for a better world. They will only live rightly because they fear hell or karmic retribution, or else because they seek heaven, redemption, or karmic reward.
There is no intrinsic goodness in right action if the motives are not also righteous, and quite frankly, if the motives lie solely in either avoiding a horrible punishment or gaining an amazing reward, then those motives are selfish, not selfless, and consequently have nothing to do with Universal Principles. The Christians’ suggestion lacks logic. They say, “Without a God to enforce morality, everyone would run amok.” However, the real truth in the statement is, “Without a God to enforce morality, I [meaning they] would run amok.” No one can answer that question for me or anyone other than themselves. However, by imputing to an anonymous other what one can only answer for oneself, one only, but always, delivers the deepest truths one knows about oneself.
Immanuel Kant offered a completely different approach to morality. Kant suggested a simple test for determining right action which remains selfless. His test required an individual inquire of oneself, “If positions were reversed, would I feel wronged?” If the answer is yes, then the action is morally reprehensible. If the answer is no, then the action is morally acceptable. The reader might interject that Kant’s test is a variation of the Golden Rule. I agree; it is. However, the Golden Rule is applied solely in one to one interpersonal exchanges. Kant’s rule applies to societies, cultures, nations, corporations, leagues, religions and any other kind of group, in addition to individuals.
Furthermore, Kant’s rule arises from his basic understanding and the framework upon which he built much of his philosophy. That framework resides in resolving inner turmoil over right action and right living by creating a moral and ethical code according to which one can live a moral, ethical and guilt-free life. That code is built by formulating personal principles which the individual is encouraged to perceive as being Universal Principles. The methodology lies in creating a maxim, then subjecting the maxim to analysis from multiple points of view. If no irrationality or incongruity arises, one has arrived at a suitable axiom which can be incorporated into a system of morals and ethics. Incongruities and irrationalities arise if the expression of that maxim by an external entity (person, group, business, nation, religion, etc.) results in the thwarting of one’s own essential freedom and life expression. This should make it clear how distinct, further reaching, and more useful is Kant’s approach in determining right action. It arises by developing a complete and cogent, personal code of morality and consequently, infuses an individual’s entire life with that ethos.
For morality to be moral, it must be rooted in a set of principles each individual arrives at through reflection and analysis. Then, the Free Will of the individual must choose a code by which to live. When an individual makes a conscious choice to live a certain way, the individual is more apt to act morally more often because the individual will feel one let oneself down by breaking one’s own moral code. Instead of shoving religion down the throats of our children, we should give them the freedom to be their true selves at the same time as we teach them how to live by a code they build for themselves through observing the way everyone follows their own codes of moral conduct and by implementing strategies which lead to an experiential morality.
I have seen a lot of “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven” bumper stickers. The underlying principle to this kind of belief in a God who pardons all one’s sins is that one begins to feel as if one can do anything precisely because one will receive that ultimate forgiveness. If one is forgiven by God merely by accepting Christ as one’s savior, one feels bullet proof. Therein one finds the real pitfall to forgiveness. If God will forgive someone any and every transgression, why would that someone care if any human forgives them or not, and what ultimate deterrence is there to the commission of sin? The answer is that this someone won’t care and there are no deterrents! Instead, nearly all individuals feel free to embezzle funds, cheat on their taxes, lie to their family and friends, or engage in extramarital affairs. The proliferation of all of those transgressions undermines the moral fabric of the socio-cultural diversity which is at its least Western Civilization and at its most spans the globe in contemporary times.
Once an individual ruptures the bubble which is their moral code, they become emboldened. Why does this happen? I reject the argument offered by many religious people who blame human failing on “The Fall” and the resulting “original sin,” which they claim cause imperfections to manifest among humanity. Those leaders would have you give up personal responsibility for your actions, accept your inability to control your own life and turn to religion.
It is endemic in all organized religious beliefs that individuals cannot have personal relationships with God. In all cases, a minister, priest, rabbi or other acknowledged representative of the religion must intercede between God and the individual on the individual’s behalf. This is the case even among “born again” Christians who hear from ministers that they need to develop a personal relationship with God, because in practice, all they are really telling you to do is reinforce the conditioning they impose on you. They suggest you can have one way conversations with God expressing a level of obeisance consistent with that minister’s interpretations of the Bible and Christian dogma. A personal relationship with God would mean a two-way communication. However, ordinary humans cannot receive communications from God. Consequently, the church to which one belongs, along with the church ministers, interprets for its members the will of God in any and every situation. In this methodology, one apprehends only the illusion of a personal relationship with God.
One may pray to their God in a personal sense, but the only answers one ever receives come from one’s clergy. In this way, there is never more than an illusion of a personal relationship with God. Nonetheless, this method of indoctrination forms an effective strategy for allowing clergy to gain control over the minds of their flock. Because the clergy members claim to speak for God, they acquire and exert the authority of God. At the same time, they also ingratiate themselves on their congregation through the influence exerted. This is an incredibly disempowering approach to spirituality. At every turn, organized religion makes of itself an indispensable and autocratic authority with power in and over every aspect of the lives of its adherents. This is slavery at its most basic level.
One last area of interest lies in the consistency of religious dogma. Christianity, over the last 2 millennia, has had to revise many of its doctrines and beliefs, such as, for instance, the idea that the universe revolved around the Earth. Christian religious authority, like that of Jewish religious authority, derives from the concept that the writings upon which their religious dogmas' are based are divinely inspired words whispered from the mind of God and expressed through mortal prophets who received God's messages. If that is true, then none of the dogma associated with those religions should ever have been wrong since they came from the Creator. Since, indeed, incredible amounts of the dogma have proven to be incorrect (such as the idea the heavens revolved around the Earth which was supposedly the center of the universe) or, at the least, so fanciful as to be absurd, the whole doctrines crumble in the pervasive presence of errors in a doctrine which should have had no errors.
For morality to express any value to both the individual and the society of which the individual is a part, the moral code must incorporate: 1) Universal Principles, 2) attunement with the natural expression of the individual’s life force, 3) integration with the overriding society or culture, 4) acceptance of the right for all individuals to express their Free Will freely, 5) a unified and consistent ideology and morality and 6) a harmonious pursuit of both individual and group goals. For a moral code to operate most effectively, all individuals must participate in defining their own code and invest that code with the conviction of their deepest and most fervent hopes. This code should describe for each individual the kind of world in which everyone will live, grow and thrive. A society cannot proscribe against killing and yet confer legitimacy for killing by the society as a whole in the forms of capital punishment and war, and still retain any degree of consistency which is necessary to be truly moral.
God has never existed because God, as the conceptualization of a thing or being, is an impossible supposition which has no roots in rational analysis. God did not create man in God’s own image. Humanity created God in humans’ own image: full of failings, imperfections, confusion, foibles and illogical dramas and dreams.
All notions of God which exist arise out from the long evolution of humanity pondering on the mysterious. The concept first grew out of the minds of our most ancient ancestors who had the first dreams and decided they had to be communications from, what else, a supremely powerful being. I’ve seen films of apes making pilgrimages and worshiping nature, just as early humans certainly did; and there is no religion on the face of the planet which would extend to apes any opportunity to unite with God. Yet, it is apparent that some apes are coming to the conclusion that a mystical force at least interplays with them in their lives to a degree causing them to feel the need to worship that force. This is the strongest indication yet that religion is nothing more than echoes from the deepest reaches of fear and hope which were paramount in the minds and lives of our earliest ancestors. The concept of God has its roots in the greatest of human fears, the fear few can face: the fear that death is final. Accepting the finality of one’s own mortality is the most liberating thing one can do.
Our insecurities, our narcissism, and our vanity, along with the residual frightened animal lurking in our subconscious all demand that we be rewarded for our suffering. We feel and believe that we must find rest and peace in another life free of strife and struggle. We fervently believe that we must last beyond our final breath.
So, we’ve constructed an evolutionary path from nature deities to Olympians and on down to a final, monolithic, singular, “supreme being” as we’ve grown intellectually ourselves. I find it highly ironic that those who hold the strictest of beliefs in religious dogma, those who believe the Bible is the unadulterated word of God, refuse to accept evolution. Consequently, they cannot see that even religious dogma has evolved in proportion to the growth in human intellect. Perhaps the best way to end this discussion of God is with Woody Allen’s closing lines from his movie, “Love and Death,” “If it turns out that there is a God, I don’t think that he’s evil. But the worst you can say about him is that he’s an underachiever.”