After noting that we are struggling to make sense of our existence because we have lost the orientation that served us for two thousand years, for better or worse, I then pointed out the role that myths and rituals have played and continue to play. Our problem seems to be that modern myths and rituals have little substance or seem hollow and do not give us the guidance we need.
To combat the evils that afflict us and send us into a paranoid, catatonic, or depressed state, we need to find meaning in our existence, and it does not help us to have self-proclaimed experts tell us that our existence is meaningless. That is a mockery of the existential experiences people have had, of the loss and grief we have suffered, but also of the commitment and dedication people have shown. There are too many people who see their hopes dashed by the realities of life, whether in a liberal society or an authoritarian one. I have mentioned the different orientation in both, either an individualistic or a collectivistic one, but experience shows that both forms of society have their problems.
Existential to a meaningful life is an understanding of who we are, what we are, how we got here. We also need to understand the strange fact of our mixed minds, and why we so often do what we specifically do not want to do. Why do we act contrary to what we know is best? These are all themes that religions have adopted, but which have also caused speculation here and there, and because of the allegorical style of writing, produced fundamentalist or a critical explanations or interpretations. We are unable to fathom the beginnings of the universe, and scientists have developed several theories, but they all lack yet confirmation. Their theories are therefore, educated guesses, but to us they might as well be mythologies.
What does seem apparent, is that the possibility of life that can attempt to assess its situation, which is sentient life that is aware of its awareness, was around from the beginning. That would suggest that thirteen billion years ago, under the right circumstances, sentient life was possible in the vast expanse of the universe. Religions tended to concentrate on the world we then knew and said that the Divine created man and some suggested that we were the image of the Divine. What that means is clearly not that a biological organism such as we are, created us to look like it did. What it suggests is, that our consciousness resembles a cosmic consciousness that gave rise to the universe.
This is quite astounding considering how long ago our ancestors came to this conclusion, because this is still a consideration that physicists, such as Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger, who is known for the phrase, “The total number of minds in the universe is one. In fact, consciousness is a singularity phasing within all beings.”1 David Bohm’s theory of the Implicate Order emphasizes that the cosmos is in a state of process.2 His cosmos is a “feedback” universe that continuously recycles forward into a greater mode of being and consciousness. (“The interiority – What is going on”) Recently, metaphysical idealism was proposed by Bernardo Kastrup, who has a Ph.D. in philosophy (ontology, philosophy of mind) and another Ph.D. in computer engineering (reconfigurable computing, artificial intelligence), suggesting that there is only cosmic consciousness, and that we, as well as all other living organisms, are but dissociated “alters” of cosmic consciousness, surrounded by its thoughts, which does seem on the surface to echo Erwin Schrödinger.
We can see that the ancient traditions’ account of our beginnings is not off the table after all this time, even if the literal interpretation is. We must agree that there are no simple explanations and that our existence is just as mysterious as the ancients claimed. Further confirmation of a religious theme is that our civilization began after a catastrophic flood. Evidence suggests that after the Younger Dryas (ca. 12,900 to 11,700 years B.C.), which represented a return to glacial conditions after the Late Glacial, humanity moved forward. The reason for the sudden rise in temperature after this period is attributed to several asteroid or comet impacts in the northern hemisphere that caused melting of the ice sheet and subsequent flooding of a large area, resulting in a rise in sea level.
My point is simply that we are using our enormous technological advantage to observe patterns in the sky and in nature, down to the microscopic level, which, if we are honest, the ancients did many thousands of years ago. Our wealth of accumulated knowledge helps us make educated guesses about what we observe, but it does not provide a conclusive, definitive answer to our questions. We are still at a loss to explain our strange existence in a strange universe where much is supposedly “invisible,” such as “dark energy” and “dark matter.”
Occasionally, supporters of scientism claim superiority over ancient mythology, but the problems that humanity has faced for millennia we still have not overcome. We are still arguing over ridiculous issues and have failed to collectively overcome the challenges of nature, as the pandemic has shown us. Moral superiority of any kind bounces off the reality that demands of us the humility that religious wisdom has always advised. The fall of Christianity in the West has been and continues to be the display of piety and devotion that contradicts the truth we know about ourselves. The way forward seems to me to lie in an effective respect for life of all kinds, in the form of panentheism, the belief that the “divine” permeates every part of the universe and reaches beyond space and time.
Panentheism seems to me to be the approach that transcends the tribal aspects of the traditions of the past, and at the same time is a unifying way to respect those traditions, but also to look forward and honour the planet as our only abode – despite the dreams that scientists harbour of venturing beyond our solar system. It seems to me that if we do not appreciate and respect the home we have, we should not aspire to go anywhere else.
What do you think?