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As revised in March, 2012
CURING PEAS – Post Ecclesial Abuse Syndrome
WHY WE NEED THE MORALLY AWAKENED ATHEISTS
AND THEY NEED US
I first updated this piece on April 8, 2008, then in March 2012.
An earlier version of this manuscript contained an excerpt from a discussion between (the subsequently deceased) Christopher Hitchens and a Roman Catholic scholar. That part was a bit too long and it tended break the flow of this exposition without adding anything that I couldn’t summarize in a single paragraph. I added the paragraph and deleted the discussion.
Mobilizing the Allies of Necessity
I write this as a neo-theist who rejects the right of any particular institutional religion to monopolize access to the holy, the true and the good, and as a practicing Judeo-Christian who finds refuge and nourishment in my particular tradition.
Here’s our problem in a nutshell: A Dark Age has never been far from the human condition, but we now face a new threat that will, if ignored, drag us, kicking and screaming, back into the pit.
This threat requires that all humanists (broadly defined as those who find common refuge in liberal civilization and the underlying moral foundation essential to its survival) must locate our common moral ground and stand on it together. This is a heads-up call to the friends of the human species of all stripes - religious, anti-religious, atheists, theists, theologically indifferent - all of us who care about the dangerous prospect of the destruction of liberty-friendly civilizations and understand the clear and necessity of providing ongoing protection for peaceful human creative activities:
The name of our common threat is contagious nihilism.
It has many faces and guises. Whether nihilism erupts under the thin veneer of an ideology (almost always a form of secular or religious fanaticism) or in its idiopathic forms, it is difficult for many civilized people to detect the common thread at its core.
Have you noticed the upsurge of family murders followed by the suicide of the perpetrator? How we might wish the suicide had gone first! This sad development was prefigured by the disgruntled homicidal employees who – for a time – contributed to the common epithet, “going postal”.
Well, the Post Office has been exonerated.
The common thread in all these cases is existential and essential human disconnection (social, cultural and moral). This is a rupture that is never adequately describable in mere psychological terms. Moral terms are also necessary. The manifest behavior may be prefigured by social disconnection (from family, friends and community) but contagious nihilism represents an essential disconnection in which the moral lifeline, the vital link to the holy, the true and the good, has been severed.
This disconnection allows a form of suicidal narcissism to take hold. It begins with a seductive, malevolent delusion, one that holds out the lure of solace via destruction. In this mindset, the infected soul longs to bring down all that irritating goodness around him or her, to negate all the examples that make the infected ones “feel bad” about themselves. Caught up in the seduction of suicidal narcissism, the infected ones try bring the “unfair” good examples down to their level (by getting them to share the addiction, poverty of spirit, their sense of futility and failure – it’s a very long list.
When that project fails – and it always does, except in a Dark Age – the deeply infected souls long to bring all the irritating examples to the extinction they surely deserve. After all, if you are the moral center of all the reality that matters, then all (to quote Dostoyevsky’s character Mitya[i]) is permitted.
So in the extreme case, large scale murder is validated, and suicide becomes the grand exit. The clinical term malignant narcissism[ii] applies to these cases, but hardly captures the evil manifested in the latest nihilistic mutation: murder-as-therapy.
As I have written elsewhere, this is the common tread that links the Islamic extremists who are practicing homicidal jihad-as-therapy with all of the other disgruntled ideologues and our local grown murderous nutters many of who haven’t a clue why they are killing people before killing themselves.
This presents a particular challenge for all people of good will who support the fundamental ethos of creative civilization. But we find ourselves engulfed in a nihilist-friendly post modern culture so infused with multicultural tolerance that the moral component of the growing pattern of malevolence is rendered invisible. Just as our need to find common ground and stand on it together is most acute, just as our species finds itself in the greatest need for a spiritual/ ethical / religious renaissance, we are tearing ourselves apart in a primal (and unnecessary) struggle between the religious and anti-religious, between the believers and the anti-believers.
But Will Religion Survive?
Developments in the 21st century will determine the future of major religious institutions for a thousand years. Specific institutions and practices will wither, but spiritual practices and beliefs will probably endure, because they are driven by needs central to the human condition, and – for some of us – by a great urging of divine origin.
Institutional religion itself will arrive at a critical moment when its very survival is at risk. Human religious institutions will remain relevant and robust only to the extent that they continue to serve their primary function, which is to provide safe and vital places for the sacred, authoritative centers of moral wisdom, and vital supporting communities united in common spiritual practices.
Increasingly, there is a free market in religion. That trend will accelerate.
Most European have already voted with their feet. Chapels, churches, cathedrals, and temples, largely empty of worshipers, have become de facto museums.
Is there a Humanist Convergence in the Making?
In the best case, we may see a powerful convergence of two currents. A humanism of renewed depth and reach, grounded in transcendent authority (which may or may not be understood or expressed in theistic terms) may join those branches of religious and spiritual practice which are equally universal in depth and reach. This convergence will take place – if it does at all -- whether or not the teachings and doctrines of the religions and spiritual disciplines survive in their present institutional forms.
We can see the vague outlines of this trend already. But we can already see the power of a superficial secular hedonism and the attraction of spiritual hedonism, in which an aromatic crystalline narcissism has filled the God shaped hole in the psyche.
GETTING BEYOND MERE CHURCH TO GOD,
BEYOND SECTARIAN AND SECULAR BICKERING,
LOCATING THE COMMON MORAL GROUND
We should not be terribly concerned – or distracted - with the institutional history of any church. It should come as no surprise to any student of the human condition that our social institutions are flawed and that we humans all too often succumb to the lure of power.
We can take that as a given.
I think the real issue is much more fundamental, and can be described as the problem of “faith.” Since our information about life, the universe and everything is now and will forever remain imperfect, and that our individual life situations now and constantly will require us to make decisions based on imperfect information (to take a lover, to have a child, to leave a job, to start a war); all of these decisions and acts require acts of faith. The real conflict is always between reasonable and unreasonable faith.
At the level of life’s major intersections, faith is best described as a deeper approach to reality than mere physical empiricism allows. When we say that someone acts in “good faith”, we are implicitly acknowledging that faith aims at truth, though not always perfectly.
All faith that is not strongly reinforced by one’s experience is provisional, unless one, by virtue of some absolute a priori commitment, simply rejects evidence in advance. I prefer to think of provisional faith as inherently heuristic.
The heuristic property of provisional faith comes from an open mindedness to new information and insights and a sense of journey: this mindset is engendered by a core set of operating beliefs, none of which are inconsistent with the general stance of the scientific mind:
that “there’s more to life, the universe and everything than meets the eye”;
that “mere” human conscious intelligence is pre-equipped (for most of us, at least) to receive information about the domains of reality that can’t be empirically verified in a controlled physical experiment;
that the capacity for empathy, the perception of beauty, goodness and awe, represent key faculties of “mere” human conscious intelligence; and that all our empathic inspirations, and apprehensions of beauty, goodness, and “awe worthiness”, are pointers to another domain, the reality of which is not fully captured in any mere physical description;
…and that our knowledge of these things is necessarily imperfect and “subject to error”.
THE “POST-THEISTS” WHO MAY CONVERGE
I find it interesting that the atheist author Christopher (“God Is Not Great”) Hitchens, in many conversations, seems almost ready to accept - at least provisionally - the Einstein-Spinoza view of an intelligently organized universe. This would go a long way to explain his acknowledged sense of awe at the beauty of creation, one explicitly shared by that famous atheist-mystical humanist, the late Carl Sagan.
For my own part, I think we must undertake the task of climbing out of that arid desert of the soul -- that imagined realm where there exists no good, no evil, and no loving Creator - as a matter of survival. Finding the way up and out is a matter of attaining the appropriate scale perspective and a willingness to take in the deep implications.
We have a hint of that process from that nominal atheist, Carl Sagan, who wrote:
“We succeeded in taking that picture [from deep space], and, if you look at it, you see a dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever lived, lived out their lives. The aggregate of all our joys and sufferings, thousands of confident religions, ideologies and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilizations, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every hopeful child, every mother and father, every inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every superstar, every supreme leader, every saint and sinner in the history of our species, lived there on a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam.
“The earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and in triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of the dot on scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner of the dot. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light.
“Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity -- in all this vastness -- there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us. It’s been said that astronomy is a humbling, and I might add, a character-building experience. To my mind, there is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”
Excerpted from the famous commencement address delivered by the late Carl Sagan on May 11, 1996
Without necessarily being able to explain how, human intelligence is able to proceed from the awe-at-creation narrative to an ethic of kindness and compassion.
Awe is the beginning of wisdom.
Humanists have been struggling with the “death of god”, or at least of what Einstein called a “personal god” for the last 200 years or so. I find two figures very interesting and instructive as guideposts on the path towards the hoped for convergence: Spinoza and the legendary Dr. Albert Schweitzer, whose life affirming humanism is almost universally venerated.
Each life story is somewhat emblematic of the two enduring threads in the non-religious humanist tradition.
Spinoza’s vision of reality was of a well ordered materialism in which all was part of the God whose essential nature was order; this was hardly the deity of Abraham, Sarah and Jacob, and it seemed to allow no room for good and evil because, all was God.
Spinoza was excommunicated by his fellow 17th century Jews.
“[H]aving long known of the evil opinions and acts of Baruch de Spinoza, they have endeavored by various means and promises, to turn him from his evil ways. But having failed to make him mend his wicked ways, and, on the contrary, daily receiving more and more serious information about the abominable heresies which he practiced and taught and about his monstrous deeds, and having for this numerous trustworthy witnesses who have deposed and born witness to this effect in the presence of the said Espinoza, they became convinced of the truth of this matter; and after all of this has been investigated in the presence of the honorable hakhamim, they have decided, with their consent, that the said Espinoza should be excommunicated and expelled from the people of Israel...”
Spinoza was later reclaimed by his modern Reform Jewish coreligionists. His 20th century almost-but-not-quite secular camp follower was Albert Einstein, another ethically enlightened humanist, one who – truth be told – was not a full-on atheist, but certainly one who had rejected a “personal god” in favor of an impersonal Source-of-all-order. The core issue with Spinoza’s materialist pantheism is the problem of evil, which I view as a problem in moral differentiation in its benign form, and abject moral blindness in its more disabling forms..
Schweitzer’s ethical model, reverence for life, was colored by a tragic vision in which he saw a universal will-to-live torn by the Darwinian struggle. We can trace his sense of revulsion to the deeper normative unity implied by the use of the term “universal”. I located Dr. Albert Schweitzer’s compelling aphorism (“The world presents the ghastly spectacle of a universal will-to-live divided against itself”) in his book, “Philosophy of Civilization”, long out of print. Put so elegantly, his inadequately differentiated life affirmation seemed to blur the distinction between intelligent, morally conscious, creative human life and animal life. The core problem with Schweitzer’s world view is the added value of intelligently directed creative activities and, inter alia, of the extraordinarily complicated developmental processes that have brought them into being-in-the-world. We humans fail, of course, but we do incarnate the novel virtues of benign, life affirming creation. Again, I see a problem in moral differentiation.
Both thinkers clearly experienced reverence for the universal. But I detect a similar confusion in both Spinoza’s arid pantheism* (ref. my extended footnote discussion about “the god models” below), and Albert Schweitzer’s richer, but tragic Reverence of Life.
It seems to me that both models missed or disregarded the moral distinctions based on the local presence of absence of living, volitional, morally conscious, creative beings (Spinoza’s rocks, trees, and stars, may be “God” in some arid and removed sense - the non-local whole - but they are not living sentient,, thinking moral agents. Moreover, Schweitzer’s animals, though alive, are not as morally valuable, say, as a small child. To be fair, Schweitzer was a physician, and his actual practice was more reasonable than his aphorism implies; he saved people in preference to animals.
An aphorism, however penetrating, is not an axiom.
Both models, it also seems to me, seem to blur the nature and significance of intelligent morally aware, potentially creative consciousness beings vs. proto intelligent non consciousness objects or pre-conscious living things. Not everything in the “world” is equally alive, or equally awake. Spinoza and Schweitzer’s visions (however attractive in part) seem less morally persuasive to me than classic historically-founded humanism, the kind abstracted in the aphorism “man is the measure of all things” attributed to Protagoras, and given flesh during Renaissance Italy.
We need to make a careful note here for later discussions that - like some biblical models – Spinoza and Schweitzer’s humanism share a common a view of the world as essentially a finished project of the Creator. For Spinoza, the world is perfect in its cosmic order, but for for Schweitzer, it is one eternally broken by endless cannibalism. The whole topic of theodicy, the attempt to reconcile the persistent evil and brokenness of the observed world with the existence of an omnipotent and omniscient deity who is also moral, flows directly from the assumption that the world is a finished project. How otherwise intelligent men and women could entertain such a difficult construct against the weight of all the evidence is a puzzle to me.
THE ‘GOD’ MODELS
Ecclesial humility begins with the insight that all our attempts to describe the Creator of all that is, the Architect of all moral foundations, the Holy One… that all of our attempts to capture that which cannot be captured, will fail. We may apprehend God, but of descriptions, especially those set out as “theologies”, these are just = useful approximations, the “God Models” of the day.
Theism in its most common forms is dualistic, in that it posits the world and humans as separate, created entities, not actually directly sharing in God’s being. [In the Hebraic model humans are modeled after the Creator, but connected primarily through a dialogic relationship that many Christians find exemplified in the life of Jesus.]
Pantheism, in its most comprehensive form, does not allow for evil except as part of a God-as-
Universe whose very ontological dominance trumps the independent existence of all else. To a degree, theism encounters the same issue, because of its premise that God, though separate from Creation, continues to exercise some level of control over events. Many theologians (presumably including some pantheists) address the problem of evil through the model of kenosis, or a purposeful divine withdrawal or emptying from creation.
So the question naturally arises: How, in the world described by comprehensive pantheism, can a human love God authentically or be loved in return? How can evil truly be “of God” and truly evil?
Panentheism is a term that first appears in the writings of Karl C. F. Krause (1781-1832), popularized by the Harvard trained Unitarian theologian, Charles Hartshorne, (1890-2000) who taught at the University of Chicago).
Both Pantheism and Panentheism attempt to close the sharp dualism between deity and creation, but Panentheism attempts to do so by allowing for independent loci of being that enjoy an ontologically independent existence and scope of action without being “far from God.” In the Panentheist model, all reality - material and not material – is in God. By analogy, the universes are parts of the divine body, but the divine persona and consciousness is greater than the sum of all the parts. But the subparts are engaged in the processes of creation.
“Santiago Sia [in his God in Process Thought, Dordrecht: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1985] describes panentheism as Hartshorne conceived it: “Panentheism . . . holds that God includes the world. But it sets itself apart from pantheism in that it does not maintain that God and the world are identical. . . . Hartshorne explains that God is a whole whose whole-properties are distinct from the properties of the constituents. While this is true of every whole, it is more so of God as the supreme whole. . . . The part is distinguishable from the whole although within it. The power of the parts is something suffered by the whole, not enacted by it. The whole has properties too which are not shared by the parts. Similarly, God as whole possesses attributes which are not shared by his creatures. . . . We perpetually create content not only in ourselves but also in God. And this gives significance to our presence in this world.”
Please note that I share a criticism of pantheism that also applies to some versions of Panentheism: I have long been deeply persuaded that evil must be clearly differentiated from deity; but the necessary moral differentiation becomes almost impossible in those metaphysical models and theologies that fail to account for how forces in the “real world”, even intelligent forces, can arise in opposition to the moral order. [The “primitive” vision of Satan as rebel actually did a better job at this.] Any valid system of ethics, at least in my moral universe, must account for the duty of all moral agents to detect evil and to actively, courageously and intelligently oppose it.
After much reflection, I find myself in full agreement with those accounts of evil in which the realm of “the world”, i.e., that of space-time bounded material/physical reality, is seen in a state of development leading to the emergence of living creatures who become morally aware and whose lives increasingly “incarnate” the divine moral virtues. In these models of reality, when we notice the fragility of the developing good, we are strongly called by the divine conscience to vigorously oppose and overcome evil forces. These are the evil intelligences and agencies in the world that would, if unchecked, abort the good, innocent and hopeful, smothering them in the nursery, so to speak. Yet, even in this moral universe, failure is possible, even common. We are endowed with the capacity for conscience and the power of optimism; we may expect divine support and encouragement but we can be given no guarantee of “victory” within any one mortal life. The topic of evil deserves more attention than can I give it here.
Atheists of the morally outraged variety – the late Christopher Hitchens comes to mind - rightly reject an “arid materialism”. This is part cultural sensitivity and refinement and part the result of studying the history of the 20th century. The atheistic materialism of Marx and the dispiriting moral ambivalence of those who allowed Marxism to become a murderous tyranny, both share same toxic source. In this rejection of “arid”, amoral materialism at least, the atheistic humanism of Christopher Hitchens and Phillip Pullman are very similar in their esthetic and ethical richness.
Christopher Hitchens is an engaging, thoughtful essayist with a conscience worthy, say, of Burke. Phillip Pullman is a wonderful writer, living in Oxford, England, who has thoughtfully explored cosmic questions about the purpose of human life and the nature of the universe in his brilliant fantasy, the “His Dark Materials” trilogy. Pullman, grandson of an Anglican priest, has been named by “The New Yorker” as “one of England’s most outspoken atheists”. In spite of that disclaimer, I find a strong spiritual thread operating in his work in which almost every magical or quasi-magical element or theme in his fiction has a theological analog in contemporary Christianity.
From each writer we get a sort of Eric Hoffer-esque[iii] contempt for all forms of ecclesiastic authority.
Among the species of morally outraged atheists, the contempt of the abuses of ecclesial authority is a bias-engendering attitude that is allowed to reflect back against divine authority itself. For these intellectuals, the abuse of earthly authority by church is presumed to reflect that of the divine. It is as if some of the institutional proponents of religion are actually mirroring an unjust deity. The resulting atheism is morally inspired, and entails the rejection of a deity that is seen as too external, too hierarchical, too controlling and too unjust. I also get the strong impression that these, and other humanist atheists, are reacting to a specific theological construct as if it were the only one – while possibly knowing that it is not – in order to make a more effective moral critique. In this they might resemble the early first century Christians who, from the point of view of the Roman polytheistic pagans, were the world’s “first atheists”. I believe that the deeper core of this thread of atheistic writing, imbued as it is with a civilized humanism, represents an overbroad rebellion against non-essential or poorly understood religious doctrines.
CURING “P E A S”
I propose that the “hate religion” reaction patterns, when closely examined, tend to be versions of “Post Ecclesial Abuse Syndrome” or “PEAS’.
This may explain why the typical secular atheist’s (or agnostic’s) threshold of proof for acceptance of the divine’s existence is so often set much higher than for any other beliefs that aren’t empirically verifiable in the sense of a controlled physical experiment. To someone of conscience who is infected with PEAS, the outcome of such a belief system seems to validate one’s arbitrary condemnation by “higher authority”, the loss of one’s creative autonomy and even the diminution of individual moral accountability.
PEAS finds its original impulse in divine-engendered conscience.
After all, many of us who are the neo-theists, if you will, are equally offended by any loss of any human creative autonomy and we also vigorously oppose the cheapening of individual moral accountability whether via value-free multi-culturalism or a theology of fuzzy, pan-value “forgiveness”.
Then there is the “this life is much more important to than any mythical life after death” point of view. This formulation (true as it is - in part) avoids two life’s great questions:
(1) What, if anything, should matter to us, post-mortem?
I should note that, among the most morally self-conscious secular humanists, the notion of conscience is usually accepted as a given. But it is too often taken as a comfortable, unexamined given, without the necessary (and difficult) inquiry as to “How can this be?”
A brilliant attempt to answer this question was written by Jacob Needleman, a philosopher of the old school, one equally comfortable quoting Socrates, St. Paul and Hillel the elder. His book, “Why Can’t We Be Good?” (2007), is carefully (and beautifully) written in terms that bridge the secular humanist - theist gap.
It is assumed, I suspect, that as long as conscience is shared among one’s civilized colleagues, further inquiry is neither necessary nor fruitful.
Again, the deeper question remains essentially unanswered (Why should we care about anything that happens after we die?) other than by saying, “because I want us to”.
Among the wisest and most sensitive secular humanists you tend to find a confession of longing for some of the comforts of the religious sensibility - “If only it were true”, they tend to concede, followed by – “but I care most about what actually is the case”.
But what if “God is actually the case”?
One senses that for an atheist of a certain stripe to weaken his or her hard stance, say, by believing in a universe imbued with meaning and purpose, is somehow psychologically threatening. I sense that it threatens to set up the “believer” for profound disappointment.
First it was the Tooth Fairy. Then Santa Clause. Then the Indisputable Moral Virtues of the Clergy. You can almost see the still painful wounds revealed by this stance.
This is PEAS as wounded hope.
So we tend to hear the claim that one’s awe at the majesty and beauty of nature is the sufficient substitute for that which is dismissed as supernatural belief. [“See we have a sense of material transcendence, after all!”] But this, too, is done without a deeper inquiry as to why the human faculty for awe-filled apprehension should be even possible for us.
Ultimately, what is really being rejected here? I suspect it is the model of an extrinsic deity, one that is all too easily appropriable by abusive human authority, a deity that – from the perspective of these critics – is (here the atheist entertains the notion that deity is real) unwilling to intervene against the counterfeit prophets.
But missing from this worldview is a robust connection to hope, holiness and the divine intelligence; these are the gifts that only the confidence engendered by faith can provide us.
In atheist anger, we can detect the atheism of the painful disappointment of the disillusioned.
Yes, I have witnessed evidence of a robust sense of conscience and justice among many self professed “non-believers”. But this commitment, however passionate and brave, must be asserted by our atheist friends as an arbitrary stance, firmly held “in the air” as it were, but without the taint of a foundation in “faith”.
This is sometimes called heroic atheism. I firmly believe that any dialogue abut the human condition will be enriched by their welcome inclusion.
Wherever we find ethical integrity and fierce moral allegiance we are detecting evidence of an explicit or implicit pan-generational source of ethical motivation. I propose there are “God implications” in such moral alignments towards the universe, whether acknowledged or not.
We can readily find the telltale “God traces” in the natural world (our sense of awe is a clue), but we often disregard them and neglect to tease out their implications.
There are the clues inherent in meta-scale morphology of things (e.g. that at some yet unidentified moment or pre-moment, being was selected over non-being; that an unexplained Singularity generated the Big Bang, which in turn, generated Big Civilization), and the fleeting epiphanies of the receptive mind. Many of our atheist friends encounter the numinous level of human experience without naming or acknowledging the encounter. Yet there will always be a reductive explanation.
But equally, there will always be a much deeper and wider context, one that points to the subtle operations of Ultimate Being.
THE COMING REORIENTATION
We need to reconcile the atheistic and paleo-theistic preconceptions about deity that have dominated our species’ former centuries. Reconciliation comes through an emergent understanding. This is foreshadowed but not fully accomplished in the notion of “panentheism”, a model I’ve cursorily outlined here.
There are newly emerging insights that will take us beyond both pantheism and Panentheism, and will move theism beyond its dualistic formulations. Not all of this will emerge at once.
This is your watch list.
Instead of divine control, I we will learn to see evidence of a perfect and perfectly patient divine faith in the ultimate efficacy of creative, morally-aware human intelligence. We are the brilliant designs-who-are-also-designers that have been provided and continue to emerge on the stage of nature.
Surely we have noticed by now that novel, brilliant benign design is NOT internally contained or prefigured in physical nature (whether in the human genome and body or in nature writ large), any more than meaning and significance are present in a purely physical configuration. A Bach fugue is more than air pressure variations. There are non-material components that the simple empirical mindset must work unreasonably hard to explain away. We will discover linkages to creative emergence everywhere and every-when.
Symbols are our cognitive links to each other and with the divine intelligence. Using the World Wide Web analogy, our symbols establish a common address in the Universe Wide Web, available in each of three intersecting domains, which we can metaphorically identify as Mind Space, Event Space, and Form Space (after Plato). All three domains are directly connected to and inhere in the Ur-domain of Divine Intelligence.
There is no authentic morality in any state of solipsism, however beneficent the feeling of the person-universe. Morality always requires engagement; and engagement always entails entering the “I to thou” (“I am” as person to “You are” as person) relationship, symbolically represented as “I -2- I”. But as Martin Buber knew, the moral “I -2- I” relationship necessarily includes one Other Essential Person, the Meta-I am, which this makes the essential moral relationship a triadic one. We might symbolically represent this notion as [(i -2- i ) ∫ i -2- I].
It is as if our species, from the day of our First Moral Awakening, has been expected to connect to “God.omni”. And it is as if the entire history of the human-deity relationship is about the limited bandwidth of our bio-modem connectivity, and the inadequate reach and power of our contextually informed decoding.
Surely, “www.God.omni” requires ongoing reception, decoding, integration, active participation and engagement.
New framework of understanding like this will require us to make at least three conceptual leaps:
 from the model of a extrinsic controlling creator to an understanding of the “pantrinsic” subtly urging creator;
 from the conception of a complete natural order to an acceptance of and engagement with a completing natural order;
 from the notion of a natural order fractured by randomness and discontinuity to one in which the divine engendered creation processes exploit apparent existential randomness and discontinuity to achieve an opening to essential emergent being which leads the natural order to ever higher and more subtle integrations.
Fate is provisional ….
In life, we make fateful elections. These are choices between our alternative “destinies”.
Each choice links us to a potential cascade of events. Each decision line leads us to an emerging destiny. The further we travel down a chosen line, the more it becomes destiny in the classic, ancient sense.
I think that Heraclitus was getting at this notion in his famous aphorism, “Character is destiny”.
Heraclitus, who lived near Ephesus (Kuşadası, Turkey) around 500 BC, never stepped into the same river twice, but he got wet every time. He undoubtedly wrote far more than survived to the present day. Though we have only some of his tantalizing aphorisms and fragments, his influence was huge. Heraclitus was the very first major thinker to capture and succinctly describe the notion that the universe represents the coexistence of flux and continuity of form (as in, say, the form and flux of a candle flame).
I now believe that this core insight, writ large, of a universe still incomplete and of the Deity-form, still incompletely expressed in the “World”, will be the basis of the great humanist-theistic convergence in thought later in the present century or early in the next.
Waiting for the convergence is a bit like waiting for the discovery of extra-terrestrial persons who also have discovered the benign footprints of deity and have sometimes felt that awesome and comforting Presence.
Most of us will have to wait a bit longer than a single lifetime for faith-validation. That does not make a particular faith unreasonable.
For example, I have the reasonable faith that, should I pass away in the night, the dawn will still come, that babies will still laugh and the innocent will still be defended. We can all go to bed tonight and every night knowing that the Good News embedded in the warp and woof of the universe will, in spite of everything, continue to find its way into the World of men and women…
[i] Mitya has just said that he is “sorry for God” because, “Your Reverence, you must move over a little, chemistry is coming!” Then Mitya says: “How...is man to fare after that? Without God and a life to come? After all, that would mean that now all things are lawful, that one may do anything that one likes.” [The Brothers Karamazov page 753, Penguin Edition 1880, 1993 trans. Reissued 2003 w/ revisions.]
[ii] This term was brought into the public square by Scott Peck’s book, The People of the Lie.
[iii] Hoffer’s best work, “The True Believer”, exposed Nazism and communism as secular religions the organizational morphology of which mirrored the authoritarian religions that both Hitchens and Pullman deplore. I had the privilege if seeing this passionate, coherent, trenchant self educated longshoreman twice in the sixties, a man who maintained from life experience that the common people were “lumpy with talent” and that the idle intellectuals were a dangerous combination of skill and lack of judgment.