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2011.01.20 A Letter with Jav, part 1

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I have been getting into an interesting conversation with my friend Javier, about the potential intersections between science and spirit. We’re getting into raises issues that might be relevant to many people, so I’m sharing our emails, when they come, as a dialogue about the potential in spirituality that may be consistent with science. I think this potential could represent a revolution of the current scientific model.

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Jeff,
Let us start at the beginning: I do not believe that God exists.  You do, but I suspect that our concepts of God (or god) are different.  I define God as the Designer, an intelligent being that created the universe with the intention that humans will live and die in it.  To be clear: it is a necessary condition of God (with a capital G) that humanity is not the accidental phenomenon that emerged from this universe’s complexity.   While certainly it may be the case that a designer created the universe with no idea that humans would pop up in our little corner of the cosmos, or even that the designer fully expected sentient life forms to stochastically evolve — both sufficient conditions for the existence of god (lowercase g) — it is the stronger God, the ascription of a universe designed for humanity, that I reject.
That is not to say that I accept any lowercase-g theories, but the capital-G theories get the most air time.
So which do you believe in, Jeff, God or god?

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Hey Jav. I’m really excited to have this conversation with you publicly. Right now your mind is hitting on some of the things that have been big issues in my head recently.

I want to start with Joseph Campbell: The universality of myth, and the universality of the hero. If I were to try to compress everything he offered into one sentence, it would be roughly: “Every religious story is a metaphorical account of a potential transformation of human consciousness, represented in the relevant language of its cultural climate.” All of the differing specifics of each religion offer different paths, a different methodology, to transform the current typical stage of consciousness to a qualitatively different place; a different way to experience life itself. But since our minds work fundamentally through metaphor, these very abstract shifts needed to be put into more ‘everyday’ stories. The fact that those stories differ is a consequence of the fact that the story part isn’t the important part. Only what it points to is. (If there’s interest I am glad to write plenty more about Joe Campbell and these theories).

However, we as humans seem to often miss that, which causes a fundamentalism of sorts; but I would say there are fundamentalists on both sides. Anyone that sticks to the story representation is spending time in a conflict that, although it has merit on its own, ignores the actual root of such conflict — the inability for both sides [I’m speaking science + religion] to realize that a shift in consciousness lay at the root of our misunderstanding, and without confronting it directly, this symptomatic fight will never get anywhere.

If the metaphors point to the same thing, then it seems that this is just as important ‘as if’ a personal God were around. Is it a big enough of a deal to humankind that it is nothing less than that sort of event. And if it is a qualitative shift in consciousness, you can’t possibly understand it directly until you understand it directly — it’s like trying to get a reptile to understand empathy, or a rat to understand self-awareness. It is a layer that encompasses all previous layers, contextualizes them. Spiritual development becomes one more stage in our evolution, a major cultural evolutionary step.

In teaching it (on this animal level), the stories need to reach the reader as directly as possible. But then science came around and starting showing objective inaccuracies in the specific metaphors that were being used. And with their story, a story of how things should follow repeatability in nature, patterns, we lost our connection with the root of the issue. We forgot completely that the stories were just metaphors—pointers to the real thing.

This idea of humanity being an accident, the whole argument comes down to a misrepresenting metaphor. The specific form of humanity is an accident, but this general pattern of how consciousness is layered in complexity (and I mean that literally) was going to manifest at some point or other in self-awareness. And we might still not be on this shift, we might all die off because of the inequities we caused for ourselves, and then 7 billion years later another creature will evolve way further than we do. This general pattern of layers of intelligence and concsiousness has a tendency to manifest on this universe.

It seems possible that, over the last few thousand years, humankind has started to experience  a cultural mimetic mutation that fundamentally rewires the qualitative structure of the human mind, into a new operating system. It may not usually be interpreted as such, but it aligns well as a wider contextual (and metaphorical) interpretation of religious texts. Call it whatever you want: God, enlightenment, cosmic consciousness, Nirvana, being, the Tao, presence, Jesus. It seems worthy of a name, even if it may be literally beyond conception (therefore beyond name-ability). Remember, beyond conception does not mean beyond experience; it just means beyond the experience of the rational mind. This may be the current default [in different layers] but by no means the final operating architecture possible with neural connections!

So clearly, I believe in a ‘god’ not a ‘God’ but neither of them is much better or worse than the other. They are both pointers to something else: life itself. Just a different perspective and understanding of life, and your connection with it. An experience worthy of a title, yet unnameable. It is about knowing that you are not only a wave in the ocean, but that you, as a wave, are the ocean itself. If you know that firsthand, where is suffering? Where is death?

Leaving it here in hope of further discussion,
Jeff

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