Saturday, December 9, 2017

Christmas

To celebrate or not to celebrate, that is the question.  As a nontheist, is it better to abstain from participation in all forms of religious observances?  Or, is it possible to embrace the sentiment of the Christmas season without endorsing the supernatural beliefs associated with it?
I fear that it is possible to become so enamored with and restrained by our intellect that we deny ourselves the immense joy of merely experiencing life.  I don’t want to wind up like Ebenezer Scrooge, sitting alone on Christmas eve eating a bit of stale bread and a small wedge of cheese while railing against the ghosts of Christmases past, present and future.  Surely there is some way to join in the festivities and warmth of fellowship with family and friends with the full knowledge that it is all about community, not deity.
The Christmas story embodies some of the most profound hopes and aspirations of the human heart.  It reverently affirms the sacred potential implicit in the birth of an innocent child whose destiny  is one of personal sacrifice to bring about reconciliation and world peace.  The significance of this was acknowledged by the learned and wealthy wise men and the lowly shepherds, alike.  How different our world would be if each newborn was greeted with such anticipation and nurtured to embrace that noble mission.
So, with this perspective in mind, bring on the religious services, the choirs and flickering candles.  Send the cards bearing the messages of love, joy, hope and peace.  String the lights; ring the bells; erect the trees; and hang the decorations.   Find meaningful ways to gather together and share the essence of the Christmas story.  Drink hardily from the joy expressed in the wide-eyed anticipation of the children.

Finally, I would like to say Merry Christmas, Jesus; Merry Christmas, Tiny Tim; Merry Christmas, Ebenezer; Merry Christmas to all of my theist and nontheist family and Friends/friends; and may the universe bless us, everyone. 

Friday, December 1, 2017

What About God? - Part III of III

There is a cosmic mystery that is absolutely perplexing in which we play some sort of role.  It is generally referred to as synchronicity.  For those who may not be familiar with the term, it refers to related events that occur without a causal connection.
An example might be helpful.  Let’s suppose I am thinking about a friend who I have not been in contact with for many years, and he suddenly calls.  The two events are my thoughts and his call.  They are related, but neither caused the other to happen as far as we know.  This would be considered a synchronistic occurrence.
Some might suggest that this is no more than a random coincidence.  However, what explanation do we offer when these types of events occur frequently and with high levels of improbability?  How do we dismiss a phenomenon that is so ubiquitous that it has been recognized in every culture throughout the ages?
Numerous books have been written on the subject of synchronicity.  Some consider this the intervention of God.  Others view this as some form of cosmic consciousness.  Although I recognize the validity of this aspect of reality and experience it on a regular basis, I have no idea what the source is. 
I am not troubled by our current inability to empirically validate the authenticity of this phenomenon.  Long before science identified the existence of viruses and bacteria, people recognized that there was a connection between cleanliness and disease.  We still don’t know precisely how gravity works.  Nevertheless, we acknowledge its existence and can now precisely measure its influences.
At present, the evidence of synchronicity is purely anecdotal.  I would have to write extensively in order to convey all of these types of experiences I have had personally.  Instead, I will share just one that illustrates why I acknowledge something that I cannot explain.
In August of 2002 I was licensed as a massage therapist and set up practice in a small shopping strip in February of the following year.  By May 2004, I had developed a clientele that was sufficient to pay my bills but did not generate any significant profits.  At that time, I was reading a book that promoted the idea that our thoughts can influence events.  Skeptically one afternoon I sat in my living room and briefly and silently directed my desire for more income towards the universe.
Within thirty minutes I received a phone call from the executive director of a non-profit organization called Alternative Medicine Integration (AMI).  They were part of a pilot program in Florida that administered funds for alternative medical services to Medicaid recipients who had chronic back pain.  The director informed me that he was seeking massage therapists in my area and was calling to see if I would be interested in becoming a provider.
As he explained the program, I learned that they would refer clients to me to receive treatments twice each month.  Furthermore, the compensation they were offering was twice the amount that I normally charged.  They were seeking practitioners with at least 3 years of experience; however, even though I had been licensed for less than two years, I was invited to participate anyway and eagerly accepted.
The details are so specific that the synchronistic nature of this event is undeniable.  Similar experiences both prior and since have convinced me that there is some organizational force at work in the universe that we do not currently understand.  It is not something I can summon at will, but neither am I surprised when it occurs.
Synchronicity certainly offers the impression that someone is observing and responding to our needs.  Undoubtedly it lies behind the extensive belief in the importance of prayer and innumerable forms of religious observances.  However, these providential events occur despite any particular belief or ritual.  If this is God, She is acting with complete indifference to our theology.
Any positive fulfillment of an appeal to higher power tends to affirm the validity of one’s cosmic perspective.  One person prays to the Virgin Mary.  Another makes an offering before a Buddhist statue.  A third merely issues a silent appeal to the universe at large.  As events reveal an apparent response, there is an assurance that they have followed the proper path.
Often, needs are met, and issues are resolved in extremely detailed and specific manners.  But, is this actually evidence of God? Is it possible that there is an organizational field that can be accessed which is capable of directing events in our lives without any cognitive awareness?
It is challenging to conceive of an organizational force that is not directed by some form of intelligence.  Here, ancient Vedic teachings may be of some help.  Beginning thousands of years ago, yogis taught that the human body is a microcosm of the universe.  Considering that simple observation offers significant insights.
We make many decisions with the use of our intellect.  Nonetheless, our very existence requires no thought at all.  The cells, tissues, organs and systems in our bodies function in a harmonious rhythm completely independent of our cognitive direction.  In fact, if we had to rely on remembering to breathe and maintain the rhythm of our heart, most of us would be dead within an hour.  Furthermore, we wouldn’t be able to concentrate on anything else.
What is true of the human body applies to all life forms.  From the simplest cell to the most complex ecosystem, completely natural processes function throughout our global biosphere without any cognitive direction.  Indeed, our entire planet demonstrates this self-directed inherent order and balance.
Is synchronicity simply one more expression of this natural tendency to achieve homeostasis?  Perhaps these synchronistic events are not intended to meet our individual needs.  What if we are merely being positioned to fulfill our role as an integral aspect of the greater fabric of existence.? 
Considering the role of synchronicity in our lives and the world at large is fascinating, but contemplating the implications on a cosmic scale leads to unanswerable speculation.  Is it possible that this organizational force is the underlying factor driving the progressive complexification presented in chapter 4? Is it responsible for forming matter, generating life on the earth, spawning complex organisms, and stimulating the development of human consciousness?  If so, the universe is probably filled with various life forms, some of which may exhibit intelligence equal to or exceeding our own.
If someday we encounter extraterrestrials, it will be interesting to find out what insights they may be able to provide regarding our unresolved cosmic questions.  What will they think of the violence associated with so many of our philosophical differences.  Is it possible that they will delay any contact with our species until we reach a higher level of social development? Will their culture have a religious history?  What will they be able to tell us about their understanding of God?
Does God exist?  If we can avoid rendering our planet uninhabitable, in a thousand or perhaps ten thousand years we may have a more definite answer to that question.  For now, what is certain is that we must grant to others the same right we wish for ourselves, that we are free to believe what satisfies our mind and comforts our heart.
If we fulfill the essential teachings of religion, we will love one another and live in peace.  If we embrace the synergy at work in the universe, we will acknowledge our interconnection and interdependence and seek to develop mutually supportive social relationships.  The results are potentially identical, a global community that is founded on mutuality.
Our existence may be due to the actions of a deity or merely a natural event.  If God exists, it is rather certain that He is far different than those conceptions formulated thousands of years ago.  As we grow in our knowledge about the universe, our challenge is to remain open to whatever insights may await us as we discover what it means to be at home among the stars.

Reflections:

-         If you were God, how would you make the world better for mankind?

-         If we all worked together, how could we bring about those changes without divine intervention?

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

What About Goc? - Part II of III

Around 300 BCE, Aristotle developed an elaborate model of the universe that enabled the calculation of the movement of various heavenly bodies.  It was not precisely accurate but was close enough to garner complete acceptance for 2, 000 years.  Unfortunately, his fundamental precept that the earth was the center of the universe and was orbited by the sun, moon and stars was completely wrong.  With intense opposition the Copernican model of a heliocentric universe enabled us to progressively move towards a more accurate understanding of the cosmos. 
Recognizing the importance of an openness to paradigm shifts has become the cornerstone of scientific discovery.  Perhaps a similar attitude about understanding God might be helpful.  Is it possible that our preconceived ideas are restricting our ability to experience and harmonize with whatever cosmic entity may exist?

There was a time when considering the nature of consciousness was merely the interest of philosophers.  In recent decades, however, the scientific community has increasingly taken up the task of researching this perplexing phenomenon.  The prevailing view is that consciousness is a perceptual construct that is restricted to the organic brain.  Others speculate that our individual awareness may, in fact, be an expression of a universal field of consciousness extending throughout the universe. 
If we accept this latter view as a valid possibility, the implications present us with a flood of questions.  How could awareness exist without a physical source to generate it?  Is it possible that Dark Matter is some form of neural network?  Is Dark Energy a related field of primal consciousness or information?  If String Theory accurately represents a multidimensional universe, could one or more of those dimensions comprise a field of consciousness?  As finite as we are, are we even capable of accurately perceiving or comprehending something so vast?
The Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS)is an example of contemporary efforts to apply the scientific method to comprehending the ethereal aspects of our human experience.  In his book, Entangled Minds, the IONS’ head scientist, Dean Radin, chronicles numerous experiments that seek to establish the validity of psi phenomena.  The areas of study included telepathy, distance viewing, precognition, psychokinesis and similar aspects of parapsychology.  After careful statistical analysis, it is evident that consciousness extends far beyond our physical brains, can be perceived by others at great distances and               influence physical matter. 
Various studies have demonstrated that this entangled consciousness does not occur among humans alone.  The extensive research conducted by Rupert Sheldrake and others has revealed that our pets are capable of perceiving our intentions before we take any physical action.  If you have ever felt that your furry friends are reading your mind, it is not your imagination. It is merely one more way that they instinctually perceive their environment.
Increasingly research is supporting the theory that an incredibly subtle field of consciousness envelopes our planet.  Like the rest of our senses, our ability to perceive this global connectivity varies from one individual to another.  Traditionally, those with the highest degree of awareness have been associated with spirituality and mysticism.  However, it now appears that this phenomenon is not a transcendent mystical occurrence, but a natural aspect of physical matter.
Theories regarding this concept began to emerge during the early part of the 20th century.  The noted psychologist, Karl Jung, referred to this as the “Collective Unconscious”.  In 1922, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, in conjunction with Édouard Le Roy and Vladimir Ivanovich Vernadsky, coined the term ‘noosphere’ which suggests a global mind.   Until recently, these and related theories relied primarily on social observations and conjecture.  However, tremendous advances in technological sophistication are enabling theorists to develop experiments that demonstrate the plausibility of these concepts.
The Princeton Global Consciousness Project (GCP, accessible at http://noosphere.princeton.edu/)is just one example of current research efforts that are providing tangible evidence to support the existence of a noosphere.  Several decades ago, the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research Laboratory discovered that large groups with a common focus can apparently influence the output of random number generators (RNGs).   Normally RNGs produce completely random data; however, researchers found that operating them at concerts and other group events resulted in data that exhibited a tendency towards numeric patterns. 
It is theorized that the collective consciousness of groups somehow establishes an organizational resonance that affects the RNGs.  The GCP is tasked with examining this phenomenon more extensively.  At present, a network of more than 70 RNGs worldwide are continuously transmitting data to the GCP headquarters in Princeton.  There, the information is analyzed to identify non-random patterns and any potential association with world events.
One of the highest correlations occurred during the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.  More recent statistically significant occasions have included President Obama’s farewell address, President Trump’s inauguration and the Women’s March on Washington D.c. on January 21, 2017.  The GCP makes no attempts to explain exactly what is taking place or why the RNGs are affected.  Nevertheless, this seems to indicate that there is indeed a worldwide convergence of human thought especially when the feelings of millions of people are synchronized during great events.
Currently, these findings are not widely accepted within the scientific community.  Of course, this is not at all surprising.  There is an extremely long list of innovative and well established scientific discoveries that initially met strong opposition and ridicule.  The fact that anyone is attempting to apply the scientific method to such an ethereal area of study is commendable.
Personally, I find the concept extremely intriguing.  If we take time to pay attention, we will become aware of our ability to assess the social environment of every group encounter.  Instinctually we recognize the joy, anger, frustration, confusion and other dynamics at work in the gathering.  Is this merely a culmination of our visual and auditory senses, or are we intuitively aware of the collective consciousness being generated in each new situation?
If we acknowledge the very real possibility that the noosphere is an actual aspect of our physical existence, we find ourselves with many more questions than answers.    Does this collective mind serve as a source of intuition, insights, inspirations and spontaneous knowledge that is available to each of us?  Is it some form of supernatural being of which we are part?  Or, is this a natural occurrence in which we contribute to the field of consciousness like individual cells in a gigantic brain?  If it is the latter, then our thoughts, feelings, attitudes and the way we interact with others are all far more important than we currently realize.
This phenomenon may extend far beyond our planet.  What if it is in fact an aspect of the entire cosmos?   What if sentient beings throughout the universe are contributing to a growing field of cognition?  What if, as many currently believe, the universe is becoming self-aware?

It may be that an intuitive sense of our universal interconnection has produced our concept of God.  The noosphere or cosmic consciousness would certainly be compatible with the majority of eastern philosophy.  However, it appears that the misconception of our western culture is a belief that that vastness is a separate and distinct entity. What if we in some way actually contribute to that totality?  Then, the extraordinary awe that awaits us is the realization that in truth we are an integral aspect of the enormity of the universe.

Friday, October 27, 2017

What About God? - Part I


“I won't say that I'm an agnostic, since agnosticism maintains that one cannot know... but I'm not averse to the idea of some intelligence or some organizing force that set up the initial conditions of the universe in such a way that ultimately generated stars, planets and life.” -- B. F. Skinner

“I am an agnostic; I do not pretend to know what many ignorant men are sure of.” -- Clarence Darrow


“The mystery of the beginning of all things is insoluble by us; and I for one must be content to remain an agnostic.” -- Charles Darwin

Fully exploring the existence and nature of God lies far beyond the scope of this blog.  It would, nevertheless, be inappropriate to consider reality without addressing the matter in some fashion.  What I offer here are merely my own thoughts about God.  Whether you agree, adamantly disagree or are completely indifferent,  I assure you that I have not arrived at my current views lightly.  They represent the conclusions derived from many years of literary research and extensive contemplation.

A minor difficulty in speaking about God is the lack of an appropriate gender-neutral pronoun.  Surely a being of this magnitude would have no need of gender.  In many polytheistic cultures we find a mixture of male and female gods.  However, within male dominated monotheistic societies He has traditionally been attributed with masculine characteristics and addressed as such.  Yet there are some ancient teachings that view Her as having both female and male attributes.
Addressing God as “It” seems rather impersonal and somewhat irreverent.  I recognize that there is no way to make everyone happy no matter what I choose to do.  So, I will alternate my pronouns as I refer to Her/Him.
Although specific doctrines may differ widely, the general concept of God in our western culture has been heavily influenced by the ancient polytheism of northern Africa, the middle east and Europe, as well as the three major Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.  It is a belief in a divine, anthropomorphic, transcendent being that is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent.  He has created everything, is intimately aware of the minutest details of our lives and is capable of intervening in the affairs of mankind.
Traditionally every phenomenon for which there is no known explanation has been attributed to God.  In the ancient world this included electrical storms, plagues, drought, infestations, earthquakes, eclipses and much more.  As scientific discoveries have identified the natural source of these events, the list of items requiring His direct involvement has diminished significantly.  Nevertheless, She is still blamed for causing horrible disasters that we refer to as “Acts of God.”  Simultaneously, in the midst of those tragedies, He is praised for protecting the survivor’s.  Apparently, God’s actions are capricious and completely arbitrary.
With this view of God, it is little wonder that people become angry with Her when hardship befalls them.  The universal cry is “Why?”  Implicit in that single word is a plethora of questions.  Why me?  Why my loved ones? What did we do to deserve this?  Why did You allow this to happen?
If we are to be completely honest, the ultimate question is simply this, “Why would an all-knowing, all-powerful, supremely wise and loving deity allow suffering?”  Even we, as mere mortals, respond to hardship with compassion and make every effort to alleviate it.  Why wouldn’t a superior being surpass our efforts to do so?  How is it possible to ignore the agonies experienced by innocents in war-torn regions or allow the physical and sexual abuse and exploitation of children?
Of course, many biblical passages deny the legitimacy of ANY questioning OF God’s actions.  The entire book of Job is devoted to addressing this very issue and concludes that, as creator, God is entitled to do whatever She chooses without reproach.  For Job this meant that crushing his children beneath a collapsed building, having many of his servants slaughtered by marauders, the theft and destruction of his possessions and afflicting Job with “painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head “were a justifiable test of Job’s faithfulness.
In Isaiah 55:8-9 we read “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,   neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.   “As the heavens are higher than the earth,   so are my ways higher than your ways    and my thoughts than your thoughts.”  Are we to accept that this and similar passages are the only explanations we are to receive from a supernatural creator?  Are we supposed to passively affirm that all of the turmoil and destruction in the world are part of some divine master plan? Or, do these scriptures represent human efforts to mitigate the glaring discrepancies that exist between a particular theological conceptualization and events occurring in our observable reality? 
Embracing any faith-based religion requires more than belief in a higher power.  It is necessary to have confidence in the validity of the source of the theology being presented.  In the case of the Bible and the Koran, the credibility of the respective religions is completely dependent on an acceptance of these writings as direct communications from God and not merely of human origin.
Rejection of a particular religious perspective is not automatically a denial of the existence of divinity.  The majority of the world’ s population do not share the view of God set forth in the Abrahamic religions.  When Judaism was in its infancy in the middle east, Vedic yogis were pondering the universe and laying the perceptual foundations of Hinduism.  While the Greeks were expounding on the antics of the gods in their mythological pantheon, Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism were spreading throughout the far east.  Those in this latter group were being established as major world religions centuries before Christianity and a full thousand years before Islam.
Though there are notable differences between the various forms of eastern religion, none of them envision an observant god who intervenes in the affairs of mankind and will eventually administer a final judgement. The primary focus is awakening to the unity that exists among everything in the universe.  The measure of one’s life is based on the degree to which we harmonize with other beings and the natural rhythm of the cosmos.  Reincarnation offers an endless cycle of lifetimes through which We progressively learn and grow until we achieve a state of enlightenment and are freeded from the need for rebirth.

So, who is right?  Inasmuch as the prevailing religious views were conceived in pre-scientific cultures, I think it is safe to say that none of them completely grasp the full magnitude of ultimate reality.  In our age of scientific discovery, some might question whether considering the existence of God is a relevant concern at all.  No matter what our present belief might be, the most significant question is whether or not we are open to a new perception of reality even if it challenges our current understanding.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Synergy is Weaving the Fabric of the Universe

Synergy is not a term that is in common use among the general public.  In many ways this is amazing because it is the underlying principle of our existence.  Synergy simply means working together and refers to the results of two or more elements joining together to produce an outcome that is greater than what would have resulted from the sum of their individual actions.  In general, the synergistic results are dependent upon the degree of harmony that exists between the elements.




This is evident throughout the cosmos.  Quarks join together to form protons and neutrons in the nuclei of atoms and serve as the building blocks of all matter.  Atoms unite to form organic molecules and life emerges.  Synergy is at work in the midst of algae colonies as they differentiate various functions.  Cells gather together and form complex organisms. 
This principle is not limited to non-sentient entities.  When humans function in a synergistic manner, they produce results that far exceed their individual potential.  The greatest barrier to us living at this level on a consistent basis is the complexity of our consciousness.  Because we are capable of recognizing our individuality, too often our personal interests prevent us from fully participating in relationships that are mutually beneficial.




There is a certain beauty manifested by the synergy of competitive rowing teams.  Countless hours are spent developing the harmonious rhythm of a unified stroke.  To the observer, these sleek vessels glide effortlessly through the water with a proficiency that is absolutely awe inspiring.  The challenges of transforming eight individuals into a single entity that thinks, breathes, and moves as one is masterfully conveyed in the book The Boys in The Boat written by Daniel James Brown.
When we take time to consider it, the role of synergy becomes evident all around us.  Symphonic orchestras, choral performances, ballet, and other art forms draw audiences into the harmony of the productions.  The unified focus of the individuals seems to blend into a single field of consciousness that can be experienced by everyone.
As we consider our cosmic origin and the role that synergy plays in our human experience, we are challenged to reflect on the implications for the full array of our social connections.  This new perspective is subtle yet extraordinarily profound.  When we view relationships holistically, it becomes evident that we are more than individuals merely associating with one another.  On the contrary, we are unique elements continually establishing, maintaining, and transforming higher forms of human consciousness.  Like eyes or ears, arms or legs, we each contribute to the quality and function of every relationship.
The only thing new about this perspective is being consciously aware of our social roles.  Intuitively we already experience this connectivity in deeply committed relationships.  Our physiological responses during our interactions and separations are actually measurable through a variety of scans and blood tests.
Altruism is the clearest evidence that at some level we already have an awareness of this human interconnection.  We are capable of performing amazing acts of compassion and generosity.  In the face of disaster complete strangers literally risk their own lives for one another.  Though personally unaffected, individuals frequently contribute finances, goods and services to victims of tragedies in distant locations. 
Why do we do this?  Wouldn’t it be better to simply let them die, preserve our own lives and keep the resources for ourselves?  No.  Deep within us we understand that we are all part of a greater Self and that helping others is critically necessary to our collective survival.
Scientist vigorously debate the origin, purpose and mechanism of this characteristic among humans and other species.  Unfortunately, it is difficult to understand altruism from a rigid adherence to a reductionist view of individuation.  Personally, I believe this ubiquitous phenomenon is quite simply a natural manifestation of an instinctive awareness of the holistic interconnection that exists among a wide range of lifeforms. 
We should not find this surprising.  As discussed previously, the universe is engaged in a process that continually attracts entities together to produce higher levels of complexity.  The fact that we are not physically joined together means nothing.  Atoms and molecules form strong functional bonds with vast physical distances between them. It is quite conceivable that living organisms are capable of establishing equivalent connections through the entanglement of consciousness?
When we use expressions such as “soul mates” and “our better half”, aren’t we acknowledging that we are part of a greater self?  When we suffer permanent loss through divorce, betrayal, or death, we speak of having our hearts ripped out or having a hole in our soul.  Is this anguish any less genuine than what we would suffer with the amputation of a physical limb?
Because we are not physically joined when we establish relationships, our tendency is to overlook the significance of the intellectual, emotional, psychological, and spiritual bonds that are formed.  However, the stability of those bonds can determine the health or dysfunction, the joy or pain, the life or death of every social union.  Furthermore, through modern technology these bonds have the distinct capability of being maintained over great distances and do not require that the various members be in immediate physical proximity.  Consequently, human synergistic potential is phenomenal.
As we become aware of this reality, this unified potential becomes limitless.  Individually, our greatest challenge is to discover our unique characteristics and direct them throughout our social network.  Collectively, through mindful collaboration, we have the power to transform and vitalize nearly every aspect of our social interaction.




How should we define synergistic relationships?  Undoubtedly each social union takes on its own unique dynamics.  Nonetheless, there are certain characteristics that should be present in all of those that are truly synergistic.

1.       Unity is the highest priority:  No issue, personal interest, opinion or desire is more important than maintaining the solidarity of the relationship.
2.       Differences are resolved openly, honestly and with mutual respect:  Every living organism has feedback loops that continually adjust metabolic activities to restore and maintain homeostatic balance.  In a similar fashion, dialogue, compromise, cooperation and mutuality serve as the foundational principles that maintain the harmony within synergistic relationships.      
3.       Altruism is pervasive:  Everyone recognizes that they are part of a greater whole.  Therefore, the needs of others are regularly attended to with the same care one might exercised towards oneself.
4.       Success is everyone’s responsibility:  All members are equally committed to maintaining a harmonious internal relationship and insuring the effective achievement of the groups objectives and activities.
These are certainly not new precepts.  Religion, philosophy and the humanities have conveyed these admonitions throughout the ages.  What is new is the realization that these traditional sources were not merely offering esoteric niceties.  Instead, they have been expressing an intuitive awareness that evolution has designed us with a cosmic nature intended to fulfill the universal principle of synergy.




What is required is a fundamental shift in our attitude towards our social unions.  As a component within a matrix of collective entities, the question for each individual regarding every association is simply this, “How can I benefit this relationship?”  As that question begins to replace “How can I benefit from this relationship?” we will gradually witness a widespread transformation of our society.
Over the next few centuries, it is very likely that many of the current cultural differences that contribute to global conflict will fade as a result of international homogenization.  Certainly, technology and the related proliferation of information are leading the way towards that eventuality.  Equally significant will be the gradual decline in adherence to orthodox religious dogmas and a continued increase of interracial births.
If we are genuinely subject to cosmic progression, harmonious social cooperation will eventually become a significant collective aspiration.  The human record is full of examples of egalitarian cultures.  This is clear evidence that intuitively we know that our social relationships should be based on mutuality.  Ultimately, we will begin to actualize that which we are destined to manifest.


Thursday, June 1, 2017

Embracing Our Cosmic Nature

The unfathomable diversity evident in the material universe is due to the creative factors of attraction, organization and complexification.  As expressions of this universe, humans too have creative forces at work that are capable of directing us towards a level of social cohesion far above what is currently manifest among us.  They are displayed on the right side of the illustration below, attraction, social bonds and altruism.






Evolution has actually hardwired our attractive forces into the limbic region of our brain.  In his book, Spiritual Evolution, Dr. George E. Vaillant shares the results of decades of clinical research that demonstrate that the characteristics we associate with spirituality are of a genetic origin.  These include; love, joy, faith, hope, compassion, forgiveness, gratitude and a sense of awe.




If we take time to contemplate the implications of this reality, it becomes evident that the universe has designed us with a natural spiritual nature.  Vaillant points out that just as we differ from one another in stature, these spiritual characteristics also appear in individuals in varying degrees.  Nonetheless, taking time to cultivate these qualities can actually influence the development of certain regions of the brain and increase the prevalence of each of these positive emotions.  This is certainly the role religion, education and the humanities have played in human development over the millennia.




These characteristics lie at the heart of all constructive social relationships.  As we associate with one another, emotional and psychological bonds are formed that contribute to effective cultural development.  Of course, these bonds vary in degree from mere associations such as school and work to lifelong commitments of family and devoted friendships.
The ultimate expression of our social unions is seen in acts of altruism.  Caring for the concerns of others generally takes to forms.  There is an attitude of kindness that manifests in lifelong acts of service to others.  Whether it is a parent tending to the needs of their family, a nurse providing comfort to a patient, a teacher enabling his students to be lifelong learners, or someone holding a door open for an elderly couple, these all demonstrate a concern that reaches beyond our personal interests.
There is also an altruistic response that occurs in the midst of crisis.  Amazingly, it does not require any prior association but frequently takes place among complete strangers.  How often do we hear of people being pulled from burning buildings, mangled cars, or raging flood waters by those they have never met before?  What prompts individuals to leave a place of safety and risk their lives for others? 
I believe that all forms of altruism are attributable to an intuitive awareness that we are an integral part of a greater whole.  The natural spirituality that evolution has programmed into our genes is merely an extension of the ongoing complexification occurring in the universe.  Ideally, we are intended to unify in an interconnection that is mutually supportive.
 If this is true, why are we experiencing such extreme global turmoil?  Evolution is a slow process of trial and error as it blindly sorts through increasingly effectual configurations.  We must keep in mind that humanity is a very new species on our planet.  We are gradually stumbling towards a more unified global relationship and are currently engaged in a transitional period between outdated world views and a more rational understanding of who and what we are.
Arguably religion has been responsible for some of the most horrific human atrocities ever committed.  Nevertheless, the core message of every major religious teaching has expressed our natural spirituality, sought to establish social norms, encourage personal character development and provide a sense of community.  As yet, no comparable social institution has emerged to articulate contemporary universal knowledge, values and solidarity.  Consequently, we are witnessing widespread individualism, materialism, and militant religious factions vying for world domination.
Thankfully, in the midst of this stormy global climate, we see tremendous acts of kindness and courage.  The internet is full of websites promoting peace, positive values, respect and mutual support.  Many within the humanities are generating creative artistic images ideally suited for a collaborative and nurturing future.    Clearly our collective cosmic nature is alive and well working diligently to bring about necessary changes for a favorable human destiny. 

Our individual challenge is to find ways to contribute to this effort.  It is essential that we cultivate our natural spirituality through meditation, contemplation, communing with nature, seeking inspirational reading material, movies and music, or whatever may be personally uplifting. Then, actively seek opportunities to engage in random acts of kindness. Always remember, even the smallest candle can dispel the darkness that surrounds it.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Has the World Gone Crazy?

As we scan both national and global events, we may find ourselves overwhelmed by the apparent insanity that is unfolding all around us.  The tragedy of this situation is compounded by the fact that scientific research indicates that human consciousness appears to be the most extraordinarily complex and sophisticated entity the universe has produced thus far.  Do the current conflicts indicate that we have reached the height of our development and are engineering our species’ extinction?  Or, is it possible that we are witnessing a tumultuous transition from conflicting world views that were conceived in pre-scientific cultures towards a more contemporary understanding of our humanity?
In the previous post, Our Creative Universe, I presented six cosmic factors that serve as categories for every occurrence in the universe, repulsion, attraction, chaos, organization, entropy and complexification.  Inasmuch as we are expressions of the universe, our social interactions can be similarly grouped into six social factors that can be easily identified and understood, alienation, attraction, conflict, social bonds, egocentrism and altruism.




This model provides an effective way to recognize the nature of our own behavior as well as that of others.  Although life’s events may appear perplexing at times, learning to recognize what is going on can aide in developing more objective and rational strategies.  In reality, it’s not as complicated as it may seem.
The last few posts have been rather lengthy, so I am only going to address the items on the left side of the illustration at this point.  They are the destructive factors that prevent and destroy cohesive and harmonious social relationships. I will present the creative factors in subsequent posts.



Without doubt, egocentrism is a greater barrier to our cultural evolution than any other factor.  Its manifestations run the gamut from the temper tantrum of a toddler to the severe brutality of a dictator.  It lies at the heart of every conflict and generates and sustains the full range of alienation.  When people assert that “nothing ever changes”, that sentiment is generally directed towards the destructive behaviors associated with extreme forms of selfishness.




For a young child who lacks the knowledge and ability to provide its own necessities, it is developmentally appropriate to be self-centered.  We expect wild animals to engage in acts of self-preservation.  Yet when we observe similar attitudes and actions in adults, we recognize that it represents a serious character flaw.  The list of divisive attributes of egocentrism are limitless.



Unfortunately, it is easier to recognize egocentricity in others than it is in ourselves.  From our perspective, we are not self-centered, we are merely independent.  Certainly, individuality is highly valued in our culture, but from a holistic view, is that really a virtue?
Should we admire the rich and powerful?  Are those praiseworthy who amass their fortunes through the labors of the middle and lower class by withholding employment benefits and adequate compensation? Should we compliment the giants of corporate America who control energy, healthcare and other essential goods and services, forcing families into voluntary slavery while the executives indulge in unbounded opulence?
No, I would suggest that those who engage in brute capitalism foster the poverty they distain and are actively engaged in crimes against society.  We need to recognize extreme wealth for what it is, pure selfishness.    The frustration and anger of the working class and poor are understandable and probably justified.  We can only hope that an equitable redistribution of resources can eventually occur in a peaceful manner.
The religious conflicts and actions of despotic world leaders are no different.  They are further evidence of egocentrism.  Sadly, as long as people are willing to embrace the exaltation of individuals, candidates will vie for their place on the pedestal.
Albert Einstein offered us the key to a brighter future when he said, “No problem can be solved with the same level of consciousness that created it.”  Indeed, if the insanity is to end, we will need to view our existence from a completely new perspective.