5.1.  The Observed Cosmic Reality, Natural World, and Human Mind


(See also the older essay, “Cosmogony, Cosmic Evolution – Natural Evolution, Human Evolution”, or, under the new title, “Evolution:  Understanding Physical and Mental Existence” on the author’s website www.schwab-writings.com).


The Physical World

What is “existence” in this world?  How can we understand the fact that the physical world around us exists: energy, matter, radiation, forces, fields, the basic natural laws, uncertainty? 


According to scientific theory, existence began with the “Big Bang”, the original appearance of energy – only energy – all originating in one “singular” point.  This energy radiated out into the vacuum of empty space, thereby creating time and space.  The radiation out into expanding space was in the form of electromagnetic and nuclear forces, and gravitation fields (including a repulsive force of space, “lambda”, “dark energy”).  Electromagnetic fields can oscillate with a frequency that is proportional to the energy of their radiation.  Nuclear forces and gravitation fields do not oscillate.


One of the most important steps in the creation of our universe occurred when the energy emanating from the Big Bang proceeded to “granulate” – to condense into discrete particles.  One can understand particles as circular energy waves (string theory), transformable into the energy of outgoing radiation waves or being formed by the energy of incoming radiation waves in accordance with the famous Einstein formula e = mc2.


At that point, a basic process of nature became apparent – evolution, based on initial granulation, basic forces, and the action of the combinatorial principle (by some researchers and philosophers defined as the principle of “emergence”).  This “combinatorial principle” implies that:

-        smaller components are capable of being combined into larger components – an effect that did not necessarily have to occur (for instance, not occurring in a pile of pebbles)

-        the new and larger components, upon being combined out of the smaller components, demonstrate new characteristics beyond those of the original components – thereby presenting new dimensions of existence – as in composing an essay out of letters, a computer out of electronic components, or a system of thought out of individual ideas.


The combinatorial principle appeared first in atomic processes, combining strings into subatomic particles, subatomic particles into atoms, and atoms into the first molecules.  The dust of atoms and first molecules coalesced into stars.  New atomic processes occurred within stars, creating heavier elements along with larger molecules.  This formation is sometimes predictable, as in chemical processes.  At other times, it is subject to random events and statistical distributions, for instance, those leading to the shape of clouds and the distribution of the stars and galaxies in the sky.


Only about 5% (or, as recently thought, a little more) of the universe consists of the material we know.  Another 25% (or a little less) consists of so far unknown dark matter.  The remaining 70% consists of so far mysterious dark energy, driving the galaxies in the universe apart at increasing speed.


Among the new forces originating together with nuclear particles, the nuclear repelling force at short distances among particles is the most interesting.  Thereby, the individuality of particles and large structures can be maintained, as essential for the evolution of the world.  It is this repelling force, together with electromagnetic effects, that gives us the impression that something “solid” of a certain size is perceived to exist in the vacuum.


The scientifically trained among us (and everybody else) became used to these concepts as we grew up with them.  However, we should stop and wonder how gravitational – and, more so, electromagnetic fields in the vacuum – can be understood.  Is it graspable that the vacuum can show electromagnetic properties?  How can the vacuum oscillate?  Why would the oscillations of the vacuum, which we call electromagnetic waves, progress at an exact and constant speed, the speed of light, through the vacuum, the nothingness?  If particles can be understood as circular waves (strings) and can actually be transformed into radiation, then all forms of existence are only field phenomena of the vacuum, whatever that is.  All reality, all existence, ourselves included, consists of abstract field-phenomena of the nothingness. 


Existence becomes a perceivable reality by the fact that the characteristics of existence – fields, radiation, waves, or particles – have an influence or impact on each other.  Why, and how, do they do this?  Without such influence on each other, no part of existence would be aware of any other.  We humans perceive existence through sensory perception, the effect of other parts of existence on our senses.  


Existence becomes understandable only through its regularity, through the rules it follows in large areas, as those of causality, the laws of nature, and their guiding principles.  This regularity allows for causal understanding and predictability – and for mathematics to become the human mind’s language of nature.  Without that, in a totally random and chaotic existence of all phenomena, no understanding of existence would be possible.  The significance of the regularity in the otherwise virtual field phenomena of the vacuum lets this regularity appear as the key aspect of existence – while the quantum mechanical uncertainty and the randomness of distributions add unpredictability and freedom


What is the essence of the regularity of the phenomena of the vacuum?  This essence of existence is a thoroughly intellectual – one could say “spiritual” – phenomenon, possibly not sufficiently captured by either of the two words, “intellectual”, or “spiritual”.  This leads to the question, how do we understand this “intellectuality” or “spirituality” of existence?


There are not only “laws of nature” but basic “principles” as well.  The principle of the conservation of energy allows for the transformation of one form of energy into another – motion into heat, heat into electricity, electricity into the lifting of weights.  It does not, however, allow the addition or loss of any energy in the universe.  The energy that appeared in the Big Bang has never disappeared – not the slightest part of it.  This principle is not the only one; there is the principle of conservation of momentum, along with other “principles”.


Then, there are the “constants” in nature.  The speed of light is constant; so is the quantum step of energy and a couple of other units.  The world would be totally different if these constants had been established differently or if they had different values in different parts of or at different times in the universe. 


What established the laws, principles, and constants of nature in the first place, and what keeps them constant throughout the universe and time?  Is that the “intellectual” or “spiritual” and “structure-forming essence of Existence”?


A superficial view lets physical existence appear narrowly controlled by links of cause-and-effect.  Visions of all particles being tied to a rigid positional and dynamic determinism, as in crystals, may appear.  But then came Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, quantum mechanics, and the recognition that large areas of existence can be understood only in terms of the statistical distribution of random events.  Chaos Theory added the perspective that the minutest differences at a certain time in a certain place can lead to universal consequences of the largest dimensions. 


The possible significance of the minutest variations, the randomness of distributions, together with the Uncertainty Principle, dissolves all rigidity of a deterministic view of this world.  It actually leads to a significant openness of the possible future course of destiny in the universe and on Earth.  One cannot predict; all one can do is explain afterward. 


One more comment – about time.  We saw time as an absolute scale until the theory of relativity taught us the relativity of time between moving systems.  This may also raise a question regarding the validity of the time scale at or very close to the Big Bang or at an end of all or parts of the universe in Black Holes (unless Black Holes dissipate themselves again, as Stephen Hawking suggests they might).


As a matter of fact, the end or the fading of the universe can be expected within a vaguely predictable time interval by concentration of all matter within Black Holes and their subsequent dissipation in the form of ever colder and weaker radiation in limitless space.


Life – and Natural Evolution

The significance – and definition – of life results from the combination of three phenomena: the self-propagation of specific forms of physical existence, the utilization of resources from its environment, and the continuation of the propagation in some form of evolution.


Even the simplest form of life did not appear until a few hundred millions of years after the formation of Earth, when the planet was cool enough.  The evolution of life went through some significant steps:

*       Some self-propagating molecules (RNA at first) produced (or facilitated the formation of) other molecules that served as supporting material and surrounded the original molecules.

*       This conglomerate utilized the bubble-forming characteristic of lipid molecules (the basic elements of fat or oil) to surround itself with walls, forming protective cells.

*       RNA was capable of forming DNA.  The chain-forming capability and the great (but limited) stability of the secondary DNA molecules formed the biological memory and the genetic process of evolution, including the gene combination of two individuals in what we call “fertilization” and propagation by seed cells.  Amazingly complex energy conversion and protein mechanisms support the cell propagation and expression process.

*       Some cells formed nuclei (eucariotes).

*       At a later time, life began to feed on organic material – on other life.

*       Capillary movement occurred – mobility of organisms followed, resulting in “automation”.

*       Much later, the formation of nerves and their interconnectivity occurred.


The phenomenon of life and the process of genetic control in propagation remained unique.  No other, different process was invented by nature.  This, together with the absence of silicone-based life, raises the question of the uniqueness of life-generation on Earth.  Proto-organic molecules appear rather abundantly in the universe, as on the dusty surface on icy meteorites.  Their immersion in warm water, as on Earth, could explain the origin of most basic organic molecules necessary for the origin of life.  Was life formed only once, only here on Earth?  Has life been generated only once somewhere else in the universe and propagated to other places, including Earth, through interstellar transfer?  Has new life been originated many times, in many places in the universe, always following the path of further evolution?


The process of propagation, the building of secondary individual entities and the formation of the supporting material, requires energy.  The opposite phenomenon, the surplus of energy upon the formation of identical structures of material, as in crystallization, does not exist in the propagation of life. 


There were various sources of energy at the beginning of life – geothermal sources and the Sun.  The building material of life was formed from carbon compounds, abundant in the early Earth’s atmosphere and dissolved in its waters.


The initial steps in the evolution of life toward cells and strings of cells extended over billions of years.  Only about 800 to 500 million years ago, during the Pre-Cambrian and Cambrian periods, there occurred a sudden burst of new steps in evolution.  After the Cambrian period, the appearance of new basic configurations of organisms never occurred again (or such new organisms were not viable).  The following steps occurred during that period:

*       Multi-cell “organisms” appeared with differentiated tasks for the various cells.  These organisms evolved only from the “eucariotic” cells, those provided with cell nuclei.

*       Soon, there were a number – but only a very limited number – of very specific configurations of living organisms, like prototypes of the various later forms of more highly developed organisms.

*       Some configurations never acquired mobility (e.g., plants), others did (e.g., animals).

*       The earlier energy process of using Sun energy, and of using the ample carbon dioxide from the atmosphere provided large quantities of oxygen to the oceans or the atmosphere and did not require mobility. 

*       As the composition of the atmosphere changed, however, some branches of life changed their energy process to the breakdown and oxidation of organic material.  The necessary oxygen was taken from the newly available rich oxygen-content of the atmosphere.  The necessary organic material for combustion was taken from the large mass of organisms that stayed with the earlier energy process and produced such organic material. 

*       This meant that, with the arrival of the new types of oxygen-absorbing organisms, life had to feed on life.  This required mobility to reach ever-new supplies of immobile or mobile organic material and to prevail in competition, leading to automation.

*       In the Cambrian period, under competitive pressure in the evolution of life feeding on life, the physical size of many species increased enormously. 

*       The nervous system appeared, though basically of only one type.  Never was another basic type of nerve developed by nature.  The circulatory system appeared, too. 

*       Initially, nerves provided the synchronization of movements (cell deformations) or the connection between sensors and the reflexive movement “actuators”. 

*       Synaptic connections between different nerves and the capability for memory were added later. 

*       Then, the processing of priorities, memory, and sequential reflexes began, giving rise to movement strategies. 

*       Finally, “emotions” occurred and “thought”. 

*       The progression in the automation of life evolved from reliance on reflexes to a need for premeditated actions requiring initiative (automation) and, finally, mental freedom and responsibility.

*       Environmental upheavals – on a local or a global scale – resulted in several partial or total restructurings of the evolution of life through the extinction of some overshadowing branches of life (e.g., the dinosaurs) and by letting others prosper thereafter.


What caused these steps in evolution to occur? 


There are basically two different explanations for ongoing evolution in nature:

-        The religious belief in a divine plan for all evolution on Earth or, at least, divine causation or guidance of certain evolutionary steps as they occur (see the “Intelligent Design Theory”.  See the 2 essays on that subject on this author’s website).

-        The concept of a “Basic Principle of Evolution” in scientific terms, whereby probabilistic or random genetic variations lead from given starting and boundary conditions to modified or new life forms that compete for propagation and survival, sometimes finding new niches or opportunities to prosper, and, thereby, driving evolution.  Therefore, for the already existing organisms to prosper, evolution cannot proceed in random directions but must linearly follow opportunities.  Such opportunities change with migration, with climate or geological changes, and with varying or increasing capabilities of the evolving organisms.  In this concept, evolution is still founded on the characteristics and laws of our universe and nature and, consequently, on the “formative essence of existence” as expressed during the original Creation, whether this is seen in transcendental or scientific terms. 


Both of these concepts shall be discussed in later chapters.


There are some additional questions concerning evolution:  Why do some developments occur and others do not?  Why do some problems find only one solution at only one time, and never find another solution again at any later time (e.g., the nerve as the means of signal transmission)?  Why did nature develop some very complex configurations as flight and nerves, but did not develop others, as the wheel and metallic conductivity for nerves?  Why do some multi-step evolutions occur so rapidly, with the in-between steps being hardly visible?  Were the in-between steps possibly not viable?  (Examples are the development of feather-supported flight, or the poison-injecting sting of sea slugs or of serpents’ poison-injecting teeth.)  How can one explain the most complex and amazing evolutions on the genetic and molecular biological levels?   


Any observer of nature, especially of life on Earth, must be fascinated by the process of evolution.  However, one should not overlook the fact that the largest portion of the “bio-mass” on Earth may have undergone some variation and adaptation, but little evolution to any novel or higher forms of life.  This portion includes all the species with low complexity and very large populations – for example, the viri, bacteria, plankton, and invertebrates.


The paragraphs above described the structural aspects of life.  And what are the dynamic aspects?  A major difference between inanimate physical existence and life is the “automation” of life.  One can say that “automation” is the new, most basic principle of the era of life.  Automation implies a dynamic conduct of life directed from within the individual living being.  Each individual moves, multiplies, and acts by itself by a combination of its various innate capabilities activated by external conditions.  On the molecular level of life, this may be no different from inanimate, cause-and-effect chains.  However, when the quantitative difference of an organism’s abilities to react, to remember, to choose from a variety of options, and pursue a variety of alternative courses becomes significant, we have a qualitative difference between the dynamics of an existing molecule and the dynamic conduct of life by an individual organism.


One cannot leave the discussion of this era of life without admiring the enormous multiplicity of life forms, from viri to primates, often of great beauty, their variety of skills, and their intricacy of behaviors.


One also cannot leave the discussion of this era of life in nature, as seen from the human point of view, without reference to the merciless cruelty of the natural selection process.  There is no fairness or justice; and, except within some narrow kinship limits of higher animals, no compassion in this phase of “Darwinian” life.  Life prospers by destroying other life.


Must life necessarily be so?  We do not know whether life exists only on Earth or in many other places in the universe.  The basic principles of evolution may be universally necessary, since stars and their planets originate in violent heat, mature, and come to their end in absolute coldness (see the author’s essays, “Evolution: Understanding Physical and Mental Existence” and “Theology, Astrophysics, and the SETI-Project”).  We do not know, however, whether the evolution of life can, or has, taken different turns somewhere else in the universe, compared to evolution on Earth. 


Here on Earth, the appearance of humans brought further change.


Human Mind and Human Existence

The Evolution of the Human Mind and Human Existence

The creation of higher forms of life during the Cambrian period extended over a relatively short span in cosmic terms and in relation to the length of time during which life has existed on Earth.  Further differentiated evolution of the higher forms of life occurred over more than the following 500 million years.  Although man’s development may have started some 2 to 3 million years ago, accelerating about 200,000 years ago, the most significant development of humans occurred only during the last 15,000 years.  Therefore, considering the much longer time nature takes for its grand exercises, one should assume that this new creative period could still be in full course – if it does not come to an end as a failed exercise.


What is different in the human era of existence, compared to the animal era?  Again, it was the effect of a number of significant quantitative differences that led to a qualitative difference.  There were at least three major evolutionary progressions that led to the human era: 

o   The evolution of the brain and advanced, complex consciousness

o   The evolution of speech and mathematics

o   The evolution of structured society

They will be discussed in the following paragraphs.


The evolution of the brain and advanced, complex consciousness

The greatest difference between the human brain and that of animals resulted from the growth in the size of the frontal section.  The evolution of the human brain, however, is not just a matter of size.  Size alone could account for nothing more than additional memory or a greater degree of specific sensory signal differentiation (as in some whales).  Significantly important for human development is the exponential increase in the number of interconnections between the growing number of neurons in the human brain, specifically in the frontal lobes.  This interconnectivity (along with some complex chemical processes related to the brain) has led to eight important phenomena, which account for the most important human brain capabilities (see also the author’s essay, “The Brain:  Mental Creativity”): 

*       Mental visualizations (whether of visual, acoustic, verbal or other kinds corresponding to any of the human perceptions)

*       Self-sustained thought sequences

*       Focusing of thought

*       Creativity (innovation) through the formation of more complex visualizations or concepts in a not-limited combinatorial process

*       Memorization and retrievability of a large number of visualizations or thoughts and resulting consciousness (awareness of oneself and the universe)

*       Ethical thought and judgment

*       Emotions and “values” associated with thoughts – leading to individual personality

*       Sensitivity for beauty, art, joy, and humor


A visualization is the brain-internal activation – without external stimulus – of all neurons that together constitute a perception – for example, a word or an image.  In this way, the same visualization appears in the mind as if an external sensory stimulus had provoked the visualization – for example, the hearing of the word or seeing of the image.  This neural activation without external stimulation allows for the important phenomenon of self-sustained mental activity over time, beyond instant and temporary reflexes.


Self-sustained thought sequences are nothing but sequences of visualizations that follow each other along the lines of thought or perception associations, physiologically facilitated by their synaptic connections.  Among all the possible thought associations, the association with the strongest synaptic connection is selected for the next sequence phase.  This selection of the strongest appears to be a typical phenomenon of nature, as also is found in the selection of the fittest in biological evolution.  In the brain, the strength of synaptic association is established by thought habit, associated value as provided by projections from the amygdala and other brain nuclei in the mid-brain, or perceived benefit.  The synaptic association strength results in signal transfer strength (secondary nerval firing rate).


Emotions and values attributed to thoughts occur already in animals.  This lets an animal avoid food types that previously resulted in poisoning, or noises that announced danger, or pursue signals that arouse basic drives.  In humans, where this capability is significantly more differentiated, it influences or directs thought sequencing in an important way.  Not only will pleasant or previously successful thought associations be pursued, but negative ones as well, even criminal thought sequences (what used to be called the “voice of the Devil” or what causes copy crimes).  Thereby, it is important to note that the emotional or temperamental constitution of an individual’s personality influences the course of the frontal lobes’ thought sequences and, consequently, creativity, strategy formulation, and decision-making.    


Since antiquity, the great thinkers about human existence have distinguished between “mind” and “soul”.  Even in our times, one speaks of the difference between mind and “heart” as if the latter provided something different to mental processes.  The definition of “soul” has varied through the ages.  It was the essence of human life, the sum total of an individual’s personality, including temperament, thought, and memory, or only the individual’s emotional side and value content.  Physiologically, this is related to the function of the mid-brain area, including the amygdala and its co-functioning with the “intelligence” provided by the frontal lobes of the brain.  The so-called “soul”-based phenomena account for what we humans value most in our lives and in our fellow beings.  They relate to the appreciation of our values, to our freedom being guided by ethical standards, and to our responsibility, if not accountability.


The focusing of thought allows thought sequences to be guided along desired paths.  More important, by back-referencing later thought phases to the earlier focus, focusing allows the establishment of new thought associations.  Thereby, as when using a building-block system in a combinatorial process, new configurations, “inventions”, new applications, or ever more complex systems of thought can be established in the brain.  The focus-related sequences resulting in new associations and their memories are the basis of a surprising new phenomenon in existence: the appearance of inventiveness and mental creativity by human thought.  This phenomenon brought humans to their elevated level of civilization and to the scientific understanding of the universe. 


It is interesting to note that the above mechanism indicates that all human mental inventiveness is combinatorial in nature, and nothing else.  New concepts arise by putting known ones and new perceptions together in a novel way, as in a building-block system.  This is in accordance with a general principle in nature: building existence out of elemental building blocks, from subatomic particles up, in ever larger or more complex configurations.


When visualizations, associations, or thought phases have sufficient signal strength (nerval firing rate), they are being remembered through synaptic formation.  These sequences of visualizations and their memories form the essence of all thought.  Memorization and retrievability of a large number of visualizations or thoughts leads to the richness of human reflective and creative mental activity, specifically since memory content is structured by categories and offers hierarchical grouping (our pet “Sniff” is a dog,  mammal, animal). 


The human capability to memorize large quantities of visualizations and thought sequences over long periods of time, and in complex associative interconnections, gives rise to the virtual phenomenon of “consciousness”, the capability to perceive and think about oneself and one’s surrounding existence.  In fact, that capability for memorization and retrieval of earlier thought and perceptions seems to be all that consciousness actually is.     


Human mental functions developed into a variety of directions and formed corresponding capabilities:

*       Practical thought – logical, analytical, and holistic thought

*       Ethical concerns – emotions, conscience, and judgment

*       Justice and fairness

*       Humor and joy

*       Aesthetic sensation and artistic creativity

*       Miscellaneous others


These distinct human mental capabilities and their relative strength have a substantial impact on an individual’s response to the experience of existence, to the individual’s behavior and course through life.


The evolution of speech and mathematics

The evolution of speech capability – and, consequently, language – allowed the development and effective use of ever more complex concepts in human mental activities and communication.  Speech does not necessarily have to be acoustic.  Optical signals, as in sign language and facial expressions, or any other type of signals, can work, too.  However, acoustic speech was an extremely good medium here on Earth for highly differentiated and almost effortless expression of concepts and their communication over practical distances, until society became global and electronics occurred. 


While having facilitated this world of electronics, however, evolution has not provided humans with natural organs to use it.  Mental evolution has forged ahead, attempting to become independent of natural evolution. 


It is interesting to note that speech has evolved necessarily parallel to human thought.  Therefore, it is also structured in categories, hierarchical, and combinatorial (see the classical method of defining concepts: “definitio fit per genus proximum et diferrentiam specificam”)


The essential benefit of speech lies in the forming and communication of effective and standard “short-hand”, “symbolic” expressions for complex associations (in mathematics, “operands” or “transforms”), with each new concept being definable out of prior elemental concepts and usable repetitively for the development of subsequent, more complex concepts. 


This has given rise to specialized vocabularies in the various intellectual endeavors, thus allowing for participation in these endeavors by those who are fluent in such vocabularies, or the holding back of participation by others who are not.  On the other hand, remaining with a fixed vocabulary reflecting a fixed set of concepts indicates the lack of mental growth and creativity.


Mathematics is another form of handling symbolic concepts, whether numbers or operands – indicating that language and mathematical symbols are hierarchical – another expression of the combinatorial principle.  The importance of mathematics is derived from the fact that nature can be understood and interpreted in terms of the mathematical expressions of theoretical physics.


The evolution of the structured society

Human society is dominated by a pecking order and consequent allocation of tasks, as among animals.  More important, it has evolved into multifaceted sub-structures of civilization (including the domains of government, business, law, religion, leisure activities, warfare, the arts, and more).  Corresponding structures of laws and regulations evolved. 


Central control in human society is always in conflict with individual freedom.  Thus far, humans have not become dedicated cells without any internal control of their own (as opposed to undifferentiated insects in a swarm), even though totalitarian or religiously fundamental systems have tried to accomplish this again and again.  The unusual strength of human societies – their adaptability and ability to innovate – is provided by a combination of central coordination and remaining individual freedom to follow personally differentiated motivations.


There are three types of central control:

  1. The suppressive power of rulers 
  2. The mind-controlling power of ideologies (even in “political correctness”) or religions and their proponents (priests) – with type (1) and type (2) often acting together
  3. The coordinated control in a society through shared values resulting in conforming behavior 


Such shared values must not necessarily be the same as the acclaimed Western values of our own times (see, for instance, China).  Since “coordinated control in a society” usually is not enough to enforce conforming behavior by all members of a society, such control is often combined with some central power vested with the legislative, executive, judiciary, and the police – if not the mullahs.


The legislative power is supposed to formulate the shared values relative to expected behavior.  As most democratic nations show, vocal minorities (including the media) and special interest groups can (often by means of their money) impose their will, leading to the form of type (2) or (1) of control, as described above.  Thus, these nations actually live in a combination of all three forms of control.  This instability usually leads to conflict.  


It is important to note that there is a consistent correlation between the coordinating effectiveness of shared values, the economic strength, and the political strength of a society.  As the former are not stable over time, with their ups and downs, the latter is not stable either.


One cannot leave the discussion of the human era without pointing out the potential for strength, harmony, and general well-being in a society ruled by humanistic values, compared to the cruelty of the animal era of existence, which is totally ruled by the natural selection of the fittest.  On the other hand, recent history has shown that unlimited humanism, as expressed in Socialism and open borders for every would-be immigrant, does not work in the reality of this world (and unlimited political correctness most likely not either). 


It is a regrettable fact that parts of human society, such as nations or enterprises, may be internally humanistic while warring among each other in the cruelest manner.  It is also a fact that societies that cannot defend their territories against external enemies or subversion from within fall victim to other societies or go into political or economic disintegration, often as cruelly as in the times of Darwinian natural selection.


Does human society necessarily progress to better conditions?  There are the dangers of nuclear or biological war, environmental degradation, climate change, pandemics, internal degradation in terms of law and order or morality, and vastly corrupt tyranny.  An equal danger lies in the dependence of human society on a high level of technology and a functioning industry – whether for its food supply, energy supply, or medical services, all of which are extremely fragile.  They easily suffer from instabilities in society.  The quick collapse of the socialist states in the East and of African states when liberated demonstrates this point.  After a spectacular rise in cultural and economic accomplishments, a collapse in unspeakable misery could occur.


The Characteristics of Human Existence on Earth

As indicated, three major innovations – the evolution of the brain, the evolution of speech and mathematics, and the evolution of the structured society – led to the human era on Earth, which is characterized by: 

1.     The ascension of empires and ever larger structures of society

2.     The rise of cultures

3.     The increasing significance of values

4.     Ethics and the limits of ethics

5.     The mental freedom and responsibility of the individual

6.     The effects of mental curiosity and mental creativity

7.     Population explosion and its consequences

8.     The fall of human society


The ascension of empires and ever larger structures of society

Whenever one considers the accomplishments of mankind throughout history, one’s thought turns to grand empires or grand cultures based on empires – Egypt, China, the Incas, and others.  It was the creative and formative power of these structures of society that resulted in their significance.  Roving family groups could not accomplish what clans did.  Clans could not accomplish what tribes did.  Empires over many tribes had the power to build great architecture, to afford a class of artists, thinkers, and scientists, to educate their subjects along the lines of their cultures, and to impress their cultures on large areas over extended periods of time. 


Even Athens was an empire in its time.  Greek culture was spread throughout the world by the subsequent empire of Alexander and, later, by the Roman Empire.  Our time of global power of destruction, global commerce, and global communication demands the ongoing strength of the West, but also global peace and global coordination of interests with others.  Will the important clans, ethnic groups, and nations of this world be able to refrain from the pursuit of exploitative, abusive, or religious self-interest?  Will Islam become benevolent again – and China not a danger?


At the base of building empires is the specifically human capability for organization and management.  Extrapolated into modern times, it is the ability to build industrial and commercial enterprises and international organizations that form the basis of modern civilization.


The rise of cultures

Nothing characterizes the rising spirit of mankind better than the appearance of cultures (Webster’s:  “Refinement, the way of life of a people”).  Economic strength and technical progress may be the foundation of cultures, but it is the development of thought as expressed in the outlook on life – in the sciences, in philosophy, in religious thought, and in the development of human sensitivity as expressed in the aesthetic, artistic, and, mainly, social elements of life – that lets us admire more than anything else the accomplishments of a culture.  These are the unique contributions of mankind to existence in the universe.


Is humor, a quintessential human capability, also part of culture?


The increasing significance of values

Within cultures, nothing characterizes human existence more than the pursuit of “values”.  The aboriginal human concerns may have been – and, in large parts of the world, still are – the natural ones of survival and procreation – and the proto-ethical ones of love of family, reciprocity in friendship, and dedication to the tribe.  Beyond that, people were, and always will be, driven by a desire for added security or well-being, significance or rank, and entertainment.  The strong and mighty have always striven for power.  Some people will always look for frontiers to explore and for fame.  At our level of civilization, people can afford to look for the satisfaction resulting from mental growth, dedicate their time and resources to local or international charity and public service, and enjoy “culture” through the arts.


The concept of “values” is a modern one. In times past, one spoke of “virtues”.  The ranking of virtues changed in historic times.  In archaic and heroic times, courage and honor ranked high.  Virtue was seen as holding the middle between the two extremes of weakness and exaggeration.  Wisdom was a supreme virtue, indicating a vast understanding and knowledge of existence, often finding answers to seemingly impossible problems, often leading to the right temperance and compromise between conflicting views.  How does one solve the conflict between peace and freedom, honor and reason, or any other emotion and reason?  Usually, the answer lies in the right middle, often closer to reason, seldom in a ranking of principles.  It is time to bring “wisdom” back to the center of our cultural attention and education!


In Christian times, Christian love (the Greek “agape”), compassion, and humility ranked high.  In our times, religious and political leaders, as well as role models of society, appeal to the need for values in our private and public lives.  Soundness of family life, work ethics, honesty, respect for others, charity, and public service – all are commonly cited.  Our society is based on a profound respect for justice and fairness.  Common to all these values is the underlying assumption that there has to be a balance between the pursuit of personal benefit, the dedication to public service, and some charitable works for the needy.  The global view of our time increases the range of these values.  This is what is considered “right”.  The opposite is “wrong”.



The meaning of “ethics” has changed in the course of history and, more so, the height, or strictness, of moral standards.  In early cultures, ethics and morals (Greek “ethos”, Roman “mores”) meant customs – customary behavior, as in communal life, dress code, cults, ritual, or war.  The personality and behavioral aspects of ethics were described by “virtues”.  The discussion of virtues in Aristotle’s Athens referred not only to the “moral” sphere of “good” and “bad”, but also to courage, justice, temperance, and other qualifications of character. 


Later, in the Middle Ages, the definition of what was ethical was provided by religious or church-issued commandments and rules.  “Moral” matters were no longer “customs” or aspects of character, but became, instead, matters of being dogmatically “right” and “wrong”.  Beginning with the Scholastic  thinkers, “ethics” became an intellectual pursuit, a discipline of philosophy. 


In a parallel development, another part of society, the knights and nobility, retained or revived earlier rules of “honor”.  The importance of these rules continued through World War II, especially for the nobility and the military, to which “duty” became equally important. 


Honor is still a significant “value” in the Muslim and less developed part of the world – while “dignity” (related to respect) is important to all of us.  With the rise of the middle class and, more so, with increasing industry and commerce, “ethics in business” arose as a concern, with the emphasis on trust and fairness. (Interestingly, the Ten Commandments do not address the problems of predatory business behavior or legalistic trickery.) 


Since the late 18th century, in a combination of enlightenment and romanticism, “humanistic” values became important.  Still, to a certain extent, they dominate the ethical thinking of the world today. 


Western democracies promote “freedom, brotherhood, and equality” – the ideals of the French Revolution and the American Bill of Rights.  Democracy brought questions of “ethics in government”, with its emphasis on integrity and the condemnation of corruption or abuse of power. 


The environmental movement has given ethical meaning to environmental protection. Supported by progress in the sciences, the movement presents higher animals as sensitive and deserving of ethical treatment. 


Modern social concerns brought a renewed demand for social justice and the Civil Rights movement in all its forms.


Moral strictness varied in the course of history, in an oscillation between “liberal” periods of materialistic or rational lasciviousness and “fundamentalist” periods of religious or idealistic strictness, one being the reaction to the exaggeration of the other. 


Modern intellectuality (rationality, scientific thinking, and liberal thought), as well as new social concerns, gave impetus to the interpretation and limits of acceptable ethical behavior.  Much of what was morally unacceptable in times past is acceptable today (at least, for the time being). 


Over the centuries, ethics has always related to the behavior of individuals.  In our times, there is an increasing call for ethical behavior of organizations (as in business) and of nations (as in international aid, in accepting refugees, and in transborder environmental degradation). 


In Summary, one can distinguish various sources of human ethical thought and behavior:

*       Genetically preprogrammed ethical behavior

*       Ethics developed through learning and cultural habit

*       Religious teaching of ethics

*       Ethics based on philosophical thought


Genetically preprogrammed proto-ethical behavior:

The discovery of the evolutionary appearance of a genetic anchoring of ethics as the foundation of social behavior of animals for the formation and maintenance of groups brought some clarity to the complex subject of ethics. 


Three types of ethical behavior among humans have a genetic base and not a base in education, culture, religion, philosophy, or practical considerations (in this regard, humans are no different from many animals):

·       Caring for offspring and clan-related individuals (decreasing with genetic distance)

·       Reciprocity in behavior (as among animals in congregating, grooming, sharing of food, and assistance in fighting) with selected other individuals (friends) – upon abuse turning into revenge behavior.

·       Loyalty to, and personal sacrifice for, the clan (as in heroic deeds for the clan or the nation in general).


All three of these behavior types, among animals as well as humans, are focused and augmented by learning and, in the case of humans, by own thought.


In cases of conflict between different ethical motivations, it appears as if the sequence of priority follows the above sequence, with caring for offspring (or relatives) being the strongest bond and loyalty to the clan at large the lowest-ranking bond, being abandoned first in conflict situations.  Such conflicts provide powerful themes for the writing of tragedies.  Yet, the historic development of formulated rules of ethics followed the opposite sequence: 


With this genetic base of ethics in mind, one can structure a list of ethical concerns:

Caring and Compassion:

Family values

Compassionate assistance to the needy, charity, and other humanistic values

Social justice and civil rights


                        The Golden Rule

Concerns of criminality (see the Ten Commandments) and civil law

Fairness and trust (beyond the law) in inter-human relations

Ethics in the professions (beyond the law): in business, medicine, law, etc.

Loyalty to the group:

                        National heroism, patriotism, military honor

Service to the community, civic duty

                        Ethics in government (sense of duty and integrity versus corruption or abuse

of power)


Interestingly, there are two important and typically human concerns that cannot be seen as equal to the three genetic ethical categories:

-        Reverence for the divine (as in religious behavior, Christian saintliness, or Jewish righteousness)

-        Sexual behavior, taboos, and morally valued dress codes or “modesty/chastity” issues

However, these “taboo”-related issues have taken center stage in much of religious activism and the concerns of church leaders, whether Christian or Muslim – somewhat to the detriment of truly “ethical” concerns of caring for those in need.


The genetic base of ethics is the only possible common ground for a globally valid ethical code. 


Anything beyond this common base would have to be based on a common religious or philosophical view of existence or on utilitarian considerations, would have to be “educated” into the minds of all people, and would have to be maintained by a legal and policing system.


Ethics Developed through Learning and Cultural Habit:

Even the proto-ethical behavior of animals in the three genetic categories indicated above is already subject to some learning (for example, the pairing and bonding between specific parents and their own offspring, and the acceptance and bonding of a pack member to the pack). 


Among humans, learning allowed bonding and loyalty to be extended to ever larger sub-groups of society, from family to clan, to tribe, to nation, and, most recently, to international human cohesion.  Christ taught the acceptance of a brother or sister in every human being (but was not concerned with higher animals). 


It is still common to feel strong ethical bonds to one’s own clan members while being ethically unconcerned or showing ruthlessness and cruelty to outsiders.  The Balkans and the Middle East are glaring examples.  Countries with ethnic or religious diversity experience this society-disrupting problem.  Racial differences tend to perpetuate the ethical differentiation between insiders and outsiders, often supported by the different groups’ different skills and professions, by selective observation, and inflamed by struggle about social standing, limited resources, or land.


Most human ethical behavior results not from conviction or deliberate individual decision-making, but from socially conditioned habit.  An example is the conditioning of society in classical China through Confucian teachings – and the opposite formation appears to occur in some Muslim communities.  In this context, it is important to note that different cultures still have widely different rules of ethics (see the brutal ethnic egoism, prevalent corruption, social indifference, and accepted tyranny in large parts of the world).


What does the future hold, if clan or ethnic egoism, racism, and cultural ethical differences are not resolved, even get out of hand?


Religious Teaching of Ethics

The thought that ethical behavior was mandated and rewarded by the gods (or God) and un-ethical behavior condemned and punished, occurred in various civilizations early in the course of their history.  Thereby, in the Judeo-Christian and Muslim traditions, religious scriptures and priests became the voice of ethics, whereby the priests often assumed the role of interpreters of divine will in ethical matters and, consequently, assumed the role of judges – and gained power.


Considering that they are presented as God’s ethical rules for mankind, the Ten Commandments are surprisingly limited to reciprocity in a practical world, establishing practical order within a coherent pre-urban group of people.  “Fairness” (at least the prohibition of trickery) and “compassion”, the essence of caring humanistic ethics, are not mentioned in the Ten Commandments (nor are personal sacrifice, duty, or heroism for the common good).  It is equally surprising that King Uru’inimgina (Urukagina) of Lagash in Sumeria, in approximately 2380 BC, already had proclaimed himself the caring protector of the weak.  Thus far, historians have not covered the subject of the evolution of caring ethical thought in our or other cultures.


Thinkers during the time of Christ awoke to the human ethical needs beyond the Law, with Christ, as the “son of God”, teaching most clearly the ethics of brotherly love based on the father-image of God.  Later teachers, unfortunately, deflected much of that spirit.  They emphasized the personal benefit in pursuing a behavior of good deeds for the purpose of obtaining personal salvation into Heaven.  It took repeated efforts by great religious personalities through the centuries to keep the ethics of genuine Christian love alive, from St. Francis to Mother Theresa.


Ethics based on Philosophical Thought

The philosophical and analytical approach to ethics addressed some fundamental questions:

* Are ethical rules of absolute value or of demographically relative value (as in different cultures)?

* Are ethics determined by process or by goals (the importance of acting ethically or to justify acts by their goals)?

* What is the fundamental basis for ethics (for example, rationally: the greatest benefit to the greatest number of people – as opposed to the human rights of each individual)?


The Greeks began their intellectual approach to ethics with a discussion of the absolute versus the demographically relative value of ethics (Aristotle versus the Sophists).  In trying to arrive at absolute rules of ethics, Aristotle defined virtue as lying between two undesirable extremes.  Stoics and Epicureans were more concerned with personal happiness than with ethics.


Beginning with the Scholastic period and the first stirrings of the Renaissance, rational thought was introduced into religious and theological teaching (Maimonides, Abelarde, Aquinas).  Finally, a clear separation occurred between “ethics” as a branch of philosophy different from theologically based moral exegesis and teaching.  The study of philosophical “ethics” resumed the Greek discussion regarding the relative or absolute value of ethical standards.  The difference was seen as one between a circumstantially learned concept of ethics and one of intrinsic, absolute, and general value.


In later centuries, utilitarian considerations prevailed over idealistic ones.  The difference was that between a strictly rational interpretation of ethics and an idealistic and emotional one.


The maturing of the human mind in the West through the Enlightenment and, later, as a human reaction, through the romantic and humanistic period, brought a reassessment of ethics in the new setting of modern society.  The results were humanistically formed values, the American Bill of Rights, Communism, and the abolition of slavery concluding with civil rights, and, finally, environmentalism today.  The clergy and its religious exegetic effort was often in the forefront of these movements.


Four developments changed the intellectual discussion and brought it to its present state: 

*       The Nazi and Communist abuses of utilitarian ethics in the elimination of “undesirables”

*       Recognition of the genetic base of ethics

*       New and almost Darwinian territorial drives of some ethnic groups and the survival threats experienced by various nations at the hand of the more powerful ones – or in consequence of climatic change

*       Fundamentalist religious movements on one side, and liberal extremes on the other


The Nazi and Communist abuses of utilitarian ethics led to the killing of members of society who were declared “useless” (for example, Gypsies and the mentally handicapped) and the enslavement or killing of large ethnic segments of the population for the pretended benefit of society at large (the killing of the Jews).  These horrors indicated the horrible dangers of utilitarian ethics.  This brought a return of the demand for idealistic ethics without utilitarian limitations (with consequences in the American civil rights movement, international aid, and the environmental movement).


The scientific recognition of the genetic base of ethics brought an end to the centuries-old discussion of the absolute or relative character of ethics.  The common genetic base of all people made caring for offspring, reciprocity, and clan loyalty an absolute base of human emotions and, consequently, of universal ethical judgment.  Everything else turned out to be either learned or a cultural habit (for instance, to what degree all children were perceived with as much affection as own offspring – who all would be comprised in reciprocity – and who all would be included in or excluded from loyalty).


New Darwinian territorial drives and the threats experienced by various nations are visible in many of the small wars and civil devastations in recent times – for example, in the Balkans, between Israelis and Palestinians, on Sri Lanka, and in Rwanda.  Also to be included are the waves of immigration into the developed countries and the resulting reactions.  In every case, international ethics were violated by people claiming ethical motivations in loyalty to their “own people”, whether family, religious, or ethnic group.  It was found that people are not ready to surrender their national territory, culture, or religious homogeneity to others, whether or not the others are in need. The resulting struggles are not decided by wise judgment based on ethical norms, but by the Darwinian force of the fittest in the modern world.


The resurgent fundamentalist movements of our times are directed specifically toward the strengthening of ethical standards (or, quite often, merely moral taboos).  In the process, some adherents of such movements feel entitled to severely punish all those who are opposed to their movement (see the Muslim radicals).  This is no different from the behavior in the times of the Inquisition and religious wars in Europe (and, to some degree, the Nazis).  In our day, this modern phenomenon, long thought to have been overcome, can be found among Muslims, Jews, and Hindus.  Can the world never be cured of these types of ethics-disease?


In contrast to fundamentalism, liberal thought attempts to liberate people from irrational traditions and taboos.  In the case of sexual liberalization, however, liberal thought contributes to the weakening of the family.  Single mothers and children are the ones who suffer.  In another example, gender liberalization finds its limits in the obligation for child-rearing.


Global coherence expands ethical concerns to the behavior of nations, tribes, and clans.  It can no longer be acceptable that such subgroups of mankind abuse their power to overrule or exploit other groups in any unethical way, where “legal” is not identical with “ethical”.


Environmental limitations impose a responsibility for nature upon mankind.  This responsibility should be seen not merely in the interest of mankind, but as a natural responsibility in itself.  On the other hand, nature could not have been left where it was when mankind first appeared.  This is a typical gray-zone problem. As with all such problems, especially those in ethical dilemmas, it is not easily treatable in intellectual terms.


In summary, the philosophical dilemmas of times past may be resolved.  However, the practical dilemmas are not resolved.  Neither utilitarian nor idealistic ethics works; nor does unlimited intellectual liberalism.  In addition, the new ethical problems of our time have found no solutions in mature philosophical thought.


The Limits of Ethics

Upon further analysis, one finds that the dilemma with religious or philosophic ethical teachings in our time results from the problems associated with the “limits of ethics”.  These occur in situations of extreme conditions, where adherence to the rules of ethics would bring severe disadvantage.  Where, then, is the limit to which ethical rules are valid, and beyond which they could be modified or abandoned?


The Judeo-Christian rules of ethics and those of some other religions are of absolute and unrestricted nature (in contrast to Aristotelian restraint).  The command “love your neighbor as yourself”, when applied to charitable giving, would result in dividing one’s property down to the lowest denominator in the global society.  Practical life hardly ever allows absolute and unrestricted implementation of such ethical rules.


There are a number of defensive considerations being commonly presented to justify the withholding of charitable aid.

a)     My or our needs come first.  I should first give to somebody poor or deserving in my own family, in my own clan, or my own country.  There still is plenty left for me to do for my own people.

b)     The requesting one is not “deserving” of any help:  He/she is an alcoholic/drug abuser or not behaving well. 

c)     The money I give only goes to the aid administrators or a corrupt government official.

d)     The requesting one got into this trouble by his own free will:  Why does he/she not work?  Why did he/she not go to school to learn more?  Why did he/she get so many children?  Why did he/she not stay where he/she came from?  Why do they not learn to take care of their own country?

e)     Everybody has to do only his share:  What have the others done to help? What should they do?  Why should I do all?  If everybody helps equally, I have to contribute only 50 cents.


The thoughts supporting the recipient’s side are:

a)     In dubious situations, give the recipient the benefit of the doubt.

b)     Could it have happened to you to be in this kind of trouble?

c)     What if your brother/sister or son/daughter were in this kind of trouble?

d)     At least support those aid organizations that help the innocent.

e)     At least support those aid organizations that help the afflicted people to support themselves.

f)      If you want to give your share only, think that at least 50 percent or 90 percent of the people do not give anything.  Therefore, give at least twice or ten times your average share.

g)     As a general rule:  It is better to have given ten times to the wrong person or too much than not to have given once to a person who really needed and deserved help or to have given too little.


There are other situations in individual life and in society’s conditions where exceptions to the ethical laws are expected or become necessary.  Even the Catholic Church recognizes “just” wars and self-defense.  However, all wars lead to the murder not only of combatants, but also of civilians, as in the bombarding of cities.  Killing is commonly accepted in self-defense, and in defense of the innocent.  Expropriations are commonly done in the public interest.  Everybody’s daily life is filled with exceptional situations.  What should one do, and under what circumstances?  Where are the limits of ethical obligations? 


Unfortunately, religious teaching gives surprisingly little assistance in such practical situations in the conduct of life.  The great thinkers and founders of religions have largely not addressed the problem of the practical limits of ethical rules.  This is the most significant shortcoming of religious guidance in life.  It is also the most significant shortcoming of established moral philosophy.  Only the ancient Greeks arrived at the conclusion that each virtue lies in the proper measure between two undesirable extremes.  Kant’s philosophical Categorical Imperative may offer a reasonable approach.


The human mind is quite capable of judging, deciding, and moving ahead within undetermined situations.  The degree of practical compromise in the field of ethics seems culturally determined.  Thus, the amount of charitable giving, the degree of cheating on tax returns, and even the acceptance of street crime varies from one cultural group to another.


Mental Freedom and Responsibility, “Free Will” and “Freedom of Personality”

In the course of Creation, the animal era of life became characterized by “automation”.  Now, in the human era, consciousness and the potential for self-determination and judgment establish the era of “freedom” and “responsibility”.  Is there any freedom of the human mind?  Is there freedom of will?  More importantly, is there freedom of decision-making? 


There are actually three levels of discussion regarding mental freedom:

*       Political and social freedom

*       Mental independence

*       Freedom of will and freedom of personality


Political and social freedom:

As Schiller says in one of his great dramas, only “thoughts are free”; words and actions are not.  Most of us are politically or socially restrained, as, for instance, at work in an organization.  In the interest of personal security or for personal benefit, we say and do what is expected of us.  There are political and social conflict situations where we must decide whether we will say and do what is expected of us or whether we will say and do what we want to – or what is morally “right” to say and do – and suffer the consequences.  


Mental independence:

Un-influenced thought and decision-making are predetermined by who one is and by one’s own personality.  This personality is, after all, given by the sum total of one’s genetic predispositions, by one’s prior experiences in life (nature and nurture), and by own thought.   


Temperament and emotions enter thought, as discussed earlier.  They constitute a person’s “personality”.  Most people would prefer having a somewhat different personality from the one they find themselves provided with.  Many want to quit smoking, want to lose weight, or want to become tougher, stronger leaders, warmer parents, or just better human beings.  They see their nature-given composition or the weaknesses in their personality as limiting their free will. 


The fact is, people stop smoking after they are diagnosed with cancer, they lose weight after a heart attack, they are tougher or stronger leaders after leading their followers through a few battles, and they can sometimes become better human beings by taking care of some fellow humans who really suffer in life or by suffering themselves.  Why could they not implement their behavior changes and, hence, their personality changes, in the first place, but could do so sometime later after significant experiences?  Changes in personality, while possible, are very difficult to accomplish, at best, through constant focusing on role models.  Consequently, the freedom of will and decision-making may find their most severe limitations in this predicament.


The plasticity (change in time under external influence) of the human brain between inherited traits, added experiences, and ongoing own thought indicates how unrealistic it is to try “to find oneself”.  One may become, to a large extent, what one surrounds oneself with.  Starting with an inherited predisposition, one is whom one evolves into in the course of life, partially by one’s own choice and under one’s own influence.  At best, one can attempt to contemplate, in holistic thought, what goals one should have in selecting or searching one’s human environment and the forming experiences or activities of one’s life – then seek those.  One aspect of environment that is of special significance to an individual is the choice of a companion in life and of the set of one’s friends or associates at work.  To some degree, one can actively do something about this part of environment.  One can do something about finding and keeping a good partner in life, good friends, and avoiding less desirable ones.  An effective approach to personality change lies in following a suitable role model within a supporting congregation of like-minded fellows.


Personality strength grows more favorably with opportunities for decision-making and accomplishments.  Therefore, such opportunities should be looked for and used.  Personality includes also the capability for restraint and temperance, which also require training.


There is one more factor to be considered:  one’s own thought.  As alluded to above, one’s own thought may be formed by personality and cultural habituation.  As also indicated in that chapter, one’s own thought, through sequences of visualizations, enters memory and nerval interconnectivity in the brain in the same way as perceived experiences.  Thought enters into value assessment of associations and, consequently, the course of future thought.  In other words, one’s own thought has a strong influence on who one is and how one thinks and judges in the future.  As indicated before, such closed circles of cause-and-effect between personality, thought, and personality can spiral off into extremes (from Jesus to Hitler). They can taper off into nothing, or they can be meaningful in everybody’s normal life.  Such spirals are kept connected to reality through intervening perceptions.  In summary, there is a mystery remaining regarding mental independence, who I am, and the consequences for how I can and do influence my own course in thought and action.


Freedom of “will”

Is every decision of ours merely a direct consequence of nature (given character) or nurture (received education), making every decision of ours theoretically predictable?  Can thoughts and decisions ever truly be free?  Can one ever free oneself of culturally imposed thought habits?  Can one ever arrive at any personally free thought habit different from what one learned and has become used to? 


Western thought and attitudes have reached considerable individual and group accomplishments in emphasizing personal responsibility and potential for freedom in personal action.  Obviously, the West also sees the individual as depending on destiny and personal gifts; yet the individual is expected to do the best he or she can under the circumstances.  One can only recommend an attitude toward life accepting a large degree of free will and true individuality, though their existence is not fully provable.  Therefore, one must recommend the acceptance of responsibility and accept all opportunities for decision-making and actions.  This attitude leads to a fuller life and corresponds more to the total understanding of Creation. 


The rejection of free will would easily lead to a rejection of personal responsibility – and, consequently, due to the general weakness and laziness of man, to decay.  On the other side, the provable limitation of free will, due to genetic and environmental conditions or destiny, should lead to great tolerance toward others and temperance in setting own objectives or aspirations.  This is an example of simultaneously accepting two contradictory perspectives and living with the compromise between the two, in a not-closed system of thought as described in Chapter 4. 


In summary, I see myself as a human being with an individual combination of gifts, experiences, environmental conditions and capabilities, opportunities, and freedom to act.  I can, and shall, show initiative in defining and pursuing my course through existence. 


The Effects of Mental Curiosity and Mental Creativity

Mankind would never have risen from the most primitive level of existence without a degree of mental curiosity and mental creativity. 


Mental curiosity is based on the genetically given curiosity of lower forms of life necessary for survival and propagation.  It then became the most important driving force in modern human society and constitutes much of individual life fulfillment in our culture.


The mechanics of mental creativity were described in a prior chapter.  The actual use of mental creativity is not only a matter of individual talent and temperament, but also one of cultural attitude and conditions.  The uneven distribution of periods of creative progress of mankind in time and geography are witness to that.  Why did the Greeks succeed the Assyrians and Egyptians in ancient times as leaders of mankind’s creative progress, and not the Phoenicians or Jews?  Why did northern Italy, in its Renaissance, succeed in the mental progress initiated by the Arab universities of Andalusia, and not the neighboring and conquering Spain?  What is it that makes mankind progress again and again, often in a sequence of different leading locations, and where may it go in times to come?


Population Explosion and Its Consequences

Population explosions are quite common in nature.  There are bacterial and viral population explosions, those of invasive plant species, among some pigeons and the bison in early America, and, now, among humans.  They occur when predators, large or small (including bacteria and viri) cannot develop fast enough.  They begin with disorder and infighting and end with the limitation or destruction of the supporting ecological base. 


There is no end to human population explosion in sight.  The production of enough carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, and fresh water is only a matter of cost – while the natural ecological base for those may be destroyed.  Of course, people could then not be farmers, fishermen, or loggers any longer.  It is a value-based decision of humanity whether to follow this course or to restrict population growth and protect the natural environment.


The unresolvable problems of fast and limitless population growth lie in the adjustments during the transitions, the allocations of cost and benefit, and, mainly, the governability of society under those circumstances.


The Fall of Human Society

History presents the fall of societies through natural disasters and diseases or external enemies, sometimes facilitated by internal weakness.  In the absence of a natural disaster (including climate change) or uncontrollable disease (unexpected or humanly provoked), what will be the end of our world order, with the USA as the superpower, some secondary powers in China and Europe, the United Nations, and increasing violent insurgencies as around the Muslim world?  Will there be another World War between those powers or more war on perceived “terrorism”?  If not, will the world’s power structure fall by its own internal deterioration?  A prior chapter indicated the surprising fragility of our industrial structure and the growing fragility of our societal cohesion. 


The collapsing of only a small segment of our industrial structure – whether in energy generation, agro-business, pharmaceuticals, electronics, transportation, or other – could bring catastrophes to large parts of society or geographic areas within a short time, to the big cities first, where most of the people live, and to the already so badly suffering parts of the world. 


As strains in society grow, the fault lines between interest groups and ethnic groups will become paramount – and these fault lines do not seem to diminish in our time.  The balkanization of society may be the larger danger for the future of human society than another World War among the large powers – if not a terrorist bio-, germ-, or nuclear attack occurs.



5.2.  Religious (transcendental, spiritual) Understanding of Existence: 

Is There a Transcendental, Spiritual Essence of Existence? 

            Does This Essence, God, Rule Evolution, History, and Personal Destiny?


The concept transcendental (Webster’s: “...beyond the reach of common thought) is used here as relating to considerations beyond or above the description of the world in the terms of factual observation and the natural sciences.  The concept of spiritual (Webster’s:  “...not material.........divine....”) is used to describe aspects of Creation that are not material and that might go beyond or above those covered by the natural sciences.  The concept of religious (Webster’s:  “....recognition of or reverence toward a supreme being”) is used in the approach toward an understanding of a creating, structure providing, and controlling spiritual essence above or beyond the physically existing world.  Transcendental or religious concepts relate to the spiritual essence of Creation. 


To understand existence, one must ask the fundamental question where existence – our universe and all the laws of nature – comes from and whether there is a meaning, purpose, direction or guidance in the evolution of existence, specifically also in our own lives or destiny.


More specifically, one would search for inspiration and comfort in a transcendental view of existence – inspiration to actively pursue opportunities or to enjoy the beauty of this world and to find strength or direction to act  in this often difficult and confusing life – and comfort to find peace or consolation among all the death and suffering of this world – our own, that of our loved ones, and of so many innocent ones.


When everything goes well, human beings feel secure in their world.  They analyze the possibility of transcendental aspects of their existence with intellectual calm and are inclined to dismiss the need for a “God” to understand the world.  But when great opportunities or catastrophic threats arise in the course of destiny, awe is felt.  More readily, a controlling force in existence is searched for, thanked, and, in distress, fervently appealed to. 


Any perception of a spiritual essence of Creation would have a direct impact on our interpretation of the meaning of our lives and could possibly form a source for our ethical standards.  In this sense, the meaning of our lives and our ethical standards would be directly related to our possible understanding of that spiritual essence and, in a religious sense, to our God-image.  Consequently, the spiritual clarification of Creation should come first, before the issues of meaning of life and ethics can be addressed. 


Six basic questions lead to transcendental, spiritual concerns regarding Creation with possible religious consequences.  The first question necessarily is: 


*       1.  “What caused and formed or gave the observable structure to existence – whether in the creation and formation of our own universe or of a multiverse?” 


Even if the understanding of the beginning of Creation were to result in a definition or understanding of a “causative and structure-providing essence of existence”, of a supreme being, of “God”, it would relate only to a God who acted once, many billions of years ago.  Is God no longer alive and acting?  The spirituality of Creation would become almost meaningless to us if God had never acted again after the original “Big Bang”, if the world had progressed ballistically ever since and often randomly.  However, if God has acted again, after Creation, any such additional acts of God in this world would have had an influence on Creation and, thereby, on the course of Creation.  Therefore, such additional acts would be acts of destiny – leading to the second question:


*       2.  “Does a spiritual essence rule evolution, history, and personal destiny, is there some influence beyond the laws of nature?”  If one assumes or believes in the action of a Spiritual Force in evolution, history, or destiny of the world, one could or should turn the thought process around by asking:  “What does the course of evolution, history, and destiny tell us about the spiritual force in existence, about God?”


Even if God could be perceived as acting in evolution and history, that perception alone could still leave us humans, in our thoughts and emotions, alone with ourselves.  However, what many people long for, and often feel in their souls, in prayer, in contemplation, or through inspiration, is a communion with God.  This would be more than some feeling of the existence of God; it would be the feeling of the presence of God, of some hoped-for response to prayers, especially in moments of need, but also in moments of joy.  Only that communion would establish a foundation for a belief in a “personal” God guiding our personal destiny.  Therefore, there is a third question:


*       3.  “Is there a personal relation to a spirituality of existence, to a personal God”,  “can there be a communion between the individual human being and a supreme spiritual essence, God?”  If this could be validly confirmed, one could ask: “How can such a communion be – between the individual human being and a supreme spiritual essence, God?  What can one expect from it?


It is from the responses to these questions that one could approach the questions regarding the meaning of life, the conduct of life, and the source for our ethical standards.  But if there is a personal God providing us with guidance, should we not expect God to judge our behavior?  This leads to the next question:


*       4.  Did God issue ethical standards and, then, will act as a judge for every individual upon death?  Would this necessarily imply a compensating experience upon dying or after death in another world-to-be?  Inversely, if such ongoing existence cannot be assumed, will there be no judgment either?


Theology has given us little help in expanding our knowledge or understanding of God beyond historic religious teachings in a way that would correspond to the evolution of nature, our minds, our civilizations or cultures, and in a way that would help us confront the different problems of our time – for example, in the evolution of psychology, treatment of criminal behavior, dissolution of taboos, family planning, gender status, environmental concerns versus human needs, trans-cultural migration, ethics in genetics, united world governance, and many others.  Theology has concentrated on forming systems of thought based on the past teachings of Christ, Muhammad, or other inspired leaders, augmented by the theological thought and philosophical speculation of some individuals. 


In the absence of recent, clearly understandable directives by God, it would be interesting to conduct an interdisciplinary study, with the participation of physical and life scientists, to investigate whether ongoing action by God (as in ongoing Creation as postulated by “Intelligent Design” [1] ) and a guided structure in destiny can be proven or disproved definitively, and what this indicates about God and our path through life.  Possibly, such a study should include the analysis of historic and modern occurrences of assumed “inspirations” and some quantitative, statistical analysis of perceived responses to prayers.


Whatever a religious thought process may accomplish, one will have to consider some of the age-old problems of theology that are used as the main arguments of atheists – the existence of so much suffering, injustice, senseless destruction, and waste of lives in the world (theodicy).  This leads to the next question:


*       5.  How can one explain so much senseless destruction, cruelty, suffering, and waste of life in this world?


The lack of free communication with God, and the diversity and contradictions among the claimed divine inspirations throughout history make it very difficult to arrive at an all-convincing answer.  One would have to consider the interpretations and thoughts of many great minds of centuries past – from the Vedas, Zoroaster’s teachings, and the Book of Job, to modern discussions of a global religious consensus on ethics (Küng) – and their contradictions.


Consequently, one arrives at the final question:


*       6. What should be the resulting image of the transcendental essence of existence, God?



Attempted answers to the above questions:


* 1.  What Caused and Formed or Gave the Observable Structure to Existence?


Most religious inquiries into the origin of Creation are searches for the actions of a God, for a “proof of God”, or for an understanding of a God one already assumes to know.  This constitutes a search for a confirmation of a pre-established faith or a pre-established God-image.


There is the possibility of a significantly different and more effective approach.  One could look at Creation – our universe and nature – without preconceived ideas and simply ask what such an observation of existence can or cannot tell us about the originating source, essence, or originating power.  The originating power of the universe is the ultimate mystery, whatever name we give it.  Nobody can doubt that our universe began.  Nobody will ever know why it began.  All we know is what happened, and even that we do not fully know.  However, we can look at Creation with our limited understanding, marvel at it, and try to learn from such observation about the creating and structure-providing essence from which it came.


A religious fundamentalist will not agree with this. In the opinion of such a religious person, we can never understand the spirituality of Creation by ourselves.  We can only learn what God cared to communicate to us through inspiration as communicated to the founders of the respective religions.  Such inspiration alone, in the opinion of fundamentalists, provides the correct interpretation of what Creation means and who God is.


Many scientists and modern individuals disagree with this point of view.  They experience the world through observation, and they search for a God-image that explains the origin and characteristics of existence as it is.  They expect that a story of Creation and an image of God obtained from religious inspiration should not be in conflict with factual scientific observation.


The scientific story of Creation indicates the following:

-        The release of a large amount of energy and its subsequent expansion marks the beginning instant of time and space.

-        The energy occurred as fields – a rather abstract phenomenon.  Those fields were in some mysterious way based in the absolute vacuum of nascent space.

-        As of that original moment, certain forces, invariable laws, principles, and constants of nature appeared in our universe and remained valid for all time thereafter.  An only slightly different determination of the value of those forces or constants would have led to either a collapse or a total lack of structure in our universe and, specifically, would have prevented all forms life.

-        The equal validity, as of that moment and for all time thereafter, of the phenomena of quantum mechanics and subatomic uncertainty (augmented by the effects of Chaos Theory) became apparent.

-        The granulation of all energy into subatomic particles (or merely “strings”, small stretches of oscillating fields in the vacuum of space) occurred.  In other words, all “material” existence in our universe is founded merely on congregations of bits of energy fields in the vacuum of space – leaving all existence as a rather abstract phenomenon.

-        Those subatomic particles were able to combine, thereby forming larger particles with new, “emerging” properties – thereby beginning the subsequent grandiose evolution of the universe with all its galaxies and stars, of nature with all its diverse organisms, and of our human minds with all their thoughts or emotions. 

-        Stars go through energy cycles that will ultimately force all possible life on their planets to come to an end.

-        It can be roughly calculated when all matter in our universe will possibly first be concentrated in Black Holes, which subsequently will dissipate in ever colder radiation throughout endless space – resulting in a final fading away of our universe and of all of our existence.

-        No meaning or purpose for the existence of our universe becomes apparent from this observation.  One can only say that our universe merely exists for the pleasure of the originating essence.

-        Our universe is approximately 14 billion years old.  But when 1,000 years – a not very long time span in the history of the universe – are equated to 1 second, then our universe is only a little over 4 months old!

-        If energy and light were to expand linearly (and not curved, as indicated by relativity theory), the radius of our universe would corresponds to the product of its age and the speed of light.  But if the diameter of our Milky Way Galaxy – a rather very small component within our universe – is equated to 1 millimeter, then our universe has only a diameter of approximately 300 meters.   

-        In other words, in galactic dimensions, our universe in neither very old nor very large and, like fireworks, is of transient, limited reality.

-        This leads to questions of previously, additionally, or in the future existing universes – in a “multiverse”.


These observations lead to the following conclusions regarding the originating essence of our universe:

-        The origin of existence of our universe must be seen in a transcendental (beyond physics) and totally abstract essence that did provide the original power, structure, and potential for the evolution of our material universe, life, and the human mind in time and space.

-        Should one not assume that the structure and evolution-providing essence could and would perceive or resonate with the dimensions of existence, which it had brought forth?  Would or could that include the perception of or a resonance to human thoughts and emotions?

-        This would indicate a highly “intellectual” formative and structure-providing essence of existence – and, possibly, a sensitive one – or not. 


Further thoughts concerning the “image of God” are presented in a later chapter.



*2.  Does a Spiritual Essence Rule Evolution, History, and Personal Destiny?


Most people, if they give any thought to this subject at all, believe in either one of four different theories or a vague combination of those.


a.      Divinely guided astronomic and natural evolution and human history, possibly also divinely guided personal destiny – all following a divine plan

b.     Phased creativity, leading in a step-by-step creation through the various levels of evolution from the basic material creation to life and, finally, the human mind.

c.      Free evolution following only the laws of nature, but augmented by occasional divine inputs in the form of inspirations or interventions, which change the course of natural evolution, history or personal destiny.  This concept can be seen as leading to divine responsibility for personal destiny if those divine interventions are not occurring when needed or petitioned for

d.     Creation of only the initial conditions of our material world – with all subsequent evolution merely following the laws of nature, including quantum mechanical uncertainty – without any further divine interference with evolution or destiny


a.  Regarding the concept of a divinely guided evolution and history, possibly also personal destiny, following a plan:


The universe, as indicated by its structure and evolution, does not appear to be created for any efficiency in reaching a specific goal as part of a plan.  Here are some observations: 


The universe is largely empty, lifeless, and inhospitable.


Only 5% of the content of our universe constitutes the material out of which our stars are made (with another 20-25% being mysterious dark matter and the balance being dark energy).  This material is concentrated in relatively miniscule dots, the stars, and some widely distributed nebulae in the emptiness of the vast and expanding space of the universe.  The way the universe is structured,  life can occur only on an extremely small percentage of all planets and, even there, only rarely under specifically favorable circumstances. 


Approximately 10 billion years of astrophysical evolution elapsed before life appeared here on Earth. 


It took some more billions of years of cellular development on Earth before its atmosphere was totally changed and any complex organisms could evolve. 


Numerous extinctions threatened all life repeatedly, leading to new forms of life thereafter. 


This observation does not provide the impression of a Creation and evolution, which had humans, their higher culture, and safe personal destinies as its basic plan and purpose.  Human life, rather, appears as an afterthought or incidental occurrence.


Furthermore, on the one very small island of life that we can observe – here on Earth – most living beings, plants, or animals are in a very cruel struggle for survival, a struggle without fairness or compassion and with much waste of life.  The human character is still half-beastly in its own lack of sufficient compassion and amply demonstrated cruelty.  Additionally, all organisms on Earth suffer from the nature-imposed urge toward overpopulation and its cruel consequences.  This observation does not let guidance of history or destiny appear to follow a benevolent plan.


In natural evolution, the “Intelligent Design Theory” postulates the formative guidance of a spiritual essence in the appearance of complex forms or configurations.  Science, however, has demonstrated the action of “natural evolution” in all those cases and, as a matter of fact, in all of natural evolution, thereby not seeing any unexplainable, spiritual action beyond the original Creation.


b.  Regarding the concept of phased creativity, leading step-by-step through the various levels of evolution from the basic material creation to life and the human mind.


This concept does not see a one-time Creation, but a dynamic, ongoing process of the evolution of existence with paradigms changing in time, including the appearance of totally new divine creative concepts or “ideas” in cosmic time. 


This dynamic understanding of Creation would lead to the image of a still creatively active power or a dynamically creative formative essence of existence – God. 


Such a concept would correspond to the image of an artist who continues creatively to work on his Creation, who develops new creative thoughts that did not exist or that were not visible in earlier times.  The later creative thoughts are not only complementing, but possibly also contradicting some earlier creative thoughts.  In this sense, the appearance of human values led to a phase of Creation that became elevated above the unfairness and cruelty of the animal world. 


As discussed in the preceding paragraph, each earlier phase is relatively little suitable for the next one.  Thus, there are few areas in all of physical creation that are suitable for the development of life. Also, the lower life phase, with its basic evolutionary force in selection of the fittest and cruelty in struggle, is unbearable to man with his ideals or intellectual inclinations, his sensitivity to suffering and compassion, or his artistic interests and humor.


This could indicate that the successive periods were not considered initially and that they present truly original creative impulses at the times of their occurrence, possibly inspired by the results of each preceding period.  In other words, God had not predetermined everything but retained his freedom to act and decide in the course of time, possibly willing to reconsider earlier creative ideas.


In this understanding, one can distinguish at least three phases of Creation:


*       The appearance and evolution of the physical world

*       The appearance of life and the biological evolution of nature

*       The appearance and evolution of the human mind, spirituality, and resulting values


As the three phases become superimposed, the substance and laws of underlying earlier phases of Creation are still effectively valid, while the significant new creative phenomena of each new phase define the newly appearing participants of that phase.


The problem with this view comes from a cosmic perspective and from the questions of theodicy. 


It is unlikely that life appeared only once – 10 billion years after the Big Bang – and only on this Earth.  It is much more likely that some forms of life have and will appear in the universe from time to time in different places – some of it billions of years before us, some long after us.  All life of higher capabilities must be the result of some evolution.  Consequently, all creative ideas could have occurred or actually were tried out somewhere else in the universe long before our natural and human evolution here on Earth.  This would have made the earlier phases of evolution on Earth unnecessary.  At least, they should have been much shorter  [2].


But the lack of elimination of the ongoing cruelty in this world does not allow the vision of that designing or destiny-determining, all-powerful force to be in accordance with the presumed new creative phase – to correspond to a “father” of Christian or human values.


And how about the negative occurrences that could be seen as divine action in the course of natural evolution and human history, the repetitive and highly destructive extinctions, later the Asiatic invasions, or ever-new plagues?


On the other hand, one should be careful not to see history as being totally guided by God.  This would deny human freedom and all human responsibility, thereby contradicting the basic principle of the human era of existence. 


But how can one see God as the creator of the universe and deny God’s participation in the evolution of mankind?  Without interference by God in destiny, what religious sense would any kind of sacrifice, prayer, or ethical behavior any longer have – except utilitarian benefit and emotional soothing? 


One should be careful, however, not to asymmetrically ascribe all positive moments in mankind’s history to the direct action of the “hand of God” and all bad moments to human action.  The various natural catastrophes (some still occurring on our time), pests, and the arising of mighty Asian hordes overrunning great civilizations were not human deeds.  The great calamities of mankind and all its individuals – whether in birth defects, accidents, plagues, invasions, wars, devastations of cultures, premature death, or suppression of great minds – are an enigma, as are the great changes toward progress, enlightenment, and well-being.  Anthropomorphic explanations of divine intent in calamities, as the setting of examples or the teaching of lessons, appear inadequate and lack all compassion or logic.  Explanations by divine justice are equally inadequate, since too many innocent people became victims.  The saving of the innocents, as at Sodom and Gomorrah, usually does not occur. 


The only conclusion is that we humans are still part of the world of randomly or probabilistically appearing physical cataclysms and of the Darwinian struggle of all living beings, including bacteria and beasts and including criminals and tyrants.  The two earlier phases of Creation, the physical and the Darwinian, have not been invalidated in the human phase.  They reach well into our existence.  We had better accept this fact in humility, as well as our responsibility to take action to improve our lives.


A more detailed discussion of possible “creative steps” in the course of the evolution of the universe, nature, history, and the human mind is presented in the chapter  “B. COROLLARY THOUGHTS AND COMMENTS” at the end of this essay.



c.  Regarding the concept of free evolution, but augmented by occasional divine inputs in the form of inspirations or interventions changing the course of history and personal destiny – possibly leading to divine responsibility when those are not occurring.


This concept of Creation and evolution is the one most people believe in.  Most people fully accept the validity of the forces and laws of nature and see evolution occur accordingly.  However, most people also see occasional “acts or interventions of God”.  That is the reason why many people pray or sacrifice for divine interference in critical situations.


The arguments against guided evolution (see above) are the same as the argument against this concept, specifically:


-        Why did the “inspirations” of God’s will as claimed by the founders of the great religions occur so late in human history, so selectively and rarely, and, then, stop several hundreds of years ago – except those claimed by some modern so-called “sects”?

-        Why are there the wide differences in emphasis and the contradictions between the claimed “inspirations” and religions?

-        Regarding divine interventions with human history or destiny, why did they occur so selectively?  Do we place asymmetric emphasis on the recollections of the survivors and winners as compared to those of the losers and the perished ones?


The unexplainable absence of divine intervention in moments of greatest need was emphasized by Pope Benedict XVI in his speech on May 28, 2006, at the former concentration camp of Auschwitz.  He asked “Why, Lord, did you remain silent?” and “How could you tolerate this?”  These questions apply to so many other catastrophes as well, to tsunamis, earthquakes, wars, pestilences, and all the many personal suffering of countless “innocent” individuals on Earth.  Does the question imply a divine responsibility, a possible sharing of “guilt”?  Or does this observation lead to the simple consequence that the spiritual essence of existence does not guide history or personal destiny, and is not active in this world? See the following observations: 



d.  Regarding Creation of only the initial conditions – with subsequent evolution merely following the laws of nature – without any further divine interference.


In this concept, as preferred by science, the original Creation, complex as it was, included the potential occurrence of all later evolution based on the created energy that empowered it, the forces that structured it, and the natural laws that provided for dynamic evolution in time.  One should almost assume that the expectation and vision of a later evolution was part of the concept of the Creation of our universe as and how it occurred.


In this understanding of our existence, our own life and destiny, embedded as it is in all nature and the characteristics of humanity, is founded on that “divine” concept as expressed in the original Creation.  The meaning of our lives may be seen as serving to fulfill the Creator’s evolutionary expectation.  It is in this understanding of our being embedded in a larger concept of existence that we can attempt to find the inspiration and comfort for our lives.


In this concept of Creation, the creative essence appears inactive in the course of evolution or human history and destiny.  This concept also excludes any response of “God” to human petition through ritual sacrifice or prayer – leaving, at best, compensation in an afterlife.  As a result, humans must assume the full responsibility for those conditions here on Earth that we could change.



*3.  Is There a Personal Relation to Spirituality of Existence, a Personal God?


We humans have always searched for contact with the spiritual forces of existence, with our God.  We wanted to find answers to important questions, we have searched for spiritual clarification, and we most urgently asked for help in times of need.  While we search for direct, conscious, reproducible communication with clear answers to our questions, all reported contacts with God have been subjective, not reproducible, and, unfortunately, often contradictory.  Since direct communication with God is not possible, a number of indirect approaches have been tried.  Can humans read God’s mind through some forms of divination?  Can humans influence God through sacrifices?  Can individuals personally communicate with God, through divination, meditation, inspiration, and prayer?  Does God hear our prayers?  Does God respond to our prayers?


Sacrifices are the oldest form of attempting to influence God, and divination is the oldest form of attempted communication with God.  More sophisticated communication with God includes the meditative immersion into a certain one-ness of the human individual’s mind with the spiritual essence of existence.  “Inspiration” is hoped to provide some communication in thought.  Verbal communication in prayer is the most direct, most practiced, and ideal communication with God.  Is there significance in sacrifices, divination, meditation, inspiration, and prayer?



Many people have attempted to influence God and destiny through sacrifices.  Examples are the burning of meat, the spilling of wine, the quantities of incantations or supplicant prayers, pilgrimages, self-inflicted suffering, charitable donations and other good deeds.  The miraculously healed pilgrim will always indicate that God can be moved.  Also, sacrifices in the form of good deeds can be seen as God-pleasing, since they are viewed as leading to a fuller life in human values.  Beyond that, sacrifices are exercises of character, in giving up some wealth and some materialism in controlling oneself, in freeing oneself of selfishness.


There were cases where sacrifices of the one kind or other seemed to have changed the course of destiny for the sacrificing person.  An objective evaluation, however, as in a form of “quantitative theology”, is missing.  Therefore, such positive results can be seen as cases of statistical outcomes, selective observation, or psychosomatic events.



Since God does not speak to humans every time they ask a question, answers from God have been looked for in the outcome of random events, such as the throwing of sticks or the flight of birds.  All the antique and modern schemes of divination, however, have shown little evidence of reliable truth.  A fatalistic reliance on such methods has proven wrong.  Also, having obtained Divine indicators has been claimed too readily when personal desires or individual interpretations actually prevailed  [3].


There is no evidence that divination ever worked except randomly and, therefore, was supported only through selective observation by those, where results just happened to turn out more or less right or could be interpreted in different ways.



In terms of neurophysiology, meditation is a form of calming of neural activity.  The calming event may be sensed as a pleasant form of stress reduction.  Calming can lead to a prevalence of right-side-of-the-brain thought, which was found to be somewhat more holistic and three-dimensional visual, often leading to creative ideas in a combinatorial process out of previous memory elements, perceptions, and own thought (see the author’s essays, “Creative Thought” and “Mental Creativity”, on the website www.schwab-writings.com).


Religious meditation is an intuitive thought process, often related to feeling.  This process is expected to provide a general understanding and insight into Creation, God, and oneself, for the purpose of alignment with God’s will, peace of mind, greater power, or guidance through life. 


But meditation, when not augmented by intuitive new thought or new concepts, only facilitates a one-ness with the self-formed or self-perceived God-image, which may or may not be the true God-image, possibly being only the humanly understandable one.  What else can we expect?  Most often, this God-image was learned in one’s own or in an adopted cultural setting, or was the humanly produced one that is derived from a personal interpretation of existence or projected into existence.  All religious apparitions have appeared in the mold of the region and times of the viewer – even the strange Ezekiel apparition had some standard Assyrian connotations of its time.  Can humans ever understand the ultimate image of God, the creator of the universe?  Could humans bear to see God?  Yet, we long for an ever-better understanding of God and, hence, a better understanding of the existence we live in. 


To the extent that a given God-image allows a viable explanation of the world and a  beneficial approach to its problems, meditative immersion can facilitate solutions to existing problems of the individual.  Even if an explanation thus derived actually is not viable but appears to be so to the meditating individual, to that person, the meditation provides the impression of being a solution.  This was so for the martyrs in ancient Rome who were expecting eternal salvation after their death, or the martyrs in Muslim holy wars equally expecting instant elevation into Paradise. 


For many individuals, their God-image allows neither a true nor a perceived explanation of or viable solution for their actual problems in this world.  How can parents of any religion cope with the accidental suffering of their small children?  How can one cope with the fact that there are so many innocent victims of violence?  But meditative immersion into, and the admiration of, Creation can, at least, lead to a stoic acceptance of the existing problems as part of an evolving universal existence.  This was so with Job, the Stoics, and many individuals whom we call “stoic” and admire for their strength of character in either adversity or success.  As we perceive our place in the totality of Creation, we may possibly find harmony in existence or, at least, humility for ourselves in accepting existence as it is.  This is where we find peace for our souls and strength to act. 


One should not forget that exceptional success is equally a cause for concern as is affliction.  Most exceptionally successful people in history, politics, business, or daily life were tempted into extravagance or into tackling problems beyond their ability to cope with.  For these successful (or lucky) people, sincere meditation in concentration on a beneficial God-image and a beneficial interpretation of the role of human leaders could have provided guidance.


A specific aspect of meditation is the Zen-expectation of reaching enlightenment.  The general enlightenment searched for by Zen meditation most likely is nothing more than a psycho-somatic effect providing the feeling of mental well-being but without also providing any actual knowledge of the world. 


The occurrence of useful ideas during meditation is a well-known phenomenon.  It is explained by neurophysiological considerations regarding subconscious thought (see the above-mentioned author’s essays, “Creative Thought” and “Mental Creativity”).  At its limits, as in Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, the occurrence of useful ideas does not necessarily exclude transcendental considerations.  This is where the faithful among scientists still seek divine assistance or believe in divine inspiration.


In sum, meditation can be a most beneficial approach to a possible spirituality in the origin or course of Creation and, for the religious person, to communication with a spiritual aspect of Creation, but only if it is based on the right understanding of existence or, at least, on a beneficial image of God.  Otherwise, meditation could be misleading.



The neurophysiological background of the causation for the sensation of “inspiration” in the human mind is explained in the author’s essay “Religion” (see the website “www.schwab-writings.com/pt/Rel”).  Inspiration is related to the phenomenon of sudden idea generation in the human mind. 


This phenomenon results from conscious and, more often, sub-conscious creative, combinatorial thought that suddenly reaches significance and, therefore, reaches foreground awareness in the mind.  The origin of this sudden appearance can startle the recipient and cause thoughts about divine origins of such new ideas, hence the belief in a divine “inspiration”. 


Inspiration, as discussed in the following, is the assumed divine communication of thoughts or images to the human mind.  The great founders of religions, as well as many religious people, have experienced the sensation that they interpreted as receiving of divine inspiration.  In their search for a course through existence, many individuals have experienced the gaining of clarity through what they felt as “inspiration”.  But, mostly, divine inspiration has been claimed too readily, when, actually, personal perceptions or individual thoughts or dreams prevailed.  This more critical interpretation of inspirations is mainly accepted and reserved for those inspirations, which occurred in the other but one’s own religions. 


Not inspirations, but the prevalent needs of a culture as perceived by exceptional thinkers or leaders are the ideas that most often form people’s religious attitudes, their image of God, and, hence, their insight gained from inspiration.


The individual has every reason to hope for a suitable inspiration.  But there is every reason to be careful not to accept one’s own thoughts as divine inspiration.  Personal experience may confirm both positions.  Yet, what else can individuals and mankind hope for, but that the believed inspirations appearing in their minds at least be beneficial?



Prayer is mostly verbal, often logical and concise, person-to-God directed, for the purpose of improvement of life, forgiveness, direction, insight, gratitude, or for other needs or purposes.


Prayer exclusively for personal benefit is understandable in situations of need.  Existence can be cruel and lonely without appeal to divine compassion or peace of mind.  Prayer should, however, not lead to less personal initiative and self-reliance than is demanded in this world. 


Prayer that verbalizes one’s search for guidance in life, or for clarification of objectives in existence and for a favorable destiny, is quite understandable (as is meditation about the general aspects of Creation and one’s own position therein).  I see prayer (and meditation) as the expression of the mental relation between humans – touching on the essence of man’s existence as a human being in this universe – and the transcendental interpretation of the origin or essence of Creation.  In this sense, any scientist and even atheist can “pray” in reflecting upon this essence of existence and our role or direction in this world – and may receive inspiration or comfort.


Does verbal prayer reach God?  In our phase of Creation, the appearance of differentiated emotions and values in the human mind – combined with the capability for speech – lets humans reach out for a verbal communication with a personally reachable God in prayer.  If God’s creation gave us a mind, emotions, and verbal expression, should we not expect God to perceive those aspects of Creation and, hence, our prayers?  Any thought that the transcendental essence would not perceive its own creation appears incomprehensible to us.


As stated before, one must be careful in arriving at conclusions about the Creator by observing Creation.  On the other hand, as also stated before, the two – Creator and Creation – cannot viably be in conflict with each other.  In other words, the creation of an era of ethics, compassion, values, love, justice, and aesthetics should imply that the Creator was sensitive to ethics, compassion, values, love, justice, and aesthetics.  The creation of speech implied the usage of speech, also in mental communication, including mental communication with God.  Thus, prayer is the base for our calling out in joy or sorrow to the Spiritual and Formative Essence of Creation – whether we receive an answer or not.


It is in this context of our most important aspects of life – our thoughts, emotions, and values – in a verbal communication that the vision of many people of spiritual forces in existence becomes a vision of a personal God, with whom some resonance of our “soul” can be expected or hoped for, even as expressed in words. 


Does that mean that we are actually being heard or even responded to?  Can we ever call on God for help?  How can we deny that option when considering all the blessings bestowed upon us in our lives!  We can be most grateful for so many prayers heard, for so much help received when praying for it and also when not.  But how about all the unlucky ones?  Are we only creating a faith and religion of the lucky and successful ones, of the survivors?  Is that reality? 


Life’s experience tells us that response to prayer cannot necessarily or hardly ever be expected, not even in the most desperate situations.  How about all the prayers cried out in despair during the genocides, wars, plagues, and daily disasters in the course of human history and personal lives that were not responded to?  Pope Benedict XIV alluded to this predicament in his speech on May 28, 2006, at Auschwitz when he prayed:  “Why, Lord, did you remain silent …. How could you tolerate this?”


This lets us see the abject difference between us as creatures and a humanly not-understandable Creator or, more abstractly, a “Formative Essence of Existence” in this grandiose but violent and often cruel universe. 


In accord with the principle of freedom and responsibility of our phase of existence, the greater part of our lives is not controlled by the interfering hand of God.  It evolves under the influence of all the factors of existence around us, often according to the laws of nature, its random events, and the laws of basic life.  We are sent out to act according to our capabilities, in freedom and responsibility, in an attempt to create the kind of world we want to live in. 



*4.  Did God Issue Ethical Standards and, then,

Will Act as Judge for Every Individual Upon Death?


The starting point of such beliefs is animistic: seeking spiritual forces behind earthly events.  In the higher religions, such belief is anthropomorphic.  God, the supreme being, must be perfect – in human terms.  This must include moral perfection – again, in human terms.  Moral perfection requires fairness.  Therefore, God must be “fair”.  Consequently, good people must ultimately enjoy a better life than bad people.


The observation of earthly lives does not confirm this.  Hitler, Stalin, and Mao had reasonably good lives – and their ends were not worse than some cancer patient’s ones.  Many innocent people suffered unspeakable horrors during recent times, as others had already done so through all historic ages. 


The observed “un-fairness” on Earth leads to the belief in a Divine judgment at the end of life and following compensation for the earthly deeds or suffering in the afterlife.  Thus, the heroes and good people go to heaven, the bad ones to hell.  Christian thought additionally introduced possible forgiveness and redemption (and a transition through purgatory). 


What if there is no afterlife?  What if God is not an accountant keeping track of sins and merits?  What if we cannot grasp the transcendental, spiritual foundation of existence?   


We might be well advised to live by the moral rules assigned to our human lives: do right because it is right, not because we want to benefit from it, here or there.  We are well advised to take our destiny as it comes – in fear, humility, or gratefulness – and still glorify the spirituality of existence, God, as being above our human ways.


Afterlife?  Is it merely to redeem our claim for compensation?  Again, that would be very anthropomorphic.  May the transition into timelessness at the end of life be a peaceful one for our minds.


The scientific understanding of the universe indicates its ultimate demise in either some Black Holes and, possibly, their subsequent dissolution in ever-expanding and ever-colder radiation.  There is no room in this understanding of reality, and it does not make sense in any reasonable terms, to see a permanent static “storage” of all “souls” for eternity.


Actually, it should not make that much difference whether or not there is divine judgment and compensation in afterlife.  One must advocate righteous living with resulting peace of mind.  One can hardly ever advocate martyrdom for abstract principles, curtailing future life potential for anybody.  One can, however, advocate personal sacrifice for the benefit of others.


The significant point is, in my opinion, the choosing of a course through existence that is meaningful, that one can consider fulfilling life’s potential in accordance with man’s place in God’s Creation.  This should be the motivation to pursue worthy goals in life rather than the fear of judgment or calculation for future benefit.


But for simple human beings and the desperate and the marginalized ones in this world – is there hope for going to a better afterlife – for themselves and, more often, for their loved ones, whom they would like to see saved and want to meet again?  What else is left for them in an often very cruel world?  One should not take this faith from them!


*5.  How Can One Explain so Much Senseless Destruction, Cruelty, Suffering, and Waste of Life in This World?


Where does this leave the question of theodicy?  None of the anthropomorphic images of God and no vision of a guiding hand of God in this world and its evolution can be harmonized with all the negative aspects of nature, history, and personal destiny.


Some people see a religious explanation for some destruction and suffering in self-inflicted punishment.  But this can in no way explain the large amount of suffering inflicted on the innocent, the senseless cruelty, and the widespread destruction occurring at all times throughout the nature and the whole world.  Theology cannot explain most of those as acts of God within any reasonable God-image. 


These aspects of existence can only be seen as being part of the structure of Creation and natural evolution, including the physical catastrophes or random accidents and the violent struggles of species, clans, and individuals.  One must come to the conclusion that God leaves the world to its own natural, historical, and psychological causalities – and us with the responsibility to improve the conditions on Earth!  Are we guilty not only for what we have done, but too often also for what we left un-done?


There is no protective wall around sensitive humans unless they themselves are able to erect such protection.  God’s helping hand cannot be expected to intervene and may not even avert the greatest desperation. 


This is the way the world is.  We can find peace by admiring the universe and accepting it as it is.  We can find strength to act in our own realm.  We can hope for the evolution of human society in a direction toward greater prevalence of benevolent values.



*6.  What Should Be the Resulting Image of the “Formative Essence of Existence”, God?


Can one validly arrive at conclusions about the Creator by looking at Creation?  In fact, all founders of a religion, from the Vedas 1500 BC on, including Jesus, and every group of priests throughout history have referred to the observation of existence in defining, confirming, or proving their respective God-image.  The obvious and most important reason is that the two – Creator and Creation or God-image and observation of reality – cannot viably be in contradiction or conflict with each other.  In actuality, however, that contradiction occurs quite often in various religions.  For example, is the cruelty and unfairness in the animal world an indication that God is cruel and unfair?  Should such a God-image therefore apply to the human world?  Seen in its totality, the world may give an image of Creation that is totally in conflict with our “humane” ideals, aspirations, and values. 


The resulting conflicts between the religiously stipulated God-images and the actual observations of existence were resolved in various religions, either by selective observation of reality or by assuming a God-opposed spiritual force (the Hindu God of destruction or the Devil in some Christian theology).  Another common resolution of the conflict between God-image and reality is presented by the assumption of a final judgment and the existence of a compensatory afterlife.  This was believed already by the Egyptians and taught by Zoroaster, by Christianity, and even by Communism – in the latter case, by offering the hope for an idealistic society after an initial period of terror and misery.  Is that necessary?  Is it necessary to take recourse to selective observation, to anti-divine counter-forces, or to a compensating afterlife in order to understand Creation?  That should not be necessary. 


In a more factual view, one can look at the presently observable structure of the world around us or at its dynamic character in an evolution in time in order to attempt to understand its structure-providing, transcendental essence.


In its presently observable state, one can say that the structure-providing essence responsible for its structure was enjoying diversity.  Existing species are protected in their individuality by means of specific survival capabilities and prevented from dilution by means of procreation barriers between species.  New species evolve in filling ecological and topographic niches wherever and whenever they can be found in an evolutionary way. 


One can also consider the phenomenon of the human mind, including its emotions of love, ethical values, and art.  This leads to the attempt to include these “humane” aspects in the image of the creating essence, God.  But it still is the cruelty of the world – which then also would have to be included in the image of God – which inhibits us from final conclusions.


One can see Creation as having been laid out not only in intellectually creative terms, but also as projecting aesthetic joy.


Can observation of the dynamic evolution provide a better understanding of the image of God?  It is certainly an image of increasing expression of spirituality in letting the abstract realm of thoughts, emotions, and values appear.  It is one of fostering the dominance of the spiritual over the material; one of expecting boundless initiative in freedom and responsibility resulting from the capability for pre-conceiving consequences and visualizing resulting situations, a capability, which also led to fairness and compassion for other living beings.


Therefore, observation of the past and present would not allow conclusions about the future of Creation.  Consequently, the God-image would have to be changed by the appearance of each new advance in evolution.  For example, an observation of early, inanimate creation would have led to a concept of God that possibly would not have allowed the understanding of the world of life.  A pre-human God-image would not have contained elements of justice or love. 


However, one should be careful not to asymmetrically ascribe only all positive moments in evolution and mankind’s history to the “hand of God”, or all bad moments to human action.  The various pests and the arising of mighty Asian hordes overrunning great civilizations were not human deeds.  The great calamities of mankind and all its individuals – whether in birth defects, accidents, plagues, invasions, wars, devastations of cultures, premature death, or suppression of great minds – are an enigma, as are the great changes toward progress, enlightenment, and well-being.  Anthropomorphic explanations of divine intent in calamities, as the setting of examples or the teaching of lessons, appear either as cruel or as inadequate.  Explanations by divine justice are equally inadequate, since too many innocent people became victims.  The saving of the innocents, as at Sodom and Gomorrah, usually does not occur – neither at Dresden nor at Hiroshima or the NY Trade Center.  The only conclusion is that we humans are still part of the world of randomly or probabilistically appearing physical cataclysms and of the Darwinian struggle of all living beings, including bacteria or beasts and including criminals or tyrants.  The two earlier phases of evolution, the physical and the Darwinian, have not been invalidated in the human phase.  They reach well into our existence. 


Can Christians maintain the belief in an anthropomorphic, always loving God-Father when a simple look at nature in their own backyard, a visit to their hospital’s emergency station, or to its children’s ward teaches them differently?  We had better accept this fact in humility, as well as our responsibility to take our own action to improve our lives and to help where we can.


Can one gain an understanding of the intent or expectation of the Creative Spirit or God from  the observation of the dynamic character of evolution?  One can see evolution merely as a result of the starting conditions or character of the original Creation, plus the action of the “combinatorial principle” and the “basic principle of evolution”.  One can also see God as un-attached to any “moral” or “ethical” values.  One does not see an evolution including fairness or compassion – until the appearance of mankind.  But one can see God with some important basic expectations regarding life – to express its automation, self-reliance, prevailing in the tasks of life, and in fulfilling its potential.


There are specific questions if one looks beyond Earth at the possibility of other civilizations in the universe.  If we believe that there was divine influence on human history, should we expect that it was similar or equal in other civilizations scattered across the universe?  Should we expect revelations through divine inspirations equal to, similar to, or different from ours?  In the terms of Catholic doctrine, were all intelligent or human-like beings on other heavenly bodies also created “sinful” and had to be redeemed, through the murder of God’s only son, or how else redeemed and by whom, or why not?  If all other civilizations in the universe were created sinful and had to be redeemed, how can we understand that?  And, if we humans on Earth are the only sinful ones and the only redeemed ones, how can we understand that?  Can followers of Oriental religions understand why escape from existence into Nirvana should be the ultimate goal for all intelligent beings everywhere else in the universe – and if not, why on Earth?  Some theological assumptions and statements by present-day, established religions on Earth and their priests do not appear tenable any longer when seen in the universal context – as they are not when seen in the context of suffering.


There is no doubt that present religious teachings correspond to the mental horizon of humans in times past when they served humans well.  There is every reason to be deeply grateful for at least some of these past teachings, specifically Jesus’ teachings.  It is also, no doubt, true that religious essence, in a grandiose spiritual view of all of existence, should be universally valid.  This leads, however, to the conclusion that some anthropomorphic ideas of God and the heavens are not tenable.  A new image of the essence of Creation – of Alpha, of the Supreme Spirit, of “God” – can only be more grandiose than a purely Earth-related one.  However, it will not be for us to understand the ultimate mystery of existence and its dynamic course.


Historically, the process of religious development is somewhat related to the creative thought process of the human mind (see the author’s essays, “Mental Creativity” and “Religion: What is Religion?  What Should Religion Be?”).  The thought process of the great religious thinkers and founders of religions influences this process through their personal thoughts and religious inspirations.  Contacts with other religions bring new perceptions.  Breakthroughs in God-vision (paradigm changes), requiring opposition to priestly classes when not coming from them, are difficult to accomplish and are unsettling to religious people.   


There is a direct correlation between the image of God (or the understanding of the spiritual forces of existence) which people develop in their religious thoughts and the role they see for themselves in existence – and their consequent behavior.  It is difficult to distinguish which was developed out of which.  War-bound societies have heroic or gruesome gods (see, for instance, Hitler’s propaganda-return to pagan gods).  The law-bound early Jews saw in God the strict judge of their behavior.  Christ’s preaching (also Jewish) of brotherly love was based on the image of God as a father. 


In many discussions (and in a good part of this writing), a rather factual or pragmatic approach is used in answering the questions about God and human faith.  For most people, however, faith is an expression of the “heart” or “soul”.  Our scientific age is inclined to treat matters of the heart or soul critically, relegating them to psychology.  One does not have to agree.  One can see friendship, love, compassion, caring, joy as the most significant aspects of human existence.  For Christians, faith is the belief in the divine foundation of such forces or values.  As one accepts these forces or values as a real and significant part of Creation, at least in human existence, one is inclined to see their foundation in the essence of Creation, in God.  Thus, God, as the Creator, is seen for us humans as the source for strength of “heart”, for warmth of “soul”, and for compassionate initiative in life in fulfilling our role in this world.


In summary, one certainly arrives at a most glorious image of God as the Creator of this grandiose universe and the ruler of its destiny.  One certainly arrives at a multifaceted image, combining the understandings derived from the various phases of evolution.  This image is based on the ultimate abstractness of all that exists in the form of energy and gravitational fields in the vacuum, all abstract phenomena in nothingness.  It includes the physical mechanics of the universe controlled by the forces and laws of nature and the large areas arranged in a random fashion.  It includes the surprising appearance of life in very few favorable spots in the universe, with life following the principle of automation, the need to take care of itself, with no fairness or compassion.  Finally, it includes the appearance of humans and, possibly, other higher beings and their civilizations in a number of isolated, selected spots in the universe, with a high degree of freedom based on thought and the consequent responsibility to develop their small area in accordance with their values.  This implies a God or a spiritual force that contains these new human-related concepts, including the ones of human fairness and compassion.  This also implies a God with who’s direction for us humans our souls should seek to harmonize in meditation or prayer.


Many individuals or groups believe, based on their own life’s experience and that of others, in a supreme essence of existence, whom one may want to appeal to in despair, in search of compassion.  The result of a deeper understanding of this world we live in, however, should not be expectation of help but, mainly, fortitude of heart to bear hardship in humility when suffering is unavoidable, to find strength for struggle when improvement is possible, to adhere to the right course in life at all times, and to be grateful for blessings in the course of destiny.




Various Corollary Observations Regarding Providence, Predetermination, Prophecy, Free Will, and Personal Responsibility


One cannot end the discussion of the spiritual aspects of our lives without addressing a confusing theological problem – the understanding of providence and predetermination as they relate to free will and personal responsibility.


“Providence”, a concept anchored in the hearts of religious people trusting in the God-father, is the concept that the God-father does and will care for all of his Creation and will “provide” for everybody’s ultimate well-being.  As discussed before, this is not borne out by observation.  Observation further indicates that life’s principle of automation demands that every living individual must actively take care of its own needs and interests


In this sense, the pre-human world of lower life presents itself as largely devoid of providence and as devoid of justice and compassion (except for proto-ethical mutual caring within narrow kinship limits of higher orders of animals).  Observation also indicates that human existence is based on the principle of freedom and responsibility, while being fully enveloped by the general universe of physical laws and random events and the cruel struggle between species and individuals on the level of lower life forms.  This indicates that mankind is responsible for itself in practical, emotional, and ethical terms.  Religious belief and selective personal experience (including one’s own) may indicate that God or His Creation does “provide” for some individuals and people at some times, often miraculously.  But what must the many, many unlucky and innocent ones say, who were failed by “providence”?


The demand for human responsibility is even more at stake in the question of Divine predeterminism.  A riddle results from the thought that God must be all-powerful and all-knowing.  This is parallel to the riddle asking whether God can create some object so heavy that he himself cannot lift it.  In the case of the all-knowing God, God would also know the future.  This would make the course of the world predetermined.  It implies that God will not take action to change the future.  Thereby, God would have renounced His own freedom, as well as any further creativity.  For humans, the result would be a dangerous questioning of freedom and a consequent release from responsibility. 


Both riddles – one regarding the weight, the other one predetermination – are rather theoretical and exhibit the limits of human thought and religious understanding.  The only practical approach to life lies in assuming no predetermination and accepting human responsibility.


Predetermination is the precondition and basis for prophecy.  There are actually two types of foretelling the future – the truly inspired prophecy foreseeing the future and the prediction or expectation based only on an inherent understanding of a situation or system and its environment resulting in valid extrapolation. 


If the future of the world were predetermined, prophecy could be possible.  However, even in the absence of predetermination, a person knowledgeable about a situation or system can more or less reliably indicate expectations regarding its future performance by extrapolation.  A system is the combination of components that function in an interrelated way in accord with the characteristics of the system.  A car is a system.  A goal-oriented organization of individuals is a system, whereby individual members and the leaders of the organization usually are chosen for their known and predictable behavior.  Spengler and Toynbee provided predictions regarding the historic future of civilizations, based on their interpretation of past historic developments.  One can rightly assume that most prophetic predictions actually were extrapolating expectations based on understanding


One must also take into consideration that only those predictions became famous and were remembered which proved correct – the others were simply not reported or forgotten.  One can predict and expect that an inherently evil person will end in trouble.  In this sense, the prophets could predict that a deviant Jewish people would end up in trouble, a focused people would have chances for success, and good leaders ultimately would appear again.


Predictions are easier to make when they concern general developments supported by a large number of statistical events or individuals.  Predictions become unreliable when they depend on a very small number of probabilistic or random events or individuals.  For example, one can predict that the rapid disappearance of natural open spaces in the world will lead to an environmental movement for conservancy.  One cannot, however, predict whether the protection of a specific piece of land in a specific community will take place, where such an event would depend on the appearing activism of one or very few individuals.  Predictions of timing are the most difficult to make and are the most insecure.


As one rejects predetermination, one also would have to reject prophecy, while retaining the possibility of extrapolating and expectations-based predictions.  However, there are some striking cases of historically reported true prophesies.  There is the famous case of Cortéz’ approach to the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlán.  There is the case of the prediction of tall, white, bearded men appearing from beyond the sea to destroy the Inca empire.  There is also the case in Kenya of the Kikuyu’s historic prophesy of the white humans’ approach in the head of a snake which later turned out to be the approaching construction of the Mombasa-Uganda Railroad.  There are several reported cases of a soldier in the desolation of trench warfare one day suddenly cleaning and dressing up, only to be killed that day by a stray bullet.  There are more stories of unusual foresight.  Is there more to the dimension of time than we know and can grasp?  This may well be so.  However, we cannot responsibly conduct our lives without assuming our mental freedom and consequent responsibility, both being founded on the absence of predetermination.


The subject of free will and personality was discussed in one of the last paragraphs of Chapter 5.1 (on “Freedom of will and freedom of “personality”).  There, it was indicated that “free will” actually concerns freedom of decision-making and that both, will and decisions, are expressions of personality, including thought, preferences, discipline, and temperament.  As an individual’s personality is understood, many of his or her decisions become predictable.  The limitation of human freedom in being tied to one’s nature-given personality was indicated, as were the possibilities and limitations for change of personality. [4]



[1] Intelligent Design Theory postulates divine intervention in the evolutionary appearance of complicated phenomena of existence that otherwise are thought not to have occurred.  This theory is based on the observation that some forms of life are amazingly complex and “intelligently” designed, and that their swift appearance in evolution cannot otherwise be sufficiently explained.  This observation reaches from molecular biology to the poison-injecting teeth of snakes, the human brain, and the functioning of the human mind.  Therefore, an intelligently designing force, God, is postulated as the cause.  The consequences for the image of God resulting from all the observed cruelty, destructiveness, and extinctions in nature and also In human history are overlooked by the proponents this theory.


[2]  See the essay, “Science and Religion:  Theology, Astrophysics, and the SETI-Project” on the author’s website.

[3] Most recently, an Anglican Bishop and the Pope, involved in a serious theological dispute, both claimed divine guidance even though they took opposite positions at the same time.

[4]  See also the essay on “Human Personality” on the author’s website www.schwab-writings.com.