The Question of the Law

 

The prior chapters have shown how religious law was transformed from a regulation of sacrifice and ritual to support of religious hierarchies, to symbolic exercises of discipline, and, finally, to rules for human communal life.  Following the intellectualization of public life, the communal life forming legislation of the developed societies was transferred to the political establishment, in convergence or parallelism to the religious, “God”-based order.  Remaining differences with conservative church groups or religious societies of other cultures are quite difficult to resolve, since those groups refer to the divine foundation of their laws and, hence, are not willing to submit to democratic decision-making and also not to new insights, as justified as they might be (see the right-wing groups among Christians, Jews, or Muslims).  

 

Laws generally focus on the avoidance of “evil”, negative benefit, or uselessness.  All are phenomena that should also be found in every other cosmic civilization – on account of the statistical distribution of behavior and the accidents of fate.  Therefore, everywhere, it is a matter of defense against evil, disadvantage, and the avoidance of uselessness.  But why should cosmic civilizations concentrate only on problem avoidance and not also on optimizing of opportunities and possibilities for development?  Thus, laws for the limitation of “evil” may be aimed at limitation and punishment, but laws for the promotion of “good” should be aimed at supporting and rewarding.

 

At present, our protection-oriented laws on Earth tend to emphasize the “rights” of individuals or groups and the punishment of those who violate those rights.  But in a direction of society toward goals, “obligations” would also have to be included in the laws, possibly here on Earth as well, combined with rewards for rendered contributions.  In Christian (and Muslim) doctrine, this is provided by religious ethics and the promise of Paradise.

 

Among the structures of society on Earth – which then led to the formulation of laws – one can find three different directions, each with different advantages and disadvantages:

 

o       The emphasis on the greatest benefit for society – leading to the sacrificing of the individual’s interests.  Not only the Spartans, but also autocratic or dictatorial systems of our time, provide examples.  One should note that the utilitarian consideration of the greatest benefit for the maximum number of people may have to include the consideration of the interest of future generations! [1]  And how about the rights and expectations of benefit for non-human species?

o       The emphasis on the smallest risk for the weakest (see John Rawls’s writings) – leading to an egalitarian tendency such as that of a democracy.  Thereby, it is neglected that humans decide between risks and opportunities, similar to business decisions in accordance with utility graphs.  But a utility graph also has a positive arm, which corresponds to the judgment of opportunities and hopes.  The graph, however, is highly nonlinear. 

o       The emphasis on the needs, the protection, and the rights of the individual, as in a Christian structure and as found in modern democracies – leading to the protection of all, of the handicapped, as well as of the old or useless members of society, and their support, generally at society’s cost. 

 

Since there are both factual and emotional-psychological considerations, it appears that there is no generally valid, “scientifically” based preference for one or the other direction.  There always remains culturally and emotionally based emphasis on fairness, as opposed to pure benefit only – and the observed nonlinear “utility-graph” in human judgment. 

 

Therefore, one cannot assume that all highly developed cosmic civilizations, after sufficient time for their evolution, still follow universal “divine” moral codes or “divine” codes for the order of their societies.  They will prefer to follow codes that correspond to their individual character and that are recognized as optimal for their individual civilization at their level of evolution. 

 

If the faith in a “continuously acting” and “personally addressable” God does not exist, there will be no laws for sacrifices except those of social significance (transfer of wealth from the rich to the poor), and no rules for ritual except those with hygienic benefit.  At best, traditional habits remain.    

 

It would be of great interest to find out what direction the laws of distant cosmic civilizations have taken, especially if they are further advanced than we are here on Earth – and what justifications they have on which to base their laws, and on what authority.

 

Can there be a convergence with religious thought?

The traditionally religious person sees the divine anchor of our moral code in the fact that the ideas for these laws came from divine revelation to the minds of chosen individuals, whether Moses, Christ, Mohammed, or Smith, the founder of the Mormon Church.  But it remains a matter of personal belief to distinguish between revelations that were “truly” from God and those that merely originated in the minds of the founders of the respective religions.[2]

 

The general principle of evolution indicates what counts in life.  It is to prevail with increasing personal initiative and responsibility, to adapt, to grow, and to unfold.  These positive and constructive aspects correspond more to life in this world than the negative aspects of problem avoidance and withdrawal.  This implies that a theology that has as its central theme the sinfulness on Earth and the happiness in the next world does not do justice to the real nature of Creation and its evolution in this world.  Consequently, religious codes of law should not address only the avoidance of sinfulness and repentance.  They should especially also emphasize the pursuit of opportunities for development and for action.  Therefore, they should emphasize not only rights but also obligations. 

 

It is important to review the unique importance of Christian doctrine, not only for the time when it appeared but also for our own time.  In the hard fight for survival of earlier historic times, leading to urbanism and the formation of empires, it was the powerful rulers and warrior-heroes who acquired special stature first.  Later, it was people of great wealth – and always the highest priests.  Christ countered all those earlier role models with the teaching of compassion and the beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount (directing us humans to be meek, merciful, pure in heart, and peacemakers).  These thoughts have contributed to the social laws and international aid of our time.  Will other cosmic civilizations need a corresponding enrichment of their social values in order to become culturally elevated civilizations as we understand it?  Would this constitute their “redemption” from “sin”?

 

As shown before, one cannot expect that the laws of highly developed cosmic civilizations refer to “divine revelation”, but rather to the needs of individuals and civilizations resulting from evolution.  The recognition of this natural need constitutes an acceptance of the natural laws of evolving Creation and, thereby, constitutes a transcendental, if not fundamentally religious element, that is the recognition and execution of the will of the Creator as expressed in His Creation.  Thus, one sees again the inherent parallelism and possible conversion of religious and scientific (even atheist) thought, of religiously founded and socially or politically founded laws in modern society.

 

 

 

The Question Regarding the  Meaning or Plan of Existence and

of One’s Own Life

 

The question regarding the “meaning” of existence could possibly be subdivided into the questions of the underlying “why” and the goal-oriented “what for?”, as regarding a possible “plan” of Creation.  It is important to consider the additional practical question “what to do?” with or during our lives.

 

Ultimately, the “why?“ and “what for?“ are shrouded by the impossibility of penetrating beyond the Big Bang at the beginning of Creation and the expected total dissolution of the structure of the material universe in the distant future, either in black holes, in radiation spreading out into space, or in a Big Crunch.  Consequently, there is only one remaining answer.  It says that all existence is there for the “pleasure” of the Creator only – as a temporary and then vanishing fireworks display.  As the inanimate phase of existence may have been and still is nothing else than fireworks for the pleasure of one viewer, God, so may the Darwinian phase, often disrupted by catastrophes, ever different on different celestial bodies, be nothing but a kaleidoscopic pleasure for its creator, with no other purpose in itself.

 

The question “what to do” with our existence, however, remains open for every self-reliant phenomenon of life between Big Bang and final fading, for mankind between its origin and extinction, for all cultures with their ultimately, shortly limited time of their flourishing or significance, and for each individual living being limited between birth and death of its own span of life.  If we cannot ask the Creator directly “what to do”, then there are only two alternatives for answer: 

 

o       All that exists is merely a result of the initial conditions or probabilistic events in the interaction of the laws of nature in the course of the world’s evolution.  Consequently, one must derive from observation of Creation and from one’s own nature the desired guidance regarding the greatest possible fulfillment of one’s own existence within Creation, then act accordingly.

o       To see a miracle of Creation in the unforeseeable appearance of the phenomena of life and of mankind, and to deduct from the observation of the dynamics of existence an understanding of the Creator, possibly also of our role in Creation.  The problems with this perspective were discussed in a preceding chapter.  But from this results the personal concept of conforming with and acting in accordance with the perceived development of Creation.

 

Thereby, the two alternatives, the theist and the atheist, are not very different from each other in their result.

 

Interpretation of the Dynamic aspects of creation:

Following are more comments regarding the attempt to deduct a “what for” from an interpretation of Creation, as resulting from observation of the course of the evolution of the world up to this time: 

 

If one observes outer space in the universe, one must be impressed by how much of it is materially empty.  One must be impressed by how little concentrated material one finds in tiny dots widely distributed throughout the universe. [3] Even of that little concentrated material, only an infinitely small portion on some planets of a few distributed stars is suitable for the origin of life and its support for only a limited time, possibly not even long enough to allow civilizations to appear.

 

Consequently, one cannot say that life or humans were the purpose or goal or the plan of the original Creation.  Otherwise, there would be many more habitable places in the universe, and we should soon be able to determine that there is a multitude of already inhabited planets in other solar systems (which would give this essay greater urgency).  Then also humans on Earth should have originated much earlier without interruptions of the evolution by major extinctions.  But, rather, life and humans, in their unusual rarity and fragility relative to the remaining universe, appear as a surprise of Creation.  This surprise became possible accidentally from the physical and chemical conditions on our own little planet and possibly somewhere else in space.  When it became possible in the course of time, and commensurate with the evolving complexity of molecular structures, then it did originate accordingly.  In other words, accidental, local conditions (boundary conditions) are the ones, not presumed goals, that are facilitating evolution in an ever finer web of possibilities.

 

The paucity and wide distribution of material concentration in the form of stars and planets in the wide expanse of cosmic space is astounding.  But equally so is the fact that all the space everywhere in the universe is filled with radiation.  Everything radiates from all directions and reflects radiation.  In this sense, everything is connected to everything in the universe.

 

Radiation and chemical processes lead to diverse organic, pre-biotic building blocks.  This is caused by the fact that the material development of Creation in the course of time follows the combinatorial principle (see an earlier footnote) whereby smaller elements can combine to form completely new types of larger elements with their own characteristics in new dimensions of existence.  This basic principle of nature extends from the material to the biological and eventually to the mental evolution of humans and their civilizations.  From subatomic particles originate atomic particles – protons, neutrons, and electrons.  By way of combinations of these atomic particles, all kinds of atoms originate within stars.  The results are the substances known to us – the chemical elements.  The combination of atoms results in molecules that provide the diverse materials, including the biological-organic ones, including DNA and the proteins.  The biochemical molecules can ultimately form living cells and the cells can form organisms – even us humans capable of thought.  Thought builds systems of knowledge and philosophical or religious systems. 

After the appearance of the first primitive life on Earth, more than 2 billion years had to pass (that is, anyway, almost 20 percent of the total time of existence of the universe and more than 50 percent of the present age of Earth) before more complex life originated.  As one considers the biological evolution through the following approximately 600 million years of Darwinian evolution and geophysical events, one has to wonder how many branches of development originated and how many were again extinguished.  The extinction of the dinosaurs may be the most famous example, but numerous extinctions of equal or proportionally greater impact occurred quite often already before.  Most of the numerous surviving species of life never reached any level of consciousness or thought.   

 

It now appears as though modern humanity had brought biological evolution to a stop, thanks to science, technology, breeding of some plant and animal species and suppression of others, political thought resulting in equalizing human rights, and the reduced propagation of society’s “elites”.  But humans, who are themselves an expression of Creation, now continue evolution by means of genetic manipulation, as a novel continuation of the expression of Creation by other means.  Furthermore, it takes only one more of the many biological extinctions in the history of Earth to eliminate humanity and continue natural evolution again, then possibly based on the dominance of a totally different species (and to show humans as a temporary side-development of evolution, as the dinosaurs once were). 

 

The “anthropic principle” postulates that evolution was directed such that human life on Earth would become possible.  That could also have been postulated by any other earlier form of life, until that one was washed away by one of the great extinctions of times past.  And what will be said once humanity must disappear again on account of a future great extinction?  Why should these “anthropic” considerations not be postulated equally by other highly developed cosmic civilizations regarding their own existence?  The open-ended “combinatorial principle” of evolution may be a better description of what occurs in the universe than the goal-oriented “anthropic principle”.

 

Thus, one cannot say that humans or other highly developed beings in cosmic space – with their consciousness, their capability for thought, and their possibly not only for us on Earth guiding emotional values – were the purpose and aimed-for goal or plan of a biological Creation.  Otherwise, this development would have taken place earlier, possibly also in other branches of evolution, and would not always be threatened by extinction.  Rather, the highly developed beings appear as a “surprise” of biological evolution that proved possible based on the statistically distributed evolution of the propagation material and the consequently progressing physiological complexity of those living beings – than actually did occur, at least once, and at least temporarily, in a suitable environment, our Earth. 

 

What resulted for humans in Creation is that they not only can set or change the starting and boundary conditions for further evolution within some range, but they can also themselves act independently.

 

Thus, a possible “meaning of existence” for humans lies not only in existing for the “pleasure of the Creator” and, based on their consciousness, to be a spectator of the kaleidoscopic fireworks; but in personally, actively, joyfully participating in the dynamic course of this evolution to higher complexity, higher capabilities, implementation of higher values, and creation of beauty during the short time allotted to our existence. 

 

Thereby, humans and all other conscious and responsibly acting living beings in cosmic space become co-actors possibly the only ones – in this cosmic drama, contributing their own leading values.  Thereby, they give their existence their own meaning. 

 

Thus, while there may be no purpose or meaning in the totality of the universe beyond the pleasure of God, there is definite purpose and meaning in fulfilling our own lives – specifically, as we regard the shortness of time allocated to our individual lives and our cultures.  This leads back to the question: What gives specific meaning to each intelligent and conscious life; “what to do?” 

 

In the simplest sense, what counts in each evolution is “survival, prospering, multiplying”. Beyond that, what counts for us humans with our varied gifts and complex character is the matrix:

 

 

Regarding the ”self” of

the individual

 

Regarding others, the

community, and the

environment

Regarding the esthetic

feeling, culture,

and joy

The level of the

humane-intellectual elite, elevated above

need

Growth:

Personal development,

Personality improve-

ment, growth,

exploring, diversified

search for knowledge,

deeper insight,

learning, and skill in

acting in the world

Service:

Supporting and

charitable help for

other individuals,

contributing service

and excellence in

leadership to society

and protection

for the environment

Culture:

Participation in culture

and the arts, enjoyment

of the beauty of the

world (also humor).

The level of the average life

Reaching of security,

wealth, and influence

To be recognized, to

dominate, to support

one’s own clan

Entertainment, decoration, fashion,

ritual, and refined

sensual pleasures

The level of simple life

Survival, satisfaction of

biological desires,

propagation, rest

Caring for the  next of

kin, contact with other

humans

Enjoyment of sound,

pattern, and color

 

Each of the three columns indicates different emphasis on rationality, emotional values, and joy of life.

 

The pursuit of the higher goals is supported by sufficient accomplishments on the lower levels of existence – mainly, the lowest one. It is a fact that personal development and good deeds on the uppermost level are facilitated or augmented if one has acquired more financial resources and power on the middle level.  America as a nation, the Rockefellers and now Bill Gates, have done more good in the world, thanks to their wealth, than they had done had they remained insignificant.  I personally regret sometimes, and possibly criticize myself for, not having made more money (in business) and reached a higher position in society (for example, in politics, even just on the local level) in order then to have helped more people.

 

Inversely, one can specifically point out that the higher goals can be pursued more easily if one reduces the expectations and personal needs on the lower levels, staying clear of their “temptations”.  This reduction of expectations on the lower levels for better concentration on the highest level was already taught by Christ.  The one who seeks riches is unlikely to enter Paradise with the blessed ones.  The poet Walther von der Vogelweide (1170 – 1230 A.D.) described this predicament in one of his wonderful songs some 800 years ago.  It is still valid today for every one of us.

 

Furthermore, personal growth and development receives its moral justification only through contributing service to others, society, and the environment.  On the other hand, this service obtains higher qualification and effectiveness if based on prior personal growth and development.  The capability for joy over all the beauty in the world is a special gift of Creation to mankind. 

 

Even if the highest level of the matrix is the leading one in evolution and the middle one the evolution-driving one, it is the lowest level that is the most realistic one on Earth.  Many millions of people on Earth, if not the majority, still struggle for survival and the fulfillment of their most basic needs.  Following Darwin, this will always remain so.  It is caused by the fact that humans, as do all other living species, multiply to such a degree that each niche for existence is filled to the limit of survivability (and beyond), whether in wild nature, in the slums of the big cities, or in each branch of the professions.  Any environmental or economic change will hurt primarily the many marginal individuals without reserves and flexibility.

 

Yet, even people on the lowest level very well know neighborly love within their closest family circle, friendship, as well as the joy over beauty; they take the meaning of their lives from that.  It is interesting (and possibly deplorable) that next, upon rising, follows the level of accumulation of wealth and power and simple entertainment or refined sensual pleasure.

 

In consequence of the unevenness of fate, many humans perceive their life as being without value and meaning.  Lowering or change of expectations can help to find new meaning.  Turns to the better occur quite often, but often only the supporting intervention by other humans can help to find a new approach to life, a new meaning.

 

Following is a commentary regarding some limits in the pursuit of higher ideals:

The possibility of a “too much” is well known in connection with “service” in a charitable and social context.  Such a “too much” can lead to a weakening of the recipient by the helping service when becoming habituated to being supported (crutch effect).  It can lead to an underdevelopment of strength by the recipient on the way to becoming independent through own effort.  Furthermore, a “too much” in providing service can “burn out” the caregiver.

 

Such a “too much” can also occur in the pursuit of personal “growth” among the high ideals indicated in above matrix.  The reaching out to distant areas of knowledge and experience can remove an individual too far from the human roots in this world.  Then, not only a certain humanism, but also mental balance may become jeopardized.  This can happen when descending too deeply into the sciences, or philosophy, or also theology.  But mental stagnation in youthful development, a later satisfaction with just the same old discussions at the pub or endless rounds of golf, and a retirement in front of the television set certainly are not the fulfillment of human life.

 

Probably there also is a “too much” for dedication to joy and cultural pursuits.

 

It is common in our Western civilization to discuss the possibility of a “too much” of development (transformation) in ethical values and the negative prevalence of technology – a loosening of family values, the loss of motherly care in the family as exceptional professional opportunities are opened to women, and the threat of technology to all “human” ways of life.  Shouldn’t we just relax and enjoy what we have?  This question was raised by many generations before us who found themselves in the midst of “progress”.  Still, few of us would want to live again among the lower classes of historic times past.  Too much misery in too many regions of Earth (including our own inner cities) still demands progress.  Therefore, it is a matter of the right measure and right direction of development and progress.  We are challenged to accomplish this finding of the right measure and right direction – and to stay ahead in the unending competition in the course of evolution.  The successes and the wrecks of individual lives, old families, and historic civilizations, and the fate of their people teach lessons. 

 

What can be expected among other civilizations in cosmic space?

The attainment of high civilization requires benefit-oriented progress and the coordination of the individuals within a society.  Therefore, at least the lower two levels of the first two columns of the matrix can also be expected with other cosmic civilizations.  This will occur more so as personal initiative and personal responsibility occur or increase in the course of evolution.

 

The highest level and the third column presuppose the existence of and emphasis on emotions.  Even though the emotions give value to our human lives, they cannot be expected to exist with all cosmic civilizations everywhere in the universe.  Some other civilizations may also be lacking the Christian-social ethics.  Various cultures that existed in the course of history at various places here on Earth also show this defect, in spite of their respective success.

 

Can followers of Oriental religions explain why imminent escape from existence into Nirvana should be the ultimate goal for all intelligent beings everywhere else in the universe, and if not, why then on Earth? 

 

 

The Question of the Universal Validity of Specific Doctrines of the Christian Faith

 

Our Basic Religious Directives:  Faith in God and Neighborly Love

 

Following the preceding discussion, one can expect that other cosmic civilizations as well base their view of existence on a transcendental force.  The presumption of a transcendental, originating force can be a rational conclusion even among scientists here on Earth (depending upon the meaning of “transcendental”), see the publication of a collection of statements by leading scientists. [4] The same presumption can still be called “faith in God” among religious people on Earth (where the meaning of “transcendental” often is still quite anthropomorphic).

 

The differences become apparent when one considers the specific concepts of God, of this originally creative force “X”.  In the traditional Christian faith, this concept is rendered human and, in an emotional view, is equated with a loving, still acting, personally responsive father.  The Darwinian forces in biological evolution, however, can be observed as acting without any compassion, justice, or fairness.  They still extend strongly into the human phase of existence, as human history and daily life demonstrate.  This lets the concept of an always “loving father” appear as untenable.  In addition, the assumption of ongoing activity of God and, consequently, responsiveness cannot be justified, as discussed above.  Finally, one has to consider the violent destructiveness of nature, the random extinctions, and the ultimate dissolution of all structures of the universe.

 

Observation of the grandiose cosmic space, with its diverse phenomena, further indicates that the concept of God must be much more grandiose, absolutely abstract, and, ultimately, incomprehensible – possibly more multidimensional as well – than could be understood by humans and represented in human images.  Therefore, one can expect that highly developed cosmic civilization also will have a very abstract and incomprehensible concept of the original force or faith in “God”.

 

“Faith in God” is, therefore, only Creation-explaining.  But faith in an “only” creating God implies no statement that could serve as guidance for human behavior, except if one proceeds from the observation of Creation to deduct a meaning- and guidance-providing role for one’s own civilization and one’s own life, as discussed above.

 

And how will it be with neighborly love in other cosmic civilizations?  The origin of civilizations and their technological capability presupposes cooperation among individuals, as well as a certain coherence of society within those civilizations.  Therefore, one should expect also to find in cosmic space the care for others, as is humanely emotionally called “neighborly love” among us.  Only among cosmic civilizations not gifted with emotions would the humanely emotional component of “love” be missing.  Then only an evolutionarily selected, genetically preconditioned readiness for service to the community would exist, as among bees and ants.

 

In this context, one has to point out again that neighborly love may very well find its limits when one emphasizes benefit for society, as pointed out before in connection with the problems of exaggerated socialism.

 

But what if “neighborly love” is the only, and most important, guiding thought for a civilization on a planet in cosmic space, and what if this only brings a concentration on benefit and well-being for the respectively dominating species there – meaning, here on Earth, for humans?  Evolution works only if the number of individuals provided by propagation leads to need in excess of the availability of resources.  Therefore, there must always be “marginal” need.  This suffering leads the dominant species to justify the exploitation of every other species to serve either as food, building material, or decoration.  Is “neighborly love” only for one’s own kind really all that remains as the guiding thought for the leading species in all of Creation in the universe?     

 

In a still narrower formulation of the directive, this would be a commandment for neighborly love only for the people of one’s own ethnic group or race – with correspondingly evil consequences, as ongoing observation shows.

 

What, beyond neighborly love, could count?  How would it be with directives that correspond to the exceptionality and potential significance of the high civilizations in the evolutionary course of Creation?  This could include:

 

o       Development of civilizations and their guiding values in accordance with their best and special capabilities.

o       Development of all individuals within those civilizations in accordance with their individually best capabilities and guiding values.

o       Protection and help for living beings different from those of the dominant species. (But does that mean also for cruel predators, mosquitoes, and parasites??  How does one draw a line in the gray zone of valuation?)

o       Formation (or conservation) of the accessible environment.

 

From this would result basic rights – but, mainly, also obligations for individuals, societies, and the environment.

 

Here, one could find not only a “becoming-part” of existence, but also a path to active contribution to the grandiose possibilities of the still evolving Creation and, thereby, also the finding of meaning for one’s own existence.

 

The conscious, thinking, and emotionally sensitive individuals of the highly developed cosmic civilizations possibly are the only forces in Creation that are “still active” in following their own thoughts and preferences!

 

What possibilities and what responsibility would lie in this?!!  How would that express the need that the highly developed and opportunity-provided beings accept responsibility for their special position in Creation?!!

 

One can hope that such guiding thoughts can be found with other cosmic civilizations – and possibly more?

 

 

Our Concepts of Human Sinfulness, the “Original Sin”

 

The concept of “sin” in Christian thought includes offenses in all expressions of human life, in “thoughts, deeds, and words”, as well as in all that was left undone.  “Sin” refers therein mainly to what one does to others or lacks in their support.

 

Close to the concept of “sin” is the concept of “guilt”.  Considering the complexity of our lives and the multidimensional contradictions between various requirements (see the matrix above), there can be no morally perfect, guilt-free individual in the Christian sense through all years of life – specifically, since compromises between neighborly love and the wish for personal mental growth or participation in culture cannot be found in Christian thought.

 

It is mainly the contradiction between neighborly love and personal development or necessary care for one’s own family or clan that prevents the charitable sharing of all resources, down to the level of the lowest fellow being.  A solution for this problem has never been attained by Christian theology, even though natural evolution and the development of human civilization obviously demand personal development, the application of resources to personal growth.  Even the Catholic Church concedes an elevated style of life to its leading individuals (crowned by the Vatican), in the midst of all the misery of the world.  Communism permitted the same to its leading cadres.  The precondition for the well-being and freedom of our modern society is the incentive of advantage for the striving individual.  Inequality is the consequence.  Is that sin?  Since this problem arose apparently as Creation wanted it, through natural evolution of human nature, is it, then, “original sin”?

 

As shown in a preceding paragraph, other cosmic civilizations will see the cause for their individual shortcomings also in their “hardware” or “software”, as for us on Earth in the neurophysiologic, biochemical, or psychological variations.  Therefore, the “freedom of will” to follow a value-oriented path, they will also see as limited.  But will they see that as “sin”?  And how will the finding of compromises between contradictory requirements work with them?

 

Scientifically unfounded is the fixation of groups of mankind on Earth on always one specific problem of life corresponding to their respective philosophy or religion – with the Christians on the moral insufficiency of mankind, its sinfulness – with the Buddhists on the suffering in life, on account of which one should renounce everything.  Modern Western thought, however, rather, puts the various opportunities for mankind in the foreground and the “unlimited” possibilities for each individual to develop in many dimensions.  In any case, it is no longer sin, guilt, or suffering – not even compassion – that is the central theme of the personal conduct of life. 

 

Consequently, one cannot expect to find the concept of original sin or the basic culpability of each individual as the central theme of existence with other cosmic civilizations, at least not in that formulation.

 

 

The Principal Task of Life and Thereby “Meaning” of Life for Humans Is to Prove Oneself Between “Good” and “Bad” in the Sense of Christian Ethics

 

After what was said in prior chapters, also, this view cannot be expected in this exclusive emphasis with other cosmic civilizations, as little as the Buddhist fixation on escape from suffering can be.  Obviously, each living being is concerned (see the matrix of objectives above) with survival, the basic needs, propagation, caring for the next of kin, and contact with others.  Beyond that, however, the dynamic view of existence in the correlation of all phenomena demands an emphasis on development and active, responsible participation in the whole environment, as also stated above.  This allows the conclusion that one can expect everywhere in cosmic space the criteria of “acceptable” and “not acceptable”, of “right” or “wrong”, and in this sense also of “good” or “bad”.

 

In a convergence with Christian faith, one can refer to the parable of the “talents” that were entrusted to the servants (Matth. 25, 14-30).  But one must also realize that the Bible didn’t know of any dynamics of existence.  

 

 

Final Judgment and Eternal Life

 

In Christian theology (and in Islam), the cornerstone of a coherent edifice of the doctrine of faith is the belief in a Final Judgment and a subsequent compensating life in the next world.  This demands the continuation of conscious existence of the soul or of another basic substance of spirituality and sensitivity of the individual being.

 

What, after all, is the soul of a human being that could continue existing?  “Soul” is a difficult concept to handle for a scientist.  Early psychology was still at ease with it.  But neurophysiology and cognitive psychology see some problems with this concept.  In the Christian faith, the soul is the “conscious” essence of our personal existence containing everything that constitutes our personality, possibly also our mental capabilities, like a spiritual homunculus.

 

Physiology sees this somewhat differently.  As demonstrated in another essay (“Creative Thought”, H. Schwab, 1994), human “consciousness“ is a virtual phenomenon that results merely from the memory of preceding perceptions and memory of own thoughts, as well as the diversity of their recall (addressability). [5] In other words, the better and further back reaching this memory is and the more complex the interconnections and addressability of earlier thoughts and sensations are, the more developed the recognized individual “consciousness” will be – as already existing in various animals.

 

Therefore, the preservation of consciousness of a soul that would possibly continue existing demands the preservation of memory.  The preservation of such capabilities as memory and consciousness, without supporting neural structure or addition of energy, is not deducible from the observation of nature.  One has only to observe how the reduction of blood circulation or the neurological reduction of brain functions results in the partial loss of personality and personal consciousness.

 

In order to perceive compensating justice, the human soul that would possibly continue existing in the next world would have to be capable of the sensation of guilt or redemption, with the resulting sensation of suffering or joy – that means, ultimately, also with the character or personality of the deceased individual.  As indicated before, and demonstrated in another essay (“Human Personality”, H. Schwab, 2002), sensations and “personality” are based on the neurophysiology of the middle section of the brain and on body chemistry.  Changes in this domain result in corresponding changes of personality. 

 

Sensations of “personality” independent of neurophysiology or body chemistry are not deducible from the observation of nature.  Accidents, diseases, brain surgery, and the influence of drugs confirm this as much as does the connection of mental aging with neurological or biochemical phenomena. 

 

Consequently, the concept of “soul” – that results as a virtual idea from sensation, thought, and memory, that is from functions of the brain – cannot be seen as independent of precisely this brain, but only as an expression of its presence and its functioning.

 

(In very practical terms:  One could not preserve the essence of an individual computer without the specific hardware, memory content, and power supply of this computer.)

 

There are the following additional considerations for those who believe in the existence of “souls”: 

Why should Creation want a collection of the souls of all intelligent beings for all time, either in Heaven or Hell?  Would it not have to include the souls of all intelligent beings from all the civilizations in the universe?  It couldn’t just be from our insignificant Earth in the Milky Way.  Would it include all souls of all intelligent beings that ever lived or ever will live on Earth?  Starting from the first hominids, but not including their precursors or cousins on the tree of life – because one has to consider that humans came from a continuous evolution of living beings.  A delimitation from when on the souls of these living beings became worthy of preservation, cannot be seen. [6]

 

On Earth, that must necessarily include everybody, from the Aborigines and Chinese fishermen or courtiers to the Incas, Polynesians and Inuits – and not just the Western people of the last 4,000 years.  Why would God want to collect all these souls for eternity?  The beings of distant cosmic civilizations will also have come from various stages of their diverse evolutions, whether with or without the capabilities for emotions and whether then with or without “sin” or “guilt”.  There may also be diversity among them – in which case, all their souls would have to be preserved, too.

 

The archiving of a very large and ever-increasing number of souls of every height of development from all cosmic civilizations in a static manner for an indefinite length of time – implying that such storage be independent of the continued existence of their star or planet of origin, since those will have to disappear sooner or later, along with all the other celestial bodies – does not correspond in any way to the understanding of Creation that one deducts from observation of its dynamics, from the arrival of always new structures, but also from the ultimate total dissolution of all structures of the universe.

 

The limitation on the number of souls that exist in the universe by means of their re-usage, as assumed by some religions, still demands the ongoing creation of new souls as the total human population increases.  The miracle of the new creation of souls should be seen as greater than that of their vanishing.

 

Thus, the belief in the continued existence of souls for all time cannot be expected with other highly developed cosmic civilizations.  If one does not see a “keeping alive” and an archiving of the souls of all higher living beings in cosmic space, then one cannot expect a “final judgment” either.

 

There is still one interesting consideration in convergence with the Christian faith:  What is “time”?  Did “time” as a dimension of existence originate only with Creation?  Can “time” be voided again through death?  That means that death would be a transition into timelessness?  All who have once passed the threshold of dying and have seen the following visions of light have experienced that there was an infinite calm that did not know time.  One can only wish for this redemption from time when one has to die.

 

Does the conduct of a “good” life lead to peaceful redemption, and an “evil” one, not?  Can one still peacefully exit from life even if in great compassionate concern for others or with unfulfilled tasks?  Systematic investigations of this subject are not known and would again belong to a “quantitative theology”.  What will one find with other cosmic civilizations?

 

Furthermore, one should consider that we all leave some traces in this world.  Our energy content is transferred to our environment and some is radiated away.  By means of the radiation that permeates universal space, our image could theoretically still be perceived after thousands of years by a super-telescope somewhere in outer space.  Our mental content is partially transferred to our environment, too.  A thought that we communicate to another person can become effective within that person, and on and on, in other individuals beyond that.  Do we such have an existence beyond our own lives – at least some effect?  And doesn’t our material content become distributed in new forms in the biosphere of Earth and ultimately in the astrophysical final phase of our sun – first, “Red Giant”, then “White Dwarf” – beyond that?  Is the meaning of death, then, not a dissolution but a return or homecoming to nature and the universe – to “God”?

 

And what about the spiritualistic phenomena – from ESP to futurology, clairvoyance, and the appearance of the spiritual “taking-leave” of recently, or at some distance, deceased individuals?  The first three, if not based on imagination, have nothing to do with the continued existence of the soul.  The latter, most likely not either, since it is, rather, an (often experienced) ESP phenomenon like telepathy.  Everything else can too easily be interpreted as imagination.

 

In sum, one cannot assume that other cosmic civilizations can believe in a continued existence of their souls in a next world and therefore not either in a “final judgment”, as shown before.  If they would do so anyway, the justification of such a belief could be the most important information we could obtain from outer space.

 

There is one more consideration, almost in convergence with religious concepts of “soul”.  What do we consist of?  We are a material, living body with certain mental capabilities that express – among other things – our personality.  It is known that the cells of our body have a limited life and are replaced by other, new cells – most visibly in the skin.  It is also known that the metabolism within the cells requires a continuous absorption of new material and provides for the elimination of refuse material.  In sum, one can calculate within what time a large part of the material content in our body may have been replaced by new material.  But we are always the same person.  This consideration shows that we – our personal, individual essence – are not the accumulation of our material content – that comes and goes – but the form or structure this takes within us – including the formation of our brain and its memory.  In other words, the essence of our individual personality is something very abstract – just form and structure – which also change in the course of time.  Beyond that is the consideration indicated very early in this essay: that all material matter – being composed of a combination of subatomic particles that can be seen as energy “strings” – is only an accumulation of field effects – whatever fields are – of the vacuum, of the nothingness. [7] 

 

 

Redemption Became Possible Only Through the Sacrificial Death of Christ, God’s Only Son, an Expression of Trinity

 

This is a combination of several concepts of faith – redemption, Christ’s sacrificial death, Christ as the only son of God, and the Trinity.

 

Redemption:

The hope for a better future brought upon by a “bringer of light”, a better leader, or Messiah exists variously in the cultures of the world.  This may possibly result from an actually miserable status combined with the experience that sometime in the past a great leader had brought essential improvement.  In the Christian faith, redemption refers specifically to the forgiving of sin (as caused by original sin and the general sinfulness of humans) at the time of God’s final judgment, since all people would be lost (since sinful) if not “redeemed”.

 

As shown in earlier chapters, the concept of “redemption” is not tenable in a cosmic view.  What remains for each human individual is the hope for a fulfilled life in personal growth and development, in service to fellow beings and society, and in joy about the beauty of God’s Creation – and the hope for a peaceful death – and what primarily remains is the personal responsibility for one’s accomplishments in life within the range of possibilities – or acceptance of one’s fate.

 

The sacrificial death of Christ:

In the Christian faith, Christ’s sacrifice on the cross is the key element of redemption.  It occurred approximately 15,000 years after the evolution of the Cro-Magnon species of humanity, 4,000 years after the appearance of structured cultures, and only 500 to 700 years after those cultures reached the maturity of thought to perceive sophisticated philosophical or religious structures of existence, from Chinese concepts to Buddha, Zoroaster, or the early Western thinkers.

 

The need for Christ’s sacrificial death (or, at least, this specific interpretation of Christ’s death on the cross) arose from an inflexible juridical view of God’s law and its consequences at the Final Judgment.  This view obviously excludes any divine pardon or freedom of God to forgive in passing judgment.  Consequently, God is not seen as the “loving father” – which is in contrast to Christ’s own teaching of love and forgiveness.  Instead, this view of the sacrificial death of Christ permits the substitution of the necessary punishment of one individual by the suffering of somebody else – in this case, by Christ, the son of God – and, through the concept of Trinity, by the suffering of God himself.  

 

This understanding of the death of Christ is not tenable from the above-described point of view.  An alternative reading of the Bible is possible.  Christ had to confront the rigid hierarchy of a religion, which he considered basically correct but misguided in its interpretation.  Christ accepted the burden of the confrontation with the authorities in Jerusalem, and thereby his death, in order to provide strength to his teaching and to his followers.  By this sacrifice, we were all liberated from the narrowness of old-Jewish abiding by the letter of the “law”, ancient hero worship, and the onset of the middle-class pursuit of money and power.  In this sense, Christ’s death was a “sacrifice” for us that “redeemed” us (see the short story “Jesus of Nazareth” by H. Schwab).

 

This interpretation liberates us from an understanding of God as an utterly and rigidly legalistic ruler of existence.  God does not appear in the universe as an accountant of sin.  God did not need Christ’s sacrifice to forgive us our sins.  We needed a leader of Christ’s strength and readiness for self-sacrifice to pursue a path of higher values.

 

If one does not believe in God’s interfering with worldly events, Christ’s sacrificial death for mankind would not be seen as pre-ordained.  What if the priests of Jerusalem had not succeeded with their plan to kill Christ – if he had walked away, had escaped, or had been declared innocent by Pilate?  Would that have made Christ’s mission less important for our life and society today?  Possibly not.  Buddha and Mohammed lived to a mature age and were allowed to develop more detailed philosophies or religions.  Christ’s moral doctrine and his view of judgment and afterlife could have existed and become important for the world without his sacrificial death.

 

“Son of God”:

That gods appeared on Earth or had children from terrestrial women had already appeared in other religions.  It was also quite common for great rulers to present themselves as sons of the gods.  That was valid for the pharaohs (Ramses = Ra-Moses = Son of Ra) and for Alexander the Great who had himself confirmed as son of Zeus by an Egyptian oracle.  That was also valid for Jewish kings of the Old Testament who were called “son of God” such that this became a royal title. 

 

Considering the human character of the concepts of the gods in those days, the “divine” nature of certain humans is somewhat more understandable.  Thus, it is understandable that Christ was seen by the people of his time not only in terms of a messiah-king but also as “divine”.  But Christ then taught that all humans should see God as father (see the prayer “Our Father”).  Thus, all Christians describe themselves as “children of God”.  It is not common, however, that an individual Christian would describe himself or herself as “son of God” or “daughter of God”.  Theology got itself entangled there, too, and looked for a way out through the concept of Trinity that elevated Christ to the level of a special son and part of God.   

 

In an abstract view of the grandiose original power of Creation, one cannot follow the human-biological concept of “son of God” for Christ.

 

Trinity:

Pagan gods often had a multiplicity of roles in the ancient world.  In such cases they were therefore represented with diverse attributes or in various visual forms.  But only seldom did this lead to a “multi-unity” of a god.  This was demanded only by the Greek-educated Christian thinkers for the Trinity as a difficult to explain but consequentially necessary solution (because they could not see Christ as being identical with God – as if God had personally walked on Earth for 33 years as a human – but they wanted to see Christ elevated as part of God above common humans, and they also wanted to save the belief in only “one” God, the monotheism of their religion). 

 

The concept of Trinity cannot be combined with the view of the abstract and grandiose original power of Creation.

 

 

How would Christ himself have seen the doctrines of faith of our time? 

 

The gospels are later writings that already reflect in their arrangement and content the individual collectors of information and, possibly, the interpretation and accent of the Christian congregations of their time (see the gospels according to St. John and Thomas).  How would a person of our time, who had walked with Christ, describe him and his fate (see the story, “Jesus of Nazareth”, H. Schwab, 1996)?

 

Christ does not speak of god-equality of his person.  He speaks of God as his father, as he recommends that all people do (see the prayer, “Our Father”); but he still sees therein an especially close link for himself.  Thus, he admonishes his disciples that they, too, could do greater miracles, as he was doing himself, if their faith were stronger.  Christ also asks his disciples what people were saying about him.  He receives the answer that he is considered to be the “son of God”.  This has to be linguistically understood, out of its own time, as pointed out before, as a common appellation of great rulers, including Jewish kings of the past.  Christ himself never emphasized this appellation as his title, but was mocked by the Jews upon the cross as “king of the Jews”, pointing to the usage of the “son of God” appellation for him among his followers.

 

Redemption was promised as a reward for “faith” in Christ.  One must assume that this implied maintaining the faith in Christ’s teachings, and thereby the following of Christ.  Only in consistent adherence to his teachings – in not giving up, even in accepting death – could the followers of Christ retain their faith.

 

Christ himself presented his death on the cross as a sacrifice for the believers, but not as the central element of redemption upon the last judgment.  Christ saw (since the vision on the mountain with Moses and Elijah) the necessity to preach not only in Galilee, but to face the confrontation with his adversaries in Jerusalem.  They were the leaders of the established, rigid, and power-conscious hierarchy of his own religion, which he himself basically believed in, but which he saw as ill-directed in its formalism and distance from the humane.  Christ had to be the first and a model to his disciples in taking this confrontation upon himself, since it was imminent also for them.  With his sacrifice, he had to ascertain the durability of his teachings.  Thus, Christ’s death became a necessary sacrifice for the survival of his teaching, thereby of the Christian faith, and thereby of our redemption from the wrong path and wrong values of some of the teachings of his time.  This is a redemption of mankind from itself and a liberated turning toward an image of God and Creation of higher dimensions.

 

There is no doubt that a belief in a final judgment and in Paradise or Hell was a given for Christ and his time.  (This belief was already being taught by Zoroaster and had been accepted by the Jews since their exile in Babylon where they increasingly came in contact with Eastern teachings.)

 

Christ was focused on his basic teaching for the Jews of his time, seeing himself, rather, as a reformer.  He did not develop any intricate or systematic theology – in this sense, also no dogma or rituals.  The essential expression of Christian “faith” was the imitation of Christ.  The key elements of this faith were:

 

o       The adoration of God – as the principal attitude toward the existence of this world – and the neighborly love – as the basic motive of inter-human relations on Earth.

o       The beatitudes (Matth. 5): Praised as blessed were the poor in spirit, they that mourn, the meek, the seekers of righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, and the peacemakers – as the basic motive for one’s own life.

o       The obedience to the meaning of the old laws, not necessarily to their letters (verbal formulation) – whereby these laws were to serve the people and not the inverse – as the basic motive of one’s attitude toward the clerical and governmental order.

 

Thus, completely new “values” originated for being humane and for society.[8] 

 

o       The beatitudes replaced the ideals of the time of hero-worship in a brutal society that was focused on war, power, and wealth with the ideals of respect for the simple, the meek, the honest, and the peaceful.

o       Faith in God and neighborly love replaced the intellectuality of complex philosophies.

o       Obedience to the meaning of a law that was to serve the people replaced the rigidity of old-religious laws administered by the high priests far from real life.

 

Environmental problems did not exist in the time of Christ – nor did any knowledge of evolution or outer cosmic space.

 

Should one not expect that each cosmic civilization that came into being through an evolution from a simpler existence would, at some time, have needed a doctrine as the one taught by Christ (whom one can thus justly see in the ancient symbolic language as redeemer).  They would have needed this teaching in order to reach the potential of a highly civilized existence, wherever or whenever that may have been possible to occur in the universe?

 



[1] The question would be: how far into the future would one have to consider the interest of future generations?  Can one discount the interest of future generations in time?  Will future technology allow for easy substitution of presently needed scarce resources – oil, minerals, water?

 

[2] Occasionally, this is also a question of biblical research – for instance, the discovery of the authorship of the 5th Book of Moses (Deuteronomy) through De Wette, Cross, and Friedman, as being not by Moses but by Jeremiah, originating from the time of Josiah, ca. 622 B.C., and introducing his own new order and laws under the guise of laws given by Moses.    

 

[3] If one were to build a model of the universe in which the sun had a diameter of only 2 inches (5cm), Earth would be about 15 feet (5 meters) distant from it and would have a diameter of less than 1/64th of an inch (0.5 mm).  Correspondingly small and widely distributed would be the other planets in empty space.  The next solar system to ours would be at a distance of more than 500 miles (750 km).  In between, there would be nothing but empty space, even within a galaxy, our Milky Way. 

     Between the distributed galaxies there is, again, nothing but expansive empty space.  The galaxies are distributed in the universe much like a sponge.  There are accumulations of galaxies in some clusters, but also along a multitude of ribbons and on the periphery of gigantic bubbles of almost empty space.  All this is being assumed to be in some slow motion in consequence of the ongoing expansion of the universe, gravitational forces, and other causes for the motion of galaxies, occasionally leading to the collision of galaxies.  Our Milky Way is expected to collide with the galaxy called the Andromeda Nebula in some billions of years as it may have collided with some smaller ones in the past (see the star belt around it).

[4]See “Cosmos, Bios, Theos”, edited by Morgenau and Varghese, Open Court Publishing Co., ISBN 0-8126-9186-5.

[5]  The human capability for “consciousness” (Definition:  Awareness of oneself, of the world surrounding us, and of one’s own thought) is considered to be the most mysterious and possibly the most important human characteristic and capability of mankind.  There is an emotional reaction to the sensation of consciousness.

     Any dog that knows exactly where to scratch when it itches somewhere, demonstrates consciousness of itself.  Any dog that searches for food at the right place – or any wolf that arrives at a valid strategy to hunt for prey – demonstrates consciousness of the surrounding world and the capability to reflect upon it – also visible in dogs that dream while sleeping.  There is no clear limit between no capability for consciousness and full consciousness on various levels of complexity of existence as between advanced automatic machinery, animals, and humans.  There only are quantitative differences.  The consciousness on any level is a virtual effect derived from the memory of prior perceptions – a precursor of consciousness and developed early in evolution – and of thoughts, thought-processing, and the complex addressability of memory under various conditions – including their valuations and assessment of outcomes – even if programmed into the individual machine or living being.

     The emotional sensation of consciousness is not different from the emotional reaction to a perception – e.g., a work of art – or a visualization in thought.  This emotional reaction occurs only as one reflects upon consciousness, as it does when reflecting upon anything else.

     What remains as the essence of consciousness is the uniqueness of animal and human capability for thought, for visualizations occurring in the mind, as another reality, but a virtual one – and for memory of thought visualizations.  For neurophysiologic explanations of thought see the essays on “Creative Thought” or “Mental Creativity” by H. Schwab.

[6]  See the important research done by Jane Goodall with chimpanzees, demonstrating that these animals have very much of what we call “soul” among humans.  Many dog owners will say the same about their animal friends.

[7]  What is dominant, the material base or the form and structure of our essence?  Obviously it is the abstract essence, the form and structure, since every material part of ourselves can be exchanged and we are still the same person.  But what happens if we could reconstruct our material base, atom by atom, with exactly the same form and structure as we possess at one point in  time?  Would that also be us, with the same mind and memory – since both are brain-based?  Could we then eliminate one of the two copies and live on as before, because the surviving one would not know about the elimination of the other one?  Would that prove that the material part of ourselves dominates?

 

[8] In a historical clarification, one must say that the development of human ethical thought in the direction of “neighborly love“ and the formulation of corresponding moral guidelines goes back to earlier times.  Thus, Urukagina (also called Uru’inimgina), approximately 2,300 B.C., in Lagash, Mesopotamia, 600 years before Hammurabi, was the first king to present himself as the protector of the deprived and suppressed when introducing his social reforms.  Soon thereafter, Egyptian writings taught respect for the weak members of society and protection of orphans (Erman, LAE, pp. 72, 116 ff). 

     Jeremiah (see another footnote above), approximately in 622 B.C., in Deutoronomy, repeated these thoughts and expanded on them, see there 10,18, and 24,6-22, whereby one should point out that verse 24,16 specifically forbids the execution of one individual for the guilt of another.