Up, Out or Beyond Evolution
Up, Out of Beyond Evolution is the thirteenth installment in the free online serialization of my book, Amazing: Truths About Conscious Awareness (Click the link for an index of every chapter to date.)
Update: Now you can buy the book:
Up, Out or Beyond Evolution
For most of us, a realization that there may be no God and that the whole shebang we’re living is a meaningless hodgepodge is as demoralizing as anything else percolating through the shrouds in those lost hours between midnight and dawn.
Often, it starts with a passive awakening to the illogical and even embarrassingly silly realities most of us learned in childhood. An enlightened man, born in primitive times, rallied a following among the impoverished classes with a promise that they’d be delivered after death to a slimly described, but certainly better, world earned by their suffering.
Then, God–this messenger’s father or partner, depending on the tradition–let him endure hideous torture and public crucifixion, after which no one seemed especially perked up about his having gone to a better place to sit in judgment with his or as his own father, something like that.
Detail of the Last Supper, c.1986
14 in. x 11 in.
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The horrible death of Jesus was explained as an act of his taking all of humanity’s sins on himself and being sacrificed as a sort of proxy, cleansing us with a gift of eternal life, should we remain righteous and loyal in spirit, which, of course, we find next to impossible.
Making up stories, even fables, is one of the convenient things our brains do automatically in giving us cohesive realities. Some stories are more cogent than others, but objectively, whether it represents a deeper truth or only a hopeful fantasy, that one’s more of a doozy as it extends into modern times.
The tale of profound and righteous enlightenment, crucifixion and resurrection should be a hard sell in today’s market. In the days when illiteracy was common and superstitions filled in the empty spaces of knowledge, it probably hadn’t much appeal either. However, taken up by bands of itinerant mystical preachers who understood the power of combining community with eventual salvation, it had legs.
It still seems doubtful that many bought the story whole. After all, illiteracy doesn’t mean ignorance, but like many a club with loopy bylaws, members may go along just to get the benefits.
The benefits were a powerful coalescing of the disadvantaged in communities of mutual self-help. The poor, discarded and disenfranchised banded together in often secret congregations of worship. To go with the promised salvation, they were also able to abandon the pagan gods who hadn’t been generous.
Most of these were members of Jewish minorities under Roman Rule, but poor gentiles were welcomed too. In a medieval world dominated by powerful armies, the underground Christian societies thrived.
The diaspora spread west with a speed and often in the face of cruel opposition that suggested a density of conductive material–that is, poor people–throughout the empire. There was fertile ground for a meek shall inherit the Earth approach. A willingness to forestall satisfaction is proof there was little hope for it in the present.
The Dance at the Sunday Service in the Community at Watervliet Near Albany
24 in. x 18 in.
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The record is spotty, but there are claims that Eastern faiths leaked into the West. Some contend that Jesus himself went, not to a wilderness, but to India where he learned to meditate.
Out of this, Christianity arose powerfully and became accepted as the standard and enforced explanation about reality. The institution had centuries of internal struggle and warfare ahead, but a faith that insisted that true happiness could be acquired only in a supernatural setting became the narrative guide for the rest of the Western world.
How’s it going two-thousand years later?
Pretty well. Christian nations no longer gouge each other at God’s behest. Jews and other minorities are no longer as consistently persecuted and are generally allowed to go about freely in public life.
Christian values as they are now recognized inform governments and civil societies. That every one of us is brother to all the rest is a common sentiment. Genetic paths are mingling as never before.
Statistics show that we are more at peace than at any time in the history of the world. Charities and political coalitions dedicated to well-being abound. Respect for the rights of what are assumed to be all of God’s creations, especially the attractive, domestic ones, has grown as we’ve learned about the emotions and senses we share.
The cost? Displacement from nature and a deferral of desire.
What benefit could be so potent that we’re willing to wait for it, settling for less today in exchange? Evasion of the severest cruelty in nature, that is, a common death, is what we’re after.
It’s not hard to imagine that, somewhere in the web of interlocking times, emerging conscious awareness among clans brought attention to the fact that everything in nature, at some point, dies. What we call living was exposed as a push-pull between physical being and nonbeing in which nonbeing always wins.
Any evolutionary individual, now more aware, must have recoiled, observing unstoppable death wrecking nature, objectively, for the first time. Guidance and belief systems emerged, powered an insistence that humans not be part of the mess out there percolating with death. Gaining acceptance probably was no more difficult for advocates of eternal life than it would be for any warden promising a jailbreak.
Still, even aware of the rules governing safe conduct, we cheat all the time.
We seek the thrill of a carnival ride, tempting death for no gain. We rush into intercourse without condoms or other safe sex strategies. Passions override knowledge. We speed on highways with seat belts dangling free behind our shoulders. Car manufacturers have had to position safety as a luxury, not a commonly desirable feature, due in equal measure for all, to help it enhance sales.
Thrill Seekers at the Top of the Cyclone Roller Coaster at Coney Island Amusement Park
12 in. x 16 in.
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But how does the versatility of religious faith get into the game? It doesn’t really in any elemental way.
In Brownsville Girl, Bob Dylan sang about a friends’s belief that people didn’t do what they believed in. Instead, they did what was most convenient, then repented. That’s what religion does. It provides an artificial framework that helps us pretend we’re not who we are.
Religion, philosophy, physics–all of that, every code, every belief, every bit of shared knowledge–all are ways of talking about reality and how we handle it.
Religion lifts us above the fray when we need it, joining us with a familiar higher power, which, after all the huggermugger, is really the entity running the show. God’s rules seem more pure. In other words, less contaminated by nature.
We hear about being “raised up” by God, of moving toward a higher consciousness, or, in the New Age, a higher vibration. That these seem to mimic, awkwardly, the actual structure of nature, without connecting the threads, exposes a wisdom we must all have at a cellular level.
Ignorance is extremely hard, maybe impossible, to fully engage. Even as our self-aware personalities struggle to locate and keep a fix on some “better place,” a less logical, but much older awareness insists on structural ground rules... evidence that we’re still evolving.
Evidence exist that the wisdom deepest in us, the information that causes realities to adhere against chaos, rules the universe. No matter how we translate our experiences, we dance with the Lord.
We’re just starting to get a view into that contraption. Progress will accelerate when we learn how to know it without having every fact about it.
Up, Out or Beyond Evolution is the thirteenth installment in the free online serialization of my book, Amazing: Truths About Conscious Awareness (Click the link for an index of every chapter to date.)