Particularly during life’s difficult moments, religion is a source of comfort for us. When a child dies, when we lose a job: we are sustained by the relationships and wisdom that we develop in worship, study and charitable work.
Because this aspect of religion is so important to us, we seek in scripture for meaning that applies to us in our lives as human beings. We tend to emphasize that part of the story, and when we don’t find what we’re looking for, maybe even expand our searching into parts of the story that don’t really apply to us.
But if spirit is a part of the natural world, a form of consciousness woven into the very fabric of space, why should intelligence have manifested only here on Earth, in humanity? If spirit began evolution when the universe formed, or even earlier, it stands to reason that it’s got a long history of its own. What would coming to a planet be like? How would spirit go about learning about a new world? How would it go about improving itself through that investment?
When I re-read the Bible after developing a physical model of spirit (not really a theory, because the mathematics needs to be elaborated), I saw it in this light. The Bible made a whole lot more sense to me than it did when I turned away from it as a teenager.
That understanding is captured in The Soul Comes First, which you’ll see as a link on my sidebar.
Now the Bible is a complex book, with a lot of ideas in it. Summarizing it in seventy pages, even when looking at it from 30,000 feet, means compressing a lot of ideas into very few pages. So it’s heavy going. Here’s the short skinny:
This reality was designed as a place of healing for souls infected by selfishness.
The creation myth in Genesis records the investment of a collection of such souls as they explored the Earth through the evolving senses of living creatures.
The founding of monotheism through Abraham is about creating masculine strength in a culture dominated by powerful women.
The Old Testament, from Exodus on, records the expansion of monotheism as a national culture. The investment made by God at this point was in creating a capacity to reason through adherence to the law. The experiment failed for various reasons – the most significant being the desire of the people to centralize human authority. This eventually led to demotion of spiritual leadership in favor of political leadership, and destruction of the nation.
Jesus came to demonstrate that love will overcome any system of tyrannical laws. Not only did he demonstrate the power of love through miracles, he trained a collection of men (the Apostles) to emulate his mastery.
The Book of Revelation is exactly what John said it was: he was taken up to heaven, where the angels shared with him their relationship to and experience of Christ.. The visions of the seals are interpreted as the forms of selfishness that the infected angels brought to the Earth with them; the trumpeted disasters are the extinction episodes revealed to us by paleontology; the bowls describe the exhaustion of the natural resources humanity is exploiting.
Items 2 and 6 establish that paleontology and evolution science have revealed things that were known to the ancients long before we had the science to study them.
“This reality was designed as a place of healing for souls infected by selfishness.”
This would be worse than the hospital in which you catch illness from other patients. To follow the metaphor, it would either be a hospital with many of the doctors trying to kill you or no doctors at all.
A place with just as much incentive to become more selfish as incentive to shed selfishness cannot be a place for healing.
An essential point of spirituality: in its very nature, pure selfishness is incapable of creating anything. It can only expand its influence by convincing other actors to do work for it. As I understand it, this reality is designed to limit that expansion by limiting the rate of interaction. Selfishness is then only able to try to hang on to those things it already has consumed. In that very attempt, the structures that limit the rate of interaction also break selfishness into smaller and smaller pieces.
Conversely, forms of personality that support others are rewarded by gratitude – by the echoing back of the value of our presence by the spirits that have benefited from it. When that gratitude enters into mutuality – when we recognize our interdependence and celebrate those that celebrate us – the process is reinforced enormously (just as monetary velocity increases standards of living without increasing the money supply).
So I’m holding that this is NOT a place in which the incentives are balanced. It is designed so that caring for others is rewarded by their gratitude, while selfishness is suppressed. It sustains a virtuous circle, and suppresses the vicious cycle.
In the New Testament, when a healing occurs in his presence, Jesus always says “Your faith has healed you.” Each of us struggles with this choice: we can only be freed when we surrender selfishness, but we fear that surrender will result in the loss of our individual nature. We have no guarantees here – it is indeed a matter of faith.