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Cosmodeism: Prologue to a Theology of Transhumanism
Tsvi Bisk   Mar 30, 2020   Ethical technology  

Introduction
Freud’s disciple, Otto Rank once wrote that the “need for a truly religious ideology … is inherent in human nature and its fulfillment is basic to any kind of social life”. If Transhumanism is to become a universal phenomenon it must include what Jung called a divine drama that is universally compelling.

This article proposes scientific hypotheticals regarding the future of existence that have significant theological implications, but which cannot be empirically confirmed. My method could be described as Futuristic Logic. I assume evolution to be the salient characteristic of existence: cosmic evolution having produced ever more complex elements, which eventually evolved into life, which continued to produce ever more complex life forms, until it produced self-reflective consciousness. Evolution will, therefore, eventually produce a supra-consciousness that will, ultimately, produce a supra-supra-consciousness, and so on, until a 'life form' will have been created that will appear to us as if it were a God. Not "in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth", but "in the end an evolving cosmos will have created God". This won't be deterministic; it will be the result of conscious life forms throughout the Cosmos striving to gain control over their own evolution. This is the fundamental (volitional or subliminal) impulse of Transhumanism.

I do not consider Transhumanism to mean transcending (going beyond) humanism. Such a formulation is congruent with some formulations of Posthumanism, which, in turn, are logical deductions from radical Postmodernism. Such formulations reject the Enlightenment project as a misfortune and view terms like altruism, humanism, and democracy as "soft and slimy virtues". I identify myself as a Neo-modernist, (or a Post-postmodernist, if you prefer); someone who accepts the postmodernist critique of the naïve hubris of Modernism and the moral transgressions which were its unintended consequence but who emphatically embraces Modernism's heroic ambition for humanity. Rejecting the ambitions of Modernism because of past sins is akin to rejecting evolution because Darwinism morphed into Social Darwinism which gave birth to eugenics, which led to the Holocaust.

I view as axiomatic that existence is hierarchal: evolution producing ever more complex hierarchal configurations, of which self-reflective, volitional consciousness is Planet Earth's current pinnacle. This axiom has ethical and moral implications. Running over a dog, as distressing as that is, is not the same as running over a human being – if this be 'speciesism' so be it. As for me, human beings do occupy a superior place in nature, and the European Enlightenment – while almost pathologically naïve in its optimism – was a culmination of the ethical and moral evolution of humankind at the time. Our human duty, therefore, is to strive towards a Transcendent humanism; to volitionally evolve our species into supra-humans (or as Nietzsche might have put it, into Supraman). It is our duty to overcome ourselves; to realize our divine potential; not to transcend humanism but to become transcendent humans: supra-humans.

Debunking the Non-Overlapping Magisteria Thesis

In 1997, evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould published his non-overlapping magisteria thesis, that science and religion represent distinct, mutually exclusive domains. It was well written and well-argued. But unfortunately, it contributed to the ongoing desiccation of the intellectual imagination that began in the 19th century. Presuming we can compartmentalize our various intuitions, hunches and speculative imaginings into distinct, mutually exclusive domains is specious.

Until the 19th century, when universities quarantined thinking into academic departments, it would have been difficult to differentiate between the philosophical, religious, artistic and scientific. The very word 'scientist' was coined in 1833 by Anglican priest, William Whewell, who was also a historian of science and a philosopher. If you had called Newton a scientist he would not have understood what you were talking about. Newton was a 'natural philosopher' who wrote over two million words on theology. Science was his way of discovering the 'Mind of God'.

In modern terms, Leonardo Da Vinci was an engineer, scientist, and artist. But if you had asked him to define himself 'professionally' he would not have understood the question. He epitomized a fusion of technology, science, and art; each permeating and enriching the other. He would not have been an artistic genius without his technological genius, which was suffused with the same aesthetic instinct that characterized his art. Modern scientists still talk about the 'elegance' of a theory; engineers the 'beauty' of a design.

The religious thinking of the late Middle Ages, especially the sophisticated Aristotelian thinking of scholastic philosopher/priests such as Thomas Aquinas), played a major role in the Scientific Revolution. As Emmet Kennedy put it "Aquinas … drew a famous distinction between what is known by reason and what is known by revelation". This intellectual space was necessary for the secular thinking which eventually created science and economic theory. Aquinas embraced two articles of Catholic faith: God was a God of reason who ordered the world rationally, and secondary causes, which enable us to explain natural phenomena and the interaction of nature's constituents by things secondary to God's direct intrusion – phenomena which require reason, not revelation, in order to be fully understood. A modern interpretation of secondary causes could certainly accommodate evolution.

Subsequent Church thought removed some of the intellectual rubble of Aristotelian scholasticism that would have hindered the emergence of quantifiable scientific thinking. Butterfield noted that in 1277, Bishop Stephen Tempier headed "a council in Paris [which] condemned … the view that even God could not create a void or an infinite universe of a plurality of worlds". God, being God, could do whatever he wished. This theological pronouncement provided the 'science' of the time with the freedom to speculate about the nature of existence without a priori doctrinal restrictions.

Occam's Razor (the Law of Parsimony) is a representative example of the overlap between the philosophical, religious and scientific. Occam was a Franciscan friar, scholastic philosopher and theologian. While his philosophy was religiously motivated to confirm monotheism, it eventually became the holy grail of scientific research. Could the Scientific Revolution have occurred in a non-monotheistic civilization – a civilization that had already created a theological law of parsimony: one God; the One (and only)?

Cleric Jean Buridan (c.1300–c.1358), anticipating Galileo, developed the Theory of Impetus, demonstrating that there is no need for either Aristotle's 'First Mover' or Plato's 'souls', which are not found in the Bible and which, by implication, limit God's omnipotence to design the world as he pleases. Bishop Nicolas d'Oresme (c.1320–1382) anticipating Copernicus, wrote that the Holy Scriptures can be accommodated even if we concede the possibility that the earth moves and is not the center of existence. Copernicus also anticipated the clockwork universe of Descartes and Deism. Referring to Buridan's impetus theory, he observed that "God might have started off the universe as a kind of clock and left it to run by itself". Here we see the parameters of Christian faith enabling the emergence of a mechanical cosmos by eliminating the need for 'intelligences' to explain the movement of celestial spheres. Butterfield noted that this was "a case of a consistent body of teaching [which] developed as a tradition" and influenced Leonardo da Vinci and Galileo. The latter's theory of inertia reflected a view that "God might have given these things their initial impetus, and their motion could be imagined as continuing forever".

Copernicus was motivated to simplify the complexities of the Ptolemaic system which, he felt, insulted God. If God is the God of reason, possessing omnipotent intelligence, he certainly would have created a universe more sensible than the convoluted Ptolemaic contraption. Copernicus applied the Law of Parsimony inherent in monotheism and found Ptolemy wanting. His motivation was to defend the honor of God's unconditional power.

Science, in turn, influenced theology. Natural theology is a consequence of religion trying to accommodate itself to science; to formulate an understanding of God that does not contradict science. Centuries before the Scientific Revolution, Maimonides advocated that rabbis must accommodate their interpretations of the Torah to science and not the other way around. Natural theology, natural religion, and philosophical theism are all consequences of an emergent scientific mindset compelling monotheistic religions to review and revise their doctrines. When theological imperatives consistently generate concepts reflecting a more modern scientific mindset, and when science constantly impacts religious thought, then we must discard the non-overlapping magisteria notion – especially if we are to respond to Rank's observation that a healthy civilization needs a religious ideology.

Science is also based on faith in several assumptions that cannot be proven empirically. For example:
1. Nature's laws are uniform throughout existence.  
2. Nature's laws do not evolve and change.
3. Mathematics is the universal language; existence is monolingual.
4. What we see through a telescope millions of light years away still exists. We know Andromeda existed 2.5 million years ago, (its light has traveled 2.5 million light years) but do we empirically know it still exists?

Scientists accept these assumptions in order to do their jobs. But the only way they could prove them would be to be a supernatural entity outside of nature, capable of looking at all of nature. We reasonably assume these beliefs are true because all our experience 'SO FAR' affirms their validity. But, as David Hume noted over 250 years ago, 'SO FAR' ends when you confront the first exception. This is the paradox of science: something is science only because it is falsifiable. In other words, the "bedrock" assumptions that enable science to function are also falsifiable, and so cannot be bedrock, else they wouldn't be science.

Scientists claim they don't deal with meaning. But scientific biographies frequently contradict this. Science's giants have often been driven by the essentially religious question "what does it all mean?" I differentiate between the big 'R' organized religion business and the small 'r' religious sense of mystery of 'why there is anything at all rather than nothing'. The operations of existence often excite reverential wonder in authentic scientists. The greatest scientific centers are temples of spirituality that challenge mystical, supernatural religions. Einstein wrote: "What is the meaning of human life or of organic life altogether? To answer this question at all implies a religion." He added "the man who regards his own life and that of his fellow-creatures as meaningless is not merely unfortunate but almost disqualified for life" .

We cannot discriminate between the material and the spiritual. The Scientific and Industrial Revolutions are also spiritual. They have provided the means to liberate humankind from ignorance, superstition and soul-destroying drudge work. Without material well-being there cannot be spiritual enlightenment, without scientific progress there can be no material well-being.  As the Talmud says "without bread there is no Torah"

One Transhumanist task would be to reunify humankind's various spiritual predispositions (religious, scientific or philosophical); to realize Carl Sagan's vision that: "A religion, old or new, that stressed the magnificence of the Universe as revealed by modern science might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths".

WHY? The Ultimate Question

            'WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?' is the ultimate question regarding the human condition. It is the question that has motivated religious and philosophical speculation, scientific endeavor, artistic creativity and entrepreneurial innovation throughout the ages. It is the question we try to answer in order to rationalize our own existence. It is the question that has generated the modern concepts of angst and alienation. The modern dilemma is that we are finding it increasingly difficult to rationalize our own existence and this leads to our subsequent feelings of purposelessness. Pascal wrote:

When I consider the brief span of my life absorbed into the eternity which precedes and will succeed it … the small space I occupy and which I see swallowed up in the infinite immensity of spaces of which I know nothing and which know nothing of me, I take fright and am amazed to see myself here rather than there: there is no reason for me to be here rather than there, now rather than then. Who put me here? By whose command and act were this place and time allotted to me? (Pascal 1670/1995, 14)

 

Pascal's despair is the first cry of modernist angst; a product of our own scientific progress. What, after all, is the point of our own individual, ephemeral lives on this small planet around a mediocre star in a midsized galaxy of some 300 billion stars whose closest galactic neighbor, Andromeda, contains one trillion stars, in an 'observable universe' that numbers two trillion galaxies (the largest containing 100 trillion stars)? The "observable universe" being just a tiny portion of the universe which may contain 500 trillion galaxies and might be an infinitesimal part of a multiverse containing trillions upon trillions of "universes"!

Increased awareness of the vastness of existence introduced an angst from which humanity has never recovered. Pascal wrote in the 17th century. What gloom are we supposed to feel today when "the infinite immensity of spaces" is immensely more immense? Never in history has Pascal's despair been so relevant. Even within the cosmically insignificant history of our own planet, what is the real significance of our own lives?  Consider that Earth is 4.5 billion years old; that life arose 3.8 billion years ago; mammals 200 million years ago; primitive humans 2.5 million years ago; modern humans 150,000 years ago; recorded history 6,000 years ago; the Renaissance, Scientific Revolution, Enlightenment, Constitutionalism, Industrial Revolution and Democracy all within the last 500 years. Currently, humans have an 80-90 year lifespan, which might increase to 120-150 years by the end of this century. What is this in relation to the "eternity" which preceded human civilization on this planet and which will succeed it? Does the Cosmos 'care' who is elected President of the United States? Does the Cosmos 'care' about the 3.8 billion-year history of life on this planet? Would it lament if runaway global warming turned our planet into another Venus? When contemplating this time scale on the background of the vastness of our Cosmos, it is difficult not to plunge into existential desolation.

Consequently, by the 20th century, the elemental question for thoughtful people had become: is life worth living? Camus wrote "There is but one truly philosophical problem and that is suicide … Whether or not the world has three dimensions or the mind nine or twelve categories comes afterward". Indeed, why not commit suicide and avoid the tribulations of a meaningless existence? Everything else, all our cultural and scientific product, is marginalia to this ultimate existential question.

The irony is that science – that sublime creation of the human spirit reflecting human curiosity and imagination at its highest stage of development – has revealed an existence of such vastness and complexity that it makes our collective and individual lives seem inconsequential. Even worse, science inexorably morphed into 'scientism' – an "ism": an ideology that posited that things, issues, events or feelings which could not be described according to the canons of reductionist/empirical science were of no concern to the intellectually tough-minded (or did not even exist). Thus, behaviorism (the ultimate expression of scientism) claimed there really is no such thing as consciousness – it is simply an invented construct used to explain behaviors. As Jacques Barzun put it, scientists seemed to take great pleasure in "being able to undeceive one’s fellows"; to disabuse them of the superstitions of pre-science; the superstitions that love and purpose and concepts of honor and duty, are intrinsic to human existence. The 19th-century scientific mindset implied that "the only reality was … fact, brute force, valueless existence, and bare survival".

Before Copernicus, medieval Europeans lived in a cozy universe. Earth was the center of creation, enveloped in the warm embrace of ever purer crystalline spheres that contained the planets and stars up to the very throne of God. God's full-time job was maintaining this physical order, keeping track of our behavior (for future reference regarding salvation) and, once in a while, interfering in the natural order with a miracle here or there. People knew that life on earth was temporary and a test of our moral stamina in facing physical pain and the various distresses of daily life in order to qualify for eternal life in the world to come. Temporal life was God's matriculation exam to qualify for heaven. Medieval Europeans knew that if they obeyed the rules and followed the dictates of the Church their suffering would be rewarded with eternal bliss in the world-to-come. Things might be dreadful now but suffering would end and confusion clarified in heaven. The Copernican Revolution introduced a kind of spiritual agoraphobia by destroying this coziness; by making us aware of the vastness of existence. Angst and doubt about the meaning of our existence became our constant companions.

Human beings aren't just ARE; we are symbolic creatures that require meaning to survive. The Darwinian mechanism of physical survival is not a sufficient reason to survive; it is simply an explanation. We cannot rationalize our subjective physical survival without objective meaning. Why should we live? Existentialists propose we must 'invent' our own meaning. Is this even possible? Symbols and volitional reason are humanity's primary evolutionary survival mechanism. Birds fly, deer are swift, lions are powerful, while human beings think and they direct their thinking (volition) in terms of their symbols, values and meanings. Humanity has invented religions, myths, and social and cultural devices to express this inherent feature of human nature.

The human experience is future-directed; we implicitly assume it is leading to something of significance and this makes sense out of our lives. This is why we do not commit suicide. We assume that our individual lives have meaning. We assume (and recent science supports this assumption) that every individual is unique, that every individual is distinctive in the entire Cosmos, that in all of infinite nature, no one is entirely similar to each and every one of us. There is, of course, correspondence and species similarity connecting every human being, and probably all conscious beings in the Cosmos, by virtue of their consciousness. But our own individuality is a cosmic absolute, as is the uniqueness of every distinctive culture and civilization which is a product of self-reflective conscious life. Cosmic evolution produced our uniqueness and this uniqueness might be valuable to cosmic evolution. But unlike animals, whether our uniqueness is or is not valuable is entirely up to us. It is a volitional choice both on the individual and the civilizational level.

Realizing our distinctiveness is frightening. Many withdraw from the responsibility of their own individuality and try to imitate others (to conform), or surrender to the will of the external authority of state, ideology, guru, demagogue, religion or, what is most dangerous, the majority (the herd, the mob). Fear of our individuality serves as the psychological basis of despotism and religious fanaticism. But conformism is a spurious symbol of attachment because it is our very individual distinctness that empowers us to be part of human society. Distinctiveness is what both obligates and sustains society, because society is the mediator between the distinctiveness of individuals. In fulfilling this role, society complements what is lacking in every individual that composes it. This is also the case for most advanced animals and perhaps even for the environment at large. Indeed, we might perceive our planet's ecology as a living society sustained by the interaction between the numerous species and subspecies with the individual members of those species and sub-species without which those species, sub-species and individuals could not survive. Perhaps this is how we should view the Cosmos at large, as a giant society.

 

The Alienation 'Business'

             Alienation theory is often promoted by people with ideological axes to grind. The radical left claims alienation is a disease of capitalism that can be cured by socialism. Environmentalists of the primitivist persuasion argue that it is a disease of urbanization and consumerism and that the "cure" is a return to a simple lifestyle on the land where we can get back to nature and discover our authentic selves. Cultural paleo-conservatives, such as T.S. Eliot, uneasy with the consequences of the Enlightenment, suggest that alienation is a disease of modernity itself, and the frantic unending change it generates, and, as Frye put it, can only be "cured" by returning to the past's social and theological certainties; "that to have a flourishing culture we should educate an elite, keep most people living in the same spot, and never disestablish the Church of England". There is something claustrophobic about these versions of alienation, which are detached from the cosmic context and reduced to the trivia of earthbound human society. The modern dilemma is certainly a sense of the meaningless of existence. But it is the immensity of existence itself that is the problem, not the consumer society or false consciousness.

            Buttressing these three views of alienation is the pathology of nostalgia – the "good old days" when people were whole and sure of who and what they were within the norms of family and community; the assumption always being that, in the past, family and community were healthier social constructs than today. This is a fatuous assumption for anyone with a minimal knowledge of social history. It is a silly escapism from the true scale of the problem. Woody Allen's movie, Midnight in Paris, lampoons this enduring pathology with exquisite irony. Eric Roll critiqued the desire "to re-establish a mythical golden age" by people who "cannot understand the forces which are transforming their own society". Peter Gay thought nostalgia to be "the most sophistic, most deceptive form regression can take". It certainly has no place in a Transhumanist worldview.

            It is the human condition on the background of the vast, endless obscurity of space/time that causes alienation, not the city or the assembly line; not the consumer society or politicians. It is the very material prosperity of modernity, which has afforded us the time and ability to reflect on this human condition that generates angst. It is a real anxiety, not an artificial one caused by the wrong kind of social environment or false consciousness. It is a cosmic alienation, not amenable to therapy or social revolution, but only to substantive confrontation.

Capitalism and the consumerism it produced are consequences of the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment. They have not caused alienation; they have just made us aware by providing the material ease that allows us to reflect on the human condition and afforded us the knowledge to better understand what that condition is. It is the apple of knowledge that is the cause; it is asking questions that have no answers that are the cause; it is being thrown out of the 'Garden of Eden' of our own smug ignorance that is the cause. At best, one can say that our frantic 'busyness' and consumerism are escapes from the cause; they are the effect, not the cause.

The developments of science in describing the vastness and the minuteness of existence have had profound philosophical and psychological consequences. The abstruseness of religious belief and the rise of Darwinism and Freudianism have undermined our civilizational self-esteem. If we are related to monkeys and not to God, and if we really want to do to our mothers what Freud says we want to do, it is difficult to sustain a transcendent view of human 'being'.

Without comprehensive civilizational myths, how do we even address the mystery of existence– the fact that there is an 'is'? We range from wonder at our own scientific ability to uncover the mysteries of the "mind of God" to a Pascalian melancholy about the meaninglessness of life. Anxiety about our very existence dominates our spiritual ecology: nihilism, existentialism, and cultural relativism. We hide from this behind the deceptions of fundamentalist religiosity or the self-imposed haze of drugs, shopping, social activism and busyness for its own sake.

The Cosmodeistic Response

The Cosmodeistic Hypothesis is an iteration of Pandeism – not God becoming the Universe but rather the Cosmos becoming God; not "in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth", but, rather, "in the end an evolving cosmos will have created God". It posits that the Big Bang that created our Cosmos was a local event in an infinite Universe that contains an infinite number of finite cosmoses: the multiverse. Our Cosmos is an evolving finite domain/process fashioned by the natural workings of infinite Nature creating ever higher levels of complexification. Consciousness has been an inexorable consequence of this evolutionary complexification. Assuming evolution is as eternal as existence itself, it is self-evident that consciousness must eventually evolve into supra-consciousness and then into supra-supra-consciousness at various places in the Cosmos.

This evolutionary process will continue until a consciousness is created that will appear to us as if it were a God; the Godding of the Cosmos being an inherent characteristic of its evolving actuality. We are an integral and vital part of this cosmic evolution. What our species does on this planet will contribute to or detract from this process. What we do as individuals will contribute to or detract from this process. Our individual lives have cosmic consequence no matter how infinitesimally small (similar to the butterfly effect of chaos theory). The very chaos of our existence is the vital ingredient creating the cosmos (order) of existence.

This is to place the emergence of self-reflective consciousness at the center of the cosmic drama (Jung's Divine Drama); to affirm that while the Cosmos is not teleological and has no purpose – i.e. that it doesn't represent a planned supernatural drama with a specific end as the monotheistic religions would have it [Hinduism and Buddhism don't seem to have a problem with a non-teleological existence] – cosmic purpose has been created as a consequence of the evolutionary cosmic process. This is a neo-teleological perspective, the civilizational consequences of which would be as profound as those of monotheism. This would be the proper antidote to Pascal's despair, rather than a self-deceptive return to the 'eternal verities' of the monotheistic religions or invented meanings.

Most pre-supra-conscious civilizations will destroy themselves by failing to meet the challenges of their own nuclear stage of development, by ecological collapse, or failure of collective will. But a sufficient number will survive, or will have developed by different means, and be capable of advancing to a supra-conscious phase. A percentage of these pre-hyper-conscious life forms will also conclude they must strive to become part of the Godding of the Cosmos. This is assumed in the name of 'cosmic humility'. If individuals on this planet have conceived this concept it is certain that other conscious beings in the Cosmos have conceived it. This is a variation of the ontological argument for the existence of God. Since one cannot conceive of a concept related to cosmic evolution greater than the Cosmos evolving into a 'God' and since the Cosmos is producing ever more complex constructs, most particularly consciousness, as the salient characteristic inherent in this evolution, it is self-evident that a 'God' would be the final stage of cosmic evolution.

Amongst those civilizations pursuing this ambition, an infinitesimal percentage (but also great in aggregate number) will succeed in transcending their bodies, by scientific and technical means, thus isolating and enhancing the most essential part of their 'humanness' – their consciousness. They will, in effect, have become pure consciousness, or if you will, pure spirit expanding throughout the Cosmos. Arthur Clark in 2001A Space Odyssey anticipated this with the kind of speculative imagination we should be cultivating in ourselves and in our children:

… evolution was driving toward new goals. The first ... had long since come to the limits of flesh and blood; as soon as their machines were better than their bodies it was time to move. First their brains, and then their thoughts alone, they transformed into shining new homes of metal and plastic… they had learned to store knowledge in the structure of space itself, and to preserve their thoughts for eternity in frozen lattices of light. They could become creatures of radiation, free at last from the tyranny of matter. Into pure energy, therefore, they presently transformed themselves …"

 

Clark's "creatures of radiation", as well as the stages leading up to it, might legitimately be called Posthuman – Transhumanism being a necessary link in the evolutionary chain of consciousness towards Posthuman Godness.

The subsequent expansion of this higher consciousness throughout the Cosmos will be unfettered by physical limitations and eventually consciousness will fill the entire Cosmos. Consciousness will have become one with a Cosmos that has dissolved into pure radiation as an inevitable consequence of entropy. Thus the Cosmos will become in its entirety a conscious universal being – i.e. a 'God'. Cosmodeism posits God as the consequence of the Cosmos and not as its cause. The fateful question that every conscious civilization throughout the Cosmos must eventually address is: will we take part in this cosmic race for survival and strive to survive in the cosmic 'End of Days', or will we perish along with the rest of cosmic organization? Will we accept the limitations of our physicality or will we try to transcend them?

This would be a volitional teleology; part of the neo-teleological interpretation of cosmic evolution. Certain cosmic developments are determined. But whether 'we' will be part of these cosmic developments depends on the volition of conscious beings on this and other planets. Doing so would guarantee the cosmic significance of the billions of years of life on this planet. Failure to do so would degrade the cosmic significance of the entire evolutionary drama of life on this planet to nothing more than a statistical contribution to cosmic probability 'striving' to become God. This is not New Age fantasy celebrating the mystical, or science fiction that violates the known laws of nature. Science is as necessary for this as oxygen is to life. But science alone is not sufficient. Science cannot progress without informed intuition and educated guesses.

Historical Intimations of the Cosmodeistic Hypothesis

Notions of God as the consequence rather than the cause of the Cosmos are not novel. Israeli thinker Mordechai Nessyahu laid the groundwork with Cosmotheism. He conjectured, that:

  1. The Big Bang that created our Cosmos was a local event in an infinite Universe.
  2. Science is limited by its mathematical language, which can only deal with movement and quantitative change; we require different languages to deal with the qualitative changes of life and consciousness.
  3. Consciousness will eventually evolve into pure spirit filling the entire Cosmos, which will become a "universal spiritual being" – i.e. God.

Previously, philosopher Samuel Alexander advocated Emergent Evolution producing emergent qualities. He wrote: "God is the whole universe … engaged in the movement of the world to a higher level of existence. Teilhard de Chardin viewed God as both the cause and the consequence (the alpha and omega) of cosmic existence and evolution. He saw the end of human history as pure consciousness becoming one with the Alpha God to create the Omega God.  Philosopher Benedikt Göcke has written: "the history of the world is the one infinite life of God, and we are part of the one infinite divine being [italics mine]. We … are therefore responsible for the future development of the life of the divine being." Architect and philosopher Paolo Soleri saw technology as enabling conscience life to evolve into 'God'.

According to historian Robert Tucker German philosophy is rife with human ambition to be Godlike. "The movement of thought from Kant to Hegel revolved in a fundamental sense around the idea of man’s self-realization as a godlike being, or alternatively as God". What attracted Marx to Hegel was that "he found in Hegel the idea that man is God". History for Hegel was God realizing itself through the vehicle of man. This is the underlying implication of all Enlightenment thought: when we say "what will history say about us?" we are really substituting history for God. The Process Philosophy of Whitehead as well as Emergent Evolution, and Spiritual Evolution (consciousness as an inevitable component of evolution) are also intimations of this same notion. Recently Dr. Ted Chu (2014) in Human Purpose and Transhuman Potential: A Cosmic Vision of Our Future Evolution argued the case for the eventuality of a Cosmic Being.

Our legacy religions also contain hints hiding in plain sight. The Hebrew words for God are verbs, not nouns: Yehova (will become manifest), yehiya (will be), eheye asher eheye (I will be what I will be). In Biblical Hebrew these are imperfect verbs (consider the irony of that – the "perfect" being described in the imperfect) and in Modern Hebrew the future tense; an intimation of the ancient mind that humans are an integral part of a divine process (that we call evolution). The Talmud enjoins us to be partners (with God) in the act of creation – creation as an ongoing never-ending process. Interpretations of the Kabbalah perceive the role of human individuals in sharing in this Godding of the universe –perceiving Godding as the very essence of existence.

Certain Christian heritages inspired Teilhard de Chardin and Process Theology. "Hindus believe that humans can and should merge into the universal soul of the Cosmos – the Atman" (Harari 2017, 444). Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan anticipated volitional teleology when he asserted that "Man is not a detached spectator of a progress immanent in human history, but an active agent remolding the world nearer to his ideals". Sri Aurobindo's concept of Atman approaches the concept of the supra-conscious.

 Current science writing is replete with intimations of the Cosmodeistic hypothesis. Freeman Dyson's Infinite in All Directions; Heinz Pagels' The Cosmic Code; Paul Davis's The Cosmic Blueprint; Louise Young's The Unfinished Universe; Daniel Layzer's Cosmogenesis; Prigogine/Stenger's Order out of Chaos; Ervin Laszlo's The Self Actualizing Cosmos; and others. In response to an inquiry by a schoolgirl as to his religious beliefs, Albert Einstein responded "… the pursuit of science leads to a religious feeling of a special sort, which is indeed quite different from the religiosity of someone more naive."

Civilizational Significances of Cosmodeism

Postmodernism, angst and alienation are poor intellectual and spiritual fare to feed to future generations. One cannot produce robust, self-reliant, intellectually independent and responsible citizens of the planetary future on such insipid fare. Here the Cosmodeistic Hypothesis could play an important intermediate role. It could contribute to moderating alienation by presenting a meta-cosmological vision capable of assuaging some of what ails human society in this century.

Psychology certainly hasn't had a substantive impact on problems of angst (which is really the problem of meaning). Freud, Jung, Adler, Rank, Maslow, and Frankl all linked meaning to mental health. But psychology, unlike religion, does not presume to provide meaning; it simply preaches that meaning is meaningful. Jung asserted that "Man cannot stand a meaningless life"; that "Meaninglessness inhibits fullness of life and is therefore equivalent to illness"; "That gives peace, when people feel that they are living the symbolic life, that they are actors in the divine drama [italics mine]. That gives the only meaning to human life; everything else is banal and you can dismiss it". But after telling us that we are sick because we don't have meaning in our lives he coyly avers that "psychology is concerned with the act of seeing and not with the construction of new religious truths". In other words, 'life is meaningless without the divine drama but don't expect me to provide it.' For Victor Frankl, finding meaning in one's life was essential to the therapeutic process. Certainly, no one dealt more with meaning as it pertains to mental health; witness the titles of his books: Man's Search for Meaning (1946); The Will to Meaning (1969); The Unheard Cry for Meaning (1978); Man's Search for Ultimate Meaning (1997).

But no psychologist offers a convincing worldview by which a modern rational person might infer meaning. Psychology satisfies itself with the search for meaning but never supplies an answer to the question – "WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?" And this is why, at the end of the day, psychology has failed, and why it may have caused more psychological damage than remedy. Preaching the subjective need for meaning while not providing objective meaning tends to increase anxiety, not mitigate it.

This situation has had serious subversive socio/cultural effects well described by C.S. Lewis in The Abolition of Man. Lewis intimates that unless we reenchant existence and dwell on the objective wonder of existence, the human condition will become so enervated that it will endanger civilization itself. While Lewis was himself a big 'R' religious believer (the Anglican Communion) he argued his case from a small 'r' sense of religious awe at the facticity of existence. He did not believe that our ever-growing ability to explain the constituent facts of existence took anything away from the wondrous facticity of existence as a whole – that existence per se is sublime. As he put it: "The feelings which make a man call an object sublime are not sublime feelings but feelings of veneration".

Here Lewis reveals a profound fundamental truth about the human spirit; the intrinsic need to venerate something greater than ourselves. Veneration is as universal a human attribute as language. There is not a culture on earth that does not have a deeply rooted history of veneration of one form or another. Veneration is to the soul what food is to the body. Every historical endeavor to do away with inherited modes of veneration has resulted in alternative venerations: ideologies, leaders, causes, "activism", etc. Alternative venerations have caused great horrors. Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Stalinist Russia and Maoist China promoted alternative venerations, reviving a sense of purpose within totalitarian societies. As Jacques Barzun observed "What has happened [in these countries] can happen wherever the need for enthusiasm and action is given a goal. It is easy enough to manufacture slogans out of … race, autarky, the Cultural Revolution – and make them seem genuine outlets from the impasse …"

As an antidote to the totalitarian 'solution' for veneration, Cosmodeism proposes we venerate existence itself and our own existence within that existence; the fact that existence exists, that the 'is' is the ultimate mystery. To realize Emil Durkheim's observation that when we serve something greater than ourselves we uplift ourselves, we must acknowledge that some things, some values, some emotions "merit our approval or disapproval, our reverence or our contempt". If we don't find the 'greater than' in the concept of 'God', or Godding or other transcendent ideas, we will find it in fascist leaders, leftwing icons, New Age cults, or pop stars. If our need to venerate something 'greater than' is not directed at something affirmative, it will be directed at something negative. What could be more positive and spiritually satisfying than venerating the Godding of the Cosmos and our own part in that process? 

I believe Cosmodeism can become the foundation for a Transhumanist Theology that can inspire human beings to strive to become part of the Divine Drama (the Godding of the Cosmos); a theology that emphasizes that every one of us is part of the Divine Drama by virtue of our individual existence; that every one of us affects the development of the Divine Drama by our planetary actions (a cosmic butterfly effect); that our individual existence is inherently meaningful but it is up to us to make it actively purposeful by volitionally striving to transcend the limitations of humanness – to become Transcendent humans; a bridge across time towards an end called 'God'.

Tsvi Bisk (site) is director of the Center for Strategic Futurist Thinking and author of The Optimistic Jew: A Positive Vision for the Jewish People in the 21st Century (Maxanna Press, 2007). He also is Contributing Editor for Strategic Thinking for The Futurist magazine , the official publication of the World Future Society, and he has published over a hundred articles and essays in Hebrew and in English.



COMMENTS

Herr Rank -a disciple- is not exactly encouraging given the flaws in Doktor Freud’s primary assumptions notwithstanding that of his ‘Monitor’. The human mind can imagine the unimaginable and voila! it is. Ex nihilo. Religious ideology is inherent among ‘some’ people but never all. Such a fallacious supra-determinism from a person who looked to psychoanalysis as a solution when Karl Krauss said: psychiatry is the mental disease that thinks it is the solution.
As for any logic another great thinker Goedell reminded us, and not the first any logical system is necessarily flawed. Simply because the universe is not logical. Broken symmetry is very necessary for the parts of the universe -not- to fall apart.
As for that curious mental spectre -Gehirngespenst- designated -god-—-

Great essay! Here is my review and some thoughts:

Cosmodeism and futurist theology: Tsvi Bisk
https://turingchurch.net/cosmodeism-and-futurist-theology-tsvi-bisk-bff35596d1e6

In “Cosmodeism: Prologue to a Theology of Transhumanism,” Tsvi Bisk presents a Cosmodeistic Hypothesis: “not God becoming the Universe but rather the Cosmos becoming God; not ‘in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth’, but, rather, ‘in the end an evolving cosmos will have created God’.”

Bisk argues that consciousness in the universe will evolve and become God-like:

  “This evolutionary process will continue until a consciousness is created that will appear to us as if it were a God… the Cosmos will become in its entirety a conscious universal being — i.e. a ‘God’.”

The idea that God emerges (Emerged? Will emerge?) from the physical universe has been proposed by thinkers including Fred Hoyle, Olaf Stapledon, and Arthur Clarke, and hinted at by theologians like Wolfhart Pannenberg (see my book [*]).

In his excellent essay, Bisk mentions other thinkers, such as Mordechai Nessyahu, who proposed related ideas. Bisk is writing a book titled “Cosmodeism: A Worldview for the Space Age.”

Arthur Clarke reportedly said:

  “It may be that our role on this planet is not to worship God but to create him.”

In “2001,” Clarke proposed a physical model for the emergence of God:

  “In their ceaseless experimenting, they had learned to store knowledge in the structure of space itself, and to preserve their thoughts for eternity in frozen lattices of light.”

I propose [*] to interpret Clarke’s words as the idea that ultra-advanced life forms in the universe eventually migrate to the fundamental fabric of space and time (quantum vacuum fields or whatever lies beneath), and gain God-like knowledge and power.

Bisk argues that Cosmodeism can and should become the foundation for a futurist theology. The deep meaning of our individual existence is found in our small contributions to the emergence of God.

  We are an integral and vital part of this cosmic evolution. What our species does on this planet will contribute to or detract from this process. What we do as individuals will contribute to or detract from this process. Our individual lives have cosmic consequence no matter how infinitesimally small (similar to the butterfly effect of chaos theory)…”

I totally agree with Bisk: The Cosmodeist worldview gives deep meaning to life. It can inspire our expansion to the stars, and our quest to transcend all limits.

However, this formulation of Cosmodeism speaks to my mind, but not to my heart. It doesn’t keep me warm at night. Cosmodeism is a good starting point, but I also need to suspend disbelief in life after death, and in a personal God who cares for me.

The idea that after death we “merge into the universal soul of the Cosmos” is not emotionally satisfying to me and most Westerners. Paraphrasing Woody Allen, I don’t want to live after death in the universal soul of the Cosmos. I want to live after death as myself, and be with my loved ones.

I propose [*] some tweaks and add-ons that could add these missing aspects to the impersonal worldview of Cosmodeism, and build a bridge to a more personal Cosmotheism equivalent to traditional religions. My proposed tweaks are:

Contemporary speculations on the fundamental fabric of reality (quantum vacuum fields or whatever lies beneath) suggest that space and time are much weirder than we think. A God that eventually emerges from the physical universe is Master of space and time, able to access and influence our reality here and now.

Therefore, we can think that God watches us here and now, perhaps with loving care, and perhaps God answers our prayers now and then. God is also able to copy us from here and now after death, and paste us into some kind of afterlife.

This is not blind faith in the supernatural, but natural philosophy. I think God will recruit (has recruited?) us as helpers and apprentice godlets. Far future cosmic engineers, armed with “divine” science, will resurrect the dead and remake the universe.

[*] My book “Tales of the Turing Church: Hacking religion, enlightening science, awakening technology” is available for readers to buy on Amazon (Kindle | paperback).

Please buy my book, and/or donate to support other Turing Church projects.

Cover image from NASA/Wikimedia Commons.

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