Richard Wilson, retired architect, Bainbridge Island friend and neighbor, and an active member of Cedars Unitarian Universalist Church (August 4, 2012)
Wow! What a vast subject your Science, Religion, and Spirit essay explores. I especially appreciate the conceptualization that we are part of a living entity vastly beyond our mental reach or comprehension, that the whole is what we might recognize as God, and that we are, together, on some kind of divine journey.
It’s taken a while for my thoughts to settle, because I found myself squirming when the discussion began to open toward the possibility of an unnecessarily anthropomorphic cosmic consciousness or awareness. I am more comfortable with the possibility that “we are the universe becoming conscious of itself” which I think was inspired by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and rephrased or reframed by writers like Thomas Berry, Carl Sagan, or Brian Swimme.
“Once and only once in the course of its planetary existence has the earth been able to envelop itself with life. Similarly once and only once has life succeeded in crossing the threshold of reflection... For thought as for life there has been just one season... In its present state, the world would not understand itself, and the presence in it of reflection would be incomprehensible unless we supposed there to be a secret complicity between the infinite and the infinitesimal to warm, nourish and sustain... the consciousness that has emerged between the two.”
—Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man, Harper & Brothers, New York, pages 275-76, 1959 (originally in French, 1955, as Le Phénomène Humain)
I could appreciate a story that conceptualizes the essentially infinite and timeless universe of which we are part as a realm of spiritual opportunity in which our divine journey or ultimate purpose would be the creation or realization of a cosmic consciousness. And I’m inclined to think that the knowledge-producing activities of human history represent a consciousness-raising process that is part of that divine journey. Such a story would seem to be about authentic religion (Ken Wilber’s framing) as a cosmic and perhaps eternal awakening, rather than our creative imagining of a cosmic being, and this process of awakening would arise in the collaborative efforts and distributed intelligence of beings like us (sentient beings in Buddhist framing). So I struggle with suggestions that the Living Cosmos might need or have a mind of its own.