By Nicanor Perlas
For a young person starting to be conscious of the larger world around him today, the global picture of Christianity today is both puzzling and confusing. And the same can be said of adults. This confusion and the resulting depression are leading to an increase in suicide rates, drug abuse, and mindless hyper consumerism, among others.
On the one hand, we have the so-called new atheists who have launched an all-out attack on Christianity. This is exemplified in such works as Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, Christopher Hitchens, god is not great, and Sam Harris, The End of Faith.
In these works and others, religion is terror (Harris); it poisons and is a product of sex repression (Hitchens); and illusory (Dawkins).
On the other, we have outstanding Christian leaders like Pope Francis who is an amazing breath of fresh air in the current era of Catholic Christianity. Even agnostic friends admire the expansive nature of his wisdom, compassion, humility and unorthodox approaches and solutions to world challenges.
Yet a deeper understanding of Christianity is just dawning for humanity. I-RISE would like to call it “cosmic Christianity”.
It is cosmic because it would need an understanding of the entire structure and evolution of the universe to understand the nature of Christ and thus prevent the Christ from being caricatured into a set of limited beliefs that is currently the case. It is also cosmic because the preparation for the coming of Christ and the impact of that coming in terms of the future evolution of the earth are also cosmic in terms of its time dimension.
To understand concretely what this cosmic dimension of the Christ is, I would like to draw on two sources: 21st century science and the findings of spiritual science as exemplified in the work and life of Rudolf Steiner, profound philosopher, scientist, and visionary.
Let us start with quantum physics. Very early on in the 20th century, physicists discovered the bizarre nature of quantum particles. They were surprised to encounter its “non-local” and “entangled” nature.
Non-local means that normal, locally induced cause and effect does not apply to it. Local cause and effect means that when a billiard ball is hit by billiard stick, then the billiard ball will roll into a specific direction with a specific speed. And these latter depend on the direction and force that the billiard player applied to it.
However in the case of non-local cause and effect, tweaking one particle will result in an instantaneous response from another particle even if these particles are trillions of miles apart. It seems as if this non-local force is operative at a level beyond space and time as ordinarily conceived. This condition applies if the both particles are originally linked to each other.
This then meant that these particles are somehow “entangled” or connected within a much larger reality than is currently understood by current science.
While mathematically rigorous, a significant number of scientists still doubted the reality of non-locality and entanglement until the famous experiment by a team of scientists proved beyond doubt in 1982, that these strange behavior were fundamental properties of the quantum world.
Then comes the Big Bang theory of the astrophysicists. For decades leading physicists have already postulated that the universe was born in “big bang” fashion, that is, basically from an infinite point to its current massive size of trillions upon trillions of miles wide.
One way to picture this is to look at the way a balloon expands. In modern physics, space is not an empty container wherein one puts objects but is actually created through time, as is the case with the expansion of the universe.
Again many scientists refused initially to admit that the universe had a beginning. They were more in favor of an infinite universe that already existed and will exist into the future. They did not want to bring in the “God Hypothesis” into the picture. For if the universe had a beginning, then there must have been a creator.
However, like their fellow quantum physicists, these astrophysicists had to swallow the hard pill of reality when a deluge of scientific empirical evidence started to pour in starting in the late 1980s and continued into the 1990s and even into the early years of the 21st century. During this time, scientists discovered what they called the “cosmic (microwave) background radiation” of the Big Bang and verified many other parameters that confirmed the Big Bang.
Here are a few quotes to exemplify the amazing and far-reaching implications of this discovery.
Stephen Hawking: ‘It is the discovery of the century, if not of all time.’ Michael Turner, astrophysicist: ‘They found the Holy Grail of cosmology.’ George Smoot, project leader of the scientific team that made the discovery: ‘What we have found is evidence for the birth of the universe. … It’s like looking at God.
But astrophysicists not only confirmed the origin of the universe in a Big Bang. They also found that the properties of the universe are extremely fine-tuned. They asked: Why is the universe structured the way it is? They answered: Because we are here. In other words, the parameters of the universe are extremely fined tuned beyond chance so that humans will ultimately emerge as a result of the evolution of the universe. They called this the Anthropic Principle of which there are four versions (which we will not get into now.)
Take a look at gravity. If gravity was stronger only by a small amount, we will not be here because the entire universe would have collapsed into one giant blackhole in a few million years. Yet, it the force of gravity is weaker by only a small amount, then there would not be enough gravitational force to form galaxies and solar systems. Humans will also not emerge under those conditions.
And what kind of fine tuning is involved? Scientists have discovered that gravitational force cannot deviate greater than 1 in 1 followed by 57 zeroes or 10 to the minus 57. For statisticians, any value less than 1 in 1 followed by 50 zeroes is considered impossible. In short, the precise tuning of gravitation force is not the result of chance but some sort of intelligent intention behind the creation and evolution of the universe.
When thought our logically to its inevitable conclusion, we get insights like this one from Dr. Ed Harrison, former NASA cosmologist.
“Here is the cosmological proof of the existence of God. … The fine tuning of the universe provides prima facie evidence for deistic design. Take your choice: blind chance that requires multitudes of universes or design which requires only one. Many scientists … incline toward the teleological or design argument.”
Or from Robert Jastrow, Head of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies who refers to this as “the most powerful evidence for the existence of God ever to come out from science.”
In similar fashion, British Astrophysicist Sir Frederick Hoyle remarks: “A common sense interpretation of the facts suggest that a super-intellect has monkeyed around with the laws of physics.”
And finally here is a quote from Albert Einstein, one of the greatest scientists of all time. And he made this statement even before the current discoveries of astrophysics.
“I’m not an atheist, and I don’t think I can call myself a pantheist. We are [like] a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many languages. The child knows that someone must have written those books… It does not understand the language in which they were written. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn’t know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God. We see the universe marvelously arranged and obeying certain laws but only dimly understand these laws. Our limited mind grasps the mysterious force that moves the constellations.”
When one puts together all these discoveries, they are pointing to the interconnectedness of all existence and that the universe has a direction. That direction is towards greater complexity and consciousness, and from there, freedom and love.
A few more scientific findings and we will now be prepared to understand certain puzzling passages in the New Testament. This time we will look at epistemology, the science behind science (ordinarily called the Philosophy of Knowledge) and linguistics.
When one truly examines the nature of thinking, we discover that real thinking (not automatic or associational or subjective thinking) apprehends for us the content of our perception of the world. And this inner content that arises in our thinking is actually the same content, albeit in a different form, as the objective content in nature. Contrary to the belief of many, perception alone does not give the full content of reality. Only thinking is able to take a look at and add the ideal relationships that exists between different aspects of perception.
This profound insight into the nature of human thinking has been elaborated upon in a clear, scientific manner by Rudolf Steiner in his book, Philosophy of Spiritual Activity, also translated as the Philosophy of Freedom.
Here is an excellent description of this cognitive process taken from another book by Steiner, Goethean Science:
“Now even though this conceptual (lawful) relationship, in its substantial makeup, is produced within human consciousness, it by no means follows from this that it is also only subjective in its significance. It springs, rather, in its content just as much from the objective world as, in its conceptual form, it springs from human consciousness. It is the necessary objective complement to the perceptual picture.” ….
“Knowing has meaning only if we do not regard the configuration given to the senses as a finished one, if this configuration is for us a half of something that bears within itself something still higher that, however, is no longer sense-perceptible. There the human spirit steps in.”….
“Reality, insofar as we meet it with open senses, confronts us. It confronts us in a form that we cannot regard as its true one; we first attain its true form when we bring our thinking into flux.”
That is the first point about our thinking. Secondly, we also begin to experience that the content that our thinking intuits does not exist in isolation. We soon realize that thinking is a thought organism and that it is deeply connected to other aspects of objective reality. We merely start from our own specific place, unique to our individuality, and from there we enlarge our experience of the world until we start exploring the deeper content of the universe itself.
Again, Steiner describes this reality accurately.
“Whoever acknowledges to thinking its ability to perceive beyond the grasp of the senses must necessarily acknowledge that it also has objects that lie beyond merely sense-perceptible reality. The objects of thinking, however, are ideas. Inasmuch as thinking takes possession of the idea, thinking fuses with the primal ground of world existence; what is at work outside enters into the spirit of man: he becomes one with objective reality in its highest potency. Becoming aware of the idea within reality is the true communion of man.” (In Goethean Science.) (Emphasis added.)
This is why scientists have been looking for a “Theory of Everything” where they want to be able to explain the reality of the universe from one single equation that would unify the four fundamental forces of physical existence. Of course, that would not be a “Theory of Everything” because already the reality of our thinking is pointing out to the existence of non-physical reality. However, the search of modern science for this theory does indicate that contemporary physicists do acknowledge, even if only tacitly, the power of our creative thinking process to weave separate facets of existence into a coherent whole.
Now if we look at the results of an epistemological investigation of our thinking, we soon realize that it is converging with the findings of astrophysics. Epistemological results are but the philosophical equivalent of the entangled nature of the universe where everything is interrelated as the entire thought organism of reality is interconnected.
And now we turn to linguistics as our final aid in understanding the difficult and enigmatic passages of the New Testament that I will be looking at soon.
In History in English Words, Owen Barfield makes the startling discovery that the meaning of words have changed through time. Earlier, the same words are “polysemous”, that is, they contain multiple meanings. And later, the same word becomes “monosemous”, that is, they contain only one specific meaning.
Take the Greek word, pneuma. In earlier times, it was the word used to describe air, breath, and spirit. Today, it is only usually translated as spirit. Note how the word shows that there is no boundary yet between outer and inner experience. They are still fused. Or to use the language of transpersonal psychology, the consciousness in earlier time is non-dual. There is no separation between subject and object.
With his discoveries like this, Barfield wrote another book, Saving the Appearances, where he clearly posits the reality of the evolution of human consciousness. He shows that there are three general stages in the evolution of human consciousness.
The first stage he calls Unconscious Participation, when the persons involved are not fully aware or conscious that there are participating in the world process in a non-dual way. They do not say: there is a tree there. Rather they experience themselves as being the tree.
The second stage is Onlooker or Separated Consciousness. This is the default stage of consciousness of current humanity. I am here and the object is there. I experience myself as separate from the object. I am not one with the world. The world is for me a riddle to solve because I do not have access to its inner content and meaning.
And the Third Stage, Barfield calls Conscious Participation. We can now consciously enter into the essence of the world and we become one with the world. The epistemology of Steiner briefly discussed above is the scientific foundation of this third kind of consciousness where humanity is starting to enter.
This state of consciousness is not as far of from the ordinary person’s experience. They have it when they truly have a creative experience. Many individuals describe this state of deep connection and even identity with objects that are the focus of their attention.
But the individual who placed Evolution of Consciousness into the mainstream, both academically and in the public sphere, is Ken Wilber. In this book, Integral Psychology, Wilber gives a detailed account of dozens of frameworks on the evolution of human consciousness that have come from various scholars in different disciplines. And in his framework, Wilber would call this non-dual conscious participation “second tier” thinking when humanity starts to feel not only concern for itself but also experience a deep concern for the future of the planet because one feels identity with the planet.
So now we are ready to marshal these scientific insights into a deeper understanding of the Cosmic Christ.
We can start with this quote in the New Testament that has puzzled a lot of people.
“All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto man: but the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit shall not be forgiven him.” (Matthew 12:31; Mark 3:28)
What!? Murderers and rapists and criminals can be forgiven, but not those who blaspheme against the Holy Spirit?
Equally puzzling, but actually the solution to the first puzzle, are these injunctions from Christ.
“If anyone comes to me who does not disregard his father and mother, his wife and children and his brothers and sisters as well as his own soul-bearing life, he cannot be my disciple. (Matthew, 19: 29)
Or in the words of Mark (3:31-33): “His mother and his brothers came an stood outside and sent to call him. But a crowd was sitting around him. So when they said to him: See how your mother and brothers and your sisters are outside looking for you, he answered them: Who is my mother, and who are my brothers? Looking around at those sitting in the circle he said: See here my mother and my brothers. Whoever does the will of God is my brother and my sister and my mother.
But Christ has even stronger words to emphasize a point, a principle.
14:26 If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. (Emphasis added.)
So what are we to make of these counter-intuitive statements of Christ?
I would like to take my starting point from the Gospel of St. John (1:1-3)
“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.”
Note that the Greek word for “Word” is Logos. With the use of this word, John is identifying the Christ with the Logos tradition of other cultures and civilizations including Egyptian civilization.
But the key point here is that John identifies the Christ as the God, the creator of our current universe. We now do not have to take this on faith alone because, as we have seen above, astrophysics has unearthed evidence that gives a reasonable demonstration that God created the universe.
And therefore, if this universe was intentionally created, it has a purpose. What better way to know this purpose than to heed the words of Christ himself who became human. In the words of St. John (1:14)
“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”
And his death and resurrection has demonstrated his Divine nature. (To be treated scientifically in another article.)
Christ, as universe creator, gave us a hint of the directionality of the evolution of the universe and this often-quoted passage in the Gospel of St. Matthew (2: 37-40)
“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
This is an amazing statement since it converges with current discoveries in the sciences.
First Christ is emphasizing that the ultimate direction of cosmic evolution is Love. We can thus envision an evolution of the universe where unconscious love (entangled nature of the entire cosmos) is the starting point. The logos-inspired evolutionary process of the universe then produces unconsciousness life out of matter, and consciousness out of living matter.
Here we begin to see the beginning of love taking on a human form instead of a generic process in universal evolution. This love is first not self-aware. It is sexual love, a physical not a spiritual fusion with the other. But then this is nothing but the entangled nature of the universe expressing itself in a form appropriate to the current state of its physical vehicle for being present in earth existence.
One will note that is kind of love, as it evolves, is connected with the blood. We see this in the evolution of small communities of families where marriage among family members is the norm. Then this moves on to a tribal stage, where blood relations still predominate.
But then human population continuous to increase and different bloodlines started to get mixed with each other. Ultimately, nation states arise with mixed bloodlines. Nonetheless, this is still the bloodline principle connected with the forming of communities, on a more egotistic basis.
Then finally, reflective consciousness emerges among humans. This expresses itself in the so-called Axial Age of human history where thinking , for the first time, begins to assert itself as a principle of knowledge, not a direct fusion with the world on the basis of dreamy states of consciousness.
It is ultimately out of this reflective consciousness of the human individuality that real love can arise. Independent thinking allows the individual to be free and not subject to outside authority. And we can only truly love, that is enter into conscious participation in the other, if we are free. This process is visible and writ large in human history.
And at even higher stages of love, we can feel united even with those who are not our own family and romantic partners. Both still have remnants of egotism within them. We can feel love and concern for the world at large, typical properties of higher aspects of the evolution of human consciousness discussed above.
It is in this grand panorama from an unconsciously entangled universe to a consciously loving universe (conscious entanglement) that Christ’s statement about blasphemy and family make sense.
How does the Holy Spirit enter with clear focus in the New Testament? It was during the Pentecost. When the disciples of Christ started speaking in tongues. This is a clear indication that the power of the Holy Spirit is clearly connected with the Wisdom to speak in the language of the other person or even of larger collectivities of people.
Now we can put the different strands of thought together. The Christ, a Logos-Creator of the universe, had the intention to impart the capacity of conscious love for His entire creation. Love is the ultimate destination of the universe.
To achieve this, humanity has to graduate from earlier states of consciousness that are bound to family. Family-orientation was a useful stage in humanity’s evolution of consciousness. It developed the beginnings of love, albeit in an egotistic context.
But now is the time to develop higher states of love, especially to address the burning issues of humanity including but not limited to poverty, massive climate change, and potentially destructive artificial intelligence. These crises can be reframed to make us see that if humanity does not have a united consciousness, an expression of a higher form of love, we will not make it as a species. (In this context, see the article on Artificial Intelligence.) None of the above crises can be properly addressed without these higher forms of consciousness that are able to move beyond the dualities and polarities imposed by older stages of consciousness. A beginning in this direction has been made with the UN Declaration on Human Rights.
But we cannot truly move on unless we, in the words of Christ, “disregard” or “hate” our family or to be more precise, if we are stuck in more limited egotistical states of consciousness in ourselves.
This imperative towards greater love for the planet and the cosmos itself is where the Christ-inspired evolution of the consciousness and the universe is hearing towards. However, if we “blaspheme” the Holy Spirit, that power that can help us enter into this higher forms of unegotistical love through higher forms of wisdom, then our “sins”, our sense of separation from the world process, cannot be healed. If we consciously remain in our egotism, no amount of forgiveness can make us move forward. We ourselves, our attachments to lower forms of love, are the ones that are making ourselves unforgiveable.
However, if humanity truly moves forward with the help of this higher form of love, then human solidarity in the entire planet will become a real possibility. Wars and conflicts will subside as we begin to truly understand, through love, the abiding passion and expectations of human beings who are very different from ourselves.
The Cosmic Christ intends universal conscious Love to be a future principle in the evolution of worlds. The Wisdom of the Holy Spirit will help bring this about. But we all have to do our part. We have to (using the words of Wilber) transcend, and still include, lower forms of love (family and so on) in this far reaching journey of humanity.
Christ himself showed the way. When tempted to transform stone into bread, he responded approximately:
“Not by bread alone does man live but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
So likewise we can say: If we truly want to be conscious co-creators of the future stages of earth and universal evolution, we then have to make sure that our family and other kinds of egotistic love will be reframed and included in our responsibility not to blaspheme the Holy Spirit and to move through life enhancing, not retarding, the ultimate direction of cosmic evolution.