As human beings we have a profound need for beliefs which can spur our spiritual awareness. Early in the 20th Century Freud proposed that the genesis of God had been driven by the pressures of our psychological demands and needs. However science, technology, the steady advances of astrophysics and our desires for rationality have overtaken much of the heritage of religions which had been a foundation of our beliefs.
Religion enabled us to resolve many of our fears and nightmares on a cosmic scale and to defy the oblivion which ultimately awaits us. The conceptualization of God some three millennia ago was powerful enough to overcome our fears of the unknown. Among our foremost thinkers in ancient Greece, Aristotle, tried intensely to expand on his belief that: “The Unmoved Mover is spiritual, immobile and eternal.” His profound efforts in no way affected the rise of the God of Judaism, then Christianity and ultimately Islam which attracted billions of believers over the centuries. Jews, Christians and Muslims developed remarkably similar conceptions of God — which also resembled previous constructions of the absolute.1
All our lives have a beginning and an end. We understand and accept the process. This has had an enormous impact on our perception of our existence as human beings. It also drives us to know more about the universe we inhabit although we have no idea how the universe was created and what its eventual end might be. Many now ask: Why should anything exist at all?
As thinking beings, we are desirous of more certainty about the un-definable spirit pervading the infinite of this universe. We try to penetrate the sequence of events surrounding the Big Bang some 13.7 billion light years ago. What kind of activity was behind the blank totality which preceded this moment of the unimaginable? What was there? No time. No space. No light. Perhaps a single nucleus? Probably some form of energy. Are the billions of galaxies, including the one which we inhabit, in the process of eternal expansion or are they ultimately headed towards the Big Crash? For us the fate of this Universe remains being guess-work.
Such deep mystery has engaged many of us and aroused our imaginations. It has led to the creation of God, angels, devils and multiple spirits since before the early days of Babylon. However, as the ancient ideas of God are steadily fading in popularity, our attention has gradually been shifting towards the universe rather than just the Earth we live in.
Religious believers have held that without the idea of God there is no absolute meaning, morality or truth. While existentialists like Jean-Paul Sartre moved to describe the desolation caused by the God-shaped hole in our human consciousness, many believers insisted that religion is basically an expression of our inner sense that there is God.
I have long believed that our spiritual awakening could come through a profound shift in consciousness. Cosmic factors such as solar activity, x-rays, photons, and other galactic signals may well have an impact on our mental process. This involves the realization that we have outgrown the dominance of our experiences here on earth. This can be seen and felt by how unreal our world seems to be these days and by our consequent urges to change it.
We should consider that in Gnosis (which is the Greek word for knowledge) light defines our visionary faculty. That is, our very existence was basically made possible by light. According to our 21st Century cosmologists, light only came into being with the cooling of some galaxies a few million years after the Big Bang. Out of the prevalent hydrogen atoms of that time, colliding protons and electrons created electro magnetic radiation in the form of ‘photons‘ or light! Light is now recognized by us as being at the very basis of life on our planet. It has also become a crucial force in the complex operation of our eyes and brains.
There was no light, no space and no time before the Big Bang according to astrophysicists. One observation we can make is that there seems to have been no plan, no direction nor purpose for the billions of galaxies which have been created. They do not appear to us to fill any goal. The galaxies are separate and move apart without any visible conflict or direction. Most of the galactic stars appear to circle around their centered black hole which gradually absorbs them. The uniformity of the universal spread of these distributed galaxies appears to be the very first constraint in observable cosmology. No clusters of galaxies nor groupings have thus far been viewed.2
But why did such an incredible Big Bang take place? Was it an accident? Was it or could it have been intended? Could it have been tried as an enormous experiment? And what about the nature of the incredible masses of “black matter” as well as “black energy” which supposedly make up at least 80% of all the substance of the universe? We have not yet determined its composition.
As humans we can explain that we are composed of trillions of molecules that seem to have an overall purpose and direction: Life. Furthermore, our brains had the power to create an imaginary God to correspond to the earliest learnt sources of purpose and social structure. The projection of some kind of a towering father figure underlined our historic need since tribal days to have a belief in something greater than ourselves.
Yes, even in our capitalist era, spiritual values can soar above the material. The path of spiritual awakening can be broad and overwhelming. Admitting it demands embracing purpose and direction. My philosophic and artistic partner, the sculptor Helaine Blumenfeld, has maintained that “shared beauty can impart a sense of order and elevate the spirit.”3 This is the kind of belief which could be promoted to civilize the 21st Century. The creative arts are our best hope for meaning. I suggest it confirms the powerful vision promoted by Karen Armstrong.
In her extraordinary book, Karen concluded that “human beings cannot endure emptiness and desolation; they will fill the vacuum by creating a new focus of meaning.” This will require a powerful shift in approach as well as in perception. Karen suggested that “The God of mystics might seem to present a possible alternative. The mystics long insisted that God is not an-Other Being; they have claimed that, as he does not really exist, it is better to call him Nothing.” Historically, mystics such as Sufis and Kabbalists suggested that their ultimate “is to be approached through the imagination and can be seen as a kind of art form, akin to the other great artistic symbols that have expressed the ineffable mystery, beauty and value of life… Mystics have used music, dancing, poetry fiction, stories, painting, sculpture and architecture to express this reality that goes beyond concepts.”4
In such creative beliefs, spiritual truth may be attained not by questioning, logic or rationality but through flashes of intuition, inspiration, insight and revelation, that is, The LIGHT.
Yes, light was the first phenomenon to spread throughout the Universe following the Big Bang and photons should be explored by us as a source of arousal. That’s next.
1Karen Armstrong, A History of God, (1993) p.46
2Jean Heidmann, L’Odyssee Cosmique (translation 1989) pp.18-63
3See images at www.helaineblumenfeld.com
4Armstrong op.cit. p.454