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Banbury Cross

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Post details: The Source

The Source

"Man shall not live by bread alone", quotes Luke 4:4. Similar words have been uttered by other spiritual authorities of considerable reputations and equally considerable beard volumes. Whether we like it or not, religion is bewilderingly universal. Its ubiquity shows that yearning for a realm beyond reality has been encoded directly in the human DNA.

Denizens of this planet have always wondered about the origins of ethical behavior and morality and - in more general terms - about their place in the Universe. Could there exist an external presence whose authority would support the intrinsically fragile concept of moral behavior? By looking for answers and eventually embedding themselves in a more robust framework, they found a way to cope with their own mortality. Whether you look at Australian aborigines, at Mayan, Inca or Aztec civilizations, at the Modern Western cultures or dynasties of the East, the search for divine influence had underwritten the social contract for just about any society.

As none of the major religions can lay a clear claim on owning the truth, they all ended up jealously guarding their particular views. As a consequence, their main branches have petrified into highly dogmatic franchises with formidable power and significant revenue streams. Fortifying their walls against infidels and apostates as well as securing their seeming supremacy became a matter of existential passion. But if you abstract from their protocols and liturgy, if you look beyond Moses, Jesus, Mohammad, Buddha or any other central figure, what lies beneath the rigid facade is a bit murky. Where is the original source of our deep and indisputable spirituality? What exactly is God and can we, lesser creatures, ever find out about His true nature?

I grew up in an atheist country, in a system, where mere possession of a bible could be a pretext for serious questioning by the State Police. With that kind of background, I don't really have a bias for one doctrine or another. But over the course of my life I noticed that frequency of unexplained and often strange coincidences beats the values one could infer from probability and statistics. As if the magic of intelligent life wanted to transcend the simplistic soup of scientifically stirred proteins. Slowly, I came to the conclusion that there is more to this world than the laws of physics. But despite my religious objectivity, I don't have a better idea of what God is or isn't than the next guy, although I see at least four scenarios of how our rational world could have been permeated by a supernatural presence.

1. Omnipotent Creator
This is the most obvious one. The image portrayed by most major religions. God is the creator of the World. He is omnipotent, omniscient and aware of itself. In some belief systems, there may be a multitude of such Gods, some with special functions, but the basic tenets are the same.

2. Higher Being
In this scenario, God is but a higher form of life, endowed with dazzling but limited array of powers, most of them inaccessible to humans. He is potent, but not omnipotent. He has just evolved a bit further than we did. In other words, God did not create this Universe, he inhabits it together with many other forms of life. The relationship between man and God is similar to the one between animal and man. We can interact with him, much like a dog can interact with us, but it is not an interaction of equals. We have no more chance of understanding Him than a dog has of understanding our own motivations. This view includes the possibility, popularized in the 1970s by Erich von Daniken, that the Earth was visited by such higher powers in the past and these extraterrestrial visitors/explorers became spiritual gurus (Gods) of young incipient civilizations.

3. Fifth Force
It is possible that what we perceive as divine influence actually comes from a hitherto unknown fifth force - the first four coming from physics: gravitational, electromagnetic, weak and strong. These forces have limited domains of applicability though - for instance the electric force, as we know from school, acts only on charged particles. Thus I would assume that this hypothetical nonphysical force only acts on very select matter - in this case on live and intelligent objects. It influences our lives and provides guarding rails for our sense of morality. We are "coerced" to engage in proper behavior by the field of this force in much the same way that ordinary matter is "coerced" to follow the gradient of the gravitational potential.

4. Collective Mind
Finally, the entity we commonly call God may just be the humanity itself. The divine substance could very well occupy the aggregate soul or the collective consciousness of all human beings, as is suggested by some Eastern philosophies. Think of it this way: what exactly is "you"? Somehow the concept of "you" resides in your brain, in the maze of billions of neurons. None of the individual neurons is YOU though. Your neurons aren't even aware of themselves. But collectively, the actions of all these low level cells give rise to a high level consciousness which you interpret as YOU. None of us humans really understands what "God" is, just like your individual neurons have no idea what "you" is. But together - as a whole - we may be more than just sum of constituent parts. Each of us, perhaps, represents a small part of God.

As we sail through life, we are trying to make sense of the cacophony of hints, cues and signs that are bombarding our path every day. But putting the jigsaw puzzle together is a tall order, given the short time we have been allotted and the number of distraction we have to deal with. Sometimes it seems that a larger picture looms in the distance, but more often than not we are left wondering...

zapad

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