This might seem like an innocuous topic for contemplative practice, but stick with me. The World is obsessed with power, be it physical power, personal power, military prowess, or political power (the one I detest the most). What bothers me most is that when we do use power, it is always seen in terms of physical power (e.g., black hole) or who has the most muscles. Let me lead you through four questions that I have had to confront as I look out on reality and ask WHY? Your answers might be different than mine, but I offer these for to stimulate your thought processes.
I. WHAT IS THE MOST POWERFUL ENERGY IN THE WHOLE WORLD?
If I Google that question, I get this site as an answer. Look it up. https://imagine.gsfc.nasa.gov/news/20may99.html It is called a hypernova, and the mind-blowing thing about this is that there may be energy out there that is more massive than this. Science does a great job of probing the depths of inner and outer space to discover what is, why it is, and where it is. In the face of this hypernova, humans would not survive, just as they would not survive in outer space without artificial atmosphere and heat regulations. Everything that is, is part of the physical universe, and is subject to the laws of nature. So the question remain, what is the most powerful energy in the whole world? It must be a hypernova, correct? It has energy so much off the scale that we have not developed instruments to adequately measure it. I raise the question with you, What hypernova knows that it knows? What hypernova can love? What hypernova knows its purpose in life? We live within the Laws of Nature, we are not the Law.
II. WHAT IS THE MOST POWERFUL ENERGY ON EARTH?
Part of the assumptions underlying for humans to know that there is a hypernnova, is that, until very recently, we did not have instruments to discover its existence. Which brings us to the next question: What is the most powerful energy on earth. All reality, all being lives on earth. The famous physicist, Enrico Fermi’s question is: where is everybody? https://www.seti.org/seti-institute/project/fermi-paradox In all the universe that we know of so far, with the Science and Logic that we have so far, no life has been found anywhere outside of Earth. I grant the argument that there is no reason to think there should not be life out there, given the enormity of galaxies. Dr. Frank Drake even came up with an equation that lists the probability of life in the cosmos. ttps://www.space.com/25219-drake-equation.html https://www.universetoday.com/39966/drake-equation-1/
The argument is always to presuppose that other life out there exists (life, I might add that is sentient). To date, we have not even discovered anywhere capable of sustaining organic life of any kind. It may exist and it may not exist. I know that scientifically I am anathema, but wonder if we are the only ones in the whole of reality and why is that? Humans are not designed for space travel, but to live within the parameters of this Earth (we must breathe oxygen, exist with in a life sustainable temperature, and we subject to the laws of Nature). Why do we live for only seventy or eighty years?
What we do know is that we know that we know (although some think they know more than others), and so up comes the question again “What is the most powerful energy on earth?” To answer this, I have come to the conclusion that humans (either through natural selection or some other means) moved from being animal to being human. Humans live in the mental universe, complete separate and apart from the physical universe, although we are included in it with our heritage. We live in both the physical universe (our based of existence) but have grown as a race into being that know that we know. The most powerful energy on Earth and maybe in the whole universe, as far as we know, is sentient being. Growing slowly but exponentially, collectively, our human nature has moved from a primitive life form to the human we know today, capable of Science, Mathematics, Medicine, Philosophy, Poetry, and Spirituality to explain what is, why it is, who it is, where it is, and when it is. It is important to note that we are in process of moving from this to that. We have reason to help us determine what the “that” is. We have developed the art of logic with Greek Philosophers to probe the depth of reality, discovered the wonders of matter, time and energy with Science, and collectively, tried to discover meaning in life both collectively and individually. What Aardvark goes to the library to look up the history of facts about life in the 1900’s? What pet dog can answer the question,” Can you join me at 9:00 a.m. at Starbucks for a cup of coffee?”
In looking at sentient being, we ask why? Why us? Why do we have the ability to love and hate? Why must we die and not live forever? Why is there pain and imperfection in our behavior so that some have peace while others are murdered for no reason? We might be the most powerful energy on the planet, but we can’t solve these questions. We don’t live past seventy or eighty, even if we are strong. We have the keen minds to solve some of these problems but results have been disappointing so far. If we are the most powerful and have the most energy of all lifeforms, do we need to abandon our collective Ego and move towards solutions that are consistent with these four questions?
We are limited to living on this planet and not visiting the stars? We don’t know the effect that gravity would have on our selves or our offspring in prolonged space. The distances are so great that, as of now, we can’t move from planet to planet, much less galaxy to galaxy. We don’t know the effect of space radiation on our reproductive or mental health systems. There is always hope in the future, but for now, we must focus on where we are.
The answer to the first question of what is the most powerful energy in the universe is: the human mind. The answer to the second question to which of all those lifeforms on earth are able to answer the questions of why? when? when? and how? What is the purpose of why we are here? It is the human mind and the ability to make free choices that affect our collective and individual destiny. Although humans know that they know, they also live in the NOW where there are choices, some of which lead to meaning and some lead to a dead-end. Why are humans the only life form that knows that it knows? That has the ability to choose their destiny outside of Natural order? The problem comes when many people have many different ways to interpret what is meaningful.
If we look at the human experience in which we find ourselves right now, we are so fortunate to have Science tell us how and why something is in the physical universe and provide clues to where we are headed, we are so fortunate to have philosophy and psychology tell us about the hidden part of our reality and put forth ways we can discover what is meaningful. Medicine helps us with health, mental health gives us hope to keep our minds clear and bright, and social work helps us discover meaning in work and leisure. Individually, we are the sum of our lifetime experiences, we are defined by the choices we have made. Collectively, we stumble down the pathway to truth, hobbled not only with our reason, but our inability to accept as true that is objective. Objective truth is one and must exist for all. The problem is, humans have always squabbled about what true is. This is both the glory of what it means to be human, but it is also the problem that must be solved by the next level in our evolution. The story in the books of Genesis 11, tells of the confusion of tongues, which is another way of saying that people could not agree on what is true. We still have our problems with truth because no one can accept that truth is what answers the questions of wonder if we are alone in the universe, why do only humans have reason and freedom to choose good or evil, and what is the next stage in our evolution as humans.
III. IF HUMANS ARE THE MOST POWERFUL LIFE FORM ON EARTH, Why is that? If the Physical Universe is our platform for housing human reasoning and the ability to choose outside the Natural Law, the Mental Universe allows us to choose what is good for us and discernment as to what choices are bad for us to make us happy (fulfilled). The question becomes who chooses what is good for us and who determines what is bad for us? If the Physical Universe gives us the formula for reality and the mental universe factors in the human condition, we still not had an answer to what makes humans human? Is there one person, a powerful person against which we measure our worth and determine what is good for us? Do we have a North on the Collective Human Compass, or are we rudderless and adrift on a sea of individual rationalisms? As I see reality, the answer is the Spiritual Universe, and not just any amorphous, spiritual place. It is the Mystery of Faith, the way to look at reality that explains (but does not define) how Science/Medicine/Philosophy can fit together. They each have different ways to measure different levels of meaning. The reason why we have a Spiritual Universe is love. Granted, love is not the most popular subject of scientific inquiry, but it motivates the human heart by allowing us to seek that which essential, often invisible to the eye.
Humans are the most powerful lifeform on Earth because they can say YES or NO to anything. It is free will that is an inconvenient truth. There is objective truth out there, truth given us by God through Christ, but millions of people who disagree on what that truth is. So, does that means truth is not objective? Humans become their own law, their own interpretation of the truth, and no one can tell them they are wrong. Just as any individual human can go beyond the Nature Law and do whatever he or she wants, so the opposite is true. Humans can stop logic and block reason if they so choose.
AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH
To move from animality to rationality, to a higher level of being, two qualities are needed, those that separate us from what we just left (being an animal nature): First, the ability to reason; Secondly, the ability to choose what is good for us. When each of us is born, we do not receive infused knowledge of what is good or bad for us. We must learn that from experience. That is where reason comes into play. Although each one of us is stand-alone in our ability to make choices, we do not choose anything bad for us. The problem comes when we think what is good for us is actually bad for us. This is the inconvenient truth about our freedom to choose. What is at stake here is nothing other than our ability to fulfill what it means to be human. Bad questions about how we see others, our purpose, our view of what makes up reality, how we love, and even our perspective about what it means to die, all depend upon asking the right question. Again, the old inconvenient truth pops us, as it does in any argument over what is true. No one can tell us what to choose, it is a freedom that comes with terrible consequences if used poorly. The issue is not that we have free will or that we can make choices, it is over the values of what we choose that is good for us. Who determines what is good for us or what is bad for us. We have two choices there, too. I do, or God does. Even with this concept of inconvenient truth, I have had people tell me, “that is just your view of reality and not mine.” Is there no objective truth? My conclusions from Lectio Divina and using my gift of human reasoning is “not in this World.” Again, we are free to choose, but the the hurtle we humans can’t jump over is who chooses what is good or bad for us. It is at the heart of the Archetypal story of Genesis 2-3. Read it again.
Let me offer an example. A popular dilemma in our age is the one over abortion. One side touts freedom to choose as the shibboleth for independence from rules and external truth, while the other side sites the consequences of the choice results in the death of a person. Of course, these are two irreconcilable positions, like black and white. So, are we left with truth being half of one and half of the other, the answer being truth is what you think it is? This type of thinking is called rationalization: each person is correct in their thinking because they have the freedom to choose to think whatever they want. Truth becomes relative, that is, without permanency or more than an amorphous, hazy principle. So who is correct? Both? Is truth like a bowl of Jell-O, without nutritional substance, one that tastes good but offers no nourishment in the long run? The inconvenient truth here is that people are free to choose whatever side suites their own assumptions about what is good, what is true, and its consequences. When the question of ultimate truth (objective truth from God) comes up, the fall back is always “that is your opinion and I don’t share that.” So, is truth one, or whatever the individual says is true, just because they have the right to say so and there is no independent truth out there against which we measure what is good for us from what is bad for us, either short-term or long term? Since there can never be objective truth as the World sees it, but our reason tells us we cannot have two masters, we end up saying “there are consequences for each behavior we have, each thought we make, each act of love. Maybe we won’t know what is true until we reach Heaven (again, my concept of reality), but we must live our lives with the principles we choose freely to make and not by the exceptions (everyone’s truth is the ultimate truth).
As soon as I say “God doesn’t permit murder,” or, “Killing the fetus deprives them of being able to choose their destiny freely,” I am hit with the argument, “You can hold whatever you want. You can’t tell me what to believe, no matter how ridiculous my position is to you.” That is the inconvenient truth about choice. You choose what is right for you or what is bad for you and no one can tell you what is good or bad, no one can say, this is truth, because you can say back to them, “that is your opinion.” And, they would be right.
Reflect on what you just read above about humans being the most powerful individuals. When humans evolved from animality to rationality, they did so with the power of reasoning and also the ability to choose what was good for them or bad for them. Genesis is a book at looks at the epicenter of humanity, reason and free will, and tells the story of who Adam and Eve chose what they thought was good for them but it was actually bad for them. This choice had consequences. The archetypal story of what it means to be human being in temptation, choice, happiness, and the consequences of making bad choices. Adam and Eve were sincere, but sincerity is no substitute for the truth. The Devil is sincere.
Humans are the most powerful lifeform on Earth because they can say YES or NO to anything. They are the brickwall of logic. Just as any individual human can go beyond the Nature Law and do whatever he or she wants, so the opposite is true. Humans can stop logic and block reason with a NO. The Blessed Mother opened up a new Epoch of Spirituality with a YES.
Ultimate truth exists only in the mind of God, the author of Truth. God wanted humans to have the truth but there was a problem. How to communicate to them what he wanted to tell them about what was good for them or bad for them. We call the bad stuff sin, for lack of a better way to describe it. The good stuff is called love. God gave of Himself to show us how to love (Philipians 2:5). He spoke of His Coming through Abraham and the Prophets, then through the most contradictory of all events, The Nativity, we became one of us. He told us to look deeper in spirituality to find the truth and disclosed the Trinity, a community of perfect. He had to die on the cross in reparation for the sin of Adam and Eve (Romans 5) so that our race might becomes adopted heirs of the truth and that truth would set us free. Truth from God can only be one. The problem comes when humans as individuals begin to tell others what that truth is. The Church was founded to do what Christ came to show us, from age to age, until He again comes in glory to judge the living and the dead. We recite this each Sunday in the Nicene Creed (one of three Creeds of the Body of Christ).
RECAP: The most powerful energy in the physical universe is the hypernova. Humans wake up (self awareness) on the Earth and gradually discover that they have reason and the ability to make choices and are not subservient to the Laws of Nature. There is a problem. What is good for someone or bad for someone. God tells us, as a loving Father, what is good or bad for us, as does any Father worthy of that name. Some people resent the Father telling them anything, so they rebell (Satan and the Fallen Angels, Adam and Eve, and each person that is born knowing that they know and having the freedom to choose good or evil. Every time we sin, we are like Adam, we falling into the snares of Satan. There is temptation to present the golden fruit of either good or bad. Sometimes we don’t know something is bad for us until we take a bite of that golden fruit and it tastes like persimmons that are not ripe. Yech! Of all humans who know that they know, some are more powerful than others. The most powerful of humans is one who not only knows that they know or can choose good or evil but actually chooses God, the source of truth, despite the deflections of the World that no one can know God because the opinion of God is relative and no one can tell you what to think or how to act. You have become a Spiritual Ape, descendant of life forms on this Earth that have moved from animality to rationality and from rationality to spirituality. This progression is the detour courtesy of Adam and Eve but restored by God Himself through, with and in Jesus Christ. Because of this we are adopted sons and daughters of the Father, heirs of truth. To live our our lives, we are only asked to love others as Christ loves us. Spirituality becomes the way to find fulfillment as a human being (even if you don’t believe there is a God who can tell you what is good for your or bad for you). Spirituality becomes the sign of contradiction with the World, the Mystery of Faith where what does not make sense makes perfect sense with humility and obedience to God as the one who shows us how to be fully human by loving others as Christ (both God and Human) did. That is the meaning of Church, that is the reason we will sell all we have and give it to the poor and follow the Master, to serve others as Christ has served us with his passion, death, and resurrection.
God is the most powerful energy in all of reality (physical, mental, and spiritual universes). Heaven is love. Heaven is our destiny as humans, despite all of our struggles on Earth. The Church helps us with these struggles by making Christ present to us in Eucharist, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, reading Scripture, Lectio Divina, Liturgy of the Hours, contemplative prayer, reading and becoming Chapter 4 of St. Benedict’s Rule. God is so good to us that He gave of Himself (Jesus) to take on our nature and show us how to love authentically, how to be spiritually authentic and not like what the World says is good.
AUTHENTIC AND UNAUTHENTIC SPIRITUALITY
Humans are designed to make free choices. We have reason to be able to determine what is good for us and what is bad for us. The problem for all humans is, what is true and who tells us what is good for us or what is bad for our human maturation.
Like scientific inquiry, where not all such opinions (science calls them hypotheses) end up successfully discovering the truth, and pseudo-spirituality (forune telling) often leads to short term exhilaration, seducing believers is this or that self-belief using their own Ego. If the Physical Universe asks and seeks to answer the questions of, WHY, HOW, WHEN, and WHERE, then the Mental Universe, because of human reasoning and free choices, asks and answers the question of WHAT DOES IT MEAN and WHAT IS OF VALUE to human occupation of this blue, ball of gases and rocks. The one set of Laws that all humans follow is the Natural Law, as far as we know, extending throughout the whole realm of reality. The problem is one of ever-growing complexity. As our species becomes more familiar with technology and advanced techniques to resolve, up to this point, unsolvable problems (e.g., cancer, medical and surgical techniques to prolong and improve the wellness of all), each person becomes more and more capable of making free choices outside of their natural cycle. Cows can’t regulate being in heet by themselves. Humans can now regulate their birth cycles with chemicals or prolong their lives through medication. The abortion controversy is not about free choice at all, but about between what the will is free to choose, life or death. Of course, This freedom to choose is not good or bad, but there unintended consequences when we take it upon ourselves to be our own center and determine what is good for us. In the Physical and Mental universes, if we don’t measure ourselves against the Natural Law, then our default is us, the individual us, and not a collective set of norms which all obey because of their nature. The unintended consequence is, once you abandon a center that all measure themselves against, you can only fall back on yourself as the center of all morality, of all value, of religious belief. This is the danger of individualism where no one can challenge another because who is to say you are right or you are wrong. Outside of Science, there can be no objective truth (that which is true for all reality and is one), which is why I like scientific inquiry. The problem with that line of reasoning is that it only applies to what is visible and verifiable, and leaves out meaning. Humans, because we have reasoning, walk the slippery sloap of freedom of choice and truth that is one and will make us free. Truth is one for everyone, like the Natural Law, applying to all even if, individually, you choose not to believe in it for yourself. It would seem like truth is a hostage to free choice but this is the human condition. We are free to choose what is good for us and what is bad for us. Spirituality is the gateway to what is true, and yet, once again, there is a problem of complexity. Not all spiritualities deal with what is true. The question, within our Question Three above, is what is truth? Can we actually know what is true for everyone, or are we condemned to live in relativism and contradictory logical thinking. Because of our freedom to choose what we think is good for us or bad for us, the answer must be YES. For me, this is the human condition known as Original Sin, a spiritual term.
There are two ways to look at reality (I know, I simplify), the first one is loving others because Christ first loved us and showed us the authentic meaning of love, and secondly, as an individual, I discover what love is for me now and all decisions are based on me. The problem with that last one is, I only live seventy years, if I am lucky.
The most powerful energy of all, using human reasoning and the ability to choose good or evil is love. Spirituality is the way of looking at reality that provides answers to the questions of the physical and mental universes. There is a catch, you only get to the spiritual universe, one that contains the Mystery of Faith with the help of your reason and free will. But there is a catch to that, too. Because we are dealing with possibilities that are beyond our human comprehension, no matter how long we live, reason can take us only so far. Faith is a term we use for what we don’t know but hope for because reason has led us to the edge of the cliff. Our human instincts tells us don’t jump off the cliff. It doesn’t make any sense. the assumptions we hold about spirituality tells us that there is someone out there greater than human nature, a nature that is living, just like humans, yet one that is divine (for lack of a better word) and all reality is careening down the highway of life towards it. Some call it by the name Omega.
MY CONFLICTED THINKING
As you can probably tell, I am conflicted in walking through the minefield of logic, scientific inquiry, philosophical speculation, and spirituality (with all the conflicting and splinter theories of truth). They don’t fit, nor are they supposed to any more than God fits with humans or humans fit with animals. They are separate entities each with their own realities and characteristics, each using differing measures to identify what is real in each one. There is one reality, each having separate aspects of reality, just as the Trinity.
“The fact that millions of people share the same vices does not make these vices virtues, and the fact that they share so many errors does not make the errors to be truths, and the fact that millions of people share the same form of mental pathology does not make these people sane.” ~ Erich Fromm
“To love somebody is not just a strong feeling – it is a decision, it is a judgment, it is a promise.” ~ Erich Fromm
“Respect is not fear and awe; it…[is]the ability to see a person as he is, to be aware of his unique individuality. Respect, thus, implies the absence of exploitation. I want the loved person to grow and unfold for his own sake, and in his own ways, and not for the purpose of serving me.” ~ Erich Fromm
“Immature love says: ‘I love you because I need you.’ Mature love says ‘I need you because I love you.'” ~ Erich Fromm
“To have faith requires courage, the ability to take a risk, the readiness even to accept pain and disappointment. Whoever insists on safety and security as primary conditions of life cannot have faith; whoever shuts himself off in a system of defense, where distance and possession are his means of security, makes himself a prisoner. To be loved, and to love, need courage, the courage to judge certain values as of ultimate concern – and to take the jump and to stake everything on these values.” ~ Erich Fromm
TWO TYPES OF CHOICES FOR THE ONE CENTER AGAINST WHICH WE MEASURE WHAT IS TRUE.
I call authentic spirituality, living authentically. This means different things to different people. Remember the two types of spirituality?
The Individual as Center — This has you as the center of your world, and so your spirituality. You don’t admit to a center outside of yourself, much less one that has come down through the wear and tear of the centuries. You accept Christ, but you determine who Christ is, what Christ thinks, what Christ says to you and you say to others. You are your own church, your own pope, your own authority. You find it difficult to deny yourself and take up your cross, and if so, it may be paper mache or styrofoam. Each person has an opinion about Scripture which is correct because you hold it. You don’t admit of tradition or heritage. You look back at Scripture and are content to read the Bible and make assumptions about it based on what you think it true. You don’t have anything outside of yourself upon which you can based the truth. Your are authentic in your spirituality as long as you remain within your own set of assumptions. Your roots are planted on soil but the top soil is on rocky ground. The seeds grow but soon die for lack of depth and nourishment.
In terms of who is the most powerful human in the world is, you are, if you freely choose this type of spirituality, even if you believe it is authentic. Freedom to choose is power. The ability to reason is power. Who is to say you are not? You have the right to think what you want, but that does not mean that what you think is right. You don’t care.
Christ as the One Center –– I am the vine and you are the branches, says the Christ. The vine lives and so does the branches throughout the centuries as long as they are attached to the vine. It bears good fruit. Sometimes, the branches are diseased and need to be pruned. On the whole, it moves forward, although not without struggle. This is the second type of authentic love, one that is not based on the individual, but on Christ. This is spirituality, opposed to what the world (Physical Universe and the Mental Universe) teach us about what is good for us or bad for us.
Consistent with the freedom to choose, spirituality may only be entered by a free act of the will, or the choice to enter it. We use our reason to approach this great Mystery of Faith, but reason alone can only take us so far. We signifigy that entry with water and the reception of God’s energy (the Holy Spirit). If I was a rocket ship, I would need fuel (energy) to lift me off of the Earth and go against the Natural Law (gravity) by exerting more force from the rocket than there is to hold me to the Earth.
The first stage of the rocket is like the Physical Universe. This is our playground and the rules are Natural Law.
But the next stage of the rocket is important to lift us higher. This is the Mental Universe, or the realm of the mind. The mind allows me to build a rocket ship, know the Laws of Nature to help me navigate the multiple problems a human has in blasting off into an environment non-supportive of life. I need a third stage, the capsule capable of sustaining my life and its bodily functions. This is spirituality, where I use my reason and the ability to choose to even seek to explore the cosmos at all. The Earth, like the first stage of a rocket, is our platform for life? Why are we the only lifeforms on the planet? Natural Law is the Law before humans began codifying rules to live by. The second stage is mental. Why are humans the only ones to know that they know? We are the only ones to have the ability to reason of all life forms? Why? Stage one of the rocket is needed to lift us off of the ground.
Stage two of the rocket is needed to propel us out of orbit into a trajectory out there. Stage three of the rocket is needed to sustain the human mind (individually and collectively) and discover wonder and meaning. But where do we go? Why do we go? How do we go? And what do we do when we get there? Spirituality, far from being the amorphous Internet Cloud, helps us to answer the questions of purpose and meaning., but only to those who know how to look there.
The challenge for humans is, not all spiritualities lead to the truth. Truth is one as is reality. So, who is right? There can only be one truth, one reality, one path to our destiny. We have reason for a reason, to discover what is true. We have the freedom to choose what is good for us or what is bad for us for a reason. Ultimately, you are the most powerful person in the Universe because you can choose what is true or not. Free choice does not make what you choose as true. What is true happens when we measure ourselves and our purpose in life against either something inside us (we make ourselves into god) and outside ourselves (God makes us adopted sons and daughters). It comes down to this: you have reason for a reason, use it. You have the ability to choose right from wrong, use it. You have the ability to launch the rocket, your purpose in life.
Each individual has a center, just like above, but it is the person of Christ. The individual exists in a collective of faith called the Church. The Church is a collection of traditions and communities that each have an authority outside the individual, one who takes the place of Christ, one to whom the individual treats owes obedience as he or she would give to Christ Himself.
Human existence is more than just being born, getting a job, perhaps having children, growing old, then dying. In between all that living is the search for meaning.
In Western thinking and thought progression, the more you can define something and pick it apart, the more real it is. In the Eastern thinking of what is real, the more mysterious it is, the more profound. It is this thinking about the Mystery of Faith that it at the core of the Spiritual Universe. Here is a picture of what I think it is.
The Mystery of Faith
I am the cup, the individual who must fill up my cup during my lifetime with what I think reality is, with scientific wonder, stretching my mind with ideas and literature, finding meaning in conversation with other. Ultimately, I choose what goes into this cup. It is me, the sum of whom I am. It contains all those authentic experiences of love, as Erick Fromm relates in his book, The Art of Loving, such as respect for others, profound knowledge, caring, sharing of yourself with your other(s). The window is cloudy and I can barely make out what is there but I know it is there. There is light on the other side. This is the Cloud of the Unknowing, ideas about the Sacred as it affects the Physical Universe and Mental Universes.