(See new response to climate alarmism below)
Humanity’s greatest mistake
One error in early human beliefs stands above all others- the creation of retaliating and punitive gods (see Sumerian mythology, Wikipedia). That profoundly mistaken perception of deity has infected and poisoned human understanding, belief, and consciousness in general, throughout subsequent history. It has endlessly burdened people with unnecessary fear, anxiety, and despair.
Also noteworthy in regard to this angry gods mythology is the fact that inhumanity projected onto deity has long been used to validate the same inhumanity toward other people. Deity is the highest authority that people appeal to for validation of their behavior.
The error of retaliatory/punitive deity then led to the creation of apocalyptic mythology- the belief in an ultimate act of divine retaliation or punishment that would end the world. Apocalyptic subsequently shaped the belief systems of most religions in both Western and Eastern traditions (see Mircea Eliade’s History of Religious Ideas and related research). It became the fundamental framework of Christianity (see James Tabor’s “Paul and Jesus”, notably the statements that Christianity is Paul’s religion and that apocalyptic shaped everything that Paul said and did).
Myths of punishing gods also sparked the creation of Salvationism- religious schemes to appease and please the angry gods, often by the offering of sacrifices. Salvationism views people as fallen or sinful, and claims that this human imperfection angers the gods and some atonement must be made. With their dismal view of humanity as corrupted, salvation religions then promote shame and guilt over being human. They engage endless effort to control and restrain flawed people who they believe cannot be trusted with freedom. We also see this today in the anti-development activism of environmentalism, a movement that similarly views people as corrupt and in need of restraint.
Environmentalism embodies an apocalyptic orientation in its views that life was more pristine before humanity (original golden age), corrupt people have ruined the original paradise, and now we face a looming environmental collapse or apocalypse. Apocalyptic mythology finds endless new expression in varied scenarios of looming chaos, catastrophe, or disaster, whether environmental, economic, political, or social.
Humanity’s greatest discovery
There is no greater discovery in history than the discovery of unconditional at the very heart of all reality. This liberating insight counters entirely humanity’s worst error- that retaliation and punishment defined the core of reality (i.e. ultimate forces/spirits that were punitive).
Unconditional also revolutionizes our views of humanity. We can now apprehend that humanity shares the same unconditional essence as that of ultimate reality (variously referred to as Universal Mind, Consciousness, Spirit, Intelligence, Self, Universe, Being of Light, or God).
And here is the great contradiction between unconditional ultimate reality and religion. Historically, all religion has been about conditional reality- the correct beliefs, sacrifices, rituals, life style, taboos, and rules to appease and please the gods. Religion has always affirmed the orientation to conditional thinking and existence in society (i.e. justice as payback, eye for eye).
This is entirely contrary to the discovery that ultimate reality is unconditional in its essential nature. Religion, therefore, does not and cannot correctly represent the unconditional love that is ultimate reality or God (unconditional meaning absolutely no conditions, none). Religion, as conditional existence, is completely opposite to that. And this is especially true of a religion like Christianity that advocates a supreme condition in its Christ myth. That myth is about the demand for an infinite sacrifice- that of a God-man- to meet the demand for infinite punishment for human sin. This is the height of conditional thinking/reality. Christianity’s theology is also entirely opposite to the original unconditional gospel of Jesus (see essay “Retaliation/Unconditional”).
Admittedly, religions like Christianity have tried to embrace something of unconditional (as in the teaching of the historical Jesus) but they have only ended up distorting the liberating power of authentic unconditional love and burying its wonder in their larger conditional framework.
Further, any discussion of unconditional reality or existence needs to acknowledge the responsibility of people to fulfill commonly agreed on social obligations and to protect the full range of rights of all people. Unconditional is not an advocacy for extremist pacifism of any sort. Nonetheless, unconditional can still freely permeate all of human response and relating.
The above themes are part of a larger endeavor to understand grand narratives and their impacts on human consciousness and human societies. In the material below and in listed essays I have isolated out core ideas in our narratives (e.g. retaliation, punishment, unconditional) and traced their lines of descent and varied expressions over history. Historical research shows that many primitive religious ideas are endlessly revised and reformulated in newer versions, and given expression even in contemporary secular systems of thought like environmentalism.
The Ultimate Resource- Sample quotes from the life-changing optimism of Julian Simon
“You will find that just about every single indicator of the quality of life shows improvement rather than the deterioration that the doomsayers claim has occurred. And things have gotten better for the poor as well as the rich, … humanity is in a much better state than ever before…
“The world’s problem is not too many people but lack of political and economic freedom…the key idea of the book…is this: Greater consumption due to an increase in population and growth of income heightens scarcity and induces price run-ups. A higher price represents an opportunity that leads inventors and business-people to seek new ways to satisfy the shortages. Some fail, at cost to themselves. A few succeed, and the final result is that we end up better off than if the original shortage problems had never arisen…
“Every forecast of the doomsayers has turned out flat wrong. Metals, foods, and other natural resources have become more available rather than more scarce throughout the centuries…But the content of everyday newspaper and television reporting on these matters remain almost one-sidedly doom-saying with urgent calls for government intervention…
“Freeman Dyson writes, ‘Boiled down to one sentence, my message is the unboundedness of life and the consequent unboundedness of human destiny’…the ultimate constraint is not energy but rather information. Because we can increase the stock of information without limit, there is no need to consider our existence finite…
“The vision which underlies and unifies the various topics is that of human beings who create more than they destroy…
“The longer run is a very different story than the shorter run. The standard of living has risen along with the size of the world’s population since the beginning of recorded time. And with increases in income and population have come less severe shortages, lower costs, and an increased availability of resources, including a cleaner environment and greater access to natural recreation areas. And there is no convincing economic reason why these trends toward a better life… should not continue indefinitely…Contrary to common rhetoric, there are no meaningful limits to the continuation of this process…There is no physical or economic reason why human resourcefulness and enterprise cannot forever continue to respond to impending shortages and existing problems with new expedients that, after an adjustment period, leave us better off than before the problem arose…
“The new scientific worldview…assures us that there are no limits to what we and our descendants can hope to achieve and become.”
Simon’s genius- to find the true state of something look at the longest term trends and the entirety of that thing, the complete picture. And why bother finding out the true state of life? “I part company with the doomsayers in that they expect us to come to a bad end despite the efforts we make, whereas I expect a continuation of humanity’s successful efforts. And I believe that their message is self-fulfilling, because if you expect your efforts to fail because of inexorable natural limits, then you are likely to feel resigned, and therefore to literally resign. But if you recognize the possibility- in fact the probability- of success, you can tap large reservoirs of energy and enthusiasm… The ultimate resource is people- skilled, spirited, and hopeful people- who will exert their wills and imaginations for their own benefit as well as in a spirit of faith and social concern”.
Steven Pinker’s Research on the Amazing Decline in Violence Over History: A sampling of quotes and summaries from his book “The Better Angels of Our Nature”
“This book is about what may be the most important thing that has ever happened in human history. Believe it or not…violence has declined over long stretches of time, and today we may be living in the most peaceable era in our species existence…we started off nasty and the artifices of civilization have moved us in a noble direction, one in which we can hope to continue…”
Popular media do little to help us appreciate the decline in violence. “Our cognitive faculties predispose us to believe that we live in violent times, especially when they are stoked by media that follow the watchword ‘If it bleeds, it leads’…a large swath of our intellectual culture is loath to admit that there could be anything good about civilization, modernity, and Western society”.
Comparing the more violent past with today, he notes data from a variety of past societies- rates of violent death- and says, “The death rates range from 0 to 60 percent, with an average of 15 percent”. He then notes that the rate of death from war (violent death) was 3 percent for the first half of the 20th Century, and less than 1 percent for the last half of the 20th Century. Most of the violent death in the 20th Century was due to a few people (Hitler, Stalin, Mao) and does not reflect the rate of violence among general populations. Average people have experienced remarkable declines in all types of violence. Western societies in particular have seen a notable decline in annual homicide rates, from about 20 per 100,000 in 1300 CE to about 1 per 100,000 today.
Pinker then states, “Beginning in the 11th or 12th Centuries and maturing in the 17th and 18th, Europeans increasingly inhibited their impulses, anticipated the long-term consequences of their actions, and took other people’s thoughts and feelings into consideration. A culture of honor- the readiness to take revenge- gave way to a culture of dignity- the readiness to control one’s emotions…Western and Central Europe make up the least violent region in the world today. Among the other states with credible low rates of homicide are those carved out of the British Empire, such as Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Canada, the Maldives, and Bermuda”.
He details such things as the role of commerce in humanizing people more. This is entirely contrary to popular perceptions that commerce dehumanizes us with a dog-eat-dog approach. Evidence reveals that when we engage in commercial activity with one another we learn to inhibit our more violent impulses and behave more cooperatively. The reason is simple enough, “If you’re trading favors or surpluses with someone, your trading partner suddenly becomes more valuable to you alive than dead…Though many intellectuals, following in the footsteps of Saints Augustine and Jerome, hold businesspeople in contempt for their selfishness and greed, in fact a free market puts a premium on empathy. A good businessperson has to keep the customers satisfied or a competitor will woo them away…(quoting an economist of the past) ‘Commerce attaches people to one another through mutual utility…through commerce man learns to be deliberate, to be honest, to acquire manners, to be prudent and reserved in both talk and actions. Sensing the necessity to be wise and honest in order to succeed, he flees vice’”. This is known as the moralizing influence of gentle commerce.
The historical decline in violence, called the Humanitarian Revolution by Pinker, is marked by a change in human sensibilities, notably by the increase in empathy. “People began to sympathize with more of their fellow humans, and were no longer indifferent to their suffering…People started to place a higher value on human life. Part of this newfound appreciation was an emotional change; a habit of identifying with the pains and pleasures of others”. Pinker notes that this new empathy was probably due to the wide spread circulation and reading of books/novels that set forth in detail the lives and experiences of people in far away places. This “created an illusion of first-person immediacy, encouraging people to empathize with the suffering of others…seeing the world through another person’s eyes expands empathy and concern…the reading of fiction is an empathy expander and a force toward humanitarian progress”.
Various other factors play a role in the historical decline of violence: “Cultures that are classified as more individualistic, where people feel they are individuals with the right to pursue their own goals, have relatively less domestic violence against women than the cultures classified as collectivist, where people feel they are part of a community whose interests take precedence over their own…the decline of violence against women in the West has been pushed along by a humanist mindset that elevates the rights of individual people over the traditions of the community, and that increasingly embraces the vantage point of women”.
The ongoing development of empathy in humanity has also spread to our treatment of animals and rights for animals.
Overcoming the impulse to revenge is another critical element in declining violence. “The act of unconditional forgiveness can flick a duo that has been trapped in a cycle of mutual defection back onto the path of cooperation”.
He also notes how destructive the commitment to ideology has been, “with an ideology, the end is idealistic, a conception of the greater good…its ideology that drive many of the worst things that people have ever done to each other”. Noting the Crusades, Wars of Religion, French Revolution, Russian and Chinese civil wars, the Holocaust, Vietnam, the genocides of Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot, Pinker states regarding ideology, “the infinite good it promises prevents its true believers from cutting a deal. It allows any number of eggs to be broken to make the utopian omelet. And it renders opponents of the ideology infinitely evil and hence deserving of infinite punishment”.
Classic liberalism is praised by Pinker for its humanizing values and practices- “freedom of individuals from tribal and authoritarian force, and a tolerance of personal choices as long as they do not infringe on the autonomy and well-being of others”. This liberalism has also encouraged more openness to immigration, free trade, less protectionism, less make-work policies, and less government intervention in business. It opposes populist, nationalist and communist mindsets that “see the world’s wealth as zero-sum and infer that the enrichment of one group must come at the expense of another…The idea that an exchange of benefits can turn zero-sum warfare into positive-sum mutual profit was one of the key ideas of the Enlightenment”.
Pinker closes with these comments, “The decline of violence may be the most significant and least appreciated development in the history of our species”. He then notes that “the loathing of modernity is one of the great constants of contemporary social criticism”. The critics of modernity claim that technology has given us alienation, despoliation, social pathology, the loss of meaning, and a consumer culture that is destroying the planet. These critics ignore the positives of modernity that include “transformation of human life by science, technology and reason, with the attendant diminishment of custom, faith, community, traditional authority”. These people, says Pinker, “show that nostalgia for a peaceable past is the biggest delusion of all”.
Site Focus: The Most Fundamental Questions We Can Ask
What does it mean to be human? What is the nature of authentic human existence? And what themes remain embedded in our contemporary worldviews that are less than human… ideas that darken, distort, and enslave human consciousness?
I have responded to these questions and concerns by focusing on the following themes:
1. Understanding and Re-Defining Ultimate Realities (Retaliation or Unconditional?): Ancient people projected the features of retaliation and punishment onto their gods. That was the worst error made by early humanity. That perverse perception of threatening and punitive deity has shaped the theology of most religion over history and has even infected contemporary secular systems of thought (e.g. revenge of GAIA or angry planet mythology). The myth of punishing gods stirs primal human fear and pushes people to adopt irrational salvation schemes that cause immense harm to populations and societies. I have engaged thoroughly the corrective response of unconditional love as defining the core of reality and life. This presents a powerful challenge to most religion and religious theology. Unconditional liberates human consciousness from all that is less than fully human.
2. Grand Historical Narratives and Their Impacts: Apocalyptic mythology- i.e. the decline of life from a better past and the looming catastrophic ending of life as the ultimate punishment from punitive gods- has been one of the most dominant and damaging narratives in human history. But there is a mass of research supporting the counter narrative of ongoing progress in life, which is evidence of unconditional goodness behind all things.
3. The Actual Trajectory of Life- Decline or Rise?: Environmental alarmism is a contemporary secularized version of primitive apocalyptic and has had an immensely damaging impact on human progress. Fortunately, we have some excellent response to this alarmism from progress researchers like Julian Simon (Ultimate Resource), Greg Easterbrook (Moment on the Earth), Bjorn Lomborg (Skeptical Environmentalist), Matt Ridley (Rational Optimist), James Payne (History of Force), Stephen Pinker (The Better Angels of Our Nature), and others.
4. Corruptors or Creators?: Join me also in taking a closer look at the distorting belief that humanity is a corrupting force in life, and the counter narrative that affirms the wonder of being consciously human and views humanity as a creative force in life. And much more.
Overall, this site presents evidence that affirms optimism regarding humanity and our future. This contrasts with the too often anti-science orientation of alarmist and apocalyptic narratives of despair. On this site you will get some of the best and latest information and insights from the history of human research, discovery, and ideas. There is no greater discovery in all of history than the discovery of unconditional goodness at the core of reality (see below). This is also a stunning new advance in understanding the nature of authentic human being and existence.
Borrowing the story framework of Joseph Campbell (going out, facing monsters/problems, learning lessons) I am tackling some of the more grotesque monsters in history (i.e. threatening or punishing forces/gods) in order to promote liberation at the deepest possible levels of mind, emotion, and spirit. We can be physically and socially free yet still enslaved to ideas and perceptions at the core of our subconscious and worldviews, ideas that are less than authentically human. And how we think about or perceive reality (the ideas or beliefs that we hold) powerfully impacts how we feel, how we respond, and the societies that we create.
So in response to the primary human impulse for meaning and purpose, I pose the question to you- What does it really mean to be authentically human?
Two essays in particular contain more pertinent detail in response to the issues listed above- “Decline or Rise?” and “Retaliation and Unconditional” (see topic bar above).
Further, let me affirm that the best evidence and insights point conclusively to one thing- everything is going to be all right, ultimately, for everyone.
Someone recently left a bag in a shopping mall and sparked a bomb scare. Mall security cautiously approached the bag and discovered that it contained burritos. They were then able to calm shoppers by reminding them that burritos were only explosive after they were eaten.
Unconditional Goodness: A liberating new ethical and theological perspective (part of a larger trend to humanize all of human understanding, that is, to make it more humane)
There is an emerging and still developing discovery spreading through public consciousness that is absolutely the most profound perception or insight in all the history of human thought. It is the discovery that unconditional goodness is at the very core of all reality and life. Unconditional goodness defines everything in the most essential manner.
Now why not use the adjective unconditional as it is commonly paired with love (i.e. unconditional love)? I prefer unconditional goodness with the understanding that it encompasses the full range of meanings related to unconditional, including such things as unconditional forgiveness, unconditional inclusion of all, unconditional mercy, and unconditional generosity, etc. But even more than this I want to focus in more exclusively on the word unconditional itself with the intention to clarify what it actually means. You would think that it explains itself, but unfortunately there is a lot of distorting religious use of this term in contexts that include religious conditions. That only confuses the real meaning of unconditional.
The insight of unconditional, when simply taken for what it says, revolutionizes entirely the human perception of ultimate reality. All past understanding of ultimate forces/spirits viewed those gods as threatening and punishing beings that demanded payment for wrongs committed (i.e. the condition of blood sacrifice to pay for sin/failure). The gods were oriented to conditions or demands that humans had to fulfill in order to be forgiven, accepted, or to be assisted by the gods. But unconditional overturns all such perceptions with the affirmation that ultimate reality is entirely unconditional. And unconditional means just what it says- absolutely no conditions. None.
In addition to ultimate reality, unconditional also revolutionizes other areas of thought, perception, meaning, ethics, and even justice as nothing else has ever done. For instance, most of past human understanding of justice has been oriented to payback conditions- reward the good, punish the bad. However, an Akkadian father (2200 BCE) made a breakthrough in arguing for no payback toward enemies that had done wrong (do not return evil to your enemy). Later Hebrew thinkers, along with other traditions (e.g. Hindu), also rejected payback conditions, arguing that God did not want sacrifice, but rather mercy. So over antiquity there was scattered opposition to conventional views of justice as payback.
This non-retaliation response was then taken further by the historical Jesus, an entirely different person from the Christian conditionally oriented Christ. Jesus was the first to clearly establish the linkage of unconditional ethics to unconditional theology. He advocated that there should be no more eye for eye response but rather love for enemies because God loves enemies. Treat all unconditionally, he stated, because God treats all unconditionally. This message is entirely opposite to the teaching of Christianity which advocates conditional atonement and conditional treatment of people (i.e. love and inclusion for believers who meet the conditions of the Christian gospel, but exclusion or hell for non-believers who refuse to meet the Christian conditions).
Unconditional elevates human response and relating as nothing else ever has. It ends all exclusion of the bad, all insider or in-group favoritism, all tribal separation and exclusion. All persons are to be treated as intimate family. All are to be fully included, fully forgiven, and offered the same full generosity. Unconditional eliminates entirely the concept of enemy, outsider, or other, along with the dualism of good and bad people.
My extravagant use of “all” above is necessary to even get close to the scandalous wonder that is unconditional. An infinitely extravagant and scandalous reality demands extravagant and scandalous expression.
Unconditional then liberates as nothing else can. It liberates from the basest features of our animal past- the encouraged sense of offense when wronged, the subsequent felt rage, hate, vengeance, the desire to punish, and the intention to destroy enemies.
Unconditional is the most brilliant light ever to dispel the darkness in the deepest recesses of consciousness and subconscious. It cleanses human perception from any residual darkening inhumanity. It flushes out the deepest human fears, anxieties, and embedded despair. It touches and inspires the most profound human impulses for meaning and purpose. It promises ultimate acceptance, safety, and bliss to everyone as nothing else ever has.
Once again, unconditional needs to be taken just for what it is- absolutely no conditions, none. This revolutionary insight overturns the core themes of traditional mythology, religion, and justice. It blows the foundations out from under religious and mythological thinking which has always been conditional (i.e. how to appease and please the gods). It lifts the meaning of authentic humanity to entirely new heights. It impacts with a brilliant and liberating light all areas of human thought, understanding, meaning, and purpose.
So much contradictory religious use of this term has dulled the wonder that it naturally engenders when embraced for what it is. Fortunately, things like the NDE movement of the past few decades have brought us a new appreciation of its meaning and profundity. Unconditional love in ultimate reality (God) is something infinitely better than the best that we can imagine or express. It inspires us to be scandalously merciful and generous in our treatment of others and it overturns completely our understanding of conventional justice.
Unconditional love gets us to new heights of authentic humanity or humaneness. It defines the very core or essence of ultimate reality in a stunning new manner. You could safely conclude that anything less is not truly humane and therefore not ultimately true or ultimately real.
And if you find yourself offended by the real nature of unconditional then you are getting some sense of what it actually means. It does offend conventional perception of things like justice and the felt right to get even, to pay back and hurt offenders. And to those who argue that unconditional is a weak and mushy response to evil, I would argue that it stirs the most powerful human impulses, impulses to act as authentically human, including the most powerful of all urges, the empathic impulse to protect the innocent. It is therefore a potent response to evil. Also, traditional payback or punishing responses to wrong have not worked as expected (see the Australian Psychological Society paper in the essay “Retaliation and Unconditional”). They only perpetuate the endless degenerating cycles of tit for tat misery.
And with any discussion of such an unconventional ideal it may be helpful to qualify that unconditional does not entail irrational pacifism. And it does not mean abandoning our normal responsibilities as members of society. But all of this may be permeated by the fresh approach of unconditional treatment of one another.
Also, see further below for more detail on how unconditional goodness counters the root error behind apocalyptic mythology and alarmism. Humanity’s greatest insight robustly corrects humanity’s greatest error.
Some Lighter Theology This may change your mind on re-incarnation.
A couple made a deal that whoever died first would come back and inform the other if there is sex after death.
Their biggest fear was that there was no after-life at all.
After a long life together, the husband was the first to die. True to his word, he made the first contact:
” Marion …. Marion… ”
“Is that you, Bob?”
“Yes, I’ve come back like we agreed.”
“That’s wonderful! What’s it like?”
“Well, I get up in the morning, I have sex. I have breakfast and then it’s off to the golf course.
“Then I have sex again, bathe in the warm sun and then have sex a couple of more times.
“Then I have lunch (you’d be proud – lots of greens). Another romp around the golf course, then pretty much have sex the rest of the afternoon. After supper, it’s back to golf course again.
“Then it’s more sex until late at night. I catch some much needed sleep and then the next day it starts all over again”
“Oh, Bob! Are you in Heaven?”
“No. I’m a rabbit in Kent.”
The Ultimate Insight
It is the most profound and liberating insight/ideal ever expressed in all the history of human thought and discovery. “Love your enemies because God does”. This is the core message of the historical Jesus, which to clarify, is the non-Christian Jesus.
“Love your enemies because God does”. This statement summarizes the fuller version found in Matthew 5:38-48. It is an ethical challenge based on a stunning theological breakthrough. The historical Jesus was the first in history to repudiate entirely the old view of retaliating/punishing gods for a new view of God as non-retaliating, non-punitive. This is a stunning change in perspective to inspire a stunning change in human behavior. And it is entirely opposite to Christianity’s retaliatory deity.
His statement, “Love your enemies”, has been called a “hard saying”. Perhaps the hardest of all sayings found anywhere in human ethical teaching. However, it takes thought, theology, and ethics to entirely new heights of humanity or humaneness. It opens the way to authentic human response, relating, and existence as nothing else does. It gets us to the very core meaning of unconditional love. It then liberates human consciousness as nothing else ever has from the darkness of enslaving drives to hate, retaliate, and punish, drives that have brought so much misery and suffering to life.
Love your enemies is simply the greatest insight and ideal in all history. It is a courageous expression of the essential meaning of life, to treat every person with unconditional acceptance and generosity. This is something that religion has always derailed with its conditional and retaliatory treatment of enemies.
Site Summary (contact: firstname.lastname@example.org)
This site has focused on apocalyptic mythology over the past years because this mythology has had a notably damaging impact on human consciousness and society. It is hard to think of a more damaging set of ideas in all history. Among other examples, I have repeatedly pointed to such things as Rachel Carson’s use of an apocalyptic narrative to stir fear over chemicals and the unnecessary deaths of millions of people that resulted from the subsequent ban on DDT (http://www.forbes.com/sites/henrymiller/2012/09/05/rachel-carsons-deadly-fantasies/ ).
Apocalyptic is the myth that life was better in the past but corrupt people have ruined that paradise. Life is now declining toward some grand life-ending catastrophe. These beliefs of looming threat stir fear and panic in populations.
Unfortunately, these primitive beliefs are still widely held in both religious and secular systems of thought. One notable contemporary expression of apocalyptic threat is found in environmental alarmism. This movement advocates the belief in some imminent environmental collapse, perhaps through catastrophic global warming.
Apocalyptic beliefs persistently linger in the background of public consciousness, darkening life with unnecessary fear, anxiety, and even despair. And they spark irrational responses that cause immense harm to people and societies (see Decline or Rise essay).
Apocalyptic is a profound distortion of life and its fundamental trajectory. Apocalyptic devotees claim that life is declining toward something worse in the future. But a mass of good evidence shows that is not true. Life is not declining but is actually rising toward something ever better.
Like many others, I have wondered why so many people continue to believe that life is declining when evidence shows the very opposite. While there are problems everywhere, the overall state of the planet is good and the major trends of life show improvement (for detail see Simon’s Ultimate Resource, Lomborg’s Skeptical Environmentalist, Easterbrook’s Moment on the Earth, Pinker’s Better Angels of Our Nature, and others).
In response to the contradiction between apocalyptic myth and reality I have looked closely at the underlying root ideas behind apocalyptic mythology. And I have isolated out what I believe is the key error made by ancient people, an error in perception that led them to view life in terms of apocalyptic myths. I will put this forward as the worst mistake ever made by humanity.
The error they made was to believe that there were angry, punishing forces or spirits behind life. They therefore viewed natural disasters as the gods punishing them for their sins. They also concluded that there would be a grand final punishment from the gods that would end life and the world (see Retaliation and Unconditional essay).
This primitive and distorting perception has long infected the major world religions and now infects modern secular systems of thought, notably environmentalism or green religion. Apocalyptic environmentalism is expressed in terms of a better past (pristine original nature), corrupt people ruining the natural paradise, and life now declining toward environmental collapse and even ending.
Fortunately humanity has been developing an insight that powerfully counters the core error behind apocalyptic. It is the emerging discovery that there is unconditional goodness at the core of reality (unconditional love). The core impulse behind all things is unconditional in nature. This core impulse is evident in the rising and improving trajectories of the cosmos, life, and civilization (increasing organization, complexity and development despite imperfections, setbacks and disasters along the way).
This developing perception of unconditional goodness behind all things overturns the fundamental themes of most mythology and religion throughout history. It also overturns elements of thought in contemporary secular philosophy and even science (e.g. the more dismal views of the Second Law of Thermodynamics that have been used to define the overall trajectory of the cosmos as one of decline).
There are no punishing or destroying forces behind life but rather the core of reality is unconditional goodness and generosity.
This insight presents humanity with an entirely new centering focus for thought, perception, belief, narratives, worldviews, theology, and ethics. It is a core insight (insight into core reality) that ignites hope and liberates consciousness like nothing else in the history of human thought. It presents us with a new center, a new core perception for disciplines like theology.
To clarify further- the unconditional that I am referring to is not the unconditional that is advocated by many religious people who define the term with their religious conditions thereby distorting it entirely. It only causes confusion when people use a term and then define it with an opposite meaning. Note the Christian use of unconditional love with the added qualification that divine forgiveness is subject to the prerequisite payment of an atonement. Nonsense. Unconditional means just what it says- absolutely no conditions. None.
Also, in affirming that the core of reality is absolutely unconditional I am not denying the horror of natural disaster and consequent tragedy. But it is important to correct this perverse idea that forces/gods use natural disaster to punish people. Such a belief adds horrific mental and emotional suffering (fear and guilt) to already unbearable physical suffering. It is one of the most harmful and cruel perceptions ever created.
Like the Japanese woman wondered after the tsunami there, “Are we being punished for enjoying life too much?” And the many others who claim that natural disasters are punishment from God. Natural disaster is not punishment from any greater force and it is not a portent of something worse to come. Despite natural disasters the overall state of life improves.
And we- humanity- have learned over history to understand life and its randomness better, and how to prepare for disasters, and how to adapt to them. This is good evidence for hope that our lives will improve even more over the long term. Understanding the disasters of life in terms of this greater context of long term improvement can liberate from unnecessary despair.
Below is a summary in point form of the linkages or lines of descent of apocalyptic mythology down through the history of human thought.
1. The ancients believed that there were forces/spirits behind all the elements of life.
2. As those elements were often destructive, the ancients logically concluded that the gods must be angry (wind/storm, rain/flood, earthquake/tsunami, sun/drought, etc.).
3. The ancients believed that the gods were punishing people for their sins and for ruining the original paradise (Sumerian paradise of Dilmun- see Wikipedia).
4. They believed that the gods could be appeased by blood sacrifice. Thus begins the sacrifice/salvation industry- how to appease and please the gods. With the development of this belief in Salvationism we have the development of religion as a social institution of conditions. Religion tells people how to gain favor with the gods, how to gain forgiveness, and how to become an insider. Religion tells people the correct beliefs they are to hold and what is the right lifestyle to follow- i.e. what are the rules and taboos to honor. Religion more formally begins to promote conditional belief and existence as something validated by the sacred. Religion then pushes overall human perception toward this conditional outlook and we find the emergence of such things as views of justice as conditional treatment of people (i.e. reward good, punish wrong, eye for eye). All the great human ideals then become conditional- love, forgiveness, inclusion, etc. (let me add a spoiler alert here that the discovery of unconditional reality challenges entirely all this development of conditional reality)
5. The ancients also believed that the gods would cause a grand final punishment or apocalypse (a great flood in Sumerian and Babylonian myth).
6. Zoroaster later formalized this apocalyptic mythology and changed the final apocalypse from flood to fire. He also introduced the element of strong dualism to apocalyptic mythology- the battle between light and darkness or true religion versus false religion, a dualism that would end in the final apocalyptic defeat of wrong.
7. Zoroaster influenced Jewish thinking and apocalyptic belief (Hebrew exile in Persia or Semitic origins in Persia).
8. Christianity adopted and continued Jewish apocalyptic and further filled out this template of ideas. Apocalyptic myth shaped the entire Christian framework of belief. See James Tabor’s “Jesus and Paul” where he notes that apocalyptic influenced all that Paul said and that Christianity is Paul’s religion. And Paul has been the most influential person in history.
9. Christianity shapes Western consciousness more than any other system of thought.
10. Eastern traditions also adopt apocalyptic views (Mircea Eliade, History of Religious Ideas).
11. 19th Century Declinism (Arthur Herman, The Idea of Decline) develops a secularized version of apocalyptic belief (influenced by Christian belief).
12. Environmentalism adopts the main themes of Declinism (as did Marxism).
Hence, apocalyptic myth has been passed down through history and is still dominant in modern thought, in both religious and secular systems of ideas.
Note: People do progress and gain new insights over history. But far too often while making advances in thought, many also hang onto older deeply embedded themes like apocalyptic. This then distorts the new discoveries and undermines them. Much like the Christian endeavor to adopt unconditional love but to define this in terms of its salvation conditions. This hopelessly distorts unconditional and renders it meaningless. When creating new worldviews or narratives we must be careful to clean out the old, the residual primitive. It is only common sense to put new wine into new wineskins. This is about fully humanizing our worldviews, removing all inhumane elements.
See further below some updated comment on the continuing climate change alarmism and response to that.
No Hell Beneath Us
I might as well quit toying around and get right to the root of what went wrong in human thought and how to correct that. Let me summarize in point form…
No threatening, punishing gods. There is no looming future judgment or punishment from some greater force/spirit. And there is no hell beneath us, Johnny. Do I really need to state this? Well yes, because apparently some 70% of Americans still believe such myths. And many others, more secular types, also still believe that there are punishing forces behind life (e.g. revenge of GAIA, or angry planet). These beliefs are at the root of all religious thinking and religion itself.
No conditions to meet. None. Absolutely none. There are no conditions to fulfill in order to gain full forgiveness, inclusion, and generosity from ultimate reality, however you define that (Universe, Mind, Consciousness, Self, Intelligence, Spirit, Source, Ground, God). Conditional existence is what religion is about, conditions to appease and please threatening deities. Religion is about conditions to be included, forgiven, or to receive benefits from the gods. Its all a horribly distorting assumption/belief to base one’s life upon.
I will add here- spoiler alert- that the discovery of unconditional reality (i.e. unconditional love at the core of reality) has eviscerated entirely the need for conditional response to ultimate forces/gods.
No apocalypse. Apocalypse is the ultimate expression of punishment from the gods. It is the ultimate expression of judgment. Apocalyptic mythology shapes entirely the belief system of Christianity (a great transformation or consummation in Paul’s theology). Let me be blunt on the best and highest authority- there is no future, looming apocalypse. Sorry to spoil your zombie expectations.
No salvation required. There are no judging, punishing gods to appease or please. No such entities have ever existed. Salvationism (the salvation industry) arises from the primitive and distorting belief in punishing deities that demand payment or atonement for sin.
Now why is it important to tackle and correct these fundamental mythical or religious themes? Why possibly offend so many good religious people? Well, its important to risk this because these ideas have not only shaped all religion over history but also continue to infect many secular systems of thought in the present. Its a case of the same old, same old repeating itself endlessly, though in ever new and evolving versions. Some of the most primitive themes from ancient mythology have become deeply embedded in human worldviews and subconscious. If we don’t get to these very root themes in our perspectives and beliefs then the correction of problems in life tends to be at superficial levels and the core problems keep re-emerging and repeating themselves over history.
Look at Europe, for example, considered to be the most secular place on the planet yet the most zealously Green place on Earth (i.e. stronghold of Environmentalism or Green religion). Europeans have rejected one form of religion only to adopt another version with the same basic themes. Many others have similarly tried to leave their traditional religions only to take up other more secular versions that hold to the same themes of their old religions. When making transitions to new worldviews, people often do not thoroughly rethink and change the fundamentally religious ideas that are so deeply rooted in human subconscious and at the core of their worldviews.
Do modern secularists really believe these primitive myths of retaliating gods? Yes they do. They fear, for instance, an angry and vengeful GAIA, or angry planet, and feel the need to come up with salvation schemes to appease and please these newer, but still old school deities. The salvation schemes? Anti-development activism with all the damaging outcomes to humanity that result from such activism. The Salvationism that arises from myths of punishing forces/spirits has always destructively hindered human growth and progress (note, for example, the unscientific anti-GM hysteria, a particularly strong movement in Europe, and the case of Rachel Carson and the DDT ban noted further below). This anti-development, anti-progress activism is often a form of sacrifice or self-flagellation (the felt need for punishment for being corrupt or bad).
Fortunately, along with the development of this retaliatory mythology over history (judging, punishing gods) there was also the development of the insight into unconditional reality. This is a uniquely potent response to the profound error that is retaliatory mythology. Unconditional may be the most important insight in the entire history of human thought.
Unconditional reality redefines love, taking it to new heights of humaneness. It gets us to the very essence of authentic humanity and authentic human relating and existence. It is the most liberating insight ever discovered because it frees us from the basest impulses of our animal past. It effectively counters the entire history of human mythology and religion as conditional reality and existence. It is therefore absolutely vital to the fullest liberation of human consciousness. It liberates from fear and anxiety at the deepest levels of mind, emotion, and spirit.
So yes, it is worth the risk of offending some in order to get to the root of what went wrong in human thought and to try and correct that. The impact of those ancient errors (judging, punishing gods) has continued to reverberate through contemporary public consciousness, hindering human freedom and progress with irresponsible salvation schemes that endlessly block human development and advance.
Explore the material below and the essays listed for more detail- notably the essays “Retaliation and Unconditional” (under button Retaliation/Unconditional in bar above) and “Decline or Rise” (under button Decline or Rise in bar above).
Climate Change Alarmism Continues
Environmental alarmists continue to stir public fear over two particular things related to climate- rising levels of atmospheric CO2 and warming temperatures (i.e. the slight warming period from roughly 1975-1995). They have done this with the help of a panic-oriented media (see David Altheide’s Creating Fear: News and the Manufacture of Crisis).
As the warming has stopped for the past 17 years, alarmists have since shifted their efforts to creating alarm over “climate change”. They heatedly claim that 97% of scientists now agree that humanity is responsible for increasingly dangerous climate change. And any who disagree are still demonized and dismissed as “deniers”.
There is a twisted bundle of distorting, and even false, claims in the alarmist narrative.
No informed person and certainly no credible scientist has denied that climate change is taking place. Climate has always changed and always will. It is misleading for alarmists to create fear over change in a dynamic system that always changes. The alarm over change stems partly from the wrong assumption by alarmists that there is stasis in nature (unchanging) and some past state is optimal and must be preserved (i.e. the low CO2 levels of the pre-industrial past and the cooler temperatures of the past, neither of which are optimal for life).
The key area of disagreement between alarmists and skeptics is around the claim that humanity is responsible for global warming and now climate change. We simply do not know this to be true or how much it may be true. There is no 97% consensus among scientists on this issue of human input or level of responsibility.
There are significant natural elements that affect climate and that appear to overwhelm the human contribution of CO2. The natural elements (influx and muting of cosmic rays, cloud cover, sunspot activity, ocean decadal oscillations, etc.) show stronger or more clear correlations with climate change periods over the past.
Lets start by stating what we do know. CO2 has a warming effect on the atmosphere or climate but this is small compared to other natural elements (e.g. water vapour or cloud cover). Humans do contribute to natural CO2 cycles and levels and hence contribute to the warming effect but the human part is tiny (a “fart in a hurricane” according to one scientist who tried to put it in perspective). See http://www.climatedepot.com/2013/05/14/co2-nears-400-ppm-relax-its-not-global-warming-end-times-but-only-a-big-yawn-climate-depot-special-report/ .
While CO2 contributes to the warming effect there is no clear evidence that CO2 alone has caused any past notable period of warming. Other natural elements show stronger correlations to warming and cooling periods. Note especially here that while CO2 continues to rise, the recent mild warming has stopped. This challenges the alarmist assumption that rising CO2 was mainly responsible for the 1975-1995 warming. And this has alarmed the alarmists and they are seeking alternative explanations such as aerosol contributions by nations like China as responsible for causing a temporary blocking effect in the atmosphere.
To properly understand what is happening with climate it helps to look at the bigger picture and the longer term trends. This will help us get to the true state of things.
Over the past century and a half there has been a more general long term warming trend. This longer term warming is related to the Little Ice Age of roughly 1675-1715. That was an abnormally cold time on earth. Since that descent into cold, the earth has been rebounding and returning to more natural and normal warmer conditions.
A scientist at the International Arctic Research Center, Dr. Akasofu, has noted that this natural rebound from the Little Ice Age has occurred over the past several centuries with a series of interspersed warming and cooling periods. Warming, then cooling, and then warming again. He notes there is a correlation of these periods with such things as shifts in ocean decadal oscillations (e.g. the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, a large shift in ocean currents that occurs every 20-30 years). Since the Pacific has shifted into a cooling phase over the past few decades, so climate has cooled (http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/09/09/syun-akasofus-work-provokes-journal-resignation/ ).
Others note the relationship of cosmic and solar activity to climate change, notably Henrik Svensmark in his book The Chilling Stars. We had an active sun in the later part of the last century and that relates to the warming period of 1975-1995. The sun then went dead and so the warming ceased and has been flat for some 17 years now. Russian scientists argue that we could be entering an extended cooling period now, similar to the Maunder Minimum of the Little Ice Age.
In the larger paleo-climate picture we find other things that help to understand climate and climate change. We are currently in an ice age era of some several million years with repeated cycles of glaciation interspersed with warmer inter-glacial periods. This ice age era is an abnormally cold time on earth with abnormally low levels of CO2. Compare this to previous extended periods on earth when CO2 levels were much higher (some periods averaging 1500 ppm and even rising to 7000 ppm). Average temperatures were also much warmer over the past. Remember that for 75% of its history Earth has been ice free, including the poles.
So we are currently in an “abnormally” cold time on earth. And with cold climate oceans become cold and reabsorb CO2, leaving lower levels of atmospheric CO2. Plant life then suffers. The pre-industrial levels of 200-250 ppm were not healthy for plant life and in the past plants had to make an evolutionary adaptation just to survive. Plants prefer much higher levels and flourish in greenhouses where farmers supply levels of 1000-1500 ppm. With higher levels of CO2, the food of all plant life, plants have more efficient water uptake and can handle things like drought conditions better.
Because of the recent rise in CO2, one study noted that from 1982-1999 the earth become notably greener and healthier. Net Primary Production increased by 6.17% over this short period. This is why the almost 32,000 scientists who signed the Oregon Institute of Medicine Protest Petition declared in their opening statement that there is no evidence that more CO2 is bad for earth but lots of evidence that more CO2 is good for earth.
So currently rising CO2 levels are not to be feared. There is no real danger to human life till CO2 rises to about 5,000 ppm and some studies suggest even higher (see sites like CO2science.org for detailed studies on CO2 and climate history).
And there is no reason to fear a warmer earth. Ian Plimer has detailed past climate and shown that a warmer world is overall better for life. It has been much warmer in past times and this was not disastrous for life but rather life has flourished during warmer periods. Warm climate is a benefit to life. Certainly there may be some negatives but the positives appear to be also significant. Currently, annual deaths from cold far exceed deaths from heat.
Others have noted that in a warming world there is redistribution of heat energy across the world so that seasons become less pronounced (warmer winters), and daily oscillations become less pronounced (warmer nights), and the poles become warmer. Earth’s climate is efficient at distributing heat energy across the planet and life benefits. As Roy Spencer argues, it appears that climate has a built-in thermostat with varied feedback mechanisms that seek more optimal outcomes in climate.
And contrary to Al Gore’s alarmism, during warmer times there are less droughts (warm oceans evaporate more water). People like Ian Plimer (Heaven and Earth: global warming the missing science) have provided a mass of good evidence from past climate to help understand what is happening with climate change and it appears there is little reason to fear ongoing climate change or warming, or rising levels of CO2.
On the claim of consensus among scientists that humanity is responsible for looming dangerous global warming or climate change, well, there never has been any such consensus. First, consensus is not automatically evidence of sound conclusions or good science. Climate alarmists have appealed to consensus to shut down opposing evidence and opinions. This is anti-democratic and anti-freedom. Skepticism and contrary evidence must be encouraged as vital to any good scientific process.
And if people wish to play the numbers game then what about the 32,000 scientists that signed the Protest Petition? They were almost completely ignored by the media.
Also, the claim that 97% of scientists have concluded that humans are responsible for dangerous climate change is a distorting, if not fraudulent, claim. Lawrence Solomon has traced the route from where that 97% figure was derived and that is a stunning misrepresentation of scientific opinion but is endlessly repeated in the media (http://opinion.financialpost.com/2011/01/03/lawrence-solomon-97-cooked-stats/).
There is an irrationality in all this unscientific and insistent alarmism over rising CO2 and slight warming. CO2 is not a poison or pollutant. It is the food of all life and life has responded to rising levels with increased plant production and biomass. We have today a greener and healthier earth as a consequence of more CO2.
And as we have always done, we will adapt to climate change, whether warmer or cooler in the future.
Note also that with a free market shift to natural gas the US has lowered its CO2 emissions over the past years. Yet environmental alarmists have irrationally reacted to this news with endeavors to shut down exploration and extraction of natural gas (notably in Europe).
Also, we need to keep an eye on the continuing inactivity of the sun. The Russian scientists are suggesting this may become an extended cold period similar to the Maunder Minimum of the Little Ice Age. Will Paul Ehrlich then shift again to global cooling alarmism? He tried to stir panic over cooling in the 70s but then shifted to warming panic.
With all this evidence alarmists still refuse to back off from activism to stir panic over climate change. One then wonders what is really behind their scare-mongering. At a deeper level there are clear elements of anti-development ideology and anti-human ideology. But what is really behind all this at an even deeper level? Here we get to primitive religious or mythical thinking that is deeply embedded in human worldviews, both religious and secular (in public subconscious). See below for more detail.
Some Scottish Theology
How to get to heaven from Scotland.
I was testing children in my Glasgow Sunday school class to see if they understood the concept of getting into heaven. I asked them, “If I sold my house and my car, hard a big yard sale and gave all my money to the church, would that get me into heaven?”
“No!” the children answered.
“If I cleaned the church every day, mowed the garden and kept everything tidy, would that get me into heaven?”
Again, the answer was “No!”.
By now I was starting to smile.
“Well, then, if I was kind to animals and gave sweets to all the children and loved my husband, would that get me into heaven?”
Again, they all answered “No!”.
I was just bursting with pride for them.
I continued, “Then how can I get into heaven?”
A six year old boy shouted, “Yuv got tae be fuckin dead”.
Kinda brings a wee tear tae yir eye…
(From Avril Spencer, a Maple Ridge theologian)
A Fresh Look At Unconditional
You will find a lot of comment here on unconditional reality (unconditional response and relating, ultimate reality as unconditional goodness, unconditional love). It is the single most important and potent response to the worst errors of human mythology and religion- notably the belief that there are threatening or punishing forces/spirits behind life. That mythological error has infected both religious and secular systems of thought (e.g. the revenge of GAIA or angry planet beliefs).
Advocating for unconditional reality sparks some very strong resistance. For many people unconditional response does not meet their felt need for “proper justice”, defined according to traditional payback terms (reward the good, punish the bad). Unconditional love just seems too weak and mushy in the face of evil, and too impractical for our societies.
I would respond to this by first pointing out that unconditional love has already long been the very basis of commerce, orderly and peaceful society, and civilization in general. Civilization began when early people, instead of continuing to kill one another as they had done over all previous history, began to tolerate differences, mistakes and offenses, and learned to forgive and to cooperate for mutual advantage. They were then able to trade and live together (early urbanization) without destroying one another. They learned to practice early forms of unconditional love and hence we have civilization today. So unconditional love, far from being impractical, is the very basis of society, commerce, and civilization.
And to the contrary, traditional payback (tit for tat, eye for eye) disrupts the order and peace of society and in general ruins life. Just note the disruption that getting even causes at all levels, whether in the workplace, in home relationships (e.g. the damaging impacts on children), and of course, in its worst large-scale expression- war and its all out destructiveness.
Further, a payback approach does not properly restrain wrong behavior. The discipline of psychology has shown that most people respond better to positive affirmation than to threat and fear. See the Australian Psychological Society paper (noted in my essay Retaliation and Unconditional) which argues “that recent trends towards increased reliance on punishment as a primary response to crime” do not work as expected. Punitive approaches do not rehabilitate or deter criminal offenders. They don’t teach “alternative acceptable behaviors”. Also, punitive parenting approaches are linked to higher levels of aggression in children. The paper recommends approaches that promote empathy, such as explaining other people’s perspectives and feelings. This is known as restorative justice, a form of unconditional response.
And then I would urge skeptics of unconditional to recognize that tit for tat retaliation is animal and not human. Ancient Roman philosopher Musonius Rufus expressed this well in stating, “For to scheme to bite back the biter and to return evil for evil is the act not of a human being but of a wild beast”. And on the other hand, unconditional response and relating gets us to the very essence of authentic humanity. It defines better than anything else what it means to be truly human (endless forgiveness, unconditional inclusion of all, limitless generosity toward all, treating all as intimate family). This ideal of unconditional love has been summed up best in the saying of Jesus, “Love your enemies”. He also added, “because this is what God does”. Yes, you heard him right. He stated clearly that there is no punishing God. And no judgment. No divine threat of any kind. Only unconditional goodness and generosity toward all alike.
Perhaps some confusion arises in regard to the practicality of this unconditional ideal because some people have mistakenly understood it as advocating pacifist extremism. It does not promote any such thing. While we should approach every human being in the same way or with the same attitude of respect, some people are simply unable or unwilling to control their worst impulses, notably impulses to violence. Such people need restraint in order to protect others. So whatever you think unconditional love means it does not mean pacifist extremism in the face of evil. Any basic understanding of love will include a robust responsibility to protect the innocent.
No matter how we dissect and explain it, many will still find unconditional love to be just too scandalous and will prefer to maintain some sort of payback response in life. But that is a retreat to animal-like existence. It is a refusal to fully embrace authentic human existence.
Some aging humor. This one sags a bit at the punch line.
An elderly lady was secretly planning to commit suicide by shooting herself in the heart. But she wanted to make sure that everything went according to plan. So she went to her doctor and asked him, “Where exactly is my heart?”.
Puzzled, the doctor replied, “Just below your left breast”.
She left to return home.
The next day the doctor arrived at the hospital and was told, “The elderly lady you saw yesterday is down in emergency. She shot herself in her left knee”.
Join us in exploring some of the latest and best insights from the history of human thought. This site covers topics such as the nature of ultimate reality as unconditional goodness, in pronounced contrast to the basic theme of mythology and religion that the forces/spirits behind life are threatening or punitive. This is part of an endeavor to get to the root of what went wrong in ancient human thought and how to correct that. The misunderstanding of the core nature of reality persists today in both religious and secular systems of thought.
This site also looks at grand public narratives and their impact on societies. It covers the historical descent and evolution of apocalyptic mythology from Sumeria to Zoroaster and Jewish religion and then into Christianity, 19th Century Declinism, and contemporary environmental alarmism. We also explore the fallacy of a limited resources world, the wonder of being creatively human (no fallen, corrupt humanity), and much more. See introductory explanations below or topic bar above.
A qualifying note: the use of the term “environmental alarmism” upsets some people. In response I will affirm that I am strongly pro-environment but quite skeptical of most of the unscientific and irresponsible exaggeration (yes, Chicken Little alarmism) that comes out of the environmental movement. The material below explains why such alarmism is exaggerated and irresponsible.
Decline or Rise- What is the actual trajectory of life?
Does life decline/deteriorate toward some catastrophic ending as in apocalyptic mythology? Or does life rise and progress toward something better? What is the fundamental impulse behind life and what is the fundamental trend of life? The correct answers to these questions are vital to human understanding and the grand narratives that shape our societies.
This site explores the origins and development of apocalyptic mythology, a dominant historical belief that has distorted the fundamental nature of life in both religious and secular systems of thought. This site also explores the new and emerging insight that unconditional goodness (something entirely non-religious) is the basic impulse behind reality and life. See A New TOE (Theory of Everything) further below. Unconditional reality offers a potent response to apocalyptic mythologies.
Have a look at the essays and summaries below for more detail on the developing history of apocalyptic thinking, both ancient and modern versions (e.g. environmental alarmism or apocalyptic). Stating it as diplomatically and nicely as possible, apocalyptic mythology gets the fundamental trends of reality and life entirely wrong. Backwards, upside down, and reversed. Life does not decline toward some catastrophic ending. To the contrary, life rises endlessly toward a better future (see, for instance, the Decline or Rise essay under the same button above).
“On what principle is it that when we see nothing but improvement behind us, we are to expect nothing but deterioration before us”, Thomas Macaulay, 1830
Admittedly, apocalyptic belief could be entertaining as just ridiculous and distorting mythology, if it were not taken seriously (e.g. Halloween Hysteria or October Madness). Unfortunately, too many people do take it seriously. And apocalyptic belief then causes reverberations all through society, in the form of modern alarmism and subsequent public policy response, notably environmental alarmism and its anti-development responses.
(Note: Yes, there are direct links from primitive apocalyptic mythology to movements such as contemporary environmental alarmism. Apocalyptic mythology descends from the earliest Sumerian versions to Zoroaster and Jewish religion and then down through Christian apocalyptic into 19th Century Declinism or “cultural pessimism”- see Arthur Herman’s The Idea of Decline- and then into modern Environmentalism or Green religion. Is this hard for environmental alarmists to acknowledge? Certainly. Just as modern Socialists had a hard time acknowledging that their Marxist heroes were essentially religious fanatics, millennialists. See chapters 10 and 11 of Richard Landes’ Heaven on Earth- Egalitarian Millennialism and Totalitarian Millennialism- for historical detail. We are never as secular as we like to think we have become)
See also the essay Retaliation and Unconditional (under Retaliation/Unconditional button above) for more detail on the primitive mistake that sparked the apocalyptic outlook among early people. That mistake continues to re-affirm apocalyptic thinking today and has become deeply embedded in human worldviews. The mistake was to believe that the forces/gods behind life were retaliatory and punitive.
A complex of related ideas was developed to flesh out apocalyptic mythology and its view of punishing deity. This included a notable devaluation of humanity. People were viewed as corrupt, fallen, and destroyers. They deserved punishment. This sinful humanity myth misses entirely the wonder of human development and progress over history (see, for instance, James Payne’s The History of Force, or Stephen Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature).
The above myths then led to the development of Salvationism. People were obligated to make some sacrifice in order to appease the gods and save the world (in contemporary environmental apocalyptic, anti-development schemes are claimed to be necessary to appease a vengeful GAIA or angry planet). The damage to humanity from this Salvationism has been incalculable.
These primitive myths have burdened human consciousness for millennia and hindered the full expression and creativity of the human spirit. They continue to darken and dampen human subconscious. There will never be a full liberation of humanity (i.e. mind and emotions) till these myths are isolated and rooted out of human worldviews. I am talking about the complete humanization of thought and outlook at the deepest levels.
The ongoing exploration of unconditional reality is key to an authentic liberation of human consciousness and life. See essays and summaries below for more detail. Unconditional goodness defines the very core of the universe and life. Consequently, everything rises toward something better, though not without freedom and its related randomness (an important pair-bonding to note here- love and freedom).
Some fun with accents
An Asian lady frequently went to her money changer to purchase currency. One day she noticed that the rate had changed. She asked the trader why. He replied, “Currency fluctuations”.
The next time the rate had changed again. She again asked why and was told, “Fluctuations”.
This happened repeatedly in the following days and in response to her questions as to why, the trader repeatedly responded, “Fluctuations”.
Finally, one day, exasperated at his responses, the lady fired back, “Well, fluck you white people too”.
Hey, don’t get your politically correct undies all tied in a knot. Lots of people used to laugh at my excessively nasal intonation and other errors as I learned Philippine languages (Tagalog, Cebuano, and Manobo). I’m just enjoying a bit of payback. <:
There is Nothing to Fear Behind Life (Where religion went wrong and the nature of ultimate reality)
One notable belief takes top spot as, arguably, the most destructive belief ever conceived by humanity. It has been lodged in human worldviews for millennia, darkening consciousness with fear, insecurity, despair, nihilism, and worse. This belief in its varied expressions has been responsible for validating endless violence between people (see, for instance, James Carrol’s “Constantine’s Sword”). Properly challenging and correcting this belief will get us to the deepest possible levels of human liberation… that of mind, emotion, and spirit.
What is the belief? That there are threatening, retaliatory, or punishing forces/gods behind life.
Now there is no diplomatic or conciliatory way of stating this but the great world religions, like Christianity, were entirely wrong to develop their theologies of vengeful, punishing gods, and required systems of salvation to appease such deities. Secular systems with their perceptions of an angry planet or vengeful GAIA, and their anti-development appeasement schemes, have been equally wrong.
There is no angry force or deity behind life. There is no threat of retaliation or punishment behind life. To the contrary, over our history we have discovered that the ultimate reality behind life is of the nature of incomprehensible unconditional love with all the generosity, inclusion, forgiveness, and goodness that such love entails. (For detail on the historical development of this new perspective on deity see “Retaliation and Unconditional” under the Retaliation/Unconditional button in the bar above)
The outcome of this discovery is that there is absolutely no need to fear the cosmos, the world, life, or death. Contrary to much religious teaching, everyone is safe and included in the end. So there is no valid reason to believe or adhere to some religious salvation plan in order to appease some threatening deity. My apologies, but that knocks the foundations right out from under most religion.
The discovery of unconditional love at the core of reality needs to reverberate through human consciousness and subconscious, both religious and secular, and liberate the human spirit at the deepest levels.
There is nothing, ultimately, to fear in the world or life. This is not to deny that horrible things will sometimes happen in life. But despite the imperfections of life- whether accident, disease, or whatever form of suffering- there is no ultimate destroyer or destructive force behind life. No one is punished for being imperfectly human.
I have isolated out and countered this belief of retaliating deity because properly humanizing our views of deity is critical to human progress toward a better world. The search for complete human liberation requires us to counter this most debilitating of ideas in the history of human thought, this perception of ultimate threat, retaliation, or punishment. It is simply wrong and it has held back humanity far too long.
The proper response to this belief- unconditional reality- is a stunningly humane reality that inspires the best in humanity.
Note: Further below I have included excerpts/quotes on unconditional love from Near-Death Experience accounts. These illustrate the developing human insight that the true nature of ultimate reality is unconditional goodness. This is a powerful corrective to the errors of apocalyptic mythology.
Here is a sample quote from these accounts, this one from a lady named Lisa on the NDERF site- “I remember feeling the most profound and utter sense of peace I have ever felt in my life. Suddenly, I was feeling completely safe, being enveloped and protected by something I can only describe as complete unconditional love. This love was all around me, it was everywhere but at the same time it was also me, the one I was, my innermost essence. There was no longer any fear, no worries, no struggle for anything…”.
This brief summary statement effectively counters the two most fundamental errors in mythology and religion- that the gods are nasty (retaliatory, punitive) and that humanity is essentially nasty (fallen, corrupt). These two basic errors still widely infect human thought and outlook. The comment of Lisa, and many other similar NDE statements, does more to correct those two errors than anything religion, science, or philosophy has ever offered. Anita Moorjani, another near-death experiencer, has described her discovery of the “magnificence of being human”. That people are most essentially beings of love and light.
And regarding the credibility of the NDEs, and the movement in general, see the research of Pim van Lommel- e.g. “Consciousness Beyond Life”- as well as the work of researchers such as Jeffrey Long, Ken Ring, and others.
Another accent incident(and a true story)
Two Australian men went to South Korea for a visit, arriving on the day that national elections were being held. They were greeted at the airport by a Korean friend who spoke heavily accented English. They asked their Korean friend how he was doing. Grinning broadly, the man responded, “Everybody happy. Everybody having erection today”.
Retaliation….Non-retaliation (or unconditional response)…in the big picture.
(see essay “Retaliation and Unconditional”)
“For to scheme to bite back the biter and to return evil for evil is the act not of a human being but of a wild beast”, Musonius Rufus, Roman philosopher, circa 30-100 AD.
Retaliation and non-retaliation are the two features of life that help us to understand the heart of the human story as few other things do. This is not to oversimplify the complexity of life but to draw attention to some of the most prominent features of life and their influence on human consciousness and the human journey.
Retaliation illustrates the worst of our past. It is what is wrong with life- the tit for tat or eye for eye cycles of payback that destroy relationships between people, groups, and nations. Unfortunately, retaliation has shaped the core of human mythology, religion, and justice systems for millennia, causing immense misery. It is part of a dark past that we are leaving.
Non-retaliation, or unconditional love, summarizes the best of our human experience and future. It presents us with the highest ideal for authentic human response and existence. It liberates us as nothing else can.
These two features are, arguably, two of the most important things to understand in life. Think of the big picture. The human story is about beginnings in animal reality and then the emergence of human consciousness, which sparks a subsequent exodus or liberation from animal existence, and subsequent progress toward the creation of a truly human existence or human society. But what exactly are we leaving and where are we going? What does it mean to be authentically human and to live as human? What is the meaning and purpose of life? Retaliation and non-retaliation are two features that help to answer such questions.
Much of the material on this site points to such issues in the greater overall human story or narrative. And in dealing with the big questions and the grand human narrative we are also highlighting the same issues at the level of each personal story. Each human life is a microcosm of the larger human story- the endeavor to overcome the animal (our baser inherited drives) in order to live as truly human.
In the sections below I have outlined some history of retaliation in human thought and life, its damaging consequences, and how humanity has learned to successfully counter that brutality with the emerging wonder of unconditional reality. See the listed essays for more detail.
The Apocalyptic Error and The Nature of Reality and Life as Unconditional
(see essay “Decline or Rise”)
Apocalyptic alarmism has surged and receded repeatedly in the post-WW2 era. Note some of the main alarms of the past 60 years- population explosion and mass famine (Paul Ehrlich), global cooling disaster (Ehrlich again), chemical pollution and poisoning (Rachel Carson), acid rain destroying forests, ocean fisheries collapsing by 2048, deforestation and a denuded planet, species holocaust with up to half of all species extinct by 2100, agricultural land degradation and food crisis, catastrophic global warming destroying life, Y2K and planes dropping out of the sky, bird flu wiping out millions, swine flu competing for similar destructive impact, economic collapse and ruin, Mayan end-of-world horrors, religious end-of-world scenarios, and on and on. One alarm barely fades before another is whipped up and public consciousness is assaulted afresh and traumatized all over again. “Crisis”, “catastrophe”, “looming disaster”, and other terms constitute the all-too-common verbal currency of a media industry that is not oriented solely to truth telling but too often to creating fear (see David Altheide’s research on media in Creating Fear: News and the Construction of Crisis). This repeated apocalyptic alarmism keeps people at high alert and results in many viewing the world as a more and more frightening place.
Note also the numerous apocalypse movies that have come out this year (2013) from the story-telling centers of the entertainment industry (see, for instance, List of Apocalyptic films at Wikipedia). In literature there is now a sub-genre of “post-apocalyptic” writing that unquestioningly assumes there will be an apocalypse and therefore focuses on rebuilding in the post-apocalypse world. Note also that while not all alarmism assumes apocalyptic proportions of world-ending catastrophe, much does point in the direction of some super-catastrophe that ends life as we know it.
Populations frightened by apocalyptic alarmism are more easily manipulated to accept salvation schemes to avoid disaster and “save the world”. As Altheide notes, fear enables social control. Fear-mongering is then a direct attack on human freedom. Pose some threat, scare people, and they will do anything… they will respond to the looniest salvation schemes, in order to save themselves and the world. These salvation schemes have now cost humanity trillions in wasted funds (recent estimate from CCNet of GWPF.com) and have hindered economic growth and overall human progress. And the cost of alarmism to human life has been estimated in the multiple millions. Note, for instance, the tens of millions of unnecessary deaths, mostly children, that resulted from the banning of DDT in the wake of Rachel Carson’s chemical alarmism (see http://junksciencearchive.com/ddtfaq.html and http://www.forbes.com/sites/henrymiller/2012/09/05/rachel-carsons-deadly-fantasies/ ). Like most irresponsible alarmism the outcomes of these panic crusades are devastatingly inhumane.
And all for what? Apocalyptic has a 100% historical failure rate. It distorts entirely the actual state of the world and the trajectory of life. Overwhelming evidence shows that we are not declining toward some life-ending catastrophe. To the contrary, despite occasional disasters and setbacks, life continues to improve and rises endlessly toward something better than before (see Julian Simon’s Ultimate Resource, Stephen Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature, and Bjorn Lomborg’s Skeptical Environmentalist, among other similar studies of the state of the world). This is not to deny that real problems exist throughout life but to challenge the alarmist exaggeration of problems to life-ending proportions and unnecessarily terrorizing people.
Let me be blunt in order to be clear- apocalyptic is a fraud and a lie. Yet since the beginning of recorded history (i.e. Sumerian cuneiform tablets) apocalyptic has defined the core of human mythology and it has shaped the belief systems of the major world religions and has now infected modern secular systems of thought also, such as environmentalism.
I have traced in various essays here the historical lines of descent of apocalyptic mythology, from early Sumerian Flood myths (the gods punishing early humanity with a great flood apocalypse), down through Zoroaster and his shift to a fiery world-ending apocalypse, and the descent of this belief into Jewish religion, and then into Christianity which brought apocalyptic mythology into the modern Western world and also into the wider world consciousness.
Creating Divine Monsters
Most important to note in all this research is that apocalyptic mythology is rooted in a major error in early human perception- the belief that there were threatening, retaliatory, and punitive forces (spirits, gods) behind life. That perception of divine retaliation was expressed in early beliefs that the gods were angry and would punish humanity. In historically recent secular systems this has been expressed in terms of an angry planet or “the revenge of GAIA”, or in more general views of some nasty outcome for life or the universe.
This primitive myth of ultimate retaliatory forces lingers like a dark residue staining the background of human subconscious. It spoils our perception and our enjoyment of the wonder of life and it hinders human creative potential. It fosters unnecessary guilt and shame over human progress.
Joseph Campbell viewed human life as story. We go out and confront monsters/problems, struggle to conquer them and learn lessons or gain insights in the process, and then bring these insights back to benefit others. Taking Campbell’s story framework I would argue there is no greater monster that humanity has ever faced than this primitive belief in retaliatory or punishing deity. There is no greater fear than the fear of some super-monster out to get you, to punish you. This is beyond normal fear in life. It is about ultimate fear, existential fear, supreme fear- some monster that cannot just kill your body but also your spirit. This is the great background fear that has far too long lurked just out of sight, but so potently keeps fear, despair, nihilism, and other destructive emotions aroused in public subconscious.
We need to confront and slay this grotesque monster, the worst tyrant ever created. It has dominated the core of human mythology for millennia and it has been at the foundation of all religion (religion as conditional existence- the conditions required to appease and please retaliatory gods). Slay this monster and you liberate humanity at the deepest levels in human consciousness and spirit.
The lesson learned in struggling to conquer this monster?
Unconditional Reality: The Corrective to the Apocalyptic Myth
Over the millennia humanity has uncovered a powerful corrective to this distorting apocalyptic and retaliatory mythology. It is the discovery that there is infinite goodness at the heart of all reality and this gets to the single most important insight in the history of humanity.
This insight into ultimate goodness derives from the early perception that non-retaliation or unconditional love defined authentic human relating and existence. See, for instance, the early piece of literature titled “Advice of an Akkadian Father to his son”, circa 2200 BCE (Wikipedia). People then extended this discovery of the authentic nature of humanity as unconditional love out to define ultimate reality or deity. The general humanization of our understanding of humanity inevitably leads to the humanization of our views of deity. We then recognize that God is more humane than any human; infinitely more so.
We now have access to the insight that inexpressible unconditional Love is at the heart of all reality and life. The historical Jesus (entirely opposite to the Christian Jesus) made a notable breakthrough here in stating clearly that God did not retaliate or punish but treated everyone with unconditional generosity (e.g. Matthew 5:38-48). He based his claim that unconditional love was the ideal for authentic humanity on his view that God was unconditional love. The human ethic and the theology were tightly pair-bonded. “Be merciful as your Father in heaven is merciful”. Do not retaliate because God does not retaliate.
Affirming his insight, let me state his conclusion plainly- there is nothing threatening, retaliatory, or punitive behind life. And this conclusion helps us to understand why the overall long-term trajectory of life rises endlessly toward something better.
We can now tell people, especially children, do not be afraid of the universe or life.
Come in and look around for yourself. This site is exploring some of the foundational errors in human mythical perception and the insights that counter those errors. I would argue that there is no more critical error to confront than apocalyptic and its root idea of retaliating and punishing deity. This single idea has had a more devastating impact on human understanding, response, and society than any other idea. It has distorted entirely our perception of the state of the world, viewing it as a fallen or lost paradise. It has promoted a profound devaluation of the status of humanity, wrongly concluding that people are corrupt and destructive, and deserve punishment for being imperfectly human. And it has distorted entirely our perception of the direction of life, claiming that it is declining toward something worse or catastrophic. Apocalyptic has rightly been described as a mythology of despair.
To robustly counter this error it is important to engage the exploration of unconditional reality. Unconditional response and relating gets us to the essence of authentic humanity and the true meaning of ultimate reality. There is nothing more liberating to human consciousness or the human spirit than the embrace of unconditional love. The actual nature of this reality, as with any element of ultimate reality, is infinitely better than the best that we can imagine. This is what transcendence in deity means.
And whatever you may think about how unconditional love should or should not be applied in human society, be clear that it is the nature of ultimate reality. Unconditional love is the very core of all reality, the true nature of the Ground or Source. There is a notable hesitancy and even resistance from many people to the idea of eliminating retaliation and punishment entirely from human relating and existence. We have had the obligation to revenge drilled into our subconscious for so many millennia, via mythology, religion, and now secular systems of thought, that it is simply unimaginable to many people that authentic human existence entails the elimination of all retaliation. Unconditional forgiveness, inclusion, and generosity appear to be just too impractical to a properly functioning society in the opinion of many people. Unconditional love violates their sense of justice as including some form of payback or punishment.
(Note: Religious people have developed the contradictory approach of acknowledging that it is wrong to retaliate and harm those who have harmed us. But then they claim that God will retaliate. This is an endeavor to retain some form of revenge somewhere. Paul is notable here for claiming that to repay harm with harm was evil- e.g. Romans 12. Yet he stated that God would repay with far greater harm in the future. God will do far greater harm or evil a future judgment or apocalypse. This contradictory and nonsensical argument results from the felt need to retain some form of retaliation. And so the most barbaric features of our inhuman past are embedded in deity and protected there in succeeding generations of gods)
But however you view the application of unconditional response in human society, be clear that unconditional love must replace the horrific error of the ancient’s that threat, retaliation, and punishment defined the forces behind life (i.e. the gods). What humanity has long termed God (or the Universe, Mind, Consciousness, Self) is authentically human or humane, and to infinite or transcendent degree. God is not just love, but inexpressible unconditional love. Ultimate Reality is infinite goodness. The Ground or Source or Foundation of all must be entirely humanized and cleansed of any residual and defiling inhumanity such as retaliation. We start with getting that basic perception right (fully humanizing our views of deity) and then move to working that out in human ethics or society.
Let me add here that this insight on unconditional defining ultimate reality is not dependent on Q (Quelle) research or even on the statements of the historical Jesus. It is an insight that would have eventually been discovered as part of the inevitable growth and progress of humanity and human understanding. You do not need to appeal to any authority figure to validate such an insight. We rely ultimately on our own personal sense of the human thing no matter what anyone else has said, or not said, about such realities.
Excerpts from Near-Death Experience accounts on unconditional love at the core of all reality
The following statements are from people that have had near-death experiences and reveal something of the incomprehensible love behind all life. As Ken Ring has said, these people can only “stammer hyperbole” in their attempts to describe the inexpressible nature of this love. Enjoy and take time to feel something of what they are trying to communicate.
“(It) was so incredibly powerful and intensely deep that I was astounded and even in a state of shock as it went through me. I never knew such a love existed…it was the strongest force in existence. It was the energy of pure love….everything was love….it was literally everything…the light loved everyone equally without any conditions…pure, undiluted, concentrated unconditional love…a realm of pure, unconditional love and acceptance, a primordial womb of light blazing with beauty and glory beyond measure…the love was like an energy that connected every molecule in the universe” (from Ken Ring’s Lessons from the Light).
“This love is the purest, truest, deepest, totally unconditional love that you could ever imagine”, Bobbi D on NDERF site.
“That being was composed of love, it created love, it emitted love, it directed love. It lived on love. It was love. Love the Power. Pure love came from that being”, DW on NDERF site.
“The Creator is love…perfect, unconditional love is what that being gave me. Love is what the Creator is composed of. It is the skin, the blood, the body of him… God is love”, DW on NDERF site.
“Standing in the presence of divinity I saw the pure love in all of it. There was no judgment… I was surrounded by a tangible light so thick I could feel it. It was pure, unconditional love…Love is all there is…no judgment…only love, unconditional”, Jeffrey O on NDERF site.
“This light had a singular property that is utterly indescribable in the extent and scope of its sheer magnitude. The singular property of this light was one of absolute love. This love was utterly unreserved, completely unbounded, and utterly infinite in its scope…This being, this light, was total love…it was sheer unalloyed love absolute…Love, at the very essence of existence, is what everything is about. It all comes to love”, Peter N on the NDERF site.
“I was also flooded in an all encompassing unconditionally loving energy. It was an energy of unconditional love, an energy that does not discriminate or judge”, Anita M on NDERF site.
“Love is…the basis of everything…In its purest and most powerful form this love… is unconditional. This is the reality of realities, the incomprehensible glorious truth of truths that lives and breathes at the core of everything that exists or that will ever exist and no remotely accurate understanding of who and what we are can be achieved by anyone who does not know it…this is not only the single most important emotional truth in the universe but also the single most important scientific truth as well”, Eben Alexander in Proof of Heaven.
“The light was everywhere and everything…the loving Source of all that exists, the God of truth and unconditional love….the light was love and love was God…I came to the rapturous awareness of the infinite nature of God’s love…God is only love, nothing other than love. The only reality is God and God is love”, Linda Stewart on NDERF site.
“Only love was real”, unknown.
“God does not judge, he just loves us with unconditional love, this love is indescribable, it is not like what we feel on earth. This is rather a force-love”, Leonard on NDERF site.
“It is all about love…God is only love”, Mary W on NDERF site.
“It is a true experience of inexpressible love. It is a love that can never be adequately described with words…there is no death, there is no judgment, there is no punishment, there is no fear”, Andrew P on NDERF site.
“I now know that there is no hell”, Bolette L on NDERF site.
“All was love…I was able to perceive all the energy that creates physical reality. I could see the sparkling particles connecting and webbing all things together. I felt totally embraced in pure unconditional love…all is connected, all is one and all is love…love is kind of like gravity, but it encompasses all things”, Robyn on NDERF site.
The following excerpts are from Dr. Jeffery Long’s personal research on unconditional love as expressed in NDE accounts.
“I felt so loved, greater than is possible in our earthly life…(love) it was everywhere…I knew love was the greatest force around us and that we are all love and love is the only thing that is real…Love was everywhere. It permeated the afterlife. It was incredible…I was loved unconditionally despite my faults and fears…the paramount element of reality…
“I knew the being I met was composed in its very atoms of a substance I can only call love and that substance created or was a force or power, like electricity is here. Love is the only word I have….It was total love, everything is love…I felt pure love and the feeling of safety…Everything was love…Love is the root of all. It is the alpha and omega…
“Love is everything…All of it was unconditional…no judgments whatsoever attached…I was loved and it was unconditional….We on earth have no concept of true love…A love so great and peaceful as it enveloped my whole being…Oh God, it was all love. Unbelievable love everywhere….Love and energy is what the other side is based on…
“The void is unconditional love…the void was love. It was the source of love…The bright white light was complete and total unconditional perfect love…unconditional love. Absolutely no fear at all…The entire experience was one of unfathomable love…We are loved, not in the human love definition…in a universal way…
“Love is all that is…the word ‘love’ is only the closest word we have- its not really accurate but I can’t do any better with our language…Love was everywhere…everything was love….I was enveloped with unconditional love and knew that was to be how I should live. It is our essence…Unconditional love and forgiveness is what the universe and life are all about….
“All is love and everything is love…Love was the most powerful, permeating feeling. I feel that I learned that love is everything, the oneness that binds us together…God is in everyone of us as love…love is what life is all about…I felt the love of God is in each of us and that it is unconditional…I felt as if I had found the eternal fountain of love and I was splashing around in it…
“The overwhelming vibe from the light beings was love. It almost felt like love was the glue holding everything together…it is all consuming, all forgiving…everything is love…God’s love is pure and unconditional. This came through very clearly…I was safe and surrounded by love that I couldn’t even fathom…
“I was simply wrapped up in the indescribable bliss I felt from head to toe. It wasn’t like love on earth…out of this world love… intensified by a trillion…makes you happy, times a trillion…I felt the warmth of love all around me…God is love…It is beyond words. I have not seen that kind of love in this lifetime…complete love and acceptance…
“Love is all there is….Yes, yes, yes. It was all pure love. God is love and everything exists because of the pure unconditional love. I was surrounded by pure love…a feeling of overwhelming love…”. There is much more throughout near-death experience literature and research.
This site is dedicated to understanding the fundamental themes of our grand narratives (the great stories or worldviews that we live by) and how these themes impact our lives for better or worse. We are committed to the discovery and outline of an authentically humane narrative to replace the less-than-human narratives that we have inherited from past generations. We value an authentically humane story because of the recognized fact that how we think- meaning the fundamental ideas and stories that we hold- profoundly shapes how we feel and act, and shapes the societies that we create. Our foundational ideas play a significant role in making life better or worse.
Decades of research have led some of us to conclude that two fundamental themes in particular have had overwhelmingly significant impact on our grand narratives. These themes are apocalyptic (a grand retaliation or punishment) and unconditional response (non-retaliation or authentic human relating and existence). Get these two fundamental themes clear (retaliation and non-retaliation), and their lines of historical descent, and you will get to the root of what went wrong in human understanding and life, and how to correct that.
Welcome also to the endeavor to explore the positive side of non-retaliation, the ever-unfolding wonder of unconditional reality. Unconditional love now gets us to the root of human meaning and purpose. Unconditional response and relating is the very heart and soul of authentic humanity. It is the very essence of the new human narrative which is about liberation from our animal past and our journey toward a future of truly human understanding and existence. It also answers our most basic questions about ultimate meaning and ultimate realities.
Recent Essays- “Decline or Rise?: The actual trajectory of life (see Decline or Rise in the topic bar above) and “From Retaliation to Unconditional Love” (see Retaliation/Unconditional in the topic bar above). Further below are two new essays on the Christian rejection of the original gospel of Jesus (unconditional love) for the entirely opposite gospel of retaliation theology (see “Entirely Opposite: A Shift Into Reverse” and “Christianity Got the Wrong Gospel”). These essays trace the fundamental error in ancient perception that there were retaliatory or punishing forces behind life. That distortion in ancient human understanding became deeply embedded in human mythologies, religions, and later in secularized systems of belief/thought (e.g. angry planet or revenge of GAIA).
Christianity is especially notable for taking up that ancient error of retaliatory deity and making that central to its belief system. This is expressed in the common New Testament teaching that God will punish humanity with a final apocalypse and judgment. With that emphasis Christianity has played a major historical role in affirming the ancient error that retaliation/punishment defined deity. Christianity is largely responsible for bringing this ancient retaliation error into modern Western consciousness and hence into contemporary world consciousness. The Christian version of retaliatory apocalypse extends beyond religious circles to influence secular systems of thought such as 19th Century Declinism and its stepchild environmentalism.
The fact that Christianity is most essentially a religion of apocalyptic retaliation has been noted by religious historians like James Tabor (see his Paul and Jesus: How the Apostle Transformed Christianity). Tabor argues that Christianity is Paul’s religion and apocalyptic influenced all that Paul said and did (e.g. his repeated theme of end-time consummation or transformation). The apocalyptic retaliation emphasis of Christianity is a profound contradiction of the central message of the historical Jesus.
Note also the autobiographical material (Leaving My Religion located in the “Autobiography” button above) is being updated as it was originally written over two decades ago. A new summarizing chapter (ch. 16) covers recent breakthroughs on unconditional response and relating.
Decline or Rise?- this essay tackles the most harmful narrative created by primitive minds, a template of themes that has persisted down into the present in both religious and secular versions (e.g. environmental alarmism). It includes the following perceptions- things were better in a past natural paradise, that paradise has been ruined by fallen/corrupted humanity, life is now declining toward some catastrophic apocalypse, and life needs to be purged of the corrupting element so that paradise can be restored. I am arguing in this essay that overwhelming evidence falsifies this narrative of apocalyptic despair and shows that life is not declining toward catastrophic ending, but, to the contrary, is rising toward something ever better. Some of that evidence can be found in material such as Julian Simon’s Ultimate Resource, Bjorn Lomborg’s Skeptical Environmentalist, Greg Easterbrook’s A Moment on the Earth, James Payne’s History of Force, and Stephen Pinker’s Better Angels of Our Nature, among others.
This apocalyptic narrative has caused immense damage to life by frightening people into salvation schemes that oppose and obstruct human progress (anti-development movements) when it is our very progress that enables us to properly care for life.
I have contrasted these two grand narratives of life- the narrative of apocalyptic decline and the narrative of progress- with some detail on their historical development and their impacts on life, and I have focused somewhat more on the latest version of apocalyptic declinism: environmentalism. The subject can be summed up in a quote from Thomas Macaulay (1830), “On what principle is it that when we see nothing but improvement behind us, we are to expect nothing but deterioration before us”.
From Retaliation to Unconditional This essay details the most fundamental mistake made in the history of human perception- the ancient belief that there were threatening and punitive gods behind life. Ancient people believed that the spirits/gods were retaliatory and would punish people for their imperfections and faults. This distorted perception is evident in the earliest written records of human thought, the mythological themes found on Sumerian cuneiform tablets (e.g. Flood apocalypse). When those early people projected retaliation onto deity they created super-monsters beyond any previously known monsters in life.
There is no more fundamental distortion in human understanding to correct than this belief in ultimate retaliatory forces.
Retaliation then became deeply embedded in human mythology and religious systems. It became buried in the wider public subconscious and it became part of the larger worldview or grand narrative of humanity. And this has caused immense damage to human consciousness and societies. We can trace the development of retaliation thinking down through history. It sparked the creation of apocalyptic mythology- the belief that retaliating gods would cause a final end to all life, a final retaliation or punishment known as the apocalypse.
This perception that there is a retaliating or punishing ultimate reality behind all life is a powerful religious belief that is still widely present in secular movements. We see it in the belief in an angry planet or the revenge of GAIA (and the great environmental collapse or apocalypse). For millennia now retaliation has shaped the very core of the narratives and belief systems of people and has thus presented to humanity a horrific distortion of reality and life.
This myth of monstrous threatening and retaliating entities has darkened human consciousness and held back the human spirit for millennia. It arouses the primal human fear of death, our most fundamental psychological motivation (Ernst Becker, The Denial of Death), and this pushes people into irrational responses to life. Fear of some grand end of life (apocalypse) has always stirred fear and panicked people to seek salvation schemes, no matter how irrational, to avoid the prophesied catastrophes. The aroused death fear also reverberates out to inflame other fears, anxieties, despair, depression, nihilism, and even violence toward others.
Retaliation also became central to human perceptions of justice as punishment. We see the consequence of this in the prison system- the punishment of people by locking them up (and this is not to deny the necessity of restraining violent people who cannot or will not control their worst impulses).
The fear of retaliatory deities is also behind the creation of all religion as systems of sacrifice and salvation. It is behind all religion as conditional existence- traditions that present the conditions necessary to appease and please the threatening and retaliatory gods. Religion as a condition oriented approach to God violates entirely the central teaching of the historical Jesus on unconditional love.
Fortunately, early people also initiated the discovery of a stunning new reality that counters entirely the retaliation error (see for instance, the 2200 BCE statement of the Akkadian Father’s advice to his son- Wikipedia). Those people began to discover that non-retaliation defined authentic humanity. They discovered that truly human relating and existence would involve no retaliation, no punishment, no threat, but rather unlimited forgiveness and generosity, unconditional inclusion and love. As well as being the supreme ideal for human response and existence, early people then realized that non-retaliation (unconditional love) also defined the basic nature of ultimate reality. This meant that behind all life there was no threat of retaliation but rather infinite goodness and generosity. The historical Jesus (entirely opposite to the Christian Jesus) expressed this new insight most coherently in his core gospel statement in Matthew 5:38-48, as well as elsewhere in his teaching. He stated that God did not retaliate against enemies but included all equally (sun and rain given generously to all alike, both just and unjust). He presented a radical new view of deity that broke entirely with all past perceptions of gods.
Early Christianity dismissed this message of its founding hero and opted instead for a retreat to primitive payback mythology, the retaliation and punishment of the apocalyptic template of ideas. This essay details this profound failure of Christianity. And while the Jesus Seminar points out numerous “dissimilarities” between the historical Jesus and the Christian Jesus it does not offer much on distinguishing his central theme of unconditional response and relating, in contrast to Christian payback theology.
What is the outcome of this new discovery that unconditional love is at the core of all reality? Most importantly, there is nothing to fear in the cosmos or life. There is no threat of ultimate retaliation, revenge, or punishment. Everything will be all right for everyone, ultimately. This is the most liberating insight to have ever entered human consciousness and it powerfully counters the ancient error that retaliation defined the gods. It is an insight that counters entirely the perceptions of threat, retaliation, or punishment with the new understanding that behind all reality there is Unconditional Love. Give this insight some space in human consciousness and watch it liberate the human spirit in potent new ways.
The Christian movement has rejected this great insight of the historical Jesus and has blocked the full liberation of human consciousness ever since. Christianity has been the main forum reinforcing the darkness and despair of apocalyptic mythology and Salvationism in modern consciousness, and Western consciousness in particular.
For more on the Christian rejection of unconditional response see the new collection of posts and short essays titled “Christianity Got the Wrong Gospel” under the Retaliation/Unconditional button in the title bar above.
And the latest is titled Entirely Opposite: A Shift Into Reverse (listed as Entirely Opposite, A Shift) also under the Retaliation/Unconditional button. This brief essay focuses on the Q gospel research, the earliest collections of Jesus’ sayings or gospel. That research has revealed a “stunning” shift from an original gospel that was non-apocalyptic (Q1) to a later apocalyptic version (Q2).
But this shift reveals something far more profound- it was actually a shift away from the non-retaliation theology of Jesus to the retaliation theology of Paul and Christianity. There is no more stunning contradiction between basic worldviews in one movement anywhere in history.
Jesus presented his radical new view of God clearly in Matthew 5:38-48. This is a direct statement that God does not retaliate, does not take revenge, or punish. This is argued first in the ethical ideal that we should not engage eye for eye (payback) justice but should instead love our enemies. Do not try to get even with others who have offended or wronged you. If we do this, says Jesus, then we will be just like God who does not retaliate but shows equal generosity to everyone alike, whether good or bad (e.g. sends sun and rain on the just and unjust). Every person is unconditionally forgiven, included, and loved. This is a striking new view of deity. All previous primitive belief held that the gods were angry, retaliatory, vengeful, and punishing and very much tribally oriented (favoring insiders, excluding outsiders).
Paul, and Christianity in general, rejected the new theology of Jesus and retreated to the opposite view that God does retaliate and punish. Paul’s God does not include all equally, nor love all unconditionally. His God first demands payment before forgiving (blood sacrifice), and then only includes those who believe the divine act of retaliation (the death of Jesus as a blood payment). Anyone who refuses to believe this myth will be punished and destroyed ultimately in hell. There is no inclusive love for enemies in Paul’s gospel.
This is the stunning conclusion from the Q shift- the theology of Paul and Christianity is entirely opposite to that of Jesus. Yet Paul tried to merge some of Jesus’ non-retaliatory teaching with his own beliefs. He did this by stating that we are not to take revenge (Romans 12) but should leave it to God to repay or avenge. Christians today continue to argue the same- we must not engage payback as Jesus taught but must let God take revenge for us. This oxymoronic mixing of complete opposites nullifies Jesus’ core message entirely.
So the Q shift from non-apocalyptic to apocalyptic is really a shift from non-retaliation back to retaliation (the Q researchers do not make this point very clear). How so? Apocalyptic is all about retaliation, grand and ultimate retaliation by God. The shift to apocalyptic is most essentially a shift to retaliation. This is a stunning rejection of the original gospel of Jesus. You simply cannot merge and mix these two opposing views as Christianity has tried to do.
When we get the true nature of the Q shift clear, then it also becomes clear that Jesus could not have been an apocalyptic prophet as the New Testament and many biblical scholars claim. Remember, as noted just above, apocalyptic is most essentially about divine retaliation- grand and final retaliation by God. Jesus clearly taught that God did not retaliate so he could not have advocated for apocalyptic retaliation. To claim that he did so is absolute nonsense. He could not have been an apocalyptic prophet.
I am repeating myself here because this issue is just that important.
What are the larger ramifications of this? The Christian rejection of the original gospel of Jesus is illustrative of the larger human story. This narrative is about our liberation from an animal past (notably defined by retaliation) and our search for a more human future. Unfortunately, many have opposed this grand liberation and opted instead to maintain primitive payback response and existence. Christianity, with its maintenance of retaliation theology, has played a significant historical role in blocking the liberation into a more human world by advocating primitive payback thinking.
This is a greater scandal than the discovery of Jesus’ bones (i.e. the Jesus ossuary). It is one of history’s great blunders. You cannot find a greater contradiction anywhere in all of the Historical Jesus research (e.g. Jesus Seminar research that notes the dissimilarities between the historical Jesus and the Christian Jesus). The evidence is clear that Christianity developed a message that is entirely opposite to the teaching of the historical Jesus. Christianity outright rejected the non-retaliation gospel of Jesus. It refused to accept the core breakthrough insight of Jesus that God was authentic unconditional love. The outcome of this has been significant in terms of impact on human consciousness and behavior. It was an abandonment of a unique and fresh opportunity for liberation from our animal past and into a more humane existence.
I would further add that understanding the above contradiction does not depend on some Q Source or shift. It is clear from a simple look at the central teaching of Jesus in Matthew 5:38-48. Compare his comments there with the rest of the New Testament teaching on God as a retaliatory deity.
More detail: Let me further summarize the above essays and give some more concentrated focus to a central point:
For those interested in ultimate root causes or foundational issues I will summarize some very fundamental things that went wrong in the early construction of mythologies and belief systems that have continued to darken and debilitate human consciousness into the present.
I would point to two ideas/perceptions in particular that need to be isolated out and probed further. People ponder, for instance, questions such as why people today still believe life is getting worse when all evidence shows the opposite to be true. And it is helpful at one level to understand the role of the apocalyptic viewpoint behind this perception that life is declining. But as noted in the essay “From Retaliation to Unconditional” there is something even more fundamental that spawns apocalyptic mythology. And yes, understanding the primal human fear of death (Becker, Denial of Death) is part of this search for root causes.
To focus thinking and to go as fundamental as possible I would isolate the following two perceptions as the deeper root cause of apocalyptic/declinist thinking and at the basis of much related darkness, fear, and despair in human consciousness. These two perceptions have fueled the creation of a lot of harmful mythology over history.
Let me state it this way: the two worst mistakes made by early people in shaping human belief systems, mythologies, and religions were the perceptions that there was something threatening and punitive behind life and, second, that there was something fundamentally wrong with humanity. Mircea Eliade (History of Religious Ideas), for instance, notes the early belief that humanity was created from a partly demonic substance and humans were therefore fallen and corrupt.
In both of these perceptions there is the belief that something is fundamentally wrong at the core of things. At the core of some greater creating reality there is darkness, anger, or something retaliatory and punishing. And at the core of humanity there is something dark and destructive, something fundamentally wrong with being human. These are related perceptions (nasty gods, nasty people).
As noted in the essays, these two beliefs or perceptions are behind the creation of apocalyptic mythology and its twin, salvation mythology, and I would argue that they have done more damage to human consciousness over history than any other core beliefs or ideas.
Apocalyptic mythology is the result of the early endeavor to explain why there is catastrophe, suffering, and death in life. It claims that life was originally perfect but people have become corrupt and have ruined the original paradise. So the gods have punished people for their sin with catastrophe, suffering, and death. And the gods will deliver a final, grand punishment in the future in order to rectify all wrong and to clean up the mess that people have made, and then restore the original paradise.
But creative and meaning-seeking humanity has not taken the stance of passive resignation in the face of these horrific distortions in early worldviews. In the earliest human literature we find people searching for and giving expression to alternative insights that counter these dark myths and point toward entirely new directions for human understanding.
Note, for instance, the breakthrough insight into unconditional response toward others. There is an early expression of this in the Akkadian father’s advice to his son (circa 2000 BCE). This led to the developing understanding that supremely humane existence or life involved unconditional forgiveness, unconditional acceptance and inclusion of all, unconditional generosity toward undeserving others, and non-retaliation- in a word unconditional love.
This developing insight into unconditional relating points to a new height of what it means to be human and counters entirely the old beliefs in nasty gods and nasty people. From this emerging insight many people have now come to the entirely opposite perception that unconditional love defines ultimate reality (its true essence or nature or character). And unconditional love also defines the essential consciousness of humanity (our true self, our essential personhood- Karen Armstrong and Albert Nolan, among others, speak to something similar in arguing that the true nature of our essential self is love). Unconditional points to entirely new ways of perceiving the very essence of things.
The evidence that our essential consciousness is love (something fundamentally right with humanity) is seen in the fact that over history we have been rising endlessly toward something better than before. We are gradually learning to express and live our true nature as something good and creative. Julian Simon (Ultimate Resource) and Stephen Pinker (The Better Angels of Our Nature), among others, offer detailed evidence here of this human progress.
So this perception of something wrong in ultimate reality and something wrong with humanity, these are the two worst mistakes ever made concerning the core nature of things, and unconditional is the corrective response that points to entirely new and opposite realities at the heart of all things.
I see these root perceptions of some core nastiness still present all through contemporary thought and expression. We used to see it, for instance, in dark perceptions of the cosmological future- ideas of a degenerating universe (looming cosmological apocalypse under the dominating Second Law- something to worry yourself about now even though it may occur, as one person noted, many billions or even trillions of years in the future, or it may never occur at all in an eternally expanding cosmos). We have also seen it in beliefs regarding environmental collapse, or declinist beliefs in degenerating human civilization, or people getting worse, and on and on.
Overwhelming evidence falsifies this declinist belief in degenerating reality or history and points, instead, to endless progress into an open future, an infinitely unlimited future that develops toward something ever better. There is indeed evidence all around of something very Good at the core of all reality, life, and consciousness.
More “further” detail on above essays…
I have repeatedly argued that the contemporary movement of environmental alarmism is the current historical embodiment of apocalyptic mythology. This movement ramped up apocalyptic alarmism in the Post-WW2 era with repeated claims of looming catastrophe- disappearance of forests (a denuded planet), global cooling alarms of the 70s, mass starvation scares (Paul Erhlich- hundreds of millions would die), ocean fisheries collapse by 2048, agricultural soil degradation and looming food crisis, species holocaust with over half of all species extinct by the end of this century, and for decades now the alarm over global warming destroying life on the planet. And there were a variety of other alarms.
(Note: Pointing out the alarmist exaggeration of environmental issues is not to deny that real problems exist in many areas)
The impact of this environmental alarmism has been devastating to many people, and especially to children (the new condition of eco-anxiety). It has resulted in widespread endeavor to slow and even halt human economic development and growth which then perpetuates the misery and suffering of poverty. Environmental alarmism led Rachel Carson to advocate for a ban on DDT which subsequently resulted in the needless deaths of tens of millions of people, mostly children, over following decades. Environmental alarmism has led to opposition to GM foods (e.g. Golden Rice) and the unnecessary blindness of 8 million children over a recent 12 year period (see Bjorn Lomborg’s article “The unintended consequence of the anti-GMO movement: Blind Children” at the National Post website or at Slate.com). Note also the widespread suffering from fuel poverty in places like Britain and Germany due to alarmism over fossil fuels (see, for instance, the Global Warming Policy Foundation site and its newsletter CCNet).
The evidence on all the main indicators of life on Earth show that, yes, there are problems in varied areas that need attention and solving, but overall things are improving and life has never been better on the planet. There is no need to exaggerate environmental problems all out of proportion to reality and irresponsibly promote panic over the state of life on Earth. We are not exhausting resources and destroying nature. Earth is doing well.
If the facts do not support the alarmist’s viewpoint, what then motivates these people to repeatedly push a panic agenda? I would argue that it has to do with deeply rooted ideas inherited from an ancient past, notably primitive ideas such as are found in apocalyptic mythology that expresses the following basic themes- the past was better in an original golden age; corrupt people have destroyed that better past; life is now declining toward some catastropic collapse and ending known as the apocalypse; after which the world will be purged and a new utopia installed. This narrative is evident in contemporary secular ideologies such as environmentalism.
Evidence clearly shows that this alarmist narrative is entirely wrong.
But, as noted above, there is an even more powerful idea behind contemporary environmental alarmism. This gets even further into the root causes of apocalyptic alarmism. In the essay above- From Retaliation to Unconditional Love (again, see the button Retaliation/Unconditional)- I have traced the historical development of the distorted perception in primitive mythology that there is something threatening, something vengeful and punishing behind life, whether the spirits behind the forces of nature such as storm gods, or a council of gods threatening a great flood as in early Sumerian legends. This perception of retaliatory deity has been expressed in Western religious traditions as an angry, punitive God. More recently in history this perception has been given a more secularized outfitting and has been expressed in terms of an angry planet or an angry and vengeful GAIA (see, for example, James Lovelock’s The Revenge of GAIA).
The perception of something threatening and punishing behind life has done immense damage to human consciousness and society over history. The belief in punishing gods sparked the emergence of the salvation/sacrifice industry which has resulted in an incalculable waste of human time, energy, and resources. Note even today how environmental perceptions of an angry planet have led to major efforts to slow and halt human progress (e.g. making a sacrifice in the form of halting such things as fossil fuel use in order to “save the planet”). This is just more of the same old appeasement and sacrifice approach that has long hindered human liberation and progress.
But enough introduction- read the essay for more detail on the historical development of this idea of divine retaliation and the development of the counter theme of unconditional response that entirely invalidates the old retaliation mythology. These two themes- retaliation and unconditional love- came to a unique historical climax in the contrast between the historical Jesus (unconditional treatment of all people) and Christianity (highly conditional treatment of humanity and payback/salvation theology).
Other related essays available in the topic bar under Unconditional also point out that the core belief of Christianity in the death of Jesus as a sacrifice for sin nullifies the core message of Jesus regarding unconditional love. This central Christian belief has held many in bondage to the darkness of payback thinking for two millennia. The mistake made by early Christians was to create a new conditional payback message about the man that nullified the actual unconditional message of the man.
This contradiction is a more significant scandal than the discovery of the Jesus ossuary and the bones of his wife (see the James Cameron documentary aired on Discovery). This Christian distortion of the message of Jesus has far more damaging consequences for human freedom and progress.
Also, James Tabor has a new book out- Paul and Jesus- that makes the case that Christianity is Paul’s religion and Paul paid no attention to what Jesus actually said. He is among many (e.g. Jesus Seminar) that are affirming the notable contradiction between the historical Jesus and Christianity.
So the essays above under the tab titled Unconditional are statements of the plain meaning of unconditional. These essays offer some detail on how Christianity missed a great historical opportunity to liberate human consciousness from enslavement to payback thinking. See also the summary below for some further idea of the content of these essays.
Overall, what is this page about? Let me explain:
The most fundamental trend of all reality is to organize toward something better. The three great emergences of physical reality- the universe, biological life, and human civilization- overwhelmingly affirm this overall long-term trend of all things to improve, advance, develop, grow, and progress toward something better than what existed before. This is true despite aberrational setbacks, downturns, and disasters along the way.
But one of the dominant narratives that has governed public consciousness for most of human history, missed this rising trajectory entirely. That old narrative stated that all things originated in a Golden Age of perfection and power. Then the original people committed an error and this corrupted life and resulted in the subsequent decline of life, which, according to the old narrative, is supposedly now worsening and heading toward some catastrophic collapse and ending. This is known as apocalyptic mythology. It devalues humanity as a curse on the earth and it rails against the human embrace and enjoyment of life. It is a mythology that has produced endless guilt, fear, and despair over the future of life and civilization. Its most recent incarnation has been in the modern environmental movement which envisions coming ecological and civilizational collapse due to human engagement and use of the world. But this narrative of decline is an entirely wrong-headed perspective and it distorts completely the actual trajectory of life which is to endlessly progress toward something better.
This site will present evidence from varied sources that affirm the fundamental direction of life is toward progress, not decline. It will engage information and facts to inform a new grand narrative of hope, a narrative that will inspire public consciousness to embrace life with the knowledge that, despite aberrational setbacks and problems along the way, all things will continue to get better in the long run. Everything will get better, for everyone. The entire histories of the cosmos, life, and civilization are evidence of this trend. Progress toward something better is the core impulse behind all reality, life, and consciousness.
Affirming that life progresses does not mean denying or minimizing the suffering experienced in life and especially the suffering of conscious creatures. Accidents, setbacks, disease, and varied disasters are part of the progress of life and each presents its own problems. This page will also try to explore the mystery and meaning of such imperfection and its damaging consequences within the larger context of overall progress.
One foundational thing that we can build into a new narrative is that this basic trajectory of life to endlessly improve, speaks to the fact that the Ultimate Reality behind all things is not malicious, threatening, punishing, or vengeful as was the angry God of the old apocalyptic narrative. Rather, however one views ultimate explanations- spirit, Mind, universal consciousness, universe, Organizing Principle, Cosmic Self, or God- all the evidence points to ultimate reality being scandalously generous, forgiving, inclusive, and compassionate- in a word: Love. My own conclusion from all the evidence available is that Love, indeed, defines the ultimate reality behind everything. And it is a form of love that transcendently surpasses our common experience of love in this world. It is absolutely unconditional (unlimited, unqualified, unrestricted, unreserved, and unearned).
With this incomprehensible love at the core of all reality, there is nothing to be afraid of in this universe or world. As the old shaman said, “Do not be afraid of the universe”. Life is meant to be something that we embrace fully as an opportunity to live out our unique stories with all their diverse experiences, both positive and negative. Knowing that everything will get better in the long run and that everything will eventually be all right for everyone, this truth liberates us to live and to fulfill the purpose for which we have been born. A new grand narrative centered on love and hope, liberates us to explore and to fulfill our creative potential, whatever we might discover that to be.
Wendell Krossa email@example.com
A New TOE (Theory of Everything)
(This is part of an ongoing effort to counter and correct the worst mistake made by early people, a mistake that continues to darken human consciousness in both religious and secular systems of thought/belief. The mistake?- that there are threatening, retaliatory, or punitive forces/spirits behind life)
I have a theory of everything but its not exactly like the TOEs of physics or cosmology. I draw on a variety of areas of human insight to inform my theory. And, as much as I appreciate science, I do not consider science to be the sole valid source of all truth or approach to attaining all truth. The mandate and method of science limits it to certain areas of exploration and it has done humanity well in focusing on its limited mandate. But to gain a full understanding of reality we need to include approaches like philosophy and theology, along with general human intuition and insight.
For my personal TOE, I draw on such things as the grand trajectories of the cosmos, life, and civilization. I see each of these great trajectories or emergences developing toward more order and complexity. I see them moving from something less developed toward something more developed, something more organized, something more advanced, something better than before. I see progress toward something better as the fundamental impulse operating in all these grand trends. There is overall improvement over the long term. That speaks to a fundamental goodness behind reality and life.
I also take note of how humanity has matured over history in understanding what it means to be authentically human. I find this in the insights of a wide variety of people over history. I see the Akkadian Father (circa 2200 BCE) encouraging his son to forgive his enemies and not retaliate against them. I see this same maturing understanding of more human response in many diverse traditions (see my essay Retaliation and Unconditional for detail).
I then see the historical Jesus (an entirely different person than the Christian Jesus) making his striking breakthrough in regard to theology. No one before him had ever stated such a stunning thing- that God did not retaliate or punish anyone. God was of the nature of unconditional love. God included all equally, forgave all endlessly, and was equally generous toward all, whether good or bad. And in many other sayings and short stories the historical Jesus expressed his view that there was unconditional goodness behind all things. He pointed to sun and rain given freely to all alike, to flowers clothed in beauty, to worthless birds fed and cared for. He consistently stated that there was no malice or threat or destructive force behind life. This contradicted all previous human understanding of divinity or gods.
And I read widely in near-death experiences of the similar discovery of an astounding love at the core of reality. It is not just love but a startling new perception of love. It is exactly what the historical Jesus tried to communicate. That God is of the nature of unconditional love, but of a quality that is infinitely and incomprehensibly better than the best that we can imagine. It is unconditional to inexpressible depth and profundity. People having experienced it can only “stammer hyperbole” (Ken Ring) in their efforts to express it. Words simply fail to communicate its full wonder and overwhelming intensity.
Some of the elements that define the incomprehensible nature of unconditional love include such things as endless forgiveness of all wrongs, unconditional inclusion/acceptance of all alike, and unlimited generosity toward all alike. “Give and do not expect anything in return” is another element of unconditional. And this is just getting started in understanding the real nature of unconditional love. At the center of it all is the scandalous wonder that is “unconditional” (absolutely no conditions).
Theology and religion in general have not fully engaged this NDE phenomenon and particularly the discovery of God as unconditional love. We can understand why. Unconditional love poses a direct threat to the very existence of religion as a tradition of conditions- the conditions required to appease and please threatening deities.
All these varied sources of information above lead me to affirm my TOE- that at the very core of all reality and life there is the infinite and incomprehensible wonder of unconditional Love. This Love creates all, sustains all in existence, permeates all, grants profound meaning and purpose to all, and warmly welcomes and embraces all in the end. And this means that all are safe, and everything will be all right for everyone, ultimately.
This is why some of us relentlessly go after the dark theology of apocalyptic. It distorts so entirely the nature of reality and life with its mythology of threatening, retaliatory, and punitive forces/gods. This sorry and primitive mythology has dominated human outlook over history, embedding itself in all of the main religious traditions, and now in most of our modern secular systems of thought/belief. This mythology of despair has terrorized human consciousness far too long with the fear of looming threat, punishment, and destruction. It has ruined the party of life and dragged down the human spirit with gloom over the future. It is entirely wrong and it has horribly distorted the true nature of reality and missed the fundamental trajectory of life to progress toward something better.
Unconditional love is central to any complete TOE. It is the ultimate explanation of reality and life. It is at the very heart of understanding human meaning and purpose.
I am presenting the basic structure of my TOE just to say with the ancient shaman, “Do not fear the universe”. Do not fear life, or anything.
But just a bit more- there is a sometimes intense reaction from people to the ideal of unconditional love. They claim that it is just too impractical to implement in our societies. They say that it violates the human sense of fairness and justice (justice as payback, getting what you deserve- this belief is deeply lodged in human subconscious). And they claim that it shows weakness, especially in the face of evil. It will only lead to more unnecessary suffering.
I would respond to such concerns by affirming first that an authentically humane God does not return harm to those who have caused harm (not in any future or ultimate sense). So at a minimum do not try to validate retaliation or payback justice by appeal to deity. It is just not there. A God of love, notably unconditional love, forgives all alike and endlessly, accepts all, and is generous toward all, both good and bad. Absolutely unconditional.
I would also affirm that a God of love sets people free and this may untie some mental knots for some. Freedom is tightly pair-bonded to genuine love. Both are sides of the same coin. You do not have love without freedom. But the risks of such freedom are significant. Humanity has been set free to learn what it means to be human and to grow and develop as authentically human. And our history shows how terrible the consequences of such freedom can be at times, the brutal manner in which we have treated one another on our journey to becoming more human. But that is the risk that love takes in granting true freedom. There is no other way to gain genuine human growth and response than by granting true freedom of choice.
Add here the element of natural freedom or freedom in nature. Despite the randomness of this element, and its terrifying consequences, this is still the best possible world (see for instance, William Hasker’s The Triumph of God Over Evil for detail).
The freedom in nature and human existence has caused endless confusion with people who expect God to intervene in life to change things, to prevent evil, and save the innocent. But a God of love does not do that. A God of love does not overrule human choice nor overwhelm human learning processes. Love respects the freedom of the other. It is up to us to make the choices to prevent evil, to protect the weak and helpless, and to make life something better. It is up to us to learn how to do the right thing, the human thing. This personal responsibility is absolutely necessary for authentic learning and growth.
So any basic understanding of love includes the responsibility to protect, to stop those who cannot or will not control their own worst impulses. And this will even include the imprisonment of those who engage repeated violence. But, as someone noted, in the spirit of unconditional love we do such things out of concern for the well-being of the offender. We are speaking here of restorative justice, not justice as punishment.
And for those who still consider the practice of unconditional love as exhibiting weakness, try practicing it for a week. Nothing takes more courage. Nothing is more difficult. Jesus’ statement “Love your enemies” is called a hard saying for good reason. It perplexes, inspires, and it frustrates but it is the most sublime thing ever thought or uttered by any person. It takes human ethics to entirely new heights. It takes the meaning of love magnitudes of order higher than ever conceived before. It liberates us from our brutal past like nothing else can. And it reveals the nature of ultimate reality (God) more profoundly than any other statement or definition. It is simply the greatest human insight ever. It gets to the real essence of things. Of what it means to be authentically human, and what God or the core of reality is all about. It is at the heart of any complete TOE.
And as I have argued with a friend, unconditional love is at the very basis of civilization and foundational things like commerce. Civilization began when early people, instead of killing one another as they had over all previous history, began to tolerate differences and mistakes, and learned to forgive and to cooperate for mutual advantage. They were then able to trade and live together (early urbanization) without destroying one another. They were practicing early forms of unconditional love and hence we have civilization today. Unconditional love, far from being impractical, is at the very basis of civilization and society and commerce.
Further note: regarding the idea of a TOE, some physicists will admit that a theory of everything will not provide answers to everything, especially a theory that is focused on all the relationships among physical reality. My TOE does not relate to anything like theoretical physics and the linking of all physical phenomena. A material TOE, like the proposed TOEs of physics, does not explain human consciousness and the fundamental human impulses for meaning and purpose. It does not explain some of the most basic and important things in reality and life.
When I employ the term TOE I am referring to something broader than just the material elements of reality. I am thinking more of the larger picture of reality and life. I am trying to understand the place of the supreme ideal of love in the cosmos and life. And humanity has been intuiting this over our history- the centrality and supremacy of love as our highest ideal. Our discovery of the supremacy of love in our own existence has led to the recognition that love also defines the creating Source of all reality. It defines deity, but to infinitely higher degree, to transcendent heights of the meaning of this ideal. To scandalous extent.
So I would suggest finally that to really understand reality and life in the most complete sense, and to fully understand what it means to be human, or the point of conscious human existence, then explore unconditional love for all you are worth. And note especially that defining word unconditional. Absolutely no conditions. Feel the scandal of this element. The offensiveness of it. How it upsets conventional perception of justice as payback, or punishment, or fairness.
There is nothing more important to get clear at the very core of all meaning or understanding than unconditional love. All else will be distorted or less than complete if you miss this core feature of reality.
Unconditional love is essential to any authentically humane worldview.
Brief Summary of Essays on Unconditional (a bit of comment on theology/spirituality)
Two millennia ago humanity was offered a unique new opportunity to exodus from the slavery of payback existence. An unprecedented discovery had been made that all reality was grounded in unconditional love and therefore every person was the beneficiary of an incomprehensible unconditional love and every person deserved to be treated with unconditional love. None excluded. This was the core message of the Palestinian secular sage Jesus, notably different from the Christian Jesus. His message was a direct counter to the impulses and responses that had prevented people from embracing the freedom to live as authentically human; primitive impulses to retaliate, exclude, dominate, and punish or destroy.
These impulses had long been embedded in systems of payback justice with its elements of wrongs committed, offended parties, deserved revenge, and just punishment. In place of this payback, unconditional love urged unconditional forgiveness, acceptance, and generosity toward all (and no, this was not a call to irresponsibly abandon the obligation to prevent abuse and protect the innocent). Unconditional love would include and honour every person equally, no matter what their status, reputation, or lifestyle.
The main precepts of the historical Jesus presented the first complete template of what unconditional relating meant. It was a love that generously gave to others without expecting repayment. It forgave endlessly (70 times 7, or unlimited) even without the offender seeking forgiveness or making amends first. It did not judge or condemn others. It did not dominate or control others. It was merciful and kind to the ungrateful and evil. After all, said Jesus, a God of love sent rain and sun on good and evil alike. Unconditional was summarized in the comprehensive statement to love your enemies and treat them as intimate family.
Unconditional meant that instead of payback thinking and responses, no conditions were to be set that would impinge on the full acceptance of anyone. No pre-requisite demands were to be made of anyone before offering full forgiveness and treating them with full generosity, mercy and kindness. No payment was to be demanded of anyone for any wrong committed. It meant absolutely no conditions in our treatment of others. Unconditional relating or love summarizes what have been called the ‘hard sayings’ of Jesus and they have been easier to deny or ignore than to implement. And once again, taking these sayings seriously does not mean that we abdicate our responsibility to prevent abuse and protect the innocent. This is not in question. We do not abandon common sense in the endeavor to practice love. Unconditional is more about how we view and treat offenders, even when restraint is required for people unable or unwilling to control their own worst impulses.
Unconditional was to be extended to the deepest recesses of human mental and emotional life, to the rooting out of any ideas that maintained payback in human worldviews, thereby darkening consciousness with unnecessary fear, anxiety, shame and despair. Such ideas include the still widespread beliefs in such things as divine retribution, divine judgment, and punishment in hell.
Unconditional, according to the historical Jesus, stated that God was not a God of get even or payback. God was not a God of vengeance that punishes enemies. As Jesus said, the God behind all reality sends sun and rain to the so-called good and evil alike. God is generous to all, not vengeful, exclusionary, or discriminatory.
We can safely conclude from such statements that there is no coming divine judgement, no divine retaliation, no punishment, and most importantly no Hell (still a widely held belief- 70% of Americans still believe in Hell). It is no longer tolerable to allow such barbaric myths to haunt human consciousness.
What happened to this great offer of liberation into unconditional thinking and existence?
The earliest Christians immediately reverted to payback views and interpreted Jesus’ teaching and life in these pagan terms after he died. How, exactly, did they do this? They claimed that the death of Jesus was a great divine sacrifice to pay for sin, that God first had to send his son to die for sin before he could forgive anyone. This teaching of sacrifice or payment introduces a supreme payback condition that distorts entirely the message of Jesus about unconditional forgiveness and love. It obliterates entirely the meaning of unconditional love as taught by Jesus. The payback theology of Christianity declares that God is not a God of unconditional love but a God of conditions, of full payment, vengeance, and punishment.
Reason it out for yourself: If the debt first had to be paid in full, then unconditional forgiveness is rendered unnecessary and meaningless. The debt has been paid. Forgiveness of any form is no longer needed. You cannot claim that God demanded full payment and at the same time say that God forgives and loves unconditionally. It is an irredeemable contradiction.
Authentic unconditional love, to the contrary, does not demand any payment first. A God who would demand payment first would know nothing of authentic unconditional forgiveness. A God who demanded any conditions be met first would also be held to a lower standard of behaviour and response than we imperfect humans are held to (we are clearly told to treat others unconditionally). Let’s not wrongly conclude that a supremely human God (Edward Schillebeeckx, “God is more human than any human being”) meets a lower standard of forgiveness and love than we do. That makes no sense at all.
Christianity, by creating this belief in divine payment, has inexcusably rejected the truth of unconditional love as taught by Jesus. By introducing a supreme prerequisite condition, Christianity has denied and nullified the core message of Jesus. It thereby missed the greatest opportunity in history to liberate humanity from the darkness of payback thinking and missed a singular opportunity to lead the human exodus into a truly humane existence.
The conclusion that the belief system of Christianity is a direct contradiction and distortion of the message of Jesus can be arrived at by employing such things as the good logic of the Jesus Seminar. They note, for instance, the statements attributed to Jesus in Matthew 11, where he apparently curses Capernaum. These statements, say the Seminar scholars, are not from the historical Jesus but are later additions put in his mouth by others advocating payback and trying to present him in such terms. To quote the Seminar scholars, “Jesus would not have condemned the towns that did not accept him. He would not have told Capernaum to go to Hell after instructing his disciples to love their enemies…the reference to the destruction of Sodom is inimical to someone who taught his disciples to love their enemies” (The Five Gospels, p.320). The logical point I take from this is that anything that contradicts the core message of Jesus to show unconditional love to all, is simply wrong and should be rejected as not authentic to his central message. That’s a great little rule of thumb when sorting out what is authentic to the historical Jesus and what is not.
Let me add that early Christians were not the first to miss an opportunity to liberate human consciousness. The Old Testament prophets had declared centuries earlier that God was not interested in sacrifice (conditions, payment, or punishment) but instead wanted mercy and the liberation of oppressed people. This was a striking new message of justice as liberation, not retaliation. But the message of the prophets was no more welcomed than Jesus’ message was, and it was subsequently buried under the priestly system of payback sacrifice. So Jesus’ emphasis on unconditional and the rejection of that unconditional insight was not without historical precedent.
There is no better insight into what that ultimate reality is than unconditional love. There is no higher point of enlightenment or more clear view of deity than this. This is the essence of the light behind all that is God. So if you want to know ultimate reality or God, as many claim, then explore unconditional love for all you are worth. Christianity has distorted entirely this essential nature of ultimate reality upon which we base all our other perceptions of material reality and life.
Now, is everyone waiting to embrace liberation into an existence of unconditional love and enter a new world of unconditional treatment of all people, no matter what they have done or not done?
Not so much. Authentic unconditional love has always been offensive to people who have invested their lives in the advocacy of systems of payback justice. They take offense at unconditional forgiveness just as Jonah took offense when God forgave his enemies. They respond like the older brother in the Prodigal Son parable who was offended when the father turned away the wasteful son’s offer of repentance and instead freely welcomed him home. The older brother felt the wasteful son should have been reprimanded and suffered some punishment. But the father would have none of it. He was moved by unconditional love.
For those willing to accept it, unconditional love liberates utterly from all fear of retaliation, exclusion, and punishment. It declares that there is nothing to fear in ultimate reality (God) because God does not retaliate against anyone or punish anyone. Unconditional love declares that every person is as fully forgiven, and accepted, and as loved as every other person. Everyone is ultimately safe in unconditional love. Unconditional liberates people in the depths of their consciousness from all forms of fear, anxiety, and darkness. It points to a genuinely humane existence of no barriers, no pre-requisites, unconditional forgiveness and acceptance, and unlimited generosity toward all. There is no obligation to believe something, join something, or to convert to something. Unconditional undermines religion entirely.
All that unconditional love urges is that we extend the same unconditional love to all others that has been extended to us.
Christianity has missed history’s greatest opportunity to liberate humanity and continues to block that liberation with a primitive belief system of conditions and payback. But despite this obstructionism, many people continue to find their way into the liberation of an unconditional humanity.
Let me add this for those who will try to dismiss this central theme of Jesus as too idealistic, impractical, or unworkable in real life. An embrace of unconditional love is not at all incompatible with the growing sensibility to all forms of inhumanity and a robust defense of people from the inhumanity of others who cannot or will not control their worst impulses.
(for more detail see essays above under ‘Unconditional’ and especially the essay From Retaliation to Unconditional Love) Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright @ Wendell Krossa