I had hoped that it would not have been more than a month since I’ve been able to write more in this series…but, mid-September through now has been a nonstop cavalcade of classes, meetings, meetings about classes, classes about meetings, a few conferences (and one to go this weekend!), presentations, and nowhere near enough time to do all of the things I’d truly prefer…so, my apologies for that. I hope to get a few more of these done before, or during, the Sacred Nights of Antinous that will be beginning on October 24th (in just over a week!), and will persist through to Foundation Day on October 30th and then into early November with the festival of Antinous the Liberator on November 1st.
But, what you might assume from the above subject line sounds pretty desolate…right? And while this particular discussion could veer into that category, certainly, it may not…
Let’s first get an idea of what we’re actually talking about here.
I received this question in September, and here’s what it said (the original person asking can feel free to identify themself if they so choose in the comments below!):
So, first, I’d suggest everyone who wants to read further go and look at that video. The production values and quality of it are quite high, and it is worth watching in full, in my opinion!
And let me state here, for the record (in case I have not made this clear elsewhere): I am not someone who thinks even remotely that “science” and “religion” are opposed forces, or that the existence of one threatens the other, or that they must needs be in any sort of enmity. (Leave that to literalist fundamentalist monotheists–I’m happy for them to have the corner on the market on this matter!) When things that had been unknown or even “mysterious” are discovered through the methods of science, this does not push Deities further and further out of the picture, or make me feel as if the mythic narratives about the Deities that I love and from which I draw great inspiration are therefore “invalid” or are “disproved” by what has been discovered. I am of the (if I’m not mistaken) Stephen Jay Gould school of thought on this particular matter, i.e. that science and religion have “non-overlapping magisteria,” and that such is perfectly fine. I would phrase my framing of each field of inquiry’s strengths differently–Gould uses “facts vs. values” to characterize science and religion’s pursuits respectively, but instead I would say “physical description and meaning,” to indicate that there is no opposition between these two fields of inquiry, and that the conclusions arrived at in each case have relevance to entirely different things. Science is the very best way to attempt to describe and quantify how the physical processes of the universe and both its observable and unobservable phenomena (but the latter of which can still be detected in various ways!) work and what their effects are.
What it cannot and does not do is what religion is the very best at: not values (which then shades into morals and ethics, and religion and the entire realm of divine beings does not have to be the basis for that sort of reasoning!), nor “naïve explanations” or “magical thinking” and other such dismissive formulations, but instead the entire realm of meaning, which is not only involved in some of those matters previously mentioned and encompassing them without being limited to them, but also the entire realm of the subjective, the interpretive, the emotional, the non-rational (which is the majority of our biological processes, and the affective impetus behind most animal behavior across all species on the earth, including humans!), the interpretive, the qualitative, and that which comes to the edges of human knowledge and perception and which is often not “the unknown” in terms of scientific processes not-yet-understood, but instead that which can be experienced but not always put into language. That latter category can be the biggest and most important things of existence, like death or Deities or love or consciousness, or it can be things as simple and everyday and common as the feeling of comfort and security one gets when one slips into one’s favorite pair of slippers that are exactly where one’s feet are positioned when one gets up out of bed. (I don’t know anything about that sort of experience, because getting slippers has not been easy for me…but I digress!)
So, while there is much more that could be said about all of that, let us simply take that for what it is at present, and move on with the essence of this inquiry.
The question of consciousness is one that science has been not only reluctant to deal with (even recently), but entirely unprepared to deal with, despite it being a major part of the ideas of people like Einstein, Max Planck, Bohr, and many other of the early 20th century’s greatest names in physics. There is a long and complex history of why this is the case, and so suffice it to say that these questions are at the heart of so many matters that have been put in the category of “religion” and in which we often attempt to form metaphysical propositions, ideas about the afterlife and the survival of consciousness after death, the make-up and dynamics of “the soul” (which might be another term for “consciousness” in certain respects, sounding more directly psychological in the 19th-21st century sense of the term as opposed to the religious understanding of it as “ways of understanding the soul”), and so much else. Because there is no scientific manner by which to measure or quantify consciousness, to detect its presence or absence, and much else, the fact that the scientific models of the universe that lead to the conclusions reached in the video above does not take account of this is also understandable, but not necessarily a way to evade the question.
Now: don’t think that this therefore means that I think that religion then fills that vacuum where science has left off! If so, I’d be giving credence to that nonsensical idea of the “God of the Gaps” (not to be confused with Ginnungagap, mind you!) which atheists and pro-science folks (and often those who are advocates of scientism rather than science, properly speaking!) so often critique. No, I’m not going to take it in that direction. I think it can be approached in other ways.
Rupert Sheldrake asks, in a (very highly recommended!) banned TED talk, whether consciousness can be something that exists in stars, for example. While this is something that is a very old idea, and one that comes up in a great deal of ancient and indigenous cultures–including ideas of katasterism, astral apotheosis, and so forth, which also occur in the cultus of Antinous!–it’s something that I wonder about, personally. If there is a definite consciousness, whether singular or collective, that applies to larger organizations of matter, including planets, stars, or even entire galaxies, then who is to say that Deities cannot be a part of that? If nothing else, I think that from a purely descriptive perspective, most polytheists can agree that the various different Deities, as well as Hero/ines, Ancestors, and other such beings are discarnate consciousnesses…or, to be a bit more whimsical about it, what Robert Anton Wilson called “gaseous vertebrates” since we do tend to think of these divine beings as having certain functions of thought, personality, and volition similar to our own human faculties. If these consciousnesses can exist independent of bodies–which is what a great deal of the current research into these matters seem to indicate (research and conclusions of which are mostly done in the field of parapsychology today, which are more scientifically rigorous than the dismissals of them by “real scientists” most of the time!)–then why wouldn’t it be possible for them to exist on varying scales, from the most basic and temporary things like the rush of a crowd at a sporting event all the way up to the most far-reaching Cosmic Powers?
If what I’ve just spoken of may be the case, then who is to say that some consciousness cannot also exist in, on, or around those black holes? These are (according to the formulations of which I’m currently aware) highly concentrated, and thus highly organized, arrangements of matter whose exact nature, properties, and so much else are quite beyond our current abilities to comprehend through science, and which have never been directly observed. So, as one theory amongst billions, what if the consciousness of such objects is a collective, and one so all-encompassing and powerful that its ultimate effects on the rest of the universe are still not perceptible, and which may be deliberate and even purposeful? What if, on the physical and “scientific” level, the event horizon of a black hole is actually that liminal zone between the palpable and the ineffable that so many of us have experienced as the presence and being of one or another Deity? What if the astrologers are wrong, and it isn’t the stars that have an impact on us as humans (though they might, too!), but instead the apparent darknesses in between the stars, some of which are undoubtedly black holes, that exert their pull on us both gravitationally and in terms of consciousness? This would certainly explain why some Deities seem to keep getting “larger” and more syncretistic as time goes on, perhaps as those cosmic singularities become more and more massive in taking in their neighboring celestial colleagues…?!? Perhaps the super-massive black hole or holes that are theorized to be at the center of our Milky Way galaxy is, for example, Isis, and that another black hole in our galaxy is Lug, another is Milda, and so forth? And since these might have some impact far outside of their own galaxies, perhaps more abstruse but powerful Deities are the black holes in other galaxies? One could imagine such, perhaps…
…And one could have all sorts of fun with that kind of thinking. As Antinous’ “star” does not seem to be in definite existence any longer, major nova and supernova activity in that region has been detected in recent decades, and much else besides, and we have sometimes described His star as a “black star,” who’s to say it might not be a black hole itself, and that the grand collective consciousness within it and arising from it is not Antinous, or some other Deity or Deities (or perhaps even entire pantheons of Deities, or classes/types of Deities…!?!) and He just happened to be so lucky as to make a grand leap in consciousness development that not many are able to in their post-death states? It’s an intriguing possibility!
That many scientists and some philosophers, including Sheldrake, are now speaking of “panpsychism” (not to be confused with Panpsyche of the Tetrad++…though perhaps not entirely unconnected, either!), which is really just a restatement of the principles of animism in a secular, post-religious framework (and one that does not demean indigenous cultures in the way that some feel the term “animism” does, especially when placed in an inferior “evolutionary” category in comparison to theisms, and especially monotheism) makes it all the more possible that non-human consciousnesses, and post-human consciousnesses, may eventually stumble upon what many of us have been experiencing for millennia in the form of these various divine beings that are the subject of so much of my work.
But, there’s another elephant in the room that is also raised by some of Sheldrake’s ideas. The models of the universe and its development/unfolding presented by the video above is one that is entirely based in the physicalist models that are now the dominant ones in science, that ignore consciousness entirely, and that ask, as Sheldrake comments, for “one free miracle” in terms of the Big Bang, and then have the math for (most of) the rest. We have to presume that a lot that is currently not known or understood must be immutably so for the model to play out as it does. This projection entirely relies upon cosmological models that may as well be considered just as mythic as any of the cosmologies of any religious culture that has ever existed, since we still don’t know about some of the processes that are said to have formed our universe, or why the universe seems to be larger than the current laws of physics as currently observed seemed to allow for in their current quantified processes. What if, as Sheldrake asks, the speed of light has varied at different periods? What if the “many worlds” theories of quantum mechanics, which are taken as “true” at this point by many people, mean that all of the possible ways particles can react with one another have already taken place and are taking place currently, such that the particles that make “me” up are just as much where I am perceiving myself to be in the room as I type this as they are across the room, and probably also across town, across the country, and maybe even across the whole universe? What if in the various other dimensions of reality that are thought to exist in some theories (anywhere from four to eleven to who-knows-how-many!) would present us with pictures of the unfolding universe that are much different to those we see in this particular model?
Or, to take this same question from a different angle, and in the language of the “other magisterium”: what if what the Jains and Buddhists and others say is actually true, that the universe was never created and has always existed, and always will? What if the ideas of the birth, development, and death of the cosmos as narrated in many different cultures are simply the human observations of these phenomena read into and writ large over the entire cosmic panorama, and are therefore assumed to be the “norms” of such when something else is actually going on? And what if scientists like Sir Roger Penrose, when talking about the death of one universe and the beginnings of another, is the reality on some level, and that this “dead universe” theorized at the end of the first video given above is really not the end, but instead just the apparent status of things outside of consciousness in the current universe, and that something very different is going on elsewhere? Not to draw too many connections to the first Men In Black film, but what if that yawning chasm of nothingness after the last black holes dissipate in the current universe is actually just, for example, the birth of a single electron in another larger universe? Verily, the mind reels…!?! 😉
All of this to say: in any question or series of questions of this kind, the matter of consciousness has to be taken into account. What the parapsychologists have not yet done in their own reasoning is to extend the possibilities of non-human and non-embodied consciousness in the panpsychist model out to things that would qualify as “Deities” and other types of divine being for polytheists, and which would explain some of the informational matters that we have access to and which form parts of our experiences as a result of our divine encounters. Some parapsychologists I know entirely dismiss “religion” and do not make any distinctions amongst religions, assuming that the only “true” possibility of “religion” would have to be a singular all-powerful (and forth!) Creator Deity that is in control and foreknowledge of all that exists, rather than the more likely (and more provable!) possibility that there are various levels of consciousness outside of and above the human, and that these don’t necessarily have to jump all the way to a monistic notion of “the oneness of all consciousness” (which is just the “Creator Deity” of the “religion” that they have categorically rejected!) and can instead proceed through various smaller, more limited, but still significant, individual consciousnesses that may be affiliated with or attached to particular other natural complex phenomena, or that may be singular or collective post-incarnate consciousnesses of various species of organisms (including humans and therefore Ancestors and Hero/ines!), some of which can make a further leap into the realm of divinity as recognized as such by some religious cultures, including many ancient and modern polytheisms.
That probably doesn’t answer the questions as given above, but oh well…!