Cosmodeism: A Worldview for the Space Age
'WHAT THE HELL DOES IT ALL MEAN?' is the fundamental question that human beings have asked since humanity became conscious of its own consciousness; the question that has motivated all religious and philosophical speculation, scientific endeavor, artistic creativity and entrepreneurial innovation throughout the ages. It is the question that we try to answer in order to rationalize our own existence.
'WHAT THE HELL DOES IT ALL MEAN' is the fundamental question of the human condition? This is the implicit question my late friend and mentor Mordechai Nessyahu asked throughout his intellectual career. It is the self-same question that all of humanity has asked since it became self-aware: conscious of its own consciousness, as it were. It is the question that has motivated all religious and philosophical speculation, scientific endeavor, artistic creativity and entrepreneurial innovation throughout the ages. It is the question that we try to answer in order to rationalize our own existence. It is also the question that has generated modern concepts of angst and alienation. The modern dilemma is that we are finding it increasingly difficult to rationalize our own existence and the subsequent feeling that it is all purposeless.
Nessyahu's response was to formulate what I now call The Cosmodeistic Hypothesis (CH) or The Nessyahu Conjectures. Einstein called these kinds of endeavors 'thought experiments'. The CH hypothesizes that the Big Bang that created our Cosmos was a local event in an infinite Universe; a Universe that contains an infinite number of cosmoses. (Here Nessyahu anticipated current scientific speculation about a multi-verse by several decades using pure deductive reasoning). Nessyahu proposed that the Cosmos is an evolutionary entity, in a constant state of ever growing complexity, which eventually has produced conscious life.
The Cosmodeistic Hypothesis conjectures that due to the evolutionary nature of cosmic development, now being revealed by the 'New Physics' and 'New Cosmology', it is statistically certain that untold numbers of conscious life forms (equivalent in self-awareness to human beings) have arisen throughout the Cosmos. It is as if conscious life has been sown as a cosmic genome throughout the Cosmos by the very process of cosmic evolution.
A very small percentage (but large in number) of these conscious civilizations have or eventually will expand throughout their own solar systems and eventually achieve interstellar exploratory capabilities. By doing so they will have had to have achieved new levels of consciousness; what I would call hyper-consciousness. The vast majority of these conscious civilizations will destroy themselves by failing to meet the challenges of their own nuclear stage of development or by ecological collapse or by a failure of collective will. But an ample number will have survived these challenges, or will have developed by different means.
Nessyahu further postulated that a very, very small percentage (but also large in aggregate number, given the vastness of the Cosmos) of these conscious life forms will produce individuals that will conclude that they must strive to become part of the Godding of the Cosmos. He assumed this as part of what I would call 'cosmic humility'. He believed that if he had conceived this concept it is certain that other individual members of conscious life forms in the Cosmos would also have conceived of it. Nessyahu also assumed that many of these other individuals would be more politically astute than he in convincing their civilizations to pursue this ambition.
This assumption is essentially ontological, a variation of the ontological argument for the existence of God. Since one cannot conceive of a concept related to cosmic evolution greater than the Cosmos evolving into a 'God' (and since the Cosmos is producing ever more complex constructs, most particularly consciousness itself as the salient characteristic inherent in this evolution) it is self-evident that a 'God' would be the final stage of cosmic evolution. As we shall see below, numerous thinkers on our own planet throughout the ages have anticipated Nessyahu's conclusions – although without his force and specificity. The fact that so many rational thinkers on this one planet have increasingly become preoccupied with what Nessyahu called "the border between physics and metaphysics", lends credibility to his assumption that this must be a general cosmic phenomenon of conscious civilizations.
Nessyahu's final assumption is that amongst those civilizations that pursue this ambition an infinitesimal percentage (but also great in absolute number) will succeed in transcending their bodies, by scientific and technical means, thus isolating and enhancing the most essential part of their 'humanness' – their consciousness. They will in effect have become pure consciousness, or if you will, pure spirit expanding throughout the Cosmos. They will join with other so inclined cosmic civilizations eventually becoming one with the Cosmos.
Arthur Clark in 2001 A Space Odyssey anticipated this with the kind of speculative imagination we should be cultivating in ourselves and in our children:
…evolution was driving toward new goals. The first...had long since come to the limits of flesh and blood; as soon as their machines were better than their bodies it was time to move. First their brains, and then their thoughts alone, they transformed into shining new homes of metal and plastic. In these they roamed the stars. They no longer built spaceships, they were spaceships. But the age of the machine entities swiftly passed. In their ceaseless experimenting they had learned to store knowledge in the structure of space itself, and to preserve their thoughts for eternity in frozen lattices of light. They could become creatures of radiation, free at last from the tyranny of matter. Into pure energy, therefore, they presently transformed themselves…
The subsequent expansion of this higher consciousness throughout the Cosmos will be unfettered by physical limitations and eventually consciousness will fill the entire Cosmos. Consciousness will have become one with a Cosmos that has dissolved into pure radiation as an inevitable consequence of entropy. Thus the Cosmos will become in its entirety a conscious universal being – i.e. the Cosmos will have become 'God'. Cosmodeism posits God as the consequence of the Cosmos and not as its cause. Not in the beginning God created the Cosmos but in the end the evolutionary Cosmos will have created God.
The fateful question that every conscious civilization throughout the Cosmos must eventually address is: will we take part in this cosmic race for survival and strive to survive in the cosmic 'End of Days' or will we chose to perish along with the rest of cosmic organization? Will we accept the limitations of our physicality or will we try to transcend them?
Nessyahu did not see his hypothesis as a deterministic teleology but rather as a volitional teleology as it pertained to our human race. His hypothesis was rooted, however, in what one might term a neo-teleological interpretation of cosmic evolution. In other words he claimed that certain cosmic developments were inevitable on the basis of empirical scientific evidence and deductive logic as applied to that empirical scientific evidence. But it was completely dependent on the volitional decision of the conscious beings on this or any other planet if they wanted to take part in these cosmic developments, thus guaranteeing their 'spiritual' survival well past the physical existence of their respective planets. This would guarantee the cosmic significance of the billions of years of life on this planet. Failure to do so would degrade the cosmic significance of the entire evolutionary drama of life on this planet to nothing more than a statistical contribution to cosmic probability 'striving' to become god. It would be a tragedy in the classical Greek sense of the word.
Theses of God as the consequence rather than the cause of the Cosmos are not novel. The 20th century British Jewish philosopher Samuel Alexander championed this view. The Jesuit theologian/philosopher Teilhard-de-Chardin presented the idiosyncratic view that God was both the cause and the consequence (the Alpha and Omega) of cosmic existence and evolution. He saw the end of human history as pure consciousness becoming one with the Alpha God to create the Omega God. Paolo Soleri, influenced by de Chardin described how human technology would enable conscience life to evolve into 'God'.
Modern German literature and philosophy is rife with human ambition to be Godlike. As Robert Tucker points out in his book Philosophy and Myth in Karl Marx, “The movement of thought from Kant to Hegel revolved in a fundamental sense around the idea of man’s self-realization as a godlike being, or alternatively as God” . What attracted Marx to Hegel and the use of his philosophy, as his own philosophical infrastructure was that “he found in Hegel the idea that man is God” . History for Hegel was God realizing itself through the vehicle of man. This is the underlying insinuation of all Enlightenment thought. When we say "what will history say about us" we are really substituting history for God.
Carl Becker, in his classic The Heavenly City of the Eighteenth Century Philosophers, claimed that the Enlightenment was simply a secularization of the search for the Godhead . Enlightenment thinkers called it 'Natural Law' and wanted to base political organization on it. This has been the subtext of all western political theory from Hobbes onward – how to create political cosmos out of political chaos – i.e. to be Godlike in terms of our own human society; a secular 'hubris' that appalls fundamentalist religions across the globe but which is essential to Western Civilization in general and to Constitutionalism in particular.
Nessyahu must be seen as a continuation of this Enlightenment tradition. His contribution was to base his thinking on a solid foundation of the most up to date cosmological thinking, framed by rigorous deductive logic and related to the present revolution in the human means of production (i.e. the spiritual potential inherent in modern technology). He was close to Paola Soleri's views even though he was completely unaware of Soleri's work, as he was of de Chardin and Alexander.
The book I am presently writing suggests a neo-teleological worldview that reflects the philosophical outlook of Emergentism, which is based on evolution as the grand paradigm of existence. It reflects Roger Penrose's intuition "… that the universe has a purpose, it's not somehow just there by chance ..." and tries to fulfill Carl Sagan's wish for the emergence of a science based religion; something that might be a necessary condition for humanity to build an extraterrestrial civilization as part of its next evolutionary advance. Sagan wrote: "A religion, old or new, that stressed the magnificence of the Universe as revealed by modern science might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths."
This book will deal with the cultural and spiritual implications of this hypothesis as human civilization moves further out into the Cosmos; speculating how Cosmodeism might generate a new cultural energy to overcome the pessimistic malaise of postmodernism and, like Monotheism in the past, transform the course of human history. In short it will try to envision the preliminary stages that human society must achieve in order to reach the final vision. And how by envisioning these preliminary stages we might address and resolve the essential existential dilemmas of the human race in the 21st century.