"But how did Spirit get there?"If you've been won over by the new Story of Everything, you've got to be watching the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Geneva, which promises to reveal the secrets of Matter. You're watching it because of Matter's new place. It comes first in the story, "in the beginning," before there's even a thought of Spirit. In the leadoff spot there are daunting responsibilities. Sooner or later, Matter has to bring about consciousness, souls, our innermost being.
"It didn't get there, it was always there," said Dawn. "It had to wait, that's all." (from The Story of Everything, Chapter 30)
One way tellers of the New Story anticipate what's coming is by making Spirit inherent in Matter, even the original Matter:
In this point of view, Spirit is destined to arise out of Matter. It comes after Life, so you'd be correct in calling it Matter's "third stage."
If "dead" matter has reared up this curious landscape of fiddling crickets, song sparrows, and wondering men, it must be plain even to the most devoted materialist that the matter of which he speaks contains amazing, if not dreadful powers. (Loren Eiseley, The Immense Journey)
There is neither spirit nor matter in the world; the stuff of the universe is spirit-matter. No other substance but this could produce the human molecule. (Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, A Sketch of a Personalistic Universe)
We might say that the simplest atomic structure, the hydrogen atom, already expresses a radiant intelligibility, a psychic as well as a physical aspect of reality. (Thomas Berry, Evening Thoughts)
But Matter had to wait--a long, long time--to reach that stage. Which brings to mind the Christian saint Augustine, who lived from 354-430 CE. A teller of the Old Story, but far from a literal interpreter of Genesis, Augustine suggested that living things did not exist when God's creation was complete. Only their seeds were present, including the seed of the human body. In order to germinate, the seeds had to wait for the conditions of earth and water to be just right.
One thing was not seeded in the beginning, however: the human soul. In recognition of the tremendous leap that inner life represents, Augustine required a second creative act on God's part. In their own way, contemporary thinkers honor that same leap. Ken Wilber does when he says that "pure consciousness is not an emergent." And in a backhanded way Stephen Jay Gould does as well. Life, he says, was chemically destined to arise from Matter, but human intelligence was a random fluke. Play the tape of evolution a second time, you wouldn't get us at the end.
Seeds wait. Because Augustine's metaphor is so congenial to the fact of cosmic evolution, I have a suggestion for him. Why not come to Geneva and bring your commentary on Genesis? Shake hands with the folks at the LHC. Show 'em your book. Maybe they'd keep an eye out for your metaphorical seeds while they're picking up those pieces of proton. Maybe they'd shoot the breeze about the potential for Life. Maybe--it would knock your sandals off--they'd even bring up a potential for Spirit.
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COPYRIGHT (C) 2008 JOHN N. KOTRE