|Liberated Theology: Building on Einstein's View of God
© 2009 Michele Toomey, PhD
The genius of Einstein allowed him to imagine and theorize about the laws of nature governing energy and matter. Such intimacy with the mystery and harmony of nature’s secrets left Einstein awed, humbled, and religious. “Everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the Universe - a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble. In this way the pursuit of science leads to a religious feeling of a special sort, which is indeed quite different from the religiosity of someone more naive.” 1
Translating religiosity into belief in God was a controversial venture for Einstein, however. He rejected a personal God who “concerns himself with the fate and the doings of mankind”, choosing instead a “God who reveals himself in the harmony of all that exists.” 2 This displeased many church leaders who wrote and spoke angrily about his position. His deep belief in the order of the universe also prompted Einstein to proclaim that he was a determinist. The very man who held that “freedom was the lifeblood of creativity,” 3 denied that freedom when it applied to human choice, because it seemed to violate cosmic causality.
Both positions generated controversy and criticism, but they were tempered by those who found his eloquent description of the spirit ordering the universe inspiring. For our purposes as we build on Einstein’s view of God, the idea of a spirit God who designed a universe governed by laws that created harmony within the cosmos, is significant. Liberated theology as offered in this paper, holds that God is not only the spirit ordering the universe, but as the very Initiating Life Force, God is in effect the Ultimate Energy. Human nature, informed by this Life Force, would therefore, also be designed to have its energy forces work in harmony. Liberated theology is, in effect, in agreement with Einstein’s view of God. Liberated theology offers God as Life Force, power as energy and integrity of design, not imposed morality as the guiding principle. Oneness, intimacy, is put forth as the primary human need, with the need for protection its paradoxical other. Sequence replaces hierarchy in this world view, and seeking reconciliation and fairness replaces the traditional dualistic orientation of hostility and conquest.
Dualism’s Role in Preventing Reconciliation
Dualism underlies the western world’s philosophy, theology and psychology, however, and dualism’s approach to opposites assumes conflict and wars, enemies and inequality. Hardly in keeping with Einstein’s universe of “harmony in all that exists.”
Theologian Kathleen Coyle writes, “ Western religious and social thought are deeply dualistic. Under the impact of Hellenistic philosophy and culture, the early church was deeply influenced by dualism. The ultimate dualisms of this system are spirit and matter, good and evil, eternal being and nothinginess......
"Distinctions of gender, race and class also are seen in the context of this pattern of hierarchical relations of power and value. One group is seen as the dominant group possessing fullnesss of normative humaness; the other is defined as subordinate, deficient in humaness. One side is closer to spirit, mind, God; the other is closer to the body, irrationality, passion and evil. A negative Christian theology of the physical and its outworking in body-despising attitudes and practices are anchored in a mind-body dualism that parallels the cosmic dualism between God and the world."4 As we know only too well, the side "closer to spirit, mind, God" is labeled male and the "other closer to the body, irrationality, passion and evil" is labeled female, leading to the world view that men are superior to women and women’s power is to be feared. Such inequality dictated by God’s and nature’s law sets us up for genderized war and to measure victory by domination and superiority. Hardly a formula for intimacy and oneness.
As paradoxical beings, it is perhaps easier to envision our forces at odds, and according to dualistic thinking, as unequal opposing forces at war with each other. Unity is then achieved by conquest, good conquering evil, strong conquering weak, mind conquering emotions, and male conquering female, with superiority awarded to the victor. This approach, however, totally violates the view that nature’s law is designed for harmony. It violates this view in two essential ways: 1) It makes our paradoxical needs and desires enemies that are at war with each other and unity is only achieved by dominance and conquest. 2) It reverses the sequence of our primary paradoxical needs, calling for the need for protection to precede the need for intimacy/oneness.
In a paradoxical system assumed to be designed for harmony and oneness, sustained by a reconciliation process governed by the integrity of the system, the natural sequence is that the need for intimacy precede the need for protection. However, if the self’s paradoxical forces are seen as enemies, the need for protection will of necessity precede the need for intimacy. The fear of being attacked and conquered makes protection foremost in this antagonistic dualistic world view. We are left to ponder and then choose which world view we endorse. If we believe that the cosmos is designed to have harmony among its electromagnetic and gravitational forces, what does that say about the electrical forces within the inner universe of the self. It seems unlikely that the designer of such a harmonious universe, a God as Life Force, would inform everything that exists with a unifying integrity except humans.
Dualism with its antagonistic approach to opposites, is our tradition but it is not a de facto truth. Rather, it is an arbitrary approach with no proof for its theoretical assumptions of antagonistic hierarchy. Paradoxical relationships can just as easily be assumed to be equally legitimate opposing forces governed by integrity that creates a process of reconciling the fairness of turns. Harmony, intimacy, and oneness, result from reconciliation. In fact, oneness with ourselves allows us to be at one with God, the Initiating Life Force within us.
Evolutionary Biologists Conclude Cooperation is on the Human Species Agenda
The current research and writings of evolutionary biologists and neuroscientists support the orientation that the maturity of our system evokes cooperation, not antagonism, among our paradoxical forces and between ourselves and others. Evolutionary biologist Elisabet Sahtouris writes, "About two billion years ago, the Earth’s first inhabitants, the archebacteria, overcame a long phase of hostile creativity (warfare, colonization, and competetive technological development) by cooperating to form huge collaborative communities that evolved into all presently existing biological cells other than bacteria, including our own bodies. They literally created "multi-creatured cells that went on to evolve multi-celled creatures by the shifting out of a juvenile competetive phase as I have pointed out before. This evolutionary pattern has been repeated by countless species. We will learn to cooperate as a global community or we will live in increasing misery and perhaps go extinct in the not so distant future."5
Not only are we being told that our biological system is designed to function cooperatively, neuroscientist Steven Pinker reports that our mind and emotions are not at odds or unequal, either. Rather, "emotions are adaptations, well engineered software modules that work in harmony with the intellect and are indispensable to the functioning of the whole mind"6. Unlike the division of dualism that has mind and emotions battling and emotions labeled irrationality, this recent research supports the theory of our inner forces designed to work in harmony with each other.
Defining Power as Energy
Viewing God as Life Force, also brings us into agreement with Einstein’s approach to energy as power. Power as energy allows us to consider strength as intensity, and these definitions put the laws of the cosmos and the laws of the inner universe of the self into the same unified field. Dualism’s idea of power as the ability to dominate and control is no longer relevant once opposites are not seen as unequal antagonistic enemies.
For a cosmologist such as Einstein, power is already defined in terms of energy. However, when considering the universe within the self, where traditionally power is defined as the ability to dominate and control, defining power as energy is a gigantic leap. Add to that the belief of most religions in a personal genderized God and God as Life Force is totally unacceptable. Yet, it is offered here for the reader’s consideration.
When power is defined as the ability to conquer and control, and the winner of the wars is seen as the stronger and superior force, there are alliances and sides. Good should triumph over evil, mind and thoughts should control body and emotions, and strong men should dominate weak women. God is, of course, aligned with the superior strong, good desirable pole, so God is aligned with male and male is therefore, aligned with God. Female is considered emotional, weak, closer to evil. Liberated theology challenges this entire orientation to opposites and to power, viewing opposites as non-hierarchical, non-hostile, and non-sexist forces to be reconciled not polarized, and power is seen as energy and movement not as the ability to dominate and conquer.
Traditional psychology with Freud at the helm using dualism’s approach, looks on power as control and pits the opposing good and evil forces of the self’s inner world against each other. Once the self is viewed as a hierarchy of paradoxical good and evil, desirable and undesirable forces, at war with its opposing poles, conflict replaces harmony as the underlying design of the inner world. Western religions give their blessing to dualistic thought by adding the moral code. Morality serves as the guidepost for choosing sides and justifying the war of good triumphing over evil.
On the other hand, liberated psychology/theology building on the fact that the cosmos is governed by laws of nature that create harmony among its many equally legitimate forces, makes being at one the ultimate goal of energy. Applying these laws to the inner universe, makes harmony and oneness the primary human need. Assuming integrity is the governing principle of energy that results in harmony and oneness and intimacy, places liberated theology in direct opposition to dualism and its belief that conquest not oneness is the goal of energy.
Dualistic thought is in direct opposition of Einstein’s theory of a cosmos in harmony, yet dualistic thinking sheds some light on Einstein’s insistence that he was a determinist and not a believer of free will. In keeping with dualism, Einstein thought paradox had to be an "either or" situation, and since he could never deny the presence of predetermined laws of nature governing the cosmos, free will had to be eliminated as an option. Determinism had to follow. I would, however, offer an alternative choice here as well. Replace the “either or” of dualism with the “both and” of liberated theology that calls for reconciliation of paradox, including the paradox of predetermination and self-determination.
In keeping with Einstein’s theory of unified forces, when we consider the inner world of the self as a human universe, and assume that laws of nature governing the cosmos also govern this universe within, several ideas become relevant. With God as Initiating Life Force, then God is an Energy Force within us, and we are therefore, governed by laws that dictate harmony within our system. However, unlike Einstein, if we reconcile the predetermined laws governing our inner universe with the human capacities to react, then process and reflect, we are not locked into determinism. In this processing we are in a position to choose how we want to deal with the information we are processing. If we do it with integrity, then we sustain the harmony of our forces and we are at One.
Predetermined laws of nature dictate how our forces work, but not how we relate to them. Even though the laws of nature that govern our inner universe are predetermined and don’t change, we are the one creature that can reflect on how we want to relate to those laws. If we are to live in harmony with these laws, and be at one with them, we must live with integrity, reconciling our paradoxical forces, not eliminating them. Whether or not we live in harmony with ourselves and our forces, our needs and desires, is a choice we each must make, but living with integrity is a choice not a mandate. Choice is essential to our existence. It defines who we are. It forms our personal relationship with God, with ourselves, and with life.
The Essential Role of Integrity
Integrity, therefore, not morality, is the governing principle of a universe in harmony, and we need to live with integrity if we are to sustain its harmony. Integrity defined as truthfulness and wholeness, governs our predetermined nature, but that part of us that can know what integrity dictates but choose not to abide by it, is not predetermined, it is self-determined. We can eat and drink foods and beverages that we know are not good for us and violate the integrity of our digestive system, because of our capacity to choose. We can know that fairness will sustain the harmony within our paradoxical system, but still choose to violate our integrity to satisfy our self indulgent needs and desires. The choice is ours.
The essential paradox confronting us is the paradox of predetermination and self determination. Reconciling this dilemma is our greatest life challenge. To live in harmony with our own paradoxical forces and nature’s forces, we must live with integrity, at one, reconciling our paradoxical needs and desires with fairness, caring and respect. This reconciliation allows us to be in harmony and at One within ourselves and therefore at One with God and with the cosmos.
In contrast, dualism sets us up to think in terms of eliminating one or the other opposing alternative by conquering it. While liberated theology informs creative imaginings that allow us to decide how to reconcile these polarities and live in harmony with our predetermined paradoxical nature, dualism demands conformity when dealing with predetermined antagonisms. If we live guided by integrity, we are able to live at one with our paradoxical nature and at one with ourselves, and therefore at One with God within us. Integrity, not morality, is the key to sustaining the harmony of our inner universe. As stated earlier, when we violate our integrity, we violate the integrity of the design of our inner universe, which results in violation of ourselves and possibly others. The source of evil is violated integrity.
Original sin has been the traditional explanation for evil, and that is understandable in light of the western world’s acceptance of determinism and dualism, because original sin is thought to be predetermined. Yet, original sin goes against the very laws of nature that Einstein revered. The mystery of nature’s harmony that created his awe for the spirit underlying them, does not allow for the universe to lack laws that dictate this harmony. If we believe in the harmony of forces governing everything that exists, it can only be our ability to choose how we relate to these laws, that allows us to violate the laws of nature, not that they are violated originally by faulty design. The presence of evil, if not attributed to original sin, illustrates what happens when we do not live guided by integrity, and instead, corrupt our system and ourselves by violating it and the laws governing it.
The causality of nature’s laws is intact if our choices on how we relate to them are factored into the equation of the existence of evil. However, unlike the cosmos that captured Einstein’s imagination, the laws governing the forces of the inner universe do not lend themselves to being proven, explained and understood by mathematical equations. There are, instead neuro-logical properties and neural-network models offered for consideration, and theories being debated about the nature of the mind and whether there really is an inner universe or only a mind.
On the one hand, the religious answer of a divine spark within us or a soul that is created by God, leaves scientists dissatisfied. On the other hand, the conclusions that consciousness is just the mind acting as a computer, dissatisfies those who think there is a self within. How we prove consciousness is still considered a major unsolved problem for philosophers, psychologists and neurologists. We are left to conclude that proving the nature of the inner universe, say nothing of even proving its existence, is not as yet attainable. Therefore, perhaps we need to consider that seeking "proof" is not the most imaginative way to discover the nature of the inner universe. Perhaps mystery has a role to play in science as well as religion. There are many intuitive and observable signs of the existence of an inner world and the presence of a spiritual life within the self that are mysterious in nature yet knowable even if not provable.
The Laws Governing the Inner Universe
In keeping with the laws of nature governing all existing things, we are assuming the inner universe is no exception. Since the integrity of the design of the universe requires harmony among all its forces, we are left, then, to discover what these laws for sustaining harmony within the inner universe are, even if we can’t prove them. Neuroscientists use brain scans to follow the sequential paths messages use to travel through the self’s communication network. The sequence begins when the self receives a message which then triggers a reaction. Reactions are the self’s initial, automatic and unedited response to a message, and it provides the first information for the self to begin processing. Processing its reaction to a received message involves making associations from the past with what is happening in the present, as the self tries to discover what its reaction to the message is telling it about itself and its relationship to the information. The process is a discovery process that leads to understanding, clarity, caring and respect for the relationship the self has with itself, the message and the messenger.
If the process is done with integrity it leads to insight and reconciliation of our paradoxical relationship to the data. This final step allows us to understand our relationship to the data and to be in a position to decide how we choose to deal with it. It is not intended to be a way to prove that how we feel is right and thus we are right, nor to judge or blame ourselves or another. Rather, when integrity governs the process, we should gain clarity and understanding, and feel the potential for intimacy and oneness as a result.
Another governing principle of the communication sequence within the self, is that it proceeds from thoughts to feelings or feelings to thoughts, with the imagination allowing thoughts and feelings to communicate with each other. If the self was born wired with the sequence of thoughts to feelings, it experiences oneness as“informed feelings”. If it was born wired with the sequence of feelings to thoughts, the messages interact and become one as “felt thoughts”. Either way, the entire sequence of thoughts and feelings must be completed for the information to be complete, and oneness to occur. Thoughts uninformed by feelings or feelings uniformed by thoughts, deprive the self of the capacity to recognize the complexity of its relationship to the data it receives. Processing incomplete information violates the integrity of the process, preventing oneness, limiting the self and skewing the positions taken.
Informed feelings or felt thoughts that occur as our reaction to a message are processed, allow the self to ask what is going on within itself and therefore, to be in a position to seek to understand not only how it relates to the information but how it wants to deal with it as well. If the self only reacts to its initial reactions, it aborts the sequencing process, and the self tends to be either detached and analytical, emotionally reactive, superficial and glib, or judgmental and defensive. It is not capable of intimacy without completing the thoughts and feelings circuit, proceeding sequentially through the path of an infinity sign, and reconciling its thoughts and feelings. Intimacy occurs from this process and sequence when they are governed by integrity. Harmony within the self and between the self and another is possible only when integrity governs the process. Only then can the communication system of thoughts and feelings be at one. Only then is the self in harmony with its forces and at One, at God.
We may not know if any mathematical formulas govern the forces within, like those governing the outer cosmos, but we can discover laws of sequence, movement, and process that allow the inner universe to exist in harmony and at one with itself, and therefore with God. The integrity of the laws of nature governing the harmony of these inner forces relate to sequence, intensity and direction. It is this sequence that provides the ordering of the forces, while intensity of the self’s desires affect the strength of the force. Direction of movement is provided by the self’s fundamental need for intimacy. It is this innate desire for intimacy that provides the gravitational pull of the inner universe and draws the self inward toward its core, its soul, after it has been drawn outward toward intimacy with the world outside the self.
Einstein’s theory that gravity bends space back on itself making the universe finite, but not static,7 fits with the image of an infinity sign path of message transmission within the inner universe, illustrating how the communication system is never static, yet is finite. For the self, the source of gravity is provided by the intersection of the infinity sign at its core, representing the core or soul of the self. Intimacy occurs at the core, where thoughts and feelings meet and the self is at One, at God, at that moment. If the integrity of the process is not violated, the self lives at One as it journeys through life. The gravitational pull is strong for those who live with integrity and Oneness is a way of life.
The self, however, in its capacity of self-determination, can choose whether to abide by the predetermined laws of integrity and harmony governing its communication network. If the choice has integrity, which includes truthfulness and fairness, then intimacy and oneness occur. If, however, the choice violates the integrity of the self’s system, by distorting the truth or using it as a weapon by being judgemental, blaming or attacking in the process, alienation and loss of integrity occur, instead. Although the self’s communication system is designed with each of its forces to move in harmony with each other, the system can be violated by the choices the self makes that do not follow the design but violate it. Living with integrity and Oneness is a life choice. Liberated theology offers a world view that allows the self to know how to make an informed choice to live with integrity, and therefore, in harmony and at One.
E.O. Wilson’s work on consilience and the unity of knowledge speaks directly to this quest for oneness. "Could Holy Writ be just the first literate attempt to explain the universe and make ourselves significant within it? Perhaps science is a continuation on new and better tested ground to attain the same end. If so, then in that sense science is a religion liberated and writ large... it aims to save the spirit, not surrender it. Its central tenet, as Einstein knew, is the unification of knowledge. When we have unified enough central knowledge, we will understand who we are and why we are here".8
The infinity sign imposed on a spiral is one graphic illustration of a unified communication system within the self, infinite but limited, carrying the messages back and forth, in and out, from the core, the soul, the center of Oneness. If governed by integrity, this system is designed to allow us to process our reactions to information in a way that leads to “understanding who we are and why we are here.”
|THE COMMUNICATIONS NETWORK OF THE SELF
|Oneness at the core occurs as "Felt Thoughts" or "Informed Feelings."
Building on Einstein’s theory of God as the designer of a harmonious universe governed by unifying laws, liberated theology formulates the principles underlying these laws as they apply to the universe within the self. Defining God as Life Force provides a view of God as Energy and Oneness that challenges the traditional view of God as Father. Instead, God as Life Force has no gender, and is not a personal God who answers our prayers. Rather, positing God as Life Force, and Oneness as God, makes the self’s relationship to God and Oneness dependent on whether integrity governs the self’s decisions. God’s predetermined design of a harmonious universe and oneness is confronted by self determined choices that can either be guided by the integrity of the design or violate it.
Liberated theology becomes a theology of choice, a choice between living with integrity, with truth and fairness, and therefore, in harmony and Oneness with the unifying laws of the universe, or a choice that violates the integrity of the design and the harmony of the universe. Liberation follows when the self chooses to live with integrity. The desire for Oneness becomes the essential human need and as such, is the source of the pull of gravity within the inner universe, drawing us inward after we have ventured outward.
Since integrity is both an accepted secular and religious principle, the demarcation between atheists and believers is not such an issue in liberated theology. God as Life Force allows us to invite all to Godliness/ Oneness without requiring a religious commitment or a belief in God. Rather, Oneness involves spirituality, and spirituality is not the exclusive domain of religion., either. Spirituality is a shared value of all who value integrity, because integrity is not only truthfulness it is wholeness, and wholeness is Oneness. So integrity unites secular and religious in an awesome state of Oneness. God may not be named by all, but if God is informing all, we are all One.
Dualism is challenged by liberated theology because dualism’s orientation toward the laws of the universe is of antagonistic, hierarchical opposite forces seeking to conquer, not equally legitimate opposites seeking reconciliation. While dualistic thought revolves around war, dominance and conquest, liberated theology is a theology of peace. It proposes that laws of sequence, not hierarchy govern the electrical forces transmitting messages within the paradoxical inner universe, and that reconciliation of paradoxical needs and desires yields intimacy and oneness, not dominance and conquest. In this time of religious wars and terrorism, peace and harmony would seem at least worthy of our consideration as liberated theology offers Oneness and Godliness instead of dualism’s offer of conquest and righteousness.
Although we cannot prove the initial assumption regarding equally legitimate opposites, neither can dualism’s assumption that they are hostile and hierarchical be proven either. They are, after all, fundamental assumptions, the underpinnings of any theoretical venture. Mystery surrounds assumptions as it does theory. Theology is a combination of intuitive thought and imagining, mystery and faith. It is the mystery that liberated theology attempts to address. We end as we began, with Einstein:
"The most beautiful emotion we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of all true art and science....To sense that behind anything that can be experienced there is something that our minds cannot grasp, whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly: this is religiousness. In this sense, and this sense only, I am a devoutly religious man."9