The Big Theories Underwriting Society Are Crashing All Around Us -- Are You Ready for a New World?
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I thought it would be interesting to write a book about healing the body politic, applying a biological or medical metaphor to the wider world. When I read The Biology of Belief and met Bruce, I realized that he was the guy I was meant to do this book with. In Spontaneous Evolution we hope to help people see that many of the beliefs we've been living by are now burned-out stars, yet we keep trying to navigate by them.
TM: Steve, you left out the fact that a big part of your path has been humor.
SB: For the last 20-something years I've been performing and writing as Swami Beyondananda, the cosmic comic. Humor is a great way to allow new ideas to infiltrate, and I've learned a lot cohabiting with the Swami. As soon as I put the turban on [with Indian accent], oh then we've got a whole different set of wisdom coming out .
TM: Bruce, how did you decide to take on this collaboration?
BL: I got so caught up with cellular biology and the biology of belief that I kept putting the biological understanding of civilization on the back burner -- until Steve and I started talking.
Most people get caught up in, "Oh my God, crisis here, crisis there. What are we going to do? The sky is falling!" For the last few years Steve and I have been crafting an understanding that says we're in a transition. Rather than focusing on what's coming apart, we want people to understand that this crisis makes it possible to move to a much higher level of evolution.
TM: Let's pull apart some of the threads that you deal with in the book. You say 1) there are three perennial questions that any belief system needs to address; and 2) that the answers to those questions have changed. What are those three questions?
SB: Why are we here? How did we get here? And now that we're here, how do we make the best of the situation?
TM:And how have those changed?
SB: If you look at recorded history, we began with animism -- simply "I am one with everything." There wasn't much of a distinction between the spiritual world and the material world, and indigenous people were able to navigate these two worlds fairly easily. Had we stayed at that point, we would be little more than human animals in a cosmic petting zoo. But we ventured out to explore.
We then began to see that there are many forces. We recognized the "me" and the "not me," and we began to assign powers to various gods. So we had polytheism. Then came the monotheistic view that there is only one God and one power. The institutionalized version of monotheism through Christianity was very powerful throughout the middle ages.
TM: You single out the institutionalized version of Christianity, not Judaism or Islam?
SB: Christianity is most powerful in terms of its impact on Western society. Christianity's worldview eventually gave birth to scientific materialism as a challenge to the institutionalized version of the infallible church.
The first little chip to fall: Copernicus recognizes that the earth actually revolves around the sun. It takes over 100 years for that belief to be integrated throughout even the thinking world.
As the church loses its infallibility, we see the rise of the current dominant paradigm: scientific materialism, the material world is what matters. Newton, Descartes and the rest say that the universe is a machine.