And the Lord God commanded the man, "You may freely eat of every tree of the garden;
But of the tree of knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die."'
But the serpent said to the woman, "You will not die, for God knows that when you eat of it, your eyes will be opened, and you shall be like God, knowing good and evil."
Bible, Genesis 2-3
The ride through Boston towards Gloucester was frustrating. Boston's streets were laid out by cows in colonial times and they seemed to meander randomly. Boston drivers were a perfect match for the roads. Like overzealous students in a late night conversation. Always interrupting, yet who knew where they were going? This made for a game of chicken at every corner.
By the time we got to Gloucester, I was ready for a stretch. My muscles were tight from all the anxious moments. The marina was charming and it was a stunning day. The sun bleached the color from my eyes. Seagulls flew overhead, swooping past boats old and new, scanning for fish and scraps. Mindy pointed to a far off rig. Eventually I focused on a man waving, apparently at us. It looked like Ludwig. I couldn't believe my eyes. It was Ludwig. Somehow this group and Ludwig were conspiring behind my back.
I was very glad to meet my old friend. Seeing him in Boston, out from under the constant observation of the Ring in North Carolina was almost like making a new friend. He even looked different; a bit like an old sailor with wind blown hair he'd let grow too long. His beard was salt and peppery and contributed to the image. He was dressed for the occasion with a tattered old jacket and jeans. The boat was a large sloop; sleek, with two sails, the main and the jib. Sidney was already meditating in her yogic tetrahedral posture near the front. As I learned later, Howard and Marie were below prepping food. As we followed the aroma of their efforts, I noticed Victor at the stern pulling up the rope.
Sidney got up and, with Victor, manned the boat expertly, working the sails and guiding us out of the marina into the ocean. Once past the rocks, the wind swelled and the sails billowed. We tilted sideways and I wondered how much was normal. I was not experienced in sailing; but it was exhilarating. Ahead of us, all I could see was a wide horizon with no end to the choppy seas.
I asked Mindy about Ludwig and how long they'd known him. He'd been in Seminary with Howard years ago. Howard found the answers he needed within traditional religion. Ludwig did not and searched the wide world, literally. When the E-group formed two years ago, Ludwig was in town and came with Howard. Mindy connected with him because he'd been to Africa and worked on site with Bonobo researchers. Since the first meeting he'd always stayed in touch, usually through e-mail or telephone. "When he found out that you knew me and went to a meeting of the E-group, he just had to come up. He wanted to surprise you." That he did.
Once out to sea, the thin line of the coast looked dangerously distant. Ludwig was on top of the cabin and yelled, "Whales Ho!" I looked forward and to the right, I should say starboard, and there were some extra frothy waves. I kept looking and the signature double back fin of a Right whale smoothly rose from and then slipped into the shimmering surface. They were a long way off and the size of the fin at that distance was already exciting.
We were heading to a point ahead of their swimming path. As we progressed toward them, I saw a spout blow. Then two whales gracefully arched up and over in tandem. More and more jumps with fins finishing the dance. It was as if they were performing for us.
We counted seven all told, including a little one. We slowed our progress at the intersection point and they looped back around. It was pretty clear they were staying near us. They continued their ballet under and around the boat, and closed in on our hull. One whale paralleled us for awhile, then rolled on his side and seemed to stare with his eye. It was a deep long look. We were all at the rope on the edge of the boat, but Victor, who was still at the wheel. We were silent. Awed. Not wanting to scare him, I wanted to communicate somehow that we were no danger to him, and we were happy he'd come by. I saw no point in yelling it, so I just imagined myself talking to him. He blinked, rolled on his back, flipped over, and swam away.
They danced more. I couldn't be certain, but this time it seemed as if they simply danced for fun, no longer to our audience. The whales seemed to take great joy in playing. And I thought about their social life and their thinking powers. They were mammals. They did have large brains. Playfulness was certainly more universal than the self-consciousness of humans. Otters and birds came to mind. I thought about what function it might serve. Perhaps it's evolution's way of encouraging behavioral experimentation. Or maybe it's just a form of expression. Yet even the term expression implies a deeper neurological process needing release. Why should that be? Well, we didn't talk of that during the E-group. We met down in the cabin after the whales left and got some coffee. We settled back onto the old mahogany keel to talk about chimps and how Mindy's work was going.
"Can you give us a timeline, a context to put your theories into?" Ludwig started.
"You mean like vertebrates ' five hundred million years ago, sea creatures crawling onto land ' 350 million years ago, mammals ' 250 million years ago, and tree-dwelling pre-apes ' 65 million years ago." Mindy clipped off.
"I was thinking of something a little more recent." Ludwig prodded.
"OK, but those are relevant transitions. Vertebrates developed a much more sophisticated nervous system. Within that, the proprioceptive system, what we've called the 'pro-system', developed from the fishes' 'lateral system' when the tetrapods ventured onto a gravity based environment and had to learn about their surroundings through their touching, feeling, and moving in it. The mammals were a further advancement, using brains as their selective advantage. The tree dwelling animals very much needed their pro-system to survive, even more so the heavy ones such as the apes. Without a good pro-system, they'd fall out of the trees and hit the ground hard. Along with these progressive enlargements of the pro-system and the cortex comes an enlargement of the auxiliary motor systems such as the cerebellum.
"What's next?" Ludwig asked.
"The Apes in Africa were doing fine until about 5 million years ago when the weather became warmer. In the African Rift valley'" Mindy began again.
"Where's that?" I interrupted.
"It's where the African, Arabian and Saharan tectonic plates come together to form a spine in a north-south orientation along much of eastern Africa." Mindy answered.
"Nowadays it's in Kenya, Ethiopia and '" Sidney clarified.
"So, the weather warmed up and the previously dense forests became spotty. More and more areas turned to grasslands until the wooded areas were like islands in a vast plain." Mindy took over. "The apes had to come out of the woodlands for food. Their legs became progressively stronger and more adept at land travel and their arms became less strong. However their hands, which were somewhat dexterous from the tree travel, became available for other uses. Thus the first hominids, or bipedal apes, were born."
"What's that?" Maria asked.
"They walked upright, on two legs." Mindy answered.
"Did they have an opposable thumb?" Howard queried.
"A little. We're talking here about the Australopithecus species. Their hand structure is similar to apes. They were able to grab the limb of a tree, but didn't have much capability for detailed work between fingertips." Mindy said.
"However, they were very successful and remained essentially unchanged over the next one million years. Then there was another change in hominid form. Whether or not the climate became drier and the loss of woodlands triggered it, I'm not sure we know. But some of these hominids switched from eating a lot of plants to eating lots of animals. They became very good scavengers."
"Not my ancestors!" Howard feigned indignance.
"Oh yes. And one of the leftovers in the restaurants of the African plains was the bone marrow. Humans may have learned about what a high fat, high protein meal the marrow was from the hyenas, who could crush bones with their jaws. But we, I mean the pre-humans, couldn't do that so they learned to smash and twist and stomp the bones open in whatever way they could. As you can imagine, there's a bit of a science to this marrow retrieving process." Mindy explained.
"If a family of hominids could demonstrate to its children the most effective means of butchering an animal, including breaking its bones and extracting the rich marrow, then that family would multiply. And if they learned how to use a rock, or another bone, to break into a bone'"
"Smashing!" Ludwig interjected.
"Well then, so much the better. Over generations, rocks were hit against themselves to create edges. Edges allowed better butchering to cut choice filets away from the carcass shortly after the lions left and before the hyenas came. Though with their social cooperation, hominids could probably hold the hyenas off for awhile. A nice stone, with a sharp edge on one side and the other side blunt has been called the 'Swiss army knife' of this original safari crowd."
"Fine, but this is routine archeology stuff isn't it? What does this have to do with thinking and the pro-system?' Sidney prodded.
"Patience my friend." Mindy responded. "This new stone-bearing, scavenging hominid we call Homo Erectus. He and she, can now travel far and wide. They don't have to stay in one location with its particular set of plant species that they've gotten to know well. Because they eat meat, they can travel wherever there are carcasses, which means the whole wide world. This starts about two and a half million years ago. And it really begins the expansion of the pre-human brain.
"From Australopithecus to Homo Erectus, brain size jumps one hundred percent. Homo Erectus has to communicate how to make and use tools to each other. Initially this was almost certainly accomplished through gestures. But grunts, grimaces and early language probably came quickly thereafter. The spinal cord is large enough at 1.5 million years ago to allow for finer diaphragm control, and the hypoglossal nerve to the tongue is probably bigger at least 400,000 years ago."
"Two and a half million years ago to one and a half million. That's a grand span of time." Sidney challenged.
"True and people don't know exactly when language developed. Anyway, verbal communication is a question of degree as we've discussed before. But what is crucial is that the logical structures underlying the manipulations of objects by the hand, parallels the logic underlying grammar in all human language. The stone is the subject. The dominant hand holds the subject and performs the verb as the non-dominant hand holds the object."
"That's just the yin and yang of stone work. It's too general." Howard objected.
"No, it's the beginning of our language and how we think about the world. A detailed analysis of both hand manipulation and universal grammar shows a tight correlation. It's in the communication of one to another about how to maximize tool usage that our ancestors developed their language." Mindy explained. "I'm not the only one who thinks the development of the hand's skills underlies our development of language. However, I see this as a subset of a body-mind correlation which is all-encompassing. We use our bodies to touch and explore the world. So the mind has to found its language in the body. Specifically the original pro-system interaction that the tetrapods started and the tree hanging apes really expanded."
"What about sight?" Ludwig asked.
"That comes second as we learn to correlate what we see with what we know through touch. Eventually sight becomes more useful. But the mental structures about how the world works are based upon what we can feel, touch, and move into." Mindy said.
"I'm sorry but I'm still back with Homo Erectus." I reminded people.
"Well don't hang around too long. She doesn't. She travels the world-wide. No one can prove whether or not Homo Erectus goes elsewhere, China for example, evolves further and returns. Or perhaps there are several succeeding waves of more advanced Homo Erectus out of Africa. In any case the next big leap in my opinion is burying the dead. Again we don't know who starts this. It's always been assumed that it didn't happen until 'anatomically modern humans'. And it probably didn't to any significant degree, but who knows what future digs will find?"
"'Anatomically modern humans'?" Maria asked.
"Yes. 'AMH's' for short. They show up around 100-150 thousand years ago in Africa. They have a lower voice box so they can make many more sounds, clearly a sign that they had a more complex language system. This represents a specific evolutionary trade off with the advantage of speech because it's easier to choke with this anatomical arrangement." Mindy said.
"Is this the group they traced 'Eve' to?" Ludwig asked.
"What do you mean Eve?" Howard jumped in before Mindy could answer.
"He's right. Through the mitochondrial DNA we can estimate how far back the current human family goes. Some one to three hundred thousand years. There's even a test for Adam. His Y-chromosomes seem to start in Northern Africa, closer to 100,000 years ago. But this technique is less accurate." Sidney interjected.
"To be honest, that's not even what I'm most interested in. What interests me is, 'What were these people thinking?' They started using ocher, a red color pigment like blood, in association with burials. Why did they do that?" Mindy said.
"I mean, what's the evolutionary value in that?" Mindy kept prodding her 'students'.
"Can't we do things without evolutionary value?" Maria asked.
"Not for long." Ludwig answered.
"People started thinking about what happened after death. They must have known bloody people died." Mindy refocused.
"They were working together to kill big animals." I thought out loud. "They knew if they could get an animal to bleed enough, it would die."
"With the first very basic designs on bones, they may have started symbolic thinking. Their tools became more complicated. They learned how to make rafts and float over to Australia. They were smart." Mindy went on.
"Not as smart as Cro-Magnon." Ludwig asserted.
"No, but they made the leap to symbolic and religious thinking." Mindy explained patiently.
"Very rudimentary. It doesn't really happen until these guys meet Amanita Muscaria." Ludwig came back.
"What are you two arguing about?" I demanded.
"Ludwig thinks psychoactive substances were crucial for humankind's leap into modern symbolic thinking, like he was telling you over e-mail." Mindy answered.
"What do you think?" I asked.
"I think once the pro-system became sufficiently developed, first from heavy apes hanging in trees having to be careful about falling, and secondly from the fine manipulation of hands and tools which helped develop concepts and language, then we were destined to develop a concept of self. Once we get that self-concept, everything else that we have as modern humans follows. The self-concept serves as the central switchboard for symbolic thinking. We didn't need hallucinogenic chemicals." Mindy clarified.
"Maybe we didn't need them, but our ancestors certainly took them. It's only a question of how early in our development." Ludwig pointed out.
"How early do we know?" Maria asked.
"Most cultures around the world have traditions of using a psychoactive substance as a sacrament. A sacrament is what you partake of to connect with God. Hallucinogens make people feel they are connecting with God, or a world apart from this mundane world, yet in some sense more real, more fundamental and important." Ludwig reviewed.
"Why do they think it's more real when they are taking drugs." Howard asked.
"These aren't drugs to them. These plants are gifts of the Gods. In fact, sometimes they are called the 'Flesh of the Gods', or 'Body of God'. If you want to ask science, you get answers dealing in neurotransmitters, and brain structures like the locus ceruleus and the RAS." Ludwig said.
"Simplify. Simplify." Maria demanded.
"Much of it we don't understand well. However, these chemicals do open up a gate in the brain called the reticular activating system, 'RAS' for short. The function of the RAS is to be a secretary to the brain. It decides which sensory input is important enough to be allowed in the door and which isn't. Remember there is so much input coming from all our sensory organs that if we don't filter it, it would overwhelm our brain. The RAS is a lattice of cells in the brainstem, between the sense organs and the brain, that only allows information which heredity and experience have determined is important enough to be attended to. The corollary to that is, what does make it past the RAS is treated by the brain as if it's important." Mindy helped out.
"And in some ways, the definition of God is the totality of all that is most important. So when people inhaled or ate or drank or even rubbed these sacred plants onto their skin, the psychoactive chemicals forced the RAS to open up. In that moment, people felt everything they were experiencing was very important. Everything was more real and related to God, or the deeper hidden structure of the Universe." Ludwig explained.
"They may have felt that way but it still was a hallucination." Mindy said.
"Mindy you are so ethnocentric. Your reality is not theirs. You think drugs are fake because in Western society we use them to escape our pains. Our society is the primary one that uses these substances in a hedonistic way. Other groups have real reverence for them, and the experiences they catalyze. Consequently they don't overuse them like we do." Argued Ludwig.
"So we're the odd society?" Mindy forced the issue.
"In fact, yes. Besides it really doesn't matter whether these are hallucinations or not." Ludwig affirmed.
"It does to me." Howard said.
"What I'm saying is that all the data we have suggests strongly where our spiritualist and religious thinking originated." Ludwig said.
"But we've got burials going back 100,000 years, and your shamanic history goes back only 10,000." Mindy pointed out.
"Well, I think they meet 45,000 years ago in the Caucasus mountains." Ludwig asserted.
"Right where the 'biopsychologically distinct' Upper Paleolithic culture began, in the same region where reindeer were trackable by anatomically modern humans year 'round for the first time." I remembered from our e-mail exchange.
"What's 'biopsychologically distinct'?" Maria asked.
"That was the phrase coined to emphasize the explosion in new creations that characterize this Upper Paleolithic culture. Before there may have been a few burials and possibly some rudimentary designs along with edged stones." Ludwig answered.
"And whatever they did with wood that we can't recover archeologically." Mindy added.
"Then all of a sudden this new culture started decorating its tools with geometric designs, and probably decorating themselves. They learned to sew, to carve ornate tools out of antlers, and to make little sculptures. They had complex burial sites suggesting rituals and painted sophisticated scenes on walls suggesting a belief in sympathetic magic. Anatomically modern humans go from something barely human to something remarkably human in an evolutionary blink of an eye." Ludwig explained.
"You said this new culture was dependent upon the reindeer?" Howard asked.
"Yes, and the reindeer ate the mushroom. If one eats intoxicated reindeer meat, then one gets intoxicated too. Same with the reindeer urine." Ludwig repeated.
"They drank reindeer urine?" Howard seemed disgusted.
"What about the earlier burials?" Maria reminded him.
"You know I believe hominids had contact with psychoactive chemicals over the aeons in Africa. Even Chimps will identify and find medicinal plants and take them when appropriate for their stomach aches or whatever." Ludwig said.
"Is this true, Mindy?" Maria asked.
"Well, yes. It seems to be. Yes." Mindy confirmed.
"So why didn't hominids develop this new thinking earlier?" I asked Ludwig.
"People today describe hallucinogenic experiences as very 'self' aware experiences. There can be a heightened self-consciousness. There can also be a sense of dissolution of self. But in either case, the attention is directed toward 'What is the state of self?' In this way, I think my theory goes well with Mindy's studies of self as the crucial new human concept allowing symbolic thinking. Maybe the sufficient level of self-awareness would have eventually developed to produce people like us. But I think the circumstantial evidence suggests the origin of religious type thinking in a psychoactive sacrament. My first guess is that Pandora's box was opened with the Amanita muscaria near the Caucasus. This really hastened the blossoming of the self concept." Ludwig replied.
"Don't forget the pro-system." Mindy reminded.
"You're right. That's very important. But can you hold that for a second? There's more. While regular hallucinogens like psilocybin stimulate new neurological connections, the Amanita muscaria does something extra."
"We're waiting." Sidney said.
"It frequently triggers out-of-body experiences." Ludwig said.
"People floating above themselves?" Sidney asked.
"Precisely. As people watch from above, they see their own body among their friends, around trees and the campfire; in the same scene that they were just looking at directly a moment earlier. This may have helped them develop a visual image of self as just another object, existing in the world." Ludwig was animated.
"It was just another hallucination!" Mindy cried.
"I don't happen to think so. But for this argument, it doesn't matter. What does matter is that people saw their bodies as if they were looking from an outside vantage point. This accelerated an objective concept of self." Ludwig continued.
"Maybe that was starting to happen before the Amanita muscaria mushroom. People can have out-of-body experiences in near-death situations. Perhaps burials started when fire helped a few people revive from near-death experiences. However, there needed to be a critical mass of people who'd had such an experience in order to generate a discussion about the attendant idea of self from outside." I was brainstorming for Ludwig's idea.
"And a repeatable experience triggered by a plant could generate a sufficient information revolution." Maria added.
"But Mindy's idea may be crucial here too. Out-of-body experiences may not be hallucinations. They may come from a portion of our body's electromagnetic field which is cohesive enough to maintain its structure, even when separated from the body." Victor started something new, after just having secured us back at the dock.
"Why would Mindy's theory make it cohesive?" I asked.
"The electrical pattern of the nerves involved in thinking for a non self-aware animal would not feedback into themselves in a closed loop. But when we model the world upon the same nerves that we use to sense ourselves, we create a closed neural loop during thinking. When we focus upon our self as a thing within that model of the world, a portion of our thinking feeds into itself in a cohesive fashion." Victor explained.
"It's a wonder that we didn't start seizing." Mindy joked.
"So you think out-of-body experiences are real?" Maria queried Ludwig.
"I've studied them for many years. There are events difficult to explain any other way. Like people seeing things from their out-of-body positions which they couldn't have known about otherwise." I jumped in."
"That's interesting because there's a fantastic cave painting that has an entire scene painted in the main part of the cave. Then off in a place that can't be seen, or even climbed to easily, sort of high up and overseeing the cave painting below, there is a picture of another person or being of some sort, watching. The people who discovered it called it the Overlord. It's like a God figure. But it's also like your description of an out-of-body experience." Victor mused.
"You can see why I don't think it's so outlandish to imagine that some of our religious concepts came from such events." Ludwig reaffirmed.
"I'm still interested in the chronology. Are the Upper Paleolithic people now human?" Maria asked.
"Homo Sapiens Sapiens. The human who knows that he knows." Ludwig quipped.
"The shamanic belief system is more native spirit oriented. But Victor has just described a very early representation of an overlord. For the most part we don't think of these early religions as believing in one God." Howard pointed out.
"Howard, my focus is on the beginning of spiritual or religious thinking. How it evolved over time until now has got to be a complex story." Ludwig answered honestly. "I will say that I think an important shift occurred when the sacred plants were no longer available to everyone. When climate conditions were such that the sacred plants had to be imported, this created a big power structure in the hierarchy of spiritual society.
"Previously any tribe member who was crazy enough to be interested in unseen worlds was noted by the older generations of shamans as they grew up. They just took the young ones under apprenticeship. But when traders controlled the 'Flesh of the Gods' because it had to be imported, it was the businessman, not the shaman who decided who would be the next spiritual leader. And I think this marked the beginning of a change from shamanic practices to more institutionalized religious hierarchies.
"Once these became firmly established, it was preferable to do away with the sacrament altogether. Socially, it's too dangerous. It's better to have everyone look towards you for their connection to God, rather than believe they can make a direct connection themselves. If these plants make people think they know God directly, well then, keep them away." Ludwig concluded.
"It's not unlike the revolution that occurred when the printing press made it possible for anyone to read the 'Word of God', not just the select few." Sidney said.
"You're too cynical. How about a different scenario? For the sake of argument accept your theory about plants triggering a breakthrough in consciousness. Maybe these plants violently opened some awareness that God actually intended to open more gradually. Maybe the priests didn't want everyone to hurt themselves." Howard suggested.
"It's starting to sound like the Garden of Eden story." I remarked.
"Exactly. So having once achieved a state of consciousness in which we could communicate with God, we then found more wholesome techniques to do the same thing, perhaps through prayer and meditation. We realized that we no longer needed these chemicals. Perhaps they are even disruptive to our spiritual path." Howard said.
"From an oriental medicine viewpoint, they do just that." Victor put in.
"What?" Maria asked.
"Disrupt our energy field." Victor answered.
"Fine. So we need to continue to develop our abilities to harmonize our thinking and our emotions in order that we may allow God to come in." Howard concluded.
"You know, Howard, I'm there with you right up until the last part about God." Mindy said.
"What's your scenario Mindy?" Maria asked.
"Well, I'm all for taking whatever changes in consciousness that evolution offers us. But then I think we should start controlling our own destiny. There's a theory about how our brains are designed to evaluate information. In rough terms, it talks about the ventral and dorsal parts of the brains of all vertebrates." Mindy began.
"Real words please." Maria kept Mindy straight.
"The front and back parts of the brain. The senses send information to the closest section of the brain, the ventral or front part. This ventral section quickly organizes the sensory data into some sort of usable order. The way it organizes it, is loose, but it's quick. It does this in a holistic, impressionistic way. That way if there's an emergency, the animal can react quickly. Hopefully, the ventral way of organizing data is fairly correct so the reaction can be appropriate." Mindy explained.
"Later on, if there's time, the sections of the brain further back, in the dorsal brain, start analyzing the data in more detail, bit by bit, to get everything more exact. This plan serves evolution well because if it's not an emergency, there may be some clues which are revealed by the detailed analysis. These can be exploited by the animal for survival and reproductive strategies over the longer term."
"I thought the back areas of the brain were used for vision." I said.
"That's the problem with simplifying terms. What I'm calling front, really should be called ventral. And as animals evolved, this part rotated into the right cortex function. The 'back' part should be called dorsal. This area's function rotated into the left cortex.
"So what we humans have is a right cortex which can do a quick, holistic, intuitive assessment of a given situation. Then the left cortex takes over, if there is time, and analyzes the situation in a step by step, linear fashion." Mindy outlined.
"I see where you're going." I said.
"You do?" Mindy sounded surprised.
"Sure. When our ancestors got all this new sensory input from its new found self-awareness and its creative efforts, maybe even from out-of-body experiences and psychotropic chemicals like Ludwig thinks; first the right brain took a crack at it. It understood things through 'like attracts like', sympathetic magic, nature spirits, then God in their own image. The religious paradigm reigned for tens of thousands of years.
"Eventually the left brain method started kicking in. The ancient Greeks started asking 'What if?' They started analyzing things bit by bit and the linear scientific paradigm evolved."
"Now we are so over-specialized that a psychologist can't talk to a paleoanthropologist, and a theoretical physicist can't talk to a biologist." Sidney asserted.
"Well Lovejoy, that's more than what I was going to say but I like it. Science avoids the rush to judgment about how the universe works. I believe we should see the scientific analysis as the more accurate." Mindy finally made her point.
"But Nature has provided two ways of looking at things. Why shouldn't we use both?" I challenged.
"Because the right brain analysis is quick and intuitive but in its hurried assessment it can make too many mistakes." Mindy defended.
"You know Mindy, I'd believe you if we lived in a finite world. But there is no end to the new situations we are confronted with. If the universe is infinite in complexity, as well as size, then there will always be a need for the intuitive approach." Sidney pointed out. "And frankly I'm not convinced science has explained all things that well. Like we said in our last meeting, science has described the physically measurable universe well, or at least begins to. But those things which are not so easily measured, some of which are pretty important, such as happiness, trust and large societal events, are not dealt with well by science."
"Isn't there a way for science and religion to coexist? Maybe using the strengths of each other?" Maria diplomatically asked.
"Religion is best for consolation." Mindy said with a too sympathetic tone.
"You mean for weak minds." I told Mindy. "I think it's better than that. Happiness is not about absolute values, it's all about expectations. If there's a reason behind unpleasant events, however hidden, we can accept them better than if we feel we have been cheated by luck, or worse, by someone else. Spiritual views can give us that. Moving gracefully with the ups and downs of life shouldn't be seen as weak. Acceptance is considered the matured stage in the grief reaction."
"Religion also brings morals for behavior, and inspiration and beauty." Howard was warming up.
"Discovering the laws of Nature can bring me inspiration and beauty." Mindy interrupted.
"Secularism can give us ethics to replace morals. Of course, there'll still be no end to the arguing over which are the 'right' ethics to use." Sidney mused.
"Somehow science still hasn't found a way to tap into the depths of energy that faith brings. I think it's the feeling of connectedness to everyone else, and everything one can imagine, that our secular beliefs have not given us." I ventured. "With Faith maybe we really are joined somehow with all of Life."
"We could use Mindy's description of the brain as a guideline." Ludwig suggested. "With this approach, the spiritual understanding would be attempted for things perplexing and new, and scientific analysis can be applied for events that repeat themselves often, especially physical ones, of course."
"So when the aliens land we'll deal with it spiritually first?" Victor prodded.
"I suspect we'll deal with it emotionally first." Sidney said.
"As far as I'm concerned, spirituality is primarily emotional." Mindy picked.
"Oh come on Mindy. I expect that from Sidney, not from you. Where would we be without inspiration, romance and mystery? Do you think you'd spend any time with those chimps if you weren't passionate about understanding Human Nature? Would beauty be worth looking at if our feelings weren't stirred by an awesome sight?" Maria asked.
"Frankly, I think even rage and fear have their role in making us feel alive." Ludwig added.
We all stared incredulously at him.
"In proper amounts." Ludwig adjusted.
"You'd better make some space in your 'thinking about thinking' for some emotion." Maria suggested to Mindy.
"Well, there is. I mean there has to be. Let me go back and look at it." Mindy replied.
"Let's all go back. Some of us have real jobs beginning in the early morning hours." Howard offered.
"Don't look at me. My chimps awaken with the sunrise." Mindy said.
I was tired too. But I never had the chance to ask her about free will. That came later.
Soltrey@humanmind.net is copyrighted July 2000. All rights reserved B.T. Brian Brown.