"Experience, the most brutal of teachers; but you learn,
my God do you learn." - C. S. Lewis
Models of Human Destiny:
A Rational Understanding
This is an attempt to categorize in general the ways in which the various
paradigms portray destiny. There are about a half dozen with many
sub-variations, so we will start with a list:
3. Multiple Reincarnation (MRI)
4. Assignment of Final Judgment
5. Technological Salvation
First of all let's deal with oblivion. This modern "vision" is firmly founded
upon materialism, the idea that physical material--protons, electrons,
etc., or their sub-particles, that form the physical universe of
galaxies, stars, planets and life forms--is ordinate or pre-ordinate.
The idea extends to the patterns and forms that can be found to be
comprised of physical material. IOW, this is what you start with. For example, the physical brain is
ordinate to the mind, the mind being a property or emergent property of the brain.
The spiritual aspects of the
universe--mind, consciousness, desire, intellect, purpose, values,
attitude. goodness and pleasure, evil and suffering, etc.,--are subordinate or emergent
properties that somehow came to or with life as a series of "happy
accidents". In this paradigm, there is seemingly no way to get an idea
as to where, if anywhere else, this unfolding of evolution is going to lead. We are pretty
much left with "you are born, you live with a variable mixture of
pain, pleasure, suffering, joy, you age, you die, and that's
the end of it" or "Here now, gone tomorrow". Existentialism while
living, oblivion upon death.
Believing this or patterning your life accordingly--all but the same thing--avoids a
lot of troubling fundamental or ultimate issues, and puts a simplistic
but fashionable edge to the enterprise of life. You only go around once!
There can only be one overriding ethic, and that is to pack into your
life, while avoiding pain and suffering as much as possible, all the
pleasure and fulfillment that you can. The "winners" and those
that so many admire are the ones that "go for it" and
do the best job of compensating for their "liabilities", maximizing
the use of their assets, and of calculating the risk/reward factors for
each development, issue or course of action that they face. Of course,
luck is a huge factor!
It's been said, "Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional." Pain is a
physiological reaction, while suffering is the reaction/response to
having our legitimate and enduring needs and desires being abrogated.
One strategy to eliminate suffering is to winnow out all needs and
desires. Hence nirvana, where you can encounter pain without
suffering. What the significant difference is between this and the
death of the body and soul is beyond me. Not much more needs to be said
except to agonize over the best way to eliminate wanting to get to a
state where you don't want anything. As to any other aspect of destiny,
if somehow successful what would it then matter?
3. Multiple Reincarnation
There are a few lines of thinking that postulate that the spirit, mind,
essence--however you want to characterize the majority spiritual part of
a human being--is somehow immortal, and that upon death of the body, it
moves on to a new life in some other realm. Not being even able to imagine
being alive without some medium of reception and expression--IOW a body
in some kind of material reality--what this idea stipulates is that there
will be some kind of reincarnation. The world's major religions teach
that there will be a resurrection, which is just a one time
reincarnation, even if the new body is made out of some different kind
of exotic material.
Those that promulgate this idea of multiple reincarnation other than a
one time resurrection generally propose that after a series of different
lives we somehow learn or mature enough to "graduate" into some state
comparable to godhood. Some go further and think that I/we design our
next life and form. Yet I am NOT aware of doing this, and want continuity.
I realize that the pertinent merit of this system of thinking is that
this life is not the end. Beyond that naked and singular concept, the
merit of this thinking escapes me. The best possible support for this
line of thinking (if it can be called thinking) is that we are simply
victims of a system over which we have absolutely no control, have no
input or personal value, other than the concept that somehow we can plan
our next appearance. Can I reasonably choose--from what appears to be
our choices besides the human one--anything that would be better, more
satisfying, more comfortable, less fearful, make the world a better
place, etc.? I can understand why one might go down this avenue ONLY if
there were absolutely no evidence of any alternative answers.
Relevant questions that can and/or need to be asked:
Who set up this system or how did it come about? What is the purpose of
this system? And am I caught up in some ineluctable, eternal cycle of
being reincarnated whether I want to be or not? Do I ever recover the
aspects of the various lives that I cherish? For example, do I ever even
get my precious little dog back, much more importantly my family and
friends? And do I ever recover the various memories that have built up?
What is the real evidence for such a system, and can this evidence be
better explained in some other way? How is this system of thinking not
violating my rationality, logic, and reason, and how is it capable of
being supported by these crucial aspects of myself?
Because I have no awareness of doing this now and no plan to do it, if I
design or choose my next life form, when do I do this? In between lives?
Isn't that a non-sequitur? And how can I do this intelligently when I
have no real knowledge of how the future world or environment is going to be?
How is this paradigm consonant with an ever increasing population of
humans on earth? How long has it been going on? And how is this concept
of reality compatible with the current, rampant perversity,
superstition, and confusion of the human race?
How does this paradigm explain the elephant in the living room, that
being evil? Does it ever even offer me/us a chance to ascend above or
eliminate the experience of evil and suffering?
No matter in what form or how advanced I might be, will I not again be
exposed to evil, even if it is only to be aware of or witness the
suffering of others? Do I ever get to “graduate” out of this grim cycle?
And if so, to what?
Why don’t I--ostensibly one of the most open-minded, reasonable, and sincere truth
seeking people--have any memory or awareness of any past life? And given
that I have actually made such a mess out of my personal relationship life, what has
happened to all the lessons learned, the wisdom gained by me in past
lives? Why am I unaware of, or not benefitting from earlier lives?
Are not my memories, learning and wisdom important facets of me, who I
really am? If so little of "me" comes through to the next life, will I
not be gone into oblivion after just a few iterations? How is this
destiny more than superficially different from oblivion of the real me
that exists now?
4. Assignment by Judgment of God
The general idea here is that either immediately upon death from this life or sometime later
after God literally returns to the earth
in a grand spectacle, God consigns you either to heaven, hell, or
oblivion in a courtroom-type session.
Of course, the variations of the basic idea are legion, but tangibly
or physically, heaven is usually visualized as some kind of Edenic
environment that is somehow disassociated from the known physical
universe, or at least the system of life on planets revolving around
stars, the basic system as we know it.
Politically, heaven would be the ultimate benevolent dictatorship
with God being the glorious sovereign and object of adoration and
worship. He would preside over the perfect government for all of the future.
Environmentally, heaven is generally conceived as being a radiant,
beautiful, and pleasant place of light and lightness, where there would
be no darkness, ugliness, harm, danger or negative aspects. A place of
plenitude with no ecological threats or concerns, nothing to worry
about. Of course, there would be no violence or predation, a place where the lamb
could literally lie down with the lion.
Physiologically, heaven would be a place or situation where the
inhabitants would have new, incorruptible bodies incapable of damage,
pain or deterioration.
Psychologically, heaven would be a situation where we would transcend
or be stripped of the more troublesome carnal needs and desires like
sexuality or sensuality and eroticism, or ego problems that result in
unseemly ambitions, competition, envy, jealousy, superiority and
inferiority. Every person's will and agenda will have been surrendered to be in
harmony with the will of God. Ostensibly, offending or unpleasant
memories would be selectively edited by God or submerged beyond recall.
Of course there would be no ethical breaches and no problems or angst.
Fulfillment of needs and desires is generally conceived in heaven as
coming through some combination of being in the presence of God, and
where we are entertained by social concourse, music, the aesthetically
beautiful setting, and eating and drinking in this pleasant environment.
Some position themselves as proclaiming that it will be so extravagantly
wonderful that not only haven't we imagined it but we CAN'T imagine it.
Notwithstanding that this word is NOT in the Bible, there is only one
highly suspect passage that suggests such a thing. The
Bible does NOT teach this doctrine, yet Christians have adopted this mythology.
There are many variations but basically they fall into three
characterizations: 1) being burned while being kept alive throughout the
rest of time. This arguably is the most extreme, OUTRAGEOUS, macabre concept of
punishment ever imagined. How this fate of some of our friends and loved
ones being eternally burned alive can be compatible with any peace of mind of the righteous citizens
is seemingly not dealt with. 2) Being burned and kept alive for some
time commensurate with the amount of evil and/or suffering produced in
one's life, and maybe plus some extension for the degree that one has
angered God. 3) Being incinerated in a flash where there is no extended
suffering. The final destiny in the first variation is substantially clear without
concentrating on further details, and that of the latter two is
ultimately substantially the same as oblivion.
5. Technological salvation
Technology is growing
in the minds of the public as the prime, tangible development that is
increasing the sustenance and enhancement of life. Many think that we
are just around the corner from dramatic breakthroughs in artificial
intelligence, robotics and life extension capability. The holy grail
here would be some form of technologically supported immortality, and once
that is achieved along with the support and continuance of the upward
march of technology, you are practically home free. While improved
technology promises to deliver a better life in some dimensions--but not
all--the dark side of
this destiny is that it ostensibly does nothing to heal mankind
spiritually from further perversity, ego problems and power struggles.
Not to mention the lack of control of the geophysical and astral forces
before which we are little more than hapless victims, technology or not.
There are at least three paradigms of reality where I have no clue as to how to
describe or define the human destiny.
a. Many or infinite worlds paradigm
As I understand it, this completely unfathomable vision
is one where all the potential different developments that can be
conceived are all unfolding in some universe that is incrementally
different from all others. This proposal is credited to the
physicist/theoretician John Wheeler, and all I can say is that it is one
of the most outrageous, incomprehensible and worthless ideas ever to be
uttered. To even think about defining a human destiny within this
paradigm would be in vain. Don't ask me how I really feel!
b. Physical universe as a living organism
This idea embodies the essence of pantheism, and again I
have no clue as to how or what reasoning one would use to define or
describe a human destiny where we are comparably much less than the microscopic body
mites that live in the pores of our skin, or the fleas on a dog. We
should understand that it is a metaphysical choice to believe that
physical reality is not whimsical or capricious and willing to arbitrarily show up
differently. However, if the physical universe is an intelligent
organism, it could have undergone a trauma or a slight spate of emergent properties
and developed a light case of perversity. Under this unfortunate
development it could quite easily have decided to fool around a little here
and there with us and has gotten to enjoy it. So, who knows what our
destiny may be like?
c. Our experience of evil is an illusion
In this system of thinking, I/we are victims of a race-wide illusio
that few overcome. The overarching human objective is to wake up, get in touch
with our true nature and reach a state
of mature spiritual awareness where you graduate out of the realm of
experiencing evil. Often this concept is accompanied by a rejection of
physicality and all of its attendant problems and challenges, reaching a
state of being a pure incorporeal "spirit".
What the promulgators, spokesmen, theologians and religious speculators
seemingly miss, omit or skate around--at
least subconsciously evade or avoid--is dealing directly and prominently
with the ultimate issue that we all care about, and that is fulfillment
of our natural, intrinsic and legitimate needs and desires. Not only do they not
deal with it or concentrate on it, they fail to use it as a material starting
point in building their belief system.