The Evolution of Gods

‘You ask about my visions? Well, that sounds a bit grandiose given the addled state of my mind. Lets say my panoramic view of history – our transition from the many gods of paganism, the animistic spirits of the natural world of rural life, to the view of a single God – the God of the individual in human society.’
...
‘I think the difference between the pagan view, as I've heard you discuss it, and the one I'm most familiar with developed when societies grew to the point where people commonly dealt with strangers – the shift from tribes and villages to towns and cities – from a world dominated by animals and plants to one consisting almost exclusively of people. The unknown became the territory of others' minds, and the fearful was lack of trust.’
...
‘There's more to leadership in a complex society than fighting skills. Certainly, survival depended on strength, but it wasn't a reliable path to good leadership. For humans to evolve as a social species there needed to be selection for social skills. Leaders needed to build and maintain the unity and confidence of their community. We want decisions made by people who best understand the problem at hand, but also understand how the decision effects all individuals in the community.’
...
‘Over many millennia, people learned through bitter experience what was needed in a good leader. You could say that the spirit of good leadership evolved, and in a very real sense they wanted to be led by that spirit rather than rely on the whims of an individual or leadership elite. They demanded that their leaders be subject to that spirit – that god – as a higher authority.’
...
‘By the iron age, or specifically the Axial age, right across Eurasia thinkers such as Confucius, Buddha, and Socrates were talking about how an individual can see themself and act within a civilisation as well as a kinship group – act for their personal betterment and society in general.’
...
‘Nietzsche recognised the deep significance of the changes ahead, and made his statement about the death of God with great foreboding. His visionary mind looked into the approaching abyss, and correctly foresaw death and destruction on a massive scale. Others saw the benefits being gained, but not the price that was to be paid for them.’
...
‘They didn't realise that the reality of evolution undermined their ideologies more than it did religion.’
‘How is that?’
‘The rationalists were trying to replace a worldview that was a product of evolution – trial and error – going back to the origins of human civilisation and beyond. In evolutionary terms their ideologies were radical mutations. Evolution doesn't prohibit mutation – genetic sports – it can thrive on them, but tests them severely. Few survive. They should have expected likely failure. It was almost inevitable.’
...
‘What I saw in the nineteenth century growth of ideology was the beginning of a brief cycle that soon returned us to the conditions of social decay that originally spawned the Enlightenment, a time when Christianity in Europe had become decadent and false – a pretence at the highest levels. Europe's descent into barbarism undermined the rationalist view that ideologies crafted by a few intellectuals could do better than the evolved and hard won knowledge of millennia in creating a stable and productive social order. Nature took its revenge.
...
‘Humans need goals to strive for, both individually and socially. And we need to see some measure of success. For most humans this has been simple survival. Success was surviving each year. Ideologies held out the promise of instant achievement of the perfect society through rectification of one simple structural flaw in the existing society, such as the unequal distribution of wealth. ...
‘Part of the fallacy is that there is no single dominant flaw in any human society. We're flawed as individuals, and produce societies with countless intermingled flaws. Change grows out of an ecology of success and failure that can only improve through tentative exploration and evolution on many fronts.’
...
‘When Galileo confronted the church, his strength lay in the fact that many people, possibly including the Pope, already realised that they had to change this perspective, and accepted that the Earth was just another planet circling the sun. They also recognised that such a dramatic change would take time to be absorbed.’
‘Mathematically speaking he wasn't right or wrong. The heliocentric view is just a simpler one. We now understand that it's not absolute, and the solar system is circling the galactic centre, and the galaxy is moving. An Earth centred view is how we actually view the universe, so it has validity from that.’
...
‘As it says, “In the beginning was the word”.’
‘Quite. A great change came from an explosive growth in communication with language.’
‘And the increased ability it provided for our thinking – to symbolise and conceptualise in our thinking as well as communicating. It dramatically expanded our personal conscious world, as well as our shared, collective conscious and our subconscious worlds.’
...
‘As Solzhenitsyn said, “The battle line between good and evil runs through the heart of every man.” This brings out the fact that we are all imperfect reflections of society, or our part of it. We're not like discrete pieces in a jigsaw puzzle. Our experiences and perceptions are greatly overlapped.’
‘Like a hologram. You can take any small part of a holographic recording and it still gives the whole multi-dimensional image – just with less definition.’
...
‘We talk about truth, but there's more to truth than just the result of rational analysis. We speak of an arrow running true to its target. There's a transcendental, truth in some things that have truth or harmony as their destiny. When people say that God is truth are they really reaching out to the idea that God is truth in the sense of the path out of chaos to harmony?’
‘You're contrasting the rational truth of knowledge with the truth of wisdom – an understanding of consequences – a resultative truth. “Trenscendental” is a bit vague, and even misleading. It's not really a greater truth.’
‘Perhaps “sagacious truth” would suit better. It's easier on the tongue.
...
‘Mary has already mentioned entropy – inevitable decay. Countering that we have the fundamental reality of resonance – the creation of harmony as seen in the formation of our solar system, and on up through the creation of Life. With “Life relentlessly searching every nook and cranny of its possibilities between stagnant harmony and destructive chaos,” as Tom likes to say.’
‘When I say “searching”, it's not just a figure of speech. I don't think we can scientifically say that God created the universe. To me, that overburdens and confuses my view of God. But there's still the concept of natural intelligence that's guided Life from its earliest form, and may be its essence. As we gradually understand it better we can cautiously talk about the evolution of galaxies and solar systems in a way that parallels the evolution of Life. But it's not something we can talk to, or talk with. That's the human, anthropomorphised God within us.
‘These are examples of the innate forces of nature – as innate as the force of gravity. They can be seen as the fundamental and inescapable reality behind the morality of truth. Deceit adds to chaos and decay. Harmony can only be real and ongoing if it's based on truth.
‘Because of entropy, perfect harmony can never be achieved. Even the solar system is still evolving and decaying. But humans have the power to consciously steer a course between the extremes. We can overcome entropy by striving for truth.’

...

‘Over lunch, George raised the topic of this new Enlightenment people talk about vaguely, but nobody wants to define.’
...
‘I presume you're talking about your views on the limitations of rationalism.’
‘Yes, starting with how rationalists have commonly seen the opposite of rational as irrational rather than non-rational – the intuitive – downplaying and even implicitly denying the significance of subconscious thought. Others have seen it in terms of a dominance of left brain thinking over the right brain.’
...
You mentioned wise decision-making. I see wisdom as a higher goal than rationalism, not because it's more important, that depends of the situation, but as a greater challenge – difficult to achieve. Do you see any sign that wisdom has increased over the past centuries?’
‘I haven't tried to measure it. I'm not sure I could define it, let alone quantify it. How do you define it?’
‘As the ability, based on experience, to understand the possible consequences of actions or events.’
...
‘As you define wisdom, and I like the definition, it reminds me of our discussion of what you called sagacious truth – the truth of outcome.’
‘I think “wisdom” is usually just used to mean reliance on experience.’
‘But that can be rational thought – basing your decisions about facts on the balance of evidence in the present. Wisdom, as George defines it, is about evaluating actions.’
‘So, we want to draw a distinction between the Age of Reason and something that may be emerging, perhaps characterised as an Age of Wisdom.
...
‘If the right brain is creative, shouldn't we be seeing some kind of renaissance happening. I can't see any signs of that.’
‘I think I can. It's underground in cyb culture. Something that made a big impact on me when I started to explore their worlds was the creativity displayed – so many different ideas being pursued, and in so many different ways. They might not be building great physical cathedrals and universities, but in their worlds they're building modern equivalents.’
‘So in the first Enlightenment they recognised the power of reason in understanding the natural world. Their focus shifted from the past to the present. Then we see a shift to a focus on consequences, the traditional domain of religion, but now we can consider consequences from a better understanding of the world.’