Some time ago I was asked to give an opening invocation at the Board of Trustees Meeting of CIIS (California Institute of Integral Studies) in San Francisco. How does an Evolutionist invoke the transcendent? I re-read what I had said and thought it worthy of repeating in this blog.
I invite you, please, to join me in a contemplation of the miracle of our being here.
My presence here is miraculous. For me to be here a million, trillion, trillion drifting atoms had to assemble in an intricate manner in an arrangement so specialized and particular that only a transcendent intelligence could unravel it. It has taken 14 billion years in which nature has moved relentlessly and improbably so that this special assembly, me, can be here today. And this remarkable assemblage of atoms has, incredibly, developed a mind, a sense of self and the ability to inquire. “Who am I?” “Why do I feel” “Who made me?”
I know that the atoms that comprise me will one day disperse and go on to form other entities. I ask, “As these atoms disperse will also my consciousness, my essence?” Only because I have a sense of “I” does the question even arise. Alone, among all the billions of species of life, 99.999% of which are extinct, am I that am aware of my impending death, because I alone developed a sense of “I”. But my consciousness, like everything else living, was forged in the furnace of survival, by the inexorable forces of replication and experimentation, mediated by survival. The urge to survive, for immortality, is thus primal, etched into me since that first pinch of chemicals on earth twitched alive in the primordial slime some 4 billion years ago.
So it is not a surprise that I crave with all my being to transcend death. Do I then delude myself when I invent a soul and scream out for immortality? In reality, am I just an, oh so fleeting, note in a grand cosmic raga? Isn’t it narcissistic of me to assign an existential permanence, and a divine purpose separately to this fleeting note, to myself?
Or maybe what I need to do is evolve a bit further so that my consciousness and my sense of self broadens to include this eternal raga of the universe, ever evolving, forming, re-forming, dying, being born, going extinct, coming into existence in an infinite dance. Perhaps I am not an entity but a process, eternal after all, if I just break through the boundary that my current sense of self has boxed me into.