April 13, 1997: Headlines: COS - Bulgaria: Religion: Paganism: Personal Web Site: Talk by Bulgaria RPCV Rel Davis before the Unitarian Fellowship

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Bulgaria: Peace Corps Bulgaria: The Peace Corps in Bulgaria: April 13, 1997: Headlines: COS - Bulgaria: Religion: Paganism: Personal Web Site: Talk by Bulgaria RPCV Rel Davis before the Unitarian Fellowship

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Talk by Bulgaria RPCV Rel Davis before the Unitarian Fellowship

Talk by Bulgaria RPCV Rel Davis before the Unitarian Fellowship

Talk by Bulgaria RPCV Rel Davis before the Unitarian Fellowship

Talk by Rel Davis before the Unitarian Fellowship of Key West, Florida, April 13, 1997.

Fifty years ago, when I was but a child, science seemed so simple. Although most of what I was taught -- through college -- was already known to be wrong by the time I was in school, the simplified look at reality of nineteenth century science was, I suppose, so comforting that schools continued to teach it long after it was outdated.

We were taught, for example, that bodies in motion would continue at the same velocity and direction until acted upon by other forces. The ultimate result of Newtonian physics was simply that if one were to know the exact place and velocity of every item in the universe, one could predict the future with total accuracy. A comforting thought indeed.

Like billiard balls on a pool table. Strike one with a certain force and angle and it in turn will strike others -- in a perfectly predictable pattern.

We were also taught that the electron orbited the nucleus of the atom much like a planet orbiting its sun. Chemistry was predicated upon this predictability, coupled with the "knowledge" that each orbit out from the nucleus could accept only so many electrons.

We were taught that gravity caused planetary bodies to be attracted to each other, and that gravity was solely determined by relative mass.

We were taught that higher (monotheistic) religions evolved out of more primitive (polytheistic) religions, which in turn evolved out of the most primitive (animalistic) religions.

We learned similarly that "higher" life forms evolved slowly, almost imperceptibly, from "lower" life forms by the process called "natural selection."

And we were assured that the earliest civilizations were also the most primitive ones, that civilization evolved from bestiality toward sophistication -- meaning that our current society, being evolved, is infinitely more civilized than any prior societies. Textbooks were quick to point out that the thousands of examples of female deities found in archeological excavations were the products of primitive "fertility cults," because obviously no civilization could ever have seriously worshipped a female!

All these "facts" were known to be true when I was a child. All were taught to me as absolute truth. And all are patently false. Not only are they all false, most of them were known to be false at the time I was taught their supposed truth.

Worse, most people today would agree with every one of the supposed facts above, thinking them to be the current thinking of science!

But science has come a long way in the past half century. Determinism is no longer considered to be the reality of the universe.

Our cosmos does not function at all like a vast, three-dimensional billiard table -- where everything is predictable and certain. Instead, the universe seems to function more like an almost infinite pattern of interweaving vibrations -- a cosmic dance of deities.

Let me go over these "facts" briefly and talk about them. The billiard-ball theory of the universe, along with Newton's gravitational theories, died a rather fitful death around the turn of this century.

It began, actually, as a political principle!

Back in the early part of the nineteenth century, a group of Scottish philosophers, historians and economists developed a new way of looking at the world.

They decided that human development followed a linear path from more primitive to more civilized. Later thinkers, such as David Hume and Adam Smith, added further enhancements to this theory.

All human civilizations, they said, must pass through four stages: hunting, pasturing, agriculture and commerce. Every current society, therefore, must belong in one of these four stages right now, and that stage defines the level of advancement of that society.

The tribal societies of Africa and North America were, they said, at the first stage. The nomadic peoples of central Asia and Arabia were at the second stage. Most of the Far East was in the agricultural stage (also called the "feudal" stage), and only western Europe was at the highest stage of human development.

As the Industrial Revolution advanced, of course, the final stage was redefined as "industrial" rather than purely commercial.

This was a convenient fiction for the time. It justified European hegemony over the rest of the world. It provided an ethical basis for colonialism and wars of aggression. Conservatives could use the theory to justify military conquest and mass enslavement of populations. Liberals used it to justify their concept of "the white man's burden," that is, that it was the responsibility of the "civilized" West to bring the rest of the world up to its exalted level, whether the rest of the world wanted to or not.

It was all very scientific, you know. Knowledge of history gave Europe a justification for world dominance.

You and I still tend to see the world through the colored glasses given us by the Scottish "inventors of progress." We see certain societies as "primitive" (in the first stage). We see the "backward" countries of the world as needing our "expertise" to "come into the twentieth century." We think any nation that isn't a western industrial democracy is somehow deficient and in need of modernizing.

This theory was later expanded into other realms of science, as well. Everything, it was decided, followed a definite linear progression. Cosmic determinism, according to Laplace, said that if we were to know exactly where everything in the universe was at any moment, and its direction and speed, we could predict the future position of the stars with absolute certainty. This is often called the "billiard ball theory" of the universe.

Some scientists argued this applied to the human sphere as well as the world at large. Du Bois-Reymond said in 1872 that if we were to know the exact position, direction and speed of all the atoms in the universe we could predict the exact course of human civilization.

Evolutionary thought carried these ideas to another scientific extreme. Although Darwin rejected the idea, others (such as Spencer) taught that the struggle for survival was the primary controlling element behind the linear development of organisms. That is, progress is determined by how successful a species or civilization is in competing and destroying its opponents. This justified capitalism's destructive tendencies admirably.

The whole thing as a scientific concept began to crumble, however, when Heisenberg's uncertainty principle demonstrated that it is impossible to determine an object's velocity or mass without changing the velocity or mass. That is, to determine the mass and velocity of a universe full of billiard balls, one would have to alter that velocity and mass to such as extent that one's predictions would be inaccurate anyway.

And Einstein's discovery that mass varies with velocity relative to the speed of light, and that gravity is actually a function of motion through fourth-dimensional space-time, demonstrated the falsity of Newtonian physics.

Now, an engineer who wants to calculate the trajectory of an artillery shell will still use Newton's mathematics to do so -- knowing that the difference between Newton's and Einstein's calculations is minuscule for such small particles.

The business of electrons orbiting the nucleus of the atom is also a nineteenth century way of looking at the world. Electrons, according to this view, are nothing but tiny particles of matter, the theory goes, and thus the atom is only a microcosm of our solar system. It's easy to understand that way. Of course, in order to fit observed behavior the electron must be traveling at an impossible rate of speed in its orbit.

Today, the electron is seen to be a probability wave pattern around the nucleus, not a "particle." If you perceive the "orbit" to be an energy shell composed of probabilities, you will be close to current scientific thought on the subject.

Another "fact" of the past. Is gravity an inherent function of mass? So that a larger, heavier body has more gravitational pull than a lighter body? Once we accept that nothing in space-time travels faster than the speed of light, we have some serious difficulties with gravitational theory. How does the earth "know" instantly that it should be pulled toward the sun -- especially since it is eight light-minutes from the sun. If gravity were limited by the speed of light, it simply wouldn't work at all.

Einstein demonstrated that if a body is moving through space-time it causes a "warping" or distortion in the space-time field around itself. This warping or distortion in space-time alters the path in space-time of smaller objects moving through the distortion. We call this distortion "gravity." The "pull" of gravity is non- existent. You and I are caught in the space-time distortions of the earth, and are influenced by it.

Of course, as far the apple falling from a tree is concerned, it is being pulled toward the earth, I suppose. The result is the same, whether you call it gravitational attraction or distortion in the time-space continuum. But Einstein's calculations are more accurate for larger bodies.

Much of the scientific dogma of the past was tied around the concept of evolution -- an assumption of gradual improvement in things that again was typical of nineteenth-century science, and a result of the Scottish "invention of progress."

This view held that "higher" animals such as humans evolved from lower forms which in turn evolved from even lower forms. Each "higher" form was presumed to be immensely "better" than the "lower" forms. Humans are better than apes which are better than dogs which are better than earthworms.

Today we don't tend to see evolution as either gradual or progressive. Evolution apparently was given some cataclysmic pushes throughout time. Vast climatic changes, massive meteor strikes, probably even shifts in the earth's rotation, caused tremendous upheavals -- destroying entire species and causing wide- scale mutations.

Natural selection played its role in between catastrophes, but major shifts in species took place through cataclysm. This explains, by the way, how the duck-billed platypus came about -- a little more believable than as the product of a practical joke by Jehovah.

Also, we are beginning to realize that humans are not better than, only different from, other species. Apes would probably object strenuously -- if they could -- to being considered "inferior" to an Adolf Hitler. We humans, for all our advances, have also created a great deal of misery and done untold damage to the earth which is our only habitat.

Evolution is now seen as an altering, not necessarily an "improving," process. Things change. Perhaps they become with time more complex. But complexity is not necessarily equivalent to being beneficial.

The same thing holds true for religion. "Higher" religion is actually a euphemism for more complex religion. Monotheism in all its forms is a most complex structure -- concerned not only with how many angels can dance on the head of a pin but also on where humans fit within their own, and their deity's, hierarchies.

Monotheism arose from the primitive egos of male overlords, not as the product of evolution from less advanced religions. Consider this: there is not and has never been a monotheistic religion worshipping a single female deity. The so-called higher religions are the theoretical trappings of a male-dominated society -- a means by which oppression by male rulers is justified.

Nineteenth century archaeologists found ample evidence that earlier cultures were highly civilized, were more in tune with their environments, and were organized around a religion honoring the female principle in nature and in humans. The thousands of artifacts from these early civilizations -- depicting the feminine principle in goddess form -- were dismissed as isolated "fertility cults" by most scientists. Even today, most scholars hold the same view.

A number of scholars disagreed. Carl Jung and Robert Graves, among others, insisted that early civilizations were neither primitive nor male-dominated. Modern archaeologists are finding so much evidence for earlier, advanced civilizations which were not monotheistic and not male-dominated that it is no longer possible to hang onto the evolutionary theory of religion.

The so-called "fertility cults" are now seen to have been the predominant religion of all humankind for more than six thousand years! A religion -- loosely referred to as goddess worship -- that recognized the value of the earth as matrix and mother (as home and provider) for humankind.

Trapped by their thinking patterns, humans have lost sight of their own identity with their own universe.

Today's science allows us to regain that unity with nature.

If all reality is perceived in terms of modern science -- where a particle can exist in two places at once, can be both a particle and a wave at the same time, and where two particles can communicate faster than the speed of light -- then a radical change in perception is required.

You and I were taught that matter is reality and energy is nothing but the forces that act on matter. The atomic bomb demonstrated the falseness of that, of course, when a tiny amount of matter was converted into huge quantities of energy. Energy and matter, therefore, are identical.

And if, as science has demonstrated, particles somehow communicate across vast distances instantly, and planets "know" to respond to stars' gravitational pull instantly from vast distances, we must accept a hitherto unrecognized unity in the cosmos. The universe is connected throughout its structure in ways we cannot see or measure or (perhaps) even conceive of.

In an attempt to conceive of such an interconnectedness, scientists talk now of vibrating strings -- much as ancient mystics called the universe the "dance of the gods." These strings of vibration, it is theorized, stretch across light-years. One vibrating point on such a string might compose one tiny particle of matter inside your body, and another point on the same string might well be an electron in the heart of a star in another galaxy.

To particle physicists, there is no such thing as matter. Only an almost infinite pattern of unimaginably long vibrating strings, creating an interwoven quilt of matter and energy that informs our universe.

If these theories approach reality, then you are indeed a child of the cosmos, a part of all that is. You and I and all living creatures and all inanimate objects in the universe are all part of one overlapping and interconnected pattern of dancing strings. Life becomes a cosmic dance -- an instant of perception at this fourth-dimensional level within an ocean of eternity.

And this concept fits well within the ancient concepts of the goddess worshippers of our past. We are a part of this earth, children of the mother which is the earth. From the earth, from Gaia, we receive the gifts of life and sustenance. All creatures are one with us -- all part of the same family and (even more) all organs of the same body.

We arise from the goddess. We are each the goddess.

We are composed of the vibrational reality of the cosmos. We are the cosmos.

Live each day as if everything in the universe is a part of you and you a part of it.

Live each day as if the earth that gave you birth were a part of you, and you one with it.

Blessed Be!

When this story was posted in December 2004, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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Former Director Carol Bellamy, now head of Unicef, says that the appalling conditions endured today by half the world's children speak to a broken promise. Too many governments are doing worse than neglecting children -- they are making deliberate, informed choices that hurt children. Read her op-ed and Unicef's report on the State of the World's Children 2005.

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