Once we told ourselves that our planet, be it flat or spherical, was the center of the universe. Some few people in the world today, Sa’udi clerics for example, still believe in a flat earth in the center of Allah’s creation. Most now know, or at least believe what scientists tell them, earth is a mere speck in space.
Whether being a mere speck reduces the importance of earth or not is a question to be debated by biologists and by theologians. If earth ends up being the only life-bearing planet in who knows how many galaxies, the theologian wins, and earth even regains its place as the center of the universe.
It doesn’t seem likely. Even common sense, not to mention the unscientific ancient religious mind, assumes that if there’s life on earth, there must be elsewhere, given that there are more galaxies in the universe than there are grains of sand on earth. A hundred years ago, people believed Mars inhabited.
It seems to be a question of some importance, though. Are we or are we not at the top of the order of being, even if the earth is a mere speck? We associate human consciousness and its attributes, reason, memory, and will, to the fact of our superior brain, itself a mere physical organ which all creatures have.
Our brain is bigger than most, and better, and that puts us at the top, along with our superior consciousness. Yet consciousness is experienced only when we are awake. Asleep, we are no better than, not even other animals, but no better than even rocks. What connects consciousness and the brain?
That is to ask, what connects the soul to the body? a question falling into the hands of the theologian, though it more properly belongs to the scientist, in my opinion. It is also connected to the question, who is at the top of the created order of being? ‘Created’ conveniently cuts God out of the answer.
We already believe or know that God is at the top of the order of being, or even that He is Being. We are now free to ask, with the primitive animist, why shouldn’t living things other than ourselves have a ‘soul’ or consciousness, identity, self-awareness, and so on, perhaps even why shouldn’t earth itself?
Modern animists, a New Age religion, do in fact believe earth to be a living thing, some calling it by a Latinized form of its ancient Greek name, Gaea, and worshiping it. Of course, it is a feminine deity. There is as much reason to revive sun worship, as we know what the sun looks like, but do we know what it is?
In C. S. Lewis’ children’s books, the Chronicles of Narnia, some boys and girls from earth leave the universe in which our planet exists and enter a different order of creation, where stars are not only balls of hot gas but also living things, if not biologically as we are, at least as conscious entities, with powers.
Powers such as we humans have, reason, memory, and will, but greater in scale, we attribute to such spiritual beings as angels, which are characters in our religious tradition. Do angels really exist, or are they personifications of cosmic powers such as sun, planets, and stars, acknowledged by ancient man?
The direction of my question is not to find myself in a place where I disavow the existence of the angels, but where I find myself able to justify my intuition that the search for both life, and higher forms of life, need not be limited to the biological, and also that the search for consciousness not be limited to man.
For the surge of modern thinking is being channeled ever more narrowly into a life- and consciousness-denying ravine. Angels are assumed no less mythical than ancient gods, living creatures below man are assumed inferior and at our unconditional disposal, even the human fetus, since ‘it’s not a human yet.’
I hope for a rescue both scientific and teleological from this anti-humanistic attitude. Yes, a theological rescue as well, but that rescue must be teleological, it must be ‘of the last things.’ It may be that we as a race will only come to know the truth of the Kingdom of Heaven when we are at the point of entering it.
Meanwhile, I worship the God, One in Essence, Whose Life is the Community of Persons, Father, Son, Spirit, and… the rest of us. I venerate all, not only other humans, but other life forms, even other beings not fully or un-biological in whose presence I feel an abiding consciousness, the gift of the God of all.
At least I am sure of one thing. We are not at the top of the order of being. We are not at the top of our being, which is the only being we can know intimately and directly. We start our life journey as the Adam, but the New Adam has appeared, historically in Jesus, potentially in us, both one by one, and together.
That which is higher in the order of being than our original human nature has already taken its place in our genes, from the time that Deity was formed in the womb of an obscure Jewish girl, Mary of Nazareth, and there it waits for us to activate it. To follow her and her Son is the most important step in evolution.
Once that step is taken, we as a race look back with wonder at our wars, our doomed attempts to explore and conquer the universe, even our search for life beyond earth is shown to have been a waste of time. The mirage we pursued vanishes, leaving us the real lords of the universe, living images of the Lord of all.
The creation waits in eager expectation
for the revelation of the sons of God.