By Samuel M. Frost, Th.M.
I have been reading and “doing” theology for well over 20 years now, and have come to a few conclusions as it regards the issue of Eschatology. Even the Mayans, the Egyptians and the Ugaritic peoples held to a view of “end times.” How will the world end?
We have, today, the “global warming” crowd and their citations from the Nature Goddess (Mother Nature) who is sending us messages that the earth is dying. Now, of course, most Global Warming theorists would admit that Mother Nature is mytho-poetic. It is more in line with Spinoza’s Deus sive natura. God and Nature are the same thing. Nature is a living thing, the stuff of life that animates all around, and operates on supposed quantum physics through causality, most of which happens so far out of sight (you can’t see an atom) that we now have, “invisible particles”. Invisible force is the stuff of Mother Nature, or God. When I say God, I don’t mean the moronic Christian god(s) often paraded around as the ancient diety of Abraham, Isaac and Moses. This God is Nature Itself, and it is assumed in the theology of this god that nature can be rightly interpreted through the language we call, scientia – knowledge (in Latin).
Now, god, el, taos, allah, gott, elohim, theos, whatever nomenclature on wishes, is defined in the typical way as that (a neuter pronoun) which is greater than ourselves. This is the most basic, most bottom, most level meaning. Power greater than our own, individual selves. Again, “power” is not defined here as the ancients (and the not so ancients) understood it. For them, even simple lightning was a bolt from the gods who sent it. Lightning was an act of the gods (as was drought, rain, or a sudden swarm of locusts). God(s) were seen as ruling Nature, outside of Nature and directing Nature. In today’s myth, invisible particles which can be subject to rational computation and physics (can be reduced into a theoretical formulae with a lot of squiggly lines, numbers and Greek letters) rule Nature (we still use the word, “Torah”, “Nomos” or “Law”, the Laws of Nature). Today’s god(s) can be known. Well, yesterdays god(s) could be known, too, we just didn’t like what they had to say, and so reduced them to myth.
What is shared in our concept of the god(s) is the basic stuff of theology. If there is god(s), a power greater than ourselves (call it Life Force, a non Rational Substance, but Substance nonetheless), then it must be able to communicate. Let me again define and wrap up all the stupidity of ancient myths and “religions”: what were once seen as Rational Being(s) that operate in the world from the outside, that caused the phenomena of what we see all around us on a daily basis, is nothing more than that mindless, spiritless, force. When a lightning bolt was “seen” as striking the earth, the god(s) were angry. When we see the very same phenomena as those in the 13th century B.C.E. Ugarit, it is When normal lightning strikes soil, “chemical energy is stored in nanoparticles of Si, SiO or SiC, which are ejected into the air as a filamentary network. As the particles are slowly oxidized in air, the stored energy is released as heat and light.” Nature speaks and can be understood just as the ancients understood that if there is God, or gods, they must speak or be understood. Why have them around if we cannot access what they have to say? Why would they even be around if they didn’t have anything to say? Why have a concept of Nature and the Laws of Nature if Nature (Deus) cannot be understood?
But, this runs into the very problem that we have charged our ancient brothers and sisters as having, but never admitting. Which came first, Nature (as some sort of substance that came about through that which we have yet to entirely understand) or the Concept of Unified Nature? We speak of Nature, not Natures. Lightning strikes in Costa Rica are no different and operate under the same mechanical equations as they do in New Castle, Indiana. Nature appears to be a unified concept, or at least we assume it to be, and also assume that It is the Same Today, as it was Yesterday and will be Tomorrow (this is the same descriptions of the ancients god(s), too).
What it seems to be is that the new theology, science, has simply replaced the ancient ones yet has not discarded the most basic, fundamentals (there are Fundamentals of Science, as there are Fundamentals of Religions, and those who adhere to them without question are Fundamentalists, Dogmatists, etc.). Nature is not some chaotic, non-existent entity. To be sure, Nature does not “speak” in terms of holding a rational dialogue with a mortal. Mohamet claimed that Allah spoke directly to him, which is just as absurd as Jesus or Joseph Smith claiming that God spoke to them. Nature, on the other hand, does speak (if we may so employ this word metaphorically). Ask the Global Environmentalists. Ask the Prophets, who forewarn us what Nature is saying to all peoples: “The sky is falling!” Nature has her own Prophets, with the vestments of ascendency in terms of the White Labcoat.
And, with all religion, there is a way to appease the god(s) through sacrifices. Nature is reacting to the people of the earth in terms of the effect of that which people do. Since people are behaving badly (emitting carbon dioxide, breeding without any constraint, artificially combining hybrids of natural food substances which Nature has Provided for us), then Nature reacts. If people changed their ways and repented of their carelessness, then Nature would withdraw from her wrath. All of this, of course, is entirely blind on the part of Nature, who is not a Being that thinks. Nature is a substance, a living substance, but a non-rational substance. It would seem, then, that human beings are simply looking out for themselves in this creation of Nature. God didn’t make man. Man made God. Nature didn’t “make” Man, either. Man simply was stirred up out of the Stuff. However, Man now recognizes that the Stuff of which they came is greater than they are, and must now submit to the Stuff, else the Stuff wipe them out. Man has taken the Stuff and virtually deified it, placed it above them, and is its servant and protector. By the Revelation of It’s Laws, man can live a life with the promise of a future, which is what Eschatology is all about. These Revelations are communicated through the Prophets, the Scientists in their White Coats who, alone, are able to decode the most finest of fine particles of Nature and relay that information back to the masses.
What we have here is nothing more than the ancient religions. The difference, if it really is one, is that the ancient fundamentalists believed that they were interpreting the signs placed before them by living god(s) –gods who thought, had a mind, etc. But, as we now know, what was the god of lightning, is now just, lightning. A tornado is just a tornado, and not the “finger of god.” Yet, Nature is telling us something, so we are told by the Preachers and Teachers. If Nature is God and God is Nature, and religions are based off an understanding (misunderstanding), then the form of religion has not changed, even though the content has. I doubt that religion, which is nothing more than collective attention(s) to a set body of laws and ideas and, thereby, acting in accordance with such laws and ideas (Ethics and Morality), I doubt that religion was a concern to Australopithicus afarensis or Homo habilis. Man’s brain has evolved, and with that, so have his ideas (his imagination).
What puzzles this philosopher is that if Nature is blind, without intellect, and only Substance, and religion is the product of power combined with fear by the few who seek to rule the many (might as well throw Government in there, too), then is not the cultus of Nature the same, or at least operating under the same fundamentals? And, if these fundamental structures are simply evolutionary products rooted in self existence (survival, to live and continue to live, which is innate to certain substances), then the question naturally arises: who gets to exist? If we have come to believe that that past myths and superstitions about gods and virgins are impediments to survival (which is why we wish them all gone), then the same can be said of the Concept of Nature. “Nature” does not “exist”. It is a “concept” merely rooted in one thing and one thing only: survival. One cannot say that from Australopithicus afarensis to Homo sapien, and while now in this stage, from Myth to Enlightenment (human history), we have a true grasp of Nature! There are billions of years left (at least before the Sun eventually burns out and we simply freeze to death). This consideration leaves open the thought that what may be seen as reliable today, may be a mere myth in 10,000 years. Just as what was once thought of as the god Marduk thundering from heaven is now thought of as nonsense.
This needs qualifying. Nature is not nonsense, or sense, it is what it is. Our understanding Nature as we evolve changes, not Nature. But, this runs into the problem of contradicting our most Fundamental Law/Revelation: the uniformity of Nature as Constant according to its Laws, the same yesterday, today and forever (well, not forever, but you know what I mean – Eternity is the stuff of the old myths – Nature has told the Prophets that sustainability is not eternal – regardless of population, or carbon emissions, or recycling 2 litre bottles to save the earth, it’s gonna end). We are not changing Nature if we obey her rules and she stops warming our planet as a result. What we are really staving off is the End coming sooner, rather than later. However, if our concept of Nature is changing (as it most certainly appears to have done) and today it is seen as forwarding our progress, then perhaps in about 15,000 years (from Enlightenment to Even Better Enlightenment in human history) what is seen as Enlightenment now will be thrown off as absolute stupidity then. There is no observation or logic that can assuage this.
It seems, then, that perhaps we are no better off than our ancients in terms of structuring the world around us with categories of Power above, Invisible force, Knowledge of the Few to the Many, making Sacrifices to appease or change the Effects of Nature, Telling People What to Do, and Fundamental Law. After all, we still have murder, poverty, unfathomable misery, unspeakable acts of cruelty, entire stupidity of the hordes of Homo sapiens, disease. If the model of Power Structure borrowed from our ancient myth-makers does not work, then maybe that’s the next step: how do we get outside the Power Structure altogether? Maybe the Power Structure itself is wrong. There is no “top” and there is no “bottom.” There is no “high” and there is no “low.”