Updated: May 15, 2019
All human activity and endeavor finds its essential meaning in the context of a people’s cosmic story.
The overarching question of our existence are:
Who are we? (the question of identity)
Where did we come from? (the question of origin)
Where are we going? (the question of destiny)
What ultimately matters (the question of meaning)
How are we to live? (the question of morality/right action)
What happens when we die? (the question of finality and continuity)
Our answers to these questions are embedded in a person’s cosmology. Cosmology is a branch of philosophy that deals with the origin and general structure of the universe. In layman’s terms, a person’s cosmology is their creation story. Traditionally, there are two options: (1) God created the world, which means God is the captain of the universe, or (2) Evolution is responsible for the universe, which means science is the captain of the universe. All of the answers to those above existential questions are determined by which option you decide upon. This is why religion and science have so often been adversaries down through history – their fundamental cosmological disagreement, which splits off into two very divergent paths.
In my view, this is a false choice. These two views don’t have to be incompatible but complementary. Science/evolution and God/creation can be assimilated into a deeper and more unified understanding of the universe. Darwinism and creationism can coexist. It will require science to let go of its insistence that anything that can't be substantiated by empirical evidence is not valid, and would require religion to let go of a fixed and traditional/religious view of "God." Dominican priest, Francisco J. Ayala sees no conflict between Darwinism and faith.
This cosmological view goes like this: there is an evolutionary energy embedded in the nature of all living things, which enables life at all levels to realize its fullest and transcendent potentiality.
Take the human individual, for example. A widely accepted model of universal human needs is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
Self-transcendence seeks to further a cause beyond the self and to experience a communion beyond the boundaries of the self through peak experience.
Self-actualization seeks fulfillment of personal potential.
Esteem needs seeks esteem through recognition or achievement.
Belongingness and love needs seeks affiliation with a group.
Safety needs seeks security through order and law.
Physiological (survival) needs seeks to obtain the basic necessities of life
With respect to self-transcendence, Maslow wrote, “Transcendence refers to the very highest and most inclusive or holistic levels of human consciousness, behaving and relating, as ends rather than means, to oneself, to significant others, to human beings in general, to other species, to nature, and to the cosmos.” Notice that self-transcendence is above self-actualization. While self-actualization refers to fulfilling your own potential, self-transcendence moves past one’s own needs to serve something greater than yourself.
These ideas are explored further in the field of transpersonal psychology , which is a sub-field or school of psychology that integrates the spiritual and transcendent aspects of the human experience with the framework of modern psychology. Issues considered in transpersonal psychology include spiritual self-development, self beyond the ego, peak experiences, mystical experiences, spiritual evolution, religious conversion, altered states of consciousness, spiritual practices, and other sublime and/or unusually expanded experiences of living. The discipline attempts to describe and integrate spiritual experience within modern psychological theory and to formulate new theory to encompass such experience.
We human beings are not separate creatures on earth, in a universe. We didn’t come into this world, we grew out from it. A human being looking through a telescope is literally the universe looking at itself. Consider the possibility that the universe has always been evolving and is evolving, and as a human expression of the universe, we are evolving along with it. For better or for worse, the universe and all living things are interrelated. The evolution of one part of the universe impacts the reality and evolution of the whole. We are all in this together. What is unique about the human expression of the universe is that we have the ability to consciously guide our individual and collective evolution – who we are and what we become individually, and who we are and what we become collectively.
How does Jesus fit into this perspective? Things don’t work and breakdowns occur, whether personally or institutionally, when fear, arrogance, inauthenticity, deception, blame, self-righteousness, apathy, irresponsibility, injustice, self-centeredness and greed happen. When these elements are in play our evolutionary path is dreadful. Now think of the life Jesus lived, which was characterized by qualities such as humility, authenticity, responsibility, compassion, courage, service, and solidarity. It’s doesn’t take much effort to see how Christ-centeredness could offer a meaningful guide for a more hopeful and promising evolutionary trajectory.
In my view this is a worthwhile area to think more deeply about – how science and religion, evolution and creation, physical and spiritual fit together. These few thoughts are just a primer, which I hope will stimulate further thinking and investigating on your part.