The Nature of Theological Questions in General:
We define theological questions – in general – as questions which seek to acquire knowledge about the most the most fundamental truths to explain what is going on – if anything – outside or inside our physical universe that is beyond our perception. To answer these questions can be done purely within philosophy. This is called metaphysics – the study of the underlying principles that explain and give meaning to the physical world.
To deal with these questions from the standpoint of religious experience, spirituality, or a formal religious belief system is theology. For our purposes here, I will gloss over the fine points of these distinctions between metaphysics, the philosophy of God, and theology since for most people the every day common sense world is divided into rational scientific or philosophical questions and moral and theological questions.
Consequently, I am limiting my approach in this presentation to the enterprise of theology. I am delimiting theology as our human endeavor to attempt to:
- Acquire, categorize, analyze and evaluate the data that is acquired through the exercise of an entirely separate and distinct sixth human sense- our faculty of intuition or spirituality and then
- Arrange, assemble and reflect upon this data again through the application to this differently-derived data of our human intellect – which is our ability to distinguish between one thing, concept or experience and another.
- Using both the intuitive and intellectual faculties we can supplement an otherwise strictly materially-derived mode of ethical reasoning.
- Arrive at norms of collective conduct that are right from a strictly utilitarian perspective and from an intuitionist perspective as well.
This approach allows us address the every day problems of life as well as profound cosmic human questions rationally and intuitively.
The Principal Pre-Contact Questions Are:
If our material universe has not simply always been here and it somehow came into existence, then was this creation event caused by some factor or some phenomenon that was or is not simply some sub-component material aspect that has simply always been an internal component of our physical universe? If the universe became materially manifest, what might this non-material factor, or phenomenon be, that caused our universe to come into material existence or manifestation?
The traditional Christian answer to this question is that God created everything that is and holds it in existence. The Jewish, Christian, and Islamic traditions conceive of the Creator God as personal. These three “religions of the Book” with their common Semitic Middle Eastern origins present God in the mode of an autocratic desert patriarch or tribal potentate. However, if in the process of learning more about life in the universe and encountering other advanced life forms, what will happen to our notion of a paternalistic God who made creation for us? What if we find that all or parts of the “mulitiverse” the infinite variety of universes posited by string theory leads us to the conclusion that this perceived coming in and out of existence is part of a “natural” process?
2. Origination Phenomenon
If our universe – the sum total of all detectable and inferential dark matter and energy – came into existence by some phenomenon, what might possibly be the nature or qualities of such a phenomenon?
Does this phenomenon have to be non-material in its nature since, by necessity, it must have preceded all matter and energy? As we begin to incorporate more of early 20th century physics based on quantum mechanics even the notion of “materiality” is giving way to “packets” or quanta energy/matter. The concepts of dark matter/energy that can only be inferred mathematically are also pushing the notion of what “materiality” is. If we meet an advanced species, their concept or story related to the existence of the universe may be a purely natural phenomenon or they may have a radically different set of constructs. However, if we can push our cultural horizons to have a broader understanding of these questions, we will have a better sense of our purpose and that of the multiverse.
3. Characteristics of the Originator
It seems then, that this originator phenomenon would not possess any of the qualities of a noun at all since virtually all concrete nouns (other than abstract concepts or ideas) refer to material things. This creative phenomenon therefore, possesses certain noun- making qualities that are intrinsic to material or conceptual objects, such as: shape in terms of finite boundaries, size – a finite quantity, and duration, a finite temporal existence.
In fact it is possible that such an originator phenomenon would have only the qualities of the entirely non-transitive verb of being itself. As such it would not have any of the noun making qualities or conditions at all such as: specific location; height, length, width, weight, finitude or any other measurable features. In turn, this lack of or excess of three dimensions might make this phenomenon incapable of being perceived by our senses or scientific constructs which convey qualities or characteristics of objects in the four dimensions of space-time. Consequently, this originator phenomenon may be beyond our detection because it is not qualified or conditioned by such qualities. Perhaps, such being is entirely unconditioned, infinite, and eternal, entirely un- differentiated consciousness itself.
4. Creator and Creation
If the universe came into existence or material manifestation by a non-material phenomenon that is not some sub-component physical aspect of our material universe, then what might be the relationship between the creator and creation?
5. Universe As Conscious and Always Existing
Is it possible that the confluence of the sum total of all of the matter / energy that makes up our entire universe is self conscious in the same way that we are and that it has always existed.
6. Self Consciousness and the Universe
Whether the universe has always existed or was “caused” to come into material existence at some specific point, what relationship does my experience of consciousness have with the universe and to whatever this creator / originator phenomenon there may be?
7. How Does One Know?
How can we know the answers to questions like these? Do really understand our experience of reality by just using our intellect to focus the material data we can perceive? Is there a sixth sense a different intuitive faculty that allows to grasp matters in their totality? Is there even a seventh or spiritual sense or are the spiritual and the intuitive one and the same?
8. Purpose and Meaning
Is there any conceivable specific purpose why such an infinite and eternal, entirely undifferentiated consciousness might generate an initial, unique locus of differentiation within its undifferentiated and infinite being? – Was this locus of differentiation the singularity from which our universe blossomed?
Assuming that the singularity was this locus of differentiation, why did the singularity come about? What purpose can it have, if any? Can the unfolding of the universe disclose any hints or ideas as to why it exists and what is the purpose of it unfolding?
If indeed there is a purpose does it also then tell us what all of this means for us an individuals or nodes of consciousness separated from the undifferentiated consciousness?
In short, if there is no purpose or end is there any reference point by which we can evaluate and set standards for our conduct to be in harmony with the universe or are we lost in a meaningless universe?
Does this entirely undifferentiated consciousness choose to intervene, or break into, the natural laws of the universe to enlighten individuals to understand the purpose and direction of the universe and the norms of our conduct to be in harmony with it?
Is such an illuminating human experience potentially available to everyone through education or simply by the recognition of what lifestyle practices would lead to such a special experience?
9. Higher Consciousness as the End Point of Evolution
It is possible that our entire species is undergoing a purposeful evolution in with we will all have this enlightenment faculty that will allow us to have immediate and direct access to this special experience. This development would be analogous to the way in which sensory faculties developed within earth’s life forms that gave them access to the vibratory phenomena of light and sound. Indeed, there is also the possibility that this development of our species is being driven by a bonding phenomenon of an infinite and eternal field of mutual attraction that transcends our universe and extends infinitely out and away in formless consciousness.
From this perspective we can actually see the universe a type of condensed or contracted consciousness which is urrounded by a completely unified field of simple unconditioned being which is conscious of everything.
10. Life after Death?
Would it be possible for me as a self conscious being to survive this individuated material incarnation in this state of undifferentiated being outside energy /matter?
If this is possible – is there something that I might do to be able to access this state of non-material being or will it be experienced by all humans eventually regardless of their individual conduct in this material incarnation?
The Principal Post – Contact Theological Questions Are:
1. Do these extra-terrestrials have any sense of theology or are they exclusively intellectual in the sense that they grant no credence to or role or an intuitive or spiritual faculty?
Intelligent sentient species are generated by the same infinite and eternal sea of entirely undifferentiated consciousness. Consequently, extra-terrestrials as conscious beings are generated as we are from undifferentiated consciousness and are in relationship with it. They would also be self-conscious since this is a pre-condition for intellect which allows us to distinguish ourselves from all other things.
Since the relationship between the individuated consciousness and the unitary consciousness that exists out beyond the physical universe is the very subject matter of theology, it is reasonable to assume that intelligent extra-terrestrials have a theology. In short, their reflection on their relationship between the self and the source of consciousness constitutes theological reflection.
Even though they are intelligent beings, it is possible that they might not give credence to such a source of consciousness and might not have a theology. Like many humans they may a purely secular or scientific perspective.
This would pose the greatest possible threat not only to our traditional human theological institutions but, indeed, to our entire human theological enterprise as a whole. This crisis could pose the danger that our ultimate quest is short circuited by purely secular answers. On the other hand these secular answers could be seen as freeing us to investigate the deeper problems of matter and the universe. In this case we would have to develop a field of endeavor – a ministry – to help humans to adapt these secular answers to the questions of meaning and purpose in their lives.
2. If they do not have our sense of theology have they developed purely secular or scientific answers to questions about what lies beyond the space-time boundaries of the universe? If so what influence does it have on our planet?
Their theology might confirm or contradict some of our various theologies. It might also trump all of ours. If we adopted their theology it might cause us to adopt their moral, ethical, and political systems. There are other possibilities. We might add their theology to our collection. We could insist that our theology is superior. How we could come up with a comparative ranking of theologies is not at all clear. Such a claim to superiority could be very dangerous since conflicts over theological systems have been very destructive of human society and progress.
3. If they do have a theology how will it affect our various theologies on earth?
- Will we adopt their theological system and the philosophy and social organization that derive from it?
- Will we just add it to our collection as a new “earth” theology?
- If we or some of us judge that our particular theology is superior to theirs, will it lead to a religious conflict?
- What quality or charism could justify such a position on our part?
- What quality or charism would cause us to accept their theology as superior?
- What if we shared the same desired quality and charism underlying our theologies? If so, what effect would we have on each other’s theologies?
There will be a wide variety of beliefs and responses to these questions by members of both civilizations. However, the principles of religious freedom and freedom of conscience will be paramount. We will have to protect the right of humans and extra-terrestrials to practice their faith as they see fit. All groups should be free to present their beliefs and to proselytize or recruit members. Although either group may feel that that its belief system is preferable, they may not compel anyone to adopt a belief system.
The review and study of alternative beliefs, religions, and theologies will be an important undertaking. We may find that there are certain comparisons that may make one system seem to be superior to others. However, this can lead to the dreaded human institution of theocracy. Despite any preference or priority are philosophical and theological might indicate, the secular state should never establish a religion whether human or extra-terrestrial on our planet and others.
This brings us to the inevitable issue of what we understand to be the relationship between biological evolution and spiritual consciousness. Some believe that consciousness is directly related to one’s level of spirituality which is a function of progressive, teleological, biological evolution. Within the Catholic Christian Tradition this belief is championed by persons such as Jesuit paleontologist and theologian Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and Meister Eckhart. In the Hindu Spiritual Tradition this belief is championed by Sri Aurobindo and theosophists such as Madame Helen Blavatski, Alice Bailey and Annie Besant. The theosophists suggest that Human “Prophets” or “Adepts” such as: Jesus Christ; Moses; The Buddha; Lao Tsu; Confucius; Mohammad and or Zoroaster are, indeed, biological mutations who are precursors of the New Human who is biologically latent within our species and who will evolve into full fruition over time teleologically as part of the purposeful unfolding of the universe.
If this is a correct assumption, then there is good reason to believe that there are literally tens of thousand of planets within our galaxy which possess life. These life forms have been evolving progressively pursuant to the same directional principle that we have. More than likely, many of these societies are much older than we are given the age of their sections of the galaxy. Their longer experience of this purpose driven evolution indicates the strong possibility that they are more consciously evolved than our species.
On the other hand David Wilkerson, a Protestant theologian and physicist believes that spiritual development of a human being has nothing to do with the state of biological evolution. (Wilkerson is also a fellow of the British Astronomical Society.) Wilkerson’s presents his views in his book Alone in the Universe? (1997). Theodore Peters is a professor of Systematic Theology, at Pacific Lutheran Seminary. In his article “The Implications of the Discovery of Extra-Terrestrial Life” Peters cites Wilkerson in his article “The Implication of the Discovery of Extra-Terrestrial Life for Religion” (Royal Academy Philosophical Transactions 2011). According to Peters, Wilkerson bases his position not on the natural, progressive development of spiritual consciousness but on Biblical revelation.
“Christianity’s central claim is not based upon the principle of spiritual evolution which will take us closer and closer to God as our knowledge increases. Christianity recognizes that our fundamental need is not a super- religion, but a reconciliation which we cannot achieve for ourselves. At the heart of the Christian faith is the belief in a divinely-initiated redemption, an action of a gracious God on behalf of a fallen cosmos… This message of salvation coming directly from God is something we can learn only from revelation it cannot be produced through spiritual evolution.”
Wilkerson believes that revelation is possible even for extra-terrestrials whether they are more or less biologically than we are.
In my view we must develop a new quantum physics based scientific understand of the truth which underlies many of the spiritual truths that have been expressed as metaphors and myths. By sorting through these beliefs we can focus on those that we want to preserve and present to off world societies. We must also be willing to see the theological systems of extra-terrestrials as an important part of their culture and include them in our own comparative studies of religion. However, if their beliefs or principles contravene ours we must make every effort to preserve ours on our planet and in our conduct on other worlds.
4. For many Christians one of the crucial questions is whether Jesus – in the form of a human being has visited other planetary civilizations or became incarnate as a true member of their species?
- If the Christ has only manifested on Earth are other intelligent life forms “saved”.
- Are humans the only ones saved by the death and resurrection of Jesus?
- Does this question – as criticized by certain liberal Christian thinkers – actually show the misconception of a metaphorical truth for a literal truth?
- Since this type of salvation question derives from the explanation of Christian beliefs in the contexts of Graeco-Roman, Medieval, and other cultures, shouldn’t there be a priority to re-conceptualize these beliefs in a Post-Contact worldview if non-literalist Christians are going to save their belief system?
- Can we be open to the fact that another species has actually grasped the “truth”? Conversely, are we willing to present our notion of the “truth” to an intelligent species that does not have a notion of intuition or “spirituality” if we judge it to be a better explanation?
When we ask the question of whether Jesus in human form became incarnate and brought redemption to an off world society or whether his salvation is exclusive to humans because of his death and resurrection on earth, we show this confusion of metaphorical and literal truth.
This question of salvation has two distinct subsets. The first is the Christian doctrine of redemption in which Jesus dies to atone for our sins and reconciles us with the Father. The second question is the actually meaning of the life of Jesus.
We need to deal with these questions in reverse order since one’s position on the second question will define one’s position on the first.
The majority of the world’s religious population – approximately 66% – is not Christian. Another 22% do not subscribe to a supernatural or religious dimension of life at all. Of the one third of the population that is Christian, the person of Jesus is central to their beliefs. However, the meaning and purpose of Jesus life on earth and his resurrected presence in everyday life is capable of many different interpretations. Since the largest Christian denomination is Roman Catholic (1.2 billion of 1.4 billion Chrisitians) with its standardized teaching and belief formulas, we can say that most Christians adhere (at least nominally) to the centrality of Jesus as Divine Savior. This is also true of other Christian denominations since it is the central tenet of the faith.
There is a small minority of Catholic and other theologians who see the life and meaning of Jesus in more metaphorical terms. This position meets stiff resistance since early Christian teachers and formulators of the religion such as St. Paul specifically rejected non-literal interpretations offered by the philosophers and mystery religions of the first century.
It is also worth noting that another 1.4 billion humans are followers of Islam. Moslems accept Jesus as a minor prophet. The prophet Mohammed is the messenger of an utterly and completely transcendent God. Attaining salvation – entry into heaven in the next life – depends on adhering to the five central teachings or Pillars of Islam and observing the Islamic moral code.
In this context it is interesting to note that a small minority of Christians have moved from a literal understanding of the death and resurrection of Jesus to a symbolic or metaphorical one. For some in this group, Jesus is the precursor of the fully evolved human. This goes against the grain of orthodox Christian teaching which views Jesus as truly human and truly divine. Wilkerson states the traditional consensus Christian view that Jesus as the Incarnate God, Second Person of the Divine Trinity is God’s gracious act of reconciliation.
The question of God’s revelation to extra-terrestrials is a prime concern for Christians and Moslems. It off world civilizations have not had the Savior or The Prophet, they can be seen as tools of the devil and / or ripe missionary fields. A simple review of Christian and Islamic expansion gives us a preview of their likely perspective on the spiritual welfare and status of extra-terrestrials.
If we make the reasonable assumption that off world societies that are capable of interstellar travel are older and therefore more evolved just due to the time interval, it seems highly likely that they would have had some type of Christ figure or an actual incarnation. This is true if we assume on the one hand that persons like Jesus represent a more advanced stage of our evolution. On the other hand the redemption of other worlds could be explained by the universality of God’s grace and mercy. However, a successful First Contact will require that Christians and Moslems as well as other faith traditions deal with these possibilities now.
Much of the current language and concepts of present day Christianity are the result of the synthesis and tumult of Roman Empire of the west combining with the great migratory invasions of tribes from Eastern Europe and Central Asia. This synthesis is known as the Middle Ages. In fact the pre-eminence of punishment and hell fire, the use of Aristotelian logic, and the significance of numbers shows the great influence of Islam on European Christianity in this medieval formulation.
Christians face a similar challenge in dealing with Asian religions and cultures and those of indigenous people. The modern social justice ethic has led to a strong critique of missionary activity as part of cultural and economic imperialism. Accommodating other cultures is more of a challenge for those Christians whose only rule of faith is the literal interpretation of the Bible. These smaller free churches do not have a hierarchical structure and they can be anti-intellectual.
Christianity has now been through a strong demythologizing phase over the last fifty years. This has led to a more metaphorical interpretation among some academic Christian elites. More importantly, though, it has opened a key space to see belief formulations as pale attempts to convey a deeper reality beyond the physical.
The Second Vatican Council (1961-1965) changed much of the medieval language and practice of Catholicism to that of the mid-20th century. Clearly a Post Contact earth will require similar adjustments and transformations. Protestant and Orthodox churches also made similar, if less dramatic, changes. Turkey became a modern successful secular state in an Islamic religious context.
The post-colonial encounter with Hinduism, Buddhism and contemporary neuroscience has already lead to changes in the notions of sin and guilt. There has been a shift away, in Christianity, from individual sin to the social structure of sin as oppression and exploitation.
1. Can we be open to the fact that another species has actually grasped the truth? Conversely, are we willing to present our notion of the truth to an intelligent species that does not have a notion of intuition or spirituality if we judge it to be a better explanation?
2. Doesn’t the increased likelihood of contact require us to work on a clearer understanding of intuition and spirituality as distinctive beneficial human characteristics to be placed at the service of other advanced intelligent life forms?
We must also prepare to present off world civilizations our faculty of intuition and use it to develop our belief systems in the Post Contact world. In fact this has been a core theme in Star Trek and other space sagas. The uniqueness of our species with a soul and a conscience has been our trump card in these mythic encounters with more advanced and more power beings.
If indeed, this turn out to be the case we should prepare and support humans with these advanced gifts as our ambassadors. These would include men and women from Sufi, Christian, Hindu, Jewish and other mystical adepts.
In fact, we should embark on a major effort to develop and use this sixth intuitive sense as common medium of communication between ourselves and extra-terrestrials.
7. Is it possible for extra-terrestrial life forms to be “Angels” or “Demons” in the sense that they are basically good or bad? Are they like us in terms of being good with moral failings? Given the potential for vast numbers of advanced life forms, is it possible that their cultures would cover a spectrum of values between malevolence and benevolence?
There can be a dialectical mindset in which we are tempted to see extra- terrestrial societies as angelic or demonic. To the extent that they a rational beings, more than likely, they are like us in terms of behaving well and behaving badly at times. Our best approach is to give these societies the benefit of the doubt and to use the tool of cultural relativism to understand these cultures in their own terms as opposed to ours.
The primary challenge to theology has to do with the fact that it is anthropocentric. It is centered on the importance of humans to God and the dynamic of divine and human interaction.
8. What aspect of our theological belief system will be most affected by encounter with extra-terrestrials?
THIS is the prospect that I discussed in my article published in the Special Vatican UFO Issue of OPEN MINDS Magazine entitled: “Catholic Dogma Faces E.T. “p. 77.
In this article, I presented several themes that have already been discussed in this monograph. The key challenge for the Judaeo Chrisitian tradition is the challenge to the belief that the creation was made for our species and that we have a unique central place in it. In fact, Christians see the history of the solar system as an unfolding of “salvation history”. In this context, humans renounce their centrality in the cosmos through disobedience and suffer the consequences of this alienation: death, murder, war, starvation, and the whole panoply of evils. Humanity is reconciled to God through the death and resurrection of God’s Word, Jesus who is both truly human and divine.
Some have, indeed, already embarked upon the intellectual process of attempting to try to transform ETs into the mythological pagan gods or into the position of the angelic beings in the classical Catholic theology.
I believe, however, that all of these entirely-understandable and good-faith human efforts to try to shoehorn these extra-terrestrials into the shoes of these mythological beings are destined to achieve no happier an outcome than that which was experienced by each of the step sisters of Cinderella in their vain effort to force their undeserving foot into the magical glass slipper.
We, must, I believe, instead, come to the true meaning of the phenomenon of our own human spirituality and its mysterious, intimate relationship to the realm of consciousness (the Great Ontological Mystery) in the broader context of quantum physics. This task is all the more urgent as the probability of First Contact increases. If we are not to be relegated to an inferior status by a more advanced off world civilization.
I am confident that extra-terrestrials, too, will have discovered the secret of that most important faculty upon which the ultimate success or failure of our common mission together will be our mutually shared faculty of intuition, our shared spiritual faculty that is rooted in what we hope is our shared capacity to experience, in common the unity of all being.
If I am correct in this assumption that this Extra-Terrestrial Species has also learned this important “Secret”, then the pathway to our true “Partnership” with them will be clear. It will lie along the pathway which resides within each one us, in both of our species. For it is truly the individual access which each one of us has to this intimate experience of unity, as a member of our human species and as a member of an extra-terrestrial species whom we are in the process of encountering, that constitutes the true gateway to the stars. Let us hope and, yes, let us pray that this pathway will lead our human family home and that along this pathway home we will encounter our extra-terrestrial partners on our way back to our common home.
9. If other advanced life forms are more advanced in their notion of intuition and spirituality, won’t that reduce our belief systems to mere primitive attempts to deal with these questions?
IF this is true, it is possible that we may still possess a theologically important quality according to even an entirely new, more-expanded, theology.
A. If so, what precisely is this unique or special quality?
B. How important, exactly is this quality to us even though it may be something we share with a non-human species?
C. What might this new expanded theology be?