My own posture toward existence is mystic-panpsychic, spiritually an excusable hyphenate of my time. Whether we were evolved or created to participate in the intelligence of the universe is a subjective matter. Sometimes I feel like I was created for the Job Of Mankind but most mornings I feel thrown together at random. This ambivalence, like hay fever and occasional flatulence, sometimes sets me back socially but, in the subject under discussion, affords me special objectivity and neutrality.
The subject is how huge, spooky and full of tremendous operations this universe is. Why, it hardly seems manageable! Sometimes the best we can do is tease a code out of it and try to solve that. The universe rewards calm, methodical inquiry from small observers, us, instructs us. We think: Yes, I can do this; the world is not so baffling after all! Silly, of course, but without it we get a great wall-less sack of dreams and who knows where to grab hold of that? As examples of this process, let's examine two scholars.
I'm glad to see Harold Camping is finally involved in tempering young Armageddonists. I've tuned in to his open forum show, off and on, for well over 20 years and always learned something interesting about the Bible. But mainly I've admired his unfailing courtesy to every caller on his show, even those who are antagonistic or insulting --and he always cautions people away from religious extremism, especially in politics. I was recently, however, surprised to learn Camping is only 89 years old. His impressive scholarship and knowledge of the Bible led me to assume he'd written it.
I must also add that Harold Camping is something of a regional treasure here. His study of the Bible is confined to what is in the Bible and he considers it his obligation to alert people to the temporal coordinates of Judgement Day. He has long been California's beloved "get-ready!" man. I remember back in the mid-'90s, he said Jesus would return. When Jesus excused Himself from that engagement, Harold Camping pretty much just said "oops" and returned to his calculations. Camping is a no-drama sort of guy. I don't know where all the billboards and press-packages came from this time, but I suspect his company has picked up some younger members full of energy and strange enthusiasms.
I have also followed Richard Dawkins --British ethologist, evolutionary biologist and author, emeritus fellow of New College, Oxford, University of Oxford's Professor for Public Understanding of Science from 1995 until 2008-- who is absolutely frantic with brains.
In September I watched a speech he made in the street. The Pope was coming! Dawkins, an Atheist, extemporized beautifully --delivered an address full of good sense and sound British scholarship-- and I was all attention! Police were in evidence but the crowd was extremely well-behaved, which is why I am glad I wasn't among them. Dawkins was fine until he said "ignominious expedient" without fumblemouthing. I can't and might have thrown something out of envy. Then, in an interview with the Washington Post this week, Dawkins was asked about Camping's latest prediction of the Rapture and used an unfortunate epithet, "loon". Those familiar with Camping know he would never use such an impolite term in return, so Dawkin's talk about him being a raving loon indicates an understandable unfamiliarity.
And maybe the Post interviewer sandbagged him into the word. I find it strange and interesting that Dawkins should be at odds with Camping. They are men of comparable scholarship and dedication to seeking order in the universe --according to the information before them. Dawkins, as an Atheist, and Camping, a Theist, have made equal leaps of faith and, as regards their separate researches, arguments of equal depth. But, before proceeding, let's examine Ishtar.
Ishtar was the Assyrian and Babylonian goddess of fertility, love, war, and sex. She was the counterpart to the Sumerian Inanna and to the cognate north-west Semitic goddess Astarte. It requires no great linguistic convolution to associate her with Asherah who, according to the Book Of Kings, was once worshipped along side of Yahweh in Israel. According to ancient texts, amulets and figurines unearthed in ancient Canaanite coastal city Ugarit (now Syria) Asherah was a powerful fertility goddess. Asherah's connection to Yahweh is spelled out in both the Bible and an 8th century B.C. inscription on pottery found in the Sinai desert. She was Nature and considered His wife: Mrs. God.
That Asherah was mainly edited out of Judaism, Christianity and Islam is understandable given the political climate of the past 3000 years. Nomography, the drafting of laws, grew into an art form --so did punishments. The world forgot the simple and forceful yard-duty of Mrs. God: Sit on the bench until you learn to behave! Things became complicated. That is why I have discussed two contemporary views of the universe with a very old one. People are not generally disposed toward goddesses. Dawkins is opposed to Camping. Camping proceeds where his calulations call. That is what you may expect of a world that grew up without a mama.
This brings us to the holographic universe. What is that? It means the whole is accessable from any given point in space and time. Marie-Françoise-Thérèse Martin --Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, b.1873 d.1897-- who was a very smart kid, reliably intuited the following: "Each small part of everyday life is part of the total harmony of the universe." It means we are in this together; that we cover the same phenomenon from different times and angles; that there's no other way to view a holographic universe; that we are united in continuum.
True, even in this eternal and infinitely divisible moment, that is the universe, there are those who cannot appreciate, who even feel threatened by, opposing views. They cannot accept biological invitation to participate in the collective intellect of all histories, futures, worlds. Maybe they grew up wrong, endured childhoods inappropriate for adult recital, couldn't expel blockages to open hearts and minds. In this, together. Collective. Neighborhood sports coaches say there is no "I" in "team". There's a rather important one in recital. Lest we become
counterproductively retentive, I suggest we explore that.