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Ethics and Spirituality

The idea that an all powerful father figure created the universe and the rules of ethics seems absurd from even a casual study of history. The immense cruelty in the world would be a reason for utter despair, if one thought it the result of the design of an all powerful being. Yet attempts to create ethical systems without reference to the creative nature of the universe, like Utilitarianism, fail to connect with the spiritual instincts that play an essential role in ethical feelings and thought. The Totality Axiom suggests an ethical approach similar to Utilitarianism aimed at maximizing happiness. But the Totality Axiom and Gödel's result imply that the capacity for experience is continually expanding. We need not only to make the world less cruel and more joyful. We need to support the evolution of beings whose experience of joy is beyond anything we can imagine.

The cruelty of evolution, including the evolution of culture, that dominates the world stage today is an inevitable part of a creative evolutionary process that is not directed or designed by a higher intelligence. Consciousness has evolved through a random and cruel struggle for survival. In the process values were created that can lead us into a less cruel more joyful future. The Totality Axiom is a starting point for integrating our evolved values with an objective view of the universe. We can create an ethics that strives not just to minimize suffering and maximize happiness, but also to extend the capacity for joy through the creative evolution of consciousness. Ethics in tune with the full range of human instincts must have a spiritual vision.

The spiritual vision suggested by the philosophy expressed here can be summarized as follows. God is the creative universe. She does not have a further explanation or creator. God is not an ultimate being or final destination. She is the unbounded evolution of consciousness. God is infinite in potential but not in actuality.

This view of spirituality has parallels with Buddhism, which sees our kinship with all sentient beings. Ultimately it sees all such beings as one. All that exists is the evolution of consciousness, which is an indivisible whole. There is no unique soul that defines one's individuality. We are not ultimately separate from the rest of humanity or the rest of the physical world. Our soul is the world soul with its ever evolving consciousness.

Traditionally Buddhism seeks enlightenment as a final or ultimate goal although many contemporary Buddhist thinkers see it more as a process with no end point[11]. There is no ultimate goal in the framework described here. There is only a continual striving for a higher level of consciousness. By treating Buddhist philosophy as metaphor we can speculate about how enlightenment can be reinterpreted.

The cells in the human body do not compete for survival as do single celled animals. They have a steady supply of food and nearly ideal living conditions. The price they pay for this is to loose their freedom to reproduce independently of the needs of the body they are part of. If they renege on that bargain and become cancer cells, they may destroy the environment that gives them life.

One can argue that cells in an evolved animal have reached a form of enlightenment. They have not eliminated the problems of survival, but they have pushed those problems to a new level. As long as the organism they comprise survives they live in a protected environment.

One cannot end all suffering or all attachment, but one can, to a large degree, push them to a higher level. Enlightenment is not an ultimate achievement but a continual progression.

Christian notions of heaven can be connected to this sense of enlightenment. We have or are developing the technology to create something approaching heaven on earth. We can eliminate most forms of suffering and it seems likely that we will learn to greatly extend human life. Much of what one may imagine in heaven may become a practical reality. Even the sense of communion with God, that is central to Christian beliefs, is obtainable. Understanding and feeling that we are an integral part of an unbounded creative process is communion with the great mystery and power of existence.

Like the cell we will pay a price in limiting our reproductive potential. A stable ordered world can only support a finite population although probably one far greater than exists today or in the foreseeable future. (This is not to question the enormous problems that over population creates today. It is only to suggest that, in time, we will develop the technology to support a much larger population in a fully sustainable way.) We can use our understanding of mathematical creativity to minimize the limitations that a finite planet imposes on the evolution of consciousness, but we cannot eliminate those restrictions. It is likely that we will start to reproduce as an entire world sending unmanned probes into space with enough technology and biological material to create new civilizations on worlds in which life has not evolved. We will be somewhat like the cells in an organism. We will live in a protected environment, but we will still be creative individuals striving to expand our own consciousness and that of future generations. We will want to seed the galaxy and universe with evolving creative life. We will have reached the heaven of Christianity, but see it as a single stepping stone on an endless unbounded divergent path.

If we get beyond the current crises and figure out out how to live together in peace and cooperation on this tiny planet, than we will push much of the strife that has dominated the history of mankind to a new level. Our galaxy and certainly our universe is likely to have more than one reproducing world. We will be competing with them to seed the universe and we will also be `mating' with them to accelerate the creative process. Any civilization that reaches that level of development will understand the implications of Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem for the evolution of consciousness and structure. This should instill a respect for all possible paths of development and limit the desire to dominate the universe.


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