Click here to read an original op-ed from the TED speaker who inspired this post and watch the TEDTalk below.
Louise Leakey's talk revealed something that was startling to most of us: that we had more than one type of ancestor simultaneously walking the planet. How could that disclosure impact our view that God was on a mission to create us and that "He" knew what "He" was doing? It could turn that view upside down. It could integrate God and evolution as One. And though many of us have abandoned a literal interpretation of Genesis, and most of us accept the concept of evolution in nature, few of us have fully embraced the idea that God is part of evolution and that evolution is part of God. Most of us consciously or unconsciously still hang onto the idea that God is static, perfect and non-changing. Why do we do this?
Humans always seek to understand the nature of reality and our place in it. There is nothing more frightening than the complete unknown, particularly the appearance of randomness, because we can't protect ourselves from what we can't predict or understand. For this reason, we create beliefs that explain reality in ways that make us feel more secure. Given that, what would we want to believe about our own existence? Since we tend to be ego-centric and see ourselves as the center of the universe, of course we would create a concept of a God whose ultimate purpose was to create and protect US. But now if we are faced with the possibility of simultaneous multiple pre-humans who may have even cross-bred, we might have to consider that evolution has its own impetus without an all-knowing God to plan it out to its ultimate conclusion. And if we choose to maintain a belief in some kind of "God," we might have to see ourselves as manifestations of a God that is evolving, too.
For fun, let's consider a conversation between Mr. and Mrs. God using this concept of a God who is evolving, improvising, winging it.
Mrs. God: I've been looking down on earth, and I think you ought to get rid of a couple of those hominid types that are roaming about.
God: Why should I get rid of them?
Mrs. God: Think of your reputation. Those guys look a lot like gorillas.
God: Yeah, but I'm just experimenting with a couple of prototypes.
Mrs. God: But people are going to say that God made Man in his own image, so what does that say about you? That you're just a big gorilla? Better come up with something better looking than that.
While this conversation sounds ridiculous, there is a grain of truth in it. Suppose God was not sitting in heaven planning out the universe with omnipotence and omniscience? Then God could be seen not as perfect and static, but as dynamic and evolving. And then we could see ourselves in the same way: as evolving, not shameful, as manifestations of a God that isn't perfect either. And having released ourselves from shame, we could face ourselves more honestly, acknowledging our flaws, addictions, cruelty, fear and destructiveness. And we would no longer compare ourselves to the perfect Creator, but have compassion for ourselves as also imperfect and evolving. And now with self-compassion and no longer paralyzed by shame, we could accept ourselves yet simultaneously call ourselves to accountability for our impact on ourselves and others. And we could lend our efforts to changing ourselves in directions that we foresee as more beneficial to ourselves, one another and our planet.
Most of us still, consciously or unconsciously, cling to the belief in a perfect God. Why? Because life is frightening, and we need security, and therefore we haven't gotten over our need for a father, all-loving, all-knowing, focused on us and taking care of us. --Beth Green
God and we are evolving; it's that simple. But how do we feel about this idea? It would eliminate shame and blame, but the price would be letting go of the idea of the perfect God. Why is that scary?
Most of us still, consciously or unconsciously, cling to the belief in a perfect God. Why? Because life is frightening, and we need security, and therefore we haven't gotten over our need for a father, all-loving, all-knowing, focused on us and taking care of us. Because if we create a God to which we can attribute certain characteristics, we just might be able to figure out the rules and learn to manipulate the universe. Because we need somebody to help us, and we don't trust ourselves or one another.
We don't need a perfect God to experience the peace, receive the guidance and connect to the bliss of what we associate with God. As a spiritual teacher in the 21st century, I'm ready to share the good news -- that it's possible to have an intimate and profound relationship with a God that doesn't exist in the old sense. And we can do that by dropping the anthropomorphic view of a God created in our image and embrace the mystery of consciousness in the process of evolution, so that we can truly experience Oneness not only with One another but with the Divine.
I am a mystic, not a scientist, but I have no problem with science. It brings fascinating facts and theories that I can accept, question and/or integrate into my meager understanding. And the idea that we had not one, but multiple simultaneous ancestors supports my mystical experience of God as an ever-evolving field of consciousness that is moving toward greater self-awareness and integration, with which I can have an intimate relationship. In fact, I can feel closer to this evolving God than I ever felt to the old man with the beard, because this field is not perfect, and I don't have to feel ashamed of my human imperfection. And it fits with my experience of reality, where nothing is static, where everything is changing, even the rocks being impacted by the forces of nature itself. And it allows me to keep my common sense intact, because I don't have to pretend that I live in a perfect world.
God must love the theory of evolution, because God is evolving, too. And if God is evolving, our vision of God can evolve, as well. So let's put away the childish need for a perfect father and embrace a new relationship with the universe in the process of evolution. Let's see ourselves not as the purpose of creation, but as part of it. Let's acknowledge that while the universe was not created for us, it can be damaged by us, because through our collective evolution we have developed the technology and the numbers that can erode the wondrous resources that sustain life on Earth. And let's have faith that we can turn around our destructive, because our consciousness can evolve. We can learn that our survival depends less on our dominion over the planet and more on our dominion over ourselves. Because only when we have mastered ourselves and our egos, with their short-term, me-based perspective, will we use consciousness and technology not to destroy our planet, but to become a blessing to all. And that would be a great step in evolution, wouldn't it?
An evolving God is part of what Beth Green calls The New Spirituality. Her organization, The Stream Center for The New Spirituality, is offering a free event on Sunday, July 14th from 10 am - 1 pm Pacific time (available in-person or via the internet,) to help bring awareness to the evolving God and the other components of this path. For more information, go to The Stream. Beth will also soon be launching an internet radio program called "Inside Out," where people can experience The New Spirituality in action. For more information about Beth, please see her personal website.
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