Has there ever been a more exciting time to be alive than today? With all the bad news that admittedly dominates the airwaves, our time is characterized by nearly hourly breakthroughs in the sciences and steady progress in outgrowing the ravages of organized religion like the attacks on the U.S. embassies in Libya and Egypt. As a former communications engineer for AT&T and professor of communications, to me the breakthroughs in communications are especially hopeful -- from Pinterest to Square, from GPS to Blu-ray, human beings are more in touch than ever previously imagined. Well, not quite.
In the 1930s a precocious Jesuit scholar Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, in his The Phenomenon of Man, imagined and predicted the very world I believe we are now rapidly approaching -- the point in human evolution he called "the Omega Point."
Teilhard's basic premise is that evolution is all about the development and perfection of the nervous system toward maximum consciousness, as creation on earth moved from simple one-celled organisms to the stunning complexity of the human body.
The Omega Point, the end-point of this evolution of consciousness, was foreshadowed in the nineteenth century by the invention of telegraph and radio -- just when our need for information exceeded our internal capacity to extend our sensory collectors. We simply had to reach out. In terms of the human nervous system and its insatiable need to collect and process exterior information, these inventions allowed us for the first time effectively to communicate through time and space -- dramatically externalizing the internal nervous system. Years before its actual appearance, Teilhard predicted television, by which images as well as sounds and writing could be shared through space and time -- what Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy intimated in the visibile parlare, "visible speech," of the bas-reliefs on the walls of Purgatory.
At the Omega Point, Teilhard theorized, human beings, rising toward the consciousness that guides the universe itself, would be omniscient, ubiquitous, and eventually all-powerful -- the characteristics, not so coincidentally, ascribed by earlier Catholic theologians to God. Of course the ever-conservative Catholic Church took issue with the direction of Teilhard's thinking and placed his book on the index of forbidden books -- as though they'd forgotten that Genesis clearly proclaims that man and woman were created in "His image and likeness."
If we were created in the image of God (aka the consciousness behind the universe), why wouldn't we evolve toward being godlike? Isn't that the whole point of spiritual aspiration, as witnessed by the great mystics of Christian tradition from St. Thérèse of Lisieux to John of the Cross?
On a daily basis, when you're in danger of being brought down by all the crises and bad news, remember that we are fortunate enough to be experiencing the Omega Point all around us -- that time in human evolution when our consciousness as humanity becomes what Teilhard called "autonomous," or free from the limitations of space ("nonlocality") and time ("atemporality"). Most significantly, as we evolve in this direction we evolve beyond our restricted individual consciousness to a super-consciousness, in which the human species become a kind of "super person" transcending the individual persons it's comprised of. With any luck, that super person that is humanity will express -- and continue to strive for -- our higher values rather than our more demonic ones.