April 1, 2016

Bonobos and Born Agains

In The Bonobo And The Atheist Frans De Waal puts forth the idea that morality antedates religion. Observations of chimpanzees and bonobos have led him to some very plausible conclusions about the origins of human morality.  He believes that the social hierarchy of these primates, with its system of behavioral inhibitions, speaks to what paved the way for human morality.

De Waal speculates that humans were plenty moral when roaming in small bands. However, as populations grew, religion came along to ensure that the enlarged numbers remained true to the established moral code. This larger scale of society needed a moralizing God to keep the people in line so one was fabricated by the most imaginative of the bunch. I am on board with most of what this author has to say. However,  De Waal's understanding of the origins of God is where I jump ship.

 It is possible that Moses saw what behaviors were helpful for his social group so he came up with the ten commandments. His insights into human behavior may have prompted him to serve as that voice of a moralizing God. However, Moses like all the other charismatic figures in human history who have founded the world's major religions and many of the minor sects, claimed that his message was in response to a mystical union with the Almighty. As if infused with a view from above, Moses had gained insight into what could correct the wrong in his society.

Typically the fruit of these mystical unions, like the one Moses had, is the emergence of a charismatic leader who feels qualified to speak about God's will for the people. This leader is able to stir up a religious impulse in the hearts of the people; he inspires followers and sometimes lots of them. I refuse to believe that religions arise merely out of  some kind of brain fart in the human primate. Having had a mystical union myself, I believe something else is going on here.

I, like Gopi Krishna who also had one and wrote extensively, believe that it has something more to do with the unleashing of a dormant evolutionary mechanism in the brain. Through a process of  moral perfection the human primate can trigger an actual rearrangement of  his neurology at the quantum level. If this transfiguration is negotiated successfully, one can actually encounter within the transformative energy that powers our very universe.

If we view the human as a creature in an organic predicament, it is not far-fetched to think of a mystical union as nature's way of correcting a maladaptive characteristic in the human population. A legitimate mystical encounter certainly has an impact on a person's neurology and can lead to powerful cognitive changes. So much so that we get an upgraded primate who is not only more aware of his responsibility to others but more conscious of his connection to the very quantum ground of his being. We get a hominid who has ascended the evolutionary ladder and thereby feels qualified to take on the voice of a moralizing God.

Faithfully yours

Sheila Banks


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