Week 4 of Luna Wisdom’s Mystical Seeker’s Year has some interesting questions about meaning and purpose.
- Is the Universe meaningless or does it hold a meaningful structure, as in the concept of a Cosmos?
- Does deity have a purpose or agenda, and if so, what is it?
- How much influence does deity have on Earth, over human beings and what goes on here?
Despite feeling pressure to conform to the atheist cry of “of course not!” or my existentialist tendency to insist that we make our own meaning in life, when I reflect on the spiritual side of me and the relationship I have to nature/the Universe I have an embarrassing tendency to feel that there is some sort of structure or meaning, even if it is only a sense of growth and revealed truth.
Let’s back up and answer the questions properly and in order. Is the Universe meaningless or does it hold a meaningful structure? Well I do think there are principles at the heart of all things, Universal principles that underpin the structure of reality. Obviously every physicist would agree with me but I’m not just talking about physical laws. I’m talking about concepts that seem vaguely spiritual but actually make a lot of sense when you think about it (even possibly to an atheist).
One such principle is truth – knowledge, wisdom, truth – they are out there and if you ask questions and search for wisdom and knowledge then you will find it. The Universe will reveal its secrets to those who search. This may sound mystical or poetic but surely every scientist believes this, or they wouldn’t bother doing science as there’d be no point.
The other principle underpinning all things is that things end up where they fit. The scientific version of this is natural selection, but it holds true for physical laws also. It also makes sense to apply it to human affairs, which is where it seems to be a spiritual principle. But basically things either work or they don’t. Things either fit or they don’t. When things don’t work, or don’t fit then they eventually cease to be because what cannot be obviously cannot be. Things that work tend to carry on existing precisely because they work so well. Things that don’t work so well eventually get superseded by things that do work or they simply break and cease to be.
This is why it is foolish to wonder why our physical laws work so that the Universe can survive or life can arise. If the Universe ceased to be or it was a dead and lifeless Universe then we wouldn’t be here to wonder about it. This is known as the Anthropic Principle. Also it is foolish to marvel at how well-designed living things seem to be. Poorly designed creatures soon die out and only the ones who function well continue to exist. This is Natural Selection. I believe this is true of human affairs too. A dysfunctional relationship or a job where you don’t fit (eg. are not very good at) – both those situations cannot survive for long. But jobs that you excel at or relationships that function well, these things will survive. The good news about this is that eventually people end up where they fit for the simple reason that you can’t remain in a situation where you don’t fit. There is a general principle I believe in here. What works remains, what doesn’t work ceases to be.
So there is a kind of meaning to the Universe.
But does deity have a purpose or an agenda? Is it trying to achieve anything? Well, deity for me simply is the Universe. And the Universe isn’t necessarily conscious. It’s more a kind of energy we can tap into, and we sometimes find it helpful to personify it as something more personal (because WE are personal beings). I believe then that it’s not planning anything as such. Truth, and growth seem to be its main purposes. The truth is out there if we seek it. And growth is a natural reaching for what works over what doesn’t, a meaning that we share with all things. So those are the purposes of deity. Truth (and strength and love), passively held out for us to make use of when we need them. And growth towards better things, an unfolding of purpose perhaps, that the Universe enables and takes part in without really knowing ahead of time where it will all lead. This is the mystery and the wonder of all things.
So how much influence does deity have here on Earth and with human beings? It passively waits and unfolds and reveals its secrets to those who seek but it does not directly influence or direct anything. And that to me is truly beautiful. If we wish to personify that with intention and personality, we could say that it is unconditionally loving, respecting of our personal choice and freedom and passively, beautifully available to all who would tap into and make use of its gifts.
Wow, I can see now why I would understand deity as BOTH distant, unfeeling and impersonal and YET ALSO loving, wise and something we can have a relationship with. It kind of makes sense now.