I had had glimmers of spiritual yearnings with a dreamy schoolboy’s love of Wordsworth and which returned when reading Kierkegaard and Jung that year in the World Trade Center when this all began; but all that had been dormant for years. However, concurrent with my purely intellectual ferment, there were several events that began to alter the way I thought about my conceptions.
Several years after E.O. Wilson’s book, Consiliance was published in 1999, I read with astonishment the following quotation from it:
“For centuries the writ of empiricism has been spreading into the ancient domain of transcendentalist belief, slowly at the start but quickening in the scientific age. The spirits our ancestors knew intimately fled first the rocks and trees and then the distant mountains. Now they are in the stars, where they finally could become extinct. But we cannot live without them. People need a sacred narrative. They must have a sense of larger purpose, in one form or another, however intellectualized. They will refuse to yield to the despair of animal mortality. They will continue to plead, in company with the psalmist, Now Lord, what is my comfort? They will find a way to keep the ancestral spirits alive.
. . . We are a single gene pool from which individuals are drawn in each generation and into which they are dissolved the next generation, forever united as a species by heritage and a common future. Such are the conceptions, based on fact, from which new intimations of immortality can be drawn and a new mythos evolved.”
I was mesmerized by the passage. Dr. Wilson had given voice to my life’s work. I was well on the path to the creation of a “new mythos” that was consistent with the laws of evolution.
Then I experienced a shattering emotional reaction to 9/11. As a result, although I would not call it a conversion experience, something had definitely shifted within me such that I was more open to “the spirits our ancestors knew.” Subsequently I began viewing the changes that I was conceiving as the initiation of the hominid family as an expression of God in nature.
In this new mode of thinking, I began seeing Richard Dawkins’ view that evolution takes place at the level of genes from a different perspective. I reasoned that during the process of selection inclusion of dominance and submissive mentalities, the entity of group authority and obedience produced would consist of “relational genes” which would be activated by the coordination of group behavior. The actual DNA would exist in the heads of the individuals of the group, but only be expressed in their mutual interactions for the good of the group. Therefore, the intentions for a group to survive that would evolve in these relational genes would differ from the singular self-interest of the individuals in which they physically existed. This would be a way that, by means of a natural evolutionary mechanism, God could acquire DNA while remaining in a spiritual sphere.
I began to use the word, “ascension” with its spiritual connotation when describing the process whereby the dominance mentality within individuals transformed into the collective entity of authority over early hominid groups whose function was the maintenance of morality and justice. As the productivity of this ascended dominance entity spread to all the groups of early hominid species, it remained identical because there is only one morality, one justice, not two or three to choose from. Thus the mission of my journey began to take on the complexion of a pilgrimage. I was now not merely seeking a path to truth, but attempting to forge a bridge between the worlds of science and religion.