Happy holiday wishes to us all. More: A wish for a spiritually rich Christmas, and other holy days around our world. My own long search for the spiritual started magically.
In 1982, the small Gihon Foundation gathered four of us on a New Mexico hill top ranch to consider the great problems confronting mankind, (as if any four could do anything useful!). We were myself, a scientist, two fine journalists, and a mountain of a man, N. Scott Momaday, a Kiowa, Pulitzer Prize winning poet.
In a bass voice that brooked no argument he said: "The most important problem confronting mankind is to reinvent the sacred." I was stunned. We scientists do not speak in such language. In moments I knew Scott was right. My life has been forever transformed. We spoke of some form of an emerging global civilization as an ecology of co-evolving civilizations, and the dangers of civilizational wars.
Twenty six years later I borrowed Scott's transformative phrase, with credit, in my book, Reinventing the Sacred. Three billion of us belong to the Abrahamic tradition, a billion are secular humanists, billions belong to Wisdom traditions. Globalization squeezes our 30 civilizations together. We need a sharable sense of the sacred. Among those who need it most are we who are, as Gordon Brown, prime minister of the U.K. said, reduced to price tags in our post industrial first world.
Last spring, I had the honor to co-teach a course at Harvard Divinity School with Gordon Kaufman, a Harvard theologian. Gordon has taught for years that we need again to evolve our sense of God from a Creator God and that God's creativity, to God as the natural creativity in the universe itself.
In my book, Reinventing the Sacred, I had found the scientific reasons why the evolution of the universe and all in it -- including the evolution of the biosphere, economy, human culture and our historicity -- is not fully describable by natural law. We live in an open, ceaselessly creative universe that no law can cover. With Gordon I say, God is this natural creativity.
Think of the evolutionary emergence of the biosphere, its beautiful burgeoning complexity. All this emerged over 3.8 billion years with only the sun shining, some raw chemicals, emergent self organization and Darwin's natural selection.
If we take our most powerful human invented symbol, God, and evolve it to signify this fully natural creativity, we may have found a sharable sense of the sacred as all of life and the planet. If God is natural creativity, we are not made in this God's image, we too are this God, along with the redwood, lichen and humming bird. We are all children of the creativity implicit in the unfolding of the universe.
We cannot pray to this sense of God. But the creativity of the universe as God invites a sacred, for all of life is this God. From this sense of God and a sacred we can hope to find a global ethic to meet the demands of life on our finite planet. We can live creatively beyond being price tags. We can sustain our ancient religious traditions, with beliefs in a supernatural God, and yet all share membership in natural creativity.
We are invited to stewardship. How could we not be? What is around us is this God's work. If Jesus taught us love, let this love, this compassion, extend to all creatures as St. Francis said so long ago. Merry, spiritual Christmas.