New Age Science – Introduction
New Age science is based on a belief in positive evolutionary change over time. This approach does not focus on biological change as much as it emphasizes humanity moving upward toward an age of higher consciousness. Cosmic Humanists believe that everything is ultimately energy that will allow people to achieve unity with others in a kind of collective consciousness. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin tells us, “Evolution is a light illuminating all facts, a curve that all lines must follow....Man discovers that he is nothing else than evolution become conscious of itself.”1
Collective consciousness means that the “ultimate end of the individual is to expand into the universal oneness, which really means that the individual disappears as a separate person.”2 Cosmic Humanism postulates an evolutionary theory that allows for not only individual but also collective development. Marilyn Ferguson writes, “The proven plasticity of the human brain and human awareness offers the possibility that individual evolution may lead to collective evolution. When one person has unlocked a new capacity its existence is suddenly evident to others, who may then develop the same capacity.”3
Not everyone will evolve at an even rate toward higher consciousness; rather, when enough people achieve higher consciousness, others will be absorbed (or evolved) into the enlightened collective consciousness. Thus, all people need not embrace the New Age movement before it can become a reality—dedicated Cosmic Humanists can simply act as the catalyst for an evolutionary leap into utopia. We label this approach “Cosmic Evolution.”
New Age Science – The Evolution of Science
The New Age also holds a unique view of science. While Christians see the scientific method as a way of discovering God’s design of the universe and Secular Humanists view science as a means for understanding the mechanics of the natural world, Cosmic Humanists believe the traditional view of science as learning to control the laws of nature has led to an assault on the balance of planetary harmony. According to William Thompson, “The conscious purpose of science is control of Nature; its unconscious effect is disruption and chaos. The emergence of a scientific culture stimulates the destruction of nature, of the biosphere of relationships among plants, animals, and humans that we have called ‘Nature.’”4 As a result, Cosmic Humanists believe the planet is in deep trouble.
Thompson and other Cosmic Humanists believe the scientific revolution that developed during the 1600s was responsible for the raping of the planet. The predominant idea of scientists such as Isaac Newton was “a description of predictable mechanical forces.”5 Marilyn Ferguson writes that this approach to science “would finally explain everything in terms of trajectories, gravity, force. It would close in on the final secrets of a ‘clockwork universe.’”6
But this understanding of the world in terms of mechanical laws was limited in what it could accomplish and set the stage for the next development in science. New Age popularizer James Redfield introduces this theme in his best-selling novel The Celestine Prophecy. The main character in the story is given a short lesson in the history of science by a physics professor, who explains, “The idea was to create an understanding of the universe that makes the world seem safe and manageable...”
But in the early part of the twentieth century, this attitude among scientists changed. According to Redfield’s fictional professor, the change occurred when two investigations “opened our eyes again to the mystery in the universe...those of quantum mechanics and those of Albert Einstein. The whole of Einstein’s life’s work was to show that what we perceive as hard matter is mostly empty space with a pattern of energy running through it. This includes ourselves. And what quantum physics has shown is that...when you break apart small aspects of this energy...the act of observation itself alters the results—as if these elementary particles are influenced by what the experimenter expects....In other words, the basic stuff of the universe, at its core, is looking like a kind of pure energy that is malleable to human intention and expectation in a way that defies our old mechanistic model of the universe....”7 Ferguson explains the shift in how science is interpreted: “Our understanding of nature shifted from a clockwork paradigm to an uncertainty paradigm, from the absolute to the relative.”8 In this way, Cosmic Humanists claim that the latest scientific investigations support pantheistic theology and non-naturalistic philosophy.
New Age Science – The Next Evolutionary Step
This New Age view of science also provides insights into the next stage of evolution. The evolutionary change Cosmic Humanists focus on is primarily that of ourselves and humanity as a whole. Speaking of this change, David Spangler states, “In this [evolutionary] context, civilizations, like individuals, go through profound changes from time to time which represent discontinuities; that is, a jump or shift is made from one evolutionary condition to another. The New Age is such a shift.”9 Spangler is not speaking as a Secular Humanist, who views evolutionary change as a blind force of nature acting upon living organisms, and humanity as simply a part of the natural universe. Instead, Spangler uses evolution as a change in the flow of cosmic energy, resulting not in a higher form of life, but in a higher consciousness among humanity.
Cosmic Humanists believe an elite, enlightened portion of the human race will jump into this New Age as an evolutionary leap, taking the rest of humanity with it. Ferguson agrees that the New Age “requires a mechanism for biological change more powerful than chance mutation.” What is necessary is the “possibility of rapid evolution in our own time, when the equilibrium of the species is punctuated by stress. Stress in modern society is experienced at the frontiers of our psychological rather than our geographical limits.”10 Ferguson uses the terms of naturalistic punctuated equilibrium, but gives these terms a New Age meaning. She is committed to the unseen cosmic force that permeates everything and here, like Spangler, she describes the rapid change of perspective that Cosmic Humanists believe will engulf humanity.
Instead of further human physical evolution determined by geography, environment, and natural selection, Cosmic Humanists believe evolution is psychological. This psychological evolution guides humanity to a higher social order—“a New One-World Order.”11
What will we be like after the evolutionary leap into the New Age occurs? Armand Biteaux explains, “Every man is an individual Christ; this is the teaching for the New Age...Everyone will receive the benefit of this step in human evolution.”12
In the New Age, Cosmic Humanists believe, we will all achieve higher consciousness or godhood. “The final appearance of the Christ will not be a man in the air before whom all must kneel,” says John White. “The final appearance of the Christ will be an evolutionary event. It will be the disappearance of egocentric, subhuman man and the ascension of God-centered Man. A new race, a new species, will inhabit the Earth—people who collectively have the stature of consciousness that Jesus had.”13 Once collective higher consciousness is achieved, humanity will be at one with itself in collective godhood.
Much of the basis for Cosmic Humanist belief rests on the writings of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a paleontologist who worked to reconcile Christianity and evolution. He accomplished this reconciliation by replacing Christianity with pantheism. Teilhard believed in “a very real ‘pantheism’ if you like, but an absolutely legitimate pantheism.”14 Peter Russell believes, “Evolutionary trends and patterns...suggest a further possibility: the emergence of something beyond a single planetary consciousness or Supermind: a completely new level of evolution, as different from consciousness as consciousness is from life, and life is from matter.”15 If planetary consciousness is not attainable, however, most Cosmic Humanists are willing to settle for achieving individual divinity.
New Age Science – Conclusion
Science provides a generous guarantee for the New Age—leaps in being for all humanity, and the universe itself, to the status of godhood. The Garden of Eden is not a real place in the past where Adam and Eve committed the original sin; rather, the Garden is in our present and our future. Mythologist Joseph Campbell teaches that we are living in Eden today and are evolving toward the increasing awareness that we reside in paradise.
This view of evolution provides comfort for the Cosmic Humanist, largely because it promises a shared future divinity. Further, it solves the sin problem (greed, envy, gossip, slander) by denying the reality of the fall or the inherent sinfulness of human nature.
Campbell’s idea that we are now living in paradise (as opposed to a future perfected world) is problematic in light of the wars of the twentieth century and the catastrophic and unprecedented events we have experienced in the opening years of the twenty-first century. Although we have no way of knowing how he would respond to the tragic events of this century, to those of the last century he said, “That is the way it feels, but this is it, this is Eden.” We need, he says, to “see not the world of solid things but a world of radiance.”16