In our discussion of the wording of the descriptions of inductive insight that were quoted in Chapter 9, one word was intentionally passed over without particular emphasis, as its significance can be more fully appreciated in connection with the subject we are now about to consider. Let us take another look at the quotation from Shapley and a portion of the statement by Margenau.
Man’s intellectual history has been marked by many moments of sudden revelation, both in science and in philosophy. (Harlow Shapley)
There is something striking, incomprehensible, psychologically miraculous about this [inductive] leap, something akin to revelation in religion. (Henry Margenau)
Accounts of sudden illumination of scientific issues under intense study frequently stress this resemblance to religious revelation. For example, Henri Poincaré, the great French mathematician, was particularly interested in phenomena of this kind because of a striking experience of his own, often cited in scientific literature. He had been engaged in studying a certain problem with little success.
Some time later, as Poincaré was boarding an omnibus with a friend, the solution of the problem came to him instantly. It was as though he were standing on a mountain overlooking the dark valley, which was illuminated for an instant by a flash of lightning. In that instant the whole problem became clear to him, although it took him many weeks to write down and derive all the relations. If Poincaré had been a mystic, he would have regarded the event as a revelation; actually, he ascribed the occurrence to his subconscious mind, which he believed had continued to work on the problem after the conscious mind was otherwise engaged… . It later developed that men involved in creative work in many fields had encountered the same sort of event… . Many of them compared the occurrence to a blinding flash of light.179
This account, quoted by Marshall J. Walker from an original French source, not only corroborates the statements in Chapter 9 as to the manner in which insight is attained, but again brings out the striking resemblance to religious revelation. In the light of our finding that scientific insight, ESP, and intuition are merely different manifestations of the same process—communication between Sector 3 and the control units—it is now clear that the “miraculous” flashes of insight in science, in philosophy, and in other fields, are not only “akin to revelation in religion,” they are identical with revelation in religion. Shapley’s statement should read, “Man’s intellectual history has been marked by many moments of sudden revelation, in science, in philosophy, and in religion.” In all of these cases, a prepared mind under the control of a Sector 3 unit has been able to receive a communication from the outside sector of the universe: Sector 3. It is not only in science that someone “in a flash glimpses a distant peak that no else has seen,” as Newman put it. This happens in all branches of thought, including religion. Wherever and whenever it occurs, the intuitive event is a result of the same kind of a process. Recognition of this fact has not been lacking. R. B. Lindsay, for example, has this to say:
Ethical theory, like scientific theory, seems to have originated in the minds of profound thinkers, who fell back for justification not merely on experience but on their own imaginative powers. In the case of ethics, the latter has often been termed illumination or revelation. It can hardly be considered essentially different from the stroke of inspiration at the basis of the invention of a new scientific theory.180
Lindsay is calling attention to the similarity mainly as a means of downgrading religious revelation. He and other scientists who have made similar comments are assuming that inductive insight is a purely human ability and that its similarity to revelation is evidence that the latter has no different standing. In fact, many scientists specifically condemn the idea of revelation, in the usual sense, as an untenable hypothesis. Speaking on their behalf, and also, he asserts, for “liberal thinkers within the churches,” Julian Huxley says, “we reject the idea of direct revelation as merely the crude symbolism of an earlier age.”181 But Huxley himself testifies to having had experiences which he admits had the characteristics of revelation. Of one such incident, he gives this report:
Suddenly, for no particular reason, without apparent connection with other thoughts, a problem and its solution flashed across my mind… . It also had that definite quality of being thrown into consciousness, implied in the term revelation, which has been described for purely intellectual discovery by many mathematicians and men of science, notably Poincaré in his essays on scientific method.182
Huxley here admits that problems and their solutions “flash” into his mind from an unknown source and by an unknown process, “thrown into consciousness,” as he says. He can hardly deny that the same thing may happen to others; that deeply religious men may find solutions to religious problems thrown into their consciousness in the same mysterious manner, hence his words are a tacit admission of the reality of the phenomenon of revelation. His objection thus reduces to nothing more than an unwillingness to accept the religious claims as to the source of the revelations. Such skepticism may have had a certain amount of justification when no evidence of the reality of metaphysical existence was available, but the findings of this work have now demonstrated that revelation definitely is a process of obtaining information from metaphysical sources, as the religious community has always claimed.
It is true that there are a host of contradictions between the revelations which the various religions claim to have received, while many more of these purported revelations contradict observed facts, but such contradictions are the rule rather than the exception in human testimony. Experience in courts of law shows that even eyewitness accounts by different individuals often give totally different versions of the same event. A little serious reflection over the history of the nuclear atom concept, as set forth in detail in The Case Against the Nuclear Atom,183 should help to give the scientist a better understanding of why contradictions exist, how easy it is to misread the message from Sector 3 when it first arrives—whether by scientific insight or by revelation—and how tenaciously the human mind, be it scientific or non-scientific, clings to a misinterpretation once it has achieved general acceptance in the community where it originates. As this atomic experience shows, the “priests” of the scientific establishment are just as dogmatic in their adherence to current doctrine, and just as prone to close their eyes to unwelcome facts that disturb that doctrine, as the priests of the religious establishment.
A scientific analysis, based on a more complete knowledge of the physical universe than that which was available to either Lindsay or Huxley, now shows that religious revelation can and does take place, and that the “purely intellectual” flashes of insight of the kind that Huxley reports experiencing are simply other manifestations of the same phenomenon: communications originating in Sector 3. Lindsay was right in asserting that revelation is not essentially different from a scientific “stroke of inspiration,” but he drew the wrong conclusion from this. The similarity between them does not downgrade religious revelation; it upgrades inductive insight. A new scientific idea is just as much a revelation as a new ethical idea, and it comes from the same source. Now that the reality of metaphysical existence has been demonstrated in this work, if one’s religious beliefs lead to a definite identification of that existence (something that this work does not do), so that he attributes moral revelation to that specifically defined source, then the new scientific idea also comes from the same source. Rabbi Roland B. Gittelsohn recognizes the logic of this position in the following statement:
Whenever or wherever a human being reaches out to grasp a truth that has never been comprehended before… or to create or appreciate a higher dimension of beauty… or to achieve a loftier level of ethical conduct… then and there God has revealed Himself to man again. Divine revelation is just as apt to take place in a laboratory or studio, on a concert platform or counting-board, as it is in a pulpit.184
On the foregoing basis, revelation is a source of information coequal with experience. Although this is the traditional religious viewpoint, and is strongly emphasized in most of the Eastern religions, it is contrary to some present-day theological views. “Human thought,” says John Hick, “can only deal with material which has been given in experience. Just as our knowledge of the physical world is ultimately based on sense perception, so any religious knowledge must ultimately be based upon aspects of human experience which are received as revelatory.”185 This is a good example of the religious retreat toward naturalism that has been taking place because of the growing prestige of science. Under pressure from science, those who share this “non-propositional” view, as Hick calls it, have abandoned the concept of direct communication from a source outside the space-time universe, on which all of the major Western religions were originally based, and have fallen back to the position that any communication from such a source must take place indirectly by means of some kind of an effect on “the events of history.”
Ironically, our present investigation demonstrates that this retreat was wholly unnecessary. Scientists never did have any actual evidence to indicate that there are no metaphysical sources of information. But they have forced the ecclesiastics to retreat from one untenable position to another, and by this time, have succeeded in intimidating the theologians to the point where essential religious positions are being abandoned. Once it is conceded that nothing can be communicated to the human race except through human experience, it is only one short step to the naturalistic conclusion that there is no source other than human experience. But now a further extension of scientific knowledge has shown that the previous scientific assumption that the whole of existence is encompassed within the physical universe is wrong, and that the original religious concept of revelation from an outside source is correct.
On the basis of the new and accurate knowledge of the physical universe, the universe of space and time, we have been able, by standard methods of inductive reasoning, to arrive at the conclusion that there is existence outside space and time, or more accurately, independent of space and time. Certain consequences of such an existence, which are highly characteristic and wholly incapable of explanation on a physical basis, have then been developed by logical means, and the existence of these consequences, in the exact forms predicted theoretically, has been verified observationally in exactly the same manner in which all other scientific findings are confirmed. The scientific verification is thus complete and positive. It is now physically certain that there is existence independent of space and time.
The reality of such an outside existence is the most essential element in religious doctrine, the most important item which religion claims to have ascertained through revelation. Our scientific study, utilizing up-to-the-minute scientific knowledge, thus verifies the accuracy of religious revelation in this respect. The most basic assertions of the transcendental religions, (1) that there is existence independent of space and time, (2) that there is an aspect of human life related to that outside existence, and (3) that there is communication between the outside existence and human beings, have now been verified by the standard methods of science. The development of thought in the preceding pages that has led to this highly significant result was carried out strictly in accordance with scientific principles and procedures, and all of the conclusions reached along the way are scientific conclusions, even though they pertain to fields which science has heretofore been unable to penetrate, and which have therefore been thought to be beyond the reach of science. The present study has been able to deal with these hitherto inaccessible subjects because it has what has previously been lacking: a complete and comprehensive general theory of the physical universe that provides a solid base from which to extend scientific inquiry into the metaphysical region.
Verification of these three basic religious assertions does not confirm the validity of other religious revelations. Even though our analysis shows that revelation is a powerful, and potentially accurate, means of obtaining metaphysical information, this does not guarantee the authenticity of any specific revelation. Nor can purported revelations be accepted on the strength of religious authority. Religious revelation is subject to the same weakness that applies to scientific revelation, or insight, as it is more commonly called; that is, much of it, perhaps most of it, is wrong. Before we can accept any of the specific items claimed to have been received through revelation, or any other intuitive process, it is therefore necessary to verify that item just as we would if it were a purported scientific discovery.
We need to subject our philosophical and religious views to the recognized tests of truth. They should be open to criticism, to remolding, and to replacement by more adequate views whenever the evidence warrants such revision.186 (H. H. Titus)
As brought out in Chapter 9, the nature of the subject matter has an important bearing on the a priori probability of validity, and therefore on the amount of corroborative evidence that is required. From the general considerations previously discussed, it is clear that those purported revelations which apply to relatively simple metaphysical subjects, such as the three general items already mentioned (simple moral concepts, etc.), have a high probability of being correct. This probability decreases rapidly as the subjects become more complex, not because the correct information is less available, but because the recipients are less adequately prepared to receive the more complicated messages. Purported revelations about matters pertaining to the physical universe—“foreign” subjects, in the terms used in the discussion in Chapter 9—are quite likely to be wrong.
So far as possible, we will want to apply the same tests to the purported revelations that science utilizes in the physical field. As explained in Chapter 2, the standard method of scientific verification is based upon comparisons with empirical data. In the first instance, this must be a direct correlation between the theoretical conclusions and the facts of observation or measurement. After the validity of certain principles has been established with physical certainty, further extension of knowledge involves a more complex process of verification in which the manner of derivation of the proposition under consideration plays an important part. In those cases where it can be demonstrated that the proposition is a necessary and unavoidable consequence of some other proposition or propositions whose validity has previously been established with physical certainty, no further confirmation is necessary. If the derivation merely establishes a probability that the proposition is correct, rather than a certainty, factual correlations are necessary to complete the verification, but the greater the initial probability the less factual corroboration is needed.
The nature of the material with which religious revelations deal is such that definite verification by the method of direct comparison with observational data is not feasible in most instances. Such correlations can be made only where there are physical effects that can be observed. They cannot be utilized where the subject of the revelation is a totally non-physical item such as the intuitive recognition of ethical standards. There are, however, other criteria whereby the validity of revealed non-physical information can be judged, and if enough support of this nature can be assembled, the possibility that the revealed item may be incorrect can be reduced to a negligible level, thus accomplishing the same result as the correlation with experience, and arriving at what we have called “physical certainty.” As noted in Chapter 2, this is the most that we can do in any case, physical or non-physical.
One important criterion in the non-physical area is the extent of agreement among those who claim to have received revelations on the particular subject. It is true that in those instances where one religion has developed out of, or has been strongly influenced by, another, agreement is not very significant. For example, Christianity developed out of Judaism, and Judaism, in turn, was influenced to a major degree by Egyptian religious thinking. Points of resemblance between these three systems of religious thought are therefore more likely to be a result of ideas passed on from one to the other than a result of parallel revelations. On the other hand, points of resemblance between religions originating independently in different parts of the world can be regarded as good—though not necessarily conclusive—evidence that the claims of revelation are well-founded.
Where there is general agreement on a particular item, the case in its favor is strengthened if those who agree have strong convictions about the matter. Strength of conviction is not of much significance by itself, as many individuals tend to develop a strong attachment to any idea of importance that they may happen to hold. But when we find strong convictions combined with general agreement, particularly when we find, as we occasionally do, that almost the entire human race is firmly convinced of the validity of a certain proposition in the absence of any adequate evidence to support such a belief, it is highly probable that this is a genuine item of revealed truth. Such revelations do not necessarily come through religious channels. The scientist’s belief in a definite purpose underlying human existence, which was the subject of comment in an earlier chapter, is not normally derived from religion; on the contrary, his firm commitment to this belief is one of the principal reasons why he maintains his religious connections in spite of the conflicts between the existing religious and scientific viewpoints. Similarly, the belief in an orderly and rational universe, which all the scientists share—indeed must share in order to be scientists—is not a religious doctrine. In fact, it is in direct conflict with the prevailing religious concepts of miracles and other divine interventions. Neither is it derived from experience; instead it is utilized as a guide for interpreting experience.
He [the scientist] holds with the fervor of a religious conviction that his task is meaningful, that the history of science does converge in the limit upon a set of knowledge, laws and principles that are unique, categorical, and all inclusive. This conviction again is not subject to logical and empirical proof; yet it inspires his researches, gives him a feeling of participation in a meaningful universal process; for example it sustains the nuclear physicist during periods like the present, when he sees little but chaos in the realm of elementary particles.66 (Henry Margenau)
Special significance attaches to those revelations which clearly had an anticipatory character when originally received; that is, they possessed some significance that was not realized until additional information was obtained long afterward. This feature is not of much assistance in the evaluation of individual items of revelation, since the additional information, when it finally becomes available, provides a more direct verification of the assertions contained in the revelation, and the revelation itself then becomes superfluous. Such cases are, however, striking demonstrations of the reality of the revelation process in general. An example of a revelation of this character will be discussed later in this chapter.
In legal proceedings, considerable weight is attached to what are called admissions against interest: statements which the witness knows will be detrimental to him in one way or another, but which he nevertheless feels constrained to make. The inference here, of course, is that such a statement is not likely to be made unless it is true. This same concept has a wide field of application in appraising the validity of purported revelations in the ethical area, as many of the ethical principles and judgments obtained from such sources are directly opposed to the governing principles of Level 2, the principles which govern man as a biological organism.
One of the conclusions about the metaphysical, or Sector 3, existence that we reached in Chapter 4 is that this sector of existence as a whole has a set of governing rules and principles that differ in some respects from those of the two physical sectors. In our consideration of the observed levels of existence in Chapter 5, we then found that the behavior of individuals in Level 3, the level of ethical man, is in many respects directly opposed to that in Level 2, the level of biological organisms. We therefore deduce that the rules and principles of Sector 3 are in these respects contrary to those of the biological sector, just as we previously found the principles governing the biological sector to be, in some respects, the direct opposite of those in the inanimate sector. It then follows that those items of information obtained through the revelation process which are contrary to the interests and desires of man as an animal—a mere biological organism—but are intuitively regarded as valid by most human individuals, are probably correct statements of the Sector 3 laws. In this case, however, there is a tendency on the part of some extremists to generalize the conflict between the two sets of governing principles, and to assume that all biological desires conflict with Sector 3 principles and are morally wrong. The proponents of such views—various forms of asceticism—frequently claim to have received them by revelation, but such claims do not pass the test defined above, as they are not intuitively regarded as valid by most persons.
An important criterion of validity is furnished by what scientists would call a differential effect: the extent to which the item in question receives greater or less support and acceptance as the development of human society proceeds. Although progress toward conformity to ethical standards is discouragingly slow, there can be no doubt but that over the long pull there is a significant advance. All too often, the human race seems to revert to savagery in some respects and in some areas of the globe, but it should be remembered that only a few thousand years ago men were savages in all respects and in all areas. Most of the aspects of present-day life that we condemn so strongly were commonplace in the “civilizations” of earlier days.
On first consideration, there may appear to be an element of circularity in the use of this criterion. Purported revelations are to be judged, in part, by the manner in which they receive greater or less acceptance by the more advanced societies. On the other hand, the extent to which a society conforms to the ethical standards of revealed religion is an important factor in judging the stage to which a society has advanced. The circularity is avoided, however, by the fact that there are other criteria of the degree of progress that has been made. Human life is advancing all along a broad front, and the relative status of any society can be judged by consideration of the progress that has been made in many areas that have no ethical significance.
Even though the status of a particular item might look favorable on the basis of the criteria that have been discussed thus far, there are some other factors that may outweigh the favorable ones, or at least create enough doubt to prevent acceptance of the purported revelation unless some additional corroboration can be obtained. It will be necessary, for instance, to be wary of any purported revelation which contains an element of anthropomorphism. The disqualifying factor here is the tendency of human beings to see human characteristics and human motives in whatever phenomena they observe, and to formulate their ideas, including those derived from insight or revelation, in human terms. Agreement between different revelations in matters of this kind therefore does not have the usual implications with respect to their validity; it merely indicates that all men receiving revelations receive them as men.
We must also be on guard against accepting the results of wishful thinking. When an individual strongly desires that certain things be true, he may easily get the impression, quite sincerely, that it has been revealed to him that they are true. The hope for survival after death, for instance, is so strong in the human race that no testimony from revelation or intuitive sources can be given much weight. Our conclusions with respect to this question will have to be based on other considerations.
Another factor that may be involved in a claim of revelation is authoritarian bias. The recipient of the revelation is usually fully convinced of its authority. As many observers have noted, sudden insight is commonly accompanied by feelings of certainty. But this recipient may not be quite so sure that his certainty will be shared by those to whom he communicates the information, and there is a definite tendency, whether intentional or not, to lend more weight to the revelation by enhancing the authority behind it. There is also a tendency to allow, or encourage, some of this authority to be transferred to the recipient of the revelation and to his successors as custodians of the revealed truth, thus investing their pronouncements with some of the force of the original revelation. Those items of revelation which confer such authority, either explicitly or by implication, should therefore be received somewhat skeptically.
It should be understood, however, that none of these negative considerations is conclusive in the manner of a conflict with observed facts. A revelation that invests the recipient or his successors with a suspiciously large degree of authority may nevertheless be entirely valid: a revelation that leads to conclusions which are eminently gratifying to the human race may be the literal truth; and a revelation expressed in anthropomorphic terms may be painting the picture in its true light. But purported revelations of this nature will need substantial support from outside sources before we are justified in accepting them.
When a revealed general principle of some kind has been established as valid by means of primary criteria, such as those discussed in the foregoing paragraphs, this principle becomes a secondary criterion of validity that can be applied to subsequent revelations, or intuitive conclusions, to which it is relevant. One of the requirements that these new items of information must then meet is that they must be consistent with the previously established principles. Even though the number of items that can be fully confirmed by direct application of the primary criteria at present may be relatively small, the interrelations between these and the less adequately supported items of non-physical information should eventually enable constructing a general framework of Sector 3 laws and principles comparable to that which now exists in the scientific field.
Application of the foregoing criteria to an evaluation of purported revelations is subject to different factors in different portions of the total field covered by religious revelations. It will therefore be helpful to begin our consideration of the kind of results that are obtained in this process by setting up a general classification of the areas that will be discussed here or in subsequent chapters, or will be omitted from the discussion for specific reasons.
Scope of Religious Revelation
- Existence and attributes of Deity.
- Nature and origin of existence.
- Purpose of existence.
- Moral code.
- Survival beyond physical death.
The first item is one of those that we will not be able to discuss in this work, as no pertinent information with respect to the subject has been developed in our investigation, nor has it been possible to verify any of the revelations that are claimed to have been received. These alleged revelations are plentiful, but they are so conflicting that it is not possible, as matters now stand, to apply the criteria of validity that we have derived.
Turning to item 2a, we find that most organized religions have explanations of the origin and nature of the physical universe which are claimed to have been received through revelation. These, and many other religious assertions about physical matters, are generally wrong, in whole or in part, and the manner in which the advance of scientific knowledge has demolished one after another of these “revealed truths” has been a major factor in weakening the influence of religion on our present-day society. In the words of Henry Margenau:
Now, if science can show that the cosmological claims of religion are wrong, religion’s case in the moral field is greatly weakened. This is precisely what has happened in our time.187
But the position of religion with respect to scientific knowledge and its position with respect to moral principles and other matters of a non-physical nature are altogether different. It could not be expected that the revelations which religion claims to have received concerning any but relatively simple scientific matters would be correct, since the individuals who presumably received the revelations did not have the background of scientific knowledge that would have enabled them to understand what was being received and to express it in comprehensible terms, even if the revelations were complete and accurate. The knowledge required for this purpose was not even in existence, from the human standpoint, at the time the revelations that underlie the major religions were said to have been received. No doubt many of the individuals concerned were wholly sincere in their accounts of what they thought had been revealed to them, but it is obvious that they could not have understood the message no matter how complete or how distinct it may have been, nor did they have any language in which they could have expressed this knowledge intelligibly if they had somehow acquired an understanding of it.
For these reasons, it is unlikely that religious revelations have had, or will have, anything of consequence to contribute either in the inanimate realm (Level 1) or the biological world (Level 2). These levels are readily accessible to scientific investigation, and the methods of science—methods that are indigenous to the physical universe—can be more effectively used by the human beings who are inhabitants of that universe for the purpose of investigating it than the methods of Sector 3 which are, at least for the present, imperfectly understood and not subject to conscious direction. Much of the information about these two lower levels coming from religious sources is, like the revelations regarding the nature and origin of the universe, erroneous, and that which is correct can, in most instances, be found in more complete form in the results of scientific investigations.
Indeed, the real meaning of revelations concerning the physical universe often comes to light only after science has discovered the truth, simply because the human race was not prepared to understand this real meaning without the help of additional information. In the terms of the discussion in the preceding chapter, the platform provided by the then existing store of knowledge was not yet high enough. For example, the account of the “creation” in the first chapter of Genesis has not received its just due as a physical revelation even to this day, primarily because of a misunderstanding as to the subject of its message; a misunderstanding that has resulted from concentrating attention on the manner of presentation rather than on the information that is given. Each statement in the account is made in the form, “And God said, Let there be light, and there was light.” Superficially, therefore, the story seems to be one of direct creation of the universe ex nihilo in a manner that is either miraculous or fanciful, depending on the viewpoint.
But in order to understand the true meaning of the revelation, we must realize that primitive people, who went about their daily tasks without the benefit of the vast store of factual knowledge that exists today, found it necessary to attribute all unexplainable natural processes to direct action of supernatural beings, and in translating their statements into the modern idiom, we must take this fact into account. For instance, if we read an account of the death of a chief among the ancient Greeks in the legendary history of the race, we may find it stated that the unfortunate man incurred the wrath of the gods and was slain by one of Jove’s arrows. But this is just primitive man’s way of expressing the simple, but to him mysterious, fact of a death by lightning, and that is the way we interpret the account. We strip away all of the personification of forces and look only at the underlying facts.
In order to arrive at the real meaning of the Genesis story, we must recognize that it, too, is expressed in symbolic language, and to put that meaning into our own terms, we must remove the symbolism and get down to the real significance of each statement that is made. When we do this, we find that the Genesis story is not an account of a creation; it is an account of the formation of the solar system and the evolution of man. Furthermore, it is astonishingly similar to the most up-to-date scientific accounts of these phenomena. The close correlation between the two can be seen very clearly in the tabular comparison that follows. Here, the first column gives the Genesis text, omitting redundant wording and items not relevant to the principle theme. The second column is a rendition of this text in modern terms, deleting the personification of forces and other primitive symbolism. In the third column, the corresponding conclusions of modern science are briefly stated.
THE “CREATION” STORY FROM GENESIS
|As written||The same with the primitive symbolism removed||The scientific version|
|1. In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.||[Neither conventional science nor the Reciprocal System has developed any information as to whether or not there was a creation. Comparison with the scripture text therefore begins with verse 2.]|
|2. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.
And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
|In the beginning, the earth was formless and featureless, and darkness prevailed.
The forces of nature were at work.
|About 4 billion years ago, the present substance of the solar system was a vas cloud of cold and widely dispersed matter. Gravitation acted upon the particles of matter, pulling them together and heating them in the process.|
|3. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.||And in time, light appeared.||Continuation of this process caused the interior portions of the cloud to condense into a luminous body: the sun.|
|6. And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.
7. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament.
|And then the earth separated from its surroundings.||Later, the earth and the other planets were formed by coalescence of other portions of the original material.|
|9. And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear.||And then distinct land and water areas appeared on the earth.||And then distinct land and water areas appeared on the earth.|
|11. And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind.||And then plant life appeared on the land areas.||About a billion years ago, life appeared on earth. About 300 or 400 million years ago, land plants appeared.|
|20. And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.||And then animal life appeared, first in the sea and in the air.||Fish also appeared during this same period.|
|24. And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind.||And then on land.||Land animals and insects appeared 250 to 300 million yeas ago. Mammals and birds appeared 150 to 200 million years ago.|
|26. And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.||Finally, man made his appearance.||Just recently, on this time scale, man appeared.|
The most remarkable feature of this story is, of course, its portrayal of these events as an evolutionary sequence. Beginning with a formless and featureless aggregate of matter, the author carries his account step by step through a logical and sequential process, terminating with the appearance of man, and aside from placing fish and fowl at the same point in the evolutionary order, a very understandable mistake, he has listed the developments in the proper succession. The idea that the advent of man on earth came about as the last act in an orderly and sequential process of evolution is quite familiar to us, but the author of this account in Genesis was thousands of years in advance of his time in bringing forth a concept of this kind.
As pointed out earlier, such physical revelations are of little practical effect, other than as striking demonstrations of the reality of the revelation process. By the time we have enlarged our knowledge of the physical world enough to understand the revelatory message, the increase in physical knowledge is itself able to supply the same information. However, when we take up a consideration of the next item on our list, metaphysical existence, the situation is much different, as religious revelation and similar types of contact with Sector 3 are the principle sources of information about the metaphysical region. Direct physical observations tell us nothing about the Sector 3 existence. We can make a few deductions by extrapolating our knowledge of the characteristics of the Level 2 structures at the upper end of the path of biological evolution, together with our empirical knowledge of the kind of changes that take place at the discontinuities in the order of increasing complexity. Beyond this, information about the metaphysical region comes only from revelation (the religious term) or from intuition or insight (non-religious names for the same thing). We can be sure that most of the information claimed to be received from these sources is either incomplete or erroneous, and the question as to how to test the validity of the revelations and insights thus becomes a crucial issue.
Application of the first of the criteria discussed in this chapter, the extent of agreement between the purported revelations, produces some very significant results. When examined from the standpoint of their basic principles, without regard for the imagery employed in the language in which these principles are expressed, or the organizational structure of the religious community, all of the world’s great religions are very much alike. As expressed by George R. Harrison, “Each was started by a great leader who had an unusual vision of basic spiritual truth… . Each when it began was remarkably similar to what the others were at their beginnings.”188 Du Nouy points out that the similarity is so striking that it demands an adequate explanation. “All of these forms [of mystical religion],” he says, “apparently imbibed their inspiration at the same source. Their teachings were almost identical and this identity constitutes an astounding problem.”189
The findings of this work now provide the required explanation: the answer to the “astounding problem.” The essential elements of the different religions actually were obtained from the same source, the metaphysical sector of existence, and they are a product of inspiration, or revelation; that is, communication from that metaphysical region. It should be understood, however, that this statement does not refer to all religions, but only to those few (Harrison gives the number as eleven; Arnold Toynbee recognizes only seven) which have stood the test of time with a reasonable degree of success. Erroneous and incomplete revelations are just as plentiful in religious areas as erroneous and incomplete inductive insights elsewhere in human life, and thousands of religions have come and gone without leaving any permanent mark on human thought. But on the basis of the general information that we have developed about revelation and associated processes, a few individuals, at least, should have been able to receive the basic facts clearly and accurately, and we are therefore justified in concluding, subject to individual review, that the fundamental items on which most of the leading religions agree are genuine additions to knowledge.
Unfortunately for our understanding of metaphysical existence, however, the amount of agreement in this area is much more limited than that with respect to moral issues. Each religion has its own version of ultimate reality and its own ideas as to where its revelations originated. This does not necessarily mean that firm conclusions are unattainable, since agreement between purported revelations is only one of the available criteria of validity, but it does mean that a thorough and detailed study of the situation will be required in order to arrive at reliable conclusions. Such a study is beyond the scope of the present work, but it certainly should be carried out. Now that this present investigation has demonstrated the reality of the revelation process and has provided the tools, or at least some of the tools, whereby evaluation of the purported revelations can be accomplished, there is no longer any serious technical obstacle to bringing the revealed information up to a status which will approximate, if not equal, the status of scientific knowledge. Whether or not human obstacles will prevent the accomplishment of that which is technically feasible is another question, and several aspects of this issue will be discussed in subsequent chapters.