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vol 8: Many in one
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1: About
2: Synopsis
3: Development

Next: 2: Trinity
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4: Glossary
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6: Essays
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8: History

9: Persons

10: Supplementary
11: Policy



a personal journey to natural theology

This site is part of the natural religion project The natural religion project     A new theology    A commentary on the Summa    The theology company


Lecture 1: Home

Music: Talk Talk (Life's what you make it)


1 Last year I put forward a theory of peace in a series of lectures here on 2BOB radio. Looking back, I feel that they are quite a successful first attack on a problem that has been very hard for me to define.

2 My approach to peace was theological and religious. I explained this at the beginning of the first lecture:

What do human beings seek? The traditional Christian answer is that we are driven by the natural desire to know to seek the vision of god. Ultimate pleasure is our goal.

Yet we live in a world of manifest pain, death and disease. In this century of every growing horrors we have concocted a fate for ourselves so terrible that the health of the whole planet is at risk if we go to war.

It is the task of religion to reconcile the apparent contradiction between good and evil. It is that reconciliation, deeply and thoroughly believed, that gives us peace.

The intellectual core of religion, its statements of belief and arguments for this and that are the subject matter of theology. Practically, theology has two aims.

The first is to convince people beyond a shadow of doubt that life is worth living.

The second is to devise means of actually reducing the pain of human life and increasing the pleasure. In both these tasks, theology is acting as a peacemaker. Since I am theologically trained and these lectures are about peace, they are theological.

Music: Its immaterial

3 This year I want to get down to practical work. I want to talk about the practical task of building heaven on earth. First we must ask ourselves if this is possible.

4 Many would say that it is not. On the one hand science and the theory of evolution suggest that we live in a universe of blind and cataclysmic forces which could destroy us at any moment and over which we have no control.

5 On the other hand, traditional religion tells us that this universe is not our true home. When I was a small child I learnt from the catechism:

Q: Why did God make me?

A: He made me to know him, love him and serve him here on earth and to live with him happily ever after in heaven.

6 There are many ideas implied by this question and answer. The most obvious is that heaven is not here on earth, but somewhere else. This is how I understood it when I learnt it, and I believe that this understanding is widespread.

7 I believe that heaven on earth is possible. My argument for this belief is simply: why not? The people who invented Christianity put heaven and god outside the universe because they could not reconcile the universe as they saw it with their idea of god.

8 It is probably impossible to tell from this distance why they were motivated to do this. It seems likely that they were in a position rather similar to ours. Everywhere they looked, overwhelming natural and military forces were destroying their world.

9 Their only possible hope lay outside. To save themselves from despair they invented a benevolent and reasonable father who had total control of the world. Their father, they knew, would eventually vanquish their enemies, take away all their pain, wipe away their tears and take them into his bosom for an eternity of happiness.

10 As a child I loved this vision, and its appeal remains universal. Unfortunately, we are not children any more. The earth, as a planet, seems to have reached puberty.

11 We have gained the power of life and death. Science and mathematics have led us to believe that there are no real mysteries any more. We have built nuclear weapons that unlock the energy of the sun. We have learnt to decode and manipulate the very genes that determine our nature. We can transform a rainforest into a supermarket in a matter of months.

Music: Karen Kalypso (?)

12 Last year I spoke as a battle scarred theologian trying to make a comeback. The Catholic Church rejected me because when it came to the crunch, I had to accept the discoveries of science and mathematics in preference to the fantasies of a childlike religion.

13 This year I wish to speak to you as an angry and frustrated housekeeper, shocked at the mess we are making of the planet that is our home. Without a benevolent and all powerful father to keep us under control we have to take responsibility ourselves.

14 The first step in good housekeeping is knowledge. We cannot look after ourselves and our planet if we don't know how to do it.

15 The second step toward good housekeeping is motivation. It is no use teaching your children how to do the dishes of they never do them.

16 In my experience, there are two ways to motivate people to do unpleasant jobs around the house. They are known traditionally as the stick and the carrot. More generally, we might call them violence and love.

17 The violent approach gets people to do unpleasant tasks by promising even greater unpleasantness if they do not. A violent household is inherently unstable. There comes a time when it is easier to leave home than to put up with the pain of staying.

18 Although it is ugly, this is a feasible solution for a small family unit. There is always somewhere to go. It is not possible on a planet. We are all on a spaceship together, and there is no immediate prospect of leaving.

19 Love works the other way round. It shows, by patent and prolonged education that the rewards flowing from a just and reasonable sharing of the work amply justify the temporary hardship that may be involved.

20 Hardship is largely in the mind. If it generally agreed that the dishes are such an unpleasant task that it is only worth doing them to avoid a belting, a vicious circle is likely to develop. The pain associated with the dishes is measured by the pain of the belting, and since the belting must always be a bit more painful than the dishes to get them done, the level of violence is likely to escalate.

21 On the other hand, if there is some sort of reward for dishwashing it may eventually come to be seen as a pleasant task, a path to happiness. Over the years I have tried both these strategies, and have found beyond doubt that things go best when everyone understands the natural places of dishes in the scheme of things and does them when they see that they need to be done..

22 Our planet is riddled with domestic violence. The violence exists not just between individuals within families, but between groups of people at all levels up to a global scale. It exists not just in the human world, but between human beings and their environment. Our senseless fighting is not just making our own lives a misery, it is gradually destroying our home. If we don't come to our senses soon, we will be homeless.

Music: Domestic Animal

23 How do we turn the situation around? I believe we must begin with knowledge, and I think the first bit of knowledge we need to get is that this planet and this universe is truly our home.

24 There can be no doubt about this from a physical point of view. We eat the animals and plants that inhabit the earth. We have the same chemical makeup, we reproduce in the same way, we enjoy the same sunlight and air and water.

25 These facts are blindingly obvious, and yet we still treat the place like a dosshouse. The real problem is at the spiritual level. For thousands of years the Christian tradition has told us that we are spiritual aliens on this planet. As a child I was taught that I am here on trial, to see if I can jump through all the proper hoops to get to my real spiritual home on the other side of death.

26 Origen, one of the earliest theologians of the Christian church thought we were angels imprisoned in a material body. This line of thought leads to all sorts of weird behaviour. If the material body is weighing down the spirit, it must be chastised by fasting and sleepless nights. This ascetic tradition is deeply ingrained in our consciousness. Origen castrated himself because he thought it might help. Today we work ourselves to death, motivated by the work ethic that says that hard work is the route to heaven.

27 The problem is theoretical. For thousands of years the dominant belief has been that we are an unhappy compound of matter and spirit. What we need to see and to learn is that matter and spirit are not alien to one another, they are imply two aspects of one reality. Once we come to terms with that idea, we will be able to accept that we do live here, that this life is our whole life, and that this visible universe of experience is everything that we could possibly want. It is god, the infinite.

28 To achieve this point of view, we must reject the theoretical divisions that we have made between soul and body, spirit and matter, god and the universe.

29 It may help to reject them if we see how they arose in the first place.

30 We live in a creative and evolving universe. All the evidence we can see points to this fact. Further, it seems to me that the mathematical discoveries I explained last year make it inevitable that a consistent universe will evolve.

31 When we study the biological world, we see that living things have gradually increased their abilities. Senses, brains and muscles have developed to greater and greater precision. Each new development confers some advantage over the old system, so that less adaptable systems have been replaced by more adaptable ones.

32 At some point in the last few million years, creatures came to be with large brains like ourselves. Parts of our brain are dedicated to fixed tasks, like movement and breathing and keeping our temperature right. These we share with the other animals. But we have a lot of spare brainpower which we use for sending and receiving messages from one another. It is this ability to communicate with one another in detail and work cooperatively that has made us such a successful species. Other species share this ability, of course, but we have it in abundance.

33 Yet the size of our brain is limited. Each of us can have intimate knowledge and communication with only a few people, a family sized group. When groups get bigger, our knowledge of one another becomes rather more vague.

34 I have no fear of the members of my family, because I know them so well. They are completely different, and they all have different views on everything. I might say that they all speak different languages. That does not worry me. I know them. I speak all their languages fluently.

35 To build a bigger group, we need some sort of standardisation, a common language, a common view of the world. This common language becomes the soul of the group, and people feel at home because they can all talk with one another. Intimacy is lost, however, because it is difficult to express oneself in the common language. Smaller groups to to retain their own language, but the common language tends to break down their intimacy.

36 It seems to me that the invention of writing greatly speeded the development of common language and greatly enlarged the practical size of human groups. The price, of course, was even greater impersonality.

37 The invention of writing, the breakdown of tribes and the development of large national groups all seem to have coincided in time about four or five thousand years ago in our history. We have continued this trend until now we have a planet with a few languages and a lot of fear. Standardisation has won at the price of intimacy.

38 Looking from a long way off, it is as though the human world has melted. Once we were formed into intimate little family and tribal structures, like sugar crystals, each with its own special shape and position. Now the crystals have melted and we have an amorphous liquid like toffee. Everyone can communicate with everyone else and go where they like, but this has come at the price of alienation and homelessness.

39 The standardisation of communication has another effect. Each tribe had its own religion, its own view of the world that helped it to make sense of its environment and work out the best way to survive and enjoy life. As these religions came into contact with one another, common themes were emphasised and details became blurred.

40 The result, it seems to me, has been a very cold black and white religious view of the world. We find ourselves with a good principle and a bad principle implacably opposed to one another: good and evil, god and the devil, matter and spirit. This idea does not represent the incredible richness of reality at all.

41 The technological developments of the last century have brought this process to its ultimate limit. Air travel and electronic communication have made the world a global village. We have gained maximum fluidity at the price of minimum intimacy. Minimum intimacy has led us to almost total insecurity.

42 We have come to the point where we devote an unprecedented proportion of our energy simply to build weapons to fight one another. But who do we fight? In fluid globe, the enemy is everywhere and nowhere. There will be no winner in a nuclear war. We will just destroy the whole place. The process of standardisation has reached a point where war is pointless.

Music: Altar Ego War

43 The time has come to begin a recrystallisation, to generate structure and intimacy in the human population without losing the advantages of standardisation and global communication.

44 This is what I am trying to do. I live here in the bush reading, writing, thinking and enjoying the world around me. I have my own intimate circle of friends and all the love and beauty I could want. If I want information from the outside world I can watch the television or listen to the radio, send away for books, invite friends to stay or go travelling myself.

45 I am trying to be scientific. That is, I am trying to base what I say on my own experience tempered with logic and mathematics. I am trying to see and express a new way to organise the domestic economy of our planet.

46 Although I don't know exactly what I am trying to get at, I have a name for it. I call it democratic tribalism. The word democracy expresses the good aspects of our free and fluid society. With a bit of money, I can go just about anywhere, get hold of any information or meet any person I want to.

47 The word tribalism stands for the good aspects of the intimacy that we enjoy with our friends, families, extended families, workmates and other people close to us. In Australia it stands for the good aspects of the Aboriginal civilisation which nearly went under when the standardising forces of global society hit our shores.

Music: Lets talk about ...

48 As you can see, it is my intention to cobble together a society out of all the good bits that I can find. The aim is to devise a human structure which will guarantee real security for each individual. Once we have that, the earth will be home for all of us, not just in theory but in fact.

49 I am convinced that this is possible. The conviction arises from the theory of peace that says that the universe is infinite and creative so that there is absolutely no limit to the intimate detail that it can evolve. Our small individual minds may need small groups and standardisation, but the planet may be different at every point no matter how fine the scale.

50 What I have to do is to take than conviction from a nebulous feeling based on general mathematical and logical arguments to a detailed plan for administering our planetary household in a loving and caring way. There is no need for violence and pain. It is simply a result of bad management.

51 This lecture is the first of a series of ten on planetary housekeeping [note: only the eight recorded here were given] . What I intend to do in the next nine lectures is to take different aspects of housekeeping one by one and examine them in the light of the notion that the earth and the universe are our home. As I go I will use bits and pieces of the theory of peace that I presented last year.

52 I hope the result will be a coherent outline of a loving planetary household. The foundation of it all is a global religion that does not see things in black and white, but which has the breadth to accept every manifestation of life, from the simplest particle to the universe itself.

53 That takes care of the knowledge side of things. What about the motivation? That each of us has to do for ourselves. We are attracted by beauty. If we take the trouble to see the beauty in the world, I believe we will fall in love with it without further prompting. And once we have fallen in love with it, looking after it will come naturally.


Originally broadcast on 2BOB Radio, Taree, NSW on 7 June 1988


Bateson, Gregory, Steps to an Ecology of Mind: Collected Essays in Anthropology, Psychiatry, Evolution and Anthropology, University of Chicago Press 2000   Amazon  back
Berndt, Ronald M, The World of the First Australians : Aboriginal Traditional Life Past and Present., 1988 Foreword: '[This book] gives a comprehensive picture of traditional Aboriginal culture, with special attention to certain areas which the authors know personally. This is how life was lived before the coming of Europeans, or before European influence dramatically modifed it. ... Here the major focus is on traditionally oriented Aborigines whose way of life is rapidly disappearing. Over most of the Continent it is already a thing of the past. The material is fully dicumented, with references.  Amazon  back
Cummins, Denise Dellarosa, The Evolution of Mind, Oxford University Press 1998 Introduction: This book is an interdisciplinary endeavour, a collection of essays by ethologists, psychologists, anthropologists and philosophers united in the common goal of explaining cognition. ... the chief challenge is to make evolutionary psychology into an experimental science. Several of the chapters in this volume describe experimental techniues and results consistent with this aim; our hope and intention is that they lead by example in the development of evolutionary psychology from the realm of speculation to that of established research program'  Amazon  back
Dinitz, Simon, Deviance: studies in definition, management and treatment, Oxford University Press 1975 Jacket: 'The interconnected and vexing problems of the definition, management and treatment of deviant behaviour are analyzed in thie carefully edited and integrated collection of sixty-five essays. ... The editors have provided a comprehensive list of references, glossaries of legal terms and mental disorders and discussion questions on thje major points of each chapter.'  Amazon  back
Gregory, Richard Langton, The Oxford Companion to the Mind, Oxford University Press 1987 Preface: '... written by a wide range of authorities on as many aspects of Mind as possible. ... The range is wide, as the concept of Mind accepted here is far broader than what may (at first) come to mind, as one thinks of mind: especially thinking and consciousness. We do not, however, limit 'Mind' to consciousness, or awareness, for even long before Freud it was clear that a great deal goes on 'mentally' which is beyond (or beneath, or at least outside) our awareness.'  Amazon  back
Lovelock, James, Ages of Gaia: A Biography of our Living Earth, W W Norton 1995 'This book describes a set of observations about the life of our planet which may, one day, be recognised as one of the major discontinuities in human thought. If Lovelock turns out to be right in his view of things, as I believe he is, we will be viewing the Earth as a coherent system of life, self regulating and self-changing, a sort of immense living organism.' Lewis Thomas  Amazon  back
McLuhan, Marshall, Global Village: Transformations in World Life and Media in the Twenty First Century, Oxford University Press 1992   Amazon  back
SIPRI, (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute), Yearbook 1998: Armaments, Disarmament and National Security, Taylor and Francis 1998   Amazon  back


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