The theology company logo

vol 8: Many in one
page 8: Place

New pages

Site map
Search this site


1: About
2: Synopsis
3: Development

Next: History: toc
Previous: 7: Tribe

4: Glossary
5: Questions

6: Essays
7: Notes
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 8: Place

Music 1: Talk Talk: Life's What You Make It


1 I am looking for heaven. I was brought up to believe that heaven was somewhere outside the visible universe. I now think that what I was taught as a child was wrong. Heaven is here. We're standing in it. All we have to do is is understand this to look at life from the right point of view.

2 What I am saying is that if we look at life from the right point of view, peace is inevitable. I believe that I have captures some elements of that point of view in the set of ideas I call the theory of peace.

3 These lectures are an attempt to find exactly the right words to convey the theory of peace to you. My hunch is that if we all understood our situation properly, we would find it natural to work together to build a peaceful world.

4 Our position, as far as I can see, is that we are all divine beings sharing a divine universe. We are creative and the universe is creative, and so there is no absolute barrier to building peace. All we need is the necessary vision. It is the task of theory to provide us with that vision.

5 Personally, I like peace. I do not, however, make any assumptions about your preferences. I am not trying to talk you into anything. I am just trying to show you something.

6 I am not working for charity, or out of altruistic love. My principal interest is to bring peace to myself. I cannot do that alone, however. As I understand it, we bring peace to ourselves through dialogue with others, and so I am led to communicate.

7 Preparing these lectures has been an immense help to me in sorting out my own life. I hope you have found some value in them even though I have been so vague about my ideas that they do not come across very well.

8 Apart from these ideas, there is the hope that eventually I will write something that people will buy and I will get a living from doing what I like best.

Music 2: Nic Cave: Birthday Party


9 I have two definitions of peace. One describes peace from the outside. I used this definition in the second lecture last year:

Peace is not just the absence of war. It is the whole remarkable structure of what exists. If we are to understand peace well enough to bring it within our grasp, we must understand the creative process that brings the world to be.

10 The second definition describes peace from the inside, as I feel it. Because I am trying to make a connection between the theory of peace and physics, I phrase this definition in terms of the theory of relativity. You will find it in the fifth lecture from last year.:

What is the personal experience of peace? I suggest that there is no such thing.: In the limit thee is no experience of peace, and vice versa, peace is the absence of experience.


This I believe is akin to the state of weightlessness in free fall. To be at peace is to be freely falling through reality, or as some would say, going with the flow.


11 I begin from the first definition and try to describe a path to the second. Peace is the whole structure of what is. If we wish to know peace we need to know this structure and how it came to be.

12 The study of the fundamental structure of the universe is called Physics. Physics has a very long history. The oldest written records we have from people who were recognisable as physicists in the modern sense are about five thousand years old. They come from the astronomers of the ancient Near East.

13 In the temple schools exorcists, diviners and astrologers, together with physicians, scribes and judges fostered the study of astronomy, medicine and law.

14 In their priestly roles, these students were regarded as agents of the gods. They held a monopoly on knowledge and controlled the destiny of the community for good or evil.

15 Their power was very great and the maintained the relation between religion and culture through an all embracing hierarchical system. Things have not changed much since then. The history of technology and industry as we see it is an exploration of the growing links between knowledge, money and political power.

Music 3:


16 The first recognisable science preceded astronomy and made it possible. It was the invention of writing itself. Without permanent written records and calculations, astronomy is not possible. Writing as we understand it is about five thousand years old. Pictures and sculpture, a precursor of writing, date back tens of thousands of years more.

17 Every religion has sacred texts and buildings. The main activity of religious professionals over thousands of years has been to build, copy, recite, sing, think about, develop and live within the fixed structures of religion.

18 It seems that most ancient temples, stone circles another structures had an astronomical function. In other words, they were representatives of astronomical phenomena, that is the ways of the heavens.

19 Writing is a method of representing the sounds of speech. From the point of view of science, speech is a natural phenomenon, and the written marks are representations of the actual spoken sounds. To learn to read and write is simply to learn the mapping from speech to writing and back again.


20 In our language, spelling is unnecessarily complicated. Learning the relationship between speech sounds and the written symbols of English is a thankless task because there are so many exceptions.

21 English speakers use about fifty different sounds. I believe that if the science of writing is to develop in the same direction as the other sciences, we should establish toe simplest possible correspondence between spoken sounds and the written symbols that represent them.

22 Some people say this would be terrible, since we would lose all the beauty of the written word. Perhaps we would, but we don't have to throw it away. We must remember that the written word is the representative of the spoken word and not vice versa. Speech is built into our nature. Spelling is not. That fact makes me think that the increase in literacy that might follow a spelling reform would be well worth the cost.

Music 4: Crystal Set: The Benefit of the Doubt.

The written word

23 I am a writer. I think I am a natural as a writer. I may not do it well, but it is the work that excites me the most. I read and I write. Both of these are rather solitary channels that do not relate me to people in the room, but to people very distant in space and time.

24 I am a natural writer in the sense that it took me no trouble to learn to ready and write and do arithmetic and think logically. On the other hand I observe that there are people in the world who find this sort of behaviour desperately difficult.

25 These people inhabit a different part of the world. Not the world of writing, but the world of talking. Whereas writing is space time travel, talking is real time communication. Writing works in one direction at a time. Speech is a dialogue.

26 The message of these lectures is contained, I feel, in this distinction between space-time and real time, between writing and talking, between theory and life. The written word only captures a tiny fraction of the information that is conveyed in a direct encounter with someone.

27 Yet the current organisation of our society is totally dependent on the written word, written documents, huge files and computer memories. Tribal societies, on the other hand, are built on face to face communication, living and making music together.

28 It seems to me that the written side of our culture has overwhelmed the spoken side. We are trapped in a web of written laws which only relate to real lie in the most tortuous and difficult ways.

29 We are trapped because we believe that our written records are essential to the stability of our society. Yet there have been societies that lived without written records. Where does their stability come from?

30 In the case of the Australian Aboriginal culture, I think the answer is the land. The Aboriginal used the land as the foundation of their existence. In all its shapes and places and subtleties it serves them rather as written records and public buildings do for us. It provides a stable foundation for their existence.

31 I believe that we too have got to go back to the land if we want peace. I do not mean, of course, that we live a life identical to the Aborigines, but I do mean that we must recognise the planet earth and the universe of which it is part as the foundation of our existence.

Music 5: Steve Kilby: Favourite Pack of lies


32 This is what education is for. Its task is to take young human beings who can talk competently and introduce them to the sources of stability and security in the world. To connect their real-time with spacetime.

33 Not just the spacetimne represented by written records, which are often out of date, but with the spacetime of the universe itself. The result of this connection is to extend their vision into the past and the future, so that their movement into the future can be guided by the experience of the past.

34 Education introduces people into the world by giving them a map of the human relationships to the world. The word world here includes other human beings. You are part of my world, I am part of yours.

35 If there are errors in the map, their effects will eventually show. People will be insecure because their connection to their source of security is weak. It is the task of religion, and theologians, to continually renew and strengthen our connection to our environment.


36 As I explained at the beginning:

... 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.

37 The job that must be done is scientific. We must bring our selves and our society into line with reality. Just as our cumbersome method spelling English speech leads to untold agony in school, our cumbersome and legalistic view of the world leads to unnecessary pain in the management of our lives.

38 The first step in this process is to realise that we are really part of the universe, and that we really do fit in. All we have to do is find a clear and acceptable collective expression of that fit.

39 We do this by developing a theory of the universe that shows how we fit. It is the special role of theology to develop this area of theory, just as it is the role of biology to provide us with theory about life in general.

40 Yet it is sometimes hard to feel at home in the universe. It is so big, often so hostile, and we are so small. It would be so nice of there was a perfect answer, a sort of womb into which we could creep and live without pain.

41 I think it is this sort of feeling that leads us to postulate a perfect life after death. In the present state of science , life after death is not observable, so we cannot talk about it scientifically. Instead we have to make do with what we can see.

Music 6:


42 Perhaps the hardest part of life is the uncertainty. It is uncertainty that breeds insecurity. For a long time our written culture seemed to hold the promise of eliminating all uncertainty. Bureaucrats and administrators have ruled the world with paperwork, and treated that paperwork as though it is a reality.

43 They have often been deluded into thinking that they could eliminate all uncertainty from their work. This sort of thinking gives rise to foolish projects like the Australia Card. The aim of this card was to establish a one to one correspondence between the bureaucrats' files and the people of Australia.

44 This is impossible. People are born, move and die. To make a perfect bureaucratic model of the whole nation would require the effort of the whole nation. And for what? We no more need an all knowing and all controlling central government than the trees do. Trees get their security by relating to their immediate environment, not some central authority

Cosmological Principle

45 I am a particle in an immense and incomprehensible universe. I say incomprehensible because there is no way I will ever know every detail of it. Incomprehensible does not necessarily mean dangerous. I look at the stars through my bedroom window every night and wonder about them. I do not experience star wars but star peace.

46 How do we understand the universe.? We do it by projecting our own experience onto the rest of the universe. The way we do this has a name in physics and astronomy: it is called cosmological principle.

47 Cosmology is the study of the universe. Principle is just another name for assumption. The basic cosmological assumption in physics and astronomy is that identifiable particles behave the same way out in the universe as they do in our laboratories.

48 This means that we assume that the hydrogen in the sun behaves exactly the same as the samples of hydrogen which we observe in our laboratories. This principle is logical enough.

49 If we find something in the sin which does not behave like anything we have in our laboratories, it seems simple to presume that it is something new rather than something we have already met behaving completely out of character.

50 The element helium was discovered in this way. In 1868 Janssen saw a line in the spectrum of sunlight that had never been seen in the laboratory. Since it fitted no laboratory experiment, it was assumed to come from a new element. In 1895 Ramsay discovered helium from radioactive decay in the uranium mineral clevite.

51 A consequence of this cosmological principle is that neither our laboratories nor our planet are inherently special places n the universe. If they were special, we would expect this to be marked by some special laws of physics.

52 According to the cosmological principle, they are not. Assuming that the laws of physics are the same anywhere in the universe as they are in an earthbound laboratory is the same as assuming that from the point of view of physics, all places in the universe are equivalent.

53 The fundamental assumption of the theory of peace is an extension of this cosmological assumption. Instead of assuming that the human mind is a special place, functioning in some special way, the theory assumes that we are just as much an integral part of the universe as any other particle.

54 On this assumption, from the point of view of the theory of peace the development of a theory in a human mind, the reproduction of a living being, or the production of a subatomic particle in a physics laboratory or a cosmic ray are all examples of the same process.

55 Clearly this assumption is just the same as the assumption I explained in the first lecture this year. This universe is our home. We are intimately associated with its function. It is loving and intelligent as we are. We were created within the universe after all.

Music 7: The Benefit of the Doubt

The unity of human experience

56 An immediate consequence of the cosmological assumption is that the experience of life is identical for all of us. This fact is the foundation of religious experience. We cannot describe this experience. Mystics and seers and prophets have been telling us this incessantly through the ages. There is just a state of union which is beyond words.

57 If it cannot be spoken, it can only be shared by mutual experience. We must take it on faith that your experience of life is the same as mine. It seems logical, since if experience is without expressible content, there is nothing to differentiate one experience from another except that they are experiences of different people.

58 This brings us back to the second definition of peace, the theory of relativity and weightlessness. The physics of relativity says that every particle is its own master, and the relationships between particles must respect this fact.

59 Technically this is expressed by the invariance of proper time, where the proper time of a particle is its own life times by its own clock. We might say that the proper time of a particle is its own experience of itself.

60 In physics we observe the proper time of a particle by falling freely with it through space. A particle is weightless when it is falling freely. In religion, we can share our mystical experiences by being at peace with one another.


61 I have been talking about a cosmological principle or assumption. I have been saying, in effect, that we will feel at home, secure and at peace in the world if we believe that the world is home. That seems like a circular argument, and it is.

62 All religion is based on faith, because we know that the uncertainty principle is part of life. Ultimately the universe is made of nothing. If we seek pure certainty, we lose life. If we seek pure life, we lose certainty. What we want is some sort of balance.

63 Religion does not rely on faith alone, however. Traditional christianity wants us to believe that god is other than the universe, but he looks after it and us and tries as best he can to get us to live a good life.

64 The christian god communicates with us through the medium of the church, but because we may not trust the church, there are also direct manifestations of god which we call miracles.

65 Miracles that are attributed to the intervention of the transcendent god are pretty rare these days, but the idea of miracles bolstering our faith is not out of date.

66 I am suggesting that the foundation of our peace and security must be the belief that we are part of this universe. The theory of peace, as I have tried to communicate it to you, is designed to make this contention plausible. I want it to be plausible because it is scientific, that is a logical argument that fits in with experience.

67 For the theory of peace, every event is a miracle. Everything that happens is a manifestation of god. The theory of peace will only be satisfactory if it fits every event and every experience together into a unified view of the universe.

Music 8:


68 This lecture is my last run through this story in plain English. Next I want to spend some time dressing the theory up in mathematical and physical clothes so that I can present it to the science community.

69 The science community possesses a global communication network which is capable of spreading new ideas around the world in a matter of weeks. If this theory of peace is good, it is sensible to start using it as soon as it becomes obvious that it is better than the alternatives.


70 Is there a moral in all this? Formally, there is not. A theory does not tell us what do. It merely tells us the consequences of particular actions.

71 It is possible, of course, that a theory will show that one course of action leads to infinitely more practical results than its opposite. On the whole we use our engineering theories on the strengths of beams to design beams that will hold the load, not break under it.

72 The theory of peace is an attempt at designing a society that will hold together, not tear itself apart in violence. I have stated this in many different, quite formal, ways. I can put it quite simply as well.

73 I believe that the theory predicts that if you want peace, you should do everything in your life in a proper tradesman like manner. This is simply a minimum requirement. It is a matter of your own choice whether you enjoy doing things this way or not.

74 I believe a good tradesman acts truly in the situation as he sees it. He builds the foundations to carry the load, he builds the pipes to carry the pressure, he builds the walls to stand up and the doors to open and close.

75 Tradesman ship does not require genius. It simply requires knowing your materials and your environment and being faithful to them. If you do not, your work will fall apart before its time and you might as well have not have done it.


76 If you do not want peace, a theory of peace should be able to tell you how to achieve that as well. All you have to do is cut down on communication by lying, covering up, secrecy and corruption in any way that you can manage.

77 Violence is inherently unstable, however, and does not last. Only peace is durable. Whether we look out at the stars, or inward at ourselves, we see things that have stood the test of time. Our purpose is to find out why they have lasted and build accordingly.


Originally broadcast on 2BOB Radio, Taree, NSW on 2 August 1988


Bailey, Raymond, Thomas Merton on Mysticism, Doubleday and Company 1987 Jacket: '"I have only one desire ... to disappear into God, to be submerged in his peace..." Thomas Merton. The author [RB] carefully traces the evolution of Merton's faith: from his conversion to Catholicism to his ordination as a Trappist monk ... . In addition, there are here included conversations between Merton and his contemporaries, excerpts from his letters and journals, and other material never before published.'  Amazon  back
Capra, Fritjof, The Tao of Physics: An exploration of the parallels between modern physics and Eastern mysticism, Shambala 1991 'First published in 1975, The Tao of Physics ... still stands up to scrutiny, explicating not only Eastern philosophies but also how modern physics forces us into conceptions that have remarkable parallels. Covering over 3,000 years of widely divergent traditions across Asia, Capra can't help but blur lines in his generalizations. But the big picture is enough to see the value in them of experiential knowledge, the limits of objectivity, the absence of foundational matter, the interrelation of all things and events, and the fact that process is primary, not things. Capra finds the same notions in modern physics. ...' Brian Bruya   Amazon  back
Misner, Charles W, Gravitation, Freeman 1973 Jacket: 'Einstein's description of gravitation as curvature of spacetime led directly to that greatest of all predictions of his theory, that the universe itself is dynamic. Physics still has far to go to come to terms with this amazing fact and what it means for man and his relation to the universe. John Archibald Wheeler. ... this is a book on Einstein's theory of gravity (general relativity).'  Amazon  back
Neville, Robert C, The Cosmology of Freedom, State University of New York Press 1974-1996 Jacket: 'This remarkably fresh and creative treatment of the concenpt of freedom integratesmany of the basic notions of personal and social freedom in one cosmological scheme. ... Neville first considers personal freedoms: the freedom to respond to opportunities in the sociophysical environment, the freedom to act intentionally, the freedom of choice. The author then focusses on freedom to participate in society ...'  Amazon  back
Reynolds, Henry, Aboriginal Sovereignty : Reflections on Race State & Nation, Paul & Co Pub Consortium 1997   Amazon  back
Suzuki, Daisetz Teitaro, Mysticism, Christian and Buddhist, George Allen and Unwin 1976 Jacket: 'In this clear account of the essentials of mysticism, Mr. Suzuki has taken as examples the Zen Buddhism of the East and the reflections of Meister Eckhart. With a wealth of illustration and explanation, he shows how the Chinese sage and the German philosopher meet on common ground.'   Amazon  back


  in association with

Click on an "Amazon" link in the booklist at the foot of the page to buy the book, see more details or search for similar items

Related sites:

Concordat Watch
Revealing Vatican attempts to propagate its religion by international treaty

Copyright: You may copy this material freely provided only that you quote fairly and provide a link (or reference) to your source.


next: History: toc
previous: 7: Tribe
Search WWW Search Search


site scripted with Frontier
This page was last built on 2/28/09; 11:19:15 AM by jhn.

ntBLine picture