My contribution to a LinkedIn thread entitled, “Does Adherence to Rationality Lead to Atheism.”
John, I liked your comments about a spiritual experience: “It’s a group, there’s intensity, emotion, like a football match, where everybody is affected in the same way. Do the same thing, the back door to the unconscious has swung open.”
I equate our emotional nature with our spiritual nature. In my mind all experiences are spiritual, even loneliness, which is a negative spiritual experience. The situation you described results in the positive spiritual experience of relational intimacy. In my book, Eden, I offer the intimacy equation, which is:
Intimacy = Interdependence
The greater the interdependence, the greater the intimacy. That is, to the extent we are dependent on others to realize an objective, to that extent we will know relational intimacy. The objective could be to study the bible, form a ball club, complete a work project, produce a TV series, or survival. If the objective is survival, then we experience the ultimate expression of relational intimacy, which is unconditional love.
Why does interdependence result in relational intimacy? We moderns tend to overlook this, but life’s objective is not going to heaven or to the moon, but survival. While it has long been accepted that survival requires physical fitness, it is becoming increasingly recognized that it requires emotional fitness as well. Emotional fitness evolves by virtue of the fact that the genes of the individuals who love doing the things required for their species to flourish are the genes most likely to be passed to future generations. As such, I suspect there is nothing a migrating bird loves more than joining in the migration, or that makes a beaver happier than building a dam, despite the efforts required. Likewise, because humans depended directly on one another to survive throughout our evolution, there is nothing humans love more than taking care of one another for the sake of their survival. This explains the connection between intimacy and interdependence, and also the relationship between unconditional love and survival.
You mentioned that the only unconditional love you have experienced is your mother’s. You’re not alone. Legal systems destroy the unconditional love of relational intimacy. Think of it this way. If twenty or thirty people were sharing a garden, then their instincts about gifting others with their efforts, for cooperating, sharing resources, and caring for one another would be in full play when tending the garden. (This is how prehistoric people practiced agriculture.) Now, divide the garden into thirty separate plots, and assign each individual a plot. Suddenly, instead of belonging to the group, you would belong to the system that polices the garden to prevent encroachment and stealing. That is how legal systems destroy relational intimacy.
By virtue of evolution, any cooperation among humans essential to species survival results in unconditional love, of which there are three kinds: A mother’s love for her child—which lasts for life. Romantic love—which lasts long enough to ensure conception. And the love experienced by a group of people who are depending on one another to survive. That love lasts as long as the individual perceives him or herself as being dependent on the group to survive. In the natural world, unconditional love was for life. In a world ruled by money and law, people can survive alone, which has rendered the unconditional love of interdependent relationships obsolete. In fact, were we, as members of an extended family, to depend directly on one another to survive, instead of on the offerings of the state, we would be functioning outside the law. As such, we would be seen as enemies of the state.
Only through unconditional love does life make sense. I have no way to know, but I presume a mother’s love for her child brings meaning to her life. I know from experience how meaningful life is when romantically involved. Our problem is, we survive by trusting our lives to a legal system, and thus must somehow endure without the most essential love of all, the intimacy of interdependent relationships. Unable to know life’s meaning by direct experience, we are reduced to trying to find it elsewhere.
Instead of love, we are possessed with the need for truth, be it religious, philosophical, ideological, legal, or scientific. But life’s essence can be grasped only through the intimacy of unconditional love, not knowledge, thought, nor reason. We are also possessed with the need for ever more conveniences, the self-aggrandizement of wealth and privilege, empire building, and conquest to the point that our eyes are now set on inhabiting the universe. Trying to find life’s meaning in other than the intimacy of interdependent relationships has resulted, not only in a never-ending search for truth, but also in a feverishness of activity that now threatens to denature the environment.
We have noted that: By virtue of evolution, any cooperation among humans essential to species survival results in unconditional love. This implies a concrete relationship between love and survival. To exist without unconditional love is to be foretold of pending disaster.
On the back of my business card are these words:
If we have love, then nothing else really matters. And if we do not have love, then nothing else really matters anyhow.
By that measure, except for a mother’s love for her children, and for the occasional romance that we encounter on our life’s journeys, there isn’t much going on on this planet that really matters—not among humans.