Negotiating with the Universe & Sublimed by Wonder

Negotiating with the Universe & Sublimed by Wonder
This sketch is a humble attempt at illustrating a snapshot of our holographic and non-ergodic reality, which aims to depict the fractal emergence of self-organizing stardust morphing into the formation of quantum-entangled consciousness, including a synthesis of inspiration from human history. The guide to its full interpretation resides within the essay below, which is fully referenced and enables the reader to dig deeper into specific sub-themes. A brief sketch summary is also provided, which explains each element of the image.

Synopsis

In gazing upon the vast tapestry of existence, each of us crafts a lens — a worldview — through which we interpret the myriad hues and patterns of reality. This lens, painstakingly shaped and polished over time, is our most valiant attempt to distil a coherent narrative from the ever-shifting dance of life's complexities. As I guide you through the winding pathways of my own worldview in this essay, I will share how it has been moulded, fortified, and tested, primarily under the weight of my scientific curiosities, most notably my enchantment with the fractal nature of the universe.

Yet, as we delve deeper into these musings, let's bear in mind the words of the great philosopher Plato, who wisely noted, “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” While my journey of understanding does not purport to be an ironclad framework of logic, nor does it audaciously seek to address the age-old philosophical enigmas, it does resemble a carefully handcrafted garment.

"Our worldview must be our own, in the sense that we have personally thought it through and adapted it of our own free will." - David Gooding and John Lennox, Doing What’s Right - Whose System of Ethics is Good Enough?

A worldview is much like the weave of a home-knitted garment, it is subtly unique, much like its beholder, and only through years of service do we begin to see its fitness and true value. Yet, whether we choose to embrace the current or rethink our outlook, our commitment should be rooted in its capacity to illuminate the purpose of our existence. After all, in a world where knowledge often feels like a mosaic of fragments, the most potent worldviews don’t profess to have every answer. Instead, they inspire us to ask the profound questions, the very ones that draw us closer to the heart of life's enigma, the Mysterium Tremendum. As Heraclitus once noted, change is the only constant in life, and I believe our journey through life is characterised by a life-long conversation between our experiences, our curiosities and our emerging faith in the unknown.

“Blind faith is meant to be ultimate sanctity, but it is merely an exercise in absence that keeps you away from that which is truly your own and keeps you outside the magic and playfulness and dangerous otherness of divinity.” - O’Donohue, John, Walking in Wonder, Convergent Books, 2018.

But equally, any home-knitted jumper will be full of unique defects and nuances, which also reflects my own subjective account. There are likely plentiful inconsistencies, self-contradictions and giant leaps of inferences. But regardless, it remains the closest resemblance to “tacit truth” that I can personally muster at the time of writing.

Sketch Interpretation Summary

1. Yellow hues represents phospherence of thought and the birth of consciousness in the universe. Based on near-death experience and studies on the quantum-nature of consciousness, we learn that we are seemingly interconnected with our present reality more than we currently dare to acknowledge and comprehend. Our "dance of atoms" during an emotive expression of love, is clearly no longer a private party. Our often impassioned debate on the complex nuances of evolution or "The Big Bang", is reminiscent of two Flatlanders (Edwin Abbott) passionately arguing over whether Cartesian or Polar Coordinates best represents their form, but overlooking the mysterious intersecting "bubbles" hinting at a greater dimensional reality. These enigmatic and interconnected hallmarks of intricate design were difficult to refute.

2. The alpha represents the beginning of time with "Let there be light..." and its agency in projecting a more fundamental holographic reality (represented by the snowflake), whilst omega is a reference to the polymath P. T. De Chardin's "Omega Point" (the interconnectedness of consciousness via the "noosphere") and the life of Jesus Christ. From this perspecrive, the “creation account” and “evolution account”, are both deemed as valid in my eyes, the former being from the outside-of-time perspective and the latter within it. This also serves as a humble reminder of the inherent ego-centric perils of a time-bound anthropocentric worldview, our knowledge is paltry at best. In this respect, we surely cannot be the only intelligent time-bound beings in our vast universe, are there not others belonging to another manifold ... "I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold" (John 10:16). The notion that Jesus is not merely an expositor of Scripture but the very Word of God in human form is the crescendo of a cosmic love song which finds resonance in Christ’s otherworldly transfiguration on Mount Tabor; the voice from the cloud declares, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.”. As Denis Edwards declared (The God of Evolution: A Trinitarian Theology, p. 98), "…linked  in relationships of kinship  and  community with all other creatures in a  global koinonia of the Holy Spirit", it is seemingly sentience and self­-consciousness which are the fundamental properties to which God relates.

3. The "scales of time" represents the dualistic essence of our reality, whereby the constituent parts render as part continuum and part deterministic, depending on the frame of reference e.g. proton tunnelling in Dawkins's Random Mutation. But there is a nuanced duality at play in our reality. Contrary to the smooth dynamical system of a frictionless harmonic "scale", the evolution of life in our biosphere is profoundly “non-ergodic” and historical. It is not a case of incredibly small probabilities (fine-tuning etc.), it is rather a curious case of not all states being 'accessible' within a system i.e. 'fractal emergence' in the image caption. To attribute this to the overflowing category of “coincidence” seemed like too great a leap for me.

4. The repeated fractals represent the scale-invariant symmetry and "frozen fractals all around us" (as Disney's Elsa sings in "Let It Go"). Our appreciation for such symmetries and patterns is inherently governed by the asymmetry of universal information and radial limits of knowledge. After all, our perceptible reality (baryonic matter) accounts for less than 5% of the universe.

5. Music is fractal (unlike noise) and the strings from the piano represent the "cantor set", which is a fractal, that is also reflected in the fractal phenomena espoused by DNA and Chromatin. These findings require us to revise our understanding of "random mutations" in DNA or RNA, hinting that such foundational constructs of life are guided by unseen deterministic fractal equations. This non-ergodicity within evolution, together with heritable variation, is the substantial basis for Darwin. This emerging understanding challenges the notion of genetic randomness, suggesting that genetic material may be organized in a highly optimized way for stable yet adaptable traits. One might infer that the definition of Evolution itself is "metamorphosing", now becoming a canvas where not just biological novelty emerges, but even "functional information" can be seen as subject to law-governed frameworks, as suggested by the mass-energy-information equivalence principle. This parallels with perspectives from quantum physicists, such as John Polkinghorne, which denounce meaningless randomness in favour of the foundational agency of "functional information"..."… it seems coherent to believe that God’s action could be in the form of pure active information. This would  afford  a  particular  character to divine  agency, consonant  with theology’s insistence that God is pure spirit." - John Polkinghorne.

6. The hypercube and fractal-spirals (i.e. Hausdorff dimension) represent the extra dimensions of our reality that are seemingly beyond our current perceptive limits. Verlinde's entropic gravity notion, supported by James Webb Telescope observations, posits a universe intricately woven with informational and entropic elements, challenging the 'nothingness of the gaps' (including our concept of "dark energy" and "dark matter") and suggesting a cosmos linked with a non-local, entangled consciousness deeply rooted in the holographic principle. This understanding, when conflated with Roger Penrose’s Conformal Cyclic Cosmology, would also find resonance in explaining anomalous cosmological observations of 'spirals' that span 3.3 billion light-years of space. In some respects, our ‘standard understanding in cosmology’ urgently beckons review. To loan a big-bang analogy I learnt at university; the dust-clouds (i.e. interstellar clouds) from an exploding grenade may clump (via gravity) like porridge, but it ought not (according to current theories) to form 'Gandalf-like' smoke-rings.

7. The dice illustrates that things we deem as "pure chance" are not truly so, superdeterminism, fractals (formally termed "chaotic attractors") and self-repeating patterns are veiled within all scales of our complex reality; “Nature builds up her refined and invisible architecture, with a delicacy eluding our conception, yet with symmetry and beauty which we are never weary of admiring.” – John Herschel.

8. The signs on the piano represents how the cross, the ultimate act of altruistic love, gave humanity human rights, forgiveness and ethics; a framework that points to a reality that is beyond the fallen hominoid timeline of history and mellontolatry. "Human rights aren’t objectively true...They derive from profoundly Christian theological presumptions. They are quite as culturally contingent as a belief in Christ’s resurrection." - Tom Holland (Award-winning Historian, Author of Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Remade the World)

9. The sun behind the blackhole that meets the eye of the train passenger represents the strangeness of our universe and how our consciousness seemingly influences the causality of reality, beyond the bounds of time e.g. John Wheeler’s Cosmic Delayed Choice Experiment and Psalm 90:4. But in this strangeness, we long for a forgotten home. Our moments of suffering provides a platform of deep reflection, we sense "that we are both sent and drawn by the same Force, which is precisely what Christians mean when they say the Cosmic Christ is both alpha and omega. We are both driven and called forward by a kind of deep homesickness, it seems." - Richard Rohr (Falling upward: a spirituality for the two halves of life)

10. The blue and green hues on Earth symbolize the vibrant tapestry of interconnected communities and our inherent responsibility towards environmental stewardship. Just as Jean Vanier extolled the beauty of shared human experiences in the l'Arche community, the Earth's palette reminds us of our collective duty to cherish and preserve our surroundings. The Greek concept of "Oikos," while traditionally signifying a 'household' (e.g. in Luke 11), also points towards an intricate network of relationships encompassing ecology, economics, and broader community ties. This mirrors sentiments from indigenous languages, such as the Welsh (my mother-tongue) "cynefin" and the Te Reo Māori "tūrangawaewae", anchoring identity in communal belonging within a local biosphere. In contrast to modern individualistic and exploitative tendencies (represented by the grey shading on the Earth), a healthier global society is contingent on us fostering greater societal altruism and ethically stewarding the Earth's biospheres.

We Have Information Asymmetry

Regardless of one’s own meekness and innate humility, it sadly takes an adult (unlike a small child) some degree of hesitation to publicly utter the words “I don’t know”. The conscious act of seeking meaning to our deepest questions about reality can either be a curious hobby or triggered by some external impetus, such as a crisis. For myself, it was a mix of both and I began this journey in 2008 during my final year of studies at university. However, despite the convincing rhetoric of many leading thinkers of our times, any competent negotiator would recognize our predicament. Our information about the universe is extremely asymmetrical1, so when venturing on any edifying journey of discovery; our most valued ally is our humility and our most salient enemy is our pride. Despite being in the 21st Century, with modernity adorning our tenement halls of progress, one of the prime movers of philosophy remains squarely unanswered:

Where do we come from and why are we here?

This thirst for meaning and universal heritage drove the ancient minds and thinkers to seek meaning in the stars. The ancient Babylonians were well known to be highly competent astronomers2. Before widely available written accounts, there is evidence to suggest that the ancients worshipped the deities written in ancient constellations, which constituted forms of astral theology. Their accounts of Gods and Deities, which defined their various cultural spectrums, were seen to come from the heavenly rooftops of nature;

“Two things fill my mind with ever-increasing wonder and awe, the more often and the more intensely the reflection dwells on them: the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me.” - Immanuel Kant

Through this systematic process for gathering astronomical data and testing hypotheses, the foundations of the scientific method were seeded. Much of its origin has been credited to the Greek philosopher Aristotle, but history also shows us how theistic beliefs drove many scientists and notable physicists (such as Kepler, Newton, Faraday, Maxwell, Gauss and Heisenberg) to the forefront of scientific thinking3. However, there are those who would reasonably argue that the “curious scientist” is very much an innate archetype of the human condition;

“Science comes from a feature inherent to our mind which obliges us to meet any natural phenomenon with the two questions specific to the human being: why and to what effect?” - T. Maiorescu

Naturally, one asks how can it be that eminent scientists and philosophers can position themselves on antipodal hemispheres with respect to theism. To concede to the notion of an intelligent designer is seemingly plausible, but to extrapolate that out to the God of the Bible (or any other God within world religions) is not only an extension of evidential grounds but also drastically implicates our definition of morals and meaning.

“I do not believe in the God of theology who rewards good and punishes evil.” - Albert Einstein

I reached a point in my life where I started to tackle these deep questions, which I assume is a question that all people ponder at some point in their lives. One of my prompts was the irrevocable void of meaning within my own atheistic worldview (with some agnostic inclinations), which was driven on the basis of ‘survival of the fittest’ whereby my deepest emotions of love derived purely from the dance of atoms. I had a wonderful childhood within a farming community in North Wales and regularly attended Sunday school. However, as I approached my teenage years, I just could not bring myself to believe in a personable and omnipresent God. Ultimately, the necessary stretch of reason exceeded the yield point of my, admittedly “self-limited”, rationale. It was not until I visited an old book store (which is something I try to do in most places I visit) and I picked up a very old and weathered copy of “The Phenomenon of Man” by Pierre Teilhard De Chardin4 that my worldview started to crumble.

“He that will believe only what he can fully comprehend must have a long head or a very short creed.” - P. T. De Chardin

There have not been many books that I had to re-read several times, but despite being modest in size, it was in substance denser than heartwood. De Chardin, much like Leonardo da Vinci, was a polymath (he was a Jesuit priest, scientist, paleontologist, theologian, philosopher and teacher) and his capacity to comprehend the trajectory of our reality was truly astonishing. Within these yellow tinged pages was a scientific and rational narrative that challenged my worldview and our rendering of ‘survival of the fittest’ (which we can in fact attribute to Herbert Spencer, not Charles Darwin); we had seemingly incorrectly inferred the contours of our evolutionary history and assumed cut-throat competition rather than cooperation and togetherness. Devaluing traits such as cooperation and togetherness, in favour of competition not only distorts masculinity and gender equality, it also ultimately shapes how we order social institutions. To me, this was like opening Pandora’s Box.

“We have seen that without the involution of matter upon itself, that is to say, without the closed chemistry of molecules, cells and phyletic branches, there would never have been either their advent and their development, biosphere or noosphere. In life and thought are not only accidentally, but also structurally, bound up with the contours and destiny of the terrestrial mass.” - P. T. De Chardin4

This thought-provoking book is notoriously difficult to surmise, but my greatest learning was that the “within and without of our being”, from the fundamental self-organized stardust of life to the formation of quantum-entangled consciousness; displays an extra-ordinary symphony of synthesis and organization. To loan a poor analogy; I envisaged the emergence of humans as saplings in a grassy plain whereby the mind were akin to fungi (I do indeed love truffles) within the root systems. I was concerned that I was missing the bigger picture; is there a veil that prevents us as humans from perceiving true reality, is the tree aware of the mycelium network that organizes the entire forest? Much like a mushroom hunter ploughing the forest floor in autumn, my search of discovery began and the shapes of trees and roots were the first clues on my journey.

The Emergent Universe

There have been a plethora of publications about the fine-tuning of our universe, so much so, that I will merely point to the resources which I found most useful5˒6. Admittedly, one could interpret fine-tuning as a plausible basis for intelligent design or as an accidental occurrence in an infinite multi-verse. Regardless of how one interprets this evidence, I personally believe this only substantiates a relatively modest part of our belief system.

We currently live in an age where access to information has been so encapsulated into our way of life, we merely need to glance beyond our fingertips. Much like the global network of nodes which defines our world wide web of information7 or the hero’s journey within childhood novels8, the extent of self-repeating patterns is truly remarkable. A broad assessment of our current scientific understanding would suggest that we live in an emergent universe whereby there exists a dualism of randomness and global determinism, which is seemingly scale-invariant and relational9˒10. A useful device which can tangibly demonstrate this dualism is a Galton board11, which also displays this characteristic self-organizing effect (information entropy)12. One concept that beautifully captures the dance between order and chaos in our universe is the fractal.

Visualize a crinkled piece of paper. If you attempt to align that paper with a straight line, it won't fit seamlessly because of its folds and bends. These crinkles, representing the paper's multifaceted nature, hint at the very essence of fractals. Delving deeper, the Hausdorff dimension comes into play. Instead of viewing the crinkled paper as a two-dimensional sheet, imagine it occupying a dimension somewhere between two and three, because of its intricate crinkles. This is analogous to the Hausdorff dimension: it quantifies the 'in-between' or fractional dimensionality of fractals, capturing their complexity in a number.

A fractal is a pattern that replicates itself no matter how much you magnify it. The closer you look, the more the same pattern recurs, revealing a deeper layer of intricacy. Similar to the layers of our universe, each iteration of a fractal is an evolving entity, building upon the patterns of its predecessors, culminating in an endlessly intricate yet orderly system.13. From the fractal forms espoused by snowflakes, the stages of evolution14, animal behavior15˒16˒17, the meandering of rivers18, the growth of a tree19 and even the structure of the Horsehead nebula20 and space-time itself21; all follow this recursive fractal form which is often veiled in complexity22. Even our own timeline of historical events, such as catastrophes, wars and pandemics (such as the recent COVID-19 pandemic), conform to Fibonacci intervals and exhibit fractal phenomena23.

Examples portraying nature in a holarchic way24 – with each part being a seamlessly integrated member of the whole in which it participates, and, in turn, with each whole itself being interpretable as such a seamlessly integrated part as well. All this is characteristic of self-similar fractal organization. a) Two neurons interlace, forming connections and providing mutual support for growth (By Nadia Cummins)25, b) Excavated root network of Balsam Poplar with the arrow indicating a ‘root graft’ (a shared connection) between two individual trees. Root grafts are exquisite examples of ‘kindred’ dispositional branching structures that hook up with each other, thus contributing to optimal mutualistic connectivity within the network26, c) Satellite picture of the fractal-shaped branching structures of the Selenga River delta on the southeast shore of Lake Baikal in Russia (source: U.S. Geological Survey), d) Computer model of fractal blood vessel network in human lungs27, e) : Inherent self-repeating structure of the universe at the level of supra-galactic clusters28, f) Fractal globule architecture enables efficient DNA folding and packing within chromatin29, g) The fractal network that is the internet7.


These images below highlight some of my own images which capture my passion for forms and patterns within nature. The father of fractals, British mathematician Michael Barnsley, famously demonstrated how graphically beautiful structures can be built from repetitive uses of mathematical formulas with computers30˒31. For example, the fractal fronds on a fern; each recapitulates the whole in microcosm even as it elaborates a complex, interrelated structure.

An example of an evolving Koch snowflake fractal, which is self-repeating and infinite.

Features within nature, such as the UK coastline, also present this fractal phenomena.

For those wanting to explore this topic further; this self-repeating method of growth within nature has recently been termed the “constructal law” and I can highly recommend this accompanying book32.

The image above is the pattern deposited after a puddle had frozen on some garden tiling whereby the dirt was reconfigured into the above shape. The image below are the self-repeating scales on the surface of a deceased butterfly’s wing (taken with a home microscope). The colored “eye” on the wing of a butterfly also occurs within the finest example of fractals in the animal kingdom; the train and feathers of a peacock.

I recall my first job in 2009 as a materials scientist tasked with developing lightweight material solutions that can protect the wearer from shock impacts (such as martials arts padding at the Olympics). I became fascinated with a particular subset of materials called non-newtonian fluids which exhibited a shear thickening behaviour whereby the polymers would align given an externally applied shock stress. The closest analogy would be a swiming pool full of custard with a liberal portion of cornflower mixed within it. If one was to run fast enough, one could essentially run accross it. Whether trying to decipher the non-linear behaviour of dynamic systems in nature such as non-linear thermal disspiation in liquid steelmaking33 or even the dynamics of shear thinning fluids34; a fractal approach is convergent to real-world solutions35.

If you are interested in learning more about fractals, I can highly recommend visiting these resources36˒37.

It is also noteworthy that many great minds have attempted to interpret this seemingly contradictory dualistic essence of our reality, whereby the constituent parts render as part random and part deterministic depending on the frame of reference:

“Mutation is random; natural selection is the very opposite of random” - R. Dawkins

Much like the evolving snowflake, which merges in time from the “chaos” of mobile microparticles within (or brownian motion) a water droplet to something deterministic like a dendritic snow crystal38, Richard Dawkins does indeed make a compelling case for unbridled random mutation merging into bridled natural selection, both in the Blind Watchmaker and the Selfish Gene. But admittedly, I felt this account fell short of explaining the true essence of nature; the paradoxical conciliation of the emerging quantum-goverened DNA with the deterministic trajectory of the whole39˒40˒41 i.e. to phrase it in an additional way using Arthur Koestler’s apt terminology24; I felt it did not fully account for the holarchy within the scale-variant holons of nature. During the final year of my physics masters, I also recall fondly reading books by Francis Collins; an American physician-geneticist who discovered the genes associated with a number of diseases and led the Human Genome Project. Collins succintly illustrated how the 3.1 billion letters of the human genome exhibited the grammatical constructs of a language (he termed “The Language of God”), which ultimaltly transpires into our own internal instruction book42. It is coincidently noteworthy that Collins makes this linkage to language; since language as we know it is a distincitvely human hallmark but its evolution and conception remains unclear43˒44˒45. I do not recall that he made any reference to Fractals in this work, but recent journals have built on this sentiment and have used fractal mathematics to unpack novel symmetries within the local-scale of DNA and global-scale of chromatin46˒29. The drummer of life seemingly ordained a progressive rhythym to the veiled complexity that Darwin noted in the Origin of Species.

But where was the symphony heading?…

Our Universe Births Consciousness

Traversing from this primodial soup of first life to human life today, we witness this “persistent march of things towards greater consciousness”4, up to the point when the first metacognitive humanoid enters into existence. Naturally, it took a substantial effort from evolution to go from an inorganic rock (“stardust”) to organic matter which was metacognitive and self-aware. Albert Einstein famously conveys this as:

“The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible” - A. Einstein

Equally, it is also truly astounding how accurately mathematics can account for natural phenomena within our universe. One of my favored books on this topic is a book by James Bradley and Russel Howell47. The success of the abstract and the predictability of mathematical constructs in accounting for natural phenomena is probably one of the reasons why I studied Physics at university. For example, the recent validation of Einstein’s prediction for hypothesized gravitational waves was a significant milestone for general relativity and cosmology48.

Sample of some of my university notes

I vividly remember one of my lectures on complex analysis and learning how a purely abstract construct such as imaginary numbers (which is the square root of -1) could be one of the cornerstones behind solving the wave equations, which is foundational to our modern telecommunication systems. The list of imaginary constructs here is endless; even Stephen Hawking is suggesting the time at the very beginning is an imaginary number rather than a real number (no “t = 0” exists)49. Admittedly, this should be no surprise if we accept that we live in a fractal ontological reality. In such a world, complexity and specificity are deemed to be emergent and relational rather than exclusive qualities of the object. A resurgence of studies50, using a new and weird phase of matter called “Fractons”51, which is a type of emergent quasiparticle that cannot move freely in isolation, have started to explore how gravity can arise as an emergent property within conventional de Sitter spacetime52 and also account for quantum entanglement53. Vibrations from Fractons54 are like the fractal equivalent to the garden cross spider perched within the gap of the web spacing; vibrating its fractal web in various pitch (and tone) configurations in response to courtship55. A spider’s web must be regarded as an integral part of the animal’s cognitive system, as the spider can directly influence vibration propagation in the web by changing aspects of silk stiffness, tension and web architecture56. As the science suggests, our minds play the role of this metaphorical spider, whereby our reality is very much an extension of our consciousness that can seemingly manifest itself into the web of our fractal space-time. It is clear that dark matter and the prevalence of fractal phenomena (and associated theories such as the The Holographic Principle57) convey hidden dimensions beyond our perceived reality and many scientists seek to discover this door within both the miniscule and magnificent rooms of our world58˒59˒60. To try and illustrate the elusiveness of symmetry and seemingly pervasiveness of fractal phenomena (including Fractons), let us build a pictorial mind exercise. Let us imagine a cracking shard of metal situated near the San Andreas fault, the irreversible fracture mechanism of a propagating crystal defect61 at the atomic scale is seemingly mirrored between the impending earthquake and the fractal emission of magnetic anomalies within the lithosphere62, which is also mirrored within the atmospheric vortices of the incoming storms˒63; all share this elusive fractal phenomena and represent increases in entropy.

The gravity-as-an-entropic-force notion (example paper - source 1, source 2, source 3), illuminated by Verlinde and seemingly reaffirmed by recent astronomical James Webb Telescope observations, paints a captivating portrait of a universe where the emergence of order is woven into its informational and entropic fabric, rather than a mere statistical anomaly. Verlinde's 2010 paper, where Newton's laws are elegantly derived from thermodynamic and holographic principles, underscores this assertion. It hints at gravity as an emergent phenomenon, echoing the surprising thermodynamic character of black holes and the holographic principle's intimations. For example, in the paper by Pretko titled "Emergent gravity of fractons: Mach’s principle revisited," the author explores the existence of stable quantum phases of matter described by symmetric tensor gauge fields, which naturally couple to quasi-particles of restricted mobility, known as fractons.

Regarding the 'nothingness of the gaps', I acknowledge the appeal of a null hypothesis. Yet, the intricate dance of information, entropy, and gravity unveils a cosmos where ‘nothingness’ is questioned. Verlinde’s hypothesis, although provocative, aligns with the philosophical musings of P. T. De Chardin, suggesting an evolving cosmic consciousness intricately linked to the universe’s informational dynamics. Moreover, the revelation that the entanglement entropy's deviation from expected behavior, especially on scales comparable or larger than the Hubble scale, could explicate anomalies traditionally attributed to dark matter - heralds a potential paradigm shift. It insinuates a cosmos where scale-invariant fractal patterns are not incidental but integral to the universe’s architecture. Image made with Midjourney - skethcing this would be beyond my abilities.

In the ethereal glow of Rodin's The Thinker, we are a witness to the dance of the holographic principle, where our universe is a grand ensemble of energy, information, and consciousness; a fractal chorus of emergence, echoing the unseen yet deeply interconnected tapestry of existence. Faced with such intricate patterns of complexity, it begs the allegorical question; can we account for such scale-invariant fractal phenomena if we shake a pencil in a glass box for a very long time and assume that we have an endless supply of glass boxes? What if such patterns were rather emerging projections of a more fundamental quantum-reality (originating from outside our 3-dimensional glass box), which is far more evidential and is rooted in the holographic principle. I believe that we are on the cusp of a great rethink, our limited perception of dimensional reality (Immanuel Kant) has deceived us and recent findings are proving it to be far more mysterious and enigmatic than we once thought. Image made with Midjourney - sketching this would be beyond my abilities.

In the context of the universe, the holographic principle suggests a scenario where the information of the cosmos is encoded on its boundary, akin to a higher-dimensional "hologram." This perspective challenges our traditional, three-dimensional understanding of space and the distribution of information within it. In light of these new findings, if consciousness is non-local (as hinted by recent experiments) and entanglement entropy is a fundamental aspect of the universe, there could be a profound connection between the two. Entanglement entropy could potentially be a physical manifestation or measure of the interconnectedness of consciousness. In this scenario, conscious entities might be intertwined at a quantum level, leading to shared, collective experiences or insights that transcend traditional physical boundaries. The patterns of entanglement could reflect the complexity and structure of shared consciousness, indicating a universe where information, energy, and awareness are deeply interconnected. This would imply a universe where consciousness isn’t just an emergent property of complex systems like the brain but is woven into the fabric of the universe itself, connected through the intricate dance of quantum entanglement and entropy.

It is (and was) my belief that we must remain humble in our scientific pursuits, since our appreciation of design and comprehension of symmetry is inherently governed by our radial limits of knowledge. In this respect, De Chardin’s broad scholarly capabilities gave him a rather unique perspective, since he could pull threads of science from various scientific disciplines and get a glimpse of the “whole”;

“To make room for thought in the world, I have needed to ’ interiorise ’ matter; to imagine an energetics of the mind; to conceive a noogenesis rising upstream against the flow of entropy; to provide evolution with a direction, a line of advance and critical points; and finally to make all things double back upon someone” - P. T. De Chardin4

There is seemingly a scale-invariant symmetry all around us in nature but it takes diligent curiosity and patience (as demonstrated in the life of Dame Jane Morris Goodall DBE) to reveal her secrets64. Disney’s Frozen “Let It Go” soundtrack is rather apt in this respect;

“My soul is spiraling in frozen fractals all around. And one thought crystallizes like an icy blast…” Elsa, Frozen65

But let us take a moment and scale back to a more relatable room, such as a living room. My daughter, like many children around the world, has been captivated by Disney’s Frozen movie and especially the beautiful “Let It Go” soundtrack. But what makes this song so captivating to our ears? Interestingly, the lack of a coherent fractal structure in a random tonal fluctuation is also one of the key points that essentially discerns noise from the inherent beauty of music66. What this rather eclectic account of Fractons and fractals illustrates is the peculiar nature of theories within physics and how the interpretative mathematical tools tend to relationally evolve as the theory matures. A theory is analogous to a company’s balance statement in a world where the reporting framework is constantly evolving. To base our entire belief system on one theory or opinion is not only unwise but disregards the many unknown aspects of our reality. To me, the only route out of this predicament, was to make a sweeping inferential analysis across all aspects of our existence (I never fully achieved this of course, but I did my best attempt given my inherent limitations). If there indeed was an artist at work within the universe, then I would try my best to curate this magnificent gallery that we call home.

As Friedman states; theories are not born as fully formed formalisms, simply awaiting principles of physical explanation, but rather formalism and interpretation are generally constructed simultaneously, each guiding the other in the search for a more fundamental account of the phenomena67

(here Einstein’s development and articulation of relativity is a paradigm)

Richard Feynman’s quote can be a poignant reminder to look deeper between our terrestrial floorboards and into the beyond;

“Everything is interesting if you go into it deeply enough” - R. Feynman

It is my personal belief that our state of physics could radically change in the near future, as we decouple our thinking from the “billiard room” of particle physics, and look between the floorboards beneath the billiard table, our current observations suggests that there is more going on than meets the eye. Whether we can conceive or even detect dimensions beyond our perceptive reach is something that only the future knows. Here, I am reminded of the German philosopher, Immaneual Kant, who believed that human beings are capable of grasping only sensory perceptions of objects - that is, their appearances and not their intrinsic nature68.

For example, the use of fractals (such as Penrose tiling69) in physics is a fascinating field that merits further investigation since such constructs can resemble string theories in 2-dimensions but also resemble our classical “Newtonian” world in our three-dimensions;

Hilbert cube can mimic the two-dimensional world sheet of string theory as well as our three-dimensional spatial world. This is possibly because a Hilbert cube looks like a continuum when being observed on the ordinary low level resolution of the classical mechanics21.

I believe it seems apt to close this section with an image of the “impossible” Penrose triangle (which was made by my uncle), which adorns a glass window in his woodwork workshop:

The Omega Point - The Crescendo of a Personable Universe?

Juxtaposing these preceding revelations with how consciousness is innately entangled with all matter presents us with some uncomfortable questions70. It is becoming increasingly apparent that our brain functions can create entanglement in auxiliary quantum systems (such as the human heart)71. We are seemingly interconnected with our present reality more than we currently dare to acknowledge and comprehend72.

“The misconception which has haunted philosophic literature throughout the centuries is the notion of ‘independent existence.’ There is no such mode of existence; every entity is to be understood in terms of the way it is interwoven with the rest of the universe” - A. N. Whitehead

This particular synthesis of neuroscience and quantum mechanics is fascinating within its own right. But possibly, as an inherent weakness to our current siloed approach to educational faculties, greater inter-disciplinary cooperation would serve to bolster progress within this field. As proof for the fruits yielded by greater inter-disciplinary cooperation; Sir Roger Penrose and Dr. Stuart Hammerhoff have made tangible strides into this field with their orchestrated objective reduction (Orch OR) theory73. Orch OR combines the Penrose–Lucas argument with Hameroff’s hypothesis on quantum processing in microtubules within the brain74. It proposes that when condensates in the brain undergo an objective wave function reduction, their collapse connects noncomputational decision-making to experiences embedded in spacetime’s fundamental geometry. To avoid going into the technicalities, what we can infer is that consciousness (which is distinct from the subconsciousness mind acc. to Penrose)75 appears in a fuzzy band between the border lines of deterministic and non-deterministic systems i.e. uncertainty. Interestingly, a fractal approach is also showing tangible progress in addressing fundamental problems in high energy physics69. If the universe is proven to be truly fractal both locally and globally (smooth on large scales vs. has an unbounded fractal hierarchy), then this would require some reassessment on our current rendering of the cosmological principle76˒77˒78.

Penrose’s recent book79 demonstrates how science also succumbs to the tendencies of fashion and populism; it seems that some theories are more “fashionable” and were subsequently more monetized than others. As stated previously, a theory is analogous to a company’s balance statement in a world where the reporting framework is constantly evolving; the auditors would reasonably exercise due diligence and allow the numeric facts talk, and so should we. This Orch OR theory (or any other similar quantum-brain consciousness theory) does not in anyway necessitate an intelligent creator (I can highly recommend this recorded debate if wanting an objective discussion80); but if a Martian were to visit us and plumb into our historical existence, the most noteworthy characteristic of our planet would not be the blue and green hues of our biosphere, but rather, the emergent phospherence of thought within a fractal reality that is “coincidently” primed to reciprocate. The conclusion is inevitable that the concentration of a conscious universe would be unthinkable if it did not self-organize itself, much like an evolving fractal, into a global system of higher entropic consciousnesses. I make this inference not without basis, since recent neuroscientific studies have noted how the mind tends to remarkably high-entropy states under certain conditions such as a near death experiences and meditation/prayer81˒82˒83. Like unseen spores of thought being united into a collective mycelium of consciousness, conservatism tells us that this necessitates a remarkable and unseen uniting force of evolution.

“To animate evolution in its lower stages, the conscious pole of the world could of course only act in an impersonal form and under the veil of biology. Upon the thinking entity that we have become by hominization, it is now possible for it to radiate from the one center to all centers-personally” – P. T. De Chardin4

This also raises the question about the non-local aspect of consciousness - does it require the exact same body to be representative of a “mind” or can it be self-sustaining as a current undetected phase of “space soup” i.e. a currently unknown phase of informational (mass-free) / dark / baryonic matter? Lets us have a brief look at what the science says.

“Not a single atom that is in your body today was there when that event took place…” - R. Dawkins (The God Delusion)

If every atom replaces itself within my body during my lifetime, I have not yet noticed being estranged with myself as I get older. It seems there is more going on here than we currently understand. To unpack this, we could consider other scenarios where consciousness is seemingly decoupled from a normally functioning biological host? A near death experience (NDE) can be defined as a profound psychological event that occurs to individuals who have suffered a cardiac arrest or come close to death. It is a mystical experience in which individuals report having a sense of peace, well-being, and/or transcendence84. Some people report having non-local out-of-body experiences or seeing a bright light. Near death experiences are often associated with religious or spiritual beliefs and can change an individual’s outlook on life, which is exactly what happened to my step father. He rarely talked about this experience with me, but it seems that this occurrence completely transfigured his life and persona; he left as a captain of the merchant navy and became a minister. Discussions with him served to inspire me about Christianity and to this day, I feel blessed to have had him as a step father.

Many of these NDEs have being scientifically reported85˒86 and many scientists conclude that consciousness is in some way an entangled state87 (i.e. it can exhibit non-local phenomena) and that it could be some form of information (mass free) phase of matter88. We should be cautious to derive many conclusions from this dynamic and growing field of science, but what we can infer is that our universe exhibits non-local phenomena at the quantum scale and our closest subject to investigate this remarkable phenomena is our seemingly “mass free” consciousness. To build upon Einstein’s famous quote, not only is the universe comprehensible through the birth of the mind, the seemingly fractal fabric of our reality is also primed to respond.

Travelling on a Hyper-Train in Space

But if the universe is purely mechanistic and imputed to infinity, and borrowing some essence of causality, what motif (or “force”) is there for the universe to birth consciousness? It is like considering an infinite train travelling through space and at some point in time, the passengers form from the bacterial “goup” and eventually developed hearing despite being in space and travelling through a vacuum (there would not be much sound…). Surely the impetus of evolution would in some way suggest that they developed this to hear the train conductor or is it an accidental by-product where local-randomness lost its way? Nature rarely communicates mistakes and usually embodies beauty and an immense degree of systemic design. In some sense, I envisaged much of what science uncovers as the train tickets on this metaphoric train - why do we have them if no-one is going to interact with them? Instinct tells us that possibly, our tickets and sense of hearing in the speaker-ridden carriage suggests that there was some inbuilt purpose to our ability to hear.

Deriving the “unseen force” or motif behind this necessitates some exploration of metaphysics and religion, and it is admittedly, the first notable step of faith in one particular direction i.e. whether theism, atheism, Jedi or agnosticism. In my particular case, I continued to explore the direction and ultimate destination of this “universal train” scenario. My first stop was meditation and my second stop was prayer. I had seen my step father pray every morning (he woke at 5am most mornings, his naval habits never left him), and I was always contrasting the value of this compared to an extra half an hour in bed. But seemingly, there was wisdom to his habit, since through the act of prayer he was influencing his cognitive processing89˒90, mental resiliency91 and neuroplasticity92. Most notably, one of the remarkable outcomes from prayer, is an increased sense of compassion for the other, as well as agreeableness, empathic concern, humility and forgiveness93; which are inherent constituents of altruism94˒95. It also should be said that much of the research on prayer (recently termed “neurotheology”) is complex, compounded by bias and lacking in sufficient funding; so we can take inferences from the tangible outcomes, but I reserve caution for our current interpretation of the neuroscientific mechanisms96.

If we compound this insight with research that points to the fact that infants are naturally born good and altruistic97˒98, we can infer that we are born good with an innate compass pointing towards a convergent togetherness99. Much like mutually exclusive ski runs converging to the base of a mountain, I found myself stumbling on the same conclusion from different narratives (scientific, metaphysical and religious). We are seemingly designed and made for this sense of “reciprocal togetherness”.

“Gravitation cannot be held responsible for people falling in love.” - A. Einstein

Akin to following a random geodesic line (which happens to be a hobby a dear friend from Wales is very fond of) and seeing where it ends up, I continued to explore further. At this point, questions pile up like traffic on a busy highway, but fundamentally, I wanted to understand what was the unifying impetus that guides our internal compass towards reciprocal togetherness. Ironically and much to my surprise, following this geodesic line of thought led me to the most altruistic and graceful act in our known history.

“Forgiveness is the final form of love.” - Reinhold Niebuhr

The Seed of Faith

At this point, I feel it apt to give a very brief account of why I was initially compelled by Christianity. Compared to other religions that I explored, the Bible stood alone with no equals. There were several reasons for this, but in summary; I felt myself astounded by the seemingly divine insight that the Bible communicated about our reality. In the brief sections below, I aim to provide an overview of why I came to this conclusion.

What did the Bible communicate about our reality?

If one is reading my account from the position of longstanding faith, I can appreciate that it may up to this point be deemed a rather arid affair from a spiritual standpoint. But for me it felt exciting, like riding on a new rollercoaster whereby rationality was my gravity and before reading the Bible for what it was, I flickered through its pages like an illiterate young child looking for the coolest picture. At this stage, I was keenly curious about what the Bible communicated about our reality? Naturally, Genesis was a good starting point.

Here is a brief summary of what I learned:

  • That time and the universe as we know it had a beginning (Genesis 1-2, 2 Tim 1:9, Eph 3:9-10, Nehemiah 9:6)
  • The accuracy of Genesis given proper exegetical interpretation100
  • That the world was made by God’s word and is not made from anything that can be seen (Heb 11:3)
  • The heavens were spread/stretched out like a tent by God (Jer 10:12, Is 40:22, Is 42:5, Ps 104:2, Job 9:8)
  • Passages such as Rev 20:12, Ps 139:16 and Phil 4:3, which speak of the Book of Life, could be metaphorically linked to the idea of the "cosmic quilt" or a holographic encoding surface whereby every action, thought, or instance of faith is recorded and stored. I found this notion particularly compelling.
  • Passages such as "I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold" (John 10:16), are also partly cryptic, since interpretation is a function of acquired knowledge, did Jesus' clever usage of parables and analogies exhibit polyvalence (i.e. referring to the way stories are understood or interpreted by people who have had different experiences)? A physicist may read this and incline towards n-dimensional manifolds and a farmer towards penfolds, but are we absolutely sure that these interpretations of this verse are mutually exclusive in favour of the anthropocentric latter (as per Gentiles & Jews)? A compelling thought when conflated with the possibility of intelligent life on other planets.
  • That the Bible has tiered narratives of meaning and contains self-repeating chiasms (like a literary fractal)101 - much like J. R. R. Tolkien’s “There And Back Again” in The Hobbit
  • The Triune God is the Alpha that has always already been, equally and simultaneously, Omega (Rev 21:6-7)
  • That God made us as he made the wild creatures (Job 40:15, Job 12:7-9), but we were made uniquely in his image (Genesis 1:26), and through his Wisdom (Prov 8:22–31); the Lord authors the forces of creation, “Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens…Can you loosen Orion’s belt?…Do you know the laws of the heavens?” (Job 38)

“Instead of proving to Job that it is an explicable world, He insists that it is a much stranger world than Job ever thought it was.” - G. K. Chesterton

  • That there is a meaning and significance to the extent of numeric detail, metaphor and symbolism within the Bible102. For example, the Ark of the Covenant and Noah’s Ark espouse the Golden Ratio in their dimensions (Gen 6:15, Ex 27:1-2). Even ancient star constellations, the Signs of the Zodiac from antiquity, uttered the Biblical narrative with astounding numerical symbolism (Psalm 19). "He telleth the number of the stars; He giveth them all their names." Psalm 147:4.
  • That several biblical passages talk about the heart as a “wellspring of life”, not in the physical sense but as core part of our essence (Proverbs 23:26, Proverbs 4:23, 1 Samuel 16:7, Hebrews 4:12) and the Lord can "discern our thoughts from afar" (Psalm 139:1-4, 1 Chronicles 28:9). This insight is truly remarkable given what we have recently learned about the entanglement of our consciousness with the human heart and the non-local aspect of consciousness.
  • The picture language about the firmament and God’s creation is remarkably fractal in imagery (Ez 1:1-22, Rev 4:6)
    • Interestingly, as a rather layman’s reflection; I remember pondering about the only construct that I could think of; which could resemble this firmament that looked like an ‘awesome crystal’ in Ezikiel 1:22 and the self-repeating ‘a wheel within a wheel’ in Ez 1:16; a construct which matched the usage of the Hebrew word for firmament (‘raqia’) translated here, with something firm (like ‘a sea of glass, like crystal’ in Rev 4:6) rather than a curved expanse (akin to an inverted bowl in Gen 1:6, Ps 19:1, Dan 12:3) - was a fractal reality. For example, reading about Ez 1:6-8 about the four faces on all four of the four-sided creatures, each with four wings; this could be purely metaphorical, but without the theological expertise, I remember simply inferring that Ezikiel was describing a vision from within his Euclidean space reference about a reality that was hyper-dimensional, akin to a hypercube. However, when reading the Bible, we must remember that the context always determines the meaning of a word, therefore, this insight deserves critique, cautious consideration and more exegetical study.
  • That the Bible describes hidden realms and dimensions whereby Biblical characters would suddenly appear or vanish
    • Genesis 5:24 and Hebrews 11:5 describe Enoch walking with God and then disappearing because God took him
    • John 20:19-23, 26-29; here Jesus entered the room of the disciples without using a door
    • Acts 8:39-40 - Philip baptized an eunuch on a road and then was swept up by the Lord and found later that day at Azotus, which was several days journey away
    • 2 Kings 2:11 describes Elijah being separated from Elisha by a chariot of fire and horses of fire and then Elijah being taken away to Heaven in a whirlwind
  • That God has foreknowledge about our reality that still enables the agency of free will; much like the dualism of deterministic fractals and random fractals in complex systems - deterministic laws can produce probabilistic, random-seeming behavior (Prov 16:33, 1 Samuel 23:11–12)

These seemingly timeless insights about our reality prompted me to search further. I felt like I had worked hard to climb the mountain of reason with science as my food supply, to only find a wise theologian sitting there and uttering the words “Good day my dear fellow”…

“… the Bible, is not a future destiny but the other, hidden, dimension of our ordinary life—God’s dimension, if you like. God made heaven and earth; at the last he will remake both and join them together forever. And when we come to the picture of the actual end in Revelation 21–22, we find not ransomed souls making their way to a disembodied heaven but rather the new Jerusalem coming down from heaven to earth, uniting the two in a lasting embrace.” - N.T. Wright (Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church)

What did the Bible communicate about God and his perception of humans?

At this point it was around the latter part of 2009, and I was curious to know more about the Bible and what mode of purpose (if any) did God have for the human race.

Here is a brief summary of what I learned:

  • That God breathed life into humankind and formed their spirit within (Gen 1:27, Zech 12:1)
  • That we were made for a reason (John 3:16-17, Ecc 12:13, Eph 2:10, Rev 4:11) and that we can find God by "feeling around" for him (Acts 17:26-27)
  • That free-will and foreknowledge about our lives can co-exist (1 Sam 23:1-13, Esth 4:14)
  • That God undertook the greatest altrustic act, so that his relationship to us can be restored through grace (John 1:14-17)
  • This momentous sacrificial act on the cross completely changed history and gave humanity values that are deeply meaningful to global society (Human Rights, Ethics etc.)103
  • That our inherent sense of morality aligns with God’s original plans (C. S. Lewis - Mere Christianity)

This image shows a dice prepared for the senior youth by a good friend, Bryce, from our local church; to help explore this aspect of how God works all things for the good of those who love Him (Rom 8:28)

Given that the Bible is divine, why is the world at such odds with God’s vision for humanity?

Nowhere in the Bible does it state that this book can be accepted in parts. Either its all false or its all true; there does not seem to be any basis for a menu style approach. This means that we need to take it all on board, and admittedly, some parts here were harder to digest.

Here is a brief summary of what I learned:

  • That our world is currently in bondage to decay and groans for harmony (Rom 8:21) but this fallen status will be reversed, as the nations are restored (since Babel) to their creator in the returning Eden ("healing of the nations" - Rev 22:1-3)
  • That through Jesus Christ we can be purified of our iniquities and restore our relationship unto him (Rom 10)
  • These below were probably the hardest to accept and digest in faith
    • That we are caught within a conflict between the spiritual forces of good and evil, which is also transpiring here on Earth (Eph 6, Deut 32:17, 1 Cor 10:21-22), and a divine assembly exists (Gen 1:26, Psa 82, Heb 2, Dan 7, Dan 10, Dan 12:1) and they have various role functions e.g. law mediators (Gal 3:19, Heb 2:2, Deut 9:9-10)104
    • That much of the difficult parts of the Old Testament (such as the reasons behind the bloodshed of Joshua’s Holy War i.e. "kherem") derives from this external interference by fallen divine beings (2 Peter 2:4-5, Jude 5-7, Gen 6:1-4)104, which is directly linked to the disinheritance at the tower of Babel

“From the fateful decision at Babel onward, the story of the Old Testament is about Israel versus the disinherited nations, and Yahweh versus the corrupt, rebel elohim of those nations. The division of the nations and their allotment under other elohim is behind the scenes in all sorts of places in biblical history.” - M. Heiser (The Unseen Realm)

Admittedly, there are many parts of the Old Testament that still extend beyond the limits of my comprehension. For example, contemplating the aforementioned exegetical explanations surrounding the conquest narratives of Joshua; regardless whether the Canaanites were descendants of inter-dimensional or extra-terrestrial beings (Nephilim), is an escapade into speculative and morally-opaque territory that I prefer to avoid. But if I had to distil my struggles with some Old Testament passages to one ultimate enquiry, it is this; Is Jesus merely an expositor of Scripture, or is he the Word of God in person? This is a topic deserving of its own essay, however, I can offer two excerpts from an excellent book that validates the notion (and my own belief) of Jesus as the Word of God in person.

Jesus didn’t come to bring vengeance; he came to close the book on vengeance. Jesus announced the Jubilee good news of pardon, amnesty, liberation, and restoration. Jesus doesn’t bless revenge; he blesses mercy and teaches that the mercy we show to our enemies is the mercy that will be shown to us. God does not allow us to hope that the book of divine vengeance will be closed for us but left open and inflicted in full upon others. This is not how it works in God’s economy of grace revealed by Jesus. Does this mean there’s no divine judgment? Of course not. Certainly there is divine judgment, but it is a judgment based on God’s love and commitment to restoration. The restorative judgment of God gives no warrant to a schadenfreude yearning to see harm inflicted on others. Jesus has closed the book on that kind of lust for vengeance. When we read the story of Elijah and the widow of Zarephath or the story of Elisha and Naaman the leper, whom do we identify with? Are we Elijah? Are we Elisha? Probably not. More likely we’re a starving widow or a suffering leper. We are the outsiders in need of God’s mercy. More provocatively, whom do we identify with in the conquest narratives of Joshua? Why do we imagine ourselves as the conquering Israelites when we have more reason to imagine ourselves as the conquered Canaanites? To be blunt: If you are going to imagine divinely endorsed genocide, you should not imagine yourself as Joshua but as the unfortunate Canaanite whose entire family and village have just been murdered. Instead of always seeing yourself as the cowboy, try being the Indian sometime. Imagine yourself as a Pequot Indian instead of an English colonist. Try being the Lakota Sioux instead of the American cowboy. Do that and then ask yourself how you feel about justifying genocide in the name of God. We must constantly resist the temptation to cast ourselves in the role of those who deserve mercy while casting those outside our circle in the role of those who deserve vengeance. Jesus will have no part of that kind of ugly tribalism and triumphalism. Clinging to our lust for vengeance, we lose Jesus. But if we can say amen to Jesus closing the book on vengeance, then Jesus will remain with us to teach us the more excellent way of love. – B. Zahnd, Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God: The Scandalous Truth of the Very Good News, Waterbrook, 2017

At the beginning of his ministry Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.” What Moses and Elijah—the Law and the Prophets—had begun, Jesus would fulfill. The goal of the Law and the Prophets was to produce a society of fidelity and justice. Jesus and the kingdom he announces and enacts is where that project finds its fulfillment. The new society formed around Jesus was what the Law and the Prophets were aiming for all along. The Transfiguration is where Moses and Elijah find their great successor. The Transfiguration is where the Old Testament hands the project of redemption and restoration over to Jesus. The Transfiguration is where the old witness (testament) yields to the new witness (testament). But initially Peter misinterpreted what the presence of Moses and Elijah meant. Or to say it in the symbolism of the story, the church misunderstood the relationship of the Old Testament to Jesus. Peter’s first impulse was to build three memorial tabernacles on Tabor, treating Moses, Elijah, and Jesus as approximate equals. Peter’s implicit suggestion that the Old Testament be given roughly the same authority as Jesus is what I mean by a flat reading of the Bible. What can happen with a flat reading of the Bible is that Jesus’s teaching of nonviolence in the Sermon on the Mount can be conveniently ignored because we found divine sanction for violence in the Old Testament. In other words, Jesus can be overruled by Moses and Elijah. But Mark tells us how Peter’s suggestion for a triumvirate of Moses, Elijah, and Jesus was rebuked on Mount Tabor: “And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, ‘This is my beloved Son; listen to him.’ And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only.” . – B. Zahnd, Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God: The Scandalous Truth of the Very Good News, Waterbrook, 2017

Accepting My Faith

These were some of the initial points that gave me a new sense of reverence for the Bible. I also read Josh McDowell’s comprehensive book105, which discussed the archeological and historical evidence for the accuracy of the Bible, which further encouraged my pursuit.

“It is love that believes the resurrection.” - L. Wittgenstein

At a subsequent stage in the Biblical narrative, in a history defining moment (that gave us Human Rights, Ethics and Sexual Morality); God decides to send his son into his creation in a history defining act of sacrificial redemption. This precise moment is poignantly defined as the Omega Point by De Chardin4:

“In Omega we have in the first place the principle we needed to explain both the persistent march of things towards greater consciousness, and the paradoxical solidity of what is most fragile. Contrary to the appearances still admitted by physics, the Great Stability is not at the bottom in the infra-elementary sphere, but at the top in the ultra-synthetic sphere. It is thus entirely by its tangential envelope that the world goes on dissipating itself in a chance way into matter. By its radial nucleus it finds its shape and its natural consistency in gravitating against the tide of probability towards a divine focus of mind which draws it onward.”

The Ultimate Uniter: Could It Be Love? Nietzsche Was Right

To fully illustrate this point and to save making several references to various sources, I would like to start by paraphrasing a recent article written by Timothy Keller;

Nietzsche saw the European intelligentsia rejecting Christianity and styling themselves as scientific freethinkers, supposedly living without God. But, he argued, they still believed in human rights, in the equal dignity of every person, in the value of the poor and weak, and the necessity of caring and advocating for them all. They still believed that love is the great value and that we should forgive our opponents. They still believed in moral absolutes—that some things are good and some things are evil—and particularly that oppression of the powerless was wrong.

But, Nietzsche argued, all these ideas were unique to Christianity. They did not develop in Eastern cultures, and the Greeks and the Romans found them laughable and incomprehensible when they first heard them. Holland shows that the shame-and-honor cultures of old, pagan Europe—of the Anglo-Saxons, the Franks, and the Germans—thought that the Christian ethic of forgiving one’s enemies and of honoring the poor and weak to be completely unworkable as a basis for society. These ideas would’ve never occurred to anyone unless they held to a universe with a single, personal God who created all beings in his image, and with a Savior who came and died in sacrificial love.

Source106.

At certain times of my life, I have reverted to some of these basic precepts mentioned above, and I recall an uneasy alignment of what I perceived within the world and what I read within this seemingly timeless book. However, adopting a spiritual worldview was admittedly difficult for me but it was seemingly necessary, in order to fully grasp the coherency of the Biblical narrative with what I understood about our existence i.e. physical world, human nature, morality etc. I also noted that reading the Bible felt strangely like a spiritual dialogue, and this is clearly rather subjective, but I was not alone in this sentiment;

“To believe that God, at least this God, exists is to believe that you as a person now stand in the presence of God as a person. What would, a moment before, have been variations in opinion, now become variations in your personal attitude to a person. You are no longer faced with an argument which demands your assent, but with a person that demands your confidence” - C. S. Lewis

Despite some considerable effort for objectivity, I also remember being truly astounded at the sequential accuracy of Genesis. Many authors have offered informed and exegetical commentaries on Genesis, however, the most objective and compelling account I have read was by Andrew Parker100.

The Cross - How The Ultimate Act of Altruistic Love Radically Changed History

“Christian love is incomprehensible to those who have not experienced it. That the infinite and the intangible can be lovable, or that the human heart can beat with genuine charity for a fellow-being, seems impossible to many people I know - in fact almost monstrous.” - P. T. De Chardin

Altruism, in its personal and societal forms is the square peg to the round hole of reductive materialism and egocentrism. Much like oil to water, they are seemingly antithetical and mutually incoherent. The moral basis of altruism is the belief that helping others is the right thing to do and has often (but not always) been yoked with spirituality95. C. S. Lewis believed that helping other people (in the altruistic sense) is always the right thing to do, no matter what the circumstances are, which tends to go against some renderings of “survival of the fittest”.

“In the moral sphere, every act of justice or charity involves putting ourselves in the other person’s place and thus transcending our own competitive particularity.” - C. S. Lewis

At the time of this writing, I find myself within the discourse of a geopolitical battle between the Western way of thinking and other political viewpoints. Since I was born in the UK, I do not feel equipped to speak about other cultures than my own, which is tragically a relatively weak position. However, I do believe the West, as we know it today, has somewhat lost its way and we are all affected by this lack of unity.

Humanity’s great wisdom traditions are given not to compete with each other but to complete each other. We need each other as much as the species of the earth need one another to be whole. Rebirthing will happen within our Christian household when we reverently approach the heart of other traditions. It is what Griffiths in his work in India calls the “marriage of East and West,” a conjoining of what has been tragically torn apart. - John Philip Newell (Author of Sacred Earth, Sacred Soul - Celtic Wisdom for Reawakening to What Our Souls Know and Healing the World)

“If secular humanism derives not from reason or from science, but from the distinctive course of Christianity’s evolution—a course that, in the opinion of growing numbers in Europe and America, has left God dead—then how are its values anything more than the shadow of a corpse? What are the foundations of its morality, if not a myth?” - T. Holland (Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Remade the World)103

There have been several attempts to decouple Western values from their Christian origins, but such attempts have proven to be hollow endeavors. For example, A. C. Grayling, whom attempted to bring about this decoupling by substituting the Bible for an alternative called “The Good Book”, but I found such attempts to be lacking, incoherent and without gravitas107.

“The Bible is not the only means to furnish a mind, but without a book of similar gravity, read with the gravity of the potential believer, it will remain unfurnished.”  - Allan Bloom (The Closing of the American Mind)

Therefore, what I did focus on are the purely Christian origins of intrinsic western values that can be considered universal amongst western nations; namely Human Rights and Ethics103.

“Christianity gave women a dignity that no previous sexual dispensation had offered” T. Holland (Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Remade the World)103

As I look objectively at our secular society and current “lebensphilosophie” whereby the synergy of relativism and egocentrism is encouraged from the mogul pulpits108˒109; objective truth has seemingly been silenced to the underground world of street corner whispers amongst those who are free enough to think critically110. But equally so, I have often questioned the biblical linkage of many institutions that constitute societies, and often, I have found that as humans, we have tried to play God and have subsequently failed.

The right values of the monarchy are: land, God, country, truth; by comparison, the individual is irrelevant. In the republic, the decisions are taken by vote; hence it means democracy, matter, concrete, chance; lack of certainty, fortune. The focus is on the individual. To the former category, history means transcendence. To the latter, it is pure chance.111

It seems to me that there is a great irony within our current rendering of history and this ability to see the wood from the trees has historically been a skill of the few. We have seemingly muddled our understanding of governance such as democracy and how the inherent value of the individual’s right for free speech, regardless of republic boundaries, is the underlying basis for it112˒113. Human rights crystallize the democratic ethos; they tell us what it means, individually and socially, to treat others as free and equal114. But curiously, one only has to look objectively at societal institutions within society, such as the Monarchy, to see this antagonistic dualism at play within our judgements, politics and social systems115. This antagonistic dualism is also universally reflected within our reality, such as; continuous uncertainty and discontinuous non-ergodicity within evolutionary systems (the universe will not create all possible life forms), entropic (2nd Law of Thermodynamics) and negentropic (tendency toward diversity or heterogeneity – Pauli Exclusion Principle)116 (to name only a few). This can be formalized as a structural logical principle of dynamic opposition, which has been termed as “transconsistent logic” of reality whereby some but not all contradictions are true117. We could even link this back to De Chardin’s “within and without of things” and the emergence of the noosphere4. What I aim to illustrate here is this; there is a pervasive dualism in our physical world, whereby contradictions arise as a result of an "unseen" and unacknowledged reality in our universe. It is as if the fractals, self-repeating patterns and paradoxes arise as specular artifacts from the projection of our non-ergodic physical world being governed by an unseen and more foundational ergodic & holographic informational "substrate". After all, we are mostly made up of empty space, or, "electron clouds" which are truly quantum and not cumulus. It is also becoming clearer that a self-limited aperture of understanding renders our unified nature into a binary duad (non-ergodic body and ergodic "informational" soul). When this soul is disregarded, the "unseen" and interconnected (ergodic...) aspect of ourselves breeds a longing that often manifests in our search for love and belonging.

We should avoid the false dualism that separates the soul from the body. The soul is not simply within the body, hidden somewhere within its recesses. The truth is rather the converse. Your body is in the soul, and the soul suffuses you completely...When the soul is awakened, physical space is transfigured. Even across the distance, two friends can stay attuned to each other and continue to sense the flow of each other’s lives...In this soul-space, there is no distance. - John O'Donohue

Rightly or wrongly, I suppose I was curiously suspicious about this dualistic symmetry and as an admirer of art (one of my favorites is Chris Neale118), a good artist119 or author8 always has a signature (such as Pollock’s fractal creations)119 style that expresses an archetype of himself/herself. To ascribe this to the dance of atoms, rather than the designed conception of a conscious being; to me, this nullifies the enigmatic beauty of art (John O'Donohue provides one of the most beautiful narratives on beauty).

Such as the iconic ‘The Great Wave off Kanagawa’ by Katsushika Hokusai, which exhibits the recurring geometric pattern congruent with fractal geometry. Source120.

“Nature builds up her refined and invisible architecture, with a delicacy eluding our conception, yet with symmetry and beauty which we are never weary of admiring.” – John Herschel

“The universe is built on a plan the profound symmetry of which is somehow present in the inner structure of our intellect.” - Paul Valéry

A good example of this transconsistent logic of reality is the famous argument of Gödel, which so few grasp in detail121. With no frame of reference other than our own, can collective human opinion and statistical significance substantiate the outcomes of chance e.g. such as a vote appeal within a court of law on future policies that create a morally fairer and more ethical society122? Godel’s incompleteness theorems would challenge our propensity for bias, but this discomforting thought also invalidates our ability to derive a “theory of everything”121; hence, it can be briefly parked outside the courtrooms of post-modern thought. The notion continues. Can truth exist within a purely humanistic, or even an atheistic context, sustained by the whims of “pure chance”? Whether a local fluctuation within a preonic vacuum123 or the roll of a dice124˒125; what is the spectrum of “pure chance”? As an avid boardgamer, I was not overly fond of chance-based games, but seemingly within the opaque realm of such games, there is a numeric rhythm (Fibonacci and The Golden Ratio) to such dice-based games126.

“Mechanism, like all materialist systems, breaks down at the problem of knowledge. If thought is the undesigned and irrelevant product of cerebral motions, what reason have we to trust it? As for emergent evolution, if anyone insists on using the word God to mean ‘whatever the universe happens to be going to do next’, of course we cannot prevent him. But nobody would be in fact so use it unless he had a secret belief that what is coming next will be an improvement. Such a belief, besides being unwarranted, presents peculiar difficulties to an emergent evolutionist. If things can improve, this means that there must be some absolute standard of good above and outside the cosmic process to which that process can approximate. There is no sense in talking ‘becoming better’ if better means simply ‘what we are becoming’ - it is like congratulating yourself on reaching your destination as ‘the place you have reached’. Mellontolatry, or the worship of the future, is a fuddled religion.” - C. S. Lewis (Essay Collections)

Travelling (again) on a Hyper-Train in Space

Let us build a mental picture to help explore this territory of chance. Removing typical compounding factors, such as inelastic impacts on a hard floor or air resistance, a coin toss (or dice roll) in space would seemingly exhibit fractal behavior and could be predicted127, but admittedly, the keen eyed would note, that we could be waiting a very long time for the result. Whilst we wait, we could take residence at the paradoxical “Inifinite Hotel” (owned by David Hilbert), since the last room is always made available regardless of the number of occupants128. The hotel has very few amenities so you decide to enquire about some of the local attractions. Nestled beside a window on the hyper-train which visits the closest thermal spa on a local moon, we ponder; how do we reconcile infinity with our reality? Deep in thought and listening to one of your favorite tracks, Dark Side of the Moon from Pink Floyd, it occurs to you; fractals can account for the difficult notion of infinity within space-time129˒130˒131˒132. It would be reasonable to conclude here that pure chance is an enigma within our universe and that determinism resembles a bad smell that will not blow away. However, in an effort to mitigate the propensity for bias, a philosophical treatment of Godel’s incompleteness theorems ushers in relativism.

Relativism is the idea that truth and morality are not absolute but are relative to the individual or group. A benefit of relativism is that it allows for people to have different opinions and beliefs. This can lead to a more tolerant society where people are less likely to judge others for their beliefs. A significant disadvantage of relativism is that it can lead to a lack of objectivity. This can make it difficult to make decisions or solve problems. It can also lead to a feeling of confusion or anxiety because there is no one right answer.

“Relativism is one of the numerous crimes of the intellectuals. It betrays reason and mankind” - Karl Popper

However, despite its disadvantages, I can also deeply relate with those who live within the realm of agnosticism and subscribe to rationality and systemic relativism; having been there myself, I can argue that my understanding of “morals” was near equal to my theist counter-parts. Admittedly, a sentiment typical of an Enlightenment thinker, which has been so elegantly expounded in Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason:

“We shall study freedom according to the purposive unity that is determined in accordance with the principles of reason, and shall believe ourselves to be acting in conformity with the divine will in so far only as we hold sacred the moral law which reason teaches us from the nature of the actions themselves; and we shall believe that we can serve that will only by furthering what is best in the world, alike in ourselves and in others. Moral theology is thus of immanent use only.”

Kant suggests that man’s reason must be the final arbiter as to what the commands shall be that he is willing to obey. He does not regard actions as obligatory because they are the commands of God; he studies the nature of things, and if his reason decides that something is morally obligatory, he concludes that it possesses a kind of divine obligatoriness; and so he obeys simply and only what his own reason decides. Man is the central arbitrator in the ethical world. It was but a short logical road from this to the existentialism of Sartre, who rejected God completely and any external moral authority, and aimed to make himself an authentic self-made man by arbitrarily making his own moral decisions. But can man overcome the binds of subjectivity and bias? To explore this a bit more, let’s pick a foundational ethical principle of a fair society that all would agree upon, Human Rights. Herein resides a curiosity, can a human collective attain objectivity in its pursuit of truth and are Human Rights objectively true?

“Since human minds are constructing our physical theories, why speak of objective rather than subjective reality? Recall the repeatability of experiments and the predictive power of theories. I have mentioned examples from a century ago, more to be discussed in this book are drawn from the relativistic theory of physical cosmology, and a still broader variety is to be found in other branches of physical science. They are the basis for the argument that our well-tested theories are useful approximations to the operation of a lawfully operating objective reality. We cannot do better; there cannot be a proof of objective reality from natural science.” – P. J. E. Peebles (The whole truth: a cosmologist's reflections on the search for objective reality)

As previously noted in Holland's works103, if the seedbed of Christianity sprouted forth human rights, why did homo-sapiens, in the secular view of ethical arbitrators not discover this truth prior to Christianity and why are Human Rights still not widely accepted and endorsed in our world? Recent conflicts tragically demonstrate this. Is it a question of “progress”, “religion is the problem” or something else? As Aristotle observed long ago, ethics can tell us what we ought to do; but by itself it gives us no adequate power to do it. It is the indisputable fact that, even when we know that something is ethically right and that it is our duty to do it, we fail to do it; and contrariwise, when we know something is wrong and should not be done, we nonetheless go and do it. Why is that? Unless we can find an answer to this problem, ethical theory—of whatever kind—will prove ultimately ineffective, because it is impractical. Contrasting these polar antipodes of belief, we can infer that the main discrepancy between them is their frame of reference for their objective truths; the teachings of Christianity originated from outside the crucible of the human condition. If one were to accept its precepts, these teachings on morals and ethics came from our creator. Christianity also offered a basis for morality and justice that avoided the twin dangers of relativism and oppression e.g. dictatorship regimes. The gospel of grace through Jesus Christ embodies the liberating power of moral truth, whereby most people, regardless of their worldview, are innately aware of.

“But the most remarkable thing is this. Whenever you find a man who says he does not believe in a real Right and Wrong, you will find the same man going back on this a moment later. He may break his promise to you, but if you try breaking one to him he will be complaining ‘It’s not fair’ before you can say Jack Robinson. A nation may say treaties do not matter, but then, next minute, they spoil their case by saying that the particular treaty they want to break was an unfair one. But if treaties do not matter, and if there is no such thing as Right and Wrong—in other words, if there is no Law of Nature—what is the difference between a fair treaty and an unfair one? Have they not let the cat out of the bag and shown that, whatever they say, they really know the Law of Nature just like anyone else? It seems, then, we are forced to believe in a real Right and Wrong.” - C. S. Lewis (Mere Christianity)

Hope, Humility and Sublimity

The magical sealant that binds these tiles of our reality (our “noosphere” acc. to De Chardin) seemingly resides within the mysterious world of quantum mechanics133. Whether playing a key role in photosynthesis, olfaction, bird navigation, neural activity, and adaptive mutations in genes, the blind watchmaker (to coin a phrase from Dawkins) seemingly knows the fractal rules of the game and knows how to play. It is within this parity that one sees the repeated patterns, the fractals and symmetries, and I was ultimately overcome with a sense of awe. There have been some disputes to this fractal essence of nature, but this debate has seemingly been rooted around the inherent difficulty in defining a fractal134.

“The first gulp from the glass of natural sciences will turn you into an atheist. But at the bottom of the glass God is waiting for you.” - Werner Heisenberg (1932 Nobel Prize Winner, Father of Quantum Mechanics)

I would not be true to myself if I was to state that accepting Christianity was without any hesitation and reluctance. The historical atrocities committed by appointed leaders and nations, under the banner of Christianity, casts a shadow on the light that it brought to the world. I know of close friends who have sadly faced this reality in the most tragic manner and I share in their pain. My view here is that our greatest peril in life is our own self-interest, which can be antithetical with the inner dominion of love, mercy and humility which enables us to 'love your neighbour as yourself'. Jesus's parable about the rich man and Lazarus depicts this clearly.

Jesus’s entire ministry consisted of announcing and enacting this kingdom, this government, that comes from God. In the Sermon on the Mount, in his provocative parables, by his radical hospitality of welcoming sinners, and through his compassionate healing of the sick, Jesus was explaining and embodying God’s new government for humanity. But Jesus tells us that this is a hard road to walk. We are deeply addicted to the old system of prioritized self-interest. Jesus knows that the single greatest obstacle for people entering the kingdom of God is economic self-interest. It’s why Jesus famously said, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”*19 And Jesus put it more bluntly when he said, “Nobody can serve two masters. You will end up hating one and loving the other, or going along with the first and despising the other. You can’t serve God and money.” Luke then tells us what happened when Jesus told the Pharisees that the love of money was the great obstacle to entering the kingdom of God. The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this, and mocked Jesus. The Pharisees loved money and regarded wealth as a sign of God’s blessing. Likewise, the Pharisees viewed sickness as God’s punishment for personal sin. This was the standard pharisaical reading of Deuteronomy: good people are blessed and bad people are cursed. But Jesus disagreed with the Pharisees’ health-and-wealth interpretation of the Scriptures. So when the Pharisees mocked Jesus for saying that you can’t serve God and money (which Jesus described as attacking the kingdom of God), he gave them the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. – B. Zahnd, Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God: The Scandalous Truth of the Very Good News, Waterbrook, 2017

"He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." - Micah 6:8

But alas, the light of the Gospel and the work of Jesus’s disciples still prevails and significantly outshines the darkness. It is an interesting observation that since the Enlightenment period, much of the good that Christianity did bring to the world has been overlooked, but recent works are a poignant reminder to us all103. Jesus Christ brought the historically radical notion that each human life has inherent value and is loved by God (John 3:16) and ultimately, it brought a light to humanity as it rooted us to our creator103.

God is to be found not by stepping aside from the flow of daily life into religious moments and environments, or by looking away from creation to a spiritual realm beyond, but rather by entering attentively the depths of the present moment. There we will find God ... - John Philip Newell

One of my most admired evangelists (and apologists) was the US-born Francis Schaeffer. Working in the 1960s when academics regarded evangelical Christianity as irrational, Schaeffer was concerned to show it as being relationally credible and he adapted his ministry to the cultural context he was living in135. Gavin Mcgrath has termed this the “perspectability approach”; whereby certain perspectives of Christianity were more emphasized by Schaeffer, one of them being the need to rational discourse. Looking at Paul’s writings, what he was trying to emulate was “an application of what Paul did in Romains 1 and 2”135. What is striking about Schaeffer, was his true sense of love for the other, especially the lost and the hurting; which manifested in many ways throughout his life and most notably through the L’Abri Mission situated in the Swiss Alps135˒136. This outpouring of love was clearly sustained by his spiritual life, which interestingly shares the characteristic of Paul’s prayers within scriptures; whereby a significant portion of these prayers are devoted to intercession and thanksgiving for others137.

“The problem is not a lack of evidence or knowledge but a moral deficiency: we refuse to submit to the evidence that God provides. For Calvin (as for Paul) we see enough to keep us from making excuses, but our blindness prevents us from reaching our goal, and it is only by the gift of faith and its light that ‘man can gain real knowledge from the work of creation’.” – B. Follis (Truth with love: the apologetics of Francis Schaeffer)135

It is clear that God desires to be known by his people (Ps 73:25), and at a time where there is a great sense of longing, loneliness and a spiritual amnesia within our culture138, we can learn a great deal from our past.

"The anam cara (meaning "soul friend" in Gaelic) is God's gift. Friendship is the nature of God. The Christian concept of God as Trinity is the most sublime articulation of otherness and intimacy, an eternal interflow of friendship. This perspective discloses the beautiful fulfillment of our immortal longing in the words of Jesus, who said, Behold, I call you friends. Jesus, as the son of God, is the first Other in the universe; he is the prism of all difference. He is the secret anam cara of every individual. In friendship with him, we enter the tender beauty and affection of the Trinity. In the embrace of this eternal friendship, we dare to be free. There is a beautiful Trinitarian motif running through Celtic spirituality..." - Anam Cara: A Book Of Celtic Wisdom, John O'Donohue

We do indeed forget in our affluence. Nehemiah 8-10 is a moment of incredible and powerful liminality for this community, when old patterns have failed, when people in their vulnerability of grief and joy could for an instant leave their conventional home and live in the booths of fragility, in the presence of many ancestors, prepared to be reconfigured and reidentified139. But we could naturally enquire, how do we begin to recover this lost identity? Scripture has plenty to advise with respect to this; Ezra recognized that rekindling this identity of who they were was the will of “maker of heaven and earth”139. But what this passage also shows is that despite their best leadership intentions, Ezra and Nehemiah were not able to accomplish the transformation of the human heart, whose waywardness and deep sense of longing must be restored by grafting into a loving relationship with our creator. It is also a poignant reminder to church leaders that they should lead with humility and self-awareness, but remain steadfast in pointing other people to God’s loving grace.

“This (dusty) parlor is the heart of a man that was never sanctified by the sweet grace of the Gospel; the dust is his original sin and inward corruptions, that have defiled the whole man. He that began to sweep at first, is the Law; but she that brought water, and did sprinkle it, is the Gospel… so is sin vanquished and subdued, and the soul made clean, through the faith of it, and consequently fit for the King of glory to inhabit.” - J. Bunyan (The Pilgrim’s Progress)

Upon reflection, I wish my journey to faith had not been so elongated, like a meandering spaghetti trying to exit the colander of a self-limited creed; this was a gradual journey for me. I remember resting on my bed one evening in 2010 and praying a simple prayer to Jesus; asking him for forgiveness and that I may get to know him. At the time, I was still on placement in Bristol with my work within the defense and aerospace industry. I had a friend called Jack, we both loved rugby and he invited me to coffee one Friday. This led to a six week tradition whereby we would work through the book of Mark and talk rugby. Unbeknown to me at the time, but Jack showed me first-hand what it meant to disciple one another in fellowship and how to read the bible for what it was, to which I will be forever grateful for. For two years after this placement, I was seconded to various research departments around the country, which eventually led to going overseas. Throughout our travels, we have met remarkable Christians which were actively supporting their local communities. To give two noteworthy examples;

  • A dear friend and ex-gang member, who ministered to his community through loving hospitality in Australia
  • An entrepreneurial teacher, who crossed-cultures and learnt Arabic, in order to support a youth group within the refugee community in Scandinavia

Such encounters strengthened my faith immeasurably, since I saw first hand what true discipleship looked like. Over the years, I have witnessed a broad spectrum of unexplainable miracles, answered prayer and providence within the communities that I have been part of. Ranging from being personally healed from an inaugural hernia, the miraculous healing testimony from cancer of a dear friend in Australia, to hearing that my mother had been stirred from her sleep to pray earnestly for me the very night my life was in peril. Despite my inner tendencies for skepticism and curiosity; these events serve as reminders that the world is truly made from the unseen and that our God is omnipresent and loves us.

Our dear Rosie was our daughter that we could tragically not embrace here on Earth. We viewed her as our little mermaid, and this beautiful painting made by our dear friend from our local church, Skye, reflects this imagery.

Within my thirty-five years on this Earth, I have also experienced some degree of suffering. Suffering is a furnace to our anvil of faith, it is either refined or melts away. Ultimately, it is through these difficulties that I have learnt to depend on the Bible for wisdom and to pray earnestly for strength when at my weakest. Within a period of four years, between 2017-2021 I lost my father to cancer, my step-father to dementia and lost our dearest baby Rosie to a rare and fatal genetic disease called Triploidy; she tragically went straight to heaven. To me, there is something radically offensive about suffering. I assert this, not as prey caught within its dark talons, but because it is at such odds with the beauty within the universe and the promises of God. To question why specific suffering happens ultimately presupposes that I have no information asymmetry and can make a time-independent non-biased omniscient inference (akin to the mind of God), which I clearly don’t and therefore, despite my sorrow and frustration, this was a rather futile exercise. Much like Alyosha from The Brothers Karamazov (an absolute must read for the curious); I found that the most edifying path out from this valley of sorrow was to respond with as much grace as I could and continue to pursue truth, beauty and goodness140.

“If there is a "problem of evil" there is also a "problem of good." Wherever we look we see not only confusion but beauty. In snowflake, leaf or insect, we discover structured patterns of a delicacy and balance that nothing manufactured by human skill can equal. We are not to sentimentalize these things, but we cannot ignore them.” - Bishop Kallistos Ware (Author of The Orthodox Church)

“In my opinion, Christ’s love for people is in its kind a miracle impossible on earth. True, he was God. But we are not gods. Let’s say that I, for example, am capable of profound suffering, but another man will never be able to know the degree of my suffering, because he is another and not me, and besides, a man is rarely willing to acknowledge someone else as a sufferer… And why won’t he acknowledge it, do you think?…” - Alexei “Alyosha” Fyodorovich Karamazov - The Brothers Karamazov

Luke 11 illuminates the biblical principle of hospitality and inclusivity, echoing the ancient Jewish custom of aiding any fellow stranger which was suffering or in need. Drawing from the Greek word "Oikos", meaning household, we understand the intrinsic ties between Ecology, Economics, and Ecumenism, illustrating our inherent inter-connectedness and belonging within both community and the greater biosphere. This concept parallels the Welsh "cynefin" and the Māori "tūrangawaewae", emphasizing identity's roots in belonging. Contrary to the isolating individualism of current nation-based societal structures and exploitative capitalist economics, this parable serves as a reminder of our collective responsibility to nurture our bioregional villages and honor the Earth's biosphere. I do believe we have a responsibility to be sustainable stewards of God’s creation (as stated in Genesis), which is biblically grounded141.

Christian care for God’s creation is essential, as one day God will renew the entire created order, setting his image-bearing creatures over it to reflect God’s glory and bring saving justice, as stated in Romans 8. If we are already in Christ and indwelt by the Spirit, we cannot wait for God to bring this renewal in the end; we must be God’s agents, bringing signs of that renewal now...To deny a Christian commitment to ecological work and righting the world now is to deny the goodness of creation and the power of God in resurrection and the Spirit, and quite possibly both. - Tom Wright, Surprised by Scripture

“Spirituality is not just about religion, or church attendance, or fidelity to one or other legal requirement. Spirituality is understood to be an innate wisdom of the human heart that enlivens a zest for life, a search for meaning and purpose, a love for all that is good and beautiful, a passion to create a better world, a sensitivity to the life-energy (God, if you wish) that permeates the entire cosmos" - Diarmuid O'Murchu

At such times, the only uniquely transcendent comfort that I could turn to was within Scriptures, especially this remarkable (and my personal favorite) commentary on Proverbs that holistically applies every verse to everyday decisions and difficult choices142. Even at times of failure, where I have stumbled or wronged someone in the face of personal difficulty, I found Jesus to be gentle and full of mercy143; if only I had more faith (Heb 11, Rom 4), I would have handled those situations with more grace and meekness (Matt 5:3-12).

Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. - Eph 4:29

Humans are born good but as history has shown us, we are not impervious to a corrupted state of mind. Much like the few explorers who climb Everest unassisted and with few moderns aids, their number are few and equally so, I believe that within every generation there is a modest community of true disciples who unreservedly live out the Bible’s teachings. Their hallmarks are usually an immense capacity for servitude and an altruistic love for humanity, much like our savior Jesus Christ. A poignant example of this would be Mother Teresa144.

My hope for the future is that people are given the freedom to pursue faith and that we begin to shape an united regenerative world; which fuses holacracy and ethical stewardship on our beautiful planet. Gleaned from mutual humility and the acknowledgement of our paltry portion of universal information, our thoughts remind us of our unseen otherness and ethereal desire to love and be loved. This is especially pertinent to my homeland in the UK, which has ironically forgotten where the democracy it aspires to originally came from:

“The census figures (2021) paint a picture of a population that has dramatically moved away from Christianity – and from religion as a whole. The current status quo, in which the Church of England is deeply embedded in the UK state, is unfair and undemocratic – and looking increasingly absurd and unsustainable.”145 - Stephen Evans, CEO of the National Secular Society

To apply these secular shears and cut this flower of “religious instinct” from its roots, that is, our continual pursuit to create a fairer and more ethical world purely as a by-product of our moral conscience; this should be fully feasible and autonomous without belief in a God. If living in a Godless universe, we would therefore rightfully expect an inverse relationship between secularism and decadence or poor mental health, and a positive correlation between secularism and societal well-being or democracy; but evidence and history overwhelmingly points to the contrary103˒146˒147˒148˒149˒150˒151˒152. The secular age is characterized by the rise of the disciplinary society and a gradual corrosion of free speech (one of the founding pillars of democracy)153˒154, which has been enabled by various means, such as increasing use of technological surveillance155 (A Secular Age)156. However, it seems that many have recognized the incoherence of secularism with the persistence of religion within modern societies (albeit comparatively reduced)157, which has thankfully transpired into the recent grassroots emergence of a more tolerant post-secular age158˒159.

Too often in the past our approach to truth has been to assume that we have it and others do not. Consequently, we have thought that our role is to tell people what to believe. We are being invited instead into a new humility, to serve the holy wisdom that is already stirring in the hearts of people everywhere, the growing awareness of earth’s interrelatedness and sacredness. - John Philip Newell

I would hesitate to pick any particular part of this rather eclectic essay as substantiation for a theistic worldview, let alone the God of the Bible. But when I considered it in its totality; the most coherent account for our existence and our earthly abode resided within the Biblical narrative. Equally, in light of this learned comfort with the fact that the vast portion of universal information is not yet known, my journey of faith is also emergent. There are many parts of scripture that still confound me and I do not know how to reconcile these parts with the times of today. I also often wonder why certain parts of scripture have yielded such a broad spectrum of interpretation and in some instances, tragic failures e.g. Romans 9 and the arise of Calvinism, which manifested in tragic ways, such as its contribution to apartheid in South Africa. But as an inherently flawed and limited parent myself, the journey of raising my children has cast a humbling perspective on the relationship between the church and humanity. Sometimes as parents we often get it tragically wrong, despite our "very good" intentions (this is possibly a topic for another article).

The history of Christian doctrine is not just the story of repeating scriptural statements. Throughout doctrinal history we see the authors of heresies invariably taking their stand on Scripture often claiming to recognize this as the sole court of appeal. These authors were not subsequently accused of being unscriptural but rather they were accused of misusing Scripture. Thus the point was not contended simply by appealing to the authority of Scripture but the real battle was on the interpretation of the Bible...
This is also indicated in a medieval saying with reference to the Bible: "This is the book in which everyone looks for his own convictions and likewise everyone finds his own convictions"...
when Martin Luther was confronted with those he called sectarians, he admitted the danger of proving anything from Scripture: "I learn now that it is enough to throw many passages together helters-kelter whether they are fit or not. If this be the way then I can easily prove from the Scriptures that beer is better than wine". Calvin's understanding was similar: "I acknowledge that Scripture is the most rich and inexhaustible fount of all wisdom. But I deny that its fertility consists in the various meanings which anyone may fasten to it at his pleasure". - Craig D. Allert, A high view of Scripture? the authority of the Bible and the formation of the New Testament canon. (Baker Academic, 2007).

However, despite this, my faith in the gospel is steadfast, and it is my belief that the tangible application of these teachings have glimpsed us a world which transcends human hands. My governing thought from the collective tenets explored above is that our fractal reality is evolving into a greater state of complexity and that such a symphony has a triune conductor who beckons himself to us through Jesus Christ, both within and beyond our current dimensions (inspired by Acts 17:27-28, Col 1:15-17, Rev 3:20, Prov 3:19-20). At the time of this writing, I do believe we are at the cusp of a great transition, whereby unity must overcome division and we place greater emphasis on the deeper things of life. We must consider the resonance of the unseen realm with a grandeur perspective on "the bigger picture" - during a recent talk John Philip Newell said:

“Will we speak from this place of interrelationship with all things? Or will we continue to speak from enclosed places of separation from nature, or from one another, as nations, as great spiritual traditions?” ...
“This dimension deep within us and in all things that invites union, that invites attraction, it is something of this that we know in the Universal Law of Gravitation. Every atom in the universe, at some level, longs to be in relationship with every other atom. Otherwise, the whole thing would spin off into unrelatedness,” Newell said.
“Scientists don’t claim to understand this law of attraction, they describe it.”
Once humans can harness the outpouring of love and connection through the great energy of attraction, they can truly connect to the divine; Teilhard wrote that Christianity will experience a rebirth.
“(He) wrote, Christianity is at the end of one of his natural cycles of existence. It needs to be born again,” Newell said. “We are invited to be part of this new birthing in this transitional moment.” Whatever happens as humans move forward and time passes, there is no turning back. “We can’t go back to the small God — the small God that we have created in our image to look after just our nation, our religion or our species,” Newell said. Source

As I bring this essay to a close, I sit beside a window overlooking the majestic snow-capped mountains of central Switzerland. It is the men’s retreat weekend from our church and it has been a marvelous weekend of fellowship and learning. Coincidently, the teaching has been based on the Book of John, which is a gospel most dear to my heart. These aspects of beauty (I can wholeheartedly recommend John O'Donohue's books), symmetry, imagination, love, and morality that we have briefly explored, point to a mysterious reality that is beyond what humans can construct160. To conclude, I have a brief poem, written in Welsh (my mother-tongue), which speaks of this "cynefin" (similar to the Māori concept of "tūrangawaewae"), where our souls find rest and we truly find belonging:

Disgyrchiant a quantum, yn dawnsio gyda'i gilydd mewn trefn,
Mewn bydysawd o gelfyddyd, lle mae popeth yn ddi-derfyn.
Fractalau a llinellau, yn adlewyrchu'r cread mawr,
Mewn realiti cymhleth, mae'r artist yn llunio'n awr.

Gan ddeddfau di-derfyn, mae'r bydysawd yn datblygu'n ddwys,
A mewn pob rhan ohono, mae cyswllt a chydgysylltiad yn tyfu'n fwy.
Mae'r triune cyfarwyddwr, trwy Grist, yn galw atom ni,
I weld y prydferthwch, yn yr oriel enfawr sy'n ein cynnwys ni.

Yn y gofod a'r amser, lle mae popeth yn clymu'n gryf,
Mae cynefin a pherthyn, yn rhoi i ni gyswllt a nerth byw.
Mae'r bydysawd yn gân, ac yn gelfyddyd o harddwch di-ben,
Ac pob un ohonom, yn edrych a rhyfeddu, ym mhlith cariad bydd goleuni wen .


Closing Reflection — Mysterium Tremendum…

Drawing from the eclectic inferences and experiences explored within this personal essay, we are humbly reminded of the words penned in 2 Corinthians 6:9, “…known, yet regarded as unknown.” Just as Evagrius of Pontus so astutely observed, “God cannot be grasped by the mind. If he could be grasped, he would not be God.”, underscoring that even in our most profound attempts to unravel the mysteries of our reality, we are but pilgrims on the path of cosmic understanding, forever in awe of the vastness that remains beyond our comprehension. Jesus's dazzling transfiguration on Mount Tabor serves as powerful imagery that nestles this sense of awe deep within my heart. Yet equally paradoxically, as Acts 17:27 reminds us, “God is not far from any one of us,” and in our quest to decipher the mysteries of existence, it’s heartening to know that we can seek and find Jesus today, even amidst the vast unknowns that surround us. Ultimately, it’s a personal step of faith that we all must take, whichever direction that may be. "Our worldview must be our own, in the sense that we have personally thought it through and adapted it of our own free will." (Excerpt from Doing What’s Right - Whose System of Ethics is Good Enough? by David Gooding and John Lennox).

Thanks for taking the time to read this and Godspeed. /Aaron

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