Re: Julian Huxley, Religion, Kleenex

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Mon, 27 Apr 1998 08:47:46 -0700


Thanks DB for putting a smile on my face this monday morning..

-= deluxe =-

Damien Broderick wrote:

> Several recent interesting posts sent me scrambling through a dusty old
> pile of my magazine tear-sheets, whence I dug out an article I published in
> an Australian mass market magazine in October 1967 - is it possible to be
> so ancient? surely not - entitled whimsically `If there is no God, who
> pulls up the next Kleenex?' Diverting to see what curious intimations of
> transhumanism were afloat in those dim lost days...
> ==================
> ...biblical religion... simply is not hooked into the dynamo of our age.
> It is too firmly entrenched in patterns of thought and emotional response
> long superannuated; it has a weight of centuries on it. Stripped to
> fighting weight, it comes out punchy, its jab is short and feeble and
> directed at shadows painted on its own eyes.
> Yet there remains that brooding violence in our culture's belly, the large
> reality which magic and religion, before our day, handled not
> unsuccessfully. Perhaps, with Julian Huxley, we can call it *the divine*,
> the latent potency which is not supernatural but *transnatural*. It is, I
> suggest, the same coiled spring which drove primitive man, in a fury of
> invention, to build gods as its representation. It is the subterranean
> torrent of dread and exultation which is the twin realisation of our
> blurred insignificance before the towering presence of the universe and our
> inevitable personal extinction, and the full, rich, scarcely-glimpsed
> flowering of human possibilities.
> Here, perhaps, is the central existential reality we must neither
> propitiate nor ignore, but embrace. It finds a statement in Huxley's
> scientific panorama: "This new vision is both comprehensive and unitary.
> It integrates the fantastic diversity of the world into a single framework,
> the pattern of all-embracing evlutionary process." [...]
> There seems, as I mentioned at the beginning, to be something ludicrous in
> the assertion that our having relinquished religion might be the betrayal
> of our civilisation to vast undirected energies. Yet it is not
> implausible. In casting off a belief in God "which has ceased to be
> scientifically tenable, has lost its explanatory value, and is becoming an
> intellectual and moral burden to our thought", we have carelessly lost
> sight of the divine which ante-dated gods.
> Norman Mailer has spoken of the plight of our time, that our world "reduces
> one's sense of reality by reducing to the leaden formulations of jargon
> such emotions as awe, dread, beauty, pity, terror, calm, horror and
> harmony", that it "leaves us further isolated in the empty landscapes of
> psychosis, precisely that inner landscape of void and dread which we flee".
> And yet it may not have to be that way. "Maybe we are in a sense the seed,
> the seed-carriers, the voyagers, the explorers...; maybe we are engaged in
> a heroic activity, and not a mean one".
> =======================
> More than three decades later I would distance myself from the last wisps
> of teleology and crypto-religiosity in that piece. Still, perhaps it
> catches a moment (perhaps shared by FM-2030 in another part of the world at
> around the same time) when we started to see the plausibility - indeed, the
> inevitability - of a transhumanist trajectory.
> (Incidentally, some of that old article was later recycled in my 1982 sf
> novel *The Judas Mandala*, with its explicitly transhuman cyborgs, virtual
> realiy, and Tiplerian Omega-mind.)
> Damien Broderick