Rick: Welcome to Buddha at the Gas Pump. My name is Rick Archer. Buddha at the Gas Pump is an ongoing series of conversations with spiritually awakening people. I’ve done over 600 of them now, and if this is new to you and you’d like to check out previous ones, please go to batgap.com, B-A-T-G-A-P, and look under the past interviews menu. This program is made possible through the support of appreciative listeners and viewers, so if you appreciate it and would like to help support it, there’s a PayPal button on every page of the website, and there’s also a page that explains alternatives to PayPal. My guest today is Ilya Delio. Ilya holds the Josephine C. Connolly Chair in Christian Theology at Villanova University. Her area of research is science and religion, which is a topic that fascinates me, with interests in artificial intelligence, evolution, quantum physics, and the import of these for Christian doctrine and life. She holds a doctorate in pharmacology from Rutgers University Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, and when she was doing that, she was working on a cure for ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease, and I heard her explain that she’d like to (perhaps in an alternate lifetime) get back to that, because she had some promising ideas for curing it. But her life took a fork in the road, and perhaps the road less traveled, to paraphrase Robert Frost, and she ended up getting a doctorate in historical theology from Fordham University. She’s the author of over 20 books, including Making All Things New: Catholicity, Cosmology, and Consciousness and The Unbearable Wholeness of Being: God, Evolution, and the Power of Love, for which she won the 2014 Silver Nautilus Book Award and a 2014 Catholic Press Association Book Award in Faith and Science. She is founder of the Center for Christogenesis, an online educational resource for promoting the vision of Teilhard de Chardin, and more broadly, the integration of science and religion in the 21st century. So over the past week, I have spent probably at least 15 hours listening to talks that Ilya has given, and I also converted some of her books into spoken word and listened to those, and I really enjoyed it, and I felt like just about every sentence she uttered could be a springboard into a conversation, so I didn’t feel the need to take a lot of notes here, because I feel like we’re just going to have a conversation and it’ll roll. And of course, you guys who are watching can send in some questions too, if you like. But I think some of the things we’re probably going to end up talking about, God certainly, cyborgs, artificial intelligence, evolution, ethics, the complexification of the universe and the complexification of knowledge, pantheism, panentheism, and many other points. But that just gives you a taste of the scope of what we might cover today, and these are all topics that Ilya has written on and is interested in. All right, so thanks Ilya, so good to meet you and to have this opportunity to talk with you.
Ilia: Very good to be here and to be able to share some ideas with you in this community of the Buddha at the gas pump. I love the title of this, by the way.
Rick: Yeah, you know why I call it that?
Ilia: No, tell me, but I have some idea, but why don’t you tell me?
Rick: Actually, I didn’t think of the title, but the idea is just that in this day and age, there are Buddhas walking around, you know, there are people who are having profound spiritual awakenings, who may appear completely ordinary from the outside, but there’s something good happening on the inside. And you don’t necessarily have to be able to hover three feet off the ground or wear robes or have your head shaved or look unusual in any way, glow in the dark. You know, there’s a kind of, we could say, an evolutionary pandemic going on in the world that is getting a lot less press coverage than the viral one.
Ilia: They should really have electric cars.
Rick: Electric cars, I’m not sure how that fits in.
Ilia: Buddha at the gas pump.
Rick: Oh, Buddha at the gas pump, yeah, of course. I don’t want to complain about that, you know, say it’s not very environmental, but I don’t know.
Rick: What can we do?
Ilia: I see the point. I think it’s a wonderful metaphor, really, for the consciousness of everyday living.
Rick: So where do you think we should start among all those topics? I was thinking we might start with highest first and try to get a grasp of what we mean by God.
Ilia: Oh, nothing like, starting at the top. It’s very medieval of you. You can start with God.
Rick: Yeah, let’s start with God. I mean, since we’ll be using the term and since I think there are a lot of different understandings of what that term refers to, it’s good to define our terms.
Ilia: Right. So I think, you know, the first thing we want to just kind of underscore is that God is not a proper name. You know, it’s not the name of some guy, because usually we image God as a guy. Name God. Although, you know, the old series with George Burns.
Rick: Oh, right. And John Denver, they had a movie together.
Ilia: Right. You know, gotcha. Anyway, I think the name God is just a name that points to absolute mystery. Right. Absolute, maybe absolute consciousness, absolute knowing, absolute love. And I think, you know, I think Anselm Canterbury actually in the late in the 11th century said it best. God is that which no greater can be thought. So when I thought when we reached the ultimate end of our thinking and life itself continues beyond that thinking, that’s God. So, you know, so God is that name of incomprehensible mystery. But, we give it a name because that mystery is actually at the heart of our particular lives, of our individual lives. And we’re particular persons. We’re not a great collective. Each one of us has a name, and therefore we approach that mystery by a name. Christians or, you know, the monotheistic faiths name it God. Others might name it the beloved. Others might call it the great compassionate one. I think those names are all pointing to the same absolute reality.
Rick: What’s that quote from Meister Eckhart? I’ve heard you quote it. It’s something like the eye with which I see God is the eye with which God sees me. Is that right? Did I get that right?
Ilia: Yeah, you said it correctly. The eye with which I see God is the same I with which God sees me. So to put this in another way, as the French philosopher, mystic Simone Weil said, whoever says I lies. There’s no I without a thou, without an I-ing, without this infinite depth dimension of our individual lives. And that depth dimension is that infinite dimension that is God. So Christian, excuse me, Christians say we’re made in the image of God. But even the image of God can seem like we’re just a mirror of something that is outside us. In fact, that God dimension is at the heart of us.
Rick: Right. Yeah, I was telling you before we started that I used to be a TM teacher, and I remember the first time I was on a course with Maharishi, he said, “God is omnipotent, but the one thing he can’t do is remove himself from your heart.”
Ilia: Oh, that’s beautiful. I love that. Yeah, that’s true. Right? We have a saying, something like that, in the letter to Timothy, he says, like, “We may be unfaithful, but God is always faithful because God cannot deny God’s own self.” In other words, even if we reject God or, you know, get rid of God or whatever we want to do about God, that God will never go away. Because that God, that absolute, infinite reality of love, and I like to think of God as love, is the very heart of our beingness.
Rick: Reminds me of a verse from the Gita, “The unreal has no being, the real never ceases to be.”
Ilia: Ah, beautiful, yeah. Yeah. Very consonant, yeah.
Rick: So, a minute ago you were speaking of God as a mystery. Do you feel that there have been mystics, like, I don’t know, Meister Eckhart and Saint Teresa and Saint John of the Cross and Saint Francis and many others, for whom God became less mysterious because the actual experience, the reality of God began to dawn in their experience, and perhaps ripened very fully in their experience to a point of clarity and oneness and union with God?
Ilia: Yeah, that’s a good question. Although I think just the opposite. I think actually as they enter into the mystery and the mystery unfolds in their lives, they are brought into an even greater mystery. So, it’s what the, you know, from the pseudo-Dionysius on, you know, of the great mystical tradition, the Dionysius was that fifth century writer, what we call the Areopagite, who wrote mystical theology. He’s sort of the father of mystical theology in the Christian tradition. And he said the higher up we go, the more language fails. But the greater we’re into that mystery, it’s luminous, super luminous light. The mystery is even brighter, but it’s a learned ignorance. It’s like words, we can’t say anything about it. It’s so overwhelming. So, it’s not that we grasp the mystery, it is rather that that mystery grasps us. We are grasped in the core of our being, and therefore we’re pulled out of ourselves. And then you might say we’re centered now in this oneness or allness of beingness itself, of love, compassion, the unity of all life.
Rick: Right, and words are rather paltry by comparison with that, and inadequate to really convey it or encapsulate it.
Rick: that makes sense. I mean, we can’t even really describe anything, you know, to try to describe red. You can only compare it to something like an apple or my shirt, but you can’t, if someone were blind, what could you say to them, you know, red? I mean, it doesn’t mean anything. So, you really have to have the experience in order for the words to make sense. And I guess what we’re getting at here is to what extent can you have the experience of God?
Ilia: So, yeah, right. So, even your example of redness is a really interesting one, because I think we’re pointing to what many philosophers and scientists today are grappling with, and that is the nature of consciousness itself. And, of course, you know, since the advent of quantum physics in the early 20th century, there’s been lots of discussions about mind and matter. Is mind, is consciousness a part of matter itself? Is it something that matter gives rise to? You know, is it something that only humans have? And I think more and more we’re realizing, hey, you can’t talk about redness apart from consciousness, right? You can’t talk about anything apart from consciousness. And so what we’re beginning to realize is that consciousness is the basic fundamental reality of matter. So matter. So, you know, what I think is really interesting is so when we talk about the mystery of God, we’re talking about the mystery of matter. And it’s important to realize this because I think for so long we’ve talked about consciousness as almost like a spiritual phenomenon or this mystical phenomenon that has an abstract quality to it, when in fact we’re talking about pure materiality. And the heart of materiality is something that’s non-material. That’s really what we’re saying here. And therefore, you know, this mystery of God, I think it’s the same mystery that’s at the heart of physics itself. You know, physics can only describe things. And, you know, I think there’s a big to-do today among physicists today because the scientific method doesn’t work anymore. Physics is just replete with mystery. The more they uncover something, the more they realize they don’t know. They can’t grasp. They can’t name what something is. And they drill down, down, down, down, down, and they’re running out of tools. And they keep running up against the wall of what we call “mystery,” because I think the heart of that mystery, that beingness, is what we name as God, the absolute horizon of being itself.
Rick: Ah, you actually gave me goosebumps on that one. That was really good. Okay, there’s about four points in there that I want to somehow flesh out with you. Well, let me take them one by one. So, are you saying, are you suggesting that God and consciousness are really just two different terms for the same thing?
Ilia: Well, you know, I think they can be, and I wouldn’t want… So, I do think the Eastern religions and their focus on God as pure consciousness, it is closer to what the reality of God is. And yet, God is even more… God is super-consciousness. So, God is not just consciousness. God is hyper-consciousness. God is the knowing of knowing. And I think, you know, I think any of our language that identifies something, God is even more than that. So, God is that, but more than that. Is God consciousness? Yes, but even more than consciousness. God is the consciousness of consciousness, you know, the God beyond consciousness. And that, so, again, I think even if we go, can we extend ourselves beyond consciousness, you know? Even the unconscious is a type of consciousness, you know, in a sense. So, I think that’s what we’re saying here is this name God points to the infinite reality of absolute. So, and I like the term absolute because it’s beyond which nothing else can go, you know. And that can extend infinitely, right? So, we’re talking here about a mystery of being itself, of that which gives life, life itself, that is way beyond consciousness, but certainly is consciousness.
Rick: Yeah. Well, I think I agree with you. I often object to a kind of a plain vanilla connotation that’s applied to the word consciousness, like that it’s just sort of empty and, you know, flat and nothingness. But, you know, I would have to regard it, and this gets closer to defining it as God, as the sort of the home of all the potentiality that we see manifest as the universe, home of all the laws of nature, we could say.
Ilia: Yeah, I like that.
Rick: And that implies, you know, just sort of infinite intelligence. And, go ahead.
Ilia: Yeah. Let’s take that, you know, the home of cosmic potentiality.
Ilia: You know, really, what we’re talking about, I mean, that’s very similar to the divine ideas, the idea of divine ideas that the ancient writers spoke about. Gregory of Nyssa, for example, the Cappadocian fathers, even Augustine, you know, this idea that God is the source, the word, you know, the source of divine ideas, which is the same thing as saying the realm of cosmic potentiality, all potential forms, to use a platonic notion. And I would agree with that, you know, that consciousness. And yet we say consciousness is the realm of pure potentiality. We’re saying something about, not just something abstract, that, you know, matter is energy, and energy has an infinite source of potential forms, and intrinsic to those forms is a type of awareness.
Rick: Okay, several things in there. I think I first heard about you from your appearance on Tim Freak’s podcast. He’s a friend of mine, and I’ve listened to his podcast. And he seems to be trying to cook up this theory that God is coming into existence with the evolution of the universe. And I keep taking issue with him on that, because I feel like, yeah, you could say that of the manifest aspect of God, the form aspect, so to speak, but the unmanifest aspect, with all of the laws of nature inherent within it, and all the intelligence necessary for creating a universe, must have been there all along in order for a universe to spring forth. And so, you can think of these two aspects. There’s sort of the God in resting phase, you know, having the full potential to create a universe, and then God in active phase, you know, entering into and creating one.
Ilia: Well, I see what you’re saying here, and it’s kind of interesting, because I’ve seen some of these ideas before. I might look at it in a slightly different way. Insofar as, let’s say from a Christian perspective, this name God is a name of plural relationships that we name as Trinity. So, if we think of God not as just a realm of cosmic potentiality, in other words, what was this potentiality doing before all these forms came into being, you know, or, you know, as the old Augustinian question, you know, what was God doing before creation? And he said he was creating hell for those who pry into the question.
Rick: Yeah, he was just chilling for a while.
Ilia: Let me just say this way. I think, here’s my take on it. I think there never was a time when there never was not matter.
Rick: You think?
Ilia: Since matter is energy, there never was a time when matter energy was not part of God’s life. I think God as Trinity, using Carl Jung’s ideas, is an unresolved God. It’s a God who, in a sense, is in slight conflict or tension in God’s own life. And, therefore, I think God is another name also, and I would agree with Gordon Kaufman here. God is the name of creativity itself. So, we’re not talking about a passive cosmic potentiality, but a creative. So, God as that infinite source of creativity, which is very kind of readily fits with the idea of a God who’s Trinity, a God who’s relational, a God who is overflowing. If we say God is love, this is overflowing love. And, therefore, a God who seeks to become the fullness of God by sharing that divine life with an other, with creaturely life, with human life. And I think that’s what we mean by God rising up in evolution. In a sense, Carl Jung would say, you know, evolution is really not about us. It’s really all about God, in a sense, fulfilling God’s own potential to become something more than God’s self. And that seems odd to the, you know, to the classical theological mindset. Like, what do you mean God’s becoming more than something other than God? And it’s like, well, God may be incomplete as God. If God is pure potential, then God needs to realize that potential fully in something other than God to, for God to really become God in God’s fullness of being. And, therefore, God rises up. In fact, Jung would see evolution as the rise of consciousness. In other words, consciousness comes to being, comes to self-reflective being, and, therefore, comes to the awareness of this divine power at the heart of itself. And, therefore, like the Christ for Jung, for Carl Jung, is the self, the archetype, this coincidence of opposites. To say we’re un-reconciled beings that are seeking what we call peace or unity, reconciliation of the opposites within us is the, you might say, the realization of God among us, you know, or as the God before us.
Rick: Good. I’m good with most of that. And when I say that, I don’t, I mean, it doesn’t matter really what I think, because what do I know? I mean, it’s like we’re just kind of playing around here with what might be. But what I do mean is that, you know, as best as I have been able to understand things, that resonates with it a lot, but there are some little, there’s some places where our Venn diagram doesn’t overlap, and so I want to keep exploring those with you.
Ilia: Yeah. You know what’s interesting, Rick? Let me put this another way. Many, many people do not realize their own divine potentiality, right?
Rick: Yeah, most.
Ilia: Most people, right? In fact, if you were to say that to most people, like, you have, you know, you have a source of divinity, of godliness about you, and you are to realize that potential within you and live into that in the fullest. And they would look at you like, you know, either you’re scandalous, or this is crazy, or you’re out of your mind, did you ever, you know, did you ever see me in the morning type thing? And that’s, see, that’s the beauty, and this is why I like the Christian God, by the way, because, you know, this is like a, it’s like your Buddha at the gas pump, you know, this is an everyday God. This is not like a superpower thing, like we’re going to solve all the problems of the world. This is a canonic God, a self-giving God, a God who is completely God with us, for us, like in us. We are the living, the livingness of God, insofar as we live into that reality. And that’s pretty awesome, you know, and it can, what would our world look like?
Rick: Yeah, Swami Mukundananda used to say, “God dwells within you as you.”
Ilia: Exactly! And somebody hearing that might say, “Oh, the hubris, you know, who do you think you are? You’re saying that you are God?” But obviously, he wasn’t referring to the little, you know, six-foot frame, or whatever may be within it. He was just talking about the all-pervasive nature of the divine, which can be located through this instrument.
Ilia: Right, and of course, you know, people can twist that and think, “Well, I can use my power now to kill, to overpower you, to oppress people, because I’m God.”
Rick: Who was it, Ram Dass, who had a brother who was in a mental institution, and he went to visit him, and he said to his brother, “The reason you’re in here and I’m out there is that, you know, you think you’re God, and I realize that, but I realize that everybody is.” You know, so he was kind of like caught up in the, you know, “Me, I’m God.”
Ilia: Yeah, no, yeah, the difference between being in and out of prison, that’s a good one. And the thing is, we are God, but God is more than us.
Rick: Yeah, that’s a good one.
Ilia: If we think we are, this is it, like we are God, and that’s it, and so I’m going to use my power to do whatever I want, but God is more than what we are, and yet what we are, and that’s the mystery. That is the mystery, going back to our original question of mystery, that God is always overspilling over our lives, because God is always the infinite fecundity of what life can be.
Rick: Yeah, I like to think of us as sense organs of the infinite, and you know, obviously you are more than your nose, or you’re more than your fingertips, or something. There’s so much more to what you are than what any one of your senses can detect. And in the case of the infinite, you know, there’s so much more than we as a little sense organ can detect, but you know, it’s God within us that actually is the experiencer through each of our sense organs, each of our instruments, sensory instruments. You being one, I being one, everybody else being one.
Ilia: Absolutely. I do love the, is it the Hindu greeting of Namaste? Namaste, yes. Namaste, the God in me recognizes you. The God in you, yeah.
Rick: Okay, continuing on this theme, I think we haven’t completely exhausted it yet, we never will. If God is really, you said earlier, well you said a couple of things earlier, you said that you didn’t think there was a time when matter didn’t exist. I think you phrased it something like that, but then I thought about, well, what about the Big Bang? Wasn’t there a time prior to the Big Bang when matter didn’t exist and then it came into existence? Let’s cover that one before we go on.
Ilia: Well, Rick, if I can answer that, I will win the Nobel Prize. Because that’s the big question, right, for scientists, you know. So science can only take us back so far to the Big Bang. And you know that point where science itself breaks down, the mathematics break down, it’s called the singularity. Beyond that point, science must remain silent because it cannot speak. But it doesn’t mean that there was not something prior to the Big Bang. So there’s a lot of speculations on how we might have emerged out of a previous universe that collapsed, or were part of a cyclic universe, or multi-universe. So I would say, you know, with regard, what I think we’d want to warrant against is like this God, however we conceive of God, didn’t wake up one day and have a meeting and said, I think we need a creation. So I’m really bored. I need something to do. So let’s make this Big Bang universe. We’ll make it slow, you know, give it some time to, you know, cook. And then, you know, I’ll come into it and, you know, do a few things and wrap it up. You know, I just don’t think God is… So I think we’re talking about the mystery of matter. That’s really what we’re… I think, and I’d like to, you know, because I think our God conversations have been too abstract, too divorced from our material world. And it’s landed us in a lot of problems, a lot of difficulties. And really what we’re talking about is the mystery of matter, the mystery of matter energy, the mystery of matter energy mind, you know. And, you know, we trace that back to this, to as far as we can, then our language breaks down and we speak about God creating. And I think, yeah, I do think this mystery of God has always been at work. I don’t think God ever woke up and decided to do something. I don’t think God will retire, you know, and move to Florida. Although God could do that. I think God is creativity itself. And I think, you know, this would be following like Alfred North Whitehead, for example, who would say that God is creativity, and that creativity is eternal. And therefore, Whitehead would see God’s creative activity as eternal activity.
Rick: Although all of nature does go through phases of rest and activity, it seems to be a cycle on every level. And so maybe God himself, and pardon the use of the masculine pronoun, I’ve actually had people criticize my use of that, but, you know, it’s just a little awkward to throw in all the possible pronouns. But anyway, maybe, you know, somebody from Berkeley last criticized him on that. But anyway, couldn’t it be that God, like all of nature, goes through phases of rest and activity?
Ilia: Why not? Yeah, I like that idea, actually. Kind of an oscillating divine activity.
Rick: I mean, even Genesis, right? On the seventh day he rested.
Ilia: I like that. Yeah. Maybe God rests when, you know, at certain periods, not sure when, God is not resting now, so it’s hard to say.
Rick: Now, about matter. If God is really omnipresent, and I could give you some examples for why I think he is, then is there anything other than God? And if there is anything other than God, wouldn’t that mean that God has holes in him, you know, and isn’t omnipresent?
Ilia: I would hold to God’s omnipresence, and God is. There is nothing outside the existence of God. God is existence itself.
Rick: Yeah. So, if we look at our hand, or an apple, or a rock, or anything else, and if we could look at it deeply enough, clearly enough, you know, if human beings are capable of this, we would be seeing God.
Ilia: Yes, exactly. I mean, you know, even the medievalist Bonaventure spoke about everything, everything from a grain of sand to a leaf on a tree, everything expresses God’s life, that godly life, by its power. It’s sheer beingness, it’s sheer goodness, you know, the beauty even of a grain of sand. You know, we don’t think about it because we have learned to look at the material world as inert stuff, you know, it’s just a grain of sand, who cares, you know, when in fact every grain of sand, every leaf has infinite, infinite power of God and infinite beauty of God, just by its sheer beingness.
Rick: Yeah, there’s an example I like to use, there’s a name for this thing, I forget what it is, it starts with an “A,” but I heard that if you take a gram of hydrogen, and if you could make all the atoms in it the size of unpopped popcorn kernels, it would cover, the atoms would, just one gram, the atoms would cover the continental United States nine miles deep.
Rick: And when I think of that, then I think, okay, every single one of those atoms is a perfect little mechanism that’s governed by unchanging laws of nature, and I see God in it. I mean, God is somehow orchestrating that level of detail, and then you can expand it out to the whole universe, and He’s orchestrating that too, and it gives you this sense of just sort of the massively incomprehensible intelligence that we’re swimming in, you know?
Ilia: Yeah, no, I would agree with that. I would say, I think of God as absolute love, because that is what New Testament revelation discloses, God is love. And therefore, I think this, you say orchestrating, I would think of God as absolutely loving the world, every aspect of the world, even my little finger, you know, my eye, my nose, the hair on my head, whatever’s left of it, you know, whatever gray hair is left of my head, every aspect of a tree. And that’s, first of all, love is always particular to being itself, right? Love always likes a particular sense of something, a quality of something, the smell of something, the taste of something, you know? And I think God’s love is so infinite for every single, in every single existent, that there is nothing in this creation that is unlovable or unloved by God.
Rick: I mean, somebody might say, “Oh, all these yucky things happen, and is that really indicative of love?” But, I mean, the way I would translate that is to say, and this gets us into Teilhard, I think, is that there’s a sort of an evolutionary imperative or force or something that the universe is one big giant evolution machine. And it’s, you know, complexifying more and more in order to bring about forms through which the infinite intelligence can express itself more and more fully. And that’s kind of how I would understand what you just said.
Ilia: Yeah, I would agree. Yeah, you know, this question of bad things happening, you know, if this is a God of love, why do bad things happen? That’s always what we call the odyssey question. But love, you know, this is a finite, this is a finite creation, right? It’s a finite reality. Wherever there are boundaries that are governed by law, they’re contingent, right? They’re always dependent on something else. And wherever there’s contingent boundaries, there’s always the possibility of failure. That, you know, something is going to break down. Someone’s going to violate the law. And so there’s always the possibility of suffering. There’s always the possibility of breakdown. And yet what’s so amazing about this universe we live in, 13.8 billion years, 13.8 billion years of evolving, emerging life. If that doesn’t point to something more than just mere breakdown, like I always think, what are we doing here for such a long time? We carbon-based intelligent beings.
Rick: Waiting for Godot, I suppose.
Ilia: You know, able to think about and study the universe that has actually given rise to us. That is such an amazing process. It’s just fascinating. And, you know, all of this to say is, if biological life did not undergo death, we would not be here. Our modern mindset has made death, suffering and death, the opposite of life. When in fact I think, you know, ancient cultures knew better that death is part, I mean, suffering and death are part of the life cycle. If I think of, for example, in scripture, you know, even Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son, which seems like such a radical thing. But who would give, you know, so sacrifice and suffering were part of worship. They were part, now for our modern mindset, that just seems terrible. Like why would you ever do such a thing? But for the ancient, so the ancient mind had a much greater sense of cosmos, of the whole. So our questions, in part, are because we don’t have a sense of being part of a whole. We don’t have a sense where, you know, what we are part of is more than our particular individual cells. And this wholeness of which, you know, the absolute whole of whole that we name is God, means that life will undergo suffering. You know, things will die, but new things are being born. And, you know, that’s the beauty of life. For everything that dies, those nutrients and those substances are taken up into new forms of life. Even our lives, I think, even maybe what we might call resurrected life, you know, as we pray ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Where does your dust go? And, you know, the Christian says, well, you know, we’re going back to God. And I’m like, well, I think you’re going to go back to a God who is always at work in this cosmic life. And so we, you know, I’m not, I don’t hold to incarnation per se, but, you know, there’s something about our lives will contribute. You know, even in the future to the overall, you know, fecundity of life.
Rick: Yeah, in a few weeks or maybe a month, I’m going to interview a guy named Dr. Jim Tucker, who worked with Dr. Ian Stevenson at the University of Virginia and carried on his work after Stevenson died. But in any case, their study has been with children, now thousands of them, who remember past lives. And they go and they, you know, interview the child, take the child to the town where he said he lived, and he identifies all these people, or the kid remembers the name of the battleship that he took off from when he was a fighter pilot in World War II, all kinds of details like that. So I have no problem whatsoever with reincarnation. It makes sense to me. And just as a, in the context of evolution being quite a vast spectrum of possibilities for each individual soul, you know, which is very unlikely to be accomplished fully in one individual lifetime. So you pick up where you left off, and it’s like changing, changing clothes, you know, putting on a new suit and carrying on, you know.
Ilia: I do hold to the particularity of personhood. In other words, there will never be another Rick Archer, you know, ever in all eternity. And there’s something about the particularity of personality that I think is our eternal contribution to the overall future of life in God, which I hold to be what I would call a cosmotheandric life, that God and cosmos and what we become will be entangled, you know, forever, which is what we call the body of Christ, you know, in our more traditional language. But the particularity of personhood, I think is, I think it’s really important. I think every leaf will never be repeated, no grain of sand will be repeated, no person will be repeated.
Rick: Oh, I agree. Yeah, and I mean, I’m a lot different now than I was when I was 10, in many respects. I’m certainly the same in many respects, but very different. And, you know, if I have a next life, let’s say, or when I do, the essential stuff, I think, carries on. You know, I might be a female, I might have different intellectual capacities or interests or whatever, but somehow or other, the evolutionary progress that I have made in this life, the circumstances of that next life will be designed so as to further that progress based upon what has been accomplished so far.
Ilia: That could be, but that’s, I mean, that’s kind of an interesting line of thinking, but what if…
Rick: I didn’t originate that line of thinking.
Ilia: I know. But what if quantum entanglement is really the root reality of our lives?
Rick: Explain that.
Ilia: So entanglement means that once particles have interacted, they are forever interacting, even if they’re separated at vast distances from one another. So, we take two particles here, and then I split them apart and I place one particle, you know, half on this desk in DC and another particle on Jupiter, you know, the planet Jupiter, and I turn this particle 180 degrees up, the particle on Jupiter will turn 180 degrees down.
Rick: At the speed of…not even at the speed of light, instantaneously.
Ilia: Right. It’s non-local action at a distance.
Ilia: It’s spooky. I like Einstein’s reaction at a distance because it’s really weird, right? Now, what if our consciousness is working this way? What if we are actually living? What if not entanglement, if we take that one degree further, and this is pure speculation, what if we’re already living different lives, you know? What makes us think that this life now, you know, we’ll go and then we’ll live somewhere else at a different time? What if we’re already living in multiple realms?
Rick: That’s a good “what if,” and I’ve heard people say that. They say that this linearity of time is just a human construct and that in fact, however many lives we may have, we’re actually living them all simultaneously.
Rick: It’s a little mind-boggling.
Ilia: It is mind-boggling, but it could explain in part the different personalities that we assume in our lifetimes. We’re an athlete this day, and then we’re a scholar this day, and we might be more meditative one day, and then one day we’re more of a politician. And are they all just levels of consciousness within our individual being, or are they in a sense different personalities that are being enacted in many different ways?
Rick: Yeah, that’s a good question. And you know, I mean, I think neither of us is propounding these ideas as dogmas that you have to believe in or something bad’s going to happen to you. We’re just playing with possibilities here.
Ilia: It’s pure speculation at this point.
Rick: Yeah, which is fine.
Ilia: Yeah, I do think quantum physics, I think quantum computing, and I do think the world of AI is beginning to open up some of these more speculative realms of thinking. Really, I do think for the sake of the planet, we have to get out of linear thinking, you know? It’s just been very helpful.
Rick: Oh boy, well that opens up some new tidbits for us to explore, but before we do that, here’s a question that came in. I’ll ask this before we proceed. This is from Sonia Rash in Amsterdam. She asks, I presume she’s addressing you, “You have a certainty in your voice and your beliefs that is lovely. Awakening brings you to an edge in your beliefs and makes you doubt your certainty to break you in order to be reborn. Can you express your experience with that?”
Ilia: Yes, I like that, and I do think, thank you for that. It does come from a deep experience of holy mystery of God at the heart of my own life. I think I have broken through, if I could use that Eckhartian notion of breakthrough, to a sense of freedom to even speculate about God beyond our traditional notions, and to be at home in that. To know that God actually delights, by the way, in our playing in the universe, our thinking in different ways. I think God is trying to say, “Please do not be so boring.”
Rick: Yeah, He’s the one who’s playing through us, so of course He likes it.
Ilia: She, She too.
Rick: She, yeah. He, She, It, Them.
Ilia: So, I guess I do have a sense of certainty because I know that this God is much more than we have reduced God to. And I think sometimes we’ve kind of imprisoned God into our own little thought systems and little ideas on God. And God’s trying to break through from these chains and to be at home in the freedom of our able to speculate, to dream, to imagine. That’s where God actually lives, in those realms.
Rick: Yeah. It’s an interesting question, certainty versus dogmatism, versus doubt and so on. I mean, I remember the story of Einstein when Sir Arthur Eddington observed the bending of starlight and proved one of his theories of relativity, I forget which one you would know. And some reporter said to Einstein, “What would you have done if the theory had been disproven?” And Einstein said, “I should have been sorry for the dear Lord, the theory is correct.”
Ilia: Yeah, good one. Well, you know, I always take even scientific laws, I take them for what they’re worth and they do tell us a lot and govern a lot, but those laws will change. Like, even Einstein, right? I mean, sure. I mean, coming out of the Newtonian universe was no small feat. And I think he didn’t set out to overturn Newton’s paradigm, it’s just that he was a brilliant little guy, you know, who had a whole set of formulas that could really help us think anew. And so that’s fantastic about science, like the paradigms can change. This is something about religion we have yet to really embrace, right? We get stuck in religious paradigms where like, “Oh no, and God said,” you know? It’s like, yeah, but God didn’t say like, “You must hold on to this forever and ever and ever and ever.” It’s like, this is just, hey, this is a working paradigm, folks. You know, this is helping us to think about the depth dimension of our lives, about the breadth. And as the more as we know from science, the more that paradigm of the religious depth dimension should be able to change as well, which is why I don’t hold on too fast to dogmatism. Because you can fall into what Whitehead called the fallacy of misplaced concreteness, which a lot of people fall into, like, “This is it.” You know, “God said this.” Well, at least.
Rick: Yeah, who said God said? Yeah, I mean, that gets us into the science-religion relationship, which has been kind of contentious in recent centuries. And I don’t think it needs to be. In fact, I think the two really need each other. I think science needs religion because religion, or perhaps we could say spirituality or even mysticism, offers tools for exploration that science doesn’t have. And, you know, there are definitely realities that mystics have experienced and discovered that scientists don’t even know exist. And they should know if they want to have the whole picture of what the universe is. And then, conversely, spirituality or religion in particular has, like you were just saying, gotten really hung up on dogma, and could really use more of a scientific attitude if it really wants to serve the interest of knowing the truth of things. I’ve seen spiritual people get hung up on all kinds of kooky ideas because they just lack critical thinking skills.
Ilia: Right. No, absolutely. And here I do follow Teilhard de Chardin, who said, “Science and religion are two forms of the one conjugate or act of knowing.” So I think of science and religion as two lenses of a pair of glasses. If I only have one lens, I’m not going to see the world with unified clarity. I’m going to have partial, you know, myopic vision and it’ll be blurry. It’ll be out of sync. And therefore, I think science and religion are just two ways of knowing the one world. And we only know science or religion, we only really know part of the world. We don’t have the full picture. And they do need one another. And it’s beyond dialogue. They really need to mutually complement one another. I mean, and as you said so well, I think religion, I take religion not as institution or dogmatism. I like to think of religion in the root meaning of tethering, like linked. What are we bound to? And that’s how I think of religion as the tethering of our lives. What, you know, and I think of spirituality as the energy that tethers us. So that’s how I see religion and spirituality. We’re oriented towards something. Religion says this is what I’m oriented toward. Spirituality says this is what I’m…you know, which this is the energy that will move me toward there. But science itself, you’re right, more and more, it’s running up against this wall of mystery. And it says we can’t exactly reduce everything to how we’d like to reduce it so we can claim it and name it and measure it. You know, and tell you what it is. And it says every, I have often thought of science, scientific research as a form of spirituality itself. Yeah. I think the most honest scientists would admit to that, like they’re pursuing a knowledge that is grip. It pulls them in. And then as you study something, even like a single protein, for example, or a gene, the more you study it, the more there is to know. You never really fully arrive at any final conclusive data. And so Teilhard himself spoke of science, science as dark adoration, the act of adoring God in the worship. And he spoke of worship of holy matter. Now, normally we’re like, what? This is crazy. You know, but that’s what he’s saying at the heart of matter, at the heart of research of matter is holy mystery. And if we could begin to develop these two disciplines with something of this understanding, we might have a very different world.
Rick: You mentioned proteins. I happen to have a quote here. I forget where I got this, but here it is. There are 20 elements in amino acids that combine in certain sequences to form the 700,000 kinds of proteins in our body. To make just one of these proteins, collagen, you need to arrange 1055 amino acids in precisely the right sequence. If this had to happen by chance, it would be like a Las Vegas slot machine with 1055 spinning wheels, each with 20 symbols. And you had to get the same symbol on all the wheels to win the jackpot. The odds of achieving this through chance are far greater than the number of atoms in the universe, and that’s just one of 700,000 proteins.
Ilia: Absolutely. Jacques Monod, the French biologist, thought it was all chance, and he was definitely challenged on that, precisely for this reason. The odds of all these proteins, and proteins are, again, amino acids, and then amino acids, the more and more we drill down into these things, the more we’re, you know, you take the atom, the atom, the electron, then you have leptons and quarks and hadrons and bosons, and it’s endless. And so it’s absolute mind-boggling. How did all this stuff come together to form a protein, a substance called collagen, something that binds, you know? I mean, I had a colleague that worked for 35 years on one channel of a protein that governed calcium regulation in muscle. Now imagine spending your entire life, but that’s, you know, that’s science, and yet it’s always against the wall of mystery. And that’s what, you know, it says there’s something here that escapes the measurement of scientists, the tool of scientists, and that’s where religion comes in. So religion is that depth dimension, and science is that measurement of attraction, of what pulls things together, you know? How are they forming? How are they forming? What are they? And so these two vectors, you might say, are both necessary for the fulfillment of life.
Rick: Good point. I’m glad you mentioned the word “fulfillment of life,” because that’s what I was just thinking, based on your friend who worked 35 years on that one very specific thing. You know, in one of your talks I heard you mention the necessity of complexification of knowledge in order to advance knowledge, because there’s so much to know and you can’t specialize in everything. You have to zoom, you have to narrow down more and more and more. But the fragmentation that results from it, I mean, if everybody’s off, it’s like, imagine a wheel with a hub at the center and all these spokes. Everybody’s off at the end of a different spoke. You know, they can’t quite communicate with each other, they don’t know the totality of knowledge, they’re just off on this little tiny thing. Now imagine you could sort of be established at the hub of the wheel and then explore a spoke if you wanted to. Then you’d kind of have the fulfillment, stretching the analogy, but imagine the hub is sort of an ocean of fulfillment or pure knowledge or something like that. You’d have that, and then you can play around and explore the details of some particular area according to your proclivities. I think that’s really one way in which spirituality can aid science. It can provide that hub quality of utter fulfillment to these specialists.
Ilia: Right, that’s a really good point, and it’s an important point. I think we’re beginning to realize today in higher education, truthfully, our educational systems are sort of, in some ways, they’re at the heart of our problems because we have developed, the university system is kind of a Newtonian clockwork, you know. You major in science and then you major in biology and then you major in cell biology and then you major in, you know, the nucleus of a cell and then you keep drilling down, down, down, down, down. And so by the time you have finished your degree and you’re a specialist in this area, you can talk to about four people, right? Two will read your book. So we’re beginning to realize today, and this comes really, I think, here, I think the new materialisms, you know, the philosophy of new materialism, post-humanism, that term post-humanism, points to the fact that we need to change the way we know what we know. And rather then having these discrete specializations, I think certainly at a more fundamental level, we need to learn across disciplines. We need exactly what you said. How do we learn from the place of spirituality? You know, how do we do science from the place of, imagine science, you know, a biology class with a level of, say, mystical science, silence in it, or perhaps just kind of meditation on, you know, what you’re about to study. They’d be like, what? That’s so crazy. Scientists say that’s so bizarre, right? But we have to begin to teach in a different way. We have to begin to learn across various disciplines. We have to learn from both the heart and the mind. I think that’s maybe a way of saying we need to reconnect these heart and mind if we are to really form the whole person in a whole world. You know, a person who is part of a material and ongoing material matrix of constructing realities and a knower who can participate in what these realities become.
Rick: Yeah. Let me rephrase that and see if we’re on the same page. So we were speaking earlier of God as being the sort of the full potential from which the creation has arisen, like the kind of home of all intelligence and energy and creativity and laws of nature and orderliness and all that stuff, the repository, field of all possibilities, whatever terminology you want to use. And we’ve spoken of our sort of ultimate oneness with that. That’s what we are in our deepest essence. Okay. So if we could realize that experientially, we’re still going to have to specialize. If we want to know about this or that teeny tiny little specific area of, you know, the kind of thing you were mentioning, cell biology or something, we’re not going to be able to do that and develop jet planes and be a brain surgeon and, you know, all the other things. We have to specialize. But if we could both do both at the same time, specialize and then capture the wholeness that exists actually closer than our own breath, then we could live a very fulfilled life and we could also serve a particular dharma, you could call it, in the world, advancing knowledge in a particular area.
Ilia: Yes, I think, yeah, I mean, I like that, Rick. You know, this is what I think. I think this realm of cosmic potentiality that we name as God, this realm of divine ideas, this God is constant. This is God is active and alive now. So I always think of God as guarding the world, as guarding materiality. God is engaging, creatively luring us to new possibilities. But we have the freedom to think and to choose. And so even studying science, it’s not so much what we develop, it’s why are we developing these things.
Rick: That’s a good point. You know, it’s a question of our choices. And I think this is where spirituality can play a fundamental role. In other words, if our hearts are grounded in holy mystery, then we begin to choose, you know, in a way that’s consonant with the fecundity of life, with an aim of the allness of God. So we’re not just choosing to create, say, robots, because we just want little helpers. We don’t want to drive anymore. Or we want someone to vacuum our houses, we’ll have a robot, you know. But we create these things because there’s something about this creation that can actually release, you might say, us to be more fully God, fully God-like in our actions. We can be maybe a Roomba robot, you know, vacuuming my house can give me time to be aware that the poor, you know, the poor in our neighborhood, maybe the need to share what I have in a deeper way. I think right now our hyper-specialized disciplines consume all our time and energy. We’re so focused on getting ahead, on achievement, on success, on being number one. You know, everything is you need to be, you know, the winner. So we have a lot of, we have a mentality of winning. And therefore, if you’re a loser, you know, or you’re just mediocre, there’s, you know, really no, seems to be not much place for you in this world. When that’s so outside the reality of our God reality is that every person, you know, every person, God is God, loving into the fullness of being. Every person has something to offer to what we become as a planet, as an Earth community. And so I think we need to slow down our educational processes. You rush people through college and we push them on to become, you know, like one student said to me, I have to go to law school or I’ll kill myself. I was like, seriously? Enjoy life, you know, and this is we feel compelled, you know, we feel compelled to achieve when learning is about loving. I mean, really, the classic notion of learning is that we can love more deeply. Right. When we can understand understanding, knowing is, you might say, the breath of love. Right. We learn to see things more deeply. We learn to understand them in a way that their beauty shines out, their power, their magnificence. Creativity itself is a form of loving. So we don’t see knowledge as I think the height of knowledge. It should be love. I don’t think it’s the power of knowledge. The power of knowledge is sort of a dead end. You know, then it’s a win lose thing. It’s like I’m smarter than you are. You know, I have more degrees than you do. And it’s all the competition and this world of constantly eking out, you know, who’s lesser than. And I think this is the most unhelpful dynamic we can have. So our educational systems need to change, I think, towards a more post, when I say post-human, complexifying the disciplines, learn spirituality and science, learn, you know, learn, learn meditation and English, you know, history, learn these things in a way that we’re really prepared to be creative in the world towards the fecundity of life.
Rick: Yeah, I mean, if that had been the case, let’s say, over the last century, and if scientists also were enlightened or God realized or whatever term we want to use, would we have developed the atomic bomb? Would we have developed technologies which have totally trashed the environment? You know, I may be naive and optimistic, but I feel that if scientists and people in general were enlightened or in higher states of consciousness, that the entire world would be utterly different. Because the, I mean, what we see in the world is just an expression of our ambient collective consciousness, you know, that’s created by all the individuals contributing to it. And if all those, if most, like a forest is either withered and gray or green, depending upon the health of each individual tree. And if individuals in general were at a higher level of consciousness, we’d still have technologies and all kinds of modes of travel and all these energy technologies, all sorts of things, computers, but their expressions would be benign, would be beneficial and not such a mixed blessing.
Ilia: Correct, that’s exactly right. And I like what you said, I mean, the world, the collective world is us. I mean, we are the world in its unfolding. And I think so many times we talk about the enemy and he is us to quote Perry. Yeah, right. We talk about the world as if it is an object outside us, like it’s the container that we exist in. And I’m saying, no, we are the world. Our thoughts, our action, what motivates us, we are what the world becomes. And I think if we lived in this unfolding of space time matter, you know, with a consciousness of world becoming, with a depth reality that God or holy mystery or absolute love is at the heart of our lives, not only, you know, not only it’s luring us into a betterment, but into the fullness of life. We’re created, I do believe we’re created for the fullness of life. We have the capacity for a new unified planet. I really do think that capacity is here. But we have developed such an unhealthy mindset, you know, and now I think we’re just stuck in this mire of consumerism and money competition, business growth, you know, and it’s all about GDPs and, you know, growth, growth, growth and making more and more money and wealth, wealth, wealth.
Rick: Because of the state of mind most people are in, because of the education that they received, because there’s very little appreciation of this deeper value we’ve been alluding to.
Ilia: Right, you know, and I think if, I mean, one thing, the pandemic should have at least caused just a slight pause, you know, in our mindless pursuit of these things to say, you know, maybe the greatest wealth is health. You know, the gift of our lives, the gift that we can wake up and have two eyes and ears and, you know, senses to experience life. And so, you know, I do think, and this is where I think the mystics, you know, can teach us that it’s in the simplicity of life that the fullness of life is truly experienced. We have so much stuff that blocks, you know, blocks us from really entering into what life is truly about. And sometimes it can be as simple as standing outside in the beauty of the day and just breathing in, you know, the air and be thankful for it, you know, because, you know, COVID-19 really took that away from a lot of people. And so, we are, I think we’re at a pivotal point in history, you know, we’re undergoing a major, massive paradigm shift. And it has to do fundamentally with the way science and religion will either find a new resolution among themselves, or, you know, if they remain at odds, we are left in the gap to be filled by consumerism, competition, and, you know, unbridled progress, which is very unhealthy. So, we don’t have a sustainable future unless we really make every effort to really renew the depth dimension of our lives, the God dimension, the holy mystery dimension, to slow down and to say when enough is enough, you know?
Rick: I totally agree with you. I mean, do you think that, let’s say that it goes well and science and religion do wake up to their full potential and their mutual cooperation and all that. Do you think a time will come, 100 years, 200 years, where we’ll look back and it would seem very odd that we once distinguished them, that really there’s just the acquisition of knowledge and there happen to be several components to it, you know, but it’s both subjective and objective and you can’t really have one without the other.
Ilia: Yeah, that’s an interesting question, actually. You know, Teilhard, I think, kind of speculated in that direction. And I think in some ways, if we read his text closely, he might have been pointing that direction because he did think that we would move beyond what we are. He posited the term “ultrahuman,” that we’re going to be moving, you know, beyond homo- sapien to kind of what he called a “christosapien” or a “homo-progressivist.” That’s the term he used, a progressive human. But I think he meant we need to become something more than we are. And I think that moreness of becoming something new is perhaps a new complexity between science and religion. We’re not saying that science becomes religion or religion becomes science. We are saying that they each offer from the richness of their insights and their knowledge to a new fertilization of knowing the world and knowing what we are becoming in this world. And so, yeah, I think we could maybe, I would like to, my optimistic self said, “Yes, I would like to anticipate that maybe in a hundred years’ time, we could look towards a new type of science.” We might have a new name for it.
Rick: Yeah. I don’t know, “theoscience” or, I don’t know, “religioscience” or something like that. You know, it’ll be a new discipline that you’ll have to get a degree in and then you’ll have to… I look back and say, “Gee, you know, what a shame. You know, we went through that dark period.” And I think people will look at certainly the 20th century as a very dark period in the history of homo sapiens, you know, within recent times. Yeah.
Rick: I actually do have a degree in something called the Science of Creative Intelligence, a master’s degree. And the basic premise of it is that everything we’ve been talking about in terms of God and intelligence and permeating the universe and all that, but that it actually can be explored systematically, empirically, methodically, and that it’s not just a matter of faith or chance or, you know, whatever.
Ilia: I like that. Yeah. A question came in. This is from Elizabeth in Bergen, Norway. “I see the body and the world inside of me instead of me inside the body and the world. My experience is seen as wonderful because I feel totally safe in God’s hands and freedom/love is visible to me as this body person.” And that’s very nice. Can you comment?
Ilia: Well, first of all, I want to say that’s a beautiful insight. And what was her name? Elizabeth. Elizabeth. Elizabeth has, I think, reached a depth of consciousness that I would like to see more, you know, more pervasive. So this is someone who, you know, Elizabeth has definitely, in other words, contemplation is not just contemplation of the world. That world has spoken, that world has entered into. That’s the highest level of intermediate consciousness. Where matter begins, you know, conscious matter is knowing me. It’s, and I do think, you know, this kind of mystical union where the world and I, or like Rainier Maria Wilke’s notion of inner Weltraum, you know, the outer world within. The birds fly within me, trees grow within me, and therefore there is no separation or division between my particular existence and what we are called the world or the body of the world, for that body of the world is my body. That is truly a heightened level of integrated consciousness and awareness of being itself. So kudos to Elizabeth.
Rick: I should probably have her on Buddha at the gas pump.
Rick: Okay, let’s do an abrupt gear shift here. Let’s talk a little bit about cyborgs. I mean, obviously there’s some really great things being developed in terms of like artificial limbs for people who have lost limbs and things like that. Even, you know, possibilities for seeing if you can’t see. There was that recent movie, The Sound of Metal, where the guy was able to be fixed with something that enabled him to hear and so on, although he decided not to use it in the end. But then again, there are people like Ray Kurzweil and others who take it a big step further and kind of want us to upload our mind to the cloud and achieve some kind of immortality that way. I kind of feel like there’s certain fundamental misunderstandings basic to his endeavor that we are immortal and we don’t need to try to make the body immortal or make the soul immortal because it already is. And kind of meddling with all these contraptions and planting things in us could actually be very problematic. What do you think about that?
Ilia: Yeah. Well, let’s take it in two parts. I think the notion of cyborg, which really emerged in the 60s with space travel, it means it’s an acronym for cybernetic organism. And I think just the emergence of the cyborg, the fact that we could strap instruments to a human being and send them into space and they could function, you know, was a remarkable achievement in terms of science. But also, it was the first time we began to realize, wow, maybe the biological human person is more malleable or plastic than we thought. So, you know, for centuries we have really worked with Aristotle’s notion of biology, you know, kind of form and matter or form and substance. And we fell into this trap of biological essentialism that, you know, God created us as we are, you know, male and female and nothing changes. Well, the cyborg says, guess what, folks, things do change. And so what the cyborg symoolizes, and so that’s the first thing I’d like to maybe just highlight, it’s a symbol of what we might call the plasticity of being human. Plasticity meaning our boundaries can be altered. So, biomedically, this has been extremely valuable, as you indicated, right, people who are blind or with color blindness or deaf, you know, we can strap a device to them that enhances that capacity to see again or to see colors. So what the cyborg just really says is that boundaries are local. They’re just temporary, that, you know, these boundaries can change. The boundary of what defines me as a human person can be altered by a device. Now, does it change me as a person? You know, it can change maybe the way I function, but does it change me essentially? You know, am I still Ilia Delio if I strap a machine to me? And, you know, that’s where I think the question of human identity is certainly brought into a new light by the cyborg. What it’s saying is that, and I put it this way, we have the capacity to become something new. That’s what I think the cyborg symoolizes for us. We are not fixed. We are not just essential beings. We are not constrained or defined by what we are. We can become something other. That’s just symbolically saying that. Now, Kurzweil and the transhumanists or some forms of radical transhumanism, which basically says technology can enhance us. It can get us out of these kind of fixities of biological essentialism, you know, and we can become something more. We can become smarter. We can live forever. We can maybe never age, you know, and maybe these are alluring. Personally, I certainly don’t want to live on forever, you know, like this. I mean, I hope I can become something new. But the problem, and I think you point to this a little bit. I think transhumanism does not, as you indicate, Rick, give enough credence to our own inherent, the divine dimension, shall we say, of materiality. That we don’t have to become God by, you know, loading our brains into a chip. That we have that God capacity in us, and I think …
Rick: Kurzweil and others probably never even ponder that, it seems to me. Maybe they do, but it doesn’t seem to come out in their public statements.
Ilia: I think he’s a good guy. He’s Jewish by background, and interestingly enough, these ideas on transhumanism, that we can download our brains and live in another medium, because biology was never our destiny, you know, that we’re destined for something immortal, and, you know, technology can bring us there. These are actually rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition. The principles of immortality and salvation are deeply, you know, rooted in the Christian tradition, which means, and now all the transhumanists are saying is, we don’t need a God to save us, we are that God. So we can download our brain, and, you know, we can upload our minds, we can create, you know, new avatars, and we can become immortal beings. We can reverse the death barrier, which is a lot of research right now on turning back the time, you know, cellular aging. And the thing is, I think it misses out on the depth of biological life, that the livingness of organic life is precisely the cycles of life, death, and new life. That is the cycle. And so I think technology can be a great help. It certainly brought us through the pandemic, you know, thanks to Zoom and all these other, you know—
Rick: This very conversation we’re having is—
Ilia: It can be a great aid to what we can become, but it can’t supplant us. I don’t think—you know, I think a lot of sci-fi movies like Ex Machina or A.I., you know, these movies are grappling with the limits of humanity and, you know, how much do we want to change ourselves? How much do we really want to alter our DNA, you know, thanks to CRISPR now and gene editing? Great for biomedical purposes, right? If you have a rare disease or you have a life-threatening disease, we can fix the gene that causes that. Wonderful. But if you just don’t like the way you look or your personality, you know, you just don’t like who you are and you want to alter that genetically, that’s problematic.
Rick: Yeah, I mean, look at what a mixed blessing all the technologies we’ve had throughout our lifetimes have been. Primarily, we could say, because there’s sort of an inevitable short-sightedness, you know, when we develop a technology. We just don’t grok all the ramifications of it. And so we think we’re doing something good, but then all these unexpected side effects happen. And, you know, we live in a rather messed-up world because of that. And so I’m just really kind of skeptical of how well these technologies would turn out, because there will be all kinds of unforeseen consequences, you know.
Ilia: For sure. I mean, we need to put it in the context, which I tried to do in my book, “Re-Enchanting the Earth.” The fact is, nature has always been techne. Nature, I mean, beavers make dams.
Rick: Yeah, sure. They’ve always found, you know, very practical ways to extend their lives, to enhance their lives, to optimize their function. So that’s what nature has always done since, you know, life, you know, since certainly life on Earth and maybe even before then. So we are techne by nature. But I think this, I think computer technology and artificial technology really came upon us. I mean, we just woke up to this in the late 20th century, like, “Oh, my God, I have a phone that I can, you know, I can send a message through it, you know, or I can see someone on it.” And this was like eureka. It was like, “Wow, look at this.” But that technology was not just a sudden miracle of life. I mean, it was in the making all along. We went from sending smoke signals to, you know, Alexander Graham Bell to the phone on the wall, you know, the rotary phone to a push button phone to, you know, people said, “Oh, you could carry a phone in your hand.” And like, that’s crazy. So the question is what has been driving this? That’s the question.
Rick: Yeah. Why are we driven and so allured by technologies? And I think there’s two things. One, I think certainly computer technology, which was a threshold that, I mean, I think Alan Turing’s imitation test and, you know, from the 1950s on, we crossed a threshold with regard to technology. It’s not just the mechanical help to us. Now it’s doing something for us, beyond us. And I think technology is, I would put it in this way, it’s extending what we are into the possibilities of what we can become in a way that is rapid. This development is evolving exponentially and it’s almost breathless. We have not sufficiently thought about what we want with our technologies and where we’re going with them. And so even big tech companies are having, you know, the need to discern what are we doing here? What are we creating these for? And I think technology will continue to develop. We will develop with technology beyond our species. That is not a question. That’s almost where we are right now. So we will become techno sapien in some way, but it doesn’t mean to the neglect or the disappearance of what gives us breath and depth to our lives. It can enhance our lives. But now we’re at a crossroads where this is where I do think technology needs spirituality or religion or some type of ethical guidance as to where we’ll be going. Because we can either, you know, we can evolve with technology to the point where we exterminate ourselves. You know, we become a past species of history, something radically different. Or we can use technology and enfold it into our lives that we become maybe a better type of human. Maybe a human that can connect and be more aware. I would love, for example, a technology that enhances compassion. A technology, maybe if I had a chip, if I had a chip selection on Amazon, I could select those chips for peace, nonviolence, compassion, a sense of sharing. You know, a sense of the well-beingness of life. You know, imagine if we had technology that can actually enhance those things. Awareness of the poor. I mean, we have to eradicate the economic gaps that we have.
Rick: We do, but I don’t know, that’s a tricky question. It’s like, there is a technology which will enhance compassion. I think it’s called MDMR or ecstasy. You take some of that and all of a sudden you have all this love and everything like that.
Ilia: That’s short-lived.
Rick: Yeah, it is. That’s the key. That’s the point. And the fact that we can have that experience by taking a pill shows that we actually have the neurophysiological wherewithal to develop that experience without the pill and to have it be abiding rather than short-lived. And so I just kind of get leery when I hear about chips that might do this or drugs that might do this and so on and so forth. I think there’s certain things that chips and drugs can do that are great. Like you were saying, you could cure sickle cell anemia or something with the right kind of genetic engineering, CRISPR technology. But there are other things which we might want to just resort to God’s wisdom, to the wisdom of nature, and learn to utilize the full, as you were saying earlier, the full potential that already exists within us. And the human nervous system, without technological aids, has the ability to do that.
Ilia: Right. I fully agree with you. In fact, I think maybe another way of saying what you’re saying, what I would say is that spirituality is itself a type of technology.
Rick: It is, yeah. It’s more like a technology of consciousness or a subjective technology.
Ilia: You’re harnessing the energies of what you are as a person to an aim, to the form of life, to well-being, to be able to reach higher states of consciousness. So, yeah, I do think that we have, I would agree with you, we have all that we need within us to really achieve a new type of personhood, to really evolve into a new species. But there’s something about us that prevents, you know, there’s something about us that stifles that as well. Because you would need to reach a collective threshold of spiritual transformation. And that’s where I think, you know, harnessing enough people around the globe, however many we are now, 6.9 billion or 7 billion, you know, into a spiritual awakening, that would be really, really rather incredible. Now, can technology help us achieve that? And in some ways, it can.
Rick: It is.
Ilia: For example, exactly, right? Because our consciousness, for example, has evolved tremendously, I could say exponentially, since the late 20th century. I grew up in New Jersey, where I didn’t even know there were other religions. I mean, I thought everyone was an Italian-American Catholic in New Jersey. My world was very small, you know. And I was amazed to find out, first of all, that there was a place called California, beyond New Jersey. You know, then there were Protestants. Oh, no, Protestants. And then there were Hindus and Buddhists. Oh, my God, it just seemed so outrageous. You know, my whole little world of New Jersey was a little bit shattered. But then as I grew into the rich diversity of religions, which technology does for us, right? I can go on my social media sites. I can go on Yahoo. I can, you know, the news itself is a global phenomenon. So we have a consciousness of belonging to a globe in a way we’ve never had in the whole history of the universe. And that is what technology has afforded us. Now, the question is, how do we bring the technology of spirituality, you know, into there? How do we combine these things in a way that we can become the best of what we have capacity to become, you know, without losing that or sacrificing it to a chip?
Rick: Yeah, that’s an important question. And I think it’s happening. I don’t know whether it’s happening fast enough or whatever, but from my perspective, doing this show and interviewing all these hundreds of people, it seems to me there’s some kind of a spiritual renaissance taking place. And people like Elizabeth in Norway having these profound spiritual awakenings that famous mystics had and so on. That’s becoming commonplace relatively. And, you know, the old phase transition idea that, well, there’s so many examples of it in physics, but boiling water is a perfect example where you get water to 99 degrees centigrade and it looks like water, but one more degree and boom, it’s boiling. So there could be kind of a phase transition in collective consciousness where something is building up and we’re not aware of how close it is to a real breakthrough where very rapid and profound change takes place.
Ilia: Yeah, I would agree with that, Rick. I do think in many, many different groups that I’ve spoken with and just being around the world, you know, I do think there is something profound taking place, a deep, profound spiritual transformation is taking place. And in some ways it will be post-institutional, you know, where it’s we’re moving into a different, a new type of collective consciousness that is, I think, going to give rise to a new type of beingness, a new type of human, if we want to use ultra human, if I can use Teilhard’s term, a hyper personalization where we know ourselves to belong to something more than ourselves, you know. And therefore, for all the difficulties of our time, I do have a faith in the future of our collective existence.
Rick: Yeah, I do too. I would say it’s not like a sort of rock solid faith, but it’s an optimism.
Ilia: An optimism, a trust. A pretty enthusiastic optimism. I feel like something really good is happening despite superficial appearances. I would agree. Yes, I would agree too. I think the news, unfortunately, sometimes we kind of filter out anything good and we just tend to focus on, you know, what draws people in, which is basically violence, gun violence, and destruction and more violence. And so we’re kind of, for some reason, we’re lured by violence. And yet I think that’s because we have an unreconciled dark side to us, you know, within us. Maybe that violent portion within us needs to be reconciled. But there’s something also that because there’s a lot of good people and there’s a lot of good being done in this world in very quiet ways, you know, very silent ways. And, you know, sometimes they’re not just major newsmakers, you know. It can be the person who just every day just, you know, gets the newspaper for her neighbor because they’re elderly and can’t walk, you know, or, you know, it’s just the small things of life done in goodness and love that really, that, you know, raises that love to a new level in the world. And I think it’s taking place. And I see young people, you know, young people, I actually have my students are about my hope because they have a deep concern for this world, for ecological sustainability, for, you know, for leveling out the disparate levels of rich and poor, for, you know, for greening the earth, for gender inclusiveness, you know, young people want a collective goodness. You know, they want an earth where they belong.
Rick: That’s great. I was I heard you were writing a book called Christianity as a Planetary Religion.
Ilia: Did you finish that book? No, but that’s a great title. But you were working on a book of
Ilia: I’m always working on something. No. Well, I so I have been writing short things, blogs, for example, on my website on Teilhard’s idea of a new religion of the earth, his words, that we we must move beyond the kind of the confines and what has kept us bound and held back, you know, sometimes institutional religions. And certainly from a Christian perspective, which Christianity being incarnational, like God mattering, really, if I were to put it in contemporary terms, a new religion of the earth. And therefore, I do think Christianity, if it could remake itself, you know, if it could really find a whole new zest and energy around this core doctrine of God mattering, you know, God becoming flesh and matter mattering to, you know, to absolute mystery, could be a planetary religion. And but it would take a whole reordering of things.
Rick: But yeah, I so by planetary, you don’t mean it’s supposed to dominate the planet and usurp other religions. You mean more kind of an earth centric or ecocentric religion?
Ilia: Yeah. Yeah. We can’t we can’t think while the wisdom traditions of the past, the you know, the religions of the past are great wisdom traditions. And we want to keep those traditions that that wisdom from the past. But at the same time, I think we need to begin to create something new for the future. And in some ways, you know, these religions of the past have remained a bit tribal. You know, this is my faith. It’s not yours. You know, I go to this church, you go to that temple. I’m at this mosque, you know. And so it’s it’s good, but not good. And I think we maybe we can keep those. And at the same time, we need to create a new type of religious sensibility, which would be post-institutional. And it might take on different forms of ritual, different ways of gathering as community, different mythic symbols. You know, religion itself is an emergent it’s an emergent aspect of biological life. If we follow from the pre-axial period into the axial into the post-axial periods, you know, so we’re still in evolution. We haven’t stopped. We’re evolving. And so will religion.
Rick: And most of the people I talk to I’d say, have the attitude that they respect all the different religious and spiritual traditions. And they I don’t think I’m just speaking generally, but I don’t think they think that there, you know, is a Christian god and a Hindu god and a Muslim god and all that stuff. There’s God. And these different religions have been founded by mystics who experienced God and who spoke about their experience. And then, you know, the religion was formed in a particular cultural milieu. And and then, of course, it degenerated and all warfare and fighting took place. But, you know, most of the people I speak with, I think, feel like there’s only sort of one ultimate reality. And people, there was a great line by the incredible string band, “Light that is one, though the lamps be many.” And, you know, I always take it beyond the earth. I mean, as my desktop picture is changing every five or ten seconds, I have pictures of galaxies from Hubble Space Telescope and stuff. I just think that there must be trillions of inhabited planets throughout the universe, with each one of them probably having had thousands of religions, most of them thinking they were the only one. And, you know, it’s just a vast universe and God permeates and probably exceeds it. And, you know, people just are beings just approach God in different ways. But there’s only one ultimate truth or reality.
Ilia: Yeah, I think you’re right. I think, you know, and I think that’s what I see us moving into in the 21st century. In other words, in the past, these various religious traditions had held strong defense walls around them. Now, you know, great. OK. So the question is, how do you how do you find holy mystery in your life? You know, and it can be through this tradition or that tradition. I think our emphasis may be displayed. You know, it’s not so much what tradition or what religion are you. It’s maybe what path brings you into this heart of life itself, into absolute being, into holy mystery. So many paths, as you say, one one one heart of mystery, you know, the heart with many, many different vessels to it. As for as for religion extending beyond this planet. Absolutely. I mean, first of all, if we think we’re it, I mean, we’re it. I would say what a boring God. Really? Yeah, really.
Rick: Talk about specializing in a teeny tiny area where you have a vast canvas. Oh, my God. Truly. You know, what were you thinking? But I do think. Yeah, I do think for sure we will eventually discover other forms of intelligent life, if not already.
Rick: Just yesterday, that was one of the main headlines, that report to the Congress about the unidentified flying objects. And, you know, they just say, OK, they could be this, they could be that or category five other. We don’t know what they are, but. Yeah. So I think the space brothers are here.
Ilia: For sure. I’m I’m actually on a project on astro theology. You know, in other words. Yeah. That sounds interesting. Tell us about that. Yeah. Well, you know, like, you know, how do we perceive the extension of religion and theological doctrine beyond Earth? And certainly I don’t think it’s limited. I never did think it was limited to Earth. I think wherever there is intelligent life, there will be the search for ultimate intelligence or ultimate life. There’ll be religion, in other words. And therefore they may express their religious beliefs in very, very different ways than us. You know, just as I do think another form of intelligent life will have a very different language from us, a different appearance from us. But that, too, is an expression of God’s wisdom and goodness. You know, so so we have reduced God sometimes to our image when, in fact, a God of infinite fecundity, of infinite love will have the richest diversity of life. So life on other planets, for sure. I think we will definitely probably max out terrestrial life. We will have probably space travel, you know, within another. I don’t know. Once we get the electric cars going, we’ll have electric spaceships. Yeah, I could see us, you know, and maybe it’ll be a humbling experience for us. That’s what I think.
Rick: Yeah, we could use a bit of that. I think, actually, that, you know, the more advanced forms of these religions or spiritual traditions on other planets would sound very much like the most advanced forms of ours. Because, you know, just as we and they would both have gravity, we and they would both have photons and all the other, you know, physical phenomena. I think that the reality which religion points to is the same on Alpha Centauri or in the Andromeda Galaxy as it is here. And so when people get right down to the experience of that, there will be kind of an agreement on it.
Ilia: Yeah, I do. You know, I teach a class on science and religion to my undergraduates, and our last class was on exo-theology or extraterrestrial life and religion. And I don’t think many people are aware, but the Vatican runs one of the largest observatories and has been deeply involved in these searches for extraterrestrial life. >> I heard about that. Yeah, that’s cool. >> And it’s manned by the Jesuits. A lot of Jesuit astronomers are involved in that.
Rick: So they’re making amends for burning that guy Bruno at the stake for suggesting that the stars might be all their suns.
Ilia: Exactly. Yeah.
Rick: In two weeks I’m going to interview a guy named Stephen C. Meyer. I don’t know if you’ve heard of him, but he’s written a book called “The Return of the God Hypothesis,” and I’m seven chapters into it. And so far it’s fascinating. And basically it’s an argument for intelligent design, which I had always kind of dismissed as, you know, I guess I had gotten infected by the materialistic bias that intelligent design is pseudoscience, and it’s just some kind of a trick that fundamentalists are trying to use to get the Bible into the schools or whatever. But it’s really what we’re talking about here, I think. Do you have any, what do you think about that term?
Ilia: Yeah, I mean, you know, it depends how the term “intelligent design” is used, but I think we would have to admit that science cannot really ultimately give us the full explanation of life. That there is just, again, just reflecting on our own existence after, you know, a very, very, very long amount of time in this cosmic universe, it does really suggest that there is a divine force or a guide or God, you know, that is somehow luring and guiding this process of life toward the fullness of life. You might call that intelligent design. I mean, I don’t think that God, you know, just comes and alters all the fundamental forces of the universe, like, you know, tweaks them and pushes them around and stuff.
Rick: No, I don’t either. So far I haven’t heard him talking that way. It seems to be more subtle.
Ilia: Yeah, so maybe a more subtle argument to intelligent design I might find quite interesting, you know, and I wouldn’t entirely dispel it. I would want to qualify, because that term “intelligent design” has been loaded up, and as you said, deeply tied to this kind of evangelicalism and literal reading of Scripture, which has been unhelpful and unhealthy. So I’d want to kind of detach it from that and reconsider it, you know, as the wisdom, as you might say, divine wisdom operating at work in guiding the processes of life towards the moreness of life.
Rick: Yeah, we’ll see how it goes. I don’t know, I have a conversation with him, but I don’t think it will … I mean, I think there could be an understanding of intelligent design that wouldn’t refute Darwin, for instance, just the way Einsteinian physics doesn’t refute Newton. It just sort of relegates it to a more special case, or puts it in a little bit of a more limited context. It applies to certain things in a certain way, but there’s a bigger picture of which that is now a subset.
Ilia: Yes, I mean, you know, Darwinian evolutionary biologists would say, “Well, we don’t need the talk of an intelligent designer, because nature has its own laws. Nature is lawful.” But I think what we’re saying is, even those laws of nature …
Rick: Yeah, where’d they come from?
Ilia: Exactly. So, you know, that is always the question. You know, so great, so nature can explain, we can explain nature. Can we explain nature by nature alone, you know, fully? That would be the question.
Rick: Yeah. Why should there be any orderly laws? I mean, why … there’s a great quote from Brian Swimme, he said, “You leave hydrogen alone for 13.8 billion years, and you end up with rose bushes, giraffes, and opera.” You know, so why did all this come out of, you know, a soup of hydrogen?
Ilia: And truthfully, the laws of nature are not … I mean, what we think of law as, you know, guiding principles, you know, think of the way nature works, say, by chaos theory, by, you know, complex systems, by cybernetics. So, you know, a lot of nature works like in non-equilibrium states. It’s working always in this flux and flow of, you know, shared information. And so there’s a dynamic activity undergirding nature, and I think of that dynamic activity undergirding nature as maybe what we call divine wisdom or the presence of God.
Ilia: In that flux and flow.
Rick: Okay, so we have about 15 minutes left. I always like to pause at this point just to sort of check to, you know, scan what we’ve done so far and give you a moment to think of what we should cover that we haven’t covered. I mean, some things that are near and dear to your heart that we really just haven’t talked about enough.
Ilia: We might talk about the primacy of love a little bit more, since that was really at the heart of Teilhard’s vision, that the core energy of the universe is love.
Rick: Let’s define love. I mean, everyone has a conception of it and experience of it, but what does he mean? It sounds like it’s kind of a cosmic type of love we’re talking about.
Ilia: Yeah, and he said, you know, at one point he said, “The physical structure of the universe is love,” meaning that there’s a force, there’s an irresistible and unyielding force of attraction in all levels of cosmic light. Now, that’s really interesting. It’s true. You know, from the very beginning where hydrogen and helium, you know, like burst on the scene, there’s this attractive force. Of course, we know the four forces are strong force, weak force, this type thing. So what are these forces of attraction? You know, and Teilhard would say there’s something, you know, this energy, this energy of what he calls love energy. That’s the term he uses. Attractive force of love energy that yields elements to elements, isolated elements, giving up their isolated existence to form something more complex in terms of beingness. And therefore, you can trace that love energy right up into us, right? Humans are constantly falling in and out of love. Means that we’re drawn to something. You know, there’s an attractive energy force at the heart of our lives. And therefore, I think, you know, that allows him to, you know, to say that, you know, God is that love, that force energy, that Omega center, that principle of attraction within us. And so, whether we like it or not, you know, we humans are just not static beings. We’re drawn to otherness. We’re relational beings through and through. And so, I think we have to, I think, you know, begin to deal with our deep relational existence. And that’s where love becomes the primary energy of relational existence.
Rick: So, is Teilhard saying that, like, the same force which causes nebulae to, you know, congeal and become stars is reflected in human life as love of another person, or love of your cat, or something like that?
Rick: It’s the very same force, just kind of functioning on a different scale?
Ilia: Yeah. Mm-hmm. Exactly. And that’s what he does. He traces this force of love through the various scales of biological life right into humans. So, yeah. So, the energy of love in Teilhard’s view is our core energy. And in his view, we have to reclaim that core energy if we are to, you might say, anticipate fullness of life up ahead, or more life, more beingness.
Rick: Well, people say God is love, and so maybe we’re kind of back where we started from today, which is, you know, that God exists at our core, and therefore love, because God is love, exists at our core. And it’s this sort of ultimate reality of the universe, which is the guiding force of everything from the macrocosm to the microcosm, from galaxies to atoms.
Ilia: Exactly. That’s exactly right. And therefore, you know, with Teilhard, basically, put it this way, when we fall out of love, life becomes silent, right? It stagnates. There’s something deeply disconnected, and we’re not happy with ourselves. Life lives best when it lives in love. You know, we are created for that deep relational shared beingness of life. And therefore, God is always that energy of love within us, but also before us. God is absolute love, the fullness of love, the infinite mystery of love. So even in love, even if you’ve been married for 50 years, that love is never exhausted. You don’t just say, “Oh God, you again.” You might say that. But even underneath that, there’s a deep, you know, when love is alive, it keeps drawing people together, even into that future of old age. And most old people, you know, even if they’ve had many difficult marriages, at the end, they’re sharing the same denture jar, you know?
Rick: Oh boy, something to look forward to.
Ilia: Yes. They know when the other is in the next room or not, because that’s what love does. Love knows in a deeper way. And that’s what Tara is saying, that love energy is not only the force of attraction that keeps moving life and evolving life towards more being in life, but that love is the highest knowledge, you know? And therefore, when we live in that fullness of love, we live in the highest knowledge, the knowing of what we are, what we’re created for, and what we’re destined for.
Rick: Yeah, a lot of people who have near-death experiences come back and say that the most important thing is how much you’ve loved, you know?
Ilia: Exactly. That’s right. You know, like St. John of the Cross said, “In the evening of life, we shall be judged on love alone.” Like, the sum of our lives, everything about them, the choices we’ve made, the relationships we’ve formed or unformed, everything will be measured by love. I do think what we call “resurrection” in the Christian tradition is a measurement of our love. We are raised up and remembered to the extent that we have loved in this life. And to the extent that we have failed in love, then we are, in a sense, you know, I don’t say forgotten, but not remembered.
Rick: Yeah. What comes to my mind is just the essential, the importance of continually contacting and re-contacting that inner reservoir that we’ve talked about. And if you continue to keep that pipeline flowing and, you know, that inner potentiality gushing forth into your more manifest life, then love stays alive in all of its forms.
Ilia: That’s exactly right, Rick. And where love is alive, God is alive. And so, you know, even in the difficulties of our lives, in the sufferings of our lives, you know, there’s a saying where there is no love, put love, and you will find love. That love is the deepest reality. You know, people who have, you know, wronged us, who have, you know, who have injured us. And that’s the hardest thing, right? To forgive. Forgiveness is not making what took place in the past right again. It’s over. You know, the only thing we can do is love and, you know, and put love, to find love in a new way for a new future. The only thing we really have, our only true reality is the future. And so, Terrid would say we must rest on that future. And we rest on the future by seeking to live ever more deeply in that heart of love. So, you know, I do think that love is our truest reality. I think that living from a wellspring of love and making love may be the lens through which we see all of life, including all our knowledge. You know, even if we were to talk about technology, do we develop technology with an aim to a loving world? You know, do we do our politics with an aim towards love? Do we create economics with an aim towards love? What would our world look like if we actually lived out the fullest reality of love, which is our, according to Teilhard, the fundamental force of the universe itself?
Rick: Those are good questions, and you’ve alluded to economic inequity several times today, so I mean, that might be an example. If, you know, some people have billions of dollars and even hundreds of billions, and, you know, but a handful of people in the United States have more wealth than the bottom 75% or whatever the thing is, and all these people are living in poverty and struggling and miserable, there’s, it seems to me there’s a lack of love. And I don’t know exactly, and just trying to change economic policies without somehow infusing more love into collective consciousness might be a losing battle.
Ilia: Well, you know, I think it’s an important battle to take up for the simple reasons, not so much about having and not having. Truthfully, I think while I do believe in the equity of shared goods, the poor are not necessarily unhappy.
Rick: That’s true.
Ilia: You know, they can be happy in their own simplicity of life.
Rick: Yeah, there are places like Ladakh, you know, where people have very little, and yet the happiness index that they measure is very high.
Ilia: So, and conversely, there are many wealthy people who are unhappy.
Rick: Right, right.
Ilia: And no matter how much stuff they have and how much space they have, they have just existential unhappiness. So it’s not about stuff per se. I think love is about a consciousness of shared being, that I do not live just for myself alone, that I exist for another, and I am oriented toward another. It’s a consciousness that my life can only be really completed in relationship to your life, where love then becomes the core binding energy of completion. That, you know, to use Teilhard’s language, union differentiates. The more I am in union with another, the more I am truly myself, because it’s the core of myself that’s the basis of union. In other words, each of us has a particular flavor, a particular color to add to this mosaic of stained glass window universe. And it’s only when our light is held in a relationship to another light, my light of blue held to your light of yellow, makes a beautiful contrast. And therefore there’s a richness precisely in the confluence and the union and the shared lightness of our beingness. And that’s what we’re seeing by love. So how many times we have so many charities and stuff, and we can’t get out of the rut we’re in because we’re operating from the wrong principles. It’s not like, “Oh, I give so much money to charity and I’m helping the poor.” You’re not really doing anything. I mean, really what it’s about is shifting the perspective of our awareness of being itself. To know that I do not exist as a self-contained entity. I exist out of the loving giftedness of matter itself. I exist from the womb of Mother Earth, you might say. And therefore love as my deepest reality means to share my being with the beingness of the trees and the leaves and the stars in the sky, is to exist in love. It’s only when we have a consciousness of shared beingness that love will truly nourish our lives in a fuller way.
Rick: Brother Sun, Sister Moon.
Ilia: That’s correct. Francis of Assisi did have that consciousness that the Sun and the Moon were related. He was related to them and they to him. They were a community, a family. That’s shared beingness. And so Francis had a saying. He spoke a lot about love. Love being for him the goodness of God, the overflowing goodness of God in all aspects of life. I think he’s the one who said, “The love of him who loved us is greatly to be loved.” The love of the one who loves us is greatly to be loved. And I think that’s really the purpose of our life. Our lives are to live in that fullness of love in all the various aspects of life we are in. And we have yet to learn what that means for us.
Rick: Let me just give you an exercise in imagination to end on. Imagine that everybody in the world, or 99% of the people in the world, were living in a state of consciousness such as St. Francis or the Buddha or all the great seers and beings throughout history. Let’s say that was the norm. What do you think the world would look like? What would our political systems, if we still had them, our economic situation, our educational systems, what would the world be like? What would it be like to live in such a world?
Ilia: You know, at first, I mean, it’s a great question. So the first thing I just want to say is to live in love does not mean you don’t have a bad hair day. You’ll get angry, right?
Rick: Would you really? And in such an enlightened world, would there be people getting angry?
Ilia: Absolutely. Because we’re human and we’re limited. But it’s what we would do with that anger. It’s how we might move beyond that anger or that feeling of resentment or whatever that is that grips us in that moment. In other words, the priority of love would be called back into what really we’re about. And if I think of someone like Francis of Assisi, he definitely got upset with the brothers. Believe me. He definitely, you know, he would say like, stop, you know, stop, stop following me around. He would get annoyed with them, but then he would have some remorse. He would feel bad, you know. And so living with a consciousness of love gives us a new awareness that, you know, that brother or sister to whom I just spoke against or just yelled at, you know, I’ve injured that person. And therefore, you know, we need to find a way to resolve that injury. But I do think your question of what would a world of love look like in terms of economics, in terms of politics, I think we would look at shared economics for one thing. I’m not, you know, may not be a bartering system. I’m not saying to do it with capitalism per se. But it may be a different way of the way money flows or how we might develop Bitcoin or, you know, digital currency to get beyond things that might democratize, you know, economics in a way. I think we would certainly have a greater awareness of where the poor live. Who are the poor in our midst? How do we share what we have with those who do not have.
Rick: I heard you say that if everybody in the world lived the way Americans do, we need six planets to support them. So there’s a problem there.
Ilia: There is a problem. Our ecological footprint is entirely too large and it’s unsustainable. And that’s that statement is actually from a group of scientists who developed the ecological footprint. So we cannot we cannot sustain this North American footprint indefinitely. It will it will come to haunt us and we will we will have profound suffering because of it. We are already undergoing massive destruction, glaciers melting, species extinction, vast forest fires, changes in weather patterns. And so, to live with a new consciousness of love, love as our deepest reality in all aspects of our lives could lead to the health of the planet. And, you know, something I gave this as a final question to my undergraduate students. I can’t remember exactly how I framed the question, but it was about Teilhard’s notion of the primacy of love. They all answered it with an affirmative. This is the world we want. This is the world we want to work for. Love speaks to every single person, no matter what their economic status, their religion, their culture, their language, their disability. Every person has a human heart and every heart seeks to love and to be loved. That is our core reality. If we can begin to live out of that core reality, we can have a very different world, a world of life, a world that could actually celebrate life.
Rick: Let’s do it.
Ilia: All right. Buddha at the Gas Pump is the first stop.
Rick: Well, that’s a good note to end on. So thanks. This was great. I knew it would be a great conversation. And you’re such a fun person to talk to. I’ve really enjoyed it and I’ve really enjoyed all the hours of preparation that I spent this week. It’s very enriching.
Ilia: Thanks. Good to be with you.
Rick: Yeah. And thanks to those who have been listening or watching. If some of you are new to this, visit the website, BatGap.com and explore the menus. And if you’re an old timer, check the upcoming interviews page. You’ll see who we have upcoming. Next week is a young woman who is a beautiful poet. And it just kind of started coming to her. She wasn’t into poetry or anything. All these Rumi-like poems started coming to her and she’s she’s gained quite a reputation. Chelan Harkin is her name. And the week after that is the intelligent design guy I mentioned, Stephen Meyer and so on and so forth. They keep rolling on. There’s so many fascinating people to talk to. So thanks a lot. And I really appreciate getting to know you.
Ilia: Thanks, Rick. Really appreciate being here and abundant love blessings on your work.
Rick: Yes. And on yours. Keep it up. Keep writing more books.
Ilia: Thank you.
Rick: You’re just getting started. Go and cure ALS too while you’re at it.
Ilia: OK. That would be awesome.
Rick: Thanks, everybody. See you next time.