Black Mass, Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia
This recent book by John Gray, another bestseller, works like a washing machine for contemporary belief systems, superstition and political convictions. Readers of this book should be prepared to see many of their cherished beliefs turned into shreds and to perhaps see their purpose in life and their sense of determination evaporate in thin air. Basic concepts in our culture and our political systems are being subjected here to occams razor and to the sobering effects of objective reason and realism.
Gray's discourse should be obligatory reading for politicians and leaders in government. That would help prevent much of the delusions and misguidance that keep making humanity suffer from the hands of their leaders.
Below we add a short selection of Gray's texts, showing in a nutshell what he is trying to convey in this book. Subsequently we will point out where, in our case, we differ from Gray's point of view and what we would like to add to his story in order to make the picture more complete and understandable.
- 1 Sobriety and realism as an antidote to systems of superstition and to traditional flaws in politics and culture (1)
- 2 Realism
- 3 Sobriety and realism as an antidote to systems of superstition and to traditional flaws in politics and culture (2)
- 4 Laws of evolution; blind selection pressures precluding lasting harmony in human relations
- 5 Point Omega: apocalyptic fantasy or realistic perspective ?
- 6 Science and/or religion; lessons for politics
- 7 The role of religion in contemporary society
- 8 Point Omega, another delusive apocalyptic "story", or based on sober scientific assessment ?
Sobriety and realism as an antidote to systems of superstition and to traditional flaws in politics and culture (1)
(quotes from Gray's "Black Mass")
It has become a commonplace that Russia's misfortune was that the enlightenment never triumphed in the country. In this view the Soviet regime was a slavic version of 'oriental despotism', and the unprecedented repression it practised was a development of traditional Muscovite tyranny. In Europe Russia has long been seen as a semi- Asiatic country — a perception reinforced by the Marquis de Custine's famous journal recording his travels in Russia in 1839 in which he argued that Russians were predisposed to servility. Theories of oriental despotism have long been current among Marxists seeking to explain why Marx's ideas had the disastrous results they did in Russia and China. The idea of oriental despotism goes back to Marx himself, who postulated the existence of an 'Asiatic mode of production'. Later Marxian scholars such as Karl Wittfogel applied it to Russia and China, arguing that totalitarianism in these countries was a product of Asiatic traditions.
As Nekrich and Heller summarize this conventional wisdom:
Western historians draw a direct line from Ivan Vasilievich (Ivan the Terrible) to Joseph Vissarionovich (Stalin) or from Malyuta Skuratov, head of Ivan the Terrible's bodyguard and secret police force, to Yuri Andropov . . . thus demonstrating that from the time of the Scythians Russia was inexorably heading for the October Revolution and Soviet power. It was inherent in the national character of the Russian people. Nowhere else, these scholars think, would such a thing be possible.
It is true that Russia never belonged fully in the West. Eastern Orthodoxy defined itself in opposition to western Christianity, and there was nothing in Russia akin to the Reformation or the Renaissance.
Actually, humanity cannot advance or retreat, for humanity cannot act: there is no collective entity with intentions or purposes, only ephemeral struggling animals each with its own passions and illusions. The growth of scientific knowledge cannot alter this fact.
Showing the origins of humanistic beliefs in Christianity does not prove they are mistaken, but it is not only humanist beliefs that are derived from Christianity. It is the whole framework of thought, and when the claim that humans are radically different from other animals is wrenched from its theological roots it is not just indefensible but virtually incomprehensible. Modern humanists think they are naturalists, who view all forms of life - including the human animal — as part of the material universe; but a genuinely naturalistic philosophy would not start by assuming humans have attributes other animals do not. Its point of departure would be that the evolutionary laws that govern other animals also govern humans. What ground — other than revealed religion — could there be for believing anything else?
The French Positivists wanted to replace Christianity by a ridiculous Religion of Humanity; but they understood that religion answered to universal human needs.
During the past twenty years western governments, led by America, have tried to export a version of liberal values to the world. These policies have been distinguished by the nebulous grandeur of their goals, but the overall aim was a mutation in the nature of war and power, which would come about as a result of the universal adoption of democracy. The attempt to remake the international system has had effects similar to those of previous Utopias. The disaster that continues to unfold in Iraq is the result of an entire way of thinking, and it is this that must be abandoned.
New thought is needed, but it must renew an old tradition. The pursuit of Utopia must be replaced by an attempt to cope with reality. We cannot return to the writings of the realist thinkers of the past with the hope that they will resolve all our dilemmas. The root of realist thinking is Machiavelli's insight that governments exist, and must achieve all of their goals in a world of ceaseless conflict that is never far from a state of war. Despite the distance between Renaissance Italy and the present, this continues to be true; but the implications of Machiavelli's insight change according to circumstances, and even in their time the realist theories of recent generations were seriously flawed. Yet it is from realism more than from any other school that we can learn how to think about current conflicts.
(Comments on Gray's "Black Mass")
Gray's arguments for acting with sobriety and realism, as an absolute requirement for being able to tackle the larger contemporary international problems effectively, is in line with the goals and targets of this Wiki. What this Wiki adds to this type of discussions, is that a number of notions about human behaviour and the human condition are presented, that have never been presented before, whereas these notions deal with the very core of human characteristics. The notions presented here have been suppressed actively for thousands of years, facilitated by a primordial human propensity for blindness for the Self and social relationship mechanisms. On this Wiki it is argued that it is absolutely indispensable that we overcome these spots of blindness and ignorance if we wish to survive in an acceptable way and that in order to incorporate the information as contained on this Wiki, we will need more sobriety, more curiosity and more intelligence than what is customary. On the other hand it is argued on this Wiki that those prerequisites for our enlightenment on these issues will be fulfilled rather automatically in a not too far future.
Sobriety and realism as an antidote to systems of superstition and to traditional flaws in politics and culture (2)
(quotes from Gray's "Black Mass")
Realism is the only way of thinking about issues of tyranny and freedom, war and peace that can truly claim not to be based on faith and, despite its reputation for amorality, the only one that is ethically serious. This is, no doubt, why it is viewed with suspicion. Realism requires a discipline of thought that may be too austere for a culture that prizes psychological comfort above anything else, and it is a reasonable question whether western liberal societies are capable of the moral effort that is involved in setting aside hopes of world-transformation. Cultures that have not been shaped by Christianity and its secular surrogates have always harboured a tradition of realist thought, which is likely to be as strong in future as it has been in the past. In China, Sun Tzu's Art of War is a bible of realist strategy, and Taoist and Legalist philosophies contain powerful currents of realist thinking, while in India, Kautilya's writings on war and diplomacy have a similar place. Machiavelli's writings were a scandal because they subverted the claims of Christian morality. They have not had the same explosive force in non-Christian cultures, where realist thinking comes more easily. In post-Christian liberal democracies it has been political and intellectual elites, more than the majority of voters, that have favoured war as an instrument for improving the world; but public opinion still finds realist thinking distasteful. Can the task of staving off perennial evils satisfy a generation weaned on unrealizable dreams? Perhaps it prefers the romance of a meaningless quest to coping with difficulties that can never be finally overcome. But this has not always been so, and only a couple of generations ago realist thinking enabled western governments to prevail in conflicts far more dangerous than any they have yet had to face in the present century.
It was realism rather than secular faith that allowed liberal democracies to defeat Nazism and contain communism. The long secret telegram that George F. Kennan sent to Washington in 1946, which shaped the policy that averted nuclear disaster during the Cold War while preventing the expansion of Soviet power, did not seek to work up a frenzy of rectitude. It urged that the Soviet system be studied 'with the same courage, detachment, objectivity and the same determination not to be emotionally provoked or unseated by it' as a doctor studies an unruly and unreasonable patient. It did not take for granted that the Soviet elites were ruled by ideology, or always reasonable. Instead it warned against being infected by their irrationality: 'The greatest danger that can befall us ... is that we shall allow ourselves to become like those with whom we are coping.' Though the dangers are different, Kennan's style of thinking is urgently needed today. Dealing with terrorism and proliferation is not a job for missionaries or crusaders. The heady certainty of faith, which sees every crisis as a heaven-sent opportunity to save humanity, is ill-suited to dealing with dangers that can never be defused. In times of danger, stoical determination and intellectual detachment are more useful qualities, and at its best realism embodied them.
Realism is an Occam's Razor that works to [optimise] radical choices among evils. It cannot enable us to escape these choices, for they go with being human.
Contrary to the thinking of post-modernists who believe all human values are cultural constructions and reject the idea of human nature, there are some values that reflect universal human needs. But these needs are many and discordant, and universal values can be embodied in different ways. If many types of government have been accepted as legitimate, it is not because humanity has yet to accept the local pieties of Atlantic democracy. It is because there is no one right way of settling conflicts among universal values. The prevention of great evils may involve rationally unresolvable dilemmas, as when reasonable people differ on the aerial bombing of civilian populations in the struggle to defend civilization against Nazism. Rationalist philosophers will ask the meaning of civilization, as if in the absence of a definition it could not be defended, while liberal humanists will say that the necessary restraints are provided by human rights. But the problem is not that we do not agree on moral issues, or fail to enforce human rights — it is that there are moral dilemmas, some of which occur fairly regularly, for which there is no solution. Liberal thinkers view human rights as embodying a kind of universal moral minimum that should be secured before any other goals are pursued. A worthy notion, but it passes over the fact that the components of the minimum are often at odds with one another. Toppling a tyrant may result in anarchy, but propping up tyranny can worsen the abuse of power. Freedom of religion is good, but where it leads to sectarian strife it is self-destroying. A private realm protected from intrusion is part of civilized life, but some incursion into privacy may be unavoidable if other freedoms are to be secure. It is better to accept these conflicts and deal with them than deny them, as liberals do when they look to theories of human rights to resolve dilemmas of war and security.
The cardinal need is to change the prevailing view of human beings, which sees them as inherently good creatures unaccountably burdened with a history of violence and oppression. Here we reach the nub of realism and its chief stumbling-point for prevailing opinion: its assertion of the innate defects of human beings. Nearly all pre-modern thinkers took it as given that human nature is fixed and flawed, and in this as in some other ways they were close to the truth of the matter. No theory of politics can be credible that assumes that human impulses are naturally benign, peaceable or reasonable.
Laws of evolution; blind selection pressures precluding lasting harmony in human relations
(Comments on Gray's "Black Mass")
Gray stresses in his books that struggle and strife apparently are indispensable ingredients of human society and that social dilemma's are an innate part of human political life.
Since Homo sapiens is also a primate species, be it an intelligent one, stemming forth and being part of evolution, we can never escape from the basic characteristics of evolution in operation. Some scholar from the past once said that "civilization is a conspiracy against evolution" and that remark is quite on target. The more "ideal" a society is organized and the more "just" and "fair" to its members it operates, and the more peaceful it happens to be, the more selective forces within such a society have been suspended. One does not need to be a professor in population genetics to understand that such a situation is inherently unstable, leading to genetic pollution and eventual collapse of the "just and fair" society itself, rendering its members again to the raw and uncontrolled powers of natural selection and competition.
Selection pressures and competition unavoidably produce conflict and stress on the personal level, but the same holds for larger groups of people and the power structures ruling human life. Also on the level of large organizations and political structures the same considerations of evolutionary rules and requirements apply. Elsewhere on this Wiki it is pointed out that in our species power structures on the level of meme-sets have taken over the lead in our evolution since some 10.000 years. That implies that Homo sapiens since those times is saddled with strife and conflict to the second power. Not only are we subject to the primordial competition and selection forces an individuals are members, a struggle on the level of Memes. on the DNA level, but as organized groups we are also subject to mechanisms of competition and struggle on the level of groups and large organizations, of which hum And on top of all that, there is a built in permanent friction between the selection demands on the DNA, the Gene level end the selection demands on the Meme level. These two evolutionary processes operating at different speed, and us being subject to these two evolutionary processes at the same time, renders humans as being torn between conflicting demands of the two different non-synchronous evolutionary processes. So, yes, we cannot but agree fully with Gray, stating that humanity is convicted to live with insoluble dilemmas and conflicts.
Only more insight and understanding, sobriety and courage can help us to acquire some tools enabling us to make rational choices that will improve our chances for survival.
Point Omega: apocalyptic fantasy or realistic perspective ?
(Comments on Gray's "Black Mass")
This Wiki is about arguments for the assumption that humanity will at some time in the future, presumably not so far away, move through another qualitative shift in its existence, to be labeled as Point Omega, using the phraseology of Teilhard de Chardin. Reading Gray, we have reasons to scrutinize these ideas, because they are an example of apocalyptic thinking par excellence.
This Wiki brings forward arguments about the why of the strong human propensity for teleological thinking (goal directed, telic overdominant) and thus for all important changes happening in the future, for apocalyptic "stories" as laid down in the traditions of our large religions. Because Homo sapiens is "artificially" brought into telic dominant states by the power structures ruling our lives nowadays, there is an artificially pumped up desire and need for such apocalyptic stories to believe in. That way this Wiki presents additional arguments why Gray's observations are quite adequate and correct and how this typical human propensity, for believing in stupid, simplistic apocalyptic religious and/or political stories, has come about.
On the other hand, this Wiki also presents arguments why the human behavioural repertoire contains possibilities for social group life that are quite at variance with anything we are familiar with today. It is argued that the (evolutionary) mechanisms that keep the present power structures and the concomitant human misery in place, are becoming quickly more unstable, simply because of technological developments that cannot be turned back. It is argued that once intelligence "breaks through", and starts understanding itself, once Homo sapiens understands the rules and laws of the evolution of intelligence and thus the core of its own existence, the break down of a host of cultural mechanisms that keep human beings artificially in states of neurosis and stupidity, in states of blinded slavery, will crumble down and release an unheard of intelligent and creative potential that has been laying dormant in human societies for many millennia.
These are two reasons to watch our steps carefully and to think over all arguments pro and con every step at least twice.
Science and/or religion; lessons for politics
(quotes from Gray's "Black Mass")
................... that no change in human institutions can resolve the contradictions of human needs. Human beings may want freedom, but usually only when other needs have been met, and not always then. Tyrants are not only feared, they are often loved. States do not act only to protect their interests; they are also vehicles for myths, fantasies and mass psychosis. Neo-conservatives and liberal internationalists are fond of saying freedom is contagious, but tyranny can also be contagious. During much of the last century dictators were worshipped. It would be a bold prophet who forecast that this could not happen again.
In an anarchical world, global environmental problems are politically insoluble.
Environmental crisis is a fate humans can temper but not overcome. Its origins are in the power to grow knowledge that distinguishes humans from other animals. The advance of knowledge has enabled humans to multiply their numbers, extend their lifespans and create wealth on a scale that has no precedent. But global warming and energy shortage are results of advancing industrialism, which is also a by-product of scientific progress. The proliferation of means of mass destruction, not only to states but also to forces [that] states do not control, is another of its effects. Today the worry is that nuclear materials may slip into terrorist hands, but tomorrow the fear may be of biological weapons doing so. Genetic science enables humans to intervene in the creation of life, but it will surely be used to wreak mass death as well. It cannot be long before genetically selective devices are feasible that can act as tools of genocide, and when this happens there may be no means of preventing them being diffused across the world.
The belief that history has an underlying plot is central to the millenarian movements, secular and religious, that have been examined in this book. All who belong to these movements believe they are acting out a script that is already partly written. In versions of apocalyptic belief that are avowedly religious, the author of the script is God, with the Devil and assorted demons writing their own lines but finally submitting to the authority of the divine narrator. In secular apocalyptic, the author is that equally elusive figure humanity, battling the forces of ignorance and superstition. Either way, the demand for meaning is met by narratives in which each individual life is part of an all-encompassing story.
The dangers of the need for an overarching human narrative are clear. To feel oneself the target of a global conspiracy as the Nazis did may not seem a positive state of mind, but it banishes the lack of meaning, which is a worse threat. Paranoia is often a protest against insignificance, and collective delusions of persecution bolster a fragile sense of agency. The problem is that this benefit is purchased at a high price: a price measured in the lives of others who are forced to act out a role in a script they have not read, still less written. Those who are crushed or broken in order to create a higher humanity, who are killed or mutilated in acts of spectacular terror or ravaged in wars for universal freedom may have ideas about their place in the world altogether different from those they are assigned in the dramas that are being enacted. If universal narratives create meaning for those who live by them, they also destroy it in the lives of others.
The sense of having a part in such a narrative is delusive, of course. John of Leyden believed God had called him to rule over the New Jerusalem. Lenin was sure he was expediting the laws of history. Hitler was certain the corrupt world of liberal democracy was doomed. True believers in the free market interpreted the collapse of communism as a sign of an inexorable trend, and neo-conservatives greeted the few years of American supremacy that seemed to follow as a new epoch in history. All of these prophets imagined they had grasped the plot of history and were completing a preordained pattern. In fact, their rise to power was accidental, and only the non-arrival of the Millennium was preordained. Millenarian movements come about as the result of a combination of random events, and when they fall from grace it is as a result of features of human life whose permanence they deny. The history of these movements is scarcely tragic, for those who belong to them rarely perceive the fateful contingencies by which their lives are ruled. They are actors in a theatre of the absurd whose lines are given by chance.
Post-modern philosophies that view science as just one belief-system among many are too silly to be worth refuting at length — the utility of scientific knowledge is a brute fact that is shown in the increase of human power. Science is an instrument for forming reliable beliefs about the world. Religions are also human instruments, but they have other goals.
The collision between science and religion comes from the mistake that both have to do with belief. It is only in some strands of Christianity and Islam that belief has been placed at the heart of religion. In other traditions, religion has to do with the acceptance of mystery rather than catechisms or creeds. Science and religion serve different needs, which though they pull in different directions are equally human. In the contemporary world, science has authority because of the power it confers. That is why fundamentalists ape its claims to literal truth — as in the cartoon science of creationism. Yet creationism is hardly more ridiculous than Social Darwinism, dialectical materialism or the theory that as societies become more modern they become more free or peaceful. These secular creeds are more unreasonable than any traditional faith, if only because they make a more elaborate show of being rational.
The most necessary task of the present time is to accept the irreducible reality of religion. In the Enlightenment philosophies that shaped the last two centuries, religion was a secondary or derivative aspect of human life that will disappear, or cease to be important, when its causes are removed. Once poverty is eradicated and education universal, social inequality has been overcome and political repression is a thing of the past, religion will have no more importance than a personal hobby. Underlying this article of Enlightenment faith is a denial of the fact that the need for religion is generically human. It is true that religions are hugely diverse and serve many social functions — most obviously, as welfare institutions. At times they have also served the needs of power. But beyond these socio-political purposes, religions express human needs that no change in society can remove — for example the need to accept what cannot be remedied and find meaning in the chances of life. Human beings will no more cease to be religious than they will stop being sexual, playful or violent.
The chief intellectual obstacle to coexistence among religions is a lack not of mutual understanding, but of self- knowledge.
The role of religion in contemporary society
(Comments on Gray's "Black Mass")
Gray makes an important point here, which is that the human species has a very strong inborn need for religion. In western societies, in our cultures in The West, he says, religion is special in the sense that it competes with science in claiming to be rational, causing a continuous current of conflicts between science and religion, or rather between religion and rationality. Supposedly, this tendency to generate conflicting meme sets is less strong or almost absent in the East. In his view it is of the utmost importance that humanity, and in particular western societies, start recognizing religion for what it is, meme sets that fulfill the needs of human beings that cannot be satisfied by rational scientific thinking, by any rational information generated by scientific methodology. Being fully understood by its carriers, religion will thus be stopped from screwing up politics and other high level management of human societies, without needing to be abolished. It then can keep fulfilling its goals harmlessly, without endangering humanity's potential to survive.
As can be underpinned elsewhere on this Wiki, we are of a slightly different opinion. We do agree fully with Gray that the way religion has been and still is used in Christianity, in Judaism and in Islam, has become such a grave danger for humanity that it threatens our very survival. The uncontrolled proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is becoming lethal in combination with political systems that are vulnerable to religious irrationalities. However, we do not agree with the idea that the need for religion is such a strongly innate human basic drive. It is in our view indeed a strong human drive in our days, as it has been already for thousands of years, but a better understanding of the present day human psychological condition, as compared to what are the innate possibilities of the human species, can explain how religious behaviour, and the drives and needs behind it, are to a large extent the result of telic overdominance, which, as is shown on this Wiki, does not need to last forever. Telic dominance destroys the capacity to play, the capacity to explore, the capacity to learn at an optimal pace. Telic dominance saddles people with an unstoppable urge to find "goals", to grab any clues available that can provide some purpose for one's activities. A typically telic attitude is to settle for the time being for "sufficiency-oriented" models and solutions of reality. Normally, such emergency triggered short term solutions for producing models of the situation(s) will in due time, subsequently, be integrated further with other short term sufficiency-oriented models and concepts, and will eventually be replaced by more concise "necessity-oriented" models of reality, models that are more efficient and can better survive later bouts of further exploration and challenge. Telic (over)dominance strongly blocks the production of necessity oriented models of reality and also blocks the full natural tendency for curiosity and psychological growth towards maturity. Telic dominance thus enhances superstition at all levels, combined with a seeming greed for explanatory "stories", no matter how stupid and shortsighted they may seem from an intellectual point of view.
On this Wiki it is argued that the present day overdominance of telic states, together with the resulting high levels of mass neuroticism and reduced intelligence, is the unavoidable but transitory result of the specific evolutionary phase humanity is in. Some millions of years ago our hominid ancestors rather suddenly developed a higher level of intelligence and of speach and communication capacities. This only could occurr after some trick had been acquired which was quite novel in evolution, namely a peculiar, but highly effective block on self awareness, preventing intelligence to be utilized fully on issues regarding the own behaviour and the behaviour of group members. This was necessary to prevent intelligence from reducing fertility, necessary to prevent proximate causes of behaviour to interfere with ultimate reasons for behaviour, because the latter would render a too high intelligence level as self defeating. Only the evolutionary trick of Self Blindness could render higher levels of intelligence becoming an ESS (evolutionarily stable strategy).
Then, after having developed over a couple of millions of years an ever higher level of intelligence, combined with ever more efficient levels of Self Blindness, the agricultural revolution set in. That agricultural revolution triggered a strongly increasing evolutionary pressure on the development of ever more sophisticated organizational structures, meme sets giving large groups of people an evolutionary edge over competitors. Since the evolution of meme sets in principle runs much faster than does the old fashioned DNA based physical evolution, the meme level evolution soon took over the lead from the gene level evolution in the Human species. This striking difference in speed causes a friction in the Human species between its genetically programmed "natural" needs and urges on the one hand and the requirements of the ruling meme level power structures on the other hand. Therefore, since that time, we are a "torn" species.
Power structures are served best with human beings capable of serving well the impersonal requirements and needs of such power structures themselves, also where that is conflicting with the old natural needs and urges. One trick of power structures to achieve such goals is to render the human carriers of such power structure neurotic. Neuroticism may reduce the useful behavioural output of individual persons, but on the other hand strongly increases possibilities to monitor, control and direct their behaviour to the advantage of the power structure in charge. So Homo sapiens ended up in a situation where in the more "civilized" and powerful parts of the world neurotic states and truncated behaviour became the norm rather than the exception. The already inborn propensity of Human beings to be blind for their own and each others behaviour, feelings and motivations, of course was of great advantage to the powers structure's neuroticizing devices. Organized religion is one of such device, keeping huge masses of people bound in irrational but effective states of ignorance and slavery. As is shown elsewhere on this Wiki such types of mass religion are only possible, are only stable as long as telic overdominance and neuroticism are being maintained. As soon as more healthy levels of telic / paratelic balance and personal growth set in again, people tend to escape from the blinding clusters of organized religion. Such individuals may, almost automatically, then produce high levels of intelligence and creative output, but they are lost for serving the blind pushing power of the power structures they happen to live in. Therefore it is no surprise that the most successful power structures are best versed in suppressing personal development and health, while keeping a majority of their carriers at a moderate, but still useful level of functioning and output.
Since large and successful organized religions only can survive in large power structures, they must serve those power structures well and therefore they must, by definition, help keeping their carriers silly and malleable and subordinate to the power structure's impersonal needs. So, by definition again, large organized religions always bring their believers almost exactly the opposite of what they pretend to give, which is spiritual growth and awareness and happiness. On the contrary, they should, in order to be successful, keep their carriers as dumb as possible, as confused as possible, and as insecure as possible, otherwise the power structure they live in would crumble down, ending also the religion in question. The needs of a successful symbiosis between religions and power structures is therefore clear.
Point Omega, another delusive apocalyptic "story", or based on sober scientific assessment ?
(Comments on Gray's "Black Mass")
The notion of a Point Omega being at hand shortly in human history would fit seemingly seamlessly in the usual apocalyptic world views of which type of meme sets Gray eloquently lays bare the irrational roots.
However, we are of the opinion that on this Wiki it is argued successfully that scientific data are available, suggesting that humanity is indeed at the brink of another qualitative shift in cognitive and social behaviour, equaling the importance of the agricultural revolution, but - rather suddenly - occurring at a very much higher speed.
If our point of view is correct and can survive Gray's scrutiny, it also implies that humanity, swapping from a state of telic overdominance to a - natural - state of telic / paratelic balance, will lose its hang for superstitious beliefs, simply because the paratelic state does not produce such an all overriding need for simple but comprehensive "stories" to explain it all. Paratelic states produce curiosity instead and even a liking for uncertainties. A healthy rhythm of telic and paratelic alternations, as mother nature meant us to function, will subsequently produce more "necessity oriented" models of reality, replacing and rendering superfluous the ordinary rough and ready "sufficiency-oriented" models of reality (for further information click here). Few "necessity-oriented" models can replace very many "sufficiency-oriented" models, rendering a far more reliable and far more efficient overall model of the world. Religion and other superstitious belief systems will then automatically disappear through atrophy and just survive for a limited period of time in the less important corners of the human world, without posing grave dangers to us all and without making a rational approach to governing practically impossible, as is nowadays still the case as Gray very eloquently illustrates in his book.
In the last pages of his book Gray mentions: "The chief intellectual obstacle to coexistence among religions is a lack, not of mutual understanding, but of self-knowledge." We fully agree with that statement. It was argued above that already from the time the hominids expanded as hunter gatherers on the African plains and intelligence started to reach higher levels, a specific block was built into our genes, making it very difficult for us to regard our own and each other's behaviour, a characteristic we labeled as "Self-Blindness". This very specific evolutionary "invention" made it possible that intelligence exploded in the case of one of the hominids, producing one strand called Homo sapiens. It was a prerequisite for the evolution of higher levels of intelligence. Self-knowledge is therefore not easy to achieve for human beings, but the theory behind the Point Omega idea points out that the disappearance of telic overdominance will improve the spreading of more rationality, even in thinking about ourselves and each other. "Necessity-oriented" models will automatically get the upper hand, to the extent that superstition and other "sufficiency-oriented" simplistic ideas will sink back to the level of local folklore. In our view Gray's admonition will thus come true, were it that the religions themselves will stop playing a major role in human history. They will eventually be regarded as unfortunate, but at that time unavoidable, human characteristics from a past era.
Time will tell whether the ideas as presented and discussed on this Wiki are valid or that the notion of a Point Omega coming soon is just another of the apocalyptic delusions Gray describes and criticizes so eloquently.