In response to last week’s post on the activities of the Gods in our world, Woods Wizard asked a very simple but very profound question: “does the Universe have a plan?”
My answer is no. I see no evidence that the Universe as a whole has a consciousness beyond what Gods, spirits, humans, and other living things give it. Now, I see evidence all those consciousnesses are related and might even be connected at some very high level. And I see evidence the Universe has a direction: toward greater diversity and greater complexity of life. We’ve been on this path for almost 14 billion years and it shows no signs of changing any time soon. But connection and direction are not necessarily the result of a plan, and there’s no guarantee the direction won’t eventually change course.
It’s entirely possible the Universe does have a distinct consciousness and that consciousness is simply too large and too different from human consciousness for us to comprehend. If so, the Universe could have a plan, but what use would it be for us to discuss it? How can ants discuss the plans of humans?
That’s my observational reasoning for saying the Universe has no plan. But there’s also a philosophical issue involved. If the Universe has a plan and the capacity to carry it out, then our choices are ultimately irrelevant – what will happen, will happen. I don’t like this and I don’t agree with it – in the age-old question of free will vs. fate, I’m firmly on the side of free will.
This brings up what I think is an interesting side point. Fundamentalist Christians like to claim you can’t be good without (their) God. This is obviously false: the one-word rebuttal is “Gandhi” – not to mention the millions of good people doing good things every day while being devoted Buddhists, Muslims, Pagans, or atheists.
But their argument refers to good in the sense of individual action. I have to wonder: is it possible to be to be good in the collective sense with (their) God? Why would anyone inconvenience themselves for the common good if they believed an almighty God was going to take care of things anyway?
This is an absurd argument, disproved by Christians who care deeply for the natural world and who treat it with honor and care. But it’s a position taken by many (including some public officials) who confuse their own convenience with the will of (their) God, or who figure we might as well trash the planet because the rapture is going to happen any day now.
The idea that the Universe has a plan is a leftover from monotheism, and the last thing we need is some New Age version of Calvinist predestination.
If the Universe has no plan and no consciousness, then no one is in charge of things. This is a scary thought for some people. I’ve long argued that the prevalence of conspiracy theories is because many people find it more comforting to believe the world is run by a cabal of evil geniuses than to believe no one is in charge. But our experiences in life show it need not be so scary.
We’re not alone on this metaphorical boat. We have each other for teamwork and mutual support. We have our ancestors and the accumulated wisdom of previous generations – we don’t have to figure out everything for ourselves. And we have the Gods and spirits who inspire and challenge us.
With no master plan, it’s hard to figure out a long-term direction. But that’s yet another reminder to focus our attention on the tasks at hand. Take care of ourselves and our families. Make sure everyone has enough. Care for the Earth and all her creatures. Spread beauty, joy, and love where ever we can. Make sure we leave our descendants a better world than what we inherited.
I think some of us are reluctant to accept that no one’s in charge because we’re worried about what comes after death. But we still have the models of the Otherworld left by our ancestors and we have the hints that comes through past life memories and near-death experiences. And we have the firm knowledge of the development of life in this world, which happened without a plan. Ultimately, we do not know with certainty what comes after death, but I prefer to trust in the Gods and ancestors.
If, by chance, the Universe has consciousness and plans, I’m confident it knows the limits of our powerful but very finite human brains. I’m also confident that if the Universe has a plan, we humans are only a small part of it, not its central focus. At the end of the day I can’t relate to a Universe that plans.
But I can relate to the Old Gods. They are older, stronger, and wiser than we are, but They’re enough like us that we can form relationships with Them. The Forest God has made no promises concerning the next life, but He has been a near-constant presence in this life. The Battle Raven may or may not claim me when I die, but I have found both assistance and meaningful work with Her here and now. I do not expect to find myself in the Judgment Hall of Osiris after death (although I’ve done enough work with the Gods of Egypt I suppose it’s a possibility), but the Neteru have blessed our little group of Pagans each year at the Summer Solstice for the past twelve years.
The many Gods have many plans and there is no reason to believe those plans are part of some master plan. There is no reason to believe the Universe has a plan.
And that’s OK.