Technology is often considered an indicator of the evolution of humanity, freeing it of many physical struggles and evidencing the progress of the species.
But if we grant that the essential nature of man (and woman) has not changed much in thousands of years, could the meaning implicit in technology not also be a catalyst for more profound level of evolution?
What if technology is a teaching?
Jacob Needleman, in his book “A Sense of the Cosmos”, suggests that the outer world (the physical world and the universe) is considered within many ancient religions to be the lever for the transformation of human beings from unconscious to conscious.
How might technology, as 21st century humans experience it, be instrumental in that process?
From personal experience I resisted technology early in life. As an English major I had disdain for the engineers on my college campus who had multiple pens in their breast pockets and merely tabulated, calculated and later collected sizable salaries.
Later in life I had occasion to have a number of significant experiences.
First in my reading I became fascinated by theories that the ancient Egyptians (or perhaps others who had visited Egypt) had encoded mathematical principles of the highest order in the pyramids and other ancient structures.
These structures were also speculated to have been temples (not in the modern sense) of initiation, where human consciousness might have been transformed to a higher level.
I intuitively appreciated how mathematics – the simple perfection of absolute Law (2+2=4 must be true everywhere and anywhere) might somehow be connected to such higher consciousness. On the physical plane such perfection is barely possible – exact measurement is rarely achieved – although the architects of the pyramids certainly came closer than many modern builders.
Then later in life I became fascinated by computers. My first experience was with a series of disks programmed into an IBM work processor that “taught” me how to use it.
Later I loved the process of teaching myself new “programs” – essentially active verbs or possibly even virtual life forms within the silicon that could do things and accomplish amazing feats of calculation and even graphics.
Occasionally I would hit a glitch and something “would not work.” When I was able to solve the problem it often happened that the computer had been “right” – whoever had designed the program had programmed according to a logic or math that I had not grasped – with which I was out of tune.
This alerted me to the possibility of higher impersonal intelligence. What was right was not morally right in the normal sense of the term, but rather correct in its alignment with principles of which I was yet unaware.
Becoming aware was literally enlightenment.
Now as I struggle with the meaning of my own waning physical existence I have become exposed to teachings that take a similar view of the cosmos.
They interpret the teachings of sages like Jesus, Buddha and others as not teaching insights in line with a higher personal Creator or God, but rather being in line with Nature or Life’s innate higher intelligence, as Eckart Tolle writes so eloquently in "A New Earth."
As “modern” beings we are not likely to understand the notion of physical objects as intelligent.
But what about energy?
What do we truly understand about the nature of energy?
We know that electricity is in our brains as impulses of our own thought. And we have now programmed similar electrical impulses
We know that unimaginable bursts of energy emanate through the universe and from stars like our sun.
Astronomers have speculated that remnants of the Big Bang (perhaps the first real conscious event that initiated all evolution of consciousness) still resonate throughout the universe.
If one broaches the subject of higher intelligence today the label one is given is a proponent of Intelligent Design, which is usually a front for institutional or evangelical Christianity as proof of a personal and angry or beneficent deity.
But there is a reasonable alternative – one that is being approached in science at the molecular and interstellar level.
I have written that my problems with religion began with the horrific experiences of my parents in the holocaust. My mother lost her faith while my father attributed his survival to his beliefs.
I can now take a new perspective on my father’s point of view. One winter we went to services for Yom Kippur at a congregation where we were not members. We were sent to the basement and all during the service, piped into a cramped room on speakers, we were solicited for cash.
My father left very angry, and later in life when he retired he avoided synagogues saying instead that he can commune with God just as well at sunset by the ocean.
While he never lost his belief in an anthropomorphic deity, I believe that he sensed a connection to nature and Life, based on his experiences, and of an intelligence and power of a much higher order and sought solace by connecting to it intuitively.
Technology shows us that logic and mathematics are of that higher order – they approach perfection in their certitude and also point to the inevitable fallibility of human nature.
Technology shows the potential presence of increasingly complex systems which our own ego driven and emotional natures can only dimly comprehend.
If you don’t believe this, watch the video of geneticist Juan Enriquez on the TED web site that explains how life behaves like a computer application, executing its genetic code with exquisite perfection and according to predictable mathematical principles. Of course, the ultimate complexity and level of these principles is still a mystery and withheld from our knowledge, and the subject of continued scientific inquiry.
It goes back to the experience of not understanding something about a computer but when the mystery is solved, realizing that the solution points to a system of logic that makes complete sense when understood from a perspective different, and perhaps far more advanced, than our own limited intelligence.
Ultimately technology, logic and mathematics point the way to the inevitability that life has meaning on a scale well beyond our own level of existence - where things may make sense in ways that humans cannot understand without evolving from their present state of inhumanity.