First, a bit of background. I was born in 1942 to fundamental Pentecostal missionaries on leave in Eastern Montana for the duration of World War II where they pastored a small Assemblies of God church. They had served in German Poland before the War, and they returned to West Germany in 1950, which was as soon after the war as possible.
Thus my younger sister and I grew up in war-torn Germany, where I learned to speak German fluently, where I went to school, and where I developed my early understanding of the Universe.
My parents encouraged me to explore my world. They had instilled into me a sense of values that they believed would keep me safe from evil in the world. They turned me loose, and I soon discovered the library. I was bright and read widely, consuming seven or eight books a week from the age of eight onward. Early on, I discovered Science Fiction, and found that I gravitated toward “hard science” books and stories. These led to real science, and I was hooked.
But I was hooked on everything I discovered, so that I became a genuine polymath (look it up!) at an early age. Along the way I also discovered mountain climbing, spelunking, scuba diving, flying, essentially the whole world of adventure. (On a rest stop partway up a mountain, I would pull out my latest book and read a few pages…you get the point.)
In 1959 I graduated at 17 from an American High School in Frankfurt, Germany. I spent the next two years during the day working part-time and attending the Seminary my father had founded, and at night attending college with a psychology major, primarily because that was what was available, and it would all help when I eventually entered the ministry myself. Finally, in 1961, I took the plunge and left home on a scholarship to Evangel College, an Assemblies of God accredited liberal arts college in Springfield, Mo.
I still retained the faith of my parents, and genuinely believed the doctrinal precepts with which I was raised; and still planned to enter the ministry. On the other hand, however, I was becoming saturated with everything scientific, and was beginning to modify how I believed, to accommodate what I was learning to be true. As I understood my faith, whatever humans discovered scientifically simply had to be part of God’s universe, and, therefore, needed to be incorporated into a believer’s faith. Since I had little contact with mentors who could guide me personally, I found my mentors within the pages of the books I continuously absorbed.
Three individuals stand out clearly: Robert Heinlein, Ayn Rand, and Philip Wylie, with a lot of help from A.E. Van Vogt, Isaac Asimov, Leon Uris, Werner von Braun, Willy Lee, George Gamov, Immanuel Velikovsky and many others.
I spent two semesters at Evangel continuing my major, and then left for Montana State (where my uncle lived) for a semester, before joining the U.S. Submarine Service.
While at Evangel I discovered Wylie’s A Generation of Vipers followed by his seminal work, An Essay on Morals . The first was disturbing, and I found myself getting angry with the author as he challenged nearly everything in which I believed on the religious side. Then I opened the pages of An Essay on Morals, and I never turned back.
Wylie subtitles his small volume: “A Science of Philosophy and a Philosophy of the Sciences; a Popular Explanation of the Jungian Theory of Human Instinct; a new Bible for the Bold Mind and a way to Personal Peace by Logic; the Heretic’s Handbook and Text for Honest Skeptics, including a Description of Man suitable for an Atomic Age; together with a Compendium of Means to Brotherhood in a Better World; and a Voyage beyond the Opposite Directions of Religion and Objective Truth, to Understanding.”
In his Essay, Wylie summarizes much of Carl Jung’s insights—with Jung’s subsequent blessing (and to the consternation of Wylie’s critics who had panned his Essay as demonstrating no real understanding of Jung).
Humans are the current peak of the evolutionary process. Yet we retain most of the genetic material from the species that preceded us, and—in particular—we retain those genetic combinations that result in instinctual behavior in the “lower” animals. In humans, however, because we can conceptualize to a degree not available to other animals, we tend to ask “Why?” when confronted with the urge to behave in an unexplained manner, when we are driven by our instincts.
Jung postulates that humans sublimate their instincts that are clearly discernible in animals. This sublimation assumes a form he calls archetypal figures. Because we all generate similar archetypes, the human groups we form inevitably merge these figures into legends that underpin every human society. Jung discovered that everywhere on Earth, every society—no matter whether primitive or advanced—has created similar legends all containing exactly the same archetypes. Furthermore, he postulated that if you remove one set of archetypes, the affected society will substitute another, so that each instinct remains represented by the same figure, although in different garb.
For example, Jung analyzed the structure of the Russian Orthodox Church in Imperial Russia, and identified a list of archetypes. He then analyzed the structure of the Communist Party as it existed in Soviet Russia, after it had displaced the Russian Orthodox Church. The archetypes matched, point for point. And these compared closely with the archetypes he identified in Indian Vedantic literature, old Chinese Confucianism, Japanese Buddhism, ancient Greek mythology, and even the theistic beliefs of Australian Aboriginals. Stripped of their details and the bells and whistles of sophistication, they were all the same. No matter where Jung looked, and no matter how different beliefs, legends, and myths appeared on the surface, underneath all were identical.
This was heavy stuff for a young man!
Essentially everything in which I believed had been swept aside in one fell swoop, if Wylie and Jung were correct.
I had learned to think clearly, to analyze differences with formal logic, to apply appropriate BS filters—basically, I arrived at this point at the tender age of 20, possessing the necessary tools to reach a meaningful conclusion for my personal life.
I went to work, and I kept my nose to the grindstone for a solid week. I skipped classes, missed meals, slept little…. I reread the Bible from cover to cover (for the tenth time), but this time I read it with a skeptical eye, keeping Wylie and Jung firmly in mind.
I reexamined everything I had learned about modern science, about how the universe came to be, and how we apparently got here. I examined various religions by comparing their archetypes, which I had to determine in the first place. I analyzed various government structures, various philosophies: Basically, for a solid week of nearly 24 hour days, I reevaluated everything I had ever learned, systematically, doggedly, persistently.
I prayed, too. I wanted to give the God in whom I still believed full opportunity to reach down and work his magic in my mind so I could find peace. I probably spend a quarter of my time in thoughtful prayer, looking for answers within the venue in which I had grown up.
Toward the end of the week I found myself kneeling before a bench in my basement room at my uncle’s. I had fallen asleep while praying. I awoke with a start, looked about me, and discovered that I had reached a decision; I had made up my mind.
I felt content and at peace with myself. I went into the kitchen, fixed a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and then collapsed on my cot and slept for the rest of the day and night.
Now I was faced with a daunting task. I understood that I had been following built-in archetypal figures all my life, and that I had just thrown them all out. But Jung was very clear on this. We are genetically programmed with the instincts that manifest themselves as archetypal figures. Getting rid of one set, simply means replacement by another. But I had a big advantage: I was now aware of the mechanism, and as such, I could control it.
And so I set about carefully and deliberately constructing my own archetype set. The details are not important here, just the fact that I actually went through these motions. I wanted to be in control. Because I’m human, I need a belief set that reflects my built-in instinctual genetic heritage.
Here then, in outline, is what I believe.
Reality, the external world, exists independent of man’s consciousness, independent of any observer’ s knowledge, beliefs, feelings, desires or fears. This universe was present before humans appeared on the scene, and apparently was responsible for producing humans through natural processes that appear to be standard throughout the universe we can see and study.
There is no God, at least not in the sense that He is described by any religion. Although the knowable universe is finite, apparently it has been around for a very long time. When we examine what humans have accomplished in the relatively short time since our ancestors crawled down from trees, we can’t even begin to imagine where we will be in several million years, let alone several billion. What we will have become will have all the characteristics that we currently ascribe to our various Gods. We will, in effect, have become Gods.
What of a possible race of other intelligent beings who happened to develop several million or even billion years ago? Would they not appear as Gods to us?
In other words, the universe may already be filled with “Gods,” or—if we are the first—it will eventually be filled with “Gods.”
Technology is what humans do. Presumably technology is also what other advanced intelligent races do. Since the “rules” appear to be universal, their technology and ours will be analogous, with the only real differences resulting from having had more time to do things, either for us or them, depending on who came first. Eventually, humans (or other intelligent beings, or even humans in consort with other beings) will discover how to manipulate the very elements of the universe itself (as Gods, remember), even to the point of creating new universes.
I believe in an open book called science, a book that has no creed, but that is filled with rules that appear constant, but are always subject to change as we learn more about them.
I believe that we, as humans, can structure our society for the benefit of all of us, individually and collectively. There is no single way, but our proved nature as humans gives us some very clear guidelines as to what is likely to work and what is not.
Societies built on political ideologies, structured on philosophies, without the ability to modify as new information becomes available cannot work in the long run. Witness the Soviet Union or some of the communes of the 1960s, or even some of the early Christian communes in the first centuries A.D. None lasted because they all attempted to force humans into an ideological mold.
On the other hand, the longest lasting political society on the planet, the United States, was originally structured on the founder’s best understanding of human nature, so that the structure fit the people, instead of forcing the people into a structure.
I believe humans can create an ethical framework for human society that is not founded on any particular religious principle or dogma, but rather on fundamental principles derived logically from preexisting initial conditions. Interestingly, such a structure will look quite familiar, because the same archetypes that drive a modern human conscious of his instinctual genetic heritage, also drove the ancients who created the religious rules we call the “Ten Commandments,” the “Torah,” the “Rg Veda,” or whatever.
With my clarified view, I wanted to create my own logical framework, and I believe to this day that this approach is fundamentally better than simply to adapt and use a pre-existing religion-based framework. Nevertheless, I remain very tolerant of those frameworks, precisely because they really reflect the same underlying drives that form the basis for my own personal framework.
Furthermore, we have discovered during the last four hundred odd years that human society functions better when individuals are free to believe what they wish. No matter how bizarre are some beliefs, there always will be sufficient clear thinking people to keep humanity moving forward in its path toward Godhood.
© 2006 – Robert G. Williscroft