Space, Ideology and the Soul: A Personal Journey


Dr. Paul J. Werbos




In my other chapter, I tried to lay out a basic vision of space development as a totally rational enterprise, aimed at achieving self-sustaining growth. The goal is simply to maximize the probability that humans do eventually achieve a kind of self-sustaining growth in our activities beyond the earth. Given more time, I would have added pages and pages on the needs for new efforts to develop many critical enabling technologies, important to the viability of life in space.

            But there was a major gap in that discussion: what about the inner human urges that make us want to achieve that goal in the first place? Why should we feel driven to achieve this?

            In the end, objective reality and objective truth can never tell us what goals we “should” give priority to. It has to come from inside ourselves. (In my personal files, I have a letter from the logician/philosopher Bertrand Russell, sent to me when I was in high school, reminding me that it is simply impossible to deduce a sentence with the word “should” in it unless one starts with axioms or fixed assumptions which already contain that word. Thus anyone who claims to do so is cheating, engaging in false logic.) It is a personal matter for each of us. Objective understanding can be very important in understanding ourselves better, so that we can be truer to ourselves and more sane. But still, it is a personal matter. Thus in this chapter I will discuss my own personal reasons – and the objective views which support them – for supporting the space movement.

            In actuality, the space movement is properly very diverse. If the quest for sustainable exploration and development of space is to become the “property” of all humanity, the motivations and the feelings about it must become as diverse as what exists on this planet. That is why some of us DO need to develop plans which are rational and objective in a way which is consistent with different personal viewpoints. I do hope that you, the reader, will still be able to respect the rational plans of another chapter even if you disagree with my personal motivations.

            For me, the motivations have evolved and changed a lot as I grew and learned more about humanity and where it is going.


2. Journey Through Non-Spiritual, Rational Motivations


            Like most of us in the space movement, I began with childhood wonder at some exciting things in books and in the news. There was a little book “All About the Stars” and then Hoyle’s “Nature of the Universe” which enthralled me when I was eight – and undermined the Catholicism I had been devoted to at that time. As I read the first part of Hoyle’s book, I remember saying to my druidic Irish Catholic mother “Ah, the glories of God’s universe.”

At that time, I knew that some of the nuns in the local Catholic school were not such glorious or spiritual people. it was easy for any child to see pettiness and anger and narrow blindness and robotic rigidity for what they truly are. But I did not see any reason why I should be bothered by their warped representation of Catholicism when I could see my mother and some of the better nuns as a model for “real” Catholicism. There was an overwhelming projection of love, love as the true expression of Jesus. There were the words of Jesus read in the church, which clearly said the kinds of things my mother was saying, not the nasty things of the nuns who warned us we would turn into a pillar of salt if we went to communion without going to confession the night before. There was a prominent picture somewhere of Jesus with a kind of open heart, stressing “the sacred heart.” And there was a kind of natural openness and sensitivity all around. There were hours and hours of conversations in our home reinforcing all this (and accidentally supporting some intellectual growth as a byproduct). There was a consistent devotion to the application of love as a way to solve all problems – and an underlying distaste for anything not good and loving, handled gently but strongly with clarity and love.

And so – when I got to the last chapter of Hoyle’s book, it was a real shocker for me. He basically said: “And, oh yes, there is another little planet I forgot to say anything about so far. This tiny planet Earth, way out at the far fringes of a mediocre galaxy, did not deserve attention yet, but it is amusing enough to warrant a few words at the end. It is populated by a bunch of odd-shaped two legged creatures which look a bit like robots, who suffer from the delusion that this entire universe was made only for them and that the very fabric of space and time was itself constructed by a gigantic member of their own species. They subscribe to weird and transparently inconsistent folk beliefs, like the worship of sacred totem poles, sacred cows, dictatorship of the proletariat and the holy self-sacrificing bankers – plus magical numerology, trading rules and ways to flip I Ching coins to concoct numerical scores to tell you where to put research money.” (Well…

Since I don’t remember the details, I have elaborated a bit here, in the spirit of the book.)

            I was totally shocked. Could the great universe truly be such a dark and impersonal place as all of that, without the kind of all-defining great love written into its very fabric? I certainly did not want to accept such a dark idea as that, and I firmly rejected it. Yet I did not forget it. I remember one night, as I walked down the hall into the bathroom, and turned on the light, asking myself: “How do I know? What is the basis for the knowledge?” (In hindsight, I now feel that perhaps the “I” which put that question into my mind was more like the larger “I” I often feel in touch with in such quiet times. Of course, I needed to ask the question, regardless of how little I knew at the time.)

As I thought about that question more and more – I began to think “My basis for believing this is that the nuns have told it to me.” And realizing that was a kind of wake-up call. I was aware not only of my mother, but also of my hard-working German father, whose business and knowledge of engineering and science I had great respect for. When it came to sources of actual knowledge, of objective truth – I realized that my father and the world of science had it all over the fuzzy and unreliable stuff that came from the nuns. And as I followed the logic to its utter conclusion, with a very intense and sincere honesty – at eight, I became an extreme atheist, and utterly uncomfortable about going to a Catholic school where they now made me violate my moral principles of honesty.

            And so, by various means, I arrived at age nine at Chestnut Hill Academy in the then most elite suburbs of Philadelphia, where I renounced that old Catholic culture, and totally embraced the world of Anglo-Saxon high culture (with a heavy extracurricular dose of my German heritage). By age 12, I embraced a kind of existentialist version of the philosophy of Utilitarianism, as formulated by John Stuart Mill. Bear in mind, Philadelphia was where they wrote the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, and the old Philadelphia families still remembered all that very clearly. (Even my father said he had copies of the bar bills for Madeira wine signed by folks like Jefferson and Franklin in a bar owned by a member of my mother’s family, where they wrote much of the Constitution. My two best friends, Richard Colgate Dale and Ben Robert, really exemplified the best of that culture. And so on.)We remembered the United States as something we set up, to embody the enlightened philosophy expressed by John Stuart Mill, a combination of enlightenment and freedom which is a true watershed in human history. And our glorification of this was so strong that maybe I fell into overestimating our uniqueness as a nation; it is a bit harder to live up to those ideals in everyday life in Washington than I understood back then.

            From the viewpoint of utilitarianism – the supreme goal of life and politics is the greatest good of the greatest number, the sum of all human happiness. And so, to “strike it big” by that score, the biggest opportunity before us is to settle the entire galaxy (or as much of it as we can reach) with as many happy human beings as possible. (Those of you who study philosophy will immediately note that Mill’s emphasis on human happiness is really an outgrowth of things that Aristotle said.) And a vast galaxy could be a great place to develop a vastly diverse open society. Indeed, as Hoyle pointed out, this planet really

is a very tiny place in the larger scheme of things, and it is very limiting to be only here. It would be a tragic waste of potential to leave most of the galaxy dead. (If it IS dead, or devoid of intelligent life. If not, our survival might depend on our growth for other reasons.) And of course, we were all aware that the idealistic spirit of going out to settle the frontier had been a key factor in establishing and continuing the spirit of freedom. Whatever the imperfections of those old days, and the challenges before us now, we should never forget these basic positive facts which underlie our best hopes for the future.

            But – not everyone at Chestnut Hill Academy was so optimistic back then. Though I was an outspoken atheist, the dominant culture was of formerly Quaker families that had turned Episcopalian. They were my friends. All of us were strongly committed to moral values of some kind. And the old families had a sad feeling that a lot of the old moral values and principles and philosophy which created the United States and its freedom were being eroded by grossly immoral, unprincipled, showy, crude, nasty, narcissistic nouveau riche people, particularly some of the folks in New York. My father was more or less nouveau himself (though highly principled in his own way), and my mother sometimes laughed when one of my classmate friends said melancholy things which she called “full of beans.” But still, I did listen a bit when classmates said they were worried that the United States might be going the way of the Roman Republic. They got me to read Toynbee’s famous classic of the rise and fall of great civilizations. Being proud of my German heritage, I of course had to read Spengler’s Decline of the West to balance that out. And it did worry me a bit, just as Hoyle had worried me earlier.

I wondered: “Could it be that our grand efforts to design the ideal society are a bit unreal, like castles in the sand? Could it be that there are forces at work in human society and human evolution which simply make it impossible to create the world we choose, and make it a challenge even to survive at all?”

            As I started to worry about this – I became a stronger supporter of the space movement. (And I remember Newt Gingrich’s background as an historian! But I never read his books.) The historian Frederick Jackson Turner argued strongly that a new frontier was essential to the maintenance of freedom and an open society and growth. The deeper analyses of Spengler and Toynbee reinforced the same kind of conclusion. In their histories – civilization always decayed until a new culture was born, always on new soil, always as a new frontier appeared. And so, rationality demanded reaching out to space, not just as a way of increasing Utility (human happiness), but as a way of reducing the probability that civilization might decay and fall altogether. And I began to realize that the human species might well be in danger of ultimate extinction, if social decay and nuclear proliferation combined together. (Already, I learned enough technical detail that I wouldn’t want to bore you with it here – but there is a lot of mathematical modeling and reality and empirical data behind all this. And histories of dynasties of China and so on.)

            But finally, for the tenth grade, I really had to leave Chestnut Hill Academy to go to a boarding school, the Lawrenceville School in New Jersey, in order to take mathematics courses at Princeton suitable to where I was at that time. (In the book A Beautiful Mind, about John Nash, they mention even seeing a rather young teenager at the wonderful mathematics teas, sitting at a go board… that was me, playing with Daniel Cohen.) There was a different kind of discipline there, and many kids from New York and from the oil industry – and Texas, Arabia and China. One of my best friends in tenth grade was a guy named Chen from a prominent Kuomintang family, who gently and elegantly encouraged me to ask a few questions about my Western Utilitarian ideology. He would ask questions like: “Who are you? Really? Who are you?” And he would talk about “Watch our for your blind spot. The blind spot is important for everyone.” I did not change my worldview instantly, but I remembered and respected my friend. I have often thought lately about trying to get back in touch with him – but even in the age of Google, finding a particular “Chen” is not so easy.

            By the next year, my senior year at Lawrenceville, I thought I had a kind of logical argument for why we SHOULD be utilitarians. And it was influenced by Chen.

It began with a kind of argument about “who are we really, who is the greater Self.” It was a kind of abstract formal philosophy, not theological at all. And I argued that of course we should strive to be truly and perfectly rational about maximizing Utility, since Utility is the bottom line, the real “score” for success in life. I read the classic book, the Theory of Games and Economic Behavior, by Von Neumann and Morgenstern, which I still believe is a fundamental part even of true spiritual enlightenment. (My goals and values have changed since then, but goals are not real and honest, and the person is a hypocrite, if the goals are not pursued with full consciousness and rationality. Later, in graduate school, I also read Raiffa’s books on how to apply Von Neumann’s ideas, and they too should be “must reading” for many people.) I even got an article into the Lawrenceville school newspaper summarizing this philosophy briefly, which deeply antagonized at least one of the English teachers who complained that he couldn’t begin to understand what I was talking about. In the end, however, all of this philosophy still said we need to go into space (and do some other things to amplify human happiness) – and it didn’t really say we needed to go into philosophy.

            Early that year, I made a new friend, a wild guy named Lincoln Kaye from New York, who was a new student and declared a Certified Genius somehow as he entered the class. He didn’t agree with my philosophy, but he mentioned that there was something similar already in the Upanishads, the “highest” part of the Vedas, the ancient sacred scriptures of India. And so, while waiting for my math classes at Princeton, I hung out many times in their undergraduate library, in the shelves where they had rows and rows of books of Upanishads, mostly in English. I remember sitting on a hard concrete floor with those books in my hand, and bringing at least one back to my house in Lawrenceville, where I would pore over it while sitting in a strange position over the stairs, distressing the English teacher even more. I found that the Upanishads were basically divided into two parts, a kind of older “higher” part and some later more yoga-oriented parts, both of which I read. I was astounded to see that the “higher” part was almost precisely the same as what I was saying!! And so, I added references to that in what I wrote – which did not help at all in getting people to accept or understand what I was saying. The Greater Self of the high Upanishads is a kind of universal concept of consciousness, which I hoped we could manifest and satisfy more fully throughout the galaxy and universe – bringing life and happiness everywhere possible.

            I did write a few pages trying to explain this version of utilitarianism which I sent off to Bertrand Russell. I am very grateful to him for his kindness in sending me a brief but coherent reply – which did not make me happy, of course, but did influence me. And incessantly, my less moral, more existentialist friend, Lincoln Kaye, would keep asking questions like: “but what if I just simply don’t FEEL like being logical and utilitarian and all that? Why should I bother? The Constitution is all well and good, but if you try to talk to some poor guy in the ghetto who is about to steal some food, why should HE obey your Constitution? He didn’t write it. What’s it to him?”

            And gradually I put this together. I can even remember the exact moment when I was sitting on a hard (concrete?) floor in the basement of Memorial Hall in Lawrenceville, when I said to myself: “OK, Bertrand Russell was right. It is impossible to use reason and science and objective knowledge to draw any conclusions at all about what we ‘should’ do. But instead of asking ‘what should I do?”, I can ask the question ‘what WOULD I do IF I were wise.” And I thought: I can do this by having an operational concept of “wise,” a concept which refers to a kind of end point of logic that I would find wholly satisfying, an equilibrium of my own mental processes. In effect, I could ask what ethical principles or goals would truly satisfy me. PART of the requirement would be to totally satisfy my logical, rational analysis – but there needed to be additional requirements. I immediately followed this by the thought: “This sentence CAN be approached in a logical, scientific, objective way, because it is a sentence about ‘I.’ Just as Chen said, this question requires a systematic effort to understand the self as a foundation for all action.”

            At first, I tried to hold on to a formal, traditional Utilitarian view, by saying that we should go to the higher Upanishads to understand what “I” is. But I slowly began to appreciate how this did idea not wholly fit with reality. I had conversations with other members of the Conservative Club at Lawrenceville, who had me read the book Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand, who said the “I” was all about the simple (biologically based) struggle for survival. (Ayn Rand also suggested that we might consider shooting the Communist copywriters who try to outlaw use of the word “I.” My father said the same, and had me read books by Rudolf Flesch supporting that view.)  I didn’t like that dark picture, but I could not in all honesty just ignore it.  And I read the Asimov Foundation Trilogy, which, among other things, portrayed some more practical pictures about how the “I” in our brains really works. Should we give in to the reality of the “I” of the brain as we see it in neuroscience? Is that the real way to see ourselves? And – as an atheist – I gradually had to admit that the real “I” is the “I” of the brain and of biology, warts and all. And (as various females kept urging me) I had to truly accept my real, biological self. (Not that I went so far as they wanted for many years… They are also an important part of the story, but this is not the National Enquirer. Of course I remember, but one must respect people’s privacy.)

            In the final summer after Lawrenceville, before coming to Harvard, I had a wonderful summer intern job under a Dr. Karreman at Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia. He had me read another classic book, the Organization of Behavior, by D.O. Hebb. I then plunged very deeply into the effort to understand the brain – in a functional way that supports useful subjective understanding of how we get things done and define our higher goals. At this point, I can claim to be a leader in this complex scientific area; for example, I was one of the first (two-year) Presidents of the International Neural Network Society, and received IEEE’s neural network pioneer award for developing (among other things) the mathematical algorithm most widely used in practical applications of artificial neural networks. At, if you search on my name under q-bio, you can learn more about the realities of life and – perhaps more important – pointers to a very large literature, which is truly relevant to these larger issues about the meaning of life.

            But for now – here is the main story about why we should go to space, as I saw it in my middle year as an undergraduate at Harvard.

I was more firmly an atheist than ever, for two reasons: (1) I could see clearly that the popular noises saying “I have feelings so I must have a soul” were simply neurotic errors, sophistry quite similar to what Bertrand Russell elegantly punctured, depressingly common among humans who delude themselves every day  of the week in all areas of life because of ego-driven psychopathology; and (2) I agreed completely (and deeply) with Hebb’s argument which Sagan has summarized as “extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.” And yes, folks, I read some stuff by Nietzsche and Marx that fits all this, but that’s a complicated story; I certainly did not agree with everything those folks wrote.

            I argued that we as humans are naturally born intelligent – which means that we do not START OUT with correct ideas, feelings, or emotional intelligence, but we have a natural desire to use all of our talents and develop them, so as to be more effective, to avoid wasting energy fighting ourselves, and to truly expand our powers, our vision and our abilities. Weak and stupid animals find it hard to think ahead even one day, and are easily killed when there is a change in the weather – but it is our nature to learn more, to establish a stronger foundation, to learn how to enhance our chances of survival across greater intervals of time and larger circles of kinship and respect and evolution. As we grow stronger and more sane, supported by greater understanding of ourselves and our potential, we give up silly illusions, and we realize… that, hey folks, we as humans are ALL in really serious danger of extinction. It is no joke. It’s US, all of us, and it’s not just an intellectual matter. Our lives are at stake. Space solar power and space settlement are certainly not the only critical issues here – but they are one necessary part of the equation, and we need to move if we want to stay alive.

            In sophomore year, I had given up being a slave of my intellectual, symbolic brain. I knew enough about the brain to realize that the input of “feelings,” of “primary reinforcement,” is what drives the system. Thus a fully wise and sane person really does do just what he feels like – that is true freedom, and a powerful society empowers and encourages that (more than ours does yet). Yet such a person also has an educated and understanding self-consciousness, and appreciation and feeling for his or her own natural intelligence, which strives to see and understand his or her feelings as clearly and precisely and vividly as any scientist understands the fine points of an experiment.

There is – as Chen would say – a kind of harmony in the self. And so, I fight to stay alive because I care about living and not dying, and because I really don’t want everyone human to be dead in X years. I truly appreciate in myself that everything we do will be for naught, if we allow extinction to happen. And I realize that all will be well, in the end, if we reach a new foundation for our material existence.

I look back on Aristotle’s words, where he said that a sane and balanced person is moderate – and looks ahead a moderate number of generations into the future in his planning and thinking, not too many and not too few. I look back on the words of an old classmate from Chestnut Hill, George Davis Gammon, who told me: ”Freud is not trying to dictate value judgments  to you. His concept of sanity is to keep you from fighting with yourself, to avoid hypocrisy, to achieve whatever YOU value more effectively.” They were right about these points. It is time for us to learn to be more sane, and to look forward to the hard realities we must cope with. I allow my inner self to fill itself with the healthy words of the song “Remember the future.” (I was so sad when Gore replaced that with Macarena the next time around! That girl was nice, and deserved appreciation, but we had a job to do.) It is time for us to fight for the survival of humanity, in as systematic and rational and determined a way as we possibly can. Space is a key part of that.



3. New Motivations: Teilhard de Chardin, “Gaea” and Back to The Soul


Many people really should stop reading right here. To this day, I deeply respect the intellects of many people who would think exactly as I did in my sophomore/junior year at Harvard. I fully respect and understand the logic of their views, and I fund many people who believe as they do. Many of them are making great and important contributions to humanity. My PhD thesis adviser at Harvard, Dr. Karl Deutsch, was a man like that – a man of great vision, with a visibly powerful and great and benevolent soul, who did not believe at all in the soul and would be shocked if he could really see his own self in the mirror. It reminds me a bit of what Jesus said about the Good Samaritan, versus the evil Pharisees in the Temple. The stuck-in-the-mud Pharisees and suicide bombers who doubt both evolution and the truth of the Apollo program, and the rights of women, are a major threat to the spirit of America, and to the real soul of Christianity and Islam and to humanity as a whole.

            But – in the end, real experience of real life has taught me greater rational understanding of what my mother really was about. I saw it all around me when I was a child, and I remember things I later blocked off from myself – but they were all around me, and I needed to open my eyes. My logical rational self needed to be brought kicking and screaming, by the pressure of unremitting personal experience, to a few rudiments of the greater spiritual reality around all of us every day of our lives. (Though, OK, there are a few dark days in government office buildings when we do need to go out and see a family member or a tree to unblur the eyes… And the same is true of many academic theologians!)

            I did not know it at the time – but once I had whole-heartedly embraced the goal of Sanity and Whole-Brain Effectiveness, and focused on the goals of intense objective understanding of all details of what goes on in my own brain, as well as the goal of greater human survival… that set a certain kind of process to work. Odd sorts of things started to happen. I started noticing things. I sometimes wonder whether John Nash’s sanity went when he COMBINED an ability to really put together some of what was going on around him, with an intellectual refusal stricter than mine to accept a paranormal or spiritual explanation. I do not expect others to accept all of the first person experience which led me that way – but for me it eventually reached the point where my sanity seemed equally threatened either way, either by rejecting or accepting paranormal reality of some kind. I remembered Hebb’s calculation – but, in the light of extraordinary events, I felt I now had to be open-minded, 50-50. I remember the exact moment (I believe it was in March 1967) when a specific confirmed memory from the future drove me to be 50-50 open-minded… and after that, my intellect was mobilized and I learned fast.

            Though I would not feel right making claims and noises about my personal inner life… maybe one story which reminds me of John Nash might be in order. In 1968-1969, when I was a first-year graduate student at Harvard, I had read about a UN conference on global environment sustainability. I had a flash of ideas about how new remote sensing technologies and parallel computing could be used to help solve some of those problems (and incidentally help the space movement). I spoke to no one about this unusual idea, which I had not heard anywhere around me. I ran to my dorm room, locked the door, and typed up a long letter on the stationary of the Harvard Center for International Relations

(which had names like “Kissinger” on it), and put it in an envelope to send to the key conference people. As I walked down the cold tiles of the dormitory hallway, heading for the mailbox, a close friend of mine from India walked up to me. This friend, “Mani” Subramaniam, was very much revered by his fellow members of the Vedanta Society at Harvard, and we were in the same department. As he walked up to me, he said that an interesting idea had just popped into his head. I kept quiet, and held my sealed envelope tightly. He then proceeded to spell out almost verbatim the exact contents of what I had just written in total silence, based on putting together ideas from many very different sources and doing analysis no one else had done, to my educated knowledge. Even the choice of words was the same. If Mani had worked for DOD, I can imagine how a John Nash might have concluded that he was a CIA agent with a camera in my room; the probabilities were just ‘way too low for a total coincidence. (Can you imagine living life when this seems to happen every day?) But Mani did not work for the CIA. (Hey, guys,

There is enough evidence for that.) And truly, I got into deep danger at various times of my life when other folks started believing that *I** worked for the CIA, or the KGB, or even MI-5. (The last was by far the most fun.)

            But – I certainly would not give us the quest for greater sanity and rationality.

How could I rationally explain all this? How could I reconcile things? I certainly was not ready to eat the magic mushrooms of fuzzy craziness, and depart to the mushroom islands of believing everything and nothing.

            And so – various things. Of course, I read some of the work of Carl Jung, the “other” great founder of psychoanalysis, who talked about synchronicity and the collective unconscious. This was interesting – but there was no physical explanation.

And I remembered the famous French theologian, Teilhad de Chardin, whose writings were once a great inspiration to my mother, as well as to John Kennedy. In fact, I had some long talks with the Harvard janitors, who knew all the Kennedy brothers, and told me how John Kennedy had spent hours enwrapped in the writings of Teilhard de Chardin – bemusing the janitor as much as I had bemused that English teacher earlier. Teilhard de Chardin was in many ways the real spiritual father of the American space program, and it is clear that Kennedy’s vision was a lot larger than most of everyone else’s (and beyond my real understanding at that time). Still… there was no physical explanation.

            Because I was running very low on money at a certain point in graduate school, I moved to the bad side of Boston, in the Roxbury slums – which were a one-mile walk from the Harvard Medical School Library. I read a great deal of neuroscience for my PhD thesis project, but I also devoured all the back issues of the various parapsychology journals in a few weeks, in order to look for clues. I did find a few things that seemed highly significant, given that I now had an open mind. (I still was skeptical however, despite a lot of pressure from experience.) I read all about the various SRI projects funded by the CIA and DOD and others; some of that work passed tough review at Proc. IEEE, which is the most selective, flagship journal of the world’s largest professional/scientific society. I was impressed by some of the evidence I heard about, at the University of Toronto, described in the popular book Conjuring Up Philip, though I never had time to check out the details first-hand as much. And I later heard a talk by Bierman of the Netherlands which seemed quite solid. There was an article on a poltergeist associated with a Cuban boy, Julius, which did seem to hint at some possible physics – and frankly, did resonate with some of what I experienced myself in some of those years.

            Once you start to consider that we MIGHT need to explain strange stuff… you naturally do your best to find a truly rational explanation.

            At one point, I was intrigued by the idea that paranormal abilities might have been evolving slowly for billions of years, based on physical phenomena which are so weak that they are harder to see than ordinary light, and yet with enormous long-term potential to be useful in exchanging information. After all, if we did not have first personal experience of using eyes in our own heads, what would our “rational mainstream science” be telling us today? Wells (who also write The Time Machine) wrote a story about that, called “In the Nation of the Blind.” (I wonder why Disney never made a movie of that. They should.) We probably would not even believe that the stars and planets exist! We would not have made telescopes. The warm and fuzzy feelings we get form the sun would have been dismissed as a childish hallucination. And I wondered: did Wells himself have eyes? Have other science fiction writers had eyes they were too cautious to tell us about? (And to this day, I wonder that about Orson Scot Card, Modesitt, Eric Temple Bell, Jules Verne and even Asimov and Bear sometimes. And others.) Could it be that the odd molecules in the pineal gland (which are wired up to the epithalamus in a way very similar to the way that the pituitary gland is wired up to the hypothalamus, which does have sensory functions) provide the “receiver” in this system?

            But as time went on, I realized this simply was not good enough to explain the experience. Not even close. As an example – how could your pineal gland sort out all the multitude of signals from other people? Some folks say “oh, that’s easy, using quantum theory.” But in all fairness, there are folks who understand quantum theory a whole lot more than you can believe, who would love to build systems that act as well as remote viewing, and it’s not easy. There are lots of reasons to believe that this simply does not work (is not sufficient) as a physical explanation. (Of course, I am not deducing here that we should simply chuck out quantum theory!! That’s an extremely complicated subject, and I would refer you to the physics part of for that.)

            If quantum theory is not enough – what is? What is the minimum change we would have to make in our basic assumptions about physics to accommodate such empirical evidence? (This is not “science” here and now as Kuhn defines it, and I apologize again to those who do not accept this empirical evidence.)

            OK, folks, it’s a big swallow, but here is the best I can do. It’s the “theory” most consistent with Occam’s Razor, a basic principle of rational, scientific thinking. I think of it as “the standard model of the soul.” I don’t have religious faith in it, any more than a good physicist has religious faith in today’s standard model of physics, but for myself, I can’t get by without it. And frankly, I would argue it has a better chance of being Completely True in the end than the standard model of physics does.

            The idea is – it wouldn’t take a very fundamental change in our understanding of the laws of physics to allow for the possibility of a couple of extra force fields as yet observed, which give our universe the property that it a nonlinear dynamical system supporting pervasive life as an emergent property. Not just the life we see everyday with our mundane eyes, but an additional kind of life. And then “we” – our whole selves – are a kind of symbiosis of two life forms, a “body” and a “personal soul” which is in turn a kind of cell or region with a kind of earth-spanning life-form. A life-form in a kind of childhood state of development, as is necessary to explain a lot of what we see.

            And of course – this is essentially the same viewpoint that Teilhard de Chardin was trying to teach us! And it fits nicely with ideas about “the Gaia hypothesis,” the collective unconscious and the “noosphere” and so on. It fits with Taoist and Native American feelings about the living earth.  It is actually more consistent with the later, more yoga-based parts of the Upanishads than with the parts I used to like. Maybe some people in India learned a few things over time, just as I did. For true sanity, we need to be true to our entire selves, and seek harmony of all parts of ourselves, a harmony which ancient mystics like George Washington used to call an “alchemical marriage.” (Are you skeptical about that last part? Well, in the open museum in the George Washington Masonic Memorial, a few minutes from my house, you can see a picture of him in his Scottish Rite apron, and many related materials. Loren Eiseley’s introduction to the science fiction Voyage to Arcturus, by Lindsay, echoes a view very similar to this standard model of the soul – and the book itself clearly reflects one strand of the Scottish Rite Masonry. Those interested in authentic esoteric history might read Colin Wilson’s book on Lindsay – but not the more recent edition captured by the fuzzies.)

            This is just a small opening to a huge and important subject. But what does it tell us in the end about space? To begin with, it says that Teilhard de Chardin was right. In addition to the rational mundane reasons to want to move out into the galaxy, there is a strong natural spiritual impulse as well. Tsiolovsky said: “Earth is the cradle of mankind – but we can’t stay in the cradle forever.” It would be grossly healthy for ANY intelligence to spend all of eternity talking to and seeing nothing but itself. Thus those who have real sensitivity to the spirit which moves us all on the winds should be able to feel directly how this spirit, like the birds, does want to soar.  And of course Teilhard de Chardin, a Catholic priest, could see clearly how this fits the true inner spirit of true Christianity.

            There is another, more grim side of this. Some people imagine that we can simply let the whole earth go to hell. Even if all bodies on earth die, the Elect can just go to heaven. They imagine a strange kind of God the Father who prefers unicellular babies who scream and ask for favors all day, never really listen to anyone else, throw their talents away in a way that Jesus deplored, and stand idly by as their brothers and soul-mates die by the billions and as they cheerfully smash up a very expensive billion-year-old toy. Sorry, kids, that’s not the way it works. We are all in this together. Smash up this toy – and there are no guarantees at any level of existence, mundane or spiritual.

            One never knows what to make of dreams. Sometimes they are simply effective tools of our subconscious mundane mind to make us more fully aware of realistic possibilities we need to take seriously. Sometimes, in my experience, they foreshadow real possibilities – perhaps from our collective intelligence or perhaps from some other physics we do not yet know. Whichever it is, they are  a proper part of our thinking, and a truly sane person does not just repress them. (My apologies to the Freudians who would prefer to write a book to clarify this.) For myself, I am heavily influenced by different dreams, which have shown very detailed and very scientifically defensible alternative scenarios for the human future. In one scenario, I do indeed see the faces on the billions of dead bodies all over the entire earth, so many of them barely and stupidly dawning to a realization that “all of humanity going extinct” was a literal statement including them personally despite all of their good works and so on. In another… long before I met Ray Chase, I saw his vehicle flying (yes, the exact same weird angles with special CFD properties)… and I saw humans truly reaching the stars. There were great struggles in both tracks or books… but we really do face a crossroads, here and now. I hope we can get our act together to drive down the right fork.


4. An Ecumenical Postscript


Section 3 really gives my final message, but a few caveats and clarification are in order.

            First, rationality does demand that we try to stay open-minded, at least towards alternative models that make sense. And of course, there is good reason for us to do so. Our experience and even our understanding of mathematics are all at an immature stage and we have a lot to learn.

            Second – I am often very amused by a silly expression of that uncertainty. Some followers of the Gaia hypothesis can become a bit degenerate about it, and depict “Gaia” as a literally female humanoid goddess. For some folks, that can be useful, in much the same way that a rosary can be useful for some people, but it’s important not to confuse the symbol with the reality. For us to speculate about the gender of the “noosphere” is a bit like a couple of twin fetuses giggling about heir fantasies of what sex might be like. Maybe they have better ways to learn about reality in their present state of impoverished input.

            Third – as I speak of what  learned from my mother, I really must give equal time to my wife, Dr. Ludmila Dolmatova Werbos. This very day the spiritual sustenance and palpable feelings of love which allow me to put all this on paper certainly trace back to her. I will not say as much about her as I did about my mother here, mainly because it would be inappropriate to go too high in levels in a paper for the public.

            Fourth – the standard model of the soul certainly does not say that intelligence or soul is unique to earth, or that maturity exists nowhere in the universe. Almost all of our spiritual life properly revolves around our connectedness on earth – but, like Teilhard de Chardin, I suspect we should have a bit more literal respect for the specific words of Jesus when he refers to “Our father.” Jesus and Lao Tzu both made it clear they wanted to be listened to, not worshipped as if they were gods, just as Mohammed did, and it is very sad that so many have come in their name who tried to undo their work, all for the sake of petty things like personal ego and vanity.

            Fifth – like Isaac Newton, I believe that the Greek Bible used today was in great part a twisted document due to Constantine, whose role as the head of Christendom was essentially the same as that of Lenin when he nationalized the Russian church. (Is it truly a miracle when you get a unanimous vote of the Politburo?) The neo(?)-pagan pseudo-Christian works from those days are no better and no more authentic.

            Sixth – there is no time here to recount long and illuminating conversations with people from many deep and sensitive cultures around the earth. Such conversations are an essential part of our common, indivisible spiritual growth. But I can relate one thing..

A true Sufi leader who once asked “Why a mathematical model?” At one level, experience is enough by itself. That is what a mouse would tell you, as he questions the weird perversity (in his view) of the human way of life, using words and ever so self-conscious. The spiritual leaders of the past have always been right to struggle with the oppressive kind of rational ego, which does not open itself up to the greater realities of life. But it is not natural give up our total being, our intelligence, our vitality, and even our capacity for higher pleasure and pain, as the price of doing so. Is it really possible that a mathematical model could  explain” or fit absolutely al of existence in a coherent way? Ultimately, we cannot be sure. But it is in our nature to try, and to rejoice as we see that we really can continue to grow in understanding, now as in the past, and hopefully forever.