2 And that same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there, only it will be coupled with eternal glory, which glory we do not now enjoy.
Can we read that word ‘sociality’ a little more broadly? I would like to interpret it in an expansive way. A biological way. To look at levels of sociality matching the kinds of deep societies that make up every biological system—a move that would make Hermes Trismegistus proud (the coiner of the aphorism, “Tis true without lying, certain & most true/That which is below is like that which is above & that which is above is like that which is below”). Sociality implies relationships among things, and in fact relationships among organisms and their environment is my area of study. We call it Ecology.
Ecologies are structured by evolution and that the relationships between entities in an ecology form societies of just the type I want to argue the structure the heavens. In this formulation evolution is not a tool used by God to create the Earth. It is an a priori principle that explains how complexity arises. Within our universe it is how life was structured. We know that matter is eternal, and that if selection acts, variation exists, and that traits can be inherited, then complexity increases. Is it far fetched that this is a principle that runs deep with in the history of all being, agents, and such in the big U universe?
In an ecological system, processes are arrayed in hierarchies of temporal and spatial scales. There are also functional hierarchies as well such as the way energy is passed around among predators and prey (and of course these often correlate with spatio/temporal scales). In the early 1980 ecologists, Allen and Starr constructed an idea called Hierarchy Theory that explored these sorts of relationships of nested hierarchies. They called them holons (which might be reconceived as Badiau’s count-as-one if one is so inclined). These are clusters of individuals bound by similarities of construction or process, but that have recognized hierarchal relationships as well.These are how societies of organism are formed and how human societies work as well. I think translating Joseph Smith’s revelatory statement fits this broader category nicely.
With this in mind, an evolutionary reading of a Mormon Theology might be best accomplished by:
1. Recognizing that evolution is an a priori principal.
2. That no absolutes including in our conception of deity.
3. Contingency is a part of the big U, universe.
4. That the Heavens are a kind of Ecological system.
5. Adam is best understood as the person in which agency first became operant in the world (the first person who was held accountable for his actions as a moral agent), who thereby brought sin, through grace into would and thus this kind of death.
6. That the future is open and that Faith, Hope, and Charity are all attributes of deity.
Glancing up to what the eternities bring in such a formulation we are struck by an open future. God is no longer an eternal program that repeats over and over. The view that one-eternal round convergences in kind of eternal recurrence where God, and we by implication, go through the same motion over and over, bringing souls to a state of endless joy? Wouldn’t heroin be more effective? Or some eternal equivalent?
In my novella, A Short Stay in Hell, I explore the implications of such an eternity. The most common word used to describe this work is ‘disturbing.’ And such an eternity really is. I think a conception of eternity that moves away from the Plotinian/Aquinian stiffness imposed by absolute Platonic categories which are borrowed from western philosophy is a nessecary adjustment for a truly Mormon based theology.
Furthermore, if God just used evolution, it appears a inexplicably cruel and sloppy way of creating, yet if it is how all complexity emerges including that of the heavens themselves it becomes a necessary thing that must be engaged with at all levels.
So what if we emerged from deep time (as Lewis might call it ‘Deep Magic’ beyond the dawn of time)? What if evolution was not just some method God used, but was the way in which emergence always bubbles forward into novel and unexpected realizations of what cannot be conceived?
Or as one of our beloved hymns ponder,
If you could hie to Kolob In the twinkling of an eye,
And then continue onward With that same speed to fly,
Do you think that you could ever, Through all eternity,
Find out the generation Where Gods began to be?
In summary, I am proposing that evolution is not just a method of creation, but heart of the kinds of oppositional pairs Lehi envisioned. When we look at how life has emerged on Earth we are seeing hints of how Heavenly life emerges–that both we and God are contingent beings in a Universe (broadly construed) that is increasing in complexity. Toward what? And this brings an interesting observation. We spend a lot of time on Earth learning the importance of Faith, Hope, and Charity. It’s hard to imagine the first two being important in a being that sees the end from the beginning. However, if the universe is open. If we are taking a part in a grand emergence that is creating and bringing into existence ever more wondrous things then these three are necessary attributes of God as well.
Is it too much of a stretch that God is as made us partners in the greatest journey possible—the journey into an emerging universe? That we are peers in both risk and discovery?
I suggest the eternities are an evolving ecology just as life has always done on Earth. For more this see an earlier post of mine here).