Transhumanism: A Reform Pagan Perspective

Prevising Transhumanity

The twentieth century revolutionized humankind’s understanding of physical reality by shattering certain assumptions: We learned that certain properties of phenomena in spacetime—theretofore assumed to be constants—actually vary, relative to the observer’s perspective (the relevant constant being rather the speed of light), and we learned that matter and energy—theretofore assumed to be different—are actually equivalent.

Analogously, the twenty-first century is revolutionizing our understanding of our own human reality: We’re realizing that humanity itself—heretofore assumed to be like a constant—actually varies, relative to the observer’s perspective (the relevant constants being rather Nature itself and accelerating human and technological change therein), and our conceptions of humanity and technology—heretofore assumed to be different—are converging toward creator–creation unity related to (perhaps even resulting from) the Singularity, a general artificial intelligence that bends back into itself with the capacity of limitless self-enhancement.

Reform Pagans appreciate that human spirituality arises from, and remains inextricably bound up in, human nature—to be fully human is to be a human spirit, a brief and accidental emergence from the physiosphere and biosphere into the noosphere. Yet Reform Pagans also profess “Realism” and “Eternalism” as two of our defining Fifteen Theses. How do we reconcile the observation that the transhuman era is approaching with the assertion that Paganism is humanity’s once and future faith? Can any religion or spirituality, Paganism included, survive the advent of the Singularity, creator–creation unity, and the passing into obsolescence of humanity as we know it?

Yes, in fact, Reform Paganism is particularly well suited not only to adapt to and survive the great changes to come from “transhumanity” (as a possible future objective reality) but also to answer the questions left unaddressed by “transhumanism” (as a present subjective persuasion).

Reconciling with Transhumanity

We say that Reform Paganism arises from, remains ever within, and returns us to Nature, and our vision of Nature is one of parallel planes or concentric spheres of existence, each emerging onto the next: the physiosphere giving emergence to the biosphere, the biosphere giving emergence to the noosphere.

Accordingly, Reform Paganism professes, as one of our defining Fifteen Theses, a “Holism” that manifests itself in our Five Elements of practice, which together address all of the spheres of human existence. By these Five Elements of practice, Reform Paganism promotes “spiritual development”, an ineffable kind of experience that cannot be defined but can be described, however imperfectly, as a subjective “falling into place” of pieces—within oneself (soma and psyche), one’s community, and all of Nature—that didn’t seem to fit together before. This “falling into place” involves an increase in internal order (within a human spirit) vis-à-vis objective phenomena that need not reflect a commensurate increase in external order.

Reform Paganism views spiritual development as an outgrowth of universal evolution, evolution across all spheres of existence, which can be viewed also as an ingrowth of the involution of the Universe. Reform Pagans view Paganism as the “natural” human spirituality, in that Paganism is the self-expression of the human spirit inspired directly by our lives in Nature—Paganism is the purposeful reconnection of the noosphere with the biosphere and the physiosphere.

Human achievement of creator–creation unity (i.e., transhumanity) marks simply the emergence of another sphere of existence, one with no widely agreed-upon name, one that I call the “theosphere”. And as Reform Paganism purposefully reconnects the noosphere with the biosphere and the physiosphere, so it will purposefully connect these precursor spheres to the theosphere—the purpose of spirituality, particularly of Reform Paganism, is spiritual development, and that means the purpose of spirituality is to cause the various pieces of our lives scattered across all our spheres of existence to fall into place.

Complementing Transhumanism

Today, transhumanism (as a subjective persuasion, a political or philosophical position) serves as such a source of inspiration for some proponents that they see no further need for spirituality. But transhumanism fills this need today only because we imagine that transhumanity is an objective to be achieved, a possible future reality that has not yet come to pass. If we achieve technological immortality of soma and psyche, what more life could a transhumanist desire? If we connect our brains to computers, is a transhumanist forever consigned to pursue more external drives and processors?

In the measure that transhumanity becomes our present reality, it ceases to inspire, unless we wish forever to play a Red Queen Game of ever-expanding means with no end:

“[I]n our country,” said Alice, still panting a little, “you’d generally get to somewhere else [] if you run very fast for a long time[.]”

“A slow sort of country!” said the Queen. “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”

—Lewis Carroll,
« Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There »

Reform Paganism offers transhumanism a context for its pursuits: spiritual development. Any person who can remember even one moment of attaining a new spiritual insight, of witnessing the pieces of our lives “fall into place”, can understand that spiritual development is desirable as an end in itself—without telling us what further end, if any, we should or must pursue in life, spiritual development yields an immediate sense of fulfillment. And the enhancement of human capacities that transhumanism works toward would expand our possibilities for such spiritual insights.

Reform Paganism is no enemy to transhumanity, which fits within the Reform Pagan understanding of universal evolution and involution, and no enemy of transhumanism, the present favorable disposition toward future transhumanity; rather, a future of transhumanity has much to offer Reform Paganism, and Reform Paganism has much to offer today’s transhumanism.

Also published on Medium.

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