What keeps you up at night? Is it the anticipation of another great day?! Or is it the worry of impending doom? I suspect for most of us, it is more the latter than the former. What often gives me a restless night is the worry that I’m going to oversleep and miss my flight. Hasn’t happened yet, mind you, but that doesn’t keep me from worrying about it. Other times it can be a concern over what is happening or not happening at work. Do I have all my work done? Have I done a good enough job? Will people appreciate what I have done? Whatever the specific nature of the concern, they all have one thing in common: they are concerns about the future.
I’m comforted to know that it isn’t just me. We all worry about the future, and so we do our best to predict it, and avoid unhappy outcomes (though studies suggest we’re not actually very good at that). Prediction of the future is something we humans spend a lot of time on, this despite Jesus’ teachings to not worry about it. He says, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own (Matthew 6:34).” But we do worry about tomorrow. A lot. We worry about having enough money for retirement, about what the weather is going to be, about our jobs, how our kids are going to turn out, whether Disney and JJ Abrams are going to ruin Star Wars and, of course, death. That’s the big one. When are we going to die? Will our loved ones die? Similarly we worry about whether death is going to come from something preventable.
Now there are plenty of people out there who have developed a plan to cheat death. For some it is being frozen, others it is a diet and/or exercise program. One fellow who has caught my attention is betting on robots to ensure his eternity on earth. His name is Raymond Kurzweil. Ever heard of him? Kurzweil was born in 1948. In 1963, at age fifteen, he wrote his first computer program. He created a pattern-recognition software program that analyzed the works of classical composers, and then synthesized its own songs in similar styles. In 1965, he was invited to appear on the television program I’ve Got a Secret, where he performed a piano piece that was composed by a computer he also had built.
Since then he’s been a leading inventor and predictor of the technological future. His predictions aren’t always right of course, but often they are. In 1983 he predicted the explosive growth and impact of the internet, as well as that a computer would be able to beat the best human chess players by the year 2000. It happened in 1997. These are just a couple highlights as we don’t have space for more, but suffice it to say his predictions about technological advances and invention credentials make him worth listening to.I mention these accurate predictions though as background to this view of the future which are best summarized as such:
He claims to know that 20 to 25 years from now, we will have millions of blood-cell sized devices, known as nanobots, inside our bodies fighting against diseases, improving our memory, and cognitive abilities. Kurzweil claims … that around 2045, “the pace of change will be so astonishingly quick that we won’t be able to keep up, unless we enhance our own intelligence by merging with the intelligent machines we are creating”. Shortly after, Kurzweil claims to know that humans will be a hybrid of biological and non-biological intelligence that becomes increasingly dominated by its non-biological component.
He stresses that “AI is not an intelligent invasion from Mars. These are brain extenders that we have created to expand our own mental reach. They are part of our civilization. They are part of who we are. So over the next few decades our human-machine civilization will become increasingly dominated by its non-biological component.” Thank you Wikipedia.
This view of the future sure puts a different spin on this quote from True Christian Religion: “at the time of the Lord’s coming the scientific, the rational and the spiritual will make one, and that the scientific will then serve the rational, and both the spiritual.” (TCR 200) Somehow I don’t think having a life meshed with microscopic robots in our body is what Swedenborg envisioned when he wrote that the scientific would serve the spiritual.
But that this human hybrid future could become reality doesn’t feel too far-fetched to me. Kurzweil states that technology advances exponentially, not linearly, so as we look into the future we have to have a mind wide open to the possibilities. How do we see such a future? Are we afraid of it? Does this add to our spiritual growth or is it just another human attempt to over-throw God? More importantly, does it eliminate the fear of death? That’s what Kurzweil is predicting and chasing: making death a choice. So much for the inevitability of death and taxes!
I’m all for freedom, but this feels like we’re missing something here. The Lord does not want us to fear death! He tells us that there is no need to fear death! Swedenborg writes:
[These spirits] instilled that calm and delight into me, I felt it filling my chest and heart; at the same time those desires and anxious cares about things to come which lead to the absence of peace and joy, disturbing the mind and creating all kinds of turmoil there, were removed… Those spirits told me that their people have no fear of death, except for the little they have over the loss of husband or wife and of children. They have no fear of it because they know for certain that the death of the body is a continuation of life, and that subsequently they become all the happier… Dying is not called dying by them but being “heavenized.” (AC 8113, 8850)
Being “heavenized” puts a different spin on it, doesn’t it? This seems to me to be the way that we are to live. Not in fear of death, but rather seeing this world for what it is – a school – and seeing our departure from it as a continuation or graduation into a new and happier place. But the trouble is that so many of us just don’t believe in it any more. We hope there is an afterlife, and many believe there is an afterlife, but really, we should know there is an afterlife.
A couple of years ago, when I was promoting the church at a Mind, Body and Spirit show, I was talking to a fellow exhibitor and we were observing all the people who were in line to talk with the psychics to have their future told. “A lot of scared people over there.” he said. I’d never thought of it that way before, but I’ve come to think he’s right. A lot of those people are probably eager to have a glimpse of their future are likely worried about it. Perhaps they’re looking to reconnect with a heavenized loved one, or want to know if their current relationship will last… but no matter what it is they’re looking for, aren’t they looking because they’re hoping or believing, but not knowing? Isn’t this at the core of Kurzweil’s hope for the future? That he won’t have to go through the indignity of death, and that nobody will ever have to feel the pain of losing somebody dear to them.
It sounds good in a way, but ultimately it is another case of us thinking we know what is better for ourselves than the Lord does. Somewhere, the devil is laughing. Just as he tricked Esau into despising and giving away his inheritance (see Genesis 25), his birthright, for some stew, he’s tricking us into forgoing our birthright – an eternity of peace and happiness beyond our comprehension – for an extended stay on this crummy rock.
Now, in once sense we can say, “No big deal” if people want to live forever on earth. Kurzweil assures that the problems of climate change, overpopulation, ability to produce food, etc., will also be addressed by technology, so we don’t have to worry about them either. More importantly, there seems to be a real benefit to getting beyond the fear of death.
A man named Robert Monroe, who is known for being able to intentionally have out of body experiences, describes a potential future and the benefits for humanity if we actually can get past the fear of death. In one of his experiences he meets up with some beings that take him on a journey to see this potential future for the Earth, sometime beyond the year 3000. He says things will indeed be very different, and not in a human cyborg kind of way. In fact, instead of people having to remember that there is more to them than their physical bodies, people in the future have to remind themselves that there is more to them than their spiritual or energetic bodies. The changes he sees in this future as a result of this shift are dramatic.
As he flies over various places around the world he notices that balance has returned to the ecosystem. There are no buildings, roads, cars, ships, or planes… not much of anything really. Everything looks pristine. There are beautiful gardens, and while he is told there are homes for the people, where ever these homes are he cannot find them. The people for the most part live outside their physical body. They still have one though. No need for microscopic robots to enhance it either. They’ve figured out how to project what Monroe calls a “resonant energy balloon” that protects the body from anything: viruses, mosquitoes, bears, you name it. Not to mention we’ve learned how to consume such a small amount of food that the production of it is also a non-issue. The Earth is absolutely beautiful. He observes that humanity “finally got its act together.” Indeed.
So what kind of magic is this that we stop worrying about death and then all of sudden become a bunch of peace ‘n love tree hugging hippies? How does that work? The way he describes the Earth is that in our current time we have a lot of interference in our spiritual atmosphere that prevents God’s energy from getting to us. Where does the interference come from? Us, of course. More specifically, it’s from people who have passed on from their physical existence, but haven’t moved on. They’re people who are so focused on their life here, or have such a love of the world that they stay connected with Earth. Because they haven’t moved on, they’ve basically gummed up the system. However, in this potential future these bands of interference no longer exist. Instead they are replaced with a beautiful crystal ring that would look like Saturn’s rings. The energy of God now gets through cleanly and clearly.
This description of people sticking around the Earth longer than they’re supposed to is a common observation with others who have had psychic experiences. George Ritchie describes people who are stuck here because they refuse to look up and see God and the angels trying to raise them higher. All they do is look down and keep their base thinking, and the worries of their life: what does this person think of me, this job has to get done, there’s a lot of money to be made… you know, the kind of worries we all have that basically relate to the future.
The teachings for the New Church give us a similar message and warning about worrying about the future:
Those who have worried much about the future, and more so those who have as a consequence become grasping and avaricious, appear in the region where the stomach is situated. Many have appeared to me there. The sphere of their life may be likened to a nauseating smell emitted from the stomach and also to an ache caused by indigestion. People like these remain in that region for a long time, for worries about the future, when these are compounded by the way such people act, seriously impair and slow down the inflow of spiritual life. This is because these people assign to themselves that which is the business of Divine Providence, and those who do this put a stop to that inflow and so cut themselves off from the life of goodness and truth. (AC 5177)
Do you see the similarities between this and Monroe’s ideas? “People like these remain in that region for a long time,” and that seems to be what Monroe sees too. But more importantly is the line stating that worrying about the future compounded by the way they act “seriously impair[s] and slow[s] down the inflow of spiritual life.” This feels like it is exactly what Monroe is talking about. Our worrying over the future is interfering with the Lord’s love and wisdom reaching us. Because we are trying to do the work of Divine Providence we are cutting ourselves off from the life of goodness and truth.
Think about all the debates that rage over the environment, wars, money, politics… they all disappear when we make the choice to stop worrying about the future, when we stop chasing the fountain of physical youth. As we stop focusing on the troubles of our life, we are able to lift our thoughts and actually receive God’s love and wisdom in a purer way. We’ll regain the ability to see the spiritual realm while still here and people will no longer have to hope or believe in the next life, they will know! It will take some time for us to get there, but in the grand scheme of things another 1000 years or so really isn’t that long. Unfortunately you and I won’t get to see it… well, unless of course you become a cyborg first that is.