Shiva statue at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider

Both the Bible and Science predict/envision a Singularity[1], a landmark event that will rock the world and redirect the course of human history forever. While Science’s Singularity is the culmination of technological advance, the melding of Man and Machine in an advanced, autonomous artificial intelligence, Scripture’s Singularity is the culmination of spiritual forces, Man’s rebellion against God, which leads to the rise and/or creation of an entity that will both unite and then deceive the Earth.

The current confluences of forces suggest that both may be true.

One such force is the convergence of physics and metaphysics. Whereas Science was once seen as antithetical to Religion, now an odd synthesis is blossoming. In his show Cosmos, Carl Sagan introduced the idea of an intersection between science and religious mysticism. Sagan is quoted in THIS ARTICLE:

Hindu religion is the only one of the world’s great faiths dedicated to the idea that the cosmos itself undergoes an immense, indeed an infinite number of deaths and rebirths. It is the only religion in which the time scales correspond, no doubt, by accident, to those of modern scientific cosmology. Its cycles run from our ordinary day and night to a day and night of Brahma 8.64 billion years long. Longer than the age of the Earth or the Sun and about half of the time since the Big Bang. And there are much longer time scales still.

Apparently, Hinduism is attracting more interest from scientists lately. Why? In this case, it’s Hinduism’s view of the cosmos, or the cyclic destruction and recreation of matter, that elicits a nod from the normally non-religious scientist. Unlike the Judeo-Christian worldview which sees the world as having a strict “beginning” (Gen. 1:1), Hinduism describes a universe in constant state of “reincarnation.” The Hindu scriptures suggest that the universe is successively born every 4.32 billion years. This position aligns closely with the Oscillating Universe Theory, a theory that was abandoned by cosmologists and is only now seeing a comeback.

Chuck Missler, in his book The Creator Beyond Time and Space describes just why the Oscillating Universe Theory fell out of favor.

The first problem for the Oscillation Model is that there is not enough mass in the Universe to cause it to re-collapse. As the mass of the Universe moves rapidly away from its point of origin, the force of gravity acts upon it to pull it back together. The Oscillation Model proposes that all the mass in the universe will eventually be forced to re-collapse into another Cosmic Egg which explodes again. However, even the most optimistic calculations show that there is not enough mass in the universe to both reverse the expansion and accomplish a re-collapse.

So why are scientists like Sagan inferring viability upon a once defunct cosmological model? Some suggests that it’s simply a way to avoid the notion of an Absolute Beginning. From Scientists Abandon the Oscillating Universe Theory:

According to Princeton physicist Robert Dicke, an infinite number of these cycles of expansion and contraction of the universe would ‘relieve us of the necessity of understanding the origin of matter at any finite time in the past.’ The creation event becomes irrelevant, and our existence could be attributed to one lucky bounce. After all given infinite number of bounces, it is argued that surely one would produce all the conditions necessary to convert particles and atoms into human beings through strictly natural processes.

This embrace of a Reincarnating Universe as a means of avoiding “finite time,” especially when done in the name of Science, is quite fascinating. Essentially, it allows for a synthesis of Science and Religion, Technology and Metaphysics. So whereas Science and Religion were once viewed as ideological opponents,  more recently they can be found cozying up to each other.

Take for example the statue of Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction, erected at CERN. From the aforementioned article:

On June 18, 2004, an unusual new landmark was unveiled at CERN, the European Center for Research in Particle Physics in Geneva – a 2m tall statue of the Indian deity Shiva Nataraja, the Lord of Dance. CERN is Switzerland’s pre-eminent center of research into energy, the world’s largest particle physics laboratory and the place where core technologies of the internet were first conceived. The statue, symbolizing Shiva’s cosmic dance of creation and destruction, was given to CERN by the Indian government to celebrate the research center’s long association with India.

In choosing the image of Shiva Nataraja, the Indian government acknowledged the profound significance of the metaphor of Shiva’s dance for the cosmic dance of subatomic particles, which is observed and analyzed by CERN’s physicists. The parallel between Shiva’s dance and the dance of subatomic particles was first discussed by Fritjof Capra in an article titled “The Dance of Shiva: The Hindu View of Matter in the Light of Modern Physics,” published in Main Currents in Modern Thought in 1972. Shiva’s cosmic dance then became a central metaphor in Capra’s international bestseller The Tao of Physics, first published in 1975 and still in print in over 40 editions around the world.

Shiva and CERN are just one example of this strange new movement, a movement seeking to merge physics and metaphysics, to join some deity’s cosmic dance with “the dance of subatomic particles.”

Nowhere is this merger more fascinating (or ominous!) than in the story of the ex-Google engineer who is creating a “robot god” and its “first church of AI.” The Daily Mail reports:

An ex-Google engineer who has registered the first church of AI says he is ‘raising a god’ that will [take] charge of humans. The robot god will head a religion called Way Of The Future (WOTF), which will eventually have a gospel called ‘The Manual’, rituals and even a physical place of worship. Anthony Levandowski first filed papers with the Internal Revenue Service in May, and named himself as ‘dean’ of WOTF, giving him complete control until his death or resignation. He claims the good will be a ‘billion times smarter than humans’.

Of course, if one could install an entity a ‘billion times smarter than humans’ at society’s helm, why not render obeisance? Especially if the ultimate aim of said AI, according to its maker, is to “contribute to the betterment of society.” Nevertheless, the first church of AI and the idea behind it have not met with universal applause. For example, Stephen Hawking has been vocal about his concerns. From Newsweek:

World-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking has warned that artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to destroy civilization and could be the worst thing that has ever happened to humanity.

Speaking at a technology conference in Lisbon, Portugal, Hawking told attendees that mankind had to find a way to control computers, CNBC reports.

“Computers can, in theory, emulate human intelligence, and exceed it,” he said. “Success in creating effective AI, could be the biggest event in the history of our civilization. Or the worst. We just don’t know. So we cannot know if we will be infinitely helped by AI, or ignored by it and side-lined, or conceivably destroyed by it.”

Despite the warnings, the Singularity appears inevitable. And with its approach, the synthesis of Science and Religion.

A good example of this may be Dan Brown’s latest novel, Origin, which tackles the subject of God and AI, Religion and Science. In this book reviewwhich contains SPOILERS — the author unravels the book’s plot, describing it as “a frontal assault on organized religion.”

…throughout [Brown’s] book you are led to believe that the Catholic Church–more specifically, a very powerful Bishop–has engaged in a holy war to kill a staunch and brilliant atheist named Edmond Kirsch to prevent his “groundbreaking scientific discovery” from going public that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that life evolved entirely on its own (through so-called abiogenesis) and, ultimately, that God does not exist.

For those that are interested, Kirsch makes this discovery by creating a quantum computer, which also gives birth to Winston, that simulates Earth’s initial conditions (the famous Miller-Urey experiment) and shows that, by running the clock forward in time, matter naturally self-organizes into life. The “God of the gaps” has been officially killed, Kirsh proclaims.

Now, there are a lot of twists and turns on how all this plays out (Kirsch is assassinated by a religious zealot before he presents his discovery to the world and the symbologist Robert Langdon must follow the clues to figure everything out) but, throughout the book, the basic message and plot line is to convince the reader of the following: religion is evil and will do anything necessary to preserve its power–whether that be through killing, lying, stealing, destroying people’s lives, etc–all “in the name of God.”

Indeed, Brown has been candid about his belief that AI collective consciousness will replace God:

‘Origin’ was inspired by the question ‘Will God survive science?’, said Brown, adding that this had never happened in the history of humanity. ‘Are we naive today to believe that the gods of the present will survive and be here in a hundred years?’ Brown, 53, told a packed news conference. Brown said technological change and the development of artificial intelligence would transform the concept of the divine. ‘We will start to find our spiritual experiences through our interconnections with each other,’ he said, forecasting the emergence of ‘some form of global consciousness that we perceive and that becomes our divine’. ‘Our need for that exterior god, that sits up there and judges us … will diminish and eventually disappear,’ he added.

Brown answers the question, “Will God survive science?” with an emphatic… sort of. Make no mistake, from the author’s perspective, organized religion and “the gods of the present,” namely the One  “that sits up there and judges us,” will “diminish and eventually disappear.” God and Religion as we know it are dead. However, the spiritual hole created by this technological coup does not result in atheism, according to Brown, but by reverence for a new god. Or as he puts it, “the emergence of ‘some form of global consciousness that we perceive and that becomes our divine.'”

Oddly enough, the biblical Singularity suggests as much. However, the future envisioned in the Book of Revelation is not just the culmination of Man’s (scientific) knowledge reaching an end-game, it also involves the confluence of religion and spirituality. The biblical Singularity finds its culmination in a person, a being, an entity that is deified and worshiped. He/It is typically called the Antichrist. 

Continued in Part 2

***

[1] The technological singularity (also, simply, the singularity) is the hypothesis that the invention of artificial superintelligence will abruptly trigger runaway technological growth, resulting in unfathomable changes to human civilization. According to this hypothesis, an upgradable intelligent agent (such as a computer running software-based artificial general intelligence) would enter a “runaway reaction” of self-improvement cycles, with each new and more intelligent generation appearing more and more rapidly, causing an intelligence explosion and resulting in a powerful superintelligence that would, qualitatively, far surpass all human intelligence. — source, Wikipedia
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Photo source: http://www.vedic.com

This summer, at a writer’s conference I attended, popular Christian author Ted Dekker described himself as a “Christian mystic.” During that weekend, both in public sessions and private conversation, Dekker reinforced his claim. For example, his next fictional work is entitled The 49th Mystic. He favorably referenced William Paul Young and Richard Rohr, both whom could fall under the label of “Christian mystic.” In keynote sessions, Dekker referred to the Holy Spirit as our “Mother” and described the physical world as illusory. Again, mystical concepts and language. And in his new course, entitled The Forgotten Way, he appeals to esoteric concepts like “re-discovering” lost knowledge and seeking a new experience of God’s overflowing love.

This promo for The Forgotten Way describes the course thus:

The Forgotten Way Meditations is a journey of re-discovering the radical love, peace, and identity found in Yeshua so you can see and be differently.

Forgotten, because Yeshua’s simple path of awakening to love, peace and power in this life is rarely remembered (or understood) by millions of Christians weighed down with life’s cares and concerns. Way because it is a pathway we walk, not a checklist of rules to follow.

Enter the Way of Yeshua so easily forgotten. Take the journey from hate to love; from fear to faith. The journey from insecurity to complete rest. Here you will find peace in the storms; you will walk on the troubled seas of your life. Love, joy and peace will flow from you as living waters.

Throughout the promo material Dekker makes incredible claims like, “The whole world longs for the Way of Yeshua” and “An awakening is sweeping the world.” Couple this with the employment of mystical concepts and language (like “awaken to truth,” join in the “divine dance,” experience “new power,” etc.) as well as testimonials from initiates that learning this “forgotten way” will revolutionize your life, I couldn’t help but be suspicious.

Which I’m convinced is the appropriate posture to take.

Ted Dekker is not alone in his embrace of Christian mysticism. [Click Here to Keep Reading…]

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Thrilled to be a part of this huge giveaway. This weekend, Requiem 4 is only $0.99 for Kindle. It’s only one of many books offered through the podcast group Lasers, Dragons, and Keyboards for their Black Friday / Cyber Monday sale. Stop by their link to get your hands on some excellent sci-fi, YA, and fantasy tales. Requiem 4 is part of their Sci-Fi promo. Their Sci-Fi page is HERE. Brian Niemeier, Dragon Award winner for best Horror novel of 2016, says this of R4: “A genre-bending tale of true horror. Mike Duran has spun a supernatural tale to terrify even agnostics.” Pick up your own copy of Requiem 4 today!

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I’ve spent the second half of my writing career unlearning what I was taught in the first half.

Like any good novice, it started with “the writing rules.” Now, by “writing rules,” I’m not referring to the Strunk and White type of rules, the standard principles of grammar and composition. There’s “other” rules for contemporary novel writing, formulas for publication which some hold to be just as binding as rules of spelling and punctuation.

Some of those rules are:

  • Show Don’t Tell — Use action and dialog rather than exposition
  • POV — Maintain a consistent, realistic narrative point-of-view; don’t “head hop” from one person to the next in the same scene
  • Avoid Passives — Keep tenses active

Where did these rules originate? Well, as more and more people aspired to be novelists, the need for formal training and advice increased. Thus, the rules were born. The “writing rules” became a convenient template for wannabe novelists. Now, with the rise of democratization, pretty much anyone can be an “expert.” Also, as indie publishing has exploded, so has this circle of “experts.” Today, anyone with a decent canon of accomplishments and a respectable platform can disseminate advice to eager up-and-comers.

But perhaps the biggest contagion of the writing rules are critique groups.

I joined an online critique group, as a newbie, back in 2005. Some of those writers have gone on to have successful writing careers. It was a terrific group of folks, most of whom helped me tremendously, and whom I’m still friends with. But this group was also where I picked up some bad habits. You see, at that time, none of us were published. We were all scrambling to get a foot in the industry door. As such, the writing rules became our mantra. I couldn’t submit a new chapter or a new story without being flailed by the dreaded rules.

  • “Stop head-hopping!”
  • “Too many passives!”
  • “Show don’t tell!”

Like Pavlov’s Dog, just pressing the Submit button instinctively made me wince, knowing that a literary beating would follow.

The problem was, the longer I actually read what was being published, the less important the “writing rules” appeared to be.

It started with Frank Peretti’s, The Oath. The book had sold over one million copies worldwide, so I knew it must be terrific. Besides, it was the recipient of the 1996 ECPA Gold Medallion Book Award for Best Fiction, and one of Peretti’s most critically acclaimed novels. I dug in, not only to be entertained, but to be wowed by his craftsmanship. I read about 50 pages of The Oath before shelving it. Why? The “head-hopping” was driving me nuts! Okay. That was an aberration. Surely Stephen King would not exhibit such literary flagrance. So I took up his classic, The Stand. Alas, one of the takeaways, to my shame, was how often I noticed King violated some of the most basic writing rules. Namely in his use of passives and head-hopping. Lots of jumping from one POV to the next in the same chapter. And then there was the “had been’s” and “was’s.” Good grief! That book would have driven some of my old mentors crazy.

Interestingly, however, King’s infractions, his breaking of the writing rules, didn’t keep me from enjoying the story.

It was a huge turning point for me as a writer. Here I’d spent years learning the rules and diligently applying them… only to find that King and Peretti did not do POV’s. So I had to confront the fact that either Stephen King and Frank Peretti were bad writers, or the “writing rules” were not nearly as important to publication as I was being led to believe.

It was creatively liberating.

After that season of legalism, Stephen Koch’s book, The Modern Library Writer’s Workshop, was revelatory. In it, he writes this about POV:

Many teachers of writing will tell you that the way to unify your story and integrate it with its characters is through something called the narrative “point of view.” There are even certain purists who will insist that an “integrated point of view” is the only way a narrative can achieve unity. . .

. . .The academic emphasis on “point of view” in fiction is precisely that — academic. The notion that “the most important thing in fiction is point of view” is a beguiling but vacuous theory that bears only a marginal relation to real practice. And it causes vast amounts of misunderstanding.

. . .Of course, a consistent point of view can indeed be a guide to unity, and of course, you will want your prose to have a coherent texture. But it is a mistake to assume that point of view itself necessarily endows any story with either unity or coherence. Too often, this rather fussy doctrine pointlessly constricts writers’ options and narrows their range. (pp. 88-90, emphasis mine)

After my early indoctrination, I must say it was refreshing to hear the POV rules called, “. . .a beguiling but vacuous theory. . . [a] rather fussy doctrine [that] pointlessly constricts writers’ options and narrows their range.”

And therein lies the danger of writing rules.

If the primary goal of a story is to take us somewhere, then the “writing rules” must be subservient to that end. Much like a map, aesthetics are secondary to functionality. It is required first of the mapmaker to know which way North is. A colorful, good-looking map that has its directions all wrong is about as valuable as a well-written novel that doesn’t take us anywhere. Perhaps this is what we should first teach aspiring novelists — not about passives, POV, and show v. tell, but about how to take readers somewhere.

By over-emphasizing writing rules we unwittingly create a “checklist mentality” that places style above story and “pointlessly constricts writers’ options and narrows their range.” Of course, new writers need to understand the rules (if, at least, to be conversant in their allure). But if we’re not careful, we will turn the creative process into a formula and make literary Pharisees out of our proteges.

And sadly, online critique groups are notorious for perpetuating the mythology of writing rules. Yes. I believe that writing groups can be invaluable. After multiple published novels, short stories, and articles, I’m still in one! However, if we are not cautious, we can perpetuate a type of literary inbreeding in such groups. Especially when there’s a disproportionate ratio of “experts” to “novices.” (It’s why the “mix” and makeup of a writing group can be really important.) New writers should pay more attention to what’s being published and less attention to the echo chamber of their “expert” peers. Conversely, those with publishing cred and earned (or just given) respect, must be careful to not perpetuate “[a] rather fussy doctrine [that] pointlessly constricts writers’ options and narrows their range.”

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As the holidays approach, my art activity typically increases. Last weekend, my son-in-law and I were vendors at the annual Riverside Day of the Dead event. This was a huge venue, attended by thousands. (The picture to the left represents the mash-up of designs we do.) We had a great time and moved lots of merchandise! The remainder of the year, we’ll be appearing at the Festival of Lights, near the historic Mission Inn in Riverside, which is running from November 25, 2017 thru January 6, 2018. While I typically concentrate on making wall crosses, I’ve recently begun crafting paper mache skulls (pictured right). Many of the designs are intended to capture Day of the Dead themes, but I also have found that integrating pop cultural icons (like Darth Maul, Mars Attacks, and lucha libre images) to be popular.

As I’m wanting to expand the range of my art, learning new techniques and attempting new mediums, I’ve recently updated my Art page on this website. There, I expand a bit on the “art journey,” how I started making wall crosses, how you can follow more of my crafting, and purchase various items. I’m hoping to develop a video depicting the process I go through building, painting, and finishing my pieces. You can check out my updated Art Page HERE.

Finally, one way that you can connect with me on social media is through my Facebook Page, Extrinsic Art. I dedicate that page (along with my Instagram Page) to updating completed projects and announcing where I’ll be selling. Occasionally, I do random giveaways there. Which I’m doing now! This week I’m giving away the cross pictured to the left free to one commenter. To enter the giveaway, leave a comment on THIS post (and make sure to Like THIS page) for a chance to win this wall cross. It measures approximately 13 X 10 inches, is assembled from salvaged wood, an original, hand-painted design, sealed with clear acrylic and ready for hanging. I’ll be randomly selecting a winner sometime this weekend and announce the winner on my eXArt Page, so stay tuned. Again, for a chance to win, Like my Page and leave a comment on this post.

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‘Wickers Bog’ is Currently FREE for Kindle

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My novelette, Wickers Bog: A Tale of Southern Gothic Horror, is currently free for Kindle. What readers are saying about the story: “…a captivating and creepy tale with substance.” — S. Thomassie “Quick read that doesn’t skimp on lush imagery and a really good story. I’m a fan of bayou horror, and this does not disappoint.” […]

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Why “deCOMPOSE”?

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I started this website back in 2005. I’m sometime asked why I named my blog deCOMPOSE. It comes from my short essay entitled Let Us Decompose which was first published in Relevant Magazine back in 2006. Here is that brief essay: *** G.K. Chesterton said, “Art is the signature of man.” Some believe men rose from monkeys. But let the […]

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Confessions of an Ex-Halloween Hater

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There’s no shortage of hatred for Halloween. Mainly from well-meaning religious folks. “Halloween is the devil’s holiday!” “Witches, vampires, and ghosts are not of God!” “Have no fellowship with the works of darkness, but rather rebuke them!” Those were sentiments I voiced at one time or another. We were the parents who turned the porch […]

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The Hero’s Journey as Divine Blueprint

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The Hero’s Journey is a narrative pattern first identified by mythologist Joseph Campbell in his book The Hero With a Thousand Faces. Campbell identified “a universal motif of adventure and transformation that runs through virtually all of the world’s mythic traditions.” That “motif” revolves around three basic movements: Departure Initiation Return Within that framework are specific […]

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5 Reasons Pastors Should Read Fiction

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A writer friend recently pondered (in an online writing community I’m part of) whether he should use a pen name when publishing his fiction. The reason? He’s a minister at a church and feels that other staff pastors won’t “get” his fiction gig. In fact, some might be downright hostile to it. Sadly, this is […]

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The U.S. Government’s Ongoing Attempts to Weaponize Psychic Powers — A Review of “Phenomena”

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Sometime in the early 1950s, the CIA began a “quest to locate an ESP-enhancing drug.” As part of that quest, the Defense Department appointed Henry “Andrija” Puharich with locating mushrooms that they believed might unlock psychic powers. The research was conducted under the codename Project MKULTRA and, as an official memo put it, involved “studying […]

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Q & A with Family Fiction

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I was recently interviewed at Family Fiction about my recent novella Requiem 4. I don’t necessarily see my stuff as particularly “family friendly.” That’s not to say it’s family unfriendly, but that proponents of that term tend to frown upon horror, language, and darker elements in fiction. Nevertheless, it was a fun interview with some […]

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