The Human One


Homo Sapiens 2.0 has managed to extend its nervous system, through the internet, as an envelope encircling our entire planet.

Photo © Jan Derksen/iStockPhoto

by Bruce Sanguin

This posting originally appeared on Bruce Sanguin’s blog IfDarwinPrayed.com. Visit his blog for more postings, webinars, and podcasts on Evolutionary Christianity.

I just returned from co-leading a workshop in Chicago with the wonderful and radiant Barbara Marx Hubbard who is the future present in her unrelenting evocation of our human potential. To be honest, it’s a little intimidating co-presenting with someone who is so on-purpose that her whole life has become that purpose. If she wasn’t so loving and loveable one’s ego could take a beating!

Barbara has a knack for asking great framing questions that, in the asking, shift the conversation to a higher plane. One of her great questions is “What is the story of our day that is the equivalent of the story of the birth of Christ?”

For her the ”answer” is the birth of a new humanity. Homo Sapiens 2.0 has managed to extend its nervous system, through the internet, as an envelope encircling our entire planet. This nervous system, (what Teilhard de Chardin called the noosphere), extends and unifies our collective mind.

The illusion of separation is transcended. This is an expression of our species reconnecting with an original unity. The problem is that our mass media is still using this new capacity to express and entrench the mind and heart of Homo Sapiens 1.0.

If it bleeds it leads; if it’s apocalyptic, it’s news; if it’s evil it’s newsworthy. Jeremy Rifkin is surely right that the reason these stories saturate the air waves and the global network is that they are the exceptions to the norm. Life just isn’t that bad.

The sad irony is that many of the people who represent the good news—disease researchers, NGO’s working in developing countries to alleviate poverty and promote education, environmental activists—perpetuate this perception of how awful the world is because who is going to give money to anybody who tells a story about how things are actually getting better?

But I digress. Barbara holds up a vision of the human being at her best, most loving, most creative, most resilient, and is persuaded that these potentials (already present) represent the future of our species. We may consciously choose to evolve in ways that transcend, yet include, our biological instincts for survival, status, sex, and security.

I do love Barbara’s question (what is the new story that is equivalent to the story of the birth of Christ), and I love her answer. But as I thought about it I realized that the story of the birth of a new humanity is actually prefigured in the New Testament. The one title (other than child of Sophia/Wisdom) that Jesus applied to himself seems to have been “son of man.” Scholars suggest that what this means is simply “the human one,” that is a fully realized human being who has so grocked the point and purpose of this human romp that the future potential is already realized in him/her.

Paul got it too in his understanding that what was going on in the pattern of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection was the emergence of a new creation. The first creation (the age of Adam) was over, and a second creation (age of Christ) characterized by a new humanity (acting as and on behalf of all creation) had emerged. “Let this mind be in you,” writes Paul, “that was also in Christ Jesus.”

Of course, very few people got it then. It was truly radical. Paul wanted his fledgling churches to awaken to being “in Christ” and then grow up and act out of this radically expanded identity. In the first few centuries, scholars tried to hammer out a doctrine of what the hell was actually going on in this Jesus of Nazareth. They came up with the idea that he was fully human and fully divine.

The evolution of history since then can be interpreted as the sky God falling out of the his heavenly perch and into the hearts of human beings. As we awakened and grew in to our deepest potentials the powers we once attributed to an external god began to show up in, through, and as us. This is what modernism was all about, and we all know that modernism wasn’t an unambiguous success story.

But we’re at a juncture now when all the questions about the deep identity of Jesus can now be turned on ourselves. Is it possible that the conclusion that our foremothers and father came to about Jesus, (fully human/fully divine), prefigured the conversation about human nature generally? Is it possible that Jesus’ transparency to the divine and absolute willingness to be in service provoked questions that we’d inevitably end up asking about ourselves? Would the doctrine of “the” incarnation inevitably issue in the question of whether we are all occasions of this incarnational dynamism?

In evolutionary theology, Jesus represents the prototype for the new human. He is where the universe is headed in human form. There is every reason to believe that humans will collectively transcend his capacities.” I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.” (John 14:12)

In other words, are we fully human and fully divine? The Greek theologians believed that God became human so that humans could become divine.

The liberal/progressive church is in a kind of stalemate position in my opinion. It is stuck between a rock and a hard place. The rock is that it has affirmed Jesus’ full humanity but pretty much tossed out his divinity. By “divinity” I mean his unity with “God.” (This was a reaction to the triumphalistic, exclusivistic claims that conservative Christians made for Christ. Fair enough.)

The hard place is that it has a very dim view of humanity, having bought hook, line, and sinker into the postmodernist critique of progress. (We’re getting worse not better.) Without an explicitly evolutionary perspective there is no reason to assume that something is at work in the universe alluring us to transcend Homo Sapiens 1.0, no sacred impulse that is seeking to manifest unity with Spirit and cosmic development, no way to transform into the loving, justice-seeking, activist humans that liberal Christianity has so powerfully espoused. We’re hooped.

Except, we’re not. We’re Spirit involved in an emergent cosmos in human form. As Barbara puts it, we can awaken to this unity with Spirit and cosmos in a millisecond, or in Paul’s image, the twinkling of an eye, because separation from the divine and the cosmos is a fundamental illusion. If it wasn’t an illusion, we’d have to work real hard to have any sense of communion. (This was the mistake the Paul was trying to overcome: the spiritual life is a response to grace not a means of attaining it).

But as it is, we can drop into unity. Right now. And feel the loving impulse to evolve as an expression of that unity. Because Unity is Reality.

Bruce Sanguin is a minister serving Canadian Memorial United Church in Vancouver, BC. Bruce is passionate about raising public awareness that there is a form of Christianity beyond the belief-based, biblical literalism that is associated with traditional “church.” His latest book, If Darwin Prayed: Prayers for Evolutionary Mystics, won an IPPY gold medal for best spiritual and inspirational book.

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Categories: Bruce Sanguin, Christian Life

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