“Announcing the Death of God is like shattering the atom. The fragments fly in all directions.”
In his book, Also Spake Zarathustra, Nietzsche has his protagonist proclaim, “God is dead and we have killed him.” Are these words spoken in cosmic horror and excruciating dismay or in intoxicating glee and liberating relief? Perhaps an ambivalent combination of both.
It is tempting to draw an analogy between the “death of God” in the modern secular moral imagination and Kubler Ross’s five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. There are several problems with this analogy. First, there may well be more than five stages of grief. Second, they may not follow any single sequence of stages in all people. Third, they may not be linear at all, but rather elliptical, circling back repeatedly and for different durations. And fourth, any attempt to draw an analogy between the death of a single finite mortal human being, or even many human beings, and the very Ground of Being Itself in all its protean, polymorphic, numinous and ineffable essence is problematic.
Nevertheless, it fair to say individuals have different kinds of reactions and responses to “the death of God” in the modern secular moral imagination and in their own personal existential lives. These reactions and responses span a wide range of attitudes and emotions that include intoxication and relief, absurdity and despair, irony and reversal, acceptance and indifference.
These emotional reactions and responses may remain constant throughout a person’s life, or they may shift and change along the way. In some cases there may even be a “return to God” who is no longer “dead” for them but suddenly and surprising “alive and well,” resurrected, so to speak, on the other side of atheism, skepticism, secularism and indifference. Sometimes “the Divine Center,” re-imagined and re-membered, emerges in a trans-modern integral vision as the organizing principle of the Totality of Being after a long hiatus of fragmentation.
After the Death of God in the modern secular moral imagination we witness the fracturing and fragmentation of the meaning of Nature, Humanity, Self and Society into atomized and competing forces and ideologies.
Within the Natural Center as the Organizing Principle of Reality those forces and ideologies are expressed in the divergent philosophies of dualism, positivism (or materialism), phenomenology, panpsychism, and pragmatism. Likewise, within the scientific community there is a contest between the methodological approaches, privileged domains and final vocabularies of the mathematicians, physicists, geologists, botanists and biologists.
Within the Humanistic Center as the Organizing Principle of Reality those forces and ideologies are expressed in the competing branches of the humanities, including literature and philosophy, mythology and history, each with its own methodological approaches and final vocabulary.
Within the Psychological Center as the Organizing Principle of Reality those forces and ideologies are expressed in the various schools of psychology, psychiatry and psychotherapy that fixate on different aspects of the psychological self, including the functions of introspection and observation, intuition and sensation, feeling and thinking, perception and judgment. Further, there is a contest between the schools of psychology that include behaviorism, psychoanalysis, humanistic psychology, existential psychology, family systems psychology and social systems psychology.
Within the Sociological Center as the Organizing Principle of Reality those forces and ideologies are expressed in the various social, economic and political traditions, including socialism and capitalism, liberalism and conservatism, communitarianism and libertarianism, and all manner of hybrid combinations as well the principled pragmatism of radical centrists.
When the Divine Center is re-imagined and re-membered as the Organizing Principle of Reality, here, too, we find a variety of spiritual and cultural traditions that have sometimes cooperated and sometimes competed with each other. These include the archetypal ways of the Shaman, Sage, Prophet and Mystic. Today these four great traditions are coming together in global dialogue in the respectful and cooperative spirit of the Parliament of the World Religions.
With the re-emergence of “The Divine Center” in the trans-modern age, something transformative appears beyond the ancient idols of superstitious religiosity, the medieval institutional idol of authoritarian religion, the modern secular idols of hyper-rationalism, reductive scientism and sentimental romanticism, and the post-modern idols of irony, absurdity, parody and satire. The “trans-modern turn” is toward an Integral Vision of Reality in which the Divine Center respects the diversity yet unites the Natural, Humanistic, Psychological and Sociological Centers of Consciousness, Cognition, Creativity and Culture. Each of these four vital centers contributes to the Total Ecology of Being.
The various reactions and responses to the announcement of the Death of God in the modern secular age are understandable. So is the corrective-movement that seeks to look beyond the death of God in the modern secular post-ontological imagination. Some of us are experiencing a re-awakening of “The Divine Center” that organizes the integrates the Natural, Human, Psychological and Sociological spheres of life that comprise the Totality of Being into a Unified and Diversified Whole. For some of us there emerges an “anatheism” beyond the old categories of theism and theism, polytheism and pantheism. For some of us the re-emergent Divine Center speaks through a “sacred secularity” that recognizes “epiphanies” in many subtle and unexpected guises – including literature, philosophy, art and science along with traditional and syncretic religious forms. The Divine Center speak to us in a hidden and silent language of the Spirit beyond words. It speaks to us through the elliptical and evocative forms of symbols, archetypes, metaphors, analogies, stories, music, drama and the arts. The Divine Center evokes a transcendent vision of the ultimate, the infinite, the mysterious, the ineffable, the unnamable. the unseizable. It awakens in us a “tacit knowledge” of the Comprehensive, the Universal, the Luminous, the Holy, the Beloved, the Merciful, the Supreme Good.