This is the second installment about Giulio Prisco’s upcoming book entitled, tentatively, Tales of The Turing Church. A draft of his chapter, “Sex and the Art of Cosmic Governance,” that includes recollections of his many interactions with VenusPlusX Co-founder Dan Massey. Part 1 included an excerpt from Dan’s talk at the Transvision conference where we met Giulio for the first time, and Part 3 recollects Dan’s remarks from one of his interactions with the Mormon Transhumanist Association in 2012.
Giulio is a physicist and computer scientist, and former senior manager in the European space administration. Giulio works as a consultant and contributes to several science and technology magazines. In 2002-2008 he served on the Board of Directors of Humanity Plus, of which he was Executive Director, and serves on the Board of Directors of the Italian Transhumanist Association. He is often in Hungary, Italy and Spain.
You can find more about Giulio at Turing Church and the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies (IEET).
In a letter following Dan’s talk at Transvision, Dan wrote . . .
“When Martine [Rothblatt] suggested I submit a paper, I knew very little about Transhumanism beyond the superficial elements (live forever, upload your mind, freeze your DNA, etc.). My paper was a total shot-in-the-dark to present to some Transhumanists viewpoints I had previously shared with Martine that were related to sex and gender freedom. I had not thought of these ideas being related to Transhumanism until she suggested it.
I scrubbed all references to GOD and/or DEITY from the talk, because I knew that a significant part of the audience were self declared ‘atheists’ who would have been very distracted by these words, even though I am not sure they understood what they did not believe in. Therefore, even though these words might connote useful concepts to me, they did not mean the same thing to the audience, many of whom suffered from overexposure to the extremely bad public relations of nominally Judaeo-Christian cults for the past 4000 years. There was no need to wade into that quagmire.”
At the conference and after, I had frequent opportunities to discuss religions, mythologies and cosmologies with Dan, among many other things. He was a frequent participant in online discussions hosted by my Turing Church group, Martine Rothblatt’s Terasem, and the Mormon Transhumanist Association. Dan wasn’t a Mormon or a sympathizer, if anything he was very strongly critical of some aspects of Mormon society, in particular their attitude to LGBT persons, but he appreciated the progressive scientific theology promoted by Mormon transhumanists.
In one of my fondest memories with Dan, one day in Manhattan after a Singularity Summit, we realized that my religion of technology and his religion of love are really one and the same, in a relation analogous to the particle-wave complementarity of quantum physics. An electron appears sometimes as a particle, other times as a wave, which seem not only different but incompatible things. But how the electron appears in a specific case doesn’t reflect the intrinsic nature of the electron (which is neither one nor the other) but the configuration of the experiment – in other words, the question that we have chosen to ask. Similarly, technological transcendence and universal love are apparently different but complementary aspects of our shared religion.
Dan used to drop intriguing hints about a “Cosmic Government” – a confraternity of natural Gods and advanced galactic civilizations. Perhaps we will join the Cosmic Government when the time is right, and perhaps the Cosmic Government is benevolently interested in in our world here and now, and may give some help now and then. Dan explained his ideas in more detail in a letter:
“I’ve given a lot of thought to the idea of a religion that would sustain Transhumanist ideals without introducing irrational or mythic ideas. When I finally got around to reading Martine [Rothblatt]’s Truths of Terasem I was surprised to see that the concepts she had assembled at the outset, as she set out to define Terasem, were nearly congruent with a concept I had come to know quite well in a totally different setting, specifically, The Urantia Book. In fact, she was going quite a bit further, trying to anticipate what it would be like for Terasem to be actual.
You see, my decision to take up the cause of sex and gender freedom stems directly from some 30 years of very deep involvement with this nearly occult text and the small group of people who take it seriously. Since the book is 2100 pages, about 1.2 million words, I cannot expect people to have or want to read it, although I think it is well worth reading, even if you don’t take it seriously. Sex and gender freedom are not directly addressed in the book. Rather, from the book one takes certain approaches to very open minded but very rational thinking about all manner of subjects, all more or less explained in terms of what educated middle-class Americans in the 1930s would understand. Since I had long cared about sex and gender issues, it was natural that at some time I would become active in actually applying the ideas and ideals I had adapted/adopted from my familiarity with the book.
For example, the comprehensive structure of our activism program is intended to put spiritual pressure on society for change toward higher ideals and superior social practices. We think the most rapid progress can be made when development proceeds synchronously across the dimensions of value – truth, beauty, goodness, and love – corresponding generally to intellectual, physical, motivational, and personal realizations. This approach to structuring activity is based on concepts from the book, though not specified there. Because of what we have learned from the book about the structure of reality, we are confident that, by examining the four basic values, we will get a reasonably comprehensive view of all the issues and connections. At the same time, you will see us trying to subtly teach readers these same ideas, so you will find these themes used repeatedly in our writings.
To explain further, this four dimensional world of ideals comes from The Urantia Book, in which it is said to be the foundation upon which we, as individual persons, are participating in the development of the Supreme Being, an incompletely realized deity of finite space and time, which even now shapes events (I often use the term force of destiny) to assure its final emergence. At this occasion, the ‘finality,’ all persons will have become elements of a complete cosmic consciousness. But long before this final event many ordinary people will have learned to participate in an integrated, orderly life, in which everything and everyone work together better if you give them a chance.
So, when I suggested that a reasonable rational Transreligion fit for genuine Transhumans would be open to acknowledging and working with a cosmic government, I was basically thinking some of us already are, so to speak. That is, we are actively dedicated to the realization of values in answer to common ideals that are what we sincerely imagine a cosmic government would care about. And by so doing, our combined effort to realize supreme values makes our society better and makes us participants in and contributors to the final emergence of the fully integrated Supreme Being.
I kept hinting (or more) at the idea of accepting or even theoretically admitting the possibility of some sort of intervention as a component of a Transreligion framework. The Urantia Book itself claims to be one such intervention, and, if you accept its statements that we are actually living in a universe populated by diverse, non-hostile beings, some like ourselves and some vastly superior in physical, mental, or motivational endowments, the possibility of some intervention cannot be discarded for want of confirming evidence. The book specifically describes four previous interventions, several of which, according to the book, did not go well for the people of this planet and have led to many of our current problems of uniting to solve major social problems. I believe we are currently in the middle of an intervention on an extensive, planet-wide scale that is gradually becoming apparent.
What sort of vision can illuminate the path to a meaningful and worthwhile future? It must recognize the potential of humans to become ‘as gods.’ The Terasem notion of a technodeity, constructed through human action and culminating at ‘the end of time,’ or some other definite but undefined occasion in the future, with the power to reach back through time and across space to force the actions that finally lead to its full emergence, constructed from the collective consciousness of all universe creatures, is certainly a good start. This provides a vision that we shall all then become fully functioning personalities of a supreme, finite deity.”
I find Dan’s vision of the supreme consciousness, God, emerging from the community of advanced forms of life and civilizations in the universe, able to influence space-time events anywhere, anytime, perhaps even here and now, very beautiful and illuminating. I think this is what all great religions really said, in the form and language of their times, and new religions try to say in the language of our times. But what does this cosmic vision have to do with social activism, LGBT issues, and sexual love? Dan continues:
“I demand that society place no limitation on the individual or collective exploration of joy and pleasure, which necessarily begins with the liberation of Transhumankind from the universal social oppression of long denied sex and gender freedom. To me it seems reasonable to recognize the Transgender as Transhuman; to me Transhuman is the great umbrella under which all who embrace in their own lives and persons the exploration of transformed physical bodies, human minds, and personal superconsciousnesses may be welcome.
I see the framework as an enabling structure for the elaboration of more specific and overtly religious practices that work for different communities. It basically reminds us of our common will to shape the world, regardless of our specific approach, and thus can accommodate erotic mystics (like myself) at one extreme and cyronic speculators at the other.
Obviously, the suggested requirements framework is reaching far beyond the material aspects of current Transhumanism. Specifically, to me, it is the transmaterial aspects that are far more important to the overall future of Transhumans and their destined leadership of planetary society into a new age that answers the longings of the past with a result that is unclogged by myth and chaotic group thinking, is better than anyone could have expected, and opens the doors to achievement of destiny on physical, intellectual, motivational, and personal levels as well.”
The religion of love includes both Agape, the spiritual and ethereal aspect of love, and Eros, the physical and passionate one. Some people are more inclined to one or the other, but Eros and Agape, like love and science, are complementary aspects of one and the same thing. Western religions exclude erotic mysticism and limit individual or collective exploration of joy and pleasure, but other religions are much more open. The supreme consciousness at the end of space and time encourages thousands, billions, uncountable transfinities of flowers to bloom – new religious practices based on the erotic mysticism of Eros may play an important role in our progress to join the cosmic community of Gods.
For more, see Part 1 and Part 3.