Religion & Civility
Religion & Civility
The Primacy of Conscience
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RELIGION & CIVILITY: The Primacy of Conscience (the third book of the breakthrough “Second Enlightenment Trilogy”) reveals trial-and-error failures and successes of past and present civilizations. Man inherits from nature hard-won intelligence (cortical consciousness) to learn from errors of irreligion and incivility. Though more painful, error is sometimes the most convincing teacher.

The author, Sylvester L. Steffen, deciphers from nature her rosetta code – the trimorphic processes of resonance – by which cosmic energy/matter evolves in conscious complexity. Brute inclinations, sex, violence and instinct are background to enlightenment. Steffen gives come-uppance to the frustrations of patriarchal self-worship. The ugly sides and the good sides of popes, kings and commoners stand to face bloodied truth.

The dead-end absolutes of religion and politics, cultured in static world consciousness, are looked at – upfront and close – and are relegated to history in favor of open-ended possibilities of evolutionary consciousness. Religion & Civility is a book of epochal potential. It is powerfully indicting, powerfully illuminating. From cover to cover it is surprising, even life-changing.

The other books of the “Second Enlightenment Trilogy” are Primary Scripture: Cosmic Religion’s First Lessons, and Quantum Religion: The Good News of Rising Consciousness, also published by 1stBooks Library.

History in part is a fragrant bouquet of florescence, but also, a matrix of organic detritus in which roots side-by-side the beautiful and the ugly. History enables the conscious recall of the quantum-good and the quantum-evil that accord the creative stuff of resurrection and ascendancy; vitality’s trip to religion and civility involves the bad experiences of irreligion and incivility.

Church in Denial

Nurtured a cradle Catholic since 1933, I carried the conscious Catholic bias of baptismal election in divine preference and in the historical culture of self-righteous belief. Grounded in the holy apostolicism of the unbroken succession of popes from St. Peter to Pope John Paul II, I believed in the absolute and infallible morality and fidelity of popes. I had no inkling of the crass secularism of the papacy from and before the middle ages and through the Renaissance, nor of the political intrigues and malicious suppressions of dissent prosecuted in witch-hunts, Crusades and Inquisitions. The monumental failures of faith and morals on the part of official Catholicism ... that actually occurred ... was not in my mind even a vague influence. Any innuendo by Protestants of such bad occurrences was to me a distortion of history and a calculated lie.

Today I know better. Roman Catholicism I now understand was not above rewriting history by way of suppressing facts and advancing a doctrinaire fideism that cultures popular faith based on ignorance, mysticism, fear and guilt, and a fanatical dependency on institutional self-assertiveness. While I staunchly adhere to the personal religion of Jesus Christ, as exemplified and taught in his lifetime, and advanced historically by the culture of personal, conscionable Christianity, I no longer am blindly defensive of the claimed inerrancy of Catholicism cultured by Roman institutionalism.

Catholicism’s error is its radical fixation in absolutist political monarchy, as it has evolved from the despotic politics of Caesarist (czarist) Rome. Government by guilt and fear is the style of old Caesarist Rome. Dissent was stifled by the melding of religious belief with state politics under an oligarchy-supported authority that used military might to enforce public fidelity to its evangelism.

The architectural norm that form follows function is true in life as it is in politics. This norm precisely fits natural sacrament, for as energy qualifies matter in cosmic evolution, so grace qualifies sign in vital transformation. The architectonic energy of the open cosmos, in its deepest (microcosmic) and most expansive (macrocosmic) qualifications, characterizes the varied forms (material) that embody it. Thus, in the continuity of cosmic evolution, the primacy of energy over matter is axiomatic. Einstein equates matter with energy. In the same way, regarding the relationship of spirituality to institution, primacy belongs to spirituality, not to institution. This conclusion is affirmed in Jesus’ words, “My kingdom is not of this world.” Consistently, Jesus called for personal and continuous conversion and reform. In his explanation of the new wine-wineskin / old wine-wineskin analogy he notes that old wine (consciousness) continues its residence in old wineskins, while new wineskins accommodate new wine. Taste for new wine is mostly lacking in skins accommodated to old wine; but consciousness changes, that is, it is new and transformational from one generation to the next. So old wine isn’t and shouldn’t be much found in new wineskins. In his discourse with Nicodemus, Jesus commented on the transformational necessity of rebirth in the consciousness  (“water”) of spirit and truth.

Septuagenarian Sylvester Steffen is professionally experienced and schooled in science, religion and history; his insightful telling of the contributions of these fields to evolutionary consciousness is groundbreaking. He advises that history can teach, “but only if we want to learn.” Steffen’s lifetime interest is to expose habituated errors of irreligion and incivility that frustrate personal authenticity and communal living.

His “Second Enlightenment Trilogy” tells lessons of nature in Primary Scripture (Book One) and shows in Quantum Religion (Book Two) the rolls of reason, faith and purpose in evolutionary consciousness. Religion & Civility (Book Three) argues the primacy necessity of spirituality/conscience to social harmony.

Sylvester Steffen continues writing on religion/science themes and is active in Parish Renewal and Adult Faith Formation.

has peorvd sadly to be true!By the way, I read your favourite book list. I, too, love Tess of the d'Urbevilles. I love Thomas Hardy's stories, long and short.Thanks again!

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