Meaning Stories

Meaning stories deal with our beliefs about the nature of reality, our human nature, our relationship to creation, and the purpose of our existence. They are embedded in the creation stories that are the foundation of most human belief systems.

Patriarch, Chance, or Integral Spirit?

The Smile
Duane E. Sherwood


Some say the universe is fundamentally good,
the glorious handiwork of an unseen mystery.

Some say the material world is inherently corrupt,
and the nature of flesh is sin.

Some say the universe holds yin and yang in perfect balance, good and bad, in equal measure, orbiting forever.

Some say it is all just rocks,
meaningless and indifferent.

All I know is, when I smile at the universe, the universe smiles back.

Since the birth of the scientific revolution in the 1500s, Western society has been shaped by two sharply conflicting creation stories: the patriarchal Creationism story of Judeo-Christian religion and the material Evolutionism story of science fundamentalism. These are the creation stories most familiar to the public mind. Different though they are in their most foundational assumption, both in their way support the dominator values of Empire. 

Far less well known, there is a third Creation story derived from the teachings of religious mystics and the findings of quantum physics, evolutionary science, and the new biology that affirms the partnership values of Earth Community.

The three creation stories are distinguished by sharply contrasting assumptions about the existence and nature of conscious intelligence.

  • The conventional religion story explain physical creation as the handiwork of an all knowing and all powerful patriarch who resides in a far place apart from the physical cosmos.
  • The conventional science story denies the existence of consciousness, intelligence, intention, or purpose in any form and seeks to explain all of creation as an accidental outcome of material mechanism and chance.
  • The lesser known story, which has ancient origins, explains the whole of Creation as an unfolding manifestation of a unifying cosmic intelligence integral to all being.

Each of these three stories has many variations. For present purposes, I outline below some of the contrasting elements of each of the three stories and their practical implications. 

Origin of the Cosmos

EMPIRE STORY: (Imperial Religion version):  A distant and jealous Patriarch brought forth Heaven and Earth whole and complete in six days as an act of divine will and gave his children dominion over the Earthly realm and a promise of salvation in the Heavenly realm in return for faithful obedience.
(Imperial Science version): The Cosmos came into being in a great burst of energy governed by the laws of chance and material mechanism. Intelligence, consciousness, and free well are illusions. Life is merely an accidental outcome of material complexity.

EARTH COMMUNITY STORY: Creation is the manifestation of an integral spiritual intelligence from which all being manifests in an unending journey of discovery in search of yet unrealized possibility. This ongoing journey is the ultimate cooperative enterprise, Separation is an illusion.  

Human Nature

EMPIRE STORY: (Imperial Religion version):  Sinful by nature and surrounded and polluted by evil, humans are incapable of goodness except by divine grace. Violence and crime are the natural human condition in the absence of strong authorities with the ability to impose order.
(Imperial Science version): Products of a brutal competitive struggle for survival, humans are by nature individualistic, violent, materialistic, and competitive. Brutal competition, war, and material excess are the natural human condition. Order depends on strong rulers and/or the discipline of the unfettered competitive market. ....see also "The Meta-Story."

EARTH COMMUNITY STORY:  Empirical evidence shows that human beings are a choice-making species and that emotionally and morally mature humans are naturally cooperative, compassionate, and peace loving. It is our nature to create and live in caring, cooperative community. Those who seek meaning and identity in a brutal competition for wealth, dominator power, and ostentatious displays of material excess reveal the disabilities of an immature human consciousness.

Human Purpose 

EMPIRE STORY: (Imperial Religion):  Our human purpose is to honor and obey God the Father and those upon whom he bestows great wealth and power and thus reveals to be His righteous favored. He forgives the faithful their sins, cleanses them of evil, and grants them perfect bliss in the afterlife. The faithless will be die in a violent apocalypse and be condemned to eternal damnation.

(Imperial Science): Human existence has no meaning other than to pursue hedonistic pleasures while competing for survival, dominance, and breeding rights.

EARTH COMMUNITY STORY: We humans are a cosmic experiment in the potential of a living organism with a capacity for reflective consciousness to contribute to Creation's continuing journey of self-discovery. The dominator structures of Empire suppress this potential. Earth Community nurtures and liberates it. To fulfill our distinctive role as co-creators in Creation’s epic creative adventure we must liberate our potential by taking the step to species maturity. It is our ultimate test to determine whether we are a species worthy of continued survival or represent a failed evolutionary experiment to ultimately be cast aside to make way for the emergence of a more promising species.

It is no accident that the pleasure centers of the human brain are wired to reward us with happiness when we engage in acts of loving service to the community of life. It is our nature. The cosmos wants us to succeed.