Asking the big Questions

And you already know the road I’m taking.

John 14:4

Asking the big questions is a sign of Gardner’s existential intelligence. What are those big questions?

  • where do we come from?
  • where do we go?
  • why are we here?

Traditionally, the big religious belief systems have answered those questions. But that had not always been so.

Very early on, people with a magical understanding of the world answered those questions totally different, even though we hear echoes of their ideas in all religions.

Tribal cultures believe that their ancestors exist as spirits and haunt them or help them, depending on their mood and your sacrifices to them. From that, behavioral system were constructed giving the first rules on what to do and why not to do.

Those rules were not constructed rationally. When somebody died or some catastrophic thing happened, the people needed an explanation and a cause to prevent the same in the future. They often linked the happening to some previous behavior that was outside the norm.

Let’s look at some rather harmless echoes in the biblical narrative:

A priest died, and when looking for a cause, it was discovered that he wore garment from mixed fibers. As nobody had done that before, this must have been the reason for his death. And thus a new law was created that priests were only the wear linen clothes and no mixed fibers.

Another example: The Israelites were told not to cook a lamb in the milk of the mother. That rule prevented them to believe in the frutility laws of their neighboring tribes. But for those tribes, this might have originated following a tragic period of infertility, looking at their customs and deviations from them.

Ancestral spirits evolved into power gods, taking side with their respective tribes. See the gods of Egypt and I Am, the God of Israel.

After the birth of monotheism, and even after the age of religion, answers to those questions are given in evolving manner.

Science deemed the last question of “why are we here” as irrelevant. Its best answer is: for the survival of the species.

The other questions are interestingly enough in this age of individualism decoupled from the individual and answered in physical, astronomical, and evolutionary terms. Materialism is rampant, and God is dead, or just deemed unnecessary.

Lately, in post-modernism, spirituality is rediscovered. Its understanding of subjective truth makes for a plethora of answers to the big questions more or less obscure depending on your own beliefs.

But, when we are honest to ourselves, that has been the case in Traditionalism as well, as there were many religions. It was just locally that people gathered around one belief system, being a corporate society rather than individuals.

What then is existential intelligence?

Well, drawing a parallel with intellectual intelligence, we could define it as the capability to understand the system of the time and drive it forward.

Low levels of intelligence will have somebody just use the findings of others blindly, with the lowest probably not even being capable of doing that.

First, the level of grasping what is will develop, and later, the ability to add to this will be added.

At the top level, one cannot only understand competing systems, hold them at the same time without believing or leaning towards one of them, and even develop new systems.

This includes the possibility of building off of an existing system as well as starting from scratch or underlaying several with a common foundation.

Average existential intelligence will either understand one system and adhere to it, or cherry-pick from different systems to come up with a new interpretation or new belief system. This latter strategy is a very popular thing to do in post-modernism.

The Greek expressed truth interestingly enough with the word aletheia, meanings the state of nothing hidden. Existential intelligence is the driving force and essential tool making possible the search and attainment of this stage eventually as a species, with individuals hosting this dynamism in order to present their part to the whole either by questioning, preserving, revising, falsifying, or strengthening those answers.

This is what I am trying to do in my latest posts. I chose the biblical narrative as a foundation because of my readers, as they predominantly are Christians or of christian-judeo background, and because I am myself one of this breed.

If you are interested, you can do two things:

Read my latest blogs, and you will find the idea of where I am at at the moment in my search for answers.

Read and compare newer and older blogs of mine, to see the journey I have taken from stretching traditionalism mildly to, well, do it with more force and openness.

I would love your feedback on all of this. If you are interested in my writing, consider subscribing to my newsletter.

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Accompanyist | Pastor in Exile | Iconoclast — I am a Gallup certified CliftonStrengths coach and a Spiral Dynamics practitioner.