The philosophers of all ages have sought the answer to this fundamental question. Like a cosmic sphinx, it mutely broods over all phases of existence. Perhaps no satisfactory answer will ever be found expressed in human language. The symbols of language are so crude when compared with the transcending eloquence displayed by what we call Nature. We can observe, compare, weigh, measure and then conclude in our simple, primitive way that we know very little about ourselves, the reason for our being here and the universe in which we live.
Literal humanists and atheists dispose of this question with great ease. They freely admit of an ascending tendency in all phases of life, but make no attempt to explain it. Since, according to them, there is no overall plan or purpose in creation and everything happens by chance alone, there is no need to even attempt an explanation. But those of us who see a Cosmic Mind at work and who recognize spiritual values in human relationships are curious. There must be a reason for this ever ascending tendency from the simple to the complex, from ignorance to knowledge, from chaos to order, from evil to good and the thousand other evidences of an unseen divine Power within every phase of material existence.
Our task is made more difficult because of our tendency to classify all phases of life into neat categories, each a universe in itself. There is the animal world with its classifications of mammals, birds, reptiles, insects. There is another world of life in the waters of the earth and still another in our flora. Then there are the sciences, each covering its specific department of knowledge, such as chemistry, physics, astronomy, medicine, mathematics, to mention just a few. And last, but most important of all is man himself who at present holds domain over the earth and all it contains. Having been gifted with the largest brain of any living being he is capable of reaching the highest level of perfection and, by the same token, the lowest depth of depravity. He can be a god or a demon as he chooses, a creator or a destroyer.
Considering the many phases of life we become confused. We are in the midst of a lot of mighty trees but we are unable to see the forest. We live in a microcosm, our view limited to our immediate surroundings, thus limiting our concept of the world and our relationship to it. Our view of the world is, so to speak, a worm's-eye view.
We are capable of much greater things. We are endowed with imagination. Our mind can soar into cosmic space, our body remaining earth-bound. We can look down upon ourselves and from this great distance we can discern a unity among all living things. The grasshopper and the thrush and the host of other living beings have bodies as perfectly organized as our own. Also they seem to have the same right of possession to their earthly abode as we have to ours. The ivory tower in which we are living loses its importance when we marvel at the skill with which the spider spins her web. We begin to feel a kinship with all living beings inasmuch as all have the same Creator. By lifting our minds into cosmic space we widen our horizon and become cosmic inhabitants instead of just denizens of our earth. In the light of the advances made by modern science it is not too much to expect that within our own lifetime it may be possible for us to leave the earth and explore the infinite depths of space!
Another change in our thinking is necessary if we are to understand the reason for progressing perfection. We must free ourselves of our concept of time. Time is simply an earthly measure. We use it to describe the duration of a given process. We measure the length of our lives in terms of years. In cosmic existence, however, time as we know it is not a factor. Time on the planet Mars, for example, is different from our own. Every cosmic body has its own time.
In our school days we were taught that the "world" was created 5,000 years ago. Today science asserts quite definitely that our earth came to take on its present form about two billion years ago. Our vision becomes much clearer when we consider our own existence as a phase of eternity rather than as a definite span of earthly years. Creation becomes a process of change in eternity rather than bringing into being something which takes a certain number of years to accomplish. God, the Creator, instead of being a person like ourselves except in degree of perfection, becomes a Cosmic Power of Infinite Intelligence, of eternal existence and present in all the eye can behold and our senses can perceive.
With our thinking thus adjusted we are better equipped to understand the process we call creation. The advancement from a less perfect to a more perfect state is a necessary phase of any creative process. This is true whether we are considering the creation of a work of art by man or the bringing into being of the world and all it contains by God. In fact the word creation does not properly describe this process. The old concept of finality in the creation of the world out of nothing must be considered as a symbolic recital of events to make them more easily understood. If God had created the world out of nothing and called it perfect there would be no further reason for seeking perfection.
Evolution is a word much better suited to describe the creative process: an orderly progress from a less perfect state to a more perfect one. The size of our universe, during our lifetime, has been enlarged many times by the extension of our vision. The 200-inch telescope at Palomar extends our vision of cosmic bodies to a distance of one billion light years. With light traveling at 186,000 miles per second, or 16 billion 70 million 400,000 miles per day, one billion light years represents a distance far beyond our capacity to conceive. (1 billion times 5,865,696,000,000 miles) Without doubt a still larger telescope would bring into view bodies still farther away. The immensity of space and the duration of time as expressed in earthly years leads us to conclude that the cosmos must be infinite and has eternal existence.
Thus we cannot speak of creation as having taken place at a certain time. Creation is a continuous process of evolution, of change from one state to another. It is an eternal process and our present existence in time is but a phase of eternity. It follows then that life in all its phases is creation in action in which we ourselves are intimately involved.
The tendency toward perfection is a natural and necessary part of the evolutionary, or so-called creative process. There can be no finality to creation if it is an eternal process. To progress is to improve. All evidence in Nature, which is life, points to the existence of an overpowering will to be, and an irresistible tendency to move upward from the simple to the complex, from chaos to perfection. This invisible Power which manifests itself through and by means of matter cannot be other than the Power we call God. It follows also, because there is no evidence to the contrary, that this Power, or God, can have no existence apart and separate from matter and the cosmos. It is unreasonable to think of God as existing without a cosmos, that is, space completely devoid of substance. In such a nothingness God could not manifest himself and would therefore have to be considered as non-existent.
What better proof of the reality of a creative or better, an evolutionary Power, than the transition from the simple inorganic elements to the formation of the very complex molecules which are the elements of organic life? We must take our minds back to the primeval days of our earth before organic life existed and the earth was covered with the primeval ooze. Out of this conglomerate mixture of chemical elements evolved the protoplasm, the material out of which the first organic cells were formed, with the power to reproduce themselves. In this elementary process lies the answer to our question "why perfection."
Inert, inanimate matter has come to life, at first without individual consciousness. These individual cells with reproductive faculty are the bricks, the building blocks, with which were formed the thousands of vehicles for the living beings which have inhabited the earth, including ourselves.
At first the single cells formed into groups for better protection against the elements. Cooperation among the cells developed specialized groups performing definite functions. Cell groups began to take on definite forms developing the power of locomotion. Further organization developed the powers of vision, touch and hearing. As the surface of the earth changed, separating sea from land, some of the living beings learned to adapt themselves to the new surroundings. The urge toward perfection is demonstrated nowhere better than in the development of consciousness and the powers of sense perception.
Let us consider that evolution of life began with the basic chemical elements such as carbon, iron, copper, calcium, phosphorus and many others. Out of these evolved the organic compounds of which the first cells were formed. These had the power of reproduction, some degree of a sense of touch and possibly taste, but no other faculties. Within these primitive organisms resided the Power and the Will to develop consciousness and sense organs with which to perceive life. They represent the first proof of an urge toward perfection. The evolution from these simple forms to the present complex forms as represented by the various species of plants and animals inhabiting the earth is too well known to need further exposition. A study of man, the living being with the highest potential, will demonstrate conclusively the upward tendency of the evolutionary process.
We do not know why man, of all living beings, was endowed with a larger brain than any other. The fact is that, with his superior intellectual capacity, man has become the master of his surroundings. Being a comparatively recent arrival on the evolutionary scene he has outdistanced all his living contemporaries in physical and mental achievement. As a dweller in caves man learned to evaluate the properties of materials such as stone, metal and wood. Out of these he fashioned tools and with these tools erected structures to house himself and his family in comfort. He has given expression to his creative ability in such enduring structures as the Pyramids, the Parthenon, the Taj Mahal, the beautiful temples and cathedrals of Europe and the modern skyscrapers of America. The inner drive leading to perfection is nowhere more evident than in the arts and sciences. His esthetic sense has enabled man to transform color into beautiful paintings and shape marble into awe inspiring sculptures.
Man cannot take credit for his achievements, because beyond and behind his free will he is driven by a Power far greater than his individual self. This same Power resides in and manifests itself through everything we can perceive with our senses. It is this Power which, using the physical world as its tool, creates order out of chaos and advances from imperfection to perfection.
We may well ask ourselves if it is possible to reach the ultimate in perfection, that is the highest degree, a state of perfection beyond which further improvement is impossible. The answer to such a question must be in the negative. To limit perfection is synonymous with limiting infinity. Perfection is dynamic, being a phase of creation, it is always in the process of becoming. A static perfection would be equivalent to death or non-existence. Life is like a fluid, forever in motion, its elements re-arranging themselves constantly toward a better, more perfect state. Herein is the purpose of all life.
In our quest for perfection we overlook the fact that it is all about us in all phases of existence. As we observed earlier we must free ourselves of the sense of time and consider our existence as a phase of eternity. If the cosmos and God are eternal then there never was a time when they did not exist. If God is perfection which, according to all our observations He must be, then in every phase of eternity there must be a state of relative perfection.
There is perfection in the atom, a solar system in miniature with its electrons traveling in definite orbits. There is perfection in the construction of the single cell with its nucleus, the prototype of the nervous system in more complex beings. The anatomy of a grasshopper is an example of a perfect piece of engineering. There is perfection in the blade of grass and in the towering majesty of the oak tree. There is perfection in man's ability to distinguish good from evil. Every church steeple and temple dome reaching into the sky furnishes eloquent testimony to man's aspiration to godliness.
Let us not be swayed in our faith by the many failings of humanity, but rather let our courage be strengthened by the shining examples of perfection we so often find in the human heart.
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