Heidegger has said that every thinker has one ruling thought around which all his work revolves.
My thought has been of a reversal of movement, in philosophy, religion and ethics, which has been due since the Enlightenment - that is, for over 200 years - but still has not been able to come fully to birth. I have attempted to be its midwife, but with little success.
Traditional religious thought involved "culturally-patterned interaction with culturally-postulated supernatural beings" (Clifford Geertz). These beings - saints, spirits, gods, and, in monotheism, the One Infinite God - inhabited the heavens, which in prescientific times began with the ’clouds of Heaven’ above your head.
With no tested knowledge about what there was in the sky, people naturally took the prevailing religious stories literally. Shakespeare’s lark still sings "at Heaven's gate", and the ascended Jesus sat enthroned upon the rainbow, or amongst the clouds, with his feet resting upon the blue-glass "firmament", not far above your head.
People clung to the old cosmology. Milton clung to it, though he had met Galileo. Even today, the Chapel Choir at St.John’s College Cambridge, still climb their Chapel tower on Ascension day to sing anthems at Heaven’s gate. To achieve our blessed destiny, we humans must regularly communicate with the world above, seeking from it forgiveness, favour and assistance.
Against such a background, religion, philosophy and ethics were naturally intensely "realistic" or objectivist. Always thought started from a great founding Reality, out there, above us. From it descended all finite reality, empowerment, meaning and value, coming down to us and into our "hearts".
The religious life was a life of attention, receptivity, inwardness - and my life since reaching the age of 50 has been a struggle to reverse and invert all these ways of thinking.
I want to be rid of Being-out-there, objective Truth, and every sort of religious Law.
I reject the immortality of the soul, the whole supernatural-order, and the ready-made "created world".
We should not think of anything as being absolute and prior. Everything is secondary and transient: everything is part of "the Fountain". It wells up, pours out into phenomenal expression as "the transient glory of the world", and instantly passes away.
My studies of everyday speech show that in the culture at large we are already moving over to the new point of view; as when for example, we replace traditional talk of God with idioms about "Life", "the Fountain", "It All", and "Be-ing".
Nowadays, we do not want to "save our immortal souls" by cultivating our own inwardness. We want to "come out" and "live to its fullest" the only life we’ll ever have. The self is to be spent, not saved. Ethics is not a matter of obedience to Law but of briefly "getting ourselves together" by the way we "come out". We should burn.
Thus the world is continually being created by us as our world, by the way we come out. The best life is a life of affirming love and joy in life.
Ethics is firmly expressive: emotivist and non-realist.
Of this great revolution in world-view and ethics, Jesus of Nazareth was the first prophet.
We should live as if at the end of the world - a thought which I tested to destruction in my final book Ethics at the End of Humanity (2016).
Even if the human enterprise is heading for a catastrophic end quite soon now, and even if there is now not enough time left for these ideas to be understood and acted upon, we should not be downcast.
As the man says: Take no thought for the morrow ! Be transients, passers-by ! Gospel of Thomas, 42
(Don Cupitt, November 2016)