Wooden Temple Bell, Tenryu-Ji, Kyoto
One can argue, as some have, that arts across the world share, especially in their "primitive" forms, commonality of appearance due to the limited range of geometric forms available in any visual repertoire. This is not enough, however, to explain the remarkable convergence of both styles and imagery across a wide range of religious art; not only is our impulse to do art deeply rooted in our biology, it is deeply rooted in our spirituality. This, of course, raises the question of whether our spirituality arises from our biology; the accidentalists would have it that everything is a consequence of physics, chemistry, and nature, and that no higher meaning exists or can be ascribed.
Swedenborg, a consummate scientist of his time in his own right, carefully explained that such ideas are an aberration that fail to understand that the material is dependent upon the spiritual, not the other way around.
This understanding is a worldview common to most so-called "primitive" societies, many of which are actually extraordinarily sophisticated. All manifestations in the material world are a consequence of pre-existing energetic conditions in the spiritual one; Swedenborg called this the idea of correspondences, whereby everything in the material world is a sign or correlation for something spiritual. The Mayans saw material things this way, so much so that they saw them more in terms of their potentialities than their actualities; they lived in a world of transferred meaning, in which one substance referred to another, and all substances referred to what they could or would become as much as what they were in a particular moment. This is a concept of transformation; and the idea of transformation is deeply embedded in all religious practice. The world, in other words, is in a process of becoming something else, something new, different, and potentially wonderful; and if this is not an evolutionary worldview, I don't know what is.
The difference between the Darwinian evolutionists, the accidentalists and atheists, and spiritualists is that in the world of spiritual development, the evolution and transformation of meaning, both psychological and material, is directional, that is, it has a purpose, and aim, and meaning. Atheism and Darwinian evolution strip all purpose, aim, and meaning from life and allow it to be a stupid, unthinking, and random entity — a world, in fact, that is so far removed from what we actually see that it is baffling to see how such conclusions can be reached. Triumphantly reached, in fact; and the delight that atheists and reductionist scientists take in expanding their views ought to be taken suspiciously, revealing an unseemly hubris that has nothing to do with the scientific method.
In any event, this world of transferred and transformed meaning is, in its essence, the spiritual world; the spiritual world imprints itself upon the material, which is a reflection of the existence of higher ideas and energies. This sense of a transcendental world, a world that lies beyond creation, as Meister Eckhart would have put it, is a ubiquitous and persistent feature of human consciousness and civilization; it is so fundamental to the average human worldview that we cannot divorce it from the biological and physiological imperatives that caused us to arise and exist as the beings we are.
Evolutionists have attempted to explain this in terms of its survival value; but if Simon Conway Morris is correct in his estimation of evolution as a highly directed process that does not permit the so-called "accidents" which produce a nearly endless series of remarkable convergences, then our worldview is not accidental at all, but, like everything else we see around us, an inevitable product of the way things are at the root. Matter itself is, after all, ultimately consequent to quantum phenomena and fluctuations; everything that arises from it arises inevitably from the way things are arranged at the baseline, so if bats and cetaceans share a similar echolocation system, in the end, the source of that system lies at the quantum level — as does the source of man's belief in God, and the consistent belief in religion across a wide range of cultures.
More in the next post.