Homer Simpson is not a representative of the next stage of human evolution.
The Progressive Catholic Voice has a new post about a trip to interview Hans Kung taken by organizers of the American Catholic Conference. ACC is organizing a national meeting of reform minded Catholics to be held in Detroit in June of 2011. The following short excerpt gives Dr. Kung's view of the future of Catholicism.
In a relaxed atmosphere, Dr. Küng expressed his views about the future of the Church. As he sees it, the institution we know will die soon, to be replaced by communities following the gospel of Jesus, with informal liturgies and a sacramentality related to life in community. He is very devoted to developing relationships between Christianity and non-Christian religions, the attempt to discover a global ethical commonality, and ultimately, a global understanding of God. What he sees emerging is a spirituality related to the human condition and stages of life, to replace institutionalized rigidity.
Dr. Kung is describing a vastly different Catholicism from the one currently in place. I find his take on the future to be the highest probability for Catholics in many global locations if only because the priest shortage leaves very little alternative. His idea of communities with informal liturgies was successfully demonstrated in Brazil in the idea of Base Communities, and then as successfully suppressed by the Vatican under JPII. I imagine that of all the headaches the Vatican curia currently faces, the rise of successful community based Evangelical communities in South America may be higher on the list than the Vatican is willing to express. At the rate Evangelicals are eating into the Catholic population, Catholicism could be a minority religion in less than fifty years. It seems to me this is a very heavy price for maintaining the doctrine of our current sacramental priesthood.
Dr Kung also mentions the importance of developing a global understanding of God with a global ethical commonality. This idea will have just as profound an impact on traditional notions of Catholicism as the idea of locally based sacramental communities. This influence can already be seen in theological trends coming from India and the Orient with their different understandings of spirituality and emphasis on both/and thinking. It can also be seen in the American continents with the influence of Indigenous understandings of cosmology, liturgical and sacramental practices, and shamanism. The push for these global understandings are not coming from the top down, but from the bottom up. As such they are a direct threat to any hierarchical religious structure based in static dogmatism.
There is also another idea contained in the above trends which is not always explicitly mentioned but is definitely implied. This is the idea that we are on the brink of another leap in human consciousness and human capability. A leap perhaps as important as the one evidenced in the evolution of self awareness and the concomitant ability to think in context of past and future which allowed for a different relationship with time and material reality. It could very well be that this evolution in consciousness is the reason homo sapiens is the sole representative species of humanity. The next step, according to some future thinkers, is homo transcendent.
The advent of homo transcendent is not just an idea being tossed around in spiritual circles, it's also being tossed around by scientists studying human consciousness, theoretical physics, and neurophysiology. Rather than scoffing at the tales of Mayan shamans or a Padre Pio they are asking serious questions about the neural mechanisms which might be involved. They may not yet have definitive answers, but there is a growing amount of research which indicates mystical experiences are directly related to unique patterns of neural activity. Something is happening in the brains of some people and it's recordable. Oh yea and in some cases that something produces changes in material reality and/or accesses unique information.
This brings up all kinds of other questions. Some of them having to do with the kinds of information accessed and the kinds of manifested events. For instance Padre Pio had very different experiences in the mystical realm than an Indigenous shaman even though both manifest similar abilities. It seems that we can only understand the mystical realms via the world view we have entrained in our brains. Padre Pio had a stated and confirmed desire to become a 'perfect victim soul' and his experience confirmed this understanding, complete with physical demonic attacks. An Indigenous shaman has a very different world view and would see these kind of attacks as a product of unexamined fears drawing this reality to the dreamer. This is why the shamanic tradition has a training process that takes decades. One of the main thrusts of the training is to clean up and protect the ego from disintegrating through the fear generated by mind bending alternate realities. In a sense one point of the extensive training is to foster a kind of super sanity.
Padre Pio, in the monastic tradition experienced a similar kind of notion, except in his case it was not evolving a form of super sanity, but super sanctity. In the difference between those two words, sanity and sanctity, lies the potential for a great deal of tussle over the spiritual future of Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular. More to come.