Posted 13 July 2011, by Vern Barnet, The Kansas City Star, kansascity.com
Will technology affect spirituality in the future? I put this question to the Rev. Robert Brumet, whose latest book, “Birthing a Greater Reality,” was published last year. He teaches at Unity Institute and Seminary.
“Two examples of technology changing human consciousness are television and the Internet,” he said. “Now we have far more information instantly available than ever before, bringing the world into our own homes.
“The medium has become more than the message. It is changing the very way our minds work. For ages we have communicated by storytelling. Storytelling evoked imagination. Even with radio, to participate in the experience of receiving information, imagination was required.
“With television our imagination has become more passive. We simply receive, rather than co-create, the stories that we are given.”
Unlike TV, video games require participation. As he examines the Internet, Brumet questions the behavior some games model.
“The Internet has no censor, no editor and no credentialing body to validate the information we can receive online,” he said. “All opinions are equally available for everyone, from the profound wisdom of the ages to the most insane ranting imaginable.
“Private parts of individual minds — as well as bodies — are now accessible to anyone. And almost anything on the Internet can be replicated or modified instantly. The term virus no longer refers solely to a biological organism. Secrecy and safety are threatened in ways never before imagined, and we are vulnerable in new ways.
“And yet, democratic movements, such as the Arab Spring, are made possible by these same technologies. Time and space are rapidly shrinking, and we discover that we are not as separate and insulated as we once believed.
“The paleontologist and Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (who was born in 1881 and died in 1955) developed a theory of the evolution of consciousness. An invisible sphere of human thought-energy increasingly surrounds the earth, like the biosphere. Although he did not specify a technology, his theory seems to point to what we now call cyberspace.
“He called this sphere of information the noosphere (from the Greek, nous, mind). Technology strengthens the noosphere. Indeed, technology and spiritual evolution are intrinsically woven together.”
Some scholars think the printing press was a democratizing force that fueled, or even created, the Reformation, so I think Brumet’s observation that technology and spiritual evolution are entwined is important as we consider how to use new media.
Vern Barnet does interfaith work in Kansas City. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.