PRIMARY SCRIPTURE, Cosmic Religion’s First Lessons
Copyright 2001, Sylvester L. Steffen

QUANTUM RELIGION, The Good News of Rising Consciousness
Copyright 2003, Sylvester L. Steffen

RELIGION & CIVILITY, The Primacy of Conscience
Copyright 2004, Sylvester L. Steffen

The Moral High Ground
As Roman Catholics, we claim the moral high ground. Proof of claim, however, is not in “the example of power but in the power of example”. [Quote from the 2008 National Democratic Presidential Convention]

The politics of the Roman Catholic Church are historically seen more as the “example of power” than the “power of example”.

What Second Enlightenment calls for is the reversal from display of power to display of example.

The Second Enlightenment Trilogy is a serious attempt to bridge the gulf that separates religion and science. Precisely because it is serious it may incite serious resistance. The Trilogy’s likely best chance for success in its purpose is to take its message directly to the public in anticipation of ambivalent response.

The Second Enlightenment Trilogy is written to engage Church culture in the task of new analysis and synthesis of theology/ ecclesiology from the perspective of evolutionary science/ experience, and to come to the reconciliation of science/ religion, faith/ reason, and to the rehabilitation of civil society.

The Second Enlightenment Trilogy is perhaps the first and only all inclusive religious/ civil analysis and synthesis of the cultural/ moral implications of faith/ evolution. These implications directly affect religious behavior and the functioning of society, as we know them.

Second Enlightenment comes with difficulty. Religion and science has each developed its own esoteric language. Some words of their professions are used with weighted and formulaic meanings understandable only to insiders. It is difficult enough to read religion and science independently and make sense of them, so it is perhaps even more difficult to bring the professions together in language and understandings that make sense to the lay reader — and that is what The Second Enlightenment Trilogy labors mightily to do.

Enlightenment & Second Enlightenment
The British historian Hugh Trevor-Roper in "The Crisis of the Seventeenth Century, Religion, the Reformation, & Social Change,” Liberty Fund, Indianapolis, IN., identifies the Peace of Westphalia (1648), which marked the end of the Thirty Years Wars of Religions in Europe, as the serious beginning of the Enlightenment movement in Europe.

What was/ is "enlightenment" about?
A great flourishing of the arts and mercantile skills (Renaissance) had developed throughout Europe, which came to be displayed in the courts and churches of the “Holy Roman” empire. The imperial culture of old Rome had come to be replaced by the imposed new culture of imperial faith, specifically, Roman Catholic (c. 1000 AD), which ruled by sovereign political and religious authority.

The corruptions of city/ states in the royally extravagant use of wealth by kings, popes, princes, cardinals, lords, episcopacies, monasteries and courts, fueled public rebellion and demands for the reformation of clerics and religious/ political bureaucracies.

The competing parasitic appetites of the city/ states destabilized the central political authority. Responsive to reformation demands of the Augustinian monk Martin Luther, multiple Christianities sprung up from within the Roman Catholic Tradition (c 1550).

The rise of Renaissance Humanism counteracted the controlling authority of the Holy Roman Empire. Arrogated authority, royal greed and structural rigidity against public accommodation came at a high and tragic price for all of Europe. These challenges ultimately left Europe in shambles after the warring factions eventually consumed resources and the public will for war by 1648.

The "enlightenment" involved a new and formal acceptance of the fact that there would continue to be multiple Christian denominations; that there would be many political factions and structures coexisting; and, that the people, merchants and artisans, and the different churches, would have to work out diverse political/ religious/ economic arrangements under which they could co-exist.

The birth of a neo-political, religious and economic reality characterized the 1st Enlightenment that grew from humanist insights. In its bottom-line significance, the 1st Enlightenment is for one thing a people-push toward greater democratic expression and away from authoritarian dominion. As a cultural movement that occurred in imperial Europe (c. 1500 to 1900), 1st Enlightenment represents an intellectual, cultural shift of political consciousness away from the accustomed and exaggerated cult of imperial faith to a more rational and scientifically informed “humanism” that speaks to the equality of persons and the value of reason.

In imperial Europe, Church and State together dominated in political control and in ideological belief. Faith-culture was one with political culture that allowed no popular dissent or opposition, under threats of excommunication and violent death. Religious dissent increased with the awakening of reason and humanism, and eventually came to demand reform. The Thirty Years’ Wars of Religion (1618-1648) that followed had the effect of setting faith and reason against each other and of creating a seemingly unresolvable schism between them.
Over time, and driven by the injustices of imperial state religion, popular dissent and scientific ascent together raised public consciousness to affirm the place of reason, and to stand reason (science) against the irrationality, incivility, and violence of suppressive imperialism.

1st Enlightenment developed its popular following which insisted on reason, and which eschewed faith-dominated religion, even as imperial Church continued in the cult of hyped faith and dominion theology. The standoff of science (reason) and humanism against fideistic religion has continued up to and after the Second Vatican Council which sought an accommodation with Modernity (science).

Science and humanism (1st Enlightenment) as a counter movement against religious/ political suppression, not unlike imperial Church, fashioned its own dogmas and ideologies which meant to challenge Church and fideism and to discredit them.

1st Enlightenment came to a mechanistic worldview which it claimed had no need for belief in God; it sought to discredit the “metaphysical” worldview of Scholasticism and its fixity on Earth as the center of the universe.

2nd Enlightenment is an evolved rationality that moves beyond the fractured, dualistic thinking of the 1st Enlightenment. It is suggested here that the Third Millennium has giving birth to a 2nd Enlightenment capable of finishing and reconciling the unfinished business of the 1st.

Like the 1st, 2nd Enlightenment is about a new, more democratic political-religious-economic consciousness whose impact isn't merely European, but global. Recognized is the need of a globally formulated and supported world-consciousness, which motivates public engagement in greater global, political effort to meet the humanitarian needs and concerns of global people and the more equitable usage of global resources.

This awareness is inspired by the global experience of the destructive and unconscionable exploitation of indigenous people by feudal systems, including colonialism, and in our time, transnational corporations. The unjust circumstance of politicized inequity has its origins and its justification in the expansionist designs of the imperial church/ states of sixteenth century Europe.

The component of new religious enlightenment has dimensions beyond Europe; it is with respect to the legitimate, popular aspirations (Liberation Theologies) for religious expression by peoples of the world. In the course of the Reformation troubles, the Roman Catholic Church sought to stanch its internal hemorrhaging by clamping down on reasonable, public aspirations.

The Church's rigid theology of Counter-Reformation was enforced by torture, condemnations and stake-burnings, and prosecuted by the Spanish and Roman Inquisitions. Liberation Theology is still objected to by the entrenched theological thinking of Tridentine protagonists within the Roman Catholic Church. [The Council of Trent (1545-1563) was a reactionary convention of the Catholic Church intent on confronting and suppressing the Reformation.]

In 1869 the First Vatican Council was convened to expand on the work and discipline of the Council of Trent. By Church's insistence on an exclusionary hierarchy and clergy it meant to extend and tighten its control over the people. The Church proclaimed its dogma of institutional inerrancy and papal infallibility in matters of faith and morals. The Church continued its assertion of only "one" true Church and its intention to extend itself globally.

In its self-understood divine election, the “one true Church” still professes its ancient belief. The discipline of preserving the public face of institutional inerrancy has become an obsession of the Church's hierarchy, even if it means that cardinals, bishops and priests together act diligently and collectively to hide from the public their dismal failures in official matters of faith and morals.

At this very time, the "uncovering" (apocalypse) of official conspiratorial cover-ups, on the part of cardinals, bishops and priests, in sexually deviant matters (faith and morals), is rocking the institutional church and is shocking the faithful. The façade of Church inerrancy is rapidly evaporating from the minds of many of the faithful. The continued ascendancy of lay influence within the Church is likely to increase, not because of any willful change of heart on the part of Church and hierarchy, but because of public disclosures of clerical and hierarchical cover-ups, frauds and deceits.

The collapse of ecclesial credibility is happening from within the Church and due to institutional failures of fidelity. Enlightenment did not happen with the Peace of Westphalia, but it may now progress as the result of the uncovering of official Church wrongdoing — which uncovering may be but an introduction to a history of calculated deceit and misdirection.

2nd Enlightenment, cosmically informed in energy/ matter relationships and in the essential continuity of evolving energy/ matter, accepts nature’s spontaneous unfolding, both in the physical (organic) evolution of structures (forms), and in the primacy of energy (spirituality) involving processes (functions) of transformational substances, organisms.

Energy (spirituality) supposes forms (substance) even as changing forms suppose energy/ spirituality. All the varied forms and processes of joined spirituality/ materiality emerge from and are composed of/ by original cosmic energy, diffuse in the intelligence and at work in living populations in an egalitarian manner.

Qualified cosmic energy (spirituality) is the “metaphysics” that characterizes Earthly material (physical) transformation. By understanding the identity of energy/ matter in the changing correlations of physical forms and functions, the
animus between faith and reason, fideism and rationalism can be healed; and except it is healed, the schizophrenic voices between Church and Enlightenment will not be silenced and public insanity will flourish.

2nd Enlightenment pursues the healing of violence and division that have so ravished nature and the people through history; it seeks to do this by putting faith and reason in ongoing communication with each other, what is the way of symbiosis, of intentional thinking and living.

2nd Enlightenment admits to the physical/ metaphysical nature of reality, that is, that consciousness is a quality that “coheres” (holds together) substances and “inheres” (qualifies) in sustainable purposes specific to the forms and functions of transformational matter. In the “Sacrament of Natural Order”, consciousness is qualified in ascending awareness that accommodates physical complexity and functional sustainability.

Enlightenment here is used in the general, universal sense of intelligence, insight, understanding — what is evolved/ evolving self-reflective consciousness.

In the holistic sense of enlightenment, 2nd Enlightenment seeks to expose the misdirection of Western history and culture, i.e. its radical schism of self-reflective consciousness. The remedy of this psychic unsettling first requires recognition of causes, namely, the breach of Faith and Reason, of religion and science, and the female/ male persona. The essential unity and mutuality of the spiritual/ material personae, their mutuality, co-dependency and evolution, are enlightened by the scientific insights of Albert Einstein into the nature of light energy, and by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s understandings of evolutionary theology.