10 July 2022 ~ 1 Comentario

The Universe of the Gessen

By Carlos Alberto Montaner

I met the Gessens, a married couple who are both psychologists, as liberals – in the European sense of the term – and I saw them again as ambassadors of Venezuela in Canada, during the second government of Carlos Andrés Pérez. I remember that Vladimir Gessen never ceased to be useful to the Cubans who were fighting to be free. Once, when many thought that Gessen could be president of Venezuela, we crossed our fingers. More than 20 years ago, Hugo Chávez messed everything up and moved the country back to the 19th century.

Bold authors fascinate me. I understand that boldness is not considered one of the best traits of writers (readers tend to be conservative), but I can’t help it; I love when authors tackle unexpected genres. That is why, perhaps, I thought Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari was magnificent, as well as millions of other readers. Harari is a young Israeli professor who took over the responsibility of writing a comprehensive history of human beings, since they accidentally acquired the ability to communicate orally among themselves.

Within the tradition of bold books, psychologists Vladimir and María Mercedes Gessen has just published Who is the UNIVERSE? And then they provide a first explanation on the cover: A Way to Meet God in the 21st Century. That is, half-tongued, the work adds a clarification: it is not an atheist manifesto, nor is it the beginning of a church. It is only an explanation for those restless beings who do not feel comfortable with the elementary knowledge of the three Abrahamic religions, or with any that imposes its dogmas tooth and nail.

Reading Who is the Universe? A Way to Meet God in the 21st Century, brought me back to another reading, that of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a Jesuit paleontologist who tried to marry Christianity with Science and failed. The good priest, who was a sage, was trying to get closer to God in the 20th century. (After all, the lucubrations about quantum physics are almost a century old.) He was banned from publishing. And it was not the State, but the Catholic Church itself “in defense of young people.” Being a restless teenager, I was deeply offended by this appalling way of treating the Jesuit.

The Gessens face some danger in a society like America. In a country where the Supreme Court dictates its decisions based on interests or religious beliefs, the growing influence of Christian fundamentalism is a serious danger, as we have just seen in the Roe vs. Wade controversy. Tomorrow we can wake up in a society in which “free thinkers” cannot teach or “influence youth.” As happened to Socrates, democratically (he was condemned by a slim majority), in the Greece of the 5th century BC.

When science visits “quantum physics,” postulating that there are parallel realities, and that it is possible to break the principle that affirmed, since the Greeks, that one could only be in one place and one time at a time, it is a shame that the teaching of religions has such a flat way to defend their point of view.

It is less obvious, and therefore more arguable, when the book states that “every atom in every human body already existed when the Earth was born more than 4.5 billion years ago. And they will continue to exist, just like our consciousness located in a magnetic and energy field, when they leave the human body and join and install themselves in the Universe as part of its Universal Body and Universal Consciousness, where it belongs.”

I don’t think there is a universal consciousness. Rather, as the Peruvian libertarian thinker Manuel González Prada believed – I quote from memory – “nature would fill a mass grave with the corpse of humanity to watch the ants parade, rather than demonstrate its predilection for the human race.”

Nor do you have to tear your clothes. The Universe maintains its enigmatic presence and it is very convenient that each generation tries to decipher the mystery and answer the big questions: Why and for what do we exist? Vladimir and María Mercedes Gessen have stuck their oar into the debate. For that alone, they deserve honor. Excellent work.

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