The Desire to Be God takes place in our world –with the qualification that the nature of that world is contested (which of course it already is). Each way whether sacred or secular, brings its own epistemology, cosmology, metaphysics and ethics and acts, commissioning quests on the assumption that its understanding of reality is correct. This means that the altereality will de facto augment our own world with “other worlds” drawn from myth, from the sacred cosmologies of axial traditions, and from contemporary scientific speculation. Our world turns out to be many worlds, given the diverse perspectives from which it is seen.
Participants will encounter and be asked to master these myths and cosmologies and the narratives and metanarratives, scientific, philosophical, and theological systems of which they form a part. Furthermore, because the real world is seen from multiple perspectives it begins to look different as participants are initiated in the mysteries of the ways. Space and time are not just physical. They are biological and social, productive and commercial and financial, civic and geopolitical, sacred and profane and axiological. Because the altereality has a political as well as a spiritual dimension (indeed, these two dimensions turn out to be mutually constitutive of each other) a significant aspect of the difference between the Ways turns out to be at the level of social theory and political strategy. A great deal of the altereality, especially in the early stages, consists in learning to see the world in different way: as pregnant with meaning –with multiple and competing meanings in fact— and to participate in making that meaning and thus in forming and transforming the world.
At least one thread of the altereality will focus on a deep exploration of a specific solution to the problem of “possible worlds” or “many worlds.” Building on Neal Stephenson’s suggestion in Anathem, The Desire to Be God will explore the idea that some possible worlds are more real than others, and that these worlds are related hierarchically to each other based on their degree of reality. Reality in this sense refers to their perfection or approximation to Being as such. Such a view reconciles postsecular (and Buddhist) possible and many worlds doctrines with the actualism which is dominant in most axial traditions. Or, but differently, it restates the hierarchical cosmology shared by most axial traditions, including Buddhism, in terms which accept and build on secular and postsecular physics.