Phillip José Farmer wrote a fascinating series of novels now popularly called the “Riverworld” books. Anyone who reads science fiction is familiar with the premise: everyone who has ever lived (up to 1984) is simultaneously resurrected on the banks of a million mile long river. Their bodily needs are taken care of and if they are killed they wake up the next morning somewhere else on the river. The books chronicle the adventures of such characters as Cyrano de Bergerac, Sir Richard Burton, Alice Pleasance Liddell, Tom Mix and Samuel Clemens through a peculiar afterlife. It turns out, in the fifth, and final book called “Gods of Riverworld”, that the group of travelers discovers a vast and unbelievably advanced computer is responsible for the resurrection process. They ultimately learn the secrets of the computer and begin to bring back anyone they want to. They become judge and jury to satisfy their own desires for revenge, or they resurrect people they are particularly fond of. Everyone gets to play God, and one of the central themes of Farmer’s books is how that affects us as human beings.
Throughout the earlier novels, the concept of the “overwathan” is believed to be true by all the characters. That idea was that we can all live forever as part of the godhead, but each individual must achieve a certain level of understanding, compassion and sophistication before this can happen. But, in reality everyone was being judged for immortality. The grand experiment the computer was performing was to let all those souls be reborn. In effect, it was letting everyone dig his or her own grave. The universe can support any number of immortals, but would you want to share the future with a Hitler or similarly evil person? So, that was the ultimate purpose of the Riverworld, to sort out those who should live in eternity from those who are incapable of change, and would make the future intolerable for everyone else.
Just for a while, let’s take a tour of other beliefs – not of the science fiction variety, that I’ll also call “overwathans”, a term I freely borrow from Farmer.
I’ll start with Judaism.
About this blog.
This blog is a place where many of the confluences of my life can be shared. I am, at the core, a creative person. I approach everything from that basis... whether composing symphonies, playing the cello, being a serial entrepreneur, writing sermons and essays, flying airplanes, or creating software apps. I am deeply passionate about creativity, issues of social justice, and spiritual enrichment. These are fundamental to everything I do. Welcome to my journey!