From the perspective of Terje Nilsen, 43, co-owner of Ray White The Paradise Property Group real estate who comes from Norway.
Do you believe people arrived in their present form on Earth?
No, I believe in evolution, evolution being part of God’s development of Earth and humans. The big question here is our human soul and if that arrived in its present form or not. And if souls in same or different forms exist in other lifeforms on Earth.
Do you think a supernatural force has been guiding our evolution?
Yes, I do. The best source for “proof” of this is old spiritual and religious scriptures, the largest being the Vedas. Much too large and complex in its messages to just be “fairytales.”
Does it trouble you that we descended from apes?
No, not in the physical sense. We all, all living creatures, descend from the same “mother and father” anyway.
What does it mean to you to be human?
I believe in one cause, the cause of humanity. Meaning we all pass this test together or we do not pass it at all. This is God’s test for us, if we can make it together. I do not believe in individual liberation, at least not final liberation, all or none. This cause is what humans have to “find” in their day-to-day life. This is where the meaning of life is, in endless shapes and forms, big and small.
Philosophers say that human suffering proves the existence of God, that some people must endure enormous tragedy and sadness in order to find their path to God. What do you think?
I don’t think suffering is the right way to “prove” God. Keywords here for me would be karma, or learning by doing. Some say to know God you have to know evil, or bad. One of the best explanations I have heard is when we are compared to kids: they sometimes suffer when learning to become better humans.
What about the Asian tsunami of 2004 that killed around 250,000 people? In your opinion, where is a god in such a biblical natural disaster?
Difficult to answer. We learn by making mistakes. These mistakes might be lessons for us to survive, and to help us to come together as one for humanity.
Do you think the chaos and trouble caused by people, including wars, is the product of a Devil-derived evil or purely free will?
A combination of both, I believe. But with our will, we can all pull this chaos in the right direction, supported by clear actions to do so.
Why do you think the Universe is such a gigantic place, yet the only apparent intelligent life as far as we’ve been able to detect is on Earth?
I don’t think we are alone. There are other lifeforms in the Universe and around us on Earth.
Scientists say the Universe began life as an incomprehensibly dense dot of matter, then exploded and is expanding. In your imagination, what has the cosmos become and what do you think is our meaning within it?
Into a giant experiment where God and us as part of God evolve further and further towards ultimate good. In this case humanity would include all there is; this is the same as the Balinese concept of Tat Twam Asi.
Although impossible now, if a probe could reach the furthest parts of space, at the point where matter was still expanding, and if that probe could jump ahead of the matter, where would it be?
It would jump ahead to where we are going, but would need to come back right away to still be part of the learning process we are all part of.
Does it worry you that your presence on Earth might be nothing more than a chance alignment of primordial amino acids and that we are totally alone and when you die, that’s the end of your consciousness?
If that was the case, it would not bother me. Still, the best scientific “proof” of god I have seen is math. Basically, what mathematicians do is work out the chances of each evolution aspect happening, each of them being less than one in a million. However, if all leaps and happenings in evolution on Earth and in the Universe are put together, you get an astronomical figure. It would then be mathematically impossible for evolution to happen. But it has been happening; hence the proof of a higher guidance, presence and thought.
Atheists maintain that religion is nothing more than a fairytale and that adherents are deluding themselves. They say there’s no proof of the existence of any controlling entity or creator and that it’s foolish to believe in one. Are they deluding themselves?
Yes, I believe they are deluding themselves, but then again that might be the role for them to play in this life.
What’s the wonder of being alive?
Realising the cause, not being alone. In Bali they have a saying: Achintya. This means a part of God, or a nature of God that we cannot understand with our normal human capacities – this is step one. Gayatri is the ultimate prayer, a prayer where we ask for the creator to guide us, enlighten us and give us the life we deserve and need to learn – this is step two. Ananda means spiritual happiness and this would follow as a result of the two previous steps. Humans tend to complicate God and spiritual aspects, not realising that there is a spiritual truth and togetherness in any religion or faith.
If you could say something directly to a God and get a direct answer, what would it be?
I would say: Thank you for the life I have now, with all the people around me teaching me valuable lessons. I would ask him: Why is it hard for me to learn and adjust. And probably, I would ask him what plans he has for me in my next life.