What is a Meta-Narrative?

A meta-narrative is an updated version of an origin myth. A story that suggests where we came from, and projects where we may be going.

The purpose of this is to help us find some stability and see how our actions may contribute to something larger than ourselves. This should not be seen as an absolute, unchanging truth. But a good meta-narrative will provide us with a useful working theory of what is happening based on the best information we have available.

Scientists know the usefulness of overarching theories in making predictions and assimilating data. Our brains crave this coherency. One challenge for us in this postmodern era is to develop coherent meta-narratives to help us function and find meaning, while simultaneously admitting their limitations and remaining aware of the essential unpredictability of life.

So far, one universally palatable and coherent meta-narrative I have come across is put forward by spiritual teacher Rob Bell. His presentation Everything Is Spiritual situates spirituality within the context of emergence theory; a solid meta-narrative that has emerged at the intersection of science, philosophy, and theology. Bell expands on this idea and provides some food for thought based on his observations of how spirituality and science may be telling similar stories, while using different languages.

Bell’s meta-narrative, while not going too deep into the philosophical details, is in alignment with what I believe the core nature of reality is, and his presentation incorporates current science in a way that I feel will resonate with those who are familiar with both the scientific and spiritual perspectives. There is a lot of consistency to the way he ties it all together, making it a valuable and much needed contribution to the world right now. It is my meta-narrative candidate #1 currently when it comes to a widely applicable and palatable story of who we are, where we came from, and where we are going.

Here Bell’s entertaining and provocative presentation: