Sunday, March 13, 2011

Science, Consciousness and Being

"Science without religion is lame,
religions without science is blind."

Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
It has never been satisfactory for me to subscribe to a belief system that contradicts science (not a belief system restricted to the narrow limits of science, but not a system contradictory to science within those limits). As the Dalai Lama noted in his book, "The Universe In a Single Atom," if one's religious doctrines conflict with science, it is the doctrines that must be re-examined in light of scientific progress. Or, as Einstein observed, "Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind."

Because of my own background (my father and mother were a nuclear scientist and Christian Scientist, respectively), and my own education (psychology/sociology, followed by a law degree), I also needed a spiritual or religious perspective that squared with the findings of both the so-called “soft” social sciences and was harmonious with the humanities.

Physics, psychology and metaphysics/theology are the leading disciplines in the sciences, social sciences and humanities, respectively. Fortunately, all three seem to point to the perhaps unacknowledged, but nonetheless undivided, ‘Wholeness’ of which our respective ‘realities’ are intricate and integral parts. I find this most reassuring, while I endeavour through practice to penetrate this Wholeness at greater depths and for longer duration until, … well, who knows until, really?

I was fortunate in growing up without a forced understanding of some anthropomorphic and punishing God-man "out there" somewhere, like the roof of the Sistine Chapel come to spiritual life. Yet growing up in a Western culture, this was the common-place "idea" (or so I understood it) of a superman-like God which I rapidly rejected.

Mary Baker Eddy
On the wall of my bedroom, growing up, was a plaque setting out what is known as the "Scientific Statement of Being," by Christian Science founder, Mary Baker Eddy. It read:
"There is no life, truth, intelligence, nor substance in matter. All is infinite Mind and its infinite manifestation, for God is All-in-all. Spirit is immortal Truth; matter is mortal error. Spirit is the real and eternal; matter is the unreal and temporal. Spirit is God, and man is His image and likeness. Therefore man is not material; he is spiritual."
Obviously, this view had a large impact on my thinking. Yet I could not ascribe to the "matter is mortal error" dogma. I understood matter to be very 'real' indeed. Nor could I get behind the whole "spiritual healing" shtick. It seemed, and seems, to be a fixation with physical health and death - and, worse yet, a denial of science - which seemed rather besides the point, particularly with the rapid medical advances in the last 150 years.

Science, of course, does not have all the answers. Yet, as Richard Dawkins notes in one of his rote speeches (quoting J.B.S. Haldane), "The universe is not only queerer than we suupose; it is queerer than we can suppose." Yet science is plodding away, as it should (and as metaphysics should). The findings in quantum dynamics theory - that there is no 'reality' (per se) but only a quantum 'flux' or potential until there is an "observation" that crystallizes our 'reality' - seem both astounding and awe-inspiring. It appears, indeed, that perhaps "All is infinite mind."

In his book, "The Commanding Self," the late Sufi author, Idries Shah, wrote:
“People follow one creed or system after another, each one believed to provide the answer, the thing that will solve all problems. In the West, for instance, people followed religion and threw it up for ‘reason’; then they put all their money on industry and finally on technology. Until they run out of panaceas they are unlikely to cure this habit."
Of course, there are no panaceas that provide lasting satisfaction. What humanity needs is a synthesis of understanding between the three great branches of knowledge: science, social sciences and metaphysics. Fortunately, it seems like the leading edges of the principal disciplines of these branches are beginning to converge and point to a "Unity" in which we are all participants. Out of this convergence we will undoubtedly come to know more of this Unity or Wholeness.

This Unity was captured succinctly in the teahcings of one of the great Chassidic Rebbes ('Chassids,' or 'Hasssidics,' despite all appearances, are members of perhaps the most 'progressive' and certainly the most 'mystic' branch of the ancient Judaic religion):
"Einstein received acclaim for demonstrating that energy and matter arre the same thing. The scientist who demonstrates how all forces are one in a unified theory will receive greater acclaim. So, since we all agree that someone will eventualy establish this, why not accept it right now, and we'll call it G_d?"

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