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Monday September 4, 2006: Scientists, creationists, and mystics

         I’ve been traveling a lot, which means a chance to get caught up on reading while on airlines or boats. David Berreby’s recent book, Us and Them: Understanding Your Tribal Mind, had some brilliant lines.

        "Doing science means accepting that truths are temporary—the best we can do for now, until more is learned. So when creationists say that evolution is just a theory, they’re missing the point. All scientific knowledge is "just theory," destined to be replaced. Creation myths don’t belong in science class precisely because they’re supposed to be the final, unchanging truth about the universe, and science doesn’t deal in that sort of knowledge...

         "...It’s part of the job of science to explain why you can’t trust what you are sure you know, and then to give you today’s best picture of what’s really happening. That picture is sure to change, but today’s version is useful right now. Truth and certainty and fact are not matters that endure forever. For knowledge to increase, they must be subject to the useful discipline of doubt."

        This is exactly the stance I would take on traveling the spiritual path. Our understanding of higher realities will always be limited by our current awareness level. The way we conceive our world, the very way we think, is different from the mindset of hundreds or thousands of years ago.

        A mystic reaches out for a higher level of understanding, knowing that time and effort is required before the level can be integrated into everyday life.  Having finally established a level of higher understanding, a mystic should be reaching again, willing to throw out old assumptions if they prove inadequate to advance his or her search for a yet higher and more encompassing truth.

        As a mystic, I resist the tendency to focus on one interpretation of holy texts, which themselves were considered interpreted wisdom (from divine sources) centuries before.  I do not deny that some truths are eternal, but our ability to understand those truths can and does change, as personal and world history advances.

        Why should one fear scientific discovery if one truly believes that beneath all things is an all-encompassing divine? If God is in everything, then we should be willing to re-examine any and all concepts which appear to be in conflict. Physical facts are what they are; it is our interpretation of them which must advance if we are to grow in awareness, comprehension and wisdom.

        I see clinging to religious dogma in the face of scientific discoveries as a lazy approach. Where is the faith that would keep one looking deeper, confident reality itself is not in conflict? Scientific discovers should be accepted and we should be searching deep within those truths to uncover spiritual reality.

        My husband, Randy (a diehard materialist), and I have long discussions on this. That science can explain the workings of the universe does not lessen my faith. Science is great for looking at small slices of reality. The human mind does not lend itself to describing or holding in a state of comprehension what I would call the highest realities. That I cannot easily describe the whole is a limitation of the linear method our brain uses to define or explain small fragments.

         Acutely aware of how difficult it would be to describe higher states of consciousness, I am nevertheless confident they are real and I have experienced them. After much self examination, I believe they cannot be explained by co-incidence or hallucination, residing outside the ability of the brain to manufacture a similar experience on its own. Can I prove this to someone else? No. (Neither can I prove the exact way I feel sadness at a particular event, though other people may be able to empathize somewhat, based on similar experience.)

         I think materialists, who work on probabilities, can ignore the anomalies that lay at the borders of everyday experience. That someone in a laboratory cannot reproduce the same experience does not invalidate what has happened in my life. (Consider that statement a thumbing of my nose at materialists.) That some religious authority back in history has defined how to live a spiritual life should not hinder my personal quest to create a spiritual life. (Consider that a thumbing of my nose at fundamentalists.)

         Oh, I do try to be a good mystic. I try to be tolerant and open to the choices other people make. I have no problem using spiritual writings to guide my search. But, the minute I believe I cannot stray off a path set down by previous generations, I lose the chance to discover new frontiers and to move human understanding forward.

          I don’t want to knock a belief in scripture or religious tradition. I know this type of belief provides meaning in a restless and confusing world, ritual and communal gatherings provide structure and stability to the lives of millions (probably billions) of individuals. However, curiosity seems to be so basic a human quality, that if I believe in the divine, then this must also be part of the ‘plan,’ that human nature would continually seek to understand the world and one’s place in the world.

          Come on, people. We are living in the twenty-first century. Scientific discoveries won’t go away no matter how much you point to ancient scripture, because scientific discoveries are explaining physical realities about the world around us. If you believe God created the world, why wouldn’t you marvel as we untangle the beauty and order (sometimes the seeming randomness) of creation? If that does not match the divinely inspired writings of other centuries, perhaps you need to search these writings at a deeper level, to see if---at today’s higher level of awareness---we might find new interpretations or understandings of ancient explanations.

         As David Berreby states, "For knowledge to increase, they [truth and certainty and fact] must be subject to the useful discipline of doubt." This should be the path for a dedicated mystic.

Posted on Monday, September 4, 2006 at 12:56PM by Registered CommenterThe Skeptical Mystic | Comments1 Comment

Reader Comments (1)

I found your blog on my weekly 'early-Sunday-morning-blog-stroll'.

RE: "I see clinging to religious dogma in the face of scientific discoveries as a lazy approach. Where is the faith that would keep one looking deeper, confident reality itself is not in conflict? Scientific discoveries should be accepted and we should be searching deep within those truths to uncover spiritual reality."

Right on! Faith is so much more than blind belief.
There's always danger in swallowing dogma without study or question. And to disregard science is to leave gaping holes in our ability to appreciate the universal configuration!

Got a good chuckle from your description of the purge before the move. Totally identified with your overabundance of books. (It's about time I cleared out mine.) bd

Enjoyed your blog and will recommend it.

Mine: http://breakingthefaithbarrier.blogspot.com/
September 24, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterbd

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