Science and Spirituality
By JOHN BICKART | Ph.D.
Is it possible that humankind used to have a more spiritual relationship with each other and the world? What is a spiritual relationship? It is one that is more about giving than receiving – where you truly care about someone or something – one that transforms into genuine friendship with the world around you, with nature. The way we interact with nature offers possibilities of positive transformations and enhancements of ourselves as well as nature itself. As Emerson said when speaking of Nature…
The reason why the world lacks unity, and lies broken and in heaps, is, because man is disunited with himself. He cannot be a naturalist, until he satisfies all the demands of the spirit. Love is as much its demand, as perception. Indeed, neither can be perfect without the other. In the uttermost meaning of the words, thought is devout, and devotion is thought. Deep calls unto deep. But in actual life, the marriage is not celebrated. (Emerson, Atkinson, & Ebrary, 1992)
Consider the past, the present, and the future. Is it possible we could use wisdom from the past and integrate it with our current science to transform our future version of humankind to become united within our own selves and therefore love the world around us?
Come with me to see my dream of the past, present, and future.
A Modern Visits an Ancient
You are the modern person. You are going to visit ancient times. Get ready. They do not have technology. You are visiting a woman, and for fun, let’s pretend that you and she can speak the same language. You catch up with her as she’s in the middle of tasting some fruit. It tastes so good to her that she is ecstatic. She is not ecstatic because the fruit is better than the fruit you have, in fact it’s a pear – the same kind you eat. It’s just that her sense of taste is much better than we moderns have, today. In fact, all of her senses are better. She can enjoy color and sunlight and feel warmth and cool water better than we can, because she has the ability to pay attention better. Right now, she is on her way to bathe and sit by a waterfall with her friend. You follow them, and as they arrive at the water, you start a conversation.
You: Is the waterfall fun?
You: Would you like to record this fun and show it to social acquaintances?
She: What does that mean?
You: It is a way to share what you are doing with your friends and family.
You: So that they can see the fun you are having.
She: But then, while I do that, I will not be having the fun in the waterfall.
You: Oh, I see what you mean. Then would you like to write down what is happening for yourself?
She: No, I just want to be with the water and the rock and the air and the Sun.
You try another tact: Is there anything about this fun you are having that you would like to remember?
You: Don’t you want to try to capture a memory or a moment? Wouldn’t you like to try to make your day go better?
She: I cannot imagine anything better. I am not trying to do anything. I like where I am, who I am, my friends, my family, and my time. Though I sit here, I am always connected to my people and to all of nature. I need no capturing of anything; I am already connected to everything.
You: But what about later; won’t you want to remember this time?
She: I do not watch time. And I do not need to remember. When you say ‘re-member’, do you mean to put back a part – or a member – of something that used to be whole? I am whole. My life is whole. I know what I need to know when I need to know it. The member parts of my life are all together. So, I do not need to write things down, record things, or capture things.
You begin speaking more to yourself, than to her: I’m beginning to see. Perhaps it is I who have a great deal of unlearning to do.
PERHAPS SOME THINGS ACTUALLY WERE BETTER IN OLDEN TIMES
An Ancient Visits a Modern
Somehow – I don’t know how – an ancient man has appeared in our modern world. He has started to observe the way we work and play. Luckily, he can speak our language. He has begun to understand our way of life, but he has a lot of questions. Let’s listen in on a conversation between this ancient man and a modern man.
Ancient: I have noticed that you do not speak of everything in terms of how ‘wonderful’ or ‘beautiful’ they are. You also do not seem to attribute anything to being made by beings from the spiritual world.
Modern: No, you’re right. In our time, we have realized that we can think on our own and take care of ourselves. Many of us have outgrown superstitions about deities.
Ancient: Then, who do you think provides your ideas – your inspiration?
Modern: We do.
Ancient: And who provides the life energy in your body?
Modern: That comes from whatever we eat.
Ancient: And who provides wisdom for you to know what you know?
Modern: We have a theory of everything.
Modern: Well, if we need to know more, we use our science.
Ancient: I see … so, therefore, you do not have to ask for advice, nor thank any higher beings for their help. … And I have also noticed that you do not ask permission to use the resources of the Earth.
Modern: No, if the Earth produces something, we are automatically entitled to it.
Ancient: Is there any resource you do not deserve?
Modern: No. We deserve any land, food, water, or air we can conquer and defend. But, to keep it, we have to use our rugged individualism to earn it.
Ancient: What do you mean earn it?
Modern: Well, take farming. To earn a farm, we first
make boundary lines in the dirt, then build fences to keep out animals and sub-species like weeds and rocks. Next, we divert the nearby stream. Then we blockade our plot of land with walls and gates and spray poisons to protect our crops. It takes hard work and rugged determinism to conquer and fend off all of those undeserving others.
Ancient: My, my. Do you want me to tell you how your ancestors did it?
Modern: No, thanks. It doesn’t matter. They knew very little compared to us. We are the crowning achievement of humankind and the most important species. With our science we can figure out how to control just about everything around.
Ancient: While that may be true, though I’m not sure it is, I guess that I would rather live in wonder than live to conquer. And I would rather praise and thank higher powers than believe in a story about control. I have to go home, now. As you moderns say, bye, bye.
SHOULD WE REALLY CONTINUE THIS WAY?
A Modern Visits the Future
Step into my time transport. We are going to the future. You will get to visit a school. And by luck, they still speak your language, so you can ask some questions. And if you like science, you are in luck again, for today they are discussing the Scientific Method, Version II. You are sitting next to a student in this future class and he opens the conversation with you.
Student: Hi. We are studying the Scientific Method, Version II. Did you ever learn about it in your time?
You: I only know one Scientific Method, so I guess you would call it Version I.
Student: Oh, cool. Remind us what it used to be.
You: Well, I don’t know if I can describe it perfectly, but I think the main thing is that you test if something is true by seeing if you can repeatedly do it. Like gravity, for example. If you repeat an experiment of dropping a ball – anyone, anywhere, anytime – and it always falls, then you conclude that gravity is a true Law.
Student: I see! I think I remember that from history class! Well, Version II – we call it SM2 for short – is similar. Just take out the anyone, anywhere, anytime, then add a few parts.
You: I don’t understand. What has changed? I thought we had a universal truth, good for all time.
Student: Well, get ready for a surprise. Two things changed that your time did not see coming. One is that there was a bias in your thinking; you really were not doing CRITICAL THINKING. The other was that human beings themselves have evolved!
You: Whoa! This is hard to take. Try giving me one thing at a time.
Student: Ok. With our critical thinking we realized that the old scientific method tested the cause of PHYSICAL things by only looking for PHYSICAL causes. We call that circular reasoning. They categorically ruled out SPIRITUAL causes of PHYSICAL things.
You: I never thought of that. Go on.
Student: With our superior science measurement, we found that different people doing the same experiment cause different results. We also measured that the time and place you do things also changes everything. Your scientists probably suspected some of this through the theories of relativity and quantum effects.
You: Wow! To tell the truth, I actually did suspect that a person could change a result. But, what are the new additions to the Scientific Method?
Student: Well, hold your hat! Since your time, human beings have evolved. While we were learning to sharpen our abilities to change experiments in minor ways, we also increased our abilities of perception.
You: Perception of what? And what does that have to do with things that cause scientific laws?
Student: Perception of the SPIRITUAL WORLD. Did you know that there are all kinds of beings that we can now see and work with? They not only tell us secrets about nature; they show us how they have always been causing the physical world to be what it is. We learned that weather is a product of the combined state of the intentions of humans with all the other beings. And as soon as we started experiments of participating in nature, science got really fun! It turns out, the cause of all things are not things. It’s us. Us with all other beings, that is.
You: I think I’m beginning to see the parts you had to add to the Scientific Method. I guess it’s about the INTENTIONS of beings. And I guess you have to include every being from the lowest to the highest to see the cause of science in our world.
You: So, what is this next version, SM2?
Student: It became quite simple. It goes like this: ‘IF IT BE YOUR WILL’.
FUTURE SCIENCE MIGHT BECOME GREAT FUN!
Emerson, R. W., Atkinson, B., & Ebrary, I. (1992). The selected writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson. New York: Modern Library.