Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘science & religion’ Category

the-son-of-god

Perhaps no statement sits more uneasily in our hearts and minds than the second phrase of the Nicene Creed:

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten not made, of one being with the Father.

In our age, an ecumenical spirit continues to rise alongside of defensive orthodoxies. While many of our brothers and sisters embrace the stated belief completely, still others see the sacred light shining through many other manifestations in other traditions as well, as in the life and teaching of the Buddha, while still others cling to belief that they worship the “One True” God.

The Council arrived at a formula that members felt would establish the divinity of Christ in such a way as to set aside the many divergent views of who Jesus was at the time. This served the theo-political goal of cohesiveness under Constantine and the promulgation of a coherent guiding creed by which to define identity as a Christian.

How do we bring these words to life in our times while being respectful of the inspiration ( witting and unwitting) contained in what the Council fashioned?

I offer the following personal meditation:

I believe in Jesus of Nazareth, the teacher of righteousness, the Son of Man, from  whose life and words springs the truth of God’s Love and Presence.

In His example, I see God’s Presence lived fully and in walking with Him I open myself to die to who I think I am to be born as the one I really am.

I believe in the Cosmic Christ, inspired and expressed by the Source, Father-Mother of all, that was there before the beginning, at the beginning and is still the central archetype of the evolving Universe.

I believe that God is the light that pierces all the darkness and the love shown by Christ is the way to that Light.

There is an eternal unity that binds the children of the Light to the beating Heart that set all in motion and that draws all back home.

© The Harried Mystic, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

nicene-creed

How do we interpret and reintegrate the concepts of the ancient Church in the 21st century? We can accept them as they are given I suppose but that strikes me as intellectually lazy leading only to formulaic thinking and all the attendant prejudice and superficially ritualistic exchanges. Or, we can toss it out altogether and find a new system of thought – drop the Nicene Creed, for example, from our Liturgies.

Yet, that amounts to throwing the baby out with the wash water. Just because something was written in pre-scientific times does not relegate it to the junk heap of history. Consider the genius of Plato and Aristotle, the pre-Socratics and the texts of the Wisdom traditions of the East. While post-modern hubris may direct many to discard what is old simply because of its age, this would be adolescent and the height of folly. As Hans Gadamer has said: ” Read nothing that isn’t at least 2000 years old.” Add to this, Alfred North Whiteheads comment: ” Everything is a footnote to Plato.”

I agree with Gadamer that all understanding is bounded by the perspectives shaped by language and  culture. Yet, wisdom transcends culture. When the early Fathers of the Church gathered in 352 AD for the First Council of Nicea they struggled with so-called heresy and, through dialogue, arrived at a consensus about what to belief about Jesus. While framed by pre-scientific thought, sincere communities in dialogue discover things that each person would not have. Often, communities of prayerful debate stumble upon rich metaphor that emerges from the intersection of different agenda and experiences that tap a deep well of Knowing.

Nonetheless, we cannot interpret through their eyes, though scholarship certainly places us in a better place to appreciate where they were coming from. We read mindful of history but of course within the context of our age, our experiences, our language and new forms of thought.  We must allow the words to soak in and find in them the wisdom that speaks to us. “What if it simply goes nowhere for me?” asks a sincere person struggling with the statements of the Creed for example. In this instance, one can do no better than focusing elsewhere on aspects of tradition that do speak to you and, failing that, to find a group that approaches the mysteries from a different vantage point altogether. I, for one, have chosen to stay put having spent two decades sampling many different approaches only to find something missing. So, with feet squarely planted on the ground in the Episcopal tradition, I struggle with the beauty and the sometimes incomprehensibility of antiquity. I choose to allow the words to rise out of history and live in whatever way they may in me as they forge new meaning especially through dialogue with others.

On this the Eve of Thanksgiving, I share a meditation in this vein on the first phrase of the Nicene Creed to be followed in subsequent posts with reflections on the remaining phrases:

” We believe in God the Father, the Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all that is, seen and unseen.”

Beyond all imagining, I embrace the timeless Beginning, the  matrix on which  the whole of Creation is shaped and is moving;  a Heart, a force of Love, that is ever present in this moment as in the first moments of the Big Bang, drawing all things forward toward their completion and fulfillment in a larger pattern unknown.

I believe in the “father” of time as the universe expands, the “mother” of life who inspires all becoming, the “spirit” driving patterns that ebb and flow according to unseen fields of force.

I believe that more is unseen than seen. I believe that all knowing has its roots in the Cosmic Knower who yearns for unity in diversity, and that all knowing is always personal. 

© The Harried Mystic, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Read Full Post »

Science-without-religion-is-lame-215x301

What is the relationship between science and religion?

Throughout history, and even now, the tension between them has been too much the characterization. The argument goes that science proffers testable hypotheses and the scientific method uncovers either support for that hypothesis or fails to do so. Religion, on the other hand, is discussed as wholly subjective, defined by untestable beliefs.

In establishing this dichotomy, a false one in my estimation, they are endemically at odds with each other. In today’s scientific and pseudo- scientific ethos, science is often deemed superior and more appropriate for our times. Religion, on the other hand, is portrayed by empiricists as a quaint remnant of pre-scientific explanation. Theists, on the other hand, see science with suspect eyes, arguing that it misses the deeper import of events and what it means to be. Both polar viewpoints are ill informed.

Fundamentalist science and religion are, indeed, at odds with one another. Both suffer the same problem: they proceed from a dogmatic position of what is true, right and knowable. I set aside fundamentalisms of all kinds as too narrowly constructed and thereby intrinsically fragile and lacking in merit. Those who subscribe to them are welcome certainly to their beliefs but it strikes me that such extreme positions render dialogue impossible, and creates a climate of mistrust, sterile bickering, and mutual claims about the inadequacies of the other. For me, such banter is a waste of energy and are, simply, uninteresting.

Instead, I live at the nexus between these two methods of knowing and both have much in common along with complementary differences. They need each other if the goal is agreed upon as a seeking after truth and a deep desire to get inside the ontological mysteries. Science speaks in the language of mathematics. Math is wholly based on certain assumptions and, while an invention of humankind, it is unusually powerful in unraveling the mysteries of the Cosmos. The scientific method then is brought to bear on predictions to apply critical tests. Yet, while we have seen convergent evidence of their existence, no one has ever seen, for example, a quark. In other words, we study the cumulative record. Having done so, new evidence may overturn, and often does, our most established interpretations.

Religion is also a cumulative record. Yes, it is a phenomenological one but this too is data. Seen through the lens of well reasoned theological discourse, it too makes predictions and offers interpretations. For example, in a universe that became conscious of itself, one can rightly posit that intelligence must be fundamental in its essence ( I.e., that it had a first cause). One need not resort to a simplistic Creationism that mangles good science to get there either. With the integrity of both science and theology left fully intact, one can catch inspiring glimpses of the heart of mystery.

To devolve to angry and oppositionally defiant atheism is to ignore experience and the universal sensibility of something greater than we that beckons. Such a retreat to mere science reduces matter, energy and space-time to mere objects of study rather than deep subjects with which to have a relationship. The result is spiritual reductionism and solipsism.

I am a scientist- theologian because as I study the one it informs the other. The reflections of science for me give rise to the meditations of spiritual practice. I delight in the online lectures such as those offered by the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion in the UK Faraday Institute for Science and Religion that serve to elevate and poke our understanding.

When both scientific and religious discourse act with genuine humility, we can proceed boldly and with the spirit of the child into realms of deep wonder. May our eyes be opened to see the wider landscape that awaits us if only we get beyond the tyranny of methodological chauvinism.

Life is way too short to narrow one’s field of view.

© The Harried Mystic, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Read Full Post »

It’s been about two months since I last posted. The time has been one of frequent travel, fashioning new material to spark fresh dialogues among clients, and a time, otherwise, for  fewer words.

Authentic writing needs fresh perspectives. It  is good for the soul to invite incubation. So, my last 60 days have been about emptying.

It’s been said that nature abhors a vacuum and moves quickly to fill it. Yet, there’s a lot of vacuum in the Cosmos. Maybe this simply isn’t so.

Nature does not abhor a vacuum so much as it finds its shape according to unseen patterns that make it up. Vacuum conjures up  a great and infinite emptiness. On the contrary, the Cosmic vacuum is a plenitude.

Overwhelmed by unimaginable distances, could it be that we mistake the vastness of the seemingly empty expanse of space for the fearsome darkness of “non-being”?

Space-time is an n-dimensional funky quilt that we can only marvel at as we gaze on it abstractly through the lens of mathematics. Nonetheless, the very fact that we imagine it  suggests our intuitive and playful sense of its underlying fullness.

When we silence the mind’s manufacture of crafted sentences and paragraphs, and even briefly hit the pause button, it may just be that we then unleash the deeper depths, wider views, richer hues, and that fertile vastness that buoys all our hopeful imaginings and heartfelt expressions.

I sing a song in praise of true away time, a brief silencing of  our own voice so the poet inside the silence is the voice more clearly heard.

© Brother Anthony Thomas and The Harried Mystic, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Read Full Post »

We have all heard the phrase, ” a thirst for knowledge,” and many people are motivated by a need to discover, understand and reveal the essence of experience and phenomena. These are the people who take seriously the Socratic admonition to  “know thyself,” and embody the idea that “the unexamined life is not worth living.”

The times in which we live are times of great contrast. The United States electorate is acutely divided, and we see, once again, the perennial visage of culture, race and class warfare in the exchange of emotional and unthinking rhetoric.

What I see is a rising thirst for ignorance. Orthodoxies appear on the rise, and liberal philosophies in all arenas are ridiculed and demonized. When the appetite for “heresy” declines one should be watchful for the erosion of liberty, critical thinking, and genuine insight into issues. At a recent dinner, I was part of a cordial conversation among friends and associates about this political moment in America. At one point, I was labeled by a colleague, only half in jest, as a liberal elitist. Why? The label was meant to sweep into a neat category my love of scholarship, incisive dialogue, taking nothing at face value, and seeing all orthodoxy as worthy of inspection. Ok, then, no problem. I am a card-carrying liberal elitist and proud of it. Dismiss me if you please.

In our current times, it is both easier and increasingly well-regarded to cling to the formulae fed to us by those who affix dismissive labels as their way of coping with what they fail to understand and have little energy to genuinely explore. It is easier to buy into a platform of ideological character. It gives one a sense of solidity when so much that swirls around us is uncertain and complex.

I, for one, love uncertainty. Doubt and the challenge of all assumptions is “philosophy,” the love of wisdom. I am absolutely certain that nothing is absolutely certain! I know that what I know is fact until new evidence reveals that it isn’t. Ideology is “window dressing” and icing for the mind. It entices. It draws you inside to look things over and encourages you to buy or partake. However, as so many things that are adorned with icing, the repast is likely one of many empty calories!

  • A few snowstorms where they aren’t typical and where the snowfall breaks records after many years, and many, including ostensibly intelligent legislators, are declaring the folly of “global warming.”
  • After decades of strong evidence of the veracity of Darwinian evolution and evolutionary developmental biological science, a good number have chosen to reject it for a more fundamentalist theology, and insist that this alternative be taught along with the science.
  • The facts around the necessity for government stimulus and spending in these recessionary times is denigrated as an example of out of control tax and spend big government.

Heretics and individualists are no fun. Their incessant challenge gives one a headache. They seem like they are not team players. They “move to the beat of a different drummer.” They are “not like the rest of us.” The Matrix movies were a testament to the will of many to stay deluded and comforted by machine generated, or, by analogy, party-generated or state-generated fantasy.

The price of the pursuit of knowledge is to place oneself in harm’s way. The deaths of Socrates, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln, Anwar Sadat and Jesus of Nazareth represent a dynamic that is as real and potent today as it has ever been. Salman Rushdie was under the threat of a Fatwah for his novel. Cartoonists have been threatened for offending orthodox beliefs. A demonizing and fear-mongering minority is actually succeeding in flipping the balance of power in the United States just over a year after the election of a President with a decade’s worth of serious challenges to address and a recalcitrant opposition hell-bent on denying him any meaningful legislation.

The appetite for ignorance always seems to overwhelm the true thirst for knowledge. Higher education in the U.S. often needs to be camouflaged lest one be labeled and set aside as an “elitist” or “academic”. Just look at out national values by comparing the very small percentage of the Federal budget set aside for education compared to what is allocated for defense and the story is told.

We do well to step back and reflect on our estate. How much have we bought into a ready-made set of comfortable mythologies and how alive do we want to be? Is freedom a value or a catch phrase that is nullified by a deeper need to be told what to believe, how to live, what to wear, how to talk, and what it means to be succesful?

It is our’s to choose:  Ignorance or knowledge. This is not only an imperative of citizenship and mind, but is a critical aspect of the depth and breadth of our spirituality. One cannot separate these from one another. They are inter-dependent parts of one true Self.

© Brother Anthony Thomas and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Read Full Post »

Don’t we love symmetry? The way we hang things on our walls, arrange furniture, and landscape our yards is a testament to our deep-rooted need for it. We are ourselves physical exemplars of symmetry: two eyes, two cerebral hemispheres, two kidneys, two lungs, two ears, two arms and legs, two chambers of the heart ( right and left atriums and ventricles), two nostrils, five fingers on each hand, on and on. In music, we tend to prefer balanced harmony over discordant sound (though 20th century music introduced the unusually effective and evocative discordant sound of twelve-tone music).

We also see symmetry throughout the natural world. Nature seeks out equilibrium. Symmetry and the aesthetics of beauty are intimately intertwined. Mathematics is no exception and the study of mathematical symmetry has been a passion of esoteric mathematics for a long time. These mathematical investigations have also gone well beyond delving into the world of three dimensions. In fact, in the 1800’s, mathematicians studying symmetry introduced a 128-dimensional structure considered perhaps the most complex example, called E8.

I have written before about the extraordinary capacity of the human mind to imagine abstract maths that are then later embodied in empirically verified phenomena. E8 is apparently no exception. The most recent issue of New Scientist (January 16-22, 2010, page 12) reports that physicists of the University of Oxford have identified the E8 signature in super-chilled crystals. It appears that the electrons in the crystals organize themselves in accordance with the relationships defined by the structure of E8.

Once again, human imagination precedes natural discovery. To have dreamt it in the 19th century, in the disciplined language of mathematics, only to find it in the 21st, attests to the extent to which mind is fed by universal archetypes that move toward final expression in consciousness. We make conscious what is already there at the heart of matter awaiting revelation.

The source of such revelations is intimate and infinite: an inexhaustible fountain of revelation.

© Brother Anthony Thomas and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

References:

Exotic Form of Symmetry Makes Real-world Debut

Mathematicians Solve E8 Structure

Mathematicians Map E8

Read Full Post »

We visited an aquarium today and spent a relaxing ninety minutes walking though the magical enclosures designed to transport us to diverse environments housing penguins, seals, walruses, sharks, and a building set aside for “alien stingers,” dedicated to jelly fish, moray eels, and other assorted dangerous marine life. What especially sparked my curiosity was the well-known phenomenon of protective coloration along with the other seemingly eccentric adaptations of so many creatures to their worlds.

The facts of evolutionary developmental biology make clear the genius of nature. Adaptation to selection pressures and genetic mutations over time present variations among which one may prove ideally suited to ensure species survival when conditions change. The subtle beauty and inherent resiliency of the natural world is miraculous: an inexhaustible inspiration and mystery. True science shows the face of G-d. No other evidence is needed.

Nevertheless, so-called Intelligent Design “theory,” the latest incarnation of Creationism, would challenge evolutionary theory, arguing that it is “just a theory.” This betrays a complete lack of understanding of the rigor that the physical and biological sciences insist upon before an interpretation earns the right to be called “theory.” I have no interest in formal refutation of the arguments that make up this so-called theory. It is quite simply a pseudo-scientific pontification, theology in biological clothing, and a formulation designed to sound erudite and convincing. It is espoused by and for those who prefer their beliefs over the facts. What intrigues me, however, is the spiritual analogue of evolution.

Fluke assume the off-white color of sand and burrow just under the sea floor. It is often very hard to spot them. Pipe fish cling to vegetation ( thin grasses) that look much as they do and, once again, it is quite hard to distinguish the fish from the background. The list is very long of creatures, marine and otherwise, that show the skills of the terrestrial chameleon. These adaptations arose in evolutionary time and were boons to survival in the rough and tumble natural world.

Why did spirituality arise from human consciousness? What is the adaptive significance of our spiritual sense and the cultivation of an awareness of the sacred and the mysteries surrounding it? How does this upgrade the survivability of our species?

Awareness of inter-being is the ground of compassion, and the realization of the unity of all things is the essence of enlightenment. Spiritual adepts are exemplars of a state of consciousness that dissolves petty survivalism, blind self-interest, and the sense of individualistic isolation. In addition, they simultaneously embrace immanence (presence) and transcendence  (recognition of an identity that they have beyond space and time, beyond material well-being and death, that can never be taken away).

While the pretenders are many, and authentic masters are few, those few represent the next step in the evolution of humanity. They are the best hope we have of avoiding annihilating ourselves. The paradoxical truth is that while those beacons of light are there to follow, beckoning us to go beyond our lesser natures, one day of news makes clear that this next step is still very far off. The world can’t wait for grand reformers. It’s up to us to make a palpable difference in small to large ways in whatever our lines of work.

In view of ongoing hatreds, wars, terror, genocide, and corruptions, that a spiritual sense arose at all suggests that its development is essential to the long-term survival of not only our species but of the entire planet. Reasons for hope in the spread of spiritual intelligence can be seen in the actions of souls whose influence continues to draw us closer to the realization of the bright future that hope imagines, including:

  • Thich Nhat Hanh & the Order of Inter-Being
  • Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea and Stones Into Schools
  • Muhammad Yunus, Bangladeshi banker and economist who invented the notion of micro-credit and founder of Grameen Bank, 2006 Nobel prize winner

One person can change the world. We can each contribute to advancing the next stage in the evolution of human consciousness, wait for someone else to do it, or work at cross-purposes with it. Engaged spirituality is making the choice to do what we can, here and now.

© Brother Anthony Thomas and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »