Thursday, September 29, 2016

A Spirituality of Science

"Great Mystery"
- At the Desert Retreat House -

I often hear people say that they no longer believe in God, choosing instead to believe in science. Personally I find this to be a false dichotomy - for me, scientific truth and discovery has always taken me to the threshold of mystery and transcendence, it has opened up a vast unexplored world far beyond human descriptions and explanations. In my experience, science has pointed me to “God.”

As I see it, many people who profess that they believe in science rather than “God,” tend to have a fairly myopic understanding of the nature of scientific inquiry. They see science as a means of reducing the observable world to tiny bits of controllable, verifiable data; and yet the most prominent scientists of our own day seem to be pointing in the opposite direction. Scientists today study a world of microscopic quarks and explore the worlds of an infinite universe and they are filled with a sense of awe and wonder at the ever-changing complexities of what they observe and the great mystery of what they are unable to explain or understand.  Most scientists are the first to admit how little we actually know or may ever be able to know.

Last evening I was watching a program on our local public TV station about some of the most recent scientific research into time and space - multi universes that defy human imagination,  black holes that are a “billion” light years away now able to be heard colliding with one another through the use of advanced sound recording technology.  The narrator who was explaining some of these most current advances in cosmology was speaking in hushed tones - in obvious awe at these “mind-boggling,” transcendent discoveries.

From my point of view scientific research like this pulls us human beings out of our narrowly myopic views of who we are. It pulls us out of our focus on our tiny little selves, out of our narrow ideas, away from our petty politics, and it invites us us into the transcendent and even mystical reality of our human existence. Science changes our perspective of our place in the universe and brings us to the threshold of the experience of “God.”  

This reminded me of an article I recently read in the New York Times:

We find our lives confined to a tiny narrow strip on earth’s surface,
and so we tend to think of the cosmos as a lofty inaccessible realm
far beyond reach and relevance.
We forget that only a thin layer of atmosphere
separates us from the entire universe.
We are cosmic beings.

Just after sunset yesterday I sat outside and looked up as a star-studded cosmos began to emerge in the clear desert skies of autumn - so awesome, such a great and wonderful mystery. I felt so tiny and yet at the same time so immense; in fact, I felt “cosmic.”  Imagine it, “I” am way more than little tiny “me.”  “I” am one with the universe. Everything and everyone in this entire vast cosmos of complex multiple universes is dynamically interrelated - everything belongs.  We are cosmic beings.

The enlightened Buddha announced:

I saw stars within me, sunrise and sunset, full moon nights
everything within me not without me.
It was my boundary that had been keeping them out,
Now the boundary is no more.
Now I am the whole.

The ancient Taoist Chuang Tzu taught:

The universe and I came into being together,
And I and everything therein are one.

The mystic Sufi Poet, Rumi, once wrote:

The whole universe exists inside you.
God writes spiritual mysteries on our heart
where they silently wait for discovery.

I wonder if the scientists of our own time have become the new mystics, poets and even the theologians of our own age?

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