Beyond Science, Philosophy and Religion

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Science, philosophy and religion all have one thing in common. They are all subjects we think about, accessed through the mind. Therefore, to go beyond science, philosophy and religion, it is necessary to go beyond the mind, beyond thought.

What is beyond the mind? Pure being.

This is the realm beyond the world of thoughts and things. It is awareness — the sense of “I am”.

For most of us, it is a rare occurrence to catch a glimpse of this state of pure being. Our thoughts march across our minds in a steady parade, each clamoring for attention. Our senses feed us a steady diet of information, passed along as electrical impulses to the brain, which dutifully interprets the world outside to the best of its ability.

But who monitors those thoughts and sorts through the sense stimuli and determines which is background noise and which is worthy of further attention? On what basis is this determination made?

Who is the watcher, who sits in the stillness and knows
And who is the looker, who notices the king wears no clothes
Who is the seer, who sees beyond the mind
And who is the seeker, who finds . . . the grand design
- from the song, “Who is the Watcher” by Tupelo Kenyon

These are questions of philosophy, religion, and with the advent of quantum physics, questions of science. It’s ironic that the knower, the ever-present “I am” is alluded to in different ways by all three, but beyond them all.

Wouldn’t it be convenient if physics could prove, once and for all, the validity of mysticism? In my imagination, I can hear physicists scoffing at the absurdity of the question. That begs another question – Why are so many physicists also mystics?

A lifetime of study has convinced them that physics and mysticism are two entirely different fields. Mysticism deals with states of consciousness, timeless being, “I am”, the formless. Science in general and physics in particular, by definition, deals with the world of form. For a complete understanding of the bigger picture, it takes both.

“The present fashion of applying the axioms of physical science to human life is not only entirely a mistake but also has something reprehensible in it.” — Albert Einstein, (1879-1955)

Plato was one of the first to leave a record of early ponderings on the subject. He pointed out that the field of physics is based upon our sense perceptions; therefore (in his words), “a likely story,” at best. He maintained that truth could be found not in the world of physics but beyond physics in the world of transcendental forms. That is, in the world of meta-physics. (Beyond physics.)

Is there an Ultimate Reality at work behind the scenes? If so, can it be accessed from the realm of science, or must science forever be relegated to it’s own domain of form? This idea is referred to in Plato’s famous metaphor of the shadows dancing on the wall of the cave . . .

Imagine that you are in the cave watching the shadows dancing on the wall. It’s a very captivating show. You would have no way of knowing that there is anything more. With no knowledge or experience of anything beyond the shadows on the wall, you would have no motivation to look for anything more. The shadow dance is easily taken for the whole world – ultimate reality.

The physicist, Max Planck (1858-1947), maintained that the world of science is very different from the world of religion. Neither of them could be used to prove or disprove the reality of the other. It would be like trying to prove botany with music or trying to prove music with botany.

The aim of the mystic is to experience Reality directly, with no intervening, intermediary symbols, concepts, words, doctrine or dogma. Subject and object become one. This has been described in various spiritual disciplines for centuries and is known as samadhi, satori, nirvikalpa, enlightenment, and many other words.

The modus operandi of physics is very different. As described by physicist N. Bohr, “– we are here dealing with a purely symbolic procedure . . . Hence our whole space-time view of physical phenomena depends ultimately upon these abstractions.”

This sounds like the same idea expressed so long ago by Plato — the shadows on the cave wall. Science, by definition is a tool to help us understand and predict the details of the shadow dancing on the wall. To experience the creator of those shadows, the sun beyond the mouth of the cave, requires an entirely different approach. It’s a different game altogether, with different rules.

When reading the ideas of many of the world’s greatest physicists, it was interesting to learn that so many of them came to the same conclusion on the question of science and religion. Even more fascinating is the fact that so many of them were, by their own admission, mystics as well as physicists.

“From Einstein to Eddington, from Bohr to Planck, from Heisenberg to Pauli . . . they rejected the notion that physics proves or even supports mystisism, and yet every one of them was an avowed mystic!” — Ken Wilbur, Quantum Questions — Mystical Writings from the World’s Greatest Physicists

The book quoted above is a fascinating look at the ideas lightly touched upon in this article, “Quantum Questions” is not aimed at the new-age crowd, and it’s not exactly a breezy page-turner. It’s a book to read and ponder, read and contemplate, read and reflect upon. The book includes eight sections dedicated to the major contributors of our present understanding of physics: Heisenberg, Schroedinger, Einstein, De Broglie, Jeans, Plamck, Pauli, and Eddington. Ken Wilbur chooses passages from each physicist that allows them to address their understanding of the relationship between science, religion and philosophy in their own words. From the preface:

“I would simply ask, you of orthodox belief, you who pursue disinterested truth, you who — whether you know it or not — are molding the very face of the future with your scientific knowledge, you who — may I say so? — bow to physics as if it were a religion itself, to you I ask: what does it mean that the founders of your modern science, the theorists and researchers who pioneered the very concepts you now worship implicitly, the very scientists presented in this volume, what does it mean that they were, every one of them, mystics?” — Ken Wilbur, “Quantum Questions

What motivated these great men to look beyond the shadows? What nudged these men, with perhaps the sharpest minds the world had ever seen, to venture out of the cave to contemplate the light of day directly?

“Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.” — Albert Einstein, (1879-1955)

Sir Arthur Eddington (1882-1944), did a good job of expressing the difference between the old physics and the new (quantum) physics so that even non-physicists could understand it. His idea was that both the old and the new physics dealt with shadow-symbols, but the new physics was forced to be aware of the fact.

Advances in quantum physics added a new component to the equation of science — the importance of the observer and how the act of observing a phenomenon could affect it.

“The frank realization that physical science is concerned with a world of shadows is one of the most significant of recent advances.” – Sir Arthur Eddington (1882-1944)

Isn’t it amazing how so many of these great minds came to the same conclusions, even though they were working at different times and mostly independently of one another?

“–things are not what they seem; it is the general recognition that we are not yet in contact with ultimate reality. We are still imprisoned in our cave, with our backs to the light, and can only watch the shadows on the wall.” — Sir James Jeans (1877-1946)

In the old physics, all of the effort was applied to the shadows on the wall. There was no reason to study anything else. In fact, there was no indication, no awareness that anything else even existed. Once the light at the mouth of the cave was noticed, some of the brightest minds in history turned their attention there. Their quest for truth and understanding naturally led them to the next logical step, once that step was revealed as a possibility.

“–physics deals with shadows; to go beyond physics is to head toward the meta-physical or mystical — and that is why so many of our pioneering physicists were mystics.” — Ken Wilbur, “Quantum Questions

After lifetimes of asking difficult questions and relying on pure logic and keen insight to provide the answers, even leading-edge physicists are stumped by the big questions. What (or Who) are we?

“We are that which asks the questions. Whatever else there may be in our nature, responsibility toward truth is one of its attributes.” — Sir Arthur Eddington, (1882-1944)

So what is the truth? Is there one absolute truth or many individual subjective truths? Can we ever know for sure? And what is it about our fundamental natures that compels us to ask such questions?

“My conclusion is that, although for the most part our inquiry into the problem of experience ends in a veil of symbols, there is an immediate knowledge in the minds of conscious beings which lifts the veil in places; what we discern through these openings is of mental and spiritual nature. Elsewhere we see no more than the veil.” – Sir Arthur Eddington, (1882-1944)

For every new tidbit of information uncovered by science, there are new questions. New discoveries = new questions. Are all these discoveries and questions on this side of the veil, in the world of thoughts and things? Can we experience what’s on the other side of the veil, or is it beyond the world of experience? Is the other side of the veil the realm of pure being? Can it be accessed only by those interested in a mystical approach to states of consciousness? Being. Awareness. “I am.” The Watcher. Is it beyond the reach of phenomenon — beyond science, philosophy and religion? Is this who we really are . . . our true home?

“Whence come I and whither go I? This is the great unfathomable question, the same for every one of us. Science has no answer to it.” — Erwin Schroedinger (1887-1961)

Einstein asked, “What are the feelings and needs that have led man to religious thought and belief in the widest sense of the words?”

What is that self-awareness stirring within that seems to be unique to man alone? What compels us to try to understand, to know, to experience something greater than ourselves?

“Theology is symbolic knowledge, whereas the experience is intimate knowledge. And as laughter cannot be compelled by the scientific exposition of the structure of a joke, so a philosophic discussion of the attributes of God (or an impersonal substitute) is likely to miss the intimate response of the spirit which is the central point of the religious experience.

We are the music-makers
And we are the dreamers of dreams
Wandering by lone sea-breakers
And sitting by desolate streams;

World-losers and world forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world for ever, it seems.”
- Sir Arthur Eddington, (1882-1944)

Einstein was obviously well aware of the light beyond the mouth of the cave and referred to it as cosmic religious feeling, calling it the noblest motive for scientific research. He was also frustrated by the difficulty in sharing this idea with someone who has not experienced it.

“How can cosmic religious feeling be communicated from one person to another if it can give rise to no definite notion of God and no theology? In my view, it is the most important function of art and science to awaken this feeling and keep it alive in those who are receptive to it.” — Albert Einstein, (1879-1955)

While reading, did you choose to hear the relaxing instrumental music linked at the beginning of this article? To learn more about it, click here.

Listen FREE to the songs below . . . chosen to enhance the ideas in this article.

Related Songs
Who is the Watcher
Explores the silent witness within and the idea that life occurs in this present moment. Always.

Within Without
An atom and a solar system is virtually the same thing – mostly empty space! Even quantum physics is still wondering, "Is the universe a great big thing, or a great big thought?"

Same Olde Time
Time – it’s so relative. "What if distant starlight shining in the endless sky is just the same, by a different name, as the twinkle in your eye?"

Trash Our Treasures
People seem to have a history of awarding seemingly insignificant details with places of prominence in our lives, while ignoring or even destroying the most important aspects.

Way of the World
Life is so huge . . . so diverse . . . the possibilities are literally infinite. What’s the best way to sort it all out and carve out a little niche of our own?

Songs by Tupelo

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This is the end of the article entitled Beyond Science, Philosophy and Religion published by Tupelo Kenyon on January 29, 2007 at 8:00 am | In Awareness - Copyright 2007 - All rights reserved worldwide.

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