Why God's future depends on science
Why God's future depends on science
The Washington Post
By Deepak Chopra
Which will be more important in shaping your future, science or spirituality? For any number of people this sounds like an empty question. Science has shaped our age; religion is a declining force in the West, as it has been for decades. A clock could be placed behind every pulpit ticking off the thousands of people who leave organized faith behind every hour of the day. But there is a growing movement that is repairing the rift between science and religion. It has nothing to do with the noisy band of atheists who continue to foment discord between faith and reason. Rather, science has reached a point where certain basic mysteries cannot be solved without resorting to the one thing that spirituality has always specialized in: consciousness.
On that basis, groups of scientists have begun to eavesdrop on the future by looking into the worldview that we broadly call spiritual. One such gathering was recently held near San Diego, the second annual Sages and Scientists Symposium sponsored by the Chopra Foundation. Its purpose was to bring together not just the brightest scientific mind but also the perspective of a spirituality that is consciousness-based. It's hard to speak plainly about such things without stepping on toes. Science is dominated by materialism, a worldview that traces all activity, including our imagination and creativity, to physical processes in the brain, and these processes are either chemically determined or random, depending on which strain of materialism you confront. Spirituality, which is much broader than religion, is based on the assumption that a transcendent reality exists beyond the physical world. This is the domain of higher consciousness, or if you are conventionally minded, the home of the soul and God. It's hard to credit that either side would find much common ground.
But as the various talks offered here testify, there are enough mysteries to go around. Scientists who are willing to venture into speculative thinking, joined by sages from the world's wisdom traditions who are willing to look beyond arguments about God, face the same primal questions. Where did the universe come from? What preceded the Big Bang, before there was either "where" or "when"? A century after the quantum revolution in physics, science has to face up to the vanishing act that the physical universe pulled, as matter and energy were both seen to emerge from a timeless state that is either an empty void (which no one accepts) or a field of infinite possibilities, a veritable womb of creation (which almost everyone is beginning to accept, however offended science may be by learning that the world's ancient sages and spiritual teachers knew about this timeless domain long before physics arrived with its exact measuring devices.)
The reason that your future and mine depends on the settling of these questions isn't what you might think. Science can proceed perfectly well in everyday affairs without thinking about "metaphysics," as materialists like to call spirituality. For its part, spirituality can keep appealing to individuals one at a time as they arrive at personal crises, revelations, and awakenings. But what will be shortchanged is reality. Ultimately, worldviews are secondary. If X believes in Buddha and Y in thermodynamics, their two worlds can sit uneasily next to each other or simply not interact. But reality is a shared concern. It's also a topic we can't afford to leave to specialists. Where the cosmos came form means a great deal, because the answer will tell you where the human mind came from, and where it's going.
Is the universe conscious? If so, then our minds are embedded in the cosmic mind. Is the universe evolving? If so, that casts human evolution in a new light, along with the origin of life. These are not specialist questions. They go to the heart of the human condition. In that spirit, take a look at the attached talks by various illustrious, curious, open-minded speakers. Don't pigeonhole anyone as sage or scientist. Try not to join a camp for ideological reasons. There is a struggle going on between science and spirituality that will shape everyone's future, and if we each decide to join in, a blending may occur with magical consequences. What could be more fascinating? Together a complete engagement of the human faculties promises a more powerful and realistic basis for humanity's next evolutionary leap.
The Washington Post
Illustration for TIME by Istvan Orosz The Brain: The Mystery of Consciousness
By Steven Pinker Monday
Jan. 29, 2007
The young women had survived the car crash, after a fashion. In the five months since parts of her brain had been crushed, she could open her eyes but didn't respond to sights, sounds or jabs. In the jargon of neurology, she was judged to be in a persistent vegetative state. In crueler everyday language, she was a vegetable.
So picture the astonishment of British and Belgian scientists as they scanned her brain using a kind of MRI that detects blood flow to active parts of the brain. When they recited sentences, the parts involved in language lit up. When they asked her to imagine visiting the rooms of her house, the parts involved in navigating space and recognizing places ramped up. And when they asked her to imagine playing tennis, the regions that trigger motion joined in. Indeed, her scans were barely different from those of healthy volunteers. The woman, it appears, had glimmerings of consciousness.
Try to comprehend what it is like to be that woman. Do you appreciate the words and caresses of your distraught family while racked with frustration at your inability to reassure them that they are getting through? Or do you drift in a haze, springing to life with a concrete thought when a voice prods you, only to slip back into blankness? If we could experience this existence, would we prefer it to death? And if these questions have answers, would they change our policies toward unresponsive patients--making the Terri Schiavo case look like child's play?
The report of this unusual case last September was just the latest shock from a bracing new field, the science of consciousness. Questions once confined to theological speculations and late-night dorm-room bull sessions are now at the forefront of cognitive neuroscience. With some problems, a modicum of consensus has taken shape. With others, the puzzlement is so deep that they may never be resolved. Some of our deepest convictions about what it means to be human have been shaken.
It shouldn't be surprising that research on consciousness is alternately exhilarating and disturbing. No other topic is like it. As Renι Descartes noted, our own consciousness is the most indubitable thing there is. The major religions locate it in a soul that survives the body's death to receive its just deserts or to meld into a global mind. For each of us, consciousness is life itself, the reason Woody Allen said, "I don't want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it by not dying." And the conviction that other people can suffer and flourish as each of us does is the essence of empathy and the foundation of morality.
To make scientific headway in a topic as tangled as consciousness, it helps to clear away some red herrings. Consciousness surely does not depend on language. Babies, many animals and patients robbed of speech by brain damage are not insensate robots; they have reactions like ours that indicate that someone's home. Nor can consciousness be equated with self-awareness. At times we have all lost ourselves in music, exercise or sensual pleasure, but that is different from being knocked out cold.
Read more: TIME Magazine
"All things are made of atoms. Stars are made of atoms. Humans are made of atoms. When we look at a tree, we see ourselves."
"To say that consciousness evolved from matter is to say that a TV evolved from a refrigerator. Such things do not happen."
Cairns Smith, chemical evolutionist
"When science comes to eventually understand consciousness it will be an achievement in the face of which every other achievement of science will pale into insignificance."
"The physical basis of the mind is the brain action in each individual. It accompanies the activity of the spirit, but the spirit is free. It is capable of some degree of initiative. The spirit is the man one knows. He must have continuity through periods of coma and sleep. I assume then that the spirit must live on somehow after death. I cannot doubt that many make contact with God and have guidance from a greater spirit. If he had only a brain and not a mind, this difficult decision would not be his."
W. Penfield, one of the top neuroscientists of the century,
Science, the Ox, and the Spirit
"I went through my entire scientific career searching for life, but now I see that life has somehow slipped through my fingers and all I have is electrons, protons, and particles, which have no life at all. So in my old age I am forced to retrace my steps."
Szent-Giorgi, the Nobel laureate biologist
"The origin of species and of much of evolution appears to be due to some organizing and partly intelligent spiritual agency associated with the animal or plant, which controls its life processes and tends to keep the being more or less adapted to its environment. But in addition to this there seem to be other spiritual agencies of a much higher type which have been responsible for what may be called greater evolution ... These spiritual agencies appear to have worked by directing from time to time the inferior agencies which are associated with the animals and plants."
Robert Broom, EvolutionIs There Intelligence Behind It?
South African Journal of science, Vol. 30 (October 1933), pp. 18-19.
"To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could nave been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree."
Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species,
New York: New American Library, 1964, p. 168.
"It is difficult to discuss the beginning of the universe without mentioning the concept of god. My work on the origin of the universe is on the borderline between science and religion, but I try to stay on the scientific side of the border. It is quite possible that god acts in ways that cannot be described by scientific laws."
Stephen Hawking, 2002
The cosmos "reveals an intelligence of such superiority that compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection."
"If there is such an Infinite Being, and if... his will and purpose is the increase of conscious beings, then we can hardly be the first result of this purpose. We conclude, therefore, that there are now in the universe infinite grades of power, infinite grades of knowledge and wisdom, infinite grades of influence of higher beings upon lower. Holding this opinion, I have suggested that this vast and wonderful universe, with its almost infinite variety of forms, motions, and reactions of parts upon part, from suns and systems up to plant-life, animal-life, and the human living soul, has ever required and still requires the continuous coordinated agency of myriads of such intelligences."
Alfred Russell Wallace, The World of Life
New York: Moffat, Yard & Co., 1911, p. 431
"To understand the esoteric philosophy it is best to forget bodies and to grip the essential consciousness of ourselves. The fatal error of Western thought in all its departments of religion, philosophy and science is that it concentrates on the body-aspects, therefore on the transitory, the ever-changing. We have forgotten that the way by which to understand ultimates is by facing and studying them; and the ultimate of ultimates is the divine Selfhood, essential consciousness."
G. de Purucker, Fountain-Source of Occultism,
Theosophical University Press, 1974
Devi: "Till the complete knowledge in the form of my consciousness arises, there is no liberation."
"Now listen attentively about the supreme devotion (parabhakti) which I will now describe to you. He always hears my glories and recites my name. His mind always dwells in me, like the incessant flow of oil, and he is the receptacle of all good qualities and gunas. But he does not have the least trace of any desire to get the fruits of his actions (karma). Indeed, he does not want the various levels of release (moksha), including being on the same plane as God (salokya), nearness to God (samipya), having the form of God (sarsti), union with God (sayujya) and other forms of release. Devi continues noting that true worshipers abandons all concepts of themselves, completely identify themselves with Devi, and make no distinctions between themselves and anything else. Worshipers find Devi in everything, including other souls:
He becomes filled with devotion for me alone, worships me only, knows nothing higher than to serve me, and he does not even want final release. He does not like neglecting the notions of "serving" (sevya) and the "servant who serves" (sevaka). He always meditates on me with a constant vigilance, actuated by a feeling of supreme devotion. He does not think of himself as separate from me, but rather thinks to himself, "I am the Lord (Bhagavati)." He considers all souls (jivas) as myself, and loves me as he loves himself. He makes no distinction between the souls and myself since he finds the same pure consciousness (caitanya) everywhere and manifested in all. He does not quarrel with anyone since he has abandoned all ideas of separateness. He bows down and worships the pure consciousness and all the souls. He becomes filled with the highest love when he sees my place, sees my devotees, hears the scriptures, describes my deeds, and meditates on my mantras. His hairs stand on end out of love for me and his tears of love flow incessantly from both of his eyes. He recites my name deeds in a voice that is choked with feelings of love for me. With intense feeling he worships me as the mother of this universe and the cause of all causes."
Devi Bhagavata Purana, 7.37
4) Sri Cidagni-Kunda-sambhuta
Born from the Pit of the Fire of Consciousness.
Burns out ignorance and confers Immortality.
She who rose from the fire of knowledge and is the ultimate truth.
68) Sri Chakra-raja-ratha-rudha-sarvayudha-pariskrta
Mounted on Sri Chakra inside body with all weapons i.e. Powers.
Enlightens mind to realise Ultimate Reality as an All Pervading-Consciousness.
207) Sri Manonmani
Highest state of Consciousness.
Secret name of Sri Durga.
367) Sri Pratyak-Chiti-Rupa
Inner Consciousness or Knowledge.
404) Sri Bhakta-harda-tamo-bheda-bhanumad-bhanu- santaih
Effulgence of the Sun; dispels Darkness of Ignorance.
Giver of the Vision of the Ocean of Consciousness.
573) Sri Prajnana Ghana-rupini
State of Consciousness where nothing else is experienced except Self. "Like the taste of salt in the sea (It) is everywhere; Prajnana is All Pervasive." Brahadaranyaka Upanisad
669) Sri Annada
The Giver of Food.
Sustains Life and Consciousness.
739) Sri Layakari
The Fifth State beyond Turiya.
The State where individual and Cosmic Consciousness merge.
807) Sri Param-dhama
The Ultimate Light.
The Ultimate Status
'Yadgatva na nivartante taddhama paramam mama'
"The State of Consciousness from which there is no return is My Ultimate State." (Bha. Gi. 16-6)
854) Sri Gambhira
The Bottomless Lake.
"The Ultimate Mother is to be visualised as a great and deep lake of Consciousness, uncomprehended by Space and Time." Siva Sutra 1.23
858) Sri Kalpana-rahita
907) Sri Tattvamayi
The Mother of the Ultimate State of Consciousness.
Sri Lalita Sahasranama,
C. S. Murthy, Assoc. Advertisers and Printers, 1989.
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