Comment on the New Scientist ‘God’ issue, 17 March 2012 .
After reading the articles in New Scientists coverage of the recent ‘God’ issue, there arose the not unnatural feeling that in fleeing the dogmatism of Religion we may perhaps be running into the waiting arms of a manipulative and dogmatic Scientism. Within the editorial “To rule out god, first get to know him”, is stated; “Secularists would also do well to recognise the distinction between the “popular religion” that comes easily to people’s minds and the convoluted intellectual gymnastics that is theology. Attacking the latter is easy but will do little to undermine religion’s grip.” And further; “Religion is deeply etched in human nature and cannot be dismissed as a product of ignorance, indoctrination or stupidity. Until secularists recognise that, they are fighting a losing battle.”
Is it simply a matter of attempting to ‘undermine religion’s grip’, or ‘fighting’ a ‘battle’, as the article suggests? Or can the scientific method be applied without the expectation of a final result, so that each individual can judge for themselves whether they have understood what is true. Or are we replacing the authority of the titles and robes of the priests, monks and gurus of Churchianity with the authority of the titles and lab coats of the researchers and administrators of Scientism?
Appetites Of Atheists
Science could certainly do more to understand Religion as much as Religion could do more to understand Science. In the article “In Atheists We Distrust”, it is not only John Locke who feels that Atheists are untrustworthy. Thomas More made a similar comment through his text of “Utopia”, many years earlier, when he wrote; “for there is no doubt to be made that a man who is afraid of nothing but the law, and apprehends nothing after death, will not scruple to break through all the laws of his country, either by fraud or force, when by this means he may satisfy his appetites.”
And he is quite right. The secular society that is devoid of spirituality may seem to practice justice and fairness in the beginning, due to its inheritance of the more refined ethics and values of Religion. However, not too long afterwards, it will turn on itself and feed as Russia did, at the early height of its materialistic communism.
However, we should note that many people who have rejected organised Religion may nevertheless retain strong spiritual values.
Formation Of Religions
If we turn to the article “Science won’t loosen religion’s grip”, it is stated; “When asked in experiments to talk or think about gods’ thoughts and actions in stories, religious people immediately and completely abandon theologically correct doctrines in favour of popular religion – even if they have just affirmed and recited those doctrines. The way they think and talk reveals that they see God as more like Superman than the omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent ruler of the universe in whom they say they believe.” Perhaps in this case Science is asking the right people the right questions, yet is trying to place it in the wrong framework—based on the assumptions that Religion is Theology, and that the depths of Religion are so easily categorised.
Francis Bacon states Religions or Sects are formed in the following way; “(1) By the power of signs and miracles; (2) by the eloquence, and wisdom, of speech and persuasion; and (3) by the sword. For martyrdoms, I reckon them amongst miracles; because they seem to exceed the strength of human nature: and I may do the like, of superlative and admirable holiness of life.”
Success Of Religion
In any event, these methods of formation help to describe the reason that the great Religions are so successful. Firstly, the founder or inspirational leader of the Religion shows that every human may attain to a higher state of consciousness and deeper human perfection, and proves this by the practical demonstration of Divine knowledge or miracles, and also by a “superlative and admirable holiness of life”.
Secondly, they display a very refined sense of wisdom and discernment. Standing up to the conventional opinions of their day, they boldly state that there are subtle, moral and ethical laws affecting life, and directing causes, just as there are physical laws. And the first great teaching is that Evolution has two aspects—the Law of the ‘Survival Of The Fittest’, which will give material dominion, while the great Law of Sacrifice, of oneself for the all, will give spiritual dominion, so to speak. This is not the pseudo-altruism of mutual co-operation for mutual benefit, which is still self-serving and no doubt many people practice; rather, it is the ideal of pure altruism that the great Religions and Philosophies set as an inspiration for daily life—holiness of life.
And Thirdly, that Religion is so broad as to allow every human being, from the simplest to the most advanced, the opportunity to reach into that Religion and to pull out their own sword with which to slash and hack at their mental constructions, until they are able to hold the highest truth to which they can attain.
So yes it is true that some will find ‘superman’, and this seems to form popular Religion. And others will find abstract ideals and principles that will sustain their philosophical hunger.
Polytheism, monotheism and pantheism—existing simultaneously in all Religions
Therefore every Religion may be viewed in a number of ways. Some will see lightning and thunder and pray to multiple Deities of the elements, and nature, happy and wrathful in turn. Some will see divinity only in very approachable yet glorified human personalities, such as Jesus and Mary, asking for intercession with God, as king. Or seek blessings from other well known Deities, such as Vishnu, Lakshmi, Buddha and Kwan-yin, to name only a few. In calling for ‘superman’ and ‘superwoman’ for aid, they see that Religion, for all practical purposes, as Polytheistic (many Deities, even though interdependent).
Some will argue that God is three in one, yet alone, nature is separate, and therefore their Religion is shrouded in a Monotheistic interpretation (one Deity).
A few will note that the ‘God’ of Genesis is translated from the Hebrew ‘Elohim’, and is ‘Allah’ in another tongue, which is, as I have been informed, both an abstract feminine singularity and masculine plurality together, a host, literally an absolute “he-they-who-are”, derived from a root which depicts elevation, strength and expansive power. It implies that everything, the greater and lesser, is Divine in essence and totality—Immanent and Transcendent throughout manifestation.
God is not three in one alone, but All is One and One is All. “I am That, That am I”. Nature and all her Laws are within that same Divinity. So the Religion may be viewed in the Pantheistic sense (all-pervading Deity, literally ‘All is Divine, Divinity is All’), implied by St Paul’s well known words——”in him in which we live and move and have our being”. The grouping of Religions as exclusively polytheistic, monotheistic, or pantheistic, is an artificial construction that does not reflect the scriptural statements.
The Divinity in the eastern or Vedic and Buddhist scriptures is predominately pantheistic, though can also be viewed in the same three distinct ways. The Bhagavata Purana states; “The Absolute Truth is that from which everything else emanates”. Now that these and newer ideas have seeped into western culture, helped by Theosophy and the ‘New Age’, perhaps the ‘God’ that Science tends to raise will gradually become a broader concept than the sentimental model that haunted the childhood dreams of 20th century western material scientists.
So the right framework involves all three aspects, polytheism, monotheism and ultimately pantheism, existing simultaneously within the depths of all Religions, depending on one’s philosophical understanding.
Depth in philosophy brings the mind to Religion
Bacon, the Father of modern Science stated: “It is true, that a little philosophy inclineth man’s mind to atheism; but depth in philosophy bringeth men’s minds about to religion. For while the mind of man looketh upon second causes scattered, it may sometimes rest in them, and go no further; but when it beholdeth the chain of them, confederate and linked together, it must needs fly to Providence and Deity.”
And this is the fundamental issue; whether one is willing to go beyond the secondary chain of causes to find the originating cause, or, if you like, higher truth.
At first appearance, it seems Science posits that the simple develops the complex, while Religion’s Cosmic formations show the opposite, that the complex moulds the simple. However, in coming to the Laws of Nature and the first cause of space and matter, prior to any so-called big bang, we find that Science must turn to philosophy. As pointed out in the article, “God is a testable hypothesis”, in 1998 the US National Academy of Sciences issued a statement asserting “Science can say nothing about the supernatural. Whether God exists or not is a question about which science is neutral.”
Evidence of subtle states of matter, or life
In this same article, a number of statements are made which seems to indicate that Science has never found evidence of subtle states of matter or life. “Most religions claim that humans possess immaterial souls that control much of our mental processing. If that were true, we should be able to observe mentally induced phenomena that are independent of brain chemistry. We do not.” Firstly, there is a flaw in the assumption that brain chemistry cannot be utilised as a receptor of the memory of mystical experiences. Research into meditation practices indicate that brain activity is measurable to a certain degree, yet the data does not seem to indicate the quality, reality and details of those experiences. There are experiments which show that there are transmissions of various kinds beyond the physical body, as we will see below. If we do not believe the little people on our TV screens are inside the box, why, by analogy, restrict thoughts to the brain casing alone?
Scientists have believed in “multiverses” and “dark energy” for many years without proof. Can Science deny to others the same right to investigate and inquire over very long periods of time?
Pythagoras and Plato retained their affiliation with the Orphic Religion. Dr. A. Russel Wallace (1823-1913) who co-discovered with Charles Darwin a Theory of Evolution, declared in 1873 the reality of psychic phenomena. Sir William Crookes (1832-1919) reported on spiritualistic phenomena to the Royal Society and Journal of Science. A great physicist, Crookes was the inventor of the Crookes tube and discoverer of “radiant matter”. He began his investigations into psychic phenomena with the avowed intent of exposing it as a nonsense. His experiments with the entity “Katie King” through the Mediumship of Florence Cook convinced him of the reality of the phenomena. Note that use of the word “spirit” in relation to psychic phenomena has a different signification to the use of similar words in Religious literature. In the first case, there is a form to the entities, while in the latter case, Spirit is formless.
Sir Oliver Lodge physicist, Prof William James, Psychologist and President of the Society for Psychical Research, Prof. Camille Flammarion, are only a few of those who were convinced of subtle realities.
One of the most remarkable series of detailed scientific experiments was conducted by Dr. W. J. Crawford (1881-1920), whose painstaking and thorough investigations revealed many of the laws behind telekinesis phenomena. See: “The Reality of Psychic Phenomena” (1916); “Experiments in Psychic Science” (1919); and “The Psychic Structures in the Goligher Circle” (1921).
However, attitudes change slowly, and while this writer would not recommend the practice of mediumship even for scientific research without understanding its dangers to psychological and physical health, it is worth noting that mediums were removed from the provisions of the Witchcraft Act 1735 and from s.4 of the Vagrancy Act 1824 in England only as recently as 1951. After becoming free of the inquisitors and secular authorities, should they now feel safer in the camps of the vivisectionists?
An agricultural method of production with scientifically measurable benefits, Biodynamics, which has spread throughout the world, was developed through the use of Steiner’s clairvoyant research.
Research into the successful use of clairvoyance to investigate paleontology was conducted by the paleontologist John T. Robinson at Sterkfontein in 1960, with the assistance of Geoffrey Hodson, edited by Lara-May Thorne and published in 2007 by The Theosophical Society In New Zealand.
Evidence is presented in the Quest book “The Chakras And The Human Energy Fields” by author Shafica Karagulla, a medical doctor, of her experiments in the 1980’s with Dora (nee van Gelder) Kunz, showing the successful use of clairvoyance as a diagnostic tool.
Tremendous research has been undertaken by Moody, Stevenson and others into the reality of Reincarnation, the soul or inner life taking on successive bodies. Pythagoras recalled using an ancient shield on the field of battle, General Paton recalled a past battle in Sicily, Gautama the Buddha, Sri Krishna and many others have also had direct recollections of incidents from past lives. And not forgetting, as one is apt to do, that the Christ pointed out to his disciples that John the Baptist was formerly Elijah.
More recently, biologist and author Rupert Sheldrake ( www.sheldrake.org) has produced a great deal of evidence regarding subtle fields and communications. His website and books, which include “Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home And Other Unexplained Powers of Animals: An Investigation” and “The Sense of Being Stared At”, among others, show numerous repeatable proofs. We look forward to “The Science Delusion; Freeing the Spirit of Enquiry”.
And the following quote from a well known Scientist on Sheldrakes Controversies, “Richard Dawkins comes to call”web-page, in which Dawkins states; “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”, would seem rather dismissive of the large body of evidence collected over the past one hundred and fifty years. If writers suggest there is no evidence of superphysical phenomena, perhaps their search engines are not optimised, because this is clearly not true.
One thing that appears to be true, is that the weightings given towards believability or plausibility vary according to the previous experience of the evaluating scientists.
However, it was St Paul who said “prove all things, hold fast to that which is good”. And the Buddha too said not to believe the sacred scriptures just because they are old and venerated, or even to believe the things he has said simply because those things were stated by the Buddha.
If Science has a problem, it is not so much with its collection of data and facts, nor even with its “plausible” or philosophical speculations, rather it is with Scientism, the dogmatic and authoritative way that it seeks to impose these speculations on others. Allow education to be as wide and broad as possible, allow each and every one the right to make up their own minds. And lets become ever more fond of the ‘superlative and admirable holiness of life’.