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February 25, 2009

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I think you've hit the proverbial nail on the head -- fear is the mother of religion. And what's the greatest fear? The unknown.

Since most people don't like the idea of living in perpetual fear, they will latch onto anything that they believe might mitigate the fear in some small degree. Religion -- with its pre-formatted answers -- provides them with an invisible life jacket that most likely won't save them from drowning.

And to be quite honest, I truly think that most such folks down deep know their life jacket is indeed invisible. If not, then the religious would lead fearless lives and most of them don't!

Brian:
"No word succeeds. No experience succeeds. Nothing succeeds in casting any light on the mystery of something.

This is where mysticism begins and ends: at the everpresent formless boundary between what can be known, and what can't."


Jayme:
I agree but...


Brian:
"If you take a step toward knowing, you're in the real world of science (and everyday life). If you imagine that you've understood what can't be known, you're in the fantasy realm of religion."

...

"Recognizing that God is mystery...wisdom.

Believing that God can be known...foolishness."


Jayme:
If this is true - namely: "God" is the mystery and the mystery is only this 'prominent totality' we see manifest as the universe and can only know through science, aren't we back to believing that through science we know "God" the mystery?

Then by logic, we can make the following conclusion:

Science...Foolishness.
-------------
IMO - When the knowledge of science is mistaken as reality (which it often is), then science is simply another god that is put in the way of the mystery. Science (like mysticism) in its highest form - points to the ineffable and says 'this'. Science (like religion) in its everyday form - points to the ineffable, move its position, repeats, and creates the dance of change and a false sense of progression toward something that will never arrive. Like religion, science has two faces. There is the mystery to which it points, and there is the manifest 'reality' of which it is. The word 'science' has simply not been delineated to address the two aspects presented, though there are clearly two meanings in practice. Here is where I would invoke the quoted passage from Luther Askeland and chant the koan "I simply don't know."

Jayme, I disagree that mystery is the totality of the universe. That isn't what I was trying to say. The ultimate mystery is that the universe is. That anything is.

Science doesn't claim to be able to explain that mystery. So I wouldn't say that science equals foolishness.

I sort of see what you're saying in your IMO paragraph. But it doesn't fit with what I read in my science magazines and books. I don't see scientists claiming that they eventually will be able to explain "the ineffable," such as why something exists rather than nothing.

Some philosophically inclined scientists like Paul Davies get into these sorts of questions. But there's little doubt that most scientists are concerned with studying down to earth problems and aren't interested in straying onto religion's territory.

summary
After re-reading your three simple questions and answers, my point is that science should not be used or confused as a means to mysticism. I think they are compatible but mutually exclusive in addressing questions (1) and (3). It is good to have both a scientific method as well as a mystical practice to enjoy both learning and marveling. Science as the sole means to marveling at the mystery can become as stultifying and dogmatic as religion.

discussion
Brian, I think you are right. 'Mystery" implies an observer to experience it. The totality is just what is and says nothing about why anything is.

I suppose that what I keep running into is that 'knowledge' of this universe through any type of conceptualization can and does bury the mystery even deeper into the abstractions of thought.

Most of us are very baffled about how the fruits of science are achieved (let alone have a general lack of knowledge about the scientific processes behind the fruits). For most of us: we are often more perplexed by the technical marvels of science than by the fruit of an apple tree, being filled with life giving juices. In a sense, the scientific theories and technical wonders have become the 'magical mystery show' standing in front of the mystery and the scientists are the ring masters demonstrating how much they know within their rings of knowledge. They describe to us laymen, with reams of abstract scientific data and equations, about the life cycle of an apple tree and the mechanics of the filling of its fruit. This show of science distracts hoards of us into thinking that science provides answers (ineffable or not) that we need while distracting us from our own light of consciousness - the ineffable being. That light of being whereby we are able to experience and know this universe as our self through all its manifested forms, in essence, manifests through us. We are so over burdened with thought that we no longer recognize that we are the mystery of our lives. Science denies the validity of the personal transcendent experience which cannot be objectified. Science invalidates outmoded mythologies that have successfully helped generations of people live a meaningful life full of mystery. Science defines boundaries on our existence and puts leaden chains around creative expression. Science brings the harsh reality of living to our doorstep and promises us a brighter and more fulfilling future somewhere other than right here, right now. Science, while referring to the mystery, claims it can get 'better' answers - 'if only my research is funded'. This is very much like bad religion. On the other hand, the heart (center) of science is the same heart we all share. It is the same heart as religion, art, music, poetry, dance, drama, culture, and expression of all form.

I agree, that neither form of science (highest form and everyday form) claims to answer the 'ineffable'. However, as an accumulation of knowledge, science is an objective endeavor. Knowledge is laden with strictures that veil the mystery.

What L. Askeland says is very similar to my experience of profound frustration that finally led me away from the machinations of thought as a satisfactory way of marveling at the mystery. "Instead, we slowly begin to realize that our questions are not the first steps of a limited question and answer process; they are infinite koans which, sooner or later, bring verbal awareness to a halt, so that mystical awareness can burst out of all answers and all questions and dwell in the inconceivable." In other words, science is as futile as answering a koan when it comes to beholding the mystery. The only value of a koan is to still the mind's incessant chatter. Science does work to objectify knowledge but, like the mantra of some spiritual practices, science may not serve to clear the minds of the masses so much as clutter them. The mental noise of most mediocre science is like reading a spiritual book to become enlightened. Hence the apt point made by someone that you cannot read about dzogchen to know dzogchen. Likewise, you cannot read about science to know science.

We see scientists falling into the same pit of personal belief that religious leaders fall prey. I have only heard 'sound bites' of Paul Davies work but he may be projecting more than what the collective objective body of science supports and may be confusing the validity of science as an effective means of marveling at the mystery.

I suppose that after all this wandering (and re-reading your three simple questions and answers) my point is that in my opinion, science should not be used or confused as a means to mysticism. They are compatible but mutually exclusive in addressing questions (1) and (3). It is good to have both a scientific method as well as a mystical practice to make the most of both learning and marveling. Science as the sole means to marveling at the mystery can become as dogmatic as religion.

(btw - isn't mysticism another name for religion? perhaps not quite as abused.)

this feels like yet another "god in the gaps" approach. that is dangerous if you want to hold out hope for a true place for the super natural. the gaps always get smaller. it is completely possible that we may someday have a complete cosmological explanation of the universe (multiverse?) that will remove any vail from these questions you are asking. what then for mysticism? does it find a smaller hidey hole, a smaller gap, from which to launch it's claim to validity?

of course, it's possible you don't mean that there will always be mystery about where, what, how and when. maybe you only care about why. if that is so, i guess i'm one of those people who, as you say, "argue that this question is meaningless".

but, as ever, good stuff to think about.

"Science denies the validity of the personal transcendent experience which cannot be objectified. Science invalidates outmoded mythologies that have successfully helped generations of people live a meaningful life full of mystery. Science defines boundaries on our existence and puts leaden chains around creative expression. Science brings the harsh reality of living to our doorstep and promises us a brighter and more fulfilling future somewhere other than right here, right now. Science, while referring to the mystery, claims it can get 'better' answers - 'if only my research is funded'. This is very much like bad religion."

---A rather corrupted view of science, I am assuming in general. I would agree that corrupted persons, labeled scientist, can bring about a distortion of what science should be. Again, start with the Scientific method, and avoid the politics that may and can creep in. With that said, I do remember how research funding, could bring about many problems.

Jayme, I don't think I suggested that science was a means to mysticism. Obviously science only can know what is knowable. Ultimate questions, such as why there is something rather than nothing (assuming "why" is even reasonable to ask), can't be answered by science.

Or, religion. Or, anybody. Including mystics. My approach here follows that of Luther Askeland, whose book "Ways in Mystery" i've been re-reading recently. Luther views mysticism as being the appreciation, or embrace, of mystery -- a sense of wonder at the "thatness" of this world.

There's no contradiction between a sense of mystery and a love of science. Einstein certainly had that.

An Einstein quote:

"The most beautiful and deepest experience a man can have is the sense of the mysterious. It is the underlying principle of religion as well as all serious endeavour in art and science. He who never had this experience seems to me, if not dead, then at least blind. To sense that behind anything that can be experienced there is a something that our mind cannot grasp and whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly and as a feeble reflection, this is religiousness. In this sense I am religious. To me it suffices to wonder at these secrets and to attempt humbly to grasp with my mind a mere image of the lofty structure of all that there is."

- Albert Einstein, The World As I See It (1949)

I don't understand your contention that science is responsible for the "machinations of thought" that confuse people. Most people are astoundingly ignorant of science and barely give it a thought. Their psyches, like mine, are filled with thoughts about work, relationships, current events, everyday problems, TV shows, and such.

Thinking isn't the problem. Zen masters think. Buddhist monks think. Everybody thinks. To my mind (and Askeland's), the key is having a sense of unknowing, of wonder, that underlies our everyday knowing. This gives everything in life a certain enchantment, whether it be a bite of an apple or an examination of a physics theory.

Roger,

I don't think this is a corrupt view of science. It is certainly not the only view of science. Science is not apolitical.

------------

Brian,

I agree that you did not suggest that science was a means to mysticism.

I agree that ultimate mystery cannot be fathomed.

You use words in an interesting way - "sense of mystery" and "love of science".

What I am saying is that thought cannot be used for marveling at the mystery and that the adoption of both science and mysticism is a better solution for questions (1) and (3) than science alone. I think this is in agreement with what you said. I claim that science without the mystery to inspire the wonder is a device for accumulating knowledge devoid of value.

I like Einstein's quotes. He's often surprisingly profound.

You are right that science isn't responsible for thought. I added that science often ends up producing objects at which we marvel and consequently are distracted from marveling at the mystery. The objects become a god, a fixation. This is not a trap of the scientific method so much as a trap of the subsequent fruits in the various forms of technology that most people value through the emotional bondage of attachment. We have a tendency to lose the ability to enjoy simplicity through all the consequent gadgetry which science produces to occupy the mind. Not everyone is afflicted and it may be that the added complexity and increasing numbers of gadgets will frustrate many minds sooner and allow verbal awareness to cease.

I don't really know what Askeland is referring to except through my own experience. As Askeland describes; when verbal awareness stops, the mystical awareness is present. In my experience, thought stops being the driving force of perception, when verbal awareness stops. Thoughts do creep in but it is the quiet field of awareness that brings the peace and delight in the mechanics of solving problems or enjoying the day. In this state, thought is more attuned to what is needed to be done rather than demanding what has to be done. This is being responsive rather than reactive - acting out of one's own center of being and being the manifested mystery limited by human form. Askeland may have had a more rational perspective. For me, what he said seems more applicable to the dropping of reason altogether.

Respects,

"I added that science often ends up producing objects at which we marvel and consequently are distracted from marveling at the mystery."
---Who is this "We" that consequently is distracted from marveling at the mystery?
If there is a We, then who is all the rest?


"We have a tendency to lose the ability to enjoy simplicity through all the consequent gadgetry which science produces to occupy the mind. Not everyone is afflicted and it may be that the added complexity and increasing numbers of gadgets will frustrate many minds sooner and allow verbal awareness to cease."
---Again, who is the we, that is afflicted and frustrated? Brian, is it you, as described?

Roger, I'm not sure who "we" are. I guess it is us...all of us. Or, some of us, depending on one's agreement with this sentiment. As I told Jayme before, I don't see that science (or gadgets) have much of a differential impact on my psyche.

If I'm working on firewood and get a splitter firmly lodged in a piece, that can occupy or disrupt my mind more than smoothly operating my MacBook does. Technology can simplify; it also can complexify. I don't think humans are more or less happy in our technological age. Medieval times weren't a bed of roses, nor is the 21st century.

Roger,

-- The energies that compose the individuated selves are the 'we.' "Affliction" and "frustration" are terms within relative reality. From an absolute sense, the we is undifferentiated and only arises within the relative aspect of mind. The discussion really goes nowhere.

"I don't think humans are more or less happy in our technological age. Medieval times weren't a bed of roses, nor is the 21st century."

-- I think that says it.

Regards,

Jayne,

Thanks for your reply.

"The energies that compose the individuated selves are the 'we.' "Affliction" and "frustration" are terms within relative reality. From an absolute sense, the we is undifferentiated and only arises within the relative aspect of mind. The discussion really goes nowhere."
---Do the energies that compose the individuated selves, change from one self to another self? From your comment, above, were you(mind) trying to separate the "we" from other individualated selves?

"From an absolute sense, the we is undifferentiated and only arises within the relative aspect of mind. The discussion really goes nowhere."
---True. However, this is a blog, where discussion can and should go somewhere, and many times ends up nowhere.


"Science is not apolitical."
---Did that statement come from an individualated (mind) self, or an absolute undifferentiated abstraction? IMO, pure uncorrupted science has no need for politics.

Best wishes,
Roger

"energies that compose the individuated selves"?

That sounds nice and fancy, but what so-called "individuated selves"? And more precisely, where are they?

The same goes for: "the relative aspect of mind". What "mind"?


"If you imagine that you've understood what can't be known, you're in the fantasy realm of religion".

Understanding is not applicable to this.
You can be it, even know it. You can merge into it, reaching a state where there are no questions to be answered and no need to understand.


Everything that seems out of control... is really Under Control.


What I am going to say you have probably heard before in different ways. How I am going to discuss applying it may not have been said before or certainly not as often. Of course… there’s nothing new and the only thing different in what I am going to say is that I am saying it now, at this time and because the holes in my flute are as unique to me as the holes in your own and the common force of sounds is going to say the same thing with different colors and tones.

We are all flutes with uniquely placed holes that make the music of our individual selves. Some of us naturally harmonize with others and a few have the capacity to bring others into harmony with something greater and which they are already in harmony with. Most people are dissonant and striving for harmony even though the drive of their self-interest consistently drives them away. Tribal cultures have a natural gift for this harmony and in some ways will always be superior to the industrialized world no matter how many toys and convenience items may proliferate.

One of the keys to a greater harmony in life and in purpose is in gaining the understanding that all religions are based on the same thing. The great Hindi saint Ramakrishna entered into every one of the major religions and experienced the enlightenment of each of them and declared that they are all the same. Our greatest stumbling block is in the mind’s disposition to seeing the world external as a duality play. We see differences. We see differences in religious beliefs and we see differences in each other. We see all manner of differences but everything is made out of the same thing in terms of what we call matter and everything is interpenetrated by the same thing which we call consciousness. The consciousness and the matter are the same thing as well but in another aspect. You could think of kinetic and potential energy as a good example of this.

Most of us that come here are aware of what is being said. We know these things are most likely true. We know they are far more likely to be true than what the world tells us is real. Because we are not rooted in the one, we are constantly shifted about through magnetic attraction. We have hopes for everything we encounter but in every case our hope fails. This is because the basic intention of life is to lead us back to the source. Everything that happens to us is geared to this destiny and for each of us it is a matter of how great our capacity is for suffering that determines how long we endure it.

So… no doubt you have heard all of this before but I want to add something else to the mix here because of the confusing appearances and relentless apprehensions that define this time in which we live. A number of people have asked what they can do about their lives. They want to know if they are safe where they are. They want to know where they can go and some of them are already in the process of going somewhere else. That is how intense the current moment appears to us.

The truth is that no one needs to go anywhere at all and, at the same time, some will go because there are features of their personal destiny that are complicit in motivating them away… away toward something, somewhere.

It is important to realize that this thing we call God, or by whatever name we address it, regardless of the characteristics and qualities we attribute to it, is much more than we will ever understand or comprehend. No one has ever fully understood or comprehended. It isn’t important anyway. What is important is to realize that it is alive inside of us and that we would have no life without it. Knowing it is there is one thing, and knowing that it is conscious of you is another. It knows more about you than you know. It is disposed to act in your behalf if you can get out of your own way. It is important to remember that we… our personality and force of self interest, are our greatest stumbling blocks.

It has been said that the devil is the way the wicked see God. It can also be said that fear is nothing more than an awareness of our separation from the one. Some of us can sit with tigers and wild beasts of all types without any danger. Most of us cannot. This same applies to times of turmoil and the various dangers that surround us in our nations and cultures when people are made afraid of their situation and of each other.

Make no mistake, at this time some very deluded people are at the helm of the ship of the world. They are no less under the control of this one force than we are but there is a cosmic play at work in which these characters are acting out a moral lesson for the benefit of all who have the wit to see it. This same force has control of their destiny and your destiny as well. If you cannot trust this to be true then fear will be your companion. We make the constant mistake of assuming that the world and its array of intimidating images have a power apart from the one power. It is also under control. Everything is under control of the one and outworking toward a specific end.

You cannot run and hide anywhere. This does not mean that you should not seek a more pleasant surrounding if you are moved to do so. It is just that you can’t go anywhere that this thing will not accompany you and already be there when you arrive. The key is to spend this time surrendering and reaching for this thing to the exclusion of all other concerns because there is no other concern. A great separating out is now taking place and many might well miss the aperture as it opens because of the distractions that surround them.

You are not going to be lost and left adrift because you have family, children, pets, seeming obligations and the like. You are where you are supposed to be and if you will work at being open to the inner voice you will be led at all times. The voices outside of you and the voice within you are saying different things. Trust but verify in all cases as has been suggested by others in times before. It is important to remember that as portions of the world around us are being destroyed and transformed that something else is rising to replace them.

You have, at all times, the power and protection of the one 'always' available to you. It is always on tap. It has guided you when you had no knowledge of guides. It has looked out for you when you could not look out for yourself. Today you read what is being said here as you also read other things and none of this is accidental. A much greater portion of the world is watching TV and being told what to think by those who do not have their best interests at heart. The big dogs in the yard are dividing the spoils. They are confident in their positions and powers and they are completely blind to the fact that they are only actors in a movie where the director is on set. They will lose everything that they think they possess. Do not grant them any symbolic power in your mind. They have only the power over you that you grant them.

I know that you think that you have heard this all before. We have to be careful not to gloss over what we think we already know because we don’t actually know anything. When our focus begins to shift it can be a scary thing and so we must have faith in our protector and act according to what we know are, “the better angels of our nature.” We came into being from an unknown place and we are headed there again on the spiral of our reaching upward toward the bright rooms of our true home. We do not live here forever. We are only passing through. Give great attention to the small things and handle the large ones with a light touch.

It has been said many ways, in many times that …we are loved more than we know and certainly more than we are capable of loving in return. It has been said that if we take one step toward the divine that it will take ten steps toward us. We need to reassure ourselves and that can only happen by gaining and practicing faith, determination, and certitude. You are in good hands if you want to be, or… you can let self-interest lead the way.


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