This afternoon I decided that I've got to get serious about finishing my re-write of "God's Whisper, Creation's Thunder," a book I wrote in the early 1990's that has been out of print for a long time -- since the publisher went out of business.
Years ago I edited the book significantly. My preachiness bothered me. Of course, at the time I wrote it, what I said didn't sound preachy to me. Hey, it was the truth!
So this evening I spent 90 minutes or so on proofreading and editing instead of on writing my usual Church of the Churchless blog post. It was a pleasingly weird experience. Whenever I read what I wrote in this book, even de-preachy'fied, I'm struck by how differently I look upon life now.
Which is a good thing. I feel like I've evolved into a more genuine way of understanding my place in the cosmos. Still...
There are moments when I read what my true-believing self wrote and think, "Ah, back then it was sort of nice to be so sure about God, soul, spirit, life after death, and all that stuff."
Why, you might wonder, would I want to re-publish a book that I don't really believe in any more? Well, several reasons.
Some other people will find my arguments more convincing that I find them myself nowadays. In fact, there's a chance I was on the right track before, and the wrong track now. I put a lot of work into researching and writing this study of how "ageless mysticism" relates to the "new physics." And I wouldn't mind getting some royalties from Amazon to support my senior citizen longboarding passion and caffeine addiction.
Until I get the revised version of God's Whisper, Creation's Thunder back in print (both paper and electronic forms), I'll probably spend less time writing original posts for this blog. Maybe I'll continue to share excerpts from the rewritten book.
Feel free to laugh at me. I do so myself. Here's how the introduction reads now. Can't recall how different it is from the original. Perhaps not much. I made more changes to other chapters.
Deep down, there is nothing mystical about mysticism.
Deep down, there is nothing physical about physics.
Both are attempts to know the same reality.
In the three lines above, you have the central message of this book. Mystics are as concrete and systematic in their inward contemplative experiments as physicists are in their outward observational experiments. Mystics practice spiritual science; physicists practice material science. Each seeks to know the nature of reality that lies beneath appearances.
It is a myth that spirituality and science, as exemplified by physics, are at odds. Mystics and physicists each seek to know the truth about ultimate reality, which logically must be a single reality. The sides of a mountain are varied and vast but there is only one peak. If the conclusions of mystics and physicists appear to conflict, it is because spirituality and science study different levels of the same mountain that is our cosmos.
In modern times the sphere of religion is where questions about God are considered, while research into the laws of nature is the responsibility of material science. Yet the early Greek philosophers made no such division in their studies.
Aristotle, Plato, Pythagoras, and their brethren viewed reality as a whole. Their philosophical views encompassed both the heavens above and the earth below. They saw the workings of nature as being guided by universal spiritual laws, so the study of one was the study of the other.
This changed with the development of modern science. Recognizing that rigid religious views were standing in the way of knowing the truth about material reality, physics and the other worldly sciences moved to distance themselves from theological speculation.
People continued to believe that the sun revolved around the earth, even in the face of mounting evidence to the contrary, because this belief was more in accord with religious doctrine. When Copernicus demolished the earth-centered universe, religion-centered science also began to crumble.
An uneasy truce developed between religion and science. No one went to church expecting to learn about science, and Ph.D. candidates in physics were not required to cite scripture in defense of their dissertations. However, now the lines between spirituality and science are blurring again. Material scientists are taking bold steps into the traditional territory of religion. John Barrow says:
"How, when, and why did the Universe come into being? Such ultimate questions have been out of fashion for centuries. Scientists grew wary of them; theologians and philosophers grew weary of them. But suddenly scientists are asking such questions in all seriousness and theologians find their thinking pre-empted and guided by the mathematical speculations of a new generation of scientists."
Consider the titles of these books about the new physics:
Choosing Reality: A Contemplative View of Physics and the Mind
Does God Play Dice?: The Mathematics of Chaos
Genesis and the Big Bang
God and the New Physics
The Mind of God
Reading the Mind of God
The Tao of Physics
From the titles alone one can surmise that the authors are not shy about drawing significant metaphysical conclusions from purely physical findings. Yet does conducting research into the nature of subatomic particles qualify one to read the mind of God? Can a mathematician conclude whether God plays dice by studying events in the physical world? Are the ultimate workings of the universe so transparent as to be laid bare by relatively simple scientific experiments or mathematical formulas?
No. I submit that the connections between spiritual science and material science are not plainly evident. They are as subtle as the essence of ultimate reality, which is subtle indeed. Those who take scientific findings at face value never will penetrate into the deepest mysteries of the cosmos. To do so requires an understanding of mysticism, the scientific investigation of non-material planes of existence.
In this book I will be interpreting findings of the new physics in the light of ancient spirituality. Core principles of this perennial wisdom will be compared with modern findings of the new physics. I will argue that physicists are hearing an echo of ultimate reality, not its source. They are studying a reflection of God’s countenance, not a direct vision.
I hope to convince you that modern science does not conflict with spiritual faith. A seeker after truth can learn about both material and non-material planes of reality with confidence that knowledge of one is consistent with knowledge of the other. For it is nonsensical that the study of one realm of creation would preclude the study of another. In truth, there is only one law running throughout all of existence, one voice producing all of the myriad sounds.
When God whispers, creation thunders. But the thunder is a distant echo of the whisper. Recognizing this truth is a first step toward drawing nearer to the source. For as long as we believe that the world in which we live and breathe is the most real thing, the presence of God remains far away.
When an echo is recognized for what it is, those who will not be satisfied with listening to anything but the source begin to move in the direction from which the echo emanates. But what is that direction? This can be a difficult question to answer even with worldly echoes, and vastly more so in respect to spiritual ones.
My hope is that this book will help the reader to distinguish between reflections of ultimate reality and the source from which they spring. Journeying toward that wellhead of existence is the only trip truly worth taking. It is worth a lifetime of struggle.