When is it wiser to not know something? What distinguishes scientific knowledge from spiritual knowledge? Could I cram an Oscar Wilde quotation into the essay right off the bat? These are some of the questions that I pondered when I began to work on “Science, Spirit, and the Wisdom of Not-Knowing” some years ago.
It is 24 pages long, so takes a little while to download on a slow connection (you know the mantra that accompanies PDF files: “get the free Acrobat Reader if you don’t have it already”).
This essay is, like so many of my writings, a masterpiece of intellectual brilliance, spiritual inspiration, and crisp writing. Sadly, the essay also is, like so many of my writings, virtually unknown to the world outside of my own cranium.
I submitted it to “Sacred Web: A Journal of Tradition of Modernity” after the editor of this journal asked me to write a piece on the evils of scientism—the cocky attitude of modern science that it has all the answers. The editor had read my first book, “God’s Whisper, Creation’s Thunder,” liked it, and wanted me to put science in its place again.
The problem was, “Sacred Web” is a promoter of the “Traditional” metaphysical perspective that the editor describes here (scroll down the page to find the editorial). Frithjof Schuon and Seyyed Hossein Nasr are some of the noted writers and thinkers in Traditionalism. I had to familiarize myself with them before I could write the essay.
And the more I learned about Traditionalism, the more I became wary of this approach to religion and spirituality (the intellectually voracious can read an extensive critique by a Muslim here; I agree with his basic points about Traditionalism, but disagree that Islam is the one true religion). For example, Traditionalists have a strange fondness for medieval times, when the Church ruled every aspect of society.
Since Traditionalism has a close connection to Sufism, and thus to Islam, any philosophy that longs for the good old days when fundamentalist religion ruled the cultural roost has to be looked at with a wary eye after 9/11/2001. Especially after 11/2/2004, because the American religious right would exchange hearty high-fives with most of the tenets of Traditionalism—leaving aside the minor detail of whether Islam or Christianity is the traditional religion that we bow down to.
Anyway, the essay wasn’t at all what “Sacred Web” wanted, as I ended up being much more supportive of science than the editor had anticipated. That was rejection #1. I then sent a shorter version of the essay off to “Science and Spirit” magazine, figuring that my title was right up their alley. That was rejection #2.
So now I say, screw this one at a time rejection business, I’ll put the piece up on the Internet for everyone in the whole world to ignore simultaneously. Or not, depending on the whims of Google, Google-searchers, and HinesSight readers. It’s fairly serious, because I had to write it in a quasi scholarly journal style. But it also will be of interest to anyone interested in the via negativa approach to spirituality—emptying your consciousness of what isn’t real so what remains is.
Why did I decide to put it up today after years of languishing on a hard disk? OK, I’ll admit it: I just bought a $20 program that makes PDF files, and I had to try it out.
If a PDF creator has been missing in your life, check out Tracker Software’s free trials. I got the “Lite” version. You just click “print” in Word, choose the virtual PDF “printer,” and, voila, a PDF file is produced. Real simple, real slick. There might be better cheap/free PDF creation software, but so far I like this one.