FEAR AND WONDER

I am in the process of preparing my lecture on The History of Science and Spirituality and am struggling to balance my desire to share so much of what I have learned, with the fear of confusing my audience. The beauty of teaching is that it compels the teacher to simply and attempt to make sense of the subject matter.  In my case it is metaphysics.

The desire to understand the nature of reality, it seems to me, arises from two distinct but powerful forces in human consciousness–fear and wonder. These primal feelings arose with the dawning of awareness. They were simultaneously connected with the need to survive and the astonishment at the whole of existence.

The ‘first’ human being, the true Adam / Eve experienced the pain of being aware that existence is painful and difficult. Our kind first knew what is meant to worry! We had to survive and for the first time in the evolution of our planet, we were handed responsibility for our own existence and those we loved. This fear was the origin of science, philosophy and religion.

We needed to figure out the ‘game’ of existence–learn whatever we could about how to survive, where food could be found, how to protect ourselves and our kin, what rituals and prayers and incantations would appease the unknown gods which controlled the cosmos.

There was no differentiation between science/philosophy/religion.  They were the metaphysical tools for survival.  In my judgment they remain to today. Artistic expressions of all kinds are also the product of metaphysical speculation. As individuals, we struggling to bring order out of the chaos of our lives.We utilize whatever tools of knowledge are at our disposal.

Still, in the moments between chaos, we, as our ancestors find a moment to gaze at the heavens, mountain vistas, foaming surf, the budding flowers, the chirp of a newly minted bird, the squirm of new life as it enters this world, and feel the beauty and intelligence that brought it into being.  We may struggle to understand why we are here and how to overcome our pain and suffering. But at the same time to understand that peace and joy are as much a part of existence as fear.

But the metaphysical quest to understanding should not itself be feared. Our minds are our best hope for survival, we should not abandon our ability to ponder, to think, to reflect and to choose our paths. Science and religion and philosophy do not own us. We have created them.  They are our tools forward in the stuggle for enlightenment.

When man commits acts of evil–when fear turns to hatred, when compassion is missing in our actions, we cannot blame our tools. They carry only the power that we give to them, to anyone, to any so-called leader as well. we must understand that they do not carry moral authority, do not compell us to hate and kill.

Continue reading

THE SECRET?

There is no secret to The Secret.  It is wisdom that has accompanied humanity since the emergence of human awareness.  It’s success in the commercial marketplace only confirms our deep thirst for guidance and direction along our individual metaphysical path.

The ‘law of attraction’ has been with us for ever, from the Bhadgavad Gita to Proverbs to all philosophical and spiritual traditions. What we think about ourselves, our relationship to the universe, our inherent worth creates the path for us to proceed in actualizing what we desire.

My problem with ‘The Secret’ and its numerous variations is simply this–it implies that we can be passive participants in our own journeys. It quite clearly states that our intention, our strong desire for success is the predominant, perhaps only requirement to achieve what we want.

Continue reading

The History of –Science and Spirituality -1

I thought that I would present parts of the lecture planned for March 14th at the West side branch of the 92nd St Y.  Many of the readers of this blog will not be able to attend and I do believe that some of the material will be interesting to my fellow metaphysicians.

The topic is the HISTORY OF SCIENCE AND SPIRITUALITY.  I do believe that it is NOT a boring topic despite the ‘yawn’ value of the title. The historical aspects of the relationship actually help explain aspects of our contemporary conflict between the two.  In essence what each one of must do is to inspect our own metaphysical position on what is real and important because what we believe about the universe and our place within it will determine how we live our lives, who we vote for, where we send our money [political action committees] and whether or not we are willing to die for our fundamentalist beliefs and take our adversaries with us.

It is totally bizarre that in the early years of the 21st century we would have to debate the value of science in describing the physical universe in which we live.  The existence of Creationists who seriously take the word of the Bible for ‘scientific’ truth is beyond comprehension.  They come in a variety of forms:  the young earth Creationsits are more frightening than the Intelligent Design contingent.

The ‘Young Earthers’

Continue reading

ANNIVERSAY BLOG–YEAR ONE

There is no way that I could have predicted the events that transpired in my life since I ventured into the blogosphere one year ago today.  Many of my readers were privy to the difficulties and challenges of my parent’s illness, my Mom’s death, my Dad’s near miraculous recovery.  There were other personal issues, not overtly discussed, that weighed heavily on my mind as well. 

Throughout this period I found that the act of writing and sharing my crises with others was tremendously healing for me.  Now that my life is a bit more calm, I will never take any precious moment of peace and joy for granted.  Very likely, that was one of the lessons that I needed to learn.

Someone who is spiritually aware suggested that ‘when you put yourself ‘out there’ the Universe will challenge you’. I took that statement very much to heart this past year.  But I now have a different interpretation of the events of the past year.  I do not believe that the ‘Universe’ presented these difficulties to me in order to challenge my resolve or committment to the metaphysical journey. Nor do I believe that I was being chastised for offering advise and therefore needed to learn humility.  Of course I need to be more humble, we all do.  Humility and gratitude are fine companiosn.

I always regarded my teachings, writings, bloggings as precious opportunities for me to explore and share what I have learned and what I am learning.   I do not regard myself as an expert or someone more spiritually enlightened than any of my readers.  In fact, I regard my writings as if I was writing a diary to myself. The act of writing allows me to explore my own thoughts,.

If I have helped anyone else in their own struggles, than I give all the praise to the ‘Universe’ for putting me in this position.  In fact what I believe is that all my studies: readings, writings, accumulating the spiritual experiences of others, has given me the strength to deal with what this year brought to me.  Rather than seeing this year as punitive in some way, I regard those years before as preparing me to this past one. 

I am unspeakably grateful for the opportunity each day provides me to learn, to grow, to share and to heal, myself and others.

CHANNEL 3

II have not shared with my readers any recent ‘stories’ from my contacts. By ‘stories’ I refer to the deeply personal, emotion-charged experiences which have served as my evidence that a spiritual dimension to reality [SDR] exists.

I have made it clear, I hope, in prior postings that I am a reformed atheist.  This does not mean that I have ‘seen the light’ or embraced a traditional religion.  I still regard Judaism as my ethnic and historical home, and Kabbalah as an enlightened, mystical aspect of it.  But what my series of personal experiences have taught me about the metaphysical nature of reality cannot come from any text.

Over the past eight to nine years I have collected numerous examples of what might be called paranormal or spiritual experiences of ordinary, sane and decent human beings.  Hearing them first hand adds to what I have called the ‘credibility quotient’ of the experience.

This latest experience comes from a 78year old woman, a patient of mine for many years who sees me once or twice a year for her gastrointestinal complaints [my day job]. After discussing her mind/body issues it becomes clear that emotional stress has affected her deeply.  The source is not only her elderly, sick husband but the suicidal death of her adult son about one year before.

Of course she was/is devastated and immediately noted, ‘money does not buy happiness’.  Her son was a successful lawyer/businessman.  His personal life was in shambles and he had slipped into a serious depression. Without me inquiring [I would not do so under these sensitive circumstances] she began to speak about what happened after her son’s death.

Continue reading

THE TRUE BELIEVER

The term true believer may have been coined by sociologist Eric Hoffer in his 1951 book.  The validity of his observations deserve re-examination.  The true believer is anyone who adopts as their personal belief system the principles and belief/dogma of a larger established group. Such individuals tend not to question the authority of the established principles and beliefs of such a group.  They are not skeptical of the statements of others and do not challenge the organized bodies principles of belief.

Clearly, one immediately thinks of religious groups of various sizes–ranging from organized established religions to cults. Contemporary religious fundamentalists are examples of true believers. Such individuals willingly sacrifice their own thoughts and lives for the sake of the group’s ideology.  Their danger to those who disagree with them is clear.  They are beyond discussion or reasoning with others outside of their belief.  They are capable of ‘de-humanizing’ the other–therefore the committing of all manner of atrocities upon them is accomplished without any moral discussion or self-doubt.

But religion is not alone is attracting true believers. Tribal group memebers often react as true believers.  And the two most powerfully destructive institutions attracting true believers in the 20th century were both atheistic in their doctrines–Hiter’s Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Communist Soviet Union.

Chet Raymo in his book SKEPTICS AND TRUE BELIEVERS points out that scientists can be guilty of being true belivers as well.  When they vigorously attack those who disagree with them on issues which are beyond science, when they make metaphysical statments that are not supported by scientific research, they are revealing their own true believer attitudes.

A prime example of a scientific true believer is biologist Richard Dawkins.  He is an avowed atheist and attacks religion as an institution for all the right reasons.  When he declares that there is no scientific evidence for spirituality or God he is also correct.  When he declares that there is no God or soul or spirit–he is making a metaphysical judgment that may reflect his own true believer bias.

In effect, he declares that only science reveals ultimate truth.  That which cannot be studied by science is invalid.  That last statement is not only NOT a scientific statement, it cannot be disproven by science either.  It is his personal  metaphysical opinion–nothing more.  He should acknowledge it as such.

Continue reading

The Explained and Unexplained

The explained and the unexplained.  This is an attempt to ‘get at’ metaphysical concepts by utilizing various terms. I previously discussed the use of the unknown and the unknowable.  By using the explained I am essentially demonstrating how science is a powerful tool for understanding the nature of reality. What science is capable of explaining has become associated with what is real.  As previously discussed the success of science in terms of technological advances and quality of life issues is indisputable.

The terms natural and supernatural are also paired as contrasting opposties. Natural refers to anything which is part of the physical, empirical world that can be understood by the methods of science. Its opposite is supernatural.  Similar opposite pairs also include normal and paranormal.

As in the dualism of Descartes, naturalism / normal has become accepted as what is real and demonstrable, supernaturalism/paranormal becomes the domain of religion, spirituality and the New Age movements which are continuously rejected and dismissed as ‘woo-woo’ nonsense.

To further define these concepts as opposites, contemporary scientists will often associate natural /normal with explainable and supernatural/paranormal with unexplainable.  I believe that this is only makes it easier for hard-core skeptics [as opposed to open-minded ones] to criticize the desire to discern a spiritual dimension to reality [SDR].

The truth is–the clear distinction between these ‘opposites’ is often blurred.  For example–hard-core skeptics will dismiss the claims of psychics and mediums as unexplained, supernatural/paranormal nonsense.  Such abilities are preposterous, ‘unscientific’ they will claim. No one can claim to have mental abilities to ‘see’ at a distance, or discern the future, or communicate with deceased entities.

On the other hand they will regard the mental achievements of autistic savants [low IQ individuals who may have extraordinary abilities to calculate immense numbers in their heads [the Rainman], draw incredible pictures, play complex musical pieces or create their own] as NOT

Continue reading