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.

So the teaching is simple–struggle to understand the nature of reality.  It is not just for the academic, the intellectual, the professorial.  It is about real life, how we live ours and how others may attempt to interfere with how we do so.

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