Science vs. Spirituality Essay
The scientist E. O. Wilson has asserted that:-
"Science and Religion are the two most powerful forces in the world. Having them at odds ... is not productive."
Very many people would surely prefer that, alongside whatever dissimilarities and differences may be held exist between them, Science and Religion could be seen as
being compatible and possibly even complementary. As having an "openness as to what 'The Truth' is" in common rather than being perpetually in conflict over what The Truth is.
"Religion will not regain its old power until it can face change in the same spirit as does science."
The following consideration of the Science versus Religion Debate features examples of the sorts of arguments advanced by those inclined to accept Science or Religion and may give grounds for an acceptance that Science and Religion can co-exist in the same "Order of Things".
Dissimilarities and differences are acknowledged but some indications are given that a simultaneous acceptance of the validity of both may actually be a compatible outlook to adopt.
Alfred North Whitehead
Where The Truth must be recognised as being profoundly complex both Scientific Truth and Spiritual Truth can both be fully allowed acceptance of their respective validities in common.
It can only be hoped that in the fullness of time Science and Religion will be seen as complementary rather than as being everlastingly in conflict.
Copernicus, Galileo, Charles Darwin
The Theory of Evolution
Detail from Michaelangelo's ~ 'The Creation of Adam'
Across the millenia Religion has meant a wide range of things to different people. It has been accepted as providing explanations of Existence through Acts of Creation,
as being associated with Divine Reward and Punishment, as a resource which may be appealed to for Divine Aid in difficult times and as a route to Spiritual Growth and even to Enlightenment.
A thousand years ago Religion was central to many aspects of the lives of the peoples of Western Europe and what we would today refer to as Science was very largely absent, unknown and unapplied.
As century followed century significant proportions of the populations of several European states lived overtly religious lives associated with priestly office or through being engaged in the routines associated with membership of religious communities.
It would seem that such faith-related patterns of society, in some cases, could have featured as many as one in four or one in five of the adult population living their lives as "religious" persons.
Those who were not priests or otherwise "overtly" religious usually viewed religion with very substantial respect.
Cathedrals, Monasteries and Churches were raised, often on a truly impressive scale, with the vast expense involved being met from the revenues derived from the immense landholdings of the Church or through the gifts of benefactors.
As yet more centuries rolled by Science presented challenges to Religion through discoveries that led to the assertion of theories which were both highly intellectually persuasive
and which proved to be intensely corrosive of the acceptability of world views that had long been endorsed by religious tradition.
One the more inimical of these challenges from Science to the
views traditionally accepted by Religion being that deriving from the theorising of Copernicus and Galileo about the Revolution "of the Earth around the Sun" rather than "of the Sun around the Earth".
A probably yet more corrosive challenge arose from the meditations of Charles Darwin and of Alfred Russel Wallace that culminated in a Theory of Evolution of Species.
Each of these theories emerged against backgrounds of understanding where
faith-related explanations of things had been generally accepted. At the times of their emergences these theories were thus "deeply unsettling" to many persons and intense
Science versus Religion Debates ensued.
Although persistent debate has followed on from the emergence of the Copernican and Evolutionary theories and although the Creationism associated with Religion has lost credibility in very many persons' estimations we nevertheless
find that some people continue to become deeply interested in Spirituality. Many such persons have been influenced by Aldous Huxley, (a grandson to "Darwin's Bulldog" Thomas Henry Huxley),
whose well-regarded spirituality anthology 'The Perennial Philosophy' has never been "out of print" since being first published in the nineteen forties.
The fly-leaf to the first (1946) UK edition of Aldous Huxley's The Perennial Philosophy begins:-
"Beneath the revelations of all the great world religions, the teaching of the wise and holy of all faiths and the mystical experiences
of every race and age, there lies a basic unity of belief which is the closest approximation man can attain to truth and ultimate reality.
The Perennial Philosophy is an attempt to present this Highest Common Factor of all theologies by assembling passages from the
writings of those saints and prophets who have approached a direct spiritual knowledge of the Divine, and who have recorded not only
the method of that approach but also the clarity of soul they derived from it."
In this major anthology Huxley accepted the proposition that Religions concern themselves
"with the one, divine Reality"
"the nature of this one Reality is such that
it cannot be directly or immediately apprehended except by those who have chosen to fulfill certain conditions, making themselves
loving, pure in heart, and poor in spirit."
Science: Copernicus & Galileo
Whereas a "Theistic-Geocentric" world view, where the Earth and the people who inhabited it were held to lie at the centre of God's Creation, had long been accepted this came to be called into question by Science.
Nicolaus Copernicus, who held a Doctorate in "theologically related" Canon Law but was deeply immersed in mathematical and astronomical studies, came to accept a "Heliocentric" world view where the Sun rather than the Earth was held to occupy a central and immovable position.
… I took upon myself the task of re-reading the books of all the philosophers which I could obtain, to seek out whether any one had ever conjectured that the motions of the spheres of the universe were other than they supposed who taught mathematics in the schools. And I found first, that, according to Cicero, Nicetas had thought the earth was moved. Then later I discovered, according to Plutarch, that certain others had held the same opinion. ... When from this, therefore, I had conceived its possibility, I myself also began to meditate upon the mobility of the earth. And although the opinion seemed absurd, yet because I knew the liberty had been accorded to others before me of imagining whatsoever circles they pleased to explain the phenomena of the stars, I thought I also might readily be allowed to experiment whether, by supposing the earth to have some motion, stronger demonstrations than those of the others could be found as to the revolution of the celestial sphere. Thus, supposing these motions which I attribute to the earth later on in this book, I found at length by much and long observation, that if the motions of the other planets were added to the rotation of the earth and calculated as for the revolution of that planet, not only the phenomena of the others followed from this, but also it so bound together both the order and magnitude of all the planets and the spheres and the heaven itself, that in no single part could one thing be altered without confusion among the other parts and in all the universe. Hence for this reason in the course of this work I have followed this system.
Copernicus' treatise "On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres" published just before his death in 1543 presented the Earth as actually moving around the Sun.
This rather technical work was not all that widely read, nor were its astronomical theorisings the subject of a prompt general acceptance. Copernicus' work seems to have had some flaws and a
failure to sufficiently address certain key problems limited its credibility.
Copernicus' Heliocentric theory only very gradually gained in acceptance whilst other persons who were then seen as being authoritative continued to propose that the Earth was the fixed center of a celestial system.
From some time in the early sixteen hundreds the Catholic Church began to become more actively critical of Copernicus' work deeming it to present views "contrary to Holy Scripture".
One Galileo Galilei had become involved in the development of some of the earliest telescopes. He had heard of such devices being demonstrated by a person of
Flemish or Dutch origin. Given this inspiration he was able to devise a design for telescopes that were a considerable improvement on those that were then being constructed elsewhere.
As part of this process he himself learnt to grind glass lenses that facilitated the achievement of high levels of magnification.
Galileo turned his telescopes to the skies and, having a considerable background in science, came to consider that that he found sufficient cause to accept a Heliocentric world view.
In 1632, a work by Galileo entiled, "Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, Ptolemaic & Copernican" appeared. The book was set out as a consideration of the views of three persons:
one who supported Copernicus' Heliocentric theory of the universe, another who argued against it and a third person was presented as being objective and open to persuasion.
The person who spoke against Copernicus' theory was given the name Simplicio. Simplicio is supposedly named after Simplicius of Cilicia, a sixth-century commentator on Aristotle, but it was suspected the name was a double entendre, as the Italian for "simple" (as in "simple minded") is "semplice".
In 1633 Galileo Galilei was placed under house arrest for the rest of his life having been convicted, through the intervention of Church officials, of a grave suspicion of heresy for
"following the position of Copernicus, which is contrary to the true sense and authority of Holy Scripture".
It was in such circumstances that Galileo Galilei was induced, by an office known as the Inquisition which was active in attempts to suppress heresy, to formally recant his 'Copernican' views.
Some sentences which feature towards the end of this recantation, which was offered by Galileo whilst kneeling, read:-
... whereas -- after an injunction had been judicially intimated to me by this Holy Office, to the effect that I must altogether abandon the false opinion that the sun is the center of the world and immovable, and that the earth is not the center of the world, and moves, and that I must not hold, defend, or teach in any way whatsoever, verbally or in writing, the said false doctrine, and after it had been notified to me that the said doctrine was contrary to Holy Scripture -- I wrote and printed a book in which I discuss this new doctrine already condemned, and adduce arguments of great cogency in its favor, without presenting any solution of these, and for this reason I have been pronounced by the Holy Office to be vehemently suspected of heresy, that is to say, of having held and believed that the Sun is the center of the world and immovable, and that the earth is not the center and moves:
Therefore, desiring to remove from the minds of your Eminences, and of all faithful Christians, this vehement suspicion, justly conceived against me, with sincere heart and unfeigned faith I abjure, curse, and detest the aforesaid errors and heresies, and generally every other error, heresy, and sect whatsoever contrary to the said Holy Church, and I swear that in the future I will never again say or assert, verbally or in writing, anything that might furnish occasion for a similar suspicion regarding me; but that should I know any heretic, or person suspected of heresy, I will denounce him to this Holy Office, or to the Inquisitor or Ordinary of the place where I may be. Further, I swear and promise to fulfill and observe in their integrity all penances that have been, or that shall be, imposed upon me by this Holy Office. And, in the event of my contravening, (which God forbid) any of these my promises and oaths, I submit myself to all the pains and penalties imposed and promulgated in the sacred canons
and other constitutions, general and particular, against such delinquents. So help me God, and these His Holy Gospels, which I touch with my hands. ...
The church authorities made it widely known that Galileo had made this recantation but this did not bring matters to a conclusion!
Those who were interested in such matters, and those who came to hear of them, were persistently aware of an unresolved Science versus Religion Debate the implications of which were
absolutely central as to how beliefs about Existence, and about "Godly Creation", could be upheld or how they were open to challenge.
Copernicus' theories, as given increased credibility by Galileo, set off a so-called Copernican Revolution. The increasingly wide acceptance of Copernicus' Theory had profound "credibility" related potential of inducing people to hold reservations about faith-related beliefs about the
physical world and to become more open to giving consideration to what were proposed of as being "Scientific" explanations of the physical world. People became more prepared to adopt views that were proposed by Scientific Theories rather than continuing to accept views long upheld by Religion.
Some authorities suggest that contemporary usages of the terms Revolution and Revolutionary are inherently reflective
of the momentous transformations which followed on from the increasingly widespread acceptance of Heliocentric views "On the Revolution of the Heavenly Orbs".
Galileo Galilei made many other significant discoveries but is perhaps best remembered for his advocacy of Heliocentrism.
In later times a Pope who then led the Catholic Church made some conciliatory statements about how Galileo should actually be viewed positively for taking the stance he had taken in supporting the Copernican world system.
Religion: Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson was born in 1803 in Boston, Massachusetts, into familial circumstances where seven close
ancestors had been ministers of religion. Following on from graduating from Harvard University's Divinity School he himself extended that family tradition, becoming
"approbated to preach" by an Association of Ministers in 1826, gaining an assistant minister's appointment in 1829, and then - resigning from ministry - in 1832.
Paradoxically, Emerson's resignation can be seen as an utterly sincere "Testament of Faith" rather than as a lapse in belief.
He had come to see particular value in an "Interior Spirituality" related approach to faith rather than in the ceremonial and sacramental approaches which were then
expected of him by his congregation.
In concluding a sermon he delivered at the time of his resignation Emerson said:-
I am about to resign into your hands that office which you have confided in me. It has many duties for which I am feebly qualified. It has
some which it will always be my delight to discharge according to my ability, wherever I exist. And whilst the recollection of its claims
oppresses me with a sense of my unworthiness, I am consoled by the hope that no time and no change can deprive me of the satisfaction of
pursuing and exercising its highest functions.
As a younger man Emerson suffered bouts of ill-health and on 10 December, 1832, wrote to his brother William :-
My dear Brother, My malady has proved so obstinate and comes back as often as it goes away, that I am now bent on taking Dr. Ware's advice, and seeing if I cannot prevent
these ruinous relapses by a sea-voyage. I proposed to make a modest trip to the West Indies, ... but in a few hours the dream changed into a
purpureal vision of Naples and Italy, and that is the rage of yesterday and to-day in Chardon Street. A vessel sails this week for Sicily, and at this moment it seems quite
probable I shall embark in her.
Emerson was in the habit of keeping a personal journal and this entry, which dates from shortly after his disembarkation in Europe, is to found in one of his notebook diaries:-
FLORENCE, 28th April, 1833.
Emerson's trip to Europe brought with it several life-altering experiences and included Emerson's giving expression to "somewhat evolutionistic"? opinions in his journals
after viewing some Comparative Anatomy exhibits during a visit to a scientific institution in Paris in July, 1833.
I have been this day to Santa Croce, which is to Florence what Westminster Abbey is to England. I passed with consideration the tomb of Nicholas Macchiavelli, but stopped long before that of Galilias Galileo, for I love and honor that man, - except in the recantation, - with my whole heart.
Key sections from said Journals read:-
Here we are impressed with the inexhaustible riches of nature. The universe is a more amazing puzzle than ever, as you glance along this bewildering series of animated forms...
Not a form so grotesque, so savage, nor so beautiful but is an expression of some property inherent in man the observer, -an occult relation between the very scorpions and man.
I feel the centipede in me, - cayman, carp, eagle, and fox. I am moved by strange sympathies. I say continually " I will be a naturalist."
This journal entry being made only some eight months after his resignation from his post as a Christian minister "consoled by the hope that no time and no change can deprive me of the
satisfaction of pursuing and exercising the highest functions" of that calling. It was also made more than twenty-five years prior to the public availability of Darwin's and Wallace's
theorisings about Species!
In these times "Nature" may well have been viewed by Emerson as resulting from "Creation".
The cultural life of the New England that Emerson returned to from Europe featured the frequent delivery of public lectures to paying audiences. Emerson attempted to establish
himself as such a public lecturer and his views on Nature in relation to Creation might be inferred from these selections from his lecture "On the Relation of Man to the Globe" (1834):-
... "man is no upstart in the creation, but has been prophesied in nature for a thousand thousand ages before he appeared; that, from times incalculably remote,
there has been a progressive preparation for him, an effort to produce him; the meaner creatures containing the elements of his structure and pointing at it from every side. ...
His limbs are only a more exquisite organization say rather the finish of the rudimental forms that have been already sweeping the sea and creeping in the mud: the brother of his hand
is even now cleaving the Arctic Sea in the fin of the whale, and innumerable ages since was pawing the marsh in the flipper of the saurian."
Emerson seems to have been capable of envisioning such theistic "almost evolutionism"? whilst also continuing to see potentially redemptive and illuminatory powers,
highly beneficial to the individual and to society, to being accessible through spirituality!
... the doors of the temple stand open, night and day, before every man, and the oracles of this truth cease never, it is guarded by one stern condition; this, namely; it is an
intuition. It cannot be received at second hand. ...
... it is still true, that tradition characterizes the preaching of this country; that it comes out of the memory, and not out of the soul; that it aims at what is usual, and
not at what is necessary and eternal; that thus, historical Christianity destroys the power of preaching, by withdrawing it from the exploration of the moral nature of
man, where the sublime is, where are the resources of astonishment and power. ...
... And what greater calamity can fall upon a nation, than the loss of worship? Then all things go to decay. Genius leaves the temple, to haunt the senate, or the market. Literature becomes
frivolous. Science is cold. ...
... We have contrasted the Church with the Soul. In the soul, then, let the redemption be sought. ... It is the office of a true teacher to show us that God is, not was; that He
speaketh, not spake. ...None believeth in the soul of man, but only in some man or person old and departed. Ah me! no man goeth alone. All men go in flocks to this saint or that
poet, avoiding the God who seeth in secret. They cannot see in secret; they love to be blind in public. They think society wiser than their soul, and know not that one soul, and
their soul, is wiser than the whole world. ...
(These selections are from Emerson's Divinity School Address of 1838.)
In one of his sermons of 1831 Emerson had said:-
… Are men afraid that their reason will outsee God? "lest their own judgments should become too bright"? that the faculties which God hath made will see sharper than is good?
will find something more or different from what they should find? If they apprehend this, then I say, they do not believe in the true God, in God as he is, and the sooner their idol is
over thrown the better. And it is because men have been content to be religious by rote, to make piety to consist in giving verbal assent to articles of faith, and in giving bodily
obedience to forms of worship, that theology has been so false, and that goodness has been so low. Religion has been asleep this thousand years. I do not speak of any one sect. I
speak of all. I speak of us. I think almost all of us are content to be religious by education and not by realizing its truths. The only way for a man to be religious is to be so by himself. …
Science: Charles Darwin
and the Theory of Evolution
Darwin had attended Edinburgh University with the intention of qualifying as a doctor but found that he had difficulty in coping with such things as the sight of blood. He then
began to study Divinity at Cambridge University with the intention of becoming a clergyman.
Whilst pursuing his medical and theological studies Darwin engaged in Natural History studies as an enthusiastically pursued hobby. He came to know several of the more prominent
lecturers in Natural History related subjects at Cambridge and was recommended by one of them as being a proficient amateur geologist who could join in with a scientifically oriented
voyage which was then being prepared by the British navy.
Although close to qualification as a clergyman Darwin gave this proposal serious consideration and, with the assistance of an uncle, prevailed upon his father to consent to his joining
the proposed voyage. Darwin returned from five years of voyaging on HMS Beagle in 1836.
During the years away sailing the high seas and visiting distant lands the skeptical attitudes of many of his ship-mates, and the various geological and biological
phenomena he had witnessed, caused him to entertain critical doubts of the biblical explanations of Creation he had formerly fully accepted.
Once back in England he continued to keep notebooks as he had on his voyages and, as early as
1837, in a Notebook B that the editors of Darwin's papers regard as being the notebook Darwin had specifically
dedicated to his thought, during 1837 and into 1838, on the subject of the
Transmutation of Species his theorising about the origin of species included his famous Tree
of Life sketch.
This sketch shows Charles Darwin's early theoretical
insight of how a genus of related species might
originate by divergence from a starting point (1).
The text annotations read:-
Case must be that one generation then should be as many living as now. To do this & to have many
species in same genus (as is) requires extinction.
Thus between A & B immense gap of relation. C & B the finest gradation, B & D rather greater
distinction. Thus genera would be formed. - bearing relation to ancient types with several extinct forms...
From Darwin's Notebook B now stored in Cambridge University library
"In October 1838, that is, fifteen months after I had begun my systematic enquiry, I happened to read for amusement Malthus on Population, and being well prepared to appreciate the struggle for existence which everywhere goes on from long-continued observation of the habits of animals and plants, it at once struck me that under these circumstances favourable variations would tend to be, preserved, and unfavourable ones to be destroyed. The result of this would be the formation of new species. Here, then, I had at last got a theory by which to work; but I was so anxious to avoid prejudice, that I determined not for some time to write even the briefest sketch of it."
"Owing to this struggle for life, any variation, however slight and from whatever cause proceeding, if it be in any degree profitable to an individual of any species, in its infinitely complex relations to other organic beings and to external nature, will tend to the preservation of that individual, and will generally be inherited by its offspring. The offspring, also, will thus have a better chance of surviving, for, of the many individuals of any species which are periodically born, but a small number can survive. I have called this principle, by which each slight variation, if useful, is preserved, by the term of Natural Selection, in order to mark its relation to man's power of selection."
- Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species
Emerson interested himself deeply in scientific matters. He had given consideration to other, less persuasive, evolutionary theorisings prior
to the, to many persons "undeniable", emergence of a persuasive Theory of Evolution through the publication of Darwin's ~ Origin of Species.
Although often given less consideration than is perhaps due to him, Alfred Russel Wallace had arrived at the same conclusions as Charles Darwin and had independently been the originator of a virtually identical Theory of Evolution. Wallace had previously been
engaged in the collection of flora and fauna specimens in far flung places to be forwarded to individuals and institutions in Europe. He was known to Darwin and had actually approached him to gain his assistance
in bringing, what he then thought of as being "his own, original, views", to the notice of a particularly eminent scientist. It was this approach, that had the potential to lead to the public acceptance
that Wallace was the originator of a theory that he believed that he had himself pioneered, that prompted Darwin to expand upon his own meditations about natural processes which had the potential
to lead to the ~ Evolutionary Origin ~ of species.
Darwin's meditations on such matters had been set out in outline notes, extending to more than forty pages, that he had placed in storage in his house several years previously. Darwin had been fearful that the publication of his, then probably highly controversial, theorisings would bring distress to his devout wife and quite possibly bring discredit on his children.
Nevertheless, Darwin's last will and testament
contained instructions about the publication of this outline of his theorisings after his death and left a considerable sum of money to be used in support of such publication.
These events happened in the later 1850's when Religion was a strong determining influence on people's views.
As a result of Wallace's
approach learned papers attributed to Darwin and to Wallace were jointly presented at a meeting of the Linnean Society in London and Charles Darwin prepared a manuscript that culminated in the
publication of what has proved to be a culturally transformative, and perhaps even civilisationally transformative, work on the "Origin of Species".
The new theory had attracted very little attention or comment when it had been presented at the Linnean Society. After it began to become known of by wider society through Charles Darwin's
book the newly emergent theory became massively controversial.
If species could actually appear through natural processes of ~ Evolution ~ the recognition of the operation of such
processes could only be seen as tending to undermine what had been the very widespread acceptance that God had been the Creator of the separate species.
Ralph Waldo Emerson was one of those persons who tended to be interested in ideas and made strenuous efforts to obtain Charles Darwin's book at the time of its first publication!
According to the reminiscences of Charles C. Caverno:-
Some time in the winter of 1859-60 Ralph Waldo Emerson, in the Newhall House in Milwaukee, asked me if I could
procure him a copy of a book on Species which an Englishman had published lately - and he added, " From what I
have heard it is likely to make the dry bones rattle." I told
Mr. Emerson I had not seen the book, but that I was after
it myself and had an order for it already in New York.
How this conversation happened to come about in a hotel
in Milwaukee was because Mr. Emerson was stopping there
to fulfill engagements for lectures in that city and in other
cities round about. Why he asked of me the question he did
was because I was President of the Young Men's Association
before which he lectured. I was also chairman of the Library
Committee of the Association - a somewhat exacting post,
as that library was the only public library in the city.
I have given Mr. Emerson's description of the book he was
after for he gave no name of author nor definite title to the
And then in a letter home to his wife from Lafayette, Indiana, dated 5 February 1860 and written whilst Emerson was on one of his lecture tours:-
I have not yet been able to obtain Darwin's book which I had depended on as a road book. You must read it, - "Darwin on Species." It has not arrived in these dark lands.
Given that many persons acknowledged an "undeniability" about the emergent Theory of Evolution, society was subsequently placed in a position where an intense and persistent Science versus Religion Debate arose.
Ralph Waldo Emerson was open to giving deep consideration to both Science and Religion!
A passage from Emerson's "Historic Notes of Life and Letters in New England," (penned circa 1867 ~ some six years after his reading of Charles Darwin's "Origin of Species"), can be quoted in demonstration of
this disposition to entertain what to others might seem to have been mutually contradictory systems of belief.
... I think the paramount source of the religious revolution was Modern Science; beginning with Copernicus, who destroyed the pagan fictions of the Church, by
showing mankind that the earth on which we live was not the centre of the Universe, around which the sun and stars revolved every day, and thus fitted to be
the platform on which the Drama of the Divine Judgment was played before the assembled Angels of Heaven, ... This correction of our superstitions was confirmed
by the new science of Geology, and the whole train of discoveries in every department. But we presently saw also that the religious nature in man was not affected
by these errors in his understanding. The religious sentiment made nothing of bulk or size, or far or near; triumphed over time as well as space; and every lesson
of humility, or justice, or charity, which the old ignorant saints had taught him, was still forever true.
It may be that such a consideration of the Science versus Religion debate, featuring examples of the sorts of arguments advanced by those inclined to accept Science or Religion, as is offered on this page has some definite potential as a decisive challenge
to the "New Atheism" of Richard Dawkins and others.
According to Richard Dawkins:-
"not only is science corrosive to religion; religion is corrosive to science. It teaches people to be satisfied with trivial, supernatural non-explanations and blinds them to the wonderful real explanations that we have within our grasp. It teaches them to accept authority, revelation and faith instead of always insisting on evidence."
The Science versus Religion Debate
could actually be conducted
Vivekananda was an Indian Holy Man who made a much appreciated appearance at the Parliament of World Religions which convened in Chicago in 1893.
In his work Religion and Science Vivekananda tells us that:-
Religion deals with the truths of the metaphysical world just as chemistry and the other natural sciences deal with the truths of the physical world. The book one
must read to learn chemistry is the book of nature. The book from which to learn religion is your own mind and heart. The sage is often ignorant of physical science,
because he reads the wrong book - the book within; and the scientist is too often ignorant of religion, because he too reads the wrong book - the book without.
St Paul, in one of his letters to faith communities he was attempting to nurture, states that:-
But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have
entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared
for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his
Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things
of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit
of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man,
but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of
the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the
things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we
speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which
the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with
spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the
Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he
know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
From St. Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 2
It thus becomes possible to suggest that the Faith and Reason debate has long been conducted "at cross-purposes" with Faith upholding what it believes of as being Spiritual Truth, (whilst
tending in many cases to regard scientific truth as being of importance but of ultimately lesser significance), and Reason upholding what it perceives of as being Scientific Truth (whilst often having little or no conception that
Spiritual Truth could be of value or even exist).
A "Metaphysical" Approach
to the reconciliation of
Religion and Science
"You will hear things like, 'Science doesn't know everything.' Well, of course science doesn't know everything. But,
because science doesn't know everything, it doesn't mean that science knows nothing. Science knows enough for us to be
watched by a few million people now on television, for these lights to be working, for quite extraordinary miracles to have taken
place in terms of the harnessing of the physical world and our dim approaches towards understanding it. And as Wittgenstein quite
rightly said, 'When we understand every single secret of the universe, there will still be left the eternal mystery of the human heart.'"
In Philosophy "Metaphysics" is the branch of Philosophy dealing with "being": how things exist, what things really are, what essence is, what it is 'to be' something, etc.
The word comes from a "book" of some thirteen treatises written by Aristotle which were traditionally arranged, by scholars who lived in the centuries after Aristotle's
life-time in the fourth century B.C., after those of his "books" which considered physics and natural science.
Stephen Fry quoting Wittgenstein during a Room 101 TV program of March 2001
There are two worlds, the microcosm, and the macrocosm, the internal and the external. We get truth from both of these by means of experience. The truth
gathered from internal experience is psychology, metaphysics, and religion; from external experience, the physical sciences. Now a perfect truth should
be in harmony with experiences in both these worlds. The microcosm must bear testimony to the macrocosm, and the macrocosm to the microcosm; physical
truth must have its counterpart in the internal world, and the internal world must have its verification outside. Yet, as a rule, we find that many of
these truths are in conflict. At one period of the world's history, the internals become supreme, and they begin to fight the externals. At the present
time the externals, the physicists, have become supreme, and they have put down many claims of psychologists and metaphysicians.
It may be that for want of other terminology directly suited to reference such elusive subject matter the term MetaPhysica, (in Greek it means "after physics" or
"beyond physics"), was adopted in relation to Aristotle's "book" of "metaphysical" treatises.
Aldous Huxley provided a few explicitly introductory pages in his 'The Perennial Philosophy'. This Introduction concludes with these words:-
"If one is not oneself a sage or saint, the best thing one can do, in the field of metaphysics, is to study the works of those who were, and who, because
they had modified their merely human mode of being, were capable of a more than merely human kind and amount of knowledge."
In all districts of all lands, in all the classes of communities thousands of minds are intently occupied, the merchant in his compting house, the mechanist over his plans, the statesman
at his map, his treaty, & his tariff, the scholar in the skilful history & eloquence of antiquity, each stung to the quick with the desire of exalting himself to a hasty & yet unfound
height above the level of his peers. Each is absorbed in the prospect of good accruing to himself but each is no less contributing to the utmost of his ability to fix & adorn human
In William H. Gilman (ed.) The Journals and Miscellaneous Notebooks of Ralph Waldo Emerson, vol II, 1822-1826, 305
It is one of those fables, which, out of an unknown antiquity, convey an unlooked-for wisdom, that the gods, in the beginning, divided Man into men, that he might be more helpful to himself; just as the hand was divided into fingers, the better to answer its end.
The old fable covers a doctrine ever new and sublime; that there is One Man, - present to all particular men only partially, or through one faculty; and that you must take the whole
society to find the whole man. Man is not a farmer, or a professor, or an engineer, but he is all. Man is priest, and scholar, and statesman, and producer, and soldier. In the
divided or social state, these functions are parcelled out to individuals, each of whom aims to do his stint of the joint work, whilst each other performs his. The fable implies,
that the individual, to possess himself, must sometimes return from his own labor to embrace all the other laborers. But unfortunately, this original unit, this fountain of
power, has been so distributed to multitudes, has been so minutely subdivided and peddled out, that it is spilled into drops, and cannot be gathered. The state of society is
one in which the members have suffered amputation from the trunk, and strut about so many walking monsters, - a good finger, a neck, a stomach, an elbow, but never a man.
From Ralph Waldo Emerson's 'The American Scholar' address
Pythaoras was a prominent figure in the intellectual life of the Greek world of the sixth century B.C. Alongside his
widely recognised contributions to mathematics and geometry Pythogoras is also considered to have recognised that there was
evidently a "three-way" complexity to Human Nature:-
Pythagoras who, according to Heraclides of Pontus, the pupil of Plato and a learned man
of the first rank, came, the story goes, to Philus and with a wealth of learning and words
discussed certain subjects with Leon the ruler of the Philasians. And Leon after wondering
at his talent and eloquence asked him to name the art in which he put most reliance. But
Pythagoras said that for his part he had no acquaintance with any art, but was a philosopher.
Leon was astonished at the novelty of the term and asked who philosophers were and in what
they differed from the rest of the world.
Pythagoras, the story continues, replied that the life of man seemed to him to resemble
the festival which was celebrated with most magnificent games before a concourse collected
from the whole of Greece. For at this festival some men whose bodies had been trained sought
to win the glorious distinction of a crown, others were attracted by the prospect of making
gains by buying or selling, whilst there was on the other hand a certain class, and that quite
the best class of free-born men, who looked neither for applause no gain, but came for the sake
of the spectacle and closely watched what was done and how it was done: So also we, as though
we had come from some city to a kind of crowded festival, leaving in like fashion another life
and nature of being, entered upon this life, and some were slaves of ambition, some of money;
there were a special few who, counting all else as nothing, ardently contemplated the nature
of things. These men he would call "lovers of wisdom" (for that is the meaning of the word
~ (Pythagoras was an acknowledged wordsmith and is often credited with originating the term "Philosopher")!
Ancient, classical, Greek philosophy also evidences cogent
suggestions that Human Nature is complex:-
Plato was a pupil and friend of the greek philosopher
Socrates. Amongst the many works attributed to Plato's authorship
is his "The Republic," (composed circa 375 B.C.), wherein is set out a series of discourses
that allegedly took place between Socrates and a number of other
persons who variously arrived and departed as the discussions
It is in this record, made by Plato, of "Socrates? "
philosophising that most intriguing themes are developed -
...can we possibly refuse to admit that there exist in each
of us the same generic parts and characteristics as are found in
the state? For I presume the state has not received them from any
other source. It would be ridiculous to imagine that the presence
of the spirited element in cities is not to be traced to
individuals, wherever this character is imputed to the people, as
it is to the natives of Thrace, and Scythia, and generally
speaking, of the northern countries; or the love of knowledge,
which would be chiefly attributed to our own country; or the love
of riches, which people would especially connect with the
Phoenicians and the Egyptians.
This then is a fact so far, and one which it is not difficult
No, it is not. ...
Jesus' Parable of the Sower, as set out in St Mark's Gospel Chapter 4, features these words in depicting different persons'
reactions to spiritual teachings:-
... Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive
it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of
the word, they quickly fall away. Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of
this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.
Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop ...
How far can it be accepted, in all this evidence of three-way dispositional potential in human behaviours, that Jesus,
(very significantly), in The
Parable of the Sower, effectively presents a view of
earthly Human Existence that
is, (significantly), "broadly shared," by Emerson,
Pythagoras, and Plato / Socrates?
"You will hear things like, "Science doesn't know everything." Well, of course science doesn't know everything. But,
because science doesn't know everything, it doesn't mean that science knows nothing. Science knows enough for us to
be watched by a few million people now on television, for these lights to be working, for quite extraordinary
miracles to have taken place in terms of the harnessing of the physical world and our dim approaches towards
understanding it. And as Wittgenstein quite rightly said, "When we understand every single secret of the universe,
there will still be left the eternal mystery of the human heart."
Stephen Fry quoting Wittgenstein during a Room 101 TV program
The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance - it is the illusion of knowledge.
Daniel J. Boorstin
Science and Religion
It was suggested earlier that:-
Compatible and Complementary?
Very many people would surely prefer that, alongside whatever dissimilarities and differences may be held exist between them, Science and Religion could be seen as
being compatible and possibly even complementary. As having an "openness as to what 'The Truth' is" in common rather than being perpetually in conflict over what The Truth is.
It is hoped that the content of this page will better allow our readers to accept that Science and Religion can both be valid.
Some truly extra-ordinary wisdoms ~ a brief selection of "Central Spiritual Insights"
gleaned from Christian sources closely followed by another brief selection of "Central Spiritual Insights" drawn from "non-Christian"
Inter-Faith sources ~ are set out below!
A selection of "Central Spiritual Insights" gleaned from Christian sources
These Christian quotations have been selected based on their inherent Spiritual Impact, (rather than whether they might be deemed to be
Catholic, Protestant or Orthodox), and come from The New International Version of The Bible.
...the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of
for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them,
because they are spiritually discerned.
- A Disdain for Materialism
Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
- A Distrust of Intellect
- So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.
They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening
of their hearts.
- Spiritual Insights are possible!
- What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely
given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities
with Spirit-taught words. The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them
foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.
- Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does
not love does not know God, because God is love.
- Purity of Heart
- Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, "children of God without fault in a warped and
crooked generation." Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life...
- Nor are you to be called 'teacher,' for you have one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you will be your servant. For
whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
- Therefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man worketh not the
righteousness of God.
"Central Spiritual Insights" drawn from "non-Christian" Inter-Faith sources
Our world seems to be becoming more and more "globalised" presenting us with new challenges of co-existence between cultural communities and of toleration between faith communities!
Extensive studies have been conducted into Comparative Spirituality by ourselves at age-of-the-sage and were actually undertaken before 2000 A.D. and hence prior to that difficult situation,
often overstated as being an actual "Clash of Cultures," that has (however that situation should be depicted) been all too evident in recent years.
As such these studies will hopefully qualify to be considered as having adopted a somewhat open and unprejudiced consideration of the spiritual teachings of
such major World Religions as Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Taoism and Judaism.
In the following brief overview one or two quotes are presented from Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic, Jewish, Sikh and Taoist sources respectively.
Such inclusivity as this is quite clearly necessary in any genuine attempt to present a wide-ranging and profound overview of non-Christian spiritual insights.
Those inclined to look further into Comparative Spirituality can find a link to more detailed studies on other Age-of-the-Sage pages.
- A Disdain for Materialism
- Chuang Tzu put on cotton clothes with patches in them, and
arranging his girdle and tying on his shoes,
(i.e. to keep them from falling off),
went to see the prince of Wei.
"How miserable you look, Sir!" Cried the prince. "It is poverty,
not misery," replied Chuang Tzu. "A man who has TAO cannot be
miserable. Ragged clothes and old boots make poverty, not
Chuang Tzu - (Taoism)
- A Distrust of Intellect
- Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment; Cleverness is mere
opinion, bewilderment intuition.
Rumi - (Sufism ~ a notably mystical, minority, tradition associable with both Sunni and Shia Islam)
- Spiritual Insights are possible!
- The intelligence of the mean man does not rise beyond bribes and letters of
recommendation. His mind is beclouded with trivialities. Yet he would penetrate the
mystery of TAO and of creation, and rise to participation in the ONE. The result is
that he is confounded by time and space; and that trammelled by objective existences,
that he fails apprehension of that age before anything was.
But the perfect man, - he carries his mind back to the period before the beginning.
Content to rest in the oblivion of nowhere, passing away like flowing water, he is
merged in the clear depths of the infinite.
Chuang Tzu - (Taoism)
- He that does everything for Me, whose supreme object I am, who
worships Me, being free from attachment and without hatred to any
creature, this man, Arjuna!, comes to Me.
Bhagavad Gita ~ (Hinduism) ~ also known as ~ (Vedanta).
And my soul is absorbed
In the Love of My Lord.
Bow humbly to the saint
That is a pious act.
Bow to the ground before him
That is devotion, indeed.
The faithless know not,
The joy of the love of the Lord;
From Sohila-Arti ~ a bed-time prayer
This section of which is attributed to Guru Ram Das - (Sikhism)
- Purity of Heart
- The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more
and more unto the perfect day. The way of the wicked is as
darkness: they know not at what they stumble.
Solomon - (Judaism)
- Would you become a pilgrim on the road of love? The first
condition is that you make yourself humble as dust and ashes.
Ansari of Herat - (Islam)
- Let a man overcome anger by love, let him overcome evil by good;
let him overcome the greedy by liberality, the liar by truth!
Speak the truth, do not yield to anger; give, if thou art asked
for little; by these three steps thou wilt go near the gods.
Dhammapada - (Buddhism)
Two particularly noteworthy Faith versus Reason quotes from "non-Christian" sources now follow:-
"Would he had been less full of borrowed knowledge! Then he would have accepted inspired knowledge from his father. When, with
inspiration at hand, you seek book-learning, your heart, as if inspired, loads you with reproach. Traditional knowledge,
when inspiration is available, is like making ablutions in sand when water is near. Make yourself ignorant, be submissive,
and then you will obtain release from your ignorance."
- (Sufism / Islam)
Rumi lived 1207 - 1273, (by the western calendar).
A BBC "Culture" web page of April, 2014
has said of him:-
The ecstatic poems of Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi, a Persian poet and Sufi master born 807 years ago in 1207, have sold millions of copies in recent years, making him the
most popular poet in the US. Globally, his fans are legion.
Vivekananda, (the name-in-religion Vivekananda
translates as - The Bliss of Discerning Wisdom), was a Vedic scholar and Hindu sage who made an
appearance at the Parliament of World Religions that convened in Chicago in 1893 and was generally recognised as having made a singularly important contribution to the
"When there is conflict between the heart and the brain, let the heart be followed, because intellect has only one state, reason,
and within that intellect works, and cannot get beyond. It is the heart which takes one to the highest plane, which intellect
can never reach; it goes beyond the intellect, and reaches what is called inspiration. Intellect can never become inspired; only the
heart when it is enlightened, becomes inspired. An intellectual, heartless man can never become an inspired man. It is always the
heart that speaks in the man of love; it discovers a greater instrument than intellect can give you, the instrument of inspiration. Just
as the intellect is the instrument of knowledge, so is the heart the instrument of inspiration."
Whilst many of our visitors may be now prepared to accept that it has been shown that Faiths can value "Spiritual Insight" over "Rationality"
fuller evidence is available on our pages that Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Taoism and Judaism
are all in agreement that "Human Intellect is to be in some ways distrusted" and that "Spiritual Insight is possible, desirable and profoundly important."