Beyond Metaphysics-the Integration of Science and Religion
"In order to stay relevant, religion must bring heaven down to earth. It must prove that the kingdom of heaven is 'at hand' and not merely a metaphor of the mind."
What?! The integration of science and religion? Are you crazy? How can two such opposites ever be integrated? Science, the vanguard of free thought, the cutting edge of rational analysis, the bastion of logic. Religion, the realm of immutable sacred dogma, the mother of idealism, home of the supernatural, mysterious and irrational. What could possibly be born from such mismatched parents? At best, only a mixture of the two would seem possible, but not an integration. NOT an integration.
integrate: 1. to bring together or incorporate (parts) into a whole. 2. to make up, combine, or complete in order to produce a whole or a larger unit, as parts do. 3. to unite or combine.When two substances are chemically combined, they form a new substance, such as when we combine sodium and chlorine to get sodium chloride or salt. No one would put chlorine or sodium on their breakfast eggs! But life couldn't go on without salt. Salt is the integration of sodium and chlorine, not just a mixture.
The purpose of Beyond Metaphyics is the integration of science and religion, not merely a mixing or comparison of the two. And just as sodium and chlorine disappear into salt, so will science and religion disappear into...what? What will the integration be? What new 'salt' will it produce? What will we call this new worldview that will define and shape our future? What will the world look like when science and religion are still fully present, but transformed into holism? Will we still use the word God, or the word positivism? Will subjectivity and objectivity be integrated also? How could any of this be possible? And is it even desirable?
One thing is certain: if we do not find a holistic version of these two disciplines, the world will shake itself apart. The integration of science and religion is not only desirable, it is imperative. We are in a crisis of competing worldviews, and of all the forces existent in nature and in humans, "worldview" is the most powerful. It is more powerful than continental drift or religious doctrine. It makes us who we are. And who we are affects everything, especially the world we live in.
If science gets too far ahead in the opinion polls, our world will become dangerously lopsided. Already our planet suffers from a callous disregard for the sanctity of life, because "life is merely a chemical phenomenon". The environment is in some ways beyond repair. But for all the destruction of rain forests, wetlands, and animal species, none of these compare with the destruction of the human spirit brought about by a vision that sees less than half of reality.
Our lives have been stripped of meaning, our sensibilities relativized by the denial of universal truth. Humanity has become homo sapiens, and the human spirit, along with its visions of the Sacred, is being explained away as nothing more than the misfiring of neurons in the brain. How many generations will it take to eradicate God from the human vocabulary? How long will it take for religion to slip into obscurity? And although many say that religion through the actions of fundamentalists of all stripes is the source of most of the world's problems, a world without the possibility of transcendence would soon grow too cynical to bear. It's the light at the end of the tunnel that makes it a tunnel and not a grave.
Since science provides us with so many extraordinary benefits, it's not likely to disappear anytime soon, nor should it. But unless religion can step up to the plate and prove its practicality in this world, it will disappear. At best, it will linger as folk religion, gradually sinking deeper into superstition, and at worst it will become imperiously dogmatic, fueling the fires of radical fundamentalism. In the meantime, the planet will perish, because there will be nothing to sustain us in our spiritual needs.
It's not enough for religion to reserve itself for the inexplicable and mysterious parts of our psyche, to give us an "out" when rationality fails. When religion deals only with the mysterious, it becomes disconnected to everyday life. Superstition and a sense of powerlessness seep in to fill the gap. Instead of enlightened self-awareness, we are taken over by an either/or state of mind. Either there's a causal relationship in the events of our lives, or chance and fate have already written the script.
Neither will it be enough for religion to uphold moral and ethical values. These things in themselves are not sacred. They work, they make sense, they make life better. But the most that morals and ethics can do is tell us about ourselves and the social order we live in. They tell us nothing about God and the reality that lies beyond our senses, the forces that precipitate into our experience from unseen realms. In order to stay relevant, religion must bring heaven down to earth. It must prove that the kingdom of heaven is at hand and not merely a metaphor of the mind.
Approaching religion scientifically
without reducing it to science
There are three components to the scientific method: facts, in order to be facts, must be observable, repeatable, and predictable. The same process, using the same materials and conditions, can be performed any number of times by any number of people, and it will yield the same result. That result must be physically observable, which is to say that two people can measure it and come up with the same data. In order to integrate science with religion, these same rules must apply to religion as well.
How would this work? Let's begin with religion at its mechanical level. One person says, "I can see auras." Another person who also claims to see auras would have to concur with the first person's observations. If the first person sees a blue aura, the second person would also have to see a blue aura. If she didn't, then further tests would have to be made to determine why not. Perhaps the second person's own aura was partially orange and caused her to see the same blue differently, because her aura cancelled out the blue. Or perhaps there were other "external" mitigating factors, such as magnetic fields or sound waves affecting her sight. Any number of factors might be involved, so unless we approach our spiritual work scientifically, our experiences will remain subjective and inconsistent.
Another person might claim to have out-of-body experiences where he visits another realm, a spiritual plane not visible to the physical senses. In order to "prove" the existence of that realm, others would have to go there also, and their observations would have to match his. If they didn't, then further tests would have to be made, etc.
The point of these two examples is that our inner experiences must be verifiable by others. We must be able to show that what we have seen can be seen by anyone who is similarly talented. Otherwise, spiritual experiences become relativized. They fall prey to the mindset that says there are no absolutes, no standards by which we can measure their value. One person's spiritual experiences become just as good as anyone else's, regardless of the results they manifest in that person's life. This is like saying that all books are of equal value, regardless of their authors' qualifications. New knowledge may come along and change the facts, thereby making some books obsolete. But the integrity of the knowledge gained so far is protected, at least until the new evidence can be tested by those who know how. For example, most scientific experiments can only be checked out by other scientists. A layperson wouldn't know where to begin or how to proceed. In the same way, paranormal phenomena can only be investigated by people who have the training and/or innate ability to see paranormal phenomena. A scientist in this case would be the "layperson".
Religionists object to the integration of science and religion because they say that God can neither be proved nor disproved. God is beyond our rational analysis, because God is greater than mind. The lesser cannot comprehend the greater. God can only be approached through faith, and rightfully so, because to apprehend God in any other way would be to make God subordinate to humans. We approach God only with God's permission, when and only when God calls us, not when we summon God. Within the ranks of religion, certain sects reject ritual observances on these grounds. They say that "works" (rituals) are man's attempt to control God and are therefore anti-God. They say that only by faith can we ever hope to experience God's presence, let alone understand "His" ways.
I call this approach to God the "milk run", because it is a concerted effort to avoid the "meat" of esoteric doctrine, which focuses on divine and human interaction, a view that sees God's relationship to humanity as a contractual relationship and not the relationship of King to subject. It emphasizes the rule of law, and not the absolute authority of ruler over ruled. Moses introduced the word "covenant" into the religious lexicon to describe this new relationship to a people who had known only slavery. It doesn't claim that God and humans are equal, but that God can be counted on to respond to humanity's petitions. It sets God up as a "judge", not to condemn or exonerate, but to adjudicate, to weigh the needs and merits of individual cases, to dispose of claims in ways that are lawful and equitable. Wrath and vengeance are not allowed in God's courtroom. Outcomes are predictable and repeatable, because they are based on law, not the whim or mood of a dictator.
The power of esotericism
Esoteric doctrine, which finds its popular, though limited, expression in New Thought religions, such as Unity, Religious Science, and Christian Science, seeks to understand the Law of God. It sees nothing wrong with implementing that Law for the benefit of human affairs. In fact, it regards the use of Law as a gift from God to the Creation, a way for sentient beings to experience freedom and the opportunity to create a better world.
Esoteric doctrine understands the scientific principle of entropy, which states that complex forms seek to resolve themselves into simpler forms. It acknowledges that there is a "downward" pull in the Creation, but it does not call it "evil". Instead, it regards it as an integral and necessary law of matter, one that can be, however, superceded by the law of Spirit.
Spirit, according to esoteric doctrine, animates matter. It is the 'upward' or evolutionary force in the Creation. And just as Adam was portrayed as the caretaker of the Garden of Eden, so is humanity the administrator of spiritual law. Eating the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is a metaphor for losing the consciousness of the superiority of spiritual law over physical law - the principle of mind over matter.
Understanding Divine Law is humanity's salvation from the entropic forces of the world. It doesn't take us out of the world, but it does "keep us from the evil". Jesus' admonition to "follow me" is a call to emulate him by using Divine Law to help and heal all of humanity.
Understanding and utilizing Divine Law sets us on a course of freedom from the grips of blind natural forces, forces which automatically seek homeostasis in the realm of matter. These forces are bound to the principles that govern them and have no choice in the way they carry out their duty. According to esoteric doctrine, they are sub-human and therefore subordinate to humanity. But they are only subordinate if humanity is awake to their true nature. When we do not recognize these forces as "natural", we personalize them and call them the "devil". We give them a 'self', which is bent on our destruction, seeking opportunities to trick us and to make us fail. Science, of course, recognizes the existence of entropic forces, but it does not personalize them. Mainstream religion can learn much from this particular aspect of the scientific worldview.
Proving the world
Science's pursuit to understand and harness the laws of nature is a stepped-down version of the use of Divine Law. It's number one tool is the mind, it's primary laboratory is logic, and it's language is mathematics. Science runs a parallel course with esoteric religion. Both are heading in the same direction - truth.
Science's accomplishments are nothing short of miraculous. We heal the sick, cause the blind to see, and oftentimes raise the dead. Up until now, science has been able to make these strides by steadfastly restricting its activities to the physical world. But recently, in the last one hundred years, it has crossed over the borders of this world into strange territory. Time and space, which used to be fixed phemomena, have shown themselves to be fluid and unpredictable. Matter is no longer solid, and the world is flooded with unseen but powerful energies, more powerful than we can imagine. The energy within the smallest chunk of enriched uranium is enough to power a city or destroy it. This has changed the scientific worldview, causing some scientists to glance over at religion and to reevaluate its symbolic language, looking for clues to unravel the inexplicable.
Because of science, our lives have improved enormously. Journeys across continents that once took months now take hours. Distant countries are in direct communication with the rest of the world. Many of the worst diseases no longer exist. Overall, our quality of life has gotten much better. Whereas the pre-modern world emphasized the caste structure of society, the Postmosern world, through the introduction of the social sciences, has emphasized social equality and justice. Ken Wilber, author of Sense and Soul, calls this the "dignity of modernity".
Though there are many aspects of science that have brought us to the brink of global destruction, this is not the fault of science, but of scientists and those that fund them for the puposes of war and indiscriminate profit. It is here that the split between science and religion has taken its most deadly toll. In the absence of right and wrong, science, for the most part, believes that if something can be done, it should be done.
On the other hand, science's greatest achievement has been to liberate our minds from the dictates of religious dogma. Science demands proof and eschews, at least theoretically, apodictic 'knowledge'. Instead, it fosters curiosity and rewards innovation. It places utility above abstraction, and it is tenacious in its approach to problem-solving. Science at its best is the intellect at its best. But when questions of intrinsic value, moral judgement, and asthetics arise, science is at a loss. It cannot, in fact will not, address these issues. Farthest from its jurisdiction is the question of ultimate cause: who created the universe and why?
Science sees the physical universe as its proper domain. It staunchly refuses to acknowledge any notion of divine origin or intelligent design. It says that the world evolves, or 'ascends', from the simple to the complex and that it does this randomly, without direction. Life emerged from the chance combination of just the right elements at just the right time under just the right circumstances. Science justifies this throw-of-the-dice view of the universe by citing the immensity of time and space, saying that within an infinity of circumstances, anything is possible. Only the random mutations that happen to develop successful survival strategies persist. All others drop out along the way.
Science balances it's understanding of the law of entropy, the "downward" tendency toward homeostasis or stability, with its understanding of the Big Bang, or expanding universe theory, the energy of which is said to empower the apparent ascent of matter in its evolutionary spiral. If we disturb a pool of water, the ripples will persist as long as the disturbance continues. But once the disturbance stops, the surface of the pool will return to its original state of stability. The Big Bang, science believes, was the original "disturbance".
But what, or Who, caused the Big Bang? Scientists willingly disqualify themselves from answering this question. Such a question, to them, is "unscientific". And for scientists, anything "unscientific" is irrlelevant. Huston Smith, author of Why Religion Matters, describes a conversation he had with a colleague at M.I.T. His colleague, a mathematics professor, said that the difference between scientists and philosophers is that philosophers don't count. Mathematics is the language of science, and if you don't speak it, well...no scientist will listen to what you have to say.
Unless science and religion can be integrated, the world will be torn apart by their conflicting worldviews. Neither science nor religion is going away; they are both with us for the long haul. To ignore the conflict between them is to invite disaster on an unprecedented scale. The world itself literally hangs in the balance. "What we have here is a failure to communicate," as Paul Newman said in Cool Hand Luke. Simply going to our separate corners is no longer an option, for all the corners are occupied by us.