Wisdom and the Convergence of Science and SpiritualityPosted: August 19, 2012
Wisdom and the Convergence of Science and Spirituality
What is wisdom? Is it common sense? Is it academic smarts? Is it a good business sense, or native shrewdness? Solomon thought he was worldly wise, politically shrewd, and possessed a better than average business sense that helped him to become rich, but he failed in the wisdom department. He failed to discern the spiritual dimensions of life that lead to true greatness. He eliminated everyone who might challenge his power. He had his older brother, Adonijah, executed. Then Solomon ordered the commander of the army, Joab to be assassinated, while he was holding on to the horns of the altar in the Temple. Some might say this was shrewd politics, but it set the tone for a dynasty that would end in murder and assassination. He failed to discern the disastrous spiritual course he was setting for the Kingdom.
Solomon was also astute in foreign relations. He sealed treaties with the surrounding Kingdoms and Empires by marrying princesses from those royal courts. And when those foreign wives brought with them foreign gods Solomon was broadminded about allowing the worship of their idols in Jerusalem. Again he failed to discern how the behavior of the royal family would lead the rest of the nation into idolatry. Solomon also became vain, and in his ambition to build Jerusalem into a first class capital City, he employed forced labor and levied heavy taxes upon the tribes of the North. By the end of his reign the ten Northern tribes revolted, broke away from Jerusalem and set up their own rival Kingdom. Wisdom is as wisdom does. And so while Solomon was wise in worldly ways, he failed to discern true spiritual wisdom.
During September and October around the Sharing Table we will explore some of the convergences between science and spirituality that might lead to greater wisdom. And this morning allow me to introduce the topic of consciousness.
One of the books I will be using is entitled, The Physics of Consciousness. I have some excerpts from the book available this Sunday, and if you want a copy of the book it is available on Amazon. The author, Evan Harris Walker, a physicist, postulates that consciousness is real, and he claims the reality of consciousness in the “observer” is the only reasonable solution to Bell’s Theorem. I cannot enter into a complete explanation of Bell’s Theorem or Walker’s argument here, and let me acknowledge that his thesis is not universally accepted, however, the implication of the argument is that consciousness interacts with the physical world. Consciousness is real. Materialism the belief that only acknowledges physical objects as “real” misses the mark. The world as it appears to our senses is not the truth of reality.
For instance the pews we are sitting in this morning appear to be solid. Take your knuckles and rap on the wood — feels solid, sounds solid. But that solid wood is made up of billions and billions of atoms, and the atoms are made of protons, neutrons and electrons. And even within the atom there is more empty space than there are particles, and even those particles are made up of still smaller things until all we really have is energy. Matter is made of energy, and consciousness is energy. Is it possible that our prayers as well as our pews are real? And if consciousness interacts with the physical world, then maybe we can listen again to Jesus: “If you have faith you can say to this mountain move, and it will move.” Jesus was using overstatement as a teaching tool, but maybe our imaginations and our prayers are more important than we might have supposed. Is it possible that our prayers as well as our pews are real?
Several contemplative spiritual traditions including Christian mysticism have made the claim that at some fundamental level all things in the Universe are connected. The Universe is one. We are all part of one universal energy system. Jesus said that if we are to find ourselves, we must be willing to lose ourselves, and I take that to mean that in order to find ourselves in relationship to the rest of the Universe, we have to be willing to make a change in consciousness and give up the illusion of the ego dominated “I,” (me, myself and I) that wants to see ourselves as separate and over against the rest of creation.
When we experience ourselves over against the rest of creation, we are led into four manifestations of false consciousness. The first expression of false consciousness is that we must see others as competitors and enemies. We relate to others with hostility and seek conflict rather than harmony and resolution.
Two brothers were left a large piece of property by their father. For months they fought over how the land should be divided. Finally, they brought their problem to their rabbi and asked him to solve it.
“Come back tomorrow,” said the rabbi, “and we’ll talk.”
The next day the sons returned and the rabbi gave them his solution.
“Toss a coin,” he said to one of the brothers. “You call it, heads or tails,” he said to the other. “The one who
wins the toss, divides the land.”
“That’s no solution,” said one of the brothers. “We’re right back where we started from.”
“Not so,” said the rabbi. “The one who wins the toss divides the land; but the other gets first choice.”
Selfishness is another manifestation of the false consciousness that accompanies viewing ourselves over against the rest of creation. The Gordon Gecko character in the film Wall Street was the pre-eminent example of the false consciousness of selfishness.
“The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind. And greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA.”
A corollary to the false consciousness of greed is the need to accumulate – to accumulate because there is never enough. If I am over against the rest of creation, then I will not share, and there is never enough. I must continually accumulate against the day, when there may not be enough. In the Parable of the Rich Fool Jesus points out the foolishness of accumulation: “‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”
Perhaps the most dangerous manifestation of our false consciousness is our exploitation and destruction of our environment. If we are going to survive on this planet, we need to discern how to live in harmony with the earth. Our environment is not a thing, an object to be exploited, rather we are part of the very ecosystem we inhabit — a living breathing organism. If we cannot learn to live sustainably, we will become extinct.
Despite our numbers we human beings need to begin to think of ourselves as an endangered species – endangered by our own false consciousness. Jared Diamond in his classic study, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, documents how civilizations in the past have undone themselves by living unsustainably. I take this as a very clear warning for our consumer economy and the whole world. Our environment is a living, breathing, fragile organism, which can only tolerate so much abuse. We are approaching a tipping point with climate change, over fishing, deforestation, overpopulation. We may have even gone past the tipping point, and the world is in free fall already. We just don’t know it yet. We also threaten our own existence with nuclear weapons. Unless we can re-orient our ego dominated over against the rest of creation consciousness to appreciate that we are a part of the whole, we are one, we will not survive.
Like Solomon we believe we are so smart, but we are not wise. We are all connected. We are all one. That’s not socialism, it’s wisdom. Jesus invites us to offer up self-consciousness in prayer and embrace Christ consciousness – God consciousness.
If we are going to find ourselves, we must be willing to lose ourselves, and in the process we might save ourselves and the whole world withus.