In attempting to penetrate the cultural prejudices against spiritual experience, I sometimes feel a certain historical sympathy for those arguing against flat-earthers. The doubter could argue against the roundness of the earth by insisting that he has never had any reason to believe that the world isn’t flat. That his experience was limited to a ten-mile radius around his place of birth didn’t matter much.
Against declarations of faith in the existence of God, the scientific materialist will often say things like “Well, I know that when I jump off a bridge, I’ll fall into the river. You can’t say that about God.” When I describe my experience of spirituality, including events that can’t be explained by accepted scientific theory, I am told “Well, it’s OK for you to believe in God.” That these events are just as real to me (and others that have witnessed them) as jumping off a bridge seems to escape their grasp. I really don’t need anyone’s permission to have them – and as scientists shouldn’t they be at least at little bit curious as to why I do and they don’t?
I have suggested that Christ doesn’t create faith through force – but rather by posing people a problem bigger than they can solve, and then giving the power to solve it. When my children worried to me about my financial circumstances, I always said to them “Well, money is only a means of storing power – and all my power is wrapped up in trying to solve a very, very difficult problem. There’s just none left over to save.” But because love does not wait, I am confident that if the problem can be solved at this point in history, it will be solved. Otherwise, well, I’ll have left some bread on the water for when I come back to try again.
So I might suggest that the difference between me and those that judge my faith is humility. Scientists are really proud of their science, and of the skills and strength of mind that allows them to apply it. Conversely, my experience includes being told by a fortune teller one night “Brian, we know that you think that you’re failing, but try and remember what it would have been like if you hadn’t been here at all.”
So if the problem for the scientist is pride, do they have no basis for their pride? I would say that, yes, they do have a basis for pride. We have turned the world into a garden, and so tend to forget that nature is just a terribly destructive place. Science – which is the study of the behavior of things that don’t have personality – has allowed us to mitigate against disease, predation and the elements, and helped us to anticipate and manage natural disasters. That success is obtained with theories that completely ignore personality. So we think of the animals in a stock yard as simple meat factories. The trees that we chop down are just wood.
The value of the scientific pursuit is, of course, to extend our lives, but it does so at the cost of our spirituality. Living is the opportunity to do work on our souls through the experience of having a body. We need to reclaim that ground from the scientific mindset that sees us as simple flesh popsicles, dancing on the axonic threads that originate in our brains. We need to reclaim our personality – which is to say the conscious engineering of our souls through engagement with the physical reality around us.
And when we have surrendered our pride and greed, an even greater adventure awaits us: calling out of hiding those spirits that we have terrorized with our science, and bringing their skills to bear in creating a garden that serves all the forms of life on Earth, rather than just humanity.