Tuesday, 9 August 2016
Religion and Science Dialogue
One of the joys of being retired or at least semi-retired is that I have more time to do some of the thing I would not have had time to do previously (or at least would not have made time for). One of the joys this summer has been to catch up on past episodes of Tapestry, the wonderful CBC radio program on things spiritual and religious hosted by Mary Hines. Mary does a beautiful job of delving into the different subjects and people being interviewed to get at the heart of the subject. The show is often interspersed with humor which I think is wonderful as she delves into the “laughter at the heart of things” (a phrase I must credit to Helen Luke). I would encourage you to listen in to the program which is on CBC Radio 1 on Sunday afternoons or explore past episodes on-line at your leisure.
Another program I have discovered which touches more directly on what I want to discuss today is Faith and Witness, a podcast which explores ecumenism in the church today. It is an undertaking of the Canadian Council of Churches. Faith and Witness explores a number of big theological issues such as salvation from the perspective of different denominations in Canada. The goal is understand where different denominations are on major issues and to explore the common ground among those denominations.
The programs are interesting and ecumenism is a worthwhile undertaking. However, when I was listening to a couple of the episodes I couldn’t help thinking that the discussion would be completely foreign and completely uninteresting to 99.9% of Canadians. I believe what is truly needed most today is a discussion of a common basis/understanding between people of religious faith and the religious none’s as they are classified on the census. A large part of that is, I believe, a lack of common language which will help define what we are talking about. This hopefully might be used to discuss things religious and spiritual from a common starting point. We can also begin to address the assumptions (often wrong) that we have about the different perspectives that people bring to the discussion. This is what the ecumenical movement tries to do with different denominations within Christianity.
This was brought into focus for me by an article in the Globe and Mail this past week. The August 5th edition had an article entitled “Magic in the machine” which explored the phenomenon of consciousness from the current understanding in psychology and neuroscience. Consciousness is a topic which is of great interest to me particularly in the area of dreams and Jungian psychology. There seems to be a great divide between those studying the brain from a scientific basis and those who approach it from the spiritual/metaphysical perspective. There is, I believe a consensus that human being are conscious but consciousness cannot be put under the microscope and examined as a physical entity therefore as quoted in the article, “ The scientific and philosophical consensus is that there is no non-physical soul or ego, or at least no evidence for that.” The implication is that unless scientists can find hard evidence for it, it is not worth discussing.
He article did a good job of exploring the subject given the limits of a short newspaper piece. However, one statement stood out for me and independently for Lorna as well. The article stated, “We no longer believe in a numinous life force, an élan vital. So what’s the big deal about consciousness?” My question is, who is we and what is the statement based on? If there is no numinous life force then this life on earth is all we get. There is no continuation of the life force or soul or spirit beyond the material life we now live. Here we have assumptions and perspectives that are not universal and need to be explored. This is where Tapestry excels in exploring how different aspect of the experience of the Divine play out in our lives.
Richard Rohr does a wonderful job of exploring the False Self or Ego and the True Self which is the person God intends you to be. The ego, despite the lack of evidence for its existence, is a force which often keeps us from God—the ultimate being. It is exactly this ultimate question, which science will never find what it considers satisfactory evidence for the existence of, is one of these issues that keep us in (at least) two solitudes. I will close today with a quote from Richard Rohr which explores the True Self. I may explore this use further if the spirit inspires me to:
Your True Self is that part of you that sees truthfully and will live forever. It is divine breath passing through you. Your false self is that part of you that is constantly changing and will eventually die anyway. It is in the world of passing forms and yet it sees itself as a central reference point—which is never really true. The false self is passing, tentative, or as the Hindus and Buddhists might say, “empty.” Richard Rohr Daily Meditation August 8, 2016
I don’t not have a sermon to share with you today as I had Sunday off from official duties only providing the music for St. Alban’s in Souris. Blessings on your journey.