This post is the sixth in a series which explores how to integrate spirituality and science.
The series began by exploring the Wesleyan quadrilateral of Scripture, Tradition, Reason, and Experience. You can find those posts here:
Why The Bible Is Not A Magic Book.
Why Ancient Traditions Are Right Up To Date
Why Reason Is An Important Source Of Truth
Why We Need Experience To Teach Us
The series now shifts to explore how integrating science with our spirituality affects how we understand and experience different facets of our faith. You can follow this part of the series in the following posts:
Choose Your Story
As we move toward the end of the year, Christmas has been on my mind. I’ve been thinking about Charles Dickens’ famous story of Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. It occurred to me that Scrooge’s change of behaviour at the end of the book is based on nothing other than his fear of facing bad consequences for his mistreatment of other people. Dickens’ masterful prose reflects the reality of human behaviour, but it’s not a good model for personal growth.
FROM EGOCENTRIC TO COSMOCENTRIC
Unfortunately too much of contemporary spirituality, particularly in Western society and especially in branches of the Christian faith, is rooted in the same principle as A Christmas Carol. We terrify people with the threat of eternal hell. And then we hope that fear will get them to ‘accept Jesus as their personal Lord and Saviour’, join our church, and change how they live (mostly in terms of their sexuality and giving money to the church). The problem with this strategy is that it does nothing to confront the basic selfishness that harms people, relationships, and society. Egocentric spirituality is no spirituality at all.
All spiritual traditions call us into community in one way or another. The most transforming and generous spiritual traditions lead us to be more connected with others, with the natural world and non-human beings, and with the divine. This is because, as Ken Wilbur and others have noted, authentic spirituality always leads us down a path from being egocentric to becoming ethnocentric to constantly seeking to become cosmocentric. It’s a journey from me to we to all.
THE ILLUSION OF SEPARATION
For most of our history, human beings have been oblivious to the interconnectedness of the universe. Everything was classified and defined by its difference from other things. The entire universe was separated into three tiers, and everyone and everything had its place. To step out of your designated role, or to mix what was different, was to violate the Divine order.
Now we know that all of this separateness is an illusion. Everything in existence connects and communes with everything else. Science is revealing how trees talk, how electrons get entrained, and how small events in one part of the world can have massive effects in another. Everything is connected. That’s the fundamental truth of the universe.
THE WONDER OF SCIENTIFIC SPIRITUALITY
When we face the mystery and magnificence of this interconnectedness in our universe it is confusing and frustrating that faith has been reduced to having a personal Jesus as both boyfriend and bodyguard. Carl Sagan exposed one of the great inadequacies of much contemporary spirituality when he said:
How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, “This is better than we thought! The Universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant?”…A religion, old or new, that stressed the magnificence of the Universe as revealed by modern science might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths.’
There are vast reservoirs of wonder, awe, amazement, gratitude, and even worship that wait to inspire us if we will just allow the sciences to lead us out of ourselves and into a deeper communion with the great interconnected cosmos of which we are a part.
If you want to experience this interconnectedness and the wonder it brings, then these simple practices may be helpful for you:
- Become an observer of the universe. Whether it’s stargazing or bird watching, the cosmos will not be slow to amaze you.
- Be intentional about learning what science is discovering about our universe and its connections. There are hundreds of blog posts, articles, TED talks, books, and podcasts that can lead us into a deeper appreciation of science. Choose your preferred channel and dive in!
- In this moment in history we are all aware of how quickly a tiny virus spread through the world. If that doesn’t reveal how connected we all are, then nothing will. But watch how decisions or events in one part of the world affect others. Notice in your own life how small actions and choices of others impact you, and how yours impact them.
If you have any suggestions for how to bring science and spirituality together for a deeper, more connected life, please share them in the comments. Maybe these questions can be a starting point.
- How is your spirituality leading you out of egocentricity to ethnocentricity and on to a deep and energising cosmocentricity?
- In what ways are you aware of, and able to experience, your connectedness and communion with others, with the natural world, and with the divine?
Now over to you!
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