Archive for November 10th, 2009

The crowning achievement of the scientific method is the doctrine of falsifiability: “The supreme triumph of reason is to cast doubt upon its own validity,” Miguel De Unamuno.

The goal is to formulate an hypothesis and then do everything possible to find at least one instance where it fails. If only this same logic were systematically applied to everything we think. Imagine it: All is hypothesis. All of science, therefore, is a grand koan asking: What is it that I know and how do I know it?

Proportionately speaking, we utter more statements of opinion than inquire in ways that invite exploration. We need science to keep us from flying off willy-nilly into realms of abject fantasy. So, one might ask, how can belief ever be reconciled with the virtues of science? Easily, really.

It is in forming a powerful hypothesis, informed by all available experience and with an ample measure of creatively anticipate possibilities, that belief has a place. Then we subject it to a rigorous test to keep from the sin of narcissus: falling in love with our own reflection.

Can there truly be a marriage of spirituality and science? Absolutely. Absent that marriage, science is cold and irrelevant. Witness the history of science and the moments of discovery. They were flights of imagination tempered with discipline resulting in a tearing of the time-line in our understanding of how things work.

It took a Copernicus to envision a heliocentric solar system, a Kekule following the lead of his  “waking dream on a London bus” of atoms grouping themselves, Einstein’s life-long fascination with light and how one can travel on  it,  and the discovery of transcendental numbers ( requiring only that one look more deeply in-between the numbers we took to be the final story).

It is pure nonsense to say that science, religion and spirituality are incompatible. On the contrary, the one feeds the other when both are mature. If motivated by arrogance or fear, neither does any good whatsoever, and, in fact, can do a great deal of harm.

As much as from sacred scripture, science, logic, and mathematics are replete with Koans in the form of paradoxes and befuddling challenges that require an authentic metanoia: a shift not merely in what we know, but how we know it.

Posing one for this evening’s meditation:

American logician John Myhill wrote: ” No non-poetic account of reality can be complete.”

How do I account for reality completely?

© Brother Anton and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Read Full Post »

Several posts back, I presented a Sanzen moment around a Western Koan-like teaching from the Gospel of Thomas: “Jesus said: Be Passers-By.”

“How do you show this?”

I received two thoughtful replies and I am returning to it this morning having meditated on it myself, since posing it, with the following results:

One commentary interprets this as counsel to be an itinerant, peripatetic pastor, a wandering bishop offering the message and then moving on to the next place and time: a Johnny Appleseed of the “Good News.” Within the context of the times and the expectation that end times were not far off, abandoning all to the mission at hand seems a reasonable basis for the teaching. But, there is so much more to it as it continues to instruct and reach into my psyche in November, 2009.

What is my first immediate gut reaction to the question: How do you show what it means to be a passer-by?

Next question?!

The Teacher of Righteousness speaks to our need to dwell, ruminate, hyper-masticate, and confabulate. We are masters of tall towers, majestic edifices to the powers of imagination. His aim is to cultivate the free-flowing fountain of direct and spontaneous, unfettered, whole bodied and disinhibited intuition as a balance for the gifts of intellect and emotion. What flows into mind as I say this is the separate admonition to “be again as little children.” Surely, this isn’t a call to whining, pouting, tantrums, food fights, truculence, biting, soiling, or breaking perfectly good toys. The Divine Child, the Platonic Form, the pristine image of the puer, is one of vital instantaneity, playful movement from one thing to the next without too great a residue that might interfere with the next big wonder.

My grandmother, an unschooled peasant from Southern Italy, was the wisest person I’ve met. She had no reluctance to pick up a crayon and draw with the children. She did so not to entertain us and keep us company but because she found it pleasurable. She would laugh hard when things were funny and cry hard when things were bad. She found joy in the simplest things and loved company, eating, singing, drinking a good red table wine, and then on to tomorrow. We found her, after her passing, in bed with a smile on her face.

Being a passer-by is to set the neurotic preoccupations aside by annihilating time. The only way to annihilate time is to dwell in an experience so completely that time itself stops. We have all experienced just this when we become so engrossed that when next we step out of the elan vital we are surprised at how far the clock on the wall has moved.

The beauty of a koan is that there is always more in it, more fruit to taste, more depth to hear, and so I pose it once more as I step into my day:

What is it to “be a passer-by,” and am I living this counsel?

© Brother Anton and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.


Read Full Post »