March 2012 - The Third Way (Part 1) ~ another in the "Ancient Wisdom for Modern Times" series
The Third Way (Part 1 of 3)
by Peter Canova
Many divisions exist within our global human society — within and among religions, among national and political ideologies, among men and women, among rich and poor, among differing cultures — and that’s just to name a few. This essay will address one of the most fundamental divisions affecting modern humanity: the division between religion and science.
These two branches of human endeavor deal with the most basic questions of our existence — who we are, where did we come from, why are we here and what is the nature of the world in which we live? Philosophy too deals with these questions, but philosophy is really the by-product of these two more fundamental pillars of inquiry into the human condition.
We can go about our daily business. We can think that politics, economics, wars and social interactions are the things that most affect our lives, but that is a misperception.
Everything begins with the individual.Remember this premise because we’ll come back to it again.
All the greater movements of the world and societies occur because of beliefs that start in the mind of the individual. The mind of the individual is largely shaped by the collective, accumulated knowledge of human history.
Knowledge in turn derives from three primary sources — sensory experience and logical reasoning as in science or from intuitive revelation, which is related to abstract or creative thinking.
How do you believe that life started? How is it maintained? Was it all caused by random particle interactions that somehow created increasingly complex organisms and ultimately led to life?Or, do you believe that life and the universe as we know it is grounded in a conscious intelligence that pervades creation?
Perhaps you’re simply confused by the question and just don’t know. Either way, your basic convictions about these matters influence the quality of your personal life and the character of our cultures, institutions, nations and human conditions.
If you believe that life is pure random chance as secular science says, that can lead to a certain outlook of how you live and conduct yourself in this existence. It might cause conscious or subconscious feelings of futility and fear, both of which have consequences for physical and psychological well being. Of course, believing in God doesn’t necessarily immunize you from problems and people can certainly hold distorted, fearful notions of God. Misguided religious zealots often cause far more damage than morally responsible atheists.
So, how can we proceed to a better understanding of life?
The common denominator between secularism and religious dogmatism is FEAR. It is the fear of not truly knowing — at a gut level — that we are part of a continuing whole as opposed to transient specks that might permanently blip out of existence at any time.
And, a way does exist to transcend the limitations of secular science and traditional religion. It has to do with the practice of acquiring a particular type of knowledge and experience that puts you in contact with a higher intelligence.
Such an experience gives you a certainty that you exist within a larger framework than the visible, material world. It opens you to receiving information to help you live life, to perceiving new patterns in the fabric of life that can help you evolve physically and spiritually. It can help you become independent of the beliefs and dogmas of others. The basis of this knowledge has support in both the new sciences and recovered ancient spiritual traditions.
Before humans formed complex societies, knowledge derived from two sources:
The rise of traditional materialist science
The simplistic traditional conception of God as a bearded old emperor on a throne in heaven dispensing stern justice for our sins or rewards for our good deeds was greatly eroded in the last century by the discoveries of materialist science. Unfortunately, this liberation from a limiting religious concept was replaced by an equally limiting scientific concept.
Materialistic science developed over the past few centuries using a combination of rationalistic deduction and empirical observation of the properties of matter and material organisms. The central notion of materialist science is that creation, life and reality arise from and can be explained by the interaction of physical particles. In other words, matter is the "be all" and "end all" of existence.
The view says that particle interaction gives rise to molecules that combine to form not only planets and physical laws, but also simple organisms. These organisms continue combining in greater complexity culminating in human beings.
Consciousness is explained as a by-product of the neural activity of a physical brain. One thing to note — in this scheme of creation, no adequate theory has explained how organic life evolved from inorganic particle matter. Scientists either ignore this issue or explain it away by dubious (and un-scientific) suppositions.
This materialist picture of creation is a basic orientation or worldview. It expresses itself in many forms, but three theories in particular stand out as the cornerstones that shaped the modern human mind:
Suppressed by the Church for centuries, science lashed out on all fronts with a vengeance. Because creation, life and reality could now apparently be explained by materially-based processes, any notion of God, higher intelligence or or transcendent consciousness was taken out of the equation. God was dead.
The materialist orientation spread to every form of human thought. The Bible was systematically deconstructed and relegated to amusing myth at best — harmful mind control at worst. And, ironically, the success of science in taking down religion was predicated on the fact that traditional Western religion was itself materially- based despite purporting to be spiritual.
Orthodox Christianity misunderstood the archetypical, symbolic meaning of the Christian story.
This focus on literal and material events left traditional religion right on the home field of materialist science. Dismantling the historicity and miracles of the Bible or, at least, casting grave doubt on them, was easy using scientific material rationalism.
After all, you can mathematically quantify the apple falling from the tree, but how can you prove a formula for raising the dead?
Polarization and psychological fragmentation of humanity
The shift from religion to science has had a profound effect on the psychology, feelings and outlook of every person on the planet.
We now live in a polarized world.
The assault of science has driven many people back into a limiting, fundamentalist interpretation of God and religion, often with violent results. Islamic fundamentalism is largely a reaction to people’s religious comfort being torn out from under them by the onslaught of a modern, materialistic world outlook.
In the middle of this polarization is a large gray area of people who are confused and disheartened. Thanks to science, they no longer believe in religion, but in facing life’s difficult problems, they have an innate spiritual yearning that persists like a smoldering ember and they sense that atheistic science can never fan that intuitive spark into the flame of awareness.
And, traditional religion and traditional science have one other thing in common besides their materialistic outlooks on life — they have both done an efficient job of suppressing the human spirit.
Another path exists to explain creation, reality and the human dilemma.
It is a path of hope — for it unifies advanced sciences such as quantum physics with the core precepts of an ancient spiritual wisdom buried within every major religion on earth. As more people become aware of this relationship, it will transform our lives in ways that will liberate us from literal religion and atheistic science. It will provide a viable framework to understand many of life’s mysteries and put some sense of control back into our lives.
. . . Continued next month in Part 2 . . . There are 3 parts to this essay, which we will use for our March, April and May 2012 monthly newsletters.
© Peter Canova, 2012, all rights reserved. Used by permission of the author. Thank you, Peter!
About the Author: Peter Canova is an author and speaker. He has written a novel called Pope Annalisa (popeannalisa.com), the first book in a trilogy called the First Souls. Pope Annalisa is a spiritual thriller about an African nun who becomes the first female pope. It has won numerous awards including the Nautilus Gold Award for visionary fiction formerly bestowed on such authors as Eckhart Tolle, Deepak Chopra and the Dalai Lama.
Our comment: We have met the Peter Canova, taken one of his workshops and are currently re-reading his novel, Pope Annalisa, which keeps our interest from the first page to the last, with surprise after surprise and twist after twist, through very well-developed characters and a unique story premise. In addition to being great fiction, it provides examples of ways that the world could be different - a story of hope when things look the darkest. Peter is an exceptional teacher who writes extremely well. The book has already won quite a number of prestigious awards. It will likely become a best-seller and a movie. No matter your personal belief system, it provides interesting views of many different philosophies and historical events that help to "set the stage" for the world we live in today and how we might live in the future. It's the best book we've read in quite a while. Very well done!
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