Posted: Thu Jan 13, 2005 10:15 am Post subject: FAITH AND SCIENCE
One of the premises or assertions of esoteric traditions like ours is that through inner development and enrichment one gets the strength to overcome and endure material discomforts and pain. The following article that appeared in today’s Calgary Herald discusses an initiative that is being undertaken to prove or establish this scientifically. It would be interesting to see how far they can progress.
Can faith reduce pain?
The Associated Press
Thursday, January 13, 2005
Call it the Joan of Arc effect.
Scientists, ethicists, theologians and philosophers want to know whether a person on a pyre feels less pain if they have religious beliefs -- like the saint who invoked the name of God when she was burned at the stake -- and they are putting this question to the test.
Researchers at Oxford University's new Center for the Science of the Mind said Wednesday they will try to discover the scientific basis for human consciousness, how beliefs are formed and whether they can ameliorate suffering.
Researchers will show volunteers religious symbols while applying mild heat to the backs of their hands, said neuroscientist Susan Greenfield, professor of synaptic pharmacology at Oxford who heads the new centre.
"That will enable us to look at the subjective element of pain and how it is alleviated in various ways," she told British Broadcasting Corp. radio.
"One of the experiments is therefore to show people religious symbols . . . to see if that helps."
Greenfield said the centre, which will have equal numbers of researchers from the sciences and the humanities, is the first of its kind in Britain, and possibly Europe.
The centre is being developed with $2.4 million Cdn in funding from the John Templeton Foundation to support the first two years of work. The foundation, based in West Conshohocken, Pa., promotes research into the relationship between theology and science.
Posted: Fri Jan 14, 2005 5:27 pm Post subject: Our Mental Habits, Brain and Ibaadat
It is generally known that bad or good habits are ingrained in our brains; i.e. they are part of the chemistry of our brains or how they are wired neurologically and hence difficult to change. The following footnote to The Second Coming of Christ explains how Ibaadat can change the wiring and the chemistry of the brain.
"Through meditation...you can set the stage for important mind - and habit -altering brain change," concluded Herbert Benson, M.D., Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, after extensive research reported in his book, Your Maximum Mind (New York: Random House, 1987), "Over the years," he writes "you develop 'circuits' and 'channels' of thought in your brain. These are physical pathways which control the way you think, the way you act, and often, the way you feel. Many times, these pathways or habits become so fixed that they turn into what I call 'wiring'. In other words, the circuits or channels become so deeply ingrained that it seems almost impossible to transform them."
However, advances in medical technology have enabled scientists for the first time to measure the profound effects of meditation on neuroplasticity - the mind's ability to alter the electrical patterns by which habits and deeply rooted behavioral tendencies are stored in the brain. An article in The Wall Street Journal (January 10, 2003) by its science writer Sharon Begley discussed new evidence that "alterations in brain wiring... could be induced by meditation." She reported research conducted by neuroscientist Dr. Richard Davidson at the University of Wisconsin, which is focused on various forms of Buddhist meditation: "After eight weeks, and again 16 weeks later, EEG measurements showed that activity in the frontal cortices of the meditators had shifted: There were now more neuronal firings in left than right regions nestled just behind the forehead. That pattern is associated with positive feelings such as joy, happiness and low levels of anxiety, professor Davidson and others had found in earlier studies."
Dr. Davidson is quoted in the article as saying: "The idea that our brains are the result of the unfolding of a fixed genetic program is just shattered by the data on neuroplasticity."
"Scientific research has shown that electrical activity between the left and right sides of the brain becomes coordinated during certain kinds of meditation or prayer," Dr. Benson writes. "Through these processes, the mind definitely becomes more capable of being altered and having its capacities maximized...When you are in this state of enhanced left-right hemispheric communication...'plasticity of cognition' occurs...If you focus or concentrate on some sort of written passage which represents the direction in which you wish your life to be heading, [this] more directed thought process will help you to rewire the circuits in your brain in more positive directions...When we change our patterns of thinking and acting, the brain cells begin to establish additional connections, or new 'wirings'. These new connections then communicate in fresh ways with other cells, and before long, the pathways or wirings that kept the phobia or other habit alive are replaced or altered...Changed actions and a changed life will follow. The implications are exciting and even staggering."
Posted: Sun Feb 13, 2005 3:22 am Post subject: Human Nonlocal Connections
Our Pirs, through Farmans and Ginans, have told us in numerous ways that the Murshid is always close and connected to His Murids. One way of feeling that closeness is through love and ecstacy. Pir Sadardin in the Ginan "Sakhi Maari Aatma Odhaar" says:
sakhee hi(n)che hinnddollaa khaatt ke saas usaase re
maaraa a(n)gaddaa maa utthee chhe laher piyaajee ke paase re......3
O my Friend! My breath is swaying like a swing. Ripples of love gush within my body when I am near my Beloved.
Mowlana Rumi in his poem says:
"When in my heart the lightning of love arises
I know it is flashing and rearing in His heart also.
And when in ecstacy I can say only His Name
I know it is His Passion that erupts from me."
The following footnote from The Second Coming of Christ, illustrates the above through the scientific explanation of nonlocal connections involving humans who are in loving or empathatic relationship with each other. When there is real love between two individuals, a correlation exists between the wave tracings in their respective brains indicating that they are connected though at a distance from each other. Interesting!
Spirituality and medicine researcher Larry Dossey, M.D., reports experimental verification of the mechanism behind this form of "distant healing" in his book, Be Careful What You Pray For...You Just Might Get It (New York: HarperCollins, 1997): "For a decade, a research team led by Jacobo Grinberg-Zylberbaum at the Universidad National Autonoma de Mexico City, has performed experiments examining the electroencephalograms (EEGs or brain wave tracings) of subjects who are far removed from each other...While the distant subjects are sitting quietly, there is no correlation in the pattern of their respective EEGs. But when they allow a feeling of emotional closeness or empathy to develop between them, the EEGs begin to resemble each other, often to a striking degree. No type of energy or signal can be detected to pass between the distant individuals. Moreover, the statistical correlations between the distant EEG patterns do not diminish when the subjects are moved farther apart. This defies one of the hallmarks of energy as defined in physics - its decrease in strength with increasing distance from its source. Also, the EEGs remain equally correlated if the subjects are placed in metal-lined boxes, which block ambient electromagnetic energy...
"Grinberg-Zylberbaum's team, along with physicist Amit Goswami, of the Department of Physics and the Institute of Theoretical Science at the University of Oregon, propose that these 'transferred potentials' between brains demonstrate 'brain-to-brain nonlocal....correlations...' Nonlocal correlations have been a concern of physicists since they were proposed by Einstein, Rosen, and Podolsky in 1935....They were demonstrated experimentally in a celebrated study in 1982 by physicist Alain Aspect and his colleagues. Physicists assumed that nonlocal connections exist only between subatomic particles such as electrons and photons. But the pioneering work of Grinberg-Zylberbaum, Goswami, and their colleagues, which they have replicated, strongly suggests that nonlocal events occur also between human beings....
"But the connections between distant humans are not automatic. The researchers asked the subjects to try to 'feel each other's presence even at a distance.' If they did not, the distant EEG correlations were totally absent. This implies that love and empathy are required for distant connections between people to take place, and it is consistent with the universal belief that distant healing depends on love, caring, and compassion."
"In the concept of Islam, Allah is eternal, His creation knows no limit in time, nor in form and as a result He creates when He will, when He wishes, when He wills, how he wishes, where He wishes and man's perception of science is therefore nothing more than the perception of God's creation, His continuous creation, and there is no conflict between Islam and science but at the same time do not make the mistake of becoming vain and proud, simply because technology surrounds you. On the contrary, those who are most qualified in scientific subjects today are often the most humble and the most convinced in their attitude to the existence of Allah and therefore as you prepare for the future, do not shun the technological era, but do not make the mistake of thinking that, that era is the creation of man." (Silver Jubilee Mulaqat, NewYork, June 14th, 1983)
The following article gives an example of one of the most qualified scientist who has been able to wisely reconcile science and faith as per the Farman above.
A life where science and faith coexist
By Robert Tuttle | Contributor to The Christian Science Monitor
NEW YORK - When Nobel Prize-winning physicist Charles Hard Townes was a professor at Columbia University during the 1950s, a colleague, Willis Lamb, asked him if God ever helps him in the lab. Dr. Townes gave the question some thought. "Well," he recalls telling Lamb. "I think so."
For centuries, scientists and religious scholars have sparred over questions about the workings of the universe. Galileo's espousal of a sun-centered universe, rather than the earth-centered model widely accepted at the time, landed the 16th-century astronomer in court, accused of heresy.
More recently, scientists and religious leaders have disagreed over everything from the big bang theory of the origin of the universe to the teaching of evolution in schools to the debate over stem-cell research.
But even in these often discordant worlds, Townes has found little difficulty in reconciling his Christian faith with the empiricism of scientific inquiry.
"I don't think that science is complete at all," says the 89-year-old physicist. "We don't understand everything and one can see, within science itself, there are many inconsistencies. We just have to accept that we don't understand."
Within the great unknowns of the universe, Townes argues there is ample room for faith in God and His presence in human experience.
On Wednesday, Townes was awarded this year's Templeton Prize for progress or discoveries about spiritual reality. The award includes a cash prize of £795,000 sterling ($1.4 million).
"The real focus of the prize really seems to resonate with Dr. Townes's interest for the past 30 years, which is how to break down the barriers between science and religion," says Sir John Templeton, president of the foundation that bears his name and which awards the prize.
The award, Townes says, is "a great honor, but it is also very humbling."
Townes is best known for his groundbreaking research in the 1950s into the amplification of electromagnetic waves, for which he shared the Nobel Prize in physics with two other scientists in 1964. The research eventually led to his invention of the maser (microwave amplification by stimulated emission) and later the laser (light amplification by stimulated emission).
Both inventions have had an impact on a range of different scientific and industrial fields. Masers are used to amplify radio waves, and lasers have become commonplace in everything from welding to communications to medicine.
Born in 1915, on a farm in Greenville, S.C., Townes was raised a Baptist. He was immersed in the wonders of the Blue Ridge Mountains near his home.
As a child, he says, he loved to explore the natural world around him, collecting insects and especially butterflies. The marvels of nature, he says, helped spark a curiosity about the universe and man's place within it. To this day, he remains an avid naturalist and accomplished bird watcher.
"I knew I wanted to be a scientist," he says, speaking of his childhood. "Which kind of scientist was the question."
Townes took his first physics class in his sophomore year of college and went on to earn a PhD in physics from the California Institute of Technology in 1939.
For much of the next decade, Townes worked on the technical staff at Bell Telephone Laboratories in New York City, where, he says, he once talked about his research with Albert Einstein.
Townes tackled a variety of problems at Bell including microwave generation, vacuum tubes, and solid-state physics.
In 1948, Townes joined the faculty of Columbia University and spent most of the remainder of his professional career in academia, moving to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1961 and then to the University of California at Berkeley in 1967.
There he focused on astrophysics, discovering the existence of molecules in interstellar space and a black hole at the center of the Milky Way.
Today he remains on UC Berkeley's faculty, working with graduate students and researching.
"Now, I'm looking at stars," he says, describing his current research interests. "I'm looking at their behavior. Most people don't realize that stars are changing pretty rapidly."
For all his interest in scientific inquiry, Townes says it has never led to a crisis of faith. He exhibits a strong sense of rationalism in his approach to both science and religion.
"He is very interested in the foundations of religion and faith-based concepts and he discusses them in a manner that is very attractive for fellow scientists," says Marvin Cohen, president of the American Physical Society and a close colleague of Townes. "He really thinks before he speaks. If there is an opposite of a loose cannon, that would be Charles Townes."
In 1966, Townes published "The Convergence of Science and Religion," an article that detailed some of his thoughts on the relation between religion and science.
"They are much more similar than people generally accept," Townes says. "Science has faith. We make postulates. We can't prove those postulates, but we have faith in them."
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"As people have certainly been influenced by me, I want to try and correct the enormous damage I may have done." (Anthony Flew)
The newspapers these days are echoing with these regret-filled words by Anthony Flew, in his time a well-known atheist philosopher. The 81-year-old British professor of philosophy Flew chose to become an atheist at the age of 15, and first made a name for himself in the academic field with a paper published in 1950. In the 54 years that followed, he defended atheism as a teacher at the universities of Oxford, Aberdeen, Keele and Reading, at many American and Canadian universities he visited, in debates, books, lecture halls and articles. In recent days, however, Flew has announced that he has abandoned this error and accepts that the universe was created.
The decisive factor in this radical change of view is the clear and definitive evidence revealed by science on the subject of creation. Flew realised, in the face of the information-based complexity of life, that the true origin of life is intelligent design and that the atheism he had espoused for 66 years was a discredited philosophy.
Flew announced the scientific reasons underlying this change in belief in these terms: "Biologists' investigation of DNA has shown, by the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce [life], that intelligence must have been involved." (1)
"It has become inordinately difficult even to begin to think about constructing a naturalistic theory of the evolution of that first reproducing organism." (2)
"I have been persuaded that it is simply out of the question that the first living matter evolved out of dead matter and then developed into an extraordinarily complicated creature." (3)
The DNA research which Flew cites as a fundamental reason for his change of opinion has indeed revealed striking facts about creation. The helix shape of the DNA molecule, its possession of the genetic code, the nucleotide strings that refute blind chance, the storage of encyclopaedic quantities of information and many other striking findings have revealed that the structure and functions of this molecule were arranged for life with a special design. Comments by scientists concerned with DNA research bear witness to this fact.
Francis Crick, for instance, one of the scientists who revealed the helix shape of DNA admitted in the face of the findings regarding DNA that the origin of life indicated a miracle:
An honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that in some sense, the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle, so many are the conditions which would have had to have been satisfied to get it going.
Based on his calculations, Led Adleman of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles has stated that one gram of DNA can store as much information as a trillion compact discs. (5)
Gene Myers, a scientist employed on the Human Genome Project, has said the following in the face of the miraculous arrangements he witnessed:
"What really astounds me is the architecture of life?The system is extremely complex. It's like it was designed?There's a huge intelligence there." (6)
The most striking fact about DNA is that the existence of the coded genetic information can definitely not be explained in terms of matter and energy or natural laws. Dr. Werner Gitt, a professor at the German Federal Institute of Physics and Technology, has said this on the subject:
A code system is always the result of a mental process?It should be emphasized that matter as such is unable to generate any code. All experiences indicate that a thinking being voluntarily exercising his own free will, cognition, and creativity, is required?There is no known natural law through which matter can give rise to information, neither is any physical process or material phenomenon known that can do this. (7)
Creationist scientists and philosophers played a major role in Flew's acceptance of intelligent design, backed up by all these findings. In recent times Flew participated in debates with scientists and philosophers who were proponents of creation, and exchanged ideas with them. The final turning point in that process was a discussion organised by the
Institute for Metascientific Research in Texas in May, 2003. Flew participated together with author Roy Abraham Varghese, Israeli physicist and molecular biologist Gerald Schroeder, and Roman Catholic philosopher John Haldane. Flew was impressed by the
weight of the scientific evidence in favour of creation and by the convincing nature of his
opponents' arguments, and abandoned atheism as an idea in the period following that discussion. In a letter he wrote for the August-September, 2003, edition of the British magazine Philosophy Now, he recommended Schroeder's book "The Hidden Face of God: Science Reveals the Ultimate Truth" and Varghese's book "The Wonderful World."(
During an interview with the professor of philosophy and theology Gary R. Habermas, who also played a major role in his change of mind (9), and also on the video "Has Science Discovered God?," he openly stated that he believed in intelligent design.
The "Intelligence Pervading the Universe" and the Collapse of Atheism
In the face of all the scientific developments outlined above, the acceptance of intelligent design by Antony Flew, famous for defending atheism for many years, reflects a final scene in the process of collapse being undergone by atheism. Modern science has revealed the existence of an "intelligence pervading the universe," thus leaving atheism out of the equation.
In his book "The Hidden Face of God," Gerald Schroeder, one of the creationist scientists who influenced Flew, writes:
"A single consciousness, a universal wisdom, pervades the universe. The discoveries of science, those that search the quantum nature of subatomic matter, have moved us to the brink of a startling realization: all existence is the expression of this wisdom. In the laboratories we experience it as information that first physically articulated as energy and then condensed into the form of matter. Every particle, every being, from atom to human,
appears to represent a level of information, of wisdom." (10)
Scientific research into both the functioning of the cell and the subatomic particles of matter has revealed this fact in an indisputable manner: Life and the universe were brought into being from nothing by the will of an entity possessed of a superior mind and
wisdom. There is no doubt that the possessor of that knowledge and mind that pervade the universe at all levels is Almighty Allah. Allah reveals this truth in the Qur'an:
Both East and West belong to Allah, so wherever you turn, the Face of Allah is there. Allah is All-Encompassing, All-Knowing." (Qur'an, 2:115)
The following article discusses the significance of emotional intelligence in the overall success of a person. Emotional intelligence is associated with aspect of life connected to the practice of faith viz, feelings of compassion, self control, joy, peace etc. IQ on the other hand is a measure of our rational ability which we associate with science and logic.
Emotional intelligence: more important than IQ?
by Sylvia Sensiper
Are you able to respond with the appropriate emotions in a difficult family environment? Are you empathetic with colleagues, but still able to manage stressful business situations? Are you aware of your emotions and able to cope on a daily basis? If so, you may have a high degree of what experts are calling "emotional intelligence," and it may be what brings you success in life.
Daniel Goleman certainly thinks so. As the author who first brought the term to public awareness in his 1995 best-selling book, Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ, Goleman has positioned himself at the center of a small cottage industry concerned with the concept of "emotional intelligence." He is the CEO of Emotional Intelligence Services, the co-chairman of the Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations, and a popular speaker on the worldwide lecture circuit.
One of Goleman's main goals is to expand our notion of intelligence and show that "self-control, zeal and persistence, and the ability to motivate oneself" are crucial life skills. Like Howard Gardner, the Harvard University educator who proposed that "intelligence" has at least seven different varieties, Goleman seeks to influence the way we educate our children and ourselves. According to Goleman, our communal and ethical life depends on self-restraint and compassion, and the skills associated with emotional intelligence. Unlike intelligence quotient (IQ), which is considered an absolute given from birth, emotional intelligence is thought to be cultivated and enhanced throughout life.
Because his ideas are so intriguing, Goleman's work has become prominent in the way our culture looks at emotions. Goleman borrowed the phrase "emotional intelligence" from two academic researchers and then used scholarly research to support his ideas. This gave the book a more "popular" orientation than the work of the original researchers, Mayer and Salovey.
Borrowing from academia
John Mayer, Ph.D., a University of New Hampshire psychologist and Peter Salovey, Ph.D., a psychologist at Yale University, began writing about emotional intelligence in the late 1980s. Acknowledging that emotions and intellect are often thought of as opposites, the two professors began to consider what might be the consequences of a beneficial interaction between the two.
Research had already shown that strong feelings can help people perceive new alternatives or make better choices. Deep emotions, they reasoned, might even make human thinking more rational and profound. This led them to propose that "emotional intelligence"—that is, intelligence inspired by strong emotions—might in fact, make the difference between a conventional decision and a brilliant innovation. In Mayer and Salovey's example, emotional intelligence might mean the difference "between constructing the Brooklyn Bridge, with its renowned beauty, [or building]...the more mundane 59th Street Bridge." The authors also proposed that emotional intelligence "allows us to think more creatively and use our emotions to solve problems."
Blending ideas with science
Goleman was granted permission by the two authors to use the phrase "emotional intelligence," and then expanded on the concept in many ways. Like Salovey and Mayer, Goleman was interested in the interaction of the emotions and the intellect. But as a science writer rather than a scholar and academician, Goleman had freer rein to generalize from a very wide range of data. Citing neurologic evidence indicating that the amygdala and the prefrontal lobes of the brain are responsible for our emotional responses while the neocortex and other limbic structures are responsible for our rational thinking mind, Goleman constructed his basic argument.
He reasoned that "in a sense, we have two brains, two minds, and two different kinds of intelligence: rational and emotional." He also maintained that our use of emotional intelligence is as important in life as our intellectual capability. Hence was born an autonomous notion of "emotional intelligence" that had very distinct and different characteristics from the kind of intelligence associated with IQ.
In his seminal work, Goleman described five domains that delineate the parameters of emotional intelligence.
Self-awareness- The ability to recognize a feeling as it is happening is fundamental to emotional intelligence. If we are unable to notice our emotions, we can be overwhelmed and can flounder at the mercy of these strong feelings.
Managing emotions- The ability to maintain an even keel or bounce back quickly from life's upsets builds on the preceding skill. We want to have a sense of control over our emotions so that we can deal with them appropriately.
Self-motivation- Underlying the accomplishment of any sort of goal is the ability to marshal our emotions in pursuit of that end. For creative tasks, focus and mastery (learning to delay gratification and stifle inappropriate desires) are important skills, and emotional control is essential.
Recognizing the emotions of others- "People" skills are based on a capacity for empathy and the ability to stay tuned to the emotions of others. Empathy kindles altruism and lies at the basis of professions that deal with caring for others, such as teaching, management, and the healing arts.
Handling relationships- Interpersonal effectiveness is dependent on our ability to manage the emotions of others. Brilliant projects and innovative insights are often never realized because of a lack of social competence and leadership skills.
The future of emotional intelligence
Goleman is not alone in the field. In fact, the concepts of emotional intelligence and the related idea of "emotional literacy"—fluency in all domains associated with emotional intelligence—have spawned a host of experts writing books and developing seminars and workshops. At the heart of the interest and discussion is one very important issue: while many abilities associated with emotional intelligence are innate, "emotional intelligence" is thought of as a set of learned skills. This, in turn, raises the question of whether it should be important to our overall social agenda.
Goleman's book, in fact, ends with a discussion of educational settings in which children are learning to attend to their emotions and manage their impact. In his later work, and in that of many of his colleagues, there is a concern about applying "emotional intelligence" to business situations and other broad life situations.
We probably all know someone whose brilliance is evident, but who has not had much success in life because of social ineptness or a lack of motivation. We probably also have friends who are vastly successful based simply on their abilities to handle social and business situations with finesse and care. The arguments about "emotional intelligence" have brought to public attention the need to consider intelligence as something other than IQ.
Gardner was one of the first to point out the limitations of IQ as a measure of intelligence. Only logical-mathematical and linguistic abilities are measured by IQ, and Gardner claims that human beings express many more kinds of "intelligences."
The Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations
Applies the concept of emotional intelligence to the workplace.
The Institute for Health and Human Potential
Provides training in emotional intelligence for individuals and corporations. They also have books available for parents interested in applying the concept of emotional intelligence in parenting.
The use of prayer and other spiritual practices to improve health dates back thousands of years, to Hippocrates and also to Maimonides. The incorporation of spirituality into ancient medicine seems to be not simply because of the lack of diagnostic and therapeutic tools available during those times (vastly different from our modern-day technology), but also because spirituality provided a way for doctors to approach care for fellow human beings.Maimonides wrote, "May I never see in the patient anything but a fellow creature in pain."
The sentiment of this statement points to the need for humility in medicine and the willingness for doctors to be equal to those they are treating—medicine as a partnership, an ancient concept which is gaining new recognition, respect and understanding. The acknowledgment of the influence of spirituality on healing and on the healer may help restore a balance and sense of humanity where it may be lacking in the modern practice of medicine.
For certain cultures, such as Native American Indians, the use of prayer and spiritual practices has been a constant part of medical care. In fact, one author on the subject writes that "intuition and spiritual awareness are a [Native American] Healer's most essential diagnostic tools."
The concept of prayer and spirituality seems, in some ways, to be at the crux of mind-body medicine, of how thoughts and energy may influence health and healing. Many different types of practices may help a person develop a spiritual connectedness and a balance of energy; some examples include prayer, meditation, journaling, yoga, and tai chi, among others. What all these practices seem to have in common is that they allow a person to achieve some degree of internal clarity and emotional balance with each session, while the most profound effects may occur as these techniques become part of a daily routine.
Prayer and other practices may be done alone or with a group or in a community. In a communal setting, prayer may help lessen feelings of isolation and strengthen feelings of connection and belonging as well as improve one's sense of personal identity and self-esteem.
What are prayer, religion and spirituality?
Spirituality and religion are not necessarily the same thing. Religion is thought to be a belief in and deference to a God or other higher being. Prayer can be thought of as an act of profound awe, respect, even love for this higher being and generally takes the form of either confession, praise, or thanksgiving.
Spirituality is described as neither tangible nor material, with the spirit representing "the essential nature of a person." Spirituality is thought to pertain to the ultimate meaning and purpose of life. There may be a heightened awareness of and concern for such matters when a person is ill or facing death.
Prayer is often used in a religious context to connect to one's own spirit, to spiritual affairs, and to God or another supernatural being. But it's important to point out that prayer can be practiced outside of a religious context, and that the connection to one's spirit and to God may occur through processes other than prayer, such as those mentioned above, like meditation, yoga, tai chi, and journal writing.
How might spirituality and prayer help?
There are differing theories on how spirituality can enhance health. First, spiritual practices, including prayer, may give a person a sense of empowerment or control. That is, the person in need of healing is actively getting involved in his or her own care. In fact, even if prayer has no direct impact on the outcome of the specific medical problem, it may bring a sense of comfort that, for overall wholeness and well-being, is very important.
For example, a large percentage of women undergoing treatment for infertility use a ritual such as prayer on the day of a scheduled procedure. While such a process does not increase the likelihood of becoming pregnant, it allows the women to feel subjectively better as they go through the process of trying to become pregnant.
Secondly, spiritual practices may make a person feel more at ease when facing death or other difficult circumstances. In one study, 13 people who used prayer prior to having coronary artery bypass surgery were interviewed following successful surgery and discharge from the hospital to find out how prayer helped them through the process. Without exception, they each said that their individual form of prayer helped them face uncertainty and the possibility of death; by the time of their surgery, they each felt accepting of whatever might happen. In addition, post-bypass patients who prayed experienced less depression, a fairly common feeling after this procedure, following the surgery compared with those who did not pray.
Two other possible explanations for the healing effect of spirituality include the placebo effect and the relaxation response. In this context, the placebo effect refers to the belief by the person that prayer will help him or her—just that belief may stimulate healing.
Prayer and other spiritual practices, such as those mentioned above, can elicit the "relaxation response," which refers to a process in the body that reduces levels of circulating stress hormones. In turn, the heart rate is slowed, blood pressure is lowered, and immune function may even be improved.
How might spirituality and prayer hurt?
There are instances, however, when trying to incorporate spirituality into health care can have negative effects. For example, some people with serious illnesses, such as cancer in particular, may feel that their prayers were not heard or that they did something wrong through their individual process of praying if there were negative outcomes.
For some people, the very thought or idea of prayer, religion or spirituality brings up feelings of self-doubt, self-judgment, fear or concern. For others, prayer and religion bring out true symptoms of depression.
Therefore, you should only use spiritual practices to gain comfort or insight if this is a fitting and appropriate approach for you as an individual. It's important to remember that there is no right or wrong way to do any of these practices. It may, though, be a matter of finding a particular practice that fits and works best for you personally.
What accounts for the resurgence of interest in ethereal matters in medicine? Some say that managed care, which has reduced the time physicians can spend with patients has raised the desire to focus attention on matters that are of deep personal importance to patients. The thought, in part, is that if a person engages in conversations about spiritual beliefs with a physician, then this may help restore the more "old fashioned" patient-doctor relationship and facilitate healing.
"Faith and healing," by L Gundersen. Annals of Internal Medicine,January 2000, Volume 132, pp 169-172.
"Spiritual conflicts associated with praying about cancer," by EJ Taylor, et al. Psychooncology, September 1999, Volume 8, pp 386-94.
By TENZIN GYATSO
Published: November 12, 2005
SCIENCE has always fascinated me. As a child in Tibet, I was keenly curious about how things worked. When I got a toy I would play with it a bit, then take it apart to see how it was put together. As I became older, I applied the same scrutiny to a movie projector and an antique automobile.
At one point I became particularly intrigued by an old telescope, with which I would study the heavens. One night while looking at the moon I realized that there were shadows on its surface. I corralled my two main tutors to show them, because this was contrary to the ancient version of cosmology I had been taught, which held that the moon was a heavenly body that emitted its own light.
But through my telescope the moon was clearly just a barren rock, pocked with craters. If the author of that fourth-century treatise were writing today, I'm sure he would write the chapter on cosmology differently.
If science proves some belief of Buddhism wrong, then Buddhism will have to change. In my view, science and Buddhism share a search for the truth and for understanding reality. By learning from science about aspects of reality where its understanding may be more advanced, I believe that Buddhism enriches its own worldview.
For many years now, on my own and through the Mind and Life Institute, which I helped found, I have had the opportunity to meet with scientists to discuss their work. World-class scientists have generously coached me in subatomic physics, cosmology, psychology, biology.
It is our discussions of neuroscience, however, that have proved particularly important. From these exchanges a vigorous research initiative has emerged, a collaboration between monks and neuroscientists, to explore how meditation might alter brain function.
The goal here is not to prove Buddhism right or wrong - or even to bring people to Buddhism - but rather to take these methods out of the traditional context, study their potential benefits, and share the findings with anyone who might find them helpful.
After all, if practices from my own tradition can be brought together with scientific methods, then we may be able to take another small step toward alleviating human suffering.
Already this collaboration has borne fruit. Dr. Richard Davidson, a neuroscientist at the University of Wisconsin, has published results from brain imaging studies of lamas meditating. He found that during meditation the regions of the brain thought to be related to happiness increase in activity. He also found that the longer a person has been a meditator, the greater the activity increase will be.
Other studies are under way. At Princeton University, Dr. Jonathan Cohen, a neuroscientist, is studying the effects of meditation on attention. At the University of California Medical School at San Francisco, Dr. Margaret Kemeny has been studying how meditation helps develop empathy in school teachers.
Whatever the results of this work, I am encouraged that it is taking place. You see, many people still consider science and religion to be in opposition. While I agree that certain religious concepts conflict with scientific facts and principles, I also feel that people from both worlds can have an intelligent discussion, one that has the power ultimately to generate a deeper understanding of challenges we face together in our interconnected world.
One of my first teachers of science was the German physicist Carl von Weizsäcker, who had been an apprentice to the quantum theorist Werner Heisenberg. Dr. Weizsäcker was kind enough to give me some formal tutorials on scientific topics. (I confess that while listening to him I would feel I could grasp the intricacies of the full argument, but when the sessions were over there was often not a great deal of his explanation left behind.)
What impressed me most deeply was how Dr. Weizsäcker worried about both the philosophical implications of quantum physics and the ethical consequences of science generally. He felt that science could benefit from exploring issues usually left to the humanities.
I believe that we must find a way to bring ethical considerations to bear upon the direction of scientific development, especially in the life sciences. By invoking fundamental ethical principles, I am not advocating a fusion of religious ethics and scientific inquiry.
Rather, I am speaking of what I call "secular ethics," which embrace the principles we share as human beings: compassion, tolerance, consideration of others, the responsible use of knowledge and power. These principles transcend the barriers between religious believers and non-believers; they belong not to one faith, but to all faiths.
Today, our knowledge of the human brain and body at the cellular and genetic level has reached a new level of sophistication. Advances in genetic manipulation, for example, mean scientists can create new genetic entities - like hybrid animal and plant species - whose long-term consequences are unknown.
Sometimes when scientists concentrate on their own narrow fields, their keen focus obscures the larger effect their work might have. In my conversations with scientists I try to remind them of the larger goal behind what they do in their daily work.
This is more important than ever. It is all too evident that our moral thinking simply has not been able to keep pace with the speed of scientific advancement. Yet the ramifications of this progress are such that it is no longer adequate to say that the choice of what to do with this knowledge should be left in the hands of individuals.
This is a point I intend to make when I speak at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience today in Washington. I will suggest that how science relates to wider humanity is no longer of academic interest alone. This question must assume a sense of urgency for all those who are concerned about the fate of human existence.
A deeper dialogue between neuroscience and society - indeed between all scientific fields and society - could help deepen our understanding of what it means to be human and our responsibilities for the natural world we share with other sentient beings.
Just as the world of business has been paying renewed attention to ethics, the world of science would benefit from more deeply considering the implications of its own work. Scientists should be more than merely technically adept; they should be mindful of their own motivation and the larger goal of what they do: the betterment of humanity.
Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, is the author of "The Universe in a Single Atom: The Convergence of Science and Spirituality."
Women observe subconsciously a thousand little details, without knowing they are doing so. Their subconscious mind adds these little things together--and they call the result intuition.
From "Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom," by Christiane Northrup, M.D.:
I believe that modern medical preference for drugs and surgery as treatments is part of the aggressive patriarchal or addictive approach to disease. That which is natural and nontoxic is seen as inferior to the “big guns” of drugs, chemotherapy, and radiation. Drug-free, natural methods of treatment with well-studied, well-documented benefits, such as therapeutic touch, are ignored. Treatments that offer complementary care are denigrated. Studies that demonstrate their worth are ignored as well. A classic example of a disregarded study—and there are many—is one on the effects of prayer. This study was truly double-blind: Neither the doctors, the nurses, nor the patients knew who was being prayed for. But the patients in a coronary intensive care unit who were prayed for, by a group who didn’t know who they were praying for, were far less likely to go into heart failure, need cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), need artificial breathing (endotracheal intubation), develop infection or pneumonia, or require diuretics than the patients in the unit who were not prayed for.
If a drug had shown an effect this striking, it would be considered unethical not to use it. Given these benefits and the total absence of side effects of prayer, a true scientist would be fascinated with this data and want to study the effects even further. Yet when Dr. Bernie Siegel posted this paper on the bulletin board in the doctors’ lounge of his hospital, within a few hours, a colleague had written “Bull....!” across the front page!
The addictive system considers the body to be subordinate to the brain and its dictates of reason. It often teaches us to ignore fatigue, hunger, discomfort, or our need for caring and nurturing. It conditions us to see the body as an adversary, particularly when the body is giving us messages that we don’t want to hear. The culture often tries to kill the body-as-messenger along with its message. Yet our own body is the best health system we have—if we know how to listen to it.
It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.
From "Wellness," by Brian Luke Seaward, Ph.D., p. 29 in The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Body-Mind Discipline, Edited by Nancy Allison:
The wellness paradigm holds that there is no separation between mind, body, spirit, and emotions. All aspects of the human condition are so tightly connected that it is impossible to distinguish one from the other. An ancient theory that is supported by many experts in several disciplines suggests that each aspect of the human condition is comprised of energy, with the most dense energy being the most obvious and tangible: the physical body. Here are definitions for each aspect of the wellness paradigm:
* Emotional well-being is best defined as the ability to feel and express the entire range of human emotions from anger to love, and to control them, not be controlled by them.
* Physical well-being is defined as the optimal condition of each of the body's physiological systems. These include pulmonary, cardiovascular, nervous, immune, reproductive, urinary, endocrine, musculoskeletal, and digestive.
* Mental well-being is understood as the ability to gather, process, recall and communicate information. Like a computer, the mind can gather and store mass quantities of information.
* Spiritual well-being is defined as the maturation of higher consciousness as developed through the dynamic integration of three facets: relationships (internal, how you relate to yourself and a higher power, however you conceive this to be; and external, how you relate and interact with all people in your life), a personal value system, and a meaningful purpose in life.
Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.
From "The Healing Power of Faith," by Harold Koenig:
Over the years, Duke University's Center for the Study of Religion/Spirituality and Health's scientists have led over fifty major research projects on the relationship between faith and health. More than seventy data-based, peer-reviewed papers published in medical and scientific journals have resulted from these projects...
Many of the center's studies have produced groundbreaking findings:
People who regularly attend church, pray individually, and read the Bibl have significantly lower diastolic blood pressure than the less religious. Those with the lowest blood pressure both attend church and pray or study the Bible often.
People who attend church regularly are hospitalized much less often than people who never or rarely participate in religious services.
People with strong religious faith are less likely to suffer depression from stressful life events, and if they do, they are more likely to recover from depression than those who are less religious.
The deeper a person's religious faith, the less likely he or she is to be crippled by depression during and after hospitalization for physical illness.
Religious people have healthier lifestyles. They tend to avoid alcohol and drug abuse, risky sexual behavior, and other unhealthy habits.
Elderly people with a deep, personal ("intrinsic") religious faith have a stronger sense of well-being and life satisfaction than their less religious peers. This may be due in part to the stable marriage and strong families religious people tend to build.
People with strong faith who suffer from physical illness have significantly better health outcomes than less religious people.
People who attend religious services regularly have stronger immune systems than their less religious counterparts. We found that people who went to church regularly had significantly lower blood levels of interleukin-6, which rises with unrelieved chronic stress. High levels of IL-6 reflect a weakened immune system, which, in turn, increases the risk of infection, autoimmune disease, and certain cancers.
Religious people live longer. A growing body of research shows that religious people are both physically healthier into later life and live longer than their nonreligious counterparts.
True healing has more to do with listening and unconditional love than fixing people.
-Gerald Jampolsky & Diane V. Cirincione
From "Love, Medicine and Miracles," by Bernie Siegel:
Exceptional patients have the ability to throw statistics aside—to say, "I can be a survivor"—even when the doctor isn't wise enough to do so. Just think of the courage it took for someone to conquer a certain type of cancer that no one else had ever conquered before...
The belief systems of physicians and patients interact, but patients' bodies respond directly to their own beliefs, not their doctors'. Physicians tend to be more logical, statistical and rigid, and less inclined to have hope, than their patients. When physicians run out of remedies, they're likely to give up. They must realize, however, that lack of faith in the patient's ability to heal can severely limit that ability. We should never say, "There's nothing more I can do for you." There's always something more we can do, even if it's only to sit down, talk, and help the patient hope and pray.
The usual attitude of doctors is summed up perfectly in the experience of Stephanie... After the diagnosis of cancer, her doctor outlined the rest of her life, as predicted by statistics, right into an early grave. She asked what she could do, and he told her, "All you've got is a hope and a prayer." She said, "How do I hope and pray?" He replied, "I don't know. It's not my line." Her experience had taught her how to hope and pray, and Stephanie has altered the course of her disease, exceeding expectations, and her doctor is now making notes about her success. Later she wrote that this doctor, in mentioning hope and prayer, "was actually prescribing the one medication that was going to cure me, and he never even knew it."
You have to take it as it happens, but you should try to make it happen the way you want to take it.
From "Close to the Bone: Life-Threatening Illness and the Search for Meaning," by Jean Shinoda Bolen:
I think of affirmations and visualizations as tapping into the power of the imagination, which is a generator and transformer, a force that precedes and shapes who we become, and what we create and achieve. Whenever we attempt something new or difficult, we have to be able to imagine it before it becomes possible. It's the combination of inspiration and perspiration that brings about tangible results. Healing is no different, especially if you have a life-threatening illness. Here, for example, your doctor's attitude and words are a powerful help or hindrance to your getting well or not.
I think of doctors as having the equivalent of green thumbs or black thumbs, as in gardening. The doctor who is a healer taps into the power of positive imagination and vice versa. He or she recruits the innate healing power of nature by expectations that come through words and attitude that this will help, that this will heal, and whatever the medicine does — or the surgery or the radiation — is enhanced by positive expectations. The message is passed on to the body through emotion-colored pictures in our mind, and the body responds.
This is also what happens when we use visualizations and affirmations. We produce, write the script, and cast these emotion-colored pictures that enhance the healing process, focusing the energies of mind and body on the possibility of positive results.
Before you read any further, stop and close your eyes for a moment. Now consider the following question: for the moment your eyes were closed, did the world still exist even though you weren't conscious of it? How do you know? If this sounds like the kind of unanswerable brain teaser your Philosophy 101 professor used to employ to stretch your philosophical imagination, you might be surprised to discover that there are actually physicists at reputable universities who believe they have answered this question—and their answer, believe it or not, is no.
Now consider something even more intriguing. Imagine for a moment the entire history of the universe. According to all the data scientists have been able to gather, it exploded into existence some fifteen billion years ago, setting the stage for a cosmic dance of energy and light that continues to this day. Now imagine the history of planet Earth. An amorphous cloud of dust emerging out of that primordial fireball, it slowly coalesced into a solid orb, found its way into gravitational orbit around the sun, and through a complex interaction of light and gases over billions of years, generated an atmosphere and a biosphere capable of not only giving birth to, but sustaining and proliferating, life.
Now imagine that none of the above ever happened. Consider instead the possibility that the entire story only existed as an abstract potential—a cosmic dream among countless other cosmic dreams—until, in that dream, life somehow evolved to the point that a conscious, sentient being came into existence. At that moment, solely because of the conscious observation of that individual, the entire universe, including all of the history leading up to that point, suddenly came into being. Until that moment, nothing had actually ever happened. In that moment, fifteen billion years happened. If this sounds like nothing more than a complicated backdrop for a science fiction story or a secular version of one of the world's great creation myths, hold on to your hat. According to physicist Amit Goswami, the above description is a scientifically viable explanation of how the universe came into being.
Goswami is convinced, along with a number of others who subscribe to the same view, that the universe, in order to exist, requires a conscious sentient being to be aware of it. Without an observer, he claims, it only exists as a possibility. And as they say in the world of science, Goswami has done his math. Marshalling evidence from recent research in cognitive psychology, biology, parapsychology and quantum physics, and leaning heavily on the ancient mystical traditions of the world, Goswami is building a case for a new paradigm that he calls "monistic idealism," the view that consciousness, not matter, is the foundation of everything that is.
A professor of physics at the University of Oregon and a member of its Institute of Theoretical Science, Dr. Goswami is part of a growing body of renegade scientists who in recent years have ventured into the domain of the spiritual in an attempt both to interpret the seemingly inexplicable findings of their experiments and to validate their intuitions about the existence of a spiritual dimension of life. The culmination of Goswami's own work is his book The Self-Aware Universe: How Consciousness Creates the Material World. Rooted in an interpretation of the experimental data of quantum physics (the physics of elementary particles), the book weaves together a myriad of findings and theories in fields from artificial intelligence to astronomy to Hindu mysticism in an attempt to show that the discoveries of modern science are in perfect accord with the deepest mystical truths.
Quantum physics, as well as a number of other modern sciences, he feels, is demonstrating that the essential unity underlying all of reality is a fact which can be experimentally verified. Because of the enormous implications he sees in this scientific confirmation of the spiritual, Goswami is ardently devoted to explaining his theory to as many people as possible in order to help bring about what he feels is a much needed paradigm shift. He feels that because science is now capable of validating mysticism, much that before required a leap of faith can now be empirically proven and, hence, the materialist paradigm which has dominated scientific and philosophical thought for over two hundred years can finally be called into question.
Interviewing Amit Goswami was a mind-bending and concept-challenging experience. Listening to him explain many ideas with which he seemed perfectly at home, required, for me, such a suspension of disbelief that I at times found myself having to stretch far beyond anything I had previously considered. (Goswami is also a great fan of science fiction whose first book, The Cosmic Dancers, was a look at science fiction through the eyes of a physicist.)
But whether or not one ultimately accepts some of his more esoteric theories, one has to respect the creativity and passion with which he is willing to inquire. Goswami is clearly willing to take risks with his ideas and is fervently dedicated to sharing his investigation with audiences around the world. He speaks widely at conferences and other forums about the exciting discoveries of the new science and their significance, not only for the way science is done, but for society as a whole. In India, the country of his birth, he is actively involved in a growing organized movement to bridge the gap between science and spirituality, through which he is helping to pioneer a graduate institute in "consciousness studies" based on the premise that consciousness is the ground of all being.
Goswami is considered by some to be a pioneer in his field. By attempting to bring material realism to its knees and to integrate all fields of knowledge in a single unified paradigm, he hopes to pave the way for a new holistic worldview in which spirit is put first. In fact, as far as we know, he is the only new paradigm scientist who is taking a clear stand against the relativism so popular among new age thinkers. At a time when the decay of human values and the erosion of any sense of meaning has reached epidemic scale, it is hard to imagine what could be more important than this.
And yet, for all the important and valuable work he seems to be doing, in the end we are left with serious reservations as to whether Goswami's approach will ultimately lead to the kind of transformation he hopes for. Thinkers such as Huston Smith and E. F. Schumacher have pointed to what they feel is an arrogance, or at least, a kind of naiveté, on the part of scientists who believe they can expand the reach of their discipline to somehow include or explain the spiritual dimension of life. Such critics suggest that the very attempt to scientifically validate the spiritual is itself a product of the same materialistic impulses it intends to uproot and, because of this, is ultimately only capable of reducing spirit, God and the transcendent to mere objects of scientific fascination.
Is science capable of proving the reality of the transcendent dimension of life? Or would science better serve the spiritual potential of the human race by acknowledging the inherent limits of its domain? The following interview confronts us with these questions.
WIE: In your book The Self-Aware Universe you speak about the need for a paradigm shift. Could you talk a bit about how you conceive of that shift? From what to what?
Amit Goswami: The current worldview has it that everything is made of matter, and everything can be reduced to the elementary particles of matter, the basic constituents—building blocks—of matter. And cause arises from the interactions of these basic building blocks or elementary particles; elementary particles make atoms, atoms make molecules, molecules make cells, and cells make brain. But all the way, the ultimate cause is always the interactions between the elementary particles. This is the belief—all cause moves from the elementary particles. This is what we call "upward causation." So in this view, what human beings—you and I—think of as our free will does not really exist. It is only an epiphenomenon or secondary phenomenon, secondary to the causal power of matter. And any causal power that we seem to be able to exert on matter is just an illusion. This is the current paradigm.
Now, the opposite view is that everything starts with consciousness. That is, consciousness is the ground of all being. In this view, consciousness imposes "downward causation." In other words, our free will is real. When we act in the world we really are acting with causal power. This view does not deny that matter also has causal potency—it does not deny that there is causal power from elementary particles upward, so there is upward causation—but in addition it insists that there is also downward causation. It shows up in our creativity and acts of free will, or when we make moral decisions. In those occasions we are actually witnessing downward causation by consciousness.
WIE: In your book you refer to this new paradigm as "monistic idealism." And you also suggest that science seems to be verifying what a lot of mystics have said throughout history—that science's current findings seem to be parallel to the essence of the perennial spiritual teaching.
AG: It is the spiritual teaching. It is not just parallel. The idea that consciousness is the ground of being is the basis of all spiritual traditions, as it is for the philosophy of monistic idealism—although I have given it a somewhat new name. The reason for my choice of the name is that, in the West, there is a philosophy called "idealism" which is opposed to the philosophy of "material realism," which holds that only matter is real. Idealism says no, consciousness is the only real thing. But in the West that kind of idealism has usually meant something that is really dualism—that is, consciousness and matter are separate. So, by monistic idealism, I made it clear that, no, I don't mean that dualistic kind of Western idealism, but really a monistic idealism, which has existed in the West, but only in the esoteric spiritual traditions. Whereas in the East this is the mainstream philosophy. In Buddhism, or in Hinduism where it is called Vedanta, or in Taoism, this is the philosophy of everyone. But in the West this is a very esoteric tradition, only known and adhered to by very astute philosophers, the people who have really delved deeply into the nature of reality.
WIE: What you are saying is that modern science, from a completely different angle—not assuming anything about the existence of a spiritual dimension of life—has somehow come back around, and is finding itself in agreement with that view as a result of its own discoveries.
AG: That's right. And this is not entirely unexpected. Starting from the beginning of quantum physics, which began in the year 1900 and then became full-fledged in 1925 when the equations of quantum mechanics were discovered, quantum physics has given us indications that the worldview might change. Staunch materialist physicists have loved to compare the classical worldview and the quantum worldview. Of course, they wouldn't go so far as to abandon the idea that there is only upward causation and that matter is supreme, but the fact remains that they saw in quantum physics some great paradigm changing potential. And then what happened was that, starting in 1982, results started coming in from laboratory experiments in physics. That is the year when, in France, Alain Aspect and his collaborators performed the great experiment that conclusively established the veracity of the spiritual notions, and particularly the notion of transcendence. Should I go into a little bit of detail about Aspect's experiment?
WIE: Yes, please do.
AG: To give a little background, what had been happening was that for many years quantum physics had been giving indications that there are levels of reality other than the material level. How it started happening first was that quantum objects—objects in quantum physics—began to be looked upon as waves of possibility. Now, initially people thought, "Oh, they are just like regular waves." But very soon it was found out that, no, they are not waves in space and time. They cannot be called waves in space and time at all—they have properties which do not jibe with those of ordinary waves. So they began to be recognized as waves in potential, waves of possibility, and the potential was recognized as transcendent, beyond matter somehow.
But the fact that there is transcendent potential was not very clear for a long time. Then Aspect's experiment verified that this is not just theory, there really is transcendent potential, objects really do have connections outside of space and time—outside of space and time! What happens in this experiment is that an atom emits two quanta of light, called photons, going opposite ways, and somehow these photons affect one another's behavior at a distance, without exchanging any signals through space. Notice that: without exchanging any signals through space but instantly affecting each other. Instantaneously.
Now Einstein showed long ago that two objects can never affect each other instantly in space and time because everything must travel with a maximum speed limit, and that speed limit is the speed of light. So any influence must travel, if it travels through space, taking a finite time. This is called the idea of "locality." Every signal is supposed to be local in the sense that it must take a finite time to travel through space. And yet, Aspect's photons—the photons emitted by the atom in Aspect's experiment—influence one another, at a distance, without exchanging signals because they are doing it instantaneously—they are doing it faster than the speed of light. And therefore it follows that the influence could not have traveled through space. Instead the influence must belong to a domain of reality that we must recognize as the transcendent domain of reality.
WIE: That's fascinating. Would most physicists agree with that interpretation of his experiment?
AG: Well, physicists must agree with this interpretation of this experiment. Many times of course, physicists will take the following point of view: they will say, "Well, yeah sure, experiments. But this relationship between particles really isn't important. We mustn't look into any of the consequences of this transcendent domain—if it can even be interpreted that way." In other words, they try to minimize the impact of this and still try to hold on to the idea that matter is supreme.
But in their heart they know, as is very evidenced. In 1984 or '85, at the American Physical Society meeting at which I was present, it is said that one physicist was heard saying to another physicist that, after Aspect's experiment, anyone who does not believe that something is really strange about the world must have rocks in his head.
WIE: So what you are saying is that from your point of view, which a number of others share, it is somehow obvious that one would have to bring in the idea of a transcendent dimension to really understand this.
AG: Yes, it is. Henry Stapp, who is a physicist at the University of California at Berkeley, says this quite explicitly in one of his papers written in 1977, that things outside of space and time affect things inside space and time. There's just no question that that happens in the realm of quantum physics when you are dealing with quantum objects. Now of course, the crux of the matter is, the surprising thing is, that we are always dealing with quantum objects because it turns out that quantum physics is the physics of every object. Whether it's submicroscopic or it's macroscopic, quantum physics is the only physics we've got. So although it's more apparent for photons, for electrons, for the submicroscopic objects, our belief is that all reality, all manifest reality, all matter, is governed by the same laws. And if that is so, then this experiment is telling us that we should change our worldview because we, too, are quantum objects.
WIE: These are fascinating discoveries which have inspired a lot of people. A number of books have already attempted to make the link between physics and mysticism. Fritjof Capra's The Tao of Physics and Gary Zukav's The Dancing Wu Li Masters have both reached many, many people. In your book, though, you mention that there was something that you felt had not yet been covered which you feel is your unique contribution to all this. Could you say something about what you are doing that is different from what has been done before in this area?
AG: I'm glad that you asked that question. This should be clarified and I will try to explicate it as clearly as I can. The early work, like The Tao of Physics, has been very important for the history of science. However, these early works, in spite of supporting the spiritual aspect of human beings, all basically held on to the material view of the world nevertheless. In other words, they did not challenge the material realists' view that everything is made up of matter. That view was never put to any challenge by any of these early books. In fact, my book was the first one which challenged it squarely and which was still based on a rigorous explication in scientific terms. In other words, the idea that consciousness is the ground of being, of course, has existed in psychology, as transpersonal psychology, but outside of transpersonal psychology no tradition of science and no scientist has seen it so clearly.
It was my good fortune to recognize it within quantum physics, to recognize that all the paradoxes of quantum physics can be solved if we accept consciousness as the ground of being. So that was my unique contribution and, of course, this has paradigm-shifting potential because now we can truly integrate science and spirituality. In other words, with Capra and Zukav—although their books are very good—because they held on to a fundamentally materialist paradigm, the paradigm is not shifting, nor is there any real reconciliation between spirituality and science. Because if everything is ultimately material, all causal efficacy must come from matter. So consciousness is recognized, spirituality is recognized, but only as causal epiphenomena, or secondary phenomena. And an epiphenomenal consciousness is not very good. I mean, it's not doing anything. So, although these books acknowledge our spirituality, the spirituality is ultimately coming from some sort of material interaction.
But that's not the spirituality that Jesus talked about. That's not the spirituality that Eastern mystics were so ecstatic about. That's not the spirituality where a mystic recognizes and says, "I now know what reality is like, and this takes away all the unhappiness that one ever had. This is infinite, this is joy, this is consciousness." This kind of exuberant statement that mystics make could not be made on the basis of epiphenomenal consciousness. It can be made only when one recognizes the ground of being itself, when one cognizes directly that One is All.
Now, an epiphenomenal human being would not have any such cognition. It would not make any sense to cognize that you are All. So that is what I am saying. So long as science remains on the basis of the materialist worldview, however much you try to accommodate spiritual experiences in terms of parallels or in terms of chemicals in the brain or what have you, you are not really giving up the old paradigm. You are giving up the old paradigm and fully reconciling with spirituality only when you establish science on the basis of the fundamental spiritual notion that consciousness is the ground of all being. That is what I have done in my book, and that is the beginning. But already there are some other books that are recognizing this too.
WIE: So there are people corroborating your ideas?
AG: There are people who are now coming out and recognizing the same thing, that this view is the correct way to go to explain quantum physics and also to develop science in the future. In other words, the present science has shown not only quantum paradoxes but also has shown real incompetence in explaining paradoxical and anomalous phenomena, such as parapsychology, the paranormal—even creativity. And even traditional subjects, like perception or biological evolution, have much to explain that these materialist theories don't explain. To give you one example, in biology there is what is called the theory of punctuated equilibrium. What that means is that evolution is not only slow, as Darwin perceived, but there are also rapid epochs of evolution, which are called "punctuation marks." But traditional biology has no explanation for this.
However, if we do science on the basis of consciousness, on the primacy of consciousness, then we can see in this phenomenon creativity, real creativity of consciousness. In other words, we can truly see that consciousness is operating creatively even in biology, even in the evolution of species. And so we can now fill up these gaps that conventional biology cannot explain with ideas which are essentially spiritual ideas, such as consciousness as the creator of the world.
WIE: This brings to mind the subtitle of your book, How Consciousness Creates the Material World. This is obviously quite a radical idea. Could you explain a bit more concretely how this actually happens in your opinion?
AG: Actually, it's the easiest thing to explain, because in quantum physics, as I said earlier, objects are not seen as definite things, as we are used to seeing them. Newton taught us that objects are definite things, they can be seen all the time, moving in definite trajectories. Quantum physics doesn't depict objects that way at all. In quantum physics, objects are seen as possibilities, possibility waves. Right? So then the question arises, what converts possibility into actuality? Because, when we see, we only see actual events. That's starting with us. When you see a chair, you see an actual chair, you don't see a possible chair.
WIE: Right—I hope so.
AG: We all hope so. Now this is called the "quantum measurement paradox." It is a paradox because who are we to do this conversion? Because after all, in the materialist paradigm we don't have any causal efficacy. We are nothing but the brain, which is made up of atoms and elementary particles. So how can a brain which is made up of atoms and elementary particles convert a possibility wave that it itself is? It itself is made up of the possibility waves of atoms and elementary particles, so it cannot convert its own possibility wave into actuality. This is called a paradox. Now in the new view, consciousness is the ground of being. So who converts possibility into actuality? Consciousness does, because consciousness does not obey quantum physics. Consciousness is not made of material. Consciousness is transcendent. Do you see the paradigm-changing view right here—how consciousness can be said to create the material world? The material world of quantum physics is just possibility. It is consciousness, through the conversion of possibility into actuality, that creates what we see manifest. In other words, consciousness creates the manifest world.
WIE: To be honest, when I first saw the subtitle of your book I assumed you were speaking metaphorically. But after reading the book, and speaking with you about it now, I am definitely getting the sense that you mean it much more literally than I had thought. One thing in your book that really stopped me in my tracks was your statement that, according to your interpretation, the entire physical universe only existed in a realm of countless evolving possibilities until at one point, the possibility of a conscious, sentient being arose and that, at that point, instantaneously, the entire known universe came into being, including the fifteen billion years of history leading up to that point. Do you really mean that?
AG: I mean that literally. This is what quantum physics demands. In fact, in quantum physics this is called "delayed choice." And I have added to this concept the concept of "self-reference." Actually the concept of delayed choice is very old. It is due to a very famous physicist named John Wheeler, but Wheeler did not see the entire thing correctly, in my opinion. He left out self-reference. The question always arises, "The universe is supposed to have existed for fifteen billion years, so if it takes consciousness to convert possibility into actuality, then how could the universe be around for so long?" Because there was no consciousness, no sentient being, biological being, carbonbased being, in that primordial fireball which is supposed to have created the universe, the big bang. But this other way of looking at things says that the universe remained in possibility until there was self-referential quantum measurement—so that is the new concept. An observer's looking is essential in order to manifest possibility into actuality, and so only when the observer looks, only then does the entire thing become manifest—including time. So all of past time, in that respect, becomes manifest right at that moment when the first sentient being looks.
It turns out that this idea, in a very clever, very subtle way, has been around in cosmology and astronomy under the guise of a principle called the "anthropic principle." That is, the idea has been growing among astronomers—cosmologists anyway—that the universe has a purpose. It is so fine-tuned, there are so many coincidences, that it seems very likely that the universe is doing something purposive, as if the universe is growing in such a way that a sentient being will arise at some point.
WIE: So you feel there's a kind of purposiveness to the way the universe is evolving; that, in a sense, it reaches its fruition in us, in human beings?
AG: Well, human beings may not be the end of it, but certainly they are the first fruition, because here is then the possibility of manifest creativity, creativity in the sentient being itself. The animals are certainly sentient, but they are not creative in the sense that we are. So human beings certainly right now seem to be an epitome, but this may not be the final epitome. I think we have a long way to go and there is a long evolution to occur yet.
WIE: In your book you even go so far as to suggest that the cosmos was created for our sake.
AG: Absolutely. But it means sentient beings, for the sake of all sentient beings. And the universe is us. That's very clear. The universe is self-aware, but it is self-aware through us. We are the meaning of the universe. We are not the geographical center of the universe—Copernicus was right about that—but we are the meaning center of the universe.
WIE: Through us the universe finds its meaning?
AG: Through sentient beings. And that doesn't have to be anthropocentric in the sense of only earthlings. There could be beings, sentient beings on other planets, in other stars—in fact I am convinced that there are—and that's completely consonant with this theory.
WIE: This human-centered—or even sentient-being-centered—stance seems quite radical at a time when so much of modern progressive thought, across disciplines from ecology to feminism to systems theory, is going in the opposite direction. These perspectives point more toward interconnectedness or interrelatedness, in which the significance of any one part of the whole—including one species, such as the human species—is being de-emphasized. Your view seems to hark back to a more traditional, almost biblical kind of idea. How would you respond to proponents of the prevailing "nonhierarchical" paradigm?
AG: It's the difference between the perennial philosophy that we are talking about, monistic idealism, and what is called a kind of pantheism. That is, these views—which I call "ecological worldviews" and which Ken Wilber calls the same thing—are actually denigrating God by seeing God as limited to the immanent reality. On the face of it, this sounds good because everything becomes divine—the rocks, the trees, all the way to human beings, and they are all equal and they are all divinity—it sounds fine, but it certainly does not adhere to what the spiritual teachers knew. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says to Arjuna, "All these things are in me, but I am not in them." What does he mean by that? What he means is that "I am not exclusively in them."
So there is evolution, in other words, in the manifest reality. Evolution happens. That means that the amoeba is, of course, a manifestation of consciousness, and so is the human being. But they are not in the same stage. Evolutionarily, yes, we are ahead of the amoeba. And these theories, these ecological-worldview people, they don't see that. They don't rightly understand what evolution is because they are ignoring the transcendent dimension, they are ignoring the purposiveness of the universe, the creative play. Ken Wilber makes this point very, very well in his book Sex, Ecology, Spirituality.
WIE: So you would say they have part of the picture but that without this other aspect that you are bringing in, their view is very—
AG: It's very limited. And that's why pantheism is very limited. When Westerners started going to India, they thought it was pantheistic because it has many, many gods. Indian philosophy tends to see God in nature, in many things—they worship rocks sometimes, that kind of thing—so they thought it was pantheistic and only somewhat later did they realize that there is a transcendent dimension. In fact, the transcendent dimension is developed extremely well in Indian philosophy, whereas the transcendent dimension in the West is hidden in the cave of a very few esoteric systems such as the Gnostics and a few great masters like Meister Eckhart. In Jesus' teachings you can see it in the Gospel according to Thomas. But you have to really dig deep to find that thread in the West. In India, in the Upanishads and the Vedanta and the Bhagavad Gita, it is very much explicit. Now, pantheism sounds very good. But it's only part of the story. It's a good way to worship, it's a good way to bring spirituality into your daily life, because it is good to acknowledge that there is spirit in everything. But if we just see the diversity, see the God in everything, but don't see the God which is beyond every particular thing, then we are not realizing our potential. We are not realizing our Self. And so, truly, Self-realization involves seeing this pantheistic aspect of reality, but also seeing the transcendent aspect of reality.
WIE: In addition to being a scientist, you are also a spiritual practitioner. Could you talk a little bit about what brought you to spirituality?
AG: Well, I'm afraid that is a pretty usual, almost classic, case. The ideal classic case, of course, is the famous case of the Buddha, who recognized at the age of twenty-nine that all of his pleasure as a prince was really a waste of time because there is suffering in the world. For me it was not that drastic, but when I was about thirty-seven the world started to fall apart on me. I lost my research grant, I had a divorce and I was very lonely. And the professional pleasure that I used to get by writing physics papers stopped being pleasure.
I remember one time when I was at a conference and all day I had been going around, beating my own drums and arguing with people. Then in the evening when I was alone, I felt so lonely. And I realized that I had heartburn, and I had already exhausted a full bottle of Tums and still it would not go away. I discovered suffering; I discovered suffering literally. And it is that discovery of suffering that brought me to spirituality, because I couldn't think of anything else. I couldn't think of any other way—although I had given up the idea of God entirely and had been a materialist physicist for quite some time. In fact, when my young children asked me one time, "Are you an atheist?" I said something like, "Yeah." And, "Is there a God?" And I said, "No, I don't believe in God." That kind of thing was quite common for me to say. But in that era, around thirty-seven, that particular world—where God didn't exist and where the meaning of life came just from brain-pursuits of glory in a profession—just did not satisfy me and did not bring happiness. In fact it was full of suffering. So I came to meditation. I wanted to see if there was any way of at least finding some solace, if not happiness. And eventually great joy came out of it, but that took time. And also, I must mention that I got married too, and the challenge of love was a very important one. In other words, I very soon discovered after I got married for the second time that love is very different than what I thought it was. So I discovered with my wife the meaning of love, and that was a big contribution also to my own spirituality.
WIE: It's interesting that, while you turned to spirituality because you felt that science wasn't really satisfying your own search for truth, you have nevertheless remained a scientist throughout.
AG: That's true. It's just that my way of doing science changed. What happened to me, the reason that I lost the joy of science, was because I had made it into a professional trip. I lost the ideal way of doing science, which is the spirit of discovery, the curiosity, the spirit of knowing truth. So I was not searching for truth anymore through science, and therefore I had to discover meditation, where I was searching for truth again, truth of reality. What is the nature of reality after all? You see the first tendency was nihilism, nothing exists; I was completely desperate. But meditation very soon told me that no, it's not that desperate. I had an experience. I had a glimpse that reality really does exist. Whatever it was I didn't know, but something exists. So that gave me the prerogative to go back to science and see if I could now do science with new energy and new direction and really investigate truth instead of investigating because of professional glory.
WIE: How then did your newly revived interest in truth, this spiritual core to your life, inform your practice of science?
AG: What happened was that I was not doing science anymore for the purpose of just publishing papers and doing problems which enabled you to publish papers and get grants. Instead, I was doing the really important problems. And the really important problems of today are very paradoxical and very anomalous. Well, I'm not saying that traditional scientists don't have a few important problems. There are a few important problems there too. But one of the problems I discovered very quickly that would lead me, I just intuited, to questions of reality was the quantum measurement problem.
You see, the quantum measurement problem is supposed to be a problem which forever derails people from any professional achievement because it's a very difficult problem. People have tried it for decades and have not been able to solve it. But I thought, "I have nothing to lose and I am going to investigate only truth, so why not see?" Quantum physics was something I knew very well. I had researched quantum physics all my life, so why not do the quantum measurement problem? So that's how I came to ask this question, "What agency converts possibility into actuality?" And it still took me from 1975 to 1985 until, through a mystical breakthrough, I came to recognize this.
WIE: Could you describe that breakthrough?
AG: Yes, I'd love to. It's so vivid in my mind. You see, the wisdom was in those days—and this was in every sort of book, The Tao of Physics, The Dancing Wu Li Masters, Fred Alan Wolf's Taking the Quantum Leap, and some other books too—everywhere the wisdom was that consciousness must be an emergent phenomenon of the brain. And despite the fact that some of these people, to their credit, were giving consciousness causal efficacy, no one could explain how it happened. That was the mystery because, after all, if it's an emergent phenomenon of the brain, then all causal efficacy must ultimately come from the material elementary particles. So this was a puzzle to me. This was a puzzle to everybody. And I just couldn't find any way to solve it. David Bohm talked about hidden variables, so I toyed with his ideas of an explicate order and an implicate order, that kind of thing—but this wasn't satisfactory because in Bohm's theory, again, there is no causal efficacy that is given to consciousness. It is all a realist theory. In other words, it is a theory on which everything can be explained through mathematical equations. There is no freedom of choice, in other words, in reality. So I was just struggling and struggling because I was convinced that there is real freedom of choice.
So then one time—and this is where the breakthrough happened—my wife and I were in Ventura, California and a mystic friend, Joel Morwood, came down from Los Angeles, and we all went to hear Krishnamurti. And Krishnamurti, of course, is extremely impressive, a very great mystic. So we heard him and then we came back home. We had dinner and we were talking, and I was giving Joel a spiel about my latest ideas of the quantum theory of consciousness and Joel just challenged me. He said, "Can consciousness be explained?" And I tried to wriggle my way through that but he wouldn't listen. He said, "You are putting on scientific blinders. You don't realize that consciousness is the ground of all being." He didn't use that particular word, but he said something like, "There is nothing but God." And something flipped inside of me which I cannot quite explain. This is the ultimate cognition, that I had at that very moment. There was a complete about-turn in my psyche and I just realized that consciousness is the ground of all being. I remember staying up that night, looking at the sky and having a real mystical feeling about what the world is, and the complete conviction that this is the way the world is, this is the way that reality is, and one can do science. You see, the prevalent notion—even among people like David Bohm—was, "How can you ever do science without assuming that there is reality and material and all this? How can you do science if you let consciousness do things which are ‘arbitrary'?" But I became completely convinced—there has not been a shred of doubt ever since—that one can do science on this basis. Not only that, one can solve the problems of today's science. And that is what is turning out. Of course all the problems did not get solved right on that night. That night was the beginning of a new way of doing science.
WIE: That's interesting. So that night something really did shift for you in your whole approach. And everything was different after that?
AG: Everything was different.
WIE: Did you then find, in working out the details of what it would mean to do science in this context, that you were able to penetrate much more deeply or that your own scientific thinking was transformed in some way by this experience?
AG: Right. Exactly. What happened was very interesting. I was stuck, as I said, I was stuck with this idea before: "How can consciousness have causal efficacy?" And now that I recognized that consciousness was the ground of being, within months all the problems of quantum measurement theory, the measurement paradoxes, just melted away. I wrote my first paper which was published in 1989, but that was just refinement of the ideas and working out details. The net upshot was that the creativity, which got a second wind on that night in 1985, took about another three years before it started fully expressing itself. But ever since I have been just blessed with ideas after ideas, and lots of problems have been solved—the problem of cognition, perception, biological evolution, mind-body healing. My latest book is called Physics of the Soul. This is a theory of reincarnation, all fully worked out. It has been just a wonderful adventure in creativity.
WIE: So it sounds pretty clear that taking an interest in the spiritual, in your case, had a significant effect on your ability to do science. Looking through the opposite end of the lens, how would you say that being a scientist has affected your spiritual evolution?
AG: Well, I stopped seeing them as separate, so this identification, this wholeness, the integration of the spiritual and the scientific, was very important for me. Mystics often warn people, "Look, don't divide your life into this and that." For me it came naturally because I discovered the new way of doing science when I discovered spirit. Spirit was the natural basis of my being, so after that, whatever I do, I don't separate them very much.
WIE: You mentioned a shift in your motivation for doing science—how what was driving you started to turn at a certain point. That's one thing that we've been thinking about a lot as we've been looking into this issue: What is it that really motivates science? And how is that different from what motivates spiritual pursuit? Particularly, there have been some people we have discussed—thinkers like E. F. Schumacher or Huston Smith, for example—who feel that ever since the scientific revolution, when Descartes's and Newton's ideas took hold, the whole approach of science has been to try to dominate or control nature or the world. Such critics question whether science could ever be a genuine vehicle for discovering the deepest truths, because they feel that science is rooted in a desire to know for the wrong reasons. Obviously, in your work you have been very immersed in the scientific world—you know a lot of scientists, you go to conferences, you're surrounded by all of that and also, perhaps, you struggle with that motivation in yourself. Could you speak a little more about your experience of that?
AG: Yes, this is a very, very good question; we have to understand it very deeply.
The problem is that in this pursuit, this particular pursuit of science, including the books that we mentioned earlier, The Tao of Physics and The Dancing Wu Li Masters, even when spirituality is recognized within the materialist worldview, God is seen only in the immanent aspect of divinity. What that means is: you have said that there is only one reality. By saying that there is only one reality—material reality—even when you imbue matter with spirituality, because you are still dealing with only one level, you are ignoring the transcendent level. And therefore you are only looking at half of the pie; you are ignoring the other half. Ken Wilber makes this point very, very well. So what has to be done of course—and that's when the stigma of science disappears—is to include the other half into science. Now, before my work, I think it was very obscure how this inclusion has to be done. Although people like Teilhard de Chardin, Aurobindo or Madame Blavatsky, the founder of the Theosophy movement, recognized that such a science could have come, very few could actually see it.
So what I have done is to give actual flesh to all these visions that took place early in the century. And when you do that, when you recognize that science can be based on the primacy of consciousness, then this deficiency isn't there anymore. In other words then, the stigma that science is only separateness goes away. The materialist science is a separatist science. The new science, though, says that the material part of the world does exist, the separative movement is part of reality also, but it is not the only part of reality. There is separation, and then there is integration. So in my book The Self-Aware Universe I talk about the hero's journey for the entire scientific endeavor. I said that, well, four hundred years ago, with Galileo, Copernicus, Newton and others, we started the separatist sail and we went on a separate journey of separateness, but that's only the first part of the hero's journey. Then the hero discovers and the hero returns. It is the hero's return that we are now witnessing through this new paradigm.
Leave those big decisions to your unconscious
Think less, says study
Margaret Munro, CanWest News Service
Published: Friday, February 17, 2006
Deciding whether to slap down $40,000 on a car or $1 million for a house should be left to your unconscious, indicates new research that suggests the best way to make tough decisions is to forget about them.
Collect the relevant information, it says, then let the unconscious churn through the options. In the end, it makes for better decisions.
"Contrary to conventional wisdom, it is not always advantageous to engage in thorough conscious deliberation before choosing," say psychologist Ap Dijksterhuis and his colleagues at the University of Amsterdam, who make a strong case in the journal Science Today for listening to gut feelings and intuition.
Their work on "unconscious thought theory" taps into the brain's hidden -- and many psychologists say unappreciated -- ability to juggle and weigh complicated situations.
"In short, consciousness should be used to gather information, and the unconscious to work on it," says Dijksterhuis.
A similar approach was proposed in Malcolm Gladwell's bestselling book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, which has made the author a popular figure on the corporate lecture circuit.
The new study focuses on consumer choices, but Dijksterhuis and other psychologists say politicians, managers and negotiators would also be well-advised to delegate tricky decisions to the unconscious.
"This process of just 'sleeping on it' and 'letting it sit' is not just procrastination, but is a valuable productive technique that is drawing on cognitive processes that seem to really exist," says psychologist Jonathan Schooler of the University of British Columbia.
"At a minimum, people should include this in their tool kit of decision-making."
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