We are fascinated by the unseen. We are mystery-solvers. At least we try to be. Seeing patterns everywhere, we seek to know where those patterns come from. The biggest question is whether the complex patterns of nature occurred randomly through adaptation, or whether they were authored by some over-arching intelligence. Does nature simply favor those configurations that tend to survive, or does it reach for a pre-ordained goal? These are big questions, and they have enormous effects on how we conduct our lives. They also have huge implications for our survival on this planet.
Both science and religion have been obsessed with the unseen. Science seeks to peer ever deeper into reality with more and more powerful instruments, from the Hubble telescope to the electron microscope. Religion looks for the underlying meaning of it all through its tools of Holy Scripture and myth. But both science and religion fail to recognize that the underpinnings of reality are not only unseen, but that they cannot be seen. That which generates and sustains all that is seen and unseen is itself unseeable.
Normally, we think of that which is unseen as that which is too small (or too large) to be seen by the naked eye or even the extensions of the eye, such as telescopes and microscopes. But what about those things which cannot be seen at all and yet play a causal role in all that exists?
An easy example of this is numbers. We are all familiar with the numbers zero through nine. We know what they look like:
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
But do we know what they are. They are symbols, after all. So, what do the symbols represent?
The number 4, for instance, is normally thought of as 1+1+1+1. Four things. But can we recognize that this is the materialistic understanding of the number 4? Can we see that four things lumped together is 4’s most rudimentary expression? Are we capable of understanding 4 as a principle?
In science, we recognize the principle of 4 in molecules, in polarity, in wave forms such as light and sound, in the shape of spiral galaxies, etc., but do we see that all of these are manifestations of an underlying principle, or do we regard them as mechanistic outcomes of blind “natural” forces?
To understand 4, we have to understand four-ness. Four-ness is a principle, and as such it is absolutely intangible. It is not only unseen, it is unseeable. Is this the realm of metaphysics? I don’t think so. At least, it shouldn’t be. Rather, it is science yet-to-be. It is religion yet-to-be.
Science is loathe to go here, because principles such as these, which could probably be more accurately described as archetypes, cannot be examined apart from their manifest expressions. They cannot be separated out and studied in a lab. The only place they can be examined is in one’s own thinking, and are therefore philosophical considerations, not legitimate topics for scientific inquiry.
Religion doesn’t want to go here either, because it’s just too dry and impersonal. Mention numbers, and most religionists think of either science or numerology – both foreign territories to them. They know that there are lots of references to numbers in the Bible and other sacred texts, and they know that they probably mean something, but they aren’t sure what. Only God knows, right? After all, God is the one who set the whole thing up. As long as He or She knows what numbers are, we don’t have to worry about it.
However, this is the mindset that forced science into polar opposition to religion. Scientists emphatically reject this notion of pious “innocence.” But at the same time, they have painted themselves into a corner that prevents them from considering first principles. For them, nothing is unseen. But the principles I’m talking about are to them merely elements of abstract reasoning. They have no existence in and of themselves, only as products of the human mind and therefore cannot have any causal relationship to reality. “Four-ness” does not exist, except in the imagination. The interrelationships among the numbers 0 through 9 are only the outworkings of logic, not the fundamental fabric of reality.
Until we can make room in our thinking for existence to include the absolutely intangible, such as four-ness, and regard these “things” as powerful, active, creative causes in our universe, science will be lame, and religion will be blind, as Albert Einstein said. And since science and religion are the two forces vying for supremacy in our society today, do we really want one to win out over the other? Or do we want them both to wake up and partner up for a better world? This is not impossible. Neither is it probable. But it is essential to our survival. We have to take both science and religion to the next level, and we have to do it quickly. Otherwise, their little turf war is going to tear this planet apart.