by Michael Maciel
I once knew a man, brilliant and highly educated, who was also a spiritual teacher, and a good one, but he tried to tell me that God created Adam out of the dust of the earth – literally. His reasoning was that “God can do anything.” He also believed that when Mary gave birth to Jesus, a white cloud surrounded her and poof – Jesus was born. No labor, no pain, no placenta, nothing. Just a ready-made baby magically in her arms, as though she had no vagina. And this man, so smart, so educated, so knowledgeable about so many things, taught his students (who were also well-educated) that this is how these things happened. And they believed him.
Here is something that I have noticed: the smarter a person is, whenever they embrace God, they throw rationality out of the window and cozy up to the most superstitious, childlike forms of religion they can find. As though faith and reason were antithetical to each other. In the face of the unexplainable, they opt for a laws of physics-defying miracle.
You have to admit that some of the smartest people in the world are atheists. At least eighty-five percent of the world’s scientists are. And they have good reason to be, given the stranglehold that the Church had on free thought only three hundred years ago. I would be a little over-reactive, too, wouldn’t you? But why is it that when those few, for whom the numinous overtakes in a moment of spiritual breakthrough, suddenly throw all of their hard-earned science out the window and adopt this golden book form of religion? Can they not at least try to integrate the two?
Neil deGrasse Tyson pits reason against revelation, as though the two were mutually exclusive, when in reality you cannot have one without the other. Reason alone leads to the belief that complexity arises from the simple; revelation proclaims that it comes from above, that complexity asserts itself on matter and forms it into aliveness. Revelation says that perfection precedes the rudimentary, that matter struggles to realize the multi-faceted range of its own unformed potential. Reason tries to explain away that potential by saying that the whole thing is just random, like a pinball trying to find the hole at the bottom. But, you cannot have a coherent theory of reality without first discovering how these two aspects of mind, reason and revelation, work together. Bad-mouthing one out of defense of the other is simply a bad marriage.
To the moon, Alice!
In all fairness, Tyson’s view of “revelation” IS superstition. But, that’s his problem. He points out that Islam lost its preeminence in science in the Twelfth Century when an imam declared that mathematics was the “work of the devil.” Up until that time, Baghdad was the scientific and cultural center of the world. But now, not so much. Tyson, along with much of the rest of the scientific community, mistakenly equates revelation with anti-intellectualism. Such a shame.
Revelation is, by definition, information from the universal mind. But if you stubbornly insist that consciousness is unique to the human brain and is the product thereof, you are…well, how shall I put it? Stupid. Why stupid? Because everywhere you look, either in the super-microcosmic world of quantum physics to the ultra-macrocosmic world of galactic super clusters, all you see is intelligence in action. And it’s all connected. If that’s not the very definition of universal mind, I don’t know what is. And yet scientists say that it all “just happens.”
Superstition knows no bounds. It’s not solely the affliction of fundamentalists. It occurs whenever and wherever we get too defensive of our own take on things. It’s rare to find a person who can integrate reason with revelation without making a complete fool of themselves. Of course, the remedy is simply admitting that we don’t know. But saying, “I don’t know” is vastly different from saying, “I CAN’T know.” Revelation makes knowing possible. Reason is the process of making sure we’re not just seeing what we want to see.