A friend recently commented in an email that “actually life is easy to figure out, we are born, we live, we die. The journey from life to death is what defines us, in one aspect”. He did mention a few other things as well, and I knew his statement to be true , yet I felt myself bristle at it, because like many people I want, need to believe that our existence goes beyond that and has a much larger ripple effect in the overall stream of time. In my experience there are two kinds of people (although there are numerous labels), those that have a set of beliefs that require a measure of faith and those who believe only in that which can be rationally, logically defined and proved.
We as human beings have an unparalleled ability to explain, rationalize, intellectualize and justify almost any action, belief set, philosophical position, etc. It’s what we do in order to create a personal reality in which to live, everyone does it to varying degrees and some of us are better at it then others. I’m a dreamer, I’m oblivious to many of the things around me, most of the time. I live in the abstract, I rarely plan in advance and tend to make choices on a whim, I’m unorganized and easily distracted. I also happen to excel at putting the best possible “spin” on anything, at being able to see exactly where a person stands and give the exact “logical, rational argument” that person needs to hear. My key phrase (before I became ethical) whenever a friend got into a “situation” was, “You Can Turn This Around”, and using my words, they usually did. Everything about my nature (I’m a Pisces, if you’re into that sort of thing) says I wouldn‘t be expected to be the type of person prone to logical deduction and rationalization, but I am. I’m not sure why this is so, yet there it is. This ability, by the way, has earned me many excellent jobs and got me out of quite a few jams in the past!
I’m personally of the belief that we people of faith in the “unknowable” are better at logical, rational argument then those of the “believe only in what you can define and prove ” school. It’s much more difficult to define and argue for the existence of something intangible than the things you can see, touch and hold. Often times the arguments of the latter consist of simply pointing out the formers’ lack of proof. I’ve yet to hear an atheist, agnostic or nihilist prove that God, a Creating Force, Spiritual Energy, Universal Laws, Transmigration of the Soul or anything else that can’t be seen, doesn’t exist. I believe with the recent advent of completely new theories in Quantum Physics the old “if you can’t see it and measure it, it doesn’t exist” argument will no longer be valid.
This is because String Theory has been given a new life in the last 3 or 4 years, with the merging of two different schools of thought finally agreeing on the existence of an 11th dimension. The work already done and in progress on the ‘M’ theory has convinced Quantum Physicists that the only practical, logical, even possible way to have a unifying Theory of Everything is to accept the existence of an entire dimension of existence that we cannot see, measure, quantify or in anyway prove definitively. This is the sole hypothesis that can be logically, mathematically resolved, that doesn’t fall apart when you get to the beginning of our universe and can only be defined and “proved” on paper. Right now, this theoretical membrane (Branes) and the particles or waves or even pieces of as yet unknown matter that are thought to make up this 11th dimension are so miniscule we have nowhere near the technology to measure or quantify it. They believe within this 11th dimension are uncountable multiverses, from which an occasional new universe is created, quite separate from our own. It is thought that this other dimension and its membrane exists so close to our own dimensional space that it is closer to us then a breeze as it passes over our skin. It is all around us and touches us, even though we are completely unaware of its existence. To me, perhaps because of my own personal beliefs, this sounds an awful lot like spirit. I’m curious to see how detractors of the unseen will overcome this hurdle. Will they say that despite the mathematical validity of the ‘M’ theory, the worlds physicists are wrong because the ‘Branes’ and matter of ‘M' theory are not visible at this 11th dimension level? Is the theory to become doomed and thrown out, simply because it cannot, at this at this time, be visibly observed, manipulated and made manifest in our own 3 dimensional world?
The argument could made that , if we believe in the validity of the ‘M” theory, even though this 11th dimension cannot be seen and measured, then could we not also believe in the validity of the existence of God, a Creating Force, Spiritual Energy, Transmigration of the Soul, all the unseen etcs, that also cannot be seen and measured? And I’m sure, were this argument used, there are those who would say, “but that’s different, ‘M’ theory, if not provable in reality, at least has a mathematical leg to stand on, as it were“. There would also be those who would say by it’s own definition ‘M’ theory gives credence to the scientific version of the beginning of existence, the Big Bang, automatically canceling out any claims of divine creation or a creating intelligence, energy or force.
Being the consummate rationalist that I am, I would of course, beg to differ. When people who believe in some type of intelligent or divine design to the universe speak of the origins of our existence, they use words like creating, energy, force or some derivative, depending on your specific set of spiritual beliefs. Conversely, not only are these the very words that are fundamental to Physics, they ARE Physics. I see no dilemma here, no division of faith and science whatsoever. It appears to me that they are one and the same. If you use the exact same words to define two seemingly different “objects”, there’s a very good chance they aren’t actually two separate things at all. More likely, they are two aspects or even two views of the same thing. Again, much like the experience in physics where depending on the observer, either particles of waves may be observed in the exact same experiment. That is just the tip of the iceberg. The more closely I follow anything Quantum, the more parrallels I see to things of a spiritual nature as well the functions of day to day life. Quantum Physics is life, its like a road map to our existance, on both a micro and macro scopic level.
Science seeks to define the fundamental nature of all that we know to exist , via the identification and understanding of the underlying bits and pieces that form that existence. Religion, Philosophy, even non-religious based spiritual beliefs and practices are attempts to do the same. No matter how microscopically small Science is able to break down the elements of physical existence, they now know that there is a level of existence that is unseen, immeasurable and as a result, will on some level, most likely remain unknowable. In both camps, in order to continue, a leap of faith must be made. I think both are putting their faith in the exact same thing. Having the science to “prove” the Big Bang started the universe negates nothing. it’s about recognizing that no matter how small you go or how far back in time you reach, there is still some kind of creating energy that is the originating source of our existence as we know it. Scientists can call it the Big Bang , via the ‘M’ theory and all the schools of thought on the other side of the fence can call it by whatever name is appropriate to their dogma, but in my opinion, its all the same source.
I believe we do a disservice to ourselves, to our children whom we pass the future to and even our creator by squabbling amongst ourselves over our origins and matters of faith, whether it be faith in the existence of some metaphysical soup of creation, faith in a divine, intelligent creator or faith in a set of cosmic laws that govern our existence. On the surface it may seem as if this is all very important because it defines what we believe, but in reality, in the every day business of living, isn’t how we believe, how we put our specific brand of faith to practice, that really matters most of all? Buddhists used a koan about the finger pointing at the moon. It teaches to guard against mistaking the finger pointing at the moon for the moon itself. It seems to me we would all be well served to remember this and make sure it is the moon we worship and defend so hotly, and not some stray finger we’ve allowed to obscure our vision.
“There is something about words. In expert hands, manipulated deftly, they take you prisoner. Wind themselves around your limbs like spider silk, and when you are so enthralled you cannot move, they pierce your skin, enter your blood, numb your thoughts. Inside you they work their magic…”
— Margaret (The Thirteenth Tale, Diane Setterfield)