Mysticism The Next Paradigm Shift In Science

Keeping An Open Mind
Jan. 2012

What is the place of religion in an age of science? How can one believe in God today? What view of God is consistent with the scientific understanding of the world? In what ways should our ideas about human nature be affected by the findings of contemporary science? How can the search for meaning and purpose in life be fulfilled in the kind of world disclosed by science?

In the preface of his book, “Masks Of The Universe,” Edward Harrison (Professor of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Massachusetts) writes:

“I take the view that we, and we alone, are the makers and shakers of the universes in which we live. The comfort I offer, if any, is of the kind that once sustained the medieval mystics who, while aware of much knowledge, had the sense to admit that they lived in ‘the cloud of unknowing.’ The message I offer, if any, is that the mysteries are vastly more profound and the mind vastly more potent than we commonly imagine, perhaps more than we can ever imagine.”

Brian Swimme (Professor of Physics and Cosmology at the California Institute of Integral Studies) writes in the preface of his book, “The Hidden Heart Of The Cosmos”:

“From the beginning, humans have been pondering the ultimate nature of existence. Shamans and sages, philosophers and saints, rishis and rabbis and theologians, all in their various ways, have reflected on the deep and endlessly fascinating questions of existence….The question I consider in the present volume is perhaps the most ancient of all ‘Where did it all come from? Where is the center of reality? Where is the heart or source of the universe? Where is that place where everything sprang forth into existence?’”

And, in the Forward of Alan Watts’ (British Philosopher and ordained Zen monk) book, “The Joyous Cosmology,” we read:

“We are dealing here with an issue that is not new, an issue that has been considered for centuries by mystics, by philosophers of the religious experience, by those rare and truly great scientists who have been able to move in and then out beyond the limits of the science game. It was seen and described clearly by the great American psychologist William James:

‘…our normal waking consciousness, rational consciousness as we call it, is but one special type of consciousness, whilst all about it, parted from it by the filmiest of screens, there lie potential forms of consciousness entirely different. We may go through life without suspecting their existence; but apply the requisite stimulus, and at a touch they are there in all their completeness, definite types of mentality which probably somewhere have their field of application and adaptation. No account of the universe in its totality can be final which leaves these other forms of consciousness quite disregarded. How to regard them is the question,–for they are so discontinuous with ordinary consciousness. Yet they may determine attitudes though they cannot furnish formulas, and open a region though they fail to give a map. At any rate, they forbid a premature closing of our accounts with reality. Looking back on my own experiences, they all converge toward a kind of insight to which I cannot help ascribing some metaphysical significance.’”

You might want to check out today’s NPR blog by Marcelo Gleiser at:


About bwinwnbwi

About me: Marvin Gaye’s song, "What’s Going On" was playing on the jukebox when I went up to the counter and bought another cup of coffee. When I got back, the painting on the wall next to where I was sitting jumped out at me, the same way it had done many times before. On it was written a diatribe on creativity. It was the quote at the bottom, though, that brought me back to this seat time after time. The quote had to do with infinity; it went something like this: Think of yourself as being in that place where infinity comes together in a point; where the infinite past and the infinite future meet, where you are at right now. The quote was attributed to Hermann Hesse, but I didn’t remember reading it in any of the books that I had read by him, so I went out and bought Hesse’s last novel, Magister Ludi. I haven’t found the quote yet, but I haven't tired of looking for it either.
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5 Responses to Mysticism The Next Paradigm Shift In Science

  1. Ron Krumpos says:

    Echoing William James’ comment on consciousness is a quote from Rainer Maria Rilke, the great 20th century German poet:
    “Extensive as the ‘external’ world is it hardly bears comparison with the depth- dimensions of our inner being, which does not need even the spaciousness of the universe to be, in itself, almost unlimited. It seems to me, more and more, as though our ordinary consciousness inhabits the apex of a pyramid whose base in us…broadens out to such an extent that the farther we are able to let ourselves down into it, the more completely do we appear to be included in the realities of the earthly and, in the widest sense universal existence, which are not dependent on time or space.”

    • bwinwnbwi says:

      Great quote–thanks. It reminds me of a Piaget quote that, for me at least, is also mind expanding. Picture the vertex of an upside-down pyramid touching the vertex of the pyramid described above. Our ordinary consciousness inhabits the space where the apexes come together. As knowledge expands, the upside-down pyramid broadens. In Piaget’s quote the upside-down pyramid becomes a spiral. He says: “In short, rather than envisaging human knowledge as a pyramid or building of some sort, we should think of it as a spiral the radius of whose turns increases as the spiral rises…This means, in effect, that the idea of structure as a system of transformations becomes continuous with that of construction as continual formation.” [Jean Piaget, Structuralism, 1970, p. 34]

      Where the continual formation of the earthly, and, in the widest sense, universal existence come together, in vertex awareness, ordinary consciousness becomes extraordinary consciousness–becomes unlimited. At least that would be my interpretation of the mystical experience. Thanks again for your comments. Take care.

  2. Ron Krumpos says:

    Unfortunately words and graphics can never fully convey the mystical experience. As St. John of the Cross said: “All that the imagination can imagine and the reason conceive and understand in this life is not, and cannot be, a proximate means of union with God.”

  3. Ron Krumpos says:

    Thanks for the enthusiastic review. I just read it!

  4. bwinwnbwi says:

    Your more than welcome. Thank-you for the great read. I agree that words and graphics can never fully convey the mystical experience, but for the uninitiated in the mystical experience (that would be me) the journey begins with the first step. Take care. I hope my review proves useful for you.

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