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Can Science Enlighten Us?

Science, Spirituality and the Revelation of the Unknown
by Andrew Cohen


The idea for this issue began over five years ago. At that time, I was wondering if it would be possible for a human being who had accumulated an enormous amount of information to be able to, if given the opportunity, let go of all of it in order to become Enlightened. I had thought about this quite a bit and to be honest I haven't given up pondering over this fascinating question. You see, if we find that we have a unique talent, and that talent is the ability to accumulate and organize enormous amounts of information, that ability will make it possible for us to have a perspective in relationship to that information that is almost always enticing to the ego. Enticing because that information, when organized correctly, becomes knowledge, and knowledge is power.

What I found intriguing was a strange dichotomy. On a practical level, it was obvious that the pursuit of greater understanding necessitated the accumulation of knowledge. At the same time it was apparent that it was essential to let go of all accumulated knowledge if one wanted to liberate the self from the mind. Also it seemed that except in very rare cases, the accumulation of knowledge brought with it a great sense of personal power. And that was starkly contrasted by the fact that the pursuit of liberation from the false sense of self demanded the unconditional surrender of any attachment to personal power.

This was interesting to me because of the delicate and often paradoxical situation that we find ourselves in as a race. On one hand it is apparent that our very evolution depends upon the cultivation of intelligence and the ability to absorb and organize information. And on the other hand spiritual revelation teaches us that our moral and ethical evolution entirely depends upon our willingness to relinquish our attachment to thought. Indeed, revelation shows us that it is only through discovering that which lies beyond thought that THE WAY to sanity, simplicity, selflessness and genuine care for the whole is found.

It appeared that most often great thinkers, those individuals who had the biggest influence in the world of ideas, were individuals who not only had not experienced freedom from thought, but who also were unlikely to have come to that place in their own evolution where the sense of power associated with the ability to accumulate and organize information had been transcended. If that was so, would their relationship to that knowledge be a form of bondage? Would any attachment to that knowledge distort their ability to discriminate? Indeed, would it be possible for them to see clearly as long as they had not utterly liberated themselves from all thought, from all ideas, from all accumulated knowledge?

So our investigation into the relationship between science and spirituality was fueled by this contemplation. What we have found is fascinating indeed. For it seems that scientists often succumb to the same temptation as many great religious thinkers—that is, the very desire to figure it all out. To wrap it all up. To explain everything.

We have found this desire to explain everything, to know everything, to be the ultimate temptation for the ego/mind, and in the end the greatest obstacle to true understanding. And yet it seems that so many great thinkers are fueled by this fire. One who is fueled by this fire will dazzle us with extraordinary explanations that seem to offer us the key to . . . Everything.

So the question is this: How can we use the mind for our own evolution without becoming entrapped by it, without succumbing to the overwhelming temptation to know? Indeed, the scientists who impressed us the most were those who manifested that very sense of openness and receptivity that is defined by a mind that has been harnessed by the conviction that its powers are limited. And interestingly enough, they were individuals who did not in any way claim to have found the ultimate answer or final explanation. At first glance they did not seem to be as impressive as those who were trying to do just that, explain everything. What we found was that the actual experience communicated by those who knew that they could never ultimately know  was very different from the experience communicated by those who thought they already did know or who were trying to find a way to know everything. With the latter, we experienced the thrilling temptation to believe that everything could be known while simultaneously feeling an inner sense of tension and suffocation. With the former, the experience was very different. While equally thought provoking, it was far more mysterious and yet promised nothing!

It was revealing to us to find that it is the ego that is always attracted to ultimate solutions and final answers while it is another part of ourselves altogether that is deeply moved by the sense of that which is mysterious and which never can be known or truly understood.
And so the question of how to use the mind for our own evolution without becoming entrapped by it reveals itself to be all-important. Even more so for those among us who are in positions of power and influence precisely because they are experts at accumulating and organizing enormous amounts of information on our behalf.


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