Humility and Silence: Where True Science and True Spirituality Meet
It is said that we live in an age of light, but it would be truer to say that we are living in an age of twilight; here and there a luminous ray pierces through the mists of darkness, but does not light to full clearness either our reason or our hearts. Men are not of one mind, scientists dispute, and where there is discord truth is not yet apprehended.
– From The Cloud Upon the Sanctuary, by Karl von Eckhartshausen
What is it about the pursuit of truth that leads to so many conflicts? Eckhartshausen was writing in the late 18th century, and yet his statement reads no less true after 300-some years of “progress.”
An opinionated conflict rages today as it did during the Enlightenment — highlighted in many public disputes, provoked by writers such as Richard Dawkins — over trivial matters that have already been settled and problems that have already been overcome by leading thinkers across the history of intellectual endeavor. Yet, at heart, anyone who honestly applies to a study of existence, including even Dawkins himself, cannot help being seduced beyond conflict by the beauty of life.
Jerry L. Martin, former chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities, posted a quote from Richard Dawkins on his Facebook page that draws out this truth:
There’s poetry in the real world. Science is the poetry of reality.
To this Martin added a simple, appended question:
Is he right?
And I have to respond: certainly. Science is one of the most direct, beautiful, and complete means of accessing the glory of existence, a raw and unequaled poetry! However, this assertion comes with the caveat that it only true when viewed through a proper interpretation.
As many have pointed out, including figures within Dawkins’ own milieu, his idea of what science actually is seems quite crippled. We should carefully note that one of his “discoveries,” the fruit of his inquiry, has been termed “the selfish gene.”
An important aspect of being a public intellectual is the ability to project proper leadership, and to be humble in that task. Calling someone like Royal Astronomer Lord Martin Rees a “compliant Quisling” for his appreciation of spiritual traditions does not speak well of Dawkins’ ability to lead without bias. Science, if it is approached with the proper humility, can be so much more than gross refutation or a basis for proselytizing and propagandizing in favor of a personal belief.
Contrast, for instance, Dawkins’ public persona with that of another leading popular scientist, Michio Kaku. In the following clip, taken from a speech delivered at the 4th Global Competitiveness Forum in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Kaku discusses the potential of scientific progress for changing our culture:
From the same conference, here is Jacques Vallee offering an equally inspiring vision of open-minded inquiry:
Vallee and Kaku are discussing one of the most “fringey” topics in current discourse, UFOlogy, and they are providing a vision for it that brings it out of the tabloid press and into the realm of human potential. There is no scoffing in their presentations, no dreary effort at debunking, as they move past speculation on either side of the issue and open up the conversation to examining whatever the phenomenon in question may mean to the further progress of knowledge.
Kaku even cites Giordano Bruno, the late Medieval Hermeticist, as an inspiration. And he doesn’t spend time nitpicking Bruno’s philosophy by parsing it out and gloating over what he got wrong or justifying what he got right. Instead, Kaku takes the flame of inspiration that Bruno carried and uses it to spark a vital vision of future development.
Now let’s look at Randall Carlson, the visionary behind Sacred Geometry International, as he uses an almost identical language to discuss the exoteric principles behind the Hermetic Great Work:
The difference in Carlson’s approach is based on his specialty, sacred geometry, which takes the basic principles of mathematics and brings them into art, architecture, and human experience, where they can be used to shape society. Yet here, even with a different focus, the message is the same as Kaku’s and Vallee’s, as Carlson calls out our responsibility to work toward true progress for both society and the individual.
Our digital media allow us to move past being passive observers in this process. We are no longer allowed the safety of dinner-table discussions that can then be pushed aside with the dismissive descriptor of “solving all the world’s problems.” Our individual participation in a global society has become much more active, much more direct, and the opportunities to raise our awareness have never been more openly available.
“There is ultimately no difference between true Rosicrucians and true scientists. Science is observation, not inflammatory exposition, just as worship is a whisper of the devoted lover towards an illuminated infinity, not a degenerate dogmatism.”
At the center of this for each of us is our own personal, individual development. Dawkins’ flaw is his personality, his bitterness, the interior vision that led him to discover selfishness in a neutral biological process, and his inability to see past his own biases to glimpse the poetry of science that he verbally espouses. This is the same flaw that leads to ranting diatribes in the public comment fields of most heavily trafficked websites. As above, so below.
Jeanne Guesdon, S.R.C., the Former Grand Master of AMORC in France, discusses this tendency toward inner pollution via too much loud and empty talk in a wonderful article from 1978 titled “Inner Learning through the Power of Silence”:
The main trouble with today’s world is the lack of silence. Not only is contemporary society literally poisoned by the tumult of machines (including talking ones), but also — and especially — it is saturated with loud and empty words. It is a question of who will speak the loudest, who will make the most statements, who will tell his or her story with the most trifling details.
How correct was Kierkegaard, the great Scandinavian thinker, when he wrote: “The world in its present state is sick! If I were a doctor and was asked for advice, I would answer: ‘Be silent!'”
Yes, true Rosicrucians can be recognized by their oral temperance, among other virtues. They speak only sparingly, and the words they speak are rich in meaning. They practice the following advice from a Sufi teacher: “If the word you are going to speak is not more beautiful than silence, then do not say it!”
In the context of this important lesson, there is no difference between true Rosicrucians and true scientists. Science is observation, not inflammatory exposition, just as worship is a whisper of the devoted lover towards an illuminated infinity, not a degenerate dogmatism.
In the end, both paths meet in the truth of existence, and opinions fade before that smiling guardian, Death, whose gateway cannot be crossed with prejudice. As Eugene Canseliet writes in his 1929 preface to The Dwellings of the Philosophers:
And so, after having strayed from the correct path, modern science seeks to rejoin it, progressively adopting ancient concepts. Much like successive civilizations, human progress obeys the inescapable law of perpetual renewal. Though it be against all, Truth always triumphs, in spite of its slow, painful, and tortuous advance. Sooner or later common sense and simplicity gets the better of sophistry and prejudices. “For there is nothing”, the Gospel teaches, “which cannot be discovered and nothing so secret that it cannot be known”. (Matt.10:26).
Or as Lord Martin Rees stated in his address at TED :
If my research group had a logo, it would be . . . an ouroboros.