The beauty of a wood always surprises on a rainy day. After months of smoke and haze from wildfires, the first rains are a godsend.
A light drizzle falls as I walk along the scented paths. The park is empty of people, except for a few children who are cycling home from school.
A doe and her fawn stand quietly in the middle of the stream and are startled by the man walking on the bank above them. The fawn is unafraid, but follows its mother as she leaps effortlessly up the steep bank on the other side.
A few minutes later, a large timber hawk swoops down and lands on a branch of an oak tree overhanging the park road. You see them regularly and hear them often in the park, but not with such a sense of ownership. At least today, in this college town, the Raptors have a full mandate.
The drizzle stops, and I sit for half an hour at a picnic table. The oaks, sycamores and everything around me become more vivid as the spirit effortlessly becomes more deeply present.
Walking more slowly and consciously again, I drink in the rich smells of dampness from the park. A slower pace reflects the sublimity of the Earth, and a sense of unfathomable mystery and deep reverence arises spontaneously within.
When the mind and heart calm down effortlessly, one comes into contact with the all-encompassing silence beyond all natural sounds and man-made noises. There is something unnameable beyond thought, beyond verbal or artistic expression, but thought falls deep and effortlessly still to be felt.
There is no personal God or separate creator. Nor, in the words of British evolutionary biologist and zealous atheist, Richard Dawkins, “any kind of supernatural intelligence that designed the universe and all in it.” However, Dawkins throws the baby out with the bathwater when he says, “we have to be entirely mechanistic when we talk about life.” It is totally false.
As a lifelong student of human evolution, there are many things Dawkins says that I agree with. For example: “Religions have failed miserably in doing justice to the sublime reality of the real natural world. I also share his outrage that “teachers across America are being bullied from teaching the facts of evolution.”
But Dawkins is mistaken when he states that religion and science “are pretty much the same thing…both aspire to explain the universe, explain why we are here, the meaning of life and the role of ‘humanity.
This statement indicates that Dawkins understands neither the scientific mind nor the religious mind, which are distinctly different, though potentially compatible.
Science is the open effort to accumulate knowledge about nature and the universe through observation, theory, evidence, and repeatable experience. Science cannot explain “why we are here, the meaning of life and the role of humanity”.
Neither can organized religion – that is the goal of philosophy, which is essentially explanatory. The religious mind, which has nothing to do with belief systems, is geared towards the silent experience of the wholeness of nature and the universe and the inseparable sacredness that pervades energy, matter And life.
Dawkins mocks the “fashionable movement among many scientists” that argues that religion and science are about different things, each having their place. Whether there is “an intelligence somewhere at the root of the universe is a scientific question”, he states dogmatically. It is simply wrong.
“I assign a probability value to the question of God,” Dawkins adds, applying the same tool that insurance companies use with their actuarial tables to the most important question a human being can ask.
Like many people, Dawkins confuses organized religion with the religious spirit. They are two completely different minds, for there is a vast difference between the comforting belief in a separate personal God and the ever unsettling awareness of an immeasurable creative intelligence that pervades nature and the cosmos. (Inconvenience is a good thing.)
There is no chaos in nature or in the universe, only in man and creatures like man wherever they move in the universe. But is the cosmic intelligence completely indifferent to man, or is there an intrinsic intention to evolve, by random selection, fully conscious beings? Can Homo sapiens transcend the growing chaos and darkness of human consciousness, based on symbolic thought, and awaken a higher consciousness, based on attention, which reflects the harmony of the universe?
The methods, tools and knowledge of science obviously have their place, but they do not apply to the primary work of human beings: to fully awaken the potential for awareness that cosmic intelligence has imbued in the human brain. .
Science cannot bring about this transmutation, and religions have totally failed to do so. Only the individual, questioning alone and with others, can ignite the creative explosion of insight that will save the Earth and humanity from the fragmented and suffocating consciousness of man.