Midweek Mysticism: Cosmic Consciousness
Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal, has written an interesting article critiquing Stephen Hawking’s new television series, Grand Design, which begins tonight (Thursday) on the Discovery Channel. He writes, “… my old friend and colleague explores some of the biggest issues in science today – in particular, how close we are to arriving at a ‘theory of everything’ that explains the final mysteries of the universe.”
However, “there’s an equally fascinating question: namely whether we, as humans, will ever be able to understand our cosmos and the complexities within it.” An excellent caveat from Lord Rees.
That query is the essence, the quintessence, of what might be called macro-science, the imaginitive interpretation of the universe and beyond. Amusingly, physicists have borrowed the term quintessence to name “a hypothetical form of dark energy postulated as an explanation of observations of an accelerating universe”.
It really has become an Alice in Wonderland worldview: “hypothetical”, “postulated”, “explanation of observations”; everything is up in the air, so to speak, and the Mad Hatter is holding a tea party.
As for the “theory of everything”, we already have one: the “unity of being”, which becomes apparent when thinking is left behind and pure consciousness lights up. This is the realm of mysticism, not science, although I would contend that the mystic is a scientist too, defined as a seeker after truth. Moreover, scientists also use mystical methods in their work (see the Huntley and Auden quotes below).
There are numerous accounts of Cosmic Consciousness in the literature of mankind. The most accessible, perhaps, is in Rudyard Kipling’s novel of India, Kim. Here’s a particularly good one from the Flower Garland (Avatamsaka) Sutra. In this clip, the Buddha is the Cosmic Buddha (God), not the earthly one:
“Then the Buddha extended his right hand, rubbed my head,
and revealed to me a teaching called universal eye, which
is the sphere of all Buddhas, revealing the practice
of enlightening beings, showing the differentiation of the
planes of all universes … communicating to all beings in
accord with their mentalities …”
The book, all 39 volumes of it, describes a cosmos of infinite realms within realms, mutually containing one another (Indra’s Net, a philosophy of mutual interpenetration).
Towards the end of the book, the pilgrim, Sudhana sees the whole of the universal manifestation, and “is perfectly aware of it, understands it, contemplates it, uses it as a means, beholds it, and sees himself everywhere”, i.e. Cosmic Consciousness.
Dr H.H. Huntley writes in his book The Faith of the Physicist: “The physicist is driven by his own experience to conclude that his personality has depths and resources beyond the analysing conscious mind, wherein lie powers of synthesis, appreciation, and understanding, a latent skill and wisdom superior to that which his consciousness is routinely accustomed. … science has been built up in mental levels below the levels of [thought].”
W.H. Auden took a similar view. In the words of F.C. Happold: “Auden distinguished between what he called Primary and Secondary Imagination. The Primary … has contact with the sacred, in the widest possible sense of the word. This contact arouses a sense of awe, to which there is an impulse to respond. … The function of the Secondary Imagination is to give form to this undifferentiated awareness, to allow it, as it were, to become incarnate. It is an active faculty; it differentiates, interprets, assesses, and transforms into words concepts and images.”
This double process of “being” and precipitation is responsible for all our knowledge brought down to earth, even the booming formulations of science. Science and religion are closer than many boffins think.
Dr Richard Maurice Bucke also gives us a flavour of overwhelming Cosmic Consciousness. Bucke experienced a shattering and life-changing expansion of consciousness in which he “saw and knew that the Cosmos is not dead matter, but a living Presence, that the soul of man is immortal, that the universe is also built and ordered. That without any peradventure all things work together for the good of each and all, that the foundation principle of the world is what we call love, and that the happiness of everyone is in the long run absolutely certain.”
Cosmic Consciousness occurs without the use of telescopes, colliders, computer-assisted image makers or even “standing on the shoulders of giants”. It is both personal and impersonal simultaneously because it demonstrates one person’s infinite connection to everything that exists. One enters the mind of God (“Sudhana saw himself everywhere”).
The cosmology industry rests on a mountain of state grant aid, almost matching the “climate change” business. We should ask ourselves is it really affordable in these depressive times?
Oxford professor, C.S. Lewis summed it all up nicely: “There are no ordinary people, it is immortals that we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit.”
… who is the author of The Eternal Quest for Immortality: Is it staring you in the face? Available from Amazon and all good booksellers.
Spiritual Mystics in the Modern World is coming soon.
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