Wednesday, 12 September 2012
There is no speech nor language; Their voice cannot be heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world." Psalm 19:1-4
It has certainly been some while since I last posted something, as life has become increasingly busy over the past few months. I have recently extended my working hours which have necessitated a very early start. As can be imagined this certainly has some downsides but it also has given me opportunities for reflection. There is something quite unique about the pre-dawn and immediately post-dawn time of day. The peace and tranquillity so very evident, and the stirring of life with a sense of excitement and anticipation steadily growing. All of this is often framed by beautiful vistas as the sun begins to light up the heavens, and the landscape accepts its first tentative rays, whilst gentle mists hug the fields and trees like the most ethereal of blankets. The soul is elevated and filled with an awe at seeing this, which drives one to express gratitude to the Divine for the gift of simply being alive.
Popular monotheism and classical physics have shaped the way we view the world quite profoundly. On viewing the beauty of the night sky; a sunrise/sunset; the immense power of a thunderstorm or the destructive violence of a tornado, hurricane or earthquake, we tend to think of ourselves as observers looking at a scene, whose Artist is also thought of as a creative observer. It is as if we and God are outside the cosmos looking in. Both ourselves and God removed from the subject observed. Classical physics has contributed to this with its view of creation as consisting of separate and individual 'bits' interacting with each other to produce all the effects of nature, with humanity being able to observe it without affecting it. Popular monotheism, with its single God, 'up there somewhere' views God as the architect who gazes down on His creation from a lofty vantage point, and who, in orthodox Christianity, even had to become literally flesh and blood in order to dwell here amongst us in the world. This has and will continue to satisfy many, but it does not speak well to me.
While classical physics has proven to be one of the most successful conceptual models in human history, it does not really tell the whole story. Quantum physics (a subject on which I openly admit to being a complete novice) has been steadily revealing a new way to understand the fundamental nature of reality. In the book 'Wholeness and the Implicate Order', by the late quantum physicist David Bohm, and in the lectures of the British quantum physicist Basil Hiley you find a view of reality that is rooted in wholeness, in unity, where all phenomena are manifestations of an underlying unified movement. Separation, distance, subject vs object are useful at a certain level, but are ultimately illusory. The main analogy used is that of a stream of water, in which there are many ripples and eddies in the movement of the water. These ripples and eddies are not at all separate from the water that surrounds them, but are born from, intrinsic to, and shaped by, the collective flow of the river. They are an expression of the overall flow.
With that understanding in mind, we can look at the world quite differently. When I experience the exquisiteness of dawn, I am not viewing a scene that is separate from myself. Both myself and the sky glowing with the sun's warming light; both myself and the mist-enfolded landscape; both myself and the stirring life are not separate or distant, but are manifestations of a greater wholeness, and closer to each other than is imaginable. Just as with the holographic image, in which every part of the image is encoded in every part of the photographic plate, so I and that which I view are at a fundamental level rooted in the underlying unity. Existence is a process of unfolding and manifesting that concealed flowing unity and both ourselves and that which we view are part of that stream of movement.
This way of perceiving has practical benefits. When I view the gentleness and beauty of the landscape, I know that I too can find gentleness and beauty within me for we come from the same source. When I see the strength of the wild beasts, I too know that such notions of strength are within me. We can learn so much about ourselves and the path we should walk from studying everything we see and experience. Nature and experience as well as Scripture and the example of Jesus are revelations. Indeed Jesus himself taught that people should consider the lily of the field or the birds of the air to better know how to live.
And what of God? Do we continue to view the Eternal One as the artist or designer who stands apart from Her creation? To maintain that the Omnipresent is limited to 'out there' in some way? For me this is impossible. For me the Implicate Order, the underlying unity, is the first manifestation of the infinite and eternal Unity that is God. To me the cosmos is theophany, an appearance of God. We exist, so to speak, in the mind of God and there is no distance between us and Her. While the essence of the Divine cannot be contained in any part of our world, or even in the whole of it, there is no part devoid of His holy presence. When I view the sunrise I am not looking at a painting separate from myself and created by a distant Artist. I am seeing the presence of God, and in that presence I am seeing myself and everyone, and everything else. A true symphony of Unity.
"We live in succession, in division in parts in particles. Meantime within man is the soul of the whole; the wise silence; the universal beauty; to which every part and particle is equally related; the eternal One. We see the world piece by piece, as the sun, the moon, the animal, the tree; but the whole, of which these are the shining parts, is the soul." Ralph Waldo Emerson.