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Rupert Sheldrake on Integral Naked - Christianity, the Holy Trinity, and Kosmic Creativity
May 19, 2008 12:25

 

Integral Evolutionary Biology. Part 4. Christianity, the Holy Trinity, and Kosmic Creativity.

 

The man behind the theory of morphic resonance shares his drive to explore the evolutionary impulse behind the Kosmos itself. In this discussion, Rupert Sheldrake discusses more of his own spiritual heritage, contemplates the meaning of the Holy Trinity in Christian thought, and explores the remarkable implications of creativity in evolutionary studies.

"There's a whole series of questions that have finally come to a dead end, and different philosophers have poked into their versions of these ultimate questions--like Schelling's 'Why is there something instead of nothing?' And what i think happens is that we exhaust the limit of our intellectual mind, and open to our intuitive, trans-rational, or spiritual mind--the intellect pushes right up against its own boundaries, and the answer is given by another mode of knowing, in the awareness that one has with satori."

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Who: Rupert Sheldrake is a British biologist and author who has developed the theory of morphic resonance, incorporating the insights of early twentieth century morphogenetic fields, and extending the understanding of biological "fields" to entire species—not merely individual groups of embryonic cells—and where evolutionary habits of nature can explain far more than eternal laws of nature.

Summary: In the fourth and final installment of this fascinating conversation, Rupert discusses some of his own spiritual beliefs and influences, especially esoteric and exoteric forms of Christianity.  He offers an in-depth contemplation of the Holy Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost—a powerful and uniquely Christian contribution to the world’s ongoing spiritual dialogue.

Rupert has a very intimate, ongoing relationship with the Christian tradition, complementing his career as an impeccable biologist and scientific writer.  His mutual regard for both science and spirituality has in many ways been a constant source of tension in his professional life, as his work has been heavily criticized from both religious and scientific camps.  Religious fundamentalists are typically unwilling to accept an evolutionary framework for God and the universe, as it seems to defy a literal interpretation of God as Creator.  Scientific materialists, meanwhile, are quick to label Rupert's work as "pseudoscience," having even suggested that his landmark book A New Science of Life be fit for burning—a very common reaction among scientific communities (or any institution, secular or religious) when new ideas begin to emerge, especially ones that force us to reconsider some of the basic assumptions we have about life, the universe, and everything.

It isn't necessarily surprising that Rupert is able to maintain a spiritual life alongside his career as a scientist, but some may be surprised to know that the spiritual life he chooses is predominantly Christian in orientation (though much of his spiritual intelligence came to him through his experiences in India, which he discusses in this talk).  For many people in Western culture, there is an unspoken pressure to abandon the Judeo-Christian traditions once we move into rational and post-rational stages of personal development, as if these lineages are suddenly rendered obsolete in the light of rationality.  Many embrace atheism as a new religion, jettisoning the concept of spirituality altogether, or else move on to spiritual practices and traditions that appear more sympathetic to rational and post-modern thinking—most often Buddhism or other Eastern traditions. 

In some respect, this is completely understandable.  When people grow from mythic consciousness to rational consciousness, there is often an acute dismissal of Judeo-Christian traditions as mere products of the traditional mythic mind, to be abandoned as soon as rationality begins to ask questions that cannot be answered from within this mythic mindset.  To the rational mind, these questions eventually become to a powerful wedge between religion and science, while further bolstering the mythic mind's need for unconditional faith in the Scripture.  In other words, there is a tendency to move out of the mythical stage of consciousness by throwing out one's religious heritage altogether.  The Judeo-Christan traditions have been minimally successful in producing rational and post-rational expressions of faith for the world-at-large, while Eastern traditions have been largely imported to the West by the rational and post-rational boomer generation, in a form that is often disconnected from the traditional roots these traditions themselves came from.  This causes many people in the West to feel as though only three possible options exist for them: either abandon spirituality altogether and become an atheist; abandon Judeo-Christian traditions for non-mythic and non-deist forms of Eastern spirituality; or else to completely compartmentalize their own faith in a way that often stunts their own spiritual intelligence, and makes it difficult to bring the rationality they use to navigate their day-to-day lives to bear upon their own religious belief systems. 

What is required is a radical reconsideration of religion, spirituality, and evolutionary science for the 21st century, one that is able to account for the many expressions of spiritual intelligence, all the way up and down the spectrum of consciousness.  This is not merely idle or even idealistic speculation, but is in fact an issue that is absolutely central to the human condition, and sits right at the core of everything from terrorism to globalization, from culture wars to political wars, from the separation of church and state to the ongoing debates between mythic Creationism and evolutionary science.  Every major religious tradition in the world has the capacity to act as a "conveyor belt" to help people grow through pre-rational, rational, and post-rational stages of development—for example, there can be a magical form of Christianity, a mythic form of Christianity, a rational form of Christianity, a postmodern form of Christianity, and an integral form of Christianity, all drawing upon the same rich tapestry of Christian symbolism, yet interpreted somewhat differently from stage to stage.  In the light of this evolutionary approach to religion and spirituality, the apparent contradictions between Rupert's faith in Christianity and his career in biology fade away almost immediately.

Just as an evolutionary approach to spirituality can help make sense of so much of the tension and conflict we see in our world, a genuinely trans-rational spiritual consideration of evolution can also have just as profound an effect upon our scientific understanding of the universe and its origins.  In the second part of this discussion, Rupert and Ken talk about the creative impulse itself, the tendency for newer and more complex forms of matter, life, mind, and spirit to unfold over time.  Indeed the universe seems to be winding itself up as it winds itself down, something Ken refers to in Sex, Ecology, Spirituality as the "two arrows of time"—just as there is an inherent drive toward entropy, there is also an inherent drive toward evolutionary emergence.  There is a peculiar "tilt" of the universe toward creativity—a tilt that has been largely acknowledged by the scientific community, though the source and significance of this creative impulse continues to elude the grasp of rational discourse. 

Creativity remains central to all of our scientific theories of evolution, and yet remains outside the jurisdiction of scientific methodology itself, having been the territory typically explored by artists and mystics.  As Ken mentions, the relationship between creativity and evolutionary theory ultimately leads to the same existential questions the world’s spiritual traditions were intended to address: namely, "why is there something instead of nothing?"  It is as though a secret koan has been coded into the fabric of the universe—like a black hole, it can only be indirectly seen by the rational mind by observing its pull upon everything surrounding it—and is a mystery that can only be deciphered by the light of trans-rational contemplation.  Only through deep and powerful introspection can we begin to recognize that the creative force that created the galaxy, the solar system, and the Earth is the very same force that is tapped into by the great artists of the world, from Michelangelo to Jimi Hendrix to Saul Williams.  Indeed, this extraordinary creative impulse is available to us all the time—every single moment is an opportunity for novelty to spontaneously emerge, as Spirit continues to create a universe in its own ever-perfecting image.

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