I’ll open with this, because it certainly caught my attention:
“There must exist, beyond mere appearances … a ‘veiled reality’ that science does not describe but only glimpses uncertainly. In turn, contrary to those who claim that matter is the only reality, the possibility that other means, including spirituality, may also provide a window on ultimate reality cannot be ruled out, even by cogent scientific arguments.”
The author of these words is a recent winner of a $1 million Templeton Prize. His name is Bernard De’Espagnat, a theoretical physicist, apparently known for working in quantum physics. Although the issue is avoided in mainstream documentaries and books (Elegant Universe, etc), he wasn’t afraid to tackle the philosophical and spiritual implications of scientific discoveries – as they have always been strongly influential in both.
So, what does he proclaim? That this ultimate ground of being, or as he describes as, “The hypercosmic god” defies our ability to know it, beyond words or concepts. We can only catch glimpses, if only relative to our own subjective beliefs and limitations of perception. Ultimate reality, in other words, is hidden behind a veil. And this world we live, breathe and talk in is the illusion. Sounds resoundingly like Buddhist, or rather mystical claims across all religions, doesn’t it?
To quote him again,
“Independent Reality plays, in a way, the role of God – or ‘Substance’ – of Spinoza,” d’Espagnat writes. Einstein believed in Spinoza’s God, which he equated with nature itself, but he always held this “God” to be entirely knowable. D’Espagnat’s veiled God, on the other hand, is partially – but still fundamentally – unknowable. And for precisely this reason, it would be nonsensical to paint it with the figure of a personal God or attribute to it specific concerns or commandments.
This leaves no religion to “claim” God, or the hyper-cosmic God. Instead, we are left to see any perception we have is relative, subjective, inter-personal. And maybe by understanding that, we won’t need to battle over the details – does God love all beings, or only Christians, Jews, Muslims? Does God have a beard? Is God a man? All of these things, no matter what image we ultimately shroud around the unknowable, it is still unknowable.
But, isn’t this what the mystics, the sufi’s and the bodhisattvas have been saying all along? That, when you become enlightened, there is not a trace of enlightenment left. Truth is not a “thing” to attain, and thus not an idea, concept, something we can grasp. Rather, spiritual progression has been to at least attempt to gain insight behind this veil. Just as science has. The fact that, perhaps for one of the first times, scientific thought and reflection is coming to similar spiritual inquiries is fascinating, and can’t be easily ignored. What does that imply? Perhaps that, if there are more philosophers and scientists like Bernard, the 21st century will be one where science and spirituality are not at odds, but discover that within each other are similar insights, and perhaps they should begin to work together.