Society values thinkers and thoughts. We learn to be a thinker in school and university. We use thoughts to understand events and experiences and fit them into our world view. They are very handy when we need to convey a message. They are used to model the universe. But can everything exist within thoughts? What are we missing by spending so long in the thought world?
When we delve into our minds we notice we have different parts that we exist in. We spend a lot of time in the mind, but we also spend time in our bodies. When we engage in a physical activity like skateboarding, we become our body. We experience this when we try and find the bathroom at night. Our body becomes a receiver and we are at the helm.
There are other parts, like emotions and feelings. When we are in an emotion, we are in another part of ourselves. When we enter our thoughts for brief moment, the emotion will vanish. When we are in love with someone, we enter another part, a union. By sharing a moment we lose the sense of the body and thoughts and are totally within the bond with the other person.
We are the space that all this exists in.
For some of us we only exist in the thought world and may enter the body world on occasions. We forget about these other worlds, and mistake who we are for our thoughts. We become our mind. This limits our understanding of true nature.
When we talk about purpose within atheist thinking, we hear there is no inherent meaning. We are purposeless beings. We create our own meaning within our societal and biological influences. We hear "we would rather know the truth, then have a comforting lie".
But is the purposelessness that science tells us the truth?
Can the truth come from just one realm of ourselves? The rationalist, logical part.
What are other parts of us trying to tell us?
In the 'God Delusion' Richard Dawkins talks about the super natural as lying outside of the physical domain in which we can measure and probe. It is like the tiny teapot that orbits Saturn. It is so small that it can't be detected by any instrument. It doesn't interact with anything, and so there is no place for it within the physical theory of the universe. Whatever seems mysterious will come under the banner of the known eventually .
But what is the known? For Richard it is what the scientific method, rationalism and the tool of mathematics can show us. Even what seems unexplainable now, can be explained by future, unknown science.
In the 'Magic of Reality', Richard talks about folk tales that explain natural phenomenon. And then goes on to show the scientific explanation is so beyond what we could have ever dreamt of. Richard is man that loves the universe and its mysteries. The secrets and workings that lay undiscovered. He is also a man that doesn't agree with superstition and religions. But is the scientific world only one part of the natural world?
Mathematics lies at the heart of the scientific explanation of the universe. Some think that the true nature of the universe is only mathematics. Or that this world is a reflection of the platonic world of mathematics.
The holy grail of physics is the 'Grand Unified Theory' or GUT, in which Quantum mechanics and Gravity become unified into a single theory. This theory could be so elegant that it would be small enough to print on a t-shirt or a bumper sticker. This brings up a lot of objections.
It assumes that all there is to know in the universe can be described by mathematics. This comes from the reductionist view that we are a collection of molecules. Molecules are made up of atoms. Atoms are made up of particles. And particles are quantities of mass and charge, which are influenced by force fields that are in turn energy. We are just atoms in the void. The universe is just a quantum wave.
Consciousness is lost from the equation.
But we have gone down this path based on thoughts and symbols. Mathematics and logic. But when we get to the final equation can we say that is it. Sure there can be emergent phenomena that exist, like biology. But it emerges from the GUT equation.
In the 'Mind of God', Paul Davies thinks by finding the GUT equation, it draws to an end what started in the renaissance with Galileo: the understanding of the universe using mathematics, reason and the scientific method . The thinking method will be completed, but there lies more to discover. And there are other ways to explore the universe. One of these being meditation.
An experiment was undertaken where eight long-term Buddhist practitioners had their brains scanned using MRI and electrodes. To observe how the brain changed, the monks alternated between a meditative state and a neutral state. The scans showed a remarkable difference between the two states. One description of the mediative state they reach is “a state in which love and compassion permeate the whole mind, with no other consideration, reasoning, or discursive thoughts.”
A world where thinking doesn't exist, where there is profound love for all beings on the planet. In this space, thinking as we know it doesn't play a part.
The message is not that we need to explore the universe completely or that we should use meditation as a scientific tool.
It's the realisation that we aren't our thoughts.
That the symbols we write might not mean anything outside its localised domain. That when we look out at the world we don't have to impose a what or how onto it. It just is.
We meet and connect with it at a deeper level then the reasoning and logic part of our brains. We become more compassionate. We no longer need to know the ecological functions of the environment to justify its existence. We know why we shouldn't have caged chickens or animal cruelty.
We know of the deep love that surrounds us.
I love the thought that the universe will always be much stranger than we could have ever imagined; beyond our thinking minds. And I think this is true.