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The science writer and MIT-trained scientist argues that there is an ultimate truth--perhaps even the elusive face of the divine--lurking behind the matter and energy.
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Gerald L. Schroeder is the author of Genesis and the Big Bang and The Science of God. He earned his Ph.D. at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before moving to laboratories at the Weizmann Institute, the Hebrew University, and the Volcani Research Institute in Israel. His work has been reported in Time, Newsweek, Scientific American, and in leading newspapers around the world. He lives in Jerusalem with his wife and their five children.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Prologue: We Are the Universe Come Alive
A single consciousness, an all-encompassing wisdom, pervades the universe. The discoveries of science, those that search the quantum nature of subatomic matter, those that explore the molecular complexity of biology, and those that probe the brain/mind interface, have moved us to the brink of a startling realization: all existence is the expression of this wisdom. In the laboratories we experience it as information first physically articulated as energy and then condensed into the form of matter. Every particle, every being, from atom to human, appears to have within it a level of information, of conscious wisdom. The puzzle I confront in this book is this: where does this arise? There is no hint of it in the laws of nature that govern the interactions among the basic particles that compose all matter. The information just appears as a given, with no causal agent evident, as if it were an intrinsic facet of nature.
The concept that there might be an attribute as nonphysical as information or wisdom at the heart of existence in no way denigrates the physical aspects of our lives. Denial of the pleasures and wonder of our bodies would be a sad misreading of the nature of existence. The accomplishments of a science based on materialism have given us physical comforts, invented lifesaving medicines, sent people to the moon. The oft-quoted statement, "not by bread alone does a human live" (Deut. 8:3), lets us know that there are two crucial aspects to our lives, one of which is bread, physical satisfaction. The other parameter is an underlying universal wisdom. There's no competition here between the spiritual and the material. The two are complementary, as in the root "to complete."
When we see through the camouflage haze that at times convinces us that only the material exists, when we touch that consciousness, we know it. A joyful rush of emotion sweeps over the entire self. This emotional response -- some might call it a religious experience -- is reported in every culture, from every period. It tells us that we've come home. We've discovered the essence of being. Everyone has felt it at some time or other. Perhaps at a brilliant sunrise, in a work of art, the words of a loved one. The physical and the metaphysical have joined.
If we dared, we'd call the experience spiritual, even Godly. But there's a reluctance to use the "G" word. "Listen to the Force" is acceptable on the great silver screen. If the Star Wars scriptwriter had used "Listen to God," the theater would have emptied in a flash. The reluctance is not surprising, considering the bizarre claims erroneously attributed to God through the ages and especially in our age. A bit of scrutiny reveals that most of those claims are based on the expectations for the putative (and generally misunderstood) God of the Bible that we learned as children. Obviously, when our child-learned wisdom is evaluated by the sophistication of our adult minds, that wisdom is bound to seem naive.
The age-old theological view of the universe is that all existence is the manifestation of a transcendent wisdom, with a universal consciousness being its manifestation. If I substitute the word information for wisdom, theology begins to sound like quantum physics. Science itself has rediscovered the confluence between the physical and the spiritual.
If a spiritual unity does underlie physical reality, it would be natural for people to search for that unity. Regrettably in the rush of our daily obligations we often become disconnected, losing the realization that such a unity might actually exist. Our private worlds today seem to expand almost as rapidly as the universe has been physically expanding since its creation. The scientific discoveries facilitating this nomadic mobility of the mind come at a rate that far exceeds the ability of our cultures to adapt. New technologies simply displace old cultural ties, and in doing so jettison traditions that formerly stabilized society.
In the developing world, those referred to as the poorest of the poor are the landless. In a sense we have become landless nomads, cut off from our roots, even in the midst of wealth. We deal in tokens. Other than artists and the one percent of the population that works on a farm, most of us have no relation to the final product of our labors. We buy and sell stocks of companies making products we barely understand. We deal in the ultimate of tokens, money. Money has no intrinsic value. It may promise security, pleasure, even freedom, but it doesn't provide those insatiable and all too often elusive goals. The resulting angst is almost palpable. Divorce rates exceed 50 percent. Violence in homes crosses socioeconomic divisions. Histories have been exchanged for gossamer hopes of a freedom untethered to tradition.
Accessing the consciousness within which we are embedded requires skills that go beyond our intuitions. The amazing, even startlingly illogical, discoveries in physics and biology during the past few decades have given us the tools to gain scientific insight into the metaphysical underpinnings of our world and, in return, acquire spiritual insight into scientific, empirical fact. Understanding nature's wonders need in no way detract from its majesty. By realizing the interwoven complexity of existence, we experience the oneness both by revelation and by reason.
No monk's life of isolated contemplation is being proposed here, no excluding of oneself from the world. The upsurge of interest in meditation, Eastern religions, and kabala reflects an almost desperate search to rediscover our spiritual roots. Those roots are best found while fulfilling the usual responsibilities of adult life, not within some cloister. Exposing the awe of existence within the reality of daily life is what this book is about.
We are, each of us, a part of the universe seeking itself. We struggle between a world that seems totally material and the emotional, even spiritual, pull we all feel at times. To relegate, a priori, those feelings of love and joy and spirituality to some assumed function of our ancestors' evolutionary drive for survival masks the greatest pleasure in life, the experiential realization of the metaphysical.
In the following pages, as we journey through the newly discovered marvels of the cosmos, of life, and finally of the brain/mind interface, I ask only that, as you read, you use these facts to reexamine your opinions concerning the origins, evolution, and essence of this wonderful world in which we live.
Copyright © 2001 by Gerald L. Schroeder
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