Why Would A Scientist Pray | May 2012

FMBR Editorial: May, 2012

Why Would A Scientist Pray?

Russell Targ and Jane Katra


Today, many of us are searching for a comprehensible spirituality, one in which experience takes primacy over religious belief. It is evident that a person need not believe or take on faith anything about the existence of universal spirit, because the experience of God is a testable hypothesis, as we describe elsewhere is this paper. However, philosophical proof is not our purpose. Rather, we have become aware that this experience is available to anyone seeking a spiritual life who at the same time desires to remain a critical and discerning participant in the twenty-first century. We can include God in our lives without giving up our minds, if we can transcend our usual analytical thoughts and learn to become mindful. A scientist might pray, or search for the peace which passes understanding as a way to experience the truth without conscious thought.

In his 1939 essay Science and Religion, Albert Einstein suggested that we each have the potential for a greater awareness of truth than analysis alone can offer: Objective knowledge provides us with powerful instruments for the achievements of certain ends. But, the ultimate goal itself, and the longing to reach it, must come from another source.

Wisdom teachers throughout history have shown that the experience of God is possible without belonging to a church or following a religion, as long as one's basic motive is to discover truth. Dr. Herbert Benson recently proposed that our bodies and our brains are hard-wired for God. By this he means that throughout the past twenty-five hundred years from Buddha, Jesus, and the Baal Shem Tov (the founder of Hassidic Judaism), to such poets as Rumi, Blake, and Emerson, mystics have shared a common experience that is actually available to us all. In all the mystic paths, the experience of God is celebrated, rather than the belief in God, or the religious ritual. The Sufi poet Rumi shared his thoughts which arose after experiencing his own divinity:

All day I think about it, then at night I say it.
Where did I come from, and what am I supposed to be doing?
I have no idea.
My soul is from elsewhere, I'm sure of that,
And I intend to end up there.

Whenever we sit peacefully and quiet our mind, we have an opportunity to experience an oceanic connection with something outside our separate self. To many, that connection is experienced as an overpowering feeling of love, and it may well constitute part of our evolutionary process as a species.

This feeling of universal love, without any particular object, is often associated with the realization that we reside within an extended community of spirit enveloping all living beings. Such feelings of unbounded interconnected consciousness have been described by many as an experience of God. The gift of a quiet mind allows us to understand what it means to be in love, like being immersed in loving syrup, as contrasted with being in love with another person. It is possible to reside in love (or gratitude) as a way of life. This experience is the source of the often-heard expression that "God is love", which in an ordinary context is easily dismissed as a simple cliche, or worse, as not even comprehensible.

These oceanic, loving, peaceful experiences are examples of the compelling feeling of oneness that mystics have been urging us to explore for millennia. Jesus called this state of awareness the peace that passes all understanding, and "a kingdom which is not of this world". Hindus call it bliss, or ananda. And Buddha called it a state of no-mind, meaning the absence of thoughts disrupting awareness of indivisible unity.

This state is available to us now, while we reside in the world, whether or not we know or follow any religious teachings. Psychologist Joan Borysenko has written, "When the heart is open, we overcome the illusion that we are separate from one another."

An excerpt from an article entitled "The Scientific and Spiritual Implications of Psychic Abilities" by Russell Targ and Jane Katra, Ph.D. Reprinted with permission.
The full article can be found at http://www.espresearch.com/espgeneral/doc-AT.shtml

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