Most of us have a dual outlook on life. On one level, we simply do all the things we must do every day-work, david hoffmeister church youtube level, we hope there is more to life-something that feels deeply real, a goal worthy of any effort, a grand overarching scheme. This hope is usually pushed into the background because it is so strongly discouraged by the materialistic values that prevail in our culture.
But suppose we do not wish to settle for a materialism that dulls our vitality. We might look for wisdom in conventional religion, or for self-knowledge in psychology and the workings of the brain, but these do not aim high enough. We might look to science with its hope of unraveling the secrets of the universe and providing for the material well-being of all, but these, too, are ultimately not satisfying. Where, then, are we to find what we long for? Nasrudin, the mythical Middle Eastern jokester-sage, asks the same question:
It’s 4:00 A.M. Nasrudin leaves the tavern and walks the town aimlessly. A policeman stops him. AWhy are you out wandering the streets in the middle of the night?@ “Sir,” replied Nasrudin, “if I knew the answer to that question, I would have been home hours ago!”
To find what we desire, we must dig deeper. We must discern the essence of spirituality; we must see what is beyond psychology and the workings of the brain; we must see what physics can tell us about the nature of existence.
And we must fly higher, until we have such an encompassing view that we can see the connections between spirit, brain, and physics, and ultimately discern the structure of all existence. When we can see this, and when we can begin to see why existence was brought into being, then we will find a goal worthy of any effort.
PHYSICAL & NONPHYSICAL
The pivotal issue, at least in the beginning of our search, is the nature of existence, particularly human existence. In this scientific age, we are led to think that existence is strictly physical. If that is so, then it seems to me that life is indeed full of sound and fury, but signifies nothing. However, as we will see, science does not imply that existence is strictly physical. In fact, one of the basic themes of this book is that our existence here on earth has both physical and nonphysical aspects. The division is sharp, but the two aspects are closely intertwined in our lives. Strange as it seems at first, we will find it is this division that leads to a unified view of existence, a view that will allow us to make deep, satisfying sense of our lives.
These two aspects of existence have been explored by very different methods and disciplines. The experimental probing and mathematical description of the physical aspects are the province of physics, while the study and experience of the nonphysical aspects of existence are the provinces of mysticism. Spirituality, or mysticism, in its various guises provides the core of all religions. The aspiring mystic is one who fervently hopes there is a nonphysical aspect to existence where worthy goals for our lives can be found. One purpose of this book is to nurture that hope by showing that science does not preclude mysticism, and by delineating the basics of mysticism in a clear and useful form.
Note: The terms “spirituality” and “mysticism” are used pretty much interchangeably in this book. But spirituality usually implies an orientation closer to the major religions, while mysticism is meant to imply the study and experience of nonphysical existence in all its forms, including phenomena like mind reading. For lack of a better term, the word “mystic” is used here both for those on a more spiritual path and for those on a more “mystical” path.