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Science and Spirit Forum
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Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-03-14 10:45:34
Link to this Comment: 5010
You are warmly welcomed into this forum area for "Science and Spirit"; Sharon Burgmayer and I are very glad you are here. We offer this site as a place for furthering discussion about the various ways in which academic and religious lives may or may not intersect. We hope this forum can provide a common ground for that exploration, and invite all stories you have to share about the multiple ways in which you understand the possibility, or impossibility, of this intersection.
We also welcome here your reactions to essays and conversations you'll find going on elsewhere on this site (the first entry, below, was written in response to the discussion of The Physical and the Spiritual: How to 'Get Through the Veil'"; we are hoping that a range of other, related conversations can continue and be expanded on in this space.
Please think of this as a forum for posing questions, leaving thoughts in progress, and continuing to talk, in a space where others can listen, find our conversations useful in their own explorations of the world, and contribute in turn.
We very much look forward to hearing, and sharing, what you have to say--
Anne Dalke (for myself and Sharon)
|"This I know experimentally"
Name: Gary C. Fa
Date: 2003-03-14 10:48:57
Link to this Comment: 5011
Prof. Dalke suggested that these comments might further the discussion posted here.
I would encourage short circuiting the 'wandering in the wilderness' that occurs when searches for extensions of physical models to spiritual reality(ies) are made. Some very bad philosophy has been promulgated by trying to base spirituality on or derive it from science. Appeals to quantum mechanics, entropy and evolution are particularly notorious. When in college I was assigned to read charmingly written and very scholarly book called the Meaning of Evolution by George Gaylord Simpson. The mechanisms and evidences of evolution are laid out carefully and at the end an ethics is extracted from them. The claim is then made that because the ethics mirrors the natural world it is a 'natural ethic'. I learned a lot about evolution from this book. I don't think I learned much of anything about ethics.
The problem seems to me twofold. One is trying to justify spirituality, or ethics in the case cited, rather than to model spirituality itself and then use that model to understand the thing. The second is the assumption that the God of Creation is also the God of Salvation. Our monotheist tradition demands this. Our western tradition of integrated truth promotes this. But, it is as far as I can tell ultimately un-provable.
I am convinced of spiritual reality in the world. This convincement is typically that of a scientist: I have experienced it.
There is awestruck wonder in considering creation. There is a deep and profound order to creation with very simple rules. There is magnificent variety to creation with no apparent purpose. There is a great sense of a Magisterium: a sense of that which is greater than I, a sense of that which will go on beyond my time, a sense which will become different and more magisterial as it goes on, a sense of attachment that comes from being able to wrap my head around at least a part of it. "What is man that thou are mindful or him? ... Yet thou has made him only a little lower than the angels!" If Heisenberg is correct ("If you would know the creator, study creation") then surely the Divine is Magisterial.
My experiences of the Divine Presence are necessarily more deep and personal. Therefore, I do not share them except in specific contexts: the affirmation of spiritual experience among others occurs, or where a neophyte seeker needs a final affirmation to make the discovery themselves. My sense is this discussion group is no such context; and, in an academic conversation, which this is, such affirmations too easily degenerate into solipsism if care is not taken. I will say that my experience of the Presence and of the Magisterium feel so much the same that I continue to use Ocam's razor making the simplifying assumption that the Divine is one. And, there is evidence of the God of Salvation all around us in the lives of saints and sinners. There is a child's poem: "Who has seen the wind? Neither you nor I, but when the leaves hang trembling the wind is passing by. Who has seen the wind? Neither I nor you, but when great oaks bow down their heads the wind is passing through."
It is clear to me that both Ms. Soloman and Prof. Grobstein are struggling with the all too human sense of the ultimate and a lack of solid ground on which to stand in considering it. Whittier said it well "Thou madest man. He knows not why. He feels he was not born to die; for Thou hast made him and Thou art just." If one is to proceed on solid ground, it makes sense to make models of spirituality from spiritual life knowing that some of the models will fail.
Were I considering Ms Soloman's case in a meeting on Ministry and Counsel, I would say that this is no time for theology, formal or historical. Rather, it is time to consider what I call the practical mystics: persons who see God in every day living such as Thomas a Kempis, or Mother Teresa, and of course the writers of Psalms.
Were I in conversation with Prof. Grobstein I would discourage a metaphysical approach to spirituality and encourage consideration of observers of the manifest spiritual condition; for example, William James' 'Variety of Religious Experience'; Harvey Cox's 'Fire From Heaven' and Feast of Fools'. These descriptions of real world spirituality are the very types of handles we academics need in order not feel lost in space when considering the same.
Were I in conversation with myself I would debate being conscious of the omnipresence taking as patterns the gospels, Douglas Steere's 'On Being Present Where You Are', and Thomas Kelly's "Holy Obedience" in 'Testament of Devotion'. As with most people however my day is filled with the details of living and I must be satisfied with contemplating sunsets, including the radiation fields and molecular scattering processes involved; and on conversations unconsciously predicated on how to establish spiritual truth as that which is recognized as the same. Of course if any of us knew how to do this the Templeton Prize would be ours.
|how my religious and academic lives intersect
Date: 2003-03-18 22:21:12
Link to this Comment: 5074
I can state very simply how my faith life intersects with my academic life.
In the profound suffering I have experienced with this disease - the physical suffering, the denial, alienation, abandonment, facing my own likely death, the pain I unknowning inflicted on my sons, etc. - I experienced incredible mercy from two very unexpected people - my pastor and my doctor. In their remarkable mercy, I caught a glimpse of God's pure love. The experience of their mercy which was rooted in love, made me understand love and made me better able to love. It also made me long for the ultimate face to face meeting with God which will be pure love.
In suffering I found true love and in this love gave meaning to my suffering. I started to be able to understand the Catholic notion of embracing suffering and how suffering can be good. I started to understand the notion of dying in love (complete giving).
My theological studies enabled me to give words to what I was experiencing in my heart.
I know now that much of what I worried about never mattered. The only thing that matters is truth and love. What I do in my teaching is to tell my students the truth and love them. It is that simple.
Am I able to sustain this - no. I lose it nearly every hour, but what is different is that I don't care what people think. I have found some freedom in terrible captivity. I will try every hour if necessary to rededicate myself to bring love to any situation I am in.
I do not succeed, but I try. My faithlife and my disease brought me the insight that impacts on every aspect of my life.
|Correspondence on Irreducibility
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2004-04-28 10:38:43
Link to this Comment: 9662
This letter by Anna (BMC alum), was part of a correspondence with Anne Dalke, in which they had been discussing the commentary of Diogenes Allen on "Love": "Fundamental to [it] is the loss of self concern...to pay attention to others as separate centers of reality, centers of value in themselves....to love a thing--to see it existing in its own right, to recognize its true worth, the irreducibility of another's reality...the absolute value of everyone, not relative to one's need for them....the independent reality of others..."
"How can a teacher know what it is the student is trying to master?...The student can/does have some role in determining how she wants to grow...Can teachers/students collaborate to support a level of growth that the student defines? . . .
There is conversation I'm eavesdropping on at http://csf. colorado.edu/sine/transcripts where the Dalai Lama, John Taylor Gatto (a recently acquired hero of mine), Ron Miller & Parker Palmer participated in a conference on spirituality in education. Actually, all these "conversations," including the new "How to Get Through the Veil" all seem like one conversation to me.) You might enjoy this particular site.
Anyway, in Gatto's opening remarks he says, "You'll recall the Dalai Lama yesterday said that the goal of Buddhism is happiness...the goal of Christianity has not been happiness except incidently to other purposes." I'm not sure Christ would agree with that, but I do think that much of Christianity as taught by institutions does teach that an individual's happiness/fulfillment is less important than the services being done by that person for others. This mentality is actually one that limits transcenting (un) invested (un)embeddedness (I really need an easer term for this)....
one's that's shorter to write, mostly, and in so doing have been thinking of the "attachment parenting" writings of Dr. Sears & his wife....gurus of breastfeeding on demand, co-sleeping, wearing the baby, quick response to crying, etc. etc. etc.). They focus on parental behaviors that foster a deep bond, attachment between mother and baby (primarily) so that the mom's responses are almost inseparable from baby's needs/expressions of needs. I just think of it as listening to the baby, really, which is not so different from listening to any other human being given how much we don't/can't comunicate verbally (Grobstein's comments about how much is subconscious fit here).
One idea that is floating through my head is fluid investment or fluid attachment (?)--the idea that you are fully committed to a person or set of people, but that how that investment manifests itself is not tied to one approach or one goal. Maybe dynamic investment is better? I'm just really resistant to the static feeling in uninvested embeddedness. Dynamic investment might, for me, capture the responsiveness of both parties in the relationship--that teachers change as their students change. It also helps me keep the focus on the relationship rather than my responsibility being primary. This is something my husband tries to remind me of: that when I'm struggling w/ a prolonged "stuckness" of [our son] E's: it's not always something that can be affected by me, that he has to learn & grow too.
I think some context for that last thought might help you understand why this idea has really stuck w/ me so deeply & why I'm thinking & writing forweeks at a time. E. falls w/in the autistic spectrum & has been a high maintenance kid. We've managed & mediated his world so much in order to help him be in it, that it's hard to know when to step back or how far. His is not an extreme case, though at earlier points, he has been closer to "true autism" than he is now. A generation or 2 ago he probably would just have been thought of as eccentric--we get a little caught up w/ labels these days, but essentially he doesn't have the best of filters & so he overloads on stimulation that most kids roll w/ pretty well....
Thank you for "How to Get Through the Veil" ! It all dovetails w/ the thinking I've been doing on dynamic attachment and other things I've been reading/thinking lately.
Jeanne-Rachel has probably already stumbled upon Claire Farrer's Living Life's Circle & other anthropological texts. She is in a field termed, I think, ethnoastronomy, where the focus is really on the spiritual as lived by a group in the case of the Mescalero Apache (her group of study) learning how they are shaped by their base metaphor and use of the natural world. . . . She would be an interesting person to bring into your thoughts on uninvested embeddedness since she is really trying to help teachers stay committed to that quality of connected teaching....Huston Smith, The Forgotten Truth seems more than applicable to this discussion/exploration. Also Why Religion Matters by the same author. In the second he states that scientists will only accept that which they can see or prove--it's not self-evident. In faith all is self-evident--it needs no explanation.
The trees have become
suddenly very happy
it is the rain
it is the quick white summer rain
the trees are in motion under it
they are swinging back & forth they are tossing
the heavy blossoms of their heads
they are twisting thier shoulders
even their feet chained to the ground feel good
thin & gleaming
nobody can prove it but any fool can feel it
they are full of eletricity now & the shine isn't just pennies
it pours out from the deepest den
oh pretty trees
may you have many such days
flinging your bodies in silver circles shaking your heads
over the swamps & the pastures
rimming the fields and the long roads hurrying by.
from West Wind