I have recently been reading Rupert Sheldrake, a highly-credentialed and qualified scientist who has written extensively about knowledge at a distance through what he calls the “morphic field.” He talks about pets that know their owners are coming home or are in trouble; he writes about and people having telepathic connections; and he offers up a sea of qualitative and quantitative evidence to support his arguments.
But Sheldrake also discusses organized bodies of scientists who actively seek to undermine his work without ever listening to the evidence or his arguments. They are closed minded and contemptuous.
I happen to believe Sheldrake is describing something real; his morphic field is something I have experienced. I also believe his statements that the scientific community is rejecting him out of hand without even listening to his arguments: several years ago I explored the nature of consciousness and discovered there is no room in scientific conversation for serious conversation about subjectivity; philosophers of mind see consciousness as either an illusion or an emergent property of the material world. In other words the scientific community is trapped in an objective worldview that is unable to seriously consider the subjective world of experience. It has bounded itself by walls of belief.
This is the same worldview that rejects religion as an opiate and God as a creation of the mind because they don’t fit in a materialistic frame of reference. It is a worldview that is closed and limited; it is a worldview that is not open to an open inquiry, but is rather bounded by the belief that the material world is all that exists. I find this particularly odd when quantum physics so clearly describes the impact of the observer and when the science of astrophysics is now dependent on the existence of massive amounts of dark energy and dark matter which have yet to be observed. It is terribly sad when minds that pride themselves on their inquiring nature are unable to see the limitations they have created for themselves.
Belief is a fundamental part of our being and makes us feel good about our own choices and situations, but almost by its nature we cannot see the extent to which our beliefs define and limit us. If we base our happiness and our identity on our beliefs, we will often find ourselves not just rejecting the beliefs of others, but even rejecting the possibility that our own beliefs could be incomplete, and thereby rejecting the possibility of deeper truth and happiness. So much harm is done in the name of belief, not just to others but to ourselves. I would suggest that belief that gives rise to suffering is intolerance and prejudice. How can this kind of belief be good or right?
Another area of prejudice is the public perception of ancient technologies for self-examination such as the I Ching, Runes, and Tarot. From my experience these are analogous to the Christian preacher who visits his congregants and offers pastoral care, or to the therapist who helps a client to look more closely at the troubles in their life; they are no more than tools to help us in our journey of self-discovery. But perhaps because there is a mythical link to black magic or divination, the whole category is rejected out of hand by the mainstream and regarded as quackery. This is not a matter of identifying a belief that is wrong, but of creating a belief that a whole arena of knowledge is wrong. The extension of this to mainstream religion is pretty obvious.
Why do so many scientists refuse to make room for discussion with Sheldrake? Why does society not consider the possibility of value existing in ancient wisdom traditions? Why do so many mainstream religions claim exclusive truth? Why are our belief’s so important to us, and why are we so uncomfortable when our beliefs are challenged?
I am reminded of the favorite old relationship question, “Would you rather be happy or right?” We all know that the answer to that question lies not in right or wrong, but how we exist in relationship, in how we make room for the other. Surely we can all do a better job of making room in our beliefs and allowing for the happiness of others. Belief makes our world smaller; it creates walls and boundaries and limits. It is only in making space for others, in investing myself in creating the opportunity for them to be happy, that I can find my own happiness and meaning.
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