Truth Sought Exclusively is Truth Discovered Exclusively
The relationship between religion and science is an issue that concerns all human beings, and the connection between the two should not be taken lightly. Within three separate texts, each author expresses his or her own method of explaining this sacred relationship between two values that should be combined to fulfill each of their true potentials. Lama Surya Das wrote Awakening the Buddha Within, a book that aims to teach those interested that there is indeed a method of uniting an individual’s psychological and social concerns to create innate perfection within oneself.
Karen Armstrong argues in The Battle for God that fundamentalism is a sign that certain people are becoming more desperate to prevent the termination of religion as an important value in future society, and that two concepts, mythos and logos, perhaps provide a secret to successful balance between religion and science. Further, in “Back From Chaos” by Edward O. Wilson, it is suggested that all knowledge must be combined as a whole in order to make use of the full capacity of human potential. In reality, each of these authors is indeed making the same overall argument about science and religion.
Das, Armstrong, and Wilson all insist on the importance of combining the vision of religion with the facts of science in order to create a balance between two essential issues, neither of which can be afforded to be disposed of. The importance of uniting religion and science lies in the lifelong quest for truth. The significance held by these two methods of thought exists only because knowledge is valuable to human beings. In other words, religion and science are practiced, although separately, for the same ultimate purpose: for the continuation of the search for truth.
Each of these two methods is necessary in achieving this mutual goal, as they are simply one objective that has been halved into two separate techniques of achieving it, two techniques that cannot exist fully without one another. Buddhism, a way of life more than it is a form of religion, teaches that each person has the ability to become aware and awake in his sense of self. Albert Einstein is quoted in Awakening the Buddha Within as stating that “the religion of the future… should be based on a religious sense arising from the experience of all things natural and spiritual as a meaningful unity.
Buddhism answers this description” (Das 74). This suggestion describes Buddhism as a practice that is truly effective in combining two important concepts and creating a unity between them. Buddhism itself can perhaps be placed in the more spiritual area of concern, however remaining a visionary way of life that foresees the most effective method of experiencing life in the fullest and most satisfying way that is possible. The two important concepts being unified in this quotation are the natural and the spiritual, which can in fact be reworded into science and religion, respectively.
According to Das, Buddhism connects both worlds into one adjoined path that allows for science and religion to coordinate roles in an effort to succeed in their ultimate goal. “Buddhism says… everything is interconnected, and it introduces a system of integrating all experiences into the path toward realizing innate perfection” (Das 81). This description of Buddhism suggests that all experiences are necessary to analyze and understand in order to achieve complete fulfillment of one’s life. This argument is likewise made by Wilson when he offers an illustration that connects four main aspects of experiential life.
Environmental policy, ethics, biology, and social science are the four titles he chooses to portray the understanding that these four cannot survive with any one of them severed, as we do in fact view them as intertwined (Wilson 191). Wilson suggests that these four domains must be understood as essential both to one another and also to the overall health of mankind’s struggle toward truth. His argument is undeniably accurate. These four noted domains describe and cover all aspects of our existence, from our pragmatic need for fact to our spiritual need for peace of mind.
In addition to teaching that all experiences are valuable and must be combined, Buddhism also instructs that peace of the eternal soul is half of the battle in obtaining full understanding of truth. Das states, “Science has made great progress in harnessing and understanding matter. Buddhism, however… has developed a systematic method of shaping and developing the heart and mind” (Das 81). An effect such as this made on an individual is highly beneficial, improving the quality of the individual’s psychological health, an effect that greatly influences his or her practical interpretation of and effect on life.
A healthy heart and mind allows for a more cognizant journey into the now unbiased search for truth – now unbiased because the separate roles of empirical fact and creative imagination are now separated only in meaning, and at the same time work together to obtain a more complete comprehension of the roles of one another, and the goal they can reach hand in hand. Fundamentalists, described in Armstrong’s book, seem to be in desperation while attempting to save religion at a time when science has been developing a greater feeling of importance over religion.
It is a reaction against the scientific and secular culture” (Armstrong 9) that hopes to prove, in often angry or violent ways, that religion surpasses scientific fact. Armstrong attempts to explain to the reader that it is not science, nor religion, but both combined that allow for the healthiest way to realize all that life offers and put it to effective use. She introduces two terms, mythos and logos, in order to emphasize more effectively the importance of both belief and fact, portrayed by fundamentalists most commonly using the terms science and religion.
According to Armstrong, “Myth looked back to the origins of life, to the foundations of culture, and to the deepest levels of the human mind” (Armstrong 10). This half was concerned with meaning more so than with practical facts. On the contrary, “logos was the rational, pragmatic, and scientific thought that enabled men and women to function well in the world” (Armstrong 11). In other words, logos helped people function in the physical environment while mythos provided for humans a sense of meaning in their own personal lives.
These terms strengthen the case for the combining of religion and science, proving that both inner peace and societal harmony are necessary in order to keep the health of existence. Facts, or logos, are essential in their own portion of understanding the world. However, they could not exist without mythos, which provide a unique sense of inner joy for a person. Mythos could not fulfill the need for physical safety, for instance, while at the same time, logos could not aid a person in remaining psychologically sound.
The use of both of these together allows an individual to understand his or her own role in life along with his or her role in society. An understanding of these two important concepts is extremely helpful in evenly balancing personal health with contribution to societal needs. A successful combination of the two enables the world to function more effectively as a whole. The understanding of the roles of mythos and logos applies to Wilson’s view of the importance in obtaining a unity of all knowledge, and consequently creating a more functional environment in which to live.
He favors the word concilience as a description of what he believes should be the goal of humankind: “literally a ‘jumping together’ of knowledge as a result of the linking of facts and fact-based theory across disciplines to create a common groundwork of explanation” (Wilson 191). Wilson argues that all subjects should be combined and considered together and in this way an overall understanding of life can potentially be established. Instead of separating all interests into groups, it is more effective if each plays an important role in acquiring a complete perception of the world.
The result of this unity of subjects would be an intertwining of all aspects of both religion and science. Each related subject within both of these halves of knowledge is already intertwined with others. Physics cannot be fully understood without some sort of theory-based instinct. It is at the same time impossible to live a life governed only by religion and intuition, because it would make it impossible to understand history and true proven facts. How can unabridged truth be obtained in a world where only one way of thinking is accepted?
In much the same way that Das insists that enlightenment in the Buddhist sense refers to self-realization, Wilson discusses Francis Bacon’s belief that “we must understand nature, both around us and within ourselves, in order to set humanity on the course of self-improvement” (Wilson 195). It is important that the term “enlightenment” is not confused between these two texts. In Buddhism, enlightenment is the awakening of the inner self, while Enlightenment in Wilson’s essay is a term used to describe the seventeenth and eighteenth century movement that launched the modern era for the whole world (Wilson 192).
Wilson’s Enlightenment caused the birth of an entirely new way of thought that eventually died out, much to his dismay. Francis Bacon’s contribution to this temporary movement was great. At one point, he “proclaimed a pyramid of disciplines, with natural history forming the base, physics above and subsuming it, and metaphysics at the peak, explaining everything below – though perhaps in powers and forms beyond the grasp of man” (Wilson 195). This illustration of the combination of disciplines relates back to both Das and Armstrong.
Das’ belief that everything is interconnected directly correlates with the view that each section of the pyramid of disciplines is essential to another. In addition, Armstrong argued in relation to mythos and logos that “each would be impoverished without the other. Yet the two [are] essentially distinct” (Armstrong 11). Also, in describing the two ways of thinking, she states that they are both complementary ways of arriving at truth (Armstrong 10).
This belief certainly matches the viewpoints of Das and Wilson. Each author is discussing the importance of combining all understanding and uniting religion with science. The three works, Awakening the Buddha Within, The Battle for God, and “Back From Chaos”, are all founded upon the same essential claim. The purpose of each writing is the same: to demonstrate for the reader that it is in fact possible to attain an understanding of life assuming that the proper method is observed.
The authors introduce the information in their own ways, one describing it as spiritual awakening, another as the combining of mythos and logos, and the last as an integration of all knowledge. Despite their differences in defining this belief, they all succeed in portraying their own interpretation to those who see what the future may hold. The result of each of these combinations is the possibility of the future attainment of truth for all human beings who follow in these footsteps.