“For debased souls religion is a yoke imposed, through self-interest, by the poltrooneries of fear and the follies of hope. For exalted souls religion is a force, springing from an intensified reliance in the love of humanity.
Religion is the collective poesy of great souls. Her fictions are more true than Truth itself; vaster than Infinity; more lasting than Eternity; in other words, they are essentially paradoxical.
They are the dream of the Infinite in the Unknown, of the Possible in the Impossible, of the Definite in the Indefinable, of Progress in the Immutable, of Absolute Being in the Non-existent.
They are the ultimate rationale of the Absurdity, which affirms itself, to deny doubt; they are the science of foolishness, the embrace of Folly and Knowledge. They are the cries of the eagle mounting above the clouds, the roar of the lion of the Apocalypse, that takes to itself wings and flies away; the bellowing of the bull beneath the sacrificial knife, and the never ending moan of mankind before the portals of the tomb.”
– From Paradoxes of the Highest Science, by Eliphas Levi
With the hot conversations surrounding issues of religion and science, the beauty of both often burns out in our collective conversation. Rubbed between rhetorical frictions, our brains agitated and aching, it’s difficult to meditate on the simplicities that attend the greatest expressions of both fields.
In religion, the most profound expressions of faith are found in those who sought to live simply with minds alert to changes and souls at rest in the heart of existence. Science finds its finest expression in those who have sought elegant ideas, simple solutions to seeming complexity. The two are never mutually exclusive, and both, when they reach their true foundation, are immune to a fire of words that can’t bear long against stone.
“Western civilization, it seems to me, stands by two great heritages. One is the scientific spirit of adventure — the adventure into the unknown, an unknown which must be recognized as being unknown in order to be explored; the demand that the unanswerable mysteries of the universe remain unanswered; the attitude that all is uncertain; to summarize it — the humility of the intellect. The other great heritage is Christian ethics — the basis of action on love, the brotherhood of all men, the value of the individual — the humility of the spirit.”
– Richard Feynman – Remarks at a Caltech YMCA lunch forum (2 May 1956)
No matter what guise is worn, the one who approaches the truth takes the same steps and encounters the same ineffable mystery.
An Ocean without Shore – Ibn Arabi (from the Ibn Arabi Society)
I marveled at an Ocean without shore,
and at a Shore that did not have an ocean;
And at a Morning Light without darkness,
and at a Night that was without daybreak;
And then a Sphere with no locality
known to either fool or learned scholar;
And at an azure Dome raised over the earth,
circulating ’round its center – Compulsion;
And at a rich Earth without o’er-arching vault
and no specific location, the Secret concealed…
I courted a Secret which existence did not alter;
for it was asked of me: “Has Thought enchanted you? ”
– To which I replied: “I have no power over that;
I counsel you: Be patient with it while you live.
But, truly, if Thought becomes established
in my mind, the embers kindle into flame,
And everything is given up to fire
the like of which was never seen before!”
And it was said to me: “He does not pluck a flower
who calls himself with courtesy ‘Freeborn’.”
“He who woos the belle femme in her boudoir, love-beguiled,
will never deem the bridal-price too high!”
I gave her the dower and was given her in marriage
throughout the night until the break of Dawn –
But other than Myself I did not find. – Rather,
that One whom I married – may his affair be known:
For added to the Sun’s measure of light
are the radiant New Moon and shining Stars;
Like Time, dispraised – though the Prophet (Blessings on him!)
had once declared of your Lord that He is Time.