By: Jay Dyer
I have written on scientism lately, and in the archives several more critiques of scientism and naïve empiricism (its presupposition) are available. The question then arises as to how are we to replace this bad, contradictory narrative of man’s “progress” with something better. Is there an answer elsewhere? Can claims of religious belief and theology be rational? Are they not merely leaps of faith, with no reason behind them? In short, there are answers and religious claims are just as warranted as a “scientific” claim, and sometimes more so. When we consider “warranted” beliefs, as they are often termed in philosophy, we can see alternate explanations that are far superior to the reductionist materialism of our day.
It is my thesis that there is an alternate metaphysics that is suppressed by the centralized western establishment that has allowed a covert advancement in highly complex technologies, while the ignorant public have been given a mass consumption physics and worldview that is ultimately a dead-end (materialism). One of the chief arguments I fall back on is the fact that highly advanced technologies are based on a rigorous, formal logic that is ordered and perfectly systematic. Since logic itself, which forms the basis and presupposition of those systems, is not, and cannot be “matter,” the central narrative explanation of reality given by modern academia for man’s origins, “Enlightenment,” and so-called scientific advance is completely wrong.
This alternate metaphysics is closer to what is found in aspects of Platonism and Eastern Orthodox theology, and this is likely what informed Tesla to be so successful with his inventions, despite his latter days of theosophy. I do not intend to advocate all of Platonism or Pythagoreanism or later developments in Plato’s students, but rather when considering foundational philosophical presuppositional commitments and assumptions, the ideas of thinkers closer to this tradition are more correct than those of an atomistic, materialist bent. Modern quantum thinkers generally tend to be open about “Platonic” theories of metaphysics matching up to their discoveries, while materialistic science is utterly bankrupt at providing any coherent account of reality.
One of the founding fathers of quantum physics, Werner Heisenberg, stated:
“In the philosophy of Democritus the atoms are eternal and indestructible units of matter, they can never be transformed into each other. With regard to this question modern physics takes a definite stand against the materialism of Democritus and for Plato and the Pythagoreans. The elementary particles are certainly not eternal and indestructible units of matter, they can actually be transformed into each other. As a matter of fact, if two such particles, moving through space with a very high kinetic energy, collide, then many new elementary particles may be created from the available energy and the old particles may have disappeared in the collision. Such events have been frequently observed and offer the best proof that all particles are made of the same substance: energy. But the resemblance of the modern views to those of Plato and the Pythagoreans can be carried somewhat further. The elementary particles in Plato’s Timaeus are finally not substance but mathematical forms.
“All things are numbers” is a sentence attributed to Pythagoras. The only mathematical forms available at that time were such geometric forms as the regular solids or the triangles which form their surface. In modern quantum theory there can be no doubt that the elementary particles will finally also be mathematical forms but of a much more complicated nature. The Greek philosophers thought of static forms and found them in the regular solids. Modern science, however, has from its beginning in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries started from the dynamic problem. The constant element in physics since Newton is not a configuration or a geometrical form, but a dynamic law. The equation of motion holds at all times, it is in this sense eternal, whereas the geometrical forms, like the orbits, are changing. Therefore, the mathematical forms that represent the elementary particles will be solutions of some eternal law of motion for matter. This is a problem which has not yet been solved.” (Physics and Philosophy: The Revolution in Modern Science (1958) Lectures delivered at University of St. Andrews, Scotland, Winter 1955-56)
The principle at work here is explained in notable philosophy of science writer, Michael Polanyi, who wrote:
“To say that the discovery of objective truth in science consists in the apprehension of a rationality which commands our respect and arouses our contemplative admiration, that such discovery, while using the experience of our senses as clues, transcends this experience by embracing the vision of a reality beyond the impression of our senses, a vision which speaks for itself in guiding us to an even deeper understanding of reality-such an account of scientific procedure would be generally shrugged aside as out-dated Platonism: a piece of mystery-mongering unworthy of an enlightened age. Yet it is precisely on this conception of objectivity that I wish to insist in.” (Personal Knowledge, p. 5-6)
Ours is a day of cowardice, ignorance and lack of real knowledge and wisdom, despite the avalanche of information available at everyone’s fingertips. Without a framework to place information, the never-ending data stream is useless and destructive. If anyone has the desire to find truth, he must not be afraid to go against the grain and consider options outside the so-called mainstream, not because going against the grain is somehow inherently laudatory, but because it is a time of tremendous deception. In a land of supposed free inquiry and free thought, the only thing considered untenable and anathema is creation by a single Personal God. In fact, Carl Sagan and Richard Dawkins even say we can posit alien origins, yet belief in God is somehow irrational. On the contrary – those on our side have a far superior explanation of reality that is actually coherent. A biblical worldview may not answer every single question posed, but no worldview can provide that, much less one that is fundamentally contradictory like materialism or unobserved aeonian Darwinian evolutionary theory.
In response, I would like to suggest the metaphysics and philosophy of science posited by one of my favorite thinkers, the Orthodox theologian and traditionalist, Dr. Philip Sherrard. Dr. Sherrard is not well-known to Western academics. His concise, yet brilliant approach to this question solidifies a new way to look at science based on the Eastern and biblical tradition, which provides a unique metaphysic, and particularly the metaphysic found in thinkers like St. Maximos Confessor. I believe these ideas form a part of the hidden metaphysics mentioned earlier. Sherrard’s brief, but brilliant article “A Single Unified Science” is below and includes my comments and analysis.
“The fall may best be understood not as a moral deviation or as a descent into a carnal state, but as a drama of knowledge, as a dislocation and degradation of our consciousness, a lapse of our perceptive and cognitive powers—a lapse which cuts us off from the presence and awareness of other superior worlds and imprisons us in the fatality of our solitary existence in this world. It is to forget the symbolic function of every form and to see in things not their dual, symbiotic reality, but simply their non-spiritual dimension, their psycho-physical or material appearance.”
Dr. Sherrard is discussing the sacred view of nature, in which the divine origin of reality is not lost in the deistic divide of God from his direct immanent energetic presence in all reality. As I have written elsewhere, Thomism and the Enlightenment led the West to this great divided, based around the theological and metaphysical assumptions in Aquinas and Enlightenment thinkers. Sherrard’s metaphysic matches up to the discoveries of quantum physicists, such as the notion of higher and lower dimensions.
“Seen in this perspective, our crime, like that of Adam, is equivalent to losing this sense of symbols; for to lose the sense of symbols is to be put in the presence of our own darkness, of our own ignorance. This is the exile from Paradise, the condition of our fallen humanity; and it is the consequence of our ambition to establish our presence exclusively in this terrestrial world and to assert that our presence in this world, and exclusively in this world, accords with our real nature as human beings. In fact, we have reached the point not only of thinking that the world which we perceive with our ego-consciousness is the natural world, but also of thinking that our fallen, subhuman state is the natural human state, the state that accords with our nature as human beings. And we talk of acquiring knowledge of the natural world when we do not even know what goes on in the mind of an acorn.”
If the immediate perception we have is not the totality of reality, then whole worlds of possibility are opened up to us. This does not mean adopting any and every fantasy, but rather using reason, which we have from God, as a tool of revelation itself. Knowledge is very different from what modern man conceives it to be: It is traditional and initiatory, contrary to common assumptions, modern man suffers from a fetish of the new, in which the only real or true knowledge can only be ever-evolving and changing theories that are wholly overturned a year later. The futile search for a single unifying elementary particle reflects this idolatrous desire of man to find his deity through science, and not through revelation. But if knowledge is initiatic and revelatory, this quest is a dead end. Man’s knowledge of this world is always temporal, finite and partial, and a presuppositional commitment to a world of constant flux can only give rise to a science that is ever and always in flux, with no objective certainty or purpose.
This does not mean a traditionalist approach to knowledge is never added to or refined, but rather that there is no oppositional dialectic – no old versus new, revolutionary versus archaic. There is a harmony of advance within stasis. The new can only expand on some tradition, which is why the scientific community itself is a hierarchical cultus within which knowledge is transmitted through tradition. Neil de Grasse Tyson has not personally experienced all the scientific experiments he has read about – he must accept them as a reliable body of doctrine based on his more fundamental worldview commitments to scientism. This is not to say Tyson is completely unwarranted in his belief in scientific journals: Rather, it is to say that he, like a religious believer, has unexamined, non-empirical faith commitments which inform his modus operandi in the world.
“This dislocation of our consciousness which defines the fall is perhaps most clearly evident in the divorce we make between the spiritual and the material, the esoteric and the exoteric, the uncreated and the created, and in our assumption that we can know the one without knowing the other. If we acknowledge the spiritual realm at all, we tend to regard it as something quite other than the material realm and to deny that the Divine is inalienably present in natural forms or can be known except through a direct perception which bypasses the natural world— as though the existence of this world were, spiritually speaking, negative and of no consequence where our salvation is concerned.
This other-worldly type of esotericism only too often degenerates into a kind of spiritual debauchery, in the sense that it has its counterpart in the idea that it is possible to cultivate the inner spiritual life, and to engage in meditation, invocation, and other ritual practices, whether consecrated or counterfeit, while our outward life, professional or private, is lived in obedience to mental and physical standards and habits that not only have nothing spiritual about them but are completely out of harmony with the essential rhythms of being: Divine, human, and natural. We should never forget that an authentic spiritual life can be lived only on condition, first, that the way in which we represent to ourselves the physical universe, as well as our own place in it, accords with the harmony instilled into its whole structure through the Divine which brings it into, and sustains it in, existence; and second, that insofar as is humanly possible, we conform every aspect of our life—mental, emotional, and physical—to this harmony, disengaging therefore from all activity and practice which patently clash with it. If we offend against the essential rhythms of being, then our aspirations to tap the wellspring of our spiritual life are condemned to fruitlessness, or in some cases may even lead to a state of psychic disequilibrium that can, in truth, be described as demonic.”
This is a hard pill for modern man to swallow or even consider. If modern physicalism and “naturalistic” explanations are not correct, man may have erred in his ideological trek out of “self-imposed slavery” into Enlightenment scientism. The stages of August Comte’s advancement may actually be backwards. Comte’s positivistic and rationalistic theory of history posited that man progressed from religion to metaphysics/philosophy to science. In fact, the inverse may be the case – man finds his science needs a unifying principle and foundation that is not provided by impersonalistic philosophies and rationalist speculations. Instead, true knowledge of the world may be had more readily in a tradition that provides a framework for things science uses, like math and logic. In fact, modern atheism and materialism are more like something demonic than a mere ideology, which explains why more men have died in world wars and under secular, atheistic, materialistic regimes in the 20th century than in all previous religious conflicts combined.
“The divorce between the spiritual and the material means that material forms are regarded as totally non-spiritual, and thus either as illusion or as only to be known through identifying their reality with their purely material aspects. Such a debasement of the physical dimension of things is tantamount not only to denying the spiritual reality of our own created existence, but also, through depriving natural things of their theophanic function, to treating a Divine revelation as a dead and soulless body. And in this case it is not only of a kind of suicide that we are speaking; we are also speaking of a kind of murder.
It is just as dangerous to think we can attain knowledge of God while ignoring, or even denying, His presence in existing things and in their corresponding symbolic rituals as it is for us to think that we can attain knowledge of existing things while ignoring, or even denying, the Divine presence that informs them and gives them their reality. In effect, there cannot be knowledge of the outward appearance of things—of what we call phenomena—without knowledge of their inner reality; just as there cannot be knowledge of this inner reality which does not include a knowledge of the outer appearance.”
Sherrard hits on a crucial insight into the metaphysics of unbelief, if you will. They always devolve into monism or solipsism, where external reality is illusory, or the internal reality of mind or soul is illusory. Materialism, by its definition, can never escape the strangeloop of cyclical nonsense and incoherence, and must give way to ultimate irrationality and holistic negation. Unless the world is seen as a theophanic revelation of the Divine Mind and the logoi, there is no unifying principle for creation. All that is left to unifying reality is man’s finite mind, which is merely a mirror of an unknown external existence of phantasms and flux, never attaining any capability beyond linguistic constructs about knowing external reality.
“It is the same as with the Holy Book: the integrality of the revelation cannot be understood simply from its letter, from its outward literal sense; it can be understood only when interpreted by the spiritual science of its inner meaning. At the same time this inner meaning cannot be perceived except by means of the letter, of the outward literal sense. There is an unbreakable union between the esoteric and the exoteric, the feminine and the masculine, between the inner reality of a thing and its external appearance. And any genuine knowledge of either depends upon both being regarded as integers of a single unified science.”
Just as nature requires a tradition and contextual worldview to “interpret” it, so does a book or the Bible. There is no purely neutral footing where man, as a blank slate, can create a fresh, new meaning for the world or a book, but is always bound by the inherited lexicon from which he has emerged. This is not to say all beliefs are culturally relative, but that a cultural and semantic lexicon of some kind is something passed on to all, and this fact is inescapable. Everyone learns a particular language into which they are born, learns in some academic institution and is informed (or misinformed) by other institutions, like religion.
Without a tradition and a worldview to inform science, science is not a search for knowledge or truth, but a tool of power politics, enforced by the nastiest oligarchs to their own ends. Science becomes scientism, and the baseless ideology of a technocratic state with no other telos than the perpetuation of the technocratic corporate state itself. Might now makes right, because there is no truth, “truth” is simply made by the entity with the most “stuff,” whether material or virtual. The removal of telos from the world, and thus of the divine from the world, is the replacement with the Great Monadic Particle God of Flux, and his cultus, the fetish of the ever-new. Yet the ever-new that must constantly be churned out constantly denies eternal truth and permanence, and so negates itself nihilistically as irrelevant. Religion then degenerates according to this destructive scientistic spirit, becoming a mirror of the consumerist plastic society in which it dwells. Without a metaphysical basis, science is meaningless. If ultimate reality is irrational, man’s finitely-constructed subjective meaning is a drop in a vast ocean of universal meaninglessness. Modern man and his scientism are ultimately doomed to nihilism, as the empty promises of scientific progress simultaneously tell man his life meaningless, and thus so is science.