Sunday, November 28, 2010

Einstein and Gandhi – the meaning of life

Ramanath Cowsik

Motivated by the extraordinary lives and thoughts of Einstein and Gandhi, the aim of this presentation is to show that science and spirituality provide us with complementary perspectives on truth – both unbiased and universal. Such a perspective motivates us to realize the futility of human desires and mundane passions, and to develop a feeling of universal empathy and thus induce us to work for the betterment of the world. It is this selfless toil that imbues life with meaning.

Einstein’s scientific contributions revolutionized almost every aspect of modern physics: Quantum Theory, Theory of Space-time, Gravitational Physics and Statistical Physics. The very concept of space-time in which the physical events take place and the objective reality in quantum systems were redefined by him. Whereas the Copernican revolution which started nearly 500 years ago, moved us away from a geocentric point of view, the theories of relativity of Einstein connected up space and time into a single manifold and made the very question, as to where does the center of the Universe lie, itself meaningless – there is the absolute freedom of choice. Moreover the equations of Einstein’s Theory of gravitation revolutionized cosmology in the following way: The Earth on which we live is about 150 million kilometers away from the Sun which is a star. The stars that fill the firmament, about 100 billion of them are conglomerated as the Milky Way galaxy. Again there are scores of billions of galaxies filling space distributed in a quasi-random way. Thus the cosmological principle was stated: The Universe is homogeneous and isotropic on large scales. When Einstein’s equations were used to investigate the consequences of this aspect of the Universe, the solutions indicated that the Universe was expanding in a very special way – the galaxies moving apart from one another similar to dots on an expanding balloon. It was as though the fabric of space was being created distancing the galaxies from one another. Edwin Hubble established that the galaxies were indeed moving away as predicted by Einstein’s equations. All this was about 90 years ago.

Astronomical research during these intervening years has shown that indeed the Universe expanded from an extremely hot condensed state called the big bang. As the Universe expanded and cooled, the primordial exotic particles and fields gave birth to the quark-gluon plasma, familiar to the Standard Model of particle physics today. When the Universe was just 1 second old, the quarks had combined and we had the particles of nuclear physics – neutrons, protons, electrons, positrons, neutrinos and neutrino-like particles and, of course, radiation. But they were still too hot. By about 5 minutes the Universe cooled enough to synthesise helium. Since the nucleus with mass 8 is unstable, helium nuclei could not fuse to give heavier nuclei and the Universe consisted of neutrinos and neutrino-like particles, electrons, protons, -particles or nuclei of Helium and radiation. There was no carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, iron or other elements – the building blocks of life and our familiar world were yet to be made.

For a million years the Universe went through an uneventful expansion, just cooling down continuously. Now the temperatures were cool enough for the electrons and protons to combine to form atoms of hydrogen. This suddenly released the close coupling between radiation and matter with dramatic effects. During the cooling down process the neutrino-like particles had also cooled and their random motions had become slow, allowing their self-gravitation to clump them together into clouds. Since these neutrino-like particles do not emit or scatter light they are called particles of dark matter. The clouds of dark matter gravitationally attracted the atoms, which radiated and slowly settled into the central regions of the clouds. Such clouds with atomic gas merged to form galaxies. Our Milky Way is one such system.

The gas in the central regions in such systems condenses into stars. The central core of stars has a temperature of about 10 million degrees and here nuclei of hydrogen and helium fuse to form the heavier elements, which are then dispersed back into the interstellar space by stellar winds. Occasionally, when the mass of the stellar core exceeds the Chandrasekhar mass, it undergoes a collapse under self-gravity and the outer regions are expelled in an explosion and this debris contains the heaviest elements, even up to uranium. In about 8-10 billion years since the birth of the Universe, such processes had seeded most of the galaxies with heavy elements and in one such galaxy our solar system formed about 4.6 billion years ago. Thus everything that we see about us has an intimate connection with the birth of the Universe and with the subsequent stages of its evolution - we are all made of star-dust.

It is only perhaps during the last billion years that life appeared on this Earth, in the form of unicellular organisms, and the slow evolution of the species led finally, within the last hundred thousand years, to humankind as we know it – and the history of civilized man with agricultural capabilities is even shorter – a mere ten thousand years – say.

Two points are to be noted here: A systematic and a progressive sequence of evolution has brought the world to its present state. Man himself with his intelligence and capacity for articulation and organization is shaped by the progressive evolution of the exotic particles and fields of the early Universe, the formation of galaxies, nucleosynthesis in the stars, the origins of life on this planet and its subsequent evolution into the modern man. The second point that is to be underscored is that the span of man’s existence is but a minuscule speck in this vast Universe, which is about 14 billion years old and has an extent of 1023 km. Yet, man’s indomitable spirit has strived to comprehend this cosmos. I would like to return to the discussion of these two points shortly.

Continuing with our description of Einsteinian cosmology, we note that normal matter like hydrogen and helium contribute only about two percent to the average mass density of the Universe. In contrast the neutrino-like-particles of dark matter contribute about one third of the mass density on the average and these dominate the formation and dynamics of the galaxies. What is the rest of the 65% made of?

Einstein at the time of inventing the relativistic cosmologies, had also discovered a way of causing the expansion to be either halted or accelerated. In a manner that was in perfect consonance with the mathematical aesthetics of physics, he had introduced the -term into his field equations. Such a term finds support with the concept of the “Quantum-vacuum”, according to which even perfectly empty space has a dynamics of its own, with particles, antiparticles and radiation continuously being created and annihilated, all in a manner perfectly in agreement with the conservation of energy and quantum mechanics. It is remarkable that during the last ten years astronomical evidence is mounting that such a vacuum or dark energy indeed is present to account for the 65% missing energy density. It is showing its unique vacuum character, of a gravity that repels, by making the Universe accelerate in its expansion! Thus we see that normal matter, with which we are all made of, is only a tiny fraction of dark matter and further more the dynamics of the Universe now is controlled by vacuum energy, which is not matter at all. All this reinforces our connectivity with the Universe and at the same time leads us away from a simple anthropocentric view.

Let us now briefly turn to Einstein’s spirituality. His god-concept was more sophisticated than the common view of a personalized God who is the lawmaker, punishing man for his sins and rewarding him for his virtues. He said “my comprehension of God comes from the deeply felt conviction of a superior intelligence that reveals itself in the knowable world”. His religion was an attitude of cosmic awe and a devout humility before the harmony in nature. Einstein considered himself an agnostic and his spirituality was closely similar that taught by Buddha and much later by Spinoza – not unlike the ‘paramarthika’ or the transcendental interpretation of the Vedanta delineated by Shankara in contrast to the Vyavaharika view held by the common man. In close parallel with the Hindu saints, especially Gautama Buddha and Shankara, he felt the futility of human desires….individual existence in pursuit of mundane materialistic goals impressed Einstein as a sort of prison and he felt a deep inner urge to experience the Universe as a significant whole. Thus Einstein’s spirituality is close to the philosophy of Advaita of Shankara. Just as Einstein opened up science which had reached a watershed in the beginning of the 20th century, so did Shankara revitalize the religions of India with spirituality in the 6th century. Einstein felt that whatever there is of God and goodness, it must work itself out and express itself through us – we cannot stand aside and “let God do it”. He was truly a karmayogi and followed the diction of Gita mā té sangōstvakarmani (do not detach yourself from your duty), as he strove incessantly to prevent war and bring peace amongst the nations.

It should be emphasized that there is a universality to Einstein’s cosmic experience which is closely akin to that of the monks and nuns in deep and fervent prayer or of the mystics of the east during meditation. A common characteristic is that these experiences are so intense that they transform the individual in a fundamental way. The neuroscientist Andrew Newberg has noted that these “religious” experiences are common to all faiths, they induce a sense of oneness with the universe and a feeling of awe that impress such experiences with great importance. They feel their sense of self dissolve, they feel a loss of boundary and their sensory inputs weaken and even turn off completely. The attendant psychosomatic reactions imbue such experiences with deep significance characterized by great joy and harmony – similar to the feeling of parents when they see their new-born off-spring – a feeling described as Bhakti by the spiritual leaders of India. A part of the nervous system of creatures, including humans, has been perhaps hardwired this way to ensure the survival of the species and sustain evolution.

Jean Staune, Philip Clayton and other organizers of this meeting have noted that a shroud of disenchantment progressively covers all of us, as science describes both humankind and nature in purely reductionist terms, somehow depriving life of meaning and values. Ever since Descartes and Locke made their powerful and important contributions, the theory of knowledge has progressively banished the considerations of values from their central place in human thought. It is fair to say that over the recent decades, the discussion of values is again taken up so as to provide the foundations for ethical and moral systems. One of the distinguishing features of the Indian philosophy is the continual unwavering importance attached to the discussion of values, a characteristic preserved over the times, perhaps because the barriers of distance and language from Europe prevented an over emphasis of the reductionist paradigm.

Postponing a detailed discussion of the Indian values, to a later occasion, let us focus attention on implications of Einsteinian cosmology to the question at hand. The two points that were underscored during the discussion of cosmology are: (1) Our connectivity with the grandest events in the Universe and even to the big bang, through a sequence of evolution, and (2) the extremely miniscule span of humans in the vastness and enormity of cosmic space and time. Even this Earth upon which we live is more than 4 billion years old – enormous compared with man’s sojourn on it. Subtlest conditions of light, temperature, water and a proper mix of the elements more than a billion years ago led to the birth of life on this planet. During most of the epochs of evolution, nature was all powerful. Nature nurtured life and made life forms that became stronger progressively, and man appeared on the scene. He too was nurtured by nature and even though he is but Nature’s creature, he for the first time has become so powerful that he can control Mother Nature. He can choose to destroy her or he can protect her and make her even more beautiful. Science alone can not and will not tell us what we should do. Spirituality has a prescription but can not adequately defend it. But a complete perspective jointly provided by science and spirituality can point to a set of values which will guide us to make the right choice.

Let us for a moment take inspiration from our connectivity with the rest of the Universe and sensitize ourselves to the character of progressive evolution to higher levels that is innate in us. To assume that those values that support such an evolution are the right ones is both natural and consistent with the teachings of the great leaders of mankind like Buddha, Jesus and Shankara. When we recognize our connectivity with the rest of the world – with the inanimate mountains, deserts, rivers and the oceans and the living things upon this earth – the trees, grass and flowers of every hue and birds and animals including man, and we sensitize ourselves to our common origins, we will be endowed with an empathy that will give us strength to follow the precept of Universal love, including “love thy enemy” taught by Jesus amongst others. Is this really true or is it just an ideal?

Mohandass Karamchand Gandhi with his deep commitment to ahimsa (non-violence) and satyagraha (pursuit of truth) showed that one can live by the precept of the Christ. In Einstein’s own words, speaking of Mahatma Gandhi and the peaceful movement he launched in South Africa and India to gain freedom from prejudice and oppression, he said “A leader of his people, unsupported by any outward authority; a politician whose success rests not upon craft nor on mastery of technical devices; but simply on the convincing power of his personality; a victorious fighter who has always scorned the use of force; a man of wisdom and humility; armed with resolve and inflexible consistency, who has devoted all his strength to the uplifting of his people and the betterment of their lot; a man who has confronted brutality with the dignity of a simple human being, and thus at all times risen superior. Generations to come, it may be, will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth”.

Volumes have been written about Gandhi. The quotation from Einstein touches upon some of the salient aspects of his personality. Let me merely add that Gandhi was born in India, about 10 years before Einstein, and discovered the method of peaceful non-cooperation in South Africa. This method of bringing about socio-political change peacefully through moral persuasion rather than through the use of force is called satyagraha. Even General Smuts, who always exerted iron-handed control, is said to have remarked “I do not like your people and I do not care to assist them at all. But what am I to do? You help us in our days of need. How can we lay hands upon you? I often wish you took to violence like the English strikers and then we would know at once how to dispose of you. But you will not injure even the enemy. You desire victory by self-suffering alone and never transgress your self-imposed limits of courtesy and chivalry. And that is what reduces us to sheer helplessness”. As the quintessence of Gandhi’s virtues, I may perhaps state universal love, ahimsa (or non-violence) and satya (truth). These three qualities blend in him, supporting and adding glory to one another. These qualities became luminously clear during the long struggle for freedom in India. The unflinching and unwavering adherence to truth, not unlike that of an exemplary scientist, is at the heart of his personality, a quality from which emerge his Christ-like love and his non-violence even in thought. In support of this idea, we may quote Gandhi himself: “To see the universal truth face to face one must be able to love the meanest creation as oneself…For me the road to salvation lies through incessant toil in the service of my country and humanity. In the language of the Gita, I want to live in peace with both friend and foe”. Thus, not surprisingly, he called his freedom struggle – Satyagraha – or pursuit of truth. This method proved remarkably successful – time and again – in bringing freedom from discriminatory control of one people by another – a freedom which was permanent and which left both the people not in antagonism but in friendship. Thus we see the two facets of Gandhi’s personality – the spiritual inner-self forever devoted to the pursuit of truth and the outer-self which found expression in this world as his deep love of humanity and as his untiring efforts towards its betterment.

Apart from these personal qualities that helped Gandhi face fearlessly any onslaught, including incarceration, during his satyagraha movement, he had another deep idea that has relevance even today: He felt that no individual, no group nor nation, whether poor or rich should be without gainful employment. Just as the poorest eking out a living can be redeemed when provided with an opportunity to work and earn a living, even the rich either through inheritance or in a nation with easily accessible mineral deposits, would benefit greatly if they work hard regularly in their chosen fields of interest . The Charka or Khadi programme of Gandhi was a tremendous help to the poor in India in the 1930s. Even today no one can remain merely a consumer. All of us should be engrossed in creative effort – this will give ‘meaning’ to our lives.

Impressed by Gandhi’s Christian love and indefatigable energy, Romain Rolland describes Mahatma Gandhi as the “St. Paul of our days” and equally impressed by the frugality and asceticism and his self-identification with the poorest of the poor, C.F.Andrews aptly likens him to St. Francis of Asissi. To use the words of Martin Luther King - “there is another reason why you should love your enemies, and that is because hate distorts the personality of the hater. There is a power in love that our world has not discovered yet. Jesus discovered it centuries ago. Mahatma Gandhi discovered it a few years ago, but most men and women never discover it. They believe in an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth; but Jesus comes to us and says ‘this isn’t the way’ ”. Nelson Mandela was also inspired by Gandhi and in a remarkable achievement, he brought apartheid government in South-Africa to an end and established universal democracy. King and Mandela, each of them was awarded the Nobel Prize in profound recognition that the Gandhian method of non-violence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our times and the need of the hour is to overcome our fears and move courageously towards peace along the Gandhian path.

Thus we see that science and spirituality both tell us that we should work to sustain the positive universal evolution, or, in other words, follow ‘dharma’ according to the Hindu scriptures. And in our incessant effort towards peace – which is essential for this positive evolution – we should follow the path shown by Buddha, Jesus and Gandhi. This method is not restricted to the oppressed and the poor but to the rich and powerful as well, as indeed Asoka the Great showed more than 2000 years ago. To summarize, we see that the reductionist approach of science has clearly pointed out our connectivity with the rest of this vast Universe and events that occurred in the depths of time. Science has also shown that a positive vector of evolution has transformed the exotic fields and particles of the big bang into the world in which we live. But the reductionist approach, as it stands today, can not tell us how to attach value to things or actions. We can resolve this impasse by augmenting the reductionist approach with an additional axiom: Let us say that all actions and attributes that support the positive evolution we referred to as having a positive value. For example, love of humanity, non-violence and efforts towards betterment of the world will now be endowed with positive value, just as the great spiritual leaders have been telling us all along. But their message could not find support in the minds rigorously trained in the reductionist approach, which tended to ignore the subtle urgings of our inner self. This extra axiom allows us bridge the gap between science and spirituality and gives meaning to lives dedicated to bringing about peace and tranquility in this world and to lives engaged in the creation of beautiful art, sensitive poetry and yes, to lives engrossed in science bringing us ever closer to truth. I cannot do better to end this brief essay than by quoting Rabindranath Tagore

“where the mind is without fear and the head is held high

where knowledge is free;

where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;

where the words come out from the depths of truth;

where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;

where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way in the dreary desert sand of dead habit;

where the mind is led by thee into ever widening thought and action

— into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake”.


Saturday, November 27, 2010

Religion vs. Science vs. Spirituality: A Dialogue

Science: You are simply mythology, nothing more and nothing less. Stories told in ancient times for ancient minds.

Religion: Well, by all means, let's jump right into the discussion. I prefer to think that I am the bedrock of civilization. You, on the other hand, are just a means of knowing and manipulating the physical world. You can't offer answers to the real questions that I address.

Science: I have explained away all the myths you created to understand the world. I have explained how the universe was created, how life came to be, how humans arose, and how they have evolved over time.

Religion: You have just discovered some of the mechanism for how things happened. You still haven't explained why? You say the universe began with the Big Bang, but you can't tell us why.
Science: In time I'm sure I will figure it out.

Religion: Even if you do, you don't have anything to say about life as humans live it.
Science: I think I've had a great deal to say through psychology and sociology.

Religion: Again you're just watching and making guesses. You can't speak from authority.

Science: What possible authority can you speak from?

Religion: I speak with the authority of God.

Science: What God? Which one? You have so many religions, so many gods, and so many stories. They can't all be right. The Christian God is not the same as the Hindu gods, or the same as the Zoroastrian gods. And Buddhism doesn't even have a creator god.

Religion: Each religion speaks with its own authority.

Science: Then how can your religion be universal? You're admitting limits to your knowledge.

Spirituality: May I interject?

Science: Not if you're going to start in with that stuff about a perennial philosophy and a great chain of being.

Religion: What do you have against those?

Science: First, the great chain of being is based on faulty logic. Sure, you have matter giving rise to life and life giving rise to mind, but you can't just extrapolate mind giving rise to soul and spirit. You can see matter and life, and you can see minds, but you can't see spirit.

Spirituality: Exactly. Soul is an interior experience. And Spirit can only be experienced internally as well.

Science: Then how can you prove it?

Religion: You don't need to prove it.

Spirituality: Well, I disagree with Religion there. You prove it by experiencing it. How do you prove that you are dreaming? Or that you have a mind?

Science: With an EEG of your brain wave patterns.

Spirituality: And you can get an EEG of your brain when in deep ecstatic meditation.

Science: Which just proves that it's all in your head. Just like dreams.

Spirituality: No, it's all in your head period. The reason I brought up dreams is because even if you can see that someone is dreaming, you can't tell what they are dreaming. You have to rely on them to describe to you that interior experience. But you also have to rely on them to describe the way they perceive any experience. And a change in brain wave patterns only shows that all experience is interpreted through our minds.

Science: If I see a tree and you see a tree, we both see a tree.

Spirituality: Yes, but we both see the tree differently.

Science: But I can describe the tree in scientific terms with complete accuracy. In terms that are not dependent on internal experience.

Spirituality: But however you describe it, you have to interpret it internally. Why is it that two scientists can look at the same data and reach two totally different conclusions?

Science: You're talking about human fallibility.

Religion: That's the fallibility of science.

Spirituality: Fallibility is a good point. Karl Popper suggested that for a scientific principle to be held as accurate, that it must continue to be proven "not wrong." It is never accepted as gospel, but held in a suspension of fallibility, constantly checking it against the facts.

Science: Which is something that religion can't do. Your facts contradict themselves. Which proves them wrong.

Religion: You might make me concede that I'm wrong about how the universe began, or about evolution, but you can't prove that there isn't a God.

Science: And you can't prove that there is. Fallibility means that your proof must be consistently positive, and yet you haven't been able to muster a single positive proof for the existence of God.

Religion: I don't have to prove God. That's what faith is about.

Science: I can't accept faith as a way of engaging the universe. Fallibility means that I can't have faith in anything. It is all provisional. However accurate my theories may be, they might change. Newton thought he had the universe licked, then Einstein changed everything and now string theory may change it again. So, if I can't have total faith in something I can see and measure, how can I have faith in something I can't see?

Spirituality: But you can see it.

Science: Where? How?

Spirituality: Internally through meditation.

Science: Back to the internal.

Spirituality: And back to the perennial philosophy.

Science: How can you have a perennial philosophy when the religions don't agree?

Spirituality: The religions don't agree, the myths and rules and dogmas, but the mystics agree on the ultimate nature of reality.

Religion: I'm not sure. Christian mystics aren't saying the same thing as Buddhists.

Spirituality: They are both revealing a different perception of reality obtained through contemplation and meditation. And a close study of the world's mystic traditions shows that they unfold in deeper and deeper layers.

Science: It doesn't matter. It's all in their heads. The meditation changes the structure of their brains in ways that create the experiences.

Spirituality: The meditation does seem to change their brains; however, not in ways that create experience, but in ways that change their perception of experience. The same things happen as we grow from babies to adults. Our brain changes, and with it, our perception of the world. Mystics are doing the same thing.

Science: But it doesn't prove that there is a God.

Spirituality: It doesn't prove a creator, a single being or entity that is all knowing and all-powerful, no.

Science: So, no God, no religion.

Spirituality: No, you still have religion; you just don't have the myths or dogma. Mystics throughout the ages have been reporting a similar deepening view of reality through meditation. Ultimately they reveal a non-dual perception of the universe, of the universe as One, as Spirit, the Ground of All Being, and One without a second.

Religion: Which is God?

Spirituality: You can call Spirit as the Ground of all Being, God, but you can't personify it, because it is beyond personality. That's the whole point of transcending the ego-self. You have to get past your ego-self to see Spirit as the Ground of All Being. It wouldn't make any sense to then find another ego-self written large over the universe.

Science: But it's all in their heads.

Spirituality: Think of it as a giant long running experiment. Over a period of at least 2500 years people have been meditating and when adjusted for cultural differences, and for depth of experience, they all seem to be reporting similar changes in the perception of the nature of reality.

Science: But where's the control?

Spirituality: It's built in. The control is all the people who haven't been meditating.

Science: So, I'm just supposed to accept what these mediators say?

Spirituality: No. You can try it yourself. Like a good scientist.

Science: What about Religion?

Spirituality: Religion needs to try it as well.

Religion: Mysticism is for special people. For saints and sages. It isn't for everyone.

Spirituality: No, it is for everyone. That's the whole point behind Buddhism. It's a religion based on mysticism.

Science: Look, even if I try this meditation and it changes the way I see the universe that still doesn't change the fact that Religion can't describe the universe the way science can.

Spirituality: Right. Well, you're both going to have a problem with this, but here goes. Religion needs to let go of its myths and stories and dogma.

Religion: Assuming I did that, what do I have left besides morality?

Spirituality: You have me. Spirituality which is what you use to inform your teachings and your morality, instead of myths and dogma.

Science: So, you two need me, but I don't need you.

Spirituality: No, you need me as well. Spiritual science….

Science: There's no such thing.

Spirituality: And spiritual religion. Stop seeing us as three separate things. See us as interconnected. If you think of a spiritual worldview the same way you think of other worldviews, it will make sense. A group of scientists from 1850, 1900, 1950 and today would all have different worldviews that would inform their ideas of what science is. Each one is a little wider than the last. A scientist with a spiritual worldview will be wider still. Their science will encompass even more.

Religion: So, you're saying that religions, like science, need to be based on direct experience. If that direct experience agrees with science but not with scripture, then we have to change the scripture. And if that direct experience reveals a sense of the numinous, we need to acknowledge that this experience is available to everyone.
Spirituality: Exactly.

Religion: Then what is my role outside of mysticism?

Spirituality: The same as before, only now your authority comes from the individual's direct experience. You are the paths and practices that the individual can follow to this direct realization.

Religion: So the traditions that disagree on cosmology and mythology can agree on you, on spirituality?

Spirituality: They can, but they don't have to be in total accord. The variety that you offer is one of your strengths.

Science: All of this is fine and dandy for Religion, but what about me? How am I supposed to accept a direct experience of the numinous, of Spirit as the Ground of all Being, of something I can't measure if I can't describe it in the terms of science, with math and equations?

Spirituality: Well, you can measure your own experience and compare it to people who are also engaged in the experiment. As for math, what you're really talking about is faith and belief.

Science: Right. I can have faith in math, I can believe in the theories it proves, but how can I have faith in you or Religion?

Spirituality: Well, faith and belief are very intertwined. Basically there are four kinds of belief. The first is based on faith. We believe something because it is presented to us by someone we trust. Whether it's God or Spirit or quantum theory, if we believe it on the basis of someone else's authority, then it's faith. And there's nothing wrong with that. I don't have the math to understand quantum mechanics, so I have to take your word for it. The second kind of belief is based on supposition or hypothesis derived from observation. You look at the world and see a pattern and from that you extrapolate a supposition about something and your belief rests on that chain of logic. Your belief in the effectiveness of meditation could be based on the fact that it seems to have produced similar results repeatedly throughout history. The third kind of belief is based on direct experience; upon knowledge gained through the senses or by logic. My belief in the realities revealed by prolonged meditation are based on engaging in a daily practice. Your belief in the realities of Quantum Physics are based on learning the math, performing the equations, and trying the experiments that prove it. The last kind of belief is similar to the third, but it is based on direct experience or knowledge unclouded by the senses or logic. This kind of belief is only available to those who have such experiences.

Religion: Since you're explaining faith, what about prayer? What about faith and service in God?

Spirituality: Look, you can still pray to God, or the Goddess, or as many gods as you choose, but if you are immersed in a practice of transcending the ego-self, of stepping beyond separateness, beyond person, then you will eventually move on to worshipping Godhead, not God or Goddess, and you begin to see this in everyone, everything, not as some being outside you. Worship of a God or Goddess can be a very important stage on the path. You don't need to throw it out, you just need to eventually transcend it.

Religion: None of this is going to be an easy sell to my friends.

Science: You're friends will be more open than mine.

Spirituality: No, it won't be an easy sell, and it will take quite a bit of time, but it is possible. When Einstein came up with the Theory of Relativity, physicists didn't immediately embrace what he was saying. Many of them continued to cling to a Newtonian view of the universe, and many clung even more tightly when Heisenberg came along and started making noises about his Uncertainty Principle. The same will happen again and it will be just as difficult for religion. But fortunately the nature of religion is to shift and change over time. What we really need are leaders who are willing to push for change.

Science: So, I guess there's a lot of work cut out for us.

Religion: Decades, even centuries worth.

Spirituality: Yes, but the whole point is that none of us have to do it alone. We can, and should, all work together. Our futures depend on it.