Tuesday, July 13, 2010

More on Science, Art and Religion

As we have seen science is based directly on the cognitive mode of reason.

More specifically - as conventionally understood - it is based almost exclusively on the use of linear reason. This requires standard either/or logic where opposite polarities can be clearly distinguished. So for example this assumes that "objective" can be clearly abstracted from its opposite subjective pole, that parts in any relevant context are distinct from wholes and - perhaps crucially - that phenomena of form can be distinguished from the emptiness (in material terms) of spiritual reality.

So the focus of science is to gain knowledge of reality in an impersonal detached manner. Though the affective and volitional faculties are likewise necessarily involved in experiential terms, their use is of a supporting indirect nature. For example even in the most abstract forms of mathematics, use must necessarily be made of symbols (that can only be verified at a sensible level). Also the very pursuit of science requires motivational desire (pertaining to the volitional faculty).

However having said this the nature of science is in practice most clearly defined in a limited rational manner (thus enabling it to be successfully separated from the other domains of art and religion).

However while accepting that ultimately science will always pertain directly to what can be cognitively understood (through reason) in an impersonal manner, my fundamental criticism relates to its present unduly limited context where it is through its analytic nature merely confined to deal with the quantitative aspects of reality.

However an equally important holistic type of science potentially exists based on the alternative circular both/and logic of logic (where the key polar opposites are understood as complementary) that is directly suited for an integral qualitative appreciation of reality.

Then the most developed form of science - which I term radial - would combine both of these approaches comprising what is in truth a binary digital system for encoding transformation processes using both linear (1) and circular (0) logic.

As we shall briefly see, though though there are at present insuperable barriers to the successful integration of science and religion (and to a considerable extent also science and art) these can be greatly removed though a more comprehensive understanding of the true nature of science.


As I would see it art (in all its varied forms) is based directly on meaning that can be conveyed through the affective function (of sense and feeling). However in practice it is much less limited in definition than science allowing potentially for considerable interaction with both the cognitive and volitional functions.

For example the underlying structure of much art e.g. painting and literature depends on a capacity for right order (that is of a scientific nature). Also considerable opportunities in most forms of art exist for combining the religious with the artistic impulses. Far from these being seen as necessarily incompatible, much of the most celebrated art in our culture is decidedly of a religious nature.

Also though several art forms are now distinguished in popular culture such as literature, music, painting, sculpture, the theatre, film and photography, the meaning of art in truth in a much wider sense is tied up with the everyday process of living. So perhaps the most pervasive "arts" relate to human relationships and the natural environment.

So the art of living essentially relates to the ability to continually derive meaning on a daily basis despite surface appearances that might seem incompatible with such meaning.


Religion however ultimately pertains to the primary volitional function (relating to will) and is the basis of that fundamental motivation or desire which is always a prerequisite for pursuing any purpose.

Though it is a often misunderstood term, the basic religious impulse relates to the exercise of faith in an unseen dimension to life (that cannot be directly identified with phenomena of form).

Whereas science relates directly to impersonal meaning (knowledge and order) and art directly to personal meaning (beauty and devotion), the religious quest is at once more fundamental and paradoxical. Though it combines in a sense both personal and impersonal meaning, yet it cannot be directly identified with either (in a phenomenal context). At its deepest level it relates to that spiritual meaning which both transcends all created phenomena (as goal) and yet is immanent in those very same phenomena (as their true source).

Again at an ultimate mystical level, the religious quest expresses that desire to be at one with all creation. However because the very nature of registering material phenomena requires that they be to a degree detached from us, such a union can only take place in spiritual terms (where rigid phenomena have melted away).

Of course in practice religion can become strongly identified with the affective dimension (e.g. in popular religious devotions) and the cognitive (with the structures and rules of the various churches). However the distinguishing fundamental element of the religious quest is that assent for spiritual meaning (that cannot be fully reduced to phenomena).


So properly understood, science art and religion are inseparably linked, ultimately providing differing routes to an eternal reality which lies as the very essence of our being. Though I am of course uttering my own particular perspective, it would seem obvious to me at this stage, that ultimate fulfilment requires that we become reunited with our essential being (which in spiritual truth is inseparable from everything else in creation).

From this perspective, science and art provide complementary perspectives for pursuing that ultimate journey that are continually mediated and refined through the central religious quest.

Thus from a scientific standpoint there is a desire to realise ultimate knowledge; from an artistic perspective there is the desire to realise ultimate beauty; and finally from a religious standpoint there is a desire to realise ultimate essence in our own true eternal identity.

Even if present science could provide - which by its very nature is actually not possible - final answers to the biggest problems, it would still fail to satisfy our deepest needs.

For science can only seek truth through attempting to separate the self from the environment. However as the deepest longing is to end all such separation, science cannot directly satisfy this longing.
Art then seeks personal truth though the affective aspect. However again without constant appeal to the complementary cognitive aspect (bringing a more universal dimension) this truth will necessarily be pursued in an unduly self centred fashion.

Finally religion seeks truth more directly in a spiritual realm. However because in experience this necessarily interpenetrates with material form, it too is in need of "right science" and "right art" if it is to realise its destiny.


However in conclusion I come back to my basic point. The biggest single restriction in terms of potential integration of the three great domains is the unduly limited nature of present science.

Not alone is a greatly enlarged perspective on science required so as to properly pursue its own aims, but ultimately such a perspective will be required to enable its true integration with both religion and the arts.

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