Science, Being, & Becoming, the 2023 Gold Nautilus Award for Science and Cosmology, is about the spiritual lives of scientists, their actual transpersonal, metaphysical, and mystical experiences. The book’s material is derived from intimate interviews with scientists as they describe the circumstances under which they had the experiences and how those experiences changed their consciousness, transformed their belief systems about the nature of the world, and changed their scientific work.
This groundbreaking book is an invitation to the public, to citizen scientists, and to professional scientists to reject the materialistic worldview of modern science, which despite the many technological advances it has provided us all, has supported the worldview of duality and separation amongst peoples and with the earth.
The book describes a new path to embrace, one with the perspective of the unity of our existence and to embrace the path of consciousness development. The book’s vision is that science will eventually fulfill its promise and become an instrument to help support the spiritual awakening of humanity and bring to fruition the vision a more harmonious life here on the earth.
The stories in this book help us understand that the spiritual is the final frontier for science.
This book is based on interviews with over 30 scientists, and is structured into six chapters, with a foreword by Deepak Chopra and a special commentary by Ken Wilber. It also has four Spotlight articles on perspectives on transpersonal, metaphysical and mystical experiences, the evolution of consciousness towards wholeness and unity, written by Drs. Eben Alexander, Robert Atkinson, Dusana Dorjee, and Kyriacos C. Markides. Eben Alexander’s wise advice to scientists thinking of pursuing the journey, and the role of compassion along the journey of consciousness development.
Individual chapters incorporating extensive quotations from interviews address the need to transform materialist science, heeding the call to become spiritual scientists, how interviewees are sharing their insights, the role of mentors, personal and professional challenges to commitment and transformation, giving back to the next generation, and putting consciousness development into perspective.
Paul describes his own journey beginning with learning transcendental meditation – he is Professor of Public Health and Family Medicine at the University of California San Diego with over 400 scientific publications. Early on, he experienced a vast consciousness that communicated with him telepathically. This consciousness was patiently awaiting human awakening to the real nature of cosmic Light and Love that are ultimately to manifest in physical existence. His early work was on the neurophysiology of meditation at the Maharishi International University, and he writes that he wrestled with how many of his own metaphysical experiences to include in the book, while remarking that all interviewees are ‘interested in seeing an end to the metaphysical and/or mystical being so off-limits to western scientific enquiry.’ When he arrived at the University of California San Diego, while interviewing with the leadership of the psychiatry department, he was rebuffed and told meditation research would not be permitted, although years later the department established one of the largest academic mindfulness meditation programs.
The starting point of Ken Wilber’s commentary on recognizing and evolving our spiritual and human natures is ‘an expansion of self-identity from an isolated, separate self sense to of oneness with this ultimate Reality, and, therefore, also a sense of being one with the entire universe’—a non-dual state within an overall system of states and structures of consciousness involving first-, second- and third-person perspectives. Such non-dual experiences are described by many interviewees whether in the context of Zen, Advaita or other traditions. This is well put by Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj when he writes that the vastness is his home, the vastness is myself and the vastness is also love. The Jnani ‘is the supreme and also the witness. He is both being and awareness. In relation to consciousness, he is awareness. In relation to the universe, he is pure being.’ (p. 65) This expanded self-identity leads directly to empathy and compassion by overcoming the ego’s sense of separation and isolation.
Robert Atkinson’s spotlight article provides a useful framework developed from Joseph Campbell and variously expressed: by van Gennep as separation, transition, incorporation; by Evelyn Underhill as awakening, purification, union; in Jung’s individuation as the birth of the ego, death of the ego, birth of the whole self and representing the storyline of beginning, middle and end. This is transposed by the author into beginning, muddle, and resolution within a framework of the call to wholeness, the path of purification or cleaning up and healing, and a return to wholeness and integration also represented by Owen Barfield’s final participation. It is this experience of wholeness that ‘heals the divide between science and spirituality, reason and faith, separation and union.’ This is what needs to happen at an institutional level.
Readers will find much support and nourishment from the life stories recounted in this book where the role of spiritual practice in relation to scientific activity is clearly and individually articulated, involving as it does the transformation of the scientist. The consciousness development journey has been extensively mapped by Ken Wilber, Sri Aurobindo and others where our divine and human natures are able to coexist and be fully expressed.
In concluding, Paul observes that there is an isomorphism between individuals transcending ‘their egoic small self perspective’ to embrace their universal Self with science transcending its materialist perspective and embracing ways of observation and knowing based on love and compassion. Such a new science supporting spiritual awakening is in fact an evolutionary imperative to overcome the hazardous narrowness of purely mechanistic and instrumental thinking with its corresponding exploitative mentality. This inspiring volume points the way.