To know yourself, observe the world

For many millennia, humans have struggled to understand our universe.

 

We want to know how our world works and why things are the way they are. We want to know how our bodies work and the reason we were born.

Out of this desire to understand, we have developed many sophisticated philosophies, theologies and scientific theories.

Most of those theories not only differ from one another, but many outright contradict each other. How are we to know fact from fiction?

These are questions that have inspired me for as long as I can remember. I want to know the how and the why of everything. Not necessarily the how and why of every little thing, but the why and the how of it all. Why is there something instead of nothing, and how did it all come about?

Through observation, experimentation and calculation, scientists have theorized how our universe came into being. While I may not totally understand the physics of it all, I have every reason to believe that these theories are fairly accurate because they correspond closely with my own experience of the world.

This being said, this method of exploration cannot begin to answer why the universe exists or the meaning and purpose of a particular life.

Religion, on the other hand, is all about the why of things. Religion can help us uncover the meaning of life and give us a strong sense of purpose in everything we do. However, various religions differ widely on the details of how the universe came into existence.

It is much the same with philosophy, helpful in determining subjective truth but not so helpful in describing objective reality.

When physicists experiment with light, they find that it travels both as a wave and as a particle. When we look for waves, we find them, and when we look for particles, we find them, too. The conclusion was to say that light consists of both waves and particles, and our test results are determined by what we are looking for at the time.

I have come to the conclusion that the truth of science and the truth of religion work much the same way; we find what we are looking for.

The great wisdom traditions of the world, unaware of the science of it all, have long taught us that the world of perception is just an illusion.

When we say the physical world is an illusion, we do not mean that it is not “real.” An illusionist, through manipulation of our perception by sleight of hand or misdirection, fools us into believing we have witnessed something that defies the laws of nature.

The path toward spiritual maturity begins with greater awareness, the ability to discern between perception and reality. If you would understand the world, then know yourself. If you would know yourself, then observe the world.

 

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