Spiritual Evolution: How Science Redefines Our Existence seeks to create a model for spiritual existence that incorporates the most profound scientific discoveries of the last 100 years. Part I helps guide you through traditional dogma and open up to possibilities far beyond what we currently know. Part II takes you through a journey of scientific discoveries and critical insights. From these insights, Professor Kennedy builds a basic model of human existence which redefines what it means to be spiritual in the 21st century.
Why are we here? Does science offer insight on human beings connection with the Divine? What is God? What is the Universe? How do we reconcile science and spirituality? What is the difference between religion and spirituality? What prevents you from "seeing" outside the box? Professor Kennedy attempts to address these beguiling questions and more by combining modern logic and science with spiritualism. The results will hopefully surprise and inspire you.
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Spiritual EvolutionHow Science Redefines Our Existence
By Chad Kennedy
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2011 Chad Kennedy
All right reserved.
Chapter OneEARLY TEACHINGS
-If the truth of everything has already been defined by those that came before us; the very existence of the unknown Universe would be an awful waste of time and space-
IN THE BEGINNING
From the time we are born through the time of our earliest life teachings (typically from our parents, youth pastors, clergy, rabbis, clerics, schools, etc ...), we are given a template, a starter set of instructions, if you will, from those that most directly have a vested interest in how and what we think. While the 'rules' are often given with the best of intentions, we as children are vaguely aware that we are being compelled toward some form of group compliance. In plain words, we are being told what to believe, how to fit in, how to live, and how to die. All of these are predefined by our local culture, religion and society.
The indoctrination of individuals depends extraordinarily upon whom you were born to, what geographic region you live in and what level of personal liberty exists during the time in which you come into this life. We initially comply with this indoctrination due to our innocence, naivety and desire to please. As children we did not have the wisdom, will or evidence to challenge our parents and culture. Therefore, for better or worse, we were easily shaped and molded by the ideals of our caregivers.
Much of what is taught is sound advice, such as "thou shalt not kill" and the like. Such basic wisdom for living and getting along with others is fairly common to the World's current religions. It is in the minutia and literal extremes where failure of peaceful coexistence arises. We may ask ourselves during adolescence, 'Why is this so?', 'Why do we believe our way and our neighbors another way?' or 'What makes our belief right?' Unfortunately, for most of us, our questions are charged as insubordination, a challenge to authority, blasphemy or faithless. As a result, our thoughts are persecuted in one of the following ways.
1. Who are we to question those who have preceded us?
2. Have you no respect for the teachings presented?
3. Who do you think you are? (Great question by the way!)
4. Or the most terrifying of all, the dreaded paraphrase, "If you do not believe in the word of <insert name of deity, saint or prophet here> purely on faith, you are unworthy of the holy kingdom of eternal 'good' life and will forever (burn, freeze, be tortured or insert the suffering of choice) in eternal damnation."
Honestly, what is a young mind to do with the last ultimatum, such an obvious threat, especially with little to now access to credible information or proof? If today's religious doctrines were held to the same academic standards that most science is held to today, it is seriously doubtful that many ideas could pass muster. Add to this the seemingly incoherent global messages and news bombarding our youth today and it is no wonder that most teens and adults alike have astonishingly high levels of anxiety, fear and stress in this day and age.
As parents and adults we ask ourselves, 'Why do kids today seem so directionless, rebellious, lost or in extreme cases suicidal?' Not all, but part of that may be because of the contrary messages they receive. Kids are taught to preserve, believe in, and cherish their particular brand of spirituality (commonly confused with religion), above others. The fundamental act of distinguishing one's religion as above another, by definition, creates separation. We create an illusory mental model in our subconscious mind that pits 'us against them', thus separating our 'community' of 'being' from others.
There are positive effects of organized religion. For instance, religious institutions provide a sense of community. Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of need discusses a sense of belonging and safety as basic human needs that must be met to achieve happiness. Although various organized religions provide that sense of community it often comes at a very high price, can be fickle or all together an illusion. Members only belong if they conform to the consensus of belief. The moment that belief is challenged, the illusion disappears, and what remains is condemnation, rejection or outright exile. In the dark ages this was the practice of noble fiefdoms.
However, good works of many organized groups include helping with the rearing of families, feeding those in need and giving aid to those less fortunate. Acts of compassion like these are to be commended and encouraged. Just be aware what the cost is versus the value. What is the price you pay?
Negative consequences of institutionalized religion are often feelings of imposing pressure, the sense that everything has been thought through already and there is nothing new to learn or solve in the area of existence. People chronically suffer from ignorance, stifling views and fear of anything outside their defined domain. All too often, these fears express themselves in higher levels of human suffering such as wrongful and immoral persecution of "non-believers", hate crimes, religious war and ethnic execution deemed as "cleansing". There is not a more deplorable or more self-destructive business than destroying all others who don't agree with you. These dangers are exceedingly unsustainable in modern day where mankind has the technological capability, not only destroy our entire human race if we react as segregated fiefdoms, but also all living creatures on the surface of our planet.
Most of this feeling of separation appears in tradition Western religions. Learning a lesson from Eastern traditions such as Buddhism, teaches compassion for all sentient beings. Perhaps we can apply this sense of connectedness. One way to successfully navigate through this maze of hatred is by embracing our similarities. We need to let go of our differences and jointly discover a new level of spirituality, humanity and compassion that is inclusive of one another rather than exclusive.
-It is important to learn the rules. Then you not only know when to apply them, but most importantly when they don't apply-
Early in our lifetime, we are taught the "Rules". How these rules came about, or the flavor in which they are delivered to our consciousness, varies with each individual. Regardless of the source, societies, religions or nationalities, the "Rules" distill down to a distinctive list. Although not the definitive or exclusive list, it encompasses the basic rules that cross religion, cultural, nationality and time barriers. Here is the major top ten list of "Rules" learned in childhood:
1. Do not kill or harm.
2. If you need to kill or harm, make sure they belong to some "other" group, not "ours.
3. 'We' are good and 'they' are different. (a.k.a. Bad)
4. Those who came before 'us' know what is best for 'us'.
5. Do not steal or covet what others have.
6. 'We' are right and 'they' are ignorant of the truth (a.k.a. wrong)
7. The Divine Source, (God, Allah, Jehovah, Jesus Christ, Zeus and so on), favors 'us' over 'them'.
8. 'Our' holy writings (8. Bible, Quran, Torah, [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.], Bhagavad Gt and others) are holier; and therefore, a more accurate truth than everyone else's.
9. Spread 'our' 'Word' to others and give donations to aid 'us' since 'we' know what is best.
10. Do NOT question or challenge the Rules even if they conflict with observation!
Put in the generalized context and void of any specific religious dogma, some of the rules sound reasonable and appealing, while others appear downright appalling. Most importantly, we need to discriminate between true wisdom, and clandestinely motivated rules. By this, I mean we need to weed out the faulty motivations of particular special interest groups versus our collective global teachings that seem to transcend our human existence and perspective.
FEAR QUESTIONING OF RULES
"The only thing we have to fear is, fear itself"
-"Franklin D. Roosevelt -1st Inaugural Address"
Notice the irony, that the very questioning, the point of examining and analyzing the rules, violates rule #10. Thus, many of our thoughts are controlled at an early age by the most fundamental of control levers, fear. Since the dawn of human kind fear has been used, rightly or wrongly, to encourage or discourage certain behavior or thinking. From this point on, I ask you to have the courage and will to question the rules given to you by generations of man. It is OK to question and I encourage you to search behind the rules.
Remember the 'telephone' game? In the 'telephone' game of our childhood, someone starts off the game with an intended saying (original oratory) and whispers it into the ear of the person sitting next to them. The saying is then passed onto the next person and the next via the same whisper technique until it comes to the last person who says what they think the original person said. The game usually results in a big laugh for everyone since the message is completely distorted may not even resemble the original message. Similarly, original messages imparted by wise people throughout the ages are significantly distorted and altered by millennia of interpretations, manipulations and misguided understandings.
How can we then assume that a message or rule we are being taught now is the original message of wisdom from someone long ago? We have writings, but very few if any original copies exist from the original orators or authors. Therefore, it is sufficient to surmise that the rules, as presented today, require us to not only question without fear, but also look at the underlying assumptions with fresh perspectives, so that we can attempt to uncover the original wisdom, knowledge and understanding in terms of modern day humanity. However, this is not what many entities want free-thinking people to do, and for good reason; it threatens their existence.
Throughout the ages and even today many facets of religions, governments, charismatic leaders and even corporate entities manipulate the lever of fear for various gains. Not all intentions are for nefarious reasons, but the lever of fear is particularly strong in the spiritual realm, since the lack of scientific evidence in this area of study makes it a prime target for creative license particularly for the opportunistic minded. As a colleague of mine put it, "Are we to believe that Jesus buried all of those million year old dinosaur bones?"
Ultimately the fundamental situation comes down to this, if we are to progress as a species, we need to look beyond the fear and open ourselves up to the possibility of something greater. A Universe, a reality greater than our ancestors knew due to their limited perspectives and understanding. Progress has shown that many of our predecessors were not correct on the physical aspects of existence, so why not the spiritual? A textbook example is quickly learned in science or engineering training is that Newton's Law of gravity is not completely right. Force (F) being equal to the mass (m) of an object multiplied by its acceleration (a), F = ma, is simple and elegant. Yet with all of the concrete evidence given to the relationship, along comes a young mathematician/physicist named Albert Einstein, who opens up a relative can of worms. He has the audacity to start questioning the great Newton's assumptions and rules. As Einstein's calculations show, force among other things, is also governed by a small yet profound limitation, the speed of light. This suggests an upper boundary for the acceleration of mass. For example, a theoretical bullet accelerated by magnets in an infinite barrel would never be able to meet or exceed the speed of light.
Despite the massive conflict and disruption this new theory caused in the physics community, Einstein's Theory of Relativity slowly but eventually took off. Furthermore, it was not definitively proved with experimentation, until sometime later. The Relativity concept redefined the way physicists, astrophysicists, mathematicians and engineers viewed our Universe.
The story does not stop there. Even today there are physicists, computational mathematicians, quantum mechanics theorists and research engineers challenging Einstein's theory in new ways. M-theory, faster than light speed theories, entanglement theory, black holes, interacting multiverses, universality, complexity, emergence, noetic science, causality networks, atomic resonance theories and quantum communication are all concepts that stretch our idea of reality to new boundaries. All of this new evidence and information colliding with previous dogmatic assumptions creates a raw primordial soup of ideas just waiting to coalesce into new forms of knowledge.
The edge of knowledge lies before us. Although it appears that there is no clear path across the chasm, piercing the fog of doubt we see the hints, the evidence of light coming from a new higher vantage point from which to see the Universe ahead of us. We must take the leap to find the way forward, because it is there. Some are already stepping out toward the unknown. Others recoil from fear. I challenge you, knowing where the road behind you has repeatedly led, to try something extraordinary and read on.
-Conflict arises from the illusion of outside barriers. By realizing the barriers are phantasms of your own making, the conflict disappears-
Without the innate drive to push the boundaries, an 8 month old baby would never progress to be a toddler. A two-to-three year old would never learn to refrain from touching a hot stove, or perhaps, my twins would not have taken out two dozen eggs to hear the sound the shells make as they crunch on the kitchen floor. These are simple life transitions that we take for granted and label 'early childhood development'.
But what about adult development, humankind development and spiritual development, where are these today? Humans would not have populated the known World if we had not had motivated individuals keenly attuned to this sense of curiosity and adventure. Those people who wished to find where the land of the known stops and the mysteries of the oceans begin drove us toward the future we take for granted today. Without this instinctual drive to explore and survive, our genetic ancestor's would have never left northern Africa some 60,000 years ago, and certainly would not have expanded across the continents through the Arctic Circle and back down through North America. How do we know this? The Human Genographic Project, a research project partnership by National Geographic and IBM with non-profit funding from the Waitt Family Foundation, has proven that all modern humans have genetic footprints in our DNA that can be traced to a small African population. From their genetic pathways, all human migration is traced (14).
Drawing upon a genetically instinctual sense of courage and curiosity, we need to cultivate one more principle, openness. Openness may seem trite and obvious, but most people who have conformed to away of thinking for a next ended period of time create habits, and habits, particularly of opinion, are hard to break.
No one is immune to the draw of the "comfort zone" way of thinking. Once you have a habit that works for you. Why change right? Wrong! Research shows, in populations and species, that the most adaptable incarnations, such as modern humanity's Homo erectus ancestors, survive (15). The ones who cannot change with the surrounding environment become extinct and die such as the Neanderthals.
Interestingly, a similar 'survival of the most adaptable' rule is true for the mind. Individuals whose brains continually adapt have the highest likelihood of fending off debilitating diseases that afflict the brain, such as Alzheimer's, and survive longer after the loss of loved ones. According to the Society for Neuroscience (SFN), decades of research into the degenerative processes of Alzheimer's disease shows that by continually stimulating the brain in new ways, (e.g. physical exercise, mental exercises, enriched environment and new experiences) there is continued re-networking of the neurons, a process called plasticity (16). The non-neuroscience term for plasticity is adaptability. It is the ability of neurons to change their interconnections with one another thus, continuously recreating a new network structure and function. What does that mean to the rest of us who are not neuroscientists by trade? It means that the more you stimulate your brain in novel ways, the more your brain will internally create new connections and redirect old ones to adapt to new conditions. Not only will the brain structure change, but also it also can route signals around say an Alzheimer's disease 'traffic jam', where the brain is impaired. Brain adaptability is analogous to taking new surface streets or expressways built around a 26 car pileup in your 'neuro-interstate highway'.
Excerpted from Spiritual Evolution by Chad Kennedy Copyright © 2011 by Chad Kennedy. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsPrologue-Why this book? Why now?....................ix
Part I: Breaking Down Personal Spiritual Barriers....................xv
Chapter 1 Early teachings....................1
Chapter 2 Conflict....................8
Chapter 3 Breakdown....................35
Chapter 4 Resurrection....................43
Part II: Rebuilding A Spiritual Theory Using Integrative Science....................61
Chapter 5 Divine Beauty in Discovery....................63
Chapter 6 A Complex Adaptive Dance....................94
Chapter 7 The Emergent Spirit....................124
Chapter 8 Enlightenment-A path not a place....................138
Chapter 9 The Way Forward....................151