Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Separation of Science and Mysticism: A Detriment To All?

As many of my treasured readers may know I have been taking an abundance of mathematics and physics courses over the past two years while getting my Master's degree in bio-medical engineering. I am pretty sure at this point, that the ghost of Sir Isacc Newton has begun haunting my brain, scraping his chains through the halls of my cerebellum. For anyone who has taken at least Physics I and II and Calculus I and II, you will know that Newton pretty much has his named stamped on everything from his "Three Laws of Physics (which form the foundation from which most other physical laws/theories are defined) to "Newton's Method" ( a method for finding successively more precise approximations for the zeros of real functions in Calculus). For all intensive purposes we could say that Newton for the most part, invented Calculus ( although this is highly debated as another scholar during his time was working on the fundamentals of Calculus but from a different perspective). However, in terms of what we as students learn in university it is Isaac Netwon's principles in both mathematics and physics that govern the majority of material that is taught. But what is never spoken about is that Newton was also a famous alchemist and mystic. In fact, the majority of what we study in science and mathematics today were discovered by great intellects who were also mystics, alchemists, and magicians...Giordorno Bruno, Pythagoras, Plato, Poincare, Einstein, Descartes, Kepler, Bach, Roger Bacon, Pascal, Copernicus, Albertus Magnus, Geber, Paracelsus. This list is far from complete and leaves out the many mystical thinkers who have made great contributions to other important areas such as literature, music, and art that so highly influence us today.

Contemplating this and studying the universe from both a magical and scientific perspective it seems obvious to conclude that humans are functioning with limited knowledge on both sides of the fence. Limited because these famous scientists and mathematicians combined their work with techniques, and teachings that gave them a more complete understanding of the nature of reality which has now been separated from thier discoveries. Where they were praying, meditating, and connecting with the Spirit to uncover the mysteries of the universe and nature, we are left with the bare-bones of what they percieved. Where they were eating the hot, sumptuous pie just barely cooled from the oven, we are left with the crust (which is exceptionally tasty), but not the filling or its freshness. These masters were getting in touch with higher states of consciouness that helped them to uncover some of the many wonderful principles that we exploit today in our inventions, studies, experiments, and discoveries.

Albert Einstein for example, used to use a personal technique that he uncovered when he was working on the Special Theory of Relativity. He would sit in a chair with a metal ball and a metal bowl. Thinking of his question or what he was working on he would let himself drift off to sleep. Just before he would fall asleep he would enter that state of consciousness between waking and sleeping which is totally unbounded by the intellect, this is known by some to be transcendental consciousness, the dialectic, hypnogogia. In this state he would uncover the answers to the mysteries that he contemplated, unrestricted by the intellect, emotions, and sensations and attachments to the physical world. When he began to transition into the sleep-state the ball would drop into the bowl and wake him up so that he remembered what he uncovered. Although one of the world's greatest physicists, Einstein believed he could get in touch with the underlying unity of existence to unveil its true nature and make some of the most important discoveries to physics since Newton himself.

The seperation of science and mysticism didn't happen during the Age of Enlightenment, but has been a part of intellectual thinking since antiquity and has affected our studies of mathematics and science from its inception. Pythagorean cults are a perfect example. Although no writings exist from Pythagoras himself (he beleived in the concept of "mouth to ear" that still lives in the Golden Dawn tradition today). We do know by cross-referencing the writings of his students that Pythagorous was a mystic, mathematician, musician, and astronomer who did not see the seperation between these subjects but instead viewed them as being bound by a unifiying principle. He taught unification with the Spirit though harmony, humility, honor, and the contemplation of the infinite through numbers and music. It wasn't until after his death that two "Pythagorean Schools" emerged, one that focused soley on his mathematical and scientific teachings and the other which focused soley on his spritual teachings. It seems that the separation of holistic knowledge into bits and pieces was fated from antiquity.

If we begin to research and study the life-works of many of the scholars listed above, it becomes quite clear that the physical knowledge that we have obtained from their works is but a mere reflection of the spiritual principles that they uncovered simultaneously. "As Above, so Below" is the great spiritual edict, or as many a Golden Dawn magician may say, "Kether is in Malkuth and Malkuth is in Kether". If we contemplate these teachings of pure math or physics or chemistry from the view point that there is a reflective side of these subjects, a new world, a more complete world, begins to open itself up to us.

The next thing that we may deduce (or debate) is that not only is the corpus of out scientific knowledge incomplete, but possibly the corpus of our magical teachings. Is it so far fetched, to look at the study of something such as electro-magnetic fields and associate them with the way that magical current flows during hand-on healing techniques? Chapter X of The Kybalion concerning polarity begins, "Everything is dual, everything has poles, everything has its pair of opposites; like and unlike are the same, opposites are identical in nature, but different in degree..." For those of you who may have studied electricity, current, and electric fields this may sound similiar to you. Protons and electrons have an equal but opposite charge. Protons having a positive 1.67*10^-19 charge and electrons having a negative 1.67*10^-19 charge. These elementary particles are governed by Newton's "Third Law of Action and Reaction" which states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Not only does this govern the movement of objects in the macroscopic realm but also the behavior of particles in the microscopic realm. The fact that these two particles are equal and opposite are the reason that atoms are held together and that molecules are made.Next comes what is known as an electric field where a distribution of charge (a bunch of charges bundled up together) causes what is known as an electric field. A single particle has an inner or outer pointing electric field, but it is the distribution of charge that causes things such as electric current.

Now let's look at this from an esoteric point of view. How many of you have under-taken the study of an energy healing technique or been the recipient of one and thought "Wow, I can feel this energy flow out of my hands" or "I can feel you touching me even though you are inches away from my body"? Is is so hard to make the connection that these energies may behave similarly to what we study in science? That there may be some type of energetic current or distribution of energetic particles causing this flow and that we may turn it on and off by at will? We spend a great deal of time honing our magical will in order to control these energies.Combined with a more specific understanding of how these energies work we could allow our will to turn into a sharply honed knife. And what about distance healing? Could quantum physics govern the principles of healing from far away? What about the discussions of the astral plane, where things such as time have no meaning? In the realms of quantum physics time is totally transcended, in fact the results that we receive from our experimental studies in quantum mechanics are totally dependent upon how we observe them because they deal with a plane of existence that is nothing but potential. Does this sound familiar?

Now this post is not meant to prove the connection between science and magic. I think that has been well written and well documented. The point that I am trying to make is that not only are we as a species of intelligent beings doing ourselves a great disservice by poo-pooing time honored and proven techniques (meditation, yoga, magic, etc..) that can help us to gain greater physical knowledge, but that we as magicians may not be utilizing all the knowledge that is available to us either. (Yes, I believe a physics book could be part of your grade material if used in the proper way) I have often heard it said by modern day mages that if science was only willing to take on the studies of esotericism our discoveries would grow exponentially. But I have rarely heard it spoken of the other way. However, over the past two years I have come to believe that when the separation of science and mysticism of an individual's teachings and discoveries takes place not only does the scientific community suffer, but spiritual community does as well. It makes complete sense that one should study chemistry along with alchemy, or physics along with ritual magic and meditative techniques. Knowledge is universal. It is one, it is not meant to be separated from itself into pieces. You cannot bake a pie with just a crust or just a filling, you need both. Please tell me your thoughts...

Nosce Te Ipsum

VH Soror FSO


  1. Ayii! 93s around, I am in my 2nd week of Physics I and Pre-Calculus in college, last semester I got an A in Chemistry I. Will admit that I have neglected the sciences altogether since high school, thinking more serious matters were necessary. I think this post has made a great deal of sense to me and it should to all. I really want to learn the subjects, but I think now, utilizing them as an important tool in magick, it will be as simple as any other ventures taken. Great post! Everything is on the one. I have that feeling some good grades will come this semester.

    1. Riordan,

      Why don't you contact me on facebook...Rosa Mystica. We can chat about your classes from time to time and share insights.

  2. Care Sr,

    Thanks for this wonderful post. You have explained things very well.

    As a young chap I was fortunate to read Robert Anton Wilson before engaging in much mystical exploration. In his 'Illuminati Papers' he has two brilliant and humorous mock 'adverts'. One is aimed at the hippie, intuitive occultist type and entitled 'Hey man, are you using only half your brain?' and extols the virtues of rational, scientific thought. The other is entitled, 'Sir, are you using only half your brain?' and is aimed at the scientist, logician and extols the virtues of ESP, intuition and holism. Your post has the same, essential and very much needed message.

    All this said, though I do think some occultists confuse the planes. Witness the creation of any number of machines in the Victorian era designed to scientifically communicate with the dead, where such communication is actually consciousness to consciousness. The inclusion of consciousness is a crucial aspect. This is why I think such developments as Goethean Science as developed by Steiner are wonderful and very interesting.

    I too think there needs to be a more solid understanding of the 'new physics' among magicians and occultists. I have on a number of occasions heard Wiccans and others justify their practice by throwing around the magic work 'Quantum' almost as mantra that should convince all sceptics by the virtue of the word itself . :)

    I would also like to add a little to your discussion on the origins of the separation between science and mysticism, which you state "has been part of intellectual thinking since antiquity". While I agree with this in part, I still think the major part of the divorce, the 'let's-get-nasty-and-hire-lawyers' part occurred post Renaissance. The gulf was widened then by the Church(es) reaction to the incredibly successful material achievements of the era and the concept of scientific truth. Faced with materially provable 'truth', the Church declared its own mythos as 'true' in the material, provable sense, leading ultimately to an emphasis on belief not practice and creation-science based museums with humans chumming it with dinosaurs. Prior to the Renaissance the question of whether the Biblical myths were 'true' or not was not really possible in the same way as it is now. Truth has not divided into religious and material truth.

    Thanks a bunch :)

  3. Peregrin, I absolutely agree. The major incidents did happen post Renaissance, and had the greatest impact on the separation between spiritual and scientific thinking. However, I notice that when people feel something is tainted or skewed they tend to look backward to what they believe are the "pure" teachings. I wanted to make the point that even in antiquity we witnessed this type of separation so that any individual who may spend some time doing research would understand that they will need to fish out for themselves what the original teachings truly were regardless of the time period.

  4. Part of the problem, I believe, is the need people seem to feel to put labels on things and to fear anything that they perceive as different and/or threatening.

    The source of everything is the same, everything is part of the same and thus everything is connected. Newton and the others that you listed were not so enmeshed in this trap of compartmentilisation and were thus able to recognise that they and their studies were all linked together in all directions with everything else.

    The attempt to put things - be they other people, branches of knowledge or whatever - into boxes with neat labels on them and to damn the ones that a church, temple, school, political party or other "authority" declares as tabu, inferior or contemptible without at least opening them, examining the contents and honestly questioning why, is to accept artificial limitations that can stunt our growth and blinker our sight until we learn that the universe into which we are born is far greater than to need such childish constructs.

  5. Very thought provoking post. I do believe that you are onto something, but I'd issue a warning against over-simplifying material science to create a holism of mystical and rational thought.

    Unfortfunatly there are people who like to affirm their mystical ideas by applying science in a sloppy way - "it's quantum physics, man"... I believe they are (not you though) doing the esoteric community a disservice. But you are certainly onto something.

    A happy marriage may be possible. I believe this partly may be that we realise the power of art, also in inspiring science, art is in my mind close to the ideas of mysticism.


  6. Allow me to quote from our book "The Essential Golden Dawn":

    "The political structure and intellectual bulwark of the Catholic Church, invincible in Medieval times, could not deflect the blows made against it by the Renaissance and the Protestant Reformation. The Age of Enlightenment, an intellectual movement of the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in Europe, was a reaction against the religious insanity of the preceding centuries. Its roots can be traced back to the humanism of the Renaissance, which promoted academic interest in classical texts and values. Enlightenment thought was epitomized by the celebration of reason, the faculty by which human beings comprehend the cosmos and advance their own existence. Knowledge, freedom, and happiness were considered to be the goals of a rational or thinking human being.

    "Eventually even religion itself become subject to the scrutiny of reason in England and France. The result was deism, a rational if unorganized religion with very few tenets that were thought to be manifest to all rational beings: mainly, the existence of one God, often perceived as the Architect of the Universe, who takes no interest in the world, assumes no control over the life of humans, and exerts no influence on natural phenomena.

    "The Enlightenment effected religion in other, unexpected ways as well. For example, Biblical literalism, the mainstay of Fundamentalist Christianity, developed as a result of the so-called Age of Reason, wherein the symbolic and allegorical wisdom of the Bible was discounted as the idea of “the Bible as historical fact” won out over the idea of “the Bible as a supernatural textbook of Mystery teachings.”

    My point is that the earliest Christian Scholars, such as Origen, who lived in a Pagan world, understood that much of the Scriptures were written (as was the custom of the time in teaching circles), to be understood in a symbolic not a literal sense. They often reflected inner, mystical truths, not historical facts. Unfortunately, this is completely lost on today's religious fundamentalists.

    So there should be no conflict between science and mysticism.

  7. FSO,

    Good post.

    Learning the real physical components of the universe is important, so as to have a good foundation of modern advancements in science when discussing magical concepts.

    How often do Occultists discredit themselves when interacting with Academics with some of the less-credible sources some of us seem to be drawn to?

    For example, how often do we betray a shoddy understanding of physics and other modern scientific theories on creation, or on simple terms such as sulfur or the elements?

    Modern magic is more of a middle-ground between English Literature, History and Psychology; its use of scientific terms from the previous millennia is merely vestigial remains from when the learned were collected under one profession that serviced all of what we now divide into religion, magic, history and science.


  8. Which "science" do you mean, disciplinarily speaking? Nat. Sci, physics, chemistry, astronomy, math? some? all?

    Convergence between science and "religion" has already occurred, and will continue to do so in diverse areas and fields.

    I doubt, nevertheless, that religion, magic, and science will ever share a common idiom or technical language.

    But the integration, in practice if not in thought, is already occurring.

    Wonderful blog, great discussion