The Ground of
Science Mysticism and Experience
A complex web of relationship
complex web of relationship
Hymns by Bill Wallace
these letters to the Editors
- <>Dr Chris Creswell
and the Rev. Rob MacKay
comment on the Anatomy of Joy.Patrick
- James Gasson
of the ideas behind The Anatomy of
- Dr Bruce Nicholls:
writes about a Science and Faith
Forum of 7-8 university
professors and scientists and the same number of theologians.
"Our distinctive is that we claim the be evangelical, upholding the
historic orthodox faith.
We have founded a publishing company, Telos Books."
experiences involve a complex web of
relationship between spiritual and
Probably all of us from time to time
become aware of one of the strangest of coincidences.
We can hardly believe it has happened.
Yet it seems very meaningful.
It has come at an important moment in our life.
We have the feeling that it is saying something to us,
but what precisely, is not clear.
We are at an absolute loss to know how it happened.
It can’t be chance we think, but how on earth....?
Carl Jung said such meaningful coincidences are "acausal",
not caused by something in the everyday world.
But they can be caused from the spiritual plane.
Others might say they were caused by the hand of God, of Providence,
or speak of guidance by the Holy Spirit.
Whatever the language, such coincidences are deeply meaningful, and
and no smart talk about the statistical likelihood of strange
will dissuade us from seeing the meaning,
the utter appropriateness of the event.
We cannot dismiss such events.
This personal story seems
Or does it give insight into possibilities in our relationships with
within the Communion of Saints?
September 1, 1975.
I had lunch with C., and she
remarked that the previous evening,
three stainless steel pot lids had simultaneously dropped off a ledge
on which they had been balanced,
with their lips resting on a thin flange of wood
along the edge of the shelf that prevented them from slipping.
They had dropped off this into a wash tub.
The lids were displayed in this manner
because they were part of a large set of stainless steel ware
which had been bequeathed to her by her father,
and she was very proud of it.
We wondered how the lids could possibly have been
The window was shut, so they could not have been blown down.
The flange prevented slipping.
There had been no earthquake; passing cars do not produce sufficient
I put the lids back in their former places.
I had to give a proper push to move one.
There was no question of their being balanced delicately in position.
And C., dusting a miniature of her father, in another room,
had heard them when they fell.
I speculated that it might be a discarnate
entity communicating with her.
Was it her late husband? I prayed
for an intuited book reference...."A book by Thomas Hardy, with the
syllable "ill" in the title, page 13, lines 4 to 10."
Finding such a book was a problem,
because C. has many books.
But finally we found Tess of the
and the passage indicated, read:
“A difficulty in
arranging their lips
in crude exposure to public scrutiny,
and an ability to balance their heads…was apparent in them,
and showed that they were genuine country girls unaccustomed to many
And as each and all of them were warmed without by the sun,
so each had a private little sun for her soul to bask in....
They came round by the Pure Drop Inn
and were turning out of the High road to pass through the wicket gate
into the meadow,
when one of the women said
"Lord-a-Lord! Why Tess Durberville! If there isn't thy Father riding
home in a Carriage!”
About those words, we might well feel dubious.
We are dealing with pot lids not country girls.. and so forth.
But we can note the "lips" of both country girls and pot lids,
and "Pure Drop Inn" could be seen as a pun on what happened to the pot
lids and the washtub. And there was a link between C. and the country,
in that she had studied in an agricultural college.
But as events unfolded,
the passage seemed increasingly meaningful,
and definitely part of a dream-like event..
I had guessed that it was her late husband causing what resembled
But the passage speaks of a father.
And as stated it was her father who bequeathed the pot lids to her.
He had been a leading member of the Sheffield steel firm called Firth.
The firm had pioneered in the development of stainless steel,
and these pot lids had been made at the order of this firm,
as an experiment, in Belgium.
The first ever made. Highly significant pot lids.
To add to this, a few days later,
C. phoned me to say that she had been awakened during the night
by a crash in the kitchen.
Not properly awake she grabbed a torch rather than turning on the
and went to investigate.
There face down on a cake tin on the bench,
were two pictures that had both fallen off the wall,
one on top of the other,
one of them seemingly having fallen slantingly on to the other.
Then C. went into the dining room, where she saw three pictures in
front of her,
and straightway the middle picture fell.
It was a picture of herself.
Some time later,
I was telling someone at my home about these events.
I then went to bed, and immediately a picture fell off the wall on to
I have been reading The
Other Side by Episcopal bishop,
James A. Pike. There, he describes how his "dead" son communicated with
him by moving books, and other physical objects.
Just, I think, as C's father was communicating, with the pot
lids, with C's two
episodes with pictures, and with the picture that fell on my head! C.
said that to do so, would be thoroughly in character with her father,
who liked to play practical jokes.
And as for the
book itself, well, it was the only book amongst hundreds in the house,
which had been given to her by her father. At her request, he had given
it to her after she had gone off to boarding school.
She had treasured it ever since.
And, no, I was not aware that C. had any books by Thomas Hardy.
Three days later, C. was listening to
Radio New Zealand, and was
astonished to hear announced the first episode of "Tess of the
Durbervilles" arranged as a radio serial. And she was even more
astonished that the first words spoken were "Lord-a-Lord! Why Tess
Durberville! If there isn't thy father riding home in a carriage!"
Bishop Pike's "dead" son James appeared
to convey messages by planting thoughts in his father's mind.
So I speculate that C's father planted the book reference in my mind
But how did he know about the radio
drama shortly to be transmitted? Even if he had been able to read The Listener he would not have
known the first words to be spoken. At least from our point of
view. Yet the "dead" are in the eternal present, so perhaps he
could have heard the words before he signalled his presence.
The Communion of Saints is being experienced
playfully, jokingly even, but loving communion all the same.
But we can
look at such events from another point of view.
In 1982 as I was going over my
notes on the above, the dream-like events resumed. My notes
read: "It is true that I did receive a letter this morning from
that it was the first for a year. But I was busy at the time and
didn't read it. I was re-examining my record of the Pot lids,
and cogitating about their meaning.
But late in the afternoon, I lay down for a rest. I picked up a
an old English sheep dog who had saved the life of its master lying
injured in the snow.
It was after that, that I read these words
from C's letter:
“On January 15th last, after six months of
correspondence between self
and the provost of Sheffield cathedral, Frank C. and old Sheffield
friends and relations, my brother G. and his wife, and
E., my youngest sister, met with five friends to hear the
Provost dedicate a plaque in memory of our father, G E Wolstenholme,
beside a solid stainless steel door, the first apparently ever made,
and given in 1940 by our father, with nothing to show that he had given
it! A., my other sister, could not join us, as she was
recovering from near drowning in the River Stour in Suffolk, beside her
house, in icy water in January, trying to rescue a dog belonging to her
I am re-reading my notes about C's father, and the coincidences
relating to Steel,
and C's letter arrives mentioning her father,
and the steel door in Sheffield cathedral.
I am reading an account of how a dog saves a person in the snow,
and C's letter relates how her sister was nearly drowned
while saving a dog in an icy cold canal.
The events come together very meaningfully,
but we cannot suggest any measurable cause
for this coming together.
But they do come together.
Some physicists and mystics would agree with C G Jung,
that this world is the "dream of a
greater and to us
Others would prefer to say it were a facet of what it can mean to be
one in Christ.
No, I do not for one moment think that events such as I have been
should have high priority in our thinking about the Divine.
Love of God with heart, soul, mind and strength,
and love of Neighbour is the thing, without a doubt.
With my background as an Anglican, I have no urge to go and seek out
But if Christ sends me experiences, I do not reject them.
We live in a world where we are constantly bombarded by
but we only have a limited supply of mental energy available to us
to make sense of those experiences
and make decisions about how we will react to what happens to us.
One of the key strategies we use to maximise our use of the
mental energy is to use patterns.
If we notice a pattern in what we experience, it is easier to
which needs less mind energy.
For example, it is much easier to remember the telephone number
1234567 than 2546371.
The weather forecaster looks for patterns to predict
a train timetable describes the pattern of train arrivals and
so we can turn up to get on the train just before it arrives
rather than waiting all day for it to come.
We are naturally attracted to repeating patterns.
We learned this from our early ancestors
who significantly increased their ability to survive
by recognising the patterns about them.
If they noticed that a sabre tooth tiger
always goes to drink water at the river in the early afternoon,
then they would live longer than a creature that didn't notice the same
We are attracted to shapes with symmetrical patterns
because they are easier to understand.
If we recognise one side of a
person’s face, then we already have a good understanding of the
We are attracted to dancing,
where people move in unison forming patterns with their bodies,
or to pictures that are symmetrical and patterned.
We also drawn to music with regular patterns and rhyming words in
The down side of being attracted to patterns
is that sometimes the pattern does not continue as we might expect
from what we have already experienced.
One day the sabre tooth tiger might come early,
the train is late, or the weather forecaster gets it wrong.
Somewhere in our minds we hold the patterns we have recognised
in the world about us.
All of these patterns fit together to form a mental network,
which we use to interpert the world about us.
The patterns link together
to create an internally consistent map of how we see and understand the
word about us.
This map is our worldview.
So, whenever we experience an event,
a message gets sent in our brain
to compare that event with the existing patterns
within our worldview.
We use our memories in this way
to help us formulate a plan of action as to how we will respond.
Sometimes what we experience is not consistent with our existing
Then we have five possible responses.
· Ignore the new experience and stick with the map we
have already created
· Distort our perception of the experience to make it fit our
· Find the event so devastating that our map collapses, or more
· Accept the challenge it makes to our map and change it to
accomodate the new experience · or, even be inspired by the
event to make a quantum leap to another level of understanding.
We can see from this that our map, our worldview,
is not fixed but changes and evolves throughout our life.
Particularly when we are young,
we make assumptions about the world, and the patterns we think we are
Some assumptions will be right and help us to achieve our goals,
while others will be incorrect and lead us away from our goals
and would be better changed
We also tend to want to stick with the map we have
rather than take on changes requiring alterations to our map.
We are creatures of habit and resist taking on the unknown.
Changing our world view feels like a loss of identity
because the map and the patterns in it
are central in the formation of our identity and our sense of who we
Some of the patterns we hold in our mind are personal
while others are shared patterns.
Our personal preference for food, music, art, tv programmes, cothing
all part of our personal map.
It may be influenced by others but we control our personal patterns.
Other patterns are shared, like driving on the left hand side of the
stopping at a red traffic light, paying taxes, or waiting in a queue.
We choose to accept these patterns because they help us get on with
and help us to attain our personal goals.
Agreeing to stick to these particular patterns of behaviour
reduces the level of conflict and allows the best co-operation.
We have also developed roles in our society,
so other people know what to expect of us.
Some of us are schoolteachers, some of us are policemen,
some of us are academics, and some of us are traffic wardens.
We all know what it means when the warden appears on their little
and we haven't put money in the meter.
A part of our worldview is our cultural world view,
formed by patterns which have special relevance to a particular group
In the Maori world tapu is important,
so a person will always wash their hands after visiting a cemetery,
lest the tapu be taken back amongst the living where it can cause harm.
From a European perspective there is not the same need to wash our
because tapu is not a cuturally significant concept.
Carl Jung created the idea of archetypes.
These are shared mind patterns which have evolved in our collective
from all our accumulated experiences of our social roles.
He named the king, warrior, magician, and lover as four fundamental
within the shared human mind that he called the collective unconscious.
Jung said that archetypes are universal,
so they are a part of all of us,
but they are expressed differently according to each particular
So, while a Maori person may talk of the four core archetypes as the
the wahine tapairu, the tohunga and the toa
and experience them in their own way,
they remain as universal forms of mental energy.
Because archetypes evolved over time,
the social roles that have been with us the longest
are the strongest ones in our psyche.
The computer programmer and the jet engine mechanic have their
but they are not at all well formed in our joint psyche
when compared to the king, warrior, magician, and lover,
which all earlier societies knew.
What I discovered when I examined Jung's four archetypes
was that each archetype corresponded to a crucial quality we need as
The king holds our sense of authority, the lover our compassion,
the magician our wisdom, and the warrior our courage.
Because the warrior, for example,
exists as a collection of mental patterns within our mind,
we can access our inner warrior to build our courage.
And because the archetypes are shared we can access our archetypes as a
for example as a church, to tap our inner reserves of courage through
our shared warrior.
If any one of the archetypes is weak, all four will be
If we have courage, compassion and authority, but no wisdom,
we will have a poor understanding of the situations we must make
If we lack compassion, we do not consider the effects of our actions on
others and ourselves.
If we lack authority, we will not make clear strong decisions,
and if we lack courage we will not have the strength
to carry out the decisions we have made.
Ken Wilber points out that there are other spiritual entities,
which are often confused with archetypes.
These are beings such as the mother goddess and higher spiritual
These come from universal spirit and are not socially created mental
They operated differently and are not perceived differently by other
The archetypes within us are at once ephemeral or ghostlike
as well as being very real forces within our lives.
We cannot put our finger on them,
but they exert a major influence on our lives.
They work on us individually and societally.
We keep them alive in our stories, especially our myths.
The more we understand and work with them positively and strongly,
the more we have a powerful tool for understanding ourselves
and for living full enriched lives.
by BILL WALLACE
forever judge all views
As either right or wrong
Or are there diverse ways to sing
The pilgrim's wistful song?
If we but look
inside our depths
We find a complex world
Where multitudes of shadows dance
And images unfold.
space of many forms
Your Mystery, God, we meet
A flame seen in a darkened glass,
A light for travellers' feet.
O Wisdom far
beyond the known
Your heart is tender grace.
The grace which helps us use glimpse with love,
Your presence in each face.
the world of
§Behind the world of images
There's nothing I can see
Behind the realm of sound and word,
Nothing I can prove,
Behind the space of touch and taste
Nothing flesh can feel.
Yet in that
nothing, God exists
Beyond perceptions' path
Beyond our human ways of thought
Dwells the mystery of God,
A mystery each of us can trust,
Source and goal of faith,
A journey in the now, to sense
God, the great I AM.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
§Divine power is spread everywhere . . .
A bird and its young had been captured,
and Eckermann was amazed to see that it went on feeding its young
inside his house.
`If you believed in God, you would not be surprised.
If God did not inspire the bird with this powerful instinct towards its
and if the same did not pervade every living thing in nature,
the world would not be able to exist!
But divine power is spread everywhere and eternal love is active
[Conversations with Eckermann,
29 May 1831]
What kind of God would push only from outside,
letting the cosmos circle round his finger?
He likes to drive the world from inside,
harbours the world in Himself, Himself in the world,
so all that lives and weaves and is in Him never wants for his power or
his spirit. Gedichte I 357.
§ If the eye were not sun-like,
how could it ever spy the sun?
If God's own power lay not inside us,
how could divinity delight us?
§ If through infinity the same
thing flows, eternally repeating,
if an arch, though manifold, can mightily
hold itself together,
If all things pour out lust for life,
the smallest and the biggest stars,
Yet all this striving, all this struggle
Is eternal peace in God the Lord.
§ Eternal, living action works
to recreate the created
so it never rigidifies.
What was not, it must become:
bright suns, coloured worlds,
never can it rest.
Alles, Gedichte I 369
William Blake (1757-1827)
Auguries of Innocence
§ To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.
Heaven and earth, the watered plains, the moon's shining globe,
the sun and stars are all strengthened by Spirit working within them,
and mind stirs this great mass, infused through all its limbs and mixed
in with its body. [Aeneid vi.724-727
From CHRIS CRESSWELL, Christchurch
[MB, ChB, MRNZCGP, Member of Scientific and
Medical Network. -Ed.]
few thoughts on the refreshing The Anatomy of Joy by Donald Stowell.
I was worried
as I read that he was escaping into rapture and minimising
the importance of earthly suffering. This approach (which I
believe Marx interpreted as "religion is the opium of the masses")
leaves the world to be destroyed at the hands of the
greedy. I am glad Stowell wrote
"He has understood the purpose of life
as an adventure into Love which causes him to find ways of furthering
the work of Christ on earth to mitigate
the mighty miseries which man inflicts upon man, and help his fellow
men to perceive the
Kingdom of God."
I am not a theologian but I doubt that
Christianity can be described as The
only fundamentally joyous religion.
understanding is that at least
Sufism, younger and perhaps further up the evolutionary tree than
Christianity, is a very joyful faith, with ecstasy being central to its
I also question
belief in an end point in the evolution of humanity (similar to
Teilhard's Omega Point). I believe it is more likely that God and
humanity will continue to evolve together forever (if we can solve the
threats to our existance). Why consider God static and finite?
Rob McKay [Methodist
with interest the
article, "The Anatomy of Joy", by Donald Stowell, and would like to add
another little gem on the subject of 'joy' from The Book of Mormon:
fell that men might
be; and men are, that they might have joy"
Furlong Assistant Producer, Optomen Television "Neurotheology"
I'm currently making a television program in the UK
linking ideas of religious experience and science. I was very
interested in discovering your website and wondered whether
you'd be at all
interested in our ideas. You'll be aware that scientists have already
certain parts of the brain appear to be activated during
experiences - the temporal lobes being particularly important. Such
have now spawned a whole new scientific discipline of
attempts to look at spiritual and neurological matters together.
In our programme we are going to examine the
neurological processes inside the brain during a more intense religious
such as a deliverance or exorcism rite. Such an experiment
will also allow
us to compare religiousand scientific approaches to psychotherapy.
I wonder if these are areas you are at all
in. Having read your website I think they may well be.
From: Dr Bruce Nicholls
SCIENCE AND FAITH FORUM
Here in Auckland
past year we have sponsored a Science and Faith Forum of 7-8
university professors and scientists and the same number of
distinctive is that we claim the be evangelical, upholding the
historic orthodox faith. We have founded a publishing company, Telos
far we have published 4 monographs; I am sending you one for your
This year our Forum
focussing on Creation Theology and the care of Creation. We are
sponsoring a conference in Auckland Univeristy February 16-19, 2005 on
I leave this
Europe and the Middle East on writing and editing assignments and
return on October 31st. Our Telos address is inside the monograph,
God's Books,Genetics and Genesis by
With warm greetings,
(Dr) Bruce Nicholls
|From JAMES GASSON
The article 'The Anatomy of Joy',
I think to be an example of poor thinking. I comment on some quotes
below (quotes are in no particular order).
Essentially, I think that the author has failed to make a case for his
views. Readers may agree with some of the author's views,
but they are unlikely to be convinced by anything they don't agree
with, so are unlikely to to find new insight.
Bill of Human Rights has been adopted by every member of
the United Nations (excepting South Africa) and this thing has
never happened before. History does not
repeat itself. Never before have so
many nations decided to work
together for mutual benefit or contributed
towards a corporate effort to feed the hungry,
clothe the naked and heal the sick.This is the work of
Jesus Christ and it is a matter for great joy.
The Bill of Human Rights includes a number of documents,
notably the Universal Decleration of Human Rights. These are the first
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one
another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this
Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour,
sex, language, religion, political or other opinion,
national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of
the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or
territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust,
non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.
The first article, in brief, outlines a view on the origin of morality.
Morality is the synergy of reason and conscience. Religion isn't
required. Further, the second article specifically states there is an
entitlement to rights regardless of (among other things) a person's
religion. Nowhere does Christianity warrent a specific mention. It
seems to me decidedly odd to claim this document in the name of
I quote Aldous
Huxley again, this time from Ape
"Joy? But joy was
murdered long ago. All that survives is
the laughter of demons about the whipping posts, the howling of the
possessed as they couple in the darkness. Joy is only for
those whose life accords with the given Order of the World.
you there, the clever ones, who think you can improve upon that order, for you, the
angry ones, the disobedient, joy is fast becoming a stranger. Those who are doomed
to reap the consequences of your fantastic tricks will never so much
as suspect its existence.
This idea is a common thread running through the three great
monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam).
Morality excludes the possiblity of reason or conscience.
True morality is based solely on blind faith in 'the given Order'.
It's quite opposed to the message in the Declaration.
The Declaration, surely, in this view, is a product of 'the clever
Christian Joy is a
very mysterious thing to non-believers :-
are you when men hate you, and when they
exclude you and hate you and cast out your name as evil on account of the
Son of Man!
in that day and leap for joy, for behold your
reward is great in heaven.”(Luke 6.23).
I think this more worrying than mysterious.What could be the good of
finding joy in hate?
case can certainly be made out that Christianity “is the only
fundamentally joyous religion”
I suspect this is prodominatly a Christian view.
thinkers, prophets and priests did their best according to their mental
and spiritual equipment, but none of it was complete and much of it was
bungled. For example, it was thought that God wanted human sacrifice,
and later on that he would enjoy animal burnt offerings and would
enjoy the smell of roast meat.
The author seems again to claim that a moral person is one who does
God's will. But then he seems to assume that anything he
personally disapproved of couldn't be God's will.
If the author does assume this, then God's will could be of no
practical value to him, as he is going to place his own views first in
to prove that God exists is as absurd as to
assert that he does not; our assertions and
our proofs will not create him,
will they suppress him.
In the same manner, wanting to prove anything could be said absurd, as
no proof changes what it asserts. Essentially, the author encourages us
to form a belief without reason, but this is a perilous occupation.
Anyone in the habit of believing what they are told without question,
surely risks forming false, and possibly dangerous beliefs. And, in
fact, the author has suggested as much himself.
People who use the word “God” should be able to say what
they mean by
it. There are many who use the word and do not mean anything by
it because they have rejected the archaic meaning which they have
Too often in the
religions of the world it has been
attempted to account for creation as the work of a
greatly enlarged human being who is a spirit who
is somewhere “above” and in a place called
(The author seems to be describing Christianity specifically,
rather than "the religions of the world" generally, as he suggests.)
Yet we can still say that God is Love - if by love we mean
which draws together things which otherwise would be separated.
The author has talked in favour of clear arguments.
Also, he is annoyed at people using the word "God" in the orthodox
sense. Much as I disagree with the orthodox concept of God,
however, I wouldn't argue with the use of the word "God" in the
orthodox sense. Surely orthodox Christians had the word "God" first. If
by "God" the author means energy,
and if the author had wanted to clarify his views, he might have, for
instance, refered to his concept as "God-energy";
and his views as "neo-Christian", or simply have refered to his
interpretations of "the teachings of Jesus" (I think this would have
been far more sensible, placing importance in the teachings of Jesus
does not make you Christian, Muslims place importance in the teachings
of Jesus, and Jesus himself was Jewish). In any case, something
is needed to clarify the discussion, as it is, the author used the
words "God" and "Christian" both in the orthodox senses, and for his
own meaning, with the result that it is often difficult to tell which
he is referring to.