The Future Requires the Past

"The truths of the past are timeless and it is time we reclaimed them." So writes Huston Smith in Forgotten Truth (Harper). We are forgetting our ancestral connections as metaphysical beings. We prefer instead to pin the central story of our lives to the objective reality of the material world of science. But the tools of earthly consciousness can undermine our human potential.

Science fails to recognize the origins of life because it assumes that physical reality is the only reality. Religion, on the other hand, frustrates us by claiming that the essence of spirit lies beyond our ordinary means of perception. Thus we stand on middle ground between the limits of science and the idealism of religion.

Both science and religion do provide us, however, with symbols to stimulate an intuitive glimpse of reality. Each affirms that: 1) things are not as they seem; 2) what is not apparent abounds abundantly; 3) the unknown can not be judged; 4) the unknown can be known through exceptional means; 5) experience concretizes the exceptional; 6) and profound knowing requires instruments.

The needed instrument, according to Smith, is a restored vision that marries the wisdom of the past with the revelations of the present. In order to re-authenticate our lives with purpose and meaning, we must look back to a time that precedes not only science, but religion too. We should recapture the spirit of the traditions of archaic societies that lived in direct contact with the sacred. Their worldview, based upon a supportive lifestyle, recognized that we are, always have been, and always will be Infinite Beings. This primordial experience of reality, coupled with the symbols of science and religion, may potentially propel us beyond the profane into the sacred.

This re-vision may guide us to deal more constructively with the imperfections of the world. It may help us to develop a spirituality that is empowered to transform our flaws into "objects of redeeming compassion." On the other hand, Smith warns, if we cast doubt upon things that science fails to discover and demythologize religious traditions in favor of a mechanical creation, we will lose contact with our spiritual source.

We must use wisely both science and religion as we move into the future. Certainly the past is departed. But Smith proposes we recapture ultimate reality by living the time-honored recipe: "Be pure in heart and pure in spirit."

(Digest by Clayton Montez, Atlantic University.)