Intuition as Omniscience

I am currently immersed in the study of narration and narrative distance in my MFA program. More specifically, in omniscient narration. This is the notable bugbear of many writers, to the point that they do not even attempt it in their writing, choosing to write in first- or third-person limited instead. Commonly known as the voice that is “playing God,” the omniscient narrator does not necessarily know everything or see everything, but has a greater ability to go into various characters’ heads than other narrators.

What is omniscience? The ability to know everything. Is this truly possible? Is it possible to know everything?

In this day and age of Google, social media, everything available on the Internet and in public domain, it certainly seems so. Everything is available with the click of a button, at our fingertips, anytime and anywhere. People from halfway around the world can take a course at an American university, online. Someone in a small town in the Midwest can purchase something online made in a place thousands of miles away. In this Information Age, anything seems possible. Even the advent of Bitcoin and payment services such as PayPal, Venmo, or Apple Pay render currency obsolete.

In Europe, privacy laws are stricter than in the US, something that is very admirable and enviable. One’s personal information should not be distributed so freely; credit card companies and Internet services and marketing organizations know too much about us to degree that is simply frightening.

What can we do?

I would suggest that this problem creates a spiritual void that needs to be filled by our own understanding of something greater than us – call it the divine, God, energy, what you will. It requires that we go within, be aware of our breath, our inner landscape, and most importantly, our intuition. So much emphasis is given to facts and cerebral knowledge that our body’s wisdom is discarded. So much emphasis is given to ascertaining and reassuring that we forget to get in touch with our souls, and a knowledge that is beyond the scientific method. To be sure, I am a very pro-science writer; science is extremely important, and not used enough by our politicians and many people in making important and informed decisions. But there is a place for it, and when it affects our personal lives at a deep level, we have to step back and ask ourselves if there isn’t some greater way of knowing and understanding the world. Even the greatest scientists have emphasized the importance of intuition in their discoveries, and even neuroscience is slowly investigating intuition. This is not to say they espouse sloppy work or lower their standards of rigor. There is too much pseudo-science in the world, and it is equally as dangerous as excessive scientific rationalism. Rather, once they have done all the necessary work, there is something beyond the rational that kicks in, something they can’t explain but they know leads them to the right answers.

Mindfulness and meditation remind us to go within and listen to our intuition. All the great spiritual traditions of the world teach us to sit still in silence. While this may not be an easy thing to do in our modern world, it is imperative. We may not be able to “play God,” but we may be able to “hear God,” to hear something that is beyond our daily practice of rationality and scientific routine. To quote Albert Einstein, “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”

 

Science and Unreason: Richard Dawkins

This week, I had the opportunity to see renowned British scientist Richard Dawkins speak as part of his new book tour (his book is aimed at children and teens, and is quite creative and appealing). Dawkins is one of the most prominent thinkers in 20th-21 first century biology and natural sciences, and certainly, his contribution is indeed remarkable. But Dawkins is notoriously pro-science and anti-religion, to which I say—-why the schism? I myself am the daughter of a Hindu scientist, and am a very serious spiritual practitioner with a background in biological anthropology (though my degree was in Anthropology: Social Sciences). Why does he overlook the religious traditions that are pro-science, such as Buddhism?

Perhaps one of the most pro-science, high profile individuals in the world today is HH Dalai Lama, the great leader of (the Yellow Hat branch of)Tibetan Buddhism. He himself has said that, “If scientific analysis were conclusively to demonstrate certain claims in Buddhism to be false, then we must accept the findings of science and abandon those claims.” His Holiness has done much to assist with the field of neuroscience and the scientific study of the brain and mind; one need only do a Google search with the words “Dalai Lama” and “science” to see the plethora of articles on the interconnectedness of Buddhism and science. The basis of Buddhism is impermanence and change, the evolution of thought, and seeing what is—-all concepts that relates well to the fundamentals of modern scientific thinking and scientific methodology.

Dawkins fails to clarify that “religion” as he uses the word really refers to “Judeo-Christian” religion as well as more basic or fundamentalist types of ideas from any world religion. His thought processes reveal a narrow-mindedness that is a common process in any system of thought or philosophy or religion that bills itself as the ONLY way of thinking without any room for input from the opposite side, a dogmatism that one can see in fundamentalist Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, politics, or any culture. It is rather ironic that Dawkins himself is rather caught up in a rather emotional, dogmatic campaign to promote his brand of scientific rationality as the only answer.

Also frustrating about Dawkins is his mission to eliminate non-scientific explanations of natural phenomena. It seems a bit like the schoolyard child with the pin trying to pop your balloon. There is nothing wrong about myths or non-scientific explanations to explain the wonders of nature; they simply need to be contextualized as such, and not taught as- and confused with scientific truth. And vice versa: scientific truth is (if we look at it very, very simplistically), a method-tested, results-repeatable, quantitative, analytical, logical explanation for the wonders of nature. It is a tool which has allowed us to manipulate the world to a degree deemed impossible for centuries if not millennia. It has allowed us to make exponential progress (and, if we look at the state of the environment, regress) and achieve advances in technology that have changed the course of human history in a very short time. Science and myth/religion/storytelling are perhaps two sides of the same coin, quantitative and qualitative explanations for life.

No, we cannot let the religious right prevent us from teaching evolution in schools. Yes, our politicians are generally very misinformed and fearful of science and scientific rationality. Yes, faith often gets in the way of rationality. But we cannot throw out the baby with the bathwater and completely dismiss religion as though it is all irrational, emotional, extremist poppycock. And for those of us not from the Judeo-Christian tradition, we cannot continue to allow the faith vs. rationality schism to persist.