A Scientific Higher Power
Or, how a scientist finds a higher power.
I am a data scientist, and for the majority of my life, I was also a firm atheist.
The last thing I would take seriously was that a ‘higher power’ might play some role in my life, or that a 12 step meeting, where they talk about things like this all the time, might be helpful.
My thoughts rang loud and clear when I would consider it… “You’re talking about “God” right? Well, I’m certain there’s no “God.” If there was a “God”, there would be no suffering in the world, and there is clearly pointless suffering… how else would you explain an earthquake that takes 10,000 lives in a day?
Also… SCIENCE. The world is made up of atoms, which make up matter (stuff) that we feel, see, taste, and touch every day. Stuff interacts with other stuff in scientific ways and we can prove that we know how it works because we can do experiments with results that are predictable, measurable, and verifiable.
Need I remind you we turned an atom into energy and created a nuclear bomb… and predicted it was possible long before it happened?!
Clearly, I thought, we understand it all, and there’s is no hidden “higher power” running the show… Humans are in control and we make things happen, otherwise, everything unfolds due to natural scientific laws.
Luckily, in recovery, I discovered important ways this thinking can be proven wrong, and at the same time, I can keep my identity as a scientist, staying completely scientific and logical about my spiritual exploration.
This realization turned my life around and I’d like to share more about what my path looked like, the things I studied to change my perspective, and how I continue to explore today.
If you’re like me, maybe it will help.
The Science and Nonduality Conference (SAND)
The SAND conference helped me realize there are many scientists and spiritual teachers out there today who are linking their fields together in purely logical and scientific ways.
Learning from these teachers took me to a balanced mindset, where I can study and benefit from spiritual teachings while not compromising my scientific values or understanding.
The places I have found the greatest help have been:
- Looking into what consciousness really is,
- Learning what quantum physics is telling us about reality, and
- Studying just who “I” actually am,
all of which are central themes of the SAND conference each year, and all of which are deeply intertwined.
If you are a scientific person in recovery like me, I suggest that you can use this concept to support your spiritual life.
Explore further with SAND on YouTube.
Escaping The Prison of My Mind
In addiction, my mind kept telling me no one liked me, and I was worthless. I had to be on guard against the big scary things in my mind, and I was constantly reminded they were just about to happen.
I was convinced no one should be involved with me and I ended relationships early, actively telling people they should stay away from me, often ghosting them ‘for their own good.’
I was only able to find and be myself when I went to work every day and became immersed in a complex task. With my mind otherwise occupied, I could be my true self and connect with the excitement, love, & joy of the present moment, of awareness.
However, every time I turned away from ‘something to occupy my mind’ I became hyper-self-conscious, ultra-focused on anxiety and doubt, and I started to overthink things that didn’t require thought in the first place. Vacations, dates, family events, and gatherings without alcohol or drugs to pacify my mind were all terrifying to consider.
I have been grateful to have discovered Rupert Spira in recovery, who explained what was happening with me, and cleared up a subtle confusion that was driving my life and addiction.
He explained to me clearly for the first time that I am awareness, not mind, it just feels that way when I don’t explore my conscious experience.
Exploring more, it becomes clear that “I” (awareness) have a mind, not the other way around.
His teaching opened me up to a new way of being through understanding, inducing a spiritual awakening of the educational variety.
I found a new loving, peaceful self within, that, it turned out, had always been there.
Learn more with him from an appearance at the SAND conference: The Essence of Nonduality: Rupert Spira.
Consciousness, Reality, and Recovery with Peter Russell
In an enlightening talk (also at the SAND conference), Peter Russell talks about the two great revolutions in science that happened recently:
1) We learned through quantum physics there’s no fixed material, physical world like we thought, and
2) Consciousness, observation, and ‘knowing’ [in our minds] play a crucial role in the formation of our every day [external] reality.
He says that consciousness is somehow deeply involved in both of those questions and since we are ignoring that “it’s no wonder we’re not getting anywhere.”
His talk “The Reality of Consciousness” revolves around the fact that science cannot unify Einstein’s relativity with quantum physics, both of which we can experimentally prove are realities of our world.
Is it that hard to believe that consciousness, like ultraviolet light, is something we didn’t have instruments to detect for years and years, and then one day we came up with the theory, created the instruments, and now we can see them?
Check out his enlightening talk here.
With Peter’s help, we can explore how our minds are linked to the universe. We can start to accept that humans don’t know it all and that we actually know very little even today in our complex modern world that has grown so much over the last 200 years.
The farther into this I have gone in recovery, the easier it has become for me to let go of old ideas and embrace new ones.
We are one
Many spiritual teachers teach that we are all created out of one pool of shared energy, and this energy is what our consciousness is made of. Our personal consciousness is compared to eddies, little whirlpools of consciousness created by and flowing into the river of life.
Michael Singer puts it well: “We aren’t separate beings, we are each just limited by our senses.”
As a spiritual scientist, I believe it’s reasonable we all might share the same consciousness in this way, each soul emerging from one field of consciousness, especially when I consider what science tells us about the universe.
Singer says the energy Einstein spoke about in his equations is conscious awareness itself. This, he says, is how a scientific person can imagine “God” might be ever-present, omniscient, and literally everywhere at the same time. Only yogis know this, he says, and goes on to explain that if you pay attention closely, you can see that this energy, consciousness, is also where thoughts come from.
Linking Einstein’s energy to consciousness helps me internalize the concept of the one consciousness, which I refer to as my “higher power”, or “the universe.”
These concepts make it easier to believe there is something far greater than myself present in the universe, that it is present everywhere, no matter how far away from Earth one might go, and that it has to do with “me” intimately.
Similar to what Alan Watts helped me see about the Earth when he said “The Earth grows people like a tree grows apples,” I see now the Universe grows finite minds & personal souls in the same way.
The idea there might be a higher power opened to me slowly at first, but over time, as I explored more and more, I was able to see the concept of shared consciousness as a higher power makes sense.
Seeing this, we become free to reap the benefits of believing in a power greater than ourselves and can find a way to escape our addicted mind from which they come.