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The Cosmic Adventure: Science, Religion and the Quest for Purpose by John F. Haught

John F. Haught, who received the Ph.D. from Catholic University, is professor of theology at Georgetown University. He has written extensively on religion and science. His books include The Revelation of God in History; What is God?, The Cosmic Adventure, Nature and Propose, and Religion and Self-Acceptance. Published by Paulist Press, New York/Ramsey, 1984. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted and Winnie Brock.

Chapter: 1: The Problem of Nature and Purpose

The central issue in science and religion today is whether nature in its evolution has any purpose or ultimate meaning. All the other questions that cluster around the topic of science and religion converge on that of nature and purpose. Questions such as whether the language of "faith" has any authority in a scientific age, or whether mind and life are reducible to atoms and molecules, whether only the tangible is real, whether the human person is anything more than a complex physico-chemical mechanism, whether we are free or determined, whether there is any "objective" truth to the symbols and myths of religion -- all of these questions are asked at all only because what is fundamentally at issue is whether there is an ultimate context that gives meaning to cosmic process and significance to our lives in this process. The interest that such questions arouse in us is generated primarily by the impingement they have on our own wondering whether there is any basis in reality for our sense of significance. It is questionable whether our own lives can be seriously taken as deeply meaningful unless the cosmic context of these lives is itself imbued with purpose. Thus the problem of nature and purpose is not merely an academic one; it flows from our deepest and most personal concerns as to whether we really belong to the universe, or rather must awaken to our utter solitude, our "fundamental isolation."1

Several decades ago, the American philosopher, W.T. Stace, wrote that religion

. . . can get on with any sort of astronomy, geology, biology, physics. But it cannot get on with a purposeless and senseless world. If the scheme of things is purposeless and meaningless, then the life of man is purposeless and meaningless too. Everything is futile, all effort is in the end worthless.2

For some time, however, influential scientific thinkers have insisted that the findings of astronomy, geology, biology and physics rule out the hypothesis of cosmic purpose, or at least render it very dubious. If they are correct, then religion, no matter how lyrical or comforting, has no basis in reality and should be abandoned by all honest, truth-loving persons. Science seems to have made questionable any religious affirmation of ultimate meaning.

I agree with Stace that the central issue is that of cosmic purpose. Unless there is some purpose to the "scheme of things" it seems doubtful whether the individual can consistently and coherently attribute meaning to his or her own existence either. The universe must somehow support us if our own will to meaning is to find any satisfaction. I find it difficult to understand those philosophers who hold that the individual’s life can have meaning even if the universe as a whole is void of purpose. If our environing context is indifferent or hostile to us, I do not see how we have a chance of salvaging any ultimately satisfying meaning for ourselves. We are so intricately connected with our universe that any "simple location" of our own existence, any setting it apart from the totality in which we are embedded, will surely skew our self-understanding. And if the universe to which science says we are organically tied is pervasively purposeless, how can our individual lives avoid being infected by the insignificance that runs through the whole?

And yet there are some philosophers who hold that our chances for personal meaning are not jeopardized, but are even enhanced, by our living in a purposeless universe. E.D. Klemke, just to give one recent but representative example, clearly illustrates this point of view. He begins by observing that there is no "evidence" for any purpose in the universe:

From the standpoint of present evidence, evaluational components such as meaning or purpose are not to be found in the universe as objective aspects of it. Such values are the result of human evaluation. With respect to them, we must say that the universe is valueless; it is we who evaluate, upon the basis of our subjective preferences. Hence, we do not discover values such as meaning to be inherent within the universe. Rather, we "impose" such values upon the universe.3

And in a spirit of honesty Klemke gives us the epistemology (that is, the view of what constitutes true knowledge) which undergirds his skepticism about meaning in the universe:

. . . I here maintain what I hold throughout the rest of my existence, both philosophically and simply as a living person. I can accept only what is comprehensible to me; i.e., that which is within the province of actual or possible experience, or that for which I find some sound reasons or evidence. Upon these grounds, I must reject any notion of meaning which is bound with the necessity of faith in some mysterious, utterly unknowable entity. If my life should turn out to be less happy thereby, then I shall have to endure it as such. As Shaw once said: "The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one. The happiness of credulity is a cheap and dangerous quality."4

I admire this statement for its clarity and the intellectual honesty that underlies it. If indeed it is true that there is no ultimate purpose to things, then we should face up to this fact, no matter how much it hurts. (Here I shall not pursue the question as to why we should do so.) But then Klemke goes on, with his usual pointedness, to express the view which I would like the reader to ponder:

An objective meaning -- that is, one which is inherent within the universe or dependent upon external agencies -- would, frankly, leave me cold. It would not be mine. It would be an outer, neutral thing, rather than an inner, dynamic achievement. I, for one, am glad that the universe has no meaning, for thereby is man all the more glorious. I willingly accept the fact that external meaning is non-existent (or if existent, certainly not apparent), for this leaves me free to forge my own meaning.5

Klemke, I think, is an adequate representative of those who argue for the meaningfulness of the individual’s life even though the universe may be empty of meaning itself. Therefore any attempt to construct a vision of the universe (a cosmology) in which there is some over-arching meaning (teleology) must address itself to the kinds of claims Klemke is making. I shall briefly isolate three of these claims in the remainder of this chapter, and draw out their deeper implications in subsequent sections of the book.

1. First there is an epistemological assumption that we should give our assent to no proposition unless there is adequate experiential (empirical and scientific) evidence for it or unless it is capable of being "comprehended." Of course the proposition that the universe is meaningful is indeed unreceptive to experimental verification and falsification. Therefore, Klemke discards teleology as unacceptable. Later on I shall present a hierarchical model of the universe according to which we must re-evaluate the whole notion of "comprehension."6 In this hierarchical view we shall acknowledge that a higher level may comprehend a lower, but a lower cannot comprehend a higher. If purpose is intrinsic to a hierarchical universe, then it would be located at a higher level than that of human consciousness. Thus it would by nature be beyond our conscious comprehension. The obvious question, then, is whether Klemke’s epistemological assumption that all of reality must be accessible to our human faculties of comprehension is necessarily appropriate to the nature of the universe. Should there in fact exist a teleological dimension to the cosmos, comprehension (in the sense of getting our minds around something) could not occur. Instead what I earlier called "faith" would be the appropriate stance of consciousness with respect to ultimate meaning. Faith is an attitude of acknowledging the limits of comprehension and of opening ourselves to being comprehended by that which transcends us. To make our own intellectual possessiveness the criterion of all that is real is an example of the "epistemology of control." And as Huston Smith has stated: "An epistemology that aims relentlessly at control rules out the possibility of transcendence in principle."7

Klemke holds that ultimate meaning is beyond comprehension (beyond verification or falsification). Thus far I would not care to argue, though what precisely is meant by "ultimate meaning" or by "verification" could be more carefully pondered. What I am most concerned with is the inference Klemke draws from his observations on the elusiveness of any hypothetical ultimate meaning: if it cannot be comprehended, then its reality is in question. Behind this proposition there lies the assumption that the human mind is the highest level in the cosmic hierarchy. By a "hierarchical cosmos" I mean a universe in which there are a multiplicity of systems, levels, dimensions or fields so arranged that the higher or greater exercise an integrating and organizing influence over the components that constitute the subordinate levels. For example, the living cell organizes and integrates the subsidiary molecules in what is an obviously "hierarchical" fashion. And as we shall see later, the human mind exercises a hierarchically integrating influence over the biological, neurological, and chemical processes in the brain and body. Klemke, like many modern philosophers, assumes that there are no higher organizing and integrating fields of influence more comprehensive than the human mind. And it is to this point of view that much of the speculation and reflection in the present book will be addressed. How do we know that our own minds are not superseded by, transcended by and comprehended by a still higher level (or by higher levels)? How do we know that we do not live in a hierarchical universe in which our consciousness is not the supreme organizational field?

It makes all the difference in the world, as we speculate on the issue of nature and purpose, where we locate our human consciousness in terms of the hierarchical universe. Is it the highest level or is it perhaps relatively low on a cosmic scale of gradations of comprehending dimensions? Because of its bearing on the question of purpose, therefore, much of this book will focus on the feasibility and legitimacy of hierarchical thinking. Consequently, I shall repeatedly make reference to what I shall call the "hierarchical principle" as the axiom to guide our reflections. This principle is formulated as follows: a higher level can comprehend a lower, but the lower cannot comprehend the higher.8 We shall flesh this principle out as we move forward.

2. A second striking aspect of Klemke’s position is his assertion that the universe is inherently valueless. Klemke is consistent when he claims, therefore, that the universe is purposeless. For what renders a process purposeful is its orientation toward value. And where there are no value-oriented occurrences there can be no ultimate meaning. What is interesting about the claim that the universe is intrinsically valueless is that this view is usually rooted in speculation influenced by modern science. It is true that ancient Greek atomists excluded any final cause (any ultimate goal or good) in their explanation of the cosmos, and ancient tragedy also questioned whether the universe is purposeful. But with the exception of a few skeptics, prior to the seventeenth century most philosophy as well as religion treated the universe as inherently value-laden. What rendered it valuable was the commonly accepted view that it was permeated by Mind, Intelligence, Reason, Logos, Torah, God, Spirit, Presence. The cosmos, as Jacob Needleman puts it, was perceived as a teaching. And the proper response to this instructive cosmos, itself seen as the embodiment of Wisdom, was a reverential obedience. The individual’s mind was seen as a microcosmic version of the Cosmic Mind, and so the authentic life for the individual required his or her attunement to the intelligence of the cosmic totality. The idea that the universe is intrinsically valueless was the last thought that could have occurred to traditional minds.9

Whatever happened that makes it possible now for philosophers like Klemke to state with such ingenuousness that the cosmos is intrinsically devoid of value, and therefore of purpose? Clearly it is the expulsion of mind from the cosmic totality and its relegation to our individual craniums.10 It has been pointed out that prior to the Enlightenment, the human mind was seen as a mirror of the cosmos. That is, its function was to reflect the intelligibility and value that are intrinsic to the universe. After the Enlightenment, however, it is perhaps best envisaged as a lamp. The human mind is the source of, rather than a reflection of, whatever meaning exists. If mind exists at all today (and some question whether it has any intrinsic reality because of its intangibility) it resides locally and tenuously only in our brains. According to some modern scientific thinkers there was no mind in the cosmos at all prior to the emergence of man in evolution. G.G. Simpson, the famous biologist of evolution, for example, starkly implies this conclusion:

Man is the result of a purposeless and natural process that did not have him in mind. He was not planned.

. . . Man plans and has purposes. Plan, purpose, goal, all absent in evolution to this point, enter with the coming of man and are inherent in the new evolution which is confined to him.

. . . Discovery that the universe apart from man or before his coming lacks and lacked any purpose or plan has the inevitable corollary that the workings of the universe cannot provide any automatic, universal, eternal, or absolute ethical criteria of right and wrong.11

If the universe is itself mindless, then it cannot provide a basis for our valuations. Our own minds are left isolated, stranded in a strange and hostile environment which offers no support in our own quest for meaning. Our minds, unaided and alone, have to illuminate the cosmos which itself is void of light.

What happened that brought about this sense that mind and cosmos are alien to one another? Was it simply the rise of science in the last three centuries? Certainly science has given us pictures of vast tracts of lifeless and unconscious space. Physics, astronomy, chemistry and geology as well as biology have considerably altered our cosmographies. Science has methodically excluded consideration of value and purpose from the field of its inquiry. Moreover, it deals with the quantitative more than the qualitative aspects of things. It abstracts altogether from those questions which interest us "existentially," such as what, if any, is the meaning of our lives. For these reasons we may legitimately suspect that science has been a major factor in the turn away from teleology. W.T. Stace, whom I quoted earlier, even goes so far as to put the whole burden of modernity’s turn away from belief in cosmic purpose on the seventeenth century’s preoccupation with "how" questions to the exclusion of "why" questions:

The real turning point between the medieval age of faith and the modern age of unfaith came when the scientists of the seventeenth century turned their backs upon what used to be called "final causes." The final cause of a thing or event meant the purpose which it was supposed to serve in the universe, its cosmic purpose. What lay back of this was the presupposition that there is a cosmic order or plan, and that everything that exists could in the last analysis be explained in terms of its place in this cosmic plan, that is, in terms of its purpose.12

Though Galileo, Kepler and Newton did not personally deny the reality of purpose, Stace insists that they made this notion useless in terms of what science aims at, "namely prediction and control." Science turned exclusively to the search for material and mechanical causes and turned its back on final causes. Hence increasingly modern thought, affected by the methods of scientific inquiry, has issued us a picture of the universe in which purpose plays no part. Stace continues:

You can draw a sharp line across the history of Europe dividing it into two epochs of very unequal length. The line passes through the life time of Galileo. European man before Galileo -- whether ancient pagan or more recent Christian -- thought of the world as controlled by plan and purpose. After Galileo European man thinks of it as utterly purposeless.13

Even allowing for some rhetorical exaggeration by Stace, I think we must dig much deeper than he has to find the fundamental causes of the picture of a universe void of value, mind and purpose. Prior to the emergence of modern science, the roots of its disengagement of nature from mind and value were already present in our Western cultural heritage. These roots go deep down into ancient mythologies that have for centuries nurtured our philosophies and spiritualities. It is not surprising that what we call "modern science" should also have failed to escape their nourishing influence. I am referring especially to the myth of dualism. And I think some understanding of dualistic mythology, philosophy and psychology may help explain the caesura of which Stace is speaking and the divorce of mind from nature that gives Klemke’s ideas their essential structure.

Dualism is the mythic, religious or philosophical view that separates spirit from matter and mind from body. A mythical version of dualistic thinking may be found in what Paul Ricoeur calls the "myth of the exiled soul."14 This myth, like most important myths, is a theodicy. It is an attempt to explain where evil comes from and how we may escape from it. It came to expression in ancient Orphism, Manichaeism, Gnosticism and Zoroastrianism and has persisted down through the centuries in religious and philosophical forms of expression. It tells of how the soul, having its origin in the world of the spirit, strays here below into the (evil) realm of matter. The soul takes up a temporary dwelling in a "body" which functions as a prison and as the source of evil desires and suffering. Recognizing its distinct status, the soul ideally resists being absorbed into the bodily casing derived from inferior matter. Through various forms of asceticism, renunciation of instinct, contemplation of the spiritual and the ideal, and eventually through death, the soul migrates back to its original home.

This is a powerful and touching myth, not least because it gives a rather tidy answer to the perennial human problem of suffering and evil. It is also appealing because it preserves the sense of our special significance over against the material world. It is not remarkable, therefore, that this myth has been so durable throughout our history, including the history of ideas. In antiquity, Plato, and, at the beginning of the modern age, Descartes, stand out as the best known figures in the history of philosophical dualism. Numerous thinkers have been shaped by this Platonic-Cartesian tradition. Recently, for example, one of its most outspoken contemporary apologists, Hywel D. Lewis, has recapitulated the arguments on behalf of dualism. Lewis states that there is a radical difference between mental states and physical states and that the essence of dualism consists in this distinction.15 Dualism explains why we spontaneously value sentient and conscious beings more than inanimate objects, namely, because there is an added higher component in the former that does not exist in the latter:

. . . we seem compelled to recognize some reality which cannot be itself described in strictly physical terms, however close the involvement may be with material conditions. It is for these reasons that we speak of cruelty to animals but not to pieces of wood or stone. . . . This is the obvious divide from which dualism takes its course.16

Furthermore, dualism gives legitimacy to what we call "inner" experience.17 It provides a basis for the sense of freedom and dignity without which a genuine humanism would collapse. So numerous are its advantages that Lewis wonders why anyone would challenge dualism. Gilbert Ryles’ famous critique of dualism, for example, is unsatisfactory since in the final analysis it differs little from the old-fashioned materialism of behaviorists like J.B. Watson, for whom distinct "inner" states of awareness do not exist.18 In general, it is "irritating" to Lewis that so many distinguished philosophers fail to recognize the appropriateness of "the Platonic-Cartesian way."19 Our own experience of our sentience and consciousness should be enough to vindicate the dualistic position.

Yet I must emphasize that while dualism seeks to preserve the core of our humanness from being lost in matter, ironically it prepares the way for the materialist interpretation of the world it seeks to avoid in the first place. For by placing the soul or mind in a sphere radically different from that of physical reality, dualism abandons the physical universe to the realm of the spiritless and mindless. And it is fundamentally the mindlessness of nature that renders it incapable of sustaining purpose.

Of course one may imagine, as did the natural theologians of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, that a divine mechanic situated outside of the mindless world-machine could manipulatively direct it in a "purposive" way. But this view itself collapsed eventually because it was not a truly teleological one. If the world of nature is radically purposeful it is not sufficient that its purpose be extrinsic to it. Instead any teleological influence must be felt intimately by all aspects of the world. This means that the fundamental constituents of nature must have built into them a quality of receptivity to transcendent meaning that would allow them to be brought into the sphere of influence of any supposed universal teleological principle. The name I shall give to this hypothesized quality of receptivity to meaning is "mentality." And in the following two chapters I shall ask whether it is scientifically and philosophically legitimate to attribute "mentality" to every aspect of the universe. My position will be that unless the universe is pervasively "mental" there would be no possibility of any global meaning taking up residence within it. For this reason a critique of the dualism which separates mentality from the physical universe by exiling it to the sphere of human consciousness must be the first step in any effort to present a teleological picture of the universe.

The consequences of the dualistic siphoning of mind from nature are not terribly dramatic until the age of science. For in archaic and ancient settings reality seemed to be almost completely permeated with a spirit of vitality. Rivers, plants, the earth, humanity, the climate -- the entire environment -- gave the impression of being saturated with life. Panvitalism, according to Hans Jonas, was the common view.20 Where there was an apparent absence of vitality, as in a corpse, there was a tendency to deny the reality of any dead matter and to look upon death itself as an illusion. But once science uncovered the pervasive lifelessness of the physical universe, and pointed out how precariously infinitesimal is the quantity of life and mind, then more dramatic consequences began to flow from our dualistic heritage. Mind and life are now experienced as strangers, as anomalies, as accidents that have erupted on a landscape of deadness and mindlessness that is unsympathetic with or at the most neutral toward them. Having segregated mind from matter, spirit from the body, and life from the inert, dualism bequeaths to us a new problematic that has given contemporary science its characteristic methodological ideal. Instead of being confronted with the ancient problem of how to explain death if everything around us exudes life, we now have to apologize for the precarious fact of life (and consciousness) if everything around us in our universe is intrinsically dead and mindless. Jonas elaborates on this ironic twist of problematics:

Death is the natural thing, life the problem. From the physical sciences there spread over the conception of all existence an ontology whose model entity is pure matter, stripped of all features of life. What at the animistic stage was not even discovered has in the meantime conquered the vision of reality, entirely ousting its counterpart. The tremendously enlarged universe of modern cosmology is conceived as a field of inanimate masses and forces which operate according to the laws of inertia and of quantitative distribution in space. This denuded substratum of all reality could only be arrived at through a progressive expurgation of vital features from the physical record and through strict abstention from projecting into its image our own felt aliveness.

This means that the lifeless has become the knowable par excellence and is for that reason also considered the true and only foundation of reality. It is the "natural" as well as the original state of things. Not only in terms of relative quantity but also in terms of ontological genuineness, nonlife is the rule, life the puzzling exception in physical existence.21

As a result of this inverted theoretical situation, Jonas concludes, ". . . it is the existence of life within a mechanical universe which now calls for an explanation, and explanation has to be in terms of the lifeless."22

The explanation of the "living" in terms of non-living stuff has become the ideal of much modern scientific inquiry. It is obvious to many, for example, that biology is reducible to physics and chemistry, and, therefore, that life is reducible to inanimate matter. The amazing advances in molecular biology blur the traditional hierarchical distinctions between man, animal, plant and mineral; and the neurophysiological "explanation" of human consciousness in terms of the components and machinations of the brain even more dramatically illustrates how pure "matter" has assumed dominance in any attempt to make sense of our universe and its manifestations.

It is the dualism of soul and body, spirit and nature, mind and matter that has made possible the shift of problematics from that of how to explain death if everything is alive, to that of how to explain life if everything is dead. Dualism is the pivotal mythic and philosophical construct on which this inversion has turned. While dualism may have been an important factor in our coming to vivid awareness of the faculty of mentality which makes us aware of our special status in the world, it has simultaneously purged nature outside of ourselves of the qualities of mind and aliveness that we experience in the subtlety of our own conscious activity. It has therefore exorcised the cosmos of the mentality without which it would remain impervious to any deep incarnation of transcendent meaning. It has given rise to what Paul Tillich has called an "ontology of death."23 Anything that is not part of our subjective experience is relegated to a world "out there" and is denuded of the vitality associated with thought and experience. This world outside of our own minds is then envisaged as inhabited only by dead, inert and passive material objects.

The bifurcation of reality into two such disparate regions culminated in Descartes’ noted distinction of res cogitans (mind) and res extensa (matter). The influence of the dualistic myth and metaphysics on the birth and growth of modern science has been amply documented,24 and I cannot trace the whole story here. It is enough only to point out that the inertness bequeathed to matter by dualism has become the basis upon which the quantification of physical reality and motion in Newtonian and Cartesian physics has been constructed. And perhaps we may even say that without the dualistic premise modern science as we know it could not have developed as rapidly as it has.

It is also true, though, that dualism still lurks behind the dominant contemporary philosophies of nature in which matter remains essentially mindless and lifeless. It is dualism that, in the final analysis, provides the background for the present day attempts to specify or explain biotic and conscious operations in terms of the sciences (physics and chemistry) that deal with the allegedly inanimate. Without the sphere of unconscious and lifeless chunks of matter delineated by dualism such a methodological ideal (which animates current efforts especially in biology to find the physico-chemical "secret" of life) could hardly have taken hold in modern scientific thought. In a curious way we owe a great deal to what is perhaps a serious mistake in cosmology.25

Standing at the end of the history of this dualism it is easy for us to see why any attribution of "mentality" (and therefore of purposefulness) to nature will be dismissed as romantic anthropomorphism by philosophers like Klemke. By expelling anything that resembles feeling, experience or perceptivity from the fundamental "building-blocks" of nature, modern thought has also eliminated the possibility of attributing purpose to the universe. It has rightly recognized that without a vein of "mentality" in the universe there can be no purpose either. And so, by rejecting the alliance of nature and mind, it has removed to that extent the feasibility of our searching for purpose in the world of nature. For where there is no dimension of "mind" there can be no implantation of aim or purpose either.

In turn, the rejection of a teleological universe has led in many cases to doubt about any human purpose whatsoever. Needless to say, there has been a close connection all along between the modern experience of meaninglessness and the development of the picture of an impersonal universe that gives no backing to our projects. The same dualistic myths that have made us feel exceptional have also led to our sense of alienation from nature and purpose.

It is possible in theory to anticipate, therefore, the enormous implications that a new alliance of nature and mind might have for the contemporary crisis of meaning. Nothing less imposing than the significance of our lives is bound up with the quest for a union of mind and nature established on solid grounds compatible with reason, common sense and science. If we could grasp somehow that our subjectivity is a blossoming forth of nature itself, and not some enigmatic "nothingness" or separate substance over against nature, we would have at least the context in which to discuss once again the question of nature and purpose.26

The basis for a synthetic vision of mind and nature is worked out most comprehensively by Alfred North Whitehead and we shall investigate his ideas in an introductory fashion in Chapter 3.

3. There is yet a third element in Klemke’s proposal. It is his optimism that we can tolerate and accommodate ourselves to a purposeless universe. It is his bold post-Enlightenment assertion that each of us as individuals is capable of suffusing our lives with whatever meaning we need. In fact, Klemke holds, the more naked the universe is of purpose the less interference we would have from it in forging our own meanings. Whatever meaning traditional myth, philosophy and religion saw in the cosmos, we now recognize as the creations or projections of the people that inhabited it. We should now, in the spirit of modernity, fully acknowledge and accept our own creative role in such projections. We should give credit where credit is due -- to ourselves. The individual is radically responsible for his or her own life’s meaning since the universe has no help to offer on this score.

Again, the way toward this kind of thinking was paved by dualism. It is the irrepressible presence of dualism that allows us to think that our mental activity is not really a part of or continuous with nature. Dualistic mythology is the cultural backdrop for Klemke’s Cartesian-Sartrean sense of his mind’s being in a separate ontological category from mindless nature. And like Sartre, Camus, Russell and other cosmic pessimists before him, Klemke seems unaware of the tenacious hold that the dualistic way of organizing the world may have over his consciousness. In the pages that follow I shall give considerable attention to the way in which the dualistic separation of value from the universe has structured the whole question of science and religion. And that is why I shall repeatedly question whether we are required to adapt ourselves to the dualistic mythology that has been such a powerful influence in the history of culture and thought.


In order to entertain the hypothesis that there is cosmic purpose one must assume that nature and mind are somehow interwoven. If the universe of nature were completely void of what we shall call "mentality," it would not be capable of receiving or sustaining any intelligible orientation toward value, that is, any purpose. Once physical reality has been pictured as impermeable to mind, the stage is already set for estranging the individual from the universe, for divorcing purpose from nature. On such a stage there appears the modern philosophy of scientific materialism.


1. Cf. Jacques Monod, Chance and Necessity, trans. by. Austryn Wainhouse (New York: Vintage Books, 1972), p. 172.

2. W.T. Stace, "Man Against Darkness," The Atlantic Monthly CLXXXII (Sept. 1948), p. 54.

3. E.D. Klemke, "Living Without Appeal," in E.D. Klemke, ed., The Meaning of Life (New York: Oxford University Press, 1981), p. 169.

4. Ibid., p. 170.

5. Ibid., p. 172.

6. See below, Ch. 7.

7. Smith, p. 114.

8. Cf. E.F. Schumacher, A Guide for the Perplexed (New York: Harper Colophon Books, 1977), p. 21; also Huston Smith, Forgotten Truth (New York: Harper Colophon Books, 1976), pp. 1-7.

9. Jacob Needleman, A Sense of the Cosmos (New York: E.P. Dutton Inc., Paperback Edition, 1976), pp. 10-36. The writings of Needleman, like those of Smith and Schumacher, seem to me to have at times a somewhat "gnostic" slant to them. All three writers tend to look upon modernity as a "fall" from the pristine purity of some "primordial tradition." None of these three is able adequately to appropriate the "gains" of modern criticism and of evolutionary thought. For that reason I cannot fully endorse their positions. Nonetheless, I have been able to embrace the hierarchical mode of thinking to which they all point as the solution to the bewilderment of our scientific age. I only wish that they could have allied their hierarchical thinking more deliberately with science and evolutionary thinking. I have found in Michael Polanyi a thinker who makes this adjustment.

10. Cf. Needleman, ibid.

11. George Gaylord Simpson, The Meaning of Evolution, revised edition (New York: Bantam Books, 1971), pp. 314-15.

12. Stace, p. 54.

13. Ibid.

14. Paul Ricoeur, The Symbolism of Evil, trans. by Emerson Buchanan (Boston: Beacon Press), pp. 279 ff.

15. Hywel D. Lewis, The Elusive Self (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1982), p. 1.

16. Ibid., pp. 3-4.

17. Ibid., p. 4.

18. Ibid., p. 2.

19. Ibid., p. 6.

20. Hans Jonas, The Phenomenon of Life (New York: Harper & Row, 1966), p. 9.

21. Ibid., pp. 9-10.

22. Ibid.

23. Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology, Vol. III (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1963), p. 19.

24. For example, E.A. Burtt, The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Science (Garden City, New York: Doubleday Anchor Books, 1954).

25. Cf. Jonas, The Phenomenon of Life, pp. 7-26.

26. The above six paragraphs are closely adapted from my book, Nature and Purpose (Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1980), pp. 12-14.

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