Re-enchanting Nature and Ourselves

Isaac Newton was the father of modern, quantitative physics, but it would never have occurred to him that this precluded magic or spirits in nature.  He spent much of his experimentation with alchemy and astrology.

In the 1880s, Arthur Conan Doyle went to seances and communed with the dead, but his alter-ego Sherlock Holmes was a hard-headed scientist who sought and found a mechanical explanation for every mystery that seemed supernatural.  He read the spirit of the times.

In the early 20th Century, Sigmund Freud found abundant evidence for telepathy and extraordinary knowing among his case studies, but he wrote about this only in private letters and denied it in public.  He knew that establishing the new field of psychology as a legitimate science would be hard enough without taking on prejudice of the intelligentsia against things supernatural.

William James, his older contemporary, was much more explicit about believing in a non-material soul that survives the body and in telepathic communication.  And Freud’s student, Karl Jung, broke with Freud over his explicit embracing of mystical transpersonal connections.

The prejudice that says “Science Knows Better” is alive and well today, fueled by all of the technical successes of the science establishment.  The spirit of our times is no spirit.  We believe in the religion of no religion.  We think we know better than the Greeks who associated personalities with the sun and the wind, and we smile condescendingly at the Native American beliefs in spirits of nature.  The shamanism that is our heritage in every indigenous culture is explained away as an interesting anthropological phenomenon.

But the truth is that we have been robbed of a great deal of the beauty and mystery in life.  The community of scientists has denied the overwhelming evidence for telepathy and precognition and psychokinesis, even after classical mechanics (which is inhospitable to souls and spirits) was replaced with quantum mechanics (in which there is a natural place for the supernatural).

The result is the nihilism that dominated philosophy in the 20th Century, existential angst, anomie, whole generations of people who don’t know who they are or why they are alive, an epidemic of suicide in the most prosperous countries in the world.

Each of us has within us our dreams, intuitions and presentiments, communications from nature and from the divine.  We have learned to look past them.  We have learned to attend to the five senses and the material world, to the exclusion of half of ourselves.  We routinely suppress the very parts of ourselves that know why we are alive.

The natural world is alive and ensouled and enchanted.  We can re-sensitize ourselves to a living spirit, and listen to what the voices of the trees and the ocean.  In fact, the dominant intellectual culture of physicalism is melting in our lifetimes.

 

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