Sufism, An Inquiry: In new cosmology, what would you say are the responsibilities of each human being in the evolution of our shared humanity? Being in the present moment is a principle of meditation in many mystical schools, certainly Sufism, which says: bring nothing to your heart but presence because the source is so rich that you can’t bring anything to the source; you have to be empty and available for it. How do you see this teaching in the context of your own experience? Brian: In new cosmology we still have to develop selflessness, and love, and we have to overcome greed and anger and so forth. But at the same time, we recognize that we’re in the midst of giving birth to something that is actually new. And just like you said, we don’t know what it is. There’s a word I just learned that comes out of Schelling….he calls it the unprethinkable, so that we don’t know what’s coming. Schelling would say we can’t think it; that it’s not discernible through the faculty of the mind. I think that idea is so powerful because it means that we have this incredible opportunity in bringing forth something that’s actually beyond the reach of our current consciousness, and that invites us to cultivate new modes of awareness. For centuries we scientists have fallen into this idea that we can predict what’s coming. Science was really determined by what it could predict. Once you really think you can predict, there’s not as big a need to pay attention, and so you’re talking yourself out of presence. It’s one of the major challenges of contemporary science. In fact, I would say that one way into presence, for me, has come through
the shattering of classical science…I was trained in classical science, like everybody was, but slowly the insights from quantum physics, and from evolutionary biology were introduced. Both contain the element of surprise in a very deep way. And that was so hard for scientists to accept – our inability to predict and control. Einstein never moved away from that ideal of getting the equations that would enable us to predict, but it’s pretty clear that’s not possible. For me, once that penetrated into my understanding, then suddenly everything became more interesting because I realized that the ideas that I had, however helpful, could not fully capture what was before me. That was my gateway toward trying to develop the capacity for astonishment. As you were saying, the origin is so far beyond us that if we can release ourselves from fixations, we have the chance of being astonished by what’s surfacing. Looking back on it now, I can say that certain sensibilities were being closed down in me, and there was a kind of driving success in me towards articulating things mathematically. And I loved that. I loved it, but at the same time, I was aware that I was becoming more and more narrow. I remember that I was in graduate school, and I was squeezing the joy out of my life because I was becoming so fixated…Darwin talks about this, and I think it’s a really common experience among scientists. Darwin said that after years of work, he found poetry to be almost beside the point, whereas he had loved poetry when he was younger. So, what was happening to him? As I began to reflect on that, I asked myself a simple question: How is it that I ended up studying the mathematics of the Sufism: An Inquiry Vol XVI, No. 1
A journal for people of the heart.