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Meru Foundation eTORUS(tm) Newsletter: SPECIAL EDITION
Number 31 – 28 November 2005
Copyright 2005 Meru Foundation
Edited by Levanah Tenen

Our last issue of eTORUS featured an essay by Stan Tenen on Intelligent Design, and on the political movement in the United States which mislabels Intelligent Design as science, and advocates teaching it to young people in secondary school biology classes in the place of evolution. On November 8/9, Stan Tenen appeared on George Noory's "Coast To Coast AM" radio interview program as part of a round table discussion on Intelligent Design that also included Richard Hoagland (of the Enterprise Mission), and Michael Heiser, a Christian Bible scholar from the University of Washington. (Paul Nelson, the advocate for Intelligent Design, was not present.) The discussion was animated, since none of the participants fully agreed with each other, even though all seemed to agree that Intelligent Design was problematic.

If you haven't already, you can review the materials Stan and I prepared for the show, posted at http://www.meru.org/coast . Since the public discussion of Intelligent Design is likely to be in the news for quite a while, we would also be interested in hearing your comments and questions, because this will make future discussion more interesting and informative.

We're very pleased with listener response to this show, and with the number of people who have contacted Meru Foundation because of it. If you would like to hear more of what Stan has to say on Intelligent Design, on the Meru research, or on any subject related to the interface between science and consciousness, please contact George Noory and the Coast to Coast AM producers, let them know you listened to the roundtable on Intelligent Design, and ask them to invite Stan back as a guest. (Coast to Coast email addresses are listed at http://www.coasttocoastam.com/info/contactus.html .) Each time Stan appears on Coast to Coast AM we reach new people, who then learn about our DVD's and other materials and begin to study our work for themselves. Thanks to all who sent us your comments, and ordered our materials -- we appreciate your interest, your ideas, and your support.

I'm pleased to announce that Meru Foundation's five live-lecture videos -- each approximately two hours -- are now converted to DVD format. These lectures were given between 1989 and 1999, which was a seminal period in the development of Meru research. This set of five lectures presents the fundamentals of our research, and demonstrates our ongoing investigative process.

Our new DVD's make a great holiday gift for people interested in the underlying meaning of the Western spiritual traditions. The entire set is available as part of the Meru "Coast to Coast DVD Special", which we are continuing through the 2005 holiday season on our www.meetingtent.com secure-server website.

This special offer includes:
  - All five Meru Foundation lecture DVD's:
      -Geometric Metaphors of Life
      -A Matrix of Meaning for Sacred Alphabets
      -The Alphabet in our Hands, Part 1
      -The Alphabet in our Hands, Part 2
      -Squaring the Circle

  - The Thinking Allowed Interviews DVD -- Stan Tenen's three half-hour interviews on Dr. Jeffrey Mishlove's video interview series "Thinking Allowed," which was widely syndicated on PBS stations in the 1990's. (See http://www.meetingtent.com/DVD-ThinkAllowed.html for more information on this DVD)

  - Meru Foundation's "First Sound(tm): The Music of Genesis" CD -- see http://www.meetingtent.com/firstsounddetails.html for more on the "Music of Genesis".

  - a "Mini-Blaster", by Zero Toys -- This is a miniature version of the larger "Zero Blaster". (You can view an animation and demonstration of the Zero Blaster on the Zerotoys website at http://www.zerotoys.com/newsite/ZEROZZZYA.wmv .) The Zero Blaster demonstrates the formation of smoke rings in much the same way as was demonstrated by Prof. David Goodstein on the Annenberg/CPB educational series for physics teachers, The Mechanical Universe, which is still playing on many cable stations around the country. This physics from the ancient world is still central to cosmology today. (For further information on "smoke rings", we encourage everyone to read the works of Arthur M. Young, particularly The Reflexive Universe, also available at www.meetingtent.com.)

The entire set of six DVD's, the music CD, and the "Mini-blaster" is available for $150 US (plus shipping).

For more information and to order this "DVD special", go to http://www.meetingtent.com/CoastSpecials.html .

Continuing our recent theme of the interface between science and consciousness, in this issue we are pleased to offer a review by our friend and colleague, Scott Engel of Atlanta, GA, of a new book by HH Dalai Lama, The Universe In A Single Atom. Stan offers some additional comments following Scott's review.

The Universe in a Single Atom: The Convergence of Science and Spirituality, by HH Dalai Lama
Published 2005 by Morgan Road Books, ISBN: 0-76792066-X
Reviewed by Scott Engel

“Empirical observation," "experimentation," "reasoned inquiry," "theory," "factual evidence," "analytical thought."

These are terms used by HH the Fourteenth Dalai Lama in his new book The Universe In A Single Atom, not to describe science, but Buddhism!

The most striking thing one learns from this book is that Buddhism is not a faith based religion, but a system of thought founded on reason and empirical observation. This fact in itself puts it in a class closer to that of Western science then religion as we know it. He lays this premise out at the very beginning of this short but remarkable book:

  "Although Buddhism has come to evolve as a religion with a characteristic body of scriptures and rituals, strictly speaking, in Buddhism scriptural authority cannot outweigh an understanding based on reason and experience. In fact the Buddha himself, in a famous statement, undermines the scriptural authority of his own words when he exhorts his followers not to accept the validity of his teachings simply on the basis of reverence to him. The Buddha advises that people should test the truth of what he has said through reasoned examination and personal experiment. Therefore, when it comes to validating the truth of a claim, Buddhism accords greatest authority to experience, with reason second and scripture last." (p.24)

The Dalai Lama’s interest in science began from childhood shortly after his enthronement in the Potala Palace as Tibet’s spiritual and temporal leader. Wandering among the hundreds of rooms of this gargantuan palace in the center of Tibet’s capital, Lhasa, he discovered a number of mechanical objects left by his predecessor, the Thirteenth Dalai Lama, watches, a telescope, several automobiles, and a movie projector among them. He quickly found himself more and more interested in tinkering with these things then engaging in his Buddhist studies. He became so proficient at dismantling and restoring mechanical objects that he became the principal repairer for people who owned clocks in the Lhasa area.

This fascination with Western science and technology bore fruit while being forced to live in exile in India. Beginning in the early 1970's and continuing right up to the present, the Dalai Lama regularly meets with and in many cases has become good friends with the world’s leading scientists.

One of his first teachers was German physicist and philosopher Carl von Weizsacker, assistant to Werner Heisenberg. He writes:

  "I was fortunate to receive some formal tutorial sessions on scientific topics that were conducted in a style not so different from the one-to-one knowledge transmissions that are a familiar form of teaching in my own Tibetan Buddhist tradition. On more then one occasion we were able to set aside two full days for a retreat when von Weizsacker gave me an intensive tutorial on quantum physics and its philosophical implications." (p.27)

On physicist David Bohm he writes:

  "My engagement with science was given greater depth through my encounter with the remarkable physicist David Bohm, who had one of the greatest intellects and most open minds I have ever come across. We began a lifelong friendship and a mutual intellectual exploration. David Bohm guided my understanding of the subtlest aspects of scientific thought, especially in physics and exposed me to the scientific world view at its best…..My long discussion with Bohm over two decades fueled my own thinking about the ways Buddhist methods of inquiry may relate to those used in modern science." (p. 29-30)

From Philosopher Sir Karl Popper he learned the falsifiability thesis:

  "This states that any scientific theory must contain within it the conditions under which it may be shown to be false…..Popper’s thesis resonates with a major methodological principle in my own Tibetan Buddhist philosophical tradition. We might call this the "principle of the scope of negation”. (p. 35)

His engagement with science reached a crucial stage when in 1987 the first Mind and Life conference was held at his residence in Dharamsala, India. This event was organized by Chilean neuroscientist Francisco Varela. It brought together scientists from a variety of disciplines who were eager to engage in an open-ended dialogue that would last for one week. This event has continued to take place every few years since then.

  "During this initial Mind and Life conference, I was exposed for the first time to a full historical account of the developments of scientific method in the West." (p. 37)

He goes on chapter by chapter contrasting the achievements of Western science such as quantum mechanics, relativity, sequencing the genetic code etc, with what his Tibetan Buddhist tradition has to say on related topics, how the two approaches are similar and how they differ. In some ways Buddhism has been amazingly prescient in foreseeing certain discoveries of science. Long before the invention of the telescope and the discovery of galaxies, ancient Buddhist texts in both the Abbhidharma and Kalachakra systems described cosmological units comprising "many billions of worlds". In other ways Buddhism has been far off the mark and needs a scientific overhaul.

Along these lines the Dalai Lama doesn't hesitate to point out the shortcomings of both Eastern and Western systems. Whereas the empirical methods of Western science deal strictly with matter and the objective universe, they have yet to adequately add the role of mind or consciousness into the equation. The methods of Buddhism, which are equally as empirical, deal almost exclusively with states of mind, life and consciousness. But its cosmology is woefully behind the West in the fields of physics, astrophysics, astronomy and biology. He sees neither system as complete or whole. His ultimate wish is to see a fusion of the two in a future "Science of Consciousness”.

A science of Consciousness would combine Buddhist meditation techniques such as shamatha, focused attention on a single object, and vipashyana, the ability to mentally probe and investigate the chosen object, with Western scientific methods and technology. This would produce an infinite variety of new and creative ways to experience and investigate both the subjective and objective universes thereby producing a whole new methodology of inquiry combining the best elements of both East and West.

It is safe to say that the Dalai Lama has explored Western science tradition at a depth most Westerners have not. He is fully aware of the potential for abuse of such things as genetic engineering or the splitting of the atom. Nevertheless, as a Buddhist he is able to appreciate science as a unique part of the "Dharma of the West". His attitude is a beacon of light in a world increasingly beset by religious fundamentalism, with its growing distrust of science.

--Scott Engel Atlanta, GA. November 2005


Stan comments:

What is extraordinary here, and what immediately caught my attention, is that the Dalai Lama's view of his tradition is very similar to the view I have developed with regard to the Abrahamic traditions -- that at the core, we're looking at sciences-of-consciousness which have become enclothed in the religious traditions they generate to protect and perpetuate themselves. We're looking at living sciences of consciousness, or sciences of life and consciousness: bridges between our minds and the world.

My understanding is that the Kabbalistic concept of Ain Sof, the "endless infinite Nothingness" is a "plenum of God" in much the same way in both traditions. There are, of course, important differences, but the cosmology of the One-No-Thing is the same, whether one concentrates on the One part, or the No part. That's what makes math so interesting, and I think this may be an example of what G. Spencer Brown refers to with regard to the "mark of distinction". In The Laws of Form, mathematician G. Spencer-Brown proposes the "mark of distinction" archetypally distinguishing INSIDE from OUTSIDE as a definition of maximal contrast. Mathematicians have shown that all of formal logic can be derived from Spencer-Brown's "mark of distinction."

The following is from G. Spencer-Brown, Laws of Form, (New York, E.P. Dutton, 1979), from Brown's Introduction: A Note on the Mathematical Approach, pp. xxix (emphasis added).

   "The theme of this book is that a universe comes into being when a space is severed or taken apart. The skin of a living organism cuts off an outside from an inside. So does the circumference of a circle in a plane. By tracing the way we represent such a severance, we can begin to reconstruct, with an accuracy and coverage that appear almost uncanny, the basic forms underlying linguistic, mathematical, physical, and biological science, and can begin to see how the familiar laws of our own experience follow inexorably from the original act of severance.

  "Although all forms, and thus all universes, are possible, and any particular form is mutable, it becomes evident that the laws relating such forms are the same in any universe. It is this sameness, the idea that we can find a reality which is independent of how the universe actually appears, that lends such fascination to the study of mathematics."

In Hebrew the letter that most represents this "mark of distinction" between inside and outside is Bet, the first letter of the Hebrew text of Genesis. It appropriately establishes, by definition, the first logical distinction possible. The exact same topology ensues, whether we call the initial space "Ain Sof" or "No-Thing" -- or even the quantum vacuum.

Best wishes for us all for the holiday seasons.




I hope you enjoy this Meru Foundation eTORUS(tm) Newsletter.

We welcome your comments and suggestions, and would like the opportunity to speak with you personally.

If you have comments or questions, please send an email to Levanah Tenen at <meru@meru.org> with your phone number and a good time to call -- or, please call us at 781-784-8902 (Boston area).

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The Meru Foundation eTORUS(tm) Newsletter is copyright 2004 Meru Foundation. All rights reserved.
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You may duplicate and pass along this newsletter in its entirety, as long as you include the above copyright notice and the contact information below. Please send comments and questions to <meru@meru.org>.

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