“Conversations on Science & the Spiritual”
St. Gregory’s Life of Moses, continued
Recently, I recommended The Life of Moses by St. Gregory of Nyssa for some good spiritual reading. I described how the saint prescribes spiritual solutions to worldly problems: When the Christian leaves the world to follow God, he becomes a child of God. And a child of God among mere mortals is never a follower. Just like Moses, God’s children transform and govern the world they leave behind. Here’s what I wrote:
It’s a paradoxical idea: In order to rule the world, you must first abandon it. It seems crazy, but history has vindicated the great saint’s message. Read How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization by Thomas Woods sometime. In that well researched book, you can see how the monasteries played a major role in the development of Western society. They did it without an army or a king, without ever winning a war. That’s because human civilization is less about conquest and all about invention and creation. What matters is the mind and the soul. Humans lead with the intellect more than muscle, and that’s why the monks were so influential despite having no armies or kings. Monastic innovations in agriculture and metallurgy were more important, as were their prodigious publishing endeavors.
This is the story I tell in my first book. How the Christian transformation of the mind and the uplifting of the human soul from its dark, barbaric slumbers led to a transformation of civilization. More on that later.
FROM https://newwalden.org/archives/33714: “Why the World Needs Lent”
St. Gregory’s Theory: Spiritual Transformation Is Enlightenment
Things really get interesting as one digs deeper into St. Gregory’s theory. A secular audience would imagine that a Christian “theory” from 1,700 years ago (or even yesterday) would dead-end almost immediately at some mystical and mystifying proposition that is also utterly unverifiable and useless. So he would be quite surprised to read something so modern sounding as this:
A Spiritual Theory of the Mind
We can see from the quotation above that St. Gregory is describing human consciousness—otherwise known as the human mind. By calling it the soul, however, he endows this human organ with an essential spiritual quality. This makes sense when one contemplates the larger Christian context, namely, the belief that the soul survives the death of the body and resides for eternity in heaven or hell where it is fully conscious. Thus it is apparent that Christian cosmology implies that the mind is a spiritual entity. The implications of this easily overlooked doctrine are deep and compelling. For the mind is studied by various branches of the sciences, psychology and neuroscience being two examples. And so the great question that arises is whether, in the study of the mind, science has come across any evidence to support or refute the soul hypothesis—the theory that the mind is a soul: a spiritual organ that behaves according to the God-given spiritual laws of the universe.
Soul Hypothesis, God Hypothesis
Thus, in the Christian teaching that the soul is connected to the mind, I saw potential for something that many atheists believe to be impossible: empirical evidence for the spiritual and supernatural claims of the Biblical religions. Evidence for the soul would put a giant dent in the claim of New Atheists like Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and Christopher Hitchens that Christianity is just superstition, no better than belief in witches or astrology or magic. The supernatural cosmology of the Bible posits the existence of a God, along with the existence of such spiritual beings as demons and angels. But the long history of attempting to prove their existence has proved inconclusive at best. Most of those who profess belief in God claim that their belief comes from faith, not proof. And this is where the New Atheists attack: such faith, in the absence of verifiable evidence, is no better than a delusion, they say.
The Soul Hypothesis, it seemed to me, offered an attractive and promising alternative to the “God Hypothesis” of Richard Dawkins. It was in my first book, The Immoral Landscape of the New Atheism, that I developed and investigated the Soul Hypothesis (a.k.a. the “Grace Hypothesis”).
It’s a radical and startling theory. And it’s also unknown to the general population. So I’ve decided to introduce the ideas of the Soul Hypothesis in a brand new podcast series called Soul Science: Conversations at the Crossroads of Science and the Spiritual. Look for this brand new series coming soon to New Walden.
Conversations on Science as a Doorway to the Spiritual