Science or spirituality?

By Gotham Chopra

According to the stats, more and more people are abandoning the faiths with which they grew up, and yet the spiritual industry (yes, I grew up in it – it does exist) has never been more robust.

His Holiness has almost 1.5 million twitter followers. Charlie Sheen has over three million.

Oprah has her own network. UFC is the fastest growing sport on television.

Jihadists, jingoists, terrorists, and tea partiers rule the airwaves, but fail at the polls.

On the face of it, we live in a time of contradiction, conflict, and the collision of science and spirituality. It’s a war of the worlds.

And yet, I’m still a believer.

See, I believe there is an underlying and unifying foundation to this seeming mosaic of ideas, ideologies and ironies. I see convergence in these seeming contradictions. Because in our frantic search for something to believe in, we are also inventing new technologies that are enabling us to seek the deeper truths that validate our human existence. We’re creating tools that empower us to share our discoveries with each other, irrespective of where in the world we sit, generating social networks of shared experience and insight. Of course, even there, there’s irony because it is perhaps on account of the velocity of data that scans across our individual consciousness every day – the billions of tweets, digs, updates, and the rest – that we find ourselves in this maelstrom of meaning. Still, the result is the same: never have we been more poised to invent the new codes by which our new planetary tribe needs to proceed.

There I go again – getting all Chopra on you. Here’s the brass tax, what happens when a motley crew of sages and scientists (and surely a few psychotics amongst them) assemble to talk physics, faith, quantum entanglement, and consciousness, which really is the story of my life. We all get a glimpse through the kaleidoscope of these unique times. And as it often goes, first comes mental Armageddon because of the inertia of so much information and knowledge. But then, if we thoughtfully proceed, if we recognize with equal sensitivity the vision of objective science and the revelations of deep introspection, we move from information to insight, knowledge to wisdom. We empower ourselves to keep searching, to find purpose and meaning in everything our modern world has to offer us, from the cathedral of CERN to the laboratory of Hajj to the spectacles of sport, sex, celebrity, science, and spirituality. That’s our new religion – where physics and faith mingle, where believers wander and wonder.

The best of journeys rarely lead to definitive answers. They simply lead to more questions.

Published by The Washington Post

Gotham Chopra is an award winning journalist, documentary filmmaker, and author. His latest book, Walking Wisdom, was released in October 2010. This is the second in a series of essays exploring the relationship between religion and science. This series is an outgrowth of the Sages and Scientists Symposium sponsored by the Chopra Foundation.