Sunday, October 09, 2005

I Know It's True

GARY E. SCHWARTZ, Ph.D. is professor of psychology, medicine, neurology, psychiatry and surgery at the University of Arizona and director of its Human Energy Systems Laboratory. After receiving his doctorate from Harvard University, he served as a professor of psychology and psychiatry at Yale University, director of the Yale Psychophysiology Center, and co-director of the Yale Behavioral Medicine Clinic. He has published more than four hundred scientific papers, edited eleven academic books, and is the co-author, with Linda G. Russek, Ph.D., of The Living Energy Universe.

In his book, “The Afterlife Experiments” (Atria Books, 2002), Professor Schwartz (website) revealed his deep-seated fear of being labeled as a nutcase for his fascination in the survival of consciousness after death. Being an eminent scientist, it’s understandable that he has his reputation to safeguard, and the only way he could counter the laughingstock syndrome was to come up with several watertight experimental designs to convert the intangible “knowledge” into hard data. In one of the early pages, which I found inspiring, he has this to say :

Some years after that memorable trip to Vancouver, when I set out to help Linda conduct research about the possibility of contacting her father (deceased – author’s note), we were undertaking an exploration that is suspect to most scientists but is, for creative people, a subject of intense fascination, One exploration of the topic lives vividly in my memory. The movie Contact, based on the book by Carl Sagan, provokes the mind as it pulls on the heart. One scene in particular expresses the challenge of documenting scientifically the existence of the seemingly ineffable. And it speaks to the challenge of envisioning and researching the existence of what can be called living energy souls – or, more simply, living souls.

Midway through the movie we see a scientist, Dr. Ellie Arroway, explaining to the spiritual scholar Palmer Joss, a man of faith, that she requires scientific evidence in order to believe. Dr Arroway is especially adamant about the necessity of compelling evidence when it comes to belief in the existence of God.

I understood the Dr. Arroway character well because I was trained to look at the world as an intellectual, a scientist. In science we hypothesize, we do not believe. And science ultimately does not establish “proof” so much as provide evidence for or against a hypothesis. I learned the philosophy and methods of science effectively and have taught them for years, so I empathized with Dr Arroway’s position.

As the scene progresses the spiritual scholar asks Dr Arroway, “ Did you love your father?”

Arroway pauses, and then answers, “Yes.”

Palmer Joss tosses a challenge, simple and to the point: “Prove it.”

Dr. Arroway is speechless. How can she document her love with scientific evidence? Does she need scientific data to prove to herself? And how can she convince the scientific community that what she knows in the deepest recesses of her heart, through direct personal experience, is in fact true – that her love for her father is real?

Think about it.

How can you prove to anyone that you love your husband or wife, a child, a friend, a pet? Not by what you say – people often lie to protect themselves or others. Not by what you do – we all do some things because they’re expected of us rather than because we truly want to do them.

What Reverend Joss Palmer was teaching Dr. Arrowway was that there is no substitute for having the experience of love – or, for that matter, any other experience. One must ultimately have the experience for oneself. Everything else is indirect – a process of inference, of interpretation.

There are things in nature that we can see, touch, hear, taste, and smell and know that they are there. There are also things in nature that we cannot experience with our normal five senses but somehow we know that they are there. I am sure we all have experienced some “weird” things in our lifetime, if you care to dig deep into your memory bank.

To embrace the intangible, you only have to leave your measuring tools behind and open your mind totally. To know is to experience personally. I don’t need to find explanations for my experience, nor do I need to prove it to anyone, to put it simply: I believe it because I know it’s true.

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