Periodicals; Mormons; Religious thought; Philosophy and religion
Independent national quarterly established to express Mormon culture and examine the relevance of religion to secular life. It is edited by Mormons who wish to bring their faith into dialogue with human experience as a whole and to foster artistic and scholarly achievement based on their cultural heritage. The journal encourages a variety of viewpoints; although every effort is made to insure accurate scholarship and responsible judgment, the views expressed are those of the individual authors and are not necessarily those of the Mormon Church or of the editors.
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Rees, Robert A.
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30 I Dialogue were inadequate. Yet there were sciences in all those periods of history—astronomy, biology, physiology, mechanics, for instance—which used all the methods of contemporary science: experiment, observation, measurement, classification, and inductive and deductive theorizing. And still theology, not mathematics, was queen of the sciences! Clearly, then, the change from the animated Macrocosm of Thomas Aquinas to the curved intergalactic space-time continuum of Einstein is not explicable simply in terms of the construction of the telescope, the invention of the calculus, and a few more centuries of observational and theoretical astronomy. Such a profound change in world-view can only be accounted for by a drastic reordering of "the whole apparatus of concepts and categories, within which and by means of which all our individual thinking, however daring and original, is compelled to move."41 It is this revolution in human consciousness which we must now consider. In tracing the history of this intellectual upheaval and the gradual emergence of the contradictions implicit in it, we shall see unfolding what I have earlier called the "inconclusiveness" of modern science. This metaphysical incompleteness turns out to offer important opportunities for a personal alliance between science and religion, much as the ambiguities in the scientific method open up possibilities for mutually profitable dialogue between the religious and scientific communities. Consider for a moment the problem of perception. Our links with the familiar world of objects are various sensations: mechanical vibrations which rattle our auditory mechanisms, or electrical oscillations in the optic nerve. Physics tells us that these sensations arise from the motion of particles; but whether or not this is true, it is the sensations and not the particles which are the fundamental data of human and scientific experience. We live, then, in a sort of two-level world: One level is comprised of the particles, or more precisely, an unrepresented sub-sensible or super-sensible basis of the external world. The other level, which is the familiar world of appearances and phenomena, is made up of representations which our brains construct from the bare input of our sense organs. Note carefully that the representations include more than the sensation itself; "these mere sensations must be combined by the percipient mind into the recognizable and nameable objects we call 'things/ " observes Barfield, by a process which he has christened "figuration."42 The representations are, in a manner of speaking, the costumes in which th'e sensory experiences appear after passing through the various dressing rooms of the mind. We discover in a sort of experimental fashion that most human beings share the same or similar representations of sensory experiences; thus reassured, we impute the label "reality" to representations which are collective. Hence, our familiar world is in fact a world of collective representations.43 It is characteristic of twentieth-century Western minds that in figuration we are largely unconscious of the relation between ourselves and the representations. In analytical thinking, we deliberately consider the representations as wholly outside and independent of ourselves. But it was not always so. There was a time, extending back beyond the ancient Greeks to the great Oriental civilizations, and forward at least until the end of the Middle Ages, when man's primary experience of the representations was that of a participant, rather than an observer. For the participating consciousness, both figuration and analytical thinking are altered by this awareness of extra-sensory links between the observer and the phenom-