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From 'The Science of the 1st Person'

by Douglas Harding

SCIENCE-1 restores the sense of mystery

SCIENCE-3 is at war with mystery. Inevitably, the more man knows the less it astounds him. The rainbow is an optical illusion, thunder and lightning a discharge of static electricity, Mother Earth a clod, her children a planetary scum. For he doesn't spare himself, but refers Homo sapiens back and back to the ever simpler life-forms from which he emerged. And even if Evolution doesn't altogether explain him away, at least it makes him appear quite ordinary and inevitable. He is no longer flabbergasted at anything, not even himself. This is a great blindness and a great loss.1

The morning wonder of the world can be recaptured, and perfected, only by turning away from the world to the Beholder of it. One might have thought that SCIENCE-3, with its genius for discovering new marvels in the universe, would enhance our admiration for it; and conversely that SCIENCE-1, with its genius for discovering only Emptiness, would kill our admiration outright. Not so. I find that it is when my attention is centred primarily upon the One who is attending here, and only incidentally upon the world that confronts me, that the world is made marvellous in me. Then the great surprise, the most astounding fact of all, isn't what the Cosmos is but that it is; not the infinitely varied products there but their simple Origin here.2 Nevertheless when they are seen as proceeding from This they take on its wonder, and nothing is ordinary any more.

It is true that, in principle, SCIENCE-3 refers phenomena downwards from the macroscopic to the microscopic, and from the microscopic to the ultimate physical Substratum which is also the ultimate mystery. But it can never quite get there: the Substratum (which is the Void) isn't gained, and the mystery is lost. Only SCIENTIST-1, by turning round his attention 180° (using, for example, that perfect 'ultra-electron microscope' – the paper tunnel) can complete the story, and actually see phenomena as grounded in the Void, and therefore in Mystery itself. And what, at root, is this Science of the 1st Person but the Mystery's enjoyment of itself as infinitely incomprehensible, its perfect knowledge of itself as perfectly unknowable? 'Against all the odds', it cries, 'I actually am! Without help or spectator I have achieved the unbelievable, the impossible. Alone I'm causing Myself, making Myself happen. There ought to be nothing whatever. There is no reason for my Being. Yet here I am! After this, nothing is impossible, all I do is child's play, and a billion universes are chicken-feed!'. To experience this isn't to echo the Divine Astonishment, but to engage and delight in the real thing. It is incomparable.3

1PASCAL: It is an extraordinary blindness to live without investigating what we are.
KIERKEGAARD: To understand everything except oneself is very comical.
PLOTINUS: Our self-knowledge is our beauty: in self-ignorance we are ugly.

2WITTGENSTEIN: It is not how things are in the world that is mystical, but that it exists.

3PLOTINUS: He has given Himself existence, He has acted Himself into Being.

('The Science of the 1st Person' was first published in 1974.)

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