This post is a realistic guide on how to marry science and religion in your head.
The Three Lens Model
John MacMurray in “The Structure of Religious Experience” suggested that we humans use three lenses when looking at the world: The Scientific Lens, The Religious Lens and the Artistic Lens.
The Scientific Lens views the universe through criteria – the Scientific method.
The Religious Lens views the universe through mythology as if the mythology is the very truth of the Universe.
The Artistic Lens views the Universe through boundless self-expression and creativity with no regard to authority.
I feel that much of the conflict in the world occurs when people get stuck in one lens and view that lens as the only lens that is “important.” I personally think that to be fully human, I need to appreciate, master and enjoy each lens for its unique purpose.
When I see my world through my Scientific lens, I see that everything comes from cause and effect and that understanding is constantly evolving into richer, dynamic systems. And when it comes to life after death, I remeber that even the great Harry Houdini could not reach his beloved Bess from beyond the grave.
My religions lens is what I call “Functional Mythology” where I use the power of a story itself to transcend reality through imagination.
Through this lens, I see Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva laboring at the never ending task of emptying the billions of hell worlds. I see beings that live for thousands of Kalpas in perfect enlightenment freed from these hells and working to free others from them.
I draw a lot of inspiration from this story, and do not submit it to the Scientific lens. It is my story to do what I like. For me, its usefulness does not depend upon its truthfulness. It’s the world I live in inside my head and project into the human collective.
I choose to embody this story through the practice of Tonglen Meditation as described in the Lojong Proverbs, even though I think some of the proverbs are purely fanciful.
My artistic lens enjoys great writing, movies, stories, sculptures, paintings, music and more by relishing art for arts sake.
Which one do I love the most? Well, whenever I need a boost, a totally ludicrous phrase from a mythological being I dearly love comes to mind. I say it aloud, and compassion for myself and others emerges like a geyser. This is one piece of nonsensical arrogance that just plain fires me up.
“I will not attain enlightenment until all the hells are empty.” – Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva