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Science Is Richer Than The Occult

Readers prefer mysteries to facts, which is why books about astrology, telepathy, and the Bermuda Triangle sell so well. But science need not concede mystery to the occult. It can match it or better. Mysteries, like deep geological time, a boundless universe, the big bang, relativity, quantum mechanics, the double helix, natural selection, mass extinction, and chaos theory — these are richer fare than anything the occult can offer.

—Matt Ridley, British science writer

  • InfraredEyes

    …these are richer fare than anything the occult can offer.

    I think that’s the problem for some people. They want their “mysteries” to be delivered to them prepackaged, in bite-sized pieces, with neat little labels. The idea of an entire universe shot through with mystery is just too much for them.

    • Paul

      I think you are right and this is made worse for them because each discovery brings with it a whole range of new mysteries. While they are still arguing against the last new piece of data that conflicts with their beliefs science is moving ahead and it takes them a while to catch up enough to be outraged by the next fact. They like having that one book and the belief that it contains everything anyone would ever need to know.

  • Baal

    While I agree fully, it’s somewhat too bad that you can’t make a circle of crows feathers, drop half of a cut potato over your left shoulder while saying, “bluuuurgh, snub snub” and have it do something (other than make a small easy to clean up mess and alarm the neighbors).

    Of course, if the occult (magic) did anything, we might have to keep a close eye on the swamps of Louisiana for half-bloods summoning Cthulhu (or somesuch).

  • Reginald Selkirk

    The occult may not be richer, but I suspect it is more profitable.

    • Artor

      How many multi-billion dollar industries are based on the occult vs those based on science? Even given the prevalence of the prosperity gospel & the Catholic Church, I think science might have the profitability index clinched.

  • FO

    The occult, unbridled from reality, can better cater to our tastes and need for entertainment and/or validation.
    Science has the only upper hand that reality can be stranger than fiction.

  • L.Long

    Science may be richer and more mysterious but to get at it requires studying, and worse, THINKING.
    These two things are not necessary for the occult. But that is because the silly people do not realize that if the occult REALLY did work, it would require real studying and real thinking just as science does.

  • kenneth

    I don’t think the reserves of mystery about the universe have yet been drawn down so far that we need to fight over dwindling supply or extraction rights, or the relative magnificence of the mystery left to various disciplines.

    Knowing the certainty of getting a good flogging here for it, I will tell you that I am a scientist whose own spirituality involves occult practices, I find no inherent conflict between the two. When it comes to explaining physical phenomenon and predicting what will result, science can’t be beat. I have the utmost respect for testable and refutable hypotheses, good experiments, and repeatable, quantifiable data. Science’s answers give us everything we need to prosper in a physical sense – food, shelter, medicine, transportation, safety, wealth generation etc. It also can give an enormous sense of intellectual satisfaction and the pure joy of figuring something out for its own sake. Science offers us a lot, but it falls short when we start asking ourselves the bothersome questions of “who am I?” and “who am I supposed to be?”.

    The occult is one way, though not the only way, to approach some of these big picture problems in an intuitive way. It won’t give us clean, reproducible, quantitative answers, and that is it’s supreme weakness and strength. We only sink into fraud or abandonment of reason if we pretend otherwise. Sometimes the occult can even help us intuit our way toward scientific truths that we don’t yet have the tools or good fortune to grasp. The foundations of inorganic chemistry and metallurgy arose from alchemy. Their thinking about the elements was allegorical and metaphysical and sometimes fanciful, but it nudged them in the direction of good experimental science.

    More to the point, one need not even attribute supernatural powers to occult practices to find value in them. To the extent Tarot and other divination “works”, I suspect it does so by simply allowing us to step back from the hyperfocus on our senses and open ourselves to what we already “know” on a deep level. I find our consciousness is more than the sum of it’s readily apparent parts. Many occult tools are likely just ways to tap into the totality of our best thinking on personal issues. A way to change consciousness in a useful way. The same effect might be gained by a walk in the woods, a good night’s sleep or a psychedelic drug. Maybe this makes me an atypical occultist, but I don’t think one has to be a hardcore strident materialist to do good science nor does one have to abandon reason to study the occult.

    • Reginald Selkirk

      I will tell you that I am a scientist whose own spirituality involves occult practices, I find no inherent conflict between the two.

      So you’re not a very good scientist. The other day I ran across a discussion where a poster was claiming that there is doubt about evolution among the “upper echelon of the scientific community.” His evidence – he was a creationist, and a student in a master’s program in mechanical engineering! I suspect your own scientific position is probably as lofty.

      To the extent Tarot and other divination “works”, I suspect it does so by simply allowing us to step back from the hyperfocus on our senses and open ourselves to what we already “know” on a deep level…

      Oh, do you suspect that? I suspect “cold reading.”

      I find our consciousness is more than the sum of it’s (sic) readily apparent parts.

      How did you “find” this, and why should I care?

      • kenneth

        I’m not a creationist of any sort, and nor do I claim to be a scientist on the short list of Nobel rumor. The work I produce in that venue has to stand on it’s own merits before my superiors and the scientific community at large. I don’t put out any data or make any claims that aren’t rooted in the scientific process. So long as the science I produce is, well, scientific, my distinction or acclaim or lack thereof is of no particular relevance to this issue. If any deviation from materialistic purity invariably produces poor scientists, we have a problem explaining Newton, Faraday, Darwin and Einstein.

        As for Tarot and cold reading, of course that’s a very likely explanation. I don’t find it a particularly troublesome one though. If a perfect stranger can gain and relate some deep insights about me based on keen observation, and that information helps me see past my own emotional blinders on a matter, I’m no worse off for it. In my own case, I almost always work Tarot by myself or with the help of a dear friend of mine who probably knows me better than myself, so I/we enter the process with a clear “unfair advantage.” As I say, it’s just a different lens of consciousness. Sometimes when you de-focus your eyes or look at something through a filter or sideways, you see something you were missing before.

        Why should anyone care about my own empirical observations about consciousness? No reason at all, except that consciousness is a vast and still mysterious phenomenon that seems worthy of exploration by anyone with a bit of scientific curiosity.

  • http://cleryguy.blogspot.com Clergy Guy

    It seems to me that true insight is often within the questions themselves, not in firmly established “facts”, no matter what context we’re in: Science or Occult (I’d want to celebrate religion from occult, but that’s another argument).

    • Mogg

      That sounds a bit like Zen.


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