The House of Truth: Living and Dying in a Quantum Universe by Michael Meredith - Read Online
The House of Truth
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Summary

The House of Truth is the personal insight of an engineering scientist who has experienced the presence of God and spent over two decades meeting people of many faiths, listening to their insights, empathising with their beliefs and sincerely worshiping alongside them. It is a story layered with scientific and spiritual understanding, vibrant with love, hopeful in death. Michael’s work cradles a deep-rooted meaning for each of our personal lives.

If you want to know what Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, Christians along with scientists, quantum physicists, engineering professionals and other discerning people really believe read the open-minded conversations in the House of Truth. The conversations are genuine – but the pattern uncovered by the author reveals truths which are far more profound than anyone could have foretold.

What others say:
"You have written a remarkable book which combines insight, imagination, spiritual sensitivity and infectious commitment." Professor John Henry Brooks, University of Oxford

"This is throughout a work of courage and humility combined, full of mind-stretching insight and also of vivid and beautiful personal glimpses. It is just as sophisticated and attractive as his earlier work... For me, it has been a privilege to share in this exploration." Dr Rowan Williams Archbishop of Canterbury

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ISBN: 9781465829511
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Author.

FOREWORD

By Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury

Michael Meredith’s earlier books have established him as a unique writer on the frontiers of religion and science. He is unashamedly personal in his presentation of the issues – recognising, it seems, that most of us can digest new insights as stories when we would find it difficult to digest them as theory. At the same time, he is just as unashamedly bold in fleshing out his own theoretical perspectives, with the help of a wide variety of conversation partners. Much of the delight and excitement of this book is to be given a share in these conversations.

Michael’s analysis of the ‘Four Quadrants of Truth’ is a really clear and illuminating model, which – as he demonstrates later in the book when he is discussing the work of Richard Dawkins – helps us tease out different kinds of claims and experiences in a way that is sensitive and constructive. It is a paradigm for thinking about thinking which gently but insistently challenges the crude models we often work with – and are encouraged to work with by our culture: models of plain binary oppositions, yes or no questions, the reduction of all our searching to kindergarten terms. Michael’s long and complex but completely engaging conversations with Professor Chris Isham show how far genuine scientific exploration is from the sad caricatures that make up the ‘science-religion’ debate in the media. Michael’s picture of the human mind is of an unfolding energy, blossoming into maturity not by finding answers but by letting itself be enlarged in both wonder and rigorous intellectual enquiry.

And beyond all the detail of this lies the ‘Fifth Room’ – the hardest to speak about, yet in a way the clue to all the rest of the analysis. This is where you cannot just rest content with the mind processing individual experiences in time; there is the inescapable sense of being on the edge of not so much seeing as simply ‘inhabiting’ endless life. It is the not-knowing of the mystic, the moment of homecoming and enlightenment in which the depth and interconnection of all things is intuited in a way that seems to be at a different level from the usual processes of thought and sensation. Michael, with great sensitivity and care, tells us how this has for him been linked to encounter with the person of Christ: the intuition of the connections in things, the ‘wholeness of the implicate order’ in the title of David Bohm’s great work, is mysteriously bound up with the history of the person of whom his early followers said that ‘all things cohere in him’.

Readers of this book will come from diverse backgrounds and convictions, and some will be puzzled by this daring link between the most inexpressible of intuitions and the very specific presence of a man in history. To such readers, I can only say that they will need to follow the entire argument with care and openness, to see how this powerful affirmation of a Christian heart to the argument does not lead to any kind of exclusivism or ‘Christian chauvinism’.

This is throughout a work of courage and humility combined, full of mind-stretching insight and also of vivid and beautiful personal glimpses. It is just as sophisticated and attractive as his earlier work, and forms a fitting climax to the long and lively exploration of these fundamental questions that Michael has helped us with so wonderfully in the last decade or so. For me, it has been a privilege to share in this exploration, and I hope many readers will feel the same.

Rowan Williams

June 2010

PART ONE

THE BIRTHPANGS OF SYSTEMATIC TRUTH

‘Truth is His Name’

Guru Granth Sahib Ji

CHAPTER 1

A Walk with JEANETTE – and Universal Intelligence

Jeanette, the love of my life, and I were completely alone. It was deep summer. We were high above the world in the heart of Cordell Country on the Blorenge Hill that overlooks Abergavenny, ‘The Gateway to Wales’.

It was one of those glorious days when the air was as pure as it was when only a handful of humans roamed the earth. Perfect. The chilled, fresh air at two thousand feet, splashed with warm summer sunshine, gave an environment that our bodies had been designed for.

As my thoughts filled with our timeless love I could not help feeling that few would realise that we had been together now for well over forty years.

At that moment we were to the south of the glistening waters of Keeper’s Pond, a lake constructed in 1828 for the cast iron works of Garnddyrys Forge. Our excuse for taking time out was the same as it had been since we had been children – to pick the powder-dull whimberries that grow wild on the Welsh hills. We sat on the soft green carpet of the berry bushes as we picked, ignoring the deep purple fruit-stains that appeared on our old jeans.

Perhaps it was the open, treeless moorland that was responsible for my reliving our heart-stopping early years together: sand, sea, nakedness, and love.

My daydreams changed to become dominated by the magnificent sandy bays of the Welsh Gower Peninsula. Then the whole picture morphed into a huge, featureless, flat plane of golden sands stretching beyond the furthest horizon.

As my dream moved over the limitless sands I unexpectedly came across a solitary, brown horse-chestnut, a conker. Surrounding the conker were seven, almost identical, finger-sized glistening white stones, all equispaced like sunrays. The amazing pattern of stones and fiery chestnut seemed to be a source of immense energy. And I realised that such a pattern on those endless golden sands would have been completely out of place; obviously someone would have had to have been involved to produce such a pattern. Well, not necessarily someone, but rather some form of intelligence. The chances of it occurring ‘naturally’ as a unique incidence on such a huge expanse of flat, monotonous sand, with no other blemishes whatsoever, was just not possible, not even remotely.

Waking from the daydream I realised that our meandering fruit-picking had brought us down into a secluded hollow that held a mirror-still, reed-protected, dew-pond.

As I glanced up to Jeanette I became aware that the heraldic blue skyline was broken by a beautiful, pale palomino pony on the ridge just above us – motionless, alert, dominant. This was his domain. From his corn-gold fetlocks to his cream white mane he was the perfection that fairytales are made of.

We bowed our heads and quietly picked on.

A little later I glanced up from the peaceful gathering of nature’s best, to be undeservedly rewarded – for now we had become part of the stallion’s herd. Several more ponies had been silently painted onto the canvas around us: one black, two chestnut, two in different shades of bright brown. Like a dream of perfection they appeared at the dew-pond, contentedly quenching their thirst. Time stood still. They seemed to sense that we, like them, were mindfully free.

Having enjoyed our fresh bread rolls overflowing with salad, we started to walk across the open moorland towards Foxhunter’s grave, the resting place of that long-gone racehorse of the 1920s who sired so many thoroughbreds.

As we walked, Michael Behe’s book, Science and Evidence for Design in the Universe came into the conversation. I had found the book a fascinating read: an excellent attempt to prove the need for intelligent interventions in the story of evolution. I told Jeanette of the complex, molecular machines which were cited as examples of Irreducible Complexity. A stunning example, explained by Behe, was the ‘engineered’ bacteria, like the flagellum – a molecular machine of some fifty different proteins, designed to include a rotary mechanism and propeller system – a bacterium equipped with, as it were, an outboard motor to swim through liquids.

I sighed as I conceded that such complexities would never conclusively prove, or disprove, the need for an interventionist God; in time there would be many plausible theories about how such complexity naturally evolved. Even so the miracle of that amazing propeller system of this humble bacterium was brought about by a synergy that no human mind could ever have foreseen.

Jeanette and I surmised that, on the one hand, the object of the Intelligent Design fraternity – to prove the need for a God to be involved in the minutiae at the design stage of biological complexity – was doomed to failure by the advancing Darwinian logic. While on the other hand, the dream of modern Darwinians – to prove that the first intelligent, engineered, artificial, laboratory-produced, self replicating living cells would herald a second Genesis, and therefore ‘prove’ the non-existence of God – is equally doomed to failure, as any experiment requires some form of intelligent input, even if it is confined to merely bringing things together for the experiment to take place or observing what happens. And we reasoned that God is the superior intelligence that heralded the onset of creation and would in reality be operating in many dimensions and paradigms which, no doubt, could include the detailed design of a bacterium cell.

Behe’s book had the effect of reinforcing my own commitment to the God that was, in fact, the ‘Intelligent Origin’. For me, God was certainly clever enough to conceive an evolutionary system that did not require direct intervention or have to respond to every impromptu human plea for help. Which is reminiscent, to some extent, of St. Augustine of Hippo’s analysis in the fourth century – he rejected the six-day creation, described so well in the Book of Genesis, in favour of the concept of God doing it all at the beginning of time. Augustine’s rationes seminales introduces the concept of latent potency already existing in the created order. He talked of ‘seeds’ which God planted, growing to maturity as time progressed – just as an acorn has the potential of a great oak tree embedded within it. Could St. Augustine have been hinting at the existence of some form of Inflation Theory, or that God was the Intelligent Origin?

As we strode on I started to hum the tune from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs remembered from my childhood and to my own amusement imagined the Intelligent Origin, the IO, about to create the universe singing,

IO, IO it’s off to work I go…

When that picture vision of the conker and the seven radiating stones came up in our conversation, Jeanette interrupted my story,

If your daydream had really happened I think that somewhere along the line an intelligent agent of some sort would have to have been involved.

I shouldn’t have been surprised at her comment; her thoughts so often resonated with my own. We went on to compare the imagined sandy beach with the beauty of the real, completely uncontrived scene of the six Welsh hill-ponies at their watering hole and as we talked it became obvious that it was most unlikely, one might even say irrational, to suppose that such a complexity of life-forms, vastly more complex than the seven stones, could have arisen without some form of intelligence.

Keeping to a convenient sheep-path meant that we were now in single file still heading in the direction of Foxhunter’s grave. The comforting, narrow, meandering sheep-trails ensured that we would safely pass by any hidden water shafts, many dropping vertically downwards into unseen lakes deep within the living mountain. The natural whimberry fields of spring green, dotted with the grouse-protecting purple heather, and the distant weather-worn cairns gave an air of great peacefulness. Our words became few and far between. Gradually my world became bathed as if by an ultraviolet glow which highlighted paths radiating from me. In my heightened state of awareness I felt as if my very existence was in contact with God’s ‘invisible attributes’ (Romans 1: 20).

Together complete, and individually complete, we travelled into the beauty of the moment. We were part of the whole, as of one, bound with the hills, and yet we were two independent lovers, sharing a journey of life together. I tried to whisper – but a lover’s poem would not form on my lips. There were no words, only a welling-up within me, a gentle undulating music urging me to, ‘probe deeper and deeper into the void of our human understanding’, to seek some form of fundamental defining System of Truth.

Conflicting zephyrs gently floated back and forth within my mind.

Words just would not take shape in the timelessness of the moment.

Fearful of shattering that frail perfection with the rasping, harshness of discontented words I simply breathed out into the calmness:

There seems to be a truth that we as individuals accept. And there are things which are demonstrably true for all to see; a sort of upstairs and downstairs scenario.

My mind, so it seemed, had seen the flash of the forbidden hemline of truth itself. There were many things missing; most important things – things which proved to be as complex as the riddle of the Egyptian Sphinx and as difficult as holding a slippery eel.

CHAPTER 2

A Train Journey – and Systematic Truth

Having just spent a few thought-provoking days in the remote Scottish Lowlands with my good friend, the author Jim Green, I was both refreshed and relaxed. Everything was working out just fine; even the timing of my rail connection at Newcastle from Berwick-on-Tweed had been perfect for me to catch the express train to South Wales. I settled down to enjoy an unbroken journey to Cardiff. Towns, fields, factories and farms of England sped past the carriage window. All was at peace. A cosy trance came over me; drifting thoughts pleasantly passed in and out of my dozy consciousness:

A smile played on my lips as I remembered the time of my childhood; the time of my beer-drinking youth; the time of my spirit-drinking, cigar-smoking business life.

Then, in my flickering thoughts, that age-old puzzle started to haunt me once again: Was there a meaningful wholeness beyond the Yin and Yang, beyond the black and white, beyond the up and down nature that was so prevalent in my daily life? I mused that Dawkins and McGrath, with their polarised ideas of the god phenomenon, reminded me of rutting highland stags.

And now that our children, with children of their own, had resolved their own way of living, time had become my friend. Now was the time to live the dream, to discover if there were such things as divinity, wholeness and absolute truth.

In my understanding of truth there was adequate room for the theories of Darwin, Mendel, Faraday, Newton, Einstein and concepts trailed by Buddha, Jesus, Krishna, Nanak, Muhammad and other great seers of history, along with selected thoughts of Jung, Nietzsche, Descartes' Ontological Argument and Heidegger’s psycho-physiological approach, not to forget countless contemporary philosophers, theologians, religious commentators and scientists whose works I was beginning to encounter.

Could truth itself be complex like mathematical descriptors of the real world that actually consisted of ‘real’ and ‘imaginary’ parts; imaginary parts which fundamentally influenced the real?

My mind drifted leisurely on:

Everyone seems to accept that intellectual and emotional intelligence exists – but what of spiritual intelligence is that real? If it is, perhaps we could all get on with the sort of life that the Welsh poet, priest and member of parliament, George Herbert (1593–1633) advocated when he suggested that the ‘Elixir’ (of life)’ was to be found in the motivational desire to please God, adding: ‘A servant with this cause, makes drudgery divine.’

As I hovered in and out of luxurious semi-consciousness I felt my eyes drooping, and then softly closing only to be rudely startled by a shout of, Tickets please directly above me. My rail ticket being in order, I settled down once more, and as I did so I began to ruminate about my first clash with religion:

I had always believed in ‘God’ since my hospitalisation at the age of three; organised religion was quite another matter.

I had left the Anglican church of St Hilda’s in my home town of Griffithstown well before the age of nine because of my disbelief in what I considered as the Old Testament’s muddled concepts of a God and the unrealistic vicar’s emphases on sin, hell and eternal damnation. How could a loving Creator of the universe have such primitive uncontrollable human emotions of wrath, anger, envy and jealousy? And then there was that other strange propaganda suggesting that it was appropriate to expect a reward for simply being good. Apparently if you complied with church rules you would be rewarded by a continuation of your life after death in a paradise called Heaven – but I reasoned that this did not make sense for surely things were only truly ‘good’ if they had been carried out without any concern for rewards?

Drowsily, with my mind barely ticking over, I revisited some of my encounters with those who punched hard for God – chapel ministers, Catholic and Anglican priests, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, secretive Plymouth Brethren and others whose lives revolved around live-in poltergeists or talking with their dead friends.

Soon such thoughts were left behind as I floated over the nations of North Africa and the Middle East. Snippets of Christian, two-thousand-year-old letters, drifted across my inner field of vision:

The amazing verses twenty-five and twenty-six from Psalm 102 crafted so elegantly into the first chapter of the letter to the Hebrews,

By you Lord, were earth’s foundations laid of old, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; like clothes they will all wear out.

We may not all be convinced of God’s input to the creation, but how could a writer, over two thousand years ago, have reached the conclusion that our sun and earth are in for complete annihilation – a very modern scientific theory indeed! And then there is Paul’s letter to the Romans which in verse twenty of its first chapter suggests that:

Ever since the world began … his everlasting power and deity, have been visible to the eye of reason … .

Half-awake, I heard myself murmur, ‘reason’. And with the word ‘reason’ on my lips I became convinced that I had solved the world’s problems – for was it not all-embracing, holistic reason that would lead to knowledge of truth absolute?

In a world of shadows and flickering light my mind attempted to grapple with the implications of applying reason to the world in which I knew; the world in which I existed. I was satisfied that evolution is a great theory and is certainly the most comprehensive explanation for the origin of different species. But how was it possible for the inorganic, inhospitable environment of a naked universe to give birth to organic, self-reproducing life-forms? There are several glaring discontinuities in the suggestion that ‘blind’, unintelligent, godless, inorganic substances could ‘evolve’ into ‘self-reproducing’ RNA molecules – which themselves further evolved into full-blown motivated and consciously aware individuals.

In my, somewhat muddled, stupor I struggled to get to grips with secular beliefs that ignored the intrinsic problem of changing from one dimension of existence into a vastly more complex paradigm:

Leaps of faith that demand belief in such massive paradigm shifts within a Godless universe may be all right for some but that kind of faith was completely unreasonable to a hard-nosed engineer like myself. I’d seen plenty of things evolving – but always there was an intelligence lurking around somewhere. Even Darwin did not eliminate the IO, the Intelligent Origin; in fact like his contemporary, that brilliant Welsh biologist, Alfred Wallace, Darwin believed that some form of God was essential – but not the wrathful, interfering God that was advocated by the Anglican Church of the mid-nineteenth century.

And what about that unfathomable discontinuity – the singularity within the black hole is