In 1970 I was twenty-two and looking for something to believe in, something to make sense of the world and my place in it, a world view. Years of religious elementary and high school had left me with a dislike of religion, a distaste for its irrationality, superstition, and guilt. Science had been much more to my liking; I had attended a state university and just received a degree in electrical engineering. Yet, religion had addressed, however ineptly, however superstitiously, some questions science ignored. What was my place in the world? Where had I come from? and Where was I going? Certainly these questions were as important to me as the voltage and current in an electrical circuit.
In the following years I attempted to find answers to those questions. I turned to philosophical, religious and spiritual books of all kinds. I learned to meditate. I spent years trying to live a monastic life, both alone and in community. I worked for a while and then returned to school. I received an M.A. in mathematics and spent two more years pursuing a Ph.D. but didn’t finish. I married and was divorced.
Eventually, a body of ideas and concepts, many derived from my readings, a few perhaps original, coalesced into a world view. This world view is both simple and profound. It shares the single-minded dedication of mathematics and science to truth, as well as their rationality, logical methods, and rejection of lies and fantasy. Yet it addresses questions such as Who am I? Where have I come from? How should I live my life? and What is life’s greatest good?
I’ve often wanted to communicate this world view to my friends, but the ideas aren’t easy to explain in short, informal discussions. Besides, more than an understanding of the individual ideas is needed. For only when they are placed in proper relation to each other does the total picture emerge. The world view results not from a mere summing of its individual elements, but from their interplay, their fusing into a single, coherent whole, a logical system.
A similar fusing of individual truths occurred in geometry, many centuries ago. The Greeks are commonly said to have invented geometry. For example, William Dampier in A History of Science and Its Relations with Philosophy and Religion, considered “one of the outstanding histories of science,” ([T07],239) writes:
. . . [T]he first to create science . . . were the Greek nature-philosophers of Ionia. The earliest and most successful of such attempts was the conversion of the empirical rules for land surveying, mostly derived from Egypt, into the deductive science of geometry . . . ([D01],xiii-xiv).
Though the Egyptians had already discovered many geometrical facts, the Greeks are credited with creating the science of geometry. Why? Because they fused the individual discoveries of the Egyptians into a coherent whole, a logical structure, a science. For the Egyptians, geometrical claims were to be accepted on faith; for the Greeks, belief naturally followed understanding.
Similarly, the world view presented in this book depends not so much on faith as on understanding. Though most of its elements are drawn from the world’s philosophies and religions, the world view itself aspires to the clean logic and crystal clarity of science.
I’ve never seen a book that presents this world view as a harmonious whole, though I’ve seen books that discuss bits and pieces, and even large sections. For a long time I wished such a book existed, a book I could give to my friends and say “Here. This is what I believe.” For years I thought of writing such a book. Yet, for years I did nothing. In 1989, as my forty-first birthday approached, my father, who had seen over eighty birthdays, found himself in the hospital. His illness brought home the finiteness of life, particularly my own. (I apologize for the cliche; this is, in fact, the situation as it occurred.) I decided to begin writing the work I had so often imagined. In August of 1989, I began. (The following June my father passed away.)
I write this book for myself, for my family, and for my friends, although I hope it eventually sees a wider circulation. For myself, I hope to finally record my ideas and insights, logically and coherently. Like a builder, I hope to draw the elements into a structure, an integral whole, that possesses a beauty, a truth, and a power exceeding the sum of its parts. For my family and friends, I offer this simply as a record of ideas that are important to me. And for those I’ve never met, I offer this as a gift. I hope those who hold a traditional, orthodox faith find much food for thought; no doubt not all of it to taste, but all of it, I hope, wholesome and true, ultimately strengthening understanding and deepening faith. And I hope the “New Age” believer also finds much that is rewarding, although there’s little or nothing about astrology, numerology, channeling, crystal or psychic healing, magic or the occult. And finally, I hope the person who holds a rational, skeptical, scientific world view—especially someone with little or no interest in ultimate questions, who considers metaphysics and theology meaningless, who accepts no philosophy which treats ultimate questions—comes to see those ancient questions in a new light.