Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Searching in Reverse: the Rosary and Science

No, this is not a posting about my doctoral dissertation, which really did accomplish what the TV version of "The Cat In The Hat" called Calculatus Eliminatus, or finding where something is by finding out where it isn't. (Yes, I really did that, and it was useful for biologists, and not just yet another goofy academic exercise - but more on that topic some other time.)

Rather, it's about how I found out someone is hunting for something by seeing that someone used one of the so-called "search engines" to come here, looking for something called "Scientists and the Rosary".

Possibly they were hunting for the famous vignette told about Louis Pasteur, quoted in Key To Happiness Oct 1986; see here. I have not yet encountered the original source of this, so for the moment it is just another story - but it sounds like something that did happen.

Or perhaps they were curious about the great Andre Ampère, who was also known to say the rosary (a vignette about him was told in Key To Happiness for Sept/Oct 1990), as was Allesandro Volta - his dedication to the rosary is documented in Kneller's important work, Christianity and the Leaders of Modern Science, available from Real View Books.

A very interesting point ought to be made here: the names of these two great Catholic scientists appear on uncountably many things all over the world. A certain dead musician (I use the term very loosely) once claimed to be more famous than the One Whose birth has fixed the naming of the very year - but that dead musician's name is not more ubiquitous than Volts and Amps. But let us proceed.

Now... it is remotely possible that the ones who were searching for "Rosary and Scientist" were not so much seeking such vignettes, be they legends or accurate descriptions. Perhaps they were seeking some sort of commentary... that is, What Does a Scientist Think Of When He Says the Rosary? or, perhaps, What Sort Of New Things Does a Scientist See When he Brings His Sort of Training To Assist In His Praying, Specifically the Rosary?

Oh, I wish I had the time to write these texts... though I expect they would be large. And perhaps you will wish I had saved this post for Friday... or perhaps had planned out an actual series of lectures - er, I mean postings - for this blogg about such topics!

Well... I can't promise anything. Like most of us, I get very busy, and there is hardly time to turn a quick AMBER concordance of GKC's use of the word "dragon" into a post (like I did last week). But since I think of myself as a scientist, and I do say the rosary, I ought to at least make an attempt. I know I did something back in 2005 called "Light From the Rosary" - but that only goes so far, and six years have passed, with a steady accumulation of new details and data and insights. There was also an Advent series on the analogy between the 20 mysteries and the 20 amino acids, which was done in 2006; see my index for the specific entries, it also gives the links to "Light From the Rosary".

It's a rich field for study - far richer since the addition of the Five Luminous Mysteries in 2002. I think I may have mentioned in one of those collections that the Luminous Mysteries might just as well be called "The Aquatic Mysteries" or "The Mysteries of Water" because of the critical role water plays in each one. But more importantly, there is a lot to see just in the very idea of the rosary as "the Hand-held Gospel" - it is a truly scientific thing, a way of developing one's mental focus to consider a topic or series of topics, slowly and solemnly, but without the dangers of trying too hard, or getting lost in the details or all the other risks encountered in less well-developed methods. Please note: I do not suggest that there be "mysteries of Science" though if the atheists were serious about their faith they would have such things, just as Comte proposed things like "Darwin Day":
A feeling touching the nature of things does not only make men feel that there are certain proper things to say; it makes them feel that there are certain proper things to do. The more agreeable of these consist of dancing, building temples, and shouting very loud; the less agreeable, of wearing green carnations and burning other philosophers alive. But everywhere the religious dance came before the religious hymn, and man was a ritualist before he could speak. If Comtism had spread the world would have been converted, not by the Comtist philosophy, but by the Comtist calendar. By discouraging what they conceive to be the weakness of their master, the English Positivists have broken the strength of their religion. A man who has faith must be prepared not only to be a martyr, but to be a fool. It is absurd to say that a man is ready to toil and die for his convictions when he is not even ready to wear a wreath round his head for them. I myself, to take a corpus vile, am very certain that I would not read the works of Comte through for any consideration whatever. But I can easily imagine myself with the greatest enthusiasm lighting a bonfire on Darwin Day.
[GKC Heretics CW1:87]

Comte had a complete new religion, or rather, a new Church; for it was modelled throughout on the Catholic Church. It had a liturgy. It had a calendar. I believe it had vestments. I am sure it had saints' days dedicated to Darwin or Newton. I do not know in what the ceremonial consisted, or what were the vestments worn. Perhaps they all wore tails on Darwin Day. Perhaps they celebrated Sir Isaac Newton by dancing round an apple-tree and pelting each other with apples. I do not know exactly what was done in Comte's cathedral, indeed, I do not know whether anybody ever went to Comte's cathedral, even Comte. But certainly Comte founded, whether or no Harrison followed, the strict system of a regular religion externally very like the Roman religion, except that it was to worship Humanity instead of God.
[GKC ILN Jan 27 1923 CW33:30-31]
Again, I am not suggesting anything of that sort. I do not mean to apply "the scientific method" (about which I am also trying to write over on the blogg of The Duhem Society) to the rosary, or anything like that. I am simply thinking of several interesting ideas I have noticed as I say the rosary, considering this very simple (but powerful and profound) technique for exploring the Gospels - that is, the Life of Christ - yes, as a scientist.

We forget that a Scientist (writ large, as Father Jaki so often wrote) is not rigidly a "way of thinking"... it is something much simpler. It is a WAY OF SEEING. It means somehow factoring one's own self out of the viewpoint, and at the same time, seeing as much as one can see: especially those things that others don't see. And then, of course, telling others about it. A scientist is not a philosopher, whose gravest risk is turning into a navel-gazer. Nor is he a literary man, whose writing might be pulled up and down and all around, like a buoy on the tide, just to satisfy the current market. Being a scientist means being humble... as I said, having the will to remove one's own self, one's own bias, in order to get the view of Reality. Now, it is a wonderful paradox that the best sort of philosophy, the best sort of literature, the best sort of every Art (writ large) must also do that very same thing - but then that is why all those disciplines can rightly be called sciences as well, since they all seek Truth.

In this case, then, to apply one's scientific powers to the Rosary (or the Gospels, as the two are interconvertible)... excuse me... I think I mean to say "to the recitation of the rosary " - which is of course interconvertible with "to the reading of the Gospels". The idea of having a rosary at all is very simple, and is even more clear in this age of hand-held devices. We might not be able to carry our labs around with us. But most likely we keep a fairly good internal vision of our current work. In the same way, we might not own a copy of the Gospels to carry around with us - though again (let us hope) we keep a fairly good representation of the major events of that Real Story. The rosary is a discipined way of perusing that mental image... it is simultaneously Art and Science - the vivid imagination and the accurate memory and the skill of reasoning power all conjoined, and applied to the most fascinating thing that Is.

The funny thing, as you will see if I do get to write more, is that the more science one knows, the more one sees about the Gospels.

And vice versa - which is in keeping with those mystical words of our Lord:
Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God, and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you. [Mt 6:33]
Hey scientists - don't you think it's about time we start some sort of new exploration? You think it's all done? Ha. You ain't seen nothing yet. Open your eyes, time for a surprise... You don't have to wear a lab coat to pray, but you might want to get a rosary to keep in your pocket, and use while you're waiting for that experiment to complete. Other great scientists carried one... who knows what may result!

PS: I am well aware that there are Christians who will be delighted in anything which leads to a greater knowledge of the Life of Christ, and yet may have some issues about the rosary as such. It is very likely that I will address some of those concerns... but my purpose is to UNITE, not divide, even if certain sorts of divisions (in the classical sense of distinguo = "I distinguish") are required as we proceed. But if my plan goes well, it may be helpful to understand just what it is a serious Catholic does when he does such a curious thing, and actually THINKS about what he is doing, and why. May God guard and guide us, and bring all who love Christ into the unity He prayed for. {Jn 17:20-24]


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