Q & A

Belonging-to-God-coverQ & A with William Keepin, PhD,
author of Belonging to God:
Spirituality, Science & a Universal Path of Divine Love

William Keepin, PhD is co-founder of the Satyana Institute and the Gender Reconciliation International project, which has organized more than 100 workshops and trainings in nine countries for social healing between women and men. Keepin has studied and practiced intensively in Eastern and Western spiritual disciplines for 35 years, and immersed himself in contemplative practices from the Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, and Sufi traditions. His spiritual mentors include Father Thomas Keating (Christian), Swami Ambikananda (Hindu), Jestunma Tenzin Palmo (Buddhist), Llewellyn Vaughan Lee (Sufi), Sr. Lucy Kurien (Christian), and Ravi Ravindra (Hindu/interfaith).

Keepin is a mathematical physicist, social activist, and environmental scientist whose research on sustainable energy and global warming influenced international environmental policy. He was a whistleblower in nuclear science policy, and presented testimony to the US House of Representatives and the parliaments of Australia and several European countries. He holds a Ph.D. in applied mathematics, M.S. in mathematical physics, M.A. in East-West psychology, and an honorary doctorate in Spirituality and Social Change (from the California Institute of Integral Studies). Keepin has over 40 scientific publications in peer-reviewed journals, and his previous books include: Divine Duality: The Power of Reconciliation between Women and Men (Hohm Press, 2007), co-author of Women Healing Women (Hohm Press, 2009), and co-editor of Song of the Earth: A Synthesis of the Scientific and Spiritual Worldviews (Permanent Publications, UK, 2012).
 

What is meant by the term interspirituality?

Interspirituality goes beyond traditional ‘interfaith’ dialogue, and invites a deeper conversation and exchange of spiritual practices relating to the soul’s transformative journey in religion. The major world religions—far from being polarized in endless conflicts from which they can never recover—are actually mutually complementary aspects of a larger, unified spiritual reality. This is the central insight of “interspirituality.”

Rather than seeking the lowest common denominator, interspirituality focuses on the highest common unity among the world religions, and thereby offers a long-awaited breakthrough beyond religious conflict toward unprecedented cooperation and harmony among the world religions.

 

What teachings on the path of divine love are shared in common across the scriptures?

In different ways, yet with one voice, scriptures and mystics down through the ages proclaim the ineffable mystery of the soul’s intrinsic oneness with the Divine. The core teaching is this: the innermost essence of the human being is none other than the transcendent essence of God. Some illustrative examples from scriptures and mystics across the theistic traditions are:

  • “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30)
  • “I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” (St. Paul, Gal 2:20)
  • Aham Brahmasmi (‘I am Brahman’) (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad)
  • Anal haqq! (‘I am the Supreme Reality,’ Sufi saint Al Hallaj)

These declarations reveal a fundamental unity of soul and God across the religions, and point toward a universal path of divine love across the faith traditions.

Regarding spiritual practice, another teaching common to the religions is self-surrender to God.  For example, in Hinduism, the process of surrender is called prapatti (or saranagati), and includes five basic conditions of spiritual practice that are found across all the theistic religions:

  1. Following God’s will,
  2. Doing nothing that is contrary to God’s will,
  3. Absolute faith in God,
  4. Entrusting oneself fully to God, and
  5. Absolute surrender to God.

Sometimes a sixth condition is added; humility in the face of God. These principles are universal in the theistic traditions.

 

Why did you choose to focus on Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism specifically?

I focused on three religions primarily for space reasons, in order to treat each tradition in sufficient depth without the book becoming excessively long. I chose theistic religions, because the path of divine love is sometimes mistakenly regarded as less profound in comparison to the ‘direct’ path of knowledge or nondual spiritual realization, and I wanted to correct this erroneous view. The three traditions I chose include the oldest and youngest religions, and span East, West, and Middle East.

As reviewer of Ravi Ravindra observes, the majority of what is said in Belonging to God applies to all religions. The framework and insights in the book can be readily extended to Judaism, and I cite several key Jewish writings in that direction in the Introduction. The framework of the book also applies to the ‘non-theistic’ traditions including Buddhism, and I outline how this can be done in Appendix 1.

 

How are the similarities across religions more profound and illuminating than the differences?

Religious differences are myriad—theological, liturgical, institutional, cultural—and they are the putative source of great tension and conflict. Yet these differences are dwarfed by deeper and far more profound similarities at the core of all religions. Several examples follow:

  • The theistic religions all proclaim that there is one supreme reality, usually called ‘God.’ Scriptures from the Rig Veda to the Qur’an affirm that God is ultimately one across all ages and traditions.
  • The primary scriptural injunction to human beings is to love and serve this supreme reality, or God.
  • Mystics and contemplatives across the religions who have attained the highest spiritual realization report very similar descriptions of the transcendent Godhead. For example, leading mystics like Meister Eckhart (Christian), Ibn Arabi (Sufi) and Shankara (Hindu) all report three primary characteristics of realizing the Godhead, which are truth, wisdom, and ineffable bliss.
  • The soul’s transformative journey across the faith traditions is fundamentally the same across the traditions, despite apparent outward contradictions. In Christianity for example, St. Paul says “I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me,” and similarly, St. Teresa of Avila says: “Christ has no body on earth now but yours, no mouth but yours, no feet but yours.” In essence the process is no different from the Islamic Hadith in which Allah proclaims, “I become the eyes with which he sees, the mouth with which he speaks, the feet with which he walks.” Both descriptions articulate the same spiritual transformative process in the human soul, and lead to the same result: the human being is transformed into a living instrument of Divine love and will.

In short, just as different trees in the forest exhibit many differences—some are tall, others short; some have leaves, others have needles—all trees are rooted in the same ground. They all draw from the same hidden waters below, and stretch upwards to the sun above. In like manner, all religions are rooted in the same ground; they draw from the same spiritual waters, and reach to the same supreme light.

 

You speak of an emerging revolution in religion that parallels recent scientific revolutions. How might this happen?

As one example, Einstein’s relativity theory revolutionized classical scientific understanding. A parallel transformation is taking place today in spirituality that is revolutionizing religion. To illustrate:

Einstein derived his special theory of relativity from just two postulates:
(1) the laws of physics must be the same in all reference frames, and
(2) the speed of light is a universal constant across all reference frames.

Extending these postulates to religion, we have:
(1) the “laws of spirituality” are the same in all religions, and
(2) the divine Light is universal across all religions.

As in science, the first postulate is an axiomatic principle, and the second is revealed through interfaith scholarship which demonstrates that the divine Light functions identically in every religion. Hence the world religions are not mutually contradictory, but mutually complementary. Different religions are distinct rays of this universal light, and taken together they affirm a universal spirituality. This does not deny or dishonor the rich and vast differences between the religions. On the contrary, such a universal spirituality uplifts and celebrates the diversity of religious traditions, while at the same time revealing them to be united at their core.

 

How does modern science illuminate the fundamental unity of the world religions?

The oneness of all existence, long proclaimed by sages from many wisdom traditions, is now revealed by new discoveries in science that unite matter, energy, and consciousness into a seamless whole. Quantum physicist David Bohm, a close colleague of Einstein’s, proposed that “the cosmos is a single unbroken wholeness in flowing movement,” in which each part of the flow contains the entire flow.

Bohm further proposed that reality contains two kinds of order, called the “explicate” and “implicate” orders. The explicate order is just the manifest physical universe, and the implicate order is another name for the unmanifest ‘spiritual’ reality.  The implicate order is present everywhere yet visible nowhere, and constitutes the fundamental nature of reality.  The physical universe, or explicate order, is a secondary phenomenon. The explicate order is analogous to the foam on the waves of the ocean, whereas the implicate order is analogous to the ocean itself. This is reminiscent of what Krishna said to Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita: “I run this entire cosmos with the tiniest part of my Being” (10:42).

 

How does modern science relate to the path of divine love?

Everything is connected to everything else, and love is the force that holds it all together. Nothing exists in objective isolation from the rest of the universe. The interconnection of all things is not just a metaphor; it is confirmed by quantum physics. The universe as revealed by quantum physics exhibits vast networks of ‘nonlocal’ inter-connections that transcend spatial separation. The electron has an awareness of the rest of the universe, and behaves in response to the larger environment. Systems of coupled electrons or photons exhibit “quantum entanglement”: measuring the state of one immediately determines the state of the other, even if they are on opposite sides of the universe. These discoveries point toward fundamental interconnections between matter and consciousness that transcend time and space.

 

How do modern science and ancient wisdom reveal the same structure of the universe?

A key feature of the universe is self-similarity across vastly different scales, which is something the ancient mystics knew and modern science is rediscovering.  For example, neural networks in the brain exhibit a similar structure to galaxies in outer space. Recent astronomical observations from 100,000 galaxies show that the collective movements of galaxies in outer space trace out a shape that bears a remarkable resemblance to a gigantic ‘cosmic’ heart.

These fundamental patterns of self-similarity, from the cellular level to the galaxies, are powerful examples of what ancient sages and alchemists called the Correspondence Principle; often formulated: “as above, so below.” The microcosm replicates the macrocosm.  Recent discoveries of fractal mathematics and holography constitute a modern scientific re-discovery of this ancient Correspondence Principle.

 

What do you mean by the term “fractal”?

A fractal is a mathematical geometric structure that contains mirror images or replicas of itself on smaller scales.  It is something like a set of Russian dolls, in which each doll contains a set of smaller similar dolls, except that in the mathematical case, the self-repeating process continues on smaller scales forever. The miniature replicas, even though millions of times smaller than the original, contain all the complexity and intricate structure of the original.

Fractals are not a human invention; they are an inherent property of numbers themselves. Fractals existed long before the creation of the earth and humanity, but science only discovered them 30 years ago, when computers became sophisticated enough to reveal them.

Fractal patterns are found throughout the nature, such as tree branches, lightning, coastlines, galaxies, as well as in the human body: the respiratory system, circulatory system, and nervous system.

 

How does the science of fractal geometry and holography relate to ancient wisdom, alchemy, and spirituality?

I propose that consciousness itself has a fractal structure.  This is illustrated in the famous saying attributed to Hermes (Trismegistus), “God is an infinite circle whose center is everywhere and circumference is nowhere.”  This illustrates the fractal nature of consciousness.  The same principle appears across the traditions, for example in Indra’s Net in Buddhism and Hinduism.  Indra’s Net portrays reality as a vast array of exquisite jewels, and if you look in the facets of any one jewel, you see all the others reflected there.  Thus every jewel in some sense contains all the others.

Just as fractal mathematics predates human existence, so does fractal consciousness. It is inherent in the nature of reality itself, and existed long before the earth and humanity were created. Fractal consciousness reveals WHY the mystics are one with each other “horizontally” across the religions, and also why they are one with God “vertically,” thereby uniting the soul with God.

 

What are the characteristics of fractal consciousness’?

Fractal consciousness means that the human heart and mind are a microcosm of a much larger cosmic intelligence, which can be regarded as the consciousness of God. Mystics across the religions report profound experiences of realizing the full infinity of God within the heart. This is possible because of the fractal structure of consciousness. Just as the mathematical infinite can be contained within the finite fractal geometric form, so too the infinite consciousness of God can be contained within the seemingly finite heart of the human being. Fractals gives us for the first time a graphic, mathematically logical way of understanding how this identity of soul and God might possibly work.

Fractals predate human existence. They are inherent in numbers themselves, independent of manifest creation. Fractals are thus ordering principles of consciousness that until recently were entirely beyond human awareness. This means that fractal structures can be regarded as inherent in the “mind of God.”

 

You say that the finite can contain the infinite. How can this be? It seems an obvious contradiction.

This is due to the remarkable nature of infinity. For example, a small line segment—such as a tiny dash printed out from your printer—contains as many points as the entire universe. That’s right, even though the universe is infinitely many times bigger than the dash! This may seem absurd, but it is possible to set up a one-to-one correspondence between every single point throughout the universe, and a corresponding unique point in the little dash. This proves that the dash and universe both contain the same quantity of points.

This means that the infinite multi-dimensional universe can be, as it were, neatly “landed” onto the little “airstrip” of a short little dash. The infinite is contained within the finite.

 

How does fractal consciousness illuminate the union of the soul with God?

Striking correlations emerge if we apply this fractal model metaphorically to different spiritual and religious traditions. In Hinduism for example, the “Atman” represents the spiritual essence of the individual (or the Self), and “Brahman” is the spiritual nature of the cosmos. The enlightenment experience is the realization that Atman is Brahman—the two are identical. This same principle is articulated in the Bhagavad Gita (we “see the Self in every creature, and all of creation in the Self”) as well as the Gospels (“All that is mine is yours, and all that is yours is mine” (John 17:10)). Or as Christian mystic Julian of Norwich put it, “We are all in God enclosed, and God is enclosed in us.” Or as the famous Islamic Hadith puts it, “Heaven and earth are too small to contain Me, but I fit easily inside the heart of my beloved devotee.”

All these sayings hold true because of the fractal structure of consciousness, which enables the infinite to be contained within the finite. The universe with its billions of galaxies are too small to contain God, but God fits easily inside the pure heart of the devoted servant of God. The human heart is thus the doorway to the infinity of divine consciousness.

 

How are the earth and the cosmos connected?

The earth is a microcosmic manifestation of the entire cosmos. The familiar line in the Lord’s prayer, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” is not just an admonition for human beings to perform certain “good” actions on earth in accord with God’s wishes.  It is a profound prayer for the revelation the divine Logos (or heaven) to be reflected in full resplendent glory here on earth.

The world is intended by God to be a fractal miniature of the cosmos, revealing the infinite majesty of God. For realized mystics, the Lord’s prayer is already answered; they see heaven here on earth, because they are seeing the truth: The earth is a microcosmic reflection of the heavens. The angelic beings are all here, every movement of the stars is reflected here on this earthly plane. As the Upanishad puts it, “What is There is here, and what is not here is nowhere.”  The earth is a miniature heavenly cosmos; a miniature fractal replica of the vast infinity, beauty, and love throughout the cosmos.  This is what Jesus prayed for humanity to wake up to.

 

What is the deeper meaning of humans being ‘made in the image of God’?

It has nothing to do with how God looks! The identity of human and divine refers not to our outer form, but to the deepest truth of who we are. At the inmost core of our being, every human being is identical with the essence of God. Each person is a ‘droplet of God,’ in which the body and mind are but the outer shell or surface.  Inwardly, the human heart is identical with the very essence of God’s divinity. The heart links each human being directly to God, and deep within the heart is a hidden doorway that leads to the Infinite Godhead.

The human being thus partakes in the full infinity of God, and this is true across the faith traditions, although most of us are not aware of it. This identity of human with God is the direct consequence of the fractal structure of consciousness. Just as the entire complexity and infinite intricacy of the mathematical fractal structure is fully reproduced inside each embedded miniature replica, so too the full infinity of God is replicated deep within the heart of every human being.

 

What is the fire of divine love?

The ‘fire of divine love’ is the universal energy of love that flows in and through all things at every level of existence—from the heart of the sun, to the human heart, to each tiny cell in the human body, to the subatomic particles and the core of every star across all galaxies. It is a grand fractal fire of Love. In physics the fundamental forces of ‘fire’—the strong and weak nuclear interactions, and the electromagnetic interaction—are all regarded as single unified force. Love is this force, and it is a transforming fire. Like all fires, it ignites, incinerates, purifies, and shines with brilliant light and warmth. Ultimately the fire of love burns away everything that is not love. Love is the greatest power in the universe, and divine love is the most powerful form of love.

 

 What about ‘divine love’ in the non-theistic traditions, such as Buddhism, which doesn’t have a God?

There are important differences in the non-theistic traditions, to be sure, but the similarities with the theistic traditions are yet deeper and far-reaching, and point to an underlying unity. Recent interfaith scholarship shows close correspondence between what is called ‘Dharamakaya’ in Buddhism and God in theistic religions. Buddhist scholar B. Alan Wallace says that the cosmogonies of Vajrayana Buddhism, Hindu Vedanta, and Neoplatonic Christianity have so much in common that they can be regarded as different interpretations of a single theory. Islamic scholar Reza Shah-Kazemi makes a powerful case that the ultimate reality affirmed in Buddhism is none other than what monotheists call the essence of God, and his book is highly praised in the foreword by the Dalai Lama. As Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh puts it, there is not that much difference between Buddhism and Christianity; most of the boundaries we have created between them are artificial, because “truth has no boundaries.”

 

How is science is catching up to metaphysics? What developments are leading the way?

Science is slowly evolving, and coming to recognize that material existence is not the whole of reality. There are invisible dimensions of reality that shape what we observe and experience, yet which are difficult to measure in the laboratory.

As one example, sometime in this century science will finally acknowledge that human consciousness survives physical death. This will be accepted as an experimentally validated fact beyond all reasonable doubt by the majority of scientists. In short, science will discover the existence of the soul.

This discovery is rapidly approaching; the empirical data supporting it are becoming overwhelming, and the longstanding scientific bias against acknowledging these remarkable data and their implications is steadily eroding. As scientist Erwin Laszlo put it, “Our consciousness does not end with the demise of the body; it continues to exist in another dimension of the cosmos.”

From one perspective, this will be a watershed breakthrough for science. It will help break today’s science free from the narrow confines of its current limited materialist paradigm, and could well precipitate a full-blown scientific revolution.

From another perspective, this discovery will mean that science is finally catching up with the most basic spiritual teaching, known to mystics for millennia, that the person does not die when the body dies. This is expressed, for example, at the beginning of Chapter 2 of the Bhagavad Gita, written some 2,500 years ago. And there are another sixteen chapters in this scripture about which today’s mainstream science still knows virtually nothing. In this sense we may observe that in terms of spirituality and consciousness, science today is about 2,500 years behind mysticism, but is slowly catching up.

[1] quoted earlier, see Chapter 5, footnotes xx and yy