The confrontation of art and science

In a great building or great painting where the most profound color phenomena occur, something sometimes happens that I call inner light, a state where colors are both subdued and shining brilliantly. […] The inner light is an extension of the life in things, a deeper version of the phenomenon of life.

Here lies a confrontation. It is not true that scientists don’t appreciate art. Many appreciate art very deeply. But they have not, usually, thought about art as a phenomenon in the deep and serious scientific way they think about other phenomena. They enjoy art, they appreciate it. But in their present mode of thought, if forced to consider some particular event in art — like the shining of the inner light in a great painting — then they will feel virtually forced to assume some kind of model of the cognitive system being zapped, because that is the only kind of model they know at the moment. It is the only way they can imagine, of making sense.

This, precisely, is my point. The only reason scientists might have a naive picture of the phenomenon is that, as scientists, they haven’t thought about this kind of thing very carefully. What I have presented in The Nature of Order is an extension of science, written by someone who has thought about these kinds of phenomena carefully, and has begun — just begun — to see what the structure of these phenomena must be. According to what I have described in these four books, it seems that matter-space must somehow be a potentially living kind of stuff, perhaps even a potentially conscious stuff — anyway, at the very least, center-making stuff, or whole-making stuff.

Somehow, and for some reason, the more intensely that centers are created in any given region in space, the more intensely this region of space becomes connected with the human person or the human self. That is the origin of life and inner light. But there is simply nothing in our present scientific picture of the physical universe which hints at anything like that.

The apparent confrontation between art and science is not really between “art” and “science” as two disciplines. Rather, it is between two different views of what kind of stuff the universe is made of. It is a confrontation between the idea that the world is made of purely mechanical stuff, similar in essence to the kind of inert and abstract Cartesian matter-space scientists have taken for granted for the last three hundred years… and the idea that it must be some other kind of stuff, more personal, and far more mysterious in its nature.

(Pages 21-23)

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