"Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality" – Carl Sagan
Summer was in its glory in the Central Valley of California. Leo Kim, who would grow up to become a biochemist and work to find ways to stimulate the body’s own defense system to fight cancer, was only a young boy, a Cub Scout. His best friend, Stanley, was planning to take a ride with his uncle, a crop duster, and Leo was invited. His parents said no, that it was too dangerous. That afternoon, the plane carrying Stanley and his uncle struck a power line. "After learning of the crash," Leo wrote in the preface of his new book, Healing the Rift: Bridging the Gap between Science and Spirituality, "I felt too numb to cry. I also recalled thinking that I, too, could have been in a coffin."
He grew up to become a scientist and biotechnology executive – and a student of spirituality under the tutelage of Deepak Chopra, Bernie Siegel and others – but he never forgot his first brush with death, and he never stopped wondering about what happens when we die and how science has yet to offer an explanation about the ultimate mystery – our existence.
Dr. Kim spoke by phone with Edge Life from his home near San Diego about his new book, a chronicle of recent scientific breakthroughs that led him to the belief that the world is a blending of mind and spirit.
What inspired you to write "Healing the Rift?"
Leo Kim: It was the culmination of a 25-year quest. I spent about two years comparing science and spirituality. The very latest discoveries, starting about 10 years ago and sort of crescendoing in the last five years, have pointed to a totally new paradigm in science. About 10 years ago the foundations of science were rocked, and it has been rocked several times since then.
Regarding quantum physics?
LK: Yes and no, in regard to trying to allow quantum physics and the relativity theory and gravity all to fit together into one coherent universe with one set of laws. They are contradictory.
I’m a scientist by training, but during clinical trials and seeing cancer patients die, I wanted to know if there was a spiritual side. That’s what started me on this journey. Along with keeping up with science, I took up as a very serious avocation studying spirituality.
For whom did you write this book?
LK: I wrote this book for all of those who have felt beaten down by science, that science really holds all the answers. What I discovered about the big questions – how did the universe begin, what is the universe, how did life begin, how does consciousness and mind emerge from body and brain – is that they are totally unanswered by science. What is life? What is death? There are incomplete explanations for all of those questions – and in the case of how life originated, there is not even a theory because there is not enough evidence to support any one assertion.
And the Big Bang theory has been under assault lately, that it’s either incorrect or incomplete.
By whom is that theory under assault?
LK: Mainly by cosmologists and physicists. When the universe began with a Big Bang, the Big Bang started with a singularity or a point in space that simply exploded. There’s a logical question about what happened before that, and how did you get the singularity? That’s been bugging scientists and cosmologists and any lay person who casually reads about the theory. It’s completely unsatisfying.
What has your role been in the scientific community?
LK: In the scientific community, I have been in the biotechnology arena, first with Shell looking for ways to better utilize petroleum, and then they sent me to work in the laboratory of a Nobel prize winner in England, Sir John Cornforth, who led us to understand how enzymes work.. That put me on the biotech path, and upon returning I was asked to help start up a medical biotechnology unit. Along the way I also have been involved with the food industry and the agricultural industry, from a biotechnology perspective. During the last 10 years or so, I have worked very heavily with the pharmaceutical side and nutraceutical side.
My work has always been from the perspective of molecular biology, and then new biologies, but my training is a physical chemist. I’ve always had a deep love for physics, and I’ve always kept up with physics, including its relationship with cosmology.
You write that the rift between science and spirituality disappears when modern concepts of science are compared to ancient spiritual wisdom. Why?
LK: What startled me is as I looked into the spiritual side and the teachings, I found that regardless of which ancient peoples you look at – Meso Americans, the Australian Aborigines, the various cultures in Africa, the American Indians, the Hindu – they all seem to have one theme as to what exists out there, and that is energy. In the book, I include several quotations from Richard Henry, a rather renowned physicist and astronomer, who recently wrote an essay in a very prestigious journal that basically says, yeah, what’s really out there is energy and information, but what brings the energy and information into reality is consciousness. So our universe is really mind and Spirit.
You also write that we live in a false reality. What do you mean by that?
LK: That’s why I wrote a chapter on misperceptions. The brain interprets what’s out there and tries to make it understandable. Just look at the concept of color. There isn’t really color. It’s like the way we illustrate a map with colors to make it more understandable. I’m looking at a map right now, and the United States is green and Canada is sort of a beige color. That isn’t reality, but that helps my brain understand the differences.
The same is true with how our brain works and interprets what’s out there. When we see solid objects, they are not really solid. They are basically energy, but our mind creates that solid image. And the image is reinforced, because if we use our knuckles and we knock on the table, we can hear the sound and we can feel it. But in reality, that is just is energy repulsing energy.
The energy of our body reacting with the energy of the other objects.
LK: Yes, it’s the repulsion of electrons. And in the process we create some airwaves that bounce against our eardrums, which create the "sound" we hear – and that gives us the illusion of it.
Scientists have a tendency to stick to a dogma, and sometimes it sticks for decades. The one that has stuck the longest is materialism, since the 18th century. Materialism is the belief that our world is just materials, just things. Scientists like Richard Henry and many others try to bury the dogma, but other people, like Richard Dawkins when he wrote his book The God Illusion – on the New York Times best-seller list last year for over 40 weeks – keep alive a materialistic assumption, a materialistic dogma. Really, the bottom line is that he’s worshipping a false gospel, and the false gospel is materialism.
Do you feel like there is a need now for a greater education of the general public about the new discoveries in science to maybe erode away some of those 18th century dogmatic ideas?
LK: Absolutely. Unfortunately, I think most scientists are still holding to materialism. Go to any college and you still see these models of the atom. They are still showing DNA and molecules and atoms as little billiard ball-like substances connected by sticks. That is not what it is. It’s energy. And biologists hate mathematics and they hate quantum theory and they hate physics, so it is very difficult for them. Even though they have a reductionist sort of mentality, they will reduce their thinking down to atoms and maybe components of atoms, but they won’t zip down to the quantum level.
How long can they continue to hate these other ideas before they have to embrace them?
LK: I think the tide has turned. In the 21st century, perhaps over the next several years, it’s going to change. It’s starting to already, if you look at some of the recent results from the Fermi lab, which is a particle accelerator. It’s not quite as powerful as the CERN, but the CERN is down right now. It sort of had a meltdown just before our stock market meltdown.
There was one result that does not fit the standard model of physics. Two years before the experiment was done, some physicists published a paper suggesting that if there are hidden dimensions, then the results will be different. Low and behold, when the experiments were done, the results were consistent with the presence of hidden dimensions – not the standard model.
Earlier I mentioned that the foundations of science were rocked about 10 years ago. It was discovered then that in order to make our observations fit with theory, we needed to come up with two concepts: dark matter and dark energy, and together they consist of 96 percent of the universe. So 96 percent of our universe is missing. It isn’t like they misplaced it. Physicists and scientists just can’t find it. Supposedly it’s in you, it’s in me, it’s everywhere. This is highly embarrassing for these scientists, with their finest sophisticated instruments, that they can’t find it.
Now, in addition to that, to try to meld quantum theory with Einstein’s theory with gravity, one needs an infinite number of parallel universes and seven other hidden dimensions. Twenty years ago if somebody would have written something that said our world is deceptive, that 96 percent of it is missing, that there is an infinite number of parallel universes out there and that there are seven other dimensions, it would have sounded like very bad science fiction. But this is where science is. Scientists are scrambling to come up with these seemingly bizarre concepts to make the equations and the theories work.
And yet, I would imagine that 99 percent of the general public does not know that the scientific world has been rocked.
LK: That’s correct. I think a lot of the lay public who maybe glance at a newspaper or magazine have heard that science believes in mysterious dark matter or dark energy or that the CERN is trying to find the God particle, which will help piece together the standard model of physics, or that we’re putting up space probes to try to find anti-matter and maybe some evidence for hidden dimensions. But, the public is getting just bits and pieces – and this includes scientists, because most scientists are highly specialized. And if they are biologists or chemists, they really don’t understand it.
How do these new discoveries relate to the rift between science and spirituality?
LK: I think it contributes to the rift because scientists and the lay public do not realize that the paradigm and the dogma that is currently being held of materialism, that our world is made up of things, really hurts. Let me give you an example. If we live in a materialistic world – this is what a lot of people base their assumptions on – then the brain is just gray matter, and when we die and that gray matter is no longer functional, then that’s it. There can be nothing else. The concept of Spirit is a myth. That is a logical conclusion if you base your core assumptions on materialism. So if scientists are really worshipping a false gospel, one needs to challenge the core beliefs and examine the underlying assumptions. In my opinion, the one dogma that is contributing the greatest to this rift is materialism.
What is the consequence of this rift in our society?
LK: The biggest rift, I think, is the intolerance of spirituality. For more than 100 years now, scientists have been saying a lot of stuff about religion and spirituality, that it’s nonsense, outlandish and just too fairy tale. But, the tables are turned. Scientists are now having to resort to finding missing dark matter, dark energy, parallel universes and hidden dimensions. Why is that less outlandish than people who believe that there is Spirit, that what’s really out there is energy and that it’s really mind and consciousness that’s real.
Let me give you an example. There was dogma in the scientific community that after adolescence the human brain could not be rewired. That existed through the early 1980s. But brain scans by a psychologist at UCLA showed that the brain was actually being rewired in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) patients who did mindful meditation and thought about something pleasant like sitting in their garden, rather than thinking about washing their hands incessantly. The paradigm of brain creating mind is broken. Now it’s mind that rewires brain.
We also see dogma within religion that has presidential candidates raise their hands and say they don’t believe in the theory of evolution.
LK: That’s correct. The vast majority of rifts in religion are caused by not the original tenets of the religion, but the interpretation of human beings who maybe lived centuries afterwards, maybe in their quest to obtain power or to interpret for their followers something more simple or more palatable. If you do as I did in the book and examine the core beliefs of spiritual and religious teachings, they all go back to energy.
Why did your chance meeting with Doris, a cancer patient, affect your life the way it did?
LK: I guess as a cocky scientist who was feeling at the top of my game, I felt she was just so vibrant, so bouncy, so exuberant, that I just convinced myself that she was going to live. And, coming back a year later and finding her gone really shook me up, and I asked myself why, how can that happen. At the time I was beginning to think about what the mind can do and how the role of attitudes and how a positive attitude and those kinds of things might influence the results, and when that sort of blew me away with the results, I really was reminded of my friend’s death earlier in life, and I asked myself now, what is death, and am I missing, am I missing part of the equation, am I missing part of the picture. It’s almost like the scientists now who are looking for dark matter and dark energy to complete the picture.
How would you say your book is unique among other texts that explore the gap between science and spirituality?
LK: The book that is the most parallel to mine was written in 1975 by Fritjof Capra – The Tao of Physics. He was blown away by the parallels from the particle physics that he was studying and Eastern mysticism. Since 1975, of course, we all know there have been incredible discoveries in science – scores and scores of them – and we have talked about some of them. And yet nobody has really tried to write a similar book as Capra’s. What I tried to do is look at comparisons between all of science and all of spirituality.
Now, there have been people like Francis Collins who try to assert scientific ideas consistent with Christianity, or others who have compared science to Hindu teachings, but what I discovered is at the core they are all saying the same thing.
On the cover of my book, there is an elephant floating in the clouds. That refers to the ancient Hindu parable of the five blind men who are sitting around feeling different parts of an elephant and arguing what they are feeling. To a large extent, that’s what’s happening now: different religions, different spiritual teachings and the scientists are all feeling different parts of the universe and arguing about what’s out there.
What is your feeling of where we go from here? Do you get a sense that our scientific age that we live in will change dramatically in our lifetime?
LK: Yes, I think so. I think it’s going to change on many fronts. The change that I’d like to see rather soon is the healing power of the mind really integrated with health care. We’ve spent billions putting men and women in space and conducting clinical trials for various drugs, but we really have not integrated the power of the mind, which is a powerful source of healing.
Another is that we may have hints of life or even the discovery of life out in space, whether it’s on a moon of Saturn, Titan, or whether it’s on Mars. Wouldn’t that really be interesting? And wouldn’t it be interesting if the basis of life is not even DNA based? That could be super interesting. Discoveries from all of these space probes may force scientists to totally revamp their equations and their theories.
And then there is the CERN, the particle accelerator looking for the God particle, looking for all these new pieces of the universe when you smash them together at ultra-high energies. I think they are going to reveal a lot of things, and I think they will continue to break the paradigm of materialism. I think they will continue to put the scientists in awe as to what our universe is. There are experiments going on to look for more evidence of hidden dimensions, and I think there are ideas on ways to test whether there are parallel universes. Any one of those in the next couple of years will be really outstanding.
What did you discover during the process of writing this book?
LK: I guess the biggest discovery was how much dogma exists in science. We all have heard the dogma of religion. I was shocked by the dogma that science is holding onto. A lot of concepts are very, very difficult to erase and bury.
The final words of your book are: "All there is and all that we truly need is love."
LK: A lot of people have said it a lot of ways, both spiritually and even scientifically. When you really get down to consciousness, what really might be out there is love or a form of what we might call love and compassion. It affects the ability to heal, conventional as well as spiritual, and it seems to be at the core of what people who have had near death experiences report afterward. That was a big revelation to me.
How would you describe love scientifically?
LK: Love would be a feeling of connectiveness, of attachment and affection towards another living thing or about anything. It would be this feeling of attachment, of caring, of empathy. The way I use it in the book, it has no romantic inclinations to it. It’s just a feeling of empathy and caring and concern.
Maybe at some point science can quantify that energy.
LK: Yes, if they can break some of their current paradigms – and, in fact, several quantum physicists have suggested that.
For more information on Dr. Leo Kim and Healing the Rift, visit www.healingtherift.com