Silence of the La Madeleine

LaMadeleine_ParisI meditated inside the La Madeleine church in Paris last week. From outside, the La Madeleine does not look like church. It looks like a Greek temple. The history of the building is interesting but I won’t go into it. The important thing to know is that this church is dedicated to Mary Magdalene. How many churches are there in the world dedicated to Mary Magdalene? I don’t know but there must be very few.

It was a perfect spring day…one of those “April in Paris” days. There were hundreds of people sitting on the steps leading to the church entrance but only few tourists inside the church and only two people praying or meditating including myself.

Meditation is opposite of thinking. Normally, I try to enter into the “silence” of meditation. Intuition, ideas or inspiration come after the meditation. During meditation you are just trying to hold on to that “silence.”

Physics, metaphysics and philosophy are subjects dear to my heart. I think about metaphysics even when I am walking. Even so, when I meditate, physics or metaphysics never cross my mind. This time it was different. My meditation was interrupted with ideas about the book I am writing and the physics paper I wrote in 2009. After a while I could not continue my meditation and I sat there about an hour turning various thoughts in my mind. The silence of the church was amplifying my thoughts. I was also a bit self-conscious about the strangeness of all this. Thinking physics inside a church! I have done that in mosques but never inside a church.

The strangeness comes from the fact that I left physics behind. I am not a professional physicist anymore. That 2009 paper was supposed to be my last physics paper. I did not want to send it to a physics journal. I posted it at Knol. There are important ideas in that paper but it will probably be never recognized by physicists because it did not appear in a refereed journal. I did not publish it under my given name because I did not want to be tempted back into the world of physics. I sincerely believe that I should leave physics behind and move on.

The “silence” of the La Madeleine was telling me that even though I am not a professional physicist anymore I need to elaborate on the main ideas of that paper. I don’t know how I am going to do that without using mathematics but somehow I will have to explain these ideas in a different and more accessible format.

Sometimes one cannot ignore the attachments and the entanglements of the past lives. It seems to me this is one of those situations. I will have to work out my samskaras by doing more thinking. I was hoping to move towards a more spiritual lifestyle involving more devotional practice and intuition and less thinking.

Maybe I am wrong about thinking. I know thinking is limiting from the spiritual perspective but life is also limiting from the spiritual perspective. Some of us do physical work and some of us do mental work to make a living and also to express ourselves. Writing is mental work. By writing and thinking I limit myself to the mental realm. Is this so bad? It does not look so bad to me but spiritual teachers have been warning us about the dangers of over-thinking and over-intellectualism. I wrote about this before. I said over-thinking enhances the ego and pushes us away from the center. I said the only remedy is the feeling of love and devotion. As we become more intellectual we have to work extra hard to keep our devotional feelings alive. After a certain point the ego wins and you are dried out emotionally. That’s the danger.

My challenge has been to find a way to combine my search for beauty with my search for meaning. I tried to find a way to do it in the world of science with no success but I still believe it is possible.

After the La Madeleine church I went to the Sorbonne University. There is a unique bookstore there dedicated to Western Philosophy. It is quite impressive to see a bookstore like this. Rows upon rows of books on academic Western Philosophy! The philosophical tradition in Paris is very impressive. I wish I could read French. I bought the only English book I could find. It was about the works of Leibniz who is one of my heroes.

I leave the metaphysical interpretation of my day in Paris to your intuition. Since I believe that nothing is a chance and there is meaning in everything I certainly found meaning in all of this.


About Suresh Emre

I have worked as a physicist at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and the Superconducting Super Collider Laboratory. I am a volunteer for the Renaissance Universal movement. My main goal is to inspire the reader to engage in Self-discovery and expansion of consciousness.
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