Mystical Bioethics Network

Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics 9 (1999), 119-120.


We received a very interesting letter from Dr. Michael W. Fox, which is printed below. I can understand his discomfort with the term "mysticism" because it has often been badly abused. He refers to "spiritualist seances", which seem to me to be relatively harmless. In fact there might or might not be truth in them so far as I know. I simply have not researched the subject. I do think, however, that there are other abuses of mysticism which are really dangerous: especially the mystical emphasis in many violent and racist ideologies. But if we go and stop using terms every time somebody abuses them, then pretty soon we are not going to be able to say anything at all. I would rather prefer to join together in seeking a sincere, gentle and peace-loving mysticism which does not reject science but seeks the deep meanings underlying scientific discoveries.

I was glad to see that Fox refers to a: "metaphysical worldview <which> is not incompatible with atheism or agnosticism." I have felt for some time that mysticism, sincere religion, atheism and agnosticism don't really have to contradict one another if all recognize that the essential thing is ontological humility. This means admitting that we are all really very small, almost insignificantly tiny creatures in the face of infinity. We don't really know what the meaning of existence is.

Readers are invited to send comments on anything in mystical bioethics to myself at <yeruham@bgumail.bgu.ac.il> or to Erin at <EWilliams@GeneticMedicine.org>. - F Leavitt.

Dr Fox's Letter Follows:

- Dr. Michael W. Fox, Senior Scholar, Bioethics

Email: <bioethic@ix.netcom.com> Tel. Int+1-202-293-5105

I am intrigued by the interest in linking mysticism with bioethics. But I am uncomfortable with the term mysticism because it can mean anything from occult studies to spiritualist seances. At first blush a "mystical bioethics network" against the backdrop of a world in crisis sounds to me like a nexus of Neros fiddling while Rome burns. It may be a way of coping, of self-cloistering, but all to what end? Mysticism is to spirituality as scientism is to wisdom. I hope, therefore, that this new network will expand and possibly change its name, perhaps to "Deep Bioethics" or "Global Bioethics," like the "deep" ecology and the global environmental conservation movement.

Bioethics will be enhanced, I believe, and become "deep" when stronger links are made with spirituality, religions, animal rights, conservation and environmental protection. I also believe that deep or global bioethics would benefit from having a metaphysical template. My own metaphysical worldview is based on the intuitive (in-tuito) apprehension of the sacred unity and interdependence of all life. The emergent cosmos is a unified field (some call Brahman or the Biofield or Buddha-Field). This is evident phenomenologically in the existential, experiential,, and relational aspects of being. As the universal (Self) is in the particular (self), so the particular (self) is in the universal (Self). This means, to paraphrase Thomas Berry, the universe is a communion of subjects, not a collection of objects.

Interdependence and co-evolution have both ecological and spiritual dimensions that lead to mutually enhancing symbioses among individuals, species, and communities. This is the basis for rational beings to develop bioethics to help resolve conflicts of interests and values. And for empathic beings to realize, through panempathy (which leads to boundless compassion), the inherent and omnipresent nature of divinity, and to respect the sanctity of all life. To see God in all and all in God is termed panentheism, as distinct from pantheism that regards certain entities as being divine (1). This metaphysical worldview is not incompatible with atheism or agnosticism since the essential unity and interdependence of all life -- sacred or not -- is an ecologically and cosmologically self-evident dimension of biological reality.

1. see: M. W. Fox (1996) The Boundless Circle: Caring for Creatures and Creation. Wheaton, IL: Quest Books.

If you are interested in the network, please contact:

Frank J. Leavitt, Ph.D.
Chairman, The Centre for Asian and International Bioethics
Faculty of Health Sciences
Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Beer Sheva, Israel
Fax: + 972-7-6477633
Email: yeruham@bgumail.bgu.ac.il

AND: (Please write simultaneously to both of us.)

- Erin D. Williams, Esq.
Associate Director, Law, Policy and Ethics
Foundation for Genetic Medicine, Inc.
l0900 University Blvd, MSN 4E3
Manassas, VA 20ll0, USA
Email: EWilliams@GeneticMedicine.org


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