Here is an apple. It has been placed in the center of a table covered with a damask cloth. See it?
What color is it? Red? Green? Mottled red and yellow? Golden? What do you see when you look at it?
Take the apple from the table. Raise it and bite from it. Does it pop and a chunk split off when your teeth sink into it? Is it grainy and mushy?
Replace the apple on the table, with the bite placed so as not to stain the cloth. Walk into the next room and describe the apple to the panel of apple experts. Describe its color, weight, consistency, taste, and feel in your hand.
Return to the room with the apple. Describe the cavity of the bite you took. What color is it? If the color has changed, does that affect in any way your feeling about completely eating the apple?
Leave the apple on the table and enter the next room. Pull apart the curtains forming a door and step inside. On a table on the opposite wall is a low table, covered by another damask cloth, and placed in the center of the table is a cross.
What color is the cross? What is the cross constructed of? Wood? Gold? Silver? How large is the cross? Is the cross plainly constructed? Ornate?
On the floor before the table is a large pillow. What color is it, and what kind of material covers it?
Without moving, slowly turn your gaze to the room. How is it lit? Are there decorations, pictures, icons? Is there any place to sit other than the pillow?
Back slowly from the room, letting the door’s curtains part over your back. Turn to your right and enter the next room. This door has strings of glass beads covering the door. Step inside. On an identical table across from you is another table, with a damask cloth. Placed in the center is a Buddha, flanked by two small incense candles.
Describe the Buddha. What is it made of? Wood? Plaster? Stone? Is the texture smooth or rough? How large is the Buddha? Do the candles affect how you feel? On the floor before the table is a pillow. Is it the same as the first room? If not, how is it different?
Again, let your gaze sweep the room. Other than the candles, how is it lit? Are there decorations, pictures, icons?
Turn around and walk out of the room. Does this feel different from backing out of the first room? If so, how, if not, why?
Everything I have just set up concerns symbols. The words used to describe the scenes are themselves symbols. It is in the moving beyond the symbols, whether apple, cross, or Buddha that we learn about the nature of life and its complexity. We could do the same experiment with a Muslim room, and a prayer rug, with a room with mathematical functions engraved, or any number of other scenes.
I believe that the scriptures we use in our life and worship are also symbolic. As such, I do not see any disparity between the scripture and science.
Living within a social structure requires symbols. There is nothing that we do that does not in some way manipulate and concern symbols. The symbols are there. When they become the object rather than its symbol, they take on an importance that is not rightfully theirs.
It’s easy to understand that the apple above is a symbol. It is not as easy to recognize that the cross is a symbol also, and the Buddha. Each is there to help us focus our thoughts on another level, not to be the reality itself. Too often, I believe, we stop at the symbol and do not learn the truths it represents.