Now I'm getting the chance to read books I didn't have time for before. Think of me whenever you see the slogan "So many books, so little time!" Now I've got the time.  Cheers, Fred.

The Divine Imprint: Finding God in the Human Mind

Book Number: 
Date Fred Read: 
May 2018
Fred's Rating: 
Russell Stannard
Total Pages: 

Russell Stannard OBE is Emeritus Professor of Physics at the Open University, UK, and a Member of the Center of Theological Inquiry at Princeton. Formerly a particle physicist at CERN, Geneva, and the Lawrence Radiation Lab at Berkeley, he won the Bragg Medal and Prize of the Institute of Physics. In 1998 he was awarded the OBE for 'contributions to physics, the Open University, and the popularization of science'. (For his books I’ve read, click on his name.)

The Amazon website for the paperback edition I bought is

[None of the ISBN-10, ISBN-13, or ASIN numbers on Amazon’s websites for the three editions (Kindle, hardcover, or paperback) are recognized by Amazon, thus the ‘no image Circle' appears. I think this new change by Amazon is not good. However, you can see the images of this books' covers at the website above.]

The home page has a brief but good summary (click on ‘Read more) that raises some very important questions. It prepares the reader for the conclusions in his 2-pp Epilogue. Since the Epilogue is not currently available in Amazon’s ‘Look inside’ online preview, I give it below. [Book numbers I give in parentheses refer to my reviews in – my book review website.]

“So ends our journey exploring the roots of belief in God. We have seen that getting to know God was primarily a matter of coming to terms with what one finds imprinted in the depths of consciousness. We were mistaken in trying first to find him through a scientific study of the physical world. Only having got to know God through introspection is one sensitized to the marks of God’s imprint on the world.

“Given this to be the case, one might well ask why so much has been written about the relationship between religious belief and the sciences. Each year sees the publication of book after book based on the arguments we have earlier summarized – all centered on what one finds in the physical world. Richard Dawkins’ book The God Delusion (book 421), claiming to have done away with God on scientific grounds, became a bestseller. Stephen Hawking was equally dismissive of theology in his popular book The Grand Design (book 499). In it he declares philosophy also to be dead, and that in our time ‘scientists have become the bearers of the touch of discovery in our quest for knowledge’.

“I myself have written books and given countless talks on the subject. I have been involved in public debates about these issues with atheists such as Dawkins. But why? If the study of the physical and biological world, by its very nature, is incapable of supplying cast-iron proof of a personal God, what are we all arguing about?

“Speaking for myself, I believe no one ever gets argued into a belief in God. It is not like that. However, there are these writers who argue the opposite – that on the basis of science, the weight of evidence disproves the existence of God. It is that last step that is false and needs to be countered. While agreeing that science cannot prove the existence of God, neither can it disprove belief in God. It is this misleading impression that needs to be challenged.

“As just noted, books written from this atheistic point of view receive a lot of attention – despite being written by those who, though highly qualified in their own scientific field, often know little or nothing about modern theology. Books written in refutation of these views, by those properly qualified to talk on theological matters, never seem to make it on to the bestseller list. Neither do these informed contributions get an airing in the media. The media has a vested interest in stoking up controversy. It is good for increasing viewing and listening figures and boosting the circulation of newspapers. ‘God is dead’ makes a good headline. One understands why the bias is there. Unfortunately the public thereby is denied a proper, well-balanced discussion of the issues.

“It is because of this that I have considered it important to engage in the debate. As far as I am concerned, our initial study of science was in effect telling us to go and look for God in some more appropriate way. Only then should we come back and take a fresh look at the world, this time having a better idea of the signs we should be seeking. This I have tried to do.”

In this book I found that Russell Stannard has done well what he sought to do. The bottom line is quite simple: if physical and biological science can’t prove God exists, then it also can’t disprove God exists. This should be a no-brainer.

What Stannard did not refer to in this book is the way of viewing consciousness as the Asian sages have been doing for many centuries. I tell how they think briefly here, choosing a Buddhist philosophy. Instead of saying explicitly that physical and biological science is not capable of deducing existence of a deity, they focus on the transcendental element of human consciousness. They do this first by agreeing that humans have the usual five physical senses ssstt (for sight, sound, smell, touch, taste) known to the physical and biological sciences, but they conclude that humans have a crucial sixth sense that they refer to as mind, with mind being more than just the brain. I have learned that they refer to the mind and consciousness of three types – imagination, inherent intuition, and the transcendental. Imagination is the easiest part of a human’s mind – where we use our memories to ‘invent’ new things, like mermaids, centaurs or fauns. The inherent intuitive part of mind refers to things, either good or bad, that we simply ‘know’ to be good or bad, which need not be taught by elders – instead they may be learned by observing actions as our self-awareness grows to include others, humans or animals. An obvious example is how we recoil in horror at the thought of someone kicking a crawling baby – nobody has to teach us that this is never to be done. The third part – the transcendental takes the longest to develop. It may come through teaching but it is thought best if it comes via personal experience, often as a sudden awakening to an awareness of that which is divine or transcendental – an insight of the wholeness, or holiness, of the unity of nature. Many Asian sages focus on how to help students experience such an awakening to a divine reality, whether personal, as with God, or as the universal ‘ground of being’ that Paul Tillich spoke of often.

Having been familiar with Russell Stannard from other books by him on science and religion, I did not expect him to refer to insights of awakening by Asian sages. He focuses on a God-centered theology. I like his focus here on what physical and biological sciences cannot do. I rate this book at five stars.