Facets of Faith: British naturalist linked science, religion

The question I am most asked about writing this column is, “Where do you find your topics?”

The answer is, “Lots of places.”

Readers send me ideas. I find things in the newspaper, magazines, online or in talking to people. I discover things when I travel.

This week’s topic was from an email with a personal connection. My brother has accepted a job in Wales.

In September, he will become collection librarian for the Alister Hardy Religious Experience Research Centre, which is part of the University of Wales Trinity Saint David.

Upon receiving his email, I, of course, had to find out more about Alister Hardy.

Hardy was born in England in 1896 and was long interested in art and science. World War I interrupted his college plans, but as he left school he vowed that if he survived, he would reconcile evolutionary theory with the spiritual nature of man.

After the war, he returned to Oxford and studied zoology, becoming an expert on plankton.

His research and teaching gave him opportunity to travel.

He used his art skills in both his work and travel. (Visit studyspiritual experiences.weebly.com/hardys-art.html to see some of his paintings.)

He also continued to search for the spiritual in his work, even through phenomenon such as telepathy.

In the 1960s he began lecturing about the evolution of religion. In 1969, he founded what became the Religious Experience Research Centre.

According to its website, “The Centre’s aim is to study, in a disciplined and as scientific a manner as possible, contemporary accounts of religious or spiritual experiences and to publish its findings.” (uwtsd.ac.uk/library/alister-hardy-religious-experience-research-centre/)

The site says the experiences can “include mystical, transcendental, out-of-body or near-death experiences, or a deep sense of meaning in a place or event.

Psychical experiences such as déjà vu, clairaudience, clairvision, telepathy and precognition can be included. It can also include such features as meaningful coincidences, or synchronicities, guidance and answers to prayer or contact with deceased loved ones.”

The center accepts stories from people about their spiritual experience as a way of collecting “evidence.”

Sources: theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2009/nov/07/religious-experience-research-centre-lampeter; studyspiritualexperiences.weebly.com/