Really, I am making my way into the ideas of John Ralston Saul. Toward that goal, let me ask you a question to ponder:
Both bears and humans exist as selfs. (For an idea of self see Ursala Goodenough's piece, http://www.npr.org/blogs/13.7/2010/03/the_iself_and_our_symbolic_spe.html
So, for a bear to be more bear, what needs to happen? Likewise, for a human to be more of a human self, what needs to happen?
I just posted this as a comment over at 13.7 and I think it fits our dialog here as well; I hope you like it!
The allure of toasters is the toast they make. What is the allure of toast then? After listing everybody's response we would be able to sort them into two categories: physical/thermodynamic and non-physical/meaning. In a word, I would offer that toast's complex allure, could be understood in the word "alchemy".
To begin, the heart of the engineer behind the toaster, is wed to the heart of the bread maker; and all of us who eat toast become part of the wedding as well... such alchemy happens daily in a gazillion ways!
The question before us in our day, is "how does our shared alchemy result in something closer to gold than to lead?
Our current answer seems to stem from an idea that if we can make the right schematic, and everyone follows it, then we'll be in "working order". If successful alchemy were a matter of Physics alone, then schematics would have worked by now. It seems that alchemy requires a catalyst, and I would argue that for the human life, that catalyst is Meaning.
In terms of thermodynamics, work gets something done that is measurable. If a person feels a deep sense of Meaning behind there working though, something immeasurable emerges; what is that? Certainly something along the lines of alchemy, as well as something closer to gold than lead.
We can weld handles to things like metal pots. But Meaning doesn't lend itself to such easy handling. It squirms away from our grasps that try to bottle it, or make it formulaic.
Thus, in our world of Human Actuality, Technology and Meaning can interact with each other, and ultimately need each other. But neither can replace the other.
Humanness itself is essentially an Alchemy; remove the reality of either the physical or the non-physical, and the Alchemy fails to lead. Which for the human life is not a fail safe, but a failure.
So when I as a thinker, utilize "religious" insight along with "science" insight, it's because I recognize the reality that has its basis in Alchemy, rather than in technology or spirituality alone.
Ursala, I think this is why I'm so in love with the last line of your post. How can Human Alchemy even begin without insight?