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Science and Spirituality – Singing from the same Hymn sheet

What IF… you don’t have to choose between science and spirituality?

There has long been assumed to be a gap between spiritual and scientific thinking – and belief. It’s as though to hold one means you must exclusively deny the other, like a shitty relationship where you are made to choose between your other half and your best friend. Now why would anyone think this was healthy, loving or even reasonable? Unsurprisingly, such relationships are at the root of so much pain and anxiety. Quit now, give up the addiction to exclusive ideological subscription – it does not work.

The Gap is closing. The theoretical, ideological and social gap between science and spirituality is closing. It is closing because of the BIG questions. Namely, the age-old conundrum of consciousness, and out of this paradigmatic shift, comes a new blend of thinking.

The hidden or mystical side of religion and spirituality is no longer for the few ‘initiated’ or privileged devotees.  It is open to all. The modern approach for social inclusion (over privilege, gender, age, class and race) also make the inner mysteries accessible like never before. For example, no longer will a person’s perceived gender exclude them.

There is always a simultaneous trend both for and against for the status quo. If you want to be a rebel in 2020, go to church. The trend for Atheism is no longer the rebellion it was ten years ago with people tending to choose personal development over aggressive debate. With the rise in interest of philosophy and how to think, rather than what to think, those people drawn to such big questions are rewriting the gospels to be more inclusive. 

Science is also starting to converge toward the mystical – from neuroscience to cosmology (as above, so below*) and quantum mechanics, it’s all getting rather metaphysical with the quest for understanding human consciousness growing steadily in the laboratories of medicine, technology, psychology and disciplines that deal with quantum physics. The materialist paradigm is shifting to explore the ‘hard problem of consciousness’ and non-duality. Science is becoming ever more spiritually relevant and exciting with amazing new disciplines like ‘neurotheology’ at the forefront of modern thinking.

Spirituality is good for your mental health. Research is showing that during religious or spiritual activities like prayer and meditation certain areas are turned on and others shut down with changes in the balance of neurotransmitters. For example, during prayer, serotonin, dopamine and gabba all increase, while stress hormones such as cortisol and norepinephrine (adrenaline) decrease. The temporal lobes and limbic structures are shown to be involved in religious experience with the basal ganglia involved in states of euphoria. In those persons who have strong senses of religious faith, their brains look different to scientists from those who do not have such faith. This is throwing out many questions on the direction of cause and effect, e.g. is a person religious because their brain was predisposed to it? or has the brain developed because they of their faith?

*The Hermetic principle of correspondence “as above so below” relates to the microcosm and macrocosm of reality, just as both science and philosophy examine the same questions from neutron to nebula.  The inner and outer mysteries, from Pythagoras to Eckhart Tolle, and from hieroglyphs to emojis, it’s all the same age-old wisdom re-emerging under the shifting paradigms of cultural lenses. 

The social gaps and the method-of-enquiry gaps are closing, and we no longer must pick a proverbial side.

In the beginning there was the word, and the word was “Go…”

‘Creation’ is a much argued about and highly emotionally charged subject. In the West it is curiously based around whether we subscribe to one theory or another… e.g. the ‘big bang’ or the 7 days of biblical Genesis, but the problem here lies in assuming that creation itself was a singular event that happened, that it is somehow confined to one moment in the past – that it was a single completed event. 

No matter how far back in time we go to try and explain how something ‘began’, there is always something even earlier to explain. It is truly the biggest ‘whodunit’ mystery ever written.

For example, if god ‘did it’ just before having a Sunday rest, where did He/She/They get their supplies and slippers from? If the big bang is responsible, then how did it come about? In what state, place, or dimension were those chemical elements suspended on the run up to the noisy start of our Universe? Neither of these lines of historical enquiry are particularly helpful as they lead to more questions, anchored in the concept of historic time.

If we consider instead that creation is in the NOW that it is ongoing, that we ARE it happening back then, now and tomorrow, then these arguments become redundant (although they remain fascinating). 

We are constantly creating ourselves, literally. From general procreation and birth of our own species (directly from our own cells, our energy or life force and our mind-boggling DNA blueprints) to the day to day, minute to minute personal interactions we have with each other and the world we inhabit. We are constantly thinking and doing, acting and reacting. We are in a process of creation with each other and all that our universe holds, including the perceived empty space (which I think of as holding ‘potential’). 

From looking at the trees and hearing the birds sing and chatter, to smelling the salt in sea air and tasting our coffee in the morning as the sun glimmers upon the surface of our worldly surroundings and illuminates our senses. As we interact with each other we motivate, challenge (and even create blocks or difficulties as well as opportunities). In all of this we are in the act of creating.

As we breathe, we literally create, destroy, and create anew, in an eternal cycle. When we breathe in, we ‘in-spire’ (draw new) and when we then breathe out, we ‘ex-pire’ (transform). Just by waking and breathing each day, we are creating our own existence, together. Feeling inspired yet?

Where we begin to (or increasingly) apply our conscious self-awareness of this act of collaborative creation and all that follows, we can begin to appreciate the sheer magnitude of our minds’ capabilities (even in the smallest tasks), we also begin to see the ‘divine spark’ that is in each of us.

(As a side note, this is why I am always happy to see and accept a dishevelled and unpreened self, to not spend all of my time seeking physical acceptance or ‘perfection’. I will never be perfectly presented because I am not a finished product. I am still in the act of creation.)

So in summary, when creation begun, (assuming there was a beginning) and however you ‘storyboard’ the event that essentially brought ‘nothingness in to somethingness’ whether from unconscious cosmic disruption or from some intelligent source, the only thing that was needed was inertia – some kind of intention to create. I believe that this is where it all began – with the word ‘Go’. 

What is ‘go’? Well, put simply ‘go’ is what happens when intention meets action, giving rise to what we experience as Conscious Awareness.

Science and spirituality are singing from the same hymn sheet, albeit in different languages. If both are determined to uphold mystique with Latin phraseology, then they are singing the same song but to different backing tracks. Both religious and scientific outlooks are lenses, through which people choose to address the big questions. They are methods of perception. They are not mutually exclusive nor are they even contradictory. In fact, they inform one another to the extent that there are ‘trends’ in ‘what to assume’. These trends are generally known as paradigms. 

A paradigm is where there is a kind of unofficial collective agreement that certain underpinning fundamentals are ‘true’, and these paradigms shift across time and space. Examples of paradigm shifts are when collectively, the thinkers, teachers and investigators of a particular culture agree (or perhaps unconsciously collude) and go from one set of underpinning principles to another. E.g. where the Earth went from being the stoic centre of the cosmos to its rightful place chugging its way around the Sun. Similarly, despite the ancient Greeks already figuring it out, for eons it was held that the Earth was flat until observations of ships ‘sinking’ into the horizon suggested a rather more spherical countenance. On the religious side of life, in the West we have shifted from dark concepts of inherent sin, hell and damnation to rather brighter outlooks of spirituality, love and acceptance. Not because there has been a shift from any particular religion being wrong to right per se, but because so many have taken off old ill-fitting, broken specs held together with a finger-plaster and instead tried on a healthier new prescription of multi-perspective vary-focal, reaction lenses that also include scientific ideas as well as spiritual ones. 

“A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”

 Max Planck

In more modern science, there is also a gradual shift away from the Newtonian ‘materialist’ model (a universe of ‘us people who experience the world and the stuff out there in the world’) to one of non-duality (we are all ‘one’) or, the medical model of human experience where for example it was assumed that ‘consciousness is an accidental by-product of the biological brain’ but now the evidence for an untethered consciousness is persuading change of heart (and mind, boom-boom).

What all this means is that freethinking relies on learning HOW to think and not WHAT to think.

Sceptics are secret believers and true believers are sceptical

Two ends of the same spectrum. The irony of “skepticism” and “atheism” as generally fashionably purported… is that they are both erroneously used to make belief statements.

To be atheist is to say, ‘no belief in god’ – NOT ‘there is no god’. A nuanced but important difference. The latter is a statement of belief, while the former is undecided and open to being convinced.

The sceptic who says there is ‘no such thing as UFOS/ghosts/extended consciousness etc.’ is making a belief statement which is actually the opposite of being sceptical. Similarly, as above, it means ‘no belief in UFOs/Ghost/extended consciousness etc.’. 

There may not be evidence to sway some to believe in a thing – e.g. the existence of a god or the efficacy of crystal healing – but this is not the same saying that God and Crystal Healing do not exist.

Serious scientists without the bias of their cultural paradigm tend toward mystical or spiritual outlooks – because ideas of nonduality become needed and arguments about semantics and ‘rightness’ become redundant.

Beware of the Dog(ma)

From my own encounters of anomalous or ‘paranormal’ phenomena, what I or anyone else might have experienced is relative, personal and entirely subjective. So, who in the hell is anyone whose brain was not processing the experience to declare it irrelevant, mistaken or even fictitious? On what authority? Surely, not one of an assumed personal correctness of certainty? That would sound suspiciously un-sceptical. It would sound a lot like assumption, belief and closed-mindedness.

Besides, people report phenomena as it is – their own personal experience in real time influenced by all sorts of infinite things and relayed in our limited language. They are not stating newly decreed existential facts about the nature of universe. 

“I saw a ghost!” 

…is likely to be equivalent to 

“I’ve just had an experience that can be best described in the words ‘I saw a ghost!’ but I’m shocked as I don’t know what to think about the nature of reality now and I need to express this conundrum as my brain might explode)”

….and there is always someone who says “well, as a sceptic…. You are clearly mistaken/ill/lying” feeling the need to defend the position despite not being involved nor asked. In claiming not only to have a superior and correct opinion about the existence (or non-existence) of ghosts they also appear to ironically assume they have magical psychic insight in to what was really going on in someone else’s brain, mind and body despite not being involved.

What often happens in fact is that when someone is keen to dismiss and discard something which they were not involved in as being untrue or even impossible, they mistake their emotional position for intellectual rigour. The ego can help us do that when we feel challenged. When someone claims scepticism from a fast-held belief position, we call this dogma, and it is rife in academia, research and scientific media.  Ironic, considering the millennia of persecution, frustration and sabotage experienced by scientists at the hands of the church.  Fools are innocent in their ignorance, fool-hardy and open, paving the way for a journey of learning but dogmatists are ironic fools that won’t budge, they can’t learn – because they are closed, blindly stuck in their awkward positions always wondering why other people’s experiences upset them so.