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Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Spiritual, Science & Religious

The Spiritual and The Religious

An important distinction needs to be made between spirituality in religion and spirituality as opposed to religion.

In recent years, spirituality in religion often carries connotations of the believer's faith being more personal, less dogmatic, more open to new ideas and myriad influences, and more pluralistic than the faiths of established religions. It also can connote the nature of a believer's personal relationship or "connection" with their God or belief system, as opposed to the general relationship with the Deity understood to be shared by all members of that faith.

Those who speak of spirituality as opposed to religion generally believe that there are many "spiritual paths" and that there is no objective truth about which is the best path to follow. Rather, adherents of this definition of the term emphasize the importance of finding one's own path to God, rather than following what others say works. The best way to describe this view is: the path which makes the most sense is the correct one (for oneself). Many adherents of orthodox religions who consider spirituality to be an aspect of their religious experience are more likely to contrast spirituality with secular "worldliness" than with the ritual expression of their religion.

Others of a more New Age disposition hold that spirituality is not religion, per se, but the active and vital connection to a force, spirit, or sense of the deep self. As cultural historian and yogi William Irwin Thompson put it, "Religion is not identical with spirituality; rather religion is the form spirituality takes in civilization." (1981, 31)

The Spiritual and Science

Analysis of spiritual qualities in science is bedeviled by the imprecision of spiritual concepts, the subjectivity of spiritual experience, and the amount of work required to translate and map observable components of a spiritual system into empirical evidence. Nevertheless, certain connections have been made. Prominent scientists such as Niels Bohr, David Bohm and Anton Zeilinger have articulated spiritual consequences of quantum physics. The yearly fora between physicists (including Zeilinger) and the Dalai Lama, one of which has been published under the title of 'Discussions with the Dalai Lama', are exemplary explorations of the overlaps between these areas.

Rudolf Steiner and many people in the anthroposophic tradition have attempted to apply scientific methodology to the study of spiritual phenomena to shape a spiritual science. This is not an attempt to redefine natural science, but to explore inner experience, especially our thinking, with the same rigor as we apply to outer (sensory) experience. The scientific criteria of intersubjectivity and repeatability have, however, rarely been met here.

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