Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Science Aspires to the Condition of Spirit

Science aspires to the condition of spirit.

When I wrote that down a few years ago I wanted to convey the idea that science, and the applications of science in various technologies, are taking humankind closer and closer to what many imagine (and report) to be conditions on “the spiritual plane”.

That statement presupposes that there is a “spiritual” ground or foundation to Being, and that we have some idea about the conditions of conscious existence in the spiritual realm as contrasted with our physical, material realm. Whether we accept them as true or not, we have heard of out-of-body experiences, astral travel, disembodied souls, “impossible” levitation, near-death experiences in which awareness functions separately from the physical form, and purported descriptions of “the higher side” from mediums and psychics both famous (e.g., Swedenborg, "There are two worlds, a spiritual world where angels and spirits are, and a natural world where men are.") and little known.

We are told that “spirits” not encumbered by the kind of bodies we earthbound animals have can move from place to place with the speed of thought, traveling halfway around the world in a flash. As the spirit Puck said, “I’ll put a girdle round about the earth in forty minutes.” Not exactly a flash, but not bad for the 16th Century.

Spirits appear to be free of gravity, able to float in the air and view a room from the ceiling. They can communicate telepathically, mind to mind, without spoken words, and thus can communicate instantaneously over unlimited distances. Our science fiction has entertained us with spiritually advanced beings who can control spaceships and other objects with their minds alone, or mentally heal serious wounds in a few seconds.

Whether you believe in such conditions of being or not, please imagine them and then look at the direction of scientific and technological developments. Two and more centuries ago, with no trains or automobiles or airplanes, no radio or television or telephones, it took from dawn till night to travel to a town we of today can reach by car in an hour. It took days to get somewhere which we can reach today in a plane in a couple of hours. We can sit in our homes and watch what is taking place on another continent or on the Moon or Mars. While people once waited for weeks for letters to make their way over land or sea, meanwhile deprived of all contact with the correspondent, today we can speak with someone thousands of miles away as if she were in our own kitchen. As Freyashawk commented on Yves’ blog, “Through the internet, physical distance has been conquered and one has the freedom to travel effortlessly from continent to continent.”

I don’t need to catalogue any more of the accomplishments of science to get my point across, but I will add a few other things which I believe that science will tend toward whether it achieves them or not: Almost instant travel and transport by breaking bodies and objects down and reassembling them at another location (“Beam me up, Scotty!”). Anti-gravity. What we would now call “holographic” methods of both seeing and speaking with (and perhaps feeling) three dimensional forms of people who are actually at a distance. The use of nanotechnology or a development thereof to accomplish swift cures and healings which we today would look upon as miracles. One of my favorite dreams is of a system of air conditioning which cools or heats the air in a building directly, without the need for circulating the air with fans or passing it through any mechanical device.

And I must keep in mind that every time I’ve read a forecast of this kind written by a person in a past era, it has always failed to foresee some revolutionary invention or discovery that opened completely new territory.

I had intended today to write about a yellowing paperback I happened to uncover on my bookshelf a week ago, THE UNOBSTRUCTED UNIVERSE, by Steward Edward White. I couldn’t recall ever hearing of it, and have no idea how I happened to have it, but I read it – skimming a lot – and found some interesting points which are pertinent to the present blog entry and to a much-needed definition of “spirit” and “spirituality”.

“Spirituality means too many things to too many people.” Yes, like the words “God” and “prayer”. Those are words without clear and agreed-upon referents.

I plan to talk about the book soon.


  1. Will you permit me to nit-pick? Doesn't most of what you have said refer to technology rather than science, whose role is merely the knowing, rather than the doing?

    The knowing of western science has not got round yet to affirming the existence of disembodied spirits. I'm not saying that holds me back from believing, but I try to believe as little as possible. Other "sciences" maybe have affirmed the existence of disembodied spirits, but they reach their goals with the use of intuition and metaphor rather than the scientific rigour which discovers more or less unarguably how our physical world ticks.

    The question of whether there is anything other than a physical realm needs its answers updating, because Swedenborg for example was a theorist as well as an observer. His theories may be replaced by others which reflect the contribution of psychoneurology and other sciences.

    To me---sorry to pre-empt your next, but I've said it already on my blog---awareness of spirit is closely connected with prayer, appreciation and gratitude, which may not have clear referents but they don't need any.

    I would like to put "spirituality" into indefinite quarantine because it has been corrupted from all sides; and I am convinced we can do without it on the basis that spirit is in everyone and all things and needs no special words or theories.

  2. My only 'quarrel' with all of this is based on an unstated premise that human beings somehow have made great strides in knowledge through the centuries. Yet, people spoke of 'flying craft' from the dawn of time and there are architectural wonders from ancient civilisations that could not have been possible without extensive complex 'scientific' knowledge.

    As for the 'spiritual', I refuse to believe that ANY contemporary sage or seer has been able to see farther than any sage or seer in ages past. Suleiman wrote that 'There is nothing new under the Sun' and I believe that to be the case. What contemporary science has achieved is nothing more than rediscovery of universal truths that probably were known in another age...

    Technology has made us arrogant, and yet we are prey to the same flaws and weaknesses as every one else. If you read ancient poetry and study ancient myths, you will see references to experiences that mirror our own 'modern' discoveries.

    One only need read the Edda to find a vivid description of a nuclear catastrophe. It would be a mistake to suppose that people who used fable and creative symbols to illustrate lessons did so because they were somehow incapable of 'scientific' logic.

    What we know of the past probably represents no more than a fragment. After all, it was only a few decades ago that the ancient myths of Canaan were discovered at Ras Shamra.

    For centuries, Troy was considered a myth until the ruins were uncovered.

    As for scientific 'evidence' of the unseen world of the spirit, in my opinion, science is no more than one language among many used by humanity. No doubt it will find a way to explain or describe aspects of this other reality satisfactorily at some point, but the fact that it has failed to do so at this point in time means nothing.

    People often have responded to atheists who challenge the existence of God with the question: 'Can you DISPROVE His existence?' Science has not been able to disprove that which it does not comprehend or cannot describe in any precise formula yet. Those who attempt to make Science their God mistake a mere discipline for something that cannot be encapsulated in human terms.

    One discipline that fascinates me is that of 'science fiction'. It is interesting to discover the scientific discoveries or inventions of the future in the 'science fiction' of today. Philip Dick, for example, wrote of a world that did not exist at his time and yet so much of his 'fantasy' has become fact.

    This emboldens me to believe that telepathy and astral projection will become commonplace in our future as there are quite a few science fiction writers who have been able to describe a society where these powers are as mundane as writing or reading. It may be wishful thinking on my part, of course, but much of the greatness of our species lies in our ability to dream.

  3. Well, again I agree with you Freyashawk, especially that there is nothing new under the sun. However I have the urge to rediscover, in my generation and often personally, that which has been known in the past. If the insights of the Upanishads, for example, were rewritten today in the West, they would be written differently.