Spirituality, Science and Religion
By having been directly exposed to all of them during my life, in this post I would like to talk about the differences about spirituality, science and religion and how they could work together to build up a better society for us as human beings.
"Among the great things which are to be found among us,
the Being of Nothingness is the greatest".
- Leonardo Da Vinci -
We are used, as individuals, to make distinctions within reality. Making distinctions is the necessary process to make sense of, interact and participate in a Universe that otherwise would be too vast and overwhelming to be experienced. Over centuries, we have created field of knowledge that helped us to study and make sense of many aspects of our own existence and about the reality we found our self into. Religion and science are probably the most influential and important creations made by humans in order to explain how and why existence exists. A third option in addressing those questions is offered by spirituality (what I prefer to refer as Consciousness work), an alternative that has been present for centuries in most of ancient communities but that nowadays does not get the necessary attention.
For those who are new to my blog, I am a big advocate for consciousness work because I consider it to be the most valuable investment each individual should make for its own personal life and for the collective wellness. For how obvious it might sound, each society reflects the level of personal development underwent by each single individual and I have personally realized that before being exposed to the enormous amount of education and knowledge we go through in our culture, each individual must know itself. Without this premise, not only all the acquired knowledge will be misused, but it is likely that the content of knowledge itself will be framed in the wrong perspective.
Whether you have realized it or not, all you know in form of intellectual knowledge consist in something you have learned thanks to the work of someone else that has created that piece of information in order to explain how a specific aspect of reality works. Goes naturally that the quality of knowledge and the conclusions have been drawn by that individual are directly influenced by the angle in which he/she was looking at reality.
As I have already said in one of my first post "Enlightenment: What It Is And What It is Not", consciousness work or spirituality has nothing to do with spirits, angels, visions or whatever else you have been told. It simply refers to the desire and curiosity to know what is true about yourself and the reality you live into. Unlikely other form of knowledge, consciousness work bases its conclusions on facts and evidences that cannot be shown to others: they can be pointed in form of riddles, metaphors and poems but the actual core of the information cannot be communicate directly. In other words, it must be experienced directly by each of us. This single point is what makes this work hard to be tackled and it represents the number one reason why a lot of skepticism turns around it. In a materialistic society as the one we live, if you cannot prove something scientifically or mathematically means that that evidence does not exist.
How consciousness work differs from science and religion and why should it come first?
Consciousness work tackles fundamental existential questions with a different approach. Unlike science, completely projected outwardly, spirituality focuses inwardly; unlike religion, completely based on faith, spirituality relies on direct experience.
Science starts its investigation with a wrong assumption, that is, that the reality that is unfolding around us is material and physical. It studies reality by doing measurements and quantification of objects considered to be made out of something specific like wood, plastic, cells, tissues, energy and so on taking those measurements as absolute values that describe objectively the reality we live. Those measurements are the objective prove that reality is in a specific way and it cannot be otherwise. Though the arise of quantum physics and the theory of relativity have changed this way of looking at reality, most of scientists working in the academic environment today cannot fathom the possibility that their measurements are totally relative, that they do not represent an objective fact but a measurement strongly influenced by our way to perceive reality.
What science is measuring is not an objective reality but the limits of its own mind.
Since at science class we are taught to be made out of cells, bones and muscles among other stuffs, children have no other options than trusting this quite plausible description of our self conducting their life accordingly. Being physical humans is an assumption so rooted in the western culture that few people would invest their time to question it. Rather than an investment, it would be seen a waste of time. Talking by direct experience, our mind is so convinced about being a physical human that it will take years before this fact starts to be seen for what it is: a belief with no real evidences.
To experience a radical shift in this perspective, you need to learn a new way to look at the world and at yourself. You need to focus not anymore outwardly but inwardly ("Look Within You", "No-Self: The First Step Towards You", "Neti-Neti: Who Am I?","Who Is Behind The Scene?"), you need to open up to the possibility that what you have unconsciously learned and taken from granted is the conclusion of someone looking at reality with a limited perspective. Your attitude should be of a man that accepts the possibility to be someone that does not really know what is talking about ("The Importance of Not-Knowing") and that is just automatically repeating words by hearsay.
Obviously we cannot know and learn every content of reality. Knowledge is infinite and it would be impossible to store all the information humans have created. But by learning how to look at the world in the right perspective, you can learn any piece of information you are interested in by framing it in alignment with your own direct realization. That piece of information would not be anymore stored unconsciously and blindly as something truth but put in the right context. It is not anymore about how much you know, but how you conscious you are.
Knowledge without consciousness is toilet paper.
The main difference about consciousness work and science is that the former does not indoctrinate you with objective facts but gives you the ability to look at those facts independently and in the right perspective. It does not give you content, it gives you the context in which the content can be wisely framed. One of the main objections to this statement would be that science is based on numbers, statistic, measurements, logic, a rational approach that is far from being a form of indoctrination. As a former person working in academic I would like to ask: "Why have we taken logic and rationality as references to describe reality? Who has decided that those forms of relating to reality are more valuable than others?". Can you open up to the possibility that reality can be experienced and described without the use of logic?
Consciousness work has taught me that prior to logic and rationality there is something else. Something that gives the possibility to those forms of describing reality to exist. That something is what you and reality is. It is the context where all the content comes from. I cannot point my finger and show it to you. I cannot describe it to you in a any objective way. It stand by itself, it is self-evidence. You just need to look within and find it.
Religion has been for centuries the vehicle by which human could get closer to God. I do not know how religion looked like centuries ago but the religion I got in contact with as a child has been a total disaster and far to represent a healthy vehicle to know God. Judgment, punishment, and sense of guiltiness were an important part of the teaching I received. I have been told that there was a God up into the sky looking at me and writing down anything I had done wrong, a list that would have been presented to me in the afterlife. For how stupid and naive it might sound, I have believe to each single words. As a child, raised in a catholic family and culture where thousands of people seemed to agree to this education, what choice did I have?
Probably due to my particular sensitivity to the subject, I have learned to behave and act in life in the right way mostly for my unwillingness to face one day fire, hell and angry devils holding pitchforks in the afterlife. As a child I took those information as truth and without any questioning skills I had played the part of the good guy under the terror of future punishments. The idea of God was given to me was an authority that loves is children but that can still get pissed off as our earthly father. More importantly, God for me was an idea, a concept, an abstraction that might exist but of which I was left with nothing but faith at the end of my day. Prayers were made, but who knows who and if someone was listening?
For me consciousnesses work has been in this regards a liberation, an encounter that since the beginning looked as a much more sensible way to go. When I have first approached the non-duality teachings what has mostly struck me was the total absence of judgments and contents. In this work my only goal was to honestly observe myself. Of course pointers were given to help me understanding what this work was about but there were no attempts in filling my brain up with a particular knowledge or doctrine. There were no comparisons between one culture and another: it seemed to me a work that each human could do independently of their race, tradition and culture, something that could literally unify everything without labels.
With time I made this work my own religion, a religion that had no need to create names to indicate That which is at the source of everything. A religion that taught me to look within to discover myself. A religion that taught me that what I ultimately am cannot be distinct from anything else within reality. A religion that showed me that any distinctions and separations are ultimately an illusion coming from my identification with mind. A religion that pointed directly to me as the only responsible for the creation of my own life as human with no space for blaming and naming others for my suffering. A religion that values acceptance over judgment. A religion where faith had no space in addressing existential questions: faith did not represent anymore the base on which to walk life but an instrument at my disposal to trust the unfolding process of life once the real "I" had been discovered. A religion where direct experience was essential to get to know myself and That which is at the very bottom of existence. A religion that showed me that myself and That are the same entity. A religion that encourages me to behave more consciously in life not because of fear of being punished but simply because love is the right choice.
Much more could be said but I think I gave enough indications why I signed up for this inner journey. I would like instead to conclude this post by giving a personal idea how consciousness work, science and religion (and many other human creations such as politics) could work together for a better society. Integration is the answer. For convenience we will probably keep calling these different branches of knowledge with their own names but I believe that many cultural barriers that keep separate science, religion and spirituality have to be destroyed in order to create something more unified.
Science and therefore scientists should be more willing to embrace the "unseen", to accept that reality is not only represented by what we can perceive and put in words. That there is a fundamental mystical aspect about reality of which everyone should become conscious of. On the base of this experiential but not objectively shareable truth, the materialistic vision of reality would be finally overcome and science would become more willing to invest its time, energy and economical resources to make important breakthroughs in understanding how reality works.
Specific techniques used by monks and spiritual people such as meditation, yoga and holotropic breath-work could be used as accepted tools in investigating the big mind of the Universe rather than relying only on measurements and numbers. A huge progress could be done if the totality of science would accept the fundamental role of mind and emotions in the arising of diseases instead of being too focus on genetics. Also the role and the function of the brain would take a different shift by questioning the assumptions of mind and consciousness being a mere by-product of the brain.
I like and strongly support the efforts of science in helping society to be a better place to live but I became directly conscious of its current limitations in addressing reality. What it has being doing is great and all the discoveries made so far represent important progresses in improving our life but they need to be re-contextualized in a better frame and they need some integration with non conventional ways in investigating reality.
The inner journey has to become the starting point for scientists to look at reality with different eyes.
Regarding religion, my hope is that it will become a tool at the disposal of humans in order to better navigate their earthly life. From my personal experience the religion of today has no ability to convey important existential questions and it obliges people to rely on faith to believe in the possibility of a better life: it does not give directly to people the awareness of their own power and authority. The existence of different religions are the testament of different ways to approach existential questions and I strongly believe that each culture and tradition are pointing to the same "thing". Unfortunately the original message has been corrupted by the human mind leading to the birth of divisions, conflicts and suffering.
I personally would like religious institutions to become a simpler but more efficient point of reference in creating a healthy community, in supporting needy person and in becoming devoid of all the rigid rules and impositions they imposed to themselves and to others as some sort of absolute truths of which they have never had a direct experience of. My wish is that consciousnesses work will become the religion of tomorrow, without any dogma and commandments but a simple vehicle that invites people to question the obvious and that is able to guide people in becoming more aware about their nature and the reality they live into.
Thanks for reading.