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Spirituality and Science: Understanding and Healing the Divide

Humankind has spent at least the last 300 years in a scientific paradigm. It has shaped the way modern humans think and view reality. There is much that science alone has provided for the advancement of humanity, but the time has come in which science cannot go much farther without spirituality, and spirituality can benefit from embracing science.

Growing up with a professor for a mother meant that I was often surrounded by academics and scholars who adhered to the scientific paradigm above all else. I was taught the importance of critical thinking, encouraged to read and explore intellectual material, and told that academic achievement was the key to my success. In a lot of ways this was nurturing and supportive, but by the time I was in my mid-teens I recognized that my deeper interest was in spirituality, and it turned out to be much harder to find support for this pursuit.

Anybody on the spiritual path will agree that at times there is some fear of being called "weird", "woo", or even "stupid" when discussing their spirituality with someone clearly entrenched in a scientific materialist mindset. There is a lot of criticism and disrespect for anything outside of the scientific perspective. In many ways this is understandable, because there have been and continue to be many phonies and con-artists in the field of spirituality. On the other hand, the long reign of the dominant scientific perspective has caused science to be seen as the ultimate authority, which has edged out exploration of spiritual realities. Science has boxed itself in and closed its mind. This greatly limits humanity's evolutionary potential.

Science and spirituality can learn so much from each other if we have the willingness to hear each other. When spiritually-inclined people feel criticized by the scientifically-inclined, their knee-jerk reaction is to think that the scientific realm does not welcome them. This rejection tends to create a dislike and distrust of science, leading to extreme imbalanced views that are justifiably seen as ridiculous by the science-minded. The science-minded then feel more turned-off and hardened to the possibilities of spirituality. It is a never-ending cycle until someone decides to open themselves to the possibility of the other perspective.

The learning and healing comes when we let in seemingly opposing perspectives. A scientific, intellectual perspective can help us to question and dismantle faulty and unhealthy spiritual beliefs. A spiritual perspective can open the heart to love and expand the mind to new possibilities. Maybe there are many spiritual discoveries that we can make with the help of a more expanded science. The healing connection between spirituality and science could lead to a wise and discerning spiritual seekers who know how to question themselves and spiritual material in the pursuit of truth, and scientists who are willing to go further than before for the love and benefit of humanity.

The deep end of spirituality deals with the ineffable, the formless; that which the intellect cannot grasp. There are mysteries to life that may be impossible to solve. Science needs to recognize its limits and humbly hold space for the mystery when it cannot go any further. Our intellect is helpful on many stages of the spiritual path, but it cannot take us to the spiritual goal of union with the divine. Any views that oppose the beliefs of our intellect help us to question and eventually melt our egoic barriers and humbly surrender to incomprehensibility of the divine. In this way, the conflict between those of us on either side of the spirituality/science divide is healing, awakening, and carrying us all to our ultimate home.

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