Spirituality is not physics

church door

Spirituality is not physics. Lots of people who are interested and immersed in spirituality get confused about this. Just because something feels/ is perceived/ is intuited a certain way, does not mean that it is actually like that. It’s obvious really. Spirituality deals with subjective experience. Science deals with learning how to predict what will occur in various different situations. Some examples:

eg. I have a feeling/perception that all is one and everything is interconnected. Therefore everything in the universe is actually one and interconnected.

This is not necessarily true. Maybe all is not actually one. What if there is another universe that we are not aware of that is separate from ours? The feeling all is one is a description of the subjective experience, and as a description of subjective experience that is fully valid. But to extrapolate and say there is only one principle active in the universe is taking a huge leap and may well be wrong. There could be two or more principles at work that are not reducible into one. Or maybe there is only one principle at work in the universe – but this is for physics and science to look into and verify. A claim about the entire universe cannot necessarily be validated on the back of your own personal experience or the experiences of a few people.

Another example:

I have an intuition that all is consciousness and that nothing is separate from consciousness. Therefore the entire universe is consciousness.

Again, this doesn’t mean that all is actually consciousness. There may be many things that we are not aware of or there may be several other possible explanations for our subjective experience. We are not conscious of everything, we know lots of things lie outside our field of conscious perception and maybe there are some things that we will never know due to our inherent limitations, just as a frog will never understand calculus. Just because everything in our personal world appears in our consciousness does not mean that everything in the universe is consciousness.

Does this invalidate spirituality – no, not at all. It just gives it a place, and a very important place in my view, in the public discourse. Spirituality tells us that who we think we are, namely an individual entity with free will and choice, which is largely based on our subjective experience of ourselves, is not correct. Spirituality challenges us to critically look at our subjective experience of the world, discard our illusions and align it with reality. This process has the wonderful by-product of making life much easier to live, as this false understanding of who we are permeates throughout our life causing much unnecessary stress, neuroticism and suffering.

We will be doing spirituality a great service if we do not use fuzzy logic to extrapolate our own insights gained from our own experiences into grandiose statements about the workings of the entire universe and pretend we now understand how the whole universe (or universes) work.

I should add a caveat here. Strictly speaking science also does not tell us what is true. Science helps us predict what happens in given circumstances, and generates theories and equations that help us do this. Even if these theories accurately and fully describe the universe as we know it, it doesn’t mean that this is actually how the universe works. Practically we can take the science to be ‘true’, but the reality may be different, more complex, more mysterious. Or we may learn more at a later date that conflicts with our current scientific understanding and then have to amend our theories to accommodate the newly discovered phenomena.

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One thought on “Spirituality is not physics

  1. During dreamless sleep, there is no experience – spiritual or otherwise – of any world or universe. Therefore, it is safe to conclude that the world and the universe only exist in our imagination.

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