Our human existence will not sustain a society which believes that either science or spirituality are absolutes, with the other being ultimately illegitimate or inconsequential.
I want to use an example of science to explain its relationship to spirituality, because I believe that is the one most people have the most difficulty understanding.
Consider Newton’s Third Law. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. The statement is that, simply, for every interaction, there is a pair of forces acting on the two interacting objects. The size of the forces on the first object equals the size of the force on the second object. The direction of the force on the first object is opposite to the direction of the force on the second object. Forces always come in pairs – equal and opposite, action-reaction force pairs.
You hug someone, and your physical force (energy) leaves a physical impression. The hug is equal in physical impact but opposite in the physical touch points of the embrace for each giver and receiver. Your arms create an impression on their body, and theirs on yours.
Remember that energy is a force that exists in many forms, but all with a physical manifestation. Staying with physics, the four basic fundamental forces are strong, weak, gravitational, and electromagnetic. All the known forces of nature can be traced to these fundamental forces. The fundamental forces are characterized on four criteria: the types of particles that experience the force, the relative strength of the force, the range over which the force is effective, and the nature of the particles that mediate the force.
Spirituality is an intangible energy (force) of existence, which also manifests itself, ultimately, in a physical manner. The arena of thought and emotion. Have you ever thought of someone in a moment, and then later found out they were thinking about you at the same time? Or, that you both had a similar experience or reaction to something shared at the same time? This is quite common among people with close family, platonic, or romantic ties, yet it is mostly ignored by academics.
There is an energy at play between two objects. The impact to/upon/from these objects is easily understood to be equal. The challenging part comes in understanding the opposite reaction of energy. It may simply be the distance separating the objects. It may be differing ways by which each object expels that energy. Perhaps you and a distant loved one both had an anxiety attack at the same time, but you chose to run it off, converting the reactive energy into something physically promotive — whereas your loved one ate a bag of chips, had two slices of pie, and made a pizza — converting the reactive energy into something physically demanding.
Perhaps it is just that simple, or perhaps it is much more complex. It could mean many things and look many ways. The greatest part about that is that we still have so much to learn. What we don’t know greatly exceeds what we do know, and it is what causes absolutes. Our limited set of acquired experiences. When we accept that fact, and see it as an opportunity to learn instead of pontificate, only then will we be liberated as a human civilization.
Science is powerful. Spirituality is powerful. Arguably the most beautiful but sadly forgotten — and critically important thing — is that they are both borne from the same place of power. Both are products of socratic thought, largely gifted to us from Plato and Aristotle.
Plato most notably expanded Socrates’ presentation of the ideas of morality, ethics, love, and the soul (along with mathematics, language, and basic scientific reasoning).
Aristotle furthered the scientific reasoning, and expanded Plato’s seeds of metaphysics. The first principles of being, identity and change, space and time, causality, necessity and possibility. Metaphysics includes questions about the nature of consciousness, and the relationship between mind and matter. The word “metaphysics” comes from two Greek words that, together, literally mean “after or behind or among [the study of] the natural.”
Science and spirituality are not in competition with one another. Science and spirituality are intrinsically connected. Our human condition will only improve and sustain when the collective intelligence of our entire human species recognizes that both are necessary for survival.