Breaking Away From Ordinary

The Science of Spirituality

 

 

The skeptic and the believer; two sides of the same coin.

I listen to Coast to Coast AM.  I was even on the show recently; as a caller on their annual Ghost to Ghost, Halloween show.  I was the last caller of the night, and I told this story about a haunted youth hostel.

To have an encounter with a ghost presupposes the idea that there is life after death.  But is there?  The arguments for and against are many and varied.

Obviously, I stand on the side of belief.  For me, it goes deeper than just a belief though; it’s tied into my being, my experiences are real.  For me.  And really, in the inner landscape of my spirituality, that’s what ultimately matters, right?  Same for you, too, no matter which side you stand upon.

Since I am a big enough fan that I pay their membership fee, I download the podcasts of Coast to Coast and listen at my leisure.  This means I frequently listen to months-old podcasts, immediately followed more current ones.

The guest  on August 7th was Matthew Alper, and he stood on the side of the skeptics.  He said more than once that he did not accept that there was any survival of consciousness past the physical death of the body.  And he quoted a whole slew of scientific experiments and studies.

Spiritual center hasn't made onto the map yet...

I did find the premise of his book interesting, that we as humans are hard-wired to have a sense of spirituality, that there is a ‘spiritual center’ to the human brain, much as there is a language, or vision center.  I am intrigued enough by his position to want to read all he has to say about it.  Because I find it perfectly intriguing that he would find overwhelming evidence for a spiritual center.  I don’t agree with his presumed mechanism, but I do agree that we have a center in our brain, a definite physical thing.  We differ in that I believe it is there to sense the spiritual realm.

Today, I’ve been listening to a show featuring Dr. Vernon Neppe and Dr. Edward Close,  from November 2.  They are the authors of Reality Begins With Consciousness.

They also have very convincing, scientific articles, studies and research that support their point of view.  Which is, briefly, that consciousness exists separate of our physical bodies, and survives physical death.  Interestingly, in both shows, the guests used temporal lobe seizures as a point in favor of their arguments.  Yeah, it was funny to me too.

Obviously, I found the good doctors’ views more palatable, since they also track with mine.  But, in all fairness I have not read either of the books, my insights come from listening to how the guests presented themselves on the air, and reading their websites.  Both books are on my reading list, now.

But it started me considering; what a funny animal the human is, that we can look at ‘scientific evidence’ from two such diametrically opposite viewpoints and each be convinced that the ‘science’ supports our own worldview.

Blah, blah, blah, blah...

Is it a lack of experience with spiritual, or I will say, numinous matters that convinces the skeptic?  Or is it perhaps an overabundance of otherworldly encounters that drives another to eschew all contact, denying the experience of their own senses?  In other words, ‘locking it away.’  Each can have their own inner reasons for claiming there is no life after death.

Conversely, where does the believer get his faith?  What convinces a psychic that it’s more than ‘just her imagination?’

It’s all in the individual’s perception that the distinction lies.  Each one of us perceives the world just a little bit differently than the next.  Haven’t we all seen examples of people with a narrow focus?  Or with a more widely encompassing viewpoint?  The challenge to us as humans is to expand our awareness, to try and see things from another’s perspective, to engage our empathy and see the world from outside ourselves.  It’s in making that step, that forward motion to understand another that we work towards a better world.

No matter which side of the spiritual fence you stand on, I think we can all agree to that, right?

So what do you think?  What has convinced you?

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Comments on: "The Science of Spirituality" (18)

  1. When a transpersonal psychologist introduced to Jane Rboerts’ “The Nature of Personal Reality” in 1985, I felt I the world made sense for the first time. Although I enjoy encountering things like “What the Bleep” that offer me scientific evidence for my beliefs I don’t actually require such proof as what I believe comes from someplace deep inside that resonates,, from my experiences and from the effects of practices that create shifts in my energy I can feel. I like your thoughtful look at the subject.

  2. Serena,

    My comments come packaged with respect for you.

    “Obviously, I stand on the side of belief. For me, it goes deeper than just a belief though; it’s tied into my being, my experiences are real.”

    Please, Serena, explain to me, show me, prove to me that your experiences — of what, of the existence of a god? — are real and not just your interpretations of chemical reactions inside your body. You talk of what you agree with, and what you don’t agree with regarding what one or another putative expert says, but the more pertinent question is “Why do you agree or disagree?”.

    “Each one of us perceives the world just a little bit differently than the next.”

    Perceptions are interpretations, not proofs.

    “The challenge to us as humans is to expand our awareness, to try and see things from another’s perspective, to engage our empathy and see the world from outside ourselves. It’s in making that step, that forward motion to understand another that we work towards a better world. It’s in making that step, that forward motion to understand another that we work towards a better world. No matter which side of the spiritual fence you stand on, I think we can all agree to that, right?”

    I want to understand other people’s perceptions of the world, but no, I do not agree that my understanding you necessarily makes the world better. I want, for instance, to understand the mind of a fanatic who would kill a thousand people in the name of a god, or who would spread hatred for the same reason. But my understanding still leaves me considering that fanatic insane.

    Siddhartha Guatama:

    “Believe nothing, O monks, merely because you have been told it or because it is traditional, or because you yourselves have imagined it. Do not believe what your teacher tells you merely out of respect for the teacher. But whatsoever, after due examination and analysis, you find to be conducive to the good, the benefit, the welfare of all beings, that doctrine believe and cling to, and take it as your guide.”

    The only things I believe, Serena, are: 1. I am now alive. 2. I will be dead.

    My proofs? 1. People oftentimes react to what I write or what I say. 2. I’ve touched corpses.

    The rest — notions of beauty and ugliness — are all interpretations.

    Peace.

    • Hello Anthony,

      Thank you for your comments, and I appreciate your thoughtful questions.

      “Please, Serena, explain to me, show me, prove to me that your experiences — of what, of the existence of a god? — are real and not just your interpretations of chemical reactions inside your body.” Well, I can’t, at least not by any technology I have access to. My experiences are reproducible, but not under controlled or measurable conditions that I know of.

      It’s my spirituality, not an experiment or a geometry theorem, so asking me to prove it to you is inherently impossible. Nor is it fundamentally necessary. I have experienced enough of the paranormal that I have sufficient proof to convince me. I am not trying to convince anyone else of the veracity of my experiences, I leave it to the reader to decide if they want to believe, or not. Another’s belief or lack thereof does not affect my reality.

      I am open-minded enough to admit that the possibility exists it is all just chemical reactions in my brain, but the converse is also true. It’s very possible my brain’s chemical activity is tuned to detect the paranormal.

      “Perceptions are interpretations, not proofs.” In reference to our physical senses, everything is a perception/interpretation. Your eyes do not see, your skin does not feel; it is ALL an electrochemical reaction in your brain interpreting the electrochemical stimuli of the neurons.

      I physically bumped into a man who was not there, in a brightly lit hallway, which I found pretty convincing. I perceived, down the entire length of my body, the impression of man’s body pressing against mine, and the impact was enough to stop me in my tracks as I walked down the hall.

      The physical sensation of running into him was perceived, not in my skin but in my brain, the electrical impulses transmitted there from receptors in my skin, to be interpreted by more chemical reactions in the appropriate processing centers in my brain. Although it sure as hell felt like a man was pressed against my skin. My skin and sense of touch told me there was another person right in front of me, but my eyes told me the hallway was empty of any other human. Which perception was I to believe? Or was the fact that something rocked me to a stop just to be brushed away, ignored or denied because the visual sense contradicted the tactile and so the presence of another being was ‘impossible?’ This to me was proof. It may not be enough for you.

      We are working towards making a better world when we understand each other. You consider the mass-murdering fanatic insane, and I don’t know that I’d necessarily disagree with you, but such an extreme example is pushing toward the edge of the bell curve. How about this; by expanding your awareness, you perceive that the barrista making your latte was grumpy with you because she put her cat to sleep the day before. Maybe then you realize she’s grieving, and not just being a bitch to ruin your day. You empathize and so extend her a little extra sympathy instead of snapping back at her, making her feel less crappy. A win-win situation, she feels the comfort of another human’s empathy and you are in better mood too, instead of nursing resentment over what a bitch she was. It’s in the little things that we do as well as the grand that make our lives, and the live of those around us, better.

      Your quote from Siddhartha Guatama is entirely appropriate. Once again, I’m not trying to convince anyone, I’m only sharing what I’ve experienced. It even resonates with many people. But not everyone; nor is it supposed to. Everyone’s experience will vary, that is life. It’s a journey, a learning experience, and a chance to leave the world a better place when this body finally gives out. It’s not always pretty, it’s not always wonderful, parts of suck big time and others are mind-numbingly boring. But there are those moments, so beautiful, so sublime, and so awe-inspiring, that it erases any doubts in my mind of my own enduring consciousness. They touch my soul, but you do not have to admit to the soul’s existence to try and be a better human.

      C.S. Lewis said: You do not have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body. That pretty much sums up my own personal philosophy. Yours may differ, and I respect that.

      Thank you for reading.

  3. It is interesting that each year new scientific evidence appears to show that what was considered impossible is actually possible. personal experience has convinced me of the reality of the Universal Life Force Energy (the Force, spirit, etc.) it is only a matter of time before scientists are convinced of what the rest of us already know.

    Great post, thoughtful and thought provoking. Thanks so much for sharing.

  4. I used to have a religious faith and then, over time, I realized my faith moved to spirituality – not a belief in the dogma of my youth but a knowing that there is something greater than I – and that I am a part of that greater something. As I lived my life from that perspective great and wondrous things happened, in the moment. Most importantly, I could see them and learn from them and honor them.

    What the Bleep do I Know? simply put science to what I already knew and felt and honored.

    Have you seen the website for the Noetic sciences? noetic.org Much of the same information. I hang out there a bit and it’s full of good stuff.

    thanks for a great way to start my Sunday

    • Louise, I’m so glad to hear your thoughts. It’s always amazing to me to find those whose experiences resonate with mine. I will check out the website.

  5. Love this topic, post and particularly what you say here: “The challenge to us as humans is to expand our awareness, to try and see things from another’s perspective, to engage our empathy and see the world from outside ourselves. It’s in making that step, that forward motion to understand another that we work towards a better world.”

    Cheers to that! Have a fabulous Sunday. :)

  6. I agree with August about that sentence that we challenge ourselves to expand our awareness. I am not religious but deeply spiritual. Like yogaleigh, my spirituality stems from my own feelings and experiences – the truth, as I know it, resonates with me on a deep level.

    Having said that, I think it’s wonderful that scientists pursue this question and even that they come up with opposing viewpoints. The brain is beautiful and complex, and the fact that two people can take the same set of “facts” and draw opposite conclusions is part of what makes life so interesting.

    Great post!

    • I find that more and more people are using the phrase, “I’m not religious, but I’m spiritual.” I’m so pleased to hear you are walking your own path and staying true to yourself.

  7. Serena, I’m a skeptic. I’m a trained anthropologist and archaeologist. I’ve worked under some famous academics. I was taught the importance of “cultural relativity.” I’ve witnessed the power of personal belief from culture to culture. Seeing is believing, or is believing seeing?

    I’m a skeptic, and yet… there have been things I cannot explain. Such as why I can be given a dowsing rod and find water. Shakespeare said it all, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

    • Debra, skepticism is healty, cynicism is just sad. I am skeptical of some of my own experiences, some I discard from my paranormal files after I review them. Shakespeare had it right.

  8. Hello my dear friend. Sorry I am late getting over here. I think you know where I stand on this point. I was raised a good little girl in the church. But through the years I found myself drawn more in a spiritual direction. There is something beyond our basic understanding in this world. But like August and Julie, what I really liked was the idea of expanding my own personal awareness in regards to others so that I might be a better person for it.

    • Always welcome, Debra! It’s always an amazing thing to me how very many people I’ve met, both in person and digitally, who are spiritually open. So very glad to have connected with you!

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