Are science and spirituality compatible?
Of course they are. Science deals with the ‘outer’ of things and spirituality is of the ‘inner’ of things – which science has little to say about, other than correlation with the outer. Readers of my posts on Materialism and Plant Intelligence and the Imaginal Realm will be familiar with this. In a sense, they are complementary.
I recently came across a neat way of expressing the difference in a report of a talk given by Ravi Ravindra to the London Group of the Scientific & Medical Network.
Ravi is reported as defining his understanding of the word spiritual as pointing to subtler levels of reality than the body, or indeed than the mind – and the mind is the tool to acquire knowledge of the spiritual through approaches such as meditation. Such knowledge is directly apprehended knowledge – objective in its own way. “With a quiet mind spiritual mysteries can become dissolved and realised.” This knowledge cannot be directly transmitted to others.
Science also starts with mysteries to be solved, but using the active, intellectual, logical mind. The unknown sought by science is knowable, and once understood, this understanding can be transmitted to others. Science becomes institutionalised to organise this knowledge – which is not actually possible with spirituality – although of course individual religions can organise their own paths which can help along the way.
Ravi compared the processes involved: science uses experiments and spirituality uses experience. Experiments are external; experience is internal – which is where we came in…
This whole subject of inner and outer is of course related to the question of consciousness, which is now the subject of much focus, after being on the ‘too hard’ pile for decades. There is an interesting recent IONS paper pointing to the fundamental role of consciousness: Consciousness and the New Paradigm, by Adrian David Nelson.