I want to talk about what the word spirituality means to me. I have no interest to go into the semantics of the word here or the dictionary definitions, but the spirit, the actual real world meaning behind the word. For me spirituality means connection to the truth. That is when religious people say they have a connection to God or Jesus, they are expressing their spiritual understanding of the world. Whether or not they are actually being spiritual, or merely delusion, is another story. To explain what connection to the truth means, we have to look at another word; science.
Science, to me, means knowledge of the truth. Although in our world the word science has two almost opposite meanings, and I sometimes use it as both. The actual meaning is, as I just stated, knowledge of the truth, and from that we can expand into the scientific method which is simply search for knowledge of the truth. The mockery of science perpetrated by all sorts of hierarchical institutions is a religion with pre-set dogma that one should not mess with that is originally based on a few scientific, or seemingly scientific, observations. Yet from there the institutions grew into something horrendous.
What is the difference between understanding and knowledge of the truth, then? Understanding is an innate, subjective grasp of the truth and the ability to use the truth to do something in the real world, whereas knowledge is more second hand information that you may understand rationally, but not being able to do anything with the knowledge. Let’s take sex as an example. Every “normal” teenager in our modern culture understands some of the basics of how sex works; the difference between girls and boys, what goes in where, and what can be born afterwards. Whether or not the teen has any personal experience with sex they learn these concepts from TV, school sex ed class (hardly) or from friends. The actual experience of sex is, however, quite different to all of the expectations and worries a person might have beforehand. Understanding is more tied to experience and being able to practice something, and knowledge is more abstract, an idea you heard somewhere.
You might argue that knowledge and understanding mean the same thing, but that doesn’t matter. In this case I’m using them in this way to illustrate something.
Our schools (in the best case scenario) teach knowledge. They teach science, not spirituality, i.e. they teach abstract ideas which some students might be able to incorporate into their lives in a beneficial way, but it doesn’t work the same for everyone. And that is not the fault of the student. Perhaps somewhat contradictorily this teaching method where we sit in class and listen to the teacher works better for more practical professions, and not so well for abstract ones. It is partially due to the memorization which is inherent in our schools. If for example you are studying to be a pharmacist or an engineer you simply have to learn that some things work and others don’t. There is no debate on whether or not a cardboard box can be used to support a block of metal weighing a ton. In more abstract matters such as the study of history, archeology, metaphysics and theology there is never an easy answer. That does mean, however, that there is no truth behind it. We can and should have debates over when were the pyramids of Egypt built and by whom, what exists beyond the physical, is there a God, or rather what is God, and what is the meaning of life. The deeper you go into realms abstract and spiritual, the more difficult it begins to have a definite answer. There is a definite answer to who built the pyramids, even if we’ll never find it out, but there is an answer. The same does not necessarily apply to metaphysical matters, which does not mean it is a waste of time to ask the questions. You might even find an answer, yet the trick is the answer is going to subjective. The truth is objective, but the answer is not.
This ambivalence has lead much of the scientific world to regard the spiritual as meaningless, delusional or quaint entertainment at best. That is not true, however. If you don’t see meaning in something, does not mean there is none, it simply means you don’t see it, such as you looking at a text written in Aramaic and not being able to read it. The shortsightedness of the “scientific” institutions has blinded the world from the spiritual reality, which is real. The very distinct difference is that the scientific truth can be told, but the spiritual truth cannot. As the cliché goes “No-one can be told what the Matrix is, you have to see it for yourself.”
Most of our so-called spiritual institutions, churches and temples have nothing to do with spirituality, which is very well illustrated by the amount of non-religiousness in the modern world. Which, in my opinion, is a good thing. Yet a lot of people throw the baby out with bath water as they see the churches being either evil or simply irrelevant, they conclude that spirituality is irrelevant. So basically we have people rejecting spirituality because of our scientific institutions and religious institutions. There is no other way into the truth except through personal spiritual understanding of reality, whatever you perceive that to be. Scientific knowledge can be valuable, it can aid us in our quest for spiritual truth, but it can also hold us down if we are afraid to step off the plank. Most of the technological achievements our civilization is so proud of are nothing but toys and trinkets. Sounds advice should be taken to heart, whether the source is scientists, your grandma or a drunk on the street, but in the end you must use your own judgement.
In conclusion, science is nice, it is simply not enough. It’s nice having this computer to be able to write this blog, use the internet and play Civilization V, but if human society weren’t in such an unspiritual state already, maybe I shouldn’t have to resort to it. Ultimately the “contest” between science and spirituality comes to down to the immortal Sean Connery quote “Losers always whine about their best. Winners go home and fuck the prom queen.”