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Philosophy, science and religion
At the fall of the medieval age, we lost our sense of certainty about who we were and what our existence meant. So we invented a scientific method of inquiry and sent this system out to find the truth of our situation. But science seemed to splinter into a thousand faces, unable to immediately bring back a coherent picture.
In response, we pushed away our anxiety by turning our focus to practical endeavours, reduced life to its economic aspects only, and finally entered a collective obsession with the practical, material aspects of life. As we have seen, scientists set up a worldview that reinforced this obsession and for many centuries became lost in it themselves. The cost of this limited cosmology was the narrowing of human experience and the repression of our higher spiritual perception – a repression we are finally breaking through now.
It is commonly believed that science and religion are forever doomed to enmity and irreconcilable differences. This is, however, an outcome of historical developments in the Abrahamic West, and is not inherent in the disciplines themselves. It is best explained by the duality of our existence: the outer, objective world of sense perception, often described as exoteric, and the inner, subjective world of consciousness, or esoteric.
The word psychology derives from the Greek psyche meaning soul, yet Western psychology officially denies the existence of a soul in human beings, or in anything else. Academically, it adheres to the modern doctrine of materialism, and sees mental states as resulting from chemical changes in the body and brain. It was not always so, nor is it amongst the general population, most of whom have religious or quasi-spiritual beliefs of some sort.
Judaism was the first of the Abrahamic religions. Its early doctrines acknowledged extraphysical realities and created an extensive literature about them, notably the Kabbalistic writings, many of which are still extant. Early Christianity adopted these, even in what became the mainstream of Pauline Christianity. The changes wrought by Emperor Constantine beginning with the Nicaean Council in the fourth century of the Christian Era (CE) gradually withdrew all doctrines and instruction about such things within literature reserved for the clergy. Constantine sought to create a religion for the masses that would render them amenable to political manipulation and control, and his successors followed suit, since the role of the priests was seen as instructing and disciplining the masses via their superior psychological insights and conscious psychic powers.
Because the Abrahamic religions favour prayer to an external, supreme deity over individual meditation on the soul, these advantages gradually faded and were lost. By the twelfth century CE, all understanding of spiritual reality had disappeared. What was and is referred to as spiritual is merely psychic, although flashes of insight can occasionally be discerned in some early writings. Islam appeared in the seventh century CE, and although it contains an extensive esoteric literature, all of it refers to psychic rather than spiritual phenomena.
From the twelfth to the nineteenth century, Christian intellectuals eagerly sought out Jewish and Islamic esoteric literature, even though these were strictly proscribed by the Roman Church, and innumerable secret societies were formed to practise and pass along the ideas and practices gleaned from them. Thus there arose a sharp conflict, often clandestine, between lay philosophy and Christian theology. When science started to emerge from philosophy in the fifteenth century, it too came in conflict with Church doctrine, resulting in many being punished, tortured or put to death for pursuing or refusing to renounce what the Church regarded as heretical.
By the nineteenth century, Church authority had so declined that punishment for heresy was no longer acceptable, though it continued to be denounced, often vehemently, by both clergy and laity. The continuing successes of empirical science greatly increased its authority amongst intellectuals, although many still interpreted them within a religious context; but when the dialectical materialism of Logical Positivism was adopted as the sole philosophical foundation of Western Science in 1927, the die was cast, and Modern Western Science (MWS) was the result that continues to this day.
The apparent conflict between science and religion in the West is therefore a conflict between monotheistic Abrahamic religions that decry and persecute all dissenting beliefs, and the materialist philosophy of Modern Western Science.
Move the mouse cursor over the diagram to view the alternative.
A more enlightened science would not only restore belief in the greater realities of the psychic and spiritual, but would no longer be socially, personally and environmentally destructive. More enlightened religions could then take their rightful place as guides to the inner realm of consciousness beyond the reach of physical influences. The initial changes required in order for a new scientific modality to begin this process are shown in the diagram below.
Move the mouse cursor over the diagram to view the alternative.
Science is no longer able to explain many events in the lives of people across the world. It is a way of thinking about the world and ourselves, and strictly speaking, has no interest in absolute truth: that is the concern of religion and philosophy. Science describes certain aspects of the world, principally those we call objective or physical, although its empirical techniques can be applied to subjective phenomena with suitable modifications.
Until the nineteenth century, Western Science was named Natural Philosophy, and so was concerned with a much wider view of the world. Today, philosophy is ignored in the West, and MWS has taken its place. Because of this, those things we call subjective - our personal experiences, emotions and private thoughts - are derided as mere chemical epiphenomena. Our most difficult challenges come from the subjective aspects of our experience - we cannot deal with grief, anger or hatred by reading books or listening to lectures, although these things may help. It is only by learning to discipline and direct our emotions that problems in these areas can be successfully resolved, and MWS can never assist with this; but an enlightened science could, were it to be restructured using a different philosophy.
Science does not need to be based on Logical Positivism. Were it to be restructured according to a wiser philosophy, not only could it yield more powerful insights into objective reality, but it could provide valuable understanding of the subjective realities which are the principal cause of modern social problems. These questions are very complex, but a simple presentation of them would be a great benefit to society generally, and young people in particular, by describing new beliefs and ideas that provide practical solutions to many mental and emotional difficulties. One purpose of publishing The Living Atom is to provide an introductory text for such new ideas.