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Enlightenment and the Objective Method

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Science and spirituality are often thought of as being at odds with one another. At the very best most people would say that these two great pillars of human understanding are concerned with completely different things, and therefore have no relevance to each other.

Indeed, there is a strong argument to be made that science itself, and most particularly the scientific method, were created in direct opposition to religion and hence spirituality. The whole purpose of this fledgling science, best expressed by the French philosopher Rene Descartes and his theory of radical doubt, was to create certainty in scientific knowledge by removing all belief or dogmatic presumptions, to be replaced purely by empirical evidence.


But this antagonism between science and spirituality has gone way too far - it has become a dogma in itself, maintained in our collective belief system regardless of the evidence or reasoned arguments.


Science and spirituality can be compatible, of that I am absolutely convinced. Indeed, as modern science delves deeper into the inner nature of the universe it is revealing a picture of reality very similar to that described by spiritual teachers throughout the ages. Fritjof Capra’s book ‘ The Tao of Physics ’ is a fascinating chronicle of this astonishing convergence.


In this short article I don’t want to get into looking at scientific theories, or the minutia of spiritual philosophy. Instead I want to look at the broader picture, at the method of enquiry itself, and whether science could ever be ‘spiritualized’.


What I would like to suggest is that the scientific method is essentially the same method used by Buddhists and others to attain enlightenment, only applied to a different set of problems.


In Buddhism a great emphasis is placed on no-attachment, and on realizing the illusory nature of self. In science you must not be attached to particular beliefs, models or preconceptions, and must eradicate subjectivity – which is seeing things from the perspective of the individual self rather than the broader shared perspective. Essentially the same method is applied in one to an isolated physical system, and in the other to the holistic experience of existence itself. By freeing oneself from attachments and denying the subjective existence of self you are able to see things as they truly are; this statement could apply to either discipline.

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