Science has proof without any certainty. Creationists have certainty without any proof. -Ashley Montague (1905-1999; world-renowned anthropologist)
One of the fundamental tenements of many religious traditions, although not all, is to believe what is written in a “holy” text, often times literally, without question. This precept directly conflicts with the way human exploration, curiosity and more specifically the scientific method operate. It is no wonder that science and religion clash in this limited context, because it is not a debate about truth. It is a fight over who is “right”. This leads to needless bickering over static ideas versus embracing the very innovative and evolutionary existence of our nature.
The eminent physicist, Richard Feynman, once said in the 1999 guest lecture to Washington University, “If there is an exception to any rule, and if it can be proved by observation, that rule is wrong.” He was speaking specifically about the process of science and how new knowledge is tested and vetted. All fields of study undergo this process of testing, continuous refinement and improvement. He did not suggest that we give up our previous knowledge as a whole, since that base set of knowledge was the stepping stone that we used to see over the next horizon. It is this meaning behind the phrase, ‘standing on the shoulders of giants.’ Without memory of where we came from and passing down information from one generation to the next, we would need to rediscover everything all over again.
Religions can learn something from this and transform themselves from institutionalized traditionalism to institutions of spiritual growth. The difficulty is often that, as it is in science and engineering, growth and progress is a messy process. It is riddled with difficulties and challenges, but the rewards are far greater. Pure spirituality does not suffer from this limitation of immobility, since true spiritualism comes from within and is not dependent upon the permission of an institution, figure head or tradition.
Spiritual evolution, as I define it in my book, is the process of incorporating the scientific discipline to your own spiritual growth. In this way you become the the scientist within your own spiritual development. Test out your belief system and worldview; see how it stands. If you notice that there are some major holes or inconsistencies, research some information. Review research that supports or denies a particular idea. Meditate on the concept. Discuss it with people in associated fields of study. If the idea is reinforced from these activities, hold on to it for now. If the idea no longer fits within your current paradigm of existence, let it go and move on.
For people to feel comfortable with the notion of a dynamic spirituality instead of a constant faith, a few road blocks have to be overcome. On the surface a particularly powerful road block is fear. However, when fear’s underpinnings and sources are exposed, it becomes impotent in its hold over you. Each and every one of us needs to identify the sources of our fear, disable it and transcend it if we are to progress spiritually as a species. This process is covered in more detail in the book. In order to do this, you’ll need to understand one fundamental insight: No one on Earth has control over your spiritual self, soul or spirit other than you. Anyone who is telling you different is selling you a story.
Many religious traditions would like you to believe that the destiny of your life, and more importantly your “afterlife”, are going to require very specific rituals, sacrifices and/or donations to reach salvation. In modern spiritualism, such a requirement is absurd and completely nonessential. Spiritual growth is more like learning to play the violin or a sport. To progress it does require effort, attention and practice to improve, but once you choose this path, the path almost chooses you. After a while, spiritual testing, researching and practice will become as essential as breathing. You will look back and wonder why you were ever in conflict before. This does not mean that you will not have challenges and breakdowns from time to time, for that is part of the human experience, but you will reveal your own “Core Path.”