Spirituality searches for the truth and so does science. Thus, they unite in their purpose but we must admit that they differ in their scope. The tools at the disposal of humanity for the search for truth (valid knowledge) in any domain are just three: our senses, logic and testimony of other seekers within our particular scope. The problem lies in the fact that none of the available tools is perfect.
Our senses are the gateways of all knowledge. Gross things are directly perceptible by our senses. Things in the domain of matter fall in this category. Some of these things are perceptible by the sense of smell, some by that of taste, some by touch, some by taste, while the others are perceptible by the sense of hearing. Perception by the senses is the most reliable, although the senses can be misled and they do make error of judgment. We have to observe carefully to avoid mistakes. If many people observe carefully and arrive at the same conclusion, errors of judgment can be minimized or avoided.
Some things in the material realm are very subtle and do not lend themselves to sense perception without the aid of sophisticated instrumentation. Science develops such tools as it considers sufficient for empirical verification using sense perception in repeatable controlled laboratory experiments or in nature as the final proof of its theories and “truths”. Science also uses irrefutable, rigorous, formal and mathematical logic for affirmation of its observations and insights.
In the case of things not obvious, where do ideas come from? How do we know what to verify with careful observation, experimentation, inferential reasoning and testimony of other experts? It is my considered opinion that ideas of new knowledge or understanding originates in intuitive insights. They must be subsequently verified as this intuitive process can not be fully relied upon either. When we focus our thoughts on a certain object for a sufficiently long interval of time, we in fact open ourselves up to intuitive insights. The insights are spontaneous as compared to the inferential process which is stepwise incremental. First one sees and then one knows after the insights are verified as valid with the available tools of knowledge. Without verification, the insights are not reliable.
Inferential logic extends the knowledge obtained by the senses by making sense of the perceived data. We extend the reach of informal reasoning with the use of formal philosophical and mathematical logic. Modern developments in mathematics have contributed in the unfolding of scientific discoveries in a significant manner.
Finally, life is too short. We must accept some findings of past experts are facts or we continue to reinvent the wheel.
The scope of science is the material world and matter is directly perceptible by human senses. The domain of direct sense perception is dynamic and it continues to be extended with the development of technological tools, mathematical logic and accumulation of independently verifiable scientific testimony. Thus, the scientific “truth” is dynamic in nature; it may change in time. By definition, what is subject to change may not the truth.
Matter is characterized by particularity. Early science looked at matter as unconnected and diverse. Modern science today views matter as not only connected but thoroughly pervaded by one non-particulate and non-particular underlying reality called energy which also appears as fundamental sub-atomic particles that are the building blocks of all atomic structures of matter. Thus, according to science, the underlying reality of all matter is not material at all. This insight of science is unchangeable and is considered the ultimate truth underlying the material world.
Do we know what energy is? We can know a particular form of energy, i.e., electrical energy, mechanical energy, heat energy, etc. What is energy as such without qualification is unknown and unknowable. It is totally unlike matter and yet it underlies all matter. It pervades as well as surrounds each material atom and it is the underlying reality of each sub-atomic particle held together in atomic structures with energy. If matter was animate, self-conscious and capable of thought, this understanding of what it really is would be very meaningful for its existence.
According to modern science, matter may be considered to be made up of building blocks made from energy which are held together with energy as the glue cementing the building blocks together.
Spirit is the antonym of matter; while matter is directly sense perceptible, spirit is certainly not. Everything in the perceptible world has a material dimension; some things are inanimate while the others are animate. All things, animate or inanimate, have a material dimension. Spirit by its very definition has no material dimension whatsoever; it is neither inanimate nor animate. Particularity and inanimateness characterizes matter while spirit underlies yet transcends all particulars. Spirit is not a thing.
Spirituality makes an irrefutable argument according to which spirit underlies every thing and every being in the perceptible universe. Thus, the scope of spirituality is the entire perceptible universe, inanimate and animate all inclusive.
Humankind perceives the outside world and asks the great question, “where do all things come from?” and concludes that the ultimate source of all things in the perceptible world is spirit. All “things” cannot come out of one “thing”; neither can all things come out of nothing, therefore all things must come out of no “thing”. The logic is irrefutable and totally convincing. In addition, it is supported by the testimony of other experts in the field of spirituality called the sages, seers and prophets. The testimony is recorded in the scriptural heritages of the world.
Since spirit underlies both inanimate and animate world, it is neither inanimate nor animate in actuality yet contains both animate and inanimate in potential. Similarly, it is neither this nor that, yet it contains the potential of both this and that.
The intellectual irrefutability of the spiritual conclusion even with verification by the testimony of the insights of sages, seers and prophets of the world is still not strong enough for us humans to live by this conclusion. Life aligned with the spiritual reality involves transcendence of personal interests so dear to the person with the “person” being identified with the material body.
The only thing left for its ultimate affirmation is clarity through personal insight of strength equal to that of direct sense perception which by the very nature of spirituality is not available to it.
Spirituality strongly urges us all to acquire this kind of clear insight as much as possible of our underlying reality so that we can temper the excesses of our separate, exclusive and unconnected body identification with that of our underlying oneness through the ONE all-inclusive spiritual reality.