Harmonious Balance between Materialism and Spirituality
We are exploring how to create successful spiritually inspired community projects. Spirituality is the inspiration behind all such ventures, but they need to be created within the facilities and practices of the present materialistic paradigm. There is more than one aspect to the attitudes that we are seeking to bring into balance and harmony.
Below we look at : Materialism, Science, Spirituality, Academia, Business and Harmony
Over the last 200 years, the development of the sciences, and their remarkable achievements, has created an emphasis on materialism. With the invention of the steam engine came the ability to harness power. With the understanding of electricity came the ability to transmit this power for use at a distance from its source. These two new avenues of development, science and accessible energy, generated a rising standard of living, with its labour saving device. With the rapid increase in scientific knowledge has come a substantial improvement in health. People live longer and cures are available for a host of previously fatal diseases.
This material progress has a negative side. Starting with Newton and Descartes, nature has come to be seen as a mechanical device, understandable by the application of mechanics and mathematics. This approach leaves little room for the divine or any form of spiritual influence.
All natural resources - the trees, creatures in the sea, beasts in the field, minerals – are seen as being freely available for harvest by humans to meet their material needs. The result is a finite supply of ores hungrily excavated from the earth and turned into physical products, often of an ephemeral nature. After a short life, these artefacts end up in landfill sites generating methane gas. This destructive action transforms limited useful resources into useless and dangerous rubbish.
This process is going on at an accelerating rate with almost complete disregard for its impact on the health of the planet. The pollution of the atmosphere and seas is leading to a man-made contribution to climate change, global warming, disturbance of weather patterns and the destruction of animal species. The concept of our world having a powerful and sensitive spiritual presence has been lost.
The Newtonian concept of nature being comparable to a machine, with separate individual components meshing with each other, led to the idea that pieces of the mechanism could be studied individually without taking into account their relationship to the whole. Previously the study of Natural Philosophy embraced all aspects of the organic and inorganic cosmos. Now narrow specialization arose producing abundance of knowledge but with the loss of the idea of the universe as integrated, complete and alive.
The basis of this is the empirical method whereby a new theory is produced by an individual scientist, tested by others and, if the same result is achieved, accepted as a valid finding. It will be taken as a law if further experiments consistently show the same result. This approach has resulted in a wealth of new discoveries including those in communication, travel and allopathic medicine. This empirical and practical methods has led to a tendency to think that:
‘If it cannot be seen, felt, heard or measured, then it does not exist’
Modern science has made enormous strides and we have all benefited from its findings. But it is confined within the concept truths are only reached by observation, experiment or mathematics. This practical material approach makes it difficult to study and observe spheres of consciousness - and makes it almost impossible to research spirituality. Despite this physicists, mathematicians and astronomers in particular are researching the more esoteric aspects of the material world and beginning to come up with concepts such as black holes, the quantum universe and the study of microorganisms.
What is being learned at the frontiers of modern science is growing closer to the understanding of the eternal esoteric teachings.
Contemporary science does not include the realm of the mind as a valid subject for research and, in consequence, no concept of a ‘Universal Intelligence’, embracing and guiding the cosmos, is acceptable.
The world of the spirit may only be realized through subjective personal experience and is not measurable by objective observation. If this inner life cannot be recorded scientifically, then from a material point of view it does not exist and there can be no acceptable concept of an intelligent compassionate and wise universal consciousness. In consequence there is no understanding of the ability of the individual to raise his level of spiritual awareness. The only purpose in life must be to concentrate upon physical comfort, the acquisition of factual knowledge and worldly goods – and having fun.
Despite the prevailing materialistic view, some progress is being made in accepting the possibility of a non-physical component to reality. The ‘depth psychologists’, including Jung, Assagioli and Maslow, all recognise a ‘lower’ unconscious and a ‘higher’ super-conscious. Awareness is growing of a form of intelligence and unity pervading the whole cosmos. This new understanding is appearing in publications such as ‘The Scientific and Medical Network,’ ‘Resurgence’ and ‘Meditation Monthly’, and in a range of books – but only a minority of scientists share this awakening and the overriding paradigm is one of materialism and denial of the spiritual.
Some universities and individuals are now exploring what is termed ‘contemporary spirituality’ – this is recognised as being different to established religions. Relatively little progress is being made and the reason is clear. The academic approach is to look at the question in a detached, objective fashion, wherever possible to look at published papers and books on the subject and from this to build up a description of spirituality. The problem is that spirituality can only be understood as a subjective experience – and this experience can only be realised if the individual follows some form of spiritual discipline and practice. These two views are in conflict and there is no way in which an academic approach can begin to understand true spirituality.
For this exercise we take ‘Business’ to cover all aspects of politics, economics and working activity. People in the business world understand that successful projects need careful planning. They need to plan for the resources and finance required, to locate sources of finance, and start to put together a new project with a clear idea of what it is setting out to do, how it is going to do it, and the fruits of its activities. But this is in complete contrast to the spiritually inspired individual - this person believes that the project should to be allowed to emerge in a quiet organic and natural fashion, The resources needed will float gently up and be taken on board. The idea of a concrete plan is seen with alarm – trying to define the idea in concrete terms will immediately put a stop to the natural flow. So here we have a fundamental conflict.
Achieving balance is the essence of the spiritual life. We are confronted on all sides with passionately held views, often diametrically opposed. This dichotomy occurs everywhere be it socialists versus conservatives, fracking enthusiasts versus anti-frackers, global warming enthusiasts or global warming deniers. The list is endless. Individuals believe their views are correct and those who disagree are not only wrong but may be a danger to society.
Scientists have difficulty in accepting the concept of spirituality and many spiritually aware people are alarmed at the negative side of pure materialism. This conflict between materialism and spirituality leads to endless misunderstandings, and may well be one of the strongest influences inhibiting the realisation of peace and harmony throughout the world. At present, many are struggling to increase their material standard of living, often with disregard for the impact they are having on the world’s ecology. Others are endeavouring to promote their own particular view of religion, sometimes by violent means, with no concern for the effect on non-nonbelievers.
Superficially, these seem to be two different approaches. In fact they are not alternatives but both are essential for harmonious living. Science without spiritual understanding tends to misuse of the earth's resources, threatening our very existence. Spirituality lacking practicality leads to ineffectual projects. Only, by accepting the validity and necessity of both these paths, can we reach a wholesome balance.
Despite the apparent differences between these schools of thought, encouraging signs are appearing of a ‘reaching out’. Academia is exploring contemporary spirituality and Business is embracing the concept of mindfulness. Real progress is being made even though this is not always apparent.
There is a slow but growing awareness of the validity of both these poles. With spiritually inspiring community projects we cannot afford to wait for full harmony to be achieved but must work with our own concept of balance.