Western rationalism and skepticism and the spiritual

The problem or stumbling block for Western man in the past few centuries (since perhaps the 1600s) is that he believes that the spiritual ought to be subject to, and delineated by, the laws of physical science.  Here is the problem, and truly, it ought to be obvious to all.

The laws that govern physical science and physical phenomena are not applicable to the non-physical.  Denying the existence of a spiritual plane of existence because it cannot be observed, measured, or dissected by the material methods and physical instruments of physical science is not an authentic scientific position.  Science, and those who look to science for answers need to admit the limitations of science.  An honest, objective and dispassionate position here is that science is not competent to pass judgment on matters of the spirit.  (We have discussed this previously on this blog.  The interested reader can peruse earlier essays on this topic.)

We, in the West, have in the past few centuries allowed the rational (logical, linear) part of our thinking to become too dominant.  This trend has developed over time at the expense of the intuitive part of our minds.  In a sense, we have developed tunnel vision and have lost needed perspective, and we think of matters of the spirit as being akin to superstition.  We are out of balance.  Science cannot heal what ails us for ours is a disease (as in dis-ease) of the spirit, not of the body.  For all his science, the modern atheist (and this includes many PhDs who speak authoritatively on a wide range of subjects) is quite ignorant.  Here we define ignorance as being unaware of what one is unaware of.  (Such a state is hard to escape or break free from.  You can’t do it alone.)  Denying the spiritual dimension of man serves to close one’s mind.  All during the time that people believed the world was flat it was actually round.  Even with atheism, materialistic thinking, secularization, and philosophic and moral nihilism on the rise in our culture, the spiritual reality still exists even if few can see it.

Our feature image is a photograph of a painting in the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco (from our visit there late in July).




other related thoughts

There are those (perhaps we could include Theosophists here in addition to those who believe in evolution without intelligent design) who think that consciousness arises from matter.  Increasingly complex arrangements of matter may produce consciousness, or perhaps, matter itself contains consciousness (as a property of matter) seems to be the thinking for some of these individuals.  Sri Aurobindo Ghose (died 1950) in his various writings took the position that consciousness descends from above or devolves so to speak into matter, and then slowly begins to ascend through various vehicles of consciousness (aka life forms) to ultimately return to the spiritual plane which transcends this gross material physical universe.  (I hope this captures his thinking correctly.  He wrote many books and essays some of which can be rather challenging to read through.)

We think that consciousness is the ultimate ontological quality, factor or condition, and not matter.  We consider the belief (in what is known as Hinduism) that Lord Krishna has a supremely transcendant personality to be logical and persuasive.  Even Christians can agree to a large extent with the concepts here.  The Lord created and sustains the physical universe(s), and is immanently present in these yet He also has a personality that transcends the physical plane of existence, time and space.  (For Christians, recall the images in mosaic that are in the domes of the Byzantine churches of the early Christian era.  Christ is depicted as Pantocrator, or Lord of the Universe.)  Atheists, pantheists and idealist philosophers (who think of God as an Impersonal Absolute) will not accept this view.  God is the Supreme Consciousness, and our individual consciousness comes from the Source of all consciousness which is God.

People ought not let their minds, their rational thinking abilities become an obstacle to their faith.  We forget which early Christian father (in the 3rd or 4th century) said to the effect: “Believe so that you will understand.”  It sounds like good counsel.  In Hindu thinking, bhakti (selfless devotion, surrender, service to the Lord) trumps jnana (knowledge, philosophy).  Jnana yoga (the term yoga literally means yoking one’s soul to the Divine) can only take the seeker so far on the path to God.  Bhakti yoga can take a person the full way to the destination.

Just some food for thought.

copyright 2017 – larrysmusings.com


  1. As a Blavatsky Theosophist I didn’t see anything except one to disagree with here. The spiritual realm should appeal to the reason and intuition as well and not be contra-reason (which is a type of suicide of the reason) – in the big picture it all makes reasonable sense. The Theosophical idea on Spirit and Matter, is that everything is a type of Matter. Matter on a superior plane is experienced as Energy or Spirit to the plane beneath it.

    1. Thanks for your comment.

      I mentioned Theosophy because of the emphasis of matter in it. Many people believe that it is not matter that is a fundamental condition but spirit, everything is a type or form of spirit. Thus, it is spirit that infuses matter, and not matter giving rise to spirit. Spirit is consciousness.

      1. I forgot to mention that, yes, you are correct that the spiritual ought to appeal to both reason and intuition. My point was directed to those who rely exclusively on reason and tend to ignore or minimize the intuitive side of human experience.

      1. History is overflowing with examples of unfounded belief leading to all manner of suffering. That includes everything from wars and genocides right down to that run of Tylenol overdoses. Some of these fiction based belief systems seem harmless, but the harmless ones set a precedent that opens the field to the harmful ones. Accepting one baseless belief system undercuts the ability to reject any baseless belief system, however noxious, on rational grounds.

  2. Yes, one such example is the moral nihilism that comes from atheism, which is itself a position taken on faith (or, if you prefer, a null faith or anti-faith). Another example is the terrible mega murders that flowed from Bolshevist dogma in the 20th century perpetrated by the zealous and fanatical believers in that fundamentally flawed ideology.

    We held this comment for a few weeks as I did not have the time nor the desire to go back and forth with this individual. We have held the hands of atheists in the past as they deal with their issues, but it becomes tiresome, and often leads nowhere. If this person is comfortable in his/her atheism, that is his/her choice. But do such comments really add anything to the discussion?

    Now, if this person were to say that there have been abuses of religious authority and that there are false religions out there that have done and continue to do harm both physically and spiritually to people, that we can agree with. But, we have already addressed some of those types of issues on other posts (over the past 5 1/2 years). And, we have many times written that people need to govern their religious fervor with reason.

    There are those who have been taught and there are those who are unteachable. Many are there who in their ignorance (nescience or darkness) deny the spiritual dimension of man. We do not wish to give these persons a platform on our blog. For them, there are many atheist support groups to be found on other blogs.

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