What is Spiritual Science?
When asking the question “what is spiritual science,” Rudolf Steiner often comes to mind. His life and work were, to a great extent, based on the belief that the two realms embodied in this term were not only reconcilable, but indeed must be reconciled if we are to realize our potential as human beings.
Spirituality is based on belief while science is based on knowledge. Any rapprochement of the two, which may not be mutually exclusive ipso facto but may well appear to be so when one looks at the history of animosity between them, ought to first of all based on a careful analysis of the phenomenological basis of each psychic function. In other words, what exactly is going on when we believe something and what is going on when we know something? In order to do this, the peculiarities of each mode of consciousness – believing and knowing – should be considered as well as the two institutions through which these two states are manifested and their content projected – namely religion and science.
Re belief, the projected content includes all the religions of the world and any/all constructs whereby we represent to ourselves vis a vis the nature of ultimate reality – a reality which is actually ideal in that it constitutes a state of perfect being.
Much of what Steiner has to say about spiritual science goes a long way towards illuminating this question. Belief, however, is characterized by one thing above all: it – unlike the components of a molecule or the force propelling a moving object – is not subject to measurement. It is, in other words, not subject to empirical definition.
The sine qua non of science, to the contrary, is precisely this: it is empirical and depends essentially on measurement.
The eminent psychologist William James shed light on the act of believing with his stipulation about its requiring a willing suspension of disbelief. In saying that he highlighted its voluntary aspect. In other words, we have to want to believe something in order to make it part of our lives. The faculty of will, then, is instrumental in this act. The faculty of will, too, is a mighty source of motivation. “what the mind can conceive the mind can Will alone, however, is not sufficient. The imagination also has to be enlisted. The imagination may be the most powerful faculty that we have. Einstein’s well-known quote about its role in our lives underscored that attribute of imagination with its insistence on its being “stronger then knowledge.” To get someone to change his image or images of a negative situation is the first step – and an effective step – in preparing him to overcome that situation. When one fortifies an image with the power of the will, and by doing so gives this or that take on reality – or at least a portion of it – he or she has invested a portion of him or herself in a certain way of seeing things.
This investment, once accomplished, because of the primal psychic force that lies behind it, can be very difficult to undo. That is why the true believer is so useful to those in power as a reliable source of cannon fodder. Once convinced, he will often give up his life in support of his beliefs. Belief, then, is the proverbial two-edged sword. achieve.” The facilitator in this process, is, to be sure, the application of willpower towards the attainment of a goal.
Belief, however, can not contradict the4 evidence of our senses? Yes, it can. The proverbial mental patient who thinks he is Napolean is not deemed insane just because he associates himself so closely with the world-famous soldier and ruler. He is deemed so because he has given up his autonomy; an act predicated in turn on his abdication of his o identity. A great military figure may, on the other hand, be so completely inspired by the life and accomplishments of Napoleon that his whole life and career would be unthinkable without his belief in the greatness of the man who ruled France and much of Europe for so many years. The difference between the man who is locked up in a mental asylum and the one who is carrying out great feats on the battlefield is that the latter knows he is – after all is said and done – General John Smith and not General Napolean Bonaparte.
The bone of contention between the two psychic worlds centers around two things, the place of doubt and the possibility of learning.
…to be continued
End of Part I…to be continued.