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Science and spirituality:

Some people say science is against spirituality and scientists can’t understand the “inner worlds” of human beings and so they cannot have harmony between inner and outer worlds. Far from it! I feel these words are said by people who don’t have first hand experience in science and even if they have, they don't know how to walk on the spiritual path science lays before them. I want to remove this false perception about science with regard to spiritualism and show how science can fulfill ones' spiritual quests.

What is spirituality? You can sum up spirituality in this way:
Spiritual journey is actually an inquiry into one's own existence. It is an inquiry into existence and non-existence and the relationship between these two. It is realizing true existence. An inquiry has to be open without any fear in mind about the ability or outcome. So being fearless is the first step in the path of realization. We are always under the influence of some or other fear. The fear is an outcome of either illusion or weakness to understand and tackle the situation. Illusion can be overcome by acquiring knowledge while weakness can be overcome by acquiring strength. Fearlessness is prerequisite as well as an outcome of spiritual quest. For this to happen, you have to be emotionally neutral. First you should not get associated with anything mentally and should be able to analyze everything rationally. That is what science tells us to do!
There are two types of reasoning:
(1) the one that is attached to emotions and beliefs
(2) the one that is detached and neutral
An example: You have a very young daughter whom you love more than your life. If one day she behaves very badly during a party, you try to understand with your loving mind and think that as she is still a child she doesn’t know how to behave properly and she would definitely learn things when she grows up and excuse her! Here your love for her shaped up your behaviour! As an unemotional person I would say that even if the child is young, she has to be taught how to behave in a public place with a mild warning after understanding her innocence so that she doesn’t repeat it and help her correct herself.

There is another aspect to this type of reasoning: Motivation. You want to forget your ex-girlfriend. So you try to reason that you would be better off without her by recollecting all her negative qualities!

This biased analysis of anything is due to the now well-known psychological phenomenon of motivated reasoning. Research suggests that all people tend to seek out information that confirms (or at least does not challenge) the conclusions they want to draw on a given topic. In other words, we will work to discredit or avoid information that might require us to reconsider our pre-existing beliefs. Motivated reasoning is particularly likely when taking the other side might create conflict within our social circle—like religious or political groups.

Likewise if you are attached to a belief (or emotion or group), it fogs your reasoning power out of fear, hope, love or respect and affects your behaviour. A mind that is agitated by belief can never be free and therefore never know truth.

The constant assertion of belief is an indication of fear - Jiddu Krishnamurthy

You shouldn't reason backward from belief to evidence because that will subject you to numerous cognitive biases and you risk fooling yourself about the nature of reality.

During the earlier times people saw lives with pains, tragedies, sorrows  and several things around them. They wanted some kind of theory which could explain all this. Therefore, they thought about explanations and theories which gradually led into beliefs. These beliefs, which were influenced by the times they lived in i.e., non-scientific reasoning, were products of constant fear of the unknown. Instead of taking on the fear head on and finding permanent solutions, they just escaped into the world of false beliefs that gave them temporary relief. In a world where people clutch at all kinds of straws to make some sense of the madness around them, truth can never be found. Instead of analyzing, examining and understanding why something happens and how it should be handled realisitically, they tried shortcuts by bringing unknown and untested factors to interpret things! These beliefs divided people because each person had a different set of experiences and those in turn influenced their explanations and the resultant beliefs based on their mental makeup and situations and not on one truth. That's how different  beliefs - both religious and non-religious - originated.

""Faith is, `To believe what you do not see', the reward of which is, `you see what you believed'''!

Faith means not wanting to know what is true - Friedrich Nietzsche

To avoid such pitfalls science asks us not to get attached to emotions and beliefs. It tells us to have an unattached reasoning power so that your mind can seek truth in a neutral manner.
For instance, if scientists say all properties and events in the physical universe are governed by laws, and those laws are true at every time and place in the universe, that again becomes a belief. As an example consider this: we know life here on our planet. We know the needs and necessities for the life to originate and sustain on Earth. But in some other galaxy, there is every chance of life originating in different conditions and therefore has different set of needs to come into existence and continue (Ref 1)! Therefore science asks us to be open to such uncertainties and prepare and correct ourselves to face them as and when new data and information arrives.
Contrary to the popular prejudice that science has an answer for everything, science has built into its process that no answer should be considered certain and final -- that we must rely on the best knowledge of the moment but also embrace the uncertainty that it may be provisional. Scientists always think that theirs’ is a work in progress!


Science doesn't actually claim to know all the truth. It works hard by getting closer and closer to the truth, but of course science learns by its mistakes and advances by disproving hypotheses and getting things wrong. One of the virtues of science is that it is prepared to change its mind as and when the evidence warrants it. Science is not religion and therefore need not be afraid to say 'we do not know ... yet'. Scientists know that all scientific knowledge is conditional, dependent on repeated questioning, testing and confirmation.

Public sharing is an important part of science. No scientist will ever say - 'Oh, it's true for me, it may not be true for you' or 'Because I believe in this, this is the truth" or "Everyone believes it.  It must be true". Whether someone's belief is true is not a prerequisite for (its) belief. On the other hand, if something is actually known as proven a fact, then it categorically cannot be false. There will be only one fact given that the conditions in which it is searched, observed and perceived are the same. But again a fact here need not be a fact somewhere else in the universe. Science is in pursuit of  these facts and the conditions in which  these facts evolve so that we can give  a meaningful definition to our existence.
The fundamental principles of science say we need to understand the world in all its complexities. Observing, experimenting and interpreting real phenomena are essential steps towards comprehending the world around us.

Any rational approach requires some distance between science and ideology. Belief is what happens when your mind thinks you need some sort of external emotional support to balance itself. Then your motivational reasoning shapes up your perception of the world.
Humans have to see their lives in some sort of importance, and it is this that provides shape and meaning, whether acknowledged or not and in the absence of a dependable narrative, scientists try to fill the space with science, which they think is closer to truth than any other belief.

All of us are subject to the psychological forces at play when it comes to choosing between facts and beliefs when they do not mesh. In the long run, it is better to understand the way the world really is rather than how we would like it to be.
The path of evolutionary enlightenment is one of ego-transcendence that is a means to a higher end, to open up some space within the self – space for evolution to occur. Being inspired by the idea of conscious evolution is one thing, while actually engaging in the process of evolution is something else altogether. But within themselves people are not free. They are trapped in psychological hang-ups and attachments, with little or no space for that which is new. Their minds are not liberated, and their choices and actions are still being shaped by unconscious adherence to values and perspectives that have nothing to do with being a liberated vessel for the evolution of consciousness and culture. Merely being inspired by the potential for conscious revolution does not automatically give us access to the fearless inner freedom to actualize that potential. In order to find that freedom, to open up that space for new, it is essential that you liberate yourself to a significant degree from your personal fears and desires and your culturally conditioned values. This inner freedom is not different from the goal of traditional enlightenment where freedom is an end itself. Ideally, freedom becomes the foundation from which to engage in conscious evolution. You must disentangle yourself, free yourself from your deeds, your history, culture that is entangled in beliefs and personal ego.
That empty space or a clean slate will become the ultimate source and wellspring of new awakening thoughts, their evolution which finally leads to enlightenment.

It is with this clean state of mind most of the scientists pursue the path of spiritualism and try to seek truth about our very existence and also tread on the path of self-realization.  All most all the scientists think about God and religion at some time or the other in their lives. Great scientists like Einstein and Hawking mentioned several times about God and Universe in their talks. One scientist even said, our creator, if there is really one, is the greatest scientist in this universe because he created it in a very scientific manner! (Please see the art work I created on this very theme here: http://www.kkartfromscience.com/popup/kk3.html ). Some scientists even say light-heartedly, that God is their colleague! Carl Sagan said: Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is profound source of spirituality. When we recognise our place in an immensity of light years and in the passage of ages, when we grasp the intricacy, beauty and subtlety of life, then that soaring feeling, that sense of elation and humility combined, is surely spiritual.

However, most of the scientists feel that instead of chasing things that cannot be proved or disproved immediately, it would be better if we concentrate on things that can help living beings and the world. They know if there is really a creator, he will not get influenced by our offerings of bribe for giving us things that might make us happy temporarily or don't get influenced by our emotional blackmail! He will be happy if we help other living beings with the intelligence and courage he gave us!

Theists, Scientific laws that run this universe themselves are part of what 's created. Or, atheists, the universe came into existence on its own based on scientific laws. Even if both views are taken into account, we have to use only scientific methods to unravel those mysteries. There is no other way!

Like one of my scientist friends says...even to prove god real requires science!

Scientists have in their mind a project of being able to definitively answer the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything.  That's not a project to approach lightly.  It involves a lot of very careful distinction between truth and falsehood, between reality and perception, between logic and epistemology and ontology.

So, scientists don’t follow religious dogmas blindly but try to understand the world around us in a rational and systematic way. They try to help the world with the knowledge gained in the process. They feel this path started with a clean mind free of all beliefs,  an unbiased mind in search of truth and work that can help the world can lead to spiritual fulfillment in the true sense.
Anyone who knows how a nervous system works during pain processing can do no physical harm to any living being. And anyone who knows how the brain really works at the emotional level will never try to harass another living being. Any person who has seen how the scientific rules are followed universally in a given set of conditions, and understood its beauty can never think in local terms and can never come under the influence of artificially created races, castes, groups, communities or citizenships. He sees all the living beings as his own images - following universal rules of life and as citizens of this universe.

Science guides my pursuit of spirituality. I learned all about human existence, morality, humane nature, universal brotherhood, secularism, tolerance, inner strength and everything a human being should be from science! It gave me answers to several of my questions - including the most testing ones like  - how to be calm in the most trying circumstances, how to have peace of mind when everything around you is falling apart ( Please read my poem based on this here:  http://kkartlab.in/group/theartofwritingpoems/forum/topics/staying-... ). I have faith in science  - not a blind one though as science warns us against any such traps - and my approach is scientific in everything I do { "Believe" is a word that, as a person of science, I use rarely and only with great care. To believe something is to accept it on faith without evidence or logical explanation. This is completely contrary to the scientific method and fundamental principals of science.  I think I trust (the most appropriate word than faith and belief) science more than anything else during the times of stress because it  gave solutions to several of  my problems )}. If you know what science is really about and how to go about in this world scientifically, you really can be a great human being. And that is my experience!


If a scientist still acts in a biased manner despite his scientific background, I feel the person didn’t understand science properly and that he couldn’t overcome his cultural conditioning of mind with his scientific temper!
'Science, far from destroying the beauty and romance of the world as seen by artists, musicians and writers, enhances it by revealing the underlying reasons and purposes' – McConnell .

When it comes to questions of morality and meaning, the way we go about deciding what is right and wrong, and meaningful or not, is not the same as the way we discover what is true and false or facts. Some emotions like kindness and empathy will be involved. Controlling them is highly important to arrive at a good decision. Just because a criminal cries and acts funnily, you cannot support him. Oh yes, his brain could be differently wired! You try to analyze what could make any person behave so differently from others. On the other hand you can empathize with a poor thief  when he steals food. But if you are a logical thinker you will try to understand what circumstances made him stole the food and try to correct them. Critical thinking helps here.

Unlike what several people think, science deals with moral ( derived from reasoning related to...empirical evidence) issues too and can be a good guide to life's journey through the  checkerboard of blacks and whites!- Krishna Kumari Challa

''Science enhances the moral value of life, because it furthers a love of truth and reverence'' - Max Plank

All genuine scientists think the real facts about this universe can be unraveled only through scientific method. If you are really interested in finding truth, the right one, science is the only way!

There might be other ways, but they are not as accurate as science is!

Science in itself is a spiritual journey. Unraveling the mysteries of the universe and trying to know the truth and meaning of our existence.. 

If people of various faiths try to understand why science says what it says and that it is on the pursuit of truth without any fear, illusions, preconceived notions and beliefs I think there can be harmony between science and religion.
Yes, science tries to provide all dimensional full pictures of everything in terms of space, time, balance, rhythm and  unity in this universe and their relevance to both inner and outer worlds. It provides true meaning to our very existence.   And the pictures brought forth by science are  very beautiful and total than the partial ones others see in all aspects of life and  spirituality is no exception!

Questions people asked me based on this article... and my replies...

Q: Dr. Krishna, I have seen some scientists and professors explaining science in terms of religion. Like some physicists explaining consciousness and meditation in terms of quantum mechanics. I wondered how  such learned people can get so ridiculous. After reading this article of yours I got the answer. 

Do you think these scientists justify what they are doing? Aren't they creating pseudo-science with their strange interpretations?

Krishna: All sorts of people exist in this world. 

The training these learned people got in science is substandard. Or they must have forgotten what true science is as they are in search of personal glory.

That is why I strongly stress, 'Being a scientist is a state of mind, not a profession'.

Just ignore them. Science is greater than any person. Give importance to it and the scientific method.  Everything else is immaterial.

 Q: Dr. Krishna, I am a spiritual guru. Your article science and spirituality is really engaging. But have you ever achieved a state of higher consciousness while dealing with science? Is it even possible?

Krishna: Hah! A spiritual guru's visit to this network and his getting engaged with its content is really heart-warming. Welcome to the world of Science, Sir!

 Some spiritual gurus told me a higher state of consciousness will lead you to a more Self-Empowered state of being. It will let more love flow easier to your Heart. It will get you in motion to a journey where you won’t play the victim anymore. It will lead you to listen to your Higher Self. It will give you infinite energy.

If that is what you achieve with higher state of mind, my answer is an emphatic "YES, I HAVE"!

I am highly empowered, I don't depend on anybody or anything for mental support.  "Critical thinking, thorough and fact dependent analysis of everything" brings peace and stability to my mind. Scientific investigation of everything brings satisfactory and the right answers to all my questions and problems. Problems don't seem problems anymore. I truly feel I am not a victim of circumstances but a higher self that is made to test and emerge victorious all the time. My love for all living entities is universal and doesn't stop at the boundaries of my home, city, region, state or country and is universal in nature. I am not afraid of anything anymore! I conquer fear with my rational thinking.

Understanding the scientific principles this universe is based on made me realize I am one with the universe and is not a separate entity from it and that there is no difference between me and the other forms - either living or non living - in this universe!

My expansive scientific knowledge brought me keen perception that combines innumerable perspectives at one instance. I can also sense how others are interpreting the world, how others feel based on their view points. Their judgments become very clear to me. And that doesn't bother me much if it involves me. 

I feel I have infinite energy in my body which makes me do things both mental and physical and multi task. I can feel and reach my higher potential. This energy made me a polymath too.

I always have new insights into things and thoughts and see things completely different from those aspects of others and in several different ways. 

Strangely sometimes I feel I am 'others' I am watching and what they are undergoing is actually me undergoing it! I feel one with others around and that we are not separate! I am both the beings who is enjoying life and who is suffering. And that I am everything and everybody in this universe! I am one with the universe. I deeply empathize with other living beings around.

Whenever I am out in the Nature's lap, watching mountains, streams, or stars in the night sky an overwhelming feeling engulfs me filling me with unexplainable experience. I feel a vast presence of energy and knowledge which is just infinite and pretty mind-blowing and surprisingly it completely fills me too.  My mind and  body become different and new entities then! 

I no longer fear death because I feel I cannot die - I can still live other lives, take other forms ( the atoms and energy in my body can get recycled ), and I can live others' - who are actually me too - lives!

I am totally free, highly independent, completely satisfied, very empowered and truly peaceful. If that is what spirituality brings, to my surprise, science too brought all these things into my life!

This is really enchanting and interesting. 

But my scientist friends told me they don't feel the same way as I do. Maybe their approach to scientific way of life is different from that of mine. And I am glad to say I stepped on the right path! That is why I succeeded in reaching these heights.

Q: This is spiritual guru again. There are several ways to follow to reach a higher state of consciousness. Yours is really interesting. I heard it for the first time - reaching it through a scientific way. Can you explain it in a more detailed way? 

Krishna: Why do you want to remain anonymous, sir? Why don't you come and meet me in person so that we can discuss it in detail?

Anyway, I deal with reality and facts. I explained above what a scientific way is.  I strictly apply scientific facts to my thought process and follow them when I act. That led to my higher awareness. That's all. I don't claim any miracles or super-natural powers. I don't have any of them.

Q: Madam, looks like your Kundalini has awakened.

I want to ask you  a Q - what is the difference between spiritual awakening and scientific awakening?

Krishna: Kundalini? I don't know anything about it. When I googled it I found some strange explanations. I have never undergone those. Feelings like serpent going up your spine and all. Never saw any lights or anything like that. No supernatural things occurred to me. Never saw any supernatural beings too.

My approach is completely scientific and not religious. I never even tried religious way of doing things. So I don't know anything about them. 

On the other hand science deals with reality and facts. I strictly apply them to my thought process and follow them when I act. That led to my higher awareness. That's all. I don't claim any miracles or super-natural powers. I don't have any of them.

Science and Spirituality

Q: How can you explain kundalini in terms of science and logic?

If that is what you achieve with higher state of mind, my answer is an emphatic "YES, I HAVE"! You can call it with any name you want.

I am highly empowered, I don't depend on anybody or anything for mental support. "Critical thinking, thorough and fact dependent analysis of everything" brings peace and stability to my mind. Scientific investigation of everything brings satisfactory and the right answers to all my questions and problems. Problems don't seem problems anymore. I truly feel I am not a victim of circumstances but a higher self that is made to test and emerge victorious all the time. My love for all living entities is universal and doesn't stop at the boundaries of my home, city, region, state or country and is universal in nature. I am not afraid of anything anymore! I conquer fear with my rational thinking.

Understanding the scientific principles this universe is based on made me realize I am one with the universe and is not a separate entity from it and that there is no difference between me and the other forms - either living or non living - in this universe!

My expansive scientific knowledge brought me keen perception that combines innumerable perspectives at one instance. I can also sense how others are interpreting the world, how others feel based on their view points. Their judgments become very clear to me. And that doesn't bother me much if it involves me.

I feel I have infinite energy in my body which makes me do things both mental and physical and multi task. I can feel and reach my higher potential. This energy made me a polymath too.

I always have new insights into things and thoughts and see things completely different from those aspects of others and in several different ways.

Strangely sometimes I feel I am 'others' I am watching and what they are undergoing is actually me undergoing it! I feel one with others around and that we are not separate! I am both the beings who is enjoying life and who is suffering. And that I am everything and everybody in this universe! I am one with the universe. I deeply empathize with other living beings around.

Whenever I am out in the Nature's lap, watching mountains, streams, or stars in the night sky an overwhelming feeling engulfs me filling me with unexplainable experience. I feel a vast presence of energy and knowledge which is just infinite and pretty mind-blowing and surprisingly it completely fills me too. My mind and body become different and new entities then!

I no longer fear death because I feel I cannot die - I can still live other lives, take other forms ( the atoms and energy in my body can get recycled ), and I can live others' - who are actually me too - lives!

I am totally free, highly independent, completely satisfied, very empowered and truly peaceful. If that is what spirituality brings, to my surprise, science too brought all these things into my life!

This is really enchanting and interesting.

But my scientist friends told me they don't feel the same way as I do. Maybe their approach to scientific way of life is different from that of mine. And I am glad to say I stepped on the right path! That is why I succeeded in reaching these heights.

This is what I know, not about real kundalini, because I don’t have any magical powers, nor do I know about it in the way real spiritual journey takes you, it just is a scientific approach to spirituality.

Science and Spirituality

Q: (Based on the above reply of mine): 

How true indeed the path you have been on is the non dual eternal one for sure. Only sad part is when your colleagues need an answer the scientific way, there is non. Science stops and spiritual means take over. Where do you feel all the experience you spoke about? Within you, so know thy self to make it a wholesome and shareable one to one and all. Having seen or savioured take others there.

Q: Doesn't 'enlightenment' means attaining supernatural powers? How can you say you reached a higher state of mind without getting these powers?

Krishna: The power is in seeing more clearly and deeply rather than acquiring anything supernatural. People who say they attained super natural powers are not telling the truth. 

Nobody can attain powers that can't be explained by science. 

Q: Q: Are People with psychic abilities spiritually advanced?
Krishna : After two decades of research in the US, scientists reviewed the results and concluded that the psychics did no better than chance, and that the psychic information was neither validated nor useful.

Again countless programs have been funded in the field in the US despite never having been proven valid or effective but all went futile!

Extra sensory perception (ESP) never fared well under scientific conditions, whether in the private or public sector trials. Most tests failed to replicate the results. Some that showed results had been shown to have several errors in statistics and methodology. Most psychics were caught cheating on hidden cameras, physically bending spoons with their hands — not their minds — when they thought no one was watching.

If psychics can really have good abilities, their predictions and work should be much more accurate and valid than chance or an informed guess and they should really be able to do things without cheating.

So there aren’t any people with psychic abilities in the first place!

Q: What is left behind the purpose of life after someone has awakened his kundalini?

Science and Spirituality

Q: If enlightenment is all about the realization of truth, why is it that the truth as expounded by the enlightened people varies from each other? 

the circumstances it is found are constant.

Imagine this situation...

A huge asteroid colloids with the Earth in the future. Everything here gets destroyed. All living beings. All religions. All the scientific knowledge written in the books.

Then life originates here again and evolves into intelligent beings. Then in the initial stages of its civilization when it tries, it comes up with new religious stories with different Gods because it doesn't have any knowledge about the present ones!

But in the later stages, if it tries to gain scientific knowledge, surprisingly it finds that the Earth revolves around the Sun, Earth is round - not flat, realizes gravity and space-time in the same way as we did! It also finds millions of stars, galaxies and black holes like we did!

It sees atoms and molecules and chemical reactions exactly in the same way as we do!

Their 'medical field' evolves similar to ours! Their technology would be similar to the present one. In fact all their scientific knowledge will be similar to ours!

Even if this happens a hundred times the results would be the same each time!

If intelligent life evolves in different parts of this universe, and if it has to have 'religions' in each part, they would all be different to each other - like the different religious stories and beliefs we have in different parts of Earth. But their scientific knowledge would be exactly the same in all the given situations! Because scientific awareness cannot be different in various parts of our planet or universe.

Why does scientific knowledge remain constant while religion keeps changing?

Can you realize why? If you can, you will understand which one is telling the truth and which one you can trust ... Science or Religion?

The answer is obvious for a mind that can reason well.

You can have higher form of awareness with science too. And that awareness will always be constant! Read this article that tells more about it.

Science and Spirituality

References:

1. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=bacteria-discovere...
© 2012 , Dr. Krishna Kumari Challa

Copyright 2012 Dr. Krishna Kumari Challa.

All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Replies to This Discussion

Affluence, Not Political Complexity, Explains the Rise of Moralizing World Religions

The ascetic and moralizing movements that spawned the world’s major religious traditions—Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, and Christianity—all arose around the same time in three different regions, and researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on December 11 have now devised a statistical model based on history and human psychology that helps to explain why. The emergence of world religions, they say, was triggered by the rising standards of living in the great civilizations of Eurasia.

“One implication is that world religions and secular spiritualities probably share more than we think,” says Nicolas Baumard of the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris. “Beyond very different doctrines, they probably all tap into the same reward systems [in the human brain].”

It seems almost self-evident today that religion is on the side of spiritual and moral concerns, but that was not always so, Baumard explains. In hunter-gatherer societies and early chiefdoms, for instance, religious tradition focused on rituals, sacrificial offerings, and taboos designed to ward off misfortune and evil.

That changed between 500 BCE and 300 BCE—a time known as the “Axial Age”—when new doctrines appeared in three places in Eurasia. “These doctrines all emphasized the value of ‘personal transcendence,’” the researchers write, “the notion that human existence has a purpose, distinct from material success, that lies in a moral existence and the control of one’s own material desires, through moderation (in food, sex, ambition, etc.), asceticism (fasting, abstinence, detachment), and compassion (helping, suffering with others).”

While many scholars have argued that large-scale societies are possible and function better because of moralizing religion, Baumard and his colleagues weren’t so sure. After all, he says, some of “the most successful ancient empires all had strikingly non-moral high gods.” Think of Egypt, the Roman Empire, the Aztecs, the Incas, and the Mayans.

In the new study, the researchers tested various theories to explain the history in a new way by combining statistical modeling on very long-term quantitative series with psychological theories based on experimental approaches. They found that affluence—which they refer to as “energy capture”—best explains what is known of the religious history, not political complexity or population size. Their Energy Capture model shows a sharp transition toward moralizing religions when individuals were provided with 20,000 kcal/day, a level of affluence suggesting that people were generally safe, with roofs over their heads and plenty of food to eat, both in the present time and into the foreseeable future.

“This seems very basic to us today, but this peace of mind was totally new at the time,” Baumard says. “Humans living in tribal societies or even archaic empires often experience famine and diseases, and they live in very rudimentary houses. By contrast, the high increase in population and urbanization rate in the Axial Age suggests that, for certain people, things started to get much better.”

The researchers say that this transition is consistent with a shift from “fast” life strategies, focused on the immediate problems of the day, to those focused on long-term investments. They say that it will now be interesting to test whether other familiar characteristics of modern human society, such as high parental investment and long-term monogamy, might stem from the same historical change.

http://www.cell.com/current-biology/abstract/S0960-9822%2814%2901372-4

Turning spiritual means taking your destiny into your hands by Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev

When asked " Do you think of spirituality more in a person and individual sense or more in terms of organised religion and church doctrine?” Almost three-quarters opted for “personal and individual.” in a study!
http://www.speakingtree.in/spiritual-articles/new-age/i-am-spiritua...

Individualised spirituality that includes picking and choosing from a wide range of alternative religious philosophies. They typically view spirituality as a journey intimately linked with the pursuit of personal growth or development. They are spiritual pragmatists looking for usable wisdom wherever they can find it That a distinction has emerged between religion and spirituality is in itself a major change.

W C Roof, a religious scholar at the University of California cites the rise of panentheism (not to be confused with pantheism), which he defines in Vedantic language: “The self is the indwelling of God. The world is the abode of God. All is one, and one is all. In the tradition of the ancient upanishads, we find the oneness of our Atman with the all.”
Like all complex social phenomena, these trends have multiple causes. But every reputable analyst says that access to India’s spiritual teachings has been a central factor.

 

Today, large numbers of people who never heard the word Vedanta are, in outlook and practice, Vedantists.  They view spirituality as a developmental process in which each person’s path must constantly adjusted to suit his  temperament, circumstances, and ever-evolving needs. What could be more American? Abridged from ‘American Veda,’ Random House.

The supposed 'war' between religion and science and its casualties

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865603354/The-supposed-war-betwe...

This misconception is an exploitation of quantum mechanics by a certain breed spiritualists and self-helpers, and epitomized by the abomination, [the movie] What the Bleep Do We Know? Quantum mechanics, famously, has measurement at its core. An observer measuring position or momentum or energy causes the "wavefunction to collapse," non-deterministically. (Indeed, I did one of my first columns on "How smart do you need to collapse a wavefunction?") But just because the universe isn't deterministic doesn't mean that you are the one controlling it. It is remarkable (and frankly, alarming) the degree to which quantum uncertainty and quantum weirdness get inextricably bound up in certain circles with the idea of a soul, or humans controlling the universe, or some other pseudoscience. In the end, we are made of quantum particles (protons, neutrons, electrons) and are part of the quantum universe. That is cool, of course, but only in the sense that all of physics is cool.

Societies living in harsh environments more likely to believe in moralizing gods, study finds
Just as physical adaptations help populations prosper in inhospitable habitats, belief in moralizing, high gods might be similarly advantageous for human cultures in poorer environments. A new study from the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent) suggests that societies with less access to food and water are more likely to believe in these types of deities.

"When life is tough or when it's uncertain, people believe in big gods," says Russell Gray, a professor at the University of Auckland and a founding director of the Max Planck Institute for History and the Sciences in Jena, Germany. "Prosocial behavior maybe helps people do well in harsh or unpredictable environments."

Gray and his coauthors found a strong correlation between belief in high gods who enforce a moral code and other societal characteristics. Political complexity—namely a social hierarchy beyond the local community— and the practice of animal husbandry were both strongly associated with a belief in moralizing gods.

http://phys.org/news/2014-11-societies-harsh-environments-moralizin...

The unexpected can reveal profound truths, writes MUKUL SHARMA

Once a photograph of Earth, taken from outside, is available…a new idea as powerful as any in history will be let loose.

— Astronomer Fred Hoyle, 1948

There are certain aspects of reality that our minds are intimately and integrally tethered to, which when severed for any reason, results in an extremely uncanny experience. One such aspect of reality is our physical body, because any form of perceived separation from it — usually called an out-of-body-experience — is an event that typically involves a sensation of floating outside its ambit or in some cases, perceiving the physical body from an external location. However, people who have had an OOBe as it’s called, also report a sense of profoundly peaceful other-worldly experience.

Enter out-of-planet experience. Up until 1961, when cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin went into orbital space aboard the Vostok 1 spacecraft, no one really thought we were also tethered to another body which was a much larger one — Earth. No one knows what Commander Gagarin’s thoughts were after his umbilical separation from his home planet, since he must have been too anxious or too busy at the controls to look outside — except that he did and the first words ever uttered from space came from his lips. “I see Earth. It is so beautiful!” he said.

Then in 1968, the Apollo 8 crew did something extraordinary for Earth-bound mortals, too. Author Frank White tells the story: “I was watching it on television and at a certain point, one of the astronauts casually said, ‘We’re going to turn the camera around and show you the Earth,’ and he did, and that was the first time I had ever seen the planet, hanging in space like that, and it was profound.” One of the astronauts gave it a slightly different perspective. “When we originally went to the Moon, our total focus was on the Moon,” he said. “We weren’t thinking of looking back at the Earth. But now that we’ve done it — that may well have been the most important reason we went.”

Frank White calls it the Overview Effect. In his book by the same name, written in 1987, he describes it as an experience that transforms astronauts’ perspective of the planet and mankind’s place upon it. Common features of the experience are a feeling of awe for the planet, a profound understanding of the interconnection of all life and a renewed sense of responsibility for taking care of the environment. “It refers to the experience of seeing firsthand the reality of the Earth in space,” writes White, “which is immediately understood to be a tiny, fragile ball of life, ‘hanging in the void’, shielded and nourished by a paper-thin atmosphere. From space, the astronauts tell us, national boundaries vanish and the conflicts that divide people become less important.”

The reason is simple: It’s suddenly becoming privileged to witness the big picture that reboots our sense of belonging to the rest of the universe. How many of us can see a sunset and realise that it’s a huge closeup view of a star sliding below the horizon to produce the same twinkling things in the sky. It generates a new kind of planetary self-awareness, leading to a cognitive shift that can actually produce a meditative effect.

Cosmonaut Oleg Makarov, who spent 20 days in space said later, “Something about the unexpectedness of this sight, its incompatibility with anything we have ever experienced on earth elicits a deep emotional response…. Suddenly, you get a feeling you’ve never had before…that you’re an inhabitant of Earth.” Or in the words of Edgar Mitchell, sixth man on the Moon: “I was overwhelmed with the sensation of physically and mentally extending out into the cosmos.”
http://www.speakingtree.in/spiritual-articles/new-age/a-feeling-you...

A Feeling You’ve Never Had Before

Complex societies evolved without belief in all-powerful deity

Emergence of politically sophisticated societies may be assisted by faith in supernatural spirits, but does not need "big God" religion.
http://www.nature.com/news/complex-societies-evolved-without-belief...

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