Spirituality and Science: The Common Mystery

Spirituality and Science: The Common Mystery by Jan Engels-Smith

“The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious—the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science.”
Albert Einstein

Spirituality and Science



My spirituality incorporates a belief in supernatural forces, spirit helpers, and that all things are united in a common existence and purpose and that we are all a part of the universe and the universe exists in its entirety in all of us. I do not consider any of my viewpoints to be irrational but many are based in a non-rational belief system that draws it energy from forces that cannot be fully explained by science. At least not yet.

Science (closely allied with religion) once believed the Earth to be the center of the universe and that all other celestial bodies orbited around our planet. Copernicus and Galileo suffered ostracism and even imprisonment when they contended otherwise. Eventually, the new scientific principles were accepted. Isaac Newton devised a new view of the universe in mechanistic terms that saw all things as fragmented and independent entities that functioned according to mechanical laws.  He was not wrong but his principles did not encompass the unifying concepts that would emerge in quantum physics. Science evolves, as does every other realm of knowledge, and science is always on the verge of new discoveries. It is for this reason that scientists themselves refer to new paradigms for biology, physics, and other sciences that fundamentally alter our vision of the physical world.

A recent article “A New Biology for a New Century” published by The American Society for Microbiology drew the following conclusion: “Biology today is at a crossroads….[T]he molecular paradigm has run its course….[The new paradigm] seeks a new and inspiring vision of the living world….[It] holds the promise of making biology…,along with physics,…a science that probes and defines the nature of reality.”

Science continues to explore the mysteries of reality and many of these new revelations restore a paradigm of the unity of the universe that sounds very much like the spiritual beliefs of indigenous cultures that saw humankind as one with all things and that all of the cosmos was imbued with a common purpose.

We have created a conflict between science and spirituality by assuming that each is mutually exclusive of the other and that their basic premises are necessarily incompatible. However, this apparent opposition of ideas is a product of our own limited thinking and our inability to understand that mystery lies at the root of both science and spirituality, and that truth defies easy categorizing. My life’s work is in the practice of spiritual healing but my first university degree was in science and I spent several years teaching the subject.  I love the excitement of scientific discovery and I am constantly fascinated by the new revelations that science uncovers for us. Rather than seeing a conflict of science with spirituality, I came to understand what Carl Sagan meant when he wrote, “Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.”

Physicists such as Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr, Max Born and others all indicated that their exploration of quantum physics required them to see the universe differently and to move beyond the ideas that they held regarding the nature of existence. The fact that scientists have had to alter their thinking to accommodate new ideas and that, for many of them, there was an initial struggle to comprehend conflicting concepts suggests that science is always about new discoveries and new “truths” that expand our understanding.

Scientists continue to research the possibility of a unified field theory (or theory of everything). Einstein even concluded in his later years that the past, present, and future all exist simultaneously. Many scientists have challenged such a contention but Einstein saw his own imagination as the precursor of new scientific principles and I suspect that we should be wary of discounting such a hypothesis. I personally believe that it will prove true in science just as it has been revealed spiritually. Much of what is evolving in scientific thought moves us from the fragmentation of Newtonian mechanics to an imagining of all existence as one entity. This return to a view of wholeness is reflective of the thinking of ancient indigenous cultures in contrast to our modern concept of separation, fragmentation, and isolation.  As science progresses, we move closer and closer to an awareness of an existence that is embodied in the spiritual beliefs of those of us who see ourselves in accord with the universe.

Physicist Niels Bohr once wrote, “There are trivial truths and there are great truths. The opposite of a trivial truth is plainly false. The opposite of great truth is also true.” When proof abounds, as with the theories of evolution, the forming and expanding of the universe, and the history of humankind, the spiritual person need not reject such facts because none of them conflict with the journey to enlightenment. The emergence of quantum theory and new concepts of the nature of the cosmos have not diminished the quest for spiritual meaning but have, in fact, opened up many new possibilities that are leading scientists to explore an interrelatedness of all things that looks very much like a spiritual definition of existence.

The term that most effectively bridges the great divide that we have imagined exists between science and spirituality is “mystery.” A mystery is simply that which is not fully understood or that baffles or eludes full understanding. Religion sometimes defines mystery as a truth that is incomprehensible to reason and knowable only through divine revelation. It is in this context of dogma that religion and science sometimes come into conflict. But I am speaking here of spirituality and not religion. Science has shown us that reason itself can be deceptive. Prior to the twentieth century, quantum theory would have been “unreasonable” and many scientists today see Einstein’s theory of a simultaneous past, present, and future as irrational. Bohr’s contention that the opposite of a great truth is also true has removed absolute finality from much scientific discussion, or at least it has given pause to our sense of certainty regarding our existence.

The spiritual journey to enlightenment has a parallel in the scientific study of evolution. The science of evolution theory attempts to measure the changes that have occurred in living beings and the causes of such changes. Physical, intellectual, and other alterations are the product of environmental conditions and adaptation.  However, new evolutionary sciences are discovering unusual patterns of development that are the result of multiple possibilities—some of which are adopted and some of which are not. Simple definitions of progression have given way to a more complicated random patterning that opens up the likelihood of unknown influences—at least unknown to contemporary science. Spiritually, we recognize that we have entered an era of Ascension and, as my spirit allies have revealed, we are not prepared. The prophesied time of 12-21-12 portended an evolutionary human development that has not been fully realized because of our lack of full understanding.  I believe that our ongoing false dichotomy of science and spirituality has contributed to this failure to realize our full potential and has slowed the rate of our development and evolutionary advancement.

The new sciences, interestingly enough, are encouraging a new more open examination of our existence and providing an opportunity to end our age-old conflict. It is no coincidence that the emerging new sciences are in harmony with the beginnings of our Age of Ascension (Aquarius).  Our spiritual allies foresaw the need and were simply waiting for humankind to finally recognize what the cosmos has always made available. Religion and science have been involved in a false competition that ends when humanity evolves to a deeper understanding. When this happens humanity will stabilize and evolve into the humans of ascension that we are meant to be.

Mystery is a beautiful thing. I believe it was the source for Einstein’s musings about spirituality. He once said, “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.” My work with the spirits is grounded in an intuitive understanding of reality as much greater than simply known fact. Our interactions with the spirit world provide us a different pathway to enlightenment, but it is not necessarily in conflict with science. Our spiritual work, as has been the condition in much of human history, depends greatly on a non-rational understanding of existence but it is not irrational. Science today has confirmed much of our non-rational thinking without violating any of its foundation in rational thought. I suspect that there is much more to emerge from the many mysteries that science continues to explore.