We've all heard lofty sounding spiritual phrases that initially seem like they mean something, but on further reflection are recognized as empty words.
In one of his Scientific American Skeptic pieces, "The True Meaning of BS," Michael Shermer uses Deepak Chopra as an example.
Example: “Attention and intention are the mechanics of manifestation.” This is an actual tweet composed by Deepak Chopra, as quoted by University of Waterloo psychologist Gordon Pennycook and his colleagues in a paper published in the November 2015 issue ofJudgment and Decision Making.
The scientists set out to determine “the factors that predispose one to become or to resist becoming” a victim of what they called “pseudo-profound” BS, or language “constructed to impress upon the reader some sense of profundity at the expense of a clear exposition of meaning or truth.”
I was cited in the paper for describing Chopra's language as “woo-woo nonsense.”
For instance, in a 2010 debate we had at the California Institute of Technology that was televised on ABC's Nightline, in the audience Q&A (http://bit.ly/1PQqk6s), Chopra defines consciousness as “a superposition of possibilities,” to which physicist Leonard Mlodinow replies: “I know what each of those words mean. I still don't think I know….”
The entire essay is well worth reading.
Download The True Meaning of BS - Scientific American
Since I also can't understand what “Attention and intention are the mechanics of manifestation" means on any level besides the obvious superficial one (to type that sentence, I needed to intend to do so while paying attention to where my fingers are on the keyboard of my laptop), this additional quote from the essay made me feel good.
In four studies on more than 800 subjects, the authors found that the higher the intelligence and analyticity of subjects, the less likely they were to rate such statements as profound. Conversely, and revealingly, they concluded that those most receptive to pseudo-profound BS are also more prone to “conspiratorial ideation, are more likely to hold religious and paranormal beliefs, and are more likely to endorse complementary and alternative medicine.”
Not everything that is said refers to something that is true. Words can be empty of meaning beyond the mind of an individual who considers them meaningful.
Religions thrive on this: getting believers to accept that words in a holy book, or uttered by a holy person, point to an objective actually-existent divine reality.
In his book, "Failure: Why Science is So Successful," Stuart Firestein says:
If science is to produce something more than trivial knowledge it must be hard, it must be susceptible to what the late philosopher John Haugeland called the collision between the theoretical and the empirical -- what we thought to be the case and what the experiments indicate is in fact the case.
...T.H. Huxley famously quipped that there is nothing so tragic in science as the slaying of a beautiful theory by an ugly fact.
Well, the same is true of beautiful spiritual words. If they don't point to a demonstrable fact about reality, they're attractive to hear but useless as a guide to living.