I'm amused at the advice I frequently get in comments on blog posts and emails: "Stop thinking so much, Brian. Believe in God. Have faith in your guru. Meditate and experience the truth that has eluded you."
These people don't understand that I view spirituality and mysticism as a science. Always have. Likely always will. If I wanted a religion, I had one in my brief career as a Catholic.
I was attracted to the Sant Mat teachings, Radha Soami Satsang Beas version, because they were billed as a "science of the soul." Cool.
Spirituality and science wrapped up in a nice tidy package. No need to leave your logic, reason, love of facts, respect for evidence, and such at the religious door. I could have the best of both worlds, material science and spiritual mysticism.
That desire hasn't changed.
What evolved over the forty-plus years I've been engaged in daily meditation and devotion to various spiritual teachers was a clearer understanding of what science is and isn't, when applied to the investigation of what, if anything, lies beyond everyday reality.
I found that even though many people talk about making spirituality into a science, they don't really mean it. This is just a marketing tool aimed at enticing scientifically-minded seekers of truth into what is really a faith-based religion. Or perhaps even a cult.
In science, questioning is good; skepticism is good; demand for evidence is good; investigating shaky assertions is good; challenging authority is good. In religion, by and large, these things are bad.
Consider what happened recently when some researchers claimed they'd found evidence of a particle going faster than light, something forbidden by Einstein's theory of relativity. Other scientists didn't immediately bow down at their feet and worship this new revelation about how nature operates.
Quite the opposite.
Potential flaws in the experimental design began to be pointed out. Doubting questions were directed at the researchers, who addressed them. Eventually the skeptics were proven right. The faster than light discovery was found to be spurious. Science progressed by not wrongly moving forward.
This is also how I look upon spiritual science.
Claims regarding this or that being true about God, soul, spirit, heaven, or whatever, can't be accepted as true without a lot of questions being asked, a lot of evidence being provided, a lot of give-and-take happening between the person claiming to know something about a supernatural realm and others wondering whether what he or she says is credible.
Now, some supposed experiencers of the divine consider that whatever they've experienced must be true, because, gosh, they experienced it! They're wrong.
Those researchers who claimed to have discovered particles moving faster than light also had an experience: of evidence that seemed to prove that they'd made an astonishing discovery. But their experience was mistaken. Without all the skeptical questioning, the flaws in their experiment wouldn't have been found.
Same applies to spiritual science, to spiritual experiments.
While its true that the results of meditation, miracles, visions, and such can't be quantified or as precisely described, those claiming to have discovered a spiritual truth still can have their claims put to the test. Questioned. Discussed. Verified. Investigated. Delved into.
When someone who has had a supposed spiritual or mystical experience shuts up and refuses to talk about it, that's a strong sign that skepticism is deserved. Truth isn't something to be ashamed of, to be hidden. When I hear "I can't tell you what happened to me; it's personal," my bullshit detector starts ringing, loudly.
Understand: naturally I agree that personal subjective experiences can't be accurately described. Each of us knows this, because how we perceive the world is ours, not anyone else's. There's no compulsion to provide evidence of love, hate, awe, anger, happiness, or any other human experience.
But if you claim that your experience is of a spiritual realm that is objectively real, this changes things. Now you had better come up with some convincing evidence that what you're saying is true. That's how science works, and I'm a strong believer in spiritual science.