“We are capable of such love and belonging because the soul holds the echo of a primal intimacy.” 1
- John O’Donohue
The age-old quest to deepen our spiritual experience is motivated by memory; at some level we all know where we came from and long for home. Expanding awareness of this “echo of a primal intimacy” is the evolutionary wave humanity is riding now.
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Can a well-traveled mystical path coexist with rationality? “The standoff between science and religion — between fact-based and faith-based ways of thinking and explaining the world — is nearly as old as human thought itself.” 2 This is from an on-line article entitled Conflicts Between Science and Spirituality Are Rooted in Your Brain.
In fact, the conflict may be rooted in the very structure of our brains, according to research published last week in the journal PLOS One.
“The researchers observed on the neurological level a deep-seated tension between analytical reasoning — which is associated with disbelief in God — and moral reasoning — which is associated with belief in God or a “universal spirit.”
It’s typical to see conflict where there are differences, rather than synergy. Why not view science and spirituality as complementary, more like two wings — both needed for straight flight — rather than opposing forces fighting for supremacy?
The fact, regardless of opinion or prejudice, is that these two have always coexisted. Each is a necessary aspect of the human being. Balance shifts as we change and, currently, we are witnessing a largely unreported rise of interest in spiritual matters.
“Spirituality is the cultivation of a personal relationship with the sacred. It is the intuition that there is a deeper level of reality, a level we are not always conscious of but which we can apprehend in moments of insight or vision. Spirituality is the gradual awakening of this depth dimension, and a longing to know it more fully and intimately.” 3
This personal relationship with the sacred is beyond religion, where relationship is with an intermediary such as Christ or a priest. For an ordinary person to claim direct relationship is still deemed heretical to many and, of course, rationality can easily deny that claim. “Where’s the proof?”
The proof is in that echo. It is an experience, not a theory. It doesn’t need to be proven because it’’s real to the one experiencing it, just as love is real and beyond explanation.
“So will we ever reconcile scientific and spiritual approaches to looking at the world? The two ways of thinking may be converging, but the gap is unlikely to ever close entirely.” 4
Fatalism is also fairly typical in matters of the heart, which is what this is. “Headstrong” is a term that comes to mind, used to describe stubbornness. We are a headstrong species and fortify our beliefs with more theoretical “proof,” often ignoring the stirrings of the heart. We probe, “What do you think?” But there is another question: “What do you feel?”
Love and belonging are the reward for those who allow this echo to resonate within the chambers of their being. We’ve all heard that silent sound; we have sensed the presence of spirit in a piece of music, a sunset, a kiss. We know it’s real because we’ve experienced it. And, we want more. Our hunger for what’s real is growing, just as our infatuation with the menu of substitutes is diminishing. Yes, there are ever more distractions as science dazzles us with clever ways to continue defying natural laws, like producing GMO crops that increase shelf life but poisons us. But millions of us are not buying it.
We need our rational minds to function. We need our spiritual experience for life to be worthwhile and fulfilling. Meaning comes from both worlds and those who are having an authentic deepening spiritual experience don’t see any competition, just cooperation. We can be rational mystics, at home both inside and out.
Victor Frankel said that “God is the partner of your most intimate soliloquies.” Indeed, as life becomes an enduring meditation, we live in that conversation with ourselves, knowing beyond doubt and with no need for proof that we do have a direct connection with divinity and that this is our essential nature. The separation, once held as respectful and insurmountable, gives way to connection and oneness, experienced as humility.
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1. Anam Cara by John O’Donohue