Spirituality is very often misunderstood, and unfortunately these days there are many people who equate being ‘spiritually minded’ with being open-minded to the point of irrationality. Whilst it is of course important to be fairly open-minded so that one can properly explore and consider various possibilities, completely checking one’s intellect at the door and assuming that every ‘spiritual’ idea one encounters has equal credence is never a good idea.
The general population use the word Woo-Woo to refer to any concept which is demonstrably at odds with the real world. The term also refers to people who choose to embrace Woo-Woo ideas without question. It is a mildly derogatory term, to be sure, but whilst many view the word Woo-Woo and spirituality as being synonymous, they really aren’t.
My aim here at Spirituality for Seekers is to encourage you to explore spirituality without the Woo-Woo. This means being willing to look at various concepts and ideas and evaluate for yourself whether or not they make sense in light of both your personal experience and demonstrable reality.
It is not always necessary for a spiritual concept to be proven by science in order for it to be useful, but if a concept actually contradicts scientific knowledge then it should be discarded without further thought. After all, your aim as a Seeker is not to become a master or mistress of self-delusion, and live out your days in your own personal fantasy world, but rather to find principles and ideas which help you to live a better life in the real world.
If we are correct in thinking that there is a spiritual side to life, then that spiritual side should be operating in accordance and agreement with the other, more mundane laws of the universe. If we encounter an idea or notion which goes against established fact, then we must make a choice between established fact and believing something which science has proven to be otherwise, and the intelligent Seeker will always choose the former.
‘If scientific analysis were conclusively to demonstrate certain claims in Buddhism to be false, then we must accept the findings of science and abandon those claims.’ – Dalai Lama XIV
The danger of completely setting aside the intellect when exploring spiritual ideas and concepts is that it can make some people vulnerable to manipulation and exploitation. The world is full of individuals and organisations who make quite ridiculous claims and promises, only to take advantage of those who are gullible enough to believe them. Consciously pursuing spirituality without giving credence to the blatantly Woo-Woo is a simple way of avoiding that risk.
Remember, you don’t automatically have to accept an idea just because it cannot be disproven. Many people believe in angels and demons. Many others believe in the power of pendulums and voodoo dolls. Those ideas don’t exactly contradict science, because science hasn’t explored them in any great depth, but that doesn’t mean that ideas about angels, demons, pendulums and voodoo dolls are automatically valid, or that you should believe that they are based on the personal experience of anyone but yourself.
Whilst on this topic, it is also worth mentioning that science itself is sometimes used to try and give weight to Woo-Woo claims which do not really warrant it. It is possible for any fact to be misrepresented, or deliberately twisted to support a completely unrelated idea, so when exploring spiritual concepts, do not be afraid to follow up scientific-sounding statements with proper research of your own. The simple phrase, ‘Quantum physics tells us that…’ should not be enough for the Seeker to accept whatever follows without question.
Exploring spirituality without the Woo-Woo means being willing to question everything. Not because you want to disprove every concept which runs counter to your existing assumptions, but simply because you are a Seeker of truth. Your truth may not turn out to be the same as my truth as far as our subjective understanding of various concepts are concerned, but if we are both being honest with ourselves and genuine in our quest, neither of us will knowingly adhere to ideas which blatantly contradict the facts of reality.
I would encourage all Seekers to ask themselves three questions whenever they encounter any new idea, and those are as follows:
Does the idea contradict objective reality, such as the proven laws of science?
Does the idea contradict your subjective experience of reality?
Does the idea contradict your intuition?
If the answer to any of these three questions is yes, then set the idea aside. If the answer to all three questions is no, then feel free to explore the idea further, but don’t accept it without question. Faith can be useful, but blind faith is simply blind.
‘If the blind guide the blind, both will fall into a pit.’ – Matthew 15:14