Science versus Spirituality

Once upon a time, science and spirituality were synonymous. In fact, they weren’t even two separate words. The Sanskrit word “veda” has its roots in the word “vid” — to know. The Vedas, therefore, are a compilation of knowledge. For centuries, the high priests of Western science ignored the teachings of the Vedas, but little by little, some more open minded scientists are beginning to see the wisdom hidden within them.

Indigenous tribes have historically had little or no tradition of written literature. Why would they need it when they verbally passed down the wisdom of their tribal elders? Larger indigenous societies, like the Mayans, are still stupefying scientists, who can’t figure out why they knew so much about the stars or how they managed to build their pyramids.

One thing all so-called “primitive” societies had in common was a marriage of the spiritual and scientific. Plants didn’t simply have healing chemicals in them, for example. They had healing energy. There are a lot of theories about how they discovered which plants were good for what, but I know of at least one person who discovered them intuitively. When she was living in the jungle, my wife Sopheak turned her back on the trees and bushes and felt the leaves. She just knew which one she needed to treat her wound or illness. Since she managed to survive for 3 years, from the age of 8 or 9 to 11 or 12, it’s safe to say her system worked for her.

Logic will get you from A to B

This intuitive approach to science is so foreign to us today, we call it “spiritual” or even “miraculous.” Some of us are open to it, while others scoff. During the Middle Ages, they burned “witches” at the stake for having “supernatural” powers. Today, they are “burned at the stake” by the ridicule of the high priests of science and technology.

Science versus Spirituality

On the one hand, it’s a good thing that Westerners are discovering natural medicine, meditation and a holistic lifestyle based on living in harmony with nature. On the other hand, we’re rank amateurs at it.

A lot of popular websites are publishing information about so-called spiritual phenomena that has been verified by science. Collective Evolution is big on this. For example, in a recent post, Stanford Scientists Observe Man Travel Out of His Body and Into Space, they tell the story of  “A gentlemen by the name of Ingo Swann was able to successfully describe and view a ring around Jupiter, a ring that scientists had no idea existed. This took place precisely before the first ever flyby of Jupiter by NASA’s Pioneer 10 spacecraft, which confirmed that the ring did actually exist. These results were published in advance of the rings’ discovery.”

On the downside, it reinforces the Western bias that science has all the answers when in fact too much science is detrimental to actually having “spiritual” experiences. I keep putting spiritual in quotation marks because I think the fundamental flaw in Western spiritual circles is thinking of them as special and separate from daily life. I leaned in that direction, too, until I moved to Cambodia and lived with a traditional Cambodian family.  For them, “spiritual” phenomena is just another aspect of reality. In my one-day-to-be-completed book, I mention several instances of psychic/spiritual phenomena that amazed me, but they took in their stride. For example, one night a ghost reprimanded me through Sopheak. He hit the nail on the head, but she had no way of knowing what I had been doing wrong because I had been keeping it to myself.

On another occasion, one of our builders managed to subdue a spirit who had taken possession of my wife’s cousin. I saw her change from a sweet 15 year old girl to an angry woman threatening us with a knife. Long (the builder) learned that the spirit was that of her dead sister, who was jealous that she had such a good life. He managed to make her leave the body, but she returned a few times until after we sent the girl to some monks in her home village, who were able to make her sister move on to a new life.

We Westerners would call her condition multiple personality disorder or dissociative personality disorder (DID). Cambodians simply call it what it appears to be: spirit possession. My sister was schizophrenic and often heard voices. She went to one of the best psychiatrists at UCLA medical center, but he failed to cure her. Using traditional techniques, Cambodians managed to “cure” Sopheak’s cousin within a couple of months. After their “treatment,” she took a job as a nanny in Malaysia. She returned home with a good command of English and enough money to buy a small parcel of land. Today she is married and has a child. Her “DID” is a thing of the past and she requires no medication or therapy to “control” it.

I could go on with examples like this and do in many chapters of my book. I’m convinced traditional methods of so-called “spiritual” healing can work. What I don’t quite understand is why Western science is still so opposed to exploring the possibilities. I learned recently that not all doctors share the prejudice. Sopheak is currently in a Phnom Penh hospital recovering from an operation. A traditional healer told her she should get the operation first. Then she could work on some of her related health problems. After going to several hospitals in Phnom Penh, she settled on a Russian surgeon because he supported the idea of going to a traditional healer. When I mentioned this to a friend, she told me that Russian scientists and doctors tend to be more open-minded than most American or European doctors.

There needn’t be a dividing line between science and spirituality. Western science draws that line because it begins with the assumption that the world is composed of “matter” only. Many successes have come from that assumption, but it doesn’t explain everything.

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Why does science have a problem with NDEs?