Harald Walach


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JSS 7.1

JSS 7.1 Secular spirituality – what it is. Why we need it. How to proceed

by Professor Harald Walach, Freelance Writer and Scientist
Journal for the Study of Spirituality 7, no. 1, 2017, pp. 7-20

Spirituality is the taboo topic of science. Science, in conjunction with political and secular enlightenment movements, was one of the major drivers of modern enlightenment, secularization and progress. Science has itself become a powerful meta-narrative. And part of this meta-narrative is a materialist view of the world. In such a model consciousness can only be secondary to material events in the brain. Yet, spiritual experiences are, as data show, quite common. Because the enlightenment movement was so successful, it has done away with all that is considered unnecessary baggage, including spirituality. Therefore, a new discourse needs to start that addresses this problem. This can only be done via the notion of experience. Spiritual experiences are experiences of a reality that is experienced to be beyond the ego and its immediate needs. They are the basis of religion that later starts out to interpret and ritualize these experiences. In them human consciousness seems to have direct access to the structure of reality as such. It is interesting to see that the scientific process has a similar mode of operation: it needs a deep, often creative insight into the structure behind data in order to create a theory. This process is called abduction and is, phenomenologically speaking, very similar to a spiritual experience or insight. Thus, spirituality and science might have more in common than one would think at first glance. This would entail that we need to develop a methodology of inner experience if we want to take spirituality scientifically seriously.

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