Column: Thoughts on science and spirituality

Charles Jeanes
By Charles Jeanes
February 27th, 2024

There are two paths that you can go by, but in the long run – There’s still time to change the road you’re on.”  Led Zeppelin, Stairway to Heaven

Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind.” — Albert Einstein

Paths to knowledge

Until the seventeenth century in Europe, our human species had a multitude of ways for understanding what is real; we moderns call it “not scientific.” The Scientific Revolution changed all that. But it is not at all clear that scientific thinking describes the mental habits of most humans despite the successes of science in practical terms. Science applied to technology is awesome in effect. But no one would look to science for help when a love affair brings anguish.

Rupert Sheldrake calls the supremacy of the scientific method in the modern secular West, as the arbiter of reality and truth, “scientism”. Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor refers to modern attitudes that objectify nature, exteriorizing ourselves so as to control it, “scientistic.”



Westerners contest the idea science has finite limitations; for us, explaining the cosmos is “what science does.” One should recognize the limits of its knowing.

Crisis and Superstition

I take it as given that readers feel our species poised on a knife-edge on this planet, with a cascade of crises imperiling the continued existence of human civilization, if not of our survival entirely.

I have cited Charles Eisenstein frequently as someone who addresses the sense of dread we feel. Friends of mine have commented that Eisenstein writes about “woo-woo,” and one called an Eisenstein essay “ooie-wooie.” **


When Eisenstein says “Gaia knows what she’s doing,” does this ooie mysticism repel you, oppose you to his world-view? [ Weltanshauung, Germans say. footnote##]

Are you intrigued that Gaia might be conscious, as in the Avatar films? Might metaphysics know things physics cannot/does not?

A choice between Truth or Lies ?

What is the alternative to “the sciences,” for description of what is real, true, factual? There are alternatives.

Pre-moderns grasped reality with theories Western-indoctrinated scientists dismiss as unproven, irrational superstitions — as fallacies only an ignorant person could credit.

Is it a case of choosing between truth and lies? Is it even an either/or prospect? I would say “No” to both.

Alternative knowing might be termed “new-age” in some contexts, or pre-modern, or simply “anti-scientific;” it includes all the ways humans tried to know the world before modernity. For them, the world was often a place of inexplicable Powers — some we termed “divine.”


Conspiratorial theory – another Eisensteinian topic of analysis – is a sub-genre of alternative views of life. In Canada for example, the Ottawa Convoy allied citizens who deny medical science provides true knowledge of Covid with those who believe in a deep-state elite conspiring to rob us of “Freedom!” This potent alliance distrusts what a mainstream establishment says is real, thinking that the latter lies for purposes of its own, to manipulate and dis-empower us.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic, and before, we have all heard “alternative facts”.

[An essay on a pandemic subject: https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/the-sanctification-of-science-during-the-pandemic/ ]


One is entitled to ask whether the choice of paths I am offering is valid.

Here is one thinker’s attempt to persuade us to a dualist view. Richard Tarnas, historian and astrologer, speaks eloquently to the question whether physicalist science and its world-view should be our standard of knowledge.


Is there a way to not be trapped in a polarized characterization of the division between science and non-science?

There’s the religion/science dualism [Appendix]; another is medical science or alternative healing. My friend with cancer has to choose between physical clinical therapies (chemo, radiation, surgery, T-cell-therapy) and services offered by people who call themselves medical intuitives or shamanic healers, offering psychedelic substances (e.g. ayahuasca, iboga, psilocybin) or nutritional and mind-body-soul options.

[The film Dosed 2 is worth a viewing.

https://psychedelicspotlight.com/dosed-2-the-trip-of-a-lifetime-falls-short-in-providing-a-complete-look-into-the-use-of-psychedelics-for-terminal-cancer/ ]

Another choice: accept science’s assurance that there are no spirits in stones, plants, or unconscious organisms, or the view of panpsychism/ panentheism that soul is in all life and matter. [see the Avatar films]. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panentheism


To say ones does not know, is the essence of a- gnostic. Not Knowing. [Greek an = not; gnosis = knowledge). I advise people to adopt agnosticism as the default position on such questions as what happens after death or the origins of life. Have an opinion, but don’t pretend to know.

I have no difficulty with the word “soul” or the concept that it is real and not subject to the proofs of science. I’m comfortable with mystery, saying “I don’t know” if God exists.

There are operational effects of belief. When I say that my belief in my soul has a good effect on how I live, I cannot prove it. I feel its truth.


Where I live and among the folks I converse with most often, the notion that we “create our own reality” is conventional. It might not be so for you. [footnote ##]

Eisenstein recently posted this on his substack pages: “I mean to include the wavering boundaries of what we consider real…. [T]he world is entering a phase of accelerating breakdown and reformation….The world-story matrices we inhabit are no mere conceptual systems. Each provides a habitation for the soul in its current phase of experience.

I cannot make a case that my topic here matters to readers on a daily basis; one cannot see practical effects of saying there are different paths, for daily life is apparently lived in one reality and we are all anchored in it.

But it makes this difference: try to experience other people’s lives imaginatively, and empathy and compassion follow. Ask yourself if your life would feel better opened up to doubting what you think you know. I think it would.



** one of these friends is – full disclosure – also my editor for the Arc column. You read these words courtesy of my editor’s labours.

## https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uUbyztp4AmA



Appendix: religion and science are NOT opposites

First, re-read the brief quotation from Albert Einstein at the column’s start.

I have tried in other columns to valorize religion, to defend it from those who see it as ignorance, immaturity, lies, and/or defective behaviours.

I’ll say a tiny bit more about religion and science here.

They are not competitors; they operate in distinct realms now. Religion is not a substitute for science, nor vice versa.

In the realm of human spiritual appetite, in the historically-observed behavior of homo sapiens, religion must be respected; of course it can be abused by humans — and so can science. The devil’s in the details. On Religion in History: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D5jjbejDWds 27 minutes

Science assures us there is no spiritual meaning in stones, plants, or lower unconscious organisms. But panpsychism/ panentheism asserts soul is in all life and matter.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=63e5ZJAuOaQ 4 minutes

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B7KaNnFij2Q 36 minutes

Categories: GeneralOp/Ed

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