Over the last 200 years, the development of the sciences, and their remarkable achievements, has created an emphasis on materialism. The basis of this is the empirical method whereby a new theory is produced by an individual scientist, tested by others and, if the same result is achieved, accepted as a valid finding. It will be taken as a law if further experiments consistently show the same result. This approach has resulted in a wealth of new discoveries including those in communication, travel and allopathic medicine.
With the invention of the steam engine came the ability to harness power. With the understanding of electricity came the ability to transmit this power for use at a distance from its source. For the first time in the history of humankind, abundant power could be supplied anywhere, whereas before the only sources were localised water, wind and animal or human labour. This new source of power enabled factories to be established resulting in the mass migration from the countryside to the towns.
These two new avenues of development, science and accessible energy, generated a rising standard of living, with its labour-saving device. With the rapid increase in scientific knowledge came a substantial improvement in health. People live longer and cures are available for a host of previously fatal diseases. This phenomenon is most marked in the West, but the rest of the world is catching up.
Material progress has a negative side. Starting with Newton and Descartes, nature came to be seen as a mechanical device, understandable by the application of mechanics and mathematics. This approach left little room for the divine or any form of spiritual influence.
All natural resources – the trees, creatures in the sea, beasts in the field, minerals – are seen as being freely available for harvest by humans to meet their material needs. The result is a finite supply of ores hungrily excavated from the earth and turned into physical products, often of an ephemeral nature. After a short life, these artefacts end up in landfill sites generating methane gas. This destructive action transforms limited useful resources into useless and dangerous rubbish.
This process is going on at an accelerating rate with almost complete disregard for its impact on the health of the planet. The pollution of the atmosphere and seas, caused by dirty methods of generating power, is leading to a man-made contribution to climate change, global warming, disturbance of weather patterns and the destruction of animal species. The concept of our world having a powerful and sensitive spiritual presence has been lost.
This situation has arisen with the growing dominance of a simplistic scientific outlook. Successes are achieved through the use of empirical and practical methods, based upon the ability to measure the movements and effects of material objects.
‘If it cannot be seen, felt, heard or measured, then it does not exist’
The Newtonian concept of nature being comparable to a machine, with separate individual components meshing with each other, led to the idea that pieces of the mechanism could be studied individually without taking into account their relationship to the whole. Previously the study of Natural Philosophy embraced all aspects of the organic and inorganic cosmos. Now narrow specialization arose producing an abundance of knowledge but with the loss of the idea of the universe as integrated, complete and alive.
Contemporary science does not include the realm of the mind as a valid subject for research and, in consequence, no concept of a ‘Universal Intelligence’, embracing and guiding the cosmos, is acceptable. Examining the physical brain and its various electrical functions is allowed, as this is measurable by suitable apparatus, but how ideas form is not a matter that can be investigated scientifically. The assumption is made that thoughts originate solely within the brain and not from an external source.
The world of the spirit may only be realized through subjective personal experience and is not measurable by objective observation. If this inner life cannot be recorded scientifically, then from a material point of view it does not exist and there can be no acceptable concept of an intelligent compassionate and wise universal consciousness. In consequence there is no understanding of the ability of the individual to raise his level of spiritual awareness. The only purpose in life must be to concentrate upon physical comfort, the acquisition of factual knowledge and worldly goods – and having fun.