The fundamental dichotomy in human thought and philosophy is the inability of humanity to understand the existence of the spiritual. Philosophy, religion, and science peripherally recognize an underlying but invisible substrate that creates the material world we see around us; but because it cannot be detected scientifically it is considered a nice, woo-woo idea that has no validity.
Science, religion and philosophy have different names for this invisible substrate. Science calls it a quantum excitation or a quantum field, religion calls it Spirit or God, but whatever it is, it is the élan vital, the animating and creative force that holds the universe together and makes life worth living. Those who dismiss this higher reality, and rely only on the five human senses, are missing something quintessential: these people have developed dark philosophies such as determinism, behaviorism, and materialism, and have condemned themselves to a severely limited view of themselves. On our planet today we see the results of this limited perception: hierarchical societies that devote a large proportion of humanity's energy in funding a war machine that eats up human resources and stifles the human spirit.
The very act of observation itself must include not just the mere surface recognition of objects, but an attempt to penetrate to the underlying and unifying principle that accompanies all ordinary perception with the five human senses.
Science as it is practiced today is a mundane activity, limited to mere observing and cataloging the interactions of gross matter. The argument for this limited view of science is, however, all around us in the machines and electronic devices that have made out lives easier. But these devices have also dramatically increased the amount of stress we are under. There is something missing from Western society. We can all feel it as we rush through our day; and as stress builds up we often wish that we were on vacation and away from the hectic pace of everyday life.
I believe that Rudolf Steiner said it best when he said "these achievements [modern technology] have nothing to do with the true need of gaining insight into nature...To observe the processes of nature with a view to subjecting its forces to the service of technology is quite different from seeking profound insight into the order of nature with the help of these processes. True science is only present when the human spirit seeks satisfaction for its needs without an extraneous purpose."
Observation without an understanding of the human spirit is sterile, for matter and energy itself is a manifestation of an invisible, underlying and unifying principle that creates it. The physicist David Bohm says, "The classical idea of the separability of the world into distinct but interacting parts is no longer valid or relevant. Rather, we have to regard the universe as an undivided and unbroken whole. Division into particles, or into particles and fields, is only a crude abstraction and approximation. Thus, we come to an order that is radically different from that of Galileo and Newton -- the order of undivided wholeness." Bohm calls this invisible, undivided wholeness the Implicate Order, because it exists but is implied and not measurable.
This order of undivided wholeness is not observable with the five human senses, yet it is an inseparable part of reality itself! All observation that denies the existence of this underlying reality is not true observation, and will lead to incomplete and fragmented thinking. Look around planet earth and you see evidence of this fragmentation everywhere: in politics, in religion, and in science as well.
The implicate order is inseparable from the material. It is what spiritually aware persons call the "connection to the Higher Self," or "higher consciousness," or the "connection to source." It is present in everything we see and experience. The task of true observation is to be aware of the existence of something fundamentally whole and complete that is an integral part of everything we perceive. Denial of this higher reality leads to self-limitation, and deluded, dark philosophies like determinism, materialism, and behaviorism. These systems of thought are incomplete because they deny the existence of spirit; which is to say, they deny the existence of this fundamental wholeness and unity.
They inevitably lead to an inverted system of thought based upon the irrational memes of problem resolution through conflict and war, and hierarchical control from above. Such deluded philosophies are incapable of recognizing the inherent power of harmony, cooperation, and teamwork.
Recognition of the implicate order naturally gives a good feeling about ourselves and others, and recognizes the power and satisfaction of working together. It will naturally lead to a reorganization of society, the development of alternative energy and medicine, the cleanup of our environment, and prosperity for all.
The higher emotions are based in that invisible essence called Spirit, something that not only transcends the limitations of the five human senses, but the constriction of "modern" scientific observation and research as well. All scientific attempts to limit the human being to a mere collection of electromagnetic and electrochemical impulses have been failures (cognitive scientists cannot agree on a definition of the mind, or where it is, for example). Attempts to limit self-awareness to the brain have also been unsatisfactory. Those who have had a spiritual epiphany recognize, without being able to prove or even satisfactorily describe their experiences, that there is a part of themselves that is greater than the physical.
True observation requires an opening of the mind and heart to something that is such an integral part of existence itself that we become unaware of its existence. We become like the man trapped in the woods, who cannot see the forest for the trees.
The discovery of Self requires an understanding and a recognition of the human spirit. Without this understanding, life becomes trivial and mundane, like a vulgar "reality" TV show where the most tawdry day-to-day activities are glorified. Life, as my friend Dave says, should be the striving towards the highest expression of Self. This reaching toward higher expression places us in contact with the underlying wholeness represented by Bohm's implicate order.
Understanding the Self ultimately results in a FEELING of wholeness and personal power. This understanding comes forth as an insight; a cognition; a sudden awareness that the human being is something more than the obvious and commonplace evidence of the five human senses.
Reaching this new awareness cannot be taught.
There is no formula, or recipe, or equation that can ever represent it or describe it. People like Eckhart Tolle or Neale Donald Walch, or anyone who has had a near-death experience can't tell you how they graduated to a new level of awareness, because that level is invisible; it is implied, and is not yet manifest. But to deny its existence is to deny the Self, and to exist in a lower consciousness.
However, when one observes without preconceived notions, or ulterior motives, one has the possibility of perceiving not just at the mundane level of matter, but can also penetrate to the essence of the implicate order and reach a higher awareness.
How this is done is completely different for every individual. The secret to life is that each individual human being is an aspect of an invisible, unified consciousness; but the path to spiritual awareness and enlightenment while in the physical is unique to each individual. In other words, that cognition to higher awareness cannot be duplicated or formularized, simply because it is so profoundly personal. But that is what lifts it above the mundane and the commonplace; when one discovers one's personal truth it is a revelation! And that, dear ones, is something that all of us can look forward to in our lives.
Ultimately, the transition out of the body is a return to this higher awareness; but for many of us the task is to discover our personal path while we are still on earth. And the way to this new understanding is simplicity itself. Observation with the awareness that within all things we perceive is a fundamental and higher reality, can allow us to simply open ourselves up to the world at large, and thereby gain a powerful new understanding without having to work at it.