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Science, Spirituality, and Respectability

mad scientistEven as recently as a century ago, scientists were still looked at, from many corners, as somewhat strange, eccentric birds. The phrase "mad scientists" was common, and stories like Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein", or Robert Louis Stevenson's "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde", were not unusual in their depiction of the odd interests of such fellows and the potentially dangerous consequences of their pursuits.

respectable scientistIn comparison, scientists today are the epitome of respectability. We're all familiar with the many news stories that start out, "Scientists reported today that ..."; the reference to "scientists" is made with a tone of voice that commands respect, and in a manner that clearly indicates that scientists are the authorities of our time.

How did scientists shake their image of tweed-wearing, pipe-smoking eccentrics, to become high priests of the modern information era? In large part, because of the results they achieved. Any group of people who can understand and harness the forces of nature commands respect.

Spiritual power and its use (through prayer and every other means of Divine Invocation) still suffers a usually benign (but in some times and places, not so benign) neglect. If it commands any interest at all, Spiritual life tends to be viewed as a particular means -- generally private, largely inward -- for consoling oneself, rather than what it actually is, when practiced authentically: namely, a tangible linking up with the greater-than-material Spiritual Reality.