Rational Scientific Theories from Theism

Spirituality Approach to Theistic Science

How to distinguish the Natural and Spiritual

Are they different?

There is currently much uncertainty concerning the distinction (if any) between natural and spiritual. 

This is in part because of the widespread tendency to follow the 'methodological naturalism' of modern science, where we assume that everything that can be investigated by science is part of nature and hence natural and hence not spiritual. Is not everything with any causal effect part of the universe, and hence its study part of physics: that science which examines the causes of things? Others argue that methodological naturalism is a working rule of all scientific and medical research that has no ontological implications. 

But apart from science, even when we 'begin afresh', we are still uncertain how, if at all, we should discriminate the spiritual from the natural.  So, in theistic science, we have to make it clear what difference we are proposing, and then consider any such proposal in the context of contemporary methodological naturalism. 

The Spiritual and Mental

The spiritual and mental, in theistic science, are taken as everything in any mind. In particular, it refers to 
(a) the desires, motivations, affections,  loves, intentions, and 
(b) the thoughts, ideas, understandings, wisdoms in those minds. 

We will see that the spiritual and mental are substances (after we understand 'substance' properly), and that both affections and thoughts are states or forms of these substances. We will also have to clarify the manner in which spiritual processes act in space. We will see how the mind is an organic structure made of spiritual substances. Desires and thoughts will be specific operations or activities within or of the affective or cognitive organ or receptors.

As Swedenborg describes it, 

Man knows that there is such a thing as love, but he does not know what love is. He knows that there is such a thing as love from common speech, as when it is said, he loves me, a king loves his subjects, and subjects love their king, a husband loves his wife, a mother her children, and conversely; also, this or that one loves his country, his fellow citizens, his neighbor; and likewise of things abstracted from person, as when it is said, one loves this or that thing. But although the word love is so universally used, hardly anybody knows what love is. And because one is unable, when he reflects upon it, to form to himself any idea of thought about it, he says either that it is not anything, or that it is merely something flowing in from sight, hearing, touch, or intercourse with others, and thus affecting him. He is wholly unaware that love is his very life; not only the general life of his whole body, and the general life of all his thoughts, but also the life of all their particulars. This a man of discernment can perceive when it is said: If you remove the affection which is from love, can you think anything, or do anything? Do not thought, speech, and action, grow cold in the measure in which the affection which is from love grows cold? And do they not grow warm in the measure in which this affection grows warm? But this a man of discernment perceives simply by observing that such is the case, and not from any knowledge that love is the life of man. (DLW 1.) 

The idea of men in general about love and about wisdom is that they are like something hovering and floating in thin air or ether or like what exhales from something of this kind. Scarcely anyone believes that they are really and actually substance and form. Even those who recognize that they are substance and form still think of the love and the wisdom as outside the subject and as issuing from it. For they call substance and form that which they think of as outside the subject and as issuing from it, even though it be something hovering and floating; not knowing that love and wisdom are the subject itself, and that what is perceived outside of it and as hovering and floating is nothing but an appearance of the state of the subject in itself. There are several reasons why this has not hitherto been seen, one of which is, that appearances are the first things out of which the human mind forms its understanding, and these appearances the mind can shake off only by the exploration of the cause; and if the cause lies deeply hidden, the mind can explore it only by keeping the understanding for a long time in spiritual light; and this it cannot do by reason of the natural light which continually withdraws it. The truth is, however, that love and wisdom are the real and actual substance and form that constitute the subject itself. (DLW 40.)

Other speculative ideas of the 'spiritual' and 'mental'

Very many ideas of the 'spiritual' or 'mental' have been entertained by many authors. The Spiritual or Mental have been (erroneously!) thought to be 
  1. states of the brain (in scientific naturalism),
  2. 'higher frequencies of vibration',
  3. another dimension,
  4. electromagnetic structure,
  5. quantum microscopic substructure,
  6. some new kind of energy,
  7. etherial (Aetherial) vibrations,
  8. collective or system effects in organic wholes, 
  9. patterns of activities,
  10. quantum nonlocalities,
  11. quantum collective processes,
  12. the quantum vacuum with zero-point energy,
  13. etc
or, in the more philosophical approaches, 
  1. the 'inner view' of all natural things (and the physical the 'outer view'), and so that a person's mind, for example, is the 'view from the inside of the brain',
  2. the 'system' or 'ecological' view of all natural things. A person's mind would then be the brain 'considered as a whole', perhaps as a 'completely interconnected' or 'indivisible' whole.
Some of these quantum proposals are discussed in the first section of my article Quantum Mechanics and Consciousness.  Others are mentioned in my talk here.

Another dualist extreme may be taken, following Descartes: that the spiritual/mental is an independent substance that interacts with (but has no necessary connection to) the physical world.  It then becomes very obscure by which principle spirit and nature could ever interact, and one is easily lead to believe that activities in nature can proceed independently of any spiritual source. 

ALL of these ideas FAIL.
They do NOT characterise the spiritual or mental in the sense of theistic science.

Distinguishing Spiritual from Mental

The difference between 'spiritual' and 'mental' is one that will be discussed more here, and only fully clarified in the discussion of discrete degrees, but some indication can be given now of this difference, which is that the 'spiritual' is the 'interior mind', and the 'mental is the 'exterior mind'. Here: 
  • the interior mind deals with underlying loves and wisdom that make up the character and nature of a person, and 
  • the exterior mind deals with the thoughts and affections by means of which that character and nature manifest themselves in life.

Methodological Naturalism revisited

Apart from physics there are many sciences such as biology and psychology that deal with the mind. And what we think has a strong influence on the physical world. What theistic science claims, therefore, is that existing sciences have already examined a great number of mental/spiritual processes, but without being clearly aware of what they have done. 

This implies that that a process being mental or spiritual does not automatically bar it from scientific investigation! The task, therefore, is to understand the connection between all spiritual, mental and natural processes. This is the purpose of theistic science, and once it is achieved, we will see that the 'natural' in 'methodological naturalism' will have been construed excessively narrowly. 

Sometimes the introduction of theism into nature is criticised as a 'God of the gaps', as God is introduced as a means of solving some hitherto unsolved problems in the sciences. In theistic sciences, however,  we see that God is not merely of any gaps, but is God of everything! We will see that there are discrete degrees, between which there are (correctly construed to be) gaps, but that the existence of these degrees and their gaps and their interconnections is all consistent with what is derived from God, and with what we derive by means of theistic science. 

Integrating Spiritual and Natural!

Having just distinguished spiritual from natural processes and substances, we have to remember that they are always closely interwoven! We will see that the spiritual and natural are successive discrete degrees that need each other to exist, and we must never fall into the trap of Cartesian dualism of allowing them to have independent existences. They cannot be united into one substance, but they may be integrated into one functional whole.


www.TheisticScience.org Author: Ian J. Thompson, Email: IanT at TheisticScience.org