Spirituality Demystified: Understanding Spirituality in Rational Terms

by Rohana Ulluwishewa

Spirit literally means that which gives vitality to a system. If so, that which gives vitality to all biological systems - all living beings including ourselves, is spirit. It is our essence, what we really are. Spirituality is the state of being one with the spirit, or becoming who we really are. This is the purpose of our life as humans. This book, with the help of scientific evidence, shows our brain is hardwired to guide us to achieve this goal.

However, the brain’s neuroplasticity allows the self-centeredness which dominates our society to be soft-wired in the brain. This makes our thoughts and actions selfish and prevents us from following the hardwired brain. Nevertheless, the good news is that the same neuroplasticity allows us to dissolve the soft-wired neural circuits and to liberate ourselves from self-centeredness if we want to do so. The founders of all great religions have shown various pathways to achieve this goal, and there are many science-based non-religious pathways too. Though there are many methods and pathways, following them are our choice. This book concludes with some policy measures that could help individuals to achieve the goal.

The Purpose of the Book

Spirituality literally means being one with the spirit. Spirit, in general, refers to an ultimate reality which exists beyond the material realm. It cannot be observed or experienced directly through our physical senses. All religions claim to be expressions of spirituality. The religions dominating our society today originated well before the emergence of modern science. The founders of the religions who claimed to have experienced the spiritual reality either directly or through messengers, preached what that spiritual reality was like and what individuals should do and not to do if they wished to be one with the spirit and benefit from it.

However, there was no way for them to objectively verify what it was. Therefore, for many, spirituality remained mystic, and it is still taught in organized religions as a mystical phenomenon. Most of what is being taught in spirituality, e.g. God, soul, spirit, heaven, hell, karma, life after death etc are presented as mystical phenomena. Most of them are inconsistent with modern science and rational thinking. Hence, to accept and practice what is taught as spirituality demands a blind faith, a faith in God who is said to be seated in a mystical space called heaven and therefore is incomprehensible to the scientific mind, a faith in scriptures of which authenticity is questionable, a faith in theories that have not been tested and proved by scientific means, a faith in various metaphysical elements that are unobservable, unscientific, irrational and illogical, and a faith in the preachers who do not practice what they preach.

About the Author

Rohana Ulluwishewa was an Associate Professor at the Sri Jayewardenepura University in Sri Lanka. After gaining a M.Sc. from the London School of Economics and Political Science, University of London, he completed his PhD at Kyushu University, Japan. In his thirty years of academic career he has worked as Senior Lecturer at the University of Brunei Darussalam, and was Visiting Fellow at Wageningen Agricultural University and Leiden University in the Netherlands, and at Leeds University, UK. He served as a consultant for many national and international development agencies and has published in numerous international journals. He was also an Honorary Research Associate at Massey University in New Zealand, where he currently lives.

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