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Why Be Blinded by Science and Materialism?

by Chris Tong, Ph.D.

Adapted from:
Three Views of Reality and Human Potential
Dr. Chris Tong

Why be blinded by science and materialism?

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

Shakespeare, Hamlet


Scientific materialism is a strange philosophy for everyone to be attached to . . . Why should it be the preferred philosophy? Of all the philosophies, it’s the one that allows the least hope relative to any matter whatsoever! If it were so — well, that’s that, that’s the way it is. But why should one hope that it is the one that turns out to be so? Why should one so much want it to be so that one is moved to presently affirm that it’s already so, even though you haven’t really found out that it’s so yet? . . . Rather than just willing to have it be that way or whatever way it is, but here just to find out the way it really is, and not anything other than that.

Avatar Adi Da Samraj, Drifted in the Deeper Land


The overwhelmingly predominant view these days — the one with the political and cultural clout as well as the philosophical influence — is that of scientific materialism. We cannot even begin to talk about alternative views that do include a Greater Reality, without acknowledging the power and influence held by the view that openly denies or strongly doubts that any non-material reality exists.

  1. Simple materialism: the naive realism of sense and "common sense" — The simplest form of materialism says reality is exclusively that which appears to the five material senses. The basic methodology by which materialism justifies itself is that of naive realism: “what you see [or hear, or smell, or taste, or touch] is what you get [or all that is real].”

  2. Scientific materialism: amplifying sense and common sense through technology — Scientific materialism augments materialism in a specific way: reality also includes whatever is directly perceivable via (or directly inferable from) scientific instrumentation used in carefully controlled experiments. Thus even though the immediate senses cannot detect radioactivity, scientific instrumentation can, and thus radioactivity is also considered “real” by scientific materialists.

  3. Human potential within the materialistic view — Within the view of materialism, our most obvious human potential is to be as self-fulfilled as possible (via the available materialistic means) while we are still alive. Fulfillment is in human (not Spiritual) terms: bodily pleasure and emotional contentment. Because nothing significant can be said about what happens after one dies within this viewpoint, no consideration is given to what consequence living solely to fulfill oneself has on one’s destiny after death. There is no absolute address to the problem of human suffering ot unhappiness; but it is presumed that increasingly greater understanding of (and control over) material reality corresponds to a lessening of human suffering (at least to the degree that that suffering takes a material form).

  4. Limitations of the materialistic view — In some sense, the primary limitation of materialism is its “obviousness”. We rely on our senses all the time, to the point where we place a great deal of trust in those senses. And rightly so, relative to ordinary functioning and survival: our senses are constantly keeping us alive, whether we are speeding down the road in our automobiles and suddenly swerve out of the way of an unexpected car; or we are spitting out something that tastes “off”. Why would we want to bad-mouth such good friends as these five? We are so intimate with (and habituated to) these friends that there is even an emotional overtone of “obviousness” to everything they “tell” us. It’s worth recalling how the "apparently obvious" has been shown to be untrue — the stuff of mere appearance — time and time again.

  5. That which materialism does not account for is the clue to what will supercede it — Because paradigm shifts are presaged by that which the current paradigm cannot account for, it is worth taking a close look at those aspects of our experience that mainstream scientific materialism has not adequately accounted for. These include two fundamental facts of our existence: the nature of human consciousness; and the nature of human death (and human suffering).

  6. The machine is in the Ghost: materialism does not account for consciousness — The phrase, “ghost in the machine”, is used to refer to all those aspects of human beings that — to date — have not been accounted for mechanistically (otherwise they’d be a part of the machine). So this would include a “spirit” or “soul”, and of course, “consciousness”. There is a view — an esoteric Spiritual (and Transcendental) view — that does account for the “one / many” dichotomy and the “ghost in the machine”: the view that our apparently separate “consciousness” (along with our body-minds, and the material and Spiritual dimensions altogether) is arising in the One Divine Consciousness, and the sense of being “one being” (despite being associated with a “body-mind” machine having countless parts and personalities: a veritable “society”) is a direct consequence of the One Being being the inherent True Self of all. The ghost is not in the machine. The machine is in the Ghost!

  7. Materialism does not account for death and suffering — The inability for materialism to adequately account for this aspect of oneself called “consciousness” is the reason why death too has been inadequately accounted for. Materialism suggests that death is simply when the battery dies and the “body-mind” machine (thereby) comes to a halt. But if there is a residual part to a human being beyond the part that has died (the physical body), then understanding its destiny is of paramount, personal importance to each of us. Therefore, the inability for materialism to account for human consciousness raises a big question mark in the context of our own mortality. If one has any intelligence one can’t say, “I can’t account for consciousness in material terms”, and simultaneously say, “Who cares about what happens after we die? Let’s just eat, drink, and be merry in the meanwhile!” As a result of our culture's technological frenzy, and as a result of our mistaking self-fulfillment for happiness, we are a culture that is increasingly pleasured in body and stimulated in mind, but increasingly desperate at heart.

  8. True freedom of inquiry vs. the politically enforced reductionism of scientific materialism — The philosophy of scientific materialism also has political force in the sense that it tends to enforce itself as the only acceptable view on reality. Should you or I actually claim that we have seen God, or that we have come into contact with a Greater Reality, we are likely to be subjected to ridicule — either covert or overt; in our contemporary, scientifically materialistic, Western civilization, all such experiences have tended to be immediately interpreted as hallucinatory by-products of the material brain, rather than evidence of a Greater Reality. But now science itself is developing to the point where it cannot use that dismissive argument any more: neurophysiology knows too much about how hallucinations, delusions, etc. are produced, and can no longer claim that spiritual experiences are hallucinations or delusions, when neurophysiological studies of the human brain during such experiences indicate otherwise.


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