Differences Between Spiritualism and Science

A talk by a Society member, 2016

Differences between Spiritualism and Science.

Spiritualism is recognized as a religion in the USA, United Kingdom and other countries. As can be seen in the Declaration of Principles, Spiritualism is a belief system and has elements of belief and faith.

Science is evidence based, empirical. “Show me” and “prove it” is the prevailing approach. Although scientists do have their beliefs and dogmas, they can be modified and revised over time based on data and evidence. Scientists exclude what is outside their focus, and to save time and money, have practical focus on what can be measured and published.

This essay is based partially on a book by Dr. Bruce Lipton entitled the Biology of Belief. Lipton was a Cell Biologist who taught medical students, and held typical scientific beliefs. He was a materialist who was not interested in energy or spirit. Like many scientists, he believed that the Material physical body is real, mind or spirit is not real.

Bruce Lipton underwent a change in belief after reading a popular explanation of quantum physics in a book by Heinz Pagels “the Cosmic Code,” which explained the implications of quantum physics for biology. Lipton realized that according to the physicists, energy and matter were interrelated (Einstein e= mc^2). Physical body/matter is a form of energy.

At the time Lipton read this book he mentions two prevailing dogmas in Cell Biology: 1. Genes control and determine everything. Diseases are caused by your genetic makeup as opposed to other factors, such as environment. 2. Nuclei (where DNA is located) run/control the cell. Analogous to brain in the body.

Lipton mentions two of his experiments.  First, 3 groups of stem cells (can develop into any type of tissue) placed in different environments (petri dishes with different concentrations of chemicals).  Result, developed into 3 types of cells: 1 muscle, 1 fat, 1 bone tissues.  Hence the genes of the cell were not governing development of the cell rigidly.  Response included the interactions of cell with its environment determined the development/destiny of the cell.

Another experiment: removed nuclei and cells survived for 3 mos, could respond to info from cell membrane.  Did not need genes.  The signals/Information from cell membrane sufficient and the cell’s components and enzymes were sufficient to help cell survive.

Based on these results, Lipton questioned the two dogmas (genes determine everything rigidly, and that nuclei control the cell).  He concluded that the signals from the environment, as perceived by the cell, orchestrated the cell’s response, which included gene expression from the DNA.  He also concluded that the signals/perception received by the cell determined the cell’s response to changing conditions.

He has taken these conclusions and extended them to become a spokesman for New Age beliefs and theories.  Each of us has 8 trillion cells.  We receive signals from our environment.  Instead of cell membranes, we filter our perceptions/signals through our worldview or belief system.  Based on our perceptions, filtered through our beliefs, we respond to the circumstances of our lives.  More traditional scientists would have limited their speculations and waited for additional research findings to corroborate their results.  However, that can take many years.  Dr. Lipton was excited about his discoveries, and wanted to promote them and his speculations.  He is now a popular speaker at meetings and internet seminars.

The physical body is both physical and energetic.  Perhaps you have seen pictures of a patient hooked up with an electroencephalograph, or EEG, having wires on head to measure the electrical activity of brain conducted thru skin, read activity of brain.  Now there’s a new instrument called the magnetoencephalograph.  Probe reads brain activity from a magnetic field point of view  and probe does not touch head at all.  This widely accepted new technology shows that our thoughts, emotions, and attention generates energy fields outside the head.

Perhaps you have heard of Eben Alexander’s near death experience.  A neurosurgeon who was hospitalized with meningitis had a NDE, made a full recovery, and provided details of the afterlife in his book Proof of Heaven.  Dr. Alexander’s account is controversial.  Bruce Lipton cites 2 NDE’s (Eben Alexander and Anita Moorjani) to support the idea that we are more than our physical bodies.  The Mind is not in the brain.  Brain is like radio that plays a program.  Destroy brain and just alter download of mind.  Consciousness aspect is like a broadcast, brain is radio receiver.

Yet I agree that our thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, and emotions can affect our physical body.  When I lived in Denver I had a position as an assistant manager in a retail store.  I felt stressed by my responsibilities and considered stepping down to become a retail clerk instead.  However, the managerial job paid a lot more.  I procrastinated, resisted making the change and developed a painfully stiff neck.  I meditated on my condition and decided that I should go ahead with the change.  When I changed my mind and committed to leaving the managerial position my neck discomfort disappeared within 2 hours.  Did I heal my neck? Or did I just remove the stress and conflict that caused the problem?  When the stress and conflict were removed, I returned to wholeness or health.

We practice spiritual healing here at SSR.  The members are acting as mediums or conduits for spirit to conduct healing.  We believe that spirit exists, that energy fields exist, and that unseen influences can help us.  In scientific circles, these beliefs are known as magical thinking.  In the field of healing, science has discounted all effects of thought, attitude, and emotion as “the placebo effect.”  For example, if a doctor gives you a pill that he tells you will alleviate your symptoms or cure your illness, you take the pill and recover, and you later find out that the pill had no medication in it (usually just sugar), the effect of the sugar pill or placebo is used as an example of the power of the mind.  I agree with Lipton that although Science has not been willing to investigate the power of the mind in healing, it should.

The opposite of the placebo effect is the no-sebo effect.  A patient who is told by their doctor that they have 6 months to live, may be plunged into a downward spiral by that authoritative diagnosis.  We tend to believe that our doctors know more than we do and when they make a pronouncement, we should follow it.  However, I’ve watched many testimonials on the internet of patients who did not accept the doctor’s pronouncements, and who instead investigated alternative healing methods, recovered their health, and proved their doctor to be wrong.

Some of these testimonials were in a movie on youtube which featured Dr. Lipton.  The movie is called TheLivingMatrixmovie.com.  It discusses and illustrates ideas of New Age or Energy healing.  The main idea is that we are more than our physical bodies, and that we consist of energy fields beyond the physical body.  Our thoughts, attitudes, and emotions affect our energy fields and thus affect the health of the physical body.

Impact of trauma/conditioning on succeeding generations.  Do my life experiences just affect me?  In a 2013 study, parental olfactory experience influences behavior and neural structure in subsequent generations . (Brian G DiasKerry J Ressler  Nature Neuroscience)   Memories pass between generations via epigenetics.  Trained mice with negative response to signal (cherry blossom scent chemical and electric shock applied to feet).  Negative programming: mice smelled cherry anticipated shock fight or flight.  Then mated males with unshocked unprogrammed female.  Offspring had no connection, but their sense of smell for cherry smell genes augmented and activated in offspring by cherry smell.  Sensitized to cherry smell, had a negative fear response even though they never had shock experience.  Even went to the next generation.  2 generations traumatized by cherry shock scenario at 1st generation.  Initial trauma had behavioral impact on next generation, and minute changes in specific genes were noted in the sperm cells of the 1st and 2nd generation of mice.

Life experiences of individual not just contained in 1st generation life.  Offspring respond to world influenced by past generations. Negative experiences passed on. Readout or expression of genetic code changed; the actual DNA code was not changed.

This study, which not only showed measurable behavioral change, but also structural change affecting DNA expression, has spurred further research into the impact of trauma on subsequent generations.

While scientists are investigating this area, we can speculate on the implications of this study.  If you let your imagination run wild, it can be entertaining.  For example, my father, a German immigrant, had experienced trauma growing up.  Has that somehow affected me?  Was his childhood trauma the cause of my dreams of being chased by a giant wienerschnitzel?

However, I believe Lipton is right in promoting the New Age belief that your thoughts/beliefs/attitudes affect your physical health and wellbeing.  As I have mentioned here before, I could demonstrate a negative example of this by reading you names of present and past politicians.  Some of us would get irritated or angry when thinking about these individuals.  And it’s an election year, and it’s in our face all summer!

Mindfulness is the key.  Can I step back from my internal dialog, my ongoing self talk, to notice: What are my thoughts, attitudes, and emotions at this moment?  If I increase my habit of mindfulness, then I can notice when I am entertaining negative thoughts, attitudes, and emotions.  I have noticed that when I entertain resentment towards my boss or my work situation, it churns up my emotions and I become stressed and irritable.  This is the impact of thoughts and emotions upon my stress hormones, which gear me up for fight or flight.

The habit of mindfulness, of noticing what I am entertaining with my attention, gives me the opportunity for choice.  I do not have to go from irritation to anger.  I can take a deep breath, switch the channel, and hum or sing a happier tune!

What we pay attention to we amplify and that colors our lives.

[Pagels quote: Science is not the enemy of humanity but one of the deepest expressions of the human desire to realize that vision of infinite knowledge. Science shows us that the visible world is neither matter nor spirit; the visible world is the invisible organization of energy.

CONCLUSION: Lipton: Rather than being controlled by your genes, your biology (gene expression)  controlled by mind.  Change your mind and change biology and genetics.]


Parental olfactory experience influences behavior and neural structure in subsequent generations  Brian G DiasKerry J Ressler  Nature Neuroscience 17, 89–96, (2014) doi:10.1038/nn.3594


TheLivingMatrixmovie.com movie (free on youtube)

Lipton, Bruce.  The Biology of Belief: Unleashing the power of consciousness, matter, and miracles.

Pagels, Heinz R.  The Cosmic Code: Quantum physics as the language of nature.

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