Contemporary spirituality seminar at the University of Haifa
During a visit to Israel by friends from Europe and Latin America to disseminat Silo’ Message and Universalist Humanism, we had the opportunity to attend the Fourth International Conference for the Study of Contemporary Spirituality (ICSCS) at the University of Haifa. We were invited by the director of the Education Department Prof. Ofra Mayseless.
We noticed that the emergence of a new spirituality, announced by Silo in 1999 from the Park of Study and Reflection Punta de Vacas, had been detected at a university in Israel. Israel and the Middle East in general are plagued by the spirit of dogmatism and intolerance of religious groups, which contaminate the whole of society. The non-separation of religion and the state and the growing presence of fundamentalism within religions are affecting all areas of society and are shaking the world with their threats and violence. In this context the attempt of the University of Haifa sounded like an oasis worth visiting.
This conference had many questions: Is a new humanism in need of spirituality? Can psychology include procedures from spiritual schools for human development and happiness? Should medicine accept in their studies alternative medicines? Why belief systems are not considered to be part of human knowledge and studied in academia? These and many other questions led to more than 80 presentations, workshops, conferences and debates on issues related to spirituality.
In view of the themes raised and the way they were broached we realised it is not usually clear to us that behind our science, history, psychology, economics, sociology, anthropology and other areas of knowledge is operating a system of beliefs and spirituality that gives meaning and direction to science. The discovery just a few decades ago that the human being exists produced a crisis in the scientific method. The existence of human beings may seem obvious, but its recognition as a non-natural being, intentional and possessing freedom is fairly recent. The intentionality of human consciousness and how it projects its interior to the outside world – the world of others – is a fairly recent discovery.
Today it is not possible to do science without taking into account the observer, his/her intention and point of view. The perspective of the scientist doing and constructing science, ie, the inclusion of subjectivity, is what is encouraging the development of a new science. From phenomenology to quantum physics, the structure human being-world leads us to understand that the human eye is not something that hinders the scientific method, but a key component of it. If science has to take into account the observer’s look for the understanding of quantum phenomena, social sciences could tend to follow the same route by verifying the inability to exclude subjectivity.
In one of the seminars we witnessed the efforts by psychology to build on experiences of spiritual movements such as Buddhism and Kabbalah to access the experience of silence reinterpreting it in a way that can fulfill therapeutic functions. There were also efforts for humanism to understand the sacred not only from a religious viewpoint, but also from an irreligious and atheist one, without accepting institutions and gods.
The thesis at the background of the seminar – which was expressed by its organiser in the plenary session – was that spiritual development can give new impetus to science and redirect it for the benefit and happiness of humankind. Will Academia understand this thesis and include it?