I want to introduce the idea that there is a form of spiritual objectivity that can be reached over a lifetime of emotional work and spiritual practice. This framework is parallel to scientific objectivity, but transcends and encompasses it.
In scientific objectivity, we work to ensure that we as observers remain separate from the experiment we conduct, thereby not influencing it. Furthermore, we publish our findings so that other individuals and groups can attempt to replicate them, a process which enhances our confidence. After all, those other groups are even more dispassionate toward the findings than we were, since they were not the ones who originated them.
In the social sciences, the corollary for this method of objectivity is acknowledging one’s biases. We call this a positionality statement. Through writing about our background, identity characteristics, and beliefs, we put a check on the supposed neutrality of the information we share, acknowledging that it comes from a particular perspective. At the same time, through demonstrating that we know what our perspective is, we make a greater plea for objectivity; we have selected and structured our information while being aware of our personality’s limitations.
While these forms of objectivity are well and good, from the spiritual perspective, they also share the limitation of being focused solely on the mind. In the objectivities of both the hard and social sciences, we structure objectivity as freedom from emotion, on the one hand through allegedly removing this from the equation (hard sciences), and on the other through bracketing it from the outset (social sciences). In both cases, we act as though the mind can see truth clearly if only the emotions are evacuated.
From the spiritual perspective, reason is inextricably linked to emotion, so this is a bum effort. Everything I experience is an extension of my personality, including my desire to perform a certain experiment and the experiment itself. That is, there is no way to “remove” myself from the contents of the experience.
Nevertheless, from a spiritual perspective a form of objectivity can be reached. So far as I can tell, this happens through at least three phases:
- Emotional healing. Most people are walking around with traumas so fundamental that they do not even recognize the effect these traumas have on their world. For instance, say someone experienced the death of a parent at a young age and didn’t properly heal from it. Now they study climate change and portend the death of humankind. From a spiritual perspective, this person’s attraction to this kind of information is connected to the unresolved trauma, because they would be studying or doing something different were they not carrying that burden. In other words, the personality makes a selection at the level of which kind of information and experiments are sought, and the personality is changeable through emotional healing. So, the idea that objectivity can be reached through removing emotion is in a sense true, but only when applied to personal healing. Emotion cannot be artificially separated from reason.
- After emotional healing, the chakras become clear. Energy can be felt on a daily, moment to moment basis. A person walks around and feels the world as alive, and interprets situations and events as symbols rather than isolated occurrences. Life becomes a waking dream. From this place, the person becomes open to alternative ideas, ideas that would have been considered taboo by the original mind-frame. For instance, the person explores vaccine skepticism, right wing propaganda, and climate skepticism. To the uninitiated, it may seem as though this person has gone “off the deep end,” but in fact what is happening is that the person is exploring the opposites of the ideas with which they were filled as a youth: they are recognizing that those ideas remain nothing more than ideas, a program disassociated from any physical experience. For instance, the person was taught a story about the origins of racism in school, but wasn’t actually present to experience those events at that time. Why not explore an alternate side to the story? In a sense, the person is waking up to the abstract, mental form of truth with which they were indoctrinated, because the person now has an empirical metric by which to judge that truth. In a sense, the person becomes a free agent.
- Eventually, all ideas are exhausted and only immediate experience is left. This is the consciousness of truly awakened souls like the Buddha, Dalai Lama, and Thich Nhat Hanh. Each person and each event are experienced with naked eyes, because there is no longer a tapestry of ideas that informs the individual in advance as to what to expect. Instead, the person can be truly receptive to what flows in and out of their sphere of awareness, in the same way that a microscope supposedly can be. That is, they can be objective, but not because they have removed themselves or emotionality from the equation in an abstract way; rather, they have transcended these things through internal work, recognizing thought, emotion, and even physical experience as no different at the level of absolute consciousness. All are data; all are sensory experiences revealing themselves for the pleasure and learning of the observer. With this form of objectivity, there is no longer any ego desirous of branding or owning the experiment.
I wanted to write about this because you may have friends who stand at different of the above stages, and you may clash with them when it comes to positions such as vaccines or climate change, or you may even wonder why they do not seem to respect the kind of objectivity which you worship. Understanding that there are different forms of objectivity, you may have a better method of navigating and either resolving or letting go of these conflicts. Furthermore, you may recognize that you are drawn to beginning the path to spiritual objectivity, which previously you hadn’t known about; you may realize that you have emotional healing to do in order to initiate this path. How to do this? I recommend a grounded, somatic therapist, but there are many methods, and you will know and find the one that is right for you.