Many people see life as the art of living. But our life is both art and science. From the aspect of spiritual practice, religion is science. Divine science. So how can we make our spiritual practice become the exploration of divine science?
Consider this: Our process of thinking, learning and seeking solutions in our daily life is science. Think of the steps of the scientific method. We go through the same process in our lives with observation, raising questions, making assumptions, experimentation (trying), analyzing, and making conclusions, which becomes our knowledge and valuable experience.
In the same way, our spiritual practice can be understood with the same methods and processes. Let’s use a diagram to demonstrate spiritual practice as a scientific process.
In natural science studies, we use textbooks; in divine science study, the Holy Writings are our textbooks. At the beginning of our studies, we follow the textbook’s instructions step by step. In the same way, when we follow the commandments and the laws of God, we are following the step by step instructions at the beginning of our divine science study. Why do we need divine science?
It (science) is of two kinds: material and spiritual. Material science is the investigation of natural phenomena; divine science is the discovery and realization of spiritual verities. The world of humanity must acquire both. A bird has two wings; it cannot fly with one. Material and spiritual science are the two wings of human uplift and attainment. Both are necessary—one the natural, the other supernatural; one material, the other divine. By the divine we mean the discovery of the mysteries of God, the comprehension of spiritual realities, the wisdom of God, inner significances of the heavenly religions and foundation of the law. – Abdu’l-Baha, Promulgation of World Peace
Our daily life is like the classroom, or laboratory, of divine science. The experiences we have in life events and the relationships we have with others are the exercises of using our spiritual power and learning to maximize the use of that power. In this process, we can’t do it without the development of inner awareness and use of both our outer and inner power to help us in the awakening process.
Awareness of both our physical and spiritual condition helps us make the connection between the physical world and the spiritual world and enables us to recognize that our physical being is connected with the inner being. Awareness is like the observation skill which a scientist must have. We must train ourselves to constantly be aware of our mindset and be aware of the condition of our mind. In this way we can know if we are distracted by illusion or have a closed mind. If our ideas are constantly renewed or not is the indicator of the condition of our inner being.
The word of God is the inspiration for us to create a new mindset. Studying holy writings daily and putting them into action is like an experiment where we observe a chemical reaction — the mystery of the interaction of spiritual powers. Praying and meditating must be put into action through service to humanity. In this way, it is like an experiment in natural science and can be observed.
Furthermore, we can act as an individual or as a collective group. Spiritual practice can be individual or collective. Individual practice can lead to the discovery of personal potentials and collective practice can lead to the discovery of the power of unity. Collective practice can be at different scales, from family to community, to larger community groups.
Sometimes in physical science, we have difficulty figuring out where our experiment is not working. If the same problem repeats over and over again and has not been resolved, it means we are stuck. When we encounter difficulty in our personal lives, we might reflect on our mindset and attitude and pray for guidance.
Prayer and meditation are like an appointment with the divine teacher: the Manifestation of God for this day and age. We must seek the divine teacher in our hearts for spiritual guidance. The divine teacher can become our close friend, just as we have a good relationship with a teacher who guides us closely.
Indeed, material science is for the wellness of our physical being and divine science is for the wellness of our inner being. The Baha’i Writings tell us:
…the individual realities of mankind, when spiritually born, are emanations from the reality of Divinity, just as the flame, heat and light of the sun are the effulgence of the sun and not a part of the sun itself. Therefore, a spirit has emanated from the reality of Divinity, and its effulgences have become visible in human entities or realities. This ray and this heat are permanent. There is no cessation in the effulgence. As long as the sun exists, the heat and light will exist, and inasmuch as eternality is a property of Divinity, this emanation is everlasting. There is no cessation in its outpouring. The more the world of humanity develops, the more the effulgences or emanations of Divinity will become revealed, just as the stone, when it becomes polished and pure as a mirror, will reflect in fuller degree the glory and splendor of the sun. – Abdu’l-Baha, Promulgation of World Peace
Through spiritual practice with a scientific method, we can discover divine mysteries and understand that we are eternal beings. The more we purify our heart and sanctify our soul, the more the reality of the spirit and the divinity will be revealed.