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Can spirituality really be approached as a science?

By - Apr 23, 2010 - Category Articles - Print Print

Many years ago, I was reading a chapter in Bahram Elahi‘s The Foundations of Natural Spirituality when a paragraph leaped out and grabbed my attention.

“God is in everything, everywhere and with everyone. Whether in a dream or while we are awake, directly or indirectly, through the intermediary of His messengers or those who are loved by us, or through any other means—even a passerby in the street—He communicates with each one of us. But in order to hear Him and to understand Him, we must first learn how to decode His messages.” (The Foundations of Natural Spirituality, Bahram Elahi, page 18)

I realized in that moment that if I were to have my own intimate relationship with God, I needed to learn to decode His messages. It led to my making more and more determined efforts that I have related in my recently published book, Decoding The Spiritual Messages of Everyday Life.

Being a practically minded psychiatrist, I felt that the first step was to figure out what made a spiritual experience different from a seemingly similar psychological experience—not in theory but in my own experience. So, I began writing down my own experiences on which my beliefs rested in as objective a way as I could. I then tried to see what conclusions each of these experiences could justify. Yet, interesting as they were to me personally, as evidence they were frightfully inconclusive. I realized that although I had initially needed to use my experiences to inspire faith in the existence of a spiritual dimension and in one or another person’s belief as to what it meant, it was now essential for me to learn to combine the evidence of my own experience with the evidence of other people’s experience to see which of the conflicting interpretations seemed most justified by the evidence rather than our intuitive grasp of what was going on.

To get started, I sent a questionnaire to all my friends and asked them to forward it to their friends. I collected a few hundred experiences and then interviewed in greater depth about fifty people whose experiences touched me in one way or another. Each was so different that I had to come up with a method to integrate them with my own in such a way as to increase my understanding of the forces causing our experiences. To make a long story short, I discovered that if we slightly modify what we all naturally do in our material life to take into account what we believe to be the spiritual element in that given situation that we can learn from each others’ spiritual experiences in the same way that we can then learn from others’ encounters with physical reality.

Let me describe the process in a very oversimplified way. It’s by first identifying the most determining spiritual and material factors that are active in a given situation and the way in which those factors influenced our own and others’ thoughts, feelings and actions and by secondly adapting our conclusions about how these elements work together to the particulars of our own life. To give a purely material example, if you have a problem with your boss, you do better understanding how others have dealt with bosses and then adapting those general conclusions to the specifics of your situation. What you need to do is to then add what you consider to be your understanding of the spiritual elements that might be at work in the situation and then see how that influences the outcome. And just as the proof of our ability to learn from others in that situation would be how much better it helped us deal with the realities of our own situation, so in learning from the spiritual experiences of others it’s by seeing how much better it helps us take into account the spiritual forces at work in everyday life.

In every study, it’s important to limit the field of your inquiry. Just as I found that I could psychologically understand both myself and others better by examining our interpersonal relationships, work lives and everyday habits rather than our peak experiences, so I found that decoding the spiritual messages that came in those same everyday aspects of everyday life provided a common reference point that led to a better understanding of how spiritual forces worked.

The ability to decode messages in my own life led me to more strongly believe one of Ostad Elahi‘s most innovative teachings—that spirituality could be approached as a science rather than as a philosophy. In fact, it helped me focus more clearly on the task that exists before us today, for I saw that spirituality today is in the same shape that psychology was a hundred years ago when no one thought the mind could be understood scientifically. I could see how we could learn from way psychology advanced and modify it to take into account the unique elements of spiritual experience to arrive at an ever-increasing understanding of our common spiritual nature.

Fortunately for us, we don’t need to start at the beginning, for each spiritual and religious tradition has given us sets of principles by which to engage the spiritual dimension of everyday life. By using the principles common to most in a systematic way, we will gradually arrive at a better understanding of what the originator of the principles believed was important for us. As Ostad Elahi’s philosophy was not only built on the principles common to all religions but also encouraged me to be more objective and systematic, I used the basic principles that were selected in his book 100 Maxims of Guidance to pull all the disparate experiences together into the coherent whole. To foster my efforts, for example, I often thought of the maxim “On the path of truth, all religions are but one, race and color are irrelevant, and there is no difference between men and women” for it encouraged me to do my best to arrive at a clearer understanding of our spiritual nature. In particular situations of everyday life that mystified me, I thought of the maxim that expresses the principle of causal determinism that is at the heart of all science, “Chance and coincidence are only illusions; there is always a cause and a reason for everything.” If we can’t understand something today, we will understand it in the future. As I pushed forward, I began to understand that each of the messages were a part of a larger plan that I tried to capture in the subtitle of my book How Life Shows Us What We Need to Know.

The real key in learning to decode messages is our discovering common methods that can be applied by people from different religious and spiritual traditions. Only then is real progress possible. For just as it takes the effort of tens of thousands of researchers working together with a common method to gather the evidence that enables us to use the insights of geniuses in material science to improve our everyday lives, so the same is true in spiritual science. The better we can formulate a common method, the more each message that we decode will become a bit of data in our collective understanding of spiritual forces. We will all benefit, for if we are struggling to understand a given issue or situation in our everyday life, there are thousands of others around the world who have struggled with precisely that issue and resolved it in their own lives. By using the Internet and sites like decodeyourmessages.com that I have set up to facilitate the process, we can share what we have learned.

I admit, it’s hard to get started because the task seems so huge. Yet, I believe that if you start, you will soon see the benefits of it, as I did, and they will be sufficient to keep you going. That’s because sharing with others what you have learned is a way of expressing your gratitude to the Source of your messages—and it will improve your understanding of the guidance that your messages deliver in your own life. Each of us understands one little piece of the puzzle but by working together we can show the truth of one of Ostad Elahi’s most innovative discoveries—that we can integrate spirituality into our more complex and rational lives by approaching spirituality as a science.


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7 comments

  1. Alex Apr 24, 2010 8:44 pm 1

    Thank you very much for this article. It seems that each one of us has a spiritual message to decode. However, by sharing our thoughts we can form a gateway to decode the overall message of the source.

  2. hanson In UK Apr 28, 2010 2:26 pm 2

    I read the article at a time when I felt down and seemed my thoughts were not going beyond my confused perceptions. The words seem to have a mesage that I needed to understand and decode. Thanks.

  3. Ali Tinat(Zoghi). Apr 29, 2010 6:20 pm 3

    Great article and an excellent suggestion in terms of sharing our experiences for in doing so, I also concur, it will also help us to decode the messages within. Ostad Elahi’s teachings often embrace concepts such as “causality”, ” action/Reaction”, plus other laws. Causality, among other things, also pertains to that which that causes a particular outcome—be it positive or negative. Interestingly enough, it is more than often the negative outcome that baffles us to a great extent. I will not go into the details of how and why this is so, but to make a long story short will also point to a few sayings of Ostad Elahi, taken from the 100 Maxims of Guidance which help us understand things that happen to us, hence decoding the actual cause within.

    I. Chance does not exist. There is always a cause and a reason for everything.
    II. Man is responsible for his actions in so far as God has given him will-power, discernment, and fee will. Beyond this, his future is determined by God.
    III.We should ask God for nothing but his satisfaction.
    IV. Look into yourself to find the reasons for everything that happens to you.

    Maxims are truly great guidelines. Good luck to you all.

  4. Mat May 01, 2010 3:46 pm 4

    The article is inspiring so is the book Decode the spiritual messages in everyday life which I am in the midst of reading, just got to chapter 9. The cases and experiences discussed in the book are so tangible, and it’s well worth it to be considered in the curriculum, if one day spirituality comes as an academic program in universities.

  5. JW May 02, 2010 2:14 pm 5

    Thank you for sharing this article, I have been and am most grateful for having opportunities for discovering Ostad Elahi’s spiritual teachings. I would also like to thank Dr. Debell for sharing his experiences with us in such a practical and universal perspective.

    As a friend once said “life is an overwhelming experience for most of us.”

    Interesting enough, just like our friend “Hanson In UK” I have been experiencing an overwhelming period of change for the past 7 months that had started to effect my mental and spiritual well being with a state of depression where my thoughts were not going beyond my confused perceptions, wondering in desperation as to why I have lost the ability to receive and decode spiritual messages to help steer me in the right direction?

    I had received the e-mail notification from e-Otadelahi on this article about a week ago and while my thoughts were submerged in confusion seeking an immediate quick fix I had saved the notification in my inbox to review at a later date until through a chain of what seemed to be coincidental events I decide to check my mail box and read up on this article last night.

    After reading the article I followed through by visiting Dr. Debell’s web site decodeyourmessages.com and reading up on the contents of his new book Decoding The Spiritual Messages of Everyday Life and was once more astonished by the immediate positive effect and sense of mental and spiritual clarity I gained by reading a few short articles.

    The interesting thing is I have been submerged in confusion for the past few weeks like a blind man seeking to find passage in the dark while all the time a so valuable and powerful spiritual message and the answers to my prayers for direction has been sitting right under my nose for the past week!

    I will be purchasing a copy of his book ASAP and look forward to joining in on the practical sharing section on his web site.

    Once more, thank you for sharing.

  6. Zulu May 09, 2010 11:21 pm 6

    This is an excellent book. I like reading and this is one of the books I really enjoyed reading recently. The language is very easy to follow which was a delightful surprise for me, especially because it was written by a psychiatrist. It is full of interesting experiences. The way Dr. Debell has laid out the function of the spiritual messages particularly with the main focus on intention is intriguing. The website and the weekly newsletters are also a good compliment to the book. These kinds of books should be taught in universities.

    Past few days I was a bit in a dark mood, feeling hopeless with all my shortcomings and wasn’t able to see the light. Yesterday I was doing some cleanups in the garden. I went to the garage. In the middle of the darkness something caught my attention; a wheelbarrow full of dirt that I put in the garage while back. Somehow without light and water a little plant was able to grow on the pile of dirt! I immediately realized that this was a spiritual message giving feedback on my recent thoughts and feelings!

  7. Eileen Jan 11, 2011 4:46 am 7

    Thank you, Dr. De Bell and all the individuals who shared their thoughts. I look forward very much to reading “Decoding Spiritual Messages in Everyday Life”; my copy is due to arrive any day, now. I have a friend/relative who is like a sister to me, and she has been decoding messages from her personal experiences for over thirty years, and reading Asar ul-Haqq every day. I have always wished to be able to analyze my own experiences, but so far have been unable. I was thrilled when my daughter told me about your book, Dr. De Bell. Like a couple of readers above, I also get in moods of despair, feeling hopeless because of all my shortcomings and wrong decisions in life; however, I remind myself the principle that everything has a positive side to it, not just negative. We must think and act upon the positive. I also read “100 Maxims of Guidance”, however, I do not yet have the wisdom to understand and analyze the maxims as they apply to my everyday experiences. I heard that you devoted ten years of your life to writing your book. I hope I will be able to participate in these exercises like a student. Sincerely.

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