It is beyond tragedy that at a time when more and more people are becoming aware of a spiritual dimension to life that they would seldom dream of seeking more spirituality through Christians in general and the church in particular. The issue seems to be,as John Drane so succinctly puts it in his 2005 book, “Do Christians know how to be spiritual?”
David Hay, a zoologist and former director of the Religious Experience Unit in Oxford has written about this phenomenon in his book “Something There…the biology of the human spirit” (ISBN 0-232-52637-0).
Building on the pioneering work of Sir Alister Hardy, he discusses research in the worlds of biology, psychology and social science which strongly suggest that spiritual awareness is a genuine and deep-seated part of being human, indeed that it is “hard-wired into our biological make-up and evolves through natural selection because it has survival value. It is what enables people to relate ethically to other human beings and to their environment”. This is research that Richard Dawkins leaves out of hisbooks!
Hay begins by demonstrating for research materials that there is a universal sense of “something there”. He discusses the factors that have worked to water down that sense, and to almost make it ridiculous to talk publicly of these “supernatural” experiences that we all sometimes have. He looks at the rise of materialism and individualism that have undermined the root needs for all humans to relate ethically, and the tragic results on the culture of the West, summed up so well in the chapter called “Why spirituality is difficult for Westerners”.
He goes on to look at the problems people have with institutionalised Christianity and ways in which believers need to change to heal their own sickness and become a signpost and resource for the healing of the cultural sickness in others.
I found the science and its ‘faith-application’ fascinating, and definitely bearing out my personal experience and the experiences that other people have shared with me.
The book is well worth a read, a think, and some serious effort to implement its findings.