Zeitschrift für Spiritualität und Transzendentale Psychologie

Why such a journal…?


The challenge of a spiritual science




Max Weber's postulate of value freedom as an ideal of objective science is the central tenet of today's scientists. Scientists gain much of their reputation from the apparent fulfilment of the Enlightenment’s promise that science quarries truth because it does not mix its results with subjective evaluations. But even if the research process should be value-free in this sense, even if we concede that the individual scientist does not deceive to improve their own career (which with a broad concept of fraud is the usual case and not the exception in science)[1], even then there is still enough space for the influence of research interest on implementation and results of the research, completely irrespective of the fact that the choice of the research topic and the research question are undisputedly led by interests. Given this situation, it is quite wrong to claim that science can and should be value-free. In fact, it is never. It even has to adopt an ideological basis as its axiom. This axiom in our culture is the axiom of materialism (the belief in the sole existence of substantive physical spheres of being). For reasons that have to do with a division of districts between Christian religion and science since the Enlightenment and especially after the world wars, there is a broad consensus in society and far into the churches, that science may not have a religious-spiritual axiom, not touching religion being an irrational niche on the other hand. Conversely, (monotheistic) religion claims to be necessarily irrational, because it derives its truth out of an act of pure faith. This division means that religion is still considered as per se irrational quite as at the Age of Enlightenment, science on the other hand as objectively true and rational. In respect to this, the American philosopher and psychologist William James has objected and made the proposal of a universal science of religion, which he thought to be a synthesis of empirical truths in all religions. Notwithstanding this lonely crying in the wilderness, the idea of ​​an empirical foundation of religion (or spirituality) and a spiritual foundation of science is a taboo of scientific and religious thought.


The gap between science and religion however is absurd and artificially constructed, if the institutionalized religion is replaced by the concept of spirituality, or more precisely by the notion of spiritual experience. Spiritual experience is a potential research subject of an intersubjective science like any other. But if the spiritual experience is reduced to the materialistic axiom, which (and this is important to note!) is an ideological preliminary of the scientist and not the result of scientific objectivity, then it will be destroyed in its actual meaning. If I belief I could tear the subject of my research out of its context and thus can understand it better being deprived of its essence, then I conduct research on a dead object. This may have its place, where the dead butterfly in the eyes of a biologist is anatomically more interesting than it would be as a living being (ethologically). Research on dead objects (i.e., without environmental context) in psychology, however, is a dead end in the long term, as has been recognized in many cases today.


Spiritual experiences should not be deprived of their context to be understandable. This online journal promotes the idea of creating a science in which the spiritual is explored not under the materialistic axiom. To introduce a different axiom is perfectly legitimate as axioms are always set and cannot be found in a scientific investigation. The axiom of materialism is an arbitrary set, and a science that does not come to be aware that it is operating under a philosophical premise is in danger of ignoring its unreflective, irrational basis. The axiom is then becoming the unconscious shadow (in the sense of C. G. Jung) of this science, which never openly can look at its irrational, repressed side – one reason why the majority of scientists ignore rather than discuss the axiom of materialism, which they follow uncritically. However, its effectiveness can be seen when you meet a scientist that implicitly negates anything spiritual / religious in his role as a scientist, but in private admits to be a religious / spiritual person: He is forced by the axiom of materialism in his science to deny his true worldview as a scientist. This shows very clearly that science itself is part of a worldview, an ideology and not ideology-neutral, otherwise such value ​​conflicts would never arise. It seems that science has assumed the status of a religion – with scientists as their priests – because otherwise it would not be understandable why a scientist practicing its science under the axiom of transcendence instead of that of materialism can be blemished publicly, although he follows exactly the same rules of science as all other scientists.[2]


An axiom of transcendence, however, claiming that the human mind has a transcendent reference, i.e., that it exists beyond its material basis, or, in other words, that there is a world beyond the material is rejected in science today – not because of scientific, but clearly and undeniably out of ideological presuppositions. Nevertheless, science should be independent – independent of a single ideological presupposition – and therefore scientific research must be based on the axiom of transcendence as well as on the axiom of materialism. Denying the very possibility of the existence of other than material realms of existence or effect causes without having researched and tested this has nothing to do with the claim of science to explore reality in an intersubjective (or even objective) way. It is only and exclusively the reproduction of a prejudice (as they were always common in the scientific community before a crucial discovery; cf. the resistance to Charles Darwin, against the introduction of hospital hygiene by Semmelweis, or against quantum physics by Einstein for example). The rejection of the possibility of research under the axiom of transcendence is thus as far from pure science as any other prejudice-loaded pseudo-scientific statement. At the same time, the mainstream of materialistic science, simply because of having the majority, not the better argument, refers to all research that contradicts the prevailing materialistic paradigm as pseudo-science. This produces in the scientifically interested as well as uneducated population, which is not able to check all these kinds of research (e.g., parapsychology) by themselves, the impression that there had never been a hundred years of anomalistic research with enough evidence to conclude that the scientific materialist paradigm must be replaced by a different paradigm. Anomalistic research of a high quality nowadays is suppressed by public opinion as much as differing religious views at the time of the inquisitors and held as absurd like the world-views of Galileo and Giordano Bruno had to have appeared to their contemporaries.


A science under the axiom of transcendence can be fantasized, however, as follows and can be found already in part: Scientists practice biology, physics or anthropology, or historical sciences. But they do not limit their research interests and build up their investigations on the conviction of the sole existence of a material world. They involve the possibility of the existence of an immaterial world and consider the resulting consequences likewise thorough and open-ended. An anthropologist, for example, assuming the axiom of transcendence, does not have to deny the paranormal experiences s/he inevitably makes in a still originally living indigenous culture, s/he can describe them as that as what the culture sees it: the experience of the numinous Other. A historian who writes about the witch hunts needs not for ideological reasons to exclude the possibility that in addition to all other known sociological reasons, in the early modern period a core of magical cults may have been present, which – what the anthropologist will confirm – actually may have been shown damaging effects in some cases on innocent people. The broad consensus of the denial of this possibility does not become truer just because it is not examined as openly and thoroughly as the supposedly only possibility. This denial of entire research areas, the inability to express insights being subject to an ideological taboo, the total reduction of human existence to its material basis shall be rejected by this journal.


Edgar W. Harnack


[1] Scientific papers, at least in the humanities and social sciences, are often written by "quoting" other works that were insufficiently studied by the publishing scientists; research papers are published under the name of the department’s head in the first place, even if s/he did not contribute anything to the research personally; research results that contradict the thesis will be eliminated and not published, or research is carried on so long until a suitable data set occurs; sometimes even – and probably not in single cases – data are statistically fudged, euphemised or simply faked.

[2] Verbal attacks of colleagues or the free press against independent researchers are happening to many exponents of a New Science, like Rupert Sheldrake or, in 2012, to scientists at the University of Frankfurt/Oder (e.g., Harald Walach).