TED Conversations

Shahzad Alam

Program Coordinator, New Era Teacher Training Centre

This conversation is closed.

Isn't it possible that spiritual forces operate around us with it's own laws?

It has only been a few decades that we have discovered the force of gravity, electromagnetism, weak force and strong force. Understanding these forces have made us able to do things that we wouldn't have even dreamed of as possible. There are still many things we do not understand about it but we have no doubt at all that it exists. Perhaps spiritual forces also do exist that we have not yet understood and perhaps understanding it will help us do things and answer questions that we are still struggling with.

Share:
  • thumb
    Oct 22 2013: Hello Shahzad!
    Yes, anything is possible, and I agree that there are many things we do not understand at this time. In addition to the forces you have mentioned, we may have collective energy, universal energy, the "force of nature", etc. I believe these "forces" are all energy, naturally occurring in our world, and with that in mind, they do not operate "around us with it's own laws". We are part of the natural world, and therefor, we would be part of the naturally occurring energies.....would we not?

    When you speak of "it's own laws", it appears that you are referring to an entity that is out there somewhere?
    One of your areas of expertise is "Religion & spiritual matters". It appears that you are trying to make this discussion about that topic?
    • thumb
      Oct 22 2013: Dear Colleen, please allow me to clarify: in the same way gravity has it's own laws and electromagnetism it's own, I just proposed that the forces of "universal values" (although I prefer to use "spiritual forces" and will continue to use them in other instances) might have it's own laws. The reality of so complex that science has always broken them down into fragment to better understand them. "It's own laws" can be considered that process of breaking it down to better understand it. It no way would then mean that reality in itself is fragmented. As you mentioned, "we are part of the natural world" and "part of the naturally occurring energies".
    • thumb
      Oct 22 2013: Dear Colleen, I am trying to make this discussion about a vital force that might also be needed for all development efforts. We have the knowledge and the technology and yet we are far from the world we would all like to live in. Why? Could it be that we lack the force of justice, which I would term as a vital spiritual force? Perhaps you might not like my use of the world "spiritual" but unfortunately that is the language majority of the world population do use. I really hope we can all have a unified discourse without "suspicion".
  • Oct 23 2013: I'm pretty sure we would not al define "spiritual forces" in the same way, but I am also sure that there are forces operating around and within us that we do not understand (perhaps we cannot understand them because of the limits of human perception and intellect); but why suppose that they operate by their own laws? Perhaps the problem is that we have too quickly decide that we understand the laws of the physical, natural, and secular universe we inhabit. Perhaps everything actually operates according to the laws of these forces we do not understand. Perhaps our understanding of the human mind; of the sciences, including medicine, physics, ecology, , and so on; is suffering because we refuse to recognize the influence of forces we cannot understand, but which are really the essence of how it all works.
    • thumb
      Oct 24 2013: Dear David, I completely agree with you that the forces are too complex for us to understand it completely. However, I do not think it should deter us from trying to understand it and become aligned to it. All we have is models of how we think the forces work and these models keep advancing and help us answer various important questions. If we are to act to change this world we need some form of model and language to talk about these forces.
  • Oct 22 2013: Shahzad thanks for your idea, I just left one of these links on another discussion but it might be helpful here too.

    I strongly believe that we, as human beings, are spirits in a body. As is very evident, we can have a strong or weak influence on the world around us, through our body.
    Saying we are a spirit does not mean much unless there is more to say about the spiritual environment we live in, because the physical realm has no 'physical' connection with the spirit.
    Science can determine on a screen that we think, but not what we think. Whatever our brain or body indicates is a result from a spiritual influence. Our thoughts and ideas do just as little originate in our brain, as the TV shows are created by our TV's.

    This means that we live in a spiritual world which is the cause, and this physical world is the effect. With no spirit, this world would be dead.
    Sometimes people are enabled to notice that spiritual world and even connect to it, but we are in total freedom how much of that we accept or reject. That's what it means to be spiritual and being spiritual means we can have a conscience.
    http://www.soc.hawaii.edu/leonj/leonj/leonpsy/instructor/gloss/freedom.html

    And then there is the whole spiritual world..
    http://webhome.idirect.com/~abraam/documents/TheSpiritualWorld.pdf

    And then there is the human mind in that world..
    http://webhome.idirect.com/~abraam/documents/TheHumanMind.pdf
    • thumb
      Oct 22 2013: Dear Adriaan, that was some very profound thoughts. Thank you.

      You mentioned, " we can have a strong or weak influence on the world around us". Could you please share your thoughts on what would be the factors that would increase our positive influence?
      • Oct 22 2013: Thank you Shahzad, it seems that the way we connect and with whom, would determine the amount of positive influence we can accomplish.

        For years I've been on all sort of discussion forums, from Craigslist to an Atheist site and of course TED, and have tried to present views that may be helpful to people. There is no use in knowing something and not share that with anyone.

        So in order to make a difference we should go to the organization, or people that we think would benefit most. How we do the contacting depends very much on our strengths and talents. One person has uploaded quite a few videos to YouTube (offthelefteye) which have been watched by thousands. Another person has presented a page of Swedenborg's book Heaven and Hell on Facebook. That easily gains a hundred likes a day. I have two websites. The first one I started with our daughter that died, as the theme, but gave that up as we switched ISP. Then found it again later, after starting another. Both can be found on my profile.

        Obviously if we have lots of money, other things can be done on a larger scale, like presentations, public gatherings or supporting the needy and teaching the needy to support themselves, etc.
        I strongly believe that God would like this to be a better world, and one way for Him to accomplish that is with people.
        I hope this has helped somewhat..
  • thumb
    Oct 22 2013: Anything and everything is Possible, Just Look back at History of Mankind.

    Who thought one day Nonviolence will bring Independence to India. It is still unbelievable, but we have the example.

    Who thought one day America will have a president of different Race, but a gentleman "Barack Obama" is the president of America, a fine example.

    I think, its the Power of Like minded people Spirit that has worked and set the examples.

    Long Live Good Spirits!!, by the way Shahzad Good Idea.
    • thumb
      Oct 22 2013: Thanks Kuldeep, the spiritual force of truth and compassion was certainly what made it possible for Mahatma Gandhi to rally the people around the idea of fighting with non-violence.

      Spiritual force of unity is what I see in play when I see evidences of the falling apart of the prejudices- prejudice of race, as you right brought to notice.

      Long live all... for we are all one in Spirit ;)
  • Oct 22 2013: Yes there are certain energies which may be called as spiritual forces,cosmic energy or anything do exists , which the science has not yet discovered.
  • Oct 22 2013: I think you're confusing a fundamental force of the universe (capable of getting an object with mass to accelerate) with behavior patterns (faith).

    Not at all alike.
    • thumb
      Oct 22 2013: What is that fundamental force?
      • Oct 22 2013: Gravity, electric forces, and the strong and weak atomic forces. There may be others I'm not aware of, but they act quite differently than "faith", which falls under psychology, not physics.

        Faith can lead to change in the physical world only by motivating people to act. A fundamental force changes the physical world through no intermediary.
        Though if you ever do manage to create a change in the physical world via faith alone, be sure to give me a call. Someone has to be on scene to re-write all the physics books.
        • thumb
          Oct 22 2013: Dear Nadav, isn't the physics books being rewritten as we speak? But no I have no intention of changing the world with faith alone as every end needs a means. Humanity will need all the resources they have to change the world. I am just exploring one of the dimensions and that in no way implies that I have disregard for all the other dimensions of life.

          Perhaps the words "spiritual" and "faith" have been so abused in the world by the very people who believe in them that I can certainly understand your reason for viewing my efforts of using them as insincere.
  • thumb
    Nov 3 2013: Thank you all for your insightful contributions. There is a lot I have learnt through this conversation- a little about the topic and a lot about having conversations.

    I realized that without a common understanding of the word "spiritual" it is difficult to have this conversation. The word "spiritual" has a different meaning to different people and it generally refers to a dimension of reality that is not easy to conceptualize or describe. It doesn't however mean that it is not real or that it is irrational to seek to understand it more deeply, or seek to communicate about it more coherently, over time.

    As science progresses and our understanding of spiritual dimensions advance, we might come to realize that the material world is little more than a shadow of reality, and spiritual reality is reality itself. And so it is important for science not to be arrogant (in the same way that some religious institutions have been in the past) and this also means that people who believe in the spiritual dimension should not be ignorant in the way they describe reality.
  • thumb
    Oct 24 2013: You can assume the existence of virtually anything. It just doesn't make it beyond fantasy if you don't have any evidence for it.
    You can assume spiritual forces (whatever that might mean) but you also could contemplate the existence of the tooth fairy, goblins, unicorns or extraterrestrial life forms.
    It's just meaningless.
    • Oct 26 2013: The fact that we exist says that extraterrestrial life forms do exist. Look at any star at night and that's exactly how we look from some alternate vantage point in the heavens.
      • thumb
        Oct 26 2013: Not sure what you mean. How does our existence prove the existence of extraterrestrial life forms ?
        • Oct 27 2013: Where do you think we live? In the stars, we are extra terrestrials in essence. Once voyager makes contact with another solar system it will officially be alien technology in that or any other system besides our own.
        • Oct 27 2013: And why would you clump extra terrestrial life forms with unicorns unless you were talking about an alien unicorn race?
      • thumb
        Oct 27 2013: Extraterrestrial, by definition means not from earth.
        I don't know about you, but I was made on earth, although, everything there is comes from the same origins.
        Anyway, what has all that to do with the topic at hand ?
        • Oct 27 2013: You made the comment. Do you really believe we are that special? There's some things you don't need proof to kNow the truth but then again we are the proof that the universe breeds life. A consequence of complex chemistry.
      • thumb
        Oct 27 2013: I don't know if we are special. Maybe there are millions of intelligent civilizations out there somewhere or maybe there is none.
        Fact is we don't know, hence what one believes is meaningless for all practical purpose.
        To be sure something is true you need proof otherwise it's blind faith.
        We are not proof that the universe breeds, but only that life exists on earth.
        • Oct 27 2013: Not when you look at the ingredients. You will notice that the most abundant materials in the universe coincides with the most abundant elements you find in humans.we are the universe and if that doesnt speak to you...........listen to Dr.Niel Tyson cause he puts it much more elegantly.
        • Oct 27 2013: Probability would leave out any chance of there being none.
      • thumb
        Oct 27 2013: Tell that SETI. They are already listening for more than 40 years for any sign of life within our own galaxy.
        So far, no ET showed up.
        • Oct 27 2013: I would not use Seti's dry run as a sign of a lifeless universe.that's like taking a spoonful of water from the ocean and conclude there is no life in the sea. ....
      • thumb
        Oct 28 2013: No, SETI's failure so far is not proof for a lifeless universe, but shows us that life apparently doesn't lurk around the cosmic corner.
        Meanwhile, we only can keep looking.
        • Oct 29 2013: You say a cosmic corner,maybe it's really a cosmic foot step if that.
  • Oct 24 2013: there is nothing beyond explenation. all we need is time . look up fermy bubbles. im sure there is more to the electromagnetic scale . its not that physics is wrong its just a work in progress. if something u see makes you question your sanity it doesnt mean what we know is all wrong just incomplete.einstein will never be proven wrong because its a law you can only ad to what he discovered
  • thumb
    Oct 24 2013: I do not know much about Quantum Mechanics (not sure if anyone does :)) but doesn't it throw "materialism" out of the window and leave room other the probability of other forces that cannot be measured? Any thoughts?
    • thumb
      Oct 24 2013: Quantum mechanics is different from your "spiritual forces". There is abundant scientific evidence for quantum theory and none for spiritual forces.
      But then. you probably should start to define what "spiritual force" means to you.
  • thumb
    Oct 23 2013: What is a spiritual force to you? What does it do?
    • thumb
      Oct 23 2013: Dear Lejan, I certainly do not completely understand the spiritual forces but I will try and share whatever limited understanding I have at this point. "Spiritual force" could be talked about in some metaphysical terms but there are dangers to this approach as it can create unnecessary controversies and the whole discourse would end in arguments. At this critical juncture in the history of human civilization we need action and I think even our discourse on the spiritual forces must provide us with guidance for action.

      Let us take love as an example which I believe to be a spiritual force. At the level of the atoms, love is the force of attraction that I believe binds together protons and neutrons to form atoms and binds atoms together to form matter. On a larger scale, the force of love directs the movement of the celestial bodies. I would have even gone to the extent of calling electromagnetism force as manifestation of love but I do not have the knowledge of science to explain it. Love is also the cause of growth and life. Plants attraction towards the sun and the love that exists in animals for their offspring are all manifestations of this force. At the social level, love binds families and civilizations together. Absence of love is chaos and disorder at all levels of existence.

      Understanding this spiritual force and allowing our hearts to be inspired by it is important. It is what has inspired many artists to form wonderful works of art, it is what inspires sacrifice and compassion on the part of one human being towards another, it is what inspires our care for the diversity of life and also the proper use of resources in the planet and it is what causes revolutionaries to give up their life for freedom which they will not live to see.

      Unfortunately, in this day and age our hearts are not imbued by this force and the structures and processes of our society are founded on principles that oppose this very life force (competition, struggle, partisanship etc.).
    • thumb
      Oct 23 2013: Let me further add some points in relation to this force of love and its relation to world economy. There is no doubt that there is enough food in this world to feed the whole population of the world and yet billions sleep hungry every night and millions dying every year because of malnutrition- why? 'laissez faire' and 'unrestricted competition (forces that oppose love). What we need is reciprocity and cooperation as principles that govern economic life. Another force that opposes love is "economic self-sufficiency". Imagine if the relationship between the organs of our bodies were based on economic self-sufficiency? We wouldn't live long would we? Another example of how the opposing force is ruining the world is the fact that the majority of a countries wealth is spent on defence.

      No doubt solutions are not going to be straight forward. It needs changes at all levels of social life- micro to macro. But we need to open ourselves to this vital force to set this worlds equilibrium.
    • thumb
      Oct 23 2013: Ofcourse love is not the only aspect of the "spiritual force". Among many others we also have "force of justice" and also "force of unity". Imagine what they can also do?
      • thumb
        Oct 23 2013: Thank you very much Shahzad for your detailed view on what this spiritual force is to you.

        When as you say '... this vital force to set this worlds equilibrium', do you understand this equilibrium in its classical definition, in which it describes the balance of opposing forces, or would it be dominated by 'positive' influences yet by its own laws creates its very equilibrium in unbalanced states?

        And if this spiritual force as you described it was existent, wouldn't it already be in its own equilibrium despite the fact that we may not have discovered it yet? All other forces you mentioned, such as gravity, electromagnetism, weak force and strong force have their way regardless of the fact if we know about them or not. So why would a spiritual force behave any different from that?

        So if my assumption was true, and what we see around us already is this equilibrium state, then what we observe is what this spiritual force allows for. All the love and hate, all the winners and looser, all the help and abuse was part of its very specific balance.

        Personally I have high difficulties to imagine this 'love' you mentioned to bind together protons and neutrons who form the molecules of napalm, which gets dropped as a bomb, from a plane, on a kindergarten, full with innocent children.

        Is this part of its equilibrium?

        If it is, then your definition of the term 'love' does not synchronize with mine to no extend.

        I also have high difficulties to imagine that this spiritual forces can be changed and influenced in any of our fashion.

        A man-eater might well wish for a good hunt to bring home, whereas some countries further the same wish would cause extreme difficulties within the neighborhood. Now what does this 'love' gotta do? Did it increase positive in both setups? Does it judge? Is it aware? Yet if it was, why does it create all such contradiction? And why should it relay on us and our deeds in the first place?

        I think WE are not as important as we hope we are.
        • thumb
          Oct 24 2013: Dear Lejan, thank you for your thoughtful comments. You mentioned that the fundamental forces "have their way regardless of the fact if we know about them or not" and I completely agree with you and I do believe that these forces have their way in the world of matter. However, since human beings are intellectual beings and have the ability to understand these laws, we have been able to do things that seem to defy the laws of nature- for example invent objects that fly. The force of love is all-pervading and has it's way in the world of matter too but as human beings it is our choice of whether we want to be aligned to this force or opposed to it. Opposing it has it's consequence, as can be seen in the chaos in the world order (so in a way, force of love has it's way with us as well). The equilibrium I mention was in context to the social equilibrium of the world which has been upset because we chose to align with forces that oppose the force of love. Dropping of bombs "from a plane, on a kindergarten, full with innocent children" is the doings of man who do not allow love to be the force that guides them. The efforts of people to try ad abolish the use of nuclear bombs is the doings of people who align themselves to this force. Force of love inspires us to noble deeds but it is only volition and effort from our part that will bring it into action. Unfortunately or fortunately (perhaps more fortunately as I cannot imagine a beautiful world if human beings didn't have freewill and were just driven by evolutionary instincts like in animals), we have freewill. But opposing the force of love, has consequences for individuals and for society. We will only be able to reach a new equilibrium when we thoughtfully allow spiritual forces to be the guiding principles.
      • thumb
        Oct 24 2013: Now this spiritual force is a forming agent of matter and other 'physical' forces as well as a choice agent of human beings, correct? It is all-pervading yet its equilibrium locally modifiable by our deeds, but it does not influence our deeds and does not 'judge' them.

        This sound pretty neutral to me, so where is the 'force' component of the 'spiritual force'?

        All physical forces actively interact with matter and thereby form matter itself and set the 'rules' by which it can only play. Not so this spiritual force, which is just there, yet neither actively interacts with matter or our choices but its equilibrium does change and creates chaos if what we choose is wrong. If this my understanding is right, its 'force' would then act as an amplifier of wrong behavior of humans and not act as a natural corrective of it.

        So why did you choose for 'love' to name it, if what it does obviously indicates its absence?

        Why does this spiritual force needs us to withstand opposing forces? Why should we care for something which neither helps us to make better derisions nor does it protect us against opposing forces? To me this spiritual force seems pretty useless, because it just makes things worse.

        The only reason why we could build flying machines is, because the laws of nature allow for it. We can't defy them in whatever we do. Or better to say, so far we have no evidence, that we could.

        The way in which you introduce this 'spiritual force' allows for anything else we could come up with.

        I can imagine an almighty squirrels sitting on my desk, which is the ruler of this and several other universe it created. Neither me nor anybody else can see it, nor do we have the technology and knowledge to detect it. But it is there and for some mysterious reason it choose my desk to sit on. How do I know? Well, I just told you it is there!

        So besides the fact that you may think this spiritual force is there, what is your evidence which could not be explained otherwise?
        • thumb
          Oct 25 2013: Dear Lejan, Thank you for your critical analysis. It certainly is helping me develop a clearer understanding and a better language to explain my thoughts.

          Do you believe that "knowledge" is a force? Certainly not a force that just pushes matter around but a force that can bring change- individual, social and economical changes. Hasn't the knowledge of the laws of the universe allowed us to achieve tasks that would have been considered impossible only a few centuries ago? But this knowledge always existed in the universe. It was only a matter of time that we learnt about it rather than let it sit on "my desk". It certainly cannot be seen and it is only after centuries of looking for it have we developed the technology to gain some insights about it. We change the equilibrium of the society (we don't change "its equilibrium") as we gain more knowledge.

          I certainly do not completely understand "spiritual forces" but we can see the evidences of it all around me. Humanity has been talking about it in non-scientific language using metaphors for many millenia. Now we have the language of science to assist us and develop better models.

          Let's take the example of the concept of gravity- all we can see is the apple falling. We don't know why it exists? We have only detected that there is a pull and we have a whole lot of theories. Recently I read an article by a physicist that "Gravity Does Not Exist" (http://www.theepochtimes.com/n3/20006-physicist-proposes-new-theory-of-gravity-gravity-does-not-exist/). I am not endorsing what he is saying but just trying to say that no evidence is no proof of non-existence.

          If you don't mind I will try and again explain my understanding on "What is a spiritual force to you? What does it do?" as it will assist all who come to this group but are not interested in scrollling down and reading all comments. Thanks again.
      • thumb
        Oct 25 2013: Shahzad, I don't see any connection of 'knowledge' and this 'spiritual force' of yours as it neither explain anything nor is it necessary to explain anything.

        Knowledge did change our society. It gave us beautiful technology to do good and it gave us horrible technology to do harm. So what did this 'spiritual force' change? What did it do?

        Maybe your understanding of science is a bit off its intention and of course knowledge can only be found when it has been existent before to find out about it. This is no option, this is a condition.

        When you ask 'why do we have gravity' you may already sense, that you can not answer this question if you go all the way back to its original cause. This sort of question in science is as useful to ask what color the next Monday is going to have.

        Science observes and tries to figure out and to formulate the mechanics behind what it observes. It compares its findings against other observations and tries to use these formulations to make predictions. Its knowledge is considered true, as long as it predicts correctly and no other observation contradicts it. When something does, this knowledge has to be questioned and - if not otherwise explained - finally adopted and changed.

        This is why I was asking you for your observations about the existence of this 'spiritual force' and which formulations you came up with to predict its effects. So far you didn't name anything to support your assumptions, which to me is then as valid as my almighty squirrel on my desk.

        Maybe you have some actual knowledge you didn't mention so far which can be tested by others as well. Until then, your 'spiritual force' remains your believe and believe is no knowledge.
  • thumb
    Oct 23 2013: In addition to the "spiritual forces" operating in the world, forces such as love, justice, kindness, truth, purity and so on, there are also "forces of darkness" unleashed in the world, forces such as hatred, prejudice, superstition and so on. To make this world a better place, we need to constantly try and become channels for the spiritual forces and drive away the forces of darkness from our hearts. This cannot happen by passively sitting and meditating or praying about it. It is a proactive process of praying, meditating, reflecting, studying, consulting and also constantly ACTING. It is an intellectual process and needs a scientific approach.
  • thumb
    Oct 23 2013: Thanks Shahzad indeed!
  • Oct 22 2013: O F C O U R S E
  • thumb
    Oct 22 2013: Let me share an example of the power of spiritual forces. Think of a teacher who has faith in the capacity of his/her students and another teacher who lacks this faith. Will the way they teach be any different? Will the outcome be any different? Can the way the students respond to them be any different? Can we then say that the power of faith is essential for a teacher? Isn't faith a spiritual force that has visible effects?
    • thumb
      Oct 22 2013: Shahzad,
      It depend on what you are talking about when you refer to "spiritual forces" and "faith". I do not believe it is beneficial for a teacher to impose his/her personal beliefs in spirituality and faith on students in a classroom.

      No, I do not believe that "the power of faith is essential for a teacher". Faith and belief in the children....yes. It appears, however, that you are trying to bring religion and spirituality into this conversation through the back door!

      I love Nepal BTW.....hiked the Annapurna mountain range years ago....that is a beautiful force:>)
      • thumb
        Oct 22 2013: Dear Colleen, glad to hear that you have hiked in Nepal and loved the country. It certainly is a "beautiful force". When talking about "spiritual force" or "faith" I am not talking about the religion of the teacher but just simply about the faith the teacher has in the capacity of the student. Faith certainly is something that people who do not believe in religion also have. Scientists have faith in the order of the universe. You certainly have faith that the world can become a better place which I can infer from your regular participation with TED.

        But if you don't mind may I also add, with all due respect, that "religion and spirituality" should not be shown the "back door" by the the people involved in science or development unless they plan to set the course of the world without the participation of about 5 billion people who believe in "religion and spirituality". But let me assure you again that I do not intend to "bring religion and spirituality into this conversation through the back door!"
      • thumb
        Oct 23 2013: Dear Colleen, I hope my comments didn't dissuade you from further participation from this discussion. I apologize if it did. Would love to hear more from you.
        • thumb
          Oct 23 2013: Thank you for this comment, your concern, and invitation Shahzad:>)

          Your comments did not dissuade me. I was curious to see your reply to Lejan's question...perhaps you missed it?

          "Lejan
          4 hours ago: What is a spiritual force to you? What does it do?"
    • W T 100+

      • +1
      Oct 22 2013: In the context of your comment....faith reminded me of something called the "Halo Effect".
      This effect is something introduced to education majors early on in university.
      • thumb
        Oct 22 2013: Thanks Mary, I had not heard of the Halo Effect before. Does the Halo Effect talk only about effect on the person who has the bias or also on the people who are being biased?