Empirical science studies the material world. In fact, the purpose of science itself is for the study and understanding of the world we can see, hear, smell, touch, and taste. Science also studies the invisible aspects of our world that we cannot necessarily see or hear or feel, but that we can experience, such as gravity and entropy and the electromagnetic spectrum. The beauty of holism is that it strives to take into consideration a whole, to understand the entirety, to leave no aspect of the whole outside of orderly and logical consideration. Science has discovered countless facts about our world and our lives in relation to the world. When it comes to health and healing, the holistic approach leaves no aspect of man outside the whole. While much of the physical aspect of man can be studied empirically via scientific investigation, the mental and spiritual must take a different approach to understanding. There exists a philosophical system in place for the mental understanding and care of man. While it cannot be studied purely empirically, the system has established laws by which some philosophies adhere. In respect to the spiritual aspect of man, there are also numerous theological systems available for every faith based belief imaginable. It would be much simpler for all of us to have empirical evidence that points to truths regarding spiritual matters. But, what if there was a way of understanding our spirituality much in the same way science has discovered and understands those physical Laws that can only be experiential rather than seen, heard, or smelled? Can the spiritual actually be experienced, so much so that there can be little room for doubt?
One of my most beloved fathers of the Orthodox Church has written a fantastic article in regards to spiritual man. I have chosen to include his wisdom here for your consideration.
"The Seen and the Unseen"
The limits of human reason and the knowledge of God
Written by Abbot Tryphon
Abbot of All-Merciful Saviour Monastery, Vashon Island, WA
There is the seen, and there is the unseen, the material and the immaterial. That which is material can be scientifically examined and experienced, the immaterial can only be seen and experienced spiritually. These are two worlds that are only seemingly at odds with one another. If you attempt to examine that which is of a spiritual nature using a science that is by its very nature meant to explore the material realm, you will fail.
The things that are of God are far beyond the capabilities of our finite mind to comprehend. The divine can only be known through the nous, that place in the heart that is our true center. It, unlike the brain, is capable of knowledge that is beyond human comprehension, coming as it does from noetic knowledge.
When we try to apply words to the noetic form, we fail. We can no more explain God than we can explain quantum physics, since both are unseen. God is outside the realm of human intellectual understanding. The Eastern Church approaches things of God as holy mysteries, since God can only be known in His divine energies, not in His essence. If a scientist can believe in quantum physics, the unseen, why can he not believe in God Whom he has not seen? If we can believe in the concept of infinity, something that goes on and on without end, why can we not believe in God?
The science of the soul is noetic and can be examined and experienced only through the activation of the nous. The nous in Orthodox Christian theology is the "eye of the heart or soul", the mind of the heart. God created us with the nous because the human intellect is not capable of knowing Him without it. The intellect alone can not know God, for human reasoning is limited to the things that are of a material nature. God is unknowable without His divine revelation, and only the nous can perceive this knowledge. God's essence remains inaccessible without noetic knowledge. Science has it's place, but only the heart can know God.
Quantum physics, while mysterious, is still part of the created material realm, and is fairly explainable now. The real difference isn't between seen and unseen, but at its root, created and uncreated. It was the uncreated energies of God that Moses saw in the burning bush, or that the Apostles experienced in the transfiguration. A scientist will understand the properties of light (photons), but will have no clue about the uncreated light, which heals, deifies and casts no shadow. Fr. George Calciu of blessed memory experienced this light in the midst of the worst Romanian prisons, and the result is another effect that science cannot explain: incorruption of body after death.
Love in Christ,
Is it possible to experience spiritual truth? If man indeed has a faculty specifically designed to perceive God and the spiritual realm, perhaps then one can truly know and experience holism in its very essence.