The Burden of Proof
Anyone familiar with law will know of the term “burden of proof”. It is, in its simplest terms, the need to provide proof for a statement or argument upon which the basis of an opinion is based. It is also to be noted that it is not the person who is disputing a point’s duty to provide evidence to cast doubt on a statement, but rather the defender of said statement’s prerogative to provide evidence that their statement is true.
For example: “You killed your wife.”
If someone has blood on their hands and is standing over a rapidly cooling corpse, a knife protruding from the mort flesh of its sinewy neck one is hardly likely to believe that they are innocent of committing the heinous act itself, and yet there is still the need for evidence. Proof that they did it. Otherwise that person will walk free, because without evidence there is no truth but hearsay, which is usually rubbish and always inadmissible.
Likewise, it is also imperative that the suspect, were he to be telling the truth regarding his innocence, provide evidence that he was not the perpetrator. Even though it seems heinously unlikely, because not only does he have a motive to lie but also the means to have committed the crime.
This is, of course, a clumsily thrown-together metaphor for the need for actual proof in the arena of spirituality.
If you propose to believe in something, and you wish to impart that knowledge and faith onto another person (and have it hold up to questioning) then you flat-out need to follow scientific method in the defence of said belief. People won’t believe that you hear magical voices in your head, or that you are a demonic ubermensch unless you can give them some reason to believe you.
If you have no proof, then it’s your job to be convincing, because if your argument doesn’t hold up to scrutiny then people are going to think that you’re a liar. Then your reputation gets damaged, and fewer and fewer people will be willing to listen to what they consider to be bullshit. Why, after all, should they listen to someone who can not only provide no proof that what they’re saying is true, but also lacks the charisma to convince them that they should listen?
Most damning though is a refusal to participate in debate or discussion, because the only thing which proves a lie more conclusively than a lack of evidence is the refusal to even entertain criticism of your belief and defend it as such. People will think you’re a liar if you say you can do something but that you’re choosing not to.
And they’re probably right to do so.
The Study of Spirit has one primary purpose: To provide the evidential proof that spirituality isn’t the soft-minded pseudo-cultist rubbish that the vast majority of human beings think it is. At the end of the day it is more than apparent to anyone who spends even a moment looking introspectively at the community and their own claims that more than 99% of what we say sounds completely and utterly fantastical, egotistical or just plain self-serving.
Add to this the general appearance of sub-par intellect and reputation of fraudulent behaviour the Spiritual community has managed to rack up over the years (thanks mostly to TV-psychics and palm readers) and we have an epidemic on our hands. Not a literal epidemic, but rather one of reputation, and most importantly laziness.
If we want what has been unfortunately classified as “New Age” teachings to be accepted as anything more than the implausible ramblings of madmen then we must be prepared to defend our beliefs in ways which don’t belittle the opinions or intellects of others. People not believing what we say isn’t a failing on their part, but rather a colossal failing on ours for expecting people to believe our theories without proof!
The problem a lot of people have with religions, mainstream or otherwise is that the proof is faith, and that faith itself is only compelling to people who want (or need) to believe it. The perception that a lot of the world is rapidly reaching is that while meditation and spirituality are good, faith is for weak people who need something to comfort them in the face of the all-encompassing abyss that is death.
It’s time to step up. Man up. Load up. We can’t take this lying down any more; it’s 2012, our time to shine and we can’t afford to be laughed up given the severity of the turbulent and glorious times ahead. Either we become more forthright and transparent, or we basically look like Joseph Smith.
You’ve seen that South Park episode, right?