Finding or receiving treasure is the basis of many ancient stories as well as the dream of many today. The material description of the form it might take changes depending on time and cultural context. For example the ‘Cauldron of Plenty’ that provided a constant supply of food, the ‘Dragon’s Hoard’ made up of weapons and jewellery and the ‘Goose that lays the Golden Egg’, which is exchanged for food, clothes and property. The concept of plenty most familiar these days is a large sum of money, such as a ‘lottery jackpot’. However, the problem with any material form of wealth is that it needs to be regularly replenished over time, otherwise it will run out. Therefore some would prefer a more lasting possession, such as knowledge of how to obtain present and future access to whatever the receiver values. Science and religion are two well-trodden paths followed by those seeking this end.
Scientific enquiry has helped us to transform energy from one form into another, provide solutions to intractable problems and satisfy desires that seemed fanciful within living memory. Perhaps its greatest benefit is that it offers a method to help us to question and test our ideas about time and space (even if the explanation proposed is difficult to understand or reconcile with apparent experience). For some the uncertainty that science both reveals and explores is what makes life an exciting challenge but for others this is a source of anxiety.
By contrast, religion can seem reassuring because it is rooted in past events and based on truths, which though fixed in time, can be reinterpreted for the present. It has given some a defined community and a livelihood and others a more independent framework for their relationships of all types. Some religions also offer the prospect of a future that can be predicted because it has been foretold by the past. However, there is the danger that ideas that were developed in one historic context are applied inappropriately to another or that in awaiting prophesised events present opportunity is neglected. Also, there is always the prospect that, in the light of new experience and developing knowledge, apparent certainties are rejected and become considered as worthless.
Spiritual experience is different from science and religion because it is, in human terms, always immediate and personal. To know the eternal and infinite is, maybe paradoxically, to experience what is not affected by time or space. It is therefore not the discovery of ‘a treasure’ but the realisation of the source of all treasure.