According to current science, this universe is 13,8 billion years old and the observable universe is about 93 billion light–years in diameter. (One light–year is 9,46 trillion kilometers.) Although estimates vary, there are probably about 2 trillion galaxies in the observable universe, on average containing about 100 billion stars each. It is regarded as highly probable that most stars will have planets orbiting them.
Our galaxy, the Milky Way (just one of those 2 trillion galaxies), is about 100.000 light–years in diameter. The Milky Way contains between 200 and 400 billion stars and at least 100 billion planets. Our Sun is just 1 of all those stars and our Earth just one of all those planets.
Our earth is 4,54 billion years old. About 4 billion years ago the earliest known life forms came into existence on this Earth. These early life forms were microorganisms. For over 3 billion years these single-celled organisms, like bacteria, were the only life on this planet. Then, around 600 million years ago, multicellular life started to emerge. Subsequently for 600 million years there was an evolution of all kinds of creatures.
Only 300.000 years ago, homo sapiens came onto the scene. For 300.000 years human beings were hunter–gatherer animals among the other animals. Just a mere 10.000 years ago the rise of human civilization began. With the rise of human civilization came the emergence of religion and spirituality as we know it today. Many different religions and spiritual schools have come and gone in the past 10.000 years.
The above is the background of the human condition. This is important, because in order to understand what something is, you have to know its history. It is estimated that over the course of Earth’s history, over 5 billion species of organisms have existed on this planet. It took evolution 4 billion years to produce homo sapiens. So one might argue with far greater plausibility that the rise of homo sapiens is more the consequence of a genetic fluke than the purposeful outcome of some divine plan.
Be it indirect or direct, in a subtle or less subtle way, all forms of religion and spirituality depict human beings as if the universe revolved around them. This is done in a very direct way in monotheistic religions. But even in for example hinduism and buddhism, this universe is seen as a stage for our spiritual quest and the human realm is regarded as the most favorable realm to reach salvation.
But if we look in an unbiased way at the facts that science presents us, the view that arises from those facts is not at all that human beings have an important role in this universe. It is actually quite the opposite. The scientific facts indicate that human beings are a just one of millions of species in the evolutionary tree of life, not more or less important than any of them.
The fact that scientific findings contradict the picture that religions and spiritual schools paint of the goal of human existence, shows that religious dogmas and spiritual explanations of life are more a product of human delusions of grandeur than true insights into the nature of reality. This does not mean that a mystical experience has no value in terms of being liberating, but it does mean that any interpretation of it is highly dubious.
Knowing this, it becomes clear why spiritual enlightenment may be a valid experience, while at the same time ‘revered enlightened gurus’ are actually ordinary flawed human beings who can easily be corrupted. Because they and their enlightenment all exist in the context of the relativity of the human condition.