DISCLAIMER: The following does not describe all researchers and searchers at the outset of their journeys, but enough of ‘em to make the end point. No one searching for anything was harmed in the writing of this essay. Not even Bono who still hasn’t found what he’s looking for.
The difference between searchers and researchers is that researchers rely on previous work and testimony to form a picture of what is, what isn’t, and what could be. Searchers may do some research, but they mainly rely on their own perceptions. Research is a long game and is as much for the society as the individual. Search is personal. It tends to be a short game, although more and more searchers are speaking publicly, as grabbing the attention of others is the currency of the day.
Both research and search may be clouded by one’s desires, but that is less likely to matter to searchers than researchers, because searchers don’t answer to committees or peer review. When searchers go public it is usually to declare something they have found or believe they’ve found. When it comes to spiritual findings, this can lead to preaching and dictating—the trappings of the cult leader mentality. Confident, abrasive spiritual searchers who go public often say things like, “Accept this or not, I don’t care.” And the subtext reads: That I am speaking it is all the proof you need. If you don’t understand, it’s your problem, not mine.
Researchers, on the other hand, have to back up their claims with either facts or hypotheses that they can weave facts around to make look plausible. Where searchers say, “Trust me,” researchers say, “Trust the evidence.”
Searchers who go public become like a nucleus around which followers spin. They become leaders of the faithful, whether they want to or not. The hierarchy usually goes something like: leader, inner sanctum, everyone else. Researchers tend to have spokespeople among their ranks whom we may take as leaders, but who really are not. What they are is ready for their closeup. No, the top of the leadership structure in a research community tends to be populated by a committee or association of elite experts. Anyone beneath them is considered a proper researcher or a pseudo researcher. Sometimes the pseudo researcher is dismissed for good reason. There is no shortage of unreasonable people claiming to be doing reasonable research in any given field. But just as likely, reasonable researchers will be dismissed for discovering and/or presenting facts that the elite do not want to hear.
To be an elite researcher means you’ve got a better handle on the way things work than the majority of people in your field. And that picture of reality, not new facts and realizations that tear the image apart, becomes your focus. You built a case. Everyone with eyes to see agreed the case was correct. Now, you must defend it, or what has your life been about? What does it mean to be elite, to have eyes to see, when you’ve been blinded to a fundamental flaw that could render your life’s work, which may be inseparable from your vision of reality, moot?
Knowing that new facts and discoveries will be treated with potentially career-ending hostility, up and coming researchers are unconsciously taught to toe the line, to edit themselves, to only think outside the box insofar as it expands our knowledge of what we think we know within the box, not poke holes in it. Where researchers ban mavericks from their club right from the beginning, searchers who become leaders accept everyone at first and then expel those who don’t toe their line.
Clearly, searchers and researchers have much in common after all. Everything, in fact. They may start from different points of view but they eventually converge in ways outlined here, yet otherwise unspoken. This, because the mind of the searcher and the mind of the researcher is the same mind.
And their mind is made up.