Another New Age trend? Well, perhaps a New, new age, looking beyond crystals and incense. Why should we think about these ideas?
All peoples from around the world maintain some kind of spiritual practice. It adds meaning and wholeness to their lives. I am included in that bunch. When I started this blog is was about my poetry. Now I realize I was seeking clarity through my poetry. As I age, I need a firmer grasp of the big picture. My search has led me to Sufi poetry, Buddhist thinking, learning Yoga and its philosophy, Taoism, even some mystical Christian poetry, such as Thomas Merton. And it has also led me to read books on consciousness, psychology, biology, philosophy and language.
Religion as it is now ends up creating pockets of belief, quietly held close to the chest, so that only those close to us will hear what we believe. We cannot afford to continue limiting our spiritual practices to these kinds of fenced in beliefs. We all need to look beyond faith to truth; the truth about what all humans need and want.
I want to believe something with everyone else, but history and the current trends of the religious right in the US have forced me to reject the faulty tower of Christianity. Things need an overhaul. Religion in its current state is leaking credibility like a plastic bucket thatâ€™s been dragged across a hot asphalt road for 2000 miles. One has to deny to much of reality to believe it. After reading Sam Harris’ The End of Faith, I’m convinced there are no innocent followers of any organized religion based on pure faith and not fact.
So, what am I getting at? Iâ€™m not sure. Maybe you can help. Why is it that science and technology, medicine, knowledge, intelligence, education, government, and everything else has progressed with the times, while religion still touts fairy tales? How can intelligent people know so much about the universe and biology and and life and death and psychology and quantum reality and still think thereâ€™s a petulant guy with a beard sitting up in the sky wearing white robes watching us and judging and sending some to heaven with harps and some to hell with red horns?
Jesus was a really, really cool guy who wanted us all to feel and know and nourish the incredible gift of consciousness and spirit we inherit, and that we needed some guidelines. But we basically misunderstood most of what he said and eventually blew it all out of proportion for thousands of years, using his teachings to kill and oppress. As for the miracles, there are better special effects these days than any of that hocus pocus. Human spirit is a real miracle, not just the followers of an old book.
We all want to belong. I do, too. There’s a lot of pressure to conform to what everyone else believes. “Can billions of people be wrong?” Heck, yes. The whole planet used to think the world was flat. On a global scale, people want to believe something outside their meager existence, and religion has made VERY good use of that need, and used it to gain incredible power. But there are other options, there really are.
I think Jesus and whatever god there might be would want us to put two and two together and grow beyond the literal words of books written 2 millennia ago by humans, men, with their frailties and limitations, and â€˜godâ€™ knows what political power strategies to implement.
We need to move beyond all that outdated dogma into a modern kind of spirituality, one which embraces the human desire to understand the big picture, and one which includes science in that picture. I want to know the larger meaning of my life, how I fit into the universe, why I am alive, what is my purpose. I want answers. I want guidance. I need it. But I refuse to accept that there are no options beyond the current organized religions. I recently asked a very liberal Episcopal Minister why we need to refer to a book which is so full of violence and contradiction. I was told that I just havenâ€™t interpreted the Good Book properly yet. Hogwash. I want a new book.
On the other hand, some of the lessons in the Bible are still valid today. For example, the gnostic Gospel of Thomas intrigues me. It shows Jesus telling us â€œIf you bring forth what is within you, what you have will save youâ€ And…â€the Kingdom of God is within youâ€¦â€ Good. Iâ€™m bringing forth whatâ€™s within me now.
Letâ€™s use these teachings, and add more modern, up to date spiritual answers for the new problems we have: the threat of extinction, overpopulation, global war, destruction of the environment, lack of social connectedness, lack of spiritual unity, lack of morality, hypocrisy, corporate monopolies causing injustice and destruction of cultures and land.
Letâ€™s begin the discussion, or continue where we left off 2000 years ago. What would Jesus do? What would Buddha do? What would Mohamed do? I donâ€™t think theyâ€™d approach todays world the same as they did then. Do you?
Who are the living leaders in these religions? Iâ€™ve given up on the Catholic Church, so steeped in its own gilded power as to be paralyzed to any change, let alone evolve. And the loudest religious leaders in the US are also hopeless, soaked to the bone in their own volatility, ready to immolate any second, flambÃ© in their own vitriol. We wonâ€™t even mention Islam at this point, whoâ€™s spiritual goodness cowers behind twisted righteous dogma. The Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh are one hope. Their teachings are the most evolved spiritual guides we have in living people today. But to most people, theyâ€™re just wishy washy monks from Asia. Thatâ€™s about it.
I plan to explore new approaches to the problems of spirituality today. I will share my readings and findings here on my blog. So far, the best description of what I am looking for is Humanist Spirituality, or Integral Spirituality.
Here is an interesting sermon on humanist spirituality by Rev. Bill Gupton of the Heritage Universalist Unitarian Church in Cincinnati, OH. I also just read an outstanding talk, Humanist Spirituality: Oxymoron or Authentic Path to Enlightenment given by Doug Muder, who’s blog is Free and Responsible Search. He reasons that a new kind of spirituality can offer in terms of connection to reality and liberation from its limitations. It is a worthy read.
A blog which explores alternatives to mass religion is IntentBlog. There’s a good article on Empirical Spirituality where the writer, Judi Rall, says “I am an empirical spiritualist because the only way one can know truth is by experience. Observing with our eyes, sensing with our intuition, feeling with our emotions: these are all necessary parts of discerning truth. We must trust them. That is how God communicates with us, by providing emotional, visual and intuitive information cued to the empirical experiences of nature.” Along those lines, I think Pagan Spirituality gets a bad rap from everyone. For the past 2000 years, the Church as been stealing pagan rituals as their own and destroying their credibility, using smear tactics which rival the US Republican Party!
One book which popped up in my searches is Unweaving the Rainbow by Richard Dawkins. He, along with many others who wish to foster a new kind of spirituality, emphasizes the mystery and wonder of the natural world, both inner and outer, and how science has helped amplify the beauty of the unknown, rather than mythologize it. Of course he’s been lambasted by those who feel threatened by the possibility of bringing spirituality up to date. Edmund O Wilson is another truth teller who’s being swamped with venom from small minded thinkers.
More and more people are claiming to be “spiritual but not religious”. What does this mean? Is it possible to feel the pulsing vitality of a great joyous, creative Spirit within ourselves without going to a church and reading an old, self-contradictory book? What do you think? Really, I want to know! If you don’t agree with me, tell me why. Perhaps these new, freethinker, human spiritualists are misguided and will be trapped in some dead end teachings, following a false slimy guru who has a taste for purple koolaid. Perhaps. But that’s why I’m here asking and wondering how and why we might unleash a new of direction in spirituality, something focused and appealing, real and mystical, sensible and enticing. In this age of brilliant advertising and research into mass appeal, I’m sure we can come up with a well researched, sensible, powerful, constructive spirituality.
It is possible to imagine a spiritual tradition where the focusing practices of Buddhism and Buddhist thinking can join with the physical balancing of Yoga and The Alexander Technique, which can then be guided by some moral teachings from Jesus and Mohammed, updated to reflect the rich depth and expanse of modern science and cosmology, (for a REALLY cool, fun, educational tour of the big bang go here) add a dose of climate and ecological responsibility, a heaping spoon of sane technoprogressive perspective, a dash of Steve Pavlina for focus and direction, and mix it all up to form something really useful and relevant to our complex and overcrowded world.