Integral Spirituality, Humanist Spirituality

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 that’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? I’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 there’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 ‘god’ 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 haven’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 “If you bring forth what is within you, what you have will save you” And…”the Kingdom of God is within you…” Good. I’m bringing forth what’s within me now.

Let’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.

Let’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 don’t think they’d approach todays world the same as they did then. Do you?

Who are the living leaders in these religions? I’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, flambé in their own vitriol. We won’t even mention Islam at this point, who’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, they’re just wishy washy monks from Asia. That’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.

11 thoughts on “Integral Spirituality, Humanist Spirituality

  1. You are a wise and deep thinking man whose heart is filled with kindness.

    I agree with everything you assert in this essay. I went on the same search, and came to the same conclusions.

    Have you read Joseph Campbell?
    He outlines all the great myths from history, and comes to the conclusions that:

    1) A society is held together by its shared cultural mythology

    2) When a societies cultural mythology becomes outdated, the society itself crumbles.

    3) We are currently living with an “outdated mythology”

    4) If we are to save our culture from destruction, we must create a new cultural mythology, in harmony with the modern world.

    On a positive note, I see this shift happening all around me. Your essay is an example. The people who are “spiritual bu not religious” are too. The Neo-Pagans, the Universalists, the Humanists and the Quantam Theory spiritualists, are all moving in this direction.

    But such change happens over centuries. It can not be measured in decades.

    We will never live to see the fruits of our thoughts, but we can rest well knowing we helped plant the seeds.

    Happy Holidays Garnet.

  2. Desirée- Amen back at you!

    Kelley- Yes, I’ve read some Campbell. I’ve also seen his “Power of Myth” series and loved it. Thank you so much for the encouragement. I want to do my part. But there’s a lot of animosity toward those who poke holes in current beliefs, so I tread lightly.

    Right now I’m reading Daniel Dennett’s “Breaking the Spell”. He tries to be as gentle as possible, unlike Harris and Richard Dawkins.

    thanks for you comment,

  3. Well I certainly agree with you. This is exactly what I’m trying to do over at Modern Humanist. I beleive that Modern Humanism is the evolution of religion where the focus is placed on humanity not in a speciescentric way, but as a glue to hold the world together and bring it to the next level.

    Humanity has the power to change the world for the better in so many ways physically and spiritually, but we need to see that we cannot limit ourselves to our own small perceptions of it.

    It is far better to give people education and tools and let them build their own houses than it is to give them blueprints and make them build the exact same house as everyone else.

    There is also a great article in Time Magazine this week that talks about evolving education out of the 19th century. This is much the same challenge with religion. The problem is most are so steeped in their dogma that to let a discussion continue or talk of evolving the religion into the modern world would literally kill them. Those fairy tales have been stated as fact for so long that any questioning will bring the entire thing down like a house of cards. Better to live a lie than be forced to change or grow (from their perspective).

    Fortunately some people are willing to discuss it, and at least that gets the bal rolling – thanks for writing this!

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  5. Navillus- Good to see you again. Yes, this post gets the ball rolling. I hope to keep it going as I read and think more about these new directions in spirituality.

  6. Great post! I’ve been search for sometime for something a little more inclusive and whole. What I’ve discovered is that many of the Great Traditions have a little taste of something amazing. What I like about Integral Spirituality (ala Ken Wilber) is that they are inclusive. But in a trans-new age and forefront of science type of way. It is very engaging stuff.

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  8. “faulty tower of Christianity”

    You’ve heard of the tower of babel. Men tried to build a tower to reach god.

    Now christianity is trying to do the same. They are so drunk on their own power. They think that if they can just convince everyone of their dogmas/views then they will be assured of god. Instead of seeking the truth they try to create truth by having everyone agree upon the same lie. If they can convince every one they are right it somehow makes them right right

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