SPIRITUALITY

The word ‘spirituality’ is usually used  as a way of avoiding accountability  by those whose premises can not be substantiated by measurable evidence.. But preachers and gurus would no longer be able to use the word so effectively as a means of  negating material evidence if only we could get through to those seeking spirituality  that what  they are really seeking has nothing to do with said spirituality, (whatever that word really means) but is really an attempt  to return to the same state as, say, an eagle or beaver,  for it  is the creatures other than we who really live in the here and now they pine for, animals who have neither regrets for the past nor are worried about their future.

When free from human intervention, they respond obediently, unthinkingly, spontaneously, to the universe’s edicts. The natural instincts that nature programs them with direct their actions and one can presume they are at one with the universe.

We, too, at one time, must have, like the deer and the antelope, gamboled freely, unashamed, free of inhibition, alert to the moment, acutely aware of ourselves and the world around us.    But, as Erich Fromm once said: “The dilemma of the human condition is that it can never again be one of harmony with nature; only the animal condition is that.”     For once we developed the ability to delay our immediate, instinctive response to Nature’s demands, we had time to evaluate a situation, to choose a course of action, to, in other words, think. And thinking, of course, led to knowledge and the rest is history – – (cast out of the Garden of Eden, so to speak.)

But, strangely, despite the tremendous advantage this ability has given us —  to be able to hold the universe at arm‘s  length to better examine it– many seem magnetically drawn to this earlier, pristine state when the only book we had to read was the sky at night. We still like to return to nature, are still awed when alone in the silent forest or looking up at the stars at night, we still enjoy the uninhibited play of a puppy, still go to the zoo to see our fellow creatures.   Our literature abounds with examples of this angst–even the religious Eliot was moved to write:

“I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.”

Self help books like the “Power of Now”  are selling like hotcakes, Yoga, meditation and any other means of tuning out our acquired awareness of past and future by stemming our stream of consciousness- by focusing on the moment–  are in vogue. And while most of these techniques might give us momentary release from modern day pressures, there would be a lot less disappointment , and a lot less chicanery, if we kept in mind that what we are really trying to reclaim here is not a spiritual state at all but rather simply the wordless, innocent (animal) state we once enjoyed. In other words, the euphoric language these gurus extol is, as I see it,  the very thing we are trying to escape from when we seek temporary oblivion from our complex world through mind numbing mantras, talking in tongues, focusing on the immediate– anything , anything, that blocks out our stream of consciousness.
Cheers  Andy Mulcahy
T.S. Eliot: “The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock”

About Monist

Hi, my name is Andy Mulcahy . I consider myself a monist and I am retired from steam engineering lo,these many years ago, and the Portland Cement industry. I have evolved into a Humanist-am a member of the Victoria Secular Humanist Association and The Humanist Association of Canada.
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2 Responses to SPIRITUALITY

  1. Bob Allen says:

    When being critical of spirituality, I think it wise to still value such a thing as the human spirit, which might be defined as that part of humanity which, although depends on material life, manifests as non-material. Thoughts, memories, principles and feelings cannot be had without life. And not only this human spirit, animals also exude character which we might call a spiritual character which is a product of their material being. It is nothing that we can physically touch, but it is a crucial part of life. When a loved one dies, it is what we mourn. When we fall in love, we fall in love with a physical body perhaps, but also with what is non-physical, the persona.

    When I meditate, I come to appreciate that thoughts are only thoughts, that they aren’t wholly true, that they don’t define me, that I mustn’t allow them to consume my every waking and dreaming moment recurrently; like a movie playing over and over while I try to come to terms with whatever is the engrossing subject. Meditation isn’t an attempt to be more the animal than the animal I am. It is a grounding tool to deal with what is overwhelmingly complex about life’s struggles.

    best regards,
    Bob

  2. Monist says:

    Hi, Bob– we may be looking at two opposite sides of the same elephant here. I dislike the term spiritual because its use supports–in our society– the concept of Dualism.
    Antonio Damasio, in his book:”Descartes’ Error” presents plenty of evidence that our feelings, our emotions, are actually chemico-electrical activities within the brain.This is good news indeed.( In my opinion , this definition does not in anyway demean the importance and value of such phenomena.) We can now focus on brain activity to solve problems that deal with human behaviour.
    Admittedly, Bob, we need better words, especially to replace the noun “spirit” to express our feelings, but basically I tend to use terms like “zest” or Albert Schweitzer’s “Will to Live’ as ways of expressing our observations of human activity.
    When I meditate, I start with a mantra but aim to become fully aware of my physical body. While this gives me a sense of peace and euphoria, I suspect==though I have no evidence whatsoever for this- that what I am experiencing is only a modicum of what a wld animal would be experiencing as its natural state.
    Hope some of this makes sense, Bob.
    Our current newsletter has an excerpt on monism that might better explain my point of view.
    All the Best, Bob
    Andy

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