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roadrunner

Ex-Christian Spirituality

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This topic has been on my mind for a while. Several times I typed up an entire topic and then didn't post but in light of the recent events I feel compelled to ask. Also let me preface this with the understanding that this is merely for information and not intended to be at all disrespectful.

 

If I were to sum up in one sentence why i lost my faith it would be "I found no reason to believe Xianity or the claims it makes". This begs the question of why so many can reject Christ or any deity for that matter, and then cling to ideas like Pantheism or Reincarnation, etc. While these ideas are not traditional religions, when the same level of skepticism is applied to these premises that is applied to religion, they all succomb to the same unfalsifyable result. While I admit they do stand a chance of being possible, they don't look any more plausible than the religious stories that we all know. I think the only thing that keeps these ideas afloat is that right now science (or some undiscovered means of testing) cannot disprove these ideas yet while the historical claims made by religion can be.

 

I do understand that people may seek to experience an existence higher than this or a life after this yet wishing this, or acting as it is the case does not make it so. It appears that for some (possibly emotional) reasons people have discarded one comforting belief and leaped to another that gives purpose and comfort. I will even agree that it may provide some health benefits.

 

I guess in a broad sense (and not to sound condescending) my two questions are...

 

"Why act spiritual at all?" and

 

"What reason to you have to be pantheistic or spiritual that you cannot apply to traditional religions?

 

 

Respectfully. RR

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You found your answer. There is no analytical reason. It's emotional. It just feels "right."

 

I don't know of anyone who theorized a "higher power," performed any falsifiable experiments and discovered a higher power, offered that information to peer review, had those experiments independently replicated and verified, and then chose to accept this higher power as a result of those experiments. This simply has not happened to the best of my knowledge.

 

I do know of many people that have had "unexplained experiences," who then went on to premise a "higher power," then through a variety of paths simply came to accept that their higher power was the best explanation for their unexplained experiences. Discarding one, or more, until it "feels right" seems important here so it fills that emotional aspect. And that's just one possible explanation (of what is probably as many people who believe in this stuff exist on the planet...meaning there are a great many).

 

mwc

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There is no analytical reason. It's emotional. It just feels "right."

 

Exactly. It "exists" in a realm where there is no proof.

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Guest Xtech

"Why is belief so hard to shake? Despite our best attempts to embrace rational thought and reject superstition, we often find ourselves appealing to unseen forces that guide our destiny, wondering who might be watching us as we go about our lives, and imagining what might come after death.

 

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http://www.amazon.com/The-Belief-Instinct-Psychology-Destiny/dp/0393072991

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"Why act spiritual at all?" and

 

"What reason to you have to be pantheistic or spiritual that you cannot apply to traditional religions?

 

 

Respectfully. RR

 

Since your tone is respectful, I will give it a shot. Of course I can only speak for myself.

 

What is acting spiritually? How is that worked out in everyday life? I don't understand the question. Does it mean that people go to church or a temple? Does it mean people are not allowed to show emotion or get angry? Does it mean that people have a big smile plastered across their face all the time? Does it mean people are only allowed to be loving? I am really curious.

 

The only traditional religions I know anything about are Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism. A lot about the first and about 8 years of study on the others. The beliefs are not the same. They are not about the same topic. Isn't this obvious? Can't someone throw out some beliefs and adopt others if they are in accord with how they view life?

 

I am alive and have consciousness and emotions to deal with, and that is a fact, I must deal with this. Peer reviewed science has nothing to do with getting through my day. Who am I? Inner exploration of myself and who I am, apart from what anyone else has to say about it - and I have been told since I was born who I am, but is it the truth?

 

My "sprituality" has nothing to do with an all powerful entity in the sky. It is centered upon realizing who I am, and no one else can tell you.

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There is no analytical reason. It's emotional. It just feels "right."

 

Exactly. It "exists" in a realm where there is no proof.

 

I could be wrong, but the way this is stated it sounds like you think there is no legitimate reason to explore this at all. It is a closed area. You have decided there is no proof and there will never be any proof.

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I am alive and have consciousness and emotions to deal with, and that is a fact, I must deal with this. Peer reviewed science has nothing to do with getting through my day. Who am I? Inner exploration of myself and who I am, apart from what anyone else has to say about it - and I have been told since I was born who I am, but is it the truth?

 

My "sprituality" has nothing to do with an all powerful entity in the sky. It is centered upon realizing who I am, and no one else can tell you.

 

As an atheist, your description of spirituality is exactly something I can get on board with. Thank you.

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I embrace, in some broad sense, the concept of Deism. Deism isn’t a religion, but like religion in comes in many versions. Some indicate Deism encompasses the void between theism and atheism. It's a place for those of us who recognize religions are manmade but aren’t fully convinced that science and rationalist have conclusively proved their case either.

 

As part of my journey out of organized religion I became interested in quantum physics. And I mean the qp for dummies version. I love history and that is what lead me out of Christianity. I suppose I just have an inquisitive mind that motivates me to ask why and then find the answer.That mindset inspired me to find out why the Bible was replete with inconsistencies and contradictions. Those questions lead me on a seven year study of the history of religion its origins and evolution. That study ultimately convinced me all religions are manmade.

 

I’m currently on a new journey. My focus this time is cosmology & physics with the goal of finding plausible theories on how and where it all began. I’m not smart so I have to limit my study to the dummies versions. What I’ve discovered so far is mindboggling. Dark matter, dark energy, black holes, singularity, expansion, multiple universes, multiple dimensions, and the list goes on. In theory multiple universes may exist and there may be nine or more dimensions, and……well black holes may be the portal to other universes. And in theory there may be trillions upon trillions of other universes.Most scientists are convinced we are not the only life form in our universe. Just the law of large numbers almost guarantees life exists someone else in our universe. In other words there is plausible evidence that our reality very well may not be all there is.

 

That doesn’t mean there are definitely anthropomorphic life forms in some reality beyond our present technological ability to detect or communicate with them, but it doesn’t mean there isn’t either. Lots of stuff in our reality has been undetectable for eons before technology revealed its existence. It has only recently been confirmed that dark energy exists. We don’t know what we don’t know. Technologically advanced life forms, if they exist, would certainly have god like qualities to us.

 

I have conclusively proven to my satisfaction that the God of the Bible is at best a metaphor for nature and the laws of science and physics. He was conjured up by the ancients to explain the unexplainable awesome power of nature. As a Deist I don’t worship any God, or recognize the validity of any religion or their sacred text. Deism is attractive to me as a link between the known and unknown or our reality and those theoretical other realities and who or what may exist in them. Science has answered a lot of questions, but it hasn’t answered all of them….at least not yet.

 

One final thought. Why does it matter that another human being believes in a supreme deity? I acknowledge that some theists are a pain in the ass, but so are some atheists. I can peacefully co-exist with both of them and ignore the extremist element in both camps.

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I can peacefully co-exist with both of them and ignore the extremist element in both camps.

 

So can I -- until they start making laws that interfere with my own life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness -- and that of others.

 

-------------------------------------------

 

(Great post, Geezer!)

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I can peacefully co-exist with both of them and ignore the extremist element in both camps.

 

So can I -- until they start making laws that interfere with my own life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness -- and that of others.

 

-------------------------------------------

 

 

Yeah, there is a line in the sand and I agree that is where my tolerance ends too. Freedom of thought and expression stops when your fist contacts my nose.

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Deva it sounds as if you may have found certain "truths" in these eastern "myths" that work for you and if I am reading you correct, it revolves around introspection and self affirmation. These are traits one can apply w/o the need for altered mind states.

 

The way I see it, we have had gurus that stumbled upon the ability to meditate and "see" things and then wrote some stuff down. For me this is akin to trying to accurately write down dreams and decipher their meaning. In simplistic terms it is like wilful daydreaming and does not change reality but may provide a coping mechanism for some folk in view of the harsh realities of life.

 

Our sentience has been mostly about day to day survival at the base instinct level and in reality, folk would not be in an altered state of mind as that would mean certain death. At the instinctual level we are evolved with sense of impending peril, adrenalin is released to heighten our senses, make our reactions almost automatic and if you have ever been in danger of losing your life like in an accident, it does appear to happen in slow motion. This is a rational explanation and it can be observed not only in humans but in other animals too. The opposite side of the spectrum is the built in empathy and human bonding that we know kicks in in the art of copulation and subsequent pregnancy to actually care for the offspring, this is a natural instinct also observed in nature, obviously not as harsh as spiders that eat the males.

 

Other aspects are like why do we breathe when we sleep? Why do we blink w/o wilfully controlling that aspect? Why if you ride a motorcycle, when a bug hits you in the eye, your eye is closed on impact? One can choose to wilfully override these automatic brain functions but eventually you cannot hold your breath forever w/o passing out and then the automatic will kick in again.

 

All of this is probably documented under the heading of human behaviour.

 

What you described, I probably do too but just do not label it "spirituality". Are my innermost thoughts "spiritual"? I would say no.

 

The heightened sense folk achieve through meditation is probably the same as people that go into prayer frenzies, it achieves the same "anointing" effect and is a release of endorphins which gives the sense of well being. Music is also a powerful medium and one need just look at a rock concert and the modern charismatic churches, they are the same with the audience getting into a heightened frenzy. Watching a game on TV is just not the same as watching it live at a stadium. Why sing an anthem before a sporting event, why does this move some to tears? ALL of this is an emotional response to external stimuli, if you will, and this aspect is utilised to create unison, remove the instinctual fear and prepare one for battle, or in the modern context, the shit the stand up comedian behind the pulpit is about to deliver. There is a reason there is praise and worship in a church service.

 

These are the aspects of the human psyche I had to investigate to finally diss my faith as those experiences were very real to me. Once the dots had been joined, I realised I was victim to indoctrination and even self willed in many cases. That "high" is addictive.

 

So were my experiences "spiritual" or were they in fact a product of my brain? That is rhetorical.

 

In the xian circles these experiences are labelled god and what folk allude to as the "relationship" of said god. I am sure all faiths could cite similar traits and have different labels for it.

 

I personally have problems with the term spirituality as it really describes or can describe many different things. Perhaps this is why we ask so many questions and why it is sometimes seen as affront to the spiritual folk's beliefs and/or experiences.

 

I guess my make up is such that I am a reductionist and have to break things down to logical elements and figure out how shit works. I am probably someone now who cannot be hypnotised as I also know how that works and would put barriers/filters up to external suggestions.

 

Perhaps these barriers are coping mechanisms we atheists have so that we never get tricked again.

 

As a closing example. It took the military to convert this pacifist into a mean soulless killing machine. Luckily I was never in the front lines and have never killed anyone but I do know at 18, I was very capable w/o blinking an eyelid. That indoctrination has of course worn off and I am now again a pacifist whoosie unless you take on my wife and kids, then the kraken is released - again instinct.

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I don't consider myself to be a spiritual person. For better or worse, I tend to look at things in a black-or-white manner. That's why it's hard for me to believe in something more now that I've left Christianity behind.

 

My husband is probably more like Geezer describes as a 'deist'. This morning he said he describes his spirituality as that spark that makes us human, the fact that he can walk down the street and see the changing colors of the leaves and appreciate it as beautiful. There is no dogma attached to it, and there is no proof of its existence... it's just something that he feels.

 

Even though I consider myself an atheist, I admit that the fact that humans have the unique ability to contemplate their existence in this way causes me to consider that there could be more to this life than what we can scientifically prove.

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Deva it sounds as if you may have found certain "truths" in these eastern "myths" that work for you and if I am reading you correct, it revolves around introspection and self affirmation. These are traits one can apply w/o the need for altered mind states.

 

Yes, there is some truth to that. The "mind state" is altered all of the time. Mine would probably have been quite different if I had not been raised fundamentalist Christian. Day to day stuff happens that alters the mind state for good or bad whether we like it or not. The question is, can this be more controlled? Can we learn to view "reality" in a different way? I think its possible. Sprituality is as much a process of inquiry and subtraction as anything else. Discarding the concepts that are untrue or damaging. Our mind creates the world, but can the view of the world be dismanteled and recreated? I think so. I am not talking about drug experiences or something like a state of ecstasy. I mean day to day view of life.

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Deva it sounds as if you may have found certain "truths" in these eastern "myths" that work for you and if I am reading you correct, it revolves around introspection and self affirmation. These are traits one can apply w/o the need for altered mind states.

 

Yes, there is some truth to that. The "mind state" is altered all of the time. Mine would probably have been quite different if I had not been raised fundamentalist Christian. Day to day stuff happens that alters the mind state for good or bad whether we like it or not. The question is, can this be more controlled? Can we learn to view "reality" in a different way? I think its possible. Sprituality is as much a process of inquiry and subtraction as anything else. Discarding the concepts that are untrue or damaging. Our mind creates the world, but can the view of the world be dismanteled and recreated? I think so. I am not talking about drug experiences or something like a state of ecstasy. I mean day to day view of life.

 

Heh, I like altered states of mind. I don't agree that there's one "normal" state and then there are "altered" states; even in practical day-to-day things, I have different states of mind. Playing with the more esoteric ones gives me more control in switching between states so that I can use the one most appropriate to the situation.

 

Here's a few examples of mental states I use day to day:

 

- Autopilot with random chatter. This is what I do when I get up in the morning and go through the routines of getting dressed and eating breakfast while my thoughts are still in a post-sleep jumble. My body remembers what it needs to be doing even while my mind is all over the place.

 

- Mental focus with dissociation from the body. This is when I'm doing a good job of writing code. I'm absorbed in the problem solving and the task at hand, and if I think about my body it's only about my hands typing or turning a little bit to glace at and absorb information from other monitors. If I've been in the state for a while, hunching over my computer, I get a feeling of "waking up" when my body drags me out of that state by yelling at me about how sore I am.

 

- Body focused with few words. The analytical brain that uses words goes dormant and I focus on body movements. It's a more hollistic sense of my body than I get at other times. This shows up sometimes while driving my car (more so when I was learning to drive stick, but I can do a lot of that on autopilot now), when I'm nearing the end of an exercise routine and looking for the point where I need to stop before I hurt myself, and when I'm navigating busy sidewalks (being aware of the trajectories of that many people all at once and trying not to run into anyone takes quite a bit of mental energy).

 

- Kinetic focus with few words. This one is a little different from the previous one. It's about focusing on a mental goal while allowing my body to do its thing faster than I can keep up with. This is what I need to play video games or a musical instrument. If I think about each motion I'll be way too slow, but if I focus on the physical sensations I'll loose track of the goal (like trying to remember which repeat you're on in a really fast tune). A slight variant of this is doing art; it's not a speed skill, but I do focus on the goal of what I want the result on the paper to look like while focusing enough on eye-hand coordination for it to come out right.

 

The usefulness of altered states of consciousness is learning to use my will to change which state I'm in. I have an anxiety disorder; when this is really bad, I get so much mental chatter going on that I can't focus on intellectual pursuits or have enough awareness of my body for complex motor skills. Both meditation and exercise can help force me into a state of mind that turns off that chatter, which helps me relax and get a calmer, more rational outlook on the events going on in my life. Other times, I've been doing a lot of intellectual focus on something and need to take a break, to let the problem go for a while and just get up and move around. Sometimes it's jarring to switch between them, like each state is a different "me" and I'm scared to let go. Meditation helps me to be ok with the letting go, to not be afraid that I'm loosing my self, and to remember that the bits I'm letting go of right now will still be there later for me to come back to.

 

Some of this may be related to me being a more creative-type person. Even my math and science has that flavor; I've gone into altered states of consciousness doing homework where I could taste the shape of the integrals. My intellectual pursuits have never been unemotional. I get annoyed with people who think that my having emotions means that I can't think logically; it seems that the term "spirituality" covers my desire to have a framework from which to approach my emotions on their own terms, instead of writing them off as "mere brain chemistry" or a weakness or something (besides, according to the same reasoning my logic is also merely brain chemistry; why should it get any more reverence?)

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"Why act spiritual at all?" and

 

"What reason to you have to be pantheistic or spiritual that you cannot apply to traditional religions?

 

 

Respectfully. RR

 

Since your tone is respectful, I will give it a shot. Of course I can only speak for myself.

 

What is acting spiritually? How is that worked out in everyday life? I don't understand the question. Does it mean that people go to church or a temple? Does it mean people are not allowed to show emotion or get angry? Does it mean that people have a big smile plastered across their face all the time? Does it mean people are only allowed to be loving? I am really curious.

 

The only traditional religions I know anything about are Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism. A lot about the first and about 8 years of study on the others. The beliefs are not the same. They are not about the same topic. Isn't this obvious? Can't someone throw out some beliefs and adopt others if they are in accord with how they view life?

 

I am alive and have consciousness and emotions to deal with, and that is a fact, I must deal with this. Peer reviewed science has nothing to do with getting through my day. Who am I? Inner exploration of myself and who I am, apart from what anyone else has to say about it - and I have been told since I was born who I am, but is it the truth?

 

My "sprituality" has nothing to do with an all powerful entity in the sky. It is centered upon realizing who I am, and no one else can tell you.

Thank you Deva for not being offended by the question and your answer is along the lines of what I was hoping to hear. Granted, I merely want information on the topic. I was amazed at how many atheists are pantheists and deists so I felt compelled to ask and hope that a spiritual theist can explain for me.

 

I agree that peer reviewed science often provides little to no benefit to each of us at random parts of the day. However,its not so much peer reviewed science that I wanted to put on the table but mainly the physical realm as a whole and assertion that there is more than it alone. To answer the question about acting spiritual I was referring to living life as if there is more than what can be tangibly experienced. And more than that living as if you can with any certainty interact with it and achieve any desirable result from doing so. I'll step back and continue hear more ideas. Thanks again.

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VF, if you look at my post examples and what I framed as "spirituality", what you have just described is that of a normal average person and state of mind, I think you are compartmentalising this? then why call this spirituality? Not that it matters but going back to what I mentioned in another thread regarding this aspect of "spirituality" in the sense there is this hole/gap/vacuum as the religious would assume we have, there has never been anything substantive to prove this exists in the first place.

 

Who decided that there is this vacuum or god shaped hole?

 

I relate 100% to what you shared but I see/sense cognitive decisions as you are able to articulate the details rather well.

 

It is this aspect that I alluded to where there is this "anointing" as it is labelled, the sense of euphoria/well being that one gets when on an emotional high. If you have ever been in love, those feelings are driven probably by the same chemical precursors, we do/say silly things and have no idea why this happens nor do I think we have the ability to turn this off or on.

 

Love is thus invisible, it is however real as almost everyone sometime has felt this way, whether it was a mere infatuation or something deeper.

 

So god which is another invisible "learned aspect", morphs into LOVE as folk generally can relate to the emotion of Love. Goosebumpy/thrills are then passed off as validation to the aspect of this emotion and then that morphs into a perceived reality.

 

Take this aspect of LOVE. That is an instinctual trait we have evolved with as part of our need to copulate. This is coupled with release of hormones and other things we have no control over in your autopilot mode. We have been stripped of our natural ability to sense a female "in heat" like a dog (and other animals) can. We accentuate this with man made scents and perhaps our brains, make a connection(s) to these artificial scents.

 

Did you see what I have just done?

 

Now compare that to the aspects of religion. How much of it is centred around sex? How much of it is veiled in sexual innuendos? Quite a bit.

 

Then we get onto the topic of relationships and that is something everyone has opinions on but no one can claim to have ultimate knowledge.

 

When we suffer a failed relationship, we are hurt. What does that even mean? I am sure most of us have experienced that and also know that hurt is real too. Perhaps the endorphins rush is addictive and then there is a sudden withdrawal.

 

The emotional aspect we all share is after all what makes us human and if we were all identical, we would make for a frigging boring species.

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This is mine. I feel it is prescient.

 

 

 

 

Consider that Pale Blue Dot.

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I agree that peer reviewed science often provides little to no benefit to each of us at random parts of the day. However,its not so much peer reviewed science that I wanted to put on the table but mainly the physical realm as a whole and assertion that there is more than it alone. To answer the question about acting spiritual I was referring to living life as if there is more than what can be tangibly experienced. And more than that living as if you can with any certainty interact with it and achieve any desirable result from doing so. I'll step back and continue hear more ideas. Thanks again.

 

I don't see that science has unlocked all the mysteries of the universe yet. In fact, most of it appears to be made of of "dark matter" and I don't know what that is. There may be other realms, other dimensions. I don't see why not. I am sure our senses are limited. I am sure that the senses selectively filter out information. A desirable result would be to see things in such a way that I do not feel separate and apart from the whole. That would conform more with actual reality. Of course I am a non-dualist in philosophy, but it is very hard to actually see the world in this way.

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VF, if you look at my post examples and what I framed as "spirituality", what you have just described is that of a normal average person and state of mind, I think you are compartmentalising this? then why call this spirituality? Not that it matters but going back to what I mentioned in another thread regarding this aspect of "spirituality" in the sense there is this hole/gap/vacuum as the religious would assume we have, there has never been anything substantive to prove this exists in the first place.

 

When I was growing up, no one really helped me work through any of this. I didn't have words to express the mental states that caused me problems, and got the impression that other people didn't think the same way I did and that I wasn't supposed to talk about it. Christianity claimed to help you out with that stuff, but it only told me what the end result was supposed to be, with nothing about how to get there.

 

When I started reading about astral projection, meditation, and Buddhism, I found people openly and pretty clearly describing the things I'd been experiencing and feeling alone about. With meditative spiritualities in particular (Buddhism and Yoga, mostly) I found step-by-step descriptions on how to work with myself to change my patterns of thinking and be a better person. Without that, I probably won't have used the label "spirituality" to describe what I'm interested in. But the places where I found the most openness, help, and support for this were all under the banner of spirituality. So if that's what everyone else defines it as, I may as well go along with the term.

 

I do have an empty something inside of me, a yearning for... I have no idea what. It seems connected with my desire to be a good person (whatever that means), to make people around me happy, to not cause anyone any harm, with my fear of not living up to what I want to be. I don't think it's an urge to connect with anything supernatural; I think it's just an urge to find where I fit in with other humans and how I can belong and be fulfilled and feel happy. Sometimes it's a negative thing when it makes me doubt myself and feel afraid, while other times it's a driving urge to go commune with nature, make a creative project, or do something nice for other humans. Some spiritualities tell me I'm supposed to fill that void with some power outside of me; others tell me that I need to fill it up with things that come from inside of me. The christianity I grew up with was the first, and now I'm finding that there are spiritualities that teach the second.

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Spirituality is like the appreciation of good food. A plate of food, with a perfectly seasoned and seared parm crusted chicken with mushroom risotto, tastes awesome. But put it in a mixer and blend it to a gray goo... it's not as tasty anymore. It's the same chemical composition. The color of the mix has the same spectrum as the original. But yet, the mix does not give the same pleasure and experience as the perfectly plated one. Spirituality is about enjoying life's different aspects, and experiencing them, without overanalyzing them scientifically. Science has its place. Norms, measurements, specifics, all have their place. A plate doesn't come out right, unless it's done within certain specs. Yet, presentation, separation, unique to the plate, consumer, and idea, is also important. Even if feelings can be reduced to specific chemical signals and quantum interactions and such, each person has a unique combination of neurons and experience that led to that configuration of who they are. Spirituality is recognizing this and enjoying it, without pushing it on others or making it a dogma.

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I'm not going to add much to this as several people, such as Deva, Vacuum Flux, and Oroborus, are saying already what I would say so there's no need for me to say this again. The only point I wanted to add to this about altered states of consciousness is in regard to what they are for. The goal is not be live "high" and thus not be able to function, but rather to break down assumptions of reality we have which are programmed into us from early childhood through culture and language, defining the bounds of what we in 'normal' consciousness see as 'the way things are'. Obviously we have to be functional. But expanding awareness, is simply the purpose of it. It broadens what how we see the world, and consequently our experience of it. This then comes straight back to what Ouroborus touched on. A fuller, wider, richer experience of our own existence. Call that spiritual if you like, or not.

 

The major thing I wanted to say in relation to this is that of the Charismatic/Pentecost Christian experience of altered states in the ecstasies. Yes, the criticism of them getting all whipped up into a frenzy of emotionalism is a valid one. What they are practicing is actually not invalid. In ritual it is called raising the energy. It too is meant to help prepare the mind for inner work in certain practices. But what the problem in their circles is, is that that is all there is! It is the emotionalism itself that is the goal. Drum circles, dancing, whirling dervishes etc, serve to move the mind into altered states. But... they are treated like a recreational high. "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!," chanted over and over while pounding the pulpit has an effect on the mind. But to what end?

 

I liken the difference between this form of spiritual practice in the scope of practices, to those who drop acid at a concert, or smoke DMT to go on a trip, versus those who uses these in ritual practice as part of a deep, inner exploration in the interest of insight. Insight is the operative word. Not emotions, not getting off, getting high, but an expansion of awareness. An expansion of awareness is the goal of any spiritual practice, not tripping out or escaping life's problem, trying to fill a hole with a type of spiritual entertainment, to distract you, to mask pain, etc, etc. One path is hard, difficult, challenging, frightening often times, interior work. The other is escapism, getting high, emotionalism, experience seeking. The former is a spiritual pursuit, the latter is masturbatory. I have practiced both, and there is a night and day difference - even though it uses the same tools. To equate the one with the other equally is not a valid understanding or criticism.

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Prayer also is a form of altered consciousness, as are the 'spiritual" trials and symbolic death of the shamanic initiation, coming of age rituals, and the meditative states and raising of power of ceremonial magicians and witches. (and meditation itself, of course). One thing I see as different is the concept in Buddhism, High Magick and such is the emphasis on personal responsibility that is lacking in the Abrahamic religions. One does not undertake a shamanic journey or ceremonial magick ritual on a whim or lightly..or for shits and giggles, there is deep contemplation, meditation, sometimes divination as well as a willingness to accept responsibility for the work before embarking. One definitely does not mess with altered states just for the state itself in a lot of other 'spiritual' disciplines... I was invited to a Sun Dance once and was very impressed with the solemn and respectful approach of those participating in it. Same with the Sweat Lodge... it just isn't something to be trifled with.

 

It can be a means to an end... in most cases stated above a preparation for enlightenment or the focusing of the will in a certain pursuit. The strategies I have learned and practiced though do not put the emphasis on the altered state - it is a tool only and has little value in enlightenment...(including psychic impressions or other metaphysical phenomena) it can even be a distraction from the actual process of enlightenment—this is a Buddhist concept of non-attachment but applies to many other disciplines as well.

 

I agree that these are ways and tools that people have discovered/developed to assist in personal and spiritual growth—I also think there is a real purpose for the desire to experience these things...either psychologically or biologically, or both— though I'm still working on that thesis.

 

We are driven, as a species, to explore and progress. Curiosity and growth and discovery seems to be a deep part of our psyches... and unfortunately crap religions fill this need for some people—I think it's the easy way out of a innate drive that by it's very nature is supposed to be difficult and support true growth and enlightenment.

 

I experience a certain phenomena, well-documented, of 'flow' when I am creating something (I paint, draw, etc...) or am immersed in deep work—usually something creative. Time is suspended, a sense of joy permeates my being, and peace too, sometimes I lose touch with my body... something similar happens when I meditate. The interesting thing I find with 'flow' is that I am more in touch with the 'higher' (smarter?) part of myself. I come up with better solutions and make better judgments when in flow. This may be the phenomena that people crave that is answered, however badly, by religious practice (?).

 

Hope I made some sense.. rambling a little today—tired.

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I think this story gets at the root of what some of us mean when we say "spirituality".

 

Bankei opened a Zen school not far away from another Buddhist school. Over a few weeks, many students from the other school began to attend Bankei's lectures. Eventually the other school's Master called on Bankei, who was in the middle of a lecture. The other Master scolded his students for abandoning his school, and yelled at Bankei, saying that *his* teacher could perform miracles such as walking on water and signing his name from the other side of a river. Bankei replied, "My miracle is that when I'm hungry, I eat, and when I am tired, I sleep."

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....I experience a certain phenomena, well-documented, of 'flow' when I am creating something (I paint, draw, etc...) or am immersed in deep work—usually something creative. Time is suspended, a sense of joy permeates my being, and peace too, sometimes I lose touch with my body... something similar happens when I meditate. The interesting thing I find with 'flow' is that I am more in touch with the 'higher' (smarter?) part of myself. I come up with better solutions and make better judgments when in flow.

 

Actually that did make sense. Personally, I think a lot of the problem is that we do not define "spirituality" but I think you did an excellent job of clarifying. But considering what you said, my question to you (and the others) is why do you attribute what you describe to a "higher part of yourself" and not just simply "yourself"?. Of course we can get technical and say that the "higher" part of you is you, etc. but, doing that nulls my question. I guess Im saying why does that have to be a higher part of you? Why can't that just be deep thought, a temporary and healthy denying of the world around you? A simple experiencing of "euphoria". Thanks again for jumping in.

 

 

I think this story gets at the root of what some of us mean when we say "spirituality".

 

Bankei opened a Zen school not far away from another Buddhist school. Over a few weeks, many students from the other school began to attend Bankei's lectures. Eventually the other school's Master called on Bankei, who was in the middle of a lecture. The other Master scolded his students for abandoning his school, and yelled at Bankei, saying that *his* teacher could perform miracles such as walking on water and signing his name from the other side of a river. Bankei replied, "My miracle is that when I'm hungry, I eat, and when I am tired, I sleep."

 

Thanks. Statements like these are part of what I refer to in my OP. I think its a thought provoking statement and if left alone to analyze I would take away from it that people prefer human normality over the miraculous but taking a step back it doesn't really say much other than "I regularly meet my basic needs" which IMHO doesn't invoke any sort of spirituality. Please put me on the same page as you with the analysis of this statement since it has evidently flown way over my head.

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But considering what you said, my question to you (and the others) is why do you attribute what you describe to a "higher part of yourself" and not just simply "yourself"?. Of course we can get technical and say that the "higher" part of you is you, etc. but, doing that nulls my question. I guess Im saying why does that have to be a higher part of you? Why can't that just be deep thought, a temporary and healthy denying of the world around you? A simple experiencing of "euphoria". Thanks again for jumping in.

I'll address this as I use that language myself. I can see the confusion at times as it may sound like it is something separate from you, some 'higher' self out there in the stratosphere, in the cosmos that is almost supernatural. It is as you say part of you, but the reason for calling it that is because it is not simply a deep thought, or a temporary thing. Whatever euphoria happens, which frankly becomes a distraction if you focus on that, as Ravenstar said earlier, is a response to what is exposed to you. The euphoria, or ecstasy is not that higher self. It's a response to having your eyes opened and release of the garbage we bury our minds in within our daily lives inside our heads.

 

Eventually, there is no euphoria because that release is now in the past. You know simply live life with that higher realization. And that is what I read in RevR's quote. It is in living life, with a higher realization. Think of it as a fuller, more matured realization about our own lives, our own self-identity, and how we see, perceive, and interact with every part of ourselves in the world. The term higher is used, because it is more than just simply living and perceiving as we normally do. It includes all that, but goes it one more. And the effect of that is everything Oroborus and others explained.

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