Empirical Insights of Spirituality
“Ideology is a profound impediment.”
Across the sphere, humanity experiences the skewed stances religious doctrine’s multicentury havoc has wreaked upon global culture down to the very conditioning of the individual. At the same time, we experience reclaiming our identities and innate truths of being. This is a personal essay composed around the interpretative and speculative aspects of God, heaven, hell, mankind, and religion.
History proves that when individuals claim belief in religious doctrine they cease to be individuals. Often, devotion to ideological beliefs hinders a person’s own *connection* to and *acceptance* of one’s own *being* of humanness. We observe mass genocides throughout history up to the present day as both direct effects and indirect by-products succeeded in the name of GOD. Fanatical believers of God (in all varied nomenclatural forms) prove nothing more than that their belief in God has severed their identification with humanity: the pure fact that everyone slain and persecuted in the name of God is also, like the persecutor, a human being with breathing lungs, a pumping heart, and a thinking brain. The “Wrath of God” appears more so as “The wrath of the inhumane, disconnected human mind” which is not from “sin,” but rather from brainwashed cultural conditioning (the “Fall” of man) upon the developing impressionable mind (“Eden”). There is also the debate heaven and hell are otherworldly kingdoms reigned by God and Satan, respectively. Yet, the truth of experience deduces heaven and hell are right here, right now, all the time in the subjectivity of one’s own mind. John Milton articulated it best in Paradise Lost:
“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.”
Psychologist Sir William James clarifies in The Varieties of Religious Experience “The whole force of the Christian religion, so far as belief in the divine personages determines the prevalent attitude of the believer, is in general exerted by the instrumentality of pure ideas, of which nothing in the individual’s past experience directly serves as a model.”
In other words, when someone who has undergone life-changing experiences and suffering seeks healing and understanding of their experiences outside of his/her self to personified ideas (i.e. Jesus Christ, God, redemption, forgiveness from sin), the individual is completely overlooking the deeper magnitude of their own conditioning. Reiterating prayers to God and attending church (or likewise structure of affiliation) may bring consolation, momentary relief, new encounters, and even mild hope, but ultimately, these abstract concepts will not heal a person.
True healing comes when one disengages from personified abstract ideas that Jesus/Allah/Yahweh is “The Way” and will “Redeem” one’s soul. True redemption comes when one redeems self from their own self, accepting in heart and mind the reality of one’s undergone experiences and past modeling, current circumstances, alongside realistically set goals and befitting hopes for their future. Carl Jung, founder of analytical psychology, is attributed to saying:
“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.”
This boils down to a person changing self by recognizing their own dark qualities, understanding how those dark qualities became conditioned/were modeled to their person, and harnessing compassion in self for the sake of one’s own well-being.
On paraphrasing the analytical doctrines of Immanuel Kant, William James further connects the coherency between beliefs and actions:
“Our conceptions always require a sense-content to work with, and as the words ‘soul,’ ‘God,’ ‘immortality’ cover no distinctive sense-content whatever, it follows that theoretically speaking they are words devoid of any significance. Yet, strangely enough they have a definite meaning for our practice. We can act as if there were a God; feel as if we were free; consider Nature as if she were full of special designs; lay plans as if we were to be immortal; and we find then that these words do make a genuine difference in our moral life. Our faith that these unintelligible objects actually exist proves thus to be a full equivalent in praktischer Hinsicht, as Kant calls it, or from the point of view of our action, for a knowledge of what they might be, in case we were permitted positively to conceive them.”
In The Presence of Other Worlds: The Findings of Emanuel Swedenborg, Wilson Van Dusen distinguishes the aspects of our human life in relation to our human spirituality:
“Man’s own functioning is one of the most concrete and immediate examples of correspondence. Our lives are a bridge between the spiritual within and the material without. Our movements, gestures, speech, etc., correspond to the inner life. Inwardly we participate in a spiritual world. Outwardly, in our bodies, we are in the spiritual world of things. ”
This significance corresponds with James’ pragmatism in The Varieties of Religious Experience where “As time, space, and ether soak through all things, so (we feel) do abstract and essential goodness, beauty, strength, significance, justice, soak through all things good, strong, significant, and just. Such ideas, and others equally abstract, form the background for all our facts, the fountain-head of all the possibilities we conceive of. They give its ‘nature,’ as we call it, to every special thing. Everything we know is ‘what’ it is by sharing in the nature of one of these abstractions. We can never look directly at them, for they are bodiless and featureless and footless, but we grasp all other things by their means, and in handling the real world we should be stricken with helplessness in just so far forth as we might lose these mental objects, these adjectives and adverbs and predicates and heads of classification and conception. This absolute determinability of our mind by abstractions is one of the cardinal facts in our human constitution.”
The Holy Bible is a unique work of history, the only of its kind, which has been seldom explained in such a way that it is understood and utilized appropriately. The enigmatic, allegorical, and metaphorical usage of language in the Bible is confusing for many to grasp. We may attribute this in the western world partially to America’s failure of an educational system, but also to inappropriate attitude, interpretation, and approach of religious leaders and affiliates.
Van Dusen elucidates in The Presence of Other Worlds: The Findings of Emanuel Swedenborg, “The secret of unlocking the Bible lays in the spirit with which it is approached. Those who love truth for its own sake (not to show off their knowledge) and apply it in their lives will be shown… Swedenborg mostly elaborates upon the spiritual sense because men can partly see and understand it. But the celestial sense “can be explained only with great difficulty, for it does not fall so much into the thought of the understanding as into the affection of the will.” In other words, the celestial sense is in feeling and doing. It rises above words.”
Since this celestial sense, or ‘affection of the will’ is paramount in the attitude of interpretation of the Bible, one cannot convert someone to Jesus or force someone to see the errors of their ways through persecuting scrutiny or repetitive relay of Bible verses. This very act is itself an error of opinionated ignorance of what the truth is of a person’s subjective nature and experiences and nothing more than a monumental deterrent disinclining a “lost soul” from finding “Jesus.” This is a prime reason why Christians are decreasing in number everyday:
“Back in 1990, about 8 percent of the U.S. population had no religious preference. By 2010, this percentage had more than doubled to 18 percent. That’s a difference of about 25 million people, all of whom have somehow lost their religion.
That raises an obvious question: how come? Why are Americans losing their faith?
Today, we get a possible answer thanks to the work of Allen Downey, a computer scientist at the Olin College of Engineering in Massachusetts, who has analyzed the data in detail. He says that the demise is the result of several factors but the most controversial of these is the rise of the Internet. He concludes that the increase in Internet use in the last two decades has caused a significant drop in religious affiliation.”
The futuretimeline.net predicts by 2240 the Christian religion will be almost nonexistent:
“After centuries of decline, Christianity is on the verge of disappearing from American culture. The vast majority of the US population is now atheist or agnostic.* This same trend was witnessed in Europe at a far earlier date. However, religion was so deeply embedded in the American psyche that it took substantially longer to reach this stage.”
Old churches are continuing to be renovated and repurposed for other livelihoods. People are wising up and seeking knowledge which is comprehensible to them. While useful guidance and insight can begotten from the Holy Bible, one does not have to believe in Jesus or literal fundamentalism to utilize it. The Bible is equivalent to a philosophical work, like those of Nietzsche, Kant, Plato, Aristotle, Kierkegaard, etc… Really, if one is open-minded enough, anything can be one’s Bible, whether it’s Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass or Greg Hill’s Principia Discordia. One could even creatively fancy the Bible for atheists and men of biology, like Richard Dawkins, is Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species.
By reading the Holy Bible or corresponding with religious persons does not automatically make one religious. As well, one does not need claim faith to pursue acts of altruism and benevolency. Good deeds are deeds which are good in and of themselves out of human heart, whether a good deed is done on behalf of Christians, Muslims, one’s neighbor, or the local law office. It doesn’t take devoting oneself to religion to be a decent human being.
Whatever you choose to believe, worship, or devote yourself to is up to you, but it is insightful to keep in mind the effect and impact your belief has on the people around you and whether or not your belief is actually helpful for your own good and the collective good of society. Less impediments would behad if more people identified with being their own individual human and our responsibilities toward one another and the planet.
Masks of Innocence by Martin Stensaas
*The author is a student of philosophia, a recovering Catholic, and correspondent with believers of multiple faiths.