Drowning in doubt

Doubt is a topic that should be relevant to any fervent seekers.  I am of the opinion that one should not doubt one’s doubt (wow, redundant).  Our doubt is the thing that makes it hard to find any sure footing when it comes to understanding our personal realities.  So, it should be no surprise that individuals and whole groups may choose to cast doubt aside.  Though it should be noted that some individuals are raised up with such sheltered attitudes of certainty that doubt in their perceptions of reality is never allowed to enter their thought paradigms (oh how I envy these people on my worst days!).  In such cases, it is hard to judge these individuals for their lack of doubt, no matter the harm they bring to others with their particular brand of righteousness.  In fact, we should let those egos that seem overly certain of what they deem reality to be, serve as an example that we ourselves may in fact have an overly narrow view of reality given that we can observe these others to be so convinced with what they know is right.  Which of our biases do we refuse to shed light on?  Where do we refuse to let our doubt show us some truth?

Still, as the title of this post suggests, our doubts can be overwhelming sometimes(or most of the time for that matter).  The feeling of doubt is a feeling that represents itself as a lack of control.  Doubts can leave us listless, wondering where to take our experience next.  Should I or shouldn’t I do this or that based on the information at hand?  But what do I really know of the information at hand?!  The truth (as it seems to me) would suggest that as a biological organism governed by the pleasure principle, I should always have a certain measure of doubt regarding my choices and my view of reality.  If I don’t, I’m simply ignoring a fact I feel we must accept a priori, our perception of what the whole of reality is, impressive though it may seem when compared to our animal brethren, is nil in the grand scheme of things.  We don’t know what the hell to make of our experience.  For more on this point from an individual far smarter than myself, check out this talk.

As far as pragmatism is concerned, we should most certainly be aware of those doubts that try to warn us of a trap.  A meandering mind such as mine is always looking for a positively oriented perspective to get behind.  And, to a degree, why shouldn’t it?  The problem arises when we’re too quick to get behind any charlatan with promises of paradise in their pockets.  I’ve certainly found myself guilty of this in the past, and have been crushed when my doubts are affirmed by that one out of place comment or the discovery of a person’s ability to make money by offering up a grandiose interpretation of our existence.  Call this a judgement on my part, and I know that spirituality is not the lone cause of ascetics, but when someone makes a buttload of money off generating false hope in others I find it distasteful.

But what if we doubt wrongly when we should have faith?  Well…so be it.  All we can try to do in the end is be honest with ourselves.  For instance, many of us are quite willing to adopt promising beliefs of our sense of self existing infinitely in one form or another.  Whether it be a belief in heaven or a sojourn along the karmic wheel, it removes anxiety from our day to day lives to think so.  Though, I don’t feel it’s the anxiety of death that bothers us so much, as it is our anxiety about living that leaves us hoping for a greater reality to fall back on.  Certainly, we should be respectful of those who have lost much, or never had much to begin with and their desire and hope for a grander scheme.  How could they not?  The weight of doubt about the meaning some individuals feel about their lives is too much for some to take on as a burden.  But for those so inclined, we must be honest and accept the possibility that we’re making it all up!  And if not, perhaps we’ll be pleasantly surprised at our time of passing.

What positive angle(I always prefer the positive ones) can we glean from these ideas?  If there is one, it should be that doubt is a compass.  It is one of the tools we can use to guide ourselves to a greater view of reality.  Where a point of view is absolute, there is no room for expansion.  Where there is doubt, there is room to explore the never ending myriad of possibility regarding our experience.  Only through doubt in our perceptions can we hope to illuminate the blind spots in our reality.  It is for each of us our personal task to gauge whether the information available to us can be deemed to have any sliver of validity.  As the Buddha said, “be ye a lamp unto yourselves.”  Though at times I doubt the Buddha even existed 😉

Awareness as Spirituality

What are we if not aware?  More specifically we appear to be separate points of attention, each with an individual awareness.  Scientific materialists will express that this awareness is nothing but the result of trillions of cells working together and giving rise to consciousness.  Trillions of little automata giving rise to a single automaton.  Of course, few people believe that such a simple explanation can explain the diversity of existence, whether it be the shear multitude of life that exists on this planet alone, or the fascinating differences in personality and thought represented by the billions of human beings alive today.  Still if life’s prime directive is in self preservation and perpetuation, why all the novelty?  I understand that evolution is not considered to be directional by biologists, but why does all this star dust give rise to a myriad of form so miraculous and breathtaking in its scope as to truly be awesome in the original since of the word.  To consider that your awareness is a matter of chance seems an odd roll of the dice, especially considering the concept of chance is a human creation based in trying to understand probabilities filtered through our limited knowledge.  Then again, if the universe can be viewed as a novelty producing machine, should it be weird that things exist?  How or why would we ever assume for things to “not exist” is the norm?  I’m digressing from the subject at hand though.

At the end of the day, no matter what you tell yourself or come to believe, one thing will probably remain the same.  You are an awareness associated with the form of your body.  Strip all your ideas about yourself and the world away and this thing remains.  Spirituality itself is nothing but a thought form existing within this awareness.  If this can be taken as a known, then the deep spirituality exists in understanding our own awareness as best we can.  This idea can be associated with the practice of Buddhist “Mindfulness.”  Just a thought, but funny that an automaton would ever strive to concern itself with such a pursuit.  If any act can be considered to be a demonstration of one’s will*, surely it is the desire of an organism to deepen its understanding of its own point of attention.  Still, there is much more to discuss on the idea of your awareness being on autopilot, but I’ll save that rumination for another time.

Now, I won’t say for a certainty that awareness is confined to bodies alone.  Why should it be?  With all the thought forms we send daily over the airwaves in the form of radio frequencies, that we know exist but cannot see, why should we assume that there aren’t certain other forms of information floating around that we have yet to become aware of.  Perhaps the idea that the New Agers posit, that the brain is more a receiver of thought then a producer of it, will eventually be demonstrated to hold water.  In that case, all of these technologies we’ve invented to send information over the invisible airwaves would turn out to be mimicking nature herself.  This idea that awareness or thought exists separate from the body works well with the supposition that everything is grounded within a unified field of awareness, and that each individual represents its own unique representation of this awareness as it comes through the given individual or other form.  What would that pure awareness, separate from any association with form be though?  Well the G-word comes to mind, but let’s not go there right now.  It is contrived and overdone, and it really doesn’t matter what you call it.  Semantics.  Jeez.

If then, there exists a unified field of some “awareness stuff” or something that can be considered the property through which all awareness exists, then it is to be found in everything.  From the tiniest packet of quarks, to the most ardent fundamentalist.  As above so below.  From the smallest to the most massive, this awareness would use matter to organize itself into more varied and novel manifestations of itself.  So, why should your cells be considered little automata possessing no awareness?  Does your body not know how to react to its environment on a daily basis?  Perhaps it is presumptuous  to call the body dumb and the mind smart.  The pattern follows that your cells, these small packets of awareness in form aggregate and collaborate to produce a greater awareness, you.  Further, humans aggregate and congregate to form families, societies, religions and ideas.  All are resultant of our collective consciousness.  They are the varied thought patterns of the collective human mind.  As above so below.

What is the point then?  All of our perceived notions and beliefs of reality first come through the filter of our awareness.  In the end the awareness is all that we can really know.  It is the only ultimate truth that can be known beyond a doubt.  You are that which we would define as awareness, and it follows that your awareness can be considered to be the aggregate of smaller packets of awareness.  So, if we are seeking a spiritual dimension for our lives, we must first look to the filter of our personal awareness.  By understanding what it is we are truly aware of, we can start on a journey of spiritual attainment that may lead us to unknown heights of experience.  At least I’d like to think so.

 

*Note I’ll simply refer to will as just that.  The will, as I’d define it at this moment, is the driving force behind your awareness made of a combination of all aspects of your organismic motivations.  I feel rather than it being a question of whether a will exists, it is more a question of your awareness of your personal will, not a question of “Free Will” versus “Determinism.”  The entire argument as such is simply people trying to confine awareness and choice to semantics.  I will try to elaborate on this some other time, but it is a biggie.

What the hell is spirituality anyways?!

Good question.  Probably one that should have been considered further before founding a half-fast site centered on this very topic.  According to Google/Wikipedia,  “Traditionally spirituality has been defined as a process of personal transformation in accordance with religious ideals. Since the 19th century spirituality is often separated from religion, and has become more oriented on subjective experience and psychological growth.”  Thanks Google/Wikipedia for allowing me to demonstrate my intellectual laziness.  Now where the heck does that leave this post?  I suppose we can putz around the issue and try to illuminate this definition with examples and partial truths.  But as the Zen Master Dai-o Kokushi poetically said,

“Wishing to entice the blind, the Buddha playfully let words escape from his golden mouth, heaven and earth are filled, ever since, with entangling briars.”

Or consider another quote from Lao Tzu,

“He who knows does not speak; He who speaks does not know.”

Well fiddlesticks!  I suppose by discussing such an issue we’ll run the risk of moving in circles and be no further from the start in the end.  But as humans we are creatures of habit, and one of our favorite habits is to talk a lot about stuff we know nothing about (one of my favorite habits at least).  I suppose I would begin by stating, in a reduced sense, that spirituality is nothing more then a narrative we tell ourselves that exists relative to the other narratives we tell ourselves.  Hey, it’s a start.  Now if I were to describe this narrative personally, I think I would say that spirituality represents a certain attention given to that part of me that longs for a state of being best demonstrated as a peace/clarity of mind coupled with a heightened awareness of “what is” as far as it can be known by my discriminating mind.  I would have to say that this is a very personal definition brought about by all the secondhand information I’ve come to understand as topics relating to spirituality.  In the end, spirituality is just as much, if not more, a subjective experience as well as a shared experience.  So, you might as well color the concept with your own predilections.

So what should spirituality do for you?  If anything at all.  Well, I suppose many spiritualists would say it depends on who is asking the question.  “Who am I?” is one of the fundamental questions that Hinduism posits any seeker reflect on when setting upon the path to spiritual enlightenment.  The point being, as far as I understand it, that one learns to separate out the thoughts that are the ego from the pure awareness that sits behind it all.  This awareness has been called “the watcher”  or  the “atman.” Still, even once one recognizes this awareness, I’d imagine a particular amount of ego should survive to enable one to navigate day-to-day life.  Perhaps spiritual practice sets us on the path of taming our egos rather then the full dissolution of it.  Further, we should attempt not to identify ourselves to much with the fears and anxieties that manifest in our thoughts.  Beyond all the ego talk, it seems that spirituality should help us illuminate and find meaning in our daily lives.

One should observe from a reductionist standpoint that spirituality seems to be derived from the pleasure principle.  That is, once the negativity in one’s life becomes to much to bear, many of us seek spiritual practice or meditation as a way to escape pain.  From a psychological point of view, this cannot be ignored.  However, I don’t feel that spirituality being rooted in our base biology or emotions discounts any higher interpretations of such spiritual inclinations (oh i said the site title, snap!).  This is a world of opposing points of interest, where everything exists in a state relative to everything else.  How should we choose (more on choice/determinism later) more awareness or a higher state of being if we aren’t first exposed to a lack of those modalities?  Of course, we must first be exposed to the possibility that there is probably always more to existence then what we understand at any given moment.  But as far as spirituality coming about as a result of certain experiences, whether they be external or internal to the self, it seems that it arises as a natural process.  It is therein that I find a foremost interpretation of what spirituality often is.  It is a process, it is an act of becoming.

Though spirituality is often an act of becoming,  at certain points I believe spirituality need be nothing more then a state of being, a state of aware and peaceful contentment.  That being said, it appears quite obvious that the preeminent theme of this existence is change (duh!).  From change can come many things.  Though for our purposes, we’d probably prefer that this change result in growth rather then stagnation.  Perhaps the endgame of this growth is to exist in a state of simultaneous hyper-awareness and serenity, like a blissed out Buddha or a loving Christ.  Personally though, I don’t believe there is an endgame.  Once awareness becomes aware of its awareness, the degree to which this wakefulness can rise to may be boundless.

There is so much more that can be touched on concerning such a broad topic.  Seeing as this is my second post ever, the purpose of this post is more to play at ideas then to come to any obligatory conclusions.  At any extent, all I am is a conscious point of attention trying to understand its consciousness as it integrates into the whole of being.  Further, spirituality may be viewed as the act of each of us coming to understand that we are all conscious points of attention manifesting within the same ground of being.  What does this really mean?  Well that’s a post for another time.  But as for now, why say more on the subject when we’ve already found ourselves amongst the entangling briars?

 

 

On my beef with hardcore scientific materialists

Ardent atheists such as Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris aren’t shy about touting the ridiculousness of mainstream religion.  I can hardly disagree with them there.  Dogma can be a dangerous game, or in the least a hindrance to personal growth.  It’s understandable why a growing number of individuals identify with atheism over traditional religions given the hypocrisy, scandal, and violent behavior associated with certain faiths.  Though, we should distinguish between those who use their religion to better themselves (yes these people do exist and some of them do make the world better for others), and those unfortunately fearful individuals/groups who would use their religion to support bigotry, ignorance, and down right hatred.  We should learn to see something for what it is, to separate the actions from the language, and not pigeonhole entire belief systems because of the actions of certain adherents of this or that belief.

Let’s be honest with ourselves.  Most of us use terms like Christian, Muslim, atheist, or agnostic as self-identifiers.  None of these terms represent anything more then an adopted perception of what’s going on in our reality.  Though, agnosticism can at least be respected for being associated with a lack of certainty about anything, most other belief systems error in their certainty about what reality is.  Here is where my beef with the hardcore scientific materialists lies.  It is in their certainty in which they are similar to many fundamentalist religious practitioners.  Such certitude becomes nothing more then its own dogmatic belief system.

The greatest contradiction that lies with the hardcore scientific materialists is in most mainstream scientists concession that we do not fully understand the workings of our own consciousness.  True, we have gained much in our knowledge of consciousness due to imaging techniques such as MRIs and in learning more about the chemical pathways that affect our shifts in mood etc., but there is much more information to be attained in understanding the complexity that is the human brain.  So, if our perception is how we gauge the reality within which we find ourselves immersed, and our understanding of this perception is incomplete, then how can we be certain of anything?  It is the notion of having faith rather then certainty in ideas that makes more sense in the end.  Faith may be unwavering, but it allows for doubt.  That is why it is faith.  If there wasn’t a chance it might not be true, it would be a known.  True when some people talk of faith, what they really mean is dangerous certainty, but we must consider the statement “I believe in God,” to be one of faith, where as a statement such as  “I know there is/isn’t a God,” to be a statement of certainty.

Another issue to consider is in declaring yourself right, you give yourself the moral high ground over others.  This is a dangerous place to be.  Such egoic perceptions can eventually lead to the rationalization of harmful behaviors.  So, let it be known that I am not countering scientific materialists by saying my ideas are right and theirs’ are wrong (though there’s always a bit of ego in these arguments).  I am just saying none of us should feel to “right” about anything.  For in the end, what’s right and wrong can be observed to be an issue of relativism in our daily experience.  Every up has a down, every left a right, and so on and so forth.