Does ‘spirituality’ bridge the gap between religious dogma and atheism? Is it the golden mean between an all powerful dictatorial super being that creates good and evil, demands sacrifice and unquestioning obedience and the totally mechanistic belief of the atheist? Can the two even be reconciled?
We are all familiar with religious dogma. The Judeo-Christian, Islamic traditions have dominated religious thought for thousands of years. At the core of all three is a super deity that demands worship, punishes the unfaithful, and has no problem with each declaring the other as inferior and even evil. One has savior who died for their sins; one has a savior yet to come; and the other says live a life by the rules and you will be rewarded later. There is a basic assumption in these religions that people are sinners and are doomed to eternal punishment by an all loving god. All rather silly. It would be easy to extol the absurdity of most religions. And, it is easy to see how a rational, thinking person would have issues with religious hypocrisy and their history of blood and violence.
On the other side of the coin, we have atheism. Basically, atheists do not believe in a god or gods, shun any notion of the supernatural and place their faith in reason, science, humanism and rationality. Essentially, atheism means, ‘without god.’ But, are the options only god (s) and no gods?
The answer is that there is another option; spirituality. Yes, there is a difference between being religious and spiritual. It is important to state that spirituality has been around longer than any religion; it is as old as humanity. Rooted in ancient mysticism from Chaldea, Egypt and found in every civilization, spirituality was based in the concept of gnosis, knowing. For spirituality, there is no set doctrine, no dogma and no institution striving for self-perpetuation. Spirituality is a concept, a belief based upon personal enlightenment. What is interesting is that even though spirituality is based upon individual epiphany, it contains a common thread that can be found in the mystical teachings of all cultures; it has a universal commonality (perhaps Jung is at work here).
In analyzing the literature of mystical teachings, which all too often became perverted into religions, “some” of the common threads include: a belief in an all pervasive universal intelligence; all things are alive; all things are connected, literally; universal intelligence thinks the manifest world into existence and all higher levels of consciousness play an ongoing part in this creation; reality is an illusion and is different from actuality; we are what we think; there is no such thing as good and evil warring for humanity’s soul; there is no death; life constantly seeks to express itself and evolves into higher levels of awareness; there is no deity demanding servitude and no deity that condemns, tortures or punishes; all that ever was, is and will be, is here, now; while there are balancing forces in the universes, these forces are nether good or bad; knowledge is attainable through intuition and meditation; the universe is basically objective; all things move in cycles that spiral ever upward; and all things are possible. Despite these and other shared ideas, there is no church based upon these principles. There are groups, orders, brotherhoods and societies that have formed to teach these concepts, but none seek to dominate, condemn, proselytize, or war with others over ideology.
Much of what is believed, or rather known, by those who have embarked upon a spiritual path is, oddly enough, based in science and reasoning. Is this the bridge between dogma and atheism? It can be. Many scientists have expounded mystical/spiritual ideas. Galileo, Newton, Descartes, and Einstein had clear spiritual views on the nature of the universe. And today, the breakthroughs and discoveries in quantum physics are heading directly down the spiritual path. The circle is closing. From direct knowledge, to skepticism, to discovery and back; scientific thought is revealing as true, what mystics taught in ancient times.
So what did people like Heisenberg and Bohr and others say about the universe. The first tenet is that the material-objective universe is not real, it is an illusion. The mind brings reality into existence through observation. In actuality, the universe is an interconnected sea of energy that only takes on substance when it is observed. The subjective mind brings the objective mind into what we call reality, and yet, it has no independent existence; the observer and the observed are one. Quantum physics tells us that electrons can be in two places at once and that they are waves of energy that only take on physical existence when we look for them. Essentially, the material world has no fundamental existence. Unless we discount quantum physics as ‘hum bug,’ we have science telling us that those who base their reality on the senses are gravely in error. There is significant research and studies on this topic and if would behoove a seeker to Google the topic, ‘mysticism and quantum physics.’ This is not meant to be an in depth study of the topic, but rather a piece that raises the question for others to ponder.
If the mind brings reality into existence, the question that must be answered is what mind brought the first matter, electrons, atoms, molecules, planets, suns and galaxies into existence? Does quantum physics ascribe this to deity? I believe that the answer is, “not yet”, but it is the logical conclusion. Quantum physics dismisses the notion that our reality is the result of chance; that life was a lark that emerged from some kind of chemical soup; and, that we are the whim of natural forces that are beyond our control. The power of thought as ‘the’ force that shapes our world is growing if efficacy. We have seen the power of the mind to heal, and that thoughts do, indeed, create our lives and the way we live it. We know now that all things are energy. Thoughts are also energy that shapes the observable world. Energy cannot be destroyed. The underlying energy that forms the foundation of the universe is neutral; meaning, it is neither good nor bad, it just is. Time is also an illusion and that it may even be possible to travel into the past or observe the future. Does this not sound like, ‘all that ever was, is and will be’ is here now?
While it is easy to understand the trend in the denial of a super being in a white robe and beard calling the shots in the universe, it should also be easy to understand that science is bringing us closer to the notion that there is something, some form of higher consciousness, that is creating and exploring the infinite potential of life. It should also be clear that since we, as humans, have the power to alter reality, there is probably something that transcends our consciousness, something that, perhaps, we express in our ever day lives. The mystics are fond of the phrase, ‘as above, so below and as below, so above.’ Simply, the microcosm, the small, is merely an expression of the macrocosm, the big. The atom and the galaxy are one, and what is true of one, is true of the other.
Perhaps atheists who truly follow the emerging knowledge in science will find solace that their rational thinking has actually verified the idea that consciousness is the guiding force of the manifest universe. They are right, in my mind, that there is no single deity making day- to-day decisions about salvation, or what it will do next to alter the material world. There is no deity(ies) to be worshipped or that demand sacrifice. The question is, are they ready to understand that deity is the All and that here truly is no place where deity begins or ends. It is the sea of potential wave energy, of which we are all a part, waiting to co-create the next chapter in evolution.
I love synchronicity. When I completed this article I received an interesting email. In it, it talked of the works of Hawking, Bekenstein, Susskind and Maldacena. It’s premise was that, “The materialistic paradigm is dead and buried.” It went on to discuss the Holographic Principle as described in Michael Talbot’s book and in the introduction to the book it says, “Put another way, there is evidence to suggest that our world and everything in it -- from snowflakes to maple trees to falling stars and spinning electrons -- are also only ghostly images, projections from a level of reality so beyond our own it is literally beyond both space and time.” Again, the question is begged, who or what projects the Universe? As we move to a new 2012 paradigm, it is clear that the foundation of the ‘old world’ is collapsing. We are familiar with the movies that put forth the notion that magic died in ancient days because people stopped believing in it. Now we are seeing that consumer economics, old religious dogma and the materialistic concept of society are passing because, no one believes it any more. The power of the Universal mind and all of its expressions, us included, is creating a new reality; one that finds the ‘golden mean’ between the extremes. This process may seem chaotic. Witness global climate change, political disruptions, religious strife, diseases and what some are erroneously labeling the ‘end times.’ Ye of little faith! From this chaos will emerge a new reality, a new balance and a new harmony and new reconciliation.