21 December, 2007

Alternative Spirituality (or Dual Nature)

Forward: To me, spirituality is not sitting in congregation listening to a man in velvety robes preach from a book written over a thousand years ago about a man who claimed he was god. To me, spirituality is stripping nude and frollicking in a grassy meadow, feeling the warmth of the sun and the movement of the air on my skin, feeling connected to the Earth, and recognizing the natural beauty that surrounds me, and is within me. This sort of experience is less about ritual and transcendence, as it is about spontaneity and being.

Since the winter solstice is upon us, I figure this is a good time to talk about my newfound spirituality.

I am a logical person. Beside Truth, I have a lot of respect for Reason. One of the most frustrating experiences within the social arena is trying to have a discussion with a person who ignores or even flat out rejects logic and reason. I believe that logic is the power of man, and that faith is the antithesis of it. Rather than accept things at face value, I take a skeptical view of life, requiring reasonable proof to believe in something. I believe that, much like in the scientific world, morals and traditions exist to be questioned, to be tested, and when not sufficient, they exist to be replaced, with morals and traditions that make more sense in light of the evidence we possess about ourselves and about the world. These are all reasons why I am an atheist.

My family is Christian, and I was raised as a Christian. When I got to the right age, I went through 'Sunday School', or 'Bible Study', or whatever you call it in your neck of the woods, with the goal being Confirmation. Just like regular school, this is not something I did because I wanted it, or believed in it; it was simply expected of me, and I complied. I wrote my essay which was supposed to demonstrate my conviction, understanding, and faith in the things that I was taught in church, but I didn't believe in any of it. Rather than being a deeply spiritual confirmation of my inner feelings, I was paying lip service to the administrators so I could get my 'badge' and graduate from the church. Needless to say, after Confirmation, I stopped going to church.

Since then, I've developed a strong rejection of the Christian notion of the 'Lord', and the reason and logic within me has led me to flat out deny the existence of a 'God'. Though I am a devoted atheist, I don't believe that such a stance is incompatible with spirituality. I think spirituality is an important aspect to life, but it doesn't have anything to do with religion in the conventional sense, and it doesn't have to be built on faith, or contrary to reason. I believe that spirituality is a very personal thing, that should be decided individually by every person, without pressure from institutionalized religions.

I talked briefly with a friend of a friend once, who was deeply religious. She was Christian, and at the time, I considered myself the same. She asked me how long I had been Christian, and I told her that I was always Christian, that I had been raised that way. She told me that before a person can become truly Christian, they must have some kind of spiritual awakening, an experience akin to what Confirmation was meant to be. At that time I looked at myself and realized that despite how I had been raised, I wasn't really a Christian. Not in my heart.

For awhile, I explored alternative religions, trying to find something that fit cozily into my own belief structure. I discovered Zen Buddhism, which I still carry a great deal of respect for. But though Zen stimulates me intellectually, it doesn't quite move my soul. [One problem I have with meditation is that it is so difficult for me to empty my mind of thought. It's not a natural state for me. My mind is constantly swarming, constantly. I could benefit from a little emptiness now and again, but ultimately, it's not me. It's not who I am. My thoughts are the primary aspect of my existence.] It doesn't provide me peace with the absurd structure of existence. It echoes some of my ideas about the nature of being, but though I've felt 'enlightened' at various times, it doesn't put my soul to rest. Something is missing. That mysticism, that excitement, that esoteric wisdom. I kept looking. Little did I know that it had already found me, though I had been blind to it.

Somewhere along my journey, I met and consorted with a fire witch. She was a practitioner of the arts, known and unknown. Something in me was drawn to her, but it took me too long to discover the magnet within. I captured her affections with a novelty tarot deck. She opened the door for me, and gave me the key, but I wasn't ready to step through it yet. As a musician, she guided me when I decided to become a guitarist, and taught me my first chords. What she represents to me is a freer, intuitive existence. Something different from the binding structure of reason. But more appealing than faith. She showed me the bridge between the shores, and I have been taking my time studying each side.

I have spent a lot of time studying math and science. They were always my best subjects. History, English, they were too interpretative. I liked the idea that a problem had a specific solution and the way to reach it was to apply a specific algorithm. You were either right or wrong, and having the answer simply meant having the appropriate knowledge and piecing it together in the right way. I learned rather late that this was a simplistic and idealistic perspective. There is as much intuition and interpretation in science as there is in the arts. That doesn't mean that it's equally capricious, but my thought was that, if I'm going to have to use my feelings to get by, why not enter a field where my feelings are intrinsically 'right', rather than having to be measured against all sorts of ordered structures and chains of logic? So I dropped science and picked up art (specifically, music). Of course, that totally screwed up the life plan that I had set up, up to that point.

There's another factor that contributed to my crossing that bridge from the land of reason to the land of feeling. In a surreal experience, I met my doppelganger. But the difference between us was clear. She represented everything I wanted to be. Beauty, purity, intelligence, and actualized potential. Looking into the eyes of the doppelganger, I saw myself reflected in the form of a great void. I was being made obsolete. With that other me existing in this world and doing more and better than I could ever do, my existence was meaningless. So I had to change. I had to become someone else. I opened my mind to the possibility of drastic change. And most importantly, the despair that filled my heart opened up channels of emotional energy within me. I discovered the power of feeling, and how important it was to the experience of life, even on the dark side. I decided that if I became a musician, I could share that energy with other people, and help them to open up to the cosmic energies of the universe. That became my conviction.

Keeping this discussion on track, it was the cosmic energies of the universe that led me to where my spirit currently rests. The motion of the 'heavenly' bodies, the sun and the moon, and their influence on the very nature of reality around us. The passing of the seasons, the various moods of the weather, and the latent energy all around us. This had always been the aspect of life that inspired me most. I rejected myself from the joys of a social existence. I learned to respect not man, but nature. Trees, and sky, and wind. These are the divine. God, if there was such a thing, does not exist in the form of man, and he does not speak in words. God is in the details, but - and this is where many religions make the fatal mistake - he does not exist beyond that. Nor should he. Even using a word like 'he' to describe god is misleading. There is no god, there is only existence. And the beautiful part of that existence is what represents spirituality to me.

God is the rain on the rooftop. God is the lightning that flashes through the sky, and the booming thunder that follows. God is the sun, bright and warm, that fosters life. God is the moon, that awakens mystery within the heart, and guides us on the paths of darkness. God is the wind that whistles through the trees, that screams between the hills, that strips the leaves from the trees in the fall. God is the trees that clothe the wasteland, and feed the air. God is the bubbling and cascading stream. God is the raging river. God is the ocean, deep and vast. God is the sky, that generates the rain. God is the limitless void, that exists between the stars. God is the chaos, and also the order, that can be found in nature. God is life as much as he is death, with no preference towards either. God is also man, who possesses the profound power of self-realization. He is none of these and all of these. And to speak of him apart from these things is to misunderstand him.


  1. It's nice to see someone who can make out the difference between spirituality and faith. A lot of people seem to think the two are one and the same, which couldn't be further from the truth.

    Of course, I'm not a particularly spiritual person, even though I do have plenty of faith -- in myself. Too bad that doesn't always equate to self-confidence.

    If I know who you're talking about, I wouldn't say she represents actualized potentiality. It's true that you two have a lot in common (which is why I originally...), but if you think of it in terms of a doppelganger, she's simply one of the paths not taken.

    You, yourself, have actualized potentialities that she has not. I can't say that there's anything wrong with that, considering that you've become the best of friends I've ever had, and I've never really been able to hold a consistent conversation with her.

    If I were to ever choose a God, it would probably align with what you've chosen. God is more powerful than us, but perhaps not all-powerful. God may be good, but also bad -- a capricious being. Perhaps all-seeing, but not all-caring.

    Perhaps not even self-aware.

    You know, one thing I've realized in the course of blog-writing is that it's hard to bare yourself, even in a semi-anonymous format online. The more people you know that are reading, the less willing you are to get to the heart of things.

  2. Your assessment is not inaccurate. Part of the trauma is related to the difference between fantasy and reality, and the realization that the one is not necessarily the other.