I have to say I’ve drifted apart from the spiritual “scene”. I used to be rather into it, back in Barcelona. But I got rather put off by all the crazy, ungrounded, and narcissistic people I found there.
Nowadays I think I rather prefer other scenes for meeting people, such as the Esperanto scene, the polyamory scene, or the feminist scene. I do prefer my closest friends to be spiritual in some way, but I usually find that it’s easier to meet people in these scenes that are spiritual in a more grounded, sensible way, and not showing it off or making a big deal about it.
The trouble, I think, is twofold:
One is that spirituality often purports to hold the secret to the whole of life, the Universe, and everything, and that can be attractive to narcissistic personalities. What could boost the ego more than thinking that you know the answer to EVERYTHING? Amusingly, a lot of narcissists think they are so spiritual they don’t have an ego anymore.
And then, there’s this aspect of many spiritual teachings of faith. To make the Law of Attraction work, you have to really believe. To be a good psychic, you should be confident in the psychic impressions you receive. There are also some (I think rather dangerous) ideas about subjective reality which seem to suggest that pretty much anything you believe in could be true so long as you believe in it.
And as well as that, I think spirituality encourages this faith because it has kind of placed itself in opposition with science, or at least mainstream science. This is perhaps because science is opposing it in turn. Perhaps this inclines some people to believe new ideas wholesale; after all, you can’t trust the information you get from the mainstream.
I do agree you can’t trust the information you get from the mainstream, but I do believe you have to filter. Because of this, I rather like the approach of skepticism, though it is traditionally associated with science and not with spirituality.
Yes, I’m a skeptic and I believe in spirituality and the paranormal. This is not a contradiction: I think it makes a lot of sense. It’s just that, unlike most self-identified skeptics, I also choose to be skeptical about “scientific” sources and those coming from an overly materialistic-atheistic viewpoint. These things have their own, often very blatant, biases.
And I experiment with using faith, but these days I balance that with some safety measures, preventing me becoming adrift in strange beliefs. If you want to see what happens if you just really believe you can create your own reality – try that for a month, in a limited way. Don’t try to fly – try to manifest an exciting work opportunity or a romantic partner or something. Then, try returning to your previous unsure position again and examining that month critically.
always like this. When I first discovered spirituality, I had to push very hard against my previous identity as a materialist-atheist to accept it. I think this caused me to be rebelling against that in many ways, and I think that in turn caused me to be rather the opposite of skeptical for a while.
Particularly with my attempts at developing my psychic abilities, I would be rather too confident about the impressions I was getting, or thought I was getting. That caused me to do and say some stupid stuff occasionally, and kind of have a bit of an arrogant attitude like I knew everything (or could instantly access any knowledge, at least).
I met one person who took this to the extreme. I actually think she was/is a better psychic than me, but even then, her impressions were only right about half of the time; the rest of the time it was very often nothing but her ego talking. When that happened, she used the fact that she was apparently getting her information from higher up to say some very self aggrandising things, and things that were belittling to others.
Nowadays, I continue to practise identifying and acting on my psychic impressions. However, I now almost always give a proviso about my level of certainty whenever I talk about such an impression. I’ll say, “I could be wrong, but…” or, “If I’m not completely bullshitting myself, I think…”. I think that’s just the honest thing to do.
Being skeptical of my own psychic impressions doesn’t harm my skill, as far as I can tell. In fact, I think it improves it, as I have a better chance to learn to distinguish a real psychic impression from my imagination.
You can also be skeptical of spiritual texts. A lot of them require a certain kind of faith – mainly trusting that the author isn’t making this shit up just for fame or money. But you can still use some discernment; I think it’s reasonable to say that you can probably work out which texts are more likely to be BS or not with a little thought and intuition.
I also employ the method of reading quite a lot of different sources, and comparing. I find that many different channelled works, for instance, are strikingly similar in ways that very much seem to affirm the validity of channelling as a source of information. However, there are often some slight dissimilarities, which I guess serve to help you to learn about the limitations of the medium, and perhaps also to learn to become less attached to specific words, to specific styles of concepts.
I was absolutely obsessed about Eckhart Tolle for a long time, for example. However, over time I’ve come to balance the concepts I’ve learned from his work with other spiritual concepts. I think it’s dangerous to think that just one text has the entire answer to everything, no matter how good. I have found that other texts have helped me with certain spiritual and self-growth needs which Tolle couldn’t help me with, or which have tackled the same ideas from different angles.
And, I could add that, seeing as I don’t live in a state of constant bliss, I probably don’t entirely understand the concepts in Tolle’s book. I believe that following concepts you don’t understand could almost be the definition of dogma. If I don’t understand the advice, then I can’t really follow it – not critically, at least.
Ah, and then there is the conflict between spirituality and materiality. A lot of spiritual types seem to take refuge in their spirituality, avoiding the problems of their everyday life, or seeking an escape from them. You get spiritual types who disdain earning money, and who either live in poverty, or guilt about not living in poverty. You even get spiritual types who disdain being involved in the world at all.
I tried living in poverty. I tried escaping from the world to do nothing but meditating. But I eventually came to the realisation that this physical world is here for a reason.
Actually, nowadays I believe that if I ever want to experience bliss, I could just die. If I’m not entirely bullshitting myself, I think I sense what the Beyond is like. I think I kind of remember it. It feels like Home. In a way, it’s what I’ve been searching for, for so long.
And I don’t believe I’m obligated by the karmic wheel to keep reincarnating until I’ve become somehow spotless. I believe that if I incarnate, it’s a choice. I could just choose to remain in bliss if I wanted to.
But if I am in the physical world, I believe it’s for a reason. I’ve ruled out suicide as an option, so I believe that that most practical attitude is to try and bring that feeling of Home to the physical plane.
In other words: I want to bring the spiritual realm to the physical – not to escape from the physical into the spiritual realm.
And, at the same time, I know I have to deal with physical life here. Not just have to – want to. That’s because I know I am a physical being as well as a spiritual one. And honestly – I don’t think it would be “spiritual” to resist that fact. I believe the most “spiritual” thing would be to honour all needs and commitments as they come up — including spiritual needs and commitments, as well as physical ones.
I think the smartest thing to do is not to make such a big divide between spiritual and physical. We are multi-layered creatures, with many different needs. We should honour them all.
Most of all, I think we need to avoid dogma. There is so much subtle dogma in the spiritual scene. Think positively (you’re unspiritual if you’re too critical about stuff). Act happy all the time (you’re unspiritual if you’re unhappy). Act loving (even if you don’t feel loving).
I believe we should question, and re-question everything we hold as true. It’s great when that leads us to unconventional beliefs, such as independent spirituality. But then we need to keep questioning. Be really, really critical.
This actually feels pretty satisfying to write. For a long time I thought I couldn’t talk about being skeptical or critical about spirituality. It almost felt like I was betraying the spiritual scene. But, fuck it. I’m going to talk about being skeptical and critical. I think it’s essential, and simultanously, I don’t think it takes anything at all away from a full experience of spirituality.
If I’m to make a proviso, though, I will warn against fake skepticism. Fake skepticism is when you refuse to believe something because you don’t have the bravery to examine your previous beliefs. It’s very easy to dismiss spirituality as bullshit just because you’ve been brought up in a social setting that discourages it. That’s not what I’m trying to promote here.
I believe we should have open hearts, ready to accept new truths when they become clear to us, even if they make us uncomfortable. Then, when we have found these new truths, we shouldn’t cling so hard to them that they become a new dogma. We should remain always open, always flexible.
In the end, I believe we have a sense of reality and “common sense” (though it may be uncommon) which leads us to the truth. You might feel that sense somewhere in your gut, a very solid and dependable thing.
If you get too ungrounded, floaty, dreamy, or dogmatic, you can miss this sense. But if you come down to yourself and connect with yourself, you can have a very powerful anchor to reality. And this will stop you doing or thinking things that are obviously dumb, or obviously crazy. I think that could be a powerful antidote to a lot of the issues I’ve seen in the spiritual scene.
This sense has informed a lot of my ideas, and, in turn, a lot of what I’ve written. I believe that if I filter my inputs in this way, a lot of really wise stuff just writes itself. I don’t need to be a magical guru. I just need to be critical and work out how to make spirituality work for me.
And, you can do that too of course.
So, in summary: don’t be conformist. Be critical. Be real.
And enjoy spirituality.