new age spirituality

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On Being

What follows is an attempt to make sense of the unknowable. It is presented not as knowledge, but as a basis for contemplation and discussion; it is inevitably incomplete and will be added to and amended as the author sees fit.

There are three possible models for the nature of reality. The materialistic model suggests that all that exists is composed of matter and energy behaving deterministically according to known or unknown physical laws, I refer to this as world one. The idealistic model suggests that everything is the product of some form of mind; without mind there is no existence, this I shall call world two. The dualistic model suggests that there are both material and mental-spiritual aspects to existence. The physical universe exists and behaves more or less deterministically according to scientific principles, but there also exists a mental-spiritual universe just as real as the outer reality perceived by the senses; world three.

Absolute knowledge is limited to what is perceived through the fragility of consciousness, therefore we can never be absolutely certain which of these three possibilities correctly describes existence. However world three may be considered a preferable model on the basis of being least potentially damaging in the case of error. Erroneous belief in the other models has the consequence of lost opportunity.

World one deems life to be no more than a curious side effect of matter in motion, we have no control over our destiny and hence have no motivation to strive for the summit of our potential. World two similarly gives little significance to the power of the will since all that exists is but an imagining of one or more minds; why then seek achievement in the physical realm? However world three suggests that we are spiritual-physical beings existing for a finite period in a physical framework. We do have the power to change our own reality and should therefore seek to use it to the best of our ability.

The superiority of world three over world one is suggested by: i) The existence of emotions; love, hate, fear, anger as well as our own fear of mortality - hence the huge importance given to religious and/or spiritual belief; the existence of such emotions appears out of place in a mechanical-physical kind of existence. ii) Our own innate surety of the freedom of our will and our inner sense of what is right tells us that we possess the power to choose; no such choice could exist in a deterministic framework. iii) The self-organising, self-perpetuating complexity of the living world.

The superiority of world three over world two is suggested by the consistency of our observations. If all that exists is but a great dream it appears likely that certain inconsistencies would emerge, yet our perception of reality is consistent with that of all others we communicate with.

What follows is based on the assumption that the nature of reality is dualistic, consisting of both spiritual and physical aspects. Spirit is eternal and unbounded. The raison d'être of spirit is its continuing evolution as it journeys relentlessly toward the unattainable goal of absolute perfection. From its thirst for experience, spirit created the physical universe as a medium in which all manner of scenarios could take place. From this point of view, as creator and supreme ultimate infinite; spirit, in its entirety, may be viewed as synonymous with "God".

Contemporary scientific thought and evidence support the idea that the physical universe, as represented by the laws of physics is finite. The universe appears to contain singularities ("black holes") in which the laws no longer hold. It (i.e. space and time) also appears to have originated from a singularity; the archetypal "big bang". This mirrors the religious concept of creation.

First came the creation of the physical universe ("big bang"), then the formation of identifiable entities such as galaxies, stars and planets. Some of these evolved into a form that was able to sustain life. Finally came the development of life - the culmination of spirit's efforts to experience material existence. Plant-life, and single-celled organisms represent early attempts of spirit to become incarnate followed by the higher animals and ultimately, on planet Earth, man.

Given the vastness of our universe the odds against Earth being the only planet capable of sustaining life are phenomenal. It appears near-certain that life exists on other planets, somewhere, so why should incarnation be limited to planet earth. Incarnation may take place anywhere in the vastness of time and space that spirit deems appropriate.

Even unnatural methods of creating or restoring life (eg "test tube" babies, cloning and cryogenics) can be reconciled with the existence of an immortal and superior spirit. Every act of the will is an act of spirit, every discovery of science is an uncovering of that which was already designed and created by spirit. Hence a life form artificially created or sustained exists by grace of spirit and contains it's own soul individuated from the spirit as a whole. Of course, with the freedom of will and mind that allows us to experiment comes the responsibility for the physical realm that our continued existence depends upon.

Spirit may be viewed as a whole from which unique souls (i.e. individual spirits) may temporarily become distinct, for example, during the process of physical incarnation. During incarnation the soul remains part of the whole but is able to experience consciousness of it's own existence. Every act of will is an act of spirit. The physical is always and inevitably subordinate to the spiritual. Following death the soul is absorbed back into the whole world of spirit, although possibly retaining a degree of individuality. The possible loss of distinctness, or "self" is probably the most frightening prospect of mortality.

The concept of karma states that we carry as baggage the sum total of our good and bad deeds, and such a balance is continued from one incarnation to the next. Rather than being judged on the goodness or badness of each incarnation we are "judged" on lessons yet to be learned and the circumstances and personality of a particular lifetime may be taken to reflect these. Physical incarnation should be viewed as an opportunity for the soul to develop and gain experience, however, that is not to say the concepts of right and wrong do not exist. Good and evil are two extremes of the same scale. Few acts can be considered entirely good or evil, especially when judged against the backdrop of the insignificance of a single lifetime; however lives of selfless devotion to others (e.g. Mother Theresa) and those of, for example, serial killers illustrate that this existence is not always blandly neutral.

Sin and goodness have no meaning in a purely scientific doctrine; we are merely matter and energy in motion and no more responsible for our actions than a feather blowing in the wind. Most religions assert that we have some freedom of the will and are somehow judged on how we use it, however the degree of freedom, and of forgiveness varies from religion to religion and on interpretation to interpretation. Human free will may be likened to the freedom of a dog on a lead, we are able to make some choices, but the constraints of our physical existence and external circumstances ensure that freedom is limited.

In the animal kingdom where survival is paramount, supremacy is gained by destroying one's rivals - the survival of the fittest. As a "civilized" species such simplicity no longer applies; we have devised laws to ensure the species as a whole prospers, by protecting the weak and allowing specialization and individuality to flourish. We are not God, but we ARE gods of this life, this world, this existence. In my contemplation of such questions I am struck by the interdependence, indeed, the oneness of all that exists. We cannot exist as individuals without other individuals; as a species without other species; as a planet without the cosmos, and yet we seem to willing to compromise the whole. It is not for nothing that we speak of mother nature and mother earth; it is nature that created us and sustains us.

Daily the human race pollutes the environment and destroys the rainforests and other natural resources in the name of progress. We abuse our fellow creatures in the name of "science" or sport. Nuclear testing, cloning and the genetic engineering of food and other products put one in mind of a child playing with a box of matches. If we continue to mess with things we don't understand I fear we will suffer more than burned fingers. What is this thing called progress? It appears that many among us are merely accelerating towards their (and indeed our) own destruction.

In my opinion God does not judge in order to punish or reward, but to ascertain which lessons remain to be learned. Many aspects of this existence may appear unfair, illogical or unfathomable; it is not for us to know the mind of God, merely to do the best with the set of tools and circumstances that have been handed to us. One lifetime is no more than a single step on an infinite journey.

All religions are attempts to reach a single truth. Different religions can, and should, co-exist with individuals finding the way forward that most suits them. Even monotheism and polytheism can be reconciled successfully as with the co-existence of Buddhism and Shinto in Japan. A single God may have many facets, or many Gods may share a common origin or goal. Sadly, in practice, some religions like Christianity have become fragmented, as a mirror being smashed on the ground. Such differences serve only to make conventional religion appear irrelevant to everyday life.

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