How we label what we don’t quite understand

 

What do we do with the things we don’t understand?

If it seems mysterious and important enough, we have traditionally explained it through God and religion. There is lightning and thunder, so perhaps a thunder god is behind it. We die and don’t know what is after death, so create mythologies to fill in the gap.  We live a life, but don’t quite know what it is for or how we fit into the larger whole, so we create religions to give us a sense of meaning.

And I see that every time I create a belief for myself, I do the same. I don’t know, am uncomfortable with that not-knowing for whatever reason, so create a belief to explain the mysterious and give me a sense of somewhere to stand, a viewpoint I can identify with.

The same happens in the realm of spirituality. When we don’t quite understand the mechanisms, we see it as mysterious and call it spiritual. It doesn’t quite explain it, but at least we have a label for it. As I get more familiar with it and start to recognize the mechanisms, I find a simpler and more pragmatic view and the spiritual label goes into the background.

If I have an experience of oneness, and don’t understand the mechanisms, calling it spiritual gives me one hook to hang it on. It may not be much, but it is at least something. I can then become more familiar with the mechanisms behind it. I can notice that sense of oneness happens when most or all content of experience is recognized as objects, and there is still identification as an observer or witness. Identification is released out of the “me” and mostly or all out of the doer, and remains in the image of an “I”. Some of the mystery of how it happens goes out of it, and there is less need to call it spiritual. It can see it in more psychological and pragmatic terms, even if I recognize that most people and cultures will call it spiritual.

The next step is to recognize this image of an “I” as content of experience as well, inviting identification to release out of even this. As I become more familiar with this terrain, this too – which is often called “awakening” – becomes more pragmatic. Again, I recognize that most folks will call it spiritual, but for me the pragmatic aspects are in the foreground.

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The same happens in the realm of ethics.

When we don’t quite understand the pragmatic reasons for what is pointed to through ethics, we use ethics as a guideline. And as we get more familiar with the pragmatic reasons for ethical guidelines, we go from ethics to a simpler and more pragmatic view.

For example, when the situation is conducive we experience a widening circle of us, of the ones we experience care, compassion, and concern for. When we don’t quite recognize the pragmatic reasons for this, morals and shoulds may be helpful and even essential. And yet, as we start to become more familiar with it, we recognize the pragmatic reasons and these come to the forefront for us. As I relate to others, I relate to myself. It is a mirror, so I naturally want to treat others and myself with kindness. And in the world, including all beings and ecosystems in the circle of “us” makes good ecological sense. It is, in fact, essential for our own long-term well-being and survival.

Similarly, if I don’t quite recognize the reasons for gratitude, humility, and appreciation, it may be good to have ethics or religion to remind me of its value. As I become more familiar with their benefits, I need the external reasons less. What is here is enough to guide me.

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  • spirituality is what we don’t understand
    • it is common to say that when we don’t understand something, we put god or religion there, and that applies to spirituality as well
    • when we are aware and familiar with the dynamics and mechanisms, the mystery goes out of it at that level – no need to think of it as “spiritual” or “ethical” anymore
    • it goes from spiritual/ethical to pragmatic
    • for example
      • gratitude, kindness, appreciation – supports all aspects of our live (no need for ethics)
      • widening circles of compassion, care, and concern – supports all of us (again, no need of ethics)
      • experience of “oneness” when identified with observer/witness
      • “awakening” when recognize “I” as content of experience, as any other content of experience

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a far too one-sided initial draft……

*Spirituality is what we don’t understand*

Traditionally, when something seems mysterious, we explain it through God and religion.

And we do the same with ethics and spirituality. When we don’t quite understand the pragmatic reasons for ethical guidelines, we use ethics as a guideline. And when we don’t quite understand the mechanisms behind what we see as spiritual, we call it spiritual and make it into something more than it is.

As we get more familiar with the pragmatic reasons for ethical guidelines, and the mechanisms behind what we see as spiritual, we go from ethics and spirituality to a simpler and more pragmatic view.

For example, when the situation is conducive we experience a widening circle of us, of the ones we experience care, compassion, and concern for. When we don’t quite recognize the pragmatic reasons for this, morals and shoulds may be helpful and even essential. And yet, as we start to become more familiar with it, we recognize the pragmatic reasons and these come to the forefront for us. As I relate to others, I relate to myself. It is a mirror, so I naturally want to treat others and myself with kindness. And in the world, including all beings and ecosystems in the circle of “us” makes good ecological sense. It is, in fact, essential for our own long-term well-being and survival.

Similarly, if I don’t quite recognize the reasons for gratitude, humility, and appreciation, it may be good to have ethics or religion to remind me of its value. As I become more familiar with their benefits, I need the external reasons less. What is here is enough to guide me.

If I have an experience of oneness, and don’t understand the mechanisms, calling it spiritual gives me one hook to hang it on. It may not be much, but it is at least something. I can then become more familiar with the mechanisms behind it. I can notice that sense of oneness happens when most or all content of experience is recognized as objects, and there is still identification as an observer or witness. Identification is released out of the “me” and mostly or all out of the doer, and remains in the image of an “I”. Some of the mystery of how it happens goes out of it, and there is less need to call it spiritual. It can see it in more psychological and pragmatic terms, even if I recognize that most people and cultures will call it spiritual.

The next step is to recognize this image of an “I” as content of experience as well, inviting identification to release out of even this. As I become more familiar with this terrain, this too – which is often called “awakening” – becomes more pragmatic. Again, I recognize that most folks will call it spiritual, but for me the pragmatic aspects are in the foreground.

Note: Spiritual can of course be used in different ways. It can mean anything that has to do with awakening, in which case these things are spiritual. But it can also be used to refer to what is mysterious to us, in which case the pragmatic takes over as soon as we get more familiar with some of the dynamics and mechanisms behind it.

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Traditionally, when something seems mysterious, we explain it through God and religion.

We do the same in many different ways. When we don’t understand the pragmatic reasons behind ethical guidelines, we explain it through ethics. When we don’t understand the mechanisms behind what we see as spiritual, we call it spiritual.

As we get more familiar with the pragmatic reasons for ethical guidelines, and the mechanisms behind what we see as spiritual, we go from ethics and spirituality to a simpler and more pragmatic view.

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