The role of intellectual honesty in spirituality

 

For me, intellectual honesty seems an intrinsic part of spirituality. After all, spirituality is an exploration of reality, and intellectual honesty guides and supports that process.

This is another large topic perhaps better suited for a book, but I’ll say a few words about it.

Intellectual honesty is intellectual honesty no matter what the topic is. In general, there seems to be some universals to it and some universal findings. And there may also be some universal findings when it comes to spirituality.

How does intellectual honesty look for me in general?

I don’t know anything for certain.

Thoughts are questions about reality.

Thoughts help me orient and function in the world. They can be more or less valid in a conventional sense, and it’s not their function to give any final or absolute truth.

Life is ultimately a mystery, including what we think we understand or know something about.

How does intellectual honesty look for me when applied to psychology?

The world is my mirror.

(a) My mental overlay of the world creates all the maps, separation lines, labels, interpretations and so on that I operate from as a human being in the world. Anything I can put into words or images is just that, my own words and images. It’s not inherent in the world.

(b) Also, what I see “out there” reflects dynamics and characteristics in myself. Whatever I can put into words about someone or something else also applies to me. When I look, I can find specific examples of how it applies to me.

I am my own final authority. I cannot give it away, no matter how much I try.

I operate from a wide range of underlying assumptions. It’s good to bring these to awareness, as far as I can, and question them.

How does intellectual honesty look for me when applied to spirituality?

Awakening can be understood in a small and psychological or big and spiritual way. In both cases, it’s about what we are noticing itself and then living this human life in that context. We are capacity for the world as it appears to us. Any content of experience happens within and as what we are.

In the small interpretation, we say that this is MY or perhaps OUR nature. In the big interpretation, we go one step further and say it’s the nature of EVERYTHING.

What we can say for certain is that it seems to be our nature. And although saying it’s the nature of everything is a leap, there are some hints that this may be the case. (I have written more about this in other articles.)

What are the benefits of intellectual honesty?

It helps us stay honest, on track, and grounded. And it helps us avoid detours created by wishful or fearful thinking. (Although these detours become part of our path and have their own function.) It helps us – individually and collectively – to make better decisions.

Why is intellectual honesty important in spirituality?

I have mentioned a few things about this above.

Spirituality is about reality. It’s about noticing what we already are and living from it. It’s about seeing through our assumptions about ourselves and the world. And in that process, intellectual honesty is invaluable and essential. It keeps us on track. It helps us see through what’s not aligned with reality.

Can intellectual honesty be learned or trained?

Yes, absolutely, although it does require readiness and willingness. We can learn about cognitive bias, logical fallacies, and so on, and learn to recognize them in our own thinking. There is always more work to do in these areas for all of us, and especially in recognizing it in ourselves.

Does intellectual honesty preclude trust, devotion, or poetic expression?

Not at all.

I can trust an approach or a guide, at least for a while and to some extent.

I can engage in devotion and devotional practices towards the divine.

I can enjoy poetic expressions and even engage in my own.

Are the examples above all there is to it?

No, these are just some examples that come to mind. There are a lot more out there and variations and clarifications of these. And probably a lot I am not aware of and won’t be aware of in this lifetime.

Are the examples above examples universal?

They do not represent any final or absolute truth, although it seems that many of these are relatively universal. And it’s always possible to go further with each one of these and other insights and pointers.

The examples I gave above apply to the part of the terrain of reality I am exploring. If we explore other parts of the terrain, there will be some other ones that applies specifically to that terrain. For instance, if we see ourselves as a more conventional Christian, we may chose to “believe” something while also admitting we don’t know.

–––– NOTES –––– 

notice what’s already here, what we already are

be one’s own final authority, bc already are, cannot give away even if we try

Also, faith, trust, poetic expression – can have faith/trust in one’s own guidance, perhaps even an approach/guide for a while, and can use/appreciate poetic expressions

devotional approach can easily be combined with intellectual honesty, can use heart-practices, devotional practices, and also intellectual honesty

acknowledge small vs large interpretation of awakening

––––– DRAFT –––––

For me, spirituality has to do with exploring reality, which means intellectual honesty is an important part of spirituality.

So how does intellectual honesty look when applied to spirituality?

Here are some things that come to mind.

First, a few that applies in general to being human.

Not take anyones word for anything. Check it out for myself. And if I can’t, then place it in the “maybe” category.

Recognize that my thoughts are labels and interpretations. There is no final or absolute truth to them.

Recognize that my thoughts helps me make sense of the world. Their function is to help me orient, navigate, and live in the world. (Their function is not to come up with any final truth.)

Acknowledge the potential validity of a range of different interpretations of my experiences and anything else.

Hold my thoughts about anything lightly. I cannot know anything for certain.

Investigate for myself, as far as is possible.

Differentiate between my own experience, my interpretation of these experiences, and the words of others, and – when needed – be explicit about what’s what.

Learn about and learn to recognize and acknowledge logical fallacies.

Learn about and learn to recognize and acknowledge human bias and my own bias.

Take responsibility for my own views and actions.

Be willing to change my views, or include additional views, when these seem as or more valid than the views I initially held onto.

Then, some that apply more specifically if we are into spirituality and healing.

Find in myself what I see in others.

Small and big interpretation of awakening.

Describe our experience, acknowledge the inherent bias and assumptions in that description, and that anything beyond are leaps and speculation

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For me, intellectual honesty is an inherent part of spirituality.

After all, spirituality is about exploring reality, and intellectual honesty is needed to support that exploration.

This is another topic that is perhaps more suited to a book than a brief article, but I’ll say a few words about it.

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These are just some examples that come to mind. There are a lot more out there and variations and clarifications of these. And probably a lot I am not aware or now but may find in the future.

They do not represent any final or absolute truth, although it seems that many of these are relatively universal. And it’s always possible to go further with each one of these and other insights and pointers.

The examples I gave above apply to the part of the terrain of reality I am exploring. If we explore other parts of the terrain, there will be some other ones that applies specifically to that terrain. For instance, if we see ourselves as a more conventional Christian, we may chose to “believe” something while also admitting we don’t know.

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