Most or all of the essentials of spirituality can be understood from a secular view, and there are some obvious benefits to this.
Awakening itself can be understood in a secular context. Awakening means that what we are – that which our experience happens within and as – notices and wakes up to itself. This may sound a bit nebulous but we can have a taste of it relatively quickly through some forms of inquiry – the Big Mind process, Headless experiments, and so on.
This can be understood within a secular context. Even if we assume a physical world and (relatively) separate beings, we are – by necessity – consciousness. We experience the world not only “through” consciousness but as consciousness. To ourselves, we are consciousness and the content of our experience happens within and as consciousness.
When we notice or wake up to ourselves as consciousness, we also wake up to and as oneness. The whole world – as it appears to us – happens within and as consciousness. Within and as what we are. Within and as oneness.
Awakening itself, the whole awakening process, and the process of reorienting (embodiment) within this new context can be understood within a secular context.
Spiritual pointers and practices can also be understood within a secular context. When done with sincerity, these practices transform us. And that’s something that can be understood and studied within a secular framework.
When I say spiritual pointers and practices, I mostly think about different forms of meditation, inquiry, body-centered practices, heart-centered practices, ethical guidelines, and even prayer. Each of these transform us when done with sincerity and over time, and the effects and mechanism can be understood and studied in a pragmatic and grounded way.
What’s the benefits of a secular understanding of spirituality? In the best case, it can help us be more pragmatic and grounded in our approach to it. It can help us find some of what’s essential to awakening and how the spiritual practices transform us. And it can – obviously – make it more understandable and accessible to people who already have a more secular orientation.
What’s the drawback? The drawback is that we may miss something essential if we focus solely on what we find when we use (what we understand by) a pragmatic and grounded approach. It may be too narrow.
A more fluid approach may make the most sense. I personally use both a more traditional spiritual approach and a more secular and pragmatic approach. They both have their strengths and value. They are two sides of the same coin.
What do I mean with the words secular, spiritual, and spirituality?
With secular, I mean a pragmatic and grounded approach, and an interpretation and understanding of awakening and spiritual practices that makes sense within a modern secular view and without referring to anything “spiritual”.
Spirituality means whatever spirituality traditionally has been focused on, including awakening and spiritual practices.
A spiritual approach is perhaps less easily defined. For me, it means a big interpretation of awakening (the divine wakes up to itself locally through this human self). It means a trust in the divine (all of existence) and divine intelligence and love. It means asking for and perhaps following divine guidance (including the quiet inner voice). It means acknowledging a whole range of things that are perhaps not so easily understood from a secular view, including synchronicities, seeing energies, sensing at a distance (without using physical senses), distance healing, and so on.Read More