Spirituality and a need for imagining progress

Our culture seems invested in the idea of progress. Yes, there is scientific and technological progress, and in some ways social progress. But is it inevitable? Only for a while, and it depends on a shared understanding of what that progress consists of and where it’s headed.

The idea of inevitable social progress is not so strong anymore. We see that it comes from a certain European mindset that’s not shared by everyone. It also comes from wishful thinking and a need to feel we are heading towards something better. And the current erosion of democracy and ecological crisis may also make us question the idea of inevitable progress.

So what about western spiritual circles? Here too, we sometimes find an idea of not only progress but inevitable progress. Whatever happens is taken as a sign that we are burning out old karma, or healing something, or that whatever is coming up is on its way out and leaving our system, or that something, in general, is progressing and going in the right direction.

Here too, I understand there are psychological reasons for it. It makes us feel better about ourselves and what’s happening, and we can say it to someone else to feel better about what’s happening with them.

But is it true? Can we know for certain it’s true?

What happens when I hold onto the thought as true? I invest energy into an idea of a timeline, and I get drawn into those ideas as if they are the actual past and future. I use the idea to feel better about myself and my life. I feel a need to support and protect the idea, and seek out others who agree. I feel threatened if someone or something appears to contradict the idea.

How would it be to not have that thought? I find it’s more freeing. It’s more aligned with what’s true for me – that I cannot know.

Is there a truth in the reversals? It depends on the specific situation, of course. Sometimes, what we see as progress can also be seen as a regression. And the reversal that there is no progress has validity in it. I cannot know if there is progress, or if it is as I see it, and these ideas of progress are not inherent in life itself.

So, for me, I prefer to question this thought and hold it very lightly if at all. Yes, I can make a situation meaningful for me. I can relate to it in a way that may invite in healing and perhaps some maturing and clarity. I can use it in a way that seems constructive. That’s about it, and it’s enough.

I don’t need to imagine progress inherent in what happens. I can relate to what’s here in a way that makes sense to me. This is more aligned with what’s honest for me, and it brings me back to what I can do something about.

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