Secularism and spirituality

Human curiosity is great. We are spiritually drawn to know more and explore further.And here is the first of many paradoxes. We go further by going nowhere.

We travel this journey by being still.

This, for me, is the core of meditation. Calm, breathing and aware, our consciousness opens and scans inner worlds – like a radar dish, focused yet open to impressions.

But this scanning only works well when done with love and wisdom. Why? Because love and wisdom are core vibrations of the cosmos, and to explore any inner dimension we have to attune to its vibration and hum at the same frequency.

Most of us sense the benevolent and loving vibration of the Great Mystery, but sometimes we miss that there is also immense intelligence and wisdom. Think of the teachers you love. They are not just compassionate, but also intelligent.
And part of being spiritually intelligent is to know that our journey takes us into mystery.So here we have three useful attitudes and vibrations for spiritual exploration:

* Love
* Intelligence
* Comfortable with mystery.

Wisdom or Ignorance
But we are not perfect and to maintain those attitudes is not easy, requiring dedication and practice.

We especially like to know what is going on. It makes us feel safe. We are often uncomfortable when left out of a secret or not knowing the end of a story. We give status and power to people – doctors, teachers, priests, psychics, scientists and authority figures – who appear to know what is going on. Many of us want that status too.

There are more lovely paradoxes here.

The more we know, the less we know.
We have to accept our ignorance, but also be realistic about our wisdom.
It is good to provide safety, but the spiritual path takes us into the discomforts of the unknown.The radical psychiatrist, R.D. Laing, called these paradoxesknots.

Our dog Champ, a huge unclipped love bunny of a white poodle presented us with a knot a few weeks ago when he became very ill.

Sabrina and I were concerned. We did not want to use vets, but were not confident that we could manage the problem on our own. We knew what we knew and we knew what we didn’t know. Wisdom and ignorance.

The illness and the bleeding were very sudden and we almost panicked, but love and intelligence rescued us. We calmed down and tuned into whether we could handle it. This felt positive. We then did a lot of internet research and made some enquiring phone calls. After several hours we reached a preliminary diagnosis. We then used a mixture of homeopathy, herbs and hands-on healing. Five days later the crisis was over and Champ was fine. Twenty years ago we probably would not have had the wisdom to do this.

What we did was not unusual. It is also a good metaphor for the spiritual journey. On a foundation of loving care and with a clear awareness of our state of ignorance, we used our curiosity and intelligence.

Waking Up to the Recession
Now here come some critical but well-meaning comments.
Why is it that so many of us, when we get on the spiritual path, stop being wise and inquisitive? We seem often to stay stuck with whatever gives us comfort. We can also get very defensive if our precious comfort blanket is criticised. Hell hath no fury like a challenged devotee. I’ve been there myself, bought and worn that spiritual t-shirt.

Of all things in our world, the spiritual path requires intelligent enquiry and discernment – street smarts – which is why, from one perspective, I appreciate the recession. I don’t want anyone to suffer financial hardship, but I am celebrating the return of some reality. In my opinion, the attitude and behaviour that created this financial crisis was also, to a large degree, behind the recent fashion for the prosperity and success ‘spiritual’ books, which forgot that the foundation of real prosperity is a personal connection with unconditional love. Many of us temporarily stopped thinking and fell for the spell, the enchantment.

SECULARISM: THE HIDDEN ORIGINS OF DISBELIEF Mike King

CODE: 181116 RRP: £25.00 Cygnus Price: £24.00 You save: £1.00 (4%)

This is why one of the reasons that I like Mike King’s book Securalism: The Hidden Origins of Disbelief so much. It is scholarly and entertaining, rich in well researched information, as Mike looks at the different ways in which people practice spirituality, in particular intelligent enquiry. He does us all a great service by elegantly explaining and nailing how the conflict between ‘rational, truthful’ science and ‘stupid, irrational’ spirituality came about – and is a false schism! Dogmatic atheists like Richard Dawkins forget that there is ‘good spirituality’, which just like ‘good science’ is enquiring, intelligent and reflective. So next time you meet aggressive sceptics, remind them of reflective, intelligent spirituality.

Now, do I dare put in the following? Forgive the four-letter words, but it is so relevant and funny. Mike King is also a film scholar and his book is spiced with entertaining cultural references. He reminds us how stupid religion can look to sceptics with an extract from Monty Python’s The Life of Brian. I hope you join me in a wry chuckle, not offended by the swear words.Brian (to the crowd that won’t leave him alone): I’m not the Messiah! Will you please listen? I am not the Messiah, do you understand? Honestly!
Girl (with devotion): Only the true Messiah denies His divinity.
Brian: What?! Well, what sort of chance does that give me? All right! I am the Messiah!

Followers: He is! He is the Messiah!
Brian: Now, f*** off! [silence]

Arthur (with grovelling devotion): How shall we f*** off, O Lord?
A few minutes later in the film, his mother scolds, ‘He’s not the Messiah. He’s a very naughty boy!’

So to sum up (like a teacher giving the appearance that I know what I am doing), we have these four useful attitudes for a spiritual explorer: love, intelligence, comfortable with mystery and last but not least a good sense of humour.

All my love, William