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Objective Spirituality

September 11, 2018

I have spent a long time under the illusion, as I would now see it, that spirituality, insofar as there may be such a thing, is a purely subjective affair. It is something going on only in our own heads, bounded by the limits of our experience of the world from the time we become aware of it in this incarnate form at say age of two or three or whatever. Something akin to how a standard idealism may view the mental realm. But I realise now I was living within a deeply impoverished view of spirituality. A view that gave me a sense of control, an arrogant egocentric placement at the center of spiritual reality. But that for all this show of strength, this view of spirituality is extremely fragile and weak. It is very likely to be susceptible in us to the common problems we see generally in western culture: existential despair, social alienation, mental reification, postmodern relativism etc.. Where the theme is an inability to connect to the people and the world around us and to find meaning in them and in it.

The perspective I now have gleaned is that it should come as no surprise that spirituality cannot be found in the subjective stream of consciousness, for the whole point of this perspective when it was formed by the likes of Descartes, Kant, and others was to put spirituality into a cage so to speak. The idea was to put to one side all the difficult, fuzzy, unclear issues, surrounding spirituality, by locking them away in subjective minds, so that the scientifically and rationally minded could get on with sorting out the world as it is, independent of us completely. The world indifferent to our thoughts about it, of Physical, electrical and astronomical reality. The world where cold, austere mathematical beauty could be found amongst unvarying forms and structures of the natural world.

This was fair enough and well and good for practical purposes. But the reality remains that in some of those fuzzy areas we are not talking about something that can be isolated in human minds, we are talking about something that inhabits our surroundings as well as our minds. We are talking about an area of reality where there is an interplay and interconnection between our awareness of our surroundings and those surroundings. This is the area where an objective spirituality emerges. Objective because it is not confined to our own minds. It reaches beyond our own subjective biographical history into areas that have been considered by others, which we now find ourselves immersed in, such as the collective unconscious, transpersonal domains, archetypal myths, even just regular innocuous looking culture is one of these areas.

We have been seeing these things already, but we had been looking at them through a faulty filter, seeing them as either objects in a material world, or subjective values created by us in our minds. No, they are neither. They are objects for sure, of a kind, but not in the narrow sense of materialism. They are spiritual objects, and it is our task if we want to understand them properly to treat them as such.

For instance, if I want to understand karma or certain moral values, it is not enough to place them as neutral objects nor to brush them aside as the subjective judgments by convention of such and such a group of people, for such and such an irrational reason. I must see them as a living, breathing, changing, flexible reality that I must form some connection with in order to get a handle on them. I will not then simply be dealing with metaphors or subjective delusions and fantasies, I will be dealing with different layers of spiritual reality. Sure, we have an issue, for a rationalistic, universalist philosophy that we have no transcendent point, as in Kants transcendental idealism, from which to survey all things neutrally, equally and fairly. But such a position is an abstraction itself, and is not the spiritual reality we are faced with, but that does not make spirituality any the less objective and real. Just because I cannot ensure the real is rational, does not mean I can simply dismiss it as subjective. We cannot start with an assumption that reality must be rational or we should ignore it. No, we must calmly gain awareness of these spiritual realities without rushing to pigeon hole them into one rational conceptual framework or another.

Each time I make a decision to lie or to do good for someone, or to do bad to someone, it sends a ripple through spiritual reality. A spiritual reality that encompasses other people, places and times. And this ripple is something I have to learn to take responsibility for the consequences of it. I cannot do this if I refuse to accept there is any ripple in the first place, which I must do if I imagine I am only an isolated monad mirroring reality. Isolated in a surrounding vacuum. Objective spirituality means accepting the reality of these ripples, that is all, and accepting our responsibility for them. There can be no absolution. We are never absolved from the social medium surrounding us.

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