Secular Spirituality & Spiritual Humanism –Robert M. Shelby, 3-19-11. [1934 txt wds]

Most people learn by their teen years the difference between superficial politeness and genuine courtesy. Pro forma manners so often mask indifference or contempt. They let  “actors” pose as considerate and respectful while conveying scorn by clues sometimes blatantly obvious, sometimes too subtle for the scorned person to notice. True courtesy is less merely respectful than caringly concerned for the other person’s immediate feelings, needs and long-term well-being. Fundamentalists and ultra-rightists need care.


Here, I quote parts of “Idols Against Democracy,” my Essay 12 in HARD LOOKS, 2009. “Bands of devoutly idolatrous, anti-spiritual, pseudo-Christians are at war with democracy. Humanism, social progress, liberal freedoms and all which they deem to the left of themselves, are anathema to them. Under demagogues, people usually of ultra-right persuasion have swelled the Republican Party.” Though not sub-mental, they are sub-intellectual. Unequipped for verbal analysis and lacking skills to perceive and criticise rhetorical speech, they feel shame when confronted by skilled minds, hence, they detest feeling weak by comparison, and turn anti-intellectual, firmly setting themselves to uphold many of the specious assumptions of our wealthiest people, thereby opposing, discounting or ignoring scientific findings, expert opinion and their own best interests. They assume wealthy people are “successful” and must therefore be intrinsically better than common folks, thus likely to be right about everything. Wrong.


Anti-intellectuals are not very “…accessible to critical revision of sacrosanct premises. Their rooted confusions of religious faith and political mind-set only harden with direct opposition. They shun discussion. They idolize themselves by “worshipping” the de-facto, a-priori, happenstance content of their minds (i.e., what they have always thought.)” Part of that content is the debasing and corrupting lust for wealth. This lust has long been called Mammon, a godlike force that causes nothing good in human affairs, and which was traditionally understood as antithetical to truth. We cannot serve the Most High value, whatever it is, and Mammon, too.


An equally bad influence in the world is the lust for “life after death,” another simple self-contradiction in terms. This is roused and demanded by another demiurge or godlike force in human psychology, the personal Ego. Ego, the superficial surrogate of actual selfhood, is an equally dangerous idol in human affairs. Ego is intrinsically insecure, always looking for reinforcement, supportive alliance, shelter and camouflage for its unacknowleged bad motives or fame and praise for its commendable acts of service. Without the recognition it feels is due, it feels slighted and resents other’s reward for accomplishment. It is ever ready to embellish and magnify the wonder and goodness of its identity-class, either the class to which it belongs or imagines itself entitled to inhabit. Group-ego is an important shelter for inadequate, personal ego. The ubiquitously served and idolized ego is too often an alienated, ignorant, bad servant of authentic self, a person’s deepest source. Unable to face loss of qualities or property, let alone actual death, Ego retreats into fantasy or imagined heroism with undying fame. Ego wants glorious idolization. Self humors it, lets it get punished with ultimate failure in dissociation and disappearance. Entertaining! Cheap drama costing only a lifetime!


What evils we see stem from the narrow-eyed, near blindness of those who imagine their best interest lies in serving those things which comprise Mammon and Ego, knowing neither what they really do, nor caring what ill consequence they could sense and avoid if only they would. Such people are always ready to twist a language off its hinges and civilization off its foundations to obtain a short-term goal which advances the sick games they make of life.


These radical Christians, fervently devout in their fantasies of divine connection, mistake intense emotion and ardently religious idealizations for spirituality, often sitting squarely in the fat lap of the god, Mammon, believing themselves on the slender knees of The Lord.  Since any god, however high in one’s regard, is a mental object, it is an abstract, conceptual idol: an idol as surely as one made of stone, wood or concrete.”


It is necessary to counter such influence. Their social surround can be innoculated against them. The general culture can be permeated with awareness of essential facts, facts of language and history more evident and credible than are their radically ignorant, fundamentalist concepts, whether Christian, Muslim or Confucian. What faith-based politics means is, superstitious, belief-clouded politics and metaphysics-fractured, faction-tangled religion, very helpful to “Mammon’s” strategy of divide & rule. “Mammon”, by the way, is well served by the media’s mesmerization of suggestible people, bombarding them with images and allusions which taint them with material acquisitiveness and readiness to prostrate themselves before icons and personifications of worldly [or wordy] success.


“Now, here they come, singing hymns, passing collection plates, licking envelopes for sending to, or begging more money for, demagogues in white suits, some of whose hearts are cynical while others are self-righteously full of masked hatred for those who differ from them or who will not bend to agree. Of course, there are good, quiet, unassuming Christians of all denominations who tend unconsciously to be Jesuarian, and there are bumptious, arrogant, combative Christians, who are invariably Paulists, unconsciously lost in Paul’s false but persistent “vision” [of trans-temporal ego salvation] which leaves them vulnerable to chiliastic ideas of divine rapture and ‘left-behind-ism.’  Jesuarians tend to be spiritually wise people whereas Paulists tend to be fundamentally ignorant of religion-in-general (however much they may ‘know’ about their own scriptural cul-de-sac,) and neurotically addicted to ego-salving nonsense scraped together from ill-interpreted, context-twisted scraps of biblical lore that add up only in the heads of uncritical followers who direct criticism everywhere but at themselves and their revered preachers who too often are self-blind cynics leading the blind. It seems their spirituality consists of keeping the sheep comfortably folded.” Self-blind here means, a concept and sense of self confined to ego awareness.


“It is vaguely correct that spirituality is meliorative to the world’s condition, but religious people usually need to know much more about many things …. They need also to disconnect the concept of spirituality from the concept of religiosity. Unwitting conflation of the two continues to feed our problems. Let them consider … that, contrary to claims of religiose spokespersons for religions, humanism is not secular despite their flaunted phrase, ‘secular humanism’, with which they tar and club unbelievers.”


Powerful faith endures without established credo and traditionally specified doctrines. These can only crumble and mislead. Jesus would likely have vomited in confrontation with Christian-Isms whether Catholic, Protestant or neo-Gnostic, or lifted his brows incredulously. These stem from the posturings of Paul who pretended to represent Jesus’ life and preach his views. The Jesuarian ethos and message were largely subverted and supplanted by Paul’s invention: ‘Christ-inanity.’ How sweet it was, for the confused adolescence of humanity.” (Paul was an interloper rejected at last by the original Jerusalem followers from whom he fled, disappearing from history.)


“The semantics of spirituality are, for most people, overlimited or rendered incomplete by improper framing. Specious assumptions usually attach to ideas of spirit, soul and spirituality, but one can be spiritual without ‘having ‘a spirit or soul simply by directing oneself toward wholism. To be a human person in the fullest way possible amounts to ‘being spiritual’ or manifesting ‘spirituality.’ This implies empathetic understanding toward others as to oneself, and concern for wholeness, connectedness, unity and integrity. To understand without animosity the subjectively flawed partialities of others we encounter in life helps us respond to them in spiritually nutritive, meliorative and educative ways. …We need to awaken from dream and delusion. …Doctrines are mind traps or crutches. They liberate us from need to think for ourselves creatively, but they bind us to consequences we may not foresee or wish for on cool reflection.”


We have much information on how humans evolved and what their shortcomings are. People need better grasp of how they are in the world individually as well as in groups, collectively. How do we relate to our bodies? Do we have souls or spirits? Is nature produced by supernature? Are we connected to each other or to the earth? If so, how are we connected? What connects us? What lets us exist? It would seem that political extremists are seldom so connected. Far left or right may imagine they own coherent philosophies, but they are owned by notions, preferences and strongly emotional attitudes. Often they are not aware of true relation to themselves or anything else. They think themselves absolutely individual but need some metaphysics to feel grounded.


What is spirit or soul? One or two? Do the words denote more than their mention, being names without referent, meaning only accumulated associations with other words and scriptural sentences or pseudo-statements in purely verbal contexts, like unicorn and Pegasus? Differing only verbally, Spirit and Matter are not disjunct, not separate except as people of ordinary mental culture conceive and imagine them. They are hard to picture more than as airy wraithes or white-sheetlike vapors moaning or gesticulating. They are equally hard to conceive abstractly but as oxymoronic ‘matterless-substance’ or ‘insubstantial-matter,’ phrases inherently self-contradictory and mind-boggling.


Clearly, spirit is not at all like that. Just as energy, mass and space-time have been integrated by modern physics, our old idea of matter is now as fully spiritualized as spirit is ‘materialized.’ In fact, trying to image them (or it) is upside down and backwards. It is we who are the images and ideas it produces. It is so basic that the traditional words, tainted with anachronism, are inadequate to discuss it. They mis-frame the subject before one starts talking. We have no apt word or phrase by which to name or discuss The Basis except, perhaps, “self-source.” “Basis” seems to serve that need well enough. No other term classifies or describes it as well, for it is outside the common cultural and linguistic frames that confine and inform our thought. Yet, soul or spirit is of utmost importance and concretely real compared to any abstract notions we can have of it. Soul is the basis or authentic self not distinct from what Deepak Chopra would call the Cosmic Connection or True Identity.


That basis is the active, bio-electro-chemical process which is one’s very life itself. In fact, one’s basis is the body, but not the body one thinks one knows. It is the bio-processing, Unknown Knower that projects each one into the world it models for of us, and reprojects into awareness all anyone experiences from start to finish. It does your knowing and thinks all you think, thinking it is you! You need to know better. You and nothing are a joint event, as Jimmu Krishnamurti put it, “a joint phenomenon.” We experience deep self by thinking and sensing nothing whatsoever. That is our sole path to objective honesty. It is called centerless meditation. Through it we awaken the fair observer in ourselves. The honest thinker wakens next, then the principled talker.


The basis can be characterized as the Philosophers’ Stone or Universal Solvent against the negative side of religion. Awareness of the concept catalyzes creativity. Basis is keystone in the arch of reason. It grounds our lives. It places deity in the realm of fantasy where it belongs. It affords us an indefinable X through which to appeal to our deepest self, a semblant other to address, a mystery into which to retreat. It returns us from realms of rhetoric to essential philosophy. If this seems troublesome, research again the verb, “to exist”; its origin, history, derivatives and alternatives. Look up also the word, “agape.” It is an enlightened state one may encounter on emerging from true meditation.

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