Thursday, March 25, 2010

Spirituality - Installment 3

Thanks for your thoughtful comments. Interesting, especially Amber, Brian, and Ayn Soph. Your feedback means a lot.
First let's say we are getting closer to scientifically investigating spirits. Ghost hunters regularly use magnetometers in their detection, and those same magnetometers detect our healing emanations; e.g. ch'i or prana. Apparently both are a similar form of energy.
If every living thing has a spirit, then is our spirit an agglomeration of the spirits of all our selves?

If causal determinism is correct, then we have only limited free will. When you have one of those what we call "oneness" epiphanies, where for a few moments everything makes absolute sense, does that make you become more spiritual, or must there be a more traumatic event? Such little epiphanies and events in your life change you; but in your nurturing and in your genes you are trained to a repertory of responses beyond which it is difficult for you to act. Acculturation may be stronger than we realize, so that what we assume is natural ("Doesn't everybody?") could be simply a matter of training. Perhaps these are the "root causes"of your being.
Fundamentalists tell us forcibly that we cannot be spiritual unless we accept Jesus, or Allah, or Manu the Law-Giver; or go on pilgrimage or do something else to demonstrate that we have bought into their paradigm. Yet if I am resentfully following the list of rules posted on someone else's clipboard, how can I be spiritual? Remember Hegel from the other day. If I run my life by somebody else's rules that are not spiritual, can I be spiritual? Was le bon sauvage (mis- translated as the noble savage) more spiritual than we "civilized" individuals are?
The question then is:
What do you have to give up in the way of rules to be spiritual?
We can't get away from it : Spirituality is obviously denied by the monster of fundamentalist middle-class "morality". We start from the premise that fundamentalism is inherently a threat system. For instance, they don't teach sexual love as a beautiful sacrament; they teach : Just say 'no' or go to hell. (Of course the weary mother of eight or ten cannot use protection against a husband infected with AIDS; there is no abortion and little divorce allowed).
Is there any connection between (a) sexual freedom between consenting adults and (b) fundamentalist-style morality? Yvonne and I think we are very moral people, yet we have an open marriage. When consenting adults enjoy a sexual experience with a non-spousal partner, that's what is called a victimless crime--a pure invention of the self-appointed moral police, who wouldn't know good sex if it hit 'em between the eyes (so to speak).
Here's a little mind game to entertain you. What if Tiger and Elin Woods were to announce that they were pagan and had an open marriage? Would there have been all the wasted gasping and salacious headlines that have gone on ad nauseam for lo, these past months? How would matters have played out differently? If they had announced such a thing some months or years ago, way early in his career, would he ever have been allowed to show his face on camera? to set foot on a golf course? let alone to endorse commercial products or events? He'd have been a non-person from Day One.
Fundamentalism always uses the big three : guilt, shame, fear, to keep the sheep in line. As Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) wrote,
The essence of the concept of righteousness and morality is to afford an outlet
for sadism by cloaking cruelty as justice.
An American reporter asked Pope John Paul whether he wouldn't like to make people happier by allowing divorce and contraception. The Pope replied, "The object of morality is not happiness. It is to prevent people going to hell."
Our Wiccan morality relies on "If it harm none." That specific Rede comes to us from the French:
S'il ne nuis pas, faitez ce que vous voulez.
Indeed, that was the motto, taken from Rabelais, used by the Hell Fire Club (of which Ben Franklin was a member).
Thomas Paine (1737-1809) said, "People should be endowed ... with all those rights acting as an individual for his own comfort and happiness which are not injurious to the natural rights of others."
This seems to be a basic human value that has been with us throughout recorded history.
Today's question is easy and obvious : What do you base your morality on?


Ayn Soph said...

Dear Gavin and Yvonne,

You close your first paragraph with the question of whether our spirit is an agglomeration of the spirits of all our selves. Using the idea of "as above, so below" it is worth contemplating our bodies and the sense that our body is an agglomeration of the cells forming organs and tissues forming the whole that we perceive as "our body". Can our body be defined as an entity independent of the cells and organs which comprise it? If yes - then what defines what we see as our body? If not - at what point, if cells and organs are subrtracted, does our body no longer fulfill the definition of being a body?

Ayn Soph said...

In a similar manner - we think often of "our mind" as a single whole, though theories like Minksy's "society of mind" gives us the conception of quasi-autonomous "mental robots" reaching consensus to function as what we see as a unity entity that is "our mind".

Extending this to the idea of our spirit, my personal belief is that our spirit is similarly composed of "sub spirits". The models from various societies of the "soul" or spirit being composed of several functions or entities to form a functional whole I think supports this. Whether this model is Long's uhane, unihipili and aumakua or the Jewish nefesh, ruach and neshamah or the Egyption ideas of ib, sheut, ren, ba, ka and akh, or even the shaman's concept of using "soul retrieval" and the fragmentation of the soul (though, to be honest, I am not familiar enough with this to know whether it is a purely modern concept or has more ancient shamanic roots).

It is a good question you posed and I hope you explore it further in discussions on your blog.

Ayn Soph said...

The discussion you have of free will is interesting and a difficult one to wrestle with. For myself, I have chosen to accept that idea that the worlds of matter are utterly deterministic, but that mind or spirit has choice among deterministic expressions which gives it free will. My "intellectual escape hatch" for this is to steal (whole cloth) the Many Worlds Model of physicist Hugh Everett III and take it literally, with the idea that consciousness/spirit is the unifying thread across an infinity of probable incarnations of self, and that an aware (or awakened) consciousness can consciously see and choose, to a greater or lesser extent, across the possible universes its incaranate bodies might inhabit. This is strongly tied to some of the writings of the late Jane Roberts from the 1970s and 1980s and is most likely not acceptable to most. However, I find that it help form a coherent philosophy for myself for explaining divination and expressions of magic - that divination is looking at probabilities and seeing those which have the highest probability of being experienced by a particular focus of consciousness at any one time, and that magic becomes the selecting of probabilities that exist something akin to David Bohm's "implicate order" more than forcing the creation and expression of something in a single world/universe.

The question of what constitutes morality and whether it is spiritual is extraordinarily complex, and one that I am not sure there is an answer for. I have the belief that when people come into the world as children, we are animals (with the potential for "human" development mentally/emotionally) and that we undergo decades of domestication in order to function in society. As we reach early-mid childhood we move from being pure animals to tribal savages (watch any group of 8 year olds on a school playground and the tribal structure becomes screamingly obvious, I think) and eventually most people evolve emotionally and mentally to "full adult" status (though I am not necessarily sure just what that means).

Ayn Soph said...

Given this - I think that the rules for morality evolved not so much from some kind of spirituality or such, so much as they are means of domesticating the human animal to the point where multiple humans can co-exist without bashing each other's brains in with the nearest rock. If parts of our consciousness truly transcend the physical world and there is such a thing as a "higher self" or some equivalent, then I can see the "gods" of the Abrahamic religions as these aspects of consciousness percolating through to the less awake/aware/evolved aspects incarnated in the physical world and given the "divine laws" which domesticate and rein in the drives to allow continued evolution and growth of the species.

From this (and I believe others, a heck of a lot smarter than I, having stated similar) I think that for early in our development, domestication is first by fiat - the parent says "do not do this or you will get spanked". Then moves to domestication via myth and ritual - if you do this, god will be angry and you will be punished for your sins and go to hell. I think most of our species doesn't go beyond this and, in its extreme, becomes the fundamentalism that is embroiling the world today (whether Christian, Muslim or even Wican - there ARE Wican fundamentalists out there and, as a downline of the old Brooklyn Heights group, I have met them....). I think the next stage is to keep the wisdom of why the earlier stages of "morality" were necessary - e.g., control of the sexual impulse and expression for maintainance of society - and the judicious application of the earlier morality to the greater freedom given to a mature individual. For example - in the case of a polyamorous couple, polyamory does not equal sleep with anybody and everybody you want whenever you want, but as an expression of the freedom of sexual expression among consenting adults with the understanding of openness of communication and agreed upon boundaries within the polyamorous relationship.

Ayn Soph said...

In the above case, I see the evolution of the mind of the individual from exernally imposed rules of conduct/morality (from parents and religion) to the freedom from morality (as it is generally thought of), with the adult negotiating their social contracts with other adults capable of understanding the consequences of those negotiations and abiding by them.

As I think of this (and this is not well thought out as a closing comment) - it seems that spirituality is not the adhering to religious rules and "spiritual ideas" so much as the liberation from the morality of the herd and the ability to interact at the appropriate level with other individuals in a series of open and honest contracts. Perhaps the truly spiritual individual is, in a sense, utterly amoral as much of society might perceive, yet acts with a negotiated morality with a degree of fastidiousness that many today do not understand - "I am moral in that I do what I say I will do and do not do what I say I will not do, and I make sure you understand these intentions in the interactions we share".