I participated in a discussion group on “Spiritual Practices.” It was enlightening. I discovered that for everyone there, spirituality was merely a matter of either discovering oneself or connecting to an impersonal force.
Although there were some differences expressed, they largely agreed that spirituality wasn’t a matter of objective knowledge/truth, but rather experience/feelings. Objective spiritual truth didn’t exist. It wasn’t like the external force gravity, which did have an independent existence. Instead, spiritual “truth” or awareness came from within and just pertained to oneself.
I asked the speaker, “If spiritual ‘truth’ only pertains to oneself, why are we even here discussing the subject? After all, what you discover about yourself will not pertain to anyone else.”
He admitted that this was a problem, but then re-asserted that he didn’t think that there was any “recipe for living.”
Another jumped to his defense: “There cannot be any timeless spiritual truths, since everything is in flux. Change is the only truth.”
I wanted to answer, “Well, if everything is in flux, wouldn’t this also include your statement? Wouldn’t this ‘truth’ of endless change mean that your statement will only pertain to this moment?” However, I didn’t want to be too confrontational. Most of these people were really very lovely and gentle souls, unlike the people I have encountered at atheist meetings. In comparison with then, I saw myself as harsh and pugnacious. I didn’t want them to think me overly offensive.
It struck me that their rejection of any objective, universal, and unchangeable spiritual truths was quite limiting and counter-intuitive. Most would have probably admitted to the existence of the laws of science, while denying any laws of the spirit or morality. However, it became clear why they had such a disdain for spiritual truths. To them, it represented doctrine or dogma – something coercive and highly offensive.
Anthropologist Karen Brown, who wrote about her full-body dive into the embrace of Voodoo, helps us to understand the aversion towards doctrines/beliefs:
- No Haitian — certainly not Alourdes [the Voodoo priestess] — has ever asked me if I “believe” in Voodoo or if I have set aside the religious commitments and understandings that come from my childhood and culture. Alourdes’s approach is, instead, pragmatic: “You just got to try. See if it works for you.” The choice of relinquishing my worldview or adopting another in its entirety has therefore never been at issue.” (“Mama Lola: A Voodoo Priestess in Brooklyn!”)
While experience is not threatening – it is me-centered – beliefs and doctrines are experienced as coercive and centered on objective truths outside of ourselves. They imply a moral obligation to live according to these truths.
The group expressed their disdain for outside authorities, organized religion, and the “us vs. them” inherent within organized religion, as they painted a picture of their spiritual life.
Meanwhile, I was waiting my turn. I would give my testimony. I wasn’t too worried about that. Instead, I was more concerned about my inner poverty. I wasn’t touched by their confusion, their lost-ness. (Lord, help me! Even though I am not worthy of Your slightest grace, You have placed your undying love upon me!)
They failed to see that by rejecting the fruits of the mind in their spiritual search, they were also rejecting all hope of finding. By rejecting the mind, they were limiting themselves to sensuality and experience, perhaps like a mere animal. However, to hide this fact, they talked about living in the “here and now” as their spiritual goal. But life consists of more than the “here and now!”
By turning off the mind, they make themselves vulnerable to every form of demonic deception and confusion. For them, spirituality is an attempt to accept the uncertainty and lack of any real answers.
However, we need answers! We make hundreds of moral decisions a day, each one requiring an answer. How then do they manage? They must put their flight control on “automatic,” because there is no pilot at the helm.
Without any expectation of finding moral or spiritual truth, they scale back their expectations, but call it “getting in touch with self or a universal consciousness.” But what can they learn from this contact, apart from experiencing self? There are no truths to learn. Nothing to take away from their experience apart from a “knowledge” of how to find this experience again, like a squirrel who rehearses where he has buried his acorns. How then can they raise children or provide guidance to a friend?
All were intent on finding happiness, but for them, it was merely a product of finding “our own spiritual voice,” through a sensual form of self-knowing. Nevertheless, some expressed the realization that our behavior will impact how we feel. However, even here, they were reluctant to associate peace with conforming to moral laws or principles. They were confused!
I was next and gave my testimony:
- Spiritual exercises never worked for me; neither did my five highly recommended psychologists. For decades, I had been severely depressed, and this was followed by panic attacks. I was devastated.
I then told them about my life-changing encounter with Christ. To my great surprise, they didn’t bark-me-down but asked probing questions. The inevitable question finally emerged:
- When you refer to “Christ,” you are merely referring to your own experience, right? You’re not suggesting that He’s the truth for everyone, are you?
- I must believe that He is the Truth. That He really loves me, protects me, forgives me, and will bring me home to be with Him in paradise. If I didn’t believe that this is the truth, I could not live with any joy or confidence.
I was amazed that they didn’t start screaming at me, lunging at me with knives. Instead, they even thanked me for sharing. Please pray for these blind “seekers.”