Rewilding scepticism about spirituality?


#1

Rewild spirituality or scepticism? I know I’m thinking in terms of progress but it seems to me that it’s hard to believe in some spiritual phenomena with the sceptical mind frame (being: only believing things which have been tested in a strict methodological way). How would you go about rewilding scepticism and what’s real about spiritual phenomena?

I believe in the superiority of my unconscious mind which communicates with my conscious mind through feelings, movements, visions, dreams, probably more things aswell. I read that your conscious mind can only process 50 bits of information at a time while your unconscious mind can process millions at a time. If you think you are your conscious mind then your subconscious is like a more intelligent entity outside of you like a deity.

I used to believe in “energy” but now I’m a bit more sceptical because there is no(t a lot of?) evidence for reiki, but there are not a lot of studies done on it. There is some evidence for telepathic information like the studies done by Rupert Sheldrake, like the simple study done on the dog who knew his owner was coming home, but Wikipedia says it’s all pseudoscience.

I’ve read only one book about an indigenous culture and it was full of reports by the author of these kinds of phenomena. I love to think these kinds of phenomena are real and I sometimes attribute too much belief in them maybe and then afterwards I feel shame for a while because it was kind of irrational, but when you’re researching it then both suspense of disbelief and scepticism are necessary at the same time maybe?

Feedback on the way I can better ask this question is welcome in a personal message for sure.


#2

I have struggled with the same questions. I stumbled across Spiritual Naturalism. Life is pretty magical. Existence is largely unexplained. Consciousness isn’t fully understood. Matter and Quantum Physics are very weird. Lots of questions. We can look at them as great mysteries. We can hold all life sacred. We can stand in awe of the Universe. What I find to be pseudo-science among spiritualism and what I regard as “woo woo” is, that the Universe is somehow benevolent, or that there is some sort of cosmic justice. I believe in Free Will. I just believe that we come out of the Earth, quite literally, and that this is something important. Gods, Goddesses, Demons, Spirits Creation stories… etc. can be very valuable as metaphors. Ritual is a way of reminding us of these valuable stories that humans have told themselves to better understand things that actually aren’t very well understood at all. Just my take on things.


#3

I relate very well to the way you describe this understanding, and have come to believe that the step from the small mind which you term “conscious” to the bigger one that you call “unconscious” leads naturally to a further step—to the huge mind that is the Earth of which we are an inseparable part. This quote from the chapter “Mind” in Becoming Animal by David Abram seems quite relevant:

“Sentience is not an attribute of a body in isolation; it emerges from the ongoing encounter between our flesh and the forest of rhythms in which it finds itself, born of the interplay and tension between the world’s wild hunger and our own…Human awareness could not exist without a human body, true, but it could no more exist in the absence of ground, leaf and flowing water. Mind arises, and dwells, between the body and the Earth, and hence is as much an attribute of this leafing world as of our own immodest species.” (The quote makes a lot more sense in its context in the book, but I thought maybe this little snatch would give a hint to what he is conveying. It is so different from the way we civilizeds tend to view the subject of consciousness that it is really hard to get, but the truth of it somehow rings a bell.)

It seems to me that this would explain the “telepathic” experiences: our minds really are all connected. It is only because we have been trained to focus into the tiny, isolated mind of the civilized human that we are unable to experience the kinds of phenomena that indigenous folk do all the time.

This quote (which I love—it has been helpful to me) from one of your earlier posts (Sept. 2016) also seems very much related to all this: “Recently I tried to think of trees being alive and having a soul and it actually keeps giving me a nice tingling feeling inside for a few seconds. I don’t know what that could be.”


#4

There are several movements by people trying to work this out for themselves. As WildtWalker said, Spiritual Naturalism is one. You might also check out Atheopaganism, Naturalistic Paganism, Naturalistic Animism, Humanistic Paganism, or any combination those key words. What they all seem to have in common, in my understanding, is that the physical reality we exist in is explainable by science, but humanity is not. We are not totally literal and logical beings, and so we use stories and metaphors, myths and archetypes to make sense of the unknowable around us. Morality, ethics, virtues, and taboos are not inherently or fundamentally rational, they are cultural and subjective. Therefore, you cant “teach” them through formulas or experimentation. Stories, songs, poetry, and other cultural processes transmit these abstract elements from groups to individuals. Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell are also influential authors who deal with the importance of Myth in culture.

For me, the distinction between “factual” and “fictitious” is less important than the utility of the thing. Does believing one story over another change my reality for the better? Is it possible to hold two conflicting narratives as both true simultaneously? Are “truth” and “facts” the same thing? A creation myth outside of the scientific understanding of the universe might not be “fact”, but it might have deeper truths and meaning than the scientific one. And if the myth serves a purpose in teaching meaning, then I would value its contribution to culture more than a scientific one which is just data.

That’s not to say that science and evidence based understanding of the world shouldn’t be valued. Obviously our understanding of Medicine for example is much better for the scientific method. What I’m suggesting, though, is that they are not mutually exclusive. You can have both literal and rational explanations for whats important to explain rationally; and metaphorical, mythological, or magical explanations for everything else. Or both at the same time. The world is a mysterious place, and sometimes the simpler answers do a better job of conveying meaning than the “right” ones


#5

I love this discussion so much. I identify as a Muslim, yet my take on spirituality aligns very much with those on the extreme fringe of the mainstream. When I started putting my day to day “practice” of the Islamic hegemony that I had learned over the years through the lens, so to speak, of the beliefs that you all have articulated so well, it made so much sense to me and resonated much more than with the stiff doctrine that so many Muslims adhere to. When I became a Muslim 25 years ago it was through self study and interaction with a group of Sufis from West Africa. Over the years as I was pulled deeper into the mainstream Islamic culture around me it was very much hardline and stiff interpretations. That combined with the fallout (in the US) of 9/11, I dug myself deeper into the mainstream for a protection of sorts (safety in numbers). Years later, coming back to the Sufic nature of Islam, I have found once again a community and practice that aligns with what you are all discussing here. When I tell my Muslim acquaintances that their “du’a” (prayers) are not some Arabic words going to some external being in the heavens, but energy going directly inside of themselves as a reminder of the connection to the universe and purity thereof, some of them think I’m bonkers LOL Thanks for the encouragement. XO


#6

I think the conflict you’re referring to arises because both “scientific reductionism” and “spirituality” are human constructs created from an inherently limited, human, reductionist mindset. “Science” is not based on “truth” per se, but pragmatism - what works to repeatable effect.

If we don’t understand how to reproduce something (telepathy, for instance), it’s either a) magic/supernatural/fake or b) beyond our understanding of natural phenomena. Science is far more limited than most “civilized” people will admit (and plenty of them believe all sorts of unscientific things; e.g. the existence of different human “races”, “rain is poison and sex is death”) & spirituality, too, is usually little more than the adoption & regurgitation of someone else’s beliefs.

Be skeptical of everything (including skepticism), & don’t take life so seriously. In the end we’re all just bits of condensed energy who’ve superimposed the idea that anything exists at all (besides the universe). If you want truth, you will have to venture out into the wild & pry it from the world will all the tools at your disposal. “I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they’ve always worked for me.”

To quote Hunter S. Thompson one more time:

“THE EDGE, there is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over.”