15 Jun 2007 12:54 pm

SPIRITUALITY AND RELIGION

Spirituality and religion have played a dominant role in the history of ideals. In more recent times science, art and philosophy have struggled to distinguish and separate themselves (and their ideals) from their spiritual and religious roots. This is not to imply that all philosophers, artists and scientists were anti-religious, but only that they wanted to discover and refine the integrity of their disciplines. This is much the same as the spiritual and religious people who earlier struggled to separate themselves from their mythological roots and origins.

During our earlier discussion on human ideals we distinguished intimacy’s uniqueness while finding its proper place in the historical tradition of ideals. What then is intimacy’s relationship to spiritualism and religion? What are their points of intercession and contrast?

In order to assess intimacy’s relation to spirituality and religion we will first have to define our terms. Since the two terms we will be comparing to intimacy are often compared and contrasted themselves, we should first begin by articulating their individual meanings.

When we speak of spirituality, we speak of the life of the spirit as opposed to physical existence. One’s spiritual existence traditionally contains conscious thought, emotions, and the soul. The spirit of a person is thought to contain their essence which will outlive their physical body and either be born again or live eternally after separating themselves from the body. Many spiritual sages talk of men being a prisoner in their body, and stress an individual’s need to shed themselves of its weight. Spiritual life contrasts itself to physical existence and often seeks to transcend or transform mundane mortal existence.

Religion seems to be a very specialized form of spiritualism. In most religions the general ideas of spirituality are made much more specific. The general premises of spirituality are transformed into a highly defined system of beliefs, rituals and dogma. Most major religions have very defined deities, with sacred writings outlining both codes of behavior and complete world views and cosmologies. In religion, the mundane life of man is not only transformed, but completely explained. The major religions answer all life’s questions and mysteries while defining man’s relationship to a supreme being(s) with great precision.

The more structured spirituality becomes, incorporating specific rituals and beliefs, the closer it is to being defined as a religion. The line between spiritualism and religion often gets blurred when a spiritual approach to life becomes an organized movement. The less vague and personal one’s spirituality is, the more it becomes tied to the specific beliefs, rituals and codes of behavior which are symbolic of religious life.

Anything with histories as long and diverse as spiritualism and religion are difficult to characterize by short definitions. Yet, for the purposes of our discussion I will define these two concepts in terms of the above inquiry. When we refer to spirituality we will be talking about the life of the spirit, as opposed to physical existence. When talking of religion we will be talking of the practice of having a specific set of beliefs to help one understand, explain and guide the spiritual life of every human being.

Spiritual Awakening

Even before earliest man was capable of speech he must have developed some form of self-awareness which fueled his desire to communicate to others. No matter how primitive this awareness, it probably was sufficient enough for him to realize that his life was something more than just eating, sleeping and hunting. He had feelings, desires and fears which motivated him to express himself.

This tenuous grasp man had of himself and the world around him was quite evident to us during our exploration into the history of human language. What we found was that ancient man was often surprised by his thoughts and feelings and attributed magical powers to the words which comprised them. New thoughts and powerful feelings were often viewed as gifts (or punishments) of the gods.

As his awareness grew so did his realization that he was more than just a body. The more words he made, the more precise he could convey his thoughts and feelings. Inevitably man’s desires outgrew the basic necessities of food, water and sex. Soon man sought fulfillment and answers to life’s mysteries. Such is a logical look at the primal history of the spiritual awakening of man.

The realization that there was more to human life than just existing, that one had individual thoughts and desires, was filled with both celebration and fear. These thoughts opened one up to individual pain as well as pleasure. Spiritually awakened man was introduced to success and failure that only an aware individual can experience. His life was now something to protect, and his feelings and desires demanded life to make sense and be a source of fulfillment.

Since ancient man’s understanding of the world around him was minimal, almost every event was viewed as a miracle or mystery imbued with sacred significance. Ancient man’s limited knowledge of the world around him invested almost every event with a miraculous or spiritual meaning. Even his own thoughts and feelings were often viewed as a demonic visitation or took on some mystical value.

Without an understanding of the role our bodies play in our thoughts and feelings, it is easy to falsely divorce our physical selves from our emotional and intellectual experience. Man’s tenuous grasp of his sense of self and his slim understanding of the world around him made it natural for him to view his spiritual life as being totally separate from his physical body.

The thoughts and feelings which provided him solace from the struggle of survival only reaffirmed ancient man’s belief in the separation of his spiritual self from his physical self. Man’s internal spiritual world could dream, could feel good, even when his body ached. His imaginary (spiritual) world was a far happier one than the one his body was forced to endure.

We have discussed at length the negative aura pain and the fight for survival gave spiritualism. The vulnerability and painful realities of human existence motivated many to seek an escape from mundane life, to find a better life. The spiritual world was just such a world. An internal spiritual world, and the religious promise of a better life after death, was and will always be an oasis of hope and joy for troubled men and women.

The spiritual awakening of man, therefore, consisted of two major elements. The positive aspect was in its realization that human life was more than just existence. Man, through thinking and feeling, was capable of investing life with the spiritual qualities of meaning and fulfillment. Individual life was a gift and a miracle, and through his spiritual awakening human life was elevated above all other creatures. Man’s self-awareness gave him a special and privileged position.

The negative component of spirituality was in it’s perceived need to escape life and divorce oneself from the body (the flesh). Characterizing the desire to seek refuge from the body as a negative component is not to say that it was a mistake. Given the life of early man, such an escape was often necessary and beneficial. Without the ability to divorce oneself from the body and to envision a better life, the human spirit would have been crushed long ago. This coping mechanism in spirituality is negative due to its need to escape, deny and devalue life, rather than to embrace it in its fullness.

A strong bond exists between spirituality and intimacy through the privileged position both give internal life. The desire to make life fulfilling and meaningful is also central to both ideals. Intimacy and spiritualism both agree that a life unconcerned with inner needs is empty and shallow. Both ideals feel the quality of one’s life is directly effected by the attitudes, choices and values a person makes and lives.

Where intimacy and spirituality part company is in their relationship to the body and mundane experience. An intimate person does not feel a need to permanently divorce oneself from his body, or to devalue daily experience. Rather than seeking refuge in a separate spiritual world intimacy seeks to strengthen the ties between our internal and external worlds. Instead of relegating fulfillment to a spiritual plane, an intimate person infuses his sensual and perceptual life with meaning.

Witnessing and Astral-Projection

An intimate person explores his options and is open to life’s possibilities. The spiritual world, therefore, though not needed for escape, is a realm worthy of investigation. An intimate person thrives on both internal and external experience, on thoughts and feelings as well as sights and sounds.

Two of the common forms of out-of-the-body spiritual experience are witnessing and astral-projection. In witnessing a detached perspective is gained of oneself, in which one has the eerie sensation that they are watching themselves on a camera. Witnessing is a state of heightened awareness in which our ego (consciousness) is just another object being observed. The new panoramic perspective attained while witnessing gives one the sensation of being freed from not only the body, but also one’s personality.

In the state of relaxed observation acquired through the experience of witnessing, insights into our personality, habits and inhibitions come easily. The experience of witnessing can be a very useful tool, helping us gain increased insight into ourselves through the objective perspective it offers. Witnessing is a perfect example of how intimacy is often attained through temporarily increasing distance. Through the expanded perspective acquired by the calm detachment of witnessing, one is able to use this objectivity to increase self-knowledge.

While in witnessing a person is still aware of all body sensations, where as in astral-projection one is projected completely out of his body. There are probably hundreds of variations of astral-projection, but all of them involve projecting one’s awareness out of one’s body. Whether one senses his awareness on the ceiling of the room he is in, or halfway around the world, the disassociation with the body remains the same. Even if one projects himself through time, the sensation of being out of the body remains relatively constant.

The benefits of astral-projection are difficult to understand from the perspective of intimacy. Projecting or leaving one’s body is definitely an intense and novel experience. One surely would feel a sense of accomplishment when uncovering this capacity. The experience is surely powerful and exhilarating. Like witnessing, the new perspective can open one’s eyes to limitations and misconceptions one placed on their body.

Yet, after a few out of body experiences, what are the long term gains of astral-projection? After the novelty wears thin, what fulfillment does projection offer? If one is truly just a spiritual awareness devoid of a body, what can one experience?

By definition, if one is just pure awareness there can be no sensation, no ability to see, smell, hear, taste or feel. What is odd is how people who claim to leave the body, claim they can see and sense themselves. Without a body where does this sight come from? How does one know if their awareness is on the ceiling, or in ancient Egypt?

If being out of the body deprives one of sensual experience, then I fail to see any other long-term purpose it serves other than pure escape. If it duplicates our experiences outside of our body, than it is just another form of sensual experience, lacking in the richness and immediacy our bodies provide. In that case astral-projection is little more than a glorified variation of our ability to dream, imagine and fantasize.

The Wholly Other

Our calling into question the intentions and practice of astral-projection is grounded in a fundamental concern intimacy has with a predominantly spiritual view of life. This popular spiritual view contends that there is a spiritual realm separate from and superior to mundane existence. This is the realm of the wholly other, a sacred realm unapproachable through normal experience. In this spiritual plane, human experience is an obstacle rather than a vehicle to intimacy and fulfillment.

This sacred realm of the wholly other is a spiritual realm, lying totally outside the everyday world of physical existence. Though real, this spiritual realm cannot be sensually experienced, but only acquired through spiritual practices such as meditation, prayer, yoga or spiritual qualities such as grace, faith and belief.

Here once again people are basing their life fulfillment on their ability to engage in experienceless experience. Yet, what experience is totally devoid of sensation and perception? Our thoughts and feelings are structured in our body and only take place because we have a body. Our internal thoughts and feelings though distinct from pure sensation, are still dependent on our brain, nervous system and past experiences. Even our ability to fantasize and create is dependent upon our having a world from which to escape.

Intimacy, finding fulfillment in all experience, is diametrically opposed to any ideal which negates the value of sensual and perceptual life. An intimate examination of human experience shows no separate realities but only a sprawling network of different realities, distinct yet related.

The belief in the spiritual realm of the wholly other opens up one world at the expense of closing off another. The intimate world view does not deny the significance of the spiritual realm. The spiritual, as well as the physical, aspect of experience is present in every thought and feeling we encounter and create.

Succinctly expressed, the theory of intimacy embraces every aspect of spiritualism which is life affirming while rejecting only those which devalue or denounce human experience. Though intimacy strives to unfold and thereby enhance the quality of life, it always remains appreciative of the beauty of basic human experience.

Intimacy asks what possible positive effect can the belief in the wholly other have on the life of an individual? Since by definition this realm is separate from human experience it cannot contribute to any growth or progress in a person’s life. The wholly other, then, is a static perfect state, inaccessible to human experience, and, therefore, of no practical value.

When one demeans or disrespects the body he is missing a lot more than the pleasures of sensual experience. Each experience we have, like each word we learn, just increases our ability to understand and describe ourselves and the world around us. The more intimately we experience, the more we are able to imagine and create. Our ability to dream to see possibilities is directly tied to all the images and experiences which constitute our thoughts. My imagination, my understanding of possibility, is largely created by mundane experience.

The view of the wholly other, denouncing the body and sensual experience as an illusion, cuts itself off from the very reservoir which constitutes its vision of possibilities. An intimate person is able to relish in the freedom of the possible without sacrificing his appreciation of sensual experience, or cutting himself off from further growth and fulfillment.

Intimacy and the Possible

Dreaming and envisioning are as important to intimacy as seeing and feeling. Life is more than what is in front of one’s eyes or grasped by one’s fingertips. An intimate person uses the possible to unfold and deepen the actual. There is no inherent meaning or value in any object or any experience, it is our thoughts and feelings which invest life with such desirable qualities.

An intimate person creates with his mind and validates his assumptions through experience. What is possible becomes actual through validation. The more evidence one has to support their intuitions the more assured one becomes of there actuality.

When trying to understand the world around us, we use our perceptions to see patterns. The identification of repeatable patterns help us make accurate predictions of future events, which in turn make up the cause and effect world of relative, logical and scientific truth.

Every form of knowledge is attained through a series of assumptions which we validate through experimentation. The more accurately our predictions match the results, the more assured we are of our understanding.

Prediction, no matter how many practical experiences precede it, is a creative and intuitive act. Prediction is soundly in the realm of the possible. In an intimate life, observation leads to prediction which leads to validation.

Let’s say one day a person notices a blast of hot air hit them while standing next to a fire. This intriguing original observation whets his perceptual curiosity and induces him to notice in future camp fires that he feels the hot winds even on a calm night. These observations may lead him to conclude that the hot winds are somehow produced by the fire itself.

Thrilled by his initial observations he may predict that hot winds will accompany all fires. As his future experiences validate his prediction he will probably seek an explanation of how fire creates wind. He may conclude that the wind is caused by the movement of the fire spirits unleashed by the fire.

Unless the person is very curious and tests out other hypotheses, this conclusion will stand until a new event occurs challenging or contradicting his explanation of the fire winds. In this instance, let’s imagine that while heating water he tries covering the pot to see if that will help heat the water.

When lifting the cover to check if the water was getting hot, he not only sees that his prediction was true and the water was hotter, but he also gets hit by a hot wind of rising steam. This new wind comes from the pot, and not the fire. This fact will probably cause him to reassess his fire spirit explanation, while allowing him to predict additional hot blasts from covered heated pots.

The progression from observation, to intuition, to prediction and on to conclusion and explanation is part of any type of knowledge be that of nature or our interpersonal world. We commonly apply intuitions we have of ourselves to those around us. If I find something personally pleasing or relaxing it is fairly natural for me to assume it will please others too.

If the headache I have subsides while someone is stroking my head, I may ask them to stroke my head the next time I have a headache. If once again this gets rid of my headache, I will likely view head rubs as a cure for headaches. The more times gentle massage rids me of my pain, the more convinced I will become of the connection between head rubs and the cessation of pain. The next time a friend of mine complains of a headache I will most likely suggest they try a head or neck massage to alleviate their pain.

Since we are kind to those we care for and like, we naturally assume that a person who is kind to us likes us. Once we assume someone likes or loves us, we evaluate the truth of this assumption through future words and behavior. Even if a person states that he loves us, we have trouble validating this love if his actions do not seem loving to us.

Our lives are filled with events, actions and perceptions all crying out to be understood and validated. The very awareness we have allowing us to evaluate our experience throws us into the realm of the possible. Experience without reflected awareness is empty and meaningless. Therefore, all of life’s meaning and fulfillment is structured in the possible, for without intuition, prediction, and validation, the actual would never be known.

The sensual experiences we have are always in need of interpretation. This interpretation of our experience is not a physical thing, it is a spiritual quality. Our awareness is a spiritual entity, precisely because it is not a physical thing.

Once again we find the relationship between distance and union coming into play. Only through the spiritual quality of awareness can our sensual experiences acquire meaning and significance. The spiritual aspect of consciousness as possibility provides us with the necessary distance to make our experience meaningful and fulfilling.

An intimate person embraces the spiritual aspect of life, for without it there is no life process, no experience. In order for experience to exist you need awareness and a thing to be aware of, an experiencer and a thing to experience.

Our bodies, bombarded by stimuli while interacting with the world, are steeped in the actual. Our awareness, which guides, interprets, predicts and plays with our sensual experiences and perceptions is steeped in the possible (spiritual). Together they create and orchestrate experience, making the process of life a reality.

The demarcation between the body and awareness is not as firm as one might believe. Our body, though living in the actual, is able to be guided and instructed by our awareness. Our senses are not infallible. Our awareness can often assist our bodies in correcting perceptual errors. Likewise, our bodies are often able find solutions to complex problems long before our minds have even grasped the entire problem.

Possible and Actual

Our ability to observe and reflect invests our experiences with conscious meaning. Without such abilities we would have no objectivity and, therefore, no knowledge of our experience. We would be totally encased by our experiences without a means to appreciate and process them. The possible, the spiritual aspect of experience, is what reveals the actual to us.

In everyday life, the possible becomes the actual by being validated over time. The differences between a novel experience, a coincidence, trend and fact has to do with how often a predicted result occurs. If I see the same person at the bus stop a couple of times, that may be a coincidence, but if I see them everyday at the same time, this becomes a predictable fact of my existence. My assumption that they will regularly catch the 5:30 cross-town is born out each day through actual experience.

An intimate person’s desire to become closer and more understanding of life will inspire him to be very observant. Through predictions and validation he will become more familiar and comfortable with the world around him.

The most difficult part of turning the possible into the actual is in our answering how or why a predictable outcome occurs. Noticing that hot winds accompany fires is a lot easier than explaining why this happens. Yet, our curiosity and desire to know things motivates us to seek conclusions. Making predictions and validating them are highly rewarding, but the process is incomplete when we fail to find a suitable explanation for the events observed.

Though desiring a reasonable explanation for all things observed, an intimate person does not force a final conclusion.

Thoroughly enjoying the process of life, an intimate person never forces the possible to become the actual. Instead, he often entertains a number of possible explanations while continuing his search. Even when a conclusion is reached, he is always open to new facts and new explanations, for in an intimate world there are no final answers only better solutions.

A person who bases his existence on personal growth and the process of increased union, would never assume he knows more today than he will tomorrow. An intimate individual, fully cognizant of the vicissitudes of life, will not demand truth to be eternal. Instead of trying to force human understanding to be perfect, an intimate individual will play with possibility only venturing conclusions highly supported by evidence.

This is not to imply that an intimate person is wishy washy with no principles and convictions, but only that he has a realistic view of human understanding. Though defending and advocating the highest ideals of man, an intimate individual is always open to new insights shedding light on the quest for human fulfillment. This flexible view of truth and knowledge born out through the ever changing history of human beliefs and science is quite contrary to the popular views of religion and spirituality.

In the spiritual and religious realms there are many truths which are difficult or impossible to validate. These are often beliefs and doctrines which are to be accepted on faith, but which shape a disciple’s fundamental stance towards life. A spiritual or religious person would vehemently state that these possible explanations and doctrines are true, not allowing any discussion or testing of these beliefs to be conducted. The religious\spiritual view, therefore, often forces the possible into being the actual by ignoring or denying any test of validation. In contrast, an intimate view of these same doctrines would appreciate the ideals these possible explanations contain, while comparing them with alternative theories.

Reincarnation and Life After Death

What happens to us after we die? This question has puzzled man for ages. The majority of the answers offered to this question have come from the spiritual\religious realm. Though the answers to this question vary greatly from group to group and adapt to the style of the times, almost every answer is posed as being the only true answer to the mystery.

As often is the case in the religious\spiritual realm, the greater the mystery and the more scant the evidence, the more vehemently the conclusions are defended as the Truth. Beliefs regarding death are central to most religions, and not sharing these specific beliefs is tantamount to being viewed as a heretic.

Each religion and most spiritual practices claim to know what actually happens to one after they die. They have elaborate descriptions of life after death, which usually entail some form of reward or punishment for the life they lived. Most every religion condemns members of other religions to eternal damnation. Eternal life and happiness is the reward for those who believe in all the precepts of their religion, and eternal pain and suffering is promised for those non-believers.

Instead of the answer to the question being viewed as a possibility, belief in the specific answer is a necessity. Changes that occur through time in a belief, in terms of customs, expectations, or codes of behavior, do not call the severity of the belief into question. A person not following the old precepts to the letter are still punishable, and those not following the new precepts will likewise suffer eternal damnation.

There is a strong tendency in the spiritual realm to convert the possible into the actual through the faculty of belief. In the major religions, beliefs surrounding life after death are usually founded on some divinely inspired sacred writing. No additional evidence is required, only continued faith, and any questioning of the beliefs is a punishable act, or a sign of ignorance. In the religious\spiritual realm, it is quite acceptable and often advocated for a disciple to despise all those who hold a belief different from theirs.

From the perspective of intimacy such rigid requirements of a disciple are both limiting and dangerous. Forcing an individual to blindly accept a dogma is inhibiting to the natural drive to become closer to things, and promotes an attitude which is very conducive to hate and intolerance. The unreflected blind acceptance of ideas, having no need of validation, is central to every prejudice and hateful bias which has and still exists.

Many religious battles and profane wars have been fought due to this type of rigid thinking. When one is demanded to blindly accept, and not question, there is no opportunity for differences between people to be resolved. If one is forbidden to question, and their beliefs are being threatened by another, there is no other recourse than to do battle or denounce the other. In a rigid belief system there is no flexibility allowing even minor differences to be resolved.

This then, is the danger inherent in making the possible into the actual. Validating one’s intuitions and assumptions through experience prevents biases from getting out of control. This flexibility allows new evidence to change old views, and, therefore, prevents differences of opinion from escalating into hateful battles. Only when one makes possible answers into uncontestable truths is conflict inevitable.

At first glance the question of what happens after we die seems to have only two logical answers: 1) we cease to exist, or 2) we live on in some other form. The living on in some form becomes very complicated giving rise to a number of different theories.

Reincarnation, the belief that we take on another human form after we die is popular around the world. There are many different variations of this fundamental belief. Some feel that your spirit instantaneously enters another body (fetus). Some feel that a person’s spirit waits until a suitable body comes along. Others believe that a person has tasks to accomplish in the spirit world before they return to a human form. Still others feel your spirit is reincarnated in a body belonging to a different world, or entirely different plane of existence.

Alternate views to reincarnation focus on spiritual, rather than physical survival after death. Some believe that a spirit freed from the body floats eternally in a spirit world. Others define this spirit world, as in heaven, and equate it with a view of a supreme being. Some expand on the basic idea of heaven, and create a punishment world such as hell, or additional places such as limbo and purgatory to sufficiently answer questions that a place like heaven raises.

The above two paragraphs far from exhaust the beliefs people have regarding an afterlife. Often as we have said such beliefs rarely need any reliable form of verification for their views on the after-world. Almost all spiritual groups have some spiritual experience, such as letting God into your heart, or enlightenment, as a means of initiating a disciple into their fold of believers. This, coupled with the sacred writings and words of esteemed holy men, are enough to validate their basic beliefs.

Any additional verification of their basic life after death beliefs are attained through the personal experiences and testaments of their flock. Many people claim to have contacted and talked to the dead, seen angels, ghosts or spirits, and had visions of God.

Often individuals professing to have died for a few minutes report after life experiences substantiating their beliefs about the afterworld before they were “returned” to their body. Some recall being met by a blinding light, others are accompanied by angels, while still others claim to have met God himself.

Since such testaments are based on the personal individual experiences of a few people, one can not either prove or disprove their authenticity. This would indicate that all of their experiences are possible, but did not necessarily take place.

This would also seen to imply that even if such experiences did happen, the explanations for these experiences might not be accurate. Walking into a bright light, does not necessarily mean you’re meeting God, or merging with the infinite. The spirits one was accompanied by may not be angels or even spirits for that matter.

One may ask, what other possible explanation could there be for such occurrences. Well, obviously such visions could be our mind’s attempt to deal with the overwhelming prospect of ceasing to live. It could also signify the hopes and dreams of a person as he reassess his life under the panic of death.

When I was about eight years old I was hit in the chest by a pitch during a baseball game. People tell me that I lost consciousness and collapsed on my way to first base, yet I distinctly remember standing on first base. When I regained consciousness on the sidelines I could easily grasp the concept that I had been knocked out, but the experience of my standing on first base was and still remains very real. How can this be explained?

Well, the most logical explanation is that in my desire to get to first base I imagined I was actually there even though I had fainted before getting there. Another possible explanation is that my spirit actually got to first base in a different plane of existence. A third explanation is that all the people were mistaken and I had truly made it to first base before I collapsed.

All three explanations are possible and since no one photographed me lying on the ground, it is my memory versus their word. Yet, since it seems more likely that I imagined getting to first than my teammates and parents hallucinating that I didn’t, I accept that I didn’t get to first base.

The above personal account is not meant to discredit the after life experiences of others, but it does demonstrate the unreliability of unconscious experience. When unconscious, one’s experience of time, space and reality is highly altered. The validity of my perception was challenged by the fact that there were witnesses to my alleged experience. Yet, when someone’s experience takes place in the spirit world, then there are no witnesses to verify or discount the experience when one’s awareness returns to the body.

Without witnesses the validity of these unconscious experiences may be true. One cannot conclusively rule out the possibility that he did in fact die and experience such things while hovering between this world and the next.

A spiritualist may use these testimonials as clear and unequivocal proof that there is life after death. Religions, likewise, will cite the experiences of people which support their specific view of life after death as uncontestable proof of the accuracy of his beliefs. A person living an intimate existence will neither accept or denounce such testimonials but look for additional information to help reach a conclusion.

Though one should never reject a theory until it is thoroughly disproved, it is only natural for one to gravitate towards the side of an issue with the most supportive evidence. In the case of the veracity of these life after death testimonials a few questions come to mind.

If there is a life after death, then why is there such wide disparity amongst personal accounts? Why do some see angels while others only see lights or infinite being? Why are the descriptions of God by people claiming to have met him/her/it so diverse and often contradictory? Why are angels, spirits and even God clothed when people who have just died meet them? What purpose would clothes serve for spiritual entities?

The above questions seem to call into doubt the entire validity of the testimonials. What the evidence seems to imply is that people’s after life experiences seem to duplicate their beliefs. How many times have you heard of a person claiming to have returned from the dead admitting that his beliefs were mistaken, or felt a need to convert for he had believed in the wrong religion? How could everyone’s beliefs be true, and if they all are true, then why should we fight over people’s beliefs?

People often ask, if there is no reincarnation, then where do the crystal clear memories of past lives come from? How can people know and describe past events so clearly if they were not there?

Though reincarnation is a possible explanation for such experiences, there are many other. Genetics and neurophysiology can articulate one possible alternative. According to science man is not born as a clear slate. His genetic heritage includes physical and mental skills and traits comprising his basic personality and instinctual core. With this view it is not difficult to hypothesize that a few specific memories of one’s ancestors may be part of your genetic heritage.

The psychological tradition of Freud places great emphasis on the role of dreams and fantasy in human life. Dreams viewed from this tradition symbolically represent and reveal important issues in a person’s life. Memories from a past life, seen from this perspective, could be an idealized view of oneself. Images of a past life might be the unconscious attempting to communicate to the conscious self, or just expressing its own agenda. It could also be pointed out that the psychological theory of the collective unconscious would support the idea that past memories could be part of one’s genetic heritage.

The above theories from the sciences do not discredit reincarnation, but only show that it is one possible explanation among many. Intimacy, like spiritualism and religion, finds much of interest in the possible. Every inquiry and project providing man’s life with meaning and fulfillment begins in the realm of the possible. Yet, unlike spirituality, intimacy finds no reason to force the possible into the actual.

There are so many things in life of which we can be reasonably assured. Starting from the simple recognition that we need food to eat and air to breathe, we can go on to learn many things about ourselves and the world in which we live. The possible is at the beginning of every adventure and discovery, and without it, no knowledge or satisfaction could occur.

Throughout this book we’ve recognized the restrictive role pain and survival have played in the life and joys of man. Fear and negativity have contaminated all of his ideals and haunted all of his dreams, while at the same time powering his ambitions. It is the perpetual task of man to uncover the inhibitions his personal and social history have created, especially the attitudes he holds which would inhibit future generations.

We have learned that man need not view limitation as his enemy, for many limitations are as beneficial as his freedoms. We have recognized both the benefits and dangers of escaping life and through the theory of intimacy are seeking a way to overcome our negative prejudices and inhibitions of mundane experience.

In the theory of intimacy our experience is pervaded with the spiritual, the possible. Without spiritual components such as emotion, feeling, thought and intuition all our experience and lives would be an empty shell harboring no projects or adventures. An intimate life finds the spiritual to be an integral part of all experience. Instead of separating spirituality from mundane existence, it’s placed at its very heart. Spiritual life, therefore, rather than being opposed to sensual existence is found to be its illuminating awareness.

Intimacy shares many of the same goals as spirituality, and too, finds all joy and meaning to be dependent on spirit (non-organic awareness). Where they part company is when spirituality separates itself from mundane existence, or feels a need to make all spiritual possibilities into realities (uncontestable beliefs). Intimacy sees all experience as a vehicle and not an obstacle to fulfillment. Mundane daily experience is not inherently evil or an illusion, but it is what one makes it. Life is lived to its fullest when one uses spiritual awakening to infuse life with meaning through cultivating things of importance. This neither demands one to forsake or glorify sensual experience, but only to use it as a means to become closer and more knowledgeable to all that interests and satisfies.

Our criticisms of spirituality and religion were not meant to imply that beliefs are inherently bad, or evil. The danger in beliefs only come when one turns life’s mysteries into a fact. This forcing of the possible into the actual is personally limiting for it stops all investigation and growth in related areas surrounding the belief. One’s natural drive towards intimacy is stunted and replaced with a stagnant view of knowledge and oneself.

People who believe that their beliefs are true usually have little room for alternative views. This causes adherents to these beliefs to be self-righteous and narrow-minded, often creating an emotional environment of hate and intolerance.

An intimate person is not without beliefs, morals and principles. Yet, since intimacy is a never ending process, he is always willing to consider and assess alternative explanations and viewpoints. An intimate person will openly defend the most logical and humane aspects of his knowledge, but will confidently leave life’s eternal mysteries in the realm of the possible. With so much in life to know and understand, it is no sin to leave some things unanswered. If everything had answers life would become predictable and stale, lifeless without offering any challenge.

To those who feel a need to force all of life to have definite answers I would only question the source of this need, and suggest they search themselves for the insecurities and inhibitions which won’t allow them to accept life on its own terms. We all have needs and desires born out of fear, which have us place unnecessary limits on life. Intimacy grows as inhibition wanes.

Trackback this Post | Feed on comments to this Post

Leave a Reply