There’s a stack of philosophy and spirituality books in my office that offer a thousand different perspectives on the way to live a good life and make peace with the universe and fix the world’s problems, but I would be lying to you if I said that very many of them had the answers that I have sought.
But I keep them around. You never know when you might be called by some underappreciated piece of wisdom which suddenly takes on new significance years after you discarded it or thought you learned everything you need to know about it.
These books, like the public library and of course the Internet, form part of my mind – not extensions of my mind or resources for it – but actually they are part of my higher self. It’s like a computer network gives every terminal the ability to expand its computing power exponentially if the computing resources are disseminated across many different machines linked together through protocols which allow them to communicate and share information.
In the here and now, the world works through invisible means. The books in the stack are invisible to me except for their spines. The computers on the Internet are filled with files which serve up web pages which are invisible to me until the moment I go to open a page.
The laws which regulate society fill up warehouses of documents, some of which have never been read, and yet somehow they manage invisibly to coordinate the behavior of hundreds of millions of people. Seven billion people live in an international meshwork of laws and treaties to which their society adheres even if almost nobody knows explicitly what they are in detail.
And so with this in mind, let me tell you something that is not widely recognized or appreciated today: I believe that spirituality is fundamentally about our relationship to the unseen, the world of invisible and mysterious realities that do not appear to the naked eye. Tradition has bequeathed to us words like spirits and ghosts and angels and jinn for these entities. Their source and power, like the element of water in Chinese philosophy, is hidden even as the results of their functioning are apparent to all, even when it is interpreted non-metaphysically.
Unfortunately, most of the theology and philosophy books in my office don’t understand spirituality that way. Some of them think they are too sophisticated for any kind of belief system that wants to say something about the nature of the way things are. They may even use terms like “post-metaphysical” to signify that they are too smart to fall into the trap of talking about reality with the naiveté of religious people. They may think that this is the way you have to talk to be officially accepted in “Integral spirituality” circles.
Let me just say, they’re more wrong than right.
Not everyone who subscribes to “post-metaphysical” principles falls into these errors, of course. In Ken Wilber’s Integral Spirituality, for example, he acknowledges that even though he adroitly attempted to eliminate metaphysical presuppositions from the book, he couldn’t do so entirely. In the end, he had to speak of at least one (the notion that evolution itself has a telos of some kind, however imperfectly understood).
The way that I imagine it, once you admit that you have to admit some Big Picture of reality that is based on a sort of reasoning that can not be demonstrated to skeptics, then you have to have some humility and tolerance for people who have more than one tiny little assumption.
You see, the assumptions that we bring about reality are not context independent; they manifest in spiritual beliefs, those pesky things so many smart people have tried to rid themselves of. Metaphysical principles have practical purposes, and some of these lead to beliefs important for human welfare, happiness, peace of mind, liberation, and even the continued viability of the planet Earth.
Let us shed the illusion that we can ever be fully free of metaphysics. What is metaphysics really, but “reality talk”? I mean, if your perspective is post-dual (a.k.a. nondual spirituality) at least, situated as a constituent of the Una-Mind, the Armory of Atman, and not some mere speculation or abstraction, what else could it be?
I couldn’t care less whether someone says their spirituality is pre-metaphysical, metaphysical, or post-metaphysical. The very preoccupation with metaphysics of some spirituality writers, for or against, suggests to me that they are working to address certain concerns or solve problems that are closely related to modernity (the Orange altitude or Diligent-Mind as I frame it). But Diligent-Mind is only one of nine stations of the cosmology of Mind mapped by The Kalendar; in plain speech, they’re buying an item of fashion that will eventually, inevitably go out of style.
Let me get back to the notion that spirituality is a form of “reality talk”. Not naive acceptance of folk wisdom. Not acceptance of the myth that the world is simply “given”. But we can’t stop thinking about and talking about and working with reality, I don’t think, or we end up going out of whack in our life path.
And the fact about reality is that about 95% of it is completely invisible and undetectable to our senses and even our most sophisticated scientific instruments (according to NASA scientists). If someone doesn’t intuitively grasp that invisible realities are the ocean we are swimming in, not the silly superstitions of underdeveloped or stupid people, then they are the densest sort of fools.
And if supposedly smart spirituality cannot situate itself within mysterious realities, visible and invisible, to speak of God and angels and spirits as so many believers do, then it isn’t as smart as it presumes to be. Authentic spirituality is not going to believe it knows what it doesn’t know or claim certainty for notions that were only personally grasped after years of developmental trials, but it will not shy away from addressing the ineffable or perplexing. It may even humbly acknowledge that people who lived thousands of years ago who were much more aware of the invisible ocean of spirit than we are today might have something to teach us about it, so maybe we should listen to the heritage they have bequeathed to us.
Don’t read books by authors who have forgotten Who They Are or who are unwilling to speak with a poet’s heart. Keep such books around if you want to because they might prove useful in unexpected ways. Instead, read the Book which resides at the Base of Being: Imbibe every Bible and open it to the page in which it is the Unmanifest Mind of God; Make the Dao Your Download; And when as the Zeitgeist is collapsed into Zlomylein so that the Deity appears to disappear entirely, like the last day of the Season of Yang enfolding itself into the first day of the Season of Yin, await Spirit there at the Start of Sapience.