“In daily life, we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful but gratefulness that makes us happy.” – David Steindl-Rast
Rudolf Steiner in Theosophy: An Introduction to the Supersensible Knowledge of the World and the Destination of Man wrote:
“Whoever looks for paths that lead beyond this world of the senses will soon learn to understand that human life only gains in worth and significance through insight into another world. Without this power of vision, he gropes like a blind man through their effects. It lies in the very nature of man to ask at once about the beginning and the end of the world, the purpose of existence and the nature and being of God.”
An x-ray or MRI machine can see the tangible internal structure of our body but it cannot observe the soul or spirit any more than we could look into our mouth and do the same. Scientists have determined that 21 grams escape from the body at the moment of death. Where do those grams come from? Is it our spirit?
Does a spiritual life give it meaning and purpose or is purpose and meaning a function of our life actions? Is there a purpose and meaning to life? Perhaps the most neglected part of the human condition in the Western world is our spiritual, inner life. Obviously, the inner systems like cells, virus and bacteria which can be measured, are acknowledged but until technology has evolved to the point of measuring fleeting thoughts, actual dreams and/or actual beliefs (without the actions or symptoms produced), the inner world can only be encountered and explored through personal experience. Only a short time ago, the reverse was true. The focus on secularism, materialism and the mundane has minimized and obliterated the inner world. From hurried children to frenzied adults, daily life has become an endless stream of meaningless tasks and events never slowing down long enough to enjoy them. Religion has lost its relevancy to modern practices, customs, thinking, living and ideology. In addition, the dwindling numbers of religious followers, religious intermediaries, and the archeological dissection of dogma, has aided in this decline. The world is left with a void. Within the emptiness, one can become the adventurer, explorer and discoverer of the vast richness of the dimensions of the ‘inner world’.
So when East meets West, ancient traditions fill the void with a modern twist. Popular culture now embraces the Oriental arts (made popular as defense techniques) Tai Chi, yoga, acupuncture, Chi Gong. For millennium, Eastern philosophies allude to the notion of invisible energetic bodies in the form of ‘charkas’ whose seven levels of energy (much like tree rings) represent the invisible emotional (feelings), mental (thoughts), astral (meditation state), etheric (dream state), celestial (observer) and causal (consciousness; total awareness) bodies. Early Christian artists depicted the Christ or saintly figures with a ‘halo’ about the head to signify these energies.
Today, as the picture above demonstrates, Kirlian photography captures the subtle energies the body emits through heat transfer (like thermography) rather than x-rays and MRI’s. Measuring heat emitted from the body is far less harmful than bombarding it with x-rays. Again, through technology, the spiritual energies are becoming visible through the electro-magnetic effect, beginning at the cellular level, which is best measured eight to ten feet from the body extending outward (rather than the x-ray which measures minimal weak internal forces). These energies surround all matter like pregnant women emitting a ‘glow’ or possibly accounting for the ‘attraction’ factor of objects or people. Additional external indications signal unseen forces such as having a ‘funny’ feeling, disliking some stranger without any pretext or logical reason or hair standing on end. ‘Auras’ and ‘ external fields’ are difficult to imagine (except through the art of Alex Gray or the magic of photography), hence skeptics discount their existence. However, ‘spirit’ manifest is evidenced by our very existence, our aliveness factor. To define this may be a matter of personal interpretation. SPIRITUAL IDENTIFIERS transform EQUILIBRIUM.
“The spirit of a person’s life is ever shedding some power, just as a flower is steadily bestowing fragrance upon the air.” – T. Starr King
As humans with basic survival needs, we are propelled into groups and communities of all types for support, acceptance or belonging, surrounding ourselves with like minds and hearts, in order to discuss, comprehend and understand the unknowable and unexplainable. Religion of all kinds meets some of these needs. But is it the social order, interaction, debate and discussion, support and contact we crave or something much more?
Native Peoples prophesized that when the Indians of the East (India) met the Indians of the West (Native Americans), the spiritual world would be transformed anew. In the 1960’s, the Guru and Shaman met to invoke this new direction. The term ‘spiritual’ has thus re-emerged into the national dialogue as an umbrella term for a multitude of meanings- religious, concerned with soul, spirit or an apparition. But the principles of spirituality can be traced back through recorded time. Michelangelo was part of a revolution during the Renaissance known as the Spirituale (the internalization of faith by each individual through intense study and actions). During that time, the displeasure of many Christians with the church hierarchy and its behavior, constantly brought new interpretations on the nature of religion and religious life. But is ‘spirituale’ a dogma, action, way-of-life or something more elusive?
The most profound and unique difference between religion and spirituality is the lack of an intermediary through a ‘present moment’ experience. Spirituality seeks the personal connection to God, the mysterious, unseen in contrast to the religious persuasion that necessitates intermediaries (human subordinates- Jesus, priest, Rabbi, minister), dogma (teachings, books, letters, rules), and action (right acts beget entrance to heaven). The condition for Grace in spirituality is a ‘right’ of being human while the way to religious salvation must be earned through endowments, goods works and indulgences. As with any individual, institution or group with whom exclusionary power is bestowed, power often corrupts.
The use of intermediaries armed with dogma and ‘right action’ enabled religion of every kind to have influence over the masses through the power of irrationality (unconditional belief), violence (Inquisition), politics (dogma), finance and fear (of retribution) by manipulating the ‘faithful’ through the ever elusive quality of the unknown and the unknowable (which can never be verified). By contrast, Spirituality, with its direct, personal connection, can never be altered by any outside agent or influence because it is a unique personal experience. The focus of Spirituality is on the Human Be-ing rather than Human Becoming (through right action and works) as God, universe and all-that-is communicates or speaks directly to the person. The anthropomorphic deity (a man with a white beard) with human characteristics (wrath or love) from above is thus eliminated and replaced with the ‘present moment experience’ ©® without past or future reference.
There are numerous examples of how economics and politics infiltrated religion. The early Catholic Church disallowed priests to marry, although many mistresses and illegitimate children were recorded by the church itself. The reason was not an act of god or a mandate from god but rather because wealth was passed to male heirs upon their death. The church wanted the wealth of its priests to fund itself (most of whom came from the most educated and wealthiest families n Europe- which is WHY cardinals are called ‘princes’ of the church). Thus the Spirituali was a revolt against these mandates. But masses cannot be controlled and manipulated if they have a direct pipeline to god. So religious leaders fought wars over centuries to maintain the figurehead structure of ‘father and sons’ of the church in order to maintain wealth and power over the masses so that the future continuity of the select few church hierarchy could manipulate through dogma, decrees and rhetoric the tides of social, political and global change. Power!
Individuals, communities, nations and the world have been manipulated, molded and fashioned by the theories, philosophies, practices, dogma and motivations of religions over centuries and generations that influence the past, present as well as the future in every aspect of life. Many of these beliefs over time become so subliminal, one hardly notices that one’s beliefs are formulated by them. The American Puritanical (those religious zealots who assisted in founding this nation) notion of sexuality is different from the Muslims, French, Italian, Hindu and Japanese perspectives who were all shaped by religious, cultural and geographical influences. Even the underlying principle of ‘One’ god or naming a god is different across continents with atheists, deists and monotheists in abundance. But the common force behind all non-religious and religious persuasions, dogma, beliefs and actions is ‘spirituality’, the aliveness factor and its connection to something ‘more’ which is akin to all living forms.
Flatland by Edwin A. Abbott is an imaginary world defined by two-dimensional blind inhabitants who ‘feel’ the geometry of the landscape by bumping into it (as they are round, flat and have no appendages) and each other. The Flatlanders experience a 2D world until one has a ‘vision’ a glimpse of 3D spheres. Upon returning to Flatland, friends and colleagues are in disbelief because the experience was not shared by others and there are no words that express it coherently. Like Flatland, there are many layers, worlds within our world which are both experienced and felt without measuring tools and cannot be seen with machines and technology- x-rays, gamma rays, TV rays, microscopic organism, and galaxies. Because we cannot see them with our eyes does not mean that they do not exist. The same holds true for new phenomena that are emerging and revealing- astral projections, apparitions, chakras, auras, ESP, and experiences beyond the senses. Who can say whether or not these are the skills possessed by the other 7/8th of the unused and under-utilized brain-mind? The popularity of programs like X-files, Medium, Profiler, time traveling, ghosts demonstrate that Americans are opening portals to new possibilities and these concepts are touching some collective soul memory, as Carl Jung would admit. Rather than art imitating life, it also envisions and creates the ‘things’ of life as Star Wars and Star Trek fans have demonstrated in the technology arena. ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!